Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Straight Talk About Measles


We are in the middle of a massive media fear frenzy about measles. This measles mania appeared just as the ebola frenzy subsided, as if the American public has to be worrying about an "epidemic" at all times. The problem is that there was no ebola epidemic in the US, and there is no measles epidemic either. "Epidemic" is defined as "a widespread occurrence of an infectious disease in a community at a particular time." As of February 13 (the latest CDC update), there have been 141 cases of measles reported in 17 states and the District of Columbia in 2015. Of those 18 locations, nine have had only ONE reported case (Colorado, the District of Columbia, Delaware, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Texas), and five have had only two cases (Nebraska, New York, Nevada, South Dakota, and Utah). Washington has had four cases, Arizona seven, Illinois eleven, and California has had 98 cases of measles.

One case of measles in a state isn't even worth mentioning. Seven cases in a state with a population of 6.7 million or eleven cases in a population of 12.9 million can hardly be considered an epidemic either. Even the 88 cases in California don't qualify as an epidemic. In a population of 38.8 million, 0.0002% of the population has contracted measles in 2015. This is not "a widespread occurrence."

The focus of the media fear-mongering is on unvaccinated children. Parents who opt out of vaccines are being blamed for the "epidemic." The interesting reality from the California Department of Public Health is that 59% of the cases have been in ADULTS. Let me say that again. In the California measles outbreak, 59% of cases were not in children at all, let alone unvaccinated children.
(Note that the CDPH statistics include December 2014 cases, so the numbers don't match the CDC numbers for CA in 2015.)

None of this matters to the media. Here in Michigan, the ONE case of measles was in a VACCINATED ADULT. This adult had received one dose of MMR, which was all that was recommended when this person was vaccinated as a child. The measles vaccine originally promised to confer lifelong immunity with one dose. In 1990, there were 27,672 cases of measles reported in the US, the highest number of cases since 1977. While there was no media fear frenzy at the time, a second dose of MMR was added to the vaccine schedule in the wake of this outbreak. It appears that waning immunity even in those who have had two doses may now lead to the recommendation for additional boosters. What other product can convince us to buy more of it when it fails?

Most of the media coverage in Michigan has omitted the fact that the one case of measles was in an adult who had been vaccinated. There has also been no media acknowledgment of the fact that this person recovered without complication and without spreading measles to anyone else (the incubation period has passed with no additional cases). The focus in the media has been on unvaccinated children and vaccine exemptions, which are completely irrelevant to the one case of measles in our state so far this year.


While misinformed people on Facebook are ranting about "babies dying of measles in California because of the anti-vaxxers", the truth is that there has not been a measles death in the US since 2003. These are the most recent measles deaths I have been able to find though combing the CDC data, and the CDC confirmed this in an email to a member of one of my vaccine groups a few days ago:

From: CDC NCIRD DVD Inquiry <ncirddvdinquiry@cdc.gov>
Date: February 11, 2015
Subject: RE: CDC-INFO: Inquiry [ ref:_00DU0YCBU.500U0HSGf:ref ]
Thank you for you inquiry regarding measles deaths. Measles data available to the public can be found in www.cdc.gov/measles, MMWR (http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/), and other publications such as those listed on http://www.cdc.gov/measles/resources/ref-res.html.
The last documented deaths in the US directly attributable to acute measles occurred in 2003. Before the measles vaccination program started in 1963, we estimate that 3-4 million people got measles each year in the US, and 400-500 of those died (http://www.cdc.gov/measles/about/faqs.html).
Division of Viral Diseases
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

There were two measles deaths in 2003, and both of them involved extenuating circumstances. One was a 75-year-old who caught measles in Israel but later died of complications in the US. The other was a 13-year-old who died of measles encephalitis three months after receiving a bone marrow transplant. "Despite an intensive search, no additional cases were detected in the surrounding area." So this immune-compromised child died of measles EVEN THOUGH THERE WERE NO LOCAL MEASLES CASES. A bone marrow transplant puts someone in the highest risk category for contracting measles through vaccine shedding. There were no measles cases in the area. How many recently vaccinated kids were there?

Americans today are very afraid of death by measles, but the reality is that measles is usually a self-limiting virus in the developed world. The death rates being tossed around by the media are from rural Africa, where there is no sanitation, no clean water, and severe malnutrition. Under these circumstances, measles (or any other infection) is far more likely to lead to death.  One CNN reporter apparently announced a 50% mortality rate for measles, which is not true anywhere in the world, let alone in the United States. According to the CDC's pre-vaccination era US data, about 1 in 10,000 people who got measles died as a result.

The death rate most often being quoted currently is 1-2 in 1000 cases. Has the measles death to case ratio in the US really increased 10 to 20 fold since 1963? If it has, it is because vaccination has pushed the disease out of its natural age range and into more vulnerable infants and adults. Before the vaccine, measles most often affected school-aged children, who usually recovered quickly and with lifelong natural immunity to protect them as adults, for whom measles may be more serious. A woman who had measles as a child conferred maternal antibodies on her own infants, protecting them when they were most vulnerable. Dr. Suzanne Humphries explains this phenomenon, and the way vaccination disrupts it:
Prior to vaccination, mothers were naturally immune to measles and passed that immunity to their infants via placenta and breast milk. Vaccinated mothers may have vaccine immunity, which is not the same immunologically, as natural immunity. One of the major differences in the vaccine-induced immunity is that it cannot be passed from mother to infant. 
Since most vaccines are delivered by injection, the mucous membranes are bypassed and thus blood antibodies are produced but not mucosal antibodies. Mucosal exposure is what contributes to the production of antibodies in the mammary gland. A child’s exposure to the virus while being breastfed by a naturally immune mother would lead to an asymptomatic infection that results in long-term immunity to that virus. Vaccinated mothers have lower levels of virus-specific antibodies in the serum and milk compared to naturally immune mothers and thus their infants are unprotected. 
“Infants whose mothers were born after 1963 had a measles attack rate of 33%, compared to 12% for infants of older mothers.” Infants whose mothers were born after 1963 are more susceptible to measles than are infants of older mothers. An increasing proportion of infants born in the United States may be susceptible to measles.” [7]
For the disease of measles, we see that while the clinical case rate may have declined with vaccination, the most sensitive members of the herd are at an increased risk- as a result of vaccination. 
- See more at: http://www.vaccinationcouncil.org/2012/07/05/herd-immunity-the-flawed-science-and-failures-of-mass-vaccination-suzanne-humphries-md-3/#sthash.ClXvPFpU.dpuf

Even if the more dire death rate is real, let's look at what that really means for Americans. We have 141 cases reported in a population of 320,000,000 people of a disease with a death rate of perhaps 1-2 in 1000 cases. We would need at least 5-10 times the current number of measles cases to expect to see one measles death in our population of 3.2 million people. Incidentally the US saw 644 measles cases in 27 states in 2014, with no deaths and no widespread panic.

What puzzles me about the success of the current fear-mongering is that we still have an entire generation of Americans alive today who experienced measles as a normal, expected part of childhood. The vast majority of them remember staying in bed for a few days and then getting better, and watching all their siblings and friends go through the same experience. None of the older adults I've spoken with remember anyone they knew suffering any complications from measles, let alone dying from it. This page from my childhood book, Babar and the Doctor, is a good representation of how measles was viewed in 1969.

This video compilation from 1959, 1961, and 1969 also gives a good sense of how measles was viewed at the time. Why isn't my parents' generation speaking out against the serious misinformation being spread by today's media?


The media loves to talk about how measles was eradicated in the US in 2000, and to blame vaccine refusers for bringing it back. The reality is that measles was never "eradicated" in the US, where there has never been a year without measles (there were 86 cases in 2000). The CDC declared measles "no longer endemic in the US" in 2000. This is a big distinction. Let's look at definitions:(http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/):
Eradicated: "to remove (something) completely : to eliminate or destroy (something harmful)."
Endemic: "belonging or native to a particular people or country; restricted or peculiar to a locality or region."
Measles was never completely eliminated in the US. It was declared no longer endemic in 2000 because all cases could be traced to importation from other countries. In the CDC's own words:
During March 2000, CDC convened a consultation of measles experts§ to evaluate data on the elimination of endemic measles from the United States. The data indicated that, during 1997--1999, measles incidence has remained low (<0.5 cases per 1,000,000 population) and that most states and 99% of counties reported no measles cases. In addition, measles surveillance was sensitive enough to consistently detect imported cases, isolated cases, and small outbreaks. Evidence of high population immunity included coverage of >90% with the first dose of measles vaccine in children aged 19--35 months since 1996 (2) and 98% coverage among children entering school (3). In 48 states and the District of Columbia, a second dose of measles vaccine is required for school entry (4). A national serosurvey indicated that 93% of persons aged >6 years have antibody to measles (5).
On the basis of these findings, the experts concluded that measles is no longer endemic in the United States.   
In other words, nothing has changed. The current measles outbreak can also be traced to importation. Measles is still not endemic in the US. Like many other diseases, there is a natural cycle to measles. Even before the vaccine, measles infection was cyclical. It is completely normal to have years with fewer cases and years with more cases.

The Power of the Media

I leave you with an example of the power of the media to dictate our perception of reality. The current US measles outbreak of 121 cases and zero deaths that has taken over the national headlines has been traced to the Philippines, where in 2014, there were 57,564 suspected cases of measles (21,403 confirmed), and 110 associated deaths in the a population of 98.4 million people. (http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/notices/watch/measles-philippines) Suzanne Waltman, the president of Michigan Opposing Mandatory Vaccines, emailed a friend living in the Philippines last month to ask him about the measles situation there. Here is his response:
"I'm not aware of a measles outbreak over here, I didn't hear anything about it. At least it's not in the news."

Friday, February 13, 2015

Dear Senator

Everything is happening so fast. A month ago, my big concern was the change in how we obtain religious and philosophical exemptions in Michigan, and I was writing to my elected officials about that. Now I am much more concerned with fighting to keep our exemptions at all. This is the letter I wrote to my state senator today:

Dear Senator,

I am a constituent who voted for you, and I am writing to you about the current political climate around mandatory vaccination, an issue of great concern to me. I was already concerned when Michigan pushed through the sneaky rule change controlling non-medical exemptions (without any opportunity for public comment and without even involving the full legislature), and I have been collecting stories of misinformation and abuse of this new policy since it went into effect (please see attached document). I have watched closely over the last few months as the media has led a fear campaign on the subject of vaccinations, and politicians have responded. The headlines screech about a measles epidemic caused by unvaccinated children. The reality is that 110 cases of measles in a country of 320 million people is far from an "epidemic" and is not even newsworthy. Here in Michigan, this "epidemic" has consisted of ONE VACCINATED ADULT. In California, according to the CDPH, 59% of cases have been in adults over age 20. There has not been a measles death in the US since 2003.

The median total exemption rate for kindergartners in the US in 2013-14 was 1.8%. Michigan had a 5.9% exemption rate for that year. It is important to note that a child missing even one dose of one vaccine counts in that exemption rate. The majority of children with exemptions are partially vaccinated. The primary reason for the increase in exemptions was the addition to the required schedule of the varicella vaccine, which many vaccinating parents have chosen to decline. Michigan had kindergarten vaccination rates of 97.5% for MMR (two doses) and 94.8% for DTaP (4 doses) in 2013-14. Remember that these numbers don't even include kids who received some but not all doses of these vaccines.

The bigger problem is waning immunity among adults. The MMR originally promised to confer lifelong immunity with one dose. When that didn't work, a second dose was added. Now it is clear that immunity wanes after a second dose, and we are hearing that adults should get boosters. How can the government require us to use a product, and then when the product fails, require us to use more of it? Beyond that, the reality is that vaccinations are not a risk free product. There are serious adverse reactions associated with vaccines. CDC Director of Immunization Safety Dr. Frank DeStefano has even admitted that vaccines trigger neurological damage in a subset of genetically susceptible children, and that there is no way to identify these children until it happens to them. 

Our government has protected the pharmaceutical industry from any liability when vaccines cause injury. We cannot allow the government to mandate a product that has no guarantee of being either safe or effective, and then protect the manufacturer from liability when the product fails or causes harm.

Even worse, Merck is currently embroiled in two separate whistleblower cases involving the MMR, one concerning efficacy, and the other safety. The first involves falsification of mumps vaccine efficacy data, while the other involves the omission of study data showing a significant increase in autism in African-American boys after receiving the MMR. I ask you to please carefully read section B starting on page 10 of the legal document for the mumps fraud case against Merck, and the press release from the whistleblower in the autism cover-up story. How can our government support a company engaged in such practices, and force citizens to use their product?

There is no evidence that higher vaccination rates lead to healthier people or to lower health care costs. Mississippi, where there are no religious or philosophical vaccine exemptions, has both the highest childhood vaccination rate and the highest child mortality rate in the nation. Since measles is the current hot topic, let's look at some actual data: Mississippi did not have any cases of measles in 2013. Oregon, with the highest vaccine exemption rate in the country (6.4%), had 5 measles cases in 2013, none of which led to serious complications. In a population the size of Mississippi (2.9 million) or Oregon (3.8 million), there is no statistically significant difference between 0 and 5 cases. As a side note, the media is spreading the story that measles was eradicated in the US in 2000 and that the "anti-vaxxers" have brought it back. This is nonsense. The CDC declared measles "no longer endemic in the US" in 2000, because the 86 cases that year were all traceable to foreign importation. The current outbreak has also been traced to importation, so this designation remains unchanged. There has never been a year without measles cases in the US.

The blame being thrown at the tiny minority of unvaccinated children is especially insidious because it is impossible to trace the source of exposure. You cannot blame an unvaccinated neighbor for germs you may well have picked up from the grocery store shopping cart or any doorknob in town. There seems to be a media-inspired false perception in this country that unvaccinated children are magically spreading germs they have never had. People need to stop and think about this. A healthy unvaccinated person cannot spread a disease. On the flip side, a person recently vaccinated with a live virus CAN spread that disease. The live vaccines, including MMR, rotavirus, and FluMist, carry warnings about staying away from immune-compromised people for a period of time after vaccination. There is also evidence from the FDA that people vaccinated for pertussis can carry and spread pertussis bacteria without showing any symptoms. 

These phenomena explain outbreaks of disease in vaccinated populations, such as this outbreak of pertussis in Massachusetts, in which ALL 15 students who contracted pertussis had been vaccinated. In spite of the fact that there was not a single case of pertussis in an unvaccinated person, the media pointed the finger at vaccine exemptions.
15 Falmouth High Students Diagnosed With Whooping Cough

The American vaccine schedule is rapidly expanding. Children today receive 49 doses of 14 vaccines by age 6. Today’s 6-month-old baby has already received more vaccines than her mother received by age 18. While individual vaccines are tested for safety, there are NO safety studies on the vaccine schedule as a whole. In addition, hundreds of new vaccines are currently in development. If we lose the right to make personal decisions about vaccination, we can expect all of those vaccines to be forced on us in the near future. How far will we let this go? What other rights will we sacrifice along the way?

We live in a country that was founded on the idea of personal freedom. Perhaps the most personal of all freedoms in the right to decide what is put into your own body. Very few Americans decide for religious or other personal reasons to avoid vaccination. Most children with exemptions are partially vaccinated, and overall coverage rates for most vaccines are still above the levels recommended for "herd immunity" (while this effect has been demonstrated to work with NATURAL infection that produces lifelong immunity, vaccine-induced immunity wanes over time, which make herd immunity among the vaccinated a myth).

Most parents choosing to decline vaccines do so after extensive research from sources like the FDA, CDC, and WHO, and after weighing potential risks and benefits for their individual child. Many make the choice after personally witnessing a serious vaccine reaction in one of their children or in a close family member (raising concern that they are among those unidentifiable genetically susceptible people acknowledged by the CDC). There is no "anti-vax movement," but rather individual responsible parents doing what is best for their own family, within their legal rights as Americans. The fear-mongering and draconian measures being suggested in the wake of the current media-fabricated "epidemic" need to stop. We need to take a step back and look at reality, and consider the importance of the personal rights on which our country was founded. Please do your part to protect our rights. I would welcome the opportunity to further discuss this with you.

Why Now? And Why Marcella?

A decade and a half ago, while pregnant with my first child, a friend encouraged me to research vaccines and make an informed decision. Until she mentioned this, I had no idea vaccines were a topic to be researched or a decision to be made. I thought they were just something everyone had to do. At that time, I had immersed myself in natural childbirth and was reading everything I could find to prepare myself for the birth. I hadn't thought so much about what would come afterwards. Following my friend's suggestion, I began to read everything I could find about vaccines--books, magazine articles, a little bit of research on the internet, although there wasn't much there back then. By the time our child was born, my husband and I had decided that we were not comfortable vaccinating him as a newborn, but that we would continue to research and would vaccinate if and when we found a compelling reason to do so. After fifteen years and literally thousands of hours of study, I am more confident than ever that we made the right choice. None of our children has ever received a vaccine, and all are healthy, bright, and free from the chronic health issues that plague their generation. In the meantime, I have also delved into my own medical history and discovered startling connections between my own childhood vaccinations and a host of health issues I have battled for most of my life. I firmly believe that my children are genetically predisposed to the same issues, and that their freedom from vaccines has spared them.

For all of these years, I have done my research privately, collecting books, articles, films, and hundreds of internet bookmarks, carefully chosen and viewed with the discernment of my research-based master's degree. While a few of my closest friends know where I stand, most of my friends, acquaintances, and even family members have no idea. This has been a private journey for me, my husband, and our children. That all changed on December 11, 2014.

On that day, a small sub-committee of the Michigan legislature voted in a rule change affecting non-medical vaccination exemptions in the state. With no warning, parents seeking a religious or philosophical exemption would now have to first go to a county health department office to be "educated" and would have to sign an unaltered standardized exemption form, rather than submitting a personal statement to the child's school as we had always done in the past. The announcement of the rule change came after a week of clearly targeted fear-mongering articles about vaccine exemptions in the local media. The rule change, passed without the input of the public or the full legislature, and in direct conflict with the state statute on vaccine exemption, went into effect January 1, 2015.

As soon as I heard about the rule change, I knew I had to take on a more active role. I joined forces with other concerned parents and with the 20-year-old Michigan Opposing Mandatory Vaccines, and we launched a Facebook group that grew to over 1000 members in less than two months. I also joined several other vaccination-related groups to connect with other parents facing similar hurdles around the country. With the hastily applied new rule came a huge amount of misinformation from local health departments, ranging from obvious lack of training to blatant abuse of power. We quickly worked to counter the misinformation and help parents navigate the new rules.

My rapidly expanding social media horizons soon showed me some disconcerting harassment trends that led me to seek protection for my family. While I am confident in my research and have no hesitation about my decisions, my first priority is to protect my children. And so Marcella came to be. I chose my pseudonym in memory of Marcella Gruelle, daughter of Johnny Gruelle, the creator of Raggedy Ann. The original Raggedy Ann was a faceless rag doll found in an attic. Johnny drew a face on the doll for Marcella, and told her stories about the doll and her playroom adventures.  Marcella died in 1915 at age 13, of complications from a smallpox vaccine given to her at school, without parental consent. Her grieving father went on to write and illustrate his Raggedy Ann and Marcella stories in her memory, and Raggedy Ann became a symbol of the opposition to forced vaccination. A century later, this conflict is still with us, and it is time for me to speak out.