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Stop Homeopathy Funding on the NHS - a petition

Posted 1/7/2016

About 3 months ago a petition was started to stop the funding of homeopathy on the NHS. It has so far received fewer than 200 signatures so I want to do my bit to raise awareness of the petition since I am certain more people would sign it if they knew about it.

Homeopathy funding on the NHS is small, a mere drop in the water. Plenty more money is wasted in many different ways. Stopping the funding of homeopathy on the NHS would make next to no difference to the funding crisis the NHS is facing.

So, you might wonder, why bother signing this petition?

Because this is the single most simple decision any government should ever have to make. If our government cannot make a simple decision like this, how can we trust them with ANYTHING? As a basic matter of principle, no public money whatsoever should be spent on homeopathy.

If you don't know the facts, it's possible you'll need some persuading of how simple a decision this is. Well, here are some facts.

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Has the HPV vaccine caused 160 deaths?

Posted 11/27/2015

Gardasil - tested and tested againGardasil - tested and tested againA common anti-vax trick is to use VAERS data to "prove" vaccines are dangerous.

VAERS is an open, public reporting platform where anyone can report an adverse side effect from a vaccine. There's a similar system in many countries, including the UK where it's called the Yellow Card Scheme.

It's useful for getting large amounts of data on vaccine safety in the real world and was once used to identify a small, previously undetected side effect of an old rotavirus vaccine: in 1/10,000 cases it could trigger intussusception, essentially a blockage in the intestines.

The side effect wasn't detected during testing because around 1/2,000 infants suffer from the problem naturally and the small extra risk was hidden in the crowd. Only the large amounts of data available from these public reporting systems enabled the side effect to be identified.

The old vaccine was quickly withdrawn (it took about 6 months for the risk to be identified) and we have a new, safer version of the rotavirus vaccine. The new vaccine is still carefully monitored by the same reporting systems, has shown no sign of similar side effects, and saves around 30 lives a year in the UK, and perhaps double that in the US.

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5 studies that show vaccines cause autism

Posted 4/22/2015

No, really, they don'tNo, really, they don'tIn the wake of yet another study showing that vaccines do not cause autism, there has been a flurry of activity on social media linking to studies that reportedly show that they do.

The reality is that you can find a study that "proves" just about anything if you look hard enough to find one but don't bother to read past the abstract. Studies which are said to demonstrate a link either do not do so, have a tiny sample size or suffer from critical flaws.

For comparison here are just three studies which show that there is no link between vaccines and autism:

1. Vaccines for measles, mumps and rubella in children

Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2012, Issue 2

This review looked at the evidence presented in 5 randomised controlled trials, 1 controlled clinical trial, 27 cohort studies, 17 case-control studies, 5 time-series trials, 1 case cross-over trial, 2 ecological studies, and 6 self controlled case series studies assessing the effectiveness and safety of the MMR vaccine. In all, about 14,700,000 children were involved.

The review found no significant association between MMR and any of: autism, asthma, leukaemia, hay fever, type 1 diabetes, gait disturbance, Crohn's disease, demyelinating diseases, or bacterial or viral infections.

2. Vaccines are not associated with autism: An evidence-based meta-analysis of case-control and cohort studies

Vaccine, Volume 32, Issue 29, 17 June 2014

Five cohort studies involving 1,256,407 children, and five case-control studies involving 9,920 children were included in this analysis. No relationship was found between vaccination and autism or ASD, or between autism and any of MMR or thimerosal or mercury.

3. Autism Occurrence by MMR Vaccine Status Among US Children With Older Siblings With and Without Autism

JAMA, 2015;313(15)

This study covered 95,000 children with older siblings. 994 of these children had ASD and 1929 of them had older siblings with ASD. Receipt of the MMR vaccine was not associated with increased risk of ASD, regardless of whether older siblings had ASD.

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No deaths from measles, 100 deaths from vaccines

Posted 4/9/2015

No deaths in the US from measles or the vaccine for 10 yearsNo deaths in the US from measles or the vaccine for 10 yearsAn Australin Green Party branch recently posted to their Facebook page the shocking revelation that "Not one person died of measles in the USA last year, but over 100 kids have died as a result of the vaccination".

Indeed, this "fact" has been doing the rounds a lot recently. I wanted to share it and explain why it is wrong.

To understand where this statistic comes from and why it is wrong, it needs breaking down piece by piece.

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Whooping Cough Vaccination: The Facts and the Truth

Posted 4/7/2015

Riley John Hughes died at 32 days from whooping cough complicationsRiley John Hughes died at 32 days from whooping cough complicationsThe tragic death of a baby in Australia was the event that brought whooping cough, or pertussis, to the forefront of my attention recently.

Measles is more of a headline grabber since, fortunately, it's very rare thanks to vaccines. But whooping cough, though relatively uncommon, has never really been brought under control in the same way. It kills around 10 to 20 people a year in the UK and the US, mostly children under 3 months old.

The motivation to write this article came as I heard reports of 19 cases of whooping cough in Utah among children who had all been vaccinated. Numerous anti-vaccine campaigners jumped on this story to claim that vaccines don't work. But the truth, as always, is far more interesting and important to understand.

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Not Even Wrong - When Homeopaths Attempt Research

Posted 3/20/2015

It just feels wrong...It just feels wrong...The phrase "not even wrong" has been attributed to Wolfgang Pauli, one of the great physicists of the early 20th century who, along with Paul Dirac, receives far too little mainstream recognition. When Pauli used it, he was referring to research that was so bad that it did not deserve to be treated as science. It was worse than simply being wrong.

I recently came across some anti-vaccine 'research' conducted by a German homeopath concluding that vaccinated children are generally less healthy than unvaccinated children. Originally started in 2011, an anti-vaccine website picked up on this study and continues it to this day, perpetuating the wrongness.

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Truth Under Attack

Posted 3/12/2015

Flying horses are common myths, tooFlying horses are common myths, tooIt was bound to happen sooner or later. A troll dropped in on this website and started mouthing off about all the lies I was telling. I deleted the comments and will no doubt now get accused of suppressing debate.

Hidden among the personal attacks and pointless asides, however, there were a couple of interesting points raised - in the sense that they repeated the same few myths and mythunderstandings that are raised and discredited time and again.

I considered trying to add some of these common myths to the Myths section of this website, but that's still very much a work in progress. Instead, I will quote the more coherent "objections" here to once again repeat the process of discreditation.

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Vaccination myths promoted by CNBC

Posted 3/4/2015

On 3 March 2015, the CNBC website featured a press release from the Weston A. Price Foundation containing several common vaccine myths and fallacies. The main thrust of the press release was that recently vaccinated people can spread disease, a lie that has been repeated regularly following the recent measles outbreak in the US.

In the face of this major outbreak of this dangerous disease, hosting such misinformation is irresponsible at best and dangerous at worst. Yet CNBC refused to remove the offending material, stating "These press releases do not reflect original reporting by or the editorial judgment of CNBC". A lack of editorial judgment is painfully obvious.

The press release gives the appearance of being a well-researched and accurate piece of writing, with a list of 23 references at the end. However, as is typical of the anti-vaccination movement, these sources have been cherry-picked, misrepresented and misquoted to support incorrect information.

This post reviews the claims made by the press release and compares them to the sources to reveal the truth behind the lies.

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Why Vaccination Should be Compulsory

Posted 2/25/2015

Imbuing you with subtle dreadImbuing you with subtle dreadI am a big believer in personal choice. This naturally puts me in a position to be against enforced or mandatory immunisation. But the recent discussion in the US following a measles outbreak and a death in Germany has changed my mind. I want to share some of my reasons why.

First, let's get some of the facts out of the way: (i) vaccination saves lives and (ii) vaccines do not cause autism.

It is so much better to be vaccinated than it is to get measles, whooping cough and other vaccine-preventable diseases that there is no meaningful debate to be had on that point.

But this alone is not enough to justify mandatory immunisation.

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New anti-HIV protein could work like a vaccine

Posted 2/23/2015

Just a generic bacteria/virus/immune-system imageJust a generic bacteria/virus/immune-system imageIn the same week that an aggressive new strain of HIV was identified in Cuba, new hope has been found in research published in Nature that describes a protein that resists HIV infection so well it works like a vaccine.

As also reported by The BBC and The Independent, there is a lot of research still to be done, not least to ensure safety which is always a primary concern in the development of any new treatment or vaccine.

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