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Anti-Vaxxers Responsible for Yet Another Outbreak of Measles

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  • Anti-Vaxxers Responsible for Yet Another Outbreak of Measles

    Surprise surprise. This one in Washington State.

    Robert Kennedy Jr. raves that vaccinations cause "ADD, ADHD, speech delay, autism, food allergy, autoimmune diseases."

    Measles cases caused by the highly contagious virus have been identified in 10 states so far this winter, but the biggest outbreak is in Washington State's Clark County, located just north of Portland, Oregon. So far, 53 people have been diagnosed with the communicable disease, of which 47 were unimmunized and five others are still unverified. One immunized person caught the disease, and one person has been hospitalized.

    Public health officials report that 38 cases occurred in children under age 10, and 13 people were between the ages of 10 and 18. Lab tests confirm that the cases match a wild strain of the virus that has so far caused 83,000 cases of the disease during the past year in Eastern Europe.

    The Washington State Department of Health reported in 2018 that, prior to the outbreak, only 78 percent of Clark County elementary and seconday school students were up to date on all of their immunizations, and that only 85 percent of kindergartners were immunized using the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine.

    In Clark County, 4,881 students were unimmunized in 2018 due to parents citing "personal exemptions." Interestingly, in the wake of the current outbreak, orders for measles shots in the county jumped from 530 doses in the previous January to 3,150 last month. It appears that there is no vaccine hesitancy in plague-holes.

    Columnist Daniel Engber urges us to "Stop Talking About Measles" over at Slate. Since the anti-vaccination movement in the U.S. is not growing in numbers, he suggests that proponents of immunization are being too shrill and need take a chill pill. That's a too-comfortable viewpoint.

    I counter that a good part of the reason the ranks of anti-vaxxers are not increasing is because responsible media reports highlight how each outbreak of vaccine-preventable disease is traced to parents who refuse immunization that could protect their kids. If not for such reporting, otherwise unopposed anti-vax activists like Robert Kennedy, Jr. will continue to persuade parents to forego immunizations with their public ravings about vaccination causing "ADD, ADHD, speech delay, autism, food allergy, autoimmune diseases."

    Bottom line: Don't be like some hapless parents in Clark County and wait until a disease outbreak occurs where you live. Vaccinate your kids now.
    A forum liberal
    "When you claimed black people were raped, wasn't that racist? I'd say so."

  • #2
    Interesting - 20 years after the Wakefield fraud, many kids whose parents have bought into it are coming of age and rebelling against their parents' conspiracy theories (which put them at great risk).

    In many ways, Ethan Lindenberger is like most other teenagers. A high school senior in Norwalk, Ohio, he runs his school’s debate club, is a member of his local church, and is planning to start college in the fall. But unlike many of his peers, the 18-year-old did not receive several of what are considered standard—and, doctors and public health officials say, crucially important—childhood vaccinations. In the coming months, he plans to seek out these vaccinations for the very first time.

    Lindenberger’s records, which he shared with Undark, show that he has not yet received shots for measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR), chickenpox, or even polio, a disease that can cause paralysis and sometimes lead to death. He attributes this in part to his mother having been influenced by dubious anti-vaccination information online—from theories that immunizations can cause brain damage, to the work of discredited physician Andrew Wakefield and his long-ago-debunked study linking the MMR vaccine to autism.

    Wakefield’s study and other false vaccination information, however, remain actively peddled on social media, where his mother, Lindenberger says, “kind of fell into this echo chamber, and got more and more misinformation.” His father, he says, espouses similar beliefs, but takes a more laidback approach.

    Lindenberger’s records do show he received two shots in 2002, though in an interview, his mother, Jill Wheeler, said this must be a mistake and insists her son only received a single immunization for tetanus after he cut himself as a child. After vaccinating her first daughter and starting immunizations for her oldest son, Wheeler—who owns a local children’s theater company—said she learned she had the right to opt-out. “If I have a choice, I want to know what my choices are and make the decision as an educated mom,” she said. Based on reading arguments both for and against vaccination, she says, she chose not to continue with her other five children.

    This was not a wise choice, according to most experts, who argue that stopping the spread of false information and getting infants and young children vaccinated on schedule offers the best chance at protection against disease. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) sets this schedule for children each year, based on when they’re likely to be most at risk. And vaccinations, of course, do not just benefit individuals—they stop the spread of disease from person to person and help protect those who cannot receive certain vaccinations for medical reasons.

    But as parents in some states increasingly take advantage of non-medical exemptions that allow them to forego standard vaccinations, more and more children are reaching their teenage years only to discover—from their peers, teachers, and through Twitter and Facebook and other online platforms—that their bodies are at the center of a roiling tug-of-war between science and pseudoscience. And this has increasing numbers of unvaccinated near-adults digging through literature and asking questions in online forums in an effort to discover, for themselves, the truth about vaccines, and what options are available to them as they approach the age of consent.

    In spite of his mother’s beliefs, Lindenberger—who had been considering if certain vaccinations would be required for college admission—says he conducted his own research and, after receiving support from his science teacher, pastor, and friends, made an appointment at his local health department to start catching up. But with a measles outbreak spreading through unvaccinated children in the Pacific Northwest, younger teens facing situations similar to Lindenberger’s raise the question of whether they should be allowed to provide consent for themselves, too.

    The best-case scenario, according to Allison Winnike, president and CEO of The Immunization Partnership, a Texas-based non-profit focused on eradicating vaccine-preventable diseases through education and community engagement, is for families to try and come to a resolution amongst themselves when disagreements over childhood vaccines leave a youngster under-immunized.

    “That’s sort of like Plan A,” she said. “But what we have to also think about is a Plan B.”

    Currently, there are no federal laws governing a minor’s ability to consent to vaccination. Rather, it’s up to states, to varying degrees of specificity, to determine if children can make health care decisions for themselves. Last year, a 15-year-old Minnesota student—who when contacted by Undark requested only to be identified as “Danny”—turned to ****** for advice, noting that he’d spent four years trying to convince his anti-vaccine parent that vaccines are safe. “I haven’t succeeded,” he wrote.

    Minnesota, like many other states, allows minors to make certain choices related to pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections, and alcohol and drug abuse. The allowances are broadened for minors who are living apart from a parent or guardian, those who are married, or those who have children of their own. Apart from these circumstances, however, the only vaccination a typical teenager like Danny could consent to alone is hepatitis B. This vaccine, which is also normally first given before a newborn ever leaves the hospital, protects against a virus that can cause liver swelling and complications that may lead to organ damage and cancer.

    California has a similar statute, signed into law by then-Governor Jerry Brown in 2011, which allows minors as young as 12 to receive vaccination for hepatitis B, along with the vaccine for HPV, a major cause of cervical and other cancers. In Alabama and Oregon, wider statutes allow minors aged 14 and 15, respectively, to consent to their own health care.

    But regulations focused on vaccination, according to Winnike, are few and far between.

    “Most states do not have specific laws carving out immunizations,” she said, although there have been some moves to expand minor’s rights regarding preventative care—which would include contraception and vaccinations.

    In 2017, the Texas legislature introduced a bill that would have allowed minors aged 14 and older to consent to vaccinations specifically for cancer prevention, which—similarly to California—would have included hepatitis B and HPV. That same year, Minnesota introduced a bill solely focused on HPV. Neither bill moved out of committee.

    Despite some parents’ concern regarding the idea of a child consenting to a medical procedure, Winnike emphasizes that because all vaccines recommended by the CDC are held to rigorous standards, they “should be generally considered safe for a teen to consent to.” In Texas, she points out, along with Alabama, Illinois, and many other states, teenage parents are entitled to make medical decisions for their children without further oversight.

    For now, however, teenagers who are still living at home and are not covered by a specific state statute may have to keep pressing their parents—or simply just wait. At the county health department in Lindenberger’s hometown in Ohio, Christina Cherry, the director of public health nursing, said all they can do is provide a teen with the appropriate information to share with their parent or guardian. “Additionally,” Cherry wrote in an email, “we can encourage the child/teen to bring the parent or guardian in to meet with us or the child’s/teen’s primary care provider to discuss the parent’s concerns about vaccinating.”

    Such an approach seems to have worked, at least in a small way, for Danny, who recently turned 16. In a phone call, the high school sophomore said his mother did eventually allow him to get vaccinated against polio and tetanus following a conversation with his doctor. For any further immunizations, however, he says he’ll likely have to wait until his 18th birthday.

    For that reason, Danny said he supports lowering the age of consent to be able to get the rest of his vaccinations on his own, but added that this alone won’t address the problem. “Stopping the spread of false information,” he added, along with a handful of other factors, also have to be considered. Infants also need to be vaccinated, he said, and that remains, for the most part, entirely a parent’s choice.

    “The toughest aspect to understand is that they want the best for me,” Danny said of his parents. “And that decision, in my opinion, was not properly researched or informed.”

    Lindenberger said it wasn’t easy telling his mom about his choice to get vaccinated, even though he felt it was the smart thing to do. “I’m a very obedient child,” Lindenberger said. “I don’t really try and go against my mom. Even though I’m 18, I don’t pull that card.”

    It helped a bit, he says, that his father reacted less harshly. Despite being in the “same camp” as his mom, Lindenberger said, his dad told him “Hey, you’re 18, you can do what you want and we can’t really stop you.”

    So far, according to his vaccination records, Lindenberger has received one round of shots—for HPV, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, influenza, and diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (DTaP)—and will return to the health department later this month for his second round. Cherry confirmed that an adult with no prior vaccinations needs to come in for at least three appointments over a six-month period.

    For her part, Lindenberger’s mother says her son’s decision to seek out vaccinations for himself felt like an insult. “I did not immunize him because I felt it was the best way to protect him and keep him safe,” Wheeler said of her son, calling his decision “a slap in the face.”

    “It was like him spitting on me,” she continued, “saying ‘You don’t know anything, I don’t trust you with anything. You don’t know what you’re talking about. You did make a bad decision and I’m gonna go fix it.’”

    Ohio, like the vast majority of states, allows parents to exempt their children from vaccines that would otherwise be required for school admission based on religious grounds, and it is also one of a smaller group of states that allows exemptions for personal or philosophical reasons. Wheeler says her exemptions have simply been for personal reasons and that she usually doesn’t receive much pushback.

    “She even told me when I asked about the college thing,” Lindenberger said, “that if you push hard enough, they won’t force you to get vaccinated.” Even for universities like Ohio State—which experienced hundreds of cases of mumps in 2014—students can gain an exemption solely based on “good cause.”

    Non-medical exemptions have been declining generally across the country, but tens of thousands are still granted annually, and certain states including Oregon, Idaho, and North Dakota, are seeing an increase, putting those areas at risk for future disease outbreaks.

    “We’re seeing more and more anti-vaccine parents clustering in different regions around the country,” said Winnike. Though these parents can cause a lot of damage, a larger group, she says, is made up of “vaccine-hesitant” parents. “Once you just talk to them, hear some of their fears, and then explain to them the scientific benefits and the health care benefits, they are more open to getting their child vaccinated.”

    Still, Wheeler remains staunch in her dismissals, arguing that she believes many vaccines are unnecessary and even harmful. “Polio, if you really research polio, it was almost completely eradicated, almost gone, there was almost no cases of polio when they introduced the oral vaccine,” she said. “The oral vaccine started giving people polio. And it went from almost completely eradicated, to the numbers were shooting, sky-rocketing back up, from immunizations.”

    Like many anti-vaccine arguments, however, such thinking—while surely rooted in a genuine concern for her children’s health and safety—is based on a faulty distillation of history. The development of the oral vaccine in the middle of the 20th century was, in fact, a vital complement to the injectable vaccine, helping to dramatically reduce global polio cases in part because it was comparatively easy to transport and administer. But because the oral vaccine uses a live, weakened form of the virus, it has the potential—albeit small—to also cause the disease, and sporadic outbreaks of vaccine-derived polio remain a challenge in parts of the developing world. The numbers, though, are telling: Roughly 100 cases of vaccine-derived polio were tracked globally in 2018, according to the World Health Organization. Before global eradication efforts began in 1988, 350,000 children were paralyzed by the disease each year.

    Also of note: The US has not used oral polio vaccine for nearly two decades.

    And yet, Wheeler says that her experience with Ethan has convinced her to start talking to her younger children about why she has chosen to skip their vaccinations. “It has opened my eyes,” Wheeler said, “to say ‘I better educate them now. Not wait until they’re 18.’ But I need to start educating my 16-year-old, and my 14-year-old now, saying this is why I don’t believe in it.”

    Lindenberger says he’s also discussed the issue with his siblings himself, and has gotten mixed reactions. His 16-year-old brother, he says, “wants to get vaccinated the moment he turns 18,” while his 14-year-old sister “fully, whole-heartedly agrees with my mom.”

    Follow-up conversations with his mother, Lindenberger says, haven’t changed a thing.

    “We both know where we stand,” he said.
    A forum liberal
    "When you claimed black people were raped, wasn't that racist? I'd say so."


    • #3
      Originally posted by GondwanaLand View Post
      Surprise surprise. This one in Washington State.
      Not sure that I understand the snarky Washington State comment.

      Also not sure why your sympathies to the global warming conspiracies doesn’t translate to vaccine conspiracies. Just kidding, I know you are a market fundamentalist, and that is what drives climate deniers.


      • #4
        Originally posted by backup View Post

        Not sure that I understand the snarky Washington State comment.
        Um, maybe if you had read the article and seen that the measles outbreak occurred in Washington state, you would grasp that I was... you know... saying that this outbreak happened.... in Washington State......

        Not sure what sane person would read snark into the statement of basic fact. It shows just how much of a partisan whackjob you are that someone stating what an article said comes across as "snarky" to your fevered mind.

        Also not sure why your sympathies to the global warming conspiracies doesn’t translate to vaccine conspiracies. Just kidding, I know you are a market fundamentalist, and that is what drives climate deniers.
        and on to the slander, as usual. (psssst, many anti-vaccers are your fellow liberals, son, so shut yer trap)
        A forum liberal
        "When you claimed black people were raped, wasn't that racist? I'd say so."


        • #5
          Whilst many anti-vaxxers are libs, it is certainly an exercise in bipartisan idiocy, as the wife of Trump's communication director showed after the news of this latest outbreak got out:

          Darla Shine, wife of White House communications director and former Fox exec Bill Shine, is no stranger to controversy when it comes to Twitter TWTR, -0.51% , where she’s been known to fan conspiracy flames around Sandy Hook truthers, Shariah Law, sunscreen and pretty much all things InfoWars.

          She was back at it on Wednesday with this tweet.


          Here we go LOL #measlesoutbreak on #CNN #Fake #Hysteria The entire Baby Boom population alive today had the #Measles as kids
          Bring back our #ChildhoodDiseases they keep you healthy & fight cancer
          6:43 AM - Feb 13, 2019
          As you can see, Shine garnered about 22 comments for every “like.” In other words, her “ratioed” tweet was getting completely blasted across social media, as the meme responses just kept flying:

          But it wasn’t all fun and GIFs. While many shared their heartbreaking stories of childhood illness, someone brought up this snippet from an essay written by Roald Dahl, in which he said it’s “almost a crime” not to immunize your kids:

          Olivia, my eldest daughter, caught measles when she was seven years old. As the illness took its usual course I can remember reading to her often in bed and not feeling particularly alarmed about it. Then one morning, when she was well on the road to recovery, I was sitting on her bed showing her how to fashion little animals out of coloured pipe-cleaners, and when it came to her turn to make one herself, I noticed that her fingers and her mind were not working together and she couldn’t do anything. “Are you feeling all right?” I asked her. “I feel all sleepy,” she said. In an hour, she was unconscious. In twelve hours she was dead.

          The anti-vaxx movement has come under increased scrutiny of late, with more than 100 people infected in the U.S. this year alone. Ironically, the outbreak comes after the disease was declared eliminated in this country in 2000.

          Around the world, cases of the viral illness have surged by about 50% at last count, according to the World Health Organization, which lists “vaccine hesitancy” among this year’s top 10 threats to global health.

          The proportion of kids not getting inoculations has roughly quadrupled over the past 15 years, according to the CDC. As a result, about 47,000 children (or 1.3%) born in 2015 hadn’t been vaccinated by 2017, compared with just 0.3% of kids in 2001 — even though the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommends routine vaccination by age 2 against “14 potentially serious illnesses,” including polio, the measles, mumps, rubella, hepatitis B and varicella.

          As for Shine, she seemed to be savoring the backlash:

          Keep coming after me #Left #Trolls hopefully you can get me to #Trend and help me with my next book. 41
          8:17 AM - Feb 13, 2019

          A forum liberal
          "When you claimed black people were raped, wasn't that racist? I'd say so."