Search Results For Vaxxer

The GOP And The Anti-Vaxxers

Andrew Sullivan —  Feb 2 2015 @ 3:19pm

Chris Christie’s endorsement of parental choice over public health while we have a measles epidemic strikes me as yet another disqualifying aspect of his judgment, character and personality in his bid for the presidency. Here’s some important context for his remarks – Christie:

Michael, what I said was that there has to be a balance and it depends on what the vaccine is, what the disease type is and all the rest. And so I didn’t say I’m leaving people the option. What I’m saying is that you have to have that balance in considering parental concerns because no parent cares about anything more than they care about protecting their own child’s health and so we have to have that conversation, but that has to move and shift in my view from disease type. Not every vaccine is created equal and not every disease type is as great a public health threat as others. So that’s what I mean by that so that I’m not misunderstood.

His office is now qualifying even more:

To be clear: The Governor believes vaccines are an important public health protection and with a disease like measles there is no question kids should be vaccinated. At the same time different states require different degrees of vaccination, which is why he was calling for balance in which ones government should mandate.

That’s a relief. And, of course, parents always have the ultimate say over their children. But a public official should not, in my view, be messing around with basic concepts of public health, and giving any credence to anti-vaxxers. So why the equivocation when we need more public support for childhood vaccination?

My best answer is that any potential GOP candidate has to cater to the Christianist right, and the critical HPV vaccine is not exactly popular with that section of the population. Lo and behold, Carly Fiorina is saying something similar as well:

I think there’s a big difference between — just in terms of the mountains of evidence we have — a vaccination for measles and a vaccination when a girl is 10 or 11 or 12 for cervical cancer just in case she’s sexually active at 11. So, I think it’s hard to make a blanket statement about it. I certainly can understand a mother’s concerns about vaccinating a 10-year-old … I think vaccinating for measles makes a lot of sense. But that’s me. I do think parents have to make those choices. I mean, I got measles as a kid. We used to all get measles … I got chicken pox, I got measles, I got mumps.

An alternative explanation may, of course, be that president Obama has strongly endorsed childhood vaccinations and therefore any GOP candidate has to disagree. I’m not sure which interpretation is accurate, but neither is exactly encouraging.

Chris Mooney reports on a new study that suggests it may be impossible:

The paper tested the effectiveness of four separate pro-vaccine messages, three of which were based very closely on how the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) itself talks about vaccines. The results can only be called grim: Not a single one of the messages was successful when it came to increasing parents’ professed intent to vaccinate their children. And in several cases the messages actually backfired, either increasing the ill-founded belief that vaccines cause autism or even, in one case, apparently reducing parents’ intent to vaccinate.

The findings deeply depress Aaron Carroll, who debunked anti-vaccine beliefs in the video seen above:

When they gave evidence that vaccines aren’t linked to autism, that actually made parents who were already skittish about vaccines less likely to get their child one in the future. When they showed images of sick children to parents it increased their belief that vaccines caused autism. When they told a dramatic story about an infant in danger because he wasn’t immunized, it increased parents’ beliefs that vaccines had serious side effects.

Basically, it was all depressing. Nothing was effective.

Marcotte asks how to combat the anti-vaccine trend if appeals to reason don’t work:

Mooney suggests that state governments should respond by making it harder to opt out of vaccinations. That would be helpful, but there’s also some preliminary research from the James Randi Educational Foundation and Women Thinking Inc. that shows that reframing the argument in positive terms can help. When parents were prompted to think of vaccination as one of the steps you take to protect a child, like buckling a seat belt, they were more invested in doing it than if they were reminded that vaccine denialists are spouting misinformation. Hopefully, future research into pro-vaccination messaging, as opposed to just anti-anti-vaccination messaging, will provide further insight.

According to a recently released survey from the Pew Research Center, the public opinion on vaccine requirements, for example, divides much more by age than by political affiliation. This may be a function of the fact that younger people are less likely to have seen the diseases the vaccines are designed to protect against. (In other words, vaccines are victims of their own success.) However, the poll was worrying in one political respect: In 2009, there was no partisan difference in attitudes toward these requirements. The latest study did find some small differences along party lines. According to Brendan Nyhan, a Dartmouth political science professor who has done research on effective communication around vaccines, injecting partisan politics into individual decisions about whether to vaccinate could have unintended consequences. He argued in the New York Times recently that making the decision to vaccinate one of partisan allegiance could potentially push some individuals who might otherwise have vaccinated their children to forgo the process.

Seth Masket warns that “if enough Republican leaders or conservative cultural figures publicly question the importance of immunizations, and if such messages go unchallenged or even embraced by commentators on Fox and other conservative media outlets, that message could soon be adopted by conservative parents with only modest attachments to politics”:

And in some ways, this argument meshes very well with the American conservative world view. The idea that I can make better judgments about my kids than the government can, that I should be concerned about me and my own rather than the larger social network, that I shouldn’t have to make sacrifices or face risks on behalf of strangers — it wouldn’t take much to fold that into the definition of modern conservatism. Resistance to vaccinations doesn’t have to mean embracing organic food or breastfeeding toddlers; that’s simply a liberal interpretation of it.

But we’re not quite there yet. The main cultural elites advocating avoiding or at least questioning vaccinations, from doctors with celebrity pretensions to celebrities with medical pretensions, are mostly on the left right now. Chris Christie has limited appeal, and Rand Paul has not quite yet demonstrated an ability to reach those outside his libertarian circles. But if we’re going to see the anti-vaxxer belief system mutate and spread to the right, this will be how it happens.

A Measly Epidemic

Andrew Sullivan —  Feb 2 2015 @ 6:30pm

Thanks in part to anti-vaxxer hysteria – now getting a boost from Christie – the measles are making a comeback:

Between Jan. 1 to 30, 102 cases of the measles were reported to the CDC from 14 different states. The majority of the cases are from an ongoing outbreak linked to Disney California Adventure Park in Anaheim, Calif. The CDC says the majority of people who got measles were unvaccinated. … The people infected in the current outbreak have exposed others at the amusement park as well as schools, daycares, emergency departments, airplanes and outpatient clinics the CDC says. In 2014, the Unites States had the highest number of measles cases reported in over 20 years, at over 600 cases.

In response to the outbreak, the White House is urging “vaccine-hesitant” parents to make the right choice and get their kids their shots. Steven Salzberg lays the blame for the outbreak squarely at the feet of the Jenny McCarthyites:

The problem arises from California’s vaccine exemption policy: although public schools require kids to be vaccinated, parents can exempt their kids simply by saying they have a personal objection to vaccination. It’s not just California: only two states, Mississippi and West Virginia, don’t allow parents to claim a philosophical or religious exemption to vaccines  And Colorado has the worst rate of vaccination, at just 82%, primarily due to parents claiming a “philosophical” exemption.

These parents are the anti-vaxxers.

Thanks to them, we now have large pockets of unvaccinated children through whom epidemics can spread further an faster than we’ve seen in decades. The CDC reports that in 2014, 79% of measles cases in the U.S. involving unvaccinated people were the result of personal belief exemptions.

But as Julia Belluz voxplains, outbreaks like these aren’t simply the fault of such parents individually; the disease spreads in communities where vaccination rates are especially low:

It’s not actually a rising anti-vaxx tide or naturopathic, private school mothers driving a return of vaccine-preventable disease here. It’s not even low-income folks who wind up getting sick, and it’s especially not undocumented migrants bringing in viruses, the CDC’s [Jane] Seward says: “The people getting measles are those that travel abroad, come back, and live in a community among people who weren’t vaccinated.” Some years, we get 40 “importations.” Last year, there were about 65. “This is more than normal,” she added, “and it reflects travel patterns and where measles is active globally.”

The travelers spark outbreaks when they hit geographic clusters of unvaccinated people, like the one in Ohio [among the Amish community, where last year’s measles outbreak was centered]. These infectious disease powder kegs exist all across the US, waiting to be sparked.

Marcel Salathé considers what these anti-vaxxer pockets mean for our society’s herd immunity as a whole:

When we analyzed data from Twitter about sentiments on the influenza H1N1 vaccine during the swine flu pandemic in 2009, we found that negative sentiments were more contagious than positive sentiments, and that positive messages may even have back-fired, triggering more negative responses. And in measles outbreak after measles outbreak, we find that the vast majority of cases occurred in communities that had vaccination coverages that were way below average.

The sad truth is this: as long as there are communities that harbor strong negative views about vaccination, there will be outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases in those communities. These outbreaks will happen even if the population as a whole has achieved the vaccination coverage considered sufficient for herd immunity.

An exasperated Aaron Carroll outlines why failing to vaccinate against measles – which, as Michael Byrne reminds us, is a very nasty disease – is so dangerous:

The system breaks down, and outbreaks occur, when more people are susceptible. Everyone, for instance, is susceptible to Ebola at a certain point in the illness. So we have to be careful to quarantine people who are infected when they are sick. But Ebola is relatively hard to catch. It has an R nought of 2, meaning that an infected individual might infect, on average, 2 others. But measles has an R nought of 18. It’s one of the most infectious pathogens around.

Quarantining is difficult, if not impossible. The virus is unbelievable hardy and easy to catch. So the absolutely, positively best thing you can do it to be vaccinated. Period. I should point out that it also doesn’t matter to the outbreak why people remain unvaccinated and susceptible. It can be because of religious reasons. It can be because of irrational fear. It can be because they’re “hippies”. I don’t care – the outbreak is the same.

Sarah Kliff revisits the anti-vaxxers’ spurious objections to inoculation and why they’re wrong:

Objections to vaccination among those healthy enough to get immunized (those of us over the age of one, essentially) typically just aren’t good enough to justify the risk. Much of it revolves around the safety of the vaccine. Even in the Amish community in Ohio, it wasn’t a religious belief that caused low vaccination rates — and laid the groundwork for a huge outbreak. Instead, it was news of two nearby children suffering complications from the shots that turned the community against vaccination.

So let’s clear that fact up here right now: the measles vaccine is, without a doubt, safe. Study after study after study confirms this. The study that suggested the measles vaccine was not safe — and had possible links to autism — was retracted by the academic journal Lancet in 2010. The researcher who published the study, Andrew Wakefield, was stripped of his medical license in Britain. Not only is the measles vaccine safe, it’s also incredibly effective.

And Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig mulls over why the anti-vaxx movement has gained ground in recent years, and why that’s cause for concern:

For Americans, the reality is that parents who refuse to vaccinate their children make their choice in relative comfort. Parents with toddlers today do not remember the scourges of prior centuries: the bubbling blisters of smallpox, the iron lungs of polio, the florid rash of measles that has, since 2010, taken the lives of over 4,500 people in the Democratic Republic of Congo, most of them children under five. All of those things, thanks to time or distance, go out of thought and out of mind. Moreover, since most American childrenthanks to the good sense of most American parentsare still vaccinated, the likelihood that these plagues will come roaring back has always seemed distant. Now, perhaps not so much.

Lastly, Chris Ingraham breaks down vaccination rates by state and looks for patterns, though they’re actually hard to find:

Alabama usually accompanies Mississippi at the bottom of health rankings, but it does even better when it comes to vaccines — 77 percent of toddlers there are completely covered. Overall, state-level vaccine rates buck the familiar trend of “south= bad, northeast and west = good” that we see on countless other health measures. New Hampshire kids are well-vaccinated, but Vermont and Maine kids less so. Mississippi comes in at #12 in the rankings, while just across the river Arkansas is dead-last. California, currently in the news for a large measles outbreak at Disneyland, is squarely middle-of-the-pack at number 30.

It’s tough to tease out demographic patterns behind vaccination rates. In California, some affluent areas have lower vaccination rates than the average. But looking at all 50 states, there’s a small correlation between increased income and increased vaccination. Some people maintain that vaccine skepticism is strongest on the left, but the data don’t support that notion.

Flu

Basically:

The annual influenza outbreak has reached widespread levels in 43 states – up from 36 states a week ago.

Flu season arrived early this year – reaching epidemic levels last week:

That the flu has reached epidemic status is not unexpected — this is a regular part of flu season — but it has reached epidemic levels somewhat earlier than it usually does. The last two flu seasons were declared to be epidemics in mid-January.

And this year’s flu vaccine isn’t well suited to the bug going around:

This season is looking particularly bad because the predominant strain, H3N2, is not completely covered by the current flu vaccine and tends to have more severe symptoms. H3N2 accounted for the majority of the strains tested by the CDC so far this season, according to a health advisory issued in early December.

Sarah Zhang explains why flu vaccines don’t always work:

A network of labs working around the world is always on the lookout for new and emerging viruses year-round. These viruses are then tested against human blood serum; the ones that provoke the least immune response are the ones that are most novel and dangerous to the population.

But flu viruses naturally mutate, which is, after all, why we have to formulate a new flu vaccine each year. This year, the H3N2 virus mutated faster than usual, so the vaccine we now have is less effective against the H3N2 virus that is circulating most widely. The new H3N2 was first detected in March of 2014, and it became common by September. And now it’s too late to add it to this year’s flu vaccines altogether, thanks to the decades-old process we use to create vaccines in the first place.

Kent Sepkowitz defends the flu vaccine, even if it’s somewhat less effective than normal:

25,000 to 40,000 people a year die of influenza—the vast majority of them unvaccinated. A simple halving of the number with today’s mediocre vaccine would represent a major public-health triumph. By way of comparison, about 14,000 people in the U.S. died of AIDS in 2011—a vaccine to cut that number in half likely would result in a Nobel Prize.

That’s why the CDC still wants you to get the shot:

[T]he vaccine is still effective in about one-third of cases. “While some of the viruses spreading this season are different from what is in the vaccine, vaccination can still provide protection and might reduce severe outcomes such as hospitalization and death,” said [Darlene Foote, a representative of the CDC].

(Chart from the CDC)

Amanda Schaffer contemplates Eula Biss’s new book about vaccination:

Biss sympathizes with parents who fear vaccines, and she understands the cultural roots of their hesitation, which include an insistence on bodily independence; an obsession with physical purity, free from chemicals; and even a kind of pre-industrial nostalgia that casts vaccines as newfangled and SWITZERLAND-HEALTH-EBOLA-WAFRICAunnatural. She focusses on the historical antecedents to today’s shots, complicating the view that immunization is modern and therefore scary. In the eighteenth century, farmers observed that those who were exposed to cowpox tended not to develop smallpox later on. The physician Edward Jenner tested this connection by transferring fluid from a milkmaid’s pustule to the skin of a young boy, who then developed immunity to smallpox. Historical figures, including Cotton Mather, Mary Wortley Montagu, and Voltaire, championed the practice of variolation, in which individuals were infected with a mild form of smallpox to protect them from a more severe version of the disease.

If variolation had been more widely practiced in France, Voltaire wrote, “twenty thousand persons whom the smallpox swept away at Paris in 1723 would have been alive at this time.” Biss acknowledges that these practices were far less safe than the highly regulated shots administered in pediatricians’ offices today. Yet she seems to take comfort in the idea that “vaccination is a precursor to modern medicine, not the product of it.” But even if shots against some childhood diseases, like measles, mumps, rubella, and polio, have not changed substantially in recent decades, the leading edge of vaccine development—against pandemic flu, cancer, or Ebola, for instance—benefits enormously from advances in genetics and immunology.

Despite some misgivings, Schaffer sees an advantage to the book’s tone:

Biss’s gracious rhetoric and her insistence that she feels “uncomfortable with both sides” of the rancorous fight may frustrate readers looking for a pro-vaccine polemic. Yet her approach might actually be more likely to sway fearful parents, offering them an alternative set of images and associations to use in thinking about immunization.

Mark Oppenheimer has mixed feelings about the book:

Biss comes not to rail against the vaccine skeptics, but to understand them. She is pro-vaccine, but she’s not an op-ed writer: she’s a high-style essayist, elliptical like Joan Didion, aphoristic like Susan Sontag, familiar like Anne Fadiman. Biss comes down on the side of science and reason, but in such an MFA-ish fashion that maybe some of the educated white women who are, alas, the main constituency for anti-vaccine nonsense, will be persuaded that they can trust Biss. Because she either has no animus toward those parents who withhold vaccines from their children, or because she hides that animus so very wellshe’s a grandmaster of judgment-withholdingthis may be the perfect book to hand to that mother or father of a newborn who is on the fence.

But if Biss has scored a minor success, we still have to bemoan that she succeeded where public science education failed. Vaccinating children should not be up for debate, so to read an elegant, incisive book that takes the debate seriously is bound to be an ambivalent experience. This is a book fair to both sides of a debate that, among people who know the evidence, does not exist. That there’s a market for it makes it a curiosity, a time-capsuled bit of evidence for a hysterical fad that surely must pass.

(Photo: A statue representing a child receiving a injection of vaccine is seen at the World Health Organization (WHO) headquarters on September 5, 2014 in Geneva. By Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images)

Amanda Marcotte explains:

It’s hard to believe it was possible, but anti-vaccination fanaticism has taken a darker turn, as Chris Mooney reports for Mother Jones: Now, it’s not just vaccines that parents are foolishly rejecting for their children, but also a simple injection of vitamin K that has been a standard part of newborn care since the 1960s. Some parents now find themselves rushing to the emergency room with babies sick with vitamin K deficiency bleeding. “This rare disorder occurs because human infants do not have enough vitamin K, a blood coagulant, in their systems,” Mooney writes. “Infants who develop VKDB can bleed in various parts of their bodies, including bleeding into the brain.” Bleeding in the brain can cause brain damage and, in some cases, death.

Mooney examines the overlap between the anti-vaccine and anti-vitamin crowds:

A quick Google search returns a number of dire warnings about vitamin K shots circulating on the Internet. One of the top results is an article at TheHealthyHomeEconomist.com, which urges readers to “Skip that Newborn Vitamin K Shot,” before going on to list an array of “dangerous ingredients in the injection cocktail.” (The site also calls vaccines “scientific fraud.”) And then there’s physician Joseph Mercola (whose popular website calls vaccinations “very neurotoxic” and suggests they are associated with a list of conditions, including autism). In another article on his site, Mercola suggests there is a “Potential Dark Side” to the vitamin K shot. “A needle stick can be a terrible assault to a baby’s suddenly overloaded sensory system, which is trying to adjust to the outside world,” it reads.

He adds, “evidence presented by the CDC suggests that refusal of vitamin K shots may be a major phenomenon to contend with”:

In Tennessee, the CDC found that at the hospital with the highest rate of missed vitamin K injections, 3.4 percent of infants were discharged without receiving one. At birthing centers in the state (a hospital alternative, often run by nurse-midwives), the number was much higher: 28 percent.

Previous Dish on anti-vaxxers here.

Not A Measly Number

Andrew Sullivan —  May 30 2014 @ 1:18pm

Screen Shot 2014-05-30 at 9.46.21 AM

288 cases of measles have been reported to the CDC so far this year, “the largest number of measles cases in the United States reported in the first five months of a year since 1994.” You can probably guess who’s to blame:

“The current increase in measles cases is being driven by unvaccinated people, primarily U.S. residents, who got measles in other countries, brought the virus back to the United States and spread to others in communities where many people are not vaccinated,” said Dr. Anne Schuchat, assistant surgeon general and director of CDC’s National Center for Immunizations and Respiratory Diseases. “Many of the clusters in the U.S. began following travel to the Philippines where a large outbreak has been occurring since October 2013.”

Schuchat also notes in the press release that American doctors are having a hard time diagnosing these outbreaks because they “have never seen or treated a patient with measles” before. Jeffrey Kluger interjects:

Of course, you can bet any first year medical student could have spotted the disease a few decades ago—

and the same was true with mumps and whooping cough and polio and smallpox and rubella and all of the other diseases that we don’t have to see anymore because we have, in this country at least, vaccinated them all but out of existence. What was true in the U.S. then is still true in the developing world, where those diseases and more still run riot.

The people in those countries would not play cute with disease. The people in those countries would not have the time for rumors and lies and celebrity dilettantes who take up the anti-vax cause because they’ve grown bored with the anti-carb or anti-gluten or pro-cleanse fads. Being this close to eliminating a disease is not the same as truly being done with it. That’s something all those new measles patients learned this year. And that’s something we’ll all have to keep learning until we wise up.

And indeed, as Jacob Kastrenakes reminds us, the anti-vaxxers stand to do a lot more damage in the developing world, where measles is still widespread:

Though measles is reaching a relative peak in the US, it’s still far lower in the United States than elsewhere across the globe. There’s estimated to be around 20 million annual measles cases worldwide and about 122,000 deaths stemming from it. Still, the rise in the United States is sharp. The CDC reported that measles cases had spiked in 2013 too, and 2013 saw only 175 confirmed cases in total by early December. In that report too, the CDC said a failure to vaccinate was the issue, with 98 percent of cases being in unvaccinated patients.

Elsewhere in the world, widely disproven concerns that vaccines are linked to autism are said to have been the cause of measles outbreaks. At least one isolated instance of this led to a small outbreak in Texas last year, though the CDC doesn’t break down the exact reasons why measles patients turned down vaccination.

David Gorski fears that history is repeating itself:

Specifically, I have to wonder whether British history is going to be repeated in the US. Remember how in 2008 measles was declared endemic again in the UK, after having been declared eliminated a mere 14 years before, thanks largely to the MMR-autism scare precipitated by Andrew Wakefield’s fraudulent work? … It took fourteen years for the UK to go from having eliminated endemic measles, thanks to the MMR vaccine, to having measles return as an endemic disease. Here we are now, around fifteen years after measles was declared eliminated in the US, and we now have the highest number of measles cases in 20 years.

by Patrick Appel

Sydney Spiesel considers the choice that pediatricians like him face when dealing with anti-vaxxers:

What do we do about vaccine refusers? It’s a difficult question. If we don’t allow unimmunized kids in our practice, where will they get medical care? That’s the reason that many (though I’m not sure how many) pediatricians allow unimmunized kids in their practice. But others refuse to see any patients whose parents won’t vaccinate them.

Spiesel’s stance:

Personally, I draw the line at vaccines protecting against diseases that kids might catch from exposures in my office.

If parents want to withhold protection from hepatitis B or cervical and oral cancer, I think it’s not so smart, but I’ll still care for their children because not even the friskiest teen is likely to transmit these diseases in my office. MeaslesWhooping cough? These are another matter. My sense of responsibility to the health of the vast majority of kids coming to see me says “no.”

I didn’t come to this decision easily. After all, it’s the parents, not the children, who make the choice to avoid vaccines—what is my responsibility to those kids? Maybe I’m deluding myself, but I sort of believe that my clear policy may be beneficial to them, too. It’s a statement of how important I think immunization is (and why I think so). It encourages families to think about responsibility to others in the community. And it sometimes provokes people to rethink the question. (I’ve had families who left my practice because of my policy, but later came back, perhaps in spite of it—or perhaps, finally, because of it.)

Recent Dish on anti-vaxxers here.

The Return Of A Deadly Disease

Patrick Appel —  Mar 17 2014 @ 1:03pm
by Patrick Appel

Russell Saunders blames anti-vaxxers for the measles outbreak in NYC:

This is not some inconvenience to be laughed off. Measles is a highly-contagious illness caused by a virus. It usually presents with a combination of rash, fevers, cough and runny nose, as well as characteristic spots in the mouth. Most patients recover after an unpleasant but relatively uneventful period of sickness.  Unfortunately, about one patient in every 1,000 develops inflammation of the brain, and one to three cases per 1000 in the United States result in death. …

Just over a dozen years ago this illness was considered eliminated in our country, and this year people are being hospitalized for it. All due to the hysteria about a safe, effective vaccine. All based on nothing.

Brian Palmer fears such outbreaks could get more serious:

Falling vaccination rates are now an urgent concern in public health. Measles incidence dropped 99 percent after the vaccine was introduced in 1963. Between 2000 and 2007, the United States saw an average of just 63 measles cases per year, and almost all of those victims brought the disease into the United States from abroad. In 2013, however, the incidence of measles tripled. Unlike in previous years, the majority of the victims contracted the disease here in the United States, meaning that measles outbreaks are now a serious national problem. It could get worse. Vaccination rates in the United States remain at about 90 percent, but in the United Kingdom, where vaccination has fallen below 80 percent, the disease is once again endemic.

Tara C. Smith spells out why she vaccinates:

I’ve spent almost 20 years of my life studying infectious diseases up-close and personal, not from random websites on Google. I’ve worked with viruses and bacteria in the lab. I respect what germs are capable of. I worry about vaccine-preventable diseases coming back because oflow levels of herd immunity. I cry over stories of babies lost to pertussis and other vaccine-preventable diseases. As I’ve noted before, chicken pox has played a role in the deaths of two family members, so I don’t view that as just a “harmless childhood disease.” Vaccines have eradicated or severely reduced many of the deadliest diseases from the past: smallpox, polio, measles, diptheria.

But that’s not the only reason I vaccinate. I vaccinate because I’m all too aware of the nasty diseases out there that still don’t have an effective vaccine. My current work focuses on a germ called methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (“MRSA”), a “superbug” which kills about 11,000 people every year in the United States. We have no vaccine. I previously worked on two different types of Streptococcus: group A and group B. Group B is mainly a problem for babies, and kills about 2,000 of them every year. It leaves many others with permanent brain damage after infection. We have no vaccine. Group A kills about 1,500 people each year in the U.S. and can cause nasty (and deadly) infections like necrotizing fasciitis (the “flesh-eating disease”). We  have no vaccine. These are all despite the fact that we still have antibiotics to treat most of these infections (though untreatable infections are increasing). Infectious diseases still injure and kill, despite our nutritional status, despite appropriate vitamin D levels, despite sanitation improvements, despite breastfeeding, despite handwashing, despite everything we do to keep our kids healthy. This is why protection via vaccination is so important for the diseases where it’s available. If vaccines were available for the diseases I listed above, I’d have my kids get them in a heartbeat.