Voices for Vaccines – infected for a cause

There are a lot of people out there fighting the nonsense and pushing the facts about vaccines. I try to do it, but I’m a carnivore, and very aggressive. One of the best vaccination advocacy groups  is Voices for Vaccines.

Voices for Vaccines is a parent-led organization that supports and advocates for on-time vaccination and the reduction of vaccine-preventable disease. Although the majority of parents choose to immunize their children against disease, most of us do not speak out about our decisions because it seems to us common sense. Unfortunately, increasing numbers of parents are choosing not to immunize or to under-immunize their children, which has led to increasing rates of vaccine-preventable diseases and needless suffering.

At Voices for Vaccines, our mission is to provide families three crucial tools:

  • Evidence-based information about the safety and importance of immunization
  • A vibrant community of parents who are passionate about preventing disease, disability, and death by supporting and encouraging sound vaccine policies and practices at both the state and national levels
  • An opportunity to join the discussion and to actively advocate for on-time immunization

They are one of the leading groups who work hard at pushing out scientific information about vaccines, immunizations. Moreover, they help provide knowledge about the proper schedule for vaccinations.

They rely upon a respected scientific advisory board that includes Paul A Offit, Stanley A Plotkin and many other scientists and healthcare professionals with long expertise in vaccines.

Because Voices for Vaccines is a completely volunteer group, they need to raise charitable donations to keep their website and activities going. It’s important that they keep providing their services to families across the world, so that vaccine preventable diseases go away and never return.

Please take the time to contribute just $5 (but of course, more will help) to them, so that they can continue to advocate for the safety and importance of vaccinations. Because, as we all know, vaccines save lives.

Online fundraising for Skeptical Raptor – Infected for a Cause
Come on loyal readers, please donate to them.

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Arizona measles outbreak – blame anti-vaccine employees

Here we go again. Department of Health Services officials in Arizona  have reported that 22 confirmed measles cases in the state associated with a Federal immigration detention facility. This Arizona measles outbreak has one source – Federal employees of that facility who refused to get vaccinated against measles.

We all know why people don’t vaccinate their children with the MMR vaccine against measles, mumps and rubella – the zombie myth that vaccines cause autism, which has been so utterly debunked that it gives new meaning to the word, debunked.

Let’s take a look at the root of the Arizona measles outbreak. I’m sure there are lessons to be had there.

Continue reading Arizona measles outbreak – blame anti-vaccine employees

Index of articles by guest author–Prof. 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. I know a lot of writers out there will link to one of her articles here as a sort of primary source to tear down a bogus antivaccine message.

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 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.

Below is a list of articles that she has written for this blog, organized into some arbitrary and somewhat broad categories for easy reference. Of course, she has written articles about vaccines and legal issues in other locations, which I intend to link here at a later date. This article will be updated as new articles from Dorit are added here.

Continue reading Index of articles by guest author–Prof. Dorit Rubinstein Reiss

Your one stop shop for real science and myth-debunking about Gardasil

Recently, I read a new article published in Pediatrics that described how educating either teenagers or their parents about HPV vaccinations had little effect on the overall vaccination rate for the vaccine. Essentially, the researchers found that it was a 50:50 probability that any teen would get the vaccine, regardless of their knowledge of HPV and the vaccine itself.

So I thought about why that Pediatrics study found that education about HPV and Gardasil didn’t move the needle on vaccination uptake. It’s possible that the benefits of the vaccine is overwhelmed by two factors–first, that there’s a disconnect between personal activities today vs. a disease that may or may not show up 20-30 years from now; and second, that the invented concerns about the HPV quadrivalent vaccine, promulgated by the usual suspects in the antivaccination world, makes people think that there is a clear risk from the vaccine which is not balanced by preventing cancer decades from now. It’s frustrating. Continue reading Your one stop shop for real science and myth-debunking about Gardasil

Vaccines. Autism, Italian Court of Cassation – they get it right

Twice before we have examined a decision by a low-level Italian court that claimed a link between vaccines and autism. One decision was already overturned on appeal. The other appeal has not, to my knowledge, been decided yet, but the decision is just as ill-founded.

In spite of their problems these decisions were heralded by anti-vaccine activists as demonstrating once and for all that vaccines cause autism, despite the extensive science showing otherwise. I have said this elsewhere and will repeat: if your best evidence that vaccines cause autism are two (badly reasoned) low-level court decisions from another country, you have a very weak case.

Now, even that weak case has suffered a serious blow.

Continue reading Vaccines. Autism, Italian Court of Cassation – they get it right

California SB277 vaccination law – litigation update 1

Note: there are two suits against the California SB277 vaccination law. The first one, which we’ll call “Buck” for the main complainant, and the second, “Whitlow“, for the first named plaintiff. The State of California has asked that these two cases be combined and switched to Federal Court, but no decision has been made to combine the two cases. However, both are in Federal Court. 

Professor Dorit Rubinstein Reiss, author of this article, is trying to keep the readers informed with updates and interpretations of current activities. It’s fluid, so the updates are here to keep the reader current. 

Originally, my plan was to just put the updates with each the original articles for each case, but that got unwieldy really fast. Thus, I made a decision to keep each update to the point at hand, hoping that readers will click on the original articles to get the background information. 

Again, Professor Reiss and I will update as necessary. I will repost the article whenever there’s a significant update to the lawsuit.
Continue reading California SB277 vaccination law – litigation update 1

Japanese HPV vaccine lawsuit – no science, no evidence

The HPV vaccine, specifically the Gardasil 9-valent version, is one of the handful of ways to actually prevent cancer. Along with the hepatitis-B vaccine, the HPV vaccine helps prevent future incidence of dangerous cancers. Unfortunately, a Japanese HPV vaccine lawsuit has been filed in that country by 64 women.

Gardasil has had a tumultuous history in Japan. The vaccine is no longer recommended for Japanese teens, based on an unscientific analysis of evidence related to adverse events. The Japanese Health Ministry accepted supposed “adverse events” after Gardasil vaccine as causal, even though the rate of these adverse events after vaccination was LOWER than the general non-vaccinated population. It was total incompetence on the part of the Health Ministry.

Let’s take a look at this lawsuit in Japan – and we need to see what it really means.

Continue reading Japanese HPV vaccine lawsuit – no science, no evidence

California SB277 lawsuit – updated, but still baseless

Note: this article is an update to the baseless California SB277 lawsuit that was written about previously published on 1 May 2016. This article adds substantial new information on some of the activities surrounding the lawsuit. Stay tuned, as this situation is fluid and new information will be posted as it becomes clear. Professor Reiss and I will update as necessary. I will repost the article whenever there’s a significant update to the lawsuit.

A California SB277 lawsuit was filed by Attorney T. Matthew Phillips in the Los Angeles County Superior Court, Tamara Buck et al v State of California (pdf), or “Buck.” To remind everyone, SB277 is the California law that removed the personal belief exemption to school immunization requirements.

Although the lawsuit commenced for the plaintiffs is in theory, challenging the new statute, the complaint posted online is poorly drafted. Much of the complaint, especially the first section, does not meet the basic pleading standard in California, which requires “a statement of the facts constituting the cause of action, in ordinary and concise language. “ (CCP § 425.10)

As phrased, the complaint does not make valid legal arguments against the new statute. The complaint demands trial by jury when it is elementary law that the relief requested in the complaint would not entitle the plaintiffs to anything but a trial before a judge. The complaint fails to meet the requirement that the attorney’s signature constitutes a certification that “[t]he claims … are warranted by existing law or by a nonfrivolous argument for the extension, modification, or reversal of existing law or the establishment of new law.” (CCP § 128.7(b)(2).)

The complaint also contains gross factual errors, which may violate CCP § 128.7(b)(3), though those errors alone, at this stage in the proceedings, probably would not permanently damn the suit in state law at this initial stage. In assessing initial challenges to a complaint, state courts must assume that the factual claims in the complaint are true (not legal conclusions or polemical oratory), even when they are as far-fetched as the ones in this suit.

If the attorneys for the State of California were to demurrer to this complaint (file a motion requesting the court to dismiss the complaint as lacking sufficient grounds), the plaintiffs would probably be given an opportunity to correct the errors. For that reason, and since this post is already too long, I didn’t provide a detailed critique of the complaint’s shortcomings as a legal document.

Frankly, the people who donated money to this suit deserved better. The opposition to SB 277 consists of a minute fraction of California’s citizens. The opposition is misguided, but most of them are sincere in their beliefs and very, very passionate and dedicated to their cause.  Many of them clearly fear vaccines and the new law. I hope the courts will protect the community and children’s health by upholding SB 277 (and to remind everyone, the vaccine-denied children of SB 277 opponents need SB277 as well – they depend on herd immunity to protect them from their parents’ error). But when opponents put their trust in a lawyer, they deserve to have their interests competently and professionally represented. This complaint does not do that.

Of course, the complainants chose the lawyer, and they may have had input into the content of the complaint. They are responsible for that choice. But it is also the lawyer’s responsibility to advise them against making serious mistakes.

It is hard to see much indication that Mr. Phillips gave his clients such advice (unless, of course, advice was offered and rejected). Frankly, the tone of the complaint and the discussion on the complainants’ Facebook page suggests that the content of the complaint was driven by Mr. Phillips or at least supported by him. Continue reading California SB277 lawsuit – updated, but still baseless

Vaxxed review – my personal take on that fraudumentary

I was given the opportunity recently to watch  MrAndy Wakefield’s fraudulent  and self-serving anti-vaccination documentary Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Controversy. After getting physically ill and angry, I thought it was my duty to do my own Vaxxed review, something more in-depth than the general criticisms I’ve done with this piece of junk in the past.

I don’t have it in me to write about everything wrong with this “documentary” – to be honest, I heard not one single bit of science based fact presented with respect to the MMR vaccines and autism spectrum disorder. The fraudumentary mostly presented lies, misinformation, anecdotes, and, notably, no real science. Worse yet, it tried to make Wakefield into a hero – maybe a deity of some sort.

So, let’s be clear – this movie is about Wakefield. Not children. Not identifying real causes for autism. Not anything important.

There are a lot of excellent reviews of this “documentary,” including a recent one by David Gorski (you know, my doppelgänger according to certain crackpots on the internet) in Science Based Medicine, “Andrew Wakefield’s VAXXED: Antivaccine propaganda at its most pernicious.” It’s a long review, so read it if you prefer.

Continue reading Vaxxed review – my personal take on that fraudumentary

California SB277 lawsuit analysis – anything there?

California enacted SB277 on 1 July 2015. This new law removed the “personal belief exemption” (PBE) to vaccines required for school entry.  The law went into effect 1 July 2016.  One group filed a suit against SB277 in California courts in May; I discussed that complaint in previous article. This California SB277 lawsuit analysis is about new litigation against SB277 filed in the state. (Note, there is an update to this case, California SB277 vaccination law – litigation update 1.”)

This second lawsuit, with a different group of plaintiffs, including Ana Whitlow, was filed in a federal district court on 1 July 2016. The suit was brought by several individual plaintiffs and a number of organizational plaintiffs. It contained both state and federal claims, claims on constitutional grounds, and claims that focused on implementation of the act.

As the complaint states, California has had a personal belief exemption from its school immunization requirements since at least the 1960s. The complaint does not note that between 1996-2010, California’s exemption rate increased 380%, from 0.5-2.3%.  The increase continued until at least 2014.

While the number never went over 3%, the exemption rate was not evenly distributed: some areas and some schools had much higher rates of PBEs than others, making them hot spots for outbreaks. In 2010, California experienced a dramatic outbreak of pertussis in which ten babies died. Pertussis has continued to circulate at a higher rate than in the past.  While the pertussis outbreak was partly the fault of a less effective vaccine, studies repeatedly found that areas with high rates of exemptions were more vulnerable to outbreaks.

In 2014, California had the highest rate of measles since 1994, and the famous 2015 measles outbreak caused even higher numbers. This background led the California Legislature to reconsider its immunization policy – already tightened once, in 2012 – and to decide to remove the personal belief exemption.

Understandably, those influenced by anti-vaccine claims were distressed by the new legislation. These parents evidently feel trapped, caught between a reluctance to vaccinate their children and their desire for their children to access educational opportunities, now closed to them by the new law’s provisions. Hence the lawsuit.

This complaint does not suffer from the lack of professionalism and the severe problems of the previous claim, filed by a different attorney in state court.

Nevertheless, while you can never be certain how a court will decide, my best assessment is that the plaintiffs’ constitutional claims have very low chances of success. While some of the statutory issues call for interpretation, they won’t lead to the law being struck down. And several of their implementation claims suffer from serious procedural problems.

Note that the discussion here refers both to the content of the complaint itself and the content of the memorandum submitted in support of the Temporary Restraining Order – both together present the plaintiffs’ arguments.

The complaint also tries to reframe the narrative drawing on anti-vaccine factual claims that are either misleading or downright incorrect. My focus in this post is on the legal claims, but I will touch on a few of the counter-factual assertions. Continue reading California SB277 lawsuit analysis – anything there?

FluMist vaccine recommendation – CDC gets the science right

There are a lot of anti-vaccine tropes about the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), none of which make a lot of sense. There’s the conspiracy theories that the CDC is bought off by Big Pharma. Or the CDC whistleblower meme that they hid evidence that vaccines cause autism. However, the CDC usually gets the science right, like they did with the recent FluMist vaccine recommendation.

The CDC, a federal government agency made up of scientists, physicians, and public health officers, who come from civilian and military backgrounds, are the first responders to almost any infectious disease outbreak across the world. They are the front line of science against disease.

They use scientific data, gathered through clinical trials or lab experiments, to make public recommendations about diagnosing, treating and preventing diseases. They’re impartial about their recommendations – they go where the data leads them.

So what’s the story behind the FluMist vaccine recommendation, better yet, non-recommendation? It’s not all that complicated, and it’s clear that the CDC got the science right. Continue reading FluMist vaccine recommendation – CDC gets the science right

Stalking pseudoscience in the internet jungle