Frontline’s Vaccine War episode ignites…well, a war of words

3 May

I first heard about the Frontline episode on “The Vaccine War“, it was from supporters of Jenny McCarthy. They were online telling us all about this upcoming episode and even providing links to where we could order the DVD.

Times have changed.

The show aired and it was not about how Jenny McCarthy and the rest are right and that vaccines cause autism. Jim Carrey had made a statement a while back, “We aren’t the problem. The problem is the problem.” Aside from the fact that it is a very strange way to phrase what he wanted to say, Frontline showed that, yes, indeed, you are the problem.

The night that The Vaccine War aired, Dr. Jay Gordon (Jenny McCarthy’s pediatrician) blogged about how his interview was left out. Jenny McCarthy followed shortly afterwards. Both were on the Huffington Post. Dr. Rashid Buttar was also interviewed and not shown. He took to a free press release to express his opinion.

Since then, many people have been claiming that Frontline should have given more time and weight to the vaccine-causation side. I guess representatives from a “Parent Founded, Parent Led” organization are not enough weight. They need the opinions of some doctors. As Kim at the Countering Age of Autism blog points out, the Age of Autism blog put their piece complaining about Frontline twice. AoA just changed the title and a bit of the introduction.

The editors of the Frontline episode have responded to the criticisms that some interviews were not aired:

Many thanks for your feedback on the program. FRONTLINE went to considerable lengths to include a wide range of viewpoints, even in the face of very strong scientific evidence against the hypothesized autism link to MMR and thimerosal. Despite the consistent negative epidemiology and the definitive verdict of the federal vaccine court, we included views from people who wanted more and different studies. The program also gave a great deal of time to the arguments of vaccine hesitant parents who think the CDC schedule is bloated. The companion FRONTLINE website contains full interviews with different stakeholders, including Dr Robert Sears, who promotes an alternative spread out vaccine schedule. The website also hosts a robust public conversation where a full range of viewpoints are being aired and engaged.

When making long form documentaries like FRONTLINE, it often happens that some interviews don’t make it into the finished program. Several interviews failed to make the final cut of “The Vaccine War”–not just yours but also interviews with contributors who support the CDC vaccine schedule.

One interview which did not air was that of Arthur Allen. He has commented on a few blogs. Not complaining about his interview being cut, but about people like Dr. Jay who don’t understand that in journalism these things happen. Interviews get cut.

That all said, let’s consider the argument that Frontline should have aired more of the vaccine-skeptic viewpoint. That people like Rashid Buttar should have been given more air time. Dr. Buttar, who was recently reprimanded by his state’s regulatory agency. Dr. Buttar who has used urine injections on autistic children.

For those who would like to have seen more of the opinions of such doctors, consider if Frontline does another episode entirely. This time, instead of “the Vaccine War”, they consider a show on “Curing Autism”, showing alternative medical practitioners.

I bet at this point many in the biomed community are saying, “yes!”

I put it to them that they didn’t learn their lesson. There is no good evidence behind the alternative medicine used in autism. Just like they thought that “The Vaccine War” was going to finally tell their story, another Frontline episode would not go their way. Yeah, it would tell their story, just as The Vaccine War did.

Let me put it another way. Think of two short words….Trine Tsuderos. I could have just as easily said Pat Callahan, as she worked with Ms. Tsuderos on the articles at the Chicago Tribune, but somehow it is Trine who gets the attention. It is her name that calls up the memories.

For those asking “Trine who?”, Ms. Tsuderos and Ms. Callahan wrote a series of articles for the Chicago Tribune. One article should give you an idea of how that series went: Autism treatments: Risky alternative therapies have little basis in science.

You see, the team of Callahan and Tsuderos took a look at alternative therapies and gave some balance–they asked the experts in areas such as neuroinflammation in autistics whether the alt-med practitioners were correctly applying the science. They weren’t.

So imagine if you will, Fronline putting Dr. Jay, Dr. Bob, Dr. Buttar’s interviews on the air. Together with Dr. Geier and his “lupron protocol”. Together with Prof. Boyd Haley and his industrial chelator turned nutritional supplement. Together with people “treating” neuroinflammation before they know whether it is harmful or beneficial.

Consider that team. Then consider the responses from experts in medical toxicology. Experts in neuroinflammation. Experts in hormones and autism.

Consider how that would play out before the American public.

It would not go well for the alternative medical community. Not because of any bias, but because their “science” is woefully poor.


67 Responses to “Frontline’s Vaccine War episode ignites…well, a war of words”

  1. Joseph May 6, 2010 at 00:36 #

    I had been exposed to mercury before he was born. I received several dental amalgams before he was born and had been mercury-exposed otherwise as well.

    @Brigit: OK. Let’s assume the exposure you had is significant. (My understanding is that mercury exposure from amalgams has not been shown to be a problem.) Is it your recommendation that when a child has kidney damage, and the mom had dental amalgams, mercury poisoning should be assumed, and all other causes of kidney damage should be ruled out?

  2. Chris May 6, 2010 at 01:49 #

    Do you have a real number to tell us what dose of mercury causes kidney damage? How does it compare to the amount in vaccine on the current pediatric vaccine schedule? How about the amount in your dental amalgams?

    Do you have any evidence to support your claims? Something from this century would be nice.

    (oh, must remind daughter to floss… she got a poor assessment at the dentist yesterday!)

  3. orange lantern May 6, 2010 at 18:58 #

    Birgit, you keep saying the same things over and over without providing any evidence. You indicate that you know all about mercury and we don’t. You’ve provided no evidence except for a 38 year old text which we are unlikely to go track down and read based on your recommendation alone.

    We all know that mercury can be toxic in sufficient quantities, and that it can bioaccumulate. You don’t need to continue to argue that. However, if you have evidence that thimerosal in vaccines is sufficient to cause significant kidney damage, let’s hear it. Otherwise we can get back to our regularly scheduled discussion of Frontline’s “Vaccine War”.

  4. David N. Andrews M. Ed., C. P. S. E. May 6, 2010 at 20:56 #

    “The main point for this blog is, of course, mercury poisoning doesn’t look anything like autism.”

    A very useful corollary here, of course, is that mercury poisoning has never looked like autism!

  5. Prometheus May 7, 2010 at 22:01 #

    To answer the question about mercury and renal toxicity indirectly, let us look at the group exposed to the highest amount of mercury in modern times: chloralkali workers.

    Langworth et al (1992) compared chloralkali workers with normal controls for several measures of renal and immune function. The chloralkali workers had blood mercury levels averaging 11 mcg/L and urine mercury levels averaging 25.4 mcg/g Cr, with the controls averaging only 3 mcg/L and 1.9 mcg/g Cr, respectively.

    What they found was that there was little evidence of renal or immune dysfunction in the chloralkali worker. To quote:

    “Thus the results gave no evidence of glomerular damage or of a tubular reabsorption defect at the current relatively low exposures. The findings still indicate slight,
    dose related tubular cell damage in the mercury exposed group. There were no signs of a mercury induced effect on the immune system.” [emphasis added]

    I highlighted the phrase, “…at the current relatively low exposures.” to point out that this is comparing current chloralkali plants with those in the past. As the blood and urine mercury levels show, these workers are exposed to significant amounts of mercury every day on the job.

    So, while mercury can cause renal damage – something we’ve known for decades – it takes higher exposures than you can expect to get from vaccines or dental amalgams.


  6. Birgit Calhoun May 7, 2010 at 22:30 #

    Thanks for the info. I appreciate the article. The chlor-alkali workers were affected by methyl-mercury and inorganic mercury, as far as I know, and the cumulative effect that was noted in Minamata Bay fishermen, probably also methyl-mercury, is not elucidated. There is also the mercury poisoning coming from treated seed-grain (ca 1970) in Iraq that was used as a basis for how much organic mercury a person can tolerate. None of those values actually measure ethyl-mercury as in Thimerosal. There is a scientist in Canada, Graham George, who measured the effects of methyl-mercury and ethyl-mercury from fish, as well, but there again he didn’t measure how much it takes to have a long-term effect, I don’t believe. If anyone knows, I am interested. To me the long-term cumulative effect is what matters. I am convinced there is a long term effect. Birgit

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