I don’t want to point fingers, but a very recent post covered something that I was planning to write about today. Let’s just call the mysterious author S. Gavura. Wait, that’s too obvious. Let’s call him Scott G. Thankfully I’ve got a couple of vaccine related updates to previous posts of mine, plus one of the most amazing anti-vaccine conspiracy theories I’ve ever encountered, as a backup.

New newborn hepatitis B vaccination recommendation

Two years ago I discussed the hepatitis B vaccine and recommendations for administering it in the newborn period. This safe and extremely effective vaccine has reduced the incidence of hepatitis B in the United States by nearly 90% since it was introduced in 1982. In large part because of universal vaccination recommendations in newborns, the number of new cases in the United States is now a fraction of those seen worldwide. But thanks to misinformation from people like Mercola and Bob Sears, many parents are still hesitant and some refuse the vaccine.

Since 1991, the vaccine has been universally recommended for newborns but there was wiggle room that implied it was also okay to wait a month or two. This was fixed in 2002 when the wording specified that all infants should receive their first dose prior to leaving the nursery. But the vaccine works best as a prevention of perinatally acquired infection when given in the first 24 hours.

There are still about 1,000 newborns per year that become infected with hepatitis B, the majority of which go on to develop chronic disease. And of those that develop chronic disease, 25% will die because of it from cirrhosis, liver failure, and even liver cancer. The hepatitis B vaccine prevented cancer long before the HPV vaccine.

In 2016, the ACIP recommended that most newborns receive the vaccine in the first 24 hours of life, with infants born to mothers with unknown status being immunized in the first 12 hours. In August of this year, the AAP officially endorsed this approach. The new policy statement was published in the September Pediatrics.

Mumps cases continue to rise, new recommendations may help

I wrote about large outbreaks of mumps back in 2014, and again earlier this year on The Scientific Parent website. Since then, there have been many additional outbreaks, such as the one at Syracuse University, and thousands of cases. To put it in perspective, prior to the past several years when outbreaks began occurring at alarming rates, the average yearly incidence was around 400 cases.

As I explain in detail in my previous posts, most of these outbreaks involve many vaccinated individuals. This is because, unlike the measles and rubella vaccine that accompany it in the MMR shot, the mumps vaccine is only 80-90% effective when given as historically recommended. That’s good, but when thousands of vaccinated people are being exposed it should be easy to see why some get sick.

Infection with mumps can be mild or even asymptomatic. But when it isn’t, the illness almost always causes swelling of the parotid gland(s) that can be very painful. It is also associated with meningitis, encephalitis, inflammation of the testicles that can result in sterility, and hearing loss. It isn’t as dangerous as measles by a long shot, but it still stinks.

Most children are immunized against mumps at twice, at age 12-15 months and 4-6 years of age. In both of my previous posts, I mentioned how there was growing evidence in support of offering an additional dose to individuals at risk during outbreaks. In October, ACIP unanimously approved a recommendation to do just that. They stopped short, however, at universally recommending a third dose for all people entering college, which is where most of the recent outbreaks have occurred.

The mumps vaccine, whether given in the classic MMR or the more recently available MMRV (added chicken pox vaccine), is safe. Unfortunately immunity appears to wane over time and most outbreaks involve older kids and adults. It may not be officially recommended yet, but I plan to having my own children vaccinated a third time as they enter college rather than wait until an outbreak.

Are you crooked?

I recently found out about the incredible theory of Forrest Maready involving vaccines, aluminum, and crooked faces. Maready noticed that younger generations are more likely to have crooked smiles and eyes. On his website he provides numerous cherry picked photographs to illustrate his point.

We didn’t always have crooked faces. If you look back at old photographs from the Victorian and Civil War era, you will be hard pressed to find images of people with crooked faces. They all seem to be symmetrical. Even when you find older pictures of people smiling, which seem to be rare, you will never see anyone with a crooked smile (besides Edgar Allan Poe). They will always have even smiles, with both sides pulling up the same amount. Now, crooked faces are everywhere you look. There are many celebrities with famously crooked faces, and for some reason, most of them all seem to have facial palsy on the left side of their face. Why is this?

I love how he gives Poe a pass. It perhaps goes without saying that Maready’s observation is nonsense. It is confirmation bias piled upon layer after layer of confirmation bias. He even goes on to claim that babies have crooked faces at alarming rates compared to earlier generations as well.

I see babies and young children of all ages as a pediatrician and this is something that we actually specifically look for. And excessively worried parents point out things they have noticed about their own children to me all the time. I have not noticed an increase in parental concern regarding crooked faces or in the diagnosis of facial palsy or strabismus. Crooked smiles and unusual eye deviations are not at all common concerns.

Maready postulates that the aluminum in vaccines is ultimately the cause of these crooked faces, as well as all manner of autoimmune disorders, autism, and even death. I’ll walk you through his reasoning, but he goes into lengthy and painful detail in this video. At one point he talks about “the Gardasil girls” and I almost couldn’t keep going.

According to his theory, first aluminum is engulfed by immune cells which then lie dormant in various tissues of the body. Then a triggering event occurs. This can be extreme exercise, pregnancy, lack of sleep, or infection. In response, aluminum-laden white blood cells emerge and carry the toxic aluminum to the brain and peripheral nerves where it causes damage. So vaccines lead to crooked faces in children that are a red flag for future neurodevelopmental problems.

There is, of course, no credible link between vaccination and the development of facial palsies or abnormal eye deviation. There is no link between facial palsy or eye deviation and autism or any autoimmune condition. The aluminum in vaccines is safe and plays an important role in improving efficacy of the shots. There is more aluminum in a child’s diet than in the entirety of the vaccine series. Maready’s theory is just rambling nonsense, fascinating as it may be.


Posted by Clay Jones

Clay Jones, M.D. is a pediatrician and a regular contributor to the Science-Based Medicine blog. He primarily cares for healthy newborns and hospitalized children, and devotes his full time to educating pediatric residents and medical students. Dr. Jones first became aware of and interested in the incursion of pseudoscience into his chosen profession while completing his pediatric residency at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital a decade ago. He has since focused his efforts on teaching the application of critical thinking and scientific skepticism to the practice of pediatric medicine. Dr. Jones has no conflicts of interest to disclose and no ties to the pharmaceutical industry. He can be found on Twitter as @SBMPediatrics and is the co-host of The Prism Podcast with fellow SBM contributor Grant Ritchey. The comments expressed by Dr. Jones are his own and do not represent the views or opinions of Newton-Wellesley Hospital or its administration.