Paul Offit in the New York Times

13 Jan

Paul Offit is in the NYT today talking about his book:

A new book defending vaccines, written by a doctor infuriated at the claim that they cause autism, is galvanizing a backlash against the antivaccine movement in the United States.

which is true. For the first time in the nearly six years I’ve been blogging about autism and vaccines, things are happening beyond the stale, jargon filled denouncements appended to the end of news pieces about autism and vaccines. Doctors in the US and UK are wising up to the very real health dangers – and dangers posed to autism research – posed by the antivaccine/autism lobby. I’ve seen health experts on TV over here, read many interviews with actual doctors and scientists in both countries and am aware of plans to carry the message much, much further and harder than ever before. Its about time.

Offit again mentions the threats he’s received and Dr. Gregory A. Poland mentions threats his kids, something that Offit has also received, as have I and several other autism parents who don’t believe vaccines cause autism. Some scoff at that according to the NYT article. I would suggest that that displays a level of arrogance and head-burying that is unhealthy.

However, I think some of the scientists involved are naive or simply don’t understand the level of blind fanaticism they are dealing with:

If the surgeon general or the secretary of health or the head of the C.D.C. would come out and make a really strong statement on this, I think the whole thing would go away,” said Dr. Peter J. Hotez, president of the Sabin Vaccine Institute, who has a severely autistic daughter…

With respect to Dr Hotez, thats living in a fantasy world. What would happen is that certain factions would simply do what they try to do to Dr Offit, Dr Poland, Dr Shattuck, him (if he knew it), me, Kathleen, Kristina, Amanda, Orac, Joseph, Do’C (the list goes ever on) and now Josh and Ben from Change.org – they would suggest that the Surgeon General had become a pharma shill. They would wheel out the same tired old statements from ex-heads of NIH etc, people who have no relevance and no ideas and the whole thing would just go around and around.

To be 100% honest, the best thing to do with these people is buy them an island somewhere, transport them to it and let them live out their lives totally organically and naturally. Two birds, one stone.

But seriously, you will never, ever get through to these people. They cannot be reasoned with. To quote Lord Byron:

Those who will not reason are bigots, those who cannot are fools, and those who dare not are slaves.

Leading members of Generation Rescue are quoted in the piece:

We have hundreds of fully recovered children. I’m very frustrated that Dr. Offit, who’s never treated an autistic child, is spending his time trying to refute the reality of biomedical recovery.

He…condemned threats generally, saying he had received some himself. “No one should ever do that to another human being,” he said.

This is a constant source of puzzlement to me as I keep hearing about these ‘hundreds of full recovered children’ (didn’t it used to be thousands?) and yet a search of PubMed for these case studies show nothing at all.

So where are they? Much like David Kirby with his claim HHS have said vaccines caused Hannah Poling’s autism when they have not, this is yet another soundbite with no substance at all to back it up. How long can one keep making such wild claims without a shred of evidence to support them? How long before one’s own conscience starts to trouble you?

Many doctors now argue that reporters should treat the antivaccine lobby with the same indifference they do Holocaust deniers, AIDS deniers and those claiming to have proof that NASA faked the Moon landings.

I agree. But whilst we live in a society that thinks Jenny McCarthy is capable of offering medical advice and the media love celebs more than people it ain’t going to happen. Medical science needs to carry on fighting and fighting harder.

6 Responses to “Paul Offit in the New York Times”

  1. Patrick January 14, 2009 at 01:06 #

    I’m wondering when GR is going to get off their butt and make a theme movie, just like AS did.

    Show us how simple it is. Cost and all.
    Show us the end product.

    After all, they have inside contacts in the motion picture production industry now, don’t they?

  2. _Arthur January 14, 2009 at 01:42 #

    Kathleen’s latest opus mentions a child: “a nine-year-old autistic boy who over the previous six years had undergone chelation, antiviral therapy and far-infrared sauna sessions, and had been administered secretin and intravenous immune globulin for his autism. ” Who was then given 80 session of ionic footbaths in an EMR-free environment.

    Sounds like a fully recovered kid amongs hundreds, to me.

  3. alyric January 14, 2009 at 03:08 #

    The recovered kid scenario isn’t all that convincing if you look at some sources closely like jenny McCarthy’s book. They’re sort of recovered except for some little thing….or two. In other words they develop as these obviously high functioning kids do and the parents seeing progress claim recovery. It’s frustrating because in the book it’s diagnosis by two, recovery by four, both of which are far too early. I’d like to see how these kids deal with middle and early hhigh school. Also, the kids are on behavioral programs so who says this recovery has anything to do with biomed?

  4. Neuroskeptic January 15, 2009 at 15:09 #

    Were the kids even autistic to start with? Who diagnosed them? It’s not hard to recover from autism if you never had it – could that be a factor here?

  5. David Pollard February 2, 2009 at 05:02 #

    Research by Laura Curran and colleagues may hold a clue to the perceived connection between vaccination and autism. Their research discovered that autistic spectrum symptoms were reduced during the time that infants had a fever. Rodney Cotterill had published details of similar findings in Nature as early 1985, in a paper titled ‘Fever in Autistics’, though there seems to have been little further research in this area until recently.

    Autistic spectrum symptoms generally develop quite slowly. In a proportion of cases it could well be that, because of their slow onset, existing symptoms would not have been noticed at the time of vaccination. Vaccination can cause a fever. Fever reduces autistic spectrum symptoms, and these then return as it abates.

    Because the symptoms return relatively rapidly as the fever comes to an end, and because parents may be more aware of nuances of behaviour at such times, this may be the point when symptoms which already existed are first noticed.

    In these situations, when autism is subsequently diagnosed, they will not unreasonably conclude that as the symptoms appeared soon after vaccination it was the vaccination that caused the autism.

    If this explanation for anecdotal accounts is indeed correct, it would go some way towards explaining the persistence of the urban myth. For to say that there is no connection whatsoever between the vaccination and the symptoms is, in effect, to call those parents who observe such a connection liars. A proportion will, not without justification, dig in their heels and say that the scientists are wrong: because the epidemiological conclusions deny the evidence of their own eyes.

    The myth that the MMR vaccination causes autism can be expected to disappear only when any correlation that does exist, that the jab may cause symptoms to come to notice, is recognised and acknowledged.

    Possibly what is needed is research into the roots of the urban myth, rather than assurances from politicians which no one really trusts. Some of the parents who say they see a correlation between vaccination and symptoms may not be entirely wrong, even though the connection isn’t a causal one.

  6. daedalus2u February 2, 2009 at 19:17 #

    David, I have an extensive blog post about the physiology behind the resolution of autism symptoms with fever.

    http://daedalus2u.blogspot.com/2008/01/resolution-of-asd-symptoms-with-fever.html

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