The Skeptical Teacher

Musings of a science teacher & skeptic in an age of woo.

Posts Tagged ‘anti-vaxxers’

Anti-Vaccinationists’ PSA Won’t Be Aired by AMC Theaters!

Posted by mattusmaximus on November 25, 2010

A few days ago when I mentioned that “It’s time to kick some ass…” on the issue of the anti-vaccine scumbags at Age of Autisum and SafeMinds trying to run a pseudoscientific & fearmongering anti-vaccine ad in theaters nationwide, I meant it.  And apparently you did as well, because collectively we have kicked some major woo ass, folks!

I just found out that the Age of Autism organization has their knickers in a bunch because, apparently, they’ve been told by AMC Theaters that the company will NOT be airing their “public service announcement” this weekend after all…

Why Was this PSA Rated X?

SafeMinds was notified late yesterday afternoon that AMC Theaters has decided to block the SafeMinds Public Service Announcement (PSA) on influenza vaccines with mercury. The PSA alerts parents and pregnant women of the presence of mercury in most influenza vaccines and the ample availability of mercury-free alternatives. The CDC has declined to give a preference for the mercury-free versions, so it is important that the public is aware of its options. AMC’s advertising representative had reviewed and approved the PSA to run in AMC cinemas over the Thanksgiving weekend. A small group of vocal vaccine proponents dismissive of mercury concerns learned of the PSA and bombarded the AMC website, leading to the company’s decision to prevent its release. SafeMinds thanks its supporters who viewed the PSA and contributed to its efforts to educate the public to avoid unnecessary mercury exposure. Mercury in all forms is dangerous, especially to the developing fetus and infants, as referenced on the PSA website www.safemindsflu.org. SafeMinds will continue its mission to educate the public on this important healthcare topic. …

Now, in their fit of whining, the Age of Autism people are encouraging their followers to boycott AMC theaters.  In response, I say we encourage everyone we know to attend an AMC theater this weekend; I also suggest that you consider writing a letter to the company stating how happy you are that they made the right decision in pulling this dangerous ad from circulation in their theaters.  I think perhaps a quick way to do this is to leave feedback at this website, the same website where earlier complaints about the anti-vax ad were left earlier this week.

Congratulations folks, we did it – this is a testament to grassroots skepticism in action that makes a real difference for everyone 🙂

Please note: I have no idea if any other theater chains (such as Regal or Sony) potentially involved in airing this ad have followed AMC’s lead.  If anyone has any information on this, please share it with me.

Posted in environmental hysteria, medical woo | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

Anti-Vaccination PSA Coming to a Theater Near You… Literally!

Posted by mattusmaximus on November 20, 2010

**UPDATE (11/24/10): Looks like AMC Theaters has pulled the plug on this ad 🙂

**Update (11/23/10): I may have spoken too soon with my earlier update, folks.  It seems that over the last day or so we’ve received some conflicting reports about exactly what is & isn’t going on at AMC with these ads.  Elyse Anders provides more details over at Skepchick on this – until we have more info, stay tuned & continue contacting the theaters in question.

**Update (11/21/10): It appears the executives at AMC (which owns some of the theaters in question) have listened to the public outcry – they say they have pulled the ad and do not plan to show it. However, some of the other theaters may not be owned by AMC, so please contact them.

===============

It’s time to kick some ass… I just found out that the anti-vaccinationist groups called Age of Autism and SafeMinds are planning on running a public service announcement (PSA) in movie theaters nationwide the weekend following Thanksgiving. I’ve seen the 30 second ad, and it contains the usual thoroughly debunked nonsense regarding “mercury toxins in vaccines” and how this is supposedly dangerous for children.  The facts are that there is ZERO evidence that the mercury preservative in vaccines, called thimerosal, is any sort of danger – there are no links between thimerosal & autism, either (a common claim by various anti-vaxxers).  In fact, even after the U.S. government removed thimerosal from the vaccine schedule for children the rate of autism continued to rise!

But don’t tell that to the anti-vax crowd, because they don’t give a whit about the science.  They believe in their heart of hearts that they know the “truth about vaccines”, and they don’t care one way or the other what the actual evidence is… and they want to proselytize this lunacy to you:

Folks, the purpose of this ad is simple: it is to sow fear & distrust of vaccines in the hopes that you & your kids don’t get them at all – that’s it.  These anti-vax groups are, for whatever reason, ideologically opposed to the very idea of vaccinations, and they’ll use every slimy tactic in the book to push it on you.  If you can stomach it, here is their ad…

And here is the list of theaters that are currently being targeted by Age of Autism for this dangerous propaganda (with the potential to reach over 500,000 people):

*Empire 25 in New York City

*Long Beach 26 in Long Beach, California

*River East 21 in Chicago, IL

*Boston Common 19 in Boston, MA

*Phipps Plaza 14 in Atlanta, GA

*Tyson’s Corner 16 in McLean, VA

*Northpark Center 15 in Dallas, TX

*Rosedale 14 in Saint Paul, MN

*Pavillions 15 in Denver, CO

We cannot let this stand… I suggest that if you live in any of these areas (or know people who do) that you contact the theater in question to find out whether or not they plan to run this PSA, and if they do plan to do so then make it well known to them that you will boycott that business in perpetuity (and you will encourage everyone you know to do the same) – when it comes to stuff like this, money talks & bullshit walks.  I would also notify your local health department and medical doctors’ organization about this, on the chance that they might wish to make some kind of public statement against this idiocy.

And spread the word – the skeptical & pro-science community needs to send a strong, clear message to those who would spread such life-endangering pseudoscience that we will not stand for it.  We didn’t ask for this fight, be we will fight it & we will finish it.

Posted in environmental hysteria, medical woo | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments »

“Hug Me I’m Vaccinated!” T-Shirts Available at the Women Thinking Free Store

Posted by mattusmaximus on November 13, 2010

You may recall that awhile back I mentioned a new pro-vaccine campaign launched by the Women Thinking Free Foundation called “Hug Me I’m Vaccinated!”  Well, the WTFF is now happy to announce that we have “Hug Me!” T-shirts available for sale, so you can represent good medical science in a stylish manner.

Show your support for vaccines, the Hug Me campaign, and hugs in a Hug Me I’m Vaccinated T-shirt.

All the coolest kids are vaccinated. Get them to hug you!

All adult tees are 100% cotton and are “natural” in color.

Cost: $19.50 plus shipping & handling

Posted in medical woo | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Dragon*Con Vaccine Clinic Interview on Skeptic Zone Podcast

Posted by mattusmaximus on September 11, 2010

As another quick follow up to the successful launch of the “Hug Me, I’m Vaccinated!” campaign at Dragon*Con last weekend, I wanted to share with you all an interview conducted by the fine folks at the Skeptic Zone Podcast. In it, Dr. Rachael Dunlop interviews me, Brian Anders (husband of the WTFF’s fearless leader, Elyse Anders), and Dr. Bill Atkinson of the CDC.  Check it out (start at the 30:30 mark for the relevant section of the podcast)…

Posted in medical woo, skeptical community | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Vaccination Clinic at Dragon*Con = Massive Success!

Posted by mattusmaximus on September 9, 2010

All I can say is “Whoo Hoo!” – well, that’s not all I can say.  I can also say…

Take THAT, whooping cough! 🙂

I’m happy to say that the launch of the “Hug Me, I’m Vaccinated!” campaign at Dragon*Con in Atlanta this past weekend was an unqualified success.  The clinic was put together via the combined efforts of the Women Thinking Free Foundation, the groovy ladies at Skepchick, the Centers for Disease Control, and the vaccination team from Cobb & Douglas counties.  Over the last few months, we raised money to rent the space; put together a really great FAQ brochure on things everyone should know about vaccines; and mobilized volunteers to help with the clinic.

How successful was the clinic?  Did I mention the word “MASSIVE”?!!!  We provided free booster vaccinations for tetanus, diptheria, and pertussis (also called TDaP) to over 200 Dragon*Con attendees – so many that the people from the CDC and health department almost ran out!  The health department volunteers were flabbergasted by the turnout, because they say that often when they conduct similar events barely anyone shows up, and here we were having almost run out of vaccine because attendance was so high!  In addition, there was free HIV testing available for anyone interested.

Not only that, but we at the WTFF have been notified that others have heard about our successful “Hug Me…” launch, and they are now contemplating holding their own vaccination clinics in the same manner.  I had no idea that it would take off like this: that when I mentioned in my last blog post about “light a candle rather than curse the darkness” we’d end up lighting a freakin’ bonfire!  Did I say “Whoo Hoo!” yet?  🙂

If you are among those interested in learning how we put this all together and are considering holding your own vaccination clinic, just send me an email and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible.

In closing, allow me to share another photo with you.  This one includes the nurses & workers from the local health department, our CDC representative, as well as many of the skeptics who volunteered their time at Dragon*Con for such a worthy cause…

Posted in medical woo, skeptical community | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

“Hug Me, I’m Vaccinated!” Campaign Launches with Free Vaccination Clinic at Dragon*Con 2010!

Posted by mattusmaximus on September 3, 2010

Much of the time, I spend my energy venting my spleen and bitching about various forms of pseudoscience and flummery; and I get mad at myself for not griping less & doing more.  Or, in the words of Carl Sagan, I sometimes I wish that I spent more time lighting a candle as opposed to cursing the darkness.  Well, with the official launch of “Hug Me, I’m Vaccinated!” campaign this weekend at Dragon*Con in Atlanta, Georgia, I can feel proud that I’m helping to light a LOT of candles. Please note that this is the culmination of months of work, fundraising, and support from the skeptical community (most notably the Women Thinking Free Foundation and Skepchick)

The launch of “Hug Me…” this weekend is twofold:

1. We are going to start mounting an aggressive campaign to get the word out to our target demographic, 20 and 30-somethings & young parents, about the importance of vaccinating themselves and their children.  For example, check out the frequently asked questions at the “Hug Me…” website for more information.

2. We are going to be providing a FREE vaccination clinic at Dragon*Con!  We’ll be providing Tdap (tetanus, diptheria and pertussis – “whooping cough”) booster shots for those who want them.  Adolescents and adults 11-64 years of age should receive one booster dose of the vaccine. Parents, family members and caregivers of infants less than 1 year of age can protect these infants by getting this vaccine.

The clinic will run Saturday & Sunday (Sept. 4th and 5th) in the Mall at Peachtree Center, at the International Blvd entrance.  Cobb & Douglas Public Health staff will be available to administer the vaccinations on those days from 10am to 4pm. More info on this over at Skepchick!

I’ll be around the clinic, helping out as much as possible and giving – what else? – HUGS to those who want them.  If you can, drop by to get your vaccination, and as a bonus you’ll get a hug from me as I’m dressed up as Dr. McCoy 🙂

I promise to not look quite so serious as all that.  In addition, I will be moving about Dragon*Con taking video footage of anyone present who wants to share their thoughts on why getting vaccinated is important to them.  If you see me, flag me down so you can share your story, and spread the word about “Hug Me…”!!!

Posted in medical woo, skeptical community | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Why Vaccines Matter: Whooping Cough is Coming Back

Posted by mattusmaximus on August 31, 2010

When talking to people about the importance of getting vaccinated, I often hear the following argument, or some variation thereof: “Why should I bother getting vaccinated, because disease XXX isn’t even around anymore!” Of course, this is a perfect example of ignoring the reason why those diseases are kept in check (a.k.a. the incorrect cause fallacy); so many dangerous diseases are not an issue (or used to not be an issue) in industrialized society is due to widespread vaccination campaigns over the last few generations.  These diseases, such as pertussis (also known as whooping cough), are not completely gone, however – they are merely lying dormant.  In fact, because of the scare tactics put forth by many in the anti-vaccination movement over the last 20-30 years, vaccination rates have been dropping; and that gives an opening for these diseases to come back.  I can think of no other example which so clearly illustrates that pseudoscience & conspiracy mongering misinformation can kill.

And that is exactly what is happening – whooping cough is on the rise again, and rates of infection in the United States are increasing at alarming rates, and people (mostly children) are starting to die from an easily preventable disease. The bottom line really has to do with herd immunity, which basically states that if enough of the population is vaccinated against a particular disease, then not enough people can become infected to allow the virus to effectively propagate (which provides protection to those who, for whatever reason, cannot receive vaccinations).

If you think this isn’t a problem, think again.  The following Livescience.com article outlines very clearly why it is so important that we not become lackadaisical regarding these illnesses.  The solution is simple: talk to your doctor, get yourself vaccinated, and encourage those around you to do likewise…

Whooping Cough Makes Whopping Comeback

Christopher Wanjek
LiveScience’s Bad Medicine Columnist
livescience.com
Sat Aug 28, 2:55 pm ET

Whooping cough sounds fantastically antiquated, up there with scurvy and St. Vitus Dance – diseases you didn’t think anyone in America got anymore.

But whooping cough, named for the high-pitched “whoop” a person makes when inhaling, has made a comeback, with an incidence rate up by a whopping 2,300 percent since 1976, the year when fear of the vaccine began to take hold and vaccination rates started to plummet. In 1976 there were only about 1,000 reported cases; in 2005, the most recent peak, there were nearly 27,000 reported cases (and likely over 1 million unreported cases), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

With outbreaks that cycle every three to five years, the respiratory tract infection might peak again this year, and the CDC recommends you get a booster shot soon.

We’re not off to a good start. In June, California declared a whooping cough epidemic after the death of five infants. So far there have been nearly 3,000 reported cases across six states, according to the CDC, a sevenfold increase compared with this time last year. Whooping cough season doesn’t really kick in until the fall.

A reversing trend

Whooping cough, known in the medical trade by its more conservative name, pertussis, is nearly completely preventable through vaccination. Pertussis was once a leading cause of infant death, with over a quarter million cases and about 8,000 total deaths annually in the United States during the peak years in the 1930s, just before the advent of the vaccine in the 1940s, according to CDC statistics.

By the 1970s, through vaccinations, whooping cough was as endangered as the whooping crane, with only about 0.000005 percent of the population infected. Unfortunately, fears that the DPT vaccine (a combo for diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus) could cause brain damage in rare cases – not entirely unfounded – gave rise to the anti-DPT movement in many industrialized countries.

At issue was the “whole-cell pertussis” element of the vaccine, since replaced in most countries, including the United States, with an “acellular” formulation (which includes purified proteins from the Bordetella pertussis bacteria), indicated by the “a” in DTaP, a common abbreviation for the vaccine these days. While never conclusively associated with brain damage, the original formulation was tied to other serious albeit rare side effects, such as allergic reactions and seizures.

Hype and consequences

The impact of the anti-vaccine movement was dramatic. In Great Britain, immunization rates for whooping cough dropped from over 80 percent to 33 percent (and in some regions to less than 10 percent) from 1974 to 1977. Then the epidemic hit. In 1979 there were over 100,000 cases and 36 deaths worldwide. In Japan in 1975, amidst public worry, the government suspended mandatory pertussis vaccines for infants; the 1979 epidemic killed over 40 children there. The same scene repeated itself in other countries, as well.

In June 2009 researchers reported in the journal Pediatrics that children who didn’t receive the whooping cough vaccine were 23 times more likely to contract pertussis. In the June 2010 issue of Pediatrics, researchers found no connection between the vaccine and seizures.

Herd mentality

The recent upsurge of whooping cough cases is not entirely the fault of the anti-vaccine movement. For the pertussis incidence rates to remain low – even among the vaccinated, because the vaccine isn’t 100-percent effective – there needs to be herd protection, in this case over 90 percent of the entire population immunized, to minimize the number of carriers.

Fewer than 85 percent of children are fully immunized against pertussis, according to the CDC. Some parents simply forget to keep up the multi-shot schedule. And for adults, vaccinated as children, the strength of the immunization has waned.

To curb the epidemic, the CDC is recommending that adults get a booster shot. Most adults have never received one and have never been told to get one.

Going natural is perhaps not the best bet. While pertussis is rarely deadly for otherwise healthy adults, struggling through the aptly named “100-day cough” isn’t particularly pleasant, with its uncontrollable fits of violent coughing around the clock.

Also, in the August 2010 edition of Clinical Infectious Diseases, James Cherry of the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA addresses a common myth that living through a bout of pertussis offers lifetime immunity. Not so. Protection from the vaccine and booster lasts longer, although no more than 10 years.

One limiting factor for a fully immunized population could be the fact that, for adults, the booster shot might not be covered by medical insurance. So your decision might come down to coughing it up now or coughing it up later.

Posted in medical woo | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

U.S. Appeals Court Finds No Link Between Vaccines & Autism

Posted by mattusmaximus on August 28, 2010

I’m on a vaccine kick lately, probably because of my involvement through the Women Thinking Free Foundation & Skepchick’s work to bring a free vaccine clinic to Dragon*Con 2010. I’ll provide more details about that, as well as the launch of the Hug Me – I’m Vaccinated! campaign, later this week.  For now, I just wanted to share with you my thoughts about an epic win in court for science & evidence-based medicine 🙂

No link between vaccines and autism, appeals court rules

By RANDOLPH E. SCHMID
updated 8/27/2010 6:07:09 PM ET

WASHINGTON — A federal appeals court on Friday upheld a ruling that vaccines are not to blame for autism.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit upheld a decision last year by a special vaccine court, which concluded there’s little if any evidence to support claims of a vaccine-autism link.

Scientist years ago reached that conclusion, but more than 5,500 families sought compensation through the government’s Vaccine Injury Compensation Program.

Friday’s ruling came in the case of Michelle Cedillo of Yuma, Ariz., who is disabled with autism, inflammatory bowel disease and other disorders that her parents blame on a measles vaccine given at 15 months.

In the 2009 ruling Special Master Denise Vowell wrote that the evidence “is weak, contradictory and unpersuasive. Sadly, the petitioners in this litigation have been the victims of bad science conducted to support litigation rather than to advance medical and scientific understanding” of autism.

In its ruling Friday the appeals panel said “we have carefully reviewed the decision of the special master and we find that it is rationally supported by the evidence, well-articulated, and reasonable. We, therefore, affirm the denial of the Cedillos’ petition for compensation.”

Earlier this year the so-called vaccine court also concluded that the additive thimerosal is not to blame for autism, an added setback in a long-running battle by parents convinced there is a connection.

The decisions help to offer reassurance to parents scared about vaccinating their babies because of a small but vocal anti-vaccine movement. Some vaccine-preventable diseases, including measles, are on the rise.

I have no doubt that the hard core anti-vaccinationists, like Jenny McCarthy, will just spin this as some kind of conspiracy theory about how the courts are in the pocket of Big Pharma, and so on.  I know that no amount of logic or evidence will convince those who have gone way down the anti-vax rabbit hole, but hopefully the news will convince those on the fence.

Posted in medical woo, politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Penn & Teller Call “Bullsh*t!” on Anti-Vaccination

Posted by mattusmaximus on August 24, 2010

Today, I got my annual influenza shot, and as I was doing so my thoughts naturally turned to the general question of vaccines & the pseudoscience spread by those who think vaccines are somehow, in some weird alternate reality, a bad thing.  Bottom line: the anti-vaccination movement is dangerous because it endangers the lives of innocent people; the results of widespread non-vaccination can be deadly.  I think skeptical magicians Penn & Teller articulate very well in this video exactly why this is the case.  Please, get vaccinated, and share this important & life-saving message…

Posted in medical woo | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Event Honoring Dr. David Gorski & Vaccination Clinic at Dragon*Con!

Posted by mattusmaximus on August 18, 2010

This coming Saturday, August 21st, Dr. David Gorski – contributor to the Science-Based Medicine blog and author of another popular, yet anonymous, blog – will be coming to Chicago to give a lecture on the anti-vaccination movement and various other topics related to alternative medicine woo. This event is co-presented by the Chicago Skeptics, the Women Thinking Free Foundation (WTFF), and the Center For Inquiry Chicago. Details are at the event’s Facebook page…

Chicago Skeptics, The Women Thinking Free Foundation, and the Center For Inquiry-Chicago, are excited to co-present a talk by and discussion with Dr. David Gorski. A breast cancer surgeon and researcher, Dr. Gorski has been on the front lines of the anti-anti-vaccination movement as well as fighting against pseudoscience disguised as alternative heath care in many realms.

From his Science-Based Medicine bio:
Dr. Gorski first became interested in pseudoscience and “alternative” medicine around 2000, when quite by accident he wandered into the Usenet newsgroup misc.health.alternative and began critically examining the claims there. Since then, he has accumulated considerable experience refuting quackery and pseudoscience online. For the last five years, he has blogged under a pseudonym, producing what is consistently ranked as one of the top ten medical blogs, and is happy to drop his pseudonym in order to join such an accomplished group of skeptical doctors to discuss science- and evidence-based medicine (SEBM) for a broad audience. (Finding Dr. Gorski’s other, far more (in)famous blog persona is left as an exercise for the interested reader.)

Science-Based Medicine Blog: http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/

Now, the evening of Dr. Gorski’s talk, there is going to be a fundraiser put on by the Chicago Skeptics and the WTFF. The proceeds from this fundraiser are going to go towards a vaccination clinic at Dragon*Con in Atlanta during Labor Day weekend! So, if you’re in the Chicago area this coming weekend, please click the link above to get a ticket to the fundraiser, but if you’re not and you’d like to contribute to this worthy cause, then I refer you to this excellent post over at Skepchick about it 😀

As part of the Hug Me! I’m Vaccinated launch at Dragon*Con, the Skepchicks are organizing vaccine clinic during Dragon*Con. We are providing FREE vaccines for any Dragon*Con participants who want them. We’ll also be distributing information and education about vaccinations during the event.

Here’s where we need your help.  While the vaccines and staffing are being provided completely free to us, because of the late notice, we needed to rent space to actually have the clinic.  We are paying for space in the Mall at Peachtree Center, which is connected to the Dragon*Con main hotels and we need to raise some money to cover the rent, plus posters, pamphlets and other materials to help promote this. Our goal is to raise $1,500 which will cover all of that. Elyse and the Women Thinking Free Foundation have already raised $800 for the launch so we need $700 more. Ironically, Elyse can’t come to Dragon*Con. She would have to bring her daughter with her and she can’t risk it because of the pertussis epidemic. So we’re going to be launching this project without her, very sadly.

If you can, please help out by donating a few dollars to this extraordinarily worthy cause. You can donate via PayPal to donate@womenthinkingfree.org or visit the Women Thinking Free Store and donate there.

This is literally an effort that will save lives. And, if you’re at Dragon*Con, come by and get vaccinated!

Posted in medical woo, skeptical community | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

 
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