Facts, not Fantasy

Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Value Of Vaccinations

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is doing great work.  One of the great things they are advocating is vaccines.  A simple vaccine can save lives.  LOTS of lives!  Sometimes I despair when I hear people twisting the idea that when people have children more likely to survive to adulthood, they will have fewer children into some sort of global population conspiracy...  It takes a level of idiocy and basic paranoia that makes me question their fitness to be part of the human race.  They would do better in the world of "Idiocracy" perhaps?  Anyway, the Gates Foundation has this great video out that I want to share.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Vaccine Tijmes: Anti-vax commentary...commentary

Yesterday I posted an article about the outbreaks of measles from the Vaccine Times.  It has gathered some steam, and they have some commentary on it that is well worth reading.
I seem to have spooked the anti-vax proponents with my last entry: Measles outbreaks traced back to unvaccinated individuals. The sentences that riled them up are the following:
Clearly, vaccination is not solely a personal choice. One the one hand we want to respect the individual’s right to make decisions about their own health and life, but on the other hand a behavior that affects others does not rest solely on the individual sphere. So where does the right balance rest? We cannot force an individual to get a vaccine, but on the other hand what kind of responsibility does that person bear for infecting another? Should the other person have the right to sue the unvaccinated person in civil court? Should people who choose not to vaccinate pay higher health insurance premiums than the rest of us? Both options seem to make sense to me. What do you think?
I stand by what I said in this paragraph. I understand that we cannot force people to vaccinate against their wish, however when a person chooses a behavior that puts others at risk, that person then bears responsibility for his actions. A drunk driver may appeal to his personal freedoms when it comes to drinking and driving (it’s my life and if I want to risk it, I’ll risk it dammit), but he will be held responsible if he hurts others through his drunk driving. So my original two questions stand: Should the other person have the right to sue the unvaccinated person who infected him in civil court? Should people who choose not to vaccinate pay higher health insurance premiums than the rest of us?
Click Here To Read The Rest

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Vaccine Times: Measles outbreaks traced back to unvaccinated individuals

When I was a student at RPI, we would often go to hockey games, and when our team scored on a power play, we would taunt the guy in the penalty box by yelling, "It's all your fault!" several times over.  (This was back in the day when RPI won most of their hockey games.)  Well, in the anti-vax pro-disease movement, when we see an outbreak of vaccine preventable diseases, we can point at those nutters and tell them it's all their fault.  Unlike the poor guy in the penalty box, I rarely see ever an inkling of remorse from these public dangers...  Vaccine Times has a great write up:
Anti-vaccine proponents always try to make the vaccine talk into a “parent’s rights” discussion. It should be up to the parent to decide if their child should get vaccinated, no one else, period, they say. Besides the obvious reply, that children are not property and while parents have some rights, at some point the parent’s right to be wrong ends, and the child’s right to a life as free from pain, suffering and death begins, there is another reply to that line of reasoning: vaccinating or not, is not solely an individual choice. It affects others. You may choose to take the risk of getting the disease for yourself, that is clearly your personal choice (assuming you’re an adult of sane mind as is required for most other decisions), but where does your right to get sick end, and other’s right not to be infected by you begin? People who choose not to vaccinate are not solely making a decision for themselves, they are making it for others as well. And those parents who decide not to vaccinate their kids aren’t making a decision for their kids only, they’re making it for other children too, children who maybe cannot get vaccinated for health reasons, and as such rely on those around them to protect them from life-threatening diseases.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Vaccine Times: Flash News

Several stories from Vaccine Times.  The last one really caught my eye.  $41Million is really nothing in the scheme of international budgets.  To spend so little to prevent such suffering is almost criminal.  And the other stories also have significance.


150 sick, 4 childrend dead of whooping cough in Papua New Guinea – Four children have been killed by whooping cough so far this year in Papua New Guinea, according to Ausralia Network News.  The outbreak started in mid-March and has sickened over 150 people. Local health officials say that few children have been immunized against whooping cough in the area.

150,000 children die of vaccine-preventable diseases in Pakistan each year – The reasons why parents do not get their children vaccinated include poverty, low rates of female literacy, poor environmental hygiene and bad governance and lack of accountability in Extended Program on Immunization (EPI). To put this into perspective, Yankee Stadium holds about 50,000 people, so that’s 3 Yankee stadiums full of children dead each and every year of vaccine-preventable diseases. Yet, most anti-vaxers maintain that these vaccine-preventable diseases are mostly harmless.

FDA approves the first vaccine to prevent meningococcal disease in infants and toddlersThe FDA has approved Menactra for use in infants as young as 9 months old; it was already approved for use in people ages 2 through 55 years. The vaccine protects against 4 types of the germ that causes meningitis (A,C,Y and W-135); currently there is no vaccine that protects agains group B. Meningitis is an extremely dangerous disease: even with appropriate antibiotics and intensive care, between 10 percent and 15 percent of people who develop meningococcal disease die from the infection, while another 10 percent to 20 percent suffer complications such as brain damage or loss of limb or hearing. The safety of Menactra in children as young as 9 months was evaluated in four clinical studies in which over 3,700 participants received the vaccine. The most common adverse events reported in children who received Menactra at 9 months and 12 months of age were injection-site tenderness and irritability.

The World Bank approves additional $41M for Pakistan’s polio drive – The Board of Directors of The World Bank has recently approved $41 Million in funds to support Pakistan’s Third Partnership for Polio Eradication Project (TPPEP) which seeks to immunize 32 million children against the crippling disease with the goal of eradicating the disease from the country. The Global Polio Eradication Initiative has successfully reduced global polio cases by 99% in  a little under 20 years, however 4 countries still experience large numbers of the disease, and Pakistan is one of the 4. Here’s to hoping polio goes the way of smallpox.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Measles outbreak hits Europe, most cases in France; WHO blames lack of vaccinations

In the "it was bound to happen" category, I present you with this story.  It is sad that such a preventable disease is gaining a foothold, and in areas of the world that are considered "civilized" or first world.  This is not an area of the world with no infrastructure, or no access to healthcare, but nations very much like the US (and in terms of access to healthcare, actually much better off).  And this is something that can be laid directly at the feet of the anti-vax pro-disease nutters.  I hope they are happy (because clearly remorse is not something they would ever feel because they think they are right).
GENEVA — Europe, especially France, has been hit by a major outbreak of measles, which the U.N. health agency is blaming on the failure to vaccinate all children.

The World Health Organization said Thursday that France had 4,937 reported cases of measles between January and March — compared with 5,090 cases during all of 2010. In all, more than 6,500 cases have been reported in 33 European nations.

“This is a lot of cases, to put it mildly. In past years we’ve had very few cases,” said Rebecca Martin, head of WHO’s office in Copenhagen for vaccine-preventable diseases and immunization.

“There’s been a buildup of children who have not been immunized over the years,” she said. “It’s almost like a threshold. When you have enough people who have not been immunized, then outbreaks can occur."


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

ALERT: Demand That CBS Not Air Outdoor Anti-Vaccine Ad!

American media will let any idiot get on TV or in the public eye it seems.  Even those who advocate actions that are a clear hazard to public health and people's lives...  The Skeptical Teacher has found out about an advert that will advocate an anti-vax pro-disease message couched in "let's all be informed" language (much like evolution deniers couch their language in teach the controversy).  That is to say, they are spreading lies and misinformation.
Okay folks, it’s time to roll up our sleeves and get skeptically active.  I have found out that CBS plans to air an anti-vaccination ad on the Jumbotron at 42nd Street in New York’s Times Square starting on April 28th.  The sponsoring organizations are the notoriously anti-vaccinationist Mercola and National Vaccine Information Center. These are a couple of the biggest groups out there promoting the falsehood that, among other things, vaccines cause autism (they don’t, btw).  And while their ad gives the impression that they want to simply inform people about their “vaccine choices”, what they are really about is spreading flagrantly non-scientific, incorrect, and fear-mongering bilge about vaccines.  If you’d like to see some accurate info on vaccines, check out this link to the Hug Me, I’m Vaccinated website.

Folks, we have to do something to stop this.  Why?  Simple: because vaccines save lives.  Period.

Also please sign this petition at Change.org. There are additional ideas in the article for communicating your thoughts to CBS as well.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Vaccine Times: Massive measles outbreak in Congo kills at least 210

Well, to those who read yesterday's post on my personal blog about diseases here in North America, I present you with a vision of what the anti-vax pro-disease movement wants (my emphasis):

A measles outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo has sickened over 21,000 and killed at least 210, it is being reported. 106 of the dead are being reported to have been children. A massive Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) aid campaign has been underway since September 2010. Over 1.5  million children have been  vaccinated so far, but it appears the epidemic is still spreading.

The outbreak seems to have started sometime mid-year in 2010 and has been spreading ever since. Unfortunately, the vaccination efforts don’t seem to have slowed down its spread yet. According to GaĆ«l Hankenne, Medecins Sans Frontieres head of Mission in the DRC: “The measles epidemic is spiralling out of control…”. Measles is a highly contagious disease. According to the WHO:
Measles is a highly contagious, serious disease caused by a virus.

It remains one of the leading causes of death among young children globally, despite the availability of a safe and effective vaccine. An estimated 164 000 people died from measles in 2008 – mostly children under the age of five.

The most serious complications include blindness, encephalitis (an infection that causes brain swelling), severe diarrhoea and related dehydration, ear infections, or severe respiratory infections such as pneumonia. As high as 10% of measles cases result in death among populations with high levels of malnutrition and a lack of adequate health care.

What?  You say that the anti-vax pro-disease people don't want this?  Well, by their words and actions, I can tell you that they are fooling everyone.  Because by advocating against vaccines, they are advocating FOR diseases.  Plain and simple.  There is no grey area, this is about as settled a question as the speed of light or law of gravitational attraction.

Also, notice that the outbreak started before the vaccines were introduced into the area.   Getting a vaccine when already infected probably won't save you.  So should an outbreak happen in a heavily anti-vax pro-disease area, it will probably be too late.  And remember, measles did kill people in the US too.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Vaccine Times: How we know anti-vaxers don't care about science

The fact that the anti-vax pro-disease liars and nutters regularly disregard science should come as no surprise to anyone.  And the goalpost moving and outright lies they will use to obfuscate the issue are legendary.  If Jon Stewart from the Daily Show tracked these people, he'd have more fun that the double-speak out of Fox News.

How we know anti-vaxers don't care about science

We in the pro-health community hold this truth to be self-evident: anti-vaxers know vaccines are evil and no evidence will persuade them otherwise, because they rarely, if ever, care about the science. As evident as that is to us however, we are aware that it is mostly an impression that we get based on the anti-vaxers’ way of debating the issue, things like: how low they set the bar for themselves and how astronomically high they demand the bar for the other side, their general mistrust of anything or anyone that disagrees with them (a.k.a. conspiratorial thinking), their belief that a few Google searches trump years of experience and training. We believe this to be true based on our experience with them, yet we are aware that it is not an easy thing to prove. How can you prove what is going on in someone’s mind?

Which is why, whenever an anti-vaxer gives us solid evidence of their anti-scientific ways, I enjoy it immensely. Case in point, the Australian Anti-Vaccination I mean the Australian Vaccination Network  (Merly Dorey herself perhaps?), gives us this insight into their frame of mind.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Vaccine Times: Minnesota Measles Outbreak Update

Pay attention to the part I added emphasis to from Vaccine Times.  All it takes is one person to rapidly infect an unvaccinated community.  Unless you turn your entire family into a "bubble boy" family, the chances that you will put you and your family in danger is virtually 100%.  Especially in this world where travel is easily accessible to nearly every person.  And vaccines are as easily accessible, and should be used!
A Measles outbreak is underway in Minnesota. As of 03/30/11 there have been 14 cases, 11 unvaccinated and 3 unknonwn, of the disease, as reported by the Department of Health of Minnesota.
Situation Update (3/30/11)
There have been 14 confirmed cases of measles reported in Minnesota. Thirteen of the cases have been linked to a case that acquired infection in Kenya and one case acquired infection in Florida. Cases have ranged in age from 4 months to 51 years old. Five of the cases were too young to receive vaccine, six were of age but were not vaccinated, and three have unknown vaccine status. There have been eight hospitalizations and no deaths.
The outbreak started with an unvaccinated child traveling to Kenya where he/she picked up the disease. That child ended up being the cause of infection in 12 other people. In related news, 2 measles cases have been reported in NYC and 1 in California, all in people traveling to foreign countries. All this goes to prove what we in the pro-health community have been saying all along: these diseases might appear to have disappeared, but they’re only one plane ride away.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Just the Vax: 2008: Measles in Dr. Bob Sears' Waiting Room

The continued irresponsibility and danger to the public from "dr" Bob...  Someone should see what it would take to start the paperwork to revoke the license of this guy.  I understand that some people pine for "the way things were" but if you would rather die from easily preventable diseases, I would thank you to not place the rest of us who like reality and science in danger.  And that is exactly what you are doing.  Because of the likes of reality denying miscreants, people like Dana McCaffery are dead, and I see no remorse, just some misplaced smug vindication that is diametrically opposed to common sense.

So I hope that the anti-vax pro-disease nutters are happy with the swath of needless death they are causing.  They are on the same level as the idiots proclaiming the rapture on 21 MAY 11.  Totally disconnected from reality, and totally and 100% wrong.  You would think that they would realize how deluded they are, but then you can't reach this level of delusion with reality.  Instead, I urge parents to ignore these obvious lies and do what is best for their own children as well as all the children their children come in contact with.  Get vaccinated!

2008: Measles in dr. Bob Sears' Waiting Room

I thought this to be a timely topic given the current measles outbreak that is occurring in a very undervaccinated population in Minnesota.  Thus far, there are 14 cases in Hennepin County, 13 of which are epidemiologically-linked in the Somali population there.  This situation highlights the infectiousness of measles and how easily it can be spread to immunologically-naive people, even with overall high vaccination rates.  Uptake of MMR is estimated to be greater than 95% in 70% of U.S. schools, however, private schools are not surveyed and 12 states were below 95% with some as low as 81%.  There is also geographical clustering of "like-minded" people in communities that leave large numbers of susceptible children at risk for measles.  Additionally, lists of "vaccine-friendly" doctors, like this one provided by Dr. Bob can be geographically-linked to large numbers of school exemptions for vaccines.

This is what can, has and will happen again with the current recommendations that these "vaccine-friendly" doctors make:  In 2008, an intentionally unvaccinated 7 year old child came back to the states from a visit to Switzerland with his parents.
In January 2008, measles was identified in an unvaccinated boy from San Diego, California, who had recently traveled to Europe with his family. After his case was confirmed, an outbreak investigation and response were initiated by local and state health departments in coordination with CDC, using standard measles surveillance case definitions and classifications.* This report summarizes the preliminary results of that investigation, which has identified 11 additional cases of measles in unvaccinated children in San Diego that are linked epidemiologically to the index case and include two generations of secondary transmission. Recommendations for preventing further measles transmission from importations in this and other U.S. settings include reminding health-care providers to 1) consider a diagnosis of measles in ill persons who have traveled overseas, 2) use appropriate infection-control practices to prevent transmission in health-care settings, and 3) maintain high coverage with measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine among children.

The index patient was an unvaccinated boy aged 7 years who had visited Switzerland with his family, returning to the United States on January 13, 2008. He had fever and sore throat on January 21, followed by cough, coryza, and conjunctivitis. On January 24, he attended school. On January 25, the date of his rash onset, he visited the offices of his family physician and his pediatrician. A diagnosis of scarlet fever was ruled out on the basis of a negative rapid test for streptococcus. When the boy's condition became worse on January 26, he visited a children's hospital inpatient laboratory, where blood specimens were collected for measles antibody testing; later that day, he was taken to the same hospital's emergency department because of high fever 104°F (40°C) and generalized rash. No isolation precautions were instituted at the doctors' offices or hospital facilities.