Respectful Insolence

It’s been a while since we’ve heard from CBS News’ resident anti-vaccine propagandist Sharyl Attkisson. When last we saw her, she was sucking up to the man whose discredited pseudoscience started the modern anti-vaccine movement, Andrew Wakefield, a man who went on to have his medical license ignominiously taken away. Prior to that, she had tried to out-crank the mercury militia’s most famous anti-vaccine kook, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.; laid down some seriously incompetent and biased “journalism” promoting the myth that vaccines cause autism; and may even have been feeding information to Generation Rescue and Age of Autism. Not content to promote anti-vaccine quackery, she’s even delved into breast cancer crankery. Remember?

Well, she’s baa-aack.

This time around, she’s delving once again into anti-vaccine crankery. This time around, she’s decided to flog the Hannah Poling case again by posting a contradiction- and misinformation-filled bit of crankery to the CBS News entitled Family to Receive $1.5M in First-Ever Vaccine-Autism Court Award. It’s basically a rehash of her previous nonsense, in which she tries desperately to convince readers that this settlement in any way is an acknowledgment by the government that vaccines can cause autism or that the Hannah Poling case itself is evidence that vaccines cause autism. Fortunately, Sullivan has deconstructed Attkisson’s spin (not to mention Dan Olmsted’s regurgitation of old anti-vaccine tropes based on the case) so well that I don’t feel the need to do anything other than acknowledge it and refer you to a couple of my posts on the Hannah Poling case.

Here’s a hint for Sharyl: Not even David Kirby or J.B. Handley flogs the Hannah Poling case as slam-dunk “evidence” that vaccines cause autism anymore. They’ve moved on. Or hadn’t you heard? Poor Sharyl, behind the crank times.

Comments

  1. #1 Harold L Doherty
    September 10, 2010

    I expected to see you worked up into a lather when I saw the CBS coverage of the Poling settlement. And you didn’t disappoint. More name calling nonsense from Orac. Grow up foolish one.

  2. #2 NZ Sceptic
    September 10, 2010

    Sorry Harold. You’re looking in the mirror. Only a fool would take Sharyl’s bizarre spin seriously!

  3. #3 Mark P
    September 10, 2010

    I expected to see you worked up into a lather when I saw the CBS coverage of the Poling settlement. And you didn’t disappoint. More name calling nonsense from Orac. Grow up foolish one.

    It’s particularly amusing that you end your little rant, with some name calling!

    (Hint: Orac only name-calling was “propagandist”, though there was a scattering of “incompetence”, “crankery” and “nonsense”. As ad hominens go, all rather gentlemanly.)

  4. #4 MikeMa
    September 10, 2010

    Forgive Harold. He was awakened very early to post the first response by his foolish masters. There is a prize I’m sure.

    CNN reported on a Parenting article with a refreshing lack of anti-vax balance. Good for them.

  5. #5 MI Dawn
    September 10, 2010

    @MikeMa: that’s a great link, and the antivaxxers in the comments are getting SPANKED by the other commenters. Yay! There ARE people out there with brains.

    MI Dawn

  6. #6 RickK
    September 10, 2010

    @Harold #1

    Harold, do you really, honestly think vaccines cause autism?

    And if so, is there ANY evidence that would convince you that they don’t?

  7. #7 squirrelelite
    September 10, 2010

    @Harold,

    How could a box of wires and lights get worked up into a lather?

    Have you been blowing hot air at it again and left a fog on its plastic box?

  8. #8 FreeSpeaker
    September 10, 2010

    It seems that the AoA horde has descended on the comments of the CBS blog. A good dose of some Respectful Insolence by the regualr readers is needed. I have posted several replies.

  9. #9 CB
    September 10, 2010

    I respect your opinion, but isn’t it possible that giving so many vaccinations in one throw could be the real issue?

    Vaccination is a good thing (thinking of polio, here) but I’m not comfortable with young infants being vaccinated multiple times in one sitting. Is that still an anti-vax position?

  10. #10 MikeMa
    September 10, 2010

    @CB,
    Too many, too soon is still an anti-vax position. Still unsupported by facts as well. In addition to no scientific support for spreading out shots, the downside includes more trips to the doctor’s office with its inherent disease exposure risks, more time to acquire the diseases which the vaccine protects against and lower rates of vaccine compliance associated with extra work required by parents making extra trips with cranky kids.

  11. #11 Chris
    September 10, 2010

    CB, she was given those vaccines when she was 19 months old, hardly a baby. They were catch-up vaccines because of repeated illnesses that caused her to miss so many. Due to her genetic mitochondrial disorder it was probably discussed that an attempt be made to protect her from more bugs that cause fevers.

    I agree that it should have been spaced out a little. But that is no guarantee that it would have prevented the eventual outcome. And perhaps even delaying the vaccines some more.

    You do understand that she was born with this other medical condition?

    As for infants, do you think that preventing Hib and pertussis along with polio is a good or bad thing?

  12. #12 Prometheus
    September 10, 2010

    I can’t believe that any sentient being would take the Hannah Poling case as an indication that vaccines cuase autism.

    To begin with, Ms. Poling has a mitochondrial abnormality – which preceded any vaccination, not to mention her birth – which makes her inordinately sensitive to – among other things – fever. In this case, the government has conceded that the vaccine(s) she received caused a fever (which is a common side effect of vaccines) which more likely than not (50% plus a feather) was the proximal cause of a neurological injury.

    Secondly, Ms. Poling – while she may have many aspects of autism – is not similar to the vast majority of autistic children (and adults). She is acknowledged to have an atypical case of autism. Also, technically, it can’t be “autism” if there is a known neurological injury.

    Finally, vaccines are not unique in their ability to cause Ms. Poling’s neurological injury. Any febrile illness (including, I must add, all vaccine-preventable illnesses) could have done the same. This is analogous to a person struck while crossing a busy freeway – there are numerous vehicles which could have done the injury, but the unlucky chap who hits the pedestrian gets the blame.

    If Ms. Poling had come down with influenza or even a nasty adenovirus prior to getting her vaccinations, she would be just as “autistic” as she is now, but she wouldn’t be exploited by the anti-vaccination movement. I suppose I can’t blame her parents for using the established legal process to get money for her care, but I do find opportunists like Mr. Doherty highly offensive.

    Prometheus

  13. #13 CB
    September 10, 2010

    @MikeMa,

    It never really occurred to me to have anything approaching an anti-vax position. My last child (I have several children) had a nasty reaction following an oral vaccination and, now, I’m questioning things more. Previously, I have vaccinated on schedule without flinching. Now, we’re still vaccinating, but I’m flinching.

    The preponderance of evidence seems to support this behavior (vaccination), but the reaction did make me pause. We’ve had to delay some further vaccinations (pending follow-up with specialists).

    As for parental inconvenience–that’s nothing compared with the health of my children. If more trips would produce a better/safer result, that doesn’t bother me. Their needs, not mine, are paramount.

    I understand she was born with the condition. I also understand that you don’t always know what conditions your child may have until something happens to alert you to the situation.

    Do I think preventing these things is a good or bad thing? Forgive my frankness, but: duh. I’m in favor prevention (and I made sure to get booster immunizations to hopefully avoid even being a carrier or pertussis around my newborn). My children have been vaccinated (although, one is currently two months behind as a result of the aforementioned reaction).

    19 months old is still a “baby” to me, LOL. The “young” infant comment was mostly directed to the shots provided to 2 and 3 month olds.

    I’m not sure they’re getting “too many, too soon” but I’m definitely squeamish about a 2 month or 3 month old getting 5 shots (some combination shots) in one sitting.

  14. #14 Pablo
    September 10, 2010

    My son just went through the whole series of pre-2 vaccines. He never got more than 4 shots in a single visit, and if he even got 4, it only happened once (I don’t remember it – most of his visits had three)

  15. #15 CB
    September 10, 2010

    By the way, I don’t believe that autism is well understood (having worked with ASD children). Certainly, not enough to say what caused “it” (as if “it” was one specific thing)–one way or the other. I agree with the previous poster on febrile illness. I’ve seen it happen to one of my (vaccinated) own. I also found out how much they don’t know during his week in the hospital following the seizure it caused (which was bad enough to require chemical parallelization and a respirator). They never knew what exactly caused the fever or what “bug” he had (despite tests upon tests which included an MRI and a spinal tap).

    The vaccine-autism link has been debunked often. My only question was the value of lumping vaccines together vs. spreading them out. Also, possibly more screening for possible contraindications for certain vaccines/timing.

    If we get rid of vaccines, we’re more likely to bring back polio than stop autism. No, thanks.

  16. #16 CB
    September 10, 2010

    @Pablo, I had one pediatrician who wanted to give 6 vaccines (two combo vaccines) in one visit. I declined this, because I’d never had the children receive more than 2-3 in one visit. Even before our shot reaction, 6 in one day felt like “pushing it”.

    But then, maybe my feelings are more akin to a fear of “bad juju” than real science. I just haven’t seen evidence that has convinced me one way or the other on the # of vaccines given at one time.

  17. #17 MikeMa
    September 10, 2010

    The CDC publishes vaccine schedules online. I haven’t time to look for it just now but it isn’t hard to find. The schedule is not some evil plot to injure and kill babies. It is a tested regimen that provides optimum coverage for the diseases we can prevent at the youngest, safest age we can deliver it. Doing less increases risk with no discernible benefit, bad juju notwithstanding. Conversely, there is no evidence that spreading out vaccines has any benefit at all.

    If your baby had a reaction to the oral vaccine, it is unlikely that the hospital tests would not have detected it since all ingredients of that vaccine are known. More likely it is another case of causation confused with correlation. The timing indicates the vaccine but the science does not.

  18. #18 Chris
    September 10, 2010

    CB, which of the five given at two months would you skip? (sorry, Pablo, I just looked it up here):
    RV (rotavirus)
    DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis)
    Hib (Haemophilus influenzae type b)
    IPV (polio)
    PCV (Pneumococcal)

    Explain your reasoning, including the chance of injury from the vaccine versus getting the diseases (with references, we require evidence not feelings). Also remember, that at least for the bacterial diseases there is not full protection until the full series is given, and that rotavirus can be very serious (which I know from first hand experience, riding in an ambulance with a very sick 15 month toddler is not fun). Before you answer, read what Prometheus wrote a couple of days ago.

  19. #19 Sid Offit
    September 10, 2010

    @Prometheus

    Any febrile illness (including, I must add, all vaccine-preventable illnesses) could have done the same

    Yet amazingly all the fevers that delayed this poor child from receiving her lifesaving vaccines on time could not provoke her autism

  20. #20 Sid Offit
    September 10, 2010

    @CB

    The vaccine-autism link has been debunked often

    If by debunked you mean “never been studied” then you’re correct it has been debunked. If however you’re using debunked in the traditional way, then of course it’s never been “debunked”. It’s important to understand that contrary to the delusional assertions eminating from this blog only one vaccine[MMR] and one vaccine component [thimerisol] have been studied in connection to autism

  21. #21 squirrelelite
    September 10, 2010

    @CB,

    It sounds like your child had an especially bad seizure and I deeply sympathize.

    When I had my first recognized full blown grand mal seizure, I also spent a week in the hospital getting pretty much every test they could think of including a spinal tap and an EEG (I don’t think we had MRI’s back then). Fortunately, spinal tap techniques have improved considerably since then but I still wouldn’t wish one on someone without good reason. After I had my first one, I had the worst headache of my life and it was several days before the pain completely went away.

    If your child is especially susceptible to febrile seizures, then trying to minimize that risk is a reasonable precaution. However, whether that is best done by minimizing the risk per visit by only getting one shot at a time or minimizing the total number of visit incidents by using the standard schedule is a tricky probabilistic estimate that I lack good numbers to perform.

    Febrile seizures are probably more common than is generally recognized by most people. There may be a genetic susceptibility factor involved. Several of my nieces and nephews had them. But, fortunately, long term consequences are rare and all of them are doing fine.

    As far as I have heard, it doesn’t particularly matter what causes the fever (unless there is a bacterial infection that should be tackled with antibiotics). Most of their’s were related to ear infections.

    Good luck.

  22. #22 Scott
    September 10, 2010

    My only question was the value of lumping vaccines together vs. spreading them out.

    Which has been answered. No evidence that spreading them out provides ANY benefit, vs. (most importantly) better protection against the disease.

    Also, possibly more screening for possible contraindications for certain vaccines/timing.

    Known contraindications are checked for, and doctors are always on the lookout for others.

    Simply put, the standard vaccine schedule incorporates the best available information to provide maximum safety and efficacy. There is quite simply no currently-known way to improve upon it.

  23. #23 Enkidu
    September 10, 2010

    Gah, the anti-vaxers over at the parenting site I visit are all over spreading the autism-vaccine link now that the Poling case is back in the news. I got to read some good anti-vax garbage today: DDT is the real cause of polio; vaccines *could* be made safer but it would cut into profits; and of course the cry of, “I’ve done my research!” (which makes the researcher inside me cringe). Good times (not).

  24. #24 Pablo
    September 10, 2010

    CB, which of the five given at two months would you skip? (sorry, Pablo, I just looked it up here)

    Chris – isn’t rotovirus an oral vax?

    Hence, 4 shots.

    I didn’t say vaccines, I said shots.

  25. #25 Chris
    September 10, 2010

    Ooops, sorry Pablo, I goofed. Yes, the rotavirus is an oral vax. I guess I missed the reference to just needles (looking back… okay, you and CB said “shots”, and CB said “5 shots”).

    I guess it is because my son’s grand mal seizure resulting in the ambulance ride was from rotavirus (or very similar severe gastrointestinal illness that included floods of diarrhea!). I also did not want to be accused of cherry picking the chart.

    Still wondering which ones CB thinks should be eliminated, and why.

  26. #26 Pablo
    September 10, 2010

    Still wondering which ones CB thinks should be eliminated, and why.

    Personally, I’m wondering what in the world the pediatrician is doing that would make them want to do 6 shots?

    Even last year when we got the Gurg his flu shot, we were able to slip it in without too much fuss, just delaying the last booster of something (or something like that) to the 15 month appt instead of the 12 month.

    We also threw the H1N1 shot in between some appts.

  27. #27 MikeMa
    September 10, 2010

    @Pablo,
    Sorry, got to ask: Gurg? Short for something? Ethnic generic name? Typo? Onomatopoeia for the noises made by said child?
    Cheers! :)

  28. #28 passionlessDrone
    September 10, 2010

    Hello friends –

    I don’t have the energy for a debate right now, but it does occur to me that this story is likely something of a pre-emptive strike in order to counteract whatever news has Orac so giddy that he mentioned it earlier in the week. Don’t journalists (and others?) get a sneak peak at new studies coming out with an embargo so that a story can be written and released the day a study is published?

    This strikes me as highly manipulative.

    If I had to guess on this would be the follow up to Thompson 2007 that studied an autism cohort with negative findings. That study has been a long time in waiting, and IIRC, someone @ LBRB posted something a year or more ago indicating that the CDC had ‘tipped their hand’ regarding the eventual findings.

    - pD

  29. #29 Pablo
    September 10, 2010

    Sorry, got to ask: Gurg? Short for something? Ethnic generic name?

    A title. Recall from Harry Potter that the Gurg is the title for the ruler of the giants. So while it is not the sole reason, it has seemed appropriate description of an 18 mo old toddler. He has has basically been in charge of the house.

    Now, to what extent that continues with the impending BabyBooBoo (T – 17 days, at most) we shall see, but he will probably maintain his Gurg title out from a more historical standpoint.

    Although the giants in HP would overtake the Gurg by ultimately putting his head on a stake and parading it around, I hope that does not happen here (although I would not be surprised to find the Gurg unwilling to concede his position peacefully)

  30. #30 MikeMa
    September 10, 2010

    @Pablo,
    I’d forgotten the Gurg in HP completely. Cute reference. My eldest remarked, about a month after his little brother arrived, that he didn’t want him around any more and could we please take him back to the hospital.

    T-17 is a very tiring time IIRC. Good luck.

  31. #31 Chris
    September 10, 2010

    Absolutely off-topic: Pablo, did the photo of the little girl in the orange charmander costume help on another forum?

    And, yeah, after she was born her brothers wanted to know when we were going to send her back to the hospital.

    Back on topic: The multiple injections at a time is quite an issue. I have seen lots of research on trying to combine vaccines, like add the Hib to the DTaP. But it is long and slow (and I believe the DTaP-Hib is available, but quicky Google search shows the Hib portion is not as effective). Apparently weighing the risks and benefits is not an easy job.

    Which is why changing the vaccine schedule on the whims of parents versus actual science is not going to happen soon.

  32. #32 Science Mom
    September 10, 2010

    Yet amazingly all the fevers that delayed this poor child from receiving her lifesaving vaccines on time could not provoke her autism

    @ Sid, numerous fevers could or would have a cumulative effect upon someone with a mitochondrial disorder. So she was essentially ‘primed’ by the time the insult of her suite of vaccines was administered. Of course the Poling’s have no trouble trotting out their daughter as a poster child for ‘vaccines cause autism’ but refuse to discuss her full medical history to get a better understanding of what could have happened.

  33. #33 Joseph
    September 10, 2010

    Yet amazingly all the fevers that delayed this poor child from receiving her lifesaving vaccines on time could not provoke her autism

    That is clearly fortuitous. In fact, other children with the characteristics of Hannah Poling don’t typically regress in temporal proximity to vaccination, but something else.

  34. #34 CB
    September 10, 2010

    The only one I would (potentially) skip entirely would be rotavirus (or at least delay until baby is on solid food). It is an “optional” vaccine (so said our first pediatrician–and several of our kids’ doctors never even offered it, hence only one got it and the one who did have it has had bloody stools ever since…we’re not getting the remainder of the series until we confirm his intestines are healthy enough to do so and, yes, I consulted w/ our doctors on that one).

    The rest I would do (will do and have done), spaced out in two visits. Well and sick kids in our doctor’s office are pretty well separated w/ separate waiting rooms, exam rooms and entrances.

    BTW, the son who had the seizure did so after an unnamed illness not a shot. I was just pointing out that fevers are dangerous and not all bugs are known. No brain damage for him, but we were lucky. Fevers are very dangerous, though.

    I’m in favor of vaccination, in general. I’m in love w/ the chicken pox vaccine and pneumococcal because I’m convinced it has kept the kids from that misery.

    I don’t see why statements of caution and concern make people so angry. Other than, the rabid anti-vax people doing strange/dangerous things. (Jenny McCarthy is a MTV drop-out not a doctor.) I don’t agree w/ that but I don’t vaccinate while the kids are showing signs of illness and don’t lump shots together when I can avoid it. That’s all.

  35. #35 CB
    September 10, 2010

    @Chris I’ve never had any major objections from pediatricians over separate shot visits–or waiting because a child is ill. They get to bill me extra and probably think I’m an idiot, but oh well.

    Whatever happens w/ the vaccine schedule, I hope that parent/doctor convenience is the LAST thing considered.

  36. #36 Chris
    September 10, 2010

    CB, the Poling child had several vaccines delayed due to disease.

    Gee, I am so glad you are cool with rotavirus affecting a child. I really really hope you do not have to deal with it as I did. Or did you miss that it was the reason for my son’s grand mal seizures.

    Unless you forgot, it is not a shot.

    It is not just parent/doctor convenience to combine them, it is trying to get children protected as well and as early as possible.

  37. #37 Orange Lantern
    September 10, 2010

    CB, its reasonable for a parent to consider spacing out vaccines but there simply is no medical reason that giving the recommended number of shots is harmful.

    Whatever happens w/ the vaccine schedule, I hope that parent/doctor convenience is the LAST thing considered.

    This makes sense on a certain level, but the reality in this world is that if the shot schedule is not convenient for parents, and doctors, a much larger number of patients will go undervaccinated. Plenty of parents miss their children’s well child visits as it is. That’s not to say that it is the driving force of why the schedule is the way it is, but it is unavoidable that it would be a significant factor.

    The only one I would (potentially) skip entirely would be rotavirus (or at least delay until baby is on solid food). It is an “optional” vaccine (so said our first pediatrician–and several of our kids’ doctors never even offered it, hence only one got it and the one who did have it has had bloody stools ever since…we’re not getting the remainder of the series until we confirm his intestines are healthy enough to do so and, yes, I consulted w/ our doctors on that one).

    That’s pretty reasonable for that child, though there is a maximum age after which you no longer give any rotavirus vaccine (eight months, I believe). But since studies have not associated rotatec with bloody GI disease like intussusception, there is not a good evidence-based reason to think that it would happen to another child.

    I was just pointing out that fevers are dangerous and not all bugs are known. No brain damage for him, but we were lucky. Fevers are very dangerous, though.

    With due respect to your experience, I want to speak out as an aside about fever phobia. The overwhelming majority of mild to moderate fevers (as in, less than 106F) are beneficial and cannot cause permanent damage. Likewise, the vast majority of febrile seizures are benign. Of course, you certainly have more reason to be suspect of fevers than average. But I do want to make sure that readers aren’t panicking over every fever. Of course, a call to the doctor never hurts.

    I don’t see why statements of caution and concern make people so angry.

    Genuine concerns, by themselves, shouldn’t. But statements of caution and concern that are not based in evidence and in reality have the potential to put children’s lives at greater risk are likely to get a degree of emotional response from some.

  38. #38 Todd W.
    September 10, 2010

    @CB

    I think it bears saying that simply repeating the “too many, too soon” mantra as a blanket statement is anti-vax. For the majority of children, the schedule, as recommended by the CDC and AAP, should be relatively safe. For individuals who do have an adverse reaction to a vaccine, more specific precautions should be considered. If it can be identified which vaccine cause the reaction and why, then that may inform the way to proceed (e.g., avoiding the rest of that vaccine series or vaccines that have similar ingredients that may have contributed to the reaction).

    Without some real medical reason, such as a prior reaction (e.g., allergic reaction), there is no real reason to halt or space out the vaccines. If there is a real medical reason, though, more serious thought should be given to the remaining schedule.

  39. #39 Pablo
    September 11, 2010

    There is NO benefit to spreading out vaccines, outside of “Oh the poor baby gets so many shots at once…” parent whining.

    No benefit.

    Ask Uncle Bob Sears. He’ll admit it. There is no benefit to his alternte plan.

    Meanwhile, there IS a cost in terms of additional risk. Admittedly, if you chose the right vaccines, you can keep it smaller, but there is a risk nonetheless.

    And no benefit.

    So let’s see, you have an option of additional risks and no benefits. That sounds like a smart choice.

    Personally, I would rather get them down at once, to minimize the visits and to minimize the trauma (which is harder for the baby? 4 shots in a single day? Or 2 days of 2 shots?)

  40. #40 Sid Offit
    September 11, 2010

    @Science Mom

    the Poling’s have no trouble trotting out their daughter as a poster child for ‘vaccines cause autism’ but refuse to discuss her full medical history to get a better understanding of what could have happened.

    I hope your call for transparency applies to all the families featured on Paul Offit’s PKIDS.ORG

    http://www.pkids.org/im_videos.php

  41. #41 Science Mom
    September 11, 2010

    I hope your call for transparency applies to all the families featured on Paul Offit’s PKIDS.ORG

    @ Sid, I doubt you will fail to see that recognised complications from diseases is vastly different than the Hannah Poling case. But feel free to dispute any of those findings presented on PBS.

  42. #42 gaiainc
    September 13, 2010

    I’m still trying to figure out what CB considers an immunization. Is DTaP one or three immunizations? Is Pediarix (containing DTaP, IPV, and Hep B) one, three, or five? Is it the shot itself or the idea that the child’s immune system is being challenged by multiple various immunizations? If it’s the latter, really? The world is a dirty place and babies/kids love to get dirty in it. I’m still trying to figure out how immunizations are a greater challenge to the human body than being born or getting a knee scraped on a trail or playing in dirt.

    Personally, I think the rotavirus vaccine is a great thing. I’m not seeing as much nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea in babies and kids as I used to. I have no problem with that.

    And yes, my child has gotten all the recommended immunizations, just I like I did/do, and like I hope my husband would. However, he’s an adult and is more than capable of making decisions I would never make, though I did convince him that getting varicella at his age would be bad and that the immunization was worth the vasovagal reaction. So it goes.

  43. #43 Liz Ditz
    September 17, 2010

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