Random Fun Stuff

What if all the Avengers characters posed like female superheroes?

Seen on Twitter.

Awesome USB drive

Thanks for the tip, Paul!

Pro-Vaccination Billboard

Photographed by moi on southbound 94 in Wisconsin

This billboard on southbound 94 in Wisconsin made me happy. There are so many church signs and pro-life billboards along this route that I could have cried upon seeing a rational, science-based message. Vaccinate Your Baby is an awareness campaign that was launched by Every Child By Two, an organization devoted to raising awareness of the critical need for timely immunization and to foster a systematic way to immunize all of America’s children by age two.

Porn and Pancakes

Thanks to Louise for the tip!

Sign says: PORN AND PANCAKES – A morning filled with straight talk about porn and the issues surrounding porn. From the people who get it. XXXchurch pastors, porn industry insiders and people who have struggled without hope. The breakfast is open to men and boys in junior high and up.

Louise had this to say about the poster: “I was really excited when I first saw this. You know 2 of my favorite things until I realized I couldn’t go nor did they show porn. Boo!”

Un-Oculate!

I love the tongue-in-cheek snark in this video. I like the part where he offers to un-vaccinate against Hepatitis C (‘cuz there is no vaccine against Hep C), and when he tells us that Un-oculate will wipe out your body’s antibodies and reboot your immune system back to when you were a baby, so you can feel as young as you think.

Seen over at Friendly Atheist

Delta Airs Anti-Vax Advertisement

I haz a sad.

I like flying Delta. There’s a huge hub here in Minneapolis. I have the Delta SkyMiles card so I can rack up points and fly places for free (well, freeish, but that’s another post), and I’ve generally had very good experiences on Delta flights.

So, I was sad when I saw this in my Twitter stream yesterday:

It turns out that Delta and In-Flight Media are presenting a nearly three-minute ad that trivializes the flu and tells the audience that:

  1. You don’t have to worry about preventing the flu – FALSE.
  2. Most illnesses that present with flu-like symptoms are not the flu – TRUE.
  3. Washing your hands is a good way to help you stay healthy. – TRUE.
  4. Covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze is a good way to minimize spreading germs – TRUE.
  5. Drink water to keep your body hydrated – TRUE.
  6. Get the right amount of sleep and reduce stress levels to decrease your chances of getting sick – PROBABLY TRUE.
  7. Vitamin C and D – found in nutritious food  – are effective, natural preventatives – FALSE.
  8. Regular exercise helps keep your immune system strong. – TRUE.
  9. The flu shot is an option. Research the different types of flu vaccines your doctor may recommend. SURE, WHY NOT?

Who would advocate against being an informed consumer? I applaud people who are willing to research their health care options. But, when considering the source (psst – it’s one of the country’s biggest anti-vaccine organizations), and considering the place that they direct you to research flu vaccines (psst – It’s their hugely anti-vaccine propogranda-laden website filled with misinformation about all sorts of vaccines), the little alarm bells in your head should start to ring, buzz, sing, or talk – whichever you’ve got your alarm set to.

Elyse Anders – the president of the  Women Thinking Free Foundation and driver behind the Hug Me I’m Vaccinated Campaign brought this story to my attention via her article on Skepchick.org. Elyse has a list of things that you can do to help protest to Delta and the associated organizations that are allowing this ad to run.

  1. Sign the CHANGE.ORG petition. Add your name to those of us who would like Delta to remove the advertisement. Change.org works, and it’s an easy way to make your voice heard.
  2. Tweet: “#fludelta @DeltaAssist @Delta If you’re so concerned about safety, stop running potentially deadly anti-vaccine ads http://wp.me/pbblq-6qu
  3. Facebook/YouTube: Add your comments about the video here. The content has been removed from Facebook, but you can still see it on YouTube. The owner, In-Flight Media, has disabled commenting, but you can still downrate it.
  4. Share Elyse’s post on Facebook and Twitter.
  5. Tell your friends and family about the campaign and get them involved!

The last time Elyse was involved in a campaign against vaccine misinformation advertisements by this group placed in Times Square, the ads were pulled. With all of our help, hopefully we can make it happen again!

Time for your flu shot!

I got my flu shot yesterday. Have you gotten yours yet?

This time of the year is becoming a bit of an annual tradition for the Biodork blog: The posting of Dr. Mark Crislip’s A Budget of Dumb Asses. Dr. Crislip wrote A Budget of Dumb Asses to answer some of the most popular excuses that people often give for not getting the annual flu vaccine.

In 2010, Dr. Crislip added a bit of a caveat – he says that this list is specifically directed to health care providers, and not at patients. Perhaps it wasn’t P.C. for Dr. Crislip to be calling patients dumb asses; I don’t think he’s had qualms about that in the past. But listen up: I don’t care if you work in health care or not – the reasoning below is sound. If you glance through the list and see a phrase that you’ve uttered as an excuse for not getting vaccinated then you need to keep reading.

So, off you go to to the 2011 edition of A Budget of Dumb Asses

I wonder if you are one of those Dumb Asses who do not get the flu shot each year? Yes. Dumb Ass. Big D, big A. You may be allergic to the vaccine (most are not when tested), you may have had Guillain-Barre, in which case I will cut you some slack. But if you don’t have those conditions and you work in healthcare and you don’t get a vaccine for one of the following reasons, you are a Dumb Ass.

1. The vaccine gives me the flu. Dumb Ass. It is a killed vaccine. It cannot give you the influenza. It is impossible to get flu from the influenza vaccine.

2. I never get the flu, so I don’t need the vaccine. Irresponsible Dumb Ass. I have never had a head on collision, but I wear my seat belt. And you probably don’t use a condom either. So far you have been lucky, and you are a potential winner of a Darwin Award, although since you don’t use a condom, you are unfortunately still in the gene pool.

3. Only old people get the flu. Selfish Dumb Ass. Influenza can infect anyone, and the groups who are more likely to die of influenza are the very young, the pregnant, and the elderly. Often those most at risk for dying from influenza are those least able, due to age or underlying diseases, to respond to the vaccine. You can help prevent your old, sickly Grandmother or your newborn daughter from getting influenza by getting the vaccine, so you do not get flu and pass it one to her. Flu, by the way, is highly contagious, with 20% to 50% of contacts with an index case getting the flu.  However, Granny may be sitting on a fortune that will come to you, and killing her off with the flu is a great way to get her out of the way and never be caught.  That would make a good episode of CSI.

4. I can prevent influenza or treat it by taking echinacea, vitamin C, oscillococcinum or Airborne. Gullible Dumb Ass cubed then squared. None of these concoctions has any efficacy what so ever against influenza. And if you think oscillococcinum has any efficacy, I would like you to invest in a perpetual motion machine I have invented.  None of the above either prevent or treat influenza. And you can’t “boost” your immune system either. Anyone who suggests otherwise wants you money, not to improve your health.

5. Flu isn’t all that bad of a disease. Underestimating Dumb Ass. Part of the problem with the term flu is that it is used both as a generic term for damn near any viral illness with a fever and is also used for a severe viral pneumonia. Medical people are just as inaccurate about using the term as the general public. The influenza virus directly and indirectly kills 20,000 people  (depending on the circulating strain and year) and leads to the hospitalization of 200,000 in the US each year. Influenza is a nasty lung illness. And what is stomach ‘flu’? No such thing.

6. I am not at risk for flu. Denying Dumb Ass. If you breathe, you are risk for influenza. Here are the groups of people who should not get the flu vaccine (outside of people with severe adverse reactions to the vaccine): Former President Clinton, who evidently doesn’t inhale. Michele Bachmann. Wait, that’s the HPV vaccine.  And people who want to be safe from zombies. If you don’t get the vaccine you do not have to worry about the zombie apocalypse, because zombies eat brains.

7. The vaccine is worse than the disease. Dumb Ass AND a wimp. What a combination. Your mother must be proud. Unless you think a sore deltoid for a day is too high a price to pay to prevent two weeks of high fevers, severe muscles aches, and intractable cough.

8. I had the vaccine last year, so I do not need it this year. Uneducated Dumb Ass. Each year new strains of influenza circulate across the world. Last year’s vaccine at best provides only partial protection. Every year you need a new shot.

9. The vaccine costs too much. Cheap Dumb Ass. The vaccine costs less than a funeral, less than Tamiflu, and less than a week in the hospital.

10.  I received the vaccine and I got the flu anyway. Inexact Dumb AssThe vaccine is not perfect and you may have indeed had the flu.  More likely you called one of the many respiratory viruses (viri?) people get each year the flu.  Remember there are hundreds of potential causes of a respiratory infection circulating, the vaccine only covers influenza, the virus most likely to kill you and yours.

11. I don’t believe in the flu vaccine. Superstitious, premodern, magical thinking Dumb Ass. What is there to believe in?  Belief is what you do when there is no data. Probably don’t believe in gravity or germ theory either. Everyone, I suppose, has to believe in something, and I believe I will have a beer.

12. I will wait until I have symptoms and stay homeDangerous Dumb Ass.  Despite often coming to work ill, especially second year residents, about 1 in 5 cases of influenza are subclinical, hospitalized patients are more susceptible to acquiring influenza from HCW’s than the general population,  and 27% of nosocomial acquired H1N1 died. And you wil never realize that you were the one responsible for killing that patient by passing on the flu.

13. The flu vaccine is not safe and has not been evaluated for safety.  Computer illiterate Dumb Ass.  There are 1342 references on the PubMeds on safety of the flu vaccine, and the vaccine causes only short term, mild reactions.  All health care requires weighing the risks of an intervention against the benefits. For the flu vaccine all the data suggests huge benefit for negligible risk. And as a HCW, it could be argued that we have a moral responsibility to maximize the safety of our patients.

14. The government puts tracking nanobots in the vaccine as well as RFID chips as part of the mark of the beast, and the vaccine doesn’t work since it is part of a big government sponsored conspiracy to keep Americans ill, fill hospital beds, line the pockets of big pharma and inject the American sheeple with exotic new infections in an attempt to control population growth and help usher in a New World Order. Well, that excuse is at least reasonable. Paranoid Dumb Ass.

So get the vaccine.  And pass this essay on to someone else.  The life you may save may be your own. Or be a Dumb Ass.

And if you and yours are admitted to the hospital or visit a HCW during the flu season, ask if your provider has had the vaccine. If not, ask for a new provider.  Who wants their health care provided by a Dumb Ass?

foursquaring for Vaccines

I use foursquare, which is part online game, part social media, part easy advertising for businesses. When I visit a place and “check in” I tell the world or just my circle of foursquare friends that I’m there, or that I’ve been there. foursquare seems to be great for local businesses – they can offer specials for checking in once (“show a cashier that you checked in and get $5 off your total at check out”), or offer loyalty programs (“check in here three times and receive a free Margarita”). foursquare is free for users, it’s a way for local businesses to advertise to their target market, and there’s a silly point program so you can compete with friends. From what I understand it’s similar to Facebook’s Places, but I don’t use Places, so I’m not sure how accurate the comparison is.

I’ve used foursquare to tell my friends when I’m visiting somewhere extremely cool or out of the ordinary (It was fun to tweet via foursquare that I was “checking in” to the sky deck of the Seattle Space Needle last month), and to get good deals ($5 mojitos at Stella’s Fish Cafe!). But yesterday I used it to SAVE LIVES!

I stopped at a Walgreens in South Minneapolis last night, and when I opened up Foursquare I was interested to see that Walgreens was offering a special. I stop at that particular store pretty often, but had never before seen them offer a special. I opened the tab and saw this:

I went online to learn more about the offer, and it turns out that through October 8th, Walgreens will donate one flu shot voucher for every valid foursquare or Facebook Places check-in. And you can go onto their Facebook page to vote for one of five groups that will receive a percentage of the flu shot vouchers (the organizations are Feeding America, the National Urban League, AmeriCares, the League of United Latin American Citizens, and the American Diabetes Association).

How cool is that!? I love technology. And corporate giving. And vaccines. Win!

HPV Vaccine: Making It Personal

I watched the CNN Tea Party Republican debate on Monday night. I disagreed with a lot of the issues that the candidates presented, and my blood really boiled when the candidates skirted direct questions to make snarky personal attacks on each other and President Obama. And I really, really mourned for the human race when it became clear that the audience went wild every time a cutthroat comment was made, regardless of the comment’s bearing on the question at hand. But every now and then there was a bit of level-headed debate from some of the candidates on some of the issues.

The HPV vaccine was not one of them.

Four years ago Rick Perry signed an executive order that required Texas girls to be vaccinated against HPV. He was lambasted for that decision on several fronts. Some people believe that vaccination against the STI condones premarital sex (excuse me while I go weep in the corner), some  think that Perry abused the executive order to mandate health care, that he threatened parents’ rights to decide what is best for their children (even though the executive order allowed for parental opt-out), or that he signed the mandate in order to reward political donations from Merck, the producer of the vaccine. Michelle Bachmann, in an amazing show of moral self-righteousness, predatory fear-mongering, and willful ignorance of vaccine safety used all of these arguments to rail against Perry on Monday’s Republican debate.

Dear American voters – lead us not to Michelle Bachmann, but deliver us from her evil. For thine is the will of the people, and…you are our only hope. Or something like that.

As I’ve mentioned before, I am a big supporter of vaccines. We have regulatory bodies as well as an informed medical and scientific community that is able to evaluate the safety and efficacy of vaccines. Also, we have science! Science that any layman can access with a little bit of internet searching! If the majority of the medical establishment supports a vaccine, I’m behind it. Because you know what sucks? People suffering and dying from preventable illnesses.

The HPV vaccine offers hope to women because we are susceptible to HPV-caused cervical cancer. HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection – 50% of sexually active Americans will become infected sometime in their lives. We need to stop viewing HPV infection as a punishment for having sex and start viewing it as a risk that we can decrease when we do have sex. Sex happens, so does HPV. Vaccinate, vaccinate, vaccinate!

I found the following personal story from Quiche Moraine on the Almost Diamonds blog. This is the kind of heartwrenching stress, agony, physical pain and emotional trauma that the HPV vaccine may help prevent. The vaccine is a medical wonder, and I shame those who pervert it into a political tool.

From Quiche Moraine:

One day your doctor calls. You think to yourself, “Huh. Last clinic, it would have been a nurse. Whatever.” And the news is good: Blood work, even the special stuff they did because you’ve not been feeling well and you have a family history, is perfectly, beautifully normal.

Oh, except the Pap smear came back abnormal and here’s the number for a gynecological clinic and tell them “CIN 2-3″ when you call to make the appointment for a colposcopy.
Continue Reading

Anti-Vax Action Alert: VaxCBS

This advertisement by the Mercola and National Vaccine Information Center is set to run in New York City’s Time Square on the CBS Outdoor JumboTron on 42nd street.

Both of the groups behind this “PSA” are well-known for their anti-vaccination efforts. They want people to question the safety and efficacy of vaccines, to believe that it may be safer for your child to not vaccinate, that vaccines cause more injury than not vaccinating.

Forget that.

This is a dangerous advertisement, and while the ad might seem mild, what it implies is a lie that has been debunked time and time again by science-based medicine. What they want their viewers to believe has the potential to harm.

Elyse from Skepchick and Women Thinking Free Foundation is organizing an effort to make this ad not happen. From her post on skepchick.org:

Mercola and the NVIC are determined to convince Americans that vaccines are dangerous and optional, that more harm is done by administering vaccines than by letting infectious disease ravage a population.

And that message needs to be stopped. Especially right now.

Right now:

Right now we need to be promoting vaccines. Right now real people are at risk because of unfounded vaccine fears. Right now measles should be eradicated in the US.

If you feel that Mercola/NVIC’s deceptive advertisement should not air to hundreds of thousands of people on CBS’s JumboTron, here’s how you can make your voice heard:

As one commenter on change.org put it “This is not a case of two opposing but valid sides of a disagreement – this is a seriously damaging misinformation campaign that misrepresents established knowledge with speculation based on already-rejected nonsense masquerading as science.”

Let’s help make sure that we don’t give credence to this dinkus-ness, okay?

Reader Vax Rant

Blogs are a good place to rant. I LOVE that one of my regular visitors, Noelle, thought of Biodork and the First World Problems Poll (which ended months ago!) when she needed a place to express her frustrations over parents who chose not to vaccinate their children.

I know this contest is long over but I think that first world problems keep coming up and I want to vent! Refusing to vaccinate your children is a first world problem!

Third world problem: “I can’t get my kid vaccinated so there’s a good chance they will contract, and perhaps die from a preventable disease.”

First world problem: “there is a minute chance that my child may have an adverse reaction so I wont vaccinate and I’ll rely on herd immunity to keep my child safe. Plus I heard they cause autism and that stresses me out.”

Sing it, girl! Wanting and not having access to vaccines (or not having knowledge of vaccines) is a travesty that causes death and suffering around the world. Choosing not to vaccinate is an unfortunate by-product of some people having easy access to bits and pieces of information about vaccination – some of it supported by science, some of it not – and then drawing incorrect (or unsupported) conclusions about the risks of vaccination.

And some people fail to understand the consequences of falling vaccination rates. Vaccines have removed or significantly minimized the damage caused by so many vaccine-preventable illnesses, so much so that we are beginning to think that they have disappeared or are are no longer a risk.  And then we get punched in the face with something like California’s whooping cough resurgence, which has been linked to a drop in vaccination against whooping cough. I don’t like getting punched in the face. We should do everything in our power to not get punched in the face again.

Hey…

And that’s why I don’t do graphic design.

Thanks for putting thoughts to “paper”, Noelle.

National Influenza Vaccination Week

It’s almost over – have you gotten your flu shot yet?

From WhiteHouse.gov:

Everyone can take steps to promote America’s health this flu season.  Though there is no way to accurately predict the course or severity of influenza, we know from experience that it will pose serious health risks for thousands of Americans this season.  We can all take common-sense precautions to prevent infection with influenza, including washing hands frequently, covering coughs or sneezes with sleeves and not hands, and staying home when ill.

However, vaccination is the best protection against contracting and spreading the flu.  The vaccine is available through doctors’ offices, clinics, State and local health departments, pharmacies, college and university health centers, as well as through many employers and some primary and secondary schools.  Seasonal flu activity is usually most intense between January and March, and vaccinating now can help curb the spread of this disease.  Together, we can prepare as individuals and as a Nation for this year’s flu season and help ensure that our fellow Americans remain healthy and safe.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim December 5 through December 11, 2010, as National Influenza Vaccination Week.  I encourage Americans to get vaccinated this week if they have not yet done so, and to urge their families, friends, and co workers to do the same.

This is a pro-science, health-positive proclamation by our President.  Good work, Sir. 

Now how ’bout that DADT?

Anti-Vax Action Alert

Elyse over at the Skepchicks posted a notice about anti-vaccination advertisements being aired in several AMC movie theaters across the country.  And guess what – one of them is happening right here in Roseville, Minnesota.  Here’s the ad they’re planning to play:

One Minnesota pediatrician has written an concise response to the advertisement, and has made it SUPER EASY for your to add your voice to the cause, as well. If you visit AMC Corporate Customer Service and you agree with Dr. Jacobsen, you can simply click a button that says “I have this problem too” to speak out against fallacious anti-vaccination rhetoric.  There is also a place to add comments to share your own thoughts with AMC. 

This is not a free speech issue; no one is saying that AMC doesn’t have a right to air these ads. This is a misinformation issue.  This is a Let’s Scare The Crap Out of Pregnant Women issue. As one commenter wrote:

AMC has every right to run these ads. I; however, will go out of my way to not support any company that runs anti-vax campaigns.

As with any controversial topic, take a minute to critically consider the arguments. I happen to believe that not vaccinating against the flu is selfish, dangerous decision. If not for you personally, then for the vunerable people around you (old people, immunosuppressed people, babies too young to receive the vaccine) who may catch flu from you. The flu isn’t just an inconvenient achy, sick-feeling cold thing from which everyone can bounce right back  - people die of the flu, and encouraging fear of vaccinations is a public health danger that we should not condone.

***********

Quick update from the road: AMC will NOT be running the anti-vax advertisement AMC will not be running the anti-vax advertisements!. 2344 people have weighed in at last check. Skeptical activism at work, well done!