Decent health care

In the US, UK and Australia, right wing governments are bad for your health. It’s not just the Republican party, working to increase the numbers of uninsured Americans and increase costs to the rest, presiding over more “deaths of despair”. It’s British Tories, ending the growth of life expectancy.

British vaccination rates are decreasing because of the Tories. Last month the Prime Minister, BoJo the Clown, pledged to take on the anti-vaxxers, goading social media companies to fight their propaganda.

However people don’t trust social media as a source of health information, and the companies already take action to make anti-vax posts less visible. As so often, Tories seek a good headline rather than action to improve things.

Hard line anti-vaxxers are a tiny minority. Anna Watson, founder of a facebook anti-vax group, talked of their weariness and despair at social media clampdowns. More numerous are the fence-sitters, who have not come to a decision. The responsibility for making health decisions for your children is heavy. Health information has been poor. There are risks in vaccines. Instead of telling people they should vaccinate, it is better to say there are risks in vaccines, but not vaccinating is more risky.

However the biggest group who don’t vaccinate actually believe vaccines are healthy and reasonably safe. They are parents who face barriers to making appointments. GP appointments are harder to get, and fit in to the diary. GPs don’t chase up unvaccinated children.

In 2015, the decline in vaccination rates started along with Tory reforms to the NHS which made way for privatisation along with other harms. They placed some health responsibilities on the increasingly underfunded local authorities, and lost immunisation expertise. They cut the number of health visitors by 25%.

Overstretched parents simply find vaccination too difficult.

Anti-vaxxers may be unreachable. They cherry pick scientific studies, and have a false self image as knowledgeable, like many internet conspiracy groups. Decent health spending and proper organisation preserves herd immunity to disease. An eye-catching pledge to ask social media companies to do what they are already doing does not.

The Chancellor, Sajid Javid, boasted that after no deal Brexit there would be no excise duties to pay on cigarettes and alcohol bought by travellers. It’ll make your cash “go that little bit further,” he said, as if he did not realise how far the pound has sunk against the Euro. At the same time the health secretary planned some work against excessive drinking, the chancellor was undermining him. Deaths of despair are on the rise here too.

In Australia, parents are texted after vaccinations, and can reply with observed side effects. Listening to people’s concerns increases trust in the system.

Vote Labour. Save the NHS. Save the economy from Alexander “fuck business” Johnson. Vote for the chance of a Brexit which won’t damage Britain like Tory Brexit will.

“Ignorant Papists”

Pope_Leo_XII[Catherine the Great] decided to have herself and her family and her court inoculated. Inoculation was the great scientific advance…In France and other Catholic countries it was actually forbidden as being contrary to the Will of God. So says Professor Tony Lentin of the Open University at (15.00) here.

I find this quote attributed to Pope Leo XII: Whoever allows himself to be vaccinated ceases to be a child of God. Smallpox is a judgement from God : thus vaccination is an affront to Heaven. Could not God smite some other way? Had strokes and heart attacks increased as vaccination spread, we could use this as evidence of God!

Seeking evidence, I went to Wikipedia. Vaccine Controversies does not finger the Pope, but ascribes similar sentiments to “some Christian opponents“. The article Vaccination and religion has the hallmarks of vituperative editing: Anti-vaccination proponents were most common in Protestant countries, someone has crowed. As I write, it says Quakers opposed vaccination: we were in Pope_Pius_VIIIour Evangelical phase, but I think that unlikely.

Quodlibeta‘s article gives a wealth of detail, and the peroration Leo XII’s alleged ban of vaccination is a whiggish myth which has been repeated and promulgated slavishly ever since…No doubt in cyberspace it will continue amongst those who will swallow any myth as long as it is anti-catholic or anti-religious.

That is the problem. The story has started as anti-Catholic, and is now anti-Christian, showing how we opposed science to the detriment of believers and their victims. The classic such story is geocentrism.

Still in Wikipedia, where the battle rages between those who would maximise or minimise the church’s foolish perfidy, I read that all books refuting geocentrism were banned by the Catholic church until 1757, and Galileo’s Dialogue was prohibited until 1835. Gregory_XVIPope John Paul II claimed not to contend with science: the Bible does not concern itself with the details of the physical world, the understanding of which is the competence of human experience and reasoning. Theology is about the human relationship with God, though psychological research impinges on even that.

Seeking a happily partisan view, I went to RationalWiki. It gives little detail on the slow progress of the Roman church, but quotes four verses of the Bible apparently affirming geocentrism, and a link: “Looking for outright lies? CreationWiki has a page on Geocentrism”. Oh, OK. The Encyclopedia of Creation Science points out Einstein’s relativity theory asserts that the frame of reference for observing motion is arbitrary– so you can say the Earth stands still if you want- but Mainstream creationists agree that the the Earth is in motion around the Sun.

The message I wanted to leave you with is that when partisans debate such details, there is more heat than light, and what is needed is a patient examination of the history of ideas, and levels of belief. What I end with is both RationalWiki (Thank God it attacks Creationists, rather than all Christians!) and CreationWiki saying moderately sensible things on Geocentrism; and a University professor peddling an anti-Papist myth.

Also on Catholics in history: a Jewish academic works to rehabilitate the reputation of wartime bishop Aloysius Stepinac.

Bad vaccines II

That meme my friend shared, saying dangerous substances were in vaccines, is a lie. But what sort of lie? Has any of that precise detail any basis in fact?

There is aluminium in vaccines, in order to strengthen the immune response to the vaccine. The Alzheimer’s Society considers a link unlikely. There is more aluminium in an avocado pear than in a vaccination, and the aluminium is excreted.

Beta-propiolactone is used to sterilise the vaccine.

Gelatin is a preservative for vaccines. An allergic reaction occurs in about one in two million doses. People with a severe gelatine allergy should avoid vaccines containing gelatin, but the rest of us can inject it just as we eat it.

Antibiotics are used in the production of vaccines to prevent contamination. They are removed in subsequent purification.

Genetically modified yeast? Well, it depends whether you see GMOs as always monstrous, or as wonderful, as this article does. I think the reduction of hepatitis B is a worthy cause, and if this method advances it I am in favour. Do the altered genes get in to your cells? Not unless injected there, which is how genetic engineering works. Everything we eat contains DNA.

Glutaraldehyde led me to the World Association for Vaccine Education, or WAVE. The web address indicates hostility. It showed me how latex might get into a vaccine, from the stopper. It also shows how not all these ingredients are in every vaccine, not immediately apparent from the facebook share.

Mercury: the monstrous Legalist (totalitarian) Emperor Qin Shi Huang ingested mercury pills, because mercury, a metal which flows as a liquid, was thought magically alive. It represents the rivers of China in his tomb. Thiomersal, used as a preservative, is being eliminated from flu vaccines, but retained where otherwise vaccines would need cold-storage. That last article shows how the benefits outweigh the risks.

Monosodium glutamate enhances the flavours of food, says Mercola, which calls it a “silent killer”. But the Japanese eat so much of it, why are they not all ill? That Guardian article hints American resistance to MSG comes from xenophobia: “the foreign migrant contaminating American kitchens”. There is far more in food than in vaccines.

The picture is a lie in that not all vaccines contain these ingredients, but also in that it gives the effects of larger doses than you will get from a vaccination, and does not give the reasons for including the ingredients. The benefits of reducing disease spread far exceed the risks, but the picture ignores that.

Bad vaccines

A fbfnd shared a meme scare-mongering about substances in vaccines. It appears the manufacturers wish to poison us, perhaps because they want to cause autism.

You will be aware of the dangers of dihydrogen monoxide. That this is on facebook means that I cannot even tell if any of its allegations are true, leave alone whether there are reasons for the inclusion of latex rubber in vaccines, or whether it can cause allergic reactions when in a vaccine. And, of course a vaccine contains “bacterial DNA”- that is what a vaccine is, and how it works.

This, dear Reader, is a scare story. My great respect for my fbfnd is slightly reduced by her sharing it. It contains exaggerations and possibly untruths, and I find that from my own knowledge.

I had all the vaccinations normal when I was growing up. Oh NO!!-

They never did me any harm; in my day

Ohmygod. Apologies: I am still prone to these wee outbursts of Conservatism. In my day, boys (ahem) were not inoculated against measles, and the South Wales outbreak, preventable if a sufficient proportion of the population had been inoculated, may have killed a man.

How much trust is appropriate? One tends to hope that in the UK at least, there are enough people in the system who care about truth, and children’s lives, to ensure that vaccines are not injected including harmful substances with no benefit to outweigh any possible risk. In Pakistan, the CIA used a vaccination programme to spy on Osama bin Laden, so perhaps less trust is appropriate.

When it comes to bee population collapse and nicotinoid pesticides, the Government needs evidence of a connection before it will restrict the pesticides, yet supports no research which would make such a connection. I do not believe pesticide companies wish to kill off bees, and so prevent the pollination of our food crops- that would not be good for profit- but they do have an interest in continuing to sell pesticides and might take a higher risk than I would of a disaster approaching the dimensions of the Cretaceous asteroid. Interest may affect ones assessment of evidence. How far do you take the precautionary principle?

Why bother? I am neither going to kill the bees or save the bees, by research or a petition signature; I am not going to be vaccinated. It matters because of the world I live in. I am aware of dog-eat-dog capitalism and high-functioning psychopaths and concepts of honour and decency and joy in creativity and altruism. Where should my trust level be? This picture may even inoculate me against scare stories, so that when one is true I deny it.

These are things I cannot know for certain, and I want rationally to reach a level of trust in the world which is not merely dependent on my mood or the sunshine. That would be a back-up, when “I will do my thing and be concerned only with real bad things, if they actually happen” seems too scary.