I got shingles and antivaxers mocked me

The morning of July 29, 2019, I woke up at 4am with an itch on my upper right ribs. Half asleep, I scratched it and felt a shooting, stabbing pain like no rash or bug bite I have ever had before. In a bit of shock (metaphorically), I went to the bathroom to look at what it was in the mirror.  I had a patch on my upper right front ribs, about the size of half a gardenburger, red, with angry-looking small bumps. Oh no. Was it shingles? I was not sure so I texted some nurse/doctor friends and described it (no I did not send them a picture) and they all agreed it sounded just like shingles. Per their recommendation, I got myself to urgent care that day and got the antiviral medicine, valacyclovir, which did a great job keeping the spread at a minimum.

What are shingles? How did I get it? Per Mayo Clinic,

Shingles is a viral infection that causes a painful rash. Although shingles can occur anywhere on your body, it most often appears as a single stripe of blisters that wraps around either the left or the right side of your torso.

Shingles is caused by the varicella-zoster virus — the same virus that causes chickenpox. After you’ve had chickenpox, the virus lies inactive in nerve tissue near your spinal cord and brain. Years later, the virus may reactivate as shingles.

While it isn’t a life-threatening condition, shingles can be very painful. Vaccines can help reduce the risk of shingles, while early treatment can help shorten a shingles infection and lessen the chance of complications.

I was a child in the 1970s and had chickenpox twice. There was no vaccine back then.  I knew the virus was lying dormant in me, waiting to give me shingles. And, I had tried to get the shingles vaccine last year when my new insurance started covering it but it had not been available.  It was out of stock all over the country. I got put on a waitlist. When it finally was available I was too busy helping my dad with issues related to my mom’s death to bother getting vaccinated. My goal was to get it in August of this year, after a month of staying out of state with dad. I could have gotten it when I turned 50 (I am 53) but my other insurance plan did not cover the vaccine and I could not have afforded it out of pocket. I was a divorced university student at the time. No shill money comes my way!

But I got shingles infection instead.

I have heard horror stories about how shingles can be the worst pain you have ever felt. Luckily, antiviral medicine helped keep the rash from spreading. I used Lidocaine patches at night on the part of my back that was most painful (not the part with the rash but closer to the spine), to help me sleep. For day, the compounding pharmacy made me a cream with gabapentin and some other stuff in it.  I chose not to take the pill form of gabapentin as my pain was not that bad and I was concerned about it making me groggy. The pain was very uncomfortable and sharp and, since I am off work for the summer, I took to social media to whine. And also to remind people to get vaccinated when they can. Don’t wait!

Lucky me, anti-vaxxers found my posts. But, do you see anything wrong here?  They didn’t read it correctly.  Also, they are wishing me harm. Rather unkind!

First up is Washington’s own Jaclyn, making fun of me. She has me blocked on social media so someone in her camp shared this with her. This is from Jaclyn’s Facebook page but the screenshot of my comment was taken from my Twitter feed.

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Next up, the comments on Jaclyn’s page.  Look how they wish me harm. Such lovely people. And no, dear, I had chickenpox naturally. That’s how you get shingles.

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No, I did not have the vaccine Meredith. Learn to read better!

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No, Jillian, I did not get the vaccine. Why are you all misreading the post? Very odd.

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Sorry, Jillian, but the only way to spread shingles would be to let people scratch my rash. Why on earth would I do that?  It’s pretty easy to contain. Unlike chickenpox, shingles is not a respiratory infection. Shingles can spread to others via the fluid in the rash and cause a person to get chickenpox but, again, why would I let someone touch a rash on my ribs?

 

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And another one who cannot read correctly. At this point, it is kinda funny. They really think they are educated but they all misread my post? Snort.

 

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And, another one who has trouble reading.

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Update: Infamous antivaxer, Suzanne Humphries, has now weighed in and wished me harm. Wow.  What horrible people! Never, ever have I wished harm on anyone.  How do these people sleep at night?

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I am sharing these screenshots to make a point. Well, two points:

  1. Get your vaccines on time
  2. Antivaxers seem to have reading comprehension problems. This might explain why they misunderstand science.

 

There is good news to end my story. Almost three weeks later, the rash is but a shadow of itself and the nerve pain is very infrequent. No, this was not a deadly issue but it sure was an inconvenience.  I am getting the vaccine in six months, for sure, which is the soonest I can get it after having shingles infection NATURALLY.

 

Happy fact verifying!

 

Kathy

What is the vaccine guide?

I have been seeing more and more of the “Vaccine Guide” in social media and decided to take a look at it. What is it, who made it, what does it have inside of it?  As I am fond of doing, I am taking one for team pro-vax here by reading it myself.

The “Vaccine Guide” is a very slick, well-made looking website with a guide supposedly to everything you need to know about vaccines. You can browse the information online by clicking on the colored sections below or you can download it and take it to a printer to be printed. People also sell them, already printed, online for about $170 a pop in full color.  The guide was created by Ashley Everly Cates, an Idaho woman with a bachelor’s degree in environmental toxicology from University California Davis. She currently runs a group called  Health Freedom Idaho and, as near as I can tell, has never actually worked in toxicology nor written any papers. It should be noted that it is usual practice to only call those with a Ph.D. in toxicology a “toxicologist” but Ashley continually markets herself as a practicing toxicologist. As she has never had any experience beyond the undergraduate degree, this is misleading.

Note: I am going to address a recent comment made to me. Please note there are three reasons I am specifying that Ashley is not a toxicologist. She has only a BS in the field, has never worked in the field, and has published no papers in the field. The BS alone is not the only factor. 

I am a very visual person so I will be referring to every color by it’s Crayola name.

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First up, yellow-orange section or VAERS, etc.  I notice that Ashley has linked to some good information on the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act (NCVIA) until I realize she has only put up screenshots of pages, not actual links to the actual data. Furthermore, none of the screenshots come with explanations of why they were chosen. There is also a screenshot of a report from Harvard Pilgrim medical group on VAERS reports but the report is not explained in any detail. I feel it would be difficult for the average person to understand the implications of the report and the validity of the data. In actuality, Harvard Pilgrim is a Vaccine Safety Datalink member and they are charged by the US government to monitor vaccine safety. Within their system, they found some underreporting of vaccine adverse events but it is not clear, by reading the study, if this underreporting has any significance on public health, is an artifact of just their system, or is perpetuated by other VSD members.  I feel strongly it is disingenuous to post this study without clarification.

Update: It has come to my attention that I missed the word source on each page of Ashley’s guide. My apologies.  Thus, one can, in fact, link out to the original sources if you use her website. However, if you print the guide and/or buy it as a notebook, you will only get the screenshots. I have edited this post to reflect this correction.

Next up, neon carrot section: vaccine inserts.  This is just URLs linking to the inserts without any explanation of their validity or what they really mean. Nothing is mentioned about how inserts are only written about clinical trials and how they do not list proven side effects. With that in mind, here are some great links on how to read vaccine inserts.

Vaxopedia      or     Skeptical Raptor

The third section is mango tango: It is about vaccine ingredients. First off is a list of vaccine ingredients or excipients.  Then, Ashley has put some links to screenshots about specific ingredients. What I notice right away about the screenshots is that there is nothing about why she thinks they are valid?  This is what we call cherry-picking – choosing studies that make your point but not checking them for actual validity. Validity is incredibly important. Maybe Ashley did not learn this at Davis? As an undergraduate at the University of California, Irvine, I certainly learned the importance of judging a study for validity. Here is a very good read on the basics of how to judge a study for validity.

What Ashley has done is list a bunch of studies showing the supposed dangers of aluminum adjuvants but she has not quantified why she thinks those studies are valid nor compared to other literature. This kind of analysis is shoddy and would have earned her a very bad grade in her research methods class.

In reality, aluminum adjuvants are very safe. My scientist friend, Abe, otherwise known as the Blood-Brain Barrier scientist, has done an excellent job of explaining on his blog. Abe gets to actually refer to himself as an expert as he has a Ph.D. in molecular medicine and is a professor at Texas Tech University.  Abe also has a blog where he explains aluminum adjuvants, among other subjects. Herein, Abe discusses junk science (cough what Ashley shares cough) and why it is junk. As I was taught by the esteemed Dr. Linton Freeman, professor emeritus at University California, Irvine, you have to be able to critically analyze pros and cons of studies, validity, and reliability and explain this in detail, if you want to be taken seriously. Anything less is shoddy work and deserves and F. Lint is a hardass, but I got the only As in his classes for a reason. Man is a genius.

The rest of the ingredients section is more negative thoughts on ingredients, screenshots of papers decrying ingredients, and nothing explaining validity at all. It is intellectually dishonest to try to persuade people with an emotional argument and not present valid arguments to make your point. Ashley has presented nothing valid at all. Just screenshots.

For more on vaccine ingredients, I would recommend the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Vaccine Education website as well as Scientist Abe’s website. Todd has also done a nice job at his blog, Harpocrates Speaks.  I share these links because they are more than screenshots – the explain the ingredients in full and link outside to more information.

The wild watermelon section is called Asymptomatic transmission and shedding.  Again, we have more screenshots without explanations. As the average reader is not trained in how to read studies for validity, I again find this disingenuous.  I am somewhat knowledgeable about how to read studies but I do not have a Ph.D. so I ask for help when I need it. I have resources to help me understand what I am reading. Ashley is relying on the appeal to her authority and assuming readers will simply take her word for why these studies indicate vaccines should be avoided.

Here is the problem with Ashley’s motive: lawmakers and policymakers are going to rely on actual experts in the field to inform them on risks, benefits, and issues therein.  When it comes to understanding the FDA pertussis studies on baboons, many antivaxers assume the two studies indicate baboons shed vaccine-derived pertussis to others when nothing could be further from the truth.  The FDA studies with baboons concluded that vaccinated baboons protected their newborns from pertussis, did not get a severe infection when exposed, did not shed the vaccine, but could colonize pertussis infection in their throats without symptoms. In other words, the worst that can happen with pertussis vaccine is you might get a mild pertussis infection or you might have the bacteria in your throat with no symptoms.  So, being vaccinated doesn’t prevent 100% of pertussis infections but it prevents babies from dying and prevents the 100-day cough. Does Ashley explain these facts?  NOPE!  Bad form!!

Ashley then goes on to cite a very few rare examples of vaccines shedding but does not tell readers how rates chickenpox, flu, rotavirus, rubella, measles, mumps, etc are all extraordinarily low THANKS TO VACCINES. Read The Pink Book for infection data.

Again, this is extremely disingenuous! This is borderline lying, in my book, as it is implying vaccines cause disease without explaining the validity of these actual case studies. One study, for example, is about a boy who got chickenpox vaccine, got the very rare pox, and his pregnant mother also got an infection. This could only have happened if she had been touching her son’s pox. This is extremely rare but also very easily avoidable – don’t get your toddlers vaccinated for chickenpox if you are pregnant and, if you are, don’t touch the pox!  There is a very good reason disease rates are low and it’s name is VACCINES.

The fuschia section is called Effectiveness.  This section is, as usual, only screenshots of studies, often just abstracts. Why she thinks abstracts are enough to read is confounding.  Abstracts are tiny summaries. One must read the full study to judge. Again, did Davis not teach her this fact?? This section could easily fool people until they read the full studies and compare to rates of actual disease, look at genotypes and strains, and realize the whole dang section is proof vaccines work! Also, most of the links therein are not vaccine strains anyway.

Ashley also links to information on pertussis outbreaks and herd immunity.  This is a common trope from antivaxers – the idea that if vaccines don’t work 100% then they are useless. For example, she cites a Fordham University mumps outbreak. There were 13 cases, all vaccinated, out of 10,000 undergraduates. Thus, the vaccine had a hugely effective rate and protected most all students. Vaccine win.

Necessity of vaccination, the royal purple section, is Ashley’s attempt to convince people vaccines are not necessary. For some reason, it starts off with a screenshot of a report from the Royal College of Ireland in 1959. Baffling. I guess she feels this is proof measles is harmless?  I prefer to link to this paper by Walter Orenstein, et al, which analyses the death and complications rates in the USA.

Ashley goes on to link to some more papers questioning the contribution vaccines made to history. For example, she links to a paper on the CDC history of drinking water. As measles, diphtheria, flu, and more are respiratory infections, clean water did not affect them.  She further links to mortality (death) statistics without quantifying that while Americans were dying less of preventable diseases, they were suffering more. As the Orenstein, et al, paper indicates, measles rate was higher in 1950s USA than any other decade in the USA. People were dying less because of medical care but they were still suffering.

Another abstract to which she links is entitled “Human milk mucin inhibits rotavirus replication and prevents experimental gastroenteritis.” As the full study is not linked, the implication is that breastfeeding prevents gastro infections. I am here to tell that is 100% false. Read my tale here.

Plus, again, it is not genuinely informative to link only to an abstract. What does the rest of the paper say? Is it valid? Are the methods they used valid and reliable? Ashley does not cover any of these topics.

The rest of this section has some information on how vitamins might help cure diseases like measles and polio but we know that, for example, vitamin A is only used with measles to lower the complication and rate. It does not eradicate the risks. With viral diseases, there is no good evidence vitamins prevent suffering. Vitamin C does not cure a cold.  Vitamin C is not a cure-allPauling was wrong. Just because some guy in the 1930s gave polio patients vitamin C and some of them did not die does not mean vitamin C is a cure-all.

The navy blue section is on adverse reactions.  This is, once again, more screenshots of abstracts with no explanation as to validity. I have been over how autism is not caused by vaccines many times. You cand read more here and here. Ashley is lying to her readers to say vaccines cause autism and not explain the validity of the abstracts she has screenshot or link to more current research. This is unbelievable maddening. Shameful!  This entire section is an embarrassment to the University of California. Honestly, they should revoke her degree. Linking only to abstracts and not explaining reliability is egregious. She lists few, rare side effects documented but does not link to the vast number of positive outcomes from vaccines? Compared to the number of vaccines given, the USA has compensated 0.0000011% of vaccinees for injury. That is an INCREDIBLE safety rate.

Ashley is not sharing with her readers any accurate science. She is lying.  She shares a screenshot of a badly done analysis of SIDS rates without quantifying that SIDS rate is at a historic low in the USA and the more we vaccinate, the fewer babies die.

The final section is pine green and called Incentives.  This is where the conspiracy theories start. There is a link to a HuffPo article SPIDER, a made-up controversy that went nowhere. There is a link to the badly done Cochrane HPV review that led to a kerfuffle and some careers tanking. There is a link about the ICAN HHS lawsuit that went nowhere. I wrote about that here.

She further goes on to discuss provider incentives but does not explain them at all. I explain how they work here and my friend, Vince, does so here.

In conclusion, this is a sad bunch of cherry-picked, screenshots of abstracts with no explanations as to the validity, nothing is given to readers to inform them why what they are reading is important. Ashley is duping her readers and relying on their gullibility. Most parents want their children to be safe and healthy and Ashley is using scare tactics to influence parents into not vaccinating.

 

She should be thoroughly ashamed of herself.

For more on this guide, be sure to read Science-Based Medicine’s post on it.

Remember to always verify claims. This is a perfect example!!

 

 

Of antivaxers and misinformation (mean girls part 2)

Things are certainly heating up in the legislature in the USA.  All over the country, vaccine bills are being proposed, mostly in favor of vaccines, in reaction to measles outbreaks. With over 300 cases of measles in the USA, as of March 21, 2019, we definitely need to do something to improve community immunity.  This is making those who are opposed to vaccines (antivaxers) very concerned and they have stepped up their social media presence. In other words, the mean girls are actively attacking more and more provaxers.

 

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All over the internet, vaccine misinformation is starting to be limited by corporations feeling the heat for allowing dangerous ideas to proliferate. Gofundme has cut Larry Cook, leader of Stop Mandatory Vaccines, off from his primary sources of income, Gofundme and Facebook ads.

Pinterest has also started limiting antivaccine misinformation, as has Amazon and Instagram.

Antivaxers are thoroughly flummoxed about why this is happening. Their best theory? Pharmaceutical companies have bought everyone off.

 

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I am, apparently, completely paid off by pharmaceutical companies, too,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I guess they don’t really understand that CDC Immunization Champion Awards only go to people NOT connected to the pharmaceutical industry.

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But, what those opposed to vaccines do not understand is how very much they do indeed spread misinformation. Take these posts, as examples, which are written by a leading antivax leader in my state, Washington, in regards to pro-vaccine legislation currently in the works. She literally cannot fathom how a few representatives who spoke misinformation against the bill were not taken seriously by the other representatives who voted in favor of it. She cannot fathom that anything other than pharmaceutical company coercion is behind these bills.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Taking it further, let’s look at what she considers good information.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1.Measles virus sheds for 1-13 days:  measles virus from the vaccine can be detected in the urine of some individuals. What she does not say is there are zero cases of measles virus shedding to others; aka there are no outbreaks caused by measles vaccine.

2. Measles in fully vaccinated school kids: this is a study from before the USA recommended two MMR vaccines for children. Before the 1990s, there were a few outbreaks of wild measles in those who had had one MMR. Now that we give two MMRs to children, literally 80% of more of measles cases in the USA are in unvaccinated.  And they are all wild measles strains.

3. Measles in a vaccinated group in Ireland: This is another study of children who had only one measles vaccine. It is well known that one measles vaccine provides immunity for life to only 93-95% of recipients so well vaccinated means two MMRs in childhood, not one.

4. “Measles vaccinated child responsible for outbreak in British Columbia” is actually the case of one child getting measles possibly from her vaccine, weeks after the shot, mystifying doctors.  There is no other case on record. She did not infect anyone else.

5. New  York measles outbreak linked to vaccinated is the only case on record of a twice vaccinated woman getting wild measles and passing wild measles to others.

6. Measles among the vaccinated is, again, cases from back before two MMRs were recommended.

Notice how much Jaclyn Gallion, Board member of Informed Choice Washington (ICW), aka Jaci Knutz, gets wrong. The person in New York was a woman, not a man. The cases from before 1996 were back when only one MMR was recommended. Now that we give two, measles is very rare in vaccinated persons. The Disney outbreak in 2015 was in 88% unvaccinated persons.  In Europe, there were 82,000 cases of Europe last year and 87% of patients were unvaccinated.  There were 72 deaths from measles last year.  In Clark County, Washington state USA, there have been 73 cases of measles and only three had one vaccine. The rest were unvaccinated.

Why does this group and its leaders post so much misinformation?  I have addressed their misinformation about vaccines and pregnancy but they are also spreading dangerous misleading misinformation about all vaccines. They claim to post only good facts.

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On their website, they post some information about how measles had a relatively low death rate before vaccines. Apparently, they are unconcerned with the 30% complications rate and, instead, they post some vastly dangerous information from a group called Physicians for Informed Consent (PIC). Then, they run an ad for a class they are offering on natural immunity.

So, what is wrong with all of this? For starters, PIC is a vastly ignorant and dangerous group. Their propaganda was debunked by our friend, Dr. Vince Ianelli, here. “The Physicians for Informed Consent even talks about benefits of getting measles, but somehow leaves out any talk about the risk of getting SSPE after a natural measles infection.

What else do they leave out? The idea that people who survive a measles infection can have some immunosuppression for up to two to three years! This measles-induced immune damage puts them at risk of dying from other diseases and helps explain why kids who are vaccinated against measles are also less likely to die from other childhood infections.”

ICW even goes so far as to claim that having a wild illness is better for the immune system than vaccine immunity.  Yet, there is literally 100% international scientific consensus that vaccines have far greater benefits than risks.

Are they lying? No. They honestly believe what they post. They are dangerously ignorant and far too conceited to consider they might be wrong. They cannot step outside their agenda to even consider that they don’t have any real understanding of how to read scientific studies. They perpetuate long ago debunked ideas, like the blurb about Johns Hopkins Hospital. This is the hospital’s current policy on vaccines and visitors:

 Siblings must be supervised by an adult family member at all times. Siblings under age 2 may not visit. Siblings who are 13 or older may visit between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. while those aged 2-12 may visit on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday during designated times. Siblings under 2 years old may not visit. Siblings 2-12 years of age must have a NICU Sibling Visitation Screening Form completed by their regular health care provider before their first visit. Siblings whose vaccinations are not current will not be allowed to visit. Those who have received the chicken pox vaccine and developed a rash may not visit until the rash is gone. Those who have not had the chicken pox vaccination nor a documented case of the chicken pox will be screened before each visit for possible exposure within the last four weeks and will not be allowed to visit if exposure has occurred. Sibling visitation may be suspended completely on the advice of the Infection Control Department or during times of unit emergency.”

This is why it is a very good thing that social media giants are limiting their posts. They post misinformation right and left. They cannot fathom they could be wrong. They are so paranoid they think “big pharma” must be trying to control us. They are the reason we have measles back in the USA.

Please do your part and always verify claims.

 

Kathy

Provax autism mom reads JB Handley’s “Autism Epidemic” book

Yes, indeed, this pro-vaccine mom of one spectacular autistic teenage girl spent the last few days reading JB Handley’s new book, How to End the Autism Epidemic.  Please be aware this blog post is going to be very long because I want to cover everything.

 

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I hemmed and hawed about whether I should read it or not but, in the end, I decided it was worth the $10 for the Kindle version to have something to say when antivaxers post a link to it, which they are doing often lately.  The Kindle version did not have page numbers so please note that all quotes are referenced to book section but not to exact page.

Note: please excuse the wonky spacing. I originally wrote this as a Facebook file and the formatting did not copy and paste well to Word Press. I chose not to spend an excess of time figuring out how to space every paragraph identically.

Introduction

The book dives right into the story of JB’s son,  Jamison’s, 2-month well baby visit, after which his health apparently “deteriorated” and developed eczema and insomnia. He had frequent ear infections and digestive pain. By 18 months of age, Jamison apparently was more sick, not talking much, and had what they thought were odd behaviors. JB and his wife had an “excruciating” time getting him screened for autism. (apparently a long wait list is excruciating). The diagnosis of severe autism was a nightmare for JB and his wife. They “wallowed in misery” for a long time, according to the introduction to the book. Of course, thanks to my friend, The Real Truther, we know that JB’s story has actually changed a lot over the years and JB doesn’t actually have a firm timeline for Jamison’s health issues nor is JB sure what was the cause of these issues.
One thing I note about the introduction is it is mostly about JB’s personal experiences and less about anyone else’s. As we have seen with antivax autism warriors, they really do enjoy getting attention for their troubles. And, there is no comparison to what other parent’s who have disabled children feel nor to what the children feel. This is all about JB.
The introduction ends with JB and his wife taking Jamison to an integrative doctor named Lynne Mielke. At the time, she was a Defeat Autism Now! (DAN!) doctor. Dr Mielke convinced them vaccines definitely cause autism because she said she had seen hundreds of patients with the same story as Jamison and she had seen many of them improve with her DAN! protocol. They claim that starting Jamison on this protocol helped return some of his health, including eye contact. At this point, Jamison was two years old and JB and his wife had spent a lot of time on the internet “researching” and wondering why the doctors at Universities didn’t believe in DAN! protocols. JB describes how, at this time in their lives, he was very angry and spent most of his free time “researching.” This is the point, in May 2005, where he and his wife founded Generation Rescue.
It is good to note that JB at least is not completely antivaccine. He says, in the introduction, that “While I acknowledge that vaccines provide some benefit to society in reducing cases of certain acute illnesses, they also cause brain damage in some of the vulnerable kids who receive them.” Note that he is calling autism “brain damage.”

Part one: The lies about vaccines and autism

Chapter 1: there is no autism epidemic

This chapter begins by discussing Steve Silberman’s book,  Neurotribes, which JB found very annoying. I will say that I enjoyed reading this book and own it.  At the time it was published, we were just getting our oldest formally diagnosed with autism. She had always exhibited behaviors and social skills and deficits outside the norm but it was not until she was ten years old that her doctors started talking about autism. She has what we would have once called Aspergers, but today is diagnosed Autism Spectrum Diagnosis.  Thus, I am an autism mom but I will agree that my child’s path has not been easy  but I have been blessed to not have a severely disabled child.
JB counters Silberman’s arguments with data from a book called Mental Disorders and Disabilities Among Low-Income Children and he claims that since he never knew anyone with autism when he was a child and the rate has grown so much then Silberman must be completely wrong.
JB asks the question: “Where are all the adults with autism?”  I find this point of view annoying. I did know people who were “mentally retarded” when I was growing up. Why does JB deny they existed just because he did not personally know one?  People who ask this question are ignoring the changing diagnosis categories (read my “there is no autism epidemic” blog post here) Worse still, when autism rate was 1:45, Robert Kennedy Jr asked “Why isn’t one in forty-five older people you see walking around the mall, why isn’t one in forty-five wearing diapers and wearing a football helmet, and having seizures, head banging and stimming?” This is an offensive description since most all people with autism are not in diapers or having seizures and being in diapers and having seizures are both symptoms NOT of autism alone but a co-morbid condition.
In other words, JB and RFKjr are offensive and ignorant. It is also highly offensive that they assume that everyone with autism is severely disabled and requiring massive assistance to exist.
JB claims that there must be close to 5 million adults with autism, if the data is correct; however, he thinks they don’t exist. Apparently, Dan Olmsted and Mark Blaxill also published a book recently on this topic, called Denial, and JB believes that because he cannot find cases of autism like his son’s in history then they did not exist. Again, this point of view ignores the history of institutionalizing people with mental retardation, Down Syndrome, schizophrenia and other health issues, some of which we now diagnose as Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Basically, JB denies these people exist.
This quote really sums up JB’s feelings: “Unfortunately, the Good Doctor is like a guy with a small limp and a cane representing paraplegics to the world. His story is fascinating and compelling but bears little resemblance to the autism most parents, myself included, actually deal with every single day.” Because JB lives with an autistic person, he believes his son’s version of autism is the sole version. He believes Silberman fans are “romanticizing” autism while we Silberman fans understand that JB has an extremely limited view of autism. What is confusing is that his idea that autism includes seizures and diapers is not backed up by his own definition of autism: “Despite what you may have read, the definition of autism has remained remarkably consistent over time. Because autism can’t be diagnosed with a blood test, it’s diagnosed through observation, and anyone possessing enough qualities of autism has autism. The hallmarks of an autism diagnosis include early onset of symptoms (typically before thirty months), an inability to relate to others (called “social-emotional reciprocity”), “gross deficits” in language development, peculiar speech patterns, and unusual relationships with the environment.” My own child did not exhibit “gross deficits” but she definitely had peculiar speech patterns and unusual relationships with her environment and social-emotional reciprocity issues, from toddlerhood.
JB is correct that there is research showing autistics have greater incidence of epilepsy and anxiety. My own child suffers extreme anxiety.
JB concludes this chapter with some quotes from RFKjr wherein they believe that denial of an autism epidemic is the government’s way to not accepting responsibility. Strangely, he claims Brian Hooker as a source, calling him a “Simpson University epidemiologist” but Dr Hooker is, in fact, a chemical engineer who now works as a biology professor.  To remind you, Brian Hooker appeared in the film, Vaxxed, to claim his child’s autism was caused by vaccines but saw his vaccine court case dismissed because the evidence proved otherwise. 
In sum, JB and RFKjr believe that pharmaceutical company profits are at risk of collapsing if autism is proven to be caused by vaccines and the government is colluding with pharma companies to cover up this “epidemic.” “The dollar signs associated with the epidemic are so large that it’s worth billions for the prime suspects to evade accountability.” They claim Dr Paul Offit is at the top of the “denial food chain” and that repeat the oft-debunked trope that he makes millions off the rotavirus vaccine and that is why he promotes vaccine in general. (Dr Offit does not own currently any vaccine patents). Because Dr Offit is the Maurice R Hilleman Professor of Vaccinology at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine, which is a chair endowed by Merck, JB and RFKjr see conspiracies everywhere. These two also claim Dr Peter Hotez, Dr Eric Frombonne, and Dr Paul Shattuck are “industry mouthpieces with deep ties to the vaccine industry.”
So, they see conspiracies everywhere but provide no proof to back them up.
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JB makes another claim I find offensive: “Denying the autism epidemic is to deny the suffering of millions of children and their families and also to deny the exploration into the true cause so the epidemic might end.” This is so bad. Provaxers never deny anyone is experiencing health issues or suffering. We want to find the actual causes so we can treat people effectively.
JB defines his “three main arguments by deniers:
1. The diagnosis has improved. JB does not believe this is fact. He cites the 2012 Autism Congressional Hearing conversation between Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney and CDC’s Dr Coleen Boyle as evidence, which is silly. That conversation has been taken out of context so many times by antivaxers I would be rich if I had ever bet on it. Dr Boyle tries to answer the questions about what the CDC studies and is interrupted by Congresswoman Maloney and then told to send her the studies. That conversation doesn’t prove anything.
2. Autism is mental retardation reclassified. JB believes the “autism epidemic” started in the 1980s.  I debunked this here, as did Emily Willingham here.
3. The definition of autism has expanded. This is scientific fact so I am unclear as to why JB has issue with it.
JB concludes this chapter with a look at James Lyons-Weiler’s opinions on the issue of whether autism is genetic or not. (Skeptical Raptor echoes my thoughts on this guy)
JB ends this chapter with the following: “Pouring cold water on the severity of the autism epidemic inhibits the call to action we all need to find causation. It gives scientists on the fence an “out” where they can describe the autism epidemic as “up for debate.” It denies the suffering of so many impacted children, and it’s prevented a redirection of research dollars to find environmental causes. In the end, saying the autism epidemic isn’t real is simply a lie, and it’s a lie that extends the suffering of so many children.”
I am sorry but I had to roll my eyes big time here. As far as I have seen, no one denies how some people on the autism spectrum have severe issues. There is a massive amount of research going on to find causes and supports. Just because biomedical ideas are discounted doesn’t mean autism is not taken seriously. Many of us want to support and love autistics, not refer to them as damaged and try to change them.

Chapter 2: Vaccines are safe and effective.

This chapter attempts to make the point that vaccines are not safe and effective. The argument is made that since mortality (death) rates dropped after clean water and refrigeration were introduced then vaccines did not save us. But, no mention is made of morbidity or disease incidence rates. Here is an example of measles mortality overlayed with morbidity, so you can see the difference. The study from which this graph originates clearly points out how the vaccine made a huge difference in USA.
189-Supplement_1-S17-fig001
The Leicester example for smallpox is used to make the argument that vaccines did not stop smallpox. The Leicester example of quarantine is but one case but does not conclude the vaccines had no value nor that quarantine alone in all cases effectively works to eradicate the disease.   I am not sure why antivaxers persist in using this as an example. My friend at Vaxopedia explains.
A few more claims from JB:
JB then goes on to state how he is a herd immunity denier.  Herd immunity is fact, like gravity.
JB believes NCVIA indemnifies vaccine makers from responsibility. The reality is that vaccine court is easier to navigate than claims court.
Other countries give fewer vaccines, JB argues but he is not correct. I blogged about this point a while ago.
JB argues that there will always be outbreaks but the reduction in the rate of measles and other VPDs, post vaccination, counters this claim. The Pink Book is the best source on American disease rates pre and post vaccination.
JB claims that because the majority of mumps patients in a Harvard University outbreak, a few years ago, were vaccinated then vaccines must not work. But, there were 41 cases out of tens of thousands of students, nearly 100% of whom are vaccinated. So, that is a vaccine win. More students would have been sickened if not for vaccines.
JB believes vaccine safety testing is inadequate. He does not make a valid case here. Vaccines are tested much more strictly than other drugs. He further claims that adverse event rate is closer to 1:50 and bases that on a Harvard Pilgrim study but that is one health center and we know that nearly all adverse event reports are for mild reactions, none of which are a reason to avoid future vaccines. He then claims adverse events are not studied well and multiple doses of vaccines are not studies, neither of which are true. (link studies here). He goes on to cite a very old study of the DTP vaccine from Guinea-Bissau which was only published recently. This is classic cherry picking. There is absolutely no reason to consider this one study more valuable than the huge body of immunization science literature. He further cites a Dengue vaccine issue that is unique. Again, this is not a reason to avoid vaccines. And, he writes about a Canadian flu vaccine study that seemed to indicate more flu vaccines might lead to less efficacy.
Then, we have a section of this chapter devoted to Gardasil. JB pays no attention whatsoever to any studies which prove this vaccine safe and efficacious.
Finally, we have some links from JB to studies showing vaccines might be linked to autoimmune disease. He cites the oft-cited trope about the “textbook” that is actually used in not one medical school on earth, called Vaccines and Autoimmunity, as proof that vaccines cause autoimmune disease. This is not a valid source!
JB is a cherry picker. He posts only studies that make his point and does not care if they are valid or replicated. In my opinion, this is a form of lying. He is lying by omission in that he fails to report the vast plethora of studies which prove his points wrong.
At this point, I am getting very annoyed at JB’s cherry picking. He even has a section devoted to doctors who are questioning vaccines, as if that tiny group of shysters is a reason to avoid vaccines.
cherry-picking

Chapter three: the science is settled

JB claims that because only thimerosal has been studied, with regards to autism, that vaccines cannot be ruled out as causing autism.  He cites some opinion statements from antivax persons as proof the studies looking at thimerosal and vaccines are faulty. But, he does not prove we have any reason to validate these opinions. Again, he has cherry picked points that confirm his own biases. He then goes on to bring up the “whistleblower” Dr William Thompson, which is so ridiculous I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. (read the facts of this story here ). And the Thorson trope! Read more on that here. Goodness, JB is grasping at thin straws.
JB devotes the last part of this chapter to a study from Carolyn Gallagher and Melody Goodman at SUNY Stony Brook which looked at rates of Hepatitis B vaccine and special education rates.  This study correlated hep b vaccine rates with rates of special education in American boys. They did not, however, analyze how special education services expanded during the time period. Correlation does not equal causation.
JB then discusses the twice retracted Mawson study as if it is valid. (OMG!) This study has been retracted twice for shoddy methods and not validating data.
At this point, I am seriously wondering how JB looks himself in the mirror daily and takes himself seriously. But, I digress….

Chapter 4: The reward is never financial

This chapter begins by discussing the custody battle between Michigan mother Lori Matheson and her ex-husband, which centers on vaccination issues. JB claims that Dr Stanley Plotkin was supposed to be a witness but then recused himself and, in the meantime, the lawyer for the mother presented a great deal of proof that her son should not be vaccinated. Having followed this case, I think JB is living in LA LA land. I did not see the attorney expose “more truth about vaccines and the vaccine industry in one document than I’ve ever seen.” JB spends a great deal of this chapter on the Plotkin deposition, even claiming the mother’s attorney decimated Dr Plotkin. No proof is given for this point. The attorney, Mr Siri, asked Dr Plotkin about payments received from pharmaceutical conpanies over the years but he never proved this in any way makes vaccines ineffective or dangerous. It was a very strange line of questioning, based solely on conspiracy theories. Much ado is made of the clinical trials for vaccines not using a saline placebo in all trials, but no scientific explanation is offered as to why this is an issue. Dr Plotkin is asked many questions about clinical trials but none about post-licensure safety studies. A great deal is made about the limitations of the pertussis vaccine, but no explanation is given as to why this is a reason to avoid vaccines. Human diploid cells are discussed at great length but no comparison is made between child and infant death rates before vaccines as compared to the legal abortions of the fetuses which cells are now used to make vaccines and save billions of lives. Dr Plotkin is asked some questions about human experimentation as if vaccines are some nefarious plot to experiment illegally on humans.
The whole thing is disgusting. No wonder Plotkin pulled out. The questions have no bearing whatsoever on the father’s right, in this case, to have his child vaccinated.
Then, JB compares tobacco to vaccines. At this point, my eyes rolled so hard I got dizzy and needed to take a break.  Good grief.
peanuts-coaster-charlie-brown-good-grief-a
At this point, we get to his thesis: “If all parents believed they had a one in thirty-six chance of their child developing autism from vaccines, the vaccination rates would plummet. And if the pharmaceutical industry were proven to have created an epidemic of autism of several million children worldwide, the economic liability would be astronomical. Just doing some basic math, the average cost of lifetime care for a person with autism is estimated to be $2.4 million dollars.”
JB then spends some time trying to prove Andrew Wakefield is innocent and correct about MMR and again my eyes rolled so hard my BPPV was resurrected. Kidding/not kidding.

End part one

Part II – The truth about vaccines and autism

Chapter 5- Emerging Science and Vaccine-Induced Autism

Chapter 5 begins boldly: “Since 2004 there have been eleven groundbreaking discoveries in separate but related scientific fields that, taken together, reveal the cause of autism. Because of this science, we now know that autism is created by immune activation events in the brain during critical phases of brain development, typically by the time a child is thirty-six months old and that these immune activation events in the brain can be triggered by the aluminum adjuvant in vaccines.”

 

Let us go over the discoveries, but please note that I could probably write a post on each of these discoveries. I will endeavor to link you to information about each but there is no way I can produce a complete list for each.  I am but a humble special education teacher and mom. Please link in comments to more information, if you have it, and I will update this post. 
1. JB believes that Dr Carlos Pardo-Villamizar discovered “autism brains are permanently inflamed.” However, it appears that JB has cherry-picked parts of this study that suit his whims without regard to what it is really stating. The myth that this study supports the idea that vaccines cause autism reached the study author who issued a statement in 2008. “Another issue that is important to clarify is the notion that neuroinflammatory responses mediated by innate responses and neuroglial activation are directly associated with injury. At present, we are not able to conclude that these neuroglial reactions are deleterious for the central nervous system.” This study does not conclude vaccines cause autism, according to one of the main authors.
2. Dr Paul Patterson discovered that immune activation events lead to autism. They found that, in mice, immune activation led to mice with autism-like behaviors. However, they noted that mice models cannot be extrapolated to humans. And, they focused on the relationship between mothers who have infections during pregnancy being at higher risk for having an autistic child. He wrote several papers on how infections during pregnancy can lead to a higher risk of having an autistic child or a schizophrenic child. Note there is nothing about vaccines here. Again, this is not showing vaccines cause autism.
3. The cytokine interleuken-6 is the key biomarker for immune activation. This is again about Patterson but, again, Patterson was not studying vaccines. He was studying infections. Here is a good read about Patterson’s work.
4. Immune activation can take place after birth. This appears to be a theory by someone who hides behind the online moniker “Vaccines Papers” and nothing more. No data, no studies published, just a thought, which is not valid in and of itself.
5. Aluminum in vaccines can produce behavior and motor function deficits. Here, JB brings up the work of Christopher Shaw. Shaw is a Canadian scientist who’s work is funded by the Dwoskin Foundation. Dr Shaw primarily works with Dr Lucija Tomljevnovic at the University of British Columbia. Their interest in aluminum adjuvants coincides with getting grants from the Dwoskin Foundation, aka the Children’s Medical Safety Research Institute. These two have had a few studies retracted for being badly done. Also, the World Health Organization published a page about them, pointing out the flaws in their methods. In sum, their work does not lead us to conclude vaccines cause autism
6. Aluminum adjuvants can be carried to the brain by macrophages. This study is well explained by Scientist Abe over at the Blood Brain Barrier Scientist. Abe is an actual scientist in neurobiology who teaches at an American university. In his post, he also discusses several of the previous “discoveries.” It is a good read. In sum, Gherardi may have stumbled upon something genetic in the French that makes them more susceptible to immune issues after vaccines. It is only, thus far, something seen in France. Or, it could be a correlation. Not enough data to leap to the idea that vaccines cause autism.
7. Aluminum adjuvants stay in the brain longer than anyone realized. This is again about Gherardi and his ideas that aluminum adjuvants can travel to the brain. But, there are serious flaws and bias issues in his work. First of all, like Shaw, he has funding from CMSRI, a group clearly devoted to finding a link between aluminum and autism. That is their goal which makes any research they fund completely tainted by bias. This is also a very poorly done study. Read here to learn about the flaws and questions. Again, this is not a reason to think vaccines cause autism.
8. Small doses of aluminum adjuvants are dangerous. This is apparently about something Vaccine Papers noticed. I am really quite shocked that JB would think that citing the opinion of a person who hides behind a pretend name is valid. We have some ideas who might run Vaccine Papers website but we don’t have confirmation. All we know is he likes to read studies in his own wonky way and then argue a lot about it online. I cannot fathom why we should consider his opinion on this autism matter. But, this is again a mouse study from the Gherardi group in France and we have already discussed their limitations. There is no reason to give this study any validity. Here is an excellent explanation as to why antivaxers have turned their sights on aluminum as the cause of autism and why the theory is bogus.
Side note to the discovery list is the interest JB takes in the opinion of Vaccine Papers. Many times I have debated VP and noted that nobody cares if he does not like the Dr Rober J Mitkus, who wrote the paper “Updated Aluminum and Pharmacokinetics Following Infant Exposures Through Diet and Vaccination.” (link here). VP feels this paper is flawed and gets upset that Mitkus ignores the aluminum studies by Shaw, Exley, Gherardi, etc. In sum, JB and VP both are upset that the poorly done studies they like are not given attention by Mitkus.
9. Aluminum causes immune activation in the brain. This is a rat study where aluminum may have increased inflammation. Again, not related to vaccines, not about humans.
10. Hepatitis B vaccine causes immune activation in mice. This is a study from China. I remember when JB blogged about this study. This is yet another study on rodents that proves nothing. What is interesting is how the ideas in this study connected to misunderstandings about the work of Patterson and Pardo. And, this study overdosed rats, so it cannot compare to humans and vaccines.
11. High levels of aluminum found in autistic brains. This study is by Christopher Exley and it is twice affected by conflicts of interest. Exley is not only on the board of the journal which published it but he is also on the board of CMSRI, the group which funded it! And the study is terrible. Basically, Exley got some precious brain samples from deceased persons with autism. We don’t know how they were exposed to aluminum but he analyzed brain samples for it. His data was all over the map so he averaged it and came up with his idea that autistic brains are smothered in aluminum. Hardly! This study has been discussed here and here and here and does not show any link between vaccines and autism.
JB goes on to pronounce these eleven discoveries “light a clear path to autism.” I feel sad for JB. Or I might if he was not such an angry man who is incredibly rude to anyone who gets in his path. However, I do feel sad for people who will read this book and take him at his word and not read what the studies really say. They certainly do not indicate vaccines cause autism. And I am actually quite shocked JB used Vaccine Papers as a source throughout this book. Really bad, JB. That is not a valid source.

Chapter 6: The Clear and Legal Basis that Vaccine Cause Autism

Chapter 6 is about what JB thinks if the legal basis for vaccines as the cause of autism. He writes “In late 2016 two scientists, in legal depositions, affirmed everything I could have hoped for, and more. And not just any scientists, but Drs. Andrew Zimmerman and Richard Kelley, arguably the two leading mainstream autism scientists in the world. Their intimate relationship with the “vaccine court” almost ended the autism epidemic in 2009, and their ongoing willingness, to tell the truth, will likely contribute to the ending, I hope very soon.” This relates to the case of Yates Hazelhurst, an autistic young man whose parents have instigated three lawsuits to prove vaccines caused his autism. They have lost the first two. The first was in “vaccine court,” where Yates’ case was one of the Autism Omnibus cases. You can read his case here https://www.autism-watch.org/omnibus/hazlehurst.pdf and you can learn more about the Autism Omnibus here. http://www.immunize.org/catg.d/p4029.pdf In a nutshell, in 2007, three special masters in the US Court of Federal Claims, heard three test cases selected by a group of petitioners who all believed their children were made autistic by vaccines. The Hazelhurst case was one of them. In each of these cases, the special masters rejected the causation theory. In other words, the evidence did not convince them vaccines cause autism.
In this chapter, JB outlines how he believes something Dr Andrew Zimmerman stated on record during another vaccine injury case, that of Hannah Poling, lends credibility to the argument that vaccines cause autism. It does not. The Poling case was unique. The special masters have written, “In Poling v. HHS, the presiding special master clarified that the family was compensated because the Respondent conceded that the Poling child had suffered a Table Injury–not because the Respondent or the special master had concluded that any vaccination had contributed to causing or aggravating the child’s ASD.”
An excellent explanation of the concerns about the Poling case and the facts can be found here.
JB also brings up, in this chapter, the idea that there are more cases where children with autism have won vaccine injury claims. This is partly false. There are children with autism who have had their vaccine injury claim approved but not because of autism. They have won a claim of vaccines causing something else, something on the vaccine injury table. It is obvious JB wants very badly for vaccines to be a cause of autism, but no vaccine causes autism claims have even been won in “vaccine court.” Here is a good explanation. Also, here.
The rest of chapter 6 is quotes from dialogues between attorneys and two doctors, Dr Andrew Zimmerman and Dr Richard Kelley. Thanks to my friend, Dorit, I was able to read the deposition of Dr Zimmerman myself.  Apparently, JB has copies of the depositions these doctors gave as part of the lawsuit the family of Yates Hazelhurst has filed against his then pediatrician for not being aware that vaccines could cause autism. According to JB’s account, these two doctors can confirm that Yates had a mitochondrial disorder and, thus, vaccines caused his autism. In fact, JB states that “these depositions confirm their opinions that Yates Hazlehurst—remember, one of the original test case children in the OAP—had the same mitochondrial deficit that Hannah Poling had, and that vaccines caused his autism.” JB believes that, had this evidence been presented during the Autism Omnibus hearings, “the current state of the autism epidemic would be very different.”
Who are Drs Zimmerman and Kelley? Dr Zimmerman is a pediatric neurologist practicing at UMass Memorial Medical Center and he is also a faculty member at University of Massachusetts Medical School. He is the scientific advisor at N of One. Dr Kelley is the Director of the Clinical Mass Spectrometry Laboratory and the Division of Metabolism at Kennedy Krieger Institute. I am not sure if they are “two of the most respected autism scientists in the world,” as JB believes, but they are definitely involved in autism research, albeit on the biomedical side. Both have had their research summarized by Dr Vincent Ianelli, here.
The dialogue at the end of chapter 6 summarizes the depositions of both doctors, wherein they lay out how they believe Yates Hazelhurst suffers from mitochondrial disorder and vaccines caused his autism. Key points, according to JB, are that Dr Kelley believes upwards of 40% of autistics have mitochondrial disorder and that Dr Zimmerman believes many physicians hold the opinion that vaccines cause inflammatory response that leads to autism. Zimmerman is quoted as stating “People who work in the field of autism see, commonly see a relationship between infection, inflammation, and onset of regression.” Further, he believes that vaccines cause an inflammatory response which then leads to regressive autism, particularly in children with mitochondrial disorders. Dr Zimmerman concludes that the research is still on-going but he foresees that, in the future, our understanding of metabolic disorders will enable us to prevent regressive autism. In Dr Kelley’s deposition, he agrees that there is research showing vaccines can cause autism but is not accepted by the “very authoritative groups who say there is no proven association in large cohort studies.” Dr Kelley goes on to add that he believes the “cdc whistleblower” is real because the CDC is “clever in how they publish data to avoid public attention that there is an association.” And, he believes that because vaccines cause inflammation, multiple vaccines at once can cause deterioration.
Having read the deposition of Dr Zimmerman, I am appalled at how JB cherry picks only the parts he likes.  Dr Zimmerman is pro vaccine and even vaccinates his patients.
JB does note that neither Dr Kelley nor Dr Zimmerman conclude that all vaccines cause autism. Furthermore, if you read the actual deposition, Dr Zimmerman explains how he continues to vaccinate, even in children with mitochondrial disorders, as he understands the benefits outweigh the risks. JB cherry-picked only the parts of the deposition that suit his argument.
Dr Zimmerman also believes autism is primarily a genetic disorder. He goes further and states he does not agree with the parents of his patients when those parents believe vaccines caused autistic regression. He further explains how he the Yates Hazelhurst medical records show no signs of regression, as he reads them, and encephalopathy is a separate condition from autism and “mitochondrial autism” is not a term recognized as valid. To me, these points Dr Zimmerman makes are important as they contradict JB’s cherry-picked deposition comments.
Continuing with the deposition, Dr Zimmerman is prompted to testify that Yates was never diagnosed with mitochondrial disorder until recently.

Chapter 7 The Critical Mass of Parents all saying the same thing

This chapter is primarily about JB’s frustration that parents are not taken at their word when they describe what they perceive as “vaccine injuries.” He cites a study called “Validation of the Phenomenon of Autistic Regression Using Home Videotapes,” as proof that early regression exists and parents should be taken at their word. But, the study actually made a very important conclusion which JB ignores: “While we cannot be certain from these data that children with autistic regression were developing entirely normally before the regression occurred, the results of the present study suggest that at least some children with autism do not display prototypical impairments in joint attention, such as a lack of declarative pointing, nor do they display obvious delays in their use of language at the end of their first year of life. Although these core autism symptoms were not observed at age 12 months in the present study, it is possible that the infants with regression did have other types of unusual behavior before the regression occurred.” No one disputes that children can regress. The issue is “do vaccines cause the regression?” This study does not lend to JB’s argument.

Part Three: A reckoning to end the epidemic

Chapter 8: They would have told us

In this chapter, JB tells us about how Robert F Kennedy, Jr got involved in vaccine politics and how immunization advocacy groups are basically all shills for big pharma. He compares vaccines to lead paint and cigarettes. JB’s point is that the truth, in his opinion, is being hidden by corporate interests.  JB believes the NCVIA indemnifies vaccine makers from liability and safety testing of vaccines is inadequate. Readers know, from reading my blog and others, that these points are false.  JB also believes that more and more parents begin to report regression after vaccine appointments in the mid- to late 1990s, the CDC responded by publishing studies to quash concern. This is an unproven conspiracy theory.  Further, he thinks that when British doctor Andrew Wakefield raised concerns about the MMR vaccine in 1998, a kangaroo court strips him of his medical license, and the ensuing media frenzy morphs into a defense of the entire vaccine schedule and an attack on anyone who reasonably questions it. This is false.

JB further goes over, again, the points he has made in the previous chapters.

Chapter 9: Next Steps: a twelve-point proposal

In chapter 9, JB outlines how he thinks vaccines cause all the problems in our children, from ADHD to learning disabilities, anxiety, allergies, and more. To JB, vaccines are the reason 13% of American children have special education plans. His plan, to solve this issue, is to follow the advice of his family’s pediatrician, Dr Paul Thomas. These two believe children should be vaccinated much less and, if we do that, we will see much less autism, better-behaved children, and fewer children with special education needs.
This is their plan:
  1. Immediately reduce the number of vaccines given to children. He believes children should get only DTaP, HIB, polio and MMR and they should get no vaccines until 12 months of age.
  2. Children should only be vaccinated if healthy.
  3. Separate MMR into three single shots
  4. Substitute titer tests for booster shots
  5. Screen vulnerable children for genetic vulnerabilities.
  6. Scrap the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee, as they are too mainstream.
  7. Remove vaccine safety from the CDC.
  8. Scientists who know vaccines cause autism should speak as one.
  9. A congressional hearing should be held on the 83 autism cases supposedly linked to vaccines, as described in a paper by Mary Holland.
  10. Dr William Thompson should be compelled to testify.
  11. The drug suramin should be accelerated through the approval process.
  12. The AAP needs to pay more attention to the biomedical doctors.

At this point, I am tired of reading debunked antivax and autism warrior tropes.  None of these ideas are valid nor do JB’s ideas give us any reason to even consider them valid.

Chapter ten: Treatment and Recovery

 

In this chapter, JB outlines how biomedical treatments can recover children from autism and recommends various treatments and books, including the drug suramin, drinking silica mineral water to detox aluminum from the brain, eating a ketogenic diet, healing the microbiome, and taking nutritional supplements.
Sigh
Epilogue: wherein JB details how he feels guilty for depriving his son a normal life.
I am not tired. This book was exhausting to read if only because it is ableist and unscientific and repeats all the tropes JB has written about at Age of Autism and his own multiple blogs. I really feel sad for parents who take him seriously. There is no good science here. We know some children regress because of age, not vaccines. Autism is not the only developmental issue that causes regression. It is offensive and ignorant of JB to ignore the other developmental issues, like Prader-Willi and Krabbe and Duchenne’s Muscular Dystrophy, all of which cause children to change late in infancy to early childhood.
Sometimes, I feel sorry for parents who have children needier than my own.   Then, I get upset at them and think about M and D and C and D and K and Chris and my other friends who have autistic children far needier than my own but THESE LADIES DO NOT BLAME VACCINES AND THEY DO NOT WALLOW IN SELF PITY.   They don’t feel they got dealt a bum hand and act sorry for themselves. They raise their spirits, advocate for their children, use sound medicine and science to care for them, and pretty much metaphorically flip antivaxers the finger for being selfish drama queens and kings.
To you, C and M and D and D and K, I send you big fat internet hugs. And especially to Chris.  Screw JB.
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Remember to always think for yourself,

 

Hugs from Kathy!

Antivaxers bring up Hannah Poling and vaccine safety, AGAIN

Yet again, antivaxers are bringing up the Hannah Poling vaccine injury case as proof vaccines cause autism. This time, it is because JB Handley has published a new book and he has decided that the attorneys for the government admitted that vaccines cause autism and, therefore, all the Autism Omnibus cases are wrong and every child who has autism deserves compensation for a vaccine injury.

Except he is wrong.

 

del and jb

It all started with JB Handley’s appearance on Del Bigtree’s show last week to promote his new book. I watched this 90 minute episode so you don’t have to. Guests included JB Handley, Jenny McCarthy, Rolf Hazelhurst, Robert Kennedy Jr, with Del Bigtree hosting. I will post some links at the bottom in case you want to learn more about these people. 

Here’s my summary:

JB – my book is revolutionary, blah blah
Jenny – I love JB
Rolf Hazelhurst and RFKjr discuss Poling case.
Del uses paper people to illustrate how Autism Omnibus hearings work.
Rolf says that dept of justice attorneys on his case lied about link between mercury and autism and MMR and that is the fraud. 

The end.

 

This is what they are excited about. This is a screenshot from the video. Mr. Matanoski and Ms. Ricciardella are attorneys who were involved in the Autism Omnibus hearings on the government’s side. Wiki actually has a really good explanation of these hearings, if this is new to you.

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Del and JB, et al, think Matanoski and Ricciardella were lying when they made the above statement because Hannah Poling’s family was awarded compensation for vaccines injuring her and she is autistic. But, she was not awarded compensation for autism, a fact which Del and JB, et al, clearly refuse to understand. Here is the footnote from a more recent vaccine injury case, that of Brian Hooker:

I am well aware, of course, that during the years since the “test cases” were decided, in two cases involving vaccinees suffering from ASDs, Vaccine Act compensation was granted.
But in neither of those cases did the Respondent concede, nor did a special master find, that there was any “causation-in-fact” connection between a vaccination and the vaccinee’s ASD. Instead, in both cases it was conceded or found that the vaccinee displayed the symptoms of a Table Injury within the Table time frame after vaccination. (See Section I above).

In Poling v. HHS, the presiding special master clarified that the family was compensated because the Respondent conceded that the Poling child had suffered a Table Injury–not because the Respondent or the special master had concluded that any vaccination had contributed to causing or aggravating the child’s ASD. See Poling v. HHS, No. 02-1466V, 2011 WL 678559, at *1 (Fed. Cir Spec. Mstr. Jan. 28, 2011) (a fees decision, but noting specifically that the case was compensated as a Table Injury).

Second, in Wright v. HHS, No. 12-423, 2015 WL 6665600 (Fed. Cl. Spec. Mstr. Sept. 21, 2015), Special Master Vowell concluded that a child, later diagnosed with ASD, suffered a
“Table Injury” after a vaccination. However, she stressed that she was not finding that the vaccinee’s ASD in that case was “caused-in-fact” by the vaccination–to the contrary, she
specifically found that the evidence in that case did notsupport a “causation-in-fact” claim, going so far as to remark that the petitioners’ “causation-in-fact” theory in that case was “absurd.” Wright v. HHS, No. 12-423, 2015 WL 6665600, at *2 (Fed. Cl. Spec. Mstr. Sept. 21, 2015).

The compensation of these two cases, thus does not afford any support to the notion that vaccinations can contribute to the causation of autism. In setting up the Vaccine Act
compensation system, Congress forthrightly acknowledged that the Table Injury presumptions would result in compensation for some injuries that were not, in fact, truly vaccine-caused. H.R. Rept. No. 99-908, 18, 1986 U.S.C.C.A.N. 6344, 6359. (“The Committee recognizes that there is public debate over the incidence of illnesses that coincidentally occur within a short time of vaccination. The Committee further recognizes that the deeming of a vaccine-relatedness adopted here may provide compensation to some children whose illness is not, in fact, vaccine related.”

 

As you can clearly read, the Poling case does not lead to the conclusion that vaccines cause autism.  Therefore, there is no fraud. Vaccines do not cause autism. There is no autism epidemic. There have been many, many vaccine safety studies done in the USA in the last 30 years. There are many vaccine safety studies done with saline placebo.  

 

Remember: Del Bigtree lies. His friends lie. Everything they try to say about vaccines is a lie.

 

The characters

Who is JB Handley? He’s this guy who thinks his son’s autism was caused by vaccines and he never met a bad study he didn’t love. He ignores everything contrary to his view.  Here are a few blog posts about him.

https://sciencebasedmedicine.org/j-b-handley-versus-vaccine-science-again-not-surprisingly-j-b-loses/

https://respectfulinsolence.com/2018/04/06/old-guard-antivaccine-activist-j-b-handley-loses-best-platform/

My friend, the real truther, put together a video on JB

Rolf Hazelhurst is another guy who thinks his son is autistic because of vaccines. He has gone thru vaccine court, and lost, and tried to sue the pharmaceutical company and also lost. Last I heard, he was trying to sue the doctor who gave his son the vaccine and Robert Kennedy Jr was one of his attorneys.

Link to his vaccine court case: https://www.autism-watch.org/omnibus/hazlehurst.pdf

Robert F Kennedy Jr has lately taken up a very distorted view of vaccines and has lumped them together with his environmental causes.  Good read about him here: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-robert-f-kennedy-jr-distorted-vaccine-science1/

Jenny McCarthy is a former actress/playmate who founded Generation Rescue with JB. She claimed her son was autistic but healed but many think she is not telling the truth about his health.

Del Bigtree is, well, Del. I have written about him often. You can read here and here and here.

Remember to always think for yourself. Always verify claims. Never take youtube videos as fact.

 

Kathy

There are no vaccine studies with saline placebo?

Are there really no vaccine studies done with a saline placebo? This is a common comment from antivaxers. They think vaccines cannot possibly be safe unless they are tested against an inert substance, aka the saline placebo, and there are none in existence. Therefore, vaccines are BAD.

 

saline-di-trapani

What is a placebo and what is a saline placebo?  A placebo is a harmless pill, medicine, or procedure prescribed more for the psychological benefit to the patient than for any physiological effect. Saline is something impregnated with salt. A saline placebo is basically a dose of salty water in lieu of a drug. So, the idea is that one group of study participants should get the vaccine while the other groups has a shot of salty water and neither group knows who got which. This is what is meant by double-blind, saline-placebo.

The World Health Organization has a great document explaining how placebos work and why certain substances are chosen for vaccine trials.

“Randomisation and the use of placebo interventions are designed to control for confounding effects, such that significant differences in disease incidence or adverse effects between the vaccine and control groups can likely be attributed to the vaccine. However, randomised, placebo-controlled trial designs often raise ethical concerns when participants in the control arm are deprived of an existing vaccine. Furthermore, testing a new vaccine against placebo is scientifically and ethically fraught when the hypothesis being tested is whether an experimental vaccine is more efficacious than one already in use in the same or in other settings.”

WHO goes on to detail how it may be unethical to deprive a study participant of a vaccine when an efficacious one exists. Meaning, if they are testing a new vaccine it would be unethical to test it against saline when an older, proven safe version exists. So, they can use the older version as the placebo and, therefore, not deprive the study participant of the protection. It is also considered ethical to use an adjuvant in lieu of a vaccine when the vaccine being studied has that adjuvant in it. So, you can use an aluminum adjuvant as a placebo if the adjuvant has been around enough to have been studied for safety. This is a controversial topic, with some feeling that aluminum adjuvants don’t have a proven safety record to use as a placebo.  That is a topic for another blog post. This one is focused solely on saline placebo.

“Between these two poles, the use of placebo controls in vaccine trials may be justified even when an efficacious vaccine exists, provided the risk-benefit profile of the trial is acceptable. “

The rest of the document sets out a “framework sets out the conditions under which placebo use is clearly acceptable and clearly unacceptable in vaccine trials.”

That being said, this does not mean there are no vaccine studies which use a saline placebo. Many clinical trials use a saline placebo. Read inserts to learn more. And, PubMed, the online database of scientific studies organized by the USA’s National Institutes of Health, has many listings for vaccine studies which use a saline placebo.

Here are some vaccine studies which used saline placebo:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25371534
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29443825
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29239682
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29217375
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28720281
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28522338
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28498853
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28376743
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27895921
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26411885
I could go on. This was from only the first two pages of my PubMed search.

 

So, as you can see, there are very important reasons why a scientist might not use a saline placebo in a vaccine study but there are also many vaccine studies which do use a saline placebo. As usual, antivaxers are conveying misinformation. In fact, my online friend, Mike, came up with this and I turned it into a meme. This is exactly what they do, goal shifting!

no true scotsman

 

Remember to always verify claims!

 

Kathy

This post is dedicated to Bernadette for always giving me great ideas for blog posts

Why I am not antivax

I could be antivax. Why am I not? Why do some people become antivax and others do not?

I have all the markers.  I have been hurt by medical professionals. I have had issues with medical professionals that could have led me to mistrust them all completely. I was a vegetarian for a while. I was very crunchy, in my early parenting years.  I shopped only at the organic food coop for years!

I have been harmed by doctors and had my health compromised by their actions.

I had a bad reaction to the MMR.

I had an anaphylactic reaction to an antibiotic once.

My second child was birthed out of the hospital, at a free-standing birth center, with a midwife. I have used naturopaths for healthcare. I once questioned whether aluminum adjuvants were safe. I once thought chicken pox vaccine was not necessary. I once thought flu vaccine lowered our resistance to infection and led to more illness in flu season. I have been, in the past, prescribed too much medication and that led to immune dysfunction. A naturopath helped me heal my gut.

Why am I not antivax?

It is because of this guy.

220px-Frans_Hals_-_Portret_van_René_Descartes

René Descartes (1596–1650) was a creative mathematician of the first order, an important scientific thinker, and an original metaphysician. I am not being pretentious. I was a math major in college, for a while, and then got a BA in sociology because I love the way math, rational thinking, statistics, and the study of humans intertwine. I minored in French. I am extremely rational, to the point of often not getting jokes or sarcasm. I read numerous of Descartes’ writings as an undergrad and as a graduate student in education.  Descartes is considered the “father of rational thinking” for a reason.

And by that, I mean that regardless of what I went through I kept thinking rationally about it and that is why I never became antivax or anti-medicine, despite my negative experiences.

Let’s visit the back story.

First of all, I was a really healthy kid.

29790569_214243605824079_8024306855318650880_n

Yep, that is me with pooka shell necklace in 3rd grade. Look at that tan.  In the 70s, we didn’t realize tanning was dangerous.

I was a healthy California beach kid. I spent most of my time, other than at school, outdoors, mostly barefoot. We roamed the hills, we played with gourds and thistles and we were gone from home as much as possible. Mom fed us mostly whole grains and fresh food. Occasionally, she would buy us Oreos or Ding Dongs but that was rare. We were eating bulgur wheat and brown rice and whole grain bread as soon as we had teeth. Mom never bought us soda or sugary cereal except on rare occasions when camping in summer. And I was a healthy kid. I had chicken pox twice, as a kid, but never broke any bones. I was in the ER for stitches a bunch as a toddler (I was incorrigible) but was never hospitalized nor had anything serious happen to me, ever, as a child. I had a few ear infections or cases of bronchitis, in elementary school, but nothing very serious. And, I had been fully vaccinated more than the standard schedule because I lived in Central America as a young child. So, unlike most California 70s kids, I had smallpox and other travel vaccines on top of regular vaccines.

But, I was a healthy kid!

As a teen, I was also healthy. I ate healthily, was slim, played sports, got a few sinus infections, but was mostly healthy. Rarely missed school.

kathyhighschool

By age 18, I was accepted to University of California Irvine, I was done with varsity tennis, I had passed the AP English and Biology exams, and I had a job as a Lancome counter girl at the local department store. I was working out almost daily. I was an advanced skier. I was very fit and healthy. I worked out daily, either running or ballet or a the gym for aerobics. I was an almost vegetarian and rarely ate junk food.

In early August 1984, I got infectious mononucleosis (EBV) and I was very sick. I ended up bedridden for 6 weeks, I had hepatitis, I had to quit my job, I had to go to the MD weekly for blood work, I was inches away from being hospitalized, according to my family MD.  I was in so much pain from hepatitis I could not stand up straight. I had so little energy that I needed help getting out of bed and getting downstairs.

It took about six weeks but I  recovered from EBV and started my freshman year of college and thrived except that I started having allergy issues. By mid-year 1985, I was referred to an allergist and started allergy shots and meds. I developed a few sinus infections and, once, had an anaphylactic reaction to the medication ( sulfa drugs).  I lost trust (long story) in the first allergist but I trusted our family doc and he sent me to another allergist.

The new allergist handled every bad cold the same way. I would get an x-ray, he would confirm sinus infection, and he would prescribe antibiotics and steroid nasal spray and prednisone.  The two years I spent with him, I went through this routine an average of 7 times each year. So, in two years, I went through 14 sinus x-rays, 14 rounds of antibiotics, 14 rounds of steroid nasal spray, and 14 rounds of prednisone. It is a wonder I was still able to work and be a full-time student and even live in France as an exchange student, but I did all of that and maintained a GPA of 3.8 and I graduated cum laude.

By 1987, I was immune compromised, had systemic yeast infections, had chronic thrush, and was sicker than well. I managed to get through graduate school, while working full time but was still suffering from chronic infections.

In 1991, there was a measles outbreak on my university’s campus and I had to get another MMR. I had a bad reaction to it and ended up with my arm in a sling for a week and on pain meds.  My arm swelled up like there was a tennis ball in it, at the injection site. It took a week to go away.

By 1992, I was diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome.

At this point, I could have become anti-modern medicine. They certainly were not doing anything to help me get better! They never had answers for me, just pills for my symptoms.

In 1994, I got married. My husband and I wanted to have children but he worried I was on too many medications. So, I decided to give something new a try – a naturopath. At the time, we lived in Seattle which was then home to the Bastyr University clinic.  Growing up in California, I had never heard of a naturopath. Believe it or not, Washington state is much more liberal about licensing alternative healthcare practitioners than California. Being literally desperate, I gave the Bastyr clinic a try. I ended up with Nooshin Darvish, who was amazing and helpful and very respectful of me putting limits on the scope of her practice. To this date, I credit her with helping me be alive today and have two children. She was wonderful.

Okay, okay, you are wondering how the hell I could speak positively about a naturopathy. They are so wooey! They practice pseudoscience!  Well, Nooshin did two things with me that solved pretty much everything. She sent me for bloodwork and she had me get a sample of my poop and tested it. I had been to multiple medical doctors, over the years, and no one had ever done either of those things.  I even had a camera put down my throat and a barium enema xray and no one ever analyzed my stools for anything. With the bloodwork, Nooshin discovered I was anemic and had very low thyroid. With the stool sample, she discovered that I had yeast overgrowth in my digestive system.  Given the fact that I still occasionally got thrush in my throat, this was not a surprise. She put me on iron supplements, probiotics, Synthroid, and had me go on an elimination diet.  I discovered that corn and wheat products made my digestive system ache so I avoided them, as well as alcohol and sugar not related to a few servings of fruit a day. I ate this way for about two years. I probably didn’t need to go that long on this diet but I was afraid to stop because, within six months, I was feeling well again! She also introduced me to the neti pot and sinus lavage.  By 1996, I was healthy enough to start thinking about having children! We bought our first house and, instead of having kids right away, we spent 5 years fixing up a major fixer, but I was healthy again and that was the point. Also, nothing Nooshin did with me was super wooey (at my request).  I purposely avoided homeopathy and acupuncture and anything I felt was not well supported by published studies.

But, again, at this point, I could have gone into the deep end and become anti-medicine and anti-vaccine. It is really only through my insistence on paying attention to evidence that I stayed the course. I always asked her to give me evidence for whatever she wanted to do and we would discuss it. After she graduated and I switched to a private practice ND, Dr Paris Preston in Seattle, I stayed the same course – evidence first. There really are some good naturopaths, you see, ones that base their ideas on scientific evidence.  (some can be found at NDs for Vaccines). I no longer live in Seattle and my children and I see a family doctor for our healthcare now, but I do credit naturopathy for where I am today.

So, my question is, why do some people stay rational and others stop?   Why do some people become antivax and others do not? What can we do to stop this or help them?

Discuss!

 

 

Remember to think for yourself!

Kathy

 

Del Bigtree is not a scientist

On October 12, 2017, Del Bigtree,  a former producer of the television talk show, The Doctors, producer of the film Vaxxed, and founder of something called the Informed Consent Action Network (ICANDecide), sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) wherein he outlined what he perceives as their “failure of HHS to conduct the proper science required to demonstrate vaccine safety.” This letter accuses HHS of everything from ignoring vaccine risks to not doing proper safety testing. For those of us who understand vaccine science, this letter almost seems like a parody. Alas, it was not only real but Del threatened HHS with a civil suit if they did not make the changes he suggested in the letter. He also made demands, such as wanting “vaccine safety advocates” to comprise half of HHS’s vaccine committees.  The letter was co-signed by 58 antivaccine organizations, including Weston A Price Foundation and World Mercury Project.

DEL is not a scientist

After October 12, nothing much happened at ICANDecide. In fact, not much has been heard from ICANDecide in a while.  Even their Facebook page has been quiet.

Until now.

Earlier this week, a notorious antivax crusader (I will refer to him as Pant) who despises Del Bigtree posted a link to a pdf he had created with the response from HHS to Del Bigtree. Pant claimed he was able to get the response through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.  The response is from Melinda Wharton, MD, MPH, Acting Director of the National Vaccine Program Office, whom I have confirmed is real. The letter includes responses to all of Del’s claims and accusations, every single one of them proving Del knows nothing at all about vaccine safety.  All of his claims were disproven and all of his requests were denied.

This letter is a glorious piece of vaccine gold and when you read it you will understand completely why Del let this ball completely drop, pop, fizzle into nothing, and fade away.

For your reading pleasure, I bring you the HHS response to Del Bigtree.

 

Happy reading!

Kathy

Spreading fear and misinformation to pregnant women

antivaxicw2

Antivaxers are lately taking the position of very strongly spreading fear and misinformation about the use of vaccines during pregnancy. One source for this information is Informed Choice Washington (ICW), an organization based near Seattle and run by two women who believe vaccines injured their children. Bernadette Pajer believes her grown son’s dairy allergies were caused by vaccines and Drella Stein believe her grown son’s autism was the result of a vaccine injury. They have made it their mission “to educate and advocate for vaccination policies that serve the best interest of the public and the individual patient.”  The problem is that they don’t espouse good science, and instead, cherry pick only what fits their antivax agenda. They believe they support medical freedom and, as such, are members of something called the Coalition for Informed Consent, a network of other antivax (“medical freedom”) organizations.

cherrypicking

Case and point: Their Vaccination during pregnancy page. This purpose of this page is to mislead women into not vaccinating during pregnancy, despite good evidence supporting its benefits and low risks.

The page starts off with a melodramatic and inaccurate video from Del Bigtree, a man with no science background whatsoever) tell viewers the CDC knows flu vaccine during pregnancy causes abortion. This is in reference to a study the CDC detailed here.  This one study found that women who had been vaccinated for flu two years in a row suffered a miscarriage at a higher rate than others. They noted “this study does not quantify the risk of miscarriage and does not prove that flu vaccine was the cause of the miscarriage”  They also noted that earlier studies have not found a link between flu vaccination and miscarriage.

Instead of focusing on the facts, ICW plays up the possibility of a risk and creates a conspiracy theory by accusing the CDC of purposely delaying to release this study. They also ignore the FIVE studies that showed no link between miscarriage and flu vaccine.

This is a classic tactic from ICW and Ms. Pajer, to play up the risks and ignore the studies which do not confirm her biases.

She also makes the point that Currently, no vaccine is approved specifically for use during pregnancy to protect the infant(her bolding, not mine). It has been explained to Ms. Pajer many times that the FDA approved flu vaccines TDAP and then post-licensure studies demonstrated efficacy and safety during pregnancy, but that does not require relicensing. The vaccines are already licensed. They do not need to be specifically licensed for use during pregnancy. Still, she feels the need to do this on her website:

CAUTION: No vaccine is currently licensed by the FDA for protection of the infant.

Yes, big bold letters warning you of a fictional issue. This is deceptive. On purpose. Further, they cite a paper by David Ayoub and F. Edward Yazbak, both MDs, as evidence the vaccine is dangerous. This paper has a lot of misinformation in it. First of all, it is about the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practice (ACIP) annual report from 2004, which was written before much of the research upon which the current recommendations are based were published. Currently, both ACIP and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and these are based on recommendations from 2016. To cite a review of recommendations from 2004 is deceptive. Again, ICW is deceiving people on purpose.

Another ICW concern is immune activation. This is a relatively new concern from antivaxers and is code for “vaccines cause autism.” They are concerned that giving vaccines to pregnant women could trigger immune activation thus leading to neurodevelopmental issues in all babies whose mothers were vaccinated. They compare the risk of dying from flu to the risk of immune activation in 100% of vaccinated babies.

  • Risk of flu-complication death for pregnant women: .000125%
  • Risk of flu-complication death for pregnant women in a pandemic year: .001875%
  • Risk of newborn death under three months during a non-major outbreak year: .00015%
  • Risk of newborn death under three months during a major whooping cough outbreak: .000375%

These statistics are based on the number of babies and women who died compared to the general public.

It should be noted that there is no evidence that giving a vaccine to pregnant women causes immune or neurodevelopmental issues in the newborn.

ICW also has the usual concerns about vaccine ingredients being dangerous and inserts not specifically stating vaccines are licensed for pregnancy or have been tested during pregnancy. As we have told you many times, inserts are only written about clinical trials. Studies on vaccines for use during pregnancy occurred after licensure, after clinical trials, and are, therefore, not represented in inserts. Inserts have serious limits. Always read more than them.

Ms. Pajer further has concerns that some of the CDC-cited studies were not randomized clinical trials. She has been told by yours truly, several times, that it would be unethical to do randomized clinical trials on pregnant women. The studies which have been done, with willing volunteers, are valid and strong. She criticizes and finds flaws in each of the 13 studies she reviews, which is okay, but does not take them as a body of literature. This is typical of what we call a ‘cherry picker,’ a person who reads studies with a bias in mind and only agrees with studies which confirm her pre-existing bias. So, because no one study meets all her exacting criteria, then none will satisfy her. However, the medical community looks at the ever-growing body of literature showing the safety and efficacy of vaccines during pregnancy. Hence, the recommendations from CDC, ACIP, and ACOG. Again, this is a disingenuous attempt by ICW to mislead people away from vaccinating.

The final concern from ICW is the aluminum salt in vaccines that is used as an adjuvant. The aluminum in vaccines is not a heavy metal. It is not even in a metallic form as portrayed by vaccine fearmongerers. It is in the form of a salt, usually aluminum hydroxide. The aluminum in aluminum hydroxide is not readily bioavailable and retention is extremely low from both ingestion and injection
This is a great explanation. 

It should be noted that we get actual aluminum in our food, including in antacids pregnant women take for acid reflux, a common pregnancy symptom. And, the aluminum salts are about 2 um or 2000 nm, in diameter, as per the work of Christopher Exley. That is much too large to cross the placenta (or the blood-brain barrier, for that matter).  According to my friend with a master’s in chemistry, aluminum salts don’t fit the definition of nanoparticles because they are over 100 nm in any 1 direction.

Here is some reading about the permeability of the placenta.

Most of the literature I’ve seen puts the pore size for the placenta at under 50 nm, and given the size of the adjuvant, I wouldn’t expect it to diffuse across the placenta.

The concerns about aluminum in vaccines are cherry picked and not based on sound science. Here is some excellent reading from learned friends of mine.

Aluminum adjuvant in vaccines – let’s go cherry picking

Torturing more mice in the name of antivaccine pseudoscience, 2017 aluminum edition

Mothers’ Flu Vaccination In Pregnancy Protects Newborns, Even The Second Time Around

Please don’t be scared by antivax websites.  Get the facts. Understand cherry picking does not an argument make.

 

Here are links to more safety studies on vaccines recommended to pregnant women.

Flu vaccine

 

Remember to think for yourself!

 

 

Kathy

A provaxer watches The Pathological Optimist

The Andrew Wakefield documentary, The Pathological Optimist, popped up on Amazon Prime this weekend. So, I chose to watch it.

andy copy

Commentary

The film starts out with us watching Andy do yoga while media accounts of his fraud and the study retracted are shown. Interesting dichotomy, of a man easing his tension with yoga while the world discusses his malfeasance.

The rest of the film seems to follow him suing the British Medical Journal and Brian Deer, the journalist who wrote about his malfeasance for the Sunday Tims of London newspaper. Apparently, Andy chose to sue these British citizens and entities in the US state of Texas because he was living in Texas at the time and his reputation in Texas had been besmirched.

Some background information

You can read what Brian Deer wrote here and here.

Left Brain Right Brain blog explains the SLAPP suit here.

The outcome of the SLAPP suit here.

The film appears to be a melodramatic look at Andy’s feelings about the SLAPP suit and his life thus far. He is shown pondering thoughtfully quite a few times. This is juxtaposed with him being treated with adulation by fans at a book signing.  News reports about the study, fraud, and Brian Deer are shown repeatedly but Andy’s opinion is this only happened in the USA and was simply about the fact that he now lives in the USA. Thus, this is the reason his SLAPP case was taken on by the law firm DiNovo Price Ellwanger & Hardy.

An interesting fact in the film is that the money for his legal fight against Deer and the BMJ came from what Andy refers to as the “autism community.” From the film, it appears the money came from Autism One conference fundraisers. Autism One is the “autism quackfest,” as ORAC calls them, and it makes sense that they would sponsor the effort to redeem Andy’s reputation.

Ironically, as soon as I type this, Andy starts reading and talking about Orac.

Throughout the film, Andy and his wife, Carmel express their opinion that Andy’s troubles are because Brian Deer lies, that the study from 1998 was not fraudulent at all, and pharmaceutical companies are out to get him. When Judge Amy Meachum, in Texas, throws out his attempt to sue the British journal and related persons for libel, Camille brings up that Meachum’s husband is a lobbyist for pharma. This conspiracy theory was even published on the autism hate blog, Age of Autism. The Poxes blog exposed this ridiculous conspiracy theory for what it is, ridiculous, but still, the filmmakers made sure to include this point in the film.

The point of the film seems to be to portray Andy Wakefield as a fallen hero deserving of redemption. It’s calculated, in how they use conversations between Andy and his mother and Andy and his wife. It’s emotionally manipulative but subtle. In many ways, the film rehashes much of what Andy wrote about in his book. Callous Disregard, although the film is better made and easier to watch than the book is to read. I did read the book, but never blogged about it. Dr Harriet Hall, however, did write about how she read it. 

She writes: “In his concluding epilogue, he says

In the battle for the hearts and minds of the public, you have already lost… Why? Because the parents are right; their stories are true; their children’s brains are damaged; there is a major, major problem. In the US, increasingly coercive vaccine mandates and fear-mongering campaigns are a measure of your failure — vaccine uptake is not a reflection of public confidence, but of these coercive measures, and without public confidence, you have nothing.

How ludicrous: he is clearly the one who undermined public confidence, not the scientists and agencies that are doing their best to reduce the incidence of preventable diseases and to protect the public from alarmists like him.

In my opinion, the whole book is an embarrassing, tedious, puerile, and ultimately unsuccessful attempt at damage control. Wakefield has been thoroughly discredited in the scientific arena and he is reduced to seeking a second opinion from the public. Perhaps he thinks that the truth can be determined by a popularity contest. Perhaps he thinks the future will look back at him as a persecuted genius like Galileo or Semmelweis. Jenny McCarthy thinks so; I don’t.”

The film, like the book, is basically a means for Andy to voice his excuses for why he should not have been struck from the register and why the study was not fraudulent. He even gets his son, James, and his wife, Carmel, to make excuses for why it was no big deal to take blood from James and his mates during James’ 10th birthday party. They all act like it is no big deal to pay children 5 pounds to take their blood at a birthday party, without ethical approval. One wonders why any of them think that this is a valid way to collect any kind of sample for a scientific study. It’s really hard to understand. Andy spends quite a bit of time, in the film, arguing that taking these blood samples was ethical.

As I get halfway through the film, I remember that the filmmaker, Miranda Bailey, maintains that the film is not about proving Andy right or making vaccines look bad and, yet, she spends quite a bit of time painting Andy as a loving family man. He is filmed cooking for his children and spending time with the family, the whole family participates in the interviews, and he is often filmed sitting in front of a large array of family photographs.

The point of this film is obviously to make us see Andrew Wakefield as a victim.

But it is not working for me. I am getting upset as I watch it. I am upset that he cannot admit he did anything wrong. I am upset that he continues to con people with these lies and mistruths. And I am upset that Andy continues to allow these lies and mistruths to be perpetuated, giving fuel to the antivaccination fire. Truly, if it were not for him, I believe we would not have such a large antivaccination movement and we would have a far smaller group of people who think vaccines cause autism. We likely would also have far fewer dangerous “cures” and treatments for autism. Autistic persons would not be seen as damaged and people would not be trying to remove the autism from them. Andy even says, at one point in the film, that he is very lucky that his own children are healthy and have no developmental disorders. The implication is that a developmental disorder is a horrible thing. Again, he is perpetuating the notion that autism is horrible.

The part of the movie I found the most annoying is the tale of Andy’s experience trying to confront Brian Deer in Wisconsin in October 2012.  Included in this part of the film is the story of Cade, the son of Jennifer VanDerHorst-Larsen. Cade was typically developing, in her words, until he had his 15-month vaccines. Between 15 months and 19 months, Cade became autistic, according to his mother. For some reason, the filmmakers chose to show Cade’s mother fangirling over Andy, inviting him into her large, luxurious home, where Cade is shown stimming and enjoying their pool. Cade seems to have a lovely life, which includes two dogs, a huge home and pool, and his own art room. Cade is a very cute boy, perhaps about 12 in the film. By the very sad music, I gather we are supposed to feel sorry for his family but my take is Cade has a blessed life.

In the film, Brian Deer is invited to a journalism school to talk to journalism students. Andy feels it is appropriate to show up to the college uninvited to give “the other side.” Ms. Larsen truly believes, in her own world, that pharmaceutical companies are paying Deer to ruin Andy’s career because they want to bury a link between autism and MMR. So, Andy is shown yelling at a small crowd of supporters and being called a hero.

Melodramatic music plays in the background.

I gather we viewers are supposed to take these moments seriously and see Andy as the fallen hero but all I see is a charismatic liar.  I also have a very hard time with the moms fangirling Andy. As someone who has read a great deal of the scientific literature and someone who has an autistic child and knows vaccines have NOTHING to do with it, I find the adulation of him disturbing. He even goes so far as to blame governments for the increase in measles incidence. He says that because they have removed the single measles vaccine from the market, they gave parents no other choices. He fails to acknowledge that parents are choosing not to vaccinate with MMR because of his opinion that MMR causes autism.

The film returns to the appeal of the SLAPP suit being dismissed. Andy’s lovely Austin home is shown.  It is a large estate in Austin, Texas, with a great deal of land and more than one home on it.  For all the complaints from Carmel about money, the house the Wakefield’s are shown in is a multi-million dollar plus estate, according to public tax documents. Carmel is showing walking around the estate with her daughter, discussing their lack of funds. It is a confusing scene. How could they have money for such a large estate if they have no money?

One clue comes towards the end of the film when Andy states he is $350,000 in debt and he realizes that another source of money, other than autism community, is needed. He states that another “target” is needed, “another group of people who get it.” And that target is the chiropractors. This fully explains Andy’s recent involvement with chiropractor associations and the chiropractor associations recent interest in “health freedom” advocacy. Andy reels them in by explaining to crowds of chiropractors that investigating the connection between autism and vaccines ends people’s careers, that Andy needs their financial help to fight the powers of evil. Andy is shown at a chiropractor conference in San Diego, where $50,000 is raised and everyone who donates over $500 gets to enjoy dinner with Andy. He gets a standing ovation.

Despite that money, the courts dismiss the appeal. Andy loses what many call a frivolous court case. Andy decides not to appeal to the Texas Supreme Court and, instead focuses on making Vaxxed.

At the end of the film, Andy does admit that he believes that MMR causes autism. To the filmmaker’s credit, they do cite that there are over 100 studies demonstrating no link between vaccines and autism. But it is only one line in an hour and a half of Andy explaining otherwise.

The film ends with Andy taking to the woods with his ax, in hot pink shorts and a tank top, to chop some wood. Apparently, chopping down his woods is how he relieves stress.

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Review

As far as documentaries go, this is a fairly well-made film. It was fascinating to get a behind the scenes look, albeit a contrived one, at Andy’s life at home. The point of the film is obviously to make the viewer sympathetic to Andy and I do believe the filmmakers did a good job of this, with their choices of where to film (in front of family photos) and how they portray Andy himself. This makes it very obviously a film focused on the antivaccine message, the message that Andy Wakefield is a hero and the MMR and other vaccines are evil. This is not a message based on sound science. It is emotionally manipulative, just like all the other antivax films. In that respect, I find this film very annoying and the producer, Miranda Bailey, to be highly disingenuous in her statements that she was not setting out to make an antivax film.

 

It should be noted that Brian Deer wrote about this film and the idea that he was asked to participate in it.  It is an interesting read. As you might expect, the filmmakers were not truthful.

 

Remember to think for yourself!

 

Kathy