Why I don’t believe the Vaxxed bus stories

To remind you, Vaxxed is the film produced by Andy Wakefield that makes claims about MMR causing autism. I watched it and reviewed it here.  The Vaxxed bus is an RV decorated thematically to resemble the DVD package. It travels America with a revolving team of antivaxers, interviewing people who claim a vaccine injury or have unvaccinated children they believe are very healthy.  The main player is Polly Tommey, who fervently believes the MMR caused her son’s autism and that vaccines murder children and pediatricians are murderers.  She believes every story told to her and requires no proof to verify any claims. She films the stories and also allows the names of the “vaccine injured” to be written on the bus in white.  You can see some of them below.

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Here is why I believe that nearly all Vaxxed stories are not really vaccine injuries: there is not only no evidence to verify most of the claims, there is often evidence to the contrary. 

Note:  I don’t doubt these are stories of real health issues and I feel tremendous sympathy for all these families.  I don’t think they are lying about the health issues but I do think there are too many holes in their claims to take them seriously. I also believe they are doing harm to both public health and their children’s health by denying the reality of the health issues. For example, we know SIDS risk is cut by 50% in vaccinated children. Blaming vaccines for SIDS and not vaccinating infants for that reason puts them at greater risk for SIDS. 

Let’s look at some of the more public examples of Vaxxed injury claims. I will not be violating anyone’s privacy and will only share names and pictures that are on public sites.

Ariella Aisha Talha’s story first came to my attention in mid 2015.  She is number 1229 on the Vaxxed bus. Reading the story, it seemed pretty obvious to me that the child had Krabbe Disease, a 100% fatal genetic condition. The story (first blue link) is that “Her galactocerebrosidase was low. Indicating it could possibly be Krabbe disease, or another disease similar.” The parents, however, refused to believe and, instead, blamed her vaccines. And now they also blame toxic mold, an idea they got not from the hospital but from a “mold doctor” in their area. I am actually allergic to mold and I can promise you mold does not cause a brain to shrink nor does it cause developmental delays.

As her condition deteriorated, they continue to seek attention for her supposed “vaccine injury,” including fundraising quite a bit for natural treatments for her. Meanwhile, public posts about her continued to show her condition deteriorating as expected with Krabbe Disease. Ariella passed away in August of 2016, shortly after her baby sister was born. Rumor has it that the baby was conceived because they wanted to use stem cells from her to cure Ariella.  And, unfortunately, it appears the most recent baby also has Krabbe Disease. Since she is unvaccinated, this time they are saying she has suffered damage from toxic mold. They have been raising funds to pay for a doctor who supposedly treats patients for toxic mold-related illnesses.

I feel for these two babies and their parents. It must be horrible to watch your child slowly dying. This post is not a personal attack on them at all. I am reading their public posts and going off what they say. If they want to believe vaccines caused low galactocerebrosidase, that is their choice. Science tells me that Krabbe Disease is the genetic cause of this enzyme-making gene mutation. 

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Hannah Robinson is #20 on the Vaxxed bus. Her story has gotten quite famous, even appearing in the news in her state. Screenshots I have seen from her pages show her to have gone on multiple trips to the emergency room for paralysis, seizures, pain, and other reported issues. Each time, tests are run and doctors find nothing wrong with her. Her family hints that doctors want to refer to a psychologist, but they have refused to take her to one. They took her to multiple different specialists and she had to drop out of school, due to her health problems. I would guess she had a conversion disorder, which is not a made up illness but a disorder where “the physical symptoms are thought to be an attempt to resolve the conflict the person feels inside.”  But, since her parents refused to take her to a psychologist, they never considered this diagnosis. Hannah also claimed she was infertile. Meanwhile, she had a baby boy earlier this summer and appears to have recovered from a great many of her health issues.  Finally, her claim of vaccine injury was denied for lack of evidence and because the “record neither reveals a “Table Injury” nor contains a medical expert’s opinion or other persuasive evidence indicating that her injuries were caused by a vaccination.”

Colton Berrett is another story of HPV injury.  I found his video interview but not his number on the bus.  Three weeks after his third HPV vaccine, on February 21, 2104,  he started to experience symptoms of neck soreness. He was diagnosed with transverse myelititis.  His family has not, to date, filed a vaccine injury claim.  At this point, the statute of limitations for filing has passed. Still, Colton and his mom continue to believe the HPV vaccine caused his TM and not that it could be caused by a wild virus, which is much more likely.  I am not sure which number he is on the bus.

UPDATE 1/6/2018  Colton has passed away. May he rest in peace.  This is very sad to learn, but, as we read above, it is likely to NOT be related to the HPV vaccine at all. Condolences to his family.

This weekend, I followed an antivaxer named Lu Drago who was trolling a provax Facebook page back to her profile to see why she is so ardently opposed to vaccines. I found her son, #527 on the bus, a survivor of congenital heart disease, a child with clear epicanthal folds on his eyes (sign of Down Syndrome or some other genetic disorder), and autistic. Rather than blame genetics, apparently his autism is the fault of vaccines. Meantime, several genetic disorders that include epicanthal folds among symptoms are comorbid ( existing simultaneously with) autism.  This woman is devoted to the idea that vaccines are the greatest evil on earth. Why doesn’t she spend her time on something more positive, like support for children with genetic disorders?

Look at all these names.

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Supposedly, there are now 6000 names on the bus and the Vaxxed bus tour continues.  I have not read all 6000 stories but I have a few hundred. Only one was an actual, bonafide vaccine injury, compensated in court.  When Polly interviews these families, she never asks for any evidence. In fact, she makes a big deal about how parents should be trusted and doctors should not. Parents know what is best. Polly preaches to her followers that doctors are not to be trusted.  How does that help children?  How does that help children live longer and healthier?  We know that SIDS and infant mortality rates are at time lows in developed countries, including USA.  Why doesn’t Polly know this?  Why doesn’t she know that there is no autism epidemic, that diagnosis change is responsible for much of the rising rate.

Most importantly, what has happened in these people’s lives that they do not believe what science is telling them, that they believe their opinions over evidence?

If you want me to believe you or your child are vaccine injured, you better pony up some actual evidence.  I am fully aware that vaccines can cause injury, but at a rate of 5500 claims compensated and 3 plus billion vaccines given, in the last 30 years in USA, the risk of vaccine injury is literally 0.000016%.

 

This bus and this list are not helping keep children healthy.

 

Remember to always think for yourself,

 

Kathy

PS This is another good post about the veracity, or not, of vaccine injury stories. Written by another Kathy.

 

PPS: I welcome comments from all walks but any comments that call me nasty names, threaten me, refer to the possibility of me burning in hell for all eternity, or harass me in any similar manner will be trashed. 

Matt Carey discusses Vaxxed, the film.

Today, I had the pleasure of listening to a pre-recorded conference call between Karen Ernst, the Director of Voices for Vaccines, and Matt Carey, PhD in physics, autism parent, autism advocate and blogger at Left Brain, Right Brain (LBRB). I have been reading LBRB for years, since back when it was run by Kevin Leitch. It is one of my favorite blogs.

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Today’s conversation was recorded live and there was an opportunity to call in and ask questions about the film Vaxxed. For those of us who missed the live version, you can listen to the recorded version at this link. You will want to open it with music player for google or podcast app or something similar.

To remind you, Vaxxed is the film Andrew Wakefield, Polly Tommey, and Del Bigtree made about the “cdcwhistleblower” controversy. I saw it and wrote my own review, which you can read here. You can also read the full facts (or lack thereof) in Vaxxed at Harpocrates Speaks Blog. 

I am not going to transcribe the whole conversation but here are some of my notes. It was definitely worth a listen.

Matt and Karen discussed the facts from the film and the controversy, including going in-depth into what William Thompson actually said and what he did not say. Matt also discussed the idea that the data was thrown away (it was not). Matt has written quite extensively about all of this, on LBRB. For example, herein he writes about how there was not really any whistle to blow.

The first caller was antivaxer Sherry Saunders who came on at about minute 37:00.  She stated that she used to work as a security guard at Huntsville [sic] Hospital and claimed it was part of her job to take care of hysterical parents who had brought a child in having seizures after a vaccine. She asked how she could convince parents the vaccine is not the problem and that the doctors and nurses are not at fault. My first reaction was that she could not be telling the truth because she stated she used to work at the hospital but then asked the question as if she still does work at the hospital.  She switched back and forth in tenses a lot, as if this is not a real story.  She went on to say that she was the security supervisor in the ICU and had to restrain the parents because they were hysterical about their child’s vaccine reaction. She claimed she had to restrain them and call the police and  that she had a stun gun. Because the parents were hysterical. Had. All past tense. Then, she asked what she is supposed to say to the parents since she is being told by doctors to keep them far away from the child in ICU and call the police. Present tense. 
At this point, I am making my “what the….” face and I can hear Matt, in the background, laughing. Here is what my “what the….” face looks like:
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Matt answered by telling her the doctors need to be the ones talking to the parents, not her, and Sherry responded by saying the hospital told her to keep the parents far away from the kids and call the police. At this point, Matt and Karen told her they did not believe her story and they hung up on her. 
A few more calls and questions were taken, including a nice discussion about how most parents of children with autism know vaccines don’t cause autism and how The Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism is a great Facebook page and has a marvelous website for respectful talk about vaccines, autism, and advocacy. Matt also explained thoroughly how the idea that African American boys have a greater risk of autism is simply not backed up by data.
The last caller was Joshua Coleman, who identified himself as a member of the Vaxxed team.  Joshua is, in fact, the videographer who went on tour with the Vaxxed team in their bus for the last few months.  He was up at minute 66:34. Joshua is the person who recently ambushed Dr Paul Offit at breakfast and video recorded him without permission.  Joshua began to talk about Del Bigtree showing the film to Senator Ben Allen, but Karen redirected him to stay on the topic of the content of the film Vaxxed.  So, he brought up how we only know MMR and thimerosal don’t cause autism, that the rest of the ingredients and other vaccines, he said, have not been tested. Joshua mentioned the (now retracted) Wakefield 1998 paper. He stated that provaxers often use that paper as proof that Andrew Wakefield said vaccines cause autism. Joshua said these two facts, that vaccines don’t cause autism and Wakefield says they do, are both blatent lies.  This, he says, was his first clue that provaxers lie. He asked Matt to explain to him how this is okay and not a major red flag that there is some deceit going on here. 
Matt responded first by making the point that he, Matt, has published over 100 papers and none have ever been retracted.  Matt then brought up how many papers Wakefield has had retracted and then made a very valid point that the Vaxxed fans and team tend to forget to bring up how many papers Wakefield has had retracted.  Matt explained how Wakefield went in to the press conference for the 1998 paper and made statements that were “wildly extrapolated and wildly irresponsible” and antivaxers never explain about this fact. Matt also reminded Joshua that we can easily go through Wakefield’s public records and find many statements where he has stated, in one form or the other, that vaccines cause autism.  The 1998 Lancet article, Matt states, tends to be the only thing antivaxers want to talk about, not the fact that the work he did for that paper was a result of the ethics violations that were found proved and which cost him his medical license.  We are not talking about an upstanding researcher, said Matt.  
After Matt answered Josh’s question, Josh ignored him and began to argue with Matt. Basically, Matt answered the question in full but, somehow, Josh missed it and claimed his question was not addressed. He was arguing so much, that Karen hung up on him. 
This led to a nice conversation between Karen and Matt about how antivaxers tend to distract and divert by arguing “itty bitty” details.
The final comment made by Matt is that he is not provax, he is an autism parent and wants to counter misinformation that is used to damage his community. He feels antivaxers use vaccines as a tool to damage the autism community.
Karen made very good point that we need to make a place at the table for parents of autists who are harmed by this assault, by this myth getting perpetuated that vaccines cause autism. Matt agreed and pointed out that autists are more medically fragile than the general public and his own child has been hospitalized many times because a minor infection which set off his epilepsy. He made the point that a serious infection like measles could kill his son and not vaccinating puts everyone in danger. Matt concluded by saying how he got into this provax fight not because of vaccines but because of wanting to protect his own son and others in the autism community from the harm that antivaxers cause by not vaccinating and also by thinking of autism as damage. 
All in all, this was a very worthwhile listen.  Thanks Karen and Matt.
Remember to always think for yourself!
Kathy

ETA: For another look at this call and the output connected with it, here is a storification from @jkellyca of twitter responses using the hashtag,  #vfvcall.

 

 

 

 

Hepatitis B vaccine is safe & necessary

There is a reason one should not take healthcare or medical advice from daytime talk show producers with no college education: they don’t do science. And this is a real problem when they have some influence among people who do not vaccinate.

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Yes, that is this week’s message from Del B.  He crashed the Assembly Select Committee on Infectious Diseases in High Risk Disadvantaged Communities meeting, this week, in Sacramento, California, hosted by Assemblyman Mike A Gipson. State Senator Dr. Richard Pan was a speaker, as were numerous other experts on Hepatitis infections. Towards one hour, 40 minutes, the public were allowed to make 2 minute comments and that is when Del Bigtree speaks first. He questions the statistic that 10,000 kids under age 10 were infected, not by their mother,  with Hepatitis B before the vaccine was introduced. Del goes so far to imply Dr Pan made this up this data about Hepatitis B risk and that as long as women are tested for the disease, and are not carriers themselves, then newborns do not need this vaccine at all. Further, he makes some pretty outrageous claims that might lead someone to not choose this vaccine for their child:

  1. He infers the vaccine is the cause of USA having “highest infant infant death rate than all other western nations combined” and asks why we are not investigating that risk;
  2. Education alone could reduce Hepatitis B risk;
  3. The vaccine was only tested for 4 days during pre-licensing phase;
  4. The vaccine has 5X the recommended amount of aluminum;
  5. The vaccine wears off after 6 years;
  6. Saving 10,000 children a year (pre-vaccine numbers) from Hep B is not worth risking millions of other children’s lives by giving them this “dangerous” vaccine.

I am not sure why Del thinks this statistic is Dr Pan’s making ( he seems to think the science behind the California vaccine mandate law, SB277, all originates from Dr Pan) but I have taken some time to help Del understand the Hepatitis B risk and the vaccine safety.

What is Hep B?

Hepatitis B is a bloodborne pathogen transmitted through contact with blood or other bodily fluids. It can also be sexually transmitted but to say it is only transmitted via drugs or sex is incorrect.  It is a potentially life-threatening liver infection and a major global health problem.  An estimated 850,000–2.2 million persons in the United States have chronic hepatitis B virus infection. The rate of new HBV infections has declined by approximately 82% since 1991, when a national strategy to eliminate HBV infection was implemented in the United States. The decline has been greatest among children born since 1991, when routine vaccination of children was first recommended.

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(source)

Del’s concern 1: first day death

Del is concerned the vaccine is the cause of USA having “highest infant infant death rate than all other western nations combined” and asks why we are not investigating that risk.  Currently, the USA ranks 168 out of 224 countries in the infant mortality statistics (224 being the best infant mortality rate).  Monaco has the best IMR, at 1.82 deaths per 1000 live births, Afghanistan is the worst at 115.08 deaths per 1000 live births, and USA is in the top 1/3rd at 5.77 deaths per 1000 live births. Looking at the list, there are many countries in the 3-5 deaths per 1000 live births range, so USA is absolutely not faring the worst of all western countries nor has the highest IMR of all western nations combined. The CIA defines IMR as infants dying before age one.

For first day of life deaths, I looked at a report by published by Save the Children in 2013 that was funded by Johnson and Johnson, Gates Foundation, and Mattel. Having googled, this is the source cited by many news reports and likely what Del is quoting from. According to the report, the USA does have a high first day death rate with 11,300 newborn deaths a year. “This is 50% more first day deaths than all other industrialized countries combined.” Poverty and racial/ethnic makeup are linked to prematurity, low birth rate, and high first-day death rate. Prematurity is the single largest cause of first day death.  By far the most first day deaths occur in India, with several African countries, China, and Afghanistan also in the top ten worst countries. Somalia has the worst first day mortality statistic, at 18 deaths per 1000 live births. Being a larger country, India has more deaths but a lower statistic, at 11 deaths per 1000 live births. Iceland, Sweden, Singapore, Estonia, Cyprus, and Luxembourg have the best statistics, at less than 0.5 deaths per 1000 live births.

And where is the USA?  Three first day deaths per 1000 live births. We share that ranking with 19 other countries.  Yes, we could do better but it is not THAT bad. I would be more than willing to pay higher taxes to offset poverty and racial issues, insuring that all Americans have access to good food, decent living conditions, and universal healthcare. That would improve our IMR and first day death statistics tremendously.

The single greatest reason cited for our first day death statistic is poverty and race, both of which are also risk factors for prematurity. This has absolutely nothing to do with vaccines. 

Del’s concern 2: education

This is inexplicable to me. Does he really think education will prevent toddlers from biting each other and sharing their teething toys? Will education alone lead to people telling their partners about their disease status instead of hiding it and inadvertently spreading it? Education will do nothing for women who test negative for Hep B but really are positive. False tests results is a real issue.

Del’s concern 3: safety testing

Del is concerned that the Hep B vaccine was only tested for 4 days during pre-licensing phase. This comes from the insert, of course, and it is actually stated that children in the clinical trial were monitored for 5 days after the vaccine. Of course, we know the limitations of vaccine inserts.  Del, however, seems to be unaware of the safety and efficacy testing that is done after the insert was written. Let me give you a little research hint. If you want to find studies related to a vaccine, go do the CDC’s page for that vaccine and click on the information for providers and healthcare professionals. This is where they list the safety and efficacy studies.  The parent information section is written much more simply.  In the provider section, you can find a lot of research information, including the link to the recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization (ACIP)’s document on Hepatitis B virus and vaccination. This document has a long list of safety and efficacy data, including data analysis from the vaccine safety datalink (VSD) and the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS). A great deal of safety study has been done AFTER the clinical trial.

Del’s concern 4: The vaccine has 5X the recommended amount of aluminum

The Hep B vaccine has between 0.225 to 0.5 mg/dose of aluminum. An FDA study found that the maximum amount of aluminum an infant could be exposed to over the first year of life would be 4.225 milligrams (mg), based on the recommended schedule of vaccines.  According to the Vaccine Eduction Center,  “infants receive about 4.4 milligrams of aluminum in the first six months of life from vaccines, they receive more than that in their diet. Breast-fed infants ingest about 7 milligrams, formula-fed infants ingest about 38 milligrams, and infants who are fed soy formula ingest almost 117 milligrams of aluminum during the first six months of life.” Thus, the vaccine does not have 5X the recommended amount of aluminum. It is likely Del is thinking of the recommended amount of aluminum for intravenous solutions. This is comparing apples to oranges. Vaccines are not IVs.  Here is information about IV feeding solutions and aluminum and here is the information about aluminum in vaccines. As you can see, antivaxers often get these confused.

Del’s concern 5: The vaccine wears off after 6 years

Del need not worry. “Studies indicate that immunologic memory remains intact for at least 20 years among healthy vaccinated individuals who initiated hepatitis B vaccination >6 months of age. The vaccine confers long-term protection against clinical illness and chronic hepatitis B virus infection. Cellular immunity appears to persist even though antibody levels might become low or decline below detectable levels.” (source)  The populations at risk for Hep B as adults are being studied to determine actual immunity rate. The first infants vaccinated with this vaccine are now in their early 20s and 30s, a great age to begin studying them for risk of Hepatitis B and duration of immunity with vaccination. To test immunity, scientists have to study those with Hep B infection to see if they were vaccinated. Del does not understand how this is done because he is, after all, a former producer of a day time talk show. One would not expect him to have any actual knowledge in science.

Del’s concern 6: This is a dangerous vaccine

The ACIP study included analysis of reports of adverse events and found no association between the vaccine and reports of chronic illness, alopecia, diabetes, Guillain-Barré syndrome, arthritis, multiple sclerosis, or SIDS.  In other words, the Hepatitis B vaccine does not cause any of those health issues. The study also mentions the possibility of a yeast allergy connection. “Hepatitis B vaccination is contraindicated for persons with a history of hypersensitivity to yeast or to any vaccine component (92,189–191). Despite a theoretic risk for allergic reaction to vaccination in persons with allergy to Saccharomyces cerevisiae (baker’s yeast), no evidence exists that documents adverse reactions after vaccination of persons with a history of yeast allergy.”  So, there is no reason to worry about a yeast allergy with the Hep B vaccine.

Del also wondered at the veracity of the number, 10,000, of children who were found to have Hepatitis B yearly, not from their mothers, pre-vaccine. This data comes from a study called Childhood Hepatitis B virus infections in the United States before Hepatitis B immunization.  If you have access to the full document, as I do through my university, you will see that vaccination for at-risk infants began in 1982 and was broadened to include all children in 1994.   Before the vaccine was recommended for all children in 1994,  30% of infected adults had no risk factors. Vaccinating only those infants from at-risk groups was not halting the spread of the infection to children. This was because of incomplete maternal screening and a “substantial proportion of infections occurred in children of Hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAG)-negative mothers.” Let that sink in a bit. A substantial number of infections in children came from mothers who had tested negative. You got it. Testing all mothers doesn’t help. The study estimates that 16,000 children under the age of ten were infected with Hep B a year and that does not include the additional 15,000 children a year who acquired Hep B from their mothers, perinatally. Most of these 16,000 children had clinically silent infections that will lead to chronic liver infections later in life, with 25% leading to death.  The study concludes that routine vaccination of infants will save 2700 deaths a year.

Conclusion

It is clear to me, in reading all of the above, that the Hepatitis B vaccine has a strong safety record, does not contribute to US first day death rate nor SIDS rate nor infant mortality rate and does very much lead to healthier lives for American children.  What are the actual risks associated with the vaccine? Minor soreness for a few days or a mild fever are most common. Anaphylaxis (severe allergic reaction) is possible with anything but they are very rare with this vaccine and would occur within a few hours.

As always, remember to think for yourself!

 

Kathy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Provaxers are people, too

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

Kathy

 

James Lyons-Weiler and the HPV ad controversy

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As always, be sure to think for yourself!

 

 

Kathy

 

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

 

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

 

 

A provaxer watched Vaxxed

vaxdebunked

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

smoke copy

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

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

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

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

Debunking a few of Vaxxed’s other lies:

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

 

 

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

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

 

seuss

Thanks for reading and remember to think for yourself!

 

Kathy

Vaccines do not cause autism

That’s a big claim, I know. You may have seen claims to the contrary, particularly that there are many, as many as 100 or more, studies proving autism is caused by vaccines. Perhaps you have read the claims made by the producers of the film Vaxxed that all the research done on vaccines and autism is based on the one CDC study for which Dr William Thompson claimed the study protocol was not followed. You may have read that Andy Wakefield was exonerated and his study claims replicated. You may think that all vaccine science is paid for by pharmaceutical companies and that vaccine inserts state vaccines cause autism.

That is all wrong. All lies or mistruths.

Let’s to through those claims one at a time.

  1. There are more than 100 studies proving vaccine cause autism
  2. All autism/vaccine research is based on the CDC/Whistleblower study
  3. Andy Wakefield was exonerated of claims against him and his research has been replicated many times.
  4. All vaccine science is paid for by pharmaceutical companies so it cannot be trusted.
  5. Vaccines inserts state vaccine cause autism, so that is proof they do.

So, let’s debunk!

There are more than 100 studies proving vaccines cause autism

This claim comes via a woman named Ginger Taylor who has compiled a large list of studies she thinks prove that vaccines cause autism.  Most of the list is mere suggestions of possible connections and/or theories that mercury or aluminum in vaccines are connected to autism.  Ginger is not a scientist but numerous scientists have looked at her list and found it wanting. In fact, nothing on her list really proves vaccines cause autism. Liz Ditz has taken the time to take the full list and link each study with writings on said study which go over exactly what each really means. Other bloggers, such as The Logic of Science and Doc Bastard have similarly gone through each list and debunked the claims.

Now, please, do not take my word for it. Read the three blogs I linked above and think for yourself about what they write for each claim.  You will see that it is clear no research supports vaccines cause autism.

All autism/vaccine research is based on the CDC/Whistleblower study

This is a claim often cited by the producers of the antivax film, Vaxxed. It is repeated often lately in vaccine debates. The study in question is the 2004 study Age at first measles-mumps-rubella vaccination in children with autism and school-matched control subjects: a population-based study in metropolitan atlanta.   That study is cited in a few other studies but it is not referenced in all autism research and certainly it is far farfetched to claim that all autism research is based on this study. You can see on the link to the study that it is only referenced in 6 other studies.

Here is a list of 107 studies showing no link between vaccines and autism.   It is actually difficult to gain access to full studies if you do not subscribe to the journal, but I was able to find a few of these in full text, to check their references.

These did not reference the 2004 study:

  • DeStefano F., Price CS., Weintraub, ES.  Increasing exposure to antibody-stimulating proteins and polysaccharides in vaccines is not associated with risk of autism.   Journal of Pediatrics.  2013 Aug;163(2):561-7. doi: 10.1016/j.jpeds.2013.02.001. Epub 2013 Mar 30. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23545349
  • Fombonne, E., & Chakrabarti, S. (2001).  No evidence for a new variant of measles-mumps-rubella–induced autism.  Pediatrics, 108(4), e58-e58. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11581466
  • Hensley, E. Briars, L.  Closer look at autism and the measles-mumps-rubella vaccineJournal of American Pharmacist’s Association.  2003.  2010 Nov-Dec;50(6):736-41. doi: 10.1331/JAPhA.2010.10004.  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21071320
  • Honda, H., Shimizu, Y., & Rutter, M. (2005).  No effect of MMR withdrawal on the incidence of autism: a total population study.  Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry.  46(6), doi: 10.1111/j.1469-7610.2005.01425.x.  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15877763

I got about halfway through the list, with all the studies for which I was able to find full links NOT using the 2004 De Stefano/Williams study in the basis for their claims. I don’t feel the need to go through the entire list.

Vaxxed is wrong.

Andy Wakefield was exonerated of claims against him and his research has been replicated many times.

The case of Andrew Wakefield is complicated. Describing it would take more blog space than I am willing to get. If you want to read the full story, Brian Deer’s website is your place to read. One of the most common claims from his supporters is that because one of the other doctors involved in his 1999 study, Dr John Walker-Smith, was exonerated of claims against him, then that must mean Andy Wakefield was also exonerated of all charges. But, that is simply untrue. Dr Walker-Smith removed his name from the original paper, after it was retracted. After a lengthy court case, the charges against him were quashed because it was obvious he was duped and led astray by Wakefield. Thus, Walker-Smith was exonerated because the misdeeds were really all Wakefield’s. You can read a full summary of those claims, including links to facts, at Skeptical Raptor.

As for Wakefield’s original 1999 study being replicated, that is false. If you see someone making that claim, simply ask them for the link to the study replicating his findings. How could they replicate findings for a study that was prepared in such an unethical and fraudulent manner? He performed medical procedures on children unnecessarily. He took money from an attorney to purposely find a link between vaccines and autism. He paid children, at a birthday party, for taking their blood. If you find any study where anything like that has been undertaken, you need to report those scientists to the editors of the journal which printed their study for they are equally unethical and fraudulent as Wakefield. That being said, there are simply no studies replicating Wakefield’s findings.

 

All vaccine science is paid for by pharmaceutical companies so it cannot be trusted

From the list above:

Other studies not funded by pharmaceutical companies:

And you can find a great deal of vaccine/autism research at the Autism Science Foundation. Most all of it has nothing to do with pharmaceutical companies.

It is irrational to claim that all immunization science is funded by pharmaceutical companies. Who makes those claims? People who make a living trying to get you to mistrust immunization science, like natural health bloggers, chiropractors, naturopaths, and homeopaths. Think for yourself.

Vaccines inserts state vaccine cause autism, so that is proof they do.

Try reading package inserts for yourself. You will find that none of them say autism is caused by vaccines. There was an older insert that mentioned autism as a possible adverse event, but adverse events are not the same as side effects. Adverse events happen in a time period during a clinical trial. They have not been proven caused by vaccines. Side effects have proof behind them.

For more information on inserts and how to read them, Skeptical Raptor has a very handy guide.

For actual vaccine side effects, read the Pink Book.

 

Thanks for reading and remember to think for yourself!

 

Kathy