Farewell lilady, and some good news to soften the bad

A few weeks ago, I learnt something very sad.
Lilady, a regular commenter around the internet and a ferocious opponent of quackery and antivaccine drivel, passed away a few months ago.
From the various in memoria to her, I learnt that her real name was Connie, that she had worked in public health, that she was a registered nurse, that she had lived in Long Island (hence lilady) and that she was responsible for two disabled individuals, one her biological son. I only knew her through her comments on Respectful Insolence and other sites around the ‘Net.
What I remember best about her was her sheer pugnacity. She was knowledgeable, and as ferocious as an irate pitbull terrier. Even though she was from the US, on at least one occasion, I saw comments from her on the IOL website. She was taking on misinformation spouting South African antivaxxers. Whenever an antivaccine liar dropped a load of idiocy on the interwebs, lilady would be there, swooping in for a waterbombing run over the burning stupid.
I wonder what she would think had she known that the antivaccine movement has recently suffered various setbacks. In the US, the state of Vermont has revoked philosophical exemptions for vaccination while in California, SB277, a bill which is also intended to reduce exemptions has endured several attempts to stop it and will likely be passed into law. Best of all, Louis Daniel Smith has been convicted for selling Miracle Mineral solution.
I have written about MMS before. It’s sodium chlorite combined with citric acid to create chlorine dioxide, and administered to autistic children either orally or as an enema. The correct terms for that are “child abuse” and “child endangerment”. To get around restrictions, the sodium chlorite was sold “for its proper uses” but with instructions on how to create chlorine dioxide. Smith was charged with conspiracy, smuggling, and selling misbranded drugs, amongst other things. He faces a maximum of 34 years in prison. As a result, other purveyors of MMS have suddenly disappeared of the radar. One such is Kerri Rivera, who spoke at the Autism One quackfest.
If this stops MMS, it will be the best memorial lilady could have asked for.

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Fortnight from hell

Work has been bad the past two weeks.

I’m a member of a test team that’s working with test teams in other countries to test a new HR system for a multinational company. The system is being rolled out to our client’s offices around the world. The project has been broken down into various releases. In each release, the system is deployed to several countries. Once everything is up and running in those countries, they move on to the next release.

What grates is that the client doesn’t seem to have learnt from mistakes made on the last few releases. In previous releases, the test teams had problems from performance issues; bad or incomplete requirements; documentation not getting through to them on time or at all; and bad or corrupt test data. In the release we’re currently working on, all of those issues have occurred.

It’s annoying. One of the things I have been taught in testing is that if there’s a problem, not only should it be fixed, it should be investigated to find out if there’s an underlying cause. Otherwise, the problem will just recur and have to be fixed again. Clearly, this wasn’t done. Testing has consequently been held up, with invalid defects being logged and then rejected.

And yet, all this seems trivial. On Monday the 11th May, we came into the office only to learn that over the weekend one of the South African test team had been killed along with his mother in a road traffic accident. He leaves behind a daughter who is in preschool.

RIP Mpho.

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Mind Blown

Totally and completely blown.
Many years ago, epidemiologists discovered something strange. A few years after vaccination against measles, deaths from other childhood diseases would plummet. This was consistent across countries. A few years after measles vaccine was introduced in a country, that country would see a fall in deaths from other diseases. And now, a study proposes a very interesting explanation.

Many viruses suppress the immune system for several weeks after an infection. That’s why secondary and opportunistic infections occur. But measles seems to wipe out immune memory.

Once you get infected with a disease, your immune system uses the disease’s antigens to devise a response. Some of your white blood cells become “memory cells”, which will recognise the disease immediately if you are ever reinfected. This is the principle behind both vaccination and natural immunity. But measles appears to disable these memory cells. So if you had a bout of, say, rotavirus, or were immunised against it, but you then developed the measles, you would then be at risk for rotavirus in the future.
Antivaxxers say natural immunity is better. It’s not, and this is one more reason why.

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From bad to even worse for anti-vaxxers

It’s been another horrible week for antivaxxers.
A study, Autism Occurrence by MMR Vaccine Status Among US Children With Older Siblings With and Without Autism, was published. The researchers used data in the Optum Research Database. This database contains anonymised data of claims from Medicare and private health insurers. Their rationale was:

Families with a child affected by ASD may be particularly concerned about reports linking MMR and ASD, despite the lack of evidence. Surveys of parents who have children with ASD suggest that many believe the MMR vaccine was a contributing cause. This belief, combined with knowing that younger siblings of children with ASD are already at higher genetic risk for ASD compared with the general population, might prompt these parents to avoid vaccinating their younger children…
Thus, we set out to report on ASD occurrence by MMR vaccine status in a large sample of US children having older siblings with ASD and to compare findings with those among children who have older siblings without ASD.

Their conclusion?

MMR vaccine receipt was not associated with an increased risk of ASD at any age.

In California, Senate Bill 277, intended to remove philosophical exemptions from vaccination, passed out of committee and will now go before the State Senate to be voted on. More here. It looks like with that Measles outbreak at Disneyland, people have now started realising that non-vaccinators are eroding herd immunity and wanting action taken.
And Vermont is doing the same.

The Vermont Senate has voted to end the philosophical exemption some parents use to decline to have their children vaccinated. The Legislation would require the full range of required vaccinations as a pre-condition to enrolling in school.

Full article here.

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Australia pisses off antivaxxers

It’s official. Australia has decided that people who don’t vaccinate will not be eligible to claim certain rebates.


The religious exemption has also been tightened. From now on, only Christian Scientists will be eligible for the religious exemption.

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With Autism Speaks, the bad outweighs the good

Yesterday, I did not “light it up blue” for autism awareness. Instead, I intend to “Tone it down Taupe” and “Walk in Red”.
This may come as a surprise to some, but I had my reasons. The problem is, the slogan has been captured by Autism Speaks, an organisation that, despite its name, does not speak for autistics. Instead, it ignores, undermines and degrades us with its actions.
The biggest problem with Autism Speaks is its consistent use of the “Autism is a tragedy” narrative, to the point that John Elder Robison resigned from the Autism Speaks Board. Autism Speaks refuses to listen to those autistics who say that we have #ALifeWorthLiving
A second problem is that only a fraction of the money donated to Autism Speaks is used to help autistics and their families.
A third problem is that Autism Speaks initially bought into the MMR Autism causation hypothesis, and still refuses to distance itself from its earlier position. At the start of 2009, Alison Tepper Singer was the Vice President for PR and Strategy at Autism Speaks when the first three cases in the Omnibus Autism proceedings were judged. When the verdicts went against the families, Singer took a much closer look at the evidence and realised just how poor it was. But when she tried to get Autism Speaks to change its approach, she failed. She then left Autism Speaks and set up the Autism Science Foundation.
Recently Rob Ring, Autism Speaks’ Chief Science Officer, put out a statement unequivocally denying the vaccine autism link. But then Bob Wright, cofounder of Autism Speaks, commented.

Over the last two decades extensive research has asked whether there is any link between childhood vaccines and autism. Scientific research has not directly connected autism to vaccines. Vaccines are very important. Parents must make the decision whether to vaccinate their children. Efforts must be continually made to educate parents about vaccine safety. If parents decide not to vaccinate they must be aware of the consequences in their community and their local schools.

The comment is ambiguous and equivocal. Wright should have confirmed that autism and vaccines aren’t linked. Instead, he suggests there may still be something to it.

With Autism Speaks, the bad it does far outweighs the good.

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More deaths from “harmless childhood” diseases

Another baby has fallen victim to whooping cough.
Riley Hughes wasn’t even five weeks old. He wasn’t the only one. According to the article linked above.

There have been three whooping cough deaths in babies in NSW since 2009, including a six month old unvaccinated twin who died last September in regional NSW.

Revoltingly, the anti-vaxxers have begun their attack, just as they did when David and Toni McCaffrey lost their baby daughter Dana. The McCaffreys have sent the Hugheses condolences.
In Germany, an 18 month old unvaccinated child died from measles. The result has been calls for mandatory vaccination. I am very surprised that mandatory vaccination doesn’t already exist in Germany.
Please vaccinate and get your boosters.

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