Technology reporter Elizabeth Weise breaks down the numbers when it comes to vaccine effectiveness in answer to this reader question. Take a look, then send yours using #askusatoday on Twitter.
Bernadette Pajer doesn't trust the pharmaceutical industry. And she doesn't trust vaccines.
The founder of a Washington state advocacy group says her dual distrust shouldn't come as any surprise. She notes drugmakers have a "pretty poor record over all" on safety and transparency. Not to mention the opioid crisis, though Pajer often does.
Paier is not alone. As an example of the pharmaceutical industry grows, so has the anti-vaccination movement. And that is a critical issue as the number of measles cases in the U.S. surge toward a record.
Vaccine supporters – which include federal, state and local officials, the public health community and most doctors – say it wasn't drugmakers' idea to require protection from largely eradicated deadly diseases. It's the government's doing.
Bernadette Pajer became a critic of vaccine science after her son, now 16, developed severe allergic reactions after vaccinations. (Photo: Courtesy of Bernadette Pajer)
But it's also the government that's shielding drugmakers from liability when vaccines are found to cause injury. To vaccine skeptics, including drug safety advocate Kim Witczak, this suggests they may be or at least getting away with something.
When voters were surveyed about their feelings toward pharmaceutical companies, almost half had an unfavorable opinion, up from about a third in 2008, according to the advocacy group Public Citizen and the research firm Citizen Research.
"The pharmaceutical companies in particular, push the negative reactions off the chart, with nearly half the most intense negative response," said a summary by pollster Stanley Greenberg. "Just mentioning the pharmaceutical companies as benefiting is like throwing a bomb in every quarter of the electorate."
19659005] The anti-vaccine movement has both received and lost ground following the recent measles outbreaks in the US The Monday's Disease Control and Prevention said that 626 cases in 22 states have been confirmed since Jan. 1. The numbers are closing in on a record set in 2014, the previous highest total since the disease was declared eliminated in 2000.
The mystery writer and former grocery store clerk says no one else is sure the science is valid. She describes herself as "scientific integrity in vaccine policy" and not "a". nti-vaccine. "
Pajer's advocacy group says drugmaker Merck can't be trusted with its measles, mumps and rubella vaccine, also known as MMR, in large part because it is fighting a federal whistleblower lawsuit in court that alleges the company overstated the effectiveness of the mumps vaccine. She also questions the long-term effectiveness of Merck's measles vaccine and says the risk of the rubella portion causing arthritis has not been published.
Merck said in a statement that it is "prepared to handle the false allegations at trial, if necessary." It cites Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that two doses of the MMR vaccine have an average effectiveness of 88% for mumps. The CDC also says there's been a 99% drop in the annual number of U.S. cases of mumps since the vaccine was introduced in 1967.
Pajer said she didn't know anything about vaccine risks until her son, now 16, developed severe allergic reactions called anaphylaxis to the food ingredients in vaccines as a child. ] Despite her son's reaction, his then-pediatrician didn't want to stop vaccinating and suggested Pajer's son have the rest of his shots "in the hospital in case he goes into shock," she said. has a lifetime medical exemption from vaccines.
Paul Offit, an author and infectious disease physician at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, has been fighting the anti-vaccine movement for about 20 years.
It is easier to understand that parenting or celebrity such as vaccine opponent Jenny McCarthy – who says children are injured or develop autism because of vaccines than it is to understand the science of why 26 shots are needed in the first few years of life
More : Vaccines are definitely not linked to autism, and other facts you can throw at anti-growers
"In order to believe vaccines, you are your doctor is lying to you," Offit said. believe that, "at some level you have to be a conspiracy theorist" who believes the industry is "directing the government and the health care industry to the vaccines."
Polio, smallpox and even chicken pox have been eradicated for so long that fewer than the Baby Boomer generation have any knowledge or memory of the often deadly and crippling diseases. Children and adults with autism, however, are everywhere.
"Vaccines are mostly a victim of their own success," Offit said. "If you don't fear the disease, you're more likely to fear the vaccine."
'A healthy dose of skepticism'
Witczak sees close parallels between doctors' near unanimous push for vaccines with the enthusiasm for antidepressants.
In August 2003, Witczak's husband died by suicide, five weeks after his doctor prescribed Zoloft's antidepressant to treat his sleep problems. Timothy Witczak never suffered from depression or expressed suicidal thoughts until he began taking the drug, she said. ” width=”180″ data-mycapture-src=”” data-mycapture-sm-src=””/>
Kim Witczak has been a drug safety advocate since her husband died nearly 15 years ago by suicide, which she says was induced by an antidepressant prescribed for his sleeplessness. (Photo: Jarrad Henderson, USA TODAY)
Witczak recalls here typically gregarious husband in the fetal position on the floor saying, "Help me, help me. It's like my head is outside my body looking in."
Witczak sued drugmaker Pfizer for failing to get the medical community and consumers about the risks of suicidal thinking and death associated with Zoloft The case was settled and she became a drug safety lawyer.
The advertising and marketing communications consultant is now A vocal industry critic and consumer representative on the Food and Drug Administration's advisory panel that evaluates psychopharmacologic drugs – those that can affect mood, thinking and behavior.
At the time of her husband's death, the Zoloft label noted "possibility of a suicide attempt is inherent in depression and may persist until significant remission occurs."
More: Do '
"Suicidal ideation" was included in a long list of possible psychiatric side effects and described as rare. In a statement, Pfizer said the label "has included the risk of suicide since the product was approved in December 1991," adding that all drugs have risks and benefits.
In 2005, "black box" warnings – which relate to the most serious risks – were added to antidepressants, including Zoloft, disclosing the link to suicide and suicidal thinking. But it was too late to help Witczak's family.
Witczak questions the "sheer numbers of vaccines" and points to a recent British Medical Journal studying the reported effectiveness of the HPV vaccine.
"Something bigger happening and you have to have a healthy dose of skepticism," she said. The government "shouldn't attack the patients out there. I would question," we need all of them? "
The drug industry's trade group, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers Association, says we do, calling vaccines "one of the greatest achievements of biomedical science and public health." "PhRMA said in a statement. "Today, there are 264 vaccines in development at biopharmaceutical companies to both prevent and treat diseases." Taking claims to court
One of the biggest factors underlying some vaccine critics' skepticism is the fact that federal government shields pharmaceutical companies from considerable liability with the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program. Anyone who petitions that a vaccine caused an injury or illness must file a claim first with the program.
Narayan Nair, director of the division of injury compensation at the Department of Health and Human Services, says the agency is not aware of anyone continuing to sue a drug company after their federal claim.
The Justice Department represents HHS in the proceedings and special masters in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims decide the cases.
Nair said that the drug companies did not want to protect drug companies. Vaccines are such an "important pillar" of the health care system that Congress decided in the 1980s "the federal government needed to step up and play a role." Paul Offit is a professor of pediatrics at the University of Pennsylvania and an infectious disease physician ” width=”180″ data-mycapture-src=”” data-mycapture-sm-src=””/>
Paul Offit is a professor of pediatrics at the University of Pennsylvania and an infectious disease physician. (Photo: Courtesy of Paul Offit)