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week of July 28, 2022

New mortality category

The claim:

Are "unknown" causes of death actually covering up deaths caused by vaccines? This anti-vaxxer says so.

The facts:

According to Alberta Press Secretary Brett Farrell, the "other ill-defined and unknown cause of death" classification is given when a cause of death cannot be determined, or when the death is still under investigation by a medical examiner. This classification is dynamic and can change when the investigation determines a cause.

For example, Farrell said that "as of July 6th, 2022 the total number of deaths coded as 'other ill-defined and unknown cause of death' in 2021 is approximately one-third lower than what was previously published in the 2021 vital event datasets." In other words, these unknown causes become known as more investigation was done, and the rate of actually unknown causes is not increasing.

Given the toll of the pandemic on different industries, one can only imagine the backlog they must have had.

Polio vaccine: prevention or cause?

The claim:

Online Twitter activists are spinning the latest polio case as the fault of vaccination, claiming that if the source of the infection had not been vaccinated, the unvaccinated person would never have caught polio.

The facts:

Before the polio vaccine was available, there were many thousands of cases of polio each year in the US, with hundreds of deaths. After the first polio vaccine in 1955, cases rapidly declined, and by 1965, there were fewer than 100 total cases per year. The last polio case transmitted in the United States prior had been in 1979.

There have been several cases since then, with people bringing polio cases into the United States from abroad, but a case in an adult man from Rockland County, NY was the first case transmitted inside the U.S. since 1979.

The man who contracted polio had not been vaccinated against it.

Rockland County lags behind others in their vaccination rates; the state reports that 61% of Rockland residents had gotten the three required vaccine doses by age 2, compared to a 79% immunization rate for 2-year-olds in the surrounding area. This is not the first time that Rockland County has experienced vaccine-preventable diseases in the community; in a 2018-2019 measles outbreak, the community experienced 312 measles cases, with at least 80% of those cases being in the unvaccinated.

One concern activists bring up is that this case of polio was transmitted from someone who had shed a vaccine-derived virus after being vaccinated in a country where a live polio vaccine (OPV) is given. In the United States, a killed polio vaccine (IPV) is given, so no shedding is possible.

While this case did occur because someone had shed virus after OPV immunization, the Rockland County gentleman would not have gotten polio had he been vaccinated in the first place. Remaining unvaccinated carries the risk of disease. Congregating many unvaccinated people together raises that risk significantly, and foregoing vaccination could bring us back to those awful 1950s rates.

Even Elvis got his polio vaccine.

Monkeypox and STIs

The claim:

A U.S. lawmaker questioned why children are getting monkeypox since it is a sexually transmitted illness.

The facts:

This lawmaker is missing one important point: Monkeypox is NOT merely a sexually transmitted infection.

While monkeypox RNA has been found in semen, experts are unsure if monkeypox can be spread through semen or vaginal secretions. We do know, however, that it can be spread through skin-to-skin contact, respiratory droplets, and contaminated surfaces and objects.

So while you can transmit monkeypox to sexual partners, you can also spread it to other close contacts, including family members, playmates, and karaoke duet partners. Possibly even the household objects, toys, and microphones you each use.

So, of course children can get it if they come into contact with anyone who may have monkeypox or with an object contaminated with the monkeypox virus. 

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