Wednesday, 17 January 2018

24hrs on an Anti-Vaccine Facebook page

NSB recently spent 24hrs on an anti-vaccine website and learnt something:

i) Parents (overwhelmingly mothers) who visit these anti-vaxx facebook pages do not really stand a chance. The fear, uncertainty and doubt that is sown in parents minds by these sites is relentless.

ii) It is MUCH harder for parents to find the authoritiative data on vaccince effects than it is to find the anti-vaccine memes, websites and Facebook pages. Google is actively presenting fake and misleading data over accurate and authoritative data.

iii) Authoritative health sources are simply failing to provide counter information to that on anti-vaccine sites.

All of the posts below are from one single anti-vaccine Facebook page (and it's public sister page) and they are not the result of scrolling through the pages timeline, they are simply what was posted over a 24hr period.

Worried parent, "new to everything" gets told the vaccines scheduled for her child had "a lot of aluminium"; that vaccinated kids are MORE likely to get whooping cough; and "PLEASE Don't do this.

In fact, a six month old baby gets more Aluminium from breast milk than from vaccines(link)
The Whooping cough stats are being willfully (or very ignorantly) misrepresented (more on this later)

Sadly, parent listens and cancels vaccination.

Worried parent asks for positives and negatives re vaccination. Gets told "Vaccinations do not work. They do not work at all"
In fact, vaccines clearly and very significantly reduce disease incidence.(link)

Worried mum to be asks for advice regarding HPV. Gets told that "lemon balm" gets rid of HPV.
In fact, so far as NSB can tell, there is no evidence that lemon balm eliminates HPV.

Poster treated unvaccinated childs whooping cough (pertussis)with "oatmeal baths, homeopathic remedies and herbs". Note also a repeat reference to the vaccine causing an increase in likelihood to get. We will come to this later.

In fact, whooping cough is horrific. The coughing, which lasts several weeks, is so severe the child's ribs can be broken.Tens of thousands of children die from whooping cough around the world every year."Oatmeal baths" are unlikely to cure the symptoms.

A poster claims that Vitamin C can treat Whooping Cough.

In fact, and in contrast to the repeated claims in the posted link, the pertussis vaccine is, very effective. And even the article itself only claims (without evidence) to reduce the severity of the coughing, adding that Vitamin C "does not prevent or stop the disease".
Even the link itself admits that Vitamin C will not reduce the length of the infection, and it presents not the slightest data in support of the claim that Vitamin C is helpful.

Poster provides link saying that "People say measles is a deadly disease, but it's not"

In fact, the World Health Organisation comments that "In 2016, there were 89 780 measles deaths globally – marking the first year measles deaths have fallen below 100 000 per year. Measles vaccination resulted in a 84% drop in measles deaths between 2000 and 2016 worldwide.

Really struggle to understand the worldview of someone who has just seen doctors save their premature childs life through state of the art NTU care - and then call the exact same doctors "monsters" because they want to vaccinate the exact same child against diseases.

Again, apparently no problem with doctors providing life saving kidney transplant surgery (and the subsequent lifelong anti-rejection drugs) but refuse to believe the same doctors when it comes to vaccination. Bizarre.

Poster asked for advice for elderly relative regarding pneumococcal vaccine. Gets told flu shot is "killing elderly people at an alarming rate."

In fact, the NHS specifically states "You can't catch flu from the flu jab".Thousands die from the flu in the UK every year. The elderly are at particular risk.

Apparently, there is a whole story (without links or references) showing how polio is caused by metal poisoning.

In fact, the history of polio is very interesting, but not at all like the post claims.

Similarly, this post implies that smallpox occurs independently of vaccination level

In fact, smallpox is a horrific condition, to the extent that NSB thinks it would be too disturbing to post an image of what it does to a person. Worldwide eradication of smallpox is one of medical sciences greatest achievements. The events in the posted timeline appear to be drawn from multiple continents and, in some cases, simply made up.

Many posts like this one that talk about "shedding", where allegedly, vaccinated adults and children "shed" viruses to infect those around them. A number of posts suggest that the only reason we have some viruses is that they are "shed" from vaccinated people. There is no evidence for "shedding".

Poster willfully ignores dangers of a number of viruses.
The reality? Viruses are dangerous

This poster chooses to omit the fact that if children with rubella pass it on to a pregant woman in the first 20 weeks of pregnancy, it can cause miscarriage, stillbirth or birth defects in unborn babies.

See also this post.

Another recurring theme:
Vaccinated children who get ill - any type of ill - are "vaccine injured".
Unvaccinated children who get ill are "strengthening their immune system".

It's not really surprising worried parents are getting biased information on this page - it's against the rules to post pro-vaccine information.

Oh yes, meant to talk about that whooping cough (pertussis) data!

Firstly, here is a link to the page, and it does indeed show many more vaccinated children getting pertussis (2950 cases) than non vaccinated children getting the disease (556 cases)

So slam dunk, yes? Vaccination increases the risk of getting pertussis?

Well, not really. And to explain why, let's step back and take a hypothetical example...

Imaging there is a population of 1000 unvaccinated children and 1000 vaccinated children and that 1 in 10 get pertussis, say.

And let us presume that the vaccine is useless. It does nothing. Neither makes the child more nor less likely to get pertussis.

So what would we expect - we would expect 100 unvaccinated children to get pertussis and 100 vaccinated children to get pertussis.

And we can see that, as expected, it doesn't make any difference if you are vaccinated or not.

Now, and this is the important bit, let us imagine that only 60 children are unvaccinated and 2940 children are vaccinated (97%, about the level of pertussis vaccination in the general population)

Again assuming that the vaccination does not do anything, and that 1 in 10 children get pertussis, how many cases will be see?

Well, it will be 6 from the unvaccinated group and 294 from the vaccinated group.

OMG! Does this mean that vaccination increases the liklihood of getting pertussis?

As I am sure you can see, dear reader, no it does not. The high number of vaccinated cases is simply due to the fact that most of the population is vaccinated.

A couple of links:

Sunday, 26 November 2017

Talk : "Who's Eating Who? Hominins and Carnivores in Human Evolution"

We have not always been the alpha predator on this planet - Dr Hannah O'Regan give this month's public lecture on "Who's Eating Who? Hominins and Carnivores in Human Evolution"

@Gav Squires was there and has kindly written this guest post summarising the event, with some linkage added by NSB.

Hannah O'Regan

To begin with, why carnivores?
Social carnivores could be a good proxy for hominins and their development. They have been in competition with hominins for resources such as food, water and shelter. They are primate predators.

7 million years ago, the first hominin, Sahelanthropus, evolved. 3.9million years ago, we had Australopithecus, the best known example of which is Lucy and 3.3million years ago, we have the earliest archaeology with evidence at the Lomekwian site of the use of stones. Evidence has been discovered from 3.4million years ago of marks on bones, implying that humans had used tools to remove flesh, which they then presumably would have eaten. 2.8million years ago the genus homo made their first appearance and 2.6million years ago was the first use of stone tools. 1.5million years ago, we have Acheulan tools, hand axes and we have bipedal hominins wandering the landscape with tools.

Artistic interpretation of Sahelanthropus tchadensis
by sculptor Élisabeth Daynès

Acheulan tools

Between 1 and 2million years ago there were a range of large carnivores in Africa including 6 types of hyena, canids including those the size of wolves and African dogs. There were also a number of felids that could take down a hominin including lions, cheetahs, leopards and sabre-tooth cats. Sabre-tooth cats were ambush predators with very powerful front-legs that they would use to wrestle prey into position so that it could use its teeth. The teeth were longer than they were wide, which made them susceptible to breaking. However, if they did break it would mean that the animal would be forced to scavenge and would not have lived for much longer afterwards. In Swartkrans in modern-day South Africa, evidence has even been found of human remains that have been predated by leopard.

As well as large carnivores, there is also predation by birds and things such as eagles will hunt primates - there is plenty of evidence in the form of primate bones beneath the nests of Crowned Eagles. The Taung child, the first ever fossil published of a hominin from Africa was discovered in 1924, was 3-4 years old when it died and the only hominin fossil ever found in Taung in South Africa. It has similar orbital damage to primates eaten by eagles and it appears that there was no population at Taung and the child was carried there by an eagle.

Evidence has also been found of crocodiles predating hominins from 1.8million years ago. Another example from down the same river has crocodile teeth marks on its foot and has also had its leg bitten off by a leopard - not a great day!

The Homotherium was one of the sabre-toothed cats that lived in Africa and Europe that seem to have died out in Europe around 28,000 years ago. In Schöningen in Germany, evidence of humans using spears 300,000 years ago has been found - the humans were mainly preying on horses at the time. There is also evidence that these humans were using the bones of Homotherium as hammers in order to make stone tools.

Artists impression of Homotherum

How can we tell the difference between predation and scavenging? It's actually very difficult as teeth will make the same marks in both cases. Looking at some Neanderthal bones, there are some fox bite marks on the hands that are clearly scavenging but there are also bite marks on the skull from a larger animal, which could be either.

While it is extinct in the UK these days, the brown bear in Europe's largest carnivore. In Ireland, a bear patella has been found showing evidence of marks from stone tools where the patella tendon has been cut. This is the first evidence of humans living in Ireland but we still don't know what they would have been using the patella for once it was removed. More recently the Romans brought bears to the country and in the 16th century there were a number of bear baiting arenas in London. By the 18th century bear shaped ceramic were being made in Nottingham, depicting bears holding dogs and even in the early 20th century, Italians were bringing over dancing bear cubs for the summer season.

European Brown Bear

These days we are the apex predator and this isn't necessarily a good thing for the other carnivores, for example the African lion population has dropped by 42% in the last two years. Recently a lynx that had escaped from a zoo was shot in Wales, despite the fact that there have never been any recorded attacks on humans by lynxes. There have been talks over the last few years about the possibility of rewilding species such lynx into the UK, could that still be an option?

We have interacted with and evolved alongside carnivores for millions of years and even now, without adaptations such as fire, weapons and defensive protection, we are vulnerable to predators. However, overall, carnivores are on the back foot against the spread of homo sapiens.

The Public Lecture Series returns on the 7th of December at the University of Nottingham at 6:00pm where Dr Craig Sturrock will talk on 3D X-Ray Vision: Measuring the Hidden Structure of Biomaterials Using X-Ray Computed Technology. For more information, check out the PLS website:

Image Sources
Sahelanthropus, Cordiforme, Homotherium, Bear