The Panic Virus: A True Story of Medicine, Science, and Fear

In Why the ‘Prius Driving, Composting’ Set Fears Vaccines Greg Miller interviews author Seth Mnookin on his new book. Here’s a fragment of the Q&A:

Q: There’s a perception that vaccine refusal is especially common among affluent, well-educated, politically liberal parents—is there any truth to that?

S.M.: It’s dangerous to make broad generalizations about a group, but anecdotally and from the overall data that’s been collected it seems to be people who are very actively involved in every possible decision regarding their children’s lives. I think it relates to a desire to take u ncertainty out of the equation. And autism represents such an unknown. We still don’t know what causes it and we still don’t have good answers for how to treat it. So I think that fear really resonates.

Also I think there’s a fair amount of entitlement. Not vaccinating your child is basically saying I deserve to rely on the herd immunity that exists in a population. At the most basic level it’s saying I believe vaccines are potentially harmful, and I want other people to vaccinate so I don’t have to. And for people to hide under this and say, “Oh, it’s just a personal decision,” it’s being dishonest. It’s a personal decision in the way drunk driving is a personal decision. It has the potential to affect everyone around you.

Q: But why liberals?

S.M.: I think it taps into the organic natural movement in a lot of ways.

I talked to a public health official and asked him what’s the best way to anticipate where there might be higher than normal rates of vaccine noncompliance, and he said take a map and put a pin wherever there’s a Whole Foods. I sort of laughed, and he said, “No, really, I’m not joking.” It’s those communities with the Prius driving, composting, organic food-eating people.


Chemical-Free Products: The Complete List

Derek Lowe

Here’s a comprehensive review of chemical-free consumer products, courtesy of Nature Chemistry. I’m flattered to have been listed as a potential referee for this manuscript, which truly does provide the most complete list possible of chemical-free cleaners, cosmetics, and every other class of commercially available product. Along similar lines, I can also recommend (…snip…)

Source: by research chemist Derek Lowe. Derek is a remarkable insider source on preclinical drug discovery.  

The Best Protection Against the Spread of Disease

Excerpt from today's ProMED bulletin from the International Society of Infectious Diseases.

Vaccine hesitancy is a global problem: coverage for many of the vaccines recommended for adolescents and adults in the US is low. While vaccine adherence rates for children in developed countries are typically above 90%, data suggest that nearly 12% of parents in the US are refusing and 30% delaying one or more of the recommended childhood vaccines. There appears to be decreasing confidence in immunization worldwide.

In 1988, the WHO launched the Global Polio Eradication Initiative with the goal of ending the disease by the year 2000. In 1996, Nelson Mandela launched “Kick Polio Out of Africa” that aimed to vaccinate 50 million children that year alone. Mass immunization drives included national immunization days, acute flaccid paralysis surveillance, training of local community health workers, and door-to-door campaigns. By 2003, however, a plan to immunize more than 15 million children in west and central Africa against polio was hobbled by a boycott in northern Nigeria that ultimately led to a resurgence of polio, not just in Nigeria, but globally. (You can find contemporaneous reports and links at ProMED Archive Number: 20040630.1742.)

Anti-vaccine activists responsible for the Swansea measles outbreak

Andrew Wakefield should be rotting in a prison cell. But he is not – he is making big bucks speaking to groups of anti-vaxxers. Telegraph Science reporter Tom Chivers updates with this lead:

MMR does not cause autism. The Swansea measles outbreak shows the damage this idiotic scare has caused.


Last week the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released the results of a study which put to rest the last claim of the anti-vaccination brigade: that multi-vaccination jabs such as MMR overload the child’s immune system. The study, which examined 1,000 children who had had their jabs, either all together or spread out over several months, found that the children who had autistic-spectrum disorders were no more likely to have had more jabs, or a more concentrated programme of them, than those who did not. “Our study found no relationship with the number of vaccine antigens received and overall ASD [Autistic Spectrum Disorder]” the study’s lead author, Frank de Stefano, said.

Of course, this hasn’t satisfied the “anti-vaxers”; one, writing on the website Age of Autism, claimed that “The [CDC] study is to science what the movie Ishtar [a notorious box-office flop] was to cinema.”

According to a small, but vociferous, part of the population, vaccines do cause autism, and to hell with the evidence. If the fact that there was no sudden increase in autism in Britain after the introduction of the MMR in 1988 (as several studies have shown) didn’t convince them, then the CDC study has no chance. What’s far more worrying than the hard core of campaigners is the large number of parents who, after years of reading headlines linking the two, are understandably concerned about vaccinating their children.

A 2011 American survey found that more than one in five people still thought that vaccines can cause autism; another found that 10 per cent of parents delay or refuse vaccination for their children for that reason. Things are no better here: at the height of the scare, in the early 2000s, vaccination levels in Britain dropped to just 73 per cent.

Dr Ben Goldacre, the author of Bad Pharma, who has written extensively about autism and vaccination, says: “Health scares are like toothpaste: once they’re out, it’s very hard to get them back in the tube. They catch fire fast, because they’re so seductive to journalists. (…) .”

(…) This is a genuine threat. In 1998, pre-Wakefield, there were just 56 cases of measles in Britain. In 2008 there were 1,348. In 2006 a child died of the disease for the first time since 1992; another died two years later – casualties of the MMR hysteria. Before the introduction of the vaccine in 1988, about half a million children caught the disease every year in this country and around 100 died: in about one in 1,000 cases, measles leads to encephalitis, a swelling of the brain, which can lead to blindness, deafness or brain damage, and sometimes death. The virus also causes pneumonia.

Are you as angry as we are? Good, what are you doing about it?


Why Your Dog Can Get Vaccinated Against Lyme Disease And You Can’t

If you have been studying the trail of destruction left by the anti-vaccine activists, then this will not be a surprise:

Eleven-year-old “Ned Kelly” is in for his annual physical at a clinic in Boston’s Jamaica Plain neighborhood. As part of his check-up, he’s getting a booster shot to protect him against Lyme disease. Ned doesn’t like needles, but he holds still while Dr. Joel Kaye squeezes the pink serum under his skin.

“Little pinch,” says Dr. Kaye, “we’ll be home free. All right, good job!”

Ned is lucky, because he’s one of the select few who can get the vaccine that gives him immunity against Lyme disease.

Ned is lucky because he’s a dog.