A Milwaukee medical examiner has found that an
antihistamine overdose, not a reaction to the HPV vaccine,
caused the tragic death of a 12 year old girl there last
The girl’s mother, Rebecca Prohaska, told the news
media in early August that she believed her daughter may
have had an allergic reaction to the human papillomavirus
vaccine, also known as HPV, about six hours after the
vaccine was administered in a doctor’s office.
The mother’s speculation was reported by several
television stations and the Journal Sentinel, and was picked
up by opponents of childhood vaccinations across the country
as inaccurate evidence that the vaccine can kill.
The HPV vaccine, given in three doses starting at age 11 or
12, is the only vaccine currently available to prevent any
type of cancer. HPV vaccination is recommended by the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American
Academy of Family Physicians, the American Academy of
Pediatrics, and the Society for Adolescent Health and
After a torrent of online criticism from pro-science
activists, State Farm
has dropped a series of ads
featuring noted anti-vaccine proponent Rob Schneider. PR Week
State Farm has pulled an ad featuring anti-vaccine activist Rob Schneider after a social media campaign urged the
insurance company to end its affiliation with the actor.
Social media pages Food Hunk, Science Babe, and Chow Babe, all of which refute pseudoscience claims, started the
anti-Schneider campaign last week, questioning how a company
that sells insurance could hire a celebrity spokesman so
openly against vaccinations.
The activists have encouraged consumers with State Farm
policies to get involved by contacting their agents and
telling them that “someone who publicly states
dangerous opinions should not be a spokesperson for a health
long supported the anti-vaccine cause, including fighting against California bill AB 2109, which
made obtaining a vaccine exemption more difficult—by requiring
consultation with an actual medical professional. He has also
lent his voice to the Canary Party, an anti-vaccine
stunningly misinformed propaganda video, narrated by Schneider, was screened at a legislative briefing on Capitol Hill last
Pediatrician Paul A. Offit, winner of the CFI/CSI 2013 Balles
Award in Critical Thinking, took to the Wall Street Journal today to warn of the current anti-vaccination epidemic and surging
diseases that have resulted:
We simply don’t fear these diseases anymore. My
parents’ generation—children of the 1920s and
1930s—needed no convincing to vaccinate their children. They
saw that whooping cough could kill as many as 8,000 babies a
year. You didn’t have to convince my
generation—children of the 1950s and 1960s—to vaccinate our
children. We had many of these diseases, like measles,
mumps, rubella and chickenpox. But young parents today
don’t see the effects of vaccine-preventable diseases
and they didn’t grow up with them. For them,
vaccination has become an act of faith.
Perhaps most upsetting was a recent study out of Seattle
Children’s Hospital and the University of Washington.
Researchers wanted to see whether the whooping cough
epidemic of 2012 had inspired more people to vaccinate their
children. So they studied rates of whooping cough
immunization before, during and after the epidemic. No
difference. One can only conclude that the outbreak
hadn’t been large enough or frightening enough to
change behavior—that not enough children had died.
Because we’re unwilling to learn from history, we are
starting to relive it. And children are the victims of our
are contagious like a disease, argues Malia Jones and Alison Buttenheim in the Washington
How do these clusters of exempted kids form? We think that
the idea of vaccines being unsafe or ineffective or
unnecessary spreads—like a disease itself—from person to
person within social networks. Parents talk to their
friends, other parents at their child’s school, and to their
neighbors. Normal social processes produce clusters of
vaccine refusers in the social landscape. When it’s time to
enroll in school, like-minded parents are drawn to certain
schools—and this is especially pronounced when parents have
the resources to be choosy about their child’s education.
Soon, there are schools and communities where vaccine
refusal is not an anomaly; it is the norm.
Retelling the story of her own son’s near death from
measles encephalitis in the Los Angeles Times,
Margaret Harmon gives a warning:
It’s highly likely that the few doctors fueling the
anti-vaccine movement — bucking the vast majority of their
peers — have never seen a case of measles encephalitis. They
haven’t had to, thanks to those who vaccinate. But do
parents who choose not to vaccinate understand that they may
be giving deadly diseases the chance to regain footholds?
And it won’t just be their children who pay the price.
In epidemics, even vaccinated children can fall ill. And
outbreaks give bacteria and viruses the chance to evolve to
beat vaccines and treatments.
In the first eight months of this year, there were 18
measles outbreaks in the United States and nearly 600 cases
of measles. That’s nearly three times more cases than
in any year since 2001, according to statistics kept by the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
When I read about a child fighting measles here — where we
once were safe — I feel that heartbreaking weight of a
beautiful brown-eyed toddler not breathing, blue, on my lap.
The Washington Post
reports that health officials in a Maryland county grappling with a
whooping cough outbreak are offering free immunizations to
seventh grade students this week, part of a continuing effort
to get students in line with new state requirements.