Thanks, Jenny McCarthy! Thanks for the measles!

27452983I would like to take this opportunity to echo my co-blogger Steve’s sentiment and thank Jenny McCarthy.

What? You say. Has Gorski completely lost his mind? (Or maybe you used another word besides “mind,” a perhaps not so savory word.) Not really. I just agree with Steve that accomplishment should be recognized, and there’s no doubt that in her year as the new celebrity spokesperson for the antivaccination movement, Jenny McCarthy has pulled off a major coup.

She’s helped reignite a movement that was until her entrance (and especially the entrance of her far more famous boyfriend Jim Carrey, who’s said some things just as breathtakingly dumb as Jenny has) more or less moribund, to the point where it’s now become so effective that measles is coming back far faster than I had thought possible. Between her tireless prosletyzing on Oprah Winfrey’s show that vaccines caused her son’s autism and that “biomedical” quackery can “cure it”; her organizing of a march on Washington, D.C. this summer to push an explicitly antivaccine agenda disguised under the deceptive and disingenuous (but brilliantly Orwellian) slogan “Green Our Vaccines“; her holding celebrity fundraisers (complete with Britney Spears, Hugh Hefner, and Charlie Sheen, yet!); and her fronting WWE events to raise money for Generation Rescue, she’s done it all in a little more than a year. And she’s not resting on her “laurels” (such as they are), either. This September, she will be publishing the followup to her previous book on “healing autism” (with quackery), Mother Warriors: A Nation of Parents Healing Autism Against All Odds. No doubt she will again appear with Oprah to fawning acclaim to make the unfounded assertion that vaccines injured her son to make him autistic and that her favored forms of quackery have successfully “healed him.”

In light of these “accomplishments,” it’s only right that we all give Jenny (and Jim) the “thanks” they deserves for their role in bringing the measles back to the U.S.

As further evidence that this is the case, last week, the CDC released an update to its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) that demonstrates very clearly that the antivaccination movement is having an effect. Let’s put it this way. A mere eight years ago, measles was considered, in effect, eradicated from the U.S., thanks to a vigorous vaccination program and a very high vaccine uptake. All that remained were a handful, usually less than 100, cases of measles from outside the U.S. That’s all changing now:

The number of measles cases in the U.S. is at its highest level since 1997, and nearly half of those involve children whose parents rejected vaccination, government health officials reported Thursday.

The number of cases is still small, just 131, but that’s just for the first seven months of the year and doctors are troubled by the trend. There were only 42 cases for all of last year.

“We’re seeing a lot more spread. That is concerning to us,” said Dr. Jane Seward, of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Pediatricians are frustrated, saying they are having to spend more time convincing parents the shot is safe.

“This year, we certainly have had parents asking more questions,” said Dr. Ari Brown, an Austin, Texas, physician who is a spokeswoman for the American Academy of Pediatrics.

The CDC’s review found that a number of cases involved home-schooled children not required to have the vaccines.


It is no longer endemic to the United States, but every year some Americans pick it up while traveling abroad and bring it home. Measles epidemics have exploded in Israel, Switzerland and some other countries. But high U.S. childhood vaccination rates have prevented major outbreaks here.

In a typical year, only one outbreak occurs in the United States, infecting perhaps 10 to 20 people. So far this year through July 30 the country has seen seven outbreaks, including one in Illinois with 30 cases, said Seward, deputy director of the CDC’s Division of Viral Diseases.

None of the 131 patients died, but 15 were hospitalized.

It’s not all bad news. The article and the MMWR report note that vaccination rates in the U.S. are still over 90%, still high enough for herd immunity to hold sway, but that outbreak pockets, where lower vaccination rates are the rule and herd immunity has become shaky, are forming. That’s what’s allowing these outbreaks to occur. Here’s the kicker:

Of this year’s total, 122 were unvaccinated or had unknown vaccination status. Some were unvaccinated because the children were under age 1, making them too young to get their first measles shot.

In 63 of those cases _ almost all of them 19 or younger _ the patient or their parents refused vaccination, the CDC reported.

In Washington state, an outbreak was traced to a religious conference, including 16 school-aged children who were not vaccinated because of parents’ beliefs. Eleven of those kids were home schooled and not subject to vaccination rules in public schools.

The Illinois outbreak _ triggered by a teenager who had traveled to Italy _ included 25 home-schooled children, according to the CDC report.

So, rejoice, Jenny McCarthy, J.B. Handley, David Kirby, Kim Stagliano, Dan Olmsted, Barbara Loe Fisher, and all the other antivaccine activists (or their enablers, such as pediatrician to the stars’ children, including Jenny McCarthy’s son Evan, Dr. Jay Gordon, who oh-so-piously claim they are really and truly “not antivaccine” but then repeat antivaccination pseudoscience word-for-word) spreading misinformation, pseudoscience, and fear about vaccines! You’re winning. You’re succeeding in casting doubt on the safety of vaccines to the point that it’s causing real problems for our public health system:

The nation once routinely saw hundreds of thousands of measles cases each year, and hundreds of deaths. But immunization campaigns were credited with dramatically reducing the numbers. The last time health officials saw this many cases was 1997, when 138 were reported. Last year, there were only 42 U.S. cases.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has made educating parents about the safety of vaccines one of its top priorities this year, in part because busy doctors have grown frustrated at the amount of time they’ve been spending answering parents’ questions about things they read on the Internet or heard from TV talk shows.

In June, the CDC interviewed 33 physicians in Austin, suburban Seattle and Hollywood, Fla., about childhood vaccinations. Several complained about patient backlogs caused by parents stirred up by information of dubious scientific merit, according to the CDC report.

Yes, Jenny, this resurgence in measles is at least in part the result of your tireless labor in scaring parents with lies and pseudoscience to the point where they fear and refuse vaccination. Now, thanks to you and your allies, your efforts are really beginning to bear fruit, and we’re catching up with the U.K., which has a decade-long head start. Measles is coming back, Who knows? If you keep it up, you could reach the golden age of pre-MMR, as described in the CDC report:

In the United States, measles caused 450 reported deaths and 4,000 cases of encephalitis annually before measles vaccine became available in the mid-1960s (1). Through a successful measles vaccination program, the United States eliminated endemic measles transmission (1). Sustaining elimination requires maintaining high MMR vaccine coverage rates, particularly among preschool (>90% 1-dose coverage) and school-aged children (>95% 2-dose coverage) (7). High coverage levels provide herd immunity, decreasing everyone’s risk for measles exposure and affording protection to persons who cannot be vaccinated. However, herd immunity does not provide 100% protection, especially in communities with large numbers of unvaccinated persons. For the foreseeable future, measles importations into the United States will continue to occur because measles is still common in Europe and other regions of the world. Within the United States, the current national MMR vaccine coverage rate is adequate to prevent the sustained spread of measles. However, importations of measles likely will continue to cause outbreaks in communities that have sizeable clusters of unvaccinated persons.

But, hey, if Jenny succeeds, it’ll be far more than just isolated communities of unvaccinated persons being victimized by measles outbreaks. If Jenny succeeds, the measles can really go to town in a manner not seen since the pre-vaccine era of early 1960s! After all:

Measles is one of the first diseases to reappear when vaccination coverage rates fall. Ongoing outbreaks are occurring in European countries where rates of vaccination coverage are lower than those in the United States, including Austria, Italy, and Switzerland (3,4). In June 2008, the United Kingdom’s Health Protection Agency declared that, because of a drop in vaccination coverage levels (to 80%–85% among children aged 2 years), measles was again endemic in the United Kingdom (3,8), 14 years after it had been eliminated. Since April 2008, two measles-related deaths have been reported in Europe, both in children ineligible to receive MMR vaccine because of congenital immunologic compromise (4,8). Such children depend on herd immunity for protection from the disease, as do children aged <12 months, who normally are too young to receive the vaccine. Otherwise healthy children with measles also are at risk for severe complications, including encephalitis and pneumonia, which can lead to permanent disability or death.

Let’s not forget that that was just the measles. Keep it up, Jenny and other antivaccine activists, and you can probably drive vaccination rates low enough that polio, Haemophilus influenza b, the mumps, pertussis and a whole lot of other vaccine-preventable diseases currently under good control make a similar comeback. Heck, if you work hard enough, maybe they’ll all become endemic again. It’ll be just like the old days! That’ll be the reward for your success, just as the manner in which Andrew Wakefield’s incompetent, litigation-driven, and unethical “research” led measles, which had been similarly declared as conquered in the U.K. 14 years ago to become endemic again less than ten years after Wakefield first published his results. (Indeed, we should thank Andrew Wakefiedl as well for his role in paving the way for Jenny McCarthy and friends here in the U.S.!) That’s the world to which Jenny McCarthy and her merry band of antivaccine activists are leading us in name of a false dichotomy that parents face a choice between either vaccine-preventable infectious diseases or autism. It’s a false dichotomy because the best scientific evidence says that mercury in the thimerosal that used to be in vaccines does not cause autism, nor do vaccines themselves. Indeed, Jenny’s claims that her son Evan has “recovered” from his “vaccine injury”-induced autism have recently been revealed to be highly doubtful, and more recently even her fellow travelers can’t seem to keep their stories straight.

I’m sure all the suffering, hospitalized, and dead children in the future will Jenny for her tireless efforts to “save them from autism” now at the cost of suffering and dying from vaccine-preventable diseases in the future. Steve Novella put it well when he said:

The idiocy of antivaccinationists partly rests upon the modern luxury of never having had to live through the horrible epidemics of the past. I wonder how much the current generation will have to suffer through before they get it.

And I will say it again – if Jenny McCarthy is going to put her own “mommy instinct” before the consensus of scientific opinion, and exploit her dubious celebrity to champion anti-science, then she is going to have to take responsibility for her actions. The way I figure it, so far there are at least 68 measles cases on her tally sheet, and the number is growing.

I fear how large that number will grow before there is a backlash against the antivaccine activists who had a large role in causing this incipient public health disaster.



By the way, my blog bud PalMD also thanks Jenny for the opportunity to fill in a gap in his medical education by providing him with the future opportunity to see cases of diseases that had previously been driven to being very rare, thanks to vaccines.

Posted in: Neuroscience/Mental Health, Public Health, Science and the Media, Vaccines

Leave a Comment (70) ↓

70 thoughts on “Thanks, Jenny McCarthy! Thanks for the measles!

  1. Samuel says:

    Epic post.

  2. Joybobington says:

    What are a few collateral deaths between friends?

  3. Jules says:

    I think these anti-vaccine folks have actually done us all a big favor in reminding us how devastating these diseases can be. Not to mention keeping doctors on their toes–one favorite anecdote of the microbiologist of the Institution I went to medical school for was how, in the early 90s, he was called in for a puzzling, baffling rash that nobody in the ER had seen before. He took one look, and said, “Oh, that’s just measles.”


    But seriously, have any of these folks ever considered how deadly these diseases are? In the meantime, I will hope that I never have to find out whether my smallpox vaccination is still good (probably not).

  4. weing says:

    I wonder if the courts will help here? If someone is harmed by following their idiotic advice, Jenny and pals certainly have deep pockets.

  5. Michelle B says:

    Good snarky post.

    All I kept thinking, was that though autism is a challenge for parents, try this one on size: your toddler dies because of a formerly eradicated infectious childhood disease due to a bunch of celebrities pushing their own lopsided, anti-science agenda. Much worse in my opinion. And, if my understanding is correct, Jenny’s child is protected (as he was vaccinated) so her kid won’t die from the breakdown in herd immunity caused by her emotional blithering.

    Oh, we are being way too harsh, all they are asking for are ‘green’ vaccines! Sigh. Maybe Jenny can lend us her botox, as that is very ‘green.’ Also, I think we should set up a new religion and worship ‘mommy instincts.’ If you got intuition, who needs science?

  6. Michelle B says:

    Active backlash against pseudoscience is beginning, just as it is for once tacitly respected religion. People can see now that religion/psuedoscience pushed into the public realm is not without egregious harm.

  7. AntiVax says:

    Gorski bollocks, get the truth

    deaths declined by 99.4% before vaccination. Go figure.

    and if you vax loons wanted to help kids you would use vitamin C

  8. David Gorski says:

    Scudamore bollocks:

    I’m sorry, Mr. Scudamore, are you unhappy that I didn’t thank you too for your tireless efforts to lie about vaccines and therefore demonize them? In all fairness, I’m not sure if you’re actually lying or if you truly believe the flagrantly idiotic misinformation that you routinely spew (the latter of the two implying that you are a pseudoscientific, conspiracy-mongering ideologue rather than a liar, although there’s no reason it couldn’t be both). Regardless, the fact remains that you, too, have contributed in your own way to the resurgence of measles in the U.K., where it’s now endemic again only 14 years after having been conquered.

  9. AntiVax says:

    I know why Jim Carrey is always smiling ;0)

    Good article:

    get the true figures, UK:

    Measles incidence is a red herring–deaths is the acid test as you can’t fiddle them, and who cares about incidence anyway? Only vaccine loons like you out to deceive.

    That is why the CDC

    You are one of the main factors in the epidemic of MMR and mercury autism with your lies.

    Chew on these:

    “Under normal conditions, healthy children do not die from or become disabled from the complications of measles and if they do, questions should be asked about their management.” —Jayne Donegan MB

    “Up to 90% of the total decline in the death rate of children between 1860-1965 because of whooping cough, scarlet fever, diptheria, and measles occurred before the introduction of immunisations and antibiotics.”—Dr Archie Kalokerinos, M.D.

  10. Sil says:

    “Under normal conditions, healthy children do not die from or become disabled from the complications of measles and if they do, questions should be asked about their management.” —Jayne Donegan MB

    This is a lie.

    This is Natalie:

    She has been infected with measles in 1999 when she was a baby.
    Now she is ten years old and has SSPE.

    The infection she got from an 11 years old unvaccinatet boy in the waiting room of her pediatrist.

  11. overshoot says:

    Measles incidence is a red herring–deaths is the acid test as you can’t fiddle them, and who cares about incidence anyway? Only vaccine loons like you out to deceive.

    Well, that and maybe the patients and their families who spend weeks in ICU or a lifetime blind, deaf, or brain-damaged.

    What’s fascinating is the amazing degree of special pleading that you take for granted. Somehow, the world’s governments were faking the data for decades in anticipation of vaccines, but at the same time the VAERS database is a reliable statistical tool. You wont’ accept mountains of long-running statistics on disease incidence, but at the same time swallow any totally unsupported claims regarding vaccine damage.

    Consistency, in either direction, would leave you with nothing.

  12. AntiVax says:

    “Somehow, the world’s governments were faking the data for decades in anticipation of vaccines.”

    I never said that. They can’t fake death stats easily. And morbidity would be tied to mortality. Incidence is a smokescreen to hide death and morbidity stats.

    Natalie obviously wasn’t managed properly, or given vitamin C.

    see MMR deaths
    and MMR autism

    which dwarf any measles deaths and disbility which is preventable anyway with proper med.

  13. Mark Crislip says:

    Measles incidence is a red herring–deaths is the acid test as you can’t fiddle them, and who cares about incidence anyway? Only vaccine loons like you out to deceive.

    I care about incidence. Incidence is a measure of the amount of pain and suffering a population is having at a given moment of time. Measles is a nasty disease.

    I am an old school doc, I like preventing pain and suffering.

    btw see

    We prevent 500,000 cases of needless pain and suffering a year with the vaccine. Half a million kids who do not get sick. Every year.

    Since the measles vaccine was introduced we went from 440 deaths a year to zero.

    I also like preventing ‘only’ 440 deaths a year even more.

    Each year 500,000 cases prevented, 440 deaths prevented, at almost zero risk. Doesn;t cause autism. Seems a good idea to me.

    Also, antivax, you never responded to my question on my last post re: smallpox (commments in

  14. lizditz says:

    Here is another entitled, ignorant anti-vaccination mother. This one is not as famous as Jenny, but is spreading disease none-the less.

    Jennifer Margulis, quoted in a story by JoNel Aleccia at MSNBC: Vaccine-wary parents spark public health worry

    “I think a child’s immune system is so immature,” said Jennifer Margulis, 39, an Ashland writer who didn’t vaccinate her three children at all for years,….. “You’re putting known toxins in a child before they’re 2 years old.” ….[her children] received vaccinations for yellow fever, meningitis, tetanus and polio, for instance, but not for measles, mumps, rubella, pertussis or chicken pox.


    Margulis…. relies on her own research skills for information.

    “I think doctors tend to be taken back by how much I know,” she said, adding later: “I’m a public health official’s nightmare, not because I’m not responsible, but because I’m too responsible.”

    Margulis said she worked hard to boost her children’s own resistance to disease. She nursed two of her kids past the age of 4 and said she makes sure they eat healthful foods and get regular exercise. She believes her children’s systems are strong enough to tolerate disease — and even hopes that they’ll get the chance to gain natural immunity.

    “I would love for my children to have measles,” Margulis said. “Please get me chicken pox and get me measles.”

    She rejects the idea that her decision endangers others.

    “People say, ‘You’re putting my kid at risk, but that doesn’t make any sense at all,’” she said. “If the vaccine works, I’m just putting my child at risk.”

    A blogger and biologist, Emily, responds to Margulis in The perfect mother, obviously

    It’s a pity that she’s proud of being a “public health official’s nightmare.” Why is she proud of that? It means that someday, she may be the worst nightmare of many other parents who live in her community. It may mean that her own decisions may someday haunt her in her own worst nightmares. Right now, it’s just a head-shaking moment that she thinks it doesn’t “make sense” that her decisions might endanger others. Down the road, that head-shaking moment could turn into a tragedy.

    I think it is time to publicly rebuke those who are promoting vaccine-preventable diseases and endangering public health.

  15. overshoot says:

    We prevent 500,000 cases of needless pain and suffering a year with the vaccine. Half a million kids who do not get sick. Every year.

    I truly think it’s more like 4 million. Measles was one case where the “10% reported” rectal statistic looks to be close to accurate [1]. Even assuming that pediatricians were 100% conscientious about their reporting responsibilities back then, the fact remains that some large percentage of parents simply never took kids with measles to the doc in the first place.

    I know my mother didn’t when I had them, and to this day she doesn’t see why she should have. She was very familiar with measles, and knew that there was nothing that the doc could do for uncomplicated measles. I got the usual treatment: rest, lots of fluids, and a dark room.

    Why the dark room? Blindness from measles was so common that people wouldn’t take the chance that light might cause it, as the old tale has it.

    [1] Much like the stopped clock.

  16. Joe says:

    Thanks, Sil. Because serious complications of measles are rare, I did not see them as a child (before the vaccine) and I did not realize how devastating the disease can be. I found the following post enlightening.
    Posted on: April 17, 2008 5:46 PM, by PalMD

    “A new patient came to see me a few months back. She is in her 60’s or 70’s and not in the best health. She is very nice. And simple—very simple. I spoke to her brother before the appointment. He told me that she was a normal, happy kid until the age of seven.

    “Then she got sick. At first it wasn’t much, just a cold. Then there was a rash. Then she got very, very sick. She had measles, and she was one of the about 1-1000 people who develop acute encephalitis as a complication of the disease.

    The rest of the kids in the family are quite bright and successful. My patient came to her appointment with a caregiver who assists her in basically any function that requires thought. She’s quite nice, but she’s not happy. She is anxious, perhaps partly because she can’t understand what is going on around her. And she is completely dependent on others for all but the most basic of her physical needs.”

  17. Fifi says:

    It seems to me that Ms McCarthy is quite busy parlaying her son’s autism into a career as a new age guru/celeb, author and Hollywood “actress/activist” (a sort of D grade Angelina Jolie, if you will, without Jolie’s actual talent as an actress to support her other, ahem, talents).
    She’s quite obviously cashing in on the whole new age “indigo child’ thing (and apparently McCarthy considers herself an “indigo”, which seems to be a new age reframing of people with a variety of things from autism to ADD and even, though less commonly, through bipolar disorders and schizophrenia). She divorced the father of her son after they made perhaps one of the crappier movies to come out of Hollywood together (no doubt she thought that was her ticket to fame and her way into Hollywood but it more likely put an end to quite a few of those dreams since she was involved on multiple levels, clearly wrongly believing she had talent as a writer and a comedic actress). Now she’s taken on the role of new age warrior, which has given her the kind of public profile and attention she so obviously craves. It seems to me that she’s actually using her child as a pawn to get food for her own ego (from thinking she and her child are special and more evolved light beings, to feeding her craving for public attention and to be taken “seriously” rather than as the bimbo she’s been selling herself as her whole career, it’s all rather cliché).

  18. AntiVax says:

    “Since the measles vaccine was introduced we went from 440 deaths a year to zero. I also like preventing ‘only’ 440 deaths a year even more. Each year 500,000 cases prevented, 440 deaths prevented, at almost zero risk. Doesn;t cause autism. Seems a good idea to me.”

    If someone told you something cut deaths from 10,000 a year to 90, you would think that was the thing that then dropped it from 90 to 1 or 2. But not if you have a vaccine to sell.

    And it does cause autism

    “she was one of the about 1-1000 people who develop acute encephalitis as a complication of the disease.”

    That’s a lie.

    “Doctors maintain that the (MMR) inoculation is necessary to prevent measles encephalitis, which they say occurs about once in 1,000 cases. After decades of experience with measles, I question this statistic, and so do many other pediatricians. The incidence of 1/1,000 may be accurate for children who live in conditions of poverty and malnutrition, but in the middle-and upper-income brackets, if one excludes simple sleepiness from the measles itself, the incidence of true encephalitis is probably more like 1/10,900 or 1/100,000.”——Dr Mendelsohn

    it’s called vaccine mania, you can’t see the obvious.

    ‘JULIET Parsons still finds it difficult to talk abut the time her son developed meningitis after he was given the Urabe jab nine years ago. She said Matthew continues to suffer side effects. He has learning difficulties, still has fits and regularly gets ill due to a weak immune system.’

  19. Mark Crislip says:

    “After decades of experience with measles, I question this statistic, and so do many other pediatricians”

    the three most dangerous words in medicine when used to prove causation:


    I see that anitvax is reading these posts, so howzabout my smallpox question?

  20. David Gorski says:

    I hereby dub Mr. Scudamore (a.k.a. Antivax) Brave, Brave Sir Robin.

  21. M says:

    Recent measles epidemics in several European countries which have predominantly occurred in non-vaccinated middle class antroposofic or other religious communities (Netherlands, UK, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Norway…) have unfortunately shown that true incidence of encephalitis IS about 1:1000 and death rate about 1:1000…

  22. HCN says:

    John Scudamore posing as AntiVax quoted:
    “Under normal conditions, healthy children do not die from or become disabled from the complications of measles and if they do, questions should be asked about their management.” —Jayne Donegan MB

    What a disgusting piece of heartless idiocy. Does this mean that due to their health conditions that the two boys who recently died in the UK from measles are less deserving of life?!

    Does this mean that my son with the severe genetic heart condition is less deserving of life than other kids? Is this true for the one out of a thousand people who have hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, and the many more with other genetic conditions like Long-QT Syndrome, cerebral palsy and other conditions deserve to die from measles and other vaccine preventable diseases?

    That is a disgusting sentiment. And don’t claim you did not mean it! You’ve said it before, and you truly believe that disabled and ill people deserve to suffer and die!

    Just a reminder:

    AntiVax = John Scudamore = … In any discussion involving science or medicine, citing as a credible source loses you the argument immediately …and gets you laughed out of the room.

    (though I confess, I am not laughing at the thought that children with genetic health issues deserve to suffer and die from measles and other diseases!)

  23. bcorden says:

    So, as a pediatrician, I am faced with a quandary. For, Ms. Jenny has truly stirred up a hornet’s nest. At first we copied lots of handouts from the AAP, the CDC and other sources explaining risks and benefits. I don’t think anyone read them, they just remained obstinate in their refusal. Then we drafted a very low key letter saying that we would consider asking them to go elsewhere. Now it has dawned on me that we are putting all those <1 year olds in the waiting room at risk. No more Dr. Nice Guy. If they refuse the immunizations recommended by the AAP and on schedule, they will be sent packing. And if their child has a rash in the 30 day grace period, not to pass the portals. Of course, as always, its the kids who suffer not the fully vaccinated parents.

  24. msclark says:

    The thing about some of these childhood diseases is that the loons think that getting the disease is a great thing. So not only are they not vaccinating to avoid measles and chickenpox, they will deliberately seek it out to make their child sick with measles and invite other parents to do the same. Viruses are already fairly effective in spreading themselves because people are infectious before know it, or before they become so sick that it’s harder to get around (go to public places, sneeze on people, or have sex with people in the case of STDs). It’s worse when you have people who go around deliberately infecting others.

    These people have it in their minds, for instance that they’ll never let their child be vaccinated for mumps, but they mostly seem to understand that mumps in adolescence or adulthood it s a bad thing. So what are they left with? As their kids approach adolescence, one would think that they’d be desperate to get their kid a case of mumps. So we should expect to see them driving across state lines looking for cases of mumps in people willing to “share”.

    It’s just amazing to me. I suspect that somewhere there is a schedule created by a psychotic antivaxer that says, “make sure your child gets polio by age 17, rubella by age 10, mumps by age 9, measles by age 17, diphtheria by age 17, tetanus by age 20…, HiB by age 17″ “However make sure that your newborn doesn’t catch pertussis from your 10 year old, if your newborn does, just give him some Kali Phos 10x under his tongue every hour, it will make it less painful for him to die of a lack of oxygen that way.”

    Seriously, antivaxers want NO vaccines, but they are pretty sure when the diseases return to pre-vaccine stages that everyone will become more and more healthy.

    Oh, and don’t give antibiotics to kids who get strep because antibiotics are bad and rheurmatic fever and scarlet fever were just invented by Big Pharma. And AIDS isn’t caused by HIV so just happily watch your child die like Eliza Jane Scovill.

  25. overshoot says:

    And if their child has a rash in the 30 day grace period, not to pass the portals. Of course, as always, its the kids who suffer not the fully vaccinated parents.

    Unfortunately, by the time the rash shows it’s too late — measles is most contagious before it erupts.

  26. bcorden says:

    Thanks, I should have known that, its just like varicella, roseola, and 5th disease

  27. David Gorski says:

    Actually, that’s what happens when measles has been eradicated; physicians forget details like that. Unfortunately, I fear that we will all soon be forced to remember or relearn all those forgotten details, thanks to Jenny McCarthy, Generation Rescue, and its enablers.

  28. overshoot says:

    Actually, that’s what happens when measles has been eradicated; physicians forget details like that. Unfortunately, I fear that we will all soon be forced to remember or relearn all those forgotten details, thanks to Jenny McCarthy, Generation Rescue, and its enablers.

    You mean, things like pediatricians having two waiting rooms, one for well and one for sick kids?

    Although I do recall that there were some who reserved parts of the week (days or mornings/afternoons) for one or the other. I presume that the conscientious ones did a thorough surface disinfect in between for the time swappers. Preferably for the separate room ones, too, although there’s only so much you can do to keep the kids with measles away from the ones with mumps.

  29. HCN says:

    weing said “You mean, things like pediatricians having two waiting rooms, one for well and one for sick kids?”

    What about the hallways and elevators? Measles is a pretty persistent virus, it tends to hang around for a couple of hours.

  30. overshoot says:

    weing said “You mean, things like pediatricians having two waiting rooms, one for well and one for sick kids?”

    Actually, I think that was me.

    What about the hallways and elevators? Measles is a pretty persistent virus, it tends to hang around for a couple of hours.

    Yup — that sucks. Not to mention busses etc.

    However imperfect, it’s an improvement to at least do the pediatrician’s offices. Out here in the burbs it’s quite common to have the office be a drive-right-up affair with ground-level outside doors to the waiting room.

  31. HCN says:

    Oops, sorry.

    Here in the city it is office buildings with a couple of elevators with a parking garage that sometimes means going down to level “F” or “G”.

  32. Michael X says:

    I have to thank AntiVax for making the case for vaccination so much stronger though his inept attempt to oppose it.

    There is often no better way to test the truth of a proposition that you are unfamiliar with than to see how the arguments of those opposed to it stand up.

    Vitamin C? Only for the children of pirates…

  33. Joybobington says:

    We could take this argument to the extremes. We could stop all vaccinations for 1 generation.

    If we’re right, millions die from measles, influenza and polio but autism rates remain the same.

    If they’re right, autism rates decrease.

    I for one am willing to endanger the lives of millions to prove our hypothesis.


  34. HCN says:

    That has already been done in Japan. They stopped their MMR (different from the USA, it had a mumps strain that caused meningitus). And the results were that:

    1) Japan is now a major cause of measles in other countries:
    J Travel Med. 2008 Mar-Apr;15(2):82-6.
    Measles exportation from Japan to the United States, 1994 to 2006… ” Trend of exported measles cases from Japan to the United States has corresponded with the measles activity trend in Japan. Most of the cases were unvaccinated. This international health problem should be solved by strong leadership of Japanese public health professionals.”

    2) A measles outbreak caused several schools to be closed in Japan:
    Uirusu. 2007 Dec;57(2):171-9.
    [Epidemiological situation of measles in Japan and measures for its control][Article in Japanese] … “In 2007, measles outbreak occurred mainly among teen/twenties in Japan, and many high-school, universities and colleges were closed to reduce spread of measles. Some high school students became measles when they were in foreign countries where measles has been eliminated, visited as school excursion. ”

    3) Autism still went up…
    J Autism Dev Disord. 2007 Feb;37(2):210-7.
    MMR-vaccine and regression in autism spectrum disorders: negative results presented from Japan… “It has been suggested that the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine (MMR) is a cause of regressive autism. As MMR was used in Japan only between 1989 and 1993, this time period affords a natural experiment to examine this hypothesis. Data on 904 patients with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) were analyzed. During the period of MMR usage no significant difference was found in the incidence of regression between MMR-vaccinated children and non-vaccinated children. Among the proportion and incidence of regression across the three MMR-program-related periods (before, during and after MMR usage), no significant difference was found between those who had received MMR and those who had not. Moreover, the incidence of regression did not change significantly across the three periods.”
    J Child Psychol Psychiatry. 2005 Jun;46(6):572-9.
    No effect of MMR withdrawal on the incidence of autism: a total population study… “The significance of this finding is that MMR vaccination is most unlikely to be a main cause of ASD, that it cannot explain the rise over time in the incidence of ASD, and that withdrawal of MMR in countries where it is still being used cannot be expected to lead to a reduction in the incidence of ASD.”

    By the way, at one time Japan decided to delay the pertussis vaccine until after age two years. It turns out that deaths due to pertussis went up:
    Expert Rev Vaccines. 2005 Apr;4(2):173-84.
    Acellular pertussis vaccines in Japan: past, present and future …”An antivaccine movement developed in Japan as a consequence of increasing numbers of adverse reactions to whole-cell pertussis vaccines in the mid-1970s. After two infants died within 24 h of the vaccination from 1974 to 1975, the Japanese government temporarily suspended vaccinations. Subsequently, the public and the government witnessed the re-emergence of whooping cough, with 41 deaths in 1979. This series of unfortunate events revealed to the public that the vaccine had, in fact, been beneficial. Furthermore, researchers and the Japanese government proceeded to develop safer pertussis vaccines. Japan now has the most experience worldwide with acellular pertussis vaccines, being the first country to have approved their use. This review describes the major events associated with the Japanese vaccination program. The Japanese experience should be valuable to other countries that are considering the development and use of such vaccines.”

  35. Jules says:

    I shudder to think that one day I’ll catch chicken pox from an unvaccinated child and end up in a hospital where nobody can figure out what the hell is the matter because nobody will have seen varicella zoster in a young adult before. As far as I know I’m naive to varicella zoster, somehow having escaped it in elementary school, and never having had the vaccine. I probably do have antibodies to it, but believe me when I say I’m not willing to risk dying to find out!

    FTR: I never got the vaccine because it just never seemed urgent. By the time it was available, I was already past the age when I would have expected to get it. Not having time and money at the same time also conspired against me. This Christmas that may change.

    So many of these diseases are far more lethal to adults than they are to children: polio, chicken pox–I know there are others but they escape me right now. Let’s not forget that!

  36. lizditz says:

    Back in the 1950s, when I was a child, there were always 2 portals into the pediatrician’s area: (1) the well-baby / routine visits / no fever-rash illnesses here, and (2) the “may have contagious disease’ area. I remember this particularly well because in one childhood episode, I was sent into portal #2 by my feverish, rashy self, while my mother took my older sibling with the two broken fingers into portal #1.

    Fortunately for me at the time, portal #2 was staffed with a kindly nurse, who made me comfortably.

    I gather that almost all pediatric practices have eliminated the separate waiting areas for potentially disease-ridden kids.

    If the anti-vaccination trend continues, it would be prudent for pede practics to return to the mid-20th century practices…which of course means greater costs, which of course will be passed on to the patient load.

    Unequally, of course. The vaccine-preventable-disease parents in the practice will be charged just the same as the responsible, vaccinating parents. And that is fair, how?

  37. NPMommy says:

    On the topic of separate waiting rooms at the pediatrician’s office- my son’s pediatrician has a sick waiting room and a well waiting room. That doesn’t mean that I want my baby potentially exposed to measles while he is waiting to be seen for a cold or ear infection.

    I’m a family nurse practitioner and mother to an 8 month old baby boy. I also confess to be a big supporter of vaccines and find myself in discussions about them with my patients and other parents relatively frequently. In my experience it is more than just Jenny McCarthy making parents worried about vaccines (I’m sure all on this site would agree). I’m would be interested in hearing anyone’s thoughts on The Vaccine Book by Dr. Bob Sears. Have you read it or seen it? Many parents take Dr. Sear’s advice as more trustworthy than the CDC, AAP, or their baby’s own pediatrician. He is a big proponent of selective vaccination on a delayed scheduled. In some sense, I know of several parents who were leaning toward not vaccinating their children at all until they read that book- and will now only selectively vaccinate. So I suppose we should be thankful that their children are getting some vaccines. But I’m just interested to hear other’s perspectives on Dr. Bob’s book- especially from Dr. Crislip or Dr. Gorski. Thanks.

  38. David Gorski says:

    I’ve never read Dr. Sear’s book, I’m afraid; so I really can’t comment. Maybe my co-blogger Dr. Crislip can.

  39. Actually, it is still standard practice to have separate waiting areas for well and sick children. Also, when I made an appointment for my daughter who had a suspicious rash they made me bring her in through a special entrance in the back in case it was chicken pox.

  40. HCN says:

    It doesn’t help to have separate areas when you don’t know the child is infectious. One is more infectious with measles before they break out into a rash.

    And I accidentally brought in a child with chicken pox. He was four years old when he came with to my daughter’s six month appointment. It was only when we were leaving that I noticed a couple of suspicious bumps on the back of his neck. It was chicken pox… and the previous evening we were spreading it all over at the local mall during their Halloween event!

    (and if my family doc has a seperate entrance, I have not been told about in the almost twenty years since their last waiting room remodel)

  41. Sil says:

    “No shot, no school” works well.
    Look at this outbreak in germany:
    “Wichmann O, Hellenbrand W, Sagebiel D, Santibanez S, Ahlemeyer G, Vogt G, Siedler A, van Treeck U (2007): Large measles outbreak at a German public school, 2006.
    Ped. Infect. Dis. J. 26 (9): 782-786.

    Background: In 2006, a large measles outbreak (n 614) occurred in Duisburg city, Germany, with 54% of cases aged 9 years. An investigation was launched to determine reasons for the resurgence of measles, assess vaccination coverage and vaccine effectiveness (VE)…”,templateId=render,layoutVariant=StandardMitAbstract.html

    Germany has 80 millions citizens.
    Vaccination is only recommended, not obligated.
    We´re one of the countries, where your travellers can pick the measles up.
    We got a group of Doctors, which advice an alternate vaccination-schedule. They call themselves “doctors for individual vaccination decision” (
    These crackpots use the same antivaccionist-arguments like everywhere: autism, aluminium, vaccination damage and so on.
    One of their advices ist to vaccinate against measles at the age of fourteen, if the child didn´t get the measles before.
    If the child gets sick whith measles, no problem: they “cure” it whith homeopathy.
    Whith about 600.000 births every year and with only this disease we would have 600 dead children per year.

  42. TsuDhoNimh says:

    MsClark said So what are they left with? As their kids approach adolescence, one would think that they’d be desperate to get their kid a case of mumps. So we should expect to see them driving across state lines looking for cases of mumps in people willing to “share”.

    Heck, why not just list the sick kids on CraigsList in the personals:

    4 YR old w/fresh pox seeking uninfected soulmates

  43. Mark Crislip says:

    The Vaccine Book by Dr. Bob Sears.

    never heard of it, but will find it and read it.

    In adult medicine, which I practice, childhood vaccines are taken for granted.

    I usually have to fight re: the flu vaccine.

  44. Diane Henry says:

    It might be Bill Sears…Isn’t he the one who (with his wife) has written a ton of child care books: The Baby Book, etc?

  45. Diane Henry says:

    Childcare books with a fairly strong New-Agey slant, I might add…

    (sorry, pulled a “pec” with multiple short posts…)

  46. NPMommy says:

    Its Dr. Robert Sears (“Dr. Bob” on his website) who wrote The Vaccine Book.
    Dr. William Sears is his father I believe and he and his wife, Martha, have written multiple childcare books. He is one of the “founders” or maybe “fathers” of the Attachment Parenting movement.

  47. HCN says:

    Dr. Crislip, many many m…a…n…y years ago when my almost 18 year old son was a baby my family doctor mentioned a recommendation from Dr. Bob Sears about some child care thing. He prefaced by explaining Dr. Sears is a bit nutty.

    (my baby boy was a lap baby who insisted on being held, the advice was to essentially wear the kid in a sling… which I did, he grew up and yesterday swam across Lake Washington as part of a employee party the pool where he works as a lifeguard)

  48. HCN says:

    Okay, I wrote what I did at the same time as NPMommy, and I stand corrected on the names. I remember the Dr. Sears who was thought as being a bit nutty had lots of children.

  49. bcorden says:

    Go on over to
    Trying to sell his book. Repeating the meme that aluminum in vaccines (an adjuvant) is a bad thing.

  50. Sil says:

    Her you see ist. This wellsounding “alternative vaccine schedule” is one of the linguistical tricks for misinformation.
    It´s the same thing, everywhere and anytime. Charlatans work always whith the same methods.

  51. Diane Henry says:

    Thanks for the correction NP. It’s clearly been a while since I’ve been reading childcare books!

  52. HCN says:

    Diane Henry said “Thanks for the correction NP. It’s clearly been a while since I’ve been reading childcare books!”

    Also, thanks to NP. And yes, it has been a long time since I have read childcare books. Right now as teenagers the children are telling me how to behave!

  53. jeffparker98 says:


    What would you say to parents who’s kids received the MMR and within 12 hours were writhing on the floor, no longer vocal, no longer making eye contact? I’ve met several of these kids and their parents.

    I work for a large medical establishment which practices “evidence based medicine”. My autistic son has seen pediatricians, psychologists, psychiatrists, therapists, and a half dozen specialists. We’ve been told everything from “It’s your parenting…you don’t set boundries” (this from a new psychologist) to “there are no long term studies on this.”

    What you call quackery has now started healing my son. But it sounds like you wouldn’t want to hear about the ‘evidence’ in my son’s and other kids cases.

    I’d welcome a directy reply, but it sounds like you’ve already made up your mind.


  54. HCN says:

    jeffparker98 said “What would you say to parents who’s kids received the MMR and within 12 hours were writhing on the floor, no longer vocal, no longer making eye contact? I’ve met several of these kids and their parents.”

    Prove it.

    Though in reality the plural of anecdote is not data.

    If that reaction was the norm, why has it only been reported by folks like you? Once in a while with a friend of a friend report? The MMR has been around since 1971. Long enough that you Mr. “98” may have actually received the vaccine when you were a kid!

    Provide some real evidence, some real science. Something a bit more substantial than the three (one that has been retracted) listed here versus the other almost two dozen:

    If the MMR is worse than measles, mumps and rubella, show us the real scientific data. Just remember that in the 1960s a rubella epidemic caused about 20000 cases of congenital rubella syndrome — mostly kids born deaf, but over a thousand babies were stillborn (basically born dead), and in the last major outbreak of measles between 1987 and 1991 over 120 Americans died from measles. So really, tell us exactly what science you have that shows that measles is a cake walk compared to the MMR vaccine.

  55. Joe says:


    Speaking for myself, not Dr. Gorski, such an anecdote deserves study. Those studies have been done, and they show that there is no relationship between vaccination and autism. The anecdotes are merely coincidental.

    Moreover, one needs to keep in mind that memories are notoriously fallible. When you tell your story to some other parent of a child with autism, they may mistakenly confirm your experience.

    You should also be made aware that autism is a variable condition. Many cases improve, quite considerably, with no treatment. So your child may just be developing at a natural pace. You have not provided objective (non-anecdotal) evidence that the “quack” treatments are working better than no treatment; which evidence can only be demonstrated by multi-patient studies.

  56. jeffparker98 says:

    I never said that the MMR caused autism. I didn’t say it was worse than the diseases it is meant to prevent. I do know that there are some kids who react almost violently after recieving the MMR. One friend’s son rolled on the floor arching his back screaming. I know it’s not the norm and that it doesn’t affect the vast majority this way.

    What would you like me to prove? That I have met some kids that reacted this way after receiving the MMR. I could just as easily ask you to prove that it wasn’t the MMR that caused these reactions.

    My son didn’t react in this way, and I’m not focused on what may have caused his autism. I spend my time and money in healing him. So far more than a dozen mainline doctors have provided nothing that has helped. A handful of doctors who dare to step outside the ‘evidence based medicine’ model have helped us make a huge difference, with changes that we’ve seen within days. Not just with my son, but with other kids that we know in our surrounding area.

    For these kids the time is limited. We decided to try the “quack” biomedical approach with our son. When we saw results we told the doctors. One said “There have been no studies done on that”. Another put down his pen and said “I’ve heard of that, run with it”. These kids don’t have time to wait for the results of the studies. That doesn’t mean that the scientific studies shouldn’t be done.

  57. weing says:

    It’s amazing how much the “tincture of time” helps. Most people want results right now. No one wants to be a patient patient.

  58. Harriet Hall says:

    Dr. Gorski recommended a “fantastic post” on why parents believe interventions work. For those of you who may not know, the author of that post is the father of two autistic children. He and his wife are both physicians. They initially fell for a number of untested treatments for autism. His eyes were opened when his kids were on a special diet and were improving; he credited the diet but discovered that his wife had taken the kids off the diet without his knowledge and he couldn’t tell the difference! So he really knows whereof he speaks.

  59. David Gorski says:

    Thanks, guys. I didn’t see this until last night, when I began a response, and I only put the final touch on this response just now. (Whenever someone comments on a post that’s more than a few days old I may or may not see it.) I have no doubt that, like so many parents with similar stories, Jeff wants only what is best for his child and that he really believes that vaccines caused his child’s problem and that the biomedical interventions he is trying work. However, Joe gets it pretty much right on the money. With millions of children each year getting the MMR, by coincidence alone there will be a significant number of children who show symptoms of regression (or manifest other bad problems) in close temporal proximity to vaccination.

    Such close temporal proximity to vaccination for an event may indicate that the event is a result of a the vaccine or it may not. It may be coincidence. However, in the “N = 1″ case such temporal proximity can sure make it appear as though vaccination caused the adverse event. That’s especially true because the human brain is hard-wired to look for correlations and treat them as causation. There was almost certainly an evolutionary advantage to this trait because it allows people in many cases to identify danger. However, in many other cases, it leads people to attribute causation inappropriately. Vaccines do have rare serious side effects, but autism is not among them. The science is quite clear on that. However, because millions get the vaccine every year, and get it in the age range when the first symptoms of autism typically manifest themselves, there’s going to be by random chance alone a whole lot of kids manifesting their first symptoms not long after a vaccine. That has to be accounted for before any inference of causation can be credibly made.

    The only way to determine distinguish between the possibilities that a problem or adverse event is only coincidentally correlated with a vaccine or that it is likely to have been caused by it is to do well-controlled epidemiological studies and other scientific studies to determine (1) if the rate of such incidents in close temporal proximity to vaccination is significantly higher than would be expected by random chance alone and (2) whether there are potential additional reasons or mechanisms to suspect that the vaccination may be responsible for such incidents. These principles don’t just apply to vaccines, either, but to investigating any hypothesized adverse reaction. The bottom line is that anecdotes are not data.

    It turns out that multiple well-designed studies have been done, and none of them have found even a whiff of a correlation between vaccination and autism. Neither thimerosal-containing vaccines nor vaccines themselves correlate with autism. Moreover, it’s been nearly seven years since thimerosal was removed from most childhood vaccines, leaving only trace amounts in some and only the flu vaccine containing “standard” amounts of thimerosal (you can also get a thimerosal-free flu vaccines), and autism rates have not fallen. Scientifically, it’s a dead issue. It really is. That the concept that vaccines cause autism is even still an issue at all is because antivaccinationists have made it into a manufactroversy.

    Finally, I don’t call such “biomedical” interventions “quackery” lightly. For the vast majority of them there is no good evidence that they work and no good science to suggest that they even should work. As has been pointed out, autism is a condition of developmental delay, not developmental stasis. Moreover, it has a highly variable course. Looking at one child with autism can be highly misleading because of this variable course and because there is almost inevitably some degree of improvement over time–occasionally even to an astonishing degree, in which a formerly nonverbal child is actually attending college. (True, such children are almost never considered quite “normal,” but they can more often than one might expect function quite well as adults.) Worse, many of these interventions are not benign. At least one child has died as a result of the autism quackery known as chelation therapy, for example.

    I’d be curious about what specific interventions Jeff has tried and why he thinks they “work.” I’d also urge Jeff to read this fantastic post on why so many parents believe such interventions “work” when they almost certainly do not. I have no doubt that Jeff only wants the best for his child, but scientists and physicians are human. They are prone to the same sorts of cognitive quirks that all humans are. Indeed, that’s the very reason scientists came to appreciate why randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trials are so important; they protect the investigators from self-deception as much as the subjects. Moreover, some scientists may even be more prone to self-deception than the average person because they tell themselves that they know better than to fall for such cognitive traps when in reality the rigorous application of the scientific method and scientific medicine remain the very best defenses against them. It may sound harsh, but it’s true.

    What I said about Jenny McCarthy may also sound harsh, but it’s just as true. Jenny fell for those very cognitive traps; moreover after floundering for years in crappy, D-grade movies and TV shows she’s found a new career as a “mother warrior” against autism. Suddenly, McCarthy’s writing books that people actually pay attention to. Suddenly, Oprah wants her on her show, and she’s making appearances on Larry King Live and other news/talk shows. Suddenly, shows that wouldn’t even return her agent’s calls or e-mails are booking her. Meanwhile the “biomed” autism community worships the ground she and her boyfriend Jim Carrey walk on and put her on the board of Generation Rescue and other autism “charities.” Suddenly she is being taken seriously when she never was before. (Anyone remember her peddling “Indigo Child” nonsense? Her “Indigo Moms” website disappeared about a month before her first autism book came out, around this time last year.) All of this praise and resurgence of fame constitute strong validation and likely produce an even stronger, likely subconscious, motivation not to question too closely what she has come to believe, even though her stories are conflicting and there is emerging evidence that her claim that her son Evan was “healed” of his neurologic condition is not true.

  60. HCN says:

    JeffParker98 said “What would you like me to prove? That I have met some kids that reacted this way after receiving the MMR. I could just as easily ask you to prove that it wasn’t the MMR that caused these reactions.”

    First all we cannot prove a negative. And yes, what you need to prove is that those kids you claim had a reaction were all consistent. How many were there? Who observed the reactions? What other factors were involved? How long after the reaction was it reported?

    When you start making claims, you need to be able to back them up with actual data.

    Hey, my son had a seizure bad enough for him to get sent to the emergency department by ambulance within a couple of weeks after his MMR. Though, at the time he was also suffering from a terrrible gastrointestinal bug (by the way, I also had it, absolutely no fun), and he was dehydrated. He also had a previous history of seizures. The dehydration was enough to muck with his brain chemistry to cause the seizure.

    It was just a coincidence that the seizure came so soon after the vaccine.

  61. kathleen says:

    JeffParker98 said “I do know that there are some kids who react almost violently after recieving the MMR. One friend’s son rolled on the floor arching his back screaming.”

    Yes, my son did exactly that. He also called the doctor “a rotten bast**d” and threatened to kill him.
    I don’t think that proves anything.
    My son is autistic and has been so since the day he was born. It was his autism that caused the over-reaction and inappropriate behaviour (his sister had her MMR at the same time and sat quietly throughout). Perhaps fever or slight illness as a result of the MMR could cause an extreme behavioural reaction in an autistic child that wouldn’t occur in a normal child? That doesn’t mean that the MMR or the fever caused the autism.

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