H1N1 flu vaccine – Peter Doshi invents a myth about GSK Pandemrix

H1N1 flu vaccine

During the 2009-10 flu season, public health officials across the world were concerned about a flu pandemic caused by the H1N1 influenza virus. In response to the dangerous new flu, these same public health officials made certain to protect their citizens with new a new H1N1 flu vaccine that would protect individuals from the pandemic H1N1 flu virus.

There have been two H1N1 flu pandemics in recent history. The first, the 1918 pandemic, also called the Spanish Flu, infected over 500 million people worldwide (when the planet only had about 2.5 billion humans) and killed between 50-100 million. And no, it didn’t target babies and the elderly, it killed everyone targeting healthy young adults.

In the USA alone, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that the 2009 pandemic resulted in over 43-89 million cases, 195-403 thousand hospitalizations and between 8,870 and 18,300 deaths. The CDC also estimated that over 300,000 people died worldwide from the 2009 H1N1 flu.

No wonder the world’s public health authorities made sure the H1N1 flu vaccine was widely available. I cannot imagine what those numbers would have been without it – possibly millions of deaths worldwide.

Recently, anti-vaccine hawker, Peter Doshi, continues with his perverse, pseudoscientific assaults on flu vaccines by now using a ridiculously amateurish conspiracy to invent safety concerns about the 2009 H1N1 flu vaccine. I’m not one to let this nonsense pass, so here goes. Continue reading “H1N1 flu vaccine – Peter Doshi invents a myth about GSK Pandemrix”

CDC director Thomas Frieden resigns – time for a Trump appointment

CDC director Thomas Frieden

CDC director Thomas Frieden has announced his resignation from his position at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The federal agency’s main goal is to protect public health and safety through the control and prevention of disease, injury, and disability across the world. And our favorite anti-science president-elect, Donald Trump, will appoint his successor.

The agency focuses its attention on infectious disease control partially through advocacy for vaccines. The staff of 15,000 scientists, researchers, physicians, and US Public Health Services commissioned officers, are dedicated to investigating infectious diseases, food borne pathogens, environmental health, occupational safety and health, health promotion, injury prevention, and public health educational activities – all are designed to help improve the health of Americans and people across the world.

CDC officials are often the first responders to ground zero of dangerous infections. They are generally the first scientists who determine the proper course of treatment for novel diseases, while monitoring its spread across a geographic area. They are warriors in the fight against diseases across the world, including Zika virus and many others.

A significant part of the CDC’s mission involves attacking public health problems globally. In today’s interconnected world, a disease that shows it’s ugly head in an isolated village in the Amazon can be transported to a major city in another country in less than 36 hours. This take money. And this takes manpower.

Let’s take a look at the career of CDC director Thomas Frieden, and the potential consequences of a Donald Trump appointee to the position.  Continue reading “CDC director Thomas Frieden resigns – time for a Trump appointment”

Vaccine denier makes it up – France and vaccinations

I have a special affinity for France, you could even consider me a Francophile. There are a lot of reasons for this, including living there for a bit of time, but most of it highly personal.

On the other hand, I also have a special affinity for debunking nonsense from the antivaccination cult. I don’t debunk it all, because there are so many good writers out their that have fun mocking, debunking, and criticizing the vaccine deniers.

However, if someone combines France and vaccinations – well, I’m just going to have to focus on it. Especially, when the information is so patently wrong and unsupported by real evidence.

Continue reading “Vaccine denier makes it up – France and vaccinations”

Health Care Workers, Flu Vaccines, and Work Place Discrimination

In a previous post, I described a New Jersey Court of Appeals case in which Ms. Valent was denied unemployment benefits because she refused flu vaccines without claiming the religious exemption. I explained that the hospital was not constitutionally required to provide a religious exemption, and that doing so was a losing proposition from a hospital’s point of view.

In the comments following that post, it was correctly pointed out to me that there is another claim I should have addressed: a claim that the hospital was required to provide a religious exemption under the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This did not come up in the case itself: the court reinstated the nurse’s unemployment benefits on constitutional grounds, though problematic constitutional grounds. But since I argue that hospitals should not offer a religious exemption, I need to address whether the hospital is required, under Title VII, to offer an accommodation.  Continue reading “Health Care Workers, Flu Vaccines, and Work Place Discrimination”

Healthcare worker fist bumps–maybe it’s all about being cool

©ABC, 2014. Donald Faison and Zach Braff give each other a fist bump in the TV show, Scrubs.
©ABC, 2014. Donald Faison and Zach Braff give each other a fist bump in the TV show, Scrubs.

This article is all about fist bumps. And diseases. And bad science.

For the handful of you who are culturally naïve, let’s quickly describe the fist bump itself. It is a greeting, in lieu of a handshake, which is performed when two individuals acknowledge each other with a closed fist gently tapping each other. There are, of course, all kinds of flourishes and embellishments added to a fist bump, which are unique expressions of individuality. I like the hand explosion after a fist bump, but that’s probably uncool.

If you thought fist bumps are a recent cultural creation, you’d be wrong. Apparently, Greek charioteers did it. And motorcycle riders who pulled up next to each other at red lights have been doing it since the 1940’s. The gesture has been relatively popular in the American game of baseball for at least 50 years. President Barack Obama regularly fist bumps instead of offering a handshake, even with his wife, Michelle. Researching this story, I always thought it was modern and fashionable, but I find out it’s antiquated, but possibly still fashionable.

During the 2009 H1N1 flu pandemic, many medical professionals recommended that healthcare workers greet each other with the fist bump with colleagues and patients rather than the traditional handshake. My anecdotal observations are that I’ve done more fist bumps in the last two or three years during visits to hospitals and physicians than I had in my whole life before (which may have included approximately 0 fist bumps , but I’m not cool). I had a 5 day stay in a hospital a couple of years ago, and not one single nurse, physician, surgeon, attending, resident, janitor, or nutritionist shook my hand. Not one. But I certainly got the fist bump every time, even when I extended my hand for a handshake (I was bored in the hospital, so I started to experiment).  Continue reading “Healthcare worker fist bumps–maybe it’s all about being cool”

Why we vaccinate–because the flu can be deadly to healthy people

flu-shot-coolThe Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has published its most recent weekly report for the current flu outbreak in the United States (note: this link is to a non-static website where the numbers are updated weekly, so they may not match what is posted below). Here’s some of the most important data:

  • 2,622 laboratory-confirmed influenza-associated hospitalizations have been reported since October 1, 2013. This represents a cumulative rate of 9.7 hospitalizations per 100,000 people in the United States.
  • Of the 2,622 influenza-associated hospitalizations that have been reported this season, 61.6% have been in people 18 to 64 years old, much younger than typical flu outbreaks where most flu hospitalizations occur in people 65 and older. This pattern of more hospitalizations among younger people was also observed during the 2009 H1N1 pandemic.
  • Widespread influenza activity was reported by 35 states.
  • Ten pediatric deaths have been reported for the flu since the beginning of the flu season–traditionally the peak numbers for deaths of children from the flu happens in the first three months of the year.

So, based on this information, flu doesn’t just send the elderly or those with chronic diseases to the hospital. Influenza related hospitalizations have hit healthy young adults in higher proportions. And the flu kills children. Despite all the garbage that’s placed on the internet, the black hole of accurate, scientific data, there is only one way to boost your immune system to prevent getting the flu–the seasonal flu vaccine.

In case you believe in some myth about the flu vaccine, here’s some real science about the flu and the flu vaccine for you:

If the science of flu vaccines doesn’t convince you, then you really are a dumbass.

Use the Science-based Vaccine Search Engine.

Slight risk of Guillain-Barré syndrome after H1N1 flu vaccination

3D_Influenza_purple_key_pieslice_lrgThe H1N1 influenza pandemic of 2009 was the second pandemic in recent history that resulted from the H1N1 influenza virus, also known as the swine flu. The first one, known as the 1918 flu pandemic, killed over 50 million people, or about 1-3% of the world’s population at the time. The 2009 pandemic, though not as serious as the one in 1918, probably killed over 500 thousand people worldwide. In the United States, the CDC estimated that between 43 and 89 million people were infected with the 2009 H1N1 flu. They also estimated that of those, about 200-400 thousand were hospitalized, and approximately 12,470 died. The only reason the pandemic wasn’t worse was probably as a result of an effective H1N1 vaccine along with a broad effort to vaccinate those at highest risk of complications.

Along with the vaccination program, comprehensive safety surveillance was initiated to monitor for adverse events. This program identified a small increase in Guillain-Barré syndrome following the H1N1 vaccination. In paper published this week, researchers did a meta-analysis of the data from the monitoring program to quantify the level of risk. Continue reading “Slight risk of Guillain-Barré syndrome after H1N1 flu vaccination”

Pandemic flu vaccine and narcolepsy–an analysis

H1N1 vaccineToday, the British Medical Journal published a retrospective study, by Elizabeth Miller, that analyzes the risk of narcolepsy in children and adolescents in England who received the 2009 A/H1N1 pandemic flu vaccine (Pandemrix) from October 2009 through mid-2010. This study followed up on the observations seen in Finland and other countries that there was some increased risk of narcolepsy in children a few months after receiving the vaccine.

As background, narcolepsy is a chronic neurological disorder caused by the brain’s inability to regulate sleep-wake cycles normally. Individuals with narcolepsy often experience daytime sleep patterns, but the disorder should not be confused with insomnia. It is not caused by a mental illness or psychological problems. It is most likely affected by a number of genetic mutations and abnormalities that affect specific biologic factors in the brain, combined with an environmental trigger during the brain’s development, such as a virus. It may also be a result of an autoimmune disorder. At this time, there is no cure for narcolepsy, but it can be successfully treated by medications and other therapies.

Roughly 70% of individuals who have narcolepsy have a comorbidity of cataplexy,  a sudden and transient episode of loss of muscle tone, often triggered by strong emotions.  Continue reading “Pandemic flu vaccine and narcolepsy–an analysis”

Flu vaccinations for children with neurological disorders

Flu virus.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has just published a study in Pediatrics on the effects of influenza in children with neurologic disorders. It compared the outcomes, during and after the flu ,between kids with or without neurological disorders. The outcomes studied were deaths and hospitalizations during the H1N1 influenza pandemic, between April 15 and September 30, 2009, by looking at medical records of reported pediatric deaths. Continue reading “Flu vaccinations for children with neurological disorders”