Facts, not Fantasy

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Evilution II - Caveman Boogaloo

Bryan Fischer joins the three pronged attack on Evilution where he has four points that disprove evolution and thus prove Governor Rick Perry as awesome and on the ball, not a backward hick with no knowledge of science.

Bryan Fischer is normally a hate filled sorry excuse for a human being whose crusade to deny homosexuals basic rights is well known. But here he dabbles his feet in the murky waters of creationism to defend Rick Perry which just is pathetic. He parrots out old hackneyed defences of creationism that simply don't even stand up to the mildest of scrutiny.

Evilution I - The Dawkinator

All Power to the Hypno-Dawkins

Part one of today's posts consists of wailing on the Washington Post's very own Jordan Sekulow, Lawyer and someone who Just Does Not Get Atheism. Which is perfectly fine, not everyone gets it. It's a choice to not get it, just like it is a choice to correct his misconceptions with how atheism, evolution and the world works.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

They are at it again!

Ah the usual quacks at Natural News are upto their old denials again.

See the problem is Natural News is a relatively large site so it gets hits quite easily from scared parents who want to find out more about this whole "vaccine bruhaha" so they find the site and quickly are scared into not vaccinating their child.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Vaccine Times: Universal Flu Vaccine Another Step Closer, But Still Far

This is exciting news, even though we still have a long way to go.  I suppose that even though this aligns with one of the goals of the anti-vax pro-disease nutters (i.e. fewer vaccines), I bet they will still find a fault in this line of research as well.  One of the hallmarks of their irrational thinking and poor logic is that nothing will ever make them happy.  I think one of the cool things about this research is that our understanding of molecular level evolution led us down this path.  Here we consistently hit on two of the most irrational denialisms on the planet in one post!
3D model of an influenza virus.
On the Apr-Jun 2011 issue of  The Vaccine Times we reported on a new flu shot being tested which could do away with our need for yearly flu shots.  The vaccine candidate, called VAX102 is based on an antibody called F16 which can target a common protein shared by all Influenza A viruses which are the most virulent and the most prone to mutation influenza viruses.

Recently U.S. scientists are reporting the finding of a new antibody which can tackle 30 of the 36 known strains of H1N1 (a virus of the A type) flu virus. The newly discovered antibody, called CH65, can stick to the surface part of the flu virus known as hemagglutinin which mutates every season, forcing the formulation of a new vaccine every year.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Meningitis Angels

I was on a business trip to Texas, and I heard about this on the radio as I was driving to a meeting.  Apparently it is a Texas Law that all incoming college freshmen be immunized against meningitis.  They also encourage kids entering Jr. High or High School to get the shots as well.  Generally I make a lot of fun of Texas for their otherwise positively bronze age outlook on things, but in this case I support them.  An organization that is very active in Texas is Meningitis Angels.  Give their website a look and of course support their efforts as best as you can.

P.S.  It being Texas and all, I realize this group probably has very strong religious overtones.  However, I cannot find fault in what they do, since their actions are to prevent disease with evidenced based medicine.  That is why I encourage you support them.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Vaccine Prevemntable Death - Gavin Norton

Another heartbreaking story that shouldn't really have happened!  It is for children like this that we insist on herd immunity.  It's a wonder that this is even a debate in this day and age. It takes a deranged type of sicko to intentionally put the smallest and defenseless of us at risk like this.  And why the anti-vax pro-disease nutters may not think that this is what they are doing, it really is.  They are equally as responsible for these deaths as if they had coughed on this young child themselves.  Their misinformation and lies is what leads to these deaths.
Age at death – 10 weeks
Cause of death – Pertussis (whooping cough)
Vaccination status – Unvaccinated due to young age
What happened – When Gavin was born his parents felt “absolute joy — just elation.” Unfortunately that was not meant to last. Gavin was taken away from them by the dreaded killer, whooping cough.
When Gavin was 2 months old, the Nortons planned a vacation to celebrate Christmas with family in Utah. To be safe, Gavin’s mom, Natalie, took him to his doctor for a general check up. Gavin was given the green light for the trip.
About a week into their Utah trip, Gavin developed a cough. Concerned, the Nortons took Gavin to a doctor who told them it was respiratory syncytial virus — a virus that infects the lungs and breathing passages. The pediatrician said the baby would be sick for about a week, recover for another week and then get well, but the parents were told to watch out for rapid breathing, increased heart rate and a decrease in appetite.
However, Gavin’s condition quickly declined. He was rushed to the emergency room at Primary Children’s Medical Center.
“It was horrifying and very scary,” Richie Norton described. “But at the same time, we just had all the faith in the world that he was going to be fine … but that’s not the way it happened.”
At 8 weeks of age, little Gavin was diagnosed with whooping cough. At 10 weeks his littel body gave up the fight. Gavin was born on Oct. 24, 2009, and passed away Jan. 7, 2010.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Vaccine Times: The Greater Good debunked

The Vaccine Times has taken on "The Greater Good" propaganda piece.  And trust me, it IS propaganda.  It is so full of lies and distortions that just in the trailer The Vaccine Times had 17 points that they had to debunk.  Not to mention that once you look into this blatant propaganda, you find out that the shills promoting this garbage are clearly anti-vax pro-disease nutters.  Just go to The Vaccine Times article on this.  It's enough to make you sick!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Vaccine Times: Over 1100 children KILLED by measels

Again, a disease that has mothers getting together to intentionally spread it around has KILLED over one THOUSAND children...  And the anti-vax pro-disease folks seem to want to bring this level of ravaging of life back, because they feel that "natural" immunity is better, and that any incidental "suffering" isn't as bad as the (incredibly LOW) risk of vaccines...  That's why I run this site!
In some cultures, there used to be a time when parents were instructed not to count their children, or in some cases not to name them, until they caught, and survived, certain childhood diseases. Parents used to have 8, 9, or 10 children with the hopes that a few would survive to adulthood. Nowadays, modern medicine, and modern living conditions, have made it so that most of us can have just two children and be reasonably assured that they will not die needlessly from a preventable disease. It is undeniable that vaccines played a major role in that.

However, even in today’s world we are constantly reminded just how deadly these diseases can be, none more tragic than the news coming out of The Republic of Congo, where measles has killed at least 1,145 children, and sickened over 115,600 between January and June, 2011. In 2010, 5,407 cases and 82 deaths were reported; in 2009 there were only 899 cases and 26 deaths. I could comment on how tragically horrible this is, but I think the numbers speak for themselves.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Imagine playing soccer if you had Polio!

A video from the The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.  Just imagine playing football (soccer) if you had polio!

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Vaccine Times: Why vaccinate against Hep B if it's sexually transimtted?

This is a very good question.  And I think it's a valid one by all means.  However, I think too many people dismiss the real risks associated with Hep B.  Furthermore, ensuring immunity while young may get more people, since in general, vaccination rates fall off for the general public as they get older.
A common question about vaccines has to do with Hep B and goes like this: Heb B is a sexually transmitted disease. Why am I vaccinating my newborn for it? This is not a question without merit, and a very good question to ask. Parents should always be encouraged to seek more information. So, in this entry I will try my best to scour the web for information and come up with a good answer.

It is true that Hep B can be transmitted sexually, however it is not transmitted ONLY sexually. The virus passes from one individual to the other through various bodily fluids, including blood, semen, vaginal fluids, saliva, and other body fluids. Here are some ways in which the disease can spread:
  • Blood transfusions
  • Contact with blood in health care settings
  • Had direct contact with the blood of an infected person by touching an open wound or being stuck with a needle
  • Had unprotected sex with an infected person
  • Received a tattoo or acupuncture with contaminated instruments
  • Shared needles during drug use
  • Shared personal items (such as toothbrushes, razors, and nail clippers) with an infected person
Furthermore, a baby can get the virus from the mother during childbirth, if the mother is infected.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Vaccine Times: What's in that vaccine?

To go along with Avicenna's post the other day, I think this one should compliment it.  The three most important parts of that post are:
Again, The Vaccine Times has these as well for you.
One of the things that worries parents more than anything else about vaccines is what exactly is in the vaccine. Generally speaking a vaccine contains the antigen, the part of the virus or bacteria that is meant to induce the immune response, a solution in which it is suspended, generally a saline solution, and “other stuff”. The antigen could be a dead germ, part of a germ, a protein from the germ etc. The other stuff is generally what the “green our vaccines” crowd worry about.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

The Vaccine Tinmes: The worst misconceptions parents of some unvaccinated children hold

The whole reason I put this blog and this web page together is to combat many of the myths (do I dare say outright lies) that are out there.  While it is easy to try to polarize the issues, there are some fundamental flaws in reasoning amongst the anti-vaxers that taint the entire viewpoint from the outset.  The Vaccine Times has a good article on this.  Just a quick intro, and the conclusions:
The other day, as I was catching up on my vaccines Google Alert, I ran across a blog entry titled The Worst Things People Say About Unvaccinated Kids over at a website called Babble. In this article, the author lists what she considers to be the 5 worst things other people, presumably parents of vaccinated children, say about unvaccinated children, and she   provides rebuttals to these assertions.

I am a bit torn about how to properly respond to this entry, as there is some truth to what the author says. For example , she points out that being told that ” I’m a bad parent, I will not be persuaded to see things your way.” This is true. Most parents who have chosen not to vaccinate their kids, whom I have had a chance to have any sort of meaningful interaction with, are not bad parents, but precisely the opposite is true. It is out of what they consider justified caution that they choose not to vaccinate. They are wrong in their analysis of the pros and cons of vaccines, but that does no make them bad parents. And, if your goal is to persuade them to analyze the issue properly, offending them by calling them stupid, idiots, or bad parents is not the way to go. Everyone makes wrong decisions, you and I included. So a little bit of civility and giving the other person the benefit of the doubt is called for, I think.

Having said that, let us look at her list in detail, as these thoughts, in my opinion, are something that a lot of anti-vaccine parents share.
READ THE REST OF THE POST HERE.  And now here is the conclusion:
The article I reviewed here gives us a glimpse into the anti-vaxxer’s mind. It is my opinion that most anti-vaccine proponents share a few charachteristics which include the following:
  • They have convinced themselves that the diseases are harmless, or at the very least that the risk from the disease is much less than the risk from the vaccines.
  • They believe their children are no more likely to catch and spread a disease than vaccinated children.
  • They believe incidence has decreased independent of vaccines.
  • They think that the statistics about the dangers presented by vaccine-preventable diseases are nothing more than fear-mongering.
  • They believe vaccines do not work at preventing these diseases.
These beliefs are wrong and not supported by evidence, however it is clear to see that once one accepts these premises as true, the decision not to vaccinate does follow logically. Their conclusion is wrong, as they are starting with the wrong premises, but they are not stupid or idiots, at least the majority aren’t. They are in most cases just as intelligent, if not more intelligent and educated, than the average person. The only difference between anti-vaccine proponents and pro-healthers is the required standard of evidence. If you really look at it, all disagreements boil down to one question: “What is to be considered acceptable evidence?”

This unfortunately means that it is highly unlikely, if not impossible, to change the mind of an anti-vaccine believer, since in order to do that, you’d have to completely change how they assign weight to evidence, akin to trying to convince a religious person to become an atheist on the basis of rational arguments.

And that is something you and I may not be able to do in the vast majority of cases.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Everything you need to know about Immunity but were too afraid to ask!

But not Donkeys!
One of the major problems with the whole vaccination movement is that most people cannot understand how vaccines are meant to work. Many anti-vaccine advocates simply think that injecting someone with a disease is a good way to make someone sick rather than someone immune to a disease.

With that in mind, I have produced this primer on immunity and how vaccination works. There are pretty pictures and analogies. 

An immune system in a human being is a series of defences designed to deal with an infection by a foreign organism. It is a multi layered defence system which reduces infection as well as actively combats germs and parasites. Like onions, ogres and parfait. 

It's both a physical and a biological entity and it's responsible for a lot of medicine, from vaccinations to blood transfusions and organ transplantation. It's also involved in diseases such as auto immune disorders which are increasingly common.

Basically, immunity is this amazing system that keeps most of us healthy. It can be summarised as

Parts of the Immune System 

Innate - 

This is the cell's innate ability to detect foreign material and eliminate them without the bodies own specific response. It is a generic quick response to disease causing organisms  (Pathogens) which invade our body to either prevent an infection or slow it doen sufficiently for the slower but more effective and selective Adaptive Immune system to activate. It consists of

Anatomical barriers -
These consist of physical barriers. The skin itself is impermeable to pathogens providing defences like a solid wall. Our nasal passage is lined with mucous that is constantly moved into the stomach catching pathogens and killing them. Our eyes are covered in caustic tears and our mouths in saliva which contains a variety of enzymes. all these ensure that the vast majority of pathogens are killed before they can even enter an area where they can cause harm.

Inflammation -
This is not a bad thing but the symptoms we associate with inflammation are due to the localised response to the presence of a foreign body or pathogen. It's main purpose is to provide a physical barrier to control the spread of infection and to heal damaged tissue in the region.

Damaged cells give out a bunch of chemical factors which cause pain and blood vessels to become more permeable. This attracts phagocytes and alerts you to the injury allowing you to cover it to prevent further infections. Phagocytes are "cells that eat", they recognise foreign or dead tissue and physically consume it and digest it.

The inflammation is simply noted by the moniker of rubor, calor, tumor et dolor (red, hot, swollen and painful). Normally inflammation is a good thing (it's what makes insect bites itch) but its bad in auto immune diseases such as arthritis.

Complement System -
This is a biochemical cascade that once activated causes the influx of phagocytic cells from blood into the tissue. The thing to remember is that our blood vessels are actually permeable and the phagocytes can actively squeeze through to get into the tissue area.

It is via this system foreign cells are recognised and either "eaten and digested" by the White Blood Cells or are lysed by general antibodies. The complement pathway has a long evolutionary history with parts of it even seen in plants.

Cells Involved -
The white blood cells (WBC) involved are
Mast Cells - A cell associated with allergy and anaphylaxis. A mediator of inflammation response.
Mast cells, the pink dots
are histamine which causes hayfever.
Phagocytes -  Large cells that move like amoeba. They "eat" other cells by surrounding them with their plasma membranes producing "bubbles" in which they can release enzymes safely without damaging other cells. They have a role in normal development as our normal cells do "commit suicide" in specific ways to produce our shape. These help with clean up. 
Macrophages - Large Phagocytic cells that efficiently consume multiple pathogens. Heavily motile and actively cross from the blood stream into tissue to hunt down pathogens. They kill by the use of free radical oxygen. 
Macrophage "om nom noming"
on pathogens
Neutr/Eosin/Basophils -  A series of similar cells that target a variety of different pathogens non specifically. Have "granules" similar to ground coffee that have specific actions. 
The big pink cell with all the weird
purple nucleus is a eosinophil
Natural Killer Cells - These are interesting, they don't target pathogens but cells infected by viruses or cancerous cells. They recognise these and induce controlled cell death halting the spread of cancerous tissue or viruses. 
Dendritic Cells and Gamma/Delta T Cells - These are the bridge between the innate and adaptive systems and their main role is antigen presentation. They harvest proteins from damaged pathogens and present them to T-Cells. 

Adaptive -

The dendritic cells activate our adaptive immune system. It's a series of specialised cells that produce antibodies which "mark" out pathogens for destruction with greater specificity. It basically any cell marked with an antibody gets destroyed. Evolutionarily speaking it's quite elegant utilising mutations (somatic hypermutation) to produce endless varieties of "antigen receptors". When an antigen matches a receptor, antibodies are produced specific to that antigen.

The antibodies are the main weapon of our body to fight disease. It is a larger response than innate immunity and once sensitised the adaptive immune system often fights of diseases even before we can manifest the signs of disease.

Cells involved -
These are called Lymphocytes mainly as they are found circulating in lymph more than in blood, their role is determined by the cell itself.
T - Lymphocytes - The main role of the cell is to recognise cells infected by viruses and trigger the apoptotic pathway destroying the cell and its viral load. Since viruses only replicate inside cells this kills them enmasse as phagocytes consume the destroyed cell debris and digest the contents. The antigen of the viral cell is recognised by surface antibodies on the T-Lymphocyte. There are also helper T-Lymphocytes whose role is control and organisation of the response.
B - Lymphocytes - The main role of these is to produce humoral (free floating) antibodies that recognise pathogens and mark them for destruction by activating the complement system and by causing the pathogen to become "sticky" but only with other pathogens. This causes them to clump together and make them easier to kill.  
Memory Cells - After the infection has passed, most of these cells die. However a few are maintained in circulation as "memory cells". In future infections these are rapidly activated to produce a humoral response which quickly destroys any new infections even before they produce any symptoms. 
In Infants, there is a version of this system called passive immunity. Certain classes of antibodies can cross the placental barrier and can be absorbed through milk particularly the colostrum (first milk). These give the new born baby the same range of protection as the mother.

This is how our natural system works. It doesn't recognise our own cells as self recognising antibodies are actively destroyed. However in cases of organ transplant, blood donation or foetal blood incompatibility the body can target itself. In autoimmune diseases we can see a pathological breakdown of this system targeting the self rather than pathogens.

Hacking the System -

All of this sounds pretty damn awesome, but it's not infallible. Remember the pathogens themselves have their own tricks to avoid being caught and killed while remaining long enough to survive and spread. The range of tricks is colossal from lysogeny (the ability of a virus to integrate it's DNA into ours. Herpes does this! The common cold sore is a form of this ability.) to shuffling antigens (the common cold does this.)

So what we need is a way of beating diseases at their own game. A way of acquiring immunity to diseases without the disease itself.

That way is vaccination. The idea is simple, you take known antigens and inject them into the body. The body's cells recognise these "bits and pieces" and produce an immune response as if there were a real threat maintaining a population of "memory cells" to deal with subsequent infections. Every infection you stop actually increases your immune response. So there are a variety of different responses. The response to just an antigen mix is less than a dead/killed cell which is less than a severely weakened cell. However as long as we are under a vaccinated period we should be able to fight off an infection. It isn't 100% fool proof but it means that the vast majority of people are immune to a particular disease preventing it's spread in general.

Vaccination is merely a trick, to trick our bodies into thinking that it has fought of a disease when in reality it has not. At worst you save time and money that would have been wasted in treating the sick and at best you save lives out of it.