The Empire Strikes Back…and it’s about bloody time!

OK, it’s probably a wee bit of an exaggeration to call the medical establishment an empire. My excuse is that I live in a house full of Star Wars aficionados (everyone except me, that is), so it was bound to rub off on me sooner or later 🙂 .

But I wanted to tell you about some new pro-vaccine Internet resources geared for laypeople that have popped up lately. While they are not part of the medical establishment per se, they do a good job of explaining mainstream medicine’s position regarding vaccines to that part of the public which is vulnerable to anti-vaccine scaremongering, and pointing them toward the applicable resources within the medical research which support the pro-vaccine position.

Vaccinateyourbaby.org is a new initiative to bring accurate and timely information and news regarding vaccines to the websurfing public. It’s sponsored by the non-profit organization Every Child by Two, an organization dedicated to elevating vaccine coverage in the population and which provides vaccine-related education for both laypeople and healthcare providers. While I confess to not being a fan of her husband’s (understatement of the year), former First Lady Rosalynn Carter and her associate Betty Bumpers (former First Lady of Arkansas) deserve many kudos for their work.

Another new website maintained by a new non-profit organization is Voices for Vaccines. According to its manifesto:

Voices For Vaccines (VFV) will provide evidence-based, accessible, and clear information about the benefits and risks of vaccines and vaccine-preventable diseases to the public, health professionals, political leaders, and their organizations. It will represent the millions of people who support immunizations by speaking with one strong voice about their value. VFV seeks to become the “go to” source for credible, sound information on issues relating to vaccines, vaccine-preventable diseases, and immunization. VFV will advocate strongly to improve the woefully low adult vaccination rates found in the United States and other countries. VFV will translate policy for the public.

The website is still pretty barebones, but the description of each pathogen and provision of reliable sources to learn about them and the vaccines that protect us from them are invaluable.

Another new resource for parents is a new book called Do Vaccines Cause That?, by
Martin Myers, M.D and Diego Pineda, M.S., respectively the editor and science writer for the National Network for Immunization Information (NNii). The book is downloadable from the website for $12.95, or available for purchase in paper form for $14.95. You can also read a sample chapter on the website. It’s an excellent overview of why vaccines are given and why and how we know if they are (or aren’t) associated with various side effects. Hopefully, it can set more than a few anxious parents’ minds at ease. Diego Pineda also has a vaccine-related Amazon.com blog which is quite excellent.

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12 Responses

  1. Thank goodness for that, they’ll have a bit of a fight though with all of the garbage repeated on the internet. It’s scary when you live outside the US and you see people talking shite about the FDA and CDC as if that applied to your country with it’s public health systems and completely different vaccination programme. I honestly don’t get that at all, it’s like they think we are a state of the US of A. At least with more sites, someone doing a search is a bit more likely to hit on valid information rather than a scare site.

  2. Unfortunately, the die-hard anti-vaxers will just claim that these sites are all government sponsored and therefore not remotely reputable. Hopefully those on the fence will give them a chance, though.

    Do any of those cover (or do you plan to cover at some point) the idea of doing a delayed vax schedule? A lot of anti-vaxers try to convince those on the fence to do that because it “can’t hurt anything.” I’ve always figured that we vax children early, because many of the diseases are so much more dangerous to infants, so we want to protect them ASAP, but that’s just my opinion. 🙂

  3. People immune to reason (excuse the pun) will not be swayed by this information,and there’s probably no point in trying. But the large majority of mothers are not at that point: they want to do the best for their babies, but they’re not scientifically literate enough to understand how vaccines work, what science actually knows about vaccine safety and what the issues surrounding them actually are.These websites and the book are very helpful in clarifying these issues.

    I do intend to address the delayed schedules -in fact, a very kind person has scanned the relevant pages of the Sears Vaccine Book and is sending me the book in its entirety (again, thanks – you know who you are :)).

  4. That’s great news. I wish these resources had been available when my daughter was an infant and I delayed vaccines because I couldn’t sort out the anti-vax stuff properly (not having a science background), and figured that ‘where there is smoke, there must be fire’. I finally figured out that there is no fire in this case, but I put my dd at risk in the meantime and we are still catching her up on her shots – which she finds traumatic. Would have been so much easier to do them as an infant.
    Disclaimer, though – we are skipping varicella (for now) and influenza, and didn’t do Prevnar. Other than that she will be “fully vaxed” by K. Any future children will be vaxed as infants although I will probably skip the Hep B birth dose.

  5. The book mentioned (which I’ve mostly read but keep getting distracted from finishing – I got the eBook and can only read it on my very stationary puter) is really very good at explaining the vaccine issue to the intelligent layperson. I wonder if the authors would grant me the rights to translate it into Hebrew…

    Elizabeth, if I may ask – why not the Hep B birth dose? (I have a post on the hep B vaccine, if you haven’t read it yet).

  6. Lisa– I actually asked Esther the same thing about delaying/separating the vaccines. I look forward to what she digs up. Here’s a link to an interview that discusses why it’s probably not a good idea to separate or delay, but I am sure more could be said:

    http://www.cookiemag.com/entertainment/2008/07/vaccine_experts

    Alas in finest point-counterpoint fashion the next page has an interview with the discredited Jay Gordon advocating separation. I do think the Offit interview is a good start to understanding some of the science that goes into the vaccine schedule as it currently exists.

    My area has had a pertussis outbreak and a measles one. I would really kick myself if I hadn’t vaccinated my child and she were exposed to one of these outbreaks.

  7. Thanks, WonderingWilla! I’ll check that out!

    We had a measles outbreak in my city at the beginning of this year. My son had already had his first MMR at 18 months, but they gave him a booster at his 3 year old visit just to be safe. I was relieved because I had a brand new baby, and I was worried that she’d get it!

  8. Bring on the separate vaccine discussion! This comes up all the time. I actually think it could be more problematic than not vaccinating at all, in some ways. Most people so far do vaccinate but they worry. This seems like a reasonable compromise to many people. It’s bad on so many levels. It’s based on nothing but magical thinking, it’s never been studied (to my knowledge) and it means no one really knows which children are vaccinated and which aren’t. And then there are all the charlatans who promote the theory, provide the separate vaccines – usually not covered by insurance.

  9. As long as we’re all acting as Esther’s muses, maybe work in the egg allergy objection to vaccines. I have heard this as a reason for not getting the flu shot, but is the MMR also incubated using eggs or egg derived media?

  10. My son is allergic to eggs, and diary products (no doubt some divine retribution for all the times I rolled my eyes when people told me their infants were “lactose intolerant”). He had his MMR and egg culture wasn’t an issue. The flu shot was a different story. He’s 3 now but he’s had them for two years because he has asthma. What we do is have the vaccine administered at the clinic where he’s treated for his allergies.

    There is no way to predict how much egg makes it into the vaccine but as they give the vaccine and observe the reactions they get a bit of a feel for it. There were less reactions to the European manufactured vaccine last year, for instance. Luckily my son has always been fine.

  11. Nancy pretty much summed up current knowledge about egg allergy by relating her son’s experience: the MMR is OK to give even with egg allergy. For flu vaccine, in case of severe allergic reactions to eggs, you need to give the vax under close medical supervision and preferably use a vaccine preparation with the lowest amount of egg protein remnant as possible.

    The only other vaccine AFAIK that has egg issues is the Yellow Fever one, which isn’t relevant to most of us, thankfully…

  12. BTW, I’m waiting to read Dr. Sears’ Vaccine Book before I comment on the separate/selective vaccination issue. I have the pages where he talks about the regimens he proposes, but there was other stuff he wrote there which makes me want to read his rationale (if there is one) in full as to the timing. It almost sounded as if he were humoring some of his more neurotic patients in the book as opposed to it being his best medical opinion, but his blog and his other writings don’t make it sound like that…so I want to understand his argument fully before I smash it 😀 .

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