Friday, April 24, 2020

COVID-19: No, it is not time to "reopen the economy".

In response to this article: This article is pretty bad - it's full of really misleading misinterpretations of statistics, either through malice or ignorance.

The only path forward is through testing and contact tracing/isolation. Trying to isolate only the vulnerable population won't work.

Here it is bit-by-bit:

Five key facts are being ignored by those calling for continuing the near-total lockdown.
No, these key facts are being misinterpreted by those calling for "opening the economy".
Fact 1: The overwhelming majority of people do not have any significant risk of dying from COVID-19.
Everybody already knows this. The problem isn't that we are worried about the overwhelming majority of people dying, the problem is a bunch of people dying in a short time period overwhelming the health care system, and driving up the fatality rate. Plenty of people need hospitalization to survive, and if they don't get it they will die.
The recent Stanford University antibody study now estimates that the fatality rate if infected is likely 0.1 to 0.2 percent, a risk far lower than previous World Health Organization estimates that were 20 to 30 times higher and that motivated isolation policies.
Here's the link to the study.

The population consisted of facebook users who saw an ad, so if it was biased because, say, people who had an illness a month ago wanted to get the test, it would inflate the denominator and collapse the CFR. Says it right in the report.

From the Stanford report:
"This study had several limitations. First, our sampling strategy selected for members of Santa Clara County with access to Facebook and a car to attend drive-through testing sites. … Other biases, such as bias favoring individuals in good health capable of attending our testing sites, or bias favoring those with prior COVID-like illnesses seeking antibody confirmation are also possible. The overall effect of such biases is hard to ascertain."

The CFR reported by this report is literally impossible given the situation in New York City. As of today (April 23), NYC is reporting 10,000 confirmed COVID-19 deaths, and another 5,000 "probable". If you take the 15,000 deaths in NYC, and divide it by the reported CFR from the report, you get a range of infected people in NYC from 7.5 to 15 million people.

The total population of NYC is 8.4 million. If 90 or more percent of people in NYC had been infected, the rates of transmission would have slowed down long ago, so it cannot possibly be true that the CFR is 0.1 to 0.2%.

In New York City, an epicenter of the pandemic with more than one-third of all U.S. deaths, the rate of death for people 18 to 45 years old is 0.01 percent, or 11 per 100,000 in the population. On the other hand, people aged 75 and over have a death rate 80 times that. For people under 18 years old, the rate of death is zero per 100,000.
This is the rate of death across the entire population, not across the population infected. What fraction of NYC has been infected? Here's one possible study.

"The results differed across the state with the largest concentration of positive antibody tests found in New York City at 21.2%."

If that's the real fraction of NYC residents that have been infected with COVID-19, then you should multiply those death rates from above by 5 to get the real risk of death, so for 18 to 45 year olds you'd be at 0.05%, a 1 in 2000 chance of dying.

And, if that test is subject to similar selection bias or false positive results as the Stanford test, it could be EVEN WORSE.

Of all fatal cases in New York state, two-thirds were in patients over 70 years of age; more than 95 percent were over 50 years of age; and about 90 percent of all fatal cases had an underlying illness.
In 4 months I'll be over 50. Both of my brothers and my parents are over 50. Lots of people I care about are over 50. If you are talking about isolating the entire population over 50 that's a huge fraction of the population to isolate, and it's a huge fraction of the population you want to remove from isolation.
Of 6,570 confirmed COVID-19 deaths fully investigated for underlying conditions to date, 6,520, or 99.2 percent, had an underlying illness. If you do not already have an underlying chronic condition, your chances of dying are small, regardless of age.
This is actually a pretty reasonable statement, except for one big caveat. Here's the original data referred to here.

This table shows that out of 8811 deaths, 6250 had underlying conditions, 2241 had "underlying conditions unknown", and only 50 had "no underlying conditions". I do not know where the authors of this article drew the conclusion that unknown underlying conditions hadn't been fully investigated, but they use that fig leaf to throw out a large fraction of the data, in favor of their preselected view that the virus is No Big Deal.

The real fraction, 6250/8811, is 71% of deaths that had an underlying condition.

The best data I could find suggest that about 21% of adults under age 65 have an underlying condition, and including older adults it puts the total fraction of the population at risk at 38%.

If you take the NYC table and look at adults under age 65 you get 85% of deaths that have underlying conditions, where random chance would get you 21% of deaths with those underlying conditions. I played around with this in a spreadsheet, and it looks like this means that those with underlying conditions are about 20 times more likely to die than those without or with "unknown" conditions, under age 65.

So for those under age age 65, if you do not have an underlying condition, your chance of dying is about 1/20th that of someone who does have an underlying condition.

However, here's the big caveat: If you have an underlying condition and don't know it, you are at risk.

If we "reopen the economy" will we give doctor's notes to those who are vulnerable? If we don't, will they get laid off, or will they risk their health to afford groceries? Will they get relief payments or will those stop because the economy is "reopened"?

And young adults and children in normal health have almost no risk of any serious illness from COVID-19.
This, however, doesn't follow. Risk of deaths are not the same as risk of serious illness, see the next section for how bad this gets.
Fact 2: Protecting older, at-risk people eliminates hospital overcrowding.

We can learn about hospital utilization from data from New York City, the hotbed of COVID-19 with more than 34,600 hospitalizations to date. For those under 18 years of age, hospitalization from the virus is 0.01 percent per 100,000 people; for those 18 to 44 years old, hospitalization is 0.1 percent per 100,000. Even for people ages 65 to 74, only 1.7 percent were hospitalized. Of 4,103 confirmed COVID-19 patients with symptoms bad enough to seek medical care, Dr. Leora Horwitz of NYU Medical Center concluded "age is far and away the strongest risk factor for hospitalization." Even early WHO reports noted that 80 percent of all cases were mild, and more recent studies show a far more widespread rate of infection and lower rate of serious illness. Half of all people testing positive for infection have no symptoms at all. The vast majority of younger, otherwise healthy people do not need significant medical care if they catch this infection.

This is pretty bad. What do you think they mean when they say "For those under 18 years of age, hospitalization from the virus is 0.01 percent per 100,000 people; for those 18 to 44 years old, hospitalization is 0.1 percent per 100,000." ?

What is a percent per 100,000?

Never mind, they link to the data so we can reverse engineer this:

The rate of hospitalization for under 18 is 14 per 100,000, which is just .014%.
The rate of hospitlization for 18 to 44 is 154 per 100,000, which is just .154%

That sounds great! Except… what do you think the denominator is? This paragraph is worded to imply this is per 100,000 cases, but it's not. It's per 100,000 residents of NYC.

In order to determine your actual risk from getting the virus, you need to know what fraction of NYC has been infected. See above for evidence that this is AT MAXIMUM 21%, and now you know you have to multiply these numbers by at least 5. Adults under 44 have about 0.75% of being hospitalized if they get this disease, according to those rates. And if NYC residents have been exposed LESS, this number gets even worse. Children have a 2 in 3000 chance of being hospitalized if they get infected, or worse if the 21% exposure rate in NYC is off.

Now I need you to think about this - if the real rate of hospitalization from getting this virus among 18-44 year olds is 0.75%, this means that if 100% of those people were infected you'd have 7.5 hospitalizations per 1000 people. The US has less than 3 hospital beds per 1000 people, so if 40% of the population were sick at the same time it would require more hospital beds than we have. If half the hospital beds are already full from people with other problems, it would only take 20% infection to fill every hospital bed.

If the hospital beds fill up, those who "need hospitalization" now have a much higher death rate.

Fact 3: Vital population immunity is prevented by total isolation policies, prolonging the problem.

We know from decades of medical science that infection itself allows people to generate an immune response — antibodies — so that the infection is controlled throughout the population by “herd immunity.” Indeed, that is the main purpose of widespread immunization in other viral diseases — to assist with population immunity. In this virus, we know that medical care is not even necessary for the vast majority of people who are infected. It is so mild that half of infected people are asymptomatic, shown in early data from the Diamond Princess ship, and then in Iceland and Italy. That has been falsely portrayed as a problem requiring mass isolation. In fact, infected people without severe illness are the immediately available vehicle for establishing widespread immunity. By transmitting the virus to others in the low-risk group who then generate antibodies, they block the network of pathways toward the most vulnerable people, ultimately ending the threat. Extending whole-population isolation would directly prevent that widespread immunity from developing.

It is usually true that once enough people have been infected there will be immunity and transmission rates will slow. However, this is a new virus and we don't have a lot of information about it - does our immunity last for a month or a year or 10 years? Does the virus mutate like a flu virus to the point where it can reinfect someone who previously had it?

Even if we had confidence that naturally acquired immunity is present and lasts long enough to be effective, we still are advocating sending many people to the hospital or to the morgue to acheive this end.The argument that this prolongs the situation is based on many assumptions that aren't known to be true - will people self isolate anyway, and prolong the spread voluntarily? Will there be an antiviral therapy, or a vaccine introduced?

It is still quite possible we could reduce the area under the curve significantly even just by flattening the curve as we are doing now.

And it may never be necessary to gain natural herd immunity if we can apply testing and contact tracing to reduce cases until a vaccine or therapy is available, or even if we can eliminate it entirely through contact tracing. See for example South Korea.

Fact 4: People are dying because other medical care is not getting done due to hypothetical projections. Critical health care for millions of Americans is being ignored and people are dying to accommodate “potential” COVID-19 patients and for fear of spreading the disease. Most states and many hospitals abruptly stopped “nonessential” procedures and surgery. That prevented diagnoses of life-threatening diseases, like cancer screening, biopsies of tumors now undiscovered and potentially deadly brain aneurysms. Treatments, including emergency care, for the most serious illnesses were also missed. Cancer patients deferred chemotherapy. An estimated 80 percent of brain surgery cases were skipped. Acute stroke and heart attack patients missed their only chances for treatment, some dying and many now facing permanent disability.
All of these are arguments for reducing the total time under isolation, but that doesn't mean that opening up now is the right answer - if we cases explode we'll be back in isolation anyway, either through government action or just through people choosing to self isolate in order to avoid perceived danger.

Where is the data on how many people are impacted by this vs. the known death toll of COVID-19? Where is the data on how many people are impacted by this vs. the hospitalization toll of COVID-19?

Fact 5: We have a clearly defined population at risk who can be protected with targeted measures. The overwhelming evidence all over the world consistently shows that a clearly defined group — older people and others with underlying conditions — is more likely to have a serious illness requiring hospitalization and more likely to die from COVID-19. Knowing that, it is a commonsense, achievable goal to target isolation policy to that group, including strictly monitoring those who interact with them. Nursing home residents, the highest risk, should be the most straightforward to systematically protect from infected people, given that they already live in confined places with highly restricted entry.
If it's so easy to protect people in nursing homes, why are so many of them dying? We've locked down society in general, and we've instituted restrictions on nursing homes, and they are still dying in large numbers.
The appropriate policy, based on fundamental biology and the evidence already in hand, is to institute a more focused strategy like some outlined in the first place: Strictly protect the known vulnerable, self-isolate the mildly sick and open most workplaces and small businesses with some prudent large-group precautions.
Dividing the population into groups like this doesn't work. If you have one population with an exponential growth rate, and one population with exponential decay, the population with exponential growth will overwhelm the one with exponential decay. The people you are trying to protect will be facing a boundary with the outside world that is far more dangerous.
This would allow the essential socializing to generate immunity among those with minimal risk of serious consequence, while saving lives, preventing overcrowding of hospitals and limiting the enormous harms compounded by continued total isolation. Let’s stop underemphasizing empirical evidence while instead doubling down on hypothetical models. Facts matter.
Facts do matter, but "hypothetical models" are how you make rational decisions. This entire article is an attempt to build a hypothetical model of how you can open up society for a fraction of the population. I guess we can stop using hypothetical models soon, as Georgia looks like it's going to try to open up. In 3-6 weeks, we'll see how that works out.

From where I stand, the only solution that makes any sense is to have wide spread testing, both in the surveillance sense as well as in the contact tracing sense. Until we do, we're going to be in a world of hurt.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Brexit Speculative Future

The UK just voted to leave the EU. The vote was not uniform, however, look at this map:

So really, England voted to leave the EU, Northern Ireland and Scotland voted to remain in the EU.

Maybe nothing bad will happen. Maybe the EU will negotiate some kind of free trade agreements with the UK, and there will be some talk of a united Ireland or an independent Scotland but no actual independence.

But maybe...

  • 2016: UK votes to leave the EU
  • 2017: Scotland votes for independence overwhelmingly. Northern Ireland votes to join the Republic of Ireland, but only just.
  • 2018: Negotiations for Scottish independence break down. Northern Ireland is granted independence and merges with the Republic. Sectarian violence breaks out in Northern Ireland.
  • 2019: Scotland declares independence without authorization by the UK. An election is held in England, and nationalists are elected with the promise of reuniting the UK. English troops start massing at the border with Scotland.
Now what happens? Do the Germans send troops in to Scotland to defend the territory? Does England conquer Scotland? Does the US get involved? Ireland isn't a full NATO member, but the new England would be, as the successor to the UK. Does NATO dissolve, or is there full blown war in Great Britain?

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Dueling Mai Tais

There are two restaurateurs who claim to have invented the Mai Tai in the 30's or 40's - Vic of Trader Vic's, and Don the Beachcomber who is the undisputed father of the tiki bar.

The two are similar in that they include orgeat, lime juice, and light and dark rum, and orange curaçao or the equivalent. The difference is that the Beachcomber style recipe includes additional fruit juice (in the original version, grapefruit) and a mixer I hadn't heard of before, falernum, and something like an ouzo or raki.

Over time other establishments have added more and more fruit juices. A particular recommendation from my friend Othar was this fruity mix (modified slighty from that link):

  • 3 oz. light rum
  • 3 oz. dark rum
  • 2 oz. pineapple juice
  • 2 oz. guava juice
  • Fresh squeezed juice of one lime
  • 1 oz. orange curaçao
  • 2 oz. orgeat
  • 1 oz. simple syrup
  • Crushed mint leaves like you'd have in a mojito
Makes two.

This is very similar to my previous Mai Tai recipe I've tried but with the tropical juices and mint leaves added. Here's my Trader Vic's style recipe, slightly tweaked from my previous version:
  • 1 oz. light rum
  • 1 oz. dark rum
  • 1/2 oz. Grand Marnier or some other orange liqueur like Cointreau or orange curaçao.
  • 1/2 oz. fresh squeezed lime juice (about half a lime.)
  • 1 oz. orgeat
  • 0-1/2 oz. simple syrup to taste
In both cases you shake or stir the ingredients and then pour over ice and crushed mint leaves if appropriate.

I find that both of these are quite good, but I think I prefer the simpler Trader Vic's style. My wife, though, prefers the fruitier style.

I think I'll be playing with both of these recipes for quite some time.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Orgeat syrup recipe & Mai Tai recipe

I've been experimenting with Mai Tais, and I felt I really had to make the orgeat from scratch to give it a fair shake, and boy was I right.

Here's the recipe I used for orgeat:

  • 2 1/4 cups raw, sprouted almonds
  • 1/4 tsp. orange blossom water
  • 1 oz. vodka
  • 1/2 cup sugar
Soak the almonds in a bowl in 3-4 cups water for 30 minutes, then drain - discard the water.
Coarsely chop the almonds in a food processor.
Return the almonds to the bowl and cover with 3 cups water.
Soak for 5 hours, stirring occasionally.
Strain through cheesecloth into a jar.
Add sugar, and shake occasionally for 15 minutes or until all sugar is dissolved.
Add orange blossom water and vodka.
Store in the fridge.

If you try making it, cut that in half at least, or you'll be up to your ears in orgeat.

Now, on to the Mai Tai! I'm pretty happy with this version, but I'm still experimenting.
  • 1 oz. light rum
  • 1 oz. dark rum
  • 1/2 oz. Grand Marnier or some other orange liqueur like Cointreau or orange curaçao.
  • 1/2 oz. fresh squeezed lime juice (about half a lime.)
  • 1/2 oz. orgeat
  • 1/2 oz. simple syrup (heat equal parts sugar and water until all dissolved, store in fridge)
Combine all ingredients and stir or shake, in a glass with ice. If you like, float another 1/2 oz. dark rum on top.

Monday, May 25, 2015

25 questions that will (not likely) challenge your position on vaccines

Hi, my name is Doug, and I used to think that science supported the use of vaccines to prevent illnesses in children.  I still do, but I used to, too.

Yesterday I saw an article posted on facebook with "25 questions from a former pro-vaxxer."  As a former (and still current) pro-vaxxer, I took the bait and actually responded to each and every one of them.

Note that like many things, there are kernels of good ideas or truths in a (small) number of them.  The great thing about science is that we continue to stumble towards truth, and over time these things will get sorted out.  The parts involving the government, however, are a different matter.

Below I've reproduced the questions as well as my response, with links to supporting studies or articles.  But before that, I wanted to call out one more point from this article:

I used to be pro vaccine.  I know the feeling of thinking others were just plain crazy and wrong for not vaccinating their children and themselves.  ‘Irresponsible!’ I said when pointing my finger.  I’d use the same old arguments about polio and small pox and how vaccines saved us from all those horrible diseases and just swallowing and regurgitating the propaganda I was brought up with.  It was only recently, in 2009 that I started questioning my long held beliefs and began digging in to the history, efficacy and safety of vaccines.
I don't think people are crazy for wanting to do what's right for their family. The main problem I have is when people repeatedly bring up information that is not correct and refuse to look at more recent developments. If you cannot change your mind in response to new evidence, you're not doing your family a service.

Here's the list of questions and my responses.
  1. Why are newborn babies vaccinated on their first day of life against a disease that is primarily transmitted sexually and by needles in drug users?
    While Hep B is mostly transmitted sexually, it can also be passed on from mother to child at or near birth, or from other infected individuals through scratching or biting or other contact. Infection at birth has a much higher likelihood of developing into chronic disease that can lead to liver cancer, so the risk/reward profile is one consideration for immunizing younger for this.

    I was surprised at the recommendation of a dose at birth.  It turns out that apparently only a low level of antibodies are needed to prevent infection from Hep B, and that babies' systems are not useless, just weaker.  So the needed level of protection can be reached by 4 months of age with the current schedule.
    1. (Pregnant women are already tested for STD’s prior to birth so there’s no reason to give it to an infant).

      I would hesitate to say "no reason".  STD tests aren't perfect, and the most dangerous time for the mother to be infected would be while she is pregnant and the test could more easily miss the diagnosis in that case.
    2. Interesting to note, of the few vaccines that still are given to infants and STILL has thimerasol in it is Hep B and DipTet (and Flu shot recommended to pregnant women).I don't believe this is true.  This page has the list of vaccines that have thimerosal in it, and none of the hep b vaccines that I see there have any thimerosal any more ( though they may have in the past.  The source linked to that claims it is still in vaccines appears to date to 2007 and is no longer accurate. 

  2. Why are babies given vaccines to produce antibodies when they do not produce antibodies until after the age of 3 to 6 months?
    It looks like this is an over simplification.  Even the link given in the article shows that some on-board immunity (especially IgM) is present in babies at birth, and that other immunity is not at zero at birth (i.e. "do not produce antibodies until 3-6 months" is outright false.)  If that is combined with a virus that is more susceptible to antibodies it would allow babies to develop enough antibodies to confer immunity.
  3. Why does the government tell parents to delay breast feeding and get more vaccines when breast feeding babies produce higher levels of antibodies?
    This statement is very confusing given that it doesn't link to the government telling parents anything, it links to a study finding that breast feeding at the same time an oral vaccine is administered may reduce the efficacy of a particular vaccine.  The study concludes "These data should encourage clinical trials to investigate whether delaying breast-feeding for a short period before and after giving the vaccine could reasonably improve the immune response and protective efficacy."

    And yet, the other article linked ( appears to deliberately misunderstand this, appearing to say that breastfeeding should be "halted" and "...that the researchers seem to indicate mothers should instead choose to give their children synthetic formula."

  4. Why aren’t vaccine manufacturers held responsible when their product injures your child? Why would these companies need to be protected from the effects of such wonderful products?
    Yeah, this kinda sucks.  The original motivation seems to be that vaccine manufacturers would go bankrupt if they had to fight lawsuits all the time, and I guess that it depends on how much merit you think such lawsuits have.  People are legitimately injured by vaccines, and there needs to be some way to compensate them.  I suppose if your goal is to halt all vaccines it doesn't seem like a bad thing that lawsuits could lock up the industry, and then it gets down to the underlying question of if vaccines actually are worth it, or which ones are. If the current compensation system isn’t sufficient it should be overhauled.
  5. Why have no double blind, placebo, randomized controlled trials been done on any vaccines?
    I must not understand this question properly because if I Google search for "placebo vaccine studies" the internet is FULL of them.  Here are three that I found in a single quick search.

    There is a lot of worry about using placebos when an effective vaccine already exists, but that's different.  If you're studying a new vaccines, you do it using a placebo.
  6. Why are we following the US vaccination schedule? We are the most vaccinated population on the planet with the highest rates of infant deaths/SIDS in the western world?
    Why did SIDS decline by by 70% or so between 1990 and 2013?  Without any supporting links for me to follow on this point I can't evaluate it as anything other than just sensationalism.
  7. Why are disease outbreaks occurring in populations with 90%+ vaccination rates? What about that ‘Herd Immunity’ guys?
    Because math.
    Vaccination rate * effectiveness rate = overall immunity
    .9 * .9 = .81
    .95 * .95 = .9025

    You have to look at how often vaccinated people are infected vs. unvaccinated people are infected.  If everybody was unvaccinated, then vaccines would have a perfect record.  If everyone was vaccinated, non-vaccination would have a perfect record.
  8. Why are children vaccinated against these diseases still catching and spreading them?
    90% does not equal 100%. Also, the link shows that this goes back to the same false notion that somehow the Disneyland measles outbreak was caused by vaccinated people spreading vaccine viruses:

    I previously responded to this kind of stuff on Facebook, but now I've found this link that sums it up nicely with the exact links I used:

    The Disneyland measles viruses were wild viruses, not vaccine viruses. This is a known fact by analyzing the genes of the viruses involved. Stop trying to blame the Disneyland outbreak on anything other than a larger than previous population of unvaccinated guests.
  9. Why are we frightened of non-fatal illnesses that train a child’s immune system how to behave?
    Fatality is not the only negative outcome of diseases. Note though that pertussis and measles are fatal illnesses. You can make a legitimate argument about whether a disease is worth vaccinating against. There is a cost benefit analysis and you might disagree with someone else on this - that's fine.
  10. Why are vaccine manufacturers allowed to reduce antigens and insert cheap and toxic additives that aggravate the injection site?
    Without a link to something explaining this I have no way to judge its value as a question. Maybe this is the same as question 24?
  11. Why do we need multi-dose vaccines if the number ONE priority of vaccine manufacturers is your child’s safety?
    What?  When you are prescribed antibiotics, if the doctor says you need to take 5 pills over 5 days do you think that your health is not her priority since you can't just take 1 pill in 1 day? I really have no idea what sort of confusion of ideas could lead to such a question.
  12. Why will no physician sign a written guarantee for a child’s safety prior to vaccinating them with products they insist you take and that they say are completely safe?
    In your job, would you sign a written guarantee that nothing will ever go wrong with anything you do or you'll owe billions of dollars?  Especially when there are known side effects of that thing - which means the "completely safe" in your question is misplaced.
  13. Why is there no outrage about the 3.1 billion dollars paid out in vaccine injury/death claims and yet they claim there is no correlation and they are perfectly safe?
    It kind of sounds like there is outrage, or you'd have far fewer questions.

  14. Why don’t people recognize from history that the most widespread and lethal diseases in the last 200 years were reduced due to cleaner drinking water, improved sanitation, nutrition, less overcrowded areas and better living conditions?

I'm pretty sure everybody does recognize that from history.  The measles graph from that blog:
    shows this perfectly well.  Mortality can decline while cases are flat, and then when vaccination arrives, mortality declines even further while cases decline. You can reduce deaths by reducing cases, or by reducing the severity of the cases.  In this case, severity of measles was reducing steadily, but vaccination nearly eliminated the deaths altogether.
  15. Why do people keep parroting what they hear about ‘Herd Immunity?’ Herd immunity is a hilarious concept that assumes that 1) Vaccinated people are immune to the diseases for which they’ve been vaccinated, 2) Can not carry the diseases for which they are vaccinated/immune, 3) Because most of the people are vaccinated, other people around them can’t catch the disease. My favourite analogy for herd immunity is that if 95% of people in a building are wearing hard hats when the ceiling falls in, the 5% are protected.
    I don't get why this is a hard concept to understand. If fewer people carry the virus, fewer people can transmit the virus.  If you disagree with the assumption that vaccinated people are mostly immune, say that.  If you disagree with the assumption that they are mostly not carrying the virus, say that.  If those assumptions hold, then herd immunity is an obvious consequence.

    A ceiling falling in a building hits everyone at once so it's a poor analogy to a disease spreading through a population. A better way to illustrate this would be firebreaks in our forested community. If a neighborhood has enough fire breaks around houses, a fire would have a harder time hitting every house in that neighborhood. This is not even a tiny bit controversial. It's OK to disagree with the assumptions that vaccines work, but if they do work, then herd immunity is a logical consequence.  
  16. Why are almost all pro-vaxxer adults we talk to not up to date on their adult vaccinations/boosters?
    Thanks for the reminder, I'm probably due for Pneumovax, and maybe DTaP and a couple of others.  I'll make an appointment with my doctor this week.

    I assure you, I'm not behind because I'm scared, I'm behind because I'm lazy.
  17. Why do pro-vaxxers ignore .gov scientific studies?
    Two examples are given:

    I don't ignore them, and nobody should.  The second one is about a measles outbreak and illustrates the need for occasional booster shots.  I suspect you'll find the measles vaccine schedule is different today than it was in 1989 when that outbreak occurred. The first paper is pretty scary - there might be an autoimmune response triggered by an HPV vaccine that can result in sterility.  Given the benefits of not getting HPV vs this effect, I think it's definitely worth studying this to see if vaccination is worth it, and I'd be opposed to making HPV vaccines mandatory.
  18. Why didn’t our government health agencies ever safety test thimerasol (a mercury derivative and adjuvant) since Lilly developed it in the 1920’s?
    I don't know if that’s the case or why, but it's not in vaccines anymore (see 1b at the very top.)
  19. Why is it that only 40% of health professionals receive the flu shot each year?  They must not believe in it.
    The conclusion doesn't follow.  They may believe in it but find the rewards are not worth the drawbacks like having to pay $10 or having a sore shoulder. It's a good thing the flu shot isn't mandatory, so you can avoid it as well.
  20. Why? Instead of a mandatory vaccine law, why don’t they have a mandatory law passed to protect us from Iatrogenic Death? (Death by Doctor, 3rd leading cause of death!)

    Why not both? I mean, other than the fact that I don't know how you'd construct such a law.
  21. Why doesn’t the pro vaccination public admit that the vaccinated spread disease and stop blaming us?
    Please note that this question is right next to a picture of a warning label on a vaccine that says that vaccinated people can spread disease. We know it can spread a milder form of the disease, we just think that that is better than the alternative of getting the actual disease.

    What I really think is behind this question is more of the false assumption that ALL outbreaks are due to vaccinated people which most recently happened in response to the Disneyland outbreak.  See my answer to 8 above.
  22. Why do people still trust their government health agencies when they say vaccines are perfectly safe?
    This seems to get into anti-government sentiments which I don't care to engage with. There's plenty I don't trust about the goverenment.  But, I also don't think the government is saying vaccines are perfectly safe. See : "Any vaccine can cause side effects."  That's a government web page and it says right on it that vaccines are not perfectly safe.
  23. Why do they put aborted fetal cells in Vaccines?  Also DNA from monkeys, chickens, human tumour cells?
    It sounds like you're asking how vaccines are made. - this link has some good examples that could shed light on both chicken and mammal DNA. Since viruses can't grow on their own, and you need a virus (either weakened or killed) or part of a virus to trigger the immune response, you must grow the virus by using animal cells to host the viruses.  DNA from those cells will end up in the vaccine, just as iron ends up in your omelettes if you cook in a cast iron skillet.
  24. Why is Aluminum being used as an adjuvant in vaccines when there are many .gov studies against it’s use as Toxic?
    I fully support further studies to determine the safety of Aluminum or any other ingredient in vaccines. Given the long history of usage in vaccines I don't think the level of danger calls for something drastic like ceasing all vaccinations, but we should continue to research this and see if there are better alternatives.  
  25. Why do people think the government can’t get away with secret human testing of disease, drugs, and chemicals on us when they have done it and apologized for it numerous times?
    If they've apologized for it, it's not secret anymore, right?

    This example though really sticks out: though:
    " (government study admitting experimentation of large populaces with aerosol vaccines)"

    Did... we just go Chemtrails?  It sounds like you're talking about spraying vaccines over large areas. In reality, they're talking about administering individuals with aerosol doses using devices like inhalers.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Goodbye, Bevatron.

The Bevatron is being destroyed. It's been sitting idle for 16 years, so I suppose it's about time, but it still makes me a little sad.

I worked there in 1992 and had a grand old time playing with radioactive doohickies and programming computers to control enormous superconducting magnets. I can't imagine a cooler job for a college student. There were so many amazing things like the huge crane on rails that could go anywhere around the accelerator ring, enormous power supplies, and motor generators that looked like they could have powered an aircraft carrier.

Spend some time walking through the photos tagged with bevatron on flickr - there are some amazing shots there. Telstar Logistics has some nice ones, including this shot of the radiation safety key board. The notion is that they can't turn on the beam unless all the keys are in, so if you're going inside the accelerator you take a key with you.

Goodbye, Bevatron!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Strawberry Margaritas

4 oz pureed strawberries
2 oz tequila
2 oz Grand Marnier
1 tbsp fresh lime juice (about half a lime)
1 tbsp sugar

Blend with ice.

This worked out a little sweeter than I'd like, but Laurie really appreciated it.