The year ahead…

We keep being asked when the pandemic will end. It will never end, scientifically speaking. The novel coronavirus causing the COVID-19 pandemic will not be so novel anymore, and it will join the other four (or so) human coronaviruses circulating in the human population. It will cause nuisance infections for most of us. For a few of us going forward, it will cause what feels at worst like a flu and at best what feels like a bad cold. It will not kill us, especially if we’re otherwise healthy and have some sort of immunity. Sadly, people the world over will continue to die from it, especially in those places in the world where only the filthy rich (by comparative standards) or the people in power are able to have healthcare of any kind.

An old boss of mine told me that the best lesson he could give his kids — and he was now giving to me — was that life was not fair. He said I would need to know this to be a functional adult in society. I was 35 years old at the time.

Why is it that “wisdom” like that is acceptable? Why is it that we’re okay with the world not being fair? “Oh, sorry, but life is unfair and that’s why you get to die from a vaccine-preventable disease, kiddo.” Or, “Life is not fair, so your tooth abscess that could be treated with simple antibiotics will kill you.”

No. It’s more like, “Your parents were idiots and thought they knew more about infectious disease prevention than your pediatrician, kiddo.” And, “The rich white guys at the state capitol decided not to expand Medicaid to cover your abscessed tooth because their kids have health insurance and you’re Black.” That’s where the real unfairness in life is, in people being absolute jerks. They got theirs, and nothing else needs to be done about anything. You’re freezing because the power grid failed? Sorry, they have a thing in Cancun that needs to be taken care of. They want pandemic restrictions lifted? Yeah, go ahead and lift them, but keep the one that keeps the Brown people out of the country… That public health intervention is the one we need.

So, yeah, politicians will continue to be jerks into 2023, and we’ll have to smile and nod at them when we go meet them to talk about our work lest we piss them off and our bosses feel “embarrassed.” I swear, half of the work we do is because of ill-informed decisions of policymakers who think they know more than they really do. The other half is because people don’t know what to do with everything that is bombarding them daily. And the bombardment is constant.

Just the other night, an NFL player dropped dead in the middle of a game and was revived on the field by first responders and team doctor. Without missing a beat, the trolls and automated bots immediately descended on social media and started saying/writing that the player “died suddenly.” Instead of going with the most probable thing (being hit hard in the chest at a high velocity and with a lot of mass), they go with the most conspiratorial… Because that’s how their minds work. That’s what they do. And the ones who know better do it just to sow discord and get us all riled up. (Nothing would benefit certain foreign powers than a United States where vaccine-preventable diseases made a comeback. How’s that for a conspiracy theory?)

The year ahead is going to be nuts. It’s going to be better than the last three years of the pandemic. I mean, it has to be. But it’s also going to be a year with its own challenges. Florida has an anti vaxxer at the helm of their public health agency. Their governor is getting ready to run for President, and there is nothing he won’t do or say to win. Extremist governments on the Right and the Left are coming to power in different countries and localities. Ebola is still bubbling in Africa. Climate change is bringing tropical diseases to the geographic north.

What a time to be alive.

Won’t you join us?

Studies show filmmakers are not experts in vaccines

Another day, another anti-vaccine “press release” from people who think they know better. This one would be extremely hilarious if it wasn’t deadly serious to put people at risk of contracting vaccine-preventable diseases. If you think that Michael Moore should run the Treasury Department, that Quentin Tarantino should be our Attorney General, or that Steven Spielberg should run NASA, then you’re going to love this press release from the makers of “The Greater Good,” an anti-vaccine “documentary” from anti-vaccine zealot Leslie Manookian.

The “press release” begins with a lie:

“Health officials are blaming unvaccinated children for the recent measles outbreak that started at Disneyland. However, with no blood tests proving the outbreak is from wild measles, the most likely source of the outbreak is a recently vaccinated individual, according to published science.”

Wrong! Big shout out to Todd W. for bringing to our attention this statement from CDC:

“Measles genotype information was available from 9 measles cases; all were genotype B3 and all sequences linked to this outbreak are identical. The sequences are also identical to the genotype B3 virus that caused a large outbreak in the Philippines in 2014. During the last 6 months, identical genotype B3 viruses were also detected in at least 14 countries and at least 6 U.S. states, not including those linked to the current outbreak.”

So, no, Leslie Manookian, the virus that is infecting people and making them sick and started off in Disneyland is not the vaccine strain. It’s very much the wild virus that infects and makes people sick in “Third World” countries. (Congratulations, America, you’re now in company with the Third World when it comes to vaccine preventable diseases.)

The press release continues:

“Scientific evidence demonstrates that individuals vaccinated with live virus vaccines such as MMR (measles, mumps and rubella), rotavirus, chicken pox, shingles and influenza can shed the virus for many weeks or months afterwards and infect the vaccinated and unvaccinated alike.1,2 3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10.”

Those numbers are citations, because press releases should read like scientific papers in order to confuse Google University attendees into thinking that they’re reading something that is well-researched. The citations are cherry-picked studies and abstracts of studies that Leslie Manookian probably thinks support her theory. For example, this study (reference #2) looked at the urine of 12 children after they got the MMR vaccine. Ten of those 12 children had measles RNA (the genetic material) in their urine. To Leslie Manookian, this probably means that ten children having RNA and not the whole measles virus in their urine means that these kids are shedding measles at a phenomenal rate and making everyone sick.

Reference #4 is a paper on sibling transmission of Rotavirus vaccine strain virus. This one I actually know a lot about because I did some epidemiological data analysis when they first started noticing what was happening. To Leslie Manookian, this probably looks like a whole bunch of kids were getting diarrhea and dehydration from the vaccine strain after their siblings were vaccinated. To the professional epidemiologist and anyone with an ounce of scientific reasoning, this means that you don’t need to vaccinate all children for Rotavirus if you’re low on resources. Vaccinating one per household seems to spread the vaccine virus to others, giving them much slighter versions of the full-blown disease and in fact immunizing them against any further infection from the actual virus. It’s an effect that we have seen with polio as well, and something that we’ve built into immunization plans in order to maximize effectiveness when the program country doesn’t have the resources to get everyone vaccinated. As a bonus, the rate of complications from the vaccine strain are much, much lower than the rates of complications from the wild strain.

Let’s keep reading the press release:

“Furthermore, vaccine recipients can carry diseases in the back of their throat and infect others while displaying no symptoms of a disease.11,12,13

“Numerous scientific studies indicate that children who receive a live virus vaccination can shed the disease and infect others for weeks or even months afterwards. Thus, parents who vaccinate their children can indeed put others at risk,” explains Leslie Manookian, documentary filmmaker and activist. Manookian’s award winning documentary, The Greater Good, aims to open a dialog about vaccine safety.”

Those three references (#11, #12, #13) all do not say what they think they say. Number 11 is about how influenza is passed from one animal to another. Number 12 takes you to the same link as number 11, so a big fail there. And number 13 is a New York Times article that actually emphasizes the need for parents to be immunized against pertussis so that they don’t get it and pass it on to their too-young-to-be-vaccinated children. Do anti-vaccine loons ever read their own citations, or just the titles?

And, yes, you read that right. The authority on this matter is Leslie Manookian because she made an anti-vaccine film. Why else? And what awards did it win? According to Wikipedia, it won an award from the Amsterdam Film Festival in 2011 for “Cinematic Vision.” Yeah, that makes the three anecdotes in the movie totally legitimate.

For the remainder of the press release, we get this:

“Both unvaccinated and vaccinated individuals are at risk from exposure to those recently vaccinated.  Vaccine failure is widespread; vaccine-induced immunity is not permanent and recent outbreaks of diseases such as whooping cough, mumps and measles have occurred in fully vaccinated populations.14,15  Flu vaccine recipients become more susceptible to future infection after repeated vaccination.16”

Again, their citations are all being used in a misleading way. Yes, both vaccinated and unvaccinated are at risk from exposure, but the vaccinated will get the disease at a rate hundreds or even thousands of times less than unvaccinated people. If you have 100 people and 90 of them are vaccinated, you can have an outbreak of 20 cases where 10 are vaccinated and 10 are not. But, when you do the math, 100% of the unvaccinated are sick while only 1/9th of the vaccinated are sick. Ten out of ten is more than one out of nine. Math, however, has never been in the anti-vaccine person’s realm of mastery.

To mislead you even more, the press release cites another expert:

“”Health officials should require a two-week quarantine of all children and adults who receive vaccinations,” says Sally Fallon Morell, president of the Weston A. Price Foundation. “This is the minimum amount of time required to prevent transmission of infectious diseases to the rest of the population, including individuals who have been previously vaccinated.””

It is the Weston A. Price Foundation that is putting out this press release, by the way. Sally Fallon Morell has degrees in English, with no apparent formal training in biology, medicine, or epidemiology. Yet that doesn’t stop her from making the ridiculously stupid suggestion that vaccinated children and adults should be quarantined. If her theory were to be true, which it is not, the quarantine should be longer than two weeks. After all, there are plenty of vaccine preventable diseases which have longer incubation times, like Hepatitis A. You should also note that they don’t make any distinction between live attenuated vaccines and killed vaccines, or vaccines that don’t even have whole viruses but only parts of them (like the acellular pertussis vaccine that we use today). The level of ignorance from Leslie Manookian and Sally Fallon Morell is phenomenal.

I’m impressed. I mean, look at this next in the press release:

“”Vaccine failure and failure to acknowledge that live virus vaccines can spread disease have resulted in an increase in outbreaks of infectious disease in both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals,” says Manookian, “CDC should instruct physicians who administer vaccinations to inform their patients about the risks posed to others by those who’ve been recently vaccinated.””

Sweet Jesus, this is ignorant. If anything, CDC should instruct physicians to give their patients a medal for wanting to be part of the herd and protect those who are too young, too old or too sick to be vaccinated.

The press release closes with the real intent and level of epidemiological misunderstanding and misinformation from the Weston A. Price Foundation:

“According to the Weston A. Price Foundation, the best protection against infectious disease is a healthy immune system, supported by adequate vitamin A and vitamin C. Well-nourished children easily recover from infectious disease and rarely suffer complications.

The number of measles deaths declined from 7575 in 1920 (10,000 per year in many years in the 1910s) to an average of 432 each year from 1958-1962.17 The vaccine was introduced in 1963. Between 2005 and 2014, there have been no deaths from measles in the U.S. and 108 deaths from the MMR vaccine.18”

These are probably the same loons that think that Ebola can be treated with IV vitamin C or something like that. And, no, well-nourished children don’t “rarely” suffer complications. The complications from things like measles are actually quite common, with ear infections, pneumonia, encephalitis, and even death being much more common in those who get measles than in those who get the MMR vaccine. How much more common? Thousands of times more common.

Finally, the idiots who drafted this press release tell us that the measles deaths were on the decline before the vaccine came online. That’s true. We learned to keep people alive with medical technology. We also developed antibiotics to treat secondary bacterial complications from measles. There was also more access to healthcare and such. What they don’t tell you is that we continued to have cases of measles right up until the end of the 1960s, once herd immunity really kicked in from the measles vaccine that was introduced in 1963. And that last reference, #18, is a paper from CDC talking about how much of a resounding success the MMR vaccine has been. And, much to your surprise, there is zero mention of the “108 deaths from the MMR vaccine” in that paper. That number has been thrown around from VAERS reports, a database of adverse events associated with vaccines to which anyone and everyone can report and which has counted as “vaccine associated” deaths involving drowning or car accidents months after the last vaccine was given.

Anti-vaccine zealots like Leslie Manookian and Sally Fallon Morell go out of their way to bring this kind of misinformation to the public through press releases. If they had one shred of credible evidence to what they say, scientists would listen. But we look at their interpretations of the articles they cite and laugh. No, seriously, we laughed. Someone suggested sending them a copy of a Godzilla movie to scare them into anti-nuclear activism so they can help stop the giant lizards that roam the ocean floors near Tokyo. Because that is the level of ignorance of science and biology that we’re dealing with here. Anyone who takes this press release as genuine medical advice or some kind of scientific breakthrough is a fool.

What’s with the fear of the flu vaccine?

We’re right smack in the middle of flu season. The number of reported cases, hospitalizations, and deaths from influenza this season seems to be at its peak, meaning that we have about 6-8 more weeks of heavy influenza activity before it all ends. Those are just the reported cases. Not all cases get reported, and deaths associated with influenza in adults are not as closely observed as deaths associated with influenza in children. Many get classified as deaths from natural causes because a flu test is not done, though, many times, the person may have been complaining of flu-like illness.

The best thing we have against influenza is the flu vaccine. It’s not as good as it could be, but it’s the best thing we have. Short of the vaccine, we can also focus on washing our hands constantly, and staying away from sick people (or, if we’re sick, keeping away from people). But all those other things require us to make a conscious effort day in and day out during the yearly epidemic. If you sit and watch people, we’re quite nasty. We scratch our face, wipe our nose or mouth, and we touch things with unwashed hands all the time.

Even before the 2009 influenza pandemic, there were plenty of people who were afraid of the influenza vaccine. They saw a list of side-effects reported during the clinical trials of the vaccine and thought that all of those side-effects occurred at rates higher than stated. They were also convinced by anti-vaccine and anti-science activists that the vaccine was nothing but pure poison. They were told that the vaccine kills when, in fact, the vaccine saves lives.

Then the 2009 influenza pandemic happened and the anti-vaccine crowd had a collective orgasm (allegedly) when it was announced that the vaccine for that strain was going to be “experimental” or approved by FDA under an “experimental” protocol. They went nuts saying that we were being “experimented” on or that we were taking a risk by taking a vaccine that was not “fully tested” before it was given. Those and other statements just made it clearer that they didn’t know what they were talking about, even if they should know better.

A friend of mine gave me the example of pies as vaccine. We know what goes in an apple pie. We know what goes in a cherry pie. The difference in the two is the filling. Likewise, the difference in a flu vaccine is the strains it contains. For the 2009 vaccine, all they did was change the strain. Everything else about the vaccines was the same. It’s not like they went and created a new way of delivering the vaccine or a new way of growing the virus strains. That came later, and those vaccines underwent extensive testing, more than the testing that goes into a vaccine when strains are changed.

The anti-vaccine cultists will say that the flu vaccine has thimerosal. When you tell them that there is a thimerosal-free version, they’ll say that the vaccine has aluminum. (SEE COMMENT BELOW ON ALUMINUM.) When you tell them that aluminum covers the whole world, they say it has formaldehyde. Then you tell them that a pear has more formaldehyde than a vaccine, they’ll come up with some sort of bullshit like “it’s not natural formaldehyde like the formaldehyde in a pear.” Right. Because the body can tell the difference of where the formaldehyde came from.

I really wish that anti-vaccine cult members just stopped lying. That’s all. Stop lying and don’t get vaccinated if you don’t want to. But to lie and misinform so openly and so happily, associating vaccines with just about anything that happens to anyone at any time? That right there will earn you a special place in whatever hell you believe in. And, if you don’t believe in hell, we’ll still laugh at you in decades to come as yet another deluded person who thinks they know more than they do. (I’m looking at you, Sherry Tenpenny.)

What worries me the most is that there are a number of groups of nurses who are trying to stop mandates for them to get the influenza vaccine at their place of employment. On its face, it seems ridiculous that they wouldn’t want to do what they need to do to protect their patients. But, like so many other people around the world, they’ve been convinced of monsters under their beds by anti-vaccine activists. Either that’s the case, or their nursing schools really, really suck.

Either way, fears of the influenza vaccine are founded in lies and misinformation from anti-vaccine groups. Many of those fears are founded on fantasies about toxins and inexistent injuries. While some people do react badly to the vaccine, their numbers and proportions are astronomical tiny compared to the toll that influenza exacts on humanity year after year. Chances are that these people would have had a similar, if not worse, reaction to getting the actual disease.

But I’m preaching to the choir, aren’t I?

All the fail you can fit into an infographic

Friends on social media pointed me to this infographic the other day. It states that it wants to “set the record straight” on vaccines and autism, and it uses all of the tricks that we know anti-vaccine cult members use to try and deceive those who are uninitiated. So let’s take it one panel at a time and dissect this thing for all the fail that it is.


The answer from the paper was not “yes.” The answer from the paper, as I’ve told you before, is that there was no association between the MMR vaccine and the syndrome (chronic enterocolitis). It was Andrew Jeremy Wakefield who stated that it was his gut feeling that this association existed, and that chronic enterocolitis led to autism. Now, that whole thing about Walker-Smith being absolved and so should Wakefield, well, it’s not that simple. When two people commit a crime in tandem, finding that one was duped by the other into committing the crime doesn’t absolve the duper, only the dupee. And, of course, Wakefield was never “charged” with research fraud because it’s not a chargeable offense. His peers and independent investigators found that his research was a fraud, which is different than charging him.

Now, notice how the authors of this infographic try to explain to us what the study was all about. They call pathology reports “statistical data.” What the hell is that? They’re trying to say that the data was somehow valid, but it wasn’t. It was taken from children who underwent invasive procedures to get pathology samples. There is also the issue of a control group. Of course it was needed. A control group is always needed to ascertain associations and causation. If I take nine people off the street and note that they all wear size 9 shoes, can I say that all people on the planet wear size 9 shoes? No, I’d go to another city and take a bigger sample of people from there and measure their shoe size. But that would have been too much work for Andrew Jeremy, I guess.

Let’s go on to the next panel, because this one did a piss-poor job of defending the Wakefield fraud.


A “rush”, huh? There was no such rush. If anything, Andrew Jeremy Wakefield’s study was rushed. Other studies looking at vaccines and autism — the serious and credible ones — take months to design and months to conduct. They’ve looked at rates of autism in vaccinated and unvaccinated. It’s the same rate. They’ve looked at rates of vaccination in autistics and neurotypical kids. It’s the same rate. They’ve looked at how many vaccines and at what age autistics get their vaccines. It’s the same number and at the same age as neurotypical kids. Everything has been explored, but, because the cult of anti-vaccine activists need a demon to fear, they keep clamoring for more and more “research.” When the findings of said research doesn’t pan out, it’s not because there is no association between autism and vaccines. It’s because, in their mind, there is a big, huge conspiracy directed by a guy with horns and hoofed feet.

Also, as was explained in the now deleted comments of the infographic, epidemiological studies can be both about associations and about causation. (Correlation is not something you get from a study. You get that from simply plotting data on graph paper.) If Andrew Jeremy Wakefield’s study was so ground-breaking, why did his published paper not talk about causality? They never made sure to say that the kids were free of enterocolitis before they had autism. They just said, “Hey, these autistic kids have enterocolitis.” Period.


You have to give it to the anti-vaccine fanatics. They really do think that CDC is the end-all, be-all of things epidemiological. It’s not. It’s a big institution, yes, but not all research is conducted there. In fact, most research on vaccines and vaccine safety is done by universities and the manufacturers themselves. But these people think that a group of sadists sit around and find ways to create a product that will harm the most people for the lowest price. Those cases mentioned in this panel are laughable examples of “rampant fraud.” First, the CDC whistleblower clearly doesn’t seem to understand biostatistics. Tom Verstraeten? He himself explained why the data were analyzed the way they were. Hint: It was to get at the truth and not be confused by confounders. The Merck lawsuit? Let the Skeptical Raptor explain it better than I ever could:

“The heart of this is that there is no evidence that vaccine effectiveness is, in fact, lower than described. In fact, there’s evidence against that.

  • The number of mumps cases is still very low. Before the vaccine, the United States had over 150,000 cases a year. The outbreaks reported now are in the single thousands – the 2006 outbreak had 6500 cases total, and the 2009-2010 about 3500. With respect to the 2014 mumps outbreak, the CDC stated that “from January 1 to August 15, 2014, 965 people in the United States have been reported to have mumps.”

  • There is more than a little evidence suggesting that the problem – if any – with the mumps vaccine is waning immunity, rather than ineffectiveness when given. This evidence includes most of the outbreaks in question occurred on college campuses, i.e. long after immunization and not among school children, which supports waning immunity, rather than initial low effectiveness, as the problem.

  • Other evidence supports the claim of waning immunity as the likely culprit rather than lack of effectiveness.

  • Also, the major textbook, Vaccines, states that “such estimates may also be indicative of waning of immunity, which is not a factor in controlled clinical trials with a relatively short follow-up period.” (See Page 435.)”

Somehow, because the vaccine is less effective in the real world than in the lab, it must all be a conspiracy.

Paul Thorsen? So he stole money and was an author on a paper. So what? There have been plenty of papers written that confirm those paper’s findings. Bringing his actions up is just a way to trick people away from things that bother anti-vaccine activists.

fail_4One of the things that make me laugh about the anti-vaccine crowd is that they think that they’re “free thinkers” just because they go against facts. Going against facts doesn’t make you a “free thinker” or even smarter than anyone else. It just makes you that weird uncle who believes in UFOs, especially when there is plenty of evidence against your claims. What is even more laughable is that whoever created this infographic wants to come off as intelligent when it comes to science and math by writing “…and these U.S. parents statistically have collegial educations”. Statistically what? Significant? Are you trying to write “statistically significant” as in “there is a statistically significant proportion of non-vaccinating parents who are college educated”? So what? Being college educated doesn’t save you from being gullible to anti-vaccine fabricated pseudofacts.

Also, 1.8% may opt out completely from vaccination, but there are plenty of pockets were more than enough opt out of vaccination to bring us below the “not presumed but factual” herd immunity threshold. (Anti-vaccine people with fears of persecution like to deny that herd immunity exists much like Tea Party Conservatives like to deny that CO2 causes global warming.) And those “1000s of credible studies”? Well, search PubMed and you get a few hundred:

Totally not thousands

Totally not thousands

But that’s what anti-vaccine, irrational people do. They inflate the numbers… Or, as you will see, they deflate them as well.

fail_5 fail_6

Notice how in both instances the “fully vaccinated” in outbreaks were in the minority. If you look up a couple of panels, the same people claim that anti-vaccine people are in the minority. Which is it? Proportionally, more anti-vaccine people — or unvaccinated people for whatever reason — will be part of an outbreak. They will represent more than their share of cases. Why? Because they’re not protected.

And that measles graph that supposedly shows that measles was gone before the vaccine? It only shows that deaths from measles were in decline. We got good at keeping people alive over the years. A better, more honest graph is this one:


Cases of measles dropped precipitously when the vaccine was given. When a second dose was recommended in the 70s, the cases dropped to almost nil in the United States. But you won’t see that graph (published all over credible science websites) from anti-vaccine paranoids because it blows their argument out of the water. I mean, what, is it a happy coincidence that the vaccine went to market and cases dropped to nothing? Furthermore, we once thought that measles was done here in the US, but those pockets of unvaccinated people are bringing it back in a roaring fashion.

Pertussis is also one of those things that lack of complete vaccine coverage has brought back. And, no, there are no findings that state that “the unvaccinated are not to blame” or that “pertussis vaccines do not control whooping cough”. This is all cherry-picking findings in studies. Just because there are some outbreaks with vaccinated people in them doesn’t mean that the vaccine is worthless. That’s the Nirvana Fallacy that a lot of these anti-vaccine types live in. They want all vaccinated to be disease-free (any disease) or the vaccines are not to be trusted.

The truth is simple. If you are fully vaccinated, you are less likely to get vaccine-preventable diseases, and, if you do get them, you are less likely to be part of an outbreak. Those two panels up there actually said that, in so many words. Note how in both panels the “fully vaccinated” are in the minority when it comes to cases and cases in outbreaks.


Again, almost immediately, the creator of this infographic fails. Chemicals are only toxic at certain concentrations. At the concentrations found in vaccines, they are not toxic. Hell, some of them are downright inert. But these people want you to believe that you are bring injected with Satan’s own semen, it seems. “Live viral agents!” Jesus Christ! The LIVE VIRUS VACCINE is going to have “LIVE VIRAL AGENTS” because that’s how the vaccine works. And those “live viruses” are attenuated to the point that they cannot cause disease.

Then, the recommendation for the flu vaccine is for people 6 months and older, including pregnant women. It’s not just “6 months old & those who are pregnant.” It’s everyone. Thimerosal at the concentrations found in vaccines is safe. And that claim that the injection is not the same as daily contact is a truism. Daily contact with one of these things can kill, whereas vaccines won’t. Shedding? It only happens with certain attenuated virus vaccines, not with killed virus vaccines like injectable influenza, the tetanus-diphtheria-pertussis vaccine, and others. And, again, the live viruses have been attenuated to not cause disease. (Also, the MMR vaccine so feared by Andrew Jeremy Wakefield, though he was working on his own measles vaccine, never had thimerosal in it.) This panel is nothing but lies and fearmongering, plain and simple.


Is there something that vaccines don’t cause? Nope, apparently not. Never mind that there is no evidence of most of these things (or that they think that “sequela” is a bad thing). Likely, these people took the package inserts, which must post everything that participants experienced after getting the vaccine in the clinical trials, and ran with it. I also can’t help but notice a couple of things that have not been proven but are talking points by people who sell “natural” supplements to treat these things.

So made this infographic?


Ah, yes, Ms. Heather White. She shows up once in a while in anti-vaccine gatherings and blogs to talk about her knowledge of science, which always ends up giving me a chuckle. Ms. White more than likely has no formal training in science, which explains all her misconceptions about vaccines and autism (and thinking that “sequela” is a disease)… And her misunderstanding of numbers.

Ms. White, there are not “thousands” of studies linking autism to vaccines, especially not in a causal way. There are maybe a handful of those, and most are by cranks who’ve chemically castrated autistics and spread far and wide by people who see autism as an excuse to kill a child. And there are not “hundreds of thousands” of children with vaccine injuries. There just aren’t. Just like there are no monsters under your bed.


It’s Friday, so let’s take it easy and laugh

Summer is here, and I can’t wait to get out of the office and out into the weekend. So let’s take it easy today and have some laughs. Nothing is more comical to me than the kid’s video in which he spouts off all sorts of conspiracy theories on autism being caused by mercury. (Interestingly, this theory would debunk Wakefield’s MMR conspiracy because the MMR never had thimerosal in it, but reality has never been their strong suit.)

So sit back, relax, grab some popcorn, and be ready for some mind-numbing rants.


See you next week, unless something happens over the weekend. Pedro and I are off to the vineyards.

“Fire Science” graduate tries science, hilarity ensues

Maybe I’ve written about him, maybe I haven’t. But “Sid Offit” (as he likes to be called on the blogs he trolls) is quite the interesting fellow. He tries to come off as an expert on vaccine science, though, by his own admission, all the science he ever got was in the way of a degree in “Fire Science”. He even managed to get interviewed by BBC about vaccines:

“Campaigner Robert Schecter, who runs the Facebook group Proud Parents of Unvaccinated Children, claims the pharmaceutical industry is a key driving force behind the growth in childhood immunisation in the US.

“By no means is it a conspiracy, but there are vested interests working together,” he says.

A self-styled libertarian, who ensured his own daughter did not receive any vaccinations, he dismisses public health officials as “paternalistic do-gooders” who “get satisfaction out of what they believe to be helping people” when in fact they are doing no such thing.”

By no means a conspiracy? That’s funny. “Sid Offit” runs a blog called “The Vaccine Machine”, and conspiracy is pretty much the order of the day, but only if you manage to decipher Sid’s writings. (He misspells “McCarthy”, as in Jenny McCarthy, rambles on without making a point, has very poor grammar and punctuation, and seems to have a weird obsession with Amanda Peet.)

Perhaps the most troubling thing about Sid is the medical advice given out on his Facebook page. Mind you, he makes it very clear that he is not the one giving medical advice. Oh, no, he does not. He only posts questions from people about different medical topics and lets his followers give the medical advice. He’s just a communicator, an intermediary, if you will, between the non-physicians giving medical advice and the fools who consult them.

Exhibit A:

Exhibit Number One

Click to enlarge

I really mean it when I state that people are fools going to a Facebook page and asking what to do with regards to vaccination while there is a whooping cough outbreak going on around them.

Exhibit B:

Exhibit B

If you read the comments after this “innocent” question about polio, you get nothing but an echo chamber about how polio is not a big deal anymore. No one mentions that it’s not a big deal anymore because of vaccines. In fact, any pro-vaccine comments are quickly deleted by Sid, the author of such posts banned, and the full information not given to the person asking the question.

Exhibit C:

Exhibit C

Yeah, I would suggest that you thank your physician if they did vaccinate her against a deadly disease. Also, quit being so paranoid.

And Exhibit D:

Exhibit D

Too bad Dr. Bob Sears and Dr. Jay Gordon are in California, huh?

I could spend the rest of the post giving you more examples of the “innocent questions” being asked and posted on “The Vaccine Machine” Facebook page. But you get the gist of it, and you can go over and read the rest of them.

In the field of ethics, there’s this thing called “respect for persons” in which people in science and healthcare are ethically mandated to fully inform the people they deal with of all the risks and benefits of their decisions. Robert Schecter, aka “Sid Offit”, aka “The Vaccine Machine”, does not allow any pro-vaccine posts on his page in response to the question being posted by parents and others seeking information about vaccines. Par for the course for anti-vaccine activists to be unethical and misinform their public.

Then again, a degree in fire science probably didn’t include ethics in it curriculum.

20 reasons you’re misleading people on vaccines

Ah, that “Daily Web Newspaper of the (nonexistent) Autism Epidemic” never fails to entertain me and give me a good laugh. This time, “Tanner’s Dad” (aka Tim Welsh) has written his list of twenty reasons why he questions vaccine safety. Like every good anti-vaccine activist, it is full of misinformation. The casual reader coming upon this list might be tricked into thinking that Tim Welsh has done his homework… That his reasoning is sound.

His reasoning is so flawed that I had to laugh. So let’s break down the list one-by-one, shall we?

20. “I read Jenny McCarthy’s Story” – Really, Tim? Her story is that compelling? Which part was it, Tim? The part where her child was an indigo child? Or her new rewriting of history whereby she claims she is not anti-vaccine and never has been? If that’s reason #20, the rest should be really fun to read. Continue reading

How many inaccuracies about the vaccine court and autism can you fit in one blog post?

The last time we talked about a blog called “Thinking Mom’s Revolution”, it was in the context of a woman by the name of Cindy Killeen Waeltermann. This time, the blog is back with a post by a person named “Beaker”. Who is “Beaker”? Here’s her bio:

“Beaker started her professional career in the lab as a bewildered chemist who often felt she was a round peg in a square hole! After the birth of her children and the unexpected medical journey that her youngest would take their family on, she found out the EXACT reason she had that chemistry degree and put it to good use as she set out to restore her children’s health. Along the way she found her true calling: sharing their family’s experience with other mothers and helping them improve the quality of life of their children, by staying true to their guiding light . . . their God-given mother’s instinct.”

If I had a dollar for every time someone forgoes the guiding light of science and reason for the guiding light of “instinct”, I’d have a lot of cash on hand. As you read the blog post (go ahead and click on it, they get no increase in ranking), remember that you are dealing with someone who wants instinct to rule her decisions, not the evidence. Continue reading

More spitting on the graves of those who have died from influenza

He’s at it again. Lawrence Solomon has unleashed yet another heaping pile of cow dung onto his Huffington Post blog space. This time, he’s telling us that we “may” be better off without the flu vaccine. Why? What kind of fabulous insight “may” this non-epidemiologist, self-deluded fool have?

I wish I had more time. He begins: Continue reading

Spitting on the graves of children lost to influenza

A friend of mine who has worked in influenza surveillance for years send to me this blog post from the Huffington Post. It’s written by Lawrence Solomon, who, by all accounts, has zero experience in infectious diseases or epidemiology. Still, that doesn’t stop him from attempting to write about influenza deaths in an authoritative way, quoting, what else,  anti-vaccine and anti-science material. In fact, I need not go farther than his first sentence to know what he’s all about in this post:

“Flu results in “about 250,000 to 500,000 yearly deaths” worldwide, Wikipedia tells us. “The typical estimate is 36,000 [deaths] a year in the United States,” reports NBC, citing the Centers for Disease Control. “Somewhere between 4,000 and 8,000 Canadians a year die of influenza and its related complications, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada,” the Globe and Mail says, adding that “Those numbers are controversial because they are estimates.””

Why are these number estimates? It’s simple. We can’t possibly count each and every single case of influenza, or influenza-related deaths, in the world. What we can do is use the tools of science and mathematics to come up with a best estimate. If you read further in Lawrence Solomon’s piece in the Huffington Post, you’d think that we epidemiologists come up with these numbers at random, or, if we do use science and math, that we adjust those numbers to some sort of agenda. To make his point, Lawrence Solomon goes to the latest go-to guy in Peter Doshi, PhD (who is not an epidemiologist of any sort but still wants to be some sort of authority on influenza and influenza vaccine science):

“Peer reviewed publications accept Dr. Doshi’s vaccine research, even if he doesn’t meet your standards. But are you saying that you would accept the views of epidemiologists who turned thumbs down on vaccines? It would be my pleasure to present some to you, if that is your test.”

Continue reading