Wanted: Leadership

In the wake of Chris Christie and Rand Paul pandering to the anti-vaccine crowd using bankrupt personal liberty rhetoric (coherent libertarian ideology requires one to admit that externalities* exist), Sarah Despres, former Congressional staffer, connects Congress’ abdication of leadership on the vital health initiative of vaccinations for political expediency to the current revival of measles as something parents have to fear:

Few legislators were prepared to stand up for science…As for the others, the antivaccine evidence presented might have been shaky, but the science is complicated. And most members of Congress — on the committee and off — did not feel comfortable opposing the advocates and parents armed with heartbreaking stories of children whose autism seemed to come on just after they received their routine immunizations.
Sarah Despres in Politico Magazine

*The economic version of the basic concept parents not named Ron Paul teach their children that their actions affect other people and that you are responsible for the effects of those actions.

Polio in Pakistan – Collateral Damage of the War on Terror

Thanks to the CIA using fake vaccination programs (something they claimed to have stopped doing earlier this year) in the terrifying “War on Terror” the Taliban banned polio immunizations since 2012. It should come as no surprise that the Taliban is perfectly happy to violently enforce this ban. Not only are polio cases increasing in Pakistan, but more 60 healthcare workers have been killed trying to administer life saving polio inoculations.

They are among the more than 60 polio workers who have been killedsince the Pakistani Taliban banned polio immunization in 2012…The edict by the Islamic militants to ban immunization was in response to the CIA’s setting up a fake hepatitis vaccination campaign in Pakistan. The covert operation was part of an attempt by the U.S. spy agency to verify whether Osama bin Laden was holed up in the city of Abbottabad. – Jason Beaubien, NPR

*Hat tip to Xeni Jardin at BoingBoing.

And we are going to stop drowning kittens…

by Katie McKissick

The US government just announced that the CIA will no longer use fake vaccination programs as a cover for operations. At a time when anti-vaccination movements have swept the globe, despite the positive effects of vaccinations in limiting previously devastating infectious disease, the US government was actively undermining life-saving, humanitarian programs by using them as cover.

Among the reasons people decline vaccinations is the idea that uniform public health projects must be a nefarious government conspiracy. The fact that the conspiracy theorists are not entirely wrong certainly does not help the fight against infectious diseases.

This is a step in the right direction relative to the previous steps in a horribly misguided direction; but, to my fellow US citizens, the view that our country is a force for good in the world is not an evidence-based position.


Science for The People: An Epidemic of Rumors

#265 - An Epidemic of Rumors
#265 – An Epidemic of Rumors

This week, Science for The People looks at the power of stories and innuendo to shape the public perception of science. They speak to author Jon Lee about his book An Epidemic of Rumors: How Stories Shape Our Perceptions of Disease. And they’re joined by Dr. Paul A. Offit, Chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases and the Director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, to get the scientific perspective of the safety and effectiveness of vaccinations.

It’s not just the flu that’s going around…

H1N1 Influenza Virus. Image courtesy of the CDC.
H1N1 Influenza Virus.
Image courtesy of the CDC.

UPDATE: A major paper supporting the autoimmunity narcolepsy connection has been retracted, please see my update to this post here.

It’s been a pretty rough flu season. While my household has so far been lucky, (knocking on wood all over the house) many were knocked out of commission by this year’s influenza epidemic. Now, it turns out there’s more to be worried about than just catching the flu. A long range result of having the flu or having a flu vaccine can be development of narcolepsy…..What?!

Narcolepsy is a neurological condition in which your brain cannot regulate sleep and wake cycles appropriately. Narcoleptics can fall asleep at any time regardless of their current activity. Large-scale genetic studies have shown that narcolepsy has a strong association with mutations in the T cell receptor alpha locus. This surprising link to the immune system led to research that implicates auto-immune malfunction wherein a person’s immune system kills neurons expressing the protein hypocretin which is necessary to regulate wakefulness.

So now how is this related to the flu? Continue reading “It’s not just the flu that’s going around…”

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