Sunday, March 13, 2011

Vaccinate one child and many benefit

By Edward Lotterman

St. Paul Pioneer Press
Published: 03/11/2011

As usual, Minnesota is above the national average in the proportions of children who are vaccinated against infectious diseases, according to a news item this week. Unfortunately, those proportions are declining, and we are not so far above the average as we used to be.

Is this a problem? What, if anything, should we want government to do about it? This is an issue where considerations of individual liberty clash particularly strongly with the health of society as a whole.

We live in an era in which there is greater emphasis on human liberty and personal responsibility than was true for many years. Many people oppose intrusive government. Few things are more intrusive than government telling people that they must have their children injected with various vaccines. Moreover, there always have been members of some religious groups that find vaccination against their faith. So we don't have a federal law per se that requires vaccinations. There are, however, laws in some states that do require vaccinations and a federal law that requires them before attending educational institutions.

Those suspicious of government coercion ask why government should be involved at all. Why are vaccinations any different than getting a tumor removed, a hernia fixed or a pill prescribed to reduce blood pressure? If people think childhood vaccinations have greater benefits than costs, let them go ahead and get their kids vaccinated. If they don't think so, let them do without and run the risks of getting sick.

The problem is that vaccinations against infectious diseases are different from medical care for noninfectious maladies. Vaccinations have what economists call "spillover benefits." That is, they do good things for society that go beyond the protection afforded to the person getting the shots.

This is because of a phenomenon called "population immunity." Higher rates of vaccination reduce the risks of epidemics. They also reduce the risk of even nonvaccinated people getting the disease, epidemic or not. The reason is that as the fraction of the population that could get the disease shrinks, the harder it is for the pathogen to spread from one person to another. The risks of an unvaccinated person getting a disease fall extremely low well before vaccination rates approach 100 percent.

This introduces perverse incentives. It benefits society as a whole for people to get vaccinated. But if most people are getting vaccinated, any single individual can avoid the discomfort, risk and expense of being vaccinated and still benefit from the reduced risk of getting sick that spills over from others taking the precaution.

This leads to what logic professors call a fallacy of composition, of assuming that what is true for an individual is necessarily true for a group. Any one individual may be better off by "free-riding" and not getting vaccinated. But if everyone avoids vaccination, society as a whole will be much worse off because dangerous diseases will spread throughout the population.

Economists agree that when all the costs and benefits of some product or service are borne by the person deciding to consume it or not, there is no need for government to act. If no one else is affected by my eating a muffin or reading a magazine, there is no reason for government to either promote or retard muffin eating or magazine reading.

But when others are affected, society is worse off if government does not act.

Both history and economic theory demonstrate that there are some goods or services, such as national defense or fire protection, that have large spillover benefits and that will not be produced in optimal quantities in free, private markets. Society gets fewer of its needs and wants met than if government "intervenes" to use resources to provide such "public goods."

A muffin or a magazine is a purely private good. A police cruiser is largely a public good. But many other things, including education and vaccinations, fall somewhere in between, with some benefits accruing solely to the individual getting educated or vaccinated and other benefits spilling over to the rest of society.

Educating everyone in basic literacy and numeracy has enormous spillover benefits for society in the form of economic productivity. Getting a Ph.D. in economics or archeology may benefit the student, but it does little extra for society. So we subsidize and mandate education through age 16 but let public support taper off after high school, with government paying nearly all of the cost of education through the secondary level, but proportionally less for college and graduate school.

We indirectly coerce people to get vaccinated against the most dangerous infectious diseases. We also provide some subsidies, but we expect households or their insurers to pick up much of the cost. Some of the decline in vaccination rates is attributed to declining levels of reimbursement by private insurers and Medicaid. I think this is a mistake.

Private demand for vaccinations and public support for government subsidies of vaccination are driven by perceived risk. I was one of more than 60 kids home with the measles out of a school of 110 students when I was in the third grade. My cousin lived with a hand withered by polio. I knew people scarred by smallpox when I worked in Brazil and Peru. That is why I think government should both subsidize vaccination and "encourage" it, subject to exemptions for legitimate religious beliefs.

But I am getting to be an old geezer. Younger generations that have never seen the scourge of such diseases evidently don't feel the same urgency.

St. Paul economist and writer Edward Lotterman can be reached at

Researchers Urge the Removal of Mercury From Flu Shots

SILVER SPRING, Md., March 10, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- CoMeD --

As the United Nations, the European Commission, and the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) evaluate the health and environmental risks associated with mercury, a known neurotoxin, carcinogen, mutagen, teratogen, and immune-system disruptor, new research continues to fuel concerns about Thimerosal (THIM), a mercury-based compound used as a preservative in inactivated flu vaccines.

Publicizing the recent international studies that caution against the use of mercury in medicine has been left to doctors and citizens belonging to independent groups such as the Coalition for Mercury-Free Drugs (CoMeD), a Maryland-based, non-profit organization. This is because much of the American public is unaware that Thimerosal continues to be present in most U.S. flu shots, in spite of a 1999 call by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the U.S. Public Health Service to remove it from vaccines "as soon as possible."

Dr. Paul G. King, PhD, Science Advisor to CoMeD, cites the urgent need to stop this use of mercury in flu shots: "We have scientific studies clearly demonstrating that mercury causes neurological damage, and we have a cost-effective alternate that has already been used to replace Thimerosal as the preservative in vaccines."

One recent example of these studies was published in Folia Neuropathologica in December 2010. That study's scientific data led the authors to conclude, "On the whole, the results of this study argue for urgent removal of THIM from all vaccines for children and pregnant women, as well as from other medicinal products and cosmetics."

The second new study, published this year in the journal of Middle East Current Psychiatry, also supports claims that mercury could be the culprit behind autism. Noting that mercury-based compounds are used as preservatives in several vaccines, the investigators stressed, "Mercury poisoning and autism have nearly identical symptoms."

In a third study, published in the Journal of Immunotoxicology in early February 2011, the causal connection between Thimerosal and autism is explained: "Thimerosal has been implicated as a cause of autism. Not only is every major symptom of autism documented in cases of mercury poisoning but also biological abnormalities in autism are very similar to side effects of mercury poisoning itself."

The 1999 statement made by the PHS and AAP about the urgency of removing Thimerosal from vaccines is still posted on the website of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) over a decade later. Yet, Thimerosal is now added to most of the flu shots given to pregnant women, children, and the elderly.

Rev. Lisa Sykes, President of CoMeD, ordained United Methodist Minister, parent of an autistic child, and an outspoken critic of the use of Thimerosal, warns, "Research continues to prove that mercury is hazardous to human health, and Thimerosal is still in flu shots. What are we waiting for when so many people are at risk?"

SOURCE Coalition for Mercury-Free Drugs (CoMeD)

Multiple studies link autism to mercury, which is still present in most flu vaccines

Saturday, March 12, 2011 by: Ethan A. Huff, staff writer

Learn more:

(NaturalNews) Despite recommendations made by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 1999 that Thimerosal, a mercury-based preservative, be removed from vaccines, the toxic chemical is still added to the majority of flu vaccines administered to women, children, and the elderly, according to the Coalition for Mercury-Free Drugs (CoMeD), a Maryland-based non-profit organization. And according to three recent studies, the symptoms of mercury poisoning are nearly identical to those of autism symptoms, which strongly suggests that mercury in vaccines is responsible for causing autism.

Mercury is already a known neurotoxin that causes cancer (carcinogen), damages DNA (mutagen), alters proper embryonic development (teratogen), and disrupts the immune system. It is exactly the type of harmful chemical that you would never want to put in your body, and yet it is still added in the form of Thimerosal to millions of flu vaccines administered to the public.

"We have scientific studies clearly demonstrating that mercury causes neurological damage, and we have a cost-effective alternate that has already been used to replace Thimerosal as the preservative in vaccines," said Dr. Paul G. King, PhD, science advisor to CoMeD.

One such study published in the December 2010 issue of the journal Folia Neuropathologica explains that the mercury used in vaccines appears to directly cause neurodevelopmental disorders like autism (

Another study published in the journal Middle East Current Psychiatry states that "[m]ercury poisoning and autism have nearly identical symptoms" (

And a study recently published in the Journal of Immunotoxicology directly states that "[n]ot only is every major symptom of autism documented in cases of mercury poisoning but also biological abnormalities in autism are very similar to side effects of mercury poisoning itself" (

It remains unclear why the toxic preservative is still used in vaccines -- especially when there are safer alternatives available -- and why mainstream science continues to deny the obvious and scientifically-verifiable link between mercury and autism. The issue is not even one of opposition to vaccinations as much as it is one of opposition to neurotoxic poisons like Thimerosal that continue to deliberately be added to them.

Learn more:

Child Vaccination Rates Drop in Minn.

Survey shows immunizations dropped over 77 percent
Published : Tuesday, 08 Mar 2011, 2:45 PM CST

by Scott Wasserman / Shelby Capacio / FOX 9 News

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - A national immunization survey shows Minnesota has become less vigilant about vaccinating its children.

The federal National Immunization Survey shows Minnesota has dropped 13 spots in two years -- from seventh in 2007 to 20th in 2009 for the primary series of shots given children age 19 months to 35 months.

Children's Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota says the survey found Minnesota's childhood immunization rate dropped to about 77 percent in 2009 from 80 percent in 2007.

The director of infectious diseases at Children’s Hospital, Patsy Stinchfield, said the cause is complacency because people don’t fear diseases like the measles anymore. Stinchfield also said that myths and misinformation -- such as vaccines causing autism -- have lead to a decline, along with the economy.

“There are increasing numbers of people who have lost their job. If you lose your job, you lose your health insurance,” Stinchfield said. “You may have partial job that doesn't allow you to go on the vaccine for children's program that gives you free vaccines, so economic times -- we know historically that people in poverty don't access health care -- could be a part of this.”

The Star Tribune reported that for every percentage point decline in the immunization rate, more than 4,200 children are exposed to diseases that can be prevented by vaccinations. That is the equivalent of 150 classrooms.

Still, not everyone is on board. Sydney and Dorothy Moehrl are 5 and 3 years old, and their parents are choosing not to vaccinate them and said they won’t immunize the baby on the way either.

According to Melissa Moehrl, her children are just like everyone else. They’ve never missed a doctor’s visit and, as parents, are concerned about their children getting sick but said they made the personal decision not to get the shots.

“I believe the risks for irreversible injury or chronic illness are higher than the risk of them actually contracting the disease and dying from it,” Moehrl said.

Hodan Hassan said she once felt the same way after her daughter, Jeni, was diagnosed with autism four years ago. After reading anti-vaccine articles, Hassan said she felt she would hurt her children by continuing the vaccines.

A year ago, however, a doctor encouraged her to think for herself. After doing a bit more research, Hassan said she now supports vaccination.

“I used to call radio shows, send emails (saying), ‘Vaccines cause autism,’ but I didn't have any science behind that,” she said. “It was just because someone else told me.”

Hassan now said she feels so strongly about vaccines that she started Choose to Immunize, a non-profit organization that works to educate parents about the positive aspects of vaccines.

“I think vaccines are greatest thing that happened to mankind,” Hassan said.

Copyright AP Modified, Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Tribune Editorial: Parents should get their kids immunized

West Central Tribune
Published March 11, 2011

A report Tuesday based upon federal data cited a notable decline recently in Minnesota’s childhood immunization rate.

The Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota report said that the childhood immunization rate in Minnesota dropped 3.6 percent in 2009 to 76.9 percent, compared to 80.5 percent in 2007.

According to experts, a 1 percent drop in immunization in Minnesota equates to 4,000 children. Thus, the latest immunization drop equals more than 14,000 children or more than 540 classrooms of children sitting in school without adequate vaccinations.

Those are significant statistics.

Parents are passing on immunizations for various reasons.

- Declining health care coverage due to lack of health insurance.

- A growing skepticism by some parents about the value of immunizations.

- A growing concern by some parents about the dangers of immunizations, such as the false linking of autism to immunization shots.

- A declining awareness among today’s parents of the dangers and threat of childhood diseases. Many parents today may not have ever seen a measles, mumps or chickenpox victim.

The key vaccinations for children under 3 include immunizations against measles, mumps, rubella, polio, tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis, flu, hepatitis and chickenpox

Health officials urge all parents to take the threat of these classic childhood diseases seriously and keep their children in a vaccination program.

This is sound advice, which every family should heed.