AAP and Paul Offit under attack (again)

7 Jul

Over on the Age of Autism, a new post has appeared which goes after the AAP (I thought everyone over there was big friends with the AAP these days?), its representative Dr Renee Jenkins and the AAP in general.

They (AoA) appear concerned about the newly formed Immunization Alliance which is an alliance of groups interested in children’s health and threaten that the formation of this group will put the AAP

<blockquote>…..in the middle of the line of fire for parent activism.</blockquote>

We have to question, first and foremost, what this has to do with autism. The answer is of course nothing. But that fast becoming the way with AoA. They posted over 100 posts throughout June and about a third of them were explicitly about autism or touched on autism. There were a lot about the speaking engagements of David Kirby, a lot of posts about the green our vaccines rally, a lot of posts about Gardasil and a lot of anti-AAP etc posts.

You have taken your eyes off the ball guys. You’ve forgotten what this is supposed to be about.

Anyway, the post goes on to say that the AAP announcement is;

<blockquote>Breathtaking in its dismissiveness of parent concerns…</blockquote>

Here’s the article in full:

<blockquote>

Immunization Alliance to develop compelling messages for parents
Anne Hegland
Editor in Chief

With pediatricians facing an increasing number of parents who question the safety of vaccines, representatives from organizations with a shared interest in advancing children’s health met May 30 to compare notes and develop strategies to help recapture public trust in childhood immunizations.

The newly formed Immunization Alliance, representing 15 groups, agreed that together they must work on short-and long-term solutions before falling immunization rates lead to further outbreaks of once-common and sometimes deadly vaccine-preventable childhood diseases.

Fresh in everyone’s mind were the measles outbreaks in nine states earlier this year.

Framing the challenges

Paul Offit, M.D., FAAP, director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, identified some of the factors contributing to the increase in vaccine refusal and the need for quick action:

• parents who have never experienced or seen vaccine-preventable diseases;
• media and Internet reports that are unbalanced;
• decreased trust in the government and health care providers;
• an increasing number of states allowing philosophical exemptions; and
• parent-to-parent spread of misinformation.

Dr. Offit pointed out that the majority of vaccine refusals stem from parents’ fears, with only 10% of refusals associated with parents who strongly oppose vaccines.

“We need to work on public messaging around vaccines — the benefit of vaccines — and to have the right messenger delivering those messages,” said AAP President and meeting co-facilitator Renée R. Jenkins, M.D., FAAP.

Underscoring the need for compelling vaccine messages is the No. 1 ranked resolution from the 2008 Annual Leadership Forum, calling for the Academy to lead a coalition that will develop a media campaign on the value of immunizations that can be marketed to parents, added Dr. Jenkins.

The group agreed that communication strategies must appeal to parents who are Internet and media savvy, and go beyond presentation of the science by engaging consumers on an emotional level. There was acknowledgement among attendees that messages from anti-vaccine groups’ helped erode public confidence in immunizations through their use of celebrities to deliver heartrending first-hand accounts.

“The greatest challenge is getting these messages out in a timely fashion. We’ve got August coming up, which is a big month for kids going to the pediatrician for back-to-school visits and for immunizations,” said Dr. Jenkins.

At press time, Alliance members were prioritizing strategies to be shared with communication experts who will help craft messages promoting the value of immunizations.

Messages for pediatricians

Meeting co-facilitator Margaret Fisher, M.D., FAAP, chair of the AAP Section on Infectious Diseases, said the Alliance’s efforts also are an effort to help pediatricians in practice, whose messages have not always been understood by parents.

“We’re all about what’s best for children, and what we’re trying to do is find a way to re-establish our trust with the public. We want to help provide our members with the messages and the method that can regain that trust and make it easier for them on a day-to-day basis.

“The public has lost trust in medicine in general — not in their individual pediatricians,” Dr. Fisher added.

The Immunization Alliance meeting was supported by the Tomorrows Children Endowment of the AAP.

Immunization Alliance

The following groups are represented on the Immunization Alliance:
• American Academy of Family Physicians
• American Academy of Pediatrics
• American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
• American Medical Association
• American Public Health Association
• Association of State and Territorial Health Officials
• Easter Seals
• Every Child By Two
• Immunization Action Coalition
• March of Dimes Foundation
• National Foundation for Infectious Diseases
• National Vaccine Program
• Parents of Kids with Infectious Diseases (PKIDS)
• Rotary International
• Voices for Vaccines

</blockquote>

Now maybe its just me but I didn’t see anything there that could be described as ‘breathtaking in its dismissiveness of parent concerns’. In fact, I think the AoA need a little lesson on numbers. You are not the majority, you are not even close. You are however extremely effective at marketing needless fear. But _this_ parents concerns revolve more around the effects of _not_ vaccinating rather than actually vaccinating.

The post goes on to describe how:

<blockquote>The AAP believes the decline in immunization rates is due to “anti-vaccine groups” and “celebrities” as if Jenny and a few websites are the only problem. What they fail to realize is that the message of groups like Generation Rescue would fall flat if there weren’t tens of thousands of parents who agreed with it. 8,000 people don’t march on Washington because of Jenny McCarthy and a few websites, they march on Washington because they know what happened to their child. If parents weren’t hearing our message corroborated in their own communities, there wouldn’t be an impact.</blockquote>

The decline in immunization rates _is_ partly down to ‘anti vaccine groups’ and ‘celebrities’. You pretty much _are_ the only problem. As I said, you are extremely effective at spreading your message. You have the marketing know-how and you have the money to do it. The _way_ parents are hearing your message corroborated is down to your adverts in NYT, down to appearances on Oprah, down to your blogging etc. But what you are doing is winching autism on top of hardcore anti-vaccinationism. People believe you because you have a patina of respectability. They don’t look past the first line appearance and see the multitude of times <a href=”https://leftbrainrightbrain.co.uk/?p=428″>your predictions have been wrong</a>, that your <a href=”https://leftbrainrightbrain.co.uk/?p=820″>hypotheses have failed</a> and the <a href=”https://leftbrainrightbrain.co.uk/?p=602″>threats of violence</a> that you make to those who oppose you.

And lets be honest, even if there were 8,000 people at the ‘green our vaccines’ rally (a figure that is <a href=”https://leftbrainrightbrain.co.uk/?p=856″>very doubtful</a>) then you don’t even come close to representing teh autism community.

According to the latest figures, autism is at a rate of about 1 in 150 (0.6%) of the population. For the US that’s about 1,827,219 autistic people. That’s 3,645,438 parents. As you are believers in autism epidemic (and thus don’t believe autism exists in adults in significant numbers) lets be kind and half that number to take us back down to 1,827,219 parents.

That means that your 8,000 parents totals about 0.4% of the US autism parent community. But lets double the attendees (and oh hell, lets add on 100,000 of people we’ll think of as followers but non-attenders) to make 116,000. That means you now account for 6.4% of autism parent community.

To put it another way, 93.6% of US parents of autistic people either don’t know about you (doubtful in this internet and celeb obsessed age) or simply don’t offer you any credence. And that’s being very, very kind to your numerical position indeed.

AoA go on to claim that:

<blockquote>…there are five major problems with the AAP’s new approach:

1. You can’t defend the assertions

The “fewer antigens” argument has been a Paul Offit special for years. Not only is this argument confusing for parents to understand, it also means nothing. Offit’s claim is based exclusively on the removal of an older Pertussis vaccine (which was causing many problems) decades ago.

What parents see clearly is how many more vaccines they are getting.</blockquote>

This reveals the anti-science beating heart of AoA. A vaccine is just a vehicle for its contents. The antigens argument _is_ the point:

<blockquote>”Of course, most vaccines contain far fewer than 100 antigens (for example, the hepatitis B, diphtheria, and tetanus vaccines each contain 1 antigen), so the estimated number of vaccines to which a child could respond is conservative. But using this estimate, we would predict that if 11 vaccines were given to infants at one time, then about 0.1% of the immune system would be “used up.””</blockquote>

<a href=”http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/cgi/content/full/109/1/124”>Pediatrics</a&gt;

<blockquote>

2. The news is making them look very stupid

With the Hannah Poling case, Dr. Bernadine Healy’s recent comments, the potential for an Omnibus decision going our way, Julie Gerberding retreating, the IOM revisiting the “environment’s” role in autism, and the case reports of children falling into autism after vaccines continuing to roll in</blockquote>

The Hannah Poling case? Please demonstrate where that showed that vaccines cause or contribute to autism. Bernadine Healy was at one time (and maybe still is, I don’t know) <a href=”https://leftbrainrightbrain.co.uk/?p=846″>a tobacco company shill</a>. Gerderding and the IOM are indeed revisiting the ‘environmental’ roles in autism. What’s that got to do with vaccines? And what case reports of children falling into autism are we talking about?

This is what I meant about a patina of respectability. On the surface, it sounds, _great_ – plausible – to the untrained eye. However, a quick peek beneath the surface and it starts to shake apart.

<blockquote>

4. They are not dealing honestly with parent concerns

If you have no safety studies verifying the issue of combination risk of so many vaccines, defending the schedule in its current form will backfire on you. If your best defense is to cite the 600 deaths a year from HIB now being prevented, parents will compare this to the 1 in 150 risk or higher of autism and make their own conclusions. By not acknowledging that the risk-reward of vaccines is potentially wildly out of balance, parents will not listen to you.</blockquote>

Are you seriously suggesting that people will be more worried about autism than _death_ ???

And, as I’ve demonstrated, I don’t think that organisations that speak to less than one percent of autism parents can really claim to have their pulse on what autism parents really care about.

The last one is ‘Offit is a time bomb’. I’m not really sure what the point there is.

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One Response to “AAP and Paul Offit under attack (again)”

  1. Notteh Starchild July 7, 2008 at 21:03 #

    I noticed a photo accompanies the blob entry you are referring to, Kev. I hate to criticize, but graphics are supposed to assist in helping the reader to understand the message of the text. I was left quite puzzled by that particular graphic. I asked myself, is it a photo of the author of the article, or is it a reference to Orac’s “Hitler Zombie” or perhaps a not so subtle self-cancellation of the message of the blob entry via the required invocation of Godwin’s Law? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Godwin's_law

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