Total Drek

Or, the thoughts of several frustrated intellectuals on Sociology, Gaming, Science, Politics, Science Fiction, Religion, and whatever the hell else strikes their fancy. There is absolutely no reason why you should read this blog. None. Seriously. Go hit your back button. It's up in the upper left-hand corner of your browser... it says "Back." Don't say we didn't warn you.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

A little indelicate but, then, that describes Jenny as well.

A couple of days ago the admirable NewSocProf made my black heart sing by posting something really interesting on the vaccines/autism hoopla. As y'all doubtless know, vaccines are extremely safe and are not related to autism. Not even a little bit. Nevertheless, some people continue to insist they are and, in the process, waste a lot of time, money, and, ultimately, lives.

But wait, you ask, 'lives', Drek? Isn't that a little harsh?

No. It isn't. Not only are folks who promote the vaccines --> autism nonsense placing our lives at risk directly- by facilitating the spread of preventable infectious disease- they are also indirectly leading to more problems with autism. See, every dollar used to promote an incorrect association between vaccines and autism is a dollar that could have been spent on autism research. Likewise, every dollar spent combating these blowhards is a dollar that could have been spent of preventative medicine instead. So, yes, there are essentially casualties associated with this insanity. And I'm not the only person who thinks so.

An enterprising individual or individuals have recently* established the Jenny McCarthy Body Count page, which explains itself thusly:

Jenny McCarthy is a celebrity from the United States. She is most well known for posing nude as a Playboy Playmate, for picking her nose on the MTV show Singled Out, and for being the girlfriend of actor/comedian Jim Carrey.

In 2002 she gave birth to a son named Evan. In 2006 she started promoting Evan as being a “Crystal Child” and herself as being an “Indigo Mom”.

In May 2007 Jenny McCarthy announced that Evan was not a “Crystal Child” after all, but had been diagnosed with autism (there is a possibility that he may have been misdiagnosed). She holds on to the mistaken belief that Evan’s alleged autism was caused by his receiving childhood vaccines. Most anti-vaccination believers claim that the compound thimerosal led to an increase in autism cases. The Measles/Mumps/Rubella vaccine is their usual target. However, thimerosal was never used as a preservative in the Measles/Mumps/Rubella vaccine. All vaccines licensed since 1999, with the exception of a few multidose container vaccines, have not contained thimerosal as a preservative. Autism has not declined since 1999, thereby scientifically disproving this connection. In addition, Jenny McCarthy's child, Evan, was not born until 2002, well after thimerosal had been removed from most childhood vaccines.

In June 2007 Jenny McCarthy began promoting anti-vaccination rhetoric. Because of her celebrity status she has appeared on several television shows and has published multiple books advising parents not to vaccinate their children. This has led to a dramatic increase in the number of vaccine preventable illnesses as well as an increase in the number of vaccine preventable deaths.

Jenny McCarthy has a body count attached to her name. This website will publish the total number of vaccine preventable illnesses and vaccine preventable deaths that have happened since June 2007 when she began publicly speaking out against vaccines.

Is Jenny McCarthy directly responsible for every vaccine preventable illness and every vaccine preventable death listed here? No. However, as the unofficial spokesperson for the United States anti-vaccination movement she may be indirectly responsible for at least some of these illnesses and deaths and even one vaccine preventable illness or vaccine preventable death is too many.

If you visit the site you'll see two counters: one for "Number of Preventable Cases," (currently at 720) and one for "Number of prevantable deaths" (currently at 142). And they have links to the statistics to back up their figures. And they provide a good set of resources for folks who want more information from people who have the training and experience to evaluate the safety of vaccines.**

Take a look around. It's stark, it's direct, and it's absolutely right.

* And by "recently" I really mean "recently I became aware of".

** Hint: This does not include former Playboy models. She may be a very nice person, but she's a long way from being a physician or biomedical researcher.

As a random aside: It concerns me that NewSocProf regards me as a "disciplined blogger." Seriously? Me? I just like to talk. A lot. Discipline doesn't enter into it.

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Blogger newsocprof said...

nice! i was thinking of tracking her down and throwing a shoe or something but this is much better (and does not risk research-unrelated jail time).

i'm laughing... to be fair, discipline in blog world is a little different; i meant it to generally refer to the regularity of your posting.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009 2:10:00 PM  
Anonymous sd said...

HI drek. Your rant is generally valid. However, unknown to a lot of people - some vaccices have been shown to produce miniscule peprcetage of neurological disorders. Most famously, MMR vaccines containing the Urabe Mumps strain was found to cause epileptic seizures in 0.3 % of cases. That might be the tail of the distrbution that society can ignore. But dont you dare insinuate that the prospective 0.3% don't have the right to know the risks, however miniscule, associated with vaccination.

Friday, November 20, 2009 4:32:00 PM  
Blogger Drek said...


To be blunt, I don't know where you get the idea that I would insinuate that people don't have the right to be informed about actual risks of vaccines. I have never made such an argument and will never make such an argument. I will, however, always argue that people should not be told to avoid effective medical treatment because of fake risks. The alleged link between vaccines and autism is one such fake risk, but there are others.

As long as we're on the subject, I would also argue that the real risks have to be approached with perspective and judgment. You are correct that the Urabe Mumps strain used in some MMR vaccines was associated with a very low incidence of asceptic meningitis, though I can't confirm your 0.3% figure. If you'd care to provide a citation, I'd be grateful. Regardless, said asceptic meningitis was almost always temporary and mild. Let's compare that to the fatality rate from measles, mumps and rubella. In developed nations measles has a fatality rate of 0.3% while in undeveloped countries it can be as high as 30%. Measles also has common non-lethal side effects like corneal scarring. Mumps is rarely lethal but can induce meningitis (10%), encephalitis (1%) and spontaneous abortions (27% of pregnant females during the 1st trimester). Rubella is rarely lethal but if it infects a pregnant woman can result in spontaneous abortions (20%) or a child born with congenital rubella syndrome. If we ignore all of that except for measles, and assume that we all live in developed nations, then we're balancing a 0.3% chance of death against a 0.3% chance of temporary mild meningitis. When we throw in all the other possible complications from measles, mumps and rubella, I'd say the balance shifts pretty strongly to favor vaccination. This is even more the case given than the Urabe Mumps strain you refer to hasn't been used in the U.K. since the early 1990's and, as far as I can tell, was never in use in the U.S.

Does this mean that vaccines have no risks? Of course not, all medical treatment has risks, but so does lack of treatment. And on the balance, most of the time, getting vaccinated is far safer than taking your chances. Do I think people should be forced to get vaccines? No, although to be blunt if their reasons for not vaccinating are stupid or rely on shoddy reasoning I do think that they should expect to be criticized for it. The simple reality is that vaccines have risks, but are still vastly safer and more effective than virtually all other medical treatments.

And regardless of wherever our discussion leads, Jenny McCarthy is not selling informed, reasonable concern, but unreasoning panic over discredited research.

Monday, November 23, 2009 12:34:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are an assclown of the highest calibur ...Giving Jenny McCarthy a deathcount .....your an idiot is it even remotely close to her fault if a parent decides to not get vaccines for their kids ....any death from that should be blamed on the parent ..NOT Jenny McCarthy ...Ill say it again ....YOU ARE A COMPLETE ASSCLOWN ....

Friday, October 29, 2010 11:23:00 PM  
Blogger Drek said...

Hey Anonymous:

I suppose if I'm an assclown, I'm pleased to at least achieve such a sterling level of performance at it. A few points:

-It's spelled "caliber".

-You wrote "Your", which is the possessive form of you, as in, "Your advice to vaccinate my child was helpful". What you wanted was "You're" which is a contraction of "You are", as in, "When you don't use grammar properly, you're undermining your own argument."

-I didn't create the Jenny McCarthy Deathcount page, although I suppose the argument could be made that Jenny gave herself a deathcount.

-If you want to know how it is "even remotely her fault" you should probably read my post again, this time stopping when necessary to look up the big words in a dictionary.

-"Ill" is what you'll be if you follow Jenny's advice. What you meant was, "I'll" which is a contraction of "I will", as in, "I'll stop mocking your comments now."


Saturday, October 30, 2010 12:48:00 PM  

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