Thursday, August 28, 2014

sadly - another: Aliana has SSPE

While social media are a-buzz with stories of a CDC whistleblower - let's remind ourselves why everyone should vaccinate their children (and themselves).

Max, Micha and Natalie have already died. Angelina, who turned 9 years last week, is still fighting. We know their names, because the measles vaccine has significantly reduced the incidence of SSPE, the fatal complication, that shrinks a child's brain, many years after infection.
Now, another girl has been diagnosed - learn her name - celebrate her life - vaccinate your kids, so not one more child has to join the exclusive club:

Aliana was born in early 2010 - a "good measles year" in Germany, with "only" 780 cases. Aliana was one of them - she fell ill as a 6 months old infant, it is not clear who infected her. Then she recovered, at least so it appeared. Aliana grew, she was an open, friendly girl. She quickly found friends, because everyone liked to play with her. In retrospect, she maybe fell more than her peers, but then again, she was still little. But suddenly, Aliana started to forget everything, she couldn't speak as well as she used to. Then, motor problems started, she stumbled, and fell. Unfortunately, the original diagnosis of epilepsy was wrong and 4 weeks ago, Aliana was diagnosed with SSPE. Her grandmother describes the indescribable [my translation from the German]:

I am the granny of a girl who loved life, played games, was friendly to all, and so kind. When I sang songs with her, she immediately knew the lyrics by heart. I could tell you so much more about this little girl, but it breaks my heart how slowly, everything gets lost.

This has to stop! Every case of SSPE, a fate like Aliana's and her family's heartache can be avoided. Check your and your children's vaccination records. Everyone should get/have gotten 2x MMR to protect themselves and babies like Aliana from measles.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Pharma Shill Gambit? You Lose.

Anti-vaxx "activists" seem to be getting more shrill these days as more people are stepping up to the plate to counter anti-vaccine misinformation and register their disgust toward anti-vaxx parents putting others at risk and ushering back diseases such as measles.  The anti-vaccine misinformation groups really detest being called what they are...anti-vaccine and as Dr. Novella eloquently put it:
The anti-vaccine movement cannot win in the arena of science. In fact, they have already lost. So they are desperately trying to change the venue by framing the narrative as one about freedom, choice, and transparency. Ironically they are doing this with misinformation that detracts from transparency and freedom of choice.
Not only have they lost in the arena of science, anti-vaxxers never really understood science nor the scientific method to begin with and as such try to shut down rebuttal by accusing their opponents of being "Pharma Shills".  The Pharma Shill Gambit (coined by Orac many years ago) is an ad hominem tactic used by anti-vaxxers to avoid refuting their opponents' evidence.  Sadly, some notable "professionals" even resort to this tactic.  Hilariously Dr. Bob Sears attempted to to this to Catherina and I years ago when he issued a warning to his (now-defunct) forum readers.
There are rumors that SM and Cath are “secret agents” for vaccine manufacturers, planted here to combat my “anti-vaccine” advice. Although I wouldn’t put it past any company to do just that (makes perfect sense – have a couple of “scientific” parents work the blogs and posts instead of doctors or professionals – some parents would listen more to another parent), I have no evidence that such is the case. SM and Catherina claim they spend hours on this site each week for almost two years now out of the goodness of their hearts. I would love to believe that, but I would also expect such good-hearted people to come across good-heartedly in their posts toward people who question vaccines. That clearly is NOT the case, so that makes me question what type of people they really are.
Dr. Bob Sears even believes, in spite of all evidence against this, that any studies refuting a vaccine autism causation are conducted by pharma shills.  More recently, "journalist" Sharyl Attkisson, an anti-vaccine crusader accused a certain law professor of being a pharma shill via Twitter:
And just within the last couple of days, more shoddy reporting by NBC San Diego unquestioningly allowed notorious anti-vaxx "autism mom" Rebecca Estepp to accuse high school students of being pharma shills because she can't believe that high school students could be intelligent enough to see through anti-vaccine propaganda all on their own.

People accusing their critics of being pharma shills or better yet, pharma magnates do themselves no favours.  Those who do so appear incompetent and deluded enough to believe that this is an effective deflection.  Let's say for the sake of argument that we are pharma shills (granted this requires suspension of disbelief), we criticise or refute a point and are accused of being pharma shills.  How does this, in any way, invalidate our criticism or refutation?  The accuser is admitting that our knowledge is so impressive that we must have received specialised training/education/experience (and we have, just not at the Lord Draconis Zeneca's Académie of Shills and Minions).  The accuser is also admitting that they are out of their depth on the subject matter and are unable to intelligently respond.  Sometimes it is projection; often those who engage in the pharma shill gambit have books, videos and other dubious wares for sale and simply can't imagine people criticising them on their own dime.

So the next time someone accuses you of being a pharma shill, they lose.  Perhaps it's time to honour one of our esteemed "commanders" and call it Orac's Law.