Skeptical Raptor's Blog hunting pseudoscience in the internet jungle

2013-14 vaccine uptake in the USA is still high

voices-for-vaccinesDespite the continued social network misinformation about vaccine safety and/or effectiveness, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported that the median vaccination coverage, amongst children between the age of 19-35 months was 94.7% for 2 doses of measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine; 95.0% for varying local requirements for diphtheria, tetanus toxoid, and acellular pertussis (DTaP) vaccine; and 93.3% for 2 doses of varicella vaccine among those states with a 2-dose requirement.

The median total exemption rate was 1.8%, a difficult number to truly analyze. The CDC reported many issues like some parents get an exemption even after their children are fully or partially vaccinated, some exemptions are used as a matter of convenience because the parents forgot to vaccinated, and some states don’t report exemptions. Moreover, the CDC data indicates up to 15% of exemptions are “medical,” meaning that a child cannot receive a vaccine as a result of an establish medical contraindication.

Although these numbers fall near the 95% vaccination rate goal establish by the CDC’s Health People 2020there is still a concern that clusters of unvaccinated or under-vaccinated children exist in many states and areas. Those locations become susceptible to outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases. Moreover, 26 states and DC failed to meet the 95% goal, so the disparity between vaccinated and unvaccinated groups remain large.

The research also shows that there have been no statistically significant changes in either vaccination or exemption rate from 2012-13. This is more statistical support that the antivaccination agenda is not gaining much traction across most of the USA.

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How vaccine deniers abuse the appeal to authority

flu_badge_cdcUpdated 27 October 2014. See another article about the Argument from Authority logical fallacy and Peter Doshi.

 

Science is built upon the scientific method, which is a logical process of observation, experiment, analysis, and publication. It is simple, but it requires work. Over time, after numerous experiments, nearly always published in peer-reviewed journals, followed by frequent repetition (and sometimes failure) of the experiments and results by other scientists, scientists arrive at a consensus about the evidence that supports a particular set of principles about the science being researched.

As the evidence accumulates and becomes more predictive, it is declared, through scientific consensus, a scientific theory, which is a series of statements about the causal elements for observed phenomena. These theories explain aspects of the natural world. They are predictive. And they can be tested through the scientific method.

Arriving at a scientific consensus is not something that happens overnight–the development of this consensus is rather glacial in pace. That’s a good thing. It keeps out poorly supported ideas, but gives strength to ideas that are supported by a large quantity and quality of evidence. From basic scientific ideas, the scientific method expands or improves these ideas over time. And, one does not simply decide that the consensus is wrong through a debate or argument–changing the consensus requires as much research based in the scientific method, as many peer-reviewed publications and as much critique, repetition, and review as the evidence that built the original consensus.
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The zombie anti-vaccine lie–Peter Doshi and the appeal to authority

flulaval-flu-vaccineA few  months ago, I wrote an article about Peter Doshi, a Ph.D. who is doing some postdoctoral work at Johns Hopkins University, one of the leading institutions of higher learning in the USA. Doshi is truly not very notable in science, except last year, he wrote an article about flu vaccines, basically employing the Nirvana Fallacy that because flu vaccines aren’t 100% effective they are worthless. Since vaccines are fundamentally a medical procedure to mitigate risk with a very low risk of adverse events, even 50% effectiveness will save thousands of lives. But we’ll get back to that.

The article he wrote is not actually based on real research, but appears to be an opinion paper–kind of like the opinion papers written by creationists who want to convince anyone who will listen that dinosaurs lived with humans. Doshi denies that most flu’s are even caused by the influenza virus. I guess the CDC’s high tech diagnostic tests for influenza are all wrong. But then again Doshi presents no evidence.

Because of the zombie myths of the antivaccination world, myths or papers that are reanimated every few months because the vaccine denier community actually lacks any fresh evidence to support their nonsense. So Doshi’s paper from 2013 is resurrected in the antivaccination press. A few days ago, an obscure pseudoscience promoting website started banging the drum about Doshi’s comments. The article, found in the Realfarmacy website, has this scary headline: “Johns Hopkins Scientist Reveals Shocking Report on Flu Vaccines.” Makes it sound like Doshi wrote another article. Which he didn’t.
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Your one stop shop for real science and myth-debunking about Gardasil

Gardasil-vaccine-virus

Updated 26 October 2014.

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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Green coffee beans and weight loss–another dumb myth

dr-oz-green-coffee-beansIf you’re a fan of the Dr. Oz show, you might have heard about his passionate support of green coffee beans, which are just unroasted coffee beans instead of the roasted ones we enjoy in a big mug, for losing weight. In America, weight loss pseudoscience, especially those who claim it’s “easy”, is an obsession, especially since since the country is experiencing an obesity epidemic.

Sadly, Americans are always seeking easy, simple, but effective ways to lose weight that don’t require them to change any behavior at all. In other words, let us eat our Big Macs and never exercise while taking a miracle pill, which makes us maintain a perfect Body Mass Index. If that existed, someone would make more money than the next iPhone.

But let’s focus on those green coffee beans.

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HPV and HepB vaccines are not associated with multiple sclerosis

hepb-vaccine-and-cancerI didn’t know it was an issue, but apparently there was some concern that there was a small possibility that vaccines, specifically the hepatitis B (HepB) and human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccines, might increase the risk of multiple sclerosis (MS) or some other acquired central nervous system demyelinating syndrome (CNS ADS). Apparently, there have been numerous studies examining the possibility that vaccines are related to these neurological disorders with mixed results. However, most of the studies showed no association between vaccines and these disorders, though most of the studies had significant limitations based on small numbers of patients included and some other factors.

If there is actually a causal relationship between vaccines and MS or CNS ADS, it could cause a sea change in the acceptance of vaccines, especially HepB and HPV, which are critical to preventing a number of serious cancers. A recent study, led by Annette Langer-Gould, M.D., Ph.D., of Kaiser Permanente, Southern California, examined the relationship between vaccines, especially HPV and HepB, and MS and CNS ADS, using electronic data from a broad group of Kaiser Permanente Southern California members.

Dr. Langer-Gould and her colleagues conducted a nested case-control study, a type of case-control study that more carefully matches control risk factors, using that data from Kaiser. The authors identified 780 cases of CNS ADS and 3,885 control group patients; 92 cases and 459 control patients were females between the ages of 9 to 26 years, which is the indicated age range for HPV vaccination.

The researchers found that there were no associations between HepB, HPV or other vaccines and an increase risk of MS or CNS ADS, even up to three years post-vaccination. Just to be clear, vaccination of any type was associated with an increased risk of CNS ADS within the first month, but this association disappeared after one month. The researchers suggested that vaccines (like any infection) could accelerate the transition from a subclinical to clinical autoimmunity (including MS) in patients with preexisting autoimmune disease. In other words, any challenge to the immune system, whether from vaccines or from any of hundreds of infections, would have accelerated the autoimmune disorder. Let me repeat–the vaccination was irrelevant, it could have been any infection that caused it during those initial 30 days.

hpv-STD-cancerAccording to the research, “there were no associations between HepB vaccination (odds ratio [OR], 1.12; 95% CI, 0.72-1.73), HPV vaccination (OR, 1.05; 95% CI, 0.62-1.78), or any vaccination (OR, 1.03; 95% CI, 0.86-1.22) and the risk of CNS ADS up to 3 years later.”

They concluded that, “our data do not support a causal link between current vaccines and the risk of MS or other CNS ADS. Our findings do not warrant any change in vaccine policy.”

Once again we find that vaccines are not associated with with serious neurological conditions. And the HPV vaccine, as I’ve written on numerous occasions, is incredibly safe and effective in preventing several types of cancer. This is another study in support of the safety of HPV vaccines.

 

Key citations:

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How to prevent cancer in 12 easy steps–OK, not that easy

stop-cancer-symbolI have railed against charlatans who claim that they have the easy way to prevent or cure cancer. Generally, these snake oil salesmen try to convince you that they have some miraculous food, supplement, spiritual energy, and on and on, that can either kill cancer in its tracks. Or keep them from even growing in your body. But their claims are nearly always absent real compelling scientific evidence.

Like supplements preventing cancer. They don’t. And that’s been shown in study after study after study after study (yeah, I could go on for awhile). Or like avoiding GMO containing foods prevents cancer. Again, studies show that GMO foods have no effect on cancers. Oh, one more thing–bananas don’t have tumor necrosis factor, and the yellow fruit can’t prevent or cure cancer (but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t delicious).

Despite the absolute lack of evidence that supplements, kale, bananas, or drinking the pure waters of a glacial fed stream (which may not be an option with climate change), there are some things that can be done to reduce your risk (see what I did there–no absolutes, just management of risks) of cancer. The World Health Organization (WHO) has codified these 12 steps (no, not that debunked one) into European Code Against Cancer
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The freedom to not vaccinate in France–a court case

france-vaccineThis 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.

This article reports on a recent case in France that may lead the French Constitutional Council to examine directly the questions of a parent’s freedom not to vaccinate and a child’s right to health.

The Case: 

Samia and Marc Larère, parents to a three year old and fifteen months old, have decided not to vaccinate them. A criminal charge was brought against them, by the government of France, for not giving their three year old the required vaccines against diphtheria, tetanus and polio. They were charged under two legal provisions–a provision in the Code of Public Health (le code de la santé publique, art. L.3116-4) that imposes a find of 3750 euros and up to six months in jail for those who do not receive, or allow those under their guardianship to receive, mandatory vaccinations, including parents (“Le refus de se soumettre ou de soumettre ceux sur lesquels on exerce l’autorité parentale ou dont on assure la tutelle aux obligations de vaccination prévues aux articles L. 3111-2, L. 3111-3 et L. 3112-1 ou la volonté d’en entraver l’exécution sont punis de six mois d’emprisonnement et de 3 750 Euros d’amende”). And a provision in the criminal code that criminalizes neglect of parental duties “to the point of risking the health… of a minor child”, with a fine of 30,000 euros and up to two years in prisons as penalty (article 227-17: “Le fait, par le père ou la mère, de se soustraire, sans motif légitime, à ses obligations légales au point de compromettre la santé, la sécurité, la moralité ou l’éducation de son enfant mineur est puni de deux ans d’emprisonnement et de 30 000 euros d’amende”).

The reason the Larères initially gave for declining to vaccinate their child was that they could not give her only the required vaccines–the only available vaccines, they said, had the required vaccines in combination with others, like Hepatitis B and meningococcal, which are not legally required and they were not willing to give the combination vaccine to their child.  Upon further probing, however, the couple admitted they received a vaccine containing only the required vaccines from Sanofi Pasteur, but still refused to vaccinate claiming that the vaccine contained a “toxic product”.

It may have been this vaccine (pdf). It’s unclear which ingredients they were referring to. The product contains a number of ingredients that may be used to raise concern among those unfamiliar with their role in vaccines and the principle that the dose makes the poison. In fact, in the tiny amounts in vaccines (pdf), none of these ingredients is toxic (pdf).
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This deadly viral epidemic frightens me

1918-spanish-fluA deadly disease has entered the USA. And it took its first victim for the year, yesterday.(1)

During the past 10 years, this disease has killed up to 49,000 Americans, of all ages and demographic groups, annually.(2)

On average, 250,000-500,000 people die from the disease every year.(3)

During an average year, over 200,000 Americans are hospitalized for this viral infection.(4)

During one horrible outbreak of the disease, approximately 50-100 million people, mostly young healthy adults, were killed by the virus worldwide, all in one year.(5)

There is an amazing prevention for this disease that most people ignore–vaccines.(6)

References:

  1. DHEC: First Flu Related Death in the State.
  2. Estimating Seasonal Influenza-Associated Deaths in the United States: CDC Study Confirms Variability of Flu
  3. WHO | Influenza (Seasonal).
  4. Seasonal Influenza-Associated Hospitalizations in the United States 
  5. Reconstruction of the 1918 Influenza Pandemic Virus
  6. Key Facts About Seasonal Flu Vaccine

 

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Update–Polio-like illness (acute flaccid paralysis) in California

salk-polio-cartoonEarlier this year, I reported on an outbreak of a mysterious viral disease that exhibited polio-like symptoms. At the time, around 23 children and young adults were afflicted with the disease. Some of them tested positive for enterovirus-68a member of a genus of viruses that include over 66 different species that can infect humans. None of them tested positive for the polio virus.

Polio is a crippling and potentially deadly infectious disease caused by the poliovirus, a human enterovirus, that spreads from person to person invading the brain and spinal cord and causing paralysis. Because polio has no cure, the polio vaccine is the best way to protect yourself and the only way to stop the disease from spreading.

The United States last experienced a polio epidemic in the 1950s, prior to the introduction of the polio vaccine 60 years ago. Today, polio has been eradicated from most of the planet, as the number of worldwide polio cases has fallen from an estimated 350,000 in 1988 to fewer than 223 in 2012—a decline of more than 99% in reported cases.
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