With so much information online about vaccines, it can be hard to know who to trust. Here, we present commentary from several experts in the field. Read what the people who have spent their lives studying vaccines and disease have to say.
Wrong About Measles, Cancer & Autism: A Review of Dan Olmsted's Article "Weekly Wrap: Measles, Cancer Autoimmunity, Autism"
(Age of Autism, May 17, 2014)
Joel A Harrison, PhD, MPH
May 28, 2015
In his review of the article "Weekly Wrap: Measles, Cancer, Autoimmunity, Autism on Age of Autism" written by founder, owner and chief editor of Age of Autism Dan Olmsted, Dr. Harrison critiques his claims that measles vaccination is tied to a higher incidence of cancer. Olmstead claims that a recent study used a measles vaccine to treat multiple myeloma. He then speculates that measles may have had a preventative effect on cancer and that vaccinations led to increasing rates of cancer. Olmstead goes so far as to claim "wild-type measles . . . performs some unsuspected function in preventing the occurrence of cancer." Dr. Harrison exposes the many deficiencies in Olmsted's article, which appears to have been based on two newspaper accounts of the research, and is quick to clarify that a measles vaccine was not used in the stated study. Dr. Harrison shows that Olmsted fails to recognize that the measles virus had been modified and not the measles vaccine, which raises question as to whether he read and/or understood the study in the first place. What's unsettling is that both the newspaper articles that Olmsted references in his article are clear on that detail. This article is longer than past articles that Dr. Harrison has written. He intentionally did this so that he could clearly make certain points and to allow people to use sections as stand-alone pieces for refuting claims made by antivaccinationists.
Don't Sacrifice The Good For The Perfect: A Review of Cathy Jameson's "A Strong Message About Vaccines."
(Age of Autism, January 18, 2015)
Joel A Harrison, PhD, MPH
February 4, 2015
In this paper Dr. Harrisons critiques an article by a vaccine skeptic that downplays the seriousness of measles disease and the public's concern over the outbreak that continues to spread throughout the nation.
Cathy Jameson complains that the measles vaccine is not 100% effective and implies that the vaccine industry cannot be trusted because they benefit from profits on their products. However, as Dr. Harrison states, "then one should not trust any product since everything sold is done so to make a profit.".
Dr. Harrison states in his introduction:
"Though it's unfortunate that the measles vaccine doesn't perfectly protect everyone, it does protect most, preventing unnecessary suffering, hospitalizations, disabilities, and even deaths. And, if everyone were vaccinated, then the risks to those with weaker immune systems would also be significantly reduced. In other words, Don't Sacrifice the Good for the Perfect"
Another Anti-Vaccinationist Wrong About Genetic
Research and Autism: A Review of Teresa
Conrick's "Dear America, You Are Being Bamboozled
Again About Autism and Genes"
(Age of Autism, July 23, 2014)
Joel A Harrison, PhD, MPH
January 7, 2015
In this paper Dr. Harrison critiques what he considers to be the poor scholarship and science displayed by Teresa Conrick in an article she wrote as the contributing editor to Age of Autism.
According to Dr. Harrison, Conrick's post on Age of Autism on July 23, 2014, "Dear America, You Are Being Bamboozled Again About Autism and Genes," should raise a number of red flags regarding her scholarship, basic understanding of science, common sense, and perhaps, even her ethics. Conrick's article claims that a recent study, looking at genetics and autism, published in the journal Nature Genetics, by Gaugler et al. titled "Most Genetic Risk for Autism Resides Within Common Variation," reflects an "onslaught of studies and articles to try and persuade [people] that AUTISM is a genetic ONLY disorder," and that the study denies the role of any environmental or toxic exposure.
Dr. Harrison reviews the Conrick article in great depth, explaining the many deficiencies in her review of the Gaugler et al. study. He even questions whether Conrick read the full study, or if she simply drafted her commentary off the press release that accompanied the study. In this most recent exposé by Dr. Harrison, he adeptly explains how Conrick's contradictory statements illustrate her lack of understanding of the complex science of and relationship between environment and genetics..
Wrong About Genetic Research and Autism, A Review of Lyn Redwood's Article "Science as a Means of Social Control"
(SafeMinds, August 23, 2013)
Joel A Harrison, PhD, MPH
November 4, 2014
This paper is a review of Lyn Redwood's Article "Science as a Means of Social Control" printed by SafeMinds on August 23, 2013. In his article, Dr. Harrison counters a series of arguments made by Lyn Redwood regarding genetic research and autism. Redwood's piece echoes the sentiments of another article she located on the internet which she believed validated her instincts that "science is being used as a means of exonerating industry and/or government for culpability by blaming the individual for having the poor luck of bad genetics." Dr. Harrison's critique of Redwood's premise is both thorough and quite insightful.
Welcome to the expert commentary of Joel A Harrison, PhD, MPH. Dr. Harrison has been closely following what he deems "the so-called vaccine controversy," and has volunteered his time to provide expert analysis of a variety of articles, research papers and books in order to systematically debunk the false claims made about the safety of vaccines. We hope you find Dr. Harrison's articles enlightening and we urge you to share them with your friends and colleagues. Dr. Harrison will be featured in ECBT's new Expert Commentary section on the Every Child By Two website.
Economic Evaluation of the Routine Childhood Immunization Program in the United States, 2009
Zhou, F. Pediatrics. April 2014; 155(4): 1-9.
OBJECTIVES: To evaluate the economic impact of the 2009 routine US childhood immunization schedule, including diphtheria and tetanus toxoids and acellular pertussis, Haemophilus influenzae type b conjugate, inactivated poliovirus, measles/mumps/rubella, hepatitis B, varicella, 7-valent pneumococcal conjugate, hepatitis A, and rotavirus vaccines; influenza vaccine was not included.
METHODS: Decision analysis was conducted using population-based vaccination coverage, published vaccine efficacies, historical data on disease incidence before vaccination, and disease incidence reported during 2005 to 2009. Costs were estimated using the direct cost and societal (direct and indirect costs) perspectives. Program costs included vaccine, administration, vaccine-associated adverse events, and parent travel and work time lost. All costs were inflated to 2009 dollars, and all costs and benefits in the future were discounted at a 3% annual rate. A hypothetical 2009 US birth cohort of 4,261,494 infants over their lifetime was followed up from birth through death. Net present value (net savings) and benefit-cost ratios of routine childhood immunization were calculated.
RESULTS: Analyses showed that routine childhood immunization among members of the 2009 US birth cohort will prevent ~42,000 early deaths and 20 million cases of disease, with net savings of $13.5 billion in direct costs and $68.8 billion in total societal costs, respectively. The direct and societal benefit-cost ratios for routine childhood vaccination with these 9 vaccines were 3.0 and 10.1.
CONCLUSIONS: From both direct cost and societal perspectives, vaccinating children as recommended with these vaccines results in substantial cost savings.
Contagious Diseases in the United States from 1888 to the Present
van Panhuis, WG et al. November 18, 2013; 362 (22): 2152-2158.
Using data from digitized weekly surveillance reports of notifiable diseases for U.S. cities and states for 1888 through 2011, the authors derived a quantitative history of disease reduction in the United States, focusing particularly on the effects of vaccination programs.
U.S. Hospitalizations for Pneumonia after a Decade of Pneumococcal Vaccination
Griffin, MR et al. The New England Journal of Medicine, July 11, 2013; 369: 155-163.
The introduction of 7-valent pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV7) into the U.S. childhood immunization schedule in 2000 has substantially reduced the incidence of vaccine-serotype invasive pneumococcal disease in young children and in unvaccinated older children and adults. By 2004, hospitalizations associated with pneumonia from any cause had also declined markedly among young children. Because of concerns about increases in disease caused by nonvaccine serotypes, we wanted to determine whether the reduction in pneumonia-related hospitalizations among young children had been sustained through 2009 and whether such hospitalizations in older age groups had also declined.
Wrong About Vaccine Safety: A Review of Andrew Wakefield's
Joel A Harrison, PhD, MPH, The Open Vaccine Journal, 2013, 6, 9-25
After reading Callous Disregard, Joel A. Harrison, PhD, MPH, felt compelled to refute each and every point that Andrew Wakefield attempted to make about vaccine safety and his article was ultimately published in a peer-reviewed online open-source medical journal.
"This paper systematically examines the claims in Wakefield's book as an example of similar erroneous claims being made within the anti-vaccination movement, contrasting these approaches to scientific foundations of vaccine risk and benefit. It is hoped that this review will be used by doctors and public health personnel to encourage parents hesitating to have their children vaccinated to question anti-vaccination claims in general, given that many proponents often refer to Wakefield as an authority and display in their writings and pronouncements similar examples of erroneous claims. The public health risks from decreased vaccination are significant. Based on the old adage "trust but verify," readers should examine the references and, where possible (URLs to many documents are included), obtain and read the original papers rather than rely on the "interpretations" of others.."
Letter to the Editor: Comment on Dr. Joel A. Harrison's "Wrong About Vaccine Safety." by Brith Christenson, MD, PhD, The Open Vaccine Journal, Vol. 6, 2013, p. 26.
Childhood Immunization Schedule and Safety: Stakeholder Concerns, Scientific Evidence, and Future Studies
Institute of Medicine, National Academies of Science, January 16, 2013
"Vaccines are among the most safe and effective public health interventions to prevent serious disease and death. Because of the success of vaccines, most Americans today have no firsthand experience with such devastating illnesses as polio or diphtheria. Health care providers who vaccinate young children follow a schedule prepared by the U.S. Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. Under the current schedule, children younger than six may receive as many as 24 immunizations by their second birthday. New vaccines undergo rigorous testing prior to receiving FDA approval; however, like all medicines and medical interventions, vaccines carry some risk."
"Driven largely by concerns about potential side effects, there has been a shift in some parents' attitudes toward the child immunization schedule. HHS asked the IOM to identify research approaches, methodologies, and study designs that could address questions about the safety of the current schedule."
"This report is the most comprehensive examination of the immunization schedule to date. The IOM committee uncovered no evidence of major safety concerns associated with adherence to the childhood immunization schedule. Should signals arise that there may be need for investigation, however, the report offers a framework for conducting safety research using existing or new data collection systems."
VACCINE-PREVENTABLE DISEASE: The Forgotten Story (Updated Edition).
Cunningham, RM et al. Texas Children's Hospital, 2010
"Vaccine-Preventable Disease: The Forgotten Story was written by our vaccine experts as a resource for the public to provide information and awareness about the increasingly complex issue of vaccination. In an age where rumors of frightening effects of vaccines abound and vaccination rates continue to decline, even more frightening are the stories of innocent children and young people who have suffered needlessly from a disease that could have easily been prevented with a vaccine."
"The stories in Vaccine-Preventable Disease: The Forgotten Story are the profiles of real lives interrupted and damaged by vaccine-preventable disease. Each story shows the cost of human suffering from not vaccinating and has been shared to help parents grasp the impact of a choice not to vaccinate their child."
"While the stories portrayed carry caution, they also carry hope and the single profound message that vaccines save lives."
Historical Comparisons of Morbidity and Mortality for Vaccine-Preventable Diseases in the United States
Roush, SW. The New England Journal of Medicine, November 14, 2007; 298(13): 2155-2163
Context National vaccine recommendations in the United States target an increasing number of vaccine-preventable diseases for reduction, elimination, or eradication.
Objective To compare morbidity and mortality before and after widespread implementation of national vaccine recommendations for 13 vaccine-preventable diseases for which recommendations were in place prior to 2005.
Design, Setting, and Participants For the United States, prevaccine baselines were assessed based on representative historical data from primary sources and were compared to the most recent morbidity (2006) and mortality (2004) data for diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, poliomyelitis, measles, mumps, rubella (including congenital rubella syndrome), invasive Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib), acute hepatitis B, hepatitis A, varicella, Streptococcus pneumoniae, and smallpox.
Main Outcome Measures Number of cases, deaths, and hospitalizations for 13 vaccine-preventable diseases. Estimates of the percent reductions from baseline to recent were made without adjustment for factors that could affect vaccine-preventable disease morbidity, mortality, or reporting.
Results A greater than 92% decline in cases and a 99% or greater decline in deaths due to diseases prevented by vaccines recommended before 1980 were shown for diphtheria, mumps, pertussis, and tetanus. Endemic transmission of poliovirus and measles and rubella viruses has been eliminated in the United States; smallpox has been eradicated worldwide. Declines were 80% or greater for cases and deaths of most vaccine-preventable diseases targeted since 1980 including hepatitis A, acute hepatitis B, Hib, and varicella. Declines in cases and deaths of invasive S pneumoniae were 34% and 25%, respectively.
Conclusions The number of cases of most vaccine-preventable diseases is at an all-time low; hospitalizations and deaths have also shown striking decreases.
Media Briefing on Vaccines and Child Health
July 19, 2005
"I can say authoritatively without question that having a child with autism has been my family's single greatest challenge and my own personal greatest challenge. My own opinion is that autism is one of the cruelest conditions that could befall a child or her parents...One thing that we're totally confident about is that Rachel's autism had absolutely nothing to do with the vaccines that she received. Even if we could turn back the clock and do it all over again, I can honestly say that we would still give Rachel her full complement of pediatric vaccines."
"We need a war on autism, not a war on childhood vaccines."
Peter Hotez, M.D., Ph.D., F.A.A.P., father of an autistic child and professor and chair of the Department of Microbiology, Immunology, and Tropical Medicine at George Washington University
Immunization Safety Review: Vaccines and Autism
Institute of Medicine National Academies, May 17, 2004
"Based on a thorough review of clinical and epidemiological studies, neither the mercury-based vaccine preservative thimerosal nor the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine are associated with autism...Further research to find the cause of autism should be directed toward other lines of inquiry that are supported by current knowledge and evidence and offer more promise for providing an answer."
'Five large epidemiological studies conducted in the United States, the United Kingdom, Denmark, and Sweden since 2001 consistently provided evidence that there is no association between thimerosal-containing vaccines and autism."
World Health Organization (WHO): Weekly Epidemiological Record
September 13, 2002
“It is important to note that concerns about the toxicity of thimerosal are theoretical and there is no compelling scientific evidence of a safety problem with its use in vaccines, although public perception of risk remains in some countries. WHO policy is clear on this issue, and the Organization continues to recommend the use of vaccines containing thimerosal for global immunization programmes since the benefits of using such products far outweigh any theoretical risk of toxicity.”