Monday, March 26, 2012

Complaint Filed Against Dr. Mark Geier in Florida

This somehow slipped past my notice. In October, it looks like the Florida Department of Health filed a complaint against Dr. Mark Geier (PDF). I've written about Dr. Geier a few times. This is the guy who, with his son, David (who is not a doctor), came up with an idea that testosterone binds to mercury and thus causes autism. His treatment? Chelate autistic children after giving them lupron, a drug that is used to treat precocious puberty, as part of IVF treatment and to chemically castrate sex offenders. If you are interested in the details, take a look at some of my other posts.

At any rate, Dr. Geier has (or had) a license to practice medicine in several different states. However, a total of 6 states have suspended his license. This all started with Maryland, where he was charged with a number of breaches of proper medical conduct. This was soon followed by other states summarily suspending his licenses in those states. His license has expired in a seventh state, and his application to practice in an eighth is on hold, due to the numerous suspensions he is under. He is still licensed to practice in 5 states, including Florida, though that may change sooner rather than later.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Anti-Vaccine Crowd Shows They Are Anti-Informed Consent

"We want people to have informed choice when it comes to vaccines." These words, or at least something along these lines, are uttered by many anti-vaccine activists, like Barbara Loe Arthur (aka Barbara Loe Fisher) of the misnamed National Vaccine Information Center or the authors at Age of Autism. To hear them speak, you would imagine that they would be completely in favor of any efforts which strive to provide accurate, complete information to parents who are deciding whether or not to have their children vaccinated. Such efforts should be whole-heartedly embraced by these "pro-informed consent" warriors.

Just such an opportunity has arisen in California, with AB 2109. As I recently wrote, this bill would expand on California's philosophical exemptions regulations regarding immunization requirements for day care and school enrollment. If passed, parents seeking a philosophical exemption would need to obtain from a physician or other health care provider a signed statement that the doctor provided them with information on the benefits and risks of vaccines. Physicians are already required by Federal law to provide this information before administering a vaccine. This provision would provide an added opportunity for parents to receive sound information and advice regarding their children's vaccines.

Sounds like something Fisher and company would support, no? Surprisingly, no.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

California Assembly Working to Protect Public Health

Efforts to improve public health and revamp vaccination programs seem to be popping up all over the place, lately! First, there were the recommendations from the Alaska State Section on Epidemiology following a chicken pox outbreak at a day care, then there is the bill to eliminate philosophical exemptions from school vaccine requirements in Vermont that has passed that state's Senate and is on its way through the House and will hopefully be signed by the governor.

Actually, even before these two developments, there was last year's step towards improving public health in Washington when they passed a bill (PDF) that would require parents to speak with a physician about the benefits and risks of vaccinations before being granted a philosophical exemption from vaccine requirements.

Well, California has joined the fun.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Vermont Steps Toward Improved Public Health

Vaccination requirements for entry to day care programs and schools tend to be a bit of a touchy subject among those who, for one reason or another, are opposed to immunization. They tend to view such requirements as violations of their personal rights, all the while ignoring the rights of their own children, to say nothing of the rights of the other people around them, to not be infected with diseases that can be quite serious. As I recently wrote, the state of Alaska Section on Epidemiology came out with several recommendations following a chicken pox outbreak at a day care facility, which started after an unimmunized child infected their infant sibling who attended the day care. In my post, I suggested that the recommendations did not quite go far enough, arguing that philosophical or religious exemptions should require speaking to a physician before being granted. Personally, I don't think that there should be exemptions for anything other than legitimate medical reasons, but that's a topic for another post. In the meantime, requiring discussion with a medical professional seems, to me, to be a reasonable compromise for the time being.

The issue of philosophical exemptions came up last summer, as the Massachusetts state legislature considered a proposal to add philosophical exemptions to that state's immunization laws. It's a proposal that pops up just about every year in Massachusetts and is consistently, and, in my opinion, correctly shot down. Well, it looks like the state's neighbor to the north, Vermont, is considering making its laws similar to those of Massachusetts. A bill was recently passed by the Vermont state Senate, in a vote of 25-4, to remove philosophical objections as a reason to forego immunization, leaving only medical and religious exemptions. As the bill goes to the House for consideration, there is, not surprisingly, a vocal few who see the legislation as a Bad ThingTM.

Take, for example, Charlotte Gilruth, who wrote in to the Barre-Montpelier Times Argus with her opinion in a letter titled "'Herd immunity' is misleading". From the second sentence, her letter is a treasure trove of errors and misinformation. Before I delve into it, go ahead and click on her name above to read her thoughts. See how many mistakes you can find.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Does @VaxCalc Provide Valid Info on Vaccines? Not Really...

Twitter can be a really useful tool for getting information out to lots of people in a very short amount of time. The down side is that the 140-character limit on your message means there isn't a whole lot of space for nuance or detail. This leaves plenty of room for misinterpretation of messages. It also means that those with an agenda to drive can ignore nuance in favor of their own spin. For example, the Twitter account @VaxCalc, run by the Orwellian named National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC). @VaxCalc pumps out a steady stream of...uh...words (I refuse to call it "information," since it is nothing of the sort) that, while containing a speck of a grain of truth, aim to persuade people away from vaccines. Don't believe me? Have a look:

But I thought they removed it!
The link in the tweet takes you to a table on the FDA's web site about thimerosal in vaccines. Thimerosal, as most of you know, is a preservative that is used to prevent vaccines from being contaminated with bacteria, fungi or viruses, which can be very bad, indeed (as evidenced by the 1928 Bundaberg Disaster, in which 12 children died because a vaccine became contaminated). It caused a stir because it is metabolized into ethylmercury, which some erroneously linked to autism.

Anyway, is that tweet correct? Well, yes and no.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Follow the Bouncing Ball

Back in January, I wrote about an outbreak of chicken pox at a day care facility. The outbreak involved four children, three of whom were siblings. One of the siblings was too young to receive the varicella vaccine. The three other children were all old enough, but their parents had not had them immunized due to a general distrust of vaccines. The facility was unaware that the kids were unimmunized because of two things: a) the parents allegedly faked their children's immunization records and b) the facility reportedly did not do their due diligence to validate the records. To make things worse, two of the day care staff were pregnant, one of whom had an uncertain history of immunity (either by vaccine or infection) to varicella, and thus was at risk for contracting chicken pox and passing it on to her fetus. In addition to increased risks to the mother (PDF), there would also be a risk of congenital varicella syndrome for the unborn child. To top it all off, the state in which this outbreak occurred does not require reporting of chicken pox cases unless they are fatal, so the whole thing may have gone unnoticed by anyone involved with public health.

That last bit is not the case in Alaska, where chicken pox cases are required by regulation to be reported to the Alaska Section of Epidemiology (SOE). I bring this up because, in 2011, Alaska's Kenai Peninsula also saw an outbreak of chicken pox at a day care facility. And, like the outbreak mentioned above, it occurred late in the year and also involved kids whose parents had eschewed vaccination.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Madonnaplot Health Officials Shun Social Media Following 'Mystery Illness' Deaths

March 7, 2012 - On Monday, reports went out that three members of a Lousy, Madonnaplot family had died following a mystery illness. A fourth member of the family was hospitalized and is critically ill. Speculation began almost immediately, spreading via internet media, like Twitter and Facebook. Some suggested it was SARS or bird flu. Others claimed anthrax. Prominent news outlets picked up the rumors before any press releases had been issued by the Madonnaplot Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

Finally, authorities released a statement that the mystery illness appeared to be confined to the family and that no precautions were necessary. However, local authorities, as well as FBI agents alerted by top DHMH officials, donned hazmat gear before entering the family's home. Amid wild speculation, why did it take so long for authorities to address the rampant rumors?

Thursday, March 1, 2012

I.D.I.O.T. Director Muzzles Public Health Educator for Being Mean

March 1, 2012 - In a shocking move, Bouffon L. Kiekenlever, MSW, Director of the Infectious Disease Information Outreach Team (IDIOT) at the Madonnaplot State Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, muzzled a public health advocate and educator's personal outreach efforts. In a statement released by the IDIOT, Ms. Kiekenlever acknowledges that she literally gagged Robert Morgan Sliepcevich, an infectious disease investigator for the department, and tied his hands in response to several complaints made by members of the public.

"He had developed a habit of teaching people, in easy to understand terms, concepts about infectious diseases, epidemiology and statistics," said Kiekenlever. "That upset people."

The complaints were lodged by members of the online community Age of Unreason, many of whom subscribe to the tabloid broadsheets published by the National Vaccine Misinformation Center. One of these letters was leaked to Harpocrates Speaks.