Friday Links – Wakefield Prosecution, Universal Flu Vaccine, Ice Sculptures

(Photo: JackVinson)

Here’s One Scientist Calling for the Trial of Andrew Wakefield
In this blog post on CNN, RealClearScience editor Alex B. Berezow writes,

Scientific fraud is a very serious matter. From a fiscal standpoint, it is essentially stealing money.

I don’t want to copy and paste the entire paragraph, so check out the full article to understand what Berezow means there. This next passage, however, needs no explanation:

The marked decrease in vaccinations which occurred in the decade following his research literally cost people their lives. When parents refused to vaccinate their children, many of them contracted diseases such as measles and pertussis (whooping cough). Some of them died.

And while we’re on the subject of vaccines:

Swine Flu Might Lead to a Universal Influenza Vaccine
Apparently, when people fell sick with H1N1 their immune systems produced all sorts of antibodies that the regular old seasonal flu viruses don’t generate.

According to the researchers, five of the types of antibodies isolated in their research would be enough to fight off all seasonal flu variations, the Spanish flu virus that killed as many as 50 million people in the pandemic of 1918, and a potentially deadly bird flu strain known as H5N1.

If you’ve ever scared yourself sleepless by reading about the possible implications of human-to-human transmission of bird flu like I have, then you understand the enormous benefits a universal vaccine would reap.

This is shaping up to be a vaccine-themed Friday Links, isn’t it? Let’s talk about another one:

Asthma and the Pneumonia Vaccination
Learn which asthmatics should get this shot, and the reasoning behind the recommendation.

U.S. Asthma Still Increasing, But More Slowly
While 8% of Americans have asthma according the newest figures, the rate of increase appears to be slowing.

Amazing Ice Art
Finally, here’s a winter-themed link to take you into the weekend.

76 responses to “Friday Links – Wakefield Prosecution, Universal Flu Vaccine, Ice Sculptures”

  1. Sarah says:

    Consider me another scientist (albeit not a medical scientist, I admit) that would like to see Wakefield prosecuted. Bad science is one thing. Fraud is a whole different ballpark and a firm message should be sent. I hope they throw the book at him. I’d go further in my condemnation, but I’m not a lawyer, so I’ll restrain myself to what I’ve said, with one addition:

    Science depends greatly on the basic assumption that those who submit papers, even if they turn out to be wrong, are basically honest in their data reporting. It’s perhaps naieve of scientists (myself included) that we tend to take the data at face value. Because of this, scientific fraud is, unfortunately, relatively easy to achieve. The glory of science is that it is, in fact, self-corrective. If someone commits a fraud, it will eventually be discovered and corrected…. but it takes a while, and severe harm can be done to the progress of science and the public good until it’s undone, as illustrated by the Wakefield scandal.

    Many scientists hold the view that the science should speak for itself, and that since science is self-correcting, Wakefield’s fraud is largely irrelevant in the grand scheme of things (not that he shouldn’t be punished, but rather that his fraud has no effect on the scientific establishment and policy)… and I agree that in an ideal world, where everyone graduated high school with some degree of scientific literacy, it would. Unfortunately, this isn’t an ideal world, and many (actually, I daresay most) people aren’t scientifically literate. Therefore, people get their science from the newstands, which just adds fuel to the fires of fear in situations like this.

    As for the pneumococcal vaccine, I’ll have to speak to my doctor about that one. If I can get it covered under my insurance, I’ll take it. Better for everyone really: I bet it’s much, much cheaper to pay for even a thousand vaccines for asthmatics than for even one ICU stay for an asthmatic who gets a serious pneumoccocal infection (though I don’t know how often serious disease from it occurs in asthmatics)

    Also, a universal flu vaccine would be really cool. :D

    I could go on a pro-vaccine rant now (and I’m tempted to), but I have an important work meeting in 20 minutes, and I’ve got to prepare, sadly.

  2. Amy says:

    Heh, I already read him – and some of the other ScienceBlogs, too, for that matter. :) I liked Effect Measure a lot, particularly its coverage of H1N1, and was sorry to see it go.

  3. Sarah says:

    ScienceBlogs is pretty cool. I only discovered it about three or four months ago, but it’s already one of my ‘timesink’ sites – where I go when I’m bored and have time to kill (like when I’m drying a reactant – a boring and time-consuming process that’s mostly ‘hands off’ but I can’t do anything else until it’s done because I’m removing water and the only other reaction I want to do is extremely water-sensitive so water is a no-go on my Schlenk line while I do it – and waiting for a TA meeting to start).

    Another timesink is Youtube, specifically the science vloggers there, like AronRa and c0nc0rdance (both of whom have some excellent material refuting intelligent design and c0nc0rdance also dabbles in debunking alt-med and GMO hysteria). I’d definitely recommend them, with the caveat that Youtube vloggers can make Orac look like the epitome of mild manner, gentle disposition and extreme consideration by comparison at times. But, to me, that’s part of the fun. But then, I enjoy that sort of humor.

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