Bad science on vaccines from a so-called science fiction author


The anti-vaxxers aren’t my usual beat, but this guy was so egregiously ignorant I couldn’t sit quietly. Jon Del Arroz, “the leading Hispanic voice in science fiction” (we’ve encountered him on these pages before) believes that vaccines are population control and makes some very silly arguments.

Rockland County has in effect declared Martial Law on its citizens because of the measles. The media is calling it an “unprecedented move” as it’s banning children from public places.

Something smells fishy here.

Those are two useful words, “in effect”. No, Rockland County did not declare martial law. They declared a state of emergency because they’ve had a constant stream of measles cases for six month, and they’ve only banned infected children from public spaces. They are trying to break the chain of transmission by telling people you can’t stage involuntary pox parties and infect other people’s children.

Misrepresenting the situation is not a promising start.

First, if vaccines worked so well and they made us all immune, why should we be panicked about someone having it?

Because not everyone has been vaccinated. Babies typically are vaccinated against measles at 12-15 months…so my baby granddaughter, for instance, is still vulnerable. Why does Jon Del Arroz want to make babies sick? Does he just hate children?

Also some people are immuno-comprised and more susceptible. Then there are all the dangerous fools who think vaccines are bad and have avoided them for themselves and their children — and while it might seem just that they should suffer from a life-threatening disease and remove themselves from the gene pool, it is not what a humane society should do.

The whole claim is that this ends the disease and we have to therefore inject tons of dead viruses into our body in order to have a healthy society. It seems counterintuitive that we should then be scared of the same disease we were told we eradicated.

Measles was eradicated from the Americas by diligent vaccination efforts. However, it’s still prevalent worldwide, and almost 100,000 people die of measles every year. It’s staging a comeback here in the US because we’ve accumulated a vulnerable sub-population who refuse vaccination for specious reasons. We’d rather reduce that population which acts as a breeding ground for disease by vaccinating them, than by allowing them to die.

The truth is, most outbreaks of measles and mumps happen to VACCINATED people. So it appears whatever vaccine is being used is not all that effective. For outbreaks to be a big problem, this would have to be the case, and it means all the shutting down discussion on any vaccine topic by shaming anyone trying to discuss it seems to have a deeper purpose.

This is flatly false. People who have been vaccinated are safe from measles outbreaks, according to the CDC. However, roughly 10% of the American population has not been vaccinated against measles. Those are the people we’re concerned about.

10% of the US population is about 32 million people. Why do you hate your fellow Americans, Jon Del Arroz?

Second, how many people constitutes an “outbreak?” We’re told it’s only 150 cases in the last year or so. How many people have it now? 154 over an entire year spread out could mean as little as 4-5 people have the disease.

And yet they declared martial law.

It’s not martial law.

The disease was declared eradicated in the US because the chain of transmission was broken by the relatively high rate of vaccination — you were unlikely to encounter someone with the disease, so even if you were susceptible, it wasn’t likely that you’d meet someone who was infected. In local areas like Rockland County, where the number of infected individuals has risen, that’s no longer true — susceptible people, like little babies, have a good chance of randomly encountering a measles carrier. That’s the purpose of the state of emergency, to get people to stop risking other peoples lives and health by bringing the measles virus into public spaces.

It’s very similar to government overreach in New Zealand based on one shooting–they’re grabbing all of the populace’s guns.

Oh god. One track minds.

It’s more like telling people they aren’t allowed to fire their guns randomly into public spaces. You believe in responsible gun ownership, don’t you, Jon Del Arroz? Why do you think people should be allowed to spew infectious snot into crowds?

On the vaccine end, the discussions need to be had. Is every vaccine effective? Is putting them all together in a cocktail healthy for children? Or is there something else at play? Are these used for something else, like creating a populace who ARE chronically diseased all the time and further dependent on the government healthcare?

These discussions have been had. Where were you? You can find discussions of vaccine policy in the scientific literature and at places like the CDC.

Different vaccines have different degrees of effectiveness, because infectious organisms and viruses evolve. Influenza varies frequently, for instance. The measles vaccine is effective and safe.

The vaccine schedule has been empirically evaluated and determined to be safe, much safer than the diseases they prevent.

Vaccines do not make you chronically diseased. They prevent disease states. You will need less healthcare, government or otherwise, if you don’t catch a disease than if you catch one. Your conspiracy theories are bogus.

Our own president said it: “Healthy young child goes to doctor, gets pumped with massive shot of many vaccines, doesn’t feel good and changes – AUTISM. Many such cases!”

I’ve yet to see him be wrong.

Vaccines do not cause autism. It’s been tested over and over again. Your own president was wrong.

He has also made claims about Puerto Rico that were factually wrong. He was wrong about Mexico. Do you also believe that wind turbines cause cancer?

Jon Del Arroz is a science fiction author, emphasis on the fiction part. I prefer that my SF authors have at least a passing acquaintance with how science works. Jeez, at least learn how to look the facts up.

Comments

  1. sparks says

    It’d also be nice if said sci-fi writer could develop and then follow a coherent argument.

    Just sayin’. Jeebus, what a dipshit.

  2. Akira MacKenzie says

    How does someone become this demonstrably wrong?

    Greed? Ideological obstinacy? Severe mental illness? A combination of the three?

  3. alkisvonidas says

    and while it might seem just that they should suffer from a life-threatening disease and remove themselves from the gene pool

    Why? It’s not like their ignorance is hereditary or transmitted through their genes.

  4. skeptico says

    Actually PZ, a small correction: it is true that more vaccinated children than non-vaccinated get the measles. That’s because the measles vaccine is only 97% effective (according to your link), and there are more vaccinated than non-vaccinated children. You’re still much more likely to get the disease if you’re not vaccinated.

  5. aziraphale says

    “they’re grabbing all of the populace’s guns.” No. They are proposing to buy back semi-automatic weapons, and not even all of those. From an even-handed NZ journalist’s article:

    “For one thing, these rule changes don’t affect the vast majority of gun owners, who, if they own semi-automatic guns at all, own shotguns or small-calibre rifles which are exempt from the changes with certain limits on magazine capacity.”

    https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/christchurch-shooting/111766391/our-gun-laws-must-work-for-all-new-zealanders

  6. Akira MacKenzie says

    “Population control” is a massive boogie-person for the far/religious right. It’s as if they won’t be satisfied until the planet is armpit deep in humans.

  7. raven says

    Actually PZ, a small correction: it is true that more vaccinated children than non-vaccinated get the measles.

    Not that we know of.
    Got a source for that claim?

    https://www.oregonlive.com/clark-county/2019/03/measles-outbreak-vancouver-area-epidemic-grows-to-77-confirmed-cases.html

    The vast majority of people affected by the current outbreak weren’t vaccinated against the virus. Several had one dose of the vaccine, which is 93 percent effective.

    One of the big US outbreaks was in Clark county Washington.
    The vast majority of cases weren’t vaccinated.

    PS This Washington state outbreak seems to have started and spread among fundie xians, of which there are a lot in this area.
    No surprise.

  8. Hoosier X says

    I’m going to give him credit for clearly warning his readers that he’s not credible by citing President Trump as his science mentor. That was very courteous of him.

  9. microraptor says

    Some people can’t get vaccinated because of medical reasons. It’s important for their safety that the majority of the population does get vaccinated for that there isn’t a bunch of people acting as carriers for the disease.

    Measles doesn’t just kill you or leave you healthy after you’ve been infected. A person can catch it and survive but be left with lifelong complications up to and including blindness. Tools like this guy never seem to remember that.

  10. ridana says

    I’ve yet to see him be wrong.

    That one sentence right there invalidates anything this buffoon has to say on any topic.

  11. Saganite, a haunter of demons says

    Out of all this nonsense, it may be odd to focus on, but…
    The measles vaccine is not “a ton of dead viruses”. It’s a live, attenuated vaccine.
    “Even worse”, he’d probably yell.

  12. hemidactylus says

    The ultimate irony is that because vaccination so many dimwits are alive to spread BS about vaccines (Pinker’s charts). I wouldn’t assume being vaccinated would mean I am definitely immune, therefore herd immunity comes into play. Everyone who can must buy in to make it work. Does anyone recall the world before vaccines were available? I am looking at you freeriders.

  13. Jazzlet says

    Raven
    It can be true that in a given outbreak a higher number of vaccinated children get measles than of unvaccinated children, simply because there are far more vaccinated children than unvaccinated, and even when fully vaccinated about 3% will not have developed enough antibodies to measles. However if you look at the proportion of vaccinated children who get measles compared to the proportion of unvaccinated children, a far lower proportion of vaccinated children will get measles when exposed than of unvaccinated children. Vaccines are not perfect, but that does not mean that they are useless, and we need to be careful not to suggest that they offer absolute protection to all who are vaccinated when they do not. It is also relevant that children who have been vaccinated, but who still get measles tend to have far milder infections than the completely unvaccinated, so they still get some benefit from vaccination.

  14. raven says

    It can be true that in a given outbreak a higher number of vaccinated children get measles than of unvaccinated children, simply because there are far more vaccinated children than unvaccinated, and even when fully vaccinated about 3% will not have developed enough antibodies to measles.

    .1. I asked for a citation of this claim.
    You didn’t give one, you just repeated the claim.
    .2. I will ask one more time. Back up your assertion with some data!!!
    If this is a true statement, it shouldn’t be hard at all.

    .3. Public health Clark county
    The vast majority of people affected by the current outbreak weren’t vaccinated against the virus. Several had one dose of the vaccine, which is 93 percent effective.
    I backed up my claim with some relevant data.

    If you can’t do that, don’t bother repeating your claim again.
    Repeating a claim over and over again doesn’t make it true.

  15. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    There seems to be a trend where sincere belief and “logic” is viewed as an acceptable substitute for research and rigorous analysis. People think their belief is just as valid as yours because they believe it just as hard as you do, despite the fact they are utterly and completely full of shit.

    Until we as a society laugh such people off the public stage, I fear it will only get worse. Fuck civility.

  16. raven says

    Measles | Cases and Outbreaks | CDC
    https://www.cdc.gov/measles/cases-outbreaks.html
    The majority of people who got measles were unvaccinated. … Minnesota in a Somali-American community with poor vaccination coverage. … large outbreak of 383 cases, occurring primarily among unvaccinated Amish communities in Ohio.

    The US CDC says, “The majority of people who got measles were unvaccinated. in the case of several other outbreaks.

    I’ve seen enough.
    What is the difference between the unevidenced claims of Arroz and the ones on this thread?
    People, search engines exist and they work.
    Use them to look things up!!!

  17. Sean Boyd says

    Akira Mackenzie @2,

    Did you really need to bring mental illness into this? Did it advance the discussion in any way, shape or form? Or was it just to make yourself feel better?

  18. kome says

    Not much difference between an anti-vaxxer, a creationist, a climate change denier, or a Trump supporter. The rhetoric is all the same, the politics are all the same, the “science” is all the same. The Venn Diagram of those groups is almost a single circle.

  19. Artor says

    “You believe in responsible gun ownership, don’t you, Jon Del Arroz?”

    I feel like this is an unwarranted assumption, considering the ill-considered viewpoints he has already espoused.

  20. Rob Grigjanis says

    skeptico @4: If 90% of the population is vaccinated with a 97% effective vaccine, then about 87% of the population will not get measles. Of the 13% vulnerable folk, 10% are the unvaccinated. So, with these numbers, the majority of sufferers (roughly 75%) would be the unvaccinated.

  21. tomh says

    OP:
    “they’ve only banned infected children from public spaces.”

    Actually, per your link, they’ve banned unvaccinated children from all public spaces, not just infected ones, for 30 days or until they are vaccinated.

    Rockland County tried something similar last year when they banned unvaccinated children from schools with a vaccination rate under 95%, regardless of a legal religious exemption, a move which was upheld by a judge when a group of parents from a private school sued. The vaccination rate at the school was 33% when the ban took effect. The County decided they needed to go further this year.

    There are some signs of hope from the younger generation. In South Carolina, Oregon and elsewhere, patients under 18 are allowed to ask for vaccinations without parental approval. In New York, two state lawmakers introduced a similar bill and gained support from the American Academy of Pediatrics. “Often adolescents and young adults have a clearer grasp of what kinds of health care decisions make the most sense for them,” the New York chapters of the academy said.

  22. whheydt says

    Several points…

    First, Del Arroz is not the most prominent Hispanic SF author. A single data point disproves his assertion. to wit: Lester Del Rey. Better known, more important writer and editor…and Hispanic.

    I’m one of those that remembers the world before most vaccines. Another kid I played with when I was 6 was recovering from polio. He still had an “iron lung” in his bedroom to sleep in. As a result, not only did my kids get all their vaccinations, but the grandkids are getting theirs, too.

    Del Arroz tried to stir shit after getting banned from WorldCon last year. He appears to have gone hard right in order to get attention. It’s working–sort of–almost all the attention he’s getting is that people won’t touch him with a 10 foot pole.

  23. Sean Boyd says

    hemidactylus @22,

    Just had a TDAP…couldn’t even feel the shot itself, but my deltoid ached for about a week like I’d been punched by someone much stronger than I am. But yeah, I’d wager tetanus is much worse.

  24. hemidactylus says

    My first post @12 was rushed and suffered poor sentence construction. Reading Pinker’s book gave me pause to reflect on the ingratitude of dimwits who are alive today due to breakthroughs that reduced childhood mortality including vaccination. That was one of the most positive takeaways I got from the book. Many of us are alive now who would not have been due to vaccination getting us toward adulthood. Some of us are ignorant of the not so distant past and spread fear mongering about vaccines that endangers others.

    The way I constructed “dimwits are alive to spread BS about vaccines (Pinker’s charts)” could be construed as me implying Pinker was one spreading BS which was opposite of my intent. He is on side of better angels on this topic. Dimwits are alive, as reflected in Pinker’s book: “The sin of ingratitude may not have made the Top Seven, but according to Dante it consigns the sinners to the ninth circle of Hell, and that’s where post-1960s intellectual culture may find itself because of its amnesia for the conquerors of disease.” from Enlightenment Now

    …and ironically they spread BS about vaccines.

    Pinker has charts for life expectancy (1171-2015), child mortality (1751-2013), and childhood deaths from infectious disease, (2000–2013) that are impressive. In the last one a drop in measles is shown. Vaccination was maybe one of several factors at play in the first two graphs.

  25. jrkrideau says

    12 hemidactylus
    Does anyone recall the world before vaccines were available?
    I can remember the last polio epidemic in Canada before there was a polio vaccine. Well, actually, I “just” remember my parents’ terror when their darling son (me, that is) caught some minor bug in the middle of the epidemic.

    I also remember my professor who seemed to doze off in seminars. Actually we later discovered that he seemed to be going unconscious from lack of oxygen. He really needed to keep moving to breath well. Polio.

  26. says

    Our own president said it: “Healthy young child goes to doctor, gets pumped with massive shot of many vaccines, doesn’t feel good and changes – AUTISM. Many such cases!”

    I’ve yet to see him be wrong.</q>

    The world these people’s minds live in…

  27. Allison says

    Akira MacKenzie @25

    Sean Boyd:

    No. I brought it up as valid possibility.

    Of course mental illness is a “possibility.”
    With anyone (including you) in any context.

    So is paedophilia, or being a serial murderer.

    However, unless you can give us a good reason to believe that it is a likely cause for him saying what PZ quoted, I think we are justified in calling your mention of it a gratuitous slur — a slur against not only del Arroz, but also against all people who are actually mentally ill.

    Because, in practice, actual mentally ill people are no more likely to spout unfounded and harmful rubbish than the population at large.

    (P.S.: what is a valid possibility as opposed to an invalid possibility?)

  28. Akira MacKenzie says

    @ Allison and Sean Boyd

    Very well, I apologize and take back my comment.

  29. Reginald Selkirk says

    Some antivax nonsense showed up on my local neighborhood Google group. It’s receiving some strong pushback, but civility is hard to maintain.

  30. zetopan says

    “I’ve yet to see [Trump] be wrong.”

    We can extrapolate that statement with 100% accuracy and predict that Jon Del Arroz has the same credibility rating as the Petulant Mango Mussolini. I didn’t even know that there was a Hispanics for Trump movement (pun intended). As a group they must be mentally impaired to be that unable to
    even detect the rather large anti-Hispanic component of Trump’s rampant racism.

    And Del Arroz openly states: “I’m a vocal Christian and Hispanic Trump supporter.” Wow, who could have even guessed that a belligerently ignorant, religious fanatic, and generally obnoxious buffoon would be a Trump supporter? What a shock!

    “… at least learn how to look the facts up.”

    Be fair now, that involves way too much effort for the arrogantly and willfully ignorant! Isaac Asimov covered this mindset some time ago:
    “There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there always has been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that “my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.”

  31. Akira MacKenzie says

    (Looks up Del Arroz on Amazon)

    Let’s see… Unimaginative-looking steampunk novels, unimaginative superhero novels, unimaginative military sci-fi…. UGH! He wrote a pro-Trump screed with Milo!?

  32. bachfiend says

    Tetanus isn’t communicable, unlike measles, but immunisation refusal has significant costs:

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-costs-of-failing-to-immunize-children-are-staggering-just-ask-one-young-boy-in-oregon/2019/03/15/c2ab7d7a-468b-11e9-8aab-95b8d80a1e4f_story.html?utm_term=.86d65ca35523

    Just imagine. Over $800,000 for one child’s parents’ refusal to immunise. What could have been done with $800,000? And apparently, the parents are still refusing to immunise.

  33. lochaber says

    hemidactylus @22

    I just got my tetanus again a year or two ago, no unpleasant side affects, but I seem to get them less then most people in general.

    Another thing, I believe the tetanus is often given as TDAP (tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis), and it’s worth getting for the pertussis alone. I’ve heard that pertusis can often pass as a cold in a healthy adult, but they are then capable of transmitting it to infants, for whom it can be fatal.

    I’m really bothered by all this anti-vaxxer nonsense. I don’t believe we even vaccinate for small pox in the U.S. anymore, because vaccines were so effective, it was effectively eliminated.
    And polio is nearly eliminated, despite there being survivors currently alive.

  34. whheydt says

    Re: Iochaber @ #37…

    There was a–relatively–local outbreak of pertussis (aka “whooping cough”) several years ago. I semi-browbeat our doctor into giving my wife and me TDAP shots (they didn’t exist when were young). I did it on the basis of being in an extended household that included an infant too young at the time to get that vaccine.

    I’ve mentioned for years the idea of getting MMR shots. He used to just reply that I didn’t need them because of herd immunity. Last time he said I’d probably had a very mild case of measles and didn’t know it. I haven’t made a major issue of it…yet.

    As for chickenpox…that I had, so my immunity is “home grown”.

    I meant to mention in my earlier post that there is a disturbing trend in California. Ever since state law removed the “personal belief” exemption for kids to have to be vaccinated to be in school, there are increasing numbers of “medical” exemptions. Such minimal data as has hit the news suggests that there are doctors that will write a vaccination medical exemption simply by being asked and paying a fee.

    I think it’s going to be necessary to collect data on who is writing the exemptions and on what basis. There are likely some doctors out there that should lose their licenses to practice. It reminds one of Tom Lehrer’s quip that he wanted to go into medicine and specialize in diseases of the rich.

  35. nomdeplume says

    Yet again, another data point where the wrongness of the ideas is correlated with the certainty with which they are held.

  36. says

    A lot of speculative fiction features direct or indirect decrying of the foolishness and naïveté of people from the past.

    Del Arroz is clearly auditioning for a part in some “denialist crank chorus from history” in someone’s upcoming fictional dystopian future.

    Narrator/protagonist: “It was thanks to the loudest and stupidest of us that Measles 2.0 killed eight in ten. Now, those of us who remain live on the refuse of the 0.01%, scratching out a living – or just dying – on islands of rich men’s garbage.”

  37. skeptico says

    Raven:

    2. I will ask one more time. Back up your assertion with some data!!!
    If this is a true statement, it shouldn’t be hard at all.
    .3. Public health Clark county
    The vast majority of people affected by the current outbreak weren’t vaccinated against the virus. Several had one dose of the vaccine, which is 93 percent effective.
    I backed up my claim with some relevant data.
    If you can’t do that, don’t bother repeating your claim again.
    Repeating a claim over and over again doesn’t make it true.

    Sonny, you need to calm down. And learn to read – the person you were flaming was not the person who made the claim.

    It’s not a particularly extraordinary claim. In fact, it’s fairly well known. Not in all cases perhaps, but it does happen. If you’re going to try to debunk the claims of anti-vac nuts like this Arroz guy, you need to deal with facts, and explain why it doesn’t matter if more vaccinated get the disease than not, rather than deny that it happens.

  38. raven says

    Skeptico you are just wrong here.
    Once again
    US CDC
    https://www.cdc.gov/measles/cases-outbreaks.html

    Spread of Measles
    The majority of people who got measles were unvaccinated.
    Measles is still common in many parts of the world including some countries in Europe, Asia, the Pacific, and Africa.

    I’m not at all sure you have the slightest idea what the CDC is.
    The US Center for Disease Control.
    These are the experts on…US disease control.

  39. raven says

    The tl;dr version
    2008: The increase in cases in 2008 was the result of spread in communities with groups of unvaccinated people.
    and
    2018: The U.S. experienced 17 outbreaks in 2018. Three outbreaks in New York State, New York City, and New Jersey, respectively, contributed to most of the cases. Cases in those states occurred primarily among unvaccinated people in Orthodox Jewish communities.

    Every outbreak I looked at in the USA was among unvaccinated groups.

    I realize that I just posted a wall of text.
    Data is data and not all data can be summarized in a few words.
    I also know that virtually no one will read it.
    There are huge numbers of people online who quite simply are semi-literate and can’t read very well.

    US CDC
    Measles Outbreaks
    In a given year, more measles cases can occur for any of the following reasons:

    an increase in the number of travelers who get measles abroad and bring it into the U.S., and/or
    further spread of measles in U.S. communities with pockets of unvaccinated people.
    Reasons for an increase in cases some years:

    2018: The U.S. experienced 17 outbreaks in 2018. Three outbreaks in New York State, New York City, and New Jersey, respectively, contributed to most of the cases. Cases in those states occurred primarily among unvaccinated people in Orthodox Jewish communities. These outbreaks were associated with travelers who brought measles back from Israel, where a large outbreak is occurring. Eighty-two people brought measles to the U.S. from other countries in 2018. This is the greatest number of imported cases since measles was eliminated from the U.S. in 2000.
    2017: A 75-case outbreak was reported in Minnesota in a Somali-American community with poor vaccination coverage.
    2015: The United States experienced a large (147 cases), multi-state measles outbreak linked to an amusement park in California. The outbreak likely started from a traveler who became infected overseas with measles, then visited the amusement park while infectious; however, no source was identified. Analysis by CDC scientists showed that the measles virus type in this outbreak (B3) was identical to the virus type that caused the large measles outbreak in the Philippines in 2014.
    2014: The U.S. experienced 23 measles outbreaks in 2014, including one large outbreak of 383 cases, occurring primarily among unvaccinated Amish communities in Ohio. Many of the cases in the U.S. in 2014 were associated with cases brought in from the Philippines, which experienced a large measles outbreak.
    2013: The U.S. experienced 11 outbreaks in 2013, three of which had more than 20 cases, including an outbreak with 58 cases. For more information see Measles — United States, January 1-August 24, 2013.
    2011: In 2011, more than 30 countries in the WHO European Region reported an increase in measles, and France was experiencing a large outbreak. These led to a large number of importations (80) that year. Most of the cases that were brought to the U.S. in 2011 came from France. For more information see Measles — United States, January-May 20, 2011.
    2008: The increase in cases in 2008 was the result of spread in communities with groups of unvaccinated people. The U.S. experienced several outbreaks in 2008 including three large outbreaks. For more information see Update: Measles — United States, January–July 2008.

  40. skeptico says

    Raven

    No pal, you are not listening. From the World Health Organization link that I provided:

    in a high school of 1,000 students, none has ever had measles. All but five of the students have had two doses of measles vaccine, and so are fully immunized. The entire student body is exposed to measles, and every susceptible student becomes infected. The five unvaccinated students will be infected, of course. But of the 995 who have been vaccinated, we would expect several not to respond to the vaccine. The efficacy rate for two doses of measles vaccine can be as high as >99%. In this class, seven students do not respond, and they, too, become infected. Therefore seven of 12, or about 58%, of the cases occur in students who have been fully vaccinated

    It happens. Get over it.

  41. leerudolph says

    Rob Grigjanis @20: “If 90% of the population is vaccinated with a 97% effective vaccine, then about 87% of the population will not get measles.” No; then about 87% of the population will not get measles even if they are exposed to measles. Of the remaining 13%, only the (unknown, but certainly less than 100) percent of the population who are exposed to measles may get measles.

    I had a bit of wine at dinner and my capacity to reason correctly is sufficiently diminished that I can’t decide whether this quibble affects your conclusion at all. I suspect that the answer depends strongly on assumptions about the (in)homogeneity of the various populations involved.

  42. skeptico says

    2008: The increase in cases in 2008 was the result of spread in communities with groups of unvaccinated people.

    No one is saying anything different. But congratulations for beating the crap out of that straw man.

  43. Rob Grigjanis says

    skeptico @42: This is what you wrote in #4:

    it is true that more vaccinated children than non-vaccinated get the measles

    If we assume 90% of the population vaccinated, and 97% effectiveness (the numbers being used here), this is simply wrong. See my #20.

    If, say, 98% or more of the population had been vaccinated, you would be correct. And that may be the case in some countries, but is not currently the case in the US, assuming PZ is correct.

  44. Rob Grigjanis says

    leerudolph @46: Right, not everybody will be exposed to measles, and not everyone who is exposed (vaccinated or not) will get the measles, and I didn’t assume they would. But if we do assume that the infection rate is roughly the same for the vulnerable vaccinated (the 3%) as for the unvaccinated, roughly 25% of the infected will have had vaccinations.

  45. says

    Y’know it’s pretty easy to create a rough prediction of whether more cases will appear among the vaccinated or the unvaccinated.

    Ignoring the social effects of declining vaccination tending to occur in clusters where sub-communities are resisting vaccination and also socialize with each other more often than with the remainder of the public, if the vaccination effectiveness rate is greater than 90%, then a decent initial estimate is that if the vaccination rate equals or exceeds the vaccination effectiveness rate, then more cases would be expected among the unvaccinated. If the vaccination rate is less than the effectiveness rate, there may be more cases among the vaccinated.

    Of course, once you add in the effects of “pox parties” and adjust for the insularity of some communities (orthodox, insular religious communities, for instance) this may change. But it works to a first approximation.

    Of course, once the effectiveness rate drops, the approximation is no longer so clean. With 80% effectiveness, vaccinating 80% of the population leaves 16% of the total pop vaccinated but vulnerable, while 20% is unvaccinated (and, obviously, vulnerable). Instead of splitting the cases evenly between the two populations, with equal levels of exposure you’re now expecting 44.5% of the cases among the vaccinated, 55.5% among the unvaccinated. It’s not the near-tie that you get with effectiveness >90%

    With 50% effectiveness and a 50% rate, you get 25% vaccinated & vulnerable, 50 percent unvaccinated. Now you’re expecting (with even levels of exposure) only 33% of the cases among the vaccinated & vulnerable, 67% among the unvaccinated.

    So, with lower effectiveness it may not be the best estimate, but, as I’ve said, when the effectiveness is high enough, just check to see if the rate matches the effectiveness and that will tell you what to expect from even levels of exposure.

  46. raven says

    It happens. Get over it.

    Your example is entirely theoretical.
    The data I posted is from actual outbreaks in the USA.

    BTW, I’m just the messenger.
    The data is from the US Center for Disease Control, the people whose job it is to keep track of disease outbreaks.

  47. Rob Grigjanis says

    leerudolph @46: On reflection, what I should have written was “87% are not at risk”.

  48. hemidactylus says

    @45- skeptico

    Your link goes on to say: “As you can see, this doesn’t prove the vaccine didn’t work — only that most of the children in the class had been vaccinated, so those who were vaccinated and did not respond outnumbered those who had not been vaccinated. Looking at it another way, 100% of the children who had not been vaccinated got measles, compared with less than 1% of those who had been vaccinated. Measles vaccine protected most of the class; if nobody in the class had been vaccinated, there would probably have been 1,000 cases of measles.” And it was a section focused on the misconception “The majority of people who get disease have been vaccinated.”

    Your use of that quote looks to be an attempt to make a nonpoint by numbers play. If we take a population of 1000 fully vaccinated and 1000 unvaccinated, which will wind up having more measles victims if exposed? How many unvaccinated might die? According to slide seven in this link 1-2 per 1000. Encephalitis is a risk. 25% hospitalization which means medical costs.

    The slide that impresses me is #3 “Number of Lives Saved by Measles Vaccine Globally” as plotted from 1985-2016. Why are dimwits acting to counter this trend in the US?

    And this:
    https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0013842

    “Forty years of international experience with the impact of measles vaccination programs on child mortality suggests that sustained high levels of MCV coverage, along with other factors, contributed to dramatic declines in measles deaths. In light of current efforts to improve child health, measles vaccination has played and will continue to play an important role.”

    I am most interested in the longer historical take:
    https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/full/10.1098/rstb.2013.0433

    “It is often stated that vaccination has made the greatest contribution to global health of any human intervention apart from the introduction of clean water and sanitation, but this is a claim that needs some qualification. Study of the pattern of infectious diseases in industrialized countries from the end of the nineteenth century onwards shows that there was a large and progressive decline in child mortality, owing largely to a reduction in mortality from infectious diseases, prior to the development and deployment of vaccines. This was associated with improvements in housing, nutrition and sanitation. Nevertheless, it is indisputable that vaccination has made an enormous contribution to human and animal health, especially in the developing world. Mortality from smallpox and measles was massive in the pre-vaccination period with up to a half of the population dying from the former during epidemics and measles was only a little less lethal in susceptible populations.”

  49. hemidactylus says

    And given my uncertainty whether I could be in the 3% vaccinated lacking sufficient immunity I see the dimwits who don’t vaccinate their kids for stupid reasons as potentially mortal threats to me. The risk is slight but there. If everyone who can get vaccinated did so, measles outbreaks wouldn’t be the problem they are now. Let’s build a time machine and put these coddled snowflake parents and the irresponsible jackasses who mislead them in a time period before vaccines existed and see how they fare. Sorry, this shit pisses me off.

  50. hemidactylus says

    @57- psanity

    Yipes. Your link sent me down a rabbit hole of retrospective horrors based on: “…tested the first version of the lab’s vaccine on mentally retarded and disabled children at a school outside of Boston.”

    From same website: https://www.historyofvaccines.org/content/articles/vaccine-testing-and-vulnerable-human-subjects

    Gets into Willowbrook also discussed here:
    https://science.education.nih.gov/supplements/webversions/bioethics/guide/pdf/Master_5-4.pdf

    “In another series of studies, researchers gave newly admitted children protective antibodies. A subset of these children were then deliberately infected with hepatitis virus (obtained from sick children). Those who had received protective antibodies but were not deliberately infected served as the controls. The children in this experiment were housed in a well- equipped and well-staffed facility where they could be given special care and be kept away from the other types of infections at the institution.”

    Gives pros and cons. On the latter this one strikes a chord: “It is not appropriate to use a vulnerable, institutionalized population for experiments. Feeding live hepatitis virus to mentally disabled children in order to deliberately infect them does not respect them as persons.”

    As for vaccination research using institutionalized kids didn’t seem uncommon:
    https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/paul-a-md-offit/vaccinated/

    “The author also revisits the reprehensible but once-accepted practice of testing vaccines (including Salk’s polio vaccine) on institutionalized mentally retarded children. Poor living conditions made these kids vulnerable to infections and hence likely to benefit from vaccines, argued researchers, who also tested themselves and their children.”

  51. bryanfeir says

    Oh good lord, John Del Arroz.

    With regards to the ‘leading Hispanic writer’, people have noted that if he had showed up to the last Worldcon (in San Jose, CA) he wouldn’t have even been the ‘leading Hispanic voice’ present at the convention; the Artist Guest of Honor that year, John Picacio, has better qualifications. Picacio also started up a fan fund to get more Mexicans to come to the convention in San Jose just to poke at Del Arroz’ claims of racism.

    With regards to measles, @microraptor #9:

    Measles doesn’t just kill you or leave you healthy after you’ve been infected. A person can catch it and survive but be left with lifelong complications up to and including blindness.

    Worse, from some of what I’ve heard, measles plays merry havoc with the immune system… one of the possible side effects of catching it is that you can lose other immunities you’ve previously acquired. Not only is ‘natural immunity’ not better in this case, it often leaves your immune system in rather worse shape afterward.

    Measles also one of the most contagious diseases we know of. If somebody with measles was in a room, and you walk into the same room ten minutes later, you still have a chance of catching it. I believe the stated average is that somebody with measles will usually expose about 20 people before the infection runs its course. Which is why we need a 95% immunization rate to enforce herd immunity… we need to make sure less than 1/20th of the people exposed actually get infected to keep it from starting an epidemic.

  52. tomh says

    Judge stops NY county from barring unvaccinated minors in public places as measles outbreak continues

    (CNN)A ban on unvaccinated children in public places in Rockland County, New York, was put on hold by a state judge on Friday.

    The controversial ban went into effect late last month in an effort to contain an outbreak of measles that began in October. Nearly 170 cases have been confirmed in the county. Judge Rolf Thorsen scheduled a hearing for April 19 and said the county is temporarily blocked from enforcing the ban. “And petitioners’ children are hereby permitted to return to their respective schools forthwith and otherwise to assemble in public places,” he wrote.

    The outbreak began when an unvaccinated resident became infected while visiting Israel and returned with the disease. It has mostly affected observant Jewish neighborhoods.

    “The county is disappointed that the court did not see this measles outbreak, unprecedented in scope over the past 30 years, as a crisis sufficient to warrant the need for a declaration of a state of emergency,” County Attorney Thomas E. Humbach said.

    He said the county was evaluating its next possible legal steps.

    The judge wrote that the small percentage of cases in Rockland County didn’t meet the definition of an epidemic that the law permitting emergency declarations requires.

  53. tomh says

    @ #38
    “Ever since state law removed the “personal belief” exemption for kids to have to be vaccinated to be in school, there are increasing numbers of “medical” exemptions. Such minimal data as has hit the news suggests that there are doctors that will write a vaccination medical exemption simply by being asked and paying a fee.”

    California should have based their medical exemption rules on Mississippi law, which has set the standard in vaccination law for forty years.

    All exemptions submitted by a Mississippi licensed pediatrician, family physician, or internist will be accepted based on the Medical Exemption guidelines below…

    Review of all medical exemption requests will be conducted at the Mississippi State Department of Health by the State Epidemiologist or Deputy State Epidemiologist.

    There follows a list of requrements for a medical exemption.

    Once the request is reviewed and approved, a Certificate of Medical Exemption (Form 122) will be issued. Only the Certificate of Medical Exemption (Form 122) signed and dated by the State Epidemiologist or Deputy State Epidemiologist provides official, documented proof that a child has been issued a medical exemption by MSDH. The original Certificate of Medical Exemption (Form 122) will be housed at MSDH with a copy mailed to the parent and the requesting physician.

    Children with a Certificate of Medical Exemption who are not adequately immunized will be excluded from school if there is a threat of vaccine preventable diseases occurring in the community. The child will be excluded until the infectious disease is no longer present, or is no longer a threat to the safety and welfare of the child or other children in the school.

    Exemption from required immunizations for religious, philosophical, or conscientious reasons is not allowed under Mississippi law.

  54. hemidactylus says

    After learning more about the underbelly of infectious disease research last night I am thrown for a loop and have no register to fully evaluate. If anything personifies the implicit critique of utilitarianism in Ursula LeGuin’s “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” it is research on institutionalized disabled kids.

  55. chrislawson says

    raven,

    I admire your committment to fighting anti-vax misinformation. Unfortunately on this particular matter, you’re not correct. The CDC data you are talking about comes from community outbreaks in an era where there are large clusters of unvaccinated or undervaccinated people due to anti-vax scaremongering. In situations where there are large numbers of unvaccinated people, it is expected that most cases will be in the unvaccinated. But in other situations, measles can affect more vaccinated than unvaccinated people. This is because counter-intuitively the better the vaccine uptake, the higher the proportion of vaccinated people infected in an outbreak.

    References:

    General observations on measles in vaccinated populations.

    Mathematical analysis explaining underlying principle. Note that this paper makes a small but significant error in claiming that 2xMMR is 99% effective when in fact it’s now known that the real figure is 97%. The 99% figure comes from seroconversion studies, the 97% figure comes from observational studies of actual measles cases. That small percentage error makes a big difference to the probability curve.

    Example 1: a measles outbreak in a Portugese hospital where “96 cases were confirmed, 67 in vaccinated healthcare workers”.

    Example 2: a measles outbreak in a Netherlands hospital with 8 infected healthcare workers of which “6 were vaccinated with measles vaccine twice, 1 was vaccinated once, and 1 was unvaccinated.”

  56. chrislawson says

    hemidactylus–

    skeptico is NOT making anti-vax points here. skeptico is discussing a well-known anti-vax fallacy (“so many vaccinated people got this illness during this outbreak, so vaccines don’t work!”) and explaining why that argument is wrong.

  57. chrislawson says

    also hemidactylus–

    Unfortunately none of us can know if we’re in the 3% of fully vaccinated people who will get measles during an epidemic. Of that 3%, many had high levels of antibodies, which has traditionally been considered evidence of immunity.

    Which of course adds weight to your argument for full community immunisation (excluding the very very small number of people with genuine medical contraindications).

  58. Rob Grigjanis says

    chrislawson @64: There’s no doubt that the number of infected who have been vaccinated can exceed the number of infected who haven’t been vaccinated. In fact, that is desirable! raven‘s point, I think, is that this is simply not the case currently in the US, and the math seems to make that clear.

    If the infection rate among the unvaccinated is i, then (correct me if I’m wrong) the infection rate among the vaccinated with 0.97 effective vaccine is (0.03)i. If, further, the vaccination rate is v, then the number of infections among the unvaccinated is proportional to

    i(1-v)

    and the number of infections among the vaccinated is proportional to

    (0.03)iv

    For the number of infected vaccinated people to exceed the number of infected unvaccinated people, this means that the vaccination rate must satisfy

    (0.03)iv > i(1-v)

    or

    v > 0.971

    If the current v in the US is 0.9, this is obviously not satisfied.

  59. chrislawson says

    Rob,

    That wasn’t what I was reading in raven’s comments. I got the feeling he was criticising the concept as theoretical only. Either way, I’m tried to be clear that I’m not attacking raven because I know that he is on the right side overall even if I disagree on this particular point.

    Also, while it’s true that most current outbreaks are taking place in undervaccinated populations, it does not follow that all outbreaks in the US will be in populations that have the same vaccination percentage as the US average. The two examples I gave were in first-world hospitals, where we would expect staff members to have been fully immunised (in my neck of the woods, hospitals won’t even employ people unless they can show documentary evidence of immunisation).

    Of course, the bigger public health problem is not occasional small outbreaks in well-vaccinated groups, but idiot anti-vaxxers in the wider community driving down herd immunity. And now, as it turns out, fuckwit New York judges who think they know more about epidemiology than public health specialists.

  60. tomh says

    New York City declares public health emergency amid measles outbreak, orders mandatory vaccinations

    New York City on Tuesday declared a public health emergency and ordered mandatory measles vaccinations amid an outbreak in Brooklyn, becoming the latest national flash point over refusals to inoculate against dangerous diseases.

    New York’s mandate comes as health officials have scrambled to blunt the spread of measles. At least 285 people have contracted the disease in the city since September, mostly in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood.

    “This is the epicenter of a measles outbreak that is very, very troubling and must be dealt with immediately,” Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) said Tuesday. “The measles vaccine works. It is safe, it is effective, it is time-tested … The faster everyone heeds the order, the faster we can lift it.”

    The mandate orders all unvaccinated people in four Zip codes, including a concentration of Orthodox Jews, to receive inoculations, including for children as young as 6 months old. Anyone who resists could be fined up to $1,000.

    Some Orthodox Jews have resisted vaccines. City health officials said Monday that yeshivas in Williamsburg that do not comply will face fines and possible closure.

    We’ll see if this one holds up in court.

Leave a Reply