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Vaccination myths promoted by CNBC

Vaccination myths promoted by CNBC

Posted 3/4/2015

On 3 March 2015, the CNBC website featured a press release from the Weston A. Price Foundation containing several common vaccine myths and fallacies. The main thrust of the press release was that recently vaccinated people can spread disease, a lie that has been repeated regularly following the recent measles outbreak in the US.

In the face of this major outbreak of this dangerous disease, hosting such misinformation is irresponsible at best and dangerous at worst. Yet CNBC refused to remove the offending material, stating "These press releases do not reflect original reporting by or the editorial judgment of CNBC". A lack of editorial judgment is painfully obvious.

The press release gives the appearance of being a well-researched and accurate piece of writing, with a list of 23 references at the end. However, as is typical of the anti-vaccination movement, these sources have been cherry-picked, misrepresented and misquoted to support incorrect information.

This post reviews the claims made by the press release and compares them to the sources to reveal the truth behind the lies.

The press release starts by stating that "Physicians and public health officials know that recently vaccinated individuals can spread disease". No scientific research is cited in support of this. Instead, guidelines from two hospitals (St Jude Children's Research Hospital and the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center) are quoted as saying that immunocomprised children and cancer sufferers should avoid contact with people who have received a live vaccine such as polio, intranasal flu, or MMR.

People who have received the oral polio vaccine can indeed pass polio on to unvaccinated people in rare cases. This is a well-known and well-studied risk. There are some risks associated with intranasal flu vaccines, although the chances of anyone developing flu are minute. The chances of measles being spread by vaccines are so rare as to be non-existent.

It is not clear why these two hospitals have made this error of judgment in their guidelines. They may have thought they were playing it safe. To the contrary, the real risk to the immunocompromised is coming into contact with unvaccinated people who are infected with measles, chicken pox, or any of a number of other vaccine-preventable diseases.

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UPDATE: As of 14 April 2015, both St Jude's and Sidney Kimmel have updated their guidelines. John Hopkins Hospital, which runs the centre, took to Twitter on 5 March to counter misinformation about their guidelines, but merely met with accusations of caving under pressure. St Jude's updated visting guidelines is an excellent breakdown of the current evidence on the very limited risks from vaccines.

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The press release goes on to quote Sally Morell, president of the Weston A. Price Foundation, as saying that the "evidence indicates that recently vaccinated individuals should be quarantined in order to protect the public". Sally Morell is a nutritionist who advocates unpasteuried milk.

The next paragraph of the press release cites no fewer than 10 references intended to support the laughable assertion that vaccinated people are so dangerous they need to be quarantined. The truth is very different. I'll take each reference in turn. Most of it is real, valuable research and it is saddening that it has been hijacked to spread lies.

 

Outbreak of Measles Among Persons With Prior Evidence of Immunity, New York City, 2011 is a 2014 report on how measles was able to spread to a limited extent between a group of people who had been vaccinated. The vaccine, however, DID NOT cause the outbreak. It is an unfortunate fact that vaccines do not always confer immunity and research like this is important in understanding how effective vaccines are. In this case, vaccines were shown to be highly effective as only 4 out of 88 vaccinated people who came into contact with the index case also developed measles. Among unvaccinated people, the infection rate is around 90%.

Detection of Measles Virus RNA in Urine Specimens from Vaccine Recipients is a 1995 report on a new method for quickly identifying measles cases. The research was performed on vaccinated people since there is a fortunate shortage of children suffering from measles in the developed world. The research does not suggest that measles RNA in urine can spread the disease.

Comparison of the Safety, Vaccine Virus Shedding and Immunogenicity of Influenza Virus Vaccine is a 2000 report into how safe it is to give live attenuated influenza vaccine (LAIV) to people suffering from HIV. The safety of the vaccine was affirmed with no serious adverse events attributable to vaccine. The research does not suggest any risk to others from vaccinated people.

Comparison of the Safety, Vaccine Virus Shedding and Immunogenicity of Influenza Virus Vaccine is a 2010 report of rotavirus being transmitted from a recently vaccinated child to an unvaccinated sibling. Indeed, it is known that some people do develop rotavirus following vaccination but this is extremely rare and usually only mild. Transmission of the virus to others is even rarer. These are well known and understood risks of the vaccine.

Polio vaccination may continue after wild virus fades is a 2008 report into how polio has almost been eradicated thanks to vaccines, but complete eradication was and is proving difficult. Part of the problem, as already mentioned above, is that the oral polio vaccine can sometimes cause polio to spread to unvaccinated people. The more expensive injectable polio vaccine is used in countries where the disease is no longer prevalent, such as the UK and the US, since it does not carry that risks. Overall, this report affirms the safety and effectiveness of vaccines and the difficulties associated in obtaining complete eradication of this pernicious virus.

Engineering attenuated virus vaccines by controlling replication fidelity is a 2008 report into engineered vaccines and ongoing efforts to make an effective replacement for the oral polio vaccine which does not suffer from the known side effects discussed above. It does not suggest that vaccines are dangerous.

Case of vaccine-associated measles is a 2013 report into one of those extremely rare cases of the measles vaccine causing measles in the recipient. The disease ran its course with no complications and nobody else was infected. Typically, vaccine-induced illnesses, when they do occur, are much milder than if the disease is caught "in the wild".

The Safety Profile of Varicella Vaccine: A 10-Year Review is a 2008 report into the safety of the Varivax vaccine against chickenpox. Of 155 million doses of the vaccine, just 3 cases of transmission from the vaccine recipient to an unvaccinated, susceptible host in close proximity were reported (0.000002%)!

The snappily titled Comparison of Shedding Characteristics of Seasonal Influenza Virus (Sub)Types and Influenza A(H1N1)pdm09 is a 2012 report into viral shedding in seasonal and pandemic influenza between 2007 and 2011 in Berlin and Munich. There is no suggestion in the research that vaccines had any side effects any problems. To the contrary, only 3% of 67 vaccinated household contacts contracted the flu.

Epigenetics of Host-Pathogen Interactions: The Road Ahead and the Road Behind is a 2012 report into the process through which genotypes give rise to phenotypes during development. I have to admit to not understanding this paper at all, but a search of it revealed not a single mention of vaccines.

In summary, of the 10 references cited to the support the allegation that vaccine recipients can infect others, none of them suggest that vaccination poses a serious health risk and one of them is a completely bogus reference of no relevance to the point being discussed.

To the contary, other than the well-known side effects of the oral polio vaccine (which, I repeat, is not used in the UK or US) the research all points to the effectiveness and safety of vaccines with problems occurring in significantly less than one in a million cases. When post-vaccine infections do occur, they are generally mild.

The press release continues in this vein, misusing good research to preach lies, and I will skip onto the finale. Here, the Weston A. Price Foundation state that well-nourished children easily recover from infectious disease and rarely suffer complications.

Let me repeat that.

Well-nourished children easily recover from infectious disease and rarely suffer complications.

This is a statement so ignorant, so dangerous, so devoid of any truth or appreciation of reality that it can only have come from a diseased mind. That CNBC would allow such lies to be posted on their website beggars belief and they should be ashamed of themselves.

During the 1952 US polio epidemic, 58,000 cases were reported. Of these, 3,145 died and 21,269 were left with mild to disabling paralysis. Measles hospitalises 1 in 4 people and even the more generous mortality estimates suggest than 1 in a 1000 "well-nourished" children will die as a result of the disease.

I have nothing more to say in response to these reckless charlatans and will simply finish with the heartfelt recommednation to ignore the unfounded rumours and outright lies and get yourself and/or your children vaccinated.