You know, I keep trying to get away from this topic for a while. But, as Michael Corleone said in The Godfather, Part III, “Just when I thought I was out… they pull me back in.” I suppose it is unfortunately a measure of the success that antivaccinationists have been having with their public relations effort this year that this stuff keeps popping up everywhere like some mercury- and “toxin”-crazed Whac-A-Mole™ that I can never seem to stay quiet more than a couple of days on the topic lately. Sometimes I ignore it, even when it’s David Kirby. Sometimes I can’t.

This time I can’t, because it’s in my home state.

I’m talking about a breathtakingly idiotic and scientifically ignorant article published in the Battle Creek Enquirer by a woman named Carlene Clements entitled Issue of autism: This epidemic can be halted.

The stupid, it goes thermonuclear–nay, supernova!

This article is not worth fisking in its entirety. It doesn’t deserve that much respect; I’ll leave what I don’t take on as an exercise for the reader, as well as any commenting my Michigan readers (or any reader) might want to do on the newspaper’s website itself. Instead I’ll just take a couple of tidbits:

Autism was nearly unknown until 1943 when it was diagnosed among 11 children born in the months after thimerosal, a “mercury-based preservative,” was added to baby vaccines. Prior to 1989, American preschoolers received only three vaccinations (polio, diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis and measles-mumps-rubella). Ten years later, children were receiving heavy doses of thimerosal in the 22 immunizations required by the time they reached first grade, with some immunizations starting soon after birth. More than 500,000 children currently suffer from autism, with 40,000 new cases being diagnosed each year – currently one in 150. (Is this not an epidemic? Is this not a lost generation? What’s wrong with this picture?) Of course, authorities claim it’s due to “better diagnosis.” Hmmm. Ask all these parents what they think.

No, no, no, no! Autism was unknown until 1943 because that’s when it was first described as a syndrome. Guess what, Carlene? Most conditions and diseases are “unknown” before someone puts a name on them! (Clearly Carlene has been reading RFK, Jr.) Either that or they were “known” as something else or as a constellation of symptoms! Then, of course, once again she parrots the myth of the very likely nonexistent autism epidemic! And, no, it’s not just because of “better diagnosis,” but it’s also due to better awareness and diagnostic substitution. It’s possible that the true prevalence of autism may have risen somewhat, but it’s by no means an “epidemic.

Another tidbit:

Discontinuing immunizations is not the aim. Immunizations themselves are fine, but they need to be safe – free of harmful preservatives – and they shouldn’t be given at such early ages. Some babies have a weak immune system when they are born, and it needs to mature.

Ah, yes, the “toxin” gambit and the wonderfully Orwellian “green our vaccines” gambit. Sorry, Carlene, but the above paragraph just goes to show that you lack a single clue about this issue.

Of course, here is where I’ll be accused of “lacking compassion” or being “mean.” The reason, of course, is that Carlene has a power that I’ll never have. She can pull the “grandma gambit”:

I’m not an expert, just a grandma.

Noooo! I wither in the face of the grandma gambit. Grandmas are lovable and cuddly, while Orac is nothing more than an arrogant clear plastic box full of blinking lights, spewing venom hither and yon upon these brave grandmothers and mothers who only want to help their children by subjecting them to injections, bizarre diets, and huge numbers of supplements to “cure” them of their autism. How can Orac demonstrate such a lack of sympathy for these parents? [Note: Orac’s been meaning to address this particular rankling charge for a long time now. Maybe tomorrow or Tuesday.]

Unfortunately, Carlene shows that, however loving and kind grandmas may be, they are just as capable of being just as scientifically ignorant as any other antivaccinationist:

If you have a child, grandchild or know of someone who does who has been diagnosed on the autism spectrum, please, please, go to the Internet and do a search. Some of the sites are,,, These organizations are spreading, but many states still have no resources to help these families.

A book to read is written by Jenny McCarthy called “Louder Than Words.” Jenny and comedian Jim Carrey are very involved in getting this information out. They, along with numerous autism organizations, parents, doctors, etc. will be leading a march in Washington, D.C., on June 4 to get this message out.

No, what Generation Rescue and its fellow travelers, aided by the useful idiot Jenny McCarthy, are pushing are myths and harmful quackery. What they’re pushing is chelation therapy, the Geiers’ chemical castration, and Dr. Buttar’s quackery, and being well-intentioned is no talisman to protect one against criticism for the results of one’s actions.


  1. #1 rmp
    May 25, 2008

    At least this ones not in Winona,MN. I was beginning to get embarrassed.

  2. #2 tincture
    May 25, 2008

    If even e-meters need a label amounting to “This device is BS and wont do a damn thing” on them now, why doesn’t a column like that?

  3. #3 DLC
    May 25, 2008

    Holy Smoke. what a load of burning stupid!
    Sorry “grandma” but I’m not buying it.
    Perhaps your grandchildren wouldn’t be here had your children not been immunized at an early age. Or maybe they would have lived whatever life they had on a respirator or iron lung, been scarred for life or suffered brain damage.
    But, by all means, let’s stop vaccinating children because of a completely specious argument that a preservative no longer used in them causes autism.
    I find myself wondering what the odds are that Grandmother also believes in homeopathy.

  4. #4 Oldfart
    May 25, 2008

    Did you produce a letter to the Editor? You should write one up and just email to the editors the same old copy time after time. Because the arguments are the same time after time.

  5. #5 Mike Saelim
    May 25, 2008

    I dunno… I kind of envisioned you as a Dalek, screaming “Vaccinate! VACCINATE!”

  6. #6 rmp
    May 25, 2008

    I’m sure that it’s occurred to most of you before but only recently have I realized the irony in trying to defend the CDC and FDA when I (and many of you) have made public your distrust of anything coming from the Bush administration.

  7. #7 Brian
    May 26, 2008

    Yes, the CDC and FDA are under Bush’s purview. But when Bush doesn’t care enough to muck things up, the gov’t agencies generally have the right idea.

  8. #8 DavidCT
    May 26, 2008

    Some of the stupid that really burns is the acceptance in our society of traditional authority figures. Being a grandma automatically gives a person the mantel of being an expert on children.

    I remember a certain cold remedy developed by a grade school teacher and advertised as such. It is still making millions and the development by a person with no qualifications is not the perception of the buyers.

    Most readers of this blog can see the stupid, many members of the public cannot. Politically they have a lot of votes.

  9. #9 hart ff
    May 26, 2008

    There are many other “stupids” on the other side of the fence — the science stupids. Check out the research and see how many millions of US NIH/NIMH dollars are being used (wasted) on so-called “cognitive” studies aimed at determining whether autism is a failure to acquire “a theory of mind” and physiological/pharmacologial attempts to model it in animals so as to “cure” it. There is big money in this research….rich parents/grandparents with autistic offspring are willing to toss huge sums of money to allay guilt/create some sort of false hope.

    Really, the only thing that appears to ameliorate symptoms, and then only in kids with high intelligence potential, is an intensive 1 on 1 teaching/training program (many hours, daily) which is extraordinarily expensive (person-power & money). Sadly, this sort of remediation is available only to those with some wealth. “Mainstreamed” autistic kids in city schools often means but 2 hours of extra assistance once or twice a week. To me, it is clear that the funding of “intellectually interesting research” by private foundations and government agencies must be redirected to remediative measures to make them available without regard to income.

    A minor point — from an epidemiological point of view, epidemic just refers to a rise in incidence (or is it occurence?). You can be legit in calling something an epidemic if the incidence has doubled, even if it just means you’ve got 2 cases now where before there was 1. Lies, Lies and Statistics.

  10. #10 rmp
    May 26, 2008

    For any of you that have ventured over to the Battle Creek Enquirer. Have you run across this ‘ccdaddy57’ before. He is such a nut case I’m inclined to think he is just trying to make anti-vax people look crazy. If he isn’t just spoofing us, he truly is wacko.

  11. #11 Jamie
    May 27, 2008

    hart, why put “a theory of mind” in quotes? More to the point, what makes you think the money is being wasted?

  12. #12 Howard
    June 2, 2008

    Oh Orac, you stupid little man.

    Why do you equate safer vaccines with no vaccines?

    I suppose you would like to come care for my son, who is permanently disabled. Nothing to do with autism.

    No, he has VAPP, vaccine associated paralytic polio.

    Why is something wrong with parents wanting safer vaccines? I wish every day my son would have had a safer polio vaccine.

    Why do you call them anti-vaccine? I think you are anti-fact.

  13. #13 Howard
    June 2, 2008

    Oh Orac, you stupid little man.

    Why do you equate safer vaccines with no vaccines?

    I suppose you would like to come care for my son, who is permanently disabled. Nothing to do with autism. No, he has VAPP, vaccine associated paralytic polio.

    What is wrong with parents wanting safer vaccines? I wish every day my son would have had a safer polio vaccine.

    Why do you call them anti-vaccine? I think you are anti-fact.

  14. #14 HCN
    June 2, 2008

    Harold, that is why the IPV is now given instead of the OPV.

    And I would not cast about the word “stupid” when you failed to read what was written in the error message box.

  15. #15 Howard
    June 2, 2008

    and yet HCN, you get my name wrong. oh the stupidity that brews here…

    Yes, we now use the IPV instead of the OPV. That is exactly my point. Why do we use it now? Does it work better? No. It it less costly? No. Is it easier to administer? No.

    It is safer.

    There is nothing at all wrong with safer vaccines, I think we need them.

  16. #16 HCN
    June 2, 2008

    oops, sorry. Though, I noticed that you missed what was in the error box twice.

    For the history of the use of OPV versus IPV read: … you’ll notice lots of conflict of personalities in that bit of history.

    For the record, my first polio vaccine was the IPV, followed by the OPVs in the 1960s. My kids all at the OPV, except my youngest whose last one was the IPV. There were lots of valid safety issues brought up in the change.

    The question is: what valid safety issues are there for the present Hib, HepB, DTaP, MMR and other vaccines?

    Can you point out what those issues are, and tell us the documentation (that exist for the OPV) on those vaccines in the PubMed literature?

  17. #17 Howard
    June 2, 2008

    I don’t have time to argue with you, but you can educate yourself.

    The problem is that all these vaccines are given very young, before they can tell if a child will be contraindicated.

    My son has Wiskott-Aldrich Syndrome, but they didn’t know it when he got the OPV.

    You know they give 3 live virus vaccines to kids, even though they don’t know if the babies are contraindicated? Why the hell do we need to give babies the chicken pox vaccine? Or one for diahrea? It is absurd…

    Maybe give them to older babies, but not until the doctors can tell if they will be contraindicated.

    Any of those live virus vaccines can cause the disease in a person with an immune deficiency.

  18. #18 HCN
    June 2, 2008

    I’m not arguing with you. You asked a question and I told you where to find the answer (read the book).

    You said “Maybe give them to older babies, but not until the doctors can tell if they will be contraindicated.”

    Since the OPV is not given anymore, and the only live virus vaccines (MMR and Varicella) are not given until a child is at least a year old, then they are already doing what you are suggesting.

    The very dangerous diseases for infants, pertussis and Hib, are bacterial. Both of their vaccines are of the killed bacteria type or the more modern type. Like Hib, which does’t even use the whole bacteria, or virus in the case of the HepB and HPV… but just a little part of it. Despite the hue and cry one hears from certain factions, there has been lots of research and testing to create better, more effective and safer vaccines.

    You child has a fairly rare genetic mutation (at less than one per 100000, versus my son’s genetic cardiac disorder of a little more than one per 1000). Perhaps you should be lobbying for earlier screening of more genetic and metabolic disorders:

New comments have been temporarily disabled. Please check back soon.