Monday, December 17, 2012

Politics, Autism and Vaccines

Politicians are frequently holding hearings and looking for more information on problems that arise in society.  Unfortunately, not all politicians have the best interest of their constituents at the top of their agendas.

Politics and vaccines made headlines earlier this month when the Committee on Oversight and Reform had a hearing about the Federal response to rising rates of autism.  Congressman Dan Burton from Indiana was at the hearing and spoke about his personal views on mercury in vaccines causing autism.  The problem with his statements was that thousands of scientists have proved Burton incorrect over the past decade.

Congressman Burton cannot be discredited for his interest in autism.  In the late 1990s, his grandson was diagnosed with autism, and his interest in finding the cause of autism is genuine.

However, using his position as an elected official to perpetuate untruths and scare people into not vaccinating their children is unacceptable.  Steven Salzberg is a professor at the John Hopkins School of Medicine and wrote:  “Burton is a firm believer in the myth that vaccines cause autism, and he arrogantly holds the position that he knows the truth better than the thousands of scientists who have spent much of the past decade doing real science that proves him wrong.”

The committee did call scientists Alan Guttmacher from the National Institute of Health and Colleen Boyle from the Centers for Disease Control to testify at the hearing.  But the committee didn’t really want to hear what Guttmacher or Boyle had to say.  Instead, they lectured the scientists and offered rapid-fire questions that were often bad science claims in statement form.  When the scientist tried to answer, committee members cut them off.

Is this really how our elected officials serve the best interests of their constituents?

At one point during the hearing, Burton stated:  “I’m convinced that the mercury in vaccinations is a contributing factor to neurological diseases such as autism.”  Burton is wrong.  Dozens of studies involving hundreds of thousands of children have proved there is no link between mercury and autism, or between vaccines and autism.   Studies have actually proven that autism rates are slightly higher in unvaccinated children.

Burton and other committee members continued to make false statements that have been proven wrong by sound science for the duration of the hearing.  Vaccine Watch is stunned that these elected officials have all of the facts, continue to ignore them, and perpetuate lies and fear in the public record. 

As citizens, we have a responsibility to demand the truth.   We want Congress to conduct oversight in medical research and help us find answers.  Congressmen who abuse that power have no place in the system. 

Vaccines save lives.  Recent outbreaks of the whooping cough, measles, chicken pox, mumps, and haemophilus in the United States and Europe could have been prevented if people like Dan Burton weren’t scaring parents with lies and convincing them not to get their children vaccinated.  Vaccine Watch encourages everyone to do their own research using sound scientific resources.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Hospitals Flu Shot Mandates Met With Resistance

Hospitals around the country are mandating that employees receive the flu shot.  While many hospitals already have high vaccine rates, the new mandates are being met with resistance from some employees. 

The American Hospital Association recommended all hospitals create universal flu vaccination programs in July 2011.  The policy is intended to protect employees and patients.  The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has identified that health care workers are frequently the source of transmission of influenza in health care settings.   

Hospital patients are already in an immune compromised state and their risk of contracting influenza is higher.  Employees with known egg allergies, severe reactions to previous flu shots or religious beliefs are exempt from these mandates and required to wear a mask and take other precautions.

Helen Darling, the president and CEO of the National Business Group on Health supports the mandates.  “The virus can be transmitted to patients by both symptomatic and asymptomatic health care providers.  One in four health care workers shows evidence of having the flu each year.  And 70 percent of them continue to work despite having flu-like symptoms.”

While some resistant employees argue that the flu shot makes them sick, or they don’t trust substances like formaldehyde that are in flu shots, many are arguing that it’s a violation of their civil liberties.  Brandon Hostler is a registered nurse in West Virginia and is always one of the first at his hospital to receive the vaccine.  He says if the vaccine becomes mandatory, he will quit or switch jobs.  “We are health care professionals.  We know the risks and the benefits, and to force us to do something like that and not to have a say in it, I think it would be offensive.”

Amy Garcia, the chief nursing officer for the American Nurses Association counters that on an individual level, having a flu vaccine is an ethical responsibility.  “Part of nursing’s code of ethics is that the patient comes first.  So we believe if there is a chance that a nurse could expose a patient, it is the ethical responsibility of the nurse to be protected by vaccinations.”

The Waterbury Hospital in Connecticut recently adopted a flu shot mandate.  Part-time employee Pam Curley states, “I think it’s about choice.  If you want it, go ahead and get it, but I don’t think there should be these drastic strong arm measures where you are threatened by the loss of a job.”

Dr. Steven Aronin is the Chief of the Infectious Disease Section at Waterbury Hospital and says the mandate is to protect the public, patients and the health care workers.   Patient care is trumping the right of employees to choose.  “There are other things we ask of our employees when they get hired by Waterbury Hospital,” Dr. Aronin notes. 

Waterbury Hospital is not the only hospital seeing resistance.  The University of Massachusetts Memorial Medical Center implemented the rule this year and nurses are protesting.  At UMASS, nurses that don’t comply will be required to wear a mask, but will not be fired.

Health care providers who have their own hesitations about vaccines should not influence their patients to not get vaccinated.   Vaccine Watch believes hospital supervisors and administrators should be aware of how their staff feel about getting vaccinated themselves, and be aware of what they may be saying to patients about getting vaccinated.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

USC Student News Advises to Think Twice About Flu Vaccine

The University of Southern California’s student newspaper, The Daily Trojan, published a blog viewpoint in October recommending that students think twice before receiving the flu shot.  While the author, Annie Wanless, did not mention any reasons the vaccine is recommended, she did present several arguments against the flu vaccine.

The article begins by pointing out that the flu vaccine can cause several of the symptoms that people are trying to avoid with the vaccine, like a fever and a headache.  She then mentions that vaccines contain trace amounts of dangerous chemicals like mercury, formaldehyde and aluminum.  Although a source for this fact isn’t included in the article.

A little more research does prove that Formaldehyde is listed in the ingredients for Fluarix, the most popular flu vaccine for 2012.  The vaccine states that each dose may contain residual amounts of formaldehyde and other ingredients from the manufacturing process.  The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) listed formaldehyde as a human carcinogen in 1987, and numerous other agencies have since supported this statement.  Neither aluminum nor mercury is mentioned in the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) information on Fluarix.

A second argument that Ms. Wanless has against the flu vaccine is that it is cultured in fertilized chicken eggs.  She states, “According to the Center for Consumer Freedom, it takes three eggs to produce one vaccine.  The Center for Disease Control wants 70% of Americans to be vaccinated.  This requires nearly 645 million chicken eggs, placing excessive demands on an industry already condemned for raising birds in deplorable conditions.”

Further reading into this subject brought Vaccine Watch to the National Academy of Engineering website, where we read the following statement:  “…flocks associated with vaccine production are under strict contract and must be completely housed, monitored by veterinarians, and raised under biosecurity regulations.  With government support, Sanofi Pasteur has also established contingency flocks as a backup against avian influenza and other risks.” The conditions under which animals are cared for should be held to the highest standards, but we cannot choose a flu vaccine in the same way we can shop for humanely produced eggs.

The closing argument of the article is that researchers have argued that excessive use of the flu vaccine and other anti-flu drugs can create “super viruses.”  The article does not mention who these researchers are, and further investigation only found a Dutch researcher who created a super virus, and other researchers trying to create a super virus vaccine.

The article concludes by offering advice on natural ways to boost the immune system.  She admits that the flu vaccine does help prevent the contraction of influenza, but urges students to learn more about the vaccine before receiving one.

Influenza outbreaks on college campuses can run rampant given the close quarters students keep in classrooms, dormitories, and dining halls.  It is in these environments that the flu vaccine may most effectively serve a community.  Universities should not be misinforming students and promoting anti-vaccine messages. 

Monday, October 29, 2012

Nobel laureate joins anti-vaccination crowd at Autism One

By Steven Salzberg for Forbes magazine
If you’re reading this from anywhere but Chicago, you just missed the Autism One conference, which ends today. This conference, run by Jenny McCarthy and Generation Rescue, purports to tell parents “the truth” about autism.
The conference is a veritable festival of unproven claims, offering a powerful but false message of hope to parents who are desperately searching for new treatments for their children. It’s also a nexus for anti-vaccinationists, who run special seminars educating parents about how to get vaccine exemptions so that they can enroll their unvaccinated children in public schools.
A look at the presentations reveals that rather than presenting “the truth,” one speaker after another is making unsupported, unscientific claims and then offering their own special therapy. The one thing that most of these presentations have in common is that the speaker is making money from selling their so-called treatments. For example, Anat Baniel offers her self-named “Anat Baniel method” and is promoting it through ads in the conference program. Other speakers are offering special diets, hyperbaric oxygen therapy, and in perhaps the most damaging treatment, Mark and David Geier’s chemical castration therapy. Mark Blaxill is there, still pushing the thoroughly disproven link between mercury and autism, and hawking his book on the topic.
The other major theme of the conference is conspiracies: how the government, big pharma, and the scientific establishment are all conspiring to hide “the truth” about autism, which the speaker will reveal to the audience. Coincidentally, many of the speakers also offer treatments, for a fee.
This year’s speakers include Jenny McCarthy and Andrew Wakefield, as usual, but also a new entry: Luc Montagnier.

Jenny McCarthy has been a leader of the anti-vaccine movement for over a decade. She’s a former Playboy playmate and MTV host, with no medical qualifications whatsoever, who is convinced that vaccines caused her son’s autism. She’s been spreading her anti-vaccine message very effectively, with particular help from Oprah Winfrey and Larry King, who gave her prime television exposure countless times. Oprah even offered McCarthy her own show, until McCarthy ditched Oprah for NBC.
Andrew Wakefield, the thoroughly discredited doctor who falsified data in order to push his false hypothesis that autism is caused by the MMR vaccine – whose medical license was revoked in the UK, and whose famous 1998 paper on autism and vaccines was retracted after it was shown to be fraudulent – claims that his talk ”offers solutions [that] will be ignored by those in power and the more dire of its predictions will result.” Too bad I missed that one.
It’s no surprise that Jenny McCarthy and Andrew Wakefield, leaders of the anti-vaccine movement, are speaking at AutismOne. Much more surprising is the presence of Nobel laureate Luc Montagnier, co-discoverer of the link between the HIV virus and AIDS. What is he doing at this festival of pseudoscience?
Well, apparently Montagnier has gone off the deep end into pseudoscience himself. He claims that his new group, Chronimed, has discovered in autistic children
“DNA sequences that emit, in certain conditions, electromagnetic waves. The analysis by molecular biology techniques allows us to identify these electromagnetic waves as coming from … bacterial species.”
What the heck? In what seems to be a desperate effort to stay relevant, Montagnier is promoting wild theories with little scientific basis, and now he is taking advantage of vulnerable parents (see his appeal here) to push a therapy of long-term antibiotic treatment for autistic children.
This is truly a wacky theory. Montagnier hasn’t been able to publish this in a proper journal, for a very good reason: it’s nonsense. He claims that quantum field theory – an area of physics in which he has no qualifications – explains how electromagnetic waves emanating from DNA can explain not only autism, but also Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, Lyme disease, and rheumatoid arthritis. Montagnier makes these claims and more in a self-published paper that heposted on arXiv.