Skeptical Raptor's Blog hunting pseudoscience in the internet jungle

Poll–healthcare workers and vaccination



I just wrote a typical Skeptical Raptor screed against vaccine deniers who are supposed to be protecting patients. What do you think?

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Healthcare workers who don’t vaccinate–nothing but dumbasses


I caught a cold. And I don’t just write about infectious diseases because it’s some intellectual pursuit, but I hate viruses, bacteria, and parasites. I make the worst possible patient when I have a cold, calling and texting every healthcare worker I know for advice.

By the way, I know it’s not the flu, not because I was vaccinated against the flu, but because my symptoms are for a cold. They are completely different diseases, but people conflate the two all the time. The flu knocks you out with much more severe symptoms that last for 2 weeks, sometimes more. The common cold lasts for a few days, and after a couple of days, you usually can get back to doing things.

One of the stupid myths of the vaccine deniers (specifically about the flu vaccine, because I’m shocked at how many people vaccinate for everything but invent stories about the flu vaccine) is that people claim they catch the flu AFTER the vaccine. Now, some tiny percentage of those claims might be true, especially if you contracted the flu prior to getting vaccinated. But most people caught a cold, partially because no vaccine exists for the cold (and probably never will)

The only way I’d be convinced someone actually had the flu after vaccination is a lab report confirming it. Those tests, which can be done in any doctor’s office, are fast and easy.
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Debunking the vaccine denier myths of the Argument by Package Insert


Originally published 24 April 2013
Revised 2 October 2013
Revised 11 February 2014
Revised 6 December 2014
Revised 20 January 2015
Revised 24 January 2015

One of the cherished strategies of vaccine deniers is to quote the package insert (called a Patient Information Leaflet in EU countries and Instructions for Use in the case of medical devices) to “prove” that vaccines are dangerous. Vaccine deniers consider the package insert to be golden tablets of the Truth™. It’s ironic that these antivaccine groupies rail against Big Pharma, as if they are demon reptilians, but the package insert, written by Big Pharma, is considered gospel.

Just spend more than a couple of minutes in discussion with an anti-vaccinationist, and you’ll get a reference to a particular vaccine’s package insert (PI) as “proof” that it is dangerous, contains dangerous stuff, or is just plain scary. Orac has recently proclaimed it “Argument by Package Insert”–it’s almost at the level of logical fallacy. (David Gorski has just named it argumentum ad package insert, so it’s officially a logical fallacy.)

All you need as confirmation of the junk science pushed by those who swear by the argumentum ad package insert is to peruse this article published in the cesspool of pseudoscience called Natural News. Every point made by the author of that article is easily refuted. I’ll debunk most of those lies from the Health Ranger, Mike Adams, in this article.

Before we start, vaccine package inserts are important documents, but only if the information include therein is properly understood. It is not a document that serves as medical and scientific gospel. But it is a document that can help clinicians use vaccines (or frankly, any medication) properly.
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Your one stop shop for real science and myth-debunking about Gardasil


Updated 22 January 2015.

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.

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The dangers of e-cigarette vapors–updated research


Over the past few years, electronic cigarettes (often called a personal vaporizer, e-cigarette, or many other trendy descriptions–I’ll abbreviate them as EC, just to save space) have become a popular alternative to tobacco cigarettes. They originally were developed as a tool to quit cigarette smoking, which is factually linked to lung cancer and other respiratory diseases.

However, ECs have become much more than a tool to end smoking, but they have evolved into popular subculture phenomenon known as the “vaping community” that, in many respects, seem to mimic the marijuana advocates. The vaping community continues to push a belief that ECs are safer than traditional cigarettes, have little health risk to the vaper (electronic cigarette smoker), and is much more socially acceptable than smoking cigarettes or cigars.

One of the most amusing stories about ECs is that Jenny McCarthy, the antivaccination expert who thinks that all ingredients in vaccines are dangerous, has become an advocate for vaping. I bought a brand new, upgraded version 4.7, nuclear powered irony meter, and it just broke. It’s possible Jenny caused a nuclear accident in my house.

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If any of these signs are true, you might not have a gluten issue


Although it may seem like I write only about the lies and ignorance of the antivaccination cult, I truly despise all kinds of pseudoscience. It’s just that refusing vaccines that prevent real diseases, based on antivaccine misinformation (OK, lies), relates directly to the health of real children everywhere. Most (but certainly not all) other pseudosciences are not that dangerous, just terribly annoying.

With respect to ridiculous health beliefs and fads, I declare 2014 to be the Year of Gluten. I swear that there is more popular discussion of gluten than organic food, though I suppose that organic, GMO-free, gluten-free food would be the next billion dollar idea.

Like avoiding carbohydrates, fats, GMOs, and whatever else, gluten free diets have some relationship to real science and medicine, but it has exploded into a fad that has far exceeded the real medical issues surrounding gluten sensitivity.

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Dr. Robert Sears misleads parents about measles and vaccines


Published 18 January 2015

This article was written by Dorit Rubinstein Reiss, Professor of Law at the University of California Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco, CA. 

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

Today, on Friday, January 16, 2015, Dr. Robert (Bob) Sears, a California pediatrician and author of a controversial book on vaccines (critiqued here, pdf, or here by the fine folks at Science Based Medicine) wrote in his Dr. Bob’s Daily and published on his Facebook page that measles is only rarely fatal in developed countries and that serious complications are rare. (In the likely event that Dr. Sears decides to delete his misleading comments, it’s archived here permanently.)

Dr. Sears’s comments were false. And they were irresponsible. In a way that can put people – including children, including his patients – at serious risk. This is not the first time Dr. Bob Sears has made inaccurate claims about a vaccine preventable disease, but on the background of the current measles outbreaks, the risk from his behavior is more imminent and more obvious. It is appropriate to react.
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Why we vaccinate–to protect our children from pertussis



During this past week, a 25 day old baby in Santa Barbara, CA died from pertussis, commonly known as whooping cough (caused by the Bordetella pertussis bacteria). The disease can be easily prevented by the DTaP or Tdap vaccines (also protect against tetanus and diphtheria), which can be given to infants as early as 6 weeks to 2 months old.

According to the California Department of Public Health, infants who are too young to be fully immunized or those who are not vaccinated are most vulnerable to severe and fatal cases of pertussis. In 2014, 66 of the pertussis hospitalizations cases were children four months of age or younger. Two infants have died of pertussis in California during 2014.
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Once more about Andrew Wakefield, fraud extraordinaire


Published 30 December 2014
Updated 14 January 2015

For those of you who don’t know, MrAndy Wakefield fraudulently alleged a connection between the MMR vaccine and autism which has had the effect of suppressing vaccination rates in many countries. His claims were based on a retracted paper published in the Lancet, a mostly respected medical journal who seemed to have forgotten how to do proper peer review back in the late 1990’s.

Recently, Dorit Reiss, a frequent contributor to my blog, posted an article that debunks the myth that Andrew Wakefield is probably innocent of all charges made against him by the UK’s General Medical Council (GMC). Basically, some of the antivaccination crowd believes that because Wakefield’s partner in the fraud, Professor John Walker-Smith, had his own decision by the GMC overturned, it is considered evidence that Andrew Wakefield was wronged when the GMC found Wakefield, too, guilty of serious ethical violations.

And the delusional vaccine-causes-autism crowd at Age of Autism still think that Wakefield is a god of the myth–they mindlessly shill for the sociopath claiming he’s innocent, even pulling out the myth, mentioned above, that Dorit Reiss effectively shredded.

In case it’s not clear to everyone, Wakefield is a con artist. And frankly, he’s shown depraved indifference to children across the world by acting like he’s some pathetic, sad martyr of the evil alliance of Big Pharma, physicians (probably all in the pay of Big Pharma) and probably a few bloggers like David Gorski (who is a physician, and probably, in the eyes of the antivaccination cult, is in the pay of Big Pharma), the mysterious snark-meister Orac, and Steven Novella (another physician, so insert Big Pharma payoff meme here).

The evidence that Andrew Wakefield is a fraud and menace is profound:

Honestly, I don’t know why Wakefield isn’t in prison in the UK (actually Brian Deer, who has published several articles in several different news locations about Wakefield’s frauds dropped a comment to this article when it was first published that gave some solid reasons why Wakefield will never be prosecuted–sad). Of course, his cowardly retreat to a Texas mansion probably allows him to suck money from clueless and ignorant anti-vaxxers, while avoiding prosecution. Because a real martyr would fly back to the UK and demand an appeal of the GMC’s stripping him of his license to practice medicine. But he’s an intellectual and ethical weakling, so it’s better to snipe at everyone from the safety of his man, and more or less attempt to exonerate two family members from the murder of an autistic child.

I know that the antivaccination crowd lacks any credible evidence to support their point of view. And hardly anyone actually listens to that crowd, with over 95% of children in developed countries getting all of their vaccinations. But placing your money (literally) on this fraud and liar is making all of you so easy to mock. It’s almost too easy.

And BMJ? What the hell are you doing employing Wakefield supporters like Doshi and his ilk? You’re supposed to be about science, not using someone like Doshi who thinks that HIV doesn’t cause AIDS. Seriously BMJ?

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Vaccines increase rate of Type 1 diabetes–another myth refuted


Diabetes wordcloud

Published 16 March 2014
Updated 14 January 2015

If you cruise around the internet, engaging with the antivaccination cultists, you will pick up on their standard tropes, lies, and other anti-science commentary. One that has always bothered me, not because that it was a lie, but because I had enough evidence floating in my brain that I was wondering if it were true–that vaccines might lead to Type 1 diabetes.

A lot of the vaccine deniers believe that vaccines cause a lot of everything, and several claim that vaccines cause Type 1 diabetes (or here), based on little evidence. As far as I can tell, this myth is based on the “research” from  J. Barthelow Classen, M.D., who has pushed the idea that vaccines causes type 1 diabetes, through some magical process that has never been supported by other independent evidence. In another example of the antivaccination world’s cherry picking evidence to support their a priori conclusions, they ignore the utter lack of plausible evidence supporting this belief.

Moreover, Classen seems to come to his beliefs based on population-wide correlations that rely on post hoc fallacies, rather than actually showing causality between vaccines and diabetes. It’s like finding that a 5% increase in consumption of Big Macs is correlated with Republican wins in elections. They may happen at the same time, but it would take a laughable series events to show any relationship.

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