The ScienceBlogs Book Club

Dr. Offit has never been shy about coming out with his opinions about vaccines and their lack of association to autism. Good. I genuinely thank him for doing so. He has been willing to put himself in the line of fire for what he believes is the right thing to do. In the course of doing this he – and his children – have been subjected to threats and abuse.

He knows that this can be the price you pay for becoming entangled with anti-vaccinationists. But he also knows that this is a subject that must be tackled.

He knows that this is not just a local issue. It is international. Non-vaccinators in Europe cause unvaccinated kids in the US to catch a disease that can kill. Hundreds of thousands still die of Measles throughout the developing world.

Some of the Science Bloggers regularly stand up and discuss this subject too. Respectful Insolence, Denialism, Pharyngula, GoodMath, BadMath and Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted) are Science Blogs I know of that have covered the issue at least once.

Those of us in the autism community owe them a massive vote of thanks too.

Yesterday another blogger followed the standard set by Dr Offit and stepped up to lend the weight of his considerable expertise to the issue. John Lawrence Kiely, better known to many of you as Epi Wonk published a fantastic piece in the AJC which if you haven’t already, should go and read right now.

Towards the end of his piece he says:

It’s time for them to speak, run public service ads, alert reporters and aggressively rebut the spurious idea about MMR.

This is nothing but right.Two communities need you. Public health (and international public health at that) and autism. Please follow the examples set by Dr Offit and now Dr Kiely. Comment, blog, write op-eds.

Comments

  1. #1 Lab Rat
    October 10, 2008

    “Hundreds of thousands still die of Measles throughout the developing world.”

    Sixth major cause of death among children in Africa. Which is scary, because the vaccine already exists. Which does make you wonder, if a vaccine for HIV comes out, will it really be able to help the people there who need it? Or, like the measles vaccine, will it just be something for rich westerners to get.

    I always thought that the reason for the high level of measles in developing areas was more to do with lack of funding that anti-vaccs but I may be wrong.

  2. #2 Jennifer
    October 10, 2008

    And then there’s Ben Goldacre. His new book, “Bad Science” looks well worth a read. Here he is being interviewed.

    http://ca.youtube.com/watch?v=2ht_N7l747Q

    Look at that! He actually refers to MMR as “a paradigmatic example of a hoax story in the media”.

    You can’t get stronger than that. Bravo to Ben! Maybe his should be the next book discussed here.

  3. #3 ebohlman
    October 10, 2008

    Lab Rat: In the last decade, there’s been a major measles vaccination initiative in developing countries. It’s brought the number of measles deaths down from roughly 750,000/year to roughly 250,000/year. So the problem has primarily been lack of resources, though that’s improving. In developing countries, the primary influence of anti-vaccinators has been on polio vaccination efforts.

  4. #4 Ms. Clark
    October 10, 2008

    I wonder how many years will pass before the autism “advocacy” organizations in the US (especially) will take a stand for pubic health and for the vulnerable children and others who are depending on the grown-ups to act like grown-ups.

    I sincerely hope that Autism Speaks and Autism Society of America go down in history with a massive black mark on them for their enabling quacks and perpetuating “a paradigmatic example of a hoax story in the media,” when they of all people should have seen clearly that it was a hoax from the beginning. The best revenge would be for everyone to stop donating to them, they’ll crumble. What would rise in their place, if anything, could not be more harmful for autistic people. Maybe we could get Britain’s National Autistic Society to just spread over here and into Canada.

  5. #5 strech
    October 11, 2008

    We should have some scientists presenting, well, the science of the whole thing. But given the media issues that Offit mentions, this alone isn’t going to help things. So beyond simple involvement, how should scientists get involved? If they attack the media handling of the case they may be (somewhat unfairly) considered as “speaking out of their area of expertise”.

    So do we need a project to look at how the media approaches science, and to try and fix that while continuing simple speaking? And is this the best way to spend scientists’ time?

  6. #6 Ed
    October 11, 2008

    Kev,

    If one is to determine whether there is a relationship between vaccines and autism, the statistical experiment is to compare the autism rate between the vaccinated and the unvaccinated in a sample that is large enough to clearly discern the difference. That experiment has never been done.
    So far, when such an experiment is mentioned, it is dismissed by those who are pro-vax. I do not understand this. If I were trying to prove that there is no relationship, this is the first thing I would do.
    Is there a reason for the pro-vax stance against such an experiment?

  7. #7 Chris H.
    October 11, 2008

    Ed, again you are reminded to read Chapter 6.

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    December 29, 2008

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    At the moment, I’m finishing off a summary of the first Jenny McCarthy book ‘Louder than Words’ and beginning her second book (where she gets even more anti-vaccination and worse).

    Would people be interested in responding to direct claims from McCarthy’s book?

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  26. #26 Sheila
    May 23, 2009

    It’s NOT the MMR shot, it’s the hepatitis shot. That’s why NCR’s refusal to look for a link between autism and vaccinations after their 2004 study is grossly negligent. Their 2004 study compares 2 groups of children: one group received the MMR shot and one group did not. There was no significant difference in the amount of autism between the groups. Nevermind that each of those children likely got the hepatitis shot before they ever left the hospital after being born (unless they were Amish or something).

    Their extrapolation of that research into the conclusion that there’s no connection between vaccinations and autism is absurdly invalid. As I’ve explained, it’s not the MMR shot — it’s the hepatitis shot babies get before they ever leave the hospital.

    Thank God for “jenny.com” The NRC’s blatantly invalid conclusion is striking evidence of how people believe what they want to believe even if doesn’t make any sense at all.

    Vaccinations contain neurotoxins — by very definition of that word it means the stuff can poison the brain and cause brain damage. It’s just absurd to not recoginize the implications of neurotoxins causing autism, and also absurd not to recognize when a study has been improperly done to find that connection.

    “All Truth passes through three stages: First it is ridiculed; Second
    it is violently opposed; Third it is accepted as being self evident.”
    – Arthur Schopenhauer (1830)

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