10 Jun 2011

Measles killed 164,000 children last year and maimed many more so failing to vaccinate children is criminal

Globe and Mail - Canada June 8, 2011

The return of measles: Where did we go wrong?

by André Picard

Welcome to the 1960s. Not in a cool, retro way but in the “how have we failed so miserably to make progress?” way.

Measles is back.

In recent weeks, there have been more than 250 cases of the dreadful childhood disease in Quebec. The outbreak was sparked by vacationers returning from France, which is in the midst of a measles epidemic, as is Britain.

As a result, there are small but ever-larger outbreaks popping up all over Europe and the Americas. Measles is highly infectious and easily spread. It could well be coming soon to a community near you.

This, of course, should not be happening. We’ve had a cheap and effective measles vaccine since 1963.

The disease had virtually disappeared in Canada and the rest of the developed world, and there were dramatic reductions in the developing world, to the point where last year there was beginning to be serious discussion about eradication.

Where did we go wrong?

The problem is that vaccines only work if people are vaccinated. But, increasingly, parents in the Western world are not getting their children vaccinated, or fully vaccinated.

Why would you deny your child protection against an unpleasant and potentially deadly disease?

Measles does kill; last year it claimed the lives of an estimated 164,000 children worldwide. That number has dropped dramatically since 2000, however, when it was close to 800,000. Why? Vaccination.

In the developing world, where they see the ravages of measles (and other infectious diseases) every day, parents are clamouring for immunization.

In the developed world, ignorance is bliss. We have grown unaccustomed to seeing the itchy red rash and forgotten that measles was once a leading cause of blindness, deafness and mental retardation. Before vaccination about one in 3,000 infected children died of measles, close to 100 a year in Canada.

Today, there is a small minority of parents who refuse vaccination for “religious reasons,” dubious interpretations of scripture. The handful of measles cases that usually occur in Canada tend to spring up in Hutterite communities or, as occurred recently, in some fringe Hasidic sects near the Quebec-New York State border. In Canada, we are too polite and politically correct to say so, but that’s the reality.

Yet, religious refuseniks are being eclipsed by a much more worrisome emerging group, parents in mainstream society who eschew routine childhood immunization for a number of half-baked reasons: fear that vaccines can cause autism, the belief that there are “natural” alternatives to Big Pharma products, a belief that their children are not at risk, and a romanticizing of natural immunity. (Read: Let kids get sick and develop antibodies instead of stimulating antibodies with immunization.) Virtually all the children infected in Quebec, like those in France, were not fully immunized against measles – meaning they did not get the recommended two doses of measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine.

To find the source of this problem, you can follow the itchy red dots back to Andrew Wakefield, the charlatan who concocted the bogus theory that measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccination was responsible for the rise in autism. The ultimate irony, of course, is that Dr. Wakefield did so, in part, because he was trying to market his own measles vaccine.

But let’s not give Dr. Wakefield too much credit. He is merely a symbol and a by-product of a much more fundamental problem: ignorance borne of health illiteracy.

In modern society we are, paradoxically, increasingly reliant on science and technology but increasingly ill-informed about science.

Worse yet, in the midst of a communications revolution that has brought us Google, Facebook, Twitter and who-knows-what-else to come, we are not teaching people (our children in particular) how to process information and how to interpret evidence.

On our iPads, BlackBerrys and laptops, we have a virtual Library of Alexandria times 100 at our fingertips. Yet we don’t know how to sort the wheat from the chaff. As a result, there are educated people who routinely embrace theories that are biologically implausible and predicated on massive conspiracy theories.

That leaves us vulnerable – to measles and much more.

The education system is failing us in this regard. And so too is public health, which has failed to update its message and methods for communicating effectively in the 21st century.

It’s no longer enough to say “vaccination is good” and expect everyone to dutifully fall into line for shots.

You have to actively promote the benefits and, just as importantly, rebut the nonsense circulated by anti-vaccinationists and other promoters of so-called alternative treatments – usually costly, unproven and largely useless herbal concoctions.

Parents want the best for their children. They deserve the best public health information.

What they need to hear is this: Yes, there are occasional but rare reactions to vaccines.

But the disease is far worse. In a large post-Olympics outbreak of measles last year in B.C., about 60 per cent of those infected required medical care, including 20 per cent who were hospitalized; one person ended up in intensive care with a life-threatening swelling of the brain.

Measles is not a mundane illness. And failing to vaccinate children is not a victimless crime.

This article was found at:


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A century of vaccine paranoia scares many parents away from protecting their children and communities from deadly diseases

Study linking autism to vaccines was elaborate fraud that led to outbreaks of disease and endangered lives of children

Childhood diseases nearly eradicated until an unethical U.K. doctor began to scare parents with vaccine conspiracy theory

How Safe Are Vaccines?

Vaccination dramatically cuts childhood disease

Vaccines and Autism: the zombie meme that won't die

Proposed New York bill would make it easier for students to obtain religious exemption from vaccines

Research shows most patients in Dutch epidemics belong to Protestant fundamentalist groups who refuse to vaccinate children

Dutch Reformed conservatives at root of Canadian mumps outbreak

Christians refuse mumps vaccine, fuel outbreak: Officials

Religious group refuses to immunize children, leading to mumps outbreak

Malawi Christian sect refuses to vaccinate children against measles claiming it is God's will for them to get sick

Florida appeal court gives father ultimate responsibility for child's health care after mother refused to vaccinate on religious grounds

Apostolic churches in Zimbabwe lift ban on vaccinations but too late for hundreds of children who died unprotected

Six members of Apostolic sect in Zimbabwe given suspended prison sentences for medically neglecting children

Some Zimbabwe sect children forcibly immunised for measles, countless others die needlessly

Zimbabwe sect member murders wife after she tried to vaccinate their children against deadly measles outbreak

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Zimbabwe Apostolic sect puts faith before children's rights, prefers uneducated or dead kids over vaccination

Zimbabwe sect father jailed just 18 months for allowing four children to suffer and die needlessly from measles

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Measles outbreak in Zimbabwe reveals Apostolic sects endangering children by refusing to vaccinate them

Unvaccinated children of Apostolic sect in Zimbabwe continue to needlessly die from measles

Zimbabwe health officials insist they will not use law to compel sect members to vaccinate kids in midst of deadly measles outbreak

Zimbabwe sect that shuns vaccinations is hiding sick members from health authorities in midst of measles epidemic

Zimbabwe police assist with door-to-door vaccination after sect children die from measles

Conflict between parental and children's rights at center of Zimbabwean debate over forced vaccinations of sect children

After needless deaths of unvaccinated children Zimbabwe plans law to criminalize medical neglect


  1. U.S. Institute of Medicine says Vaccines largely safe



    Vaccines can cause certain side-effects, but serious ones appear very rare, and there's no link with autism and Type 1 diabetes, the U.S. Institute of Medicine says in the first comprehensive safety review in 17 years.

    The report isn't aimed at nervous parents. And the side-effects it lists as proven are some that doctors long have known about, such as fever-caused seizures and occasional brain inflammation.

    Instead, the review comes at the request of the U.S. government's Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, which as the name implies, pays damages to people who are injured by vaccines. Federal law requires this type of independent review as officials update side-effects on that list to be sure they agree with the latest science.

    "Vaccines are important tools in preventing serious infectious disease across the lifespan, from infancy through adulthood. All health-care interventions, however, carry the possibility of risk and vaccines are no exception," said pediatrician and bioethicist Dr. Ellen Wright Clayton of Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., who chaired the institute panel.

    Still, this week's report stresses that vaccines generally are safe, and it may help doctors address worries from a small but vocal anti-vaccine movement. Some vaccine-preventable diseases, including measles, are on the rise.

    "I am hopeful that it will allay some people's concerns," Clayton said.

    The review echoed numerous other scientific reports that dismiss an autism link.

    read more at the links above

  2. Muslim doctors denounce anti-vaccination drive

    by FARANAAZ PARKER - Mail & Guardian South Africa March 19 2012

    A pamphlet circulating within the Jo'burg Muslim community that warns of the dangers of vaccination has been slammed by doctors and paediatricians, who say not vaccinating children puts them and the wider community at risk.

    The pamphlet, titled "Islam, vaccines and health", argues that vaccines are harmful and contain haraam substances, which Muslims are not permitted to use. It claims that vaccination is ineffective and based on "a long discredited theory".

    But local medical associations have warned that this type of information puts the most vulnerable in South Africa at risk.

    The pamphlet in question has been printed and distributed by the Young Men's Muslim Association in Benoni, but its origin lies a continent away.

    The very same article has been circulating online for the past five years, and is attributed to Dr Abdel Majid Katme, a British psychiatrist who affiliates himself with the Islamic Medical Association (UK).

    Katme's tract first made the rounds in the UK in 2007. He urged Muslim parents to forgo vaccinations and to instead practise natural defences against disease. He suggested, among other things, frequent hand-washing, fasting, prayer and eating honey and black seed.

    An internet search turned up a number of instances of Katme's article. But it takes quite a bit more digging to find the voices of those who oppose Katme's view.

    An article in the British Medical Journal, which points out that the organisation Katme represents has no membership, staff or offices, and is only accessible to subscribers.

    When the article was first published, Katme was criticised by the British Medical Association, the department of health, and Muslim groups in the UK who said his beliefs could lead to a rise in infectious diseases in Muslim communities.

    The Islamic Medical Association of South Africa (IMA SA) has also spoken out against the information being put out. The organisation's president, Dr Ebrahim Khan, told the Mail & Guardian that the IMA did not endorse this or any other anti-vaccination campaign.

    "The IMA distances itself from any of these campaigns that advise people not to vaccinate," he said. "The IMA position is that vaccination is an essential tool in the prevention of disease."

    Khan pointed out that in some cases, the same parents who opted not to vaccinate their children received vaccinations themselves as this is mandated for pilgrims who travel to Saudi Arabia for haj.

    He appealed to those handing out the information to "refrain from misguiding people".

    Lobby groups simmer in South Africa
    Vaccination became a cornerstone of modern medicine in the late 19th century. It has led to the eradication of the deadly smallpox virus and saved the lives of millions of children who in earlier times would have died or been permanently disabled as a result of complications from measles, whooping cough (pertussis) and polio.

    Yet there is a small but vocal thread of dissent from people who choose not to vaccinate.

    Some trace this anti-vaccination sentiment to the work of British surgeon and medical researcher Andrew Wakefield, who put forward the now-discredited theory that the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine is linked to autism.

    Wakefield's theory took off in the 1990s and there was a subsequent drop in the rate of vaccination and an increase in illness and death from measles, mumps and rubella.

    It was later found that Wakefield had falsified his research and had sought to launch a business selling diagnostic kits to parents who feared an adverse reaction to the MMR. He has since been barred from practising medicine in the UK.

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  3. continued from previous comment:

    Yet Wakefield's influence lives on. Two years ago, a dangerous outbreak of whooping cough in the state of California in the US resulted in the deaths of ten newborns.

    Polio, once on the verge of eradication, has also reared its head once more in Nigeria and Pakistan, where the edicts of religious leaders encouraged communities to refuse the polio vaccine.

    Although seemingly centred in the US and UK, South Africa also has its share of parents who choose not to vaccinate.

    Rosemary Burnett, a senior lecturer in epidemiology at the University of Limpopo at Medunsa, together with her colleagues, has recently started researching the phenomenon in South Africa.

    "From anecdotal reports given to us by healthcare workers during the recent measles outbreak, it is clear that some parents are refusing to have their children vaccinated," she said.

    Although her team has not yet built up a clear profile of the people who choose not to vaccinate, or quantified their impact on vaccination uptake, preliminary research suggests they are mainly educated and white.

    This seems to mirror the situation in other countries, where people who choose not to vaccinate are predominantly educated and upper-class.

    The case against vaccination
    Shakirah Gathoo is a mother of three and a former paramedic who has chosen not to vaccinate her children.

    "The human body has the innate ability to fight off infections and illness itself," she told the M&G. "I have a problem putting something that is basically impure into my body and the body of my children."

    Gathoo believes that contracting an illness or not is down to fate, and said she tries to protect her children by ensuring that they have ideal nutrition and are in peak health. She's turned to alternative medicine in times of need and at one point nursed her toddler, who had contracted pneumonia, at home.

    "It's not that I don't believe in medicine but as I've studied, I've realised the deficiencies in the conventional medical system," she said.

    Gathoo said in an ideal world, vaccine and conventional medicine like antibiotics would not be needed, but admitted that fighting illness with alternative medicine requires patience and perseverance and said it's not something that would be right for everyone.

    She said that in a country like South Africa, especially in informal settlements where nutrition, health, hygiene and sanitation isn't up to scratch, vaccination does help.

    But she defended her choice saying: "Different people have different points of view and some people's views are stronger than others. They need to respect that as an individual it's my decision."

    Her choice, she said, was informed and supported by her paediatrician.

    Losing sight of the danger
    But Dr Yaseen Joolay, a paediatrician at Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town, said many parents and even healthcare practitioners have lost sight of how dangerous infectious diseases, like measles, can be.

    "Because we vaccinate and there's less infectious disease, and less severe cases of it, its kind of gone out of people's minds," he said.

    In developing countries measles kills one in five infected children. Globally, it causes pneumonia in one in 20 children and encephalitis -- acute inflammation of the brain -- in one in 2 000.

    "To not vaccinate is akin to child neglect," said Joolay.

    Some children who are not vaccinated are spared childhood illnesses because their peers have been vaccinated against them. But Joolay warned that if vaccination rates continued to drop, this "herd immunity" will be eroded, allowing infectious diseases to gain a foothold in communities and spread.

    "By not vaccinating, you're putting the entire society you're living in at risk," he said.


  4. Court rules failure to vaccinate children not “free exercise of religion”

    by Mike Daniels, Secular News Daily September 24, 2012

    The US District Court in Ohio has ruled that a parent’s refusal to vaccinate her children against diseases is not “free exercise” of religion, and amounts to neglect.


    In April 2010, the Tuscarawas County Jobs and Family Services filed a complaint in Juvenile Court against parents Charity and Brock Schenker, and took custody of the Schenker children. They became involved after a domestic violence matter between Mr. and Mrs. Schenker.

    At that time, the children were determined to be “neglected and dependent”. TCJFS worked out case plans for the parents, including required psychiatric evaluations, drug testing, and supervised visitation.

    When asked about the children’s immunizations, Mrs. Schenker claimed she had religious objections to immunizations. The court informed her that the immunizations would be ordered.

    Mrs. Schenker (now divorced) was recommended to undergo therapy for adjustment disorder, histrionic personality disorder, and narcissistic personality features. The evaluating psychiatrist noted that she would have concerns about reuniting Schenker and her children if therapy was not undertaken. Following some additional drama, Schenker was subjected to a random drug test at a later hearing and tested positive for marijuana use. Her visitations were terminated, and the county filed a motion for permanent custody in August 2011.

    The county laid out as evidence a number of instances in which Schenker did not comply with orders, refused home inspections, and more. But Schenker sued with eight claims, including conspiracy claims and, most significantly, claims that her First Amendment right to free expression of religion was violated.


    The District Court found that “the mere assertion of a religious belief . . . does not automatically trigger First Amendment protections,” and that “it has long been recognized that local authorities may constitutionally mandate vaccinations.” The latter cited the 1905 case of Jacobson v. Massachusetts, which set forth that “real liberty for all could not exist under the operation of a principle which recognizes the right of each individual person to use his own . . . regardless of the injury that may be done to others.”

    The District Court also cited 1944′s Prince vs. Massachusetts, which found that “The right to practice religion freely does not include parental liberty to expose the community or the child to communicable disease.” (Emphasis added.)

    Also, while some states have granted religious exemptions, it is not required; supported in Sherr vs. Northport-East Northport Union Free School District, 1987.

    The District Court dismissed Schenker’s claims in full, including the First Amendment claim, and permanent custody has been granted to the county.

    Note that the permanent custody is not due entirely to the vaccination issue, but it was a contributing factor.

    Read the full court decision at: http://docs.justia.com/cases/federal/district-courts/ohio/ohndce/5:2012cv01020/188296/3/0.pdf


  5. Mondays medical myth: childhood vaccinations are dangerous

    by Fiona Stanley, The Conversation Australia November 26, 2012

    When I was an infant I had whooping cough and was ill for three months. I don’t remember it, of course, but I know it was very distressing for my parents. I do remember later trips with my researcher father to his laboratory where he worked on a vaccine for polio and to hospitals where infected children my own age were on iron lungs. That was very distressing.

    I mention this because today people don’t see such diseases. They aren’t frightened about whooping cough or polio. In contrast, 100% of parents in Western Australia had their children vaccinated against polio when the vaccine was made available in 1956. Why? They were scared of their kids getting polio, a terrible disease as reflected in its other name, infantile paralysis.

    Because today’s parents don’t have first-hand experience with dangerous infectious diseases they can be misled by myths about the supposed dangers of childhood vaccination: for instance, whooping cough vaccine causes brain damage; the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine causes autism and vaccination causes cot death or sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

    There is no truth to any of these claims. We in Australia have some of the best population data in the world on vaccination outcomes in children and it’s absolutely clear these myths are just that, myths.

    The whooping cough myth started in the 1974 in the United Kingdom when some parents claimed that after being vaccinated their children were diagnosed with neurological disorders, what they called “brain damage”.

    In fact, it was a coincidence. The first signs a child has a genetic or other brain disorder occur about six months of age. The vaccine is given at two, three and four months, hence the incorrect assumption that the latter caused the former.

    I was a student in the UK at the time. It was disastrous that the medical and epidemiological professions didn’t respond after the kids were shown on television with the claims of vaccine caused brain injury. The government paid compensation, reinforcing the false vaccination-brain damage association.

    As a result, the rate of vaccination dropped from 81% to 31%, triggering the most horrendous epidemic of whooping cough. In one year, 21 children died and thousands were hospitalised with severe pneumonia and, sadly, brain damage from the infection.

    The fear of the disease influenced parents to vaccinate again and immunisation rates went back up and disease incidence went down. But it’s a tragedy that it took an epidemic to prove that vaccination is protective. Several major studies also demonstrated clearly that whooping cough vaccines were protective against brain damage and not causing it.

    The misguided belief that vaccination causes SIDS is also a case of myth by coincidence. The peak age of SIDS is four months, following vaccinations given from two to four months. The timing of the two events is associated in people’s minds, despite study after study showing no connection.

    Instead, the research shows SIDS is linked strongly to lying babies on their face or having their head covered with bedding or toys. Other risk factors include smoking, not breastfeeding, overcrowding and over-heating.

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  6. The myth that the MMR vaccine causes autism is particularly naughty. It was started in 1998 by a scientist who published the claim in a widely-reported paper in The Lancet.

    Again, vaccination rates fell precipitously and outbreaks of measles, mumps and rubella occurred. It was revealed the scientist had undeclared conflicts of interest and had engaged in scientific misconduct. The paper was retracted but the damage was done.

    Such myths demonstrate why it’s absolutely crucial that medical researchers obtain solid laboratory data about new and combination vaccines, test them rigorously and obtain very good surveillance and monitoring data. The public must have confidence that the research is done and done well.

    That’s why the Australian Academy of Science has just released a booklet – The Science of Immunisation: Questions and Answers – which explains the basics of vaccination and debunks common myths about vaccines and vaccination. It draws on expertise from a broad sector of the Australian science community, from virology and immunology to my field of epidemiology.

    I urge all Australians to get the truth about the myths. Vaccination is a wonderful development in public health. It has prevented enormous suffering and millions of deaths worldwide. The benefits of vaccination outweigh the very small risk of unwanted side effects. Just ask the parents of 1956.


  7. Australian Academy of Science


    Latest information: The Science of Immunisation: questions and answers

    This publication aims to address confusion created by contradictory information in the public domain. It sets out to explain the current situation in immunisation science, including where there is consensus in the scientific community and where uncertainties exist. The document is structured around six questions:

    What is immunisation?

    What is in a vaccine?

    Who benefits from vaccines?

    Are vaccines safe?

    How are vaccines shown to be safe?

    What does the future hold for vaccination?

    The Science of Immunisation: Questions and Answers was prepared by a Working Group of eight members, co-chaired by Professors Tony Basten FAA FTSE and Ian Frazer FAA FRS FTSE. The document was also reviewed by an Oversight Committee chaired by Sir Gus Nossal AO CBE FAA FRS FTSE.

    Download pamphlet and charts at:


  8. Deadly outbreaks feared as immunisation rates plunge

    by Sue Dunlevy, News Limited Network Herald Sun Australia November 26, 2012

    LEADING scientists say the anti-immunisation lobby is endangering children's lives because of the soaring number of parents refusing to vaccinate.

    The number of Australian babies not fully immunised is now one in 12 and parents registering a conscientious objection has leapt from 4271 in 1999 to more than 30,000.

    The figures have prompted 12 top researchers to launch a campaign this week to debunk the claims of groups that claim vaccinations are dangerous.

    Professor Ian Frazer, who developed the cervical cancer vaccine, said he feared immunisation levels for some diseases were falling below those required to prevent deadly outbreaks.

    And eminent biologist Sir Gustav Nossal has accused the anti-vaccination lobby of preventing the eradication of measles through its false claim that the vaccine against the disease caused autism.

    A 20-page booklet to be launched today explains that many more children will die from diseases such as measles, mumps and diphtheria than will be harmed by the side effects of immunisation.

    The booklet, launched by the Academy of Science, will also explain why it is better to gain immunity from a vaccination than from the disease.

    Professor Frazer, who helped develop the document, warned of a dangerous fall in immunisation levels for diseases such as whooping cough.

    Although 92 per cent of 12 to 15-month-old babies have been immunised against whooping cough, Professor Frazer said the disease spread more easily when the rate fell below 95 per cent.

    Health Department figures show there were more than 7100 cases of whooping cough recorded across Australia in the first three months of 2012.

    Professor Nossal said the anti-vaccination lobby was only able to campaign against immunisation because of its success in reducing the outbreak of infectious diseases.

    Professor Frazer said it was because parents no longer saw cases of measles or mumps that they did not understand measles could kill a child and cause brain damage or that mumps could make a male sterile and that chicken pox could be fatal.

    "As infectious diseases become less common, people are less aware of the need to vaccinate their children," Prof Frazer said.

    And he noted that it was a "brave decision" by parents not to immunise their child when the child could not make that decision itself.

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  9. Father of two Jaime Sanchez said he and wife Genevieve felt strongly about immunisation.

    The couple's daughters Eva, 6, and Lola, 4, had received all the recommended vaccinations, which meant they were fully protected for school and kindergarten.

    "There's probably a few risks with any medical procedure but the risk of not doing it is much, much greater and statistics prove that out," he said.

    "I think there's a lot of ill-advised fear-mongering from people who don't know what they're on about.

    "But it's a hard one to bring up with people who have decided they don't want to vaccinate their kids."

    He was concerned that unvaccinated children could pass on diseases to children who were too young to have been vaccinated.

    "If you're not going to vaccinate your kids, that's fine but then don't bring them around mine," he said.

    Children must be fully immunised for their families to claim the $726 Family Tax Benefit Part A supplement.

    More than 30,000 children have a conscientious objection recorded.

    The 20-page booklet explains to parents who may be worried about vaccine side effects that only three in every 10,000 children who receive the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine develop a fever high enough to cause seizures but 100 in 10,000 develop such a fever if they catch the disease.

    One in four patients chronically infected with hepatitis B will die from cirrhosis of the liver or from liver cancer.

    This risk is reduced to almost zero after the hepatitis B vaccine.

    The booklet tackles claims that immunisation is linked to autism and says medical studies show the incidence of autism in people who had the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine is identical to that of people who did not have it.

    The booklet is produced by the Australian Academy of Science and parents can access the document here: http://www.science.org.au/policy/immunisation.html

    - with Lauren Novak


  10. Gunmen in Pakistan Kill Women Who Were Giving Children Polio Vaccines

    By DECLAN WALSH and DONALD G. McNEIL Jr. New York Times December 18, 2012

    ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Gunmen shot dead five female health workers who were immunizing children against polio on Tuesday, causing the Pakistani government to suspend vaccinations in two cities and dealing a fresh setback to an eradication campaign dogged by Taliban resistance in a country that is one of the disease’s last global strongholds.

    “It is a blow, no doubt,” said Shahnaz Wazir Ali, an adviser on polio to Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf. “Never before have female health workers been targeted like this in Pakistan. Clearly there will have to be more and better arrangements for security.”

    No group claimed responsibility for the attacks, but most suspicion focused on the Pakistani Taliban, which has previously blocked polio vaccinators and complained that the United States is using the program as a cover for espionage.

    The killings were a serious reversal for the multibillion-dollar global polio immunization effort, which over the past quarter century has reduced the number of endemic countries from 120 to just three: Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria.

    Nonetheless, United Nations officials insisted that the drive would be revived after a period for investigation and regrouping, as it had been after previous attacks on vaccinators here, in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

    Pakistan has made solid gains against polio, with 56 new recorded cases of the diseases in 2012, compared with 192 at the same point last year, according to the government. Worldwide, cases of death and paralysis from polio have been reduced to less than 1,000 last year, from 350,000 worldwide in 1988.

    But the campaign here has been deeply shaken by Taliban threats and intimidation, though several officials said Tuesday that they had never seen such a focused and deadly attack before.

    Insurgents have long been suspicious of polio vaccinators, seeing them as potential spies. But that greatly intensified after the C.I.A. used a vaccination team headed by a local doctor, Shakil Afridi, to visit Osama bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, reportedly in an attempt to obtain DNA proof that the Bin Laden family was there before an American commando raid on it in May 2011.

    In North Waziristan, one prominent warlord has banned polio vaccinations until the United States ceases drone strikes in the area.

    Most new infections in Pakistan occur in the tribal belt and adjoining Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province — some of the most remote areas of the country, and also those with the strongest militant presence. People fleeing fighting in those areas have also spread the disease to Karachi, the country’s largest city, where the disease has been making a worrisome comeback in recent years.

    After Tuesday’s attacks, witnesses described violence that was both disciplined and well coordinated. Five attacks occurred within an hour in different Karachi neighborhoods. In several cases, the killers traveled in pairs on motorcycle, opening fire on female health workers as they administered polio drops or moved between houses in crowded neighborhoods.

    Of the five victims, three were teenagers, and some had been shot in the head, a senior government official said. Two male health workers were also wounded by gunfire; early reports incorrectly stated that one of them had died, the official said.

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  11. In Peshawar, the capital of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province, gunmen opened fire on two sisters participating in the polio vaccination program, killing one of them. It was unclear whether that shooting was directly linked to the Karachi attacks.

    In remote parts of the northwest, the Taliban threat is exacerbated by the government’s crumbling writ. In Bannu, on the edge of the tribal belt, one polio worker, Noor Khan, said he quit work on Tuesday once news of the attacks in Karachi and Peshawar filtered in.

    “We were told to stop immediately,” he said by phone.

    Still, the Pakistani government has engaged considerable political and financial capital in fighting polio. President Asif Ali Zardari and his daughter Aseefa have been at the forefront of immunization drives. With the help of international donors, including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, they have mounted a huge vaccination campaign aimed at up to 35 million children younger than 5, usually in three-day bursts that can involve 225,000 health workers.

    The plan seeks to have every child in Pakistan immunized at least four times per year, although in the hardest-hit areas one child could be reached as many as 12 times in a year.

    After an attack on a United Nations doctor from Ghana in Karachi last July, officials had been braced for some sort of violent resistance in the city. But the extent and scale of the attacks on Tuesday caught the government by surprise.

    “Clearly, this sort of coordinated and well-planned target killing has more than just an antipolio agenda,” said Ms. Ali, the prime minister’s adviser. She declined to speculate on the gunmen’s identity, but noted both the previous Taliban threats against polio workers and Karachi’s history of ethnically driven political violence.

    “I can’t say who is behind this. Only the investigation will show,” she said.

    Heidi Larson, an anthropologist at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine who keeps an index of “vaccine confidence,” predicted that the new killings would hurt the eradication drive.

    “We knew this was coming, didn’t we?” she said.

    Unicef does detailed interviews with people who refuse vaccines. Although that often uncovers the real reasons they refuse — in India, Dr. Larson said, the surveys found that women did not want men giving drops to their children — it can miss the larger political issues, like a desire by some fanatics to terrorize all vaccinators by killing a few.

    But Dr. Bruce Aylward, the World Health Organization’s chief of polio eradication, said that although vaccinators were often threatened, neither the Taliban nor any subgroup had ever claimed responsibility for killing them, despite the fact that militants usually boast about attacks on government targets and happily explain why they were chosen.

    Some earlier vaccinator deaths, he said, were thought to be private grudges, some occurred in the course of other criminal activities, like carjacking, and some were “just wrong place, wrong time.”

    For Pakistan’s beleaguered progressives, the attack on female health workers was another sign of how the country’s extremist fringe would stoop to attack the vulnerable and minorities.

    “Ahmadis, Shias, Hazaras, Christians, child activists, doctors, antipolio workers — who’s next on the target list, Pakistan?” asked Mira Hashmi, a lecturer in film studies at the Lahore School of Economics, in a post on Twitter.

    Declan Walsh reported from Islamabad, and Donald G. McNeil Jr. from New York. Salman Masood contributed reporting from Islamabad, and Zia ur-Rehman from Karachi, Pakistan.


  12. New Report Sheds Light on Bin Laden Murder, as Pakistan Faces Fallout from U.S.-Led Vaccination Plot

    Democracy Now December 21, 2012


    Today we look at the capture of Osama bin Laden — the focus of the controversial new movie, "Zero Dark Thirty," which was released this week. Billed as "the story of history’s greatest manhunt for the world’s most dangerous man," the film has come under harsh criticism from Republican Sen. John McCain and Democratic Senators Dianne Feinstein and Carl Levin for its depiction of torture. Meanwhile, Pakistan continues to face the fallout from the raid that led to the capture and killing of bin Laden in May 2011. Eight health workers have been killed this week during a nationwide anti-polio drive, as opposition to such immunization efforts in parts of country has increased after the fake CIA hepatitis vaccination campaign that helped locate bin Laden last year. Pakistan is one of only three countries in the world where polio remains endemic. Pakistani clerics said medical workers should not pay the price for those who collaborated with the CIA. For more, we’re joined by Matthieu Aikins, who just returned from two months in Pakistan researching what led to the capture and killing of bin Laden. His most recent article for GQ magazine is called "The Doctor, the CIA, and the Blood of Bin Laden." [includes rush transcript]

    read the rest of this article or view the video at:


  13. Great cause, poor choice

    Ottawa Citizen Editorial, Ottawa Citizen January 29, 2013

    Anti-vaccine activist Jenny McCarthy seems like an odd choice for celebrity spokesperson for a cancer-foundation fundraiser.

    The Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation is planning its Bust a Move for Breast Health fundraiser for March 2. It’s described as a “day-long fitness extravaganza” and the foundation deserves credit for organizing this event to raise money for a most worthy cause. “Funds from the 2013 event will be invested in the Cancer Foundation’s commitment to the Ottawa Hospital Foundation for the expansion of the Cancer Centre and programming at the Cancer Survivorship Centre,” the Bust a Move website explains. The goal this year is to raise $500,000.

    On Tuesday, the organization announced that this year’s “celebrity guest” would be “the fabulous Jenny McCarthy.” She’ll be leading a workout class at the event.

    McCarthy is a television personality, a model and an author of several books on various topics, including parenting, sex and fitness. She’s also the face of the anti-vaccine movement, arguing that there’s a link between what she would consider North America’s modern vaccination schedule and autism. She is perhaps the best known celebrity endorser of that particular wacky view.

    All of which makes her a strange partner for an organization that’s working to promote good health. The one notorious paper suggesting a link between the MMR vaccine and autism was retracted by The Lancet last year. Vaccination is one of the greatest advances of modern medicine; it’s why diseases like “diphtheria” mean little more to us than a name on a vaccination card, when a century ago those diseases regularly killed children.

    “In the last 50 years, immunization has saved more lives in Canada than any other health intervention,” the Public Health Agency of Canada explains in its immunization guide. To take just one example, there were about 61,000 cases of measles in Canada in the early 1950s. By the 2000s, that was down to less than 200. In the early 1920s, there were about 9,000 cases of diphtheria in Canada a year. Today, the disease is almost unknown. These are serious diseases that used to cause life-altering complications and death.

    And vaccines, such as the HPV vaccine, are an increasingly important tool in cancer prevention.

    “There’s something wrong with this generation of kids,” wrote McCarthy in the Huffington Post a few years ago. “They aren’t healthy.” Actually, the under-five mortality rate has plummeted in Canada over the last 50 years, and vaccines are one reason for that.

    A health and fitness fundraiser, in service of a health-related foundation, should not hitch its wagon to an advocate for a harmful and unfounded ideology.


  14. Anti-Vaccination Advocate to Headline Ottawa Cancer Event: CFI Canada, CASS and Ottawa Skeptics Issue Response

    The upcoming fundraising event “Bust a Move”, held regionally in Ottawa is planning to host Anti-Vaccination Advocate Jenny McCarthy as a headline speaker. McCarthy’s writings have contributed substantially to the belief that vaccines cause autism and cancer. Together with CFI Ottawa, CFI Canada, and the Comittee for the Advancement of Scientific Skepticism, we have released the statement below.

    An Open Letter to Bernice Rachkowski

    To Bernice Rachkowski
    Leadership Committee Chair
    Bust a Move 2013

    Dear Ms Rachkowski,

    We are greatly disappointed to hear of your decision to select Jenny McCarthy as headliner for the Bust a Move fundraiser this year. As pointed out by the Ottawa Citizen, Ms. McCarthy is well-known for her outspoken support for deeply unscientific and anti-health claims regarding vaccination and autism. As such, she is entirely unsuitable to represent a cancer charity such as the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation, and we ask you to please reconsider this unwise invitation.

    McCarthy has claimed for years that vaccines cause autism, ignoring copious scientific evidence that there is no such connection. She has used her celebrity to spearhead a public campaign to discredit childhood vaccination, a medical advance responsible for saving millions of lives every year. Her celebrity status – which you cite as the reason for your invitation – has helped her to persuade large numbers of parents to leave their children defenceless against potentially lethal illnesses such as measles and whooping cough. The dangers of such reckless misinformation have become increasingly apparent in recent years with the tragically unnecessary resurgence of several of these diseases.

    McCarthy’s campaign against vaccinations should be of particular concern to the ORCF, for declining vaccination rates have an impact on cancer and cancer survival rates. The HPV vaccine, which shows great promise in reducing the incidence of cervical and other cancers, has met with resistance and disappointingly low uptake rates, in part because of the public distrust of vaccination sown by celebrities such as Jenny McCarthy. Moreover, the reduction in herd immunity caused by wide-scale refusal to vaccinate children poses a very real threat to the survival of immunocompromised cancer patients.

    By inviting Jenny McCarthy to participate in your fundraiser, you raise her profile within the community, and implicitly give support to her anti-vaccination efforts. Even though she may not mention these views as part of your event, she will gain credibility from association with such a reputable and well-liked charity as the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation. At the same time, you bring yourself into disrepute by inviting such a controversial figure to play a prominent part in your campaign. As members of the medical, scientific, and skeptical communities, we cannot help but question the judgement of an organization that would extend such an invitation.

    It is not too late. You are reported in the Ottawa Citizen to have said that you would be surprised if people were upset by your invitation of Ms McCarthy. This was clearly a miscalculation. We hope that you will recognize the error that you have made and restore public trust in your organization by rescinding this invitation.


    Michael Payton, National Executive Director, Centre for Inquiry Canada

    Iain Martel and Steve Livingston, Co-chairs, Committee for the Advancement of Scientific Skepticism

    Chris Hebbern, Chair, Ottawa Skeptics
    Seanna Watson, Chair, Centre for Inquiry Ottawa


  15. Jenny McCarthy Dumped from Bust A Move Ottawa event

    CTV Ottawa February 1, 2013

    Actress Jenny McCarthy has been dumped again.

    McCarthy won't be in Ottawa for Bust A Move.

    The Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation reacted today to a public backlash in signing the anti-vaccine campaigner to the Ottawa breast health fundraiser.

    McCarthy was to headline a fitness class for the March 2nd fundraiser at the Ottawa Athletic Club.

    Social media websites exploded with negative reaction to McCarthy's choice for Ottawa's Bust A Move celebrity.

    Twitter featured hashtag #DropJenny.

    McCarthy has been replaced by fitness guru Tommy Europe.


  16. Anti-vaccine movement coming to Vancouver

    Centre for Inquiry says SFU should not host conference

    CBC News March 6, 2013

    A controversial group opposing the use of vaccines is holding a conference at Simon Fraser University's downtown campus next week, drawing criticism from some scientists who say their message is a threat to the health of children and the community.

    Organizers say the Vaccine Summit will take place on Tuesday and feature researchers and experts from across North America who question the effectiveness and safety of vaccines.

    There will also be round-table discussions featuring parents who say their children have fallen ill after receiving vaccinations.

    Vaccines have been used since the late 17th century and have been credited with eradicating diseases like smallpox and polio.

    But the anti-vaccine movement, fueled by a handful of celebrity endorsements, has been gaining momentum in recent years.

    SFU says the university doesn’t endorse the group’s views, but hopes the conference leads to a healthy debate about the issues.

    “We have a university policy. It says we support freedom of expression. Doesn’t mean we endorse the views,” said SFU president Andrew Petter.

    “One of the reasons we endorse freedom of expression is because we believe the views that are expressed that are false or unthinking will be exposed as such through an exchange of views.”

    But there are those who believe the university should not host the conference.

    “I think the anti-vac movement is very powerful, even though it occupies a fringe level of science,” said Ethan Clow, Director of the Centre for Inquiry, a non-profit educational organization.

    “Our concern is that by giving space to this anti-vaccine group, SFU is lending tacit approval to their message, which has been rigorously debunked."


  17. Letter to Simon Fraser University concerning “Vaccine Summit: Vancouver 2013” at SFU Harbour Centre.

    by Centre for Inquiry Vancouver, March 5, 2012

    Dear President Petter,

    We are deeply disappointed to see Simon Fraser University (SFU) lend its credibility to dangerous anti-vaccination propaganda by renting space to the upcoming “Vaccine Summit: Vancouver 2013” at SFU Harbour Centre.

    University campuses are, and should be, venues for the free exchange of ideas. We recognize that one of your vital duties is to be a place where controversial ideas are allowed a fair hearing; but a university also has a duty to educate the public.

    The “Vaccine Summit” is billed as a “transparent discussion about vaccines”. It actually promises to be nothing more than a platform for discredited scare-mongering about vaccination.

    Vaccination is one of the most successful public health interventions of the modern world. The benefits of vaccinations are clear: smallpox has been eradicated, polio is on the verge of eradication, and infectious diseases that were endemic are now in retreat. Billions of lives have been saved because of vaccination. Vaccines are safe: the known minimum risks are greatly outweighed by the benefits.

    This is not the message that the attendees at the “Vaccine Summit” will hear.

    They can expect to be told that vaccines cause autism—despite this claim having been comprehensively refuted. (Andrew Wakefield, the champion of this claim, was found to have committed wilful research misconduct including falsification of data and misappropriation of funds. Wakefield was barred from medical practice in the UK, and his 1998 publication in The Lancet was retracted.)

    They will be told that vaccines are dangerously toxic, and that unproven naturopathic and other alternative treatments are more effective.

    Most tragically, they will be told to deny their children the protection provided by vaccines.

    As misinformation has spread, vaccination rates have declined. Regionally-eliminated diseases, such as measles, are making a swift return to North America and Europe, including an outbreak of pertussis (“whooping cough”) here in Vancouver just last autumn. B.C. has also seen recent outbreaks of measles: in most cases, directly attributable to falling rates of childhood vaccination.

    continued in next comment...

  18. SFU is a respected centre of learning, and it should be doing everything in its power to educate the public about the vital importance of routine vaccination. It should counter the falsehoods spread by those who confuse correlation with causation and insist on unproven links between vaccination and autism. It should be concerned with, and actively campaign against, the types of misinformation and ignorance that put the province’s children at risk of preventable disease. It should listen to its own colleagues in SFU’s Faculty of Health Sciences, who, on their website, have unequivocally denied endorsement of the Vaccine Resistance Movement or its activities.

    It should not, for the pittance of a space rental fee, implicitly endorse an event dedicated to the spread of misinformation that will help create a Canadian public health crisis.

    We call on Simon Fraser University to strongly and unequivocally declare that it does not support the anti-vaccination message of the Vaccine Resistance Movement, and to acknowledge its mistake in allowing the promotion of inaccurate information and dangerous quackery to happen on its grounds.

    PRESS RELEASE March 05, 2013

    Medical Experts Outraged Over Anti-Vaccination Event at Simon Fraser

    VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA—(Marketwire - March 5, 2013) - ‘Vaccine Summit: Vancouver 2013’, to be hosted at Simon Fraser University’s Harbour Centre (Vancouver) campus is billed as a “transparent discussion about vaccines”, but according to medical experts it is just a platform for anti-vaccine activists to spread dangerous misinformation which could harm the public. Even SFU’s Faculty of Health Sciences was disturbed that the university would associate itself with such an event and described it as “anti-science and contrary to good public health practice”.

    An open letter to the SFU president calls for SFU to repudiate an anti-vaccination conference. The letter was co-signed by the Centre for Inquiry (CFI) Vancouver, Committee for the Advancement of Scientific Skepticism, and a number of Vancouver-area medical experts.

    CFI Vancouver’s Ethan Clow thinks that isn’t enough: “Simon Fraser University needs to make a clear public statement about the overwhelming medical evidence in support of vaccination, and disavowing the message of the Vaccine Resistance Movement,” he said. “The university made a mistake, and needs to fix that mistake through science-based public outreach and education about vaccination.”


  19. Number Of Early Childhood Vaccines Not Linked To Autism

    by JON HAMILTON, NPR March 29, 2013

    A large new government study should reassure parents who are afraid that kids are getting autism because they receive too many vaccines too early in life.

    The study, by researchers at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, found no connection between the number of vaccines a child received and his or her risk of autism spectrum disorder. It also found that even though kids are getting more vaccines these days, those vaccines contain many fewer of the substances that provoke an immune response.

    The study offers a response to vaccine skeptics who have suggested that getting too many vaccines on one day or in the first two years of life may lead to autism, says Frank DeStefano, director of the Immunization Safety Office of the CDC.

    To find out if that was happening, DeStefano led a team that compared the vaccine histories of about 250 children who had autism spectrum disorder with those of 750 typical kids. Specifically, the researchers looked at what scientists call antigens. An antigen is a substance in a vaccine that causes the body to produce antibodies, proteins that help fight off infections.

    The team looked at medical records to see how many antigens each child received and whether that affected the risk of autism. The results, published in The Journal of Pediatrics, were unequivocal.

    "The amount of antigens from vaccines received on one day of vaccination or in total during the first two years of life is not related to the development of autism spectrum disorder in children," DeStefano says.

    The finding came as no surprise to researchers who study the immune system, DeStefano says. After all, he says, kids are exposed to antigens all the time in the form of bacteria and viruses. "It's not really clear why a few more antigens from vaccines would be something that the immune system could not handle," he says.

    The study also found that even though the number of vaccines has gone up, the number of antigens in vaccines has gone down markedly. In the late-1990s, the vaccination schedule exposed children to several thousand antigens, the study says. But by 2012, that number had fallen to 315.

    That dramatic reduction occurred because vaccines have become much more precise in the way they stimulate the immune system, DeStefano says.

    Hardcore vaccine skeptics are unlikely to be swayed by the new research. But many worried parents should be, says Ellen Wright Clayton, a professor at Vanderbilt University who helped write a report on vaccine safety for the Institute of Medicine.

    "I certainly hope that a carefully conducted study like this will get a lot of play, and that some people will find this convincing," Clayton says. That would let researchers pursue more important questions, she says.

    "The sad part is, by focusing on the question of whether vaccines cause autism spectrum disorders, they're missing the opportunity to look at what the real causes are," she says. "It's not vaccines."

    Autism Speaks, a major advocacy and research group, seems ready to move beyond the vaccine issue. Geraldine Dawson, the group's top scientist, praised the new study and says the result should clear the way for research on other potential causes of autism.

    These include factors like nutrition, which can affect a baby's brain development in the womb, Dawson says. Other factors could include medications and infections during pregnancy, she says, or an infant's exposure to pesticides or pollution.

    "As we home in on what is causing autism, I think we are going to have fewer and fewer questions about some of these things that don't appear to be causing autism," Dawson says.


  20. Wales measles: Parents overcome MMR mistrust legacy

    BBC News April 6, 2013

    Public health officials say a big increase in the demand for MMR vaccinations in south Wales suggests parents' "legacy of mistrust" over the jab is being overcome.

    Take-up for the MMR vaccine in the area dropped significantly in the late 1990s when research - which has since been discredited - raised concerns over the jab.

    Saturday has seen hundreds of people queueing at four local hospitals offering drop-in clinics for children and young adults.

    The outbreak has affected nearly 600 people across south, west and mid Wales.

    Families began queueing at the drop-in MMR clinic at Swansea's Morriston Hospital an hour before it opened on Saturday morning.

    One mother, Kelly Byrne, said she arrived at around 09:50 BST so that her two-and-a-half-year-old daughter Grace could have a second booster jab.

    She said: "It was just really busy, there was a huge queue already.

    "It's a relief now she's had that [vaccination], so hopefully she will be safe against the measles.

    "She's in a creche so she's in contact with a quite a lot of children. It was a concern."

    Another in the queue with her three-year-old daughter said: "Personally, I don't know anyone with measles, but I know people who know people [with measles] so it's really worrying.

    'Really scared'
    "I've got a nine-week old as well so I was really scared that she might get measles and pass something on to him."

    Before the introduction of the MMR vaccination in 1988, some half a million children in the UK caught measles each year and about 100 died from it.

    But concerns over its safety were raised a decade later when surgeon Andrew Wakefield published a paper in The Lancet - which the publication later fully retracted - suggesting MMR was linked with an increased risk of autism.

    That paper, and the subsequent media coverage, led to immunisation rates plummeting. From a high of 92% across the UK in 1995-6, it fell to an average of 80% in 2003-4.

    The latest figures for Wales, which cover October to December 2012, show that uptake of the first dose of MMR vaccine in two-year-old children was 94% and ranged by local authority from 87% to 97%.

    Nine local authority areas and one health board achieved the target of 95% uptake.

    Uptake of the second MMR dose by five years of age increased to 90%, from 89% in the previous quarter.

    Some GP surgeries in the Swansea area have responded to the epidemic by offering extra clinics for the MMR vaccine.

    Speaking ahead of the weekend drop-in clinics at four south Wales hospitals, Dr Roland Salmon, director of Public Health Wales' Communicable Disease Surveillance Centre, said initial attempts to increase MMR take-up in the city via vaccination sessions in schools had met with a poor response.

    He said: "We think at that point we were still suffering from some of the legacy of the mistrust.

    "The interest that has been shown in the media and the public subsequently, and the activities of the general practitioners, has done a great deal to restore trust in the vaccine. People are now coming forward in large numbers."


  21. Marion County parents lose latest battle to not immunize their 8 kids

    By Aimee Green, The Oregonian April 3, 2013

    Marion County parents who lost custody of their eight young children last year also lost their fight Wednesday to prevent the state from immunizing the children.

    The Oregon Court of Appeals ruled that the parents -- identified only as S.M. and R.M. in the opinion -- didn't have the right to stop child welfare workers from having the children, ages 1 to 8, vaccinated against an array of infectious diseases.

    The parents said vaccinations are against their religious beliefs, which is an exemption to school vaccination requirements under Oregon law.

    But the children's attorney and the Oregon Department of Human Services had sought and received a court order in April 2012 requiring that the children get their shots. They argued that because the state had custody of the children, it also had the power to make medical decisions for them. The appeals court affirmed a Marion County circuit judge's ruling.

    The opinion likely will add fuel to the fiery debate about a small but significant number of families in Oregon who delay or shun immunizations altogether because of what they believe can be irreversible adverse health effects.

    Oregon has made national headlines because of the notable swath of families who take issue with vaccines. The rate of Oregon kindergartners who received exemptions from vaccines was 5.8 percent last year -- amounting to more than 2,600 kindergartners across the state. Oregon's exemption rate leads the nation, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control.

    In the Marion County case, the children were removed from the parents' home because of concerns about their welfare, but the opinion didn't offer any details and attorneys declined to talk about the case because of special protections placed on juvenile cases. Although the children are wards of the state and living with relatives, the mother and father still have parental rights.

    The parents also couldn't be reached for comment.

    It appears the children haven't yet been immunized because a Marion County judge -- upon the parents' request -- froze last year's order pending the outcome of their appeal. The parents have the option of appealing Wednesday's ruling to the Oregon Supreme Court.

    Gene Evans, a DHS spokesman, said state law and agency policy require child welfare workers to ensure that children in department custody get their shots. If the parents object, caseworkers check with a doctor to make sure the child doesn't have allergies or other medical conditions that could cause a bad reaction, Evans said. If a doctor recommends immunizations, the department has the option of turning to a judge for permission.

    In making its ruling, the appeals court noted that North Carolina and Georgia courts similarly have denied parents without custody of their kids a say in immunizations.

    But the court also noted that it found one state -- Arizona -- that ruled a mother who still had parental rights could prevent her child from being vaccinated.


  22. Parents need to know homeopathy does not protect against measles, says MP

    Homeopathy group confirms there is no evidence that homeopathic 'vaccines' protect against contagious diseases

    Sarah Boseley, The Guardian April 15, 2013

    The GP and Conservative MP Sarah Wollaston is calling on homeopathy's governing bodies to make it clear to parents that their alternative remedies will not protect children from measles outbreaks.

    Large numbers of children have not had the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine, largely because of the scare that followed the publication of research by Andrew Wakefield in the Lancet medical journal in 1998 that postulated a link between the jab and autism. The research was later discredited and Wakefield was struck off by the General Medical Council for fraud.

    In Wollaston's constituency of Totnes, Devon, the concern generated by Wakefield lingers on and is part of the reason, she believes, for a general distrust of vaccines and a reliance on homeopathy – remedies that are almost entirely water.

    About 70% of five-year-olds in Totnes were fully protected against measles last year, she said on her blog, compared with 94% of those in Brixham, just miles away.

    "Some parents have an unshakeable belief that homeopathy boosts their child's immune system. They would rather put their faith in 'natural' methods, as they see it," she told the Guardian.

    That belief can spread in communities and outside school gates, and those who accept the NHS advice to give their child the MMR vaccine start to feel pressured.

    "Once it reaches a critical mass within a community, it takes on its own significance – you become an irresponsible parent if you are vaccinating," she said. "I think it is time to dump this term 'herd immunity'. The message, as I see it, is about community immunity. By vaccinating your child, you protect the child who cannot be vaccinated as they are too young or sickly."

    Wollaston called on the governing bodies of homeopathy to tell parents that homeopathic "vaccines" and remedies would not protect against measles.

    The British Homeopathic Association and Faculty of Homeopathy said they would do so. "There is no evidence to suggest homeopathic vaccinations can protect against contagious diseases. We recommend people seek out the conventional treatments," a spokesman said.

    "I don't know where the parents in Totnes are getting their information from – it certainly is not us. There is no legal regulation of homeopathy in the UK and anyone can set themselves up as an expert. It is those people who tend to give us a bad name."

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  23. Philip Edmonds, chairman of the Society of Homeopaths said: "The Society does not endorse the use of homeopathic medicines as an alternative to vaccination for the prevention of serious infectious diseases and recommends that members of the public seek the advice of their GP, and/or relevant Department of Health guidelines, concerning vaccination and protection against disease."

    There are currently about 700 cases and suspected cases of measles in Wales, the biggest outbreak since the triple jab was launched in 1988. An estimated 40,000 children in Wales have not had the MMR, and special catch-up NHS clinics have been held for two weekends in a row in the worst-affected Swansea area.

    Some parents continue to seek out single vaccines, against NHS advice. The Children's Immunisation Centre, which runs six clinics in England and one in Swansea, said it was being inundated with calls from parents seeking a measles vaccine.

    "The clinics are very, very busy," said manager Zoe Miller. "It has made people realise, crikey, we have not vaccinated our children. They need to do it before it spreads to their children."

    Miller said staff advised parents to give their children all three vaccines at intervals, but the chain of private clinics has no mumps vaccine and has not had any for three years.

    Outbreaks of mumps, sometimes known as the kissing disease, can occur among students starting university. Although serious complications are rare, they can include viral meningitis and swelling of the testicles or ovaries.

    "Mumps isn't life-threatening," said Miller. The vaccine, she added "is apparently available in Singapore". The clinics say they are attempting to source a Jeryl Lynn strain of mumps vaccine to import, which they say is the safest strain.

    However, the Medicine and Healthcare Products Regulatory Authority, which licences vaccines in the UK, disagrees.

    "The MHRA is not currently aware of any available single-component mumps vaccines for which there are no safety concerns," it said in a statement.

    "In relation to the Children's Immunisation clinics, we have significant concerns over the quality of the mumps vaccine the clinic is attempting to supply."

    The Department of Health's position is that there is no evidence to support the use of single vaccines or to suggest they are in any way safer than the MMR, which is supported by the World Health Organisation and other independent expert groups around the world. Giving children the single vaccine leaves them at risk of catching the other diseases in the intervals between jabs.


  24. U.K. measles outbreak shows the lost generation of unvaccinated kids

    Andrew Wakefield’s bogus theory spawned a generation at risk

    by Leah McLaren, Maclean's April 25, 2013

    Last week, in the small coastal city of Swansea, Wales, a 25-year-old man with measles was found dead in his flat. It was the first measles fatality in Britain in five years, and a bleak development in an epidemic caused by a health scare that began here more than a decade and a half ago.

    Almost 900 people, mostly children and adolescents, have contracted the disease in recent weeks. Health officials say it’s the result of a “lost generation” of children, now roughly 10-18 years old, who did not receive their vaccinations as infants in the 1990s. Back then, there were widely publicized concerns about a link between bowel disease, the MMR vaccine—which protects children against measles, mumps and rubella—and autism. While the link was later disproved and the 1998 paper that promoted it exposed as fraudulent, many parents, particularly in the Swansea area where the local media took up the story, still failed to get their children immunized. Why this legacy of mistrust took hold in south Wales more strongly than the rest of the country is not entirely known, though most put it down to those early reports, combined with a relatively inward-looking culture. What’s certain is that consequences could be dire.

    The Swansea epidemic shows no signs of ending; 121 new cases appeared in the last week. Epidemiologists expect the outbreak could last until the summer holidays and beyond. And there are serious concerns it could spread to other parts of Wales, due to low vaccination rates across that region—as well as across the entire country. It is estimated at least 40,000 children across Wales are currently not vaccinated.

    The former surgeon and medical researcher at the centre of the controversy is Andrew Wakefield, who was a senior lecturer and honorary consultant in experimental gastroenterology at the Royal Free Hospital School of Medicine. In 1998, he published a now-infamous paper in the medical journal The Lancet that linked “behavioural symptoms” with MMR, reporting that the onset of autism began two weeks after infants received their first round of jabs. (His theory was that the measles portion of the vaccine damaged the children’s intestines and eventually their brains.) The paper claimed to have identified a new syndrome, which Wakefield and his co-authors dubbed “autistic enterocolitis”—a behavioural disorder supposedly brought on by MMR and linked to bowel disease.

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  25. Many parents of autistic children hailed the research as a breakthrough; not only did it offer a cause for a mysterious and debilitating disorder, it offered a solution, too: a gluten- and dairy-free diet that proponents claimed alleviated symptoms.

    Celebrity proponents of the MMR-autism link, most notably Jenny McCarthy, went public promoting the research. But despite 14 major public health studies in countries such as the U.K., U.S., Denmark and Finland, which studied more than 600,000 autistic children, no researchers were able to replicate the link. In fact, the rate of autism was exactly the same in children who had received MMR as those who had not. Wakefield’s theory was obliterated.

    The U.K.’s General Medical Council launched an inquiry into allegations of misconduct and, in 2010, found that Wakefield had “failed in his duties as a responsible consultant.” He was struck off the Medical Register and barred from practising medicine. The Lancet, which published the original paper, issued a full and immediate retraction, and the Sunday Times declared Wakefield’s autism link “an elaborate fraud” perpetrated for the personal gain of Andrew Wakefield himself.

    Amazingly, none of this has given Wakefield a moment of pause. He has consistently maintained his innocence and the veracity of his findings and continues to promote the idea of an MMR link to autism. Indeed, he took to YouTube earlier this month to defend himself against the latest claims that the outbreak in south Wales was his fault. His bizarre argument is that the government was actually to blame, as it showed more interest in protecting the MMR vaccine than at-risk children and did not heed his advice to administer separate vaccines. The Independent newspaper ran a link to Wakefield’s screed on the front page of its website and was roundly excoriated for giving him a platform.

    Meanwhile, as the media focus on Wakefield, public health workers in south Wales are desperately trying to make sure all unvaccinated children receive their jabs. The “lost generation” is still at risk. As one Welsh epidemiologist told the BBC, “Nowhere in Wales is safe from measles, and I think that is true of the U.K. as a whole.” Unrepentant though he is, Andrew Wakefield has a lot to answer for.


  26. Anti-vax parents may join dubious church

    by Nine News Australia May 29, 2013

    An anti-vaccination group is encouraging parents to circumvent the NSW government's crackdown on unvaccinated children by joining a "dubious" religious organisation.

    The Australian Anti-Vaccination Network (AVN) is telling supporters to join the Church of Conscious Living to get their children into preschool.

    "The tenets of this church absolutely oppose forced medication including vaccination," the AVN says on its website.

    It's promoting the church as an option for parents who don't want "to join the Church of Christian Science in order to get their children into preschool or childcare".

    NSW Opposition Leader John Robertson has questioned the credentials of the church.

    "The credentials of the Church of Conscious Living as a genuine religious organisation are completely dubious - yet its members will be able to use it to gain an exemption," he said.

    Unvaccinated children will be banned from childcare and childcare centre operators will face fines of $4,000 if inspectors discover they are caring for children who don't have proof of vaccination, under new state laws.

    But the legislation, introduced to parliament on Wednesday morning, leaves the door open for parents objecting to vaccinations on religious or medical grounds.

    Mr Robertson said the government had created a loophole large enough for anti-vaccination supporters "to drive a truck through".

    "This loophole created by the O'Farrell government is a victory for the AVN," he said.

    Mr Robertson called on Health Minister Jillian Skinner to explain what the government would do to close the loophole.

    "It's clear that members of the AVN and their supporters will use any means available to avoid protecting children from whooping cough and measles," he said.

    Asked about the matter in parliament on Wednesday, Ms Skinner said the Health Care Complaints Commission had launched an investigation into the AVN.

    "(It) has been monitoring the Australian Vaccination Network ... where they believe that a body such as the AVN is acting counter to the health of people they can take action," she said.

    Under the government's legislation, parents who want to exempt their children from vaccination will need to provide a certificate from their GP or an immunisation nurse, after undergoing compulsory counselling.

    The government's crackdown comes just over a month after a report said tens of thousands of children were behind in their vaccinations, with fears a potentially deadly outbreak could also affect immunised children.


  27. Vaccine exemptions rising, tied to whooping cough

    by By Genevra Pittman, Reuters June 3, 2013

    (Reuters Health) - The number of New York parents who had their child skip at least one required vaccine due to religious reasons increased over the past decade, according to a new study.

    What's more, researchers found counties with high religious exemption rates also had more whooping cough cases - even among children that had been fully vaccinated.

    States set their own requirements on which vaccines a child must have received to enter school. All allow exemptions for medical reasons, and most, including New York, also permit parents with a religious objection to forgo vaccination.

    Less than half of states permit exemptions due to personal or philosophical beliefs. But those also can get counted under religious views in places with less strict exemption policies.

    "Particularly in New York State, I do believe that parents are using religious exemptions for their personal beliefs," said Dr. Jana Shaw, who worked on the study at SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse.

    "There's a lot of vaccine hesitancy."

    Studies have shown cases of whooping cough, also known as pertussis, have been on the rise across the U.S.

    Researchers suspect that's due to the use of a new type of pertussis vaccine - which is safer, but less effective over the long run - and to more children missing or delaying vaccination (see Reuters Health story of May 20, 2013 here: reut.rs/18aYu17).

    For their study, Shaw and her colleagues tracked data from the New York State Department of Health on both religious exemptions and new whooping cough cases. Children were reported as having a religious exemption if they had been allowed to skip at least one required vaccine for non-medical reasons.

    Between 2000 and 2011, the proportion of religiously exempt kids increased from 23 in 10,000 to 45 in 10,000, the study team reported Monday in Pediatrics.

    The number of counties where at least 1 percent of children had a religious exemption also increased, from four to 13. Most of those counties were in western or northern New York.

    continued in next comment...

  28. Higher religious exemption rates were tied to more reported cases of whooping cough. In counties with at least 1 percent exemption, 33 out of every 100,000 children developed pertussis each year, compared to 20 per 100,000 in counties with fewer religious exemptions.


    Children who had been fully vaccinated were also more likely to get sick in places with high exemption rates.

    No vaccine is 100 percent perfect, so infectious disease prevention relies on "herd immunity" - when enough kids are vaccinated that the infection can't spread.

    "If you have enough exempted children in your schools and neighborhood, they will put even vaccinated children at risk," Shaw told Reuters Health.

    Saad Omer, a researcher at the Emory Vaccine Center in Atlanta, said the pattern of increasing non-medical exemptions has been seen in other states as well, including Michigan and California.

    Because of the general success of vaccination, "there is less disease to go around and there's less individual and collective experience. You don't hear about the disease that often," he told Reuters Health.

    "When that happens, successive cohorts of parents start evaluating the real or perceived risk of vaccines more than the risk of disease."

    But those perceived risks - such as a link between vaccines and autism - have not panned out.

    "If you look at the risk-benefit ratio between side effects of vaccines and the benefits they render, it's not even a close call. It's hugely, heavily in favor of vaccines," said Omer, who wasn't involved in the new research.

    Shaw agreed.

    "Vaccines are extremely safe, in spite of what the Internet and other sources have argued," she said. "We have overwhelming evidence that vaccines are safe."

    Both Omer and Shaw said they don't think states and schools should pass judgment on parents' religious beliefs, but that it shouldn't be easy to get a vaccine exemption for convenience or personal preference.

    And, Omer added, "those who don't get (their kids) vaccinated should remember that it's not a benign choice. There are real disease risks."

    SOURCE: bit.ly/cxXOG Pediatrics, online June 3, 2013.


  29. So Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Called Us to Complain … He says scientists lie, journalists are scared of the CDC, and the government is poisoning children.

    By Laura Helmuth| Slate June 11, 2013

    There are two sides to almost every story, and sometimes we publish both of them. That’s true even for science. When the new edition of psychiatry’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual came out, Slate ran stories criticizing it and praising it. We’ve made the case that coal still rules and that it is doomed. But three areas of science are beyond scientific debate even though they are still debated by a lot of people. Evolution and climate change are two. (It makes sense to debate what to do about climate change, but the fact of it has been thoroughly established.) The other is vaccines.

    Robert F. Kennedy Jr. likes to talk. When he calls you to discuss vaccines, he talks a lot, uninterruptably. He called Keith Kloor after Kloor wrote a story for Discover about RFK Jr.’s keynote address to a convention of people who think vaccines cause autism. You can read about their conversation at Kloor's blog. Phil Plait wrote a story about RFK Jr. for Slate last week, pointing out that the idea that vaccines cause autism is a crackpot theory that has been thoroughly debunked, that it is dangerous, and that RFK Jr. is one of its most effective proponents.

    RFK Jr. was displeased. His managing director emailed me (I’m the health and science editor) to say that the story was full of inaccuracies, and I offered to correct any errors right away. He said Kennedy wanted to speak to Plait or me; I requested comments or corrections in writing; we went back and forth. Eventually Kennedy got me on the phone and he talked and I listened.

    Slate doesn’t give equal time to creationists, and given the overwhelming evidence, we would never publish a story claiming that vaccines cause autism. But it’s fascinating, in a horrified head-shaking sort of way, to hear how anti-vaxxers think. I requested a transcript or video of Kennedy’s speech to the 2013 AutismOne/Generation Rescue Conference, but neither the conference hosts nor Kennedy’s office provided them. I can tell you what he said to me instead.

    The short version of the vaccine conspiracy theory (if you are stuck on the phone with RFK Jr., you will be subjected to the long version) is that a vaccine preservative called thimerosal causes autism when injected into children. Government epidemiologists and other scientists, conspiring with the vaccine industry, have covered up data and lied about vaccine ingredients to hide this fact. Journalists are dupes of this powerful cabal that is intentionally poisoning children.

    For a guy whose family has such a distinguished record of public service, Kennedy says some pretty awful things about government employees: “The lies that you are hearing and printing from the CDC are things that should be investigated.” He spoke to one scientist (he named her but I won’t spread the defamation) who, he said, “was actually very honest. She said it’s not safe. She said we know it destroys their brains.”

    I asked the scientist about their conversation. She said there is in fact no evidence that thimerosal destroys children’s brains, and that she never said that it did.

    continued in next comment...

  30. Like a lot of conspiracy theories, this one started with a mystery: Autism diagnoses were going up, and it wasn’t entirely clear why. It was reasonable to ask whether vaccines were disrupting neural development somehow, and a paper published in a prestigious medical journal claimed to show evidence of a link. So scientists studied the question. They found that the incidence of autism is independent of when and how many vaccines children are given, that taking thimerosal out of vaccines doesn’t reduce the incidence of autism, and that the study by Andrew Wakefield purporting to show a link was entirely made up. Thimerosal is a mercury compound, which sounds scary, but mercury comes in many forms that behave differently in the body, and this isn’t the dangerous kind. And in any case, a decade ago thimerosal was removed from the childhood vaccines that anti-vaxxers claimed were causing autism. The evidence is pretty clear now that the increase in autism rates is mostly a matter of better diagnoses and more parents seeking services.

    But RFK Jr. disagrees. A scientist told him about the changes in diagnostic criteria, but “I knew that that was not true, because I spent my life working with people with intellectual disabilities. My family started the Special Olympics. I worked at Camp Shriver from when I was 8 years old. … I saw every kind of mental disability, but I had never seen autistic. I didn’t know what autism was until I saw Rain Man.”

    Kennedy claims that scientists admit to him in private that they are lying about the data. When he challenged one university scientist about the accuracy of studies showing that the presence of thimerosal in vaccines had no effect on autism diagnoses, “He folded like a house of cards. Three weeks later I heard him on the radio and he was saying the same things he said to me, which I knew he knew was lying.”

    A cover-up of such proportions might sound like Pulitzer bait, but he says journalists aren’t pursuing the story because we won’t read scientific papers. (Phil Plait and I both have science Ph.D.s.) As RFK Jr. explained, “journalists get their information from government officials who are saying there’s no problem. Not one of them has picked up the multitude of studies that say thimerosal is the most potent brain killer imaginable.” When RFK Jr. challenged the university scientist about a study of the biological activity of thimerosal in vitro, which “everybody accepts because journalists hadn’t read it,” the scientist said, “ ‘Oh, yeah, you’re right about that.’ He backpedaled.” That’s because “now he was dealing with somebody who wasn’t afraid to read science.”

    I talked to the scientist, who would prefer I not use his name because he gets death threats from unhinged anti-vaxxers. He said, “Kennedy completely misrepresented everything I said.”

    Kennedy brought up his own article about autism and vaccines, which Salon published and eventually retracted. It covered a meeting in 2000 at which scientists discussed what additional research should be done on thimerosal. Here’s how RFK Jr. described it: “They panicked. They had a 3.5-hour discussion about how to hide this from the public, which I published in Rolling Stone and Salon. Salon later pulled it, said it was taken out of context. Read those quotes in [Seth] Mnookin’s book [The Panic Virus: The True Story Behind the Vaccine-Autism Controversy], not even in my article, better yet read the transcripts. If you even read it in Mnookin’s book where he’s trying to disparage me and explode me and say I used them out of context, he proves just the opposite. … The stuff they’re saying is so outrageous and blatant.”

    Seth Mnookin knows the vaccine-autism conspiracy theory as well as anyone. I asked him about Kennedy’s claims, and he said, “What he has done is taken concern that there could be a problem as evidence that there was a problem.”

    continued in next comment...

  31. Kennedy also said that Mnookin, in his book, “doesn’t talk about the science.” The Panic Virus has 66 pages of source notes and 38 pages of bibliography.

    RFK Jr. likens people who believe that vaccines cause autism to scientists whose discoveries were shunned by their small-minded peers. “I watched this happen to Rachel Carson, who I knew, who came to my home. My uncle President Kennedy introduced me to her. … She was condemned in the press by Time, Life, Look, US News & World Report, Newsweek, and Sports Illustrated. She was totally marginalized as a kook. My uncle, I’m proud to say, John Kennedy, went against his own Agriculture Department and vindicated her.”

    William Souder, who wrote the fantastic Carson biography On a Farther Shore and has debunked conspiracy theories about her, says that “generally, Carson and Silent Spring were treated fairly and with respect by the press. The few negative reviews and skeptical articles were far outnumbered by the positive responses.” As with most of what Kennedy said, a kernel of truth is distorted into something malevolent.

    The underdog narrative is powerful. So is fear of chemicals. So is the desire for a simple solution to a complicated problem. And conspiracy theories are alluring. For some people, it’s deeply rewarding to believe that you and your fellow conference attendees are the only ones who know the real story behind the moon landing, Area 51, or the obvious example. Like doomsday cultists after the world doesn’t end, they misinterpret every new bit of information to make it fit into their existing worldview.

    And vaccines are a special case. You’re allowing your healthy child to be injected with some mysterious substance to prevent a disease that—because vaccines work so well—you have never even seen. There’s a long history of conspiracy theories about vaccines, and it’s sometimes easier to recognize the paranoia from afar. In parts of Pakistan, Nigeria, and other countries, people are convinced that a polio eradication campaign is a Western plot to sterilize Muslim children. They know it is: They have it on good authority from leaders with famous names.

    Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s elaborate conspiracy theory is just as delusional and dangerous. Rather than accepting the findings of the Institute of Medicine, the National Institute of Mental Health, or the American Academy of Pediatrics, Kennedy says the scientists are lying. He says vaccine-makers are intentionally poisoning kids and giving them autism.

    Only he and his fellow activists know the truth because journalists, although they may report aggressively on the National Security Agency, Defense Department, and Central Intelligence Agency, are cowed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    Kennedy had one substantive objection to Phil Plait’s story that I hope shows he may someday change his mind. We refer to people who say vaccines cause autism with the shorthand “anti-vaxxers” or say that they are part of the “anti-vaccine movement.” Kennedy said that he is “very much pro-vaccine” and that “vaccines have saved millions and millions of lives.” They will save even more lives if he and his colleagues stop spreading fear and misinformation about them.

    Kennedy is a passionate guy with practically unique name recognition, powerful connections, and the ability to command attention. He could reverse the course of the anti-vaccine movement today if he announced that his concern about vaccines had been well-intentioned, but that research has shown that vaccines don’t cause autism after all. It would be a proud legacy, one worthy of his name.

    to read the numerous links embedded in this article go to:


  32. Parents' fear of vaccinations nearly killed their son

    By Emma Wynne, ABC Australia June 6, 2013

    Auckland parents Ian and Linda Williams thought they had made an informed choice not to vaccinate their children, but after their son ended up in intensive care with a tetanus infection they realised they had made a terrible mistake.

    "The mistake that we made was that we underestimated the diseases and we totally over-estimated the adverse reactions", says father Ian Williams, who is speaking publicly of his family's ordeal in an effort to warn other parents about the dangers of not immunising their children.

    Minor cut, major infection

    It started when seven-year-old Alijah got a small cut on the bottom of his foot in December 2012.

    "Of course we didn't think it was too serious, it was just a little cut but a couple of days later he started getting symptoms like a stroke on the side of his face," Mr Williams says.

    "A couple of days later during the night he started to get cramps across his face. His face would contort and he was in a lot of pain."

    After 24 hours in Auckland's Starship Children's hospital, the doctors diagnosed Alijah with tetanus, and he was taken to intensive care.

    Mr Williams recalls his son's agony, "It's a terrible thing... Your whole body arches, your arms go up in the air."

    "It's like getting cramp but it's everywhere, across the face as well. They are so tight your jaw locks."

    "The tetanus bacterium makes a toxin that attacks the nerves."

    "It got so bad they put him in an induced coma just to put him out of his misery."

    Ian and his wife were asked to leave the room as doctors cut a hole in Alijah's throat so a life support tube could be inserted, and Alijah was heavily sedated for the next three weeks to allow his body to heal.

    "We felt terrible."

    "He was in such pain due to us and our decision-making process so that's why we went to the papers in New Zealand - we just wanted to get our experience out there."

    "It was very obvious we had made a mistake."

    Deciding not to vaccinate

    As well as Alijah, the Williams have a nine-year-old son and a two-year-old daughter, and Ian Williamson says they did their own research and decided not to vaccinate their children.

    "My wife was very against it for her own reasons," he says.

    "I have a science degree and my wife since then has got a science degree as a midwife. I was open to both ideas so I looked into it.

    "If you google vaccines you get a lot of pros and a lot of cons, and you start to read all the cons and they start to weigh on you and you start to believe all the things that are said.

    "It looks like a fifty-fifty argument."

    Williams says that he was influenced by stories he read on the internet that the MMR (Measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine was linked to children developing autism; that they contain mercury and aluminium and that vaccines are promoted by drug companies purely for profit.

    "There are a number of myths out there, and it's really easy to get sucked in."

    "As soon as they said it was tetanus my other two kids were vaccinated the very next day, against all childhood diseases."

    Speaking out

    The Williams' also took the unusual step of going public about what had happened to Alijah.

    continued in next comment...

  33. Ian Williams says he wants to help other parents who he thinks may be as overwhelmed as he was by the conflicting information about vaccines that is published online.

    "No one wants to hurt their kids; we didn't want to hurt our kid of course.

    "The main research that you should do as a parent when you're looking at vaccination, the easiest and the clearest thing you could do would be to survey doctors and ask them if they are pro or anti vaccines.

    "What you will find is that almost all of them are. Then ask yourself the question, why is that?

    "Once you see one of these diseases, they are terrible. Children die from these diseases."

    "The mistake that we made was that we underestimated the diseases and we totally over-estimated the adverse reactions [to vaccines]"

    Huge response

    Despite the often highly-charged and polarised debate around childhood immunisations, Ian Williams says he's been happy to speak out and that the response to Alijah's story has been very positive.

    "We've had a very big reaction in New Zealand. Alijah was on the front page of two of our biggest papers and doctors have been putting up his picture in their rooms and say families have been coming in and getting their kids vaccinated.

    "There has actually been a small percentage increase in New Zealand's vaccination rates [since the story was published in January].

    "That's why we did it. I'm happy to be the poster boy for vaccination."

    Six months on, Alijah is recovering well.

    "After three weeks in intensive care he gradually came out of it," Williams says.

    "They gave him less and less drugs and his nerves started to heal."

    When he came out of his heavy sedation, Alijah had to learn to walk and eat again.

    "He's fine now and all you can see now is some scarring on his throat from the tracheotomy, he'll probably have that his whole life.

    "It's a small price to pay. Ten per cent of all people with tetanus die."

    What is tetanus?

    Tetanus is caused by bacteria which are present in soils, dust and manure. The bacteria can enter the body through a wound which may be as small as a pin prick. Tetanus cannot be passed from person to person.

    Tetanus is a potentially fatal disease which attacks the nervous system. It causes muscle spasms first felt in the neck and jaw muscles. Tetanus can lead to breathing difficulties, painful convulsions and abnormal heart rhythms.

    Because of the effective immunisation, tetanus is now rare in Australia, but it still occurs in adults who have never been immunised against the disease or who have not had their booster vaccines.

    Tetanus vaccines are offered to free infants at 2, 4 and 6 months of age, and again at age 4 years of age and in year 8 of secondary school.

    Source: WA Health Department


  34. Oregon Makes it More Difficult to Refuse Vaccination. And That’s a Good Thing.

    by Mindy Townsend, Care2 Make a Difference, June 13, 2013

    Last week, the Oregon senate passed a bill that would make it more difficult for parents to refuse to vaccinate their children. This is a very good thing.

    Of all the states in the country, Oregon has the worst vaccination rate. In the state, 6.4 percent of parents get a vaccine exemption, and that’s up from 5.8 percent last year. This number was less than two percent in 2001. Right now, state law requires that children be vaccinated to go to public and private school, as well as to use certified child care facilities. But parents can seek an exemption based on either a medical or religious concerns. Lots of Oregonian parents are choosing to forgo vaccinations because they erroneously believe that vaccines are dangerous.

    For the uninitiated, this entire problem started back in 1998 with the publication of a study by Andrew Wakefield that purported to link the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). This study was, however, not just shoddy, but downright fraudulent. Studies conducted since Wakefield’s have found no link between vaccines and ASD, but that hasn’t kept the myth from growing roots in the minds of parents around the world.

    This new bill targets the non-medical immunization exemptions. Parents who want a religious-based exemption would have to consult directly with a doctor or watch an educational video about the risks and benefits of vaccines. Then, if the parents choose to withhold the vaccinations from their children, they will have to provide proof of that of the educational consultation to schools and day cares before they enroll their child.

    To be honest, I’m unconvinced that any amount of accurate education about immunizations will make a difference with the hardcore anti-vaccination crowd. But hopefully this will scoop up the parents who have been seduced by the unabashed fear-mongering and save some lives.

    There is the predictable outrage coming from people who are oh-so concerned about the rights of the parents to raise their children. According to state senator Jeff Kruse, “I’m getting very tired of this legislative assembly and this body taking away the choices of parents as to how they raise their kids.”

    I do understand the complaint. Here it is, the state, telling you, a parent, that you must inject some mysterious liquid into your precious baby. I empathize. Last year Congress held hearings on the increase in autism, and those long ago debunked myths came up. When a misinformation campaign gets that far, I understand how it could make parents a little skittish.

    Here’s the thing, though. This isn’t about any one parent’s right to vaccinate or not vaccinate their child. This is about the right of the immunocompromised to live relatively healthy lives. This is about giving children a better chance of living to adulthood (which modern medicine has done a very good job at, by the way).

    This is a public health issue. If you doubt that, all you need to do is look over the border to Washington state. Or Wisconsin. Or the United Kingdom. All of these places have had to deal with their own public health crises involving diseases that could have been prevented with vaccines. Anti-vaccine hysteria has even reached the developing world. Refusal to vaccinate based on specious evidence has caused over 100,000 preventable illnesses and over 1,000 preventable deaths.

    As you can see, this goes way beyond what one parent decides to do with one child. If Oregon succeeds, it will protect us all.

    to read the links embedded in this article go to:


  35. Vaccination laws: NSW parliament passes controversial laws over childcare vaccinations

    ABC News, Australia June 20, 2013

    The New South Wales Parliament has passed new laws covering childcare centres and vaccination.

    From next January, a childcare centre can refuse to enrol a child whose parents or guardians cannot show proof of vaccination or provide an approved exemption.

    Health Minister Jillian Skinner says parents who are seeking an exemption will first need to speak to a general practitioner.

    Childcare centres will face fines if they do not complete checks to ensure a child is vaccinated, or that they have exemption.

    Health experts have warned of increasing instances of whooping cough across the state, which they attribute to low immunisation rates.

    A recent report found that in the far north coast town of Mullumbimby, less than half of young children were fully immunised.


  36. Measles outbreak reaches 161 cases, five children hospitalised

    Dutch News July 1, 2013

    The number of reported cases of measles in the Bible Belt region has gone up to 161 and five children have been hospitalised, the public health institute RIVM said on Monday.

    The true figure is likely to be higher because not all patients will go to their family doctor, the RIVM said.

    The outbreak is largely affecting children aged four to 12 who attend orthodox Protestant schools. Many of the country's strict Protestant communities do not vaccinate their children on religious grounds.


    Two of the hospitalised children have developed pneumonia; two others have meningitis. 'These are exceptional cases,' the RIVM told the Telegraaf. 'The most common symptom is inflammation of the ear.

    The symptoms of the fifth child have not been released.

    The outbreak began in May with 54 reported cases in the past ten days.


  37. Only after measles outbreak does Texas megachurch support vaccines

    By Alexandra Le Tellier, Los Angeles Times August 27, 2013

    A man travels to Indonesia and contracts the measles. He then visits a church in Texas, sickening 21 people -- at least so far. Who should feel responsible? The unvaccinated man who contracted the disease or the ministers at the church who’ve questioned the practice of vaccination and instead advocate for faith-healing?

    NBC News health correspondent JoNel Aleccia reports: “Sixteen people -- nine children and seven adults -- ranging in age from 4 months to 44 years had come down with the highly contagious virus in Tarrant County, Texas, as of Monday. […] All of the cases are linked to the Eagle Mountain International Church in Newark, Texas, where a visitor who’d traveled to Indonesia became infected with measles -- and then returned to the U.S., spreading it to the largely unvaccinated church community, said Russell Jones, the Texas state epidemiologist.”

    Measles, of course, is a preventable disease -- to those who are immunized. For those who aren’t vaccinated, getting the disease is almost unavoidable after exposure. “Measles, transmitted through coughing and sneezing, can cause ear infections, pneumonia, diarrhea, brain injuries and death,”explains Rong-Gong Lin II of the Los Angeles Times. “Cases can quickly spread in schools and communities, especially in areas with a high concentration of children who haven't been vaccinated.”

    That’s why physician and professor Nina Shapiro recently took to our Op-Ed pages to argue for schools to become “unvaccinated-free zones.”

    “Parents have varied reasons for choosing not to immunize their children,” she wrote. “Some are concerned that vaccinations raise the risk of autism, although study after study has debunked this myth. Others, concerned that small bodies can't tolerate so many vaccines at once, have decided to spread out the schedule recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, though there is little evidence to support this practice. Some parents think that because some of the illnesses for which kids get immunized are extremely rare these days, there's little reason to vaccinate.”

    “But here's the reality,” she argued. “These diseases do exist, and we're already seeing some of them make a comeback.”

    The silver lining in the Texas case is that the Eagle Mountain International Church is now hosting vaccination clinics and encouraging its congregation to get immunized. The Old Testament is “full of precautionary measures,” senior pastor Terri Pearsons said in a recent sermon, KXAS-TV in Dallas reported. “The main thing is stay in faith no matter what you do.”


  38. Teenage girl dies after contracting measles in Dutch Bible Belt outbreak

    Amsterdam Herald, October 28, 2013

    A 17-year-old girl has died from complications related to measles during an outbreak of the disease in the Dutch Bible Belt.

    The public health institute RIVM said the girl, from the Zeeland town of Tholen had not been immunised against the disease.

    It is the first death linked to measles since an outbreak began in May in communities in southern and central regions of the Netherlands, where many families refuse to take part in vaccination programmes out of religious conviction.

    The girl in Zeeland, whose death was announced at the weekend, had health complications including a growth in her back that restricted her breathing and meant she had used an electric wheelchair for most of her life.

    She was a pupil at the reformed Calvijn College in Goes, which also lost a 17-year-old pupil during the last major outbreak of measles in 2000.

    Govert Kamerik, a director of the college, told De Volkskrant she had made a "conscious" decision not to receive the vaccination.

    He said: "It is precisely because of her illness that she looked at her faith in a serious and grown-up way. She made a conscious choice in spite of her weak health not to be immunised."

    Just over 2,000 people have been diagnosed with measles since May, of whom 121 have needed hospital treatment. Half of the most serious patients suffered inflammation of the lung.

    Health officials say the true number of infections this time is almost certainly higher than 2,000 because many mild cases will not have been reported to family doctors.

    The outbreak has been concentrated in places where the take-up rate for measles immunisation is below 90 per cent. Unvaccinated children aged between four and 12 have been the most likely group to contract the disease.

    Around 250,000 people in the Netherlands opt out of the national vaccination programme on grounds of conscience.

    Community leaders in the affected area have reacted with fury to suggestions from leading politicians, including Prime Minister Mark Rutte, that they should drop their objection to vaccination. Some members of Rutte’s Liberal (VVD) party went as far as calling for the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) to be made compulsory.

    Religious leaders said it was not for politicians to determine “the will of God” and rebuked them for not concentrating on other threats to public health such as smoking and drinking.

    Roel Coutinho, director of the RIVM’s Centre for Infectious Disease Control, has also said that making vaccination compulsory carried the risk of strengthening parents’ objections because they might feel the state was forcing them to betray their consciences.


  39. Measles cases double in two weeks in Neath and Swansea

    BBC News November 7, 2013

    The number of cases of measles in an outbreak in Neath and Swansea has more than doubled in the last two weeks.

    Public Health Wales (PHW) renewed its call for parents to urgently get their children vaccinated to stop the disease spreading.

    PHW said it was "very frustrated" with cases reaching 36 since early October.

    The latest outbreak comes less than four months after Wales' biggest measles outbreak ended - centred on the same area with 1,200 suspected cases.

    The outbreak has affected four schools in the Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board (ABM) area.

    "Parents and young people should not underestimate how serious measles can be and how quickly it can spread," said Dr Jorg Hoffmann, consultant in communicable disease control for PHW.

    "In a school setting, one child with measles sitting in a classroom for just one hour will lead to at least 70 per cent of other pupils who are not vaccinated catching measles.

    "To prevent this outbreak from spreading even further, it's crucial that unvaccinated children and young people receive two doses of MMR urgently and that those with symptoms do not attend school."

    PHW is working closely with ABM to bring the outbreak under control and where a sufficient number of children are unvaccinated in a school where there has been measles cases, school vaccination sessions will be arranged.

    The Swansea area epidemic lasted eight months with suspected cases first reported in November 2012.

    By the time the outbreak was declared over in July, it had resulted in 1,219 notifications of measles cases in the Abertawe Bro Morgannwg, Hywel Dda and Powys health board areas.

    Some 88 people visited a hospital due to measles during the outbreak and more than 75,000 were vaccinated throughout Wales.

    Gareth Colfer-Williams, 25, from Swansea, died from pneumonia after contracting the virus at the height of the epidemic.

    The symptoms of measles include a fever, fatigue, runny nose, conjunctivitis and a distinctive red rash.

    Although more than 70,000 catch up doses of MMR were given across Wales during the outbreak, around 30,000 children and young people in the 10 to 18 age group remain unprotected.

    Dr Hoffmann added: "Parents who have decided not to vaccinate their children are not only risking their children's health, but are putting other children at risk, children either too young to be vaccinated or with medical conditions that prevent them from being vaccinated.

    "We are very frustrated to see more cases of measles in the area so soon after the large outbreak earlier this year and we are very keen for this to be stopped before it can get any bigger and we return to a position where children are admitted to hospital or die or are damaged by the disease.

    "The only way to achieve that is through vaccination and I urge parents whose children have not received two doses of MMR to ensure that they speak to their GP immediately to arrange this quick, safe and effective vaccine."

    See these Related Stories at the link below:

    Parents urged to act over measles 24 OCTOBER 2013, SOUTH WEST WALES
    Q&A: Measles and MMR 19 APRIL 2013, HEALTH
    More measles cases linked to school 14 OCTOBER 2013, SOUTH WEST WALES
    200 offered MMR in measles school 08 OCTOBER 2013, SOUTH WEST WALES
    New measles case prompts concerns 04 OCTOBER 2013, SOUTH WEST WALES
    Measles epidemic officially over 03 JULY 2013, WALES


  40. The Vaccination Effect: 100 Million Cases of Contagious Disease Prevented

    By STEVE LOHR, New York Times NOVEMBER 27, 2013

    Vaccination programs for children have prevented more than 100 million cases of serious contagious disease in the United States since 1924, according to a new study published in The New England Journal of Medicine.

    The research, led by scientists at the University of Pittsburgh’s graduate school of public health, analyzed public health reports going back to the 19th century. The reports covered 56 diseases, but the article in the journal focused on seven: polio, measles, rubella, mumps, hepatitis A, diphtheria and pertussis, or whooping cough.

    Researchers analyzed disease reports before and after the times when vaccines became commercially available. Put simply, the estimates for prevented cases came from the falloff in disease reports after vaccines were licensed and widely available. The researchers projected the number of cases that would have occurred had the pre-vaccination patterns continued as the nation’s population increased.

    The journal article is one example of the kind of analysis that can be done when enormous data sets are built and mined. The project, which started in 2009, required assembling 88 million reports of individual cases of disease, much of it from the weekly morbidity reports in the library of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Then the reports had to be converted to digital formats.

    Most of the data entry — 200 million keystrokes — was done by Digital Divide Data, a social enterprise that provides jobs and technology training to young people in Cambodia, Laos and Kenya.

    Still, data entry was just a start. The information was put into spreadsheets for making tables, but was later sorted and standardized so it could be searched, manipulated and queried on the project’s website.

    “Collecting all this data is one thing, but making the data computable is where the big payoff should be,” said Dr. Irene Eckstrand, a program director and science officer for the N.I.H.’s Models of Infectious Disease Agent Study.

    The University of Pittsburgh researchers also looked at death rates, but decided against including an estimate in the journal article, largely because death certificate data became more reliable and consistent only in the 1960s, the researchers said.

    continued below

  41. But Dr. Donald S. Burke, the dean of Pittsburgh’s graduate school of public health and an author of the medical journal article, said that a reasonable projection of prevented deaths based on known mortality rates in the disease categories would be three million to four million.

    The scientists said their research should help inform the debate on the risks and benefits of vaccinating American children.

    Pointing to the research results, Dr. Burke said, “If you’re anti-vaccine, that’s the price you pay.”

    The medical journal article notes the recent resurgence of some diseases as some parents have resisted vaccinating their children. For example, the worst whooping cough epidemic since 1959 occurred last year, with more than 38,000 reported cases nationwide.

    The disease data is on the project’s website, available for use by other researchers, students, the news media and members of the public who may be curious about the outbreak and spread of a particular disease. Much of the data is searchable by disease, year and location. The project was funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

    “I’m very excited to see what people will find in this data, what patterns and insights are there waiting to be discovered,” said Dr. Willem G. van Panhuis, an epidemiologist at Pittsburgh and lead author of the journal article.

    The project’s name itself is a nod to the notion that data is a powerful tool for scientific discovery. It is called Project Tycho, after the 16th century Danish nobleman Tycho Brahe, whose careful, detailed astronomical observations were the foundation on which Johannes Kepler made the creative leap to devise his laws of planetary motion.

    The open-access model for the project at Pittsburgh is increasingly the pattern with government data. The United States government has opened up thousands of data sets to the public.

    Just how these assets will be exploited commercially is still in the experimental stage, other than a few well-known applications like using government weather data for forecasting services and insurance products.

    But the potential seems to be considerable. Last month, the McKinsey Global Institute, the research arm of the consulting firm, projected that the total economic benefit to companies and consumers of open data could reach $3 trillion worldwide.


  42. Measles Still Threatens Health Security

    On 50th Anniversary of Measles Vaccine, Spike in Imported Measles Cases

    Centers For Disease Control & Prevention, Press Release December 5, 2013

    Fifty years after the approval of an extremely effective vaccine against measles, one of the world’s most contagious diseases, the virus still poses a threat to domestic and global health security.

    On an average day, 430 children – 18 every hour – die of measles worldwide. In 2011, there were an estimated 158,000 measles deaths.

    In an article published on December 5 by JAMA Pediatrics, CDC’s Mark J. Papania, M.D., M.P.H., and colleagues report that United States measles elimination, announced in 2000, has been sustained through 2011. Elimination is defined as absence of continuous disease transmission for greater than 12 months. Dr. Papania and colleagues warn, however, that international importation continues, and that American doctors should suspect measles in children with high fever and rash, “especially when associated with international travel or international visitors,” and should report suspected cases to the local health department. Before the U.S. vaccination program started in 1963, measles was a year-round threat in this country. Nearly every child became infected; each year 450 to 500 people died each year, 48,000 were hospitalized, 7,000 had seizures, and about 1,000 suffered permanent brain damage or deafness.

    People infected abroad continue to spark outbreaks among pockets of unvaccinated people, including infants and young children. It is still a serious illness: 1 in 5 children with measles is hospitalized. Usually there are about 60 cases per year, but 2013 saw a spike in American communities – some 175 cases and counting – virtually all linked to people who brought the infection home after foreign travel.

    “A measles outbreak anywhere is a risk everywhere,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. “The steady arrival of measles in the United States is a constant reminder that deadly diseases are testing our health security every day. Someday, it won’t be only measles at the international arrival gate; so, detecting diseases before they arrive is a wise investment in U.S. health security.

    Eliminating measles worldwide has benefits beyond the lives saved each year. Actions taken to stop measles can also help us stop other diseases in their tracks. CDC and its partners are building a global health security infrastructure that can be scaled up to deal with multiple emerging health threats.

    continued below

  43. Currently, only 1 in 5 countries can rapidly detect, respond to, or prevent global health threats caused by emerging infections. Improvements overseas, such as strengthening surveillance and lab systems, training disease detectives, and building facilities to investigate disease outbreaks make the world -- and the United States -- more secure.

    “There may be a misconception that infectious diseases are over in the industrialized world. But in fact, infectious diseases continue to be, and will always be, with us. Global health and protecting our country go hand in hand,” Dr. Frieden said.

    Today’s health security threats come from at least five sources:

    --The emergence and spread of new microbes
    --The globalization of travel and food supply
    --The rise of drug-resistant pathogens
    --The acceleration of biological science capabilities and the risk that these capabilities may cause the inadvertent or intentional release of pathogens
    --Continued concerns about terrorist acquisition, development, and use of biological agents.

    “With patterns of global travel and trade, disease can spread nearly anywhere within 24 hours,” Dr. Frieden said. “That’s why the ability to detect, fight, and prevent these diseases must be developed and strengthened overseas, and not just here in the United States.”

    The threat from measles would be far greater were it not for the vaccine and the man who played a major role in creating it, Samuel L. Katz, M.D., emeritus professor of medicine at Duke University. Today, CDC is honoring Dr. Katz 50 years after his historic achievement. During the ceremony, global leaders in public health are highlighting the domestic importance of global health security, how far we have come in reducing the burden of measles, and the prospects for eliminating the disease worldwide.

    Measles, like smallpox, can be eliminated. However, measles is so contagious that the vast majority of a population must be vaccinated to prevent sustained outbreaks. Major strides already have been made. Since 2001, a global partnership that includes the CDC has vaccinated 1.1 billion children. Over the last decade, these vaccinations averted 10 million deaths – one fifth of all deaths prevented by modern medicine.

    “The challenge is not whether we shall see a world without measles, but when,” Dr. Katz said.

    “No vaccine is the work of a single person, but no single person had more to do with the creation of the measles vaccine than Dr. Katz,” said Alan Hinman,
    M.D., M.P.H., Director for Programs, Center for Vaccine Equity, Task Force for Global Health. “Although the measles virus had been isolated by others, it was Dr. Katz’s painstaking work passing the virus from one culture to another that finally resulted in a safe form of the virus that could be used as a vaccine.”


  44. Measles outbreak will not lead to mandatory vaccinations in B.C.

    Warning issued to residents of Abbotsford, Mission, Chilliwack, Agassiz, Harrison Hot Springs, Hope

    The Canadian Press March 10, 2014

    B.C.'s health minister says the government won't be forcing people to get a measles vaccination despite an outbreak in the Fraser Valley.

    Instead, Terry Lake says the government hopes most people heed the advice of health officials and have their children vaccinated to protect the population.

    Other provinces have mandatory vaccination policies, but Lake says he's not sure the B.C. government wants to take that step.

    There are two confirmed cases of measles and dozens of other suspected cases in a Chilliwack, B.C., school.

    The Fraser Health Authority has issued a get-vaccinated warning to residents in half a dozen communities from Abbotsford to Hope, where the immunization rate is low.

    Lake says he's concerned that students are being put at risk in the school system because people aren't protecting their kids against an easily-preventable disease.


    1. Measles spreading in Fraser Valley East

      Fraser Health warns cases of measles now entering general population in Chilliwack and Agassiz

      CBC News March 13, 2014

      Fraser Health has issued a warning that cases of measles have begun spreading outside of the previous school and religious groups where they first appeared, and are now showing up in Chilliwack and Agassiz.

      The measles virus is passed through airborne droplets and direct personal contact. (U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention)

      Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Paul Van Buynder says only one child has been admitted to hospital so far, but dozens of cases have also been reported in the general populations of the two Fraser Valley municipalities.

      The health district says its warning includes all of Fraser Valley East, including Abbotsford, Mission, Chilliwack, Agassiz, Harrison Hot Springs and Hope.

      Special vaccination clinics next week

      Arrangements are being made to distribute increased measles vaccines to doctors and pharmacies in the area. Children under the age of five are most at risk of serious complications, and Van Buynder says they should be vaccinated right away.

      Special vaccination clinics in Chilliwack and Agassiz are being organized for early next week and their locations will be available on Fraser Health's website.

      Van Buynder is asking anyone with symptoms to isolate themselves at home.

      “It is not necessary to attend a medical centre for testing to confirm measles during an outbreak unless you are quite sick," he said.

      "We know there are measles circulating and laboratory confirmation is not necessary."

      Van Buynder says people who are very sick should get to the doctor, but only after warning them that they are coming.

      Tough sell in 'Bible Belt'

      The health authority is facing some opposition to vaccinations in the Fraser Valley's so-called "Bible Belt."

      This morning on CBC's Early Edition, Rev. Adriaan Geuze, a pastor at the Reformed Congregation of North America, questioned the effectiveness of vaccinations.

      "Members of our congregation do not believe vaccinations are safe," he said. "They are worried about administering vaccines to our children and vaccination does not automatically mean you are immune to the disease."

      He added: "The claim that by not vaccinating children, we are putting others members of the Fraser Valley at risk is quite strange. You are actually admitting that vaccination is not so effective after all."

      What are the symptoms of measles?

      Symptoms of measles may develop seven to 21 days after exposure to an infected person.

      Symptoms include a high fever, runny nose, cough, drowsiness, irritability and red eyes. Small white spots may appear in the mouth and throat. A red blotchy rash begins to appear on the face three to seven days after the start of symptoms, then spreads down the body to the arms and legs. This rash usually lasts four to seven days. Symptoms generally last from one to two weeks.


  45. B.C. family furious teen vaccinated without parental consent

    Dean Bootsma not against vaccines for everyone, just his children

    By Natalie Clancy, CBC News March 12, 2014

    A B.C. couple are furious after public health nurses vaccinated their teenage daughter at school without parental consent.

    Dean Bootsma said his 14-year-old daughter was pulled out of her Grade 9 class and inoculated against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (whooping cough) without checking her medical history, calling him or his wife, or having them sign a consent form.

    "The fact that they did this without our knowledge or consent sickens me, sickens me. I've never felt so violated," said Bootsma.

    Bootsma said he and his wife are not against vaccines in general, but have chosen not to vaccinate their children out of worry they may be predisposed to an adverse reaction. The couple say their first daughter developed a high fever hours after being inoculated.

    "She was a fine bouncy little baby and then she, after receiving the shot ... within 12 hours, [she] couldn't lift her head up, she started fevering,” said Bootsma.​

    That daughter died 10 years ago after a lengthy battle with cerebral dysgenesis​ — a malformation of the brain.

    Bootsma said doctors denied the vaccine had anything to do with the disease. They told the family it may have been a pre-existing condition, but Bootsma ​said it is not worth the risk for his children to have the vaccine.

    14 is age of mature minor consent in B.C.

    Bootsma said he had no idea children are allowed to make their own medical decisions in B.C.

    Under the B.C. Infants Act, however, parents do not need to sign a consent form for children 14 years of age and older to be inoculated, as long as a doctor or nurse believes the child is mature enough to understand the risks and benefits of the treatment.

    Bootsma's 14-year-old daughter, who did not want to be named to protect her privacy, told CBC News she was not asked about any medical history of an adverse reaction. Had she been asked, she said, she would have told nurses, "My sister in the past had an allergic reaction to it. So I would have said yes, but they never asked me."

    Bootsma also said his daughter is not mature enough to make medical decisions and was too shy to question nurses.

    "I didn’t really know what to do, and she didn’t really give me an option to not get a vaccine," said the girl.

    "She tried explaining it to me, I guess, but I couldn’t really hear her over everyone else."

    Teens' wishes can trump those of parents

    The Fraser Health Authority would not talk about this particular case, but said its nurses followed the legal procedure for obtaining mature minor consent.

    "If you look at the informed consent guidelines that public health nurses go by, they do ask if there is any contraindications to the vaccine," said Provincial Health Officer Perry Kendall.

    "Children can make informed decisions if they are sufficiently mature enough, and I think we have to respect that. … The courts have said very clearly they have the right to do that."

    Kendall said that with inoculation rates in Canada down to just 84 per cent, public health nurses are just doing their job. He said they are actively trying to boost those numbers when they visit schools for routine Grade 9 booster shots.

    "Nurses will, in fact, go and look for the unvaccinated kids to see if they can get them vaccinated," said Kendall.

    He said the risk from disease is much higher than any potential side-effect from the vaccine.

    Once a young person signs a mature minor consent form, the teenager's wishes trump those of their parents.


  46. Thanks, Anti-Vaxxers. You Just Brought Back Measles in NYC

    Measles was considered eliminated at the turn of the millenium. Now it’s back, thanks to the loons to refuse to vaccinate their children

    by Russell Saunders, March 13, 2014

    Of all the things to be nostalgic for, infectious diseases probably don’t make it onto many lists.

    However, if you happen to pine for the good old days when measles was an active public health threat, I have good news for you. The anti-vaccine crowd is bringing it back.

    There is currently an outbreak of measles in New York City. Considered eliminated in the United States in 2000, last year saw a record number of outbreaks around the country. It’s only three months into 2014, and not only is the nation’s largest city seeing cases in several boroughs, but other major metropolitan areas are warning of new cases as well.

    This is not some inconvenience to be laughed off. Measles is a highly-contagious illness caused by a virus. It usually presents with a combination of rash, fevers, cough and runny nose, as well as characteristic spots in the mouth. Most patients recover after an unpleasant but relatively uneventful period of sickness. Unfortunately, about one patient in every 1,000 develops inflammation of the brain, and one to three cases per 1000 in the United States result in death.

    Reports from New York note that several people have been hospitalized, and infected patients include infants too young to be vaccinated themselves. Because the American public hasn’t needed to worry much about this once-contained threat in quite some time, most people probably don’t know that measles can kill, or leave children permanently disabled.

    We vaccinate people for a reason.

    It is because I never want patients in my office to contract vaccine-preventable illnesses (like at least two unlucky people in the New York City outbreak, who got the disease from visiting their own doctors) that patients whose parents refuse to vaccinate them are not welcome in my practice. I cannot entirely eliminate the potential for disease exposure between children who come to see me, but I can do my best to mitigate it. I never want to know that a child was sickened or killed because I let the recklessness of a vaccine-refusing parent jeopardize their health.

    But now, shoppers in Boston-area supermarkets get to worry that they may have been exposed when they stopped by for groceries. Commuters in the Bay Area now have to contend with the possibility that they or their children may contract the illness because they happened to get on the wrong train. Over a dozen people around Los Angeles have been diagnosed with measles already this year, nearly half of them intentionally unvaccinated.

    continued below

  47. This is sheer lunacy. Just over a dozen years ago this illness was considered eliminated in our country, and this year people are being hospitalized for it. All due to the hysteria about a safe, effective vaccine. All based on nothing.

    There is no legitimate scientific controversy about whether or not vaccines are safe. The original study that started us down this insane path by linking the MMR vaccine to autism has been retracted outright. The evidence against administering the MMR vaccine to healthy individuals is utterly without merit.

    But people continue to make the utterly baffling choice to refuse it anyway. Dispiriting new information seems to indicate that they are immune to persuasion when confronted with facts inconvenient to their worldview. Indeed, writers at prominent online media outlets chide us for “demeaning” vaccine-deniers, saying to do so “defies explanation.”

    The explanation is simple, and is as accessible as the nightly news. Vaccine-deniers are responsible to the resurgence of once-eliminated illnesses. Their movement is responsible for sickening people. They are to blame for the word “outbreak” appearing in headlines from coast to coast.

    The anti-vaccine crowd may think they’re only making a decision for their own family. In fact, they’re threatening to make the rest of us sick. Refusing to vaccinate your children means you are contributing to a worsening public health crisis. There is no denying it, and there is no point in sugar-coating it.

    I hope the anti-vaccine movement somehow loses steam. Perhaps America will take note of the return of long-gone illnesses and will stop treating vaccine denialism as a viewpoint worth considering. Perhaps vaccine-refusing parents will consider whether it’s worth the anxiety of knowing that a person who coughed in their grocery store two hours earlier could infect their kids as they do the week’s shopping together, and will reconsider their choices.

    There is no good reason for there to be a measles outbreak in New York. Or Boston. Or LA. But there they are. If you missed measles and are glad it’s back, thank a vaccine-denier.


  48. Chilliwack pastor tells congregation vaccines interfere with God’s care

    Vaccination rates ‘very low’ in community at centre of measles outbreak


    The pastor for the community at the centre of the Fraser Valley measles outbreak says he sees vaccines as an interference with God’s providential care.

    Rev. Adriaan Geuze says his 1,200-strong Reformed Congregation of North America in Chilliwack mostly shares that view, which is why vaccination rates in the community are “very low.”

    “We leave it in (God’s) hands. If it is in his will that somehow we get a contagious disease, like in this case the measles, there are other ways, of course, to avoid this. If (we get sick), he can also heal us from it,” he said in an interview Friday.

    Health officials last weekend confirmed two cases of measles and identified up to 100 suspected cases at a religious school in Chilliwack where vaccination rates are low. On Thursday, the Fraser Health Authority advised that the measles had spread into the general populations of Chilliwack and Agassiz and said it would open special vaccination clinics in those communities over the weekend.

    To date, one nine-year-old child has been hospitalized as a result of the outbreak.

    Measles is a potentially fatal viral infection characterized by a rash, high fever, runny nose, coughing and tiny spots inside the mouth.

    A vaccination rate of 95 per cent is necessary in order for community immunity to work, said Fraser Health spokeswoman Tasleem Juma, adding that in the East Fraser region, vaccination rates are about 60 to 70 per cent.

    Geuze counters that there is no need to make a healthy “God-given” body “a little bit sick” through vaccination.

    He does not oppose other means of boosting immunity, such as rest, healthy living and eating well. Nor does the church oppose medical treatment when a person is already sick, he added.

    Asked if he actively advises his congregants not to vaccinate their children, Geuze responded: “Of course I openly express my own point of view according to the Bible, absolutely. But it’s not that we force them. It’s through their own conscience that they have to act,” he said. “They expect that from me, that in a clear way I lay it all before them.”

    Opinions on whether or not to vaccinate, however, are divided within the Fraser Valley’s Christian community.

    Rev. Abel Pol of Chilliwack’s Canadian Reformed Church said that while he has never surveyed the church’s 400-plus membership on the issue, he suspects that most if not all the congregation is in favour of vaccinations.

    “My 15-month-old son has been vaccinated, and I certainly hope everyone else would vaccinate their children as well,” he said in an emailed statement.

    continued below

  49. Pol said those who oppose vaccinations on religious grounds commonly quote the same passage of the Bible, Matthew 9:12, part of which reads:

    “And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples. And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, ‘Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ But when he heard it, he said, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick do. Go and learn what this means: I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

    Jesus was not making a statement regarding vaccinations, but stating a general principle regarding the behaviour of people in order to illustrate a theological point, Pol said.

    “Such misreading also takes place when other passages are invoked in a similar vein. Someone begins with their personal opinion and then attempts to back it up with Scripture, as opposed to letting the plain meaning of Scripture speak for itself.”

    But most people, like Geuze, who oppose vaccination on religious grounds do so because they see it as an attempt at evading the providence of God, Pol said. It’s a false dichotomy to compare to what extent medical knowledge and technology should be used to combat disease and to what extent people should depend on the providence of God, he argued.

    “It implies that when we avoid exercising control over particular situations (such as the health of our children) we are submitting to the providence of God, as if the two are mutually exclusive,” he said.

    “This is a life in which we are called to exercise our moral responsibility while recognizing our ultimate dependence on him as our creator God.”

    Taken to its logical conclusion, that argument also implies refusing all medical treatment and not taking steps to prevent disasters from happening, such as putting a fence around a swimming pool to prevent children from falling in, Pol said.

    “Why stop at refusing vaccinations? To be consistent, you would have to refuse all medical help. You would never take steps to prevent any disaster from happening,” Pol said. “It is arbitrary to refuse one preventive measure on the grounds that it prevents Christians from depending on God’s providence, while accepting the other.”

    Measles is the most infectious of all diseases and transmitted through airborne spread, said Monika Naus, a medical director at the BC Centre for Disease Control. It is easily preventable through vaccination.

    Children under five are most at risk of serious disease from measles and should obtain the vaccine from a family doctor or public health clinic, Fraser Health advised in a news release. Older children and adults should get the vaccine through a family doctor or pharmacy.


  50. Measles outbreaks ‘unusual’ but no cause for alarm, federal health agency says

    Canadians urged to have up-to-date vaccinations

    by Sharon Kirkey, Post Media News March 14, 2014

    The Public Health Agency of Canada is moving to calm any fears of a potential major measles outbreak as clusters of cases emerge across the country.

    While recent outbreaks in four provinces have been “unusual,” the virus remains relatively rare in Canada, the agency said Friday.

    One of the most contagious viral illnesses known, measles can cause blindness, brain swelling and severe respiratory infections in severe cases.

    An outbreak in B.C.’s Fraser Valley has spread beyond the Chilliwack school where it started and into the surrounding community; nearly 100 people are suspected to have contracted the virus.

    Meanwhile, half a dozen cases of measles, including two in Ottawa and one in Toronto, have been linked to travel to the Philippines, which is in the midst of a widespread measles outbreak.

    The U.S. has experienced some of the highest levels of cases since measles was eliminated in 2000. In 2013, 189 people were reported to have the disease — three times what is normally seen in a year. Last week, 16 cases, nine in children, had been confirmed in the New York boroughs of Manhattan and the Bronx.

    Despite high vaccination rates in Canada, health experts say there remain too many pockets of communities where immunization rates are dangerously low.

    Some parents are hesitant about vaccines or outright refuse to have their children immunized for religious or other reasons.

    The B.C. outbreak started at the Mount Cheam Christian School, a community with traditionally low immunization rates.

    Dr. Noni MacDonald, of the Canadian Centre for Vaccinology, says parents are being complacent, not recognizing that measles is untreatable and can sometimes kill children.

    Parents who refuse to vaccinate their own children are also potentially harming other children in the community who can’t be vaccinated for health reasons, such as those with immune deficiencies or children undergoing chemotherapy for cancer.

    “These children have been put at risk by their parents,” said MacDonald, a professor of pediatrics at Dalhousie University in Halifax. “You can’t not immunize your kid and think, ‘oh, if they get sick our health care system will fix them.’ You can’t fix measles encephalitis (inflammation and swelling of the brain that can cause bleeding in the brain and brain damage.) You can’t undo it. What don’t they understand?”

    “All the people around those communities need to know that they for sure need to have their kids immunized, because those people are putting their kids at risk.”

    continued below

  51. Since the beginning of the year, there have been 24 confirmed cases of measles in four provinces: B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan and Ontario.

    “This is unusual because measles is relatively rare in Canada thanks to high immunization rates across the country,” public health agency spokeswoman Sylwia Krzyszton said in an email.

    “However, despite this, Canada continues to see measles cases related to countries where measles is widely circulating,” notably the Philippines, she said.

    The latest completed Childhood National Immunization Coverage Survey conducted during 2011-2012 suggests vaccine coverage for measles, rubella, mumps and polio are at, or above the target of 95 per cent, she said.

    “The challenge is in the ‘pockets’ of unimmunized that are more prone to outbreaks, and the risk of importation by travellers who are not fully immunized.”

    The federal agency, which is working with the provinces and territories to monitor measles in Canada, says Canadians should keep vaccinations up-to-date. “Outbreaks can occur at anytime, anywhere,” Krzyszton said. “Getting vaccinated is the single most effective measure for preventing measles.”

    In 2011, there were 750 cases, almost all — 725 — occurring during an outbreak in regions of Quebec.

    A total of 10 cases of measles were reported in Canada in 2012, and 83 in 2013.

    Symptoms begin seven to 18 days after infection and include fever, runny nose, drowsiness, irritability and red eyes. Small white spots can appear on the side of the mouth and throat.

    Red, blotchy rashes appear on the face three to seven days after the start of symptoms and spread down the body. Complications include ear infections, pneumonia or diarrhea. Two or three of every 1,000 people inflected with measles in developed countries will die.

    Before the vaccine was introduced in the 1960s, 300,000 to 400,000 cases occurred each year in Canada.

    MacDonald, of Dalhousie University, said the virus is so highly infectious people can catch it in an elevator standing next to an infected person.

    “You don’t have to spend hours and hours or days with someone to get infected,” she said.


  52. When Your Neighbours May Be Hazardous to Your Health

    By Crawford Kilian, 17 March 2014, TheTyee.ca

    The outbreak of measles in Chilliwack has drawn attention to its source at Mount Cheam Christian School, and to religious groups that reject or discourage vaccination. While it's tempting to enjoy simple, moralistic disapproval of "anti-vaxxers," the issue is more complex than it seems. Not only religious fundamentalists are involved. The problem has existed in British Columbia, and worldwide, for years.

    The Fraser Valley Dutch Reformed community is no stranger to outbreaks like the current one. In 1978, a visitor from the Netherlands brought B.C.'s first case of polio in many years; other Reformed communities in Alberta and Ontario also suffered polio cases.

    More recently, the journal Eurosurveillance reported in 2005 that a Dutch Reformed outbreak of rubella in the Netherlands had spread to Reformed in southern Ontario.

    In 2008, a mumps outbreak in the Fraser Valley resulted in 196 cases; it too was linked to Reformed church communities.

    Last year, Fraser Health alerted healthcare providers to a new outbreak of measles going on in the Netherlands: "As of June 12, 2013 there were at least 30 cases of measles across the Netherlands, predominantly based in fundamentalist Protestant communities that do not believe in immunization." The same release also mentioned the 2008 mumps outbreak as specific to Dutch Reformed-affiliated religious communities in Chilliwack.

    The Netherlands measles outbreak was long-lasting and widespread. Before it was declaredover on Feb. 26 this year, at least 2,600 cases were reported, and probably far more cases that doctors never saw. One unvaccinated teenage girl died.

    An echo of the Netherlands outbreak

    It now appears likely that one of that outbreak's last cases flew from the Netherlands to B.C. and came in contact with people at Mount Cheam Christian School. On March 8, Fraser Healthreported two cases of measles "in a community with traditionally low immunization rates."

    This seemed like an unusual reluctance to name the local origin of the outbreak. I wrote to Fraser Health asking about it, citing a recent Philippines-origin measles outbreak in Ottawa where St. Stephen Catholic School had been specifically named.

    A Fraser Health spokesperson replied:

    "Fraser Health's public health teams are currently conducting investigations into the measles outbreak in Fraser East and instituting control measures.

    "Releasing the name of the school may jeopardize the collaborative and sensitive nature of this work. The well-being of our communities is very important to us, and we want to reassure the public that not releasing the name of the school at this time does not pose a risk to the public."

    This suggested to me that Fraser Health (and the provincial government) had experienced some political pushback from the religious communities, perhaps since last summer when Fraser Health had specifically named those communities. However politically necessary, such discretion did not strike me as good health-communication practice.

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  53. Discretion didn't stop identification for long; CTV News broke the identity of Mount Cheam, reporting that 100 cases were estimated already in both the school and larger community.

    CTV added that the first two cases were children of Jan Neels, the principal. A parent named Ron Neels, presumably a relative, published a letter in the Chilliwack Times saying he held an anti-vaccination position "for various reasons; some health, some personal, some religious."

    Almost a disaster for Haiti

    By now the outbreak was a national issue, and could have become an international one. The Canadian Medical Association reported on the cases, and the Toronto Star picked it up and added a disturbing fact: Mount Cheam Christian School had been planning a visit to Haiti.

    While Haiti's measles vaccination rate (91 per cent) is ironically far better than Mount Cheam's estimated zero per cent, only about half of Haiti's children under nine have had both recommended doses.

    Moreover, the children and adults on the trip would presumably have flown in and out of a couple of major North American airports en route to Haiti, and could have spread measles among many other unvaccinated adults and children.

    Haiti evokes memories of its last disaster, the 2010 importation of cholera into a country that had never seen it before. The importers were UN-hired Nepali peacekeepers; Nepal had experienced a cholera outbreak just before the Nepalis flew from Kathmandu to Port-au-Prince. Seven hundred thousand cases and 8,500 deaths later, the UN still refuses to accept responsibility; the disease has since spread to the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Cuba and Mexico.

    Cholera spread with terrifying speed across the whole country in the fall of 2010, and measles would likely have done the same. So even a hard-luck country like Haiti can sometimes catch a break instead of an outbreak.

    Meanwhile, measles continues to spread. On March 14, Fraser Health notified the British Columbia Institute of Technology that one of its students (reportedly a brother of a Mount Cheam case) now had measles. BCIT, to its credit, launched an instant health-communication campaign on its website. But the outbreak seems likely to spread still further.

    Unavoidable outbreaks

    The speed and volume of world travel make many outbreaks unavoidable. SARS raced from Hong Kong to Toronto in 2003. British schoolgirls, on a 2009 spring break holiday in Mexico, brought H1N1 pandemic flu back to Britain.

    Saudi Arabia, dealing with the vast numbers who visit on Hajj every year, took extra precautions this year out of fear of the new Middle East respiratory syndrome: they limited the number of Hajj visas issued to each country, discouraged elderly pilgrims and those with chronic medical conditions and checked both arrivals and departures. A couple of Hajjis fell ill with MERS when they returned home, but no major outbreak resulted.

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  54. While the Saudis practice a fundamentalist form of Islam, they understand the value of vaccination. Islamist fundamentalists in Pakistan have turned that country's anti-polio campaign into a nightmare: over 40 vaccination team members and their armed guards have been shot or blown up by Tehreek-e-Taliban in the last year or so.

    As a result, polio cases have almost doubled, from 58 in 2012 to 91 last year. And like measles, polio travels: Pakistani poliovirus has even turned up in Israel's sewer system, triggering a prompt mass vaccination.

    Whether or not the current measles outbreak spreads, we have a permanent problem: despite reliable means of eradicating many dangerous diseases, we remain at the mercy of those who don't or won't accept them.

    Sometimes the reasons are religious, but they can also stem from poor understanding or misplaced suspicion about the supposed hazards of modern medicine. An American doctor recently blasted "anti-vaxxers" for bringing measles back to New York City.

    The plural of 'anecdote' is not 'data'

    In the U.S., as in much of Canada, misplaced trust in a supposed association of vaccination and autism has created a huge pool of unvaccinated children. The association has been repudiated, but the damage continues.

    Here in B.C., vaccination has been a long-lasting labour-relations issue with the Health Employees' Union and the B.C. Nurses' Union. Neither anti-vaccination health workers nor the Dutch Reformed parents of the Fraser Valley are ignorant people, and they have every right to question medical practices that don't seem right to them.

    But the rest of us have an equal right to protect ourselves, whether against foreign visitors bringing measles or Taliban gunmen who think polio drops are a plot to sterilize Muslims.

    As more diseases start travelling, we may need to reconsider what we require of visitors and immigrants. Pakistanis visiting India must already show proof of polio vaccination (India just became officially polio-free). We may have to demand that anyone -- Dutch or Canadian -- travelling to or from the Netherlands will need to show proof of vaccination against measles, mumps and rubella (and polio).

    Saying that a kid dying of measles is "God's will" is not enough. Invoking the evil Big Pharma companies as vaccine profiteers is mere paranoia. Many of us are alive today only because we and our parents and grandparents were vaccinated and taught basic sanitation and hygiene. Even the unvaccinated rely on the herd immunity conferred by the rest of us.

    Turning away from the practices that permitted us to live may not be ignorant. But it is profoundly, recklessly negligent.


  55. Fraser Health concerned as measles continues to spread

    Measles alerts sent to University of the Fraser Valley and to Chilliwack Lions Club event staff

    CBC News March 21, 2014

    Fraser Health is concerned as measles continues to spread in some communities in B.C.'s Lower Mainland, and the chief medical health officer is "disappointed" that those who are contagious aren't isolating themselves.

    Dr. Paul Van Buynder said earlier this week that some people who have measles are refusing to quarantine themselves.

    "We are disappointed that people who are showing symptoms of measles are not isolating themselves as requested by Fraser Health and as a result other people in the community are being exposed to this infectious disease," he said.

    On Wednesday, he said a public school student and a worker in a community retail outlet were the most recent confirmed cases.

    Lisa Mu, a medical health officer with Fraser Health, said measles alert notifications were sent this week to students who live on campus at the University of the Fraser Valley and to staff who worked at the Chilliwack Lions Club Music and Dance Festival.

    "Through some of our contacts in the community, we've become aware of these particular individuals and I do think that they possess a risk to the rest of the community in that they are then going to be exposed to individuals who are then going to be incubating the virus."

    The current measles outbreak has been concentrated in the Fraser East communities of Abbotsford, Mission, Chilliwack, Hope and Agassiz.​ About 100 cases of measles have been reported in the city of Chilliwack.

    A measles warning was sent to some students and staff at the BCIT campus in Burnaby last week, after a student who attended classes there in early March was diagnosed with measles.

    Health officials say anyone showing symptoms of the disease should quarantine themselves for the 21 day incubation period.


  56. Vaccination Has Saved 732,000 Children's Lives Since 1994

    By Bahar Gholipour, Live Science Staff Writer | April 24, 2014

    More than 732,000 children's lives have been saved in the past 20 years due to routine vaccinations, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In addition, 322 million cases of kids getting sick were prevented, according to the report.

    About 79 million U.S. children were born during the study period, and each was saved from four infectious diseases, on average, thanks to vaccination, according to the report. The numbers show the national immunization programs have been successful in saving hundreds of thousands of lives, CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden said.

    The CDC estimated that since the Vaccines for Children (VFC) program was implemented in 1994, vaccination rates have soared to near or above 90 percent, and routine immunization has prevented more than 21 million hospitalizations, saving nearly $295 billion in direct costs (which include the costs of treating an infection) and $1.38 trillion in total societal costs (which include things like lost productivity due to disability and early death), according to the report.

    The federally funded VFC program was aimed at providing free vaccinations to children who lack health insurance, and was created in response to a surge of measles cases in the United States during the late 1980s and early 1990s. That outbreak involved 55,000 cases of illness in just two years, and happened largely due to lower vaccination rates among uninsured infants. [5 Dangerous Vaccination Myths]

    The vaccination rates between 1967 and the late 1980s were between 50 and 80 percent. Implementation of the VFC program helped raise the rates and maintain a level above 90 percent coverage, according to the CDC. Currently, about 50 percent of U.S. children are eligible for VFC.

    "While the VFC was implemented to help people who had a financial need, in fact it has benefited everyone, because when vaccination rates go up, we are all safer," Frieden told reporters today (April 24).

    However, despite the success of immunization programs, measles is still common in many parts of the world, and recent measles outbreaks show the ongoing threat of disease, Frieden said.

    "Current outbreaks of measles in the U.S. serve as a reminder that these diseases are only a plane ride away," he said. "Borders can't stop measles, but vaccination can."

    As of April 18, there have been 129 documented cases of measles in the United States this year. Of the 129 people, 34 brought measles into the U.S. after being infected in other countries such as the Philippines, where a large measles outbreak happened this year.

    Because measles is highly contagious and can spread easily, pockets of unvaccinated people become very vulnerable once the diseases is introduced.

    "Most of the people, or 84 percent of the U.S. cases, that were reported to have measles this year so far were not vaccinated or didn't know their vaccination status," said Dr. Anne Schuchat, director of the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.

    Among the unvaccinated people, 68 percent had opted out of vaccination because of belief exemptions.

    "While the story of 1989 measles resurgence is one of poor children missing out on vaccines because they didn't have insurance, today's measles outbreaks are too often the result of people opting out," Schuchat said.


  57. Measles Outbreak In Ohio Leads Amish To Reconsider Vaccines

    by SARAH JANE TRIBBLE, National Public Radio June 24, 2014

    The Amish countryside in central Ohio looks as it has for a hundred years. There are picturesque pastures with cows and sheep, and big red barns dot the landscape.

    But something changed here, when, on an April afternoon, an Amish woman walked to a communal call box. She picked up the phone to call the Knox County Health Department. She told a county worker she and a family next door had the measles.

    That call spurred nurse Jacqueline Fletcher into action.

    "The very next morning we were out to collect samples, collect nasal swabs and also draw blood. And it was just textbook measles," says Fletcher.

    A nurse in Knox County for nearly three decades, Fletcher had never seen the illness, but she knew the symptoms.

    "The rash. They had the conjunctivitis in the eyes, their eyes were red," she says. "They don't want the light, they sit in the darkened room, wear dark glasses. I mean they were just miserable. High temperatures, 103, 104 temps. So this was the measles."

    The largest outbreak of measles in recent U.S. history is underway. Ohio has the majority of these cases — 341 confirmed and eight hospitalizations. The virus has spread quickly among the largely unvaccinated Amish communities in the center of the state.

    Fletcher collected samples the afternoon she arrived. A county worker drove them immediately to the state health department and quickly confirmed the measles. The next day, Fletcher says she was on a call with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    "I remember the first conversation we had with the CDC," she says. "The fellow said, 'You have to get ahead of this.' "

    Fletcher started organizing door-to-door vaccinations, and set up vaccination clinics at various locations.

    On a Wednesday in mid-June, her clinic takes place in a store that usually sells construction supplies. A steady stream of people come throughout the day. After the workday ends, Amish families form a line out the door while buggies continue to roll into a nearby parking lot.

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  58. Most of the children are barefoot, not needing to wear shoes until they work out of the home. The girls wear dark-colored, homemade dresses and bonnets. The boys, pressed trousers and button-up shirts. Inside the clinic, most people are calm, but the younger ones are scared.

    Ervin Kauffman reassures his six children as they squeeze into a small back office for their second shot for mumps, measles and rubella since the outbreak began. While many Amish are not against vaccines in principle, many, including Kauffman's children, have never had shots.

    "I guess there was no scare to us before," Kaufman says. "I guess we were too relaxed."

    Kauffman says the outbreak has changed other customs, too. "We're just now starting with weddings," he says. Spring is the Amish wedding season, a time when hundreds come together, often traveling from other states and sometimes Canada. Those weddings were postponed. Church services, typically held in family homes, were also curtailed. "We didn't have church for almost two months because of the measles, so we wouldn't spread them, so we kind of tried to put the clamp on them," he says.

    Knox County Health Commissioner Julie Miller came out to visit Fletcher's clinic to lend support to the vaccination effort. She has no idea how many are still at risk of contracting the illness.

    "It's hard to answer that because we still don't know what the number is of who has the potential to be sick," she explains.

    That's because there's simply no official count of how many Amish live in Ohio. Researchers at Ohio State University estimate that there are about 33,000 Amish living in the six-county area where the outbreak began.

    At last count, 8,000 people in those counties had been vaccinated.

    But Miller fears the measles will continue to spread because there is still resistance to vaccinations.

    Paul Raber, 35, is one of those who is skeptical. He decided to get the measles vaccine for himself and his family. But the father of 11 isn't sure if he or his family will get other shots. "We might, we might," he says, sounding doubtful.

    Meanwhile, the virus is spreading, with more cases being reported in nearby Holmes and Stark counties.


  59. Federal Judge Rules That Religious Freedom Is Not Absolute In N.Y. Vaccination Case

    by Sarah Jones, Americans United For Separation of Church and State June 25, 2014

    Children whose parents opt them out of vaccines on religious grounds can be barred from New York City’s public schools if the child poses a threat to another pupil, a federal judge has ruled.
    U.S. District Judge William F. Kuntz II found that education officials can send unvaccinated children home when another student suffers from a vaccine-preventable disease.

    Three families had challenged the city’s policy, arguing that it unconstitutionally violated their freedom of religious expression. It’s a complex case: According to The New York Times, two families sued to overturn the city’s policy, while a third plaintiff sued over the city’s refusal to grant her the religious exemption she sought.

    “We don’t want anything being put into our bodies at all,” said Nicole Phillips, mother of two unvaccinated children, after filing suit in 2012. “We’d rather rely on our natural immune system and our faith in God. This is about my children’s rights.”

    And Dina Check argued that the city’s requirements to qualify for a religious exemption also violated her constitutional rights. She believes her daughter was “intoxicated” after receiving some vaccines as an infant and subsequently sought an exemption from the rest of the vaccine schedule.
    “Disease is pestilence,” Check told The Times, “And pestilence is from the devil. The devil is germs and disease, which is cancer and any of those things that can take you down. But if you trust in the Lord, these things cannot come near you.”

    But Kuntz rejected those arguments, citing a 109 year-old Supreme Court case that upheld a $5 fine for a Massachusetts man who refused a smallpox vaccine during an epidemic.

    That case, Kuntz wrote, is evidence that the Court “strongly suggested that religious objectors are not constitutionally exempt from vaccinations.”
    New York City’s government, Kuntz said, has a compelling interest to protect public health and that outweighs the right of religious objectors to send their unvaccinated children to public schools, where they might possibly endanger others.

    There’s also evidence that the city’s policy has successfully curbed at least one measles outbreak. The Times reports that between February and April this year, 25 people contracted measles, a vaccine-preventable disease. Two were children whose parents exempted them from vaccines for religious reasons. Although one child was being homeschooled, a sibling attended public school. Officials say the outbreak would have been much worse if the infected children hadn’t been ordered to stay home.

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  60. But the families who filed suit over the city’s policy are undeterred by the health policy’s evident success – and by Kuntz’s ruling. Their attorney, Patricia Finn, announced that they intend to appeal.

    This ruling provides a valuable example of reasonable restrictions on religious freedom. Families are legally entitled to believe whatever they choose about medicine, including vaccines, and this ruling doesn't require them to vaccinate. But they also aren’t entitled to jeopardize public health.
    Sweeping religious freedom claims have been making national headlines for months now. This decision is a reminder that, as important as religious liberty is in America, it can be curtailed in the face of a compelling state interest. Halting the spread of dangerous diseases most certainly qualifies as a compelling interest.
    New York City’s policy strikes a balance between protecting religion and safeguarding public health. Despite what the plaintiffs have claimed, it’s hardly a draconian assault on their religious freedom. In fact, the city’s policy is actually rather lenient compared to those in some other locales. In Mississippi and West Virginia – states not known as bastions of secular liberalism – it’s impossible to receive such an exemption at all. And neither state seems likely to change policy any time soon.

    Whether it’s a parent trying to send an unvaccinated child to public school during an epidemic or an employer is trying to deny contraception coverage to his employees, religious freedom is never a valid excuse for infringing the rights of other people.

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  61. Sect Hides Babies From Polio Jab in Tharaka Nithi

    By Dennis Dibondo, The Star Kenya NOVEMBER 14, 2014

    A religious sect that rejects modern medicine on Sunday hid their children so they would not receive polio vaccine.

    After a stand-off lasting for hours, the area chief and Administration Police had to intervene to ensure the inoculation.

    Mothers screamed and cried since they do not believe in conventional medicine, saying their children might die.

    "We rely on God for protection. We do not need any medical intervention," one parent in the Kavonokia sect said.

    The polio campaign targets 59,490 children under the age of five in Tharaka Nithi county.

    Medical officer in charge Rose Micheni said medical workers left many homes in Kibunga and Kirocho villages after they found doors locked.

    Upon return to one of the homes for confirmation, the workers heard the laughter of children playing inside the houses, she said.

    "Parents of the sect had hidden their children in the farms and were monitoring the moves of the medical officers," Micheni said.

    She said the sect members emerged after their attempt to prevent the kids from gettign vaccinated was discovered.

    They chased away the health workers and refused to unlock their houses, saying their children are healthy and do not need any medication, she said.

    Micheni said she had to use police in the rest of the inoculation, as the group threatened to chase them away with dogs.

    She urged community leaders to teach locals the importance of vaccinating their children at early age.

    Micheni said the vaccination will not be derailed by religious beliefs.

    "Diseases do not know what your religion is or your community's beliefs," she said.

    Micheni said the campaign is targeting 90 per cent of the child population.

    "We'll ensure they all get the polio vaccine," she said.


  62. Anti Vaxxers Are Idolizing the Amish, Inexplicably

    A viral pseudoscience article claims the Plain People never get sick because they don't get vaccinated. Actually, members of the religious sect are prone to some terrible diseases.


    “When we think of Amish people we think of a simple life, free of modern advancements.” So begins a viral article, called “Why the Amish Don’t Get Sick,” which seeks to prove that Americans would be healthier if they lived more like the midwestern Anabaptists. The piece appears to have its roots in a site called LA Healthy Living, but it has recently bounced its way across the naturopathic Internet, ending up on the domains of quack doctors and, more recently, on a hippie news site called Earth We Are One, through which it landed in my Facebook feed.

    Though it masquerades as “what we can learn from them”-style journalism, the piece is basically just catnip for the anti-GMO and anti-vax crowds. And sadly, it appears to have already spread its nonsense far and wide.

    “Most of us view [the Amish] as foolish for not using the advantages of convenient technology,” it reads, “and even look down on them for not conforming to the norms of mainstream society.” (Yeah, you know how people are always like: “iPads are so great; the Amish are a bunch of idiots for not using them.”)

    “But if we look at the statistics,” it continues, “the Amish are much healthier than the rest of America. They virtually have no cancer, no autism, and rarely get sick. What are they doing different from the rest of America?”

    The first tip, according to this article, is not getting vaccinated: “In spite of constant pressure from the government, the Amish still refuse to vaccinate.”

    Nope. Most Amish parents vaccinate, but even then, the relatively low overall vaccination rate in the community fueled a massive measles outbreak in Ohio’s Amish country earlier this year. The incident proved something that Amish and “English” parents alike should know by now: Vaccines don’t cause autism, but not getting a vaccine can cause outbreaks of nasty, 19th-century diseases.

    The rest of the items in the listicle aren’t as terrible. Being physically active, not getting too stressed out, and eating a lot of vegetables are all “Amish” habits the article says other Americans would do well to adopt. However, its suggestion that Amish food contains no GMOs is bunk—some Amish farms do use genetically modified crops for financial and efficiency reasons. Besides, there's no evidence that genetically modified foods are detrimental to human health in any way.

    But it’s the very premise of the article that’s bizarre. If you’re going to hype a community as “never getting sick,” use a place that’s actually remarkably healthy, like Minneapolis. Not only do Amish people get sick, they get some of the worst diseases in the world.

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  63. Almost all of the roughly 250,000 Amish people in the U.S. can trace their roots back to a few hundred Swiss farmers who immigrated to Pennsylvania in the 18th century. The centuries of isolation and intermarriage has forged tight-knit communities, sure, but it has also caused widespread genetic problems.

    One example is Maple Syrup Urine Disease—so named for the smell of the sufferer’s urine and ear wax—which causes the body to be unable to metabolize protein. Most people with MSUD experience vomiting, seizures, and brain damage starting in infancy, and they die early.

    Only one out of every 180,000 babies in the general population is born with the disease, but it strikes one out of every 358 Amish babies. Treatment usually involves avoiding meat and dairy entirely—which is tough to manage in the “all-natural” Amish lifestyle. Liver transplants are another option, but few Amish can afford them.

    And that’s just one of the many virtually unheard-of genetic diseases that plague the Plain People.

    Granted, one study found that the Amish do have a lower incidence of seven types of cancer—mostly because they don’t drink, smoke, or have unprotected sex with lots of different partners. They also reduce their risk of skin cancer by wearing wide-brimmed hats and covering their bodies from ankle to wrist. But you don’t see “LA Healthy Living” trumpeting the health perks of bonnets.

    It’s tempting to brush this kind of thing off as a fringe piece of “content” that no one will read, but the version of the story on Earth We Are One garnered nearly 68,000 pageviews, according to its own counter. That site also has more than 600,000 fans on Facebook. Anyone with an audience that big who uses an insular religious sect to prop up their dangerous pseudo-science should bemeidung—shunned.


  64. Why religions do not oppose vaccines

    By Lisa M. Krieger, San Jose Mercury News January 31, 2015

    All states except Mississippi and West Virginia allow parents to opt out of their children's otherwise-mandatory vaccinations for religious reasons.

    In California, those with a religious exemption don't even need to seek a health practitioner's signature, unlike others. That's because of an addendum directed by Gov. Jerry Brown.

    But a review of religious policy reveals that few, if any, religions actually oppose vaccination, according to research by the California Immunization Coalition, is a nonprofit, public-private partnership dedicated to full immunization protection for all Californians.

    The only vocal critic is Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, who claimed the flu vaccine was designed to kill people.

    These are the policies of various religions on vaccination, according to research by the coalition and others:

    Mainstream Christian denominations: No scriptural or canonical objection to the use of vaccines. These include Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox churches, Anglican, Baptist, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Congregational, Episcopalian, Lutheran, Methodist (including African Methodist Episcopal), Pentecostal, Presbyterian, and Seventh-Day Adventist Church. Roman Catholics recognize the importance of vaccinations and supports their use to protect both individuals and the larger community.

    Amish: While there is a minority of Amish parents who do not vaccinate their children, vaccination is not prohibited by their religion.

    Tibetan Buddhist: Strongly supportive of vaccines. In 2010, Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader and Nobel laureate the Dalai Lama helped vaccinate and launch a polio eradication drive in India.

    Christian Science: There are some faith-healing groups -- of which the Church of Christ, Scientist (Christian Science) is the most prominent -- that believe prayer can heal, making vaccines unnecessary. But the church does not oppose vaccinations.

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  65. Hindu There is no formal statement from Hindu authorities on vaccination, as Hinduism has several hundreds of sects, each with its traditions and rules. But many areas of the world with large Hindu populations, such as India, have taken proactive efforts to eradicate vaccine-preventable diseases like polio.

    Muslim: Many imams and other Islamic leaders have issued clear statements commenting that vaccination is consistent with Islamic principles. In particular, a 1995 conference of Islamic scholars concluded: "The transformation of pork products into gelatin alters them sufficiently to make it permissible for observant Muslims to receive vaccines containing pork gelatin."

    However, some specific select Muslim communities throughout the world have opposed vaccinations, including the Nation of Islam, whose leader Minister Louis Farrakhan once said that the 2009 H1N1 flu vaccine was designed to kill people. While Nation of Islam members call themselves Muslims, mainstream Muslims reject the group's beliefs.

    In Pakistan and Afghanistan, the Taliban oppose vaccination as a plot to sterilize Muslims. They Taliban have kidnapped, beaten, and assassinated vaccination officials, including assassinating the head of Pakistan's vaccination campaign.

    Jehovah's Witnesses: According to The Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, the main legal entity that organizes worldwide activities by Jehovah's Witnesses, "We have no objection to vaccines in general."

    Jewish: While there is no single voice for Jewish communities, many rabbis have spoken out in favor of vaccinations, noting the importance of preserving life (pikuakh nefesh) and that, according to Jewish law, there is no objection to porcine or other animal-derived ingredients in non-oral products, such as injectable vaccines.

    Sikh: There is no official statement on immunization from Sikh authorities. But generally, Sikhs do not have religious or societal issues against vaccination.

    Source: www.immunizeca.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/Religious-Views-of-Vaccination-At-a-Glance.pdf


  66. California Moves to Ban All Vaccination Exemptions

    By Kevin Drum, Mother Jones February 5, 2015

    Here's the latest vaccination news from the Golden State:

    Gov. Jerry Brown, who preserved religious exemptions to state vaccination requirements in 2012, on Wednesday appeared open to legislation that would eliminate all but medical waivers.

    The governor's new flexibility highlighted a growing momentum toward limiting vaccination exemptions partly blamed for the state's worst outbreak of measles since 2000 and flare-ups of whooping cough and other preventable illnesses.

    ....Earlier, five lawmakers had said they would introduce legislation that would abolish all religious and other personal-beliefs exemptions for parents who do not want their children vaccinated before starting school.

    I grew up in a Christian Science family, and that makes me slightly conflicted on this subject. Partly this is because it left me with some residual sympathy for genuine religious objections, and partly it's because the number of exemptions for genuine religious reasons is actually pretty small—less than 3,000 per year in California, according to the Times story.

    But in the end, there's just too big a can of worms when you try to distinguish "genuine" religious objections from personal objections that might be based on some kind of spiritual belief. If this were purely a personal choice, I'd go ahead and let parents decide. But it's not. It's a public health issue, and our top priority should be protecting public health. This requires vaccination rates above 95 percent both statewide and in every local area. As the map on the right shows, we're not getting that these days.

    There's no state in the nation that's more sympathetic to religious freedom than Mississippi. If it can ban exemptions for religious reasons, so can all the rest of us. The anti-vaxxers used to be an oddball nuisance, but in recent years they've turned deadly—and that means it's past time to start taking them seriously. No more exemptions for deadly communicable diseases.


  67. California Gov Jerry Brown appears open to restricting vaccine waivers

    By PATRICK MCGREEVY AND RONG-GONG LIN II Los Angeles Times February 4, 2015

    Gov. Jerry Brown, who preserved religious exemptions to state vaccination requirements in 2012, on Wednesday appeared open to legislation that would eliminate all but medical waivers.

    The governor's new flexibility highlighted a growing momentum toward limiting vaccination exemptions partly blamed for the state's worst outbreak of measles since 2000 and flare-ups of whooping cough and other preventable illnesses.

    California Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer urged state officials to reconsider California's vaccination policies Wednesday in a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Diana Dooley.

    Brown's spokesman, Evan Westrup, said the governor "believes that vaccinations are profoundly important and a major public health benefit, and any bill that reaches his desk will be closely considered."

    Earlier, five lawmakers had said they would introduce legislation that would abolish all religious and other personal-beliefs exemptions for parents who do not want their children vaccinated before starting school.

    Medical exemptions would remain in place for children with such conditions as allergic responses and weak immune systems, and schools would have to make their vaccination rates known to parents.

    The California measles infections have spread to at least 119 people in eight states and Mexico, with 103 of the cases in California. The first cases were tied to workers or visitors at Disneyland.

    Currently, 13,592 California kindergarten students have waivers due to their parents' personal beliefs; 2,764 of those were based on religious beliefs, state health statistics show.

    "There are not enough people being vaccinated to contain these dangerous diseases," said state Sen. Richard Pan (D-Sacramento), a pediatrician and one of the bill's authors. "We should not wait for more children to sicken or die before we act."

    State Sen. Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica), a co-author, said his district included pockets where many parents have elected not to immunize their children. He said his father had polio.

    Matthew B. McReynolds of the Pacific Justice Institute, a conservative Sacramento-based organization that advocates for parental rights and religious freedoms, said removing the exemptions would be an overreaction and a dismissal of legitimate concerns about vaccines by some parents.

    "It's concerning to me that the measles outbreak seems to have prompted some hysteria," he said, "and this seems like a pretty sweeping approach to what really is a very limited problem that could be addressed in other ways."

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  68. In 2012 Brown signed legislation that restricted personal-belief exemptions by requiring that parents be counseled by healthcare providers on the risks of not being vaccinated.

    The governor's office says that since the bill took effect, those exemptions have decreased by nearly 20%, from 3.15% of children in the 2013-14 school year to 2.54% in 2014-15.

    Brown was criticized by some health experts, however, for exempting parents with religious objections from meeting with a medical professional.

    On Wednesday, Brown's representatives would not directly address whether the religious exemption should be repealed or maintained, but they noted that those are claimed by only about 0.5% of kindergarten students.

    Pan said he was open to discussion on the issue as the legislation proceeds.

    Although all 50 states require vaccinations for children starting school, only about 20 states allow waivers based on personal beliefs. Almost all states grant religious exemptions, except for two: Mississippi and West Virginia.

    Mississippi has the nation's highest measles immunization rate for kindergarten students, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: 99.7% for the 2013-14 kindergarten class. West Virginia's rate was also high — 96.1%, above the national median of 94.7%. California's rate that year was 92.3%.

    California has long been criticized by health experts for making exemptions easy, which allowed too many children into preschool and kindergarten without vaccines.

    For many years, the percentage of kindergarten students with vaccine exemptions on file due to a parent's beliefs was small — less than 1% from the fall of 1978 to the fall of 2000.

    But the rate has risen steadily alongside the anti-vaccine movement, reaching a high of 3.15% in the fall of 2013 before dipping to 2.54% last fall.

    Studies show a related rise in the rates of infectious disease.


  69. Inside the Vaccine War

    Measles Outbreak Rekindles Debate on Autism, Parental Choice & Public Health

    Democracy Now, February 5, 2015

    The federal government has confirmed more than 100 people across 14 states have now developed measles. Public health officials suspect the outbreak, which is concentrated in California, began when an infected person visited Disneyland in Anaheim in December. In recent years, a growing number of parents have opted not to have their children vaccinated, claiming a link between vaccines and autism. The prestigious medical journal Lancet published a study in 1998 showing such a link, but the study was later retracted and has been widely discredited. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in 12 children born in the United States is not receiving their first dose of MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine on time. Several potential Republican presidential candidates have weighed in on the debate. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, an ophthalmologist, said he had heard of instances where vaccines caused "mental disorders." New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said vaccinating kids is a matter of "parental choice."

    We spend the hour discussing the vaccine debate and public health with three guests: Dorit Rubinstein Reiss is a professor at the University of California, Hastings College of the Law, and co-author of the report, "Funding the Costs of Disease Outbreaks Caused by Non-Vaccination"; Mary Holland is the mother of a child with regressive autism who, she believes, was injured by the MMR vaccine. She is also a research scholar at New York University School of Law and co-editor of the book, "Vaccine Epidemic: How Corporate Greed, Biased Science, and Coercive Government Threaten Our Human Rights, Our Health, and Our Children"; and Dr. Paul Offit is chief of the division of infectious diseases at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and a professor of pediatrics at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. He is author of "Autism’s False Prophets: Bad Science, Risky Medicine, and the Search for a Cure" and "Deadly Choices: How the Anti-Vaccine Movement Threatens Us All."

    watch the video or read the transcript at:


  70. Rise of the health truthers

    Medical skeptics and conspiracists in search of certainty in a confusing world

    Joseph Brean | NATIONAL POST February 6, 2015

    Nearly two decades after measles was eliminated from Canada, Toronto has banned unvaccinated children from the schools in which a new exposure has occurred until the small outbreak is over.

    The move, announced Friday, follows events that highlight the broad social influence of medical skeptics, denialists and conspiracists. Three of the first four Toronto measles cases, for example, were not vaccinated, despite clear medical advice nearly everyone should be.

    From a major measles outbreak at Disneyland in California to the revelation Queen’s University has for years incorporated anti-vaccine misinformation in a health course, and from the rise of “pet anti-vaxxers” to “pox parties” and “flu flings,” in which diseases are deliberately spread to create immunity, the power of alternative views about infectious disease control is deeply established and resistant to mainstream criticism and scientific evidence.

    It has even spread into the U.S. presidential campaign, where presumptive candidates this week struggled to strike a balance between evidence-based public health policy and personal liberty.

    All these cases show how decisions about health are rarely like scientific judgments. Rather, they can be esthetic choices, personal and subjective, based as much on intuition and emotion as reason and evidence.

    In Canada, the vaccine controversy follows the outcry over the death of Makayla Sault, the First Nations’ girl who pursued alternative therapy for leukemia. This raised the question of how much society should defer to alternative views of health and well-being, and whether the answer is different in the Aboriginal context.

    But health trutherism is broader than medicine. It spans many aspects of modern life, from grocery shopping to energy policy. Adherents have many bugaboos: wind turbines, vaccines, some environmental illnesses, perfume sensitivity, toxins, gluten, pesticides, fluoride, cellphone radiation …

    These issues are connected by skepticism about mainstream science, usually for its links to industry. Often the underlying fear is of a departure from the natural or the pure, although this romantic vision glosses over its more destructive aspects, like killer viruses. Just as often, there is a resistance to changing one’s views even in the face of strong evidence or authoritative advice.

    “Part of this is about how people navigate a complex, uncertain world,” says Herbert Northcott, interim chair of sociology at the University of Alberta. “In the past, I think people had less information, there weren’t as many experts making pronouncements. They trusted the priest, they listened to the priest, then they prayed to God. That’s how they managed risk.”

    Health trutherism, then, “functions like religious faith used to function.” Like religion, it mixes fear and hope into a single motivation, and like religious faith, it is impervious to worldly arguments.

    Prof. Northcott cites the “Thomas Theorem,” a principle of sociology that says whatever people believe to be real is real in its consequences.

    But the spread of those beliefs also has real-life consequences, as the measles outbreaks show. A poll this week, for example, found one in five Canadians believes some vaccines cause autism, despite no proper evidence for this other than a fraudulent, retracted paper.

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  71. Like religion trutherism spans the political spectrum. The modern health truther is just as likely to be an anti-government libertarian opposed to fluoride in the water as a lefty vegan helicopter parent opposed to pesticides on crops.

    “It’s mostly a class-based thing,” says Jacqueline Low, who studies the use of alternative therapies at the University of New Brunswick. These treatments “cost money, so it tends to be people who have the money to purchase them.”

    “The common thing I’ve found was that they were solving health problems that they could not solve in any other way,” she says.

    The problem is health truthers think differently from scientists and believe for different reasons.

    One key difference is in the view of the placebo effect, Prof. Low says, which mainstream medicine regards as a “false effect” and a “sham.”

    “In contrast, alternative practitioners value the placebo effect … they think of it as a human capability that we need to harness,” he says. “You can make yourself sick and you can heal yourself.”

    Adherents follow personal experience over the advice of authorities.

    They have a “core philosophical belief” alternative treatments are natural and thus safer and purer, “irrespective of whether it’s true or not,” Prof. Lowe says.

    Contrary to natural science’s “generic model,” they believe different therapies work differently in different people, and so they will judge a treatment’s efficacy by their own reaction, not a randomized trial.

    “They’re not really interested beyond that, they’re satisfied it does work,” he says.

    In his book Among the Truthers, Jonathan Kay calls this kind of thinking “damaged survivor conspiracism.”
    “Hostility toward conventional medicine is a popular theme in just about every modern conspiracist movement — including Scientology, UFO groups, and 9/11 Truth,” he writes.

    “Even right-wing conspiracy theorists, no enemies of the free market, tend to embrace herbal miracle-cures and other forms of quack medicine more commonly associated with the vegan Left.”

    Believing that vaccines cause autism allows emotionally vulnerable parents to blame companies and government agencies for a trauma that might otherwise be seen as a mere act of God, he says.

    “As religious martyrs and psychologists alike can attest, virtually any amount of suffering can be endured if the one enduring it feels it has a purpose.”

    This view may be wrongheaded, but it is not always ignorant.

    “Far from being scientifically illiterate, these individuals have a well-developed understanding of both the principles and practices of science,” says Christopher Fries, a health sociologist at the University of Manitoba.

    “However, it is actually this understanding that leads them to be suspicious of scientific knowledge. They understand that technoscientific knowledge, while at times valuable, is shaped by commercial and economic interests … This leads many to be skeptical of science as a way of knowing.”

    The result is many people “shop around and pick and choose diverse elements with which to construct [their] lay beliefs about health and illness — a little science here, a little ethnic and indigenous knowledge there.”

    “People just aren’t very good with numbers, so their evaluations of risk are generally not mathematical, they’re subjective and personal,” says Prof. Northcott.

    “We’re not a rational species, we’re a rationalizing species. We’re more likely to come to a conclusion and then manipulate the facts to support our decision.”

    “A lot of the anti-scientific movements are attempts for people to get control over their lives in a world that seems increasingly out of our control,” says Stephen Kent, who studies alternative religions at the University of Alberta. “As we lose faith in people in power, a lot of people believe they can only rely upon themselves.”

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  72. Pop culture taps this vein of suspicion nicely, he said, with movies about “vaccinations run amok,” such as World War Z.

    “It’s not that people think they are real, but their constant presence wears down people’s remembrance that they are fictions. They think this could have happened.”

    Prof. Kent describes several religious objections to vaccinations, notably by the conservative branch of the Dutch Reform Church, which believes they interfere with God’s will. Travel between their communities in Canada and abroad has been implicated in several outbreaks of measles, mumps and rubella.

    There are also religious fears of conspiracy, for example the polio vaccine, which some believe is an attempt to sterilize Muslims. In some rare cases, there actually was a conspiracy, as when the Central Intelligence Agency used a vaccination program to try to gather information about Osama bin Laden in Pakistan.

    The public health effects of these ideas as they catch on can be dire. They can create “clusters of vaccine refusal” in which unvaccinated children get sick, but so do a few vaccinated ones.

    It is like the old Punch joke about the man who, having been served a rotten egg by his superior, replies “parts of it are excellent.”

    Parts of the vaccine regime are excellent, but that is not enough. If significant numbers of people opt out, it is a rotten egg.

    It can be easy to laugh or scorn. Much like the response of atheists to believers, there is a condescending arrogance in much of the mainstream rebuttal to health trutherism, an unbending certainty in their own views that suggests they do not really understand or fully appreciate the problems.

    The Toronto Star found this out this week after a critical news report on the Gardasil vaccine for the human papillomavirus (HPV), for which it was mocked and shamed for giving voice to people who believe the vaccine caused their physical problems.
    There are side effects and risks to vaccines. They are not recommended for everyone.

    Courts have struggled with this problem. In 2006, a court in Ontario found hepatitis B vaccinations caused chronic fatigue syndrome in a woman, saying “a legitimate scientific controversy is raging about possible serious adverse sequelae of the vaccine.”

    The judge also expressed concern government health authorities “cannot concurrently be a cheerleader and an objective critic of a vaccine.”

    Likewise, major public health disasters like Thalidomide, and outrageous failures of medical ethics like eugenics, are not so far in the past as to be completely irrelevant. Prof. Northcott points out sociology legitimizes certain things, while stigmatizing and denigrates other things, often out of step with science.

    The philosopher Thomas Nagel, for example, learned this when he wrote a book about the failure of evolutionary science to account for human consciousness, for which he was quickly tarred, falsely, as a creationist. Likewise, climate skeptics can be wary of pointing out the problems with climate models, such as their failure to account for the current “pause” in warming, for fear of being labelled an outright denialist or petro shill.

    “I still wonder about how much gets legitimizes even when it shouldn’t, or how much we believe in today that we won’t believe in 50 years,” says Prof. Northcott.

    “Both camps [medicine and its alternatives] can be equally committed to their religions, so when they speak to each other they don’t communicate. They speak past each other and they both speak with derision.”

    He said the Queen’s University episode, however, looks like a case of inappropriate, unscientific “fear-mongering.”

    “I don’t think academics should preach,” he says, adding with a laugh, “Our students aren’t listening anyway.”


  73. There really are not any Religious objections to vaccinations

    by Mark A. Kellner, DESERET NEWS February 7, 2015

    In the national debate over immunizing children, much has been said about "religious objections" to vaccines claimed by parents. Finding a religion whose tenets object to the practice, however, is difficult.

    The number of students receiving vaccination exemptions for any reason is relatively small, the Federal Centers for Disease Control reported. Surveying the 2012-13 school year, the agency reported, "an estimated 91,453 exemptions were reported among a total estimated population of 4,242,558 kindergartners, roughly 2 percent of the nation's newest students.

    But many of these exemptions, the CDC reports, are for philosophical reasons. California, for example, reported 14,921 philosophical exemptions in 2012 and zero religious ones, while Illinois reported 8,082 religious exemptions and none on philosophical grounds.

    And while the question of personal objections to vaccinations remains a hot topic, one aspect seems to be indisputable: No major religion explicitly objects to immunization. The Deseret News identified one faith, with approximately 12,000 members, that has a tenet explicitly rejecting injections or vaccines of any kind.

    But the world's major faiths — Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Judaism and Islam — have no explicit prohibitions against oral or injected vaccines. At times, some followers or preachers within a given religion or sect may have spoken against vaccination, but researcher John D. Grabenstein of Merck Vaccines, writing in the scientific journal Vaccine in April 2013, could find no sustained teaching against the practice in any major faith community.

    In fact, Grabenstein wrote, "multiple religious doctrines or imperatives call for preservation of life, caring for others, and duty to community (e.g., parent to child, neighbors to each other)."

    In an interview, Grabenstein said many religious objections were "about safety concerns, not about theology, (even though) people who went to a church, or mosque or synagogue, said 'I'm not going to get a vaccine because of my religion.'"

    Mark S. Movsesian, a law professor at St. John's University in Queens, New York, who specializes in religious liberty issues, agrees.

    "The people who are claiming these exemptions, it's not religious exemption, but 'personal belief,'" he said. "My impression is, that's what most of the objection is about."

    Writing on the website for First Things magazine, Movsesian also denied that conscience exemptions could be blamed on the 2014 Hobby Lobby decision of the U.S. Supreme Court. Instead, he noted, the Hobby Lobby majority opinion specifically excluded vaccines from such conscience protections.

    Not Christian Scientists
    While members of the Christian Science Church are noted for relying on spiritual healing, the organization does not list a formal policy against immunizations on its website.

    Church founder Mary Baker Eddy said in 1901 that members should comply with vaccination mandates, according to Boston College history professor Alan Rogers, whose 2014 book "The Child Cases: How America’s Religious Exemption Laws Harm Children," examined legal cases involving children in the movement.

    continued below

  74. Because Eddy who died in 1910 has spoken on the subject, Rogers said, "the (Christian Science) Church took no official position against vaccination. But, since the central belief of the Scientists was that there was no material reality, that the human body was a manifestation of God's perfect spiritual world, there was no need for vaccination. Indeed, to choose vaccination would be to deny that religious 'reality.'"

    A spokesperson for The First Church of Christ, Scientist, was not immediately available for comment.

    One religious group that explicitly forbids vaccinations, surgeries, medicine and anything invasive is the New Jersey-based Congregation of Universal Wisdom, founded by 71-year-old chiropractor Walter P. Schilling. He said the group has "11,600 members in 48 states and a couple of foreign countries." On its website, the group classifies as "sacrilege" the "injection into the body of medication or other matter of substances that defy natural law."

    "The immunization thing isn't the driving force, it's about keeping the body pure," Schilling said. "We're looking for the natural, innate ability of the body to heal itself."

    The group's beliefs have withstood legal challenge. In 2002, Kelly Turner, a Congregation of Universal Wisdom adherent, had her objections to immunizing her daughter recognized as religious by the federal District Court in Syracuse, New York, despite school authorities' contention that it wasn't a bona fide religious belief.

    Exemption repeal pondered
    While 20 states allow some measure of personal belief exemption, continuing instances of disease outbreaks related to unvaccinated children have caused legislators to re-examine the doctrine.
    California state Sen. Richard Pan, a pediatrician and Democrat from Sacramento, introduced a bill this week that would repeal that state's personal belief exemption, the one used by nearly 15,000 kindergartner's parents in 2012.

    "As a pediatrician, I’ve been worried about the anti-vaccination trend for a long time," Pan said in a statement. "I’ve personally witnessed the suffering caused by these preventable diseases, and I am very grateful to the many parents that are now speaking up and letting us know that our current laws don’t protect their kids."

    In 2012, Pan sponsored, and the Legislature passed, a bill requiring those who claim a vaccination exemption to talk with a "licensed health care practitioner" about potential impacts in their communities. That bill cut personal exemptions by 20 percent in its first year, Pan said, but some California communities still have opt-out rates of more than 10 percent, which endangers others at risk for infection.

    Health advocates stress the issue is one of community protection and not a religious rights conflict.

    "There's not two sides of the story," said Diane Peterson, associate director of the Immunization Action Coalition in St. Paul, Minnesota. "There's the side that 95 percent of the nation support and then there's the hardcore (of people who) never met a vaccine they liked."


  75. Are Organized Religions a Possible Public Health Hazard “Vector”?

    Apparently we have our job to do

    Centre For Inquiry Canada

    During CFI Canada’s monitoring of public health concerns such as anti-vaccination proponents, we often encounter pseudo-scientific claims and fears from people who either ignore or don’t understand the science behind vaccination and immunization. However, we’ve lately also noticed an increase in the troubling incursion of religion in this area of public health and healthcare.

    Study #3 Measles in Canada 2015

    On February 6, 2015 CBC posted a report that Canada had seen a sixth case confirmed. We have provided below a selection of media sources, commentary and information relating to media coverage. A feature which stands out in the Allan Maki’s Globe and Mail article from 2014 is the following details:

    In the Netherlands, the most recent run of measles began in the country’s designated Bible Belt, an area occupied by conservative Protestants who refuse to vaccinate their children. That belief allowed the disease to go on a rampage, infecting more than 2,000 people with at least one death connected to the outbreak.

    In Southern Alberta, it was a student who spread the disease after a visit to the Netherlands. The importation resulted in 42 confirmed cases in southern Alberta before the outbreak was declared over. As for the Fraser Valley and its 353 cases, it began with two students at a Christian school in Chilliwack, B.C.

    1. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/measles-confirmed-in-6th-patient-in-toronto-1.2948899

    2. http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/tmp-pmv/notices-avis/notices-avis-eng.php?id=98

    3. http://www.who.int/immunization/monitoring_surveillance/burden/vpd/surveillance_type/active/big_measlesreportedcases6months_PDF.pdf

    4. http://www.ctvnews.ca/health/map-2014-measles-cases-in-Canada

    5. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/health-and-fitness/health/measles-in-canada-why-this-infectious-diseases-is-spreading/article17866080/?page=all

    6. http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/im/vpd-mev/measles-rougeole-eng.php

    7. http://www.cbc.ca/news/health/measles-outbreaks-in-canada-outsize-u-s-1.2605628

    8. http://www.cbc.ca/thecurrent/

    CBC’s April 2014 story regarding measles is very instructive

    It’s an inescapable reality: As long as measles is infecting children in other parts of the world, Canada is going to have occasional outbreaks. The same is true in the United States, but public health officials there typically have managed to more quickly extinguish spread of the virus when it comes from abroad.

    ….the largest outbreak the U.S. has experienced in nearly two decades occurred in an Orthodox Jewish community in Brooklyn, N.Y., last year. Total cases: 58. Indeed most measles outbreaks south of the border are far smaller, coming in at under two dozen cases, and many times fewer than a handful.

    …..But when there are more unvaccinated children — or adults — transmission can go on for weeks, as it has in the Fraser Valley outbreak. There spread has emanated from a religious school — kindergarten to Grade 12 — affiliated with a church that opposes vaccination.

    Repeatedly in Canadian coverage of measles outbreaks, connections to religious schools and communities appears to be a common factor.

    continued below

  76. Study #2 Measles Outbreak in Texas – August 2013

    In August of 2013, a measles outbreak in Fort Worth Texas centred on a “megachurch” and resulted in Texas’ Department of State Health Services issuing a health alert. The Church, which had previously circulated anti-vaccination messages, ended up providing free vaccination clinics. 10 cases of measles are identified in this case. Related media links and commentary:








    As recently as February 6, 2015, experts indicate that they expect a measles outbreak in Texas ( http://www.click2houston.com/news/experts-say-texas-likely-to-see-measles-outbreak/31140662); In this story, it is claimed that the vaccination rate in Texas is 92.7% but also reveals how many children are left vulnerable to life-threatening illness – 40,000. With a 90% infection rate, the potential number of cases in Texas is 36,000. With a mortality rate of 1 in 1000, the potential number of preventable infant deaths is 36.

    Detailed information regarding measles in the US may be found here: http://pediatrics.about.com/od/measles/a/measles-outbreaks.htm including significant reference to an outbreak at Disneyland (California). Noteworthy is the statistic reported that the US saw a record low number of cases in 2004 at only 37 cases. A single visitor to the Texas megachurch in 2013 resulted in between 10 and 25 cases.


    Study # 1 Vaccinations and the Catholic Church

    In the fall of 2014, the Chair of Toronto’s Catholic School Board issued statements claiming that HPV vaccinations are a “moral issue”. This reminded us of similar problems in Alberta….and also the Kenyan example of Catholic Church and physicians opposing tetanus vaccinations.

    CFIC sent a letter to the chair of the Toronto Catholic District School Board with an offer to provide him and the board with education on this matter. See our letter: Toronto Catholic District School Board Letter Re HPV Dec 2014

    Is it far fetched to be concerned that organized religions and pseudo-science purveyors may be vectors for public health risks? We’re gathering evidence to learn more.

    In the meantime, Mr. Del Grande found time to send us the following reply:

    Well the media did a great job in making the news rather than reporting it. I used two examples of issues where a moral lens needs to be used when dealing
    with such topics. I repeat, they were examples. There was no mention to openanything up as the Star would suggest. But let's be clear you have your job to do
    and I have mine which [is] to examine what we do in a faith guided morality.

    read more at:


  77. Measles brought to Quebec by Crabtree family

    by Trudie Mason, CJAD News Talk Radio February 13, 2015

    That measles outbreak in Lanaudiere, northeast of Montreal, has been traced to a religious group with many members who hold anti-vaccination views.

    The Quebec-based Mission of the Holy Spirit has several thousand members, with a cluster living in Crabtree, near Joliette.

    A Mission member has told La Presse that one family fell ill several days after returning from a visit to Disneyland in California. By then, they'd had contact with friends, who also came down with measles.

    There are now ten cases in the region.

    The Mission has ordered its meeting hall and music school closed for two weeks in a bid to halt the outbreak.

    The Mission of the Holy Spirit does not specifically forbid vaccinations but considers them and some other forms of modern medicine unnatural.


  78. The real vaccine scandal

    It’s not just the anti-vaxxers—it’s the rest of us. How governments and parents are failing our kids.

    Genna Buck and Jonathon Gatehouse, McClean's February 11, 2015

    Dr. Victoria Lee and her colleagues saw measles coming well before it struck B.C.’s eastern Fraser Valley last March. The virus was headed their way like a runaway train careening down a track—and hundreds of people were standing between the rails, refusing to budge. Anti-immunization beliefs flourish in many of the small religious communities that dot the countryside in what’s known as B.C.’s Bible Belt. Overall, about 70 per cent of two-year-olds in the Fraser Valley had all their recommended shots, but in some places vaccine coverage is close to zero. And with members of churches in the Dutch Reformed tradition regularly travelling back and forth to the Netherlands, where measles had been on the loose for months, infecting 2,600, landing 182 in hospital and killing one child, it was only a matter of time before an unvaccinated traveller brought the virus home. “We were monitoring pretty closely. We take even one case seriously,” Lee says.

    But all the watchfulness in the world couldn’t prepare her for the difficulties that lay ahead. Measles is one of the most contagious diseases known to science. The virus, which causes high fever, weakness, flu-like symptoms and a conspicuous red rash, spreads through the air and hangs around even after a sick person has left the room. Come within sneezing distance, unprotected, and there’s a 90 per cent chance you’ll catch it too. In an unvaccinated population, the average patient will pass it to 11 to 18 others, oftentimes during the week or two before they themselves start to show symptoms.

    When measles finally did pop up at Mount Cheam Christian School in Chilliwack, B.C., on March 10, 2014, the emergency team at Fraser Health, the local authority, sprang into crisis mode. The school, which is affiliated with the Reformed Congregations of North America—a small, conservative sect whose pastor has publicly stated that the risk of infectious diseases should be left in God’s hands—was voluntarily closed as an emergency measure. The sick were isolated; vaccination clinics hastily organized. Lee, who was director for population and public health at the time, felt like she was a cast member on CSI.

    “It was an intense time,” she recalls. For weeks she huddled every day with a team of doctors, epidemiologists and community leaders, poring over cases and trying to link them together. She spent hours on the phone advising anxious doctors and public health nurses, many of whom had never seen measles before and had to dig out old medical textbooks to try and make a diagnosis.

    By the time Fraser Health declared the outbreak over, four weeks later, more than 400 people had fallen ill. Most of the patients were young—the average age was 11. No one died, but there were serious complications: three cases of pneumonia, one incident of encephalitis (a potentially life-threatening swelling of the brain), and a report of fever-induced seizures.

    Still, Lee considers it a success. “I know,” she says with a sigh. “It’s like, success? With 400 cases? But from a public health perspective, it was. Transmission remained within the communities that do not vaccinate.” In fact, only four people who were not part of the religious group caught the measles, and only one was known to have had all their shots.

    read the rest of this article at:


  79. Nearly all states allow religious exemptions for vaccinations

    BY ALEKSANDRA SANDSTROM, Pew Research Center February 25, 2015

    Forty-seven states allow children to be exempt from vaccinations because of religious concerns, including 18 states that also allow exemptions for “personal reasons,” according to a new Pew Research Center analysis. One state, Minnesota, allows parents to not vaccinate their children based on a broader “personal” exemption that does not explicitly mention religion.

    The recent measles outbreak linked to California’s Disneyland has reignited the debate over whether children should be required to receive vaccinations, regardless of parental objections. More than eight-in-ten U.S. adults (83%) say that vaccines for diseases like measles, mumps and rubella are safe for healthy children, while 9% say they are not safe, according to a recent Pew Research Center poll.

    While all states require children to receive certain vaccinations before they can enter public school, most states offer nonmedical exemptions to those requirements. (Every state allows exemptions for children who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons.)

    Only two states – Mississippi and West Virginia – do not offer any nonmedical vaccine exemptions, although California is considering legislation that could end its exemptions.

    Our analysis found wide variation in vaccination exemptions across the country. Some states have strict guidelines surrounding religious exemptions. Delaware, for instance, requires parents to submit a notarized affidavit stating that a sincere belief in “a Supreme Being” is the reason for the exemption request. And Oregon requires parents to obtain a “vaccine education certificate” either from a health care provider or by viewing an online seminar before their child can be exempted.

    Many states specify that “philosophical” arguments must not be cited as a basis for granting a religious exemption. But it’s impossible to know exactly what grounds people cite in applying for religious exemptions, since most states, such as Connecticut, do not require parents to provide detailed reasons for claiming exemptions.

    And even though 47 states allow religious exemptions for vaccinations, researchers and journalists have struggled to identify a single major U.S. religious group that currently advocates against vaccination for children. Although the original reasons for religious exemptions to mandatory vaccines are unclear in many states, some exist “at least in part owing to the lobbying efforts of the Christian Science Church,” according to an article in the Annual Review of Public Health by Douglas Diekema, a doctor and bioethicist at Seattle Children’s Hospital.

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported an outbreak of measles in 1994 among students at Christian Science schools in Missouri and Illinois, but the church – known for its belief in healing through prayer – does not advocate that its members refrain from vaccinating children.

    Some components of vaccines could theoretically cause other religious concerns. Certain vaccines contain gelatin that is derived from pigs, including some measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) and varicella (chicken pox) vaccines, and many Jews and Muslims do not consume swine products. However, religious authorities from Judaism and Islam have said that the vaccines are permissible.

    Additionally, the Catholic Church has sanctioned the “temporary” use of vaccines, such as some rubella vaccines, which may be developed from descendant cells of tissue from aborted fetuses. (The church also encourages its followers to seek out alternative vaccines that do not use such cells.)

    For more on the sources used in this analysis go to: http://www.pewforum.org/files/2015/02/Vaccination_Requirement_Data_Sources_by_State.pdf


  80. Is Your State Trying to Outlaw Vaccine Exemptions?

    Legislators in 29 states have introduced bills that would make it harder for parents to opt out of vaccinating their kids.

    By Gabrielle Canon | Mother Jones March 2, 2015

    Rhett Krawitt is seven years old. He is also a cancer survivor. After spending most of his young life battling leukemia, he is now taking up a new cause: fighting for mandatory vaccines.

    For close to four years, while he underwent chemotherapy, Rhett couldn't be vaccinated against dangerous and contagious diseases like measles and whooping cough. He had to rely on others around him for protection: As long they were vaccinated, transmissions were unlikely. But as a student in Marin County, California, an area where many parents file personal belief exemptions enabling their kids to opt out of required vaccines, Rhett was at risk.

    In recent years, the number of parents who use nonmedical vaccine exemptions has been on the rise, contributing to record numbers of vaccine-preventable outbreaks. After the Disneyland measles outbreak, which accounts for most of the 150 new measles cases reported across 17 states since the beginning of the year, Rhett and his family began calling on legislators to put limits on vaccine exemptions—and they weren't alone.

    Last Wednesday, in conjunction with advocacy organization MoveOn.org, Rhett helped deliver a petition, along with 21,000 signatures, calling on California legislators to support a new bill that would put an end to nonmedical vaccine exemptions and inform parents about immunization rates in California's schools.

    California has been hit the hardest in the recent outbreak, but it's not the only state now seeking to curb vaccine exemptions. Nine other states—including Oregon, a state with one of the highest percentages of parents who file exemptions—have proposed legislation that would eliminate either personal belief exemptions or religious belief exemptions.

    Other states have introduced vaccine bills that would make exemptions harder to obtain or increase the ability of health officials to track where vaccination gaps exist. Overall, since the beginning of this year, 79 vaccine bills have been introduced in 29 states.

    Not everyone is happy about it. The National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC), which describes itself as the "oldest and largest consumer led organization advocating for the institution of vaccine safety and informed consent protections," and issues online action alerts about legislation that would make it harder to opt out of vaccines—and instructs members on how to fight against it.

    Vaccine advocates, however emphasize that the new bills are vital to public health. "This is not a matter of private health, like home birth or vitamin choices a family makes in their own home," MoveOn member Hannah Henry, a mother of four, wrote in a statement included with the California petition. "It is not about politics; it is about children's lives."

    See the Vaccine Bills Introduced in 2015 at: https://nvicadvocacy.org/members/Home.aspx


  81. US states face fierce protests from anti vaccine activists

    Three states blindsided by activists - Oregon, Washington and North Carolina - pull back from or kill bills as battleground moves to California

    by Andrew Gumbel in Los Angeles, THE GUARDIAN April 10, 2015

    Four months after a measles outbreak at Disneyland, state legislators seeking to tighten immunisation laws across the country are running the gauntlet of anti-vaccination activists who have bombarded them with emails and phone calls, heckled them at public meetings, harassed their staff, organized noisy marches and vilified them on social media.

    Three states blindsided by the activists’ sheer energy – Oregon, Washington and North Carolina – have either pulled back or killed bills that would have ended a non-specific “personal belief” exemption for parents who don’t want to vaccinate their children.

    Now the battleground is California, which bore the brunt of the measles outbreak at the beginning of the year and saw school closures, extraordinary quarantine measures and a vigorous public debate lamenting the fact that a disease declared eradicated 15 years ago is once again a public health threat.

    A health committee meeting in Sacramento, the state capital, on Wednesday turned into a tense showdown between lawmakers seeking to argue that the science is unequivocally on the side of universal vaccination, and activists accusing them of being in the pocket of unscrupulous big pharmaceutical companies.

    One activist, Terry Roark, told the state senate committee her child had died from a vaccine and feared others could be next if parents lost the right to decide what was in their best interests.

    “Innocent people will die,” she said tearfully. “Innocent children will be killed.”

    The meeting degenerated at points into yelling and screaming, and two activists were removed.

    Lawmakers promoting the new law were tenacious in their own way, challenging the claim that the bill would force vaccinations even on children with legitimate medical reasons not to have them. A doctor sympathetic to the anti-vaccination movement was ultimately forced to concede the bill contained no such language.

    “The danger I feel as a policymaker is that when assertions are made in public comment that aren’t fact-based, that’s irresponsible,” state senator Holly Mitchell said.

    She and the co-sponsors of the bill, a doctor from northern California and the son of a polio survivor from southern California, have become hate figures to the movement and they and their staff have been chased and shouted at.

    The southern California co-sponsor, Ben Allen, told the Guardian that while many of his detractors were respectful he’d also been bewildered by “Facebook memes of me as a Nazi doctor”. He added: “Some of them have definitely crossed a line.”

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  82. The activists were boosted by the participation of a Kennedy: the environmentalist and civil rights activist Robert F Kennedy Jr, son of the murdered attorney general and nephew of the murdered president, who has written a book denouncing the use of mercury traces in a vaccine ingredient, which repeated peer-reviewed studies have found to be safe and which has now largely been phased out.

    Kennedy showed a documentary based on his book, spoke at a rally and likened vaccinations to the Holocaust.

    Medical experts and legislators supporting the bill say vaccinating as many people as possible is vital to provide so-called herd immunity – a degree of protection strong enough to cover infants too young for vaccinations or those too sick to receive them.

    The more alarmist, contrary story of an out-of-control medical establishment covering up the “truth” – that vaccinations are responsible for an alarming spike in children diagnosed with autism – is the view of a tiny minority, perhaps 5% of the population.

    But the minority is a strikingly vocal one.

    In North Carolina, state senator Terry Van Duynsa described the backlash to a bill she sponsored as “very swift and very furious”.

    “It created an environment that made it difficult to just even talk about it,” she told the NPR radio affiliate in Charlotte.

    The California committee approved the bill 6-2 and, for now, its champions are confident they won’t suffer the same fate as the other states.

    “We have an enormous number of sponsors,” Senator Allen said. “We’re ground zero for the latest outbreak and we are a global crossroads … When there are global diseases out there, places like California are particularly susceptible, and people understand that.”

    California has some advantages over the other states: a much bigger population where small pockets of activists tend to make less of an impact, a full-time legislature and a cutting-edge medical research establishment.

    It also dealt with 134 of the 159 cases of measles ultimately diagnosed across 18 US states and Mexico.

    Still, the bill will have to pass through at least three more committees before going to the full Senate floor. Thereafter, it would go through the state Assembly before reaching the governor’s desk for signature – providing the anti-vaccination activists with plenty more opportunities to make themselves heard.


  83. Scott Morrison won’t reveal religious sect exempted from vaccination
    by Jared Owens, THE AUSTRALIAN APRIL 13, 2015

    Canberra: Social Services Minister Scott Morrison has refused to reveal which “very small” religious sect has been exempted from vaccination, fearing people will try converting to the faith “just to get another crack” at avoiding immunisation.

    Tony Abbott and Mr Morrison announced yesterday that parents who did not have their children vaccinated would lose access to payments worth thousands of dollars from the Child Care Benefit, the Child Care Rebate and the Family Tax Benefit Part A end-of-year supplement from January 1, 2016.

    The exemptions on medical or religious grounds will continue but parents will have to prove they are affiliated with a religious group with a formal objection to vaccination registered by the government.

    Mr Morrison, asked today which religions might qualify for the exemption, told the Nine Network: “I am not about to promote it. There is only one, it is a very small religion and I am not about to encourage people to line up with it just to get another crack at an exemption.

    “It would have to be formally recognised by the religious body themselves and that religious body itself has to have a formal registered process of objection which has to be accepted by the government.”

    A 2013 review of religious justifications for refusing immunisation, published in the peer-reviewed journal Vaccine, identified “few canonical bases for declining immunisation” although there were some exceptions.

    The Church of Christ, Scientist — founded in Massachusetts in 1879 — which preaches healing disease through focused prayer and “convincing oneself of its unreality”, according to author John Grabenstein, executive director for global health and medical affairs at Merck Vaccines.

    In 1901 the church’s founder, Mary Baker Eddy, told a New York newspaper: “At a time of contagious disease, Christian Scientists endeavour to rise in consciousness to the true sense of the omnipotence of Life, Truth, and Love, and this great fact in Christian Science realised will stop a contagion”.

    However, Dr Grabenstein wrote, she appeared to relax that position in 1913: “Rather than quarrel over vaccination, I recommend, if the law demand, that an individual submit to this process, that he obey the law, and then appeal to the gospel to save him from bad physical results.”

    Some followers of the Dutch reformed congregations, founded in the Netherlands in the 1570s, have rejected immunisation because it makes a person less dependent on God.

    The Watch Tower Society, the organising body for Jehovah’s Witnesses, who are known for refusing blood transfusions, also opposed vaccination from the 1920s. However, it adopted a more neutral position in the 1960s.

    Scholars of Judaism and Islam have issued religious waivers for vaccinations that include elements of forbidden animals, such as pigs.

    There were no significant objections raised in Hindu communities to vaccines that involve trace elements derived from cattle.

    Mr Morrison said: “We want to make sure that where kids are coming together in contact and where parents have already made the decision rightly to immunise their children that we are not putting them or the broader community at risk by a very small few which goes against science, against the good health policy and frankly against common sense.”

    Mr Morrison said he would “keep a close eye” on the religious exemption and “if that gets abused, we will shut that down too”.

    Labor health spokeswoman Catherine King urged parents to “pause and think” before resisting vaccines, noting the recent death of a baby in her regional Victorian electorate from whooping cough.

    “You should base what you are doing on the science, not crackpot science on the internet,” Ms King told Perth’s 96FM.


  84. Vaccination crackdown Australia announces end to religious exemptions

    Remaining religious group, Christian Scientists, removed from exemption list and doctors incentive payments lifted under fresh push to lift vaccination rates

    by Shalailah Medhora, The Guardian April 19, 2015

    Doctors will be given incentive payments so that parents stick to their children’s vaccination schedule, and the one religious exemption to vaccinations will end, as part of a push by the federal government to boost the immunisation rate.

    Social services minister Scott Morrison on Sunday announced that the only religious group currently able to claim religious exemptions for vaccinations, Christian Scientists, will no longer be able to do so.

    Morrison said the exemption, in place since 1998, “is no longer current or necessary and will therefore be removed”.

    “Having resolved this outstanding matter, the government will not be receiving nor authorising any further vaccination exemption applications from religious organisations,” he said.

    Families will still be able to claim exemptions to vaccinations on medical grounds. “This will remain the sole ground for exemption under the Coalition government,” Morrison said.

    Calls to representatives of Christian Science were not returned.

    The tightening of the rules around exemptions is part of the government’s $26m package on boosting immunisation rates, which was due to be announced in detail on Sunday.

    The package will include a public awareness campaign to sell the benefits of vaccinations to parents, the incentive payments for medical providers, and improved public vaccination records.

    News Ltd reports that the current $6 incentive payment offered to medical professionals, which are designed to encourage GPs to contact families to remind them that their children are due for jabs, will be doubled to $12.

    On Monday, the government announced that it would tighten up welfare eligibility for parents who fail to immunise their children. Families could lose out on the childcare benefit and rebate, and the Family Tax Benefit part A supplement.

    “I believe most parents have genuine concerns about those who deliberately choose not to vaccinate their children and put the wider community at risk,” the health minister, Sussan Ley, said.

    “However, it’s important parents also understand complacency presents as a much of a threat to immunisation rates and the safety of our children as conscientious objections do.”

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  85. A national immunisation register is reportedly also being proposed to keep track of vaccines given through school-based programs.

    Labor has thrown its support behind the changes. “In many cases missed vaccinations are due to oversight rather than a specific objection,” a joint statement from opposition leader Bill Shorten, opposition families spokeswoman Jenny Macklin and opposition health spokeswoman Catherine King said.

    “The establishment of a national immunisation register of school-based vaccinations will assist all parents to do the right thing by their children.”

    “Labor also supports moves to explore a national immunisation register to enable adults to keep their vaccinations up to date.”

    The Queensland health minister, Cameron Dick, welcomed Sunday’s announcements but told the ABC he was concerned that the issue of vaccine shortages, raised at the council of Australian governments meeting on Friday, had not been mentioned.

    “If we are going to incentivise the system now, going to be giving doctors money to provide more immunisations, more vaccinations, then I want to be assured the vaccinations are there,” Dick told ABC News 24.

    “In one sense, a good announcement but disappointing no consultation with the states and territories but let’s hope that can be sorted out, we can secure supply including domestic manufacture if need be to ensure all Australians are vaccinated.”

    Ley estimates that there are currently 39,000 conscientious objectors, and at least 166,000 children who are two months or more overdue for their immunisations.


  86. New AMA policy favors ending nonmedical vaccine exemptions

    By LINDSEY TANNER, Associated Press June 8, 2015

    CHICAGO (AP) — The American Medical Association has adopted policies against nonmedical vaccine refusals and for transgender people in the military.

    The nation's largest doctors' group says parents should not be able to refuse to have their kids vaccinated for personal or religious reasons. That's because of the health risks unvaccinated kids pose to others.

    At its annual policymaking meeting in Chicago on Monday, the AMA said it would support efforts to end those exemptions in state immunization mandates.

    The AMA also adopted a policy saying there's no medically valid reason for the military's ban on transgender service members. And it agreed to organize efforts to create guidelines for assessing whether older physicians remain competent to safely treat patients.

    The group has considerable lobbying clout and its positions tend to influence policymakers.


  87. California Assembly approves one of the toughest mandatory vaccination laws in the nation


    California lawmakers on Thursday approved one of the toughest mandatory vaccination requirements in the nation, moving to end exemptions from state immunization laws based on religious or other personal beliefs.

    The measure, among the most controversial taken up by the Legislature this year, would require more children who enter day care and school to be vaccinated against diseases including measles and whooping cough.

    Those with medical conditions such as allergies and immune-system deficiencies, confirmed by a physician, would be excused from immunization. And parents could still decline to vaccinate children who attend private home-based schools or public independent studies off campus.

    It is unclear whether Gov. Jerry Brown will sign the measure, which grew out of concern about low vaccination rates in some communities and an outbreak of measles at Disneyland that ultimately infected more than 150 people.

    “The governor believes that vaccinations are profoundly important and a major public health benefit, and any bill that reaches his desk will be closely considered,” Evan Westrup, the governor's spokesman, said Thursday.

    If the bill becomes law, California will be the 32nd state to deny exemptions grounded in personal or moral beliefs, but only the third to bar exceptions based on religious convictions, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

    Medical experts, including Dr. Luther Cobb, president of the California Medical Assn., hailed Thursday's vote by the state Assembly as key to keeping deadly but preventable diseases in check.

    “We've seen with this recent epidemic that rates of immunization are low enough that epidemics can be spread now,” Cobb said. “The reasons for failing to immunize people … are based on unscientific and untrue objections, and it's just a good public-health measure.”

    “People think these are trivial illnesses,” he said. “These are not. People die from measles.”

    The measure, which had passed the state Senate but must return there for the expected approval of minor amendments, sparked impassioned debate among lawmakers and the public.

    The dispute has sometimes been acrimonious.

    Sen. Richard Pan (D-Sacramento), a pediatrician and an author of the bill, has received death threats. And opponents of the proposal have filed papers with the state to initiate the process of recalling Pan and Sen. Bill Monning (D-Carmel), a vocal supporter, from office.

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  88. Hundreds of parents besieged the Capitol during a series of legislative hearings to oppose the bill in the belief that vaccines are unsafe, that the proposal would violate their privacy rights and that they alone — not the state — should choose whether to vaccinate their children.

    More gathered for the vote on Thursday.

    “This bill puts the state between children and parents regardless of your
    position on vaccination,” said Luke Van der Westhuyzem, a parent from Walnut Creek who was among dozens of protesters at the Capitol.

    Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego), who voted for the measure, said she understood the personal nature of parents' decisions about their children's health.

    “While I respect the fundamental right to make that decision as a family,” Gonzalez told her colleagues, “we must balance that with the fact that none of us has the right to endanger others.”

    Assemblyman Mike Gatto, a Glendale Democrat, voted against the bill, saying it violated parental rights.

    “The broadness of this bill likely dooms it from a constitutional standpoint,” Gatto said, accusing the state of “infringing on the rights of children to attend school.”

    More than 13,500 California kindergarten students currently have waivers based on their parents' beliefs. A parent group, A Voice For Choice, found Thursday's vote “unsettling,” spokeswoman Christina Hildebrand said.

    If Brown signs it, she said, her organization plans to challenge the measure in court or with a referendum.

    “We are pulling out all the stops,” she said. “This bill is unconstitutional.”

    Dr. Catherine Sonquist Forest, medical director of the Stanford Health Care clinic in Los Altos, said immunizing more people is essential to protect babies too young to receive vaccines.

    “This isn't a question of personal choice,” Forest said. “This is an obligation to society.”

    Forest is caring for a 4-year-old boy dying of a rare complication of measles that infected his brain. He was infected when he was 5 months old and too young to be vaccinated.

    Ariel Loop is a Pasadena mother whose 4-month-old boy, Mobius, contracted the measles during the Disneyland outbreak. She expressed relief that lawmakers approved the proposal.

    “I'm hoping Jerry Brown does the right thing and signs it once it gets through the last Senate [vote],” Loop said.

    The bill, SB 277 by Pan and Democrat Benjamin Allen of Santa Monica, passed the Assembly on a bipartisan 46-to-31 vote.


  89. California governor signs vaccine law barring religious exemptions for most kids

    Liz Szabo / USA Today | July 1, 2015

    The governor of California — which was ground zero for the Disneyland measles outbreak that infected 117 people — today signed legislation giving the state one of the toughest school vaccine laws in the country.

    California children will no longer be able to skip the shots normally required to attend school because of their parents’ religious or personal objections. Unvaccinated children will still be able to attend school if there is a medical reason why they’re not able to be immunized, such as treatment for cancer.

    “The science is clear that vaccines dramatically protect children against a number of infectious and dangerous diseases,” said Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat, in a statement. “While it’s true that no medical intervention is without risk, the evidence shows that immunization powerfully benefits and protects the community.”

    While all 50 states require school children to be vaccinated, 48 currently allow exemptions for families with religious objections and 20 exempt children based on parents’ personal beliefs, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

    Twelve states this year considered legislation addressing vaccine exemptions. In May, Vermont became the first state to repeal its personal belief exemption, although the law still permits exemptions for religious reasons.

    Sen. Richard Pan, a pediatrician and cosponsor of the legislation, said he hopes other states will follow California’s example.

    “As the largest state in the country, we are sending a strong signal to the rest of the country that this can be done, that science and facts will prevail to make sound laws,” Pan said.

    Supporters of vaccines say the new law will protect public health.

    “It is a great day for California’s children,” said Paul Offit, chief of infectious diseases and director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. “Finally, someone stood up for California’s children.”

    A growing number of parents have opted to delay or skip vaccines because of concerns over safety. Multiple studies have found vaccines to be safe, with no link to autism or other chronic conditions. Myths about vaccines continue to circulate online, however, and are promoted by a number of celebrities.

    Brown noted that California children can still receive an exemption to the vaccine requirement if a physician concludes there are “circumstances, including but not limited to, family medical history, for which the physician does not recommend immunization.”

    Critics of vaccination had campaigned vigorously against the law, arguing that it infringed on their freedom of choice. Some have vowed to challenge the law in court. The Supreme Court has upheld state vaccine laws twice.

    Pediatrician Robert Sears, known for publishing an alternative vaccine schedule that delays a number of shots, predicts that many anti-vaccine parents will take their children out of school.

    “When the government tries to force something on families, especially children, parents don’t line their kids up to comply. They run the other way,” said Sears of Capistrano Beach, Calif., who campaigned against the law. “Forcing parents to choose between vaccines and school is unnecessary and unfair. I predict that more families will shift into homeschooling and co-op, home-based educational programs over this, rather than feel coerced into doing something they don’t feel is right for their child. Even more families will lose trust in the government and the medical system.”

    Studies show that strict school vaccination laws are associated with higher vaccination rates. Communities need to vaccinate at least 92 percent of children against measles to prevent outbreaks, said Robert Glatter, an emergency physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York.


  90. Least religious state could see boost in religious exemptions for vaccines

    By DAVE GRAM Associated Press SEPTEMBER 27, 2015

    MONTPELIER, Vt. — Parents in America's least devout state may be forced to find religion if they want to exempt their kids from getting vaccinated.

    Vermont earlier this year became the first state to remove a philosophical exemption allowing parents to skip the immunizations required to enroll in school but keep the religious exemption in place.

    And while some states require evidence — a statement of religious beliefs, for instance — to support the claim that a child should be exempt for religious reasons, Vermont requires only checking a box on a form next to the word "religious."

    "The vast majority who used the philosophical exemption are planning to or are being forced to use the religious exemption," said Jennifer Stella, president of the Vermont Coalition for Vaccine Choice.

    Vermont, which historically has had one of the country's lowest rates of students fully compliant with the recommended vaccination schedule, is the first state to preserve the religious exemption while doing away with the philosophical one, according to research complied by the National Conference of State Legislatures and the National Vaccine Information Center. Earlier this summer, California joined West Virginia and Mississippi as the only states without any personal belief exemption.

    Because Vermont is first down this particular path, there's no answer to the question of whether states see a new-found interest in religion upon removing the philosophical exemption. But Shawn Venner and Aedan Scribner, who are raising their 8-month-old daughter, Zelda, in Cabot, said the issue may spark a revival.

    "I grew up here in Cabot, and would love my daughter to be able to go to the same school I did," said Scribner. "But to get her into that school I'm going to have to do something like convert religiously."

    The couple said they are not opposed to all vaccines for their daughter, but strongly support choice in the matter.

    There's been talk among friends of starting a new religion, Venner said, "a religion that says we'll pretty much have a choice."

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  91. As it stands now Vermont is something other than a hotbed of religious fervor. A study released in May by the Pew Research Center found 37 percent of Vermonters described themselves as "unaffiliated" with any religion — the highest in the country. Time magazine reported last year on poll results from the Gallup organization in which 22 percent of Vermonters — the lowest in the country — described themselves as "very religious."

    Four percent of Vermont's school children in kindergarten through 12th grade advantage of the philosophical exemption last year, according to state figures. Only 0.2 percent used the religious exemption, less than the 0.3 percent who qualified for a medical exemption.

    Christine Finley, immunization program manager for the state Health Department, told The Associated Press the department will launch a public education campaign this winter to ensure parents are aware the philosophical exemption will disappear effective July 1, giving families time to schedule the needed doctors' appointments for children to get caught up on their shots.

    Schools and child care centers around Vermont — both public and private, or "independent," as they are called in state law — "will be sending out notices to families that this is coming," Finley said. "This is the new law, and this is what we need to be doing."

    Finley said the Health Department will release data in May that is likely to present the first clear picture of how many families are shifting from the philosophical exemption to a religious one.

    "I think we'll know a lot more next year and that will give us a sort of baseline understanding going forward," said Jill Remick, a spokeswoman for the state Agency of Education.

    School nurses are on the front lines of Vermont's efforts to get nearly all kids fully immunized. Several said they expect some families that do not want their children fully vaccinated may simply switch to the religious exemption.

    Such a switch would seem suspicious because of the timing, said Claire Molner, nurse at the Proctor Junior/Senior High School. Some families object not to all, but to one or some vaccines, she noted.

    But Molner said nurses with whom she's spoken don't want to be placed in a position in which they are asked to judge the sincerity of someone's religious belief.

    "I don't think I can sit there and be the arbiter of somebody's faith," Molner said.


  92. Unsurprisingly the Children of Anti-Vaxxers Are the Biggest Victims of Measles Outbreaks

    By Elissa Strauss Slate MARCH 25 2016

    In 2000, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declared that measles had finally been eliminated in the United States. It was a triumph—but it didn’t last. By 2014 there were 677 reported cases of the disease, the highest rate in 20 years. In 2015, there were 189 reported cases—low compared to 2014, but still outrageous considering there were zero cases 15 years earlier.

    Scientists attribute the unfortunate rise in measles and other infectious diseases to the growing number of parents who forgo or delay vaccinations for their children. People who abstain from vaccinations endanger the general population by weakening herd immunity, in which a highly immunized population protects against the spread of a disease. When less than 96 percent of a population is vaccinated, measles is more likely to spread to people who can’t be vaccinated for health reasons and to people who don’t develop full immunity even after being vaccinated. This means that we should all be frightened by the anti-vaxxer movement, even those of us who do vaccinate our children. But a new study funded by the National Institutes of Health indicates that the biggest victims of the anti-vaccine movement are the children of anti-vaxxers.

    Researchers at Emory University and John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Health reviewed all studies on vaccinations and two infectious diseases, measles and pertussis (also known as whooping cough), published over the last 15 years in order to figure out the connection between vaccine delay, refusal, and exemption and recent outbreaks of measles. They found that those who don’t get the measles vaccine are far more likely to get and spread the measles than those who got it—and that the vast majority of the unvaccinated people who got measles were unvaccinated by choice.

    Of the 970 measles cases with detailed vaccination data, 574 cases were unvaccinated despite being vaccine eligible and 405 (70.6%) of these had nonmedical exemptions (eg, exemptions for religious or philosophical reasons, as opposed to medical contraindications; 41.8% of total).

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  93. The findings for pertussis, or whooping cough, were a little more complicated. The researchers found that “the 5 largest statewide epidemics had substantial proportions (range, 24%-45%) of unvaccinated or undervaccinated individuals.” However, there also were several pertussis outbreaks in highly vaccinated areas, which, they say, indicates waning herd immunity. The researchers conclude that the phenomenon of vaccine refusal, as opposed to medical exemption, has led to an overall increased risk of both diseases, especially for the unvaccinated.

    Although the rise of measles and whooping cough are alarming to all reasonable parents, anti-vaxxers might not be as concerned, thanks to their belief that so-called “natural immunity” is superior to vaccinations. According to this theory, children who come into contact with a disease when they are young will develop an immunity to it on their own, and will end up healthier overall for not having been subjected to the vaccine. (Anti-vaxxers conveniently ignore the fact that vaccines pose virtually no health risk to most individuals, which means that avoiding them doesn’t confer any benefit.) Historical data roundly refute the idea that natural immunity works as a public health strategy. For a 1986 study, scientists looked at the prevalence of natural immunity to measles, rubella and mumps in the pre-vaccination era. They analyzed the health records of 1700 unvaccinated Spanish children and found that, among 6- and 7-year-olds, “only 12% of the children showed antibodies against the three diseases and 18.7% exhibited triple susceptibility.” By comparison, the measles vaccine, is 93 percent effective at preventing measles with one dose, and, with two doses, 97 percent effective.

    People who choose not to vaccinate their children are mostly hurting their children. Refusing vaccines increases your child’s odds of getting sick, and in all likelihood they won’t develop “natural immunity.” The new study ought to convince parents that vaccinating their kids is the only healthy choice, unless medically contraindicated. But considering that anti-vaxxers are typically impervious to facts, it’s likely that they’ll ignore the new evidence, and their children will continue to pay the price.


  94. More Iowans are seeking vaccination exemptions

    by Tony Leys, The Des Moines Register May 10, 2016

    The number of Iowa parents seeking religious exemptions to vaccination requirements continues to climb, despite efforts to dispel worries the shots cause health problems.

    A new state report shows 6,737 Iowa school children obtained religious exemptions to vaccinations this school year, up 13 percent from the year before and more than four times the number 15 years ago.

    “It’s not the trend we want to be seeing,” said Don Callaghan, who oversees immunization programs for the Iowa Department of Public Health.

    Callaghan predicted the state will face more pressure to tighten restrictions on vaccination exemptions if the numbers keep rising.

    Iowa doesn’t require parents to cite specific religious teachings against vaccination in order to obtain an exemption. The state only requires them to sign a statementclaiming immunization “conflicts with a genuine and sincere religious belief.”

    Public health officials say they’re unaware of any major religion that teaches vaccinations are wrong.

    The statewide increase in religious exemptions this school year was not as large asPolk County’s 33 percent jump, which the county reported earlier this spring. But Callaghan had hoped to see a decrease, especially in light of a highly publicized outbreak of measles in California two years ago. That outbreak, linked to Disneyland, took hold among unvaccinated children.

    Callaghan speculated the exemption increase is fueled by families who don’t realize how dangerous such diseases can be, because vaccines have kept once-common illnesses at bay. “For lack of better words, it’s ‘Out of sight, out of mind,’” he said.

    About 1.3 percent of Iowa school children now have religious exemptions to vaccination, compared to a national average of 1.5 percent, Callaghan said. Another 0.4 percent of Iowa school children have medical exemptions to vaccination. Those require a health care provider to confirm a child can’t receive shots because of an allergy or other problem.

    After Polk County reported its large rise in religious exemptions, Des Moines mom Tamara Bridgeman explained her thinking on why she feels such exemptions are justified for her two children. She said vaccine manufacturers aren't disclosing everything that's in the shots. “My belief is, I don’t trust the pharmaceutical companies,” she said. “I feel like I shouldn’t have to have a religion to believe in something.”

    Linn County Health Director Pramod Dwivedi said he believes many of the families who seek religious exemptions are afraid vaccinations cause autism, even though multiple studies have shown the fears are unfounded. Autism Speaks, a leading national organization for families of people with autism, agrees that there is no apparent link.

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  95. In Linn County the number of religious exemptions to vaccination climbed 19 percent this school year, to 744.

    Unlike some states, Iowa doesn’t allow parents to seek exemptions based on “philosophical” objections. Iowa law requires parents to cite religious tenets in order to obtain a religious exemption, but state health administrators dropped that requirement in 2003, after a federal judge ruled in another state that government officials could not force citizens to provide such details. The number of religious exemptions in Iowa has more than quadrupled since then.

    Dwivedi wants Iowa to join California, Mississippi and West Virginia in disallowing religious and philosophical exemptions to vaccination. “I think that would be a smart move. Iowa, as a progressive state, should do that,” he said.

    An Iowa Poll published by the Des Moines Register in 2015 found 59 percent of Iowa adults favored allowing vaccination exemptions only for medical reasons.

    The state did add language to the religious exemption form this school year, requiring parents to more explicitly acknowledge the health risks that declining vaccines can pose to their children and the children around them. But Callaghan said it could take years for the new language to have much effect, because Iowa doesn’t require parents to renew their children’s exemptions annually.

    Another change proposed by some public health experts would be to require parents who want religious exemptions to talk to a doctor or other health-care provider first about the risks of skipping vaccines. The doctors wouldn’t have to agree with the parents’ decision, but simply discuss it with them.

    The vaccination statistics come from annual audits required at every school. Some of the results could be due to record-keeping flaws. For example, Emmetsburg High School is listed by the state as having only 73 percent of its students fully vaccinated, but school nurse Cheri Hinners said this week that the total actually is much higher. Hinners was mystified why her high school was listed more than 20 points lower than most other Iowa schools. Then she looked at the school’s audit report and noticed it said none of the 61 seniors were fully vaccinated, compared to nearly all of the students in lower grades. That can’t be right, and it should be corrected, she said.

    Hinners added that she has seen more families choosing religious exemptions over the years. She also has seen students coming from other states with less-stringent vaccination requirements, who sometimes take time to get up to date on their shots. But Emmetsburg High School’s problem is not as serious as the new state report suggests, she said.

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