Thursday, 19 February 2015

The Measles Vaccine: I Am Told It Is A Terrible Thing

Scrolling down my facebook feed this morning I found this image and a link to an article on vaccination deaths.
On the face of it that's a terrible pair of statistics.  On the face of it, with just those numbers, anyone would be up in arms and call for the banning of measles vaccines.  With just those numbers, nobody would call for a return to the almost universal measles vaccination program in the USA in the 1990s.  Everyone would applaud those who stand against the pressure to vaccinate their children.

of course the site on which the image is found must be a trustworthy medical site - after all the writer of the article and editor of the site has a BA in Bible and Greek so you know he knows a great deal about medicine!  As he writes in his testimonial, "Any health product, medicine, or natural cures are worthless if you don't know God and His incredible love for you, and understand His will for your life." With words like that you know you're utterly safe listening to whatever he says about medicine.  Perhaps that's enough sarcasm for today.

But of course there is another face.  Another side to those frightening statistics.  Those numbers do not tell the whole story.  As it turns out they don't tell the story at all.
Yes, I believe measles vaccinations work.  I believe they are a very good thing indeed. If you look at the number of deaths and hospitalizations due to measles before the introduction of the vaccines it becomes bloody obvious.  Excuse my language!
In the period before vaccinations were introduced there were 3 to 4 million cases of measles in the US every year resulting in 48,000 hospital stays, 400-500 deaths and 4000 cases of encephalitis.  This was a drop from 5,300 deaths a year a few decades earlier, simply because there was far, far better medical care in hospitals in the 1950s than in the 1910s.

So without vaccines and with medical care there would have been probably nearly half a million people in hospital for measles in the past ten years and probably 4,500 deaths and 40,000 cases of encephalitis. Taking the "facts" I was given this morning at face value, measles vaccination has cut the death rate massively.  And it is alleviated a stupendous amount of suffering.

But let's check the quoted "facts" from the above graphic.

"Fact" One - The "Zero". By 2000, measles had been pretty much eliminated in the US due to vaccinations. The CDC website states, "In 2000, the United States declared that measles was eliminated from this country. The United States was able to eliminate measles because it has a highly effective measles vaccine, a strong vaccination program that achieves high vaccine coverage in children and a strong public health system for detecting and responding to measles cases and outbreaks."  That CDC page is worth a quick read if you have any interest at all in vaccinations or measles - even if, like me, you are not from the USA.

With the lessening use of vaccinations it has returned and is slowly increasing. "Slowly" is what would be expected. You wouldn't expect many deaths from a disease that had almost been wiped out in the nation. Nevertheless, there have been deaths in the US. The above statistic of zero claims to be sourced from the CDC but I could give you direct links to the CDC site that prove the claim to be false. There haven't been many deaths, and that's to be expected, but those deaths exclude other side effects that measles has produced - brain damage, deafness, pneumonia and so on.

"Fact" Two - the 108. This claims to be drawn from VAERS. But VAERS cannot tell you anything about whether a vaccine caused a reaction. It does not track specific adverse reactions to vaccines. Hence such a statistic cannot possibly be drawn from VAERS in any sensible manner. Yes, at some point after being vaccinated against measles 108 people died. But to state categorically that this is because the vaccines caused the deaths is to completely reinterpret the data.

For more information on the problems associated with applying definite causation to the VAERS cases, I'd recommend this rather sensible blog page written be people who devote much time to applying science and sense to the claims of the anti-vaccination campaigners.  Lots of people with far more knowledge than me have written sensible pages online about vaccinations.  Why are you reading me instead of reading those pages?!  Trust those people, not me.  Because just like the author of the article that got me writing, I don't have a medical degree - just two theology degrees.

To conclude, as Newsweek states in this article,  "Those promoting this 108 number appear to be uninterested in widely accepted facts, and most don’t seem to understand the difference between correlation and causation. Or they just don’t care. Their primary interest, it seems, is in waging a PR war against the likes of the CDC. And if they win that battle, it could be a public health disaster for all of us."

1 comment:

  1. Anything can be proven using numbers and those same things can be proven false using numbers too. Statistics can be very persuasive one way or the other.

    Shirley Anne


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