Robert Redfield named CDC director – what does this mean for vaccines?

robert redfield

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is America’s national public health institute – it is one of the most respected scientific institutions in the world. And the CDC Director, a presidentially appointed position, usually sets policy for public health in the USA, while they have considerable influence over public health worldwide. After the resignation of Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald in January 2018, President Donald Trump appointed Dr. Robert Redfield as the new CDC Director.

Despite the fantasies of the anti-vaccine religion and other science deniers, the CDC is staffed by highly educated and trained scientists, public health experts, physicians, and nurses, many of them are officers in the United States Public Health Service. These people are dedicated to the public health of Americans and often spend their lives keep all of us safe from harm from diseases.

The CDC’s main goal is to protect public health and safety through the prevention of disease, injury, and disability not only in the USA but also internationally. The CDC is an independent Federal agency whose dedicated staff stand at the front lines of infectious diseases throughout the world. The agency also focuses on non-infectious diseases, such as diabetes and obesity. Finally, they provide educational activities designed to improve health.

Of course, the CDC matters to me because they are the primary source of information about vaccines and vaccine-preventable diseases in the USA and the world. Though the CDC does not control vaccinations, they only set recommendations that states and certain parts of the Federal government (like the military and foreign service officers) generally follow. The CDC follows logical and scientific procedures to make these recommendations.

And now we have a new CDC Director, Dr. Robert Redfield, who at first blush appears to be a reasonable choice for the position. However, I am a scientific skeptic, so I never stop at the first blush. Continue reading “Robert Redfield named CDC director – what does this mean for vaccines?”

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.

Continue reading “Science denialism politics – vaccines, GMOs, evolution, climate change”

Anti-vaxxers are crying vaccine tears – Trump breaks promise

anti-vaxxers

Earlier this week, I published an article on the nominee for the Surgeon General, Dr. Jerome M. Adams along  with a potential nominee for CDC director, Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald. Since then, President Trump made it official, and Dr. Fitzgerald will be the next CDC Director. And the delicious salty tears of anti-vaxxers are flowing freely, since both doctors are clearly pro-vaccine.

Some of you may remember that President Trump had tweeted (his only form of communication apparently) his dislike of vaccines prior to being elected President.

Continue reading “Anti-vaxxers are crying vaccine tears – Trump breaks promise”

Trump appointed Surgeon General and CDC director – good for vaccines

Trump appointed Surgeon General

Donald Trump’s record on appointments for science and medical positions has been horrific, at best. His choice of Tom Price for Health and Human Services was terrible for healthcare. Anti-science individuals were also appointed to serve as EPA Director and Secretary of Energy. But recently, Trump appointed Surgeon General and will appoint a CDC director, both of whom appear to be good, though not perfect picks.

From a purely non-political standpoint, those of us on the science side wanted a few basics in the new Surgeon General and CDC director:

  1. Have a respectable medical and/or public health background.
  2. Provide full-throated support for immunization programs
  3. Don’t belong to the right wing Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS), which has radical ideas about health care, Medicaid, Medicare and just about any modern healthcare strategy.
  4. Don’t have unscientific ideas about HIV/AIDS, Ebola, Zika virus, and many other contemporary issues in public health.

Sure, it would be nice for our national public health advocates to remind the country that accidental gun deaths is a public health issue, but that’s never going to happen in the current political environment.

Let’s take a look at who President Trump appointed Surgeon General and who he will probably appoint CDC director. Continue reading “Trump appointed Surgeon General and CDC director – good for vaccines”

Cancer mortality rate – good news, it’s the lowest in 25 years

cancer mortality rate

There are two tropes about cancer that seem to be accepted as facts. First, cancer is a modern disease, unknown to previous generations. And second, the cancer mortality rate is increasing because of the usual suspects, from GMOs to whatever. This is a good thing about science, there’s actually evidence that gives us a different image.

If you use Google as your source for cancer facts, you’d think that we have a raging epidemic of the disease, killing more people today than just a few years ago. But the facts say something else – the cancer mortality rate declined from 1975 to 2012 in the USA in one study, and that it was the lowest since 1991 in another study. By any reasonable examination of data, we are actually winning the war on cancer in the USA.

The myth that the cancer mortality rate is increasing, along with the trope that Big Pharma and oncologists make more money by not providing real treatments for cancer are completely debunked by this data. The cancer-woo pushers probably are saddened by what we’re learning about cancer, but it certainly provides us with excellent data that science is beating cancer. Sure, we aren’t at the point of curing all 200 or so cancers that afflict humans, but we’re doing better than we were 10, 20, 30 or 40 years ago.

Except for liver cancer bucking the trend. We’ll look into that too.

I’m certain that the reason for the lower cancer incidence and mortality rates are complicated. It’s possible that people are starting to embrace the handful of science-based preventions to cancer – like reducing smoking. It’s also better medications from Big Pharma. And better science-based treatment options for cancer. Cancer treatment has evolved massively in just 3-4 decades. I’m sure if you spoke to an oncologist today, and queried him about techniques from the 1970s, he or she would just cringe.

Let’s look at these studies that gave us this data. And maybe we can put to rest some of the memes about cancer ravishing modern humans.

Continue reading “Cancer mortality rate – good news, it’s the lowest in 25 years”

Scott Pruitt, climate change denier EPA chief – wrong about the science

Scott Pruitt

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was created in 1970 for the purpose of protecting human health and the environment by writing and enforcing regulations based on laws passed by the United States Congress. Among its many responsibilities, it is at the forefront in attempting to reduce the effects of climate change. Of course, Donald Trump appointed a climate denier EPA chief, Scott Pruitt, who has absolutely despised the EPA while attorney general for Oklahoma.

In an interview on CNBC, Pruitt said the following:

In recent years, critics would say the EPA has been too focused on CO2 and maybe things like hazardous waste sites, particulate pollution, strip mining, what’s happening to the oceans — there are so many things that the EPA could do productively that maybe have been diverted from this single-minded focus on CO2.

I think that measuring with precision human activity on the climate is something very challenging to do, and there’s tremendous disagreement about the degree of impact. So no, I would not agree that it’s (CO2) a primary contributor to the global warming that we see. But we don’t know that yet…we need to continue the debate and continue the review and the analysis.

But the new climate denier EPA administrator is wrong about his “opinion” about the science of climate change. Let’s look at just how wrong Scott Pruitt is about the science of climate change. Continue reading “Scott Pruitt, climate change denier EPA chief – wrong about the science”

Google blacklisted Natural News – and there’s cheering in the streets

Google blacklisted Natural News

Natural News, a website run by Mike Adams, the self styled Health Ranger, is a festering cesspool of junk medicine, pseudoscience and conspiracy theories. There isn’t one positive thing I can say about the website, but there’s very good news – Google blacklisted Natural News. If you use Google (who doesn’t?), then perform a search for “Natural News” or the title of any story on that website, the actual website (naturalnews.com) does not appear at all in the search results. The only results that seem to appear are articles about Natural News. And a wonderfully snarky RationalWiki article.

Of course, Mike Adams went nuclear, something he’s done in the past with Dr. David Gorski. In response to the Google action, Adams posted an article, “GOOGLE blacklists Natural News… removes 140,000 pages from its index… “memory holes” Natural News investigative articles on vaccines, pharma corruption, fraudulent science and more.” Apparently, Adams jumped off the cliff of delusion down into the cave of hilarity. This has apparently unhinged him in ways that we skeptics have never quite been able to do, despite pointing out every dumb thing he’s ever written.

 

Continue reading “Google blacklisted Natural News – and there’s cheering in the streets”

Vaccines cause autism debate – it only exists in the minds of vaccine deniers

vaccines cause autism debate

In an op-ed piece in the Washington Post last month, New England pediatrician Daniel Summers effectively wrote that the so-called vaccines cause autism debate was over. He wrote, “not merely one study or two, but study after study after study confirms that vaccines are safe, and that there is no connection with autism.” In fact, there are 100s of studies, many of them with a huge number of data points, that have shown no correlation, let alone causation, between vaccines and autism. None.

Other than stating that I objectively support Dr. Summers’ statements and conclusions, I don’t have much else to say. But you and I know that an op-ed piece by a real doctor will be noticed by someone in the vaccine denier world, and they will pull out every single trope, myth, and conspiracy theory to claim that Dr. Summers is wrong and that there really is a “vaccines cause autism debate.”

I came across an article by Jeremy R Hammond in the right wing alternative news website, Personal Liberty, which attacked Dr. Summers with those aforementioned tropes, myths, and conspiracy theories. The same ones you’d see from any of your standard, run-of-the-mill vaccine denier.

Let’s take a look at Hammond’s article. Generally, I can only get through about half of an anti-vaccine article when I have to stop because I’m banging my head against the desk too much. I need to protect the neurons in my brain from further damage. But I will try to persevere in the name of science.

Continue reading “Vaccines cause autism debate – it only exists in the minds of vaccine deniers”

Gates Foundation birth control initiative – support women who lose it because of Trump

Gates Foundation birth control

Donald Trump has stated that he is very strongly (or bigly?) against the right to abortion, and the empowered right wing Republicans in many states are pushing some awful new legislation. And Trump has issued an executive order that blocks Federal funding of any non-profit organization that pays for or even mentions abortion, effectively “gagging” these organizations from providing health services to women across the world. Lucky for these women, the Gates Foundation birth control funding may replace a lot of Federal funding, and for that we should be thankful.

Bill Gates, and his family foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, has stated four simple goals for transforming our world:

  1. Ensure more young people survive and thrive.
  2. Empower the poorest, especially women and girls, to transform their lives.
  3. Combat infectious diseases, especially those that affect the poorest.
  4. Inspire people to take action to change the world.

As opposed to Trump, a pseudo-billionaire who thinks he’s entitled and has no particular interest in those who have to fight for their lives every day, Bill Gates is a real billionaire, whose products revolutionized our world, and who has made it his life’s mission to help those who need his support – the poor, especially women and children. Setting aside jokes about Windows or Microsoft, if we are to judge a person by what they do for those who suffer every day just trying to live another day, then they pass with flying colors. Continue reading “Gates Foundation birth control initiative – support women who lose it because of Trump”

Anti-vaccine bullshit – Robert De Niro and RFK Jr are full of it

Anti-vaccine nonsense

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Robert De Niro just had a press conference to push their anti-vaccine bullshit on the public. This time, they’re offering US$100,000 to anyone who can show that mercury in vaccines are safe. Well, they can write me the check today, since there is NO mercury (really, there never was) in vaccines, so based on their lame accusations, it’s safe.

I’m starting to think that the anti-vaccine forces think that the wind is blowing in their direction. This so-called press conference was held at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, an important venue for announcements. The National Press Club ought to be embarrassed – how could a prestigious institution allow such junk “news” at their site. But that’s a story for another day. Continue reading “Anti-vaccine bullshit – Robert De Niro and RFK Jr are full of it”