Respectful Insolence

It never ceases to amaze me just how ignorant of very basic principles of science anti-vaccine activists often are. I mean, seriously. Every time they try to post something, whether they know it or not, they end up making themselves look so very, very stupid–or at least ignorant. The Dunning-Kruger effect takes over, and people who may actually be very successful–intelligent, even–in other fields of knowledge make newbie mistakes and draw egregiously misinterpreted conclusions from existing data. Worse, they have no clue that they don’t know what they’re doing. In the arrogance of ignorance, they believe themselves the equals or superiors or real scientists who have spent many years studying the discipline in question and doing real research in it. So it is, when anti-vaccine “scientists” (and I use the term very, very loosely) decide to reanalyze existing data.

Take, for instance, Mark Blaxill (please). Mr. Blaxill is associated with not just one but two anti-vaccine groups, first as a board member of SafeMinds and then as sometime blogger for the propaganda blog (Age of Autism) of the anti-vaccine group founded by J.B. Handley whose spokesmodel is Jenny McCarthy (Generation Rescue). Mark Blaxill, who has no advanced training in science and shows it day in and day out as he tries to promote his anti-vaccine views, so much so that my nickname for him is Mark “not a doctor, not a scientist” Blaxill. True to his nickname, Blaxill posted a typical anti-Gardasil screed disguised as a political attack on candidate for the Republican Presidential nomination Rick Perry for his ties to Merck entitled, Rick Perry and The Conflicts of Government Licensed Corporate Profit: Merck & Gardasil. What it is is a repost of an old two-parter that Blaxill wrote over a year ago, gussied up with an introduction complaining about ties between Rick Perry and Merck. I didn’t bother with it when it first came out, but for some reason it caught my eye this time, and I figured, what the heck? I feel the need for a chew toy last night.

I’m not going to bother with the vast majority of the political stuff in his post, because, quite frankly I don’t care that much about it, and I don’t like Rick Perry any more than I like Michelle Bachmann. For all I know, he really was in bed with Merck to mandate Gardasil in Texas, as he’s been accused of. If that’s true, it’s just one more strike against him, as far as I’m concerned.

Rick Perry aside, the first part of Blaxill’s article would be perfect for Prison Planet or Infowars.com, two of the premier sites favored by the tinfoil hat brigade. Basically, it’s one big conspiracy theory. Besides, weighing in at nearly 16,000 words, Blaxill’s “treatise” makes Orac look like the soul of brevity in comparison. Deconstructing it all would take multiple installments, and I doubt that even the connoisseurs of the longer Orac-ian screeds would be able to tolerate that. Certainly, I couldn’t tolerate the level of burning stupid contained in that many Blaxill-scribed words. Although my neurons wear miniature asbestos suits to protect them from damage from the napalm-grade burning stupid that washes over them any time I have the poor judgment to wander over to AoA, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t cause them extreme pain.

In any case, about a quarter of the way in, Blaxill asks, How stringent was FDA’s safety review for Gardasil? Not surprisingly, his answer is, “Not at all.” Even less surprisingly, Blaxill’s reasons for coming to that conclusion reveal just how clueless he is. As an example, I’m going to cite two of his paragraphs in full and let you savor the Dunning-Kruger goodness for yourself without actually having to click over to AoA and figure out what passages I’m talking about. If you are a physician or a scientist involved in clinical research, you won’t know whether to laugh or cry. If you are in any way an immunologist or do immunology research, I suspect you’ll be leaning towards crying. You have been warned.

As Kirk said in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, “Here it comes”:

When the FDA issued its approval of Merck’s BLA for Gardasil on June 8, 2006, its decision was based on a review of Merck’s data from five separate clinical trials, each of which included efficacy and safety assessments for Gardasil. Four of the five trials approached their efficacy and safety studies in similar fashion, comparing Gardasil against a “placebo” that contained an active ingredient, with one trial comparing Gardasil against what the CBER reviewers described as a “saline placebo.” All together, these five trials examined a total of close 12,000 subjects who received at least one dose of Gardasil and compared their outcomes to roughly 10,000 subjects who received up to three injections of what Merck and CBER officials agreed to describe as a “placebo.”

But what is a placebo, really? One definition describes a placebo as “an innocuous or inert medication; given as a pacifier or to the control group in experiments on the efficacy of a drug.” The operative term here is the word inert. But in four of the five trials, Gardasil placebos contained a substance called an adjuvant, “a substance which enhances the body’s immune response to an antigen.” According to one of the trial publications, most of the Gardasil trial placebos actually contained an “amorphous aluminium hydroxyphosphate sulfate adjuvant… and was visually indistinguishable from vaccine.” So although the majority of the placebo treatments in the Gardasil trials did not include Gardasil VLPs, they were by no means inert. In control populations representing nearly 95% of all “placebo” recipients, the study subjects received a formulation that actually included an immunologically active (and potentially harmful) aluminum adjuvant.

Yes, indeed. Here you have someone who is neither a scientist nor a doctor perseverating over a single word in one definition of “placebo” that he found. In actuality, Blaxill completely misunderstands what a valid placebo is. Heck, even Wikipedia provides a pretty reasonable definition of what a placebo is, specifically “a substance or procedure… that is objectively without specific activity for the condition being treated.” Note the phrase “without specific activity for the condition being treated.” Under this definition of placebo, an injection that contains everything except the HPV antigens used in the vaccine to provoke an immune response against the virus is, in actuality, the most appropriate placebo to use for a clinical trial of such a vaccine. The scientists who did these trials chose exactly the most appropriate placebo. Of course, it’s obvious that Blaxill is trying to call these trials into doubt because he thinks the aluminum adjuvant is harmful when in fact it is not. Even more amusing, Blaxill appears to me to have–shall we say?–appropriated this argument wholesale from a three year old article by anti-vaccine loon Cynthia Janak. (Judge for yourself if you don’t believe me; each and every argument that Janak uses, Blaxill also uses. He just turns them into graphs.), In any case, we’ve met Janak before, and her understanding of science is, at best, challenged.. So it’s not even original crankery, and Blaxill doesn’t give any credit to Janak for having come up with this fallacious argument first.

But Blaxill did put it on steroids and pump it up to 15,000+ words.

In any case, Blaxill amplifies the display of his ignorance even further when he complains about one of the trials in particular, as though he had found a “Gotcha!” moment, in which, rather than a “saline control,” he found that actually a “carrier control” was used. he then tried to find out exactly what was in the carrier and was disappointed that he couldn’t do so easily. However, he did infer it from the Gardasil package insert:

It is possible, however, to infer the composition of the carrier solution from Merck’s Gardasil package insert, which lists the vaccine’s immunologically inactive ingredients. These include: “yeast protein, sodium chloride [table salt], L-histidine [an amino acid], polysorbate 80 [an emulsifier], sodium borate, and water for injection.” At least one of these chemicals, sodium borate, is a chemically reactive toxin, one that has many industrial uses as an active ingredient. These include applications as: a replacement for mercury in gold mining; an insecticide and fungicide; and a food additive that is now banned in the United States.

Oh, noes! It’s teh toxins! I’ve actually written about anti-vaccine loons trying to label L-histidine, polysorbate 80, and sodium borate as dangerous and why their arguments are a load of fetid dingo’s kidneys. After all, histidine is an amino acid used in small amounts. Polysorbate 80 is only harmful in rats at high levels; there’s no evidence that in the doses given in vaccines that it has any harmful effects. Sodium borate is often used as a buffer. In any case, once again, Blaxill is, as anti-vaccine activists are wont to do, completely ignoring the principle of “the dose makes the poison.” Sometimes I wonder if Blaxill is a homeopath. He seems to think that diluting ingredients like Polysorbate 80 makes them more toxic.

In all fairness, I’ll point out that Blaxill did admit that, for determining efficacy, using a carrier control or an aluminum adjuvant-containing control was the most appropriate. The evidence was strong enough that even Blaxill couldn’t spin it to say that the HPV vaccine is ineffective. So instead, he tries to claim that the failure to include a saline-only control calls into doubt the safety of the vaccine:

When it comes to the accurate measurement of adverse effects of Gardasil, there is little justification for reliance on a placebo with ingredients that are not inert. There is some limited value, perhaps, in comparing adverse events that are introduced solely by the addition of VLPs to the vaccine solution. But a truly rigorous safety assessment would investigate the full safety profile of the VLPs in combination with the aluminum adjuvant and compare that profile to the profile of an inert solution. After all, the adjuvant is present precisely because it is not inert.

This is the sort of argument that sounds superficially reasonable on the surface–but only if you don’t know anything about aluminum adjuvants or carrier solutions, which are used in large numbers of vaccines and have a long history of safe use, particularly. Even so, Blaxill undertakes a large number of contortions to try to demonstrate that somehow the overall results of the clinical trials used to demonstrate the safety and efficacy of the HPV vaccine are hopelessly tainted and actually show that Gardasil is dangerous. He fails. (Big surprise.) For one thing, testing the safety of aluminum adjuvant and the carrier solution was not the intent of the study. We already know the aluminum adjuvant and carrier solution are safe. Testing them again would be rather pointless and add unnecessary complexity and expense to the clinical trial.

The first intellectually dishonest thing that Blaxil does is that he doesn’t provide ready references to the five clinical trials whose data he “reanalyzed.” The second intellectually dishonest thing he does is that, with one exception, he doesn’t provide any sort of meaningful statistical analysis to tell an informed reader whether differences in groups were actually statistically significant. More importantly, Blaxill mixes and matches data from five different studies, comparing them in ways that are questionable at best and then not documenting what methodology he used, for example, this graph, which doesn’t conform to the way graphs are done in scientific studies. It is inappropriate to do a line graph for data of this type; a bar graph would have been far more appropriate. Also, there aren’t any data points; the data appear to be represented as continuous when they are not. And, of course, there are no statistical measures. Indeed, at another point in this “analysis,” we are assured that “on a retrospective basis” (whatever that means in the context of these data) “all but one of the reduced risks for the carrier solution group were statistically significant.” Unfortunately, Blaxill does not tell us what statistical test he used. My guess is that he didn’t use the appropriate test (ANOVA with a post-test to correct for multiple comparisons) and instead used a series of t-tests between each complication and the control, the latter of which is virtually guaranteed to produce false positives.

In any case, basically, Blaxill tries to argue that because the rate of local adverse events (pruritis, hemorrhage, etc.) is close to the same in the Gardasil groups and the aluminum adjuvant groups but lower in the “carrier control” group (which was only one clinical trial, contained several-fold fewer subjects, and was much younger than the other trials and therefore not really appropriately comparable to the other trials), that means the aluminum adjuvant is not an “inert placebo” and that it causes harm, meaning that the clinical trials comparing the two don’t demonstrate the safety of the vaccine. Blaxill’s logic is tortured at best, intellectually dishonest at worst, and at the very least the result of an utterly incompetent analysis.

Of course, thus far, Blaxill has only been discussing relatively minor reactions, such as local injection site reactions, and trying to use them to imply that, if the aluminum adjuvant causes the same frequency of local injection site reactions, it must also cause the same frequency of serious adverse reactions, like death. So he harps upon what he sees as an excessively high number of deaths in the Gardasil clinical trials, even though there were no differences between the control and the Gardasil groups. Even though the majority of deaths in both groups were due to trauma, and the others did not have a history that was in any way suggestive of being caused by the vaccine. Then, like all good anti-vaxers, Blaxill mines the VAERS database for more deaths, none of which appear on the surface to be related to the vaccine.

All of this “analysis” leads Blaxill to proclaim that Gardasil was not safe. He also claims that the clinical trials were done at a lowered standard of safety, which is simply not true; it’s a claim based on Blaxill’s ignorance of how clinical trials are done and what a valid placebo control is.

When I started this post, I originally planned for it to be a quickie, a little post mentioning Blaxill’s misunderstanding of what a valid placebo is and, quite frankly, making fun of it, especially given that Blaxill’s post is basically a rehash of posts from a year ago. After all, there’s the big Newsweek cover story out there about overdiagnosis and a truly annoying article elsewhere about how “everything you know about cancer is wrong,” one of which I had planned on dealing with. But then I noticed that Blaxill’s arguments were virtually identical to those of one of the crankiest anti-vaccine cranks out there, who posted the same sorts of arguments three years ago. Then I delved into the rest of the article itself and realized it to be an updated treasure trove of anti-vaccine crankery that I had somehow missed when it first appeared last year. As I wrote, I found myself being sucked in by its bad science, bad data presentation, and bad statistics, and you know how Orac can’t resist such a “target-rich” environment.

Oh, well. There’s always tomorrow or Friday to deal with those articles, or maybe I’ll do it at my other blogging location. In the meantime, I want to thank Mr. Blaxill for the yucks and the “teachable moment.” It takes a rare talent to be able to combine a massive demonstration of the Dunning-Kruger effect with such a badly done “analysis.” Truly it is not for nothing that Blaxill is the “scientist” at AoA.

Comments

  1. #1 Lawrence
    August 17, 2011

    Perry & Merck is so last week – the Presidential Candidate from TX has already come out (now that he’s announced & trying to appeal to his base) stating that his position on Gardisil was wrong and the TX Legislature overturning his decision was a good thing.

    Got to love politics……

  2. #2 Jojo
    August 17, 2011

    Wow. That’s a whole new level of stupid he’s got in there. You need some kind of *head desk* warning so that I know to move my keyboard before smashing my forehead into the keys.

  3. #3 MikeMa
    August 17, 2011

    In addition to the lack of scientific rigor common to Blaxill posts, this could add a new dimension to his ranting. An attack on Gardasil could be interpreted as an attack on women and women’s health. Lying to kill and injure women as a new low? Tough competition there.

    Gardasil was tested thoroughly for several years and through several trials with the result being one of the most effective preventative measures available to promote women’s health.

  4. #4 Dangerous Bacon
    August 17, 2011

    In regards to polysorbate 80 being a TOXIN TOXIN TOXIN, here’s an interesting quote from the relevant Wikipedia article on this substance (which is used as an emulsifier and/or stabilizer in a variety of foods and drugs):

    “In Europe and America people eat about 0.1 g of polysorbate 80 in foods per day. Influenza vaccines contain 0.000025 g of polysorbate 80 per dose.”

    The article also notes a study that found no observable adverse effects from consumption equivalent to a 70 kg person consuming 140 grams of polysorbate 80 per day for 21 days.

    So Blaxill is obsessing about a vaccine component whose concentration is a tiny fraction of what we get in our diet every day, and an even more minute fraction of an amount shown to cause no harm.

    It’s just one example of the dishonest fearmongering that passes for “research” in the antivax movement, but a telling indicator of the bankruptcy of their arguments.

  5. #5 Beamup
    August 17, 2011

    Well, it’s not inaccurate to say that the Gardasil trials didn’t test the safety of the carrier solution. It’s not MEANINGFUL, since they weren’t INTENDED to do that since said safety had already been established. But he’s technically not wrong on that particular point.

  6. #6 Denice Walter
    August 17, 2011

    You have to remember that “writers” @ AoA have already been “educated” by the “luminaries” of the anti-vax “brain trust”**- think about it, Wakefield, Blaylock, Loe Fisher, et al, so certainly we’ll see the same type of explanations. The question I ask is whether they are merely copying their leaders or do they all have similar problems with thinking that “bring them all and in the darkness bind them”***

    Right now, AoA has examples that illustrate this ( however, Ms Stagliano’s about the white jeans makes sense). Jake goes on and on about his *bete noir* – the talented Mr “Lawrence”- and Blaxill similarly re-visits the tired, old “not a real placebo” trope. Actually, a few months back, I heard the latter conversing with *woo exemplar*,Gary Null, on this very topic.

    It’s as though they get stuck-like an old phonograph record that has a rut and re-plays the same musical phrase over and over. *And* they aren’t able to *look at themselves* and evaluate this propensity. “Conversing” with Jake ( @ RI), I found that he couldn’t even consider ( or admit) that an imbroglio of a conspiracy is not the *only* explanation. Self-evaluation includes being able to recognise that people have differing levels of expertise. This ability is part of what psychologists call “executive function” and usually develops during adolesence.

    When you look at articles written by Mike Adams, we will see him masquerading as an “expert” in several areas ( economics, politics, medicine) like the aforementioned woo exemplar. These guys *know better* than experts and will educate the masses. Often they take slightly related studies and jump the gun to extrapolate miles beyond what the results actually reveal. To me, the one salient feature ( or warning sign)is when a woo-meister or woo-wannabe finds the entire consensus ( in a field they are *not* expert) _wrong_.

    This might be useful to differentiate people who have tasted the kool-aid from those who have already drunk. I think at a newbie to anti-vax lore- who does *not* have problems with thinking- will stop when the woo *aficiondo* goes too far ( dismissing the entire consensus) or swings out too broadly ( claiming expertise in several unrelated subjects). Pointing out these characteristics possibly may be a way to “reach” fence-sitters: ” Do you really think that *everyone* else is wrong?” or “Can he really understand 3 areas better than experts?”

    ** you get the gist so I’ll stop the quotation marks.
    *** my apologies to Mr Tolkien

  7. #7 Th1Th2
    August 17, 2011

    In other news.

    As of June 22, 2011 there have been a total 68 VAERS reports of death among those who have received Gardasil® .

    And Orac still ponders.

    I have to ask: If God gets the credit for saving Sugarland, why doesn’t he get the blame for killing those five people and hurting so many more? I know, I know, I’ve asked that question before, but I feel the need to ask it again every so often. I’ve never gotten a satisfactory answer.

    Maybe God needs to have VAERS right Orac? At least Gardasil deaths are more credible.

  8. #8 Anton P. Nym
    August 17, 2011

    I wonder how much of the D-K in anti-vax (and anti-science) circles comes from basic innumeracy… the inability to think in quantitative terms, replacing it instead with qualitative “x is bad, y is good” thinking, and the complete lack of ability to understand odds and probability.

    (Come to think of it, that’d also explain a lot of anti-tax rhetoric. Oh dear, I’m starting to see common causes everywhere… pass the foil beanie, please.)

    — Steve

  9. #9 jaranath
    August 17, 2011

    This does actually remind me of something I’ve been wondering about for a while now: Is there a good resource explaining the use of adjuvants and the research supporting their safety? I’m not especially worried about them, but it’d be nice to have a source to review and cite, and while I know more or less what adjuvants do, I haven’t the faintest idea how they do it.

  10. #10 Denice Walter
    August 17, 2011

    @ Anton P. Nym:

    I agree that *many* may have problems with abstractions in general- including probability.

    Seriously, if the general public were able to deal with odds well would the casinos, lotteries, and get-rich-quick scammers be so successful?

  11. #11 Mu
    August 17, 2011

    The Dunning-Kruger effect has been superseded by the Thingy effect, where the believe in one’s illusory superiority has been replaced with one’s knowledge of omniscience.

  12. #12 MikeMa
    August 17, 2011

    @jaranath
    Put in the words ‘adjuvant safety’ in the search box under the ‘What is Orac’ section on the left near the top of the post. That is a place to start. There may be other posters with a more direct link to the knowledge you seek.

  13. #13 Melissa G
    August 17, 2011

    Blaxill’s post is such a marvel of misunderstanding science, and this is a gem of an explanation of why.

    I was going to quote Niels Bohr in his famous, “Not only is it not right, it’s not even wrong!” line, only then I had to google it to make sure of its attribution, and the phrase actually seems to have been coined by Wolfgang Pauli. Pauli, I then learned, was notorious for “the Pauli effect,” which is what his fellow physicists dubbed the tendency of important experimental devices to break when he was around. This is perfect, because the anti-vaxers apparently think science itself breaks just because they say so. :)

  14. #14 Roadstergal
    August 17, 2011

    f you are a physician or a scientist involved in clinical research, you won’t know whether to laugh or cry. If you are in any way an immunologist or do immunology research, I suspect you’ll be leaning towards crying.

    I just sighed heavily.

    It is inappropriate to do a line graph for data of this type; a bar graph would have been far more appropriate

    True, although I personally prefer having the individual data points with median lines; it’s a very visceral and immediate view of the variability of the data, whether it clusters, etc. Or box plots. Bar/dynamite plots hide too much, IMO. But yes, line graphs like that are Right Out.

  15. #15 Terrie
    August 17, 2011

    Whenever I hear about “industry applications” I have to laugh. Dihydrogen Monooxide has many, many industry applications, being used in manufacturing, nuclear energy production, fire suppression, etc and is known to be toxic in large amounts. But it’s still in almost everything we drink and eat! Obviously it’s a government conspiracy.

  16. #16 Composer99
    August 17, 2011

    Didn’t that anthropologist who wrote the NEJM editorial also go on with the same pedantic quibble over ‘placebo’ (although from a different perspective than Blaxill & his source)?

  17. #17 Todd W.
    August 17, 2011

    Re: The VAERS death reports

    What I’d be curious about learning is how Blaxill managed to get access to the identities and medical records of the patients reported in VAERS. I mean, being a good scientist, and all, he did actually verify that there was a causal connection and that there weren’t other circumstances that would be more likely to have caused the deaths. He wouldn’t just take a VAERS report as 100%, undeniable fact, would he? I mean, then he’d have to accept that vaccines can turn people into the Hulk or Wonder Woman.

    I mean, certainly he’d do like the CDC did and actually investigate the reports. They found:

    As of June 22, 2011 there have been a total 68 VAERS reports of death among those who have received Gardasil® . There were 54 reports among females, 3 were among males, and 11 were reports of unknown gender. Thirty two of the total death reports have been confirmed and 36 remain unconfirmed due to no identifiable patient information in the report such as a name and contact information to confirm the report. A death report is confirmed (verified) after a medical doctor reviews the report and any associated records. In the 32 reports confirmed, there was no unusual pattern or clustering to the deaths that would suggest that they were caused by the vaccine and some reports indicated a cause of death unrelated to vaccination.

    I would truly love to hear more of Blaxill’s deep investigation into those VAERS reports.

  18. #18 W. Kevin Vicklund
    August 17, 2011

    What a fascinating quotemine Thingy found. Her’s the full quote, found on the CDC’s site (emphasis mine):

    As of June 22, 2011 there have been a total 68 VAERS reports of death among those who have received Gardasil® . There were 54 reports among females, 3 were among males, and 11 were reports of unknown gender. Thirty two of the total death reports have been confirmed and 36 remain unconfirmed due to no identifiable patient information in the report such as a name and contact information to confirm the report. A death report is confirmed (verified) after a medical doctor reviews the report and any associated records. In the 32 reports confirmed, there was no unusual pattern or clustering to the deaths that would suggest that they were caused by the vaccine and some reports indicated a cause of death unrelated to vaccination.

    That’s 68 possible deaths out of 35 million doses, less than half of those deaths were even confirmed, and some of those deaths couldn’t have been caused by the vaccine. I’d be more concerned about a splinter than Gardasil based on those numbers.

  19. #19 lilady
    August 17, 2011

    See, I’m not the only one who goes “slumming” at AofA. I saw this article already authored by the noted scientist Blaxill and was “impressed” by his “unique” analysis of the Gardisal trials and his linking of Rick Perry to Big Pharma. If anyone thought that Blaxill had a inkling about clinical trials and what adjuvants are, this particular article might lead one to decide he is clueless.

    @ jaranath: A simple explanation about adjuvants and excipients in vaccines is available at:

    CDC-Ingredients of Vaccines Fact Sheet

    For more extensive information see:

    Entire Contents of Pink Book-Appendix B

    Orac, immediately following your statement, “So he harps upon what he sees as an excessively high number of deaths in the Gardasil clinical trials, even though there were no differences between the control and the Gardasil groups. Even though the majority of deaths in both groups were due to trauma, and the others did not have a history that was in any way suggestive of being caused by the vaccine. Then, like all good anti-vaxers, Blaxill mines the VAERS database for more deaths, none of which appear on the surface to be related to the vaccine.”, I was sorta hoping you would reference your article about the Geier father-son-tag-team methods of researching the VAERS data base:

    The Geiers go dumpster-diving-yet again (March 6, 2006)

    I found that article immensely funny and perhaps the Thing Troll should be reading it…and of course misunderstand it and them re-post about his/her/its unique “germ theory”.

  20. #20 Rogo5
    August 17, 2011

    The anti-vaxers scream about the toxins in the vaccines, yet they don’t say anything about the heavy metals, pesticides, and dangerous herbs that wind up in the “autism curing” and “detox” supplements.

  21. #21 René Najera
    August 17, 2011

    When it’s the end of the day, and everything is done. When I look around and see that I’ve dotted all the I’s, crossed all the T’s… Once there are no more battles to be fought, I head over to AoA to remind myself that there is still work to be done. Once I get away from it and pick up a book on immunology or biochemistry, I feel as refreshed as Superman does when he gets away from kryptonite and close to the sun.

  22. #22 lilady
    August 17, 2011

    @ Rene Najera: (Fellow “slummer”) Oftentimes the comments are even funnier than the articles. The consensus of the comments on this latest piece of excretia is that Ron Paul is by far the better candidate.

  23. #23 BraselC5048
    August 17, 2011

    Off topic, but I just got an idea for how to get rid of the NCCAM. Since currently there is a panel of 12 congress members tasked with comming up with budget cuts, followed by an up or down vote, this would be an excellent oppertunity for a letter writing campaign. If we can convince them that it’s a waste of money, which it actually is, for once, this might be our best chance to get rid of it we’ll ever get. Oran Hatch won’t get a chance to do anything about it.

    Don’t let alties find out we’re doing it until it’s too late, though. They can probebly send in more letters then we can, so keep it quiet. What do you guys think?

  24. #24 Broken Link
    August 17, 2011

    I wonder if Mr. Blaxill already tried to submit this screed for publication, as he has done with similar screeds in the past. And once he’d tried a lot of journals, he was forced to unleash this pile on AoA. After all, why go to all the effort to create graphs, when the AoA faithful don’t really understand them?

    Holy s*it, I’ve just gone slumming, and that really is something else. The thing I really wonder is: why does this have anything to do with autism? The Gardasil vaccine is given to teenage girls – long after they have any potential to develop autism. It just proves that Mr. Blaxill has become anti-vaccine to the core.

  25. #25 lilady
    August 17, 2011

    @ Broken Link: Welcome to the “I go slumming at the AofA website club”. (Just a warning here) The quality of the articles is such that Blaxill often comes across as the most intelligent and coherent of the editors and the “journalists” at this notorious anti-vax site…pathetic.

  26. #26 peter
    August 18, 2011

    “VAERS Limitations

    VAERS data cannot be used to prove a causal association between the vaccine and the adverse event. The only association between the adverse event and vaccination is temporal, meaning that the adverse event occurred sometime after vaccination. Therefore, the adverse event may be coincidental or it may have been caused by vaccination, however we cannot make any conclusions that the events reported to VAERS were caused by the vaccine.”
    http://www.cdc.gov/vaccinesafety/vaccines/hpv/gardasil.html

    So much for antivax honesty.

  27. #27 lilady
    August 18, 2011

    @ peter: Before anyone is administered a vaccine, federal regulations require that the clinician provide a VIS (Vaccine Information Sheet) for the particular vaccine(s) to be administered…for the patient (or parent/guardian) to read. The closing paragraphs of each VIS provides information about possible mild, moderate and severe reactions to the vaccine. Each VIS also has information about the VAERS program along with the telephone number and the VAERS website for “self-reporting” or “parental reporting” of any event.

    Each clinician who administers a vaccine and observes a serious immediate reaction to a vaccine or has a reaction reported by a patient or parent of a patient, is required to complete a VAERS report. During my career as a public health nurse while interfacing with the CDC and my State’s Health Department I never heard of an instance where a clinician failed to report an adverse event to the CDC.

    We have discussed on this blog, how the VAERS has become “contaminated” because of the activities of the anti-vaxers. Months or years after a child receives a vaccine and months or years after a child is diagnosed with autism, parents are encouraged to download the VAERS report form and send it in.

    I think in casino parlance you could label these bogus delayed VAERS reports as loading the dice or stacking the deck.

  28. #28 Julian Frost
    August 18, 2011

    Thank you W. Kevin Vicklund @ 18 and Peter @ 26. I heard someone who should know better bashing the HPV Vaccine. I now need to write an email.

  29. #29 Auntie Vaxine
    August 18, 2011

    “So Blaxill is obsessing about a vaccine component whose concentration is a tiny fraction of what we get in our diet every day, and an even more minute fraction of an amount shown to cause no harm.”

    People are eating vaccines now? I thought they were injected into the muscle, thereby bypassing the GI tract, but perhaps I am wrong. I’ve accidentally swallowed air before and all that happened was I burped. If injected I have a feeling a burp wouldn’t be the result.

  30. #30 lilady
    August 18, 2011

    Dear Auntie Vaxine:

    “People are eating vaccines now? I thought they were injected into the muscle, thereby bypassing the GI tract, but perhaps I am wrong.” You are wrong. You probably “ate” part of your primary series of polio vaccine because the OPV was given orally in the United States and other developed countries until 2000, when its use was discontinued for IPV used exclusively for the polio primary series. Gardasil is injected IM, but many of the other Recommended Childhood Vaccines are given SC.

    Auntie, did you ever hear of the intranasal vaccine route? Live attenuated Influenza Vaccine is given via intranasal spray.

    As you well know, none of the information provided here by Orac and the other posters will EVER appear at your personal “fav” site…Age of Autism…their vigilant “moderation” policy precludes any scientific information about vaccines from being posted.

    With best wishes,

    Your anti-Auntie Vaxine niece, lilady

  31. #31 Matthew Cline
    August 18, 2011

    Even though the majority of deaths in both groups were due to trauma, and the others did not have a history that was in any way suggestive of being caused by the vaccine.

    I remember in one online discussion where it was pointed out that a claimed Gardasil related death was due to a car accident. The anti-vaxxer responded that since the girl who died was 16 or older she might have been a driver, in which case neurological damage from the vaccine might have caused her to black-out or have a seizure while driving, which would have made Gardasil the ultimate cause the death, thus Gardasil couldn’t be ruled out as the cause of death. But if you’re going to look at things that way, she didn’t even need to be the driver. She could have been a passenger, had a seizure, and the seizure distracted the driver at a critical moment, leading to her death. Even if she’d died in a plane crash, maybe she had a seizure during the plummet that prevented her from following the emergency procedures, so if she hadn’t been vaccinated she would have been able to survive the crash. So to the dedicated anti-vaxxer, death by any sort of trauma in no way can rule out that the death was caused by a vaccine.

  32. #32 lilady
    August 18, 2011

    @ Matthew Cline: Somewhere in cyberspace, I posted a comment about the deliberate contamination of the VAERS program, by patients and parents of children who are claiming severe events after getting a vaccine.

    I also recall an online discussion of a drowning weeks after the patient received Gardisil vaccine…reported to the VAERS.

    It’s a favorite perverse trick of manipulating the VAERS…then anti-vax sites quote the number of severe (made-up) adverse events and deaths reported to VAERS, in articles on the internet such as this pseudoscience dreck by Blaxill.

  33. #33 Militant Agnostic
    August 18, 2011

    Polysorbate 80 is only harmful in rats at high levels

    High levels of polysorbate 80 (something on the order of 5% of their diet) reduces fertility in rats. This is why the Reptilian Masonic Illuminati Bilderburger Elders of Zion at the UN add miniscule amounts of it to vaccines for population reduction purposes.

    The infertility bit is an actual antivaxxer argument.

  34. #34 Delurked lurker
    August 18, 2011

    Not entirely off topic but this story hit the headlines in Australia today. below is a cut n paste from ‘the Australian’ a national newspaper.

    AUSTRALIA’S health regulator is facing calls to investigate a prominent chiropractor who said vaccines contain “toxic poison”.

    In a public talk, the Sydney chiropractor linked vaccines to asbestos, thalidomide and cigarettes, and said they contained bits of aborted fetus. The chiropractor backed the debunked research of deregistered British doctor Andrew Wakefield – which suggested the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine might cause autism – as “scientifically good”.

    The parents and pregnant women who attended the talk in March were told “homeopathic vaccines” – which are regarded as scientific nonsense by most experts – were safer than conventional vaccines.

    The comments by Nimrod Weiner, who is vice-president of the Chiropractors Association of Australia (NSW), were recorded by Australian Doctor.

    To say I am as mad as hell is an understatement, fortunately the AMA is of like mind and I hope this goes further. From the comments of the head body of Chiro’s I heard on the radio this morning it doesn’t look like he is going to get much backing from them.

  35. #35 Edith Prickly
    August 18, 2011

    @34: his name is really Nimrod Weiner? FANTASTIC! What a perfect crank name.

  36. #36 Antaeus Feldspar
    August 18, 2011

    People are eating vaccines now? I thought they were injected into the muscle, thereby bypassing the GI tract, but perhaps I am wrong. I’ve accidentally swallowed air before and all that happened was I burped. If injected I have a feeling a burp wouldn’t be the result.

    Now, see, this is the sort of intelligent response I wish anti-vaxxers could come up with more often.  Auntie responds to the implied premise “a substance which does not cause harm when ingested is unlikely to cause harm when injected” with a counter-example:  air does not cause harm when ingested, but it certainly does when injected.  Auntie makes her point clearly and doesn’t ruin her own argument by larding it with personal nastiness, as so many trolls do.

    I really enjoyed seeing such an intelligent contribution from the anti-vax side, and I enjoyed the short time it took me to see where the counter-example is flawed.  Air causes harm when injected, but it is not because air is toxic to the circulatory system, it’s because it’s mechanically dangerous to that system; it’s a gas being introduced to a system that functions through the hydraulic pressure of liquids.  To give a parallel example:  watermelon is a tasty and healthy food.  But if you tried to remove only the outer rind of the melon and force the entire edible inside of the fruit into someone’s digestive system, you might do them great damage.  Would this be because watermelon is toxic and damaging?  No, it would be because the human gustatory system is designed to deal with substances in chunks no large than bite-size, and you’re overwhelming it mechanically with an otherwise healthy food in a size that is far too large.

    There is no reason to think that polysorbate 80 functions differently on a mechanical level than any other liquid-soluble ingredient, so the suggestion that polysorbate 80 might do some sort of harm when injected that it does not do when ingested is deprived of much of its force.  But I applaud Auntie for giving us the most intelligent response I’ve seen from an anti-vaxxer in months; even if you’re one of our regular trolls adopting a new moniker, I still thank you for contributing so well to the discourse, and hope that you will continue, if you can do so at this level of civility and sense.

  37. #37 Calli Arcale
    August 18, 2011

    Obligatory nitpick — some vaccines *are* eaten. In particular, rotovirus vaccine is given in droplet form. There is also the oral poliovirus vaccine, which is used in countries where polio remains endemic, such as Nigeria, and other areas where cost is a concern (OPV is cheaper than the inactivated poliovirus vaccines, which is injected intramuscularly). There are also oral rabies vaccines being introduced to try to eliminate rabies from wild populations — tasty pellets laden with genetically modified vaccinia (cowpox!) are distributed in an area where hopefully wild mammals such as raccoons will find and eat them, become infected by the vaccinia, which has been modified to be less virulent while exposing the animal’s immune system to a section of rabies virus. These are, of course, meant to be eaten as well, though not by humans.

    Odd tidbit: there was a human case of cowpox associated with these rabies vaccines. A woman was walking her dog in a state park where the vaccine had been distributed. The dog picked up a packet of pellets and was trying to eat them. Concerned because she didn’t know what the pellets were, she took them away from her dog and threw them away. Some of the stuff got on her hand, where she had some scratches. She was on immune suppressant drugs at the time. Soon, she developed cowpox on her hand — and boy, were her doctors surprised to see it! She recovered just fine. And may possibly be immune to rabies now. ;-)

  38. #38 Braselc5048
    August 18, 2011

    Anyone? Don’t we want to get rid of the National Center for Complementary and Altertinave Medicine? Good idea, bad idea? (see post #23) Anyone?

  39. #39 herr doktor bimler
    August 18, 2011

    Good idea, bad idea?
    Bad idea. It’s not as if any funds taken from the NCCAM budget by budget-slashing austerity fetishists would be transferred to real medical research instead, so nothing to gain except a sense of schadenfreude. If anything, the razor gang are more likely to cut NCCAM and real research funding to demonstrate their evenhandedness.

  40. #40 Dangerous Bacon
    August 18, 2011

    “People are eating vaccines now? I thought they were injected into the muscle, thereby bypassing the GI tract, but perhaps I am wrong.”

    Actually, ingesting vaccine components is what the Jock Doubleday pseudo-vaccine challenge is all about. Mr. Doubleday has offered $75,000 (or $150,000, or $210,000 – the figures vary) to any physician who dares to drink vaccine components to prove their safety. This nonsensical “challenge” (why wouldn’t you just inject the adult equivalent dose of those horrible vaccine contents instead of requiring that they be drunk?) has been rendered totally farcical by the hoops Doubleday wants participants to jump through, including psychiatric examination to prove you’re not crazy for trying, payment of a big fee up front etc.

    Since there’s no evidence that ingesting vaccine “toxins” is any more harmful than injecting them, a number of MDs have attempted to take the challenge, but given all the obstacles thrown in their way, none have come within sniffing distance of the supposed monetary prize.

    It would not surprise me if antivaxers regarded intramuscular injection of a tiny amount of polysorbate 80 as much much worse than ingesting a far greater amount in the diet, but regarding either proposition as a health hazard is foolish based on the evidence.

  41. #41 DLC
    August 18, 2011

    Blaxil. I think if you look up Dunning-Kreuger effect online you’ll see Blaxil’s picture.

  42. #42 DLC
    August 18, 2011

    Damn. Kruger. caught my error just after hitting submit.

  43. #43 Bruce
    September 4, 2011

    Finally some sanity! God help us all if the dumb and dumber get control.

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