Episode #175

News Items

    Interview with Steven Schafersman, Ph.D.

    • Steven Schafersman, Ph.D. President, Texas Citizens for Science http://www.texscience.org/ http://www.statesman.com/blogs/content/shared-gen/blogs/austin/education/entries/2008/11/20/state_board_of_education_cover.html

    Question #1 Flu Vaccine

    • Dr. Novella, I thoroughly enjoy your blog entries and /love /the SGU podcast. You have saved me from more than one pseudoscience and have sharped my mind. I was wondering if you could take a look at an article that gave me pause. Yesterday I was listening to the SGU episode where you interviewed Mark Crislip, who advocated /everyone /getting the flu vaccine. Then today I ran into this article: ‘Avoid Flu Shots, Take Vitamin D Instead’ http://www.lewrockwell.com/miller/miller27.html Sandwiched between government conspiracy theories and anti-vaccine propaganda he writes: ’In one widely quoted study, 1838 volunteers age 60 and over were randomized to receive a flu shot or placebo (a shot of saline). The flu shot reduced the /relative /risk of contracting (serologically confirmed, clinical) influenza by a seemingly impressive 50%. The incidence of influenza in the unvaccinated people in this study was 3%. In the vaccinated group it was 2% (/JAMA /1994;272:16615). Flu shots reduced the /absolute /risk of contracting influenza by a meager 1% (not 50%, as the ‘relative risk’ portrays it).’ My BS detector was already going off by this time in the article, but this seems to be a reasonable point. If vaccines only reduce the absolute cases of the flu by 1% then why get should we get them? But I wanted more information, so I went to the CDC’s website. According to the CDC: ’Overall, in years when the vaccine and circulating viruses are well-matched, influenza vaccines can be expected to reduce laboratory-confirmed influenza by approximately 70% to 90% in healthy adults <65 years of age.' www.cdc.gov/flu/professionals/vaccination/effectivenessqa.htm#iiv Is the CDC claiming that flu vaccines reduce flu cases 70% to 90% absolutely or relatively? Or am I just getting hung up on a minor point? Basically I have two questions. (1.) Is this guy completely full of crap? Or only mostly? (2.) Is the effectiveness quoted in the CDC website a reduction in relative risk or absolute risk?(Or maybe I shouldn't even try to understand statistics) Blake Harber
    • Not sure if you guys have seen this one, but I couldn’t help spotting a certain book in the newly release adventure game A Vampyre Story. It’s one of the parodies in a library near the start of the game, but it… jumped out of the screen. http://www.richardcobbett.com/graphics/assets/ness.png Of course, it could just be a coincidence. I’d hate to rule anything out, unless it’s too ridiculous to be true. Then, yes. Richard Cobbett England

    Science or Fiction

    • Item #1 Science

      Scientists report that they have completed sequencing most of the Mammoth genome.

    • Item #2 Science

      A young girl survived without a heart for four months, while awaiting a transplant.

    • Item #3 Fiction

      Scientists discover a live specimen of a rare New Zealand penguin thought to have gone extinct 500 years ago.

    Skeptical Quote of the Week.