One physician comes back from the dark side, sort of, while another goes over, kinda

Remember that “pediatrician to the stars” that I mentioned to you a while back? The one that has his doubts about vaccines and has even used “The Brady Bunch” as his basis for the severity of mumps? He’s (probably) coming back from the dark side. He posted this summary on his blog of a study on the safety of vaccines. Is he coming back? Is he going to stop it with the questioning of the evidence of the safety of vaccines?

We’ll see. We’ll see.

On the other hand, we have this article from this physician about mandatory influenza vaccination of healthcare workers. Unfortunately, she hits a lot of the anti-vaccine talking points in her disagreement with hospitals’ policies on having their employees vaccinated against the flu:

“But I choose to take the flu vaccine realizing that the vaccine won’t necessarily protect me against all the different strains of the flu virus, and knowing too that I could suffer severe side effects.”

Ah, the “severe” side effects of the flu. You’ve probably heard about them and how “common” they are. (They’re not that common, and they’re not that severe.) The worst side effect from a flu vaccine in terms of mortality is Guillain-Barré Syndrome. It can be very severe and life-threatening, but you can also get it from a viral infection alone. This leads us to believe that it’s not the vaccine, per se, but the immune response to viral infection.

The article continues:

“I’ve always agreed with the general recommendation that people who work in health care should be vaccinated against the flu, but that still needs to be a personal decision, not a government mandate. Each person has individual responsibility to make decisions about safety issues of all kinds — whether or not to smoke, to eat that second piece of cake, to get the tires checked on the car before the road trip. While we acknowledge that bad decisions may put others at risk to a greater or lesser degree, in America we still believe that personal decisions are just that: personal.”

This is the “freedom gambit.” On its face, it makes sense that it’s up to us whether or not to make the decision to be safe. In this case, we’re not making a decision to be safe for ourselves. This is a decision that also affects the safety of others, i.e. the patients. Equate this to washing your hands. It’s your decision, but woe be unto you if you don’t wash your hands in a healthcare setting. You’re placing in jeopardy your safety and that of your patients. I’d say to Dr. Sibert that people who work in healthcare chose to be in a profession where their “freedom” can very well kill people. If she, or others in healthcare, cannot deal with that, they’re more than welcome to exercise their freedom in other professions.

She adds:

“If I should become ill with a strain of influenza that hasn’t been covered by this year’s vaccine, since I’ve been vaccinated I don’t have to wear a mask though I could be quite contagious for at least a day before I develop overt symptoms.”

Well, now we have a quadrivalent vaccine, Dr. Seibert, so you can take that to further reduce this theoretical situation of yours from happening. I mean, the odds of it happening are pretty low already because the way we select the strains to go into the vaccine have been very good for the Type A (and more severe) strains. The type B selection was tricky, I’ll admit it, but the quadrivalent vaccine takes care of it.

Issues of vaccine effectiveness aside, this argument of hers that there maybe, possibly, probably, in some weird situation be a strain that is not covered is hogwash. If there was some big problem with the vaccine not covering a strain, we epidemiologists would make it known to her and her colleagues so that everyone exercises the proper precautions at all times.

And then this:

“No hospital (to my knowledge) is requiring patients’ visitors and families to provide evidence of flu vaccination or wear masks, though they go in and out of patient care areas at will. If we are really to be logical and scientific about flu transmission, either we all should wear masks or none of us should bother.”

Wow! Just, wow! Replace masks with “hand washing” and see where she goes off the deep end on her argument. “None of us should bother?” Excuse me, doc, with all due respect, YOU CHOSE THIS PROFESSION. You also come into contact in a more direct way with a lot more patients that a visitor. And, if you look into isolation precautions, you’ll note that visitors to patient areas where there are severely sick and immune-compromised people are required to wear masks and gowns and gloves. You should have really consulted with your facility’s infection preventionist. You really should have.


“Many of us in clinical health care have good reason to resent the obvious HIPAA violation that is taking place when health care workers are required to divulge whether or not they’ve been vaccinated against this year’s most likely influenza strains. Apparently, HIPAA only applies to some patients, not to all.”

What? Yeah, so her whole argument is that her private and protected medical information is being divulged to the public when she is required to either wear a badge that states she’s been vaccinated or wear a mask if she refuses to be vaccinated. You’ve probably seen this anti-vaccine argument before. It stems from the “sacred and impenetrable” relationship between a provider and their patient. However, there are two things at work here. Number one, she is not a patient. Whether or not she is vaccinated is not between her an a healthcare provider. It’s between her and her employer. And, number two, exclusions to HIPAA are allowed in matters of public health (as this so obviously is) and when the information needs to be divulged in order to operate the hospital in a better way. What do you think we, the public, think when we see someone with a cast over their arm? We think that they broke it. No HIPAA violation there. Why is it a HIPAA violation if we see your badge (if you got vaccinated) or your mask (if you’re not)?

If you feel like it, go read the article yourself, but, if you want to keep your sanity, stay away from the comments section. There’s even more anti-vaccine insanity there.

The government doesn’t have a monopoly on reality

One of the cries that I keep hearing from conspiracy nuts is that “The Government” did this and that, or that it’s hiding this or that. Just the other day, I was listening to a podcast by Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, an astrophysicist. He was answering questions from his audience when someone asked who is to say that the government is not hiding an asteroid on its way to destroy the planet. He answered the question very simply by saying that an asteroid would be visible to everyone on the planet. A person in their backyard would be able to see such an asteroid. A scientist in any of the many observatories around the world, including Neil, would see it coming. In essence, the government can’t keep a secret that big. Continue reading

You don’t need the government until you need the government

Whew! That’s was a crazy little hurricane. Several people dead in the Caribbean and in the United States. Lots of property damage. Schools and businesses closed. It was a mess, and it will probably continue to be a mess for a while.

I was listening to the local radio this morning, and they were interviewing a woman from Delaware who stayed in her house on the beach despite the mandatory evacuations issued by the governor and local officials. She said that she was flooded, had raw sewage in her basement, a neighbor’s house was gone, and that she was basically isolated because the only road to the peninsula where she lived was gone. She was also very angry because no one was coming to her aid. She said that she was a taxpayer, and she expected her taxes to pay for her rescue. When she was reminded that she chose to stay despite the evacuation orders, she said that the people who decided that the evacuation order was necessary were useless.

On the one hand, she needed the services of the government she helps fund. On the other, she didn’t pay attention to the expert recommendations of the government she helps fund.

If this sounds familiar, it should. This is the mindset of the conspiracy theorist, the hardcore anti-vaccine person, and all sorts of other individuals and groups. But let me stick to what I know best: the anti-vaxxer.

The anti-vaxxer will typically point to a study as evidence of their fears on vaccines. Said study will be conducted by some academic institution or government agency. However, if the study disagrees with the anti-vaccine worldview, then whatever organization conducted the study is said to be “pharma funded” or have some other “conflict of interest”. The anti-vaxxer wants it both ways.

Likewise, many anti-vaccine organizations will point to records in the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS) as evidence that vaccines cause harm. Then, in the same sentence, they will demonize the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) for hiding the “truth”. Well, it happens that VAERS is maintained by epidemiologists and staff from CDC. Again, they want to have it both ways. When asked if the CDC lies or not, the answer is “it depends”, and it’s enough to make you want to pull your hair out at the level of hypocrisy displayed.

And that’s how it goes. If something agrees with their fears, the run with it. If it disagrees, then that something is part of a big conspiracy. Just like many people who are against “big government”, they don’t want it interfering in their lives, until they need it to interfere in their lives… Until they need to be saved.

It annoys me.

The aimless

I see them every morning on my way to work, a group of kids who are not heading to school that day or any other day. If they were heading to school, they’d have books with them and be dressed for it. They certainly would not run on and off buses, or openly steal a bicycle that wasn’t tied down to something. But maybe I’m just biased.

One sector of the public has stated that these “hoodlums” are beyond repair. They are of the opinion that these children should be rounded up and thrown into jail, and that those in jail should stay there since — in their view — they are a threat to “western civilization”. I’m not joking.

Another sector of the public blames all sorts of things for the behavior of these kids. They blame Wall Street, the White House, Congress, the 1%, the police, the courts. They blame anyone and everything but these kids for their behavior. As if the moral compasses that are found in every human being are missing in these kids. They refer to them as automatons, mere criminals who can’t help to do what they do.

I take a different approach. I see these kids and see that they lack a role model, a good leader. The “alpha male” in the “pack” is a bad seed. They are not being led or influenced by people of good. The people of good have abandoned them.

Just the other day, on the bus, the leader began to harass an older man. The leader started yelling at the old man, cursing at him and mocking him for being old. The man just sat there with a silent strength. The other kids followed the leader in making fun of the old man. People on the bus nervously looked at each other. As it turns out, an off-duty cop got on the bus and scared them away, but not before they laughed one more time at the old man.

How would these same kids react if their leader decided that they were going to help the elderly instead of mock them? One can only imagine. That’s why I’ve come to call these kids “The Aimless”. They wonder around, jumping on and off public transportation, walking up and down the street, not necessarily to commit crimes or cause trouble. They just meander about without any goal for the day. there doesn’t seem to be an aim to their actions.

Imagine for a second that we collectively decide to treat the problem of crime and lack of education — because these kids are most definitely not going to school — imagine if we treated these things like we treat public health problems. Imagine if those two politicians arguing over each other right now on their quest to be POTUS decided that they were going to use their power and position in society to provide these aimless kids with a reason to live.

Yeah, imagine that. And what if we threw our resources at putting these kids in school and, for the older ones, to work and learn? Heck, I’d just ask one of the “Super PACs” to give 1% of the money they’re putting toward getting their candidates elected to a YMCA, Big Brother/Big Sister club, after school program in any of our inner cities. Just 1%.

Sadly, too many in power at all three levels of government don’t see this as a necessity. See, they don’t ride public transportation with me. They have their own drivers or high-end cars. They fly past us with their police escorts. And things don’t change “down here” while they are living well “up there”.

So, on top of everything else I have going on all over the place, I’ve decided to help the aimless. Gosh, I’m such a softy.

The More Things Change…

One of the issues that “The Poxes” will attempt to analyze (once the story starts on Oct 23) is the fact that the populace will complaint against authority in times of trouble, no matter what. Take a look at the following two pictures…

In both pictures, people are rallying and calling out the President of the United States based on what they perceive is wrong. In the case of George W. Bush, it was the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that really got people all riled up, not to mention his domestic policies. In the case of current President Obama, it’s the perception that he is too Liberal and that the US Government is out of control.

To be honest, the government was “out of control” in the Bush era. Heck, we had a whole new Department (of Homeland Security) created, not to mention the Patriot Act and the Director of National Intelligence. Just look at the budget and ensuing deficit. The Republicans have expanded the Government as much as the Democrats. But that’s not the point of this post.

The point is that there seems to be a threshold based on the economy or popular sentiment or the general state of things at which the people get all riled up about the government. If most of us are employed, have good credit, are buying houses, and are healthy, the sky’s the limit. The Government can do no wrong. On the other hand, if unemployment takes hold, the economy is bad, or there is some crisis that makes a lot of us sick or a lot of us not well-off, then the Government is our worst enemy.

And it’s not just in the United States, either.

On October 23, I will introduce to you a story out of my own mind but based very much on things that could happen. The first chapter is all about a crisis and how our protagonists and antagonists initially react to it. No, it’s not something as spectacular as September 11, 2011. However, the event in the first chapter is quite deadly and quite scary to the characters.

I really hope you like it, but I hold greater hopes that you can see that we really are one big crisis away from devolving into a pack of wild apes… Ready to take each other out for nothing.