To promote his new book ‘Autism’s False Prophets. Bad science, risky medicine and the search for a cure’ (Amazon UK, Amazon US, Amazon Canada) – and look for a review here very, very soon – Dr Paul Offit went on the US radio show Talk of the nation ‘Science Friday’ earlier today.
It turned into a microcosm of exactly the sort of scenario that those of us who have blogged about this for some time have come to expect. A question, a reasoned response and then a flat statement of denial.
The show began with the show host (who’s name I didn’t catch) asking why people weren’t vaccinating. Offit gave the answers we all know.
Then the show took a turn into what could’ve been a blog argument on any one of a number of blogs – including this one. A caller called Chantelle/Chantal came on the line and essentially asked Dr Offit how it could possibly be safe for a newborn to receive up to 1250micrograms of Aluminium and that there hadn’t been any studies on how Aluminium could affect a child. She said –
that is why I will not follow the CDC’s guidelines….my child will be vaccinated on my own schedule.
Dr Offit answered with a brief overview of Aluminium’s role in a vaccine is and then told Chantal the simple truth – one that I blogged about fairly recently – there’s more Aluminium in between 50 days to a years worth of breast milk than in the entire vaccine schedule:
We live on the planet Earth. If we choose to live on the planet Earth that means we’re going to be exposed to light metals like Aluminium and heavy metals like mercury.
Chantal then seemed (I wasn’t entirely clear) to want to compare kids with kidney issues (who clearly need to be careful with Aluminium) with _all_ kids. As Dr Offit stated – that’s hardly a valid or real-world comparison.
Then the host asked a great question:
Chantal, is there anything Dr Offit could tell you that would change your mind
The answer: “Absolutely not”.
And there we have it. That is the rock bottom of every single argument the autism/antivax brigade peddle. Screw the science, screw the facts. I just don’t want to hear it and I will put my fingers in my ears and make ‘la-la’ noises until you go away.
Chantal then goes on to justify this ridiculous stance by saying (a la Jenny McCarthy) that there is no independent science supporting vaccine safety. This is tosh. A study this is submitted for peer review to a science journal is peer reviewed by independent experts from the relevant field all over the world. And then, the ultimate test of impartiality takes place – the science is either replicated or it isn’t. Replicated science _has to be_ by definition be independent of its author. How could it not be? If we want to see the opposite of reproducible science, then that can be arranged.
Chantal goes on to say that Dr Offit ‘makes millions’ from speaking about the safety of vaccines. A bizarre claim that I’m pretty sure is not true. He then goes on to describe the ‘high bar’ that vaccine studies must pass. Studies with tens of thousands of participants.
Next, Chantal tries the ‘too many too soon’ dogma that we’ve become recently familiar with. She claims ‘six at one time is absurd’. Dr Offit gives Chantal some facts to play with on that score too:
…the bacteria that live on their nose [a newborn], or the surface of their throat are literally in the trillions. Those bacteria have between 2,000 and 6,000 immunological components and consequently our body makes grams of antibody to combat these bacteria….The number of immunological challenges contained in vaccines is not figuratively, it is literally a drop in the ocean of what you encounter every day.
(Emphasis his, slight paraphrasing)
Chantal then got a bit snappy.
So tell me…how many studies have been done on vaccine loading, which means five or six vaccines at one time. How many?
Dr Offit’s answer:
Somewhere in the vicinity of the high hundreds to low thousands.
I don’t believe that.
Boom! There it is again – she simply doesn’t believe it. Screw the facts, screw the evidence, my fingers are going right back in my ears…la-la-la-la…I can’t hear you…
Dr Offit explains further that any vaccine in the US has to undergo something called a ‘concomitant use study’. These are to establish that vaccines work OK together.
You have to show that vaccine does not interfere with the immune response or the safety of existing vaccines and similarly that existing vaccines don’t interfere with the immune response or the safety of the new vaccine
Dr Offit said ‘high hundreds to low thousands’ of studies (Chantal didn’t believe that remember). A simple Google search reveals over 1,800 results for that phrase. Searching PubMed for ‘concomitant vaccine’ returns over 700.
Dr Offit closes the interview by saying he doesn’t believe all parents are as close minded as Chantal. He uses a nicer phrase than that as he’s a gentleman but that’s how I see it. Close minded to the point of obstinate stupidity.
For some people, it truly doesn’t matter what the facts are, or what the science is. They just stick their fingers in their ears.