Age of Autism and Sharyl Attkisson of CBS: In bed together to bring antivaccination propaganda to the masses?

Remember how on Monday I posted a dissection of some truly execrable reporting on vaccines and potential conflicts of interest (COIs) by Sharyl Attkisson of CBS News that aired one week ago today? As you may recall, my main point was that Attkisson's reporting was lazy, describing nothing that couldn't be found from public sources, and biased in that it intentionally used inflammatory language in order to bias the reader/audience against Dr. Paul Offit and the American Academy of Pediatrics right off the bat before even describing the supposed COI. I further made the point that it's rather convenient how Attkisson harps on disclosed COIs of Dr. Offit while totally ignoring the many undisclosed COIs of "investigators" on the "vaccines cause autism" (or, as I now like to call them, the antivaccine brigade), sarcastically wondering if Ms. Attkisson was planning a second part of her story to look at some old "friends" such as Mark and David Geier, Andrew Wakefield, and others who have profited enormously from vaccine fearmongering and even generated what we in the biz call "litigation-driven" research in order to promote the belief that somehow, some way, autism's got to be all about the vaccines.

Of course, I knew the answer to that question right off the bat, given that Attkisson had previously revealed her sympathies to the anti-vaccine movement last year in a crank-fest of a piece. However, as much as I knew that Attkisson was sympathetic to Generation Rescue and the antivaccine movement, I had no idea just how much--that is, until yesterday, when something happened that gives me reason to believe that Attkisson and Kim Stagliano or one of the merry band of antivaccinationists at that repository of all things antivaccine, Age of Autism, are the best of buds, or at least working together. See what happened for yourself and then ask yourself if you can come up with a better explanation.

Earlier this week, after Attkisson's biased article, Lisa Randall of Voices for Vaccines, a pro-vaccination group trying desperately to hold back the tide of antivaccination nonsense sweeping through the country at the moment, FAXed CBS News a letter complaining about Attkisson's story. This is the text of the letter:

Voices For Vaccines objects to the defamatory allegations made by the CBS Evening News on Friday, July 25, against the American Academy of Pediatrics, Every Child By Two, and the Vaccine Education Center at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, with our colleague Dr Paul Offit singled out for baseless criticism.

It is our privilege to partner with these institutions in our mission to disseminate reliable information about vaccines. These groups advocate for immunization based on the overwhelming evidence for the lifesaving power of vaccination, and motivated by a sincere concern for the health of America's children. It is preposterous and deeply offensive for CBS to suggest otherwise by insinuating that the pharmaceutical industry improperly influences the views of these vaccine advocates.

An obvious starting point for an unbiased reporter assigned to investigate this possibility would have been to determine whether the advocates' recommendations were in accord with the scientific consensus on immunization, as articulated by neutral bodies such as the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (In fact, all three subjects of the CBS story do promote vaccination according to federal guidelines.)

In contrast, Sharyl Attkisson relied solely upon tangential observations in concluding that the judgment of these respected authorities has been co-opted by drug companies. Ms Attkisson's choice to pursue her story even after failing to uncover any evidence of malfeasance reveals not bias on the part of the story's subjects, but on the part of Ms Attkisson herself Professionalism required her to acknowledge that the targets of her story have done nothing other than emphasize to the public that which is well known to science. that vaccines allow children to grow up safe and healthy.

We call upon CBS to issue a retraction of Ms. Attkisson's report and an apology to the individuals and institutions whose good and honorable work in the field of immunization has been smeared. We further ask CBS to reflect upon the fact that it does not befit a user of the public airwaves to broadcast misleading claims about the most important public health measure of our time.

These are, of course, all very reasonable criticisms of Attkisson's hit piece. But here's the interesting part. Guess what the date was on the letter? It was July 31. Now guess what appeared on that repository of antivaccine propaganda, Age of Autism on July 31, posted by Kim Stagliano? This article:


And guess what was in this post? I'll tell you. The post included as part of it the complete text of Lisa Randall's letter, which was addressed to Katie Couric; Katie Boyle, Senior Producer; Jonathan LaPook, MD, Medical Correspondent; and Sharyl Attkisson, Reporter. Hmmm. Indeed, yesterday, there was even a link to a PDF of the actual letter, although the link appears to have been removed since then. Fortunately, Liz at I Speak of Dreams downloaded the PDF and hosted it at her own blog, in which she comments on this case as well. Doesn't it strike you as incredibly suspicious just how fast this letter went from CBS to Age of Autism. It does me.

How do you think the antivaccine propagandists at AoA got a hold of this letter so quickly, within less than a day after its being sent? Although it's theoretically possible, I seriously doubt that Katie Couric, Katie Boyle, or Jonathan LaPook sent it to them. They have no reason to be sympathetic to AoA, Generation Rescue, or their other fellow travelers in the antivaccine movement, nor do they have a reason to give such a quick heads-up to antivaccinationists. That leaves one of two possibilities: Either some poor intern or secretary who collects and distributes FAXes tipped off Stagliano or someone else at AoA. That possibility, too, seems unlikely.

So what possibility seems the most likely? Stop me if I'm too far off base here, but maybe--just maybe--we should look to the reporter who has an established track record of stories sympathetic to the antivaccine movement and suspicious of vaccine manufacturers. Maybe--just maybe--this very same reporter is in just a little too close with Generation Rescue and its merry band of antivaccinationists over at AoA. Maybe--just maybe--given her preexisting sympathy to the view that there is a vast pharma conspiracy to suppress any hint of any complications from vaccines by pouring cash into the coffers of shills in academia and industry, Attkisson leapt to the conclusion that Randall's letter was an industry counterattack. After all, AoA has been trying unsuccessfully to smear Voices for Vaccines as an industry shill for a while now. If Attkisson has ties to Generation Rescue and/or members of the AoA crew, then it's not unreasonable to assume that she's heard the same dark insinuations that AoA has been posting in the form of articles designed to paint Voices for Vaccines as a pro-industry front group, posts such as:

This is a typical Age of Autism smear campaign. As Mike Stanton points out, Voices for Vaccines accepts no funding from governments of vaccine companies and has only one staff member, with office space provided by a nonprofit organization. It's about as far from an industry front group as can be imagined.

CBS News clearly has a problem. Whether it's Sharyl Attkisson (most likely) or someone else, there is a someone so sympathetic to antivaccine groups in its organization that he or she leaked a FAX to CBS almost instantaneously after it was received. Whatever the case, the objectivity of CBS News is now in serious question based on this incident. My personal take on this is that the culprit was almost certainly one biased and lazy reporter, Sharyl Attkisson, who leaked the FAX to the antivaccinationist contingent at Age of Autism. In any event, CBS clearly needs to investigate its investigative reporters. One of them appears to be so biased that she represents a rapid and personal pipeline to either Kim Stagliano (who reposted the FAX on AoA) or someone in Generation Rescue or associated with Age of Autism.

I think it's a good time here to point out that not all potential COIs involve money. In fact, many do not. Strong personal beliefs can also represent a COI, as can being too cozy with a specific advocacy organization or political group. I now believe that Sharyl Attkisson has a conflict of interest every bit as bad as the exaggerated one of which she accuses Paul Offit. She has clearly drunk the antivaccine Kool Aid to the point where she can no longer even make a pretense of even a hint of objectivity regarding the issue of vaccines. Moreover, so biased is she that apparently she cannot be bothered to investigate for herself if AoA's accusations against Voices for Vaccines have any merit (they don't) before striking back at the organization by instantaneously leaking its letter of protest to CBS News. Attkisson no longer deserves the appellation of "investigative reporter." But, no worry, I'm sure that as soon as she inevitably self-destructs from her own biased reporting that there'll be a place for her as a "correspondent" at Age of Autism. She can hang out with other journalists-turned propagandists, such as David Kirby and Dan Olmsted, and indulge her belief that vaccines cause autism and all sorts of bad things to her heart's content.

ADDENDUM: The contact page for CBS News is here. Scroll down to the "Contact Us" link at the bottom, and a web form to send feedback will appear. Please use it to tell CBS News that such behavior on the part of one of its reporters is unacceptable and to demand that they investigate their "investigative journalist."

Also, here is some other commentary worth reading:

  1. Voices for Vaccines reply to CBS
  2. Two Part Criticism of Sharyl Attkisson's Lack of Journalistic Ethics
  3. The Curious Reports of Vaccines and Autism on CBS
  4. Dear CBS Evening News

More like this

You know, I think I've found a bride for Steve Wilson. You remember Steve Wilson, don't you? He's the local "investigative reporter" in my hometown who recently did a truly awful "report" (it actually makes me cringe to call it a "report," but I couldn't think of anything else to call it) a couple…
It's funny, but it's only been one week since I expressed extreme skepticism that that wretched hive of scum and quackery, The Huffington Post, had reformed itself. The reason, of course, was that HuffPo had announced that it was starting a science section. Even though on the surface it seemed that…
After the last couple of days of depressing posts about the utter failure of the FDA to do its job protecting cancer patients from the likes of Stanislaw burzynski, it's time to move on. Unfortunately, the first thing that caught my eye as I sat down to blog last night not only fried my irony meter…
The damaged done by the antivaccine movement is primarily in how it frightens parents out of vaccinating using classic denialist tactics of spreading fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD). Indeed, as has been pointed out many times before, antivaccinationists are often proud of their success in…

As reported by Mike Stanton at Action for Autism,

"However, according to their website

'The most important goal of Voices For Vaccines is to provide clear, accessible, science-based information about vaccines and vaccine-preventable diseases. Our leadership consists of scientists and concerned individuals who are totally committed to supporting continued efforts to eradicate vaccine-preventable diseases. We accept no funding from governments or vaccine companies.'

Voices for Vaccines works in partnership with a number of organizations like Every Child by 2 and the American Academy of Pediatrics. There are no drug company representatives on its steering committee. There is only one staff member and their office is provided by a not for profit organization, The Task Force for Child Survival and Development."

It's tough to play the "follow the money" game to try to discredit an organization when there isn't any money trail to follow. Too bad CBS didn't bother doing basic fact checking so see if the allegations of its sources are accurate. Serious, baseless allegations in one area should (but apparently for CBS did not) raise serious credibility questions about its sources.

I think your instincts are correct Orac, it really does show what we're up against.

Thanks for telling us about Voices for Vaccines, they seem to be just the kind of group that I was thinking of in my comments on your earlier posts. I'd not heard of them until you mentioned them today, though perhaps that's not surprising since they seem to be a pretty new organization. I must make a donation!

It would be great if you and some of the other science bloggers who specialize in debunking the claims of the antivaccine brigade could write pieces for the VFV website. With only one staff member they'll struggle to catch up with the backlog by themselves.

What Paul Browne Said.

In addition, we need to put together a list of good links on the vaccines issue and encourage other SB bloggers and other pro-science types to post them in their sidebars. The goal is to make it possible for someone to Google "autism vaccines" or "autism mercury" and have the top five results be legit science instead of woo.

"Baltimore Bert" is in fact John Best trying to avoid my killfile. I have updated it appropriately.

Baltimore Bert posts a link to John Beast and calls him a skeptic.

Thanks for the laugh.

Come on Bert/best. Keep up. It's the toxins this season...i mean honestly.

By Richard eis (not verified) on 01 Aug 2008 #permalink

CBS apparently placed too much trust in this reporter. Bet it's the last time that'll happen. I hear they're looking for somebody to cover the municipal beat in Poughkeepsie...

Thanks for the link, Orac.

The AoA hit piece made me so irritated that I immediately sent a donation to Voices for Vaccines (V4V)

I'm thinking of making donations to V4V like a drinking game -- any time the Usual Suspects emit slurs about vaccines or persons developing and promoting vaccines, I'll donate to V4V.

I might have to cut down the $/donation and stockpile them, philanthropic budget isn't that big.

If you want to join in the donation game, go here

to donate to V4V via the Taskforce for Child Survival --put "donation for V4V" in the message box.

Oh, that's what happened to John. Should have known he wouldn't give up on his own.

Donation sent:-)

Thanks for pointing out the form Liz Ditz!

By Paul Browne (not verified) on 01 Aug 2008 #permalink

I just entered a strongly worded letter into the comments section on the CBS page. I hope they receive enough negative feedback on the Attkinson crapfest to warrant retracting it, or at the very least presenting an alternative, science-based view. Hell, I'd be happy if they just got Amanda Peet on the set for 5 minutes.

Based on what I've heard so far, Atkisson does appear to be a biased and sloppy reporter ("journalist" is too kind a term). But I don't think forwarding a letter to an antivax group is some kind of smoking gun proving that she's strictly pushing an agenda. It wouldn't be surprising that if you intend to keep milking a source for "news", you'd pass on such a letter to stay in touch and maybe garner a comment for a future update on the story.

A significant problem with reporting on the vaccine "controversy" is that the story fits too conveniently into the pigeonhole of "Government/corporate America conceals risks, brave citizens fight for the truth". It sells far better than the actual story, which is "Nutbags and confused/deluded victims of antivax propaganda jeopardize public health in a way that doesn't appear to the public as an imminent crisis".

Quackery skilfully fed by appeals to paranoia is a tough nut to crack. It's an ongoing struggle. When and if the hoo-hah over the autism "link" dies down, something else is bound to take its place (fibromyalgia? multiple chemical sensitivity? Morgellons' disease?).

Dammit, the Gummint is making us shoot strange stuff into our bodies! Our precious fluids are being degraded! Think of the children! Make it stop!!!

By Dangerous Bacon (not verified) on 01 Aug 2008 #permalink

Sharyl Atkisson and the Reprobates.

She should be happy that she'll have a place to work if CBS cans her. I wonder what that will do for Generation Rescue's attempt to paint themselves as respectable and mainstream?

By job security (not verified) on 01 Aug 2008 #permalink

"Please use it to tell CBS News that such behavior on the part of one of its reporters is unacceptable and to demand that they investigate their 'investigative journalist.'"

As this is the same CBS News that brought us the "the documents are phoney but the story is true" approach to investigative journalism, via Dan Rather, it's a bit hard to believe that what Atkisson did violates the standards of investigative journalism at CBS News. And, this is the CBS News that reportedly is negotiating with CNN to contract out its investigative reporting work to CNN. See "CBS Said to Consider Use of CNN in Reporting" (April 8, 2008), NY Times at… Accordingly, do you really expect any corrective action or improvement in the journalistic standards at CBS News, or any reason to give any credibility to any "news" reported by CBS News?

On the other hand, if anyone has evidence that "Baltimore Bert" has a Love Child, maybe we can get National Enquirer reporters to follow him around for a while.

Thanks for the link. I'm donating right now.

Somewhere along the line, someone needs to take the 'investigative' journalism where it the door of AoA, Generation Rescue, and SafeMinds.

Pssst Orac:

Want to make sure you caught this little gem from my Age of Autism NVAC Invites V4V: What Were They Thinking? piece:

Deborah Wexler, MD of the Immunization Action Coalition (IAC) sits on the Steering Committee for Voices for Vaccines along with Lisa Randall who works as a part-time attorney for the IAC.

The Immunization Action Coalition (IAC) gets their 2008 funding from the following sources:

Sanofi Pasteur
Merck & Co., Inc.
Wyeth Pharmaceuticals
MedImmune, Inc.
Baxter Healthcare Corp.

National Center for HIV, Hepatitis, STD, and Tuberculosis Prevention, CDC
National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, CDC

And Lisa Randall isn't influenced one iota by Pharma.....righhhhtttt. And I've got a bridge to sell you.

Bottom Line: Me thinks thou doest protest too loudly.

By Kelli Ann Davis (not verified) on 01 Aug 2008 #permalink

And Lisa Randall isn't influenced one iota by Pharma.....righhhhtttt.

I think you are in the pockets of vaccine injury lawyers, Kelli Ann Davis. Do I have any evidence of this? Not really, no. But can you prove me wrong?

You're not payed a dime by vaccine injury lawyers.....righhhtttt.

Deborah Wexler, MD of the Immunization Action Coalition (IAC) sits on the Steering Committee for Voices for Vaccines along with Lisa Randall who works as a part-time attorney for the IAC.

Are either of them Catholic, too?

By D. C. Sessions (not verified) on 01 Aug 2008 #permalink

Am I the only one that got the six degrees of separation vibe from Kelli Ann Davis's post?

"someone needs to take 'investigative' journalism where it the door of AoA, Generation Rescue and SafeMinds." True, and someone should be sending the FBI to check on "Baltimore Bert" if any of the autism hub or skeptic bloggers turn up missing or dead. They'll need to start digging in JB's back yard and checking on the alibis and confiscating the computers of his online friends. He has posted instructions on how best to kill at least one person and multiple requests for other people to do that killing.

By boston berthilde (not verified) on 01 Aug 2008 #permalink

Ms. Davis, your pathetic attempt to "prove" that V4V is in thrall to Pharma just got V4V another donation from me.

I'm thinking of making donations to V4V like a drinking game -- any time the Usual Suspects emit slurs about vaccines or persons developing and promoting vaccines, I'll donate to V4V.

I guess I'll have to add: attempting to prove that V4V is a "Pharma Shill" organization to the list.

If you want to join in the donation game, go here

to donate to V4V via the Taskforce for Child Survival --put "donation for V4V" in the message box.

Dangerous Bacon, I'd rather let the crazies get their knickers twisted over Morgellon's or fibromyalgia any day. At least that stuff is in their heads and not interfering with herd immunity.

If I had disposable income, I'd give to V4V. But it is expensive to live here, public health pays jack, and my rent is due. I support them wholeheartedly in spirit, though :)

By Rogue Epidemiologist (not verified) on 01 Aug 2008 #permalink

How many degrees of separation from Kelli Ann Davis and her boyfriend Jim Moody? He is a lawyer for safeminds and former lawyer of the toxic Geiers? Moody suddenly decided he had personal problems and couldn't be a tool for Mark Geier any more. I believe Moody is on the board of the National Autism Association, widely thought to be a front group for vaccine lawyers. Someone must be paying Kelli's expenses. Just like they must be paying Dan Olmsted's and David Kirby's.

By Kelli Ann's sponsor (not verified) on 01 Aug 2008 #permalink

You can also support VFV by joining, which is free. Anybody who annoys Kelli Ann Davis so strongly must be on the right track.

I wish I had more than six degrees of separation from Generation Rescue.

By Another Autism Dad (not verified) on 01 Aug 2008 #permalink

Kelli Ann is paid by big pharma to write transparently idiotic things, in order to discredit anti-vaxers.

Can you prove me wrong, Kelli Ann?

By l'asperge (not verified) on 01 Aug 2008 #permalink

"Baltimore Bert" is in fact John Best trying to avoid my killfile. I have updated it appropriately.

It's your blog, Chief -- but I confess to leaning in the Jeffersonian direction of "John Best is the best there is at discrediting the Mercury Militia."

Yes, rationally, no movement is responsible for the wingnuts who may attach themselves to it -- but on the other hand, rational people won't need John's mouth foam to turn them off.

Kelli Ann: "And Lisa Randall isn't influenced one iota by Pharma.....righhhhtttt. And I've got a bridge to sell you."

It's obvious why Kelli Ann thinks she has a bridge to sell us. She already bought one from the antivax crazies, and she's hoping to turn a fast profit.

By Dangerous Bacon (not verified) on 01 Aug 2008 #permalink

"Bottom Line: Me thinks thou doest protest too loudly"


If you are going to misquote Shakespeare please misqoute him properly. Here is the original.

"My lady dost protest too much, methinks."

(Hamlet, Act III, Scene II)

So back in '05 Handley was crowing that after 6 months of chelation his son was improving by leaps and surprising that 3 years later, we don't see this child paraded before us as an exemplar of chelation's effectiveness.

He is quoted as writing "I'm too damn busy trying to save as many kids as we can." I have been wondering if he was too busy to "save" his own son. But I don't think that explains why his son is still autistic. Handley once posted a list of unusual "treatments" he was giving his son. Besides Mrs. Handley would take over when JB is "too damn busy".

But the funny thing is that back when he wrote that he was using a fake chelator and sending urine and stool samples to a laboratory that produces useless "heavy metal" lab results as has been shown by the vaccine court hearings. I guess it's not that funny if you are JB Handley's child, though.

By DeSortier (not verified) on 01 Aug 2008 #permalink

From my careful scientific observation of relatives, I have concluded that Thomas the Tank Engine causes autism.

Not to overly change the subject - but have the antivax loons jumped all over the Ivins suicide in the Fort Detrick anthrax case as proof that the Evil Government is spreading diseases to boost forced vaccination and the Ultimate Triumph of Big Pharma?

If not, it's just a matter of time.

By Dangerous Bacon (not verified) on 02 Aug 2008 #permalink

It's passing strange that the "vaccines-cause-autism" movement finds Dr. Offit's "conflict of interest" so sinister (he holds a patent on a vaccine - one NOT rumored to be associated with autism, by the way) but cannot see anything wrong with the Geiers having a patent on their Lupron-Chelation treatment for autism.

Thay also apparently saw nothing wrong with Bernie Rimland being a tireless promoter of secretin for autism when he was a patent-holder on the use of secretin to treat autism.

Nor do they have any trouble with Boyd Haley marketing his new chelating drug as a "dietary supplement". If "Big Pharma" had tried to do an "end-run" aroung FDA regulations like that, I imagine that they would have been apoplectic.

Dr. Offitt, according to the dogma of the vaccines-cause-autism movement, is a "pharma shill" because he received a grant from pharmaceutical companies (which they cannot rescind), yet the people who recommend their own patented or proprietary "treatments" and "diagnostic tests" (and "lecture" about them at conferences for parents of autistic children) for autism are pure and altruistic?

They charge $200 (and up) for a 15-minute telephone "consultation" (to established patients, no less!) and they have no "conflict of interest" when they claim that their "interpretation" of the data supports their own.....unique approach to the diagnosis and treatment of autism?

So, clearly, I don't get it.

Can someone explain to me why a vague and tangential "conflict of interest", like having a patent on a safe and effective vaccine that has never been linked - even in the fevered imaginations of the vaccines-cause-autism crowd - to autism, is "terminal" to a person's ability to participate in the vaccines-cause-autism discussion, but making big bucks on an "alternative" autism "treatment" that doesn't meet biological plausibility isn't?

Has the world gone mad, or is it just me?


Prometheus, you don't happen to be the same 'Prometheus' who had that blog about the Pirates of the Caribbean Volvo Treasure hunt. Are you?

By mrs_corapoe (not verified) on 04 Aug 2008 #permalink

Have you clicked on the URL over his/her name?

Just to clarify for you Mrs. Corapoe: When the letters are in blue that means it is a link to another webpage. If you look at Prometheus's name that under his or her post you will notice that the letters are blue. That is a web link to his/her personal web page. Here I'll make it easy for you and post it for you to see:

It presently has a series on understanding scientific literature for the layperson. It is very interesting reading, and you might find it very useful.

Hey HCN, you didn't 'get' it.

By mrs_corapoe (not verified) on 04 Aug 2008 #permalink

Neither do you. I was just going on the level of "expertise" you have shown in your earlier postings.

Mrs Corapoe,

Perhaps your humor is too subtle for the Internet. Maybe you could explain the joke for those of us who didn't "get it"?


Oh, well done. You've managed to find a report Orac posted about nearly a month ago. I'm sure it'll prove to be much more convincing this time round.

Just to help you out, Mrs. Corapoe: Journalists and lawyers are not scientists. When it comes to real documented evidence news reports and testimony do not count.

HCN, you can stop with the condescending remarks. Is that the best you can do? And since when Orac is the end all be all Autism Expert Extraordinare?

Martin, so let me clarify this for the benefit of us dullards. Your remark implies that the thousands of parents who routinely report regression following immunizations are just a bunch of whinners. Since they don't hold PhDs and/or MDs their puny minds can't possibly comprehend why there isn't a connection between the two 'unrelated' events. Is that right?

By mrs_corapoe (not verified) on 06 Aug 2008 #permalink

mrs-coprolith: "Your remark implies that the thousands of parents who routinely report regression following immunizations are just a bunch of whinners."

Who said they are winners.

By notmercury (not verified) on 06 Aug 2008 #permalink

And since when Orac is the end all be all Autism Expert Extraordinare?

I never claimed to be. However, from perusing your statements, I can conclude that I am far closer to such status than you are.

Mrs. Corapoe whined "Your remark implies that the thousands of parents who routinely report regression following immunizations are just a bunch of whinners."

The plural of anecdote is not data. Yes, there are a few thousand who have sued the US Government. But there seems to have been a great deal of difficulty coming up with the nine test cases out of those 5000 cases. And if this any indication, those anecdotes will not stand up to scrutiny:

If you have real data and real evidence, please present it.

And since when Orac is the end all be all Autism Expert Extraordinare?

Who ever said anything like that? There are two big forces in this argument: The data and your fallacies. Orac is merely a person directing your attention to them. His expertise only means he knows more about where to look and what to look for.

Martin, so let me clarify this for the benefit of us dullards. Your remark implies that the thousands of parents who routinely report regression following immunizations are just a bunch of whinners.

1. A post hoc fallacy is a post hoc fallacy. Unless you feel like toppling the very foundations of logic and causality. You may want to sign up for some time on that big hadron collider all the particle physicists are drooling over if you're going to take the causality route.

2. Being a parent does not magically transform a person into an infallible deity or an unquestionable authority. How many elephants did you have to kill to construct that ivory tower of yours?

Here I always thought that is was normal for humans to recognize pattersn, even where none exist. I seem to also recall that the whole scientific method thing was set up to differentiate between patterns that actually exist and patterns that don't actually exist.

Parents who notice a pattern are not whiners, nor are they crazy. They are human. That does not, however, make them right.

"Being a parent does not magically transform a person into an infallible deity or an unquestionable authority."

Bronze Dog: Oh, but being a PhD, and MD, or any other type of recognized scientist does?

The problem as I see it is that the medical/research establishment hasn't been looking in the right places. They've been to quick to dismiss the hypothesis as nothing more than 'hysterical parents trying to blame their faulty genes onto something else.' Even the former head of NIH has publicly stated there hasn't been any studies done to determine thimerosal's safety in the subgroup category of ASD kids. See video interview below:

By mrs_corapoe (not verified) on 06 Aug 2008 #permalink

Bronze Dog: Oh, but being a PhD, and MD, or any other type of recognized scientist does [transform someone to be infallible]?

OF COURSE NOT! Quite frankly, people like you love to do that so much, I prepared a rebuttal for that argument over a year ago.

It's all about the data. That's what I said when I got here today. Convenient to project your Authoritarian attitudes onto your enemies, isn't it?

I'm still curious to see if you're going to argue that a post hoc fallacy isn't a post hoc fallacy. Book that time on the LHC, yet?

Mrs. Corapoe, videos are also not acceptable forms of data or evidence. Try again.

Other than scientific papers, another acceptable form of data is official public health records. Medical care professionals are required to report the incidents of certain diseases to their local public health department (like county's public health department), which are then reported to the CDC, which compiles the information. Here is some of that data... from:… ...

I chose to use the years 2000 through 2006 as a representative span of time when the children represented in the 5000 cases would have received vaccines. It is basically a randomly chosen span of time, but it does show that the diseases are not "harmless", and are coming back.

This is the data for pertussis:
2000_____7867______ 12
2001_____7580______ 17
2002_____9771______ 18
2003____11647______ 11
2004____25827______ 27
2005____25616______ 39
2006____15632______ 16

The last death figures are from this slide set:… ... Slide 9. Of the 82 deaths from pertussis during 2004 through 2006, 69 were of infants under the age of three months, while the remaining 13 were older than three months.

Now for tetanus:
2000_______35______ 5
2001_______37______ 5
2002_______25______ 5
2003_______20______ 4
2004_______34______ NA
2005_______27______ NA
2006_______41______ NA
Total_____219______More than 20

Now for measles:
2000_______86______ 1
2001______116______ 1
2002_______44______ 0
2003_______56______ 1
2004_______37______ NA
2005_______66______ NA
2006_______55______ NA
Total_____460______3 or more

Now for mumps:
2000______338______ 2
2001______266______ 0
2002______270______ 1
2003______231______ 0
2004______258______ NA
2005______314______ NA
2006_____6584______ NA
Total____8261______3 or more

Total of cases of those four disease over the seven year period is 112880. This does not include the 16 cases of Congenital Rubella Syndrome listed in the table for the years 2000 through 2006.

Now how does that compare to the 5000 cases covered by the Autism Omnibus?

Now if we went your way and eliminated the DTaP and the MMR then we will go back to the numbers that are listed for the 1950s (the return of pertussis is already happening, and measles and mumps have returned to Japan and the UK, the USA is not far behind). I have not calculated the deaths from tetanus, pertussis, measles and mumps for the the years between 1950 and 1956 inclusive, but a quick glance shows it to be multiple thousands.

HCN, since you seem to like numbers why don't you look at these for a change?…

VAERS reported 45,685 for MMR alone. Some of the symptoms reported, just to name a few: Rash, Fever (104+), Seizure, SLURRED SPEECH, Wide-Based Gait, lethargy, and BIZARRE BEHAVIOR, convultions, ALTERED CONSCIOUSNESS, encephalitis, high pitched crying, irritability-shakiness-neartetany, gastrointestinal problems, DEATH, etc.

Yeah, I know. None of these symptoms had ANYTHING to do with the MMR vaccine. It was just a 'coincidence' the kids developed symptoms within hours (or minutes) of getting vaccinated. How do I know this? Because the Mighty Deities (MDs) like Orac said so. Oh! and I almost forgot my other reason is that I don't want to fall prey to the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy. God forbid!

Btw, if you don't like the link I provided above, you can always confirm those numbers and reports with this one:

By mrs_corapoe (not verified) on 06 Aug 2008 #permalink

Again, I repeat... news reports do not count, especially if they are press releases from Barbara Loe Fisher's reference-free National Vaccine (mis)Information Center.

And do we need to repeat that raw VAERS data is also not real data. It is self-selected data, that even a UK citizen posted that his daughter was turned into Wonder Woman:

Try again.

More on VAERS:… ... if you look upthread you will see I lay out an example of a report that would never get into VAERS if the only folks who could report were qualified investigators. I did not pull out of my head, it comes from a table in this paper: ... "34 wk gestation, apnea of prematurity, feeding problems of prematurity; hospitalized 18 d after birth, discharge weight 2100 g; co-slept with mother on couch, found on back on floor beside couch" ... "Lungs: scattered acute intra-alveolar hemorrhage; cerebellum: persistent external granular cell layer" (being an engineer, I have no idea what that last bit means, but I am pretty sure the vaccine did not cause the baby to end up on the floor).

I tried to look at the VAERS data for MMR, but just couldn't manage it for long - it hurt my brain. As HCN says, it is a largely a record of pure anecdote and coincidence, with a huge dollop of confirmation bias.

First case - 16 year old girl getting MMR booster developed hyperventilation which precipitated a seizure after vaccination. Linked to vaccine? - presumably, but teenage girl could have hyperventilated after almost any psychological or physiological insult with the same end result.

Second case: A 3.3 yr old (or is it 15 month old? - they can't seem to decide) who has already had measles previously and been left with recurrent ear infections (funny that - I thought measles was entirely harmless?) gets an MMR. Not unreasonably, in view of the recent recurrent ear infections, the parents note the child is a bit deaf. Obviously this is the fault of the vaccine, and not the post-measles otitis.

Is this the best stuff you can come up with? Sure, quite a number of the subsequent reported "reactions" do seem to bear some relationship to vaccine administration, but most of them are recognised vaccine reactions such as fever and aches (symptoms that actually pale into insignificance compared to a full blooded attack of measles itself, which every child ever born in the US would get if there were no vaccination).

This would cause 400 thousand hospitalisations every year, and 800 deaths.

Just to clarify:
With no MMR vaccination, 400 000 hospitalised each year from measles (plus a few thousand more from mumps encephalitis and hundreds of rubella damaged babies).

With vaccination, 71 hospitalisations from MMR vaccine reactions (in last calendar year, according to VAERS). Even allowing for a generous degree of under-reporting (not very likely with children actually hospitalised following a reaction), I know which option Id prefer for my kids.

Could this be from our favorite attorney for hire?

"This case was reported by a lawyer and described the occurrence of mercury poisoning in a male subject aged between 0 and 9 years old who was vaccinated with Engerix B. A physician or other health care professional has not verified this report. The subject was also vaccinated with Hib vaccine, Dtap, OPV, Tetramune, and MMR vaccine. The subject was vaccinated with Engerix B vaccine on 09 April 1993, 13 May 1993 and 19 November 1993. At an unspecified time after vaccination, the subject experienced mercury poisoning. According to the legal complaint, the subject suffered and in the future will continue to suffer from the toxic neurological effects of mercury poisoning. This case was assessed as medically serious by manufacturer (OMIC). At the time of reporting the events were unresolved."

"Vaccines and Autism Revisited," from today's New England Journal of Medicine.

"I agree with the statement of Bernadine Healy, former director of the National Institutes of Health, who said, "I don't think you should ever turn your back on any scientific hypothesis because you're afraid of what it might show. . . . If you know that susceptible group, you can save those children. If you turn your back on the notion there is a susceptible group . . . what can I say?"" Jon S. Poling, M.D., Ph.D NEJM


Interestingly the article lists Poling's potential conflict of interest after his name. I wonder why they didn't have a similar list Dr. Paul PR(Offit) [insert eye roll here].

The gravy train is coming to an end...

By mrs_corapoe (not verified) on 07 Aug 2008 #permalink

Hi Bill. Yes I completely agree with your statement. It isn't just the pharmaceutical industry that is utilizing the Delphi Method to implement their agenda. It's being used across several areas of industry, government, and state agencies, including public schools.

I just realized why they didn't list Dr. Paul (PR)Offit's potential conflict of interest after his name in today's NEJM. The list would have taken up the entire space available for the letter and then some.

As I said earlier, the gravy train is coming to an end.

By mrs_corapoe (not verified) on 07 Aug 2008 #permalink

Got data?

Nope, it looks like you still don't.

And if someone is looking for a paycheck, it is the Polings:

and ... "My interpretation (and that of many others) of the HHS ruling was that the Hannah Poling case is too complex and unique to be a test case, but because there is so much uncertainty they erred on the side of compensation - without conceding that vaccines caused autism in this case."

"Got data?"

HCN, what don't you 'get' about this? There hasn't been a single study done with say, N=300 of ASD children, testing the hypothesis. You can't say there is no correlation when the studies aren't looking at susceptible groups. THAT is precisely the problem here.

By mrs_corapoe (not verified) on 07 Aug 2008 #permalink

It is due to ethics, it is not ethical to withhold a known and tested way to protect children from illness. But ethics seems to something else you lack.

Until you come up with some real data, I shall ignore you.

Forget HCN he KNOWS ALL.

The GREAT HCN stated "Until you come up with some real data, I shall ignore you".

What a puke.

By the way Orac, I read the meaning behind it - I think you chose the wrong name. Delusional? Yes. Humble? No. Small ego? No. C'mon. Give us all a break and come up with a more suitable name that fits your true character.

Thanks for the comments above Dawn. For HCN to claim someone in my position lacks ethics is absolutely crazy. Talk about projecting blame! As Bill said, the Delphi Method is alive and well.

By mrs_corapoe (not verified) on 08 Aug 2008 #permalink

It is not ethical to deny children well established medical treatment, especially the prevention of disease. The studies you claim to be advocating would leave childen vulnerable to harm from very real infections, especially measles and pertussis.

I had to protect a health impared infant from pertussis (he only got the DT vaccine due to a history of neonatal seizures) at a time when our county was having a pertussis epidemic (which also happened to be at a time when an upsurge in measles killed over 120 measles). I find your suggestion to be morally repugnant.

The information you claim to be looking for has been discovered through very large actually scientific surveys of several hundreds of thousands of children, many listed here:

... and many more can be found at by using the search terms "vaccine double blind".

HCN. There is no data to support a vaccine autism link because, as Poling said, noone ever looked. You claim to have ethics on your side and yet you aren't bothered by this simple fact.

By mrs_corapoe (not verified) on 09 Aug 2008 #permalink

There is no data to support a vaccine autism link because, as Poling said, noone ever looked.

That's ridiculous. They looked more than is warranted. There are many avenues of research that are considerably more promising.

There hasn't been a single study done with say, N=300 of ASD children, testing the hypothesis.

There is a study with N=1047 that looks at 42 different neurological outcomes by means of standardized testing: Thompson et al. (2007). It is a thimerosal-only study, but thimerosal exposure (in the pertinent time frame) should be a good proxy of vaccination load. Really, what more do you want?

Joseph said "Really, what more do you want?"

Considering that Sallie Bernard actually participated in the design of one study, and later criticized it when the results did not agree with what she wanted. From… ... "Sour grapes, anyone? Ms. Bernard was a consultant on this study and helped contribute to its design! She apparently didn't like the results that it was producing and decided to drop out and start criticizing it--even jumping the gun on the 5 PM embargo yesterday to do so! Indeed, she is listed on the study in a way that I've never seen before: as a "dissenting member.""....

... what Mrs. Corapoe and her ilk want is the total elimination of vaccine protection for all future children, and it seems the return of the level of disability and fatalities of fifty years ago. This is especially clear when she does not understand the ethical issues with her proposed study (which is one that has been batted about by the ethically and science illiterate), even with the data showing that well over a dozen babies die each year from pertussis and that number is growing --- and that measles is coming back.

Count the Doggerels, everyone!
"Forget HCN he KNOWS ALL."
"HCN. There is no data to support a vaccine autism link because, as Poling said, noone ever looked. You claim to have ethics on your side and yet you aren't bothered by this simple fact."
Doggerel #107: "You Just Think You're Smarter Than Everybody Else!"
Doggerel #53: "We Need More Time to Research!"
Doggrel #152: "Even if I Showed You the Evidence, You Wouldn't Believe It!"

By Laser Potato (not verified) on 09 Aug 2008 #permalink