Dear skeptics (not only) in Europe!

As many of you know, the lack of vaccinating is becoming a serious issue (again, not only) in Europe. That is why the Czech Skeptics Club Sisyfos has created the #ProVaxChallenge.

“It is a challenge for all, who are not afraid of needles. And an even bigger challenge for those, who are. Join MUDr. Jaromir Sramek, the chairman of the Czech Skeptics Club Sisyfos, in a 2018 vaxathon. Immortalize yourself either while getting a vaccination or with a post-vax band-aid. Take photos of your vaccination cards. Don’t be afraid to involve your kids and pets. Share your photos on social media with the #ProVaxChallenge.

The goal of this challenge is to show people that vaccinating is a part of life in the 21st century. The first compulsory vaccinations were introduced in the half of the 19th century. One of the most significant accomplishments of preventive vaccinations was the eradication of variola in 1980. Many other diseases, for which vaccinations do exist, have not been eradicated. A new wave of, an already numerously overcome, fear of vaccinating is causing a resurgence of diseases, which doctors, until recently, saw only sporadically.

In 2016, almost 10% of newborns worldwide were not vaccinated. What’s alarming is that nearly one-half of these newborns live in countries, where medical care is available, but their parents refuse to vaccinate, many times for irrational reasons. That is why the number of unvaccinated children in developed countries is growing.

The ECDC reported 4,643 cases of measles in 2016. In 2017 there were more than 20,000 with 35 deaths. The pathogen is not picky about where its focal point is, so there were measle hotspots not only in Romania (10,623), Italy (4,991) or Greece (1,463), but also in Germany (926), Czech Republic (146), France, Great Britain, and Sweden. No one can come up with an estimate of how many people will succumb to measles in 2018.

The USA is suffering from exponential growth in cases of mumps.

Europe as a whole is suffering from growth in cases of hepatitis A.

257 million people are living with hepatitis B, which managed to take the lives of 887,000 lives in 2015. Even though children can be protected from this disease by vaccinating.

There are vaccinations available for all of the diseases mentioned above. However, most of these cases manifested in unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated individuals. According to WHO, in 2016 the vaccination coverage of the second dose of the measles vaccine has dropped under the needed 95% in twenty of the twenty-seven EU countries. The WHO also reports that the vaccination coverage of DTP3 fell under 50% in the Central African Republic, Equatorial Guinea, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria, as well as Ukraine.

Though it is slowly changing, vaccinations remain voluntary in many European countries. Due to the lack of experience with diseases, due to relying on lies and myths propagated by “alternative” experts and under the emotional duress brought on by antivaxx activists, their active suppression of facts and fearmongering, many people are afraid to vaccinate, especially when it comes to their children. Then they, in good faith, endanger herd immunity and thus are endangering not only themselves but also those, who cannot be vaccinated for valid reasons.

Let’s lead by example and practically show that vaccines are safe, apart from sharing scientific data and statistics. Let’s show that we are not afraid of vaccines, we do get vaccinated, and vaccines don’t harm us!

Help us, in 2018, raise awareness of the number of adults and children, who are protected by vaccines.”

Aneta   Pierzyna


Skepticism Reloaded

Amardeo Sarma

42 years have passed since the birth of CSICOP, the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal, and its magazine Skeptical Inquirer. Soon after, there was a global wave in the spread of skepticism. A great visionary was at the centre of the explosion: Paul Kurtz, who saw skepticism as a global worldwide endeavour. The Australian Skeptics took off in 1980 with Mark Plummer as president. A decade later, in the mid-80s, CSICOP encouraged skeptics all over the world to form their groups. Mark Plummer, then Executive Director of CSICOP, and Wendy Grossman, founder of the magazine The Skeptic in the United Kingdom, toured Europe in this mission resulting in many new groups.

Paul Kurtz also defined skepticism as he saw fit for the movement in his book the New Skepticism. This variant is what we would now call scientific skepticism. It is distinct from the ancient Greek variety of skepticism that denied that we could acquire knowledge and wanted us not to take a stand, to suspend judgment.

Skeptics today do take a stand. They insist on skeptical inquiry, which is at the core of scientific research, as a fundamental and indisposable tool. At the same time, they also acknowledge that the body of science represents reliable knowledge of a real world. More importantly, they stand up and advocate what we know about science and pseudoscience, even when others including friends and colleagues frown on us. Skeptics today are committed to scientific realism.

Initially, the movement focused mainly on fringe science claims ignored by the scientific establishment. A decade ago, Kendrick Frazier, editor of the journal Skeptical Inquirer extended the scope. In the book “Science under Siege: Defending Science, Exposing Pseudoscience”, he put the defence of science itself on the map. Publications and events organised by skeptics had been increasingly taking up anthropogenic global warming, GMOs and the anti-vaccination movement. Conspiracy theories are a recent addition.

With the 21st century of “alternative facts” well underway, new questions have come up.

But the time is ripe for a revitalising vision for the future. In this connection, Marco Kovic has posed questions in a recent blog. Which are issues we need to address?

We do need to begin by framing our cause and our identity as skeptics worldwide. Let us start from the very core.

Continue reading “Skepticism Reloaded”

Author: Amardeo Sarma
Date: 6th March 2018

Keywords: ,

Measles ‘eliminated’ in the UK

‘The elimination of measles has been achieved in the UK for the first time, the World Health Organization says. The global health body classes a country as having eliminated the disease when it has stopped it freely circulating for at least three years. While there are still small clusters, many of these are brought in from abroad and they are not spreading. But health experts said there should be no complacency, warning there were several large outbreaks across Europe. The news comes just a week after it was announced England had achieved the target of getting 95% of children to have had the first dose of the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine by their fifth birthday. Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland were already achieving it.’

COMCEPT publishes its first book

“Não se deixe enganar” – in english “Do not be fooled” – is the first book published by COMCEPT, the Portuguese Skeptics Community. Written as a practical guide on how to survive in the modern world, the book covers such diverse topics as alternative therapies, anti-vax movements, psychics, ideomotor effect, ancient astronauts, conspiracy theories, science in the media, or the concept of post truth, among others.

The authors – Diana Barbosa, João Monteiro, Leonor Abrantes and Marco Filipe – not only criticize pseudoscience, but also analyze what is wrong in the scientific process, pointing solutions to correct it. In the end, to relax, they leave the suggestion of how to play the “Bingo of Pseudoscience”. The reader may find that this is a book which looks to serious subjects with a little of humor.

The book has had a good reception in the Media, and the authors have been interviewed by more than a dozen newspapers, magazines and radio programs.


Romania taking a stand against anti-vaccination with a new law

In recent years, Romania’s vaccination rates for MMR have dropped dramatically. The causes for this are multifactorial, however, one of the main reasons is parents refusing vaccinations under the influence of antivaccine propaganda. Other issues include lack of access to medical services and lack of vaccines (though not relevant for MMR)

As a consequence, a measles epidemic has broken out in 2016 and last week it reached almost 5000 cases. There have also been 21 deaths, all of them in unvaccinated children.

Following multiple years of work, the Health Ministry has now proposed a new Vaccination Law which tries to cover multiple issues facing the country.

The law would make vaccination mandatory for school access, it would guarantee that the Ministry of Health buys sufficient doses of vaccines for 1 year of stock and it would also compensate in cases of vaccine injury. It also creates commissions where those that refuse vaccinations could go and discuss their decision with medical doctors.

The law is currently in the public debate part of the process, it will then follow the parliamentary course of review and vote before being signed into law by the president.