Polio vaccine causes cancer – just a myth

polio vaccine causes cancer

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.

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Gardasil safety and efficacy – debunking the HPV vaccine myths

Gardasil safety and efficacy

There was an article published in Pediatrics that described how educating either teenagers or their parents about HPV vaccinations had little effect on the overall vaccination rate for the vaccine. Essentially, the researchers found that it was a 50:50 probability that any teen would get the vaccine, regardless of their knowledge of HPV and the vaccine itself. Some of the reasons why the HPV vaccine uptake is so low is a result of several myths about Gardasil safety and efficacy.

So I thought about why that Pediatrics study found that education about HPV and Gardasil didn’t move the needle on vaccination uptake. It’s possible that the benefits of the vaccine is overwhelmed by two factors–first, that there’s a disconnect between personal activities today vs. a disease that may or may not show up 20-30 years from now; and second, that the invented concerns about the HPV quadrivalent vaccine, promulgated by the usual suspects in the antivaccination world, makes people think that there is a clear risk from the vaccine which is not balanced by preventing cancer decades from now. It’s frustrating. Continue reading “Gardasil safety and efficacy – debunking the HPV vaccine myths”

The myth of Big Pharma vaccine profits – it’s not what they say it is

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.

 

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Human papillomavirus infection – puts one-quarter of Americans at high risk for cancer

human papillomavirus infection

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.

 

Properly evaluating vaccine mortality – let’s not abuse VAERS

vaccine mortality

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 – science says they are unrelated

vaccines and autism

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”

Adult vaccine schedule – what do you think about the CDC recommendations?

adult vaccine schedule

I just published an article about the CDC’s adult vaccine schedule by age and by medical condition. I knew this existed. Of course I did, since I’ve been focusing on vaccines for like nearly my whole adult life. I wanted to poll my readers as to your own reaction to the CDC’s vaccine schedule (which is probably the same in many other countries, not just the USA). Did you know you might have to get the Hib vaccine? Or MMR?

Or do you stand with Donald Trump, who thinks the CDC vaccine schedules are dangerous? Very dangerous. Bad for America.

So, I’d like to know about what you think of the adult vaccine schedule. Vote early and vote often.

Adult vaccines – the CDC wants to save adult lives too

adult vaccines

Generally, when I write about vaccines, it’s about protecting children’s lives from vaccine preventable diseases. That itself is a noble goal for vaccines. But in case you didn’t know, there is also a CDC schedule for adult vaccines, which is as important to adults as they are to children.

Vaccines have one purpose – to protect us and those whom we love from potentially deadly and debilitating diseases. Many of us in the blogosphere have talked about the children’s schedule a lot, often to debunk claims of people who are ignorant of science, and think that the children’s vaccine schedule is causing undue harm. Yeah our intellectually deficient president, Donald Trump, thinks he knows more than the CDC, but that’s a problem shared by many vaccine deniers.

One adult vaccine I push regularly is the flu vaccine. It protects adults, pregnant women, the elderly, children, and healthy young adults from a severe infection that hospitalizes and kills more people every year than you’d think. Because flu is not really a serious disease, in some people’s minds, a lot of people decide that they don’t need the vaccine. They’d be wrong.

Just in case you were wondering, there is more to adult vaccines than just flu vaccines. There are several other vaccines indicated for adult use, including those adults with underlying health issues like diabetes, HIV and heart disease – unfortunately, the uptake for adult vaccines is depressingly low. Let’s take at the low uptake and the recommended adult vaccines schedule.

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Future of vaccines – what Donald Trump is doing and saying

future of vaccines

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know two things – my support for vaccines is unwavering, and my loathing of Donald Trump is unmatched by just about anyone in politics. Seriously, Trump makes me yearn for the days when George W Bush was running things. So when it comes to the future of vaccines and Donald Trump, I’ve reached a whole new level of abhorrence.

In case you’ve not kept up, let’s have a quick review of Donald Trump’s views on vaccines. They’re not good.

First, Trump has been tweeting about vaccines since 2012. He thinks that vaccines cause autism, and he’s been wrong on almost everything about them. He thinks that that children get too many vaccines, he’s wrong on that too, although if he has some medical background which he hid from the world, we’d be glad to hear what his research tells us about “too many vaccines.” He claims that doctors are wrong about vaccines. Oh really? Where’s the evidence.

I don’t know why I would ask for evidence from a man who spends almost all of his day denying evidence for most science.

Of course, the fraudster Andrew Wakefield has had an ongoing bromance with Trump, and explicitly endorsed Trump for President. Talk about putting the fear into the future of vaccines.

The bromance continued after the election, which has had more than a few pro-science types nervously joking that Wakefield might be appointed CDC Director. Of course, Trump wouldn’t choose Wakefield for such an illustrious position. It just doesn’t make sense. Of course, it doesn’t make sense that Betsy DeVos, who has approximately zero knowledge of the American educational system, is confirmed to be Secretary of Education under Trump. I’m laughing nervously.

Next up, Trump had a meeting with vaccine denier, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., who, despite his family’s illustrious liberal name and support of science, wanted to work for Trump to investigate the safety of vaccines. Depending on the source, Trump either asked or didn’t ask Kennedy to chair a vaccine safety commission. We’re hoping Trump didn’t, but you never know.

Then, Trump named Tom Price to head the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which has the ultimate responsibility for America’s vaccine program. Price is a physician, which should be a good thing at HHS. Unfortunately, Dr. Price belongs to a radical, right wing physician’s group called the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS). If you’ve never heard of AAPS, they are a politically conservative non-profit association founded in 1943 to “fight socialized medicine and to fight the government takeover of medicine.” Along with being opposed to many public health and right to healthcare issues, they’re not big fans of vaccines and mandatory vaccinations.

Given all of this bad news, where do we stand right now with regards to the future of vaccines and Donald Trump? Well, let’s get to the good news first. Because those of us who are appalled by Donald Trump need all the good news we can get.

Before we discuss the Trump administration’s actions on vaccines, let’s make sure everyone understands that the American public is not in sync with Trump’s views on vaccines. According to the Pew Research Center, 82% of Americans support requiring students in public schools to be vaccinated against measles, mumps and rubella with the MMR vaccine. Moreover, Pew found that about 88% of Americans say that the benefits of vaccines outweigh any risks – an overwhelmingly positive finding about the public perception of vaccines.

On the topic of the future vaccines and Trump, not only is he wrong about the science, but he’s way outside of the mainstream of American’s feelings about vaccinations. Since Trump seems addicted to polls, maybe he’ll see this Pew poll and let the CDC do its job with being encumbered by an anti-science directive. One can only hope. But we’ll circle back to the CDC in a couple of paragraphs.

Also on the “good news” side of things, during the confirmation hearing for Dr. Price, he was asked whether vaccines caused autism – his answer, “I think the science in that instance is that it does not,” was reassuring. Price also said that he would “make certain that factual informing (of public health issues) is conveyed to Congress and the president and the American people.”

Sadly, his comments about vaccines were sometimes less than “full-throated” support. When asked if he believed that the CDC (which is part of HHS) schedule (pdf) for vaccinations should be followed by parents, he answered, “I think that the science and healthcare has identified a very important aspect of public health, and that is the role of vaccinations.” It’s a good answer to some question somewhere, but it did not answer the question about the CDC schedule, which Trump thinks is wrong. I hope I’m not reading between the lines, but it is troubling to read these statements.

A few other pieces of good news should brighten our day with regards to vaccines. Andrew Wakefield has not been nominated to head the CDC. Of course, Trump hasn’t chosen anyone for Director as of yet.

And on the bad side of the news, the CDC seems to be under pressure to bend to Trump’s will. The CDC cancelled a conference on climate change and public health – climate change has a huge impact on public health, and the CDC should be at the forefront of the scientific information about it. Unfortunately, with a climate change denier in the White House, the CDC probably was under pressure to cancel.

I guess the news around the CDC is mostly bad these days.

As for the vaccine investigative commission (or whatever it will be called) that is supposedly going to be headed by Robert F Kennedy, Jr? Well, other than the flurry of reports when they met in early January, there hasn’t been a stitch of news since then – thus on our scale of no news is probably better than whatever horrible news we’ll get from Trump about the future of vaccines, this averages out to pretty good news. Right now, we don’t know anything, other than Kennedy and Trump met to discuss vaccines. There’s no word from the White House whether Kennedy will be heading up this investigation, even if there’s going to be an investigation into vaccines.

Right now, we’re not sure which way the wind is blowing on Donald Trump’s influence on the future of vaccines. Will the CDC quit promoting its vaccine schedule? Will Tom Price push his views about vaccines in a positive or negative way? Will Robert F. Kennedy Jr have a major role in what we perceive about vaccines? Will Trump change his mind and do nothing?

As with almost everything this administration has done, we expect the worst and hope for the best. Unfortunately, “the worst” keeps happening. But, so far, there’s nothing but rumors and suppositions about what will happen with vaccines. And for today, we’ll take that as hopeful. But I’m not sure what’s going to happen tomorrow or next week with regards to Donald Trump and vaccines. I’m hoping that the future of vaccines looks good, but I’ve got a bad feeling about this.

 

CDC vaccine patents – Robert F Kennedy Jr gets this one wrong too

CDC vaccine patents

There are some very elaborate conspiracy theories set up by the anti-vaccine tinfoil hat crowd, but I ran across a new one that use such a tortured path of logical fallacies and outright misunderstandings that I just had to review it. The claim is that the CDC vaccine patents are so valuable that the CDC itself sets aside all morality and ethics to endorse these vaccines to make more money for the CDC.

This particular conspiracy theory arises from none other than Robert F Kennedy, Jr, one of Donald Trump’s lapdogs for vaccines. Kennedy has made this claim for several years now, but repeated it in a recent interview, stating that, “the CDC is a subsidiary of the pharmaceutical industry. The agency owns more than 20 vaccine patents and purchases and sells $4.1 billion in vaccines annually.” Typically, Kennedy provides absolutely nothing in the form of supporting evidence. It makes no sense to argue against an imaginary claim – this is a pretty good example of an opinion rather than facts.

But here comes Ginger Taylor, one of the most ardent and science-ignoring anti-vaccine activists around these parts. In fact, she inspired my article entitled, Vaccines and autism science says they are unrelatedTaylor, who apparently has an autistic child, believes that vaccines “damaged” her child because, as a mother, she knows more than science. She considers science to be an elitist pursuit, it’s not data and evidence that matter but her opinion. Seriously, she has an utter lack of self-awareness, which apparently broke one of Orac’s favorite Big Pharma Irony Meters™. Her opinion of her own scientific knowledge is betrayed by the reality of her science knowledge.

So this same Ginger Taylor, vaccine denying silly person, decides to write an article with another torturous description of the CDC vaccine patents conspiracy theory, trying to support Kennedy’s outlandish claims. And she wrote this article in GreenMedInfo, one of the most ignorant anti-science websites on the inter webs, just a bit below NaturalNews in quality.

The problems with Taylor’s article are multi-fold – but generally, like so many  anti-vaccine types, they think they know a lot about a topic based on their 15 minutes of Google search time. But because Taylor is utterly uneducated and inexperienced with patents, she gets nearly all of her conspiracy theory wrong. Like almost all conspiracies.

So here we go, debunking another anti-vaccine myth.

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