Facts, not Fantasy

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Friday, March 19, 2010

Framed!

As I mentioned in an earlier post, Google decided not to support blogging via FTP, so I am forced to make some changes in the way that this blog is published. As such, over the next couple of weeks, this blog is going to show up as a frame inside this main window.

The Good: Hopefully I can even figure out a way to embed RSS feeds into this blog so that you all can come here for news on autism, vaccines, and evolution. And since there will be another domain associated with this site, I am hoping that it will increase traffic here.

The Bad: Sadly by doing this, it will remove the list of contributors and the direct link to archives. What I plan to do is make a link to the outside URL, and that way you can go see the full blog if you want to.

The Ugly: Yeah, this is a kluge. Frames are ugly, but my brother-in-law worked hard on the functionality of this page, and it's pretty slick on the menu system and all. This was the fastest solution that we could come up with that kept the main part of the web page intact.

Anyway, just an update to let you know what is coming down the pike as a change.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Aluminum Adjuvants in Vaccinations: How Do They Really Work?

In the ever continuing effort to explain basic chemistry to the uneducated and ignorant, one of the elements that cause a lot of consternation to people is Aluminum (Aluminium). While most laypeople can't understand that simmilar sounding compounds can have wildly different effects, it's a fact most actually depend on quite often (if you doubt it, challenge someone to a drink of Ethyl versus Methy alcohol!). So here is an article that has some details on aluminum:

Aluminum Adjuvants in Vaccinations: How Do They Really Work?

A new article in Trends in Immunology by a leading researcher in the bioinorganic chemistry of aluminum, Keele University's Dr. Christopher Exley, explains how aluminum adjuvants work in boosting the immune response to vaccination.

Adjuvants are used in vaccinations to improve the efficacy of the vaccine. They enhance the immune response to the vaccine. For almost 80 years the most common form of clinically approved adjuvant has been aluminum salts. They are used in the majority of vaccines today including vaccines against cervical cancer (HPV), hepatitis, polio, tetanus, diptheria and seasonal flu amongst many others. In spite of the widespread use of aluminum-based adjuvants there is very little understanding of how they actually work.

A recent flurry of research papers purported to explain their mode of action though it quickly became clear that the story was still significantly confused.

The opinion article by Exley -- Reader in Bioinorganic Chemistry at The Birchall Centre, Keele University in Staffordshire -- in the review journal has explained the likely mode of action of aluminum adjuvants in the context of both the bioinorganic chemistry and immunobiology of aluminum. It has helped to explain why previous suggestions as how aluminum adjuvants work are probably not applicable to the clinically approved aluminum adjuvants used in human vaccination programs.

In doing so, the article highlights the potential for aluminum and aluminum salts to stimulate the immune system and makes some reference to the possible role of aluminum adjuvants in vaccine-related diseases. The latter, though their etiologies are largely unexplained, seem often to be linked to aluminum adjuvants.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Vaccines win their day in court again!

Here is a quick update from Dr. Plait. I would like to emphasize what he says in the last part of it. Now, it is valuable to make sure that vaccines don't cause autism, and the science has been done with all the techniques and technology we have. And should new techniques and technology become available, it's not a bad thing to take another look. However, the anti-vax pro-disease nutters are diverting tremendous resources in their quixotic pursuit of this non-existent link. Not that it will stop them. Reason and reality very rarely has an effect on these people. Facts are just an obstacle to overcome for their propaganda.

Vaccines win their day in court again!

A special court set up as part of the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program

has ruled that there is no evidence that thimerosal — a preservative used in vaccines, but removed from virtually all of them years ago — causes autism.

Yay!

Last year, this same court ruled that evidence presented by families claiming their children were harmed by vaccines was insufficient to show that vaccines cause autism. In fact, one judge said that the families were misled by antivax physicians.

This new ruling is a good one. Medically and scientifically, it’s been known for some time that thimerosal does not cause autism. This graph makes it pretty clear:


Since the removal of thimerosal from most vaccines, autism rates have increased. The antivax movement has frothed and railed about this, but as usual reality is firmly against them. I suggest you read Australian skeptic Maggie’s take on this topic as well.

As a parent myself, I have sympathy for parents of autistic children, I really do: no parent could deny the strong urge to defend and protect their child against all threats. But because we are so strongly emotional in cases like this, we have to be ever-more vigilant about using logic, evidence, and rationality, lest we react to a problem that doesn’t exist. The parents who brought their cases to this court are, I suspect, well-meaning and desperate for answers. But the respite they seek will not be found in an imagined link between vaccinations and autism.

This movement is doing serious damage in two ways. One, it’s scaring parents unreasonably into not vaccinating their kids, putting these children and others at risk for contracting preventable diseases. But second, this whole debacle is distracting researchers against looking for the real causes behind autism. In other words, these people are fighting against their own cause.

We need real answers about autism, and the antivax movement is wasting tremendous resources that could be far, far better spent looking at the reality of the situation. Instead, they rail against phantoms, and the real victims are children, theirs and everybody’s.

Friday, March 12, 2010

That Sound You Hear is Jenny McCarthy Throwing a Fit

As mentioned on the main debunking page, courts are much more lax than science. And even by that lax standard, the anti-vax pro-disease nutters can't make their case. So I was happy to see this on CNN today. of course, the ill-educated and deluded are out en masse in the comments section...

The federal "special vaccine court" ruled Friday that parents who said their children's autism was caused by a preservative did not prove their case and are not entitled to compensation.

The cases, brought by the children's parents, all alleged that vaccines containing thimerosol, a mercury preservative, caused or contributed to autism spectrum disorders in their children.

Thousands of parents of children with autism have filed petitions seeking compensation from the Department of Health and Human Services' Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, a federal program intended to compensate victims of injuries caused by vaccines, since 2001.

A panel of "special masters" began hearing three test cases in 2007 brought by parents of children with autism who also had said vaccines caused the disorder in their children.

In February 2009, a special court ruled that no link between autism and certain early childhood vaccines could be proven based on evidence presented in the three cases brought in 2007.

Read full CNN.com story

Washington (CNN) -- A federal court ruled Friday that the evidence supporting an alleged causal link between autism and a mercury-containing preservative in vaccines is unpersuasive, and that the families of children diagnosed with autism are not entitled to compensation.

Special masters of the U.S. Court of Federal Claims released more than 600 pages of findings after reviewing three test cases and finding all the claims wanting.

"Petitioners' theory of vaccine-related causation is scientifically unsupportable," wrote Special Master Patricia Campbell-Smith in her conclusion about William P. Mead, whose parents, George and Victoria Mead, had brought one of the suits.

"In the absence of a sound medical theory causally connecting William's received vaccines to his autistic condition, the undersigned cannot find the proposed sequence of cause and effect to be logical or temporally appropriate. Having failed to satisfy their burden of proof under the articulated legal standard, petitioners cannot prevail on their claim of vaccine-related causation."

In the second test case, Special Master George L. Hastings Jr. wrote, "The record of this case demonstrates plainly that Jordan King and his family have been though a tragic ordeal," referring to the minor, whose parents, Fred and Mylinda King, had brought suit.

"After studying the extensive evidence in this case for many months, I am convinced that the opinions provided by the petitioners' experts in this case, advising the King family that there is a causal connection between thimerosal-containing vaccines and Jordan's autism, have been quite wrong." The special master italicized the last two words.

"Nevertheless, I can understand why Jordan's parents found such opinions to be believable under the circumstances."

"In this case, the evidence advanced by the petitioners has fallen far short of demonstrating such a link," he said.

In the final test case, Special Master Denise K. Vowell wrote of Colin R. Dwyer, a minor, that his parents, Timothy and Maria Dwyer, "have not demonstrated by a preponderance of the evidence that Colin's condition was either caused or significantly aggravated by his vaccinations. Thus, they have failed to establish entitlement to compensation and the petition for compensation is therefore denied."

Congress set up the special judicial forum, sometimes called the "vaccine court," in 1986 to address claims over vaccine safety.

Rebecca Estepp, who attended the hearings and said her 12-year-old son, Eric, has been diagnosed with autism she blames on vaccine, described herself as "devastated" with the rulings, but not surprised.

"The deck is stacked against families in vaccine court," she said in a telephone interview from her home in Poway, California, about 20 miles north of San Diego. "You have government attorneys defending a government program using government-funded science before government judges. Where's the justice in that?"

Tom Powers, a Portland, Oregon-based lawyer for the families involved, said his clients were disappointed.

"All three families are committed to following the appeals process, and pursuing that avenue to get justice and compensation for their kids," he said.

The special masters' decisions are subject to review by judges in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims. Within the next 30 days, attorneys for the families will ask the claims court judges to review the decisions and rule that the children are, in fact, entitled to compensation.

After government lawyers have a chance to respond to the motions for review, the judges will schedule oral argument and hearings, probably in the summer, Powers said.

Though Friday's decisions do not end the legal battle, Dr. Paul Offit, chief of infectious diseases and the director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, was optimistic.

"Parents should take heart in this decision and continue to immunize their children with the confidence that they are the safest, most effective way to protect against dangerous diseases," the pediatrician said.

"It's time to move forward and look for the real causes of autism," said Alison Singer, president of the Autism Science Foundation. "Our children deserve real answers and at this point doing more and more studies of vaccines, when the science is so clear, would be allowing politics to triumph over science."

The three test cases represented thousands of children who have autism and whose parents contend their disorder was triggered by an early childhood vaccination.

The vaccines contained thimerosal, a mercury-derived compound the parents say helped bring on regressive autism, in which normally developing children suddenly exhibit learning disorders and behavioral problems, typically between ages 1 and 2.

The theory that vaccines or thimerosal can cause autism is rejected by most medical experts, including the Institute of Medicine, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics. Multiple scientific studies also have failed to prove a link.

Thimerosal was removed from infant vaccines in 1999.

In February 2009, the court's special masters concluded that the evidence supporting a link between measles-mumps-rubella vaccine, or MMR, combined with thimerosal-containing vaccines, was also unpersuasive.

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the appeal of parents who say that a range of vaccines administered to their child caused serious health problems.

The justices on Monday agreed to decide whether drug makers can be sued outside the vaccine court.

The lawsuit was brought by the parents of Hannah Bruesewitz, a girl from the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, area. The parents said she was healthy as an infant in 1992 when given a series of DPT shots -- a combination of vaccines to prevent diphtheria, pertussis (whooping cough), and tetanus.

After the third series, according to court briefs, the child began having seizures and became disabled. Now a teenager, Hannah continues to suffer what is described as "residual seizure disorder."

The Bruesewitzes alleged Wyeth Laboratories failed to adequately warn them and other parents of the risks associated with the vaccine. The vaccine court rejected the initial claim, so the family tried to revive the lawsuit in other federal courts.

A federal appeals court eventually ruled for Wyeth, now owned by Pfizer Inc., concluding all design-defect claims were barred under statute. Despite that victory, the company urged the high court to hear the case, saying it seeks final resolution on the broader legal questions.

The Obama administration also urged review and is supporting the company and the federal law in question.

Wyeth and other drug manufacturers say their products are generally safe, but side effects can occur in rare cases.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Google Fail

So recently Google put out this announcement on their blog management page:

FTP publishing will no longer be available after May 1, 2010

You currently have blogs that are published using FTP. You must migrate your blogs to a new custom domain URL or a blogspot URL. To learn more, see our dedicated blog and help documentation.

Which means that I need to figure out how to update folks on what is going on and keep this going (even though I have been rather negligent of late). At least I have a couple of months to figure this out, and in the meantime I'll be letting things run as normal.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Silenced By Age of Autism

Unscrupulous behaviour seems to be a standard when science and reality doesn't support your mistaken opinion. That is why the dangerous and irresponsible site Age of Autism censors their comments. They know that they can't stand up to reality and actual science, so they silence anyone who dissents. That is why the intrepid Todd W. has taken up the banner of collecting comments on all the lies they spread that are silenced. For those of you who subscribe to reason and reality, I encourage you to support him.

You are entitled to your own opinions, not your own facts.” –Senator Moynihan