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Nov 26 2012

Science demolishes ant-vax claims

Oooh, here’s a nice short summary of how the human immune system works, geared towards making anti-vaxxers heads explode. (This is also one of the tacks we’ll be taking at the skeptic track at Convergence this summer — we’ve proposed a session on basic, introductory explanations of immunity.)

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  1. 1
    jamessweet

    Science demolishes ant-vax claims

    Pffft, yeah, everyone knows there’s no vaccine against ants.

  2. 2
    Sastra

    The problems don’t just come from the anti-vaxxers. So-called alternative medicine proponents are very big on using products or therapies which “boost the immune system.” What does that mean? It means “boost the immune system” — as viewed from a vague perspective. Your body can fight off disease better, because it’s stronger. Somehow.

    I have altie friends who are into all sorts of nonsense and they bandy about the “boosts the immune system” phrase on a regular basis. I once mentioned to them that the immune system is not a black box: scientists know quite a bit about the immune system. Immunologists can use legitimate tests to tell how a person’s immune system is working — T-cells, lymphocites and antibodies, etc. Yet a person who has taken some vitamin concoction which is supposed to “boost” the immune system will be indistinguishable from someone who hasn’t taken it. Why would that be so? And why would altie products ‘boosting the immune system” be safe and recommended even for people with autoimmune disorders?

    The answer was honest: it’s the spiritual immune system they’re talking about. Can’t be measured with instruments. Mind-body connection woo.

    In other words, crap.

    But of course you know that this honesty will DISAPPEAR the minute the skeptic is out of the room and they’re credulously advocating it to some other mark. No, it’s the human immune system in our bodies. It gets boosted.

  3. 3
    CaptTu

    The big problem is that anti-vaxxers don’t care about the science. Great info though. Thanks for sharing.

  4. 4
    michaelvieths

    You should include the epidemiology of ‘con crud’ as an example.

  5. 5
    Esteleth, [an error occurred while processing this directive]

    The epidemiology of “con crud” is quite simple.

    Take a large group of people. Make a significant number of them travel a significant distance. Add lack of sleep, poor diet, and (frequently) poor hygiene. Place in a confined location for a few days. Incubate. Anything that anyone had incubating is going to rip around, because most everyone’s immune system is going to be a bit on the low side anyway.

  6. 6
    Esteleth, [an error occurred while processing this directive]

    I get so irritated at the “boost your immune system!” stuff too. Tell someone with an auto-immune disorder, or someone whose had a transplant, that they need to boost their immune system. Go on. I’ll watch.

  7. 7
    grumpypathdoc

    We all know good and well that the anti-vaxers and other alties have a built in defense system to deflect any scientific arguments. Just like ID’ers. “It isn’t the vaccine that’s bad, it’s the additives.” “No, no, no the vaccine overstimulates the bodies immune response, and that’s what causes Autism (or whatever).

    Arg.

  8. 8
    chigau (違う)

    I have an ad showing for a pill to get rid of “belly fat”, endorsed by Dr.Oz.

  9. 9
    F [i'm not here, i'm gone]

    jamessweet

    I think this is about the ant vacuum cleaner.

  10. 10
    sparks

    Doctor Oz doesn’t have time to be a doctor anymore. His bean counting job takes all his time these days.

  11. 11
    F [i'm not here, i'm gone]

    Con-crud is like airplane crud, although frequently worse, but not as widespread.

  12. 12
    Avo, also nigelTheBold

    sparks:

    His bean counting job takes all his time these days.

    He doesn’t have time for that, either. He’s too busy at the crank-handle of his money generation engine for something as mundane as accounting. And he doesn’t have the skillset, as he’s unaccountable.

  13. 13
    robb

    everyone knows that the immune system is boosted by quantum entanglement of the pathogen with the chi of the human holistic spirit. i read it on the internet.

    either that or it’s fucking magnets. how do they work?

  14. 14
    JohnnieCanuck

    Ant-VAX

    Are we talking about something like the VAX-11/780 here? I’ve heard the story about the moth that got into the Harvard Mark II, but nothing about ants causing problems in minicomputers.

  15. 15
    F [i'm not here, i'm gone]

    Because the PDP-11 rulz, we don’t take no shit from no VAX and VAX/VMS. DEC was infested by the debbil when it came up with virtual address extensions. 16-bit FTW.

    The ants knew this.

  16. 16
    A. R

    Hmmm, a tad simplistic, but I suppose that’s what you have to do to appeal to a general audience.

  17. 17
  18. 18
    Naked Bunny with a Whip

    most everyone’s immune system is going to be a bit on the low side anyway.

    They should have been boosting it!

  19. 19
    Naked Bunny with a Whip

    “boost the immune system.” What does that mean?

    I get the image of a white blood cell expanding while the “Popeye eats his spinach” music plays.

  20. 20
    edvard0degas

    Nice review of the basics but I wouldn’t say it demolishes anyone with serious questions about vaccinations. It’s too simplistic, apparently it was written to make the maxi-vaxers feel better about lining up like drones to get their flu shots.

    So, the conclusion from the article should be something like, “all vaccines are good vaccines so just shut up about it.” or perhaps, “don’t question the efficacy of ANY vaccine because, SCIENCE.”

  21. 21
    A. R

    edvard0degas: What then, are your “serious questions?” Because I would be more than happy to destroy them.

  22. 22
    Naked Bunny with a Whip

    I wouldn’t say it demolishes anyone with serious questions about vaccinations. It’s too simplistic

    Then those with serious questions should be reading the scientific literature itself instead of relying on “simplistic” answers.

  23. 23
    Tony! The Fucking Queer Shoop!

    Oooh, A.R. hold on, I need some popcorn….

  24. 24
    chigau (違う)

    A. R
    Don’t bother.
    edvard0degas is a drive-by.

  25. 25
    Gregory Greenwood

    Naked Bunny with a Whip @ 22;

    Then those with serious questions should be reading the scientific literature itself instead of relying on “simplistic” answers.

    Haven’t you heard? The evidence supporting the efficacy of vaccinations is all part of the ebil conspiracy to inject illuminati designed mind control drugs into the populous so that we won’t resist the forthcoming reptilian invasion from beyond the stars.

    Isn’t that right, edvard0degas…?

  26. 26
    Kagehi

    You know.. A less sciency explanation would be like what Vegas casinos do. At one time every casino had their own “cheat” book, with pictures/descriptions of the people that had come in, and cheated at their games. But, here is the thing, this works like “natural” immunity. Once someone has cheated at your casino, your casino (assuming they don’t disguise themselves, train someone else to cheat the same way, etc.) becomes immune to that “disease”. But, this only helps you. Somewhere along the line, they got the genius idea of “vaccinating” the other casinos. Once someone is caught, their identity is passed on to ***all other casinos***. The cheat never has to set foot, for real, into any of the other places. They other casinos have all be vaccinated against them.

    The same works for any sort of security. If you know certain suspects are going from town to town, store to store, pulling the same con… you can be an idiot, and ignore this issue, and only try to catch them at your store, or.. you can allow other divisions to pass you information as to who to look for, vaccinating your own store against having the same person walk in your front door.

    (At least in principle. In reality, a salaried manager, who thanks to certain legal issues, is the only one who might know the information, is often too busy doing work that stock people or others where once paid to do. Its so much cheaper to have them stay 12-14 hours, on a 10 hours salaried shift, than actually pay for an extra 6-8 hour shift, after all…)

  27. 27
    A. R

    chigau: I know, but I’ve loaded the fact gun with anti-anti-vax rounds anyway. [Sound of side by side shotgun safety clicking on]

  28. 28
    Naked Bunny with a Whip

    @Gregory Greenwood: Silly me. I should have realized that edvard0degas had simply misspelled “scientific” as “simplistic”.

  29. 29
    edvard0degas

    Admittedly, I don’t have gobs of time to read the scientific literature. When I do, vaccination is not my first choice, lately I’m preferring nutritional science, (assuming there actually is such a thing and it’s not just a humorous oxymoron.)
    I don’t think there is an “ebil conspiracy” and don’t consider myself anti-vax (suggesting that a vaccination could be questioned appears to enable tons of mocking and derision). Guess it’s more fun than discussion. I think we have way too many vaccinations and they don’t seem to be improving the overall health of americans.

    Take the flu vaccination – I understand how it’s supposed to work… and lets say it’s targeted to the correct flu virus this season. How effective is it? Some studies say 60%. Wow that’s pretty good, right? But in reality relative statistics were used to compare one group against the other.
    Let’s see – in the control group (no vaccine) 2.7 out of 100 got the flu, in the vaccinated group, 1.2 out of 100 got the flu – if you compare, yup about 60% effective.

    Looking at it another way, you have to give 100 people the vaccination in order to prevent 1.5 cases of flu. Does that sound like 60% effective? With such small numbers, I would have liked to see a much greater reduction in the vaccinated group. I think you can dig the numbers out for yourself here if you’re interested:
    http://www.cidrap.umn.edu/cidrap/files/82/ccivi_rpt_exec_summary.pdf
    maybe it was this one:
    http://www.thelancet.com/journals/laninf/article/PIIS1473-3099%2811%2970295-X/abstract

    I’m sure an immunologist or clinician could come up with some more serious/real questions than I can but I’ll suggest a few – feel free to destroy them, I’d be interested in real answers.

    Your vaccination has an adjuvant in it – can you develop antibodies to the adjuvant?
    Vaccination is distinct from immunization – does vaccination create the same quality and persistence of immunity as a natural infection? If not why not?
    Are there scientific studies to show vaccinations actually prevent the spread of the disease agent?
    What is the biological explanation for age related differences in vaccination response.
    (This one’s a ringer) Are antibodies required to develop an immune response?

    And…. go.

  30. 30
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    And…. go.

    Good advice for you, since you can only ask questions, not give answers…

  31. 31
    Esteleth, [an error occurred while processing this directive]

    I’m preferring nutritional science

    Who the what now? Please explain.

    I think we have way too many vaccinations and they don’t seem to be improving the overall health of americans.

    Decreased rates of the diseases being vaccinated against counts as an improvement of overall health. Just saying.

    Looking at it another way, you have to give 100 people the vaccination in order to prevent 1.5 cases of flu. Does that sound like 60% effective? With such small numbers, I would have liked to see a much greater reduction in the vaccinated group.

    You’re mixing and matching. The effectiveness rate of a vaccine is the percentage of vaccinated people who, after being exposed to the disease, do not come down with the disease, compared to a cohort-matched counterpart (i.e. same age/health/sex/etc/etc/etc) who was also exposed. Not everyone is exposed to the flu. Some people, for varying immune systems (such as having an immune system that is subpar) would be more likely to get sick after exposure. Some people, for varying reasons (such as, for example, having asthma) are more vulnerable to getting very badly sick from contracting the flu and are thus at greater risk of harm from not being vaccinated. So 100 people vaccinated:1.5 cases prevented ratio is not necessarily bad. And is not the same thing as a 60% effectiveness ratio.

    Your vaccination has an adjuvant in it – can you develop antibodies to the adjuvant?

    No. Antibody production depends on specific biochemical and biophysical interactions, most of which are not possible against an inorganic agent like those used for adjuvants.

    Vaccination is distinct from immunization – does vaccination create the same quality and persistence of immunity as a natural infection? If not why not?

    Vaccination is the most efficient way to arrive at immunization, with the least risk. And the quality and persistence of the immunity (as compared to a natural infection) varies, depending on the disease agent and the vaccine. But vaccines are less dangerous than getting the infection in the first place.

    Are there scientific studies to show vaccinations actually prevent the spread of the disease agent?

    This is called “herd immunity.” Fewer people carrying a reservoir of the disease agent (asymptomatic carriers, sick people wandering around, etc) creates a smaller pool of people who could be exposed, leading to fewer new infections. QED.

    What is the biological explanation for age related differences in vaccination response.

    The effectiveness of the immune system changes with age. A healthy immune system is required for optimal vaccination.

    (This one’s a ringer) Are antibodies required to develop an immune response?

    Yes. Antibodies are how immune responses are mediated.

  32. 32
    Gregory Greenwood

    edvard0degas @ 29;

    Admittedly, I don’t have gobs of time to read the scientific literature. When I do, vaccination is not my first choice, lately I’m preferring nutritional science, (assuming there actually is such a thing and it’s not just a humorous oxymoron.)

    So, by your own admission you are not particularly familiar with the scientific literature on the subject, but you somehow just know that the consensus of the experts in the field is wrong?

    Three guesses why no one here takes you seriously.

    And…. go.

  33. 33
    raven

    dumb troll:

    I think we have way too many vaccinations and they don’t seem to be improving the overall health of americans.

    CTHULHU!!!

    This has to be the dumbest thing I’ve read in days and this includes paullockett. It’s astonishing ignorance and delusion.

    A century ago, the average US lifespan was 47. Today 77.

    We’ve gained an extra 30 years on average in one century.

    A lot of this gain is due to vaccines.

    When I was a kid, a lot of the older adults limped in various ways. We all knew what it was. Polio. According to my parents, they used to dread summers because that was when the polio epidemics would sweep through the USA.

    One of my great grandmothers had 12 kids. I only had 4 or 5 great uncles and aunts. The rest of them died young, mostly from infectious diseases that few have even heard of these days.

  34. 34
    A. R

    I’m going to just ditto Esteleth, with one addition and a change.

    Vaccination is distinct from immunization – does vaccination create the same quality and persistence of immunity as a natural infection? If not why not?

    Vaccination is the most efficient way to arrive at immunization, with the least risk. And the quality and persistence of the immunity (as compared to a natural infection) varies, depending on the disease agent and the vaccine. But vaccines are less dangerous than getting the infection in the first place.

    Just going to add the the various attempts at acquiring natural immunity, such as variolation and “pox parties” were/are quite dangerous, and no effective than vaccination in the long run.

    Regarding Esleteth’s last point, I would mention that an immune response can be mounted by the innate immune system, but it will not fight off a serious infection.

  35. 35
    Alexandra (née Audley)

    Admittedly, I don’t have gobs of time to read the scientific literature.

    Awesome. You haven’t done any researtch and the topic bores you anyway, but you still have doubts because that’s the trendy thing to do.

    I guess I’m glad that I don’t have gobs of time to read the rest of your shit.

  36. 36
    Naked Bunny with a Whip

    Too many people have crappy diets and don’t exercise, therefore vaccines don’t help. Buh?

  37. 37
    Esteleth, [an error occurred while processing this directive]

    A.R., the innate immune system is stuff like physical barriers to a disease particle such as skin, right? Yeah, that does not require antibodies, but it is also less effective, and can be gotten around.

  38. 38
    Esteleth, [an error occurred while processing this directive]

    IIRC, in many cases, a vaccine is not only less dangerous than direct infection, it can also confer more lasting immunity. In the sense that a dosage of X, in the direct infection, would kill, but can be packaged into a non-lethal vaccine.

  39. 39
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    Somebody needs to ask themselves why many companies offer free flu shots to their employees. Mine even offers it on site. That is because it is a cost-effective way to increase employee attendance, compared to employees needing to take a week off to recover from the flu, or transmit it to other workers if they come to work while infectious. I’ve had the flu once in the ten years I’ve been taking the vaccine, versus about once every other year prior to that.

  40. 40
    Esteleth, [an error occurred while processing this directive]

    Mine even offers it on site.

    So does mine!

    But then, I work for a hospital. Mine not just offers it on site, it makes employees choose between the shot and signing an exemption waiver. Which goes in one’s personnel file.

  41. 41
    Jadehawk

    Are there scientific studies to show vaccinations actually prevent the spread of the disease agent?

    yes. but honestly, I don’t even understand the point of this question. we’ve eradicated smallpox with vaccination, so rather obviously it works quite well.

  42. 42
    Esteleth, [an error occurred while processing this directive]

    We were also close to eradicating polio using vaccination, until a round of “but vaccines are bad!!” popped up, leading to outbreaks.

  43. 43
    raven

    Vaccination is distinct from immunization – does vaccination create the same quality and persistence of immunity as a natural infection.

    Vaccination offers the same immunity as getting a disease without being maimed, very sick, or killed.

    In a lot of cases its comparable to getting the disease in terms of resistance to that disease i.e smallpox and polio vaccines.

    In the case of rabies we really don’t know. Virtually everyone who gets rabies dies of the disease. Hard to determine the immune status of dead people.

  44. 44
    Tsu Dho Nimh

    @29 – Are there scientific studies to show vaccinations actually prevent the spread of the disease agent? Yes. Notice the lack of spreading of smallpox recently? That was not due to the spread of flush toilets, it was a combination of vaccination and quarantines.

    It’s really simple: vaccines either prevent you from becoming clinically ill and reaching the transmission stage OR they shorten the infectious stage and decrease the number of persons any infected person can infect.

    Some nice studies have been recently done on influenza vaccine and the Hutterites in Canada, where those colonies (a communal farm with about 200-250 people) that had their children immunized had significantly fewer cases of influenza among the unvaccinated elderly adults.

    And studies of rotavirus in Mexico (? I forget the country, but it wasn’t USA) showed that the introduction of the vaccine for infants decreased the numbers of older children being diagnosed with rotavirus.

    Fewer persons were in the full-on germ-spewing sniffling, sneezing, coughing or pooping stage because their vaccine gave their immune system a head start. Hence, they infected fewer.

  45. 45
    A. R

    Esteleth: Actually, Innate immunity is much more complex than physical barriers to infection. Guided by recognition of Pathogen Associated Molecular Patterns (PAMPS (imagine how my Southern immunology professor pronounced it for a laugh), phagocytes (PMNs and Macros) actively destroy pathogens in blood and tissues, and complement and other proteins tag pathogen for destruction and blast holes in cell walls. Inflammation and fever are included here too.

  46. 46
    Amphiox

    It is telling that edvardo would choose to pick on the statistics of one of the least effective of all vaccines, the flu vaccines, and completely ignore the data on all the other far more effective vaccines.

    That sort of cherry picking is rather striking in its dishonesty.

  47. 47
    Amphiox

    re #39;

    The biggest benefit of the flu vaccine is indeed financial, aside from the small populations of at-risk groups. It has been estimated that an effective voluntary vaccination program for working adults would save the US economy around a billion dollars annually in productivity lost to flu sick days.

    The more beneficial vaccines, of course, measure their effectiveness in gigalives saved.

  48. 48
    Jadehawk

    It is telling that edvardo would choose to pick on the statistics of one of the least effective of all vaccines, the flu vaccines, and completely ignore the data on all the other far more effective vaccines.

    pretty sure that’s their schtick, actually: they’re not against vaccines, they’re merely against extremists why say everyone must have ALL the vaccines (AKA “maxi-vaxers”); in contrast to themselves, who have moderate, reasonable opinions and are being True Skeptics by having Questions! etc blah blah

  49. 49
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    and are being True Skeptics by having Questions!

    True Skeptics are to busy looking for evidence to their questions to post those questions without answers. Only fake skeptics (or concern trolls) pull that schtick.

  50. 50
    Old At Heart

    @29: Ed:

    2.7/100: 2.7%
    1.2/100: 1.2%

    1.5% absolute deduction.

    You’re minimizing the statistics to make it sound in your favour. Look at it this way to skew it oppositely: There are approx 7B people in the world. Using vaccines, we prevent 105000000 flu cases.

    If we assume the flu kills 1% of people it hits (it’s actually higher). Proper flu shots yearly will save 1,050,000 lives. Per year!

    I’ll let a scientist deal with the rest, I’m a stats guy.

  51. 51
    truthspeaker

    If someone had serious questions about vaccines, wouldn’t they ask their doctor? My doctor is always happy to answer my questions.

  52. 52
    RFW

    Esteleth @ 31:

    Some people, for varying immune systems (such as having an immune system that is subpar) would be more likely to get sick after exposure.

    Somewhere in the morass lies a two-edged sword. I’ve read [*] that the great flu epidemic of 1918 was particularly deadly to young adults because their immune systems were in tip-top shape and responded to the virus unnecessarily strongly.

    Many (not all) aspects of infection that make you feel sick are actually the workings of the immune system, fevers for example.

    As for edvardo’s fictional “max-vax” enthusiasts, ain’t no such thing. Nobody proposes that everybody get every vaccine. You get vaccinated against those diseases that you are likely to actually get exposed to. This is why you get special vaccinations before traveling in areas where, e.g., cholera is endemic.

    [*] “I’ve read” – but as with so many matters filed away in my mare’s nest of a memory, I can’t say when or where.

  53. 53
  54. 54
    redpanda

    My mother and sister are both firmly anti-vax, and I think you insult their intelligence to assume that this would make their heads explode. Most anti-vaxxers I’ve met already know most of the stuff in that blog post, and their concerns lie elsewhere.

    It’s like a religion in how every time a claim is shot down it just finds another gap to retreat into and still maintain the same big-picture arguments. I had a conversation with the sister about GMO food the other day and her position basically boiled down to “there’s a TON we don’t know about the human body, so we’re a long long ways from ever being able to prove that its safe.”

    We can’t prove that MRIs are safe either (they change the spin states of your very atoms, we have no clue what that might do down the road!!1!!!), so I wonder why she doesn’t have a problem with those.

  55. 55
    redpanda

    @truthspeaker #51, one of the things about alt-med is that it destroys trust in doctors. Browse through any of the big websites (Mercola, Natural News, etc.) and pay attention to how they characterize doctors and their “western medicine.”

  56. 56
    A. R

    RFW: I can confirm what you read. That particular phenomenon is due to something called a cytokine storm, in which a positive feedback loop is created between cytokines (immune signaling molecules) and immune cells. It is often fatal, and is still very dangerous even if well-treated.

  57. 57
    carlie

    Oh yeah? Well, if the immune system is so great, then why, after over a year of monthly max. dosage injections, did my body decide “yes, anaphylaxis is the appropriate response here” to my allergy shot last week, huh? *grumble*fuckinmastcells*grumble*

    It is telling that edvardo would choose to pick on the statistics of one of the least effective of all vaccines, the flu vaccines, and completely ignore the data on all the other far more effective vaccines.

    That sort of cherry picking is rather striking in its dishonesty.

    No kidding. You can tell the people who aren’t old enough to have lived through actual epidemics that couldn’t be stopped, because they have no fucking clue how dangerous diseases really can be, having been cushioned their whole lives by the medical treatments they now decry as “unnecessary”. What scares me is 30 years or so in the future, when we have really lost most of the people with living memories of how bad it can be, how much more easily will anti-vax ideas take hold?

  58. 58
    A. R

    carlie: You may also wish to blame IgE, IgE-specific Fc receptors, and receptor cross-linking.

  59. 59
    carlie

    A.R. – yes, fuck all of ‘em. ;)

  60. 60
    flippertie

    [God this yahoo auto-login bug irritates me!]

    I had a bone marrow / Stem cell transplant a few years ago.

    I also live in the nearest thing that Hong Kong has to a bohemian community with more than its share of well-meaning new age happy spiritual folks.

    On multiple occasions over recent years I’ve been offered teas, herbal supplements, massages, raw food diet plans, homeopathic remedies, and the like – all to ‘boost my immune system’.

    I have sometimes asked how that boost would work, or pointed out that I’m still taking drugs to suppress my new immune system so boosting it would put me at increased risk of Graft vs Host disease etc.

    The usual response is sort of brief befuddlement – like smacking a puppy on the nose. Then with a metaphorical shake of the head, couple of blinks the conversation continues as if nothing had happened.

    The feeling is that they’re offering me something imbued with goodness and by questioning it I’m somehow being rude. I tend to let it ride. Accepting the social transaction of them showing concern and affection by offering something they see as having value is more important than pedantically pointing out that it’s hogwash.

  61. 61
    Charlie Foxtrot

    Another one that does my head in is :
    “But it is unnatural to have these diseases injected directly into the blood!”

    Like they’ve never stepped on a nail or something…

  62. 62
    chigau (違う)

    yahoomess #60
    That is a wonderful story.
    ‘Boosting my immune system will probably kill me. Thanks a bunch.’

    I don’t know if it works for “yahoo auto-login” but if you click on your ‘nym above the comment box, you go to the Dashboard.
    Click Profile and you can make any “display name” you want.
    Hopefully.

  63. 63
    chigau (違う)

    Like they’ve never stepped on a nail or something…

    …or been bitten by a mosquito…

  64. 64
    flippertie

    Thank you chigau!

  65. 65
    chigau (違う)

    flippertie formerly known as sc_af3f4f65987e055054a436a534833fd8
    You are very welcome.

  66. 66
    F [i'm not here, i'm gone]

    It’s like some people have a five-minute memory. Never mind current events, no one remembers from experience or schooling that millions of people died from diseases (sometimes in very close order, say one flu season) which we can be immunized against.

    I’ve never seen a raging inferno spread through a city. I have serious questions about the cost and effectiveness of fire departments. / I think they are a conspiracy of Big Fire Equipment. / Fire departments cause murders and leaky-gov’t secrets syndrome.

  67. 67
    Ichthyic

    @flippertie #60:

    social interaction is important, but calling attention to mistaken notions about medicine “pedantic”, only reinforces bad behavior.

    surely someone, somewhere, has to take responsibility for correcting what CAN amount to a very dangerous ignorance, by your own admission?

    If you wont bite the bullet, and risk being “impolite”, who will?

  68. 68
    ibyea

    @AR
    So what can I blame in my immune system for my infinite itchiness and swelling of my skin? :)

  69. 69
    flippertie

    I guess it’s about choosing when and why to pick arguments.

    Anti-vaccination – no problem I’ll argue that any time any place. I’m big on herd immunity and ‘flu jabs.

    Traditional Chinese medicine? Take it if you want but go to the doctor for anything serious, and for your kids. I’ll *always* have a go at people mixing TCM and Western medicine which can be really dangerous.

    But herbal teas or reflexology massage? not so much.

    Homeopathy? A lighthearted “Ooh – sugar sweeties!” Crunch! is probably effective at conveying my opinion without getting drawn in to discussion of dilution ratios and vibrational energy memories..

  70. 70
    Amphiox

    As for edvardo’s fictional “max-vax” enthusiasts, ain’t no such thing. Nobody proposes that everybody get every vaccine.

    Indeed. No one is out there advocating for administration of the (relatively dangerous) smallpox vaccine for example, not for decades. (The anti-vaxxers should take note as to the reasons why and how this one vaccine was removed from general use).

  71. 71
    Amphiox

    What scares me is 30 years or so in the future, when we have really lost most of the people with living memories of how bad it can be, how much more easily will anti-vax ideas take hold?

    Well, if that happens, the diseases will come back, and presto, we’ll have people with living memories of how bad those diseases can be again.

    No disease has a 100% kill rate, after all.

  72. 72
    Amphiox

    And of course, the only proven thing that actually reliably strengthens the immune system is, of course, vaccination.

  73. 73
    A. R

    Ebola comes pretty damn close though!

  74. 74
    A. R

    Ibeya: Probably mast cells.

  75. 75
    Kagehi

    To address one commentary on anti-bodies to other substances.. Well.. Yeah, in spectacularly rare cases. There was even a little girl some years back that was born with/developed an allergic reaction to water, of all things. Any sort of “adaptive” system can go wrong. But, we are talking about 1 person in 3 billion who has *ever* developed an allergy to water. The additives to vaccines, where used, are selected on the basis of having “neutral” effects. This doesn’t mean that it isn’t possible for say, 1 in 3 billion to have some sort of odd reaction to one of them, it does mean that a complex set of things need to go wrong, for a non-organic chemical to be mis-identified as dangerous.

    The claims, on the other hand, by those claiming possible effects, is that, somehow, unlike trillions of other compounds that exist, including the air we breath, somehow, the vaccine makers have decided to use things that “will” cause a reaction in the immune system. They are quite happy, in the case of autism, for example, to ignore everything from studies on tens of thousands of people pertaining to increases do to the age of the father, to a widening of definitions, as the underlying neurological effects are better understood, and the range of effects, become better known, and even what ever genetic components there may be, within the developmental framework, which is what “goes wrong”, and produces variation in brain development. Pretty much *everything* we do know about why it happens, is ignored. Why? Because the reality of how and why is as complex as why someone has a slightly different shade of blue eyes than their parent, or even more or less freckles. There is no simple, clear, precise, cause, or cure, and the people who claim vaccines are a possible cause, against all evidence against it want “simple”. They want to solution to be as clear cut as taking more vitamin C, to prevent scurvy, or less of something else, to prevent a different disease.

    To tell such people, “Its almost certainly not something you can fix *now*, in someone whose nervous system has already been miss wired, and we are not even all that sure how much we can ever do to detect, never mind correct, it, even before things start going wrong.”, is ***not*** an answer they want to accept. And, since that answer isn’t acceptable, they need an answer that is simple, such as how, now, when most of the things they are trying to implicate are either safer, or not even used at all, its causing an “epidemic”, when 20+ years ago, when far less safe things where in use, it wasn’t doing anything at all.

    Hell, you might as well argue that hunger, lots of red meat, when you could get it, chewing on tar (like my parents talk about once doing), and a whole host of other things we now know causes diseases, and other problems, all the way up into the “health craze” eras, when people actually made some pretense and paying attention to what they ate, drank, etc. The only reason vaccines have been singled out, out of all the things that have changed in the last 30 years or more, is because some paid snake oil salesman, who specialized in distorting medical evidence, to win court cases, suggested it was true, in England, as a means to win one of his cases, and some no nothing Hollywood star grab the idea up and ran with it.

    They could have picked anything, including bottled water (which has its own sub-group of, ‘Oh, no, some small amount of X might be getting into the water, and its still bad, even now that bottles don’t contain it any more!”, people). The only reason its not bottled water is, that wasn’t what the English con artist needed to win his case on, so he didn’t write a paper on *that* subject.

  76. 76
    madscientist

    It’s good to see this court in Australia supporting vaccination. The short story: a couple split and they have a young daughter in the care of the mother. The mother refuses to vaccinate the child and one day while the child was in the care of the father the stepmother (with the father’s approval) took the child to a real physician to get her injections. Lucky kid – there are so many who aren’t so lucky. The poor child suffered from whooping cough before the vaccinations thanks to her ignorant mother – you’d think that after seeing a child suffer through whooping cough she’d grow some sense, but the mother is apparently one of those morons immune to sensibility.

    http://www.smh.com.au/national/health/homeopathy-regime-is-rejected-as-judge-tells-parents-to-immunise-child-20121127-2a5uo.html

  77. 77
    Crissa

    I always thought when they meant ‘boost the immune system’ they meant things like having a healthy weight (enough fat to make up for a lost meal); enough of various nutrients in their various cycles so energy didn’t have to be lost creating the exact whatever the body needed to use at any one time.

    Of course, that’s probably not what others thought, apparently, from the discussion here.

  78. 78
    madscientist

    @edvard#29:

    Given nutrition/diet vs. vaccine, vaccines work – diet doesn’t protect at all against bacterial or viral diseases (but a bad diet can lead to all sorts of other maladies due to deficiencies or excesses).

    “Looking at it another way, you have to give 100 people the vaccination in order to prevent 1.5 cases of flu.”

    Those numbers mean absolutely nothing to me. If an average 1.5 people in 100 get the flu in any given year and the vaccine prevents those infections then it’s an incredibly good vaccine. The phrase “60% effective” doesn’t mean anything to me either – what in particular is this measure of efficacy? Is it the rate of development of antibodies, the decrease in infections, or what? I suspect you may have read too many misleading articles on vaccination and don’t understand yourself how vaccines are evaluated.

    You don’t seem to understand the role of adjuvants – they’re there to help make a vaccine more effective by tricking your immune system – the adjuvants are long gone before you’re likely to encounter the disease against which you’re immunized. Adjuvants will typically have no effect whatsoever on the virus itself (at least not in concentrations which won’t harm humans), so it’s pretty silly to ask about bugs growing resistant to an adjuvant.

    “… does vaccination create the same quality and persistence of immunity as a natural infection?”

    Yes. This has been very well documented over the past 80 years.

    “Are there scientific studies to show vaccinations actually prevent the spread of the disease agent?”

    Yes; this is also extremely well documented over the past 80 years. Old fogies like me remember the hordes of people crippled and suffering from polio. These weren’t some vanishingly small minority; every family in the era would have known many families affected by polio. Polio was such a nasty problem that even when some bad batches of Salk’s vaccine (a live virus type of vaccine) killed people, people were still desperate and demanding that they receive the Salk vaccine. I can’t even remember the last time I’ve seen someone suffering of polio now; the incidence rate in the USA. The Salk vaccine was approved in 1955 and the Sabin (oral) vaccine was approved in 1961. This site shows the reported infections in the USA from 1973 and onwards; the small numbers are due to almost 20 years of people being mostly voluntarily immunized. This goddamned disease has finally been eradicated from the USA due to vaccination.

    “What is the biological explanation for age related differences in vaccination response.”

    What is the relevance of such a question? A difference is observed and the exact cause has nothing whatsoever to do with the question of the efficacy of vaccines.

    “Are antibodies required to develop an immune response?”

    Absolutely. Without antibodies you would have died in infancy; in fact there’s a very good chance you would have died in utero. However, the antibodies you have at birth will not protect you from the likes of polio, chickenpox, etc. To protect effectively against those diseases you need a more specific immune response which is best developed through vaccination. Attempting to develop immunity via exposure to the diseases is crazy stuff – rabies had a 100% fatality rate until human rabies immune globulin was developed, but I certainly wouldn’t advocate going through the HRIG treatment (for one, the mortality rate is still high). You have a chance of surviving polio but almost no chance of not being crippled by it. You have a chance of surviving smallpox, but virtually no chance of not being badly scarred. The list goes on.

    I suggest you put some effort into learning about vaccines and how they help.

  79. 79
    madscientist

    @edvard#29:

    Ah, I forgot the link to the polio information:

    http://www.post-polio.org/ir-usa.html

  80. 80
    flippertie

    @Crissa #77

    I always thought when they meant ‘boost the immune system’ they meant things like having a healthy weight….

    I think for most people “boost the immune system” is a sort of vague positive sentiment like “Heart-healthy” or “all natural” that sounds nice and sciencey but has no real meaning.

    The majority of people I’ve spoken to seem never to have given a thought to any specific mechanism or form that the “boost” might take.

  81. 81
    vaiyt

    Yeah, polio went away because of better higiene and standards of living. And yet, in countries that had much worse standards of living (like mine), “coincidentally” polio went away when vaccination got widespread.

    Our vaccination program is one of the best around, but we have no “autism epidemic” to show for it. What we also don’t have is cases of polio, rubella and mumps, even in dirt-poor or isolated communities.

    I took the smallpox vaccine when I was a kid. When I look at the scar the shot left, I think of all the people that have died from that horrible disease, and how lucky I am to live in a world free from it.

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