Skepfeeds-The Best Skeptical blogs of the day

Help a parent make the right decision

Posted in Skepdude by Skepdude on June 1, 2010

This parent has a very common question in their mind, and unfortunately, they’ve turned to the internet for answers. I do not think posting your health question on some web forum is the best way to get the right answer, but it is what it is and we now have to do our best to help them make the best decision for them and their child. The question is as follows:

He’s 16 weeks and it’s about time for his 4 month shots.Some people say don’t do it might cause autism or death.Others say I don’t have a choice.Do I have a choice? If not now would later be ok.

This is the comment I left. Others need to join in so we can sway him/her to at least discuss this with their pediatrician before they make a decision.

The question is not: are immunizations safe for you child. The question you should ask yourself, and your PEDIATRICIAN, is: Is it safe NOT to immunize your child? 20 seconds of crying can save you boat loads of headaches and stress down the road. This is an issue of your child’s health, and I strongly suggest you don’t limit yourself to internet research but speak to an expert, a pediatrician, or two or three if you want to get more opinions. But remember, quality of opinion matters more than quantity.

Far as choice goes, the CDC schedule is just a recommended schedule; as the parent you’re still given all the freedom to decide not to vaccinate. However, when the time comes for the child to go do daycare/school you will be required to have them caught up in order to attend, but even then you may be able to exempt them from this requirement. See my entry here for details on legal requirements.

http://tinyurl.com/2gxqdf8

Please take a few minutes, add your comment; if we get one parent to do the right thing that is a step in the right direction.

Measles claims almost 200 in Africa

Posted in Skepdude by Skepdude on April 22, 2010

In less than three months, a measles outbreak in Africa has killed 185 children . the UN is asking for help to increase vaccination efforts in the affected areas. As it stands, only about 80% of the population is vaccinated, quite below the desired level of 95%. These low levels of vaccination means that outbreaks,  such as the one gripping the continent now,  can be expected every 3-4 years. I send Jenny McCarthy a tweet pointing her attention to this issue and asking her to change her stance on vaccines. Do you think this story will change her mind at all? …..we can only hope!

What’s the harm in not vaccinating your child?

Posted in Skepdude by Skepdude on March 23, 2010

Well it’s only one kid, the thinking goes. Isn’t there something called “herd immunity” that is supposed to protect my child so he/she doesn’t have to get stuck with a needle? I’ll be slick; let everyone else’s kid get STUCK WITH A NEEDLE and mine won’t have to! Smart right? What’s the harm anyway? Well, since you asked, how about infecting another 11 unvaccinated children, 3 or which were babies too young to have received the vaccine, one of which was hospitalized for three days with 106 degree fever? If that is not enough, how about $177,000 in taxpayer money spent in containing and treating this infection outbreak?

What began as a family trip to Switzerland in 2008 ended up as a public health nightmare in California.The family’s 7-year-old boy, who was intentionally unvaccinated against measles, was exposed to the virus while traveling in Europe. When he returned home to San Diego, he unknowingly exposed a total of 839 people, and an additional 11 unvaccinated children contracted the disease.

Three of those infected were babies, too young to have yet received the measles vaccines, and one of the babies was hospitalized for three days with a 106-degree fever, according to a report to be published in the April issue of Pediatrics.

“Measles is just a plane ride away, including places like Switzerland and the U.K.,” said one of the researchers, Dr. Jane Seward, deputy director of viral diseases at the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“This study serves as a reminder that measles can be a very serious disease that can lead to severe complications and death, and that the measles, mumps, rubella [MMR] vaccine is highly effective and the best way to prevent measles. It’s also a reminder that people who choose not to vaccinate don’t just put themselves and their children at risk, but also their communities, which includes infants who are too young to immunize,” she said.

This 2008 outbreak was the first in San Diego since 1991, according to the report. Before the introduction of the measles vaccine in 1963, as many as 500 children died each year from the measles, and nearly 50,000 were hospitalized annually in the United States because of the virus, according to background information in the report.

In recent years, however, the virus has resurged as many parents choose not to vaccinate their children, often because of fears about serious side effects. In fact, a recent study from the University of Michigan found that even among those who do vaccinate, more than half are concerned about serious side effects. Many of these fears stem a reported link between the MMR vaccine and autism. This link has been disproved in numerous studies, however.

Folks, stop being kids and vaccinate your kids!

U.S. court rules again against vaccine-autism claims

Posted in News by Skepdude on March 15, 2010

READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE AT YAHOO NEWS

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Vaccines that contain a mercury-based preservative called thimerosal cannot cause autism on their own, a special U.S. court ruled on Friday, dealing one more blow to parents seeking to blame vaccines for their children’s illness.

The special U.S. Court of Federal Claims ruled that vaccines could not have caused the autism of an Oregon boy, William Mead, ending his family’s quest for reimbursement.

“The Meads believe that thimerosal-containing vaccines caused William’s regressive autism. As explained below, the undersigned finds that the Meads have not presented a scientifically sound theory,” Special Master George Hastings, a former tax claims expert at the Department of Justice, wrote in his ruling.

In February 2009, the court ruled against three families who claimed vaccines caused their children’s autism, saying they had been “misled by physicians who are guilty, in my view, of gross medical misjudgment”.

The families sought payment under the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, a no-fault system that has a $2.5 billion fund built up from a 75-cent-per-dose tax on vaccines.

READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE AT YAHOO NEWS

Skepquote of the day

Posted in Skepquote by Skepdude on March 1, 2010

By offering the vague caveat that “there is no cure” while peddling her Generation Rescue’s slogan “autism is reversible” and telling parents that “for a moderately autistic kid the best prognosis is full recovery,” McCarthy makes a promise that no one on the planet has the authority to make. It’s one that puts the onus of failure on parents whose kids can’t or simply don’t make that “full recovery” and opens up those who take her advice to “try everything” to a buffet of expensive to downright dangerous quackery. Hey cautious party line that she supports a modified vaccination schedule while resolutely insisting on her Web site that “the nurse gave [Evan] the shot … and soon thereafter — boom — the soul’s gone from his eyes” is similarly disingenuous.

Salon.com

Autism, vaccines and fear

Posted in News by Skepdude on February 4, 2010

READ THE FULL ARTICLE AT THE GLOBE AND MAIL

In 1998, The Lancet, a leading British medical journal, published a research study that triggered one of the biggest health scares of modern times. It claimed that autism was linked to children’s vaccines. The evidence was sketchy – it was based on only 12 cases – but Andrew Wakefield, its lead author, became an instant media celebrity.

Over the next few years, Dr. Wakefield was depicted as a courageous maverick who dared to defy the medical establishment. People’s trust in public health – already tested by the mad-cow scare – collapsed and vaccination rates plunged. Before The Lancet article, the vaccination rate for MMR – the three-in-one shot for measles, mumps and rubella – had reached 91 per cent. A few years later, the rate had slipped to less than 50 per cent in some parts of London, and was far too low to prevent serious outbreaks. In 2008, measles was again declared endemic in the U.K.

The vaccination hysteria proved contagious. In Canada and the U.S., anti-vaccination groups warned about the dangers of thimerosal, a mercury-based preservative used in vaccines (although never used in the MMR one). Parent groups blamed vaccines and environmental toxins for what they said was an autism epidemic. They launched multimillion-dollar lawsuits (all unsuccessful) against vaccine makers, whose product costs, because of legal bills, went up.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. accused the U.S. government and top scientists of a vast conspiracy to cover up the link between vaccines and autism, and celebrity autism mom Jenny McCarthy argued the case on Oprah .

It’s hard to blame parents of autistic kids for grasping at causes and cures. The causes are poorly understood, and the chance of cure is exceedingly remote. Life with an autistic child is unrelentingly hard. Untested treatments, and claims of cure, run rampant. The field is prone to “pseudoscience and quackery,” says Michael Fitzgerald, a British autism expert and long-time critic of Dr. Wakefield.

READ THE FULL ARTICLE AT THE GLOBE AND MAIL

Breaking News: Australian antivax group to shut down

Posted in Skepdude by Skepdude on February 3, 2010

The great news keep on coming! First the bomb dowsing magic stick was discredited, then Andrew Wakefield first got torn to pieces by the GMC and then the Lancet retracted his 1998 paper that sparked the MMR-causes-autism scare, thus dealing a deadly blow to the anti-vaccine movement. And today we get news that Meryl Dorey the head of the grossly misnamed Australian Vaccination Network is resigning and unless huge amounts of donations come in the AVN itself will close its doors by the end of February. Woot!

After almost 17 years of running the AVN, it is my bittersweet duty to inform you that within the next 3-4 weeks I will tendering my resignation as President of this great organisation and moving on to the next stage of my own personal development as mother, wife, activist and researcher.

Alternatively, if a benefactor or series of benefactors come forward to establish a fund that would guarantee the AVN’s existence for at least the next 2-3 years, or if donations were to be come in during the next week that would give us the same financial sustainability, then I would be willing to continue in my role for the foreseeable future.

If nobody comes forward to take on the role of President or if the funds are not provided to allow us to continue however, the AVN will be ceasing operations on or about the 28th of February.

Yeah, they’re asking for all their supporters to give up 1% of their incomes to support the AVN. I hope that does not happen. The AVN, while it may be guided by a desire to do good, is seriously misguided and what it does is hurt the very same children it aims to protect. Unfortunately bad deeds can be done out of the best of intentions, so while I don’t doubt that the motivations of most of these folks are to do good, that doesn’t make them any less dead wrong! So yes I am happy to hear this news, and can’t wait to see what Thursday and Friday will bring us. Chalk another one up to reason!

The only bad news is that Dory hasn’t seen the light, metaphorically speaking. The decision to resign and possibly shut down the AVN was a purely financial one; it appears she intends to keep up her fight for the right to spread misinformation as a “researcher” and writer, which roughly can be translated in “there’s a book coming out soon enough”, am I right? It would have been better if she’d actually understood that she is wrong and had decided to accept reality, especially in the wake of the Wakefield scandal, but that does not appear to be the case, but I’m keeping hope alive. You just never know!

Breaking News: Andrew Wakefield in deep sh#$

Posted in Skepdude by Skepdude on January 28, 2010

UK’s General Medical Council (GMC) has concluded that Andrew Wakefield has “failed in his duties as a responsible consultant” England’s Sky News reports.

Dr Andrew Wakefield showed a “callous disregard” for children’s suffering and abused his position of trust, the GMC’s disciplinary panel found.

His conduct brought the medical profession “into disrepute” after he took blood samples from youngsters at his son’s birthday party in return for payments of £5.

He also acted dishonestly and was misleading and irresponsible in the way he described research later published in The Lancet medical journal, the panel of experts ruled at a hearing in London.

Wow, those are strong words, callous disregard, abuse, disrepute, dishonestly, misleading, irresponsible! How many adjectives like these are left unused? But this surprises us in the skeptical movement not a single bit; we’ve been pointing out the problem with Dr. Wakefield’s research for a while, though probably not in such strong terms as the GMC just did.

But that’s not the end of it. Dr. Wakefield may lose his license apparently.

Dr Wakefield now faces being struck off the medical register after the panel decided the allegations against him could amount to serious professional misconduct, which will be decided at a later date.

Let us watch the antivax crowd go apeshit to deify Wakefield as some sort of hero being framed by Big Pharma as part of their evil conspiracy. And now the mike goes to Age of Autism who’s bound to spew more stupidity than Mike Adams showered on us over the past week or so.

Measles kills the unvaccinated in Zimbabwe

Posted in Skepdude by Skepdude on December 29, 2009

CNN reports that 22 people, most of them children, have died of measles in Zimbabwe.

WHO’s head in Zimbabwe, Dr. Custodia Mandlhate, told journalists in Harare the outbreak has totaled more than 340 suspected cases this year, and “this is not acceptable.” She said the outbreak came about “mainly because of people who have denied their children vaccination.”

She said that all of the 22 people who died were unvaccinated. Measles is a disease that can be easily prevented with the MMR vaccine.  Since the MMR vaccine was introduced in the US, measles cases have gone down by 99%.   According to the CDC website:

However, measles is still common in other countries. The virus is highly contagious and can spread rapidly in areas where vaccination is not widespread. It is estimated that in 2007 there were 197,000 measles deaths worldwide—that equals about 540 deaths every day or about 22 deaths every hour.

Thus, what has happened in Zimbabwe is not an isolated case. It happens worldwide every hour. There is a simple lesson in these stats. Vaccines save lives. Not vaccinating causes death, mommy instincts be damned!

Thornett Award for the Promotion of Reason for 2009 goes to the brave parents of Dana McCaffery

Posted in Skepdude by Skepdude on December 3, 2009

You remember the sad story of little Dana McCaffery who, unfortunately contracted and succumbed to whopping cough when she was only a few weeks old, thus too young to be vaccinated. I’ve linked to blog posts about this  story in the past, one was written by her father, David a while back. The AVN (Assholes deVoid of Neurons) league, the australian equivalent of Age of Autism and Generation Rescue, the probably well-meaning but too dense to know their right hand from their left group of incompletely evolved primates jumped all over this case and their “leader”, one Meryl Dorey, even went so far as appearing on australian TV, with the McCaffery’s present and proceeded to make a complete ass of herself and the sorry band of  losers she heads all the while armed with unwavering arrogance on her ignorance.

Ok, now that I got that out of my system, let’s go back to the good news. The McCaffery’s have been awarded the first Annual The Thornett Award for the Promotion of Reason, a.k.a “Fred”, for their courage to fight back the lunatics in the public square through TV appearances and by promoting sound, science-based medicine, trying to turn the horrible personal tragedy they went through, into something positive so that other children, and their parents, may be spared the pain and suffering the McCaffery’s have had to endure.

As reported in the Australian Skeptics website:

The Thornett Award for the Promotion of Reason for 2009 went to Toni and David McCaffery. The McCafferys lost their daughter Dana Elizabeth McCaffery in March 2009 at 4 weeks of age from Whooping Cough. Sadly, she is one of three babies that have died from this vaccine preventable disease in Australia this year. Since then Toni and David have been tireless campaigners both for the benefits of vaccination and against the tide of scaremongering and misinformation regarding the safety and efficacy of vaccines.

Toni and David decided to donate the money awarded to them to the Children’s Hospital Westmead, who are commencing a study into the link between mothers’ pertussis antibodies and babies diagnosed with Pertussis, in an effort to prevent it.

“We implore people when they want information they access reputable sources,” Mrs McCaffery said.

I think a more fitting choice to receive this award doesn’t exist.  And I couldn’t say it better than the Bad Astronomer did in his coverage of this event:

To Toni and David: I am so, so sorry you were eligible for this award, but I am very, very glad you two have done what you’ve done. Congratulations. And may your story save more lives than the AVN and its ilk can endanger.

PS: Toni and David have set up a website in honor of Dana, so that her story may always be remembered and their efforts to promote good health practices for all children may not be in vain. Toni and David…YOU ROCK!

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