Bad news on the vaccine front

It looks like vaccine rates are trending downwards in the US:

More parents are opting out of school shots for their kids. In eight states now, more than 1 in 20 public school kindergartners aren’t getting all the vaccines required for attendance, an Associated Press analysis found.

That growing trend among parents seeking vaccine exemptions has health officials worried about outbreaks of diseases that once were all but stamped out.

If this trend continues and gets bad enough, people will begin to die. We’ve already seen that in England as well as throughout pockets in the US. It happens. Really, you anti-vax nuts. It god damn happens.

Some states are worse than others, Alaska being the biggest offender at a 9% exemption rate. Here is my prediction: We will see increased deaths over time in parts of Alaska, and likely even more deaths in more densely populated areas with high rates, such as Colorado (7%). Places like Mississippi, where the exemption rate is basically 0%, will continue to be healthy in regard to these preventable diseases of the past.

And why are people making these bad decisions? Well:

Exemption seekers are often middle-class, college-educated white people, but there are often a mix of views and philosophies. Exemption hot spots like Sedona, Ariz., and rural northeast Washington have concentrations of both alternative medicine-preferring as well as government-fearing libertarians.

If these people were science-preferring and woo-fearing instead, we wouldn’t be heading toward this guaranteed problem.

How shady can these anti-vax groups get?

It should be no surprise that an anti-vaccine group is willing to play games and pull the wool over everyone’s eyes. Individuals in the movement are doing it all the time. Usually the tactic is to take some minor result and extrapolate wildly from it. A study has 29 test subjects? Black elderberry must be a viable alternative to getting H1N1 vaccines! But there are other methods.

Enter SANE Vax. Its name is a dead giveaway that it’s anti-vax, but here is the group’s description of itself:

The Sane Vax Mission is to promote Safe, Affordable, Necessary & Effective vaccines and vaccination practices through education and information. We believe in science-based medicine. Our primary goal is to provide the information necessary for you to make informed decisions regarding your health and well-being. We also provide referrals to helpful resources for those unfortunate enough to have experienced vaccine-related injuries.

No, no, no. They believe vaccines are the devil and they want to promote as much fear and uncertainty as they possibly can. Right now they have a series of articles about recombinant DNA in HPV vaccines where they are attempting to drum up boatloads of hysteria. Here’s an excerpt from just one:

Dr. Sin Hang Lee, a pathologist at the Milford Hospital pathology laboratory well-known for using cutting-edge DNA sequencing for molecular diagnoses,[i] was initially contracted to examine a single sample of Gardasil for possible contamination. This sample tested positive for recombinant viral HPV-11 and viral HPV-18 residues, both of which were firmly attached to the aluminum adjuvant.

And what’s the big deal about that?

‘Recombinant DNA’ is a DNA that has been artificially attached to DNA from another species or a man-made DNA construct, in other words, genetically modified. ‘Recombinant DNA,’ also known as genetically modified DNA, is considered a biohazard. This is what states, drug companies, doctors and other medical professionals what (sic) you to inject into your children.

Recombinant DNA is not considered a biohazard. For something to be biohazardous, it must be known to be dangerous to humans. Strict guidelines prevent this from happening, at least as a result of human tinkering (something already hazardous to human health which has been modified for whatever very particular reasons in a lab is not being counted here). It is true that there is some deal of mystery about what could happen if a genetically modified organism spreads into the environment, but little evidence exists to suggest that human laboratory work can have a big impact in the face of nearly 4 billion years worth of evolution.

But let’s get back to SANE Vax’s issue here. The claim is that HPV recombinant DNA is being found in blood. (Go here for more specific links to everything.)

According to Dr. Lee, “‘Natural HPV DNA does not remain in the bloodstream for very long. However, the HPV DNA in Gardasil™ is not ‘natural’ DNA. It is a recombinant HPV DNA (rDNA) – genetically engineered – to be inserted into yeast cells for VLP (virus-like-particle) protein production. rDNA is known to behave differently from natural DNA. It may enter a human cell, especially in an inflammatory lesion caused by the effects of the aluminum adjuvant, via poorly understood mechanisms.

“Once a segment of recombinant DNA is inserted into a human cell, the consequences are hard to predict. It may be in the cell temporarily or stay there forever, with or without causing a mutation. Now the host cell contains human DNA as well as genetically engineered viral DNA.”

This is what one might call full-blown bullshit. The likelihood of this DNA becoming expressed in humans is virtually nil. It is a minute amount, it is not simple to insert new DNA so it can be expressed, and the vaccine is not infectious in the first place.

This is all fear-mongering, of course, but there’s something I find so much more interesting. SANE Vax sent this to the FDA:

The SANE Vax Inc. data, including the electropherograms of short target sequencing used to validate the HPV DNA detected in the thirteen (13) Gardasil samples, each with a different lot number, are available for your review, provided appropriate safeguards are in place to protect the proprietary processes and information utilized by our laboratory to test the samples.

One only need the right undergraduate studies to know this is nonsense. Dr. Lee used PCR techniques to come up with his results. It’s basic stuff. The only point where he has done anything specific to his lab is when he came up with the correct primers. Any biologist willing to devote half a day to a project could come up with the right products. There is nothing proprietary here which is not also insignificant. Neither SANE Vax nor Dr. Lee stand to gain from keeping this stuff secret.

And then there’s this:

The HPV DNA testing was performed by Dr. Sin Hang Lee, a pathologist at the Milford Hospital pathology laboratory known in using cutting-edge DNA sequencing for molecular diagnoses. This methodology was first reported to the FDA in 2006 and has been published in various peer-reviewed scientific journals, stated Erickson.

In other words, his general methodology has been published, but he is refusing to freely publish this specific methodology out of concern that…well, I don’t know. If he has already shown his work to the FDA, then there is definitely no reason to withhold these specific results. Not that there was any justification in the first place anyway.

What we have here is a known anti-vaccine group which has purported unlikely results which cannot be duplicated because it refuses to publish its findings, even though those findings come with zero financial incentive for either it or Dr. Lee. Oh, and the methodology has already been published anyway. It’s utterly transparent what’s going on here: SANE Vax is attempting to establish Dr. Lee as a legitimate source by virtue of his previous work, but then they are turning around and claiming that that same work is proprietary and cannot be seen by just anyone, thereby ensuring that no external source can take a look at the actual data.

The anti-vax movement would be a joke if it didn’t kill so many people every year.

More deaths because of anti-vax crowd

Good job, assholes:

Europe, especially France, has been hit by a major outbreak of measles, which the U.N. health agency is blaming on the failure to vaccinate all children.

The World Health Organization said Thursday that France had 4,937 reported cases of measles between January and March — compared with 5,090 cases during all of 2010. In all, more than 6,500 cases have been reported in 33 European nations…

WHO has found that young people between 10 and 19 have not been getting immunized as they should, she said.

To prevent measles outbreaks, officials need to vaccinate about 90 percent of the population. But vaccination rates across Europe have been patchy in recent years and have never fully recovered from a discredited 1998 British study linking the vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella to autism. Parents abandoned the vaccine in droves and vaccination rates for parts of the U.K. dropped to about 50 percent.

That discredited 1998 study comes from fraud Andrew Wakefield. His honesty in science is at about the level of a global warming denier and creationists. Yet despite that – and despite all the deaths he has caused – he is still viewed as some great savior.

Of course, we can’t blame him 100%. Maybe 97.4%, but not 100%. The media has a hand in all this, too. Whenever any outlet talks about vaccines, they almost always allow kooks to have a place at the table. It’s outrageous. These kooks present highly selective statistics, distort tiny, inconclusive studies, and scaremonger. I’ve seen it locally and nationally. In fact, the only news organization of note that I ever see take these liars to task is CNN, and even then not always. Anderson Cooper seems to be the only person around who has any balls on the matter.

An elaborate fraud

Andrew Wakefield is the disgraced research who claimed to have found a link between vaccines and autism in a 1998 study. This resulted in many deaths, increased illness, and his removal from the medical register in the U.K. Now a little investigative journalism has found that Wakefield outright made up a lot of his data.

A new examination found, by comparing the reported diagnoses in the paper to hospital records, that Wakefield and colleagues altered facts about patients in their study.

The analysis, by British journalist Brian Deer, found that despite the claim in Wakefield’s paper that the 12 children studied were normal until they had the MMR shot, five had previously documented developmental problems. Deer also found that all the cases were somehow misrepresented when he compared data from medical records and the children’s parents.

And then children died because of Andrew Wakefield. I wonder when the public will get an apology from the media for promoting this pure horseshit? I’m not holding my breath.

In an accompanying editorial, BMJ editor Fiona Godlee and colleagues called Wakefield’s study “an elaborate fraud.” They said Wakefield’s work in other journals should be examined to see if it should be retracted.

I only include this because I had a different original source, so I hadn’t read this part of the article when I made the title to this post. I guess it’s just the most accurate way of describing the work of Andrew Wakefield.

Update: via PZ, watch Anderson Cooper engage in some responsible journalism by not letting Wakefield off the hook.

Anti-vax crowd causing deaths

Anti-vaccine people are a significant danger. They encourage a state ignorance or fear, or both. There’s hardly a discernible reason why they want to advocate against something that has saved so many lives without once causing autism or any of the other horrible conditions they falsely attribute to vaccinations. Perhaps it’s a hatred of “Big Pharma” or maybe it’s a general anti-science attitude. I’m not entirely sure. But whatever the reason, the results are deadly.

State health officials reported Thursday that California is on track to break a 55-year record for whooping cough infections in an epidemic that has already claimed the lives of nine infants.

At least 4,017 cases of the highly contagious illness have been reported in California, according to the state. Data from the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control show 11,466 cases nationwide, though the federal numbers are known to lag behind local reporting.

Vaccinations would have almost certainly saved all those infants. Even if they didn’t get the vaccines themselves, if roughly 95% of all other members of at-risk groups were vaccinated, they probably wouldn’t have faced any illness.

And there’s more.

A measles outbreak has claimed the lives of 70 children in Zimbabwe over the past two weeks, mostly among families from apostolic sects that shun vaccinations, state media said Thursday.

This is both unnecessary and an extension of the anti-vax movement that is taking place in the United States and Europe. We should know better.

It isn’t surprising that religion is involved. Few religious groups overtly advocate against modern medicine based upon their religion, but many of them are hostile towards all the advances human society has made because they’re hostile towards science. There is an unresolvable conflict between science and religion so long as both exist, and this is an extension of that, just as the anti-vax movement in the U.S. and Europe can be partially labeled an extension the conflict. (All the causes, though, are perplexing, and as I said earlier, I just don’t know all the motivations.)

Children aren’t getting autism or any other disease or condition from vaccines. They’re only gaining protection needed for the stability and strength of their health.