StayPuftMarshmallowMan

Readers who’ve been following this blog a while would probably not be surprised to learn that one of my all time favorite movies is Ghostbusters. In fact, it’s hard to believe that the movie is now 30 years old. It makes me feel so old, given that I saw the movie in the theater when it came out. Be that as it may, there’s a scene near the end of the movie, where an ancient god Gozer the Gozarian, takes the form of a giant Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, tromping through New York City destroying things, all thanks to a stray thought by Ghostbuster Ray Stantz (played by Dan Ackroyd) that inspired the in response to the Gozer’s order to “choose” the form of the destructor. Seeing the Ghostbusters on top of the building that was the gateway through which Gozer found entrance to this reality, the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man climbs on top of a church, caving in its roof in the process, as it climbs the building in its attempt to get at the Ghostbusters, prompting Peter Venkman, played by Bill Murray, to shout, “Nobody steps on a church in my town!” At which point the Ghostbusters to fire up their proton packs and go into action.

Even though I don’t care any more about the destruction of a church relative to the destruction of any another building of historical interest, I nonetheless understand where Venkman was coming from. There are some things that can’t be permitted on one’s home turf without a harsh response. I feel rather the same way about antivaccine loons in my state, and when I see them, I’m half tempted to echo Venkman, yelling, “Nobody spreads antivaccine misinformation in my state!”

Enter HealthCare Professionals for Vaccine Choice:

Formed in 2011, HealthCare Professionals for Vaccine Choice is working to secure vaccine exemptions for employees in the Michigan workplace. Doctors, nurses, therapists and other hospital employees are losing their jobs because they have to choose between having to take a potentially dangerous drug and their career. This is unacceptable. No one should be forced to take a drug as a condition of employment. We need your help to pass legislation ��?please join in our efforts.

Gee. Can you guess which “dangerous drug” HCPVC is referring to? Obviously, it’s vaccines. After all, most health care institutions, particularly hospitals and nursing homes, are indeed requiring their employees to get the flu vaccine every year and to have received the Tdap according to CDC recommendations as a condition of continued employment. This is a requirement of which I, like my good bud Mark Crislip, approve. Dr. Crislip refers to health care workers (HCWs) who refuse the flu vaccine as “dumbasses,” even regularly updating his classic article A Budget of Dumb Asses every October that gives a dozen reason why HCWs who refuse the flu vaccine are dumb asses (here’s the 2014 version) and I agree. In particular I agree with Dr. Crislip’s statement:

There is a tremendous amount of medical literature pointing to the safety and wide ranging benefits of the influenza vaccine as well as the morbidity and mortality that influenza inflicts on humans every year. Despite that information, when you are admitted to the hospital you have a greater than one in four chance that the HCW taking care of you is ignoring that information and going unvaccinated. So they are putting you and yours at risk for no legitimate reality-based reason.

The preponderance of data is clear: when health care workers are vaccinated against the flu, patient mortality declines.

I have long been of the opinion that you judge a person by the company they keep. If your health care worker is a big enough Dumb Ass to avoid the flu vaccine, in what other areas of medicine are they equally incompetent ? Do you want to drive in a car with no seat belts or air bag, whose brakes are of uncertain maintenance? Do you want you or your loved ones to be cared for by someone who is Dumb Ass enough to not get the flu vaccine, putting you and yours at risk when most vulnerable? Can you expect that person to do the rest of their job correctly when they cannot understand and implement a core competency of medicine? Not me.

Unfortunately, the HCPVC are, by Dr. Crislip’s definition, dumb asses. Worse, they’re dumb asses in my state, trying to mess up my state’s hospitals and promote the spread of disease. Nobody steps on vaccine science in my state, at least not without eventually getting a heapin’ helpin’ of Insolence, Respectful or not-so-Respectful, depending on the level of the offense and the my estimation of the scientific rehabilitation potential of the person spewing antivaccine pseudoscience. If they are potentially teachable, it’s Respectful Insolence. If they are not, well…

Unfortunately, a quick perusal of the HCPVC website reveals a whole lot of antivaccine misinformation. I mean, they even promote the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC) and Michigan Opposing Mandatory Vaccines (MOMV) on their website. The NVIC, as you will recall, is an organization founded and still run by the grande dame of the modern antivaccine movement, Barbara Loe Fisher. Promotion of vaccine pseudoscience, lies, and misinformation by Fisher through the NVIC has been featured on this blog on many an occasion, an example being her Vaccine Ingredient Calculator. MOMV, on the other hand, is a more recent discovery of mine. It’s a home grown antivaccine group in Michigan campaigning to make personal belief exemptions for vaccines for school easier to obtain and to fight efforts to make them more difficult to obtain. To attain its goal, it, too, spews antivaccine misinformation hither, thither, and yon.

Worse, on its FAQ, the HCPVC lists a veritable cornucopia of misinformation, linking to even more sources in the antivaccine crankosphere, for instance to claim that mercury in the flu vaccine is dangerous. For instance, the FAQ claims that “if a person receives 5 flu vaccines in a lifetime, he/she is 10 times more likely to develop Alzheimer’s,” linking to Hugh Fudenberg and, hilariously, a quack website promoting Royal Rife products, which contains an article on—you guessed it—Hugh Fudenberg and his claim that the flu vaccine causes Alzheimer’s disease if you receive more than five or ten in your lifetime.

Ironically, this is the same misinformation once promoted by Bill Maher, lo these nine years past, on his show. As I described at the time, Fudenberg was a collaborator and co-inventor with Andrew Wakefield who was involved with some very dubious treatments for autism that ended up costing him his medical license. He is the originator of the claim that the flu vaccine causes autism based on no research, at least none that I could find. At the time, the only article I could find in PubMed discussing this risk found exactly the opposite of Fudenberg’s claims, a possible protective effect. I’ve found nothing to contradict it since then.

Other bits of misinformation on the HCPVC FAQ include the perennial claim that the number of flu deaths per year (36,000) are hugely exaggerated. This is simply not true; that there is no evidence that HCWs are spreading flu to patients (again, also false); and that flu shots “don’t work to prevent the flu” (again, false). Then, on its “research” section, the HCPVC lists in support of the discredited idea that vaccines cause autism discredited research by the likes of Gayle DeLong, one of the worst such articles I’ve seen; Mercola.com articles on how to “boost your immunity” and lambasting the flu vaccine; an article by David Ayoub, he of the black helicopters; a post from everyone’s favorite antivaccine crank blog Age of Autism by Dan Olmsted; a report by Mark and David Geier; and a whole lot more. Oh, and I forgot to mention that the HCPVC also promotes the American Association of Physicians and Surgeons, the crankiest of crank physician groups, a group that rejects evidence-based medicine in favor of the superdoctor and has promoted the myth that shaken baby syndrome is caused by vaccines, leading to parents being falsely accused.

I tried to find out more information about this group, such as who is on its board of directors, information that any reputable group generally publishes on its website. No dice. All I could find out was that the President of the organization is named Barbara Skurnowicz. A Google search revealed little. Her LinkedIn profile describes her as an “independent information services professional,” which makes me wonder if she is even an HCW and, if not, why she is so fired up about flu vaccine mandates for HCWs to form this group. I also found her in something called the Eagle Forum listed as “National Leader for Vaccine Information.” I had never heard of the Eagle Forum before, but it didn’t take long to figure out that it’s affiliated with Phyllis Schlafly and that it espouses extreme right wing views, such as anti-immigrant policies, anti-feminist goals, and “marriage protection” (which is code in these circles for opposing gay marriage), describing its mission as “to enable conservative and pro-family men and women to participate in the process of self-government and public policy making so that America will continue to be a land of individual liberty, respect for family integrity, public and private virtue, and private enterprise.” Finally, I found a YouTube video in which she addressed the Fatima conference in 2013 about Moral and Ethical Questions: Vaccination Schedule:

It’s an hour long; so I don’t pretend to have watched anywhere near the whole thing. However, just skimming it showed it to be a lot like many other antivaccine lectures I’ve seen before, chock full of the usual tropes, such as fear mongering about mercury and aluminum, “fetal tissue” in vaccines (it was a radical “traditionalist” Catholic conference, after all), and, for all I know, probably more. Interestingly, the Fatima Conference, where this conference was held, was organized by a fringe, schismatic Catholic organization accused of virulent anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial, the Fatima Center. More hilariously, the Fatima Center’s conference had geocentrists speaking at it alongside Skurnowicz. I kid you not. Catholic geocentrists.

Actually, I find it completely appropriate that antivaccinationists would be sharing a podium at a conference with geocentrists and Holocaust deniers (more). The sheer magnitude of the crank magnetism at that conference was astounding, and Skurnowicz fit right in.

In the end, I rather suspect that this “Health Care Professionals for Vaccine Choice” is a one-woman operation. Unfortunately, somehow Skurnowicz seems able to show up from time to time in the media as if she were anything other than an all purpose crank. Perhaps this blog post will show up high enough on searches for her name to warn local media the next time vaccine mandates for HCWs comes up as a story.

Like Mark Crislip, I believe that medicine is a calling and that we have an obligation to our patients that goes beyond our own personal desires and rights. That’s what being a doctor or a nurse is all about, and if you work in a health care setting in which you take care of patients, the same thing applies. As physicians and nurses, we promise to put our patients’ needs before our own when it comes to health care. Given how safe the flu vaccine is, with serious adverse reactions rare and no evidence of Alzheimer’s disease or any other chronic disease attributable to it, any health care worker, particularly physicians and nurses who refuse to take such an incredibly small risk to protect themselves and our patients without a valid medical reason why he shouldn’t be vaccinated does not deserve to be taking care of patients.

Comments

  1. #1 Brian Deer
    January 7, 2015

    Ten years ago, Hugh Fudenberg told me that he had a complete cure for autism derived from his own bone marrow. He said that it came in the form of a “sheet”, three molecules deep, which he rolled out on his kitchen table in Spartanburg, South Carolina.

  2. #2 lilady
    January 7, 2015

    No need for any of us to view Barbara Skurnowicz’ dreadful YouTube video. I have the entire transcript here:

    http://www.simplesolutionsforhealth.net/uploads/7/0/2/2/7022018/vaccines-catholic.pdf

    BTW, Skurnowicz’s interest in research (she calls herself a longtime “vaccine researcher”), was triggered by her parenting three “vaccine-injured daughters”, who each reacted with immediate encephalitic brain swelling with high pitched squealing sounds, after receiving DPT and oral polio vaccines.

  3. #3 Laurenak
    Australia
    January 7, 2015

    As a long time reader of SBM and a relatively new reader of this blog, first of all I’d just like to say how much I enjoy your articles on both blogs 🙂 Also just wanted to share a news story from Australia today:
    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-01-07/sydney-venue-cancels-anti-vaccination-tenpenny-seminar/6005088
    Basically the gist of the story is that an anti-vaccine speaker was coming to Australia to host seminars for parents but due to public outcry and campaigning from pro-vaccination groups several of the venues have cancelled on her and now the Australian government is considering denying her a visa. Go Aussies 🙂

  4. #4 palindrom
    January 7, 2015

    Stuff I didn’t feel I needed to finish reading, part the infinity, from the geocentrism link:

    One of the best geocentric explanations is that the redshift is caused by the centrifugal force on light in a rotating and yet non-expanding universe …

    Ah! The soothing, rhythmic creak of the rotating crank.

  5. #5 Andy
    January 7, 2015

    Orac, have you been informed of the vaccine shit-storm happening in Australia at the moment as Tenpenny plans a series of lectures here? Quite some publicity occurring.

  6. #6 The Very Reverend Battlaxe of Knowledge
    January 7, 2015

    @ palindrome:

    One of the best geocentric explanations is that the redshift is caused by the centrifugal force on light in a rotating and yet non-expanding universe …

    I’m afraid the cure is worse than the disease in this case. It’s been over 60 years since Kurt Gödel proved that General Relativity allows closed timelike curves (AKA time travel) in a universe with an overall rotation above a certain threshold. I’m sure a rotation fast enough to explain the cosmological redshift by “centrifugal force on light” (WTF) would be plenty good enough.

    In such a universe your light cone would be tilted enough that you could “see inside” the light cones of events spacelike-separated from you. This means that their past and future are already there to be observed—IOW, this would prove the “block universe” model with everything set in granite from the get-go. No Free Will™. I don’t know if any Catholics conservative enough to reject heliocentrism want to embrace a universe with no free will.

    The scandal is that astronomers and cosmologists determined that the overall rotation of the universe is too small (probably zero) to allow this, wiped the sweat off their foreheads and said: “Whew! No time travel! That was close!” That doesn’t deal with the fact that this is the prediction of General Relativity. If you started accelerating the universe’s rotation, its entire topology wouldn’t suddenly change when it reached a certain value. General Relativity Block Universe. Palle Yourgrau is very good on this.

  7. #7 The Very Reverend Battlaxe of Knowledge
    January 7, 2015

    * General Relativity <==> Block Universe. I hate HTML.

  8. #8 MikeMa
    January 7, 2015

    Anti-vaccine loons and general relativity in one post. Nerdvana.

  9. #9 lilady
    January 7, 2015

    Andy, see Laurenak’s post above. Tenpenny is going to be looking for another Sydney venue now. Hooray for the Aussies!

  10. #10 lilady
    January 7, 2015
  11. #11 Mrs Woo
    January 7, 2015

    @Lilady – thank you for the transcript. I can stand reading woo, but hearing it is like nails on a chalkboard.

  12. #12 Dangerous Bacon
    January 7, 2015

    “An organiser of the (Tenpenny antivax) tour, Stephanie Messenger, said those opposing the series of talks were trying to hide things from the public.”

    And probably denying Messenger a chance to sell more copies of her book, “Melanie’s Marvellous Measles”.

    Rather than lobbying to deny Tenpenny a visa to go to Australia, vaccine advocates would be better served by attending her “seminars” and pummeling her with logic and facts.

  13. #13 Michael Finfer, MD
    Edison, NJ
    January 7, 2015

    Fortunately, this move by hospitals to require their employees to be vaccinated is being driven by Medicare, which, at some point in the near future (I don’t remember which year), will cut the reimbursement of hospitals that do not achieve their goal for percentage of vaccinated employees, so state level actions should be ineffective. Some hospitals are allowing unvaccinated employees to work but are requiring them to wear masks at all times when in contact with patients.

    I was in the Faculty Practice facility at Mount Sinai medical center in New York on Monday, and I was dismayed by the number of employees willing to humiliate themselves by wearing masks rather than get that vaccine, including one of the receptionists working with a geriatric neurologist.

    On the other hand, I am now at the Urology Center at Memorial Sloan-Kettering, and I haven’t seen a mask yet.

  14. #14 palindrom
    January 7, 2015

    Rev Axe — Closed timelike curves may be allowed by GR, but whether they exist or not in the real universe is another question. Cosmologists didn’t simply declare the universe to be non-rotating, they inferred upper bounds on the rotation from the lack of observed anisotropy in the microwave background. Hawking had a paper on this in 1969 (MNRAS, 142, 129), and there have been others since.

  15. #15 palindrom
    January 7, 2015

    Some of the pushback against compulsory vaccinations of health-care professionals undoubtedly arises from a kind of callow libertarianism (is there any other kind?).

  16. #16 The Very Reverend Battlaxe of Knowledge
    January 7, 2015

    @ palindrom: (Sorry about the extraneous “e” before.)

    I meant that the rotation of the universe had been measured and found to be either nonexistent or very small—so quite possibly CTCs don’t exist in our Universe. That doesn’t dispose of Gödel’s implications for the structure of the Universe, however. Either General Relativity is wrong (or incomplete) or the Universe is fixed for all time.

    GR and QM have yet to be satisfactorily reconciled, so the question is open.

  17. #17 Eric Lund
    January 7, 2015

    palindrom@15: But libertarians, especially the callow sort, tend to be especially selfish. In this case, the rational and selfish response is that the flu vaccine protects you, the health worker potentially exposed to whatever your patients have been infected with. Which also means that you can keep working for your boss instead of taking sick leave (if your company/country is socialist enough to let you have any). That it also protects them from whatever you have been infected with is a bonus.

    Really, the only rational reason not to get the flu vaccine if your employer/insurance is paying for it is if you think it’s bad for you. There are a few people who are correct to believe this, which is why we will always have and should have medical exemptions. But those people AFAIK tend not to oppose vaccine mandates, since they must depend on herd immunity. Most of the people who oppose vaccine mandates insist, contrary to evidence, that the vaccines are harmful. It may or may not be coincidence that many in the anti-vax crowd are also susceptible to ideologies like libertarianism, which (as with Marxism) looks very attractive until you realize that its successful implementation requires many counterfactual assumptions about human nature. Some people never get around to questioning those assumptions, or the assumptions that go into the anti-vax position.

  18. #18 justthestats
    January 7, 2015

    He said that it came in the form of a “sheet”, three molecules deep, which he rolled out on his kitchen table in Spartanburg, South Carolina.

    Imagine how much money he wound make as a graphene process engineer!

  19. #19 justthestats
    January 7, 2015

    One of the best geocentric explanations is that the redshift is caused by the centrifugal force on light in a rotating and yet non-expanding universe …

    This is truly Nobel level work — in order to make our observations of redshift fit and still have the Earth the center of a rotating but non-expanding universe, every point in the rest of the universe has to be rotating such that it’s moving away from the Earth. Clearly this can’t be done in three Euclidean spacial dimensions. This is the first definitive proof that we don’t live in 3+1 Minkowski space, and it’s been staring us in the face the entire time! All we had to do was let go of the Copernican misperception.

  20. #20 justthestats
    January 7, 2015

    Some people never get around to questioning those assumptions, or the assumptions that go into the anti-vax position.

    A lot of people think that questioning their assumptions is a sign of weakness. The rest have a hard dime doing it because it’s so easy to assume something without realizing you’re assuming anything.

  21. #21 Denice Walter
    January 7, 2015

    @ justthestats:
    I venture that Fudenberg knew a great deal about sheet.

  22. #22 Narad
    January 7, 2015

    In the end, I rather suspect that this “Health Care Professionals for Vaccine Choice” is a one-woman operation.

    Two? Note the (effectively dead) link at the bottom of the “activism” page soliciting donations to “the Heal Pro Pac.”

    Enter Suzanne Waltman.

  23. #23 Narad
    January 7, 2015

    ^ Which would mean they are MOMV, I suppose.

  24. #24 Orac
    January 7, 2015

    Waltman has her own Michigan antivaccine organization to run (which, I suspect) is also a one woman operation:

    http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2014/12/11/who-knew-my-states-vaccine-personal-belief-exemption-rate-stinks/

  25. #25 Rich Woods
    Closer than you think
    January 7, 2015

    @justthestats #19:

    …every point in the rest of the universe has to be rotating such that it’s moving away from the Earth. Clearly this can’t be done in three Euclidean spacial dimensions.

    Wow. NASA were really, really lucky to get Voyager 2 to do a flyby of Neptune, since we now know that Neptune is moving faster than light.

  26. #26 Narad
    January 7, 2015

    Nonetheless, the 527 has her name as contact person with a contact address that is the same as HCPFVC’s.

  27. #27 Krebiozen
    January 7, 2015

    Denice,

    Rather than lobbying to deny Tenpenny a visa to go to Australia, vaccine advocates would be better served by attending her “seminars” and pummeling her with logic and facts.

    Ah, but you can prove anything with facts.*

    * This was actually said to comedian Stewart Lee by a London cab driver when Lee argued with him over a bigoted comment. As Lee observed, “The cab driver actually said this. I think it is one of the single funniest sentences of all time. Its implications are endlessly terrifying, and endlessly hilarious. I wish it had been meant as a joke, but it wasn’t.”

  28. #28 Orac
    January 7, 2015

    Rather than lobbying to deny Tenpenny a visa to go to Australia, vaccine advocates would be better served by attending her “seminars” and pummeling her with logic and facts.

    Yeah, I rather tend to agree with this—partially. I don’t see much point in trying to persuade the Australian government to deny her a visa. That smacks too much of shutting down an opposing viewpoint. However, I have no problem with pro-science advocates making their displeasure known to the owners of venues where she is scheduled to speak. She can have her free speech, but there’s nothing that says others have to give her a venue to exercise that speech. Then, I’m confident that our Australian friends would be able to give her a proper reception, complete with science-based protests and questions, at the remaining venues where she speaks, no doubt basements of the homes of Meryl Dorey’s buddies after no reputable theater or auditorium will give her a podium.

  29. #29 mho
    January 7, 2015

    #13 I’d love to see patients refusing to be treated by employees who are wearing masks. Last year, I requested a different MRI tech. She asked why and I explained I was concerned since she wearing a mask.
    I ended up getting the procedure anyway, after finding out she’s very pro-science. It was kind of silly on my part, since even with a medical exemption, she could have been passing the flu along.
    I think with this year’s flu I’ll stick to my resolution, even if only to make a statement.
    For sure I’m not going within 10 feet of a receptionist wearing a mask.

  30. #30 Eric Lund
    January 7, 2015

    @justthestats: Being able to produce a three monolayer sheet of anything on your kitchen table would be a Nobel-worthy achievement. Most physicists who need to produce something N monolayers thick can only do so on a relatively small substrate (i.e., you wouldn’t need to roll it out), with lab equipment costing as much (or more, depending where your university or government lab is located) as a typical house. Heavy duty vacuum pumps are involved, and you risk spoiling the sample if for any reason those pumps stop working. If Fudenberg can produce a three monolayer sheet, not just of atoms but of complex molecules, that he can roll out on a kitchen table, then the National Science Foundation (to say nothing of semiconductor companies, who have to make multimillion dollar investments every time they need to upgrade their production line) ought to be interested in his process. So where is his Reviews of Scientific Instruments paper?

  31. #31 Denice Walter
    January 7, 2015

    @ Kreb:

    Unfortunately ,Mr, you attributed that to yours truly when it was the work of the Dangerous One.
    Altho’ I mostly agree. I sometimes do wonder if governments should comment (but not censor) about unrealistic lunacy whch can conceivably harm people.

  32. #32 justthestats
    January 7, 2015

    @Eric Lund:
    Publishing would just slow him down.

  33. #33 Denice Walter
    January 7, 2015

    @ Eric Lund:

    Just out of curiosity:
    how thick is gold leaf?

  34. #34 Eric Lund
    January 7, 2015

    @Denice: Google search gives gold leaf as being as thin as ~100 nm. But the empirically measured radius of a gold atom is only 135 pm, so that’s still ~400 atoms thick.

    Getting much thinner than that takes a fair amount of lab wizardry. I know people who do this kind of thing for a living. Molecular beam epitaxy is not for the faint of heart.

  35. #35 Stuartg
    January 7, 2015

    “Rather than lobbying to deny Tenpenny a visa to go to Australia, vaccine advocates would be better served by attending her “seminars” and pummeling her with logic and facts.”

    Just a thought – If Tenpenny is presenting at a series of “seminars” in Australia, then doesn’t she require a work visa AND registration with the Australian Medical Council. I would have thought that otherwise she could be charged with practising medicine without a license.

  36. #36 Stuartg
    January 7, 2015

    “Rather than lobbying to deny Tenpenny a visa to go to Australia, vaccine advocates would be better served by attending her “seminars” and pummeling her with logic and facts.”

    Just a thought – If Tenpenny is presenting at a series of “seminars” in Australia, then doesn’t she require a work visa AND registration with the Australian Medical Council. I would have thought that otherwise she could be charged with practising medicine without a license.

    (Apologies if this posts twice, I initially mistyped the email).

  37. #37 Krebiozen
    January 7, 2015

    Denice,

    Unfortunately ,Mr, you attributed that to yours truly when it was the work of the Dangerous One.

    So I did, though I’m not sure how. Apologies to you both.

  38. #38 Politicalguineapig
    January 7, 2015

    Personally, I’m beginning to think we need to raise the price of vaccines. No one values anything that’s free.

  39. #39 shay
    January 7, 2015

    I’m not aware that anyone in this country gets vaccines for free (unless they’re in the military).

  40. #40 Politicalguineapig
    January 7, 2015

    Shay: Healthcare workers do.

  41. #41 Chris
    January 7, 2015

    Also, some companies provide free vaccines. I got a tetanus shot from the factory nurse when I stapled my finger, and dear hubby gets his annual flu shot at work.

  42. #42 sadmar
    Holey Sh!t-fingers!
    January 7, 2015

    “You have a greater than one in four chance that the HCW taking care of you is ignoring that information and going unvaccinated.”

    I had no idea, and that’s truly disturbing.

    I just realized the HCPVC Eaglet is Barbara Skur-no-wicz. The text display on the MBP combined with my presbyopia to create a Gestalt ligature turning the ‘r’ and ‘n’ into an ‘m’. Skum-o-wicz. I like that better (and see, Derrida was right! Skum-o-wicz works!)

    My serious question is what anyone thinks is the cause of this awful HCW problem, and what might be done other than firing their dumb arses? (Which I’d be all for, if there were not-dumb replacements.)

    As I must have said before, I think we need an epidemiology of woo, especially vax-refusal. Some sociology. What reasons do these HCWs give for not vaxing? Where do they get their information? How many have ever visited an anti-vax website? What sources did they find influential or not influential in refusing? How much is just ignorance or not caring? Being ‘too buy’ or whatever. How many have influenced others in some way? Etc.

    Dr. Mark says “This essay is not meant to convience anyone. If you are not conivinced by the voluminous information at the CDC and on PubMed, 2000 words by me are not going to change your mind.”

    Yes and no, I think. What would be the demographics of the 1 in 4? I have to guess lots of HCWs aren’t up to plowing through PubMed or even the CDC stuff. Dry, highly specialized doctorese. It’s good to have a nice concise thorough catalog like the Budget of Dumb Asses. The dismissive tone might put of some folks. (What’s the gender breakdown in the 1 in 4?) I took the tone to be performative, theatrical, self-reflexive, didn’t find it offensive at all, and it’s been awhile since I got a flu shot so its scored a few hits. But I’m a wise ass, and I’m not an HCW, so…

    I’m thinking about an (A)PRN? I met about a year ago. Long career in nursing. Very compassionate. I’m sure she got her shots. But she was very sensitive, reserved, had been through some very undeserved rough times personally. Had she been addressed like that about anything, she would have drawn back into a protective shell. She was trying to do the paleo diet or the gluten-free diet or some such, on the basis of another HCW having sworn by it as a means to feel all better in every way. Wasn’t working physiologically or as placebo, it seemed…

    I wonder how much influence someone like Skum-o-wicz has, and how any woo she stews gets out and about in the world.

    Schaffly was a major power broker in the Reagan Era New Right, up there with Falwell, Robertson and the other televangeloonies. IDK about know. Maybe Orac is too young to have heard of Eagle forum? It only takes one wingnut gazillionaire to keep one of those folks floating forever, and if the have the cashola, their influence extends waay beyond what you’d think the ideology would warrant. Eagle could be playing more of an inside game these days, if it’s still A Thing, and as National Leader for Vaccine Information, Ms. Skum-o-wicz could be much more dangerous than a one-woman-ubercrank-shop.

    That she’s out there with fringey-fringe geocentrists and Holocaust deniers doesn’t disqualify her from from working with Phyllis Schaffly, or from having actual influence in the cirridors of power. While Rev. Jer always had that smug look like he knew what he was doing; in on the con, like Rev. Pat, Phyl always came off as genuinely bat-guano insane. I used to have a newspaper clipping of her photo, with her quote attached: “The atomic bomb is great gift to America from a wise God.” I was, needless to say, quite disturbed that people like her and Rev. Pat had so much sway in American politics.

    With the Internet, it’s hard to tell whether the crazy has gone up or down, with the Freepers, Breitbartians, Michael’s Savages, ad infinitum. Are the numbers actually growing, or are they just coming out of the wordwork with New Media? Have they really captured more of the public mind or just figured out better ways to game the electoral system?

    Who would ever have thought Rick Santorum could get serious run as a Presidential candidate? (If you don’t know what ‘santorum’ has become slang for, don’t Google it if you’re sensitive…)

    And Dr. Mark, fwiw I’m rarely that sick or vulnerable when I have to visit an HCW, and if I’m not needing the metaphorical morphine I will definitely ask to be cared for by influenza vaccinated providers only. Thanks for the push.
    _____
    @ Orac: Did you leave out a second “anti-” by accident?
    “anti-immigrant policies, feminist goals, and ‘marriage protection’…”

    Poor Phyllis. She must be so butt hurt about the gheys. Her idea of family values and the kind of marriage that needed protection was always barefoot, pregnant and don’t leave the kitchen unless hubby says it’s OK. it was those damn femi-nazis going off to work that were leading America into the Gaping Jaws of Hell. Of course she was out and about wielding the conservahammer with enough force to have junior Congressman quaking in their wing-tips in fear. I guess that was OK, because Jesus or something…

  43. #43 cloudskimmer
    January 7, 2015

    When hiring a home health care worker recently, one requirement was that they have the flu vaccine. I also insisted on no quackery and hope this made an impression on the agency.
    Minor point: Eagle Forum is not a feminist organization. Its purpose was to defeat the equal rights ammendment, and founder Phyllis Schlaffley made a fine career out of telling women not to have one. She believed that women should stay at home, barefoot and pregnant and is the very antithesis of feminism. Just thinking of her makes me retch.

    • #44 Orac
      January 8, 2015

      Eagle Forum is not a feminist organization. Its purpose was to defeat the equal rights ammendment

      I know that. It was a typo/brain fart/cut ‘n’ paste error. Wasn’t that frikkin’ obvious from the context of the rest of what I wrote? Geez.

      I fixed it. Happy now?

  44. #45 TBruce
    January 8, 2015

    At age 90, Phyllis Schlafley is still at it:

    http://jezebel.com/phyllis-schlafly-college-women-get-raped-because-they-1677798292

    She’s blaming campus sexual assaults on more women than men attending college. The mystery to me is why anyone takes the likes of her seriously.

  45. #46 lilady
    January 8, 2015

    TBruce, thanks for that. It’s been a difficult day and I needed a good laugh. 🙂

  46. #47 Narad
    January 8, 2015

    I’m not aware that anyone in this country gets vaccines for free

    See, you could have been accused of being merely persnickety until you said this:

    (unless they’re in the military).

    There are 68.5 million people receiving Medicaid, and then there’s Medicare Part B (seasonal influenza and one pneumococcal as preventatives; I don’t know whether there’s a copay for, e.g., Td as therapeutic).

  47. #48 Rose
    Sydney, Australia
    January 8, 2015
  48. #49 lilady
    January 8, 2015

    “I’m not aware that anyone in this country gets vaccines for free”

    Many private insurance carriers absorb the complete cost of some adult vaccines (seasonal influenza vaccine, one time pneumococcal vaccine (and shortly, I am certain, Prevnar 13 vaccine, now recommended for certain adults and seniors). Private insurance (which is not a bare bones policy), pays for all childhood vaccines and some adult vaccines…some with a small administration charge billed to policyholders

    Have you forgotten about the VFC (Vaccines for Children) Program that provides Medicaid-eligible children with all childhood recommended vaccines? VFC provides those same vaccines for children whose parents are uninsured or underinsured and for every child covered under the Indian Health Service.

    We could argue that each of these programs mentioned by Narad and by others, are not really “free” i.e., someone pays for them, vaccine recipients’ places of employment, higher individual/family private health care insurance premiums and the taxpayer (for those vaccines for use in government-sponsored programs).

  49. #50 palindrom
    January 8, 2015

    Re Money for Nothing and Vaccines for Free :

    I don’t know how this works, but in the autumn one can often get a free flu shot just by wandering through the lobby of the med center where my associate works and rolling up your arm. They may be there mostly for the employees but they’ll shoot up any adult who comes along. I’m sure not complaining!

  50. #51 Andy
    January 8, 2015

    I’m torn on the question of denying Tenpenny entry to Australia. If she were stating an opinion using accepted statistics (essentially saying the risk of not vaccinating is high but worth it), I’d agree that she’s just expressing a view and should have that right.

    But, if she’s twisting statistics and misrepresenting the facts, especially if the tour is in a professional capacity, then it looks more like fraud and I’m not sure why that should be allowed.

    That said, we allow homeopaths and vitalistic chiropractors to ply their trades here – and many of them are quite open about their opposition to reality – so maybe our government has no leg to stand on with regard to visitors doing the same.

    It’s a conundrum. If a child dies as a direct result of misinformation shared at these conferences, will “free speech” still look like a good enough reason for the government to have turned a blind eye?

    I do agree that lobbying venues is perfectly legitimate and that strategy is already working with five centres cancelling bookings so far.

  51. #52 JGC
    January 8, 2015

    He said that it came in the form of a “sheet”, three molecules deep, which he rolled out on his kitchen table in Spartanburg, South Carolina.

    Something the rest of us refer to as “a tablecloth”, no doubt.

  52. #53 JGC
    January 8, 2015

    I for one am perfectly willing to accept that vaccination has increased the odds I’ll develop Alzheimers, by decreasing the odds I’d instead have died young due to an infectious disease and may now live long enough to develop the disease in my old age.

  53. #54 Vicki
    January 8, 2015

    Also, if you’re in New York City and don’t have insurance the city department of health will give you almost everything except the flu vaccine free. Fees are on a sliding scale, but they won’t turn anyone away. (Other places may as well; I used to live in New York so I know about that one.)

    If you do have insurance, there’s no copay, just give them your insurance information so they can send a bill.

  54. #55 Darwy
    Røde grøde med fløde
    January 9, 2015

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but WRT Tenpenny Down Under – they were requiring registration, etc for her talks – which means they would effectively be denying entrance to known pro-vaccine individuals.

  55. #56 Beana
    January 9, 2015

    May I ask a question? I was reading an article on ‘Shot of Prevention’, ‘Our Life Without Emily’. There is a statement about how a child ‘compensates’ for being sick. I have tried several ways to search for more information on this topic, and I only come up with workers comp, etc. Sorry to post OT, but this concerns me, and I would like to know more about this. Even though we all have our flu shots, its unsettling to know your child can be on the brink of death, and you wouldn’t know. Thank you so much in advance.

  56. #57 Charlotte
    January 9, 2015

    Anti vaccine lunacy came to my town in the form of the UK College of Naturopaths who had a stall at a ‘health’ expo. The rep gave me a full house on my anti-vax Bullshit Bingo card. Unluckily for her, I noted every word and reported it to the council who manage the venue who are taking the expo hosts to task. Oh, copied in our county immunology dept too. Gave me a warm feeling. Not in my town indeed.

  57. #58 Charlotte
    January 9, 2015

    JGC @53: sometimes I wish there were a ‘like’ function on this page. Excellent.

  58. #59 Panacea
    January 9, 2015

    I will never refuse a flu shot. The only years I’ve gotten the flu was when I either didn’t get the flu shot or got it late in the season.

    TDaP is problematic for me because I’m allergic to Tetanus Toxoid. Our clinical partners required faculty to have it to bring students to clinic. I went to my doctor but he couldn’t get the diptheria or pertussis (which is what the hospital really wanted) as single injections, or at least he couldn’t get them at a reasonable cost.

    So I ended up getting the booster along with a course of antihistamines and prednisone and did fine.

    Another doctor I knew later told me I’d probably be OK with TDaP; it’s formulated differently than the toxoid.

    I still think I might get the steroids along with my next booster, which thankfully isn’t due for another nine years.

    But even with that potential problem, it’s better to get the vaccine; it protects me and my patients. I read people who claim to be doctors all the time on Medscape who claim that vaccines are unproven or worse ineffective. Maybe the person behind the organization Orac reports on IS a one woman show. But I think eventually we’ll get real organization behind it.

  59. #60 NewCoasterMD
    British Columbia
    January 10, 2015

    The health authority in which I work has been battling the nurses union, and the other HCW unions (cleaners, lab techs, radiology tech etc) over compulsory flu vaccination for a few years. They initially took a very hard line; get vaccinated or look for another job. That was probably a bit too draconian, and got the backs up of the unions, so the compromise is to wear a face mask.

    Fortunately, I’m only aware of 2 employees in my small rural 40 bed hospital who are going with the face mask option, and neither of them are nurses. That being said, I was bothered by the anti science position of the nurses union, and their position that there was no evidence that vaccination of HCW reduced infections in patients, among other tropes refuted by Orac above.

  60. #61 Dangerous Bacon
    January 10, 2015

    Noting the previous comments about how much one may be charged for vaccines in the U.S.:

    I see from Rose’s link that Australian homeopath Isaac Golden was supposed to accompany Tenpenny on the antivax tour. Golden promotes “homeopathic immunisation” for childhood infectious diseases. There are websites selling homeopathic “immunization kits” (a la Golden) for $200-230. Example:

    http://shininghealth.net/products/immunization-kit/

    Fairly pricey for water, don’t you think?

  61. #62 MarkN
    January 11, 2015

    Here’s something, new? I don’t know, but here it is — The parents that incur health costs for hospitalization and/or death to their kid get to file suit against the anti-vax parents that allowed the communicable disease to spread. A colleague told me about it. Don’t know the case..or cases.

New comments have been disabled.