Russian coronavirus vaccine – tested by showing it a photo of the word “test”

Russian coronavirus vaccine
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A new Soviet Russian coronavirus vaccine, called “Sputnik V” was approved by the Soviet Union Russia. The “first” vaccine to be approved was announced by Soviet General Secretary Russian President Vladimir Putin, otherwise known as Donald Trump’s best friend forever.

Amusingly, the “Sputnik V” name harkens back to the Space Race, a Cold War competition between the USA and the Soviet Union in the 50s and 60s to see which country could build the best space program. Sputnik was the name of the first orbital satellite launched by the Soviets beating the USA to space by two months. It didn’t really do much but beep every few seconds while orbiting the earth – we’ll take that as an excellent metaphor.

Not to be totally cynical, the name is an obvious propaganda statement by Putin that the Soviets Russians won the coronavirus vaccine war. 

Of course, the scientist in me says “not so fast there Comrade.” Let’s take a look at the science, or better still the lack of science, of this new Russian coronavirus vaccine. Considering how skeptical I am of the US coronavirus vaccine effort, you can imagine what I’m going to write about Putin’s effort. Continue reading “Russian coronavirus vaccine – tested by showing it a photo of the word “test””


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California SB276 – juvenile courts and fake vaccine medical exemption facts

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This article about California SB276 and fake medical exemptions for vaccines 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.

If the headline seems obvious, the reason behind it is that the Second District of the California Court of Appeal just ruled on a case in which the claim that California SB276 prevented the juvenile court from overturning a medical exemption was used by a father who did not want his children, in the custody of the state, to be vaccinated.

There are two takeaways from the case. First, a reminder that when children become wards of the state, the state can order appropriate medical care, the kind that responsible parents would provide, including vaccination. Second, a ruling that SB276 added to those with authority to revoke medical exemptions, it did not remove existing authority to do so. Continue reading “California SB276 – juvenile courts and fake vaccine medical exemption facts”


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Christopher Bunch – another tragedy blamed on the HPV vaccine

christopher bunch
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This article about the tragic story of Christopher Bunch 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 14 August 2018, fourteen-year-old Christopher Bunch died from acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (ADEM), leaving his loving, devoted family reeling. The family blamed his death on the HPV vaccine that Christopher received, and they were quickly surrounded and courted by anti-vaccine activists.

My heart goes out to Christopher’s family. I followed the case since he was in the hospital, hoping and praying with them for a good outcome, and I feel their heartbreak. I was also deeply impressed by their initial reaction, which was to create a positive legacy for Christopher, making him visible and famous.

I would rather not write about this, which is why this post is so long after the fact. But Christopher’s death is since being used to try and scare people away from HPV vaccines or vaccines generally, putting others at risk of cancer and death. With very little basis: the timing and the epidemiological evidence do not support a link between Christopher’s death and HPV vaccines. Christopher Bunch deserves a better legacy than that. Continue reading “Christopher Bunch – another tragedy blamed on the HPV vaccine”


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Lyme disease vaccine update – very good news from clinical trials

Lyme disease vaccine
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Time to talk about something different (you know, all coronavirus, all the time) like a potential Lyme disease vaccine. A new vaccine for this terrible disease has just completed phase 2 clinical trials, and the results look promising.

As opposed to the mad rush to get a COVID-19 vaccine, this new Lyme disease vaccine has taken several years just to get to this point. But the news is good, so there’s that.

Of course, dogs have had access to a Lyme disease vaccine, but there has not been a vaccine available for humans for 18 years. It’s not that dogs are more important than humans (though many of us might argue that point), it’s just that about 20 years the anti-vaxxers, one of their few “successes,” got the vaccine pulled from the market

But a small company, Valneva, is getting a good vaccine moving down the development pathway. Hopefully, we’ll have it in a few years.

Let’s take a look at this disease.

Continue reading “Lyme disease vaccine update – very good news from clinical trials”


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Hydroxychloroquine ineffective for COVID-19, demon sperm, and zombies

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Just when I thought I was out of the hydroxychloroquine pseudoscience, they pull me back in. And here we are, a group of fools is pushing it again. Sigh.

This all started because of an awful study from France published back in March of 2020. At that time, Donald Trump, desperate for a “win” against the coronavirus along with other non-scientists pushed hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin for coronavirus. Of course, me and many others like Orac, who has written several articles about it,  found the evidence that hydroxychloroquine, usually with the antibiotic azithromycin, had any effect on COVID-19 was very weak, even non-existent. 

And my mind hasn’t been changed in the meantime. And Orac is back calling hydroxychloroquine the “Black Knight,” a reference to a fictional character in the wonderful film, Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Oh, you never saw the movie? Well, I’ll let Orac tell that story:

In the film, King Arthur encounters him guarding a rather pathetic bridge and asks him to join his quest to seek the Holy Grail. The Black Knight refuses and then blocks Arthur’s passage with a menacing, “None shall pass.” The battle is joined, and Arthur, one by one, chops off all of the Black Knight’s limbs in a truly warped comedy sequence. After losing each limb, the Black Knight says things like, “‘Tis but a scratch” and “I’ve had worse.” Before his last leg is chopped off, the Black Knight proclaims (while hopping around), “I’m invincible,” to which Arthur retorts, “You’re a loony.” After losing his last limb, the Black Knight finally concedes, “All right, we’ll call it a draw.” Then, as Arthur crosses the bridge and rides off, the Black Knight yells, “Oh. Oh, I see. Running away, eh? You yellow bastards! Come back here and take what’s coming to ya! I’ll bite your legs off!”

In other words, this damn story about hydroxychloroquine keeps coming back despite having all of its limbs removed. “Tis but a scratch.” 

Now, I prefer zombie metaphors (and I believe so does Orac, but I have to give credit to him for the Monty Python reference), because, like many of the tropes we see in the anti-vaccine world, no matter how many times we kill this belief, it keeps coming back. In the world of zombies, one needs to destroy the brain. That’s why I try to present evidence!

Of course this time around, this claim includes demon sperms and alien DNA. I kid you not.

Continue reading “Hydroxychloroquine ineffective for COVID-19, demon sperm, and zombies”


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Robert F Kennedy Jr used Alan Dershowitz in anti-vaccine fake debate

Robert F Kennedy Jr
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This article, about an anti-vaccine fake debate between Robert F Kennedy Jr and Alan Dershowitz was used to promote anti-vaccine misinformation, 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 July 23, 2020, anti-vaccine activists aired what they described as a heated debate between Attorney and Professor Alan Dershowitz and anti-vaccine activist Robert F Kennedy Jr. The “debate” was a good example of why debating anti-vaccine activists is a bad idea.

Basically, Kennedy did most of the talking, and most of his talk was not – as initially suggested – about the law, but a recitation of anti-vaccine talking points, most of them either misleading or blatantly untrue. Dershowitz, who is not a public health expert or a debunker of anti-vaccine misinformation, was not prepared to address them. While he did push Kennedy on some issues, with Kennedy’s misinformation left unaddressed, viewers may come out with the impression that Kennedy’s points had merit.

The points do not. Robert F Kennedy Jr consistently misrepresented the facts, and was not quite accurate on the constitutional law, though he was closer. He misrepresented the regulatory framework on vaccines. In essence, Kennedy used this as an opportunity to share misinformation while using Dershowitz’s comparable legitimacy to give weight to his claims. Continue reading “Robert F Kennedy Jr used Alan Dershowitz in anti-vaccine fake debate”


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Moderna vaccine update – are we too excited about it for COVID-19

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If you have been paying attention to the news, you’ve probably seen reports of the Moderna coronavirus vaccine candidate that is getting a lot of people very excited. I’ve even seen so-called pro-vaccine people, who ostensibly should be following science, breathlessly cheer them on.

Recently, Moderna had released some results in a press release, and you know what I think about press releases. Unfortunately, many vaccine researchers stated that that data was not sufficient to draw any conclusions about the safety or effectiveness of the Moderna vaccine

However, the phase 1 clinical trial results have been published, and the hype has started again. We’ll take a brief look at those results below. 

I know that people want “hope,” as opposed to possibly endless cycles of bouncing between opening up and closing down everything in response to the pandemic, especially in the USA, where the coronavirus pandemic has just gotten worse.

But hope isn’t something that interests me at all. 

As anyone who reads my blog knows that the only thing that matters to me is published scientific evidence. And by published, I mean in a respected, peer-reviewed journal. Sure, I don’t need scientific evidence to support my belief that the New York Mets should be thrown out of baseball, because I hate the team – that’s just an opinion. It’s not based on evidence of any type.

On the other hand, when it comes to vaccines, we have built an amazing system of bringing the most effective and safest medical advances to humanity. Despite the misinformation and FUD of the anti-vaccine zealots, the safety and effectiveness of modern vaccines are settled science

I’m not willing to sacrifice that for a vaccine that may not be effective or safe. That’s why I want to take a very critical look at the Moderna vaccine. And I think there are some reasons to be very concerned about their vaccine, although there might be some reasons to be somewhat optimistic. Continue reading “Moderna vaccine update – are we too excited about it for COVID-19”


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1986 The Act – a review of the Andrew Wakefield anti-vaccine “movie”

1986 the act
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This article about Andrew Wakefield’s “1986: The Act” was written by Sarah, aka 42Believer. Sarah is an “influencer” who uses her various social media platforms to advocate for science and against misinformation. She doesn’t let her lack of credentials stop her from speaking out, and her efforts resulted in the successful removal of anti-vax books from Amazon. You can find her breakdown of anti-vaccine influence in Ohio state politics here.

She hangs out on Twitter correcting disinformation from the anti-vaccine crowd while also publishing entertaining YouTube videos about the 42 things wrong with various movies, and it includes one about anti-vaxxers

No matter the genre, a good movie should have a first scene that draws you in instantly. The first scene of the film “1986: The Act” opens with a scene of a woman peeing into a cup. I wish I was joking.

As you might already be aware, “1986: The Act” is the newest anti-vaccine “documentary” directed by Andrew Wakefield. He is also listed as the director for Vaxxed, but Vaxxed is so much better than “1986: The Act” that I have a feeling Del Bigtree was almost as much, if not more, of a director than Wakefield (this makes sense given Del’s prior experience on The Doctors).

In fact, of all the anti-vax documentaries I’ve seen 1986: The Act is by far the worst of the bunch (and that’s saying something!). This article will focus on the technical aspects of the film, but if you would like a thorough breakdown of the scientific/legal claims Dorit Reiss did a wonderful job of that here. Continue reading “1986 The Act – a review of the Andrew Wakefield anti-vaccine “movie””


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Hierarchy of scientific evidence – keys to scientific skepticism and vaccines

hierarchy of scientific evidence
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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”


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Latest “act” from Andrew Wakefield – recycling 1986 anti-vaccine tropes

Andrew Wakefield
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This article about the Andrew Wakefield movie, 1986: The Act, 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 1986: The Act, Andrew Wakefield has created a very long parade of anti-vaccine claims from the past forty years or longer. The movie combines half-truths, facts taken out of context, and blatant misrepresentations to try and mislead people into refusing to vaccinate and protect their children.

In his post on the topic, my friend and colleague Dr. Vince Ilannelli addressed the potential motivations behind 1986: The Act from Andrew Wakefield, the problems with the credibility of the director and many of the main actors, the problematic nature of the sources in the movie, and some of the inaccuracies surrounding DTP.

In this post, I will cover some of the same ground, but my main focus will be to show why the film is unreliable. Obviously, I cannot cover every detail of the long film and keep this manageable, but I can cover many of the highlights, and I hope to make it clear why I think it’s unreliable.

Before starting on those, however, readers deserve a reminder that Andrew Wakefield, the creator of the film, has a well-earned reputation as a dishonest scientist. Wakefield misrepresented information about MMR and hid conflicts of interests, and as a result, outbreaks of measles in Europe and the United States harmed and killed children.

And Andrew Wakefield has continued to misrepresent information in ways that harm children. 

Andrew Wakefield is not a reliable source, and his previous movies show this, too. 

1986: The Act is no different.

The movie is framed as a discovery journey of a couple from the point where the woman discovers she’s pregnant to the point where she gives birth, during which they go through a lot of anti-vaccine sources and become thoroughly and extremely anti-vaccine, ending the movie as participants in an anti-vaccine event. It is, as I mentioned, a parade of greatest hits of the anti-vaccine movement – mostly claims that have been addressed again and again over the years, some twenty years old, some almost forty years old, some older still. There is little new in 1986: The Act. Continue reading “Latest “act” from Andrew Wakefield – recycling 1986 anti-vaccine tropes”


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