commentary

Dr. James H. Conway: Vaccines will save our lives — if we let them

2012-10-02T00:45:00Z 2012-10-05T06:14:53Z Dr. James H. Conway: Vaccines will save our lives — if we let themBy Dr. James H. Conway | Madison La Crosse Tribune
October 02, 2012 12:45 am  • 

Vaccine rejectionism has been around for 200 years, since Edward Jenner used the harmless cow pox virus to immunize people against deadly small pox. Cartoons from the early 1800s showed people sprouting cow heads because of Jenner’s vaccine, and in some cities, mass hysteria sparked riots.

Anti-vaccine beliefs ebb and flow through the years, lying dormant like a virus, stirring at the slightest provocation. The latest outbreak can be traced to a troubled researcher named Andrew Wakefield, and a flawed study inexplicably published by a prestigious medical journal.

It’s a fascinating story that will be told by Brian Deer, the investigative reporter who first uncovered the fraud, when he appears Thursday and Friday at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.

Wakefield associated the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine with autism in a 1998 paper published in The Lancet. His hypothesis had a Rube Goldberg quality to it — the vaccine-strain measles virus supposedly caused the inflammation in the intestines, which created toxins, which caused a breach in the gut wall, which let the virus travel through the bloodstream to the brain, where it caused the symptoms of autism.

Never mind that the 12 children in his case study didn’t have measles, or that some were showing developmental delay before their MMR shots.

In 2004, the article was retracted by 10 of its 13 authors, because the findings could not be supported, and Wakefield’s clear conflicts of interest had affected the findings. In 2010, The Lancet retracted the entire article, after Deer exposed ethical concerns and falsification of data. Multiple studies and reviews since also have found no association between the MMR vaccine and autism, and Wakefield’s results have never been replicated.

But the damage was done. Measles and mumps roared back in Europe and elsewhere due to Wakefield’s false alarm. Meanwhile, it’s evident that unimmunized children are no more likely to be diagnosed with autism than immunized children.

There is plenty of blame to go around. Wakefield loaded the gun with his “study,”  but a credulous news media that valued sensationalism over scientific accuracy pulled the trigger. And let’s not ignore the Hollywood celebrities, “alternative” health providers and a noisy community of internet activists quick to embrace any conspiracy, no matter how unlikely.

I have a professional and personal interest in preventing unnecessary suffering through immunization. I’ve seen the horrible cost of vaccine preventable diseases, both here in Wisconsin, and in poor, under-resourced countries where the human toll is greatest.

And I am saddened and frustrated, as are most health care professionals, by the misguided belief that vaccines are more dangerous than the diseases they prevent. Even health care workers are susceptible to “the panic virus,” as author Seth Mnookin describes vaccine rejectionism in his book by the same name.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one third of health care workers declined flu vaccines during the 2011-12 season. The three most common reasons given are a belief that they did not need it (28.1 percent); concern about the vaccine’s effectiveness (26.4 percent); and concern about side effects (25.1 percent).

Sadly, anti-vaccine groups have hijacked the autism advocacy movement and blamed vaccines for many disorders. Valuable funding that should be used to support families and to investigate the real causes and pursue treatments for autism are spent on the anti-vaccine agenda.

Despite what Wakefield and his followers claim, there is neither any evidence for conspiracy between vaccine manufacturers and public health authorities nor a logical reason for why these institutions would “trick” Americans into exposing their children to dangerous toxins. Demonizing vaccines without evidence, and scaring people into missing out on this simple, inexpensive and safe means to protect individuals and their loved ones is an avoidable tragedy.

Given the re-emergence of infectious diseases around the globe, it’s clear that we are no longer protected by our current vaccination rates. An erosion in vaccine confidence hurts public health. Even with 90 percent vaccine coverage rates, Wisconsin has experienced a protracted outbreak of pertussis in many communities.

We have the tools to protect more people from potentially devastating diseases, and we have had some success already. But we cannot become complacent. Needless suffering is the worst kind.


James H. Conway is a pediatric infectious disease specialist at the University of Wisconsin-School of Medicine & Public Health. He also chairs the Immunization and Infectious Diseases Committee for the Wisconsin chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Copyright 2015 La Crosse Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(30) Comments

  1. Twyla
    Report Abuse
    Twyla - October 27, 2012 10:34 pm
    There was no fraud.
  2. Twyla
    Report Abuse
    Twyla - October 27, 2012 10:31 pm
    What does HPV researcher Diane Harper think of Guardasil?

    An Interview with Dr. Diane M. Harper, HPV Expert
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/marcia-g-yerman/an-interview-with-dr-dian_b_405472.html

    What do Dr. Lucija Tomljenovic and Dr. Christopher A. Shaw think of Gardasil?
    http://gaia-health.com/gaia-blog/2012-10-25/gardasil-is-probable-cause-of-girls-deaths-brain-histology-study/

    Death after Quadrivalent Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Vaccination: Causal or Coincidental?
    http://sanevax.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Tomljenovic-Shaw-Gardasil-Causal-Coincidental-2167-7689-S12-001.pdf
  3. ASD Researcher
    Report Abuse
    ASD Researcher - October 12, 2012 1:57 pm
    I'm actually wondering where the 'fraud' is ?

    No one has been able to provide a single instance of actual fabrication. The UK High Court examined the evidence, if it found any fraud it had of course the judicial power to lay charges. It hasn't.

    The UK government was equally ambivalent to the new allegations as was the University Coollege London withdrawing from any investigation after th UK High Court quashing of allegations against Professor John Walker-Smith.

  4. ASD Researcher
    Report Abuse
    ASD Researcher - October 12, 2012 1:53 pm
    Obviously he wasn't to impressed....
  5. MidwestAtheist
    Report Abuse
    MidwestAtheist - October 04, 2012 10:58 pm
    Nobody said science is perfect, but it is the best thing we have to arrive at the truth.
  6. lilady
    Report Abuse
    lilady - October 04, 2012 7:08 pm
    "I speak not of autism (re: Jenny McCarthy, but of other complications). I believe in naturally-acquired immunity: re trusting one's own immune system. My kids had chickenpox and they lived, just like I did as a kid. There's no reason to be scaring parents into thinking every single illness is scary and must be vaccinated against."

    Your "belief" in "natural immunity" is not based in science. You're not in Kansas, Dorothy...and you're not posting on any of the notorious anti-vaccine blogs.

    Show us studies from reliable first tier peer reviewed medical journals, that the risk for a severe adverse event from receiving varicella vaccine...or any other vaccine (on the order of 1:1,000,000 doses)...is higher than the risk for not vaccinating your child.

  7. lilady
    Report Abuse
    lilady - October 04, 2012 7:01 pm
    "DTaP vaccine reactions do list swelling of the brain."

    "I saw it first hand and it was the scariest day of my life."

    Do tell us, about your experience with brain swelling.

    You state that your child had encephalitis from a DTaP vaccine. Who made the diagnosis? What care did your child with encephalitis receive? Do you make a claim in the Vaccine Court and was your child awarded monetary damages?
  8. lilady
    Report Abuse
    lilady - October 04, 2012 6:38 pm
    That's so *profound*. Your totally factless comments have been duly noted.
  9. lilady
    Report Abuse
    lilady - October 04, 2012 6:35 pm
    "Let's push brand new babies to get Hep B vaccines at birth (giving a 6 pound newborn a single vaccination like Hep. B. is the equivalent of giving a 180 pound man 30 vaccines on the same day. Hep. B. is primarily transmitted via sexual contact and IV drug abuse -- WHY are we vaccinating babies with this? $$$$$$$$$$$$$)."

    Try looking up hepatitis b to see how the virus is transmitted to newborns (vertical transmission). Try looking up how the virus is spread in early transmission (horizontal transmission). What percentage of newborns and young children who become infected with the virus...will not be able to fight off the virus and remain as lifelong carriers? How many of these chronically infected infants will die from fulminant liver disease or liver cancer?

    http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/pdf/rr/rr5416.pdf

    "When your doctor says jump, don't say "how high" -- do your own research instead. I'd rather treat a sick child than injure a healthy one. Many of the scare tactics are false. Much of what happened in the earlier party of the 20th century as a result of illnesses was due to the fact that people didn't understand proper sanitation and handwashing"

    Really? Which vaccine-preventable diseases on the Recommended Childhood Vaccine Schedule are transmitted via the fecal-oral route and which diseases are airborne? Citations desperately needed.

    "As a mother of a child who has had a reaction (cry encephalits, swelling of the brain -- note, NOT autism -- as a result of DTaP vaccine at 2 months), the risk to vaccinating is 100%"

    Tell us all about your child's vaccine-associated encephalitis. Who diagnosed your child's encephalitis? How was your child's encephalitis treated? Did you make a claim in the Vaccine Court and was your child awarded monetary damages?
  10. Dyson
    Report Abuse
    Dyson - October 04, 2012 4:58 pm
    Indeed. Thanks Dr Conway.
  11. Dyson
    Report Abuse
    Dyson - October 04, 2012 4:52 pm
    It is worrying, but the scale of the deliberate fraud was such that normal peer review would not have discovered the extent. Peer reviewers do not have access to the original data and medical records, so they did not know that the case histories had been largely fabricated or distorted to generate a time frame suggesting MMR was the cause, or that the histopathology reports were altered. These are things that peer reviewers take on trust, and if someone sets out to deliberately mislead, it is possible to do so.
  12. Dyson
    Report Abuse
    Dyson - October 04, 2012 4:52 pm
    It is worrying, but the scale of the deliberate fraud was such that normal peer review would not have discovered the extent. Peer reviewers do not have access to the original data and medical records, so they did not know that the case histories had been largely fabricated or distorted to generate a time frame suggesting MMR was the cause, or that the histopathology reports were altered. These are things that peer reviewers take on trust, and if someone sets out to deliberately mislead, it is possible to do so.
  13. lilady
    Report Abuse
    lilady - October 04, 2012 3:12 pm
    Thank you so much for this excellent article Dr. Conway.

    Until recently, I worked as a public health nurse investigating individual cases and outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases. I saw firsthand how such as invasive and deadly bacterial diseases caused by the H. influenzae, S.pneumoniae and N. meningiditis decreased by 98 %, with the development and availability of childhood vaccines.

    Here, the PKIDS (Parents of Kids with Infectious Diseases) blog, "If we didn't vaccinate", explains the dramatic decrease in all vaccine-preventable diseases, now that safe, effective vaccines are available:

    http://www.pkids.org/immunization/consequences_not_vaccinating.html

    On a personal note, my childhood friend died from polio, just before the Salk polio vaccine was licensed and available. My older cousin was left with lifelong neurological deficits, caused by measles encephalitis.

    I hope that you and your colleagues will be attending Mr. Deer's seminars and you will be providing us with your impressions of Mr. Deer's presentations.
  14. Sledderman
    Report Abuse
    Sledderman - October 03, 2012 6:31 pm
    Isn't it troublesome that the study went through a peer review process and was published? The peer review process didn't catch the fraud and even after publishing, scientists didn't catch the errors. It was a reporter who investigated and blew the story open,. So much for science policing itself. Wonder how many other studies slip through the cracks?
  15. Seriously Now
    Report Abuse
    Seriously Now - October 03, 2012 7:28 am
    Snow_Job Informer: I can get you a good deal on a used iron lung for your kid when the polio hits. The previous owner doesn't need it anyone, as he is dead. Say hi to that dimwit Jenny McCarthy when you see her.
  16. AutismNewsBeat
    Report Abuse
    AutismNewsBeat - October 02, 2012 2:43 pm
    Exercise is also great, and it's not forced on us. I guess that's why everyone wants to exercise.
  17. AutismNewsBeat
    Report Abuse
    AutismNewsBeat - October 02, 2012 2:41 pm
    "Not everyone sleeps around."

    Not everybody is honest about their sexual history, either.

    "Swelling of the brain" is not listed in vaccine court as a table injury for DTaP. You are probably referring to the vaccine package insert, which is written by lawyers, based on VAERS reports.

    Chickenpox killed about 100 persons a year before the vaccine came along. Hundreds more were hospitalized for pneumonia and other varicella-related problems. The virus can also open the door to flesh-eating bacteria. Is that your idea of "naturally acquired immunity?"
  18. AutismNewsBeat
    Report Abuse
    AutismNewsBeat - October 02, 2012 2:36 pm
    From cancer.gov :

    "At least a dozen high-risk HPV types have been identified. Two of these, HPV types 16 and 18, are responsible for the majority of HPV-caused cancers."

    Snowy, which HPV types do Gardasil protect against? Types 16 and 18, right? I seem to have lost that information.

    Wait a minute, I found it!

    "In girls and young women of ages 9 to 26, this vaccine protects against HPV types 16 and 18 that are the cause of nearly 75% of cervical cancer cases, 70% of vaginal cancer cases, and 50% of vulvar cancer cases. In females, Gardasil also protects against types 6 and 11 that are the cause of 90% of genital warts cases. In boys and men of ages 9 to 26, the FDA approved Gardasil for the prevention of genital warts caused by HPV types 6 and 11, which constitute 90% of genital warts cases (Cerner Multum, Inc.; U.S. Food and Drug Administration, "Gardasil").

    I am glad that I was able to provide this information to you that you were apparently unaware of before. One sign of an educated person is the ability to adjust one's opinion based on new evidence. What do you think of the HPV vaccine now?

  19. snow_informer
    Report Abuse
    snow_informer - October 02, 2012 11:51 am
    Condoms prevent STDs, not some stupid Gardasil vax, which only helps with 4 strains, 4 strains that aren't even the most common ones!
  20. snow_informer
    Report Abuse
    snow_informer - October 02, 2012 11:50 am
    Well, nobody should be pressured into giving Hepatitis B to a baby when the mother has only been with the father who has only been with her. Not everyone sleeps around.

    DTaP vaccine reactions do list swelling of the brain.

    I saw it first hand and it was the scariest day of my life.

    I speak not of autism (re: Jenny McCarthy, but of other complications). I believe in naturally-acquired immunity: re trusting one's own immune system. My kids had chickenpox and they lived, just like I did as a kid. There's no reason to be scaring parents into thinking every single illness is scary and must be vaccinated against.
  21. AutismNewsBeat
    Report Abuse
    AutismNewsBeat - October 02, 2012 10:32 am
    Wow, that's a lot of discredited anti-vaccine talking points packed into six paragraphs. It always amazes me when parents who claim to have done their "homework" can still get so many basic facts wrong.

    Example: Dying "after vaccination" doesn't mean the vaccine kills. Some of those Gardasil reports of alleged reactions that happened up to six months after the vaccine. It's a cruel world, and sometimes teenage girls die. They have heart attacks, strokes, and viral infections. The background mortality for young woman before 2006 was no different than it is for young woman to get the HPV shot.

    Example: Hep B can also be transmitted via saliva and via the birth canal. A mother can carry the virus and be asymptomatic and not know she is infectious. And not everyone is honest with their health care providers. The test for Hep B is not 100% accurate.

    Example: There is no evidence - zero, zip, nada - that DTaP causes encephalitis.

    Don't be a sheep. Listen to your doctor instead of Jenny McCarthy.
  22. snow_informer
    Report Abuse
    snow_informer - October 02, 2012 10:01 am
    The more they scare people, the higher the alert, the more quickly the gunshot decision to vaccinate. :)
  23. snow_informer
    Report Abuse
    snow_informer - October 02, 2012 10:00 am
    *part (not party)
  24. snow_informer
    Report Abuse
    snow_informer - October 02, 2012 9:59 am
    Dr. James H. Conway is amongst the doctors paid to speak in public on how great vaccines are. Merck, a multi-billion dollar company, is surely seeking out the best interest in people, and not in this for money or anything like that. /sarcasm

    Let's come out with a worthless Gardasil vaccine and push it as a magical STD/cancer-preventing vaccine... have girls die after vaccination. But no, it's SAFE people, let's push it on the parents when they bring them in for physicals. Always adding to the recommended vaccine list. Let's push brand new babies to get Hep B vaccines at birth (giving a 6 pound newborn a single vaccination like Hep. B. is the equivalent of giving a 180 pound man 30 vaccines on the same day. Hep. B. is primarily transmitted via sexual contact and IV drug abuse -- WHY are we vaccinating babies with this? $$$$$$$$$$$$$).

    When your doctor says jump, don't say "how high" -- do your own research instead. I'd rather treat a sick child than injure a healthy one. Many of the scare tactics are false. Much of what happened in the earlier party of the 20th century as a result of illnesses was due to the fact that people didn't understand proper sanitation and handwashing.

    Remember that less than TEN percent of vaccines are reported to VAERS (vaccine reaction reporting) so the statistics you see on the vaccine inserts (if you read them) are not accurate.

    As a mother of a child who has had a reaction (cry encephalits, swelling of the brain -- note, NOT autism -- as a result of DTaP vaccine at 2 months), the risk to vaccinating is 100%.

    Educate yourself. Don't be a sheep. Much of what they push today is un-neccessary and the interest is $$$$$, not your child's health.
  25. FUBAR
    Report Abuse
    FUBAR - October 02, 2012 9:35 am
    If you want them get them, if you don't don't....I got them and made sure my kids got them. But it is up to you.
  26. tower
    Report Abuse
    tower - October 02, 2012 9:29 am
    Well, this letter is going to bring the nuts out today. In most cases it isn't about YOU but the rest of the herd. How many kids spread Whopping Cough or measles or whatever because of your nutty ideas about vaccines? Grow up.
  27. parent101
    Report Abuse
    parent101 - October 02, 2012 8:33 am
    Dr Conway omits to mention that he recieves money from the manufactures of MMR used in the UK.

    Grant/Research Funding: Merck Foundation
    Consultant/Advisor: Merck & Co., Inc.
    Speakers Bureau: Merck & Co., Inc.; Sanofi Pasteur



  28. Lucenut
    Report Abuse
    Lucenut - October 02, 2012 8:01 am
    If vaccines are so great, there's no need to force them on us. People will want them right?
  29. CelticMan
    Report Abuse
    CelticMan - October 02, 2012 6:02 am
    Great letter.
  30. Seriously Now
    Report Abuse
    Seriously Now - October 02, 2012 5:40 am
    For those of you too lazy to read long letters: "Wakefield loaded the gun with his “study,” but a credulous news media that valued sensationalism over scientific accuracy pulled the trigger. And let’s not ignore the Hollywood celebrities, “alternative” health providers and a noisy community of internet activists quick to embrace any conspiracy, no matter how unlikely."
Add Comment
You must Login to comment.

Click here to get an account it's free and quick

Activate subscription button gif

Search local business directory

Hint: Enter a keyword that you are looking for like tires, pizza or doctors or browse the full business directory.


Follow The La Crosse Tribune





loading...


Latest Local Offers

Today's Question

Loading…

When was the last time you flew in an airplane?

View Results

Featured Businesses

AD BOARD

VIEW ADS  >

SEARCH ALL ADS
Sign Up for Our Email Lists

Breaking News, News Update and Sports Update Headlines. Delivered at 11a.m. daily.

Sign up for Events, Contests and Promotions

Business report, local Business news. Delivered once per month.

New employment opportunities in the region.

Local homes for sale.

Cars, Trucks, Vans, SUVs, Motorcycles, ATVs, Boats, RV's & more

Featured Homes

JOB BOARD

VIEW ADS  >

JOBS SENT TO YOUR EMAIL
SEARCH ALL ADS