Coffee health benefits – will not save your life, but it is safe and delicious

coffee health benefits

I am an admitted coffee aficionado. I love the taste. I love the warmth. No, I don’t drink those maddening caramel strawberry double shot nonfat iced frappucinos – I like my coffee hot with a splash of cream and some very safe aspartame. Nevertheless, I’ve never thought much about coffee health advantages – it never seemed relevant to me.

I remember directing a clinical trial at a large teaching hospital in Seattle, WA back in the late 1980s, and there was a Starbucks kiosk in the lobby. I know most of you would think “what’s so great about that?” But, it was nearly 30 years ago, and Starbucks wasn’t a thing that it is today – I know some coffee snobs hate them, but 30 years ago, good coffee was unknown to most of the USA. Well, unless you lived in Seattle, apparently.

That kiosk started my love of coffee. I tried different coffee makers and methods of brewing coffee. Over the years, I’ve settled on a French press (as it is known in Canada and the USA, a coffee plunger in Australia and New Zealand, or a cafetière in France and the UK) for my coffee, which probably makes me a coffee snob.

I’ve written about the coffee health effects previously. And, in August 2018, a new paper was published that seemed to indicate that drinking lots of coffee lowered your risk of mortality. And, of course, websites across the internet chimed in with the great news. But did it really say that? Of course, your coffee-addicted ancient dinosaur will take a look.  Continue reading “Coffee health benefits – will not save your life, but it is safe and delicious”

Sexual promiscuity and the HPV vaccine – debunking an ignorant myth

sexual promiscuity and the HPV vaccine

There is a myth pushed by the anti-vaccine religion that the HPV vaccine leads to sexual promiscuity. I’ve debunked this fable previously, using peer-reviewed research, but you know the anti-vaccine zombie tropes – they never really die, and they always come back to life.

Let’s look at a couple of new studies that, once again, debunk the myth that sexual promiscuity is linked to the HPV vaccine. There is no link. Period. Full stop. Continue reading “Sexual promiscuity and the HPV vaccine – debunking an ignorant myth”

Cochrane Nordic kerfuffle – HPV vaccine is still safe and effective

Cochrane Nordic

If you’ve been following the old dinosaur’s articles over the past few weeks,  you’d know the ongoing kerfuffle between the anti-vaccine group located within Cochrane Nordic and the parent Cochrane Collaboration. Cochrane Nordic attacked a well done systematic review, published by Cochrane, of safety and effectiveness of the HPV vaccine without merit.

In case you are unfamiliar with the organization, Cochrane Collaboration is a critically important source of evidence-based medicine and a useful tool in providing analytical evidence that can debunk pseudoscientific beliefs. Cochrane’s goal is to organize research data and publications in a logical way that helps physicians and researchers make appropriate decisions about a proposed new therapy, medication or clinical idea.

According to Cochrane, their mission is:

…to provide accessible, credible information to support informed decision-making has never been more important or useful for improving global health. In the Internet age, people have much greater access to health information, but little way of knowing whether that information is accurate and unbiased. We do not accept commercial or conflicted funding. This is vital for us to generate authoritative and reliable information, working freely, unconstrained by commercial and financial interests.

Mostly, Cochrane produces systematic reviews, which utilizes systematic methods to collect published data, critically analyze research studies, and then synthesize data from numerous published studies in an attempt to eliminate bias and increase the power of the data that includes a larger number of patients than one study alone.

In the hierarchy of biomedical research, systematic reviews rank at the very top. They are, without a doubt, the most powerful pieces of scientific research available in medicine. To be fair, Cochrane is not perfect. They have made egregious errors in systematic reviews of acupuncture quackery in the past. Like all scientific literature, one must examine a systematic review (whether published in Cochrane or any other journal) with a critical eye.

So this whole Cochrane Nordic kerfuffle may seem like an internecine feud of no importance to the world of science. And it would have been, except it has evolved into one of those tropes that the anti-vaccine religion uses to attack the cancer-preventing HPV vaccine.

Let me end this introduction with a simple statement backed by a mountain of science – the HPV vaccine is demonstrably safe and demonstrably effective.

Let’s take a look at this whole Cochrane Nordic nonsense. Continue reading “Cochrane Nordic kerfuffle – HPV vaccine is still safe and effective”

Pertussis vaccine at birth is safe and effective – Australian study results

pertussis vaccine

One of the concerns about DTaP vaccine (for protection against diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis or whooping cough) is that it is given at 2 months, and during that time, the infant is susceptible to whooping cough. A new clinical trial provides evidence that giving the monovalent pertussis vaccine at birth is both safe and can protect the infant until the first DTaP vaccination.

Let’s take a look at this new study. Continue reading “Pertussis vaccine at birth is safe and effective – Australian study results”

Alcohol health effects – drinking any amount is bad, but is the science convincing?

alcohol health effects

I am fairly certain that most of the feathered dinosaur’s readers have read articles about alcohol health effects. It’s bad. It’s good. It prevents heart attacks. It causes cancer. It reduces risks of Sasquatch attacks but increases risks of alien abductions.

I know some of you are thinking that science never gets this right. Who are you to believe? An ancient feathered dinosaur? Your favorite news website? Your next door neighbor? Alien Sasquatch?

Well, there was a recent article published that employed a powerful systematic analysis of the body of published evidence surrounding alcohol health effects. Spoiler alert – drinking any amount may not be good for your health. Continue reading “Alcohol health effects – drinking any amount is bad, but is the science convincing?”

Flu vaccine myths – an epic rant about dumb asses from Mark Crislip

flu vaccine myths

We’re coming upon the 2018-2019 flu season in the Northern Hemisphere. And every flu season, for the past seven years, I reprint Dr. Mark Crislip‘s epic rant about Dumb Ass healthcare workers who invent flu vaccine myths in an effort refuse to receive the flu vaccine.

Dr. Crislip’s humorous compilation of these flu vaccine myths, which were originally published in A Budget of Dumb Asses, describes the different types of vaccine-refusing healthcare worker Dumb Asses. I resurrect this list every year at the beginning of the flu season not only for humor (because it is funny) but also to point the finger at flu vaccine deniers who also happen to be healthcare workers.

Any nurse, pharmacist, therapist, physician, or surgeon that refuses the flu vaccine by relying upon pseudoscientific nonsense about the vaccine rather than protecting their patients and themselves is appalling. I may be harsh, but maybe their employment ought to be terminated for their lack of concern about patients.

But the flu vaccine myths true believers aren’t just healthcare workers. You know neighbors, friends, family, and even fellow vaccine supporters who refuse to get the flu vaccine. And they rely on the same ridiculous myths as healthcare workers. And everyone forgets that the flu is a dangerous disease – 172 children died of the flu during the 2017-18 flu season.

The flu season is just starting, and it’s almost impossible to not find a place to get the vaccine. Your family doctor, clinics, pharmacies, and many other places currently have the flu vaccine. And I am not a hypocrite – I get my flu vaccination next week. Of course, my healthcare insurance provides them out for free to all members.

And if you think you can prevent or cure the flu with vitamin C, echinacea, or bone broth (yes, it’s a thing), they don’t work. You are not going to be able to boost your immune system to destroy the flu virus unless you get vaccinated.

We’ve dispensed with many of the cherished flu vaccine myths of the anti-vaccine religion. Moreover, many studies have shown that getting the flu vaccine can improve health outcomes. But too many people refuse this life-saving vaccine.

Continue reading “Flu vaccine myths – an epic rant about dumb asses from Mark Crislip”

Italian vaccine mandate – implementation delayed – another UPDATE

Italian vaccine mandate

On Monday, the Italian Senate passed a large bill that, among other things, delayed the implementation of the Italian vaccine mandate passed in 2017 until the 2019-2020 school year. This short post explains what this means – and does not mean.

In response to a large measles outbreak in Italy that killed about 1:1000 (around 8 in the past year) and hospitalized thousands, the Italian government then in power passed a law that mandates that children 0-6 be vaccinated with ten vaccines (before that, four were required) before attending daycare or school. It also imposed fines on parents of children 0-16 who were not vaccinated with these vaccines.

In the 2018 election, two anti-establishment parties joined the coalition government. One, the 5 Star Movement, includes people who are openly anti-vaccine. It’s not clear to what extent their anti-vaccine views affected their election results, but among other things, the party promised to roll back the Italian vaccine mandate.

As a first step, the new health minister allowed parents to self-certify vaccines for the 2018-2019 school year – to declare whether or not their children were vaccinated (in a sense, rewarding dishonest anti-vaccine parents over honest ones). 

The new Italian Senate law included many things, but the most important issue is that they delayed the implementation of the mandate for the school year 2019-2020. Importantly, the law will not become effective until it passes Italy’s lower house, which is on recess until September 11, 2018, so it will not apply in the school year 2018-2019.

During the current year, the mandate still applies, as does the self-certification decree, probably. But if it becomes law, it will mean that the law is not applicable the following year, giving the new government a chance to try and overturn the mandate completely. 

Naturally, medical societies – as well as politicians from other parties – are concerned about the repeal of the Italian vaccine mandate.

The measles outbreak, which was the impetus for the original law, is still going strong. In fact, the CDC has issued a level 1 travel warning for Italy because of this ongoing outbreak.

Several people in Italy have died recently from the measles, and many were hospitalized. Almost all the cases are in the unvaccinated, including those too young to be vaccinated. This is not a great time to roll back the Italian vaccine mandate intended to protect children and contain the outbreak. 

Update – 6 September 2018

Italy today reaffirmed that the vaccine mandate applies in 2018-2019 and children 0-6 need to be vaccinated. It also removed the option of self-certification, requiring that parents provide a doctor certificate showing children are vaccinated.

However, the government still announced its intent to revisit the mandate in future.

Update – 9 September 2018

The Italian Parliament relaxed its change of direction – self-certification will be allowed during the current school year. The mandate, however, is still in force, at least until March 2019.

HPV vaccine adverse effects and the European Medicines Agency

HPV vaccine adverse effects

Despite the robust body of evidence supporting HPV vaccine safety and effectiveness, the European Medicines Agency (the European Union’s version of the US FDA) began a review of human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccines “to further clarify aspects of their safety profile,” although the agency also points out that this review did not “question that the benefits of HPV vaccines outweigh their risks.” In other words, the EMA examined the HPV vaccine adverse effects, real or imagined.

After a few months of investigation, the EMA came to a conclusion about HPV vaccine adverse effects – there were no major ones. Let’s take a look at this story.
Continue reading “HPV vaccine adverse effects and the European Medicines Agency”

Cochrane HPV vaccine systematic review – responses to anti-vax criticism

Cochrane HPV vaccine systematic review

In May 2018, I wrote an article about a Cochrane HPV vaccine systematic review that provided solid evidence that the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine was safe and effective. I considered the review to be one of the seminal pieces that support the use of the cancer-preventing vaccine. Moreover, most scientists in the biomedical field consider Cochrane systematic reviews (see Note 1) as near the pinnacle of the hierarchy of biomedical research.

Then, in early August 2018, several anti-vaccine, and more particularly vehement anti-HPV vaccine, “researchers” at Cochrane Nordic, a branch of the Cochrane Collaboration, went on the attack against the HPV vaccine. They published a paper in BMJ Evidence Based Medicine that blasted the Cochrane HPV vaccine systematic review.

I thought that this critique was without merit. Moreover, nothing they wrote diminishes the quality of the original Cochrane HPV vaccine systematic review. Once again, that systematic review provided us with solid, high-quality support of the fact that the vaccine is, indeed, safe and effective.

Even though the anti-HPV vaccine group provided some apparently cogent criticisms, it was clear that they had an agenda. Well, there has been more backlash against the anti-vaccine “researchers” in a long post by a scientist who studies and analyzes systematic reviews. And Cochrane itself responded to the criticism. Let’s take a look.  Continue reading “Cochrane HPV vaccine systematic review – responses to anti-vax criticism”

Israel vaccine law proposal – seeking balance to improve vaccination rates

With the support of a local pro-vaccine non-profit made of parents and professional volunteers, two parliament members are proposing an Israel vaccine law to improve immunization rates. This and other proposals are a response to a measles outbreak made up mostly of unvaccinated individuals. The proposal explicitly seeks to improve disease prevention while minimizing the effect on autonomy. It does so with a mix of measures that mirror laws existing in other countries and new ideas. 

While the proposal is likely to face criticism from both immunization opponents and those seeking stronger measures, the proposed Israel vaccine law has potential to improve immunization rates in Israel and may be a better fit for Israel’s situation than alternatives. It is clear that a lot of thought went into it. Continue reading “Israel vaccine law proposal – seeking balance to improve vaccination rates”