Mumps vaccine effectiveness – waning immunity may require 3rd dose

mumps vaccine

Over the past few years, there has been a resurgence in mumps outbreaks across the USA and other parts of the world. Although these outbreaks did not spread widely as they did before the advent of mumps vaccines, it still required some scientific research into why this happened. According to just published peer-reviewed research, much of the mumps outbreaks may result from waning mumps vaccine effectiveness.

Because I am concerned that this new article will be misinterpreted by some parts of the discussion, I’m glaring at the anti-vaccine religion, it is important that we take a very careful look at this well-done study examining what could be the root cause of some outbreaks – waning immunity to the mumps vaccine. Continue reading “Mumps vaccine effectiveness – waning immunity may require 3rd dose”

Secondhand marijuana smoke – it may be unhealthier than cigarettes

secondhand marijuana smoke

I’ve always been amused by marijuana advocates – they vastly overstate the benefits and understate the risks, sort of the opposite of the anti-vaccine religion. Current research on cannabis shows that there is little robust evidence supporting most of its claimed medical benefits – for example, it does not cure cancer, despite what you see on the internet. On the other hand, there has been only a small amount of research examining the risks of marijuana smoking. But a 2016 article in a major journal examined the effects of secondhand marijuana smoke, and the results should cause us to examine laws to regulate public smoking of marijuana in the same way we do cigarettes.

Here in California, we would be calling the local swat teams to round up all the cigarette smokers in a public space, if the air has even a hint of cigarette smoke. Ironically, no one seems to care about cannabis smoke wafting over us and our children. Maybe some of us just assume that secondhand marijuana smoke was inherently safer than secondhand cigarette smoke. What does the scientific evidence say? Continue reading “Secondhand marijuana smoke – it may be unhealthier than cigarettes”

Science mistakes – debunking a trope loved by pseudoscience

science mistakes

I know I shouldn’t use the conspiracy theory fallacy when talking about the pseudoscience-pushing science deniers, who provide bread and butter of topics for skeptics. I keep observing the same ridiculous and insanely illogical arguments used in the same manner by all of the deniers, including the oft-repeated “science mistakes” trope. Honestly, I think the pseudoscience pusher meet annually in Sedona, Arizona, ground zero of woo, to discuss which trope they’re pushing this year.

The anti-vaccine zealots, creationists, anthropogenic global warming deniers, and whomever else pretends to use science to actually deny science frequently focus on this theme of “science mistakes.”  And then they produce a list of cherry-picked examples that “prove” that science is wrong (see Note 1). Of course, this indicates more of a misunderstanding of what is science and the history of science than it is a condemnation of science. But your typical science denier is probably not going to let facts get in the way of maintaining faith in their beliefs. So let’s deconstruct and discredit this “science mistakes” trope.

By the way, in my story, I admit that there are many “science mistakes,” so read on. Hopefully, it’s somewhat enlightening. Continue reading “Science mistakes – debunking a trope loved by pseudoscience”

Del Bigtree vaccine safety complaints – HHS Vaccine Program responds

Del Bigtree Andrew Wakefield

On January 18, 2018, Dr. Melinda Wharton, Acting Director of the National Vaccine Program Office in the Department of Health and Human Services, sent Mr. Del Bigtree, an anti-vaccine activist, and producer of the anti-vaccine film Vaxxed, a response to questions he raised about vaccine safety. The response is a very informative description of the substantial efforts regarding vaccine safety, and can and should reassure parents that there is abundant data – and many monitoring mechanisms in place – to examine and address vaccine safety, and that the expert consensus that vaccines are very safe is well grounded.

This post will shortly describe the background to the letter from Dr. Wharton, then provide some of the highlights. I do, however, encourage people to read the full letter, available here (pdf), for themselves, to understand many vaccine safety issues. Continue reading “Del Bigtree vaccine safety complaints – HHS Vaccine Program responds”

Argument by Vaccine Package Inserts – they’re not infallible

vaccine package inserts

One of the cherished strategies of the anti-vaccine religion is to quote vaccine package inserts (called a Patient Information Leaflet in EU countries and Instructions for Use in other areas) to “prove” that vaccines are dangerous. These vaccine deniers consider the package insert to be the golden tablets of the Truth™.

Yes, it is cynical that these anti-vaccine groupies rail against Big Pharma as if they are demon reptilians, but the package insert, written by Big Pharma, is considered gospel. And there is another broken irony meter.

Just spend more than a couple of minutes in discussion in any vaccine “debate,” and you’ll eventually get someone pointing to a section in any of the many vaccine package inserts (PI) as “proof” that it is dangerous, contains dangerous stuff, or is just plain scary. Or that it doesn’t work.

The snarky Orac has proclaimed it “Argument by Package Insert” – it’s almost at the level of logical fallacy. David Gorski has just given it the Latin name, argumentum ad package insert, so it’s now officially a logical fallacy, at least for vaccine discussions.

Before we start, vaccine package inserts are important documents, but only if the information included therein is properly understood. However, vaccine package inserts are not documents that serve as medical and scientific gospel. But it is a document that can help clinicians use vaccines (or frankly, any medication) properly. Continue reading “Argument by Vaccine Package Inserts – they’re not infallible”

Dorit Rubinstein Reiss – an index of her vaccine articles on this website

Dorit Rubinstein Reiss

Dorit Rubinstein Reiss – Professor of Law at the University of California Hastings College of the Law (San Francisco, CA) – is a frequent contributor to this and many other blogs, providing in-depth, and intellectually stimulating, articles about vaccines (generally, but sometimes moving to other areas of medicine), social policy and the law. Her articles usually unwind the complexities of legal issues with vaccinations and legal policies, such as mandatory vaccination and exemptions, with facts and citations.

Professor Reiss writes extensively in law journals about the social and legal policies of vaccination–she really is a well-published expert in this area of vaccine policy, and doesn’t stand on the pulpit with a veneer of Argument from Authority, but is actually an authority. Additionally, Reiss 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.

Many bloggers and commenters on vaccine issues will link to one or more of her articles here as a primary source to counter an anti-vaccine claim. The purpose of this post is to give you quick reference to find the right article to answer a question you might have.

Below is a list of articles that Dorit Rubinstein Reiss has written for this blog, organized into some arbitrary and somewhat broad categories for easy reference. This article will be updated as new articles from Professor Reiss are published here. We also may update and add categories as necessary.

Continue reading “Dorit Rubinstein Reiss – an index of her vaccine articles on this website”

Vaccine injury payouts – another trope that abuses NVICP statistics

vaccine injury

Another day, another anti-vaccine trope finds it way out of the grave to enter the zombie apocalypse of anti-vaccine misinformation and lies. Today’s zombie trope is the one that the NVICP (National Vaccine Injury Compensation Plan, see Note 1) payouts are so huge that they the “prove” that vaccines are dangerous and should be kept it away from children.

My friend Liz Ditz wrote about this trope and gave it a solid debunking a couple of years ago. She is much nicer than yours truly, the cranky feathery dinosaur. We’re going to give it the full Skeptical Raptor treatment which means a lot of science, some snark, and a dollop of mockery. More seriously, I wanted to update her numbers and make a few more, possibly sarcastic, points. Continue reading “Vaccine injury payouts – another trope that abuses NVICP statistics”

Diabetes myths – homeopathy does not cure, vaccines do not cause

diabetes myths

Now, for something completely different. I had to break the streak of vaccine articles, especially since I am interested in all parts of science denial – evolution, GMOs, climate change, and, of course, vaccines. But today, we’re going to focus on diabetes myths. Why, well my academic field of study was focused on insulin and insulin-like growth factors effects on aging – and I continued to keep up with the literature on insulin and diabetes ever since then.

What troubles me about diabetes is that the quacks have decided to make it a business opportunity for their fake potions, lotions, herbal medicines, and magical foods. Now, I don’t have time to cover every single one of those diabetes myths, but I’m going to cover the ones that annoy me the most. Continue reading “Diabetes myths – homeopathy does not cure, vaccines do not cause”

Healthcare worker flu vaccination – examining lawsuits about the vaccine

flu vaccination

On March 6, 2018, the Department of Justice filed a lawsuit in a federal district court against Ozaukee County, Wisconsin. The Department was suing on behalf of Barnell Williams, a certified nursing assistant in Lasata Care Center, a nursing home, who was claiming emotional distress from being forced to get a flu vaccination for work when getting one contradicted her religious beliefs.

This is not the first lawsuit brought under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 on the issue of the flu vaccination for healthcare workers, the claims are not new, and the lawsuit seems well founded. I was not going to write about it because there really is nothing new there, but following several news articles on the topic (here and here), people had questions about it, so this is a short post addressing legal issues surrounding flu vaccination.

This article will list a few key points that are important considerations Continue reading “Healthcare worker flu vaccination – examining lawsuits about the vaccine”

Boosting the immune system – that’s what vaccines do

immune system

Immune system myths are one of the common claims of the junk medicine crowd, especially the anti-vaccine activists. The pseudoscience of the immune system is pernicious and possibly dangerous.

It’s frustrating that the pseudoscience from the junk medicine crowd claims that this supplement or that food is critical to boosting the immune system – hang out for a day on Facebook, and you’ll probably see way too many memes saying that all you have to do to boost your immune system is eat a blueberry kale smoothie. I still see that dumb banana claim that it cures cancer.

The problem with these immune system myths is that they overlook or ignore a basic physiological fact – the immune system is a complex interconnected network of organs, cells, and molecules that prevent invasion of the body by hundreds of thousands, if not millions of pathogens and other antigens every single day.

And no matter how much individuals try to trivialize the complexity of the immune system, it does not make it so. One can claim all day long that downing a few tablets of echinacea will boost the immune system to prevent colds (it doesn’t), it doesn’t make it scientifically accurate. Nor does it create an accurate description of the immune system.

Continue reading “Boosting the immune system – that’s what vaccines do”