Skepfeeds-The Best Skeptical blogs of the day

Wakefield intends to fight back

Posted in Skepdude by Skepdude on May 21, 2010

Although I’m not sure this is the fight he should be getting into!  He claims that the GNC’s conclusions that he acted carelessly were “predetermined” and plans to conduct research to vindicate himself.  Which is all good in my book. We can never really know the determination status of the GNC’s conclusions, and if he does prove scientifically that there is merit to his 1998 Lance retracted paper, than all the better. The point here is not blind adherence to one hypothesis or another, but finding out the truth. So, I say, good luck Andrew Wakefield.

I must say thought that, personally, I tend to be suspicious of someone with such grandiose views of himself. He is, some may say quite expectedly, portraying himself as someone who was sacrificed because he dared to take on the “vaccine industry”.

Andrew Wakefield, the British doctor who came to Austin after fueling a worldwide scare over vaccines and autism, said Wednesday that he expects to have his British medical license yanked next week in a final effort by the mainstream medical establishment to silence him and stop his research.

In his first in-depth interview since the council’s findings, Wakefield — hailed as a hero by some parents and a false prophet by many doctors — said the charges were unfair, false and pre-determined from the outset because he dared to take on the vaccine industry. He said he does not intend to fade away.

He’s got a book coming out soon.

Wakefield’s new book, “Callous Disregard,” will be out Monday, the same day the General Medical Council is scheduled to decide whether to invalidate his license. The book gives Wakefield’s side of the story and lays out what he thinks was behind his prosecution: an effort by the vaccine industry to stop him from probing into vaccines that could be causing harm.

Frankly, I’d rather see him write a book where he defends the science behind his 1998 study, but that’s his call; he can write whatever he wants, but he only diminishes his reputation even further if he refuses to talk science and instead chooses to engage in conspiracy theory stories.

Wakefield contends that he learned from a whistle-blower that Britain had told the medical schools to stop investigating unsafe vaccines and any potential link to autism for fear the government might be sued. The government, in turn, manipulated the media and furthered his prosecution, Wakefield said. The bias, he said, continues with the media giving credence to studies that dispute links between vaccines and autism and discrediting any that suggest an association.

Well I hope he has some proof to back those claims up besides an undisclosed “whistle-blower”. My only question would be this: even if Britain is engaging in this sort of behavior, what about the rest of the world? Where are all these studies that he hints about that suggest a link between vaccines and autism? Why not write a book about these studies I ask instead of getting into this whole conspiracy issue?

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Another Study Refutes Vaccination-Autism Link

Posted in News by Skepdude on February 12, 2010

READ THE FULL ARTICLE AT YAHOO NEWS

FRIDAY, Feb. 12 (HealthDay News) — One more study finds that the measles vaccine — given alone or as part of the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine — does not increase the risk of autism in children.

The new findings come about a week after The Lancet retracted a 1998 study suggesting that the MMR vaccine contributes to autism risk. At the time, the Lancet study alarmed many parents and led to major declines in measles and MMR vaccination rates in some places.

In the new study, Polish researchers compared 96 children with autism with 192 children who did not have the disorder, looking for any relationship between measles vaccination and autism.

They found no evidence that children who were vaccinated for measles vaccine — either in a separate shot or as part of the MMR vaccination — were more likely to develop autism. The researchers said they reached their conclusion after adjusting for autism risk factors, including mother’s age and education, length of gestation, medications during pregnancy and the child’s condition after birth.

In fact, vaccinated children were found to be less likely to develop autism, especially those who’d gotten the MMR vaccine, though that finding could be due to other unmeasured factors affecting the children’s health, according to the researchers.

READ THE FULL ARTICLE AT YAHOO NEWS

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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!

Wakefield Saga continues-Lancet completely retracts 1998 paper

Posted in Skepdude by Skepdude on February 2, 2010

The Wakefield castle is starting to crumble. Today, the Lancet, the journal that originally published the 1998 study that started the unjustified MMR vaccine scare, has completely retracted the paper, which is the journal’s way of saying “pretend it never happened” or conversely “can we start from scratch”?

Following the judgment of the UK General Medical Council’s Fitness to Practise Panel on Jan 28, 2010, it has become clear that several elements of the 1998 paper by Wakefield et al1 are incorrect, contrary to the findings of an earlier investigation.2 In particular, the claims in the original paper that children were
“consecutively referred” and that investigations were “approved” by the local ethics committee have been
proven to be false. Therefore we fully retract this paper from the published record.

Another study finds no MMR-autism link

Posted in News by Skepdude on January 7, 2010

READ THE FULL ARTICLE AT OTTAWACITIZEN

NEW YORK – A new study provides further evidence that the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine is not associated with an increased risk of autism.

Concerns that the MMR shot could cause autism were first raised a decade ago by British physician Andrew Wakefield, who, based on a study of 12 children, proposed that there was a link between the vaccine and bowel disease and autism.

That research has since been widely discredited, and numerous international studies have failed to find a connection between MMR vaccination and autism.

This latest study included 96 Polish children ages 2 to 15 who had been diagnosed with autism. Researchers compared each child with two healthy children the same age and sex who had been treated by the same doctor.

Some of the children had received the MMR vaccine, while others had not been vaccinated at all or had received a vaccine against measles only.

Poland has been slower to introduce the MMR than other European countries, but over the past decade, the vaccine has slowly been replacing the measles-only shot.

Overall, the study found, children who had received the MMR vaccine actually had a lower risk of autism than their unvaccinated peers. Nor was there any evidence of an increased autism risk with the measles-only vaccine.

READ THE FULL ARTICLE AT OTTAWACITIZEN

A doctor’s view: ‘The MMR vaccine was a godsend’

Posted in News by Skepdude on January 4, 2010

READ THE FULL ARTICLE AT THE GUARDIAN

I’m old enough to have practised medicine before we had vaccines against measles, mumps and rubella. I still remember the 13-year-old girl dying of sudden and severe measles in the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham when I was a final year medical student. And the 11-year old boy with mumps encephalitis (a swelling of the brain), whom I looked after when I was a house officer in the Birmingham Children’s Hospital.

In my early years in practice I had to cope with outbreaks of measles every few years. It was a horrible disease. Children suffered greatly from painful wracking coughs for days on end, for which we could do very little. Then there were the unlucky children with hearing, sight and brain impairments because their mothers had caught rubella during their pregnancies.

The MMR vaccine was therefore a godsend; most of the doctors who have graduated in the last two decades have never had the misfortune to see measles, mumps or rubella. It is taken for granted that these illnesses won’t return and now people have forgotten how distressing they are. As time passes, there’s an impression that they were only mild diseases, and that immunisation against them is now more damaging than the illnesses themselves. It is a dangerous development.

Since we started vaccinating people against diseases in the 18th century we have always had an anti-vaccination lobby. The introduction of a compulsory vaccination against smallpox in 1853 stirred up mass action: one demonstration by antivaccinationists in Leicester in 1865 attracting 20,000 people.

In the 1970s the anti-vaccine lobby was stirred to action again with the claim that the whooping cough element in the standard series of childhood immunisations against diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough was causing brain damage. The steep drop in uptake led to many cases of whooping cough, leading to long-term lung damage. It took ten years of careful studies to disprove the claim, and whooping cough immunisation rates slowly returned to their pre-scare levels.

Then came 1998. Andrew Wakefield and his colleagues proposed that MMR might cause autism.

READ THE FULL ARTICLE AT THE GUARDIAN

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!

Measles outbreak ‘worst in years’

Posted in News by Skepdude on May 20, 2009

READ THE FULL ENTRY AT “BBC NEWS”

Health chiefs in Wales are dealing with a “massive” measles outbreak, with numbers already four times the highest figure recorded over the past 13 years.

Four nursery school children were treated in hospital as part of 127 cases across mid and west Wales, while there are another 39 cases in Conwy.

The National Public Health Service (NPHS) in Wales saw 39 cases last year. Its highest figure in 2003 was 44.

Officials appealed for parents to take up the MMR vaccine.

Dr Mac Walapu, consultant in communicable disease control for the NPHS, said: “For as long as there are children who do not receive their MMR vaccinations, there is the potential for outbreaks of measles to happen and we would remind anyone in Wales, and not just in the affected area.”

A spokeswoman added: “We need to be up front with parents.”

She added: “We try not to be too scary when we talk to people about this, but children die of measles and children are impaired by measles. “It puts children in hospital. The reality it is that this is happening now, in Wales. Measles is very contagious.”

She said the outbreak was set to be the biggest in Wales since the MMR vaccine was introduced in 1988.


READ THE FULL ENTRY AT “BBC NEWS”

Autism ruling fails to convince many vaccine-link believers

Posted in News by Skepdude on February 13, 2009

A special court’s Thursday ruling that no proven link exists between autism and certain early childhood vaccines seems to have done little to change the sometimes-passionate opinion fueling the debate.

Thousands of parents have sought compensation saying, early childhood vaccinations triggered their children's autism.

Thousands of parents have sought compensation saying, early childhood vaccinations triggered their children’s autism.

Amanda Guyton, a mother of a 6-year-old boy with autism, was “incredibly happy” with the decision and said it reaffirmed her belief that her son’s autism has nothing to do with vaccines.

“We’re ready for them to get on real research like educational strategies and help for kids,” she said. “An awful lot of money and effort and time were spent on vaccines when three or four studies said no, there isn’t a link.”

Meanwhile, John Best, the father of a 12-year-old boy with autism, said: “The whole thing stinks.”

Guyton and Best were not involved in the cases, but were following the news because of their interest in autism.

Three families — the Cedillos, the Hazlehursts and the Snyders — had sought damage awards from the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program for their children who have autism, a disorder that the parents contend was triggered by the vaccine against measles, mumps and rubella combined with vaccines containing thimerosal, a mercury-based preservative.

The panel of “special masters” ruled that these petitioners had not presented sufficient evidence to prove that the childhood vaccines caused autism in their children.

A vocal segment of autism parents has contended that childhood vaccinations recommended by the government cause the disorder. Health agencies and the scientific community have disputed that notion. In defending its conclusion that no link exists, the Institute of Medicine cited five large studies that have failed to prove any connection between autism and thimerosal and 14 large studies finding no link between the MMR vaccine and autism.

READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE AT “CNN”