To all my former students (as well as everyone else who reads this blog): please check out “Vaccines” a PBS documentary about the challenges faced by society revolving around maintaining society’s immunity against a number of vaccine-preventable diseases. Vaccines airs on PBS stations on August 26th at 9pm. You can also watch the film online here.
Tag Archives: vaccines
Even if just not getting measles was all you got for your immunization, it would still be worth it. But through some unknown mechanism, getting measles seems to erase prior immunological memory, by depleting B and T lymphocytes (so, we know the cause, but not how this happens).
Below, is a visualization of individuals’ lymphocyte numbers pre and post measles:
Apparently, naive cells are either not impacted, or only minimally so. Whereas all specific lymphocytes are completely depleted. Following resolution of the infection, the only antigen-specific lymphocytes that remain afterwards are those specific to measles. That is, you now have the immune system of a toddler, with the sole exception of having immunity to measles. Recovering that lost immunity takes approximately 2-3 years of being exposed to and contracting infection after infection to rebuild memory.
One of the reasons that investigators knew that there was something to investigate was that once measles vaccine became available, not only did deaths associated with measles decrease, but so did deaths associated with a number of other infections.
I’ve been having a difficult time logging into ‘Blackboard’ today to post the questions for chapter 10 of Autism’s False Prophets. Although I don’t like posting any required material here, I’d rather get it out there, so if you are in my pathology class, please spread the word to other students to check in here.
Before you start, check out this video mentioned towards the back of the chapter…
Autism’s False Prophets Name:
Chapter 10 Questions
Science and Society
“For many parents, the advice given by heathcare professionals about vaccines is just one more opinion in a sea of opinions offered by the internet.”
-Offit, chapter 10
- What is the problem with Dan Burton’s assessment of what he saw at the Stop Autism Now Conference?
- How would you interpret the actions of policymakers at the CDC who ‘invariably give these vaccines to their own children and grandchildren’? If you have read Offit’s other book, Vaccinated, do you recall who vaccine maker, Maurice Hilleman, insisted were the first to receive the Hepatitis vaccine made from human blood?
- What does Offit say is even more important than reporting the source of funding for scientific investigation on? Why is this so?
- What is ‘the price’ of empowering parents to make medical decisions about their childrens’ healthcare?
- How does the ‘Scientific Method’ differ from what people often do in their day-to-day lives? How is it similar?
- Using the scientific method, data serves to _____________________________ the null hypothesis. What can it NOT do? Why not?
- Why is it evolutionarily successful to make ‘the best connections’? What flaws in logic can this leave?
- What quotation did Stephen Strauss, former director of NCCAM keep framed on his office wall? What is the meaning of this quotation?
- How many people, since 1958, have died from poisoned Halloween candy? (http://www.snopes.com/horrors/poison/halloween.asp)
Apropos of class discussion about vaccine compliance and public policy, check out Adrienne LaFrance’s article from The Atlantic on how Measles is re-emerging in many countries – including the United States – that have considered it eradicated for decades.
The numbers in recent years are nothing like the devastation that Measles used to visit in the US, however, it is the trend that is disturbing. Prior to the introduction of the vaccine, cases numbered in the hundreds of thousands per year in the US. Globally, in 2013, there were 145 700 measles deaths compared to an estimated 2.6 million deaths each year prior to widespread immunization. (data from the WHO)
I just finished up Paul Offit’s Vaccines course offered for free through Coursera.org. I found this course to be an excellent introduction to the science and history of vaccines which anyone could benefit from regardless of their background. This is particularly important because the act of having children has such a low barrier to entry, yet it immediately puts one in the position to be responsible for another’s life.
I highly recommend this course to anyone who is interested in vaccines, interested in immunology, interested in disease, has children, might have children in the future and really anyone who wants to take their citizenship in the world seriously.
The last lecture on vaccine exemptions was especially informative to me as it discussed not only the current trend in vaccine refusal, but also explored the historical and legal history. Listening to this lecture reminded me of a question that has always bubbled on the back burner of my mind: What are the legal ramifications of vaccine refusal for the physicians who care for these patients? My feeling is that allowing parents to elect to refuse vaccines for their children is akin to asking their doctor to practice sub-standard medicine, something that is often prosecuted in malpractice cases.
Consider the case of Typhoid Mary, who spread her eponymous disease through preparing baked goods in New York. When she was finally tracked down, she was forced to become “quarantined on North Brother Island in a tiny cottage separated from Manhattan by the East River.” Her freedom was certainly infringed upon for the good of the public. Was this a reasonable course of action by the authorities?
A lot has been made of the putative link between vaccines and autism since the 1998 publication of ‘Illeal-lymphoid-nodular, non-specific colitis and pervasive developmental disorder in children‘ by Andrew Wakefield. In chapter 10 of Vaccinated, we will be discussing how this article started an epidemic of fear amongst the parents of young children that had a drastic effect on public health.
The author quotes Philip Roth’s The Human Stain as a testimony to the power of suggestion. “To hear the allegation is to believe it. No motive for the perpetrator is necessary, no logic or rationale is required. Only a label is required. The label is the motive. The label is the evidence. The label is the logic.”
In our discussion of this paper we will review the circumstances surrounding its publication, the data presented by the paper, what they mean and don’t mean and what efforts have been made to research the possibility of such a causal link.
A good review of the work done to examine the evidence for any such connections can be found here. We will review the data presented in this article and since that article is a secondary source, we will uncover some of the primary data that this review discusses as see how it compares to the original paper.
In putting this together, I am reminded of an interesting TED talk about how science is done and the necessity for critical examination of data. The talk, by Margaret Heffernan: Dare to disagree is well worth the listen:
Michael Specter, a science journalist at The New Yorker and author of Denialism: How Irrational Thinking Hinders Scientific Progress, Harms the Planet, and Threatens Our Lives gives a remarkably powerful talk on the treatment of science in modern times. He asks, ‘Why do we mistrust scientific authority?’ and encourages us to listen to the data even as we keep our skepticism.
This is a really good talk. I wish I had given it. Follow this link to the TEDed page with this talk and some questions. He mentions Paul Offit, the author of Vaccinated, the book we are reading in Microbiology this semester. Although the mention is brief, it does expose the ugly mob mentality that takes over public discourse sometimes.
My microbiology class next semester will be reading Paul Offit’s ‘Vaccinated‘. This book tells the story of Maurice Hilleman, the man who developed many vaccines commonly used in children today. I’ve read this book once before, but I’m looking forward to revisiting it.
You can find a link to this book from the DHS website at: