Health Impact News Editor
JAMA Pediatrics published a new study earlier this year looking at vaccination rates. The results of that studymade headlines throughout the “mainstream” media outlets at the time, but none of them had headlines like ours. Yet, ours is probably the most factual headline representing the true facts of what this study found.
The title of the study is: A Population-Based Cohort Study of Undervaccination in 8 Managed Care Organizations Across the United States – You can read the abstract here. Rather than rely upon the press releases of the study which for the most part were bemoaning the fact that children were not following the national vaccine schedule and therefore representing a threat to the existence of the human race, I decided to spend the $30.00 and download the article to read for myself.
First of all, let’s look at the objective to the study as stated in the abstract:
To examine patterns and trends of undervaccination in children aged 2 to 24 months and to compare health care utilization rates between undervaccinated and age-appropriately vaccinated children.
So why study “patterns and trends of undervaccination” in children? The introduction to the study gives us a clue:
Immunization is one of the most significant public health achievements of the past 100 years. However, an increasing number of parents have expressed concerns about immunizations, and survey data1-5 have shown that more than 10% of parents report delaying or refusing certain vaccinations for their children. These concerned parents often request alternative vaccination schedules that either increase the time between vaccinations or reduce the number of vaccinations in a single well-child visit. Despite their concerns, however, the safety of alternative vaccination schedules is not known.
Hmm… Any chance of bias in this study? Is “Immunization is one of the most significant public health achievements of the past 100 years” a scientific statement that can be proven by facts and figures? Is there a chance that this study was conducted because the medical institutions represented by the authors of this study do not like the fact that parents are not bringing in their children to be vaccinated enough according to the government vaccine schedule?
The authors also included this disclaimer which may give us a further clue:
Disclaimer: Although the CDC played a role in the design and conduct of the study, collection, management, analysis, and interpretation of the data, as well as preparation, review, and approval of the manuscript, the findings and conclusions in this report are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position of the CDC.
And then here are the “author affiliations”:
Author Affiliations: Institute for Health Research, Kaiser Permanente Colorado, Denver (Drs Glanz, Narwaney, Hambidge, Daley, McClure, and Xu and Mss Wagner and Newcomer); Department of Epidemiology,
Colorado School of Public Health, Aurora (Drs Glanz and Hambidge); Community Health Services, Denver Health, Denver (Dr Hambidge); Department of Pediatrics, University of Colorado, Aurora (Drs Hambidge and Daley); Kaiser Permanente Vaccine Study Center, Oakland, California (Dr Rowhani-Rahbar); Center for Child Health Care Studies, Department of Population Medicine, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute and Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts (Dr Lee); Group Health Cooperative, Seattle, Washington (Dr Nelson); Marshfield Clinic Research Foundation, Marshfield, Wisconsin (Dr Donahue); Kaiser Permanente Northwest, Portland, Oregon (Dr Naleway); HealthPartners Research Foundation, Minneapolis, Minnesota (Dr Nordin); Department of Research and Evaluation, Southern California Kaiser Permanente, Pasadena (Dr Lugg); and Immunization Safety Office, Division of Healthcare Quality and Promotion, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia (Mr Weintraub).
So I think it is safe to assume that this study was not conducted on behalf of concerned parents who think the vaccine schedule is too much, too fast. On the contrary, it appears that the study was hoping to prove that the children of parents who do not follow the vaccine schedule are less healthy than those who do follow the schedule.
But the study didn’t prove that, it proved the opposite:
Children who were undervaccinated because of parental choice had significantly lower utilization rates of the ED (emergency department visits) and outpatient settings—both overall and for specific acute illnesses—than children who were vaccinated on time.
So the author’s conclusions and those they hired to write the press release on the study reported this, right? Wrong. Here is what the abstract states as the conclusion of the study:
Conclusions Undervaccination appears to be an increasing trend. Undervaccinated children appear to have different health care utilization patterns compared with age-appropriately vaccinated children.
The main press release, which was picked up by Reuter’s and repeated in almost every major news outlet reads: “Close to half of kids late receiving vaccines: study”
Here are some other gems from the official press release spin on this (that too many kids not vaccinating according to the vaccine schedule is a public epidemic):
Researchers said that trend is cause for concern because if enough kids skip their vaccines, whole schools or communities may be at higher risk for preventable infections such as whooping cough and measles.
I don’t know who these “researchers” are, but they are NOT the authors of the study and what was reported in the actual study. In fact, one of the biggest vaccine stories in 2012 was how whooping cough outbreaks were among those vaccinated for whooping cough, and how the vaccine was largely ineffective (See: Whooping Cough Spreads Among Pertussis Vaccinated and Vaccinated Population Contracting and Spreading Disease They were Vaccinated For).
So how did they handle the fact that those parents who chose to not vaccinate according to the vaccine schedule had fewer hospital and doctor visits? Here’s the spin on that:
Undervaccinated kids also tended to have fewer doctors’ appointments and emergency room visits than those who got their shots on time, according to findings published Monday in JAMA Pediatrics. That could be because their parents more often turn to alternative or complementary medicine when it’s an option, Omer said. Recent studies have shown many parents are asking to delay or skip certain vaccines, often citing safety concerns such as a link between vaccines and autism – a theory which scientists now agree holds no water.
So just by stating “scientists agree” that there are no safety concerns or links between vaccines and autism, they completely ignore all the scientists who DO believe there are safety concerns and links to autism, and they also ignore the fact that the federal Vaccine Injury Compensation Program has already awarded millions of dollars to families of children with autism where the court has verified that they were harmed by vaccines. (Story here.)
One other important fact to note about this study: It was done among patients in “eight managed care organizations.” In other words, this study looked at parents and children who were insured, and:
For inclusion, each child had to be continuously enrolled in their MCO from at least ages 2 to 12 months. Children were followed up for a maximum of 36 months, and follow-up stopped if a child’s enrollment in his or her MCO was discontinued…To help ensure that children were receiving primary care services within their MCO, they also had to have at least 1 outpatient visit by age 12 months.
So these were parents and children who believed in using the medical system, participated in it, believed in vaccines to at least some degree, and made regular visits to approved medical professionals. Does that sound like parents who ”more often turn to alternative or complementary medicine when it’s an option”?? Parents who do not believe in vaccines at all, do not participate in well-child pediatric visits, were refused healthcare by their pediatricians for not following the vaccine schedule, etc. – WERE NOT EVEN PART OF THE STUDY AT ALL!
Come on those of you in the media! Wake up and do some investigative journalism for once! Pay the $30.00 to get the actual study and see what it really says, instead of just regurgitating the spin from the press release! This is a serious issue!! Just preceding the release of this study, the Institute of Medicine released a report that the vaccination schedule was “safe,” but they offered no new research what-so-ever. (See: Institute of Medicine Concludes Vaccinated versus Unvaccinated Research Not Needed: The Vaccine Schedule is Safe As Is)
There’s a huge story to report here, but dogma and belief in vaccinations is trumping facts and science. The vaccine damaged epidemic affects so many people and so many families now, however, that this story is NOT going away anytime soon.
by Louise Kuo Habakus and Mary Holland J.D.
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Copyright Health Impact News, 2013 – Permission granted to republish according to Creative Commons guidelines. Please provide link back.