Facts, not Fantasy

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

60 Minutes on the impact of antivaccination lobbying

60 Minutes Australia gets the point!  If you go to the YouTube page, there is naturally a deluded anti-vax nutter there that is posting all sorts of nonsense.  Sadly, babies die because of the likes of them.

Dr. Phil Plait over at Bad Astronomy has also covered this. Only reason his is dated for earlier in the week is because I wrote this over the weekend, and set it up to automatically publish later.  I am doing a lot of travelling for work (and yes, all my vaccines are up to date, so at least I am not being a danger to anyone).  At least we aren't alone in knowing and understanding these dangers.

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Vaccine Times: Doctors Without Borders embark on massive vaccination campaign in Zambia

Nigeria, Zambia, the UK, the US.  The list goes on where measles is having a major resurgence.I just can't help but wonder if this is actually the goal of some of these people.  I know that most of us have forgotten the horrors of watching these diseases ravage our communities, but I would think that would be a good thing.  Why do these anti-vax nutters struggle so hard to bring these diseases back?
A measles epidemic affecting thousands of Zambian children has prompted Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) in collaboration with Zambian health authorities, to embark in a massive vaccination campaign aiming to reach 600,000 children between the ages of 6 months to 15 years.

Teams began work early in May in two provinces that have suffered the most cases, 3,043 and 4,670 respectively. During the first two weeks of the campaign, nearly 270,000 were vaccinated. The campaign which was supposed to take about 3 weeks should have concluded, or be in its winding stages, as you read this.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Vaccine Times: Russell Blaylock MD - The new Wakefield?

Is anyone taking bets on when this charlatan will be on some credulous TV show spouting off his nonsense?

The anti-vaxers’ ability to find real doctors to support their particular brand of quackery is admirable: think Dr. Jay Gordon, Andrew Wakefield and countless others. Someone I was not previously aware off joins the illustrious ranks; we are  introduced to Dr. Russell Blaylock M.D. In a recent tweet, Meryl “I’m not anti-vaccine I’m pro-safe-vaccine even though vaccines=rape” Dorey linked to an article ominously titled “If You Are In Support of Vaccinations, Read This If You Dare“, published at thehealthy- economist.com. Now, how could I be expected to resist a dare from thehealthy- economist? I had to read.

As the first sentence of the article shows, we’re in for quite a spectacle:
If you are in support of vaccinations, this well written, concise and compelling letter by world renowned neurologist Dr. Russell Blaylock MD will dismantle every single argument used to support this inhumane, barbaric practice.
Wow, he’s world-renowned and is going to dismantle every single argument supporting vaccinations in one letter. What could possibly go wrong with that? I’m sure a world-renowned neurologist won’t stoop to the tired, old, already debunked anti-vaccine talking points. No, this guy will present earth-shattering evidence, unassailable arguments that will just leave the rest of us in the pro-health community flabbergasted and speechless. Did I mention he’s a world-renowned neurologist?

Who is Russell Blaylock MD?
He’s not new to the pseudo-scientific world according to the Skeptics Dictionary. He’s been around for a while apparently dabbling in pseudo-scientific endeavors with regards to vaccines, cancer, and other woo lovers topics such as water fluoridation, teeth fillings, aspartame etc.
CLICK HERE TO READ THE REST OF THE ARTICLE.  It's a long one, but forewarned is forearmed.  And this nutter needs to be shown for what he is!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Rachel's Story

This is the story of a child that is now deaf as the result of measles. The poor mother of this child thought that herd immunity would protect her child.  Sadly it didn't.  Herd immunity is no substitute for vaccines. For more similar stories, visit shotbyshot.org

GAVI and me

There are some causes worth fighting for and recently Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation had a conference to drum up funding for vaccination schemes across Africa where vaccine uptakes are low.

It doesn't matter if you give money or give time or merely spread the word to those who can give money. Please donate. Vaccination is the most cost effective way of halting the spread of disease and improving the lives of people in the developing world.

Some of that money comes down to where I study and helps fund the various vaccination schemes I support out here, so please help your fellow simians out.

Viera Scheibner's Quick Points - A Rebuttal

Viera Schiebner at her non-muggle job.

I find this woman odious, a genuine harpy. Twisting the misery and suffering of countless children across the world to fit her world view of anti-vaccination and anti-medicine. Her work has recently begun to resurface courtesy of outbreaks of measles across Europe. It's not sufficient that she misrepresents her "speciality" as a micro-paleontologist and uses her doctrate to make people assume that she is a medical doctor. Her work has routinely been called to question and is responsible for the idea that the whooping cough vaccine is responsible for SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). She has also linked Shaken Baby Syndrome to vaccination and claimed that childhood diseases such as mumps, measles, whooping cough and german measles are vital for development and only cause fatalities under medical mismanagement. Her work forms the foundation of all sorts of moronic anti-vaccine ideology based out of Australia. In response to the previous Measles outbreak in the UK immediately post Andrew Wakefield's shoddy research she produced her own Quick Points about the Measles Outbreak.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Vaccine Times: Flu kills 602 Britons in 2010

Just a straight copy/paste from Vaccine Times.  I have highlighted the item of interest though.  Again, this is not some ignored nation in Africa, but one that is supposedly modern!
The 2010 flu season has left quite a mark in the United Kingdom. The UKs Health Protection Agency (HPA) reports that 602 Britons have died of it this past season. That makes it deadlier than the 2009 swine flu pandemic which claimed the lives of 474 Britons. However, the swine flu claimed the most lives this year as well, with a total of 562 deaths due to it. That lead to the majority of victims (415) being in the age group of 15-64. Forty-five of those that died were children under 14, and 9 were pregnant women.

Information on vaccination history was available for about half of the fatal cases and almost 75 % (229/307) had not received the flu vaccine this year. Among children, there were 25 reported deaths in those aged five to 14 years, 16 in children aged between one and four and nine in children less than a year old. A further 91 probable cases are still under investigation to confirm flu as the cause of death.
Hopefully you and your loved ones will keep in mind all these individuals as you have an opportunity to get a flu vaccine this year.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Vaccine Times: US Measles Update

Did someone mention that only third world countries have outbreaks of these "unclean" diseases like measles?  Well, the US is rapidly gaining the reputation of a nation with a third rate health-care system, and it would seem that quite a bit of data does not help the cause for the US to tout itself ans first rate.  The main thing to note when looking at this data is the vaccination status of all the people getting measles.

The U.S. is experiencing the highest numbers of measles in 15 years, according to a recent report by the CDC. During 2001-2008 the median number of cases has been 56 per year. So far, through May 20, 2011 that number has more than doubled. Here is a summary of the latest numbers:
  • 118 cases reported (105 lab confirmed), the highest number reported for this period since 1996
  • 105 (89%) associated with importation from other countries
  • 105 (89%) patients were unvaccinated
  • 47  (40%) patients were hospitalized and nine had pneumonia, no one had encephalitis and no one died
  • All but one hospitalized patients were unvaccinated
  • Patients ranged in age from 3 months to 68 years
    • 18 (15%) were aged <12 months
    • 24 (20%) were aged 1–4 years
    • 23 (19%) were aged 5–19 years
    • 53 (45%) were aged ≥20 years

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Vaccine Times: Meningitis and measles kill 41 in Nigeria

So yesterday there was a post about measles affecting people in the US.  I made the flip comment about the US not being a third world nation.  Sadly, the way the anti-vax movement has taken hold I don't see it being very much longer before I see headlines like this, except it saying Nigeria or any other country, it will be in your home state.
Meningitis and measles have killed 41 people in Yobe State, Nigeria in the past 18 months. In 2010, 322 cases of Cerebrospinal Meningitis were recorded with 22 fatalities. This year, through May, another 51 cases and 4 more deaths were reported, for a total toll of 26 deaths.

Measles caused 7 deaths out of 464 cases in 2010, whereas in the current year it caused 3,022 cases and 8 deaths so far, for a total of 15 measles deaths.

This is not some fear mongering dire warning, but rather a reality that we seem to be blindly stumbling towards because of all the misinformation is impacting parent's ability to make informed decisions.  If you have ever sat and talked to a doctor, and mentioned you read something on the internet, watch their eyes.  If they don't actually roll their eyes, you have a doctor that has nerves of steel, or is no longer surprised that the average citizen thinks that Google gives them an M.D.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Vaccine Times: Measles outbreaks dont' come cheap

Sometimes the canard that "Big Pharma" is making money hand over fist from vaccines.  That assertion is incredibly silly for so many reasons, least of all is that it costs a great deal less to prevent a disease than it does to treat it.  Vaccines prevent disease, and pharmaceutical companies and hospitals would make so much more by just allowing people to catch these diseases, and then treating the myriad of (potentially fatal) symptoms.  So if anything, distributing vaccines acts against their financial interest to make money, although it does act in the ethical and humane manner of preventing suffering.  Something that the anti-vax nutters never seem to get into their heads.  So putting actual numbers to some of the cost, here is a quick article:

On top of all the other problems that measles outbreaks cause, monetary costs can also be quite significant. As the recent outbreak in Utah shows, relatively small outbreaks (in terms of overall numbers) can cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars to deal with. The Utah measles outbreak cost $130,000 and 3,000 work hours to contain. At the end 9 people were infected, 184 were put in voluntary quarantine for up to 21 days.

As bad as that is, it pales in comparison to the 2008 Arizona outbreak. That outbreak started when an infected Swiss traveler visited one hospital. By the end 14 people were infected, involving two different hospitals with total costs of almost $800,000. For a detailed description of how that specific outbreak unfolded read this article at Wired.com.

And all this isn't from some third world country (only one with a third world like health-care system).

Monday, June 13, 2011

Vaccine Times: Vaccine Preventable Suffering Kailis Smith

Unimaginable heartbreak in the wake of a vaccine preventable death.  Not a vaccine directly administered to the poor child who is now dead, but rather a vaccine that goes to all those around the child, and helps preserve Herd Immunity, which is one of the greatest benefits of vaccines.  Instead, the anti-vax nutters would rather endanger those too young to have a say in this battle for public health.

Age at death – 9 weeks

Cause of death – Whooping cough

Vaccination status – Unvaccinated due to young age

What happened – Little Kailis was taken to the doctor with cold-like symptoms, sometime towards the middle/end of March 2011. He was sent home; his parents were told he had a cold. However, things got worse and within a couple of days he had to be rushed back to the hospital. He had stopped breathing and had to be resuscitated twice on his way back to hospital.
Kailis was put on life support on March 31st; he was given only a 10% chance of survival. He fought bravely, however his little body gave up the fight on April 22, 2011. He was not vaccinated due to his young age. His parents, sibling and their friends were all vaccinated. They do not know how Kailis was exposed to the virus; the most likely culprit would be someone in the public who was infected. His distraught parents are pleading with everyone to get vaccinated.


Sunday, June 12, 2011

Just the Vax: Vaccine Exemption and Disease: Rubella

Sometimes irony just screams at you.  I think this particular notice from Just the Vax is one such instance.
The CDC published the Vaccination Coverage Among Children in Kindergarten United States, 2009/10 School Year in the June 3 issue of its MMRW today. Some media outlets picked up the news that Washington has highest vaccine opt-out rate in country. Over 6% of Kindergartners have an exemption for one or more vaccines. While that doesn't seem much at first glance, it does push vaccination coverage at an age where kids are very likely to spread disease under the level that is assumed to be needed for herd immunity. Ironically, in the same issue of the MMWR, the CDC reports two cases of rubella in Washington, one imported, one indigenous.

Honestly? I wonder what sort of false eco-nostalgic ideals Washingtonians are striving for, but is it really those times when hundreds (thousands in epidemic years) of babies per year contracted rubella in the womb and died in utero, or were born with horrendous malformations, deaf, blind, with heart defects?!

Vaccine exemptions lead to disease outbreaks - this is a small example. I wonder how many larger and much more catastrophic examples it will need for some parents to clue in? 
I think the thing that truly makes this ironic is that congenital rubella syndrome is one known cause of autism. See, it just screams at you!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Anti-Vax Nutters Show the Weakness of their Position

The anti-vax crowd likes to get together and mentally masturbate over their position.  One such venue is the Autism One convention.  By now, I'm sure you've heard about Jamie Bernstein, and her treatment at that convention.  Especially considering that she registered for it, and was adhering to all the rules.  I think it highlights the weakness of the anti-vax crowd when they go to such lengths to silence any dissent to their position.  And in such an over the top way!

The Bad Astronomer has a good take on the article, with plenty of links to follow up with on the whole story.  I will add in my own musing on this whole issue.  What I find particularly ironic about these alt-med woo peddlers is that they are up in arms about some faceless “Big Pharma” selling medicine (THAT ACTUALLY WORKS), but when some unqualified quack tries to sell them twigs and berries that do nothing, they gladly fork over their money…

There’s a grand irony about skepticism and alt-med groups that I suspect most people don’t know. Skeptics are commonly seen as curmudgeonly cynics, poopooing new ideas and excluding anyone not in their club. Alt-med people are seen as warm, open, willing to try new things, and welcoming anyone to their group.

But that’s not the way it really works. In fact, skeptical groups welcome people who believe in various things we don’t (we’ve had them come to various TAMs; the effort we make in outreach could be improved, of course, but we certainly don’t turn them away — an important point, as you’ll see in a moment), and alt-med groups… well, they talk a good game, but when it comes down to a skeptic actually showing up at their meetings, their actions speak much louder than words.

But don’t take my word for it. You can read all about what happened to my pal and active supporter of real medicine Jamie Bernstein when she attended the antivax Autism One convention. She wrote up her experience in two parts: the first on Skepchick, and the second on Friendly Atheist.

The upshot? Despite behaving herself, obeying the rules, and being very polite, she was escorted out of the meeting by three security guards and four armed police officers, ejected on clearly trumped-up charges.

As Orac points out, does this sound like an open and honest movement? Or does it sound like people who are terrified of different opinions and quash dissent, even before it happens?
Yep, she looks downright criminally dangerous, doesn't she!

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

The Human Cost of Andrew Wakefield

For those who are unaware of this fine example of humanity, Andrew Wakefield was the doctor who was responsible for the shoddy piece of research that lead to the rumour that measles vaccines can cause autism. 

The MMR vaccine was the primary focus of the anti-vaccine stance since this was the vaccine that people believed PROVED a link between vaccination and illness. Turns out it did not. 

This has caused a rise in outbreaks across Europe and America particularly when measles sufferers have travelled from reservoirs of disease in the east. And this has come to haunt us. 

Currently there are 6500 cases across Europe, far higher than the national average. For instance in 2010 France has had 5090 cases. While between January to March this year there have been 4937 cases and rising. The same is seen in the UK with the sudden boom in cases reaching 330 cases. 

The fault lies in the lack of vaccination. It is clear and simple. Money that could have been saved by vaccination is now being spent ensuring these kids survive their disease without the harm that it can cause. Post Wakefield fewer children were vaccinated at one point dropping to nearly 50%, and more and more cases were seen until the current epidemic. 85% of the people are vaccinated but the disease is highly contagious with an infection rate of 90%. If you are un-vaccinated and run into a measles sufferer in the same area or having passed through the same area, then there is a 90% chance of catching the disease. 

The price people paid for measles was a high one. Modern technology has softened the blow but the blow is still there. Fewer people will be deaf or blind or have developmental disorders but this is a disease preventable by vaccination. The number and cost would have been a lot cheaper. 

The attitude of the anti-vaccine movement was like encouraging people to not wear seatbelts. Now the car has crashed. The question remains is whether we can contain the spread of a disease that is airborne or not before it costs us more lives. 

We need vaccination, and we need it now, before we pay the price in bodies rather than in Pounds and Euros.