Paul Offit causes a stir

1 Apr

On 31st March, Dr Paul Offit wrote an op-ed piece for the New York Times entitled Inoculated Against Facts in which he discussed the recent Poling situation.

In response to this, David Kirby wrote a blistering response entitled Lies My New York Times Told Me (Or, Why Trust a Doctor Who Says 10,000 Shots Are Safe?).

Offit says:

An expert who testified in court on the Polings’ behalf claimed that the five vaccines had stressed Hannah’s already weakened cells, worsening her disorder. Without holding a hearing on the matter, the court conceded that the claim was biologically plausible.

To which Kirby responded:

no one “testified in court” in this case, as confusingly stated by Dr. Offit, who also writes that, “Without holding a hearing… the court conceded.”

My take on what Offit said was that any document submitted as part of a legal process must, by definition, form part of a courts records and thus be considered testimony. I think there’s a difference between ‘heard in court’ (heard as part of a legal proceeding) and ‘a hearing’ (discussed in open court)

Kirby also says:

It was a medical concession, not a legal decision. Dr. Offit and the New York Times know this.

Its also (as I understand it) part of the process that the Special Master could’ve refused to accept the so-called concession. This makes the fact they did a legal decision. The Poling’s could’ve elected to have their daughters case heard in a civil court (I think) in which case they really would’ve been held to a medical/scientific standard of proof. They chose not to do so.

Kirby goes on:

This statement, too, is misleading: “Even five vaccines at once would not place an unusually high burden on a child’s immune system.”……Hannah received five shots, but nine vaccines.

Which, to be fair to Dr Offit is exactly what he said:

In 2000, when Hannah was 19 months old, she received five shots against nine infectious diseases.

I think this is merely a semantic misunderstanding as to what constitutes ‘one’ vaccine.

Kirby goes on:

More importantly, Dr. Offit’s statement contradicts the second HHS concession (for epilepsy) in the Poling case, to wit:

The cause for autistic encephalopathy in Hannah “was underlying mitochondrial dysfunction, exacerbated by vaccine-induced fever and immune stimulation that exceeded metabolic reserves.”

Now, lets be honest – nobody aside from David Kirby has actually _seen_ this second HHS ‘concession’. I can’t help but note that the part that Mr Kirby quotes from this second report does not contain the phrase ‘autistic encephalopathy’ (and what exactly _is_ ‘autistic encephalopathy’?). I also think its a little unfair to expect Dr Offit to be a mind reader and know what an unreleased report says.

I further think that in a piece that asks why we should just trust, Mr Kirby (with all due respect to him) asking us to do the exact same thing is a little incongruous.

We really need this issue sorted out by either releasing this document that directly ties a diagnosis of autism _directly_ to vaccines, or by applying the same rules to everyone.

Mr Kirby then goes on to challenge Dr Offits most (in)famous statement:

“Our analysis shows that infants have the theoretical capacity to respond to about 10,000 vaccines at once”

This is slightly disingenuous as this really has no bearing whatsoever on the Poling case. Its also – as stated by Dr Offit – a _theoretical_ scenario. No one is seriously suggesting any infant has 10,000 shots. The paper from Dr Offit used this calculation to respond to the idea that vaccines can overwhelm the immune system.

And lets be clear. This is science. Good science. To the best of my knowledge no-one has refuted it in any reputable journal. If anyone has an issue with the overall idea (vaccines not overwhelming the immune system) or the maths involved, then they should submit it to a reputable journal for peer review.

However, one of the most disturbing aspects of this turn of events is the response to Dr Offit’s piece on the EoH Yahoo Group. I should note that David Kirby has _no control or ownership of this group_ before I continue.

Within a few hours of Dr Offit’s piece being published, Ginger Taylor took it upon herself to send Dr Offit’s phone number to the EoH group at large, as part of an email conversation she had had with Dr Offit. Thus drew a number of responses from her list mates such as:

Oh no….. His phone number on EOH? Lord help him!

Quite. Although the group moderator was quick to ask people not to harass Dr Offit, he stopped short of deleting this very ill-considered post.

Lets not forget that Dr Offit (and his children) have been the subject of severe harassment from those who believe in an autism/vaccine hypothesis:

….as Paul Offit, a vaccine expert who served on the committee, tried to make his way through the crowd, one of the protestors screamed at him through a megaphone: “The devil—it’s the devil!” One protester held a sign that read “TERRORIST” with a photo of Offit’s face. Just before Offit reached the door, a man dressed in a prison uniform grabbed Offit’s jacket. “It was harrowing,” Offit recalls.

….

He has since received hundreds of malicious and threatening emails, letters and phone calls accusing him of poisoning children and “selling out” to pharmaceutical companies. One phone caller listed the names of Offit’s two young children and the name of their school. One email contained a death threat—”I will hang you by your neck until you’re dead”—that Offit reported to federal investigators.

Knowing this, why Taylor saw fit to do this at all is puzzling. However, when she was asked how she felt about communicating with Dr Offit, she also saw fit to comment:

The whole thing actually creeped me out and I just dropped it.

My personal opinion is that a considered reply from Dr Offit to Taylor which included a friendly invitation to contact him again is not creepy at all. What _is_ creepy (to me) is publishing the phone number of a man who has been subject to vicious abuse – as have his children. To me, it is irresponsible in the extreme.

19 Responses to “Paul Offit causes a stir”

  1. kristina April 1, 2008 at 14:24 #

    And a pattern of behavior not uncharacteristic of those on that list.

  2. Joseph April 1, 2008 at 15:21 #

    Clearly, Dr. Offit is not referring to 10,000 actual injections at once. It’s about the theoretical immune system capacity of a typical child; there’s a paper on it, and Kirby should know that. Kirby’s post is mostly about nitpicking non-relevant points.

    That got me thinking about what the most toxic ingredient of a vaccine might be, however. If we were talking about 10,000 thimerosal-containing vaccines, a person would get 250,000 micrograms of thimerosal or 0.25 grams. That would probably make someone quite sick, but as we know, a man once ingested over 5 grams of thimerosal. He even went into a comma, but eventually recovered completely. So it seems theoretically possible to survive 10,000 TCV injections if we consider thimerosal alone.

    TCVs contain more than just thimerosal, however. They are mostly made of water, perhaps 1ml of water or 1 gram. It is generally understood that you can’t consume more than 3 quarts of water an hour, becase the body can’t excrete water that fast. A 28-year-old woman once died from water intoxication after drinking 6 liters of water in 3 hours. In 10,000 vaccines you might find about 10 liters of water.

    Conclusion: The most toxic ingredient of a thimerosal-containing vaccine is water.

  3. Matt April 1, 2008 at 17:17 #

    Wow–Dr. Offit makes a good faith effort to make open communication, and is rewarded with this sort of intimidation (making his phone number public)?

    Second–the 10,000 ‘shots’ was an interesting choice of words by Mr. Kirby. Incorrect, and misleading, in my view.

  4. Patrick April 1, 2008 at 21:03 #

    Keep up the good work Paul!

    In my opinion: You’ve got to be doing something right to have the sophomores all up tight and doing the potty dance as they attempt to twist your words to suit their own opinion.

  5. Regan April 1, 2008 at 21:27 #

    Cited from David Kirby,
    “…It was a medical concession, not a legal decision…”
    ———–
    Is it? I thought that the standard for VAERS at this time was plausible mechanism, not preponderance of evidence.

    As for posting the telephone number. Given the past history of harassment of Dr. Offit, that was unwise and uncalled for.

  6. alyric April 1, 2008 at 23:13 #

    It’s been quite a while since I studied anything about immunology, but from what I remember, the idea that an immune system could be so weak as to not handle the whole range of vaccines – even in one go – is completely and utterly ludicrous. Consider – a vaccine has only the antigen at a small dose that’s required to stimulate the immune system. Meanwhile take a deep breath and the vaccine could be distilled water by comparison – millions of antigens with every lungful. It’s the daftest idea I’ve ever heard of. If any post-partum infant had the immune system the EOH mob insist they have – they would very promptly cease to be among the living.

  7. Regan April 1, 2008 at 23:29 #

    Meanwhile take a deep breath and the vaccine could be distilled water by comparison – millions of antigens with every lungful.
    ————-
    From what I understand about it, children with severe immunodeficiencies should not be administered live virus vaccines, but are also identified from an early age by extreme susceptibility to and difficulty of treatment for all kinds of diseases in the environment. If you take your kid to a measles or chickenpox party to catch the wild-type illness (as some of these folks do while still claiming deficient immune systems) and s/he doesn’t end up in the ICU, the odds are low that there’s a severe immunodeficiency involved.

  8. isles April 2, 2008 at 01:31 #

    I hope the Offit family will remain safe. In my personal experience, some people who are convinced that vaccines cause autism have lost sight of the line delineating unacceptable behavior.

  9. Rob43 April 2, 2008 at 20:16 #

    I feel much better learning that vaccines are so benign, and that we can, in theory, tolerate 10,000 vaccines. The theory being ‘proved’ by “one paper” someone did. On the other hand, the CDC has received 250,000 adverse reaction reports to vaccines in the past decade. And pediatricians report perhaps ten percent of the adverse reactions they observe or hear from worried parents on the telephone. It is unfortunate that pediatricians are not paid to fill out this form, plus they have no extra time in which to do it and little incentive to do so. Without good reporting, good studies cannot be formulated or conducted. I cannot undertand the attitudes of the commenters on this thread that vaccines cannot possibly cause some fraction of persons to have an adverse reaction, when adverse events are widely and expertly reported by the thousands each year. We need some new and rigorous studies (not surveys) before this issue is going away.

  10. Doc Strange April 2, 2008 at 20:51 #

    Rob43,

    I read your comment, then I went back and reread the rest of the comments. I don’t think anybody claimed that “vaccines cannot possibly cause some fraction of persons to have an adverse reaction”. That is a well-accepted risk with immunization and patients are generally better informed of the risks of adverse vaccine reactions than they are of reactions with prescribed medications. I wonder what definition of adverse reaction you are using…typical side effects like fever, irritability, redness or swelling at the site, or are you implying true advere reactions like anaphylaxis, seizures, etc? And I’m curious about your offhand comment that pediatricians report “ten percent” of the adverse reactions they hear about. Again, are you talking about fever and irritability, or seizures or anaphylaxis? Do you have a reference or did that just sound like a good number to throw out there?

  11. Joseph April 2, 2008 at 22:11 #

    I cannot undertand the attitudes of the commenters on this thread that vaccines cannot possibly cause some fraction of persons to have an adverse reaction

    I also noticed this mistaken claim. I’m one of the thread commenters. Not only do I accept that vaccine reactions occur, but I have stated that it’s mathematically impossible for no autistic person to be among those with vaccine injury, unless only less than 100 persons have suffered vaccine injury in actuality, or unless immunity to vaccine injury is an autistic superpower. (Whether autistic persons with vaccine injury have been recognized as being autistic, and compensated, is a different matter).

  12. Kev April 2, 2008 at 22:43 #

    Rob, assuming you’re commenting on what I wrote then you should know that I’ve stated numerous times that its clear the Hannah Poling had an adverse reaction. People do. Its no secret. Any and every medical procedure carries risk.

  13. bones April 3, 2008 at 01:11 #

    “And pediatricians report perhaps ten percent of the adverse reactions they observe or hear from worried parents on the telephone.”

    Where did that come from? And why is it always assumed that adverse events are under reported?

    Have you actually looked at some of the [non-verified] adverse events listed on VAERS? Blindness, STD’s, headaches, to name a few.

    If anything, I’d be so bold as to say they’re over reported.

  14. Rob43 April 3, 2008 at 01:18 #

    I still see no one in this thread willing to admit there are some, say one-half of one percent for discussion purposes, who, after vaccination, have more than “fever, redness, and swelling” lasting more than a few days. No one is willing to admit symptoms lasting weeks and months with some small fraction “regressing” into ASD’s. Today, being World Autism Day has been instructive as to causes; there is clearly a genetic component and an environmental component. Science just in the past 5 years has developed the tools to assess genomic mutations or change; plus some significant new work is looking at environmental changes that might account for an increase in ASD’s.
    I doubt genuine curiosity on the part of Doc Strange because the point was hardly a major one in my post, but my “perhaps ten percent” (please re-read my post)figure shows clearly it was an assessment on my part, not a measurement of precise data. It comes from limited conversation among medical professionals, including pediatricians, who would never openly admit to these numbers and percentages.
    Finally, to Joseph, I cannot fathom your mathmatical formulations, but you are about to have your world rocked because Hannah Poling really, really has been diagnosed with Autism using the latest table of symptoms, certified at and by Johns Hopkins University personnel, and she is about to be compensated by the U.S. federal government for that as well as development of a subsequent seizure disorder as a result of vaccinations she received between age 1 day and 18 months. The government agrees this was one of or the environmental component that caused her regression (because of the onset of the symptoms shortly after nine vaccinations given at one time).
    So, instead of quibling over it, join the research and medical community, as well as the parents of the child, in urging the U.S. federal government to release the submitted medical records of the child as well as their own, that is, the government’s records of their analysis they used in making this determination so progress can be made in solving the issue and helping more children recover.

  15. Kev April 3, 2008 at 07:57 #

    _”No one is willing to admit symptoms lasting weeks and months with some small fraction “regressing” into ASD’s.”_

    Thats because there is no evidence of that. Why would anyone ‘admit’ to something that there is no evidence for?

    _”It comes from limited conversation among medical professionals, including pediatricians, who would never openly admit to these numbers and percentages.”_

    So its not even anecdote. Its Chinese whispers. And using such a bad source its laughable. Here’s where I managed to enter a record into VAERS stating vaccines had turned my daughter into Wonder Woman.

    _”Hannah Poling really, really has been diagnosed with Autism using the latest table of symptoms, certified at and by Johns Hopkins University personnel”_

    Yes….? And…?

    _”and she is about to be compensated by the U.S. federal government for that”_

    That is incorrect. She is being compensated for the vaccine damage presented in the HHS document and Case Report, neither of which either taken individually or together can amount to an autism diagnosis.

    _”The government agrees this was one of or the environmental component that caused her regression (because of the onset of the symptoms shortly after nine vaccinations given at one time).”_

    Could you point out to me the location of any document that explicitly states any such thing?

    _”So, instead of quibling over it, join the research and medical community, as well as the parents of the child, in urging the U.S. federal government to release the submitted medical records of the child as well as their own, that is, the government’s records of their analysis they used in making this determination so progress can be made in solving the issue and helping more children recover.”_

    This entry was made in the Omnibus hearing system by the Special Masters yesterday:

    “We do note, however, that under the statutory provision in question,
    information from a Vaccine-Act proceeding may be disclosed ifthe
    person who supplied such information provides “express written
    consent” for such disclosure. 42 U.S.C. 5 300aa-12(d)(4)(A). Thus, for
    example, in the six autism “test cases” discussed above, we are able
    to disclose the names of the cases in this pdate, because the families
    in question have provided such “express written consent.” Therefore,
    in the case that is the subject of the media reports, if the parties
    who supplied documents and information in the case provide their
    written consent, we may then be able to appropriately disclose
    documents in the case. Until such consent is provided, however, we
    cannot disclose any information. We reiterate that this court has
    issued no decision on the issue of vaccine causation of autism”

    How about that? All the families had to do was provide written consent. And whilst they’re at it, they might want to write to Drs Zimmerman and Kelley to free them from their inability to discuss the case also – something they have *always* been able to do had they so chosen. A fact I noted almost a month ago.

  16. Joseph April 3, 2008 at 22:07 #

    Finally, to Joseph, I cannot fathom your mathmatical formulations, but you are about to have your world rocked because Hannah Poling really, really has been diagnosed with Autism using the latest table of symptoms,

    What I wrote must not have been clear. I said that among all persons with vaccine injury, there necessarily have to be autistic persons. For example, if there are 1,000 persons with vaccine injury, I’d expect about 10 to be autistic, assuming there’s nothing special about autistics when it comes to vaccines. Only if autistics have a special capacity to prevent vaccine harm (or are under-recognized among those with vaccine injury) would there be less than 10. So the finding that Hannah Poling is autistic and vaccine-injured is dog-bites-man sort of news if you look at it rationally, although it has obviously not been taken that way.

  17. Wade Rankin April 6, 2008 at 20:02 #

    “My take on what Offit said was that any document submitted as part of a legal process must, by definition, form part of a courts records and thus be considered testimony. I think there’s a difference between ‘heard in court’ (heard as part of a legal proceeding) and ‘a hearing’ (discussed in open court)”

    Quite incorrect. testimony, by definition, is the recorded statement of a witness, under oath. The government’s concession was a mere pleading.

    “Its also (as I understand it) part of the process that the Special Master could’ve refused to accept the so-called concession. This makes the fact they did a legal decision.”

    Again, your understanding is incorrect. The pro-forma acceptance of a settlement agreement — which is what this was — has none of the characteristics of a “legal decision,” which requires actual consideration by a finder of fact and/or law.

    “Its also – as stated by Dr Offit – a theoretical scenario. No one is seriously suggesting any infant has 10,000 shots.”

    It would be interesting to see what Dr Offit’s recommendation would be if there actually were 10,000 shots to give.

    As for Ginger’s posting of Dr O’s entire email, might I point out that his office number — which I believe was what was included (although I have not bothered to check as his number is not of any innterest to me) — is not exactly a state secret. It is likely readily available on the institution’s web site and various directories. Had Ginger actually encouraged anyone to make threatening calls to either home or office, you might have a point. As it is, I fail to understand the problem.

  18. Ms. Clark April 6, 2008 at 20:57 #

    Wade, no doubt you don’t get it.

    In the history of the EoHarm group members have posted personal contact information for various “enemies” with a verbal “sic ’em” whereupon people made threatening phone calls and sent threatening emails to the intended victims.

    That’s the same group that Ginger posted Dr. Offit’s work phone number to. The default assumption of most observers and members of that group is that people will use phone numbers to harass and intimidate or just insult and waste the time of the “enemy” in question. It is so well understood that this is what happens that Lenny seems to have to jump in in these cases and tell people not to call and harass the newest victim.

    I am on other groups where if a phone number was posted it wouldn’t need to be said that it’s not right to harass the person by phone. That is, basic respect for people would be the default action in some groups.

    I have been the target of this kind of harassment. It’s not fun, Mr. Rankin.

  19. Kev April 6, 2008 at 23:05 #

    _”As it is, I fail to understand the problem.”_

    Of course you do Wade. That’s because you don’t like to think of your friends as encouragers of hate and violence. Perfectly understandable. Read again what was done to the man and threats made to his kids. Then try and understand it.

    As for your legal knowledge. Thanks, I’ll take that under advisement.

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