A third Immunization post.  I promise to move on to other subjects…

For the lazy readers who don’t have the time or inclination to do research but are interested in vaccine safety and efficacy, I’d like to suggest a podcast that you can listen to.  Infectious Disease specialist Mark Crislip, MD has addressed the topic in a recent Quackcast podcast which can be found here.

Don’t expect someone sympathetic to the anti-vaccinationists and celebrity a-holes promoting them.  Dr. Crislip addresses the safety of several vaccines, the vaccine – autopsy connection (or lack of), and why the claims made by the Green Vaccine movement are completely bogus.

In case, you don’t listen to the whole thing, Dr. Crislip ends the podcast with the following thought:  “Greener vaccines?  The only green you will see by getting rid of vaccines, or decreasing their use, is the grass growing on the graves of children needlessly killed by preventable infections.”

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Saw this and wanted to pass it along to readers of my last post about Autism and Vaccines.  Turns out that the doctor (Andrew Wakefield) who first proposed the link between autism and vaccines may have faked the data.  If true, that man should be shot (after a long torture session with Jack Bauer.)

http://www.parentdish.com/2009/02/11/doctor-who-linked-autism-and-vaccines-faked-data

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/health/article5683643.ece

Of course, many people will ignore this and still not get their children vaccinated putting their children as well as others at risk.  When Jack is done with Dr. Wakefield, maybe he can visit Jenny McCarthy, Oprah, and the other anti-vaccination terrorists.  Yes I said terrorists.  The anti-science, anti-medicine, anti-reason people who promote not vaccinating children put far more people in danger than Al Qaeda and should be held accountable when helpless children die.

A federal court ruled today in a case involving parents of autistic children who are seeking compensation through the government’s Vaccine Injury Compensation Program.  These parents believe that their childrens’ autism was caused by vaccinations.  Health agencies as well as all but a few fringe scientists and doctors have maintained that there is no causal relationship between autism and vaccines.  The court stated that the evidence is overwhelmingly contrary to the parents claim.

This case has been watched by many in the scientific and health care communities as well as many others.  More than 5500 claims have been filed by parents seeking compensation.  Additionally, there has been an increase in parents all over the country declining vaccines for their children because of autism fears.

Of course, this decision will not persuade most of the parents that their children’s autism was not caused by vaccines.  Several years of research from around the world hasn’t been able to do that so this certainly won’t.  In fact, the head of Vaccine Information Center (which promotes the idea) said “I think it is a mistake to conclude that, because these few test cases were denied compensation, it’s been decided vaccines don’t play any role in regressive autism.”  She went on to say that more studdies are needed.

Just like any fringe or psuedoscientific belief, evidence is ignored unless it supports the belief, and believers claim that more research needs to be done.  In the case of autism and vaccines, more than enough research has been done.  The proverbial dead horse has been beaten to the point of turning to dust and yet it’s not enough.  The tragedy here is that so much money has been spent researching this link over and over, that it has reduced efforts that could actually determine causes, treatments, and a cure.  Think about that.  Obviously some people are not.

Of course, you have to feel for parents of autistic children.  It’s extremely difficult to deal with something like that and of course they want to know why it happened and what can be done to fix it.  It’s understandable that the answer they get from their doctor is not acceptable.  But the fact is that science has not got to the bottom of this tragic condition.  Genetic and environmental causes are being investigated but there is no answer yet.  Previous hypotheses, including those involving vaccines, mercury, and thimerosal, have been investigated and ruled out.  It’s time to devote more money and resources to research which may actually bear fruit.

source: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/29160138/

For more information, please visit the Science Based Medicine Blog

Some folks over at the Pala Alto Research Center have created a new tool for Wikipedia users.  It provides a dashboard at the top of an article indicating the activity of the top editors of that page.  Although the community at large does a good job at policing Wikipedia content, information on controversial subjects can change daily and sometimes be questionable.  This new tool provides a way to see who those top editors are and drill down into the discussions that have been taking place in the background.  Though the specific edit information was available, this tool’s summary makes it much easier to see who the main contributors are and provides a glimpse of the edits over a timeline.

Take for example,the entry on Lunar Effect which I blogged about yesterday.  There is not an overwhelming amount of activity (190 edits) compared to an entry on something like Barack Obama (16,000+).  Regardless, you can see that a single user has provided 47.9% of the edits and see that person’s entries.  You can also link to that user’s page and see ehat else they have been editing.  It helps you as a reader assess the bias that may have crept in.  In this case, the user has identified himself in a profile and contributed to a variety of subjects.  In this particular article he has contributed specific content and cited sources as well as made typographic edits of other submissions.  I have no reason tobelieve any bias from this user other than he wants to get the facts right.  Of course this is just my opinion.  You should always do your own research before deciding.

source: MIT Technology Review

Side note:  You can get hours of fun and frustration looking over the edit history of a Wiki entry for a topic that brings all the nuts out like 911 Conspiracy Theories.

It’s a full moon today and I saw an article that I wanted to pass along.  I’ve blogged about moon phases before, but I fear that this story will never go away as long as there are people on the earth and a moon in the sky above.

SciAm.com today posted a short article discussing the “Lunar Effect” and asks “Does a full moon really trigger strange behavior?”  Too lazy to go read it?  I’ll cut to the chase for you: ABSOLUTELY NOT.

(more…)

Every year in America, the Holiday Season is fraught with Separation of Church and State battles across our great land as secular and civil rights groups challenge public displays of religion such as nativity scenes on government property.  This year, a different battle is being waged on the airwaves and in the press regarding a display at the Washington State Capitial.  The Freedom From Religion Foundation got permission to display a placard next to a nativity scene and holiday tree.  This blog post is not about that, per se, but rather about a statement made by everybody’s favorite right wing pronosticator, Bill O’Reilly.   One of his recent rants included a statement that our “country was founded on Judeo-Christian traditions”.

My first thought was: “Really Bill?  Really?  Judeo-Christian traditions like slavery?”  Both the Old and New Testaments sanction slavery and we all know that it was certainly a tradition supported by the Founding Fathers.

After that, I wondered just how many Judeo traditions the founding fathers practiced.  I don’t remember reading that Thomas Jefferson observed the Sabbath or that George Washington stopped campaigning in the war during Yom Kippur.  Christian traditions, sure, but not Judeo-Christian traditions.

So where did this concept of Judeo-Christian tradition come from?  According to Wikipedia, the term Judeo-Christian didn’t even exist in the language until the late 19th century.  In the 1920’s and 30’s, civil rights groups were using the term to battle antisemitism by people who believed that the US was a Protistant country.  It wasn’t until much later in the latter part of the 20th century that the term became widely used in the way that Billo is using it now.

As an aside, I find it interesting that as time went on, the hardline conservatives went from being antisemitic to eventually bringing the Jews into the fold, so to speak.  I guess in their eyes, they share a belief in the Old Testament despite centuries of hatred and persecution.  “Sure, they don’t believe in Jeeesus, but they like that Yahweh dude, so maybe they’ll come around.  At least they’re not tools of Satan, like atheists and homosexuals.” Is that how it works?

But back to the main point, Billo’s assertion that the country was founded on Judeo-Christian traditions is absolutely false.  An argument can be made that it followed Christian traditions, though most schollars agree that the founding fathers favored secular government.

So it would seem that in Billo’s world, it’s not politically correct to claim that the US is a Christian country founded on Christian traditions such as Christmas alone.  (We have to include our brother Jews now and accept their traditions, right Bill?)  But there is NO place for anyone else to sit at the holiday table.  Secularists and atheists are certainly not welcome.  He made a point of dissing Muslims.  (No surprise there.)  He didn’t mention Buddhists or Hindus, but I think it’s safe to say that unless they’re willing to say “Merry Christmas” and participate in grace, then they wouldn’t be welcome either.

Happy Holidays everyone and count me in on the feast, just don’t ask me to say grace…

Brian Dunning at Skeptoid.com compiled a list of his 10 Most wanted: Celebrities Who Promote Harmful Psuedoscience or as I prefer to call them – Douche Bags.  I wasn’t going to lower myself to that type of ad hominem attack but I’ll let Brian take the high road and I’ll take the one full of expletive-laced name-calling which IMHO is what these people deserve.

I don’t really much care what celebrities say unless they have already earned my respect regarding a given topic.  Unfortunately, their opinions carry an ENORMOUS amount of weight with many many people and the stupid, uninformed things they say actually do cause great harm.  Don’t believe me?  Well, I’ll give you one example: Jenny McCarthy has been a boost to the efforts of the anti-vaccination folks and her activism has resulted in lowered vaccination rates.  Vaccinations are only truly effective if a very large percentage of people are vaccinated.  If enough are not, the disease that we’re trying to eradicate (or at least control) can mutate and rebound.  Every time a parent is convinced by Jenny (or her buddy Oprah) to skip vaccinations, they put not only their own children at risk, but everyone else as well!  Actually, calling these vermin douche bags is an insult to douche bags.

Anyhow, Brian does a great job with his list of Top Ten celebrity shit heads, so please check it out.

p.s. for more info on vaccination, please visit Dr. Steven Novella’s Science Based Medicine Blog.