I got shingles and antivaxers mocked me

The morning of July 29, 2019, I woke up at 4am with an itch on my upper right ribs. Half asleep, I scratched it and felt a shooting, stabbing pain like no rash or bug bite I have ever had before. In a bit of shock (metaphorically), I went to the bathroom to look at what it was in the mirror.  I had a patch on my upper right front ribs, about the size of half a gardenburger, red, with angry-looking small bumps. Oh no. Was it shingles? I was not sure so I texted some nurse/doctor friends and described it (no I did not send them a picture) and they all agreed it sounded just like shingles. Per their recommendation, I got myself to urgent care that day and got the antiviral medicine, valacyclovir, which did a great job keeping the spread at a minimum.

What are shingles? How did I get it? Per Mayo Clinic,

Shingles is a viral infection that causes a painful rash. Although shingles can occur anywhere on your body, it most often appears as a single stripe of blisters that wraps around either the left or the right side of your torso.

Shingles is caused by the varicella-zoster virus — the same virus that causes chickenpox. After you’ve had chickenpox, the virus lies inactive in nerve tissue near your spinal cord and brain. Years later, the virus may reactivate as shingles.

While it isn’t a life-threatening condition, shingles can be very painful. Vaccines can help reduce the risk of shingles, while early treatment can help shorten a shingles infection and lessen the chance of complications.

I was a child in the 1970s and had chickenpox twice. There was no vaccine back then.  I knew the virus was lying dormant in me, waiting to give me shingles. And, I had tried to get the shingles vaccine last year when my new insurance started covering it but it had not been available.  It was out of stock all over the country. I got put on a waitlist. When it finally was available I was too busy helping my dad with issues related to my mom’s death to bother getting vaccinated. My goal was to get it in August of this year, after a month of staying out of state with dad. I could have gotten it when I turned 50 (I am 53) but my other insurance plan did not cover the vaccine and I could not have afforded it out of pocket. I was a divorced university student at the time. No shill money comes my way!

But I got shingles infection instead.

I have heard horror stories about how shingles can be the worst pain you have ever felt. Luckily, antiviral medicine helped keep the rash from spreading. I used Lidocaine patches at night on the part of my back that was most painful (not the part with the rash but closer to the spine), to help me sleep. For day, the compounding pharmacy made me a cream with gabapentin and some other stuff in it.  I chose not to take the pill form of gabapentin as my pain was not that bad and I was concerned about it making me groggy. The pain was very uncomfortable and sharp and, since I am off work for the summer, I took to social media to whine. And also to remind people to get vaccinated when they can. Don’t wait!

Lucky me, anti-vaxxers found my posts. But, do you see anything wrong here?  They didn’t read it correctly.  Also, they are wishing me harm. Rather unkind!

First up is Washington’s own Jaclyn, making fun of me. She has me blocked on social media so someone in her camp shared this with her. This is from Jaclyn’s Facebook page but the screenshot of my comment was taken from my Twitter feed.

shingles1 copy

Next up, the comments on Jaclyn’s page.  Look how they wish me harm. Such lovely people. And no, dear, I had chickenpox naturally. That’s how you get shingles.

shingles3 copy

No, I did not have the vaccine Meredith. Learn to read better!

shingles4 copy

No, Jillian, I did not get the vaccine. Why are you all misreading the post? Very odd.

shingles 5 copy.jpg

 

Sorry, Jillian, but the only way to spread shingles would be to let people scratch my rash. Why on earth would I do that?  It’s pretty easy to contain. Unlike chickenpox, shingles is not a respiratory infection. Shingles can spread to others via the fluid in the rash and cause a person to get chickenpox but, again, why would I let someone touch a rash on my ribs?

 

shing8 copy

 

And another one who cannot read correctly. At this point, it is kinda funny. They really think they are educated but they all misread my post? Snort.

 

shingles6 copy

 

And, another one who has trouble reading.

shing7 copy

 

Update: Infamous antivaxer, Suzanne Humphries, has now weighed in and wished me harm. Wow.  What horrible people! Never, ever have I wished harm on anyone.  How do these people sleep at night?

suzanne copy

 

I am sharing these screenshots to make a point. Well, two points:

  1. Get your vaccines on time
  2. Antivaxers seem to have reading comprehension problems. This might explain why they misunderstand science.

 

There is good news to end my story. Almost three weeks later, the rash is but a shadow of itself and the nerve pain is very infrequent. No, this was not a deadly issue but it sure was an inconvenience.  I am getting the vaccine in six months, for sure, which is the soonest I can get it after having shingles infection NATURALLY.

 

Happy fact verifying!

 

Kathy

Advertisements

Ashley Cate’s response to my review of her vaccine guide

Yesterday, I posted a review of Ashley Everly Cates’ Vaccine Guide. This is a large notebook full of what she feels is good information about vaccines.  While she has me blocked on social media, she took to her Facebook page to challenge my review. Having received screenshots, I will share and comment herein.  It would be nice if she would unblock me and engage me on my Facebook page or in comments on this blog, but lacking that a blog post in response will have to suffice.

 

ashleyrespond copy

ashleyrespond2 copy

First of all, my blog post was not an attack. Criticism of research is not an attack. It is done all the time in every field of study.  If Ashley is as learned about research as she claims, she should know this is how research works.   It is telling that Ashley feels the need to defend how she refers to herself as a toxicologist. No matter how you portray it, Ashley, you have only a bachelor’s degree in environmental toxicology and have never published any work nor worked in the field. This does not give you the right to call yourself a toxicologist any more than my bachelor’s degree in sociology gives me the right to call myself a sociologist. The reason I bring up your lack of education as a point of clarification is you are misleading people in two ways: you mislead them with an appeal to your (lack of ) authority and you mislead them by claiming the science you present is valid based on this so-called authority. You further claim appeal to authority by implying that you know more than doctors because your child has a supposed (but never proven) vaccine injury.  Appeals to authority are deeply troubling. A good scientist is neutral in their presentation of facts as the facts should stand alone and be valid in any of themselves. Therefore, your undergraduate training doesn’t matter and appealing to it is not valid. You are asking people to respect your opinion without regard to facts.

 

Note: I am going to address a recent comment made to me. Please note there are three reasons I am specifying that Ashley is not a toxicologist. She has only a BS in the field, has never worked in the field, and has published no papers in the field. The BS alone is not the only factor. 

 

You claim “you know how to read and interpret scientific research, check for design flaws, bias, etc” but you have not proven that at all with your vaccine guide. You did not comment at all on any of the screenshots you shared, with regards to validity, design flaws, bias, etc.  You merely present a cherry-picked list of abstracts and assume the reader will take your word for it (appeal to authority) that you are sharing with them the best the science has to offer. You offer no review of any of the studies to which you link.

Thus, I call you a fake toxicologist because you have not proven to anyone in provaccine camp that you, in fact, have any authority as a toxicologist. The Society of Toxicology explains that a person with a bachelor’s degree in toxicology could find work as a lab technician or research assistant. “Depending upon your career aspirations, a bachelor’s degree may not be enough for you to achieve your goals.  According to the “Job Market Survey,” about half of employed toxicologists have a PhD Postdoctoral experience was considered an “absolute” requirement by 29 percent of the employers who planned to hire toxicologists in the next few years; an additional 38 percent listed such experience as “desired.” Postdoctoral training is a route to employment in toxicology for those with advanced degrees in other areas, such as the PhD in other biomedical sciences, the MD, or DVM.”

Thus, you are not a toxicologist.  

As I linked in my review of your Vaccine Guide, my friend Abe is an actual practicing scientist with expertise in the toxicology of pharmaceutical ingredients.  On his blog, he goes over studies in detail, demonstrating WHY each is important or not valid. There is a huge difference in detail between what he does and what you do because he has infinitely greater education and expertise and is an actual, published scientist.   He does not need to appeal to his own authority because of the detail of his writings.

You then complain that I attacked independent science as shoddy simply because it is independent. Nothing could be further from the truth. Most immunization science is independent of pharmaceutical companies; thus, attacking all of it would be irrational. The Vaccine Safety Datalink studies are independent of pharma companies, a great deal of vaccine science comes from Denmark and Germany and is independent of pharma companies.  It is a very bold lie to your readers to claim “Somehow they’ve concluded that independently funded research is to be mistrusted and discounted, while “research” funded by the vaccine manufacturers like Merck, GSK, & Sanofi.”  Perhaps if you would learn how to actually judge vaccine studies for validity, you would not need to lie about how they are funded.

“And of course they attack me because I share abstracts.”  Did you read more than abstracts? The point here is to read and judge the full study, not just share an abstract with no mention how or why it was chosen.

“Every time you find a pro-vaccine attack article, they never link to the actual source they’re attacking.”  I linked to your guide in the first sentence of my blog post. Why? Because I want people to read it and judge for themselves. No manipulation here.

“WHO WOULD BE AGAINST INFORMED CONSENT?” 

No one is against informed consent. You don’t offer it, though, as you lie about vaccine study funding and appeal to your own authority in lieu of reviewing studies for validity.  That is not informed consent.

 

Here are more screenshots from Tara C Smith’s FB page.  Please note these did not come from Tara but from another friend.

ashleytara1 copy

ashleytara2 copy

ashleytara3 copy

Here she claims that doctors don’t give patients informed consent. But, that is not true. You can ask your doctor questions before you get a prescription or vaccine or referral for a procedure. That is informed consent. My second baby was not born in a hospital so her 8 week appointment with our family doctor was our first time thinking about vaccinating her. This was around the time Bob Sears’ The Vaccine Book had come out so I was concerned about aluminum in vaccines. Our doctor used his laptop to look up aluminum limits for vaccines and talk to me about science and, in the end, she got fully vaccinated.  There were a few times I didn’t get the shots at the actual well-check but went home to think about it and talk to her father, who has an MS in toxicology (take that Ashley) and discuss pros and cons. She was vaccinated on schedule, however, as we always went back in to get them within the CDC-recommended time frame.

That is informed consent. 

Ashley, what you are doing is cherry-picking. You have found a list of points you want to make to people about the supposed dangers of vaccines but you have not quantified those points with any reasoning about their validity.  You have not presented a balanced list of studies. You have not shown your followers how literally NOT ONE SINGLE STUDY exists proving vaccines have greater risks than benefits. You have not taught your followers how they can read and understand or even access the full documents for the studies they are reading.

The bottom line

It is very clear your bachelor’s degree is simply not enough, in my opinion, to qualify you as an expert in vaccines. Think of it this way: If you were to try to get hired with only that bachelor’s degree, you would be working as a lab technician or collecting data in the field.  Any papers written about the data you collect would likely not have your name on them as your boss would be the author. “My training and expertise in investigating and determining safety and toxicity” is non-existent. You have published no papers. More to the point, your guide does not explain to people why the studies you have chosen are valid while the hundreds of thousands of other studies are not. A good review of the literature would present the pros and cons, not just cons. I know this for a fact because I have a Master’s degree in Education and wrote a thesis that reviewed the literature on my topic as well as analyzed the data I collected for the project I undertook.  You’ve let your ego get the best of you and you are harming public health for lack of humility.

Why am I criticizing Ashley? Because what she is doing is a danger to public health and well-meaning people get taken advantage of people like her and leave their children unprotected.

Namaste!

 

Kathy

What is the vaccine guide?

I have been seeing more and more of the “Vaccine Guide” in social media and decided to take a look at it. What is it, who made it, what does it have inside of it?  As I am fond of doing, I am taking one for team pro-vax here by reading it myself.

The “Vaccine Guide” is a very slick, well-made looking website with a guide supposedly to everything you need to know about vaccines. You can browse the information online by clicking on the colored sections below or you can download it and take it to a printer to be printed. People also sell them, already printed, online for about $170 a pop in full color.  The guide was created by Ashley Everly Cates, an Idaho woman with a bachelor’s degree in environmental toxicology from University California Davis. She currently runs a group called  Health Freedom Idaho and, as near as I can tell, has never actually worked in toxicology nor written any papers. It should be noted that it is usual practice to only call those with a Ph.D. in toxicology a “toxicologist” but Ashley continually markets herself as a practicing toxicologist. As she has never had any experience beyond the undergraduate degree, this is misleading.

Note: I am going to address a recent comment made to me. Please note there are three reasons I am specifying that Ashley is not a toxicologist. She has only a BS in the field, has never worked in the field, and has published no papers in the field. The BS alone is not the only factor. 

I am a very visual person so I will be referring to every color by it’s Crayola name.

vaxguide

 

First up, yellow-orange section or VAERS, etc.  I notice that Ashley has linked to some good information on the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act (NCVIA) until I realize she has only put up screenshots of pages, not actual links to the actual data. Furthermore, none of the screenshots come with explanations of why they were chosen. There is also a screenshot of a report from Harvard Pilgrim medical group on VAERS reports but the report is not explained in any detail. I feel it would be difficult for the average person to understand the implications of the report and the validity of the data. In actuality, Harvard Pilgrim is a Vaccine Safety Datalink member and they are charged by the US government to monitor vaccine safety. Within their system, they found some underreporting of vaccine adverse events but it is not clear, by reading the study, if this underreporting has any significance on public health, is an artifact of just their system, or is perpetuated by other VSD members.  I feel strongly it is disingenuous to post this study without clarification.

Update: It has come to my attention that I missed the word source on each page of Ashley’s guide. My apologies.  Thus, one can, in fact, link out to the original sources if you use her website. However, if you print the guide and/or buy it as a notebook, you will only get the screenshots. I have edited this post to reflect this correction.

Next up, neon carrot section: vaccine inserts.  This is just URLs linking to the inserts without any explanation of their validity or what they really mean. Nothing is mentioned about how inserts are only written about clinical trials and how they do not list proven side effects. With that in mind, here are some great links on how to read vaccine inserts.

Vaxopedia      or     Skeptical Raptor

The third section is mango tango: It is about vaccine ingredients. First off is a list of vaccine ingredients or excipients.  Then, Ashley has put some links to screenshots about specific ingredients. What I notice right away about the screenshots is that there is nothing about why she thinks they are valid?  This is what we call cherry-picking – choosing studies that make your point but not checking them for actual validity. Validity is incredibly important. Maybe Ashley did not learn this at Davis? As an undergraduate at the University of California, Irvine, I certainly learned the importance of judging a study for validity. Here is a very good read on the basics of how to judge a study for validity.

What Ashley has done is list a bunch of studies showing the supposed dangers of aluminum adjuvants but she has not quantified why she thinks those studies are valid nor compared to other literature. This kind of analysis is shoddy and would have earned her a very bad grade in her research methods class.

In reality, aluminum adjuvants are very safe. My scientist friend, Abe, otherwise known as the Blood-Brain Barrier scientist, has done an excellent job of explaining on his blog. Abe gets to actually refer to himself as an expert as he has a Ph.D. in molecular medicine and is a professor at Texas Tech University.  Abe also has a blog where he explains aluminum adjuvants, among other subjects. Herein, Abe discusses junk science (cough what Ashley shares cough) and why it is junk. As I was taught by the esteemed Dr. Linton Freeman, professor emeritus at University California, Irvine, you have to be able to critically analyze pros and cons of studies, validity, and reliability and explain this in detail, if you want to be taken seriously. Anything less is shoddy work and deserves and F. Lint is a hardass, but I got the only As in his classes for a reason. Man is a genius.

The rest of the ingredients section is more negative thoughts on ingredients, screenshots of papers decrying ingredients, and nothing explaining validity at all. It is intellectually dishonest to try to persuade people with an emotional argument and not present valid arguments to make your point. Ashley has presented nothing valid at all. Just screenshots.

For more on vaccine ingredients, I would recommend the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Vaccine Education website as well as Scientist Abe’s website. Todd has also done a nice job at his blog, Harpocrates Speaks.  I share these links because they are more than screenshots – the explain the ingredients in full and link outside to more information.

The wild watermelon section is called Asymptomatic transmission and shedding.  Again, we have more screenshots without explanations. As the average reader is not trained in how to read studies for validity, I again find this disingenuous.  I am somewhat knowledgeable about how to read studies but I do not have a Ph.D. so I ask for help when I need it. I have resources to help me understand what I am reading. Ashley is relying on the appeal to her authority and assuming readers will simply take her word for why these studies indicate vaccines should be avoided.

Here is the problem with Ashley’s motive: lawmakers and policymakers are going to rely on actual experts in the field to inform them on risks, benefits, and issues therein.  When it comes to understanding the FDA pertussis studies on baboons, many antivaxers assume the two studies indicate baboons shed vaccine-derived pertussis to others when nothing could be further from the truth.  The FDA studies with baboons concluded that vaccinated baboons protected their newborns from pertussis, did not get a severe infection when exposed, did not shed the vaccine, but could colonize pertussis infection in their throats without symptoms. In other words, the worst that can happen with pertussis vaccine is you might get a mild pertussis infection or you might have the bacteria in your throat with no symptoms.  So, being vaccinated doesn’t prevent 100% of pertussis infections but it prevents babies from dying and prevents the 100-day cough. Does Ashley explain these facts?  NOPE!  Bad form!!

Ashley then goes on to cite a very few rare examples of vaccines shedding but does not tell readers how rates chickenpox, flu, rotavirus, rubella, measles, mumps, etc are all extraordinarily low THANKS TO VACCINES. Read The Pink Book for infection data.

Again, this is extremely disingenuous! This is borderline lying, in my book, as it is implying vaccines cause disease without explaining the validity of these actual case studies. One study, for example, is about a boy who got chickenpox vaccine, got the very rare pox, and his pregnant mother also got an infection. This could only have happened if she had been touching her son’s pox. This is extremely rare but also very easily avoidable – don’t get your toddlers vaccinated for chickenpox if you are pregnant and, if you are, don’t touch the pox!  There is a very good reason disease rates are low and it’s name is VACCINES.

The fuschia section is called Effectiveness.  This section is, as usual, only screenshots of studies, often just abstracts. Why she thinks abstracts are enough to read is confounding.  Abstracts are tiny summaries. One must read the full study to judge. Again, did Davis not teach her this fact?? This section could easily fool people until they read the full studies and compare to rates of actual disease, look at genotypes and strains, and realize the whole dang section is proof vaccines work! Also, most of the links therein are not vaccine strains anyway.

Ashley also links to information on pertussis outbreaks and herd immunity.  This is a common trope from antivaxers – the idea that if vaccines don’t work 100% then they are useless. For example, she cites a Fordham University mumps outbreak. There were 13 cases, all vaccinated, out of 10,000 undergraduates. Thus, the vaccine had a hugely effective rate and protected most all students. Vaccine win.

Necessity of vaccination, the royal purple section, is Ashley’s attempt to convince people vaccines are not necessary. For some reason, it starts off with a screenshot of a report from the Royal College of Ireland in 1959. Baffling. I guess she feels this is proof measles is harmless?  I prefer to link to this paper by Walter Orenstein, et al, which analyses the death and complications rates in the USA.

Ashley goes on to link to some more papers questioning the contribution vaccines made to history. For example, she links to a paper on the CDC history of drinking water. As measles, diphtheria, flu, and more are respiratory infections, clean water did not affect them.  She further links to mortality (death) statistics without quantifying that while Americans were dying less of preventable diseases, they were suffering more. As the Orenstein, et al, paper indicates, measles rate was higher in 1950s USA than any other decade in the USA. People were dying less because of medical care but they were still suffering.

Another abstract to which she links is entitled “Human milk mucin inhibits rotavirus replication and prevents experimental gastroenteritis.” As the full study is not linked, the implication is that breastfeeding prevents gastro infections. I am here to tell that is 100% false. Read my tale here.

Plus, again, it is not genuinely informative to link only to an abstract. What does the rest of the paper say? Is it valid? Are the methods they used valid and reliable? Ashley does not cover any of these topics.

The rest of this section has some information on how vitamins might help cure diseases like measles and polio but we know that, for example, vitamin A is only used with measles to lower the complication and rate. It does not eradicate the risks. With viral diseases, there is no good evidence vitamins prevent suffering. Vitamin C does not cure a cold.  Vitamin C is not a cure-allPauling was wrong. Just because some guy in the 1930s gave polio patients vitamin C and some of them did not die does not mean vitamin C is a cure-all.

The navy blue section is on adverse reactions.  This is, once again, more screenshots of abstracts with no explanation as to validity. I have been over how autism is not caused by vaccines many times. You cand read more here and here. Ashley is lying to her readers to say vaccines cause autism and not explain the validity of the abstracts she has screenshot or link to more current research. This is unbelievable maddening. Shameful!  This entire section is an embarrassment to the University of California. Honestly, they should revoke her degree. Linking only to abstracts and not explaining reliability is egregious. She lists few, rare side effects documented but does not link to the vast number of positive outcomes from vaccines? Compared to the number of vaccines given, the USA has compensated 0.0000011% of vaccinees for injury. That is an INCREDIBLE safety rate.

Ashley is not sharing with her readers any accurate science. She is lying.  She shares a screenshot of a badly done analysis of SIDS rates without quantifying that SIDS rate is at a historic low in the USA and the more we vaccinate, the fewer babies die.

The final section is pine green and called Incentives.  This is where the conspiracy theories start. There is a link to a HuffPo article SPIDER, a made-up controversy that went nowhere. There is a link to the badly done Cochrane HPV review that led to a kerfuffle and some careers tanking. There is a link about the ICAN HHS lawsuit that went nowhere. I wrote about that here.

She further goes on to discuss provider incentives but does not explain them at all. I explain how they work here and my friend, Vince, does so here.

In conclusion, this is a sad bunch of cherry-picked, screenshots of abstracts with no explanations as to the validity, nothing is given to readers to inform them why what they are reading is important. Ashley is duping her readers and relying on their gullibility. Most parents want their children to be safe and healthy and Ashley is using scare tactics to influence parents into not vaccinating.

 

She should be thoroughly ashamed of herself.

For more on this guide, be sure to read Science-Based Medicine’s post on it.

Remember to always verify claims. This is a perfect example!!