Really great website on how herd immunity works and DATA on Vaccines

This is taken from NOVA and PBS regarding how herd immunity works to protect. This is a great article discussing vaccines and vaccination.

But most importantly is the accumulated evidence compiled by the American Academy of Pediatrics. This lists study after study of evidence based research that concludes that autism is not caused by vaccines.

Lastly, I want to discuss, Andrew Wakefield, the former doctor (he had his license revoked) who described the so-called link to vaccines:

  • His published study has never been able to be reproduced by scientists who tried to verify his findings.
  • All of his fellow authors on the papers have removed their names from the paper, and the paper was retracted from the Lancet, and cited as having information that was deliberately falsified.
  • It was proven that the children in his study (a total of 12 children), and none of them actually had inflammatory bowl disease.
  • Wakefield had established a:

 venture “was to be launched off the back of the vaccine scare, diagnosing a purported — and still unsubstantiated — ‘new syndrome,'” BMJ reported Tuesday. A prospectus for potential investors suggested that a test for the disorder Wakefield dubbed “autistic enterocolitis” could produce as much as 28 million pounds ($43 million U.S.) in revenue, the journal reported, with “litigation driven testing” of patients in the United States and Britain its initial market.

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For the people who believe that Measles is not dangerous…

I present the heartbreaking data coming in from Bangladesh. There has been an extensive outbreak in a remote village, where 88 children were infected with measles. Of those, 53 required hospitalization and nine children have died. The outbreak started just a week ago.

For the doubters: yes, death is much higher in underdeveloped countries. This is thought to be primarily due to malnutrition. Also, death would have probably been prevented if proper hospitalization had occurred earlier. But regardless, measles is not a “this will strengthen my child’s immune system” infection. It is a “this could kill my child” infection. Hospitalization is routine even in developed countries, where pneumonia and encephalitis are sequelae to the infection.

None of the children in the village were vaccinated. Actually, no one in the village was vaccinated due to oversight on the part of the government.  The local council is stating that no more infections will  happen, because they are “starting an immunization program now”. But measles is one of the most infectious viruses known. Infectious virus can remain hanging in the air as particles (called droplet nuclei) for hours. There are 85 families in this village and anyone who has NOT been vaccinated will probably be dealing with this infection. Without vaccine, there is no treatment but supportive care to stop a measles infection. Antibiotics will not help. There is no antiviral drugs to help. There is nothing to do but watch your child go through the pain and the agony of a preventable (possibly lethal) infection.

These horrific outcomes do not have to happen. Vaccinate your children now.

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Dirt is good- New book detailing why you should NOT be worried about microbes

Great article from NPR on new book by Jack Gilbert, a microbiologist from the University of Chicago. Click here to read article.

In short, don’t worry about being so clean. The hygiene hypothesis-being too clean inhibits your immune system’s ability to see and recognize small threats. Dealing with small threats trains your immune system so that you are better prepared when large threats happen!

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Thank you John Oliver

I have lectured on this for the last decade, but thank you for John Oliver for summing up and explaining why vaccines are safe will save lives and what herd immunity is.

Please watch John Oliver’s Vaccine summary on YouTube

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HSV-1 infection causing genital infection/Congenital Disease of the Newborn

In the New York Orthodox Jewish communities, circumcision ritual involves removal of the foreskin, then the removal of the blood that accumulates there by the mohel (the performer of the ritual). They do this by sucking the blood from the wound by mouth.

This has led to the infection of four newborn boys with HSV-1, and then possibly causing Congenital Disease of the Newborn. Congenital Disease of the Newborn can lead to mental defects, blindness, deafness and even death. HSV-1 can infect the genitalia as well as the oral mucosa to cause this disease.

The biggest worry is that the Jewish community is protecting the identity of the mohels who performed the procedure. People who are not aware that HSV-1 can cause such a devastating  disease/sequale may be putting their newborn sons at risk for this infection.

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Yellow Fever and the power of vaccination

Yesterday in class we discussed Yellow Fever and its signs and symptoms. Fever,  jaundice black vomit,and death. Today in my inbox there was a notification of an outbreak of Yellow Fever in South America. From December of 2016 until March of this year, there were over 1000 cases of Yellow fever with a 33% fatality rate for confirmed cases.

We also discussed the problem that is are NO antiviral medications that exist for helping someone once they start signs and symptoms of Yellow Fever.  There is nothing that will help stop the virus, nothing but supportive care.

But there IS a vaccine that is good, that will PREVENT infection. In the report, they stressed that vaccination is the most important preventative measure. Quoted from the article:

  • Preventive vaccination can be carried out through systematic immunization in childhood or through unique mass campaigns to increase vaccination coverage in risk areas and also through vaccination of those traveling to at-risk areas.
  • The yellow fever vaccine is safe and affordable and provides effective immunity against the disease in the range of 80 to 100 percent of those vaccinated after 10 days and 99 percent immunity after 30 days.
  • A single dose is sufficient to confer immunity and protection for life, without the need for booster doses. Severe side effects are extremely rare.

This just once again shows the power of vaccination and the ability to prevent life threatening disease.

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It has begun….

China has just modified three normal  human embryos using the CRISPR gene system.

GATTACA may soon be a documentary…..

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The WHO has posted a “Most Wanted” list for the microbial world

Antibiotic resistance continues to march on….

We have known that we are losing the ability to stop bacterial infections for a while now.  Back in 2013, the CDC posted their list of the most dangerous antibiotic resistant bacteria  in an effort to alert the world to the presence of these emerging and dangerous organisms. They arranged these organisms  in terms of hazardous threat levels: Urgent/Serious/Concerning organisms.

It appears that not much has been done towards stopping the continued progression of these organisms (now known as superbugs) in their march towards taking over the world. One such superbug was responsible for the death of a woman in Nevada. The bacteria that caused her death were resistant to 26 antibiotics. Every antibiotic in our arsenal.

Towards this end, the World Health Organization (WHO) has just published their list of the organisms that “pose the greatest risk to human health”. But the World Health Organization is not just trying to educate people as to the  risk of these organisms, but their “Most Wanted” list is to try to get world-wide big pharma to start investing more heavily in R&D to help stop the impending catastrophe these organisms pose for human health.

The WHO posted their list in terms of the need for antibiotics for three groups of organisms (from their website):

Priority 1: CRITICAL

  1. Acinetobacter baumannii, carbapenem-resistant
  2. Pseudomonas aeruginosa, carbapenem-resistant
  3. Enterobacteriaceae, carbapenem-resistant, ESBL-producing (See below!)

Priority 2: HIGH

  1. Enterococcus faecium, vancomycin-resistant
  2. Staphylococcus aureus, methicillin-resistant, vancomycin-intermediate and resistant
  3. Helicobacter pylori, clarithromycin-resistant
  4. Campylobacter, fluoroquinolone-resistant
  5. Salmonellae, fluoroquinolone-resistant
  6. Neisseria gonorrhoeae, cephalosporin-resistant, fluoroquinolone-resistant

Priority 3: MEDIUM

  1. Streptococcus pneumoniae, penicillin-non-susceptible
  2. Haemophilus influenzae, ampicillin-resistant
  3. Shigella, fluoroquinolone-resistant


One of the scariest things that is not discussed in general is that #3 on the list (Enterobacteriaceae, carbapenem-resistant, ESBL-producing)  isn’t one organism, but an entire FAMILY of organisms. This family includes such pathogenic bacteria as Shigella, Salmonella, and Yersina pestis. This family of organsims gained their antibiotic resistance through a plasmid that can be transmitted to any non-resistant organisms due to the ability to be spread by conjugation.  So, technically, any pathogenic organism in the presence of one of the “superbugs” could become superbugs in themselves.

We are truly in a world where the “most dangerous are becoming more


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The cost of heath care for vaccine preventable diseases

A recent study stated that total cost to the U.S. health care system for vaccine treatable diseases was estimated to be almost 9 billion dollars,  just for 2015 alone. The study also estimated that over 7 billion dollars of that cost was due to people who didn’t get vaccinated, or almost 80% of that total. 80%….

Let’s first of all understand the who, what, and why  of this study.

The who: the study comes from a very reputable source, the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy. Since I (and others) believe that this is the best pharmacy school in the nations, I trust their findings. However, I also want to point out that the WHY of this study was that it was funded by Merck, a company who has a finger in the jar, so to speak, of  vaccine revenues. It is Merck’s interest to try to get more people to be vaccinated.

And finally the what of this study: estimating the cost of health care (care, medication and lost productivity) for the unvaccinated. The term vaccine preventable diseases is fairly self explanatory. However, let’s break down the findings farther. The study indicates influenza was responsible for the biggest chunk of the overal expense for vaccine preventable diseases, with about 5.2 billion going to treating patients who have come down with the flu. But let’s investigate the vaccine used to prevent flu. From the CDC:

The updated VE estimate against influenza A H3N2 viruses was 18% (95% confidence interval (CI): 6%-29%).This result is similar to the VE point estimate of 23%, which was reported in a January 16 and confirms reduced protection against H3N2 viruses this season. The VE estimate against influenza B viruses this season was 45% (95% CI: 14% – 65%).

A 45% effectiveness rate is considered good, but 18-23% effectiveness is not. Therefore the cost of treating the flu last year, was not only due to people who were not vaccinated, but also that the vaccine itself was not as capable of preventing infection.

The lack of effectiveness of the flu vaccine wasn’t necessarily due to a bad vaccine, but that but that circulating flu virus had mutated antigenically.  The CDC tested the viruses causing disease and determined that anywhere from 65 to 85% of  all H3N2 viruses tested had drifted antigenically from the vaccine strain used.

And finally, the study did not deduct the cost of the vaccines in the amount of money they estimated. One report indicated that the cost of vaccinating everyone for the flu (with the cheapest vaccine of $14) would have cost roughly 3.57 billion. The cost of Merck’s Gardasil vaccine?  $120 for each shot. So should factoring the cost of the vaccines have been included in the overall monetary numbers indicated?


But lastly in Merck’s defense, it has just been published that the Gardasil vaccine is so effect, they are reducing the number of doses needed from three to two (with a final cost of $240 for the two dose series), but also that the vaccine has been amazing good at prevention of actual disease of genital warts but more importantly, human cervical cancer.

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New life forms discovered on earth!

These are not aliens, but a newly recognized type of bacteria found in the deepest regions of earth.

In class, we divide bacteria into categories depending on their growth and energy requirements.  One such division depends on where the bacteria derive their energy. Some bacteria obtain energy from sunlight, and are known as phototrophs (photo: light, troph: obtaining nutrition/energy). Bacteria that utilize organic materials are known as chemotrophs. And we thought that was it…until a recent discovery  found bacteria that derive their energy from the radioactivity produced from uranium!

The name of the organism is Desulforudis audaxviator, and it was found in a gold mine. The bacteria harvest molecules that have been energized by being split by radioactivity.  The bacteria take in the energized molecules, extract the energy and eject the spent molecule back out. So, would this then make this organism a radiotroph?

The scientists in this article are also hypothesizing that life like this could grow on planets without much of an atmosphere where these bacteria could grow on galactic cosmic rays (GCRs). They used Mars as a possible place for these organisms to exist. Some people are calling these alien organisms, but I like to think of them as an example of just how amazing life on earth can get.

Maybe our next search should be for silicon based life forms that grow on radiation? At this point, I think anything is possible!


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