Disclaimer #1:  This is not a food-related post

Disclaimer #2: I am taking my gloves off

Few things upset me more than the disturbing movement to stop vaccinating babies and kids. For a while now I’ve been debating whether I should write about it. Having watched an episode of Frontline the other day that dealt with the subject, and almost succumbing to cardiac arrest while screaming at the screen, I decided I cannot stay silent any longer. First of all, let me get this straight out up front: I have a doctoral degree in Biochemistry, three years post-doctoral experience in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at Stanford, and I taught Microbiology to Medical students in Brazil at Universidade de Sao Paulo. I also worked for about 10 years on basic research into the biotechnology of vaccines.   I’m not bragging, but I am stating my experience, that hopefully will convince you to read what I want to say,  especially if you are part of the non-vaccination crowd.  And, by the way, if you are part of this group YOU ARE WRONG. There is no equivocation or debate on this point: the truth is not subject to a democratic process.  It’s not a matter of opinion, personal choice or civil liberties. It’s a matter of what is right versus what is wrong. What is responsible versus what is reckless.  The anti-vaccine position cannot be intellectually or ethically justified, and it is morally wrong.  When the health of children is at stake, then morality becomes an issue.

I don’t criticize anyone for ignorance of a topic (and this is a complicated topic), but a parent doesn’t have the right to put the lives of their, or anyone else’s children at risk because of their ignorance.  If you are anti-vaccine, then you are ignoring over 100 years of research on immunology and microbiology.   I am not going to mince words here, because this is a subject that is too serious to mince words:  the anti-vaccine movement is socially irresponsible.  Anti-vaccine advocates deny both the mortal risk of bacterial or viral infections, and by their actions they potentially commit a crime: the crime of resurrecting horrible diseases that would otherwise, and should otherwise,  stay as nightmares of the past.


Measles cases from 2001 through 2015: from this source


If you watch the Frontline episode you’ll become acquainted with a young mother from Ashland, OR, who is clueless about microbiology and immunology.  This woman, who has a doctorate in English, was so mistaken in her arguments that it shocked me that the producers devoted more than a few minutes to her reasoning. I will use her “arguments” to highlight the crucial points of this discussion.  I’m quoting from memory, because I can’t bring myself to watch the show again, but even if the words are not exactly what she said, I  preserved the gist.  You can trust me on that point, and you can watch the show if you’d like to double check it.

“Why are we vaccinating kids today with so many vaccines, when previous generations had fewer vaccines and they were ok?” Oh, dear…  I could answer that with three simple words: BECAUSE WE CAN. Because more vaccines became available over the past two generations.  Because we should immunize with even more vaccines as they become available. Because no one born in this country after the 80’s should risk contracting measles. Or mumps. No one born after the 60’s should contract poliomyelitis, tetanus, or diptheria; no one born after the 80’s must face bacterial meningitis.  Or any other infectious disease for which a vaccine is available.

“Why would I vaccinate my young girl against a sexually transmitted disease (Human Papilloma Virus, HPV) when obviously she’s not sexually active and won’t be for many years?” Oh, dear…  If you bothered to study Immunology 101, a subject that you are so quick to misrepresent, you would learn that immunity begins during the first encounter with a pathogen (or its selected components), but must be reinforced (boosted) by subsequent encounters, which explains why some vaccines are repeated over   months or years. It’s all part of generating special cells called “memory B-cells” that stay in the bloodstream in very low numbers, awaiting another encounter with the specific pathogen (or in this case a small part of the pathogen, loosely defined as an “antigen”) to show up. Once in contact with the pathogen again, memory B cells  proliferate and generate a huge quantity of neutralizing antibodies that will prevent you from becoming sick.  Another, more complex “arm” of the immune response, “cellular immunity,” also plays a role in protection against infection, but let’s not get too technical.  Different vaccines promote immunity for different amounts of time, and require different doses and boosting schedules. In the case of the HPV vaccine,  preteens develop a stronger response than teens and young adults, and for HPV vaccines to take effect they must be given prior to exposure to the virus.  That’s why doctors recommend vaccinating young kids, as early as 9 years-old.  They do not imply that your daughter could be having sex at age 9. It’s all about optimization of immunity.  And let’s not forget that infections with HPV lead to higher rates of cervical and ovarian cancer later in life, so the vaccine has a purpose and  a positive effect on human health.

(Galileo Galilei, 1663)

“Why do we need to vaccinate against polio? There is no more polio around!”  The expression on her face was one of “I am so clever, see how I gotcha with that?” You know what her remark made me think of? Someone who might have asked 200 years ago: “…is the Earth moving around the sun? Of course it’s  not!  I would feel it moving if it moved. I am so clever, see how I gotcha with that?”  The reason we do not see polio in the US anymore is simple: comprehensive vaccination reduced the number of people who may contract the virus and spread it.  Is a vaccine 100% efficient? No, such vaccines don’t exist because the complexities of each individual immune system may prevent some people from responding to a particular vaccine.  If a small fraction of the population is not protected, it’s usually OK, even when the virus is around, and chances are no one will get sick.  So, if someone comes to New York from Pakistan (where polio is still endemic), bringing with him/her the virus in an airplane,  and walks around in the city for a couple of weeks, it’s likely that no one will contract the disease because the vaccination campaign started in the 1960’s provided solid immunity to almost all New Yorkers.   Now, suppose instead that the person lands in Portland, OR,  and travels to the Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, OR, where the percentage of un-vaccinated individuals is much higher. In Ashland a bunch of people (full of good intentions, but clueless about the relationship between immunology and health) are busy waving flags and demanding that their kids be spared from dictatorial, mandatory vaccinations. You will have a much, much higher chance that some innocent un-vaccinated child  will contract polio in Ashland.  And because many kids are not immunized in that community, it could mark the beginning of a polio outbreak.   For heaven’s sake, what would Louis Pasteur say about this if he could   witness it all? At first he would be thrilled to see that the work he started in France with rabies and fowl cholera paid off:  vaccination saved millions of lives, improved the quality of life of people all over the world, and at a very low cost.  But then he’d be shocked, frustrated, and angry to realize the lack of a vaccine against arrogance, stubbornness and social irresponsibility. And, malheureusement, that the internet is an equal-opportunity forum that allows stupid ideas to thrive. Especially if they are fueled by human emotions. More on that later.

“Why is it now a problem to get sick? Disease is a natural thing, people should get sick and allowed to recover.  Vaccines are not natural.”  Oh, dear… This statement almost made me lose it. The sheer absurdity of it, the social irresponsibility, the disconnection with the reality of what such diseases cause to human beings.   The words hurt my ears.  But, that’s what she (and other anti-vaccine folks) advocate. Poliomyelitis causes permanent paralysis in 10 to 20% of the people infected. In the house next to mine in São Paulo lived a couple with two kids.  One of them contracted polio as a young child and was permanently confined to a wheelchair.  I remember seeing him on sunny days being brought by his mom to the balcony so he could sit and watch the street.   One of my husband’s best friends, here in the US in Lansing MI, had polio.  He couldn’t run; he walked with steel leg braces and two steel canes, one in each hand.  He was forever sentenced to watching all the play, sports and games of his friends and classmates.   Some images are hard to forget. But nowadays we don’t see these cases anymore.  Still, you don’t have to see them to be horrified by the prospect of a young child paralyzed for life.  And that is what the statement “let them get sick” can do to someone.  Today, in 2015, measles kills 400 people worldwide per day. It’s a death that affects the un-vaccinated rich and poor alike, the well-fed and the malnourished. I can’t comprehend an intelligent person advocating “let them get sick.”  I am the one who’s sick: sick and tired of people equating “natural” with “good.”  Sure, it a potentially good concept, but also potentially naive, and in the case of the anti-vaccine movement, it’s a potentially deadly concept that borders on criminal.

Pertussis_loresBaby suffering from whooping cough – image from Wikimedia 

Now, to the heart of this matter. Why all of a sudden do we witness such a strong pull away from one of THE most beneficial practices in the history of human health, probably matched only by water treatment and antibiotics? It all started with autism and the suspicion that vaccination was responsible for the increase in cases of this horrible illness. To add fuel to the fire, a SINGLE article published in a scientific journal (The Lancet) in 1998 suggested a link between MMR immunization and autism. Many of the most vocal people against vaccination have autistic children, and some state that the onset of the symptoms coincided with their immunization.  One of the “celebrities” who is most aggressive at pushing this agenda is Jenny McCarthy.  I understand she has an autistic boy and and she believes that MMR vaccination caused his illness.  I sympathize with her and his suffering and struggles, as well as those of other parents and children, but that doesn’t make them right. THEY ARE WRONG.  The connection between autism and vaccination was bogus.  It was subsequently extensively studied by many independent groups of scientists in many different countries and laboratories.  Andrew Wakefield, the author of the infamous article connecting vaccination and autism, was rebuked for conflicts of interest,  had his paper retracted and was barred from practicing medicine in the UK.   Can you smell fraud?  The problem is that even in the light of comprehensive scientific evidence to the contrary (summarized here),  disproving ANY connection between vaccination and autism, the anti-vaccine advocates won’t budge. When the articles mounted disconnecting the measles vaccine as a culprit, they changed their focus to its mercury-containing component thimerosal, that was used in the formulation of some of the original MMR vaccines  (current vaccines, BTW do not contain any mercury). When thimerosal was also proven to have nothing to do with autism, they said that the problem was “… too many vaccines are given at the same time.”   The sad reality is this: no amount of scientific evidence is enough to convince those people that their kids did not develop the disease because of vaccination. In fact, in that Frontline episode one father screamed “I don’t give a (expletive) about their data!.” So, instead of accepting that for the time being it is unknown why autism is increasing, and that vaccination has zero impact on it, they follow their gut feelings. From watching the program and reading comments on the internet, I realize that anti-vaccine advocates resist logic and believe instead that scientists are for the most part unethical, and have some hidden financial agenda to hide problems with vaccination.  Nothing could be farther from the truth. Epidemiological studies do not lie:  the numbers are analyzed and correlations made or not made. Anti-vaccine advocates are potentially diverting the focus of scientists from research that may ultimately explain the increases in autism, because they insist like Ms. McCarthy  “we just want them to do the research that is needed.”   In their minds, “research that is needed” are studies that prove a connection they firmly believe in. Otherwise, they will ignore it and fight it. Gut feelings rule.  Fake publications, that are retracted, and the author stripped of his medical license, mean absolutely nothing.   Mr. Wakefield should go to trial because he is indirectly responsible for many preventable illnesses and deaths.

Final words on the importance of vaccination. When you are sick with a bacterial infectious disease, you can take antibiotics to get rid of it. The antibiotic will do good for you, but only you. The beauty of vaccination is that when a person is immunized then others share the benefits,  including individuals that are un-vaccinated. Think about newborns, about those undergoing cancer treatment, or suffering from immuno-suppression of some type. The mechanism behind this side-benefit is called “herd immunity”. When a large enough proportion of individuals in a population becomes immune to an infectious disease (either viral or bacterial), the disease will have difficulty spreading.  In other words, even those non-vaccinated persons get protection by the low probability of encountering the pathogen.  Now, what anti-vaccine advocates seem to think is that their kids don’t need to be vaccinated because other “fools” are doing it, so their kids will be OK by default.  However, herd immunity will not be maintained unless the proportion of immunized people is kept at the target level. This proportion is not hocus-pocus, it’s a carefully calculated number, based on the infectivity of each pathogen. The index used for this calculation is called “Reproductive Number” and reflects the measure of how many people can potentially be infected by a single sick individual. For measles, a highly contagious disease, this number is around 15. Mathematical calculations using the Reproductive Number show that for measles, a level of immunization of around 90 to 95% is required to sustain herd immunity.  Less than that, and the disease will not be kept at bay. You can read more about how the calculations are made by clicking here.

Using predictions of infectivity based on poliovirus, this is what The World Health Organization has to say:  “As long as a single child remains infected, children in all countries are at risk of contracting polio. Failure to eradicate polio from the last remaining strongholds could result in as many as 200,000 new cases every year, within 10 years, all over the world”.

When anti-vaccine advocates preach their illogical stance on this issue, they are acting irresponsibly. Some communities of the USA risk paying a huge price for accommodating such requests and making exceptions due to religious beliefs or gut feelings like  “vaccines cause autism.”  If a serious outbreak of measles, polio, or pertussis takes place, what will those folks say in their own defense? Will they finally admit to being wrong? What good will that do for young parents losing their babies? For kids dying or being affected forever?  If you are ready to go to the streets waving flags and acting hysterically against immunization, you better be ready to stand up and say “I helped create this episode of human suffering and debilitation” when a serious outbreak takes place.  And unfortunately, unless firm action is take by those authorities on the correct side of the issue, I’m afraid it will be just a matter of time before we see the ugly face of an outbreak, in cities like Ashland, OR.







108 thoughts on “VENTING ON VACCINES

  1. Sally, with luck, and just a gentle push from your friends and admirers, this just might go viral. Thank you for writing and posting this.


      • What is viral is the ignorance of people that argue pro or anti vaccinations from a “I’m qualified, therefore you’re wrong, or I’m against it before the information is presented in an honest way.” Either way, you’re post is opinion you are entitled to. That being said, there are legitimate questions about vaccinations and anyone who understands how science and capitalism work should recognize the need to further undergo studies that are funded without benefit. I have a BA in molecular biology, and my interest in the anti-vaccine movement is not from a vaccines are the problem perspective. It comes from a, there are compounds in the vaccines that should not be, for any reason. The schedule of vaccines is questionable and the WHY NOT?? attitude suggests that we should stay the effects of exposure to so many more at such early developmental stages before hand. It’s bad science and bad ethics to promote such an ignorant approach. Sorry Sally, I wish I had stumbled across your post sooner, but you need to consider more than experiential evidence in your promotion of such ideas. I hope you consider doing some research with an open mind.


        • I can assure you that Sallybr understands how science works. She trained at Stanford and the Pasteur Institute and has over 50 scientific publications. Further, to accuse her of “bad ethics” is laughable.


          • Thanks for jumping in, CIndy.. This comment hit me at a bad time, I feel quite tired and frustrated and impotent about too many things. Great articles have been written addressing specific concerns of “over-immunizing” kids, debunking the criticisms, but apparently no amount of reasoning and logic will get to some of the folks who somehow believe that the scientific consensus is a conspiracy. And scientists are all married to Big Pharma. Gives me a chuckle. BUt not a good chuckle. A tired, very tired one….


            • The illogical content of her reply probably did not warrant a response but I could not help but to defend your experience, accomplishments, and morality.


                • Good call to not waste your time trying to provide facts to someone whose beliefs are not based in fact. Intelligent, logical people are capable of changing a previously held opinion when presented with facts. People whose beliefs are rooted in dogma do not care about facts.


  2. Wow! Thank you for such a wonderfully factual post. I’m rather speechless but am so impressed with your info. I’m an OB/Gyn nurse with over 33 years experience and am astounded that there are parents who would risk their own child’s life and the lives of countless others by not vaccinating their children. “Disease is natural”! Oh please !!! Child car seat restraints and seat belts aren’t “natural” either, so why bother with them. Because they save lives!!! Children can and do die from complications from childhood diseases. Who in their right mind would knowingly endanger another living being when it can be so easy prevented? Thank you, thank you, thank you for taking the time to write this article. I’ll come back tomorrow for recipes but for today you’ve given the best recipe of all…how to keep our children safe…common sense friends!


      • I met a woman at a book club who was, quite miserably, suffering during one of our meetings. Something seemed to hit her all at once when her face contorted showing visible signs of pain. We all stopped what we were doing to assist her.and during that exchange discovered she had been one of the last people in the United States to contract polio. She hadn’t suffered much as a child when she got the disease but at this stage in her life the polio had come back with a vengeance and was far worse than it had been when she was a child. No one asked how she felt about her rotten luck to be one of the last people, in that era, not vaccinated from polio. How could you? We all make mistakes in judgment from time to time but when a child becomes sick from a disease that could have been prevented from a vaccination that is no accident. That’s a poor choice. Usually we’re held accountable for people we injure while making poor choices.


  3. When I was on rotation in the ER of Children’s Hospital of Michigan, I saw a young child paralyzed from the waist down from polio. When asked, his mother admitted that he had not been vaccinated against polio. The reason? Back then, the Sabin oral polio vaccine was in a sugar cube. The mother did not give her kid the vaccine because she was worried the sugar cube would give him cavities.


  4. AMEN sister!! You are preaching to the choir with me. Anyone who would put their child at risk for getting a disease that has killed SO MANY PEOPLE in the past should be looked into by child protective services. The kid is going to have to worry for the REST OF THEIR LIVES about possibly dying from one of these illnesses. Crazy. And as for the HPV vaccine, I think it’s incredibly naive of any parent to think their child is NEVER going to have sex and so won’t need the vaccine OR think that because their child had the vaccine they’re going to purposefully engage in unprotected sex (or sex in general). I mean, if a parent just tells the child they’re getting a vaccine against a virus that could give them cancer, why does sex even have to be mentioned? So many frustrations all around.


  5. YOU ROCK!!! my husband reminded me we are fighting against the minority now ~ that the Minority drives every argument, no matter how wrong it is. Keep it up, fight the good fight and we will fight with you on this!!


    • So true! We are fighting against a minority that makes a huge amount of noise. And celebrities have an impact that us unattractive scientists with thick glasses and our absent-minded ways cannot seem to compete with (stereotypes, I know, but hard to overcome)


  6. I saw the same Frontline episode and Gus and I were screaming at the TV as well. I was one of those people who COULDN’T be vaccinated for a year after my transplant, and I was terrified to travel or be around groups of children until I was well enough to get vaccinated (at the one year mark). Of course I was fully vaccinated as a child, but with a new immune system, I needed to be re-vaccinated to ensure my safety. I was thrilled to get my vaccines again! I can’t imagine what that would be like for a small child going through the same ordeal as me – I could remove myself from public spaces and avoid airplanes and travel, but for a child it would have been a completely different situation. No school? Or sports? Or hanging out with groups of friends? Those mothers on Frontline were so ignorant and selfish – basically saying that NO ONE mattered to them other that their own children. That they really didn’t give a flying fig about herd immunity or the idea of social responsibility or ensuring the safety of the general public. So now their own children are at risk, and they’ve just endangered the lives of all those children who don’t have the option of vaccinating for medical reasons. So selfish, so wrong.

    And as you mentioned before – this conspiracy theory that the medical community and researchers are money grubbing pawns in some sick game to fleece the American public into inadvertently padding the pockets of the pharmaceutical industry by needlessly vaccinating their children – how do people believe that?! How?!! The doctors and researchers I know are so passionate about their work – to even insinuate as much is ludicrous.

    Frontline either makes me sob uncontrollably or scream at the TV – there’s really no in between. It’s such a wonderful program though. Thank you for taking the time to write this post and I hope that at least one person who is anti-vaccine or on the fence will think twice or change their mind as a result. Love to you Sally!


  7. Thank you Sally. I first encountered the choice of not vaccinating back in 1996 when I was teaching in a communal living culture. It was a very small community and I simply announced to the parents at our shared lunchtime about the scheduled appointment. When one of the two parents told me their choice I was stunned and shocked, but invited them to come and at least talk or listen to the nurse. I can only hope it strengthened the resolve of the parent who chose to immunize as I believe at that time she was the only one of 6 families that did. But it seems almost impossible to change the minds of those that have taken the non- immunization route. I did have a special relationship with those parents and to this day I regret not being able to better state all that you’ve said here. I was touched when the one parent who didn’t immunize came back later and tried to explain her choice. I could only simply say that she was putting her child at risk. I was overwhelmed by all her supposed sources and when I questioned their reliability, she calmly stated, “I simply cannot believe that there are people in this world who would deliberately lie about something so important to our children”. Again I was stunned at the simplicity of that thinking but felt powerless to debate it. I have longed for people like you to better articulate what we so strongly feel.


  8. Sally, here’s a standing ovation from DH and I. Dh
    Is a hospital and clinical pharmacist and I am an Rn.
    The ignorance displayed by the anti-vaccine movement is astounding.

    Who could live with causing a child to be paralyzed?

    MY I have your permission to post your post on my Facebook page.?


  9. Well said, we need your article front line and center to take a stand once and for all against these morons! We, too, have a friend that had a “milder” case of polio (he’s just a bit older so the vaccination wasn’t available yet) and we are now seeing a rapid degeneration in his physical abilities and were wondering just the other night if he’ll be in a wheelchair soon. The side-effects of these diseases are devastating. Thank you for sharing your wealth of knowledge.


  10. I was born in 1940, before vaccines were available against measles, mumps, rubella, polio. I remember my mother keeping the house dark for six weeks because one of the three of us would contract some disease and give it to the other two. My best friend in high school got polio, and she walks with braces and canes. I got the polio vaccine when it came out, and I get the flu vaccine and pneumonia vaccine once a year. I’m sure my mother would rather I had the vaccine than “childhood diseases” (as they were called them). I cannot understand people putting their children and the children of others at risk because of some unfounded fear of autism.


    • Unfortunately the new generation of parents has NO CLUE about the seriousness of these diseases. To witness a young child trying to breathe while sick with whopping cough is one of the most horrific things to witness. “Let them get sick”. I swear….


  11. The first case of measles in Oklahoma in 22 years was just diagnosed in Stillwater. The person had been at Will Rogers Airport, potentially exposing many.


  12. Thank you for saying this. I too am outraged by this, but I don’t have the same credentials with my degrees being in economics and accounting. I had a mother who survived polio and she cried when the vaccine became available. I also have a nephew on the autism spectrum, and the 1st time we saw his interaction with anybody other than my sister we knew there was a problem. He was only 10 days old and it was obvious that something was wrong.


    • One of the complexities of this issue is that the time in which many kids develop symptoms coincides with the age in which vaccines are administered. In my mind, for parents of autistic kids, the issue becomes similar to folks who had loved ones murdered and a suspected killer is found. Once they are convinced that person is guilty, often evidence collected later that sheds doubt or even proves the convicted innocence is disregarded. It is almost as if they rather have an innocent person convicted so they can move on with the feeling of “case closed” than going through the whole process of solving the crime. For parents of autistic kids, they get desperate to find the cause and act as if the cause has been already found. I can understand where they are coming from, but they are still WRONG.


  13. Deb, it is all about how much trust can you place on the info present in a website. The ONLY way to assess risks and benefits of a drug or vaccine is through epidemiological studies, that are conducted by scientists and published in peer-reviewed journals. Is it possible that bad data gets published? Yes, and the measles connection to autism in The Lancet is one example. However, bad data never sits for too long, because particularly in subjects as important as human health, research never stops, and nothing pleases more a scientist than proving another scientist wrong (well, this is said tongue-in-cheek).

    any drug to be approved goes through basically three phases of testing, in which the number of individuals is increased at each phase. During Phase I, small groups of people receive the drug/vaccine. Phase II is a little bigger, and finally in Phase III, the vaccine is given to thousands of people and tested for efficacy and safety. The standard to get approval for a human vaccine are TREMENDOUSLY high. However, obviously the final long term test is when vaccination campaigns start and millions of people are immunized. That’s when very rare complications can be found and when found need to be stated in the safety sheet of a vaccine (or drug). I repeat: epidemiological studies are THE ONLY WAY to access risks and establish a possible connection between immunization and a health problem.

    In his colorful and catchy website, this osteopathic doctor claims that “Compelling evidence shows the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine can raise your risk of brain autoimmune disorders, such as multiple sclerosis.

    Well, let’s see what research has been actually conducted on it – and The World Health Organization concluded that there is NO connection between HPV vaccination and autoimmune disorders. Based on very extensive epidemiological data from multiple sources.

    Just to quote one of the studies: Examples of such studies include a register-based cohort study in Sweden and Finland that included almost 1 million girls aged 10–17 years, among whom almost 300 000 were vaccinated against HPV.12 The study investigated whether vaccination was associated with an increased risk of autoimmune, neurological or thromboembolic events. The study results did not show evidence of any association between exposure to HPV vaccine and autoimmune, neurological, and venous thromboembolic adverse events.

    So, you see the problem here? Anyone can create a website with the “compelling evidence” thing blinking on your face, but it must be up to a reader to go further and look at serious scientific data out there. It is ALL OUT THERE, by the way, the easiest site to get your answers from is obviously THE WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION.

    Maybe I should work on a second article on this subject, dealing with specific vaccines and all the research on their safety and efficacy. But, finding the time to do that is a bit of an issue (sigh)


  14. Thank you Sally for such a clear straightforward advocacy for vaccines. I hope it gets posted far and wide.

    Those who say let the kids get sick never had any of these diseases themselves and perhaps even their parents were born after measles and polio vaccines were available. I was born in 1946 and remember how sick my sister and I were from measles. I had to spend weeks in a dark room because even a little light was painful. Chickenpox was miserable for me, but my eighteen-month-old son was hospitalized with it, and the doctors thought he might die. My mother, born 1905, used to talk about how horribly sick she was from whooping cough as a small child. One of her brothers died of measles at age two. Four! of my great-grandfather’s siblings died of tetanus. Diphtheria took others.

    These anti-vaxers should look at their family histories and see how many of their relatives died of these diseases that we can now prevent.


    • Thank you, Rita… I must say that of all the monstrosities mentioned in the show, the one that made me go for writing this post was the “let them get sick”. It made my stomach turn.

      Since obviously no one would advocate something so cruel unless the person is ignorant of facts, I decided to sit down and write.


  15. Brava! And she can cook, too!

    Believe it or not, there is also a movement about not vaccinating your dog. Someone gave me a pamphlet and I tossed it out. I guess I should have read it to at least find out what the heck they are thinking and peddling.


  16. Well said Sally..will repost said it so much better than I could.When I was a young nurse I looked after a wonderful young man who developed polio – at the time when vaccine was new and being given only to children..I will never forget his struggles.It makes me so upset to hear what people are saying about problems with vaccine.Bravo!! Barb


  17. Reblogged this on CoffeeGrounded's Blog and commented:
    I met Sally in the Blogshere several years ago. We were up to our elbows in bread flour, learning all we could about sourdough breadmaking. Today she isn’t blogging about bread, but comes front and center, discussing the need for child vaccines.
    Sally is an expert in this field. (She encourages us to share her knowledge with others. I highly recommend that you do.)

    Thank you.☕️


  18. Hear, hear! I couldn’t agree with you more Sally. Imagine how dreadful if smallpox for example were once again to be rife in the community. I only hope that the right people will be reading this – most of us are probably on the same song sheet.


    • Ann, the problem is that even if they are reading, I doubt anything can make most of them change their minds. It is a strange phenomenon, but if I could convince just a few people, maybe they can get better access to others


  19. Sally, I’m so glad to see you weigh in on this important topic with such well-articulated research and analysis. Thank you.

    You identify an issue with some of the news media today: they strive to present “balance,” representing all sides of any disagreement as if all sides have equally valid opinions. Pieces like the one that you describe suggest, falsely, that the anti-vaxxers “have a point,” when all they really have is ignorance.


    • Exactly. ONe of the comments I read in the Frontline website was of someone complaining that the anti-vaxxers were not given the same amount of exposure – and that was wrong because “clearly” the pro-vaccines are all in bed with the big Pharma etc etc etc…. It is shocking and infuriating.


  20. Hi Sally,

    One of Orac’s minions here from RI and I have to admit that I was wary of your article (as I am with all links to self in comments) but you had me at, “Disclaimer #2: I am taking my gloves off”. Well written and probably more accessible than most of Orac’s stuff. Even more interesting (to me at least) were the comments here. Two things stood out to me:

    1. Either you have a fantastic reader base or truly most people are pro-vaccine/science (probably both in this case😉. I think when reading about these illogical antivaxxers and assorted other quacks every day I become somewhat blind to the reality that this really is a minority position. A very vocal minority, but a minority nonetheless. Back in realityland I’ve only ever met 2 antivaxxers: one a 2nd or 3rd degree relative of my mother’s friend and the other the mother of a patient.

    2. Expanding on some points from 1, the SBM/skeptics blogging community might be more of an echo chamber than I recognize (maybe because that’s more similar than is comfortable). One commenter, Gabi, said “If only we had more voices like Sally’s to advocate causes of this importance!” When I read that I thought, “really? But this is what everyone is saying. Orac makes these points once a week at least it seems like.” On further reflection I realized that should actually read, “But this is what everyone I read is saying.” I imagine most people have never heard of Orac, SkepticalRaptor, ScienceMom, the SBM guys etc and, at least for myself, that’s easy to forget.

    Anyways, thanks for fighting the good fight amd exposing more people to good science about vaccines.

    P.S. a slightly modified version of this comment is cross posted at RI

    P.P.S your recipe index looks amazing. Especially the braised lamb shanks Bartolini style. I’ve had a craving for lamb for a while and was on the lookout for a good recipe. I’ll post some pictures when I get around to trying it.


    • THanks for stopping by and taking the time to leave such a detailed comment! I think that in part the fact that my site is a food blog, it doesn’t get the same influx of people who are ready to fight sites like SkepticalRaptor ( one of my favorites), Orac, and the like.

      I expected some comments from anti-vaxxers here, but so far, they are keeping to themselves… oh, well…


  21. Here from Orac’s place – Loved it! I especially enjoyed your explanation of B cells and the need for early vaccination against HPV, which could be much better understood in the general population.


    • THank you, Robert! There are actually quite a few extra points that I could have made about vaccines – one of them is the need to cause “a little inflammation” to get an immune response. This would be actually a very tricky subject to explain, because the moment anti-vaxxers see the word “inflammation” they would equate it with HARM, and be all over the subject. But if there is no inflammatory response”, there is no immune response mounted. So that is one of the reason why adjuvants such as alum are used – some vaccine formulations without an adjuvant do not generate a strong enough response.


    • Mike, I hope your sister reads it, and let her know that she can contact me by email or through the blog in case of further questions. Thanks for sharing with her, this is really one topic I am very worried about.


  22. Thank you, Sally. Another of Orac’s minions here. Brace yourselves, everyone, I’m almost as prolix as he is.

    Countering antivax BS has become my retirement project. I too was screaming at the TV when Jennifer M was babbling that nonsense. If I’m not mistaken, though, she was referring to newborns being vaccinated against “a sexually transmitted disease.” This is one of the first arrows antivax activists pull out of the quiver. She was referring, I’m sure, to the Hepatitis B series, which is started almost at birth.

    It bothered me that this was never specifically countered by Frontline. Hep B is primarily transmitted by sex or IV drug use, but 30-40% of those who get it have no known risk factors. It is spread by blood and saliva, two body fluids expressed in abundance at day–care centers. The virus is very hardy; it can survive a week or more on waterproof surfaces. It is often asymptomatic, and can be transmitted at birth from mother to infant. It can be devastating if contracted by a toddler.

    I lived through two polio epidemics. We were barely allowed out of the house in those summers. We couldn’t go to the swimming pool or the nearby amusement park. When the Salk vaccine was released, mothers wept with relief; we stood in a long line to get it. Some of my schoolmates had drawn the short straw, though, and contracted it before the vaccine was available; braces, crutches and withered limbs were not uncommon.

    I had chickenpox when I was a toddler. I remember being miserable, and my mother putting my tiny Christmas boxing gloves on me to keep me from scratching. I had measles at the age of 10 or 11, about which I don’t remember much except being kept in a darkened room at Granddad’s Oregon ranch. I didn’t have any serious complications, but I remember being told that both Granddad and Gamma had lost siblings to the disease. I didn’t get mumps or rubella, so I’m going to ask for an MMR next time I’m at Kaiser so that I’m pulling my immunological weight in the community.

    “capnkrunch” mentioned the echo chamber. The real echo chamber exists on the antivax side. I’ve lost track of how many Facebook pages and blogs I’ve been banned from, and the discussion on the page of California state senator Dr Richard Pan, who has introduced a bill to ban “personal belief” exemptions, sometimes makes no sense to me because pro-science people are responding to comments I can’t see because their authors have blocked me. I’m actually kind of proud that I got blocked by Dr Bob Sears after one polite post questioning a false assertion.

    OK, I’ve slain enough electrons. Thanks again, and I’ll be sharing.


    • Your electrons are more than fine with me! Loved your input, and thanks for that bit on the hepatitis B virus – honestly, I could not bring myself to watch that episode again, and got more or less stuck on the idea of the HPV as the one she was talking about. Oh, well…

      I am glad you can devote more time and energy to this issue – I want to write more about it, but it is hard when I must go on with my “regular job” and blogging is supposed to be “just” a hobby…


  23. Glad you can vocalize all these thoughts. I can’t go beyond calling people idiots and cannot understand why anyone would refuse to vaccinate their kids.


    • That is the thing – part of me screams they are idiots but you cannot stop there, and that is not really enough to explain it. They have roots in good intentions, protecting their kids, and “fighting big pharma” – but in this particular fight, they are wrong, and need to be convinced. Even if only 1, 2, 5% of them can see the light, it is our job to try and do it….


  24. Thank you so much for speaking up about this issue. Pre chickenpox vaccine days, if some child at the kindergarten came down with Chickenpox, I often heard parents ask,” Can I bring my kids around so that they will catch it?” I thought this was bizzare as it was such a nasty illness. Thank goodness we can spare children and unvaccinated adults, from that. And I have noticed the anti-vaccination movement gathering momentum here as well. They really don’t know how easy they have it. Back in the dark days when infant mortality was so high is that where we are heading…. is that what they wish to return to? [head shaking] At least the government here refuses to allow a rebate on child care costs to those parents who have not had their children vaccinated. That is swaying some doubters.


  25. Reblogged this on (formerly) Musings of a Kitchen Witch and commented:
    When it comes to parenting, I’m very laissez faire about what other people do with their own children, with a few exceptions…and this is one of them. My mother has been a nurse for longer than I have been alive and I work in public health (and before that I as a hospital corpsman) with a degree in biology. I can think of no single more irresponsible act as a parent, when it comes the health and welfare of your own child and their peers, than to choose not to vaccinate.

    While I’m pretty sure this will offend some, I feel so strongly about this that I not only think that children whose parents choose not to vaccinate (something different from being unable to vaccinate for medical reasons) should not be allowed in public schools. Additionally, I think that parents who choose to not vaccinate should be held civilly (financially) and criminally (when it results in death or disability) responsible for what is nothing short of child endangerment. In all honesty (though it may lose me a few readers), I find it difficult to think any differently of parents that choose not to vaccinate than I do of parents that pray their children to death from treatable diseases, rather than seeking medical treatment.

    This is an excellently written post, that I emphatically approve of and agree with.


  26. Good on you for this post: if more people as well qualified to write on the topic did so, everyone would benefit.
    However …
    I firmly believe that the maniacs who are ‘convinced’ of the evils of immunisation will NEVER change their minds. The very fact that they are ‘convinced’ says it all: how much did it take to convince the morons ???!
    It’s a bit like the rusted-on supporters of political party: you can show ’em as many instances of appalling mis-management and corruption as you like, but nuthin is going to make ’em change their minds.


    • The most recent issue of National Geographic covers this frightening topic of people doubting science and sticking to their “intuition” or “beliefs” or “gut feelings” whatever you want to call it.

      I honestly don’t know what can be done about it – apart from trying to spread texts that take in account knowledge and facts and unbiased info. But I know it is an uphill battle.

      Liked by 1 person

        • I suppose that they feel they are being clever because they “see” what others do not – it’s all part of a conspiracy. In their eyes, that is. Dangerous fallacy. It is one thing to be skeptical and have an inquisitive mind. Another totally different thing is to ignore evidence and common sense.

          Liked by 1 person

  27. Reblogged this on Spiral Spun and commented:
    You know, I often prefer to choose the ‘natural’ health treatment before I resort to the pharmaceutical. But in many instances the medical and scientifically proven choice is, without doubt, the best. This is the case with vaccinations.

    We have forgotten what it is like to live with these debilitating and often deadly diseases. If ebola were to spread to our shores, of course we would vaccinate against it.

    Please read this excellent blog post. Please get your children vaccinated.


  28. To most Americans, the diseases we’re vaccinating our kids against today seem antiquated and harmless. So NOT true, as we found out on August 7, 2014 when we very nearly lost our completely healthy but undervaccinated 3yo son to what was probably Pneumococcal Pneumonia. After an emergency intubation at a small county hospital, he was lifelined in respiratory distress to a children’s hospital in our capital city, where he was the “sickest child in intensive care.” 6 days intubated, 9 days in intensive care, 11 days hospitalized total.

    The opening story in Chapter 1 of Seth Mnookin’s “The Panic Virus” (which I recently read) is eerily similar to ours.

    Critics of vaccines talk of too many shots “overwhelming” their kids’ “systems” … The “overwhelmed system” we saw was that of our son, hooked up to numerous machines, fighting for his life from an infection caused by a bacteria which could’ve been prevented by the Prevnar vaccine.


      • In a word: Consuming. To this day.

        The doctors said the “assault” on his lungs caused damage which took about 6 months to heal, which made for a very scary cold and flu season. This was the first year we ever got flu shots, but influenza would’ve been deadly to him after all that.

        He’s now almost completely caught up on his shots, as are the rest of our kids.

        And now, I’m telling other parents, because I don’t want it to take nearly losing (or losing) their kids to know what we now know.


        • Please feel free to share my article with whoever you think might profit from it. As you know, I feel very strongly about it, and think that this irresponsible movement to not vaccinate kids MUST STOP, must be dealt with head on.


          • Thank you and I will be glad to share your article. I live in one of those “pockets of the unvaccinated” you read about and the majority of families we know are either vaccine-hesitant or downright hostile about the issue. A friend took her 5yo to the chiropractor with a neck injury. Another one stitched up his 2yo’s lip after a fall — just to avoid the hospital. No, he is not a doctor (he’s a drug rep, ironically).


            • Troublesome times. It is one thing to criticize big pharma, there is a lot to criticize, although solutions are not as simplistic as one might think. Getting any drug approved for human use requires a fantastic amount of money and the companies need to make a profit if they are to exist. So, I am fine with criticisms of the way things get done. But to move away from all the progress made by occidental medicine in the name of home-made remedies and alternative practices, is a dangerous move, a slippery slope. The non-vaccination is worse than all other movements, I think, because it puts at risk whole populations.


  29. Regarding conspiracy theorists who claim that all the studies showing the safety and efficacy of vaccines are invalid because Big Pharma buys off all the scientists and doctors, I have this to say: The financial resources of the fossil fuel industry, Big Energy™ if you will, dwarf those of Big Pharma. Royal Dutch Shell alone had 2014 revenues equal to 90% of the top 15 pharma companies combined.

    Despite that, over 95% of the climate scientists currently working in the field are convinced that global warming is happening, the burning of fossil fuels is the primary cause, and that we need to stop doing that if we want our grandchildren to have decent lives.

    More than 95% of the researchers in the field of immunology, vaccinology and infectious disease agree on the safety and efficacy of vaccines. Do you think that medical researchers are exponentially more corruptible than climate scientists? I think that’s highly illogical.


    • Would it be too inappropriate if I said I love you? 😉

      Thanks, you said what I should have said in the body of my post… next time, I’ll make sure to include it all…


      • Just noticed you’d replied. Thank you, no offense taken whatsoever. If I’m not mistaken, this was the first time I’d taken that line of argument for a test lap around the track. It has drawn few if any responses from anti-vaxers. I’ve since added the fact that there are far fewer climatologists than med/pharma researchers, which probably adds at least another order of magnitude to the advantage of Big Oil buying shills for the industry.


  30. In terms of overall health, vaccinations harm infants more than they can help them, particularly when injected, as most are.

    To build a real true foundation of good infant, child, and human health the priorities should be nutrition, breastfeeding, minding the microbiome.

    Dr. Suzanne Humphries obliterates circulating vaccination dogma. protect infants from the harmful interference of vaccination.

    Dr. Suzanne Humphries obliterates circulating vaccination dogma, giving the ins and outs of the busine$$, policies and manufactured industry “$cience” of vaccinations. Protect infants from corporate greed/systemic psychopathy/bold-face lies.


    • You are so full of misconceptions that it’s not even funny. Your point of view is not only wrong from an intellectual and scientific point of view, it is also irresponsible. All the points you object to are covered in my article here and in many other sources that cover the topic of vaccination from a scientific standpoint – solid data. The fact that you use quotation marks to refer to science of vaccination shows quite well where you are coming from. A very uninformed and dark place. BOld face lies are what you are choosing to believe in, when you listen to people preaching against vaccines. Wake up and go study some immunology. From books, professors, not the university of google-what-I-want to believe in.


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