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!

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Swine Flu Vaccine Fears Debunked

Posted in News by Skepdude on October 23, 2009

READ THE FULL ARTICLE AT DISCOVERY NEWS

Oct. 23, 2009 — With school closings, a run on face masks, and even a flu-tracker iPhone app, it’s clear that swine flu is taking the country by storm.

As of this month, the flu, now called the 2009 H1N1 influenza, was widespread among people of all ages in 41 states, and it has been reported in all 50. Numbers of cases, hospitalizations, and deaths are unusually high for this time of year. And the situation is likely to get worse.

To stem the pandemic, the U.S. government is urging just about everyone older than 6 months to get the H1N1 vaccine as doses of the shot and nasal spray eventually become available for more than just high-risk groups.

Yet, while some people are waiting for hours in line to get themselves or their children vaccinated, others are avoiding it — convinced that the H1N1 vaccine is unnecessary or even unsafe. Scientists are fighting hard to tackle those misconceptions.

“These are urban myths and you can’t even track them down,” said Greg Poland, Director of the Mayo Clinic’s Vaccine Research Group in Rochester, Minn. “Someone says something that spreads virally from person to person and becomes truth in their minds.”

Here are expert answers to some of the most common concerns.

Concern #1: Swine flu is no big deal. It’s just another example of media hype.

READ THE FULL ARTICLE AT DISCOVERY NEWS

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

An Open Letter to Bill Maher on Vaccinations

Posted in News by Skepdude on October 16, 2009

READ THE FULL ENTRY AT (I CAN’T BELIEVE I’M LINKNG HERE) HUFFINGTON POST

From Fellow Skeptic Michael Shermer
Editor of Skeptic magazine and “Skeptic” columnist for Scientific American

Dear Bill,

Years ago you invited me to appear as a fellow skeptic several times on your ABC show Politically Incorrect, and I have ever since shared your skepticism on so many matters important to both of us: creationism and intelligent design, religious supernaturalism and New Age paranormal piffle, 9/11 “truthers”, Obama “birthers”, and all manner of conspiratorial codswallop. On these matters, and many others, you rightly deserved the Richard Dawkins Award from Richard’s foundation, which promotes reason and science.

However, I believe that when it comes to alternative medicine in general and vaccinations in particular you have fallen prey to the same cognitive biases and conspiratorial thinking that you have so astutely identified in others. In fact, the very principle of how vaccinations work is additional proof (as if we needed more) against the creationists that evolution happened and that natural selection is real: vaccinations work by tricking the body’s immune system into thinking that it has already had the disease for which the vaccination was given. Our immune system “adapts” to the invading pathogens and “evolves” to fight them, such that when it encounters a biologically similar pathogen (which itself may have evolved) it has in its armory the weapons needed to fight it. This is why many of us born in the 1950s and before may already have some immunity against the H1N1 flu because of its genetic similarity to earlier influenza viruses, and why many of those born after really should get vaccinated.

Vaccinations are not 100% effective, nor are they risk free. But the benefits far outweigh the risks, and when communities in the U.S. and the U.K. in recent years have foregone vaccinations in large numbers, herd immunity is lost and communicable diseases have come roaring back. This is yet another example of evolution at work, but in this case it is working against us. (See http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org for numerous articles answering every one of the objections to vaccinations.)

Vaccination is one of science’s greatest discoveries. It is with considerable irony, then, that as a full-throated opponent of the nonsense that calls itself Intelligent Design, your anti-vaccination stance makes you something of an anti-evolutionist. Since you have been so vocal in your defense of the theory of evolution, I implore you to be consistent in your support of the theory across all domains and to please reconsider your position on vaccinations. It was not unreasonable to be a vaccination skeptic in the 1880s, which the co-discovered of natural selection–Alfred Russel Wallace–was, but we’ve learned a lot over the past century. Evolution explains why vaccinations work. Please stop denying evolution in this special case.

READ THE FULL ENTRY AT (I CAN’T BELIEVE I’M LINKNG HERE) HUFFINGTON POST

More Nonsense from Dr. Jay Gordon

Posted in Neurologica by Skepdude on October 15, 2009

READ THE FULL ENTRY AT NEUROLOGICA

Dr. Jay Gordon is a pediatrician to a particular subculture of pseudoscientific celebrities, such as Jenny McCarthy. He lends his MD cred to this community. He also appears, in my opinion, to be a shameless self-promoter – one of those pop professionals (Dr. Oz, Dr. Phil) who has sold his soul for some easy celebrity.

Regardless of his motivations, he has been spouting arrogant nonsense about vaccines for years, essentially arguing that his clinical gut feeling and anecdotal experience trump the actual science. This is exactly the wrong approach to science-based medicine.

In a recent open letter on his website, he adds to the anti-vax chorus advising not to get the H1N1 (swine flu) vaccine. It’s almost as if this crowd wants to maximize the morbidity and suffering from this somewhat preventable disease. I know this is not literally true, but their ideologically motivated and confused actions will have the same effect.

Gordon starts his letter with, of course, some anecdotal evidence from his practice, admitting that he is seeing many cases of flu-like illness over this summer, but:

They all felt miserable, and they are all feeling just fine now.

The implication here is that H1N1 is not that bad. In an average flu season, 30,000 Americans die from the flu. By all accounts, we are in for at least a very heavy flu season, and H1N1 has been killing more young and otherwise healthy people as well as pregnant women (while the regular flu tends to kill the old and infirm). Again we see Gordon perfectly willing to substitute his own anecdotes for hard data.

READ THE FULL ENTRY AT NEUROLOGICA

The real truth about vaccinations

Posted in News by Skepdude on October 13, 2009

READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE AT YAHOO7NEWS

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?

Vaccination.

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?

READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE AT YAHOO7NEWS

Bill Maher gets schooled on vaccines by Bill Frist

Posted in Skepdude by Skepdude on October 11, 2009

Chest tumor cause of 14-year-old UK teen death

Posted in Skepdude by Skepdude on October 1, 2009

The 14-year-old British teen that collapsed and died a few hours after receiving the HPV vaccine, apparently had a “large malignant tumor of unknown origin in the heart and lungs” which caused her death, Bloomberg reports. There is no indication that the vaccine had anything to do with this. Hopefully this will lay this matter to rest. Realistically, the woo woos are never persuaded by the evidence. They’ll cry conspiracy and cover up and keep on with their bullshit.

Preliminary autopsy reveals underlying condition for british girl who died hours after receiving cancer vaccine

Posted in Skepdude by Skepdude on September 29, 2009

Natalie Morton, the 14-year-old british girl who collapsed and died a few hours after receiving the HPV vaccine, seems to have had a “serious underlying medical condition”, an NHS Trust has said. No more details were provided at this time as an in depth post mortem is to be performed.

In the mean time, the NHS maintains that the vaccine is “most unlikely” to have caused this unfortunate tragedy, and earlier today the British Government resumed the vaccination program which was temporarily halted when this happened. Also, the vaccine manufacturer, GlaxoSmithKline, is recalling the batch for further testing. The response of both the government and the vaccine maker seem appropriate at this time.

More than 1.4 million doses have been given out so far, of which there have been 4,657 suspected reactions reported (about 0.33% or 1 in 300), and the adverse effects were: headache, nausea, dizziness, sore arm and rash. Those numbers imply that the vaccine is very safe indeed, and trying to draw a causal connection between the vaccine itself and this girl’s death is flimsy at best, especially if we consider the new announcement about the underlying condition. I will report new developments as they become public.

School girl dies shortly after receiving cervical cancer vaccine

Posted in Skepdude by Skepdude on September 28, 2009

BBC reports that a 14-year-old girl has died “shortly after the girl had received her HPV vaccine in the school.” An autopsy has not yet been performed to determine the exact cause of death, but expect the anti-vax woo woos to leap at this opportunity to trash vaccines in general. Obviously it is too early to know exactly what happened so a dismissal of a vaccine connection to this event, or a conclusion that the vaccine is responsible, are unwarranted and cannot be supported by the facts that have been made public. Both sides, us and the anti-vax woo woos should wait before proclaiming one way or another. But something tells me the woo woos do not play by this rule. We’ll see what happens.