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Posts Tagged ‘Vaccine controversy’

Vaccines (once again) Found Safe. Not That Anti-Vaxxers Care…

August 26, 2011 1 comment

The Institute of Medicine has released a comprehensive report on the safety of vaccines. They looked at a wide range of vaccine types and various adverse affects known to be associated, and thought to be associated, with vaccines.

The report looked at claims which were submitted to the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP), which was setup in 1986 to compensate those who were injured by vaccines.

They then looked for a causal relationship between the administration of the vaccine and the adverse effect reported in the claim.

In short, the committee found that most issues with vaccines were rare and mild.

Additionally, evidence favors rejection of five vaccine-adverse event relationships, including MMR vaccine and autism and inactivated influenza vaccine and asthma episodes.

A summary of the report very aptly states:

Despite much media attention and strong opinions from many quarters, vaccines remain one of the greatest tools in the public health arsenal. Certainly, some vaccines result in adverse effects that must be acknowledged. But the latest evidence shows that few adverse effects are caused by the vaccines reviewed in this report.

Of course, this doesn’t sway the staunch anti-vax supporters. Age of Autism, a group which is hell-bent on rejecting any scientific evidence showing that vaccines do not cause autism, had this to say about the study:

The IOM report took two years to produce, mostly behind closed doors, and was paid for by the Department of Health and Human Services, the government agency which is also a defendant against the vaccine-injured in the government’s vaccine court

Their arguments are as predictable as the sun rising in the east. It is a government agency, therefore they don’t accept the research.

If people want to keep their heads buried in the sand that is one thing, but the problem is that it is children who end up suffering when people don’t accept the science behind one of the greatest medical advances in history.

But I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. Though that doesn’t mean I can’t be disappointed.

Big Skeptical Wins: Andrew Wakefield “Fraud” and Power Balance Bull

January 6, 2011 Leave a comment

The blogosphere is teeming with articles regarding a couple of recent wins for skepticism. I’ll save the best for last.

The Power Balance Wristband

The first such win is the admission by the makers of Power Balance, a bracelet designed to increase sport performance. How you ask? The website states that

Power Balance is based on the idea of optimizing the body’s natural energy flow, similar to concepts behind many Eastern philosophies. The hologram in Power Balance is designed to resonate with and respond to the natural energy field of the body.

Sound like bullplop? Well it is bullplop.

Making these kinds of statements was a violation of Australian trade practices. Why? The press release to Australian media by Power Balance says it all:

In our advertising we stated that Power Balance wristbands improved your strength, balance and flexibility.

We admit that there is no credible scientific evidence that supports our claims and therefore we engaged in misleading conduct in breach of s52 of the Trade Practices Act 1974.

If you feel you have been misled by our promotions, we wish to unreservedly apologise and offer a full refund.

Big time win for the skeptical movement, since they were instrumental in bringing about this admission from Power Balance.

So that’s great. But this one is awesome!

Andrew Wakefield

Our dear friend Doctor Andrew Wakefield, whose study linking vaccines to autism (retracted study, btw) sparked an anti-vaccine movement and a huge public health risk, is in the news again. If you have read my blog before, you know that I am not his biggest fan.

Although he has had his medical license stripped and paper retracted by the Lancet, the anti-vaccine movement persisted, painting Wakefield as some kind of martyr; hung out to dry by Big Pharma for trying to tell the “truth” about vaccines.

Well yet another blow has been struck against this movement, and its a doozy.

Journalist Brian Deer has written a feature in the British medical Journal BMJ accusing Wakefield of falsifying his data by altering the medical histories of all the subjects in his study.

After seeing the data, the father of one of the children in the study said

His misrepresentation of my son in his research paper is inexcusable. His motives for this I may never know.

The piece is well written and documents Deer’s investigations into Wakefield’s research. I encourage you to read the whole text, but here are the key points:

  • Three of nine children reported with regressive autism did not have autism diagnosed at all. Only one child clearly had regressive autism

  • Despite the paper claiming that all 12 children were “previously normal,” five had documented pre-existing developmental concerns

  • Some children were reported to have experienced first behavioural symptoms within days of MMR, but the records documented these as starting some months after vaccination

  • In nine cases, unremarkable colonic histopathology results—noting no or minimal fluctuations in inflammatory cell populations—were changed after a medical school “research review” to “non-specific colitis”

  • The parents of eight children were reported as blaming MMR, but 11 families made this allegation at the hospital. The exclusion of three allegations—all giving times to onset of problems in months—helped to create the appearance of a 14 day temporal link

  • Patients were recruited through anti-MMR campaigners, and the study was commissioned and funded for planned litigation

     

So basically, he lied. He’s a dirty rotten liar-liar-pants-on-fire.

But what was his motivation? From the CNN news article:

Deer said Wakefield “chiseled” the data before him, “falsifying medical histories of children and essentially concocting a picture, which was the picture he was contracted to find by lawyers hoping to sue vaccine manufacturers and to create a vaccine scare.”

According to BMJ, Wakefield received more than 435,000 pounds ($674,000) from the lawyers.

Wakefield continues to defend himself by playing the fall-guy to Big Pharma:

Wakefield dismissed Brian Deer, the writer of the British Medical Journal articles, as “a hit man who has been brought in to take me down” by pharmaceutical interests.

The evidence against Wakefield was already overwhelming. But this story has hit the news media hard. It is a huge blow to the anti-vaxxers. Why do I think this? Well what did the anti-vaccine movement’s and Andrew Wakefield’s most prolific and outspoken public relations person, Jenny McCarthy, say about this story?

Actress Jenny McCarthy, founder of Generation Rescue and whose son also has autism, declined to comment on Wednesday’s developments

Your friends are abandoning you Andrew Wakefield. The truth is finally starting to become clear to everyone. You have duped a generation of mothers into thinking that vaccines cause autism, and children have died because of it.