“Pertussis vaccine is not our best vaccine, regardless of mutations” admitted Vermont Health Commissioner Harry Chen during House Testimony in April 2012. Chen and other Health Department employees collaborated last session with medical trade organizations and their lobbyists in an effort to remove Vermont’s philosophical vaccine exemption. Despite making drastically falling vaccination rates and rising exemption rates the cornerstone of their argument for removing the philosophical exemption, data that the Vermont Department of Health had in their files told a different story. In fact, the % of schoolchildren vaccinated against whooping cough has risen steadily for years:
Source: VT Immunization Surveillance Data.
What is more, vaccination rates for all other vaccines continue to rise, while use of the exemption decreased in 2012 (see: VT Vaccination Rates Up, Exemptions Down in FY 2012; Health Department Report Refutes their Own Claims).
Reports are coming in from all over rural America about increases in the number of whooping cough cases. No wonder. Scientists have found – and Vermont Health Department’s own data shows – that, despite high and rising vaccination rates, the Whooping Cough (acellular pertussis) vaccine is failing.
“The acellular pertussis vaccine’s failure to deliver durable infection protection to children aged 7-10 years led to the 2010 California pertussis epidemic” said Dr. Tartof, an epidemic intelligence officer in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases in Atlanta at the 2011 Infectious Disease Society of America Annual Meeting.
Problems with acellular pertussis vaccines, also known as “DTaP,” are nothing new. Over the last decade the DTaP vaccine has been shown to have “waning immunity” – meaning that it is not protecting from infection as it should. Many recently published studies indicate not only problems with vaccine performance but also the danger of vaccinated persons serving as silent reservoirs for infection.
According to Tracy Dolan, Deputy Health Commissioner for Vermont, “We do not have any official explanation for the outbreak and have not linked it to the philosophical exemption issue.” She adds that the high number of vaccinated people catching whooping cough this year is, “generally consistent with the national trends.” Dolan’s opinion echoes that of Anne Schuchat, Director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Disease who said recently: “We know there are places around the country where there are large numbers of people who aren’t vaccinated. However, we don’t think those exemptors are driving this current wave.”
So, why on Earth are we still wasting time and resources trying to blame the recently upheld philosophical exemption for the outbreak? Blaming this outbreak on people who did not even use the failing product makes no sense. The truth is, people vaccinated for pertussis are still capable of carrying the organism in their respiratory tract and can unknowingly spread pertussis. Informing Vermonters on the facts – #1 that the vaccine is failing and #2 that cases of pertussis can be mild – may be very helpful in protecting the vulnerable. For example, if you have been vaccinated, and have a cough, you may have a mild case of pertussis and should take precautions not to kiss baby.
We all share the common goal of health – for ourselves, for our children and for our community members. Rather than expending more state time and money on regressive legislation based on false claims and finger pointing, let us roll up our sleeves and find alternatives to support the health of Vermonters. For example, perhaps the state should consider making recommendations for treatments that can lessens the symptoms of whooping cough such as the use of Vitamin C?
Also, given the Shumlin Administration’s penchant for aerial spraying, environmental causes of whooping cough should be examined in earnest. For example, according to OMSJ: “Two years ago, Jim West (HARPUB) predicted the link between whooping cough (pertussis) outbreaks and pesticide spraying; noting that, in California, counties that have no quarantine or spray programs report no incidents of pertussis, while counties that have such programs do (see chart).
Last month, Dallas-Fort Worth officials began spraying programs to combat an alleged West Nile outbreak and, as West predicted, Pertussis cases were reported.”
In Vermont, according to VTDigger, the legal basis for the state spraying pesticides over hundreds of private properties stems from DOH Commissioner Harry Chen’s determination that the recent episodes of EEE were a “significant public health risk.” Let us hope he reviewed his own Department’s data this time…
Whatever the cause of the whooping cough outbreak, why not work together to better ensure the most positive of health outcomes? Given that the whooping cough vaccine product performance is poor, Vermonters need to be equipped to deal with the possibility of illness even (especially?) if they DO decide to vaccinate. After all, vaccine products come with no guarantees or warranties.
And that is why Vaccine Choice is an inalienable a Human Right.