Feb 2, 2016

By Trevor Shewfelt, Pharmacist at the Dauphin Clinic Pharmacy

Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can't lose. Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, always has some interesting insights. In the mid-1970's, he lucked out in Middle School. Parents in his school raised money to buy the school a computer terminal and some computing time on a Main Frame. Most University students at the time didn't have computer access, so it was incredible that Gates got computing time in Grade 8. He fell in love with programming, started Microsoft and made billions. Bill Gates was never cool like Apple's Steve Jobs. He was and is a geek. A very, very smart geek. And he pretty much ruled the computer world through the 1990s. Now he has retired from Microsoft and is trying to save the world. The Bill and Melinda Gates foundation has invested in inner city schools in New York, anti-climate change technologies and health care for the worlds poorest people.

Bill Gates has a blog called Gates Notes in which he talks about the good works he is doing, books he has read and teachers he wished he had. Recently, he talked about good new stories showing the world is going the right direction. One example was that in July 2015, Nigeria had gone one year without a new case of polio. To quote Gates: This milestone represents a huge victoryone that some experts feared would never come. It required mapping every settlement in the north of the country, counting all the children in every house, delivering oral polio vaccine several times a year, working with hundreds of thousands of traditional leaders and community mobilizers, and operating in areas dominated by extremist groups. Nigerias efforts show that smart strategies can work even under the most difficult conditions. When the global campaign to eradicate polio began in 1988, polio was endemic in 125 countries. The list is now down to just two: Afghanistan and Pakistan. Weve come more than 99 percent of the way to eradication. I am confident we can finish the job.

Gates might be right about success being a lousy teacher. Vaccines are the most effective and least expensive medications ever designed. Yet there is still a vocal minority out there that thinks vaccines are the root of all evil. Maybe it is because in Canada we hardly ever see wide spread infectious disease. Polio isnt killing and maiming children, which means the public has forgotten how bad epidemic infections can be. Or maybe, the reason anti-vaxxers thrive is because fear trumps logic. Anti-vaxxers have spread the false fear that vaccines cause everything from autism to diabetes to multiple sclerosis. Lets look at some of the common misconceptions about vaccines.

Multiple injections will overwhelm a babys immune system. New born babies come in contact with millions of germs shortly after birth and their immune systems can deal with them immediately. Why? Because babies are born with thousands of antibodies. If one or more shots are given to a baby, that antigen load is just a small part of what babies encounter every day. Multiple vaccines are safe to give at one time. The multiple vaccines only use a fraction of the immune system to generate the immune response. Babies can make over 1 billion antibodies, and could theoretically handle up to 10,000 shots at any one time. So all a multiple vaccine shot does is reduce the number of times the baby has to be poked. Finally, vaccines do not harm the immune system but prime and train it to defend, rapidly against vaccine-preventable diseases before illness can occur. This is important because babies are one of the most susceptible groups to the severe consequences of many vaccine-preventable diseases.

Vaccines cause autism. Back in 1998 there was a study published in the Lancet by Dr. AJ Wakefield and colleagues. They looked at 12 children that had lost acquired skills like language. These children ranged in age from 3 to 10 years and 11of the 12 were boys. These children could have had Autism Spectrum Disorder, depending on how that condition is defined. Of these 12 children, eight of them had developed autism like symptoms after the MMR vaccine was given as determined by the parents. So the controversy began. But the popular media seemed to ignore that the study was only a study of 12 children, not the 1000s of people that we usually like to see in a study. The celebrities who announced MMR causes autism seemed to ignore that since 1998 at least a dozen studies looked for a connection between MMR and autism and found none. In 2010 the original publisher, the Lancet, has actually retracted the original study. On February 2, 2010 the Lancet published a short retraction that said in part Following the judgment of the UK General Medical Councils Fitness to Practise Panel on Jan 28, 2010, it has become clear that several elements of the 1998 paper by Wakefield et al are incorrectTherefore we fully retract this paper from the published record. The whole Wakefield study was retracted! The Lancet basically said the whole Wakefield study was a fraud.

Vaccines cause more harm than the disease they are preventing. Lets review some of what vaccines prevent. The number of mumps cases has dropped from 34,000 per year in Canada in the early 1950s to an average of 87 cases reported annually between 2000 and 2004. Symptomatic meningitis occurs in about 15% of mumps cases. Swollen testicles is the most common symptom of post-pubesent boys with mumps. Mumps can cause deafness. The last major epidemic of polio occurred in 1959 with nearly 2000 cases of paralytic polio. With effective immunization, Canada was certified polio-free in 1994. In the 1950s most people knew some child who was in an iron lung to breathe for them. Now iron lungs are museum pieces in Canada, and as Gates says, we are really close to eliminating polio worldwide.

But like Gates says, all this success seems to have made people forget how wonderful vaccines are and how terrible the disease they prevent can be. How do we convince the few hardcore anti-vaxxers out there that avoiding vaccines is worse than shooting yourself in the foot to treat a hangnail? Maybe we need some more Gates advice. He says: I choose a lazy person to do a hard job because a lazy person will find an easy way to do it. So calling all couch potatoes! Put down the X-box and pause Netflix for a second. Convince two friends that vaccines are the best invention since moving pictures became talkies! And they'll tell two friends. And so on, and so on, and so on.....

As always if you have any questions or concerns about these products, ask your pharmacist.

The information in this article is intended as a helpful guide only. It is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional advice. If you have any questions about your medications and what is right for you see your doctor, pharmacist or other health care professional.

We now have this and most other articles published in the Parkland Shopper on our Website. Please visit us at

New York Times Africa Goes One Year Without Polio

Bill Gates Blog The Top 6 Good News Stories of 2015 -

What would happen if we stopped Measles Vaccines

Immunization Info from BC Health -

Immunization can you trust what you read on the internet -

Caring for Kids (Info from Canadian Paediatricians) -


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