Posts Tagged “antivax”

Snake oil or Memory Elixer anyoneThere’s a paper published not far from me, that I read from time to time, the Torrington (CT) Register Citizen. A few years ago I noted — and documented several examples of — that paper printing a lot of “hauntings as news” stories. Of course, they’re not the only ones guilty of that bad journalism trope. Thankfully I haven’t seen them do too much of that lately. So that’s an improvement.

But today I see they ran another specious story, though of a different kind. This article is a puff-piece promoting a Litchfield, CT naturopath/chiropractor and his so-called “practice” (WebCite cached article).

I don’t plan to quote any of what amounts to a press release for this woo practitioner. Instead, I offer a few observations:

First, one must understand that naturopathy is a pseudoscience (aka “phony medicine” or “quackery”) based on something called “vitalism.” Chiropractic is similarly pseudomedical, based on the notion that “subluxations” in the spine cause all disease. There’s zero evidence supporting either vitalism or the subluxation-of-the-spine model of disease … but that doesn’t stop quacks like this. They’ll happily reel off any number of tales in support of their woo and nonsense.

Next, the guy complains about conventional medicine making money, as though the profit motive destroys its credibility or something. The problem is, quacks like him themselves make money, themselves, peddling their phony cures. He lampshades this by saying he’s not wealthy, but does admit he makes something, which basically invalidates his whole “making-money-on-medicine-means-it-can’t-be-any-good” argument.

In truth, no remedies — whether real or phony — are given away for free! Everyone who offers any kind of cure, does so with his/her hand out. It’s unavoidable. And all by itself, it doesn’t tell us anything about the effectiveness of the cure.

This guy is also an anti-vaxxer … and the less said about that, the better, because that movement was established by a con artist. Yes, a fraud.

This “practitioner” wants people to think for themselves and question what they’re told by conventional medicine. Questioning things is a principle I support wholeheartedly. The problem is … before one can productively question something, one must first know something about it … the more, the better. Most people are not educated in medicine, though, which means that any questioning they may do of conventional medicine, could easily go off the rails. (The popularity of the antivax movement is a sterling example of this.)

A year and a half ago, Connecticut “modernized” naturopathy practices and expanded what naturopaths can do (cached). This guy, no doubt, is profiting from that. Yes, I said “profiting.” As in, “making money.” Something the article suggests is bad for healers to do.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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DryvaxAmong the ridiculous bullshit spewed during last night’s Republican primary debate on CNN … in addition to the bullshit Rick Santorum spewed that I already blogged about … another dealt with vaccines. As the Daily Beast reports, Donald “it’s my own orange hair” Trump once again repeated his asinine, pseudoscientific antivax position (WebCite cached article):

At the CNN debate Wednesday night, the GOP frontrunner broadcasted [sic] anti-science vaccine conspiracy nonsense—unchallenged by moderators or fellow contenders—to an audience of millions.

“We’ve had so many instances…a child went to have the vaccine, got very, very sick, and now is autistic,” he blathered. “Autism has become an epidemic. It has gotten totally out of control.”

Trump has long peddled goofy, debunked theories about a causal link between vaccination and autism. As far back as 2012, he suggested the practice of giving numerous vaccines to healthy babies is “monstrous.”

One of the physicians onstage, Ben Carson, was asked about Trump’s claims. Unfortunately, he punted:

“We have extremely well documented proof that there’s no autism associated with vaccinations,” Carson said. “But it is true that we’re giving way too many in too short a period of time. And a lot of pediatricians now recognize that, and they’re cutting down on the number and the proximity.”

It’s nice, I suppose, that Carson did acknowledge there being no link between vaccines and autism. But his little bit about there being too many and too frequent vaccinations is a lie, as a report the Daily Beast linked to makes clear (cached). The other physician onstage, Rand Paul, idiotically echoed Carson:

“I’m all for vaccines, but I’m also for freedom,” the curly-haired ophthalmologist said. “I’m also more concerned about how they’re bunched up. My kids had all their vaccines, and even if the science doesn’t say bunching ’em up is a problem, I might have the right to spread my vaccines out at the very least.”

His whole thing about “freedom” is a fucking joke. No parent in his/her right mind should use “freedom” to justify risking his/her kids coming down with preventable childhood diseases — which can, in some cases, be deadly (even if a lot of antivaxxers irrationally dismiss that danger). So I find Paul’s “freedom” objection to be, essentially, a non sequitur.

Look, I get why all these guys hate vaccines. It’s because they’re largely government-mandated (in most places kids can’t get into school without them), ‘n’ y’all knows how horrbull dat dere gummint is! Dem vaccine thangs jus’ cain’t be good fer da chilluns! Dat secret Muslim Barack HUSSEIN Obama is prolly usin’ ’em fer mind control!

Of course, hating vaccines for political reasons isn’t appreciably worse than hating them because of a fraudulent study by a con-artist doctor who’d imagined a scheme to sell bogus autism treatments.

The reality is — as Ben Carson conceded during the debate — that medicine has determined there is no connection between vaccines and autism. None. Period. End of discussion.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Pediatric Vaccination / DENVER, CO. - February 03, 2015: A single dose of MMR for, Measles, Mumps, and Rubella, at Kaiser Permanente East Medical offices in Denver. February 03, 2015 Denver, CO (Photo By Joe Amon/The Denver Post via Getty Images)Not that the sanctimonious mommies who make up the rank and file of the antivax movement will give a shit about this, but yet another study has been done on the putative connection between vaccines and autism. And, as CNN reports, once again, the evidence shows there is no connection at all (WebCite cached article):

The vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella doesn’t bring an increased risk of autism, according to a new study of more than 95,000 children.

The study, published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association [cached], is the latest piece of research to debunk the myth associating the MMR vaccine with autism.…

“We found that there was no harmful association between the receipt of the MMR vaccine and the development of an autism spectrum disorder,” said Anjali Jain, a pediatrician at the Lewin Group, a health care consulting firm in Virginia, who worked on the study.

As I said, previously-committed antivaxers won’t accept a word of this. They’ll just whine and wail about how “Big Pharma” did this study because they make billions of dollars forcing dangerous vaccines on tiny children. For the record, “Big Pharma” wasn’t behind this study — the federal government funded it — but I suppose that won’t make a difference for those who already believe there’s an insidious government/corporate conspiracy afoot to make American kids autistic. For committed antivaxxers, there really is no amount of contrary evidence that will dislodge that idea from their heads. That’s because of something known as the backfire effect, a psychological phenomenon in which people actually latch harder onto ideas, once they’ve been shown those ideas are wrong.

It’s unfortunate that all this study will do is simply add to an already-tall pile of evidence that vaccines don’t cause autism. It just means those who lie about vaccines being dangerous, are even worse liars than they were previously. Despite this, we’re likely to have more, not less, outbreaks of measles and other easily-preventable childhood illnesses like the one we had earlier this year (cached). Yes, folks … ignorance, stupidity, and immaturity can, indeed, harm and even kill people needlessly. Sigh.

Hat tip: Skeptic’s Dictionary.

Photo credit: Joe Amon/The Denver Post, via Getty Images via Time.

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Afghanistan Measles Vaccination 2013OK, let’s get this out of the way, right from the start: NJ governor Chris Christie and KY Senator Rand Paul are both running for president in 2016. Yeah, I know neither has formally announced it, but clearly both plan to do so, and both are getting all their ducks in a row, doing all the things they need to do in order to get the Republican nomination. So I’m not going to call them “potential candidates” or “presumed candidates” or include any other weasel words or caveats. I’m going to call them “candidates,” because that’s precisely what they are.

Their candidacies probably explain why, as the Washington Post reports, they’ve both veered into antivax territory (WebCite cached article):

Medical experts reacted with alarm Monday as two top contenders for the Republican presidential nomination appeared to question whether child vaccinations should be mandatory — injecting politics into an emotional issue that has taken on new resonance with a recent outbreak of measles in the United States.

First, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, while visiting a vaccine laboratory here, called for “some measure of choice” on whether shots guarding against measles and other diseases should be required for children.

Then, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), an ophthalmologist who is also readying a 2016 campaign, said in two U.S. television interviews that he thinks most vaccines should be voluntary, citing “many tragic cases of walking, talking, normal children who wound up with profound mental disorders after vaccines.”

“The state doesn’t own your children,” Paul said on CNBC, praising vaccines for their health benefits but insisting that the government should not mandate their use in most cases. “Parents own the children. And it is an issue of freedom and public health.”

Both used clearly flawed reasoning. First, Christie employed a fallacy:

Christie, however, said Monday that “there has to be a balance, and it depends on what the vaccine is, what the disease type is, and all the rest.”

His appeal to “false balance” — a variety of the more general invalid appeal to moderation — is fallacious because not every issue has two equally valid “sides.” In fact, sometimes, there really is only one “side” to an issue, and all other positions are just flat-out absofuckinglutely wrong — period.

Second, of Sen. Paul’s “parents own the children,” I can only groan. I assume he’s speaking metaphorically and not actually saying parents “own” children, as southern plantation owners once “owned” slaves … but he’s overdramatizing the situation. Parents should rationally be looking out for the welfare of their children. Vaccinating according to prescribed schedules will do that. Refusing to vaccinate kids will not help them. The ability to claim “ownership” of one’s children doesn’t absolve one of the obligation to act in their best interests.

Look, I understand the politics of this. Right now, there’s a large number of Republican voters for whom vaccine opposition has some appeal. They object to “big government” telling them they have to vaccinate their kids, even though it’s usually local school districts telling them to do so. They think, since vaccines are the purview of the CDC, an arm of the federal government, that they’re a tool Barack Hussein Obama is using to implement mind-control over their kids, even though widespread vaccinations predated Obama by decades. Really, I get the appeal to the paranoid wing of the Republican party. But with that said … there’s still no excuse for either of these guys indulging the paranoia. Much better that they just tell people to fucking grow the hell up already and get their kids vaccinated, fercyinoutloud.

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Screen shot of preventable-disease map, by CFREven though the current anti-vax movement has been constructed upon a single demonstrably-fraudulent study (WebCite cached article) by Dr Andrew Wakefield — which he’d intended as the basis for a franchise selling “remedies” for something he called “austistic enterocolitis” (cached), it’s taken on a life of its own. It morphed originally from Wakefield’s (false) contention that the MMR vaccine causes autism, to the assumption that all vaccines, of any type, are toxic.

The mass media have done more than their share to perpetuate the lie that vaccines are dangerous, including this past December when Katie Couric spent an entire show parading sanctimonious mommies on her stage (cached) telling everyone that the HPV vaccine is lethal. Ms Couric later sort-of conceded she might have gone too far with that one (cached).

The truth of the anti-vax movement is much worse than just that it’s a big fat fucking lie with a fraudulent genesis; it’s actually hurting people in very real — and measurable — ways. The Council on Foreign Relations released a map showing the incidence of vaccine-preventable outbreaks around the world (cached). And the picture isn’t pretty:Screen shot of preventable-disease map, by CFROne expects to see such illnesses in developing countries, but as is evident in the map, even in highly industrialized nations, preventable childhood illnesses are also occurring in large numbers. Europe is plastered with measles, for instance, and the U.S. is spawning whooping cough from sea to sea.

I know I’ll be accused of having been paid by “Big Pharma” to point this out and condemn the anti-vax movement … but no matter how fervently the anti-vax crowd may believe otherwise, I haven’t. “Big Pharma” doesn’t even know who I am. I also don’t know anyone who works for, or who’s ever been paid any amount, by a “Big Pharma” firm. I’m just a guy who objects to irrationality and lies, and doesn’t think it’s a good idea for people to he harmed or killed by irrationality and lies. Call me crazy if you want — and many have! — but that’s just how I roll. <shrug>

Photo credit: CFR map screen-shot.

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VaccineA devout Catholic mother is suing the Big Apple over its requirement that students be vaccinated. As the Staten Island Advance reports, she considers vaccinations to be an affront to God … or something like that (WebCite cached article):

West Brighton resident Dina Check fervently opposes vaccinations, even for her young daughter, on religious grounds.

The practicing Roman Catholic believes the body is a temple, and contends injecting vaccines into it “would defile God’s creation of the immune system … [and] demonstrate a lack of faith in God, which would anger God and therefore be sacrilegious.”

Those strong views have put Ms. Check, 46, at odds with the city Education Department. They have also resulted in her 6-year-old daughter’s recent barring from PS 35, Sunnyside, for failing to be immunized.

Ms. Check has struck back, filing a civil lawsuit in Brooklyn federal court against the Education Department.

I’d never heard the Catholic Church teaches its followers not to allow vaccinations. The Advance checked into the matter, and confirmed it does not:

Professor Christopher P. Vogt, a moral theologian, said the Catholic Church doesn’t oppose vaccinations.

“I don’t see any tension between immunizing children and Roman Catholic teaching, belief or practice,” said Vogt, associate professor and chairman of the Department of Theology & Religious Studies at St. John’s University in Queens. “When we immunize children, we’re trying to protect children and the common good. As a Catholic, we have a responsibility to take care of our world.”

When read some passages Ms. Check had written, he said it seemed as though she’s taken a Fundamentalist view of Scriptures.

“Catholicism doesn’t hold that we take a literal reading of Scriptures,” he said.

Note, this is not the only occasion when Catholics have decided to opt out of certain medical procedures on religious grounds, even though Catholicism does not forbid them. A couple years ago I blogged about how many Hispanics — largely Roman Catholic — consider organ transplants to be sacrilegious.

Also, sadly, this is not the only time a parent has refused perfectly valid medicine for his/her children because to do so would betray a lack of faith in God. It happens even when getting medical care is a matter of life and death. It’s much more common than most people are aware.

Photo credit: John Keith, via Wikimedia Commons.

Hat tip: Secular Web News Wire.

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SyringesThe forces of Antivax are still running strong in the US, even if their wild-eyed paranoid conspiracies have been disproven by everything science has discovered about the presumed relationship between childhood vaccines and autism — which is to say, it doesn’t exist. There’s a Forbes article on a recent champion of this particular form of pseudoscience, outgoing Congressman Dan Burton of Indiana (WebCite cached article):

I was in my car yesterday listening to C-SPAN (yes, I do that sometimes), when to my stunned surprise I heard Congressman Dan Burton launch into a diatribe on how mercury in vaccines causes autism. No, this was not a replay of a recording from a decade ago. The hearing was held just a few days ago by the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

Congressman Burton used this hearing to rehash a series of some of the most thoroughly discredited anti-vaccine positions of the past decade. Burton is a firm believer in the myth that vaccines cause autism, and he arrogantly holds the position that he knows the truth better than the thousands of scientists who have spent much of the past decade doing real science that proves him wrong.

Burton’s absurdly-orchestrated escapade featured bona fide CDC and NIH scientists — who understand the truth here, which Burton and his fellow Representative Bill Posey of Florida don’t like — being chastised and lambasted, and Antivax cranks lauded for their lies.

The last paragraph in this Forbes piece includes this pithy gem:

Message to Congress: science isn’t easy, and autism is complicated. Don’t criticize science when it doesn’t give you the answer you thought you knew. That’s not how science works.

And that, folks, is the problem … with this and many other scientific and technological issues. People have certain beliefs, and they demand that science confirm them; when it doesn’t, they pitch fits and holler and whine like little children. Burton and Posey and all their anti-scientific cohorts should grow up and act their ages, fercryinoutloud.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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