Parenting

Anti-Vaxxers Vindicated? Study Shows Measles Outbreaks Tied to Air Pollution

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Many parents, fearful that vaccinating their children may cause autism, have opted to swear off vaccinations. These parents have been blamed for recent outbreaks of measles in the U.S., most notably in Disneyland in 2015. A new study suggests that such outbreaks may have other causes, and anti-vaxxers have already seized upon it as evidence for their position. But this study only applied to China, and it does not necessarily absolve the anti-vaxxers of U.S. measles outbreaks.

“We provide new evidence that measles incidence is associated with exposure to ambivalent PM2.5 in China,” concluded a new study published in the journal Environmental Research. PM2.5 is a measure of the size of pollution particles in the atmosphere. This research means that high levels of pollution (which are an endemic problem throughout China) are linked to measles.

This study focused on new measles cases and levels of pollution in 21 Chinese cities between October 2013 and December 2014. The study found that when people live in areas with air polluted by particles of a certain size for three days, they are much more likely to contract measles. Pollution was even more closely related to measles on days with high temperature, low humility, and high wind speed.

The study suggested that “effective policies to reduce air pollution may also reduce measles incidence.”

Natural News’ Amy Goodrich, an anti-vaccine writer, seized upon the study as proof that “exposure to a germ is not the only cause of infection.” She further emphasized that “the idea that we can prevent infections through vaccination alone is based on fraudulent science,” according to this new research.

Goodrich also cited Green Med Info, pointing out that although the Chinese are very vaccination compliant, they have had over 700 measles outbreaks from 2009 to 2012. That site also noted that if pollution and environmental factors play a role in the development of the disease, “the toxin-tainted vaccines themselves become a plausible cause of the very disease they are designed to prevent.”

Finally, Goodrich argued that measles itself isn’t so bad — “the fear surrounding measles infection is highly irrational since the measles are a benign childhood disease that strengthens the human microbiome.” Goodrich further argued that “since 2003 the measles vaccines has been responsible for at least 1000 deaths in the U.S. compared to less than 10 deaths caused by the illness itself.”

Is measles “benign”? According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the disease killed 134,200 people across the globe in 2015 — about 367 deaths every day. Spreading the vaccine, however, resulted in a 79 percent drop in measles deaths between 2000 and 2015 worldwide.

In the United States, an estimated 3 to 4 million children were infected each year during the decade before 1963 when the vaccine became available, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). An estimated 400 to 500 people died each year, while 48,000 were hospitalized, and 4,000 suffered swelling of the brain. People do still die from measles, but they are few and far between, thanks largely to the vaccine.

Where does Goodrich get her “1000” deaths from the vaccine since 2003? Ostensibly from the CDC’s Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS), which tracks deaths following vaccines, along with other events. According to the 2016 report, there were 173 deaths following vaccination.

But the website warns not to read too much into this. “More than 10 million vaccines per year are given to children less than 1 year old, usually between 2 and 6 months of age,” the site explains. “At this age, infants are at greatest risk for certain medical adverse events, including high fevers, seizures, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Some infants will experience these medical events shortly after a vaccine by coincidence.”

“These coincidences make it difficult to know whether a particular adverse event resulted from a medical condition or from a vaccination,” VAERS explains. “Therefore, vaccine providers are encouraged to report all adverse events following vaccination, whether or not they believe the vaccination was the cause.”

In other words, just because the VAERS database lists 1,000 deaths, that does not mean that all those deaths were caused by a vaccine. It is very good news that very few people die of measles in the U.S., thanks, it seems, to vaccinations.

Even if all the deaths following vaccinations were caused by vaccines — which they likely weren’t — that still does not suggest that vaccines are killing people. The 173 infant deaths reported in 2016 represent less than one one hundredth of a percent of the low estimate of 10 million infants vaccinated each year. The figure is 0.00173 percent.

But what about China? Doesn’t this study prove that you can still get measles even if you were vaccinated? Yes. Vaccination is not a perfect prevention mechanism, especially in China.

China has the worst air quality in the entire world. Major Chinese cities have been covered in a thick cloud of toxic smog, and smog is linked to nearly one-third of deaths in China, as the anti-vaxxer Goodrich points out in her article.

Bad air quality can weaken the immune system, making people less resistant to disease in general, but especially after vaccinations. A vaccine helps prevent disease by introducing a minuscule amount of the disease into a person’s bloodstream. This prompts a healthy immune system to develop antibodies to block that specific disease.

But if pollution weakens the immune system, it weakens the body’s ability to produce enough antibodies to fight the disease. This is why people with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV/AIDS) are more likely to get sick and even die from common diseases that do not threaten healthy people. China’s heavy pollution can have the same effect as AIDS — in weakening immune systems and leaving people vulnerable to diseases that would normally have little to no impact on them.

So Goodrich is partially correct — vaccines are not a perfect preventative. But they do save lives, and it is dangerous to not give them to your children. Some study in China does not change the general truth that measles can kill people, was once an epidemic in the U.S., and can be prevented with vaccines.

Finally, the myth that vaccines cause autism has been debunked numerous times, and the anti-vaxxer movement did cause the Disneyland measles outbreak of 2015. The fear that vaccines can cause autism traces to a 1998 study by Dr. Andrew Wakefield, who wrote that his study of 12 children showed that three vaccines taken together could alter immune systems, causing intestinal woes that then reach, and damage, the brain. The study was discredited in short order, the journal pulled the report, and the doctor was banned from practicing medicine in 2010.

Vaccines may seem scary — Goodrich stokes fear of them by saying they are “tainted with heavy metals” — but they have saved countless lives, and it is dangerous for your children not to take them. Indeed, it is far more dangerous to refuse them than to take them.