SB277 appeal rejected by court – California’s vaccine mandate stands

sb277 appeal

On 27 June 2018, the remaining plaintiffs in the problematic lawsuit Brown v. Karen Smith (formerly Buck v. Smith) posted a tentative ruling rejecting their SB277 appeal against the dismissal of their case. The decision is a very strong endorsement of SB277 and immunization mandates generally, and if it is adopted as the Court of Appeal’s final ruling – as it likely will be – it will become a strong barrier to future suits against SB277 unless and until the California Supreme Court deviates from it. Continue reading “SB277 appeal rejected by court – California’s vaccine mandate stands”

Gayle DeLong tries to correct her anti-vaccine article by blogging

Gayle DeLong

A few days ago, I wrote about a terrible, laughable anti-HPV vaccine article by Gayle DeLong, a tenured Associate Professor in the Department of Economics and Finance in the Zicklin School of Business, Baruch College/City University of New York. She has zero backgrounds, experience, knowledge, education or credibility in vaccine science.

Her appalling article tried to convince the reader that the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine caused a decrease in fertility. If this were a real article, I’d be appalled, but it was a garbage article. It failed basic scientific statistical analysis like accounting for confounding data. Furthermore, Gayle DeLong provided no convincing biologically plausible mechanism describing how the HPV vaccine could affect pregnancy rates. And her references were ridiculous – she cited Mark and David Geier, who can charitably be called charlatans who attempted to “treat” autistic children with a horrific and unethical procedure. And she actually mentioned Mark Geier in her acknowledgments.

Furthermore, she ignored the vast body of evidence, published by real scientists, not an expert in international finance, in real journals that the HPV vaccine is demonstrably safe. And in those huge studies, some with millions of patients, there was no detectable difference in fertility rates between vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals. This issue only exists in the mind of Gayle DeLong and other anti-vaccine activists.

I’ve read a bunch of anti-vaccine papers in my time, but this one may be one of the worst. All anti-vaccine papers are all bad, so it’s just a rank ordering of these papers in a sewer. Continue reading “Gayle DeLong tries to correct her anti-vaccine article by blogging”

Reverse type 1 diabetes mellitus with BCG vaccine – promising results

reverse type 1 diabetes

A clinical trial that examined the potential of the bacillus Calmette-Guerin vaccine, or BCG vaccine, to reverse even advanced type 1 diabetes mellitus was recently published in a Nature journal. In addition, researchers proposed a possible mechanism describing how the BCG vaccine may enhance the immune system and could stop and reverse the damage that leads to diabetes. But does this constitute evidence that this vaccine can really reverse type 1 diabetes? Spoiler alert – I’m not fully convinced, but my interest is piqued.

The BCG vaccine was initially developed to prevent tuberculosis. It is one of the oldest vaccines available on the market, first used in 1921 (pdf). With the successful eradication of tuberculosis in many countries, the vaccine isn’t used very much anymore, except in countries with endemic tuberculosis.

Let’s take a look at what we know about diabetes, how the BCG vaccine might be able to reverse type 1 diabetes mellitus, and what the new article reports. Continue reading “Reverse type 1 diabetes mellitus with BCG vaccine – promising results”

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.

She was also one of the many contributors to the book, “Pseudoscience – The Conspiracy Against Science.”

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”

Gardasil facts – debunking myths about HPV vaccine safety and efficacy

Gardasil safety and efficacy

The HPV cancer-preventing vaccine, especially Gardasil (or Silgard, depending on market), has been targeted by the anti-vaccine religion more than just about any other vaccine being used these days. So many people tell me that they give their children all the vaccines, but refuse to give them the HPV vaccine based on rumor and innuendo on the internet. This article provides all the posts I’ve written about Gardasil safety and efficacy.

As many of regular readers know, I focus on just a few topics in medicine, with my two favorites being vaccines and cancer – of course, the Gardasil cancer-preventing vaccine combines my two favorite topics. Here’s one thing that has become clear to me – there are no magical cancer prevention schemes. You are not going to prevent any of the 200 different cancers by drinking a banana-kale-quinoa smoothie every day. The best ways to prevent cancer are to quit smoking, stay out of the sun, keep active and thin, get your cancer-preventing vaccines, and following just a few more recommendations.

The benefits of the vaccine are often overlooked as a result of two possible factors – first, there’s a disconnect between personal activities today and cancer that could be diagnosed 20-30 years from now; and second, people think that there are significant dangers from the vaccine which are promulgated by the anti-vaccine religion.

It’s frustrating and difficult to explain Gardasil safety and efficacy as a result of the myths about safety and long-term efficacy of the vaccine. That’s why I have written nearly 200 articles about Gardasil safety and efficacy, along with debunking some ridiculous myths about the cancer-preventing vaccine. This article serves to be a quick source with links to most of those 200 articles.

And if you read nothing else in this review of Gardasil, read the section entitled “Gardasil safety and effectiveness – a quick primer” – that will link you to two quick to read articles that summarize the best evidence in support of the vaccine’s safety and effectiveness.

Continue reading “Gardasil facts – debunking myths about HPV vaccine safety and efficacy”

“Bad Advice” by Paul Offit – a book review by Dorit Rubinstein Reiss

Bad Advice

A new book, “Bad Advice: Or Why Celebrities, Politicians, and Activists Aren’t Your Best Source of Health Informationby Dr. Paul Offit, is different from his previous writings in two ways – much of it is autobiographical, with a lot of personal anecdotes, and it is about science communication rather than the actual science.

“Bad Advice” opens with a story of a 1997 TV interview Dr. Offit has, and how he bungled – by his account – a question about which vaccines children get, how many, and when. The story sets the tone for the book – it’s funny, it’s candid about what Dr. Offit did, in his view, wrong, and it offers sound advice for other science communicators.

To a large extent, this book was written for those engaged in science communication, and it is full of tips that can help every current or would-be science communicator.

What gives the book its charms are the anecdotes and the humor sprinkled throughout it, and its accessible and conversational tone, but I don’t think I can mirror that here without spoiling the effect – I think these are best enjoyed in context. So this review describes the content but does not capture what makes “Bad Advice” so much fun.

For full disclosure, I highly admire Dr. Offit, have sought his advice and help on many issues in my writing on and advocacy related to vaccines, and consider him a personal friend. I have also read a draft of the book and provided comments. 

Why Science Communication?

The first three chapters of “Bad Advice” provide important background by explaining why science communication is needed, and some of the obstacles to it. 

The first two chapters of the book set out what science is and what scientists do, and why their training and background make it difficult for them to be effective science communicators. Among the things covered – again, with a lot of humor, humility, and personal anecdotes – are that much of the scientific work is done alone, and much of what it requires makes people less, rather than more, suited to work with people. 

Dr. Offit discusses the fact that the scientific method trains scientists away from using absolute statements, but qualified statements can backfire when communicating about science; the challenge of reducing complex, nuanced reality into sound bites that work in a digital age; and more.

The next chapter analyzes why we need science communication, why people – however smart – may fall for misinformation. It looks at several natural, human features that make us easily wrong on scientific issues. “Bad Advice” also examines our difficulty identifying and assessing risks, the pull of celebrities as authority figures, even though they may not have the background to provide good information, and may, in fact, promote bad information (for example, Robert F. Kennedy Jr.  – revisited later in the book – constantly provides bad information about vaccines  ). The chapter also talks about other limits on the ability of humans to think rationally and the ways we acquire knowledge.

After thus setting the stage for why it’s important to engage in science communication and some of the challenges, Dr. Offit is ready for the next stage.

Good advice vs bad advice

Chapters 4 through 7 offer direct advice on communications through personal anecdotes of things that worked and things that didn’t in Dr. Offit’s over 20 years of doing it.

In chapter 4, Dr. Offit offers “some painful, hard-earned, and occasionally humorous lessons gleaned from personal experience” on communicating with the public. These range from the deeply practical (“be comfortable”) to the content based (“be sympathetic,” in the context of an eleven-year-old diagnosed with AIDS at the time when HIV was a death sentence, and “Don’t panic.

The facts are your safety net.”). But they’re invariably written as amusing anecdotes leading to a useful punchline. In one of the stories, Dr. Offit describes how he arrived at the famous “10,000 vaccines” quote that anti-vaccine activists like to misuse. The punchline? “You are going to say things that, although scientifically accurate, you will regret. It’s unavoidable.”

Chapter five addresses whether it’s appropriate for scientists to debate science deniers, using several examples. Dr. Offit’s recommendation is to avoid it, but he does provide three successful examples of such debates. His conclusion is that he, personally, is too angry and passionate on vaccine issues to successfully participate – because he annually sees children die from preventable diseases, “invariably, .. because parents have chosen not to vaccinate their children. And the reason they had made that choice was that they had read or heard bad information..”

Bad Advice ends with a recommendation that “debating the undebatable is worthwhile,” if, and only if, scientists can see the discussion as a teachable moment, and not focus on the people they are debating or the others in the room.

I’m not sure I agree, at least in terms of a televised debate. I think Dr. David Gorski said it well when he wrote:

…debating cranks doesn’t sway anyone, sharing the stage with a real scientist does unduly elevate the crank in the eyes of the public. Besides, whatever the seeming outcome of the debate, you can count on the crank to declare victory and his believers to agree. In any event, science isn’t decided by the metrics used to judge who “wins” a public debate, which rely more on rhetoric and cleverness rather than science to decide the outcome. Finally, such debates are not without risks. Although Julian Whitaker, for example, was terrible at it, other cranks are adept at the Gish Gallop, and an unprepared skeptic or scientist can be made to appear clueless in front of a crowd that is almost always packed with supporters of the crank, not the skeptic.

I think I agree with Dr. Offit’s initial position that agreeing to a debate is a bad idea.

Chapter six looks at the role of comedians in combating misinformation about science, focusing on vaccines – covering the Penn and Teller episode, Jimmy Kimmel, the Daily Show and the Colbert Report. And I’m really going to let you read that by yourselves. It’s fun.

Chapter seven looks at the ways the cinema helps or harms science communication. It opens by comparing two films about outbreaks – “Contagion,” that got the science right, and “Outbreak,” that did not. To give a flavor, when talking about “Outbreak,” Dr. Offit describes how a monkey carrying the harmful virus was caught, and the movie scientists had to “determine which antibodies are neutralizing the mutant virus, synthesize those antibodies, and make several liters of life-saving antisera. Assuming everything goes well, Hoffman’s task should take about a year. Cuba Gooding Jr. does it in a little less than a minute. (Now I understand why people are angry that we still don’t have an AIDS vaccine.).”

Nonetheless, Dr. Offit sees an important role for movies in science communications, and urge scientists to work with filmmakers to get it right.

Science communication in action – confronting the anti-vaccine movement:

The last part of the book uses the anti-vaccine movement as a story of the pitfalls and successes of science communication.

Chapter 8 of “Bad Advice” looks at how charismatic figures can promote anti-science misinformation. Although it covers several examples, the heart of the chapter is the case of Andrew Wakefield, the British doctor who promoted misinformation about MMR. Dr. Offit tells the dramatic story of Wakefield’s rise, the scientific literature that showed him wrong, and the discovery of his misdeeds, that led to his fall. He describes Wakefield’s situation today – thoroughly discredited, on par with other conspiracy theorists – through his participation in the infamous Conspirasea Cruise.  The end of the chapter examines different explanations for why Wakefield sticks to his original claims, years after they’ve been thoroughly disproven. I’ll let you find out yourselves. It’s not exactly flattering to Wakefield, though. 

Chapter 9 looks at the role of politicians in promoting anti-science misinformation, focusing on Dan Burton’s hearings that tried to make a case that vaccines cause autism (YouTube snippets of the hearings, out of context, are still used by anti-vaccine activists. Dr. Offit will give you a more comprehensive view). Dr. Offit also tells of his own experience in the hearing, and what he sees as errors committed because of his naiveté and inexperience. It’s half sad and half comical to read through both his preparation for the hearing, and the actual experience of Mr. Burton, who came into the hearing with a set conclusion and a set role he wanted Dr. Offit to play, trying to delegitimize him. 

Chapter 10 warns science communicators to expect a campaign of personal delegitimization and attacks, drawing on Dr. Offit’s own extensive experiences with anti-vaccine efforts to attack him. It goes from hateful emails, through lawsuits, to death threats. It’s painful but incredibly important for people who go into these areas to be prepared for the ugly reaction from misguided but passionate people on the other side, in all its extreme forms. 

Chapter 11 goes more deeply into Dr. Offit’s own reasons for entering the fray. It is very autobiographical (some of the events in it were described in some of Dr. Offit’s other books, but many will be new to readers), telling his career story – again, with lots of humor, more than a few lumps. This is to explain what motivates him to speak up, and to some degree, to counter the claims accusing him of having a conflict of interests because of his involvement in the creation of the rotavirus vaccine. It’s a powerful chapter.

Chapter 12 ends on an optimistic note, pointing out things that have improved in the war for science – the rise of science bloggers, the better attitude of the media. And in the epilogue, Dr. Offit ends with the March of Science, as an embodiment of the willingness of science supporters to fight back.

Takeaway

In this very autobiographical, often humorous, extremely candid and full of good advice book, Dr. Offit does a service to science communicators by telling them what worked, what didn’t, and some thoughts on what comes next. You may not always agree with his advice, but you are very likely to agree with large parts of it, think about much of it, and enjoy the way it’s delivered. It’s a very fast read, and worth reading and probably rereading. And rereading.





There are three ways you can help support this blog. First, you can use Patreon by clicking on the link below. It allows you to set up a monthly donation, which will go a long way to supporting the Skeptical Raptor
Become a Patron!


You can also support this website by using PayPal, which also allows you to set up monthly donations.



Finally, you can also purchase anything on Amazon, and a small portion of each purchase goes to this website. Just click below, and shop for everything.




National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program facts

national vaccine injury compensation program

In this post I explain how one goes about proving a case in the  National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (NVICP), and how that differs from proving a case in the civil courts, focusing on what it means to have a no-fault program and proving causation. I will use a case that started with the tragic death of a young child after a vaccine to illustrate the complexity and operation of the program, and also to address the idea of federal preemption, and how it limits the ability of those claiming vaccine injuries to use state courts for their claims.

Continue reading “National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program facts”

HPV vaccine could prevent 41,000 cancers a year – Gardasil works

HPV vaccine

I do repeat myself repeatedly, I admit, especially about cancer. There are really only a handful of ways to lower your risk of cancer – stop smoking, stay out of the sun, eat a “healthy” diet, keep a healthy weight, don’t drink alcohol, and a few other things. One of those few science-based methods to stave off cancer is getting vaccinated against cancer-causing viruses. The HPV vaccine and hepatitis B vaccine (see Note 1) are some of the most powerful tools in cancer prevention.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have published a detailed report of HPV-related cancers in the USA, and it states that there are over 41,000 HPV-related cancers diagnosed every year. The National Cancer Institute categorizes “common cancers” as those with over 40,000 new cases a year – if we could lump all of these HPV-related cancers into one group, it would be considered a common cancer, contradicting the anti-vaccine memes that HPV isn’t that dangerous.

And the HPV vaccine could prevent most of those cancers by blocking the HPV types that cause those cancers. Continue reading “HPV vaccine could prevent 41,000 cancers a year – Gardasil works”

Diane Harper, star of anti-vaccine memes, supports HPV vaccines

Diane Harper

If you have any interest in HPV vaccines, you’ve probably heard about Diane Harper, who the anti-vaccine religion claims was a “lead Gardasil researcher” who came out against the vaccine. Many of us were never convinced that she was really anti-vaccine, although she seemed to have vacillating views on the HPV vaccine depending on a variety of random factors, including who was feting her at any particular point in time.

Dr. Harper was a frustrating character in the conversations about the HPV vaccine. Although some (but certainly not all) of her comments about the vaccine could be construed as an anti-HPV vaccine, her publications, and many other public comments, seemed to clearly show that she was a supporter of the vaccine.

A few writers in the scientific skeptic blogosphere have contacted her, either in person or through interviews, and most have come away with the impression that she was solidly in support of the vaccine. However, and I have no evidence of this whatsoever, she always seemed to be biased against Gardasil, manufactured by Merck, so maybe she had some personal vendetta. We will probably never know, I suppose.

But a recent announcement should put an end to the Diane Harper anti-Gardasil meme – well I’m more cynical than that, I know the vaccine denier mob will keep bringing it back like a zombie. So, let’s take a look at Dr. Harper and her announcement. No one should be surprised. Continue reading “Diane Harper, star of anti-vaccine memes, supports HPV vaccines”

HPV vaccine affects pregnancy rate – laughable anti-vaxxer study

hpv vaccine affects pregnancy

I thought I had read it all, but here comes one out of recesses of the anti-vaccine mind – where logic and science disappear into a black hole. This time, an economist, with absolutely no background in science, writes a lame article that claims that the HPV vaccine affects pregnancy rate. Somehow, because of reasons, unknown to modern science.

The anti-vaccine religion definitely hates the HPV vaccine more than any other one out there. They invent more lies about it while ignoring the overwhelming scientific consensus about the vaccine’s safety and effectiveness. But relying upon facts is generally not something found in the anti-vaccine wheelhouse.

Of course, the false claims about the HPV vaccine often rely upon pseudoscience produced by anti-vaccine shills like the oft-retracted Shaw and Tomljenovic, the infamous Lyons-Weiler, and the preposterous Shoenfeld. Because the anti-vaxxers lack any evidence to support their dislike of the HPV vaccine, they require the appeal to false authority to claim that these discredited pseudoscientists’ work is somehow more important than all of the body evidence, from real, respected scientists, that supports HPV vaccine safety and effectiveness.

So, let’s take a look at this new study from a non-scientist claiming that the HPV vaccine affects pregnancy rates. I almost thought about ignoring it, but it’s just too funny. Continue reading “HPV vaccine affects pregnancy rate – laughable anti-vaxxer study”