February 2019 ACIP Meeting – the process for vaccine recommendations

In February 2019, I attended a meeting of the Advisory Committee for Immunization Practices (ACIP) for the first time. This post describes my observations from the two-day ACIP meeting process.

Generally, the meeting taught me that the process the committee goes through is highly deliberative, data-intensive, and the committee pays close attention to safety and maximizing benefits. Though no process is perfect, the meeting increased my confidence in the decision-making process behind the vaccines recommendations that apply to my children.

Numerous anti-vaccine group attended added some excitement and some stress, but was, from a standpoint of vaccine policy-making, largely irrelevant. 

I am initially, a public administration scholar – I wrote my dissertation on agency accountability, taught the Federal Advisory Committee Act multiple times, and teach almost annually about agency decision making. This made me very interested in the committee’s process. I also knew in advance that there will be – as there has been in several previous meeting – numerous anti-vaccine activists, and was curious to see their interaction with the meeting in reality.

Initially, I thought I would describe in detail what was addressed in the meeting, but I think that would make this post too long. For those who are interested, here is the agenda for the February 2019 ACIP meeting (pdf).

Instead, I will offer my observations about the process. I will mention that the only things voted on in this meeting were related to Japanese encephalitis vaccine and anthrax vaccine. The committee voted to make some changes to the language of the recommendation of the Japanese encephalitis vaccine for travelers to clarify it, but not changes to the actual recommendation, changes to the timeline for adult priming series (the initial vaccine series) from a 28-day interval to an interval that can span 7-28 days, and expanding the age for recommending a booster for children and putting that recommendation on equal footing to the recommendation for an adult booster.

With respect to anthrax vaccines, the committee recommended giving a booster dose to high-risk people (like first responders) who are not currently exposed but may be at risk of exposure, if they want it.

Everything else discussed was informational – some of it as part of the process of preparing for future votes (Like whether to extend the recommendation for HPV vaccines to include those 26-45), some of it as part of ongoing monitoring (like the examination of flu vaccines’ data). Continue reading “February 2019 ACIP Meeting – the process for vaccine recommendations”

Doctors once said that “smoking is safe” – another anti-vaccine myth

smoking is safe

If you hang around discussions about vaccines, you will see the oft-repeated claim that doctors once claimed that “smoking is safe.” The anti-vaccine religion (or terrorists) use this trope as a strawman argument in an attempt to discredit physicians, scientists and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) who claim that vaccines are safe and effective.

Anti-vaxxers really lack much evidence to support their science-denying arguments against the settled science regarding the safety and effectiveness of vaccines. Thus, they have to rely upon misinformation, tropes, and lies to make arguments that vaccines are something. 

I would laugh at this “smoking is safe” claim, except it’s used to dissuade parents from trusting wonderful organizations like the CDC, which only has one goal, to protect lives from diseases. So, let’s debunk this anti-vaccine myth because that’s what we do around here. Continue reading “Doctors once said that “smoking is safe” – another anti-vaccine myth”

Glyphosate linked to non-Hodgkin lymphoma? Analysis of new study

glyphosate

A new study has been published that claims that the herbicide glyphosate is linked to an increased risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma,  a cancer of the lymph tissue. Of course, once a study like this hits the interwebs, everyone becomes panicked that glyphosate causes cancer.

I want to take a look at this paper because I am generally distrustful of any claims that “XYZ causes cancer!!!!!!!!!!!!” 

Cancer myths are pervasive, and a lot of fear of cancer is based on those myths. So let’s take a critical eye and examine the peer-reviewed paper that claims that there is a link between glyphosate and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. There is a lot there, but there is also a lot of overreaction. Continue reading “Glyphosate linked to non-Hodgkin lymphoma? Analysis of new study”

2018-19 flu vaccine effectiveness – interim CDC report

2018-19 flu vaccine effectiveness

The CDC recently issued an interim report on the 2018-19 flu vaccine effectiveness. Usually, after these reports, there are all kinds of consternation from everyone with a stake in the seasonal flu vaccine.

Last year, the flu vaccine effectiveness was a challenge. Typically, the anti-vaccine religion (or terrorists) massively understated the effectiveness of last year’s vaccine, despite good evidence that, although it wasn’t great, it was fairly good against most subtypes of flu.

Vaccine effectiveness is an important measurement to determine how many individuals who are vaccinated against the flu are actually protected from the infection by the vaccine. Despite the wild pseudoscientific claims about various flu treatments, the best preventive tool against influenza and influenza-related diseases, complications, and deaths are flu vaccines.

Preliminary statistics showing the burden of flu this year.

 

Well, let’s get the facts straight with what we know so far about the 2018-19 flu vaccine effectiveness. Continue reading “2018-19 flu vaccine effectiveness – interim CDC report”

Anti-vaccine terrorists – maybe it is the time to call them that

anti-vaccine terrorists

In a recent article in Without a Crystal Ball on Patheos, Katie Joy, an anti-pseudoscience writer after my own heart, laid out a powerful case to label vaccine deniers as anti-vaccine terrorists. I think I’m on board. I know, it’s tough but deserving.

Katie wrote:

Fringe conspiracy-theorist terrorists, called ‘anti-vaxxers’ are multiplying so fast that some counties, cities, and states have vaccination rates below community or ‘herd’ immunity levels across the U.S. With more parents buying into the  conspiracy that vaccines contain toxins, cause autism, and are unsafe, children, the elderly, and immunocompromised are suffering. These people need to be called out for what they are; anti-vaxxers are terrorists that kill and harm our children.

Even if you oppose anti-vaxxers, you might think it’s too extreme to use the “terrorist” label in this case. I do not. Though there is no single agreed-upon definition of terrorism, most agree that it consists of using fear as a tool to achieve political or social change while disregarding harm done to others in the process. I think anti-vaxxers meet every part of that definition.

After giving it much thought, I think I’m going to have to change my description of these nutjobs from anti-vaccine religious extremists to anti-vaccine terrorists. Maybe it’s harsh. But it’s deserving.

I want to make a case for this “anti-vaccine terrorists” label. Maybe you’ll agree, or maybe you’ll think I’m over-the-top, even if you’re pro-science. But these vaccine deniers are putting children at risk of harm, it’s becoming difficult for me to excuse their lies and misinformation.  Continue reading “Anti-vaccine terrorists – maybe it is the time to call them that”

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 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”

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 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.

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 a 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”

Corvelva promotes fake HPV vaccine “research” – anti-vaxxers dance in the streets

Here we go again – the Italian anti-vaccine Corvelva, the anti-vaccine group which produced laughable pseudoscientific research about vaccines. Their first salvo that missed tried to show that the Infarix Hexa vaccine, which protects infants against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), hepatitis B, polio and Haemophilus influenzae B (Hib), didn’t contain antigens to those toxins, viruses, and bacteria. 

Of course, that research was pure unmitigated equine excrement since Corvelva provided no scientific transparency, no peer-review, no data, and no substance that real science uses. As far as I can tell, not a single major national drug review agency spent more than a nanosecond reviewing their bogus claims since they were not in the form of real scientific research.

But like zombies that keep coming because of another failed plan from Rick Grimes, they keep coming back, so a good scientist like this ancient dinosaur must continue to put a claw into their brains. This time, the Corvelva zombies are back with more pseudoscience “research” about the HPV vaccine, one of the handful of ways to actually prevent cancer in this world. 

So, as one of the anti-vaccine zombie fighters on the internet, let’s get to the action. Continue reading “Corvelva promotes fake HPV vaccine “research” – anti-vaxxers dance in the streets”

Measles prevents cancer? Another anti-vaccine myth with no evidence

Darla Shine, a former Fox News producer, and wife of the White House deputy chief of staff of communications, of course, posted a dangerous and ignorant tweet that implied that measles prevents cancer.

Shinee is repeating a thoroughly debunked anti-vaccine religious trope, but what do you expect from a Trump sycophant? The truth? Especially since Trump has a history of anti-vaccine rhetoric.

Of course, there is a reason why this myth has legs, but it’s not based on what we call robust evidence – it’s based on pseudoscience, misinformation, and nonsense. Continue reading “Measles prevents cancer? Another anti-vaccine myth with no evidence”

Flu vaccine lawsuit – a non-win, non-revelation regarding pregnant women

On 11 February 2019, Health Impact published an article about a flu vaccine lawsuit which an anti-vaccine group called the “Children’s Health Fund” described as a legal win and revelation. The claim was based on a response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request that did not, in fact, reveal any new information.

The flu vaccine lawsuit also did not counter the basis of expert agencies and organizations recommendations that pregnant women be vaccinated against influenza to protect themselves and their newborns. This article will review the facts of this action. Continue reading “Flu vaccine lawsuit – a non-win, non-revelation regarding pregnant women”