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Medicine Science

Study Finds Unvaccinated Students Putting Other Students At Risk 1025

New submitter haroldmandel writes in with a story about the increase of certain diseases in school-age children due to parents not having their kids vaccinated. "Parents nervous about the safety of vaccinations for their children may be causing a new problem: the comeback of their grandparents' childhood diseases, reports a new study from the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing. Despite the successes of childhood immunizations, wrote Penn Nursing researcher Alison M. Buttenheim, PhD, MBA, in the American Journal of Public Health, controversy over their safety has resulted in an increasing number of parents refusing to have their children vaccinated and obtaining legally binding personal belief exemptions against vaccinations for their children."
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Study Finds Unvaccinated Students Putting Other Students At Risk

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  • Re:SCAREMONGERING. (Score:5, Informative)

    by MightyYar ( 622222 ) on Friday August 24, 2012 @08:17AM (#41107503)

    Vaccines are not that profitable. Please adjust your tinfoil hat.

  • by schwit1 ( 797399 ) on Friday August 24, 2012 @08:31AM (#41107625)

    Jenny McCarthy body count []

    “I do believe sadly it's going to take some diseases coming back to realize that we need to change and develop vaccines that are safe. If the vaccine companies are not listening to us, it's their f___ing fault that the diseases are coming back. They're making a product that's s___. If you give us a safe vaccine, we'll use it. It shouldn't be polio versus autism.”

    Jenny McCarthy in Time Magazine, April 2009

  • by TFAFalcon ( 1839122 ) on Friday August 24, 2012 @08:39AM (#41107701)

    They should be vaccinated to the 'stable' diseases. Those that don't change year to year and are life threatening/crippling. Flu shots on the other hand are 'best guesses' each year, 'protecting against' a disease that is mostly just an annoyance rather then a real threat.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 24, 2012 @08:39AM (#41107703)

    rtfa: The people who refuse the vaccines on the basis of some stupid beliefs are putting the people that can't take the vaccines because of some medical condition at risk.

  • by pscottdv ( 676889 ) on Friday August 24, 2012 @08:42AM (#41107727)

    According to the article, some people cannot get vaccinations due to allergies or other medical conditions. Those people are put at risk.

    Also, some vaccinations are not 100% effective, so anyone for whom the vaccination was not effective is put at risk.

  • by ultranova ( 717540 ) on Friday August 24, 2012 @08:45AM (#41107769)

    And what if I don't want to live in society? Will society let me independently exist, or will they force my participation, through such means as property taxes?

    Paying property taxes implies that you own property, which in turn implies that you're using the legal ownership guarantees of the society and thus participating.

    Yes, you can exist independently of society; it's just a such a darn miserable existence that no one chooses that. And if some do, that existence is likely to be a short one, since humans are herd animals and don't really do well on their own, even if we don't count receiving an education as participation.

  • Re:SCAREMONGERING. (Score:5, Informative)

    by alen ( 225700 ) on Friday August 24, 2012 @08:46AM (#41107777)

    revenue not profits

    you have to spend money on R&D, FDA approval, complying with all kinds of regulations selling to the government, bulk discounts. very little profit on vaccines

  • Re:What risk? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 24, 2012 @08:46AM (#41107779)

    RTFA: 'People who cannot get immunizations because of allergies or compromised immune systems rely on "herd immunity,"'

  • by Dr_Barnowl ( 709838 ) on Friday August 24, 2012 @08:48AM (#41107811)

    Also I don't get why unvaccinated students are putting other students at risk.

    A couple of reasons ;

    i) Vaccination isn't a perfect shield against disease.

    If vaccination gives you 90% immunity, and you spray a whole school with the disease, 10% of the kids will get it. But happily, diseases don't spread like that - they need human hosts. If the only person you come into contact with is your teacher, and they get the disease, you'll be exposed. But if he's vaccinated too, your chances of getting it just went down to 1%, because his chance of contracting it is lower. Herd immunity matters because it reduces the number of carriers, which decreases the risk that anyone, vaccinated or otherwise, will even contact the disease, let alone contract it.

    ii) The more hosts a disease has, the more it will mutate.

    Viruses reproduce at a prodigous rate under great selection pressure - they mutate quickly. Chances are, that one will develop a mutation that makes the current vaccines less effective, or ineffective. The more chances the virus has to reproduce, the more likely this will happen. Therefore unvaccinated folks are doing the equivalent of putting a sign in their lot saying "Terrorists welcome! Come experiment here to discover new ways to kill decadent infidels!"

  • by MozeeToby ( 1163751 ) on Friday August 24, 2012 @08:50AM (#41107833)

    The only students at risk are those who do not get vaccinated

    False. Some number of children can't be vaccinated for legitimate medical reasons, usually allergic reaction to the vaccine ingredients. Then there's a certain number, ranging from 1-5+% that the vaccine simply doesn't take, they are not 100% effective. These two classes of people rely on the fact that the diseases they are vulnerable to aren't present in the general population, if there is an outbreak, the sick people don't come into contact with enough vulnerable people for the disease to spread at a rate that can sustain itself. The numbers necessary are different for each disease, but generally range from 90-99% need to be immune to prevent a wide scale outbreak. These people are harming more than their own children (which would be bad enough), they put everyone else at risk too.

  • Re:What risk? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Jason Levine ( 196982 ) on Friday August 24, 2012 @08:55AM (#41107877) Homepage

    Vaccines aren't 100% effective. There are some for whom the vaccine didn't work. If we were talking about a fully vaccinated population, it wouldn't matter. Herd immunity would protect these people (along with those too young to get vaccinated and those who have valid medical reasons like allergies). However, if too many people stop vaccinating, herd immunity breaks down and these people are subjected to a disease that their immune system isn't ready for.

  • by HungryHobo ( 1314109 ) on Friday August 24, 2012 @08:55AM (#41107879)

    "Also I don't get why unvaccinated students are putting other students at risk. Wouldn't vaccinated students be risk-free? This article reads to me like "Teenagers foregoing condom use putting teenagers who don't have sex at risk" ... "


    not this idiotic crap again.

    There's always some moron who's too lazy to actually do some reading first to at least know what they're challenging.

    in a certain percentage of people who get vaccinated the vaccine doesn't "take".
    it varies by vaccine. in some the uptake is 95%+ in others 80% or lower. in some it's only a hair above the percentage of the population who need to be immune to maintain herd immunity.

    so if you get the shot there's only a 95% chance that your body will react to it and make you immune.

    there's also the immune compromised, the very young and the very old.

    so johnny idiot decides vaccines are evil and doesn't get his kid vaccinated. nod only does johonny idiots kid get sick or die but also a certain percentage of the children of non-negligent parents who just got unlucky or were sick. they suffer because negligent parents drag everyone bellow the herd immunity threshold.

  • Re:SCAREMONGERING. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Charliemopps ( 1157495 ) on Friday August 24, 2012 @08:59AM (#41107921)
    Vaccines are not like other drugs. They expire... rather quickly. A large percentage of them are thrown out at the end of the year. Then the research for next years vaccine starts again. It's a never ending cycle and it costs them a fortune. Unlike a drug like Viagra where then can spent a bunch of money researching it, then make pills that have a nearly indefinite shelf life and they do not have to start over every year unless some terrible side effect is found.
  • by wisebabo ( 638845 ) on Friday August 24, 2012 @09:01AM (#41107941) Journal

    ... from his buddy Donald Trump who recently claimed:

    “Massive combined inoculations to small children is the cause for big increase in autism spread shots over long period and watch positive result.”

    That's almost as bad as Akins "legitimate rape" comment (note: Romney's running mate co-authored the anti-abortion bill by the Republicans.). If you think this thinking is restricted to "just" a potential senator and vice-president please note the Republican platform REMOVED the clause allowing for abortions in case of Rape or Incest.

    Judge them not (just) by what they say but what they do.

  • Re:SCAREMONGERING. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Chris Mattern ( 191822 ) on Friday August 24, 2012 @09:01AM (#41107943)

    And that all goes into the drug company's pocket, because, of course, vaccines cost nothing to make.

    Vaccines make so little profit that there's difficulties in keeping the manufacturing of them going--and research into new ones has almost stopped.

  • by leonardluen ( 211265 ) on Friday August 24, 2012 @09:02AM (#41107969)

    the flu averages about 36k deaths per year according to the CDC []. though the number swings around quite a bit year to year.

    and that in 1952 at the height of the polio epidemic there were only 60k cases and 3k deaths in the US. according to this []

    so even if vaccines were never developed you would still be more likely to die from flu than one of those "stable diseases".

  • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 ) on Friday August 24, 2012 @09:06AM (#41108019)

    Oh noes, the chemicals!

    First, most vaccines don't contain mercury anymore. Second, vaccines only ever contained very small amounts, as a preservative. If you eat fish even a few times per year, that plus your exposure through drinking water probably adds up to more mercury than you'd get from a vaccine, even if you did get one of the vaccines that still has mercury in it.

    The preservative is necessary to keep the vaccine from going bad long enough that it can be reasonably distributed.

  • Re:SCAREMONGERING. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Jason Levine ( 196982 ) on Friday August 24, 2012 @09:33AM (#41108345) Homepage

    In fact, that's the main reason behind the special "vaccine court" that handles claims of problems with vaccines. Vaccines make so little profit that any legal risk they pose to the company could tip the scales into them being not worth the effort. The vaccine court is a way to weed out the frivolous claims (i.e. "this vaccine turned my son autistic and my evidence is Jenny McCarthy") and take action on the valid cases. If vaccines were dumped into the main court system, lawsuits would spread like wildfire over every imagined complaint. The companies would have to defend themselves against them and vaccines just not be worth the effort, money-wise. They would be losing money (via frivolous lawsuits) and their production would be stopped. Then we'd all suffer through those diseases again.

  • by Jason Levine ( 196982 ) on Friday August 24, 2012 @09:41AM (#41108477) Homepage

    Unfortunately, the ones that suffer aren't only the kids of the parents who don't vaccinate. If it were only those parent's kids, I'd be in favor of vaccination being voluntary. However, when Parent A doesn't vaccinate his/her kids, they increase risk of infection for Parent B's baby (too young for vaccination), Parent C's child (can't be vaccinated due to valid medical reason such as allergies), and Parent D's child (vaccine didn't take). A person's rights to raise their kids how they want don't extend to putting other kids at risk.

  • Re:They're stupid (Score:5, Informative)

    by jythie ( 914043 ) on Friday August 24, 2012 @09:44AM (#41108509)
    Considering that populations that have the vaccine have seen a 95% drop in hep-B infections in children, so apparently it matters quite a bit to a number of people.

    There are all sorts of ways to get hep-b, including a dormant version passing from mother to child and then becoming active in the kid.

    I am not sure where you got your numbers, but I am seeing US infection rates near the million range. It is possible that what you are seeing are the numbers AFTER vaccination, meaning they are low because the vaccine is working as intended.
  • by Glothar ( 53068 ) on Friday August 24, 2012 @10:03AM (#41108801)

    As someone who has some expertise in this:

    The Flu vaccine is actually pretty effective. After all, they pretty much make a new one each year. They've had quite a bit of practice by now. However, getting a vaccine is not a full protection against the flu. The problem is twofold:

    First, the flu virus mutates very quickly, and likes to mutate in ways that change its antigen "signature". Though there are some interesting attempts at more general vaccines, currently, you can't even make a vaccine for H1N1 flu strains. You have to pick a specific subgroup of H1N1 strains, because even within the H1N1 type, there are variations that appear differently to our immune system. The same holds for the "old" H3N2 flu, and the even older H2N2 flu. It's not uncommon for a strain to mutate enough over a single season that last year's vaccine no longer works.

    Second, because there are so many different strains in the wild and they shift so quickly, you can't create a vaccine that is targeted against all of them. Why not? That wasn't part of my specialty. I think it has something to do with confusing the immune system with too many similar things. Anyway, the point here is simpler: Vaccine makers don't even try to protect against all the strains. They use clinical samples to determine which strains are looking to be the most common, pick the top four or five, and make a vaccine that protects against those.

    So, what happens if they guess wrong, and a rare strain from the previous year suddenly spreads wildly? Well, you don't get vaccine effectiveness. What if one of the popular strains goes through some mutations early in the season? Well, same effect. You've probably got a vaccine that won't help much. Is this the fault of the vaccine? No. It's the fault of the virus that mutates faster than vaccines can be created and tested. They are trying to find ways to make them faster, but that would only work if you were willing to get multiple shots per year. The better solution is to find a way to make vaccines that apply to larger groups of strains, but it takes time and lots of data.

    Of course, this all gets thrown out the window if you're a fan of Intelligent Design (aka: Creationism). In that case, vaccines don't work because God hates you and chose to use his powers to fiddle with a Germ Spirit and make it immune to the poisons created by the Unbelievers. He's punishing you for not having more faith in him. Of course, there's nothing you can do in this case, so there's no point in trying to understand exactly why it happened.

  • Re:They're stupid (Score:5, Informative)

    by Archimagus ( 978734 ) on Friday August 24, 2012 @10:11AM (#41108911)
    I am an American, and I fully agree with this comment. And I don't know when this changed. When I went to school it was the same thing. The school wouldn't let me in if I didn't have all my vaccines, as it should be. As the old saying goes, "Your freedom to swing your arm ends at my nose." The same should apply here. You can't use your freedom to get me sick.
  • Re:They're stupid (Score:5, Informative)

    by swamp_ig ( 466489 ) on Friday August 24, 2012 @10:12AM (#41108921)

    1. The major forms of transmission for hepatitis b are anal sex and iv drug use.

    Incorrect, the most common form of transmission worldwide is vertical transmission, from mother to child at birth. Vaccines prevent this. Furthermore the vertical transmission of hep-b causes the worst damage, with the highest likleyhood of ending up in cirrhosis, and early death from liver cancer. So while the incidence near birth is low in the west, the consequences are higher making vaccination more worthwhile.
    Secondly, there will reach a point where your son could experiment with IV drugs or even homosexual encounters, don't you want him to be protected in that instance?

    If you are alergic to bakers yeast then you will likely be alergic to the hepatitis b vaccine.

    You cannot have an allergy at birth to anything. It takes at least one contact with the allergen to build up an immune response.

    Why should I stress my son's immune system out

    Your son's immune system is 'stressed out' by the new contact with the world outside the womb. Adding any number of vaccines is a tiny drop in the ocean compared to all those new antigens.

  • by tnk1 ( 899206 ) on Friday August 24, 2012 @10:46AM (#41109485)

    Vaccination does not work for everyone, and it does not work for everyone equally. Complete vaccination of whole populations serves two purposes. Firstly, to protect against the disease, but secondly, to reduce the pool of disease carriers to a level where an outbreak is unlikely or even ceases.

    In short, if the vaccination does not work for some child, or there is a child with a bona fide allergy to the vaccine who cannot take it, that child is much less likely to contract the disease at all if no one around them is a carrier.

    Taken to it's furthest extent, we can eliminate entire diseases that way. With no one for the disease to jump to, it dies off in the isolated hosts and can no longer reproduce. That's why smallpox no longer exists outside some very, very well guarded labs. And if you know anything about history, smallpox killed huge numbers of people, and scarred, disfigured, and otherwise damaged those it didn't kill. Making it almost completely extinct is a very good thing and is a direct result of vaccination.

  • Re:They're stupid (Score:4, Informative)

    by compro01 ( 777531 ) on Friday August 24, 2012 @10:48AM (#41109523)

    Justify why a newborn needs a hepatitis b vaccine. Go ahead call me stupid when I've done the research.

    1. The major forms of transmission for hepatitis b are anal sex and iv drug use.,

    1. Primary method of transmission is mother-to-child, via bodily fluids (you know, stuff the infant is utterly coated in when they're born?) or breastfeeding.
    2. Testing for Hep B can be unreliable at certain phases of the disease.

  • Re:Because... (Score:5, Informative)

    by hrvatska ( 790627 ) on Friday August 24, 2012 @11:05AM (#41109799)
    The introduction of the polio vaccine in 1955 in the US had a dramatic effect on polio. In 1937 there were 9,514 cases of polio, 12,450 in 1943, 33,300 in 1950, 38,476 in 1954. The polio vaccine was introduced in 1955 and in 1956 there were 15,140 cases, 1957 had 5,485 cases. The number of cases dropped through the 1960s. By the early '70s total polio cases were down to single digits. In the last decade most years have 0 or 1 polio cases. Sanitation was introduced well before 1955, and yet we see a rise in polio cases from the mid 1930s until 1955. Did sanitation suddenly get better in 1955? Did immune systems suddenly get better in 1955? The source for the polio statistics is [].
  • Re:They're stupid (Score:5, Informative)

    by stranger_to_himself ( 1132241 ) on Friday August 24, 2012 @11:52AM (#41110573) Journal

    Please explain for all the stupid people in the room how, if student A is vaccinated but student B is not, that this will make student A sick.

    "Your freedom to swing your arm ends at my nose."

    This means the exact opposite in this context unless you can prove that an unvaccinated individual can make a vaccinated one sick.

    Most vaccines don't completely prevent you from becoming infected, but they severely reduce the risk of infection and transmission - meaning that the disease cannot get a grip in a community. There's also for example student A's baby brother who didn't get his jabs yet but is still at risk when student B visits student A (this is a particular problem for measles)

  • by DrYak ( 748999 ) on Friday August 24, 2012 @12:30PM (#41111217) Homepage

    Please explain for all the stupid people in the room how, if student A is vaccinated but student B is not, that this will make student A sick.

    From the top of my head:

    Vaccine aren't 100% efficient. There might by a few case where the student received the vaccine but didn't develop the antibodies. (Just an example: if you're sick with a fever, there's a risk that the ongoing inflammation will destroy the vaccine content (through macrophages) before antibodies are developped (through lymphocytes))
    There might be student aren't anti-vaxx but who aren't up-to-date just yet (they missed a dose or whatever).
    There are people who have a compromised immune system (that's an example from TFA) and can't get vaccinated.
    There are people who have allergies and for whom the vaccine might be risky (another example from TFA). (As an example: for practical purpose, flu vaccines are grown on eggs. If you're allergic to the egg proteins, no shot for you, even if you're not anti-vaxx).
    There are people who have been vaccinated but can't momentarily fight the disease due to a compromised immune system (AIDS, or even disease as simple as mononucleosis can momentarily b0rk the immune system).
    (Case in point: with some disease (like the flu) it's better to vaccinate the population which is at risk of spreading the disease, rather than the group which is at risk of the disease - it better to vaccinate the care taking/nursing/medical personal, rather than the weak elderly patients.)

    You end-up with a bunch of people who aren't anti-vaxx, but which still aren't protected against the disease.

    - If the number of non vaccinated people is underneath a specific treshold. Nothing happens. When somebody gets the disease due to complex unlucky circumstances, nothing happens, because chances are the sick person will never meet another susceptible person. The disease just can't manage to find enough victims to spread among.
    - If the number of non vaccinated people rises above a specific treshold, the shit hits the fan: the disease get a big enough and dense enough population among which to spread. There's a far greater chance that the disease in one sick person will get a chance to meet a susceptible person to whom to jump. Disease which were taught to be almost eradicated suddenly appear again and run epidemic.

    By being selfish and refusing to vaccine, anti-vaxx will raise this number above the treshold. They will not only pose a danger to themselves, but to the population as a whole including all the "innocent" categories cited before who weren't anti-vaxx, but will suffer because of the anti-vaxx.

    In a completely selfish way, it makes sense for the anti-vaxx to refuse the vaccine: vaccine aren't perfect and there very slight chance of secondary effect (ranging from simple inconvenience to more serious effect). Even rarest problem don't have a rate of absolutely zero but slightly above. And if the disease is almost eradicated chance, the chance to catch is are nearly zero.
    But that behaviour is really dangerous for the community because as a consequence of it, the number of susceptible people is at risk at passing the treshold. They end up making the chance to catch the disease non-zero. By just wanting to avoid a statistically really rare inconvenience, they put the community at a bigger risk.

    The example is the polio. In theory it has been recently almost eradicated, chance of catching it are nearly non existant. But vaccine against polio isn't a synthetic product, but a "stunned" virus. There a very slight but not completely null chance to develop a serious effect, something like a polio (sorry I don't remember if it was either because the virus wasn't stunned enough, or because the immune system was compromised).
    So the reasoning inside the head of anti-vaxx goes "chance of problems with vaccine > chance of problems with polio" therefore "don't get the vaccine".
    But the problem is that, in consequence of just a reasoning, the treshold has b

Life in the state of nature is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short. - Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan