Booster Vertigo

I have answered several questions over the last few months since the government (outside of Texas) started mandating COVID vaccination and recommending that everyone get a booster shot six months after initial vaccination. Questions from fellow Meniere’s sufferers who are concerned about having a rotational vertigo attack following vaccination. I have a quick answer for all of them. All of you.

It is entirely possible that the stress of any vaccination could trigger a vertigo spell. You should be prepared for this if vertigo is a thing that you have ever experienced. Stress can cause vertigo. Be prepared.

Most vaccinations cause mild vertigo for me. I accept this fact and move on. I get the vaccinations anyway, even with the added vertigo and associated other ill-feelings. I do this because the stress of illness also gives me vertigo.

I get vertigo when I go for a long walk and provoke an allergy attack, of course getting sick gives me vertigo. The vertigo I get from a cold or the flu? That vertigo is worse than what the vaccination makes me suffer through. I’d rather not have that so vaccination is a no-brainer for me. Just looking at the big picture.

reddit

What Would Bunk Do?

He was known as Bunk to friends and family and he carried that nickname all his life. He earned that name fair and square at a very early age by retorting “that’s a load of bunk ” after being told something that he thought was bullshit. Bullshit was the kind of word he would reserve for private reflections on the bunk he encountered, but he knew bullshit when he smelled it all the same. You don’t have to be offensive in your rejection of other’s ideas. It was enough to simply dispute them, and he did that with emphasis.

He was a science man through and through. If you could prove a thing through trial and error, then that thing was a true thing and he stuck with it. His family grew to accept his judgements after awhile. What he said proved to be the thing that needed doing so often that most of them rarely bothered to disagree with him publicly. Sometimes when they encountered problems in their own lives and he wasn’t there to ask, they would even quietly ask themselves “What Would Bunk Do?”

He grew set in his ways, like most of us do as we get older, certain of many things that could not be proven. More and more of them as time went on. Not all experts are wise, and not all wise men are experts. The doctors that advised his last cancer treatment were of the first variety, and neither he nor they thought to look for men of the second variety to double-check their diagnosis. Blind faith in the practitioners of science can kill you just as surely as blind faith in anything else will.

The moral of this story is to always ask for a second opinion if not a third opinion and a forth one if necessary. Do not ask to find an opinion you agree with. Ask to find one that you disagree with, and then figure out why the disagreement exists. New technology can be a weapon when wielded by the wrong hands. Make sure you understand how it works, or at least that the experts you rely on understand it.

Bunk died in 1997 and so was spared from the insanity that has plagued this country he loved so much since that time. Still, I have little doubt that he would have declared today’s COVID vaccine hesitation a load of bunk given the situation we are in today. The science denial has gotten too obvious on its face. Its adherents too strident in their denial. The costs to the country and to the world are too high to not concede that vaccination is the way out of this mess.

I got my COVID booster shot today. I got my first dose as soon as the vaccine was available:

I had my doubts about mRNA vaccines at first. I had even more doubts that a vaccine created by Donald Trump’s (lack of an) administration could possibly create anything that worked.

Planet Money – Moonshot in the arm – November 5, 2021

It wasn’t until Dr. Fauci accepted the vaccine that I knew it was probably safe and that I could accept it for myself. I got second and third and forth opinions, too. Then I got my vaccination and tried to pretend that the world would go back to normal.

Unfortunately the Trumpists whose God-Emperor had decreed that the vaccines be made won’t allow themselves to be vaccinated because he also said the pandemic was a hoax and that the virus was no different than influenza or a cold. This is demonstrably untrue.

That all kinds of other treatments work against this hoax virus better than vaccines do. Why you need a treatment for a hoax is beyond me, but that hasn’t stopped dozens if not hundreds of people from poisoning themselves with the fake treatments that these con artists that work for and off of Trump are selling.

Six months have gone by since I got my first shot, which makes me eligible to get my booster shot.

Short Wave – How Long Does COVID Immunity Last Anyway? – September 21, 2021

This is the way immunology works. Some people get break-through infections after being vaccinated. This is what the percentage means when they say that a vaccine is XX% effective. the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines were 90% effective against the SARS2 virus that was circulating a year ago. They are both going to be less effective against the mutations that are currently circulating.

Why? Because the unvaccinated give the virus a chance to bypass the protection a vaccine offers by carrying their mutations near the vaccinated and thereby giving the virus a chance to test itself against the vaccine. Each new infection of a vaccinated person brings us one step closer to a new virus that can bypass the therapies completely, and then we will be back to square one again. Locked in our houses and hoping that something will happen that will release us from this hell that science denial has brought on us.

I’m beginning to doubt that we deserve to be saved from our own stupidity. But I got my booster anyway because there is still a chance that we might beat this thing. If we grow up. If we accept that science is real. If we ensure that the virus can’t spread by making everyone on the planet get their vaccinations.

Don’t tell me you are afraid of needles because you can’t be more afraid of them than I am (see the vaccination article) Don’t tell me that you don’t believe in vaccines or that this is all political bullshit. Science is real and people are really dying. Bunk would say “get your shots” in spite of the fact that some other sciences in today’s world would give him reason to question their veracity. Vaccinations are proven technology and they work if you get them. So get them so we can put this pandemic behind us. Please?

And someone wrote new words to an old hymn, and crowds sang it for the weeks it took to end the rotten regime. “Bring out your dead, there is no need for shame. Show every face and let us hear each name. Better to know, how many we have lost…than lie and say that no such deaths have cost…”

elizabethmoon.com
Addendum

The pandemic has cost more than 793,000 American lives to date and we can’t afford to allow the unvaccinated to continue to help this illness spread and mutate. The vaccine has been cleared for almost all ages, all health conditions and is by far safer than risking the effects of the disease.  The Winter holidays are happening as I write this. Prove that you love your family by ensuring their best possible chances of health and prosperity in the new year by being vaccinated and making sure your family is vaccinated.

Tell that uncle or aunt, grandmother, grandfather or even young nieces nephews and cousins. Tell them to get vaccinated or they are not welcome at family gatherings. I’ve listened to dozens of podcasts and read dozens of news stories about how to thread the conflicts of this time we find ourselves in. I don’t understand why opening the conversation with the truth is a bad thing. “Get vaccinated or don’t come to my home. Get vaccinated or I won’t go to your home.” This strikes me as a completely reasonable position to take, especially if you know that there are going to be people who could die from airborne diseases at the family gathering. State the rule clearly and right up front. Claiming any excuse to not be vaccinated is just a load of bunk.

Beware the Woo: Pox Party

Was mich nicht umbringt macht mich stärker

Friedrich Nietzsche

Back at the dawn of time, before there was modern medicine, there was the flawed notion that the thing that didn’t kill you made you stronger. A broken bone healed back stronger than the original bone. Surviving a childhood disease meant that you had a better chance of surviving being exposed to the disease as an adult.

None of this is actually true. A broken bone is more brittle at the point of breakage and will tend to break again. Childhood diseases can cause adult diseases that are even worse. Adversity can hone tenacity, but adversity also hardens hearts and warps desires. One does not walk causally into fire hoping to get scars. That would be stupid.

My mother was a Christian Scientist. She didn’t believe in science or medicine in a general sense. Medicine had killed her mother as far as she was concerned, and she never forgave it for doing that. This was also not true, but there was little point in arguing with her about the facts of health, disease, and the slow acquisition of knowledge. My mother went to her death denying she had cancer and refusing treatments for the cancer that she had been diagnosed with. This is what happens when you deny science. When you deny reality.

One of my earliest childhood memories is of staying a few days at a friend’s house for a pox party when he was infected with some disease or other that caused little red pustules to appear on your skin. This had been a common practice in generations previous to mine. In the time before vaccines were available for the many kinds of infections that can kill us. Some diseases, it was decided, were better to catch as a child because the disease caught as an adult could kill you much easier.

The people back in the early 1900’s didn’t know about Shingles or the fact that it was caused by the same virus that caused Chicken Pox because they had no tools that could discover these tiny bits of life code that float freely around us and in us. Not until the creation of more powerful microscopes could they see that there were infectious agents even smaller than bacteria, and it was decades after that before they could sequence the DNA and determine which viruses did what things to people.

They just knew that sickness was all around them, and that children were stronger than adults were. Sometimes these children died from the infections they were exposed to, but those were the weak children anyway. At least, that is what the parents of the surviving children told themselves. By 1968(ish) when I was taken to the pox party that I remember, there were vaccines for most of these infectious diseases, and the children around me had been vaccinated with the early versions of the MMR (Measles, Mumps and Rubella) That vaccination is on my shot record as being given to me and it would have been required of all the other children, too. There was no vaccine for Chicken Pox until long after I was too old to get it, though.

Ever anxious to engage in whatever alternative medicine that was being practiced around her, my mother dutifully surrendered me to the quarantined house and I was exposed to whatever it was that my friend was sick with. He had a pretty bad infection, and several of the children who stayed with him also had pretty bad infections. None of them seemed to lead to any complications, but it is hard to judge the harm of an action until some time afterwards. The virus that causes Chicken Pox is one of the herpes family of virus, it stays with you all your life once you have caught it and causes Shingles in old age.

I had been exposed to some form of herpes virus when I was born. Being exposed to its cousin may or may not have done anything to my immune system, it is really hard to say. What I do know is that I never had a rash like the other children had and I always wondered why that was. Knowing what I know now, I wonder if the previous encounters with herpes had primed my immune system to ward off its cousin, or if the same immunity blindness that allowed the one to persist would also allow the other to persist?

In any case, I wasn’t interested in experiencing the slow torture that Shingles wreaks on its sufferers so I opted for the Shingrix vaccine a month or so ago. I just wanted to see what the vaccination did to my system and whether it altered the symptoms of Meniere’s or not.

Contrasting that vaccination with the COVID vaccination and my previous experiences with other vaccines, I have to say that the pain levels came close to echoing the Pneumococcal vaccine without the golf ball sized lymph nodes that made the experience so weird and hard to endure. I can’t tell yet if the vaccine will do anything positive or negative with Meniere’s symptoms but at least I probably won’t be getting Shingles anytime in the future, knock on wood. (promptly bashes self in skull)

For all you young mothers out there I just want to say, don’t take your children to pox parties. Just don’t do that. You never know what the other children are sick with; and if you think you do know and trust the doctor’s diagnosis of the disease (this is the only way to be sure) then why don’t you trust his recommendations for treatment too? Get your children vaccinated and stop this insanity please.

Libertarian Vaccination Lunacy

I was rooting through my email today looking for spam. I don’t mean the ads for prescription drugs that you can’t buy legally; no I mean the daily if not hourly emailers that you have unwittingly asked to send you messages, and then they drown you in more information than you could possibly synthesize.

I found quite a few of those. Then, at the bottom of the barrel, I see a note from the Travis County Libertarians letting me know that they’ve moved their newsletter from the old Yahoo!Groups site to the new Google Groups site. Well bless their little hearts!

Being bored, in the middle of a task that I had put off for months if not years, I decided to see what was in the latest issue of the newsletter. Ah, the usual. Chat and chews are scheduled. I’ll be skipping those. I’d skip them anyway but I’ll definitely be skipping being face to face with the unvaccinated. The kind of people who think this ad represents any kind of deep thinking:

twitter.com

We can’t force people to get vaccinated? Tell that to the TB-tine scar on my arm. Not only can we force people to get vaccinated, we have before and we should be doing it again. That is how you get to herd immunity successfully, for fuck’s sake. That’s how we wiped out small pox and polio. We could have wiped out the measles, but antivaxxers like the ones that the Libertarian Party is appealing to in that ad have set us all back decades on that goal.

The Experiment Podcast: The Original Anti-vaxxer – SEPTEMBER 23, 2021

I mean, if they want to thumb their noses at Biden’s policies, Abbott has them beat:

Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday issued an executive order prohibiting any entity in Texas from mandating COVID-19 vaccinations for employees or consumers, an expansion of a prior order limited to government entities.

Abbott also asked lawmakers to tackle the issue during the current special legislative session, ensuring that “no entity in Texas can compel receipt of a COVID-19 vaccine.”

statesman.com

Why does Abbott have them beat? Because he has the office of the Governor, that’s why. Something they will never have because they will never be serious about winning races instead of grandstanding during the race. The libertarians that were serious about winning races became the Tea Party back in 2008, and they have made the Republican party the lunatic fringe that we all know and love today. They are all Trumpists, almost to a man now. The kind of people who will have to be lead to the end of the pandemic at the point of a gun, apparently.

Greg Abbott doesn’t have the power to stop Biden’s orders. Only the Republican delinquents in the Senate stand between effective governance and the anarchy that libertarians crave, and they hope like hell that the citizenry is dumb enough to keep voting Republican so that the government will finally crumble. Here’s hoping they are denied their wish, or if not, that they turn out happier with the results than the anarchists were who backed Stalin’s bid for power in Russia. They didn’t seem too pleased with being sent to the gulag for all their troubles.

Anti-Vaccination Agitation

One way to look at it is this – a small minority now has the ability to hijack public health policy by waging their own shadow campaign on social media. They are accountable to no one. They can force the expenditure of limited public health dollars just to minimize the effect of their own campaigns. This is also an asymmetric campaign, because it is much easier to spread fear than proper information. At the very least it is reasonable to filter out their harmful misinformation from private platforms. Panels of experts can be used to provide the filter, and fair processes can be made available for appeals. At the very least these options need to be explored.

Sciencebasedmedicine.org
Sciencebasedmedicine.org

This article was about Gardasil. The vaccination worked, but social conservatives hated it because it gave women permission to be promiscuous. Think about what that means. They wanted people to suffer and die from a preventable cancer rather than vaccinate them against the cause of that cancer on the grounds that sex outside of marriage is bad and should be discouraged. They used vaccine fear to wage a war against this vaccine, and this isn’t even the first time, nor was it the last.

facebook/Stonekettle

That is the Conservative-Republican-Trumpist line now about the coronavirus vaccine:

Oh, we’re not anti-vax. We just don’t think vaccines work.

…Strangely, it is the same argument they offer about their obvious racism. What their resistance is about now is still religion. Their religion of conservatism. Their invented Republican Jesus, the one who loves capitalism and profit more than he does the poor and the sick. Their belief that government can’t do anything good in the world.

I’ve heard this pushback from dozens of sources now. They just object to this one vaccination, not the general idea that vaccinations work. Either the science is real, or it isn’t. Either we have stopped Small Pox, Polio, etcetera through vaccination, or the entire business is a sham. A con job. Pick one side people, because it can’t be both sides at the same time. The vaccine works. It works and you should get it.

Postscript

This was originally posted as a quote on January 11, 202o and I have advanced and appended the quote with the current coronavirus crap. I have cut ties to family members now over this subject. When I found out that some of them had not gotten the vaccination recently, I wrote and then sent them a link to the recently published WWBD? A humorous dig at their reticence, their refusal to admit that medicine works.

I had not realized how deep the science denial goes in my family. One of them promptly stopped speaking to me. The other one sent me this article:

From recent reports it looks like this new variant we call Omicron, but I prefer to call #Moronic, will likely replace the Delta variant here and across the world IF it continues to spread like it has in South Africa. Good news is that in the about 3 weeks since Omicron made the news, there have been few hospitalizations and only one death as a result of Omicron which we are not sure if it was FROM Omicron or WITH Omicron.

therealdrstevenhorvitz

When I tried to explain to them that they had fallen prey to the same kind of snake oil salesman that had hoodwinked my mother all her life, that had me talking about waking up the sheeple for more than ten years, they promptly stopped talking to me as well.

Steven Horvitz D.O. is definitely coming right out of the same libertarian vein that most of the “I’m free to do whatever I want so fuck you” mentality that I was a part of during my early political activism. It is too early to say anything about the Omicron variant aside from noting that it spreads like wildfire and will soon overtake the Delta variant just as predicted. We won’t know how deadly it will be until long after that point, so the good doctor’s feigned knowledge on the subject is 99.9% bluster. (Dr. Steven Novella on Omicron)

Which is fine. If I can’t convince them to save their own lives, I’m not going to waste energy trying to save them from themselves without their begging me to help first. Since they’ve rarely had more than ridicule to vent at me for most of my life, I see little chance of them begging me for anything until long after Hell freezes over.

Mandated Vaccination

facebook.com/Stonekettle

The Atlantic & WNYC – The Experiment: The Crime of Refusing Vaccination – MARCH 25, 202

The Jacobson v. Massachusetts decision made clear that the government could mandate vaccination, arguing that collective good sometimes outweighs individual rights. But the line between the two is blurry. More than two decades after Jacobson’s case, the Court used the same logic in another decision, one the historian Michael Willrich says is among the “scariest U.S. Supreme Court decisions of all time.”

The episode of The Experiment that is embedded above illustrates how easily we can be manipulated into thinking something that is good for us is bad, and it illustrates that the converse is also true. It is illegal to refuse vaccination when that vaccination is mandated by government, that is a basic public health criteria. This isn’t about you and your vaccine fears anymore than it is about me and mine. this is about keeping everyone in the population as healthy as we can, and the way to do that is to make sure that we achieve and maintain herd immunity through vaccination for easily communicable diseases.

This is why you should get your influenza vaccination as well as all the other vaccinations on the list of required vaccinations. Get them because you care about the people around you more than you care for yourself. If you can’t find it in yourself to do it for other people, do it so that you don’t get sick from an easily preventable disease. Wish for a vaccination for every communicable disease that you might casually be exposed to so that you don’t die from that disease, either (I see you hiding over there, Malaria) I do, and I hate needles more than anything else I encounter in day to day life.

I have little doubt that Stonekettle is right in the article embedded above. There is too much bullshit out there circulating for this to not be something that Russia is trying to seed throughout the United States in order to weaken us. That other shoe will drop eventually (if we can’t just take past actions as proof in and of itself) and then we’ll know for sure who is spreading the anti-vaccination bullshit this time around aside from the anti-vax idiots in our midst.

There should be a mandate to get the COVID vaccine just as there is for all the other vaccinations we undergo. The influenza vaccination should be mandated as well.  What form that mandate takes is the only real question left to answer. Do we just pass a law making refusing a vaccination a crime again, or do we try to nudge people in the direction of doing the right thing without holding guns to their head to get them to do it? Americans can’t seem to get away from doing everything that they can at the point of a gun. Maybe we should try something different for once.

Vaccination

I received the first injection of the Moderna vaccine yesterday. The Wife, in one of her near-daily outings to the doctor’s offices for the many (and growing) pains that plague her existence, noticed that there was a pop-up vaccination clinic at the hospital where her doctors offices are located, so she did what she always does when presented with an opportunity. She seized it. She got us both an appointment for the next day, and we went to get our first injections of the COVID vaccine.

We both have been on the list here in Austin for over a month now. I didn’t think I would qualify as 1-B. She did qualify when she checked and she begged me to check to see if I qualified or not. Sure enough, when I (honestly) answered all the questions asked, lo and behold I am also at risk and qualified to get the vaccine. Apparently, having a suppressed immune system is worth something after all.

The arm that I got the jab in is more than a bit sore today, and I feel like I’ve got a mild cold, the kind of cold that you almost feel ashamed to call into work to ask for time off for. Coughing, low fever, aches and pains. The stress is setting off my meniere’s symptoms too, but all in all this is a cakewalk. I’ve seen worse.

Short Wave – Afraid of Needles? You’re Not Alone – September 20, 2021

When I was a child I had to get a penicillin injection for some malady or other, I don’t remember what it was. The doctor and nurse failed to understand the fight or flight response that I would respond with after being jabbed in the ass with a needle, and the needle nearly broke off in my ass before the nurse and my mother managed to get me restrained. That is my first conscious memory of being vaccinated or injected with anything. It has colored my relationship with the medical profession and their favorite tool, the hypodermic needle, ever since.

Every time, through grade school, junior high, high school and into adulthood, every vaccination, from the TB tine test to the tetanus shot I had to get after stepping on a nail on a construction site somewhere, all of them have been greeted with the knowledge that this was the time when the needle would get me. It was finally going to kill me, like it tried to do that first time. None of those experiences come close to the one I had while trying to determine if I had a problem with my immune system.

Back when I was looking into causes for my Meniere’s symptoms, I consulted many specialists about possible conditions that could have lead to these symptoms. I have long thought that allergies were at the root of the cause for me, and I still don’t know one way or the other if this is true. But during the investigation I discovered that my immune system seemed a little sluggish, and the immunologist suggested we do a test to see if it really was a problem or not. I figured why not, and so I agreed to get a vaccination known as PPSV23 (Pneumococcal vaccine) and then get myself tested again to see how well my immune system responded to the vaccine.

After they jabbed me with that one, I really did think I was going to die, and the symptoms that I had following the vaccination only persuaded me further that this was true. Cold sweats. Hot flashes. Confusion. Body aches that had me hardly moving at all. The lymph node under my left arm, the arm that got the injection, swelled up to the size of a golf ball. I could barely move the arm, and I was essentially bedridden for a week with these symptoms.

After everything had cleared up, I got the immune test done and sure enough, the immune response was less than it should have been. A little more investigation showed, however, that I hadn’t gotten PPSV23 but instead gotten PCV13 (fewer variants) which meant that if I wanted to know how well my immune system responded to the correct vaccine, I’d have to repeat the experience again. So I did it. Again. As repeat performances go, that one was just as painful as the first one was, and as I was laying there bedridden for a second week, I realized on some level just how much my anxiety about the needle really made the entire experience so much worse than it had to be. The dread of the shot really wasn’t warranted, in a general sense. Because no experience before that one had been nearly as bad, and yet I still survived it, too.

Since that time I’ve gotten my flu shots twice a year, every year. I’ve donated blood a half-dozen times. Every time the needle is there and I just can’t look at it. Not if I want to stay sane. Every time the aftermath has been a cakewalk compared to those pneumonia vaccines. This vaccine, the COVID vaccine? It too is a cakewalk. I won’t be doing much other than watching TV for a few days. Even so, my lymph nodes are not visible under the skin yet; and for me, that is what cakewalk means when it comes to encounters with the needle.

texasstandard.org/typewriter rodeo

Featured image from NIH: Peer-reviewed report on Moderna COVID-19 vaccine publishes

Postscript

The second dose is frequently rumored to be much worse than the initial dose. I can only say that my second dose was less painful the first day, more painful the second day, and almost unnoticeable every day since. Other than the conviction that I was about to die for half of this last Saturday, from chest congestion that felt remarkably like pneumonia as well as body and joint aches that kept me from moving other than getting up to go to the bathroom, the experience has been a cakewalk, just like I said before. Much easier than getting a cold or the flu, which is not as bad as the disease this is a prevention for.

Don’t be stupid, go get vaccinated!

How does the mRNA vaccine work? Seize the forks!
Vick KrishnaHow mRNA Vaccines Work? – Mar 13, 2021

h/t to NPR’s Shortwave.

SpotifyShortwave – The Past, Present and Future of mRNA Vaccines
The EconomistGamechangers: Don’t shoot the messenger

The J&J vaccine is no different than any other vaccine ever produced. Go get that one if mRNA vaccines scare you, but got get a vaccination for crying out loud!

A Vaccine Eliminating Cervical Cancer

The World Health Organization’s calls to eliminate cervical cancer “may be possible in many countries if sufficient vaccination coverage can be achieved,” said Marc Brisson, a biostatistician at Laval University in Quebec and one of the study’s authors.

NYT Science
The Skepticalraptor

Doctors Discuss 7 Common Vaccine Myths

If I had a nickel for everyone who has told me ‘I got the flu from the flu vaccine’ I’d be a very wealthy man. Hell, I believed it once myself.

Malaria or DDT?

The Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe Facebook page posted a link to this article on The Daily Beast:

Today, most people under the age of 40 have probably never heard of Rachel Carson. But in the early 1960s, almost every American knew her name.

On Sept. 27, 1962, Rachel Carson changed her tone. Her next book, Silent Spring, which she called her “poison book,” was an angry, no-holds-barred polemic against pesticides: especially DDT.

The first chapter of Silent Spring, titled “A Fable for Tomorrow,” was almost biblical, appealing to our sense that we had sinned against our Creator. “There was once a town in the heart of America where all life seemed to live in harmony with its surroundings. Then a strange blight crept over the area and everything began to change… the cattle and sheep sickened and died… streams were lifeless… everywhere there was the shadow of death.” Birds, especially, had fallen victim to this strange evil. In a town that had once “throbbed with scores of bird voices there was now no sound, only silence.” A silent spring. Birds weren’t alone in their suffering. According to Carson, children suffered sudden death, aplastic anemia, birth defects, liver disease, chromosomal abnormalities, and leukemia—all caused by DDT. And women suffered infertility and uterine cancer.

Carson made it clear that she wasn’t talking about something that might happen—she was talking about something that had happened. Our war against nature had become a war against ourselves.

thedailybeast.com

I read the article. It was a thoughtful piece on the subject of the cost of chemophobia on the world today and the wholesale discarding of DDT as a method of eradicating a deadly parasite. I posted it on my timeline because I’m kind of a fan of thinking what if? on a broad range of topics. I also posted it as a comment on a friend’s tribute to Rachel Carson on their timeline. I was trying to send a message. I wanted to highlight the lack of caring for the massive numbers of deaths from Malaria across the entire tropical zone of the world, deaths that could have been prevented if we had simply pursued Malaria eradication beyond the borders of the United States the way that we pursued it within our own borders.

Now we have Malaria cases potentially showing up in Florida again (CDC) not to mention the Zika panic, and the question really should be asked: should we revive DDT as a preventative, or should we finally admit that we need to embrace a newer technological intervention?

A Yale-hosted defense of Silent Spring was immediately offered as a rebuttal to The Daily Beast article. A Yale education is probably of more value than an article on a random internet website, but the writing in that opinion piece didn’t do the institution or the value of its education any favors. It was filled with demonstrably slanted opinions like this one: 

The first thing worth remembering is that it wasn’t Rachel Carson who banned DDT. It was the very Republican Nixon

e360.yale.edu

This sort of riposte makes no sense as an argument unless you are certain your opponents are Republicans and/or conservative. Since I’m neither of those things and more than half of the other readers who might chance across the defense would not be of that mindset either, they clearly they need to work on their arguments a bit more if they wanted to sway disbelievers in the saintliness of Rachel Carson.

This slanted political tone goes on throughout the article. The finding that the programs were voluntarily stopped makes no mention of reasons for the stoppage. It could reasonably be assumed that the stoppages were in some way linked to fear of DDT brought about by books like Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring and the associated naturalist movements that the book gave voice to. The administrators of these programs should have been afraid of the mosquitoes. As was observed by others, hindsight is always 20/20.

Even the negative health findings for DDT are inconclusive. Still inconclusive forty years later. If Malaria intervention was up to me, we’d have a Malaria vaccine already. Even better than that, we’d also engineer the mosquitoes to not be able to carry the disease:

Humans contract malaria from mosquitoes that are infected by parasites from the genus Plasmodium. Previous work had shown that mosquitoes could be engineered to rebuff the parasite P. falciparum1, but researchers lacked a way to ensure that the resistance genes would spread rapidly through a wild population.

In work published on 23 November in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers used a controversial method called ‘gene drive’ to ensure that an engineered mosquito would pass on its new resistance genes to nearly all of its offspring2 — not just half, as would normally be the case.

The result: a gene that could spread through a wild population like wildfire.

nature

…but there is little chance the GMO and vaccine fearing public will go for either solution at this point. If I’m forced to create a disease limiting solution from the toolbox we are currently stuck with, I’ll take DDT. I say this with the knowledge that Malaria is moving North with the warmer weather. Only a matter of time till we’ll be seeing a resurgence here in Austin.

If I’m forced to pick the form of poison, I’ll take the chemicals, thanks. They beat the hell out of having Malaria. How about we focus on waking up the population so they might embrace human intervention as a means of removing the aedes aegypti mosquito as a disease vector?

The mosquito Aedes aegypti is infamous for carrying Zika and dengue fever. The quest to kill it has consumed enormous amounts of money, time, and effort. So it seems counterintuitive that a team of scientists and health workers have just received $18 million to release these mosquitoes over densely populated parts of Brazil and Colombia.

Their insects are no ordinary mosquitoes, though. They’ve been implanted with a bacterium called Wolbachia, which stops them from spreading the viruses behind Zika, dengue, yellow fever, chikungunya, and other diseases. It’s not totally clear how it does this, but it may be by competing with the viruses for nutrients or boosting the insects’ immune system. With this microbe inside them, the mosquitoes are no longer carriers of sickness. They are dead-ends.

theatlantic.com (gift subscription for the blog author still greatly desired)

…and even that approach is still going to be a battle to get people to accept. They’ll just know that it’s really GMO. Really man interfering with nature, the essence of Rachel Carson’s fearmongering fifty years later.

Then Ed Darrell waded onto my Facebook timeline, offering me multiple links to his blog articles on the subject of Rachel Carson, DDT and Malaria:

If you want to fight #malaria, do what the U.S. did to beat it in 1939: Better housing, prompt medical diagnosis and complete medical treatment.

#DDT used to have a role to play in campaigns to knock down malaria and eradicate it completely, as the U.S. did AFTER World War II, in mop up operations for those few places malaria remained.

But DDT stopped working against malaria in 1948 in the Mediterranean (as you know from reading “Silent Spring,” of course), and DDT resistance killed the World Health Organization’s campaign to eradicate malaria from Africa in, 1963.

Malaria is on the increase ONLY in India today, the last nation to make DDT and the heaviest user of the stuff. If DDT still worked, India should have been malaria-free decades ago.

But DDT doesn’t work. And so India is phasing it out, and will stop making it by 2020 if not earlier. Last year only ten places on Earth found any use for DDT.

Bednets are twice as effective as DDT in preventing malaria’s spread. Bednets are a fraction of the cost of a DDT campaign.

So we have a choice. We can fight malaria, or Zika, or any other vector-borne disease, or we can “bring back” DDT. But we can’t do both.

Ed Darrell

This is chemophobia. I’ve republished his quote verbatim simply to illustrate the problem. That is dedication to the effort of removing chemicals from our environment without ever understanding that everything everywhere is a chemical. I could have cited other sources on the subject of Rachel Carson if I wanted to or had run across them first:

As detailed by Roger Meiners and Andy Morriss in their scholarly yet very readable analysis, “Silent Spring at 50: Reflections on an Environmental Classic,” Carson exploited her reputation as a well-known nature writer to advocate and legitimatize “positions linked to a darker tradition in American environmental thinking.” Carson “encourages some of the most destructive strains within environmentalism: alarmism, technophobia, failure to consider the costs and benefits of alternatives, and the discounting of human well-being around the world.”

geneticliteracyproject.org (republished from Forbes)

I mean, I write this blog on an editing platform that is substantially no different than Ed Darrell’s. There is one key difference between the two of us though. I don’t go around pretending that I am some kind of authority on anything other than what I think. Ed Darrell, on the other hand, seemed to think that his blog entries on the subject of DDT meant something in the objective sense of meaning something and not just more hot air in the world.

For that matter he also seemed to think that opinion pieces produced in defense of his heroine Rachel Carson and against the dreaded chemical menace DDT meant more than the opinion pieces that I produced declaring the opposite, when they demonstrably don’t or rather can’t. They are opinions, take them or leave them as you please.

I get it and I simultaneously don’t give a shit. Both at the same time. DDT isn’t the answer to Malaria or Zika or any other bug-borne disease; but then neither is chemophobia and trusting to nature to do what is best for us. Nature doesn’t give a shit, either. If nature gave a shit about us we wouldn’t be in the middle of a climate change crisis, either. What I wanted was for the kneejerk chemophobic responses to stop. That is what I wanted and eventually got. Not for quite awhile, though.

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Postscript

The article on Facebook was taken down at least briefly (also Facebook) Which is why I copied the contents to this article and then embroidered them some years later. Ed Darrell’s Twitter account was suspended the last time I clicked the link and checked on him. He apparently fucked around and found out at some point after our little encounter on Facebook. It was only a matter of time.

The Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe podcast subsequently ran a segment lauding Rachel Carson as a forgotten superhero of science in 2018. Time changes and opinions change, apparently. Or maybe that is just the difference between the opinions of Bob and Jay Novella. Who knows or cares?

I haven’t heard a thing about the Zika virus since it first broke headlines as a mosquito-borne illness in 2016. Malaria has not seen a massive resurgence. Yet. It will if we don’t get treatments online that prevent its spread. There is a Malaria vaccine now. It’s not as effective as epidemiologists would like it to be. Given the antivaccination climate in the US over the COVID vaccine, I doubt you could get people to take it voluntarily. They’d rather spread the plague than stop it.

leasticoulddo.com

Gardasil

Back in 2005 a few different vaccines became available that purported to prevent almost all cases of cervical cancer in older women. This was achieved by vaccinating teenage girls against the variations of the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) that could be spread through sexual contact. Since we had a daughter that was at precisely the right age to be eligible for it, we wanted to get her vaccinated. We understandably wanted to prevent her possible suffering and death from this cancer if it was something so simple that a vaccination could achieve it.

We failed in this task because the vaccine cost far more to purchase than we had to spare at the time, and we never managed to get the right amount of money together at the same time that the vaccination was available. The far too frequently seen trials of life on a fixed income.

Governor Perry put one of the vaccines, Gardasil, on the list of mandated vaccines for Texas, but Christianists objected to this on the grounds that it would keep god’s wrath from descending on those evil children who are just waiting to have wonton sex:

As they flex their political muscle, right-wing Christians increasingly reveal their condescending view of women as moral children who need to be kept in line sexually by fear. That’s why antichoicers will never answer the call of prochoicers to join them in reducing abortions by making birth control more widely available: They want it to be less available. Their real interest goes way beyond protecting fetuses–it’s in keeping sex tied to reproduction to keep women in their place.

Virginity or Death! by Katha Pollitt  (archive.org/thenation.com)

The kinds of wonton sex that these constipated tightwads never got to enjoy and so consequently don’t want others to have. The vaccination that would avert nearly all cases of cervical cancer if given to girls before they become sexually active, saving the state of Texas untold millions of dollars and preventing the painful deaths of thousands of women, removed from consideration as a mandatory vaccination because it might make those orgasms less costly to pursue. Christianists don’t like the idea of saving anyone from their God’s righteous wrath, so they were foursquare against the vaccine.

Of course these Texas Christianists were granted their wish by their personally anointed state legislature, and the only thing Governor Perry has done during his time in office (that I’ve agreed with) was voted out. Go figure.

This meant that we also couldn’t count on the state to make the vaccination affordable and therefore available to our teenage daughter, and so she never got it. We did manage to get our son vaccinated with it as it was made available for free as part of the regularly scheduled vaccinations that all children should get. So at least he won’t be spreading the virus and giving his girlfriends cervical cancer. It’s the small victories in life that are worth celebrating. It gives you something to do every day. Our daughter remains susceptible to getting cervical cancer at some point in the future because of the backward thinking of the people who control the leadership in Texas.

Fast forward to yesterday. Dude on Facebook posts a link to a Science Based Medicine article on the subject of vaccinations:

Most people have not lived in a time of plagues or remember their effects. Most people do not read history or look at the morbidity and mortality of vaccine-preventable illnesses in the third world. But the reality is that vaccine-preventable illness are still there and the barriers to prevent their return are surprisingly fragile. It doesn’t take much thinning of herd immunity to allow vaccine-preventable illnesses to come storming back. We are always skating close to the edge of infectious outbreaks and not aware of the danger. But reality don’t care if we think vaccines do not work or cause autism or that we give too many too soon. Stop vaccinations and it is not if but when we will see the infections return. We think we are safe from vaccine-preventable illness. We are not.

sciencebasedmedicine.org

In the comment thread his idiot brother chimes in with:

“Except for Gardasil, that one is deadly”

I have argued with these two several times in the past. He was a friend from my Libertarian Party caucusing days. I’ve never met his idiot brother, which I consider a mercy. Gardasil is not deadly. There is ample evidence that Gardasil and the other HPV vaccines are lifesaving interventions that do prevent cancer. I posted a couple of links refuting the deadliness of Gardasil, finishing up with this article on the Guardian:

The HPV vaccine is case in point. As this latest study proves, it’s asinine to think that a vaccination is a gateway drug to sex. I have a difficult time seeing “Hey baby, I’m vaccinated” proliferating as an effective pick-up line in the middle-school cafeteria. The vaccinations-lead-to-sex argument also assumes that teenagers are delaying sex specifically because they fear HPV. It probably is true that some teenagers delay sex because they don’t want to contract a whole host of sexually transmitted infections. That’s good and fine, and we should encourage teenagers (as we should everyone) to avoid sexually transmitted infections by both practicing safer sex and delaying sex until one is capable of having a thorough conversation about sex and safety with one’s partner.

theguardian.com

I link that one last because I’ve been in an argument with these two before, and I know them for the anti-abortionist / sex is for procreation / no avoiding god’s wrath types that they have presented themselves as in the past.

When I logged back on this morning, there were a series of counter links from the brother appended to the comment thread, including one to a Huffpo interview with a former Merck researcher. All of them, just FYI, bullshit. Bullshit refuted in my previously linked articles.

Except for the one about the Merck researcher, which was something I hadn’t seen before. So I dug up a rebuttal article for that specific subject:

I strongly believe in cervical cancer prevention and the effects of the HPV vaccine. The vaccines will give you a higher chance of a normal screening.

Diane Harper (revised article)

…and I added a comment for the person whose wall the conversation was on, pointing out that the vaccinations effectiveness against HPV cancers is well documented.

There then proceeds a back and forth concerning the need for vaccinations for sexually transmitted diseases (diseases that just happen to cause cancer) and ends with his observation “do you ever have conversations where you aren’t derisive?” To which I responded “only when the subject merits it.” He had one more wisecrack after that which was so vacuous it escapes me, and then he unfriended and blocked me, once again instructing me on the merits of arguing on my own wall so that I can retain my own witticisms for later self mortification. The real usefulness of all internet conversation.

Anyway. The point of this is the unanswered last question of mine to him. Considering that sexually transmitted diseases are by far some of the most common diseases humans will be exposed to, I ask the question again: “why wouldn’t we make vaccinations for sexually transmitted diseases mandatory if said vaccinations were actually created and shown to be effective?” The insistence that because the disease is transmitted through sex removes it from the preventative treatment regimen strikes me as one of the most ridiculous arguments I’ve come across.

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Yes. How dare I? How dare I speak with derision on a subject which I deemed merited it? When the counter argument highlights a distinction without difference? When the opposition couldn’t win an argument with a wet sock? Pour piss out of a boot with directions on the bottom? Find their ass with both hands? How dare I be derisive when your arguments are so pathetic they can’t even stand up under a little sunlight?

The Origins Of An Epidemic: How Right-Wing Religious Communities Give Measles A Chance To Spread

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