Dr. Jim Meehan anti-vaccine rant – examining his claims

Jim Meehan

An anti-vaccine doctor from Oklahoma, Dr. Jim Meehan, wrote an online post about why he would no longer vaccinate his children. It’s pretty clear that his post is not so much a discussion of his own children (most of whom are adults) as an attempt to deter other parents from protecting their children from preventable diseases. His post is basically a set of claims trying to convince parents that vaccinating is very dangerous.

His claims are nothing new – they are strictly out of the anti-vaccine playbook. But the post has received some attention in the anti-vaccine world and was shared several thousand times, likely because many people treat an MD as an authority on the subject. So I decided to take a few minutes to explain why his claims are not good reasons to reject expert opinion and not protect children from disease.

Dr. Meehan’s claims fall into several categories (which will be discussed individually below):

  1. The diseases we vaccinate against are not dangerous, and it’s okay, even good, to encounter them naturally.
  2. Vaccines have toxic ingredients.
  3. Vaccines are dangerous to children.
  4. The science behind vaccines is corrupt because the pharmaceutical industry controls it and then corrupts it.
  5. We should listen to him because he is a doctor and knows what he is talking about.

Note: Dr. Meehan’s post doesn’t present these claims in that order. I have changed the order because I want to address the claims in a logical order, that is, first his claims about vaccine safety, then the conspiracy theory that underlies them, and finally, his appeal to authorityContinue reading “Dr. Jim Meehan anti-vaccine rant – examining his claims”

Rotavirus vaccine may protect children from developing type 1 diabetes

rotavirus vaccine

We all know that vaccines save lives by preventing diseases. But a new study from Australia provides some solid evidence that the rotavirus vaccine not only protects children against the deadly rotavirus infection but also against type 1 diabetes.

This post will take a look at the vaccine, diabetes, and what the study shows. Preventing type 1 diabetes is a lofty goal for researchers for a long time. Let’s see if the data is convincing. Continue reading “Rotavirus vaccine may protect children from developing type 1 diabetes”

Vaccines save lives – a response to some ridiculous claims about drugs

vaccines save lives

The internet is filled with crackpot ideas. I know, that’s a shocker. In today’s crazy, we have this article, “Six pharmaceutical drugs that immediately destroy your health.” Setting aside the odd “pharmaceutical drugs,” let me counter that with “pharmaceuticals save lives.” Even more, vaccines save lives (since they attack two of my favorite vaccines).

I don’t genuflect at the altar of Big Pharma. I realize they are a big business that need to generate more and more profits, and they frequently make decisions that favor profits over ethics. But for good or bad, more often than not, pharmaceuticals and vaccines save lives. And there’s plenty of evidence of that.

But when some random rant on the internet tries to claim that important drugs (and the list of six are worthwhile drugs) are dangerous and destroy your health, it needs to be addressed.

So let me examine their claims. This should be interesting. Continue reading “Vaccines save lives – a response to some ridiculous claims about drugs”

Peter Doshi flu vaccine study – misused by anti-vaxxers

Peter Doshi

Anti-vaccine activists constantly look for any science that seems to support their beliefs about the safety and effectiveness of vaccines. Lately, they have gravitated to the writings of Peter Doshi, who has made a career talking about vaccines. Although Doshi lacks the credentials in any area of science related to vaccines – immunology, microbiology, virology, public health, epidemiology – the anti-vaccine forces embrace him like he’s a Nobel Prize winning scientist. Which he is not.

Let’s take a look at Doshi’s credentials and what he’s written about vaccines, specifically the flu vaccine. Continue reading “Peter Doshi flu vaccine study – misused by anti-vaxxers”

Paul Offit MD – debunking the anti-vaccine tropes and myths

Paul Offit

I have long considered Paul Offit MD as one of heroes and leaders of the public discussion of how vaccines save lives, and how they have made the lives of the world’s children healthier and better. Dr. Offit, together with Edward Jenner (the father of immunology), Jonas Salk (discoverer of the polio vaccine), and Maurice Hillman (inventor of the MMR vaccine against measles, mumps and rubella), should have statues place outside of every pediatric hospital in the country for the number of lives that they have saved.

Unfortunately, since Dr. Offit is considered one of the “leaders” of the pro-vaccine majority, his name has been demonized by the anti-vaccine cult. These people use the Big Lie, a Nazi propaganda technique where a known falsehood is repeatedly stated, then treated as if it is self-evidently true in hopes of swaying the course of an argument in a direction that takes the big lie for granted rather than critically questioning it or ignoring it.

The vaccine deniers constantly repeat untruths about Dr. Offit so that those lies eventually evolve into apparent truths, at least for those who hold onto their pseudoscientific anti-vaccine beliefs.

The problem is, of course, that if you’re a new parent who is confused by what vaccines may or may not do, you’d assume you could not accept anything that Dr. Offit says because of those Big Lies, and many of the ridiculous tropes and memes of the vaccine denialists. And this is sad.

Let’s counter the Big Lie with the Big Facts.

Continue reading “Paul Offit MD – debunking the anti-vaccine tropes and myths”

Sherri Tenpenny claims her anti-vaccine comments are like Jesus

Sherri Tenpenny

Dr. Sherri Tenpenny is one of the leading activists on the anti-vaccine side. Yes, she’s a real physician – she’s actually a DO, an osteopath (see Note 1). Despite her medical education and training, she is a science denier on many levels. Not only does she hate vaccines, ignoring the wealth of science supporting them, but also she denies a lot of basic scientific principles.

For example, Tenpenny denies the Germ theory of disease, which states that infectious diseases are caused by microorganisms. Germ theory is one of the basic foundations of biology – denying it implies either she doesn’t know anything about biology, or she has a vast body of evidence to overturn a scientific theory. My guess it’s the former, rather than the latter.

Instead, Sherri Tenpenny believes that diseases are due to toxins flooding the body, and germs subsequently jumping into the toxin-damaged tissues. Let’s be clear, there isn’t a stitch of evidence supporting this idea. Of course, once Tenpenny denied Germ theory, she would find vaccines to be useless. The vaccines aren’t actually protecting against disease in her mind.

Does Dr. Sherri Tenpenny have any training, education or background in infectious diseases, immunology or microbiology which would lead one to think she has a clue about all of this? Not as far as anyone can tell. She’s board certified in osteopathic neuromuscular medicine (AOBNMM) and the woo-based integrative and holistic medicine (ABIHM). Again, there is absolutely no indication that she actually has any kind of research, training or educational background in anything to do with vaccines, infectious diseases or epidemiology. She fails basic science here.

Despite this lack of serious knowledge about vaccines and infectious diseases, she makes herself out to be some authority figure regarding the danger of vaccines. Anti-vaccine activists will constantly quote her, as if she has the same credentials as Dr. Paul Offit, who really knows vaccines and diseases, and who invented the rotavirus vaccine that saves hundreds of thousands of lives every year.

In a recent post in the anti-vaccine website, Vaxxter, Tenpenny pretends she’s Jesus (as in the Christian myth) telling a parable on how she tries to pass out information on the evils of vaccines – but that her claims are rejected by “close-minded” pro-vaccine types. Like me I suppose.

Shall we take a look? Sure, it’s a good day to debunk some anti-vaccine nonsense.

 

Sherri Tenpenny and Jesus

To be honest, doesn’t directly compare herself to Jesus. But she comes really really close.

Jesus often told stories called parables to teach a lesson through an example. Many of you may be familiar with the Biblical story, “The Parable of the Sower.” For those who don’t (and there are many faiths here, so many may not), here is a summary of The Parable of the Sower. I always keep this in mind as I am sowing seeds of information about vaccines (emphasis mine).

In essence, this parable attempts to assert that the seeds of faith (the word of Jesus, I suppose) can’t take root everywhere. But where it does grow, the rewards will be abundant. As an atheist, I find all of this to be ridiculously obtuse, but she’s the one claiming to use the parable to spread the seeds of her anti-vaccine information.

Let’s examine this.

 

The Parable of the Sower of Vaccine Seeds

So, Sherri Tenpenny, the Jesus of vaccines, says the parable fits into her dogmatic religion of the anti-vaccine. She’s the savior in this metaphor, I suppose.

Let’s take a look at them one by one.

1–Some seeds never have a chance. There will always be skeptics and “know it alls” who believe in the Religion of Vaccination and can never hear the information. Try as you might, they will never hear. Like the hard soil, their mind is closed. Save your energy. Move on.

She says that we’re close minded? I don’t think that means what she thinks it means. A close minded person has established a conclusion, evidence be damned. An open minded person (yours truly is one) only comes to a conclusion after weighing all of the highest quality evidence. In fact, the seeds of science never have a chance with Tenpenny and her ilk, because they believe in the Religion of Anti-vaccination, a faith based group. They ignore all the high quality evidence to stick stubbornly with the pre-conceived conclusions demanded by their religious faith.

The evidence for the efficacy and safety of vaccines is mountainous. But like creationists, another science denying religion, anti-vaccine-ists (yeah, I did that) rely upon anecdotes, misinterpretation, logical fallacies, and all of the other tools of the science denying crowd to close their mind to real science and evidence. So Dr. Tenpenny, look at yourself in the mirror. Seeds of knowledge, truth and science have no chance with your closed mind.

2–Some seeds of truth will start to grow because the truth is exciting and their interest starts to sprout.

Actually, a lot of anti-vaccine-ists do see these seeds of truth, and end up accepting the facts about vaccines. But to be honest, for the science deniers, they’re still stuck at #1. They can’t get past their notions and conclusions, so these seeds never get a chance. This is sad really.

3–Some seeds start to grow, but the truth is quickly choked by the weeds. Family members in healthcare, social media friends, community nay-sayers crush the spirit of the growing seedling. Discouraged and literally choked out, the seeds of truth die.

This is where my job starts. I need to get rid of those weeds of science denialism with a good dose of Truth™ glyphosate. Just about anyone who supports vaccines does the same – they get rid of the weeds of doubt, misinformation and bad science so that open-minded parents will realize how valuable vaccines are to the health of their children.

4–But a few seeds of truth will take root, and grow…and grow..and grow. Some who heard the truth about vaccine hazards immediately embraced and understood it. Their resolve grew the more they studied. They joined a like-minded community for personal support. The seeds planted within this person grew into a massive plant.

Yes, there are many, over 90%, who have heard the truth about vaccine hazards and immediately rejected the nonsense spread by Sherri Tenpenny. Then they vaccinated their children. To abuse this parable (or Tenpenny’s version of said parable), the massive plant of like minded people who accept science and knowledge, and understand who is and isn’t speaking the truth have made sure their children are protected against vaccine preventable diseases.

To be frank, Jesus Tenpenny’s version of the parable of the sower fits more for her sycophants and followers rather than for the “pro-vaccine” side. Because the parable is about faith and accepting the teachings of a god, while rejecting science and evidence.

Science isn’t about faith and blind acceptance. Sure, I am not an astrophysicist, so I tentatively accept what Neil DeGrasse Tyson says about Pluto being a planet or not, because he presents evidence, and he’s not ridiculed by the vast majority of astrophysicists. But if further evidence appears, supported by brilliant scientists say he’s wrong about Pluto, I’d rethink my position. But on vaccines, I’ve done the research, not as an amateur accepting by faith the statements of others, but as an expert in several biomedical sciences who can read the thousands of studies supporting vaccines. The evidence leads me to the conclusion about the safety and effectiveness of vaccines, not “faith.”

Sherri Tenpenny lacks any authority or credentials in infectious diseases. She asks her followers to have “faith” that she’s right, and the scientific consensus on vaccines is wrong. Why, because, she’s Jesus?

 

Notes

  1. In the USA, a licensed physician may be either an MD (medical doctor) or DO (doctor of osteopathy). DOs attend osteopathic school, rather than medical school, and are generally taught evidence based medicine. Its roots are somewhat based in medical woo, but that’s more historical than current philosophy. A DO must go through the same training process as an MD – they have to compete for the same internships, residencies and fellowships as MDs. Currently, it’s really hard to tell the difference between and MD and DO with respect to your own health care.

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”

Evidence supports rotavirus vaccine effectiveness – vaccines save lives

The CDC recently published robust evidence that supports rotavirus vaccine effectiveness. There is nothing more powerful than epidemiological studies that show a correlation (and causality) between the drop in the incidence of a vaccine preventable disease immediately after wide introduction of a the vaccine itself in a relatively closed population.

Continue reading “Evidence supports rotavirus vaccine effectiveness – vaccines save lives”

Worldwide vaccine uptake-2014

vaccines-saves-live-cloud

I make it a point to update this blog with the most current CDC analysis of vaccine uptake in the USA for kindergarten children (usually around 5 years old). Generally, the numbers have stayed stable, at around 95% vaccinated, although there is high variance from state to state, and locality to locality. The weakness in the vaccination uptake in the USA is that some areas may approach 100% vaccinated, but then other areas may be 50%, which makes those areas with low vaccine uptake susceptible to a quick spread of diseases that are not endemic to the USA (such as measles, polio, and others) through that unvaccinated population.

Given the 95% vaccine uptake rate, it begs the questions of why I push so hard for vaccination–because I want to protect the lives of children, and those 5% who aren’t vaccinated are at risk of serious disease and even death. And vaccines are the safest way to protect a child–protect them from death.

Nearly 55% of the readers of this blog are not American (a couple of years ago,this blog got a regular reader from Iran, which meant that all countries were represented amongst this blog’s readers). I have been accused of being a bit American-centric, but at the same time, I was also curious about vaccine uptake worldwide.  Continue reading “Worldwide vaccine uptake-2014”

Why we immunize–protect children from hospitalization for diarrhea

rotateq-vaccine

Update 1. Added more information about the power of the herd immunity written by Tara Haelle.

One of the most recent and important vaccines added to the current schedule of immunization is the rotavirus vaccine, introduced in the USA in 2007. Before the introduction of the vaccine, rotavirus was the most common cause of severe gastroenteritis in US children under 5 years old. Each year, rotavirus caused an estimated 20 to 60 deaths, 55,000 to 70,000 hospitalizations, and nearly half a million non-emergency visits to healthcare facilities.

A study, recently published the Pediatrics journal, concluded that, after the rotavirus vaccines was introduced, the numbers of diarrhea-related illness in US children dropped significantly. Moreover, probably as a result of herd immunity (where transmission through a population is inhibited by individual who are immune to the disease), the study found that the rate of hospitalizations related to the virus dropped substantially in both vaccinated and unvaccinated children.

The research examined health insurance data from across the USA (except for Medicaid, and a few states that don’t report data) for children under 5 years, cross tabulating various gastrointestinal illnesses with hospitalizations and other medical care. It also compared the same information to the vaccination status of those children. Finally, they gathered data about these illnesses from 2001 through 2006 (before the vaccine was introduced) and 2007-11, to compare hospitalization and other medical facility encounters between the pre- and post-vaccine groups. Continue reading “Why we immunize–protect children from hospitalization for diarrhea”