Tag Archives: vaccine

Science Gone Awry, Science Haters Mailing Mailers

I’m currently reading Paul Offit’s Pandora’s Lab: Seven Stories of Science Gone Wrong, in preparation for an interview with him that I’ll be recording later this week. I’ll let you know about the interview, but at this time I can say that I’m very much enjoying the book. The publisher’s description:

What happens when ideas presented as science lead us in the wrong direction?

History is filled with brilliant ideas that gave rise to disaster, and this book explores the most fascinating—and significant—missteps: from opium’s heyday as the pain reliever of choice to recognition of opioids as a major cause of death in the U.S.; from the rise of trans fats as the golden ingredient for tastier, cheaper food to the heart disease epidemic that followed; and from the cries to ban DDT for the sake of the environment to an epidemic-level rise in world malaria.

These are today’s sins of science—as deplorable as mistaken past ideas about advocating racial purity or using lobotomies as a cure for mental illness. These unwitting errors add up to seven lessons both cautionary and profound, narrated by renowned author and speaker Paul A. Offit. Offit uses these lessons to investigate how we can separate good science from bad, using some of today’s most controversial creations—e-cigarettes, GMOs, drug treatments for ADHD—as case studies. For every “Aha!” moment that should have been an “Oh no,” this book is an engrossing account of how science has been misused disastrously—and how we can learn to use its power for good.

The story of opium reminds me of that movie, Very Bad Things. Remember that?

Also, I did a podcast, the guest rather than the interviewer (I go both ways), on Geeks Without God, which will be up on the 16h, here. I think that if you are a subscriber you can get it early, like, now. The interview was about the Heartland Institute‘s recent recent mailing of anti-science materials related to climate change, sent out to a very large number of teachers.

NewLink Genetics, of Ames Iowa, Implicated in African Ebola Genocide?

According to those intimately involved in the response to the West African Ebola outbreak, NewLink Genetics owns the rights to a piece of the puzzle needed to quickly test and deploy one of two likely Ebola vaccines and they are holding up the entire process because they are not entirely sure they are going to get rich on it. Other suggest it is incompetence. NewLink seems to be claiming it is just a lot of paperwork. In the end, tough, none of these excuses is convincing. This is one of those cases that gives Big Pharm a bad reputation.

From as story in Science:

Stephan Becker is tired of waiting. The virologist at the University of Marburg in Germany is part of a consortium of scientists that is ready to do a safety trial of one of the candidate vaccines for Ebola. But the vaccine doses he’s supposed to test on 20 German volunteers are still in Canada. Negotiations with the U.S. company that holds the license for commercialization of the vaccine…have needlessly delayed the start of the trial… “It’s making me mad, that we are sitting here and could be doing something, but things are not moving forward,” Becker says.

… it’s inexplicable that one of the candidate vaccines, developed at the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) in Winnipeg, has yet to go in the first volunteer’s arm, says virologist Heinz Feldmann, who helped develop the vaccine while at PHAC. “It’s a farce; these doses are lying around there while people are dying in Africa,” says Feldmann,…

At the center of the controversy is NewLink Genetics, a small company in Ames, Iowa, that bought a license to the vaccine’s commercialization from the Canadian government in 2010… Becker and others say the company has been dragging its feet the past 2 months because it is worried about losing control over the development of the vaccine. But Brian Wiley, vice president of business development at NewLink Genetics, says the company is doing all it can. “Our program has moved forward at an unprecedented pace,” he says. Even if it took another few months, “we would still be breaking a record in terms of getting this into patients.” Wiley says the holdup is “the administrative process”: agreeing on a protocol, getting collaborators to sign the right contracts, securing insurance in case something goes wrong.

Marie-Paule Kieny, a vaccine expert and WHO assistant director-general, disputes that NewLink is dragging its feet. “We have so far been able to resolve issues along the way, to get moving as fast as possible,” she says.

A stock of the Canadian-developed VSV vaccine is stored at PHAC in Winnipeg. The Canadian government owned 1500 doses, 800 to 1000 of which it has donated to WHO; the rest are owned by NewLink Genetics.

Scientists say WHO’s vials could have already been shipped to the research centers planning to do phase I trials. One such trial is scheduled at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in Silver Spring, Maryland; other studies, by a consortium that includes WHO and Becker, are on the drawing boards in Hamburg, Germany, in Geneva, and at sites in Kenya and Gabon. PHAC is ready to ship the doses “at a moment’s notice,” a representative says.

But for a clinical trial to start, regulators require information about how the vaccine was manufactured, and that resides with NewLink Genetics, which has been slow to release it, people familiar with the negotiations say. …

Part of the problem may be that NewLink is a small company, with about 100 employees, that has concentrated on immunotherapies to fight cancer in recent years. The Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority—a U.S. government agency tasked with speeding up the development of emergency drugs and vaccines—recently sent two staffers to Ames to help NewLink file documents needed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, a U.S. government representative says. “Our engagement of outside help has nothing to do with our competence, but with the urgency around this matter,” Wiley says.

Those who are taken ill and die of Ebola are the victims of a natural disaster, until paperwork, incompetence, greed, or some combination of those delays an international response by weeks time. After that, it is something else.

Science Denialism: Some resources

The term “War on Science” comes from multiple sources, one being Chris Mooney’s book “The Republican War on Science” (see below) and another, the made up “War on Christmas,” a term attributed to Bill O’Really. Throw in a little “Culture War” rhetoric and I think we have a good basis for the origin of the term. The term “War on X” has been in used for decades if not longer, when some large perhaps organized group of people or institutions takes up the task of shutting down some thing or another. It does not mean an actual war with generals and troops and bullets, but the metaphor “war” is still quite apt because there are generals and troops and bullets, just metaphorical ones.

Anyway, I thought it would be a good idea to provide a list of current or recent books and other resources pertaining to the war on science. Where I’ve reviewed a book here, I provide a link to that review. There are also some helpful web sites and podcasts listed below. The listing of resources is divided up by “front” or “battle ground” where appropriate, keeping with the “War on Science” metaphor.

The War on Science, General

Continue reading Science Denialism: Some resources

Why isn’t there a malaria vaccine, and could there be one soon?

There are several reasons why there is no vaccine for malaria, but the thing you might want to know is that malaria is not a virus, and it is not even a bacterium. It’s a protist. Generally speaking, there are not really vaccines for such organisms. One metastudy that looked specifically at Malaria had this to report:

Continue reading Why isn’t there a malaria vaccine, and could there be one soon?

A Universal, One-Shot Flu Vaccine?

ResearchBlogging.orgA Better Grip: T Cells Strengthen Our Hand against Influenza Clinical Infectious Diseases, 52 (1), 8-9 DOI: 10.1093/cid/ciq018Flu vaccines are important and useful, but also relatively ineffective compared to many other vaccines. Immunity is imperfect, there are many ‘strains’ of influenza in a given year only some of which are addressed by the available vaccine (though often the most common ones) and one year’s vaccine does not provide immunity to subsequent years’ influenza because the virus changes so much. Well, actually that’s not exactly true: The influenza virus has various different parts, and the parts that the traditional flu vaccine uses to induce an antigenic reaction in the potential hose is highly variable. Other parts of the flu virus are not as variable. If only a vaccine could be developed that uses the less variable part of the influenza virus, then perhaps it would be a universal, long-lasting vaccine that you take once, and become pretty much immune to all future influenza.
Continue reading A Universal, One-Shot Flu Vaccine?

Vaccination vs. Disease: Which is worse?

It is very reasonable for a parent to worry about vaccines. For one thing, most of them involve sticking the baby or child with a sharp object, thus making the little one cry, and it would be abnormal to not have an automatic reaction to that. For another thing, they are drugs, in a sense. When the little one is ill, and you call in to the health care facility in the hopes that there will be some useful advice, most of the time you hear “No, we no longer recommend giving [fill in the blank with a medicine you thought might work] to children under [one or two months older than your child]. But if [symptom] persists for more than [amount of time that is 12 hours longer than the symptoms ever persist], call back.”
Continue reading Vaccination vs. Disease: Which is worse?

Study Confirms Link Between Autism and Use of Cells From Abortions in Vaccines?

First, let’s get this straight. I’m all for anti-science anti-vaxer right wingers not being vaccinated, as long as a) we take their children away from them (and vaccinate the poor dears) and b) isolate the adult anti-vaxers from the rest of the species, perhaps in Texas. But in the meantime, let’s look at the latest bit of (mis)information from the utterly insane side of our society. If nothing else, this story may serve to remind us all what we are fighting about…. not the attitude of this or that skeptics, or which movements should or should not be engaged in chopping the pope down to size. This, folks, is the real deal:
Continue reading Study Confirms Link Between Autism and Use of Cells From Abortions in Vaccines?

How do we know how bad the Swine Flu is so far?

I spent about 45 minutes yesterday in the local HMO clinic. They had turned the main waiting room into a Pandemic Novel A/H1N1 Swine (nee Mexican) Influenza quarantine area, and I could feel the flu viruses poking at my skin looking for a way in the whole time I was there.

Continue reading How do we know how bad the Swine Flu is so far?