Won’t Someone Think of the Antivaxxers?

Is it bad that I turn on the news on the radio on the way to work hoping and praying that the President of the United States hasn’t done something to collectively embarrass us as a nation? Now, is it bad that I keep doing it knowing full well that it’s not going to happen? You know what they say about what the definition of insanity is…

Speaking of the insane, it seems that antivaxxers have taken their charade about being persecuted one step too far. Well, too far if you’re a reasonable person. They seem to think that nothing is “too far” when it comes to defending their skewed view of the world and attacking those they despise for trying to save lives of children. This time, they decided to compare themselves to Jews and other minorities who were systematically hunted down and killed during the Holocaust.

As Helene Sinnreich, PhD, put it in the Washington Post:

“It is not the first time the anti-vaccination movement has appropriated the Holocaust. Anti-vaccination advocates have called the side effects of vaccinations a modern-day Holocaust. They compare the criticism directed toward parents who choose not to vaccinate their children to the persecution of Jews during the Holocaust and label those who advocate for stringent laws around vaccines as Nazis. But this misuse of history distorts and undermines the actual horrors of the Holocaust. It also ignores that so many Holocaust victims died of infectious diseases — the same ones that vaccines could prevent today.”

Indeed. They keep playing the “I’m being persecuted” card all the time. They call themselves victims when they are not. They claim they are “toxic” or “diseased” from having “too many” vaccinations. And, of course, anything and everything is to be blamed on vaccines.

Dr. Sinnreich continued:

“The death toll from infectious disease was so high because Jews were stripped of basic resources including medical equipment, medicine and food. They were even denied quality soap. Doctors and other care providers helped fight disease in terrible conditions with scant supplies, many succumbing to disease themselves. Starving people traded food for medicine to help family members survive.

Vaccines emerged as a powerful, if expensive, tool for resistance. Smugglers found ways to bring medicine and even nascent vaccines into the ghetto. Those few who could obtain a vial of vaccine on the black market paid more than 100 times their weight in gold to obtain them. The going rate for a vaccine in the Warsaw ghetto could buy 30,000 bowls of soup — an astronomical amount in a place where people perished of hunger in the streets.”

So, yeah… Privileged (predominantly) white people in the United States, all very much free to do as they wish, are comparing themselves to the Holocaust victims who were forcibly removed from their homes and put into ghettos without basic supplies needed to be alive. They are comparing themselves to people who would pay with their lives for having the protection that vaccines provided. Antivaxxers are so persecuted.

Won’t someone think of the antivaxxers?

Look at this image:

Dead bodies being pulled from a train carrying Romanian Jews toward prison and death camps. (Source)

Ignorant anti-vaccine activists want you to believe that they are being treated in the same way. They want you to believe that a requirement to vaccinate so that we’re all safe — especially those too young or too sick to be vaccinated — is the same thing as between 12 and 17 million people experienced during the Holocaust. Nothing could be further from the truth, but antivaxxers are not exactly known for their firm grasp of the truth.

Or this image:

Bodies of dead children from the Warsaw ghetto. (Source)

Antivaxxers will have you believe that they are suffering a holocaust of their own from all the “injuries” from vaccines. But where are the bodies? Are children who are immunized being hauled away like waste in carts? Where are the mass graves?

What anti-vaccine people are going through with quarantines and exclusions from schools IS NOTHING AT ALL LIKE WHAT JEWS WENT THROUGH IN THE HOLOCAUST. No, they are not being persecuted. There’s no police force searching for them and dragging them away to jail (or worse). There is no law preventing them from getting married or having children.

How much more clearer can we make it?!

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This Guy Lies About Vaccines Without Even Blinking

Maybe he doesn’t blink because it’s a picture, but still..

Dr. Steven Lantier, an anesthesiologist, has penned an opinion piece for The Oklahoman, and, man, does it have some woozies in there.

You can read the whole thing here, but let me just show you one paragraph that should be enough to make you scratch your head…

“There is actually not much science behind “herd immunity.” The vaccine rates in the United States for Hepatitis A (9 percent), Hepatitis B (24.5 percent), pneumococcal (20.4 percent) and influenza (43.2 percent) are many times below their threshold, yet we haven’t had outbreaks of these diseases for decades now. Actually, vaccines often have the opposite effect. Not only can they — and often do — make people sick, it is well documented that vaccinated persons have passed on to others the same virus they were being protected from.”

Jesus Christ, where to begin?

“…(Y)et we haven’t had outbreaks of these diseases for decades now.” Oh, really? When it comes to Hepatitis A: We have had three in the last two years, according to CDC. When it comes to Hepatitis B: There are many, according to CDC. And those are just in healthcare. 

And, influenza… WE HAVE YEARLY EPIDEMICS. Hence, “THE GODDAMNED FLU SEASON.”

Who gave this guy his medical degree? What kind of Mickey Mouse institution taught him medicine?

I’m too mad to write anything else. That up there should be enough. Go to hell, Dr. Lantier, and say hello to Art Briles while you’re down there.

The Anti-Vaccine Zealot’s Endgame

I’ve met a lot of anti-vaccine people in my life and in my lines of work. Like any other group of people, anti-vaccine people span a wide range of personalities, behaviors and other traits. They are far from being a monolith, but they do share a lot of common characteristics. Some characteristics are good, like caring about their children or working hard in their professions. Other characteristics just plain scare and confuse me.

Yeah, they may care about their children, but they’re willing to lie and bully other people and, thus, set a bad example for their children on how civil discourse should be carried out on topics that are of importance to everyone. Others go as far as to compare their children to animals or say that their children are “lost” or “dead” while the child is right there next to them. They confuse autism or any other developmental delay or intellectual disability with being completely not there. That is, the child hears and in many cases understand their statements.

I can only imagine being that young and wondering why your own parent is calling you a mistake, a dead person, or an animal of some sort (outside of terms of endearment, like “my little bear,” of course).

Then there is the outright hatred the anti-vaccine zealots direct at people they see as their enemies. There’s the death threats and the threats of violence to the loved ones of people who work in public health, medicine, science or something even remotely related to vaccines. They’ll show up in groups to talks by vaccine scientists and spew all sorts of angry rhetoric, sometimes with a lot of spittle, sometimes with hoarse throats from all their yelling.

But what, exactly, is their endgame? In chess, we know that we need to capture the King, getting through all the other pieces while anticipating your opponent’s every move. In football, you get the ball from one end to the other, yards at a time. In baseball, you have to put the ball in play and run around the bases, all within the limits of the 9 innings of play.

That is, there are rules of engagement for those activities and sports. Heck, one could argue that even war has some sort of an endpoint, despite the recent examples of the war on terror. So what are anti-vaccine people aiming for? When will they be happy enough that they stop being so goddamned evil?

Ever since Jenner came up with the first vaccine back in the late 1700s, anti-vaccine organizations and people have lost their collective minds at the prospect of immunization. They created “leagues” and “brigades” to organize themselves against laws and other requirements for vaccination. They said that the smallpox vaccine — made from the cowpox virus — would turn you into a cow, or any other sort of animal.

They lied as much back then as they do today, except that today they have the weapons of mass media and social media to spread those lies farther and faster than ever before. They organize through electronic means and summon up dozens of their like-minded trolls to go to presentations by vaccine scientists and spread even more lies and misinformation. Or they create anonymous or pseudonymous blogs to seed fear and distrust of science in their followers.

And for what?

Do they really think that vaccines will be outlawed or not used anymore? Even if, somehow, vaccine laws are reversed and children are not required to be vaccinated, the parents of those children will still listen to the advice of their physicians and get their children vaccinated. And, if they don’t and vaccine-preventable diseases make a big comeback, the ensuing wave of disease and death would certainly make people think twice about their decision to forgo vaccination.

That’s actually happening right now in Italy after the populist and somewhat anti-vaccine government saw that measles is out of control.

This is why I and others wonder if anti-vaccine people know that they will be dead and long forgotten and vaccines will still be a thing. After all, no one remembers the leader of the first anti-vaccine group, but we all remember Jenner. So is it worth it to be so goddamned angry about vaccines all the time? Is it worth it to be so anti-science and to endanger so many lives by scaring parents away from vaccinating their children?

Apparently, to far too many people it is worth it, and they will continue to do their worst… Which suits me just fine. It’s job security for me. It makes me stronger. It gives me purpose. But it all would be just a little bit easier if they had a clear mission statement, something they’re working toward and something we scientists could focus on preventing.

Instead, we get idiotic showmen making idiotic documentaries with idiotic talking heads who think they know better. We get fluff. We get marshmallow. We never get raw meat to sick our teeth into, so to speak.

Photo by Robert Whitehead on Visualhunt.com / CC BY

Anti-Vaccine People Are Nuts, and Here’s Proof

ZDogg, MD, (real name “Zubin Damania“) an online celebrity and physician who talks about healthcare issues, recently interviewed Dr. Paul Offit, a pediatrician and vaccine developer. You can hear in the video below how nuts anti-vaccine zealots are. They pounded and pounded and screamed from behind a window to try and interrupt the interview. They really hate Dr. Offit that much, and they’re really crazy enough to think that pounding on windows and screaming like they did is something that is acceptable.

The video is 1 hour and 10 minutes long. The pounding on the windows starts at around 3 minutes 25 seconds in and goes on for a long time while ZDogg and Dr. Offit just ignore them…

 

Our Military Families Deserve Better Than Dr. Bob Sears

You remember Dr. Bob Sears? He is one of our Douchebags of the Year, and, hence, one of our Douchebags Emerit-Ass. He’s been put on probation by the California Medical Board for, according to the LA Times:

“Sears found himself in hot water because, according to the medical board, he wrote a vaccine exemption for a young boy without obtaining even basic medical information, such as the child’s history of vaccines. He took the boy’s mother at her word when she said her son lost urinary function and went limp in response to previous immunizations, according to the filing.”

Remember that this is the same Dr. Bob Sears who denied ever talking to a writer about a measles outbreak being started by one of his patients, when there were recordings of the conversation as part of Seth Mnookin writing a book. The same Dr. Bob Sears who admitted to just making up his “alternative vaccine schedule” without any science. I mean, seriously, why haven’t we re-nominated him to be Douchebag of the Year again?

As it turns out, Tricare, the health insurance that handles healthcare payments for military members and their families (if they go outside the VA system), doesn’t like physicians who run afoul of the standard of care. And we don’t blame them. Would you spend money on someone who’s so seemingly anti-vaccine? (And that wasn’t the only thing Dr. Bob Sears did that got him in trouble.)

Of course you wouldn’t.

We’re guessing that Dr. Bob Sears doesn’t have a personal mental health counselor because it seems that he takes to Facebook to work things out in his head, and get a lot of loving attention from his anti-vaccine followers. And that’s just what he did when Tricare decided to not pay for his care anymore.

Screenshot 2018-10-05 19.24.19

Somebody call the whaaaaaaaambulance!

You know what? Good! Military families already sacrifice enough without this douchebag placing them at risk of vaccine-preventable infections just by having them in his waiting room. Physicians like Dr. Bob Sears who flaunt making up vaccine recommendations, give out unjustified vaccine exemptions, fail to properly assess the health status of a child after said child gets hit by a hammer, and acts like such a pompous douche do not deserve the privilege to serve as physicians to anyone, let alone children of military parents.

“With Love and Prayers”? People of real Faith don’t lie, Dr. Bob Sears.

Douchebags do.

Anti-vaccine people are going to kill us all: Exhibit #605,678

Check out this story from Houston:

“A nurse at Texas Children’s Hospital has been discharged after she posted information on social media about a boy who tested positive for measles, hospital officials said Tuesday afternoon.

The nurse posted about the child on an anti-vaccination group’s Facebook page called Proud Parents of Unvaccinated Children-Texas, according to screenshots of posts obtained by The Houston Chronicle.

It’s not clear whether the child was vaccinated for the measles virus. The boy had recently traveled overseas, Houston Health Department officials said in a Facebook post Monday night.

The nurse, who listed Texas Children’s as her workplace on Facebook, described her experience seeing a child with measles for the first time.

“I think it’s easy for us nonvaxxers to make assumptions but most of us have never and will never see one of these diseases,” she said. “By no means have I changed my vax stance, and I never will. But I just wanted to share my experience and how much worse it was than I expected.””

Imagine that! Measles is much worse than what she expected. Remember, these are the people who are convinced that autism is worse than death, that autistic children are like animals, and that they would rather have children suffer through these things than be vaccinated. The nurse even contemplated sharing this “much worse” disease with her child at home:

“The postings included some comments by other group members, and at one point, the nurse commented, “I’m not kidding that I thought about swabbing his mouth and bringing it home to my 13 (year old).””

That’s right. She thought about taking this deadly disease that put a child in ICU home to her son. I wonder if she thought about spreading it to other parts of the hospital?

Sure, she’s been fired, but where will she go next? What will she attempt to spread? Who will suffer the consequences of her science denialism while working in a very sensitive position when it comes to the public’s health?

Tdap vaccine is not linked to autism, just like any other vaccine (including the flu vaccine)

I remember when my dad told me that there was no such thing as Santa Claus. He sat me down and told me that it had been him all these years who had been buying me gifts and placing them under the tree. It was quite a shock to have this revealed to me; it shook my world. I did everything in my power to reason it through. In my head, dad was a liar. Dad wanted to take the credit for the big jolly guy who’d given me all the gifts I’d ask for in the letters I sent him through my dad.

I was 27 years old.

Soon enough, I came to accept the truth. All the evidence was there in the form of my dad’s receipts for the gifts he had gotten me. People had seen him buy me those gifts. Mom swore to having helped him wrap them. The evidence was compelling, substantial, tangible, credible… Santa Claus was no more.

I’m sad to say that this is not the case with the anti-vaccine crowd. You can tell them all you want that vaccines do not cause autism, and that vaccines actually protect from diseases that are deadly and/or disabling. But they will refuse to believe it because their entire ecosystem depends on the belief that vaccines cause autism. Anything short of that sucks away their life, their reason for living.

One such anti-vaccine zealot is everyone’s favorite “kid.” Even with a master of public health degree in epidemiology, he seems to remain convinced that vaccines cause autism. He’s stated on his blog that evidence he saw in school to the contrary is all a conspiracy from the pharmaceutical industry. It seems that, to him, the lies he has been exposed to over and over from a very young age have made up his mind. To him, Santa Claus (i.e. vaccines cause autism) still exists, and it will continue to exist because anything short of that eliminates his reason for living.

Seriously, he doesn’t seem to live for anything other than that. The primary example is a recent blog post of his where he takes a study that clearly shows that the Tdap (Tetanus, Diphtheria, and acellular Pertussis) vaccine doesn’t cause autism, and then he states that the study confirms that the influenza vaccine does cause autism.

Yeah, I was confused too.

His whole argument hinges on one table in the Prenatal Tetanus, Diphtheria, Acellular Pertussis Vaccination and Autism Spectrum Disorder by Becerra-Culqui et al.

This is table 3:

Screenshot 2018-08-14 10.18.59

Table 3 states that women who were vaccinated with Tdap during pregnancy had a similar incidence rate per 100,000 person-years of having an autistic child. Vaccinated women had an incidence rate of 3.78 autistic children per 100,000 person-years while un-vaccinated women had an incidence rate of 4.05. The ratio between the two was 0.98, meaning that vaccinated women had a lower incidence rate than vaccinated. Anything over 1.0 would indicate that vaccination leads to more autistic children being born.

Because this is one study with a limited number of people, and not a study looking at the entire universe of children born, scientists also report the 95% confidence interval (0.98 – 1.09). The 95% confidence interval is a way of us saying, “We are 95% confident that the true hazard ratio in the entire population (the whole of the population) is between 0.88 and 1.09.” Because it includes 1.0, we cannot say that this observation is not by random chance.

But look at how the kid displays the table on his blog:

Screenshot 2018-08-14 10.18.22

Only point out the things that seem to support your argument.

He points out that the adjusted hazard ratio of 0.85 (with a 95% confidence interval of 0.77 to 0.95) is adjusted for, among other things, influenza vaccination during pregnancy. In epidemiology and biostatistics, “adjusted for” means taking it into consideration. Let me give you an example:

Suppose that there are a group of people from Texas and a group of people from Alabama, and that we look at their test scores in biology. The group from Texas had an average test score of 77% while the people from Alabama had an average test score of 89%. You would conclude that being from Alabama leads you to having a better test score, right?

But what if we told you that they don’t teach biology in all schools in Texas? What if we told you that they only teach it in private schools in Texas, and that only 30% of schools in Texas are private schools? And then we told you that they teach biology in both types of schools in Alabama, and that there is a 50-50 split in the proportion of private to public schools in Alabama? How does this change your conclusion?

To reach the proper conclusion, you have to compare apples to apples, and oranges to oranges. You would compare the private school scores in each state to each other, and likewise with the public school scores. This is an adjustment. This is taking into account the differences in the distributions of a characteristic between the two groups being studied.

As it turns out, in the study in question, women who get their Tdap were much more likely to get their influenza vaccine. It makes sense, right? Women who vaccinate in general are more likely to vaccinate in particular. So, in order to compare apples to apples, the researchers adjusted for influenza vaccination. That is, they compared flu-vaccinated women who got the Tdap and flu-vaccinated women who did not get the Tdap, AND non-flu-vaccinated women who got the Tdap and non-flu-vaccinated women who did not get the Tdap.

Taking flu vaccination into account, and the bias that would creep in because women who vaccinate against influenza seem to be more likely to vaccinated with the Tdap vaccine, vaccinating with Tdap is not associated with having a child diagnosed with autism.

So why does the kid think this proves that influenza vaccine causes autism?

It beats me. All they did was make the adjustment to make things equal between the two groups, something every epidemiologist worth their salt should do… Unless you want to misinform the public?

Hmmmm?

He then takes a table from a different, unrelated study and points out to just one result on it as evidence that influenza vaccine causes autism:

Screenshot 2018-08-14 10.35.03

The red circle seems to be his way of saying, “Only this matters! Pay no attention to the whole of the evidence!”

This is another misrepresentation of the findings, and I kind of blame the authors of the study for making the table so busy. Look at the “Variable” column on the left. All that the data circled in red are saying is this:

“Of the 13,477 children whose mothers were vaccinated in the first trimester, 258 (1.91%) of them were diagnosed with autism. Their hazard was 26% higher for an autism diagnosis when compared to children whose moms were vaccinated in other trimesters. However, when adjusting for maternal allergy, asthma, autoimmune conditions, gestational diabetes, hypertension, age, education, race/ethnicity, child conception year, conception season, sex, and gestational age, the hazard of autism diagnosis went down to 20% over children whose moms were vaccinated in other trimesters.”

The fact that the hazard ratio went down after adjusting tells us that there is something else explaining the elevated hazard (risk). Look at what happened in the adjustment in the other trimester groups… Nothing changed. Look at what happened in the adjustment in the “Anytime During Pregnancy” group… Nothing changed. So what could that “something else” be? I’m not an obstetrician, but it’s reasonable to conclude that outcomes measured in the first trimester are different than outcomes measured in the other trimesters.

Finally, look at the reasoning that the kid used. In the first table, because numbers were adjusted for influenza vaccination, then it must mean that influenza vaccination causes autism. In the second, he doesn’t say that all the factors adjusted for cause autism… Because that would tear down his narrative.

I’m not surprised at all by his misunderstanding of all this. After all, to my knowledge, he doesn’t work as an epidemiologist anywhere. Like any good muscle, lack of practice of your epidemiology skills leads you to lose them. Being unpublished, not working as an epidemiologist, and a staunch defender of the so-called autism-vaccine risk leads the reasoning muscle to atrophy.