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Vax supporters: Anti-vax loon wishes for your death

Hi Reader,

As you know, I have blogged here about the increasingly violent rhetoric of the anti-vax movement, including threats on the lives of scientists and physicians who study and promote vaccination, bomb threats against vaccination clinics at Sherri Tenpenny’s Facebook page, and general calls to violence.

Today, I received this comment at my most-viewed blog post, entitled, “Dear Anti-Vaxxer, this is why I do not care for you”. Granted, this post is not known for its friendliness to the anti-vax movement. However, my post does not call for violence against anti-vaxxers, nor would I ever espouse such a strategy. I do not wish for anti-vaxxers or their kids to get sick. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. I hope they see the potential adverse sequelae of their decision before it’s too late to prevent a disease with a simple vaccination.

The comment I received is just another example of a certain subset of the anti-vax movement, especially over the past month or so where the true implications of their behavior have become crystal clear to the general public. They are getting backed into a corner and are, unfortunately, lashing out in unproductive ways. Anyone who writes a blog about the benefits of vaccines has probably received a similar comment, and I think they should be pointed out. I am not sure if the poster realizes that he is not, in fact, anonymous despite his attempt to avoid attaching a name to his post.


The smiley adds just the right amount of gravitas, no? Part of me realizes that this is just one rogue moron who does not speak for all anti-vaxxers. The other part understands that all it takes is one.


It is time to act

Hi Reader,

There is so much going on in the dark, festering world of the anti-vax movement that it’s hard to choose just one angle to attack. We have copious amounts of false balance, including CNN’s continued insistence on letting any misinformed anti-vax crank exhibit epic verbal diarrhea over the airwaves. Just this morning I was treated to the idiot du jour, some fool from Mississippi spewing out a collection of untruths about vaccines with impunity. Didn’t catch the name, sorry. But if you find this, lady, you’ve shamelessly lied to the public, and it’s vile.

We have Jack Wolfson of Phoenix, Arizona, who plastered his face all over the media and unleashed a wave of stupidity unseen since the last few minutes of the Superbowl.  Laser-guided karma has apparently worked for once in this world, as Wolfson  seemed surprised that he quickly became a laughingstock, as well as under investigation by his home state’s medical board. Although I have my reservations that he will face any sort of punishment whatsoever, getting him to shut his gob is in itself a most excellent development.

We have seen many opinions about how to stem the tide of vaccine exemptions, from trying to educate the anti-vaxxers to allowing them an “alternative” vaccine schedule. However, as those of us who have been in the trenches of this battle know, neither of these things have worked or will work.  As written by the brilliant Dr. Amy Tuteur, also known as the Skeptical OB, it is not science that is driving the anti-vax crazy train. It’s the out-of-control ego of anti-vax parents. As has been discussed here before, it’s the sense of entitlement that results in a ludicrous brand of arrogance that is difficult to comprehend, and after years of pondering the solution, I know of only one way to combat it. Which brings me to the point of this post.

Reader, it is time to act. California has introduced a bill that would eliminate most vaccine exemptions. If you live in a state that allows personal belief exemptions, it’s time to see it through and get such a law introduced there, too. Write your congressmen or write to your newspaper. If you are in public health or are a healthcare provider, make your voice heard to your state legislature. If you are listening to your Mensa reject neighbor blathering on about how vaccines cause autism, correct them–nicely, if only for the rest of the audience at the neighborhood block party. It is unfortunate that it is taking the current measles outbreak to expose what many people have been writing about and discussing for years on blogs, in books, and in academia and medicine. The anti-vax movement is both dangerous and utterly without merit. Help end it. Now.

Edit: My e-friend, Epi Ren, has also provided a link to the very sensible petition below.


The economic cost of measles


Dear Reader,

The outbreak of concern about measles has been very enlightening to many Americans who simply were not aware of the growing anti-vaccine movement. People are also learning about the real and frightening health risks related to this measles outbreak, about which you can read more in this excellent article by Tara C. Smith, an epidemiologist.  In it, she mentions the cost of containing the 2008 measles outbreak in California, and I’d like to expand on that with a discussion of a paper by Chen et al. published in 2011 in the Journal of Infectious Diseases.  Since many on the anti-vax bandwagon don’t appear to be concerned with the health dangers, what about the economic impact?

A team of researchers from Epidemic Intelligence Service and the Arizona Department of Health Services conducted an in-depth investigation of an outbreak of 14 measles cases, 7 of whom acquired the disease at a hospital or clinic,  in Tucson, Arizona. They present data for the contact tracing showing exactly how the disease spread after being introduced to a single hospital. The authors then calculated such variables as how many work hours were lost due to forced furloughs of healthcare workers due to either unknown vaccination status and/or presumptive exposure.

And how many work hours were lost due to a single unvaccinated patient who started the epidemic? Approximately 15,000 hours. This accounted for the majority of the economic impact, but there were other contributors as well. These include the costs associated with increased measles tests and/or titers, and lost wages of the workers. There did not seem to be a calculation for potential lost wages of parents or patients who were required to remain at home for the duration of the disease, but hopefully future studies will do so.

And the grand total cost for a mere 14 cases of measles? Approximately $800,000; or $799,136 for those of you who prefer precision. As the authors calculated, the cost/patient for containing the 7 cases related to exposure in a healthcare setting was therefore in excess of $100,000.

In summary, if you are inclined to ignore the dire health risks related to measles, perhaps your state legislators or local healthcare facilities could be swayed by the imminent costs of this outbreak to push for the complete abolishment of any type of vaccination exemptions other than those for serious medical.  


Parents who regret not getting MMR

Folks, there is still time to get your kids–and yourself– vaccinated for MMR. It looks like this Disneyland measles dealio is not going to fade away any time soon. If you are wondering how you will feel if your child ends up getting measles, wonder no more. I posted this story back in 2013 in the hopes of stimulating some “regret anticipation”. I will re-post an excerpt here to remind you that if you don’t vaccinate, there is a fairly decent chance you will come to regret it while a massive outbreak is spreading.

Zoe Hayes

Ms. Hayes is the mother of twin girls, Niambh and Maisy Dale, who were born prematurely at 29 weeks. Like the Williamses, Ms. Hayes had read online about vaccinations, and came to believe, via the lies told by anti-vaxxers, that MMR vaccination causes autism. Her daughters’ illness began with a chest cold, but were then diagnosed with measles. The course of the disease was so severe that both girls were admitted to the hospital.

Ms. Hayes was shocked by how sick her 5-year-old twins became. Mercifully, the girls have now recovered and are back home. But the outcome could have been far worse, as Ms. Hayes is now aware. Like the Williamses, she chose to come forward with her story in the hopes of preventing another family’s pain.

In their own words:

If I could turn back the clock I would 100 per cent have it [vaccination] done. They are really poorly. I’ve never seen anything like it.

Despite the fact that some fools are blathering on about measles being “benign”, the hospitalization rate for the current outbreak is 15-20%. There is nothing benign about a hospital admission. There is nothing benign about measles. And there is nothing benign about being forced into quarantine because your idiot neighbor did not vaccinate her children.


Jack Wolfson, the latest anti-vax whack-a-mole

Hello Reader,

I have missed you greatly, but with exciting things going on in the real life sector, I’m afraid I haven’t been able to post much. I am sure you have been following the measles epidemic raging out West–and coming soon to a city near you!–very closely. And I’m sure you are well aware that the Aussies have famed anti-vaxxer Sherri Tenpenny firmly in hand, successfully shutting down her speaking tour in their fine country and protecting millions of people from acute stupidity poisoning. To which I say BOOYAH!

But in the game of anti-vax whack-a-mole, when one peculiar specimen recedes into their benighted cave, another emerges briefly and sticks its head out, blinking its eyes and speaking nonsensically. The latest creature to emerge from medical obscurity, Jack Wolfson, did so in grand style, appearing on CNN to “debate”, by which I mean “get taken to the woodshed”, on Erin Burnett’s Out Front. Orac has already spanked this guy, but when it comes to seriously dubious claims, there can never been enough exposure. Before discussing Wolfson, however, I have to point out that CNN was horribly remiss in their attempt at journalistic “balance”. Having one doc on the “pro” side and one on the “con” side does not reflect the reality of the weight of scientific opinion of vaccination.

Wolfson is one of “The Drs. Wolfson”, as he and his chiropractor wife have branded themselves. He took to the airwaves to present his frankly unpersuasive arguments, utterly devoid of any scientific merit but spiced up with anger and a heavy serving of indignant spice, on why he thinks vaccines are bad.

So who is this guy? He is a D.O. who has a practice in tony (and very woo-susceptible) Scottsdale, AZ. The webpage for his practice provides ample opportunity for separating you from your hard-earned dollar, ranging from a DVD of an anti-vax talk he and his wife gave for $40, which is certainly disturbing in its own right–after all, why should I buy the cow when the milk is being vomited up for free all over CNN? But you could also avail yourself of the wonderful selection of branded dietary supplements for sale. Wolfson has apparently realized that you can say anything–anything at all–as long as you can find a single peer-reviewed article that appears to support your claims. And he does. Henceforth, a sampling of bon mots from Wolfson’s website. I lead with my personal favorite.


Yes folks, AMAZING! Apparently Wolfson has found the cure for death itself–vitamin A.

When dryer sheets attack:


There is no proof, Wolfson himself admits, but Bounce is lying in wait, ready  to pounce. Dryer sheets will kill you, y’all.

Irony goes up to eleven:


That’s right folks. Wolfson states:

It’s a bad thing to take impressionable people and fill their heads with lies.

I could not possibly agree more. Impressionable people: please consider that extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. It’s as simple as that. Wolfson has provided no evidence whatsoever that vaccines are not important–nay, necessary–for good health. The overwhelming majority of medical and scientific professionals understand that vaccines are beneficial–not just the one you saw absolutely crush Wolfson on CNN.

More on Jahi McMath

Hi Reader.

The macabre spectacle that is the case of Jahi McMath just keeps getting ridiculouser and ridiculouser. I wrote a summary of the story yesterday, but for a Twitter version, it can be summarized thusly: Jahi is dead. Tragic. Those involved with poking, prodding corpse should be shunned as they prevent family from grieving.

Today, there is additional information about the case, which is getting more vile by the second. Yesterday, I read an interesting article about Christopher Dolan, the attorney for Jahi’s family, and felt a soupçon of understanding for his position in working for the family. This feeling was utterly nuked today when he opened his yap again and stated that Jahi is”improving” now that she is “getting the treatment she should have gotten 28 days ago”.

First, there is NO “treatment” for death. Dolan seems to be slithering right by that understanding, which is hardly surprising since, by his own admission, he knows absolutely nothing about brain death. Second, to state that a deceased person is “improving” is quite possibly the most ignorant thing that has ever been said in the Annals of Ignorance–and as you know, Reader, we see quite a bit of it in the world of anti-vaxxers. Dolan may think that he is advocating for the family, but what he is actually doing is apparently confusing large numbers of people, who do not understand that Jahi is dead. Further, Dolan is executing an even crueler trick. He is preventing a family that needs to properly grieve for a child from doing so.

I have heard people who have lost loved ones wish that they could fast-forward a year, so that they could reach a time when the pain would not be so horribly acute. If Jahi’s family had been able to accept her death, and were not encouraged to perpetuate this circus, then they would already be nearly a month past the death of a child. I am not at all implying that they will ever get over her death–they will not. But a month of grieving is still a month when the healing, however slowly, could have begun.

Those involved in encouraging this magical thinking are nothing short of vermin. And while Dolan claims that he will not be involved an any potential lawsuits against the hospital should they be filed, he sure appears to be trying to set it up for a buddy.

Jahi McMath, the media, and the science

Hi Reader,

Unless you’ve been under a rock, you have heard of the Jahi McMath saga. Jahi is the 13-year-old girl from California who was declared brain dead on December 11th, 2013. Along with many others, I have been following this case since it hit major media outlets around Christmas. It has been fascinating to watch the media turn from giving major support to the family to providing a somewhat better understanding of Jahi’s condition and questioning the ethics of transporting a dead body from the coroner to an “undisclosed facility”.

I must first state that I do feel a great deal of sympathy for Jahi’s family. I have a child who had his adenoids removed, and though his particular procedure was very straightforward and quick, I was on high alert for the duration, as any parent would be if their child is under anesthesia. I can only imagine my grief and outrage had my son been one of the extremely rare cases who had a severe adverse event afterward. However, a few things must be pointed out regarding Jahi’s surgery. First, it was not, as has been widely reported, “a simple tonsillectomy”. Apparently, Jahi had a tonsillectomy, adenoidectomy, and also had her uvula and palate tissue removed. This combination of procedures considerably ups the ante from a mere tonsillectomy.

What happened next is not completely clear, due in part to the attorney for the McMaths duking it out with the hospital, Children’s Hospital & Research Center Oakland. However, all parties appear to agree that Jahi suffered tragic complications from her surgery, including heavy bleeding, and went into cardiac arrest. As mentioned above, she was declared brain dead on December 11th. Sadly, many in the media expressed outrage over the hospital’s stance that Jahi should be taken off of a ventilator. The family felt that Jahi might actually “wake up”. Unfortunately, a judge humored their belief just before Christmas, by ordering that Jahi’s body could not be removed from the ventilator until December 30th; this order was later extended to January 7th.

The outrage amped up a notch all over the media. How can a hospital decide to take a person off of life support? Isn’t this the parents’ decision? The answer is no, it is not the parents’ decision in this case. A hospital does not have an obligation to leave a dead person on life support. If that sentence sounds ridiculous, then that’s okay, because it sums up the entire arc of this story. Even before Jahi was moved to an “undisclosed facility” on January 5th, at least three physicians had testified in court that she has no activity or blood flow to the brain, and therefore, Jahi is dead. Nonetheless, the attorney for the McMaths as well as members of the McMath family continued to make statements indicating that Jahi was “improving”, and that other physicians had told them that she is “definitely not dead”. Unfortunately, both of these things are impossible in Jahi’s situation. As has more recently been clarified, Jahi’s condition is no way analogous to that of a person in a coma, or even a person with any brain stem function. She is dead, and that is the sad fact. Yet people continue to express their outrage about this situation, arguing among other things that the parents should get to decide when Jahi is dead.

Why is this proposal a problem? Well, to answer this I have to be horrifying blunt. Jahi has no blood flow to her brain. If you can imagine a finger with a tourniquet around it for a week, it may help to understand what is happening and is going to continue to happen to Jahi’s brain. It is, quite simply, decomposing, as is the rest of her body, which cannot function properly without messaging from the brain stem, even if she’s on ventilation. Her muscles and internal organs cannot process the signals that would normally tell them how to function–for example, how to clear toxins from the system. According to a physician who testified in court, Jahi has not had a bowel movement since the brain death, apart from what appeared to be secretions that were the body releasing the gut lining, as Dr. Heidi Flori, a pediatric critical care physician, testified to in court. As might be expected, Jahi’s body is going to continue to decompose.

This is not a matter of faith or God’s will. Jahi is, tragically but undeniably, dead. A death certificate that was issued this week has given the date of death as December 12, 2013. Nothing is going to bring her back, and that is the sad truth. It seems clear that sometime in the near future, Jahi’s family will reach a state where they can no longer deny that the 13-year-old is dead, due to the continued decomposition of her body. Hence, this story has reached a macabre nadir.

This is just one more example of the media getting it wrong and the lack of scientific literacy in the United States.