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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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An Epidemic of Fear: How Panicked Parents Skipping Shots Endangers Us All

Posted in News by Skepdude on October 20, 2009

Skepdude says – Excellent article! Loved every line of it. This should be mandatory reading for any skeptic!

READ THE FULL ARTICLE AT WIRED.COM

To hear his enemies talk, you might think Paul Offit is the most hated man in America. A pediatrician in Philadelphia, he is the coinventor of a rotavirus vaccine that could save tens of thousands of lives every year. Yet environmental activist Robert F. Kennedy Jr. slams Offit as a “biostitute” who whores for the pharmaceutical industry. Actor Jim Carrey calls him a profiteer and distills the doctor’s attitude toward childhood vaccination down to this chilling mantra: “Grab ‘em and stab ‘em.” Recently, Carrey and his girlfriend, Jenny McCarthy, went on CNN’s Larry King Live and singled out Offit’s vaccine, RotaTeq, as one of many unnecessary vaccines, all administered, they said, for just one reason: “Greed.”

Thousands of people revile Offit publicly at rallies, on Web sites, and in books. Type pauloffit.com into your browser and you’ll find not Offit’s official site but an anti-Offit screed “dedicated to exposing the truth about the vaccine industry’s most well-paid spokesperson.” Go to Wikipedia to read his bio and, as often as not, someone will have tampered with the page. The section on Offit’s education was once altered to say that he’d studied on a pig farm in Toad Suck, Arkansas. (He’s a graduate of Tufts University and the University of Maryland School of Medicine).

Then there are the threats. Offit once got an email from a Seattle man that read, “I will hang you by your neck until you are dead!” Other bracing messages include “You have blood on your hands” and “Your day of reckoning will come.” A few years ago, a man on the phone ominously told Offit he knew where the doctor’s two children went to school. At a meeting of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an anti-vaccine protester emerged from a crowd of people holding signs that featured Offit’s face emblazoned with the word terrorist and grabbed the unsuspecting, 6-foot-tall physician by the jacket.

“I don’t think he wanted to hurt me,” Offit recalls. “He was just excited to be close to the personification of such evil.” Still, whenever Offit gets a letter with an unfamiliar return address, he holds the envelope at arm’s length before gingerly tearing it open. “I think about it,” he admits. “Anthrax.”

So what has this award-winning 58-year-old scientist done to elicit such venom? He boldly states — in speeches, in journal articles, and in his 2008 book Autism’s False Prophets — that vaccines do not cause autism or autoimmune disease or any of the other chronic conditions that have been blamed on them. He supports this assertion with meticulous evidence. And he calls to account those who promote bogus treatments for autism — treatments that he says not only don’t work but often cause harm.

As a result, Offit has become the main target of a grassroots movement that opposes the systematic vaccination of children and the laws that require it. McCarthy, an actress and a former Playboy centerfold whose son has been diagnosed with autism, is the best-known leader of the movement, but she is joined by legions of well-organized supporters and sympathizers.

READ THE FULL ARTICLE AT WIRED.COM

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

Whooping cough returns in kids as parents skip vaccines

Posted in News by Skepdude on May 26, 2009

READ THE REST OF THIS ENTRY AT “USA TODAY”

Children who aren’t vaccinated against whooping cough are 23 times more likely to develop the disease than children who get all of their shots on time, a new study shows.

Whooping cough, or pertussis, has been making a resurgence in recent years as more parents decide not to vaccinate their children, says Jason Glanz, author of a study in today’s Pediatrics. In a study of 751 children enrolled in Kaiser Permanente of Colorado, one in 20 children who skipped the vaccine developed whooping cough, compared with one in 500 vaccinated children. In all, 11% to 12% of pertussis cases were in unvaccinated children.

Though more than 90% effective, the vaccine doesn’t protect everyone, says Sean O’Leary, an infectious-disease fellow at Children’s Hospital in Denver.

That’s why vaccinating all children is crucial to creating “herd immunity” for the entire community, including newborns who are too young to be immunized, O’Leary says.

A study in the Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal in March found that 91 babies under age 1 died of whooping cough from 1999 to 2004. More than half were under 2 months old, the age at which infants get their first in a series of whooping cough shots.

READ THE REST OF THIS ENTRY AT “USA TODAY”

Is Vaccine Refusal Worth The Risk?

Posted in News by Skepdude on May 26, 2009

READ THE FULL ENTRY AT “NPR”

Over the past 10 years, a highly contagious and sometimes fatal bacterial disease once thought eradicated from the U.S. has re-emerged, threatening the very youngest and weakest of our population. Pertussis is a bacterial infection of the lungs and spreads from person to person through moisture droplets in the air, probably from coughs or sneezes. A person with pertussis develops a severe cough that usually lasts four to six weeks or longer.

Health officials cite an increase in the incidence of pertussis, particularly among infants and teenagers. In 1976 there were just over 1,000 reported cases of pertussis in the United States; by 2004, it climbed to nearly 26,000 cases. Between 2000 and 2005 there were 140 deaths resulting from pertussis in the United States.

At the same time, both studies and anecdotal reports from doctors nationwide report an increase in the number of parents refusing to vaccinate their children against childhood diseases.

Much of this refusal has to do with perceived vaccine safety issues, such as purported associations between vaccines and autism, attention deficit disorder, seizures and epilepsy. None of these concerns have been upheld in research. In fact, all scientific studies show vaccines to be highly effective and safe, with only rare, moderate adverse side effects.

Results of this current study show the biggest risk among children who are not vaccinated is the disease itself as well as spreading it to more vulnerable populations who are unable for age or medical reasons to get vaccinated.

In this study, published in the June issue of the journal Pediatrics, researchers from Kaiser Permanente Colorado’s Institute for Health Research used electronic health records to look for immunization refusal and possible pertussis infections.

Specifically, researchers examined the medical records of children between the ages of two months and 18 years who were members of Kaiser Permanente Colorado between 1996 and 2007. First investigators confirmed which children had pertussis infections. Next, they verified whether parents had refused some or all vaccines for their children.

The findings: Children of parents who refused the DTaP vaccine were 23 times more likely to get whooping cough compared to fully immunized children. “A 23 fold increase is huge!” says Jason Glanz, Ph.D., a senior scientist at Kaiser Permanent’s Institute for Health Research who headed the study.

Glanz says the findings should help “dispel one of the commonly held beliefs among vaccine-refusing parents: that their children are not at risk for vaccine preventable diseases.”

READ THE FULL ENTRY AT “NPR”

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”

Jennifer Lopez adds vocal support

Posted in Left Brain Right Brain by Skepdude on April 27, 2009

In an interview with ‘Good Morning America’ Jennifer Lopez stood up for vaccinations by talking about a new campaign and website. The website is very accomplished and features Ms Lopez talking about how to protect your baby from Whooping Cough.

The interview itself contained the following on vaccines:

She’s also raising awareness about pertussis, the potentially fatal disease better known as whooping cough.Visit www.soundsofpertussis.com to find out more about the vaccine.

Pertussis cases were virtually nonexistent in the United States after a vaccine was developed. Reported cases of whooping cough hit a low of about 1,000 in 1976. That number has been on the rise over the past 30 years, and in 2005, 25,000 cases were reported, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. According to a CDC study of the disease, Hispanic infants were particularly hard hit by the disease, though there is no clear reason why.

Read more: “Autism Blog – Jennifer Lopez adds vocal support « Left Brain/Right Brain” – http://leftbrainrightbrain.co.uk/?p=2230#ixzz0DuA7uwlz&A

READ THE REST OF THIS ENTRY AT “LEFT BRAIN RIGHT BRAIN”

Introducing Jenny McCarthy Body Count

Posted in Skepdude by Skepdude on March 30, 2009

Jenny McCarthy’s special brand of  anti science zeal has finally a quantifiable number attached to it, thanks to the Jenny McCarthy Body Count website. Go there frequently. As of today it stand at

  • Preventable Cases – 720
  • Preventable deaths – 142

Now of course this is a bit exagerated, not all of these cases are due directly to the anti-vaccine movement, but you have to wonder, how high is the percentage of those cases that are and can you live with that as an anti-vaccer? What if it was 1 of each only, can you, as an anti-vaccer, still look at yourself in the mirror without throwing something at it?

Vaccine scares around the world

Posted in News by Skepdude on March 25, 2009

UKRAINE

KIEV, Ukraine – A widespread scare about vaccine side effects in Ukraine has led to a sharp drop in immunizations that could result in disease outbreaks spreading beyond the former Soviet republic, international and local health officials say.

Hundreds of thousands of fearful Ukrainians have refused vaccines for diseases such as diphtheria, mumps, polio, hepatitis B, tuberculosis, whooping cough and others this year, according to official estimates. Authorities have canceled a U.N.-backed measles and rubella vaccination campaign funded by U.S. philanthropist Ted Turner, and will have to collect and incinerate nearly 9 million unused doses in coming months.

“I never thought I’d see the day where perfectly good vaccines are being destroyed,” said Michael Bociurkiw, a spokesman for UNICEF.

Experts blame the Ukrainian scare on government mismanagement and irresponsible media coverage of an anti-vaccination campaign launched after the May death of a 17-year-old boy who had received a combined shot for measles and rubella.

READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE AT “MSNBC”

INDONESIA

Indonesia’s controversial health minister says she wants to end vaccinating children against meningitis, mumps and some other diseases because she fears foreign drug companies are using the country as a testing ground.

Health Minister Siti Fadillah Supari — who first drew widespread attention by boycotting the World Health Organization’s 50-year-old virus sharing system in 2007 — said Tuesday she wanted “scientific proof” that shots for illnesses like pneumonia, chicken pox, the flu, rubella and typhoid were “beneficial”.

“If not, they have to be stopped,” she said, declining to say exactly what that would mean. “We don’t want our country to be a testing place for drugs, as has been the case in Africa.”

Supari said she still would advocate immunizations against measles, polio, tetanus, hepatitis B and tuberculosis.

Her statement comes at a time when Indonesia is struggling to contain outbreaks of preventable childhood illnesses.

Chronic funding problems and chaotic decentralization efforts since the 1998 ouster of longtime dictator Suharto have forced many local clinics in the poorest parts of the nation to scale back operations, reducing the time and money spent on education and routine immunizations.

The number of cases of measles, tuberculosis and other diseases has skyrocketed. Polio briefly re-emerged after a decade-long absence in 2005.

READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE AT “THE SEATTLE TIMES”

Anti-vaxxers rejoice! You got another one!

Posted in Left Brain Right Brain by Skepdude on March 17, 2009

DANA Elizabeth McCaffery died at 4 weeks of age from Whooping cough, a totally vaccine preventable disease. She was the first to die from this appalling disease since 1997.

Local Paediatrician Chris Ingall said:

“The only way to stop babies getting infected with whooping cough is by vaccination, there is no other way,”he said.“The vaccination rates on the North Coast are the worst in Australia. This is why we have so many incidences in this area compared with other parts of Australia.

“Parents should be alarmed, whooping cough kills little babies. We must get our vaccination rates up so adults don’t pass the disease on to babies.”

The local health authority acted responsibly by bringing forward the vaccine schedule – a move that many anti-vaxxers will be horrified at no doubt.

Meanwhile, over in Kittitas Secondary School in the United States, the local health authority:

…is requiring postponement of all field trips and scheduled activities or events that include other schools, school districts, and/or family members of students.

Why? Because of Whooping cough.

READ THE REST OF THIS ENTRY AT “LEFT BRAIN RIGHT BRAIN”