"Dr. Bob" Sears profiled: A cynical vaccine-averse pediatrician who accepts no blame for the results of his antivaccine message


I've said it before, and I'll say it again. I don't much like "Dr. Bob" Sears. Actually, I rather detest the guy. The reasons are obvious. There isn't an antivaccine trope Dr. Bob won't repeat in the service of pandering to the vaccine-averse parents base who bring him patients. They're all there in his The Vaccine Book: Making the Right Decision for your Child and have been thoroughly deconstructed by pediatricians (and others) ranging from Paul Offit to John Snyder, the latter of whom quite appropriated dubbed Sears' book to be cashing in on fear. Basically, at ever turn, Sears either subtly (or not-so-subtly) downplays the dangers of vaccine-preventable diseases and exaggerates (or makes up) risks of vaccinating. His book is rife with misinformation, including common antivaccine tropes such as "too many too soon" and fear mongering about aluminum-containing adjuvants and the mercury-containing preservative thimerosal in vaccines. In other words, it is not a reliable source of information on vaccines, and that's putting it mildly.

Yet, all the while denying that he's antivaccine even as he spews antivaccine misinformation, "Dr. Bob" Sears has built quite the empire for himself as the "vaccine skeptic" pediatrician. His parents' patients apparently adore him, because he indulges their fears and is either too spineless or too cynical to tell them they are based on pseudoscience or believes the pseudoscience himself. Maybe it's a little of both. Meanwhile, he practices in southern California, one area where there have been significant measles outbreaks because of the pockets of children who are either unvaccinated or undervaccinated. Hilariously, when parents who had trusted Dr. Bob's vaccine advice started calling his office late last winter, concerned about the measles outbreaks raging around him, Dr. Bob basically told them, "Don't worry, be happy" and get your child vaccinated if you're too wimpy to accept such a "tiny" risk. Oh, and stop bothering him about it. It was a truly monumentally slimy passing of the buck.

So it was with trepidation that I approached an article that appeared over the weekend about Dr. Bob in the LA TIMES entitled Vaccination controversy swirls around O.C.'s 'Dr. Bob'. It was actually not too bad, as they say. It also provided me perfect blog fodder for today, because I spent most of the weekend out visiting my wife's family at a reunion, which means I like a subject that actually doesn't require me to comment (much), at least today. It'll make a good change of pace.

First up, is a piece of information that I hadn't expected:

While the vast majority of physicians are troubled by the anti-vaccination movement, Sears, 45, lends a sympathetic ear. About half his patients forgo vaccines altogether. To others, he offers "Dr. Bob's" alternative and selective vaccination schedules, which delay or eliminate certain immunizations.

No, I wasn't surprised to learn that Dr. Bob turns a sympathetic ear to the antivaccine movement. That's his business model. I was surprised that half of his practice is completely unvaccinated. I figured that most of Dr. Bob's practice probably followed his "modified vaccine schedule" (which is not based on any science) and a relatively few of his patients were completely unvaccinated. Silly me for giving even Dr. Bob the benefit of the doubt. Any pediatrician who allows and encourages half of his patients to be completely unvaccinated is committing outrageous malpractice, in my book, and does not deserve a medical license because he is a danger to the public.

However, the part of the article I wanted to focus your attention on is this gem from Dr. Bob:

"I do think the disease danger is low enough where I think you can safely raise an unvaccinated child in today's society," he said. "It may not be good for the public health. But … for your individual child, I think it is a safe enough choice."

In other words, Dr. Bob knows that he can get away with it if half his patients don't vaccinate, as long as those other suckers children are vaccinated. Basically, he is telling his patients to "hide in the herd," taking advantage of herd immunity that occurs in highly vaccinated populations to protect those who can't be vaccinated. It's a breathtakingly cynical strategy, encouraging his patients's parents to be parasites, with no sense of social obligation whatsoever. Indeed, he even wrote: “I also warn them not to share their fears with their neighbors, because if too many people avoid the MMR, we’ll likely see the diseases increase significantly.” Guess what's happening now.

Besides being cynical, this is also a very short-sighted and ultimately dangerous strategy. It can work for individual children, but not if lots of other parents start doing the same thing. In other words, Dr. Sears' strategy is one that depends upon there always being relatively few children who remain unvaccinated. Now, with the unfortunate popularity of the antivaccine movement, particularly in the area where Dr. Bob practices, there have developed pockets of unvaccinated or undervaccinated children sufficiently large that herd immunity has broken down, leading to measles outbreaks. It's tempting to laugh at the discomfiture of antivaccine parents who had been assured by Dr. Bob that they could "hide in the herd" (obviously he didn't use those words) safely and Dr. Bob's exasperated "don't blame me, get your kid vaccinated if you're so worried" response, were it not for the fact that it is children who are being harmed through Dr. Bob's irresponsible message.

That's why I agree with Dr. Paul Offit on this one:

"We eliminated endemic measles in the U.S. in 2000. It's now 2014 and we're at 400 cases. Why?" Dr. Paul Offit, chief of infectious diseases at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, said in an interview in June. The number of cases has since risen to nearly 600. "Because people listen to Bob Sears. And, frankly, I blame him far more than I do the Jenny McCarthys of this world. Because he's a doctor. And he should know more."

Exactly. In his own, much smaller, way, Dr. Bob has the potential to do far more harm than anyone like Jenny McCarthy. Think of the harm Dr. Oz does. Misuse of one's medical degree confers a false sense of authority. Unfortunately, physicians are just as prone to the Dunning-Kruger effect—maybe even more so!—than the general populations when they wander outside their area of specialty. Dr. Bob isn't an immunologist or pediatric infectious disease expert; yet he plays one in Capistrano Beach. No wonder patient zero of a 2008 measles outbreak was one of his.

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In light of the recent fraud case pending against Merck and its hiding of data relating to the inability of the mumps component of its MMR vaccine to work as intended. Can you supply any evidence that ARTIFICIAL immunity conferred by vaccinations is equivalent in terms of herd immunity to Naturally acquired immunity from having overcome an infectious disease?

By paradigmshift (not verified) on 08 Sep 2014 #permalink

@ paradigmshift-- would you be referring to

1. The eradication of smallpox (as naturally acquired immunity failed to eradicate smallpox), OR

2. The soon-to-happen eradication of polio (which again naturally acquired immunity would not have brought about), OR

3. The 78% worldwide decrease in measles deaths from 2000-2012 brought about through vaccination and not naturally acquired immunity?

Please, paradigmshift, do enlighten us. Rational, scientific minds here would like to know which of the above three you plan to attack with your barely concealed, uninformed AV hatred of vaccines. (and nice fail at trying to change the subject).

By Chris Hickie (not verified) on 08 Sep 2014 #permalink


Can you supply any evidence that ARTIFICIAL immunity conferred by vaccinations is equivalent in terms of herd immunity to Naturally acquired immunity from having overcome an infectious disease

Are you suggesting that we should protect children from life-threatening diseases by allowing them to get life-threatening diseases?

It seems to me that the huge fall in the incidence of vaccine-preventable diseases after mass vaccination programs are introduced is prima facie evidence that vaccination confers herd immunity. For example, MMR vaccine coverage has never (to my knowledge) exceeded 95% yet, as Orac notes, endemic measles was eliminated from the US in 2000. That can only be attributed to vaccination.

By Krebiozen (not verified) on 08 Sep 2014 #permalink

Thank you for today's column, Orac. I am glad the LA Times for levelled some well-deserved criticism at Sears, but he deserves much, much more criticism (and the word "controversy" in the Times title was incorrect, as the only "controversy" is falsely generated by quacks such as Sears). That which "swirls" around Sears needs a septic tank pump truck for removal.

2010 California whooping cough outbreak, in which 10 infants too young to be vaccinated against pertussis DIED, had more pertussis cases in areas with the worst vaccination rates (including Sears' practice area in OC --http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2013/09/24/peds.201…). During the recent OC measles outbreak, Warren Olney at KCRW interviewed Dr. David Nunez, family health medical director of the Orange County Health Care Agency, who directly blamed the spread of measles in OC on Dr. Sears (http://www.kcrw.com/news-culture/shows/which-way-la/pair-of-quakes-sign… , go to 6:40 to hear). Also, as you mention it was one of Dr. Sear's own unvaccinated patients that started the 2008 San Diego County measles outbreak in another physician's office (http://www.ocregister.com/articles/http-548411-ocregister-href.html).

Sears displays further ignorance regarding pertussis in the second edition of his execrable "vaccine book" (published in 2011). First, on page 46 he notes that "...I sure do see my fair share of pertussis--at least 1 case each month. During the 2010 pertussis epidemic in California I saw several cases each month. And virtually all of these were in unvaccinated kids." So now that we know that half of his patients are UNvaccinated, we also know that he witnesses (and confesses) to the harm he has directly caused by promoting non-vaccination. Second, on page 31-32 of the second edition he notes (regarding pertussis): "Older kids and adults may experience rib fractures from coughing so hard (that happened to my wife, poor thing!) or even hernias." Last year I had fractured ribs from a fall. It was miserable. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. That Sears poo-poos the very preventable rib fractures that can come from the cough of pertussis (and in his own wife, to boot!) emphasizes with a million watt bulb the shamefully ignorant theme Sears has throughout his books and blogs that vaccine-preventable diseases are somehow trivial and not dangerous.

Sears is clearly negligent and contributory to the outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases in Southern California. Why does he continue to do this? Several reasons are likely. First, sheer arrogance--as in somehow his "Sears family" claim to fame makes him smarter than the CDC (which he clearly is not). He does love the spotlight. Second, his books sell well--they've made him a pretty penny. Third, Sears runs a cash-only pediatric practice which allows him to further add to his coffers by (1) pandering to non-vaccinators (giving him more new patients), and (2) making more per visit money off vaccinating parents by encouraging them to "space out" the vaccines on his untested "schedule".

IMHO Sears deserves to have his license pulled by the Medical Board of California as he is a clear and present menace to both the individual health of his pediatric patients as well as the health of the public in general. Sears knowingly and publicly admits to not even coming close to delivering the standard of care to his patients.

By Chris Hickie (not verified) on 08 Sep 2014 #permalink

Can you supply any evidence that ARTIFICIAL immunity conferred by vaccinations is equivalent in terms of herd immunity to Naturally acquired immunity from having overcome an infectious disease?

Dr. Mark Crislip, an infectious disease doctor, stated that he had seen 1 case of mumps in his career. My mom, an ordinary housewife, cared for 3 cases of mumps in about a month and a half prior to the vaccine being invented.

It sounds like ARTIFICIAL immunity conferred by vaccinations is a whole lot better than Naturally acquired immunity if the goal is disease prevention.

If my goal was to infect every child with diseases that could cause death or long term injury, well, I'd be you.

Mumps is a terrible, agonizing disease. I remember very, very clearly the misery i suffered for three weeks when I was a child. Given the choice, I would definitely have chosen some of that artificial immunity delusion instead!!!

That is the problem. Because vaccines are so successful there just are not enough people around with first hand experience of such preventable diseases to speak out against mad men like Seers.

If only the same smug, ignorant parents who endanger society as a whole would post their experiences AFTER the local herd immunity broke down and their child suffered a totally preventable attack of measles. At that point, what do they think? Are they sorry? Embarrassed? Do they feel regret?

By Gemman Aster (not verified) on 08 Sep 2014 #permalink

Yet another stellar example of what a pathetic POS Bob Sears actually is.

@paradigmshift (or Narad, whom I trust far more): can you link to the fraud case against Merck? While I have read that the mumps component wasn't as effective as desired in the MMR, I don't recall hearing that fraud was involved.

And personally - I'd rather have a vaccine instead of the mumps again. I actually live in fear of the mumps - I'm a poor responder to the vaccine (and the disease, which did NOT give me immunity) and I'd rather get the vaccine again if there is a local outbreak then get the disease. And since the sequelae of the disease are far more common and far worse than most (if not all) of the injection side effects, I'll stick with the safer option.

As the parent of a child with food allergies (including egg) and asthma, I find Sears' advice to essentially hide in the herd especially despicable. Individuals who cannot receive vaccines because of actual medical conditions, such as being immunocompromised, MUST depend on herd immunity. Because of my son's high risk, we've gone so far as to have his allergist perform an egg yolk challenge (his egg white IgE levels are considerably higher than his yolk levels) to see if he could tolerate a flu/H1N1 vaccine. (Since then the flu vaccine has been deemed safe for those with egg allergies, despite being cultured in egg yolk.)
Personally, I'd like to see Sears get hit with a lawsuit from someone infected by one of his patients. If physicians who don't vaccinate are unable to get malpractice insurance, that might shut down the antivax scammers faster than any public health campaign.


Can you supply any evidence that ARTIFICIAL immunity conferred by vaccinations is equivalent in terms of herd immunity to Naturally acquired immunity from having overcome an infectious disease?

This isn't as simple as question as you might expect. First off, different vaccines against different diseases should be considered individually. Some are more effective than others. In some cases, such as polio, the wild virus is more effective at conferring immunity (but also vastly more effective at killing or disabling people), and in others, the vaccine is better at this (tetanus being the best example, as the actual disease almost never produces immunity -- it took some ingenuity to find a way of getting the immune system to develop the correct antibody).

But there's another factor to it, and that's safety. For instance, the inactivated polio vaccine doesn't produce quite as good immunity as actual polio. However, actual polio has a decent chance of actually killing you, or at least maiming you, and you'll probably spread it. IPV cannot cause polio, and cannot be transmitted. (OPV, which uses live virus, can rarely transmit person-to-person, but IPV is dead and cannot replicate.) So the vaccines are overwhelmingly a *safer* way to gain immunity. You may of course decide that your risk of exposure is so low you don't need immunity, and thus choose the Dr Sears route of non-vaccination and counting on herd protection. But that's definitely not the same thing, and you will of course have no protection should you lose that gamble and get exposed.

Me, I think the plummeting case rate following widespread vaccination is a very persuasive argument in favor of vaccine effectiveness. I don't have the specific figures on how much it helped, but it's pretty obvious that it made a big difference, at least in the case of the things we routinely vaccinate against.

By Calli Arcale (not verified) on 08 Sep 2014 #permalink

Sadly, Dr. Bob is not even the worst. In my neck of the woods we have Larry Pavelsky and "holistic psychiatrist' Kelly Brogan whose deceptions and misinformation about vaccines make Dr. Bob seem like a highly published pioneer in the field. They spread paranoid lies about vaccines- the idea that vaccines cause SIDs, the CDC is hiding reams of evidence that vaccines kill, and much more.

If only every anti-vaccine doctor was as accepting of vaccines as Dr. Bob- though he is the most famous and for this reason, perhaps the most vile.

Mumps is a terrible, agonizing disease. I remember very, very clearly the misery i suffered for three weeks when I was a child.

I was a bit luckier with mine. I was only out of school for about two weeks. Also, I spent a bit of the time delirious after my balls swelled up to the size of my fist, so I missed out on some of that pain. It was still a whole lot of no fun.

I'd take a shot every week to avoid having to do that again.

That is the problem. Because vaccines are so successful there just are not enough people around with first hand experience of such preventable diseases to speak out against mad men like Seers.

Yah, I wish these idiots would sit down with their parents and grandparents and talk about what it's like to have these diseases floating around. I doubt that grandma is anti-vax, and she would probably explain the error in their "thinking".

Basically, he is telling his patients to “hide in the herd,” taking advantage of herd immunity that occurs in highly vaccinated populations to protect those who can’t be vaccinated.

Correct me if I'm wrong here: If you are a kid whose parents are rich enough to afford Dr. Bob's services, you are more likely than the average kid your age to have travelled outside the US, and more likely to have friends who have. Some of the countries you may have visited may have outbreaks of vaccine preventable diseases, either because the infrastructure to deliver vaccines to everybody isn't there (as in some Third World countries, not to mention war zones) or because enough people choose not to vaccinate that herd immunity doesn't work (the UK and a few other European countries). So you and your friends are particularly susceptible, more so than a kid whose parents can't afford to take him overseas and doesn't know any kids whose parents can afford it.

Herd immunity only works as long as there is a herd. A few people need that, either because there is a good medical reason why they can't themselves be vaccinated or because sometimes the vaccine doesn't take. By not vaccinating, other than for medical reasons, you are recklessly endangering the people who need herd immunity.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 08 Sep 2014 #permalink

In light of the recent fraud case pending against Merck

"Recent"? It took two years to get to the point where Krahling & Wlochowski managed to demonstrate that they had actually stated a claim.

What is the mechanism in place to strip a license to practice from a doctor? It seems to me, a layperson, that Dr. Sears should no longer be allowed to have that Dr. in front of his name, but bitching about it does no good. There must be a way to bring him up under review, or something. Does one need "standing" similar to in law, where you'd have to be a patient of his to file a complaint? Or could one simply file a complaint based on his public statements?

Does one need “standing” similar to in law, where you’d have to be a patient of his to file a complaint? Or could one simply file a complaint based on his public statements?

Unfortunately charlatans like Bob Sears won't be investigated merely for being anti-vaxx. The AMA and AAP won't even speak out against them so how can you expect a state board of physicians who are overworked to do anything? Sears is a weasel and can hide behind parental choice should anything happen to his patients as a result of not vaccinating.

By Science Mom (not verified) on 08 Sep 2014 #permalink

ORAC is a criminal working with big pharma to convince the masses that vaccines are safe and effective. ORAC will be going to JAIL soon for his role in the mass assault on our children. Don't worry ORAC, I will send you letters while you rott in a cage.

By jason pilnt (not verified) on 08 Sep 2014 #permalink

Chris Hickie asks why Bob Sears continues to contribute to the outbreaks of VPDs, and offers a number of good points in answer. But IMHO, Chris has not noted something very important: the over-riding ideological framework that supports Sears arrogance, self-idolization and greed at the expense of other people's health.

Sears says (my emphases): "It may not be good for the public health. But … for YOUR INDIVIDUAL child, I think it is a safe enough choice." His book is addressed to, "making the right decision for YOUR child." He has built a profitable practice composed entirely of patients wealthy enough to afford multiple office visits for a spaced vaccination schedule on a cash-only(!) basis. As observed elsewhere, if the children of privileged parents do contract a VPD, they are at lower risk than the general population for resulting harm as they have easy access to top-notch health care. Sears' practice is Orange County, CA, an area in which the overwhelming majority of residents are well-off, hard-core Conservative Republicans.

In short, I think what we have here is the John Galt of pediatrics. Only someone whose blood supply has been completely replaced by the worst sort of Ayn Rand-ian KoolAid could interpret the injunction of "do no harm" to refer only those who pay him whatever-the-market-will-bear for his services.

jason pilnt,

Please enlighten us. Which laws has Orac broken? In what way are our children being assaulted en mass by Orac? Please be specific and provide citations. Also, what color is the sky in your reality?

jasonplint: I think you have something collected on the corner of your mouth. You may want to sanitize your keyboard too.

However, I do thank you for providing the humorous image of Orac gleefully rubbing his hands together while emitting an evil chuckle and counting his filthy lucre. Much more sanitary than the one that popped in my head when I first read your comment.


Anyone else here get wind of "#hearthisnow"? Let's just say the people pushing it are about as retarded as their children.

By AngryScience (not verified) on 08 Sep 2014 #permalink

And your evidence, jason, that vaccines are neither safe nor effective would be what, exactly?

I mean, you do have some...right?

@ AngryScience, that kind of rhetoric is not at all appreciated.

By Science Mom (not verified) on 08 Sep 2014 #permalink

@jason pilnt #20:

Don’t worry ORAC, I will send you letters while you rott in a cage.

Brightly coloured plastic letters you've pulled off your fridge door?

Effing magnets, how do they work?

By Rich Woods (not verified) on 08 Sep 2014 #permalink

En masse, not en mass. My apologies.

On the use of the word "retard" and "retarded" as derogatory epithets:

From Martine O'Callaghan, "Autismum":

"Retard is the word that gets shouted at people, just like my beautiful autistic son, for having the temerity to be out in public whilst disabled. When the homes of disabled people are vandalised, it is “retard” and “spaz” you see sprayed on the wall. Those are the words that get scratched into cars, and adapted vehicles. The word is used as a weapon to oppress and exclude. I cannot think of a single skeptic who would use the N- or F- words yet some whose opinions I respect and hold in high regard still use “retard” and “retarded” or promote work by others who use these words as terms of abuse. Please consider your use of the term “retard” and its derivatives. More than that, if you would not let terms of racial abuse or homophobia go unchallenged then, please, challenge others on their use of ableist language.

From Ellen Seidman at Love That Max

Let's make it clear, as parents of kids with special needs or parents of any kids, as family members of people with special needs, as people who have disability, just what's so wrong with this word—and why it's not just about a word and it's not about censorship or a ban, it's about respect.

I don't use the other words, either.

From OMum22 at Small But Kind Of Mighty

"When we use words like “crazy”, “cretin”, “insane”, “retarded” and “idiot” to describe situations or people we disapprove of, we further stigmatize the people who were (and in some cases still are) labelled using those same words."

So. Can the offensive language, please.

I don't appreciate AngryScience calling the parents of disabled children "retarded" either..They aren't, they are desperate people who have seized upon the wrong explanation for their children's disabilities, and found themselves a group of sympathetic people and a satisfying scapegoat to blame, plus some treatments that promise to help their child. The fact that there are many people whose children appear to have been helped just reinforces the mistaken conclusions. I can see this is a powerfully attractive combination.

I find the "hear this well" campaign heartbreaking. So many parents who are mistakenly convinced that vaccines caused their child's autism, and many who are equally mistakenly convinced that various types of biomedical quackery have helped. Scaring other parents away from vaccinating isn't going to reduce the number of children with autism, but if it continues it will result in injuries and deaths from infectious diseases as well.

I have a horrible feeling that it will take large outbreaks of VPDs and more deaths before the message gets through to these people.

By Krebiozen (not verified) on 08 Sep 2014 #permalink

There is nothing artificial about the immunity vaccination initiates.

By Sullivanthepoop (not verified) on 08 Sep 2014 #permalink

About 24 people have participated in this discussion (at the time I viewed it). I am happy that only 2 are completely wrong about the science. Hopefully, we have a herd immunity conferred upon us (by science and reason) against people similar to those two.

"measles outbreaks raging"

LOL. It's the measly measles. Get a grip.

By Sid Offit (not verified) on 08 Sep 2014 #permalink

About taboo words:

I think that the 'R word" is still amongst them because it had been used as a diagnostic for ID people within memory of many who are alive today.

HOWEVER I feel that *idiot* ( even more so than *imbecile* and *moron*)has become so well-integrated in the vernacular as a non-diagnostic ( which it had been past) that most people respond to it merely as a description of a stupid person without any obvious disability. I realise that a few - like Sullivan- do object to it.. Disabled people don't have a choice, stupid people do.But I'll apologise anyway.

Simarly 'crazy' or 'insane' which do not necessarily refer to MI or SMI people but to so-called nornals who behave stupidly.
If I mean MI or SMI, I'll use those terms.

E.g.Jenny may be crazy and an idiot but she is neither ID nor SMI. "Dumb bunny' also is not a slur upon *les lapins* but is reserved for human dolts.

IIRC Orac uses these slurs in a similar fashion. So THERE!

Getting back to the hearthiswell campaign:
MacNeil and her cronies @ TMR called for a twitterstorm the other day- hey, that's it!
Let's call them TWITS or make up an entirely new insult.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 08 Sep 2014 #permalink

In the days before I left the Twittosphere I got irritated by a British journalist I followed using as insults the words "spaz" and "mong" (which references "Mongolian Idiot", the charming old term for someone with Down Syndrome).

When I PMed her about it, letting her know that I cringed every time she used those words, she claimed that it was OK for her to use them because she suffers from epilepsy. Sigh.

By Krebiozen (not verified) on 08 Sep 2014 #permalink

I can't resit. Can one of you collectivists tell me where this social obligation comes from:

"with no sense of social obligation whatsoever"

By Sid Offit (not verified) on 08 Sep 2014 #permalink

Cheer up. Once we get rid of these onerous mandates, "freeriding" won't be a problem anyway

By Sid Offit (not verified) on 08 Sep 2014 #permalink

@ Krebiozen:

Right.Those two are definitely beyond good taste.

How about *silly*? See ST Coleridge

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 08 Sep 2014 #permalink

Sid Offit, September 8, 2014:

“measles outbreaks raging”
LOL. It’s the measly measles. Get a grip.

Tell that to my wife's favorite cousin. She had measles encephalitis about 60 years ago, before the vaccine was available. As a consequence, her speech is difficult (with my measles-damaged hearing, I can't understand her) and she is partially paralyzed, primarily on her right side. She can't get a grip: her right hand doesn't work, and the grip of her left hand is required for her walker.
"Sid", you can take your "measly" and shove it, LOLs and all.

By Bill Price (not verified) on 08 Sep 2014 #permalink

Cheer up. Once we get rid of these onerous mandates, “freeriding” won’t be a problem anyway.

Yes! Because -- magic!

By palindrom (not verified) on 08 Sep 2014 #permalink

Cheer up. Once we get rid of these onerous mandates, “freeriding” won’t be a problem anyway.

Of course freeriding won't be a problem, once you've destroyed herd immunity and brought all the VPDs back: there's nothing to free-ride on.

By Bill Price (not verified) on 08 Sep 2014 #permalink

I really need to remember to read here more. I always learn something new that I did not know before. Thanks1

By Stacy Herlihy (not verified) on 08 Sep 2014 #permalink

@MIDawn, as I read the judge's order on the motion to dismiss, the plaintiffs allege a false claim by saying that Merck made a claim for payment for its MMR by failing to disclose a lessening efficacy of the mumps vaccine, and that the government wouldn't have purchased the Merck vaccine had it been told the true facts. The plaintiffs also claim that Merck improperly monopolized the market by this fraudulent conduct. It's worth noting that, for purposes of a motion to dismiss, the judge has to assume that all the factual allegations in the complaint are true and decide whether, under that assumption, the complaint states a claim. The fact that a claim survives a motion to dismiss is not a decision on whether the alleged facts are true or not. Sorry, I have wandered far afield from Dr. Bob, the subject of Orac's post.

@Anne: Thanks.

Yvette wrote: 'Dr. Bob is not even the worst. ...Larry Palevsky and Kelly Brogan spread paranoid lies about vaccines..."

Not to pick on Yvette, I just want to take issue with the broader line of thought reflected in her comment. I would argue that the "worst" anti-vaccine Dr. is the one who does the most harm, whose actions do the most to decrease the vaccination rate and weaken community immunity. As such, a "you don't have to vax" Doc with a lot of patients is potentially worse than a "don't vax" 'doctor' with a smattering of patients.

Orac's post and the Times article linked suggest that Sears is a popular physician, with a high rate of unvaccinated patients, and the Times notes he practices in an area with a corresponding low vax rates:

'In the School District which includes the upscale neighborhood where Sears' office is located, 9.5% of kindergartners had personal-belief exemptions on file last fall, compared to a state average of 3.1%. At some individual schools, as many as 60% of students had such exemptions. [In a the district] a little farther north, only 0.2% of kindergartners had exemptions on file.'

Both Orac and the Times cite Offit to connect Sears' practices to the increasing case of measles.

Of course, this is less-than-scientific. We don't know how many of those exemptions are Sears' patients; whether Sears convinces parents to delay vaxing, or parents who would non-vax anyway just seek out Sears; or even how those vax exemptions correlate with changes in VPD rates in that school district. But even such purely suggestive info is better than nothing.

I Googled Palevsky to see if I could get any indication of how large his practice is, what vax rates or VPD rates in his neck of the woods might be. Nada. All I could find were various critiques of things he's said as being 'travesties of science.'

IMHO, SBM advocates shoot themselves in the foot by defining 'worst' as 'most deviant from established scientific knowledge' — as Skeptics are wont to do. This results in wasting too much time and effort engaging wack-a-loons who have little credibility and little impact on mass behavior, at the expense of working on effective counter-measures to undermine the forces that are actually causing vax rates to go down. I see this every day on RI and the SBM-blog: the commenters spend more time 'arguing' with trolls than thinking through solutions. (SMH)

I wouldn't guess there are many (if any) lawyers here, but I'm still surprised no one has even asked whether a class-action suit could be mounted against Sears and his ilk.

Also, as i have argued before (and will no doubt argue again) John and Jane Q. Public are likely to take a dim view of the moral relativism in equating someone like Sears with someone arguing GMO-foods are unhealthy. Other people's kids are not going to die from VPDs if the masses head to Whole Foods for GMO-free groceries. (I.e., the problem with Mike Adams is not his advocacy of a GMO-free diet, but his profiteering, his promotion of potentially risky 'supplements' as replacements for proven medicine, his demagoguery, and of course, the fact he articulates all this crapola to anti-vax inducing hysteria.)

I certainly can't disagree with Yvette's assertion, "if only every anti-vaccine doctor was as accepting of vaccines as Dr. Bob," that would be an improvement. But IMHO the focus still ought to be directed at loosening the purchase of the folks who actually influence the most John and Jane Q.'s to do things that pose serious threats to public health.

Dr. Bob Sears' deliberately unvaccinated patient, a 7-year-old boy traveled to Switzerland with his family, where he contracted measles. He arrived home to expose other deliberately unvaccinated children and infants too young to have been vaccinated against measles in two other physicians' waiting rooms and in two hospital emergency rooms. Dr. Sears' patient was the "index case" in the 2008 San Diego Measles outbreak:


Then we have another media-savvy pediatrician, Jay Gordon, the "pediatrician to the stars" who panders to non-vaccinating parents. At one time he provided his personal opinions about vaccines on his website:

"MMR vaccine should be given just before a child enters school"

"Prevnar vaccine (protective against deadly invasive S. pneumoniae infections), is too new for me to recommend"

"I don't recommend the varicella vaccine until age 10, if a child hasn't had the 'natural' disease""

*Someone* convinced Dr. Jay to take down his anti-vaccine opinions. He replaced those opinions with scary articles from whale.DOT.com. Those articles were taken down, but Dr. Jay refuses to put up links to the California Department of Public Health or the CDC websites for reliable information about childhood vaccines and vaccine-preventable-diseases.

Dr. Jay Gordon's contact information is still listed on Dr. Bob Sears' "Vaccine Friendly Doctors" list:


"Hide in the herd." That is so wrong on so many levels. Sears' and by extension his patients, arrogance and sense of entitlement really frosts my butt. This is the sending national guard to fight wars, walmart paying starvation wages, growing income inequality mentality that makes me furious.

Shame on you Dr. Sears

'Dr. Bob Sears’ deliberately unvaccinated patient arrived home to expose infants too young to have been vaccinated against measles in two other physicians’ waiting rooms and in two hospital emergency rooms. Sears’ patient was the "index case" in the 2008 San Diego Measles outbreak...'

Sheesh, how did this not spawn a lawsuit, against the parents of the 'index' patient if not Sears?

(Thanks for the pertinent info, lilady.)

Sadmar: The parents had legal cover, because of the California "Personal Belief Exemption"....and the infected child did not expose patients in Dr. Bob's waiting room. Furthermore, the identity of the index case would not be revealed by the local and State health departments.

Is it any wonder then, why some pediatricians have a strict vaccination policy? If these anti-vaccine parents have the ability to locate "vaccine friendly doctors", pro-vaccine parents should have the ability to locate doctors who put a high priority on the safety of all their young patients.

So I suppose Dr. Bob Sears don't want people to recommend his services to their neighbours?

"Can you supply any evidence that ARTIFICIAL immunity conferred by vaccinations is equivalent in terms of herd immunity to Naturally acquired immunity from having overcome an infectious disease?"

Bob Sears thinks so (hence his advice for people to "hide in the herd").

Other people’s kids are not going to die from VPDs if the masses head to Whole Foods for GMO-free groceries.

I see what you're saying, but at the same time, people who hear fallacious anti-GMO arguments go unchallenged might be more likely to believe the same arguments when applied to vaccines. For example, the idea that bioengineered DNA from GMO foods can be taken up and expressed by your body's cells (with, it is implied, inevitably horrific results) is very similar to the antivax bleating about vaccines containing "aborted fetus DNA" that Orac tackles in his latest post.

Other people’s kids are not going to die from VPDs if the masses head to Whole Foods for GMO-free groceries.

Sarah A is right, there's a significant overlap. Don't forget the HPV vaccines made using GMOs, like Gardasil, which is made using baker's yeast genetically modified to produce HPV proteins.

I'm still in awe of this achievement: no live viruses, or even dead viruses, just inert proteins that self-assemble into virus-like particles stimulate the immune system but have no way of entering cells and reproducing. You might expect the antivaccine brigade to be overjoyed by such a development, but instead they have stepped up their disinformation campaign claiming that hordes of young women are being killed by HPV vaccines. Not only is this implausible, given what is in the vaccine, but closer inspection of the cases reveals that deaths due to car crashes, drowning, snake bites and from huge tumors are among those blamed on HPV vaccines. Plus ca change....

By Krebiozen (not verified) on 09 Sep 2014 #permalink

The fact that a claim survives a motion to dismiss is not a decision on whether the alleged facts are true or not.

Note also that DOJ looked at it for two years and decided not to prosecute it, which is why it's qui tam.