Respectful Insolence

One thing that’s become apparent to me so far in 2009 is that, while 2008 was the year of the antivaccinationist, 2009 is already shaping up to be a very bad year for antivaccinationists. A very bad year indeed, and this is a very, very good thing–if it can be sustained.

But first, let’s take a look at last year. In 2008, Jenny McCarthy was the new and fresh celebrity face of the movement that believes that autism and all manner of other neurodevelopmental disorders are caused by vaccines and that the government and big pharma are suppressing The Truth. She had emerged in the fall of 2007 after having tried to erase from the Internet her previous involvement in the “Indigo Child” movement in preparation for becoming an “autism advocate” who could write a book that could land her on Oprah’s show. Thanks to her and, perhaps even more so to the star power of her boyfriend Jim Carrey, who is just as wrong about vaccines and medicine as Jenny is, the antivaccine movement came roaring into prominence in a way that it had never managed to pull off before. After all, let’s face it, a former Playboy Playmate of the Year and a famous comedian are far more “interesting” public figures for various media outlets to interview than previous celebrities who spearheaded the vaccine manufactroversy, such as Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. or washed-up shock jock returned from the grave of his own digging Don Imus and his wife Deirdre.

Indeed, Jenny’s combination of good looks, stupidity, and utter confidence in her Google University education, coupled with her obnoxiousness, led to her showing up all over the media in 2008. For example, on April 1 (no, I’m not making this up), she appeared on Larry King Live! and shouted down physicians who had the temerity to tell her that her Google University knowledge was just plain wrong. The pinnacle of her influence came during the summer, when, having now supplanted J.B. Handley as the public face of the antivaccine group Generation Rescue and transforming GR into “Jenny McCarthy’s autism charity,” she led the “Green Our Vaccines” rally in Washington, DC. True, at most there were several hundred people there, but it got wide news attention, and Jenny was all over the news. She rapidly followed it up by releasing a second book Mother Warriors: A Nation of Parents Healing Autism Against All Odds and appearing on The Oprah Winfrey Show yet again.

When Amanda Peet joined the fray on the pro-vaccine side, it let the media to portray the vaccine issue as a celebrity cat fight. Meanwhile, thanks to Jenny’s ties with the Playboy organization and her celebrity friends, she was able to fill Generation Rescue’s coffers with the proceeds of celebrity “autism” events where luminaries such as Britney Spears, Charlie Sheen, and Hugh Hefner would show up. Add to that her promotion of Celebrities Against Autism and her partnering with professional wrestling and celebrity poker events with Lance Armstrong, and that’s a chunk of change that’s allowed GR and the equally antivaccine and quackery-friendly TACA to rebrand themselves in the eyes of the public as respectable autism charities, rather than crank organizations pushing a scientifically discredited idea and thereby endangering public health.

Then there was the Hannah Poling case, or, as I’ve called it, evidence of the incredibly shrinking causation claim. In brief, the government awarded compensation for vaccine injury through the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program to the family of an unfortunate girl named Hannah Poling, manifested a regressive encephalopathy with features of autism spectrum disorder after a “catch up” vaccination session. It was later determined that Hannah suffers from a highly unusual mitochondrial disorder, which rendered her susceptible to neurologic injury from high fevers. She had high fevers after the vaccine, but she had also had a series of ear infections. The antivaccine movement has done its best to make Hannah its poster child as “smoking gun proof” that the government had admitted that vaccines can cause autism in susceptible children, when it had done nothing of the kind. Because the science is difficult, and because mitochondrial disorders are so uncommon, though, David Kirby and his fellow mouthpieces at Age of Autism had a field day twisting the scientific evidence into an unrecognizable pretzle and, as Mark Crislip likes to say, making therapeutic (or, in this case causative) mountains out of clinical molehills.

Truly 2008 was the high water mark of the antivaccine movement.

Still, not all was positive for the the disease promotion movement (as fellow ScienceBlogger PalMD likes to refer to it), even in 2008. For example, the second half of the year, after at least four years of no activity there was actual pushback against it. Amanda Peet spearheaded the Every Child By Two initiative, which was designed to encourage parents to have their children vaccinated. Not long after, Dr. Paul Offit, to antivaccinationists the Dark Lord of Vaccines, a veritable Darth Vader, Lord Sauron, and Satan Incarnate himself, released his excellent book telling in clear, easily accessible language, exactly why scientists conclude that vaccines do not cause autism and why the various “biomedical treatments” recommended for “vaccine injury” in the form of autism are virtually all quackery. Finally, as the year wound to a close, a group of scientists from Cornell tried to replicate the results of one of the godfathers of the antivaccine movement, Andrew Wakefield. Wakefield’s studies, starting in 1998 in The Lancet, had concluded that the measles virus in the MMR vaccine somehow invaded the gut and caused a syndrome that led to regressive autism and inflammatory bowel disease–and found no correlation between MMR vaccination and any such syndrome. Andrew Wakefield, as you recall, is the man who, more than anyone else, caused the anti-MMR scare in the U.K. and Europe that has resulted in the resurgence of measles. Indeed, he is a hero of the antivaccine movement, so much so that the antivaccine propaganda blog Age of Autism gave him the “Galileo Award” for 2008, completely ignoring the fact that, for a “maverick scientist,” it is not sufficient to be reviled. One must also be right, which Wakefield was most assuredly not. Truly, this was a case of the Galileo Gambit taken to a ridiculous extreme.

As 2009 dawned, the antivaccine movement seemed strong and getting stronger. Having successfully framed themselves as “pro-safe vaccine, not antivaccine” and popularized the cleverly Orwellian slogans “Green Our Vaccines” and “Too Many Too Soon,” they had stoked fear of vaccination on both sides of the Atlantic, to the point where vaccination rates had begun to fall below the level necessary for herd immunity, and outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases were becoming apparent. In the U.K., thanks to Andrew Wakefield and the antivaccine movement his work had spawned, over the last decade, MMR vaccination rates had fallen below 80% (and in some parts of London, below 60%), leading a disease once considered defeated to come roaring back to the point where last year U.K. health authorities had to admit that it is once again endemic. Meanwhile in the U.S., outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseaseas were occurring among unvaccinated populations, such as in Minnesota, while measles was also making a comeback.

One thing I could never understand about Andrew Wakefield is why so many believed him. The British press ate his bad science up and were complicit in contributing to the decline in vaccination rates that endanger public health now. I, for one, was not at all surprised at the first blow to the antivaccine movement that occurred in 2009, namely Brian Deer’s revelations that Andrew Wakefield had almost certainly falsified data used in his original 1998 Lancet paper. Specifically, and in brief, this is what Wakefield was found to have done:

However, our investigation, confirmed by evidence presented to the General Medical Council (GMC), reveals that: In most of the 12 cases, the children’s ailments as described in The Lancet were different from their hospital and GP records. Although the research paper claimed that problems came on within days of the jab, in only one case did medical records suggest this was true, and in many of the cases medical concerns had been raised before the children were vaccinated. Hospital pathologists, looking for inflammatory bowel disease, reported in the majority of cases that the gut was normal. This was then reviewed and the Lancet paper showed them as abnormal.

A detailed account by investigative journalist Brian Deer can be found here, as can an account of how the MMR scare led to a return of the measles.

It’s not as though this revelation should have come as a surprise. After all, the signs had all been there right from the beginning that something was not right, indeed at least as early as 2002. Indeed, advocates of science-based medicine everywhere owe Brian Deer a huge debt of gratitude for having pursued this case for so long, as this is what he found out about Wakefield and his work. Moreover, it’s not as though warning signs weren’t there in the very paper. As Brian Deer described at the University of Michigan a couple of weeks ago, something didn’t smell right in the Lancet paper. What he meant was that the results looked too good to be true. He was right.

The original 1998 Lancet paper made two key claims based on its findings studying twelve children, which, according to the Wakefield, had been, “consecutively referred to the pediatric gastroenterology unit at the Royal Free Hospital and School of Medicine in London. First, it claimed that eight of the twelve children studied had manifested developmental regression within two weeks of the MMR vaccine, and one had developed regression after a measles infection, the clear implication being that there was a close temporal relationship between MMR vaccination and the onset of regression in 75% of the children. The second claim was that all 12 of the children demonstrated “intestinal abnormalities, ranging from lymphoid nodular hyperplasia to aphthoid ulceration.” Although the paper stated that the authors “did not prove an association between measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine and the syndrome described” and that “virological studies are underway that may help to resolve this issue,” Wakefield at his press conference to announce the findings stated that he had preliminary virological evidence showing measles virus in the gut. It took him four years to follow up these results with a paper in Molecular Pathology that reported measles virus in 75/91 children with ileal inflammation and children with developmental disorders. Although Wakefield was careful not to use the word autism in the actual text of the paper–or even the word vaccine–the implication of the paper was plain, and, if it wasn’t to some, Wakefield made sure to drive home what he thought the implication was: That the MMR is associated with a syndrome of developmental disorders, including autism, and inflammatory bowel disease.

Unfortunately for Wakefield, Deer’s instincts ultimately proved to be correct. The first shoe to drop was Deer’s 2004 Channel 4 documentary exposing Wakefield’s incompetence and conflicts of interest. As it turned out, Wakefield did not have the viral data in 1998. Indeed, a young investigator named Nicholas Chadwick had been unable to detect measles virus in any of the samples from the 12 children and had told Wakefield. Wakefield kept that data out of the original Lancet paper because it did not support his hypothesis. How, then, to explain Wakefield’s subsequent paper in 2002 that reported the detection of measles virus sequences in a large proportion of the ileal biopsy specimens of children with “autistic enterocolitis”? In 2007, during the beginning of the proceedings for the test cases in the Autism Omnibus case (more on that in the next section), Stephen Bustin, arguably the preeminent expert in the use of the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to detect DNA sequences, testified for the government about the methods used in the laboratory that did the PCR analysis for Andrew Wakefield. Suffice it to say that this had to be about the sloppiest laboratory I’ve ever seen. Also suffice it to say that the negative controls were amplifying measles sequence, meaning that it was impossible to tell a signal was a true signal or a false positive. In fact, Bustin’s investigation concluded that what Wakefield was reporting was almost certainly all contamination from plasmids made in an adjacent laboratory. Ironically, this was the same laboratory that participated in the 2008 attempt to replicate Wakefield’s results. Clearly, it had cleaned up its act by then.

The other problem revealed in the 2004 documentary was that Andrew Wakefield had a massive conflict of interest. Teamed up with antivaccination crank extraordinaire Hugh Fudenberg, he had come up with a combination single agent vaccine/therapeutic (which he characterized as a “cure for autism“) agent based on the quack favorite “transfer factor.” Not only this, but he had filed patent applications for this concoction. In other words, Wakefield stood to profit handsomely if the MMR was discredited as being safe. Not long after these revelations, ten of the thirteen authors of the original 1998 Lancet report renounced its conclusions and asked to have their names removed from the paper.

But it was even worse than that.

At the end of 2006, the second shoe dropped. It turned out that Wakefield’s conflict of interest was even worse than that. In fact, it turned out that Wakefield had been paid by lawyers seeking to sue vaccine manufacturers for “injury” due to the MMR. In fact, his services had been bought and paid for to the tune of paid £435,643 in fees, plus £3,910 expenses. Neither this conflict of interest nor the conflict of interest inherent in having an alternative vaccine for measles, a single vaccine, with its patent pending were reported in the Lancet paper. It was these revelations that triggered an investigation by the General Medical Council in the U.K. into research malfeasance and ethic violations.

But it was even worse than that. Unfortunately, it took two more long years to find out just how bad.

Two weeks ago, Brian Deer reported in the Sunday Times that, not only had Andrew Wakefield had massive conflicts of interest, but he had falsified data in his original paper. Indeed, consistent with the revelations that there had never been any detectable measles viral sequences, Deer reported that one father had taken his child’s specimen to be tested by a different laboratory and that that laboratory had failed to find any trace of measles virus. More importantly, however, none of the children studied for the Lancet paper actually even came from the Royal Free Hospital’s catchment area of North London; indeed, none of them even came from London. In fact, they were not “consecutively referred,” either. Rather, they had been recruited through the anti-MMR antivaccine underground and 11/12 of them were involved in anti-MMR litigation. Thus, they were a highly selected group. In addition, ccording to Deer’s account of the records examined by the GMC, in most of these children autistic features were present before they had received their MMR vaccination and in others such features only became apparent after a much longer interval than a few days after MMR. In other words, what was reported in the Lancet paper in 1998 and what was found in the children’s medical records differed significantly.

In other words, one of two things happened, neither of which is flattering to Wakefield. Either he took the history only from parents, who were litigants in vaccine injury cases and for whom confirmation bias could easily have led to remembering incorrectly that their child’s behavioral changes were noted shortly after the MMR rather than before it or months later. If this was the case, Wakefield was a sloppy investigator for not having examined the medical records. Alternatively, Wakefield did examine the medical records and then lied about them in the Lancet paper. If this is the case, he is dishonest. As I have said before, take your pick. Either possibility makes Wakefield look very, very bad.

In fact, I might have been willing to give Wakefield somewhat of the benefit of the doubt, viewing the discrepancies between the medical records and what he reported in the Lancet paper as being yet more evidence of his incompetence and his resultant shoddy research methodology rather than dishonesty, were it not for the major discrepancies between what Wakefield said about the histology of the biopsy specimens in the paper. That was what persuaded me that Wakefield’s “research” went beyond mere incompetence and had crossed over into the realm of fraud. Specifically, what was reported in the 1998 paper does not jibe with what the pathologists who first examined the specimens saw, where, in all 12 cases, no abnormalities had been reported on the initial examination of the specimens. Yet Wakefield reported a distinctive pattern of gut inflammation, specifically “colitis and ileal-lymphoid-nodular hyperplasia.” The Lancet paper had pointed out the “uniformity” of the pathological changes. What had happened?

Not happy with the readings of the pathologists, apparently Wakefield’s research team met for a “research review” of the biopsy specimens. This in and of itself is not unusual. However, it is unusual that the research team overturned the original readings of so many of the specimens. It is even more unusual (i.e., suspicious) that the reinterpretations of the original readings all went in the same direction: towards a reading of inflammation consistent with Wakefield’s hypothesis that the measles virus from the MMR was somehow involved in causing gut abnormalities and autistic regression. Even if I wanted to attribute Wakefield’s problems to incompetence, it’s pretty hard to do, given the confluence of evidence from multiple sources pointing to malfeasance.

If the revelations about Andrew Wakefield’s research fraud were the only event thus far, 2009 would already be shaping up to be a bad year for antivaccinationists. However, less than a week after Deer’s revelations were reported, the long-awaited ruling in a huge legal action made up of approximately 5,000 parents who are convinced that vaccines caused their children’s autism. I’m referring to the Autism Omnibus proceedings.

In the U.S., because of rising litigation that jeopardized the vaccine program and threatened to drive pharmaceutical companies out of the vaccine business, Congress passed the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986 (Public Law 99-660), which created the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP). The idea was to create an alternative to the tort system through which people injured by vaccines could be efficiently compensated. Vaccine litigants, if denied compensation, could still sue in conventional courts, but all claims for compensation had to go first through the VICP. Moreover, the standards of evidence in the Vaccine Court of the VICP are arguably markedly lower than in conventional federal courts. For example, regardless of whether one thinks they are too restrictive or not, in the Vaccine Court Daubert rules for scientific evidence do not apply. Indeed, all that is necessary is a scientifically plausible-sounding mechanism by which a plaintiff might have been injured by vaccines, and compensation can be awarded. In essence, lowering the Daubert standard and allowing “science” that has not yet been peer reviewed makes meeting the standard of evidence showing a 51% or greater chance that the plaintiff was injured by the vaccine in question easier because it opens the door to an antivaccinationist version of the Gish Gallop, forcing the defense to answer and refute all sorts of bad science.

Be that as it may, as the number of litigants claiming that vaccines caused their children’s autism ballooned to close to 5,000, threatening to bankrupt the VICP unless massive infusions of new money from Congress were provided, it was decided that the proceedings should be bundled into one massive legal action known as the Autism Omnibus. As part of this proceeding, litigants were to choose what they considered to be the best cases representing their hypothesis of causation by which vaccines could produce autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders. The court would hear these cases, make a rulings, and then these rulings would be used as the basis for all similar cases as follows:

The Petitioners’ Steering Committee (PSC) has advanced three different theories of “general causation,” i.e., how the vaccines involved can cause autism, in the Omnibus Autism Proceeding. The Office of Special Masters (OSM) has assigned three Special Masters to resolve the autism cases. The OSM instructed the PSC to designate three “test cases” for each of the three theories, a total of nine test cases. The three theories of “general causation” are: (1) the theory that MMR vaccines and thimerosal-containing vaccines can combine to cause autism; (2) the theory that thimerosal-containing vaccines can cause autism; and, (3) the theory that MMR vaccines, without regard to any thimerosal additive, can cause autism.

After more than a year and a half after the proceedings began, on February 12, the Special Masters released its decisions on the first three test cases, Cedillo v. HHS (Case No. 98-916V), Hazlehurst v. HHS (Case No. 03-654V) and Snyder v. HHS (Case No. 01-162V). In all three cases, despite the “best” that the antivaccine contingent could throw at the courts, the Special Masters decisively rejected all three hypotheses of causation. Indeed, the results truly surprised me, as I had expected, given the extremely low bar for evidence, that there would have been a little bit of wiggle room in the decisions that would leave the door open for the antivaccine fringe to claim that there was a possibility that further causation cases would be entertained. No such wiggle room was granted. Since the decisions together run hundreds of pages, this article has become quite long, and other bloggers whom I greatly admire for their science-based content and diligence in reporting on the vaccine-autism manufactroversy have posted excerpts, I will be judicious in selecting key quotes.

First, from the ruling on Cedillo v. HHS, written by Special Master George L. Hastings, Jr., we have these:

  • “This case, however, is not a close case. The overall weight of the evidence is overwhelmingly contrary to the petitioners’ causation theories. The result of this case would be the same even if I totally ignored the epidemiologic evidence, declined to consider the video evidence, and/or excluded the testimony of Dr. Bustin. The result would be the same if I restricted my consideration to the evidence originally filed into the record of this Cedillo case, disregarding the general causation evidence from the Hazlehurst and Snyder cases. The petitioners’ evidence has been unpersuasive on many different points, concerning virtually all aspects of their causation theories, each such deficiency having been discussed in detail above. The petitioners have failed to persuade me that there is validity to any of their general causation arguments, and have also failed to persuade me that there is any substantial likelihood that Michelle’s MMR vaccination contributed in any way to the causation of any of Michelle’s own disorders.”
  • “Nor do I doubt that Michelle’s parents and relatives are sincere in their belief that the MMR vaccine played a role in causing Michelle’s devastating disorders. Certainly, the mere fact that Michelle’s autistic symptoms first became evident to her family during the months after her MMR vaccination might make them wonder about a possible causal connection. Further, the Cedillos have read about physicians who profess to believe in a causal connection between the MMR vaccine and both autism and chronic gastrointestinal problems. They have visited at least one physician, Dr. Krigsman, who has explicitly opined that Michelle’s own chronic gastrointestinal symptoms are MMR-caused. And they have even been told that a medical laboratory has positively identified the presence of the persisting vaccine-strain measles virus in Michelle’s body, years after her vaccination. After studying the extensive evidence in this case for many months, I am convinced that the reports and advice given to the Cedillos by Dr. Krigsman and some other physicians, advising the Cedillos that there is a causal connection between Michelle’s MMR vaccination and her chronic conditions, have been very wrong. Unfortunately, the Cedillos have been misled by physicians who are guilty, in my view, of gross medical misjudgment. Nevertheless, I can understand why the Cedillos found such reports and advice to be believable under the circumstances. I conclude that the Cedillos filed this Program claim in good faith.”

Next, from the second case, Hazlehurst v. HHS, Special Master Patricia Campbell-Smith concluded:

Having carefully and fully considered the evidence, the undersigned concludes that the combination of the thimerosal-containing vaccines and the MMR vaccine are not causal factors in the development of autism and therefore, could not have contributed to the development of Yates’ autism. The weight of the presented evidence that is scientifically reliable and methodologically sound does not support petitioners’ claim. Petitioners have failed to establish entitlement to compensation under the Vaccine Act.

Finally, from the third case, Snyder v. HHS, Special Master Denise Vowell wrote:

To conclude that Colten’s condition was the result of his MMR vaccine, an objective observer would have to emulate Lewis Carroll’s White Queen and be able to believe six impossible (or, at least, highly improbable) things before breakfast. The families of children with ASD and the court have waited in vain for adequate evidence to support the autism-MMR hypothesis. Although I have the deepest sympathy for families like Colten’s, struggling emotionally and financially to find answers about ASD’s causes, and reliable therapies to treat ASD’s symptoms, I must decide Colten’s case based on the evidence before me. That evidence does not establish an adequate factual basis from which to conclude that Colten’s condition was caused by his vaccines.

Petitioners have not demonstrated by a preponderance of the evidence that Colten’s condition was either caused or significantly aggravated by his vaccinations Thus, they have failed to establish entitlement to compensation and the petition for compensation is therefore DENIED.

Holy crap. That last one’s going to leave a mark. A big mark. I love it. In fact, I couldn’t have put it better myself.

A more emphatic refutation is hard to imagine. Even better, Special Master Hastings recognized one of the main drivers of the scare over the MMR and vaccines in general as a “cause” of autism: Money. Indeed, a veritable cottage industry of “biomedical” quackery, dubious therapies, and pseudoscience depends upon keeping the idea that vaccines cause autism alive. “Luminaries” of this cottage industry include the aforementioned Andrew Wakefield, who has now infested the United States (the State of Texas, specifically) with his brand of quackery at Thoughtful House, now that the U.K. is investigating him, as are Mark and David Geier, who have been touting the use of a powerful anti-sex steroid medication to treat autistic children, and, until recently, Dr. Rashid Buttar, who is now facing sanctions by the North Carolina Board of Medical Examiners and has been banned from treating children. Add to that ambulance-chasing lawyers like Clifford Shoemaker, who have been raking in money hand over fist, thanks to the fact that the VICP actually pays the petitioners’ attorney fees regardless of whether the petition results in compensation, and it is easy to see why this industry won’t easily let parents be disabused of the fears over vaccines that it has stoked. (Indeed, Shoemaker even tried to abuse the subpoena process in order to quash reports of how much money he was making representing VICP litigants, an action for which he was sanctioned by the courts.) In the case of Andrew Wakefield, attorneys looking for big payouts from the pharmaceutical industry have even paid for research. Meanwhile, as documented on this blog before, some researchers producing reports implicating vaccines in autism are actually petitioners in the Autism Omnibus, for example, Laura Hewitson, whose husband works for Wakefield, while compounding pharmacies advertise their supplements and other dubious “remedies” right on the Age of Autism.

Those of us who support science- and evidence-based medicine were quite heartened by the revelations about Andrew Wakefield and the ruling in the Autism Omnibus. True, we wondered why it took 11 years for the revelations about Wakefield’s incompetence and outright fraud to see the light of day, but we were glad that they finally had. One reason is that, to the vast majority of lay people who are parents, the science is hard to understand, and the antivaccine movement had, more or less successfully, framed the issue as big pharma protecting its interests and a conflict between “brave maverick” doctors against government and pharma experts. However, fraud is something that people understand all too well. Demonstrating that Wakefield’s results were riddled not just with conflicts of interest but with outright scientific fraud made the issue very clear, driving home that there was no scientific basis to suspect that the MMR had anything to do with autism or other neurodevelopmental disorders. Similarly, the ruling of the Vaccine Court on the first three test cases surprised me. As I mentioned earlier, I had expected some wiggle room and was heartened to see that, contrary to what I had expected, science won unequivocally and resoundingly in court, at least in this case.

Unfortunately, the reaction of the antivaccine fringe to the rulings of the Special Masters and the revelations about Andrew Wakefield’s scientific fraud are instructive to those who might be deluded enough to believe that science or evdience matter to those who believe that vaccines cause autism. Let’s examine the reaction to the Wakefield revelations first.

I don’t know about you, but if I passionatedly believed that the MMR vaccine causes autism or, even worse, caused autism in my child, I would be feeling very betrayed right now. In fact, I’d turn on Wakefield like a wild boar. I’d be more than pissed off to find out just how deceptive, unethical, and careless about the safety of the patients whom he studied, who had been subjected to invasive procedures for no good reason and at least one of whom had suffered a major complication. But that’s just me. Apparently, that’s not the reaction of most of the antivaccine fringe. Indeed, the antivaccine propaganda blog Age of Autism and David Kirby, along with other antivaccine groups, immediately orchestrated a smear campaign against Brian Deer based on the flimsiest of pretenses. For example, in response to Keith Olbermann’s having correctly picked Andrew Wakefield as his “worst person in the world” for February 10, 2009, David Kirby cleverly played upon Olbermann’s hatred of Rupert Murdoch, pointing out that The Times of London is a Murdoch paper. This allowed Kirby to brag before the February 11 “Worst Person in the World” segment that he had persuaded Olbermann to name Brian Deer as one of the “worst persons in the world,” even publishing the script. Truly, Olbermann had been played for a fool by the antivaccine movement. The specious claim? That somehow Deer had a huge conflict of interest because he made the complaint to the GMC about Wakefield, a meme started by the British version of David Kirby, the antivaccine “journalist” Melanie Phillips. It’s also a claim that, even if true, would mean nothing, as it does absolutely nothing to refute the findings in Deer’s reporting or the results thus far of the GMC’s investigation. Indeed, the ad hominems went beyond that. For example, Jane Bryant of OneClick Group has tried to paint Brian Deer as “out of control,” during which she couldn’t seem to resist trying homophobia on for size, stating:

By all accounts a gay man and therefore unlikely ever to have to face the multiple vaccine risk agonised over by parents from around the world in relation to their children, Brian Deer has made it his business to portray the parents of these autistic vaccine damaged children as deluded mendacious chancers.

I find this particularly ironic and despicable, given that chief antivaccine propagandist David Kirby is almost certainly also gay and that his previous jobs have included reporting for Outweek and The Advocate. One’s sexual orientation is completely irrelevant to one’s arguments. Only data, evidence, reason, and science should matter.

Finally, when all else fails, the antivaccine movement plays the conspiracy card, as John Stone of the British antivaccine group Cry Shame did on–where else?–Age of Autism:

And yet the medical and political establishment has been constructing its case against Wakefield on Deer’s reporting for the last five years. It was on the back of his first report that Wakefield was held to be “discredited” and the world was brow-beaten into believing it was so. UK National Health Service websites link up to Deer’s website, and the longest medical disciplinary hearing in British history was launched on the basis of his complaint. It is a game in which everybody hides behind everybody else, pretending they can’t be seen – but actually they are all standing there, and their trousers are down.

Never once does it occur to Stone or, for instance, any of the pro-Wakefield commenters here that the reason Wakefield is in such trouble is because he is a dishonest, incompetent, and unethical scientist. This, of course, is a perfect segue into the reaction to the Autism Omnibus rulings, which cranked the antivaccine fringe into ever more histrionic fits of conspiracy mongering. Indeed, leave it to our “old friend” J.B. Handley to connect the two by insinuating that the U.S. Department of Justice had tipped off Brian Deer somehow, so that his revelations could be published in close temporal proximity to the announcement of the first Autism Omnibus rulings:

That said, I found it rather odd that Brian Deer torpedoed Andy over the weekend with a seemingly made-up outrage piece, only days before the judges ruled in the Vaccine Court. The timing struck me as odd.

Meanwhile, the ever-reliable antivaccine advocate Kent Heckenlively, whose understanding of science is astonishingly bad, posted “analyses” of each decision. Some tidbits follow.

Regarding the Cedillo decision:

In his closing remarks he notes that the decision was not even close, and that the Cedillos have been misled by physicians who saw an opportunity to take advantage of a family who thought their child had been injured by a vaccine.

As much as those of who have children with autism and choose to help them are under great stress, I just viscerally respond to this attack against those physicians who are doing their best to help our children.  They choose to enter this fight, knowing they will be attacked, but strengthened by the conviction they can help some of our children.  To many of them, we owe our children’s future.  And when they have not been able to find the answer, they continue to fight.

It is apparent to anybody who looks at this unfolding tragedy that the pharmaceutical companies have no interest in helping us, the medical universities and research facilities can offer us no help, and now we know we have no friends in the vaccine court.

Regarding the Hazlehurst decision:

The sad truth of the matter is that we are massively out-gunned in terms of research dollars.  The medical personnel who undertake our cause do it knowing full well there will be many defeats.  Judges will be dazzled by experts who claim to know so much, except for the question of what causes autism.

And, finally, regarding the Snyder decision:

I’ve tried to figure out how to explain this decision, and the best I can come up with is an example from the book, “Blink” by Malcom Gladwell.  In the book Gladwell recounts the difficulty female musicians had in being hired by professional orchestras, particularly for the wind instruments.  They were thought to lack the lung capacity of men.  But when the auditions began to use screens, so the conductors couldn’t see the gender of the person playing, the number of women hired by professional orchestras increased five-fold.

Now the conductors would probably have sworn they were free of sexism, and may have truly believed it, but something else was clearly at work.  Although the claim was made that they were simply listening to the music and picking the best people, the different results obtained after the use of the screens showed a significantly different mental process going on.

I can only conclude that something similar is at work in the minds of the Special Masters, and perhaps many people who will look at what we allege.  Despite their efforts to carefully weigh the evidence, something else is tipping the scales.  I don’t believe it’s money, at least in the crudest sense of the word.  It’s money in the sense that it’s built the entire edifice and world-view in which the Special Masters are looking at these claims.

Or, to translate: The pharmaceutical companies paid for the verdict, and the judges were unconsciously biased against all those “brave maverick doctors” testifying for the plaintiffs.

But perhaps clearest, most blatant “it was fixed” argument comes from Dr. JayDon’t Call Me AntivaccineGordon in two posts he wrote for that repository for antivaccine posturing, The Huffington Post, entitled “There Is No Proof that Cigarettes Cause Cancer” and The Vaccine Court Was Wrong. Given that I eviscerated these two posts just last week, continuing to beat on them would be akin to flogging the proverbial dead horse. Nonetheless, one quote by Dr. Gordon is worth repeating one more time and emphasizing because it is so emblematic of why the myth that vaccines cause autism persists:

The proof is not there yet. It will be found. Let’s hope it doesn’t take another fifty years and hundreds of court cases to convince the government and the public. Private industry is once again duping the FDA, doctors and the public. The conflicts of interest are obscene and illegal.

His view is echoed by Barbara Fischkin:

The Vaccine Court’s decision, like so many complicated matters can be obscured by too much information and, alternately, clarified with a dose of simplicity. So here goes: This year the Vaccine Court, in looking at three specific cases, ruled that, in effect, vaccines and/or their ancillary, toxic ingredients do not cause autism. But last year – with evidence produced by a neurologist father and a mother who is a nurse and an attorney – the court ruled that, in effect vaccines could cause autism. Thousands more cases are pending which it why I believe this matter is far from settled. Ask any bookie: Second guessing an outcome with as many variables as this one is risky business.

These two quotes are good indications why these two victories for science will not, as many hope, put a damper on the antivaccine movement. They just won’t. To those who cling to the scientifically discredited idea that vaccines cause autism against the mountains of evidence that do not support it, as Kev points out, it is not about science. It is about winning and convincing people that they are right. It is about finding someone or something to “blame” for their children’s autism. To them, doctors have no authority. Scientists have no authority. The Special Masters have no authority. The scientific method means nothing. Only their personal experiences and the conclusions they draw from them, no matter how fallible humans are at drawing inferences from them, matter. To them, as Dr. Jay Gordon made explicit when he spoke to the “Green Our Vaccines” rally last summer, and said that his die hard belief that vaccines cause autism is based on states that he bases his conclusions that vaccines probably cause more harm than good on “over 30 years” of his own experience and above all (emphasis mine) “listening to you,” meaning the parents who believe vaccines “injured” their children.

That’s because the battle between parents who believe that vaccines cause autism and scientists is a battle about, more than anything else, two world views. Scientists, knowing how easily humans fool themselves into confusing correlation with causation when drawing conclusions from personal experience and anecdotes, rely on epidemiology and the scientific method to answer the question of whether vaccination is associated with autism. In contrast, the believers cannot accept that they can be fooled. Dr. Rahul K. Parikh described this conflict well in a recent article on the Omnibus decision:

Among those expressing shock and disappointment was Rebecca Estepp, the mother of an autistic child, who is one of the claimants and the national manager of the advocacy group Talk About Curing Autism. “It’s tough when you’re taking parent support calls and you hear the same story day after day,” she told the Wall Street Journal. “When does anecdotal evidence become enough?”

Her question isn’t a new one, especially in a society where belief, emotion and science so often conflict. For scientists, the answer to Estepp’s question is never. Developing a hypothesis from anecdotes or observations (whether one or a hundred of them) is merely the first step in a longer process. Next comes the hard part: testing that hypothesis to see if you can back it up with hard data, and then sharing the data with others to see if they can reproduce the findings, often multiple times.

Even more accurately, Dr. Parikh states:

Now, read that headline again: “Vaccines Didn’t Cause Autism, Court Rules.” It doesn’t say, “Vaccines Didn’t Cause Autism, a Decade’s Worth of Rigorously Conducted and Verified Medical Research Rules.” That may not be as sexy as the recent headline, but it is the truth. The scientific community disproved the vaccine-autism connection long ago, multiple times.

Which is true (except that it’s well over a decade’s worth of research), and to which I would add: The scientific community only continues to study the vaccine-autism connection, churning out negative study after negative study because it hopes to convince those who are unconvinceable by science. Indeed, just how unconvinceable they are is summed up in this poem by Rolf Hazelhurst, the father of one of the three complainants:

If we win, we keep going.
If we lose, we keep going.
If we win, the going will be easier.
If we lose, the going will be more difficult.
However, the Court rules, we will keep going.

That is a religious, cultish attitude. A little thing like a news report revealing the hero of the antivaccine movement to be a scientific fraud or a court ruling that, even under the most favorable standards of evidence imaginable, vaccines do not cause autism will not change the mind of someone like this, nor will it make the antivaccine movement have second thoughts about its cultish beliefs. The only hope that we who support science-based medicine can have is that these two body blows to the antivaccine movement will finally–finally!–drive home the message to the media that, when it comes to the claim that vaccines cause autism, there’s no there there, as they say. We can also hope that the fence-sitters, those parents who may have heard Jenny McCarthy ranting about how vaccines caused her son Evan’s autism and how she cured him with various biomedical interventions may see these two repudiations of the myth that vaccines cause autism and be reassured.

A guy can hope, can’t he?

Comments

  1. #1 Vindaloo
    February 23, 2009

    Whoah! Epic flogging!

    Orac said, “I don’t know about you, but if I passionatedly believed that the MMR vaccine causes autism or, even worse, caused autism in my child, I would be feeling very betrayed right now. In fact, I’d turn on Wakefield like a wild boar.

    That’s because you’re prepared to either change your mind based on evidence or actually say, “I was wrong”. Such a concept! Does it come from hell?

  2. #2 BB
    February 23, 2009

    Let’s hope that your prediction is right. It would be a victory for all of us.

  3. #3 AnthonyK
    February 23, 2009

    Godamnit, when are you doctors going to produce a stupidity vaccine?
    We have one you say? Oh yeah, and I suppose it’s called “science education”.

  4. #4 PalMD
    February 23, 2009

    Damn, Orac, it’s good to have you back.

  5. #5 D. C. Sessions
    February 23, 2009

    A guy can hope, can’t he?

    Sure thing, Orac. You’ll know that the Mercury Militia is winding down when homeopathy breathes its last; at that point the “vaccines cause autism” crowd will only have another two centuries (more or less), to run.

    As a boxful of blinkenlichten, you may be around for it. I’m not expecting to.

  6. #6 speedwell
    February 23, 2009

    It was Mary Poppins who believed six impossible things before breakfast. Not that that invalidates anything. :D

  7. #7 Dave
    February 23, 2009

    You say you support evidence-based science. Where is the evidence for vaccinations? Look at the trends in disease prevalence including polio, measles and mumps and you will see the disease was already in natural decline long before the vaccines were introduced. How about the peer-reviewed science that shows unvaccinated and vaccinated populations get the same diseases at the same rates? You want science. There’s your science.

    And you talk about the money to be made by antivaccinationists. What?!?! How about the billions upon billions made by Big Pharma? This commentary is dripping with hypocrisy. Who has motive? Parents of autistic children or money-hungry drug-pushers… who over and over have proved to society that they deserve no trust.

    Regarding Wakefield… Have you read this: Sunday Times’ London Editor Must Quit Over False “Wakefield MMR Data Fixing” Story. Apparently the Sunday Times London printed falsities about Wakefield’s work and the writer had ties to Pharma. Ouch.

    This fight is far from over. You have every right to drug your body as much as you like… but until the USA is part of communist China, us crazy, antivaccinationists will have the right to choose what we poke, prod and invade our bodies with. So gripe all you want. It just adds fuel to my fire.

  8. #8 Joseph
    February 23, 2009

    It was Mary Poppins who believed six impossible things before breakfast.

    Maybe they can use that argument in the appeal. It’s probably their best shot.

  9. #9 BB
    February 23, 2009

    “You say you support evidence-based science. Where is the evidence for vaccinations? Look at the trends in disease prevalence including polio, measles and mumps and you will see the disease was already in natural decline long before the vaccines were introduced.”

    Dave, cite a source for your claims. And then explain the recent resurgence in measles among the unvaccinated.

  10. #10 Joseph
    February 23, 2009

    Apparently the Sunday Times London printed falsities about Wakefield’s work and the writer had ties to Pharma.

    Over at LB/RB, I repeatedly asked John Stone, One Queer Fish and Isabella Thomas to show me how it is that Brian Deer’s allegations have been shown to be false. Obviously, they couldn’t show it.

    A bunch of people, including Dave here, are simply asserting that the allegations of scientific fraud are false, hoping that mindless repetition will become truth somehow.

  11. #11 Anon
    February 23, 2009

    Just wondering… where in the timeline is the “House” episode where the antivax position is slapped down (twice, if memory serves, in the same episode)? Would you consider that a PR factor, or is it completely off radar?

  12. #12 Denice Walter
    February 23, 2009

    Imagine if you will, a chef carefully heating a meat stock,reducing it down to its essence, fragrant and glossy: it’s called a *demi-glace*.Hopefully, that’s the process we’re now witnessing as the anti-vax movement is reduced down to its essential beliefs and believers.Indeed, only those most densely composed will remain sticking to the pan,as the heat increases. I can’t continue this metaphor any longer because unfortunately,unlike the example of the cautious chef, in this case there’s no way to prevent “burning”.

  13. #13 A Different Dave
    February 23, 2009

    “Dave” above (not me) can’t even get the anti-vaxer memes correct. The vaccine-preventable diseases were NOT in decline before the vaccines came along — *fatalities* from those diseases were in decline. Measles, for example, was trucking right along at around 400,000 cases per year in the US until the advent of the vaccine.

    Big pharma does not make an impressive amount of money from vaccines (with a few possible exceptions like Gardasil). And doctors certainly make no profits from administering them. Indeed, those who blather about Evil Vaccines fail to note that there would be far more money to be made in treating the vaccine-preventable diseases than in preventing them in the first place.

    He finishes off with the usual accusations against Brian Deer, since he can’t very well refute the damning evidence against Wakefield. Pathetic, really.

  14. #14 ScottC
    February 23, 2009

    The scientific community only continues to study the vaccine-autism connection, churning out negative study after negative study because it hopes to convince those who are unconvinceable by science.

    Which is why I, at least, believe the scientific community would ideally STOP such studies and devote that scarce research funding to work that might actually produce valuable results.

    Unfortunately that would hand the kooks a major propaganda weapon. So it’s probably inevitable to keep flushing money down the toilet.

  15. #15 DPSisler
    February 23, 2009

    Your article sounded like a great carthasis for your soul! Welcome back, and thanks for giving me some great food for thought this Monday morning. As a rebuttal to the gentlemen’s poem….”In the end, the best science will win!”

  16. #16 Dr. Steve
    February 23, 2009

    Profit to doctors and pharm companies from polio vaccine programs: $

    Profit to doctors, hospitals and pharm companies from the treatment of lifelong complications of polio: $$$$$$$$$$$$

    It’s funny (kinda) that the same people who are against vaccines are the same people who accuse doctors and pharm companies of blocking cancer cures, when certain vaccines actually prevent cancer (hpv and hepatitis B vaccines).

  17. #17 SteveM
    February 23, 2009

    It was Mary Poppins who believed six impossible things before breakfast. Not that that invalidates anything. :D

    Maybe, I don’t remember, but the Red Queen was first:

    Alice laughed. “There’s not use trying,” she said: “one can’t believe impossible things.”
    “I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

  18. #18 Cynical Pediatrician
    February 23, 2009

    Dave asks “where is the evidence for vaccinations”…
    Dave, start with this:
    Smallpox
    Measles
    Mumps
    Rubella
    Diphtheria
    Tetanus
    Hepatitis B
    Polio
    Haemophilus influenza type B
    Influenza
    Streptococcus pneumoniae (aka pneumococcus)
    Varicella
    and now, even Rotavirus

    Hella lot of coinky-dinks, I’d say…
    Now, Dave, I’ve showed you mine; why don’t you show us your evidence for vaccines causing autism?

  19. #19 DLC
    February 23, 2009

    A well-written piece, Orac. You detail the high points of the big hits against the Infectious Disease proponents.

    Oh and for Antivax Dave: Read your link. It’s a blog, in which the author insists that Deer’s editor should be sacked.
    He references as a source for his inside information that this is going to happen his own blog. In any other line of endeavor this is known as citing yourself or circular logic.

    And no, incidents of polio, measles, mumps, rubella and other preventable diseases did not show a downward trend prior to the deployment and over 90% uptake of the vaccines.
    The number of deaths immediately attributable to those illnesses declined as our ability to provide supportive care increased.
    As for your second claim, let’s see the studies.
    Give us some report titles, authors and publications.

  20. #20 Phoenix Woman
    February 23, 2009

    This information needs to be given big-time emphasis:

    In the U.S., because of rising litigation that jeopardized the vaccine program and threatened to drive pharmaceutical companies out of the vaccine business, Congress passed the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986 (Public Law 99-660), which created the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP). The idea was to create an alternative to the tort system through which people injured by vaccines could be efficiently compensated. Vaccine litigants, if denied compensation, could still sue in conventional courts, but all claims for compensation had to go first through the VICP. Moreover, the standards of evidence in the Vaccine Court of the VICP are arguably markedly lower than in conventional federal courts. For example, Daubert rules for scientific evidence do not apply. Indeed, all that is necessary is a scientifically plausible-sounding mechanism by which a plaintiff might have been injured by vaccines, and compensation can be awarded. In essence, lowering the Daubert standard and allowing “science” that has not yet been peer reviewed makes meeting the standard of evidence showing a 51% or greater chance that the plaintiff was injured by the vaccine in question easier because it opened the door to an antivaccinationist version of the Gish Gallop, forcing the defense to answer and refute all sorts of bad science.

    If vaccines were the gold mine the anti-vax crowd claims them to be, this fund wouldn’t have been necessary in the first place.

    And yet, even with the burden of proof resting on the scientists, even with the deck being stacked heavily in the anti-vaxers’ favor, reason still eventually won out.

  21. #21 IasonOuabache
    February 23, 2009

    Whoa! That was a massively EPIC post. I have a feeling that I’m going to linking back to this article many times in the next several months. Well done, Orac. And welcome back.

  22. #22 hat_eater
    February 23, 2009

    I’ll breathe with relief when the antivaccine movement is reduced to the same standing as the Flat Earthers or the 9/11 Truthers. IOW, when it no longer poses a threat to the herd immunity. Then, and only then, their exercise of their freedom to hurt their children (to an extent) stops infringing upon my freedom to bring up my children safely.

  23. #23 Joshua Zelinsky
    February 23, 2009

    When I blogged about the Cedillo decision (http://religionsetspolitics.blogspot.com/2009/02/vaccination-autism-and-hasting-cedillo.html )I made the explicit comparison between that case and Kitzmiller v. Dover based on which I predicted that there would not be substantial impact on the anti-vaccination movement. Judging from the comments you’ve excerpted here that seems at least in the short run to be correct. We’ll see where we are in 6 months.

  24. #24 RJ
    February 23, 2009

    “Big pharma does not make an impressive amount of money from vaccines (with a few possible exceptions like Gardasil).”

    Actually, Gardasil is not ‘netting’ all that much, given it’s ridiculously high price tag. They are still paying for the research and development costs. Profit will follow in due time once the initial R&D costs have been covered.

    The other Dave,
    Again, we here the ‘where’s the vaccinated vs. unvaccinated study’. Here it goes again…write it down: there are sever limitations performing a vac v unvac STUDY because of the variables in either 1) FORMING the two groups (there is no way anyone will allow one group to get vaccinated and another to receive placebo) or 2) REPRESENTING the two groups from the existing population (for many sociological, economic, and demographic reasons). The best you could get is a SURVEY, not a study. The survey would not be considered particularly reliable, but nonetheless, it would likely be discredited and ignored when the results do not jive with what you want it to say, just like the Omnibus decision and study after study that is released.

    Also, Dave, if you get around to it…who the hell is “Big Pharma”? The employees? The (public) shareholders? The countless clinicians that test, and the subsequent physicians that use their products? And (international) government regulatory agencies, like the CDC and the FDA, as well as other government research institutions (NIH, IOM, WHO)independent organizations (AMA, AAP, etc)…are they all too in on the conspiracy? Just how many people are you talking about here? Do they forgo vaccines for their children or do they have some special, secret vaccines? Why do these companies all collude? They compete against each other for big-margin, high profit medications. Why wouldn’t it be the same cutthroat attitude with low-margin vaccines? That goes completely against conventional wisdom and capitalist economic principles.

    Or, could the simple answer be that you are using the nebulous term ‘big pharma’ like there are 5 guys hiding in a basement somewhere, plotting and scheming as they would in some movie or TV show? Can You tell us, Dave, what specifically “big pharma’ means to you?

    Orac, This is one of my favorites! A job well done.

  25. #25 Mu
    February 23, 2009

    So far, the AV crowd (and by connotation, the general population) has been lucky that their efforts only lead to a resurgence of the relatively harmless measles, with a low mortality factor. How will they deal with a true lethal epidemic like small pox (eradicated in the wild, but plenty still around for “research”) with its 30 % lethality, or something as brutal as polio? We can see polio still hanging on in countries like Nigeria due to an anti-vaccine movement (not the same as ours, it has religious undertones)? Will Dave vaccinate when (taking AoA numbers and reasoning) you risk 1 in 150 chance of autism vs. 1:3 chance of death?

  26. #27 trrll
    February 23, 2009

    You say you support evidence-based science. Where is the evidence for vaccinations? Look at the trends in disease prevalence including polio, measles and mumps and you will see the disease was already in natural decline long before the vaccines were introduced.

    Vaccine deniers must be huge believers in coincidence. Coincidence that polio is now, not merely “in decline,” but absent from the US. Coincidence that polio persists only in those parts of the globe with poor vaccination coverage. Coincidence that measles, too, is not merely in decline, but absent from the US (except when brought in from a foreign country to touch off mini-epidemics where there are pockets of unvaccinated people). Likewise chicken pox. Coincidence that whooping cough is absent. Coincidence that birth defects from rubella have vanished. Yes, all those diseases simply vanished of their own accord, an event unprecedented in history and inexplicable in terms of the natural history of disease, coincidentally only after vaccines against them were introduced.

  27. #28 John Fryer
    February 23, 2009

    Hi Orac

    So what is your real name?

    Mine is my real name and my qualifications include 6 in chemistry all of which tells me that if 20 PPT mercury gets tins off the supermarket shelves in 2009 for containing too much mercury then why does 130 000 000 PPT thimerosal fail to get thimerosal out of our kids vaccines?

    My chemistry qualification tells me that not only is mercury the most toxic of all metals with practically no exception but that ethyl mercury with the impurity of methyl mercury organocompounds at over 1 000 000 PPT may be a problem too for safe vaccines.

    Vaccine makers of world class level were comforted by the thimerosal being ok for use in 1991 and by 1999 they had totally fogotten this fact so they were quoted as calling the mercury expert Professor of Chemistry a fool for thinking we would ever put mercury in childrens vaccines.

    From this date the science or fraud just gets worse.

    Don’t thank me for this information as you probably already know it?

    John Fryer MSc BSc Advanced Analytical Chemist

  28. #29 Paul
    February 23, 2009

    OK Orac, how do you do it? Do you have several clones of yourself processing blog posts in parallel? :-)

    An excellent post, I’ll have to forward it to a few people.

    Paul

  29. #30 Calli Arcale
    February 23, 2009

    I’m a software engineer. Since software is used in medicine, does that give me justification to act like I know more than the people how actually study the stuff? Of course not. And neither does a degree in analytical chemistry give you justification to act like you know more than actual medical scientists.

    I was studying chemistry before I fell in love with software engineering. It does give you some useful tools for evaluating medical claims — but only some, and you really need to be aware of the limitations of them. One of the more notable, apparently, is that it doesn’t give you basic reading comprehension. I *think* you’re referring to the EPA mercury guidelines, and then applying these to vaccines. Vaccines are administered in tiny amounts a few times in your life. You drink large amounts of water every day, and eat foods grown with even larger amounts of water. Consequently, which of these needs to be more carefully monitored for mercury levels — vaccines or groundwater?

  30. #31 Scott
    February 23, 2009

    My chemistry qualification tells me that not only is mercury the most toxic of all metals with practically no exception but that ethyl mercury with the impurity of methyl mercury organocompounds at over 1 000 000 PPT may be a problem too for safe vaccines.

    While you may (or may not; personally I doubt it) be a chemist, this Epic Fail proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that you have ZERO conception of toxicology. The various species of mercury have completely different toxicological behavior.

    Nobody with the faintest clue would EVER make such meaningless generalizations as “the most toxic of all metals” OR conflate methyl and ethyl mercury.

  31. #32 ababa
    February 23, 2009

    Ok John, did any of those qualifications tell you the thimerosal isn’t the same thing as mercury? For you to refer to it as so and make comparisons between PPT of a compound and the element itself indicates that you are flat out lying about your expertise or simply a really bad chemist. Try explaining that to some of your co-workers, but be prepared to be laughed at.

    Table salt is in practically everything you eat and necessary for life. Try ingesting some Sodium or Chlorine (the elements that make it, as you are no doubt aware) sometime and tell us how it works out for you.

  32. #33 RJ
    February 23, 2009

    “….and my qualifications include 6 in chemistry…..”

    Whooooo! Wow! 6? Wow.

    During those 6 years, did they ever cover the difference between atoms and compounds? How about the properties of each?

  33. #34 Calli Arcale
    February 23, 2009

    Well, an analytical chemist *might* make meaningless claims like “the most toxic of all metals”. This is because toxicology is not generally taught in that line of study, unless perhaps one decided to take some biochemistry courses on the side.

  34. #35 Joseph C.
    February 23, 2009

    @John F,

    You present one of the lamer attempts at an argument from authority that I’ve seen. Seriously, who signs “BSc” after their name?

  35. #36 Joseph
    February 23, 2009

    Mine is my real name and my qualifications include 6 in chemistry all of which tells me that if 20 PPT mercury gets tins off the supermarket shelves in 2009 for containing too much mercury then why does 130 000 000 PPT thimerosal fail to get thimerosal out of our kids vaccines?

    @John Fryer: Your qualifications must not include Math. The guideline for canned fish, for example, is 0.5 ppm (parts per million). To get PPT (parts per trillion) you need to multiply by one million, which would be 500,000 ppt.

    Be that as it may, the real problem is that you apparently don’t see that the dose, not the concentration, is what matters. Suppose I have 1 microgram of mercury in 1 milligram of water. That’s 1,000 ppm or 1,000,000,000 ppt. Yet, 1 microgram won’t hurt anyone.

  36. #37 Scott
    February 23, 2009

    Well, an analytical chemist *might* make meaningless claims like “the most toxic of all metals”.

    And by doing so prove that he hasn’t the faintest clue about toxicology. (I see now that I neglected to specify those last two words in that sentence of the prior post; they were however intended.)

  37. #38 ababa
    February 23, 2009

    So, it’s fairly obvious that John Fryer is either:

    1) Doesn’t really have those qualifications.
    2) Knows what he is talking about, but is trying to uses big numbers and bogus correlations to make his point to people he hopes do not know any better.
    3) Simply doesn’t know any better despite having experience in chemistry.

    So what is it John – are you a liar, a con or a moron?

  38. #39 Chris
    February 23, 2009

    John Fryer, have you ever heard of the http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/ blog?

    Also, with all your expertise, how much thimerosal is in the MMR vaccine? How about the present pediatric vaccine schedule?

  39. #40 Paul
    February 23, 2009

    Those against vaccinations may want to read a little history of medicine and public health – infant mortality, average life expectancy. This makes it very, very apparent the impact vaccinations have had on the entire human population. Anyone with any common-sense can see the dramatic impact on populations. No longer do we need to have five children to ensure three (or two) will make it to adulthood. As a result, women no longer have to be constantly pregnant, dramatically reducing the risk of pregnancy and childbirth to the mother. OMG – I could go on and on.

    Now here’s a real danger the ant-vaccinationists create – if a significant enough amount of the population is not vaccinated, it may give a disease entitie a large enough foothold so that our current vaccines are ineffective on just a small percentage of the disease. Get a large enough population (of that small population) of the disease and you will eventually get mutations of the disease resistant to current vaccines, allowing the disease to sweep through human populations again. That could knock humanity back a hundred years or so as a disease like polio, smallpox, dipthereia or TB spreads through the population again.

    Combine just a little science with a knowledge of history and common sense and you can get a sense of the danger involved in non-vaccinations of populations based on faulty science.

  40. #41 RJ
    February 23, 2009

    According to google, you will see that Mr. Fryer is all over blogosphere, BSc credentials and all, talking about mercury, mercury, mercury.

    ….it’s #3.

  41. #42 Danio
    February 23, 2009

    Ka-POW!
    Magnificent post, Orac. Thanks for a truly excellent and comprehensive review of what has often been a tragic and frustrating saga for those of us in the reality-based community.

    I’ve been wondering what Paul Offit must be thinking about these recent blows to the antivax movement–has he gone on record anywhere with a reaction?

  42. #43 Joseph
    February 23, 2009

    I’ve been wondering what Paul Offit must be thinking about these recent blows to the antivax movement–has he gone on record anywhere with a reaction?

    All Things Considered. Short but very good report. Richard Grinker also chimes in with some insight about the merit of the claimants’ case.

  43. #44 Chris K
    February 23, 2009

    Sometimes one just can wonder where the boundaries of human ignorance are.

    Let’s hope 2009 continues like this for science!

  44. #45 bob
    February 23, 2009

    Epic, Orac.

    And, can I say that it’s about effing time for this to happen? Antivax is about the most ridiculous pseudoscience there is. You can talk all day about creationism or homeopathy or lizards ruling the earth, but vaccines ***prevent children from needlessly dying***. Are these cranks anti-seatbelt, too? How about anti-sanitation? Gah!

  45. #46 Primus
    February 23, 2009

    John Fryer MSc BSc Advanced Analytical Chemist

    Lister: You sign all your official letters ‘Arnold Rimmer BSc’ and the BSc stands for ‘Bronze Swimming Certificate’.

  46. #47 mezzobuff
    February 23, 2009

    Welcome Back Orac! Wonderful post, as usual.

  47. #48 Paul
    February 23, 2009

    Dave “Regarding Wakefield… Have you read this: Sunday Times’ London Editor Must Quit Over False “Wakefield MMR Data Fixing” Story. Apparently the Sunday Times London printed falsities about Wakefield’s work and the writer had ties to Pharma. Ouch. ”

    This is amusing, I hope somebody makes a note of this so that we can come back and laugh at this in a few months time!

  48. #49 Todd
    February 23, 2009

    ababa, you left off one.

    4) Is a really shitty chemist.

  49. #50 Shay
    February 23, 2009

    I’m not a scientist, I’m not a parent, I’m not a doctor, and so far as I know I have no stock in pharmaceutical companies. But I am an old fart and I remember measles, mumps and chicken pox because I had them (all my older brothers and sisters had them, one right after another. I can’t believe my mother didn’t go out of her mind).

    I particularly remember the mumps. I was in first grade but boy do I still remember the mumps. Anyone who willingly, knowingly exposes a child to this kind of pain should be tied to a post so a large person with great upper-body strength can repeatedly smack them just under the jaw with an ax-handle.

  50. #51 trrll
    February 23, 2009

    The specious claim? That somehow Deer had a huge conflict of interest because he made the complaint to the GMC about Wakefield, a meme started by the British version of David Kirby, the antivaccine “journalist” Melanie Phillips. It’s also a claim that, even if true, would mean nothing, as it does absolutely nothing to refute the findings in Deer’s reporting or the results thus far of the GMC’s investigation.

    The idiocy of this attack seems a sign of true desperation. By this argument, an investigative reporter who discovered evidence of a crime would be disallowed from writing an article on his findings if he reported the crime to the police.

  51. #52 guthrie
    February 23, 2009

    Wow, Dave, you’re so, ummm, wrong!
    I’lll sum it up very simply- whilst improvements in food and sanitation and public health measures such as quarantines all helped reduce the spread and impact of diseases, they couldn’t stop it all, and funnily enough, we all think that thousands and tens of thousands of ruined or lost lives are too many. Here’s a Making light thread with many examples of what such diseases could do to people before vaccines nearly wiped them out:
    http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/010978.html

  52. #53 guthrie
    February 23, 2009

    I want to know which method John Fryer used to find 130ppm of mercury in the vaccine.

  53. #54 RJ
    February 23, 2009

    “I want to know which method John Fryer used to find 130ppm of mercury in the vaccine. ”

    It was the ‘pull it out of your ass’ technique.

  54. #55 Robster, FCD
    February 23, 2009

    Vaccine makers of world class level were comforted by the thimerosal being ok for use in 1991 and by 1999 they had totally fogotten this fact so they were quoted as calling the mercury expert Professor of Chemistry a fool for thinking we would ever put mercury in childrens vaccines.

    I wonder who this unnamed “mercury expert Professor of Chemistry” was? Could his name start with B and rhyme with oyd Haley? I’m sure that Haley has done something useful in his career, but his mercury work has been routinely disappointing. He explains away his inability to get it published in high level journals as conspiracy against him. He is a constant embarrassment to my alma mater and some of his otherwise skeptical colleagues accept that he knows something of what he is talking about.

  55. #56 guthrie
    February 23, 2009

    Shh RJ, don’t give him ideas. I at least have worked in a lab for a couple of years, I want to see what he says about measuring it and we’ll get a handle on how nuts he is.

  56. #57 DLC
    February 23, 2009

    Whoah. I shoulda known good old John “I have a BsC” Fryar would show up. It’s kinda like having a family gathering and knowing that crazy old Aunt Fanny will show up, even though you didn’t tell her what day the party was going to be on or when.

  57. #58 Jud
    February 23, 2009

    Thanks for the lengthy review. I doubt we’ll see this fuss begin to subside until the Omnibus cases go all the way through the regular judicial process, though that process may be accelerated by the fact that Daubert will be fully operative as a tool to help keep junk science out of the courtroom.

    Speaking of Daubert [ahem] you wrote: [R]egardless of whether one thinks they are too restrictive or not, in the Vaccine Court Daubert rules for scientific evidence do not apply. Indeed, all that is necessary is a scientifically plausible-sounding mechanism by which a plaintiff might have been injured by vaccines, and compensation can be awarded.

    That’s overstated. As the Special Master in the Cedillo case wrote in his decision:

    “The showing of ‘causation-in-fact’ must satisfy the ‘preponderance of the evidence’ standard…. Under that standard, the petitioner must show that it is ‘more probable than not’ that the vaccination was the cause of the injury. The petitioner need not show that the vaccination was the sole cause or even the predominant cause of the injury or condition, but must demonstrate that the vaccination was at least a ‘substantial factor’ in causing the condition, and was a ‘but for’ cause. Thus, the petitioner must supply ‘proof of a logical sequence of cause and effect showing that the vaccination was the reason for the injury….'” [Citations omitted.]

    The two key differences between what you say above and the criteria actually used by the Special Master are (1) you say all that petitioners had to come up with was something “scientifically plausible-sounding,” while the Special Master required actual “proof of a logical sequence of cause and effect showing that the vaccination was the reason for the injury;” and (2) you say petitioners only had to show an injury *might* have occurred due to vaccination, while the Special Master actually required a showing that the vaccination “was a ‘but for’ cause” (meaning but for the vaccination, autism would not have occurred). These aren’t just semantic differences, and they are probably part of the reason why I was more sanguine about the possible outcome of the Omnibus than you say you were.

    I also wasn’t concerned about a possible Gish Gallop. The Gish Gallop relies on the opponent having no time to prepare for all your surprise tangents, many of which may be irrelevant. Surprise tactics are prohibited by court rules (they are grounds for overturning verdicts in jury trials, judges won’t hear such evidence in bench trials, and egregious cases can result in attorney sanctions); judicial proceedings last until they end, not in accordance with arbitrary deadlines, so respondents would have had all the time they required for cross-examination and rebuttal; and anything irrelevant to the issues would be excluded by the rules of evidence. (Certainly a witness who repeatedly tried to inject irrelevant material would sorely try the patience of a judge, or in the case of the Omnibus, the Special Master, thus hurting petitioners’ case rather than helping it.)

    Regarding Wakefield, I was struck by the following item from an article you linked: “Also among those named as being paid from the legal aid fund was a referee for one of Wakefield’s papers, who was allowed £40,000.” (Emphasis added.) Holy moly!

  58. #59 Joseph
    February 23, 2009

    A TCV actually contains approx. 25 ppm of thimerosal, or 25,000,000 ppt. The calculation is straightforward (you don’t even need a calculator). John Fryer’s estimate was off by half an order of magnitude.

    That’s ppm weight. There’s also ppm volume, which is calculated differently.

  59. #60 Amanda
    February 23, 2009

    Excellent, and welcome back!

  60. #61 Karl Withakay
    February 23, 2009

    John Fryer:
    It doesn’t take the combined efforts of the CIA and the NSA to discover Orac’s real world identity. It’s just common internet courtesy/etiquette to respect his nom de plume used here on Respectful Insolence. Suffice it to say, Orac is what he claims to be- a surgeon-scientist MD/PhD.

    Given your supposed qualifications, you must already know the following (Almost anyone who has spent more than 15 minutes researching this subject is also aware of these facts, and we all grow weary of repeating them over and over), so don’t thank me:

    *The dose makes the poison, not the concentration.
    *Mercury is an element which can exist in elemental form or in compound with other elements, such as in Thimerosal.
    *Not all mercury containing compounds have the same toxicity.
    *Even if Thimerosal were found to be the most deadly toxic substance in the universe, that would not support the hypothesis that Thimerosal causes autism.
    *No routine childhood vaccines in the US have contained thimerosal since 201, and MMR never had did. (So what, exactly is your point, anyway?)

  61. #62 notmercury
    February 23, 2009

    By John Fryer’s logic, a 1cc drop of water at 100 degrees C is just as dangerous as a pot of boiling water.

  62. #63 trrll
    February 23, 2009

    Scientists often tend to be nervous about complex scientific questions being placed in the hands of judges who generally lack formal scientific training. Yet there have been a number of recent cases that have increased my respect for the capacity of judges to adjudicate such matters. It seems that judges trained in the rules of logic and evidence can do a very good job when assisted by expert scientific testimony. The decisions in this case are an excellent example of rigorous scientific reasoning. Considering that science lacks any kind of formal mechanism for balancing the weight of scientific evidence and coming to a judgement, and the ability of pressure groups like the Discovery Institute and Generation Rescue to manipulate the media to produce the illusion of scientific controversy, it is encouraging to see the judicial system step into this role successfully when called upon to do so.

  63. #64 Wulfstan
    February 23, 2009

    @ RJ at 11:34 (23 Feb).

    Yoda-like voice: There is another.

    If ‘another’ is taken to mean an Annotated version of the We Support Andrew Wakefield petition.

  64. #65 dt
    February 23, 2009

    “Another there is” I assume you mean ;)

    Glad you’re back orac.

  65. #66 David Harmon
    February 23, 2009

    Excellent post, but I note one stumbling-block in the text:

    However, less than a week after Deer’s revelations were reported, the long-awaited ruling in a huge legal action made up of approximately 5,000 parents who are convinced that vaccines caused their children’s autism.

    In lengthy sentence, the long-awaited verb not. ;-)

  66. #67 kristina
    February 23, 2009

    All that one can say is, perhaps, that, the Kool-aid once drunk, it’s far harder to get it out of one’s system. Not that one would recommend chelation or anything like that here, but maybe several more doses of thoughtful self-examination.

  67. #68 AnthonyK
    February 23, 2009

    Excellent post Orac. I bet it felt good to get that out of your system. Does anyone know when the GMC case against Wakefield is due to end?
    Thank heavens Dawn isn’t here anymore, though there will be others. Arguing with them has given me the ammo to confront the anti-vaxxers, but regretably it’ll take the death of several children from measles to finally kick these nuts off our media.

  68. #69 N
    February 23, 2009

    Best. Post. Ever.

    Glad you’re back, Orac.

  69. #70 Kathleen Seidel
    February 23, 2009

    Wow. Epic post. Thanks so much for linking to my articles.

    One more element in the saga — the FDA’s recent dismissal of CoMeD’s second petition demanding immediate revocation of the licenses of all FDA-approved products containing thimerosal or other mercury derivatives. (CoMeD consists of Geier Père et Fils, Paul King, Lisa Sykes, Brian Hooker, and a number of other parent-petitioners.) The FDA ruling was issued in November 2008, but wasn’t published online until January 27, 2009. It’s a blow-by-blow analysis of the relevant studies that emerged after CoMeD’s first and equally unsuccessful petition to the FDA — a petition originally submitted in 2004, and eventually dismissed in September 2006.

  70. #71 John C. Welch
    February 23, 2009

    I’m just wondering when mercury became more toxic than plutonium.

    Because by that kind of qualification…shit, I’m already dead, and have been, along with my high school chem teacher, and the cheerleader who poured about an ounce of mercury into her hand, and then slapped her other hand into that puddle, spraying us all with it, since um…1983. FYI, mercury smells kinda nasty…when it’s all over your face. (No I don’t know why she did it. I was standing there when she said “Hey, watch this”, pour, swish, SLAP. Probably the only time I said motherfucker, cocksucker and bitch in front of a teacher and didn’t get in trouble.)

    So that cheerleader, she’s not just dead, she’s DAID.

    I didn’t realize I had been dead for almost 26 years…evidently, zombies can conceive. Who knew?

  71. #72 has
    February 24, 2009

    John Fryer MSc BSc Advanced Analytical Chemist:

    … 20 PPT mercury [in tins] … 130 000 000 PPT thimerosal [in vaccines] …

    LOL WTF? I may not be one o’them elitist MSc BSc Advanced Analytical Chemist types, but at least I’d have the good sense to go double-check my figures before spouting them as fact. And that’s without even considering what the relative dosages of tuna fish and vaccine might be.

    (Oh, and John, your diploma mill called: they’d like their letters back.)

  72. #73 Matthew Cline
    February 24, 2009

    The only hope that we who support science-based medicine can have is that these two body blows to the antivaccine movement will finally–finally!–drive home the message to the media that, when it comes to the claim that vaccines cause autism, there’s no there there, as they say.

    I’m rather pessimistic on that front. Conflict sells news. Human tragedy sells news. The “little guy” taking on “the big evil companies” sells news. I fear that the media will only stop reporting on this when its thoroughly been played out, regardless of how much evidence comes forth.

  73. #74 Militant Agnostic
    February 24, 2009

    Given the choice between admitting they were duped and believing that the growing weight of scientific evidence is wrong and part of of a conspiracy of thousands, the antivaxers will choose the latter. You see this sort of denial in the victims of Ponzi schemes.

    We once wound up insuring a vehicle through an insurance agent in the small Mennonite town of Linden in central Alberta that was later the center of a Madoff syle Ponzi scheme that later spread to Cardston, A Moromon town in southern Alberta. A few years later we heard a interview with the insurance agent and the RCMP fraud squad officer who was investigating the case. The mountie said that he was not getting much cooperation from the victims because they refused to believe they had been conned. Instead they believed that the long gone perpetrator was in the US trying to find their money. The insurance agent said that he had advised people to stay away from the fraud from the start and had lost a lot a friends as a result. I am sure that is Bernie Madoff hadn’t confessed many of his victims would be claiming that he was being persecuted.

    People will believe the most preposterous things rather than admit they were conned.

  74. #75 trrll
    February 24, 2009

    One more element in the saga — the FDA’s recent dismissal of CoMeD’s second petition demanding immediate revocation of the licenses of all FDA-approved products containing thimerosal or other mercury derivatives. (CoMeD consists of Geier Père et Fils, Paul King, Lisa Sykes, Brian Hooker, and a number of other parent-petitioners.) The FDA ruling was issued in November 2008, but wasn’t published online until January 27, 2009. It’s a blow-by-blow analysis of the relevant studies that emerged after CoMeD’s first and equally unsuccessful petition to the FDA — a petition originally submitted in 2004, and eventually dismissed in September 2006.

    The FDA opinion includes a nice explanation of why safety limits for mercury in water and fish are not relevant to vaccinations:

    For example, MacMillan (1987)….discusses the safety framework for neurobehavioral toxicity. The structure of this framework is based on long-term exposures of test animals to neurotoxic substances with the intent of determining no-observed-effect levels (NOEL), no-observed-adverse-effect (NOAEL) and lowest-observed-adverse-effect levels (LOAEL). The adverse effects measured are changes compared to control animals in a range of sensory, motor and behavioral test. This analysis leads to an acceptable daily intake (ADI) determination of the compound in question. The determination of an ADI is an amount of the neurotoxin that would be acceptable if the amount were received every day. Daily exposure to ethylmercury is not the pattern of human exposure from vaccinations, which normally occurs only intermittently, often only on an annual basis. You cite papers that discuss the problem of using biomarkers to estimate methylmercury exposures and argue that the methylmercury reference dose may have been set too high. Recent studies have concluded that the benefits of eating fish may outweigh the risk associated with increased methylmercury exposure which implies that the reference dose for exposures that occur through fish may be too low.

  75. #76 The Perky Skeptic
    February 24, 2009

    This is a magnificent post, Orac! Well done!!!

  76. #77 The Perky Skeptic
    February 24, 2009

    John C. Welch, I just HAVE to know… what does mercury smell like???

  77. #78 John C. Welch
    February 24, 2009

    Perky,

    Purest metallic ass, and it does not go away quickly. Ugh, I can almost STILL smell it.

    Even dead, the memory, she pains me.

  78. #79 Kevin Champagne
    February 25, 2009

    Every “PRO” vaxxer always points to Polio to prove that vaccines work. “If vaccines don’t work, how was Polio eliminated”?

    Never mind the fact that NONE of them have ever worked on vaccine safety trials and that some of the doctors that they love to label as quacks like Mark Geier actually have worked on improving vaccines.

    Not many people have worked on vaccine safety trials because there have been very few and there have NOT been ANY safety trials on the SYNERGISTIC effects of mass vaccination.

    Polio was most likely man made and that is why it was virtually eliminated by a bogus vaccine. The truth is that Polio was in already in decline before the vaccine and the vaccine is now causing Polio in Africa rather than eliminating it.

    Polio in Nigeria Traced to Mutating Vaccine

    By DONALD G. McNEIL Jr.
    Published: October 11, 2007
    Nigeria is fighting an unusual outbreak of polio caused by mutating polio vaccine, world health authorities say, but the only remedy is to keep vaccinating children there.
    Officials of the World Health Organization fear that news of the outbreak will be a new setback for eradication efforts in northern Nigeria, where vaccinations were halted in 2003 for nearly a year because of rumors that the vaccine sterilized Muslim girls or contained the AIDS virus. During that lull, polio spread to many new countries, although most have snuffed out the small outbreaks that resulted.

    Officials deny suggestions that they kept the outbreak, which began last year, a secret, and say that they did not realize until recently that as many as 70 of Nigeria’s last 1,300 polio cases stemmed from a mutant vaccine virus rather than “wild type” virus, which causes most polio.

    “It was an oversight on our part,” Dr. Bruce Aylward, director of the polio eradication campaign for the W.H.O., said yesterday. The agency discussed the first 16 cases it knew of at meetings early this year and posted information on its Web site in April, he said, “but only in places where lab people would look.”

    Outbreaks of vaccine-derived polio are unusual but not unheard of. Individual cases have been known for years. For example, a former lieutenant governor of Virginia was partly paralyzed in 1973, apparently after changing the diapers of his son, who had received oral vaccine.

    The first spreading outbreak of a vaccine-derived strain, in which 22 children were paralyzed, was detected in 2001 in the Dominican Republic and Haiti.

    Experts now believe another took place in Egypt in the late 1980s but went unnoticed amid the much larger numbers of wild-type infections. There have been others in the Philippines, Madagascar, China and Indonesia.

    All were eventually eliminated by immunizing more children, and experts argue that the latest outbreak was able to spread because, until recently, only 30 to 40 percent of the children in northern Nigeria were vaccinated. About 70 percent are vaccinated there now, Dr. Aylward said.

    In 2000, the United States switched to injected vaccine made from killed virus, which cannot mutate. But oral drops with the live, weakened version of the virus are still used in most poor countries, including those where the disease has never been eliminated: Nigeria, India, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

    This vaccine, invented by Albert Sabin, is easier to give, offers much stronger protection and can beneficially “infect” other family members or neighbors, protecting them too.

    But in rare cases, it can mutate into something resembling wild polio virus, which can paralyze or kill. Dr. Aylward pointed out that 10 billion doses of oral vaccine had been given in the last 10 years, so such mutations are presumably extremely unusual.

    Polio often circulates undetected; in only one of 200 infections will it cause paralysis, which signals health officials to look for the virus in the area.

    SAME RESULTS IN INDIA

    The number of vaccine attributed polio victims in India is anywhere between 30,000 to 300,000 according to media reports. The IMA has a figure of 85,000, up to 2005, in its website. Doctors have been “advised” to keep quiet on these issues for “the greater good of humanity”.
    It is very sad that no effort is being made to track, treat and compensate the unfortunate children. GAVI, UNICEF, Rotary and WHO do not reply to our mails making it plainly evident that they are least bothered about the health of Indian children. Shame upon them who wish to profit by killing and maiming little babies.
    It is very disturbing that poisons are being introduced into infants who are not supposed to be fed anything other than breastmilk during the first six months of their lives. The spread of cancers, diabetes and other immune disorders in children cannot be hidden any longer. Countries putting the maximum emphasis on vaccines have the highest rate of infant mortality. The health of teenagers today is alarming.
    We also do not understand how the voices of Indian doctors are not being heard and instead “foreign experts” dictate terms in matters of vaccination policy in India. Who are these “experts” and what influence do they yield to dictate terms? What are these “experts” doing to ensure compensation and treatment for the millions of vaccine damaged children? What are they doing to educate the public about vaccine dangers?
    You cannot take the “First do no harm” medical oath and push vaccines at the same time. This is ludicrous. This is madness. This is utter stupidity.–

    Vaccination is a great idea but have we all been dupped???

    The people that support vaccination always bring up “what about Polio”, “vaccines eliminated polio”.

    What if Polio was man made?

    Explain why so called “Polio” epidemics in the eightieth and ninetieth centuries subsided without mass vaccination?

  79. #80 Kevin Champagne
    February 25, 2009

    SV-40 infection is now widespread within the human population almost certainly as a result of Polio vaccine produced in rhesus monkey kidney cells during the 1950s. A recent study showed infection in 23% of blood samples from normal individuals. The virus can also be detected in sperm fluid and is likely to be passed congenitally to future generations (Martini et al. SV40 Early Region and Large T Antigen in Human Brain Tumors, Peripheral Blood Cells, and Sperm Fluids from Healthy Individuals. Cancer Research 56: 4820-4825, 1996). As the title indicates this paper also confirms previous reports that SV-40 is present in a significant proportion of human brain tumors. Other reports have shown SV-40 in human brain tumors, e.g. Bergsagel et al. New England Journal of Medicine 326: 988-993, 1992. SV-40 has also been detected in a high proportion of human mesotheliomas (Carbone et al. Oncogene 9: 1781-1790, 1994); and in bone tumors called osteogenic sarcomas (Carbone et al. Oncogene 1996).

    Dr. Eddy’s findings did however leak out and were replicated by Drs. Sweet and Hilleman at Merck. Initially, Hilleman thought the SV-40 problem would apply mainly to the live polio vaccines developed by Dr. Sabin and used extensively in the Soviet Union. He even suggested that the Russians would be no threat at the upcoming 1962 Olympics because they would be dragging with tumors (The Health Century by Edward Shorter). Unfortunately, it was soon realized that the polio vaccine developed by Dr. Salk was the more dangerous because the 1:4,000 dilution of formaldehyde, which barely inactivated the poliovirus, did not fully inactivate SV-40. Because the Salk vaccine was injected through the skin, it allowed the SV-40 a better chance to infect.

    To his credit, Dr. Hilleman repeatedly sounded warnings about the risks inherent in the use of monkey tissue for vaccine production. For example, he has made the following comments ” …use of tissues of wild-caught animals is just asking for trouble because of the lack of control and the known high proability for viral contamination. Monkeys are too expensive to be grown in specific pathogen-free colonies and, hence, the simple solution to the monkey problem is to eliminate the monkey” and also “The tissues of wild-caught animals, and certainly monkeys, are commonly infected with wild viruses. The simplest way to solve the monkey problem is to eliminate the monkeys and this is being done using diploid cells. Monkey tissues came into use by historic decisions to use monkey kidney to make poliovaccine. There is no need to continue using monkeys when acceptible alternatives are available. This advice was never taken especially in the face of pressure from Lederle/American Cyanamid to continue to use monkeys.

    David Gorski MD Ph.D, you can insult me all you want but can you refute this?

    Vaccines contain “ani-freeze” toxic like substances like phenol. What about that total whackjob in California that attends UC Davis? Can you refute the SV-40 virus?

  80. #81 Kevin Champagne
    February 25, 2009

    Speaking of WTF?

    Officials deny suggestions that they kept the outbreak, which began last year, a secret, and say that they did not realize until recently that as many as 70 of Nigeria’s last 1,300 polio cases stemmed from a mutant vaccine virus rather than “wild type” virus, which causes most polio.

    “It was an oversight on our part,” Dr. Bruce Aylward, director of the polio eradication campaign for the W.H.O., said yesterday. The agency discussed the first 16 cases it knew of at meetings early this year and posted information on its Web site in April, he said, “but only in places where lab people would look.”

    What does that tell us? “but only in places where lab people would look”.

    WTF?

  81. #82 Vindaloo
    February 25, 2009

    Oh my. It has mutated from a strictly anti-mercury militant to an outright anti-vax militant. It’s obviously not a silent mutation.

    Here’s the source of the quoted material:
    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/11/world/africa/11polio.html

    Not quite the slapdown of vaccines our antivax lemming hero would like us to believe.

  82. #83 AutismNewsBeat
    February 25, 2009

    Can you spot the natural decline in US polio rates before the introduction of the Salk vaccine?

    From post-polio.org:

    From 1951 to present, the MMWR distinguished between paralytic cases and nonparalytic cases.

    Year…Paralytic…Nonparalytic

    1951….10,037….18,349
    1952….21,269….36,610
    1953….15,648….19,944
    1954….18,308….20,168

    Mass vaccination begins in mid-1955

    1955….13,850….15,135
    1956…..7,911…..7,229
    1957…..2,499…..2,986
    1958 ….3,697…..2,090
    1959 ….6,289…..2,136

    1960…..2,525…….665
    1961…….988…….324
    1962…….792…….148
    1963…….396……..53
    1964…….106……..16

    1965……..61……..11

    1970……..32………2

    1975………8………0

    1980………8………1

    1990………6………0

    2000….zero cases reported

    http://www.post-polio.org/ir-usa.html

  83. #84 Prometheus
    February 25, 2009

    I don’t know about Orac, but I get weary having to rebut the same tired “arguments” (canards?) about vaccines every time some Yahoo or Google PhD stumbles across them and thinks they’ve “found the missing data tapes” [Note: Star Wars reference].

    Deaths due to vaccine-preventable diseases were on the decline prior to vaccines because medical science and technology were advancing.

    The invention of the first practical ventilator (the “Iron Lung”) dramatically reduced deaths due to polio and the advent of effective antibiotics dramatically reduced deaths due to secondary bacterial infections during measles, varicella and pertussis infections.

    However – and Autism News Beat has shown it dramatically – these drops in fatalities prior to the introduction of the vaccine were nothing compared to the drops in both fatalities and cases that were seen after the vaccines were introduced.

    If Kevin (and others of his ilk) wish to stick their fingers in their ears and scream “Lalalala, I can’t hear you!” at the top of their lungs, that is their privilege. It doesn’t change the reality that vaccines have saved countless lives and prevented untold amounts of suffering.

    And, it appears, they don’t cause autism.

    Reality – it may bite, but it’s real.

    Prometheus

  84. #85 trrll
    February 25, 2009

    Polio was most likely man made and that is why it was virtually eliminated by a bogus vaccine. The truth is that Polio was in already in decline before the vaccine and the vaccine is now causing Polio in Africa rather than eliminating it.

    Polio man-made? That is truly nuts. Polio was epidemic in the US in the ’50’s, when nobody had the faintest idea of how to make a virus, and the biological technology to do so did not even exist. My mother had a copy of an ancient Egyptian tablet depicting an individual with what was clearly polio damage.

    As for polio being “in decline” before the vaccine (it wasn’t, but let’s not worry about details), polio is not now in decline in the US–it is absent. How does a virus just vanish of its own accord? Indeed, polio persists only in those parts of the world without near-universal polio vaccination. Is this a coincidence?

    SV-40 infection is now widespread within the human population almost certainly as a result of Polio vaccine produced in rhesus monkey kidney cells during the 1950s.

    Yes, some very early batches of vaccine produced prior to 1962 were contaminated with SV40. Those vaccines were taken by a huge number of people. So if SV40 is such a danger to man, where is the huge spike in cancer incidence that would be expected? It doesn’t seem to exist. In fact, there is no real evidence that SV40 poses any hazard to humans at all. And in any case, it is ancient history, since it is not present in modern vaccines. So if people such as myself, who received the vaccine prior to 1962, were exposed to SV40 in return for protection against polio, I’d say it was a more than fair trade–I’ve met people with polio damage.

  85. #86 Karl Withakay
    February 25, 2009

    It is very impressive how polio has been eradicated in the US, but I’ve always thought of the word wide total eradication of small pox was the greatest triumph of vaccination.

  86. #87 Prometheus
    February 25, 2009

    Amazing paranoid delusions:


    Polio was most likely man made and that is why it was virtually eliminated by a bogus vaccine.

    There is an Egyptian stele (stone tablet) showing a man with the characteristic withered leg and foot drop of polio. This stele dates from the 18th Dynasty – about 1580 – 1350 BCE.

    Is Kevin seriously arguing that the Ancient Egyptians created the polio virus?

    Closer to our time, polio was first described by Michael Underwood, a British physician, in the late 1700’s.

    Is Kevin seriously arguing that 18th Century natural philosophers (as scientists were known at the time) had created polio?

    Is anybody taking him seriously?

    I realise that Kevin’s world-view has taken some severe shocks in recent months, but is that any justification to abandon reason and revel in some sort of fantasy world of pervasive conspiracies?

    And if there were such a far-reaching conspiracy that could suppress all of the “truth” about vaccines, medicine, and autism, what would be the use of trying to oppose it? A conspiracy of that magnitude could easily silence a mere common citizen – which begs the question of why Kevin (and myriad others) haven’t “disappeared” already. Surely a conspiracy of the scope and ruthlessness of the one he describes is capable of “eliminating” a few inconvenient people?

    Or is it all a delusion?

    Prometheus

  87. #88 HolfordWatch
    February 25, 2009

    There is specific scrutiny of the claim that Simian Monkey Virus might be linked to cancer.

    Although many people may have been exposed to SV40 by polio vaccination, there is inadequate evidence to support widespread SV40 infection in the population, increased tumor incidence in those individuals who received contaminated vaccine, or a direct role for SV40 in human cancer.

    Poulin and De Caprio give a good overview of the epidemiology studies that have looked at the issue and link to some fine reviews. It looks like some of the early-warning papers were using older detection methodologies that were flawed.

    It is sad but true that this scare, like the findings of Wakefield’s work, may turn out to be rooted in faulty/inappropriate PCR methods.

    The results of these reports call into question all previous studies that have used PCR methods to detect SV40 in human tumors because they were conducted with primers that can amplify DNA present in common laboratory plasmids. All future studies on the association of SV40 with human cancer will need to address the concerns regarding PCR contamination raised by these reports. At a minimum, any study reporting the identification of SV40 in a human tumor should include additional PCR primer sets that amplify regions of SV40 viral DNA that are not typically present in laboratory plasmids as well as primers that can selectively amplify contaminating plasmid DNA.

    Recent studies suggest that flawed detection methodology may account for most, if not all, positive correlations of SV40 in human tumors to date. Advances in serologic methods through the use of VLP assays specific to SV40, BKV, and JCV, as well as improved PCR primer design to reduce false-positive results attributed to laboratory contamination of SV40 DNA, have provided significant insights into the question of SV40 and human cancer. Taken together, the studies conducted to date have failed to provide convincing evidence implicating SV40 as a human pathogen.

    It looks like the best current judgment with the best current knowledge indicates that we might exonerate SV40 from an association with human cancer.

  88. #89 HCN
    February 25, 2009

    Kevin here is information about polio in a form you can understand:
    http://scq.ubc.ca/polio.pdf

    If you print it out you can color the pictures.

  89. #90 Kevin Champagne
    February 26, 2009

    “The beginning of a very, very bad year for antivaccinationists”

    Really…not so fast;
    Last week, the parents of yet another child with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) were awarded a lump sum of more than $810,000 (plus an estimated $30-40,000 per year for autism services and care) in compensation by the Court, which ruled that the measels-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine had caused acute brain damage that led to his autism spectrum disorder.
    The family of 10-year-old Bailey Banks won their case quietly and without fanfare in June of 2007, but the ruling has only now come to public attention. In the remarkably clear and eloquent decision, Special Master Richard Abell ruled that the Banks had successfully demonstrated that “the MMR vaccine at issue actually caused the conditions from which Bailey suffered and continues to suffer.”
    Bailey’s diagnosis is Pervasive Developmental Disorder — Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS) which has been recognized as an autism spectrum disorder by CDC, HRSA and the other federal health agencies since at least the 1990s.
    In his conclusion, Special Master Abell ruled that Petitioners had proven that the MMR had directly caused a brain inflammation illness called acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (ADEM) which, in turn, had caused the autism spectrum disorder PDD-NOS in the child: The Court found that Bailey’s ADEM was both caused-in-fact and proximately caused by his vaccination. It is well-understood that the vaccination at issue can cause ADEM, and the Court found, based upon a full reading and hearing of the pertinent facts in this case, that it did actually cause the ADEM. Furthermore, Bailey’s ADEM was severe enough to cause lasting, residual damage, and retarded his developmental progress, which fits under the generalized heading of Pervasive Developmental Delay, or PDD [an autism spectrum disorder]. The Court found that Bailey would not have suffered this delay but for the administration of the MMR vaccine, and that this chain of causation was… a proximate sequence of cause and effect leading inexorably from vaccination to Pervasive Developmental Delay.
    The Bailey decision is not an isolated ruling. We now know of at least two other successful ADEM cases argued in Vaccine Court. More significantly, an explosive investigation by CBS News has found that since 1988, the vaccine court has awarded money judgments, often in the millions of dollars, to thirteen hundred and twenty two families whose children suffered brain damage from vaccines. In many of these cases, the government paid out awards following a judicial finding that vaccine injury lead to the child’s autism spectrum disorder. In each of these cases, the plaintiffs’ attorneys made the same tactical decision made by Bailey Bank’s lawyer, electing to opt out of the highly charged Omnibus Autism Proceedings and argue their autism cases in the regular vaccine court. In many other successful cases, attorneys elected to steer clear of the hot button autism issue altogether and seek recovery instead for the underlying brain damage that caused their client’s autism.
    Medical records associated with these proceedings clearly tell the tale. In perhaps hundreds of these cases, the children have all the classic symptoms of regressive autism; following vaccination a perfectly healthy child experiences high fever, seizures, and other illnesses, then gradually, over about three months, loses language, the ability to make eye contact, becomes “over-focused” and engages in stereotypical head banging and screaming and then suffers developmental delays characteristic of autism. Many of these children had received the autism diagnosis. Yet the radioactive word “autism” appears nowhere in the decision.
    Instead the vaccine court Special Masters rest their judgments on their finding that the vaccines caused some generalized brain injury, mainly Encephalopathy/encephalitis (brain inflammation) or “seizure disorders” — conditions known to cause autism-like symptoms. A large number of the children who have won these judgments have been separately diagnosed with autism. HRSA acknowledged this fact in a recent letter, but told us it does not keep data on how many of these children were autistic.
    The Vaccine Court, in other words, seems quite willing to award millions of dollars in taxpayer funded compensation to vaccine-injured autistic children, so long as they don’t have to call the injury by the loaded term “autism.” That hazard is particularly acute for vaccine victims who appear before the Omnibus Autism Proceedings (OAP). Since that body’s decisions are closely watched, published and accorded the weight of precedent, many lawyers consider the burden of proof for petitioners to be impossibly high before the OAP Panel. It was for this reason that Bailey’s attorney, Mark McLaren, elected to opt out of the OAP and try his case separately, even though Bailey has been receiving autism-related services in his home state.

  90. #91 Chris
    February 26, 2009

    You seem to be slower than usual… Kathleen Seidel wrote about that months ago:
    http://neurodiversity.com/weblog/article/148/

    By the way, did you read the title of the ruling? It is:
    Non-autistic developmental delay; Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis; Expert Credibility; Evidentiary Reliability; Scientific Validity; Burden of Proof; Causation in Fact; Proximate Causation”

  91. #92 Kevin Champagne
    February 26, 2009

    Camille,

    The family that was awarded $810,000 just last week was not reported two months ago?

  92. #93 Chris
    February 26, 2009

    What part of your brain calculates Mar 11, 2008 as being two months ago?

  93. #94 Chris
    February 26, 2009

    Also, what part of your brain sees the name “Chris” and thinks it says “Camille”?

  94. #95 Kevin Champagne
    February 26, 2009

    What part of my brain?

    The part that knows how this late night blog game is played and who the usual suspects are. That part!

    The Bailey Banks case part of the story was a year ago, not the family that was awarded $810,000 a week ago.

  95. #96 Chris
    February 26, 2009

    It is 2am in New York State… do you know where your brain is?

    It is 11pm here on the west coast, I’m going to bed. Good night.

  96. #97 Kevin Champagne
    February 26, 2009

    “It is 2am in New York State… do you know where your brain is?”

    ‘It is 11pm here on the west coast, I’m going to bed. Good night.”

    Good Night?

    A.K.A. Chris = UC Davis.

  97. #98 Kevin Champagne
    February 26, 2009

    What do you pro-vaxxers have to say about Lyme Disease? If it is a bacteria and can really be treated with antibiotics… then how can it be a disease?

    What about Lab 257 and the experiments they were doing with ticks and swine flu back in the 1970s and then out of no where, Lyme disease was discovered only nine miles from Plum Island.

    An alleged tick born disease discovered only 9 miles away from a lab that was doing experiments with ticks.

    Well, that was obviously just coincidence. Texas Longhorn ticks just magically skipped over the entire mid Atlantic region where they had never been detected before and just suddenly appeared and then set up shop nine miles from Plum Island Lab 257 where the government was doing experiments with these same ticks that were very rare in New England?

    Get the hell out of here!.

  98. #99 Vindaloo
    February 26, 2009

    Kevin, you’ve really got to get some sleep, keep up with your meds, and start realizing that whale.to is fiction, it’s a farce designed to give the rest of us a chuckle. Whale.to is not something to base your entire understanding of science upon.

    So to see you drag Plum island into a discussion about antivaccination, well, it’s painful to watch you flounder intellectually like this. You used to come across as someone who might have learned from your haphazard experimentation on your kid, but now you sit there and bray and howl in the middle of the night about grand conspiracies, the invention of diseases, and other flights of fancy.

    As one father to another: dude, chill the hell out. Your paranoia has taken over and it’s just not serving you well. By the way, you’re about as wrong as David Kirby on a typical huffpost with your commenter ID “skillz”.

  99. #100 dean
    February 26, 2009

    I think people need to begin typing much slower for Kevin – give him a chance to read and understand something through the flow of lies and stupidity he spews.

  100. #101 Orac
    February 26, 2009

    Really…not so fast;
    Last week, the parents of yet another child with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) were awarded a lump sum of more than $810,000 (plus an estimated $30-40,000 per year for autism services and care) in compensation by the Court, which ruled that the measels-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine had caused acute brain damage that led to his autism spectrum disorder.

    Already ahead of you, Kevin:

    http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2009/02/stupid_cubed_david_kirby_rfk_jr_and_gene.php

    Enjoy!

  101. #102 notmercury
    February 26, 2009

    Kevin,
    Do yourself a favor. Switch off the computer and take a break for a few months. Seriously man, you are losing it — big-time.

    I’m sure UAW can help you to find a competent therapist. Just get someone to talk to, OK?

  102. #103 Stu
    February 26, 2009

    Can we call this the Champagne Gallup?

    Psst, Kevin… the thruth is out there.

  103. #104 Natalie
    February 26, 2009

    Is Kevin seriously arguing that the Ancient Egyptians created the polio virus?

    Well, weren’t they superintelligent space aliens?

  104. #105 Danio
    February 26, 2009

    Is Kevin seriously arguing that the Ancient Egyptians created the polio virus?

    Well, weren’t they superintelligent space aliens?

    Teach the Controversy1!!111!!

  105. #106 Chris
    February 26, 2009

    Kevin said “A.K.A. Chris = UC Davis.”

    What? I don’t live in California. There are other states on the west coast.

  106. #107 Danio
    February 26, 2009

    There are other states on the west coast.

    Just in case it’s this one, please consider joining up :)

  107. #108 Jurjen S.
    February 28, 2009

    Quoth Dave:

    Regarding Wakefield… Have you read this: Sunday Times’ London Editor Must Quit Over False “Wakefield MMR Data Fixing” Story. Apparently the Sunday Times London printed falsities about Wakefield’s work and the writer had ties to Pharma. Ouch.

    I decided to check that link because I was under the impression that “editor must quit” was a statement of fact; ditto for the claim that Reed’s piece contained falsehoods. Thus, I was expecting some kind of evidence for these statements–e.g. external corroboration–but came away sorely disappointed. The post on ChildHealthSafety linked only to other posts on the same site, as in turn did those posts. There was no evidence provided to support the claim that the position of the Sunday Times’ editor is “looking untenable,” nor for the allegation that Reed fabricated the story that Wakefield doctored (excuse the pun) his data. The only “ouch” here is the result of every reader with a modicum of critical thinking ability giving himself a violent facepalm that anyone would be stupid enough to believe this twaddle.

  108. #109 Antaeus Feldspar
    February 28, 2009

    The only “ouch” here is the result of every reader with a modicum of critical thinking ability giving himself a violent facepalm that anyone would be stupid enough to believe this twaddle.

    Sadly, there seem to be those out there who really are believing the twaddle. In the comments section here, for instance, “Dad Fourkids” asserts as fact that “Wakefield has previously gotten retractions and appologies from UK newspapers for reprinting Deer’s false statements; only Deer’s home paper has the matter still pending.” Even though Fourkids’ claim that “Deer has made false statements and Wakefield has gotten apologies for them” goes beyond ChildHealthSafety’s argument-by-appeal-to-ideal that “Wakefield’s co-authors surely would have caught it if he had cheated, therefore Deer’s statements about Wakefield must be false”, I haven’t found anything else that would explain where Fourkids got his ideas about these purported retractions and apologies, which almost surely would have won Wakefield’s libel case for him had they actually existed.

  109. #110 Chris
    February 28, 2009

    I looked at that ChildHealthSafety website and noticed that its bizarre formatting and copious use of colors makes it look like a crank site. It belongs to UK lawyer who spammed those accusations on many blogs:
    http://holfordwatch.info/2009/02/08/brian-deer-discusses-andrew-wakefield-in-the-sunday-times/comment-page-2/#comment-15022

  110. #111 whitey
    January 3, 2010

    Have any of you ever seen a million healthy, virile wildebeest thundering across the plains in africa? Ever wonder how many of them have been vaccinated? Not a one. Not only are these animals healthy as hell but not one of them has ever seen a doctor nor ingested and medicament. So how are these beasts so healthy? Shouldn’t they all be dead from measles and polio by now? Shouldn’t they all be lame and blind? How on earth do they stay so healthy? Maybe it’s because they play by nature’s rules and allow the sick, young and old to die. Thus ensuring that the majority are healthy, beautiful specimens of nature’s creation. We humans tend to think we are god or god’s gift to the world and as such we should never get sick or uncomfortable or god forbid, die! So let’s screw over the healthy by giving life saving medicines to those who would normally perish. I can’t wait until this over-medicated, over-vaccinated, antimicrobial, feed antibiotics to livestock generation gets it’s comeuppance and some crazy RESISTANT strain of something actually does wipe us out. You pro vaccine jerks are so conceited and arrogant. You will get what you deserve. As Richard Feynman once said: You CANNOT fool nature. Vaccines and antibiotics are the definition of fooling nature. You are weak people who are afraid of nature and deserve what will come. Have a nice day you ignorant bastards.

  111. #112 Chris
    January 3, 2010

    Um, since when are wildebeest equivalent to humans?

    And why, when there are several more relevant recent posts on vaccine, did you have to post on one that is over ten months old?

  112. #113 Chris
    January 3, 2010

    Oooh, and a person advocating eugenics. Well, isn’t that special.

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