Settlement in case of child who developed autistic symptoms after being vaccinated
March 7, 2008 10:59 AM   Subscribe

Hannah Poling is a nine year old girl with mild to moderate symptoms of autism, which developed three months after she received vaccinations. The Department of Health and Human Services announced that her family will receive a settlement from the vaccine compensation fund. Autism activists are encouraged, but the DHHS officials insist they are not admitting a link between autism and vaccines and maintain that for most, vaccines are safe. Rather, they say, the series of vaccines Hannah received exacerbated an underlying mitochondrial condition, causing the symptoms of autism.

Hannah had a mutation in a gene which controlled mitochondrial function. When she received the immunizations, the DHHS concluded, this mutation was aggravated, predisposed her to deficits in energy metabolism, and ultimately caused brain damage with "features of autism spectrum disorder".

For the nearly 5,000 autistic individuals and their families seeking compensation from the special fund, it is unclear whether Hannah's case represents an opportunity or not. The cases are reviewed by a special court None of the 950 claims the special fund has paid out since it was created by Congress in 1988 have been for autism. Officials insist that this case is no different from other claims paid out by the fund in the past.

The cases are before a special "vaccine court" that doles out cash from a fund Congress set up to pay people injured by vaccines and to protect makers from damages as a way to help ensure an adequate vaccine supply. The burden of proof is lighter than in a traditional court, and is based on a preponderance of evidence. Since the fund started in 1988, it has paid roughly 950 claims — none for autism.

The document released by the DHHS focuses on the rare mitochondrial disorder. It does not raise the issue of the organomercury preservative
Thimerosal used in many vaccines, which many autism activists believe has a link to autism. Instead, the document states that the "five vaccines the girl received on one day in 2000 aggravated her mitochondrial condition, predisposing her to metabolic problems that manifested as worsening brain function with features of autism spectrum disorder". DHHS officials claim that Hannah's is a unique case, and that the underlying condition she had is very rare.

Neurologist Jon Poling (MD/PhD), Hannah's father, who co-authored a paper in the Journal of Child Neurology on his daughter's case does not agree, saying: "I don't think Hannah's case is as unique as many experts believe." Some believe that autism could in fact be a mitochondrial disease. A study of 69 Portuguese children conducted in 2005 and published in the journal of Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology found that five had mitochondrial abnormalities.

Interestingly, Dr. Poling says that he still supports giving vaccines to children. "Each treatment has a risk and a benefit," Dr. Poling says.
posted by arnicae (125 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
Interestingly, Dr. Poling says that he still supports giving vaccines to children. "Each treatment has a risk and a benefit," Dr. Poling says.

Why is that interesting? What would be unusual would be if he thought kids should die from easily preventable diseases.
posted by delmoi at 11:07 AM on March 7, 2008 [9 favorites]


wasn't this post deleted yesterday?
posted by Stynxno at 11:08 AM on March 7, 2008


wasn't this post deleted yesterday?

This version sucks significantly less than the previous one.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 11:10 AM on March 7, 2008


ack, really, guys? I didn't see anything on the Polings (ever) or Autism (since October of last year)

And I thought it was interesting because despite having this horrible thing happen to his daughter, Dr. Poling still had his other kids vaccinated and still recommends other parents vaccinate. Unlike a lot of autism activists, he is pro-vaccine
posted by arnicae at 11:12 AM on March 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


Thankfully, this kind of discovery could eventually be used to screen out specific children who should not receive vaccines.

Until this is a common procedure, however, I'm afraid I'll have to be one of those cruel souls who believes the greater harm caused by not vaccinating makes their continuation preferable.

Educating parents, encouraging them to pursue screening, and providing screening to the less privileged are all good items for vaccine activists - pro or con - to take on in a unified approach to making things better on both the global and individual scales.

If only we lived in a reasonable world.
posted by batmonkey at 11:13 AM on March 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


And- this is my second FPP, so please be kind. I read the FAQs carefully both times. Did I miss something?
posted by arnicae at 11:13 AM on March 7, 2008


wasn't this post deleted yesterday?

Pretend it's about LiLo.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:14 AM on March 7, 2008


I agree, batmonkey. Look at what has happened in Nigeria after people started to worry that the oral vaccination for Polio was actually intended to curb population growth in the region in 2002- since then, there has been a big surge in Polio numbers, when the disease previously was all but eradicated.
posted by arnicae at 11:14 AM on March 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


If thimerosal caused autism we should see a drop in autism rates when communities that had used thimerosal in vaccies phased them out. But we do not, in fact, see such a drop. Autism rates stay steady or continue to increase in places where thimerosal is no longer used.

This is very strong evidence against the idea that thimerosal causes autism, and I have never seen one of the thimerosal fanatics address is. Mostly they ignore it since the thimerosal=autism thing is an article of faith for them rather than a scientific conclusion.
posted by Justinian at 11:24 AM on March 7, 2008 [6 favorites]


Similar, deleted, shitty post from yesterday.

Haven't gone through this one in detail but superficially it looks far better. Certainly not axegrindfilter like the last one.
posted by Skorgu at 11:25 AM on March 7, 2008


address IT.
posted by Justinian at 11:25 AM on March 7, 2008


Similar in that it contains the word autism, but this one isn't about the tin foil hat brigade doing the usual hand waving about mercury.

Good and very thorough post, amicae. Thanks.
posted by doctor_negative at 11:30 AM on March 7, 2008


This is much better, and much more thorough, than yesterday's post. Great work, arnicae.
posted by cortex at 11:31 AM on March 7, 2008


Did I miss something?

Nah, people just go apeshit on thsi subject from time to time.
posted by Artw at 11:31 AM on March 7, 2008


Yesterdays was interesting in that the tin foil hat brigade now includes a presidential candidate.
posted by Artw at 11:32 AM on March 7, 2008 [2 favorites]


So is this the American version of Britain's MMR hoax?
posted by influx at 11:33 AM on March 7, 2008


Thimerosol was phased out in 2001 and autism diagnosis rates continue to rise. Many well-meaning advocates' inability to tell the difference between correlation and causation is causing direct and easily preventable harm to their innocent children.

I'd be curious to see what the overlap is between anti-vaccine zealots, 9/11 truthers, Ron Paul supporters and avid readers of the turner diaries.
posted by jenkinsEar at 11:34 AM on March 7, 2008


The switch from Thimerosol tinfoil hatting to general vaccine tinfoilhatting is much more serious. (Which is not a comment on this post, which is good.)
posted by OmieWise at 11:43 AM on March 7, 2008 [3 favorites]


This is a well-formed post on the issue. And it's interesting news... good work.
posted by GuyZero at 11:43 AM on March 7, 2008


So is this the American version of Britain's MMR hoax?

Essentially, yes (Also I beleive that one of the proponents of the mercury theory believes that autism can be cured with good diet, which is pretty fucking nutty. )

The subject of this post seems to be a bit tangential to that, but will no doubt be used as ammunition anyway by those who rely on the “scary words” theory of scientific discourse.
posted by Artw at 11:47 AM on March 7, 2008


So is this the American version of Britain's MMR hoax?

Which was Britain's version of Britain's whooping cough vaccine hoax! I'm guessing there are earlier examples, too - it's interesting how these things cycle.
posted by jack_mo at 11:59 AM on March 7, 2008


Here in Washington state, you can opt your kids out of vaccines for any reason under the sun. Something like 33% of all kids in this state don't have their full slate of vaccines (although some of that is because while the vaccines aren't free, doctors still charge to administer them.)

And as you can guess, there are outbreaks of childhood diseases from time to time, and it usually leads to parents wondering why they didn't vaccinate and parents defending their right to having their kids unvaccinated.

The thing I find interesting is how some of these parents romanticize childhood disease like it's a rite of passage. Chicken pox was a pain in the ass for me -- I had them on the inside of my mouth. My wife didn't get them until she was 18, and she was out for two weeks and still has the scars. I can't imagine how much worse mumps or rubella would be. But there are those out there who think these viruses are essential to growing up.

You know what else is essential to growing up? Beating your kid with a stick. Or making them work in the textile mill once they turn 8.
posted by dw at 12:05 PM on March 7, 2008 [8 favorites]


Jesus fucking Christ. This bullshit has no place outside of conspiracy freak websites. This is almost as bad as the "HIV doesn't lead to AIDS" people. At least moon landing wackos' crazy theories DON'T ACTIVELY HARM PEOPLE.

Listen, compare the death rates for MMR to incidence of autism. Even if every wacky theory these people had was true, vaccination would be justified. This has been disproven over and over and over in JAMA, The Lancet, Journal of Child Psychology/Psychiatry, and on and on and on, but no one who believes this crap in the first place will listen to that because THE DOCTORS ARE IN ON IT TOO!!!11

This is retarded. Please don't spread poisonous ideas like this, someone might be impressionable enough to believe it.
posted by DecemberBoy at 12:12 PM on March 7, 2008 [7 favorites]


Very nice post.

The "news" here, really, is twofold

- The fund has never paid out on a claim for an autism spectrum disorder, so (whatever the underlying cause of the child's final disorder) that is news.

- The idea that at least some cases of the collection of symptoms we call autism could in fact be a mitochondrial disease.

What some parents of children with autism spectrum disorders sometimes lose track of is that autism is not something that can be objectively diagnosed. Its basically a name for a group of behaviors and symptoms, but there is no way to clinically and objectively (by this I mean "there is no test") diagnose autism. I personally have no doubt that in fifty years what we know today as autism will turn out to be a problem with a wide variety of different causes, and therefore different treatments. And just as there is probably not any one single cause, there will not be one single treatment.

As a parent, the thing that concerns me most about immunization is not the basic idea behind it, but rather the very large number (and growing) of diseases that my child is being immunized against in his first two years. Take a look at this immunizaiton chart as an illustration. At the tender age of two months of age, at the same time I'm still be advised not to let people outside my intimidate family hold my baby, it is recommended that my child be immunized against five different things, each of which is given the same "weight" as the others, and more are being added or suggested fairly frequently.

There is not enough education for parents about what each vaccine is, what it is designed to protect against, and in what way the benefits outweigh the risks. For instance, if we decide to wait until my son was two to inoculate him against polio (as friends with MDs have done, based on research), or I decide to simply space out the inoculations rather than have them done in "batches" as is currently done, how does this change the equation?
posted by anastasiav at 12:16 PM on March 7, 2008 [8 favorites]


DecemberBoy: reading comprehension turned off for Friday? ;]

arnicae: Precisely what I was thinking of after reading your (exceedingly dense but well-researched) post.

I remember the stories my mom and her mother told of unbearably hot days where no one would go to the pool, for fear of catching polio. And then, suddenly, there was a preventative, and swimming in Houston on a 100 degree day was okay again. Simple stuff like that tells you how it big a deal it is that we can control mass outbreaks now, if only all members of society would cooperate.
posted by batmonkey at 12:21 PM on March 7, 2008


I cared for people with autism for six years. I worked closely with a girl who was in post-grad studies for developmental psych. She was the regional behavioral specialist for the company I worked for. Certainly nowhere near tinfoil hat territory. She had talked to parents who took a normal, healthy toddler in for vaccinations. The girl had an obviously bad reaction to the vaccine, developed a high fever, nearly died, and afterward progressed into autism-like symptoms.

Also, say what you will about the merits, but it's awfully questionable that liability limits for the pharmaceutical companies making the vaccines were slipped into post-9/11 homeland security legislation. If vaccinations are really that safe, why would the liability limits even be needed?
posted by mullingitover at 12:24 PM on March 7, 2008


There's an interesting discussion of the case here.
posted by moxiedoll at 12:25 PM on March 7, 2008


The Huffington post link contains portions of the actual DHHS document, by the way. Top link of the "more inside"
posted by arnicae at 12:27 PM on March 7, 2008


Rather, second from top of the more inside.
posted by arnicae at 12:28 PM on March 7, 2008


J Child Psychol Psychiatry. 2005 Jun;46(6):572-9. Related Articles, Links
No effect of MMR withdrawal on the incidence of autism: a total population study.

Pediatrics. 2001 May;107(5):E84.
Measles-mumps-rubella vaccine and autistic spectrum disorder: report from the New Challenges in Childhood Immunizations

Lancet. 1999 Jun 12;353(9169):2026-9.
Autism and measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine: no epidemiological evidence for a causal association.

BMJ. 2002 Feb 16;324(7334):393-6.
Measles, mumps, and rubella vaccination and bowel problems or developmental regression in children with autism: population study.

JAMA. 2001 Mar 7;285(9):1183-5.
Time trends in autism and in MMR immunization coverage in California.

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2003 Jul;157(7):628-34.

Association of autistic spectrum disorder and the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine: a systematic review of current epidemiological evidence.

Ugeskr Laeger. 2002 Dec 2;164(49):5741-4.

[MMR vaccination and autism--a population-based follow-up study]

N Engl J Med. 2002 Nov 7;347(19):1477-82.

A population-based study of measles, mumps, and rubella vaccination and autism.

Expert Rev Vaccines. 2004 Feb;3(1):19-22.

MMR vaccine and autism: an update of the scientific evidence.

On the other hand "this one girl developed autism-like symptoms after vaccination because of a rare mutation" and "I totally knew someone that it happened to!" Sorry, not convinced. This is a conspiracy theory.
posted by DecemberBoy at 12:30 PM on March 7, 2008 [16 favorites]


Which was Britain's version of Britain's whooping cough vaccine hoax! I'm guessing there are earlier examples, too - it's interesting how these things cycle.

You know, the thing about vaccination is, it's at the intersection of this big set of incredibly powerful symbols.

Think about how strongly people react to anything involving blood. And it's a deep, primal reaction: it gets into our dreams, it shows up in our myths and superstitions, and no amount of conscious knowledge will get it out. Learn all you want about the human body — the idea of a bloodsucking monster is still gonna be ten times as scary as one that eats lymph or cerebrospinal fluid or steals your ATP, no matter that those monsters would kill you just as dead.

Now think about how strongly we react to the idea of purity; to rulership; to childhood; to disease; to time and the seasons. They're all just as symbolically potent, just as involved in our dreams and stories. Think about the set of symbols that doctors sit at the center of — secret knowledge and initiation, private and public, bodies, control, life and death.

So yeah, when the government tells a doctor to inject something into the blood of your children every year to keep disease away, you're talking about some powerful shit.

Hell, if someone were trying to put as much symbolic baggage as they could into one bit of technology, they couldn't do much better. I guess if you wanted to improve it, you could work in sex and birth — although the HPV vaccine gets that one too — or flight, or language. But it's a pretty strong combination, all things considered.

So yeah, regardless of what the evidence says, it's absolutely no surprise to me that people panic about this stuff. I'm glad there's research going into it, but regardless of what the researchers find, I expect the panic's going to continue.
posted by nebulawindphone at 12:39 PM on March 7, 2008 [11 favorites]


So yeah. I've got a rhetorical tic that I overuse. So, yeah.
posted by nebulawindphone at 12:40 PM on March 7, 2008


She had talked to parents who took a normal, healthy toddler in for vaccinations. The girl had an obviously bad reaction to the vaccine, developed a high fever, nearly died, and afterward progressed into autism-like symptoms.

I knew a guy who drank a lot of water. Then he had a heart attack and died.
posted by Justinian at 12:41 PM on March 7, 2008 [6 favorites]


On the other hand "this one girl developed autism-like symptoms after vaccination because of a rare mutation" and "I totally knew someone that it happened to!" Sorry, not convinced. This is a conspiracy theory.

To whom are you saying this? That's two really strident comments in a row arguing a position that folks in the thread seem already to agree with, but argued as if you're telling someone off.
posted by cortex at 12:43 PM on March 7, 2008


In defense of DecemberBoy, I can empathize with his frustration. Anti-vaccination rhetoric (which relies largely on anecdotes just like that one) has real world consequences for public health, and for individual children.
posted by moxiedoll at 12:45 PM on March 7, 2008


This is a conspiracy theory.

To be a conspiracy theory, you have to also buy into the idea that not only are there risks/is their causation, but someone knew about them and suppressed them.

On the other hand, if you look around and see frantic hand-waving on both sides, and there is doubt in your mind, it isn't unreasonable to seek out more information. Dismissing concerns out of hand with "this is conspiracy theory" isn't helpful.

However, your links to studies are helpful. Perhaps you could pull back on the rhetoric and simply present such useful links, going forward?
posted by davejay at 12:46 PM on March 7, 2008


Cortex: This comment in much mullingitover is clearly at least alluding to such a link based on one piece of anecdotal evidence.
posted by Justinian at 12:56 PM on March 7, 2008


in much? sigh
posted by Justinian at 12:56 PM on March 7, 2008


oops, This comment. I need sleep.
posted by Justinian at 12:57 PM on March 7, 2008


Everyone knows epidemiology on one case can be so accurate.
posted by zouhair at 12:58 PM on March 7, 2008


Unfortunately, this case has made the major news media. I saw it on my local morning TV news today. And of course, the 45 seconds devoted to it did not do it justice. Therefore, I'm sure that many people who were already afraid that vaccines could hurt their children used this news blurb to confirm their existing fears.
posted by tippiedog at 1:00 PM on March 7, 2008


In related news, a recent study found that poverty may be the key to eliminating polo.
According to the Onion, anyway.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 1:07 PM on March 7, 2008


Before childhood vaccines, babies and perfectly healthy toddler contracted illnesses, developed high fevers, and died. All the time. My father's brother died at three from diptheria. Is memory amongst the anti-vaccine crowd so short?

Also, I'm still kind of pissed at contracting pertussis from a student in 2002. It took nearly four months to recover.
posted by jokeefe at 1:11 PM on March 7, 2008


Is memory amongst the anti-vaccine crowd so short?

Yes it is, because they all had their vaccines as toddlers and grew up in a world where little children never died from these things.
posted by briank at 1:14 PM on March 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


I cared for people with autism for six years. I worked closely with a girl who was in post-grad studies for developmental psych. She was the regional behavioral specialist for the company I worked for. Certainly nowhere near tinfoil hat territory. She had talked to parents who took a normal, healthy toddler in for vaccinations. The girl had an obviously bad reaction to the vaccine, developed a high fever, nearly died, and afterward progressed into autism-like symptoms.

Problem is, there's still no causation there. Maybe it's a rare reaction that triggers this mitochrondrial problem. Maybe it's two separate events.

Autism onset is often a weird and sudden thing. Kid suddenly just stops developing. They were babbling, and suddenly they're not. Parents immediately assume that there has to be causation somewhere in there. They just had a cold. They just had their vaccines. They were playing with this toy.

We still don't completely know what causes autism. We know that in a few kids fevers can shake them out of autism, albeit temporarily. Techies are more likely to have autistic kids, but they also tend to live in larger cities where doctors are more likely to spot the early signs of autism.

And there can be overdiagnosis, too. When my daughter was 18 months old I had a speech therapist insist that she was showing all the signs of autism. Three months of testing later, we finally discovered that she pretty much calls every late talker autistic and it creates all this extra work for the developmentally disabled testing centers in metro Seattle.

I've shown ASD tendencies all my life, though no one has really been able to put all the pieces together and nail down exactly where on the spectrum I fit. I was vaccinated in the 70s with big heaping loads of thermisol. So that must be it, right? Only... pretty much everyone in my family on both sides shows ASD tendencies (along with ADHD). It could just be genetics.

Also, say what you will about the merits, but it's awfully questionable that liability limits for the pharmaceutical companies making the vaccines were slipped into post-9/11 homeland security legislation. If vaccinations are really that safe, why would the liability limits even be needed?

Smallpox. It's not exactly the safest vaccine in the world (one of the side effects being "giving you smallpox") and even requires a bifurcated needle. In a pandemic event, the vaccine companies wanted coverage for what they put out -- if it saved lives but ended up with side-effects, they didn't want to be sued. It's not about the MMR makers demanding reprieve, it's about the drug companies wanting to make money without having to pay legal costs.
posted by dw at 1:18 PM on March 7, 2008 [3 favorites]


The girl had an obviously bad reaction to the vaccine, developed a high fever, nearly died, and afterward progressed into autism-like symptoms.

High fever can cause brain damage, including autism-like symptoms.

There's no question that vaccines can cause allergic reactions in a small part of the population, and there's no question that these reactions can cause harm, even death. That said, there's a big difference between "someone had a severe reaction to a vaccine, including high fever, and then developed autism" and "vaccines cause autism". The allergic reaction could be said to have caused autism in this case (though you can't say for sure, since there's no way of knowing whether this girl was somehow predisposed), but I don't think one can necessarily say that it was caused by a problem with the vaccine itself. Just as we don't curse the existence of peanuts or wheat when they cause severe allergic reactions, I think we need to accept that vaccinations are fine for the vast majority of people, even though some people react badly to them.

The best solution is to work toward vaccines that cause fewer allergic reactions, and to find a way to screen for people who might react badly to vaccines. We can't do that if people reject the entire idea of vaccination.
posted by vorfeed at 1:20 PM on March 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


That's the thing jokeefe, memory IS that short. Now the anti-vaccine nutjobs are freeriding on those of us who actually understand the issues and we just have to guess which parents are batshit insane enough to have decided not to vaccinate their kids so we can stay away. Actually it's not that hard.

The problem is that when you try to explain to these people that what they are doing is actually selfish and dangerous to others, they get all self-righteous and angry at you for telling them how to raise their kids. There's no explaining to them that, unless they plan to keep their kids locked in their closet then they are posing a serious threat to my kids and incidentally to everyone else on the planet from hideous diseases that we all thought had been wiped out (in this country, at least). Interestingly, in my experience, you are more likely to find this kind of blinkered philistine pig-ignorance among the very wealthy and well-educated than almost anyone else. I think it has to do with that inescapable feeling of entitlement: how dare a mere doctor tell me how to look after the health of my child.

Okay, I feel better now.
posted by The Bellman at 1:21 PM on March 7, 2008 [3 favorites]


Is memory amongst the anti-vaccine crowd so short?

Yes. One of the downsides of a good public health system is that nothing happens. People expect and want to "see" results, but when the results are "nobody caught disease X and died, thanks to the vaccination program", that's a much harder sell.
posted by rtha at 1:27 PM on March 7, 2008 [2 favorites]


On the other hand, if tinfoil-hat wearing vaccine hating behaviors are hereditary, then allowing parents to opt their children out may eventually make it a self-correcting problem.
posted by BrotherCaine at 1:29 PM on March 7, 2008


Because the daughter of a cousin of mine developed autism after a vaccination, my wife and I discussed the risk with our pediatrician prior to the start of the usual cycle of vaccinations on our first child. Basically, he laid out for us the risks entailed in not vaccinating, versus the risks of vaccinating. That was 27 years ago, and things may have changed, but it was a pretty persuasive case that you were putting your child at far greater risk by not vaccinating.

Still, it is an issue that should get more attention. I missed the deleted post yesterday, and I realize this post is kind of non-neutral and anecdotal on the issue, but I think it's a good post, thanks. I learned something. Never mind the few negative comments on this one.
posted by beagle at 1:34 PM on March 7, 2008


Might as well post the link that I tried to post in yesterday's FPP (but it was deleted while I was composing).

From the CDC, regarding the measles outbreak in San Diego
:

In January 2008, measles was identified in an unvaccinated boy from San Diego, California, who had recently traveled to Europe with his family. After his case was confirmed, an outbreak investigation and response were initiated by local and state health departments in coordination with CDC, using standard measles surveillance case definitions and classifications.* This report summarizes the preliminary results of that investigation, which has identified 11 additional cases of measles in unvaccinated children† in San Diego that are linked epidemiologically to the index case and include two generations of secondary transmission.
[…]
During January 31--February 19, a total of 11 additional measles cases in unvaccinated infants and children aged 10 months--9 years were identified. These 11 cases included both of the index patient's siblings (rash onset: February 3), five children in his school (rash onset: January 31--February 17), and four additional children (rash onset: February 6--10) who had been in the pediatrician's office on January 25 at the same time as the index patient. Among these latter four patients, three were infants aged [less than] 12 months. One of the three infants was hospitalized for 2 days for dehydration; another infant traveled by airplane to Hawaii on February 9 while infectious.
[…]
California allows personal beliefs exemptions (PBEs) to vaccinations required of schoolchildren§; parents can request exemptions if all or some vaccinations are contrary to their beliefs. The index patient and one of his siblings attended a school with 376 children, who ranged in age from 5 to 14 years. Thirty-six (9.6%) of the children had PBEs on file at the school. Among the nine patients aged 12 months [or older], including the index patient, eight were unvaccinated because of PBEs. Among the 36 schoolchildren with PBEs, four had documentation of previous measles vaccination, 11 were vaccinated during the outbreak, and the remaining 21, who did not have evidence of immunity to measles, were placed under voluntary quarantine for 21 days after their last exposure. Overall, approximately 70 children exposed to children with measles in the school, a day care center, the pediatrician's office, and other community settings were placed under voluntary home quarantine because their parents either declined measles vaccination or they were too young to be vaccinated.

---

So, because of one family's decision to not vaccinate their child, and their travel to a place with less herd immunity to measles than here, they put at least 70 people at risk of contracting measles.

Again, from the CDC report: Measles, once a common childhood disease in the United States, can result in severe complications, including encephalitis, pneumonia, and death. Because of successful implementation of measles vaccination programs, endemic measles transmission has been eliminated in the United States and the rest of the Americas. However, measles continues to occur in other regions of the world, including Europe. (emphasis mine)

Parents who don't vaccinate their kids are putting their trust in those who do, because it's herd immunity that's keeping the unvaccinated kids from getting measles, whooping cough, etc. The way the news about this gets reported is only going to encourage more parents to not vaccinate because it's being reported in a profoundly irresponsible scaremongering we-must-sell-more-ad-time! way. So, herd immunity will weaken, and there will be larger and more serious outbreaks of once-common childhood diseases. An unfortunate number of parents will then have to take comfort in the fact that their kid didn't become autistic...but did die of whooping cough.
posted by rtha at 1:40 PM on March 7, 2008 [18 favorites]


Brothercaine, the problem is that it allows the pathogens a toehold to mutate and wipeout the neighbor's kids. So it not only wipes out the stupid, but people stupid enough to live near the stupid, which is a hell of a sliding scale. It tends to self correct at the societal, not individual level, and I sure don't want that for my kids.
posted by jenkinsEar at 1:41 PM on March 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


Just to continue to state the obvious, the only reason that the non-vaccinated kids are staying healthy is because they are still anomalous amongst the majority of vaccinated children who are providing a kind of virus firewall in the population.

Ugh, this is just reminding me of discussions with one of my neighbours, who refused to vaccinate her kids for anything. I'm old enough to remember the polio epidemic in the 50s (not personally, but anecdotally) and I still bear a honking smallpox vaccination scar on my arm. I'm feeling rather curmudgeonly today, I suppose.
posted by jokeefe at 1:43 PM on March 7, 2008


Oh, what rtha said. There have already been flareups of whooping cough in our area-- hence my contracting it in the winter of 2002 (I was in bed for a month; it was brutal).
posted by jokeefe at 1:44 PM on March 7, 2008


To whom are you saying this? That's two really strident comments in a row arguing a position that folks in the thread seem already to agree with, but argued as if you're telling someone off.

The person who posted this is obviously trying to advance the conspiracy theory that vaccines cause autism, and simply balancing it out with lots of different links to avoid deletion like when he tried the last time. Read "autism activists" as "conspiracy theorists". This is a conspiracy theory that actively harms people and it should be attacked wherever it arises. Even if there is some correlation, which every professional study to date has disproved, the incidence is so ridiculously low that it can't prove causation, and EVEN IF IT COULD, death rates from MMR vs. incidence of autism is so overwhelmingly on the side of death from MMR that it would STILL be justified to vaccinate children.

People like this want to throw us back into the dark ages of "Jews poisoning the well causes disease". It's wacky bullshit with no basis in medical science.

If I'm wrong, and the post isn't more or less covertly trying to advance the vaccination=autism argument, then I apologize.
posted by DecemberBoy at 1:52 PM on March 7, 2008


In the Glorious New Regime we have a simple solution: require parents to specify that their children be vaccinated or not. Record that choice at birth. The decision is not revocable. Anyone who is not vaccinated is forbidden to receive any medical care related to illnesses that would have been prevented by that vaccination.

...if the child then dies due to preventable illness, the parents are executed. There is no time limit; if a 49yr old dies from measles, any surviving parents are tracked down and killed. In the unlikely event that the non-vaccinated person is shown to have infected a person who would have been vaccinated (remember, vaccine/non-vaccine is recorded for all births), then every non-vaccinated member of the infecting family is killed regardless of age.

This places the bulk of the cost/benefit analysis firmly on the individuals making the choice, enabling them to exercise their freedom in the fully-responsible & direct fashion for which the Glorious New Regime is duly famous. You may rest assured that the executions will be carried out with all due speed and aplomb.
posted by aramaic at 1:59 PM on March 7, 2008


The person who posted this is obviously trying to advance the conspiracy theory that vaccines cause autism, and simply balancing it out with lots of different links to avoid deletion like when he tried the last time.

If I'm wrong, and the post isn't more or less covertly trying to advance the vaccination=autism argument, then I apologize.


Well, I don't read the post that way at all; I do believe you're wrong, though I suppose arnicae (who, to be clear, is not at all the person who made the previous, deleted post) can tell you for sure. Like moxiedoll, I can understand your frustration, but I think what you did here was jump to an unsupported conclusion and then act like kind of a jerk to the poster about it. I don't want to beat you up about it or anything, but it seemed like a pretty weird overreaction.
posted by cortex at 2:04 PM on March 7, 2008


Holy shit, calm down people. I'm merely submitting a data point, and asking why the pharmaceutical companies would need to get indemnity snuck into a homeland security bill if there's really no link between autism and vaccinations. It wasn't a rhetorical question, I really have no dog in this fight.
posted by mullingitover at 2:11 PM on March 7, 2008


why the pharmaceutical companies would need to get indemnity snuck into a homeland security bill if there's really no link between autism and vaccinations

Because juries tend to be composed of overemotional simpletons who either can't understand or can't be bothered to understand the perfectly good scientific evidence they're presented with.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 2:25 PM on March 7, 2008 [3 favorites]


I hope I'm not being too uncharitable to lawyers here, but I suspect that the relationship between the results of legal cases, especially ones involving setlements a lot of money, and actual real world truth might be a bit questionable.
posted by Artw at 2:29 PM on March 7, 2008 [3 favorites]


The person who posted this is obviously trying to advance the conspiracy theory that vaccines cause autism, and simply balancing it out with lots of different links to avoid deletion like when he tried the last time.

Decemberboy-
Don't be absurd. I'm a scientist, and I spent several of my formative years in the developing world, a doctor's kid who got to see first hand what happens when people don't vaccinate. I believe strongly in vaccination and recently had a rather acrimonious conversation with a former friend about her decision not to vaccinate her kids and the potential community ramifications of such a choice.

I think the story is interesting on several levels- sociological, scientific, and legal, and if I hadn't already made the hugest FPP ever, I would have gone into some of the different ways parents think about autism. I describe them as "autism activists" because that's how they describe themselves, and I was trying to establish a neutral tone. I figured all the shouting could come in the responses, not the actual post itself.

What I *am* interested in is reading more research on the mitochondrial mutation that this girl had, and seeing if there is anything to the idea that some of the constellation of symptoms lumped under "autism" might have a genetic link to mitochondrial disorders.
posted by arnicae at 2:38 PM on March 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


(and by huge I mean long, just to clarify)
posted by arnicae at 2:40 PM on March 7, 2008


The person who posted this is obviously trying to advance the conspiracy theory that vaccines cause autism

I think you're seriously off-base here. Your anger is clouding your perception.
posted by mr_roboto at 2:49 PM on March 7, 2008


asking why the pharmaceutical companies would need to get indemnity snuck into a homeland security bill if there's really no link between autism and vaccinations

Probably because Senator X's rider on the homeland security bill was going for half price that afternoon.

Seriously, though, this is the way bills are in this country. It doesn't necessarily mean anything one way or the other -- probably two or three different things are "snuck into" any given popular bill, simply because that's where their authors know they'll pass.
posted by vorfeed at 3:11 PM on March 7, 2008


Also the smallpox thing mentioned above.
posted by Artw at 3:14 PM on March 7, 2008


I wonder if we are just beginning to see the effects of parents not vaccinating. The children I know of who have not been vaccinated are still children. Since most of the "childhood" diseases get more serious with age, maybe these kids will get them later than previous generations. And be sicker. And be angry and vaccinate their own kids. That might just be too optimistic but it drives me nuts that their parents think it's OK for the rest of us to take on the risk of vaccinating kids for them.
posted by jimmietown softgirl at 3:17 PM on March 7, 2008


JenkinsEar, I was being tongue and cheek. However, I'm pretty sure no matter how tight the vaccination in the US, there will always be enough unvaccinated individuals in third world countries to maintain a permanent disease pool for most of the diseases we currently vaccinate against. That said, I'm not sure whether a disease is more likely to evolve to attack vaccinated individuals when the environment is mostly vaccinated or mostly unvaccinated. I'd be interested in the opinions of an epidemiologist on the subject.

A number of years ago I read a book on excitotoxins (e.g. aspartame and MSG) and autism, and I wonder what the current research is on the subject.

I think you're seriously off-base here. Your anger is clouding your perception.

"Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate, and Hate leads to bad MeTa callouts."
posted by BrotherCaine at 3:27 PM on March 7, 2008


What I *am* interested in is reading more research on the mitochondrial mutation that this girl had, and seeing if there is anything to the idea that some of the constellation of symptoms lumped under "autism" might have a genetic link to mitochondrial disorders.

A number of years ago I read a book on excitotoxins (e.g. aspartame and MSG) and autism, and I wonder what the current research is on the subject.

When a closely examined question seems to yield contradictory or inconsistent answers, I begin to wonder if we are asking the wrong question or are asking the question too simplistically.
posted by Morrigan at 3:59 PM on March 7, 2008


I click the + under nebulawindphone's comment and it upped the favorites from 2 to 6. Man, I really liked that comment.
posted by ersatz at 4:22 PM on March 7, 2008


I'm merely submitting a data point, and asking why the pharmaceutical companies would need to get indemnity snuck into a homeland security bill if there's really no link between autism and vaccinations.

Here's why:

Drug company: Vaccines? We don't need no steenking vaccines. They're out of patent, there's no profit in them, and courts are filled with morons who love nothing better than to hit us with enormous judgements when they don't understand the science. Too little profit for too much risk.
Govt: Please, drug company. If you don't produce these vaccines, we'll have a global pandemic. Please, pretty please, make us some vaccines?
Drug company: Oh, all right then. Provided you indemnify us against legal action. Otherwise, you can go produce that shit yourself.
Govt: You got it. We've got the 593rd Homeland Security Bill going through tomorrow. We'll stick it in that.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 4:46 PM on March 7, 2008 [3 favorites]


dw: Smallpox. It's not exactly the safest vaccine in the world (one of the side effects being "giving you smallpox") and even requires a bifurcated needle.

The smallpox vaccine will most certainly NOT give you smallpox. This is because the vaccination is done with the much less serious cowpox. You can still die from it (something like one in a million) but that's a hell of a lot better than getting the real thing.

Side note: the latin word for cow is vacca, from which we get the (now) generic term vaccine. When they used to inject you with honest to God smallpox, it was called variolation. That's because the smallpox virus is variola major/minor, after the latin word for spotted -- varius -- and the word for pimple -- varus.
posted by sbutler at 4:51 PM on March 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm merely submitting a data point

You weren't submitting a data point, you were relating an anecdote. Those aren't at all the same thing and confusing them is exactly the problem.
posted by Justinian at 5:12 PM on March 7, 2008 [2 favorites]


Autism onset is often a weird and sudden thing. Kid suddenly just stops developing. They were babbling, and suddenly they're not. Parents immediately assume that there has to be causation somewhere in there. They just had a cold. They just had their vaccines. They were playing with this toy.

Or they went on a cross country flight. When my son was diagnosed, that's what my wife thought. That somehow the flight to New York gave my son autism.

It is a weird and sudden thing. Emphasis on sudden. My son was eighteen months old when we made that trip and he stopped talking. The onset of Autism tends to be around eighteen months and there is no sign of it before it starts. And a plane trip has as much to with the onset of autism as vaccines do. Nothing.

So when Hannah Poling's mom talks about how her daughter was fine, well of course she was. They all are. Up to a point. And then they're not. So when I whenever I hear a parent talk about how their kid was fine, I realize that they haven't even bothered to do the research into the very disease claiming their own kid (In the case of Hannah Poling's mom, she should know better, maybe she does and was just trying to make a point).

Autism's a scary thing. Doctors don't know what causes it and they don't know how to cure it. But people running around blaming vaccines for autism with no basis in scientific evidence are creating massive new problems for everyone.
posted by cjets at 5:17 PM on March 7, 2008 [10 favorites]


You know what's really great? When I have my clinic waiting room full to standing with people sick from the worst flu season in my career, my desk is covered with paperwork that's gonna keep me in my office til 9 on a friday night, and I have 15 minutes to do an entire developmental assessment and vaccination update on an 18 month old who's behind on her shots. And the two parents who don't have a high school education are asking for an explanation of why they should ignore the "risks of injecting my kid with mercury" because didn't I watch the news this morning about how the government says vaccines aren't safe?

That happened to me today. It was really great.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 6:00 PM on March 7, 2008 [20 favorites]


Having just gone through a fun round of re-vaccinations (I'm traveling in a few weeks to an area of the world where certain diseases are more prevalent), I simply cannot understand the parents who decide their precious darling *does not deserve every benefit their parents can give them* and that includes vaccinations against diseases which globalization has made possible that these children can now catch, even in their home cities.

I'm from San Diego, so was going to post rtha's bit about measles. With the added point that San Diego being part of an international border, children always face a greater risk there (you're relying on the vaccination program of a foreign country to keep your child safe, to some extent). We should be pushing for more vaccinations in more countries, not using our resources to fight something which has proven its benefit time and time again. That said, I do understand the need to make sure vaccines are as safe as we can possibly make them.

(I also find it interesting that the first payout made by the fund was to a family in which the father was an MD/Ph.D neurologist. There's few people harder to argue with than those who are actually qualified to evaluate this stuff.)
posted by librarylis at 6:49 PM on March 7, 2008


Well, I'm not vaccinating my kids. (Or circumcising my boy.)
posted by Balisong at 7:14 PM on March 7, 2008


To be a conspiracy theory, you have to also buy into the idea that not only are there risks/is their causation, but someone knew about them and suppressed them.

The fact that DHS has a vaccine compensation fund means that the vaccine companies wanted to limit their liabilities. But I'm sure that everyone knows that for profit companies would never do anything to harm the general public to advance their own bottom line. And they could never buy congress enough to create a vaccine compensation fund that is paid from government coffers, not private companies.
posted by Balisong at 7:20 PM on March 7, 2008


I'm sure that everyone knows that for profit companies would never do anything to harm the general public to advance their own bottom line. And they could never buy congress enough to create a vaccine compensation fund that is paid from government coffers, not private companies.

I think there's a strong argument that some government subsidy of vaccine production and distribution is appropriate. There are definite positive externalities to widespread vaccination. The market does not properly compensate vaccine makers for the total societal benefit of these drugs, so the government needs to make it worth their cost to produce.
posted by mr_roboto at 7:37 PM on March 7, 2008


(I also find it interesting that the first payout made by the fund was to a family in which the father was an MD/Ph.D neurologist.

Actually, this is the 951st claim paid out by the special vaccines fund.
posted by arnicae at 7:54 PM on March 7, 2008


Well, I'm not vaccinating my kids.

Congratulations, you're endangering both your own children and other people's kids. Yay!
posted by Justinian at 9:50 PM on March 7, 2008 [2 favorites]


The smallpox vaccine will most certainly NOT give you smallpox.

Yeah, you're right. I thought it was attenuated. I think I'm muddling it with something else.

Well, I'm not vaccinating my kids. (Or circumcising my boy.)

Could I have your baby formula then?
posted by dw at 10:33 PM on March 7, 2008


I'm having a really hard time understanding what happened to Hanna, and when because of this:
Hannah requires one-on-one care at all times, said her mother, Terry Poling, a nurse and lawyer. The Polings described how Hannah was a normal, verbal toddler until she received several vaccines during a well-baby visit. Within 48 hours of the shots, she developed a high fever and inconsolable crying and refused to walk. She stopped sleeping through the night. At 3 months of age, she began showing signs of autism, including spinning and staring at lights and fans. For a while, she lost her ability to speak.
Exactly how does a three month baby, spin, walk, and talk? She stopped talking. She stopped walking. She stopped sleeping through the night which I've never heard of a 3-month baby doing ever.
posted by dabitch at 11:49 PM on March 7, 2008


Staring at lights and fans though, that's suspicious in a 3 month old.
posted by Artw at 12:32 AM on March 8, 2008


I think this anti-vaccination meme has to be in some way related to the post hoc, ergo prompter hoc fallacy, and people outthinking themselves.

"I got vaccinated for smallpox, and I did not get smallpox, therefore the vaccine stopped me from getting smallpox."

Is this a true statement? It's a logical fallacy, but one should not overlook the small fact that the statement might coincidentally be true. An false proof doesn't make the hypothesis false; it leaves the hypothesis unproven. Vaccines actually work. You just can't know if they had a chance to work or not.

So when faced with a disease like whooping cough (put you hand up if you know anyone who has had this), a lot of people judge that the vaccine is not needed. Most the time they're probably correct. This is an unnecessary risk that most the time goes unpunished. Isn't that pretty much standard in medicine?
posted by cotterpin at 12:33 AM on March 8, 2008


Well, I'm not vaccinating my kids. (Or circumcising my boy.)

One of these things is not like the other thing,
One of these things does not belong,
One of these things is not like the other thing,
Can you guess what it is before I finish my song?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 12:51 AM on March 8, 2008 [2 favorites]


So when Hannah Poling's mom talks about how her daughter was fine, well of course she was. They all are. Up to a point. And then they're not. So when I whenever I hear a parent talk about how their kid was fine, I realize that they haven't even bothered to do the research into the very disease claiming their own kid (In the case of Hannah Poling's mom, she should know better, maybe she does and was just trying to make a point).

Since the Polings actually won the court case I think she knows a lot more about the issue than a lot of people in this thread. There is as much knee jerk ignorant pro vaccine sentiment in this thread as there is on the other side. Jon Poling seems completely reasonable on this topic and to attack him merely because his daughters case might help the other side is ridiculous. His statement here is just right I think.

"Vaccines are one of the most important, if not the most important advance, in medicine in at least the past 100 years. But I don't think that vaccines should enjoy a sacred cow status, where if you attack them you are out of mainline medicine."

There is an extreme lack of compassion for these parents. Their children developed a devastating disorder and doctors usually just tell them to deal with it without giving them any hope. Demonizing them is just going to force them to distrust doctors and vaccines more and will probably make the situation worse.
posted by afu at 1:55 AM on March 8, 2008


There is an extreme lack of compassion for these parents.

You know, this is bullshit. Insisting on fact over fiction does not lessen compassion, and being angry that fiction gets asserted as fact doesn't either. It's precisely the same argument that authorized attacking Iraq in order to "respond to" 9-11 and avenge the victims of that. The world isn't a fair or well-ordered place, and bad shit happens all the time. Striving to face the horror, understand it and honestly address it is always a better and more compassionate solution than seeking refuge in sentiment and platitudes. I know that the rhetoric of these anti-vaccination kooks is that they care for kids, and they may, marginally. But they care far more about their convictions and their conspiracy theories and their desire to pursue the appearance of concern rather than actual concern. This woman also claimed to love her kid, but her whacked-out conspiracy theory about HIV and AIDS was more important to her, and now her kid is dead.
posted by OmieWise at 6:46 AM on March 8, 2008 [3 favorites]



Could I have your baby formula then?


Sorry, no formula. Breastfed only.

One of these things is not like the other thing,
One of these things does not belong,


I only mention it because this is one of those issues that people feel strongly about one way or the other. I also don't de-claw my cats, or pierce my baby's ears, or shop at Wal-mart, or believe in God.
All non-related, but all are not worth trying to change someone else's mind about here on Metafilter. You feel strongly about your your position, and I feel strongly about mine.

One thing about vaccinating the herd: If you vaccinate your kids, then why should you care if I don't. Your kids won't get it, they're vaccinated. And if I let my kids around your kids, my kids won't get it either, because you have your kids vaccinated.
The only reason you should feel distressed that my non-vaccinated kids could give your vaccinated kids a disease is if you think that the vaccine would fail to vaccinate your kids. If that were the case, then your kids weren't vaccinated in the first place, and the potentially damaging, toxin-laced vaccine you gave your kid is just a bonus for their little bodies.
posted by Balisong at 8:05 AM on March 8, 2008


Just for the record, I also don't go to doctors, don't use antibiotics, and had homebirths for both of my kids. My daughter is 21months old, and my son is now 3 weeks old. They are both perfectly healthy. Me and my wife have done our homework, and researched our positions thoroughly, and weighed the outcomes accordingly.
posted by Balisong at 8:16 AM on March 8, 2008


Since the Polings actually won the court case I think she knows a lot more about the issue than a lot of people in this thread.

Court case? What court case was that? The Polings applied to the government's compensation fund, which presumably is determined by a panel of doctors and scientists, who decided that there were legitimate grounds to make an award in this case. That is not a court case.

Vaccines are one of the most important, if not the most important advance, in medicine in at least the past 100 years. But I don't think that vaccines should enjoy a sacred cow status, where if you attack them you are out of mainline medicine.


I don't think anyone has a problem with people using scientific method to critique vaccines. When you do that, people will take you seriously and you get real changes. There's been no shortage of drugs that have been withdrawn over the last few years -- many of them highly profitable -- to substantiate that fact.

But when you ignore the method in favour of woo-woo handwaving, appeals to emotion and conspiracy theory, then people will, quite rightly, right you off as a nut. And thank God, because if we listened to those people, we'd all be taking Laetrile for our cancer and going on Breatharian diets.

If you vaccinate your kids, then why should you care if I don't.

Personally, I don't. I was making a logical point. One of things is *not* like the other. Refusing to circumcize is unlikely to have any significant impact on your child's health. Refusing to vaccinate might kill them. It's unlikely, but only because we have mass vaccinations.

But I should care more. Look at Tuberculosis. You get a big enough body of people who opt out -- which we may be beginning to see now -- and a once unheard of disease not only makes a reappearance, but it makes a reappearance in ways that develop resistance to existing treatments. Tuberculosis is becoming a serious potential threat to public health. If enough people make the choice that you're making, you'll start to see the same thing happen with a whole host of illnesses that we'd virtually wiped out.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 8:18 AM on March 8, 2008


You get a big enough body of people who opt out

I should say that these people tend not to have 'opted out' in the general sense, but the vaccines have had their impact reduced through immunosuppressant drugs or through HIV/AIDS. The outcome is the same though.

2007's TB scare.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 8:23 AM on March 8, 2008


Court case? What court case was that?

Oh, I see that your government does indeed use a special court system to arrive at these damages -- and while it isn't the same as a regular court, in that you aren't really suing anybody, it does seem peculiar to use an adversarial model to arrive at a decision here.

Still, it's not exactly 'winning' a case, when the government agrees to a settlement. Until you get one of these things tested in a proper court against either the government or a vaccine manufacturer, the decision here is meaningless.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 8:31 AM on March 8, 2008


One thing about vaccinating the herd: If you vaccinate your kids, then why should you care if I don't. Your kids won't get it, they're vaccinated. And if I let my kids around your kids, my kids won't get it either, because you have your kids vaccinated.

You better never travel to anywhere with low or no herd immunity, then. That's how that unvaccinated kid in San Diego exposed more than 70 people to measles, which he caught in Europe and brought home to California.

Some of the people he exposed to measles were unvaccinated because they were too young.
His parents' decision to not vaccinate him put at risk not only other people who decided (for themselves or for their children) to not vaccinate, but also other people who hadn't yet had a chance to decide. They took that choice away from them.
posted by rtha at 8:35 AM on March 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


Balisong: You feel strongly about your your position, and I feel strongly about mine.

One of these things is not like the other.

I have a lot of scientific evidence for my position, and against yours, you have none, only sentiment and scary words like "toxin-laced."
posted by OmieWise at 8:44 AM on March 8, 2008


Their children developed a devastating disorder and doctors usually just tell them to deal with it without giving them any hope.

Agggh. OK, I'll shut up now, but I've just got to make one last point.

This attitude drives me nuts. People get sick. And they die. It's the sole certainty of life. For some people, it happens earlier, for others, it happens later.

As others have pointed out, 100 years ago, infant mortality was such that you had to have twice as many as you wanted to try and ensure enough of them survived because in those days, we *expected* them to die. We've brought down that rate so far, through the advances of modern science and medicine, that severe illness or death is a rarity today. But today, it's always got to be somebody else's fault. And that fault always has to be punished be huge financial settlements.

Well, guess what? Sometimes shit isn't anybody's fault. And hope doesn't come into it one way or another. That's just how it is.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 8:52 AM on March 8, 2008


Jon Poling seems completely reasonable on this topic and to attack him merely because his daughters case might help the other side is ridiculous. His statement here is just right I think.

"Vaccines are one of the most important, if not the most important advance, in medicine in at least the past 100 years. But I don't think that vaccines should enjoy a sacred cow status, where if you attack them you are out of mainline medicine."


Precisely, afu, that was what I was trying to get at when I said the father's stance was interesting. Perhaps I should have said "admirably"?
posted by arnicae at 9:13 AM on March 8, 2008


With regard to the smallpox vaccine, it *is* dangerous. In people with skin conditions like eczema, it can cause a serious reaction that is basically toxic epidermal necrolysis - can be fatal. Also, the vaccinia virus can cause a carditis; in people over 50, this reaction has been associated with myocardial infarction (heart attack). Heart attacks also can obviously be fatal or severely debilitating. In addition, even though the vaccine is contraindicated in people with skin disorders and relatively contraindicated in people over 50, people who receive the live-virus vaccine are briefly contagious which means they could end up inoculating people who shouldn't have received the vaccine because of these contraindications.

I can understand why the companies that were ordered to manufacture this vaccine wanted to be shielded from the liability of giving it.

As far as all these stories about all these kids who got their vaccine and then fell ill with X, it is important to recall that most kids in this country are vaccinated according to a strict schedule. That means that nearly any 6 year old kid who falls ill will have been recently vaccinated. It doesn't mean that the vaccine caused that illness.

To my mind, the entire popular coverage of this "vaccine issue" merely reflects the absence of critical thinking in modern discourse. People form opinions, religious in intensity, and then disseminate them based on ideas and premises that would not have met the logical scrutiny of a medieval monk. Facts are discarded and the scientific method of analysis of a problem is absent. The result is garbage thinking and should be discarded by critical thinkers, who should focus on the scientific record and the evidence or absence of evidence generated therein.
posted by ikkyu2 at 9:29 AM on March 8, 2008 [4 favorites]


If you vaccinate your kids, then why should you care if I don't.

Yeah, and why should people who don't neglect their own children care if the children of others are clothed, or fed, or educated. Obviously, society has an interest in protecting vulnerable people such as children, even when their guardians choose to endanger them.

And even beyond your own children, there are others to think of. There are people who cannot be vaccinated who you leave at risk for the disease by decreasing herd immunity. This includes newborn infants and people with immunosuppressive conditions. Furthermore, a small percentage of people will not acquire immunity from the vaccination.

Here in the UK there were 1700% the cases of measles last year as there were in 1998. Some of these kids will have permanent brain damage. That is insane. Much of it is blamed on lower take-up following some widely publicized bad science on the dangers of vaccination.
posted by grouse at 9:53 AM on March 8, 2008 [2 favorites]


Balisong: The only reason you should feel distressed that my non-vaccinated kids could give your vaccinated kids a disease is if you think that the vaccine would fail to vaccinate your kids. "

Well, yes. Vaccines can fail. I don't think anyone disputes that. My kids are vaccinated (admittedly they're both one batch behind), but there still is a chance that they can catch the diseases they've been vaccinated against. A much smaller chance than a non-vaccinated kid's, but still a chance.
posted by The corpse in the library at 10:31 AM on March 8, 2008


People who are interested in this issue might enjoy Science-Based Medicine. It's a blog by (among others) Steven Novella, who is one of the people on The Skeptics' Guide to the Universe.
posted by The corpse in the library at 10:35 AM on March 8, 2008


Since the Polings actually won the court case I think she knows a lot more about the issue than a lot of people in this thread. There is as much knee jerk ignorant pro vaccine sentiment in this thread as there is on the other side. Jon Poling seems completely reasonable on this topic and to attack him merely because his daughters case might help the other side is ridiculous.

Seeing as how you cited my quote as an example of knee jerk pro vaccine ignorance AFU, I'd like to know how many autistic kids you're raising. And how may years you've spent researching autism because your kid has it.

And specifically researching the alleged connection between vaccines and autism because you're terrified that you caused your kids autism by giving him vaccines. And even though I know better, I spent several sleepless nights after deciding to give my son a flu shot this fall. But at the end of the day, I decided I couldn't be the dad who watched his son die of the flu when it could have been prevented.

And I'm not trying to attack Poling or his wife. But when his wife says that her daughter was fine, well, if you know anything about autism, most kids who have autism do not show any signs of it until their second year. For her to assert this as evidence that the vaccine harmed her child is incorrect.

I will say that parents who spend all their time litigating their child's autism, or looking for someone to blame, instead of treating it with ABA or floor time are doing their kids a disservice.
posted by cjets at 11:11 AM on March 8, 2008


So when faced with a disease like whooping cough (put you hand up if you know anyone who has had this), a lot of people judge that the vaccine is not needed. Most the time they're probably correct. This is an unnecessary risk that most the time goes unpunished.

I've already mentioned in this thread, at least twice, that I contracted whooping cough from a student in 2002. It was a whole lot of No Fun.

Staring at lights and fans though, that's suspicious in a 3 month old.

You're kiddin, right, artw? Because newborns are fascinated by bright lights.
posted by jokeefe at 1:05 PM on March 8, 2008


First of all, the 3 month thing was a typo. There are a few other articles that clear that up. They meant to say in the months following the day that Hannah got 9 (NINE!) vaccines in one visit is when her symptoms started. I think that is where we need to be focusing our attention. Anastasiav mentioned it upthread but it bears repeating. The number of vaccines and chemicals that our babies are getting is getting out of hand. And usually, several at one time. They are creating vaccines for illnesses that may be a bitch but rarely kill (chicken pox) just to make a proft. And how do we know what the true interaction of that maybe-unnecessary chicken pox vaccine will be with the very necessary DPT vaccine?

The ONLY reason that so many vaccines are grouped like they are is that so many parents won't bring their kids in for timely check-ups and shots. So when I want to put my son on a delayed schedule, getting all his shots but just not more than one at a time, I'm treated like some kind of radical, crazy parent who doesn't know the lives that vaccines have saved. It is very difficult for me to get some shots in a single dose (Measles, Mumps and rubella are only sold by themselves in bottles of 10 doses. Forcing you to go with the MMR). We are paying the money for extra Dr visits (one a month) and extra dosages because we think that vaccination is important but it has not been an easy thing for us to do. The government guidelines and schedules may be dangerous and some children (like Hannah) can't handle all the different vaccines hitting their system at once and may cause problems. This was alluded to in their interview with Larry King the other night and I think it is where the investigation needs to turn..

Yes, vaccines are necessary and do save lives, but let's look at how and when we are giving them.
posted by pearlybob at 1:54 PM on March 8, 2008


And usually, several at one time. They are creating vaccines for illnesses that may be a bitch but rarely kill (chicken pox) just to make a proft.

You're treating chicken pox like it's a cold. Again, my wife still has the scars from getting it at 18. The older you are, the more likely chicken pox will be fatal. If you're pregnant, chicken pox can cause birth defects in the fetus.

Yeah, it's not polio or rubella, but dismissing the chicken pox vaccine as just a way for drug companies to "make a proft" fails to grasp that it is still more dangerous than a common cold.

Just more of the romanticizing of childhood disease. I still remember how much it HURT to eat with the pox on my soft palate. And that was nearly 30 years ago now.
posted by dw at 2:08 PM on March 8, 2008


DW, I know it can be very painful. My mother was hospitalized with it just because of the pain that came with having pox on her eyeballs and down her esophagus. She sufferd greatly, as did my brother at age 4. For some reason, I never had it, even with being exposed (on purpose) several times, never developed the immunities (titers) for it. During both of my pregnancies, I took a risk everytime I stepped outside the door. Especially when I went to my job as a teacher. It is a serious disease and I'm not discounting anyone's suffering but do we really need to add that to the arsenal of vaccines that our children already get? Especially now that it has been proven to be ineffective after a few years. That is one of the questions we need to be asking.
posted by pearlybob at 2:31 PM on March 8, 2008


Couldn't doctors at least give parents the option to have one vaccine per visit and have them spaced out more than the currently recommended schedule? The thing I'm wondering is, when you start giving your baby solid foods, they recommend that you start with one food to see if they have any reactions to it before giving a second food. Wouldn't it make sense to do the same with vaccinations?
posted by zorrine at 3:44 PM on March 8, 2008


Exactly the kind of thing I'm talking about zorrine. They make you think that the current grouped method is the only way to do it and it is not! They need to let parents know all the options for vaccination and give us the choice.
posted by pearlybob at 5:22 PM on March 8, 2008


anastasiav writes "At the tender age of two months of age, at the same time I'm still be advised not to let people outside my intimidate family hold my baby"

I'd never heard of this, who advises this course of action?

mullingitover writes "The girl had an obviously bad reaction to the vaccine, developed a high fever, nearly died, and afterward progressed into autism-like symptoms. "

While there is a correlation here there is a no questions causation between getting stuff like rubella and dieing.
posted by Mitheral at 5:28 PM on March 8, 2008


They are creating vaccines for illnesses that may be a bitch but rarely kill (chicken pox) just to make a profit.

Are you out of your mind? The amount of days lost from school for kids who get chicken pox, plus days lost from work for parents who have to stay home and care for the kids, plus the cost of tracking down where a kid went when he was infectious and making sure he didn't infect any elderly, infants, or immunocompromised people far, far, far outweighs the profits the drug companies and doctors are making on these vaccines. Society gets such a MASSIVE WIN from this in terms of money that your argument seems frankly like the ravings of a lunatic in the face of it.

You can look at the prevention of the fever, the terrible ill feeling, the itching, the permanent disfiguring scarring, the acute encephalitis, the lethal varicella pneumonia, shingles, and Ramsay and Hunt's zoster ophthalmicus (one of the most horrifying diseases in the book) as fringe benefits to this calculation if you like. People who have to be in hospitals, either because they're sick or because they have to care for the sick, might disagree with this perspective.

And how do we know what the true interaction of that maybe-unnecessary chicken pox vaccine will be with the very necessary DPT vaccine?

Good question. We know because the current vaccine combinations and schedules were tested in large studies conducted by pediatricians.

By the way, asking for multiple separate shots - like splitting up the DPT or the MMR into 3 separate shots - increases the amount of mercury preservative your kid gets. From my perspective, you're not allowed to pick and choose from the menu of irrational, nutbar fears you're presenting here - you need to either man up and complain fearfully about every crackpot theory possible, or else none at all.
posted by ikkyu2 at 6:30 PM on March 8, 2008 [4 favorites]


According to the experts, there is no more mercury preservative in vaccines so that is not an issue with a delayed shot schedule. As far as picking and choosing from "irrational, nutbar fears" I disagree. I feel like vacinating my children is important, just not doing it in such large doses of vaccine. I choose to spread it out and be cautious but still protect my child and others around us by getting the vaccines. I think that is a well informed decision and I feel like I'm doing the best for my children. I just want other parents to know that there are other alternatives if they seek them out.
posted by pearlybob at 6:41 PM on March 8, 2008


you need to either man up and complain fearfully about every crackpot theory possible, or else none at all

Vaccinations turned me into a newt.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:28 PM on March 8, 2008


But then you got better, right?
posted by Balisong at 7:49 PM on March 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


jokeefe said: Before childhood vaccines, babies and perfectly healthy toddler contracted illnesses, developed high fevers, and died. All the time. My father's brother died at three from diptheria. Is memory amongst the anti-vaccine crowd so short?

I was recently doing some genealogy, and once I got back to the 16 and 1700s, I was astounded by how many children people had...then realized that on average 20-50% of those kids lived to breed another generation. The rest all died as children. I can't imagine that kind of fatality rate. Death among kids in the US seems to be fairly uncommon for all but accidents, and I'm sure vaccines made all the difference.

That said, my son he's had some reactions (nothing like autism, he reacted badly systemically), we don't do multiples of multiples, we follow a regular vaccination schedule, but sometimes it takes more than one visit in a week, because we have to wait 24-48 hours between some of them to make sure we don't get a reaction. And it's not *me* worrying about mercury or no mercury, I hate having to give the little dude shots more than once in a week, it's apparently medical protocol when kids have a reaction to getting more than one combination shot at a time. It's protocol because it's not that uncommon.
posted by dejah420 at 8:18 PM on March 8, 2008


And I'm not trying to attack Poling or his wife. But when his wife says that her daughter was fine, well, if you know anything about autism, most kids who have autism do not show any signs of it until their second year. For her to assert this as evidence that the vaccine harmed her child is incorrect.


So you are saying that the the judge was wrong to award them compensation in this case? Either you have evidence of this or you just didn't bother reading the links.
posted by afu at 5:03 AM on March 9, 2008


According to the experts, there is no more mercury preservative in vaccines so that is not an issue with a delayed shot schedule.

Actually, no; the solo tetanus shot contains mercury, as do some of the influenza jabs. Here's a table of what has and hasn't thimerosal.
posted by dw at 8:31 AM on March 9, 2008


cjets: "if you know anything about autism, most kids who have autism do not show any signs of it until their second year."

I heard on the Skeptics' Guide, mentioned above (I can't find the exact episode right now) that if researchers went back and looked at home movies of autistic children made before they turned two, they saw signs of autism -- it just was that they were more subtle, and weren't picked up on until later. Have you heard anything about that?
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:43 AM on March 9, 2008


if researchers went back and looked at home movies of autistic children made before they turned two, they saw signs of autism -- it just was that they were more subtle, and weren't picked up on until later.

Yup. The UW Autism Center says 18 months. The trend nowadays with autism treatment is to get kids diagnosed before they're 3 -- the earlier you can start working with them, the greater the chance of long-term success.

The problem with trying to diagnose that young is that some of the early signs of autism are the same as you see in late talkers. That's partially what caught us going down the "your child has autism" road -- that and a gung-ho speech therapist who pretty much pinned any kid with any kind of delay as having an ASD. Three months later, my daughter was a standard dev within "normal" with zero intervention.

That's where a lot of the research is focusing right now -- what's the difference between a normal delay and one caused by autism? And is there anything predictive that can indicate things will get worse later?
posted by dw at 9:20 AM on March 9, 2008


So you are saying that the the judge was wrong to award them compensation in this case? Either you have evidence of this or you just didn't bother reading the links.

I reread my posts several times and I've yet to see where I said that the judge was right or wrong.

I saw Poling's mother give a presser live on CNN. She stressed that her daughter was fine until about eighteen months. This is the common experience of most parents who have kids with Autism. Her point was that the vaccines caused the sudden onset of autism. My point is that if most kids seem to have a sudden onset of autism at eighteen months, her experience is common and therefore not compelling evidence that vaccines caused it.

I heard on the Skeptics' Guide, mentioned above (I can't find the exact episode right now) that if researchers went back and looked at home movies of autistic children made before they turned two, they saw signs of autism -- it just was that they were more subtle, and weren't picked up on until later. Have you heard anything about that?

Yes, I have. And it's certainly possible. But hindsight is always 20/20. It's alot easier picking out the signs when you already know the disease is there. In my case, there did seem to be a clear dividing line between before and after.

The doctors and other therapists that treat and diagnose autism look for a constellation of autistic behaviors, family history and other factors. There's no hard and fast test so they are left sifting through almost every gesture or movement a child makes. So it wouldn't surprise me that researchers looking at old home movies would spot seemingly innocuous gestures of a child they know is autistic and label that a sign (whether it is or isn't).
posted by cjets at 4:18 PM on March 9, 2008


that if researchers went back and looked at home movies of autistic children made before they turned two

Quick clarification. By second year, I meant months 13 through 24, the average being 18 months. My son was diagnosed at age 2 and yes, early intervention is extremely important.
posted by cjets at 4:21 PM on March 9, 2008


Yes, I have. And it's certainly possible. But hindsight is always 20/20. It's alot easier picking out the signs when you already know the disease is there.

Yeah; I take this with a big grain of salt. I bet that if you showed homes movies from a bunch of non-autistic kids to researchers while telling them the kids were later diagnosed as autistic that the researchers would pick out a lot of "signs" in those movies.
posted by Justinian at 5:33 PM on March 9, 2008


Public Health Risk Seen as Parents Reject Vaccines (NYT)
posted by OmieWise at 6:22 AM on March 21, 2008


In the wake of last month’s outbreak, Linda Palmer considered sending her son to a measles party to contract the virus.

This is the most insane fucking thing I have seen in some time. Fucking insane. While I strongly disagree with those who withhold vaccines from their children, if you decide to do so, at least attempt to protect your kids from exposure to the serious and life-threatening diseases you have left them exposed to.

This is child abuse.

She ultimately decided against the measles party for fear of having her son ostracized if he became ill.

Linda Palmer, you are a bad mother.
posted by grouse at 7:59 AM on March 21, 2008


From OmieWise's link:

“I do think vaccines help with the public health and helping prevent the occasional fatality,” said Dr. Bob Sears, the son of the well-known child-care author by the same name, who practices pediatrics in San Clemente. Roughly 20 percent of his patients do not vaccinate, Dr. Sears said, and another 20 percent partially vaccinate.

“I don’t think it is such a critical public health issue that we should force parents into it,” Dr. Sears said. “I don’t lecture the parents or try to change their mind; if they flat out tell me they understand the risks I feel that I should be very respectful of their decision.”


This guy should have his license suspended. What the fuck kind of doctor does this? If he treated adult patients and someone came to him with liver failure due to drinking, would he just go, "Oh, I'll be respectful of your decision to keep drinking, and not try to change your mind"?

And this:

“I refuse to sacrifice my children for the greater good,” said Sybil Carlson, whose 6-year-old son goes to school with several of the children hit by the measles outbreak here. The boy is immunized against some diseases but not measles, Ms. Carlson said, while his 3-year-old brother has had just one shot, protecting him against meningitis.

“When I began to read about vaccines and how they work,” she said, “I saw medical studies, not given to use by the mainstream media, connecting them with neurological disorders, asthma and immunology.”


Words pretty much fail me.
posted by rtha at 11:54 AM on March 21, 2008


If he treated adult patients and someone came to him with liver failure due to drinking, would he just go, "Oh, I'll be respectful of your decision to keep drinking, and not try to change your mind"?

Most doctors do practice this way, in my experience. They are not proud of it, but they understand where their limited resources and efforts are best directed and where they are wasted.

Autonomy is important. Public health is also important. To my mind, anyone who tries to weigh the two considerations in the case of childhood vaccines must come out in favor of using the vaccines in every case, even if in some of those cases they cause harm.
posted by ikkyu2 at 1:50 PM on March 24, 2008


Inoculated Against Facts, op-ed in the NYT about the workings of the vaccine court.
posted by OmieWise at 4:15 AM on March 31, 2008


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