Coronavirus vaccine skeptic – why I am uneasy about a new vaccine

coronavirus vaccine skeptic

The more I read about the rush for a new vaccine, the more I am becoming a coronavirus vaccine skeptic. I think that we’re doing this all wrong, and I think that this vaccine could be a disaster if it is rushed to the market.

Because too many people don’t read articles beyond the title, like anti-vaxxers who can’t be bothered to delve into the science beyond abstracts, I want to be clear about something. All vaccines available today are overwhelmingly safe and effective – any possible issues with vaccines are substantially smaller than the harm caused by the disease.

This is settled science.

I am a passionate supporter of all vaccines, anyone who reads this blog knows that. I am only a coronavirus vaccine skeptic – and just to be clear again, I am a scientific skeptic which means I follow evidence derived from the scientific method to a conclusion. 

My coronavirus vaccine skepticism, at least right now, is based on the fact that there is little evidence supporting either it’s effectiveness or safety, although those are not really issues because we are very early in the development of these vaccines. My skepticism is in the methods that we are employing to rush this vaccine to market.

This is totally different than your typical anti-vaccine zealots like Del Bigtree  Littletree and RFK Jr who ignore all scientific evidence to push their anti-vaccine narrative. 

Although I’ve written about my concerns regarding our rush to get a vaccine previously, I’ve made more observations that bother me. Continue reading “Coronavirus vaccine skeptic – why I am uneasy about a new vaccine”

The coronavirus pandemic – just as bad for Trump supporting states

coronavirus pandemic

This article about how the coronavirus pandemic will affect conservative red states was written by a database expert who wishes to remain anonymous.

Among my more right-leaning Facebook friends, the attitude towards the coronavirus pandemic goes roughly like this: “The outbreak isn’t anywhere near as bad as the Liberal Media would have you believe. It’s almost entirely confined to sanctuary cities. Everyone should stop overreacting!”

For everyone else, this attitude seems delusional. But for people who live in right-wing communities, the “it’s not so bad” point of view is actually in line with observed reality. And the way that the media has been reporting on the outbreak actually exaggerates this effect. Continue reading “The coronavirus pandemic – just as bad for Trump supporting states”

“The COVID-19 Vaccine Dilemma” – tempering the over-optimism

Professor Dorit Rubinstein Reiss, a frequent contributor to this and many other blogs, has published an important article, “The COVID-19 Vaccine Dilemma,” regarding the pitfalls and challenges to bringing a new COVID-19 vaccine to the market. 

Professor Reiss, for those of you who may not know, is a Professor of Law at the University of California Hastings College of the Law (San Francisco, CA), writes in-depth, and intellectually stimulating, articles about vaccines, medical issues, social policy, and the law.

The paper, published online on SSRN (and can be found here), discusses significant points regarding how we should proceed with the development and manufacture of a new COVID-19 vaccine. As I’ve discussed before, the rush to getting a new vaccine is necessary, but we should be aware of all that is necessary to get a safe and effective vaccine for the people of the world.

I’m going to hit the most important points of the article that I think is important to the conversation about developing a new COVID-19 vaccine. Continue reading ““The COVID-19 Vaccine Dilemma” – tempering the over-optimism”

Face masks for COVID-19 – despite politics, science says they do work

COVID-19 face masks

The latest battle in the world of the coronavirus pandemic is about COVID-19 face masks. Of course, the group led by President Trump, who think that the pandemic is irrelevant and face masks are some sign of weakness, eschew masks and scream at people in stores who try to enforce rules.

And there’s the other group, of which this ancient raptor is a proud member, which accepts the scientific evidence that face masks protect not only the wearer but also others from passing the coronavirus. It’s not a political decision, it is simply a public health policy that makes sense. It is altruistic. It helps us limit this pandemic.

Sure, it’s not the only way to do this – social distancing, hand-washing, and being diligent every time you leave the house along with face masks is how we protect ourselves and others from this virus.

This is just like the nonsense we see from anti-vaccine zealots – use pseudoscience or science denialism plus a healthy dose of some imaginary freedom that isn’t supported by any law or legal precedent. I, and many others, used to argue that the anti-vaxxers would see the errors of their ways if only they could see what would happen if any disease from our past – measles, polio, mumps, smallpox, rotavirus, or many others – returned as an epidemic.

Well, they went ballistic when New York tried to stop a huge outbreak of measles, with anti-vaxxers like Del Bigtree using anti-semitic imagery to stop mandatory measles vaccinations. And the anti-vaccine rabble are deep into the COVID-19 denialism. 

Apparently, the millions of infected people and hundreds of thousands of deaths mean nothing to the anti-vaxxers who overlap the COVID-19 deniers almost 100% on the Venn diagram of pseudoscience.  And that’s why we end up with a denial of face masks.

Recently, there have been several studies published that seem to have led to a solid scientific consensus – face masks work. It’s not political. It’s not an indication that you’re weak. It does not make you run out of oxygen. It doesn’t mean you’re a conservative or liberal. It just means you have chosen to protect yourself and others.

There shouldn’t be a battle over face masks, yet here we are. Let’s take a look at some of the science that seems to debunk the numerous myths about masks. Continue reading “Face masks for COVID-19 – despite politics, science says they do work”

June 2020 ACIP meeting – meningococcal, influenza, COVID-19 vaccines

June 2020 ACIP meeting

This article about the June 2020 ACIP meeting was written by Dorit Rubinstein Reiss, Professor of Law at the University of California Hastings College of the Law (San Francisco, CA), who is a frequent contributor to this and many other blogs, providing in-depth, and intellectually stimulating, articles about vaccines, medical issues, social policy, and the law.

Professor Reiss writes extensively in law journals about the social and legal policies of vaccination. 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.

During June 2020, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) held its second annual meeting for the year. Because we are in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, and traveling is challenging for many – including, I suspect, for several of the Committee members, not all of which live near Georgia – the meeting, like most conferences this year (those which were not canceled) was held virtually. The CDC still provided an opportunity for oral comment, though there were some logistical challenges with their new system.

The June 2020 ACIP meeting discussed meningococcal vaccines, influenza vaccines, and then had the opportunity for public comment. The entire afternoon was devoted to COVID-19 and COVID-19 vaccines.

As with previous meetings, ACIP is a geek’s dream meeting and everyone else’s – except the experts, and I suspect – hope – most experts are geeks –  boredom feast. I learned a lot.

One of the most important lessons is that the committee takes vaccine safety very, very seriously. The other is that decisions on vaccines – like most policy decisions – are always made on incomplete knowledge. We never know everything. That is where expert judgment comes in. Incomplete knowledge does not mean there is not enough knowledge to assess benefits/risks, though any such assessment should be reassessed when new knowledge comes in.

Finally, it’s important to remember – and something the anti-vaccine observers of these meetings seem unaware of, but that doctors treating patients likely are not – that a decision not to use a vaccine is a decision with costs and risks – the costs and risks of the disease the vaccine prevents.

The choice is never between no risk and the vaccine because we don’t have vaccines unless a disease causes substantial mortality and morbidity. The choice is always whether, given the information, an informed decision can be made and which risks that information suggests are higher – those of the vaccine or those of not vaccinating.

Finally, my notes are over 14 pages of text for the June 2020 ACIP meeting, and that’s because my computer crashed at the end and I lost my last two pages of notes, which is really frustrating – and I have 153 screenshots of slides (yes, I am surprised too). I really want this post to be shorter. So I’m going to try and be very brief, and I’m happy to share my full notes, just email me at [email protected] Continue reading “June 2020 ACIP meeting – meningococcal, influenza, COVID-19 vaccines”

Colorado vaccine bill – Gov. Jared Polis signs SB163 into law

colorado vaccine bill

This article, about the 2020 Colorado vaccine bill, was written by Dorit Rubinstein Reiss, Professor of Law at the University of California Hastings College of the Law (San Francisco, CA), who is a frequent contributor to this and many other blogs, providing in-depth, and intellectually stimulating, articles about vaccines, medical issues, social policy, and the law.

Professor Reiss writes extensively in law journals about the social and legal policies of vaccination. 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.

On June 7, 2020, Colorado’s House Health Committee heard testimony on SB163, a bill to improve vaccine rates. In spite of the pressure and aggressive – and dishonest – tactics from bill opponents, the committee voted to move the bill forward to the appropriations committee, from where it would go to the House floor and, if passed, to the governor’s desk.

On June 26, 2020, Colorado Governor Jared Polis signed the bill into law. 

Continue reading “Colorado vaccine bill – Gov. Jared Polis signs SB163 into law”

Coronavirus vaccine trials – updating current studies across the world

coronavirus vaccine trials

This article about coronavirus vaccine trials will be regularly updated as new clinical trials are registered or early results are published about an ongoing trial. Again, this article will focus on coronavirus trials – treatments and diagnostic tests are outside of the scope of this article.

Keeping up with COVID-19 vaccine candidates has gotten out of hand, so for brevity, I’ve created a separate list of coronavirus vaccine trials. The interest in clinical trials for a new COVID-19  vaccine is unprecedented, so I thought this might be the best way to keep loyal readers up-to-date.

Recently, the World Health Organization (WHO) has listed over 140 vaccine candidates, which is amazing, but it is way too difficult to tell which ones have any chance of actually becoming a real product.

Right now, there are 16 vaccine candidates in clinical trials – this article will analyze these coronavirus vaccine trials. Of course, this number changes from week-to-week, so who knows what it will be the next time I update this article!

Continue reading “Coronavirus vaccine trials – updating current studies across the world”

Eve Switzer settles her libel suit against Oklahoma anti-vaccine activists

Ee Switzer

This article about Dr. Eve Switzer’s libel suit against some anti-vaccine activists was written by Dorit Rubinstein Reiss, Professor of Law at the University of California Hastings College of the Law (San Francisco, CA), who is a frequent contributor to this and many other blogs, providing in-depth, and intellectually stimulating, articles about vaccines, medical issues, social policy, and the law.

Professor Reiss writes extensively in law journals about the social and legal policies of vaccination. 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.

In early June 2020, Dr. Eve Switzer apparently settled a libel suit that she had filed against an anti-vaccine organization – Oklahoman for Health and Parental Rights – and an anti-vaccine physician, Dr. Jim Meehan from Oklahoma. Both Meehan and the organization both wrote a statement admitting, in essence, that information they posted about Dr. Eve Switzer from Oklahoma was untrue.

While these statements may not seem resounding, they are, in fact, a substantial concession and admission, and part of a settlement of a defamation suit Dr. Switzer brought against these actors that have been settled in her favor. <

Generally, I do not recommend that people turn to defamation suits against anti-vaccine activists. That is because these suits are hard to win under our law (even if there is ground to see the statements as untrue and offensive), any win would take a long time and likely be costly, and the publicity would likely benefit the science denier more than the plaintiff.

Dr. Eve Switzer’s example suggests a different approach can, in some cases, lead to legal success. I still, however, hold to my view that suing is probably not a desirable choice for many of you – this suit was lengthy, not easy, and led to some publicity that I suspect hurt Dr. Switzer.

That said, I am glad that Dr. Switzer’s efforts ended with a settlement that would make it very hard for her attackers to repeat the offensive misrepresentations that led to this suit, and compensated her for her expenses. Continue reading “Eve Switzer settles her libel suit against Oklahoma anti-vaccine activists”

Coronavirus research peer review by press release – this is not science

coronavirus research

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been observing new coronavirus research peer review being done through Big Pharma and university press releases, preprint articles, and science journalism. It’s like watching a ping pong ball bounce back and forth, and I swear my neck is getting strained.

This is not how science should be done. It does a disservice to how science should be done. Science, especially with regards to coronavirus, must be done with careful analysis and critiques. 

Now, there is one good thing about how we’re evaluating coronavirus research – peer review is beginning to be “crowd-sourced,” and that may be better than the old system.

This article will try to point out the good, the bad, and the damn ugly coronavirus research that we’re seeing these days. Continue reading “Coronavirus research peer review by press release – this is not science”

Vaccine pseudoscience from Blaxill and Becker – flunking epidemiology

vaccine pseudoscience

Here we go, more vaccine pseudoscience from the Age of Autism as if that surprises anyone. They seem to have flunked courses in statistics, epidemiology, public health, and just about any science related to vaccines. I’m probably giving them too much credit for actually signing up for such complicated courses. 

I generally couldn’t care less what Age of Autism writes since they have about as much scientific credibility as does Donald Trump and hydroxychloroquine. That would be zero credibility, in case you’re counting.

Let’s take a look at this latest vaccine pseudoscience. Continue reading “Vaccine pseudoscience from Blaxill and Becker – flunking epidemiology”