Young children are routinely vaccinated against Haemophilus influenza type B, or HiB, a bacterium that can cause meningitis and other serious problems. But the HiB vaccine has an added benefit: It reduces the risk for acute lymphoblastic leukemia, or ALL, the most common childhood cancer, and now scientists know why.
Dr. Markus Müschen, the senior author of a new study published in Nature Immunology, explained that in infants, the immune system is more “nimble” than in older people. If they are exposed to HiB early in life — in day care, for example — their immune response is usually, but not always, well controlled, fighting the bacterium without causing serious illness.
But using a mouse model, Dr. Müschen and his colleagues found that in some cases, infection with the HiB bacterium triggers a vigorous immune reaction that activates two enzymes. These enzymes can cause mutations in certain types of blood cells, driving them into malignancy. When this happens, children are more likely to develop leukemia when they are 5 to 7 years old.
Dr. Müschen, a professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, said that the effect of the vaccine was a 20 percent reduction in risk for leukemia. “This seems small,” he said. “But it’s highly significant in large populations. Whatever activates the immune system early in life reduces the risk for ALL.”
It ain’t going to seem small to the parents of young kids who didn’t get leukemia.
The Hills family – in healthier days
Writing on The ScientificParent blog, a chagrined Canadian mom announced that she is leaving the anti-vaxx movement after all of her seven children — four of them completely unvaccinated — have come down with whooping cough.
Writing from quarantine, and surrounded by sick kids, Tara Hills wrote she is “emotionally, a bit raw. Mentally a bit taxed. Physically I’m fine,” before admitting that not only are her own kids sick, but they may have exposed her five-month-old niece who is too young to be fully vaccinated.
What began with a cold brought into her home by her brother-in-law, turned into coughing by her kids leading to full-blown whooping cough in all seven children…
“We had vaccinated our first three children on an alternative schedule and our youngest four weren’t vaccinated at all. We stopped because we were scared and didn’t know who to trust,” she explained. ” Was the medical community just paid off puppets of a Big Pharma-Government-Media conspiracy? Were these vaccines even necessary in this day and age? Were we unwittingly doing greater harm than help to our beloved children? So much smoke must mean a fire so we defaulted to the ‘do nothing and hope nothing bad happens’ position.”
Hills explained that she had a hard time overcoming her biases and mistrust of “Big Pharma,” asking herself, “Could all the in-house, independent, peer-reviewed clinical trials, research papers and studies across the globe ALL be flawed, corrupt and untrustworthy?”
Now Hills says that years spent “frozen” out of fear of vaccinating her kids has the whole family frozen: confined to their home by a quarantine.
She said she hopes her mea culpa will make other families who have held back from getting their children vaccinated rethink what they are doing.
I appreciate her fear and cynicism. I can match cynicism with most anyone; but, I also have a lifetime of experience reading science from academia, research – public, private and corporate. The peer review procedures we have are the best chance we have so far for verification and validation at present. Honest researchers include funding sources for the reader to judge.
The biggest mistake skeptics make about vaccination, GMO, climate change, any science-based products/systems which may be profitable/or not – is relying on a sampling of non-science sources. That’s laziness in my mind. I spent two years of casual spare time at the millennium reading and searching before I settled on agreement with the dangers human beings had brought to the climate of this planet. I didn’t have to wait for broad political statements from bodies like the IPCC because I combed through many reports from folks doing the research. Then made up my mind based on the science.
Questions about vaccines are easier for me to decide because – being a cranky old geek – I lived through the era before most modern vaccines were available. As I’ve mentioned other times, I stood with my classmates in elementary school every spring while we counted up who didn’t make it through the winter. Whooping cough, mumps, scarlet fever, diphtheria, measles, influenza – all took their toll. And then we had summer and polio to look forward to.
Same as it ever was.
On the heels of the measles outbreak at Disneyland, Melinda Gates of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation took aim at the vaccine naysayers who make these types of disease outbreaks more likely.
“We take vaccines so for granted in the United States,” Gates told the Huffington Post in a prerecorded interview published on Thursday. “Women in the developing world know the power of [vaccines]. They will walk 10 kilometers in the heat with their child and line up to get a vaccine, because they have seen death. [Americans have] forgotten what measles deaths look like.”
She added, “I’d say to the people of the United States: we’re incredibly lucky to have that technology and we ought to take full advantage of it.”
In response to the Disneyland outbreak, pediatric infectious disease specialist James Cherry told the New York Times the outbreak was “100 percent connected” to the anti-vaccine movement. “It wouldn’t have happened otherwise — it wouldn’t have gone anywhere,” he said.
The key is what the scientific community calls herd or community immunity. If every American of age was vaccinated, measles wouldn’t spread much further even if foreign travelers came into the country with the disease — as appears to be the case with measles.
Vaccinated people essentially act as barriers to measles outbreaks, since the disease can’t pass through them and infect other people. The awful truth of the anti-vaccine movement is that it puts the most vulnerable populations at risk: infants under 12 months of age, who can’t get vaccinated and are more susceptible to infection, and the elderly, who have a higher risk of death if they contract these illnesses.
Between religious nutballs whose anti-science hangups are reinforced by some dude behind a pulpit talking about an invisible dude sitting on a cloud in the sky — and conservative nutballs who indulge hangups that lead to unconcern about someone else dying from a condition we all can prevent – anti-science spookiness runs riot. They haven’t a clue.
Like that woman Melinda Gates talks about in the developing world, I grew up in a time and place where vaccines for many childhood diseases didn’t exist. Every spring we looked around at school to see who died over winter. Measles, scarlet fever, mumps, diptheria – all took their toll. Then we had the summer and polio to look forward to.
No – it wasn’t Africa or Asia. It was a factory town in southern New England. A town like every other in the United States at the time. No one was spared.
So, Melinda Gates’ response to anti-vaccine fools is education, history. My response to that is similar to Dr. King’s response when he was asked if civil rights laws would help bigots to love him. I don’t care if idjits love me. I just want to stop them from killing me and my family.
Last week, Rep. Phil Gingrey wrote a letter to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention with a dire warning: Some of the child refugees streaming across the southern border into the United States might carry deadly diseases. “Reports of illegal immigrants carrying deadly diseases such as swine flu, dengue fever, Ebola virus and tuberculosis are particularly concerning,” Gingrey wrote. “Many of the children who are coming across the border also lack basic vaccinations such as those to prevent chicken pox or measles.”
Gingrey’s analysis carried an aura of credibility among conservatives, because, as Judicial Watch noted, the congressman is “also [a] medical doctor.” But his two-page letter is filled with false charges—there’s no evidence that migrants carry Ebola or that they’re less likely to be vaccinated—from an inconvenient messenger: The congressman has himself pushed legislation to discourage some kinds of mandatory vaccinations in the United States.
According to the World Health Organization, Ebola virus has only ever affected humans in sub-Saharan Africa. (It has been found in China and the Philippines, but has never caused an illness, let alone a fatality)…Gingrey’s misdiagnoses aren’t confined to Ebola. As the Texas Observer points out, when it comes to measles, children in Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras are more likely to be vaccinated than children in the United States. None of those countries have recorded an outbreak of measles in 24 years. Kids in Marin County are more at risk.
And in 2007, he wrote an amendment that would allow parents to block their children from receiving HPV vaccines, which are designed to combat cervical cancer.
Nothing new about today’s Republicans being as ethically corrupt as they are economically ignorant, socially and politically bigoted. Some – obviously including Congress-slime Gingrey – ignore conflicts between their record and their lies.
In New York City, parents do not have the right to send their unvaccinated kids to school if another student has a vaccine-preventable illness…That’s according to a Brooklyn Federal District Court judge, who ruled earlier this month that a parent’s constitutional right to freely exercise their religion does not always make their children exempt from vaccination requirements.
New York City schools require all students to get a series of basic vaccinations in order to attend classes. But in New York State — along with several other states — laws say that parents can opt out of these requirements for religious reasons.
When three families in New York City recently tried to do so, their children were barred from attending school, leading them to file suit against the city. Citing a 1905 Supreme Court case — in which the court ruled that Massachusetts was permitted to fine a man $5 for refusing a smallpox vaccine — Judge William Kuntz ruled that the court had “strongly suggested that religious objectors are not constitutionally exempt from vaccinations…”
All this comes as increasing numbers of parents around the country are refusing vaccines, leading to outbreaks of a number of diseases that could have easily been prevented. Earlier this spring, during a measles outbreak in New York, the unvaccinated sibling of a home-schooled child who’d been infected was barred from attending public school. That sibling ultimately contracted the disease, and keeping him home prevented it from spreading further.
The idjits and ignorant have every right to believe what they do, say what they wish – and keep their silliness out of everyone else’s lives.
California is being hit hard with a whooping cough epidemic, according to the state’s public health department, with 800 cases reported in the past two weeks alone…The agency says that there were 3,458 whooping cough cases reported between January 1 and June 10, well ahead of the number of cases reported for all of 2013.
This is a problem of “epidemic proportions,” the department said. And the number of actual cases may be even higher, because past studies have shown that for every case of whooping cough that is reported, there are 10 more that are not officially counted.
Whooping cough, known to doctors as pertussis, is a highly contagious respiratory infection that is caused by a bacterium known as Bordetella pertussis…The popular name for the disease comes from the whooping sound an infected person makes when gasping for breath after a coughing fit.
The bacteria spreads through coughing and sneezing. One person can infect up to 15 people nearby, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Typically symptoms appear an average of seven to 10 days after exposure.
Infants and young children are more vulnerable to the disease than other age groups. It can be particularly dangerous for babies. About half of the infants who get whooping cough end up in a hospital. Some cases are fatal.
That’s why the public health department in California is strongly urging people to make sure their vaccinations are up to date, especially if they’re pregnant. State health officials are working closely with schools and local health departments to spread the word.
“Unlike some other vaccine-preventable diseases like measles, neither vaccination nor illness from pertussis offers lifetime immunity,” Dr. Ron Chapman, director of the California Department of Public Health, said in a statement. “However, vaccination is still the best defense against the potentially fatal diseases.”
Nationally, more than 90% of children get the first three doses of the vaccine, but far fewer get the Tdap booster.
California has historically had higher vaccination rates than other states, but a recent study found large clusters of parents who did not vaccinate their children close to areas with a large number of whooping cough cases during the 2010 California outbreak.
The current outbreak is too new for scientists to know if there is a similar pattern.
We’re back to the usual choice of answers between stupid or ignorant. In states like California or here in New Mexico, we deal with large numbers of immigrants, legal or otherwise, who haven’t anymore understanding of vaccination than they do birth control or reproductive rights. That’s the ignorant portion.
Then, we must confront parents who read on the Internet or heard from equally unqualified sources that vaccination is what causes illness. They aren’t going to look up relevant statistics at the CDC or talk to a for-real doctor. Sorry, but, that’s stupid. That doesn’t even get you up to the 20th Century.
The spread of polio to countries previously considered free of the crippling disease is a global health emergency, the World Health Organization said, as the virus once driven to the brink of extinction mounts a comeback.
Pakistan, Cameroon and Syria pose the greatest risk of exporting the virus to other countries, and should ensure that residents have been vaccinated before they travel, the Geneva-based WHO said in a statement today after a meeting of its emergency committee. It’s only the second time the United Nations agency has declared a public health emergency of international concern, after the 2009 influenza pandemic.
Polio has resurged as military conflicts from Sudan to Pakistan disrupt vaccination campaigns, giving the virus a toehold. The number of cases reached a record low of 223 globally in 2012 and jumped to 417 last year, according to the WHO. There have been 74 cases this year, including 59 in Pakistan, during what is usually polio’s “low season,” the WHO said.
The disease’s spread, if unchecked, “could result in failure to eradicate globally one of the world’s most serious, vaccine-preventable diseases,” Bruce Aylward, the WHO’s assistant director general for polio, emergencies and country collaboration, told reporters in Geneva today. “The consequences of further international spread are particularly acute today given the large number of polio-free but conflict-torn and fragile states which have severely compromised routine immunization services.”
“Conflict makes it very difficult for the vaccinators to get to the children who need vaccine,” David Heymann, a professor of infectious diseases at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said in an interview before the WHO’s announcement. “It’s been more difficult to finish than had been hoped.”
The polio virus, which is spread through feces, attacks the nervous system and can cause paralysis within hours, and death in as many as 10 percent of its victims. There is no cure. The disease can be prevented by vaccines…
The resurgence of the virus “reminds us that, until it’s eradicated, it’s going to spread internationally and it’s going to find and paralyze susceptible kids,” Aylward said.
Resurgence, as well, of the question: what holds back progress for most of the people living on this planet? Is it stupidity or ignorance? My answer changes from week to week.
It takes a special kind of stupidity after all to make uninformed and ignorant decisions. Whether the ignorance is religion-based, hatred of furriners, paranoid rejection of science and info from educated folks who obviously don’t live in your own neighborhood/state/region/country/continent – doesn’t matter a whole boatload. Killing your kin and letting your children die sounds mostly stupid to me.
Health officials in Canada’s westernmost province are battling a large measles outbreak that is now threatening to spill over the border into Washington state.
As many as 330 cases of the highly contagious disease have been reported since early March in British Columbia’s lower Fraser Valley, near Vancouver, according to Paul Van Buynder, MD, chief medical officer of Fraser Health.
All but two of those cases have occurred among members of an orthodox Protestant sect that doesn’t believe in vaccination…
Four ill members of the congregation live across the U.S. border in Washington and have been isolated, but Van Buynder said Whatcom County officials now think a fifth person — not part of the church — has been infected…
The report comes as New York City health officials are reporting additional cases in an outbreak there, bringing the total to 25, including 12 children and 13 adults. Most of the children were too young to have had their measles shots and only four of the adults had a verified vaccination.
All told, the CDC said, there have been 104 cases of measles reported so far this year in the U.S., although that total did not include the Washington cases and only 23 cases in New York City. Most states had no cases but California is reporting 50.
Measles is officially eliminated in both the U.S. and Canada, but imported cases [and stupid cases] continue to cause disease.
Van Buynder said the Fraser Valley outbreak is epidemiologically linked to a large continuing epidemic among orthodox Protestants in the Netherlands that has been raging since May 2013 and had caused more than 2,600 cases by the end of February 2014.
An earlier outbreak in Canada — 42 cases in Alberta in the fall of 2013 and winter of 2014 — was also linked to the Netherlands epidemic.
The religion defense against vaccination is such crap when you consider the numbers of unvaccinated children – still too young to vaccinate – put at risk by True Believers.