Monthly Archives: May 2011

As a parent and as a scientist, it’s frightening.

I recently came across this article online:
In the article they report how outbreaks of pertussis (aka whooping cough) are spreading in Australia because vaccination rates are dropping below 85%.  That rate is frightening.  They are actually suggesting that new parents keep their infants in isolation to avoid exposing them to whooping cough.

Can you imagine living, housebound, in constant fear of your child contracting a potentially deadly infection?  I can’t, but I fear it will come to that.

Many people talk about how they believe one thing or another about vaccines.  I don’t believe anything about vaccines.  I have examined primary literature.  I have attended research talks by world renowned scientists in the field of vaccine development and infectious disease.  I have studied virology and microbiology.  I am the daughter of a public health/school nurse.  The preponderance of evidence is clear.  This evidence indicates that the risks associated with vaccines (allergic reaction, etc) are minuscule compared to the very real and substantial risk of contracting a vaccine-preventable illness.

The press and anti-vaccine fanatics like to present the ‘debate’ over vaccine safety and a debate.  There is a clear concensus amongst doctors that vaccines are effective and safe.  What better measure of their confidence that how they vaccinate their own children?  A study in the peer reviewed journal Pediatrics found that, “Ninety-three percent of the surveyed physicians agree with the current official vaccination recommendations and would apply them to their own children.”  93% vs 3% does not constitute a lively debate.  93% vs 3% is a clear consensus.

Unlike the multitudes, apparently, I am comfortable with the language and mechanism of the scientific method.  Scientists and doctors will vaccinate themselves and their children- indicating the level of confidence they have in the data- yet they will never say with 100% certainty that vaccines don’t cause autism.  That’s just not how the scientific method works.

There have been dozens of studies demonstrating the efficacy and safety of vaccines.  There are centuries of data proving the danger of vaccine-preventable illnesses.  The data indicating that vaccines cause autism?  Doesn’t exist- there is none.  The only data that ever existed were fraudulent .

As a scientist who has a BS in Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry and a doctorate in Molecular Biology from Ivy League universities, who has done research at several of the world’s preeminent research institutions:, who has studies virology and microbiology,  I have received many vaccinations,  I vaccinate my daughter per the CDC and AAP guidelines, I encourage my loved ones to do the same.

I recently wrote the following to a friend who is expecting her first child:

I just posted an article about whooping cough on my FB. I’m sure you and Andy are already swamped with baby preparations, but I wanted to get in my 2 cents regarding vaccinations.

Both you and Andy should get a DTaP shot before baby comes. Andy for sure, your doc may suggest waiting until after delivery. I did get mine while I was pregnant with Mabel mostly because the DTaP is for diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (aka whooping cough)- and I needed the tetanus for a lab injury.  Studies have shown that most infants that get whooping cough (since they can’t be vaccinated until 2 months and the vaccine is a series) are actually infected by their parents.

There are a lot of people nowadays opting out of vaccinating kids because they falsely believe there are links to autism. I have read the primary literature on this myself and as a molecular biologist (with a public health nurse for a mom)- I vaccinate Mabel on the standard CDC schedule.

Because of the low vaccination rates, we’re seeing a re-emergence of vaccine-preventable illnesses (like whooping cough and measles), and the CDC and other groups are considering vaccinating kids at even earlier ages as a result.

I’d be happy to help answer any questions you have from a scientific and maternal perspective. But just so you know- I get my flu shot every year, as does Mac, as does Mabel now that she’s old enough. Mac and I both got the DTaP and flu shot before Mabel was born. We vaccinate her on the standard schedule recommended by the CDC.

Sorry for the soapbox, I’ll get off now. Just had to put it out there because I think it’s so important.

I don’t tell my plumber how to fix my toilet.  I don’t think I know more about my car than my mechanic.  Why don’t people trust their medical professionals and scientists to determine the best, safest course of action when it comes to vaccines and vaccine-preventable illnesses?

Aside from that, why do parents feel they can take risks with my health and the health of my family?  There are many people who cannot be vaccinated due to allergies, compromised immune systems, age, etc.  There is a certain percentage of the population who will not acquire sufficient immunity from a vaccination.  There are members of our society who are particularly susceptible to vaccine-preventable illnesses (patients on chemotherapy, those with suppressed immune systems, the elderly, the very young, pregnant women, etc.).  Why are cavalier and irresponsible parents so willing to put their own children and so many other people at risk by refusing to vaccinate?!

I refuse to be responsible for the illness or death of another human being by refusing to vaccinate myself and my daughter and spreading a vaccine-preventable illness.  I also don’t want my daughter to suffer like this, or this.

Are you afraid that plummeting vaccination rates will put your family in jeopardy?

Note: Where possible I tried to include links to primary literature and/or reputable sources of information.

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Steals and Deals

Saturday was my kind of day.  Time spent with Mabel and my sister, Meg, a new hair cut, a fair, lunch out, shopping, saving money.

After a morning haircut for me, we met up with Meg and spent the early afternoon at at the local hospital’s Kids Fair collecting helium balloons, petting a police dog, looking at a firetruck, and getting one of these (http://criminaljustice.state.ny.us/pio/safechild.htm).

After re-fueling with lunch out, we made out way to Once Upon A Child (www.onceuponachild.com).  If you have a child and have never been to your local Once Upon A Child, get on with it!  They have everything from clothes to toys to bedding to strollers to potty seats to safety gear to hair bows to, well, you get the idea.

Whenever Mabel is in need of something- like T shirts or a rocking horse- I make Once Upon A Child my first stop.  We’ve made out there great in the past (especially during the 10 for $10 end of season clearance sales) and yesterday was no exception.

I got everything you see below (name brands like Gap, Children’s Place, Carter’s, Tea Collection, Zutano, etc.) for $25!  Cannot beat it.

Meg, being the generous aunt she is, got all of this:

…AND 10 onsies for her college friend who’s expecting in September for $19!  Aren’t those skeleton bones PJs adorable?

I definitely tell all parents I meet to find their local Once Upon A Child or other children’s resale shop and always start there.

Other tricks I’ve used- Freecycle (www.freecycle.org), local neighborhood listservs, Craigslist, Goodwill, and tag sales.

What do you do to save money on kids’ stuff?

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Factual Inaccuracies in Children’s “Literature”

This is one of my daughter’s favorite books:

I Love You, Grandpa""

I Love You, Grandpa by Jillian Harker (Author) and Daniel Howarth (Illustrator)

While the story is sweet, about the love between a grandfather and grandson and all the former can teach the latter, it kind of irks me.  In reality, bears don’t know their grandfathers.  They don’t even know their fathers.  Cubs are raised by their mothers.  Older male bears are generally a threat to bear cubs.  So, while the story is sweet, when I read it, I can’t help but know it’s inaccurate.

There are loads of examples of this- like The Very Hungry Caterpillar, do you know a species of caterpillar that could actually eat through that much fruit and food?

And what about this book:

The Snuggliest Snuggle in the World""

The Snuggliest Snuggle in the World by Sarah Nash (Author) and Daniel Howarth (Author)

In this story the little leopard misses his mommy and gets hugs from other animals in the jungle- like a bear, a monkey, and a python.  When the python “hugs” him, the leopard says the hugs are too “tickly” even though it looks more like the python is trying to make him into a meal.

I read the books, and I enjoy the sentiments, but the logical scientist in me can’t help but think of the factual inaccuracies.

Have you come across any glaring examples of this in your kids’ books?

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A day in the life…

Today was a pretty average day:

Morning at home- wake, wash, change poopy diaper, kiss hubby and baby, and head off to work.

Day at work- try to cure cancer.

Evening at home- take a walk with hubby and baby and dog, cook dinner, bathe baby, read bedtime stories, sing lullabies, say prayers, tuck in baby, sweep floors, do laundry, start blog.

I’ve been toying with the idea of starting a blog for some time.  I love reading other people’s blogs, keeping up with their lives, trying their recipes, learning from their experiences, enjoying their photos and stories.  So, I thought I’d give it a whirl.

The abridged version of who I am- I’m happily married to Mac, my husband of 2.5 years; we’re happily raising our 16 month old daughter Mabel; we just purchased our first home in the suburbs of NYC; now, after decades of schooling, I have my dream job at a pharmaceutical company doing cancer research.

Online I love reading ‘mommy’ blogs, I get worked up over the public misunderstanding of science, I enter lots of giveaways (and sometime win!), I shop for bargains, and now- I blog.

Offline, I’m blessed with a wonderful husband who juggles freelance work and being a stay at home dad (which lets me work full time at the aforementioned dream job), I’m enamored of  my toddler who brings joy to everyone who loves her (which makes me jealous of the time I miss with her while at aforementioned dream job), I’m enjoying our new home and being able to host friends and family, and I’m happy it’s summer which means many weekends at the family camp in the Catskills.

Hope you enjoy reading!

Momma, PhD

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