Predicting US measles outbreak – vaccine uptake and international travel

The locations of the current US measles outbreak (or epidemic) was predicted by researchers in an article recently published in Lancet Infectious Diseases. The amazingly prescient predictions were not based on magic, but on a scientific analysis of two factors – the vaccination rate and international travel tendencies by county in the United States.

And the statistical website, Five Thirty-Eight, took the predictions and listed out what happened during this US measles outbreak. The predictions were spot on.

Time to look at this study and its predicted results.

Continue reading “Predicting US measles outbreak – vaccine uptake and international travel”

Hierarchy of scientific evidence – keys to scientific skepticism and vaccines

hierarchy of scientific evidence

I am a scientific skeptic. It means that I pursue published scientific evidence to support or refute a scientific or medical principle. I am not a cynic, often conflated with skepticism. I don’t have an opinion about these ideas. Scientific skepticism depends on the quality and quantity of evidence that supports a scientific idea. And examining the hierarchy of scientific evidence can be helpful in deciding what is good data and what is bad. What can be used to form a conclusion, and what is useless.

That’s how science is done. And I use the hierarchy of scientific evidence to weigh the quality along with the quantity of evidence in reaching a conclusion. I am generally offended by those who push pseudoscience – they generally try to find evidence that supports their predetermined beliefs. That’s not science, that’s the opposite of good science.

Unfortunately, in today’s world of instant news made up of memes and a couple of hundred character analyses flying across social media make it difficult to determine what is real science and what is not. Sometimes we create an internal false balance, assuming that headlines (often written to be clickbait) on one side are somehow equivalent to another side. So, we think there’s a scientific debate when there isn’t one.

When I write about a topic, I attempt to write detailed, thoughtful and nuanced (with a touch of snark) articles about scientific ideas. I know they can be complex and long-winded, but I also know science is hard. It’s difficult.

Sorry about that, but if it were so easy, everyone on the internet would be doing science – and we see that most of what we find on the internet that claims to be science is not. Unfortunately, there are too many people writing on the internet who think they are talking about science, but they fail to differentiate between good and bad evidence.

But there is a way to make this easier. Not easy, just easier. This is my guide to amateur (and if I do a good job, professional) method to evaluating scientific research quality across the internet.

Continue reading “Hierarchy of scientific evidence – keys to scientific skepticism and vaccines”

Dr Bob Sears license on probation for invalid vaccine exemptions – again

Dr Bob Sears

On 27 June 2018, Dr Robert (Bob) Sears, an anti-vaccine pediatrician, agreed to a stipulation with the California Medical Board that put his license to practice on probation and subjected him to a set of non-trivial conditions.

The revocation of the medical license of Dr Bob Sears was stayed by the Medical Board – it will not become operative unless he violates the conditions – but given the specific allegations in the complaint and the fact that this was his first disciplinary action, an immediate full revocation was not likely. The sanction is non-trivial, and a clear warning against future misconduct.  Continue reading “Dr Bob Sears license on probation for invalid vaccine exemptions – again”

California SB276 – legislation to reduce vaccine medical exemption abuse

sb276

On 20 June 2019, after a long day of testimony on California SB276 from both sides of the mandatory vaccine issue, the assembly health committee voted 9 in favor, 2 against, and 2 abstaining to move forward with the bill which can prevent fake medical exemptions.

This post will describe the amended bill and then shortly address today’s events. Continue reading “California SB276 – legislation to reduce vaccine medical exemption abuse”

Hepatitis B virus causes cancer – yes, the vaccine can prevent it

hepatitis b virus

A recent study provides more evidence that the hepatitis B virus (HBV) is linked to a variety of cancers – that’s not surprising to most of us. We also know that the HBV vaccine can prevent the infection, thereby preventing a wide range of cancers. 

Despite the facts supporting the dangers of the hepatitis B virus, the anti-vaccine zealots absolutely despise the vaccine, especially since it’s usually given to newborns (with a second dose recommended at 1-2 months along with a third dose at about 12-18 months) to prevent HBV infections passed from the mother.

Let’s take a look at the hepatitis B virus and this new peer-reviewed paper that discusses the link between HBV and a number of cancers. Continue reading “Hepatitis B virus causes cancer – yes, the vaccine can prevent it”

BCG vaccine is priced too low – now, shortage for bladder cancer

bcg vaccine

You probably don’t know much about the BCG vaccine, because it isn’t used much these days. And no, it’s not one of the vaccines on the CDC immunization schedule for either adults or children. 

The Bacillus Calmette-Guerin vaccine, or BCG vaccine, was initially developed to prevent tuberculosis. The disease is caused by bacteria called Mycobacterium tuberculosis. The bacteria usually attack the lungs, but they can also damage other parts of the body. Tuberculosis is treatable with advanced medicines, but it takes a long time and can be expensive. Without treatment, the patient will die.

So, why does it matter that the BCG vaccine is priced too low or that we have a shortage of it? Well, it has a couple of important uses (one current, and one potential) that has driven demand for the vaccine. And it’s not because there’s a sudden worldwide epidemic of tuberculosis. Continue reading “BCG vaccine is priced too low – now, shortage for bladder cancer”

Gardasil facts – debunking myths about HPV vaccine safety and efficacy

Gardasil safety and efficacy

The HPV cancer-preventing vaccine, especially Gardasil (or Silgard, depending on market), has been targeted by the anti-vaccine religion more than just about any other vaccine being used these days. So many people tell me that they give their children all the vaccines, but refuse to give them the HPV vaccine based on rumor and innuendo on the internet. This article provides all the posts I’ve written about Gardasil safety and efficacy.

As many regular readers know, I focus on just a few topics in medicine, with my two favorites being vaccines and cancer – of course, the Gardasil cancer-preventing vaccine combines my two favorite topics. Here’s one thing that has become clear to me – there are no magical cancer prevention schemes. You are not going to prevent any of the 200 different cancers by drinking a banana-kale-quinoa smoothie every day. The best ways to prevent cancer are to quit smoking, stay out of the sun, keep active and thin, get your cancer-preventing vaccines, and following just a few more recommendations.

The benefits of the vaccine are often overlooked as a result of two possible factors – first, there’s a disconnect between personal activities today and cancer that could be diagnosed 20-30 years from now; and second, people think that there are significant dangers from the vaccine which are promulgated by the anti-vaccine religion.

It’s frustrating and difficult to explain Gardasil safety and efficacy as a result of the myths about safety and long-term efficacy of the vaccine. That’s why I have written nearly 200 articles about Gardasil safety and efficacy, along with debunking some ridiculous myths about the cancer-preventing vaccine. This article serves to be a quick source with links to most of those 200 articles.

And if you read nothing else in this review of Gardasil, read the section entitled “Gardasil safety and effectiveness – a quick primer” – that will link you to two quick to read articles that summarize the best evidence in support of the vaccine’s safety and effectiveness.

Continue reading “Gardasil facts – debunking myths about HPV vaccine safety and efficacy”

Dorit Rubinstein Reiss – an index of her vaccine articles on this website

Dorit Rubinstein Reiss

Dorit Rubinstein Reiss – Professor of Law at the University of California Hastings College of the Law (San Francisco, CA) – is a frequent contributor to this and many other blogs, providing in-depth, and intellectually stimulating, articles about vaccines (generally, but sometimes moving to other areas of medicine), social policy and the law. Her articles usually unwind the complexities of legal issues with vaccinations and legal policies, such as mandatory vaccination and exemptions, with facts and citations.

Professor Reiss writes extensively in law journals about the social and legal policies of vaccination–she really is a well-published expert in this area of vaccine policy, and doesn’t stand on the pulpit with a veneer of Argument from Authority, but is actually an authority. Additionally, Reiss is also a member of the Parent Advisory Board of Voices for Vaccines, a parent-led organization that supports and advocates for on-time vaccination and the reduction of vaccine-preventable disease.

She was also one of the many contributors to the book, “Pseudoscience – The Conspiracy Against Science.”

Many bloggers and commenters on vaccine issues will link to one or more of her articles here as a primary source to counter an anti-vaccine claim. The purpose of this post is to give you a quick reference to find the right article to answer a question you might have.

Below is a list of articles that Dorit Rubinstein Reiss has written for this blog, organized into some arbitrary and somewhat broad categories for easy reference. This article will be updated as new articles from Professor Reiss are published here. We also may update and add categories as necessary.


Continue reading “Dorit Rubinstein Reiss – an index of her vaccine articles on this website”

Religion and vaccines – current religious dogma about vaccinations review

religion and vaccines

This article, about religion and vaccines, shows that claims that religion is opposed to vaccinations are bogus. Recently, several states, like New York and Maine, have taken steps to limit and or eliminate religious exemptions to vaccines as a result of the abuse of the exemption.

A while ago, I wrote an article about a father who is suing the New York Department of Education to force a school to allow his unvaccinated son into school. The basis of his lawsuit is that vaccination is against his religious beliefs. 

The father is a Roman Catholic and claimed that his church was opposed to vaccines. As far as I could find, the Catholic Church strongly supports vaccines, even making it a moral and ethical issue by clearly stating that “there would seem to be no proper grounds for refusing immunization against dangerous contagious diseases…”

The Catholic Church even supports the use of those vaccines manufactured using permanent cell lines that derive from aborted fetuses. In other words, not only is the Catholic Church not opposed to vaccination, it seems to indicate that it would immoral to not vaccinate.

This all leads me to wonder if there was research into the relationship between religion and vaccines. Of course, researchers much smarter than this old dinosaur examined the issue – spoiler alert, religions broadly support vaccinations.

Continue reading “Religion and vaccines – current religious dogma about vaccinations review”

My daughter has autism spectrum disorder – it was not caused by vaccines

autism

I have three daughters, and my oldest one, we’ll call her Catherine, was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder many years ago. This is our story, one that has little to do with vaccines, except that I never once thought that there was a relationship between her autism and vaccines. Not once. 

I have rarely mentioned Catherine online not because I was ashamed of her autism – she deserved her privacy, and I did not want to be someone who used my personal life story as a “cause” for the science of vaccines.

Then, two things happened. First, while commenting on an article I wrote a few years ago, someone said: “you don’t understand autism because you do not have autistic children.” The former statement is false because it doesn’t take having an autistic child to understand autism. The latter statement is also false because I do have a child with autism. 

Second, I finally read Peter Hotez’s book, Vaccines did not Cause Rachel’s Autism. For those of you who don’t know Dr. Hotez, he is one of the leading researchers in vaccines, and he has written hundreds of peer-reviewed papers on infectious diseases (and vaccines) along with numerous books on infectious diseases. He is a real authority on vaccines, public health, and vaccine-preventable diseases, and as they said on Wayne’s World, “we are not worthy!” 

So, I was inspired to write my own story, because it’s important for me on this Father’s Day 2019. And because of my acceptance of the science that rejects a link between vaccines and autism is not just academic, it is personal.

This is our story. Continue reading “My daughter has autism spectrum disorder – it was not caused by vaccines”