Sharyl Attkisson and measles vaccine math – wrong in so many ways

sharyl attkisson

One of the favorite tropes of the anti-vaccine religion is their odd reliance on the ridiculous anti-vaccine math, including some pushed by Sharyl Attkisson, a favorite nemesis of the old feathered dinosaur. Attkisson believes that kids who have been vaccinated against the measles are more likely to get measles than those who are not vaccinated.

Yes, the anti-vaxxers actually believe this nonsense and promote it across the internet as an “argument” against the measles vaccine, despite numerous measles outbreaks that have dire consequences for children.

For those of you who don’t know about Sharyl Attkisson, she’s a former CBS newsperson who has headed down the black hole of the anti-vaccine movement. She retreads old anti-vaccine tropes, like lame conspiracy theories – Attkisson, according to Orac, “through her promotion of antivaccine conspiracy theories, Sharyl Attkisson was, is, and will continue to be a danger to children and public health.”

So Attkisson’s anti-vaccine trope of the day is this pseudo-math (probably not a real word, but I’m going to use it for this article) about vaccines. Not only are her claims based on fake data, but those claims also rely upon the complete misuse of simple math and statistics. 

Continue reading “Sharyl Attkisson and measles vaccine math – wrong in so many ways”

Vaccine exemptions and private schools – what are the facts?

vaccine exemptions

As measles outbreaks – centered on unvaccinated children – continue to pop up in areas with low vaccine rates,  one approach private schools and daycares reach to is keeping out unvaccinated children. An Ohio Jewish school announced it will not accept unvaccinated children, and I know other private facilities are considering this. So what does this all mean with respect to vaccine exemptions within private schools?

Note that this is a separate issue than the question of whether unvaccinated children can be kept home during an outbreak. All states have a provision in law to keep unvaccinated children at home during an outbreak, and some of the affected states – like New York – are doing that.  Continue reading “Vaccine exemptions and private schools – what are the facts?”

Flu vaccine mandate for day care reinstated by New York court

flu vaccine mandate

On Thursday, June 28, 2018, New York State’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, unanimously reinstated New York City’s flu vaccine mandate for certain daycares, which was previously struck down by two lower courts on different grounds. The decision, Garcia v. New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, is mostly about a specific legal issue – the line between when agencies act independently, and when they need legislative direction and direct authority to act.

At its core, it is a question about the limits of bureaucratic power. However, the decision also makes it clear that the New York City Board of Health has extensive power to establish a flu vaccine mandate (and for other vaccines) and to act to prevent infectious diseases. In that sense, it’s good news, upholding the ability of the Board to protect public health.  Continue reading “Flu vaccine mandate for day care reinstated by New York court”

LeRoy neurological disorders – PANDAS, vaccines, and whatever?

leroy neurological disorders

In spring 2012, I had written a few articles about a mystery neurological ailment that had struck about 20 teenagers at a high school and surrounding area in LeRoy, NY, a small town about 30 minutes from the city of Rochester. They suffered tics that mimicked Tourette syndrome, but was never diagnosed as such. Most of them have recovered, although two new cases have appeared. It’s been five years, so let’s update the news about the LeRoy neurological disorders.

I first wrote this article in 2013, yet it continues to be one of the top read articles on this blog. I’m not sure why, it may be because the outbreak was blamed on many factors that cross paths with internet conspiracies about health. Like vaccines.

Since this article about the LeRoy neurological disorders is so popular, I decided to update it (and clean up the huge number of broken links). I have also looked at the recent news about “outbreak,” and I will post links to some of the more intriguing hypotheses here.

Entering the Way-back Machine, let’s see what has happened in the past, just to catch everyone up. Continue reading “LeRoy neurological disorders – PANDAS, vaccines, and whatever?”

Anti-vaccine tweets correlated with affluent white women in five states

anti-vaccine tweets

Although there’s evidence that the anti-science beliefs surrounding vaccines cross a broad political spectrum, I’ve always wondered if rich white liberal women were the center of the anti-vaccine universe – this is based on my own personal anecdotal evidence, so let’s just consider that a belief than a fact. A recent analysis of anti-vaccine tweets may or may not confirm my beliefs about these rich white liberals.

There has been a dramatic increase, over the past few years, in the volume of tweets that claim that life-saving vaccines are linked to autism. Anyone who reads this blog knows that that claim is demonstrably and scientifically false. Despite the science, the belief that vaccines cause autism remains. And this view is promulgated on various locations on the internet.

Like with a lot of other controversial topics, the Twitter outrage about the danger of vaccines doesn’t actually reflect a sudden surge in anti-vaccine beliefs amongst the general population. According to a recently published peer-reviewed article, most of increase in these anti-vaccine tweets represent a very specific demographic. Individuals from affluent, populated areas in five states – California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, and Pennsylvania – seem to be the backbone of this sudden increase in anti-vaccine tweets.

Let’s take a look at this new paper. It could provide us with some information about the who is pushing the anti-vaccine narrative. Continue reading “Anti-vaccine tweets correlated with affluent white women in five states”

Vaccine lawsuits – overview of litigation across the USA

vaccine lawsuits

The goal of this overview is to tell you about vaccine lawsuits in the federal and state courts (but not in the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program). As an overview, the discussion of each case will be very short. If you want more information, please let me know in the comments section. If you know of cases I have missed, also mention that in the comments.

The vaccine lawsuits overview is arranged by topic, and without topic by states, and within states in alphabetical order. I have chosen August 1, 2016 as a starting point to keep this manageable.

Note that the “claims” section provides a summary of what a complaint is claiming – what it is trying to do – and not an analysis of the claims’ validity. Where available, I link to a post discussing the claim’s merits more in detail. Where not, I add some comments about the validity. But the claims section just provides what the plaintiffs are claiming – it doesn’t mean their claims, hold water. Continue reading “Vaccine lawsuits – overview of litigation across the USA”

HPV vaccine consent case in New York – a review

HPV vaccine consent case

On March 3, 2017, a complaint was filed with a federal court in New York attacking a rule that allows children to consent to HPV vaccines if they were exposed to a sexually transmitted disease. The complaint is competently written, but its arguments are unconvincing legally and deeply flawed factually. It may proceed past summary judgment, since the court is required to assume the factual premises in it are correct; but it should ultimately fail. This article will review the HPV vaccine consent case, as it stands. Continue reading “HPV vaccine consent case in New York – a review”

New York City flu immunization requirements – court ruling

On December 11, 2013 the New York City Board of Health adopted a rule – which we will refer to as New York City flu immunization requirements – establishing that children aged 6-59 months attending full time daycares that meet certain criteria to receive an annual influenza vaccine (see Resolution NY Influenza vaccine rule, pdf).

On December 16, 2015 Justice Manuel J. Mendez from New York’s Supreme Court (which, in spite of the name, is not the highest court in New York state) granted certain petitioners’ motion to declare the rule “invalid and unlawful” (see NY mandate decision, pdf). Note that although there is a higher instance, in this case, I doubt the decision – which is well reasoned and appropriate, in my view – would be overturned.

This post explains what the court decided and what it means.  Continue reading “New York City flu immunization requirements – court ruling”

Another myth – labeling GMO foods is not expensive

One of the goals of the anti-GMO gangs is to push labeling of food products that contain anything that is considered to be genetically modified. They have sought out laws for food labeling in various ways, including propositions and legislation.

Generally, these efforts have been a failure in the USA, except in Vermont, Maine and Connecticut, although each may be or has been subject to judicial review. And there is a strong possibility that these labeling laws will probably be found unconstitutional.

Even California, one of the most liberal states in the USA, rejected GMO labeling in a popular vote on Proposition 37 in 2012. Ironically, Proposition 37 received strong financial and person support from noted pseudoscience-pushing, anti-vaccination shill, Joe Mercola.

Even recently, Gary Hirshberg, one of the most loud-mouthed anti-GMO activists, repeated the myth  in an August 2015 op-ed: “adding a few words to the ingredient panel. . . would have no impact on the price of food.”

Given that there is little evidence that GMOs are dangerous, given that that there is a strong scientific consensus on the safety and usefulness of GMOs, and given that GMOs are an important technology for the future of humanity, it’s an odd argument that we need to label foods as to their GMO content.

Let me be clear. Food labeling is critical, and it must get better. Diabetics need accurate information about food content to adjust their diet and insulin use. Ironically, people with real gluten sensitivities (extremely rare) have benefited mightily from “gluten free” product labeling, which resulted from the myth of gluten sensitivities pushed by pseudoscience.

Given the scientific facts regarding the safety of GMOs, labeling is ridiculous.

Because the anti-GMO forces know they can’t win on the science, they have begun pushing labeling because they say that it does not add costs to food. Some of them claim that, in the USA, the cost of labeling is less than a penny a day.

Gary Hirshberg, one of the most loud-mouthed anti-GMO activists, repeated the myth  in an August 2015 op-ed: “adding a few words to the ingredient panel. . . would have no impact on the price of food.”

Even though the science says they are wrong, many ask “why not allow labeling, especially if it’s not that expensive.”

Because that claim – that labeling GMO foods is not expensive  – only accounts for the direct cost of labeling, not anything else. And it’s wrong, economically.

The anti-GMO gang exclusively focuses on only two points with regards to labeling – that the cost of changing the labels is small, and that consumer behavior probably won’t change. Most of their beliefs about costs are based on cherry picked studies (pdf), which are worth approximately nothing to a real scientific skeptic

Vaccines and religious exemptions – recent legal decision

This article is by Dorit Rubinstein Reiss, Professor of Law at the University of California Hastings College of the Law (San Francisco, CA), is a frequent contributor to this and many other blogs, providing in-depth, and intellectually stimulating, articles about vaccines, medical issues, social policy and the law. 

Professor Reiss writes extensively in law journals about the social and legal policies of vaccination. Additionally, Reiss is also member of the Parent Advisory Board of Voices for Vaccines, a parent-led organization that supports and advocates for on-time vaccination and the reduction of vaccine-preventable disease.

On October 5, 2015 the Supreme Court of the United States denied cert in Phillips v. New York, a group of three cases that considered issues surrounding vaccines and religious exemptions. This post shortly explains the case and what denying cert means (and does not mean).

Continue reading “Vaccines and religious exemptions – recent legal decision”