Monday, April 17, 2017

Andrew Wakefield is the Anti-Vaxx Gift That Keeps Giving

The Minnesota Department of Health has confirmed that at least eight children have measles.  They are all between the ages of 1 year and 4 years old and NONE have been vaccinated against measles although they are age-eligible.  Seven of the eight children belong to the large Somali community in Hennepin County and six have been hospitalised.  There may be more cases given the low MMR vaccine uptake among those in that community and only one case could be traced to a contact.

Andrew Wakefield, professional fraud made at least three trips to the Minnesota Somali community between 2010 and 2011 to pimp his faux concern about autism and measles jabs.  The result was a 50% uptake in the MMR jab as of 2013.  Even before his visits, Wakefield's fraudulent 1998 study linking MMR jabs to autism and visits from other anti-vaxx groups impacted this community and decreased the MMR vaccine uptake from ~90% to 54% sparking an outbreak in 2011 after his visits there.

Andrew Wakefield promised this community he would investigate their autism rate; he never did.  Instead he convinced them to eschew vaccination and gave them measles outbreaks.  That's the Wakefield Touch.

Update 18 April 2017:  The Minnesota Department of Health has confirmed a ninth measles case in Hennepin County in an unvaccinated child.

Update 20 April 2017:  The Minnesota Department of Health has confirmed  eleven cases of measles in Hennepin County all in children ages 1-5 years old, nine confirmed in unvaccinated children and nine in the Somali community.

Update 22 April 2017:  The Minnesota Department of Health has confirmed twelve cases of measles in Hennepin County all in children under 5 years old and all unvaccinated.  The uptake of MMR in the Somali community there is 42% in children under the age of two years old.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Anti-Vaxxer Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. to Chair a Vaccine Commission

U.S. President-Elect Donald Trump has met with anti-vaxxer RFK, Jr. to solicit him for a committee on vaccine safety and research integrity.  Sadly but not surprisingly such an appointment is on par with Trump's other picks for cabinet positions (although this isn't a cabinet position).  RFK, Jr.'s monomania regarding thiomersal has been debunked by the scientific community repeatedly.  Which leads me to believe that failure on that front will lead RFK, Jr. to turn his sights on "too many too soon" which Trump fervently believes.

It is unclear whether Trump is unaware of the CDC's Immunization Safety Office and the Vaccine Safety Datalink or simply doing an end run around them because he can't exert any direct control over them.  In any event, Trump is feeding his own anti-vaxx proclivities at the U.S. taxpayers' expense. Ultimately it is doubtful that anything meaningful will emerge from such a committee but that doesn't mean that RFK, Jr. can't cause a lot of trouble, not to mention the new life which will be breathed into the anti-vaxx movement.  How long before Andrew Wakefield is announced as a co-chair or committee member?

RFK, Jr. admits in an interview with ScienceMag that he has no expertise in science and will place "science people and prominent Americans".
How many people will be on the commission?
A dozen people -- a mix between science people and prominent Americans.
Who will you ask to serve?
I couldn’t tell you. I just finished meeting with the President-elect an hour ago.
When you say “science people,” do you mean experts from the scientific establishment?
Prominent scientists.
Do you mean prominent vaccinologists who believe in the safety and efficacy of today’s vaccines?
We are going to look for people who have expertise in toxicology, epidemiology and in public health.
Do you have scientific training?
No.  My background is I’m an environmental lawyer.  I’m not a scientist. But I have an expertise, I would say in reading science and spotting junk science because that’s what I do with most of my time.

Translation: He is going to look for people who might know a little bit more on the subject of vaccinology who are just as anti-vaccine as he is to launch a performance art showing.  Somehow I suspect that RFK, Jr. and his future committee members aren't exactly qualified to evaluate the science coming out of the CDC.  If it wasn't for the momentary pain in the arse RFK, Jr. and his little band of anti-vaxx warriors will cause for hard-working ethical people, it would be rather entertaining.

I am going to choose to look at the bright side of this which is another Trump rock will be turned over and we will get to see who crawls out.  Just as foisting Breitbart into the spotlight emboldened racists and let us see who they really are, this committee will undoubtedly have the same effect by emboldening anti-vaxx politicians and others who have cravenly kept to the shadows on the subject.  We will get to see who they are and may they have the same backlash inflicted upon them as the racist, bigoted Breitbart fake news site has.

Had organisations such as the Centers for Disease Control, the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics been more proactive and damning of anti-vaxx quack physicians and activities, perhaps the creation of a committee such as this would have been more politically unsavoury.  It's time for these organisations, physicians and scientists to step up and push back against pseudo-scientific claims and those who make them and stop relying upon lightning-rods like Dr. Offit to be the only one doing their dirty work for them.

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., Andrew Wakefield, Dr. Bob Sears and all their other associates are inexpert has-beens and wannbes but that doesn't mean their activities haven't done substantial damage to public health and public trust in our healthcare agencies.  It's time for all of us who are interested in public health and the well-being of our children to send a clear, organised message to these anti-science predators that their meddling in affairs that are way over their heads will not be tolerated.