Space City Skeptics

The Official Blog of the Houston Skeptic Society

More Uneccesary Deaths from Vaccine-Preventable Illness…..

with 5 comments

I am young enough to not have experienced practically all of the vaccine preventable illnesses first hand as either a physician or a patient. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have a healthy respect for the amount of morbidity and mortality that they can cause. With one in particular, Haemophilus influenza type b (Hib), I at least know a large number of older pediatricians who have seen many cases. The vaccine against Hib was developed in the early 1980’s and nearly wiped this dreadful condition out here in America, but I have heard countless stories of residencies spent seeing young children with fatal or debilitating meningitis presenting with brains full of pus and children being suffocated by rapidly progressing epiglottitis, and the thought of this illness returning sends shivers down my spine.

At one time, Hib affected 20,ooo children each year. Since the vaccine, many states see one or two cases yearly and often none. Hib bacteria is still prevelant, but high vaccine rates and herd immunity have kept our young children safe. Unfortunately, the return of this disease may be happening, and if it does it will be because of the anti-vaccine nonsense that has so overtaken this country over the past two years. I received an emergency news alert from the CDC today revealing that Minnesota reported 5 cases of Hib in 2008, the largest number in children under 5 since 1991.

The alert provided some details of the cases:

“Three patients had received no vaccinations due to parent or guardian deferral or refusal of vaccinations. One of the unimmunized patients, a 7-month-old infant, died of Hib disease. Two of the remaining children received age-appropriate immunizations. One child, a 5-month-old, had received two Hib immunizations. The other child was 15 months old and was fully vaccinated for age but, subsequent to Hib infection, was diagnosed with an immune deficiency (hypogammaglobulinemia).”

Three of the children were not vaccinated, one had a condition which hampers the ability for the vaccines to work, and one had been fully vaccinated. That is not suprising, as no vaccine is 100% effective, and it perfectly illustrates the importance of herd immunity. There is a persistent and pushy minority of people in this country, led by clueless celebrities and pseudojournalists, who are so blind to the reality of science that they are willing to sacrifice not just the safety of their own children by refusing vaccinations, but that of every child in this country. It isn’t just the unvaccinated that are at risk. There are also the children too young to be immunized against Hib and other diseases, or with real medical contraindications as opposed to manufactured ones in addition to those in which the vaccine doesn’t confer protection.

This may end up as being only a statistical fluke, but increasing rates of vaccine-preventable illness are an inevitable result of increasing numbers of parents refusing to protect their children. We have already seen major spikes in measles infections, another potentially deadly diseases. The situation is a few years ahead in England, where there have also been outbreaks of measles as well as mumps. Hib is considerably more dangerous and if there are large outbreaks more children will certainly die.

If you know anyone who is considering refusing vaccinations for their child, please direct them to the CDC’s online information. Or, convince them to read Paul Offit’s recent book Autism’s False Profits. You may save a life.

Written by skepticpedi

January 23, 2009 at 6:24 pm

Posted in Medicine, Vaccines

Tagged with ,

5 Responses

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  1. I have noticed during the past few months an increasing number of public service announcements on TV, featuring ‘celebrities’ (I use the word in quotes because the idea of someone being famous for being famous irks me, but I digress).

    These are 15 or 30 second blurbs, extolling the benefits and safety of vaccinations. I’ve also seen a few billboards. I sometimes watch “House” and saw the main character mock a mom who announced that she wasn’t going to vaccinate her baby.

    I hope these trends continue – I would like to see them amplified.


    January 24, 2009 at 8:44 am

  2. Seeing stuff like this makes me want to get EXTRA shots for my family, if such a thing were possible. 😛

    The Perky Skeptic

    January 24, 2009 at 9:58 pm

  3. Maybe we skeptics should review our attack.

    compare alternative practces to cars, computers and televisions.

    you can simply explain to them that all of these came through scientific breakthroughs. The science was tested and developed. The products were made after this process and are continually improved.

    Then say alternatives say their modalities arent scientifically tested but they work… surely that leaves a gaping hole in their credibility

    Do I get the comment prize for that?


    March 14, 2009 at 3:24 am

  4. It is frustrating that people who espouse such unscientific nonsense as homeopathy, applied kinesiology, reiki, etc, etc are quick to accept the science behind the things that you mention Nihilodei. Their ability to compartmentalize can be amazing at times.

    I think that the approach you mention isn’t likely to be effective for true believers unfortunately because they do not understand what science is. Also they are likely to pull the conspiracy theory card and say that the science supporting, say, vaccines is flawed because of influence by evil pharmaceutical companies and money grubbing doctors. Or they will say that anecdotal experience is just as important as scientific studies. Basically, you can’t reason someone out of a position that they didn’t use reason to get into.

    Your approach may be a useful aspect of attempting to reason with people who are rationally minded but misinformed regarding the realities of pseudoscientific concepts.


    March 14, 2009 at 6:58 am

  5. i have no idea how someone came to the conclusion of vaccines being a contributing factor to autism but i used to believe it all of my friends in highschool were told that the flu vaccine was nothing more than dirty dish water and fecal matter in a syringe
    all i know is after watching alot of history channel and discovery animal planet and spike
    there is no god and we are all we have science and medicine doctors and nurses physical scientist we need to have faith in them they are what will save the world


    December 15, 2009 at 12:42 pm

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