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National Geographic, “The War on Science”, includes discussion of vaccines and autism

19 Feb natgeo

I just got my copy of the March 2015 issue of National Geographic a couple of days ago. Imagine my reaction when I saw this cover (click to enlarge):

natgeo

In case you are having trouble imagining my reaction–it includes a big THANK YOU to National Geographic.

Yes, they put “vaccinations can lead to autism” up there with “evolution never happened” and “the moon landing was fake”.

This paragraph includes references to Jenny McCarthy (anti-vaccine activist and actress Jenny McCarthy) and Andrew Wakefield’s Lancet article.

Doubting science also has consequences. The people who believe vaccines cause autism—often well educated and affluent, by the way—are undermining “herd immunity” to such diseases as whooping cough and measles. The anti-vaccine movement has been going strong since the prestigious British medical journal the Lancet published a study in 1998 linking a common vaccine to autism. The journal later retracted the study, which was thoroughly discredited. But the notion of a vaccine-autism connection has been endorsed by celebrities and reinforced through the usual Internet filters. (Anti-vaccine activist and actress Jenny McCarthy famously said on the Oprah Winfrey Show, “The University of Google is where I got my degree from.”)


By Matt Carey

CNN: The money behind the vaccine skeptics

6 Feb

CNN Money has a short video up that makes a point that a few of us have been making for the past few years: much of the vaccine antagonistic message is funded by a few wealthy people. A good discussion can be found at A Snapshot of the Deep Pockets of the Anti-Vaccine Movement on Haprocrates Speaks. The CNN piece is called “The money behind the vaccine skeptics“. I can’t get the video to embed here, but one can find it here.

Here’s a screenshot from CNN showing the organizations, people and money that CNN discusses (click to enlarge)

cnn money

CNN points out that the self-styled National Vaccine Information Center and others (such as Chris Shaw’s group at the University of British Columbia) get a lot of money from the Dwoskin family. The Dwoskin Family Foundation told CNN that they are not antivaccine but are, instead, advocates for safer vaccines. It’s a story we hear a lot.

Claire Dwoskin is or was a board member of the NVIC and made this statement about vaccines. John Stossel had aired a piece about how his daughter had fought off a whooping cough infection and in her response to one of his producers she stated:

What his daughter went through is NOTHING compared to what the families of autistic children go through every day of their lives. No disease can match this record of human devastation. Vaccines are a holocaust of poison on our children’s brains and immune systems. Shame on you all.

I’m not sure how that sentiment fits in with being “advocates for safer vaccines”. One has to accept that vaccines are safe before advocating for safer vaccines.

Also mentioned is Barry Segal who funds Focus Autism (now Focus for Health) and A Shot of Truth. And Generation Rescue’s JB Handley and Jenny McCarthy. Both Focus Autism and Generation Rescue are noted for funding Andrew Wakefield’s “Strategic Autism Initiative”. All these groups are discussed in previous articles here at Left Brain/Right Brain.

The piece is short and perhaps that’s why they don’t mention Generation Rescue’s hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on full page ads claiming vaccines cause autism, or their poorly performed phone survey on vaccines. Lots of money spent on promoting fear and distrust of vaccines.

I’ve never seen evidence of these groups actually funding work into safer vaccines. I’ve never seen, say, funding for research into a new vaccine or even something simple like improved storage and transportation for vaccines into the developing world to reduce the use of thimerosal, a preservative these groups claim (without good evidence) cause autism and other disabilities.


Matt Carey

Jenny McCarthy tells the story two different ways…again

29 Jan

Yep, this doesn’t have anything to do with autism. Well, aside from the fact that we will discuss how one public face for autism is once again showing that her stories don’t match over time. You see, Jenny McCarthy has a reality TV show now and the story of her divorce presented in that show doesn’t match what she wrote in her book 8 years ago. I found the new story in a recent article in the Washington Post: Jenny McCarthy tries to mend her anti-vaccine reputation with reality TV. It’s too little, too late in which Emily Yahr writes:

The show is filled with such heart-to-hearts, with McCarthy recounting her ordeals as a single mom, starting with her ex filing for divorce in 2005 the same week that Evan was diagnosed with autism.

Now, it’s been a while since I read Jenny McCarthy’s “Louder than words” book. A long while, but that statement didn’t strike me as consistent with what she wrote in her book. The sentiment is the same: harsh on her kid’s father while putting herself in a good light, but the details didn’t match.

What did she say in her 2007 book? She says that she asked for the divorce. She was the mommy warrior, taking charge in that book. Now in her reality show she’s the object of sympathy, dumped by her husband just when she needed him most.

LTW-divorce

In fact, if you read the book, she talks about thinking about divorce for some time before she finally asked for it. Because that whole “same week as the diagnosis” thing in the TV show isn’t what she wrote in 2007 either. Between the autism diagnosis and her asking for a divorce, there are weeks, if not months of stories in her book. Stories that include Ms. McCarthy asking her husband to leave, and him refusing.

Who knows what the actual story was. All we hear is the story that fits the image she wants to portray at the moment. Her ex husband is taking the high road and not returning fire.

Oh, and if you are worried about how her son took the divorce, don’t. According to Ms. McCarthy, autism renders one incapable “emotionally connecting” with such events.

LTW-downplay-evan-reaction

Sorry to be sarcastic there. But, really, Ms. McCarthy? Autism renders one incapable of emotionally connecting with what was going on? Couldn’t be that the kid was unable to understand why his mother was making his father leave, just as any kid would?

No real surprises here. Ms. McCarthy has been inconsistent over the years. She had multiple stories of her first encounter with Barbara Walters when Ms. McCarthy was a guest on The View. She has informed us that her son is no longer autistic. Then, a few years later, she tells us that he is. (Jenny McCarthy Slams Rumor That Her 11-Year-Old Son Evan Doesn’t Have Autism). She hammers away at vaccines, but tells us she’s pro-vaccine. And to cap it all, she heads an autism charity that focuses on treatment, but won’t speak out against the faux treatments (like bleach enemas) that are promoted at her orgs conventions.


by Matt Carey

Measles are back but where is Jenny McCarthy?

28 Jan

It takes a lot of courage to stand up and make yourself heard on unpopular topics. But it’s only really courageous if you are willing to accept responsibility for being wrong. Jenny McCarthy stood up. She made herself heard. In the process she got a lot of media attention, led a march on Washington (the Green Our Vaccines rally), and sold a lot of books. That was years ago. Now we are seeing the outbreaks of disease that so many, even Ms. McCarthy, predicted based on the path she set. Back then she at least had the guts to say, “it’s not my fault” (I disagree). Now she’s just absent from the public’s eye on this topic. Instead we get her new reality show.

Today, a measles outbreak originating in Jenny McCarthy’s old backyard (southern California) has reached about 100 people infected (50 in the state, 23 more whose connection to the epicenter of the outbreak is unknown and more out of state). And, no comment from Ms. McCarthy. But she wasn’t always so quiet. Consider this statement from an interview in Time Magazine:

I do believe sadly it’s going to take some diseases coming back to realize that we need to change and develop vaccines that are safe. If the vaccine companies are not listening to us, it’s their f___ing fault that the diseases are coming back. They’re making a product that’s s___. If you give us a safe vaccine, we’ll use it. It shouldn’t be polio versus autism.

The idea that somehow a resurgence of disease would lead to a change in vaccines didn’t make sense to me back then. It seemed like some nasty game of “chicken” where Ms. McCarthy was going to frighten enough people about vaccines that outbreaks would be possible. Frighten with statements like “they’re making a product that’s shit” and that the vaccines are not safe. Somehow, once this fear was instilled and the drop in vaccination rates happened, outbreaks would happen and these would prove her point that the vaccines are “shit” and the vaccines would be reinvented.

Apparently Ms. McCarthy realized that this logic wasn’t sound as she started distancing herself from the vaccine message years ago. Instead of being at the forefront of her movement today, ready to force the changes she predicted, she brings handlers to interviews to deflect questions on vaccines. She points people to her nonpology and nosplenation of her views in an op-ed published by the Chicago Sun Times, Jenny McCarthy: The gray area on vaccines

Here’s a defensive paragraph (and a straw man argument) in that op-ed:

“People have the misconception that we want to eliminate vaccines,” I told Time Magazine science editor Jeffrey Kluger in 2009. “Please understand that we are not an anti-vaccine group. We are demanding safe vaccines. We want to reduce the schedule and reduce the toxins.”

Here’s the thing. Many people have called out Jenny McCarthy over the years for her irresponsible statements about vaccines. She spread a lot of fear. One doesn’t read “They’re making a product that’s shit” or a correction of that view at the Sun Times. One doesn’t hear blanket statements that vaccines are all unsafe (“If you give us a safe vaccine, we’ll use it.”) One doesn’t read her statements that vaccines are behind the rise in diagnosed autism rates. One doesn’t hear her state that if she had another child, she wouldn’t vaccinate (a statement she made back when she was more vocal). No, all we get is her “grey area” on vaccines.

Also, not comment about the impending outbreaks.

Which brings me back to: where’s the courage in hiding and dodging the consequences of your actions, Ms. McCarthy? Are you going to point me back to your claim that “it’s not my fault” made on Larry King Live?

KING: Isn’t the problem here, Jenny, that people sometimes listen with one ear are going to panic. And not vaccine at all?

MCCARTHY: Probably. But guess what? It’s not my fault. The reason why they’re not vaccinating is because the vaccines are not safe. Make a better product and then parents will vaccinate.

I didn’t buy it then, I don’t buy it now.

And a similar sentiment

KING: Probably due to you, jenny, and programs like this, the percentage of children getting vaccinations is dropping.
Do you think that’s good?

MCCARTHY: I think it’s only good because it’s the only thing that’s going to shake up the CDC to do something about it.

Yes, they and others have been doing something about “it”. It being the drop in vaccination rates, not the alleged problems with vaccines you were intending. Many people have spent a lot of time trying to prevent or reduce the outbreaks we are seeing now. The question is why weren’t you working on avoiding this?

As I stated at the outset, it’s only courageous to stand up against prevailing opinion if you are willing to take responsibility and fix problems if/when you are proved wrong.

Ms. McCarthy, you were wrong. You were wrong to spread fear. And you can’t get out of it with a simple “it’s not my fault”. It is partly your fault that outbreaks are happening.

And are these outbreaks causing people to accept your position and make the changes you asked for?

No.

And all this doesn’t even touch on the problems of your promotion of unsafe “therapies” for autism, an issue much closer to my heart.


By Matt Carey

A bit of irony from Generation Rescue: still citing Jenny McCarthy as the face of autism recovery

5 Aug

Somehow I’ve found myself on Facebook and, even more, navigating to the Generation Rescue page. And today I found this:

GR_FB

In case you didn’t click to enlarge and read, here’s their statement:

The New York Times recently posted an article on autism recovery – and yes, it’s real! There really is hope!

Thank you Jenny McCarthy for being the celebrity to bring attention to the truth and thank you for all you have done for this cause.

Here’s a hint–there really is hope even without losing a diagnosis. One can have be autistic or the parent of an autistic kid and have hope. Trust me, I know. And I think if you ask Jenny McCarthy, she will tell you the same.

Back to the story. Generation Rescue are referring to this article (The Kids Who Beat Autism) in the NY Times magazine.

You may ask, where’s the irony in that? Jenny McCarthy is the public face of autism “recovery” after all, right? She told us all about how her kid was no longer autistic, typical, all that after using alternative medicine. She went so far as to berate the government for not calling her to study her no-longer-autistic son (more on that later).

I find it ironic because she’s been in the news just in the past few weeks, discussing how her autistic son is being bullied because of his autism.
http://www.people.com/article/jenny-mccarthy-the-view-autistic-son-bullied

AutisticEvan

I wish her kid well. I really do. I also wish Jenny McCarrthy compassion and forgiveness. I wish she would be more honest.

Let me return to the “Jenny McCarthy Berates the US Government for Not Studying her Autistic Kid” thing. You seethe NY Times Magazine article is discussing an NIH study of kids who were diagnosed as autistic but later were diagnosed to be not autistic. Not just a coincidence, but years back my friend Kev Leitch not only discussed that study while it was in progress, but pointed out that if Jenny McCarthy were serious about wanting the government to study her kid she might want to participate in the NIH study. Here’s what Jenny McCarthy had to say back then:

Evan is now 5 years old and what might surprise a lot of you is that we’ve never been contacted by a single member of the CDC, the American Academy of Pediatrics, or any other health authority to evaluate and understand how Evan recovered from autism. When Evan meets doctors and neurologists, to this day they tell us he was misdiagnosed — that he never had autism to begin with. It’s as if they are wired to believe that children can’t recover from autism.

So where’s the cavalry? Where are all the doctors beating down our door to take a closer look at Evan? We think we know why they haven’t arrived. Most of the parents we’ve met who have recovered their child from autism as we did (and we have met many) blame vaccines for their child’s autism.

So, where was the cavalry, Jenny? Where was your desire to see that the NIH, CDC, AAP and “any other health authority…understand how Evan recovered from autism”?

Ms. McCarthy, back then the autism community knew you’d never volunteer your kid for such a study. Controlling the message was just too important to you. The only surprises are that these “new” revelations so soon and are so clear.


By Matt Carey

Same old Jenny

27 Jun

Jenny McCarthy is back in the news. It appears that The View is not renewing her contract. In fact, there seems to be quite a shakeup at The View with many people leaving.

Jenny McCarthy is responding to this news, discussing fellow View host Sherri Shephard as picked up by Fox News.

“If Sherri goes … I go too,” McCarthy tweeted Thursday from her verified account, adding “#sisters,” followed by another tweet: “My View will be changing too. As will with many hard working folks. Thanks to everyone at the show for your dedication and an amazing year.”

Interesting spin there–instead of being released, she’s framing it as Jenny McCarthy, ready to take a stand and quit her job for her “sister”. Right. One thing I’ve learned over the years watching Jenny McCarthy, she’s good at spinning things to make herself look good.

She’s been a bit of a chameleon when it comes to her opinions. When it comes to autism, she started out with a new-age type “indigo child” approach. Then she took on the “vaccines cause autism” thing, which really catapulted her back into the public eye. Then the vaccine thing became a liability and she got quiet, finally posting an op-ed distancing herself from her previous views*. And, now, we see that the “View” she’s had for the past year was, well, just for “The View”. New job, new View. Will that involve autism, vaccines or something new? We don’t know. We just know that leaving the show means she can change her views.

Same old Jenny.


By Matt Carey

*Jenny McCarthy in her op-ed:
“I’ve never told anyone to not vaccinate.”

I don’t know if that’s true or not. I know she fueled a movement away from vaccines. For example, she wrote on Oprah Winfrey’s website in 2007, “But if I had another child, I would not vaccinate.” Yep, she has technical truth. She didn’t say, “you don’t vaccinate”. She just put herself out there as a leader of a community and said, “I won’t vaccinate”.

You know what word you won’t find in her Op-Ed? Autism. She doesn’t even approach the question that made her famous and that put so much fear in parents. It’s a very politically crafted article, in my opinion.

Jenny McCarthy on Larry King Live:

We’re scared. I mean moms and pregnant women are coming up to me on the street going, I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what to do. And I don’t know what to tell them, because I am surely not going to tell anyone to vaccinate. But if I had another child, there’s no way in hell.

She won’t tell someone *not* to vaccinate, but she “surely” won’t tell some one to vaccinate.

And later on Larry King Live

KING: Isn’t the problem here, Jenny, that people sometimes listen with one ear are going to panic. And not vaccine at all?

MCCARTHY: Probably. But guess what? It’s not my fault. The reason why they’re not vaccinating is because the vaccines are not safe. Make a better product and then parents will vaccinate.

Right. She gives people incorrect information about the safety of vaccines, they get scared and don’t vaccinate, but it’s not her fault because she’s on record saying (but not acting) she’s pro vaccine.

Another time on Larry King Live

MCCARTHY: We get that they’re saving lives, but the increase is ridiculous, you guys. Look, it’s plain and simple. It’s bull (EXPLETIVE DELETED).

KARP: No, it’s not.

MCCARTHY: Too many shots too soon.

(CROSS TALK)

MCCARTHY: My son died in front of me due to a vaccine injury. And there are many — every week I get a picture of a dead child.

KING: You lost a son?

MCCARTHY: Evan died in front of me for two minutes, cardiac arrest. Every week, I get a picture sent to me of a child that died following a vaccination.

What are parents supposed to think when they hear her say that vaccines kill, and that there are “too many, too soon”? Seriously, if there are “too many” vaccines, are parents supposed to say, “Jenny McCarthy is pro-vaccine. I’ll vaccinate my kid!” Too many means some vaccines shouldn’t be given which means, don’t vaccinate with those vaccines.

But, Jenny McCarthy doesn’t want you to think that’s what she said.

Jenny McCarthy tries to position herself as in the “grey area” on vaccines

16 Apr

Jenny McCarthy seems a bit angry at bloggers. She’s written an op-ed for the Chicago Sun Times Jenny McCarthy: The gray area on vaccines. She’s not antivaccine, she wants us to know.

Well, Jenny, I don’t call you antivaccine. I call you irresponsible. And I stand by that. Mostly for your promotion of autism “therapies” which range from useless to abusive. Will you be speaking at the AutismOne conference this year? If so, will you speak out on forcing disabled children to drink diluted bleach solutions or undergo repeated diluted bleach solution enemas? Really, it’s time to grow a spine and stop lending your name to nonsense.

Back to vaccines, here’s what you say now:

For my child, I asked for a schedule that would allow one shot per visit instead of the multiple shots they were and still are giving infants.

But only a few short years ago you told us you wouldn’t vaccinate if you had another child. A very different statement. What are young parents supposed to listen to? “I’m pro vaccine” or “I wouldn’t vaccinate my child”.

Irresponsible.

You hide behind straw-man arguments, even now:

I believe in the importance of a vaccine program and I believe parents have the right to choose one poke per visit. I’ve never told anyone to not vaccinate. Should a child with the flu receive six vaccines in one doctor visit? Should a child with a compromised immune system be treated the same way as a robust, healthy child? Shouldn’t a child with a family history of vaccine reactions have a different plan? Or at least the right to ask questions?

Parents have the right to pick their schedule. You know that. You said that in your “Green Our Vaccines” rally (3:20). The schedule is “recommended”. Children need to be vaccinated to attend school, but no one checks when they got their vaccines. Why do children need to be vaccinated? Well, for one thing, those children with compromised immune systems you talk about. They are at high risk for infectious diseases. They are not treated the same as other children, either by their pediatricians (yes, I’m calling you out on a straw man there) nor in school, where we are expected to help protect them.

Here’s what I call irresponsible: scaring people about vaccines with your ill founded opinions. Telling people that you wouldn’t vaccinate your baby, but claiming to be “pro vaccine”.

KING: Jenny, will you agree that some cases have nothing to do with vaccines, which makes it more puzzling?

MCCARTHY: Absolutely. You know, environmental toxins play a role. Viruses play a role. Those are all triggers. But vaccines play the largest role right now and something needs to be done. You know, testing these kids for immune issues, you know, that would help so much, changing the schedule. You know, I don’t understand — as a precautionary measure, why don’t they do this?

So, vaccines play the largest role right now? Based on what data? I’ve seen your “studies” and they are junk. Do you still believe that “vaccines play the largest role”? The evidence is even more against you now. You had a chance to clarify your position on autism and vaccines in your op-ed and you avoided it.

Here are more scary statements, without evidence:

But I believe that’s — it’s an infection and/or toxins and/or funguses on top of vaccines that push children into this neurological downslide which we call autism.

Here you are with Mr. Carrey:

MCCARTHY: Go back to 1989 schedule when shots were only 10 and the MMR was on that list. I don’t know what happened in 1990, there was no plague that was killing children that we had to triple the amount of vaccines.

CARREY: What happened back in 1989 that warranted 26 more vaccines?

MCCARTHY: Greed.

CARREY: Are all of them absolutely necessary?

KING: Because they want to make money?

MCCARTHY: Of course.

Vaccines are only necessary because people want to make money. That’s “pro vaccine”? More to the point, that’s responsible? Sure, let’s go back to the time when Hib infections caused lasting harm or even death. Let’s go back to the 1980’s. The vaccine is just there to feed greed, right?

Irresponsible.

I can go on and on with various irresponsible quotes of yours. Again, your statement that you would not vaccinate if you had another child is probably the most irresponsible when it comes to vaccines. Here’s what the founder of your autism organization had to say about his team’s efforts:

With less than a half-dozen full-time activists, annual budgets of six figures or less, and umpteen thousand courageous, undaunted, and selfless volunteer parents, our community, held together with duct tape and bailing wire, is in the early to middle stages of bringing the U.S. vaccine program to its knees.

You once shouted down someone saying that vaccines were beneficial, shouting “bullshit” on Larry King live. When you have the guts to distance yourself from the above statement, perhaps I’ll agree that you have guts. That you mean what you say. For now, it’s just Jenny McCarthy, putting her name in the press, yet again. Jenny McCarthy, selectively quoting herself to make herself seem responsible.


By Matt Carey

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