Vaccines don’t cause autism, but the anti-vaccine hysteria endures

In 1998, Mr. Andy Wakefield published his now famous study in the Lancet, a respected medical journal, that claimed that the MMR vaccination (for measles, mumps and rubella) caused neurological disorders, especially autism, in children. His study was not well accepted by the medical community back in 1998, because of the small sample size and somewhat subjective analysis. However, science works this way. Someone proposes a hypothesis, and many scientists will jump to study it in larger and better designed studies. But Wakefield’s study became the center of the anti-vaccine universe.

So, since 1998, there have been over 250 studies published that absolutely refute Mr. Wakefield’s hypothesis. Assuming that 75% of those studies were primary studies, which cost around $5-50 million each, then nearly $1 billion has been spent trying to confirm (or refute) Wakefield’s findings. And then we find out that Mr. Wakefield engaged in a massive fraud for personal gain, which can only lead us to conclude that the $1 billion was wasted. Maybe that $1 billion could have been used to find a real underlying cause of autism, instead of trying to support or nullify the original hypothesis.

Continue reading “Vaccines don’t cause autism, but the anti-vaccine hysteria endures”

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”

Measles outbreak in Ireland

Preventable childhood disease epidemics keep breaking out throughout the world. Whooping cough has spread throughout the USA, and measles cases have risen dramatically in the UK. Now 17 new cases of measles have been reported during the last week in Southern Ireland bringing the total number of confirmed cases in West Cork to 42. Physicians in that part of Ireland are urging parents to vaccinate their children 

According to Dr. Fiona Ryan, a consultant in public health medicine, “At the moment, the best way to ensure safety is to ensure that babies are not exposed to older children who may not be vaccinated and who are incubating the disease. Some cases have unvaccinated brothers and sisters, so they are very likely to become infected. Unfortunately the symptoms are very non-specific before they get the rash.” Continue reading “Measles outbreak in Ireland”

Vaccine denialists getting even more desperate to find link to autism

Generally, you know when a group is trying very hard to find support for their fringe beliefs when they have to find an insignificant court ruling in a small city in Italy. It’s like confirmation bias taken to the highest level of fallaciousness, trying to find that one irrelevant item that supports their pseudoscientific beliefs. In this case, it was a court in Rimini, Italy, a small city on the northern Adriatic coast. The court ruled that an anonymous child was diagnosed with autism about a year after receiving the MMR vaccine, which is a very safe vaccine that prevents mumps, measles and rubella, all diseases that are harmful to children. Continue reading “Vaccine denialists getting even more desperate to find link to autism”

Maryland proposes new vaccine requirements for students

The Baltimore Sun is reporting that Maryland is proposing revised vaccination regulations that would require incoming kindergartners to receive a chicken pox booster vaccination (varicella vaccine). It is also requiring seventh graders to get a booster against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis, (DTaP vaccine). In addition, Maryland also wants to include a vaccine against Meningococcus, a bacterium that causes meningitismeningococcemiasepticemia, and rarely carditisseptic arthritis, or pneumonia. The state also wants to increase the requirement for the number of MMR vaccinations for measles, mumps and rubella.

If the proposed changes go into effect, Maryland would be aligned with standards recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. To this date, 36 states have adopted such standards. The new guidelines, if adopted, would to into effect in 2014.

According to David Bundy, an assistant professor of pediatrics and childhood adolescence at the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center,

The recommendations for these immunizations are not new nationally, this is just updating the state’s requirement to reflect the existing recommendations. It just makes us all look like we’re in alignment with what we’re doing, and it tightens the safety net at schools for kids who may be missing vaccines.

I’m sure the anti-vaccine crowd will be complaining soon.

via Maryland proposes additional pertussis, chicken pox booster requirement | Vaccine News Daily.

Another measles outbreak in United Kingdom

This shouldn’t be happening.  There are over 200 cases of measles confirmed in an outbreak in Merseyside, UK, the largest such outbreak since 1988.  So far, there have been 210 confirmed cases of measles (and another 92 cases still under investigation).  Of these cases, 39 have required hospital treatment.

What’s sad is that 50% of the confirmed cases have occurred in children under five years old.  There is probably only one reason why these children are being infected by this disease–no vaccination.   Continue reading “Another measles outbreak in United Kingdom”

Measles outbreak in United Kingdom–worst since introduction of MMR vaccine

The United Kingdom’s Health Protection Agency (HPA) has announced that a measles outbreak in the Merseyside area is the largest since the MMR vaccine (vaccination for measles, mumps and rubella) was introduced in 1988. There have been 113 confirmed cases, and another 43 probable cases–28 of these individuals needed hospital treatment.  

About one-quarter of the confirmed cases were teenagers (15-18 years old) and young adults who were never vaccinated as children. Another quarter of the cases were in children under the age of 13 months who are too young to be vaccinated. The majority of the remaining confirmed cases were unvaccinated children over 13 months and less than 15 years old.   Continue reading “Measles outbreak in United Kingdom–worst since introduction of MMR vaccine”

The importance of Cochrane Reviews to evidence based medicine

Cochrane Collaboration Copyrighted from the Cochrane Collaboration

The Cochrane Collaboration is a critically important source in evidence-based medicine, and a useful tool in providing analytical evidence that can debunk pseudoscientific beliefs. Cochrane’s goal is to organize research data and publications in an logical way that helps physicians and researchers make appropriate decisions about a proposed new therapy, medication or clinical idea. Cochrane Reviews are:

…are systematic reviews of primary research in human health care and health policy, and are internationally recognised as the highest standard in evidence-based health care. They investigate the effects of interventions for prevention, treatment and rehabilitation. They also assess the accuracy of a diagnostic test for a given condition in a specific patient group and setting.

Each systematic review addresses a clearly formulated question; for example: Can antibiotics help in alleviating the symptoms of a sore throat? All the existing primary research on a topic that meets certain criteria is searched for and collated, and then assessed using stringent guidelines, to establish whether or not there is conclusive evidence about a specific treatment. The reviews are updated regularly, ensuring that treatment decisions can be based on the most up-to-date and reliable evidence. Continue reading “The importance of Cochrane Reviews to evidence based medicine”

Legal thuggery, antivaccine edition, part 3: Andrew Wakefield rallying the troops : Respectful Insolence

Legal thuggery, antivaccine edition, part 3: Andrew Wakefield rallying the troops : Respectful Insolence.

The arrogant, narcissistic Andrew Wakefield is going to bring  a lawsuit against Brian Deer, the dogged Times of London reporter who not only uncovered that the original Lancet article authored by Wakefield was filled with errors, but uncovered fraud committed by Wakefield.

This is just wrong.

Who are you going to believe about vaccines

In one corner, we have Jenny McCarthy, former Playboy Playmate of the Year, Dr. Andrew Wakefield, and pseudoscience with an extra dose of quackery. In the other corner, we have the Centers for Disease Control, the Institute of Medicine for the National Academy of Sciences, UK’s National Health Service, and the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (what is commonly called the Vaccine Court). The battle is over MMR vaccine, a mixture of three live attenuated viruses administered by injection for immunization against measles, mumps and rubella (formerly known as German measles).

Let’s take a close look at the participants. First, Jenny McCarthy, whose extensive medical and science education includes….not much. In 2005, she announced that her child was diagnosed with autism, a diagnosis about which there is some doubt. McCarthy believes that vaccines caused her son’s autism, although that view is unsupported by any scientific or medical evidence. Her public appearances and statements have increased the public perception of this link, and may have led to decreased immunization rates and increased incidence of measles. McCarthy has stated that chelation therapy helped her son recover from autism. Essentially, McCarthy claims that mercury in vaccines causes autism, which has been rejected by scientific and clinical studies, and that the use of chelation somehow reversed the effects of the “mercury exposure.” In fact, the National Institute of Mental Health has concluded that autistic children will not receive any benefit to balance the risks of cognitive and emotional problems induced by the chelating agents used in this treatment. Really, she should stick to modeling and bad movies.

Dr. Andrew Wakefield is a whole different story. He, and 12 other researchers, published a paper in the British medical journal in 1998, The Lancet, which reported on 12 (yes 12) children with developmental disorders. They linked eight of these children to MMR vaccinations. The paper described several bowel symptoms and the possible link to the vaccine. He even gave a name to the syndrome, autistic enterocolitis. After publication of the paper, confidence in the MMR vaccine fell; pediatricians in the United Kingdom thought the British government was either hiding evidence of the link, or was failing to prove it.

Brian Deer, a reporter for the Sunday Times of London, wrote an article in the British Medical Journal that showed that Dr. Wakefield not only was in error, but probably altered key facts to show a link to autism, and outright fraudulent act.  In the meantime, 10 of the 12 original co-authors of the Lancet article retracted their authorship.  Then, in early 2010, the Lancet retracted the paper with this statement:

…it has become clear that several elements of the 1998 paper by Wakefield et al are incorrect, contrary to the findings of an earlier investigation. In particular, the claims in the original paper that children were “consecutively referred” and that investigations were “approved” by the local ethics committee have been proven to be false. Therefore we fully retract this paper from the published record.

Of course, a recent review of studies of the links between vaccines and autism find that there is no scientific support for the link.  They concluded:

 No credible evidence of an involvement of MMR with either autism or Crohn’s disease was found.

This might be an intellectual or philosophical discussion of science, except for one major problem. Vaccination rates have dropped in the UK, to as low as 85%. In 2006, there were 449 cases of measles in the UK. Before Wakefield’s report, there were only 56 cases in the UK in 1998. In the US, there have been measles and pertussis (whooping cough) outbreaks attributed to the falling vaccination rate (falling from 98% to 92% in a few years).

What worries me is what do we do when a scientist and professional like Andrew Wakefield publishes an article that sets the medical world on its figurative head? The great thing about science is that it is not dogmatic.  Researchers moved quickly to understand the link, then to debunk it.  And it was a trained journalist, who uncovered the fraud.  But the consequences of that one article carries on today.  People still think that vaccines cause everything.  It doesn’t.  Nevertheless, when it comes to medicine and science, we shouldn’t listen to Playboy Playmates.

Go get your children vaccinated. The risk from measles far outweighs the non-risk of autism.