Respectful Insolence

Part 1 is here.

Part 2 is here.

Part 3 is here.

I realize I say these things again and again and again, but they bear repeating because together they are a message that needs to be spread in as clear and unambiguous a form as possible. First, whenever you hear someone say, “I’m not anti-vaccine,” there’s always a “but” after it, and that “but” almost always demonstrates that the person is anti-vaccine after all. Second, for antivaccine loons, it’s always about the vaccines. Always. It’s not primarily about autism advocacy; it’s primarily about the vaccines and blaming them for autism. Autism advocacy is a secondary consideration subsumed to the needs of trying to convince people, against all science and reason, that vaccines cause autism.

Nowhere are these principles demonstrated more clearly and on a more regular basis than on the propaganda blog for the anti-vaccine organization Generation Rescue. The bloggers on that blog, Age of Autism, will howl with indignation whenever it is pointed out by me or some other skeptical, science-based blogger that they are anti-vaccine to the core that they are not “anti-vaccine,” but “pro-safe vaccine” or “pro-vaccine safety.” The first time I remember seeing that sort of “argument,” it came from Jenny McCarthy herself, and, after that, I began to hear it on virtually every anti-vaccine blog. It’s a talking point, and, to the naive, a good one. So good is it that those who repeat it probably actually believe it about themselves.

And AoA has been on a role in this last week of 2010. If you want evidence that, to AoA, it’s first and foremost all about the vaccines, take a look at a sampling of its posts since Christmas:

Of course, if you want to see an example that really nails it, just take a look at this post, Age of Autism Awards 2010: Dr. Paul Offit, Denialist of the Decade.

“Denialist.” You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

In fact, this appears to be a relatively new talking point among the anti-vaccine set. Stung by being lumped in with evolution denialists, anthropogenic global warming denialists, not to mention quacks and “alternative medicine” advocates (denialists of science-based medicine), apparently anti-vaccine activists have decided that they’ll try to appropriate the term “denialist” by referring to those who refute their pseudoscientific nonsense as “vaccine safety denialists” or some similar term. Jake Crosby seems particularly enamored of this technique and might well have been among the first to use it. Given the pure silliness that spawned the term, it wouldn’t surprise me if Jake coined it. Be that at it may, Dr. Offit gave an interview to the Point of Inquiry podcast last year entitled The Costs of Vaccine Denialism, which might well be why AoA decided to bestow this “honor” upon him.

In this case, mercury militia inspiration Dan Olmsted does the “honors,” such as they are, beginning thusly:

Why bother to call attention to Dr. Paul Offit, the vaccine patent-holder who has led the attack on the idea that vaccines have anything to do with autism or any of the myriad of other ailments afflicting this generation of American children?

Ah, yes. Note the tired old anti-vaccine framing of Dr. Offit as a “patent holder” on a vaccine, as though the only reason Dr. Offit fights for science and advocates for vaccines is because he stands to make money off of his rotavirus vaccine. In reality, the reason Dr. Offit leads “the attack on the idea that vaccines have anything to do with autism or any of the myriad of other ailments afflicting this generation of American children” is because the vast preponderance of scientific evidence does not support the idea that vaccines have anything at all to do with “autism or any of the myriad of other ailments afflicting this generation of American children.” I know, I know, it’s a radical concept, but apparently it can’t infiltrate the brains of the hive mind that is AoA that anyone might actually oppose their pseudoscience and anti-science based on good science rather than because of self-serving or selfish reasons, which is no doubt why Olmsted continues:

Well, because other people are paying attention — including the nation’s pediatricians and the mainstream journalists who need to start calling him to account. Offit has a new book out — “Deadly Choices: How the Anti-Vaccine Movement Threatens Us All.” Here’s the question doctors who recommend him to nervous parents, and parents unsure what to think, and journalists who interview him, need to ask: Why is Offit transparently opposed to ever studying the health outcomes of vaccinated versus unvaccinated Americans, even as he acknowledges that vaccines have a long history of causing serious side effects?

Once again, the reason why most vaccine scientists don’t think the types of “vaccinated versus unvaccinated” studies desired by anti-vaccine activists like Mr. Olmsted would be worthwhile or revealing boil down to three reasons:

  1. There is no compelling preliminary evidence to lead scientists to think that vaccines might cause autism adequate to justify a large “vaccinated versus unvaccinated” study. According to the Helsinki accord, before human subjects research projects can be undertaken, there has to be compelling preclinical (i.e., cell culture and animal experiments) and/or clinical evidence to suggest that a human study is warranted. For the vaccine/autism hypothesis, there is neither.
  2. Doing such a study in the most rigorous fashion (a double-blind placebo-controlled study) would be completely unethical, because it would leave the control (unvaccinated) group completely unprotected against dangerous and potentially fatal childhood illnesses.
  3. Doing an epidemiological study, such as a case-control or cohort study, would require huge numbers of children to achieve adequate statistical power to detect even a fairly large difference between the groups. I wrote about this last year.

Olmsted also makes this astoundingly bad argument:

Anyone concerned about any of these things fits Offit’s definition of anti-vaccine, because vaccines don’t cause any of them, because Paul Offit says so, a solipsism that is really quite breathtaking: “[B]ecause anti-vaccine activists today define safe as free from side effects such as autism, learning disabilities, attention deficit disorder, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, strokes, heart attacks, and blood clots — conditions that aren’t caused by vaccines — safer vaccines, using their definition, can never be made.”

Which is actually an excellent criticism of the “we’re not anti-vaccine, we’re pro-safe vaccine” canard. It’s not a solipsism at all. Leaving aside the observation that Olmsted apparently doesn’t know what a solipsism is. For instance, I don’t see how Offit’s statement indicates that he believes that only his own self exists or can be proven to exist or an extreme preoccupation with and indulgence of one’s feelings or desires. You could argue that Offit is wrong (he isn’t, but you could argue that), but I find it nothing more than a pseudointellectual affectation that Olmsted would use the word “solipsism” to describe Offit’s argument. Be that as it may, Offit makes a good point. The anti-vaccine movement ascribes autism, diabetes, ADHD, learning disabilities, asthma, and a panoply of conditions and diseases to vaccine injury when there is no good scientific evidence that vaccines cause any of them. How can you eliminate side effects that vaccines don’t cause? Even if you did, anti-vaccine loons like Dan Olmsted wouldn’t believe you did anyway.

Olmsted also misses the point about the unethical nature of a “vaccinated versus unvaccinated” study:

So it’s no surprise that his “can’t be done” argument against studying unvaccinated populations for any untoward outcomes arrives in the middle of an attack on Handley. Offit quotes J.B.’s comments on a Larry King segment in April 2009: “Larry, we have no idea what the combination risk of our vaccine schedule looks like. At the two-month visit, a child gets six vaccines in under fifteen minutes. The only way to test that properly would be to have a group of kids who get all six and a group of kids who got none and see what happens. They don’t do that testing. They have no idea.”

Wow. That certainly sounds as though Handley proposed a vaccinated versus unvaccinated study in which one group is not given any vaccines! I even went to the CNN transcript, and that’s what Handley said in context. In fact, Handley’s entire appearance demonstrated that he is incredibly poorly informed. Yet, Olmsted can later say:

Offit goes on, outrageously, to compare Handley’s proposal to the infamous Tuskegee experiment in which doctors withheld treatment from black males suffering from syphilis in order to study the natural course of the disease.

P-LEEZE. No one I know of is suggesting that a study of unvaccinated children deliberately withhold vaccination. Rather, there are growing numbers of never-vaccinated children in America — a fact Offit acknowledges with dismay — and plenty of families willing to participate in such a study. State governments have vaccine waivers on file for public school attendance that are another obvious source of non-life-threatening data.

No one, Mr. Olmsted? Then what do you think Handley was talking about on Larry King’s show back in April 2009? It sure sounded like a study in which vaccination would be intentionally withheld from one group to me. True, later I recall that Handley–shall we say?–having finally had it sink into his brain that a randomized trial of vaccinated versus unvaccinated children would be considered unethical, has backed off from such statements and now appears to advocate epidemiological studies of unvaccinated chidren. Unfortunately, his idea of a good study is a particularly incompetent phone survey that Generation Rescue undertook a few years ago. And whether anyone that Olmsted knows is promoting a prospective randomized trial of vaccinated versus unvaccinated children, there certainly are anti-vaccine loons out there who are. Olmsted himself then concludes by begging for a vaccinated versus unvaccinated study himself–any vaccinated versus unvaccinated study, it would appear:

Oddly, when it comes to doing such studies ["vaccinated versus unvaccinated" studies] in human populations, and studying the autism levels in the Amish, the homeschooled, or philosophical objectors, vaccine industry proponents resist mightily. Conducting human vax/unvax studies in existing unvaccinated groups would be so fraught with methodological problems that they are ‘retrospectively impossible.’ As for controlled studies, they would be so burdened with permission problems that they would be ‘prospectively unethical.’ In short, the resistance to the proposal to do vax/unvax work has not only taken the attitude that ‘we already know the answers,’ but ‘we should not seek to know.’ It’s pretty hard to make scientific progress in the face of this kind of epistemological nihilism.”

Again, go back to reason #3 as to why a retrospective vaccinated versus unvaccinated study would be methodologically very difficult, requiring huge sums of money and huge numbers of patients. Any money that would go to such a study would, in this era of fiscal restraint at the NIH, be money that would not go to more promising lines of research that are not based on dubious science and even outright pseudoscience, which would be arguably unethical. As for why prospective studies would be unethical, go to reasons #1 and #2. Doing such a study would require that scientists collude with non-vaccinating parents in allowing one group being studied have medical care that does not meet the standard of care. According to the Helsinki Declaration, in any human subjects experiment, ethically every subject must receive at least the standard of care, which is one reason why placebo-controlled trials are becoming less frequent. These days, placebos can only be ethically used in clinical trials for either self-limited conditions or for conditions for which there is no effective treatment in the standard of care; otherwise, experimental treatments are compared or added to the standard of care. In any case, this is the same reason why some HIV/AIDS clinical studies in developing countries in which groups not receiving antiretrovirals are studied have run into complaints about their ethics. That Olmsted and the rest of his merry band of anti-vaccine activists do not understand these basic concepts of clinical research ethics is not surprising, but it does lead them to make the same sorts of fallacious arguments again and again.

As 2010 draws to a close, it’s obvious that Olmsted and his fellow travelers at AoA are just as committed to their pseudoscience as they’ve ever been. Fortunately, 2010 has not been a good year for the anti-vaccine movement. Its patron saint (Andrew Wakefield) has been disgraced, having had his medical license in the U.K. yanked. Mark Blaxill and Dan Olmsted’s book tanked without even much of a peep. The tide against them that began in 2009, has continued to produce an increasing realization among the press and health officials of the harm that the anti-vaccine movement is doing. The anti-vaccine movement used to get mainly uncritical, or only mildly challenging, coverage. Now it gets stories by Trine Tsouderos and books to be released in January by Paul Offit and Seth Mnookin about the anti-vaccine movement. It’s also crystal clear that, after all these years, it’s not about autism advocacy. Not really. It’s all about the vaccines. It’s always about the vaccines. It was about the vaccines in 2010, and it will be about the vaccines in 2011.

Unfortunately.

Comments

  1. #1 novalox
    December 30, 2010

    Thanks for the post.

    It is always interesting to see the mindset of the anti-vax people, and how they use that to attack others who do not believe their ideas, instead of thinking out their positions.

  2. #2 MikeMa
    December 30, 2010

    AoA and GR, truly the home of reality denial.

  3. #3 augustine
    December 30, 2010

    I’m not Anti-vax!

    You can get all of the vaccines you want.

    To the contrary how many people on here would be in favor of making vaccines mandated except for medical exemption?

  4. #4 Stolen Dormouse
    December 30, 2010

    A little off topic, but I thought that the people here would be interested in the following item in the Joint Commission On-line< \i> e-newsletter:

    Bringing Immunity to Every Community webcast available for continuing education credits< \b>

    The American Nurses Association, in partnership with Every Child By Two, the Colorado Foundation for Medical Care and with support from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), has launched an educational webcast entitled “Bringing Immunity to Every Community.” This free webcast was developed to increase the knowledge and competency of the nation’s 3.1 million registered nurses about immunizations, to encourage nurses to be vaccinated, and to position nurses as leading advocates for immunization among colleagues, patients and the public. The webcast contains information on:
    • Scientific findings regarding the safety of vaccines.
    • Systems in place to ensure ongoing safety of vaccines and adverse event reporting requirements.
    • Commonly expressed concerns over vaccine safety and appropriate responses to alleviate reluctant parents.
    • Methods to eliminate the spread of vaccine-preventable diseases, such as influenza and pertussis, including vaccination of adults and, in particular, health care workers.

    The webcast was planned and implemented following the administrative and educational design criteria required for certification of health care professions continuing education credits. Registrants completing the activity can submit their certificate along with a copy of the course content to their professional organizations or state licensing agencies for recognition of 2.5 hours of continuing education credits. The webcast can be found at http://www.yourcesource.com/ecbt. (Contact: Rich Greenaway, rich@ecbt.org)

  5. #5 Julian Frost
    December 30, 2010

    Orac,

    Fortunately, 2010 has not been a good year for the anti-vaccine movement. Its patron saint (Andrew Wakefield) has been disgraced, having had his medical license in the U.K. yanked. Mark Blaxill and Dan Olmsted’s book tanked without even much of a peep. The tide against them that began in 2009, has continued to produce an increasing realization among the press and health officials of the harm that the anti-vaccine movement is doing. The anti-vaccine movement used to get mainly uncritical, or only mildly challenging, coverage. Now it gets stories by Trine Tsouderos and books to be released in January by Paul Offit and Seth Mnookin about the anti-vaccine movement.

    Don’t forget the last three Test Cases in the Omnibus Autism Proceedings, and the unsuccessful appeals by the Hazelhursts and Cedillos.

  6. #6 MartinM
    December 30, 2010

    “vaccine safety denialists”

    Um…wouldn’t that term refer to people who deny the safety of vaccines? Guess we can add basic English to the list of things anti-vaxxers don’t understand.

  7. #7 Todd W.
    December 30, 2010

    J&J eyes vaccine market with $2.3 billion Crucell bid: A complaint about how Johnson & Johnson is looking to purchase Crucell, a Dutch biotech firm and vaccine manufacturer.

    Would that be the same J&J that has connections to Wakefield’s former place of employment, Thoughtful House? Wow. Such a betrayal of AoA’s ideals.

    On another note, I’ve been thinking, for a while, about writing up a post on the ethics of a prospective vax vs. unvax study, from an IRB/legal perspective.

  8. #8 Todd W.
    December 30, 2010

    It’s always amusing to see someone like augie make paranoid, conspiracy theory claims without providing one shred of evidence or reason that we should take anything it says seriously. Always get a chuckle out of it.

  9. #9 Dangerous Bacon
    December 30, 2010

    Among the gems posted on AoA as it goes on its end of season “roll” is a piece blasting John Stossel of ABC for having mentioned in passing antivax foolishness. We are supposed to distrust anything John Stossel says, primarily because his brother is a physician who’s on the board of a nonprofit group (the American Council on Science and Health) that gets 40% of its funding from industry.

    Connect the dots, sheeple!

    I’ll be surprised if the intrepid investigators over there don’t expand on this tactic to slime their opponents over ever more remote family ties.

    I hope Orac’s great-great-great-great-great grandfather back in the old country never sold a poultice to anybody (that would represent Pharma ties).

  10. #10 JohnV
    December 30, 2010

    Whoever is putting up fake posts under augustine’s name should stop. He does a great job of looking like an idiot without anyone helping in that fashion. Like one time was enough, it’s venturing into triple U territory now.

    Unless, of course, that actually is augustine (only Orac knows currently). In which case, carry on.

  11. #11 Gopiballava
    December 30, 2010

    Augustine: can you choose the disease among that list with the strongest evidence for being man made, and point me to the evidence? (excluding vaccines, of course – we agree that they are man made)

  12. #12 Orac
    December 30, 2010

    It appears that we probably have a sockpuppet. I’ve moved to take care of the problem. I don’t tolerate sockpuppets, even when they are spoofing an annoying troll.

  13. #13 Dan Weber
    December 30, 2010

    Hey, did STY ever come up with his “super-duper anti-vaccine bombshell”? 2010 is almost over!

  14. #14 Emily Willingham
    December 30, 2010

    They should just change their name to Age of Anti-vaxxers. That way, they can still keep their acronym while for the first time in their history presenting some accuracy.

  15. #15 KWombles
    December 30, 2010

    JB felt the need in the comments of the Olmsted piece to comment on Offit’s book ranking at Amazon; of course, Offit’s book was just released on the 28th. JB commented that it was doing poorly and yet neglected to note that Olmsted and Blaxill’s is at 130,197. Offit’s Deadly Choices is at 30,283. I’d say two days in, Offit is doing well. Oh, and even better: proceeds from Offit’s book go to the Autism Science Foundation. Pretty damn cool if you ask me.

    Yeah, if it were about autism and autism advocacy, at least somebody over there would have to note that Offit has given the proceeds from his last book and this one to help fund autism research and applaud that. But they don’t.

  16. #16 GreigT
    December 30, 2010

    Beyond the ethical ramifications, how could you correct/allow for herd immunity in Olmsted’s proposed study?

  17. #17 Alareth
    December 30, 2010

    And now a friendly tip from the Anonymous Internet Grammar Police:

    And AoA has been on a role roll in this last week of 2010.

    Know your role when choosing your idioms.

  18. #18 Rogue Medic
    December 30, 2010

    @15 KWombles,

    Great information about Dr. Offit’s book.

    The reviews critical of the book appear to be the typical AoA hysteria, full of logical fallacies and misinformation. No surprises.

    If we only look at reviews by people who seem to have read the book, those reviews are positive.

    The negative reviews do not give even a hint of an understanding of Deadly Choices.
    .

  19. #19 Denice Walter
    December 30, 2010

    ” Fortunately, 2010 has not been a good year for the anti-vaccine movement.”

    Which is probably expalins why they are protesting so much!
    While our learned host discusses the anti-vax sites we all “know and love”, we should remember that more generalized woo-meisters *also* strongly advocate against vaccines: it’s part of their creed. Nearly every rant spit out by the likes of Adams or Null includes a diatribe about “injected toxins”, an invective against “vaccine side effects” or “governmental mandates”, or cockamamie speculation about “diseases already declining” *before* the vaccine’s introduction. Vaccination represents the triumph of SBM over disease – they won’t have any of that: it makes them painfully aware of their own shortcomings- the hit-and-miss** resultant when supplements are panacaea.

    ** mostly miss.

  20. #20 JerryG
    December 30, 2010

    ” Fortunately, 2010 has not been a good year for the anti-vaccine movement.”

    Reluctantly I have to disagree. In a survey from 10/2010 conducted by Mott’s Children’s Hospital at the University of Michigan, 9 out of 10 parents listed vaccines safety as their number one childhood health concern. They (the anti-vaccers) seem to be winning big time. I mean, 9 out of 10 is alot. Also, didn’t all these AOA people vaccinate their kids? Isn’t this the reason why they do what they do?

  21. #21 Rene Najera
    December 30, 2010

    If the anti-vaxers don’t know the meaning of the word “causality,” how do you expect them to know the meaning of “denialist”?

    They contradict each other left and right so much that I’m losing track… But I’ll read AoA again if they change their name to “Age of Anti-vax” as suggested above.

  22. #22 Anonymous
    December 30, 2010

    “1) There has to be compelling pre-clinical (i.e., cell culture and animal experiments) to suggest that a human study is warranted.”
    And we all know how the pharmaceutical companies (journals) have shut those down to ensure that never happens, don’t we? I think they were more than a little threatened by Hewitson’s primate research. Oh yes, I can hear it now, “conflict of interest.” Whatever.

  23. #23 Dangerous Bacon
    December 30, 2010

    “In a survey from 10/2010 conducted by Mott’s Children’s Hospital at the University of Michigan, 9 out of 10 parents listed vaccines safety as their number one childhood health concern. They (the anti-vaccers) seem to be winning big time.”

    This sounded odd to me, so I looked up the survey. Vaccine safety was not found to be a major parental concern. The leading worries according to the poll:

    1. Childhood obesity, 38 percent
    2. Drug abuse, 30 percent
    3. Smoking, 29 percent
    4. Internet safety, 25 percent
    5. Stress, 24 percent
    6. Bullying, 23 percent
    7. Teen pregnancy, 23 percent
    8. Child abuse and neglect, 21 percent
    9. Alcohol abuse, 20 percent
    10. Not enough opportunities for physical activity, 20 percent

    This sounds to me like a measure of the success of vaccination. If you’d asked parents their leading pediatric health concerns back in 1920, I’d bet that crippling and fatal childhood diseases would have been at or near the top of the list.

    “And we all know how the pharmaceutical companies (journals) have shut (preclinical studies) down to ensure that never happens, don’t we?

    We do? You can go onto the PubMed scientific literature database and turn up tons of preclinical studies on a huge variety of subjects. Big Bad Pharma hasn’t shut them down, though for those with a particular axe to grind, conspiracy theories have great allure.

  24. #24 JerryG
    December 30, 2010

    Wrong poll Dangerous Bacon:

    “A poll released by the C.S. Mott Children’s National Poll on Children’s Health shows that nearly 9 in 10 parents rank vaccine safety as the most important topics in children’s health today.

    The poll, which asked 1,621 parents age 18 and older in August 2010 to rate the importance of different types of medical research for children’s health, found that parents rated the topics as follows:

    1.Vaccine safety
    2.Medication safety and effectiveness
    3.Things in the environment that could lead to health issues
    4.Foods that might protect against cancer
    5.New treatment for rare childhood diseases
    6.Cancer-causing foods
    7.New treatments for common childhood illnesses
    8.Leading causes of injuries

    In this poll, parents overwhelmingly see the need for research on the safety of vaccines and medications given to children, says Matthew Davis, M.D., director of the poll and associate professor of pediatrics and internal medicine in the Child Health Evaluation and Research Unit at the U-M Medical School.

    Parental concerns about the safety of vaccines have increased markedly over the last decade, due to links between vaccines and autism and related concerns about mercury and other neurotoxins used in vaccines.

    Assurances from health care providers and government officials that vaccines are safe have been insufficient. Rather, it’s clear from this poll that parents want more research about the safety of vaccines for their young children and adolescents.”

  25. #25 Chris
    December 30, 2010

    JerryG, provide a link or we would think you are just making it up.

  26. #26 Sarniaskeptic
    December 30, 2010

    That is a valid study…

    http://www.med.umich.edu/mott/npch/reports/medicalresearch.htm

    I don’t think it negates Orac’s claims, though.

    Thanks for fighting the good fight, Orac.

  27. #27 Dangerous Bacon
    December 30, 2010

    Thanks for the clarification, Jerry. I still don’t see where you’re getting the following statement:

    “A poll released by the C.S. Mott Children’s National Poll on Children’s Health shows that nearly 9 in 10 parents rank vaccine safety as the most important topics in children’s health today.” (bolding added)

    As you can see by the poll I linked to, vaccine safety isn’t even mentioned by parents as an important topic in children’s health. What the other poll found was that in relation to medical research topics, parents ranked vaccine and medicine safety at the top.

    I think that’s an important distinction.

    It does of course matter that a significant number of parents still have concerns about vaccines. What this should tell us is that educating and informing people about vaccine safety needs to be a priority, along with further research into vaccine development and improving on the high level of safety that currently exists.

  28. #28 T. Bruce McNeely
    December 30, 2010

    In a survey from 10/2010 conducted by Mott’s Children’s Hospital at the University of Michigan, 9 out of 10 parents listed vaccines safety as their number one childhood health concern.

    Not true.

    The report asked parents which of several suggested topics for research were important to them. They were allowed to choose more than one, and, it appears, most chose several topics. They did not rank the topics (AFAIK).

    First, this question is a lot different than asking what their number one childhood health concern is. It is asking what topics in childhood health research are of most concern to them.

    Second, vaccine safety was not the “number one health concern” of parents. It was named as a topic of importance by the highest number of parents (89%). This was followed closely by medication safety (88%). Several other topics were named by a large majority of parents. So obviously 9 out of 10 parents did not state that vaccine safety was their number one health concern. 9 out of 10 parents said that vaccine safety was an important area of research to them.

    The poll also shows that there’s nothing unique about concerns for vaccine safety. The number concerned with medication safety is almost identical. This probably has more to do with the current distrust of so-called Big Pharma than with fears whipped up by the antivax idiots.

    I think that parents’ concern with research into vaccine and medication safety is reasonable, given recent news stories about pharmaceutical companies’ activities. I think that it’s somewhat misguided, in that I see several other topics on the list that would provide much more benefit to children.

    The worst thing about this poll is how it can be misinterpreted.

  29. #29 Alareth
    December 30, 2010

    Just … WOW

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/discoblog/2010/12/29/which-celebrities-are-science-illiterate-whack-jobs-find-out-here/#comment-62498

    News flash:
    Flu shots double the likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s Disease.
    Anti-bacterial soaps increase the likelihood of developing asthma and other allergies/immune system dysfunctions.
    Chicken pox vaccines increase the likelihood of contracting shingles ( a latent form of chicken pox virus) early in life.
    Tetanus shots only marginally reduce the risk of contracting Tetanus but increase the severity of the disease once contracted.
    The HIV epidemic can be shown to follow the distribution of the MMR vaccine. Did the vaccine create a breeding ground for the HIV virus? The study is too controversial to get funded.

  30. #30 Todd W.
    December 30, 2010

    @JerryG

    Another note about that poll. It does not take into account the reason for marking any of those topics as important. For example, I would rank vaccine safety as important; I wouldn’t mark it so because of any concern that vaccines are currently unsafe, but rather because vaccines are products that are very widely used, have a huge impact on public health and are given to healthy individuals as a preventive measure, rather than to sick individuals as a treatment.

    The poll, such as it is, is pretty useless for drawing any meaningful conclusions.

  31. #31 Dangerous Bacon
    December 30, 2010

    T. Bruce McNeely said: “The worst thing about this poll is how it can be misinterpreted.”

    Guess who’d want to misrepresent the findings of the poll:

    “Alert your candidates and legislators that a new study found that 89% of parents place vaccine safety at the top of the list of medical priorities today.” (bolding added)

    That’s from none other than Age of Autism.

    “Surprise, surprise, surprise!”

    This highlights the need for blogs like this one, and for readers who will do their part on a local level to ensure that parents have reliable information with which to make important health decisions for their children.

  32. #32 Chemmomo
    December 30, 2010

    For more thoughts on the survey, here’s our comments the first time around:
    http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2010/10/the_anti-vaccine_movement_versus_the_tru.php

  33. #33 Rogue Medic
    December 31, 2010

    @ 20 and 24 JerryG,

    Why would you think that nobody here would locate earlier coverage of this study very biased poll, especially when the poll was already eviscerated by Orac?

    http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2010/10/the_anti-vaccine_movement_versus_the_tru.php

    Don’t just look at the conclusions, but examine the way the authors arrived at those conclusions. Take some time to wonder why this badly done poll cannot get published in a peer reviewed journal.

    This poll is garbage.

    This poll does not make your point.

    Why do you resort to a dishonest poll to try to make your point?
    .

  34. #34 Antaeus Feldspar
    December 31, 2010

    I believe Jerry is referring to the poll that was already discussed and pulled apart a couple of months ago, starting here.

  35. #35 augustine
    December 31, 2010

    Roger Medic:

    Don’t just look at the conclusions, but examine the way the authors arrived at those conclusions.

    Excellent, Roger Medic. That’s the way everyone should read every study in peer review.

    You don’t believe all peer reviewed research is unbiasedly objective do you?

  36. #36 Chris
    December 31, 2010

    Rogue Medic:

    Why do you resort to a dishonest poll to try to make your point?

    Well, now we know why he did not post the link to it.

  37. #37 gainmax
    December 31, 2010

    This highlights the need for blogs like this one, and for readers who will do their part on a local level to ensure that parents have reliable information with which to make important health decisions for their children.

  38. #38 Giliell
    December 31, 2010

    @alareth
    Quoting what you wrote yourself on a different website doesn’t count as evidence. O what anybody else just reguritated without any sauce, eh, source.

    ***Newsflash***Newsflash***Newsflash***
    Moon is made out of cheese, Wallace and Gromit vindicated
    ***Newsflash***Newsflash***Newsflash***

    That was easy, wasn’t it?

    I find vaccine safety important and I’m one of those people who are pro compulsory vaccination

  39. #39 Antaeus Feldspar
    December 31, 2010

    @Giliell

    Why do you assume that a) Alareth wrote the comment on Discoblog that he linked to in post 29 here, and b) that Alareth approves of the comment he linked to in post 29?

    I see no reason for either assumption on your part; I think that Alareth quoted that material with a “Just … WOW” because he had the same reaction to it that you or I or most reasonable people would have: “WOW, this comment is full of high-octane insanity!” What is your basis for believing that Alareth is the much smaller circle of people who actually believe all six counterfactual claims contained in the quoted comment?

  40. #40 Michael
    December 31, 2010

    Anti-vaccine advocates aren’t the only abusers of the term denialists. Some homeopaths have called critics of homeopathy denialists.

  41. #41 Landru
    December 31, 2010

    Orac, that you would defend a reflexive contrarian like augie and do the grunt work to ferret out a sockpuppet on his/her behalf should offer up all the proof anyone could ever need of your bona fides–as if they didn’t already have that from your steadfast refusal to censor comments here, in addition to the substance of your work.

    You rock. Thanks, and Happy New Year.

  42. #42 Alareth
    December 31, 2010

    @Giliell #36

    Quoting what you wrote yourself on a different website doesn’t count as evidence. O what anybody else just reguritated without any sauce, eh, source.

    Uhhh … No.

    You might want to look a few comments downthread where I ask for evidence for even a single piece of evidence for any of those claims.

  43. #43 Matthew Cline
    December 31, 2010

    Autism advocacy is a secondary consideration subsumed to the needs of trying to convince people, against all science and reason, that vaccines cause autism.

    I would say that, rather than autism advocacy being a secondary concern to them, that they think that “autism advocacy” and “convincing people that vaccines cause autism” are one and the same.

  44. #44 Anon
    December 31, 2010

    Now run along and get your flu shots people ( and your childrens’). Cochrane’s evidence -based medicine study /09 shows them to be extremely effective. Add the Australian experience of increased convulsions for infants and you’ve got a win win situation.

  45. #45 Chris
    December 31, 2010

    Already done, deer fearmongering Anon. All of us, and guess what? No seizures and no flu (even in the son who has had seizures from an actual disease… you do know that seizures are not just associated with vaccines?).

    By the way, there is more than one pediatric flu vaccine available:

    In the United States, annual influenza vaccination is recommended for all persons aged ≥6 months (3). Alternative, age-appropriate, approved TIV formulations are available for children aged ≥6 months, and live attenuated influenza virus vaccine (LAIV) is approved for healthy children aged ≥2 years (Table). Studies that assessed adverse events after receipt of TIV or LAIV in the United States during past influenza seasons (8–10) and unpublished surveillance data have not demonstrated an association between TIV administration and febrile seizures.

  46. #46 dt
    December 31, 2010

    Regarding flu vaccine, perhaps people will be interested that the latest study of H1N1 vaccine in China in the NEJM.
    It was a vax vs unvax study where nearly 100,000 people/kids were vaccinated.

    Vaccine effectiveness was……. 87.3%

    http://www.nejm.org/doi/pdf/10.1056/NEJMoa1006736

  47. #47 David N. Brown
    December 31, 2010

    @44:
    What about the Australian experience of disproportionate deaths from flu among aborigines? You make it sound like your movement cares for about white babies getting the shakes than poor black bastards dropping dead.

  48. #48 Laurie
    December 31, 2010

    I’m not anti-vaccine. (no but here) I am simply anti Gardasil! So what if it happens to be a vaccine. My daughter was a healthy honor roll student that was active in every sport and school function available. Within 20 minutes of that “vaccine” she was extremely ill and has never recovered. That was June 2009. She has had every vaccine not only mandatory, but available. So I’m guessing that would be “pro” vaccine prior to the poison called Gardasil. Just saying.

  49. #49 David N. Brown
    December 31, 2010

    Laurie,
    If you are going to present your story, you are going to have to give far more information. From what you have said, your daughter’s illness (whatever it may be) sounds too CLOSE to the time of vaccination to be a plausible effect. It would seem far more likely that the actual cause came earlier.
    Also, I have been outspoken in my opinion that most actual injuries from vaccination aren’t caused by the vaccines themselves. Incompetent administration (particualarly of an injected vaccine like Gardasil) could obviously cause infection.

  50. #50 Antaeus Feldspar
    December 31, 2010

    Laurie, let me mistell a true anecdote that Paul Offit wrote about in one of his books. The patient was a three-year-old girl; the vaccination was supposedly a routine one. The pediatrician inserted the needle in the little girl’s arm; no more than five minutes later, she suddenly convulsed in an epileptic seizure — something she had absolutely no history of, before the vaccination. Isn’t the logical conclusion that the vaccination caused the seizure?

    Now, as I promised, I mistold that anecdote. The seizure didn’t come five minutes after the vaccination, it came just five minutes before it. It could not have caused the seizure. And yet, if the seizure had come just ten minutes later, that mother would be completely convinced that her daughter’s illness had been caused by the vaccination, just as completely convinced as you are that your daughter’s illness was caused by a vaccination.

    And she would be completely wrong.

  51. #51 Chris
    December 31, 2010

    Laurie, my son was a beautiful babbling toddler (I just watched some very old videos). Sure he had had history of neonatal seizures, but he did do well enough he was weaned off of the phenobarbital. Then he got his MMR vaccine… but all was well.

    Until two weeks later. He started to have serious diarrhea, and I could not contain it. I wrapped him not only the cloth diapers, but a plastic diaper with yet another cloth diaper over it. But that still did not work.

    What is worse, I got it… and I needed actually stuff my underwear with his cloth diapers to contain unexpected discharges of liquid. It was horrible.

    I took him to the doctor, and since he was his happy sweet self the doctor thought he was recovering. Expect the very next evening as my toddler son swaddled in multiple diapers was dancing around he had a major seizure and collapsed on the floor.

    He was transported by ambulance to the hospital where they told me he was dehydrated. At the followup with his neurologist I learned that he had an infection that could cause seizures (there was no fever).

    Oh, and he stopped babbling and did not develop normal speech afterward. He needed at least ten years of speech therapy and is still disabled as an adult.

    Now tell me, Laurie, was that seizure from the MMR or from a rotavirus infection? Remember Jenny McCarthy blames the MMR vaccine for her son’s seizures, even though they were separated by at least six months (young Evan’s massive seizure was when he was over two years old, my son was about fifteen months old). Which do you think is more likely?

  52. #52 augustine
    December 31, 2010

    anteus

    Now, as I promised, I mistold that anecdote. The seizure didn’t come five minutes after the vaccination, it came just five minutes before it.

    Funny, how anecdotes work isn’t it? If a person has gotten the flu shot or HPV vaccine and doesn’t get the flu or cervical cancer and they think it was BECAUSE of the vaccine then ….If they wouldn’t have gotten either in the first place then they “would be completely wrong” in thinking the vaccine saved them.

    They would erroneously think the vaccine saved them from a disease they would have never gotten. This is the case in the majority of these vaccines. Most people would not have not gotten the disease.

  53. #53 augustine
    January 1, 2011

    chris:

    Now tell me, Laurie, was that seizure from the MMR or from a rotavirus infection?

    Now tell us, Chris, does that anecdote you told us exclude the possibility of children having seizures caused by vaccines? Does it exclude the possibility of children having brain damage as the result of getting vaccines?

    It’s just an anecdotal story that’s all it is. It’s not science. Right?

  54. #54 Babs
    January 1, 2011

    So by your “pro-vaccine” statements, one is to understand that you believe that hundreds of thousands of parents are just simply mistaken and none of their kids were harmed by a vaccine?

  55. #55 novalox
    January 1, 2011

    @52

    So, by making your statement, do you have any hard scientific evidence to back up your assertion?

  56. #56 Antaeus Feldspar
    January 1, 2011

    Babs, you write as if it would be unusual for that many people to be mistaken. It’s not, not at all. People come up with mistaken beliefs, and hold these false beliefs with utter conviction, all the time.

    Do I believe that no kids have ever actually been harmed by vaccines? No, I don’t believe that; vaccine injuries do happen upon rare occasions. But I would wager that the vast majority of parents who think that their child is “vaccine injured” are indeed mistaken. They’ve had a hypothesis suggested to them which seems to give an explanation to a great tragedy in their life, and while they may think they’re evaluating this hypothesis perfectly rationally, few people really realize how malleable human perception is — your average parent doesn’t even know what “confirmation bias” is, let alone why it means you can’t just say “Oh, these are the observations I’ve made in the course of my life, so they represent what actually is.

  57. #57 David N. Brown
    January 1, 2011

    Babs,
    Again, for an anecdote to deserve serious consideration, it needs to be backed up with detailed information. For example, based on my suspicions, I would want very much to hear about what was observed of vaccination procedure, so that “dirty needles” and other gross incompetence can be ruled out.

  58. #58 shgstewart
    January 1, 2011

    The funniest thing about the anti-vaxxers insisting that holding a patent must be an automatic conflict of interest because a patent is automatically a cash cow is that I know at least one patent-holder who has never made a cent off of their patent. But that’d be nuance, and they don’t do nuance.

  59. #59 Complicated Lifeform
    January 1, 2011

    I’ve just realised what AoA/GR’s problem is…

    now, on a Mythbusters episode, Adam Savage (jokingly) said “I reject your reality and substitute my own”.

    Evidently, that’s precisely what the antivaxxers have done. Only, and this is the sad part, they aren’t joking.

  60. #60 Chris
    January 1, 2011

    Sure, Babs, as soon as you give us the evidence. As far a Jenny McCarthy goes, she keeps changing her story, so why should we believe her?

  61. #61 Giliell
    January 1, 2011

    @Alareth
    I’m sorry, it was a genuine missunderstanding, I read and wrote in a hurry and thought those were your claims.
    Please accept my appologies

  62. #62 JohnV
    January 1, 2011

    @Babs,

    Pretty much yes, they are mistaken.

    There are any number of reasons why parents might be mistaken. It could be an honest mistake such as confusing correlation with causation, or taking the opinion of an idiot (Jenny McCarthy) over actual trained scientists, it could be guilt driven (they don’t want to think that their genes were the result) or it could be more sinister because drug companies have deep pockets.

  63. #63 Dangerous Bacon
    January 1, 2011

    There are hundreds of thousands (well actually, millions) of people who think that homeopathy is effective. Could they all be wrong?

    Yes.

  64. #64 lilady
    January 1, 2011

    I’m recently retired as a public health nurse who worked at a large county Department of Health, Division of Infectious Diseases, and I have seen first hand the amount of totally bogus information that young parents are bombarded with.

    Young parents who themselves have parents younger than me (I am 67 years old), have no first hand experience and no handed-down from parents, information about the devastation and death caused by common childhood diseases. I do; sixty-two years after the death of my playmate from polio and fifty-five years after the measles encephalopathy of a cousin.

    Physicians are required to provide parents with the disease-specific VIS (Vaccine Information Sheet), prior to their children receiving vaccination and to document in the child’s chart that parents were provided with the VIS. In my opinion, it would be far better to provide the parents with a folder containing all the up-to-date VIS(s) prior to leaving the hospital or at the first post-hospital doctor’s visit.

    Some very concerned parents would call the health department, prior to delivery and I would always send them the VIS(s) and have them call me back, with any questions that they might have. During that same telephone conversation, I would provide them with internet links for reliable, unbiased information. This is pro-active nursing education to combat the deluge of popular TV shows featuring all the Jenny McCarthy types and popular internet sites and blogs that are anti-vaccine.

    Keep up the great work Orac and best wishes for a Happy New Year.

  65. #65 Roadstergal
    January 2, 2011

    You’re a lifesaver thousands of times over, lilady.

  66. #66 lilady
    January 3, 2011

    @Roadstergal

    Not a lifesaver, just a retired public health nurse who has always advocated on behalf of vulnerable children.

    Other stories from my childhood include going to the local fire department (in 1947) to get a small pox vaccine as I hadn’t yet entered school where vaccination was required and there were several “imported” cases…the last ones ever in the United States. My first borne child was still required to receive it in 1971 at one year of age as there had been several cases and one death from smallpox due to improper handling of the virus in a government laboratory. That same year, prior to my travel to Europe, it was required as well. The CDC discontinued the recommendation for that immunization in 1972.

    During the Weapons of Mass Destruction “scare”, prior to the invasion of Iraq, when the issue of WMDs turned out to be totally bogus, I volunteered to be re-immunized along with a small number of public health nurses and doctors. We then returned to the County shortly thereafter to immunize infectious diseases specialists and emergency room personnel in local hospitals…just a function of public health care.

    I personally believe we all should take our opinions to other media sites…aren’t we just posting and “preaching to the choir” at this site. I’m thinking about the Huntington Post which has refused my posts when I tear into their Alternative Medicine bloggers and “journalists”.

    Eventually we may convince the H-P that responsible journalism entails refusing the money generated from the advertisements that they run for downright bogus devices (magnetic bracelets, etc.) and the supplements manufactured and marketed by the voodoo practitioners.

  67. #67 lilady
    January 3, 2011

    Oops, please correct my post to read “Huffington Post”

    Sorry…I’ve got to stop posting at 3 AM to avoid such typos.

  68. #68 wheatdogg
    January 5, 2011

    It’s been a long time since I visited here, and I see the anti-vaccine crowd is still as strong in number as ever.

    Orac’s post mentions that many anti-vax people don’t seem to believe that getting measles or other childhood diseases is any big deal. (Witness “chickenpox parties” and similar creepy behavior. Would they take their kids to be exposed to polio, another disease that used to be scary common before WWII?) I wonder if this attitude is why they consider it perfectly all right to conduct blind vaccine/no-vaccine trials?

    lilady is right. Young parents now have no conception how awful epidemics of measles, polio, pertussis and so on were before widespread vaccination programs. They make easy marks for so-called “experts” who decry vaccinations as evil.