Respectful Insolence

Lawrence Solomon appears to be a rising star in the antivaccine movement. I started taking notice of him a couple of months ago, spewing classic long-refuted antivaccine talking points with the enthusiasm of a newbie who thinks he’s the first one to have thought of them and the arrogance of ignorance of a convert who has no clue that he’s spewing complete and total bollocks. Lately, he’s been spewing that bollocks in various places, including his own website, the Financial Post, that wretched hive of antivaccine scum and quackery, The Huffington Post (a.k.a. HuffPost), and, a week ago, The American Thinker (which is, in my experience, a publication so risibly misnamed as to force me to choke down laughter any time I see articles there).

The same was true when I first saw a post by Solomon there entitled Where Conservative Skepticism Falls Short. Indeed, Mr. Solomon has been such a font of antivaccine nonsense lately that I’m surprised I haven’t decided to address him before. Let’s just say that his articles and posts represent a—shall we say?—”target-rich” environment, and this article is no different, thus making it a good place to start. Amusingly, Solomon’s criticism of American conservatives is that they are not “skeptical enough” about a certain topic. Given his past blather on vaccines, I bet you can guess what that topic is. If you can’t (unlikely), I’ll quote the first two paragraphs of the post for you. If you can, you’ll still be amused by the addled thinking that leads Solomon to write something like:

Conservatives much more than most others stick to their principles —individual liberty, personal responsibility, and freedom of the press — while also maintaining a healthy skepticism of government pronouncements. That combination has in the past saved the U.S. from grief, such as in the 1980s, when President Reagan rolled back the statist tide, and in recent years, when the House of Representatives prevented President Obama from implementing his statist and economically ruinous global warming agenda.

But when it comes to one issue in particular — government mass vaccination programs — many conservatives forget their principles and accept as dogma studies from government bodies such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This deference to government-promoted science is especially perplexing because of the parallel to global warming, another controversial area of government-promoted science, where conservatives have challenged studies from governments and the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

There’s so much wrong in this passage that it both amused and appalled me at the same time. I rather suspect that Solomon doesn’t realize how well he illustrates the principle of crank magnetism in that he’s praising conservatives for their adherence to the pseudoscience of AGW denialism, something that they most definitely shouldn’t be praised for, and castigating them for not being “skeptical” enough about “government mass vaccination programs.” In a way, he’s more correct than he knows, but not in the way he thinks. Being “skeptical” of AGW science is indeed about as scientifically misguided as being “skeptical” of vaccines in the way that antivaccinationists like Solomon are. “Skeptical.” You keep using that word, Mr. Solomon. I do not think it means what you think it means.

Before I move on, let’s just put it this way. Climate science is controversial, but not in the way Solomon thinks it is. There is overwhelming consensus among climate scientists that the earth’s climate is warming, likely catastrophically, and that human activity is the main driver of this climate change. The controversy is in the details, not the overall conclusion: How fast is the earth warming? What are the finer points of the mechanism? How can we best mitigate the effects? Similarly, there is overwhelming consensus among scientists and physicians that vaccines are safe and effective and that they do not cause autism. Denying one of these scientific consensuses based on pseudoscientific reasoning is very much like denying the other; they’re both pseudoscience. That Solomon denies them both, while these mythical conservatives whom he is addressing deny only one of them, doesn’t make Solomon more clear-seeing than the conservatives are, as he thinks. It makes him even more of a wingnut than these AGW-denying conservatives are.

What irritates Solomon and provided the impetus for his article is a criticism that one of his fellow American Thinker columnists, Sierra Rayne, correctly took him to task for the numerous errors and misinterpretations of science in an article of his that was featured during American Thinker’s “junk science week” entitled Vaccinating the “herd.” There’s some serious stupid in that article, so much so that even Orac’s circuits, which have survived the burning stupid of so many antivaccine loons before, even Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Sharyl Attkisson, were taxed. Fortunately, Orac’s circuits are heavily shielded. I’ll give you an example:

In November 1966, in announcing a mass vaccination program for measles that would exceed the 55% level reached in Baltimore, the U.S. Public Health Service confidently announced that “Effective use of these vaccines during the coming winter and spring should insure the eradication of measles from the United States in 1967.”

When measles failed to be eradicated, public health experts decided that a 70% or 75% vaccination rate would secure herd immunity. When that proved wrong, the magic number rose to 80%, 83%, 85%, and then it became 90%, according to a 2001 Health Services Research report. Later health experts commonly cited 95%.

But that too was insufficient — measles outbreaks occur even when the vaccinated population exceeds 95%, leading some to say a 98% or 99% vaccination rate is needed to protect the remaining 1% or 2% of the herd. But even that may fall short, since outbreaks occur in fully vaccinated populations.

Solomon’s “reasoning,” such as it is, is quite specious. First, even if his version of events is correct (which one wonders), that authorities underestimated the percentage of the population that needed to be vaccinated to achieve adequate herd immunity back in 1966 in no way implies much of anything about today’s understanding of herd immunity. Moreover, although the measles vaccine is quite effective, particularly when children receive all the doses, but it’s still not 100% effective (more like 90%). So outbreaks can still occur. Here’s the thing. Solomon misunderstands in that he thinks herd immunity means that there will never be any outbreaks. Rather, herd immunity serves as a sort of “firebreak” or “firewall” that limits the spread of outbreaks when they occur. Unvaccinated people are indirectly protected by vaccinated individuals, because the latter are less likely to contract and transmit the disease between infected and susceptible individuals. Solomon assumes that the protection must be 100%, but nothing in medicine is 100%.

Let’s just look at it this way. Before the measles vaccine, there were a half a million cases a year of measles in the United States. That plummeted to a very low level within five years of the licensing of the vaccine:

Measles US 1944-2007 inset.png
Measles US 1944-2007 inset” by 2over0Own work. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Indeed, in the US, measles was declared eliminated in 2000. How did that happen? Vaccines. Solomon’s entire argument in his post is that because the measles vaccine isn’t perfect it’s crap and not worth doing. In other words, it’s an obvious example of the “Nirvana fallacy.” He then falls for the naturalistic fallacy:

In fact, herd immunity — so elusive today — fully existed prior to the vaccine’s introduction. Virtually 100% of the population then contracted measles, typically as children, giving everyone lifelong immunity — and future mothers the means to protect their offspring. In mass vaccinating us, scientists of the 1960s didn’t realize that infecting us with the measles vaccine — a weak version of the natural measles virus — would give us a weak version of the defenses our bodies develop to the real thing.

Well, not exactly. Here’s the problem. Measles is not a benign disease. Solomon tries to argue that it is, but he is, quite simply, so wrong he’s not even wrong. According to the CDC, approximately 30% of cases result in complications, and, as Rayne rightly points out, citing Orenstein et al:

From 1956 to 1960, an average of 450 measles-related deaths were reported each year (~1 death/1000 reported cases), compared with an average of 5300 measles-related deaths during 1912-1916 (26 deaths/1000 reported cases). Nevertheless, in the late 1950s, serious complications due to measles remained frequent and costly. As a result of measles virus infections, an average of 150,000 patients had respiratory complications and 4000 patients had encephalitis each year; the latter was associated with a high risk of neurological sequelae and death. These complications and others resulted in an estimated 48,000 persons with measles being hospitalized every year.

With 450 deaths, 48,000 hospitalizations, 150,000 respiratory complications, and 4,000 cases of encephalitis each year due to measles just prior to vaccine implementation, could the Public Health Service really have considered measles “generally benign in the pre-vaccine era”? Undoubtedly not. In the late 1950s, 48,000 Americans were being hospitalized each year from the measles. Today, on average, less than 100 Americans get the measles each year – and obviously a much smaller number are hospitalized from it. The health cost reductions from that alone are immense.

Exactly.

If you really want to know just how ignorant Lawrence Solomon is about vaccines, all you have to do is to take a look at this:

The CDC credits the vaccine with the elimination of measles deaths, but measles deaths ended a decade before the vaccine was in widespread use across the U.S., and deaths had all but ended prior to the first child receiving a shot. While the vaccine can perhaps take modest credit for accelerating the decline in the mid-1960s, it is a stretch to claim that eradication would not have occurred without the vaccine, particularly since the 20th century also saw the die-off of diseases like scarlet fever, for which no vaccine was ever developed.

This is an incredibly intellectually dishonest antivaccine talking point, so intellectually dishonest that it shocks me that anyone with half a brain can seriously argue it. Let’s just put it this way: Anyone who pulls out this tired old dishonest trope is so intellectually bankrupt that I don’t really feel obligated to do anything other than link to a post I did a long time ago about this trope, which I derogatorily labeled the “vaccines didn’t save us” lie.

It’s amazing that in 2014 the same old long discredited antivaccine tropes have found a new mouthpiece, but they have. And that mouthpiece is Lawrence Solomon. It’s not “conservative skepticism” that is falling short. It’s Lawrence Solomon. Sadly, it’s not surprising.

Comments

  1. #1 Trouble
    New Zealand
    July 7, 2014

    There’s currently a worldwide outbreak of measles coming from South East Asia – both the USA and New Zealand have been hit by it. In the US, there have been something like 500 cases among 300 million citizens or so. In New Zealand, there have been 200 odd cases among 4 million citizens over the same time period. We’ve got similar nutrition, life expectancy, hygiene and other factors. The difference is that NZ’s measles immunisation rates among teenagers are somewhere between 5 and 10 % lower than the US. There’s your herd immunity. If the US had the NZ rate of cases, there would be thousands of people affected there, hundreds hospitalised, and a few deaths.

  2. #2 herr doktor bimler
    July 7, 2014

    In fact, herd immunity — so elusive today — fully existed prior to the vaccine’s introduction. Virtually 100% of the population then contracted measles

    it’s amazing what you can accomplish if you redefine “immunity from a disease” as “everyone experiencing the disease”.

    the U.S. Public Health Service confidently announced that “Effective use of these vaccines during the coming winter and spring should insure the eradication of measles from the United States in 1967.”

    The original authors were sensible enough not to specify what level of vaccination might constitute “effective use”… reducing their statement to a tautology. They explicitly note that “it is difficult to estimate whether the threshold of herd immunity for an average American city now would be higher or lower than Hedrich’s estimate for Baltimore 30 to 70 years ago.” So Solomon is lying when he implies that they did set a level, only to be refuted by harsh reality.

  3. #3 Helianthus
    July 7, 2014

    Virtually 100% of the population then contracted measles, typically as children, giving everyone lifelong immunity

    giving everyone that survived lifelong immunity.
    Lifelong being the operative word here. I would hypothesize that getting your lungs or brain whacked up by measles as a child may have a reducing effect on your life expectancy.

    There are countries in which measles is still a common childhood disease nowadays, and on the top ten list of death cause. The locals may be looking at this disease as commonplace, but this is not the same as “benign”.

  4. #4 lilady
    July 7, 2014

    According to the current issue of the MMWR (July 4, 2014), there are 532 confirmed cases of measles in the United States, with multiple outbreaks in Ohio among Amish communities. The Amish went on “missions” to the Philippines, where there are ~ 40,000 cases of measles. Supposedly, many of the Amish travelers received tetanus booster vaccines, but did not receive MMR vaccine, prior to departures. Some of those measles cases went to local hospital emergency rooms, where the measles rashes they presented with, were misdiagnosed as dengue fever rashes, quite possibly because measles is such as a rare disease in the United States.

    http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/pdf/wk/mm6326md.pdf

    The Ohio Department of Health issues frequent updates about those measles outbreaks:

    http://www.odh.ohio.gov/features/odhfeatures/Measles%202014.aspx

    Canada has also experienced multiple outbreaks of measles which are also associated with travel to the Philippines.

  5. #5 The Grouchybeast
    July 7, 2014

    A vaccine for scarlet fever was developed, as anyone who can manage to type ‘scarlet fever’ into wikipedia would have found out. It’s development was discontinued because the invention of antibiotics meant that scarlet fever no longer had the same morbidity and mortality. Making an effective vaccine for a bacteria with thousands of different strains is hard, while prescribing penicillin is easy and extremely effective. ‘Scarlet fever’ is just one manifestation of group A strep infection, like impetigo. Given the current rise of antibiotic resistance, there are plenty of people working hard to develop a group A strep vaccine right now.

    When they succeed, I presume that the anti-vaccine crowd will start claiming that before the vaccine came into use, necrotizing fasciitis was a benign disease of childhood.

  6. #6 lilady
    July 7, 2014

    Solomon lied in all the articles (at least four), he published for the Financial Post. He deliberately misquoted from an article written by Gregory Poland, which was behind a pay wall, and I called him out for that devious ploy.

    Anne Dachel sent her flying monkey squad to post their brain droppings on each one of those articles; Parker posted hundreds of comments on one of those prior articles.

    Solomon has zero credentials in any medical science; he’s anti-vaccine to the core and a poseur.

  7. #7 Nick
    July 7, 2014

    Solomon, the most easily dismissed AGW pseudo-skeptic in a field of easybeats, has entered the field of anti-vax crankdom with similar results. One wonders what drives him on…while he gets oil money to attack AGW, in this case it’s likely that self-reinforcing insanity ‘when critics attack* you, you know you must be right’. Common circular reasoning with the far right. Oh, and did I mention he has an infallibility complex?

    * ‘attack’ in these instances is shorthand for ‘methodically and comprehensively debunk your claims’

  8. #8 The Grouchybeast
    July 7, 2014

    @Nick

    I’ve sometimes been tempted to start accusing anti-vaxxers of being paid pharma shills. I mean, if everyone stopped vaccinating, then think of how sick we’d all be! All those serious illnesses, complications and life-long disabilities to treat, instead of cheap one-shot vaccines. The pharmaceutical companies would make out like bandits. That’s the logic as to why Big Pharm fights to stop people realising that [quackery of choice] is a simple, cheap cure for all cancers, right?

  9. #9 herr doktor bimler
    July 7, 2014

    Solomon, the most easily dismissed AGW pseudo-skeptic in a field of easybeats, has entered the field of anti-vax crankdom with similar results.

    I was wondering the same thing. Does he hope that if he stakes out antivax as a conservative cause, then left-leaning antivax people will suddenly realise “Oh, I have actually been a conservative all along without knowing it” and embrace the AGW-denialism cause as well?

  10. #10 herr doktor bimler
    July 7, 2014

    Here’s Solomon praising measles as “a beneficial disease” and quoting Langmuir on the possibility of extirpating it:

    Why, then, did he [Langmuir] decide to eradicate this generally harmless and beneficial disease? “To those who ask me, ‘Why do you wish to eradicate measles,’ I reply with the same answer that Hilary used when asked why he wished to climb Mt. Everest. He said, ‘Because it is there.’ To this may be added, ‘…and it can be done.’”

    I can forgive Lamgmuir (wriitng in 1962) for crediting Edmund Hillary with words that were actually spoken by George Mallory. I am slightly less forgiving of Suzanne Humphreys et al. for repeating Langmuir’s mistake without so much as a [sic]. But the misspelling of Hillary’s surname is Solomon’s own contribution, and it does not speak well of his concern for accuracy.

  11. #11 ann
    July 7, 2014

    @ The GrouchyBeast –

    Indeed. After all, who profited when thimerosal was removed from vaccines?

    Buncha pharma shills, them anti-vaxxers.

  12. #12 Eric Lund
    July 7, 2014

    Some of those measles cases went to local hospital emergency rooms, where the measles rashes they presented with, were misdiagnosed as dengue fever rashes, quite possibly because measles is such as a rare disease in the United States.

    Dengue fever is also very rare in the US. In fact, I’m not aware of any cases that were contracted in the US–I’m sure some have acquired it abroad and came back to the US. AFAIK there is no widely available dengue fever vaccine, though there may be one or more under development. It’s more likely the doctors assumed (incorrectly) that Americans would have been properly vaccinated against measles, and therefore an American patient presenting symptoms consistent with either dengue fever or measles would be presumed, until proven otherwise, to have dengue fever.

    I see that others have beaten me to Solomon’s crank magnetism (that he’s an AGW pseudoskeptic as well as an anti-vaxer). The politics of how we deal with global warning are, and should be, controversial; the science is not.

  13. #13 Dorit
    July 7, 2014

    Thank you very, very much from taking Mr. Solomon’s inaccuracies on. Here is what I know about the beginning:
    1) He started in January with an article on “Why the Press Shouldn’t Dismiss Vaccine Skeptics” (his title): http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/lawrence-solomon/vaccine-skeptics_b_4548510.html

    2) He continued with two articles about influenza, criticized by Reuben here:
    http://thepoxesblog.wordpress.com/2014/01/28/spitting-on-the-graves-of-children-lost-to-influenza/
    http://thepoxesblog.wordpress.com/2014/02/06/more-spitting-on-the-graves-of-those-who-have-died-from-influenza/

    Then he started with the measles articles addressed by Lilady. Each of the articles lives up t the same high standard of accuracy that Orac and the commentators here so aptly describe.

  14. #14 Denice Walter
    July 7, 2014

    I think that I first heard him mentioned @ PRN and then soon after @ AoA in the past few months.. He appears to be gathering a fan base. Interestingly, I don’t believe that he’s yet been a topic for Mikey which is surprising as they are both AGW deniers and probably similar politically.

  15. #15 Denice Walter
    July 7, 2014

    So scarlet fever just “died-off”.

  16. #16 Chris,
    July 7, 2014

    From Soloman’s recent “American Thinker” article:

    This is a CDC talking point. In fact, the first two measles vaccines were taken off the market in 1968 and 1975 because of numerous untoward results, including deaths, as were successors that proved unsafe. In the 1980s, a measles vaccine became part of the MMR combination shot (measles, mumps, rubella), only to be withdrawn in 1992 by the manufacturer after reports from Canada, the U.S., Sweden, and Japan of febrile convulsions, meningitis, deafness, and deaths.

    So many errors. First there were several measles vaccines introduced in the USA in 1963. At least two had issues, and were removed. Obviously another version was removed in 1975 (I don’t know since he does not reference them) perhaps due to the introduction of the MMR vaccine in 1971.

    And he says ” the manufacturer”, but does not mention which one. Each country had different MMR vaccines from various manufacturers (there were three in the UK between 1988 and 1992).

    Which brings us to the big error of including the USA with all of the other countries. The American MMR was introduced in 1971 with the Jeryl Lynn mumps component. It was the preferred vaccine for the USA’s 1978 Measles Elimination Program (I read somewhere that Hillemann did change to a better rubella strain in the MMR).

    The American MMR vaccine has never been withdrawn. The MMR vaccines that were withdrawn contained the newer and cheaper Urabe mumps strain that did cause aseptic meningitis, but was still safer than actually getting mumps.

    This is not a secret, and not terribly hard to find out about. It seems Mr. Soloman fails at basic research.

    One of my favorite bits from the anti-MMR furor in the UK is that even after all of the MMR versions were switch to Jeryl Lynn strain, enterprising clinics clinging to the “single jab” bandwagon illegally imported a Urabe mumps vaccine. It garnered this warning in 2002: MEDICINES CONTROL AGENCY TO OBJECT TO IMPORTATION OF
    UNLICENSED SINGLE URABE STRAIN MUMPS VACCINE
    .

  17. #17 Politicalguineapig
    July 7, 2014

    Eric Lund: AFAIK there is no widely available dengue fever vaccine, though there may be one or more under development.

    There is at least one. I remember reading about it, though I can’t remember the source. Future sister caught dengue in Thailand and was absolutely miserable during her stay there.

  18. #18 Narad
    July 7, 2014

    First, even if his version of events is correct (which one wonders), that authorities underestimated the percentage of the population that needed to be vaccinated to achieve adequate herd immunity back in 1966 in no way implies much of anything about today’s understanding of herd immunity.

    Particularly giiven that R₀ didn’t even show up until 1975.

  19. #19 Narad
    July 7, 2014

    ^ Although Gordon Smith had worked out the basic idea by 1970 (Fig. 1 here).

  20. #20 Narad
    July 7, 2014

    Before the measles vaccine, there were a half a million cases a year of measles in the United States.

    Reported cases.

  21. #21 Annie
    July 7, 2014

    This is the only thing I have an issue understanding. If only 450 measles deaths were reported each year from 1956-1960, well that’s not a death rate of 1 per thousand.

    Because while there may have been between 450,000-500,000 *reported* cases, the number of actual cases was much much higher.

    See this study “Measles Elimination in The United States” that states that usually an entire birth cohort got measles every year, or around 4 million people.

    http://jid.oxfordjournals.org/content/189/Supplement_1/S1.full.pdf

    I’m pro vaccine by the way, this is just something I hear anti vaxxers bring up and I’m having trouble figuring out the numbers.

    If 4 million people got measles a year, then 450 deaths a year is not a death rate of 1/1000.

  22. #22 Narad
    July 7, 2014

    This is the only thing I have an issue understanding. If only 450 measles deaths were reported each year from 1956-1960, well that’s not a death rate of 1 per thousand.

    Measles isn’t as dangerous at all ages. What one would have to do is compare the mortality rates in appropriate age bins.

  23. #23 Michelle
    St. Louis
    July 7, 2014
  24. #24 lilady
    July 7, 2014

    Annie: From your link:

    “In 1962, immediately preceding the licensure of the first measles vaccines in the United States, when measles was a nearly universal disease, Alexander Langmuir described the medical importance of measles to the country and put forth the challenge of measles eradication [1]. Although most patients recovered without permanent sequelae, the high number of cases each year made measles a significant cause of serious morbidity and mortality. Langmuir showed that 90% of Americans were infected with the measles virus by age 15
    years [1]. This equated to roughly 1 birth cohort (4 million people) infected with measles each year. Not all cases were reported to the public health system; from 1956 to 1960, an average of 542,000 cases were reported annually.

    By the late 1950s, even before the introduction of measles vaccine, measles-related deaths and case fatality rates in the United States had decreased markedly, presumably as a result of improvement in health care and nutrition. From 1956 to 1960, an average of 450 measles-related deaths were reported each year (∼1 death/1000 reported cases), compared with an average of 5300 measles-related deaths during 1912–1916 (26 deaths/1000 reported cases) [2]. Nevertheless, in the late 1950s, serious complications due to measles remained frequent and costly. As a result of measles virus infections, an average of 150,000 patients had respiratory complications and 4000 patients had encephalitis each year; the latter was associated with a high risk of neurological
    sequelae and death. These complications and others resulted in an estimated 48,000 persons with measles being hospitalized every year [3].”

    A little bit of epidemiology trivia; according to one MMWR issue I viewed, measles has been classified as “reportable” since 1912.

    Measles was a rite of passage for children, before the live attenuated measles vaccine was developed (as was rubella and mumps).

    Varicella became “reportable” during 2002.

    http://www.cdc.gov/chickenpox/hcp/conducting-surveillance.html#reporting

  25. #25 lilady
    July 7, 2014

    Another blogger who took down Lawrence Solomon for his dreadful articles on vaccines:

    http://bostonwed-murakami.blogspot.ca/2014/01/why-press-shouldnt-be-your-source-for.html

  26. #26 Sebastian Jackson
    July 7, 2014

    @Michelle: I don’t think I would read too much into that. She didn’t say anything about vaccines on “The View” or on her previous short-lived VH1 show. She only rarely mentions vaccines in public, and keeps her distance from anti-vaxxers unless she is speaking at a conference (like the Autism Education Summit this October). Unless she has nothing to lose career-wise, she won’t say boo.

  27. #27 Politicalguineapig
    July 7, 2014

    Wow, the parker critter is really getting chewed in the comments section at ‘American Thinker.’

  28. #28 squirrelelite
    July 7, 2014

    @Annie,

    As lilady noted, age of infection (and lots of other things) will affect how many people actually die when we measles becomes endemic again.
    Lawrence Solomon likes to make a big deal of the actual number being 1 in 10,000 based on an unavailable report by some CDC researcher about 30 years ago.
    Statistics from Europe, especially France, suggest number about 1 in 1000 or possibly worse. The last CDC reports I’ve seen use 3 in 10,000.
    Apparently in Solomon’s world view, 1 in 10,000 people dying from a disease is low enough that we shouldn’t worry about it and just give up on vaccinating to try to eliminate the disease. The vaccine isn’t as good as we thought, so why bother? (sarcasm)

    But the 3 in 10,000 or 10 in 10,000 number is high enough that he thinks it necessary to argue against it!

  29. #29 Narad
    July 7, 2014

    Another failure in Solomon’s research skills (his date for the introduction of the term ‘herd immunity’ is off by a decade) is provided by this item, which looks at exactly what was wrong with the 1967 prediction.

  30. #30 Narad
    July 7, 2014

    @Michelle: I don’t think I would read too much into that. She didn’t say anything about vaccines on “The View” or on her previous short-lived VH1 show.

    She also pretended that she was leaving “The View” voluntarily. I’ll believe a new show when somebody actually announces it.

  31. #31 Todd W.
    http://www.harpocratesspeaks.com
    July 7, 2014

    @Annie

    Let’s throw another factor into the mix. In addition to spotty reporting of measles cases in the past, deaths were also not always recorded as due to the virus, since secondary bacterial infections played a big role in measles deaths in the pre-antibiotic era and even after. So, cause of death might be “bacterial pneumonia”, even though that was only made possible by measles in the first place.

  32. #32 Todd W.
    http://www.harpocratesspeaks.com
    July 7, 2014

    @squirrelelite

    Do you have a link for that 3 in 10,000 figure? I don’t think I’ve seen that low of a death rate for measles. The lowest I’ve come across is 1 death per 3,000 cases, though 1 in 1,000 is the most commonly cited figure.

  33. #33 Science Mom
    http://justthevax.blogspot.com/
    July 7, 2014

    Annie, the reported U.S. measles cases and fatalities were off by an order of magnitude. Measles case fatalities in the U.S. are 1-3/1000 and in the UK, 1/3000. Anti-vaxxers routinely abuse and fabricate data to support their weirdo worldview.

  34. #34 Chris,
    July 7, 2014

    Annie, the present estimate of 1-3/1000 measles case fatalities is a calculation from the 1990 measles epidemic in the USA. This paper, Acute measles mortality in the United States, 1987-2002, should provide you the reasoning behind the numbers.

  35. #35 herr doktor bimler
    July 7, 2014

    the enthusiasm of a newbie who thinks he’s the first one to have thought of them

    I imagine that Solomon is under no illusions about the non-originality of his material or the copy-paste nature of his research. The over-confident 1967 paper on measles eradication was popular in antivax circles in 2008-2009 (Clifford Miller at ChildHealthSafety).

  36. #36 ann
    July 7, 2014

    It’s small wonder that American Thinker is so messed up.

    Their blog editor is a godless moran:

    http://www.americanthinker.com/static/about_us.html

  37. #37 squirrelelite
    July 7, 2014

    @Todd W,

    I can’t find that at the moment, so I’ll try to keep an eye out for it and post it here.

    The current CDC page quotes 1 in 1000.

    I think that’s what I used when I posted this comment.

    http://business.financialpost.com/2014/04/16/lawrence-solomon-the-untold-story-of-measles/#comment-1345005979

    I remember seeing 0.3 in 10,000 quoted and thought I had used it in a later comment. But, I didn’t see it referenced in my Disqus profile so I certainly wouldn’t cite it as an authoritative number.

    I also remember one or two comments that disappeared somehow.

    But, thanks for asking.

  38. #38 Annie
    July 7, 2014

    Ok, thanks for explaining the numbers guys! Appreciate it :)

  39. #39 Robby
    July 7, 2014

    Anti-Vaxers (and pseudoscience proponents in general) routinely use rhetorical gymnastics in an effort to further their agenda when data fails them. As such, I am rarely surprised to see quantitative data interpreted in an obnoxious fashion.

    The Huffington Post, for one, has a quite dedicated group of cranks and woo-mongeers. That is what happens when a publication attempts to spin science in much the same way they do politics.

    My first instinct in dealing with anti-vax types was that they must be quite sadistic in temperment. Then again, perhaps “never attribute to malice what can be adaquatley explained by stupidity” applies just a well to these situations.

  40. #40 Politicalguineapig
    July 7, 2014

    Robby: Then again, perhaps “never attribute to malice what can be adaquatley explained by stupidity” applies just a well to these situations.

    Unfortunately, the majority of them are not stupid people. Or at least, they weren’t before they became parents. A few are bone-deep stupid, a few had their brains drop through the floor when they became parents, but the majority are just convinced they’re right and everyone else is wrong.

    Some of them are just malicious creatures hellbent on punishing their offspring for being less than perfect. I can’t really tell them apart anymore, and I don’t want to.

  41. #41 SteveJ
    July 7, 2014

    @Eric Lund
    There was a locally-acquired case of dengue on Long Island last November. Plus it’s endemic in Puerto Rico.
    @politicalguineapig
    Sanofi is furthest along in developing a vaccine against dengue. They’re expecting results from a phase 3 trial later this year.

  42. #42 Monique
    July 7, 2014

    I noticed at least one comment brought this up, but I think it bears repeating that it is a GIGANTIC error to think that the decline in Scarlet Fever is evidence that Measles infections would also have declined! The reason we don’t have Scarlet Fever epidemics anymore is that Scarlet Fever is a result of untreated Strep Throat infections, and Strep Throat is painful enough that it’s very rare for someone to not see a doctor before the Scarlet Fever stage. The actual infection rate has probably not gone down much, I personally have had Strep Throat a dozen times. But instead of going on to get Scarlet Fever and then Rhuematic Fever, and being permanently disabled with heart and lung problems, if not killed, I just took antibiotics.

    Claiming that Scarlet Fever has just naturally “died off” is like saying that deafness caused by childhood ear infections has “died off.” Both are caused by bacterial infections, which can be cured by antibiotics, so they aren’t top priorities for vaccines. You’d think with all the anti-vaxxers whining about how many vaccines there are that they’d be HAPPY there are some conditions that don’t warrant vaccination, but I guess they’re never happy.

  43. #43 Robby
    July 7, 2014

    @guineapig, you might well have a significant point of contention there. Sociology/psychology is well outside my area of expertise.

    I do, however, often have to deal with the repercussions of these people and their ludicrous ideas. My advice to them is this (especially in regards to the health of their children): the 11th hour is not the time to suddenly develop faith in the “evil” healthcare system and expect miraculious outcomes.

  44. #44 Politicalguineapig
    July 8, 2014

    Monique: Strep Throat is painful enough that it’s very rare for someone to not see a doctor before the Scarlet Fever stage

    Yup. I still remember the time I had both strep throat and strep rash. I also remember that one time my sister and I both got ear infections; we were miserable and my brother was inconsolable. (He didn’t have an ear infection- he thought the antibiotic was a special big kid thing, which makes sense when you’re -2.)

    Eric Lund: Thanks! for some reason the specific company didn’t come to mind.

    Robby: My advice to them is this (especially in regards to the health of their children): the 11th hour is not the time to suddenly develop faith in the “evil” healthcare system and expect miraculious outcomes.

    Given the bile they spew at medical practitioners and autistic kids, I’m surprised they’d take the kids in at all. The latest thing at the wretched blog is crying crocodile tears over Autism Speak’s genome project. They’ll bend over backward to excuse out and out murder, but judge people who might want prenatal tests?

    Really, the kids should all be raised in creches- today’s parents just can’t cope with disabled children. Part of it is the culture- parents have to put the kids on the fast track in preschool, and can’t spare love or attention for kids who are behind.

  45. #45 Shay
    July 8, 2014

    PGP – given the number of regular respondents to this blog who are parents of special-needs kids, you’ll want to rethink that particular blanket condemnation.

  46. #46 Denice Walter
    July 8, 2014

    @ Monique:

    My comment was sarcasm.

    @ Robby:

    As someone schooled in psychology (amongst other things), I’ve been reading their tripe, uh… *material* for the past several years daily and have come to believe that:
    a few of them do have mental conditions but many others are *playing to the crowd* and attempting to find a little fame or a second career as an advocate which might balance out the loss of not having a perfect child.

    If you look closely, you’ll find that some anti-vax parents have written books, give lectures, run blogs where they dole out advice or relate their tales of woe and martyrdom.
    Possibly some utilise woo-meisters ( salesmen) as role models on which to base their pitches to their audiences so you might see similar conspiracies and means of communication, e.g. they regard SBM and governmental agencies as areas ripe for study by demonologists.

    Welcome aboard the Good Ship RI!

  47. #47 Eric Lund
    July 8, 2014

    Part of it is the culture- parents have to put the kids on the fast track in preschool, and can’t spare love or attention for kids who are behind.

    There are arguments to be made for putting disabled kids into specialized care, but this isn’t one of them.

    I am aware of a school of thought that says that parents have to push their kids into the right preschool, so that the kids can then go to the right elementary school, then the right high school, and then the right college. This attitude is most notoriously present in certain New Yorkers, though I am sure it exists elsewhere in the US. It’s complete hogwash. I’ll grant that having the right connections and socioeconomic background can help, but that’s mostly in knowing that certain options are out there and how to prepare to apply for those schools. But I know something about the admissions process for at least one elite college (I am a field interviewer for my undergraduate alma mater), and what I know tells me that having this kind of pedigree is neither necessary nor sufficient to gain admission to that school. Public school kids from my area compete reasonably well, at least if they are from well-off families (poor kids are screwed anyway), with applicants from most of the private high schools in the region (there are a couple of elite boarding high schools, which draw mainly from the population of students with high socioeconomic privilege to begin with, and they do better–but I’m not convinced that their students wouldn’t find other ways to get in if those schools didn’t exist).

  48. #48 Dan
    July 8, 2014

    I hadn’t heard of Lawrence Solomon before. I wonder if he is aware of the link between vaccines and accidents involving children’s croquet mallets? http://bit.ly/1rIIWOw

  49. #49 Todd W.
    http://www.harpocratesspeaks.com
    July 8, 2014

    @Dan

    Nice.

  50. #50 Politicalguineapig
    July 8, 2014

    Shay: Sorry, I thought it was clear that I was referring to A of A parents and their fellow type-As. I guess it wasn’t.

    Eric Lund: I am aware of a school of thought that says that parents have to push their kids into the right preschool, so that the kids can then go to the right elementary school, then the right high school, and then the right college. This attitude is most notoriously present in certain New Yorkers, though I am sure it exists elsewhere in the US. It’s complete hogwash.

    Many of the accepted ideas of parenting are total hogwash. B

  51. #51 Politicalguineapig
    July 8, 2014

    Sorry, hit submit too quick. As I was going to say, in communities that value conformity, like most middle-class parent enclaves, just because an idea is complete hogwash, doesn’t mean that people aren’t going to implement them and punish the non-conformers.

  52. #52 Dangerous Bacon
    July 8, 2014

    Vaccines in the news, not good news for antivaxers:

    In the latest issue of JAMA just received in the mail, is a report of a study in Denmark looking at possible association between HPV vaccination and thromboembolism in young women (tentative associations were previously postulated based on postlicensure surveillance, including VAERS reports). The study looked at 1.6 million women over about a 6-year period (for some reason I can’t find a JAMA link to the report). Conclusion: No difference in thromboembolism rates between those who got the HPV vaccine and those who didn’t. Moral of the story: conclusions based solely on VAERS data are risky.

    Also, there’s an article on rotavirus vaccine success in the 7/1 issue:
    High Rotavirus Vaccination Rates Continue to Pay Off
    Bridget M. Kuehn, MSJ
    JAMA. 2014;312(1):18. doi:10.1001/jama.2014.7939.
    “The authors estimate that the rotavirus vaccination prevented 176 587 US children from being hospitalized for rotavirus between July 2007 and June 2011. Additionally, they estimated 242 335 fewer emergency department visits and about 1.1 million fewer outpatient visits for diarrheal illness during this period. About $924 million in health costs were saved as a result of these reductions, according to the authors’ calculations.”

  53. #53 Robby
    July 8, 2014

    @Denice Walter

    Thanks for the insight.

  54. #54 Schneck
    July 8, 2014

    Let’s just look at it this way. Before the measles vaccine, there were a half a million cases a year of measles in the United States. That plummeted to a very low level within five years of the licensing of the vaccine:

    I was under the impression that the dramatic decrease in measles was manufactured.

  55. #55 Antaeus Feldspar
    July 8, 2014

    I was under the impression that the dramatic decrease in measles was manufactured.

    How?

    I once responded to someone here who said that they had heard that all data which showed the effectiveness of vaccines had actually been faked by Big Pharma. I pointed out (rather ungently, I’m afraid, as my patience had been tried badly at that point) that since data showing the effectiveness of vaccination started with Edward Jenner’s smallpox vaccine and came in the form of smallpox sickening and killing much fewer people, the hypothesis basically required postulating not only that “Big Pharma” existed at the turn of the 18th century, but that they must have actually possessed an effective method for preventing smallpox, and must have deployed that method in order to save numerous lives, but instead of making a business out of deploying the working method they had, chose instead to give credit to a method which didn’t work (vaccines).

    So while I’m willing to listen to a hypothesis about how a drastic decrease in measles cases could be “manufactured”, I must say I’m skeptical about whether such a hypothesis would even be consistent with the evidence – let alone suggested by the evidence, as obviously should be the case.

  56. #56 TBruce
    July 9, 2014

    I was under the impression that the dramatic decrease in measles was manufactured.

    It was – by the manufacture of the measles vaccine.

  57. #57 Chris,
    July 9, 2014

    TBruce: “t was – by the manufacture of the measles vaccine.”

    Truthfully, by several the manufacture of several measles vaccines, some which were not so good. And then there were various versions of an MMR vaccine in several countries. Some work better than others (Urabe is cheap and effective, Jeryl Lynn is safer…. choices, choices).

    But whoa! Despite their issues, they freaking worked:
    Historical Comparisons of Morbidity and Mortality for Vaccine-Preventable Diseases in the United States

  58. #58 Narad
    July 9, 2014

    The Vaclib “takedown” of tetanus is riotously funny, BTW.

  59. #59 The Grouchybeast
    July 9, 2014

    @Antaeus Feldspar

    The wiki article on the smallpox vaccine quotes from Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, in which she worries about British doctors accepting the practise of variolation. She says:

    I should not fail to write to some of our doctors very particularly about it if I knew any one of them that I thought had virtue enough to destroy such a considerable branch of their revenue for the good of mankind, but that distemper is too beneficial to them not to expose to all their resentment the hardy wight that should undertake to put an end to it.

    So, I guess ‘big medicine’ was there at the time, protecting their income by…resisting vaccination. :-)

  60. #60 Todd W.
    http://www.harpocratesspeaks.com
    July 9, 2014

    @Schneck

    I was under the impression that the dramatic decrease in measles was manufactured.

    What is usually claimed is that the reduction in measles would have occurred naturally. This is then accompanied by a graph showing how measles deaths declined pre-vaccine.

    While deaths were on the decline before the development of measles vaccines, cases were relatively stable. When the vaccines were introduced, cases (and deaths) plummeted dramatically. Here’s a little more discussion on the pre-vaccine decline in mortality, if you’re interested.

  61. #61 Todd W.
    July 9, 2014

    Whoops! Wrong link. Here’s the right one.

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