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.

 

 

 

 

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.

 

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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