The Poxes Blog: Anti-vaccine activists donate $4,000 to Florida congressman

Reuben at The Poxes Blog notes that significant amounts of money have been donated by anti-vaccination activists to Representative Bill Posey (R-FL 8th District). The movement has long been known to donate significant amounts of money to representatives.

Rep. Posey has recently been sympathetic to anti-vaccination voices. Last month he ordered an investigation into the disproven claims of the so-called “CDC Whistleblower.” Last year, Posey introduced the Vaccine Safety Study Act (H.R. 1757) which would mandate an (unethical) study be conducted comparing vaccinated and unvaccinated populations for rates of autism, a long-held demand of the anti-vaccine movement.

Worryingly, Rep. Posey also sits on the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, including the Subcommittee on Oversight. In recent years the committee and its members have  held hearings and arranged briefings entertaining anti-vaccine voices and conspiracy theories.

Jennifer Larson, who sits on the board of the “Autism Recovery Foundation” and is a big anti-vaccine activist who seemingly loves to defend Andrew Jeremy Wakefieldgave $1,000 to Bill Posey. I could be wrong, but Ms. Larson doesn’t live in Florida’s 8th. So you do the math on why she’s giving him what to a family with a special needs child would be a windfall.

Mark Blaxill, who is not a scientist and not a journalist, also donated $1,000 to Representative Bill Posey. Why if not to win favor with Representative Bill Posey?

J. B. Handley also gave $1,000. Mr. Handley is a very wealthy man who seems to be convinced that vaccines and nothing but vaccines caused autism in his child. He is so convinced that he is happy to see public health in the United States on the decline.

And then there is Barry Segal, who also gave $1,000. He sits on the board of Focus Autism, the organization which funded the hilariously inept “study” (more like back-of-the-napkin miscalculations of numbers) by BS Hooker, who also sits on that board.

Head to The Poxes Blog for the full story.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Medical examiner Says Girl’s death not caused by HPV vaccination

A Milwaukee medical examiner has found that an antihistamine overdose, not a reaction to the HPV vaccine, caused the tragic death of a 12 year old girl there last June.

The girl’s mother, Rebecca Prohaska, told the news media in early August that she believed her daughter may have had an allergic reaction to the human papillomavirus vaccine, also known as HPV, about six hours after the vaccine was administered in a doctor’s office.

The mother’s speculation was reported by several television stations and the Journal Sentinel, and was picked up by opponents of childhood vaccinations across the country as inaccurate evidence that the vaccine can kill.

The HPV vaccine, given in three doses starting at age 11 or 12, is the only vaccine currently available to prevent any type of cancer. HPV vaccination is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine.

ThinkProgress: Inside The Sleazy Business Of Cashing In On Americans’ Ebola Fears

ThinkProgress examines the commercial response to the ebola outbreak, and finds not just profiteering, but rank pseudoscience:

While a government-approved Ebola vaccine hasn’t been released as of yet, some pharmaceutical companies say that approved drugs could enter the market in the beginning of 2015. However, that hasn’t stopped companies from selling products they claim will cure or treat the disease.

In August, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued warnings to three companies selling Ebola medications after consumers complained about the misleading claims that the manufacturers made, some of which included assertions like “viruses, including Ebola, are no match for our products” and “the Ebola virus cannot live in the presence of cinnamon bark.”

“This is an area where there’s little regulatory oversight unless the manufacturers suggest — which they don’t — that their merchandise has been reviewed by the government,” Dr. William A. Carter, Chairman & CEO of Hemispherx Biopharma, told ThinkProgress. Carter said that these companies have profited because Americans often let fear take precedence over logic, especially in cases of the unknown.

Canada: New poll shows 84% support legalized assisted dying

A new poll of 2500 Canadian citizens—the largest poll to date—shows resounding support for assisted dying in the country. Conducted by Canadian nonprofit Dying With Dignity, the poll found 84% of Canadians in favor of legalizing doctor-assisted dying.

As is often the case on the topic of assisted dying, the influence of religious belief and practice provided for some significant differences among respondents:

• The largest divergence in support was by degree of church attendance. Those who attend church most frequently are least likely to support assisted dying. While even those who attend church once a week or more are still in support overall, the size of that majority (58%) is smaller than for those who go less frequently (86%) or never (92%).


Those who never attend a church were most in support of legalizing assisted dying, with 92% supporting it. Overall though, even the Christian majority in Canada are strongly in support of assisted dying:

• There were high levels of support from both the religious and non-religious. In total 80% of all Christians support assisted dying, including 83% of Catholics support assisted dying. (Sample sizes for other religious affiliations, though reflective of the Canadian population, were too small to draw conclusions.)

Interestingly, church attendance also changes how respondents perceive support for assisted dying across Canadian society:

• Those who attend church more than once a week are much more likely to think most Canadians oppose assisted dying (35%) than those who never do (16%).

An executive summary of the poll is available here. The full poll results can be examined here.

Death-With-Dignity Movement Springs Back to Life in California

Emboldened by favorable poll numbers, the nonprofit Compassion & Choices has begun efforts to legalize assisted dying in California. The Los Angeles Times reports:

It’s not going to be easy to pull this off, proponents concede, and the process could take years. In the past, statewide attempts have been shot down by heavily financed religious groups — primarily the Catholic Church — and some physicians. But advocates are encouraged by a recent poll of 500 likely voters, conducted for Compassion & Choices, that asked this question:

“The Death with Dignity Act would give a terminally ill person, who is mentally competent, the right to request and receive a prescription for life-ending medication from a physician. If the election were held today, would you vote to favor or to oppose this ballot measure?”

Nearly two-thirds of those polled said they were in favor, including 53% of Republicans.

“I think our polls indicate the state is ready,” said Rev. Ignacio Castuera, a United Methodist minister in Pomona. Castuera said he thinks the gathering storm of baby boomers who grew up in “the age of Aquarius” are likely to want the freedom to make such personal choices when they near the end.

Ohio Court Rejects 1st Amendment Objections To Required Alcoholics Anonymous Attendance

Even though AA and other 12 step programs require belief in a higher—and often Christian power—an Ohio court has rejected a man’s challenge to his sentence that required attendance at AA. At the venerable Religion Clause, Howard Friedman notes:

In rejecting the claim, the court noted that Miller only raised the religious claims belatedly.  The court added that, more importantly:

“the record is devoid of any evidence showing that appellant ever attended an AA meeting whose primary purpose was to advance religious beliefs rather than to promote sobriety and recovery from addiction and substance abuse.”


State Farm Drops Ads Starring Anti-Vaccine Comedian Rob Schneider

After a torrent of online criticism from pro-science activists, State Farm has dropped a series of ads featuring noted anti-vaccine proponent Rob Schneider. PR Week reports:

State Farm has pulled an ad featuring anti-vaccine activist Rob Schneider after a social media campaign urged the insurance company to end its affiliation with the actor.

Social media pages Food HunkScience Babe, and Chow Babe, all of which refute pseudoscience claims, started the anti-Schneider campaign last week, questioning how a company that sells insurance could hire a celebrity spokesman so openly against vaccinations.

The activists have encouraged consumers with State Farm policies to get involved by contacting their agents and telling them that “someone who publicly states dangerous opinions should not be a spokesperson for a health insurance company.”

Schneider has long supported the anti-vaccine cause, including fighting against California bill AB 2109, which made obtaining a vaccine exemption more difficult—by requiring consultation with an actual medical professional. He has also lent his voice to the Canary Party, an anti-vaccine organization whose stunningly misinformed propaganda video, narrated by Schneider, was screened at a legislative briefing on Capitol Hill last year.

Paul Offit on the Anti-Vaccine Epidemic

Pediatrician Paul A. Offit, winner of the CFI/CSI 2013 Balles Award in Critical Thinking, took to the Wall Street Journal today to warn of the current anti-vaccination epidemic and surging diseases that have resulted:

We simply don’t fear these diseases anymore. My parents’ generation—children of the 1920s and 1930s—needed no convincing to vaccinate their children. They saw that whooping cough could kill as many as 8,000 babies a year. You didn’t have to convince my generation—children of the 1950s and 1960s—to vaccinate our children. We had many of these diseases, like measles, mumps, rubella and chickenpox. But young parents today don’t see the effects of vaccine-preventable diseases and they didn’t grow up with them. For them, vaccination has become an act of faith.

Perhaps most upsetting was a recent study out of Seattle Children’s Hospital and the University of Washington. Researchers wanted to see whether the whooping cough epidemic of 2012 had inspired more people to vaccinate their children. So they studied rates of whooping cough immunization before, during and after the epidemic. No difference. One can only conclude that the outbreak hadn’t been large enough or frightening enough to change behavior—that not enough children had died.

Because we’re unwilling to learn from history, we are starting to relive it. And children are the victims of our ignorance.


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