You read what you want to read

A few weeks ago, I told you about a secret group on Facebook that has been planning to have children infected with, among other things, chickenpox and measles. They’re actively looking for cases of these diseases in order to bring their un-vaccinated children to exchange air and body fluids with infected children in the hopes that their un-vaccinated children catch the disease and get immunity that way. Let me be clear that this is nothing short of child abuse. To knowingly infect a child with an infectious disease defies the laws of logic and moral decency.

In that post, I never once mentioned that these parents were going to be reported to “Protective Services” (CPS?). Instead, I wrote this in the first post:

“I am looking into each and every one of those names there, and I will not hesitate to contact the proper health protection authorities in the places where they live.”

And I wrote a follow-up post that also talked about their insane way of looking at diseases vs. vaccines. I did not mention Child Protective Services, nor reporting to anyone, in that post.

True to form, however, one of the members of that secret group has taken to an online forum to complain that I am trying to intimidate her:

“I’m popping over here because I belong to the N/s/d group on facebook and I also belonged to the Chicken pox immunity network. CPIN was a group where you could locate case of chicken pox to expose your kids for natural immunty. The group has strict vetting guidlines. The group was originally just a closed goup on facebok and later changed to a secret group. A provax blogger screen shot the members list when the group was closed and a few days ago posted on his blog that he would be contacting Protection services for every member listed in the group. THere have ben an onslaught of attacks of vaccine choice groups on facebook. Great mothers questioning vaccine 2 group was recently hacked and all admins were deleted and screen shots were takenin the group and posted to provax sites. The original admins eventually regained control of the group but safety was compromised. A couple MMR immunity groups were also compromised during all of this. I just wanted to inform everyone that it seems like a big war is on the horizon trying to bar us from sharing information. Please be careful ladies.”

Here’s the screenshot:

Screen Shot 2014-07-13 at 11.38.32 AM

She follows up with another post mentioning this blog:

Screen Shot 2014-07-13 at 11.38.44 AM

Here’s a tip, Coral: If you link to my blog, I will be able to track your link down and see what you write. If you mention my blog, Google picks up that mention and reports it to me. If you don’t want anyone to know your anti-vaccine activism, the solution is simple: Don’t do it.

For example, don’t tell us that you’re guilty of knowingly reporting a Facebook group for no real reason other than your feelings being hurt:

Screen Shot 2014-07-13 at 11.48.47 AM

I know, I know, it’s hard for you to follow simple solutions to complex problems, judging by your unwillingness to vaccinate (a simple solution) against vaccine-preventable diseases (complex problems).

Never once did I threaten anyone to report them to CPS. I probably should because willingly wanting to infect your children is nothing short of child abuse. Instead, I compiled all the names and sent them to a colleague in California and other states. It’s up to the proper authorities to do their due diligence in trying to stop the spread of disease. So I don’t know what that means for you and your friends, Coral.

The rest of the comments are the usual anti-vaccine hodgepodge of conspiracy theories about secret groups being infiltrated and hacked by everyone from the government to Bill Gates on down. I guess everyone sees the monsters under the bed that they want to see, yet not the monsters in the mirror.

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Utilitarianism, Science, and Public Policy

One of the things that you hear over and over again from the anti-science crowd is that public policy should not “sacrifice” the life of one person for the good of the population. In the case of vaccines, many of the people who are convinced that vaccines cause autism will tell you that we should not “sacrifice” a child to autism even if it means preventing a whole lot of death and disability from vaccine-preventable diseases. Mind you, autism does not equal death for a child. But such is the mentality of the fanatic.

I wish that I could live in a fantasy world where there were no sacrifices for the good of the population, where no one in the absolute would have a reaction to a vaccine (no matter how mild). Unfortunately, such a world does not exist. However, there is this thing called science, and it prescribes the tools we can use to minimize the amount of suffering in humanity. With it, we’ve been able to cure diseases that used to kill people by the thousands (maybe millions) in centuries past. Sadly, there are those who have not benefited from the science and may have even been hurt by it. But such is life. Continue reading

Reading For Comprehension

Humor me and read the following abstract of a study:

Background The GARDASIL long-term follow-up (LTFU) study is an ongoing extension of a pivotal randomised, placebo-controlled, double-blind, 4-year study to investigate the safety, immunogenicity, and effectiveness of quadrivalent Human Papillomavirus vaccine (qHPV) on the incidence of HPV 16/18-related cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN) 2 or worse in 16–23-year-old women (Protocol 015).

Methods Follow-up of subjects will be accomplished in two ways: (1) registry-based follow-up for effectiveness data as well as safety data including but not limited to deaths, cancer, and hospitalisations; (2) active follow-up for blood collection for immunogenicity assessments at years 5 and 10 of the LTFU study. Effectiveness and safety analyses will occur approximately 2 years following completion of Protocol 015 and approximately every 2 years thereafter for 10 years. The current report represents the first of these efficacy and safety analyses. Cohort 1 included approximately 2700 subjects who received qHPV vaccine at the start of Protocol 015. Cohort 2 consists of approximately 2100 subjects who received placebo at the start of Protocol 015 and qHPV vaccine prior to entry into the LTFU. Vaccine effectiveness against HPV 16/18-related CIN 2 or worse was estimated by calculating the expected incidence of CIN 2/3 or worse in an unvaccinated (placebo) cohort using historical registry data. The primary analysis approach was per-protocol.

Results There were 1080 subjects that contributed to the follow-up period out of a total of 2195 eligible subjects in the per-protocol population in Cohort 1. In these subjects there were no cases of HPV 16/18-related CIN 2 or worse observed. There were also no cases of HPV 6/11/16/18-related CIN, vulvar cancer, and vaginal cancer observed. However, the follow-up time in person-years is insufficient to make a definitive statement about the effectiveness of the qHPV vaccine for the current time period.

Conclusions The qHPV vaccine shows a trend of continued protection in women who were vaccinated up to 7 years previously, although there is as yet insufficient data to confirm that protection is maintained. The qHPV vaccine continues to be generally safe and well tolerated up to 6 years following vaccination.”

You can go ahead and re-read it if you didn’t quite catch something. Continue reading

An email from an anti-vaccine activist to their overlords (Or how the internecine war continues)

The kid claims that someone else sent the following email to Age of Autism, the online newspaper of the non-existent autism epidemic. I think it was he himself who did it, and I’ll tell you why once you read this. It’s a little long, and it repeats a lot of the anti-vaccine nuttery, but it’s worth a read for a good laugh. I’ve highlighted in bold the best parts. (By the way, the published this email on his site. I’ll link to it upon request, but I’m not giving him any more clicks than he needs. Props to my friend for telling me about this.): Continue reading

Life sort of imitates "The Poxes"

In my ever-continuing fictional story, “The Poxes“, a horrible accident bring about the virtual end of the immunization program in most of the United States. The consequences of this are yet to be seen, but you can already see in the story some of the waves emanating from the fears of vaccines. Those waves were amplified in the story’s “Vaccination Day” events.

What if this happened in real life?

In real life, a Congressional hearing on autism was held a couple of weeks ago. Not surprisingly, anti-vaccine organizations and people tried to monopolize the discussion to be all about vaccines causing autism, despite all sorts of evidence to the contrary. The hearing didn’t end with any specific “next steps” to be taken or any kind of legislation to be considered.

Apparently, that didn’t make the anti-vaccine people happy. So they have taken it upon themselves to demand ten things from Congress. (I should warn you, plenty of irrational stuff is about to be covered.) Here are the ten demands:

“1. Pass an Act of Congress banning vaccine mandates nationwide, an Act which
would override any state mandate laws.
2. Immediate ban of all mercury and aluminum in vaccines, including in the
manufacture of vaccines.
3. Immediate recall of all mercury and aluminum-containing vaccines.
4. Immediate retraction of the CDC’s recommendation for the Hep B series for
infants, toddlers, and children.
5. Repeal the 1986 National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act.
6. Immediate investigation of the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program
7. Criminal charges need to be brought
8. All Members of Congress need to be educated
9. Use the monies in the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program’s fund
10. Bring Paul Thorsen back to the U.S. to face charges for fraud”

They go on to discuss each point. I won’t bore you with their details. You can go read them, if you can stomach it.

Instead, here are my responses to these ten points, and here is another point of view on this list.

1. The authority to require vaccinations for school and other public services belongs solely to the states and not to the Federal Government. Sure, the Feds can ask that you be vaccinated for certain jobs, e.g. military and research, but the Feds cannot force you, compel you, or require of you a vaccination in order to receive a public service administered by the Federal Government. The anti-vaccine person that wrote these demands states: “Vaccine mandates are unconstitutional, violating both the First Amendment and parental rights, they violate international codes of ethics, and they violate fundamental human rights.”

I can tell you with near certainty that this person is not a lawyer, and certainly not a constitutional lawyer. If they were, they would have seen that the US Supreme Court has upheld vaccine requirements (even in light of religious claims) time and again, and again, and again. And, no, parents don’t have the right to refuse vaccines based on religious grounds, either.

2. Never mind that some vaccines never had thimerosal (a mercury-containing preservative) and others don’t have it anymore. Never mind that thimerosal has been ruled out as a cause for autism. And never mind that aluminum has also been found to not be implicated in autism. Never mind all those things. No, look at the amount and concentrations of those metals in the vaccines we receive, and then look at the amounts and concentrations of those metals in the environment and even inside you. The dose makes the poison, my friends. And you will come into contact and absorb far more mercury (organic and inorganic) and aluminum from day zero than you will from vaccines. We all will.

Are these anti-vaccine activists also going to ask that we walk around in bubbles?

3. See number two.

4. Here we go again with the Hepatitis B vaccine for children. If you want to read the rational, evidence-based reasons for recommending that newborns get the Hepatitis B vaccine, go read these recommendations. The vaccine series is safe, effective, and, given to enough people, will eventually wipe out Hepatitis B. That’s right! If we vaccinate enough people, we won’t have to vaccinate anymore.

The fear of the vaccine being given to newborns comes from cases of babies dying as infants. Even when other causes are determined to be at fault for these deaths, anti-vaccine people will point to the vaccines. That’s just what they do. And they’ll go to great lengths to convince us that it was the Hepatitis B vaccine and nothing else.

5. The National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act was actually the brainchild of this lady and her like-minded friends, all known anti-vaccine activists. They claimed that children were being irreparably harmed by vaccines and that vaccine manufacturers needed to pay for these harms. On the other hand, manufacturers claimed that they would have to close their operations if awards to individuals who claimed to have been vaccine-injured were too high and too common. To settle all this, anti-vaccine advocates, pro-vaccine advocates, and legislators settled on the Act. The Act created a court system that was low-cost for the litigants and awarded damages based on an actuarial table, not so much the evidence of the claims. In fact, unlike civil courts, these plaintiffs in these courts only needed 50% plus a feather of evidence of vaccine damage.

Is it a good system? A bad one? Personally, I think we could have a slightly better system, given the data on the decisions rendered so far:

“Since the first Vaccine Injury Compensation claims were made in 1989, 3,101 compensation payments have been made, $2,379,597,663.81 disbursed to petitioners and $93,863,172.49 paid to cover attorney’s fees and other legal costs.
To date, 9,705 claims have been dismissed. Of those, 3,917 claimants were paid $52,339,370.47 to cover attorney’s fees and other legal costs.”

It looks to me like the ones coming out on the winning end of this are the attorneys.

The most likely reason why anti-vaccine types don’t like what their predecessors created is that so many claims have been dismissed because the evidence wasn’t there. It has been my experience that anti-vaccine types don’t like evidence. So they would rather rake vaccine manufacturers through the coals in civil courts, costing much, much more money to both plaintiffs and defendants, bringing the whole thing down.

6. See number five.

7. They expand on number seven thus:

“Criminal charges need to be brought against those who knew that vaccines were causing autism and other childhood disorders and diseases, but who then chose to manipulate data, cover up evidence, lie about it, refuse to investigate it, continue to approve and recommend vaccines, etc. Rationale: Evidence exists that data manipulation, lying, and cover-ups have occurred. Crimes against humanity have been committed. They can not go unpunished. Justice must be served in its most severe form against those who perpetrated these crimes and against those who perpetuated the autism epidemic, not to mention other vaccine injuries.”

Remember what I wrote about evidence up in number five? Well, I looked and looked and looked, and I couldn’t find the author of the list citing any evidence that “exists that data manipulation, lying, and cover-ups have occurred” to deliberately cause autism. If anything, there is plenty of evidence that data manipulation, lying, and cover-ups occurred to blame the MMR vaccine for autism. CITATION HERE.
So, yes, let’s bring some criminal charges.
8. Number eight seems legit, right? Member of Congress should be educated. God, I hope so. But that’s not what the anti-vaccine author of this list means. Here’s what they mean:

“All Members of Congress need to be educated about our nation’s unproven and dangerous vaccine program, not just a small handful of them. Members of Congress also need to bear witness to what vaccine injury looks like to gain a better understanding and appreciation of the holocaust that has been carried out against our nation’s children in the name of “the greater good.””

Again with the Nazi comparisons. Last I heard, the Holocaust was the systematic murder of about 12 million people in an attempt to do away with Jews, Homosexuals, people with disabilities, and other “undesirables”. If vaccines are bringing a “holocaust”, then they’re doing a horrible job at it. More and more people are not getting serious childhood illnesses that would have killed them. Vaccines are preventing people from becoming the “undesirables” that would have been killed in Nazi Germany because vaccines are preventing encephalitis, meningitis, limb amputations, and even intellectual disabilities or birth defects in newborns.
It’s right about here that I began to think that I was living in an alternate reality to the list’s author.
9. See numbers five and six above. They want it both ways.
10. Ah, Paul Thorsen. (I’m breaking the rule about names because this one bears repeating.) He’s Person C in my last post. Basically, he was a co-researcher in some studies that looked into thimerosal and autism, studies that have been replicated and have passed the test of peer review, studies in which he was not the primary researcher or even in charge of analyzing the data. As it turns out, he is accused of embezzling money for those research projects. He is now sitting at home waiting to be deported to the US.
Against what you have been told in the movies, the extradition process is a lengthy one, especially from Europe to the United States. Legal things need to happen. We can’t just go over there and drag him here. Can we? Anyway, anti-vaccine advocates will use him as an example of why that research, which has been tested, reviewed, and replicated, should be thrown out. Yet, somehow, they won’t say the same of that fraudulent MMR “study”.
No, we don’t live in the same reality.
But what if these anti-vaccine people were to find a champion in Congress (beside the retiring Representative who seems to believe in conspiracies and in human heads being much like pumpkins). What if one of them, an anti-vaccine activist, got into a position of power whereby some or all of the demands in the ten-point list were accepted?
It would be tragic, to say the least. And us epidemiologists would be stretched thin.