The Panic Virus

13 Jan

Seth Mnookin’s book, the Panic Virus, debuted this week. Mr. Mnookin took a look at the vaccine scares and started a two year project of in-depth research resulting in this book. Not too surprisingly, much of his work relates to the autism-parent groups who promote the ideas of an autism epidemic caused by vaccines. Andrew Wakefield and the MMR scare also play a role.

The book is very well written. I believe I have spent more time than most on the subject and I still found a lot of new and interesting information in this book. Mr. Mnookin had great access. He interviewed David Kirby and Lyn Redwood, including a discussion of how the book Evidence of Harm came into being. He spoke repeatedly with Andrew Wakefield. He attended AutismOne. This is not a “Google Ph.D.” research effort. He got down into the trenches and he brings new information to light.

In many ways, the book is a discussion of how people come to believe and promote ideas that are false. Unfortunately for us, vaccine-rejectionists and parts of the autism communities present the best example of this behavior in modern history.

Mr. Mnookin brings an outsider’s eye to the story and comes down clear and decisive that there really is no debate on these issues, no real controversy. The science is in and it is clear.

He also takes journalists to task for being uncritical of the stories presented to them. There is likely no better example of this than how the press treated Andrew Wakefield and his studies, starting with the 1998 Lancet article. Even now we still see a lot of “he said/she said” type reporting on Mr. Wakefield which gives a false impression that the evidence and support for both sides is somewhat equal. Unfortunately, things are getting worse rather than better with time as media outlets downsize and science writers are let go.

This is from the press release:

Seth Mnookin—the New York Times-bestselling author of Feeding the Monster and Hard News (a Washington Post Book World “Best of 2004” selection)—delivers a real-life detective story that exposes what may well be the biggest health scare hoax of all time in THE PANIC VIRUS: A True Story of Medicine, Science, and Fear (Simon & Schuster; January 11, 2011; $26.99). Mnookin, a contributing editor at Vanity Fair with a Harvard degree in the history of science, looks at the bogus vaccine panics—which started with a single, now totally discredited paper linking the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine with autism—that have cost tens of millions of dollars and resulted in the deaths of an untold number of infants and children around the world.

Mnookin explains how dishonest researchers and snake-oil salesmen have taken advantage of desperate parents by perpetrating a fraud, and how the media—by ignoring facts and pretending that all points of view are equally valid—has through its irresponsible coverage fueled a controversy that never should have arisen in the first place. He explores how cultural relativism and insular online communities have blurred the distinction between facts and feelings to the point that the traditional American ethos of individualism has been transformed into one in which individualized notions of reality, no matter how bizarre or irrational, are repeatedly validated. In addition, he gives readers fresh and fascinating insights into the scientific process, the nature of knowledge, and the subconscious forces that drive much of our daily lives.

Why are we so willing to believe things that are false?

Mnookin’s interest in the anti-vaccine movement began in 2008, as a newly married man looking forward to having children, after a series of conversations with parents of young children regarding their anxiety about vaccines and autism. Much to his surprise, a significant number of this group of well educated professionals in New York City had decided to deviate from the recommended vaccination schedule for their children, despite the fact that there is overwhelming scientific consensus supporting vaccination on one side and quack doctors, New Age healers, and celebrities like Jenny McCarthy on the other. The subject took on even greater significance for Mnookin with the birth of his son in 2009.

After he began researching the issue and arrived at the conclusion that there was no evidence supporting a link between childhood inoculations and developmental disorders, Mnookin realized that this pseudo-controversy raised a series of broader questions that go to the heart of social dynamics and human cognition: Why, despite all the evidence to the contrary, do so many people remain adamant in their belief that vaccines are responsible for harming hundreds of thousands of otherwise healthy children? Why is the media so inclined to air their views? Why are so many others so readily convinced? Why are we so willing to believe things that are, according to all available evidence, false?

In an effort to answer those questions, Mnookin interviewed scientists and doctors, healers and mystics, government appointees and elected officials. He also spoke with dozens of parents who watched helplessly as their children withdrew behind a wall of autism. “The suffering of parents who feel unable to protect their children is almost impossible to describe – and helplessness only begins to cover the range of emotions they endured,” Mnookin writes. There was also guilt, resentment, bitterness, isolation, and anger: Surely someone or something was to blame for the ways in which their lives had been upended.

Every year, some two thousand parents of autistic children travel to Chicago for the annual conference of AutismOne, which claims to be the single largest producer of information about the disease in the world. What is paramount for these parents, as Mnookin discovered when he attended, is the sense of support and fellowship they receive. Nevertheless, the organization is relentlessly and virulently antivaccine, with one presenter claiming that vaccines are a “de facto selection of the genetically vulnerable for sacrifice” and calling doctors who administer vaccines the moral equivalent of “the doctors tried at Nuremberg.”

Mnookin writes: “If you assume, as I had, that human beings are fundamentally logical creatures, this obsessive preoccupation with a theory that has for all intents and purposes been disproved is hard to fathom. But when it comes to decisions around emotionally charged topics, logic often takes a back seat to what are called cognitive biases – essentially a set of unconscious mechanisms that convince us that it is our feelings about a situation and not the facts that represent the truth.” These same mechanisms – and the same rejection of the scientific method and the principles of deductive reasoning that have been the foundation of rational society and medical progress since the Enlightenment – are dangerously at work in the so-called debates about evolution and climate change, he suggests.

Brimming with vivid personalities, engaging anecdotes, authoritative science, historical sweep, and plain-English explanations, THE PANIC VIRUS is one of those rare books that entertains at the same time that it illuminates the mysteries of medicine and addresses a subject of vitally important concern to millions of parents, with life-and-death repercussions for everyone else on the planet.

45 Responses to “The Panic Virus”

  1. brian January 13, 2011 at 06:41 #

    I just finished the section on Morgellons syndrome, in which Mnookin describes how people who were convinced that fibers were growing out of their eyeballs — which is, as Mnookin notes, “a condition that doctors and scientists overwhelmingly agree doesn’t exist” — were aided and abetted by credulous journalists in their successful effort to convince the government to fund a multi-million dollar research effort to investigate the imaginary condition. Yes, that is in the context of an attempt to understand why people believe such things as that (as Wakefield wrote in September, 2000) “the widespread use of MMR immunization is a major determinant of the apparent (now substantiated) increase in rates of autism.” [Pediatrics 2001;107;e84]

    The next chapter: “Enter Andrew Wakefield.”

  2. Alison Singer January 13, 2011 at 14:20 #

    Love this book. Just wish instead of calling the chapter on the Geiers “Geier Geier, Witness for Hire” he had called it “Geier Geier Pants on Fire”.

  3. Kev January 13, 2011 at 15:14 #

    I’m doing on interview with the author as we speak which I hope to have up on LBRB soon 🙂

    • Sullivan January 13, 2011 at 15:16 #

      Dang–I had plans for that…but I never put my questions into an email.

  4. Kev January 13, 2011 at 15:21 #

    Oops sorry Sully :s I guess we really should talk to each other about these things lol

  5. Kev January 13, 2011 at 15:25 #

    @ Alison ahem. 😉

  6. Sullivan January 13, 2011 at 15:29 #


    go ahead. I could drag my feet another month on this, which would be bad.

    I was just sayin’, great minds think alike (or, more accurately, the minds on this blog think somewhat alike)

  7. susie January 28, 2011 at 06:19 #

    I haven’t read this book, but the write up here tells us a lot about where this book ventures. The issue with vaccination is not a single issue only about autism. There are numerous other dangers presented by vaccination. Even if the risk is one in a million, what if your child is that million? At the end of the day does anyone really think that governments and pharmacutical companies are EVER going to admit that their vaccines can cause harm? The rate of all sorts of diseases are growing at alarming rates, until the cause or causes are found, I for one will continue to err on the side of caution when it comes to me and my family. In a democratic society that is my right.

  8. sharon January 28, 2011 at 11:17 #

    Susie, there is no conspiracy to hide the risks, at least where I am in Australia. When you attend the Drs here to obtain any vaccination you are given a fact sheet that lists all manner of potential side effects. It’s a terrifying read. To say you are erring on the side of caution by not vaccinating made me laugh aloud. Can you really not see how problematic that statement is? Essentially you are saying you would rather your children caught potentially life threatening illnesses than be subjected to a needle that is unlikely to do anything more than cause swelling at the site of injection for a couple of days.
    You are absolutely right the the whole vaccination/autism thing should not be the issue. You are right that there are risks to having vaccinations, the pharma companies tell you what these are. But I assure you erring on the side of caution is not what you are doing.

  9. susie January 28, 2011 at 12:10 #

    Hi Sharon,
    Just for the record I should have said that I have not chosen to “do nothing” in regard to vaccinating my children. I have chosen a homeopathic option by a world renound homeopath who I am fortunate to have in my area. By doing this I am protecting my children and not putting others in a position that they may not be comfortable with. I think many people are not aware that homeopathy is a safe and effective alternative that is available though not broadly accepted, especially by governments. I wonder why?

  10. sharon January 28, 2011 at 12:16 #

    Hi Susie, well that makes a bit more sense. Not the homeopathy, but the fact you at least understand that your children are vulnerable to disease if unvaccinated.
    Can you tell us the name of this homeopath? After all if he/she is world renowned I cant see why there would be any problem in naming him/her.

  11. susie January 29, 2011 at 00:54 #

    Hi Sharon,
    The homeopath is Isaac Golden. He moved into Homeopathy from accountancy (of all things!) after his daughter showed ill effects after vaccination. He is one of the few to have done studies on the efficacy of homeopropylaxis. Here is a link to his website.
    I know some people are scared of vaccination, and I understand there are two sides to every argument. I for one, would not be comfortable with my children having no protection against certain diseases, some I am not overly concerned if they get them, such as chicken pox. I cannot understand why a baby a few days old needs a Hep B shot, if you can expalin that to me, I would like to hear it. I think that the vaccination schedule has gone mad, and if I was to have another child, I could not possibly take them, at two months of age to have over 7 diseases (I’m being conservative here too, I haven’t checked recently, but I think it’s actually closer to 10)put into their tiny body in one session. It didn’t sit well with me 8 yrs ago and every year there is more vaccinations added to the schedule. The concerns for me too, are not just immediate reactions, I agree, these are usually quite mild, it’s also the long term possibilities of connections to other diseases that show up later in life. Isaac has a lot of articles on his website regarding this issue. He also has also published a stats book if you’re interested in statistics, it’s very interesting. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts after you’ve read some of his information.
    Cheers Susie

  12. sharon January 29, 2011 at 01:23 #

    Hi Susie, can I ask you to google Chicken Pox and look at the images of children who have suffered from it? It is potentially horrendous. I hope I dont come across as patronsing when I say I have a bit of a soft spot for parents such as yourself. You clearly love your child and want the best for them. As such you seek to minimise harm, real or imagined, as any concerned parent would. I can hear the fear you express but it is not founded when you understand even a tiny bit of biology. Did you know a baby is exposed to billions of bacteria as soon as they enter the birth canal?(Im no biologist btw).

    There is no scientific basis to the claims that homeopathy can do anything more than act as a placebo. In my experience of reading about naturopathy and homeopathy, they make a lot of claims, but these claims have never been replicated under controlled conditions to my knowledge. For me, to rely on taking such potions to ensure the safety of my child would feel like taking an enormous risk.

    Having said all that, I appreciate the respectful way you responded to my post, and hope I have not offended you with my response.

  13. susie January 29, 2011 at 01:56 #

    Hi Again,
    I am glad to tell you that both of my children have had chicken pox, they are 5 and 7, they got it last summer. I on the other hand got CP as an adult, about 27, it wasn’t pleasant, but at no time was I in fear for my life. I suppose one of the big issues for me today, in this world is the fear mongering that goes on, surrounding all sorts of topics: Vaccination, obviously, speeding on the roads; the TAC advertising campaigns, the smoking advertising campaigns, I could go on. (and no I am not a smoker btw) I just don’t beleive that the govt has always got our best interests in mind. And no, I don’t think they are deliberately out to hurt us, but if “a few” get hurt or injured along the way, then it’s worth it…for them. That’s where I think as a parent, we must step up for our children and make an informed decision on what WE, as an individual, think is right for us and our family. There will always be debate on this topic. I hope that I can keep an open mind and continue to look at both sides of the story, but to do that, one must read the study’s themselves, not take as gospel what we read courtesy of journalists and govenments and phrmacutical companies.
    I guess I am sceptical by nature when it comes to being “told what to do” with my life and my family’s wellbeing by government etc. Having said that, I am usually a very trusting person, but this side of life ALWAYS has me asking questions, and personally I think that’s a good thing.
    I realise too that I am not the one dealing with the daily challenge of raising a child with autism, and I am grateful for that. I admire people such as yourself who are as I realise how difficult it can be at times. Can I ask you your thoughts on parents who do think that their childs personality changed after vaccination? I have a friend down the road who swears it’s the case with her son, but will we ever really know? Also what do you think is causing the rise of austism in our society? I don’t necessarlily think that it is vaccination causing it, but I do think that studies must continue into the short and long term effects of so many diseases (vaccines) put into such tiny, immature immune systems.
    Regarding homeopathy, again everyone has their opinion. I urge you to read up on Isaacs study’s though, you may find something there you haven’t already read. He is not your average homeopath, in fact he often disagrees with your average homeopath on many a subject.
    Cheers Susie

    • Sullivan January 29, 2011 at 02:06 #


      can you point me to a study which shows that homeopathic vaccines prevent diseases?

  14. susie January 29, 2011 at 02:18 #

    I have previously posted a link, if you scroll down on that page to the Brazillian and Cuban Experiences. You can follow up to find more info on these through the references.
    Cheers Susie

  15. Chris January 29, 2011 at 02:24 #


    Regarding homeopathy, again everyone has their opinion. I urge you to read up on Isaacs study’s though, you may find something there you haven’t already read.

    You are welcome to your own opinion, but not to your own facts.

    I wonder how good an accountant Mr. Golden was if he does not understand that diluting a remedy by 100 thirty times does not make it stronger. Also, most of the website is just advertising homeopathy, especially since the list of “research” is a list of his books for people to buy. If you have the PubMed identification number so that I can find it at my local medical school library, I will be sure to read it.

    As far as chicken pox goes: congratulations! Your children are now eligible for shingles. Then again, so are mine. I was shocked when I looked at the picture of my daughter and saw the pox so close to her eyes!

    And for your list of questions, from the rise of autism to why the HepB vaccine is given to infants please avail yourself to this resource: Science Based Medicine Vaccine Resources.

    You will see an article on the “autism epidemic” by Dr. Steven Novella, and on and on. Unfortunately I noticed it does not contain Dr. Albietz’s article on hepatitis B (long story short: previous methods to decrease incidence failed, and children were getting HepB for no known reason (it is not just a sexually transmitted disease), and since the test for HepB in mothers is unreliable, giving it to infants was to make sure that their children would not become infected).

    Oh, I see the problem. It hasn’t been updated. Just go to the left hand side of the page and click on the “vaccines” tag to find more recent articles. Pay attention to articles by Dr. Crislip, an infectious disease doctor and both pediatricians, Dr. Albietz and Dr. Snyder.

  16. Chris January 29, 2011 at 02:41 #

    Mr. Golden does not even give the paper citation on Cuba. But we are mostly familiar with it, since it was torn apart by several bloggers: (with another link at the bottom)

    Hmmm… first one on Brazil:
    “Meningococcinum: Its protective effect against meningococcal disease”

    Searched on PubMed and it could not be found. I found only four papers on meningococcal and Brazil, and it was not among them:

    Effectiveness of a mass immunization campaign against serogroup C meningococci in children in the federal state of Santa Catarina, Brazil.
    Kupek E, Puricelli RC, Westrupp MH.
    Braz J Infect Dis. 2001 Dec;5(6):324-31. Epub 2003 Feb 21.PMID: 11980595 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]Free ArticleRelated citations

    Expression of class 5 antigens by meningococcal strains obtained from patients in Brazil and evaluation of two new monoclonal antibodies.
    De Gaspari E, Zollinger W.
    Braz J Infect Dis. 2001 Jun;5(3):143-53.PMID: 11506778 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]Free ArticleRelated citations

    Serosubtypes and PorA types of Neisseria meningitidis serogroup B isolated in Brazil during 1997–1998: overview and implications for vaccine development.
    Sacchi CT, Lemos AP, Popovic T, De Morais JC, Whitney AM, Melles CE, Brondi LM, Monteiro LM, Paiva MV, Solari CA, Mayer LW.
    J Clin Microbiol. 2001 Aug;39(8):2897-903.PMID: 11474010 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]Free PMC ArticleFree textRelated citations

    Comparison of two different severity scores (Paediatric Risk of Mortality [PRISM] and the Glasgow Meningococcal Sepsis Prognostic Score [GMSPS]) in meningococcal disease: preliminary analysis.
    Silva PS, Fonseca MC, Iglesias SB, Carvalho WB, Bussolan RM, Freitas IW.
    Ann Trop Paediatr. 2001 Jun;21(2):135-40.PMID: 11471256 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]Related citations

    Sorry, try again.

    • Sullivan January 29, 2011 at 02:49 #


      I can’t find the Brazil paper itself either. It took some work to find the journal (Homeopathic Links, as you might imagine, gives a lot of web pages in a google search). I am not impressed enough based on the synopsis on the website to forgo a real vaccine, which has a proven efficacy, for the homeopathic one.

      The Cuban story has no paper, just a promise that one would appear in 2009.

      I don’t have the luxury of waiting to find out if homeopathic remedies somehow work, even though there is no reason that they should.

  17. Chris January 29, 2011 at 02:54 #

    Oops for this:

    Oh, I see the problem. It hasn’t been updated. Just go to the left hand side of the page and click on the “vaccines” tag to find more recent articles. Pay attention to articles by Dr. Crislip, an infectious disease doctor and both pediatricians, Dr. Albietz and Dr. Snyder.

    I just realized that the SBM Topic Reference page does not have the tag list. Here it is for you:

    There is also a list of posts made during Vaccine Week here, it includes another chicken pox article (be sure to click on the much more complete list at the “I Speak of Dreams” blog):

    I hope this helps with answering your questions.

  18. Chris January 29, 2011 at 02:57 #


    I am not impressed enough based on the synopsis on the website to forgo a real vaccine, which has a proven efficacy, for the homeopathic one.

    I did find it interesting that one of the papers on the disease and Brazil included one on the effectiveness of a real vaccine!

  19. sharon January 29, 2011 at 05:10 #

    HI Susie, I am very glad to hear your children came though their CP experience with little problems. They are fortunate. Many do not. Also lets remember there are children and adults in our community who are immunocompromised and would not fare well if contracting such illnesses.

    AS for parents who claim personalty changes after their kids vaccinations that’s difficult to answer. I personally am uncomfortable with telling people that their lived experience as they view it, is not the truth. I don’t like to invalidate people who genuinely feel there was a change the day after their child was vaccinated. Though what troubles me is that many parents who make these claims have later had to concede that the ASD behaviours were in fact there prior to whatever immunisation they claim triggered this change. This is usually proven via earlier video footage where ASD behaviours can be seen. I know that my son was born Autistic. He is fully vaccinated, never had even the vaguest response to his immunisations, no fever, swelling at the site etc. He is now 2 and I see his ASD very clearly as he gets older. Prior to 2 it would have been easy to miss many of his Autistic characteristics. Also i think it’s human to look to blame something or someone. It’s a way to vent feelings of anger and fear that feels purposeful, rather than just sitting with resignation for some types.

    I feel good about getting my kids immunised, as although I am cynical I am not one to fall for conspiracy theories. Also pharma is business, if you sell a crap product people stop buying and you go out of business. So I cant see any wisdom in these companies producing vaccines that are ineffective at best and harmful at worst (taking into account my point earlier about them outlining possible side effects).
    As for the increase in ASD over the years. I know the general consensus seems to be there is more to it than better diagnostic processes, but to be honest I am not convinced on that point. I dont think it’s been all that rare, I suspect however that only the most obviously Autisitic, such as those who were non verbal, were likely to receive diagnosis in times gone by. I would be happy to be corrected on this point if anyone has any recent data.

    I hope you will take the time to check the links the guys have provided above. Take Care.

  20. Gina January 29, 2011 at 18:02 #

    @Susie: “Even if the risk is one in a million, what if your child is that million?”

    Really? Pertusis killed a child in Michigan last year. It killed 10 in California last year. Personally, and I do respect your own role as a parent, I question anyone that would risk death over impairment. I want my kids alive, even if they are impaired, I want to hold them and kiss them and love them. I want them to outlive me. I don’t want to bury them.

    A teen in my area just died of bacterial meningitis. Totally freak thing. No outbreak. Healthy kid. Sick on Thursday; dead on Saturday. Not mentioning it in relationship to vaccines but to how you can lose your kids to very real dangers.

    To leverage the very real, established risk of death against the suggested possibility (though repeatedly proven wrong) of autism, which is NOT death, is mind-boggling to me.

  21. sharon January 30, 2011 at 01:00 #

    @ Susie, had a chance to look at your link above. Two issues I have with this guy are, firstly you have to purchase his collated data in the form of books. Seems to me his accountant background has served him well after all. And secondly the data appears to be based on self reporting via his own clients, which cannot be accepted as objective. Sorry but seems like a whole lot of self promotion to me.

    Are you aware of any of his published works that can be read without charge?

  22. Gordon February 1, 2011 at 01:25 #

    Until the exact pathophysiology of autism has been discovered, this whole debate is nothing more than a pseudo-religious exercise.

    It’s like 2 fleas arguing about which one of them owns the dog they’re on.

    It was hypothesised that glycine (a stabiliser often used in vaccines and other drugs), could be a causative trigger. BUT, until that theory can be proved (or disproved) independently, it is still only a theory.

    Making bold statements about what does or doesn’t cause a condition, when we don’t KNOW how it occurs, smacks of nothing more than religious hysteria. It wasn’t that long ago that people were convinced that the earth was flat too – I prefer to see hard evidence, which has yet to be forthcoming.

    I found the book mildly interesting, but would’ve preferred a more objective approach, considering there have been some very public compensation settlements reported in the media in recent years.

    • Sullivan February 1, 2011 at 01:36 #

      Until the exact pathophysiology of autism has been discovered, this whole debate is nothing more than a pseudo-religious exercise

      Making bold statements about what does or doesn’t cause a condition, when we don’t KNOW how it occurs, smacks of nothing more than religious hysteria.

      Not at all. We can and should cross ideas off the list as data comes in. For example, I’m good with saying that the refrigerator mother theory is off the books, even though we don’t know the etiology of autism. I’m good with crossing MMR and thimerosal off the books. I’m good with saying that there isn’t any good theory so far that vaccines are a major contributor to autism etiology.

      Ignoring data that goes contrary to predetermined, poorly supported hypotheses (such as a vaccine-induced epidemic of autism) smacks of intellectual dishonesty.

      Mr. Mnookin did take an “objective approach”. The thing is, he arrived at a conclusion. People are fine with Jenny McCarthy coming to a conclusion based on nothing more than “Mommy instinct” supported by pseudoscience.

      The man spent years looking at the available information from all sides, he went to AutismOne, he interviewed many people on both sides of the discussion. He came to a conclusion and he reported it and defended it.

  23. susie February 2, 2011 at 11:28 #

    am having trouble posting, but there’s something else to pick to peices. Will read your links too.

  24. susie February 2, 2011 at 12:36 #

    Who are these people?? Credible sources of information or closed minded over opionated bloggers?
    Quackometer?? science based medicine:- By who, they don’t appear to identify themselves??

    And from Orac, of respectful insulence:

    “Indeed, so bereft of pharmaceutical funding is poor, poor Orac that before his talks, when he is required to make his disclosures of conflicts of interest, he often jokes that no pharmaceutical company is interested enough in his research to want to give him any money. Maybe one day that will change, but for now, like most biomedical scientists in academia, he must beg the NIH and other granting agencies for the money to keep his lab going. Being a “pharma shill” doesn’t seem to pay as much as supporters of alt-med think it does.”

    Maybe the case, but it certainly shows where his interests lie.
    Alas, I will keep reading!

  25. susie February 2, 2011 at 13:20 #

    Proof that it takes years for some studies to be repeated(And yes, it is the Carlos Finaly of the finlay institute, Cuba): 08/14/1881
    Carlos Finlay Identifies a Suspect
    Carlos Finlay (1833-1915) presented the paper “The Mosquito Hypothetically Considered as the Transmitting Agent of Yellow Fever” to Havana’s Academy of Sciences—the first to correctly identify mosquitoes as the ultimate source of the disease. Finlay’s theory, however, was initially ridiculed. It was accepted only when U.S. Army scientists working under Walter Reed
    (1851-1902) demonstrated that it was correct—two decades later.

    Rotavirus: First Vaccine Withdrawn
    The first vaccine for rotavirus, a common cause of severe childhood diarrheal illness, RotaShield, was licensed and recommended for routine childhood immunization in 1998. Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, however, withdrew the vaccine in 1999 due to safety concerns. Scientists associated the vaccine with a rare intestinal problem called intussusception, a potentially fatal telescoping of part of the bowel.


    I am posting these to show you that science gets things wrong sometimes. Most of the time, they probably do get it right, but mistakes are made and these 2 only site a fraction of the errors that have been made over the decades, and these are the obvious ones, how many don’t they know about yet??

  26. sharon February 2, 2011 at 13:24 #

    susie i took it to mean his interests lie in research. Something that is impossible without funding.

  27. susie February 2, 2011 at 13:43 #

    Hi Sharon,
    Well, you’ve hit the nail on the head really, he sells his published works to fund his research.
    there is a link to the Finlay institute a the bottom of the page of the link I posted this morning.
    I am aware as Chris points out that this Cuban study has been “torn apart” by bloggers. I think the issue here is, we are either beleivers or non beleivers. Obviously I am a beliver.
    I tried to post the following this morning but it wouldn’t work for some reason, so if it appears out of context that is why. It basically sums up my thoughts on this vaccination and homeopathy issue. This is directed towards all commenters on this forum.

    I agree with Gordon in that this debate amoung people, such as myself is rather futile though, as I think what I think, and you think what you think, there is clearly no point in trying to change each others minds. But I do hope that open minds on both sides of the fence prevail. And remember, science is always being proven or disproven by another scientist in another study in another lab in another time. To place all your faith in particular studies and make conclusions from these is futile and fundamentally wrong, and again that goes for both sides of this debate. I also have to say that instinct seems to take a back seat in these kind of debates, in fact, in life in general. If parents of children, and that is 10’s of thousands, are concerned that their child changed after vaccinations then that NEEDS to be taken seriuosly and investigated. A childs first vaccination is at 2 months old, could you tell at that age whether your child has any issues? The concerns for me is the accumulative effects of these ongoing vaccinations in the childs body. Not just that perhaps, as people are speculating, that the MMR is the main culprit, perhaps that shot can tip some children over the egde? All these concerns are being investigated by open minded and concerned medical and scientific professionals. WE need to find out why there are such huge increases in ADD, Autism, anaphylaxis, asthma, the list goes on. It is not only due to better diagnonsis, there are statisical facts that prove the increases are real.
    Regarding Homeopathy, again I don’t need to prove my stance to anyone. I have complete faith in my homeopath. He is an honest, intellegent and good man, who offers a real alternative to the dangers of vaccination. I am very comfortable with my decision for my children and for other people they come into contact with. It’s your choice, as this is mine.


  28. susie February 2, 2011 at 14:04 #

    I’m doing lots of reading tonight.

    I have one more link which i hope will be helpful. These are my concerns with vaccinations. This guy is the Director of the Autism Research Institute. I’m guessing you’ve heard of him?
    He makes some pretty powerful statements and he certainly appears to me to be very credible and very sure of his position?
    your thoughts??

  29. Chris February 2, 2011 at 16:10 #

    Susie, why did you have trouble figuring out who is on The list of names on the right hand side goes to short biographies.

    Yes, we know that science is sometimes wrong, but people like those who write at ScienceBasedMedicine work to correct the parts that are wrong. Dr. Novella is a professor and working doctor who is researching Alzheimer’s.

    By the way, have you heard of Scopie’s Law? Well you just invoked it by using John Scudamore’s website. Also, Rimland is no longer the director of the Autism Research Institute, he died several years ago.

  30. Chris February 2, 2011 at 16:38 #

    Regarding Homeopathy, again I don’t need to prove my stance to anyone. I have complete faith in my homeopath. He is an honest, intellegent and good man, who offers a real alternative to the dangers of vaccination.

    How can he be honest if he tells you homeopathy is a valid substitute for real medicine, and vaccines? Next time you go in, ask for the exact percentage of active ingredient in those little pills. Do not accept the hand waving terminology like “30C”.

  31. susie February 3, 2011 at 00:46 #

    I am aware that Rimland is dead, but clearly his work continues. Scopie’s law, whatever!
    I am baffled by your trust in government, that they are doing the best thing by you and your children. I hope one day you’ll become aware that you’re unwavering faith in the system has not served you as well as you would have hoped.
    Time will tell eventually, as it has with smoking, asbestos, DDT, Aspartame,(is under serious question),Lead, Mercury, Scotchguard, CFC’s the list goes on.
    Maybe this article will help open your eyes to the “science” you so strongly defend.
    A study on toxins in our bodies from everyday living.
    A quote from the end of this article I find very relevant in this debate:
    “Nor was I tested for chemical cocktails—mixtures of chemicals that may do little harm on their own but act together to damage human cells”
    How many chemicals in vaccines???

    I cannot understand how people such as yourself, dealing with the everyday difficulties of raising an autistic child, continually excuse what the governemts are doing to our children through over vaccination. I don’t know any people who have whole hearted faith in their govenment, yet when it comes to vaccination, we line up like lambs to the slaughter without question! And now that some questions ARE being asked, the governments defend themselves, whilst only partaking in studies that suit themselves, and even then so many of these studies are funded by Pharma companies! The studies done on the effects of mercury and the MMR vaccine are a drop in the ocean to the tests that should be carried out. They then conclude there is no connection to the onslaught of neurological disorders in our children. What about the other 50 plus ingredients in the vaccinations? What about the overload of diseases to the immature system? What about a combination of these issues and events? There are SO MANY studies that have not been done, and to me that is the bottem line. The scientist (bloggers) that ridicule others who question this process cannot possibly call themselves unbiased. They are letting their opinions overrule the nature of what science is all about. And then of course, the number one rule in Medicine “first do no harm”. How can these people claim this when they know there is risk, be it large OR small??

    And here’s one more for you, Wakefield Cleared.

    • Sullivan February 3, 2011 at 01:06 #

      “I cannot understand how people such as yourself, dealing with the everyday difficulties of raising an autistic child, continually excuse what the governemts are doing to our children through over vaccination.”

      Overvaccination? Which vaccines can we do without? Which diseases can we allow our children to be vulnerable to?

      As to vaccine ingredients–yep, they have ingredients. They are biologicals, so many of the ingredients are biological. They don’t scare me.

      “And here’s one more for you, Wakefield Cleared.”

      NaturalNews cleared Andrew Wakefield? I wasn’t aware that that website had any authority to clear him. Andrew Wakefield chose not to pursue an appeal. Therefore, the ethical charges stand. So far, Andrew Wakefield has yet to submit anything to the BMJ in response to the allegations of fraud. Submitting his “evidence” to friendly websites isn’t exactly clearing his name. I’ve already spotted on inconsistency–data which appears changed in the Lancet compared to the document Mr. Wakefield recently unearthed. How many more are there? If the charge is that he changed data in order to create a conclusion in his paper, why did he present a document that indicates that data changed between the early reports his group gave and the final paper?

      I have no problem with homeopathy. It is as safe as water. And as effective. If people want to do that, go ahead. But, don’t pass it off as medicine and don’t ask people to forgo medicine in place of homeopathy.

  32. daedalus2u February 3, 2011 at 01:03 #

    Susie, what happens when you spill a drop of homeopathic medicine down the drain? It gets diluted. When homeopathic medicines are diluted they get stronger. What is preventing a single drop of a 30C preparation from becoming an ocean full of more powerful 50C?

    Maybe all the increase in ADHD, ASDs, allergies, asthma, cancer, etc are due to the witches brew of homeopathic medicines that the world’s water supply is being turned into. Have there been any safety studies of how to safely dispose of homeopathic medicines? When are homeopaths going to test the safety of the products they sell?

    Why do you trust homeopaths when they are unable to assay the things that they make and sell?

    I guess it is a good thing that you have faith because there is no objective way to measure what the homeopaths are telling you. The things in vaccines have been tested and have been shown to be non-harmful. I don’t need faith to accept that vaccines work because they have been tested and have been shown to work.

  33. susie February 3, 2011 at 01:16 #

    So, you obviously beleive homeopathy works then daedalus, if those are your concerns??

    You’d think you people would be looking under every stone for answers??

    Good luck in the future, and good bye.

  34. Chris February 3, 2011 at 01:19 #

    Susie, I am not relying on the “government.” I am relying on a basic understanding of science, mathematics and history.

    If you think that chemicals are overwhelming us now, then you need to read a bit of history. I would suggest you start out with The Poisoner’s Handbook. Back in the good ol’ days mercury and arsenic were common, and were even included in cosmetics and patent medicines. Mercury was even included in a teething powder for children.

    Also, that was when diseases like diphtheria, pertussis, measles and others were very common. It was a very lucky family that did not lose at least one child before they became an adult. Both of my maternal grandmother’s brothers died before they were ten years old.

    So your question “What about the overload of diseases to the immature system?” is a little silly, considering that you do not live in a sterile environment and are protected from the scourges of the past because most people in your community choose to vaccinate.

    I am also not going to blindly believe anything until I see the actual documentation. So are the papers that are exonerating Wakefield found anywhere official? Something other than the website of a former computer salesman who that is covered in supplement advertisements, or the website of a woman who signed up to the listserv for my son’s disability solely for the purpose of advertising the DAN! doctor she worked for (yes, I know exactly who she is!).

    And lastly, it is written by Wakefield himself. If he lied before, why should we believe him now?

    If Wakefield is perfectly innocent, why is he not suing for libel?

    You end with “How can these people claim this when they know there is risk, be it large OR small??” I suspect you do not understand the risks. The risk of serious outcome with measles in at least one in a thousand. It can range from deafness, to blindness and even to death. Pertussis kills babies, and so does diphtheria (which did return to Russia and the Ukraine after the USSR dissolved).

    Before you rant any further go and find the actual factual documentation (it needs to be found in a medical school library, no random websites nor news stories) that the MMR is more dangerous than measles, mumps and rubella, and that the DTaP is more dangerous than diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis.

    I assume you are in Australia. Show us how much you know about your own country’s history. Tell us why Australia is significant in the history of thimerosal, and with the disease rubella.

    Other suggested reading:

    Unstrange Minds by Roy Richard Grinker
    Not Even Wrong by Paul Collins
    Flu! by Gina Kolata
    The Great Influenza by John Barry
    Plagues and Peoples by William McNeill
    Trick or Treatment by Simon Singh and Edzard Ernst
    … and any basic biology and chemistry books (you might want to learn a wee bit about Avogadro’s Number)

  35. Chris February 3, 2011 at 01:22 #


    NaturalNews cleared Andrew Wakefield?

    Actually no. It is a cut and paste of Elizabeth Horn’s vaccinesafety webpage (remember, the one that is based in California that someone used as an answer when you requested a UK source), and just a rant by Wakefield himself.

    • Sullivan February 3, 2011 at 01:51 #


      pretty ridiculous, isn’t it.

      NaturalNews, of course, would believe and defend Andrew Wakefield to the bitter end.

  36. sharon February 3, 2011 at 02:40 #

    Susie, my comment above was in relation to Orac. Not the homeopath.

  37. blythe February 11, 2011 at 20:03 #

    Susie wrote:

    “I agree with Gordon in that this debate amoung people, such as myself is rather futile though, as I think what I think, and you think what you think, there is clearly no point in trying to change each others minds. But I do hope that open minds on both sides of the fence prevail. And remember, science is always being proven or disproven by another scientist in another study in another lab in another time. To place all your faith in particular studies and make conclusions from these is futile and fundamentally wrong, and again that goes for both sides of this debate.”

    There is a common issue that I have seen from those who believe that there is a widespread consipracy regarding vaccinations, and/or that vaccinations cause autism, and/or that it is best to be exposed to “wild pathogens” (ie – being infected with the actual disease vs. components of a pathogen as in vaccines), etc…

    The issue is this: It seems to me that these are the very people who most strongly resist considering ANYTHING that is contrary to their existing beliefs. The Internet is an especially attractive place for people with this mindset, as they can easily find enclaves of those who will support their stance, and who will help attack those who do not agree.

    As such, the discussion above has taken a predictable turn. Susie’s assertions that there is “no point in trying to change each others minds” is the exact root cause of the “panic virus” Mnookin identified in his book.

    There IS a point in trying to convince others that your position in an argument is the best supported by the evidence – it helps you to strengthen your arguments and, when outmatched based on the EVIDENCE, it helps you to realize the failings of your position. It may, in some cases, result in the realization that perhaps you were wrong. If we did not try to change others’ perspectives, why embark on debates in the first place? Why conduct any scientific research at all?

    What is fasicnating is that, in this debate, one side relies on emotion and becomes defensive (and personally offended?) when holes are poked through their arguments. The other side tries to approach the issue logically, asking always, “show us your evidence, and it might make us change our minds”.

    It seems to me that there is only one “open minded” side to this debate. And that is a pity.


  1. Tweets that mention Autism Blog - The Panic Virus « Left Brain/Right Brain -- - January 14, 2011

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