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Sunday, January 19, 2020

Antivaxxers Harass Pediatrician

Erin Glynn at the Cincinnati Enquirer:
Nicole Baldwin, a pediatrician working in suburban Cincinnati, posted a TIkTok video encouraging vaccination on Twitter Saturday evening [Jan 11].
It took less than 24 hours for the video to go viral on both TikTok, a video sharing app, and Twitter – and just another 48 hours before Baldwin was facing backlash from hundreds of thousands of people associated with the anti-vaccine movement.
The video shows Baldwin dancing to "Cupid Shuffle" and pointing to diseases that vaccines prevent. It ends with her pointing to the words "Vaccines don't cause autism."
Commenters across Baldwin’s social media platforms insulted her, referred to vaccines as “poison” and suggested Baldwin was being paid to promote vaccination. One commenter wrote, “Dead doctors don’t lie.” People then flocked to her Yelp and Google Review pages, leaving one-star reviews in an attempt to sabotage Baldwin’s ratings.
By Tuesday, people started calling Baldwin’s practice and harassing the staff. When a woman called on Wednesday threatening to “shut the practice down,” the office had to call the police. Deerfield Township police, where Baldwin has a satellite office, said they're investigating.  
Baldwin reached out to Todd Wolynn, a colleague she had met a couple of months earlier at an event in Columbus and CEO of a pediatric practice in Pittsburgh. Wolynn had dealt with his own intense online backlash from the anti-vaccine movement two years prior and started the organization Shots Heard Round the World as a result.

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Testing Balovaptan

In The Politics of Autism, I discuss treatments, including medication.

At City News in Toronto, Faiza Amin reports:
Drug manufacturer Hoffmann-La Roche has commissioned an international research study for Balovaptan, a drug that could potentially help people on the spectrum manage everyday social and communication challenges better.
“It’s regulating hormones in our brain that have to do with how we perceive the social world, whether we understand social cues, how we relate to other people, and how we develop close bonds and relationships,” said Dr. Evdokia Anagnostou, the study’s lead researcher at Toronto’s Holland-Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital.
The Autism community remains divided on the drug, as one disability rights group in Ontario has raised concerns around whether or not the pill is ethical.
Autistics 4 Autistics Ontario (A4A) is a self-advocacy group for adults with autism, calling for reform to autism funding and services at the federal and provincial levels. Anne Borden, a member of the province’s A4A executive board, tells CityNews the organization opposes the drug and the research, saying it could prey upon people’s hopes and dreams.
“Who is this benefiting?” Borden asks. “This kind of research represents a very old way of approaching autism, looking at autistic people like they’re a problem to be solved or sort of a broken version of normal, rather than taking a position of acceptance.”
Borden said developing a pill for this purpose speaks to the dignity of people with autism, and can negatively affect how they are treated and perceived. She called this a “profit-generating” pill that may put “people from a vulnerable population” at risk, adding that there are ethical questions rooted in its very existence.
“There’s a deep psychological impact when all the people in your life are constantly trying to fix you for who you are and, in this case, gives you a pill to make you act differently,” Borden said.
“It’s not looking at communication as a two-way street. Whereas other ideas like inclusion, accessibility, communication, dialogue, and research into the access needs of autistic people will do that.”

Friday, January 17, 2020

Lawmakers Urge End to Dangerous Restraint and Seclusion

In The Politics of Autismdiscuss the use of restraint and seclusion.  Many posts have mentioned these techniques, both in schools and facilities for people with disabilities.

A release from Rep. Sean Casten (D-Illinois):
U.S. Representative Sean Casten (D-IL-06), along with U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), led a letter to U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, asking the Department to issue federal guidance banning public schools’ use of seclusion and restraint practices that restrict student’s breathing and create other life-threatening conditions.
This letter follows a November 2019 joint report by the Chicago Tribune and ProPublica Illinois that revealed that in Illinois alone, there were over 20,000 seclusions from August 2017 to December 2018. The same report also found that hundreds of these seclusions involved children in first grade or younger and disproportionately involved children with disabilities. This prompted the Illinois State Board of Education to issue an emergency rule to ban these practices. However, only four other states have taken similar action, leaving millions of children still at risk.
The letter said in part, “We are gravely concerned by harmful student seclusion and restraint practices occurring in schools around our country…The use of seclusion and dangerous restraints is putting the psychological well-being and lives of children at risk every day and must be addressed at the federal level immediately. We respectfully urge you to update the Department of Education’s 2016 guidance to ban seclusion, ban restraints that restrict breathing and are life-threatening, and promote evidence-based alternatives to reduce the use of physical restraint.”
The letter was also signed by U.S. Representatives Jan Schakowsky (D-IL-09), Mike Quigley (D-IL-05), Danny K. Davis (D-IL-07), Cheri Bustos (D-IL-17), Brad Schneider (D-IL-10), Bill Foster (D-IL-11), Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL-08), Jesus “Chuy” Garcia (D-IL-04), and Ayanna Pressley (D-MA-07)
Read the full letter below or click here.
January 15, 2020
The Honorable Betsy DeVos
U.S. Department of Education
400 Maryland Avenue SW
Washington, DC 20202
Dear Secretary DeVos:
We are gravely concerned by harmful student seclusion and restraint practices occurring in schools around our country. We respectfully urge you to update your federal guidance banning seclusion, banning restraints that restrict breathing and are life-threatening, and promoting evidence-based, positive behavior strategies and de-escalation techniques to reduce the use of physical restraint.
According to a November 2019 report by the Chicago Tribune and ProPublica IL, children as young as five, disproportionately children with disabilities, are being locked alone in empty rooms for behavioral concerns or to “calm down” after misbehavior. In reality, the rooms have the opposite effect: children throw themselves at the door and scratch at the windows trying to escape. Some are recorded as urinating on themselves, undressing, attempting to commit suicide, or crying out that they want to die. Tragically, in some states, children have died in seclusion rooms.
In Illinois alone, 20,000 such seclusions were reported from August 2017 to December 2018, hundreds of which involved children in first grade or younger, according to the November Tribune article. Not only does this practice cause students to miss valuable classroom time—some are secluded for hours on end—it can also cause serious physical and psychological trauma. A December Tribune and ProPublica IL follow-up article found that restraints—including restraints that can restrict breathing—were being used even when students and staff were not in physical danger, in violation of Illinois law.
We were relieved that, following the publication of the November report, the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) responded swiftly to ban seclusion in schools across the state. However, that makes Illinois only the fifth state to ban seclusion. There are tens of millions of American children still at risk of experiencing this detrimental practice.
The use of seclusion and dangerous restraints are putting the psychological well-being and lives of children at risk every day and must be addressed at the federal level immediately. We respectfully urge you to update the Department of Education’s 2016 guidance to ban seclusion, ban restraints that restrict breathing and are life-threatening, and promote evidence-based alternatives to reduce the use of physical restraint.
We appreciate your prompt attention to this matter.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

How Antivaxxers Won in New Jersey

 Tracey Tully, Sharon Otterman and Jan Hoffman at NYT tell how antivaxxers blocked a bill to end religious exemptions from school immunization requirements.
An influential ultra-Orthodox Jewish organization that had remained largely silent as the New York bill was being debated deliberately pivoted, opting to vocally oppose the New Jersey legislation on grounds of religious freedom.
Grass-root parent groups successfully leveraged social media and conservative talk radio in their effort to convince most Republican leaders to line up against the bill. A Facebook page named Occupy Trenton urged parents to converge at the State House. And, in the final week of debate, appearances by a Kennedy scion and a contrarian filmmaker helped fuel a libertarian argument that parents, not government, should control their children’s health care.
The intense protest left two Democratic senators with cold feet that no degree of political cajoling — or a private question-and-answer session for lawmakers with three pediatricians from the state chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics — could thaw.
The bill passed last month in the Assembly. But lawmakers who supported the legislation also may have made a political miscalculation when they introduced an amendment that excluded private schools to win the vote of a Republican needed to achieve a majority in the Senate. Instead, opponents, including an African-American Democratic assemblyman, argued that this amounted to segregation that would allow only the affluent a choice about vaccination.
Technology is a huge piece of it,” said Sue Collins, a founder of the New Jersey Coalition for Vaccine Choice. “Everybody has access to everybody, and they’re holding it in their hands all day long.”

The omnipresence of social media also gave opponents the ability to reach directly into lawmakers’ private lives.

Senator Richard J. Codey, a Democrat and a former New Jersey governor, said his son got calls at home. Francine Weinberg, a daughter of one of the bill’s sponsors who lives in California, said she had to adjust her Facebook page’s privacy settings to end the string of attacks from commenters.
“I call it the politics of harassment,” said Ms. Weinberg, whose mother, Senator Loretta Weinberg, was a primary sponsor of the legislation.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Antivaxxers Win in NJ, Create Doubt in National Public Opinion

The vaccination debate rages on in New Jersey, after lawmakers there failed to pass a bill that would have eliminated religious exemptions for public school-required vaccinations. Thousands protested the bill at the state capitol on Monday.

Lisa DeRogatis said she never vaccinated her three children. "I feel like this is a fascist overreach of the government and taking away religious and medical freedoms," she said.
A new Gallup poll shows a 20-year drop in vaccine support among all age groups. The steepest ages are 30-49, at 12%. But 86% of Americans still support vaccines, and say they are not more dangerous than the diseases they prevent.

"We're seeing a decline because of a rise in anti-vaccine misinformation coupled with political activities," said Dr. Peter Hotez, an infectious disease specialist.
Five states have banned non-medical exemptions only, including New York, which eliminated its religious exemption last year after outbreaks that started in 2018. To maintain what's called "herd immunity," public health officials say vaccine rates need to stay above 90% to protect those who can't be vaccinated, including babies and those with compromised immune systems.
R.J. Reinhart at Gallup:
Perhaps the most well-publicized and debunked claim of danger posed by vaccines is that they cause autism. Currently, 10% of U.S. adults believe vaccines cause autism in children, marking a modest increase from 6% in 2015. Nearly half, 45% do not think vaccines cause autism, up modestly from the 41% who said the same almost five years ago. And 46%, down from 52%, say they are unsure.

The more advanced an American's formal education, the more likely they are to say vaccines do not cause autism. The figure is 73% among those with postgraduate education, falling to 61% among those with a college degree only, 42% of those with some college and 28% of those with no college experience. Importantly, lesser-educated Americans are much more likely to have no opinion than to say they believe vaccines do cause autism. The percentage making the causal connection tops out at 12% among Americans with no college education, versus 5% of postgraduates.
There are also substantial partisan differences, with 55% of Democrats saying vaccines do not cause autism, compared with 37% of Republicans.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Vaccine Misinformation

Stecula, Dominik Andrzej; Kuru, Ozan; Jamieson, Kathleen Hall (2020). How trust in experts and media use affect acceptance of common anti-vaccination claims. The Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) Misinformation Review.
  • Drawing on evidence gathered in two periods in 2019 (i.e., February 28-March 25, 2019 and September 13-October 2, 2019) from a nationally representative survey panel of Americans, we studied how anti-vaccination claims are widely held, persist, and relate to an individual’s media consumption and levels of trust in medical experts.
  • We found that a relatively high number of individuals are at least somewhat misinformed about vaccines: 18% of our respondents mistakenly state that it is very or somewhat accurate to say that vaccines cause autism, 15% mistakenly agree that it is very or somewhat accurate to say that vaccines are full of toxins, 20% wrongly report that it is very or somewhat accurate to say it makes no difference whether parents choose to delay or spread out vaccines instead of relying on the official CDC vaccine schedule, and 19% incorrectly hold that it is very or somewhat accurate to say that it is better to develop immunity by getting the disease than by vaccination.
  • In many cases, those who reported low trust in medical authorities were the same ones who believed vaccine misinformation (i.e., distrust of medical authorities is positively related to vaccine misinformation). Of note, this was true across different demographic groups and political beliefs.
  • Not only was the percent of individuals holding misinformed beliefs high, but mistaken beliefs also were remarkably persistent over a five months period.
  • Among those whose level of misinformation changed over time, the individuals who said that they were exposed to an increased amount of content about measles or the Measles, Mumps, and Rubella (MMR) vaccine on social media were more likely to have grown more misinformed.
  • By contrast, those who reported to have saw, read, or heard information on these topics in traditional media were more likely to respond accurately.
  • This result underscores the value of efforts to educate the public through traditional sources and minimize exposure to vaccine misinformation on social media.
  • Future work should move beyond establishing correlations to examine whether the relationships among trust in medical experts, media exposure, and vaccine misinformation are causal.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Full Funding of IDEA and 2020 Politics

Education groups, who call that shortfall an unfulfilled promise, have long campaigned for "fully funding" IDEA, which underpins services for nearly 7 million students with disabilities. More federal funding for IDEA, which gets $13.6 billion in the current budget, would help special education programs, they say, but it would also more broadly affect all students as schools would no longer have to pull as much from their general education budgets to meet the law's mandates.
In recent years, it's lagged below 15 percent of the average per-pupil expenditure, less than half of what lawmakers originally envisioned, said a report in August by the Congressional Research Service. 
Full funding is a moving target as numbers of identified students shift over time. A bipartisan bill introduced last year by Sen. Chris Van Holland, D-Md., and Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., aims to gradually ramp up IDEA funding, reaching the maximum threshold in 2029 by ensuring at least $43 billion annually is set aside for the grants.
In an August 2019 EdWeek Research Center survey of 700 principals and district administrators, 56 percent of respondents listed special education among the factors that had a "major effect" on increasing per-pupil expenses in their districts. Thirty-two percent of respondents listed special education among the top five areas most in need of funding in their school systems. In addition to IDEA, many districts rely on Medicaid funding to help cover the costs of services for students with disabilities.