A reader shared a Fox News article that was just published today and asked me for a response, so here it is. I’ll keep it brief. The Fox article, written by Liberty Vittert, is titled “Vaccinate your children—measles is back because fears and lies are trumping science”. But it’s Vittert who is rejecting science and instead using fear and lies to manufacture consent for public vaccine policy.
Vittert demonstrates cognitive dissonance right off the bat when she acknowledges that anywhere from 3 percent to 10 percent of vaccinated individuals “can still get measles” while at the same time insisting that, until recently, the population was “protected by what is known as the ‘herd immunity.’”
She doesn’t specify what percentage of the population must be vaccinated in order for this hypothesized herd immunity to exist and stop outbreaks, but typically we’re told it’s 95 percent. But even if 100 percent of the population is vaccinated, how can the vaccine confer this herd immunity if it fails in up to 10 percent of individuals?
Whoops! Furthermore, Vittert is here referring just to what’s known as “primary vaccine failure”, which is when the vaccine simply fails to stimulate a level of antibodies in the blood deemed protective (although antibodies are neither always sufficient nor even necessary for immunity). There is also “secondary vaccine failure”, or waning immunity. This type of failure helps explain why so many adults have been getting measles during outbreaks in recent years—such as the 2015 Disneyland outbreak, in which most cases were adults, according to data from the California Department of Public Health.
It’s also important to note that, in the event of exposure, infants are at greater risk today precisely because of mass vaccination and the loss of maternal passive immunity. Before the vaccine, infants were generally protected by antibodies transferred from their mothers, until they reached such an age where their immune systems had developed enough to be able to handle the virus on their own. Now, however, due to the inferiority of the vaccine-conferred immunity compared to naturally acquired immunity and because of the loss of natural exogenous boosting from repeated re-exposures, mothers are less well able to protect their babies through passive immunity.
Obligatorily, Vittert claims that it’s “flatly false” that vaccines can cause autism. But the claim that science has disproven the hypothesis that vaccines administered according to the CDC’s routine childhood schedule can contribute to the development of autism in children with a genetic or environmentally caused predisposition is itself false. The CDC, of course, makes the same claim. But to support it, the CDC cites several observational studies and a 2004 Institute of Medicine (IOM) review that acknowledged that the hypothesis cannot be excluded by observational studies! In fact, the IOM acknowledged that none of the studies it reviewed had even considered the possibility of susceptible subpopulations. And another IOM review in 2013 acknowledged that “studies designed to examine the long-term effects of the cumulative number of vaccines and other aspects of the immunization schedule have not been conducted.”
Furthermore, the government has acknowledged that vaccines can cause brain damage manifesting as symptoms of autism in genetically susceptible children. The CDC’s own head of vaccine safety, Dr. Frank DeStefano, has admitted that “it’s a possibility” that vaccines can cause autism in susceptible individuals, but that the problem is it’s “hard to predict who those children might be”.
No less obligatorily, Vittert repeats the claim that “Andrew Wakefield created the modern anti-vaxxer movement” by originating fears that the MMR vaccine causes autism with “made-up science” in a 1998 Lancet study that was later retracted and for which Wakefield was stripped of his medical license by the United Kingdom’s General Medical Council (GMC). But this narrative, too, is false. In fact, Wakefield and his coauthors in the 1998 Lancet study clearly stated that they did not show a causal relationship between the vaccine and autism. They were simply relaying the concern expressed by the parents that their children regressed into autism following vaccination. The idea that this 1998 study is the origin of parental fears about autism is ridiculous and provably false. That this had been a concern of parents for many years prior to that study is demonstrated by the fact that the IOM discussed it in a 1991 review.
It’s also worth pointing out that one of Wakefield’s coauthors, John Walker-Smith, was also stripped of his medical license by the GMC, but appealed and was reinstated on the basis of the court’s conclusion that the charges against him were spurious and unsupported by the available evidence. (The reason Wakefield did not join him in appealing was that, unlike Walker-Smith’s, his insurance policy wouldn’t help cover the costs.)
In addition to lying that science has disproven the vaccine-autism hypothesis and lying that this hypothesis originated with Andrew Wakefield, Vittert also misinforms about the risks of getting measles, stating that if you are infected with the virus, “you have a 1 in 500 chance of death.” Presumably, Vittert is getting this information from the CDC, which claims that for every 1,000 children infected with measles, 1 or 2 will die. But that is a deliberate lie because it refers to the rate of deaths per reported cases, and, as the CDC knows perfectly well, during the pre-vaccine era, the vast majority of cases were not reported. As the CDC’s own data shows, the fatality rate was closer to one death for every 10,000 cases. The IOM in a 1994 review also observed that “the measles fatality rate is 1 per 10,000 cases”.
The caveat to this historical fatality rate of 1 per 1,000 reported cases (1 in 10,000 estimated cases) is that it has changed as a result of the vaccine. The rate of deaths per reported cases has increased because mass vaccination, for the reasons already explained, has shifted the risk burden in the event of exposure away from children, in whom measles was generally a benign infection, and onto those for whom the virus poses a greater risk of potentially deadly complications: adults and infants.
Vittert next claims that the risk of having a deadly reaction to the measles vaccine is “1 in 1 million”. She cites no source to support that claim, but it presumably comes from post-marketing surveillance that suffers from underreporting of vaccine-associated adverse events, and the fact is that we do not know the vaccine’s effect on childhood mortality because no studies have been done to compare mortality rates between American children who receive the vaccine and children who don’t. Given a measles fatality rate of 1 in 10,000, such a study would need to be very large to be able to determine with statistical significance what the vaccine’s impact is on childhood mortality.
From the basis her false assumptions, Vittert concludes, “Clearly, it is significantly less risky for your child to get vaccinated.” But that conclusion does not follow. In addition to her false premises, her conclusion also rests on the assumption that the child would get measles if left unvaccinated. But the chances of a child in the US being exposed to measles in the first place are also extremely small.
According to the CDC, from 2010 through 2019, there have been 3,237 reported cases of measles, which is an average of about 324 cases per year. The US has a population of 330,000,000. That’s about 1 case annually per 1 million population. Accepting Vittert’s measles death rate of 1 in 500, we should expect about 1 death annually for every 50 million people in the US. That’s far less than the odds of being struck by lightning, which is 1 in 1.2 million, and lesser still than Vittert’s own accepted vaccine death rate of 1 in 1 million.
From 2010 through 2017, the last year for which data is available from the CDC, there were 4 deaths in the US attributed to measles. None of these deaths were in children. All were adults aged 25 or older—age groups now at higher risk due to secondary vaccine failure, as already mentioned. During the same years, there were 40 deaths reported following measles vaccination. That’s not to say that the vaccine necessarily caused those deaths. It may or may not have. But underreporting of vaccine-associated adverse events is also a known problem with the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS), the database from which this number comes.
The point is that, no, it is not “clearly” less risky for parents to vaccinate their child than to not. A risk-benefit analysis really does need to be done for each individual child. That judgment must take into consideration the individual’s risk of getting measles and of experiencing complications in the unlikely event of infection. (Vitamin A deficiency, for example, is a known risk factor.) It must also take into consideration the individual’s risk of being permanently injured or killed by the vaccine.
Unfortunately, scientific research has focused on vaccination as a one-size-fits-all solution rather than on better understanding what places a small minority of children in the US at risk of serious measles complications and developing targeted interventions to decrease those susceptible children’s risk. There is also a concerning dearth of science to determine what genetic and environmental risk factors place certain children at greater risk of vaccine injury.
Naturally, this concerns parents. To dismiss their legitimate concerns, as Fox News does with Vittert’s article, is simply unreasonable—and absolutely a rejection of science. Unfortunately, the nature of this Fox article is typical for mainstream media reporting on vaccines. The media are simply not doing journalism. What they are doing is instead advocating public vaccine policy. And the goal of manufacturing consent for government policies is fundamentally at odds with the goal of properly educating parents to be able to meaningfully exercise their right to informed consent when it comes to making decisions about vaccinating their children.
For more information and documentation about the measles death rate, see my Children’s Health Defense article “CDC Lies About, and Media Repeats, Risk of Dying from Measles”.
For additional discussion and references, also see my article “How the Media Lie about Why Parents Don’t Vaccinate”.