The Institute of Medicine has released a comprehensive report on the safety of vaccines. They looked at a wide range of vaccine types and various adverse affects known to be associated, and thought to be associated, with vaccines.
The report looked at claims which were submitted to the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP), which was setup in 1986 to compensate those who were injured by vaccines.
They then looked for a causal relationship between the administration of the vaccine and the adverse effect reported in the claim.
In short, the committee found that most issues with vaccines were rare and mild.
Additionally, evidence favors rejection of five vaccine-adverse event relationships, including MMR vaccine and autism and inactivated influenza vaccine and asthma episodes.
A summary of the report very aptly states:
Despite much media attention and strong opinions from many quarters, vaccines remain one of the greatest tools in the public health arsenal. Certainly, some vaccines result in adverse effects that must be acknowledged. But the latest evidence shows that few adverse effects are caused by the vaccines reviewed in this report.
Of course, this doesn’t sway the staunch anti-vax supporters. Age of Autism, a group which is hell-bent on rejecting any scientific evidence showing that vaccines do not cause autism, had this to say about the study:
The IOM report took two years to produce, mostly behind closed doors, and was paid for by the Department of Health and Human Services, the government agency which is also a defendant against the vaccine-injured in the government’s vaccine court
Their arguments are as predictable as the sun rising in the east. It is a government agency, therefore they don’t accept the research.
If people want to keep their heads buried in the sand that is one thing, but the problem is that it is children who end up suffering when people don’t accept the science behind one of the greatest medical advances in history.
But I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. Though that doesn’t mean I can’t be disappointed.
Yes, and it could have been prevented.
According to the Minnesota Department of Health, a recent outbreak of measles in the Twin Cities area was caused in part by former doctor and medical researcher Andrew Wakefield’s influential but fraudulent study suggesting a connection between child vaccination and autism.
So why weren’t the children vaccinated?
Several of the parents informed the Health Department they had avoided the mumps, measles, and rubella (MMR) vaccine out of concerns their children would be at risk of autism.
If you read this blog at all (or any other skeptic blog, for that matter) you know this already. But once more, with feeling…
None. Zero. Nada. Zilch. Nil.
Ok, I’m starting to get worked up. It happens when I talk about vaccines especially.
Why? Well usually when a scientist’s outlandish claims get debunked it is an “I told you so!” situation.
But when children (or anyone) get hurt or hospitalized as a result of those outlandish claims, it becomes a “Bang your head against the wall because this could have been prevented” situation.
Maybe we could call this a “Wakefield” situation; a “When Are Kids Ever going to Forgive us for letting Idiots Endanger their Lives with Debunked science” situation.
The reality is starting to set in, as Dr. William Schaffner, chair of the Department of Preventive Medicine at Vanderbilt University, lays out:
Hospitalizations and deaths have occurred—all preventable, had the children been immunized. In the U.S., some parents withhold vaccines; others stretch out the vaccination schedule, leaving children susceptible to disease for longer than they should.
I don’t know if the damage caused by that original Wakefield paper will ever be fully undone. But that doesn’t mean we can’t try to undo as much as possible.
The blogosphere is teeming with articles regarding a couple of recent wins for skepticism. I’ll save the best for last.
The first such win is the admission by the makers of Power Balance, a bracelet designed to increase sport performance. How you ask? The website states that
Power Balance is based on the idea of optimizing the body’s natural energy flow, similar to concepts behind many Eastern philosophies. The hologram in Power Balance is designed to resonate with and respond to the natural energy field of the body.
Sound like bullplop? Well it is bullplop.
Making these kinds of statements was a violation of Australian trade practices. Why? The press release to Australian media by Power Balance says it all:
In our advertising we stated that Power Balance wristbands improved your strength, balance and flexibility.
We admit that there is no credible scientific evidence that supports our claims and therefore we engaged in misleading conduct in breach of s52 of the Trade Practices Act 1974.
If you feel you have been misled by our promotions, we wish to unreservedly apologise and offer a full refund.
Big time win for the skeptical movement, since they were instrumental in bringing about this admission from Power Balance.
So that’s great. But this one is awesome!
Our dear friend
Doctor Andrew Wakefield, whose study linking vaccines to autism (retracted study, btw) sparked an anti-vaccine movement and a huge public health risk, is in the news again. If you have read my blog before, you know that I am not his biggest fan.
Although he has had his medical license stripped and paper retracted by the Lancet, the anti-vaccine movement persisted, painting Wakefield as some kind of martyr; hung out to dry by Big Pharma for trying to tell the “truth” about vaccines.
Well yet another blow has been struck against this movement, and its a doozy.
After seeing the data, the father of one of the children in the study said
His misrepresentation of my son in his research paper is inexcusable. His motives for this I may never know.
The piece is well written and documents Deer’s investigations into Wakefield’s research. I encourage you to read the whole text, but here are the key points:
Three of nine children reported with regressive autism did not have autism diagnosed at all. Only one child clearly had regressive autism
Despite the paper claiming that all 12 children were “previously normal,” five had documented pre-existing developmental concerns
Some children were reported to have experienced first behavioural symptoms within days of MMR, but the records documented these as starting some months after vaccination
In nine cases, unremarkable colonic histopathology results—noting no or minimal fluctuations in inflammatory cell populations—were changed after a medical school “research review” to “non-specific colitis”
The parents of eight children were reported as blaming MMR, but 11 families made this allegation at the hospital. The exclusion of three allegations—all giving times to onset of problems in months—helped to create the appearance of a 14 day temporal link
- Patients were recruited through anti-MMR campaigners, and the study was commissioned and funded for planned litigation
So basically, he lied. He’s a dirty rotten liar-liar-pants-on-fire.
But what was his motivation? From the CNN news article:
Deer said Wakefield “chiseled” the data before him, “falsifying medical histories of children and essentially concocting a picture, which was the picture he was contracted to find by lawyers hoping to sue vaccine manufacturers and to create a vaccine scare.”
According to BMJ, Wakefield received more than 435,000 pounds ($674,000) from the lawyers.
Wakefield continues to defend himself by playing the fall-guy to Big Pharma:
Wakefield dismissed Brian Deer, the writer of the British Medical Journal articles, as “a hit man who has been brought in to take me down” by pharmaceutical interests.
The evidence against Wakefield was already overwhelming. But this story has hit the news media hard. It is a huge blow to the anti-vaxxers. Why do I think this? Well what did the anti-vaccine movement’s and Andrew Wakefield’s most prolific and outspoken public relations person, Jenny McCarthy, say about this story?
Actress Jenny McCarthy, founder of Generation Rescue and whose son also has autism, declined to comment on Wednesday’s developments
Your friends are abandoning you Andrew Wakefield. The truth is finally starting to become clear to everyone. You have duped a generation of mothers into thinking that vaccines cause autism, and children have died because of it.