Germany could fine anti-vaccine parents if they refuse MMR vaccine

As a result of the widespread epidemic of measles in Europe and the USA, Germany has proposed a law that could fine anti-vaccine parents up to €2,500 (US$2,800) if they don’t vaccinate their children against measles. The law, if passed by the German parliament before the end of 2019, will take effect on 1 March 2022.

The law would make the MMR vaccine mandatory for all children attending nurseries and schools. It would also make it mandatory for all teachers, educators, and medical staff at hospitals and outpatient clinics.

Furthermore, the law requires that, by July 2020, parents registering their children for kindergartens or schools would need to either provide evidence that their children have received the measles vaccine (and possibly other vaccines, but I was unable to determine whether it would include all recommended vaccines) or have definitive proof of a medical exemption.

And this law is not going to affect only a small number of German anti-vaccine parents. According to the German Ministry of Health, there are approximately 361,000 non-vaccinated children along with about 220,000 adults (who would be covered by the new law).

The proposed law has broad support across political parties in Germany, except the left-wing Green Party which, of course, represents a large group of anti-vaccine parents. The Green Party candidate for the US President in 2016 was notoriously anti-vaccine, despite being a licensed physician. Continue reading “Germany could fine anti-vaccine parents if they refuse MMR vaccine”

SSPE – a dangerous complication from not getting the measles vaccine

One of the tropes of the anti-vaccine religion is that childhood diseases, like measles or whooping cough, are not dangerous. But real science tells us that measles complications, like SSPE (subacute sclerosing panencephalitis) and death, are not innocuous. The ignorance about measles puts our children at risk.

Sadly, some of these vaccine-denying parents have set up “pox parties” to deliberately expose their children to these diseases, because they believe that natural immunity is better than vaccine-induced immunity. Not only is that an appeal to nature fallacy, but it shows ignorance on how immunity works.  Continue reading “SSPE – a dangerous complication from not getting the measles vaccine”

Legal liability of antivaccination parents whose children infect others

One of my favorite TV programs is Law & Order:SVU, an American police procedural crime drama television series set in New York City. It usually bases episodes on real news stories, but putting some twist on them. And for fans of the show, it is addicting.

In the spring of 2009, an episode entitled Selfish aired. The plot was about an immature, irresponsible young mother who was assumed to have killed her child. In a major plot twist (and actually one that caught me by surprise), the coroner determines that the child died from measles, in what turned out to be an outbreak of the disease in fictional New York City.  The Assistant District Attorney then decides to prosecute the mother of the child who started the measles outbreak because she had refused to immunize her child for all of the reasons popularized by the vaccine deniers. Unfortunately, the producers of the show didn’t give us the full satisfaction of having that mother spend time in prison (and if one looked at the episode with even amateur legal eyes, it probably wasn’t going to happen). 

But the episode is popular with many of us on the pro-science side, and I have tweeted when the episode is on a rerun somewhere. Continue reading “Legal liability of antivaccination parents whose children infect others”

Vaccine denier – diseases eliminated by sanitation, not vaccines

And here we go again. Over the Memorial Day weekend, I was catching up on some reading, which sometimes leads me to reading pseudoscience claims of some random vaccine denier. In this case, it was an article that claimed that it had “irrefutable evidence” that diseases were eliminated by better sanitation rather than vaccination.

Well, I am always one to read up on “irrefutable evidence”, but it’s possible that my standard for “irrefutable evidence” is different than most others. And in fact, real science assumes that most evidence can be scientifically refuted, so it never speaks in such absolutes. So that’s hint #1 that I’m going to be disappointed. Continue reading “Vaccine denier – diseases eliminated by sanitation, not vaccines”

Measles complications–consequences of the anti-vaccine hysteria

Angelina at five, just before onset of SSPE

This article has been substantially updated, please go there. There is also another article about a separate measles/SSPE case in Italy.

One of the memes of the vaccine denialists is that childhood diseases, like measles or whooping cough, are not dangerous. In fact, some parents have set up “pox parties” to deliberately expose their children to these diseases, because anti-vaccine lunatics believe (with all evidence against their beliefs, typical of any science denialist) that natural immunity is better than a vaccine induced immunity. Not only is that an Appeal to Nature fallacy, but it shows ignorance on how immunity occurs.

Already this year, two children have died in the United States as a result of whooping cough. And there’s probably more, because of under-reporting.

Continue reading “Measles complications–consequences of the anti-vaccine hysteria”

Volcano in Germany is definitely not going to erupt soon

A couple of months ago, I wrote about the Laacher See, a caldera lake and potentially active volcano in Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany.  The Daily Mail, a UK tabloid, published a story stating that the volcano was ready to erupt soon.  Though there is plenty of evidence that the volcano is still active and may one day erupt, there is no evidence that it’s about to do so anytime soon. Continue reading “Volcano in Germany is definitely not going to erupt soon”

Huge volcano threatens Europe!!! Maybe not.

Although my interests center on medicine and biology, I have more than a professional hobbyist interest in geology, specifically vulcanism, the study of volcanoes (and not Spock).  So I peruse news stories about volcanic eruptions when they appear.  This week, a British newspaper, the Daily Mail, published a story entitled, Is a super-volcano just 390 miles from London about to erupt?  I suspect that the Daily Mail is one of Britain’s sensationalist newspapers, and this article would confirm it.

But let’s go over some of it’s points.  Yes, the Laacher See volcano did erupt about 12,900 years ago, and it was a rather large eruption, on the size of Mt. Pinatubo in 1991.  Obviously, I was somewhat surprised that such a recent and large volcanic event happened in Europe.  If it did happen today, Europe would be devastated for years.  That eruption was massive, and one can find deep layers of ash throughout Central Europe up through to the North Sea.  It had a profound effect on weather patterns of the era, with effects happening within a few weeks.

The article uses as its evidence that the volcano erupts every 12,000 years, so it’s overdue (I suppose) for an eruption, and that there are some CO2 outgassing in the lake (which formed when the magma chamber collapsed after the most recent eruption).  If that’s their “evidence” for a future eruption, then we need to redefine what constitutes evidence.  In fact, as they say in the financial industry, past performance is not a guarantee of future results.  Furthermore, I could find no published, peer-reviewed support for a prediction of a new eruption.  In other words, the Daily Mail invented this prediction.

As for the CO2 bubbles in the lake, yes that happens in water over a magma chamber, but it is, by itself, not an indicator of impending doom.  However, the CO2 can be dangerous, of course, but that’s a biological issue not a prediction-of-eruption issue.

This is what bothers me about these kind of articles.  The internet, being the rather instant communication method that it is, transfers this information from one side of the planet to another.  Soon, I’ll be reading about it in what are supposed to be reasonable websites that monitor the world environmental issues.

Science journalism has a responsibility to actually provide accurate information.  Too many times I read articles published in news sites (probably higher quality than the Daily Mail) that wildly misinterpret medical or scientific articles.  I spend so much time debunking the overstating of what is said that if I could get paid for it, I’d have quite a career set up.  Wikipedia is notorious for this kind of sensationalism.

I can only hope that all the skeptics out there have an effect on this type of bad science journalism.  And London, you’re safe for now, though with the Olympics coming up, I may change my mind.