New York vaccine law likely does not violate IDEA

New York vaccine law

On June 13, 2019, a revised New York vaccine law, which removed the religious exemption to its school immunization mandate, was signed by the governor. Anti-vaccine activists filed a lawsuit against the law, claiming it violates the First Amendment – a claim that flies in the face of extensive jurisprudence.

On July 26, 2019 a second lawsuit was filed against the law claiming it violates the IDEA act by keeping children with disabilities out of school, led by attorney Kim Mack Rosenberg who was involved in arguing against California’s law (though anti-vaccine activist’s Robert F. Kennedy’s jr. organization, Children’s Health Defense, took credit for it as well). Attorney Rosenberg is clearly highly competent, though unfortunately, also very anti-vaccine, and made the best case possible for her claims.

While there is not the same extensive jurisprudence on this issue as there is on other issues, there are good grounds to reject the claims here, since, as spelled out by public health scholars Ross Silverman and Wendy Hense, the barrier to children’s access to services is parental choice not to vaccinate, not a state-created impediment that targets children with disabilities. Other claims in the lawsuit are also problematic. Continue reading “New York vaccine law likely does not violate IDEA”

Nick Catone son dies tragically – blaming vaccines with no evidence

Nick Catone

On May 12, 2017, the son of retired UFC fighter Nick Catone, Nicholas Catone, by all accounts a healthy, sweet, happy, child, died in his sleep. It’s horrible to lose a child, and I want to start by extending my condolences to the family.

Sadly, I can’t stop there. His parents blame vaccines. The story is being spread in mom groups and understandably scares moms from vaccinating. But Nicholas’ tragic death is not a good reason to refuse vaccines. First, the alleged link to vaccines is extraordinarily weak. There is no good reason to blame vaccines for the boy’s tragic death. Second, even if this was linked to vaccines – and there’s no evidence of that – it’s still safer to vaccinate.  Continue reading “Nick Catone son dies tragically – blaming vaccines with no evidence”

Postponement of a vaccine forum – anti-vaxxers hate science-based facts

vaccine forum

One of the things that the anti-vaccine zealots hate is a science-based vaccine forum. They cannot tolerate accurate and unbiased information being disseminated about the settled science of vaccine safety and effectiveness. Rather than have accurate facts being presented to parents, they would much rather do their best to suppress this information to make their cult of lies seem more impressive.

On 15 August 2019, Loma Linda University Humanities Program, part of the school’s College of Religion, was going to host a program, The Vaccine Mandate – Faith, Liberty, and the Pursuit of the Common Good. The two participants were Professor Dorit Rubinstein Reiss, Professor of Law at the University of California Hastings College of the Law, who is a frequent contributor to this and many other blogs, and Assistant Professor Wonha Kim, MD, who is the Director, Institute for Health Policy and Leadership at Loma Linda.

vaccine forum

As the title of the program suggests, this vaccine forum was to be a discussion of vaccine mandates, exemptions, and related issues. I had planned to drive from my home to attend the lecture since I thought it would be both interesting and enlightening. 

Unfortunately, for safety issues, mostly in the form of “protests” from the science-denying anti-vaxxers, Loma Linda University decided to postpone this important forum until a later date. With the mass murders of people in El Paso and Dayton, at roughly the same time, I’m sure that the university was worried about the somewhat violent tendencies of the anti-vaccine nutjobs played a significant role in the decision process.

I was genuinely worried about violence from the anti-vaxxers towards Professors Reiss and Kim. And against those in the audience who are strongly pro-vaccine, myself included. Although California does have strong anti-gun laws, that doesn’t mean some crackpot from another state could carry a weapon here to do harm to those of us who speak about science. We live amongst some awful human beings who place little value on human life – why else would they want little children to be a risk of horrible vaccine-preventable diseases. 

Larry Cook, whose anti-vaccine Facebook page was removed, threatens people with guns. Because that’s all that the anti-vaxxers have going for them, hate and violence.

There are literally dozens of Facebook posts from anti-vaxxers who have threatened harm towards Professor Reiss, Dr. Paul Offit, Dr. David Gorski, and many others that have put themselves at the forefront of supporting the science behind vaccine facts. These anti-vaxxers, who have nothing but fear, uncertainty, and doubt to support their pseudoscience need to resort to violent metaphors and hatred, just to make sure others support their cult of bovine fecal material.

If they had real scientific evidence supporting their claims, they would, of course, engage in civil discourse. Well, if they were actually capable of understanding those words.

An open vaccine forum, like this one at Loma Linda University, would have provided important information to parents so that they understand why mandatory (not really mandatory) vaccinations are critical to the well-being of not only their own children but all of the children in their communities. Sadly, the anti-vaccine religion cannot abide by accurate information, because it negates their lies.

Typical anti-vaccine protest – no science, no logic, no civility.

I am hoping that Loma Linda decides to bring back Professors Reiss and Kim to lead this vaccine forum in a safe manner sometime soon. And I will, once again, ride by horseback from my isolated cabin, where I observe Sasquatch, to attend the discussion. Because I like fact-based information, as opposed to the anti-vaccine, pseudoscience-loving, hate-filled, pro-disease, bogans that make up the anti-vaccine mob.

Vaccines save lives. Period. End of story. 

Christopher Bunch – another tragedy blamed on the HPV vaccine

christopher bunch

On 14 August 2018, fourteen-year-old Christopher Bunch died from acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (ADEM), leaving his loving, devoted family reeling. The family blamed his death on the HPV vaccine that Christopher received, and they were quickly surrounded and courted by anti-vaccine activists.

My heart goes out to Christopher’s family. I followed the case since he was in the hospital, hoping and praying with them for a good outcome, and I feel their heartbreak. I was also deeply impressed by their initial reaction, which was to create a positive legacy for Christopher, making him visible and famous.

I would rather not write about this, which is why this post is so long after the fact. But Christopher’s death is since being used to try and scare people away from HPV vaccines or vaccines generally, putting others at risk of cancer and death. With very little basis: the timing and the epidemiological evidence do not support a link between Christopher’s death and HPV vaccines. Christopher Bunch deserves a better legacy than that. Continue reading “Christopher Bunch – another tragedy blamed on the HPV vaccine”

Samoan vaccine tragedy – two nurses sentenced to five years in prison

samoan vaccine update

Recently, Dorit Rubinstein Reiss wrote an in-depth article here discussing the Samoan vaccine tragedy – two children died within minutes after receiving the routine MMR vaccine. The government reacted to the Samoan vaccine issue almost immediately, and they opened an inquest into what may have killed the two children – spoiler alert, it wasn’t the vaccine.

At the time, the story was picked up by the anti-vaccine religion as evidence that the MMR vaccine kills children while claiming that nefarious forces are conspiring to hide the truth about the vaccine. Except that is the farthest thing from the truth. Continue reading “Samoan vaccine tragedy – two nurses sentenced to five years in prison”

Dr. Robert Sears vaccine info misleads parents about measles

robert sears vaccine

Dr. Robert Sears vaccine info is false and misleading. On January 16, 2015, Sears, who refers to himself as Dr. Bob, is a California pediatrician and author of a controversial book on vaccines (critiqued here, pdf, or here by the fine folks at Science-Based Medicine).

He 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.) 

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. Continue reading “Dr. Robert Sears vaccine info misleads parents about measles”

Oliver vaccine injury case – Court denies appeal of NVICP ruling

vaccine injury case

On January 9, 2019, the Federal Circuit’s Court of Appeals decided not to rehear an appeal by Laura and Eddie Oliver of a decision of a vaccine injury case (referred to as “Oliver”) by a special master of the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (NVICP) who ruled that the NVICP would not award compensation to their son for his developmental delays and seizure disorder.

Circuit Judge Pauline Newman dissented to the Court of Appeals decision, joined by Judge Jimmie V. Reyna. Although Judge Newman’s dissent carries no legal authority, it can be offered as persuasive materials in other cases. It should not, however, carry much weight, because Judge Newman’s dissent mischaracterizes the Oliver vaccine injury case, mischaracterizes the relevant science, and makes numerous other errors.

This article will examine the Oliver vaccine injury case along with the scientific issues involved. Continue reading “Oliver vaccine injury case – Court denies appeal of NVICP ruling”

California vaccination rate down – linked to fake medical exemptions?

California vaccination rate

The California vaccination rate had been slowly growing since the implementation of SB277 in 2016, which eliminated the broadly abused personal belief exemptions to vaccines for students. Unfortunately, anti-vaccine parents abused the law by getting mostly fake medical exemptions (see Notes) to vaccines, which seems to have exploded over the past year or so.

In fact, the California Medical Board had put one of the more famous anti-vaccine pediatricians, Dr. Bob Sears, on probation for abusing vaccine medical exemptions and other issues. In 2016, the Executive Director of the Medical Board of California, represented by the office of the California Attorney General, then headed by Kamala Harrisbrought a complaint against Dr. Sears (pdf).

And in June 2019, a complaint against Dr. Sears was brought by Kimberly Kirchmeyer, executive director of the Medical Board of California, which alleges that Sears signed vaccine medical exemptions for two siblings. Those children did not have medically-recognized contraindications for any vaccines, based on their medical records.

Dr. Sears is merely the tip of a huge iceberg of physicians and other medical professionals signing off on fake medical exemptions – many of these physicians charge exorbitant fees for this “service.” There are several Facebook groups where anti-vax parents share information about these physicians who lack any concern for the long-term health of children. 

As a result of this ongoing abuse, the California legislature proposed SB276, which puts some stricter controls on medical exemptions. Essentially, SB276 states that the physician writing the exemption would have to submit a copy to the California Department of Health, and the department would create a system to review medical exemptions from schools with less than 95% immunization rates or doctors who submitted more than 5 exemptions.

SB276 won’t eliminate all abuse, but it should help.

Unfortunately, until SB276 is passed by the legislature and signed into law by the governor, the misuse of medical exemptions continues. And that might have led to a decrease in the California vaccination rate. Continue reading “California vaccination rate down – linked to fake medical exemptions?”

Dr. Ron Kennedy loses appeal against providing records to medical board for vaccine exemptions

Ron Kennedy

On 14 June 2019, a California Court of Appeals issued a decision (pdf) that means, in essence, that Dr. Ron Kennedy (see Note 1) has to provide the Medical Board of California with medical records of three patients for whom he wrote vaccine medical exemptions. This is part of an ongoing saga around Dr. Kennedy’s exemption writing.

Ron Kennedy is a licensed MD who owns a clinic called the Anti-Aging Clinic in Santa Rosa, CA,  which offers, apparently, anti-aging treatments. The Yelp reviews for the clinic suggest he has a long history of filling medical marijuana prescriptions. 

I am going to review Dr. Ron Kennedy’s background and the case in this article. Continue reading “Dr. Ron Kennedy loses appeal against providing records to medical board for vaccine exemptions”

Dr Bob Sears license on probation for invalid vaccine exemptions – again

Dr Bob Sears

On 27 June 2018, Dr Robert (Bob) Sears, an anti-vaccine pediatrician, agreed to a stipulation with the California Medical Board that put his license to practice on probation and subjected him to a set of non-trivial conditions.

The revocation of the medical license of Dr Bob Sears was stayed by the Medical Board – it will not become operative unless he violates the conditions – but given the specific allegations in the complaint and the fact that this was his first disciplinary action, an immediate full revocation was not likely. The sanction is non-trivial, and a clear warning against future misconduct.  Continue reading “Dr Bob Sears license on probation for invalid vaccine exemptions – again”