Link Dump: Snappy Answers to Stupid Vaccine Questions

As a boy, I adored Mad Magazine. Not to be trusted home alone, my mother would drag me along to the local Genuardi’s supermarket where I would camp out in front of the magazine rack to read Mad cover-to-cover. Among the heights of the magazine’s peerless wit was the regular Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions piece, written by Al Jaffee, the nine year-old American’s answer to P.D. Wodehouse. Jaffee provided us with ammunition we dared not use in the company of adults, who were, unfortunately, the most likely ones to set us up with “Stupid Questions” lines.

The Wonderful Effects of the New Innoculation (thanks Wikipedia!)

At the risk of not sounding terribly polite, I’ve been researching (i.e., Googling) some of the stupidest questions being asked in our society: those of the antivax movement. Its not that it is stupid to question vaccinations, or for parents to ask sincere questions before having their children repeatedly jab. That’s common sense. No, the stupid comes in where we see antivaccine talking points repeated endlessly, unthinkingly by the antivaccine faithful. (And before you say it, “open minds” should go both ways.) You can’t help but find the same rhetoric being repeated endlessly on discussion boards, partisan websites and in interviews.

Anyway, I’m collecting some of my favorite Snappy Answers to Stupid Vaccine Questions here. While I am no expert, I’ll try to link to answers with good references. I’m also trying to avoid the vanilla PR answers you’ll get from health system websites.

Al Jaffee, by the way, is still alive, possibly in Guantanamo through either a tragic misunderstanding or an accurate Snappy Answer.

From A Photon in the Darkness comes Three Popular Anti-vaccine Myths Deconstructed. Spoilers: The myths are
1) “You claim that vaccines are 100% safe and effective!” Which technically is actually kind of a straw man of a straw man. A meta scarecrow, if you will. But only technically. As Photon explains, nobody of any real knowledge of the matter would claim that vaccines are either 100% safe or effective.
2) ”Vaccine-preventable diseases were in decline before the vaccines were introduced”
3) “The chickenpox vaccine causes shingles!”

From Losing in the Lucky Country comes a discussion on the mysterious phenomena of Vaccine Shedding, which follows in great part with myth #3 above. I’ve seen this sort of thing pop up in a number of discussion boards, where the real phenomena of viral shedding, a part of viral reproduction, has somehow been conflated with vaccines to create the myth of Vaccine Shedding.

The colloquial use of this nonsensical term seeks to convey that an individual who has been vaccinated can readily shed part of the vaccine and cause infection in the unvaccinated. Which by definition demands them to have shed not a vaccine but an infectious agent. Indeed a virus. Which by extension demands the vaccine to be a live virus vaccine. This then opens the door to viral shedding the vast complexities of vaccine induced immunity and viable modes of excretion – aka shedding. That won’t stop your garden variety anti-vaxxer claiming any vaccine can lead to infection of the unvaccinated via this ghastly “vaccine shedding”.

Its complex, and worth a read. To oversimplify, yes, live attenuated vaccines can pose a risk to immunocompromised people (and often infants and pregnant women) and a healthy child or adult cannot get sick from being near a vaccinated person.

I’ll try to keep updating this as whim takes me.

UPDATE 1: How Antivaxxers Debate

Here’s a nice primer on common antivaccine “Tropes and Tactics”, which is summarized and added-upon by Orac here for those who can’t access the article.

UPDATE 2: Brain Studies Demonstrate Autism at 6 Months

Interesting news for the antivaccine proponents who still cling to the myth that the MMR vaccine causes autism: you can detect patterns of autism in children as young as six months. Of course, MMR isn’t given to children younger than one year old, which leftbrainrightbrain blog suggests time travel may be the last refuge for the vaccine denialists. They also take a nifty look at the causation/correlation fallacy commonly necessarily employed by people who still insist vaccines cause autism.

UPDATE 3: The Amish

Apparently, one anti-vax talking point is that the Amish don’t get vaccines, therefore they don’t get autism. Double wrong. Turns out that the Amish do get vaccinated (there’s no specific religious prescription against vaccines…or modern medicine, in general) and they do get autism (but, no those two aren’t linked here, either) and here’s the study that shows it.

The Amish, as a hole, tend to see fewer cases of autism. Their rate, according to the study just mentioned, is about 1 in 270 versus 1 in 91 among the rest of the population, as whole. That, to me, says something about a genetic component to autism. Genetic studies among the Amish are very well documented, as they tend to suffer a disproportionate number of genetic diseases. Given the, you know, limited gene pool.

Puppies of a Chilly Jenkintown

Julia received a pair of sparkly, rhinestone-bedazzled shoes for Christmas and, for some reason, was dying to go out last night to see how they sparkled at night. They don’t light up on their own, sadly, so I used the opportunity to bring out my own shiny toy, a green laser that I had purchased off of some Woot-like service for $3 a few months back.

Panda poses with poise

With the full moon, it was tough to point out Orion’s belt and Betelgeuse (“hey honey, its going to blow up some day””No“”Yes””Really?””Uh-huh””Cool“), but we managed. The laser also gave off a cool green disco effect on her shoes.

On a whim, I carried with me Julia’s digital camera, which was left on the hutch for some infraction and forgotten about months ago.

Then we decided to do something we haven’t done in nearly two years, when nightly walks were far more common, continue cataloging the puppies of Jenkintown. We meandered up to the town square, looked through the toy shop windows and talked about how the new owner of the bakery next door is much nicer (the old one wouldn’t let her use the bathroom once). I forgot how much I missed this stuff. We got out of the habit when Benny became of walking age. He’s less of a stroller than Julia.

When we found our only victim of the night, Julia and I both felt out of practice. She got nervous in asking the owner for permission, and then forgot how to use the flash setting. For my part, I forgot where the review button was as well as my notebook for recording the deets on the dog, Panda. In any case, I felt bad about holding the dog’s owner in the cold to indulge my kid, so I wasn’t going to quiz him.

Merry and bright

Panda, like most dogs around here, it seems, is a mixed breed adopted from a rescue. She had a beagle meets bull terrier vibe and was very sweet. Julia, of course, reminded me that we need a dog. I, of course, reminded her that we can’t rely on her to pick up her toys, how would she manage with a puppy? She just would, is all.

On the way back we stopped off to take some shots of the neighborhood lights. They came out blurry, but Julia liked the effect.

One of those solar-powered LED ornaments. Maybe a hummingbird, which would explain the blur.

She’s thinking of taking pictures of all the stuff in people’s yards. Pink flamingos and decorations and the like.

We’ll call it the Gnomenclature of Jenkintown, I thought, but I didn’t dare tell her. We had done enough for the evening, and I didn’t like the idea of poorly explaining one more thing that night.

We gonna light it up like its Dicynodont

I tweeted a picture of this bug-eyed beastie this morning, hoping someone could identify it.

We shall name him Toby.

I rescued young Toby from its hellish spinning prison at Giggleberry Farms because it interested me so. Yes, I am the master of the dino-teeth claw game…and apparently the master of spending 50 cents to win 4 cents of prehistorical-themed plastic. I have a general familiarity with dinosaurs, but this guy was new to me. Turns out, that might be because he’s not a dinosaur.

Cartographer extraordinaire and apparent dino afficionado Jim Miller, suggested he is a dicynodont, a type of tusked herbivore that nibbled its way across the Earth back in the mid-Permian era some 280 million years ago. It is, for all purposes, part of proton-mammallian line of reptiles as the more camera-friendly dimetrodon. I look forward to reading more about them. According to the Telegraph, they were very successful and can be found most anywhere on the planet. Good on them.

Also glad to know that whatever factory in Asia churns out plastic dino toys has been looking to represent therapsids. Good on them.

Quick link dump: Med History, GMO Fearmongering at the Atlantic and SciFi (literary and realized)

OK, a few things that have caught my interest today that I’ll post here for whatever limited sense of posterity it can offer.

Today at the Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas, Pete Diamandis announced an X-Prize for a tricorder-like device. The X-Prize Foundation is one of those organizations that make me proud of humanity.

Emily Willingham deftly dissects an awful attempt by a writer for The Atlantic at turning a cool scientific discovery into a “Frankenfoods” fear fest. Emily sums up the science in question — findings on how little bits of rice RNA can have an affect on our genes — in these passages :

A study from a Chinese group led by Chen-Yu Zhang of Nanking University and published in Cell Research, has uncovered the fascinating result that when people eat rice, they can absorb microRNAs (miRNAs)–tiny sequences of RNA–from the rice into the blood. These rice-originating miRNAs turn up in blood and tissues of people who eat rice and…here’s the kicker…one type of rice miRNA interacts with human proteins that are responsible for removing LDL (“bad” cholesterol) from the blood (!). It’s the first report of plant miRNAs ending up in people by way of diet and the finding that at least one of them alters an important process in the body.

{A bunch of cool stuff you should read cut out.}

Researchers have discovered myriad ways that miRNA influences human development and disease, and these discoveries open the way to using that information to cure disease. But all of the miRNAs investigated thus far in people have come from people themselves, either present for normal functions or overabundant and linked to disease. The flashy take-home from this latest rice study is, We can pick up these tiny regulators from what we eat…and they can interfere with the functions of proteins we make.

She then goes into The Atlantic author’s illogical leap attempt to turn into a cautionary tale of genetically-modified food. I understand (via her Twitter handle) that she’s updating the piece. I look forward to following the tale.

Oh, where were we? History, yes! NEJM is 200 years old and they’re celebrating with a cool site and timeline.

Science Fiction magazines (like all genre literary magazines) are suffering what are probably unsustainable drops in readership, which makes it curious to see that MIT’s consumer-friendly Technology Review has just announced its own Skiffypub: TRSF. I know you can find Analog and Asimov’s in “e” versions, but I’m shocked neither has an Android or IOS app. Its not like they cater to savvy geeks or anything.

My new Nano

I was gifted my first-ever non-refurbished iPod this Christmas, a shiny new Nano courtesy of my wife. She heard me grumbling how I screwed up the headphone jackhole (what? what else am I going to call it?) and she jumped at the chance for a Christmas layup. I’ve taken to wearing it on a Belkin wristband underneath my shirt cuff and next to my beloved $8 Casio F-28w. (I like to snake my headphones down my sleeve and out of the way, which is similar to what I’d do with my old iPod. It keeps me from accidentally pulling the buds out of my ears while I’m doing things.) The Casio is the present she bought me last year and has become, perhaps, my favorite watch ever. Why? It just works, and still retains the same face it did when Casio began making digital watches in the 80s. I only take it off when I sleep or shower (and even then, I probably don’t need to).

The new Nano in Action. Also, new facial hair. Old watch.

That’s one of my complaints about the new Nano (not that I don’t like it, I do). It doesn’t work as a watch, despite the umpteen stylish watch faces that come pre-loaded. Why? Because you are required to push the damn button and wait two tenths of a second before being able to see the time (and then only if you have remembered to set the clock to appear). Sorry, I need only glance at the Casio.

Second, they removed the admittedly infrequently-used video capability of the Nano seen in the previous two generations. It can’t be a lack of processing power or memory. It must because they decided they want a square form factor and that, if folks wanted video, they’d buy an iPod Touch. Fui.

Third, I for some reason, I can’t sync my calendar to the Nano, which is a pity considering how they’re pushing all this iCloud nonsense stuff.

I am grateful for the lack of gaming options, as I’ve learned that I get easily addicted to games like solitaire, which offer no conceivable end. (Must…get…to…$50,000…must…win…three…hands…in…a…row)

The radio is also a nice feature and works really well.

Since I’m one of the few people on the planet who do not have an iPhone or an Android, I do wonder if the Nano would make for a good mini-iPhone. I know Apple has dismissed such rumors in the past, but I’d totally dig a wristphone. I already like to keep it on my wrist all the time, and I wouldn’t mind a phone that didn’t do EVERYTHING. My current phone, while it gleefully NOT capable of doing everything, is just awful. Its theoretically capable of going online, through some arcane plan my wife pretends to enjoy, but it takes tens of minutes for it to get data. It theoretically has a camera, but can’t take pictures worth a damn (and even then, you can’t share them). Its theoretically a touch screen device, but it only responds when you don’t want it to, such as when it is in your pocket.The screen is locked, but I’m constantly draining my batteries by making the thing light up. Worse, if I have it set on vibrate, it will buzz a bit with every jostle, trying to fool me into thinking that someone is calling me. My Nano, however, needs to be purposefully woken, which is very nice. So, Apple, do it. I want a cool iPod wristphone that simply lets me take/make calls and listen to my iPod without a huge and unnecessary data plan.

Why I don’t go in the water: Yeti Crabs

Here’s a great article on recent animal discoveries in the Antarctic Ocean.

Here’s a great reason why I won’t be sleeping well tonight: Yeti crabs. They look like giant, slightly fuzzy, ticks.

Yeti Crabs

The little octopus is just adorable, though, in an entirely Cthulhuesque way.

Also, why I read they’re good about linking to published sources. Handy! Considerate!