Monday, October 29, 2012

Demystifying Vaccine Ingredients - MSG

Telling people what a product contains can be a bit of a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it introduces transparency and empowers people to learn more about the products they use or plan to use. On the other, most people have absolutely no clue what those ingredients do or why they're used. This often leads to gross misunderstanding and misplaced fear. We see this frequently with packaged foods. Any ingredient that is hard to pronounce or sounds all chemically is viewed askance. This is compounded when it comes to medicinal drugs, which use the isolated, purified substance that performs a very specific function; the unpurified origins frequently contain hundreds or thousands of other chemicals that may lead to unwanted effects (e.g., compare asiprin to raw willow bark or digoxin to whole foxglove).

Vaccines are a very prominent example of this fear of chemicals (and just to get this out of the way, everything in the world is some chemical or combination of chemicals). Earlier this year, I wrote about one vaccine ingredient, formaldehyde, in an effort to clear up why and how it is used in vaccines, as well as showing that the amounts found in vaccines are safe. Just the Vax and Science-Based Medicine also have good write-ups on the preservative. Recently, someone asked me about another ingredient: monosodium glutamate (MSG).

Thursday, October 25, 2012

A Candid Interview with Age of Unreason Minister of Truth Nancy Bashful

I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Age of Unreason's Minister of Truth, Nancy Bashful. I knocked on the door of her suburban home, glancing off to the gardens to my right as the smell of manure from nearby farms wafted through the air. I was greeted by this middle aged midwestern mother with her short, bottle blonde hair. I couldn't tell whether the smug, self-satisfied smirk was her natural expression or one she put on for my benefit.

Ms. Bashful welcomed me in and led me to a well-worn sofa, the kind that sort of swallows you in and threatens to show you just where missing nickels and stale Chex Mix go. She settled herself at a small desk that sported a dusty Dell Inspiron, its cooling fan wheezing like an asthmatic in an iron lung. A television in the corner blared QVC, gaudy paste jewelry and kitschy porcelain figurines parading across the screen. She lowered the volume and turned toward me, keeping one eye on her monitor's strobing screen.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Making a Lancet Replica

This post is going to be a bit of a departure from my usual writing. You'll be spared my ramblings about vaccines, law, ethics and censorship. Instead, I thought I would put up a post documenting how I went about making a prop for my Halloween costume this year. Hopefully I won't give away too much about what my costume is going to be before it's time to be revealed.

A good costume is more than just the clothes you wear or a mask. It's also important to pay attention to the details. What kind of props are you going to add on? How accurate are you going to be? What materials are you going to use? For my costume, I really wanted to add on a lancet or fleam, devices that were once used for bloodletting, the belief being that bleeding a patient would balance the humours and heal them of whatever disease they happened to have. In nearly every instance, this was pure nonsense, and frequently dangerous, sometimes fatally so. At any rate, I had a couple options: buy one or make my own. Real lancets were hard to find, fleams a bit easier, and both were rather more than I wanted to spend.

Based on the pictures I was able to find, fleams seemed a bit too complex for me. Not only did I not have the metalworking skills they seemed to required, I just didn't have the tools. The lancet looked much easier, though I did need to do a bit more research on how to add a handle. Some quick googling on how to put handles on knives and I was ready to start. A quick run to the local big box hardware store, then time to get to work.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Parents' School Vaccination Lawsuit in WV Dismissed

This year has seen quite a bit of anti-vaccine sabre rattling when it comes to state laws and rules around school vaccinations. We saw Vermont trying to strengthen public health by eliminating philosophical exemptions, which was met by a fact-challenged tirade from a homeopath. That aspect failed, but requirements were put into place that parents review educational materials and attest to understanding the risks their decisions have not only for their kids, but for the community at large. In California, a bill was introduced requiring that parents get a signed statement from a health care provider indicating that the provider discussed the risks and benefits of vaccination (and vaccine refusal) with parents before a philosophical exemption will be granted. That bill was signed into law, despite anti-vaccine activists erroneously claiming that it violated and removed parental choice, revealing that they really are not in favor of informed consent. There had also been another bill that California Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed that would have required clinic employees to get the flu vaccine or take other reasonable precautions to minimize the risks of influenza in a health care setting. That bill (SB1318) is back with the Senate for consideration of the governor's veto.

And then there was the activity in West Virginia back in August. When I was launching my series of Vaccine Preventable Disease Wanted Posters, I mentioned in passing that a group of parents were suing the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) over a new requirement that 7th graders and high school seniors get a Tdap booster and meningococcal vaccine. Well, there's been a new development with that.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Debating Physician-Assisted Suicide in Massachusetts

It's election season. And you know what that means: lots of vague generalities that sound like they mean something, ad hominem attacks, creativity with facts and annoying ad after annoying ad. Oh, and topics that get people really worked up, causing people to heatedly argue with each other, often to the point of intense anger. Many of these really are not worth fighting about and, regardless of the outcome, have little, if any, significance. Others, however, really are important and worth resolving and involve difficult ethical issues.

In Massachusetts, one such ethical conundrum is on the ballot: physician-assisted suicide.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Washington Joins Indiana and Maryland in Revoking Mark Geier's License

 Washington has become the third state to permanently revoke Dr. Mark Geier's medical license. This comes shortly after Maryland finally revoked Geier's licence. The Washington Medical Quality Assurance Commission had ordered Geier and/or his attorney to appear and to produce certain documents. They did not do so in the time frame specified, so by default, Geier has lost his case.

The Commission ordered (M2012-377) on October 4, 2012, that Mark Geier's license to practice medicine in the state of Washington is permanently revoked. He is ordered to hand over all licenses within 10 days and is fined $5,000, payable within 30 days.

Meanwhile, Missouri, Illinois and Hawaii have yet to do anything to stop this man from preying on autistic children in their jurisdictions. This is, however, very welcome news.
Related Posts:

Monday, October 8, 2012

Rob Schneider's Hellish Nonsense

Thursday night, I mentioned that Rob Schneider was going to be on Salt Lake City's KXRK morning radio show Radio From Hell to promote his stand-up show Friday night at Wiseguys West Valley City. I joined Skepchick's Elyse Anders in urging people to contact the station if they had a call-in segment during the interview. Orac also put the word out about this appearance.

Well, I was fortunate enough to find time to listen to the show Friday morning via their internet live stream. As noted by Elyse, Schneider had been on the show before, shamelessly spouting a bunch of tired, well-worn anti-vaccine lies and myths. This morning, he was a bit late showing up at the studio, which I don't blame him for; it was early, he mentioned he only had about 3 hours sleep, and we don't know what his travel and traffic situation was.  The hosts, led by Bill Allred, pondered whether they should just rerun the clip (mp3 hosted at Skepchick) from the last time he was on.

At any rate, he finally showed up to sit down for a chat...

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Robbing the Airways of Intelligent Thoughts

Just a brief post to let you all know that Elyse over at Skepchick has an action alert out. Tomorrow, October 5, at 7am MDT (9am EDT), the new Jenny McCarthy of the anti-vaccine movement, Rob Schneider, will be on radio KXRK, Radio X96 in Salt Lake City, probably to promote his comedy show playing at Wiseguys West Valley City the same evening.

I call him the new Jenny McCarthy because, well, he is a celebrity of similar stature who has latched on to the anti-vaccine movement, spouting much of the same, easily refuted nonsense, like this:

Click here to find out why Rob's question is dumb.
He recently spoke out against California's bill AB2109 at a failed rally on the California state house steps (the bill was signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown on September 30), which would help to ensure parents are fully informed about vaccines before they make a decision to put their child and community at increased risk of disease by opting out of school immunization requirements.

At any rate, if you are in the area or have time to listen online, give the station a call with some comments or questions for Rob. Elyse provides some links to help inform you, but here are a some more:
Also check out Just the Vax, Shot of Prevention and History of Vaccines.

Monday, October 1, 2012

AB2109 Signed! But Gov. Brown Creates Other Concerns

On Thursday, I echoed Orac in his call for people to support California's Gov. Jerry Brown in signing AB2109 into law. This bill would help strengthen California's school vaccination laws by requiring that parents become informed about the risks and benefits of vaccinating prior to getting a personal belief exemption for their children. Anti-vaccine activists vehemently opposed this bill, showing that they are actually against informed consent. They even recruited comedian Rob Schneider as their new Jenny McCarthy, acting as a celebrity spokesperson to champion their nonsense. And based on my twitter exchanges with him, he's swallowed their tripe hook, line and sinker.

I spent the weekend mostly off-line, so I missed a rather big development in all of this. As user "Unknown" commented on my call to arms, Gov. Brown signed the bill! This is fabulous news, but it's tempered with a bit of, well, if not bad news, at least something a little perplexing.