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US county bars unvaccinated children from public spaces amid measles emergency

BMJ 2019; 364 doi: (Published 28 March 2019) Cite this as: BMJ 2019;364:l1481

Linked opinion

Measles in America—what’s playing out in New York State is nightmarish

Rapid Response:

Re: US county bars unvaccinated children from public spaces amid measles emergency

Response to John Stone’s “Offit’s calculation was misleading”

Stone continues not to understand that even common sense would tell most reasonable people that Offit could not have been talking about 10,000 actual vaccines. We currently give kids in the US 17 and I couldn’t come up with even 50 current infectious diseases that I would consider devoting 100s of millions of dollars to develop vaccines for all America’s kids. As I wrote previously, Stone seems to be incapable of understanding context. He focuses on one sentence at a time. I’ve been going to a local YMCA gym for over 15 years where a range of people from high school students to senior citizens participate. I’ve asked them if someone told them that kids could handle 10,000 vaccines at once, what do they think. They laugh and say how impossible that would be. Then answered something to the effect that it was explaining how our immune systems work.

Stone quotes from himself: “"There were several obvious things wrong with Offit’s claim that 10,000 or 100,000 vaccines administered to an infant in one go might be safe. Offit was comparing routine exposure to environmental pathogens, with cocktails of serious disease derived pathogens; it took no account, for example, of the use of adjuvants to boost the antigens and the route of administration was nothing like routine exposure to pathogens in the environment i.e. in most cases injected when normally we have skin, the digestive system, the lungs which have evolved to protect us…"

What Stone seems not to understand is that the “cocktails of serious disease derived pathogens” are either killed or attenuated. Attenuated means they have been passaged either through different animals, tissues, or cell cultures. By doing this they have mutated until they can only multiply a few times in our bodies, thus, allowing our immune systems to recognize them; but they can’t do any damage. He also seems not to understand that our immune systems involve around 10 million different B-cells circulating throughout our bodies making complete rounds in a few hours, including our intestines, muscles, and skin. And various antigen-presenting cells, those that clasp on to foreign microbes, process them, and then present them to antibodies, exist everywhere in our bodies; especially in layers of our skin. And he ignores what I wrote that on average a child is exposed to up to 5 - 6,000 potentially dangerous microbes daily, microbes that are neither killed nor attenuated; but full strength. As for adjuvants, infants get far more aluminum from their mother’s milk or formula in a couple of days than the minute amounts in vaccines. And on and on it goes.

Stone goes on to write: “but with so many products on the schedule and so many more in the pipeline there is surely no longer any rational way of regarding this as anything but over-medication.”

Prior to vaccines, during the 1950s, around 95% of young kids had experienced all of the current vaccine-preventable diseases. According to my parents, I had them all, except polio, though I may have experienced a subclinical case as we had a major epidemic in my home town when I was an infant. And if we had not had the diphtheria vaccine and smallpox vaccines, the toll would have been heartbreaking. “The United States recorded 206,000 cases of diphtheria in 1921, resulting in 15,520 deaths (CDC Clinicians).” And, as I wrote in a previous RR, though variola minor (Smallpox) was prevalent in the US with only around 1% fatalities, people did bring in variola major with deaths and there was no reason that variola major could not have become dominant again with up to 30% fatalities. Prior to the successful eradication of smallpox by the WHO, an estimated 300 - 500 million in the Third World died from it.

Stone writes: “It is unusual for a correspondent to make so many assertions about another as Joel Harrison has done here about myself, and a lot of it seems rather speculative and regrettable.”

I could care less about John Stone, it is what he represents. Stone is the UK Editor of Age of Autism, claiming to provide people with scientifically valid arguments. What does Stone tell you about the unscientific, illogical, and lacking in common sense of antivaccinationists??? And his use of word “speculative” where I have in detail, e.g., explained how the immune system works, refuting his claims is just another example of Stone’s idiosyncratic use of the English language. In an exchange on another blog where I asked him if he had ever studied any of the relevant sciences underlying vaccinology, he accused me of an ad hominem attack. And if anyone reads my RRs, I try to address each and every claim made by antivaccinationists, whereas Stone concentrates on one or two. In other words, he seems incapable of entering into a rational dialogue.

With hindsight, should Paul Offit have worded the one sentence differently, e.g., “Based on what we know about the immune system, which can handle the equivalent of 10,000 or even 100,000 vaccines, the 17 we give our kids or even a few more presents absolutely NO challenge.” Yep, then people like Stone who do not understand the context, who do not change even when it is explained, will just find something else. Stone doesn’t seem to understand that vaccines are just applied immunology. And was the use of 10,000 to allay parents concerns, yep.

For those following this exchange of RRs, I suggest clicking on Order “Ascending”, Items per page “20”, then “Apply”. I think it will be clear just how Stone avoids/ignores what I wrote.

For those interested, there is a great little book, less than 150 pages and well-illustrated that introduces the immune system: Lauren Sompayrac (2016). How The Immune System Works (5th Edition).


CDC Diphtheria. Clinicians. Available at:

Harrison JA (2019 May 7). “Smallpox” Response to John Stone & Elizabeth M. Hart. Available at:

Harrison JA (2019 May 7). “Immune Sytem”/“Context” Available at:

Stone’s Claim of “Careful Reading” Available at: [Click on Edit, Search, then type “Ad Hominem”]

Competing interests: No competing interests

10 May 2019
Joel A Harrison
Long-Retired Epidemiologist
I have NEVER worked for the FDA, NIH, CDC, any pharmaceutical company, nor ever purchased pharmaceutical stocks