Review of Frontline’s The Vaccine War

29 Apr

The Vaccine War has aired. Judging by the responses, one might consider it a success. Pro vaccine groups like Every Child By Two were telling people to watch it. The Autism Science Foundationhighly recommends” watching it. On the other side, the organizations represented by the Age of Autism blog (Generation Rescue, the National Autism Association, SafeMinds, the Autism Research Institute and TACA) are very upset. Jenny McCarthy has gone to the Huffington Post with her side of the story, as has Dr. Jay Gordon, whose entire interview was cut from the program.

An unofficial (and incomplete) transcript is here

That all said, I both appreciated the program and had my fears realized. In this case, my fears were that people would be given a platform to spread misinformation. And it happened. Jenny McCarthy and others made statements that were, in my view, misinformation. But, I appreciated the fact that Frontline took the time to counter much of the misinformation with actual experts discussing real science.

Frontline describes the show as:

In The Vaccine War, FRONTLINE lays bare the science of vaccine safety and examines the increasingly bitter debate between the public health establishment and a formidable populist coalition of parents, celebrities, politicians and activists who are armed with the latest social media tools — including Facebook, YouTube and Twitter — and are determined to resist pressure from the medical and public health establishments to vaccinate, despite established scientific consensus about vaccine safety.

I think the show accomplished this. There was some cost in terms of allowing Generation Rescue’s misinformation message in TV once again. But, this time, this time they are the problem.

If you watch the introductory 2 minutes of this video, you will get some idea of how the show is presented

Parents, both pro vaccine and not, activists, public health workers and researchers like Dr. Offit telling various sides of the story, with the narrator tying it together.

Narrator: Tonight on Frontline: They’re hailed as medicine’s greatest triumph: conquering smallpox, diphtheria, polio and more. But today, some Americans question if all those vaccines are worth the risk.

The show is in four segments. The titles for these segments should, again, give you an idea of the tone of the show.

1. A visit to Ashland, Oregon. In some American communities like this one, parents are hesitating to vaccinate their children, despite their doctor’s advice.

2. Eroding faith in vaccines. Skeptics target Paul Offit, inventor of the rotavirus vaccine. And many parents are wary of vaccines because they no longer see the diseases.

3. Fearing vaccine risks, especially autism.. Vaccine skeptics like celebrity Jenny McCarthy have organized a community of parents concerned about a vaccine-autism link.

4. The science that launched the movement. A British doctors ’98 study theorized that the measles vaccine causes autism. Soon vaccine critics began questioning other additives in vaccines.

5. What epidemiological studies reveal. No link is found between autism and the MMR shot or thimerosal. And the British doctor’s ’98 study is discredited, but critics demand more studies.

6. Vaccines, what’s at stake. The debate goes beyond the medical risks-benefits: it involves parents’ rights to make choices v. the needs of the community.

In the first segment, they interview a pro-vaccine mother in Ashland. She notes that if there is an outbreak, the response may get contentious. It may get ugly.

Beyond the direct human cost, one of my worries: how much blowback will there be to the autism communities? How much blame will be applied and what will it cost?

As part of the introduction, The Vaccine War discusses the story of Desiree Jennings. She was a Washington Redskins cheerleader who claimed dystonia as an adverse reaction to her vaccine. Her story broke out not through the TV news show that covered her story, but through YouTube. Jenny McCarthy is quoted about how Generation Rescue took Ms. Jennings to see Dr. Rashid Buttar and how chelation and HBOT cured her.

What makes the Desiree Jennings story even more interesting is the possibility that the vaccine-injury/dystonia story may not be real. As noted on LeftBrainRightBrain, Ms. Jennings was later followed by cameras from a TV program and shown to be driving and walking normally.

The possibility that Generation Rescue is using the story even though it may not be true was probed by Frontline. Here is a part of an interview from Frontline with one of Generation Rescue’s founders:

[Frontline]Talk about the viral spread of an image over the Internet, like [Redskins cheerleader] Desiree Jennings’ flu shot story, for example.

It’s remarkably powerful what an image or an idea can do in today’s day and age, and for a group of parents who feel completely outmatched — because think for a moment about who our enemy is; our enemies are the largest pharmaceutical companies on the planet, making billions of dollars in net profit a year — you’d think that we could never compete with that. But an idea can transmit itself powerfully and very cheaply for millions to see.

So in the case of Desiree, here you have an image of this beautiful woman who’s been severely disabled that literally tens of millions of people view overnight, and imagine the chilling effect that has on a flu vaccine that she attributes as the cause of her condition. It’s remarkably powerful.

[Frontline] Does it matter whether it’s true or not?

Truth always bears out in the end, so I’m a firm believer in that. Are there moments in time where truth is exaggerated or expanded? Absolutely. But truth bears out in the end. …

Perhaps I missed it, but it appears to this reader that Frontline’s question was completely dodged. Does it matter whether the Desiree Jennings story is true or not? I think so. But what seems important to Generation Rescue is not the truth of the story, but the fact that it is a gripping narrative that sells their message.

The Vaccine War has a rather large cast, if I may call them that. Parents both pro and anti vaccine, a writer from Ashland who is anti-vaccine, Paul Offit, bioethicist (and polio survivor) Arthur Caplan, Jenny McCarthy, Anthony S. Fauci (immunologist from NIAID), Cynthia Cristofani (pediatric intensivist), Alvaro and Myrian Fontan (a family who almost lost their daughter to whooping cough) and J.B. Handley, Barbara Loe Fisher–plus more.

In some ways, “The Vaccine War” takes the same approach that Dr. Offit uses in books like “Autism’s False Prophets”. Let the skeptics make their points, ask their questions, then respond. Sometimes this is quite jarring.It is tough to sit back and listen to someone spread information and wait for the response.

The Vaccine War is well researched. Even though people like Jenny McCarthy got some air time for their ideas, they are quite upset about the Frontline episode.

Perhaps I am the only one who will find this ironic. In response to this episode, one which discusses how groups like Generation Rescue use social networking on the internet to get their message out, they are taking to social networking. Twitter, blogging…

As noted above Jenny McCarthy and Dr. Jay Gordon have taken to the Huffington Post to respond to the show. the Age of Autism is being very critical. They are attempting to “poll mob” the Frontline website. (humorous aside–they haven’t figured out that the survey doesn’t record their answers. It only shows you how your responses compare to the actual survey.)

If you have friends, family who are wondering about the vaccine/autism “controversy”, this is a good show to refer them to. It gives both sides. It allows people like Jenny McCarthy to give her viewpoint–and it gives the response.

18 Responses to “Review of Frontline’s The Vaccine War”

  1. sam April 29, 2010 at 04:32 #

    The show was utter nonsense and did not prove that vaccines are safe at all -I won’t be watching another PBS program that sold out to corporate interest groups like the drug cartels.

    Shame on you PBS the pitting doctors against parents was not fair and proved nothing to try and persuade the public -that vaccines like Gardasil are not killing our young kids.

    Vaccine ingredients include: carcinogens that cause cancer. How could anyone believe they are safe?

  2. Chris April 29, 2010 at 05:05 #

    Ooh, do you have evidence that they are the quantity to cause cancer? What particular ingredients, and how much? If vaccines cause so much cancer, why is the average age of death going up and not down?

    Did you miss the discussion of the studies done around the world? Or are you ignoring them because you do not like the results?

    Do you have better studies to show that vaccines are worse than the diseases?

    Make sure you have a rejoinder for each and everyone of these:

    Lack of Association between Measles Virus Vaccine and Autism with Enteropathy: A Case-Control Study.
    Hornig M et al.
    PLoS ONE 2008; 3(9): e3140 doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0003140
    *Subjects: 25 children with autism and GI disturbances and 13 children with GI disturbances alone (controls)

    Measles Vaccination and Antibody Response in Autism Spectrum Disorders.
    Baird G et al.
    Arch Dis Child 2008; 93(10):832-7.
    Subjects: 98 vaccinated children aged 10-12 years in the UK with autism spectrum disorder (ASD); two control groups of similar age: 52 children with special educational needs but no ASD and 90 children in the typically developing group

    MMR-Vaccine and Regression in Autism Spectrum Disorders: Negative Results Presented from Japan.
    Uchiyama T et al.
    J Autism Dev Disord 2007; 37(2):210-7
    *Subjects: 904 children with autism spectrum disorder
    (Note: MMR was used in Japan only between 1989 and 1993.)

    No Evidence of Persisting Measles Virus in Peripheral Blood Mononuclear Cells from Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder.
    D’Souza Y et al.
    Pediatrics 2006; 118(4):1664-75
    *Subjects: 54 children with autism spectrum disorder and 34 developmentally normal children

    Immunizations and Autism: A Review of the Literature.
    Doja A, Roberts W.
    Can J Neurol Sci. 2006; 33(4):341-6
    *Literature review

    Pervasive Developmental Disorders in Montreal, Quebec, Canada: Prevalence and Links with Immunizations.
    Fombonne E et al.
    Pediatrics. 2006;118(1):e139-50
    *Subjects: 27,749 children born from 1987 to 1998 attending 55 schools

    Relationship between MMR Vaccine and Autism.
    Klein KC, Diehl EB.
    Ann Pharmacother. 2004; 38(7-8):1297-300
    *Literature review of 10 studies

    Immunization Safety Review: Vaccines and Autism. Institute of Medicine.
    The National Academies Press: 2004
    (w w w . *Literature review

    MMR Vaccination and Pervasive Developmental Disorders: A Case-Control Study.
    Smeeth L et al.
    Lancet 2004; 364(9438):963-9
    *Subjects: 1294 cases and 4469 controls

    Age at First Measles-Mumps-Rubella Vaccination in Children with Autism and School-Matched Control Subjects: A Population-Based Study in Metropolitan Atlanta.
    DeStefano F et al. Pediatrics 2004; 113(2): 259-66
    *Subjects: 624 children with autism and 1,824 controls

    Prevalence of Autism and Parentally Reported Triggers in a North East London Population.
    Lingam R et al.
    Arch Dis Child 2003; 88(8):666-70
    *Subjects: 567 children with autistic spectrum disorder

    Neurologic Disorders after Measles-Mumps-Rubella Vaccination.
    Makela A et al.
    Pediatrics 2002; 110:957-63
    *Subjects: 535,544 children vaccinated between November 1982 and June 1986 in Finland

    A Population-Based Study of Measles, Mumps, and Rubella Vaccination and Autism.
    Madsen KM et al.
    N Engl J Med 2002; 347(19):1477-82
    *Subjects: All 537,303 children born 1/91–12/98 in Denmark

    Relation of Childhood Gastrointestinal Disorders to Autism: Nested Case Control Study Using Data from the UK General Practice Research Database.
    Black C et al.
    BMJ 2002; 325:419-21
    *Subjects: 96 children diagnosed with autism and 449 controls

    Measles, Mumps, and Rubella Vaccination and Bowel Problems or Developmental Regression in Children with Autism: Population Study.
    Taylor B et al.
    BMJ 2002; 324(7334):393-6
    *Subjects: 278 children with core autism and 195 with atypical autism

    No Evidence for a New Variant of Measles-Mumps-Rubella-Induced Autism.
    Fombonne E et al.
    Pediatrics 2001;108(4):E58
    *Subjects: 262 autistic children (pre- and post-MMR samples)

    Measles-Mumps-Rubella and Other Measles-Containing Vaccines Do Not Increase the Risk for Inflammatory Bowel Disease: A Case-Control Study from the Vaccine Safety Datalink Project.
    Davis RL et al.
    Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med 2001;155(3):354-9
    *Subjects: 155 persons with IBD with up to 5 controls each

    Time Trends in Autism and in MMR Immunization Coverage in California.
    Dales L et al.
    JAMA 2001; 285(9):1183-5
    *Subjects: Children born in 1980-94 who were enrolled in California kindergartens (survey samples of 600–1,900 children each year)

    Mumps, Measles, and Rubella Vaccine and the Incidence of Autism Recorded by General Practitioners: A Time Trend Analysis.
    Kaye JA et al.
    BMJ 2001; 322:460-63
    *Subjects: 305 children with autism

    Further Evidence of the Absence of Measles Virus Genome Sequence in Full Thickness Intestinal Specimens from Patients with Crohn’s Disease.
    Afzal MA, et al.
    J Med Virol 2000; 62(3):377-82
    *Subjects: Specimens from patients with Crohn’s disease

    Autism and Measles, Mumps, and Rubella Vaccine: No Epidemiological Evidence for a Causal Association.
    Taylor B et al.
    Lancet 1999;353 (9169):2026-9
    *Subjects: 498 children with autism

    Absence of Detectable Measles Virus Genome Sequence in Inflammatory Bowel Disease Tissues and Peripheral Blood Lymphocytes.
    Afzal MA et al.
    J Med Virol 1998; 55(3):243-9
    *Subjects: 93 colonoscopic biopsies and 31 peripheral blood lymphocyte preparations

    No Evidence for Measles, Mumps, and Rubella Vaccine-Associated Inflammatory Bowel Disease or Autism in a 14-year Prospective Study.
    Peltola H et al.
    Lancet 1998; 351:1327-8
    *Subjects: 3,000,000 doses of MMR vaccine

    Exposure to Measles in Utero and Crohn’s Disease: Danish Register Study.
    Nielsen LL et al.
    BMJ 1998; 316(7126):196-7
    *Subjects: 472 women with measles

    Immunocytochemical Evidence of Listeria, Escherichia coli, and Streptococcus Antigens in Crohn’s Disease.
    Liu Y et al.
    Gastroenterology 1995; 108(5):1396-1404
    *Subjects: Intestines and mesenteric lymph node specimens from 21 persons from families with a high frequency of Crohn’s disease

    Neuropsychological Performance 10 years after Immunization in Infancy with Thimerosal-Containing Vaccines
    Tozzi AE, Bisiacchi P, Tarantino V, De Mei B, D’Elia L, Chiarotti F, Salmaso S.
    Pediatrics, February 2009, Vol. 123(2):475-82

    Mercury Levels in Newborns and Infants after Receipt of Thimerosal-Containing Vaccines
    Pichichero ME, Gentile A, Giglio N, et al
    Pediatrics, February 2008; 121(2) e208-214

    Mercury, Vaccines, And Autism: One Controversy, Three Histories
    Baker JP
    American Journal of Public Health, February 2008;98(2): 244-253

    Continuing Increases in Autism Reported to California’s Developmental Services System: Mercury in Retrograde
    Schechter R, Grether JK
    Arch Gen Psychiatry, January 2008; 65(1):19-24

    Early Thimerosal Exposure and Neuropsychological Outcomes at 7 to 10 Years
    Thompson WW, Price C, Goodson B, et al; Vaccine Safety Datalink Team
    N Engl J Med, Sep 27, 2007; 357(13):1281-1292

    Pervasive Developmental Disorders in Montreal, Quebec, Canada: Prevalence and Links with Immunizations
    Fombonne E, Zakarian R, Bennett A, Meng L, McLean-Heywood D
    Pediatrics, July 2006, Vol. 118(1):e139-e150

    Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System Reporting Source: A Possible Source of Bias in Longitudinal Studies
    Goodman MJ, Nordin J
    Pediatrics, February 2006, Vol. 117(2):387-390

    MMR-Vaccine and Regression in Autism Spectrum Disorders: Negative Results Presented from Japan
    Authors: Uchiyama T, Kurosawa M, Inaba Y
    Source: J Autism Dev Disord, February 2007; 37(2):210-217

    No effect of MMR withdrawal on the incidence of autism: a total population study.
    Honda H, Shimizu Y, Rutter M.
    J Child Psychol Psychiatry. 2005 Jun;46(6):572-9.

    Thimerosal in Vaccines: Balancing the Risk of Adverse Effects with the Risk of Vaccine-Preventable Disease
    Bigham M, Copes R
    Drug Safety, 2005, Vol. 28(2):89-101

    Comparison of Blood and Brain Mercury Levels in Infant Monkeys Exposed to Methylmercury or Vaccines Containing Thimerosal
    Burbacher TM, Shen DD, Liberato N, Grant KS, Cernichiari E, Clarkson T
    National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, April 21, 2005

    Thimerosal Exposure in Infants and Developmental Disorders: A Prospective Cohort Study in the United Kingdom Does Not Support a Causal Association
    Heron J, Golding J, ALSPAC Study Team
    Pediatrics, September 2004, Vol. 114(3):577-583

    Thimerosal Exposure in Infants and Developmental Disorders: A Retrospective Cohort Study in the United Kingdom Does Not Support a Causal Association
    Andrews N, Miller E, Grant A, Stowe J, Osborne V, Taylor B
    Pediatrics, September 2004, Vol. 114(3):584-591

    Thimerosal-Containing Vaccines and Autistic Spectrum Disorder: A Critical Review of Published Original Data
    Parker SK, Schwartz B, Todd J, Pickering LK
    Pediatrics, September 2004, Vol. 114(3):793-804

    The Evidence for the Safety of Thimerosal in Newborn and Infant Vaccines
    Clements CJ
    Vaccine, May 7, 2004, Vol. 22(15-16):1854-1861

    Safety of Thimerosal-Containing Vaccines: A Two-Phased Study of Computerized Health Maintenance Organization Databases
    Verstraeten T, Davis RL, DeStefano F, et al
    Pediatrics, November 2003, Vol. 112(5):1039-1048

    The Toxicology of Mercury–Current Exposures and Clinical Manifestations
    Clarkson TW, Magos L, Myers GJ
    New England Journal of Medicine, October 30, 2003, Vol. 349(18):1731-7

    Association Between Thimerosal-Containing Vaccine and Autism
    Hviid A, Stellfeld M, Wohlfahrt J, Melbye M
    Journal of the American Medical Association, October 1, 2003, Vol. 290(13):1763-6

    Thimerosal and the Occurrence of Autism: Negative Ecological Evidence from Danish Population-Based Data
    Madsen KM, Lauritsen MB, Pedersen CB, et al
    Pediatrics, Sept. 2003, Vol. 112(3 Pt 1):604-606

    Autism and Thimerosal-Containing Vaccines. Lack of Consistent Evidence for an Association
    Stehr-Green P, Tull P, Stellfeld M, Mortenson PB, Simpson D
    American Journal of Preventive Medicine, August 2003, Vol. 25(2):101-6

    Impact of the Thimerosal Controversy on Hepatitis B Vaccine Coverage of Infants Born to Women of Unknown Hepatitis B Surface Antigen Status in Michigan
    Biroscak BJ, Fiore AE, Fasano N, Fineis P, Collins MP, Stoltman G
    Pediatrics, June 2003, Vol. 111(6):e645-9

    Vaccine Safety Policy Analysis in Three European Countries: The Case of Thimerosal
    Freed GL, Andreae MC, Cowan AE, et al
    Health Policy, December 2002, Vol. 62(3):291-307

    Mercury Concentrations and Metabolism in Infants Receiving Vaccines Containing Thimerosal: A Descriptive Study
    Pichichero ME, Cernichiari E, Lopreiato J, Treanor J
    The Lancet, November 30, 2002, Vol. 360:1737-1741

    An Assessment of Thimerosal Use in Childhood Vaccines
    Ball LK, Ball R, Pratt RD
    Pediatrics, May 2001, Vol. 107(5):1147-1154

    Economic Evaluation of the 7-Vaccine Routine Childhood Immunization Schedule in the United States, 2001
    Zhou F, Santoli J, Messonnier ML, Yusuf HR, Shefer A, Chu SY, Rodewald L, Harpaz R.
    Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2005;159:1136-1144.

    An economic analysis of the current universal 2-dose measles-mumps-rubella vaccination program in the United States.
    Zhou F, Reef S, Massoudi M, Papania MJ, Yusuf HR, Bardenheier B, Zimmerman L, McCauley MM.
    J Infect Dis. 2004 May 1;189 Suppl 1:S131-45.

    Impact of universal Haemophilus influenzae type b vaccination starting at 2 months of age in the United States: an economic analysis.
    Zhou F, Bisgard KM, Yusuf HR, Deuson RR, Bath SK, Murphy TV.
    Pediatrics. 2002 Oct;110(4):653-61.

    Impact of specific medical interventions on reducing the prevalence of mental retardation.
    Brosco JP, Mattingly M, Sanders LM.
    Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2006;160:302-309.

    Encephalopathy after whole-cell pertussis or measles vaccination: lack of evidence for a causal association in a retrospective case-control study.
    Ray P, Hayward J, Michelson D, Lewis E, Schwalbe J, Black S, Shinefield H, Marcy M, Huff K, Ward J, Mullooly J, Chen R, Davis R; Vaccine Safety Datalink Group.
    Pediatr Infect Dis J. 2006 Sep;25(9):768-73.

    Childhood vaccinations, vaccination timing, and risk of type 1 diabetes mellitus.
    DeStefano F, Mullooly JP, Okoro CA, Chen RT, Marcy SM, Ward JI, Vadheim CM, Black SB, Shinefield HR, Davis RL, Bohlke K; Vaccine Safety Datalink Team.
    Pediatrics. 2001 Dec;108(6):E112.

  3. Julian Frost April 29, 2010 at 08:32 #

    I haven’t seen the programme as I live in the RSA. Also, our internet is crappy so I can’t stream it. I’ve googled and read some of the comments. To say the antivaccers are upset is an understatement.
    My favourite comment is from Anne Daschel of AoA. She whined that Frontline didn’t interview “top experts like Bernadine Healy”. Would this be the same Healy who was part of The Advancement of Sound Science Coalition, an organisation that took funding from tobacco companies and argued against the dangers of secondhand smoke?
    ROTFLOL. Also, if she’s a top expert, that just shows how weak the antivaccine “science” really is.

  4. ANB April 29, 2010 at 14:12 #

    Sam, there is no evidence that Gardasil is killing anyone, unless you count the rumors and unverified anecdotes spread on the internet. And that was the whole point of the Frontline episode – that anyone, no matter how misinformed, dishonest or delusional, has the ability to undermine confidence in the vaccine program. So congrats on your 15 minutes of fame.

  5. Elucidatus April 29, 2010 at 20:16 #

    I finally got a chance to see Frontline’s ‘Vaccine Wars’ and I have to say that it was kind of onesided. However, if they were going to be onesided then they should have included some of the reasons why not to vaccinate. Such as a child being sick before before getting vaccinated or at the very least talk about spreading out the vaccines for sh*ts and giggles. They made many credible parents and professionals look like amateurs at best. I have to admit my relatives started questioning if I was doing the right thing and if I was on the right side. It’s truly amazing what the media can do to influence weak minds on either side. Again, I will have to sit on the fence on this one since it truly hit home where the people that I depend on most are starting to question my actions and reasons.

  6. Chris April 29, 2010 at 22:42 #


    Such as a child being sick before before getting vaccinated or at the very least talk about spreading out the vaccines for sh*ts and giggles.

    I think I heard something about some kids cannot be vaccinated, which is why herd immunity is very important.

    As far as spreading out vaccines, they do have a Bob Sears interview on the website. Otherwise there is no real scientific reason to spread out the vaccines.

    Of course it was one sided. If that side was what was scientifically factual, why bother with the stuff that is just wishes and guesses that are not supported by real evidence?

    Though I did notice they gave Handley, McCarthy, Margulis and the crunchy Ashland moms plenty of time to air their views. So there was some balance.

  7. Katie April 30, 2010 at 14:40 #

    Overall, I was quite pleased with the program. Yes, it was biased – towards FACT. I hate how the media often tackles this issue as if there are two equal and balanced sides, both with simply a difference of opinion. Well, sorry. There is overwhelming scientific evidence of the safety and necessity of vaccines. Parents and quack researchers’ BELIEFS do not constitute evidence. Neither does poorly executed research that is not peer-reviewed or replicated. Normally I consider myself very tolerant of diverse beliefs, but when one’s belief results in actions that put the entire population at risk for lethal disease, I have very little tolerance. I know that parents just want to do what they feel is best for their kids, so I can’t blame them as individuals. Who I blame are the criminals perpetuating anti-science quackery and parading their idiocy all over the internet and television.

    Only a handful of the college freshmen students in the class I TA for got their swine flu vaccine. I asked them why. “Have you seen that video of the backwards walking cheerleader? I don’t want to take that risk!” was their overwhelming response.

    Why do people believe emotional anecdote over scientific evidence? Is it something ingrained in us as homo sapiens, or is it a problem with our education system? I believe that high school science classes should prioritize the skills most people are really going to use in our culture. To be honest, most students are never going to disect a frog or mix chemicals in beakers again. What should be stressed is the scientific process, how scientists conduct different types of research, how results are evaluated, how to read a paper to evaluate its legitamacy, the difference between evidence and belief/experience, etc. Critical thinking skills.

  8. David N. Andrews M. Ed., C. P. S. E. May 1, 2010 at 04:13 #

    “What should be stressed is the scientific process, how scientists conduct different types of research, how results are evaluated, how to read a paper to evaluate its legitamacy, the difference between evidence and belief/experience, etc. Critical thinking skills.”

    I couldn’t agree more, actually. I trained in some sciences – behavioural (psychology, education) and mathematical (mathematics, physics) – and in archaeology as well. The vast majority of things like dissection and so on … this doesn’t really have a place unless there’s a clear necessity for it later, and dissections can be safely left till higher education, really. The philosophy and methodology of science is left out of science in pre-HE settings to the detriment of those taking sciences at university level.

  9. Kerry Maxwell May 1, 2010 at 06:00 #

    Such as a child being sick before before getting vaccinated or at the very least talk about spreading out the vaccines for sh*ts and giggles.

    Ah yes, Sh*ts & Giggles, two critical components of any sensible and rational public health policy! Sorry, but I can’t help but think the slogan for this sentiment should be “I’m not anti-vax, I’m just not very bright!”. Spreading out the vaccine schedule has been *talked about* and found to be without scientific merit. Maybe you would have your children’s health be determined by a “Sh*ts & Giggles* standard, but as the parent of two autistic children, I strongly support rational science based standards, although my kids would almost certainly endorse a *Farts & Giggles* public health policy.

  10. Anne May 1, 2010 at 16:09 #

    Kerry, after reading Bob Sears’ interview on the Frontline website, I thought his spread-out schedule was a practical attempt to get people who would not otherwise vaccinate their kids to accept vaccination. If it’s true that people go into the pediatrician’s office refusing all vaccination, then I think it is better to offer an alternative schedule than to just fire them as patients. While there’s no scientific support for the spread-out schedule, it gets vaccine protection to the kids eventually, and that’s better than no protection.

  11. Kerry Maxwell May 1, 2010 at 16:54 #

    If there was no risk to the kids from this approach, it would be a no-brainer. But there is risk, so I’m not very comfortable with “If it makes you feel better, we can put your child at risk with a spread out schedule to accommodate your irrational fear and scientific illiteracy”. And the anti-vax movement would latch onto this as tacit acknowledgment of the “dangers” of the current schedule. It just seems like a poor strategy for dealing with the problem on a large scale.

  12. Anne May 1, 2010 at 17:55 #

    Yeah I see your point Kerry, and there is a risk, and the anti-vax movement does latch onto the delayed schedule as tacit (really, more than tacit) acknowledgment of the dangers of the current schedule. But patients will, for whatever reasons, engage in risky behavior against medical advice. My thinking was that it can make sense to do what you can at least to lessen the risk.

    Given the degree to which people don’t comply with medical advice even on issues where there is no possible justification for noncompliance, I’m assuming it’s true that at least some people will not be reasoned into accepting the prevailing view of substantial vaccine safety, either by their doctors or anyone else. So I can see where the half a loaf approach could have some merit.

  13. Kerry Maxwell May 1, 2010 at 18:15 #

    Unfortunately, the patient is not the one making the decisions here. If I drink too much and eat bacon every day against my doctors orders, that’s not the same as giving my kid a few shots and a few slices of nitrate-laden pork fat every day;) Added to that is the public safety / epidemiological issue of an increased incidence of communicable disease in the population that the “not scientifically based schedule” would raise. It’s more like a couple slices of slightly moldy bread approach. As an individual decision by a doctor and their patient-by-proxy, I suppose it’s less than insane, but as an overall strategy or health policy?

  14. Anne May 1, 2010 at 18:36 #

    As an overall strategy or health policy, no.

  15. danyulengelke August 14, 2014 at 19:29 #

    Great review!

    We’re linking to your article for Medical Documentaries at

    Keep up the good work!

  16. MrTea January 19, 2019 at 03:09 #

    Something you will never see on the corporate media (including PBS)–the book China Rx regarding the outsourcing of pharma production to China. Try asking an MD where those “safe” vaccines came from.

    • Sullivan (Matt Carey) February 21, 2019 at 00:31 #

      No, I’m asking you. Present hard data as to what fraction of the US vaccine supply is manufactured in China.

      Or, we can just take this as more fear mongering misinformation.


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