Measles outbreak among vaccinated kids: how it that possible?

Vaccination is an important weapon in our arsenal of weapons against infectious diseases, as I have written about before.

However, there is a very real problem with how our health officials are presenting vaccination.  It appears calculated to make people distrust the very tool they are touting!!!

After all, most people are not stupid:  we can tell when we are being told things that demonstrably are not true.  This includes oversimplifications to the poin of error:  we see the real-life results while the ‘experts’ are describing ideal ‘lab conditions’ outcomes…and the two are never the same.  (I’ll come back to this point later.)

I am convinced that the vast majority of anti-vaccination sentiment ‘out there’ is among people who have once  believed the health officials statements which touted the benefits of vaccinations, overstated its effectiveness and understated (or left out cmpletely) its risks.  There is no critic so hardened as one who was once a true believer and was proven wrong by real-life experience!

What do I mean?

If somebody sold you, say, suit of body armour and told you this armour can stop any bullet so that you will be safe wearing it anywhere in a combat zone – but omitted to tell you that the neck and joint areas of the suit are not actually armoured, you went out and got shot through the elbow, you might be annoyed.  Had you known, you would have behaved differently – guarded your unarmoured bits better…  But, having been told that the armour is impervious, you will not be as trusting when they try to sell you the next suit of armour…

There are two main things that health officials are not properly informing people about when it comes to vaccination:

  1. risk
  2. efficacy

Now that this is out of the way – it troubles me greatly to see how the latest ‘measles outbreak’ is being handled by the health officials and/or and mainstream media.

Background:

All school kids (with only very few conscientious objectors and health exceptions) are vaccinated against measles.  Yet, despite this, every few years, there are measles outbreaks.  What sets this one apart is how the story is being spun.

The first statistics that came out were that there were just under a hundred kids infected in the initial outbreak, but well over half of these kids were ‘properly vaccinated‘.  This seems to have baffled the health officials beyond belief – suggesting that these health officials are woefully unaware of the efficacy of vaccines…

Not only do vaccines have a surprisingly low rate of efficacy (some are below 20%), the ‘protection’ they confer on someone is not identical to the ‘protection’ that having the illness would.  This is a function of our immune system:  the sicker a germ makes it, the more dilligent it is about storing the antibodies against it – both in strenght and in length of time it ‘stores’ the antibodies for (hence the need for ‘booster shots’).  Since vaccinations only produce a very mild, immitation version of the disease, the body does not consider these antibodies ‘priority antibodies’ and will often drop them if it has too many other antibodies to worry about.

Therefore, we have consistently seen that may childhood illnesses like measles and chicken pox appear in teenagers or young adults, when they are much more dangerous illnesses than had they been suffered through in childhood.  This is what one would expect to see in a ‘properly’ vaccinated population!

It is similar to the not-often-mentioned fact that until very recently (when arrivals of people from the third world changed the situation), the only cases of polio were found in children vaccinated with the live vaccine and the grandparents who were looking after them.  No vaccination confers protection for more than 20-30 years – something our health officials also should be stressing.

But, back to our story:  since the initial news story, the outbreak has grown to over seven hundred.  Since the percentage on unvaccinated kids is small, it seems reasonable to presume that, as before. more than half of these students were also ‘properly’ vaccinated.

So, how do the health officials propose to deal with the outbreak?

MORE VACCINATION!!!

That is insane!

And irresponsible beyond belief!

Either the strain that is ravaging the teens has mutated from the original – which viruses do on a regular basis, in which case giving them the ‘standard’ vaccine would have no effect (there has not been sufficient time to adjust the vaccine), or there is a genetic pocket of people whose immune systems don’t respond to vaccination typically….in which case vaccinating them some more is both idiotic and dangerous.

Plus this creates the false impression that the problem is being contained, when all this activity will have no significant impact whatsoever.  People need to take personal precautions – yet the authorities are assuring them that they don’t need to since they have everything under control…

I know I am sounding like a broken record, but…

Vaccinations are an important tool for combatting infectious disease.  But, like all tools, it must be used properly and its limitations must be clearly stated and generally understood – and this is not happening right now.  Our health officials, through their attempt to manipulate us to all make the ‘right’ choice and misrepresenting the effectiveness of this tool are actually undermining people’s trust in it and feeding the anti-vaccination hysteria!

Problems with the Efficacy of Vaccinations

Vaccinations are an important tool to control infectious diseases.  However, like any tool, they are not perfect!

The difficulty lies in the politicization of vaccination.

Like every other time when politics intrudes into a scientific field, the politicians cite science and scientists as their justification for action while the science itself becomes subordinated to and twiste by the politics of the situation…

One of the greatest problems I have with writing this post is that I cannot reveal my sources:  some of these immunologists have spoken up openly, at the cost to their careers.  Yet, immunology is such a narrow field that if I am too specific, they will be identified from my comments and they could suffer more censure for having spoken out.  So, please, excuse my vagueness:  much of what I do say can be confirmed through independent sources and I would urge everyone to do their own homework on this.

We can never get past the fact that real life is not like the laboratory:  there are so many variations between people and factors in their environment that ‘ideal’ laboratory conditions can never be replicated when normal people are vaccinated.  The efficacy of a vaccine is its ability to actually produce an effect – immunity – when the general population is vaccinated with it.  So, when I use the term ‘efficacy’, I am referring to its effectiveness when administered to real people in normal life and not to its effectiveness in laboratory studies.

Most of the vaccines used today are generally deemed ‘good’ if they have an efficacy rate of 75%  – that is, 3/4 – or more.  And, yes – there are vaccines which do have high efficacy rates.  However, there are also vaccines which have much, much lower efficacy rates – yet which have been approved for use.  I am aware of at least two vaccines that have been approved (due to political pressure – not because the scientists considered them ready) when their efficacy rates were below 20%!!!

Efficacy rates below 20% means that less than 1 in 5 people who was properly vaccinated would acquire immunity against whatever it was that the vaccine was meant to protect from.

This would all be fine – if we were told the facts before we made the decision whether to get a particular ‘shot’ or not.

Unfortunately, we are not told the facts.  As a matter of fact, our doctors are not told the facts:  they are not informed of the efficacy rates of various vaccinations except that they have been approved for use.  That, in my never-humble-opinion, is a problem.

It is a very, very serious problem for several reasons:

  • not knowing the potential benefits (efficacy rate), we cannot possibly weigh if the risk factors in our particular case are worht it
  • being told that ‘we are protected’, as we are now being told when we are vaccinated, we do not take the same precautions against infection that we would if we knew that there is more than just a negligible chance that we have not actually acquired immunity through vaccination…which, ironically, increases the likelihood that we actually will get sick

That is the problem when politics subordains science:  the truth is distorted by half-lies.  When reality catches up with over-stated benefits and under-stated risk factors, all kinds of suspicions and conspiracy theories arise which make people mistrust the politicians and scientists both.  This is bad all around – but unavoidable if we let politics control science.

Only the full and honest disclosure of risks and benefits of vaccination can lead to their proper use as an excellent tool in fighting infectious diseases.

Risks Associated with Vaccinations

Every medical procedure has risk associated with it. EVERY ONE!!!

That is not to say that the risk is large:  getting a blood test, for example, is a very low risk medical procedure.  The benefit of learning from a bloodtest the information a doctor needs to treat a patient far outweighs the risk of getting an infection or something going wrong during or following a blood test for most people.  Yet, you might not want to perform daily blood tests on a patient with hemophilia…

The same is true for vaccination:  the danger of something going wrong is very, very low.  But it is there. 

In my experience, doctors and other health officials are likely to vastly understate these dangers: some because they truly believe that the risk is so small and the patient too dumb to make a right choice on their own, some undoubtedly do it because they actually get money for having vaccinated over a certain percentage of their patients.  Either way, doctors and medical officials rutinely mis-state the dangers associated with vaccines and manipulate people into ‘getting the shot’.

People pick up on being manipulated – and most dom’t like it…

Yes, most people are poor at risk assessment – but that does not give anyone the right to deny them the very information they need to make their own choice.  Part of being a grown up is making one’s own decisions – right or wrong!

There is a second part to my ‘risk’ rant:  another aspect of the risk associated with vaccination which medical and health officials are simply not giving the general public sufficient information they need to make an informed decision.  The fact remains that we know that some people are much more likely to have adverse reactions to vaccinations than the average person would.

Have you ever been told this?  Most doctors who are not immunologists whom I have spoken to about this are woefully undereducated and, in my never-humble-opinion, almost criminally ignorant about this.

People who have problems with their immune systems are much more likely to have a dangerous reaction to vaccinations (and it is less likely that vaccines will actually work on them).  Again, there are many factors to consider, so each person ought to do some independent research into this.  People who have immune system diseases (like lupus and so on) are the most likely to have very bad reactions to vaccinations.  Close behind them are people with immune system disorders:  asthma, serious allergies (peanuts, milk, eggs) and so on.

[Aside:  the theory of vaccination is that the ‘skin’ of viruses has a ‘fingerprint’ (made up from unique proteins in the bilipid wall of the skin of the virus).  Once our body identifies the germ, it tries to create all kinds of antibodies and tests to see if any will kill the pathogen (infection).  This trial-and-error method is slow and while it is going on, the germs multiply and make a person sicker.  Once an effective antibody is found, the body makes a lot of it and uses it to kill the germs.  Vaccination introduces dead or weakened pathogens into the body:  this causes the immune system to make antibodies against.  Then, the immune system ‘stores’ the antibody and whenever it encounters the germ again it can start to make lots of it right away, skipping the trian-and-error step.  This prevents the germ from multiplying before the body is ready to fight it, so that it is defeated before it can make the person ill.]

Since the potential of acquiring immunity through vaccination (based on healthy immune systems – not ones that don’t work right) is seriously decreased and the danger of an adverse, potentially life-threatening reaction to a vaccine is greatly increased in people with immune systems which do not function properly, these people need to be fully informed of all the specifics and decide on a vaccine by vaccine basis which course of action carries the least possible risk.

This, of course, is not a concern for people with healthy immune systems.

There are other risks associated with vaccination, which do affect everyone.  When multiple-pathogen vaccinations (such as the controversial MMR) are administered – or several single vaccinations are administered at the same time or very close in time to each other, there is some indication that the probability of an adverse immune system reaction is increased.  However, I am not as knowledgable about these risk factors as about the risks associated with vaccination in people who are immunocompromised, so I am not comfortable saying more than that this has been identified as a risk factor.

Yes, there are risk factors associated with vaccinations.  My post is nowhere near exhaustive – it just hits the highlights.  Despite all of these, vaccinations are an important tool to keep infectious diseases under control.

Information is power.  It is my deep conviction that if doctors and health officials gave people accurate information about both the benefits and the risks of vaccination, people would make more informed choices.  Because they would be aware of the true (however small) risks, many of the hysterical reactions to vaccinations would be minimized, if not eliminated altogether.