I have long considered Paul Offit MD as one of heroes and leaders of the public discussion of how vaccines save lives, and how they have made the lives of the world’s children healthier and better. Dr. Offit, together with Edward Jenner (the father of immunology), Jonas Salk (discoverer of the polio vaccine), and Maurice Hillman (inventor of the MMR vaccine against measles, mumps and rubella), should have statues place outside of every pediatric hospital in the country for the number of lives that they have saved.
Unfortunately, since Dr. Offit is considered one of the “leaders” of the pro-vaccine majority, his name has been demonized by the anti-vaccine cult. These people use the Big Lie, a Nazi propaganda technique where a known falsehood is repeatedly stated, then treated as if it is self-evidently true in hopes of swaying the course of an argument in a direction that takes the big lie for granted rather than critically questioning it or ignoring it.
The vaccine deniers constantly repeat untruths about Dr. Offit so that those lies eventually evolve into apparent truths, at least for those who hold onto their pseudoscientific anti-vaccine beliefs.
The problem is, of course, that if you’re a new parent who is confused by what vaccines may or may not do, you’d assume you could not accept anything that Dr. Offit says because of those Big Lies, and many of the ridiculous tropes and memes of the vaccine denialists. And this is sad.
Let’s counter the Big Lie with the Big Facts.
Continue reading “Paul Offit MD – debunking the anti-vaccine tropes and myths”
One of the age-old tropes of the anti-vaccine statistics world is that kids who have been vaccinated against the measles are more likely to get measles than those who are not vaccinated. I squashed this myth several times; unfortunately, those are old articles with broken links and such.
Now, the anti-vaccine statistics monsters persevere with their alternative facts. So, once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more. We will take down this trope. Continue reading “Anti-vaccine statistics – back to simple math again”
Earlier this week, I published an article on the nominee for the Surgeon General, Dr. Jerome M. Adams along with a potential nominee for CDC director, Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald. Since then, President Trump made it official, and Dr. Fitzgerald will be the next CDC Director. And the delicious salty tears of anti-vaxxers are flowing freely, since both doctors are clearly pro-vaccine.
Some of you may remember that President Trump had tweeted (his only form of communication apparently) his dislike of vaccines prior to being elected President.
Continue reading “Anti-vaxxers are crying vaccine tears – Trump breaks promise”
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”
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”
Apparently, the “polio vaccine causes cancer” zombie meme has been reanimated by the antivaccination cult. Lacking evidence for their beliefs, retreading old debunked memes is their standard operating procedure.
The interesting thing about social media (Facebook, Twitter, blogs, Google, reddit) is that it’s fairly easy to push pseudoscientific beliefs. The first problem is that many people read the headlines, and never the underlying discussion. If it can be said in 140 characters, or a misleading infographic, many individuals will share that across the internet as a “fact”. So, if you see an claim that “Polio vaccines infected 98 million Americans with a cancer virus,” many people will immediately see that an accept it without much criticism.
Of course, this leads to a second problem. To refute this claim takes a lot more than 140 characters. The refutation is often complex, nuanced and highly scientific, and may take 2000 words or more to blast the claim into orbit. It’s highly emotional to claim a vaccine can cause cancer. On the other hand, to say it is not isn’t emotional–it’s coldly logical. And takes a lot of words.
And the third problem is that is that social media fallacies have multiple lives, so when someone reads one of these memes a year from now, they think “yeah, this is great information”, and pass it along as if it’s the Truth. Killing zombie memes are just as difficult as killing zombies in real life, or at least, on a TV show. Debunking these zombie memes is a full-time job. And, once it’s been debunked, we move back to the first problem again, again, and again.
Continue reading “Polio vaccine causes cancer – just a myth”
Several of the ongoing memes, tropes and fabrications of the vaccine deniers is somehow, somewhere, in some Big Pharma boardroom, a group of men and women in suits choose the next vaccine in some magical way, and foist it upon the world just to make billions of dollars through vaccine profits. Of course, while magically concocting this vaccine brew, these pharmaceutical execs ignore ethics and morals just to make a profit on hapless vaccine-injured victims worldwide.
The Big Pharma vaccine profits conspiracy trope ranges across the junk medicine world. Homeopathy, for example, claims that Big Pharma suppresses the data that shows water cures all diseases. Like Ebola.
But the Big Pharma vaccine profits conspiracy is still one of most amusing myths of the antivaccination world.
Continue reading “The myth of Big Pharma vaccine profits – it’s not what they say it is”
I keep making the same point over and over again, so I hope I don’t bore my regular readers. There are so few ways to actually prevent cancer, and one of the best is to prevent an HPV or human papillomavirus infection, with an underused vaccine. This simple vaccine can prevent so many cancers.
Genital and oral human papillomavirus (HPV) are the most common sexually transmitted infections (STI) in the USA. There are more than 150 strains or subtypes of HPV that can infect humans, although only 40 of these strains are linked to one or more cancers. HPV is generally transmitted from personal contact during vaginal, anal or oral sex.
Although the early symptoms of HPV infections aren’t serious, those infections are closely linked to many types of cancers in men and women. According to current medical research, here are some of the cancers that are linked to HPV:
These are all dangerous and disfiguring cancers that can be mostly prevented by the HPV cancer vaccine. HPV is believed to cause nearly 5% of all new cancers across the world, making it almost as dangerous as tobacco with respect to cancer.
The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) just issued a report that examined human papillomavirus infection in Americans from 2011-2014. They found the following:
- During 2011–2014, prevalence of any oral human papillomavirus (HPV) for adults aged 18–69 was 7.3%; high-risk HPV was 4.0%.
- Overall, prevalence of any and high-risk oral HPV was lowest among non-Hispanic Asian adults; any oral HPV was highest among non-Hispanic black adults.
- Prevalence of any and high-risk oral HPV was higher in men than women except for high-risk HPV among Asian adults.
- During 2013–2014, prevalence of any and high-risk genital HPV for adults aged 18–59 was 45.2% and 25.1% in men and 39.9% and 20.4% in women, respectively.
- Prevalence of any and high-risk genital HPV was lower among non-Hispanic Asian and higher among non-Hispanic black than both non-Hispanic white and Hispanic men and women.
As I mentioned above, most strains of HPV are not related to cancer. However, according to this data, almost 23% of US adults, ages 18-59, had a type of HPV that increased the risk of certain cancers by a significant amount. Furthermore, around 42% of adults have any type of genital HPV.
An important aspect of this study is that it examined human papillomavirus infections in both men and women – previous studies on HPV concentrated on teen girls and younger women, which found a lower prevalence of the higher risk types of HPV. This ties closely to findings that certain HPV-related cancer rates have been increasing in the USA.
Again, the human papillomavirus infection is easily prevented by the HPV vaccine, called Gardasil. Unfortunately, the massive propaganda and myths against Gardasil, not based on any science and easily refuted, have done a lot to suppress the uptake of the anti-cancer vaccine.
I just hope these kind of studies impress people that the vaccine is an important tool in preventing some dangerous cancers. The HPV vaccine blocks HPV infections which can help prevent HPV-related cancers. Please get vaccinated – it might save your life.
The public’s concern about adverse events, especially death, immediately or soon after vaccinations is very disruptive to vaccine uptake, leading to increased morbidity and mortality of vaccine-preventable diseases. For example, a 2009 Japanese study that showed 107 deaths following H1N1 influenza A vaccination, assumed a causality between the vaccine and the deaths without any evaluation of background rates of of deaths, which would help indicate whether there was any significance to the death rate or even if its related to the vaccination. Vaccine mortality is one of the most abused terms in discussions about vaccines.
It has been demonstrated that passively reported data, that is, data that isn’t actively investigated by trained researchers, cannot be used to assess causality. In an active investigation, it was found that only 2 of the 107 deaths had an autopsy performed, and most of the others had other underlying diseases and conditions that were causally related to the mortality events. Furthermore, 15 million people were vaccinated with the H1N1 seasonal vaccine, and it would be expected that there would be >8000 deaths during the 20 days after vaccination using a crude mortality rate in Japan. Though it would still be a misuse of statistics, there really is more evidence that the H1N1 vaccination lowered the background death rate from 8000 to 107 post vaccination. Continue reading “Properly evaluating vaccine mortality – let’s not abuse VAERS”
Vaccines and autism are not linked or related according to real science, published in real scientific journals written by top scientists and physicians.
But this false claim is in the news again. Probably as a result of reports that more and more children are being diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders. So let’s take a look at the science.
On 28 March 2014, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that new data show that the estimated number of children identified with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), a disorder of neural development, usually appearing before the age of 3 years, characterized by impaired social interaction and verbal and non-verbal communication, and by restricted, repetitive or stereotyped behavior, continues to rise. The picture of ASD in US communities is changing. Continue reading “Vaccines and autism – science says they are unrelated”