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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Brian Hooker’s vaccine injury claim denied by NVICP

Brian Hooker holds a Ph.D. in chemical engineering and has a background that involves researching and teaching in related areas. He is also the father of a boy – now almost young man, at 16 and a half – with autism. Brian Hooker believes his son’s autism was caused by vaccines, and he has been vocal about it.

He is the one who initiated the most recent claims that the CDC conspired to hide a link between vaccines and autism because of calls he had with a CDC scientist (the so called CDC whistleblower)– claims shown, on examination of the data, to be incorrect. He has also, in recent years, published (problematic) research articles claiming a link between vaccines and autism. One of his articles has been retracted because of undeclared conflicts of interests and methodological flaws.

In 2002 Brian Hooker filed a claim with the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (NVICP), the special administrative program created in 1986 to compensate vaccine injuries. On 19 May 2016, the court rejected his claim in a detailed, comprehensive decision. The Special Master explained that “this is not a close case.”

This post explains the decision, explaining the legal framework and the application of it. In short, the claim was rejected because:

  1. The evidence suggested that SRH – the initials by which Hooker’s son was known – had symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) from early on. In fact, these symptoms appeared long before receiving the vaccines alleged to cause his harm. Moreover, there was no evidence of regression or other severe reaction to the vaccines.
  2. The evidence does not support, and in fact, contradicts, Hooker’s contention that thimerosal-containing vaccines cause autism. This evidence consisted of scientific studies and expert reports. Hooker’s experts’ had questionable credibility and qualifications, and were, at least, far surpassed by the Respondent’s, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, experts.
  3. This decision follows the thorough and detailed Omnibus Autism Proceedings, along with many other decisions that found the same.

Continue reading Brian Hooker’s vaccine injury claim denied by NVICP

GMO labeling law – Senate thinks they’re smarter than scientists

I actually thought that the GMO denier arguments were petering out. I also actually thought I could focus on the vaccine deniers, since they’re like cockroaches, hiding in the dark. But I was wrong. The United States Senate, in a rare bipartisan action, wrote a compromise GMO labeling law.

I, and many others, consider the anti-GMO movement to be made up of “climate change deniers of the left.” They both ignore high quality science and the scientific consensus, just to invent their own conclusions. It is frustrating, especially since I expect more out of progressives.

The GMO labeling law is frustrating and confusing. We need to examine it with scientific skepticism.

Continue reading GMO labeling law – Senate thinks they’re smarter than scientists

Italian Court Supreme Court rules against vaccine-autism link

Over the past few years, Italian courts have rule several times on the claims that there is a vaccine-autism link. As a result, I have written about a few of those cases, starting in 2012, where an Italian provincial court rejected all of the scientific evidence, and accepted MrAndy Wakefield’s fraudulent work as a basis of the decision.

Some individuals created a manufactroversy out of this ruling about the vaccine-autism link. But let’s be clear about one point – courts are not structured nor charged with rejecting the scientific consensus, unless a case could be made of massive fraud. Courts make decisions based on the facts presented (science uncovers facts) and the law. Moreover, courts are highly biased, and they often rely on emotional arguments. Continue reading Italian Court Supreme Court rules against vaccine-autism link

Vaccines and autism – science says they are unrelated

Vaccines and autism is in the news again. Probably as a result of reports that more and more children are being diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders. So let’s take a look at the science.

On 28 March 2014, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that new data show that the estimated number of children identified with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), a disorder of neural development, usually appearing before the age of 3 years, characterized by impaired social interaction and verbal and non-verbal communication, and by restricted, repetitive or stereotyped behavior, continues to rise.  The picture of ASD in US communities is changing. Continue reading Vaccines and autism – science says they are unrelated

Bad vaccine statistics – real math is hard

Science deniers are an awfully frustrating lot. Statistical evidence seems so cut and dried to me. Unfortunately, the anti-science crowd prefers anecdotes to data. And the abuse of vaccine statistics are the worse.

Generally, science is based on evidence that is obtained through the scientific method. It is not magic. It is not a religion. Evidence is the fundamental basis of all sciences.

If science is evidence, then the basis of evidence is statistical reliability. I don’t want to oversimplify statistics, but this branch of mathematics identifies random events. Once again, statistics is difficult to grasp, yet every single paper I’ve ever read (except for the very worst) has fairly easy-to-understand statistics, once you know the lingo.

For example, most papers with vaccine statistics use a term called “relative risk,” or RR. Relative risk is the ratio of the probability of an event occurring in one group (say vaccinated) compared to a control group (not vaccinated).

An RR less than 1.0 implies that the the vaccinated group has a lower risk of an event than the control group. An RR=1.0 means that the risk is the same in both groups. Of course, an RR greater than 1.0 indicates that the vaccinated group has a higher risk than the control group.

And the size of the risk changes as numbers grow much larger or smaller than 1.0.

That statistical measurement seems easy. Undoubtedly, the calculations to reach the RR value are complex, but the top line number is fairly easy to grasp.

Nevertheless, vaccine statistics, despite being fairly straightforward, are often misinterpreted and ignored. Maybe there’s a reason for it? Let’s look.

Continue reading Bad vaccine statistics – real math is hard

Basic vaccine chemistry – help for science deniers

If you read almost any anti-vaccine screed, and if you have even a minimal chemistry background, you will assume that the anti-science vaccine deniers are also chemistry deniers. Therefore, I thought I would create a quick list of basic vaccine chemistry for those who have to deal with the vaccine deniers.

About a year ago, the website, The Logic of Science, published an article about five simple chemistry facts. I thought I’d take their list and apply it to an article about basic vaccine chemistry.

I know that we are oversimplifying chemistry. But I think most of us, who focus on the overwhelming evidence that vaccines are safe and effective, know that there are fundamental principles of chemistry that are the basis of biomedical science.

Without further ado, let’s look at basic vaccine chemistry.

Continue reading Basic vaccine chemistry – help for science deniers

Happy Scientific and Skeptical Fathers Day

I was going write a profound scientific skeptical topic topic. I was trying to choose a topic from amongst vaccines, GMOs or moon landings. First of all, since I am a father, I will just say that everyone have a Safe and Happy and Skeptical Fathers Day.

Maybe, that should an effective sentiment.

As fathers, we should and must teach our children well. I have three daughters, one of whom is wildly interested in science. She questions everything, and she uses here scientific mind to good use – she’s already rejected the nonsense of Donald Trump. I consider that a good start.

And she’s getting pretty adept at scientific humor and sarcasm. I will,  of course, always deny it’s that funny.

So as fathers, what can we do to make the world a little bit better for them? I don’t know. I am the wise man on the mountain who cannot tell you the meaning of life. Furthermore, I’m very certain that the meaning of life eludes me for my life.

Skeptical Fathers, here’s your duty for the next few weeks:

  • First step, I recommend that you check if your kids are full vaccinated. This is easy. You can check their records. Afterwards, you can relax if you did it all right. Or you can make an appointment to get them vaccinated. Consequently, you can then let your children go out into the world. They can be safe from diseases that should have been gone by now, such as measles and chickenpox.
  • In addition, you should encourage your children to aspire to a strong and quality education. If you compare college educated and non-college educated groups, researchers have established that the more the the more educated children will eventually lean toward more liberal and educated ideas.
  • Additionally, the in-class education can develop team-building skills, critical thinking, and competitiveness. As a result of all these factors, you child will have a leg-up in scientific research.
  • You can motivate you children to develop critical thinking skills. Consequently, they will have many of the skills that can help reject the lies and foolishness of science deniers.
  • Most of all, you should let your kids experience real science. I took my daughters to the aquarium in Baltimore, many years ago. As a result, one of my daughters fell in love with the science. Even at my advanced years, going to a natural history museum is like reading an encyclopedia – I can  choose a random topic, and then consume it all.

I want  every father to have a Happy and Skeptical Father’s Day. We can eat some BBQ, share times with family. And we can push our children towards loving science and critical thinking.

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

MSG myth – debunked with real science

Food additives are one of the most passionate issues amongst people who eat (which would be everyone). AspartameHigh fructose corn syrup. GMO‘s. Salt. Sugar. Trans fats. Polysorbate 80. But the MSG myth is one of the most pervasive.

Of course, these additives cause angst in people because of their scary chemical names.

Obviously there is stuff, created by the beauty of natural sunlight and goddess blessed sweet waters from the alps, that is better than these man made evil chemicals. Well, no. Everything in nature is made up of “chemistry” –  25-hydroxyergocalciferol is a scary chemical name, right? Except it’s the metabolic product of the conversion of vitamin D in the human liver. It’s natural!

But let’s get back to MSG – how many times have you seen “No MSG” in a sign Chinese restaurant? Is it because China, who has been using MSG in their cuisine for centuries, has been conspiring against Americans since the first Chinese restaurant starting serving up kung pao chicken to unaware Americans?

It’s time to look at the MSG myth – is it real, or does it need a good debunking.

Continue reading MSG myth – debunked with real science

Stalking pseudoscience in the internet jungle