Firstly, I want to make it very clear: BellyBelly has always been pro-choice. You may choose to vaccinate or not vaccinate for whooping cough (or anything else) and that's fine. We're not here to tell you what to do.
We encourage you to research arguments for both choices and make the right decision for you and your family. Question this article, question the media, question what your doctor tells you, and see what feels right for you.
This piece has been written to help others understand rather than rip into each other for their choices.
At the end of the day, we all want answers and the best for our children.
Whooping Cough Outbreaks: Why?
It seems like every other day, global and local media report about about outbreaks of whooping cough, even amongst fully vaccinated children.
And almost every other day, there's an uproar about “disease causing” kids who aren't vaccinated, ruining our “herd immunity”. Interestingly, in the US, it's believed around 50% of adults are not up-to-date on vaccines, so it's not the herd immunity you'd imagine.
There are calls to increase vaccination rates too, but even with 90-95% vaccination rates, record breaking outbreaks had already begun.
So it's time to scratch off the surface and take a serious look at the real evidence of what's going on here.
As they say, if you keep doing the same thing, you'll get the same results.
So let's focus on what research has been discovering about the possible reasons behind the growing outbreaks.
Even those who are pro-vaccination have been changing their minds about the whooping cough vaccine.
One writer says, “Until today I had assumed that anyone rejecting the whooping cough vaccine for their kids was an anti-vaxxer nutter. I was wrong.”
And another, “I used to think that parents who didn’t want to vaccinate their children were either ignorant, or sociopathic.”
That's because something isn't right here. The solution isn't as simple as more kids being vaccinated. The problem is the vaccine.
Understanding The History Of The Whooping Cough Vaccine
For those who don't know a great deal about the history of the whooping cough vaccine, we currently use an acellular vaccine instead of the original whole cell vaccine.
While the whole cell vaccine was deemed to be highly effective, the high rate of adverse reactions was a big problem.
The vaccine also contained aluminum and thiomersal (a mercury containing compound).
Therefore, in 1991, an acellular vaccine was developed to address safety concerns.
Forward to today, the amount of global research questioning the acellular vaccine's effectiveness has been gaining momentum.
An article titled ‘Whooping cough increase related to current vaccine' was published by the ABC in 2015, discussing the results of a study.
In the study, researchers suggest the newer acellular vaccine is to blame for the increased outbreaks, and the only reason we're seeing outbreaks all this time later is due to the time its taken to show up in data.
Associate Professor Manoj Gambhir, from the University of Monash co-led the study. “You didn't see an immediate increase [in whooping cough],” he says. “It has taken cohorts of children to have all of their doses to be the new vaccine for the increases in disease to manifest themselves.”
In the New England Journal Of Medicine, a study on the waning effects of the whooping cough vaccine found “after the fifth dose of DTaP, the odds of acquiring pertussis increased by an average of 42% per year.”
Low Vaccination Rates Are Not The Smoking Gun
More children are vaccinated than ever.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, in 1989-90, 59% of children aged 0-6 years were fully immunised (diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, polio, measles and mumps), and 4% were not immunised against any conditions.
Low vaccination rates are not to blame for the current whooping cough epidemic – bearing in mind pertussis is a cyclical disease in nature, and is well known for peaking every 2-5 years.
Again from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, “Recently [published 1994] there has been concern over perceived low levels of immunisation against conditions such as whooping cough and measles in Australia. There have also been reported outbreaks of these diseases in some States… In addition there were 153 cases of whooping cough in 1988 compared to 3,956 in 1993. However, deaths from these two conditions remain low with 18 deaths due to measles and 6 due to whooping cough in the period 1988-92.”
A study published on the CDC's website shows exactly why the “No Jab, No Play” legislation is not a magic solution – and this was the supposedly more effective whole cell vaccine:
Why Isn't The Whooping Cough Vaccine Working So Well?
Of course, no vaccine is 100% effective, especially the vaccine for whooping cough, which is said to have an efficacy rate of 70-80%. Immunity is never guaranteed with vaccines and they often wear off before the given period – especially whooping cough.
But what if the vaccinated herd can become infected, be asymptomatic and even spread the disease?
According to an Australian study funded by the highly respected National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia, researchers found 80% of cases were due to the bacteria's mutation, most likely in response to the vaccine. The disease-causing bacteria responsible for whooping cough, pertussis, has stopped producing a key protein, called pertactin.
Pertactin-free bacteria shot up from just 5% in 2008 to 78% in 2012. Somehow, the bacteria stopped producing pertactin, and this has caused havoc for the vaccine, which targets this protein. Pertussis decided to get clever, and it's now one step ahead.
Senior author of the study, Associate Professor Ruiting Lan, explained, “It’s like a game of hide and seek. It is harder for the antibodies made by the body’s immune system in response to vaccination to ‘search and destroy’ the whooping cough bacteria which lack pertactin.”
Ms Connie Lam, who led the study at the University of NSW School of Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences, said, “The fact that they have arisen independently in different countries suggests it's a response to the vaccine.”
Australia isn't the only one noticing this trend.
In the minutes of the CDC's Meeting of the Board of Scientific Counselors in 2013, they already knew the whooping cough bacteria was mutating:
“A recent study suggests another explanation for decreased vaccine effectiveness: an increase in Bordetella pertussis isolates that lack pertactin (PRN) — a key antigen component of the acellular pertussis vaccine. A study that screened B. pertussis strains isolated between 1935 and 2012 for gene insertions that prevent production of PRN found significant increases in PRN-deficient isolates throughout the United States. The earliest PRN-deficient strain was isolated in 1994; by 2012, the percentage of PRN-deficient isolates was more than 50%.”
They continued, “Findings indicated that 85% of the isolates were PRN-deficient and vaccinated patients had significantly higher odds than unvaccinated patients of being infected with PRN-deficient strains. Moreover, when patients with up-to-date DTaP vaccinations were compared to unvaccinated patients, the odds of being infected with PRN-deficient strains increased, suggesting that PRN-bacteria may have a selective advantage in infecting DTaP-vaccinated persons.”
There is plenty of research which has nothing to do with a small percent of non-vaccinated children.
Increasing the vaccination rates a few percent is not going to significantly improve “herd immunity,” which is considered to be in place when a certain percent of the population (usually 90%-95%, a number which has been increasing over the years from around 60%) have vaccine induced immunity – which is not real, ever lasting, natural immunity.
Death Rates From Whooping Cough
Obviously, death from whooping cough is what people fear most, and this is what vaccination campaigns assure us they are hoping to prevent.
Looking at historical data around the world, from Australia, to the UK and the US, whooping cough deaths were already significantly declining in a similar trend, before the introduction of the whooping cough vaccine in the 1950s to 1960s.
There were a range of vaccines trialled in the 10 or so years before then, but many were not backed by what was considered to be good research or safe ingredients.
This was not too long after antibiotics became available and we learnt how to care for those with whooping cough.
As you can see, deaths were much more common in the early 1900s, but they were surely declining. This can be attributed to better infection control, sanitation, nutrition and antibiotics. Of course as time goes on, we learn more about how to treat disease and the immune system – which is still a mystery we're unfolding. Science is never settled – we're learning and studying every day.
Not to mention that back in the early 1900s, there were brutal medical practices like twilight sleep for birthing women. Thank goodness we still don't do that, because we know better now.
We've learnt many things since ‘the old days when so many people died'.
In the mid 1800s, it was a switched on Hungarian doctor named Ignaz Semmelweis who discovered the cause of death of many new mothers. When doctors performed autopsies and then attended to birthing women (without washing their hands or changing their clothes), he noticed women would develop puerperal fever and die.
Of course, when he shared this life saving information, he was ridiculed by his profession – doctors couldn't possibly be responsible for a thing like that! He was thrown in an asylum where sadly, he died. You can read the fascinating story in out article, here. Unfortunately, this bad treatment of thinking professionals tends to happen when their new hypothesis doesn't look favourably on others.
Cocooning – Protecting Babies By Vaccinating Families?
Cocooning is a vaccination strategy recommended by the CDC for the last decade or more.
It means having the whole family vaccinated, to protect infants who are vulnerable to whooping cough, especially in the first few months of life.
Australia responded to the recommendations, with the previous government establishing a free family vaccination program.
However, the government eventually stopped the scheme, claiming, “The national Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee (PBAC) had determined vaccinating parents was not effective in protecting newborns, after two pharmaceutical manufacturers made submissions to the PBAC.”
“The PBAC, which is totally independent and very expert, has determined that there is no clinical effectiveness of this strategy,” Professor Brook said. He said this had made it clear the cocooning strategy should not be continued.
Yet, the new Victorian government headed by Daniel Andrews has re-introduced the whooping cough vaccination scheme worth $8.4 million over four years, much to the delight of a huge number of voters. But, will it really impact cases of whooping cough with the current vaccine and all of it's flaws?
Many health professionals are admitting cocooning is not effective enough, because the known source of whooping cough infection is found in just 44% of cases.
Tami Skoff, a study author and investigator with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was quoted as saying, “Cocooning is difficult to achieve. Plus, infants can contract whooping cough from anyone, not just family members”.
The results from a more recent study are similar to many others, finding, “vaccinating individuals in close contact with infants too young to receive the vaccine (“cocooning” unvaccinated children) may be ineffective.” They too cite asymptomatic transmission to be the most likely cause behind the current whooping cough resurgance. They conclude:
“… asymptomatic transmission is the most parsimonious explanation for many of the observations surrounding the resurgence of B. pertussis in the US and UK. These results have important implications for B. pertussis vaccination policy and present a complicated scenario for achieving herd immunity and B. pertussis eradication.”
The whooping cough mortality rate for babies under 6 months of age is 0.5%. This means 99.5% of babies with whooping cough will not die. While it would be wonderful if no babies died from whooping cough, it does not seem possible with the current vaccine. Nor does it seem likely that we'll eradicate whooping cough altogether.
Evidence Of Vaccinated Individuals Spreading Pertussis
If a 70-80% efficacy rate, waning immunity and mutating bacteria wasn't enough, there is also research showing those who are vaccinated may not show any symptoms (which is called being asymptomatic), but they may be a source of infection. The vaccine for whooping cough is not live, so it doesn't shed like other vaccines (for example, the oral polio vaccine).
What shedding means is if a baby has the oral polio vaccine, the virus can be found in their faeces for weeks. If susceptible people come into contact with the faeces, they could catch it – which is how it so easily spreads in third world countries with poor sanitation.
But the unexpected way in which whooping cough is believed to be transmitted by vaccinated individuals is via the bacteria in their throats, enabling them to infect others while not showing symptoms themselves.
A study, which included both the whole cell vaccine and the acellular vaccine, was undertaken on baboons. They were vaccinated in accordance with the infant vaccination schedule.
The FDA released a statement about the results, confirming the baboons who received the acellular pertussis vaccine had the bacteria in their airways for up to six weeks, and were able to spread the infection. The baboons who received the whole cell vaccine were able to get rid of the bacteria within three weeks.
A microbiologist, Doctor Tod J. Merkel, is the lead author of the baboon study. He's also a researcher in the Office of Vaccines Research and Review for the FDA. In an article for the New York Times, he said, “When you’re newly vaccinated you are an asymptomatic carrier, which is good for you, but not for the population.”
There is another study on mice, claiming the current acellular vaccine may facilitate infection with Bordetella parapertussis, which is a bacteria similar to pertussis. They can both cause whooping cough outbreaks, however parapertussis can be asymptomatic and the symptoms may not last as long.
“We show that aP vaccination [acellular vaccine] helped clear B. pertussis but resulted in an approximately 40-fold increase in B. parapertussis lung colony-forming units (CFUs) …. Further, we show that aP vaccination impedes host immunity against B. parapertussis-measured as reduced lung inflammatory and neutrophil responses. Thus, we conclude that aP vaccination interferes with the optimal clearance of B. parapertussis and enhances the performance of this pathogen. Our data raise the possibility that widespread aP vaccination can create hosts more susceptible to B. parapertussis infection.
“These data suggest that the vaccine may be contributing to the observed rise in whooping cough incidence over the last decade by promoting B. parapertussis infection.”
Even Vaccinated Health Workers Have Been Found To Spread Whooping Cough
Babies tend to come into contact with people frequently, especially health care professionals. Recently in the media, a maternal and child health nurse was diagnosed whooping cough, after working with mothers and babies. She was only 5 years into her 10 year booster shot.
In addition, a study found newborn babies had contracted whooping cough from a fully vaccinated healthcare provider, where no other possible infection sources were found.
So, Houston, we have a problem.
As you can see, there are all sorts of problems vaccine developers need to address. One of the biggest problems (along with all-important vaccine safety) is stopping both the infection and transmission (from vaccinated persons) of whooping cough.
In the meantime, i've been hearing about a growing number of adults (with a cough) who had visited their local doctor, only to be told it's not whooping cough, because they've already been vaccinated. They get their whooping cough diagnosis two or so weeks later when they go back to their doctor, for help with the cough that's still going on.
During that time before diagnosis, they're out in public, at work, in crowded public places, and perhaps around babies. Maybe they're one of the people who blame the non-vaccinated members of our population for whooping cough outbreaks, not realising that the vaccinated are now looking to be the biggest source of infection.
As per the CDC's publication, a recent study by Yaari et al. showed that infection in a vaccinated person causes milder, nonspecific disease, without the three classical clinical stages.
They continue, “Because of these atypical symptoms, pertussis infection is underdiagnosed in adults and adolescents, who may be reservoirs for infection of unvaccinated infants.”
We need to ask more questions. We can't just jump on the bandwagon of media hype, every time a news outlet publishes yet another witch-hunt article about highly reckless, disease-causing unvaccinated people who are a whole bunch of cray cray.
They know it incites heated discussion, hatred and fear, as well as generating visitors to their website, creating support and solidarity for their publication. It's good for them, and bad for parents who are then pitched against one another.
Remember, just because a choice is unpopular, it doesn't necessarily make it a bad one. Nor is it that unbelievable for vaccines to be more than a little ineffective. Even WebMD recently wrote about the 18% “success” rate of the flu vaccine.
Who knows, what if we're headed down the very same path we took with antibiotic over-use? We now have super bugs that don't respond to any treatments. Could overuse of vaccine products put us in the same position?
Instead of attacking people, we need to attack the problem. Until a new, safe and more reliable vaccine is developed, let's be kind and respect one another's choices. We're all doing the very best we can, just like the researchers are.
- The Dangers Of Out Of Date Vaccines (why you must check the date on the vials before you get a shot)