The World Health Organization (WHO) recently published their top 10 world public health threats in 2019. It includes all of the public health threats that you can imagine, plus what they call “vaccine hesitancy,” or what I call the anti-vaccine religion’s ignorance, misinformation, and lies.
Yes, the anti-vaccine fiction and deception are one of the greatest dangers to the world’s public health. Their tropes, memes, and falsehoods are convincing enough people to delay or avoid vaccinating their children that diseases we thought weren’t a threat anymore are coming back. Europe and the USA are experiencing an unprecedented measles outbreak because of slightly lower measles immunization rates.
I want to review the WHO public health threats list because it’s interesting to those of us who fight the good fight for science. Of course, I’m going to focus on the vaccine deniers because that’s what we do here. Continue reading “WHO’s top 10 public health threats – vaccine deniers included in the list”
During the 2009-10 flu season, public health officials across the world were concerned about a flu pandemic caused by the H1N1 influenza virus. In response to the dangerous new flu, these same public health officials made certain to protect their citizens with new a new H1N1 flu vaccine that would protect individuals from the pandemic H1N1 flu virus.
There have been two H1N1 flu pandemics in recent history. The first, the 1918 pandemic, also called the Spanish Flu, infected over 500 million people worldwide (when the planet only had about 2.5 billion humans) and killed between 50-100 million. And no, it didn’t target babies and the elderly, it killed everyone targeting healthy young adults.
In the USA alone, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that the 2009 pandemic resulted in over 43-89 million cases, 195-403 thousand hospitalizations and between 8,870 and 18,300 deaths. The CDC also estimated that over 300,000 people died worldwide from the 2009 H1N1 flu.
No wonder the world’s public health authorities made sure the H1N1 flu vaccine was widely available. I cannot imagine what those numbers would have been without it – possibly millions of deaths worldwide.
Recently, anti-vaccine hawker, Peter Doshi, continues with his perverse, pseudoscientific assaults on flu vaccines by now using a ridiculously amateurish conspiracy to invent safety concerns about the 2009 H1N1 flu vaccine. I’m not one to let this nonsense pass, so here goes. Continue reading “H1N1 flu vaccine – Peter Doshi invents a myth about GSK Pandemrix”
Maybe some of you haven’t been following the reports about the European measles epidemic, but it’s scary news. The BBC News reported that more than 41,000 people have contracted measles in the first six months of 2018. Worse yet, 37 of those people have died of that virus.
Let me be blunt – nearly every one of those 41,000 cases and 37 deaths could have been prevented by the MMR vaccine (for measles, mumps, and rubella). Period. Full stop. End of story.
In case I wasn’t clear, let me repeat myself – indulge me, we’re talking about children dying of an entirely preventable disease. Every single case of measles could have been prevented. Every single death could have been prevented. This isn’t a complicated story.
Maybe you think that Europe is a big area with over a half billion people, so this might be expected. That would be incorrect. Measles was almost extinct in much of the developed world. In 2016, there were just 5,273 measles cases for the whole year. In 2008, there were only 3,575 cases and one death. Measles was almost eliminated.
Let’s take a look at how this happened, and place blame right where it belongs – in the misinformation, pseudoscience, and outright lies of the anti-vaccine religion. Continue reading “Measles epidemic in Europe is killing children – blame anti-vaccine religion”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is America’s national public health institute – it is one of the most respected scientific institutions in the world. And the CDC Director, a presidentially appointed position, usually sets policy for public health in the USA, while they have considerable influence over public health worldwide. After the resignation of Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald in January 2018, President Donald Trump appointed Dr. Robert Redfield as the new CDC Director.
Despite the fantasies of the anti-vaccine religion and other science deniers, the CDC is staffed by highly educated and trained scientists, public health experts, physicians, and nurses, many of them are officers in the United States Public Health Service. These people are dedicated to the public health of Americans and often spend their lives keep all of us safe from harm from diseases.
The CDC’s main goal is to protect public health and safety through the prevention of disease, injury, and disability not only in the USA but also internationally. The CDC is an independent Federal agency whose dedicated staff stand at the front lines of infectious diseases throughout the world. The agency also focuses on non-infectious diseases, such as diabetes and obesity. Finally, they provide educational activities designed to improve health.
Of course, the CDC matters to me because they are the primary source of information about vaccines and vaccine-preventable diseases in the USA and the world. Though the CDC does not control vaccinations, they only set recommendations that states and certain parts of the Federal government (like the military and foreign service officers) generally follow. The CDC follows logical and scientific procedures to make these recommendations.
And now we have a new CDC Director, Dr. Robert Redfield, who at first blush appears to be a reasonable choice for the position. However, I am a scientific skeptic, so I never stop at the first blush. Continue reading “Robert Redfield named CDC director – what does this mean for vaccines?”
If I asked the general public about the CDC director, or who that person is (Brenda Fitzgerald), I’d get a blank look. It’s not exactly the most prestigious position in the Federal Government, but if you care about vaccines, cancer, infectious diseases, and public health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is probably one of the more important Federal agencies, unless you buy into thoroughly debunked CDC whistleblower conspiracy theories.
Because most Donald Trump appointees to Federal government department and agencies were filled with incompetent, ethically-challenged, science-denying individuals, his appointment of Brenda Fitzgerald as CDC Director was, more or less, taken by the science and medical community with a sigh of relief. She wasn’t anti-vaccine. She seemed to understand the role of public health in the USA. And she was a doctor. Trump could have done much worse, as we’ve seen in other departments.
The anti-vaccine religion has been bigly supportive of Trump because he had shown some proclivity towards the vaccine denier beliefs. But they ended up crying vaccine tears when Trump did the “right thing” (probably the only time I will write that comment with respect to Trump) regarding several public health posts, including the CDC Director and Surgeon General.
Then it all blew up.
Continue reading “CDC Director Brenda Fitzgerald resigns – impacts on vaccines, public health”
Firearms mortality, either murder, accidental or suicide, has always been a public health issue in the USA. There have been several good epidemiological studies that have examined whether gun control regulations and firearms mortality risk are related – and the results are surprisingly vigorous.
From recent epidemiological research, there is some convincing evidence that establishes a correlation between state-level gun control regulations and firearms mortality rates. However, the link is not as black and white as one might wish – the relationship between firearms regulations and mortality depends on the quality of the law.
The nation’s leading public health organization, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is essentially prevented from analyzing and publishing any epidemiological research that would help us understand what, if any, links there are between gun control and firearms mortality. The Republican dominated congress have done everything they can to prevent the CDC from using any funds to study the issue.
Furthermore, because the CDC cannot (or will not) fund research into gun control, it has lead to a chilling effect on gun control research in academia. According to the Washington Post, “young academics were warned that joining the field was a good way to kill their careers. And the odd gun study that got published went through linguistic gymnastics to hide any connection to firearms.”
But maybe because this public health menace can no longer be ignored, a smattering of well done epidemiological research is being published in very high quality medical journals. Let’s look at one.
Continue reading “Gun control regulations and firearms mortality – UPDATED”
Donald Trump’s record on appointments for science and medical positions has been horrific, at best. His choice of Tom Price for Health and Human Services was terrible for healthcare. Anti-science individuals were also appointed to serve as EPA Director and Secretary of Energy. But recently, Trump appointed Surgeon General and will appoint a CDC director, both of whom appear to be good, though not perfect picks.
From a purely non-political standpoint, those of us on the science side wanted a few basics in the new Surgeon General and CDC director:
- Have a respectable medical and/or public health background.
- Provide full-throated support for immunization programs
- Don’t belong to the right wing Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS), which has radical ideas about health care, Medicaid, Medicare and just about any modern healthcare strategy.
- Don’t have unscientific ideas about HIV/AIDS, Ebola, Zika virus, and many other contemporary issues in public health.
Sure, it would be nice for our national public health advocates to remind the country that accidental gun deaths is a public health issue, but that’s never going to happen in the current political environment.
Let’s take a look at who President Trump appointed Surgeon General and who he will probably appoint CDC director. Continue reading “Trump appointed Surgeon General and CDC director – good for vaccines”
Several people have asked me whether having school mandates is in tension with the idea of vaccine informed consent . The answer is no. While school mandates have some effect on parental autonomy, the doctrine of informed consent should not be conflated with autonomy.
For a somewhat different reason, imposing sanctions on those who do not vaccinate is also not a violation of informed consent. Continue reading “Vaccine informed consent – mandates and liability”
Over the past few years, there have been outbreaks of diseases we all assumed had been eradicated – chicken pox, measles, and, more recently, mumps. According to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there were over 4,000 mumps cases in the USA in 2016. Mumps outbreaks may be the new normal thanks to clusters of unvaccinated kids.
The mumps vaccination program started in 1967 – before that there were about 186,000 cases reported each year (and that number might be low because of underreporting). Once mumps vaccinations were commonplace, the incidence of the disease fell by over 99%. For those who think that better sanitation or whatever caused decreases in diseases, I think that 1967 is fairly recent, and it’s clear that the vaccine itself started the precipitous drop in mumps outbreaks. Since the start of the vaccine era, annual mumps cases in the USA hovered below 1,000 during most years. But over the last 10 years, there has been a noticeable uptick in annual cases, with a high of over 6,000 cases in 2006.
Let’s examine the mumps outbreaks and see what may be the cause. Spoiler alert – expect Andrew Wakefield’s name to appear.
Continue reading “Mumps outbreaks in 2016 – highest number in over a decade”
CDC director Thomas Frieden has announced his resignation from his position at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The federal agency’s main goal is to protect public health and safety through the control and prevention of disease, injury, and disability across the world. And our favorite anti-science president-elect, Donald Trump, will appoint his successor.
The agency focuses its attention on infectious disease control partially through advocacy for vaccines. The staff of 15,000 scientists, researchers, physicians, and US Public Health Services commissioned officers, are dedicated to investigating infectious diseases, food borne pathogens, environmental health, occupational safety and health, health promotion, injury prevention, and public health educational activities – all are designed to help improve the health of Americans and people across the world.
CDC officials are often the first responders to ground zero of dangerous infections. They are generally the first scientists who determine the proper course of treatment for novel diseases, while monitoring its spread across a geographic area. They are warriors in the fight against diseases across the world, including Zika virus and many others.
A significant part of the CDC’s mission involves attacking public health problems globally. In today’s interconnected world, a disease that shows it’s ugly head in an isolated village in the Amazon can be transported to a major city in another country in less than 36 hours. This take money. And this takes manpower.
Let’s take a look at the career of CDC director Thomas Frieden, and the potential consequences of a Donald Trump appointee to the position. Continue reading “CDC director Thomas Frieden resigns – time for a Trump appointment”