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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis Injects Presidential Politics Into the Covid Vaccine Debate

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Phil Galewitz, KFF and Daniel Chang
Mon, 18 Sep 2023 17:35:00 +0000

As Americans consider whether to take advice from federal health officials and get an updated covid vaccine, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is drumming the message that ignited his national political career: Ignore what the federal tells you about .

Last week — as polling showed him running a distant second to Donald Trump for the Republican presidential nomination — DeSantis convened a virtual roundtable featuring a panel of covid vaccine skeptics. Their mission: to swat away the FDA's findings that the new shots are safe and effective for those 6 months and older.

Instead, they advised those younger than 65 not to get vaccinated, suggesting without evidence that the shots could be harmful.

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“I will not stand by and let the FDA and CDC use healthy Floridians as guinea pigs for new booster shots that have not been proven to be safe or effective,” said DeSantis, contradicting the FDA's findings. “Once again, Florida is the first state in the nation to stand up and guidance based on truth, not Washington edicts.”

Backing up DeSantis was the handpicked keeper of his public health strategy: his state's surgeon general, Joseph Ladapo.

“My judgment is that it's not a good for young people and for people who are not at high risk at this point in the pandemic,” Ladapo said.

Ladapo has under fire from public health experts since DeSantis tapped him for the role. He has been rebuked by federal health officials for promoting misinformation about covid and vaccines generally. And a report by the faculty of the University of Florida's College of Medicine expressed “concern for research integrity violations” in a state health department study that suggested receiving an mRNA vaccine against covid increased the risk of among young .

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Ladapo personally altered the study's findings, Politico reported. And research has shown the risk of cardiac complications among young men is up to 5.6 times as high after covid infection as after covid vaccination.

With public health officials facing an uphill battle to persuade Americans to get one of the updated vaccines — just 17% received the 2022 booster — DeSantis' tactic could further depress uptake by stoking doubts about the vaccines.

DeSantis is “playing with fire, and this is about life and death,” said Donna Shalala, who served as U.S. Health and Human Services secretary during the Clinton administration and later represented Florida in Congress.

“But I think people will see it for what it is: a desperate attempt at very high risk to people in Florida to reposition himself,” she said.

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DeSantis trails Trump by more than 40 points, on average, in polls of GOP primary voters, a gap that has widened despite the governor's recent efforts to reboot his campaign.

More than 90,000 people in Florida have died from covid-19.

And, while there have been a few serious side effects associated with covid vaccines, their incidence is rare and several studies have shown that vaccinated people are at no greater risk of death from non-covid causes than those who are unvaccinated. More than 600 million doses of covid vaccines have been administered in the U.S., according to Our World in Data.

That information was not mentioned in the discussion last week, when the panel — which notably included no vaccine or infectious disease experts — said without evidence that the shots might have “negative efficacy” or even cause increased infection from the virus.

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DeSantis and Ladapo said they were troubled by the lack of human trials before the latest covid vaccines were authorized — though they did not address why they might be less concerned about the risks for those age 65 and older.

Annual flu vaccines also do not undergo clinical testing on humans. But Ladapo called it “sleight of hand” to compare the covid boosters to the flu vaccine, because it has been around for decades. “It is a completely different phenomenon,” he said.

The Florida Health Department did not respond to questions about whether it recommends the flu vaccine in light of its dearth of human testing.

Daniel Salmon, a vaccine expert at Johns Hopkins University who watched the roundtable, said he took issue with the claim that there wasn't clinical data supporting the new vaccines' safe use. Like the flu vaccine, the primary covid vaccines went through clinical trials, and there wouldn't be time to conduct one every time a new strain emerges, he said.

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The discussion was not a robust debate around scientific uncertainty among experts, Salmon said. He noted the panelists' lack of expertise and training in vaccines and infectious disease, saying they instead leaned on their positions as physicians, academics, and the Florida surgeon general to give them credibility.

“They don't know covid,” Salmon said. “They're cherry-picking facts to defend their position. And they don't have the expertise to make those decisions for a large number of people.”

“It felt to me like they were trying to sow doubt,” he said, “and that's dangerous.”

Polling by the nonprofit health organization KFF shows that most Americans encounter health misinformation, and many are uncertain about the veracity of claims about the covid vaccines.

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DeSantis built his national reputation on bucking the medical establishment and ending 2020's pandemic lockdown earlier in Florida than many other states did. He also has gained a following — and raised money — by criticizing the federal government under and guidance from the nation's former top infectious disease expert, Anthony Fauci, who left his post at the National Institutes of Health in December.

DeSantis' handling of the covid response helped propel him to a massive reelection victory last year and to the front of the pack of 2024 Republican presidential contenders this spring.

David Richards, chair of the International Relations and Political Science Department at Lynchburg University in Virginia, said he is not surprised by DeSantis' approach to the updated vaccines given his polling numbers, his reputation for pushing “medical freedom,” and his general vaccine policies.

“He needs to remain relevant and set himself apart from other candidates,” he said.

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Last year, DeSantis opposed providing covid vaccines to young children after Florida came under fire for being the only state not to preorder doses ahead of the federal government's approval of vaccination for children under 5.

This year, DeSantis urged Florida's GOP-controlled legislature to approve pandemic-related legislation that runs counter to some public health recommendations, including measures to permanently ban school mask mandates and bar businesses from firing employees who don't get vaccinated.

Matt Dallek, a political historian at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., said DeSantis' messaging on the new covid vaccines shows his desire to distance himself from Trump — even though Trump's 2018 endorsement led to his winning the Florida governor's race.

“This is a way for him to exploit the issue, though it may come at the expense of lives of anyone who would listen to him in Florida and elsewhere,” he said.

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——————————
By: Phil Galewitz, KFF Health News and Daniel Chang
Title: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis Injects Presidential Politics Into the Covid Vaccine Debate
Sourced From: kffhealthnews.org/news/article/florida-governor-ron-desantis-presidential-politics-covid-vaccine-debate/
Published Date: Mon, 18 Sep 2023 17:35:00 +0000

Kaiser Health News

Clues From Bird Flu’s Ground Zero on Dairy Farms in the Texas Panhandle

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Amy Maxmen
Thu, 23 May 2024 09:00:00 +0000

In early February, dairy farmers in the Texas Panhandle began to notice sick cattle. The buzz soon reached Darren Turley, executive director of the Texas Association of Dairymen: “They said there is something moving from herd to herd.”

Nearly 60 days passed before veterinarians identified the culprit: a highly pathogenic strain of the bird flu virus, H5N1. Had it been detected sooner, the outbreak might have been swiftly contained. Now it has spread to at least eight other states, and it will be hard to eliminate.

At the moment, the bird flu hasn't adapted to spread from person to person through the air like the seasonal flu. That's what it would take to give liftoff to another pandemic. This lucky fact could change, however, as the virus mutates within each cow it infects. Those mutations are random, but more cows provide more chances of stumbling on ones that pose a grave risk to humans.

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Why did it take so long to recognize the virus on high-tech farms in the world's richest country? Because even though H5N1 has circulated for nearly three decades, its arrival in dairy cattle was most unexpected. “People tend to think that an outbreak starts at Monday at 9 a.m. with a sign saying, ‘Outbreak has started,'” said Jeremy Farrar, chief scientist at the World Health Organization. “It's rarely like that.”

By investigating the origins of outbreaks, researchers garner clues about how they start and spread. That information can curb the toll of an epidemic and, ideally, stop the next one. On-the-ground observations and genomic analyses point to Texas as ground zero for this outbreak in cattle. To backtrack in Texas, KFF Health spoke with more than a dozen people, veterinarians, farmers, and state officials.

An early indication that something had gone awry on farms in northwestern Texas came from devices hitched to collars on dairy cows. Turley describes them as “an advanced tracker.” They collect a stream of data, such as a cow's temperature, its milk quality, and the progress of its digestion — or, rather, rumination — within its four-chambered stomach.

What farmers saw when they downloaded the data in February stopped them in their tracks. One moment a cow seemed perfectly fine, and then four hours later, rumination had halted. “Shortly after the stomach stops, you'd see a huge falloff in milk,” Turley said. “That is not normal.”

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Tests for contagious diseases known to whip through herds came up negative. Some farmers wondered if the illness was related to ash from wildfires devastating to the east.

In hindsight, Turley wished he had made more of the migrating geese that congregate in the panhandle each winter and spring. Geese and other waterfowl have carried H5N1 around the globe. They withstand enormous loads of the virus without getting sick, passing it on to local species, like blackbirds, cowbirds, and grackles, that mix with migrating flocks.

But with so many other issues facing dairy farmers, geese didn't register. “One thing you learn in agriculture is that Mother Nature is unpredictable and can be devastating,” Turley said. “Just when you think you have figured it out, Mother Nature tells you you do not.”

Cat Clues

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One dairy tried to wall itself off, careful not to share equipment with or employ the same workers as other farms, Turley recalled. Its cattle still became ill. Turley noted that the farm was downwind of another with an outbreak, “so you almost think it has to have an airborne factor.”

On March 7, Turley called the Texas Animal Health Commission. They convened a One Health group with experts in animal health, human health, and agriculture to ponder what they called the “mystery syndrome.” State veterinarians probed cow tissue for parasites, examined the animals' blood, and tested for viruses and bacteria. But nothing explained the sickness.

They didn't probe for H5N1. While it has jumped into mammals dozens of times, it rarely has spread between species. Most cases have been in carnivores, which likely ate infected birds. Cows are mainly vegetarian.

“If someone told me about a milk drop in cows, I wouldn't think to test for H5N1 because, no, cattle don't get that,” said Thomas Peacock, a virologist at the Pirbright Institute of England who studies avian influenza.

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Postmortem tests of grackles, blackbirds, and other birds found dead on dairy farms detected H5N1, but that didn't turn the tide. “We didn't think much of it since we have seen H5N1-positive birds everywhere in the country,” said Amy Swinford, director of the Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory.

In the meantime, rumors swirled about a rash of illness among workers at dairy farms in the panhandle. It was flu season, however, and hospitals weren't anything out of the ordinary.

Bethany Boggess Alcauter, director of research at the National Center for Farmworker Health, has worked in the panhandle and suspected farmworkers were unlikely to see a doctor even if they needed one. Clinics are far from where they live, she said, and many don't speak English or Spanish — for instance, they may speak Indigenous languages such as Mixtec, which is common in parts of Mexico. The cost of medical care is another deterrent, along with losing pay by missing work — or losing their — if they don't show up. “Even when medical care is there,” she said, “it's a challenge.”

What finally tipped off veterinarians? A few farm cats died suddenly and tested positive for H5N1. Swinford's group — collaborating with veterinary labs at Iowa State and Cornell universities — searched for the virus in samples drawn from sick cows.

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“On a Friday night at 9 p.m., March 22, I got a call from Iowa State,” Swinford said. Researchers had discovered antibodies against H5N1 in a slice of a mammary gland. By Monday, her team and Cornell researchers identified genetic fragments of the virus. They alerted authorities. With that, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced that H5N1 had hit dairy cattle.

Recalling rumors of sick farmworkers, Texas health officials asked farmers, veterinarians, and local health departments to encourage testing. About 20 people with coughs, aches, irritated eyes, or other flu-like symptoms stepped forward to be swabbed. Those samples were shipped to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. All but one was negative for H5N1. On April 1, the CDC announced this year's first case: a farmworker with an inflamed eye that cleared up within days.

Thirteen dairy farms in the panhandle had been affected, said Brian Bohl, director of field operations at the Texas Animal Health Commission. Farmers report that outbreaks among the herds last 30 to 45 days and most cows return to milking at their usual pace.

The observation hints that herds gain immunity, if temporarily. Indeed, early evidence shows that H5N1 triggers a protective antibody response in cattle, said Marie Culhane, a professor of veterinary population medicine at the of Minnesota. Nonetheless, she and others remain uneasy because no one knows how the virus spreads, or what risk it poses to people working with cattle.

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Although most cows recover, farmers said the outbreaks have disrupted their careful timing around when cattle milk, breed, and birth calves.

Farmers want answers that would come with further research, but the spirit of collaboration that existed in the first months of the Texas outbreak has fractured. Federal restrictions have triggered a backlash from farmers who find them unduly punishing, given that pasteurized milk and cooked beef from dairy cattle appear to pose no risk to consumers.

The rules, such as prohibiting infected cattle from interstate travel for 30 days, pose a problem for farmers who move pregnant cattle to farms that specialize in calving, to graze in states with gentler winters, and to return home for milking. “When the federal order came out, some producers said, ‘I'm going to quit testing,'” Bohl said.

In May, the USDA offered aid, such as up to $10,000 to test and treat infected cattle. “The financial incentives will help,” Turley said. But how much remains to be seen.

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Federal authorities have pressed states to extract more intel from farms and farmworkers. Several veterinarians warn such pressure could fracture their relationships with farmers, stifling lines of communication.

Having fought epidemics around the world, Farrar cited examples of when strong-arm surveillance pushed outbreaks underground. During an early 2000s bird flu outbreak in Vietnam, farmers circumvented regulations by moving poultry at night, bribing inspection workers, and selling their goods through back channels. “Learning what drivers and fears exist among people is crucial,” Farrar said. “But we always seem to realize that at a later date.”

A powerful driver in the U.S.: Milk is a $60 billion industry. Public health is also bound to bump up against in Texas, a state so aggrieved by pandemic restrictions that lawmakers passed a bill last year barring health officials from recommending vaccines.

Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller said that when he heard that federal agents with the CDC and USDA were considering visits to farms — including those where farmers reported the cattle had recovered — he advised against it. “Send federal agents to dairy that's not sick?” he said. “That doesn't pass the smell test.”

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From Texas to the Nation

Peacock said genomic analyses of H5N1 viruses point to Texas as ground zero for the cattle epidemic, emerging late last year.

“All of these little jigsaw puzzle pieces corroborate undetected circulation in Texas for some time,” said Peacock, an author on one report about the outbreak.

Evidence suggests that either a single cow was infected by viruses shed from birds — perhaps those geese, grackles, or blackbirds, he said. Or the virus spilled over from birds into cattle several times, with only a fraction of those moving from cow to cow.

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Sometime in March, viruses appear to have hitched a ride to other states as cows were moved between farms. The limited genomic data available links the outbreak in Texas directly to others in New Mexico, Kansas, Ohio, North Carolina, and South Dakota. However, the routes are imprecise because the USDA hasn't attached dates and locations to data it releases.

Researchers don't want to be caught off guard again by the shape-shifting H5N1 virus, and that will require keeping tabs on humans. Most, if not all, of about 900 people diagnosed with H5N1 infections worldwide since 2003 acquired it from animals, rather than from humans, Farrar said. About half of those people died.

Occasional tests of sick farmworkers aren't sufficient, he said. Ideally, a system is set up to encourage farmworkers, their communities, and health care workers to be tested whenever the virus hits farms nearby.

“Health care worker infections are always a sign of human-to-human transmission,” Farrar said. “That's the approach you want to take — I am not saying it's easy.”

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——————————
By: Amy Maxmen
Title: Clues From Bird Flu's Ground Zero on Dairy Farms in the Texas Panhandle
Sourced From: kffhealthnews.org/news/article/bird-flu-ground-zero-texas-dairy-farms-whodunit-h5n1/
Published Date: Thu, 23 May 2024 09:00:00 +0000

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Los Angeles County Launches Ambitious Plan To Tackle Medical Debt. Hospitals Groan.

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Molly Castle Work
Thu, 23 May 2024 09:00:00 +0000

LOS ANGELES — Los Angeles County has launched one of the most ambitious efforts in the nation to tackle medical debt, targeting hospitals for their role in feeding a $2.9 billion problem.

For over a year, the nation's most populous county has worked on a comprehensive plan to track patient debt and hospital collection practices; boost bill forgiveness for low-income ; and buy up and forgive billions in medical debt — an effort helmed by its Department of Public .

Though LA County isn't the first government entity to confront this crisis, what sets it apart is how it casts medical debt not as a political issue, but as an urgent public health threat as prevalent as asthma and diabetes.

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“Nobody in the county of LA who is facing economic limitations should have that impact their ability to get the kind of , the kinds of services and support that we all need and are essential to optimal well-being,” public health department director Barbara Ferrer said at a medical debt symposium April 10.

Mona Shah of Community Catalyst, a national health equity and policy organization, called the county's efforts bold — tackling the root causes of medical debt, in addition to providing immediate debt relief, with input and participation from health plans, hospitals, community , and government partners. Shah said the county's population of about 10 million adds to the significance of its initiative.

But on the eve of the symposium, the local hospital association called on the county to revise its plan.

“We believe the proposed DPH [Department of Public Health] debt relief program and data collection effort will only burden hospitals with unnecessary requirements, without ultimately helping to address the underlying issue,” wrote George Greene, of the Hospital Association of Southern California, in a letter to the LA County Board of Supervisors.

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Many of the county's recommendations would require hospitals to change their processes and add reporting duties. For instance, the county is asking hospitals to inform it when patient debt is sent to collections and pressing hospitals to improve access to financial assistance programs. Although state law requires hospitals to provide assistance, patient advocates say many don't make it easy for patients to access.

Adena Tessler, LA County regional vice president for the hospital association, told KFF Health the industry provides ample financial assistance and that the county is putting too much emphasis on hospitals' role in the debt crisis, when other sectors of the health care system, such as insurers, should share the blame.

Tessler said the county plan should include all players, including health plans, provider groups, and ambulance providers.

“Medical debt is a problem, and we want to be a part of the solution,” Tessler said. “But hospitals are not the only source of medical debt.”

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Medical debt affects 4 in 10 adults in the U.S., according to a KFF Health News analysis. LA County found, in its own analysis this year, that about 785,000 were burdened in 2022 with a total of $2.9 billion in medical debt.

The county analysis shows that medical debt disproportionately affects people of color, low-income people, and families with children. medical debt more than doubled the likelihood that patients would delay or forgo health care or prescriptions or be at risk of losing housing or going hungry.

Nationally, a handful of states have passed rules to limit medical debt collection or bolster hospital financial assistance policies. Some jurisdictions have relieved residents of debt. Connecticut, Colorado, and New York enacted laws in the last two years to ban medical debt on credit reports, which can depress credit scores and make it harder for patients to get a job, rent an apartment, or secure a car loan. California lawmakers have proposed similar legislation, and the federal Consumer Financial Protection is also developing a set of rules.

“It's a huge public health problem,” said Naman Shah, medical and dental affairs director at the public health department. “We in public health try to shift the determinants of health. Those are things that impact health deeply and impact people widely. Medical debt fulfills both of those. It's important that we see this as a health issue, and not just a regulatory issue.”

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The department made initial recommendations last spring, then further developed them with the backing of the Board of Supervisors, which described medical debt as “pervasive” and “causing financial, mental, and physical harm … especially to those from historically marginalized communities.”

Shah said that while the department continues to take hospital input and has addressed some of the association's “misunderstandings,” are moving ahead with the plan. Tessler agreed the focus is on collaboration, not halting the county plan.

Over the next several months, the county plans to score hospitals based on financial assistance accessibility and provide them with templates and guidelines to make financial assistance less confusing and less burdensome for patients.

States such as Washington, Oregon, and Maryland have developed similar materials for hospitals.

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The county's goals also call for other debt prevention strategies, including working with plans and providers to better educate consumers to avoid surprise billing and out-of-network charges.

Shah said he was surprised by the timing of the hospital association's letter, especially since county officials and hospital representatives met several times before the April symposium. He agreed it is important to tackle all sources of medical debt but said hospitals are a reasonable place to start. Nearly 75% of adults with medical debt owe some or all of it to hospitals, according to a 2023 Urban Institute analysis.

“We want to get the most bang for our buck,” Shah said. “The largest bill that a patient receives is not a dental bill. It's not an office bill. It's a hospital bill.”

This article was produced by KFF Health News, which publishes California Healthline, an editorially independent service of the California Health Care Foundation. 

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——————————
By: Molly Castle Work
Title: Los Angeles County Launches Ambitious Plan To Tackle Medical Debt. Hospitals Groan.
Sourced From: kffhealthnews.org/news/article/los-angeles-county-medical-debt-plan-hospital-dissent/
Published Date: Thu, 23 May 2024 09:00:00 +0000

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https://www.biloxinewsevents.com/4-ways-vaccine-skeptics-mislead-you-on-measles-and-more/

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Kaiser Health News

4 Ways Vaccine Skeptics Mislead You on Measles and More

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Amy Maxmen and Céline Gounder
Wed, 22 May 2024 09:00:00 +0000

Measles is on the rise in the United States. So far this year, the number of cases is about 17 times what it was, on average, during the same period in each of the four years before, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Half of the people infected — mainly children — have been hospitalized.

It's going to get worse, largely because a growing number of parents are deciding not to get their children vaccinated against measles as well as diseases like polio and pertussis. Unvaccinated people, or those whose immunization status is unknown, account for 80% of the measles cases this year. Many parents have been influenced by a flood of misinformation spouted by politicians, podcast , and influential figures on television and social media. These personalities repeat decades-old notions that erode confidence in the established science backing routine childhood vaccines. KFF News examined the rhetoric and explains why it's misguided:

The No-Big-Deal Trope

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A common distortion is that vaccines aren't necessary because the diseases they prevent are not very dangerous, or too rare to be of concern. Cynics accuse public health officials and the media of fear-mongering about measles even as 19 states cases.

For example, an article posted on the website of the National Vaccine Information Center — a regular source of vaccine misinformation — argued that a resurgence in concern about the disease “is ‘sky is falling' hype.” It went on to call measles, mumps, chicken pox, and influenza “politically incorrect to get.”

Measles kills roughly 2 of every 1,000 children infected, according to the CDC. If that seems like a bearable risk, it's worth pointing out that a far larger portion of children with measles will require hospitalization for pneumonia and other serious complications. For every 10 measles cases, one child with the disease develops an ear infection that can to permanent hearing loss. Another strange effect is that the measles virus can destroy a person's existing immunity, meaning they'll have a harder time recovering from influenza and other common ailments.

Measles vaccines have averted the deaths of about 94 million people, mainly children, over the past 50 years, according to an April analysis led by the World Health Organization. Together with immunizations against polio and other diseases, vaccines have saved an estimated 154 million lives globally.

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Some skeptics argue that vaccine-preventable diseases are no longer a threat because they've become relatively rare in the U.S. (True — due to vaccination.) This reasoning led Florida's surgeon general, Joseph Ladapo, to tell parents that they could send their unvaccinated children to school amid a measles outbreak in February. “You look at the headlines and you'd think the sky was falling,” Ladapo said on a News Nation newscast. “There's a lot of immunity.”

As this lax attitude persuades parents to decline vaccination, the protective group immunity will drop, and outbreaks will grow larger and faster. A rapid measles outbreak hit an undervaccinated population in Samoa in 2019, killing 83 people within four months. A chronic lack of measles vaccination in the Democratic Republic of the Congo led to more than 5,600 people dying from the disease in massive outbreaks last year.

The ‘You Never Know' Trope

Since the earliest days of vaccines, a contingent of the public has considered them bad because they're unnatural, as with nature's bounty of infections and plagues. “Bad” has been redefined over the decades. In the 1800s, vaccine skeptics claimed that smallpox vaccines caused people to sprout horns and behave like beasts. More recently, they blame vaccines for ailments ranging from attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder to autism to immune system disruption. Studies don't back the assertions. However, skeptics argue that their claims remain valid because vaccines haven't been adequately tested.

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In fact, vaccines are among the most studied medical interventions. Over the past century, massive studies and clinical trials have tested vaccines during their and after their widespread use. More than 12,000 people took part in clinical trials of the most recent vaccine approved to prevent measles, mumps, and rubella. Such large numbers allow researchers to detect rare risks, which are a major concern because vaccines are given to millions of healthy people.

To assess long-term risks, researchers sift through reams of data for of harm. For example, a Danish group analyzed a database of more than 657,000 children and found that those who had been vaccinated against measles as babies were no more likely to later be diagnosed with autism than those who were not vaccinated. In another study, researchers analyzed records from 805,000 children born from 1990 through 2001 and found no evidence to back a concern that multiple vaccinations might impair children's immune systems.

Nonetheless, people who push vaccine misinformation, like candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr., dismiss massive, scientifically vetted studies. For example, Kennedy argues that clinical trials of new vaccines are unreliable because vaccinated kids aren't compared with a placebo group that gets saline solution or another substance with no effect. Instead, many modern trials compare updated vaccines with older ones. That's because it's unethical to endanger children by giving them a sham vaccine when the protective effect of immunization is known. In a 1950s clinical trial of polio vaccines, 16 children in the placebo group died of polio and 34 were paralyzed, said Paul Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and author of a book on the first polio vaccine.

The Too-Much-Too-Soon Trope

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Several bestselling vaccine books on Amazon promote the risky idea that parents should skip or delay their children's vaccines. “All vaccines on the CDC's schedule may not be right for all children at all times,” writes Paul Thomas in his bestselling book “The Vaccine-Friendly Plan.” He backs up this conviction by saying that children who have followed “my protocol are among the healthiest in the world.”

Since the book was published, Thomas' medical license was temporarily suspended in Oregon and Washington. The Oregon Medical Board documented how Thomas persuaded parents to skip vaccines recommended by the CDC, and reported that he “reduced to tears” a mother who disagreed.  Several children in his care came down with pertussis and rotavirus, diseases easily prevented by vaccines, wrote the board. Thomas recommended fish oil supplements and homeopathy to an unvaccinated child with a deep scalp laceration, rather than an emergency tetanus vaccine. The boy developed severe tetanus, landing in the hospital for nearly two months, where he required intubation, a tracheotomy, and a feeding tube to survive.

The vaccination schedule recommended by the CDC has been tailored to protect children at their most vulnerable points in and minimize side effects. The combination measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine isn't given for the first year of a baby's life because antibodies temporarily passed on from their mother can interfere with the immune response. And because some babies don't generate a strong response to that first dose, the CDC recommends a second one around the time a child enters kindergarten because measles and other viruses spread rapidly in group settings.

Delaying MMR doses much longer may be unwise because data suggests that children vaccinated at 10 or older have a higher chance of adverse reactions, such as a seizure or fatigue.

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Around a dozen other vaccines have discrete timelines, with overlapping windows for the best response. Studies have shown that MMR vaccines may be given safely and effectively in combination with other vaccines.

'They Don't Want You to Know' Trope

Kennedy compares the Florida surgeon general to Galileo in the introduction to Ladapo's new book on transcending fear in public health. Just as the Roman Catholic inquisition punished the renowned astronomer for promoting theories about the universe, Kennedy suggests that scientific institutions oppress dissenting voices on vaccines for nefarious reasons.

“The persecution of scientists and who dare to challenge contemporary orthodoxies is not a new phenomenon,” Kennedy writes. His running mate, lawyer Nicole Shanahan, has campaigned on the idea that conversations about vaccine harms are censored and the CDC and other federal agencies hide data due to corporate influence.

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Claims like “they don't want you to know” aren't new among the anti-vaccine set, even though the movement has long had an outsize voice. The most listened-to podcast in the U.S., “The Joe Rogan Experience,” regularly features guests who cast doubt on scientific consensus. Last year on the show, Kennedy repeated the debunked claim that vaccines cause autism.

Far from ignoring that concern, epidemiologists have taken it seriously. They have conducted more than a dozen studies searching for a link between vaccines and autism, and repeatedly found none. “We have conclusively disproven the theory that vaccines are connected to autism,” said Gideon Meyerowitz-Katz, an epidemiologist at the University of Wollongong in Australia. “So, the public health establishment tends to shut those conversations down quickly.”

Federal agencies are transparent about seizures, arm pain, and other reactions that vaccines can cause. And the government has a program to compensate individuals whose injuries are scientifically determined to result from them. Around 1 to 3.5 out of every million doses of the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine can cause a life-threatening allergic reaction; a person's lifetime risk of by lightning is estimated to be as much as four times as high.

“The most convincing thing I can say is that my daughter has all her vaccines and that every pediatrician and public health person I know has vaccinated their kids,” Meyerowitz-Katz said. “No one would do that if they thought there were serious risks.”

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——————————
By: Amy Maxmen and Céline Gounder
Title: 4 Ways Vaccine Skeptics Mislead You on Measles and More
Sourced From: kffhealthnews.org/news/article/measles-how-vaccine-skeptics-mislead-public/
Published Date: Wed, 22 May 2024 09:00:00 +0000

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