News From Around The Blogosphere 1.23.11

January 23, 2011
Polio vaccination started 1957 in Sweden. The ...
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1. Flu deaths in UK rise dramatically – Anti-vaxxers love to mock health concerns about flu, which they seem to think is no more dangerous than an hang nail. But I’d love to hear them tell the families of the 254 UK flu victims this flu season alone. The number came after the number of UK flu deaths more than doubled in just a one-week period. 195 of those deaths were confirmed to have been from the H1N1 strain and seven of the deaths were of children under the age of five.

We have incomplete information on vaccination status, but based on what is known so far, among 71 cases in which vaccination status was known, 83 percent had not received a flu shot this season.

Thanks Jenny McCarthy.

2. Should anti-vaxxers pay higher premiums? – I thought this was a particularly good idea from one physician. While it certainly won’t change the minds of the hardcore anti-vax fanatics who will likely just view it as part of the evil conspiracy, I do suspect that some people would be more inclined to get the vaccines to avoid paying more insurance premiums:

Refusing to vaccinate a child is dangerous not just for that child but for entire communities. It’s precisely this point a colleague of mine was considering when he had the idea that parents who refuse to vaccinate their kids should pay substantially higher health insurance premiums.

It makes sense. Insurance, after all, is just a pool of money into which we all pay. In determining how much we or our employers pay, risk is taken into account.

The perfect analogy is smoking. If you smoke — and want to turn your lungs black and spend a greater portion of that pot of money on your possible chronic lung disease or any cancers you’ll get — then you may have to pay more.

Why shouldn’t we impose the same logic on parents who refuse to vaccinate their children?

3. Georgia homeless shelter refuses service to gays – The horribly misnamed “House of Mercy” actually states flat-out that they will not provide services to gays because it goes against what the Bible says.

… Elder Bobby Harris, who directs House of Mercy… says that his organization simply cannot tolerate homosexuality in any capacity.

“That act is not tolerated here at all. Let me tell you one reason why: because of the bible, of course. And then we have little children,” Harris says. He then added that if a gay person wants to change their sexual orientation and turn their life over to religion, he would consider serving them.

… Harris told the local press that he would welcome “non-practicing gay people,” but even if the residents were to engage in sexual behavior on their own time off the premises, they would be rejected.

No word on whether they also deny service to the divorced, shellfish-eaters, those who work on Saturdays, or those who refuse to stone their own disobedient children  to death. This is why you don’t rely on religious organizations for charity work. They often tend to care more about Jesus than about actually providing the services they promise. This is just disgraceful.

4. Westboro Baptist Church to picket Kevin Smith’s latest film – According to Silent Bob himself, the WBC is coming to Sundance:

Those movie-crazy cine-nerds at the Westboro Baptist Church are coming to the Sundance Film Festival to protest Red State… presumably for being gay…

I wonder if they realize this will give the film much more attention and will dramatically increase people’s interest in seeing it.

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2010 This Year In Skepticism – January

January 2, 2011

Here is the first part of my look back at the big skeptic-related news stories from last year. I’m just covering last January in this piece but I’ll try to cover more than one month in the next installment.

Yet another well-designed study hit another nail in the coffin of the hypothesis that the MMR vaccine is linked with autism. Then researchers concluded that there was a lack of evidence supporting special diets for autism.

New smart phone apps emerge that debunk creationism

California said no to creationist curriculum

Pat Robertson blamed the Haitian earthquake on a mythical pact the nation never made with the devil–true story–thus earning him a nomination in the douchebag of the year awards.

Vatican Bank accused of laundering $200 million.

Stephen Baldwin said he’d rather see his daughter die than lie about Jesus, earning him a solid nomination in the douchebag of the year awards.

The arrest of the businessman responsible for selling dowsing rods, aka magic wands, as bomb detectors.

UK’s General Medical Council concluded that anti-vaccine prophet Andrew Wakefield acted “dishonestly and irresponsibly.”

Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation pledges $10 billion to vaccines and Doctors Without Borders vaccinates 2,100 kids against Measles in Pakistan – both were big victories for public health around the world.

Skeptics fail in homeopathy-based suicide attempt – The 1023 campaign sparked a great deal of attention on this little publicity stunt and made homeopathy look incredibly stupid.

Star of Scientology orientation film gives farewell performance – Larry Anderson, an actor and long-time member of $cientology who starred in their orientation film left the cult.

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Vaccine deniers take another life in Westchester, NY

December 8, 2010

A 4-year-old boy who wasn’t vaccinated against the flu died of influenza-related pneumonia.

Now because I’ve already had at least one crazy anti-vaxxer insist that the article wasn’t clear and:  “The article directly dodged saying that the child had influenza. In fact it said at the end that they were going to check to see if he had had H1N1”, I decided to literally go through the entire article to explain it to the denialists.

The article doesn’t dodge a damned thing. It’s quite clear, in fact. The investigation only concerns which specific strain he had.
The article begins:

A 4-year-old boy from New Rochelle, N.Y., has died from an influenza-related illness, according t…o the Westchester County Health Department.

Here the author is saying the pneumonia the kid died from was in fact “influenza-related.” However, because the author did not introduce the pneumonia angle yet and because most people don’t realize they can get pneumonia from influenza, the author then explains th in the next paragraph:

He became ill in November and died of bacterial pneumonia, which can be a complication of flu, the health department said.

This is then followed by a quote from an expert that explains the best method of preventing dying from influenza-related pneumonia, the flu vaccine.

The article continues:

The health department would not name the boy for privacy reasons, but reported that he was previously healthy and had not received the flu vaccine.

It notes that the boy was healthy but hadn’t had a flu vaccine. The blatant implication here is that had he been vaccinated against the flu, he’d almost certainly still be alive.

The health department will be testing the boy for the H1N1 virus, Fox 5’s Dan Bowens reported.

Here’s where they remind the public of the infamous H1N1 strain, saying health officials are trying to determine if that’s the strain that killed him.

It’s really not complicated.

[UPDATE: 12/9/10 – Here is an article that claims several sources have confirmed that the strain was indeed H1N1 and quotes the message the school district has posted on their website warning parents about influenza. The district’s website can be found here.

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AVN loses its charity status

October 14, 2010

The Australian Vaccination Network (AVN – not to be confused with the Adult Video Network) has been stripped of its status as a charitable organization on account that it’s, you know, not really a charitable organization but just anti-vaccination propaganda distribution center.

Well, the official reason is that the Australian Health Care Complaints Commission (HCCC) found the organization’s appeals to have not been in good faith. You see, as I’d written about several months ago, the AVN was ordered to post a disclaimer on their website telling visitors that the site should not be read as medical advice and that the site is not an objective source on vaccines but rather is ideologically determined to oppose vaccination.

But you see, Meryl Dorey and her organization chose to ignore that ruling and not advertise their bias. Soooo, that brings us to today, when the New South Wales Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing (OLGR) revoked the AVN’s charitable status on the grounds it had failed to publish the recommended disclaimer.

“This has led to appeals not being conducted in good faith,” the office says in a letter sent to the AVN.

“The organisation’s website is misleading in that it may lead people making donations to believe they are donating to a cause which promotes vaccination, whereas the organisation adopts an anti-vaccination position.”

This all follows copyright infringement charges made against the organization a month and a half ago.

Suffice it to say, this has not been a good year for Meryl Dorey and her Orwellian “Ministry of Truth.” And unfortunately for Ms. Dorey, this is only the beginning as we will take apart her organization piece by piece. The blood of Dana McCaffery and possibly other infants is on her hands, and we’ll make sure she never forgets it.

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News From Around The Blogosphere 10.3.10

October 4, 2010

1. The History of Vaccines Blog has gone live – It features a wealth of information in the form of images, text, and video from the Historical Medical Library, Mütter Museum of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia, and from many other public and private sources.

2. Can man fix god’s cruel mistakes with genetic modified trees? – To all those naysayers of genetically modified organizations, seriously go fuck yourselves.  Not only do GMOs mean saving millions of people from starvation, but now new research suggests genetically modified trees and plants may absorb several billion tons of carbon from the atmosphere each year and thus, in the process, reduce man’s effect on climate change. That’s BILLIONS with a B. There’s nothing wrong with “organic” but science has repeatedly demonstrated that man is much better at playing god than any gods man ever invented.

3. Are the autism omnibus trials as good as dead? – All the data presented to support either of the vaccine/autism hypotheses have proven completely unpersuasive in the vaccine courts, which operate with a lower standard of evidence required in other civil courts that deal with medical malpractice. And even those courts operate under a lower standard of evidence for scientific claims than in the court of science itself. Furthermore, the omnibus lawyers were denied in the appeals process. So it seems that the autism omnibus plaintiffs don’t have anywhere else to go.

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Breaking news: vaccines don’t cause autism

September 14, 2010
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Okay, so this isn’t breaking news. It’s something we’ve known for years now. But now there’s a brand new study that’s just been published in Pediatrics that once again demonstrates beyond any reasonable doubt that the ethylmercury-based preservative thimerosal that used to be in vaccines does not cause autism:

Methods: A case-control study was conducted in 3 managed care organizations (MCOs) of 256 children with ASD and 752 controls matched by birth year, gender, and MCO. ASD diagnoses were validated through standardized in-person evaluations. Exposure to thimerosal in vaccines and immunoglobulin preparations was determined from electronic immunization registries, medical charts, and parent interviews. Information on potential confounding factors was obtained from the interviews and medical charts. We used conditional logistic regression to assess associations between ASD, AD, and ASD with regression and exposure to ethylmercury during prenatal, birth-to-1 month, birth-to-7-month, and birth-to-20-month periods.

Results: There were no findings of increased risk for any of the 3 ASD outcomes. The adjusted odds ratios (95% confidence intervals) for ASD associated with a 2-SD increase in ethylmercury exposure were 1.12 (0.83–1.51) for prenatal exposure, 0.88 (0.62–1.26) for exposure from birth to 1 month, 0.60 (0.36–0.99) for exposure from birth to 7 months, and 0.60 (0.32–0.97) for exposure from birth to 20 months.

Conclusions: In our study of MCO members, prenatal and early-life exposure to ethylmercury from thimerosal-containing vaccines and immunoglobulin preparations was not related to increased risk of ASDs.

Of course this will inevitably be dismissed by the anti-vaccine community but it will make it much harder for them to recruit more people. It also reinforces my speculation from earlier this year that we’re seeing the decline of the anti-vaccine movement. Now the true believers will likely hold their views for the rest of their lives. If they haven’t accepted reality by now, there’s little reason to suspect they’ll change later. But now we’re seeing science continually demonstrating again and again how wrong they are in very carefully performed studies, we’re seeing they fail to gain any traction in the courts, and I haven’t seen a mainstream media story that presented them either positively or neutrally in quite awhile. The media has wised up. All they’ve got left is their own fringe websites to maintain the base, but that’s insufficient for them to effect public policy.

Now all this is not to say the movement couldn’t one day gain prominence again, but I think for the immediate future, they’re slowly being relegated to the fringes of society along with the Kennedy conspiracy folk, the 9/11 deniers, and those who think Elvis is still alive.

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Are vaccine deniers shills for Big Cemetary?

July 29, 2010
Measles. This child shows a classic day-4 rash...
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Today brought two deeply disturbing news stories that seem quite related to our psychotic anti-vaccine friends. First, a new report places my home state of New Jersey (also home to massive anti-vaccine campaigns) a disgraceful #45 on the list of vaccine protected states. In the U.S., only five other states and the District of Columbia are less protected by vaccines than New Jersey.

New Jersey’s immunization rate for children under 3, at 68.5 percent, is significantly lower than the national average of 76.1 percent and is woefully behind the 90 percent that public health authorities consider optimum for providing “herd immunity.”

And though I’d almost rather not distract from this horrible news, I think it is worth noting that New Jersey, despite having one of the worst vaccination rates in the country, also has among the highest rates of autism in the country, yet another inconvenient fact anti-vaxxers don’t want you to think about.

The other related news story is this report that hundreds of people in Tarrytown, New York have been exposed to measles, which has been tracked back to its source, a single unvaccinated person infected with the virus:

Exposure to the infected person may have occurred either Friday at a social event attended by 200 high school students from abroad at the EF International Language School on Marymount Avenue or between 5 p.m. Friday and noon Saturday at Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse or Eva’s Hair Salon in the Westchester Marriott Hotel on White Plains Road in Greenburgh.

More than 900 people from the East Coast are believed to have been at the hotel during the time period. The infected individual stayed at the Marriott, but did not visit Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse or the hair salon. However, airborne transmissions of the measles virus could have reached the restaurant or salon due to shared ventilation systems with the hotel.

And this is only the beginning. If the anti-vaccine movement is not stopped, we’ll see more outbreaks, which will inevitably lead to deaths. And if these viruses are allowed to rise again, there is no telling what level of destruction they will bring upon an unprotected populace. The power of an atomic bomb is insignificant compared to that of a well evolved virus.

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