The anti-vaccine movement strikes back against Amy Wallace using misogyny

The little matter of finding out that the actor who played Data on Star Trek: The Next Generation appears to have anti-vaccine proclivities sidetracked me from something that I had actually wanted to blog about yesterday. Specifically, it's something that my blog bud Abel Pharmboy has been hitting hard over the last couple of days. It may also, sadly, because I've become a bit jaded at the nastiness that anti-vaccine groups such as Generation Rescue (i.e., "Jenny McCarthy and Jim Carrey's Autism Organization"--at least days) and its erstwile founder J.B. Handley can lay down. I'm referring, of course, to Amy Wallace, who wrote what to me is the best example of an article in the mainstream media about the anti-vaccine movement that "gets it." The article was called An Epidemic of Fear: How Panicked Parents Skipping Shots Endangers Us All and appeared in WIRED Magazine.

It was a thing of beauty. There was no false "balance" that puts cranks pushing dangerous pseudoscience on the same plane as real scientists like Paul Offit. There was even a section calling out purveyors of vaccine misinformation. Several luminaries of the the anti-vaccine movement were there, including ones discussed frequently on this blog, like Jenny McCarthy and Jim Carrey, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., and Don Imus. But that wasn't all! There was even a section on how to debunk anti-vaccine canards. What more could an advocate of science-based medicine ask for?

When I first read Wallace's article, I knew she was going to be in for a rough time. The anti-vaccine movement doesn't take kindly to criticism. Indeed, I even warned the publicist who had e-mailed a bunch of bloggers, including me, about the article that I hoped she was ready for a "shitstorm" (the exact word I used). After all, I've been the target of J.B. Handley's wrath on more than one occasion. He's particularly fond of trying to poison my Google reputation when I annoy him sufficiently, and one time either he or someone inspired by one of his attacks on me actually e-mailed my cancer center director a link to his screed. In fact, it wouldn't surprise me if J.B. posts another similar smear after this post. Maybe I'll post this under my own name under my other blog. J.B. only seems to complain about my all-out frontal assaults on the anti-vaccine movement when they come from behind the Orac 'nym. Never mind that I've posted the same stuff, sometimes the almost exactly the same text, word for word, under my own name elsewhere. Indeed, when I do that, inevitably the attacks will land fast and furious on Orac and leave the Real Me alone. I guess that once outing is gone as a threat all that leaves is whining about my use of a pseudonym and how supposedly nasty I am--to which I retort that I consider endangering children to be far nastier than the worst sarcasm I've ever laid down here.

Be that as it may, the publicist said she and Wallace were ready. Well, as an interview on NPR with Wallace has shown, the shitstorm has arrived, and it is just as stinky as the term implies, complete with misogyny and sexism. Abel compiled a more coherent description from Wallace's Twitter feed:

I've been called stupid, greedy, a whore, a prostitute, and a "fking lib." I've been called the author of "heinous tripe."

J.B. Handley, the founder of Generation Rescue, the anti-vaccine group that actress Jenny McCarthy helps promote, sent an essay title" "Paul Offit Rapes (intellectually) Amy Wallace and Wired Magazine." In it, he implied that Offit had slipped me a date rape drug. "The roofie cocktails at Paul Offit's house must be damn good," he wrote. Later, he sent a revised version that omitted rape and replaced it with the image of me drinking Offit's Kool-aid. That one was later posted at the anti-vaccine blog Age of Autism. You can read that blog here

Stay classy, J.B. That's exactly the behavior from you that we've come to know and despise, and this is the sort of behavior that we expect from the anti-vaccine movement:

I've been told I'll think differently "if you live to grow up." I've been warned that "this article will haunt you for a long time." Just now, I got an email so sexually explicit that I can't paraphrase it here. Except to say it contained the c-word and a reference to dead fish.

I've already discussed how Paul Offit has suffered from attempted intimidation and death threats from the anti-vaccine movement. In this, the anti-vaccine is very much like the Animal Liberation Front or other animal rights groups, wielding intimidation to keep scientists from speaking out. Their level of understanding science is about at the same level, as well. But it's not just Paul Offit. I'm currently reading Michael Specter's new book Denialism: How Irrational Thinking Hinders Scientific Progress, Harms the Planet, and Threatens Our Lives. (Why is it that books like this always require such a long and unwieldy subtitle? Hell, even Suzanne Somers' book is called Knockout: Interviews with Doctors Who Are Curing Cancer--And How to Prevent Getting It in the First Place. Word to publishers: Stop it! But I digress.) In Denialism, Specter includes a solid chapter about the anti-vaccine movement, Vaccines and the Great Denial, and in that chapter he describes how Marie McCormick, who led the Institute of Medicine panel that produced a seminal report in 2004 scientifically exonerating vaccines as a cause of autism suffered from similar harassment. She now has a guard posted near her office.

It's the M.O. of the anti-vaccine movement. Unable to win on science, they try to win through intimidation and smears. As a result, scientists are reluctant to go into autism research, because they quite understandably don't want the hassle of dealing with the attacks. Ditto vaccine science. After all, all one has to do is to look at the examples of Paul Offit and Marie McCormick to understand why public health officials shy away from getting involved and especially from speaking out in defense of science and against fear mongering. The same is also true of journalists. Indeed, the reaction of the anti-vaccine movement to Wallace's piece makes me wonder if part of the reason for so much of hte false balance and the apparent reluctance of journalists to call out Jenny McCarthy and put her on the spot in an interview has anything to do with the fear. It's a possibility.

I do have to admit that I was quite amused by J.B.'s attack on Wallace in the anti-vaccine crank blog Age of Autism, though. It was full of whining and bits that show such a complete lack of self-awareness on J.B.'s part that it was truly hilarious to behold. Here is a sampling:

  • "Ms. Wallace appears to have gone exclusively to Google University to research her feeble attempt at describing a very complex topic." I just about spit out my coffee all over my lovely MacBook Pro when I read this. Given that the new spokesmoron of Generation Rescue, Jenny McCarthy, is perhaps the best known user and abuser of the University of Google, a use and abuse that have led her to make gut-bustingly funny manglings of science like this, J.B.'s statement took my irony meter and fried that sucker into a puddle of molten metal and rubber, and even that was quivering in fear of another assault.
  • "I grow so weary of pointing out the same logical fallacies, misstatements, and outright factual errors that many journalists make when covering this debate, it's going to be a struggle for my stamina to analyze her tripe in detail." (This is one of the rare areas where I'm in agreement with J.B., just not in the way he thinks. In fact, I think I've used that very sentence, or a variation thereof, when beginning more than one post about some nonsense published on J.B.'s anti-vaccine blog Age of Autism, because I do get tired of pointing out the same logical fallacies, misstatements, and outright factual errors that each and every blogger--nay, every anti-vaccine zealot I've ever encountered!--routinely parrots. J.B. I is no exception; in fact, he spews more than usual, for instance "Fourteen Studies." But I keep doing it, because, well, it's become my duty. In fact, I'm going to have to exercise some of that patience and stamina right here because J.B once again serves up a heapin' helpin' of logical fallacies, misstatements, and outright factual errors. As usual.
  • "The main targets of our movement are the CDC, AAP, and vaccine makers. Offit is an annoying sideshow, nothing more. He's annoying because of articles like yours. He didn't cause my son's autism, and he has nothing to do with my son's recovery." Wow. For someone that J.B. doesn't consider very important, who is an "annoying sideshow," J.B.'s blog and organization sure do waste a lot of verbiage attacking Dr. Offit. In fact, a quick Google search for "Paul Offit" in the domain pulled up over 1,000 hits. In fact, Just this week, J.B. launched a hilariously off-base attack entitled Dr. Paul Offit, The Autism Expert. Doesn't See Patients with Autism? So hilariously self-unaware was J.B. in that post that I seriously thought of doing a parody of it using Andrew Wakefield in Paul Offit's place. After all, Wakefield doesn't see children with autism either. He's been a researcher, and now he lends his anti-vaccine cred to Thoughtful House, where he can't see patients because of that pesky problem of not having a medical license. Someone can correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think Wakefield has ever regularly seen patients since his residency training; he's a "researcher," and a truly awful one. Sadly, other things got in my way. Or maybe not so sadly.
  • "Offit actually has proven to be quite helpful - he's the poster boy for the other side, which means his faults become the other side's faults." Project much, J.B.? Actually, it's J.B. and his ilk who try to make Offit the poster boy for all the imagined and exaggerated faults fo the "other side." Besides, every conspiracy movement needs a villain. For 9/11 Truther's it's the U.S. government (and sometimes the Mossad). For creationists, it's Richard Dawkins. For the anti-vaccine movement, it's Paul Offit, for much the same reason that Richard Dawkins is made into the villain by creationists and fundamentalists. They both dare to speak out against popular pseudoscience and don't back down.

In his post, it's also hard not to point out that J.B. does inadvertently demonstrate why any reasonable person should consider him anti-vaccine:

Why are you boring readers with misguided psychobabble? You could have used this time to read some of the science on our side of the fence which is also peer-reviewed! Clean water, toilets, and refrigerators eradicated disease, or at least 98% of it, I'll give vaccines credit for the final 2% -- and a whole lotta' autism, allergies, and other demylenating illnesses.

Wow. Just wow. I'd really like to see what "peer-reviewed" evidence from "his side" that J.B. has that shows that it was not vaccines but rather clean water, toilets, and refrigerators that eradicated "98%" of infectious disease or that vaccines cause a "whole lotta autism allergies, and other demyelinating diseases." Here's hint one for J.B.: Peer-reviewed doesn't mean it's necessarily good research. It's a minimum standard, and the "research" that J.B. cites has, without an exception that I've ever seen, been uniformly awful. As I pointed out with the most recent assault on science by the anti-vaccine movement, namely the execrable monkey study being touted as evidence that thimerosal in the hepatitis B vaccine causes "neurological damage" (an anti-vaccine code word in its "research" for "autism"), peer reviewers are routinely mislead by various studies by anti-vaccine cranks because they don't know the subtext for these studies.

Here's another thing that J.B.'s comment makes me wonder about. He gets very indignant when he is called anti-vaccine. He inevitably whines that he is not "anti-vaccine" but "pro-safe vaccine" or some variant thereof. I have to wonder, though. If J.B. really thinks that vaccines are only responsible for a mere 2% of the elimination of infectious disease--I mean, really, really believes it right down to the depths of his soul--why doesn't he just come right out and admit that he's anti-vaccine? After all, if he believes that vaccines cause an "epidemic" of autism, demyelinating diseases, and allergies, all for the benefit of a mere 2% when it comes to infectious diseases, then why not just say he is against vaccines because they don't do any good and do a lot of harm? That's what he just said, and I have no reason to believe he's lying. Let's put it this way. If I believed as J.B. apparently does, if I believed that vaccines were responsible for at most 2% of the elimination of infectious diseases and at the same time caused an "epidemic" of autism, demyelinating diseases, and other severe consequences, you can bet that I'd come out and say I was against vaccination. It would be a reasonable stance based on unreasonable beliefs about the dangers of vaccines. But I don't believe anything of the sort. The scientific evidence simply doesn't support J.B.'s assertions. I also suspect that, deep down J.B. doesn't entirely believe these things either. If he truly does believe that vaccines do so little good and cause so much harm, his self-delusion would have to exceed even his obnoxiousness. Maybe it does.

After all, the evidence that vaccines played a major role in the elimination of diseases is incontrovertible. Smallpox was not eliminated by better sanitation and refrigeration. It was eliminated by a vaccine. The incidence of measles didn't plunge dramatically primarily because of better sanitation or refrigeration; it plunged because of the introduction of an effective vaccine. (Unfortunately, this progress is being endangered by the misinformation being spread by the likes of J.B. Handley and the pseudoscience of quacks like Andrew Wakefield.) The incidence of invasive Haemophilus influenzae type B (Hib) disease didn't plunge in the early 1990s because of better sanitation or refrigeration. Sanitation and refrigeration were just fine in the late 1980s. The incidence of severe Hib plunged because of a vaccine--indeed, to the point where younger pediatricians have never even seen a case of HiB. This is a good thing, although I'm not so sure J.B. would agree. Either that, or he'd try to claim that it wasn't the vaccine, which is nonsense.

J.B. also can't stand strong, principled disagreement with him. Like all people, he doesn't like to be told he is wrong. The difference is that he reacts to criticism by attacking the person doing the criticism, not by refuting him with evidence. That's because he can't use evidence; his position is unsupportable by science. J.B. also has a huge amount of what appears to me to be a mixture of envy and contempt for the scientists who tell him he doesn't know what he's talking about. Indeed, this is what he's written:

I'm not intellectually intimidated by any of these jokers. Their degrees mean zippo to me, because I knew plenty of knuckleheads in college who went on to be doctors, and they're still knuckleheads (I also knew plenty of great, smart guys who went on to be doctors and they're still great, smart guys).

I chose a different path and went into the business world. In the business world, having a degree from a great college or business school gets you your first job, and not much else. There are plenty of Harvard Business School grads who have bankrupted companies and gone to jail, and plenty of high school drop-outs who are multi-millionaires. Brains and street-smarts win, not degrees, arrogance, or entitlement.

In other words, to J.B., it's all about "elitism." He honestly seems to believe that the reason the scientific community doesn't accept his wild beliefs that vaccines cause autism is because of elitism and groupthink, not because the scientific evidence doesn't support that belief. Unlike the case for scientists, it never occurs to him that maybe--just maybe--he might be wrong. It never occurs to him that the reason he is viewed with such disdain among scientists is because, well, he is wrong. But not just wrong, spectacularly, dangerously, and arrogantly wrong about the science. Truly, he is full of the arrogance of ignorance, and thinks that his success in the business world (or, as he puts it, his "brains and street smarts") means that he can figure vaccines out. He can't. Brains and street smarts count for little in science without a background understanding of science and acceptance of the scientific method, neither of which J.B. has.

One thing Amy Wallace gets completely right is described in her interview with NPR :

Wallace calls part of the discourse that has followed her article "a bullying tactic." She points to JB Handley, founder of Generation Rescue -- which contends that too many vaccines are given too soon and blames autism on vaccines -- for many attacks against her in the blogosphere. She says such tactics dissuade many scientists from taking a stand in the debate. It is important to speak out against those tactics, she says, adding that she has been commenting regularly about the issue on Twitter.

Indeed it is important to stand up to bullies, and Wallace has done just that.

At this stage, I have to wonder if the anti-vaccine movement is becoming its own worst enemy. As the science keeps marching in that shows no connection between vaccines and autism and lends no support to the concept that vaccines are ineffective and dangerous promoted by the anti-vaccine movement, groups like Generation Rescue are becoming more shrill and even more quacktastic than ever. In doing so, they further marginalize themselves. Quite correctly, their behavior leads reasonable and scientific people to dismiss them more and more. Unfortunately, when that happens, all that leaves is abuse and bullying as tactics to intimidate those who speak out against them.


More like this

Feel better now, Dedj? Happy to have spared the wife or the dog a round of your righteous rage tonight.
LOL. Sorry to have used "YOU" so broadly, it was intended generally to the perennial members of your little jury.

Calm down and have some warm milk. Goodnight.

By DoctrinalFairness (not verified) on 04 Nov 2009 #permalink

Accusations of wife of animal abuse aren't funny, at least not in sober over-18's.

The irony of apologising for overgeneralising with your use of 'you' whilst at the same time lumping me in with everyone else here will be lost on you.

You even fail at being meek and apologetic, turning it into yet another attempt at insulting and over-generalising. I feel utterly confident that your 'apology' was not sincere, and was only done convince yourself that you are 'that sort of guy'.

Apology definetly not accepted on grounds of being false and insulting.

I think you'll excuse me for not taking the advice of someone who accused me of 'near sociopathy' (for something someone else said) seriously.

Please do not respond again, unless it is a proper apology or substantiation of why Chu should be taken seriously under a system you deem invalid.

Any further attempts at insults will be deemed indicative of a inability to answer.


Trolls tend to go away if you ignore them. Please remember this!

I LOLed at #166

By Johannes9126 (not verified) on 05 Nov 2009 #permalink

When I saw that comments had passed the 500 mark, I knew that DF had come back for encore(s), despite the final-sounding goodbyes. The conspiracy-minded will no doubt wonder whether a supposedly obsessed antivaxer is getting a cut of Orac's Big Pharma payoffs in return for hanging around and driving up his page views.

"I can think of countless Nobel Prizewinning scientists who were ignored and ridiculed"

I eagerly await this list too, while noting that one little bitty difference (among many) between a Nobel Prize winner and Susan Chu is that Nobel-winning scientists actually do their own research, and do not rely on cherry-picking bits of others' work to suit a particular agenda.

I also wonder how one reconciles attacking Dr. Paul Offit for his statement that children can handle antigenic challenges vastly greater than they experience with current vaccines, and on the other hand urging higher quantities of antigen to be employed in adjuvant-less vaccines.

Sorry Chris, but I hear that if we boost comments up to 750, Orac wins a pony.

By Dangerous Bacon (not verified) on 05 Nov 2009 #permalink

Joha, Sad that none of this is a laughing matter. Nor will the next pandemic be anything to laugh at. The little matter of herd immunity is YOUR problem too- unless of course, it's all a big sham to sell vaccines, as millions of people now believe.

And the "little people" you sneer at aren't blind. Most have observed that the PR machine of the "independent" press has now rolled out their huge campaign dispelling any notion that potential vaccine side-effects are due to anything but the normal occurences of illness patterns.
All side effects are now to be considered coincidence until proven otherwise.
The same creative interpretation of statistics that Chu points out in #494 (none of you have defended the math, I notice) to arrive at the evaluation of pre-vaccine safety will now be vigorously applied to the post-vaccination data of adverse reactions to the vaccine. You LOL'ed at #166, but please busy yourself in taking a crack at interpreting the safety data and do feel free to explain.
I'd love to hear Richard Feynman himself de how you can assure us that the vaccine will not harm as many in equal numbers as it saves.
Your silence can be construed as defense of the "creativity" of such statistical interpetation. Along with the statistical impossiblity of the positive, industry favoring findings in a huge percentage of peer review studies, you have failed to show whay anyone should believe that there is any more rigor in EVB than research that shows that "reflexology offers symptomatic relief in some people".
Thusly, the new name for your own servile Cult is up for grabs.

Dedj, let's replay your tape,
How dare you wrongly extrapolate that I accused you of wife or animal abuse from my statements? I said absolutely no such thing. Please provide conclusive evidence that I did or apologize this very instant. Until you do so, you are "forbidden to reply".

I merely implied that I spared the poor wife and doggie to further subjection of pompous posturing, bullying, stonewalling and your cocksure assumption of an exclusive right to interpret reality, worth or value. Until you are ready to consider an expansion of the definition of abuse AND a peek at what constitutes sociopathology, then we have very little common ground nor is there any need for my apology. Continue to defend the indefensible and then wonder why you have a credibility problem.

Please review the statistics at #494. Until then, I propose a contest to "Name that Cult".

BTW Chris, how's the knee from all of that marching? Up down, up, down- all of that repetitive movement can't be very good for it...

By DoctrinalFairness (not verified) on 05 Nov 2009 #permalink

DF is still here and bringin' the crazy extra hard today. I thought she was leaving. How pathetic.

By Joseph C. (not verified) on 05 Nov 2009 #permalink

Why is this DF troll being fed? I scanned through the links provided and this UK Chu (conveniently and similarly named for a US govt scientist) has mastered a good bit of the vocabulary but doesn't appear to have done much itself. However, it does have a lot of time on its hands... as does DF troll.

Why is this DF troll being fed?

Sheer boredom and for the novelty of having finally found the female cooler.

By Joseph C. (not verified) on 05 Nov 2009 #permalink

I wouldn't say DF is the female cooler. Her "best" work so far can be surpassed by cooler in his sleep. Truly, cooler's depths of lunacy are nigh-impossible for mere mortals to plumb.

Wow. DF has really lost it. I actually wondered if she had a point there for a bit, but any point she may have been trying to make has been totally obscured behind the anti-science conspiracy theory ravings and insults.

I hope my little contribution helps Orac win the pony.

Hello Doctrianlfairness and Thank You,
I heard my coworker pound the desk, and I asked what the uproar was over. Apparently he had had enough of someone named dedge? He told me which blog, and I started reading. Yes, I just finished reading all 502 comments and several links (it is still before work). As a first time reader who never thought much about these issues before, I must say I have been enlightened. Our first child is on the way, and the information is much appreciated. After getting through all the comments, I cant help but feel you have truly been put through a war by the same group of posters over and over. If you read from the beginning- your points, passion, common sense and links to data, are far and above the rest of the 'gang'. I know sometimes that anger and exhaustion due to the same tired responses over and over can sometimes make people ramble, but even your rambling posts are genuine. I just thought you would like to know, from a new reader, that you have made a difference. They could post on and on with more rebuttals, but your message will hold. I think all new readers looking for answers will not believe a word of this particular group you have been up against.


Sock puppets are the oldest trick in the book.

By Joseph C. (not verified) on 05 Nov 2009 #permalink

Sock puppets? No clue, Joe but I'll venture a guess.
Thank you "ltcolors"- I'd bet that Joe is implying that I'm now simultaneously posing as myself, Susan Chu and now you, too. Maybe from time to time your colleague will post for me in my upcoming absence to go backpacking with a friend sans my computer for a few days. Crunchy granola, too.

I'll be so sorry to miss out on the scintillating discussion on how and why a woman with very solid credentials in Flu Preparedness and many years of volunteer study in examining the science at hand with influenza can be so readily and easily ignored by this crowd, while every utterance and publication of celebrities is so carefully dissected.
If Susan Chu can be run out of town, which undoubtably she will be, given the despicable threat that her "psuedo-scientific ramblings" on a blog pose to the impenetrable and frozen dogma here, at least a few people will be aware of it.

By DoctrinalFairness (not verified) on 05 Nov 2009 #permalink

Sock puppets? No clue, Joe but I'll venture a guess.

Bullshit. You fool nobody. Very weak attempt.

By Joseph C. (not verified) on 05 Nov 2009 #permalink

No problem doctrialfairness. Sorry I dont have the experience or vocabulary to argue with these people. It did give me a chuckle though. That is not the usual kind of puppet we get called in the military. Thanks again. I will save the info for my wife. I should make it back to the states close to delivery time.

Joseph, I suspect that DF has used other sockpuppets here before. It is a common troll tactic.

One more thing, doctrinalfairness. What do you think of kittehs?


When you arrived at RI, I took you seriously despite the tone of your first posts indicating you were more or less gunning for a fight. I even think we had a few reasonable back-and-forth posts regarding relevant scientific publications. However, one of the main reasons I have not responded to any of your posts over the last few days is the course you continue to run in your comments here. I am no longer convinced that itâs possible to have a meaningful conversation with youâ¦Here are the main reasons why:

1.Tone. I neither condone nor excuse the tone that some commenters here have taken towards you. On the other hand, itâs hard to take seriously your complaints that skeptics and RI commenters should treat you (and other concerned âlaypeopleâ) with greater respect when you have been bombastic, dismissive, hyperbolic, and flat rude since your very first post. Itâs the height of absurdity to repeatedly attack the residents of an online forum and simultaneously demand that they take your claims seriously and perform work for you (i.e., break down complicated published data in a rapidly changing field) instantaneously.
2.Pace. You have posted a large volume in your short time. In some ways, it has been a "Gish Gallop" of half-reasonable/half-nonsense comments that make it highly difficult to effectiley address the relevant points and questions. Slowing down alone should improve the signal-to-noise ratio.
3.Absurd, insulting claims. In just a single comment (#480 above), littered with scarequotes, you implicitly or explicitly assert that pharmaceutical industry studies are tainted, that doctors and scientists that agree with the current medical consensus put patients (knowingly or ignorantly, but willingly) at an unacceptable risk, that critical evaluation of the claims of people you donât necessarily care about (e.g., actresses who claim medical expertise) is a diversionary tactic meant to keep the ignorant masses subjugated, that other commenters have âsworn blind allegianceâ to underhanded pharmaceutical company research, etc. Maybe that comment was overboard because it was an angry âout of retirementâ response to perceived slights, but Iâve witnessed plenty of other comments youâve authored with similar assertions. These are not the writings of someone who will readily be taken seriously.
4.Susan Chuphilia. Thereâs a reason why it appears nobody knew of this person before you arrived: sheâs a retired physician writing a blog. She is currently, it seems, a non-entity in the relevant research world. Iâve read a number of her posts now and while she does a decent job of explaining some of the complexities of immunology, and has pointed out some of the weaknesses of the current data set regarding squaline-derived adjuvants, thereâs a lot of sloppy thinking in those posts, too. I will provide an example below. I get the feeling you havenât spent nearly the time and effort evaluating Chuâs claims as you have apparently dismissing those that have been presented here in response to your questions and assertions. Perhaps you need to re-read her self-published âDisclaimersâ post in which she wisely states:

I'm not a research scientist, and this is not a peer-reviewed journal. Any comment I make that is science related, including ones supported with references and/or links to peer-reviewed sources, should not be construed as a comprehensive and/or authoritative review of the subject, nor 'proof' of any theory, hypothesis, or causal relationship.

I am a research scientist and I would readily appropriate the basics of this disclaimer for my own comments on this blog and others. Please remember that informal fora such as RI or fluwiki are just that. Dr. Chu might be wise to focus more of her efforts on influencing the relevant scientific literature though letters or editorials (such as the recent editorial @ PMID: 19851782) if sheâs so angry and certain that there have been severe oversights in vaccine safetyâ¦

I am not interested in your present flamewar and I have no illusions that I can salvage the present situation in any meaningful way. Iâve already resigned myself to a reasonable likelihood that Iâm wasting a not-insignificant portion of my day on this comment and the critical evaluation below. If you wish to be taken seriously, DF, please disengage and start over.

As for responding to Dr. Chuâs blog posts, Iâve looked at several and will spend some time evaluating one. This one. Here are a few things Iâve noticedâ¦

* Chu cites 4 studies on âSqualene-induced arthritis in mice.â Putting aside the repeated errors that these studies were actually performed in rats and not mice, I took the time to read the first publication in detail and the other three less closely (PMIDs: 10854227, 15196244, 11966758, 10023856). For each paper, âSqualene-Induced Arthritisâ (SIA) developed following intradermal injection of 172-258mg of pure squalene in only one strain of rat (or crosses including that strain). SIA was transient, with symptoms peaking at about 20 days and almost completely subsiding by about 40, and âleaving no permanent deformation of the joints.â Chu never provided any critical evaluation of these papers, of which the obvious criticisms would include the dose & route of administration. Vaccinations are typically given intramuscularly, so an intradermal injection may produce a different response. More importantly, the administered dose of squalene to a rat is 17.6-26.5 times higher than that given to humans (9.75mg) in a 2001 flu vaccine safety trial (11425416); an adult human is typically 100-200 times larger than an adult rat, making the dose differential several orders of magnitude. Furthermore, itâs also worth noting that these reports ever compared treated rats to saline controls, arthritis evaluations werenât blinded, and these studies were all performed by the same research group (not independently reproduced). These weaknesses are necessary caveats to the evaluation of these findings in the relevant literature. Theyâre very interesting, and likely important, studies; theyâre not a smoking gun against the use of squalene adjuvants in humans.
* The target of Chuâs post was this statement by a GSK rep:

I think all the manufacturers have presented data that shows that the effects of the adjuvants are limited in time, limited to the space where it is injected and in the draining lymph nodes. They don't have widespread activation of the immune response, and there isn't plausibility that they would activate autoimmunity in organs separate from the muscle where they are injected.

Chuâs incomplete analysis of these papers is, she claims, âalready plenty enough IMO to debunk the misinformation from GSK.â I donât think this is the case. While a 5000-fold higher dose of pure squalene may induce a transient widespread activation of the immune response in one strain of rats, that doesnât really scale to a human vaccination dose. In fact, Chu never presents any human data in this post that counters the GSK claim. This doesnât mean that GSKâs claims are correct; it simply means that Chu did not do a sufficient job of actually countering GSKâs actual claims, as far as Iâm concerned.
* There is more sloppy thinking in Chuâs comments below her post. Of particular note, Chu spent almost 1200 words on the case of the girl that died after her Cervarix vaccination and tangential topics, stating that ââassociation does not equal causationâ, but in this instance, when association is so intimately linked with vaccination, it's a lot harder to justify that it is unrelated to the vaccineâ and railing against the âdetoxified endotoxinâ component of the adjuvant AS04. She spent about 30 words âcompleting the pictureâ with the link to the story describing the patientâs massive tumor that resulted in her likely-vaccination-unrelated death. Chu is under no obligation to re-balance her coverage of the situation, naturally, but that thread seems indicative to me of Chuâs apparent singular focus on vaccine adjuvant risks evidenced in her other postsâ¦I'd argue this led her to jump to a set of conclusions that were ultimately not warranted.

Iâve spent a lot of time on this post now. Iâve other work to do. Iâll wait and see whether this tome of a comment has any effect on the current dynamics of this thread (and others). I hope I havenât wasted my time.

By Credentialed (not verified) on 05 Nov 2009 #permalink

Doctrinalfairness, I did not post #518. It appears they have not received training. The puppet argument is an enemy tactic used when no real information is available.


It's great fun hijacking your lame sock puppet.


Well-written post. It echoes some of my sentiments as well. I also appreciate the analysis of Dr. Chu's writing, though the link you provided appears to be broken.

Don't listen to #520, who is clearly not me but someone else!

What an ass! You couldn't hijack me if you tried.

Your childish game has confirmed to me what I suspected after first reading these comments. Doctrinalfairness, I hope you see that I spoke the truth about why these people cant be trusted, and that it gives you the strength to carry on. Dont fall prey to their tactics.

Don't listen to the evil basement kitteh at #523.

1) LOL at your obvious sock puppet doctrinalfairness. That's hilarious and only adds to the legend of your performance here.

2) @credentialed, thanks for that write up. I laughed when I saw the ~250 mg squalene injection. Expert analysis by Dr. Chu.

Anyhow I hope to see more of your posts, that definitely saved a lot of time for us to search through the literature. Which, since I'm lazy, I probably wouldn't have done just to deal with doctrinalfairness.

518, 521, 523 and 526, It is so painfully obvious that you are not the original poster. Stupid imposters such as yourself would be killed instantly if you werent hiding in the states behind your desk probably on your big fat ass. You think you're safe hiding there? I can get anything I want on you with as little one email. Keep hiding asswipe.

LOL att #523 kitteh. Did kitteh has squalene fur breakfasts?

By DoctrinalFairness (not verified) on 05 Nov 2009 #permalink

nice to hear from you again.
Once again, I appreciate your time and this time, strongly disagrre with much of what you have written.

>>While a 5000-fold higher dose of pure squalene may induce a transient widespread activation of the immune response in one strain of rats, that doesnât really scale to a human vaccination dose. In fact, Chu never presents any human data in this post that counters the GSK claim.< <

This is so disingeneous, where would that data ever be found, credentialed, other than in what? the approximate 97% of existing data in the over 65 set?
Ask Dr. Diebold, from the FDA, whose credentials were under attack here for remotely suggesting caution with what is unknown! Or has everyone been closely monitoring the health and wellbeing of those 2000 little African children? The data doesn't exist.
Which is Chu's point. The children/pregnant woman data is being collected now in a giant experiment-which is also my point.
You are comfortable with that, I'm not. No one here has explained to me why I should be.

You will soon get your well-deserved break from my volume of posts as I'm off on holiday with a friend. My defense of Susan Chu, of whom I have read on Effect Measure, said by your colleague revere, to be "one smart lady", is due to the fact that she alone addressed an issue hinted at by my own friend and physician.
This, BTW, IS also very disingeneous:
>>Thereâs a reason why it appears nobody knew of this person before you arrived: sheâs a retired physician writing a blog<<
I'll just let that stand a bit, undefended by me, until you are willing to look just a bit closer at how she has chosen to further the knowledge and preparedness for pandemic influenza for quite a long time now.
If I do have a "crush" on this total stranger, she is in good company, my earliest 8th grade crushes were on Barbara McClintock and Victor Frankl and neither of them have ever let me down.
I don't get crushes easily and I have no delusions that Susan Chu is right about everything. Her questions have much merit considering that she is NO WAY merely just a flu "blogger". That her tireless and varied contributions can be so readily dismissed in light of the actual work she has done is enlightening to me, putting NONE of my suspicions to rest. I notice that you too have ignored number 494. Everyone has.
Until then I stand by my angry assertions in #480.

I don't want to wait the three decades it will take the CDC to even begin to review their guidelines about flu vaccination in pregnant women, if the history of Lyme disease is any example of how these things work. Thousands of children with Lyme disease had to be told it was a self-limiting illness easily treated with 10 days of antibiotics and any of the crippling illness that lingered was either autoimmune with unknown etiology or psychosomatic. Thirty years later we're finding out that could not be farther from the truth. Maybe when just the right number of doctors who have been near death from ALS get treated with antibiotics and fully recover will the guidelines change once and for all..

By doctinalfairness (not verified) on 05 Nov 2009 #permalink

ltcol rs:

You think you're safe hiding there? I can get anything I want on you with as little one email. Keep hiding asswipe.

Well played, Colonel. A little research of our own should put these "researchers" in their place, eh?

By Maj. Gen. Stub… (not verified) on 05 Nov 2009 #permalink

My husband is a kindhearted gentleman who would never stoop so low as to threaten total strangers over the Internet, I will have you know.

By Mrs. Maj. Gen… (not verified) on 05 Nov 2009 #permalink

"This is so disingeneous, where would that data ever be found, credentialed, other than in what? "

What does this even mean? Posting data from a paper is disingenuous? It came from a paper that Dr. Chu cited. IT CAME FROM A PAPER DR. CHU CITED. IT CAME FROM A PAPER DR. CHU CITED. He said in his comment which papers it came from. These are papers Dr. Chu used as her sources. IT CAME FROM A PAPER DR. CHU CITED. He then goes on to cite the source of the amount of squalene included in a flu vaccine. HE CITES THE SOURCE IT CAME FROM. Then he comments (uncited) on the size difference between rats and humans. Granted, that's not cited but surely you are familiar enough with rats to understand how many times larger than a rat a human is.

And why didn't you address his comment? Does it even mean anything to you? Those rats were given ~5000x higher dosage/kg than humans are by a different injection route. And all you can say is "where would that data be found"? after he cites his sources and they happened to be the same sources Dr. Chu cited.

Please address his comments. Do you think it is valid to extrapolate the effects of an ~5000x dosage of a compound injected intradermally in rats to the same compound (1/5000 as much per kg) intramuscularly.

DF, in your limited response to me it seems clear that you have interpreted what I've written in the worst possible light and tried to shout it down rather rather than responding to what the clear intentions of my post are meant to be: that this is a complex issue that is best understood with nuance and caveats. This includes factual claims that can be made by either side of the issue.

Far from your claim that I readily dismissed Chu's work, I stated that "she does a decent job of explaining some of the complexities of immunology, and has pointed out some of the weaknesses of the current data set regarding squaline-derived adjuvants." If you're not willing to accept that there are legitimate counter-criticisms of Chu's claims (e.g., that GSK's safety claims are "debunked" by experiments in rats, with a genetic propensity for developing arthritis, given doses of squalene that are up to 5000 times greater than a human would receive), then we lack a philosophical framework on which to base further discussions.

By Credentialed (not verified) on 05 Nov 2009 #permalink

532 Mam, it is not a threat to tell someone who assumes your identity to stop hiding. Serious breach. Highly doubt he had a kind heart for people who lie about their identity. That is what I meant by that could get you killed in the real world. Gotta get some shut eye. out

oh yeah, say goodnight to your 'husband' for me. fool.

I can has autoimmune disease?

By Squalene Kitteh (not verified) on 05 Nov 2009 #permalink

#532 Rima dearest, please don't get yourself worked up over matters that do not concern you.

Military men share a certain understanding about fifth column types. I'm sure the good Colonel can see them crawling all over this thread just as I can. Old soldiers can spot these sorry cowards a mile away because, to be frank, they all stink of pussy.

I use coarse terms not to offend you, my darling, but so you might appreciate the intensity of the reaction shared by Colonel here and myself. It is indeed most pleasurable. Once we catch the familiar scent of a target entering into range, only a fool would think to stand in our way.

By Bert Stubblebine III (not verified) on 05 Nov 2009 #permalink

ATTN. ITCOLRS AND STUBBLEBINE my secret username is CIDDECEP and I am your S2. My authorization code is Six Wun Quebec Oscar Fife. Your presence here is tactically dangerous and compromises our overall mission parameter. Cease and desist all activity on this board. Our âenemiesâ are deft at computer hacking and may trace you back to our primary locale. You have forced me to compromise my situation to protect your vulnerable flank. This issue will be addressed later.

man, yu is bout stupid as I ever seen. that very stupid. now go eet yur kittehs.