Skepfeeds-The Best Skeptical blogs of the day

FDA Revises Recommendations for Rotavirus Vaccines

Posted in Skepdude by Skepdude on May 14, 2010


The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today revised its recommendations for rotavirus vaccines for the prevention of the disease in infants and has determined that it is appropriate for clinicians and health care professionals to resume the use of Rotarix and to continue the use of RotaTeq.

The agency reached its decision based on a careful evaluation of information from laboratory results from the manufacturers and the FDA’s own laboratories, a thorough review of the scientific literature, and input from scientific and public health experts, including members of the FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee that convened on May 7, 2010 to discuss these vaccines.

The FDA also considered the following in its decision:

  • Both vaccines have strong safety records, including clinical trials involving tens of thousands of patients as well as clinical experience with millions of vaccine recipients.
  • The FDA has no evidence that PCV1 or PCV2 pose a safety risk in humans, and neither is known to cause infection or illness in humans.
  • The benefits of the vaccines are substantial, and include prevention of death in some parts of the world and hospitalization for severe rotavirus disease in the United States. These benefits outweigh the risk, which is theoretical.



Vaccine efficacy – Rotavirus vaccine RotaTeq (RV5)

Posted in Skepdude by Skepdude on May 14, 2010


A new analysis, published online by The Journal of Infectious Diseases, takes a look at acute gastroenteritis hospitalization (AGE) rates among US children under 5 years old, before and after the introduction of the first Rotavirus vaccine, RotaTeq (RV5) in early 2006. The objective of this analysis was to see if there was any change in gastroenteritis hospitalization rates after the vaccine was licensed for use among infants in the United States. The study I am referring to is this one:

Reduction in Acute Gastroenteritis Hospitalizations among US Children After Introduction of Rotavirus Vaccine: Analysis of Hospital Discharge Data from 18 US States

Aaron T. Curns, Claudia A. Steiner,  Marguerite Barrett,  Katherine Hunter,  Emily Wilson, and Umesh D. Parashar

The Journal of Infectious Diseases 2010;201:1617–1624 © 2010 by the Infectious Diseases Society of America. All rights reserved.

Why did they look at gastroenteritis hospitalization rates? Because that disease, commonly referred to as the “stomach flu“,  is a viral infection, and rotavirus is the leading cause of severe gastroenteritis in children, credited with causing about 50% of acute gastroenteritis hospitalizations during January-June amoung U.S. children. Logically, if rotavirus causes it, and if an effective vaccine is introduced, we ought to observe statistically significant decreases in gastroenteritis hospitalization rates, and this is what this analysis was set up to do.

Study Summary -The authors gathered approximately 100% complete  AGE hospitalization rates for children under 5 years of age, from 18 states, accounting for 49% of the U.S. under 5 children population. Median AGE hospitalization rates from the pre-vaccine years of 2000-2006 were compared with median AGE hospitalization rates from 2007, the first year after the vaccine, and 2008.

Results – Overall AGE hospitalization rates went down by 16% in 2007 and decreased by 45% in 2008. By age group, the reductions line up like this:

  • 0-2  months      – 28%
  • 3-5  months      – 42%
  • 6-23 months    –  50%
  • 24-59 months  – 45%

Prior to RV5 introduction, children in the 6-11 month age group had the highest hospitalization rates; after vaccine introduction children in the 0-2 month age group had the highest hospitalization rates, and showed the lowest decreases. Given that the first dose of the vaccine is given at 2 months of age, this result is to be expected.


Rotavirus vaccine ‘could save millions of lives’

Posted in News by Skepdude on January 28, 2010


WASHINGTON (AFP) – A vaccination campaign to combat rotavirus in the world’s poorest countries could save the lives of hundreds of thousands of children, according to a pair of studies published this week.

Around the world, more than half a million infants and children die each year from rotavirus infection, a leading cause of severe diarrhoea in children under the age of five, with more than half of the reported cases in sub-Saharan Africa.

The studies published in this week’s New England Journal of Medicine found that vaccination campaigns in Malawi and South Africa reduced the rate of rotavirus infections by 61.2 percent during the first year of life, while another campaign in Mexico saw diarrhoeal disease rates drop by over 65 percent.

In industrialized countries, the vaccine is part of a standard paediatric immunization protocol.

“We now have another powerful weapon to add to our armamentarium to combat diarrhoeal deaths — rotavirus vaccines,” John Hopkins University health professor Mathuram Santosham wrote in an editorial accompanying the studies’ results.



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!


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 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.



The real truth about vaccinations

Posted in News by Skepdude on October 13, 2009


I want you to imagine a medical product which can save and has saved many millions of lives, the majority of them children.

Imagine that the procedure is safe (not 100%, absolutely safe, of course, because nothing is that) and has been used literally billions of times with only a small number of bad reactions.

It is cheap and can be administered by people with almost no training. It is not very profitable for the pharmaceutical industry because research is expensive, but the buyers are mainly governments and charities who are very cost conscious.

Now I want you to imagine that there is a highly organised opposition to this procedure.

The opponents are prepared to lie without remorse about non-existent dangers of the procedure (and we know they are lying because the truth has been pointed out to them many times).

They lie about the manufacturing process and they even lie about the ingredients in order to suggest that parents who allow their children to undergo the procedure are sentencing those children to eternity in Hell.

Researchers associated with the procedure are vilified and even receive credible death threats.

It is even claimed that people undergoing the procedure might be marking themselves out for extermination in a plan for global genocide.

And what is this terrible procedure which is so awful that its opponents have to discard all truth, science and apparently even sometimes sanity to defeat it?


I have often been accused of being offensive when I call the opponents of vaccination “anti-vaccination liars”. Well, what else can I call people who lie about vaccines?



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


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.



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.



Defending Vaccines: Actress Dispels Link To Autism

Posted in News by Skepdude on December 14, 2008

A movie star and a prominent scientist have teamed up to reassure the public that childhood vaccines are safe and do not cause autism.

Amanda Peet, who starred in films including The X-Files: I Want To Believe and Syriana, is working with Paul Offit, the chief of infectious diseases at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

Their goal is to counter the assault on vaccines led by celebrities including Jenny McCarthy, Jim Carrey and Holly Robinson Peete.

These stars, along with several advocacy groups, contend that “toxins” in vaccines can cause children to develop immune-system problems and autism. More than a dozen large scientific studies, however, have found no connection between vaccines and autism.

Peet says she began to investigate the safety of vaccines a couple of years ago, when she was pregnant. She says friends were urging her not to get her child vaccinated.

But her sister, who is a doctor, helped her get in touch with Offit, who had very different advice.

Peet says she was bewildered and frustrated by “the disparity between what I was hearing from other moms here in Hollywood and what I was hearing from the doctors.”

After her baby was born in early 2007, she decided to speak out publicly. Since then, she’s been advocating vaccination through interviews, talk show appearances, and public service announcements.



Vaccines: Separating fact from fiction

Posted in News by Skepdude on November 5, 2008

Yet underneath all the debate and impossibly good intentions (after all, everyone hopes to be doing the best for their child no matter how or whether they immunize), there are some solid facts about the benefits of shots that cannot be ignored. “We live thirty years longer now than we did a century ago, thanks to purified water — and vaccines,” says Paul Offit, M.D., chief of infectious diseases at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia in Pennsylvania.

But as soon as compliance wanes, the protection we have against many devastating, and sometimes fatal, diseases wanes right along with it. This year’s measles outbreak — the biggest in nearly a decade — may be the first warning shot, says Dr. Offit. Nearly all of the 131 people affected so far, many of them children, were purposely not vaccinated against the disease, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in Atlanta, Georgia.

“We have to take this seriously,” says Anne Schuchat, M.D., director of the CDC National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. “I do not want to see the day where thousands of kids get this disease and die when we have the tools to prevent it.” Read about the vaccines your child is getting

So what’s a worried mom to do? Between the scary claims about shots themselves and the scary news about what can happen without them, you might feel like you need a Ph.D. in immunology, toxicology, and biostatistics to make sense of it all. To help, has highlighted four of the concerns heard regularly, and dug through the science to get the facts. The bottom line: No medical intervention is 100 percent risk-free, and no one but you can choose what’s right for your child. Our job is to help that decision come a little easier, so here goes:


Skepdude says-excellent article. I started reading it with a little bit of apprehension as I was affraid it was going to turn into one of those “listen to your mommy instinct” pieces. I am happy to announce it isn’t. Very nice little primer on vaccines and what worries most parents, and cool little debunking of the major lies about vaccines.


What do you know? Vaccines reduce kid hospitalization rates.

Posted in News by Skepdude on October 26, 2008

WASHINGTON — A vaccine against rotavirus, the leading cause of diarrhea in infants, has led to a substantial drop in hospitalization and emergency-room visits since it came on the market two years ago, doctors reported Saturday.

A bonus: the vaccine seems to be preventing illness in unvaccinated children by cutting the number of infections that children can pick up and spread.

“We’re a little surprised by the degree of impact, given the coverage we’ve achieved,” said Jane Seward, of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Only about half of young children had received the vaccine, and very few had received all three doses when the studies were done.


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