Friday, September 26, 2014

Offit uses Hollywood story to promote vaccines

Paul A. Offit is the USA's most famous vaccine advocate. He holds patents on vaccines, and has served on the CDC advisory committee on vaccine mandates. He had to sign waivers, because he has collected 6-figure sums for vaccine industry lobbying. He has written books and articles promoting vaccines. He has also promoted quackery like homeopathy.

Now he writes The Anti-Vaccination Epidemic in the WSJ:
Almost 8,000 cases of pertussis, better known as whooping cough, have been reported to California's Public Health Department so far this year. More than 250 patients have been hospitalized, nearly all of them infants and young children, and 58 have required intensive care. Why is this preventable respiratory infection making a comeback? In no small part thanks to low vaccination rates, as a story earlier this month in the Hollywood Reporter pointed out.
He is supposed to be a leading scientist in the field, and he relies the Hollywood Reporter? Was the outbreak caused by low vaccination rates or not? Offit is apparently unwilling to give his own opinion.
The conversation about vaccination has changed. In the 1990s, when new vaccines were introduced, the news media were obsessed with the notion that vaccines might be doing more harm than good. The measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine might cause autism, we were told. Thimerosal, an ethyl-mercury containing preservative in some vaccines, might cause developmental delays. Too many vaccines given too soon, the stories went, might overwhelm a child's immune system.

Then those stories disappeared. One reason was that study after study showed that these concerns were ill-founded.
He should admit that those were legitimate concerns, that he voted to approved inadequately-tested vaccines, and that several of those vaccines have been taken off the market for safety concerns.
Another was that the famous 1998 report claiming to show a link between vaccinations and autism was retracted by The Lancet, the medical journal that had published it. The study was not only spectacularly wrong, as more than a dozen studies have shown, but also fraudulent. The author, British surgeon Andrew Wakefield, has since been stripped of his medical license.
The lesson is that you can lose your license for opposing vaccines. Now no physicians publicly oppose vaccines. Does that convince you?
But the damage was done. Countless parents became afraid of vaccines. As a consequence, many parents now choose to delay, withhold, separate or space out vaccines. Some don't vaccinate their children at all. A 2006 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that between 1991 and 2004, the percentage of children whose parents had chosen to opt out of vaccines increased by 6% a year, resulting in a more than twofold increase.
Deceptive use of statistics. So 1% opted out one year, and 1.06% opted out the next, not 7%.
Who is choosing not to vaccinate? The answer is surprising. The area with the most cases of whooping cough in California is Los Angeles County, and no group within that county has lower immunization rates than residents living between Malibu and Marina Del Rey, home to some of the wealthiest and most exclusive suburbs in the country. At the Kabbalah Children's Academy in Beverly Hills, 57% of children are unvaccinated. At the Waldorf Early Childhood Center in Santa Monica, it's 68%, according to the Hollywood Reporter's analysis of public-health data.
Apparently he cannot link the outbreak to the low-vaccine areas. Or the Hollywood Reporter cannot.
Parents might consider what has happened in other countries when large numbers of parents chose not to vaccinate their children. Japan, for example, which had virtually eliminated whooping cough by 1974, suffered an anti-vaccine activist movement that caused vaccine rates to fall to 10% in 1976 from 80% in 1974. In 1979, more than 13,000 cases of whooping cough and 41 deaths occurred as a result.
That Japanese movement was against an inferior vaccine being used. The vaccination rate went back up when the authorities agreed to use the safer acellular vaccine.

A commenter says:
How many cases of whooping cough were started by illegal aliens who are unvaccinated bringing the disease with them?
I don't know about that, but I believe that most of the cases are from teenagers whose vaccinations have worn off, and all of the measles cases are from foreigners. Since these diseases and vaccines are so closely tracked, officials should be able to tell us directly the empirical benefits and harms

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