The reptilian conspiracy and vaccines – a feathered dinosaur confession

reptilian

As you are probably aware, the reptilian conspiracy theory states that one of the signs of a reptilian is an obsession with science. Well, this reptilian tried to hide in plain sight pretending to be an ancient feathered dinosaur (see Note 1), but now I’ve been outed. And it’s time for me to confess to my using reptilian skills to hide the truth about vaccines.

I know. I tried to use evidence that I cherry-picked out of systematic reviews and clinical trials, which I claimed were the pinnacle of the hierarchy of biomedical research but were really just produced by the reptilian scientists. This was done to obey the orders the Reptilian Overlords at Big Pharma.  Continue reading “The reptilian conspiracy and vaccines – a feathered dinosaur confession”

Vaccine exemptions and private schools – what are the facts?

vaccine exemptions

As measles outbreaks – centered on unvaccinated children – continue to pop up in areas with low vaccine rates,  one approach private schools and daycares reach to is keeping out unvaccinated children. An Ohio Jewish school announced it will not accept unvaccinated children, and I know other private facilities are considering this. So what does this all mean with respect to vaccine exemptions within private schools?

Note that this is a separate issue than the question of whether unvaccinated children can be kept home during an outbreak. All states have a provision in law to keep unvaccinated children at home during an outbreak, and some of the affected states – like New York – are doing that.  Continue reading “Vaccine exemptions and private schools – what are the facts?”

CDC whistleblower – zombie anti-vaccine trope still lives

CDC whistleblower

Today is Valentine’s Day, 2016. For many of you, it’s all about roses and chocolates. But for a bunch of us, it’s all about The Walking Dead and zombies. And in honor of the return of The Walking Dead, let’s talk about zombie anti-vaccine tropes that never die – the infamous CDC whistleblower oh my.

If you haven’t noticed, any time I can tie something I’m writing to zombies or The Walking Dead, I’m happy. So bear with me.

The antivaccination cult, lacking any real evidence for their unscientific beliefs, tend to grab on tightly to the flimsiest of stories. They love to scream “GOTCHA” to anything that shows up on the internet that puts vaccines in a bad light. A few years ago, they were jumping for joy regarding some comments from Dr. Diane Harper, who was promoted by the antivaccination crowd as the “lead researcher” for Gardasil. Except, the story was a lot different than they claimed.

Or promoting an “Italian court” that decided that MMR caused autism, relying upon the discredited and retracted study by one of the greatest scientific criminal frauds of the past 100 yearsMrAndy Wakefield, who alleged a connection between the MMR vaccine and autism.

Or trying to push the story of a French businessman, who claimed to have intimate knowledge of Merck’s data about Gardasil–all of it negative. Except he never worked in Merck’s R&D department and was made redundant when his company was acquired by Merck.

So what now? What zombie trope has come alive again?
Continue reading “CDC whistleblower – zombie anti-vaccine trope still lives”

Zombie anti-vaccine research returns from the dead – real science laughs

anti-vaccine research

Here we go again. Fake anti-vaccine research, which has no scientific value, but beloved by the pseudoscience pushing vaccine deniers, arises once again from the dustbin of science like a brainless zombie on a popular TV show.

Since the anti-vaccine religion has little or no scientific evidence to support their myths and beliefs, they need to rely upon dead and buried anti-vaccine research to invent their fake science about vaccines. And here comes ambling, confused “research” that we thought was dead and buried five years ago (yes, five years ago) to try to eat the brains of people who listen to the anti-vaccine pseudoscience.

We are here with a scientific sword to destroy this zombie anti-vaccine research.  Continue reading “Zombie anti-vaccine research returns from the dead – real science laughs”

Another SB277 lawsuit rejected – anti-vaccine Voice for Choice loses

SB277 lawsuit rejected

On 20 November 2018, the California court of appeal for the third appellate district, in a strong decision, rejected a challenge by the anti-vaccine organization A Voice for Choice and three individual plaintiffs to SB277, California’s law removing the personal belief exemption to school immunization mandates. The decision included scathing criticisms of the arguments and a powerful endorsement of school vaccines mandates. This article will examine yet another SB277 lawsuit rejected by courts.

Background

The first iteration of the lawsuit in question here was first discussed in November 2016, and it was then filed with a federal district court. After the initial rejection of that lawsuit, it was refiled with a state court, and after that was rejected, the plaintiffs appealed. 

The court opened by stating that “Plaintiffs’ arguments are strong on hyperbole and scant on authority.” Its decision drew extensively on the California Court of Appeal, Second Appellate District’s decision in Brown v. Smith, and on the federal district’s court decision in Whitlow v. California (discussed here). 

The Court opened with the California Supreme Court decision in Abeel v. Clark (1890) 84 Cal. 226, in which the Court upheld a school immunization requirement, and the extensive jurisprudence, state and federal, that upheld vaccines mandates since. It reminded us that for over a century, courts upheld school mandates in the face of challenges, and cited Brown v. Smith to explain that “[t]his is another such case, with a variation on the theme but with the same result.” 

Setting the ground, it explained the act, and its purpose “to provide “[a] means for the eventual achievement of total immunization of appropriate age groups against [certain] diseases.” (§ 120325, subd. (a).)” It explained the need for the act – the measles outbreak centered on Disneyland and the warning it provided that vaccine rates are too low, and exemption rates increasing too fast, and in some areas are dangerously high.

It set out the standard of review for a demurrer. A demurrer is a claim that the complaint does not raise a cause of legal action – in some jurisdictions, it would be titled a motion to dismiss. Because sustaining – accepting – a demurrer means a case is kicked out without going through fact-finding, without plaintiffs having their full day in court, the standard is pretty high, and appellate review is aggressive: 

We review the complaint de novo to determine whether it alleges facts sufficient to state a cause of action. For purposes of review, we accept as true all material facts alleged in the complaint, but not contentions, deductions or conclusions of fact or law. We also consider matters that may be judicially noticed.” (Brown v. Smith, supra, 24 Cal.App.5th at p. 1141.) We may affirm a trial court judgment on any basis presented by the record whether or not relied upon by the trial court. 

De novo means the appellate court is not bound by the finding and conclusions of the court below but reevaluates the claims from scratch. As the court explained, it is assuming factual claims are true, though if there’s judicial notice of well known, external facts, it can reject clearly implausible claims.

Note that a demurrer is usually sustained with a “leave to amend” because the court thinks it is possible for the plaintiff to state facts sufficient to constitute a cause of action. In this case, the demurrer was sustained without leave to amend because the court believes that the plaintiffs’ claim is so weak that no amending of the complaint will solve the fundamental problems.

SB277 lawsuit rejected – substantive due process

A substantive due process claim argues that the government overstepped in interfering with individual rights, beyond a legal standard. 

Here, there are three parts to this argument, as addressed by the Court – plaintiffs claim that SB277 violates their right to bodily autonomy, conditions their right to attend school on giving up bodily autonomy, and interferes with their parental rights. The court rejected the argument both because plaintiffs did not provide any legal authority supporting it (they couldn’t – there are none) and because they did not succeed in convincing the court that the law violates either of the possible legal standards. A substantive due process claim that affects a fundamental right (like bodily autonomy) would be held to the high standard of strict scrutiny. Under it, a law is “upheld only if it is narrowly tailored to promote a compelling governmental interest.” In other claims, a much lower bar – rational-basis review – applies. The court found SB277 would meet either standard. The court said that:

“It is well established that laws mandating vaccination of school-aged children promote a compelling governmental interest of ensuring health and safety by preventing the spread of contagious diseases.”

It cited multiple cases upholding vaccine mandates and criticized the plaintiffs for not addressing them and responding to them. I’m not sure that’s completely fair – the plaintiffs did try to address at least one of the cases the court pointed to, Zucht v. King and the decision later responded to that. But the court is completely right that plaintiffs did not succeed in providing a convincing reason to reject that abundant jurisprudence. 

Addressing bodily autonomy, the court rejected plaintiffs’ effort to argue that the vaccine cases are before cases upholding bodily autonomy, and therefore invalid. The court said: “We are aware of no case holding mandatory vaccination statutes violate a person’s right to bodily autonomy.”

I agree with the court’s conclusion, but I would support it differently. First, at least one famous bodily autonomy case – Schloendorff v. Society of New York Hospital  dates to 1914, while Zucht is a 1922 case, so the timing does not fit the plaintiffs’ claim. But more importantly, while I think the bodily autonomy cases would be important if a state were to impose an adult mandate, that’s not the issue here. These are children who are required to be vaccinated – and bodily autonomy does not work quite the same way. The children are not capable of making autonomous decisions, and the issue is not their autonomous choice not to be protected from diphtheria, measles, hib, etc. – it’s their parents’ choice not to protect them.

There are other arguments against the cases, but I want to keep this short, so I will not go into detail about them. 

The more tricky prong of the strict scrutiny standard for this purpose is that a law limiting rights has to be narrowly tailored. Here, plaintiffs – as they should have – argued that there are other, less aggressive means to prevent outbreaks. And the court – correctly, in my view – rejected it, drawing on Brown v. Smith and Whitlow again. The court pointed out that the state’s objective – total immunization of the relevant age groups – is ambitious, and lesser means won’t achieve it. It then quoted language from Brown strongly endorsing mandates (pdf):

“This argument fails, of course, as compulsory immunization has long been recognized as the gold standard for preventing the spread of contagious diseases. As is noted in the legislative history, studies have found that ‘when belief exemptions to vaccination guidelines are permitted, vaccination rates decrease,’ and community immunity wanes if large numbers of children do not receive required vaccinations.”

The court gave short shrift to the plaintiffs’ claim that SB277 violates privacy, because when dealing with health matters, the review is under rational-basis review, and the desire to prevent dangerous diseases trumps it (to those interested in a longer analysis, I engaged in one here).

Probably the strongest claim plaintiffs had is the claim that SB277 violates the right to education – though even that is not particularly convincing. But the Court rejected this claim easily, too, because the two previous decisions – Brown v. Smith and Whitlow – already dealt with the issue. The court found that the precedent enshrining the right to education – Serrano – did not apply, for two reasons.

First, it was not applicable on the facts:

[quoting Brown] “Serrano struck down a public school financing scheme as violating equal protection guaranties ‘because it discriminated against a fundamental interest — education — on the basis of a suspect classification — district wealth — and could not be justified by a compelling state interest under the strict scrutiny test thus applicable.’ ” (Brown v. Smith, supra, 24 Cal.App.5th at p. 1145.) Like the plaintiffs in Brown, the plaintiffs here “cite Serrano to support their claim that Senate Bill No. 277 . . . violates their constitutional right to attend school, but fail to explain its application here. There is no ‘suspect classification’ underlying Senate Bill No. 277.”

Second, and just as important, even assuming the statute was held to strict scrutiny because education is a fundamental right, the court already explained that it can pass strict scrutiny. 

Finally, in a very short statement, the court agreed with the Brown court that SB277 did not violate religious freedom. 

In short, this decision agreed with previous jurisprudence that school mandates are constitutional and valuable.

SB277 lawsuit rejected – what next?

A Voice for Choice has two choices. It can accept the loss and go home, or it can try and appeal to the California Supreme Court. Not appealing has advantages: this is an unpublished decision, and as such, does not serve as a precedent – it cannot be cited or relied on. It is, however, binding on the parties to the case. A Supreme Court decision, if one happens, could well echo the strong endorsement of mandates, based on strong evidence that they work and an extensive jurisprudence, and would change the legal situation for the worse – it would end the issue in terms of California law (since the claims in this lawsuit are mostly state claims, the California Supreme Court is the last word on them). On the other hand, not appealing gives up a chance to change the legal situation, leaves SB277 intact, and leaves in place the other appellate court decision – Brown v. Smith – supporting it. 

If A Voice for Choice appeals, the Supreme Court will get to decide whether to take the case. The California Supreme Court takes very few civil law cases, and this one is based on extensive jurisprudence rather than breaking new ground – so there is a strong chance it will not be taken up. On the other hand, the court may want to address the question of immunization mandates in current times. 

We will see. 

8 December 2018 Update

The state requested that the court’s decision be published. On December 6, 2018, the court granted the request, giving the decision precedential force.

Measles vaccine coverage stagnant – increased measles cases in 2017

measles vaccine coverage

According to new research published by the CDC and World Health Organization (WHO), worldwide measles cases have spiked in 2017. Multiple countries have reported severe and protracted measles outbreaks over the past year. Because of large gaps in measles vaccine coverage across the world, there were an estimated 110,000 worldwide measles-related deaths in 2017.

Let me repeat that – 110,000 measles-related deaths in 2017. This is a disease that the anti-vaccine religion will claim over and over that it’s not a very dangerous disease. Even in the USA, where it is estimated that 1-2 children will die out of 1,000 infected by measles, it is still a dangerous disease. Of course, anti-vaxxers dismiss that risk of death as “low,” showing little empathy for children that die of measles every year.

There are other serious complications of measles:

Measles is not trivial. And the only way to prevent the highly contagious disease is with two doses of the measles vaccineContinue reading “Measles vaccine coverage stagnant – increased measles cases in 2017”

Preventing cervical cancer – HPV vaccine uptake increases in Ireland

preventing cervical cancer

A few weeks ago I wrote an article about Emma Mhic Mhathúna was a 37-year-old Irish mother of five who died in October 2018 from cervical cancer – an easily diagnosed and treated cancer if discovered early. She died because of a pap smear scandal in Ireland that led her to receive a false negative on her two pap smear tests in 2016. As a result of this scandal, HPV vaccine uptake has increased for preventing cervical cancer. Continue reading “Preventing cervical cancer – HPV vaccine uptake increases in Ireland”

Acupuncture for hypertension – more evidence that it does not work

acupuncture for hypertension

The claims for acupuncture have any clinical usefulness are vastly overblown with evidence ranging from weak to nonexistent to dangerous. As Steven Novella at Science-Based Medicine once wrote, acupuncture is nothing more than “theatrical placebo.” On the long list of ridiculous claims for this pseudoscience is using acupuncture for hypertension treatment – and once again, real biomedical science shows it is worthless.

And now, it’s time to examine a systematic review that debunks the false claim that acupuncture for hypertension is useful.  Continue reading “Acupuncture for hypertension – more evidence that it does not work”

Religion and vaccinations – a review of the current knowledge

religion and vaccinations

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. How does this lawsuit fit into our ideas about religion and vaccinations?

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 vaccination, 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 advises for vaccinations in 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 vaccinations. And I found some.

Continue reading “Religion and vaccinations – a review of the current knowledge”

MTHFR gene and vaccines – what are the facts and myths

MTHFR gene and vaccines

We call them zombie vaccine tropes, beliefs of the anti-vaccine world that keep reinventing themselves and come back alive, despite being dismembered by skeptics and scientists all of the world. One of the most annoying zombie tropes has been the MTHFR gene and vaccines – the trope states that it’s dangerous to vaccinate a child with the MTHFR gene mutation, which really isn’t supported by scientific evidence.

I never know what causes trope to start, and why it returns from the dead, but MTHFR gene and vaccines seem to be one of them. Let’s take a look at the MTHFR gene, and why there might be an issue with vaccines.

Continue reading “MTHFR gene and vaccines – what are the facts and myths”