Posts Tagged “mmr”

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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Humulin NAs if we needed the legal system to say it — the science of the matter speaks for itself, even if the antivaxers say it doesn’t — a special federal court has (again!) ruled that there is no link between autism and vaccines. CNN reports on this (WebCite cached article):

A federal court ruled Friday that the evidence supporting an alleged causal link between autism and a mercury-containing preservative in vaccines is unpersuasive, and that the families of children diagnosed with autism are not entitled to compensation.

Special masters of the U.S. Court of Federal Claims released more than 600 pages of findings after reviewing three test cases and finding all the claims wanting.

“Petitioners’ theory of vaccine-related causation is scientifically unsupportable,” wrote Special Master Patricia Campbell-Smith in her conclusion about William P. Mead, whose parents, George and Victoria Mead, had brought one of the suits.

This is not the first time this special court has shot down the antivax position:

In February 2009, the court’s special masters concluded that the evidence supporting a link between measles-mumps-rubella vaccine, or MMR, combined with thimerosal-containing vaccines, was also unpersuasive.

That prior ruling is being appealed, and one can assume the tinfoil hat-wearing antivax crowd will do the same in this case, so this hardly ends the matter. And to be honest, the courts are not scientific authorities … they are merely legal authorities … so these rulings do not “prove” that vaccines don’t cause autism. (Actually, that has already been proven scientifically.) What they do show is that every time a serious review of the issue is conducted, the decision always ends up being the same … that vaccines don’t cause autism.

Photo credit: Stephen Dyrgas.

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Not that it ever had much credibility to begin with, but the anti-vaccine movement — including those, like actress Jenny McCarthy, who insist that vaccines cause autism — has lost one of the very few pillars of support it ever had. CNN reports on an action taken by the British medical journal Lancet (WebCite cached article):

The medical journal The Lancet on Tuesday retracted a controversial 1998 paper that linked the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine to autism.

The 12-year-old study linked autism with the MMR vaccine. The research subsequently had been discredited.

While researchers have long known this paper had been flawed, the mere fact that Lancet had published it — and that it could still be referenced as having been in that prestigious journal — has lent the antivax movement more credibility than it deserved. But there are problems with it which could not be ignored, and the journal has taken action:

Last week, the study’s lead author, Dr. Andrew Wakefield, was found to have acted unethically in conducting the research.

The General Medical Council, which oversees doctors in Britain, said that “there was a biased selection of patients in The Lancet paper” and that his “conduct in this regard was dishonest and irresponsible.”

The panel found that Wakefield subjected some children in the study to various invasive medical procedures such as colonoscopies and MRI scans. He also paid children for blood samples for research purposes at his son’s birthday party, an act that “showed a callous disregard” for the “distress and pain” of the children, the panel said.

As I said, that there had been problems with Wakefield’s study, is not news to the medical community. The most recent — and perhaps compelling — evidence of its flaws:

A September 2008 study replicated key parts of Wakefield’s original paper and found no evidence that the vaccine had a connection to either autism or GI disorders. The study, conducted at Columbia University, Massachusetts General Hospital and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, also found no relationship between the timing of the vaccine and children getting GI disorders or autism.

But the general public hasn’t been too aware of these problems, and the antivaxers have, of course, taken advantage of that:

The Wakefield study also became part of the evidence that parents cited who did not vaccinate their children.

“The story became credible because it was published in The Lancet,” Alison Singer, president of the Autism Science Foundation, said Tuesday. “It was in The Lancet, and we really rely on these medical journals.”

Singer, the mother of a child with autism, added, “That study did a lot of harm. People became afraid of vaccinations — this is the Wakefield legacy — this unscientifically grounded fear of vaccinations that result in children dying from vaccine preventable diseases.”

Unfortunately the mass media does little to educate people on how science actually works. You see, the truth about science is that it can, and does, change its mind; studies that were printed even in prestigious journals can turn out to have been fraudulent, or incomplete, or their conclusions found incorrect, etc. Science is self-correcting. Since the Wakefield paper was published 12 years ago, medical science has accepted that it was wrong … but the public has been slow to find that out. Hopefully that will change.

Note to Jenny McCarthy, Bill Maher, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, and other antivaxers … please pay attention … !

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I’ve previously blogged about the anti-vaccine crowd and its too-often-heard Hollywood-based spokespersons. Well, in addition to the forces of reason and science fighting back, as I remarked, the anti-vaccine fortress is beginning to crumble, as Newsweek reported:

This week, Alison Singer, the executive vice president of communications and awareness at Autism Speaks, one of the nation’s leading autism advocacy groups, announced her resignation, citing a difference of opinion over the organization’s policy on vaccine research. “Dozens of credible scientific studies have exonerated vaccines as a cause of autism,” she wrote in a statement. “I believe we must devote limited funding to more promising avenues of autism research.” …

The Newsweek article includes an interview with Ms Singer, in which she says, among other things:

In general, I disagree with a policy that says, “Despite what this study shows, more studies should be done.” At some point, you have to say, “This question has been asked and answered and it’s time to move on.” We need to be able to say, “Yes, we are now satisfied that the earth is round.” …

Over and over, the science has shown no causal link between vaccines and autism. …

I think that there’s this feeling [among some parents] that the vaccine decision is a choice between, “Do I want to risk measles or do I want to risk autism?” That’s not a good characterization. We know for a fact that the measles vaccine reduces the risk of getting measles. One choice is backed by science, one choice isn’t.

Emotional thinking — which is what fuels the anti-vaccine crowd (e.g. “I know vaccines cause autism ’cause my kid is autistic and s/he’s been vaccinated, and you can’t tell me it’s not true ’cause s/he’s my child and I just know it!”) — has no place in science. It is, instead, merely sanctimony, and is even a bit childish. Having a feeling that two things are connected, does not mean they are. Being the parent of an autistic kid, does not make one an expert on the causes of autism. I know it sounds heartless, but emotions are not as important as fact, veracity, or verifiability.

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