The Real Biothreat
June 7, 2002 3:33 AM   Subscribe

The Real Biothreat Currently the United States is experiencing shortages of eight of the eleven vaccines required by law for children. In response, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have revised their immunization schedule from "optimal" to "some protection," which means that, depending on the vaccine, kids may get the first shot and not the boosters that solidify immunity, or they may not get the first shot at all until several months past the recommended age...
posted by Irontom (10 comments total)
The FDA also recently decided that vaccines could no longer be preserved in a solution called thimerosal, a mercury-based concoction long used in multidose vials of certain vaccines. Companies whose vaccines were sitting in thimerosal had to switch from multi- to single-dose vials--a transfer that immediately reduced supplies by 25 percent…
It sounds like the FDA made its own bed and is lying in it—could someone with medical knowledge explain why thimerosal is a bad thing? Was it actually causing mercury poisoning?
posted by darukaru at 3:42 AM on June 7, 2002

The article makes it pretty clear why this is happening: low profits and lawsuits. Vaccines aren't being produced because people don't want to pay for them, and they want to sue over medical problems they think (usually wrongly) were due to the vaccine.

If people didn't want to pay for butter, and sued the dairy when their kid had a convulsion, there wouldn't be much butter on the supermarket shelves either.

Actually, maybe they are going to sue the dairy. Is food going the way of vaccines?
posted by Slithy_Tove at 4:17 AM on June 7, 2002

It sounds like the FDA made its own bed and is lying in it

The FDA might have made it's bed but it's the only one our children have to lie in.
posted by joemaller at 6:17 AM on June 7, 2002

What Joe said.

I don't understand the anti-vaccination meme-movement at all. I mean, do people really want to see a return to a time when measles killed kids?

Here are some numbers from (all numbers are estimated average annual totals):

  • Smallpox cases 1900-1904: 48,164.
    United States cases per year since 1950: 0.
    Worldwide cases per year since 1977: 0.

  • Diphtheria cases in the U.S. 1920-1922: 175,885.
    U.S. cases in 1998: 1.

  • Pertussis cases 1922-1925: 147,271.
    U.S. cases in 1998: 6,279.

  • Tetanus cases 1922-1926: 1,314.
    U.S. cases in 1998: 34.

  • Paralytic polio cases 1951-1954: 16,316.
    U.S. cases of wild type poliovirus in 1998: 0.

  • Measles cases 1958-1962: 503,282.
    U.S. cases in 1998: 89.

  • Mumps cases 1968: 152,209.
    U.S. cases in 1998: 606.

  • Rubella cases 1966-1968: 47,745.
    U.S. cases in 1998: 345.

  • Congenital rubella syndrome 1966-1968: 823.
    U.S. cases in 1998: 5.

  • Hib cases before vaccine licensure: 20,000.
    U.S. cases in 1998: 54.

  • posted by Irontom at 6:43 AM on June 7, 2002

    We've already encountered this with our daughter, who is getting a less-effective combo vaccine in place of one of these eight and will require boosters later.

    A couple of generations without the scourge of childhood diseases have blinded us to just how terrible epidemics of polio, rubella, and other diseases were even just 60 years ago. It's astonishing that people are more concerned about the exceedingly small risk of adverse reaction to a vaccine than the threat of widespread infectious diseases rampaging through their communities.

    On preview -- thanks for the stats, IronTom, you make my point much better than I do.
    posted by briank at 6:48 AM on June 7, 2002

    The reason that many people are concerned is because there is corollary data which suggests that since the advent of multiple opposed to single vaccinations, that autism rates are rising at the rate of 20% a year, according the the U.S. Department of Health. But it's cheaper for the drug companies to make and store multiple vaccines...and so that's what most people are forced to accept.

    In a speech last year, the chairwoman of the Committee on Immunization Safety Review stated:

    Having said this, it is important to note that our committee does not exclude the possibility that MMR vaccine could in rare cases contribute to autistic spectrum disorders resulting in a very small number of affected children. But we do not have epidemiological data or tools precise enough to assess rare occurrences of such a response to MMR if it occurs at all.

    But then she went on to say that there shouldn't be any changes in the vaccine process...that we should continue to use children as guinea pigs so as to collect a larger sample. So, my child should test drugs for the pharmaceutical companies? Um...what?

    Another example of vaccine madness, babies within 48 hours of being born are being vaccinated against hepatitis B. That's bloody insane...there's virtually no risk of an infant being infected, so why pump these chemicals into their little bodies?

    As recently as 15 years ago children received five shots by the time they were 2 years old and no more than two shots in a single visit. Now children could receive as many as 20 shots by the time they are 2 years old and as many as five shots in a single visit! For these reasons, parents wonder whether children can handle so many shots at the same time and whether vaccines can overwhelm the immune system.
    posted by dejah420 at 10:44 AM on June 7, 2002

    dejah, that's ridiculous. From the very article you link to -- very nearly the same paragraph, in fact,

    the evidence favors rejection of a causal relationship at the population level between MMR vaccine and autistic spectrum disorders. The committee bases this conclusion on the following:

    · A consistent body of epidemiological research shows no overall association between the two.
    · Data on the group of children used as a basis for the 1998 Lancet article or from other available case reports are insufficient to either prove or disprove causality.
    · Biologic models linking MMR vaccine and autistic spectrum disorders are fragmentary.
    · There is no relevant animal model linking the two.

    In other words, there's nothing that even vaguely suggests that immunization causes autism -- just 8 kids in a tiny, uncorroborated study, who were diagnosed with autism at some point after being vaccinated. There's not even a theoretical basis for how vaccines could cause autism.

    There could be hundreds of different factors contributing to a rise in reports of autism -- why leap to the conclusion that it must be the vaccines causing it?
    posted by ook at 11:16 AM on June 7, 2002

    why thimerosal is a bad thing? Was it actually causing mercury poisoning?

    Sigh. No. I looked at this with interest, as when I was growing up, thimerosal was very commonly found in my contact lens solutions.

    FDA’s review found no evidence of harm caused by doses of thimerosal in vaccines, except for minor local reactions (Ball et al., 2001).
    posted by Skot at 11:26 AM on June 7, 2002

    My 9 month old son hasn't had his HIb vaccine; my pediatrician says the state (who I guess buys it on behalf of the doctors? or perhaps this vaccine is made by a government agency? not sure...) does not have enough and they have not received any in months. Pretty scary stuff.

    At an open house at my pediatricians' where I went to decide if I wanted to go with them, the #1 topic of discussions was vaccination. I was shocked that so many parents seemed to want to get out of it. I certainly don't -- although I do ask my pediatrician to delay vaccinations if my son has or is recovering from a cold. But this is because I don't want to exacerbate his cold (I notice that vaccinations sometimes cause him to have a mild fever), not because I think there will be long-term effects.
    posted by lisatmh at 12:10 PM on June 7, 2002

    ook, don't you think that's a problem? There has never been a study of the effects of these vaccines taken together. We are just learning about the relationship between the immune system, digestive system and brain development in infants. We are at the START of attempting to understand this because of the explosion of autism since combo vaccines were widely used. If you want to take the chance that the MMR vaccine, which seems to be the main problem, won't harm your kid, then fine. But read this first.
    posted by dragline at 1:08 PM on June 7, 2002

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