Vaccines and autism – conflicts of interest in research

Conflicts of interest in research is one of the fundamental tropes of people who seek to diminish the value of biomedical research, even if the research is peer-reviewed and is published in a highly respected journal.

The vaccine deniers try to dismiss all medical research that has even the appearance of conflict of interest.

From my point of view – yes, we should examine research with a conflict of interest, especially in medical research, more carefully. But, as I’ve said a hundred times, it’s not one article that matters, it’s the body of work. Science is based on evidence that is analyzed, critiqued and, most importantly, repeated – repeatedly.

In the world of vaccines (including that annoying and loud anti-vaccine fringe group), one of the recurrent themes is that immunizations cause autism, and any research that disputes that belief is biased and/or supported by Big Pharma. That is the definition of conflicts of interest in research – this is repeated so often, sometimes I believe it.

But then I get back to reality and know that the scientific consensus, repeatedly repeated, supports the fact that there is no evidence that autism is related to vaccines or is caused by vaccines.  Continue reading “Vaccines and autism – conflicts of interest in research”

Vaccines saved lives – scientific evidence

There are many canards propagated by the vaccine deniers to support their personal beliefs (really, denialism) about the safety and effectiveness of vaccines. One of their more popular beliefs is that vaccines didn’t end many of the deadly diseases, but improved sanitation, healthcare, nutrition or magical fairies (also known as homeopathy) ended these diseases.

There is even a subgroup of these believers who think that the CDC, historians, and everyone else is lying about the epidemics that existed prior to vaccinations–let’s call this group history deniers. They reject the scientific and historical evidence that vaccines saved lives – amazing.

So, is there scientific evidence that vaccines actually ended these epidemics? Yes there is, and it’s unequivocal. Unless you want to embrace historical revisionism, and somehow all of the health care records and epidemiological information was faked, vaccines saved lives – lots of lives. Continue reading “Vaccines saved lives – scientific evidence”

Doctors’ vaccine liability and autism

vaccine liability

In a recent blog post, anti-vaccine activist Ginger Taylor criticized doctors for calling out Donald Trump for his misleading comments about vaccines and autism. Ms. Taylor claimed that doctor’s are immune from vaccine liability and that because of that they have no right to criticize. With a few exceptions where her claims were only incomplete, her claims are simply incorrect. Continue reading “Doctors’ vaccine liability and autism”

Maryland private schools can exclude unvaccinated children

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.

A recurring question that comes up is whether a private school or daycare can increase its safety from disease by refusing to accept unvaccinated children. Generally speaking, private schools and daycares can reject or accept children for whatever reason it wants. If  the school accept federal funds it cannot, under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, discriminate based on “race, color, or national origin.” But that’s it.

However, some laws enacting exemptions from immunization requirements are phrased in ways that suggest that private institutions are required to accept exempt children. This varies from state to state.  Continue reading “Maryland private schools can exclude unvaccinated children”

The child’s best interest – vaccines and parental rights

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 (generally, but sometimes moving to other areas of medicine), social policy and the law. Her articles usually unwind the complexities of legal issues with vaccinations and legal policies, such as mandatory vaccination and exemptions, with facts and citations.

Professor Reiss also 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.

In Kagen v. Kagen (pdf), a Michigan Court of Appeals sided with a father who wanted his children vaccinated and overruled the opposition of the mother, ordering the children to be vaccinated on schedule. The Court found that vaccinating was in the best interest of the children. The Court also discussed which type of evidence can be used in Michigan to support claims about vaccines’ safety or lack thereof, highlighting that anti-vaccine sources are probably not going to cut it.

Continue reading “The child’s best interest – vaccines and parental rights”

California’s vaccine exemption laws – clustering effects

All 50 US states (along with several territories and DC) require mandatory vaccination for children entering public (and frequently, private) schools. This system has essentially ended most vaccine preventable diseases in the USA, including measles, polio, chickenpox, and many others.

Broad vaccination is considered one of the 10 greatest achievements in public health. Vaccines should probably be number 1 on the list. Overall, the immunization mandate has established a strong herd effect, which has generally ended transmission of these diseases.

Even though vaccinating children before they enter school is mandatory, there are ways around it, if you choose. Every state allows medical exemptions, which is based on a proven risk for a child to not be vaccinated with one or more vaccines. For example, some vaccines are produced in chicken eggs, and a tiny percentage of children are allergic. Medical exemptions are absolutely critical to the well being of the child, and no pro-science (pro-vaccine) writer or researcher would be opposed to those types of exemptions.

Furthermore, most states have vaccine exemption laws which allows personal belief exemptions (PBE). These PBEs fall into one of two groups–religious exemptions, that is, the parent “claims” that their religion is opposed to vaccines; or personal exemptions, which are simply based on the fact that the parents are opposed to vaccination for whatever reason that hits their brain after 20 minutes of Googling “facts.”

Most states allow both types of exemptions, some only allow religious exemptions, and one state, Mississippi, allows only medical exemptions. As a progressive, there is little positive I can say about Mississippi, but this is a major positive. So congrats Mississippi for caring about children, at least in this one important way. Continue reading “California’s vaccine exemption laws – clustering effects”

Immunization requirements neither discriminate nor segregate

This article was written 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 (generally, but sometimes moving to other areas of medicine), social policy and the law. Her articles usually unwind the complexities of legal issues with vaccinations and legal policies, such as mandatory vaccination and exemptions, with facts and citations. 

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.

Anti-vaccine activists have been claiming that statutes abolishing exemptions from school immunization requirements – like SB277 in California – are discriminatory. This post explains why this claim is wrong in both its form: school immunization requirements without exemptions are neither discrimination nor segregation.

Continue reading “Immunization requirements neither discriminate nor segregate”

Sharyl Attkisson astroturfer accusations – appreciating it

A few days ago, prior to the challenges of updating and moving this website, I was told of an article published on a “journalist’s” website that accused a lot of people of being astroturfers, the Skeptical Raptor included. Now I admit to not being up-to-date on every cultural term that flows through the internet every day (who could?), but I had to find out more.

First, what is an astroturfer? Supposedly, it’s a pejorative term that describes a fake grassroots effort. Astroturf is fake grass, so that’s its roots (pun intended).

It’s used usually to point out individuals or groups that are well-funded by corporations or political groups to look like some sort of movement. The anti-Obamacare groups, like Americans for Prosperity who claimed that grandma was going to be put before a death panel, is a perfect example.

Continue reading “Sharyl Attkisson astroturfer accusations – appreciating it”

Maine Coalition for Vaccine Choice legislation–bad premises, bad law

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.

In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommend certain vaccines. CDC cannot, and do not, mandate vaccines. However, states can and do require their residents to have received certain vaccines on the CDC recommended schedule in order, most notably, for children to enroll in school. All states, however, also offer exemptions from school immunization requirements, and some – like Maine – offer very easy-to-get ones.

A bill was proposed by Maine legislator Richard Farnsworth adopting an informed refusal requirement before a parent can make use of Maine’s philosophical exemption to send their child to school without the required immunizations. In response, the Maine Coalition for Vaccine Choice (MCVC), an antivaccine advocacy group, proposed its own law, the “Maine Vaccine Consumer Protection Act.” Proposing an alternative law is not inappropriate.

There are, however, two significant problems of the Maine Coalition for Vaccine Choice legislation – the premises underlying the alternative law, and the content of the proposal. The proposal is based on premises that are either simply untrue or inaccurate and misleading. And it’s extremely bad law. Continue reading “Maine Coalition for Vaccine Choice legislation–bad premises, bad law”

Andrew Wakefield keeps trying–another appeal

On September 19, 2014 the Third Court of Appeals of Texas rejected Andrew Wakefield’s appeal against the decision of a Texas trial court that it had no jurisdiction to hear his libel suit against The British Medical Journal (the original article), Brian Deer, and Fiona Godlee. The details of that case and the suggestion that Andrew Wakefield was strategically using litigation to both rally supporters and deter critics have been previously addressed.

Andrew Wakefield had 45 days to appeal the decision to the Texas Supreme Court (Tex. R. App. P. 53.7). That time ended on November 3–an appeal was not filed by Mr. Wakefield within that time. Continue reading “Andrew Wakefield keeps trying–another appeal”