Skepfeeds-The Best Skeptical blogs of the day

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!

Advertisements

Aussies Fight Back Against Anti-Vaccine Nonsense

Posted in Depleted Cranium by Skepdude on August 13, 2009

READ THE REST OF THIS ENTRY AT DEPLETED CRANIUM

The anti-vaccine movement is nothing new.    The US, the UK, Germany, Canada and many other countries all have their own anti-vaccine activists, working to misinform the public and kill people through preventable infectious disease.   In the US, we have Jenny McCarthy, who I may remind everyone, is only well known because she showed everyone her who-who in 1993.

In Australia they have the AVN, or “Australian Vaccine Network.” The Australian Vaccine Network claims to be “pro-choice,” as opposed to “anti-vaccine,” as many other organizations do.  They also claim to be empowering people by providing information, although their information ranges from one-sided and misleading facts to outright lies.   The biggest anti-vaccine assclown in the Australian anti-vaccine movement is Meryl Dorey.   Ms. Dorey makes the standard comments, claiming that vaccines cause autism (they don’t) and that they harm the immune system (they actually stimulate antibody production) and that they’re ineffective.

Click here for a video of the news report that got this started.

But recently there has been a major shift in public opinion in Australia, as a series of events have lead to the AVN getting some well deserved bad press...

What touched this off was a story on Australia’s Channel Seven over the tragic death of Dana McCaffery.   Dana was only four weeks old when she caught whooping cough, the disease that would ultimately kill her.  This disease was almost eliminated in most of the industrial world decades ago but is making a comeback.   At such a young age, Dana had not yet received the vaccination that would have saved her life, and thus was counting on the “herd immunity” of the community to keep her safe and healthy.

I really don’t like the term “herd immunity,” but it’s an accurate way of describing how widespread vaccination can prevent illness, even in those who are not vaccinated.   In any population, there will be a few individuals who are not immune to a disease through no fault of their own.  Some of these individuals are simply too young to have had the vaccine.  Others may have immune system diseases like AIDS.   Still others may have received an organ transplant or have an auto-immune disease which requires immune suppression drugs.  Yet in such cases, their chances of getting a disease is very low as long as the community has a high enough rate of immunization.   For a disease like whooping cough to exist at all in such a community, it must be introduced by an outsider, who must transmit it directly to one of the individuals without the immunity.  Even if this happens, the disease will not have a chance to get very far, because there are not enough suitable hosts to sustain the pathogens spread.

One could compare the concept to critical mass in a nuclear reaction.   Bellow critical mass, one might get an occasional fission and it may even trigger a second, but it will not create a significant propagation of the effect and the reaction will die out rapidly.

So why didn’t herd immunity protect little Dana McCaffery?    It seems that in her region of Australia, the level of vaccination has fallen to the point where the disease can take hold.   This is not unique to Australia, as whooping cough has made a comeback in the US, along with diseases like measles.   Full blown outbreaks of such diseases have occurred in areas that had not seen them in decades.

There is one thing that sets Australia apart from most other countries, however:  the report on the death of Dana McCaffery seems to have touched out an appropriate level of outrage and the AVN has been enduring some very very bad publicity…

READ THE REST OF THIS ENTRY AT DEPLETED CRANIUM

A guest post from David McCaffery.

Posted in The Sceptics book of pooh pooh by Skepdude on May 4, 2009

I’ve lain awake all night in my bed, my mind processing all I heard or wanted to say at the debate. I was ready to speak up at anytime, but wasn’t directly asked a question. (Mind you, my wife was terrific when she spoke. She’s a wonderful, compassionate and intelligent woman.)

So here I go:

My daughter died a horrific death. Moments after she died I held her beaten little body as blood from her double transfusion ran down her arms, onto mine and then the floor. It’s a reality and I ‘know’ it happened.

She died from pertussis, contracted in a region in NSW where 66% of babies are vaccinated. When you combine that with the low adult vaccination rate of 10%(due to people not knowing their booster shots wane after 7 to 10 years), it’s the lowest vaccination rate in Australia, hence one of the most dangerous areas to have a baby.

Dana paid the highest price for our ignorance and apathy.

READ THE REST OF THIS ENTRY AT “THE SCEPTICS BOOK OF POOH POOH”