Friday, March 15, 2013

Have You Seen This Pathogen?

UPDATE: 10/22/13: I will be printing more card sets. If you would like a set, go ahead and click the "Send Me a Set" button below or to the right and as soon as I get them in, I will send yours out.

UPDATE 9/22/13: I am currently out of card sets. If I receive enough requests, I will run another printing.

They're heeere.

Back in August 2012, I introduced a little art project I had been working on. It consisted of a series of sixteen digital posters. Since August was Immunization Awareness Month, and my posters were somewhat related, I thought it a fitting time to publish them, releasing them one a day over fifteen days (with a bonus two-for-one in the middle).

Well, I finally got around to printing up 4" x 5" cards of my Vaccine Preventable Disease Wanted Posters.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

NVIC? Know the Omissions

The National Vaccine Information Center is at it again. They have launched a two-month, multi-state billboard advertising campaign to spread their misinformation and fear about vaccines. They are calling this the "Know the Risks" campaign. For the months of March and April, billboards like this will "grace" the landscape around Austin, TX; Chicago, IL; Phoenix, AZ; Portland, OR; and Tucson, AZ:

Something seems to be missing...
Image credit: Voices for Vaccines
According to the press release, they claim their goal is to "encourage well informed vaccine decision-making". However, as we've seen before, NVIC's founder, Barbara Loe Fisher, appears to have little problem promoting blatantly incorrect information regarding vaccines. The first thing I noticed when I saw the above billboard was that something rather important to being "well informed" was missing: knowing the benefits of vaccinations. Yes, making an informed choice requires knowing the risks and failures, but the benefits are also needed. It also helps to put the risks into context by knowing how likely it is to occur, and how that compares to similar risks from the diseases that are prevented by vaccines.

Leaving important information like that out (or even just the fact that there are benefits) strikes me as a dishonest tactic. But let's take a closer look at this.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Ask for Evidence: Making Sense About Science

Every now and then, I learn more about an organization that does really good things. What I learn about them and the people I meet impress me enough to take a break from my usual musings to help spread the word about them. Last month, I became more acquainted with a group that I had already heard about, but didn't know much about them. That changed when I met Julia Wilson, Development Manager for the U.K.-based organization Sense About Science.

Sense About Science is a non-profit charity whose goal is to change how we talk about science and evidence. Their goal is to help people understand a variety of scientific concepts, such as peer review, basic statistics, how to design a fair test of a claim, and the nature of scientific evidence. They have gathered a database of over 5,000 scientists, researchers and other specialists (if you're a scientist and want to help, you can!), connecting them with people who have questions about some scientific claim they've heard. It can be anything from climate change to dodgy medical claims. They also engage young scientists to take an active role in public discussions about science, through their Voice of Young Science program.

They have had great success in the U.K. and have recently launched a campaign here in the U.S.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Why Do I Do This?

The other day, I received an email from someone via my other site, asking why I do this. Why do I speak out against anti-vaccine myths and put so much time and effort into that site (and this blog), when I state I have no financial ties to any pharmaceutical companies. Is it just a "labour of love because [I am] concerned for humanity"? Where does my passion come from? What intrigued me about this was that it came shortly after my experience with the Vermont Digger and the Vermont Coalition for Vaccine Choice, the latter of whom, along with Laura Condon of the National Vaccine Information Center, accused me of being a Pharma ShillTM and/or paid by Dr. Paul Offit. And certainly there are hints that the non-vaccinating individual who emailed me suspected that, my honest statements notwithstanding, I really was paid to write and comment.

Just to reiterate, I receive no money or any other compensation from a pharmaceutical company to write about vaccines in any manner. I hold no stocks (unless there happen to be some in the mutual funds in my retirement account, over which I have no control). I receive no checks, dinners, or quid pro quos. A kind fellow by the moniker Eric TF Bat kindly provided me with hosting space on his domain for my AntiAntiVax site for free after several fellow commenters at Phil Plait's Bad Astronomy blog recommended I turn one of my comments into a web site so people would have a permanent place to point people to when countering anti-vaccine myths. I don't know Eric outside of that context. As for my blog, well, it's hosted by Blogger (clearly), which is also free. I have paid for my domain name out of my own pocket. And I use my own free time to write. Some people garden. I blog. So there's my financial situation regarding my countering of myths and misinformation regarding vaccines. I don't get squat, and I would not accept any money from a pharmaceutical company, either, even if they offered it to me.

So, if I don't get paid, why the hell do I do this?

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The Continuing Fall of the House of Geier

Most of you no doubt know the names of Dr. Mark Geier and his son, David Geier. I've written about them a fair bit, starting with the suspension of Mark Geier's medical license in Maryland and following the saga as his licenses in various states were suspended and, eventually, permanently revoked. Mark and David are the duo who came up with what came to be known as the Lupron Protocol to supposedly treat autism. Following on the mistaken notion that thimerosal in vaccines causes autism, they developed their idea after reading a single study from 1968 finding that, when dissolving testosterone and mercuric chloride in hot benzene, the testosterone and mercury compound bind together. Ignoring the fact that living beings are not in the habit of having a hot benzene environment inside them, the Geiers coupled this testosterone-mercury complex idea with research finding that autism may be linked, in some cases, to high levels of testosterone. Needless to say, their protocol not only didn't work, but it put children at increased risk for no benefit. And to make things worse, since Lupron is not approved for the treatment of autism, Dr. Geier "diagnosed" his patients with precocious puberty so he could charge it to insurance companies.

At any rate, Mark Geier's medical career is pretty much shot. But I always wondered what, if anything, would happen to those who worked at his numerous, nationwide clinics? Would any of them be held accountable? It looks like at least one of Geier's partners is not faring too well, either.