A blood test for prenatal autism? What could possibly go wrong?

(UPDATE 1-20-15: The reporter from the San Diego Union-Tribune has contacted us to point out that, “contrary to the original article, the reporter has corrected the story to reflect that the test is not being promoted for use during pregnancy” as was previously attributed to the CEO of the company, Ms. D’Alvise. See his comment below or click here.)

Back in 2013, the UC Davis MIND institute put out some research into maternal antibodies and their association with autism:

“UC Davis MIND Institute researchers have identified the specific antibodies that target fetal brain proteins in the blood of a subset of women whose children are diagnosed with autism. The finding is the first to pinpoint a specific risk factor for a significant subset of autism cases, as well as a biomarker for drug development and early diagnosis. The researchers have named autism related to these antibodies “Maternal Autoantibody-Related,” or MAR autism.

The study found that the mothers of children with autism were more than 21 times as likely to have the specific MAR antibodies in their systems that reacted with fetal brain proteins, or antigens, than were the mothers of children who did not have autism. In fact, specific combinations of MAR antibodies were not found in the blood of mothers whose children were typically developing.”

From that research — or some variation of it — comes word of a new blood test that expectant mothers can take to find out if they’re at an increased risk of having an autistic child:

“A blood test for one of the most common forms of autism is due to be launched in the third quarter of 2015, San Diego’s Pediatric Bioscience said Wednesday.

The test identifies maternal antibodies that interfere with prenatal brain development, the company says. These antibodies are implicated in a form of autism spectrum disorder representing 23 percent of all cases. The test can help with early diagnosis or steer potential mothers toward alternatives such as surrogate pregnancy.

The antibody test delivers a false positive response just 1.3 percent of the time, making it highly predictive, said Jan D’Alvise, president and chief executive of privately held Pediatric Bioscience. D’Alvise spoke at the Biotech Showcase conference in San Francisco, an annual meeting of biotech investors and companies held concurrently with the JP Morgan Healthcare Conference.”

If I were an unethical son of a bitch, I would invest heavily in this company because that test is going to sell like hotcakes at Pamela’s on a cold Pittsburgh morning.

I say unethical because the research looking into the maternal autoantibodies and autism didn’t come up with any causal association between the antibodies and the children’s autism. It’s an interesting theory that boils down to, “We found these antibodies in a lot of the women who had autistic children. Not all of them, but a lot of them. These antibodies seem to target the unborn fetus’ brain, so it stands to reason that they may cause some sort of damage that leads to autism.” It’s not their words, but it’s something that I’m hearing in my mind as I read their paper. It’s something I’m sure a reasonable person might interpret as a test that can predict autism. I feel it would be unethical for me to profit off of something so seemingly unnecessary.

This is troubling to me because autism is so often referred to as a “disease” or as “brain damage” by many people claiming to know more about autism than they do. It is also troubling because the research doesn’t seem to show any prediction for how “severe” or socially impairing the autism will be. The mother with the positive test has a higher-than-expected chance of having an autistic child, but the test will in no way predict the degree to which the child will be able to be part of society. There is the very real possibility that mothers (and fathers, but it’s the mother’s decision) will want to terminate the pregnancy out of fear of having a “brain damaged” child.

(I can feel my blood pressure rising at the thought of ignorant fools calling autistics “brain damaged.”)

The test only really tells a person that they have these antibodies. It doesn’t say whether or not the antibodies cause the autism. That’s why the researchers call them autism related antibodies, not autism causing antibodies. I don’t think from the research that they can make that claim. A similar argument could be made that autism is genetic, and that those genes are present in the mother and causing those autoantibodies to be produced by the mother. The genes are then passed on to the child and the child develops autism. In short, there is way too much that we don’t know about autism.

One thing we do know is that vaccines don’t cause autism, of course.

Here’s the weirdest part of it all: From Pediatric Bioscience, the makers of the test, we learn the recommended reasons for having the test done:

“The MAR antibody test should be ordered on three types of “at risk” women : 1) Women of child-bearing age who have already had a child with autism, 2) Mothers of young children in need of a diagnosis for their child’s perceived developmental delay, and 3) Women over the age of 30 who are at least 2 times more likely to give birth to an autistic child. Specifically, women in this group who are considering In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) to become pregnant may want to consider taking the test before they proceed with the procedure. The MAR test is not intended for pregnant women or women who think that they may be pregnant.”

Read that last sentence and marvel at the contradiction from what Jan D’Alvise, president of the company marketing the test, said to the San Diego Union-Tribune:

“If a pregnant women gets a positive diagnosis, preparations can begin before birth to get the child into therapy if needed, D’Alvise said. Or a baby showing delays in development can be diagnosed faster if the mother tests positive.”

Which is it? Either the test is not to be done on pregnant women or it is. It is very possible that Ms. D’Alvise didn’t know that their website states that the test is not intended for pregnant women or that the website is outdated and their test is now to be used on pregnant women who think their unborn child may be autistic. Either way, the message is fuzzy on whether or not this test will be able to tell with 100% certainty that the unborn child (or any future children) will be autistic.

(UPDATE 1-20-15: The reporter from the San Diego Union-Tribune has contacted us to point out that, “contrary to the original article, the reporter has corrected the story to reflect that the test is not being promoted for use during pregnancy” as was previously attributed to the CEO of the company, Ms. D’Alvise. See his comment below or click here.)

The test is said to cost $1,000. No word on whether or not health insurance will pay for it, or what additional steps should be taken for a positive test. There is also no word on what the FDA has to say about this test. We’ll be on the lookout for their opinion. In the meantime, there’s a little something we need to talk about next time.

Twist and bend the truth to fit your views on abortion

I asked Pedro (not her real name) about her views on abortion the other day. She told me that she supports a woman’s right to choose and that she hopes women will have universal and affordable access to contraceptive medications and technologies. If women had as much as say in their reproductive rights as they should, abortion would be an incredibly rare thing. It would be a choice that women would not have to make. And that’s what puzzles me about anti-abortion (anti-choice) activists. They oppose abortion, but they don’t do anything to make unintended pregnancies a rarity. They stand at corners and protest (because they don’t pray, really), but they don’t talk to girls and young women about the many ways that they can prevent an unwanted/unintended pregnancy. Worse of all, they lie.

Before we go any further, I’m going to have to warn you that the blog post I am going to link to contains some very graphic images, so please exercise some caution if your computer is public or near susceptible persons. The blog post talks about a woman who died in 1989 as a result of sepsis (blood infection) after having an abortion. The main gist of the blog post is that women are dying by the bunches during abortions and that this one death is only the tip of the iceberg. Worst of all, they are using the pictures of the 18 year-old woman to further their agenda:

“Today, the pro-life group Life Dynamics, in cooperation with Operation Rescue and Priests for Life, will release autopsy photos of 18-yr-old Marla Cardamone, who died following a “safe and legal” abortion, along with her 17-to-19-wk-old preborn baby, Christopher Michael, whose photo will also be displayed.”

Continue reading

That whole aborted fetus thing

Those who know me well know that I’m not big on the pro-life people. I totally understand their objections to abortion, most of those objections, anyway. I just don’t understand their obsession with telling women what to do with their bodies or telling people in general what healthcare decisions they should make in consultations with a healthcare provider. Well, one of the objections to vaccination that I hear a lot is that vaccines “contain aborted fetus cells”. This is akin to me saying that the house dust around me, uh, house contains dead people.

Let me explain…

Let’s establish some quick facts. First, vaccines have saved millions of lives and millions of dollars in resources by preventing diseases that kill or disable people of all ages. Second, whether we like it or not, we live in a utilitarian society, where the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. It’s sad, especially when you think of kids with a very rare genetic disease who have no hope for a cure because there is virtually no funding for research. But that’s the way things are. Third, it is our responsibility as moral and ethical human beings to learn from tragedies and wrongs so that some good can come of them. This is why surgeons write-up their worst mistakes, pilots give courses on accidents they’ve had, and recovering drug addicts speak to audiences of at-risk youths.

When someone who dies donates their organs, they are making a contribution to society that is very difficult to compare. Out of a tragedy comes life for others. This is the case with respect to the two cell lines currently used in the United States to make vaccines. First, let’s recap real quick how some viral vaccines are made.

Viruses, if you remember, are small organisms that replicate strictly inside of cells. Viruses don’t have their own multiplication mechanism. Because of this, it is necessary to have cells in petri dishes in a lab in order to grow viruses to study them and then make vaccines. These cells had to come from somewhere, and scientists have tried many different types of cells. They’ve tried cells from animals, from insects, from plants. They have tried kidney cells, lung cells, brain cells, etcetera.

In the 1960’s, two fetuses were aborted. One was 3 months gestation, and the other was 14 weeks gestation. One was a girl, and the other was a boy. Cells from their lungs were taken and grown in the lab. Those cells multiplied and created other cells. Then different viruses were placed in those cells and found to grow. Not only did the viruses just grow, but they grew well. The cells multiplied at a good rate. They were able to keep a steady supply of cells for research. The viruses placed in those cells also grew well. They were able to be attenuated and otherwise used for vaccines.

It’s been over 40 years since these cell lines were harvested from aborted fetuses and used to create life-saving vaccines. The cells in those petri dishes – simplifying a bit – are the daughters of the daughters of the granddaughters of the… Well, you get the point. The cells we have today are generations removed from the original fetal cells. Just like my cells are not the cells of my great grandfather. Just like the house dust is not me anymore. Know what I mean?

So, yeah, it’s a tragedy that those fetuses were aborted. Abortion is one of those things I wish didn’t exist. But to say that I can’t use a vaccine to prevent a deadly disease because cells used today for growing the vaccine strain of the viruses are derived from cells cultivated 40+ years ago? That’s one heck of a stretch. It’s not like we’re aborting fetuses left and right to make vaccines, for crying out loud.

And now, a rant…

It turned out that a group of “pro-life”/”anti-abortion” advocates showed up in my town to protest the local Planned Parenthood facilities. There were dozens of them on the town square, near the facility, with all sorts of banners and images, protesting the “murders” of “children” being performed at the facility.
The joke was on them, however. The director of the Planned Parenthood challenged donors – of which I am one – to donate a dollar per protester. The more protesters showed up, the more money PP would get. Well, I had to put out a lot of cash because a lot of them showed up.
That really got me thinking. By one count, there were over 500 protesters on one day at the town square. It was part of their 40-day protest over Lent. Can you imagine how much good elsewhere these folks, most of them young and capable, could do if they decided to work hard at something for 40 days? I did imagine, so I made a list for them.

A) Volunteer at habitat for humanity, building or repairing homes for the less fortunate (those that don’t have the resources to travel several towns over to protest a women’s clinic), or feeding the homeless.
B) Grab some trash bags and walk, en masse, down a road in the city and clean up all the trash you see. You’d be amazed how much trash 500 people can pick up (and recycle) if you really put your mind to it.
C) Give $1 each to Doctors Without Borders, offsetting the gift we couldn’t make because we decided to give to Planned Parenthood to counter your little stunts.
D) Research the things you’re saying. Abortion DOES NOT increase the risk of breast cancer in women. Having children reduces it (in some studies), but not having children does not raise it. I know it’s a difficult concept, so I’d give you 40 days to figure it out.
E) Be a Big Brother or Big Sister to children who are without adult involvement. Heck, you could even adopt them. I know you’re SO worried about them in utero, why not show the same amount of care once they’re born?
F) Clean up a river or bay or some other natural habitat near you. Just like with “B”, but in a habitat that desperately needs humans to save it, not continue to destroy it.
I could go on and on about how misled you (mostly) kids are. Adults around you have turned you into tools that are willfully trying to destroy something that is bringing good to women. Abortions are a small – yet necessary – part of the things that Planned Parenthood does. They provide essential pregnancy prevention services, health screenings, and other medical care to women who could otherwise not afford it.
I know you live in a sheltered world, where Mom and Dad provide enough for you to spend 40 days protesting places that you deem “sinful” or “unclean”. But you need to see things for what they are. Jesus Christ, whom so many of you claim to follow, spoke of loving one’s neighbor. How are you showing that love in all your protesting, all your harassing of people who go to the clinic?
God doesn’t like liars, either. So I’d suggest you look into the claims you make about the bad things that happen with abortions. You’re lying if you say or suggest that abortions cause cancer. You’re lying if you think that all women who have had one do so as a form of birth control. And you’re lying if you think you’re being self-less in this. I’ve seen how you smile before the cameras, how you love to be in the limelight.
Vanity is a sin. Who’s the sinner now?
Of course, far be it for me to judge you all. After all, I’m sure there are several specks in my eye, so I won’t point out the wood beams in yours. But you have to see that standing out there, waving banners, yelling things, chanting rhymes, and smiling for the cameras are doing absolutely nothing to reduce abortions.
You’re just wasting everyone’s time when you could be doing other things that would really make an impact.

NVIC "Information". Exhibit A

If you don’t know who or what the NVIC is, I suggest you read the Wikipedia page for it. Don’t bother yourself with their “about” page. You won’t get the whole story there. You’ve got to Google it and do your own research, man. (See what I did there?) Seriously, thought, we can talk all day about who runs the NVIC or what kind of agenda they have, but it is all meaningless without evidence of their anti-vaccine slant.

So I have the evidence here of that anti-vaccine slant, right out of their own webpage.
Exhibit A is their own page on Hepatitis A. Let me tell you about Hep A. It is an infection of the liver that is very infectious. It doesn’t take a lot of virus to get you sick. And, when you get sick, you get really sick. You get so sick that you better make sure that your liver is up to code. If you are on certain medications of have had other liver infections like Hep B or Hep C, you better get yourself to a doctor immediately. Heck, you better get yourself to a doctor even if you don’t have underlying liver disease. Why?

Hepatitis A causes a liver infection that really messes with the liver’s ability to function. The liver is integral in “cleaning” your blood by removing toxins. The classic example of what the liver does is its ability to clear out alcohol. You drink alcohol, a toxin, and the enzymes in your liver turn the alcohol to more water-soluble compounds so you can just pee it out before it harms your brain. If you get Hep A, your liver is not able to do this with alcohol or any other toxin (or medication), placing you at risk for the most severe of complications.

Of course, Hep A is totally manageable, and most people who get it recover from it in time and live a long life afterward. But, seriously, why would you want to gamble with it? So there’s a vaccine that is safe and effective for you to protect yourself from Hep A if you are traveling to countries where it is endemic, work in group settings such as prisons or hospitals, work with it in the lab, or use/abuse IV drugs, or have an underlying condition like Hep B or Hep C that would make Hep A a very deadly ordeal. The vaccine is licensed in the United States for people age 1 and older.

Okay, so now you know about Hep A, and you know there is a vaccine. What about that vaccine? Merck and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) both make a Hep A vaccine. Merck’s vaccine is given in two doses. GSK’s vaccine is given in up to four doses because one of the two GSK vaccines combines Hep B vaccine as well. Studies show that the immunity lasts about 25 years for adults and 14-20 years in children. Immunity may last longer if you get “boosted” through exposure. Natural immunity after infection is not known to last any differently, mostly because there just haven’t been the studies where we intentionally infect someone and follow them for years while preventing them from being boosted.

What about the vaccine’s safety? Well, it can cause pain, redness, and maybe swelling at the site of the injection. Death? Nope. Disability? Nope. Autism? Nope.

At least that’s what the science tells us. What does the NVIC tell us? Here:

“The following information is provided to as a public service by the National Vaccine Information Center to help you understand the disease hepatitis A and the hepatitis A vaccine so you can make an informed decision regarding the use of this vaccine. This information is not intended to serve as medical advice but as background information that you can use to educate yourself and ask your doctor questions.”

Alright. Sounds reasonable. What else?

“On December 1, 2004 Hepatitis A vaccine was added to the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program’s (VICP)  Vaccine Injury Table, as published in the Federal Register.  If you feel that your health problems are related to the Hepatitis A it is your right to file for compensation.  To learn more about the VICP and how to file a claim, please visit our injury compensation webpage.”

Ah. They want you to know that there is a vaccine injury table, almost as if to say that the vaccine is known to cause injuries. Their link, by the way, is broken. Here is the live link. I’m sure it’s just an oversight. After all, when you’re misinforming the public, you might not have time to check your webpage much. And NVIC won’t tell you what the table states about Hep A vaccine. Go check it out yourself and tell me if it’s worthwhile to scare people by saying that the vaccine is on that table.

Alright, I’ll show you. Here is what the table says about the vaccine:

In other words, contrary to what NVIC will tell you about the table, you will get NO compensation immediately if you claim the Hep A vaccine did something because it has not been shown to be even remotely associated with anything.

Okay, what else?

“Hepatitis A is a viral disease of the liver that is contracted through contact with, or swallowing of human fecal waste, generally through eating or drinking contaminated food and/or water.
Hepatitis A thrives in areas with poor sanitation and is spread when people eat or drink something that has been contaminated with human body waste products. Children often show no symptoms and the disease is more serious in adults.”


“Hepatitis A is spread almost exclusively by the fecal-oral route and is most often associated with poor sanitation and hygiene, and overcrowded living conditions.
It also is associated with lower socioeconomic status, certain sexual practices, and injected drug use. However, outbreaks of hepatitis A have also occurred in restaurants, daycare centers, nursing homes, and other institutions and community settings.
Some outbreaks of hepatitis A have been traced to contaminated food, water, milk, frozen raspberries and strawberries, and shellfish.
Among adults with identified risk factors, the majority of cases are among men who have sex with men, persons who use illegal drugs, and international travelers. Because transmission of hepatitis A during sexual activity probably occurs because of fecal-oral contact, measures typically used to prevent the transmission of other STDs (e.g., use of condoms) do not prevent hepatitis A transmission.
Hepatitis A infections also have been linked to children adopted from certain countries.”

See what they did there? They’re setting it up so that God-fearing, all-American, heterosexual, drug-free, church-going, money-making people have nothing to fear. I mean, you might get it from contaminated food, but that’s a low risk and you’re better off just washing your hands, having sex only with women, staying away from needles, and not traveling to those countries. Just wash your hands and you’ll be okay, they seem to say. (My opinion.)

In case you didn’t catch that last part about who is at risk and why, they mention it once again:

“Poor personal hygiene can increase the chances of spreading hepatitis A. That is why frequent hand washing with soap and water, particularly after using the bathroom, changing a diaper, and before preparing or eating food, is very important in preventing the spread of hepatitis A.
It also has been identified as a risk factor in daycare centers and intensive care neonatal units.
Travel to Third World countries, where hepatitis A is more prevalent, also is an identified risk factor for getting this infection.”

Wash your hands, Jose! Wash your [expletive] hands!

What about the vaccine? Well, I’m trying to get there, but NVIC keeps hammering the whole hygiene, not in my America, and sexual practices thing. I mean, they mention it again:

“In 2007 (the latest year for which data are available) 18 percent of all cases of Hepatitis A were attributable to international travel. Approximately 85 percent of all travel-related cases were associated with travel to Mexico and to Central or South America.”

And again:

“Waterborne outbreaks, though infrequent, are usually associated with sewage-contaminated, or inadequately treated, water.”

Dammit! What about the [expletive] vaccine?

“The ACIP has approved three inactivated , injectable vaccines for hepatitis A: Havrix; Twinrix; and Vaqta.”

Thank you!

But here is where NVIC gets all weird. Remember that the vaccine is not associated with adverse events. It only causes redness and swelling at the site of the injection in some people. It hasn’t caused death. It hasn’t caused disability. It hasn’t caused tumors, autism, or anything else. It has only prevented Hep A. But NVIC, true to form, wants to scare us with the ingredients:

“Havrix contains viral antigen and aluminum hydroxide (an adjuvant) with amino acid supplement in a phosphate buffered saline solution, polysorbate 20 (an emulsifier). The virus is propagated in human diploid cells. It also has neomycin (an antibiotic) in it. It does not contain preservatives.
The tip cap and the plunger on the syringe have latex in them.
Twinrix is a combination vaccine that is intended to protect against both hepatitis A and hepatitis B. It is manufactured using MRC-5, which was derived from a cell line that was developed in 1966 from lung tissue taken from a 14-week aborted fetus and contains viral antigens, yeast, aluminum phosphate, aluminum hydroxide, neomycin and formalin (formaldehyde and water). It does not contain preservatives.
The tip cap and the plunger on the syringe have latex in them.
Vaqta contains inactivated whole virus grown in human MRC-5 human diploid fibroblasts from lung tissue taken from an aborted fetus.
It is formalin inactivated and adsorbed onto amorphous aluminum hydroxyphosphate sulfate. It also has traces of bovine albumin and formaldehyde. It does not contain preservatives. The tip cap and the plunger on the syringe have latex in them.”

I’m not going to deny that it contains all of these things. What NVIC is not telling you is HOW MUCH of these things does it have? Further, they mention latex to scare away people with latex allergies. (Guess what? The latex never comes into contact with you, or goes into you.) And then there’s the whole “cells from an aborted fetus” gambit.

So, back in 1966, a fetus was aborted. For research purposes, some lung tissue was taken. During research, scientists discovered that the fetus’ lung cells worked really well in the lab to grow viruses in it. It was stable, the cells multiplied well, and the viruses really liked it. Instead of just discarding the fetus, scientists decided to give that irreversible abortion meaning by using those cells to create vaccines and therapies that have saved thousands if not millions of lives. It’s been 46 years and counting. I’m pretty sure those cells are not from the fetus anymore than the house dust on my window sill is any part of me. (House dust is mostly dead skin cells.)


NVIC also mentions all those adjuvants and emulsifiers because… Well, because they want to link them to adverse reactions. But remember what I wrote up there about known complications. They just don’t exist. They don’t.

That doesn’t stop NVIC from this:

How Effective Is the Hepatitis A Vaccine?All three Hepatitis A vaccine package inserts warn that the vaccines may not, or cannot, prevent or treat the disease in someone who is already infected or has been infected with hepatitis A. They also warn that some immunocompromised individuals may not be fully protected, either.”

That doesn’t answer the question about effectiveness, does it? The question was how effective the vaccine is, but the answer was that it doesn’t cure the infection once the infection occurs. It’s a clever play with words to say that “vaccines may not, or cannot, prevent or treat the disease in someone who is already infected or has been infected with hepatitis A.” In fact, that last part is puzzling. There is a difference between “someone who is already infected” and someone who “has been infected with hepatitis A”.

Confused? I am.

Oh, and then there is this:

Can the Hepatitis A Vaccine Cause Injury and/or Death?There is a gap in medical knowledge in terms of predicting who will have an adverse reaction to the hepatitis A vaccine and who will not.
However, reading the manufacturer’s product package inserts (see below) under “contraindications, warnings and precautions, and adverse reactions,” will help you weigh the vaccine’s benefits and risks before making a decision for yourself or your child.
Within the hepatitis A manufacturers’ vaccine package inserts, some of the adverse events reported ranged from fever, to nausea and loss of appetite, to dizziness, and neuromuscular symptoms, including Guillian Barre Syndrome.”

Followed by this:

“Since the vaccine was licensed in 1996, there have been thousands of serious adverse events to this vaccine reported to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS), including deaths.”

I don’t get it. Either there have been no known deaths associated with the vaccine or there have. But you, dear reader, should already know how anti-vaccine groups use VAERS to their own aims. But let’s humor NVIC and look at VAERS for those deaths associated with Hep A vaccines.

I found 57 VAERS reports of death and any of the Hep A vaccines. Here are some chosen ones:

VAERS ID 113911-1: “pt recv vax DEC96 & JUL97 blood work in MAR showed no sign of disease;cancer of colon w/advanced metastases to liver detected in AUG because of rapid onset, want this on record;”

VAERS ID 160423-1: “Post vax, the pt was playing badminton in high school physical education class when he collapsed. CPR started by PE teacher and school nurse until paramedics arrived. Expired at hospital. Autopsy performed. Pathology tissues of heart sent for conduction studies.”

VAERS ID 166212-1: “Pt was given Hep-A vaccine at 18:00-18:15. He was a chaplain with the Police Dept and was riding with a Police Officer. The Police Officer took the pt home at 23:30. States that the pt had no complaints at that time. At 02:15, the Police Dept was informed by the pt’s wife that he had been sent to the hospital and died. Autopsy states cause of death as atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease. Other significant conditions: diabetes, hypertension, obesity.”

VAERS ID 175712-1: “The parent reported some fever the evening of the vaccine. Normal day of 09/21/01. The family put the child down to bed, no symptoms 09/21/01 at 8:00 pm. Family checked at 9 pm, the child’s color was white, unresponsive. Rushed to the hospital, the child arrested. Autopsy findings for cause of death were bronchopneumonia, laryngitis, cerebral edema.”

VAERS ID 207834-1: “administered on 11/14/02. All vaccines were administered on the same date. The patient died on 12/15/02. The CDC investigation confirmed that the patient was positive for serogroup C, Meningococcal infection. The onset date of signs and symptoms were not reported… From additional information received on 08/12/2003 from a pathology department, it was reported that the patient presented with an acute onset of a rash on his feet that spread to his face over a period of a few hours, after a 3 day history of a cough and sore throat. The symptoms progressed rapidly to severe respiratory distress and shock. The patient was treated with advanced cardiac life support in the ICU (intensive care unit) and died within three hours of presenting to the hospital. The patient died at 1:01 pm on 12/15/2002; the autopsy was done the following day and showed that the cause of death was Neisseria Meningitidis Septicemia (Meningococcemia). Gross autopsy findings included evidence acute shock syndrome with diffuse petechia and hemorrhage to multiple organs, visceral congestions, shock kidneys, and a blothcy erythematous rash to the organs and a few scattered foci of acute inflammation within the myocardium and meninges. The clinical presentation, autopsy findings, and laboratory PCR results were consistent with Neisseria Meningitidis (meningococcal) Septicemia.”

VAERS ID 211782-1: “Pt did vigorous physical training session just before dinner, went to dinner, didn’t feel well (upset stomach), went to baracks, apparently fell out of top bunk, was unresponsive. CPR started promptly with physician assistant attending. EMS arrived, pt was in asystole with no response to ACLS protocols. Transported to ER and ACLS continued with no response. Post-mortem x-ray showed no skeletal fracture or dislocation. Well known to unit PA; high blood presure; 15-year smoking history, new heart murmur 1/6 systolic. Diagnosed with URI on 09/30/2003 and treated with Deconamine SR BIDx 10d. Preliminary autopsy findings: ASCVD with left main coronary artery occluded 90%, left anterior descending cornonary artery occluded 85%. Final autopsy report awaits tissue and toxicology findings. Nurse follow up on 11/08/04 states: “”Severe Atherosclerotic Cardiovascular Disease.”””

VAERS ID 252079-1: “The subject is a female with the date of birth of 10/18/2000, who expired due to cancer while enrolled in a comparative post marketing safety study of Daptacel (Diphtheria and Tetanus toxoids and Acellular pertussis vaccine absorbed) administered with other recommended vaccines according to standard of care at 2, 4, and 6 months of age in infants and as a booster to toddlers. The subject received the study vaccine on 5/13/2003. Other vaccines administered on that day included a dose of IPOL, lot number W01972, a dose of hepatitis A vaccine, lot number 0498N, a dose of MMR/measles, mumps and rubella vaccine, lot number 0858M, and a dose of VZV, lot number 0485N, manufacturer unknown…”

Of course, there are rumors like this one:

VAERS ID 271331-1: “I read the patient’s obituary in the newspaper, please refer to primary care physician for more details. I never received any call regarding any adverse event regarding actual vaccines.”
Not that it will stop NVIC from saying this is an adverse event to a vaccine.

Of course, there are many more cases in there for which we don’t have the whole story. But you know from my previous post that VAERS is not evidence. It’s a good jump-off point to form theories or watch out for patterns. Evidence it is not.

So let’s finish reading what NVIC has to say about the Hep A vaccine, namely, why it should not be given:

“Hepatitis A does not cause chronic, long term infection and very rarely causes death. Infection with hepatitis A gives a person lifelong immunity and, in some populations around the world, close to 100 percent of all inhabitants have antibodies to hepatitis A.
The CDC states that persons at high risk for hepatitis A are household and sexual contacts of infected persons; drug users; persons traveling to countries where hepatitis A is common; and persons living in regions where there are “consistently increased rates of hepatitis A.”
The best tool for prevention of hepatitis A is to wash your hands with soap and water after using the bathroom, changing a diaper or preparing and eating food.
While the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC) supports the availability of hepatitis A vaccine for all who choose to use it, NVIC opposes the mandated use of hepatitis A vaccine for the following reasons:

  • Hepatitis Does Not Cause Chronic Infection and Rarely Causes Death:
  • Hepatitis A has a mortality rate of less than one percent (0.6) and over 70 percent of deaths occur in adults over the age of 49. Almost everyone who gets hepatitis A recovers from it without any treatment. Plus, it is so rarely fatal that the CDC does not show a record of deaths from it some years.

  • Hepatitis A Gives Lifelong Immunity But the Vaccine Does Not:
  • Children often show no symptoms if they get hepatitis A and then develop lifelong immunity to the infection, but nobody knows how long vaccine-induced immunity will last. (All vaccines give only temporary immunity).

  • Child-to-Child Transmission in School is Rare:
  • According to the CDC, “Child-to-child disease transmission [of hepatitis A] within the school setting is uncommon.”  

  • Hepatitis A Vaccine Can Cause Reactions:
  • The vaccine can cause unpleasant or even health- or life-threatening conditions, such as Guillian-Barre Syndrome (see vaccine side effects under “Can the Hepatitis A Vaccine Cause Injury and/or Death”).”

There you have it, folks. Hep A is nothing to worry about if your lifestyle is the right one, or just wash your [expletive] hands. Hepatitis A vaccine has “caused” death and disability (in obituaries, apparently), and it contains toxins and aborted cells. NVIC doesn’t mention the concentrations of these chemicals in the vaccine. They don’t mention the real story behind those “aborted” cells. They won’t mention that there are more people than ever with conditions that could be enormously exacerbated by an infection with Hepatitis A.
It’s all cons, cons, cons. No pros.
That, dear reader, seems to be their idea of “information”. But this is only exhibit A.

Plan B is not an abortion pill

I was driving home the other day when I heard an anchor on Fox News say that the audience might be “shocked” to hear what an American university was offering out of a vending machine. My mind immediately made me think of heroin, marijuana, or alcohol. You know, stuff that could really derail a student’s career. Instead, the story was about a vending machine at a university that sells “plan B” contraception pills among other items such as condoms, analgesics, and other health-related items. I know you’re shocked that I listen to Fox News, but it was a nice drive home. I needed something to be enraged about.

The university in question is Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania. The university has a vending machine in the heath center that offers “plan B” for $25 and over-the-counter for students over the age of 17. Fox News was not the only one to get the whole thing wrong. A certain presidential candidate got it wrong as well. See if you can identify him:

There has been a lot of talk about the Obama administration’s attack on the Catholic church. The fact is Governor Romney insisted that Catholic hospitals give out abortion pills against their religious belief when he was governor. So you have a similar pattern.

Abortion pills?

That quote is from former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. He was criticizing his opponent, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney for Mr. Romney’s healthcare plan in Massachusetts. I would be fine if this was the only time that “plan B” was confused with the abortion pill “ru486”. That medication, also known as “mifepristone”, actually does end pregnancy. “Plan B”, on the other hand, does not end pregnancy.

It doesn’t end pregnancy because it is taken before pregnancy even occurs. See, “plan B”, is a big dose of synthetic hormones like the ones in the contraceptive pill. If there is an egg there to begin with, and if it is fertilized, it will not be able to implant itself to the wall of the uterus…

Ah, I see. They seem to believe that a fertilized egg that is not allowed to implant itself is a form of abortion. If only they knew how many fertilized eggs fail to implant because of so many factors. Heck, if only they knew how many pregnancies end before they really even started because of so many other factors. But, you know, that’s them.

I guess it’s perfectly fine in the minds of these so-called “conservatives” to have the government intervene to the degree that a seventeen year-old college student trying to get her life together cannot decide whether or not part of her degree plan will include a child she may not necessarily want. I also guess it’s perfectly fine in their minds that a young woman who happens to be raped (it happens, a lot, in college even) but doesn’t want to even think about bearing the rapist’s child will be forced to do so because MEN like Newt and Mitt and the rest of them have some sort of moral authority.

Whatever. I’d have more respect for them if they were not such huge liars in saying that “plan B” is an abortion pill.

Keep the government out of healthcare! (Except in Texas)

I’ve always said that Texas was like it’s own country. Actually, it was it’s own country for about ten years back in the 1830s, but this isn’t a history blog. Anyway, a law in Texas went into effect to force women who want to have an abortion to be submitted to a sonogram. Furthermore, the physician performing the sonogram and/or abortion is compelled to explain to the woman all that is being seen in the sonogram. See, on the one hand, Texans want the government out of the patient-provider relationship. On the other, they want the government deep inside the patient-provider relationship. Deeper, I’d care to guess, than the fetus itself.

Don’t take my word for it. Read the law yourself.

Supporters of the law will tell you that they just want the woman to be well informed about the procedure she is about to undergo. By saying that, they are implying that providers who provide abortion services are mischievous and don’t tell women everything that goes into having an abortion. Somehow, the medical board is not good enough to catch these sneaky providers. Current laws in Texas are not enough. No, to serve those poor women who are apparently being tricked into abortions, the law was passed.

Opponents of the law will tell you that the law imposes itself on providers, telling them how to perform a medical procedure. They will also tell you that the law does not exclude victims of rape and incest, making them go through yet another medical procedure (the sonogram) in their ordeal.

What gives, though? Rick Perry, who signed the Texas bill into law, decried “Obamacare” as the government interfering in healthcare. But that is exactly what the law is doing in Texas. I guess it’s a “state’s rights” thing or something, like how Mitt Romney detests “Obamacare” but a very similar law was good enough for Massachusetts when he was the governor there.

So we’ll see what happens now that the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals has said that the law in Texas can be enforced while it winds itself through the legal system. It appears to be headed to the Supreme Court, and we’ll have a “Roe v. Wade” type mess on our hands all over again.

I Hate Writing About This

I was driving with my girl through the center of town when we were stopped in traffic because a group of people were protesting something up ahead. There were people of all ages holding signs. As we got closer, we saw that they were protesting the local Planned Parenthood clinic that just happens to be right smack on the corner of a heavily traveled intersection. What were they protesting? The health care they provide for women? Nope. The free to low-cost preventive care? Nope. The family planning services? Nope. They were protesting – what else? –  abortion.

I hate writing about this because it is such a touchy subject. On the one hand, I can see where ending a pregnancy can be seen as an unsavory thing to do, especially if you see life as beginning at conception. I learned in biology class in college that, yes, indeed, the fetus is alive. There is no doubt of that. Science has told us that it feels stimuli early on and pain some weeks after conception. In fact, it was that question that influenced the Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade. So, yes, abortion is ending a life.

On the other hand, women have every right to do with their bodies as they see fit, given that they understand what is going on, of course. You wouldn’t hold a 9 year-old girl to the same standard as a 20 year-old woman when it comes to making such an enormously big decision as ending a pregnancy is. Oh, yes, dear reader, I have seen two 9 year-olds be pregnant. And I have seen the agonizing decision by their parents to end the pregnancies.

See, that’s the thing. I’m yet to meet a woman who takes the decision lightly. I’m sure it’s agonizing, or troubling at least. Yes, there is anecdotal evidence – which is not evidence, by the way – that some women use abortion as family planning, as birth control. But all the evidence points to it being a hard decision to take.

The protesters on that day were particularly nasty. They had the usual signs that read, “Abortion Kills Children.” Other signs were more uncalled for, such as, “Abortion Makes You A Murderer.” Mind you, abortion has been decriminalized, last I heard. And then there was a van with signs all over it announcing the “side effects” of abortion, including depression, schizophrenia, and other mental issues. None of that is true, by the way. There is no evidence that women who have abortions will go on to have mental disease at a higher incidence than women who do not have abortions. They are basing their conclusions on their own biases against abortions and even downright lying about it to discourage women from having abortions.

The issue of abortion is precisely why I am so confused about the Republicans. On the one hand, they cry about “Obamacare” because it interferes with the relationship between a doctor and their patient. On the other hand, they have no problem supporting legislature that interferes with the relationship between a doctor and their female patient. Because, you see, an abortion isn’t something that you do over a lunch break. It is a process that includes a discussion with a licensed health care provider, someone who has been trained to perform abortions as safely as possible. (Abortions are not without risks, but these risks do not exceed the risks of other same-day surgeries.) Not only that, but organizations like Planned Parenthood are not abortion factories. They are well organized to provide care and services, not to extinguish life as we know it.

I wish the discussion about abortion was more grown up than it is and has been. I wish I didn’t have to cringe when talking about it with female friends because of the guilt that I feel for them not being able to make a decision in the privacy of the patient-provider relationship. No, it has to be this huge, convoluted thing out in the open, discussed by anyone and everyone with an agenda.

Maybe when I get around to digesting this in my head I’ll tackle the misconceptions – no pun intended –  thrown out there by the anti-abortion, anti-patient-provider groups.