The Pathological Optimist – vaccine fraud Andrew Wakefield documentary

The Pathological Optimist

I was having a peaceful evening. I fired up my Apple TV to watch the Trailers app to see upcoming movies that I might watch. Unfortunately, right at the top row, I see Andrew Wakefield’s face on the trailer for a new documentary about him, “The Pathological Optimist“.

Why would anyone want to see another documentary about this man? Well, it’s horror film season, and Wakefield is one scary man.

In 2016, we got his self-serving fraudumentary, “Vaxxed,” a film that invented a conspiracy about the so called CDC Whistleblower, a thoroughly debunked myth. However, “The Pathological Optimist” was not produced by Wakefield himself, it was developed and produced independently. However, the film ended up putting him in a favorable, and complicated, light.

Let’s take a look at the movie, but I want to remind everyone that Andrew Wakefield is not a favorable character in any play about vaccines. He committed a demonstrable fraud which has harmed children across the world. He might be “The Pathological Optimist,” but there is a lot of evidence that he is a pathological something.

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Flu treatments – do any of them work, or should I just get the vaccine?

Flu treatments

So you’ve decided to forsake the flu vaccine because you buy into the easily-debunked myths of the anti-vaccine world. Then you catch the flu, which is considered a very dangerous disease despite some of the myths. Then, you send someone to go down to the local drug store to find one of those advertised flu treatments. It’s time to look at these common “flu treatments” and determine whether there is any scientific evidence supporting their usefulness.

I’ve written previously about various supplements and treatments for the common cold, and they mostly don’t work. Or the evidence is so weak that it’s a waste of money to use them.

These ineffective treatments exist for one reason – money. Common cold and flu treatments are a significant part of the estimated global US$278 billion supplement and nutraceutical industry. And the industry is largely unregulated, so they can make unsupported claims, and people buy them based on the woo.

Let me be frank – your best, and really, only choice to prevent the flu is getting the seasonal flu vaccine. It is the only method to boost your or your children’s immune system against the flu.

Although there’s some overlap between common cold and flu treatments, there are a large number of flu treatments that get sold over the counter, although one is sold by prescription. Are any effective? Let’s find out. Continue reading “Flu treatments – do any of them work, or should I just get the vaccine?”

Gun control regulations and firearms mortality – UPDATED

Gun control regulations and public health.

Firearms mortality, either murder, accidental or suicide, has always been a public health issue in the USA. There have been several good epidemiological studies that have examined whether gun control regulations and firearms mortality risk are related – and the results are surprisingly vigorous.

From recent epidemiological research, there is some convincing evidence that establishes a correlation between state-level gun control regulations and firearms mortality rates. However, the link is not as black and white as one might wish – the relationship between firearms regulations and mortality depends on the quality of the law.

The nation’s leading public health organization, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is essentially prevented from analyzing and publishing any epidemiological research that would help us understand what, if any, links there are between gun control and firearms mortality. The Republican dominated congress have done everything they can to prevent the CDC from using any funds to study the issue.

Furthermore, because the CDC cannot (or will not) fund research into gun control, it has lead to a chilling effect on gun control research in academia. According to the Washington Post, “young academics were warned that joining the field was a good way to kill their careers. And the odd gun study that got published went through linguistic gymnastics to hide any connection to firearms.”

But maybe because this public health menace can no longer be ignored, a smattering of well done epidemiological research is being published in very high quality medical journals. Let’s look at one.

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Anti-vaccine tweets correlated with affluent white women in five states

anti-vaccine tweets

Although there’s evidence that the anti-science beliefs surrounding vaccines cross a broad political spectrum, I’ve always wondered if rich white liberal women were the center of the anti-vaccine universe – this is based on my own personal anecdotal evidence, so let’s just consider that a belief than a fact. A recent analysis of anti-vaccine tweets may or may not confirm my beliefs about these rich white liberals.

There has been a dramatic increase, over the past few years, in the volume of tweets that claim that life-saving vaccines are linked to autism. Anyone who reads this blog knows that that claim is demonstrably and scientifically false. Despite the science, the belief that vaccines cause autism remains. And this view is promulgated on various locations on the internet.

Like with a lot of other controversial topics, the Twitter outrage about the danger of vaccines doesn’t actually reflect a sudden surge in anti-vaccine beliefs amongst the general population. According to a recently published peer-reviewed article, most of increase in these anti-vaccine tweets represent a very specific demographic. Individuals from affluent, populated areas in five states – California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, and Pennsylvania – seem to be the backbone of this sudden increase in anti-vaccine tweets.

Let’s take a look at this new paper. It could provide us with some information about the who is pushing the anti-vaccine narrative. Continue reading “Anti-vaccine tweets correlated with affluent white women in five states”

Science denialism politics – vaccines, GMOs, evolution, climate change

science denialism politics

On an episode of his HBO political talk show, Real Time with Bill Maher, Maher repeated his contention that the Republican Party, more generally the right wing of the American political spectrum, is the party of science denialism politics.

I am no fan of Bill Maher, because, in fact, he himself is is a science denier. Maher hits some of the top 10 list of science denialism: he’s an anti-vaccine crackpot, he’s pro-alternative medicine, he’s on the verge of AIDS denialism, and, to top it off, he hates GMO foods.

In other words, Maher, a leftist by any stretch of the meaning, embraces science denialism politics in a way that would probably inspire your local climate change or evolution denier on the right.

HBO’s other political news-ish program, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, features British comedian Oliver, who is pro-science on every issue I’ve heard, including scientific research and vaccines.

Neil deGrasse Tyson was a guest on Maher’s episode, and contradicted him regarding the claim that Republicans hold the monopoly on junk science:

Don’t be too high and mighty there, because there are certain aspects of science denials that are squarely in the liberal left.

I like to generalize about the politics of science denialism politics – I and many others have claimed that the anti-GMO crowd is nothing more than the left’s version of climate change deniers. But some people have taken umbrage with Tyson’s comments, and believe that science denialism cannot be correlated with political beliefs.

One caveat about this article – it is primarily focused on American politics. In many countries, both the left and right accept the consensus on scientific principles like evolution and vaccines. Only in America is science denialism the default position, crossing party boundaries.

Let’s take a look at left vs. right ideas about science, and how each embrace science denialism and pseudoscience. It’s quite a bit more complicated than you can imagine.

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Influenza kills – the flu vaccine saves lives, it’s fairly simple

influenza kills

During the 2016-17 flu season, over 100 children died from the virus. Yet, only 60% of children were vaccinated, despite the fact influenza kills.

Not only do children die of the flu, but between 12,000 – 56,000 adults die every year from the flu in the USA. Some of those people are healthy young adults. In some years, the flu kills more people than many other things that we consider dangerous, like firearms and cars.

It’s difficult to understand why parents seem to ignore the flu vaccine for themselves or for their children. Many people just don’t think the flu is that dangerous. Or they think the vaccine doesn’t work. Or they believe in some other myth that simply isn’t true.

Whatever the reason for avoiding the vaccine for children or adults, it’s important that people know what the flu can do, even for a healthy child or adult. It’s not a disease you can ignore, despite the claims of the anti-vaccine corps. And the flu cannot be treated or prevented by supplements or vitaminsContinue reading “Influenza kills – the flu vaccine saves lives, it’s fairly simple”

Gardasil safety and efficacy – debunking the HPV vaccine myths

Gardasil safety and efficacy

There was an 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. Some of the reasons why the HPV vaccine uptake is so low is a result of several myths about Gardasil safety and efficacy.

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 “Gardasil safety and efficacy – debunking the HPV vaccine myths”

HPV vaccine causes infertility and primary ovarian insufficiency – myth

HPV vaccine causes infertility

The HPV vaccine causes infertility through primary ovarian insufficiency (POI) – a belief unsupported by evidence. And the claim appears to be based on anti-vaccine ideology instead of real science.

Yes, I know, this story seems to repeat itself, but stay tuned, this is a good one. So let’s examine this myth from a scientific aspect and show how the HPV vaccine is actually unrelated to POI. Continue reading “HPV vaccine causes infertility and primary ovarian insufficiency – myth”

HPV vaccine affects fertility? Another myth gets debunked

HPV vaccine affects fertility

There are more myths about the HPV vaccine than I can count. Without a doubt, the HPV vaccine is hated more than any other vaccine, except, maybe, for the MMR vaccine, which doesn’t cause autism. One of more popular myths is that the HPV vaccine affects fertility – there a continuing public concern about whether the HPV vaccine itself could affect future fertility.

Of course, there is no plausible reason why the HPV vaccine could reduce fertility in men or women. In fact, HPV infections have been associated with reduced semen quality and lower pregnancy rates, so logically, we could assume that preventing an HPV infection would actually improve fertility in men and women. But facts rarely have any meaning to solid myth making.

Fortunately, there is a newly published study which actually provides us with evidence about whether the HPV vaccine affects fertility. Not to give away the ending, but it doesn’t, except in one group of women, where it actually increases it. Oh well, I gave away the ending. But please, read the rest of the article. Continue reading “HPV vaccine affects fertility? Another myth gets debunked”

GMO science facts – your one stop shop

gmo science facts

Genetically modified organisms (GMOs or GMs) are one of the most well studied areas of biological and agricultural research. However, one of the tactics of the GMO refusers is that “there’s no proof that GMOs are safe.” It’s time to look at the GMO science facts – examining myth from science.

Typically, in a debate, the side making the assertion (those that say GMOs are unsafe) are responsible for the evidence that supports their contention. But, the anti-GMO gang relies upon the argument from ignorance, trying to force the argument to “if you can’t prove that they’re safe, they must be unsafe.”

The anti-GMO forces also like to invoke the precautionary principle, which attempts to shift the burden of proof to those who are advocating GMOs (or any new technology) until the advocates “prove” that there are absolutely no negative consequences of using GMOs.

The principle is often cited by anti-science and/or environmental activists when there is a perceived lack of evidence showing that a technology is absolutely safe.

I’ve written numerous articles about GMOs, focusing on scientific evidence supported by high quality research. And more than a few articles debunked myths and bad research from the anti-GMO crowd. To assist those who are doing research on the topic, this article was created to be a one-stop shop for GMO science facts – and fiction.

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