Facts, not Fantasy

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

No link between vaccines and autism, appeals court rules

Remember, this is a court of law ruling, which is generally much more lax than the rigors of science.  The anti-vax pro-disease nutters can't even get the courts to side with their lunacy.


WASHINGTON — A federal appeals court on Friday upheld a ruling that vaccines are not to blame for autism.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit upheld a decision last year by a special vaccine court, which concluded there's little if any evidence to support claims of a vaccine-autism link.
Scientist years ago reached that conclusion, but more than 5,500 families sought compensation through the government's Vaccine Injury Compensation Program.
Friday's ruling came in the case of Michelle Cedillo of Yuma, Ariz., who is disabled with autism, inflammatory bowel disease and other disorders that her parents blame on a measles vaccine given at 15 months.
In the 2009 ruling Special Master Denise Vowell wrote that the evidence "is weak, contradictory and unpersuasive. Sadly, the petitioners in this litigation have been the victims of bad science conducted to support litigation rather than to advance medical and scientific understanding" of autism.
In its ruling Friday the appeals panel said "we have carefully reviewed the decision of the special master and we find that it is rationally supported by the evidence, well-articulated, and reasonable. We, therefore, affirm the denial of the Cedillos' petition for compensation."
Earlier this year the so-called vaccine court also concluded that the additive thimerosal is not to blame for autism, an added setback in a long-running battle by parents convinced there is a connection.
The decisions help to offer reassurance to parents scared about vaccinating their babies because of a small but vocal anti-vaccine movement. Some vaccine-preventable diseases, including measles, are on the rise.
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Penn & Teller intro to their vaccine episode

Penn & Teller did an excellent job at voicing the anti-anti-vaccine message in the season finale of the 8th season of their Bullsh!t show.  Here is their intro which makes an excellent point visually, that doesn’t come accross as strongly verbally.
Warning: NSFW due to use of profanities.

Vaccine Preventable Death – Collin Springborn

Age at death - 3 months
Cause of death – Whooping cough (pertussis)
Vaccination Status – Unknown. He could have received the 1st of the 5 DTaP doses required for full immunization (first dose is recommended at 2 months)
What happened – Collin contracted the virus a week before he died. During that week, Collin’s mother recalls took him to the hospital several times and doctors were unable to diagnose what was causing the cough. The coughing became progressively worse  to the point where Collin would turn blue and vomit.
Doctors did blood work but were unable to diagnosis the problem as whooping cough. Collin stopped breathing at 6 p.m. on a Friday, hours after returning home from a doctor’s appointment. He was placed in the pediatrics intensive care unit at Children’s Hospital of Michigan in Detroit and died two days later.
Collin’s twin brother also got the disease. He was in and out of the hospital during a 4 month period, and luckily survived the disease that took his brother. Our hearts go out to the parents; I am very sorry for the pain you’ve had to endure.
The Times Herald

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Vaccination could have prevented massive egg recall

Okay, not a vaccine for people, but for the hens themselves.  If this can prevent one needless death from a salmonella outbreak, it would be worth it.

U.S. Rejected Hen Vaccine Despite British Success

Faced with a crisis more than a decade ago in which thousands of people were sickened from salmonella in infected eggs, farmers in Britain began vaccinating their hens against the bacteria. That simple but decisive step virtually wiped out the health threat. 
But when American regulators created new egg safety rules that went into effect last month, they declared that there was not enough evidence to conclude that vaccinating hens against salmonella would prevent people from getting sick. The Food and Drug Administration decided not to mandate vaccination of hens — a precaution that would cost less than a penny per a dozen eggs.
Now, consumers have been shaken by one of the largest egg recalls ever, involving nearly 550 million eggs from two Iowa producers, after a nationwide outbreak of thousands of cases of salmonella was traced to eggs contaminated with the bacteria.
The F.D.A. has said that if its egg safety rules had gone into effect earlier, the crisis might have been averted. Those rules include regular testing for contamination, cleanliness standards for henhouses and refrigeration requirements, all of which experts say are necessary.
However, many industry experts say the absence of mandatory vaccination greatly weakens the F.D.A. rules, depriving them of a crucial step that could prevent future outbreaks.
Salmonella bacteria is passed from infected hens to the interior of eggs when they are being formed. The salmonella vaccines work both by reducing the number of hens that get infected and by making it more difficult for salmonella bacteria to pass through to the eggs.
“They are the only thing I’m aware of that really controls the problem from the inside out, at the source,” said Ronald Plylar, the former president of a company that developed an early salmonella vaccine.
Many people in the American egg industry say they believe that the current outbreak and recall will tip the balance and force nearly all producers in the United States to begin vaccinating hens to reassure consumers.
The F.D.A. said it considered mandatory vaccination very seriously. “We didn’t believe that, based on the data we had, there was sufficient scientific evidence for us to require it,” said Dr. Nega Beru, director of the agency’s Office of Food Safety.
However, Dr. Beru says that the new rules encourage producers to vaccinate if they think it will help fight salmonella.
Another F.D.A. food safety official, Nancy S. Bufano, said that despite the success of vaccination in Britain, the agency thought that because the vaccines used in the two countries were not identical, it made comparisons difficult.
Vaccine company executives, however, said the differences were minor and the drugs used in both countries were equally effective.
The drop in salmonella infections in Britain was stunning.
In 1997, there were 14,771 reported cases in England and Wales of the most common type of the bacteria, a strain known as Salmonella Enteritidis PT4. Vaccine trials began that year, and the next year, egg producers began vaccinating in large numbers.
The number of human illnesses has dropped almost every year since then. Last year, according to data from the Health Protection Agency of England and Wales, there were just 581 cases, a drop of 96 percent from 1997.
“We have pretty much eliminated salmonella as a human problem in the U.K.,” said Amanda Cryer, director of the British Egg Information Service, an industry group.
The F.D.A. estimates that each year, 142,000 illnesses in the United States are caused by consuming eggs contaminated with the most common type of salmonella. It has said the new rules would cut that by more than half. People who eat bad eggs that have not been cooked thoroughly to kill the bacteria can get diarrhea and cramps. Rare cases can be fatal.
There are no laws mandating vaccination in Britain. But it is required, along with other safety measures, if farmers want to place an industry-sponsored red lion stamp on their eggs, which shows they have met basic standards. The country’s major supermarkets buy only eggs with the lion seal, so vaccination is practiced by 90 percent of egg producers, according to Ms. Cryer.
Thomas Humphrey, a food safety professor at the University of Liverpool, said that producers in the United Kingdom turned to vaccination after other measures, similar to those now required by the F.D.A., failed to show significant results.
One-half to two-thirds of American farmers already inoculate their flocks, according to industry estimates, and that number is likely to increase. While the new federal rules do not require vaccination, they do require testing for salmonella. If henhouses are found to be contaminated, then eggs must be tested. If eggs are tainted, then they would have to be broken and pasteurized, which would mean producers would get much less money for their eggs.
The F.D.A. has estimated that it would cost farmers about 14 cents a bird to vaccinate, or about $31 million to cover hens at all the large farms in the country. But vaccine company executives said the cost can be just a few cents a bird, depending on the type of vaccine and how many doses are given. A single bird can lay about 270 eggs in its lifetime. 
After the current outbreak, “many producers that were trying to decide whether or not to vaccinate will now vaccinate,” said David Zacek, the chief executive of Lohmann Animal Health International, one of three companies that produce the vaccines in the United States.
The two companies involved in the recall, Wright County Egg and Hillandale Farms, said that they began introducing vaccinated birds to their Iowa operations last year. But the companies have seven separate facilities in Iowa with a total of about 7 million birds, and it can take up to a year and a half to replace all the hens on a large farm.
The companies would not say how many of their birds had been vaccinated when the outbreak started this spring. Wright County said that currently about three-quarters of its birds have been vaccinated and Hillandale said it has now vaccinated about 80 percent.
Industry experts said that in a typical facility, eggs from different laying barns are commingled when they are sorted and packed, so it is possible that eggs from vaccinated and unvaccinated hens can be shipped out together.
“That’s how a farm can be moving in the right direction but still only be partially protected,” said Dr. George Boggan, technical service veterinarian for CEVA, the vaccine company that works with Wright County Egg.
The F.D.A. began working on its new egg rules more than a decade ago, and a review of agency documents suggests that officials formed a negative opinion about the effectiveness of vaccines early on. That opinion failed to change as time passed and evidence mounted that vaccines significantly reduced the occurrence of salmonella.
Many small-scale trials show vaccines are effective. But the F.D.A. said that only large-scale field trials could prove that a vaccine would work in the real world of commercial henhouses.
One such trial cited by F.D.A. officials was a 1999 Pennsylvania study that found little difference in salmonella levels between some vaccinated flocks and an unvaccinated control group. “Currently there is no vaccine that has been shown to be efficacious in the field,” the agency wrote in a public summary of its views last year.
However, Dr. Sherrill Davison, the lead researcher on that 1999 study, said that the F.D.A.’s assessment did not reflect advances made since then.
“That data was very preliminary data that used vaccine technology from the beginning of these programs, and that technology has changed and our understanding of how to administer them has changed,” she said.
Dr. Davison was involved in creating a pioneering egg safety program in Pennsylvania that was the model for the federal rules that went into effect this year. While the Pennsylvania program is voluntary, she said the vast majority of producers there vaccinate their birds.
“I personally believe it is essential for the program,” she said.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Vaccine Preventable Suffering – Jamie Schanbaum

Jamie’s Story
On November 13th 2008, Jamie Schanbaum was rushed to Seton Hospital thinking she was having an asthma attack. Two days later, Jamie and her family learned she had contracted meningococcal septicemia. This disease is similar to meningitis. Instead of infiltrating the brain and spinal cord, the bacteria infects the blood. Meningococcal septicemia has a higher fatality rate than typical meningitis. The state health department informed us that one in ten people is a carrier of this particular bacteria which resides in the nose or throat. You can have it and not be affected by it, but something as simple as a cold or a stomach virus can cause this bacteria to work its way into your blood system, which is what happened to Jamie. Jamie survived, though sadly she lost her legs and fingers. They had to be amputated as a direct result of her infection. Jamie’s plight inspired her to educate the public about Meningitis. Her goal is to prevent others from needlessly suffering from this vaccine preventable disease.
Since leaving the hospital, Jamie has shown tremendous strength and perseverence as she endeavors to promote awareness of this disease and its consequences. In the summer of 2009, Senate Bill 819, a.k.a. The Jamie Schanbaum Act, requiring meningitis vaccinations of college students, passed despite two previously unsuccessful attempts thanks to Jamie and her supporters.
The J.A.M.I.E Group
For an ABC news report on Jamie’s story, prior to the amputation, click here.

Measles mortality rate drops 90 percent in 10 years in Lebanon

And some people say vaccines are bad?  Really?

BEIRUT: “Amazing progress” has been made in reducing measles mortality rates and increasing vaccination coverage in the country, the United Nations said in an open letter sent to the Ministry of Public Health on Tuesday.
According to the letter from the UN Foundation, addressed to the Health Minister Mohammad Jawad Khalife, Lebanon has seen over a 90 percent reduction in measles deaths since 2000, falling in line with the regional average.
Lebanon is now nearing a 93 percent immunization coverage rate and is on target to reach 95 percent nationally in the near future, ministry officials said. This is up from an estimated 55 percent vaccination rate in 1997. The rise has been driven largely by extensive media campaigns, national school drives and increased partnership between the public and private sector.
The government also now offers free vaccinations to all children, including non-Lebanese nationals, but with the high cost of the vaccine – it retails at around $100 on the open market – the private sector is encouraged to take on a large chunk of the burden especially in better-off areas.
“We’ve seen a huge jump in vaccinating rates the last ten years,” Randa Hamadeh, immunization and essential medications program manager at the Ministry of Public Health said. “We have worked closely with UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to ensure that we only use the highest quality of vaccine and by purchasing through them we are also able to obtain vaccines at the best possible price.
“We have worked with municipalities and the lowest levels of local government to make sure that the message gets through to everyone. Our approach at working on the sub-national level is helping us reach the areas most in need.”
While national coverage may be high, regional inequality remains prevalent and the government, in partnership with various UN agencies and the Lebanese Order of Physicians, is now striving to make sure that even the peripheries obtain at least a 90 percent immunization coverage rate.
“We urge Lebanon to fully recommit to measles elimination by 2010 and to a possible eradication goal by 2020,” the UN letter read.
Read more: http://www.dailystar.com.lb/article.asp?edition_id=1&categ_id=1&article_id=117267#ixzz0xZH9E6fS
(The Daily Star :: Lebanon News :: http://www.dailystar.com.lb)

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Whooping Cough Report

Whooping cough (pertussis) has been quite active in the US this year. Besides the much publicized, and dangerous, outbreak in California other states have reported elevated levels of whooping cough infections. Here are the numbers for the two states affected most so far (although cases have been reported in outher states/counties, but in lower numbers):
This may sound like scare mongering, except it isn’t. We have a vaccine for pertussis. Pertussis can spread very easily, and many times it is adults that infect their children, which highlights the importance of getting the adult booster shot, Tdap.
Steven Novella has written a nice blog entry on the current pertussis epidemic where he reminds all of us that, while it may be a natural conclusion to blame the current outbreak on low vaccination rates, the data from the current epidemic is simply not in yet to support that conclusion, and that the cyclical nature of pertussis is a possible factor to account for the current outbreak.  I find that attitude very scientific, logical, and sobering, as it is very easy to let our biases color our commentary and start making unwarranted conclusions.
So to set the record straight, we have no conclusive data yet to support the hypothesis that the current pertussis outbreak is directly correlated with, or caused by, low vaccination rates. What we can say though is that we have 4 licensed acellular pertussis vaccines whose efficacy, according to the CDC  ranges from 71% to 89%. 71-89% efficacy is way better than none at all, so please vaccinate your children and take your booster shots. It helps to keep the total incidence rates low, and gives you, or your child, much better chances to avoid it completely.

Monday, August 16, 2010

195 dead so far this year in Malawi due to measles

Malawi is experiencing what is being described as its worst measles outbreak in a decade. Since January of 2010, 77,000 measles infection cases have been reported, and 195 lives have been lost to this vaccine preventable disease. A massive vaccination campaign, at 4.2-million-dollar (3.3-million-euro) to vaccinate six million children, is being planned and implemented. Hopefully that will bring the infection under control quickly and successfully, as the polio campaign succeeded in doing in Tajikistan. We will keep an eye out for further developments.

Vaccine Preventable Death – 7th Californian infant

The whooping cough epidemic that has gripped California has claimed it’s 7th victim, yet another infant. The latest data from the California Department of Public Health, updated as of 08/10/10, reports the following:
  • 2,774 cases of pertussis reported to CDPH, which translates in an incidence rate of 7.0 cases/100,000 a 7 fold increase from the same period in 2009.
  • 12% of cases have been hospitalized, 59% of hospitalization cases have been in infants <3 months, and 75% were infants <6 months.
  • 7 deaths so far, all in infants <2 months, all of Hispanic descent, and all unvaccinated at the time of disease onset
One shot=One life. It’s that simple. Vaccinate your kids; vaccinate yourself.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Deadly Whooping Cough, Once Wiped Out, Is Back

I will spare you my profanity laden post on facebook concerning my thoughts on the parents I am highlighting in the bolded portion of this story...

California is in the midst of its worst outbreak of whooping cough in a half-century. More than 2,700 cases have been reported so far this year — eight times last year's number at this point. Seven of the victims, all infants, have died.
And here's what really worries pediatricians like USC's Harvey Karp: Doctors thought they wiped out whooping cough when they developed vaccines decades ago.
The disease hits young children hardest, especially ones who are not vaccinated or who have not yet built up full immunity. The prescribed vaccination regimen begins with a shot at two months and continues until children are 5 years old. For many children, it can take that long for complete immunity to develop — and until then, they're vulnerable.
The California epidemic has raised plenty of questions about the role of vaccination and the increasing numbers of parents who decide not to vaccinate their children. California's Department of Public Health cites three schools in the state where 80 percent of parents have signed a "personal belief exemption" to keep their children from being vaccinated.
That's part of what's behind this epidemic, Dr. Karp tells NPR's Guy Raz. "And it's in part because the immunity of people who were immunized earlier has waned," he adds.
In fact, Karp estimates that 75 percent to 90 percent of whooping cough cases occur in teenagers and adults, for whom it is not deadly. Most adults may experience only a lingering cough. The danger occurs when adults and teenagers — whose immunity wanes around 12 years old — contract whooping cough and unwittingly give it to infants.
There is a booster shot for adults, but it only became available in 2005. Many adults are not even aware that they should get one every 10 years.
"Doctors — especially pediatricians — aren't doing a good enough job," Karp says. "When you go into the doctor's office for your child's care, your pediatrician should be telling you that you should be getting immunized as well."
Karp acknowledges that vaccination is a difficult issue for parents.
"They're very busy, working hard, working double jobs — it's really a burden to have to be a parent and then also have to be a biochemist, to read the literature and decide what vaccines are good and what vaccines aren't good," he says.
In the background, he says, parents see a frightening increase of autism, coupled with reports of a potential link to vaccinations.
"All of that has stopped parents in their tracks from wanting to take any chance that they were going to expose their child to something that might be dangerous," Karp says. "I totally understand that. The good news is — we have a large body of information now to show zero association between vaccines and autism."
"But," he adds, "we do need to try to help parents figure all of this information out so that they can make the best decision for their kids."

Friday, August 13, 2010

Vaccine Preventable Death – Michael Kokegei

Age at death – 7 years
Cause of death – Reaction to chickenpox virus
Vaccination status – Unknown
Summary - On Friday, October 16, 2009 Michael was behaving normally. Later that day his parents had to perform CPR on him, after a severe reaction to the chickenpox virus caused him to have a seizure and cardiac arrest. Michael was flown to The Children’s Hospital, Westmead, but died on Sunday afternoon.
Express Advocate

Vaccine Preventable Death – Becky Werner

Heart-wrenching, but absolutely vital that other parents pay attention. One shot=One human life. It’s that simple.

Age at death – 20 years
Cause of death – Meningitis
Vaccination status – Not vaccinated (confirmed via e-mail by Becky’s mother)
Synopsis - On the morning of Feb 24, 2004, Becky got up complaining she didn’t feel well and her parents suggested that she stay at home, drink plenty of fluids and take ibuprofen, they were sure she had some type of flu. She had been fine the night before and had even gone out to eat with them. When her mother arrived home from work, Becky still did not feel well and said that she had been in bed all day. When she decided to get up for a little while and check her email, she was unsteady and went back to bed without any argument. Thing got worse during the night. She was taken to the ICU. Here is an excerpt, from the website her parents set up.
When we arrived at the ER, we were still convinced that she had some type of flu. The doctor came in and looked at her and said she had an ear infection but her blood pressure was so low. We mentioned to him that her fingertips were blue and she was complaining of her legs falling asleep. Then a flurry of things started to happen and no one was telling us anything. We never left her side and she kept asking us what was happening to her. They told us that she was being transferred to the ICU and would probably stay there for about two weeks. Two weeks for an ear infection? Every time we asked what was going on, all they could tell us was they weren’t sure yet. By the time she did get to the ICU, symptoms started to manifest themselves. No one was calling it meningitis yet. By this time, we were in shock as to what was happening. I have worked in the medical field for 24 years and I could not fathom what was happening to us and especially to her!
The ICU doctor, whom I had known for years, began to unfold what was going on. Some very good friends of ours had arrived and told Becky to call on the name of Jesus and she did! They needed to intubate her immediately. I explained to her what they were going to do and her last words were, “OK, Momma.” The doctor wanted to do it with her awake because, in hind sight, I believe he knew that if he had sedated her she would not be cognizant again. The intubation was too intolerable for her, so he sedated her.
By 8:00 pm, he approached me with tears in his eyes and I said, “She’s going to die, isn’t she?” And he responded with a nod of his head. I asked him what was going to happen next. He informed me that the disease would attack her heart and it would just stop.
By 9:00 pm her heart stopped and she slipped peacefully away with about 30 friends and relatives around her
Becky’s mother responded to my e-mail. Here is an excerpt:
I work in the medical field and I did know about meningitis.  When I asked the doctors in the clinic where I worked whether she needed to be vaccinated and I was told that it was not very important because Becky lived at home!!  I was afraid that the vaccine was a live virus and if I gave the vaccine to Becky and my other daughter, Annie, that they would come down with meningitis and die and I would blame myself for the rest of my life.  Annie was just getting ready to head off to college and live in a dorm and I told her that we would just wait and if there was an outbreak, then we would get her the shot.  Little did I know we would be the outbreak!!
Becky fell ill on Tuesday, and was gone by Wednesday. Our hearts and thoughts go out to her family and parents.
The Becky Werner Meningitis Foundation

Friday, August 06, 2010

Australian (Anti) Vaccination Network called out

Just a couple of quick posts that are copied from Dr Plait's blog.  I am glad that this is finally happening.  These people are a public danger, and there should be criminal repercussions to their deceitful and dishonest propaganda.  And in case there is any doubt about vaccines, you may want to visit Tajikistan.  Just saying.

And I like that Dr. Plait linked to Vaccine Central.  One of the blogs on my feed.  It's just a bit heartbreaking sometimes when he posts pictures and stories about people who died from perfectly preventable diseases.  And now pertussis is in epidemic proportions in places like Minnesota too, not just California.

The AVN falsehoods keep on a-comin’

Meryl Dorey, head of the flailing Australian Vaccination Network — an organization dedicated to twisting the truth about vaccines and saying anything at all to scare people into an antivax stance — has once again put fingers to keyboard, and as usual the truth eludes her.
She wrote a lengthy essay about her dealings with Toni and David McCaffery, who lost their four week old infant Dana to pertussis two years ago.
I hardly need to point out that her interpretation of reality doesn’t come within a glancing blow of it; you can read what Dorey wrote, and then compare it to Toni McCaffery’s response detailing what really happened, and why Dorey is so wrong.

I also received a note from David McCaffery about a terrific site that helps educate people about vaccines: Chain of Protection. They have really good videos describing benefits of vaccinations. Here’s the one about herd immunity which shows just why it’s important:

Herd Immunity – How it works from Chain of Protection on Vimeo.

Check out the site. It’s what Meryl Dorey wouldn’t want you to do.

Related posts:
- AVN now getting routinely publicly humiliated
- Australian skeptics jeer Meryl Dorey
- Major step against antivaxxers in Australia
- The AVN is reaping what they sowed
- Australian skeptics strike back against antivaxxers

Antivaxxers take note: vaccines stop polio outbreak in Tajikistan

 This is wildly good news! Through Vaccine Central I learned that a major polio outbreak in Tajikistan has been stopped!
How? Through vaccination.
Yup. The first reports of polio were confirmed in April — 413 of them. However, that ended in late June, when no new cases were reported. That is credited to the thousands of doctors and nurses who not only vaccinated at least 97% of the children in each region of the mountainous country, but also flooded the area with multi-lingual informational leaflets, posters, and banners.
And they succeeded! With no new reports, it appears this outbreak was stopped cold.
And with the AVN in Australia getting hammered repeatedly in the press, I can now have some hope that the movement here in the United States, spearheaded by Jenny McCarthy, will die off as well. Vaccinations work, and they save a lot of lives.