Provaxers are people, too

Yes, it is possible to be an advocate for immunization policies and immunizations and be a real person. It is possible to be in favor of immunizations without being paid for your opinion. You can be a parent, a grandparent, a sibling, and aunt.  You can even be childless and be an immunization advocate.

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So, why is it so hard for people opposed to vaccines to believe?

Take me, for example. I have two kids. I do not spam their image and details all over the internet because, as they get older, we all value keeping their lives private and safe from strangers. Also, I do not need to validate my existence based on them. I am their mother but I don’t need to share our trials and tribulations, successes and failures, ups and downs with the world. If you are my friend on Facebook, you have seen my lovely children. They are truly lovely people, inside and out. Healthy, happy, active, intelligent. They are perfect, in my eyes.  They are fully vaccinated and, for the most part, have experienced great health throughout their lives.  Before we started getting flu vaccines yearly, we did all get H1N1 in 2009, not vaccinated. We had it one at a time, which was hard. Because I was not working, I was able to care for us all. Other than the couple of days I was nearly dead (literally), we did okay. The children’s father took care of us while I was sick. Thankfully, we have been vaccinated for flu five years in a row, now, and these have been tremendously healthy five years. Before the rotavirus vaccine was routine, my oldest had that as a baby. That was the catalyst for me becoming a vaccine advocate. We are incredibly blesses to live in a country where most people vaccinate and these diseases are rare.

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So, why is it so hard to imagine an average American mother could spend a lot of time online advocating for vaccines? I get accused of being paid to do this because some people cannot fathom I would do it for free. There was a time when I was a volunteer with a marvelous organization called Within Reach. I specifically was associated with their Vax Northwest group. I learned about Vax Northwest and asked them to please come to my town with their Immunity Community project. I felt that we needed them badly because immunization exemption rates, at local schools, are well above 10%. And, they are also involved with breastfeeding and nutrition and developmental screenings and education, all of which I am also passionate about. Now, we did get a small stipend to attend meetings but I have never been paid to post online nor have I ever been paid to talk to parent groups or work at local festivals or meet with my legislators or talk to the media or be interviewed by local papers or National Geographic or run Facebook pages or write for blogs. I have been a stay at home mom for a long time and this is just one of my many hobbies. I am highly skilled at multi-tasking and am able to make meals, keep my kids happy and healthy, make sure my home is clean, play with my kids, exercise, take care of pets, and have a social life AND chat online!  I am a chatty Kathy. I was named well.

I have no ties to pharmaceutical companies whatsoever and never have. In fact, to qualify for a 2015 CDC Childhood Immunization Champion Award, I had to prove I have no ties to industry whatsoever. I am just a volunteer vaccine advocate because it is the right thing to do and vaccines do work.

I will be honest. The more people challenge me on this shill issue, the more it makes me dig in and advocate for vaccines more. The more they call me names, the more it fires me up to advocate for proven health measures that keep babies alive. The more they post personal information about myself or my friends, the more it makes me know that this is the right hobby for me.

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So, yes, I am a real mother, I have real children, the are really vaccinated and so am I. No, I am not paid to post. The only people I know of who are paid to post work for “natural health” websites or Age of Autism. Otherwise, I have never seen any proof whatsoever that anyone is paid to post about vaccines. I am pretty darn sure most people who post against vaccines are not paid to do so.

 

As always, remember to use your thinking skills when it comes to making healthcare decisions.

 

Kathy

 

James Lyons-Weiler and the HPV ad controversy

Have you heard of the appeal to authority logical fallacy? It refers to an appeal from a someone based on his or her presumed expertise merely by being a self-described authority.  Authority or not, all contentions should be proven, particularly when one is not actually an authority in a given topic.

Such is the case of James Lyons-Weiler, PhD  when it comes HPV vaccines. Who is Dr Lyons-Weiler? That is a difficult question to answer because he has moved through a variety of areas of study. Looking at his Linkedin account, he has a Master’s in zoology, with a focus on paeloecology, a PhD in ecology and biology, where he studied wild flowers and computational statistics, and he did postdoctoral work in computational molecular biology related to evolutionary genetics. Since then, he has worked on a variety of data analysis and modelling projects, including lung cancer gene expression and protein evolution.  He has been on the faculty at three different universities, most recently the University of Pittsburgh, where he directed the Bioinformatics Analysis Core.  In the past few years, he has written several books. One is about ebola, another about autism, and the third about how he believes medicine is more motivated by profit than cures. Most recently, he founded something called The Institute for pure and applied knowledge and he has begun to be a voice in the antivaccine movement. He even has Mary Holland, famous antivax advocate and attorney, on his advisory board. He has several current projects, including the CDC Accountability Project and the FTC petition re: HPV tv ad.

The appeal to authority I am concerned with is his issue with the HPV ad, which centers around a television ad for Merck’s HPV vaccine. The ad was created by BBDO Worldwide and can be watched here, on ispot dot tv. The gist of the commercial is a man and a woman discussing that they have cancer caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV) and wouldn’t it have been nice if they could have done something as teens to prevent that virus. The point made is that the HPV vaccine can prevent HPV which then can protect the person from getting cancers associated with the virus. The viewer is directed to www.hpv.com for more information.

 

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As part of the Vaxxed film tour, producer Del Bigtree has been posting periscope videos (made with handheld smart phones) with people all over the country. He recently sat down with James Lyons-Weiler to discuss the FTC petition and the ad. You can watch their conversation here (thank you to Karen Halabura for helping me get the video off Facebook). Dr Lyons-Weiler tells Bigtree that the ad is emotionally manipulative and makes claims not supported by science. You can view the petition and transcript of the tv ad here. Lyons-Weiler thinks the ad is false advertising and the Federal Trade Commission should remove it because of seven errors he feels Merck makes in the ad, all of which point to false advertising. The video, as of writing of this blog, has 22,000 views and nearly 800 shares.  I feel it is worthwhile pointing out the mistakes Lyons-Weiler makes in this contentions because his assertions are influential enough that they are now showing up in online discussions about HPV vaccines.

Italicized points are from Lyons-Weiler while bold are from me.

(a) the knowledge that HPV vaccination does not protect against all HPV types, which could lead vaccinated consumers to act as though they are in fact protected from HPV infection in general, when, in reality, they are not;  As per the provider information for Gardasil 9, the most recently available HPV vaccine in USA, it protects against HPV types 6, 11, 16, 18, 31, 33, 45, 52, and, 58. These represent 81% of the viruses that cause cervical cancer, 74% of the other HPV-associated cancers, and 90% of the HPV types which cause anogenital warts. The ad clearly uses the word ‘could’ when they postulate that the person ‘could’ have protected from HPV back at age 11 or 12. Therefore, no false advertising.

(b) the knowledge that has resulted from numerous studies that indicate that HPV vaccination using any of the available HPV vaccines only provides partial protection against 2, 4 or 9 types of HPV, when in reality there are at least 100 HPV viral types that can replace those that the vaccination removes from an individual or from the population; Gardasil 9 offers protection from most of the HPV types that cause cancer.  Therefore, no false advertising.

(c) the knowledge that women should continue to get Pap smears after HPV vaccination to screen for infection (as expected given type replacement); The Merck ad is aimed at both men and women, boys and girls, and states that everyone should talk to their doctor. The implication is the doctor will tell the patient the benefit of yearly exams, both for men and women. The ad does not imply nor state that the vaccine should replace yearly wellness exams. Therefore, no false advertising.

(d) the knowledge that HPV vaccine has been found to fail to lead to a decrease in overall HPV infection rates, according to study by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Markowitz et al., 2016); Strangely, Lyons-Weiler’s own source proves him wrong. Markowitz, et al, concluded that, 6 years after vaccine introduction, there was a 64% decrease in 4xHPV type prevalence in females aged 14 to 19. Therefore, no false advertising.

(e) the knowledge of side effects of HPV vaccination, including death, paralysis, premature ovarian failure, seizures and blindness; There have been many large studies of HPV vaccine safety, in various countries, and none have found any significant relationship between the vaccine and serious adverse events. As the ad clearly states to get more information from your doctor, and you get a vaccine information sheet with reach vaccine which clearly outlines risks and benefits, then again, There is no false advertising.

(f) the knowledge of alternatives to the vaccines for protection against HPV; Del and Lyons-Weiler spend a great deal of time talking about safe sex in the interview. Lyons-Weiler stays that HPV is a lifestyle disease and practicing unsafe sex is what needs to change. Since 95% of women clear the virus in the first two years, and there is a drug, according to him, in clinical trials that will completely cure the virus, there is no need to vaccinate. He does not seem to notice his statements are contradictory. He wants women to abstain from sex but then he also wants women not to worry about the virus because there is a cure for it coming soon. Del claims that pap smears stop HPV in it’s tracks, which is completely untrue. A pap smear can only (hopefully) detect if you have cancer or not. It is not a cure nor a treatment for cancer. They both routinely fail to tell their audience how this virus also affects men and they fail to inform that nearly all sexually active people will, at some point in their life, usually in early adulthood, acquire HPV infection. Yes, HPV is passed as a sexually transmitted infection but you can pass it via oral, anal, or vaginal sex or even just contact with sexual fluids (what my mother’s generation called heavy petting). Condoms do not prevent HPV as it can infect areas a condom does not cover. The only way to guarantee you will never get HPV is to never engage in any sexual activity with anyone other than the one partner you will have and keep for your entire life, assuming they also have only had one partner their entire life. As this is not a reasonable goal for most people, and sex is a natural, biological function, this vaccine is an important part of having a HEALTHY life. Vaccination is one key part of staying healthy. The only alternative to vaccination is abstinence and that is not a valid choice for all. Furthermore, human papillomaviruses can also cause oral and anal cancers, none of which are detectable by pap smears.  Therefore,  no false advertising.

(g) the knowledge that indiscriminate use of HPV vaccination in a population not screened for HPV infection may increase (double) the risk of HPV-associated cancer. Lyons-Weiler does not qualify this statement with any details so one must conclude this allegation is false. In the film interview with Bigtree, Lyons-Weiler states he believes that getting the HPV vaccine while already infected may be a problem but he, again, does not qualify this statement with any supporting evidence. Therefore, no false advertising.

The conversation between Del Bigtree and James Lyons-Weiler, regarding HPV vaccine, is rife with dangerous myths about both human papillomaviruses and the HPV vaccine. In just the few days since it first aired, I have noticed comments online being made that bear striking resemblance to those of Lyons-Weiler. He has influenced people. This vaccine already has so many dangerous myths associated with it that it is a shame to now have more. As a person who lost a lovely cousin to cervical cancer, a cousin who did have yearly pap smears, I know that Bigtree and Lyons-Weiler are doing is going to cost lives that could have been prevented. My own children are or will be protected with this vaccine. Like tens of millions world-wide, they have had no serious side effects to any vaccine, ever, in their lives.

Why is Lyons-Weiler engaged in this battle against HPV vaccine? On his website, he discusses a great many different projects, including several related to vaccines. It is troubling to me that he is spreading myths and lies about vaccines while, at the same time, asking for donations for his multiple projects. Usually, scientists with his level of education work for a research institute or university and they write grants to fund their projects. I have no real idea why Lyons-Weiler is no longer involved in the standard type of research, but I find it deeply troubling that he is stirring up vaccine waters.

As always, be sure to think for yourself!

 

 

Kathy

 

My sources for information and facts on HPV vaccine and cancers related to HPV.

 

  1. Gardasil 9 – provider information sheet
  2. Pink Book chapter on Human Papillomavirus
  3. Gardasil Myths debunked at Skeptical Raptor blog
  4. Prevalence of HPV After Introduction of the Vaccination
  5. CDC page on human papillomavirus information
  6. Ways to prevent HPV infection

 

 

A provaxer watched Vaxxed

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Yes, I did. I watched it. And, I am still provax.  Here is my review and commentary.

 

I am going to assume that readers know a lot about the CDC Whistleblower. But, if you need a refresher, here is a complete guide by my fellow blogger friend. Please refer to this guide for the evidence that most, if not all, of the claims made in Vaxxed have been proven false. There is no isolated autism, there is no greater risk of autism in African American boys, the data was not thrown away. It is notable that the filmmakers took only Dr Thompsons’s word about the issues, via uncorroborated and possibly highly edited taped conversations with Dr Brian Hooker. Nowhere in the film are any other autism/vaccine scientists interviewed.

 

If you need to know more about the cast of characters, Dawn has created a short bio for each of them.

 

The film opens with news clips about vaccines and measles and then switches to someone typing on a keyboard and producer Del Bigtree’s voice quoting from William Thompson.  We then hear taped recordings from Thompson’s conversations with Brian Hooker and Hooker begins to tell the story of his child, who is now autistic. Of course, the recent “vaccine court” opinion on Hooker’s son’s case concluded that his child was most definitely not vaccine injured, there were clear signs of autism as young as four months of age, as documented in in his medical records.  This is not mentioned in the film. In fact, Hooker actually shows samples of studies he has authored, studies that were proven to lack validity in his court case. To me, this is disturbing. It is just the first of many lies in the film.

Hooker goes on to explain more of his take on the recordings of conversations with Thompson. He claims he had been trying talk to the CDC for years about the research he had been doing that showed vaccines could cause autism but had hit a wall until they assigned Thompson to talk to him. Throughout the film, we see Hooker explaining how he came to participate in phone conversations with Thompson, why they were recorded without Thompson’s permission, and how he, Hooker, analyzed the data. It should be noted that Hooker is a biochemical engineer and biology professor but that does not give him expertise in this kind of data analysis.

We then switch to Andy Wakefield telling his story. Wakefield claims he got the impetus to study vaccines, autism and gastrointestinal diseases when a mother of an autist called him out of the blue.  Bill Gates is shown discussing how Wakefield’s findings were fraudulent and have been disproven but Wakefield goes on to repeat that he made significant scientific findings. The voiceover from Wakefield is accompanied by more footage of children with autism. These videos are repeatedly show autistic children in crisis, hitting themselves, crying, in diapers, or worse. Throughout the film, neurotypical children are shown in a very positive light and autistic children are shown in crisis situations.

Jonathon and Polly Tommey talk about their story. Their first child, Bella, is shown as a lovely, happy child. Their second child, Billy, apparently got sick after his 6 month vaccines. He was put on antibiotics. The film repeatedly returns to Polly and Jonathon Tommey talking about the day Billy got the MMR. They claim Billy was shaking uncontrollably, in his cot, so they rushed him to the hospital.  They were told he was having a “normal” febrile seizure as a side effect.  They claim the Billy they had before never returned. Other parents, with similar stories, are shown, including Mark Blaxil, Jeanna Reed and Sheila Lewis Ealey.  Their autistic children are shown in very sad circumstances, including crying, being violent, in diapers, while their not autistic children are shown in lovely clothing, performing on the piano and playing. Jon and Polly talk about Billy’s vacancy, his lack of smiling, his blankness and other health problems that impaired Billy after his autism months regression. Billy was “gone,” in their words. They discuss the “tragedy” of Billy regressing into an autistic state. Polly and Jon talk about the television show they were featured on, when Billy was a toddler, and how they started The Autism File magazine as a result of the stories they heard from other parents with autistic children. These events led them to move to the USA and continue to be involved in this kind of autism advocacy.

Wakefield returns to ask if MMR is a risk, if it can lead to autism. He discusses the MMR vaccine that was withdrawn from Canada because it had a higher risk for meningitis. He claims that vaccine was shipped to the UK and then to developing countries, where it was used until meningitis rates were proven too high and it was removed. He claims age of MMR was part of the reason for the increased risk of meningitis and that it is plausible that age of MMR could be the reason for autism regression. This led to the IOM recommending the CDC do a study on the timing the MMR is given. Hooker returns and he and Wakefield claim that Thompson found a legal loophole which enabled him to get the data the CDC wanted hidden to Hooker for analysis. This data came from the study the CDC did on MMR age, the one authored by De Stefano and Thompson. The loophole is called a citizen’s request, according to Wakefield.

It should be noted that the mumps vaccine that had the meningitis issues was the Urabe strain of mumps, which we never used in USA. In the USA, we have used the Jeryl Lynn strain.  This is not mentioned in the film.

Wakefield goes into more details about his study. Still no mention from him as to how and why his study was retracted. He treats the study as valid throughout the film. He makes the point that when they had the press conference for his study, the Dean of the college deflected questions about what to do next to him, Wakefield, knowing full well he would recommend the single vaccines in lieu of MMR as triple jab. Wakefield says this was followed up by the single vaccines being discontinued and option taken away from parents. He says the concern was for the protection of the program over and above protection of children. If you read his book, Callous Disregard, this is one of many claims he made about his now-retracted study.

Hooker talks about how he analyzed the Thompson data. He fails to mention how he has no background in this type of analysis and his paper published on the data has since been retracted. A graph is shown wherein two lines, representing autistic children and not autistic, but no mention is made of the significance of the interval between the two lines. The difference is not valid unless that interval is analyzed. The confidence interval is a range of values so defined that there is a specified probability that the value of a parameter lies within it. But, Wakefield and Hooker do not mention this aspect of data analysis and most people do not understand data analysis at all. This is either a huge error, on their part, or a hugely devious action. Did they leave this information out on purpose?  At this point, Wakefield claims he advised Hooker to tape record Thompson in case the whistleblower, as he is now called, disappears or is killed.

Bigtree then explains the analysis plan. I have to remind myself this explanation is coming from a person who has no college education and makes a living producing cable television shows. Bigtree and Wakefield explain that the analysis plan was mainly written by Thompson and that deviating from an analysis plan is fraud. To remind you, the reality of the analysis plan is fully explained in this blog post.

Note: It is annoying that most of Thompson’s words are accompanied by a rather strange video image of smokey, colored lines moving across the screen. It is so inexplicable that I took a screen shot to share with readers.

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Another part of the problem, in the minds of the film makers, is that the CDC is complicit with “big pharma” in controlling the pharmaceuticals markets. Brandy Vaughn, former Merck salesperson, claims vaccines have less safety testing than other pharmaceuticals. Strangely, this is a lie and it was put into the film without question. Vaughn has no background or training in any science, so it is strange that the filmmakers would use her opinion.

Several “experts” appear in the film. Dr. Doreen Granpeesheh, who runs an autism center called CARD, talks about the signs of autism as videos are shown of children exhibiting these symptoms.  Granpeesheh returns to discuss antibiotic use and regression after vaccines.  We see video footage of Yates Hazelhurt before and after autism diagnosis.  Granpeesheh claims autism is the result of toxic overload, the inability of some children to detoxify. Video of Billy Tommey is shown while Granpeesheh describes how autists become violent as a result of the toxins.

Stephanie Seneff, computer scientist at MIT, comes on to discuss her analysis of the growth of autism. Seneff claims autism rate is going to continue to rise, that it is a perfect exponential curve. She predicts that by 2032, 80% of boys, 50% of all children, will be on the autism spectrum. Respectful Insolence blog has done a nice job of debunking Seneff’s claims.  

Throughout the film, Bigtree speaks to his own self-described expertise as a “medical journalist” and claims that patient stories of autistic regression are ignored by doctors.  He discusses how the CDC “refuses” to do a vaxed versus unvaxed study. He claims the MMR risks would be astronomical and CDC is afraid to do the study. He also discusses how much he does not understand. Yet, even though a great deal of writing about the whistleblower issue had already been done BEFORE the film was made, Bigtree does not bother to interview other scientists, including Dr Matt Carey, for their opinion of the data analysis. He does not say anything about trying to contact Dr Carey or any of the study authors other than Thompson. Further, he makes no mention whatsoever of the autism and vaccine science done by other researchers in and out of the USA. These are all lies by omission.

Debunking a few of Vaxxed’s other lies:

  1. Vaccines are not adequately tested for safety. Wrong. They are more highly tested than other drugs.
  2. The law for vaccine compensation only benefits drug companies. Wrong. The law was written to benefit families and enable a legal climate to exist such that vaccine makers did not stop making vaccines all together.
  3. The vaccine omnibus hearings were defeated by the fraudulent study from the CDC. This is a corruption of justice. Wrong. You can also read more here.
  4. Not one mainstream media source ran the CDC whistleblower story. Wrong.  Stories were run by Time, CNN, Fox, ABC and The Daily Beast.
  5. Autism rate is rising. Wrong. It has stabilized in the last few years.

 

 

So, the film did not open my eyes. The controversy has been swirling since August 2014 and nothing new has changed. The data has been available for download since January 2014. The data was never thrown away as it was always online as part of a large data set called MADDS.

So, why did the filmmakers not mention these facts? Why are they lying? Around the time the film was released, Brian Hooker’s claim for vaccine injury compensation, for his son, was completely denied. I have read the full 58 page opinion and it is damning. Why did the filmmakers not tell the audience about this opinion? I can only guess that they are never going to accept the idea that vaccines do not cause autism, no matter what the science tells them. My guess is that they are going to cling to any “proof” they can find to implicate vaccines as dangerous, whether is is valid or not.

 

 

Thanks for reading and remember to think for yourself!

 

Kathy