83 Comments
Apr 18·edited Apr 18

A couple of years ago, responding to a Quora question about vaccination, I described the heartrending story my high school English teacher had told me about her family (I was in the class of 1964). Within days of her birth in 1893, she said, several of her siblings died of diphtheria, along with a neighbor girl who'd come to help care for them in their rural Utah town.

She and her mother, who'd isolated in a bedroom, survived. When they emerged, her father told her mother, "Our beloved son has survived!" He was holding the boy in his arms, believing that the child's limpness meant the fever had passed. But the boy was dead.

After burying the children, the father went into town, saw a headline something like, "Diphtheria toxin-anti-toxin discovered by Emil von Behring!", realized that this tragedy might soon be preventable, and soon had a stroke. He survived but was never well again.

Most people commented favorably on my answer. But a few insisted that the only protection kids need from diphtheria, whooping cough, tetanus, and of course COVID, is unprocessed food, plenty of exercise outdoors, the "freedom" to avoid "dangerous vaccines," and chances to ramp up their immune system by catching these illnesses.

I reminded them that these rural kids in 1893 had played outside a lot, didn't eat fast food, weren't vaccinated, and they *died* of diphtheria. But anti-vax folks appear to be impermeable to even the most basic logic.

One even accused me of making up the story. I'm pretty sure it's in Margaret Lee Chadwick's memoir, "The Lee Family Of Spanish Fork, Utah." But the copy she gave me many years ago sadly got lost when we downsized.

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Here is the rendition if anyone is interested to purchase from Amazon. Very inspiring but sadly not something an anti-vax mindset could ever comprehend.

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This is a pervasive false belief— I just had a retired NIH immunologist “explain” with absolute certainty that her current viral illness was more severe due to “ immunity debt.” Thank you for this post— a puppy and a vaccine— wonderful!

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'Immunity debt' is a made up myth.

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Apr 18Liked by Katelyn Jetelina

Not so! Here’s YLE on immunity debt:

https://yourlocalepidemiologist.substack.com/p/has-covid-messed-with-our-immune

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I suggest that there is some confusion as to what the term "immunity debt" actually means in this interaction. Dr. J's post should help to clarify that.

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I think this piece by the Guardian really looks at the issue. Interesting from a number of points but like this: "Casting this debate in terms of an immunity debt is therefore potentially misleading, as it implies that this is a zero-sum game: you have to keep paying with infections to stay in credit. Vaccines can simply cancel the “debt”. Who wouldn’t want that?""

https://www.theguardian.com/science/2023/jan/14/immunity-debt-does-it-really-exist

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I did read this and others on this highly debated term that didn't exist before 2020. See my link in reply to Stephen Strange.

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Thank you for again stating the obvious. I remember polio. I can’t imagine wanting to return to a time when children faced death from preventable diseases.

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Great review article.

My very first experience as a beginning medical student interviewing a patient was in 1975. I took a medical history from a woman living in a Masonic retirement home. She was born in Lithuania in the early 1890’s.

Her family had migrated and had moved to Philadelphia when she was about 10.

During the influenza pandemic she recalled that the entire family in the brownstone next to hers had died in one night. There weren’t enough coffins for the city. It was truly a nightmare.

People today have no idea.

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founding

so very tragic!

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Apr 18Liked by Katelyn Jetelina

This was eye opening. I knew in a vague sense that children died often, along with the knowledge that women died often in childbirth. But to see the specific data was startling. Thank you for sharing.

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Thanks for adding the new misinformation section! It’s powerful to see all of the data regarding childhood mortality from disease in one place.

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Walk through a cemetery in Boston, Ma. and read the inscriptions on the headstones. The short lifespans of children in colonial America is remarkable in a chilling way.

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When I was a kid in the sixties, putting flowers on family graves on Memorial Day was a tradition in the small towns in the Midwest. These were cemeteries started in the later 1800s. It shocked me to see so many graves for infants, children, and young adults. My mom was an RN and strong supporter of vaccines and we talked about the impact they had on reducing deaths from infectious diseases. Clean water, proper sewage disposal, and pasteurized milk also played their part.

It’s been less than 100 years since death from infectious disease was so common among the young. But the societal memory of how bad it was has eroded. Makes it much easier to convince people they can skip vaccines.

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founding
Apr 18Liked by Katelyn Jetelina

Excellent, data driven post.

These powerful facts are - astonishingly! - unknown to far too many of our fellow citizens.

This failure to understand basic history & basic health facts is both shameful & dangerous.

Thank you.

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Excellent column! Wish we could get all the “vaccine hesitant” to read it.

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I used to think that as well, Dr. Goldman, but I realize that some people don’t want to hear things that mess with that segment of their brain that has walled off reason or the capacity to explore the subject beyond social media, innuendo or the inability to look at the larger picture. This includes physicians. I’m always reminded of Osler’s famous discussion “It’s astonishing with how little reading (and in-depth research) a physician may practice medicine, but not so astonishing how badly he may do so.”

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Huh, I hadn’t realized the “original” hygiene hypothesis included actually getting sick. Maybe because of the name, my recollection is that it was presented as a reason to let your kids play in dirt and not worry about bleaching all your surfaces or whatever.

There have been interesting historical scenarios where mild illness protected against more serious illness - dairy workers whose previous cowpox infection rendered them immune to smallpox is what ultimately led to vaccines as a concept, for example. But google cowpox sometime and tell me if you’d rather get that, or a shot. I’ll take the shot every time.

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We got a puppy because of the host of benefits for kids who grow up with pets. I am not a dog person, but the puppy brings so much joy and love to my kids that he is worth it. At least now when he is barking his furry little head off and I am on my last nerve with this animal, I can remember that he also keeps us healthier. So, there's that.

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Bravo, I have brought this up numerous times. The only problem I have is that we have a false dichotomy that you either live or die. Let's not forget Post Acute Sequelae (PAS) that are long time or even permanent and can be quite disabling.

I like the information on the microbiome that shapes us, especially in the GI.

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Apr 18·edited Apr 18

Could you please do a post on and help us make sense of the recent Japanese study that identified a connection between the 3rd mRNA covid shot and cancer?

This is concerning, especially for those of us who have had 3 or more mRNA shots.

More here:

https://www.cureus.com/articles/196275-increased-age-adjusted-cancer-mortality-after-the-third-mrna-lipid-nanoparticle-vaccine-dose-during-the-covid-19-pandemic-in-japan#!/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=onww2X-ecfg

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Cereus is prepublication and is not peer reviewed……although it says it is. Read the fine print with respect to how you make one makes a study eligible for its publication.

You should treat any information from it as pre-published….i.e., possibly reliable.

The study itself does not have an internal control group. That is, it does not compare rates of cancer in unvaccinated people with rates of cancer in vaccinated people. It simply correlates cancer rates with waves of vaccination. Correlation does not imply causation.

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Well, there's this: "The third booster vaccination dose against COVID-19 in solid cancer patients triggers substantial immunogenicity and is safe and effective for preventing a severe COVID-19 disease course." [https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10301109/]

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Thanks - I’m not a scientist yet I think these studies are apples and oranges. The one you posted looks at whether a vaccinated cancer patient is less likely to die from covid. The one I posted is whether a vaccinated cancer patient is more likely to die from cancer.

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Apr 18·edited Apr 18

Please cite the study: a quick literature search did not turn up any study.

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Good idea, I've added links to my post above so you can see the study

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I am also concerned about this.

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Hopefully this study won't get swept under the rug as dis/mis-information.

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It's been in the literature since 2023, and republished in Cureus journal, I just did a quick look and it's just observational and some cancers had a significant decline. Not conclusive, IMO. But I just had a quick look at the paper. https://zenodo.org/records/8352450

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Interesting observational study but suggesting " the increased mortality rates for these cancers might be caused by cell proliferation mediated by binding of spike protein to estrogen receptors" lacks casual evidence. Since a significant part of the population have been exposed to the virus, wouldn't it stand that we should be looking at this?

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Agree completely

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I don't trust any paper that doesn't include some sort of blurb about its own limitations. There's no way this could be published.

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The whole "kids need to get sick" thing is what happens when historical and scientific ignorance meet up and start breeding.

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Last year I learned that Korean families don’t celebrate the birth of new babies as much as they do the first birthday. Special foods and ceremonies and clothing are all parts of the celebration. If the baby survived to a year-you celebrate.

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Great post. My baby group had a few families who were anti-vax. I live in Seattle and was shocked at how uninformed they were about something so important. What they needed to read was this post!

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