More fake news: No, the Trump administration is not going to remove all vaccine-related information from the CDC website, but that doesn't mean science advocates shouldn't worry

Last night was a bit weird. I think too many days of only getting a few hours of sleep finally caught up to me, and I crashed by around 9:30 PM. So, contrary to usually happens, when I say this post will be briefer than usual, I actually mean it; I have even less time this morning than usual to pump out a quickie post. However, this is the perfect time to look at one thing that probably doesn't rate a full heapin' helpin' of not-so-Respectful Insolence but that I'd like to take note of anyway. It's a bit of fake news that's been making the rounds similar to the fake news a couple of weeks ago that claimed that the FBI had raided the headquarters of the CDC in Atlanta in the middle of the night, accompanied by the "CDC whistleblower."

Naturally, the graduates of the Dunning-Kruger School of Science over at Sherri Tenpenny's antivaccine website Truthkings fell for it, hook, line, and (almost) sinker, in a post by Gary Barnes entitled Trump To Possibly Remove All Vaccine Info From CDC Website:

According to sources, the CDC has been ordered by Trump to remove all vaccine related information by February 18th of this year. We’ve been seeing these rumors crop up online more and more frequently ever since President Trump appointed Robert F. Kennedy Jr. to a Vaccine Safety committee.

Here is one of the instances posted on the Salt Lake City Guardian.

I had never heard of the Salt Lake City Guardian before; so I headed on over to the source article that got Barnes so excited, TRUMP ORDERS CDC TO REMOVE ALL VACCINATION RELATED INFORMATION FROM WEBSITE:

According to sources, the Trump administration has instructed the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) to remove all vaccination related material from the official government website until further notice.

A former CDC employee told Salt Lake City Guardian that it isn’t uncommon for incoming administrations to review the information promoted through government sources, however the move by Trump is seen as unusual.

“What the Trump administration is doing is extreme, and very troubling, especially when it comes to the dangers behind unvaccinated children within our school systems. Trump’s touched on his skepticism of the science behind vaccines during his election, so this doesn’t really come as much of a surprise,” said a former Obama CDC official.

The story notes that the information is still on the CDC website, and, sure enough, it still is. The story also notes that Donald Trump has questioned vaccine science twice. That's a huge underestimate. In reality, Trump has posted antivaccine nonsense to Twitter numerous times and repeated in at least two or three different interviews his belief that vaccines cause autism. He is an antivaxer, just like Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.

Just taking a look at the Salt Lake City Guardian should be enough to let you know it's fake news. If that's not enough, do a WHOIS search on the domain and you'll see it was created January 14 and is registered anonymously by Domains by Proxy, LLC. So, basically, what we have here is every indication that this is fake news: A highly dubious story with no sources coming from a disreputable source that whose website was only registered three weeks ago.

Fake news.

This was an obvious bit of fake news that TruthKings fell for. However, it does point to a very real phenomenon. With Donald Trump in the White House, antivaxers have become emboldened because they think they have one of their own there, given that Trump has met with antivaccine activists Andrew Wakefield and Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. As a result, they are furiously petitioning the Trump administration with their vaccine policy wishes and their stories of "vaccine injury." Meanwhile, antivaxers are, predictably, organizing another antivaccine "march on Washington. As Elton John and Bernie Taupin put it, I've seen that movie too. It happened in 2008 with Jenny McCarthy. However, in 2008 there wasn't an antivaxer in the White House, although some of the cast of characters was the same (e.g., RFK Jr.).

I have a real worry that, at best, the Trump administration will undermine trust in vaccines and at worst change vaccine policy for the worst. I'll very likely have more to say on this, either tomorrow here or Monday at my not-so-super-secret other blog. Stay tuned.

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It's one of several such scare stories, one of which said Trump ordered a 90 day ban on vaccination. Sigh.

By Dorit Reiss (not verified) on 09 Feb 2017 #permalink

The President, of course, does not in principle have the power to do this unilaterally. But that has not deterred Dolt 45 in other matters (e.g., the travel ban EO), and he could talk Congress into going along with it.

That still leaves the issue of people who travel to certain other countries which require vaccinations, most commonly yellow fever. (I myself got one before a trip to Brazil, and as that was more than ten years ago I would need another before traveling to any such country.) The only exceptions are people who have medical contraindications documented by a physician, with the physician's report translated to the local language if necessary. This information would still need to be available somewhere. I suppose the State Department could note this on their country information sheets, but given this administration's tendency to shoot from the hip, he'd probably have that information removed from there as well, consequences be damned.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 09 Feb 2017 #permalink

A highly dubious story with no sources coming from a disreputable source that whose website was only registered three weeks ago.

I wouldn't call it a 'disreputable source'. It's an advertisement for the movie "A Cure For Wellness". It's rated 7.1 on IMDB

There appears to be a network of fake news sites including:,,,, and

Let's play a drinking game, or an eating game. Each time one of these fake stories (I'm already sick of the buzzword "fake news") is believed to be real, we'll owe you a slice of pizza at Comet Ping Pong.

Subversives have Orac bogged down writing about fake news.

Who'd a thunk it?


It is well written considering your situation. Thx.

By Michael J. Dochniak (not verified) on 09 Feb 2017 #permalink


Where dd you find the info connecting these websites to the film?

A quick look over the sites reveals they are indeed 'old school fake news', that is fairly subtle satire. These clearly have an anti-Trump anti-quackery spin – framing plausible but 'not yet true' connections between Trumpism and a sort of medical dystopia, that I'd assume parallels the movie. As Orac said, they do point to a real phenomenon, which is not so much Trump's anti-vax statements, but that he's a sort of 'mad doctor' of government who does scary sh*t.

The idea seems to be to troll the woo besotted and wink at the wise. And you have to hand it to the ad agency for having the guts to use Trump-fear take to promote a movie about a murderous conspiracy preying on alt-med patients.

I have to say that Trump may be - and, indeed is - many things. But I can't see where you get the claim that he is an anti-vaxxer.

Yes, I know all the things he has said and Tweeted, but they're just the same as many people say: from baffled parents to kitchen sink epidemiologists. That's the whole point about vaccines: everybody has views.

I remember when Wakefield's 1998 paper was published. Months later, I was asked by editors at The Sunday Times about single shots instead of the three-in-one MMR. And I said (as if, at the time, I known what the hell I was talking about, much like Trump), single shots seemed to me to be a possible sensible solution.

And, indeed, they went off bought single shots for their child, and laughed at me ever since.

But I was never anti-vaccine. And I don't think Trump is. He's just a confused guy who sometimes talks beyond his horizons.

That's at the moment. We have to wait to see which way he jumps. As with so much else.

By Brian Deer (not verified) on 09 Feb 2017 #permalink

As a media fan I love these elaborate publicity campaigns. Going back to the days of The Blair Witch Project with (what we now call) fake news stories all over the internet to generate attention for a product of film.

I looked at a couple of the pretend newspapers and while it's now obvious it's an extensive ad campaign fore the movie, the "paper" Orac cites is the only one I saw with the Trump story. The content on the others seems to be duplicated and the "News" tab almost looks like a page from Natural News.

I was thinking the same thing as sadmar: I'd love to hear the rationale from the ad agency behind this. Did they choose a provocative topic to do exactly as happened, get publicity from credulous blogs? And why only the SLC version?

If someone does Facebook, they should mosey over the "TruthKings" and say "hey dude, you know this newspaper doesn't exist? It's an ad campaign for a movie?"

Given that information, do you think they'd yank the story or at least preface it with a clarification update? No, they'd probably respond "yeah, but it should happen or it will happen, you'll see..."

By Woo Fighter (not verified) on 09 Feb 2017 #permalink

The big hint was the lead story on the page…

Then several of the stories end "asking the public to use the hashtag #cureforwellness in order to spread awareness". In fact, all the stories end with pleas to use one of 3 or 4 hashtags. Add that the only ads on the page were for the movie, and it's pretty much a slam dunk.

Oh, and if you still need evidence, look at the related sites Mike found.

He’s just a confused guy who sometimes talks beyond his horizons.

Brian, I honestly can't tell if you believe that or if that's the gentlest put-down yet!

By Rich Woods (not verified) on 09 Feb 2017 #permalink

[Trump is] just a confused guy who sometimes talks beyond his horizons.

He's not just any "confused guy", he's the alleged human being who holds the office of President of the United States. Even when he's not being willfully clueless (which is the case too much of the time), his careless statements can do a lot of damage.

And it's a mistake to assume that he really doesn't mean it. He really did mean it about excluding Muslims (at least from countries where he doesn't do business), hence the travel ban executive order. And he has directed the FBI to focus their counterterrorism program specifically on Islamic terrorism, and away from the white supremacist types who have actually committed a majority of the terrorist attacks in the United States.

True, he has yet to act on his anti-vaccine rhetoric. But it is unwise to assume that he never will.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 09 Feb 2017 #permalink

Ah, the old "I'm not anti vaccine, I just question the safety of MMR" trope.

Trump claims that kids are pumped full of drugs, stuck with dozens of vaccines in a short period of time, and that may lead to various medical issues including autism. Vaccines have been safe for a while, if you don't believe it you are antivax, either out of ignorance or dishonesty.

And no, no you don't get to just have your own views. If you believe something that has been scientifically proven false over and over, you get to be mocked. To decry vaccines, even in a calm manner, is the same as saying the earth is flat, the moon is a hologram, and/or bigfoot is real.


Thanks, I missed that.

By Woo Fighter (not verified) on 09 Feb 2017 #permalink

I looked at a couple of the pretend newspapers and while it’s now obvious it’s an extensive ad campaign fore the movie, the “paper” Orac cites is the only one I saw with the Trump story. The content on the others seems to be duplicated and the “News” tab almost looks like a page from Natural News.

I'm kicking myself for not noticing that the fake news site on which this little bit of fake news appeared looks to be a marketing campaign.

Ah, the old “I’m not anti vaccine, I just question the safety of MMR” trope.

Exactly. Or, as I like to call it, the "I'm not antivaccine; I'm a vaccine safety advocate" canard beloved of antivaxers like Jenny McCarthy and, well, pretty much all of them other than the ones who haven't deluded themselves into thinking they aren't antivaccine and thus say it loud and proud that they are antivaccine.

So far the Trump seems to have a pretty decent memory. In just three weeks he has checked off a lot of insults to the opposition. The fact that he met with RFK jr so soon after the election implies that the vaccine agenda is on the front burner. The way he is behaving, it's only a matter of time before the fake news becomes real. Get ready for the pushback for expanding personal belief exemptions.

By Mike Callahan (not verified) on 09 Feb 2017 #permalink

Vaccine requirements are set at the State Level - only recommendations are put forth at the Federal Level.

If a deep Red State like Mississippi can be at the forefront of vaccine requirements, then I believe we still have a shot outlasting this jackass in the White House.

I will be reporting this to the recently formed U.S. Department of Alternative Facts and Truths (DAFT). I don't know if it will help, but someone has to stem the wave of DAFT dodgers feeling the U.S. into countries north and south.

By Lighthorse (not verified) on 09 Feb 2017 #permalink

As I recall the tropes are:

1) I’m not antivaccine, I’m pro-safe vaccines;
2) Vaccines are toxic;
3) demand for absolute safety;
4) demand for absolute “proof” that vaccines are safe;
5) Vaccines didn’t save us;
6) Vaccines are unnantural; and
7) Choosing between “vaccine injury” and disease.

It doesn't appear that President Donald Trump (PDT) falls into any of these catagories?

Although PDT seems to be scared of "monster shots".

Is there a "quantity makes the poison" trope?

By Michael J. Dochniak (not verified) on 09 Feb 2017 #permalink

@MJD #24:

Is there a “quantity makes the poison” trope?

We can all see what you're getting at here. First, demonstrate that "monster shots" are full of poison.

By Rich Woods (not verified) on 09 Feb 2017 #permalink

Monster shots are "too many too soon" and, the one that you share with Orange Thinskin, "vaccines cause autism".

There are no doubt several more tropes, but those are just the first two that popped into my head.

MJD: you forgot the "too much too soon" trope. That's probably what Trump's "monster shot" comment refers to; combined vaccines like the TDaP and MMR.

Given that this trope has been repeatedly debunked, yes I would say Trump is anti-vaccine.

Panacea writes (~#27), forgot the “too much too soon” trope. That’s probably what Trump’s “monster shot” comment refers to; combined vaccines like the TDaP and MMR.

MJD says,

Or Trump has a sixth sense that "Monster shots" tend to yield lower affinity B cells.

For example, in a study from Genome Medicine titled, B-cell repertoire dynamics after sequential hepatitis B vaccination and evidence for cross-reactive B-cell activation, the researcher concluded, "These results demonstrate the high-sensitivity of our vaccine-specific BCR analysis approach and suggest an alternative view of the B-cell response to novel antigens. In the response to the first vaccine dose, many vaccine-specific BCR clusters appeared to largely derive from previously activated cross-reactive B cells that have low affinity for the vaccine antigen, and subsequent doses were required to yield higher affinity B cells."…

In simplification, incremental single doses are required to yield higher affinity B cells.

By Michael J. Dochniak (not verified) on 09 Feb 2017 #permalink

Johnny says (~#26),

Monster shots are “too many too soon” and, the one that you share with Orange Thinskin, “vaccines cause autism”.


This is not whining......Johnny is a bully!

Johnny knows that auto-mod rules silence me from communicating personal research on "vaccines cause autism" here at RI.

How are Orac and Donald Trump alike?

They both have the power to silence a minority.

By Michael J. Dochniak (not verified) on 09 Feb 2017 #permalink

MJD: Every time I think you can't get stupider, you just keep digging. Thinskin only uses one of the five senses he's got. He doesn't have a sixth sense, and he doesn't care about anyone but his own self, which is actually one of the requirements of being anti-vax. God, MJD, I've met songbirds that were smarter than you.

I've yet to meet an anti-vaxxer that actually cares about or notices their kids. They only freak out about autism because they think it makes them and their family look bad.

By Politicalguineapig (not verified) on 09 Feb 2017 #permalink

I think we ought to start calling “fake news” the by the older term for it: propaganda.

By Anonymous Coward (not verified) on 09 Feb 2017 #permalink

PGP: MJD thinks he's so clever that his question elicited an excuse to demonstrate he really doesn't know what he's talking about.

This article was published in a journal that is infamous for poor peer review and retractions.

If a deep Red State like Mississippi can be at the forefront of vaccine requirements, then I believe we still have a shot outlasting this jackass in the White House.

This is the result of the reasoning in Brown v. Stone, which hasn't exactly gained widespread traction. The state's an outlier.

@MJD #28:
Your summary failed to demonstrate an understanding of the paper.
1) The paper discusses a study of what happens when repeated doses of Hepatitis B is administered to vaccine-naive patients. It does not show anything about a dose-response relationship because dose is not a variable in this study.
2) The paper says nothing about application of vaccines against different diseases simultaneously. The research cannot show the effect of administering multiple vaccines together because that is not a variable in the study (the only vaccine they kept track of was Hepatitis B).
Seriously, did you even read the paper?

Johnny knows that auto-mod rules silence me from communicating personal research on “vaccines cause autism” here at RI.

Yes, I do understand the rule, and I try to respect that boundary.

You posted several anti-vax tropes, and declared that they didn't apply to Orange Thinskin. I responded that there are at least two other anti-vax tropes you didn't list that do apply to him, and noted that one of them applies to you, that is "vaccines cause autism". Why you think vaccines cause autism doesn't enter into the discussion, and was not on my mind at the time.

You are an anti-vaccine loon, and so is Trump. Suck it up and deal with it.

You should read immunology textbooks. The authors, too:
"suggest an alternative view of the B-cell response to novel antigens".
They have rediscovered affinity maturation!

By Daniel Corcos (not verified) on 09 Feb 2017 #permalink

I think we should thank MJD for once again being totally wrong about a paper and giving us a chance to explain the science.

Here, MJD, have a balloon!

By JustaTech (not verified) on 10 Feb 2017 #permalink

Brian @~ 8 re: Trump

"He’s just a confused guy who sometimes talks beyond his horizons."

Confused. Call it what you will, on top of whatever character flaws he may have, I could swear I sometimes hear hints of dementia.

"That’s at the moment. We have to wait to see which way he jumps."

Strategically unpredictable or just erratic. What would Orwell say?

By Obstreperous A… (not verified) on 12 Feb 2017 #permalink

If it weren't for latex allergy, MJD would not even have been conceived.

By frequent lurker (not verified) on 12 Feb 2017 #permalink

@ Orac:

No need to kick. The sites are designed to not look like marketing. The sort of story it includes about the movie could have been written by a 'genuine' CT-monger trying to exploit the opening of the film. The sites are sort of fake fake-news. For me, the giveaway to their tie-in with a promo campaign is that the cities named in the sites are all places where the film opened this weekend, ahead of its wider release. If you weren't aware of the movie, you'd have no reason to suspect the sites' purpose was related to it. If the promo connection had been obvious, that would add a bit to the 'Uff da' value of Barnes spreading the CDC story, but not change it's essence. My guess is that the idea was to suck in enough people to the idea that some third party was doing sketchy 'fake news' that included the movie that that would become a 'real' news story that would create buzz for the film. But that's just a guess... Whatever it is, it's so folded in crazyiness, it's certainly a sign of the times one way or another.

I do think Brian is being to kind to Trump in referring to him as merely confused. And whatever way he jumps will be very, very bad one way or another. However, I can see a utility to refraining from labeling him "an antivaxer'. Views on vaccines don't fall into a bright-line dichotomy. Perhaps it would better to say Trump has anti-vax sympathies, and reserve 'antivaxer' for people like RFKJ who are so committed to it, it's a core part of their identity – not just how we see them, but how they see themselves. I remember lefties back in the 70s who called anyone in the political status quo 'fascists'. You lose analytical distinctions that are key to opposing them that way, not to mention the problems you get to when a real fascist shows up.

I think you may over-attribute Trump's antivax sympathies to Trump himself. When he says 'I know may people who saw their kids change overnight', i think "many people' = Gary Kompothecras, who's apparently pretty close to Trump, and I'm guessing the source of all of Trump's anti-vax thoughts, as far as they go. Kompothecras arranged the meeting at the fundraiser where the AV donors brought AJW along for the photo op, and most surely got the tickets for Andy to attend that inaugural event and get another photo op. I'd guess there are aspects of AV that appeal to Trump – basically it gives him another opportunity for posturing as Smarter than pointy-headed bureaucrats, but it's not all that important to him. That is, he indulges it and channels it out because he's tight with Kompothecras, and if they ever had a falling out, he'd probably stop talking about it.

In any event, ripping Trump for something you think he might do is only going to make him more likely to do it. As things stand, he looks to be completely lassiez faire on healthcare matters – he recently promised he'd cut 75 to 80% of FDA regulations, Tom Price doesn't want the guvmint telling ANY 'doctor' what to do, etc. If AVs can get enough politcos to save or institute PBEs in any of the states, they'll get no friction from the feds, nor will any immunization efforts get any kind of funding or enforcement from the feds. The malign neglect will probably be worse than any sort of 'active' policy in an AV direction that could actually get approved if there still was a functioning FDA, HHS, Education Department, etc.

RFK Jr is writing for World Nut Daily as well as sucking up to the Orange Manbaby? That's about as low as you can go for support. He must be getting desperate.

re Trump's beliefs about vaccines

Who can tell?
He is a person who appears to second whatever he's heard last- so if he's been around RFK jr, he'll be anti-vax and if he was consulting his pick, Price, maybe not.

He seems to drift about like a leaf in the wind and sometimes transform like a piece of idle clay being passed around hands of various potters.

He say whatever he thinks his audience wants to hear.

He has a few more solid ( or less malleable) beliefs;
-immigrants are not so great ( except when they are)
-the good old days were wonderful . Mostly
-the People know better than experts ( except for business)
-those who live on the coasts are cheaters and liars except for himself and his crew
- importing is terrible except when he / his daughter does it
- Mexicans are rapists except for the 'good ones'

Interestingly enough, it seems that there is power struggle amongst his hangers on/ advisors

How could that NOT be ?

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 13 Feb 2017 #permalink

Trump's beliefs:
Whatever he can get away with and whatever he can get the most out of.

He's "transactional", ad hoc, without empathy, and self entitled. In other words, there's no acknowledgment of systemic causality, tradgedy of the commons, or any complexity that isn't made of bulls**t and doesn't fit his simplified, clichéd model of how things ought to work.

By Obstreperous A… (not verified) on 13 Feb 2017 #permalink

Yesterday (Mon, 2/13) BuzzFeed finally broke a story confirming the fake news sites were (they've now been taken down) part of the film's 'guerilla marketing' campaign. Many entertainment sites have picked up the story, and virtually all of them are excoriating the studio for spreading "dangerous", "irresponsible", etc. falsehoods.

Frankly, I find much of this commentary half-brain-dead reflex reaction to jump on the "we're real news, so we hate fake news" bandwagon. The film's producers gave BuzzFeed only this short statement:

A Cure for Wellness is a movie about a ‘fake’ cure that makes people sicker. As part of this campaign, a ‘fake’ wellness site was created and we partnered with a fake news creator to publish fake news.

This only really hints at the connection, I guess, but it seems apparent enough to me: The film gains topical relevance and credibility as a metaphor for all the other venal things drawing in the gullible with fake promises of 'cures' – like "Make America Great Again". The fake news sites are specifically pitched to Trumpist BS: “LEAKED: Lady Gaga Halftime Performance to Feature Muslim Tribute", “Utah Senator Introduces Bill to Jail, Publicly Shame Women Who Receive Abortions". The fact anti-vax made the grade suggests one of the copywriters is a closet minion here at RI. These are all satires of the sort of CTs the Russian disinformation agents spread during the 2016 campaign, and sure enough they all got republished by assorted Trumpian ideologues who bought into them because they reflected their worldview.

The point of the campaign then, is to demonstrate the dangers of fake promises, so people worried about the dangers of fake promises will become alerted to the theme of the film, and thus want to see it. Yet, the writer for A.V. Club somehow thinks "easily fooled Facebook users and outright racists are apparently the film’s target audience." Which misses the fact the fake news as much as 'warned' the clueless NOT to watch the film, reporting a screening left one viewer in a catatonic state. The item on Slate said:

A Cure for Wellness isn’t about Trump or Lady Gaga or fake news; there’s no reason to draw that connection. There’s even less reason to think that people looking for something new to hang their anger at liberals or at Trump on are going to be particularly receptive to a pitch for an unrelated horror film.

No, dude, they think people worried about the basket of gullibles who are now so bamboozled by seductive lies they're screwing things for everybody else will be receptive to a film about the horror hiding behind the apparently unquenchable thirst for snake-oil of all kinds.

Anyway, I now definitely intend to see the movie, though I'm guessing it won't fulfill the promise... being directed by the guy best know for helming the first three Pirates of the Caribbean movies...


I for one won't be seeing the movie, but I decided that when I saw the preview (when I went to see Hidden Figures, which everyone should see it's amazing). Like, the premise looks interesting, but horror's not my genre.
And then they showed the preview for Dunkirk and I sobbed like a child. Not going to see that one either.

By JustaTech (not verified) on 14 Feb 2017 #permalink