Oh Canada.

Oh Canada. Look over here. Not there. Not at the press release. Look here. A real study. Published. With methodologies you can evaluate. Something you can sink your teeth into to help guide policy decisions.  You know, published epidemiology.  Science.

Its called  “Partial protection of seasonal trivalent inactivated vaccine against novel pandemic influenza A/H1N1 2009: case-control study in Mexico City.” and published on line in the BMJ on October 6th.

Are you aware of….Oh, Canada, pay attention, your eyes are wandering.

Are you aware of this study since you have been so wiggins about the risk of the seasonal flu vaccine increasing the risk of H1N1.

I know it is not a Canadian study, its from Mexico, and maybe the US border patrol has kept the information from coming north. Unlikely based on past efforts, but a possible excuse.  It is an interesting study. They compared 60 hospitalized cases of H1N1 with 180 controls without H1N1.  Those with H1N1 had more underlying medical problems than than controls.

When looking at the cases of influenza and comparing those that had had seasonal flu vaccine to those who didn’t they found

“The proportion of patients who died among vaccinated cases was significantly lower than among unvaccinated cases (0/8 (0%) v 18/52 (35%), P=0.047). The proportion of patients requiring invasive mechanical ventilation was also lower among vaccinated cases not significant (1/8 (13%) v 25/52 (48%),P=0.058).”

“When the association of influenza A/H1N1 with vaccine status for each age group was modelled, the adjusted odds ratio continued to show a protective effect, although this was statistically significant only for the age group 41-60 (table 3). Vaccine effectiveness against laboratory confirmed cases of influenza A/H1N1 was 73% (95% confidence interval 34% to 89%).”

So while on the basis of panic inducing press releases people are lead to believe that the seasonal vaccine increases the risk of H1N1, this was not supported in this retrospective clinical trial. Of course…. Oh Canada, please pay attention. Of course

” these results are to be considered cautiously and in no way indicate that seasonal vaccine should replace vaccination against pandemic influenza A/H1N1 . Our data support the hypothesis that partial protection provided by the seasonal vaccine may be explained by the boosting of existing antibodies that were elicited by previous exposure, through either infection or vaccination, to an influenza A/H1N1 virus genetically and antigenically more closely related to the novel influenza virus than contemporary seasonal H1N1 strain.”

All studies have their limitations, and this one is retrospective and has a small sample size.

I am sure there was a great sigh of relief up North and these finding, 10 days old as I write this entry, was trumpeted all over the media. The Ministers of Health, the newspapers, the blogs would be all over this finding like a hemagglutinin on a monosaccharide sialic acid. Shout it from the rooftops, raise your Molson high: Seasonal flu vaccine may be protective from dying for H1N1.

So I use the googles and find, well, nothin’.  Maybe I am using the wrong search terms. But from the Canadian newspapers, blogs and government, which made a big ruckus and a hullabaloo over the prior study, nuthin’.  Even the Natural News is silent on the research.   Our Canadian readers can comment, and I hope they do, but there seems to be no reporting on this important finding in the Canadian press.  Maybe because the blogs, newspapers and Ministers of Health will look like easily spooked jackasses? Or jacksass? Cause they do.

Oh Canada. You are still not paying attention.

Cold fusion.

Damn. I didn’t want to mention that.

Posted in: Science and Medicine

Leave a Comment (35) ↓

35 thoughts on “Oh Canada.

  1. weing says:

    Man bites dog. That’s news. This is not man bites dog.

  2. Awesome-Based Dude says:

    Note: NHL season has begun.

  3. DavidCT says:

    It’s nice to know that there is some hope. The A/H1N1 has definitely arrived but the vaccine not quite yet. At least it is still warm here and I don’t have to be in a cold crowed Ice rink with a bunch of people who should have stayed home but didn’t want to waste the tickets.

    Take it easy on the Canadians. They have Molson but you have Rogue and many others.

  4. stargazer9915 says:

    Dear Mr. Crislip (or doctor, just in case),

    Please do not tell Canada. The only people who need to know are those that already know. The less vaccine sent up there, the more here for us. But wait, I think there may be enough knuckleheads who watch Bill Maher so we should have some to spare. Go ahead and shout it from the mountain to.

    Seriously though. Wake up Canada and elect to mp’s who will spread the message and not those who are whacked out on the “woo”.

  5. sciguy says:

    OK this post finally pulled me out and after being a long term reader and skeptic I’ve finally signed up to come to the defense of my country!

    In all seriousness the policy makers screwed up. I just finished this topic with one of my Biology classes as I am a high school biology teacher. Some of us on the front lines in Canada are teaching the science…unfortunately as we all know sometimes governmental decisions aren’t based on science. I am doing my part to raise the issue and question our government but for now I’ll have to sit back with my Molson and wait my turn for my vaccination.

  6. chaoticidealism says:

    I don’t get it… wouldn’t the same people who get flu vaccines be the people at most risk for H1N1? After all, if you’re working a high risk job or at school or living in a dorm or an institution, wouldn’t you be more likely to get the regular flu vaccine, and also more likely to catch H1N1? Even if the correlation were valid (“unpublished study” means nothing to pick apart so I have no idea…), why would it make any difference?

  7. steveisgood says:

    Okay, as the editor of Canada’s first pan-Canadian Skeptic blog, Skeptic North, I feel it is my duty to point out some things….

    1) Moslon is the beer for jocks who don’t like to admit that they like to drink Bud Light Lime. Real Canadian beer can be found in a bottle of Sleeman’s.

    2) One of our authors, Kimberly Hebert DID indeed prepare something a few days ago, but was holding off until next week (when she was scheduled to post). You, sir, have tipped our hand! Thou art a swaggering blaggard to hath injured our honour thusly! En Garde! (but please don’t hit me because I bruise easily and will probably cry in front of my friends).

    3) The issue will also be discussed in the latest episode of The Reality Check, which is co-hosted by one of our other authors, Jonathan Abrams (the show was taped a few days ago, as I understand it).

    4) While on a recent episode of Skeptically Speaking, I also mentioned the dangers of fear-mongering about the unpublished study (but admittedly, the show went live 3 days after the study was published).

    So, my point is, we DID get on this….we were just a little late….but…

    Give us some slack! We’re still learning how to be a skeptic organization (there’s never been one like us in Canada before), and apparently, we’re all drinking Molson.

    Also, really, Dr. Crislip? Molson? I would have mentioned ‘stubbies’ and Beaver Tails myself.

    Can everyone stop making fun of Canada now? At least make fun of our more ridiculous Canadians (Jim Carrey, Celine Dion, anything with a maple-flavour to it).

    Also, our media.

    Our Media epically failed.

    Also, Pemican. That’s Canadian too.

  8. steveisgood says:

    Bah! I need a preview button! our blog is

    Too much sushi, Vegemite and blood pudding probably.

  9. Chris says:

    Wait, there is sushi in Alberta? Isn’t everything beef flavored there? Whoa.

    Love the Skeptically Speaking radio/show podcast. You all have your work cut out for you in British Columbia (I’m married to someone from Vancouver Island where the woo is strong… many years ago I came across an iridology/T-shirt shop that I wish I had a digital picture off between Nanaimo and Port Alberni!).

  10. steveisgood says:

    @Chris, Actually, I’m from the Niagara Peninsula, and have never even been to Alberta or BC…..Or Saskatchewan. Or Manitoba.

    It’s expensive to travel here!

    But our team is well-represented by the Vancouverites, so they may be outnumbered by homeopaths and witch-doctors, they’re at least very organized and are fighting back.

  11. Rob Tarzwell says:

    Dr. Crislip,

    The British Columbia CDC, the BC College of Physicians and Surgeons, the BC Ministry of Health, and the BC Medical Association have jointly decided, given limited resources, to throw their weight behind rapid rollout of H1N1 vaccine. This will relegate the trivalent seasonal to the back burner, at least initially.

    The idea is, given the lower population immunity to H1N1, and given the uncertainties in epidemiology, particularly regarding pregnant women and young adults, the delay which seasonal flu vaccine rollout will suffer justifies the risk, if it means getting H1N1 out as rapidly as possible.

    In the early days, this decision was partly informed by the retrospective data regarding last year’s flu shot and H1N1 infection rates, but it quickly became clear that, even if that link is entirely false, public health services need to roll out H1N1 as rapidly as possible.

  12. Mandos says:

    Actually, Alberta has beef-flavoured sushi. It’s called an “Alberta roll.”

  13. Skeptigale says:

    I don’t think your country is one to talk about bad science reporting in the news. From what I’ve seen of your TV stations (albeit I’ve only really seen Fox News) you don’t report on science and instead report on things that will kill you. I’m assuming this is a rating trick.

    As for Internet media, I find blogging in Canada to be a little slower than in our Southern counterparts. We like to take a few days to completely mull over what we want to say, rather than just writing something right away. News travels slow in Canada (at least from my experience) and if I hear something from an American news outlet, it’s likely that I wont read about it in a blog for two weeks or so.

    Also, Molson is a frat beer. I prefer Guiness my self (when I’m oat and aboat), Keith’s if I’m with my friends, Lucky if I’m feeling cheap and Labatt if I’m not.

  14. Dr Benway says:

    La Fin du Monde. Not only the best Canadian beer, but the best triple-fermented ale I’ve ever tasted. Just this side of a religious experience.

    Well done, Canada!

  15. Chris says:


    Actually, I’m from the Niagara Peninsula, and have never even been to Alberta or BC…..Or Saskatchewan. Or Manitoba.

    Oh, terribly sorry. When I saw you say “While on a recent episode of Skeptically Speaking, I also mentioned”, I assumed you were an in-studio guest and not on skype (note: that radio/podcast is from the University of Alberta).

    I’m sorry I cannot comment on the relative merits of the various Canadian beers (and there are many, BC has lots of microbreweries). Though I do know that British Columbia is as draconian with its liquor stores and taxes as the State of Washington, and the stuff is expensive. Costco in BC actually sells wine making kits to lower the costs (according to hubby’s cousins).

  16. The Blind Watchmaker says:

    What’s with all the Molson bashing? As long as you guys keep making it and shipping it down here. Labatts is good too.

    Green bottles all the way. Go Green!

  17. Fifi says:

    Le Fin du Monde is indeed a wonderful beer. My favorite from Unibroue, however, is Blanche de Chambly

    Quebec has quite a few extremely good microbreweries.

    I’m not sure what all the drama is about regarding the news stories since every article from a Canadian news outlet that I read was actually very reasonable and included quotes by the researchers that pointed out that the study may have been influenced by unanticipated factors and incorrect (some even went into what the possible confounding factors were). Maybe American news sources picked up the story and sensationalized it but that’s not how I saw it play out in Canada.

    I’m much more concerned about the concerted attacks on science by our current Prime Minister (a Born Again Christian) who appointed a Creationist chiropractor to be the Minister of Science. Not to mention the shameless political posturing of the Harper appointed Minister of Natural Resources who considered the lack of medical isotopes due to a shut down reactor a “sexy” issue to be exploited and went out of her way to sabotage the Minister of Health. Considering the fact that Harper is also trying to dismantle and commercialize the CBC – who do the best investigative journalism in Canada – we have much more important things to worry about in Canada than some American who wants to blame Canada for Americans being idiots. At least make up an entertaining song about it!

    Not that Harper isn’t busy trying to turn Canada into an American flavored, corporate run idiocracy – he does, after all, get his ideas from the same Neo Con think tanks as the American Neo Cons who did such damage to America. So far he’s been doing a very effective job of slowly dismantling Canada and selling us out to the highest corporate bidder. He’s achieved this by quietly privileging corporate entities over public ones, and waving around cultural threats so no one notices what he’s really doing in terms of shuttling money around to his corporate sponsors.

  18. Dr Benway says:

    our current Prime Minister (a Born Again Christian) who appointed a Creationist chiropractor to be the Minister of Science.

    Holy crap!

    Hey scientific community, time to get your game on. Why you let a doofus be the boss of you? Rally, doods!

  19. Fifi says:

    Dr Benway – Ultimately it’s mainly about giving taxpayer money to corporations and destroying any organizations that promote that pesky “reality based thinking” rather than any actual deep belief in ideology. It’s just that people who already indulge in non-reality based thinking are much easier to manipulate so they start with promising things to the religious Fundamentalists. Considering that Canada has Fundamentalist religious contingents that want to promote Sharia law, it’s a potentially huge danger to Canada’s largely secular and socially responsible culture. Like Bush and Co in the US, they create lots of drama around cultural issues to distract from the fact that they’re actually mainly focused on moving money and power into corporate hands. Harper has also spent lots of time trying to fan the flames of inter-provincial prejudice and resentment as well. It’s the old “distract them while you rob them blind” strategy. Sadly it looks like they’ll have already done irreversible damage by the time Canadians actually wake up. We haven’t had the same kind of dire economic crash here as in the US but Harper’s Neo Cons are trying to set us up for one.

  20. steveisgood says:

    our current Prime Minister (a Born Again Christian) who appointed a Creationist chiropractor to be the Minister of Science.

    Goodyear is not technically a creationist….he’s just an idiot who said that he doesn’t understand the evolution/creationism debate. But much more relevant, his actual position is “Minister of State for Science and Education”. The difference between that and “Minister of Science” (A position which no longer exists in Canada), is that “Minister of State for X” is a junior cabinet position, one which advises the PM and senior cabinet….a Minister for Science would write actual science policy.

    But he is a chiropractor who also dabbled in acupuncture.

    Hey scientific community, time to get your game on. Why you let a doofus be the boss of you? Rally, doods!

    *ahem* George Bush?

  21. Dr Benway says:

    No argument about Bush.

    A long time ago humans realized that they had to protect judges from undo influence. Judges are triers of fact. Humans have a sweet spot for telling the truth that rests somewhere between crazy-huge piles of money and a gun to the head, and we have to keep judges in that sweet spot.

    The scientific community is also a trier of fact. They, likewise, need protection from politicians or other powerful interests if we’re to depend upon them for the truth.

    I dunno. I’m imagining scientists themselves might organize some means to dictate a few terms to the politicians, rather than the other way around.

  22. Fifi says:

    Actually Goodyear’s Minister of Science and Technology (not education). It is a position that Harper reanimated specifically to move funding away from academic science and towards corporate “research”. Essentially, it’s funding private corporate research and subsidizing corporations with taxpayer money instead of academic research for the public good. It’s the same NeoCon agenda of moving taxpayer funds into private pockets as we’ve seen in the US. Most Canadians just don’t believe it could happen here.'s_attacks_on_science

    Harper’s government also even trying to influence the EPA to allow for greater polluting in the Great Lakes.

  23. Fifi says:

    Dr Benway – Thanks, that’s an interesting way of looking at it and I agree entirely. Of course, politicians aren’t usually fans of the truth. While it’s easy to get caught up in nationalism and thinking one country is superior to another, as is abundantly clear to anyone who pay attention to global politics and thinks critically, the Neo Con agenda is exactly the same in every single country it’s made inroads in (and the same strategies are used to implement the agenda, a great deal of which is about promoting unreality based thinking). Corporations are, of course, not nationalist or tied to one nation and the Neo Con agenda is less politically (or even religiously) ideological than it is corporatist. It’s about money and power, the “culture wars” and so on are just a means to distract the general public, as well as the intellectual and academic communities. As always, it’s the artists and “intelligensia” – who come under attack first (defunding both is only the first step) since they’re the ones most likely to speak up. But, really, it’s just about being able to make money without anyone getting in the way by demanding it be done in a socially responsible way.

  24. yeahsurewhatever says:

    La Fin du Monde? My French is pretty rusty, but I’m pretty sure that means The End of the World?

    Might have to try that. It’s hard to find good ale in this hemisphere.

  25. Fifi says:

    For those unfamiliar with Harper’s church and beliefs and what they mean for medicine and science in Canada. There’s a reason Harper hid his religious affiliations for so long…

    “His church follows in traditions normally associated with American evangelicalism, a brand of Christianity that has a relatively small following in Canada. In that vein, Harper appears to have more in common with President George W. Bush, a born-again Christian, than with his predecessors. At the East Gate Alliance Church, the hymnals even contain the song America, the Beautiful. “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord,” they read.”

    “There is a strong emphasis on the certainty of one’s faith and on the authority of the Bible. There is an emphasis on the physical healing powers of Jesus Christ(at the end of the service the pastor asks the sick to come up to be anointed with oil). In the church lobby, there are pamphlets opposing stem cell research and outlining the risks of abortion. And like many other religions, including the Roman Catholic faith, the church opposes gay marriage.”

  26. Ash says:

    In defence of Canada – not every province has shaped policies based on a press release. Here in Alberta the seasonal flu vaccine has already been rolled out; while the focus is on high risk groups it’s available for free to anyone (I’m planning on getting mine this week). When the H1N1 vaccine becomes available it will basically replace the seasonal flu vaccine, largely due to limited resources (they want to focus on the H1N1 vaccination as a bigger concern), but as the flu season progresses it is expected that the seasonal vaccination will be made available again, particularly if surveillance shows that the strains in the seasonal vaccination are present.

    I can’t really defend our choice of Prime Minister as much, except to say that in the last election he was running against someone with a poor command of English, and in the previous election was running against someone under the taint of a major scandal. I don’t think he’d do as well against a strong, credible opponent (if the Liberal party ever get their act together enough to field one).

  27. j0eb0nd7 says:

    Why is a whole country being generalized like this? Intelligent every-day individuals are not the ones making policies! To me there is a tone of ignorance in the post.

  28. Mark Crislip says:

    “Why is a whole country being generalized like this? ”

    OK. It was Vernon Dursely of Number 4 Privitt Drive, Little Winging BC who I was REALLY writing about. I didn’t want him singled out, but now I am forced to reveal his identity to the entire world. Now scorn will be heaped upon him, and his wife Petunia and son Dudley.

    Its a literary device. Personification: giving human qualities to animals or objects.

    Jeeze. And a riff on the Canadian National song, O Canada. Does anyone take lit classes anymore?
    Besides logical fallacies, we need a link to english literature web site.

  29. daedalus2u says:

    Green bottle for beer are made of fail, unless you keep them in the dark anyway, which in Canada might be not too difficult. Green glass does not block the photons that cause beer to become light-struck and smell skunky. Brown glass is much better.

  30. organic says:

    Oh, my dear. This “real study. Published. With methodologies you can evaluate” is:
    * retrospective
    * case contolled
    * and microscopically sampled

    Even authors outline this: “it is prone to limitations due to small sample size and the retrospective study design. Therefore the estimates for vaccine effectiveness could be inflated owing to a high prevalence of chronic conditions and vaccination in our control population”

    Well, in my very humble opinion this post is emotion based rather then sciense.


  31. Newcoaster says:

    Mark, be careful what you ask for….. “Our Canadian readers can comment, and I hope they do”. Lots of good comments and it’s actually great to finally find the Skeptic North blog, which I hadn’t run across before.

    Here in my little strip of heaven in BC, the woo-meisters outnumber us humble doctors. The previous doofus Minister of Health approved acupuncture for poor people, and has given Naturopaths status as primary care doctors. It doesn’t surprise me that they have mishandled the H1N1, and they have been criticized in the medical press.

  32. Newcoaster says:

    and nobody actually drinks Molson anymore up here….we just sell it to Americans.

  33. Fifi says:

    Newcoaster – There really needs to be a very concerted effort to educate more people as MDs (particularly GPs) and allow more doctors who immigrate to Canada to practice. The very real lack of GPs and lowered standards of care in Canada (and the rest of the world) is partially responsible driving people to resort to “alternatives”. This is very much a political problem, as well as a logistical one. We also need politicians to stop bleeding medicare and our public health system in an attempt to create such a poor system that the public (and doctors) will welcome commercial medicine with open arms. It doesn’t help that we’ve had lobbyist for private healthcare and insurance in positions of power where they influence funding (and defunding) of public science and medicine.

  34. jofspammo says:

    Discrediting others an excellent way to justify one’s views. And with Halloween fast approaching, I can say I love this Science-Based-Witch-Hunt Medicine Website I just found (Pheww, that’s a mouthful). What nice things can be said and done in the name of science. I hear Hitler published a science-based peer-reviewed paper on why the Jews needed to be eradicated. Science rules! Nothing else matters.

  35. jofspammo says:

    “Oh, Say Can You See, Science-Based Bigotry?”

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