RFK Jr vaccine beliefs – why experienced journalists don’t take him seriously

rfk jr vaccine tucker carlson

On April 20, 2017, Tucker Carlson from Fox News interviewed Robert F. Kennedy  Jr. on his show, and they talked about vaccines. Mr. Kennedy pointed out that this is only his second interview on the topic in ten years, and blamed it on advertising dollars (which, apparently, did not prevent Mr. Carlson from hosting him). So why are RFK Jr vaccine beliefs ignored by the mainstream press?

The reality, however, is that journalists familiar with Mr. Kennedy’s past utterances on vaccines avoid him is because of his history of saying things that are blatantly wrong, and journalists who give him credence may well end up with egg on their face. This interview is a good example.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is an environmental lawyer. Best as I can tell he started speaking on vaccines in 2005, with an embarrassingly wrong article posted on both Salon and Rolling Stone that claimed that the CDC was engaged in a conspiracy to hide the fact that the vaccine preservative thimerosal was linked to autism.

After five corrections of the blatant errors in Kennedy’s article, Salon also retracted it, explaining that critics’ exposure of further problems “further eroded any faith we had in the story’s value. We’ve grown to believe the best reader service is to delete the piece entirely.”

Kennedy has repeated the same grossly inaccurate statements – claiming a conspiracy to hide the fact that thimerosal in vaccines causes autism – since, and has not recanted, most recently publishing a book making the claim ironically named “Thimerosal: Let the Science Speak,” and also pushing a challenge to science supporters on the topic, following in the footsteps of holocaust deniers, climate change deniers, anti-vaccine activists, evolution deniers, and others.

In the intervening years studies from all around the world looked at thimerosal in vaccines and did not find a link between it and autism. More recently see publications here and here. The global nature of these studies means that even if the CDC wanted to conspire to hide a link, it wouldn’t be able to, not without controlling the rest of the world. No serious scientific source today really thinks that the tiny amounts of thimerosal in vaccines (and as a reminder, all childhood vaccines, with the exception of multi-dose influenza, contain no, or almost no, thimerosal) causes autism or other neuropsychological problems – or any other serious, long-term harms. But Kennedy does. Because conspiracy.

RFK Jr vaccine statements are hostile, and also very, very extreme.  In a famous quote, he said:

They can put anything they want in that vaccine and they have no accountability for it,[…] They get the shot, that night they have a fever of a hundred and three, they go to sleep, and three months later their brain is gone…This is a holocaust, what this is doing to our country.

Not only is this untrue, but it’s highly offensive to children with autism to say their brain is gone, as is the comparison to the holocaust. Unsurprisingly, science supporters were dismayed by Kennedy’s claims – denied by the Trump transition team – that President Trump offered him the position of leading a vaccine commission.

 

Continue reading “RFK Jr vaccine beliefs – why experienced journalists don’t take him seriously”

Cancer and random mutations – your blueberry kale shake won’t help

Cancer and random mutations

We generally blame cancer on a handful of things – viruses, like human papillomavirus or hepatitis B, lifestyle choices like smoking or obesity, inherited genes, and the environment, like sunlight. We are under the impression that we can stop cancer just by living better, drinking blueberry kale shakes, or being generally healthy. According to a new study, cancer and random mutations are linked over ⅔ of the time. In other words, no matter how many of those natural health smoothies you drink, cancer might randomly occur.

Let’s take a look at cancers and the relationship between cancer and random mutations. Continue reading “Cancer and random mutations – your blueberry kale shake won’t help”

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.

Continue reading “Adult vaccines – the CDC wants to save adult lives too”

Vaxxed producer Del Bigtree – not credible on vaccines

Over the past few months, Vaxxed producer Del Bigtree, who formerly worked on the show The Doctors, has made numerous statements about vaccines and vaccine safety. His claims about fraud by the CDC have been addressed in the past, and the evidence doesn’t support his beliefs. But the claims he makes about vaccines go beyond the movie, and he makes an effort to present himself as an authority on the issue.

Mr. Bigtree’s statements are consistently inaccurate, suggesting he is not a good source of information about vaccines. It’s impossible to address every single wrong claim Mr. Bigtree has made about vaccines, of course. But these problems should demonstrate that Mr. Bigtree’s claims about vaccines cannot be relied on. Continue reading “Vaxxed producer Del Bigtree – not credible on vaccines”

Preventing cancer deaths – American lifestyle choices

Preventing cancer deaths

Cancer is a big topic around the science and pseudoscience communities. Cancer, which is really like 250 different diseases, is oversimplified. And treatments and preventions range from science based to simply useless (and thereby, dangerous). Preventing cancer deaths – the outcome we all desire – has been studied in detail, and I want to examine what we can do for this disease.

I’ve written a lot about cancer. Yes, there are a few ways to reduce your cancer risk, but it’s rather limited. A lot of highly promoted ideas, like avoiding processed meat, only slightly reduce your absolute risk for getting certain cancers.

And no, smoking marijuana does not reduce your risk for any cancer nor treat any cancer, but it may actually slightly increase your risk. And, just because it’s become a “thing” again on the internet, acidic blood does not cause cancer.

Despite the tropes and memes on Facebook, probably the most pseudoscientific pushing website on the planet outside of Natural News, physicians and real scientists are basically winning the war on cancer. Incidence and mortality are down for most cancers, which I’m sure would surprise many readers.

A recently published study examines lifestyle choices that can really have an impact on cancer incidence and mortality, confirming what we knew and suspected. But it’s good to have a large study authenticating it. Let’s review it.
Continue reading “Preventing cancer deaths – American lifestyle choices”

War on cancer – bet you didn’t know that we’re winning

War on Cancer

Note – this article on the war on cancer has been updated and republished. Please read and comment there.

If you use Google as your source for cancer facts, you’d think that we have a raging epidemic of the disease, killing more people today than just a few years ago. But the facts say something else – cancer death rates declined from 1975 to 2012 in the USA. We are actually winning the war on cancer in the USA.

Researchers have found that cancer death rates, for both men and women, across all major racial and ethnic populations, decreased each year from 2003 to 2012. Furthermore, incidence rates for new cancer cases decreased among men, while remaining stable among women during that same period.

There are so many tropes and myths about cancer, but the two most frustrating is that cancer rates are increasing, and that Big Pharma and oncologists make more money by not providing real treatments for cancer – there’s more profit in giving out evil chemotherapy rather than a good blueberry kale shake. Unfortunately for the cancer-woo pushers, but good for science, the facts are we might actually be winning the war on cancer – sure we are a long way from never seeing cancer again in our lifetimes, but we’re doing better than we were 10, 20, 30 or 40 years ago.

Except for liver cancer bucking the trend. We’ll look into that too.

I’m certain that the reason for the lower cancer incidence and mortality rates are complicated. It’s possible that people are starting to embrace the handful of science-based preventions to cancer – like reducing smoking. It’s also better medications from Big Pharma. And better science-based treatment options for cancer. Cancer treatment has evolved massively in just 3-4 decades. I’m sure if you spoke to an oncologist today, and queried him about techniques from the 1970s, he or she would just cringe.

Let’s look at the report that gave us this data. And maybe we can put to rest some of the memes about cancer ravishing modern humans.

Continue reading “War on cancer – bet you didn’t know that we’re winning”

Vaccines from GMO corn–science deniers everywhere faint

GMO-vaccinesFor me, the “Big Four” of science denialism are climate change, evolution, vaccines and genetically modified crops or food. There are a few others, and some actually tie into the Big Four, like denying the scientific fact called Germ Theory, which states that some diseases are caused by microorganisms. Antivaccination forces embrace wholeheartedly the denial of Germ Theory.

But rarely can you get a two for one deal, where two key sciences can be denied in one fell swoop. However, I found one.

A small technology venture, called Applied Biotechnology Institute (ABI) in San Luis Obispo, CA, a lovely small city along the Central Coast of California, has developed a method to genetically modify corn to produce medically useful proteins. They are focused on specialized enzymes, sweeteners, and vaccines.

One of their more interesting products, and not really the focus of this article, is a specialized enzyme that cleaves off a part of the pre-insulin molecule to create actual insulin. The enzyme is required in the final production step of human insulin, itself produce from genetically modified crops and bacteria. By the way, genetically engineered human insulin saves millions of lives every year world wide–on the other hand, genetically engineered organisms have harmed no one, as far as science can tell. Continue reading “Vaccines from GMO corn–science deniers everywhere faint”

HPV and HepB vaccines are not associated with multiple sclerosis

hepb-vaccine-and-cancerI didn’t know it was an issue, but apparently there was some concern that there was a small possibility that vaccines, specifically the hepatitis B (HepB) and human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccines, might increase the risk of multiple sclerosis (MS) or some other acquired central nervous system demyelinating syndrome (CNS ADS). Apparently, there have been numerous studies examining the possibility that vaccines are related to these neurological disorders with mixed results. However, most of the studies showed no association between vaccines and these disorders, though most of the studies had significant limitations based on small numbers of patients included and some other factors.

If there is actually a causal relationship between vaccines and MS or CNS ADS, it could cause a sea change in the acceptance of vaccines, especially HepB and HPV, which are critical to preventing a number of serious cancers. A recent study, led by Annette Langer-Gould, M.D., Ph.D., of Kaiser Permanente, Southern California, examined the relationship between vaccines, especially HPV and HepB, and MS and CNS ADS, using electronic data from a broad group of Kaiser Permanente Southern California members.

Dr. Langer-Gould and her colleagues conducted a nested case-control study, a type of case-control study that more carefully matches control risk factors, using that data from Kaiser. The authors identified 780 cases of CNS ADS and 3,885 control group patients; 92 cases and 459 control patients were females between the ages of 9 to 26 years, which is the indicated age range for HPV vaccination.

The researchers found that there were no associations between HepB, HPV or other vaccines and an increase risk of MS or CNS ADS, even up to three years post-vaccination. Just to be clear, vaccination of any type was associated with an increased risk of CNS ADS within the first month, but this association disappeared after one month. The researchers suggested that vaccines (like any infection) could accelerate the transition from a subclinical to clinical autoimmunity (including MS) in patients with preexisting autoimmune disease. In other words, any challenge to the immune system, whether from vaccines or from any of hundreds of infections, would have accelerated the autoimmune disorder. Let me repeat–the vaccination was irrelevant, it could have been any infection that caused it during those initial 30 days.

hpv-STD-cancerAccording to the research, “there were no associations between HepB vaccination (odds ratio [OR], 1.12; 95% CI, 0.72-1.73), HPV vaccination (OR, 1.05; 95% CI, 0.62-1.78), or any vaccination (OR, 1.03; 95% CI, 0.86-1.22) and the risk of CNS ADS up to 3 years later.”

They concluded that, “our data do not support a causal link between current vaccines and the risk of MS or other CNS ADS. Our findings do not warrant any change in vaccine policy.”

Once again we find that vaccines are not associated with with serious neurological conditions. And the HPV vaccine, as I’ve written on numerous occasions, is incredibly safe and effective in preventing several types of cancer. This is another study in support of the safety of HPV vaccines.

 

Key citations:

Allowing teenagers to choose HPV vaccines – constitutional

It is morally painful when anti-vaccine sentiment goes so far as to put children at risk of disability, suffering and death. But, that is exactly what a letter written by North Carolina attorney and vaccine critic Alan G. Phillips would do. The problem is that in laying out his case against the enactment of legislation that would protect the health and well being of adolescents in New York State he fails to make one.

The New York assembly is considering A497, a bill that would allow adolescents to receive treatment – including allowing teenagers to choose HPV vaccines for prevention of those infections – against a sexually transmitted disease without their parents’ or guardians’ knowledge or consent. The goal is clearly a laudable one; to insure teenagers don’t leave themselves at risk of sexually transmitted diseases or neglect treating one because they are worried about their parents’ reaction.

Or, sadly, in some instances, because they fear seeking permission to get vaccinated from a parent or family member who may be sexually abusing them. By allowing adolescents to consent to vaccines or other treatment on their own, the bill minimizes the potential for serious harm such as liver cancer (from Hepatitis B), anal cancers or cervical cancer (from HPV infections).

Several other states have passed such laws. They are consistent with long-established laws granting greater decision-making authority to minors with regard to reproductive health and contraception. Phillips disagrees. He sent a letter to NY State legislators arguing that the bill violates federal and state laws and should not be enacted. Not so. Here is why. Contrary to his claims: Continue reading “Allowing teenagers to choose HPV vaccines – constitutional”

Vaccines prevent 42,000 children’s deaths in the USA every year

blue-syringe

Updated 24 March 2014.

Read that title again. Yes, 42,000 deaths are prevented by vaccines every year in the USA. That is not a trivial number, but of course, I refuse to believe that saving even 1 life is a trivial number. 

In a study recently published in Pediatrics, authors Zhou et al. reported that for children born in 2009, vaccinations prevented 42,000 early deaths and 20 million cases of disease. In addition, vaccinations brought us a net savings of US$13.5 billion in direct medical and non medical costs which include those costs associated with treating an initial infection as well as costs associated with complications and sequelae of diseases; direct nonmedical costs include travel costs, costs for special education of children disabled by diseases, and costs for other supplies for special needs. In addition, vaccines saved Americans over US$68.8 billion in total societal costs, which include items such as lost wages. Continue reading “Vaccines prevent 42,000 children’s deaths in the USA every year”