Skeptical Raptor's Blog hunting pseudoscience in the internet jungle

No no no. The CDC did not say the flu vaccine was worthless

Seasonal_Flu_Logo-LG

Updated 6 December 2014.

Here we go again. The popular press is once again misinterpreting and overstating infectious disease issues (Ebola anyone?).

NBC reported that CDC Warning: Flu Viruses Mutate and Evade Current Vaccine! Uh oh.

The Guardian blared headlines that Flu vaccine protects against wrong strain, US health officials warn. Run away, it’s the apocalypse!

At least the Health Ranger hasn’t posted anything on Natural News. I should have waited another day. The Natural News publishes its version, CDC issues flu vaccine apology: this year’s vaccine doesn’t work!, using its typical provocative and deceitful headline click-bait.

Time to get a cup of coffee and look at this story a bit more rationally, without the explosive headlines.
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How vaccine deniers abuse the appeal to authority

flu_badge_cdcUpdated 3 December 2014.  Please visit my other 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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Why we vaccinate–mandatory flu vaccines reduce risk of hospitalization

flu-shot-smiley-face

Updated 28 November 2014.

According to the unsurprising results reported in a new study, published in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, in areas where laws mandate that children receive a seasonal flu vaccination, before entering preschool or day care, the rate of flu-related hospitalizations drops significantly. In this study, after Connecticut enacted a law that mandated the vaccine, the rate of children requiring hospitalization because of the flu declined by 12%.

Connecticut’s regulation for flu vaccination (pdf), which took effect in 2010, increased the uptake of childhood flu vaccinations from 67.8% to 84.1%. According to Dr. James Hadler, the lead researcher for the study, “That difference, we feel, has resulted in children attending daycare being better protected against influenza and its severe complications.”

Even though Connecticut’s regulations for flu vaccination allows for some exemptions (the child has a scheduled appoint for the shot soon after the start of school, medical contraindication, or religious belief), it’s obvious that the effort was highly successful in driving up the level of uptake of the flu vaccination, a vaccine that is often ignored by parents for occasionally odd reasons.
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Dumb Asses who don’t get the flu vaccine

flu-shot-mythsEvery flu season, I resurrect this hysterical and snarky by Infectious Disease specialist Dr. Mark Crislip which was originally published in A Budget of Dumb Asses, which accurately states that healthcare workers who refuse to get a flu vaccine are Dumb Asses. Yes, complete and utter Dumb Asses. Even though this broadside against vaccine deniers is about the flu vaccine, it’s all right to search and replace flu with say meningitis, pertussis, measles or anything. And just because it’s about healthcare workers, it’s all right to replace that with your neighbor, co-worker, or some other anti-scientific antivaccination Dumb Ass.

The upcoming 2014-2015 flu season is just starting, and many physicians and clinics (along with many pharmacies, government flu clinics, and other places) have this season’s flu vaccine. One of the best ways, if not the only real way, to prevent contracting this year’s flu is by immunization with the seasonal flu vaccine.

And it’s time for intelligent, reasonable, and rational people to get their flu shots. We’ve dispensed with many of the myths that are cherished by vaccine refusers, and many reseachers have shown that getting the flu vaccine can improve health outcomes.

Warning: this is funny (unless you’re a vaccine denier, in which case you have no sense of humor, irony or sarcasm, something probably gained by getting vaccinated). So, if you’re reading this list while sipping on coffee, I take no responsibility for damage to your computer, smart phone, or tablet if you snort out your drink. Them’s the rules. 
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Did you get your flu vaccination?–2014 version

flu-shot-calendarThere is substantial scientific evidence that the flu immunization is both very safe and very effective. Unless you follow the ramblings of a non-immunologist, non-virologist, non-epidemiologist, non-scientist, Peter Doshi who has published outright fabrications about the safety and effectiveness of the flu vaccine, you probably fall on the side of getting vaccinated. Maybe.

But some people refuse the flu vaccine because of adherence to easily debunked myths and misinformation. If you are on the fence about the flu vaccine, read Tara Haelle’s It’s Baaaaack! 33 Flu Vaccine Myths You Don’t Need to Fear. She worked hard to put that list together, so if you’re on the fence about the flu vaccine, read it before the flu season takes off. You won’t be sorry.

Or you can be a real dumbass and accept the lamest excuses for not getting the flu vaccine.

OK, what is your flu vaccination status? And if you have any comments, just drop them into the Disqus comments below. We’d especially like to hear from people on the fence, maybe we can give you some gentle persuasion to get the vaccine!

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Why we immunize against the flu–save healthy children’s lives

flu 20shotIf you break your arm, go to an emergency department, you see that medicine has an effect. Your fracture is set (very painful), and then you have a cast (very itchy). You can observe, without much bias, that a physician and his medical knowledge has fixed you. And you can show everyone else your cast, get it signed, and tell everyone how brave you were!

On the other hand, vaccinations can seem like they really don’t do anything. We get vaccinated, and it keeps us healthy–but it’s really hard to see that it does anything. Basically, vaccines maintain your default standard of health (at least what you think is the standard), so showing off your post-vaccination bandage doesn’t have the same effect. The cause and effect is just not there.

But there are real stories of tragedies for adults and children who aren’t vaccinated.

For example, there is one vaccine that seems to be ignored or outright avoided, even by seemingly rational people who get vaccines for everything else–the flu vaccine. Many people seem to invent myths about this vaccine, or accept those myths more readily than they do for other vaccines, all of which are easily dismissed and debunked.

I don’t know what causes this one vaccine to be so easily rejected by so many people, but it could be that the central myth of the flu itself is that it isn’t dangerous. People really believe that no one gets hurt from the flu. Especially themselves. 
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Not all scientific articles are equal in science

vaccine-saves-30000-lilvesIn evaluating a scientific claim made by anyone, the only thing that matters is the quality and quantity of evidence. It does matter who is making the claim, it does not matter if you believe their claim, and it does not matter if they make a powerful emotional argument–absent real evidence, it is nothing but words.

When discussing the validity of a scientific or medical claim, some people accept that there is a hierarchy of scientific sources, from nearly worthless (that would be anything from Mercola or Natural News) to scientifically significant systematic reviews. But a lot of people think that if it is published, without any regards to where or how it was peer-reviewed, it signifies the scientific consensus, period, end of discussion. Some will abuse PubMed, the US National Library of Medicine’s powerful search engine, searching for the one article that supports their “beliefs,” while ignoring the 1000 other articles that don’t.

Or how some individuals will use the obscure cell culture study to support their claim that XYZ prevents cancer, while completely ignoring all other evidence that cell culture studies are just an early phase of research, and until it’s confirmed in a large clinical trial with human subjects, the cell culture study barely ranks above conjecture or speculation.
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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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Another flu vaccine myth–Big Pharma profits

Flu_Season_AheadThe 2014-15 flu season is upon us, and that means it’s flu vaccine time again. Despite the availability of several flu vaccines, many people think that the flu is a painless, harmless disease, a belief belied by evidence.

To put flu in perspective, in the USA, depending on the severity of the flu season, from 3,000 (which happened 25 years ago, and hasn’t been that low since) to 49,000 people die every year. Worldwide, about 250,000 to 500,000 people die from the flu every year. A flu pandemic, like the one in 1918, killed 50-100 million humans, much more scary than Ebola.

Of course, a fairly large group of people, including some who are pro-science (read, pro-vaccine), will fall into the arms of their favorite flu vaccine myth, and then refuse to get the flu vaccine. Given the dangers of the flu, and given the loss in productivity, income, and lives, you’d think that the flu vaccine would be near the top of health care needs for the average person.

Last year, fellow blogger, Tara Haelle, spent numerous hours putting together the Top 25 Myths about the flu vaccine, which she published here (and I rewrote and republished). Read it, because it blows most of the myths completely out of the water. But antivaccination myths are never static, there’s always a new variant.
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Poll: what’s scarier than Ebola

ebola-virus-disease

There are actually more worrisome public health issues than Ebola.

What worries you?

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