It always irritates me when I discover a new antivaccine crank in my state; so you can imagine how irritated I become when I discover one right in my very city (OK, metropolitan area). When that happens, it becomes a bit more personal than my usual mission to refute antivaccine misinformation. So I was most alarmed when I discovered just such a beast because a former ScienceBlogs colleague now writing for Forbes, Dr. Peter Lipson, took the time to deconstruct a very ill-informed piece of antivaccine propaganda. The offending post appeared on the blog of a “holistic” physician named Dr. David Brownstein, and in it he complained about new vaccine requirements at a summer camp. Apparently, Dr. Brownstein was not at all pleased at being publicly taken to task for spreading antivaccine misinformation, leading him to write a deceptively titled post using a title that I’ve seen antivaccinationists use, in one form or other, many times during the eleven years I’ve been in the blog biz. Yes, Dr. Brownstein entitled his post The Great Vaccine Debate, but in reality it was more or less a heapin’ helpin’ of the “toxin gambit,” anti-big pharma ranting, and a whole lot of tone trolling complaining about how Dr. Lipson had been so very, very mean to him, because he had called Dr. Brownstein’s arguments “bullshit.” Specifically, he referred to them as “total bullshit. It’s not even good bullshit, but bullshit that has long been known to be, well, bullshit.”

Oh, dear. Poor Dr. Brownstein. Did Dr. Lipson hurt his widdle feelings? Too bad for Dr. Brownstein that his arguments are indeed bullshit—in both of his posts. If Dr. Brownstein wants to vie for the title of the “Dr. Bob” Sears of southeast Michigan, he needs to have a thicker skin and be better prepared to defend his statements; unfortunately for him, his arguments and responses to Dr. Lipson’s spot-on criticism can only be described as pathetic. Let’s just put it this way. Respect is earned, and Dr. Brownstein clearly failed to earn Dr. Lipson’s respect.

In any case, perhaps it was incorrect to say that Dr. Lipson’s post at Forbes led me to “discover” Dr. Brownstein. I actually have heard of him before. Indeed, I had placed his blog in my folder of woo as potential subject some day and forgotten about him. So I’m happy that Dr. Lipson’s little tussle with him brought him back to my attention. First, a little background is in order. This is what set Dr. Brownstein off:

As a child, I attended sleepover camp as many Jewish children did. Camp Tamarack is the largest (or one of the largest) Fresh Air Society camps in the U.S. Some of my favorite memories from my childhood occurred at Camp Tamarack. I still have many Tamarack friends that I still connect with. This summer, I hosted a reunion for my Tamarack friends and it was truly a wonderful, memorable evening.

Yesterday, (12.30.15) Tamarack Camps put out a vaccine edict that mandates, “No child, camper, staff, artist in residence, volunteer, doctor, nurse, and their families will be allowed to come to camp without documentation of complete immunization according to the policy.” The immunization policy states that everyone is to have age-appropriate vaccines according to the CDC which includes:

  • DTaP, DT, Td, or Tdap
  • IPV
  • HIB
  • PCV 13
  • Rotavirus vaccine
  • Hepatitis B
  • Hepatitis A (strongly recommended)
  • MMR or serologic evidence of immunity
  • Varicella vaccine (chicken pox)
  • Menactra
  • Flu vaccine (strongly recommended)

Of course, this sounds like an eminently reasonable policy to me. After all, summer camp is not unlike school in that there are a lot of children frequently crammed into relatively small areas, such as the cabins. Sure, the kids will be off doing summer camp things, but a lot of other activities involve being in close-in quarters, particularly at night in the sleeping area, which are usually bunk beds in a large cabin. So it would make sense for camps to require the same vaccines required to enter school. Dr. Lipson explains why camps like Tamarack Camps are important to the large Jewish population in the northern suburbs of Detroit:

Dr. Brownstein practices in the heart of Michigan’s Jewish community. Among American Jews, summer camping has been an important part of childhood for nearly a century. In the early part of the 20th century, it was felt that city children would benefit greatly from exposure to nature. Jews were not allowed to attend most camps and started their own. The tradition has remained strong.

I spend a week every summer helping to keep an eye on the kids at one such camp. During the flu epidemic of 2008–09, I watched as dozens of kids came down with a new flu strain, one for which a shot had not yet been developed. It was a frightening lesson in what can happen in unvaccinated populations. Thankfully, the strain wasn’t deadly in this population. Among the hardest hit were pregnant women.

I did not know this bit of history about Jewish camps in southeast Michigan, but then I’m not Jewish. Still, it makes sense to me. In particular, though, I like the reasoning behind this new vaccine requirement at Tamarack Camps:

In the letter I received, the Tamarack-Powers-That-Be state, “Given the overriding Jewish value of Pikuach Nefesh (saving a life), that puts a premium on maintaining health, including taking preventive measures, along with the clear public health based need to protect the camp community as a whole, and those unable to receive vaccines in particular, we are requiring that all campers, staff, artists in residence, volunteers, doctors, nurses, and their families planning to attend/participate in any Tamarack Camps programs be immunized…”

As regular readers know, I’m not particularly religious (an understatement). However, this policy and the rationale for it demonstrate that in some cases religious principles can certainly be a force for promoting science-based health care. In this case, it’s a principle of promoting saving lives, and being vaccinated is a simple and effective way not only to maintain one’s own health through protection against vaccine-preventable diseases but by contributing to herd immunity that protects the vulnerable who, for whatever medical reason, cannot be vaccinated. The rant that Dr. Brownstein follows up his introduction with is indeed, as Dr. Lipson correctly characterized it, bullshit. It’s antivaccine bullshit of the lowest, easiest to refute order, and Dr. Lipson did an admirable job. Even so, before I move on to Dr. Brownstein’s counterattack, I can’t resist having a little swipe myself at things at the scraps Dr. Lipson left behind.

First up, Dr. Brownstein delivers up a hunk of burning stupid:

Perhaps Camp Tamarack is unaware that over $3 billion has been awarded by the Federal Government to children and adults injured by vaccines. Maybe Camp Tamarack can assure all who will have to be fully vaccinated to attend camp that it is safe to inject numerous doses of neurotoxins like mercury, aluminum and formaldehyde into any living being. As far as I am aware, there are zero—ZERO—safety studies on injecting a neurotoxin into a living being. I would like to see where Jewish law says it is safe to inject a neurotoxin into a baby or any living being.

So much antivaccine misinformation, so little time. I give Dr. Brownstein credit for combining the “toxins gambit,” common misinformation about the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program used by antivaccinationists as propaganda, and the claim that there are no safety studies of thimerosal. The last one is particularly amusing because thimerosal was removed from most child vaccines in 2001; the only vaccine left that has thimerosal is the flu vaccine, and even then most flu vaccines are thimerosal-free. As for safety studies of thimerosal, how about these big studies that show no link between thimerosal and neurodevelopmental disorders or autism? No doubt Dr. Brownstein will dismiss them because they were done by the CDC (antivaccinationists are very predictable that way) or will claim that they are not the “right kind” of safety study, but they were done specifically to try to detect correlations between the use of thimerosal-containing vaccines and adverse neurological outcomes. That’s a safety study in my book. I also remind Dr. Brownstein that he said that there were no safety studies on thimerosal. No, he said that there are “zero—ZERO—safety studies,” a claim he doubled down on in his second post. I just showed that there are at least three. There are, in fact, more than that that I could list, had I a mind to. On this issue, Dr. Brownstein’s claim is clearly incorrect, as it’s easy to demonstrate. If he had tried to argue the strengths and weaknesses of the existing safety studies, then there might have been a productive discussion (that is, assuming he could resist dismissing studies just because the CDC or a pharmaceutical company had anything to do with them). Heck, he could even have cited some execrable Mark Geier studies claiming to have found various dangers due to thimerosal in vaccines, but he didn’t, even though those bits of pseudoscience could easily be considered safety studies too. Unfortunately, like a five year old not liking what he hears Dr. Brownstein simply denied that there were any such studies at all.

Then he even invokes the “CDC whistleblower” manufactroversy:

Maybe Camp Tamarack should take notice that there is a whistle blower at the CDC—a senior scientist who authored research papers on childhood vaccinations—who has stated that the CDC has hidden and altered data that confirmed a link with the MMR vaccine to autism.

Um, no. Just no. This “CDC whistleblower,” a rather confused CDC scientist named William Thompson, showed nothing fo the sort. If anything, the antivaccine “reanalysis” done on his data proved Andrew Wakefield wrong yet again. There is no association between MMR and autism. Brownstein also mentions the so-called “Merck whistleblower.” Let’s just say there’s a lot less to that story than meets the eye, certainly less than antivaccine “holistic doctors” like Dr. Brownstein would like you to think. Let’s also just say that, even if everything both “whistleblowers” said were true, it would not prove that vaccines are unsafe, because there are many other studies that show them to be safe and effective.

Elsewhere, Dr. Brownstein trots out familiar (and easily refuted) antivaccine propaganda talking points, in particular the myth of the “autism” epidemic and an “epidemic” of chronic illness and how these “epidemics” supposedly correlate with the increase in vaccines in the recommended vaccine schedule. Cementing Dr. Brownstein’s status as seemingly being a Dr. Bob wannabe, Brownstein then invokes the antivaccine dog whistle of “parental rights” and “health choice” near the end of his first post. He even parrots the antivaccine myth of viral shedding in which children vaccinated with attenuated live virus vaccines are portrayed as a danger due to “viral shedding.” The truth is much different.

Amusingly, Dr. Brownstein’s response to Dr. Lipson’s critique of his collection of discredited antivaccine talking points is even more pathetic than the original post that provoked Dr. Lipson in the first place.

He begins with a straw man:

Dr. Lipson must be poorly informed here as there has not been a single flu vaccine—and the flu vaccine has been around for over 70 years–that has been shown to work for the elderly. In the best of the flu studies (which are hard to find), the efficacy for younger people is around 7-10%. That means the vaccine fails nearly all the elderly and fails around 90% of younger subjects. Dr. Lipson might want to review the research on the flu vaccine for the elderly. A 2005 study of a 33-season national data set found the “…national influenza mortality rate among seniors increased in the 1980s and 1990s as the senior vaccination coverage quadrupled.” (Arch. Int. Med. 2005;165:265-272). A 2012 systemic review found the original recommendation to vaccinate the elderly was made without data for vaccine efficacy or effectiveness. (Lancet Infect. Dis. 2012;12:36-44). Nothing much has changed since then. And, injecting the elderly with mercury? Nonsense. More about that later.

Of course, Dr. Lipson didn’t claim that the flu vaccine was great in the elderly. He simply pointed out that his elderly patients who got serious cases of the flu might not have gotten it if others around them had been immunized against the flu. Annoyingly, Dr. Brownstein didn’t include the link to PubMed entries for these studies, necessitating my manually looking them up. (Hint: it’s good form to link to studies you’re discussing to make it easy for people to look them up and compare them with how you’re characterizing them. I always do it.) For instance, this first study does seem to indicate poor vaccine efficacy in the elderly, and yes, the Lancet systematic review did note that evidence was lacking for flu vaccine efficacy in the elderly while noting that it does provide moderate protection in everyone else. Of course, one notes that Dr. Brownstein ignored a more recent study that found that flu vaccines were effective in the elderly. The point is not to argue about the flu vaccine in the elderly, however. Again, that’s a straw man, and we know that the flu vaccine’s efficacy in the elderly is not what we’d like it to be, hence efforts to design more immunogenic flu vaccines for people over 65. We know that the flu vaccine is not the best vaccine, but we do know that it is efficacious enough to recommend to most people and that vaccinating younger people does protect older people from the same strains, as Dr. Crislip explained in his review of the evidence for flu vaccine efficacy.

Next up, this is how Dr. Lipson criticized Dr. Brownstein’s argument that if Camp Tamarack hadn’t had an outbreak of vaccine-preventable disease, then there’s no point in mandating vaccines:

I call this the “seat belt” argument. I’ve never been in a serious crash, but studies clearly show that if I were, wearing a seat belt could make the difference between life and death. The same is true for vaccination. While we may not see a lot of tetanus in this country, we still need to protect ourselves. Tetanus is a particularly hideous death, and we see so little precisely because of our vaccination efforts.

Here, Dr. Brownstein engages in a little misdirection. Ignoring Dr. Lipson’s broader point about vaccine protection, he latches on to the example that Dr. Lipson chose, that of tetanus:

As far as I know, tetanus is not a communicable disease. Therefore, I am not sure why Dr. Lipson is arguing this point. How much tetanus do we see? According to the CDC, from 2001-2008, there were 233 cases of tetanus out of 322 million people. The annual incidence is 0.1 per 1,000,000 population. During this time period, among 92 subjects, out of the 233 reported cases where the vaccination status was available, 60% were vaccinated. In other words, the majority who got tetanus were vaccinated. Do we need to give routine tetanus shots to 322 million people to prevent about 30 cases of tetanus per year? Will that work? Those are questions that need to be answered. Moreover, the Td vaccine (Tetanus vaccine in multi dose vials) still contains mercury. Dr. Lipson is fine injecting mercury into people, but I am not.

Ugh. The stupid, it burns us. (No doubt Dr. Brownstein, if he sees this post, will howl with indignation that I characterized his argument as “stupid.” He can either just deal with it or stop making stupid arguments. His choice.) It apparently never occurs to him that the reason that the incidence of tetanus is so low is because of high uptake of the tetanus vaccine in the DTap and Tdap vaccines, where the “T” stands for tetanus. Tetanus incidence began falling after the vaccine was introduced in the 1930s and 1940s, with incidence having fallen by 95% and deaths by more than 99%. In any event, the reason Dr. Lipson used the tetanus vaccine as an example is to explain why just because there hasn’t been a major outbreak at a Camp Tamarack isn’t a reason not to act to protect against one. This is particularly true given the recent Disneyland measles outbreak.

Dr. Brownstein then goes on to make a rather astonishing claim, namely that the “U.S. vaccine market is projected to rise to $100 billion dollars by 2025. While this is true based on a WHO report, one thing Dr. Brownstein neglects to point out is that this is total revenue, not profit. If you look at the profitability of vaccines critically, you can see that vaccines tend to be less profitable because non-vaccine pharmaceuticals have a lower cost of goods because of fewer returns due to spoilage and distribution is a lot more expensive because they need to be shipped more carefully to avoid spoilage. But, for the sake of argument, let’s assume vaccines have, after not being very profitable in the past (which they weren’t) become wildly profitable. They’re still only around 3% of the pharmaceutical market, and they are worth the cost.

Much of the rest of Dr. Brownstein’s “rebuttal” is more of the same antivaccine talking points: the “toxins” gambit on steroids, with a particularly mind-meltingly silly variant:

Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen. Yes, it is produced in tiny amounts in the body. As with injecting anything, there is 100% absorption of formaldehyde via injection. There are reports of inflammatory diseases developing after injection of formaldehyde in vaccines. (Cutan. Med Surg. 2015 Sep-Oct;19(5):504-6)

Formaldehyde is a direct acting genotoxic compound that affects multiple gene expression pathways including those involved in DNA synthesis and repair.

The stupid, it still burns! Yes, formaldehyde is a carcinogen, but only at orders of magnitude higher and longer exposures than vaccines could ever achieve! Otherwise, it is a normal product of metabolism, and the amount of formaldehyde found in an infant’s circulation is at least five times more than an infant would encounter due to vaccines. As for that case report, it describes a man with an allergic reaction to formaldehyde causing contact dermatitis. The report goes on to note: “A review of the literature revealed 2 cases of systemic contact dermatitis from formaldehyde derived from aspartame and 1 case from a thimerosal-containing influenza vaccine. No cases caused by formaldehyde in influenza or other vaccines were found.” In other words, this phenomenon is incredibly rare, so rare that it merited a case report! I do give Dr. Brownstein credit for his mad cherry picking skillz, though.

It’s really scary to see a primary care physician with such ignorance of science and such obvious antivaccine proclivities. No antivaccine trope seems to be too pseudoscientific for him, it would seem, not the “toxins” gambit, not the ranting about thimerosal and aluminum, not the whole scale buy-in to the latest antivaccine conspiracy theory, the CDC “whistleblower,” not fear mongering about formaldehyde, not the abuse of the “science was wrong before” trope through liberal mentions of Vioxx, not outrageous conspiracy theories about big pharma. Indeed, Dr. Brownstein’s ranting about big pharma’s supposed vaccine profiteering strikes me as particularly hilarious given that a glance at the front page of his very own website reveals that he is not at all adverse to a bit of profit himself. Yes, he sells all manner of books and DVDs with titles like Drugs That Don’t Work and Natural Therapies That Do, The Miracle of Natural Hormones, The Statin Disaster, and several others. He has a supplement store that sells Celtic Sea Salt and Iodoral, and many others through his Center for Holistic Medicine. He even sells what I consider to be The One Quackery To Rule Them All, homeopathic remedies. Elsewhere, he claims he identifies “heavy metal toxicity” in over 80% of his patients using provoked urine tests, which involve administering a chelating agent before collecting urine for the test. One notes that such “challenge tests” were specifically mentioned by Choosing Wisely as a test that should not be done and has no value because it will result in seemingly elevated urine levels of heavy metals even in patients with no disease.

Sadly, after perusing Dr. Brownstein’s site, it’s hard for me not to conclude that he is antivaccine to the core. He doesn’t even put up much of a pretense of claiming to be a “vaccine safety activist” rather than “antivaccine,” particularly when posts by him having to do with vaccines buy into even the most idiotic antivaccine tropes and bear titles like:

I mean, seriously. There were times when I was having a hard time telling whether I was reading something by an actual doctor or one of the screeds over at that wretched hive of scum and antivaccine quackery, Age of Autism. That Dr. Lipson annoyed ticked Dr. Brownstein off enough for him to go on the attack is a badge of honor for Dr. Lipson, for which I congratulate him. Dr. Brownstein should also be profoundly embarrassed, as it seems as though he’s been reading from a list of spectacularly bad antivaccine arguments. Heck, he even looks to be trying to contribute to the list himself. Finally, the management of Tamarack Camps is to be commended for requiring that its campers and staff be vaccinated. It’s the right thing to do.

Comments

  1. #1 Yerushalmi
    Jerusalem, Israel
    January 4, 2016

    I particularly love this sentence of his:
    During this time period, among 92 subjects, out of the 233 reported cases where the vaccination status was available, 60% were vaccinated. In other words, the majority who got tetanus were vaccinated.

    One can assume that the vaccinated and the unvaccinated are exposed to tetanus in the wild at relatively equal rates, and that the only difference will be if they actually end up suffering from it. So if 40% of tetanus sufferers were unvaccinated, you’d expect 40% of the general population to be unvaccinated too.

    But according to http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6341a1.htm, only 5% of children in 2013-2014 are unvaccinated. (I’m not comparing apples to apples here, because I can’t be bothered to find a matching age group and dates, but then I’m not a scientist.)

    So 5% of the population is unvaccinated, but that 5% make up 40% of the people who catch tetanus.

    But the vaccine does nothing, amirite?

  2. #2 Yerushalmi
    Jerusalem, Israel
    January 4, 2016

    Oh, also:
    Tetanus incidence began falling after the vaccine was introduced in the 1930s and 1940s, with incidence having fallen by 95%…

    95% vaccine prevalence… 95% drop in incidence… probably just a coincidence.

  3. #4 Sassy
    January 4, 2016

    Also the neo-nazi are currently trying to look like the good guys by attacking “only” zoinist jews while saying that they love non-zoinist jews. Despite this act, they still use all the common antisemitic tactics… because it is antisemitism no matter how they hide it.
    https://hoaxteadresearch.wordpress.com/2015/07/03/araya-lets-make-hitler-proud/

    https://hoaxteadresearch.wordpress.com/2015/07/25/araya-upset-with-hr-again/
    As you can see it this blog post which contains images of a neo-nazi ranting incoherently. The neo nazi claims to be pro-jew and not antisemitic because zionist jews apparently aren’t Semitic. Anyone hear a No True Scotsmen fallacy going on?

    She really seems to actually care about us so called devil worshipers who believe that the earth is not flat. Yelling “wake up” all the time.

    And she just called her own granddad “pig”. That’s what khazer means.(http://www.wordhippo.com/what-is/the-meaning-of/yiddish-word-5521c4a5eddfb54ee213a444937697c26f2ab2c2.html)
    She also called zoinist jews khazer converted. That’s disgusting.

  4. #5 Sassy
    January 4, 2016

    The only reason why I am posting comments about neo-nazism is because I miss those anti neo nazism posts of yours.

  5. #6 Chris Preston
    January 4, 2016

    “total bullshit. It’s not even good bullshit, but bullshit that has long been known to be, well, bullshit.”

    I am not sure there is any point on expanding on this.

  6. #7 has
    Happy New 2016 to all you soulless shills and minions, and may the beneficent 1st-quarter profits of His Lord Draconis rain down upon you all.
    January 4, 2016

    “Dr” Brownpants:

    Maybe Camp Tamarack can assure all who will have to be fully vaccinated to attend camp that it is safe to inject numerous doses of neurotoxins like mercury, aluminum and formaldehyde into any living being.

    Pardon my french, but what a fucking cretin this cretin is. Any anti-vaxxer who intentionally exposes her kids to summer camp should immediately be taken out back and beaten within an inch of her life by her peers for deliberately poisoning her kids. Aluminium is the third most common element in the Earth’s crust and her special snowflakes will ingest and inject way more of the stuff just from playing in the dirt than they’d ever get from Ebil Vaccines. Feeding the little darlings tunafish and apples is right out too, and really needs to be an automatic hanging offence if they’re ever going to be consistent and pure.

  7. #8 jrkrideau
    At the bottom of the lake (the bottom end that is)
    January 4, 2016

    Some of Dr Brownstein’s commentators are impressive.

    Allen S. Hoaglund DC says: “Your child is completely protected from the unvaccinated child because of receiving a vaccine or isn’t that how it really works”?

    ARGH!

    Dr Lipson says: “Last winter, another in which we had a flu strain not well-covered by the vaccine,”

    Lorraine says : “In other words the flu shot that year was useless”.

    Reading comprehension?

  8. #9 Orac
    January 4, 2016

    Oh, yeah. The commenters there aren’t exactly the brightest bulbs on the Christmas tree.

  9. #10 Chris Hickie
    January 4, 2016

    Brownstein wants to stick his head up and sqwawk? Then, he deserves what he gets for his anti-vaccine hollering.

    Maybe some MI doctors could report him to the MI medical board for what he’s saying as a licensed MD.

  10. #11 Helianthus
    France
    January 4, 2016

    @ has #6

    Pardon my french, but what a fucking cretin this cretin is.

    I pardon you, as I have myself a whole list of French noms d’oiseaux to apply to this guy and a few others.

    her special snowflakes will ingest and inject way more of the stuff just from playing in the dirt than they’d ever get from Ebil Vaccines.

    We can add “from swimming in the lake” to the sources of aluminum dirt and mercury. Not to mention the occasional gut virus or bacteria.

    @ all

    Belated happy new year. 2016
    I spent two weeks on vacation at my parents’ place, cut off from the anti-science stupid outa here. Now that I am reconnecting, I’m in for a rude awakening.
    Earlier today, I watched a French News/well-being show and the topics were colon detox, juicing, and OMG ebil Americans are going to sell us a frankenfish salmon.
    The year 2016 starts strong for the anti-scientifics.

    Um, sorry for the OT. I am a bit riled up.

  11. #12 PalMD
    January 4, 2016

    Complaints to the medical board have to come from patients. Like most medical boards, they suffer from a viagra defficiency.

  12. #13 Yvette
    January 4, 2016

    “During this time period, among 92 subjects, out of the 233 reported cases where the vaccination status was available, 60% were vaccinated. In other words, the majority who got tetanus were vaccinated.”

    He’s pretty bad at math too. Did you know most people who get into car crashes are sober? According to the good doctor’s math, that means it is safer to drive drunk.

  13. #14 has
    January 4, 2016

    jrkrideau@7: For bonus lulz try wading through the Forbes comments as well. Me, I’m still ROFLing at the sight of Tristan Wells – a man who is just desperate to round up and execute a whole bunch of people he doesn’t like – advising a Jewish summer camp on how to do its business.

    Orac@8: I strongly recommend you keep that thought to yourself, lest they determine to prove you wrong by setting fire to the tree itself.

  14. #15 Orac
    January 4, 2016

    Yes, I did look at the comments. The bit about “active formaldehyde” being what the body really produces and the real, evil, toxic formaldehyde is cringe-worthy in its stupidity.

  15. #16 Orac
    January 4, 2016

    @PalMD: And, of course, Brownstein’s patients seek him because he is “holistic” and antivaccine; so it’s rare that any of them would be likely to complain.

  16. #17 Dangerous Bacon
    January 4, 2016

    Camp Tamarack is sponsoring a trip to Alaska in 2016. While the application form includes a request for documentation of immunization, parents also have to sign a disclaimer listing things that could go wrong when campers travel in Alaska:

    “The activities oft he Exposure and/or GVA trip which I am to participate in entail known and unknown risks, inherent and otherwise, that could result in property damage, physical or emotional injury, or death…
    The following describe some, but not all of the risks of the activities which I may participate in…some of the risks include falling off fabricated structures, surfaces, cables or ropes; hanging from a cable; being impacted by other participants; cold weather and heat related injuries and illnesses including frostnip, frostbite, heat exhaustion, heat stroke, hypothermia and dehydration; an “act of nature” which may include avalanche, rock fall, ice fall, glacier movement, inclement weather, thunder and lightening,
    severe and/or varied wind, temperature or weather conditions; river crossings, fjordings, portaging, or travel
    , including travel to and from the activity by boat, river hazards; collision with other watercraft or objects; collision, capsizing, sinking or other hazard which results in wetness, injury, or exposure; swamping or flipping
    of a boat; risks associated with embarking or disembarking from the boat; risks associated with crossing, climbing or down climbing of rock, snow and/or ice; equipment failure and/or operator error; discharge of weapons; hidden hazards such as snowbridges, moulins, thin ice or black ice; contact with plants or animals; condition of roads, trails, parking lots or terrain which may be slick due to ice and loose dirt and rocks; instructor/guide misjudgment; my sense of balance, physical coordination, and ability to follow instructions; delayed or no means of communication; attack by animals; prolonged delay in ability to obtain medical assistance (evacuation to medical facilities could take 24 hours or longer); and losses due to civil unrest and terrorism.”

    http://tamarackcamps.com/tc/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/2016-Forms-AK.pdf

    Whoo! The chance of coming down with measles seems like pretty small potatoes compared with the risk of “wetness”, being targeted by terrorists on a crevasse or injury sustained when the guide tells you it’s perfectly safe to feed the grizzly bears. But kudos to camp management for covering virtually all eventualities.*

    *except for the hazard of inadvertently consuming GMO foods on the trip. For instance, I see that Dr. Brownstein’s Celtic Sea Salt is not specifically listed as being non-GMO (unlike readily obtainable alternatives like non-GMO Himalayan rock salt). If the label doesn’t say so, how do we know there are no GMO Toxins in there?

  17. #18 Dan Welch
    January 4, 2016

    Given that Brownstein is an actual doctor, and somewhat in your backyard, would it be interesting/possible for you to interact with him directly on some professional level? I’ve never actually met an anti-vaxer (to my knowledge), and I’ve always wondered if they are as insane in person as they are on the Internet.

    You would need to structure the format of the interaction to avoid the Gish gallops so beloved of the anti-vax crowd. As such, you couldn’t debate “vaccines” per se; it is too broad a subject. Maybe get him to agree on “mini-debates” where you argue specific anti-vaccine talking points in isolation, agreeing not to move onto a new topic until one is settled, or at an impasse. For example, his astonishingly poor grasp of math shouldn’t take more than a few minutes.

    What it comes down to is, are these “leading lights” of the anti-vaccine movement actually anti-vaccine, or are they simply using it to make money off stupid people? Dr. Bob is one who I think clearly falls into the latter category, based on his carefully constructed “I’m not really anti-vaccine” wink-wink arguments. There is no point in engaging such people, because their motivations are dishonest to begin with.

    Dr. Brownstein, though, sounds like he may actually be a true believer, in which case, there might be some hope of dissuading him — or if not, some amusement in the effort.

  18. #19 jrkrideau
    At the bottom of the lake, (the bottom end that is)
    January 4, 2016

    # 13 has
    I’ll have a look at the comments as soon as I figure out where they are 🙁 I am currently sitting at a borrowed machine with Windows and have no idea how the thing works.

    I had a look at some of the rest of Dr. Brownstein’s site and was forcibly reminded of the “Food Babe” for some reason, although it may be just a spill-over from 2 or 3 of his commenters.

  19. #20 PalMD
    January 4, 2016

    Interacting with these sorts in a public forum is rarely useful. It’s really like a cult, often. These sorts of docs get followers who love them no matter what.

  20. #21 PalMD
    January 4, 2016

    BTW, NB that there is not a single comment on his blog that is critical of him.

  21. #22 Chris Hickie
    January 4, 2016

    @ PalMD–doctors can report doctors to medical boards. I reported Jack Wolfson, “the paleo cardiologis”. Apparently 38 people (none of whom were his patients) reported him for his vile, inhumane anti-vaccine comments during a measles outbreak in Phoenix in early 2015. Frustratingly (and in agreement with what you’ve said), there was no spine in the AZ Osteopathic medical board, who said Wolfson was protected under “free speech”. What rot.

  22. #23 palindrom
    January 4, 2016

    PalMD —

    Like most medical boards, they suffer from a viagra defficiency.

    I am not a doctor, but I think the correct and gender-neutral term is “gonadic atrophy”.

  23. #24 Eric Lund
    January 4, 2016

    Complaints to the medical board have to come from patients

    That’s some catch, that Catch-22.

    @palindrom: I suspect it’s not so much atrophy as surgical removal. Like the old Doonesbury strips where G. H. W. Bush had his manhood placed in a blind trust.

  24. #25 Dangerous Bacon
    January 4, 2016

    Before today I had never run into vaccinepapers.org, a (literal) example of antivax mystery meat.

    It’s the usual mishmash of bogus “science” about immunization, but I loved their “About” section, including the FAQ:

    ‘Who are you guys? Why don’t you say who you are? How can we trust you if we don’t know who you are?’

    “Because it really doesn’t matter, unless you are in the habit of judging ideas by where they come from, instead of by the scientific evidence.”

    (irony meters explode) Yeah, no reason anyone would want to know who’s behind a health-related website. Besides, they’re promising to eventually “go public”. 🙂

  25. #26 Orac
    January 4, 2016

    Oh, I’ve seen vaccinepapers.org. In fact, the purveyor of the site showed up in this comment thread here:

    http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2015/10/22/more-antivaccine-stylings-from-someone-who-is-dunning-kruger-personified/

    And more extensively (way more extensively) here:

    https://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/antivaccine-activists-fund-a-study-to-show-vaccines-cause-autism-it-backfires-spectacularly/

    Perhaps I’ll blog it sometime. It’s been in my pile of material to be used on a slow day.

  26. #27 Narad
    January 4, 2016

    Besides, they’re promising to eventually “go public”.

    He doesn’t take well to having it pointed out to him that his “anonymity” is tissue-thin, either, BTW.

  27. #28 herr doktor bimler
    January 4, 2016

    I have myself a whole list of French noms d’oiseaux to apply to this guy
    Le Canard comes to mind.

    there was no spine in the AZ Osteopathic medical board
    Now the Chiropractice board, that would be different.

  28. #29 Chris
    January 4, 2016

    Yvette: “He’s pretty bad at math too. Did you know most people who get into car crashes are sober? According to the good doctor’s math, that means it is safer to drive drunk.”

    Anyone who pulls the amount of money awarded by NVICP as a valid anti-vax argument shows how bad at math they are. When I link to the NVICP statistics page, they never tell me what the ratio is between vaccines given in a certain time period versus the number of compensated claims. Nor what it means.

    I even give them the numbers! It is like they don’t know how to use their PC’s built in calculator.

  29. #30 Chris Preston
    January 4, 2016

    The comments section of Brownstein’s blog contains as much “complete bullshït” as the post. Down near the end is a comment from Connie Sponheim that neatly encapsulates a lot of anti-vaccine thinking I come across:

    It’s refreshing to see your courage in the face of such stupidity..and then taking the wonderful experience of camping (my dad owned one in L.A., and I have worked in them as counselor for years)

    away from parents (and their kids) who ‘think for themselves’ and read stats, etc

    That is right, this is all about the parents and their attitudes of entitlement and not about what may be good for, or indeed enjoyable for, their children.

  30. #31 Reality
    Camp Grenada
    January 4, 2016

    Chris Preston #29 – “…this is all about the parents and their attitudes of entitlement and not about what may be good for, or indeed enjoyable for, their children.”

    The “good old days at Jewish and any other fresh air camp”:
    youtube(dot)com/watch?v=9jjiWS__Mp0

  31. #32 Narad
    January 4, 2016

    Out of idle curiosity, I checked whether Oorah (for USians, the “Kars4Kids” people) required vaccinations for their camp program.* The answer appears to be yes (landscape PDF), with an opt-out for meningococcal.**

    * Yes, they’ve gotten in trouble for failing to entirely disclose where the funds from the Kars go.
    ** h[]tps://www.thezone.org/medicalForm.asp

  32. #33 has
    just nipping out to Target to get a new keyboard...
    January 5, 2016

    herr doktor bimler@27:

    there was no spine in the AZ Osteopathic medical board

    Now the Chiropractice board, that would be different.

    HDB wins the first Internets of 2016.

  33. #34 jrkrideau
    At the bottom of the lake (The bottom end that is)
    January 5, 2016

    OT but interesting.
    http://news.nationalpost.com/news/canada/up-to-1800-ottawa-students-suspended-because-immunization-records-not-up-to-date.

    Our standards for getting an exemption are still way to lax but at least someone is enforcing current regs.

  34. #35 Chris Hickie
    January 7, 2016

    There were times when I was having a hard time telling whether I was reading something by an actual doctor or one of the screeds over at that wretched hive of scum and antivaccine quackery, Age of Autism.

    Now it’s part of the AoA screed:

    http://www.ageofautism.com/2016/01/forbes-lipson-goes-after-brownstein-who-responds.html#more

  35. #36 Rebecca Fisher
    That London
    January 7, 2016

    Beaten to it.

    I pretty much managed anti-vax-bollocks BINGO reading that.

  36. #37 Narad
    January 7, 2016

    Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen. Yes, it is produced in tiny amounts in the body.

    Brownstein has redacted this. It now reads

    Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen. Formaldehyde is not produced in the human body.

    The explanatory note is

    (Note: I edited my comment about formaldehyde on 1.4.16 to state that formaldehyde is not produced in the human body. Thanks to Dr. Cutler for this. DrB)

    The comment from “Dr. C” is here.

  37. #38 Lawrence
    January 7, 2016

    I was wondering when they were going to correct the formaldehyde comment….

  38. #39 Orac
    January 7, 2016

    Not sure I’d call that a correction. He was more correct the first time when he admitted that formaldehyde is produced by the body.

  39. #40 Chris
    January 7, 2016

    If “Dr. Cutler” is Andy Cutler, PhD… then he is a chemical engineer and does not know biochemistry. But in reality, the found of the the Autism/Mercury Yahoo group is a little less unhinged than that “Dr. C.”

  40. #42 Lawrence
    January 7, 2016

    Oh, I hadn’t realized that he originally got it right, then changed it…..

    I mean, it’s biology 101….jeez.

  41. #43 Chris
    January 7, 2016

    That does seem a more logical person to have written that screed. The naturopath probably has as good an education in human biochemistry as a chemical engineer. Which would be positively homeopathic.

  42. #44 herr doktor bimler
    January 7, 2016

    I’m sure “Dr.” Cutler is a local naturopath.
    http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2014/10/08/sht-naturopaths-say/

    The comment in question uses a few neologisms like “vaxapologist” that are specific to Doug Culter.

  43. #45 Orac
    January 7, 2016

    While I’m deconstructing the misinformation proffered by some of our local quacks, Doug Cutter could use a dose of not-so-Respectful Insolence himself. Maybe soon…

  44. #46 herr doktor bimler
    January 7, 2016

    Doug Cutler’s “no formaldehyde” letter is essentially a long list of authorities who state that the human body *does* produce formaldehyde, all adduced as proof of how successful the Vaccine-Toxin Lobby has been. Then he effortlessly demolishes this body of evidence simply by stipulating that “catabolic metabolism doesn’t count”.

    It does not speak well for Dr Brownstein if he overrules his own training to give more credence to sophistry from a grifter.

  45. […] for better or for worse, which is why I get annoyed when bad things happen here, such as when a local “holistic doctor” spews antivaccine nonsense, when one of our state legislators tries to make vaccine exemptions easier to […]

  46. #48 Narad
    January 8, 2016

    To add hilarity, the Dachelbot has appropriated Brownstein’s blog post and claimed it as her own, leading to comments such as this, from Laura Hayes:

    Great interview, Anne! I will be sharing it.

  47. #49 Narad
    January 8, 2016

    The Michigan Public Health Code (or, rather, the parts I’ve looked at) is somewhat ambiguous, but given that Michigan doesn’t license naturopaths, he might be on thin ice when it comes to holding himself out as “Dr. Cutler.”

  48. #50 doug
    January 8, 2016

    If formaldehyde is so evil and carcinogenic, why don’t we see large numbers of juvenile cancers of the deltoid or vastus lateralis? How about cancers in people who have consumed methanol?

    An interesting read on endogenous formaldehyde turnover:

    Endogenous turnover of formaldehyde was estimated to be approximately 0.61-0.91 mg/kg bw per minute and 878-1310 mg/kg bw per day assuming a half life of 1 1.5 min.

    http://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/efsajournal/pub/3550

    It does not speak well for Dr Brownstein …

    That’s for darned sure!

  49. #51 Roger
    January 15, 2016

    We can agree or disagree about the effectiveness of certain vaccines. What is clear, however, is that Dr. Lipson’ response is highly unprofessional .

  50. #52 herr doktor bimler
    January 15, 2016

    Dr. Lipson’ response is highly unprofessional

    Please explain the professional standards that oblige Dr Lipson to remain silent in the face of lies and stupidity.

  51. #53 Orac
    January 15, 2016

    One wonders why Roger didn’t call my response “unprofessional” as well, given that I used the “BS” word too.

  52. #54 Militant Agnostic
    Feng-Shui advisor for the Large Hadron Collider
    January 15, 2016

    Will someone please prepare the fainting couch for Roger and lets see if we can find some pearls for him to clutch.

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