Autism is not death, unless you want it to be

The latest scandal to rock the anti-vaccine crowd has done nothing to sway the opinions of the True Believers® about vaccines and autism. If anything, they think that they have a smoking gun and all the evidence in the world to point their fingers at vaccines as the causative agent of autism. At best (for them), they have evidence that giving the MMR vaccine before 36 months increases the risk of autism for African American boys. That is a big assumption because the DeStefano paper that has been so widely criticized as of late dealt with a case-control study and odds ratios. Thinking that you can reanalyze it as a cohort study with relative risks is poor judgment and horrible reasoning.

I’m not here to talk about all that. Others are doing a fine job in peeling the layers of the ineptitude of Andrew Jeremy Wakefield and BS Hooker in trying to scam the American public about vaccines and autism again:

  • Orac tells us here, here, here and here about the whole goddamned thing. In fact, his latest post wraps it all up very neatly with a message to the “CDC whistleblower” and how the whistleblower’s scientific career is pretty much done.
  • Todd W. tells us here about Andrew Jeremy Wakefield confusion about history, here about anti-vaccine activists on Twitter not understanding Twitter, and here about the whistleblower telling us all about being betrayed by Andrew Jeremy Wakefield and BS Hooker.
  • Phil Plait tells us how, no, there is no connection between the MMR vaccine and autism, yet again, here.
  • Liz Ditz tells us about the whistleblower statement here, about Andrew Jeremy Wakefield and BS Hooker implicating an African American researcher in an alleged scheme against African Americans here, and she gives us the overall backstory here.
  • Finally, Ren tells us why the whistleblower’s and BS Hooker’s epidemiological and statistical reasoning is unsound here, and how everything came undone for Andrew Jeremy Wakefield and BS Hooker yesterday here.

That right there should be essential reading for you to get caught up. Now, let me tell you about a special group of people…

There is a special group of people who are, for the most part, parents of autistic children (or children with other developmental delays). These people are special because, although their child is right there in front of them, they are under the impression that the child is dead. They refer to their “lost” child, or how their child was “taken” from them, all the while the child is breathing in front of them. In many cases, the child is not just breathing but trying to interact with them. I write “trying” because the amount of online activity these people have makes me wonder if they have any time for their living, breathing, interacting child in front of them.

I’ve told you before why I believe that these people need to walk away from their children, and I even got a rabid anti-vaccine and conspiracy theorist threatening to kill me if he ever saw me in person for it. (Some people react in the weirdest ways to being told the truth.) The joke is on him, though. Ideas are bulletproof.

With so many anti-vaccine activists “hooked” on the “BS” over the “whistleblower”, I started to notice something about how they were presenting themselves online. During their “twitter party,” many of them had a black ribbon as an avatar. Why? Because these “non-sheeple” were told to:

black_ribbons

While the black ribbon can mean different things to different people, it’s main use is for grieving or remembering the fallen, the dead. The way that these people have used it is to try to bring attention to their cause by equating autism with a death or a loss.

I call on these parents who think hours-long “parties” on Twitter are the best way to advocate for their children to walk away from their children immediately. Those children deserve love, caring, understanding, and acceptance. Why not go fight for them at school meetings to get them more inclusive curricula in public schools? Why not go to your elected representatives and demand laws to protect your children from scam non-medical treatments like bleach enemas and chemical castration? Why not write letters to the editors of your communities’ newspapers to advocate for acceptance in the community of your children with special needs so that they will not be shunned from your society and, instead, be integrated into it?

But to display black ribbons and say that your child is no more because he or she is autistic? How in any reasonable terms is that the best way for you to do something for your child? Again, walk away, because there are thousands more caring and loving people out there to take care of them than you, based on your brand of advocacy on line and in person.

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

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

You expect politicians to do better to protect public health

Jeremy Thiesfeldt is a state representative in the great state of Wisconsin, a Republican. Mr. Thiesfeldt has decided that no flu vaccine in healthcare workers is better than any vaccine in healthcare workers, because, dammit, this is America:

“The debate over the mandatory influenza vaccinations of employees is worthy of a vigorous public airing. Much controversy has been growing nationwide as to the plight of employees, particularly healthcare workers, being dismissed from their jobs due to their refusal to accept such an unwanted intrusion into their personal healthcare decisions.”

Quite an intrusion indeed. Next up, I hear, Mr. Thiesfeldt will lobby to get rid of OSHA standards requiring personal protective equipment like gloves and masks. I mean, if these healthcare workers want to be free, then they should be free to not be protected. After all, gowns, gloves, and masks are not 100%, and, according to Mr. Thiesfeldt, if it’s not 100%, it’s not worth it:

“The history of vaccinations in the US has been one filled with controversy. The strongest argument in favor has been the high degree of effectiveness of many common vaccinations that reaches 90% or higher. The influenza vaccine does not enjoy this success. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reported that for the 2012-13 season the vaccine had a 38% fail rate. This is consistent with all the evidence from previous years putting the fail rate at anywhere from 30-50%.”

Mr. Thiesfeldt needs to be educated on the Nirvana Fallacy. Of course, readers of this blog know that even if the vaccine gave a 50/50 shot of not getting sick, I’d take it. It’s better than nothing, and there are plenty of people working to make it better. But Mr. Jeremy Thiesfeldt doesn’t stop there. The rest of his statement reads like a blog post at any “reputable” anti-vaccine blog:

“Another documented fact is each year individuals nationwide have been severely harmed by submitting to the influenza vaccination, and in some cases death has resulted.”

I’m yet to come across a confirmed death from the flu vaccine in all the years that I’ve worked in public health, and I look at tons of reports. Allergic reactions? Yes. Guillain-Barre Syndrome? Yes. Even one case of Stevens-Johnson Syndrome. But death? Not really. And all of those injuries from the flu vaccine? They all occurred at a lower rate than deaths and complications from influenza itself.

But politicians are not known for using facts to further their agendas:

“Do we have any less incidence of flu because of it? Not appreciably. The largest declines in incidence and deaths from influenza came prior to 1980, which is around the time the flu vaccine became widely used. In fact, a 2005 US National Institute of Health study of over 30 influenza seasons could not find a correlation between increasing vaccination coverage and declining mortality rates in any age group.”

I can’t find that study. If someone does, please send it my way.

“The flu vaccine is different each season. It is an educated guess as to what strains of the virus will be most prevalent in coming months. In spite of best efforts, often these predictions are wrong. Because of these variations, hospitals are already filled with both patients, employees, visitors and varying vendors who have been ineffectively vaccinated.”

No, sir, these predictions are not often wrong. They are often correct. Even the type B flu, which we mismatch a lot, is still a match 50% of the time. (Yes, no better than a coin-toss, but better than nothing.)

And on and on he goes about freedom, with slippery-slope arguments that allowing employers to discipline healthcare workers who do not vaccinate will lead to forces vaccinations in other settings and for other vaccines. But, you know what, Mr. Thiesfeldt looks young. He probably doesn’t remember the 1960’s, when women had to worry about having disfigured children because they were exposed to Rubella. He probably has never seen a child die from the flu, or have to talk to the child’s parents.

He must have Wisconsin residents’ best interests in mind, right?

“The requirements of Obamacare will likely eventually push healthcare employers to reach a required plateau of immunizations of their workforce in order to receive certain bonuses or reimbursements. Pharmaceutical corporations have obvious financial interests in the mandate as well.”

Ah, conspiracy theorist. Never mind.

PS: The always awesome Todd W. at Harpocrates Speaks has covered this issue as well, and very well so.

“Immunize vs. Vaccinate” from two perspectives

If you’ve read some of the mind-numbing comment posts about vaccination, you’ll will undoubtedly come across the following argument:

“Vaccination is not the same as immunization!”

That statement means different things to different people. To us scientists, it’s a “truism.” Vaccination is a way to immunize, so is a natural infectious process. Both may not immunize if the person getting the vaccine or the disease doesn’t react to the vaccine or the disease in a way that creates immunity. For example, there are plenty of people who are “non-responders” to the hepatitis B vaccine. That is, they don’t make detectable antibodies against hepatitis B when they go through the vaccination series. They’re not considered immune, but they are also not excluded from working in healthcare and other “risky” professions. Why? Because the jury is out as to whether or not non-responders are really not immune. That is, we don’t really know if they’ll be protected or not. But, by taking the vaccine series, they did the best they could to be protected, short of using personal protective equipment and universal precautions.

Continue reading

Not anti-vaccine, except when he is anti-vaccine

The pediatrician to the stars has a new Twitter profile picture. In case he changes it, here it is:

jay_vaccine

“See? I vaccinate,” he seems to be thinking.

Apparently, he’s getting vaccinated because he’s traveling somewhere. This is supposed to show us that he’s for the use of vaccines. However, he also writes things like these:

“Studies showing that vaccines and their many constituents do not contribute to this problem are flawed, filled with specious reasoning and, for the most part funded by the pharmaceutical industry. Even articles in reputable medical journals are often written by doctors with an economic interest in continuing the vaccination program’s status quo. This does not invalidate all of these studies but it certainly makes them suspect and a poor foundation for an argument excluding vaccines from the list of environmental influences on the increase in autism in America and elsewhere.”

Ah, the Pharma Shill gambit. If it’s founded by Big Pharma, then it’s flawed. Never mind that Big Pharma really doesn’t make that much money from vaccines. Continue reading

The Anti-Vaccine Declaration

I would have more respect for anti-vaccine organizations and people if they just came out and told us what they really believed in and what they really wanted. For example, I would respect them — though not like them — if they declared their intentions like this:

We are the anti-vaccine people of the world. We will not listen to reason. We will not take bribes. We just want to watch the world burn. For this reason, we declare the following:

1. All research studies declaring that vaccines are safe, or safe enough, or safer than drinking water, are performed by corrupt officials who have conflicts of interest in our eyes.

2. All case series, anecdotes, and gossip that supports the linking of vaccines to any disease or condition, and even to car accidents, are all true. We will not question nor think critically about such stories.

3. Everything evil that happens to us in our lives is the direct result of a conspiracy between the Government (i.e. Obama), Big Pharma (i.e. Merck), the medical establishment (i.e. Paul Offit) and some other unknown force.

4. All that evil, like having a child with special needs, is comparable only to the evil brought upon the world by the Nazi regime.

5. All other forms of public health interventions are also inherently evil, including fluoridated water, vitamin-enriched foods, pasteurization, and, sure, why not, antihistamines.

6. Only homeopathy, bleach enemas, colloidal silver, and chelation are acceptable medical treatments. (This point may be amended at the suggestion of Mary Tocco, Joseph Mercola, or Sheri Tenpenny. Mike Adams? No. He’s just nuts.)

7. Evidence? We don’t need no stinkin’ evidence.

What would you add to the list?