The flu can kill – get the seasonal flu vaccine

Every year I, and a lot of other pro-science bloggers, write article after article about getting the seasonal flu vaccine, which, of course, prevents most types of flu. I even have a very popular article that calls health care workers who don’t get their flu vaccines “dumbasses.”

The seasonal flu vaccine saves lives. There is almost no evidence contrary to that fact.

And this week, California public health officials confirmed the first flu-related death of the 2015-16 flu season. The flu victim was under 65 years old and lived in Santa Clara County. Yes, the flu can be most dangerous to the elderly, but it’s also dangerous for those with chronic diseases, the very young, and, frankly, everyone else.

And just as frightening, a baby, less than 1 year old, died of the flu this week in Stanislaus County, CA. If the baby was less than six months old, then she wasn’t eligible for the vaccine, so she was at risk of contracting the disease. I cannot think of anything more painful than imagining what these parents are feeling.

Continue reading “The flu can kill – get the seasonal flu vaccine”

Part 6. Medical uses for cannabis – the TL;DR version

This is Part 6  of a series of six articles discussing various medical uses for cannabis or marijuana. In this part, I summarize all of the five previous articles into some bullet points so that you have quick and fast access to some scientific information about medical uses for cannabis or marijuana.

In case you missed them, here are the first five articles in this series:

Part 1. Marijuana and medicine assessing the science.

Part 2. Marijuana and cancer – assessing the science

Part 3. Marijuana and neurological disorders – assessing the science

Part 4. Marijuana and health risks – assessing the science

Part 5. Marijuana and pregnancy – assessing the science

Maybe you don’t agree with the science about marijuana’s role in medicine. But that’s not how science works. The evidence should lead you to a conclusion (actually, the acceptance or rejection of a hypothesis). One shouldn’t form an a prior conclusion, then go hunt for data. That’s not how it works.

As new systematic or meta reviews bring more clinical evidence of the benefits of the medical uses for cannabis – this takes time – maybe evidence based medicine can incorporate marijuana into the armamentarium of medical practice. But only real clinical evidence matters.

So let’s review where the evidence leads us. Continue reading “Part 6. Medical uses for cannabis – the TL;DR version”

Marijuana and pregnancy – again hitting that bong of science

Editor’s note–this article has been updated and included into a multi-part series on marijuana and medicine. Check it out there. 

As I have written previously, consumption of and growing marijuana should be completely decriminalized. And the laws need to be rewritten, not in the haphazard way it is now, but with protection and respect of rights of people to consume or grow (for personal use) cannabis. The criminal prosecution of marijuana use and distribution is a ridiculous waste of public resources.

The criminalization of marijuana has caused the growth of drug cartels that threaten the survival of Latin American democracies. And it has caused damage to delicate environments in pristine wilderness in the western USA where illegal marijuana farms use chemicals, human waste and water diversion to destroy the forest.

I could go on, but marijuana laws are simply unsupportable by any stretch of the imagination–the laws waste money and harm citizens.

That being said, it doesn’t mean that cannabis is completely safe. Or that the guy driving his car next to me or a surgeon about ready to slice into my abdomen or the pilot of the jet I’m boarding should be high.

Marijuana should be regulated and taxed like any other product in the class, such as alcohol and cigarettes. It’s a reasonable system where people can enjoy their weed, but it is regulated to prevent harm to others.

Continue reading “Marijuana and pregnancy – again hitting that bong of science”

Why we vaccinate–to protect our children from pertussis

 

tdap-mother-pertussis

During this past week, a 25 day old baby in Santa Barbara, CA died from pertussis, commonly known as whooping cough (caused by the Bordetella pertussis bacteria). The disease can be easily prevented by the DTaP or Tdap vaccines (also protect against tetanus and diphtheria), which can be given to infants as early as 6 weeks to 2 months old.

According to the California Department of Public Health, infants who are too young to be fully immunized or those who are not vaccinated are most vulnerable to severe and fatal cases of pertussis. In 2014, 66 of the pertussis hospitalizations cases were children four months of age or younger. Two infants have died of pertussis in California during 2014. Continue reading “Why we vaccinate–to protect our children from pertussis”

Genetically engineered insulin does not cause cancer in diabetics

insulin-vialI have a lot of issues with the pseudo-medicine pushed by many many websites whose sole purpose is to push woo, or nonsense, to their readers. Then they have links to buy junk medicine from their website. Natural News, Mercola, and others have become multimillionaires with this business model.

These “entrepreneurs” deceive their readers with pure pseudoscience, using misleading language, and searching scientific literature for research that confirms their beliefs and ignoring everything that refutes it. They oversimplify complex issues, “take this pill, it will prevent all cancers,” making it seem most medicine can be boiled down to taking a couple of supplements–which they sell on their website. Of course.

Some might argue that this information isn’t dangerous. These people will say that a couple of supplements, even if they’re expensive, isn’t going to hurt. Maybe, though there’s a lot of evidence that those couple of pills might be more harmful than even I expected. But if these junk medicine websites push information that can harm or kill, then someone has to draw a line in the sand and tell them “you lie, and by lying, you might kill.”

Many of us say that about these woo-websites’ general antivaccination beliefs. This blog has posted numerous articles about the Natural News’ unethical and risky antivaccination articles. Mike Adams, the so-called Health Ranger and wealthy owner of the Natural News, makes his money by pushing his lies and misinformation about vaccines. Continue reading “Genetically engineered insulin does not cause cancer in diabetics”

Why we vaccinate–so mom will protect her newborn baby

tdap-mother-pertussisOne of the important hypotheses of vaccination is to make sure that all family members or others who may encounter a newborn child be vaccinated, especially since many vaccinations are not indicated for infants for a couple of months after birth–those newborns are very susceptible to vaccine preventable diseases until they themselves are vaccinated with the DTaP vaccine (which also protects against tetanus and diphtheria).

This protective “cocoon,” especially important with whooping cough (Bordetella pertussis), theoretically blocks the transmission of the disease to a newborn by creating a protective circle of vaccinated individuals around the newborn. A teenage sibling could catch the disease and accidentally infect the infant. Pertussis is bad enough for a teenager, but it can be deadly to a baby.

Even though the evidence for cocooning is growing, there are some flaws to the idea that are still being investigated in various parts of the world. One of the concerns is that asymptomatic carriers of pertussis (who have been vaccinated) might transmit the disease through a cocoon. However, scientists have known that the current version of pertussis vaccine, called acellular pertussis, isn’t as effective as it should be, but it is still better than not vaccinating. Much better. But that is a potential hole in the protective cocoon that needs to be understood better through research. Continue reading “Why we vaccinate–so mom will protect her newborn baby”

My vaccine credo

I find it tiresome to repeat myself, repeatedly over and over, about the key points of vaccines. So, I decided to write out my Vaccine Credo.

What’s a credo? Well, it’s a “any formal or authorized statement of beliefs, principles, or opinions.” Since, everything I state is supported by evidence, I’m just going to call this my Formal Statement of the Principles of Vaccines.

Vaccines Save Lives

  1. Vaccines are safe.
  2. Vaccines prevent a wide range of infectious diseases.
  3. Vaccines save the lives of 42,000 people every year in the USA.
  4. These vaccine-preventable infectious diseases cause great harm to children and adults. They increase rates of hospitalization. They kill innocent people. They are not inconsequential.
  5. The safety and effectiveness of vaccines are established by evidence published in the top medical and scientific journals in the world.
  6. The consensus of medical and scientific opinion is that they are safe and effective.
  7. Vaccines do not cause autism or other neurodevelopmental conditions.
  8. Vaccines help improve fetal outcome in pregnant mothers.
  9. The safest and most effective way to protect children’s lives is following the vaccine schedules set by public health agencies like the CDC.
  10. There is no debate about the safety and effectiveness of vaccines–those who are opposed to vaccines are either ignorant of the scientific facts or are intentionally deceitful.
  11. Not vaccinating children places other children at risk–especially ones who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons or children too young to be vaccinated.
  12. Children can get vaccines for free in the USA, no matter if they have health insurance or not. This is a right for American children, and all countries in the world should do the same.
  13. Those parents who do not vaccinate their children selfishly hide behind the herd effect–while sanctimoniously stating that we don’t have to worry about these vaccine-preventable diseases.
  14. Parents who refuse to vaccinate their children are self-centered and egocentric–putting their children intentionally in harm’s way.

vaccines-33000My Vaccine Credo may not exactly roll off the tongue. It probably is not easy to memorize. But all 14 points are supported by the vast mountains of scientific evidence not cherry picking here and there. It is based on my 35 years of scientific education and experience. It is based on the best opinions from the best physicians and scientists who focus their lives on vaccines.

All else are just inventions of ignorant and uneducated minds. Those people mean nothing to me. But let’s try to save their children, because vaccines do save lives.

 

Why we vaccinate–debunking flu vaccine myths in 25 easy steps

flu-shot-mythThe seasonal flu is associated with an estimated 54,000 to 430,000 hospitalizations and approximately 3,000 to 49,000 deaths annually in the USA. So anyone who thinks that the flu isn’t a serious disease, needs to look at those numbers again. People die. And not just the old or sick–healthy people and children are killed by the flu. And let’s not forget about more serious pandemics, like H1N1, that can kill many more people.

We’ve all heard the excuses and myths about the flu vaccines. They’re repeated over and over again not only by those who are vaccine deniers, but more often by average people who just refuse to get the vaccine. This week, a fellow blogger and someone whom I’ve gotten to know over the past couple of years, Tara Haelle, spent numerous hours putting together the Top 25 Myths about the flu vaccine, which she published here. Read it. Please. 

So, below is her list of 25 myths about the flu vaccine, with links back to her article (and in some cases, to this blog too) that debunk the myth. After you read this, share it with everyone. Your neighbor who won’t get the flu vaccine. Your spouse. Your parents. Your coworker. And one more person–yourself. Continue reading “Why we vaccinate–debunking flu vaccine myths in 25 easy steps”

Flu during pregnancy linked with increased risk of autism

Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) appear to be an increasing medical issue in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, ASD is diagnosed in approximately 1 in 88 children, and are reported to occur in all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups. ASD refers to a broad range of symptoms, from mild social awkwardness to mental retardation, repetitive behaviors and an inability to communicate. The CDC states that diagnosing ASD can be difficult, because there are no medical tests, such as a genetic or blood test, that can provide a definitive diagnosis. Physicians make a diagnosis through observation of a child’s behavior and development.

Medical science agrees that the increase in diagnosis is not only a result of better diagnostic standards, but also because there appears to be more children who are actually developing autism. Unfortunately, science has not uncovered the cause. Genetics are a critical factor, for example, since it has been shown that if one twin has autism there is a high likelihood that the other twin will also develop ASD. But are there other factors?

Continue reading “Flu during pregnancy linked with increased risk of autism”

CDC recommends pertussis vaccination for all pregnant women

On October 24, 2012, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that “providers of prenatal care implement a Tdap immunization (Tdap or DTaP vaccine) program for all pregnant women.  Health-care personnel should administer a dose of Tdap during each pregnancy irrespective of the patient’s prior history of receiving Tdap.  If not administered during pregnancy, Tdap should be administered immediately postpartum.” This recommendation is based upon the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), a group of medical and public health experts that develops recommendations on how to use vaccines to control diseases in the United States, guidelines, published Fall 2011, for whooping cough(Bordetella pertussis).

ACIP reviewed published and unpublished data from VAERS, Sanofi Pasteur (Adacel) and GlaxoSmithKline (Boostrix) pregnancy registries, and two small studies here and here. ACIP concluded “that available data from these studies did not suggest any elevated frequency or unusual patterns of adverse events in pregnant women who received Tdap and that the few serious adverse events reported were unlikely to have been caused by the vaccine.” In addition, both  tetanus and diphtheria toxoids (together) and tetanus toxoid (alone) vaccines have been used worldwide in pregnant women to prevent neonatal tetanus without negative effects. The ACIP concluded that administration of the pertussis vaccine after 20 weeks of pregnancy was preferred to minimize any risk of a low percentage adverse event.

According to the CDC, only about 3% of pregnant women receive the vaccination. However, the CDC believes if the new recommendations are implemented, there would be a 33 percent reduction in cases, a 38 percent reduction in hospitalizations and a 49 percent reduction in deaths from whooping cough.

Vaccines Saves Lives.

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