Vaccines on the Hill

25 Sep

With a hat-tip to Kim Stagliano at the Age of Autism blog. They got ahold of an email sent by Amy Pisani of Every Child by Two to legislators who were sending staffers to a briefing by Mark Blaxill and David Kirby on vaccines and autism.

Mr. Kirby promised to talk about, amongst other topics, Hannah Poling. That’s not what I would call a good briefing. A good briefing would be if the legislators asked HHS to talk to them about what the concession meant. Somehow, I think the two briefings would be significantly different. Then again, I suspect a briefing by the doctors who are studying that potential cause of developmental regression via mitochondrial dysfunction would also have a very different story to tell than Mr. Kirby. I strongly suspect that.

But, I digress, as I often do. You see, Every Child by Two thought that the legislators who were sending staff to the Kirby/Blaxill briefing should be informed that the information provided by that team was, well, not accepted by the mainstream.

The letter, respecfully written, respectfully submitted is quoted below. One reader of this blog asked Ms. Pisani for permission to reproduce it here. I am using the text from the AoA blog.

Why reproduce it here? Because many in the greater autism community agree with Ms. Pisani. This blogger certainly does. I hope that legislators know that many members of the autism community side with Every Child by Two on this subject.

So, after much delay, here is something written much better than the ramblings I’ve put together:

Today you have been invited to attend a briefing to provide “updates on the recent autism-vaccines debate”. While I recognize that most of you will likely be dealing with other priorities and will not attend the Maloney briefing, I write to you this morning because I feel it is critical to clarify that there is no debate among the scientific community regarding vaccines and autism. Instead, the debate rages on in the media due to the efforts of those who wish to sidetrack critical research away from finding the true cause(s) of autism and treating children and their families struggling with this condition.

‘Last week Dr. Paul Offit’s new book “Autism’s False Prophets, Bad Science, Risky Medicine, and the Search for a Cure” was published by Columbia University Press. This book is a must read for all those concerned with children dealing with autism. The Philadelphia Inquirer writes that “Offit’s account, written in layman’s terms and with the literary skill of good storytellers, provides important insight into the fatal flaws of the key arguments of vaccine alarmists, including such well-known names as Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I., Conn.), and Sen. John Kerry (D., Mass.).” And the Wall Street Journal writes “Ever since psychiatrist Leo Kanner identified a neurological condition he called autism in 1943, parents whose children have been diagnosed with the most severe form of the illness — usually in the toddler stage, before age 3 — have found themselves desperately searching for some way not to lose their children to autism’s closed-off world. Unfortunately, such parents have often found misguided doctors, ill-informed psychologists and outright charlatans eager to proffer help.”

In 1999 I was pregnant with my first son just as the questions first arose regarding the MMR vaccine and subsequently the thimerosal in vaccines. After attending Congressman Burton’s hearings (quite pregnant I might add) I too became alarmed. Fortunately, as the Executive Director of Every Child By Two I had at my disposal the scientific research and advice of the world’s leading experts on vaccines and I was able to confidently vaccinate my son without fear of side effects. As of today, eleven studies now show that the MMR vaccine doesn’t cause autism, six have shown that thimerosal doesn’t cause autism, and three have shown thimerosal doesn’t cause neurological problems.

I urge you to read a few of the reviews of Dr. Offit’s book which are listed below and contact us if you wish to have a copy sent to you.

I also ask that you please visit our new website www.vaccinateyourbaby.org – this site was unveiled in August with our new spokeswoman Actress Amanda Peet specifically for parents who have questions about vaccine safety.

at the risk of making this an extremely long blog post, let me do what the Age of Autism did not do: list some of the reviews of the book.

A definitive analysis of a dangerous and unnecessary controversy that has put the lives of children at risk. Paul A. Offit shows how bad science can take hold of the public consciousness and lead to personal decisions that endanger the health of small children. Every parent who has doubts about the wisdom of vaccinating their kids should read this book. — Peter C. Doherty, Ph.D., St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital and Nobel Laureate in Medicine for fundamental contributions in Immunology

As a parent it is my job to protect my children. Hearing all the rumors about vaccine side effects made me question the right thing to do. This book makes it clear that vaccines save lives, and that they clearly do not cause autism. — Amy Pisani, mother

In his latest book Paul A. Offit unfolds the story of autism, infectious diseases, and immunization that has captivated our attention for the last decade. His lively account explores the intersection of science, special interests, and personal courage. It is provocative reading for anyone whose life has been touched by the challenge of autism spectrum disorders. — Susan K. Klein, MD, Ph.D., Case Western Reserve Hospital, and Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital, Case Medical Center

No one has been more vocal-or courageous-than Paul A. Offit in exposing the false and dangerous claims of the growing antivaccine movement. Offit’s latest book lays waste to the supposed link between autism and vaccination while showing how easily Americans have been bamboozled into compromising the health of their own children. Autism’s False Prophets is a must read for parents seeking to fully understand the risks and rewards of vaccination in our modern world. — David Oshinsky, winner of the Pulitzer Prize in History for Polio: An American Story

All good reviews. But, dang, a Nobel Laureate in Medicine. Not just medicine but immunology? Plus a Pulitzer prize winner? Begs the question of why the Age of Autism didn’t include them.

I am so glad that they offered Dr. Offit’s book to the legislators. I hope that the legislators, or their healthcare legislative assistants take them up on the offer. It’s a well written book, and fairly concise. It really explains how we (the autism communities) got here (into a big mess where vaccines are such a high profile subject–at least in the media) even though we shouldn’t be (because the science has been done repeatedly and shown no link).

Word back on the briefing is that about 75 people attended–a mix of staffers, parents, possibly even a member of the press. One representative was noted. Mr. Kirby gave the short version of his talk (the full version is quite long–take a look at his power point presentations sometime!). But, we can all rest assured that Mr. Kirby is there to save the vaccine program (I do hope that autism-one puts this briefing on their website. I need to hear that claim by Mr. Kirby with my own ears). Mr Blaxill took on the “sickest generation ever” theme, common to the vaccine rejectionists (a claim that has been addressed ably by epiwonk).

But, again, I digress. Let me bring you back to what I see as the one message I think you should take home from this post (repeated from above):

Why reproduce it [Ms. Pisani’s letter] here? Because many in the greater autism community agree with Ms. Pisani. This blogger certainly does. I hope that legislators know that many members of the autism community side with Every Child by Two on this subject.

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13 Responses to “Vaccines on the Hill”

  1. RJ September 25, 2008 at 16:26 #

    AoA had built this meeting up as the ‘next coming’. They tried to get as many representatives and senators to show as they could. What happened in the end? Nothing but the sound of crickets chirping in the background. When will they ever clue in?

    Or maybe the better question is WHY won’t they clue in?

  2. Sullivan September 25, 2008 at 18:34 #

    RJ,

    it was even worse than crickets chirping. One staffer (an MD) spoke up and pointed out that Mr. Kirby had changed the language on at least one quote, which made a significant change in the meaning.

    I wish more staffers, members of congress and senators were present for that.

  3. Lisa September 25, 2008 at 18:55 #

    ok, but a couple of points.

    one: this was an unbelievablu bad week to try to get the attention of DC – which is NOT the fault of Kirby OR AofA. just bad luck.

    two: Kirby has said many, many times that he is not in any way anti-vaccine, and that he would surely vaccinate children if he had any (he doesn’t). I have no reason to doubt him.

    on the other hand, can’t quite figure out WHY this event took place at all… just a backlash after Offit’s book?

    Lisa (www.autism.about.com)

  4. alyric September 25, 2008 at 20:03 #

    Tried to listen to what’s available on autism one radio – largely unintelligible. However, heard enough to tecognise Kirby’s signature tune – pastiche of careful misrepresentation of any study that might have data in the autism causes vaccines direction coupled with misrepresentation of the relative power of epidemiological data. How many times have I heard the Denmark study ‘debunked’ by those who have never read it? If they had, they might just be able to see that the rebuttals lack credibility or any kind of sense for that matter.

    One could, if there was an audible transcript, unravel Kirby’s careful prose – you’d end up with a pile of dirty confetti on the floor and it’s already been done by numerous people in bits here and pieces there but it would be worth it because of all the ideas in one place. |It would show quite clearly just how far off the trail he’s willing to go. I wonder why he does it or bothers to keep it going?

    Surely the speaking engagements have dried up and the movie deal is dead in the water. So what income is available to him now?

  5. Sullivan September 25, 2008 at 20:20 #

    Lisa,

    thanks for the comment.

    Whether Mr. Kirby is anti-vaccine or not is not the point. I don’t think ECBT referred to him as “anti-vaccine”. The point is the harm he does to the autism community with his PR work.

    For me and the “Kirby, is he antivaccine? question”, I don’t know why he does what he does. I do know that it is damaging to the autism communities. When he misrepresents facts–like the statements on the usefulness of the VSD–he hurts the autism communities by reducing our credibility.

    When he keeps pushing the mercury debate long after the science has passed him by, he hurts the autism communities by making us out to be unsupportive of the very research we called for.

    We need money for autism research. If we push for more projects in areas that are not bearing fruit, we will (a) be using money and researcher time that could be applied to more promising areas and (b) we will eventually find that the funding agencies stop listening to us. That doesn’t help us.

    As to how many people showed up, I really wish more had. AoA did a good job lobbying legislators and it’s close enough to election time that legislators will want to make some sort of appearance for their constituents.

    But, when a staffer gets up and points out misleading information in Mr. Kirby’s presentation, I don’t really care what that does to Mr. Kirby’s reputation, I care what it does to our ability to effectively work with congress in the future. If representatives from the “autism community” are found to be misleading, that hurts.

    The staffer was not some kid, either. He was a guy with the medical expertise to understand exactly what Kirby was doing.

  6. Kev September 25, 2008 at 20:37 #

    Lisa – David is far from a stupid man, who knows full well why this week was a good week to go ahead with this.

    You may recall that on the day of the green our vaccines ally, David was in London, scheduled to talk to MP’s. Yesterday on the day Team McCarrey go on Oprah, he was scheduled to talk to Reps.

    High ranking politicians are _always_ busy. The fact there was a bad turnout yesterday – just as there was in London – is, in my opinion, less to do with the politicians schedules and more to do with the message.

    David has also said to me he would vaccinate his kids if he ever has any. I don’t doubt it either but I also don’t doubt it would not be to the CDC vaccine schedule. I think it would be to the GR ‘alternative’ schedule.

    What puzzles me most about David’s role in this whole thing is the fact that he is a journalist. Journalists are supposed to be impartial. How can anyone who writes for the Age of Autism pretend impartiality?

  7. Ms. Clark September 25, 2008 at 21:25 #

    Kirby’s actions and words, to me, show that he is anti-CDC. I think he believes that the CDC caused the AIDS epidemic and so he takes every opportunity to make them look bad. See what he did with Julie Gerberding’s quote? Who is Julie Gerberding? She’s the head of the CDC.

    I do doubt Kirby’s assertions that he’s not antivaccine. An intelligent person will doubt Kirby’s sincerity because he has shown over and over that there is reason to doubt it.

    A few years ago he called up the CDC and represented himself as a reporter working for the New York Times, but he was not working for the NYT. The CDC press officer called the NYT and confirmed that. Lisa Jo Rudy has read Offit’s book, “Autism’s False Prophets,” where that is all laid out, and apparently has decided that Kirby’s words still have credibility. Why?

    Just because someone looks respectable in a suit, and can smile, doesn’t mean that when they open their mouths that they are telling the truth.

  8. Joseph September 25, 2008 at 22:03 #

    Kirby has said many, many times that he is not in any way anti-vaccine, and that he would surely vaccinate children if he had any (he doesn’t). I have no reason to doubt him.

    If Kirby is not anti-vaccine, then he sure knows how to play anti-vaccine. First it was thimerosal. When that didn’t pan out, the Poling case was like a shot in the arm (no pun intended) for him. Why would he immediately become interested in anything that might remotely implicate vaccines in any adverse reactions, if he’s not anti-vaccine? Why would he be involved in leaking documents and so forth, in what is obviously part of a well-organized and well-funded anti-vaccine campaign?

    I don’t buy the “I’m not anti-vaccine” claims, because some of them do admit to being anti-vaccine in private.

  9. Ms. Clark September 25, 2008 at 22:58 #

    Also, which were the only two (non-political) people that he personally invited to his flop presentation in the UK but two of the most die hard, self-proclaimed, 100% antivaxers on this planet?

    These people look at what Kirby does in public and say, “Well he has to play the game. He can’t come out and say he’s actually antivax because those in power won’t listen to him.” Now they don’t say that as if they are quoting him exactly, but they say it as if “this is what we in the antivax community all know is necessary.” It was the same thing with the openly antivax people attending the Green Our Vaccines rally, on Yahoo! groups they said stuff like, “Well, we can’t have an openly antivax rally, but this one about “greening vaccines” still fits the bill. It will scare people off vaccines.”

    Lisa Jo, I am “morally certain” (that’s a quote from you) that you would benefit a lot of people if you would stop being so naïve.

  10. hj September 26, 2008 at 00:38 #

    “Lisa Jo, I am “morally certain” (that’s a quote from you) that you would benefit a lot of people if you would stop being so naïve.”

    I second this.

  11. maggieaustria February 12, 2010 at 01:19 #

    Why hasn’t media done more investigative journalism regarding the epidemic of misdiagnosing children with autism and aspergers? Autism Spectrum Disorder is a total joke, it lumps all levels of autism together in one big happy family…it’s absurd and unethical and well, just plain stupid. American Psychiatric Association should be ashamed of themselves for being so obtuse regarding what autism is and what it is not..do these clowns realize that thousands of kids with ADHD, Bi-Polar, OCD,ODD, MPD and things like Fragile X and Hyperlexia are often being mislabeled “autistic”? This had gone wayyyyyyy tooooo far people Government wants to label all these kids autistic…WHY? YOU TUBE has a video titled: autism spectrum seems out of control where a mom talks about this from her standpoint of being a mom with a severly autstic kid

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Autism Blog - Vaccines on the Hill III | Left Brain/Right Brain - September 26, 2008

    […] I never thought there would be a “Vaccines on the Hill II”, much less III. That said, a question from Lisa (from about.autism.com) got me thinking and, well, I’d rather do this a post than a […]

  2. News From Around The Blogosphere 9.26.08 « Skepacabra - September 27, 2008

    […] – I posted about the earlier exchanges between them 2 days ago here. This time it comes after Kirby gave a talk to Congressional staffers and a few Congressmen. Parikh particularly nails him by pointing out how […]

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