Hydroxychloroquine ineffective for COVID-19, demon sperm, and zombies

hydroxychloroquine

Just when I thought I was out of the hydroxychloroquine pseudoscience, they pull me back in. And here we are, a group of fools is pushing it again. Sigh.

This all started because of an awful study from France published back in March of 2020. At that time, Donald Trump, desperate for a “win” against the coronavirus along with other non-scientists pushed hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin for coronavirus. Of course, me and many others like Orac, who has written several articles about it,  found the evidence that hydroxychloroquine, usually with the antibiotic azithromycin, had any effect on COVID-19 was very weak, even non-existent. 

And my mind hasn’t been changed in the meantime. And Orac is back calling hydroxychloroquine the “Black Knight,” a reference to a fictional character in the wonderful film, Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Oh, you never saw the movie? Well, I’ll let Orac tell that story:

In the film, King Arthur encounters him guarding a rather pathetic bridge and asks him to join his quest to seek the Holy Grail. The Black Knight refuses and then blocks Arthur’s passage with a menacing, “None shall pass.” The battle is joined, and Arthur, one by one, chops off all of the Black Knight’s limbs in a truly warped comedy sequence. After losing each limb, the Black Knight says things like, “‘Tis but a scratch” and “I’ve had worse.” Before his last leg is chopped off, the Black Knight proclaims (while hopping around), “I’m invincible,” to which Arthur retorts, “You’re a loony.” After losing his last limb, the Black Knight finally concedes, “All right, we’ll call it a draw.” Then, as Arthur crosses the bridge and rides off, the Black Knight yells, “Oh. Oh, I see. Running away, eh? You yellow bastards! Come back here and take what’s coming to ya! I’ll bite your legs off!”

In other words, this damn story about hydroxychloroquine keeps coming back despite having all of its limbs removed. “Tis but a scratch.” 

Now, I prefer zombie metaphors (and I believe so does Orac, but I have to give credit to him for the Monty Python reference), because, like many of the tropes we see in the anti-vaccine world, no matter how many times we kill this belief, it keeps coming back. In the world of zombies, one needs to destroy the brain. That’s why I try to present evidence!

Of course this time around, this claim includes demon sperms and alien DNA. I kid you not.

Continue reading “Hydroxychloroquine ineffective for COVID-19, demon sperm, and zombies”

Robert F Kennedy Jr used Alan Dershowitz in anti-vaccine fake debate

Robert F Kennedy Jr

This article, about an anti-vaccine fake debate between Robert F Kennedy Jr and Alan Dershowitz was used to promote anti-vaccine misinformation, was written by Dorit Rubinstein Reiss, Professor of Law at the University of California Hastings College of the Law (San Francisco, CA), who is a frequent contributor to this and many other blogs, providing in-depth, and intellectually stimulating, articles about vaccines, medical issues, social policy, and the law.

Professor Reiss writes extensively in law journals about the social and legal policies of vaccination. Additionally, Reiss is also a 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.

On July 23, 2020, anti-vaccine activists aired what they described as a heated debate between Attorney and Professor Alan Dershowitz and anti-vaccine activist Robert F Kennedy Jr. The “debate” was a good example of why debating anti-vaccine activists is a bad idea.

Basically, Kennedy did most of the talking, and most of his talk was not – as initially suggested – about the law, but a recitation of anti-vaccine talking points, most of them either misleading or blatantly untrue. Dershowitz, who is not a public health expert or a debunker of anti-vaccine misinformation, was not prepared to address them. While he did push Kennedy on some issues, with Kennedy’s misinformation left unaddressed, viewers may come out with the impression that Kennedy’s points had merit.

The points do not. Robert F Kennedy Jr consistently misrepresented the facts, and was not quite accurate on the constitutional law, though he was closer. He misrepresented the regulatory framework on vaccines. In essence, Kennedy used this as an opportunity to share misinformation while using Dershowitz’s comparable legitimacy to give weight to his claims. Continue reading “Robert F Kennedy Jr used Alan Dershowitz in anti-vaccine fake debate”

Moderna vaccine update – are we too excited about it for COVID-19

moderna vaccine

If you have been paying attention to the news, you’ve probably seen reports of the Moderna coronavirus vaccine candidate that is getting a lot of people very excited. I’ve even seen so-called pro-vaccine people, who ostensibly should be following science, breathlessly cheer them on.

Recently, Moderna had released some results in a press release, and you know what I think about press releases. Unfortunately, many vaccine researchers stated that that data was not sufficient to draw any conclusions about the safety or effectiveness of the Moderna vaccine

However, the phase 1 clinical trial results have been published, and the hype has started again. We’ll take a brief look at those results below. 

I know that people want “hope,” as opposed to possibly endless cycles of bouncing between opening up and closing down everything in response to the pandemic, especially in the USA, where the coronavirus pandemic has just gotten worse.

But hope isn’t something that interests me at all. 

As anyone who reads my blog knows that the only thing that matters to me is published scientific evidence. And by published, I mean in a respected, peer-reviewed journal. Sure, I don’t need scientific evidence to support my belief that the New York Mets should be thrown out of baseball, because I hate the team – that’s just an opinion. It’s not based on evidence of any type.

On the other hand, when it comes to vaccines, we have built an amazing system of bringing the most effective and safest medical advances to humanity. Despite the misinformation and FUD of the anti-vaccine zealots, the safety and effectiveness of modern vaccines are settled science

I’m not willing to sacrifice that for a vaccine that may not be effective or safe. That’s why I want to take a very critical look at the Moderna vaccine. And I think there are some reasons to be very concerned about their vaccine, although there might be some reasons to be somewhat optimistic. Continue reading “Moderna vaccine update – are we too excited about it for COVID-19”

Hierarchy of scientific evidence – keys to scientific skepticism and vaccines

hierarchy of scientific evidence

I am a scientific skeptic. It means that I pursue published scientific evidence to support or refute a scientific or medical principle. I am not a cynic, often conflated with skepticism. I don’t have an opinion about these ideas. Scientific skepticism depends on the quality and quantity of evidence that supports a scientific idea. And examining the hierarchy of scientific evidence can be helpful in deciding what is good data and what is bad. What can be used to form a conclusion, and what is useless.

That’s how science is done. And I use the hierarchy of scientific evidence to weigh the quality along with the quantity of evidence in reaching a conclusion. I am generally offended by those who push pseudoscience – they generally try to find evidence that supports their predetermined beliefs. That’s not science, that’s the opposite of good science.

Unfortunately, in today’s world of instant news made up of memes and a couple of hundred character analyses flying across social media make it difficult to determine what is real science and what is not. Sometimes we create an internal false balance, assuming that headlines (often written to be clickbait) on one side are somehow equivalent to another side. So, we think there’s a scientific debate when there isn’t one.

When I write about a topic, I attempt to write detailed, thoughtful, and nuanced (with a touch of snark) articles about scientific ideas. I know they can be complex and long-winded, but I also know science is hard. It’s difficult.

Sorry about that, but if it were so easy, everyone on the internet would be doing science – and we see that most of what we find on the internet that claims to be science is not. Unfortunately, there are too many people writing on the internet who think they are talking about science, but they fail to differentiate between good and bad evidence.

But there is a way to make this easier. Not easy, just easier. This is my guide to amateur (and if I do a good job, professional) method to evaluating scientific research quality across the internet.

Continue reading “Hierarchy of scientific evidence – keys to scientific skepticism and vaccines”

BCG vaccine for coronavirus – Can it work? Or is this a shot in the dark?

bcg vaccine for coronavirus

I originally wrote this article about the BCG vaccine for coronavirus about three months ago (that’s about 10 years in non-pandemic time measurement). Of course, as things happen with the coronavirus pandemic, ideas keep returning, and I wanted to make sure that this article is up-to-date with the most recent information about whether the BCG vaccine has any usefulness in preventing or improving outcomes of COVID-19.

I wanted to see if there was any evidence supporting the BCG vaccine for coronavirus, so here’s what I found. Continue reading “BCG vaccine for coronavirus – Can it work? Or is this a shot in the dark?”

Coronavirus vaccine trials – updating current studies across the world

coronavirus vaccine trials

This article about coronavirus vaccine trials will has been substantially updated and published here. Please go there for the most up-to-date information about these vaccines.

Keeping up with COVID-19 vaccine candidates has gotten out of hand, so for brevity, I’ve created a separate list of coronavirus vaccine trials. The interest in clinical trials for a new COVID-19  vaccine is unprecedented, so I thought this might be the best way to keep loyal readers up-to-date.

Recently, the World Health Organization (WHO) has listed over 140 vaccine candidates, which is amazing, but it is way too difficult to tell which ones have any chance of actually becoming a real product.

Right now, there are 16 vaccine candidates in clinical trials – this article will analyze these coronavirus vaccine trials. Of course, this number changes from week-to-week, so who knows what it will be the next time I update this article!

Continue reading “Coronavirus vaccine trials – updating current studies across the world”

Coronavirus vaccine skeptic – why I am uneasy about a new vaccine

coronavirus vaccine skeptic

The more I read about the rush for a new vaccine, the more I am becoming a coronavirus vaccine skeptic. I think that we’re doing this all wrong, and I think that this vaccine could be a disaster if it is rushed to the market.

Because too many people don’t read articles beyond the title, like anti-vaxxers who can’t be bothered to delve into the science beyond abstracts, I want to be clear about something. All vaccines available today are overwhelmingly safe and effective – any possible issues with vaccines are substantially smaller than the harm caused by the disease.

This is settled science.

I am a passionate supporter of all vaccines, anyone who reads this blog knows that. I am only a coronavirus vaccine skeptic – and just to be clear again, I am a scientific skeptic which means I follow evidence derived from the scientific method to a conclusion. 

My coronavirus vaccine skepticism, at least right now, is based on the fact that there is little evidence supporting either it’s effectiveness or safety, although those are not really issues because we are very early in the development of these vaccines. My skepticism is in the methods that we are employing to rush this vaccine to market.

This is totally different than your typical anti-vaccine zealots like Del Bigtree  Littletree and RFK Jr who ignore all scientific evidence to push their anti-vaccine narrative. 

Although I’ve written about my concerns regarding our rush to get a vaccine previously, I’ve made more observations that bother me. Continue reading “Coronavirus vaccine skeptic – why I am uneasy about a new vaccine”

The coronavirus pandemic – just as bad for Trump supporting states

coronavirus pandemic

This article about how the coronavirus pandemic will affect conservative red states was written by a database expert who wishes to remain anonymous.

Among my more right-leaning Facebook friends, the attitude towards the coronavirus pandemic goes roughly like this: “The outbreak isn’t anywhere near as bad as the Liberal Media would have you believe. It’s almost entirely confined to sanctuary cities. Everyone should stop overreacting!”

For everyone else, this attitude seems delusional. But for people who live in right-wing communities, the “it’s not so bad” point of view is actually in line with observed reality. And the way that the media has been reporting on the outbreak actually exaggerates this effect. Continue reading “The coronavirus pandemic – just as bad for Trump supporting states”

“The COVID-19 Vaccine Dilemma” – tempering the over-optimism

Professor Dorit Rubinstein Reiss, a frequent contributor to this and many other blogs, has published an important article, “The COVID-19 Vaccine Dilemma,” regarding the pitfalls and challenges to bringing a new COVID-19 vaccine to the market. 

Professor Reiss, for those of you who may not know, is a Professor of Law at the University of California Hastings College of the Law (San Francisco, CA), writes in-depth, and intellectually stimulating, articles about vaccines, medical issues, social policy, and the law.

The paper, published online on SSRN (and can be found here), discusses significant points regarding how we should proceed with the development and manufacture of a new COVID-19 vaccine. As I’ve discussed before, the rush to getting a new vaccine is necessary, but we should be aware of all that is necessary to get a safe and effective vaccine for the people of the world.

I’m going to hit the most important points of the article that I think is important to the conversation about developing a new COVID-19 vaccine. Continue reading ““The COVID-19 Vaccine Dilemma” – tempering the over-optimism”

Face masks for COVID-19 – despite politics, science says they do work

COVID-19 face masks

The latest battle in the world of the coronavirus pandemic is about COVID-19 face masks. Of course, the group led by President Trump, who think that the pandemic is irrelevant and face masks are some sign of weakness, eschew masks and scream at people in stores who try to enforce rules.

And there’s the other group, of which this ancient raptor is a proud member, which accepts the scientific evidence that face masks protect not only the wearer but also others from passing the coronavirus. It’s not a political decision, it is simply a public health policy that makes sense. It is altruistic. It helps us limit this pandemic.

Sure, it’s not the only way to do this – social distancing, hand-washing, and being diligent every time you leave the house along with face masks is how we protect ourselves and others from this virus.

This is just like the nonsense we see from anti-vaccine zealots – use pseudoscience or science denialism plus a healthy dose of some imaginary freedom that isn’t supported by any law or legal precedent. I, and many others, used to argue that the anti-vaxxers would see the errors of their ways if only they could see what would happen if any disease from our past – measles, polio, mumps, smallpox, rotavirus, or many others – returned as an epidemic.

Well, they went ballistic when New York tried to stop a huge outbreak of measles, with anti-vaxxers like Del Bigtree using anti-semitic imagery to stop mandatory measles vaccinations. And the anti-vaccine rabble are deep into the COVID-19 denialism. 

Apparently, the millions of infected people and hundreds of thousands of deaths mean nothing to the anti-vaxxers who overlap the COVID-19 deniers almost 100% on the Venn diagram of pseudoscience.  And that’s why we end up with a denial of face masks.

Recently, there have been several studies published that seem to have led to a solid scientific consensus – face masks work. It’s not political. It’s not an indication that you’re weak. It does not make you run out of oxygen. It doesn’t mean you’re a conservative or liberal. It just means you have chosen to protect yourself and others.

There shouldn’t be a battle over face masks, yet here we are. Let’s take a look at some of the science that seems to debunk the numerous myths about masks. Continue reading “Face masks for COVID-19 – despite politics, science says they do work”