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

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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

Ten Things I Know About Anti-Vaxxers

If there is one thing you can count on when it comes to the anti-vaccine crowd is that they will try to defend their worldview tooth and nail, against all odds, even in the light of overwhelming evidence. Not only that, but they will get oh-so-upset if you call them “anti-vaccine”. Some of them will say that it’s an epithet against their “pro-informed consent” stance. Then, when asked what vaccine they would support, they are quick to run away and hide, like roaches when the light switch is flipped on.

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Go ahead and ask the kid what vaccine he’d approve of. He’ll tell you something this ridiculous:

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In other words, the government should not promote other things like seat belts or crash standards, just ensure that cars are safe. If it doesn’t make any sense to you, you’re not alone. Nothing that kid has ever written has ever made any sense to me, ever.

Anyway, this other anti-vaccine activist decided to write the “Ten Things You Don’t Know About the So Called ‘Anti-Vaccine’ Crowd“. It is comedy gold: Continue reading

Do you like being lied to?

I don’t know about you, but I don’t like being lied to. Yes, the word “lie” is very accusatory, and I better have some damn good evidence to back up any accusations of lying. So, like Jack the Ripper once said, “Let’s take this one piece at a time.”

This is what an anti-vaccine activist wrote in a letter to try and discredit Dr. Paul Offit, the co-developer of a vaccine against rotavirus (my emphases in bold):

“Paul Offit is a doctor at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, and is very often seen in vaccine autism stories making claims that vaccines are safe and have no relationship to autism.  But what those stories do not tell the audience is that Paul Offit is a vaccine patent holder and consultant for Merck Pharmaceuticals.  He is a co-creator of the Merck RotaTeq vaccine that is on the CDC’s current vaccine schedule.  It is a vaccine that prevents Rota Virus, a benign virus under which subjects experience a miserable day or so of diarrhea and vomiting, and from which you usually gain immunity after having it twice.  The CDC recommends treating it at home with Pedialyte to prevent dehydration.  In third world countries, Rota virus can be a more serious threat to children’s health, because death can occur from severe dehydration due to lack of infrastructure, clean water and basic sanitation.  But in the US, it is not a serious health threat to any one with indoor plumbing or within driving distance to a 7-11.” Continue reading

Theatricality and deception, weapons against the uninitiated

If you watched the Nolan Batman Trilogy (“Batman Begins” to “The Dark Knight Rises”), you may have noticed a phrase that was uttered throughout. In “Batman Begins,” our hero is told to use “theatricality and deception” as “weapons against the uninitiated.” He was being told to use small explosions and smoke to distract his opponents and gain an advantage. He took that a step further and created the Batman persona in order to protect those he loves from retaliation when he went after the bad guys.

As you can see, Batman wasn’t the only one using theatricality and deception. His adversaries also did, to deadly consequences. In “Batman Begins,” the League of Shadows releases a toxin to bring fear to the people of Gotham. In “The Dark Knight,” the Joker uses a lot of deception to play games with our hero and the Gotham City Police Department. And, in “The Dark Knight Rises,” Bane hides in the shadows and acts from within them, very patiently, until he stikes and holds the city hostage.

It is also Bane who says something about theatricality and deception:

“Theatricality and deception, powerful agents against the uninitiated… But we are initiated, aren’t we, Bruce?” Some days, I feel just like Batman did at the end of that fight, to be honest. Continue reading

Someone doesn’t understand the difference between a virus and DNA

A virus is an infectious agent that can replicate inside the cells of the host it infects. Did you read that? It is an infectious agent. It can replicate inside the cells of the host it infects. A virus is also made up of DNA or RNA (genetic material) encapsulated in an envelope made up of protein or lipid (fat) or both. If a jelly-filled doughnut is a virus, then the dough is the envelope. The jelly is the genetic material. This doughnut would need to be put inside an over (host cells) to replicate. It wouldn’t be able to do it without that over.

Not only that, but the over would have to be a specific type of oven. See, the viruses that cause hepatitis only infect liver cells. The viruses that cause common colds only infect the respiratory pathway. The virus that causes AIDS? It only infects immune cells called T cells. They really are that specific.

Not only that, but viruses are species-specific. Viruses that infect one species need to adapt in order to infect another species. There are viruses all over you right now, and you’re perfectly healthy because they’re not adapted to infect you. However, they might bring death to, say, a cat. Yes, there are viruses like the flu which cross from species to another, but that spillover is not easy. (“Spillover” is also a book you should read.) Continue reading

NVIC: Information that’s not information, the return

Not a lot of time today. There are a lot of things happening too fast for me to properly juggle all of them AND keep you informed. So I’m turning it over to a friend of the blog, Mr. Todd, to tell you all about the latest from the National Vaccine (mis)Information Center and the “information” they want you to believe.

Go read his post here. It’s worth it, and it’s worth taking some action.