Thursday, November 28, 2013

Natural News Downplays Meningitis

The meningitis outbreak at Princeton University in New Jersey has caused a lot of concern for parents, school, and health officials recently. Seven people have been diagnosed with the rare Type B meningitis since March, for which there is no approved U.S. vaccine.  Bacterial meningitis like type B can cause swelling of the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord. It can cause mental disabilities, hearing loss, paralysis and death.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently gave permission for the vaccine Bexsero to be imported. Bexsero vaccinates against type B meningitis and is already being used in Europe and Australia.

Natural News recently published a blog post claiming that seven cases of a disease were hardly an epidemic and that it was irrational urgency to push an unapproved emergency vaccine.

Natural News goes on to seek the advice of Dr. Sherri Tenpenny, DO, AOBNMM, and ABIHM, who calls the meningitis infections at Princeton a media-hype. She continues, and “recommends that concerned students simply get more rest, drink more clean water and avoid sharing food and beverages with their friends.” Her final recommendation is that students take in plenty of vitamin C and vitamin D for strong immune support.

In an article for USA Today, Jason Schwartz of Princeton’s Center for Human Values states that health authorities “wouldn’t make this decision (to import Bexsero) lightly. It reflects the assessment of gravity of the unfolding public health threat here on campus and experts’ judgment of the benefits of this vaccine on helping to minimize or eliminate this risk.” Schwartz is a research associate in bioethics who studies vaccine policy.

Meningitis bacteria are spread by coughing, sneezing, and kissing, and can easily spread in crowded conditions like dorm rooms. All students living in dorms are required to have a meningitis vaccine, but it doesn’t cover type B. Princeton students will have the option of receiving a Bexsero vaccine in early December and a booster in February. School officials are also telling students to wash their hands, cover their coughs and not to share drinking glasses and eating utensils.

By downplaying the severity of meningitis, Natural News is creating a potential health crisis. Meningitis is serious and can cause death in a matter of days. The irresponsible reporting of Natural News could be detrimental to student’s health. Vaccine Watch encourages anyone concerned about meningitis to speak with his or her physician.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Jenny McCarthy Causes Whooping Cough

Juilia Ioffe wrote a candid blog post for New Republic about coming down with whooping cough at age 31 and the perils associated with this vaccine preventable disease. “I have been coughing for 72 days. Not on and off coughing, but continuously, every day and every night, for two and a half months. And not just coughing, but whooping: doubled over, body clenched, sucking violently for air, my face reddening and my eyes watering. Sometimes, I cough so hard, I vomit. Other times, I pee myself.”

Ioffe continues to describe her symptoms and the odd and embarrassing situations it has created for her. She states, “And while my having pertussis at my age seems absurd, it can also be tragic: in babies, the infection can easily be fatal.” Ioffe notes that whooping cough had been conquered in the developed world until the anti-vaccination movement frightened parents with propaganda about autism. Vaccination has now become another consumer choice, like drinking coconut water.

“The problem is that it (vaccination) is not an individual choice; it is a choice that acutely affects the rest of us,” Ioffe continues. A recent study in Pediatrics indicated that areas with high concentrations of conscientious vaccine objectors were 2.5. times more likely to have an outbreak of pertussis (whooping cough). In Ioffe’s case, she was vaccinated as a child, but the vaccine wears off by adulthood. In the past, this wasn’t an issue because children were vaccinated. However, she came into contact with an unvaccinated child, who had the disease and spread it to her.

Ioffe concludes: “I understand your wanting to raise your own children as you see fit, but you’re selfishly jeopardizing more than your own children. …what gives you denialists the right to put my health at risk – to cause me to catch a debilitating, humiliating, and frightening cough that, two months after I finished my last course of antibiotics, still makes me convulse several times a day…”

After reading Ioffe’s posts, Razib Khan wrote a blog postfor Discover about the pressure he and his wife experienced from their peer networks not to vaccinate. He recalls that they were able to resist and rebuff peer pressure because of their strong scientific backgrounds. He also notes that he can imagine someone with less of a scientific background trusting the people they normally trust – their peer network – on vaccination. 

Khan suggests that the denialism be countered by shaming and recommends parents investigate the rate of vaccination in their community. If the vaccination rate isn’t high, he recommends moving away from the dangerous critical mass, and telling people why you are moving.

Vaccine preventable diseases like whooping cough have devastating consequences. Parents should be aware that these vaccines have a purpose. Vaccine Watch encourages parents to consult their pediatrician about vaccine choices.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Anti-Vaxxer Appointed to FDA Vaccine Committee

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently appointed Stephanie Christner, Doctor of Osteopathy, to the Vaccine and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC). Dr. Christner is serving as the voting consumer representative on the twelve-member committee. FDA has charged this committee with reviewing and evaluating vaccine safety and effectiveness. The committee also reviews appropriate use of vaccines and biological products intended for public use, including clinical trial and other data submitted by drug companies seeking licensure of new vaccines.

Vaccine Watch and many other organizations are concerned by the FDA’s choice of Dr. Christner because she is an active advocate against vaccines. She currently serves as a board member for the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC), which is an anti-vaccine organization that regularly spreads vaccine misinformation. In 2010 she co-founded a company that specializes in allergy, GMO and preservative-free foods. She also has a clinical practice in psychiatry and neurofeedback.

In 2009, Dr. Christener’s infant daughter died and she blamed vaccines. Vaccine Watch and others are sympathetic in the matchless and devastating loss of a child. However, she appears unmovable in her belief that vaccines caused the death of the child, despite a lack of data to support her belief. Dr. Christener described her ordeal in the anti-vaccination film “The Greater Good;” a movie that has been thoroughly dismantled for being deceptive and misleading. “The Greater Good” is an anti-vaccine propaganda piece and passed on blatant misinformation.

The FDA states that it recruits qualified experts with minimal conflicts of interest but they made a mistake in appointing Dr. Christner to the VRBPAC committee. The FDA further states:

            Members and the chair are selected by the Commissioner or the designee
            from among authorities knowledgeable in the fields of immunology,
molecular biology, rDNA, virology, bacteriology, epidemiology or biostatistics, allergy, preventative medicine, infectious diseases, pediatrics,
microbiology and biochemistry.

Dr. Christner’s appointment to the VRBPAC committee has given false legitimacy to the anti-vaccination position and the long-term effects could be detrimental. As we struggle against the outbreak of preventable disease and blatant propaganda against vaccines, FDA should be even more scrupulous in ensuring the objectivity of their appointees.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Nurses Against Vaccines

The Internet has the ability to educate and inform people on many issues in a short period of time. Unfortunately, the same tools that can promote education can also be misused and spread fear and lies. The anti-vaccine movement uses the Internet to spread fear and distrust of vaccines in people.

One startling group is Nurses Against Mandatory Vaccines. Their Facebook page has over 4,000 likes and is regularly updated with posts promoting people to speak out against mandatory vaccines and sharing negative vaccine stories. They sold t-shirts on their Facebook page to raise money to file for 501(c)3 non-profit status. Their website is scheduled to premier this Friday.

It’s important to note that while this group of nurses is particularly vocal, they represent a minority. A study conducted in April on healthcare personnel found that 92% of physicians said they had gotten a flu vaccine, 89% of pharmacists did, 88.5% of nurse practitioners/physician assistants were vaccinated and 84.8% of nurses as well. Unfortunately, the groups that vaccinate are not the most vocal.

Susan Rowher wrote a blog post for the Los Angeles Times stating that it’s time for doctors to take a stand. A recent study published by the Journal of Pediatrics found that how doctors phrase vaccine questions sway hesitant parents. In general, the study found that when doctors told parents it was time to vaccinate and answered questions; there was a higher vaccine rate versus when they asked what parents wanted to do about vaccines.

Rowher encourages doctors to answer parents’ questions, noting that parents are swamped with information and a barrage of choices for their children. She also notes that parents will meet opposition to vaccines in many locations – from the Internet to a playgroup. However, with outbreaks of whooping cough and measles being linked to vaccine refusals, it’s time for a new approach.

“Doctors and health professionals need to take a stand in the fight against the anti-vaccination movement by taking back some of their expertise,” Rowher notes. “The abundance of information available online has instilled a sense that we are all experts just by Googling. But let us not forget that a search session on a Web browser cannot replace the years of training and research that come with scientific and medical expertise.”

Veronica McNally, a parent from Michigan is encouraging others to vaccinate their children after she and her husband lost their twelve-week old daughter Francesca to whooping cough. “Some states have seen between a 500% to 1,000% increase in this disease and what is alarming about it, additionally, is that it’s often misdiagnosed and under diagnosed,” McNally states. The Franny Strong Foundation offers information for both parents and health care professionals.

Another mother had all three of her children come down with whooping cough and found out how terrible it really is. She learned first hand why it is called the 100-day cough. She blogs about the guilt of having her children become ill because she and her husband chose not to vaccinate them, and of watching her youngest son vomit multiple times per day.

Vaccine Watch encourages all of those who vaccinate to talk with friends and family about why they chose vaccines. Those who are hesitant about vaccines should speak with their doctor about their concerns. While the Internet is useful for many things, it does not replace the years of medical experience and education doctors have.