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A pediatrician’s bill of rights

13 Oct

Since the publication of Dr. Offit’s Autism’s False Prophets, there has been the first signs of a pediatric fight back to the unending anti-vaccinationism of Team McCarrey et al. I did my best to encourage that feeling with my posts on the recent Science Blogs Bookclub discussion of Autism’s False Prophets where I made it (hopefully) clear that it was perfectly OK to loudly disagree with the caricature of the poor, pity-me autism parent if what they were espousing was clearly and obviously in contrast with international public health. I also made it clear (again, hopefully) that doctors and scientists need to get public and loud with their message. If that means hiring PR firms – so be it. But other options are to blog, to comment on other blogs, to write books, to write op-ed pieces.

I think I detected amongst the comments of the posts that Dr Offit, Orac, Kristina and myself made the signs of a scientific community ready to start fighting back. I really hope so.

Someone else who needs a mention is Ben Godlacre. His book ‘Bad Science‘ is my current read (thank you kindly benefactor 🙂 ) and I intend to give it a decent review when I’m finished. But its bloody good. I’ve already learnt things that had eluded me about the importance of random selection in science – if you’re a parent and want to find out how bad science can affect many things (including our choices to vaccinate) then you need to read it. Its good to see Ben taking his challenge to bad science up a notch.

Today, I read a page that underlined to me more than anything else that paediatricians – particularly members of the AAP – are fed up of being maligned as tools of ‘big pharma’, are fed up of being attacked, are fed up of being painted as being part of some giant conspiracy. They’re fighting back.

Given the crisis that pediatricians face in vaccine management, Cohen has devised a Pediatrician’s Bill of Rights that defends specific freedoms he feels are being trampled. These rights include:
• The right to refuse a vaccine refuser, under certain conditions
• The right not to split, delay, or miss shots, or deviate from standard community pediatric practice
• The right to ignore vaccine agendas and dictums that go against core pediatric scientific beliefs
• The right to practice the pediatric profession without interference from interest groups
• The right to promote the science of public health (including routine childhood immunization) without fear of retribution from anti-science groups
• The right to change policies and practices on childhood immunization based on newly validated research at any time
• The right to refrain from offering durable goods and vaccines to patients when acquisitions and overhead costs exceed contractually agreed-upon payments, and when good-faith negotiations fail to provide injunctive relief.

Good for them. This isn’t only a fight about autism, its about public health and no matter how many self-appointed ‘editors’ like to think otherwise, when it comes to the science and medicine of public health, the effects of vaccines and their bearing on autism, they know jack shit compared to a doctor. Please – listen to doctors about medical matters. Not super-rich organisations led by people who can’t recall from one interview to the next if their child is recovered or not. There is no conspiracy. Doctors don’t hate you. They don’t want to hurt you.

Amanda Peet on Good Morning America

5 Aug

Prior to today’s Every Child By Two press conference (no news outlets to link to yet) Amanda Peet was on the American show Good Morning America. The interview is below:

The only quotes I can get online are from the more high end Celeb mags (not the Perez Hilton trashy ones) such as Celebrity Gossip:

And now that she’s landed in New York City, Amanda is doing her part to help out the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Every Child By Two organization by lending her celebrity voice to a campaign urging parents to get their babies vaccinated against preventable diseases.

With a press conference scheduled for later today, Amanda recently said of her decision to help out: “When I was pregnant with my daughter Frankie, I had all kinds of questions, including ones about immunization. There is a wealth of misinformation about vaccines out there, particularly in Hollywood.”

“My husband and I took the time to speak to several doctors about our concerns. What became clear to us was that delaying vaccines could jeopardize our baby’s life. I have teamed up with Every Child By Two to help parents get the facts straight on this very important issue.”

Peet concluded, “My main message to parents is that they should not be taking medical advice from me or any other celebrity. They should look to their pediatrician, the AAP and other experts.”

For those of you who want to see what McCarthy has been up to, there is some footage from her recent American Wrestling Entertainment experience.

Jenny needs my help!!

5 Aug

I just got this email. I never thought I’d have the chance to help Jenny McCarthy, but here it is:

subject:

URGENT! – From Jenny McCarthy

Big old banner:

We need your help right now!

Salutation:

Greetings! (Contact First Name)

I love how close we’ve become over time! Not everyone calls me “Contact First Name”.

You won’t believe this! AAP is kicking off a “Vaccinate Your Baby” campaign.

Uh, the American Academy of Pediatrics is kicking off a “Vaccinate Your Baby” campaign, this is unbelievable? Next week: nutritionists urge, “Eat Food”. Personal trainers say, “Exercise”.

I mean, seriously, the AAP recomending vaccinating babies.  This is a stunner to someone?  How far removed from the mainstream do you have to be to think that “you can’t believe this” can be tied to “AAP is kicking of a vaccinate your baby” campaign?

Speaking to the press tomorrow is Amanda Peet, Rosalynn Carter, Betty Bumpers, the President of AAP, Paul Offit (holder of several vaccine patents), and a mom of a child with autism!  They say, “This initiative will address misinformation about vaccines that causes confusion among parents and puts children at risk.”

So, we have

1) Amanda Peet. Uh, is it bad to have an actress talking about vaccines?

2) Rosalynn Carter. Don’t even take your nasty smear campaign there. I think even Generation Rescue is smarter than that. I think.

3) Betty Bumpers. She’s the “Former First Lady of Arkansas and Cofounder of Every Child by Two”. I guess GR haven’t created any smear on her either. Smart move GR, keep it up.

4) The president of AAP. Is there a reason why they edited Renee Jenkins’ name?

5) Paul Offit, holder of several vaccine patents. Uh, perhaps Jenny McCarthy would like to read up on the difference between an “inventor” and the “assignee”. Dr. Offit “holds” no patents. Ah well, that doesn’t make good smear copy, does it?

6) And a mom of a child with autism!

Again, with the editing out of the name. This could be a blessing, as the mother might not get harassed. But the name is public: Ann Hotez.

I don’t know for certain, but “Hotez” is not that common of a name. This sounds like no ordinary “autism mom”, but the wife of the noted vaccinologist Peter Hotez.

First–thanks Mrs. Hotez. Thanks for taking the heat. Thanks for stepping forward. Thanks for helping kids.

Second–assuming I have the right person, I’d say that Ann Hotez probably knows a bit more about vaccines than, say, Jenny McCarthy. I’ll take any bet anyone wants to make that her husband knows more about vaccines than Jenny McCarthy’s partner, Jim Carrey.

“This initiative will address misinformation about vaccines that causes confusion among parents and puts children at risk.”

Not if Jenny has anything to say about it. As we can see, she’s already working hard on keeping the misinformation alive.

The press conference is tomorrow (Tuesday, August 5th, 2008) at the Peninsula Hotel, 3rd Floor Gramercy Room from 10:30 to 11:30. We need every family we can to go and tell the press the truth about this idiocy.

I’d love to tell the press there about the idiocy. Why do I suspect Jenny doesn’t want me talking to the press about the idiocy?

Thanks Jenny. Thanks for making the autism community look like an anti-vaccine crowd.

On the reality side of this–there is a website that is launching on this subject

http://www.vaccinateyourbaby.org/

After the launch of Voices for Vaccines, Generation Rescue made some sort of claim that they (VFV) were copying GR by creating a website. Look, here’s another group with the gall to create a website and not give credit to GR. I am shocked and amazed!

Back to the real world– here is the press release for the actual event tomorrow.

Thank you everyone working on this “vaccinate your baby” campaign. Thank you Amanda Peet. Thank you Ann Hotez. I apologize in advance for the reception my fellow autism parents are about to give you.

edit–one note: my email client has flagged the Jenny McCarthy email as a possible “scam”. I haven’t been able to make myself click the “not a scam” button.

Protecting Public Trust in Immunization

28 Jul

That’s the title of a special article in Pediatrics:

Public trust in the safety and efficacy of vaccines is one key to the remarkable success of immunization programs within the United States and globally. Allegations of harm from vaccination have raised parental, political, and clinical anxiety to a level that now threatens the ability of children to receive timely, full immunization. Multiple factors have contributed to current concerns, including the interdependent issues of an evolving communications environment and shortfalls in structure and resources that constrain research on immunization safety (immunization-safety science). Prompt attention by public health leadership to spreading concern about the safety of immunization is essential for protecting deserved public trust in immunization.

It is quite bizarre that something that is overwhelmingly good for society and good for individuals should become the scapegoat for just about every ailment the modern world has. I’ve seen vaccines blamed for (aside from autism) asthma, AIDS, heart disease, obesity amongst other things and portrayed as part of a global Illuminati agenda to control the world population. I’ve seen people tie it in (or try anyway) to the events of 11th September 2001 and threaten scientists associated with their manufacture with death for them and their children. How the hell did we get here?

The paper from which I’ve included the Abstract above is an attempt to try and recognise how these things have happened and how the medical/science establishment can regain public trust in vaccination.

The paper opens with a little bit of self-chastisement:

Every time a mother holds her healthy infant to be immunized, she is demonstrating great faith in the potential benefit and safety of the vaccine and trust in the clinician who recommended it. Over past years, clinicians and public health leaders have taken for granted the magnitude of that act of trust. We also have basked in the praise that comes with being a participant in the success of immunization in dramatically reducing morbidity and mortality in childhood and changing the practice of
pediatrics.

For doctors, who are by and large subscribers to the scientific mentality, the benefits of vaccination are obvious. Their error has been to not notice that 99.99% of their case load are not subscribers to the scientific mentality and therefore they will not look at things with the same lack of emotion. It is in fact very difficult to do so. Particularly for something like vaccination when we are essentially treating our kids for things they haven’t got. Also difficult to see for emotional rather than scientific people are things like keeping up herd immunity:

“Vaccines are victims of their own success” is the shorthand now used to reflect the reality that, in the absence of vaccine-preventable disease, many parents fear vaccines more than the diseases known to them only vaguely.

Its true. Getting the message through that just because the vaccine-preventable disease is not right here right now doesn’t mean its gone for ever is difficult. And here is another place in which the scientific community have fallen down: they have not got the message through. Until very recently, they have not even tried.

Over the past 10 years the Internet, particularly the web, has grown to every corner of the globe and over the years, those who used to be anti-vaccine cranks have now become trusted gurus to the parents who think that looking on whale.to is the same as doing research. The scientific community has failed to keep up with this. Their solutions (the NHS website for example) whilst very informative are stilted, formal and do not speak to the emotional side/needs of parents.

The Pediatrics paper lists a number of ways for science to regain the trust of parents.

One area that needs increased investment is immunization-safety science;

…….

What is immunization-safety science? Or, more accurately, what are the sciences necessary for protecting public trust in the safety of vaccines? Most of the biological, social, and communication sciences have roles.

Some of these sciences are more central and obvious than others, such as allergy/immunology, epidemiology, and infectious diseases, but anthropology, ethics and political science also have important roles given the multiplicity of questions. Research on the short- and longer term risks and benefits of combinations and timing of multiple vaccines requires a different profile of disciplines than does the question of “what is the value of mandates in public immunization programs?”

Yes. Definitely. These are science based questions that need addressing.

Invest more in public awareness and genuine public engagement around immunization issues. Recognize the number and heterogeneity of publics to be served and the diversity and legitimacy of their questions and concerns.

? Educate the public on the elaborate, already existing US system for research and testing of vaccines, including the responsibilities of the vaccine industry and, particularly, the independent and interdependent functions of industry, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the CDC, the Health Resources and Services Administration, and all their advisory bodies for prelicensure and postlicensure evaluation.
? Educate the public on the function, membership, and selection process for members of key advisory bodies.
? Increase the number and diversity of citizen members on advisory bodies without reducing scientific expertise.
? Give the public sufficient information and adequate time to understand the rationale for any new vaccines before embarking on immunization campaigns, which can be done without delaying protection.
? Engage local communities and parent groups as advocates of new vaccines.
? Avoid the hyperbolic marketing practices of overselling.
? Improve the communication skills of public and private health leaders to present information in perspective, including benefits, risks, and gaps in knowledge. Avoid obfuscation, admit gaps in knowledge, and be available and candid in answering the questions asked, building comfort even when the circumstances are uncomfortable. Take the time to explain changes in recommendations/policy. Such explanations are essential for reducing charges of waffling, indecision, and hidden agendas.
? Invest in research on what is truly driving parents’ questions and concerns and what may be needed to earn/keep their trust in vaccines.
? Decrease reliance on state mandates and in no case push for mandates before evaluating the results of voluntary immunization programs.

Yes, again, good points. However, to me, the key question is not being addressed. How do you intend to do this? What needs to change is how you get these things over to the general public. For example, parents of autistic people generally trust other parents of autistic people. I’m sure that there are some Paediatricians who are also parents of autistic people. Maybe they are even AAP members! Or work for the CDC. Give these people a voice.

Lets see some voxpop ‘interviews’ on YouTube. Nothing stilted, nothing formal, just people doing their job, speaking their minds. If there’s fault, let them admit it.

And you’re going to have to accept I think that there is a generation of parents here who are never going to see it your way. They’re lost. Concentrate on the new parents. If they’re having vaccinations, hold a Q&A but be ready for the hardcore anti-vaxxers. If they’re in for an autism assessment for their kids (or themselves) talk to them, don’t just diagnose and dismiss, let them express their fears. Yeah, it’ll take more time but it’ll be worth it in the long run.

Said the Brit, daring to comment on US health policy 😉

Conflicts of interest, whats good for the goose…

28 Jul

As recently blogged by Autism News Beat, CBS Evening News (an American news outlet) recently performed an investigation into ‘how independent are vaccine defenders’? Something of an exercise in futility, it concluded that:

Ideally, it [vaccines] makes for a healthier society. But critics worry that industry ties could impact the advice given to the public about all those vaccines.

So, CBS say that the vaccine schedule makes for a healthier society but that the advice given about vaccines could impact the advice given.

Uh…so? Lets go through that again. It makes for a healthier society. Would CBS rather it didn’t? Bizarre.

Specifically, they attack the AAP, the Every Child By Two website and Paul Offit. The AAP has conferences funded by vaccine manufacturers, ECBT takes money from the vaccines industry….in fact, hold on…CBS say in their report (assume breathless excitement reporter voice)

Every Child By Two, a group that promotes early immunization for all children, admits the group takes money from the vaccine industry, too…

Oh do they? They admit it do they? Under the rigour of your intrepid journalism no doubt? Except that information is clearly available for all on their website. I do wonder if anyone from CBS even spoke to ECBT.

And of course there is Paul Offit – the official poster boo-boy for anti-vaccinationists everywhere. The man who dares to make a profit from his inventions! CBS took him to task for holding a patent on a vaccine. Shall we look at another man who made a patent application for a vaccine? That’s right – Andrew Wakefield. Except, unlike Dr Offit, who made no attempt to hide his association with the vaccine he was responsible for, Andrew Wakefield’s solicitors said that ‘Dr Wakefield did not plan a rival vaccine’.

How about other people who make a tidy income from the anti-vaccine industry? The Geier’s maybe who invented their own IRB to make sure that their ‘science’ was unhindered by ethical considerations…..or maybe Dr. Jay Gordon who thinks that the Polio vaccine could be replaced by simply not eating cheese. How much do you charge your clients Dr Jay? How about Laura Hewitson who’s husband works for the Wakefield owned Thoughtful House and who seems to be part of the Autism Omnibus hearings….how independent can her science be? How about the ARI/DAN group who are led by people who clearly have no clue at all as to the medical science they are making a large profit on. How much do each of these people make? How about Rashid Buttar who lists non-existent memberships on his CV and who charges upwards of $800 for a 1 hour consultation fee and who’s ex-patients report being out of pocket by about $20,000 in about a year.

Its up to you Dear Reader – are these things we should be worried about? Are these things CBS should be worried about? Are these conflicts of interest? Does the act of making any sort of money either from treating people or from existing business interests mean you cannot and should not talk about these things? Should we assume that only certain people have an agenda?

In my humble opinion, it should only become an issue when attempts are made to hide these things. Or deny them when they are clearly true. That cannot be said of the AAP, ECBT or Paul Offit. Maybe CBS should be asking to see the balance sheets of DAN doctors or vaccine litigation specialists. What have they got to hide? Maybe CBS should be inspecting the credentials of people who claim to be able to cure autism and reverse old age. Maybe CBS should be looking at the disturbing increase in ties between autism/anti-vaccinationists and scientology.

But I would think in the meantime that CBS will take the easy route of producing crap that informs no one about anything. Lets hope it doesn’t turn around and bite them on the arse eh?

Elsewhere
Orac weighs in too.

AAP and Paul Offit under attack (again)

7 Jul

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s the article in full:

<blockquote>

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

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

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

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

Framing the challenges

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Messages for pediatricians

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

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

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

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

Immunization Alliance

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

</blockquote>

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

The post goes on to describe how:

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

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

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

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

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

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

AoA go on to claim that:

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

1. You can’t defend the assertions

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

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

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

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

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

<blockquote>

2. The news is making them look very stupid

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

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

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

<blockquote>

4. They are not dealing honestly with parent concerns

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

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

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

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

Dear Mercury and MMR Militia

21 Jun

I want to write you all an open letter to offer you my opinion as to where you are going wrong. Before I do, I fully realise that this is a massive generalisation and that some of you won’t hold all the opinions I’m about to go through. I think though, that many of you do.

Three things prompted this open letter. First of all was David Kirby’s trip to the UK. Second was a comment from Kelli Ann Davies where she expressed surprise that some of us might know/guess/whatever the intentions of the science and medical community. Third was Ginger Taylor’s recent sulk about the AAP. I’ll touch on these things as I go through this.

You have a truly massive credibility issue which grows with every passing year. Once upon a time it was an issue with the science/medical community but now it is an issue with the general public. There are a number of reasons why this is so.

1) You cannot keep your story straight. You have (as I said to Kelli Anne) some first class marketing and PR people. As I recall, Lynn Redwood, Mark Blaxill and Sallie Bernard all have marketing qualifications. You also have numerous leading lights who are very, very rich. This means you have ample opportunity to lever your message into the heart of the US media system.

But that means nothing without a coherent story to sell. You don’t have one. I understand that you have recently talked about how the ‘story of vaccines’ has _evolved_ . That is stretching things more than a little. Its mercury, no its MMR, no its both, no its Aluminium, no its all three, no its all ingredients, no its the very vaccines themselves, no its the schedule they’re given. No – its ALL the above. And don’t forget the mitochondria!

The more ingredients you add to the pot, the more you have to explain why they are causative of autism. You didn’t even manage to do this when you were concentrating on just _one_ thing (thiomersal). The above is not an example of an evolving hypothesis. Its an example of an ever widening hypothesis as one after another, your original ideas have been taken down.

Nowhere is this better illustrated than David Kirby’s stumbling backwards and backwards:

In 2005, David said in a FAIR Autism Media interview:

It’s now 2005…..[W]e should see fewer cases entering the system [cdds] this year than we did last year.

When that didn’t happen he then said:

if the total number of 3-5 year olds in the California DDS system has not declined by 2007, that would deal a severe blow to the autism-thimerosal hypothesis…..total cases among 3-5 year olds, not changes in the rate of increase is the right measure.

That didn’t happen either.

You started off by pointing an air pistol at a target 20 feet away and missing. You worked your way through Magnums, Shotguns and Miniguns and kept missing. You currently have a canon wheeled right up to within a foot of the target and you’re _still_ missing.

2) Your science is weak and getting weaker. Sadly for you, the onus was (and still is) on you to provide evidence that vaccines in any of the myriad of hypotheses cause autism. Lets hypothetically agree with you that vaccines are in fact, fashioned by Satan and are in fact, tools of population control. That is not the point. The point is: _do they cause autism?_

There is not one paper that passes muster as valid science that offers corroborating evidence that any vaccine, any ingredient of vaccines or any schedule they are administered in causes autism. This is after over 10 years of trying to find one. What you are increasingly left with is a double conspiracy theory. In one barrel of the conspiracy theory, brave maverick doctors are having their research suppressed. In the other barrel of the conspiracy theory, Big Pharma shills are publishing science to refute the various vaccine hypotheses.

Of course, neither barrel is true. The brave maverick docs are not having their science suppressed. It is simply not good enough to pass peer review.

A good example of this is the science experts being presented at the Omnibus Autism proceedings. No Geier’s. No Jim Adams. No Boyd Haley. No Andrew Wakefield. At least, not so far anyway. And this is in the Vaccine Court, where standards of evidence are way lower than in a civil court, where – by the way – not a few of these same researchers science was not good enough to even be entered as evidence.

And you have this nasty habit of shooting yourselves in the foot. Only today David Kirby posted on the Huffington Post about how rubbish the VSD database was. The very same database the Geier’s recently used to allege a link between vaccines and neurodevelopmental disorders.

And the list goes on. The Hornig study? Refuted by Rick Rollens MIND Institute. The Nataf paper on Porphyrins? Liz Mumper, head of DAN! medical admits that even ‘normal’ children have raised Porphyrin levels. The Bernard et al paper? Refuted. Richard Deth’s work? Exposed and questioned.

3) Your choice of media people to represent you is doing you harm. I am not sure how the idea of latching onto Jenny McCarthy as a spokesperson for the anti-vaccine/autism connection came up. There are a few other celebs I can think of with more gravitas than McCarthy. In truth, you couldn’t have chosen worse. Already, she has made a public fool of herself (and you). As has her partner, Jim Carrey, with his ‘lazy ass’ FUBAR and calls to notice ‘warnings from the universe‘.

I understand that these events feel terribly cathartic to you but I would urge you to take off your rose tinted glasses and see how the real world perceives these kind of things. Its not good. Don’t take my word for it, go to a _mainstream_ news source, discount the people you know as friends/associates who are leaving comments and then see what people think.

You have also latched onto the words of Bernadine Healy. I can see why but she (is/was) a member of a paid lobby group that advances the ‘science’ of Philip Morris to put forward the idea passive smoking isn’t dangerous. How desperate do you have to be to turn to _this_ ‘authority’ for backup?

4) You cannot see that you are being humoured. I know that some of you have been very proud of your success in getting involved with things like the IACC and y’know, thats great – well done to you. And then there’s the ‘coup’ of getting the AAP to attend a DAN! conference and ‘work with’ them. But there’s one thing you seem to have forgotten. AAP members are medical scientists. They will go with the decent science.

I read a blog post from Ginger Taylor today which seemed to be telling the AAP their ‘window of opportunity’ to work with DAN! et al had closed due to the fact they endorsed a letter that a paediatrician had written on how to tackle parents who were nervous about vaccination.

Amusingly, Taylor also chided the AAP for not turning up to the ‘green our vaccines’ rally:

I warned that the window would only be open for a short time unless we saw real action, and would probably close around the time of the Green our Vaccines Rally if they didn’t show up for us in some respect.

Well the AAP didn’t show up for the rally and well… this certainly signals that the window is closed. They want it closed. And it looks like they may be locking it.

Can you not understand that to expect the AAP will turn up for a rally which touts such anti-science as Aluminium and Formaldehyde being at singularly dangerous levels in vaccines and Anti-Freeze being in them at all is the height of arrogant stupidity? Surely you cannot be that naive?

The truth is – and I get this from speaking to AAP, NIH, FDA and NHS members – that you had, and always will have, an opportunity to impress them with decent, peer reviewed science. That’s all you’ve ever needed. And that’s what you’ve never had.

5) The future. The person you’ve decided will be your public face is writing another book. <a href="http://stopthinkautism.blogspot.com/2008/06/today-autism-recovery-tomorrow-crystals.html"She says that:

It’s really an Indigo book…….We’re definitely the Indigos, you know, breaking down these walls so this, you know, New Earth behind us can happen.

And what’s your role in this?

…But people aren’t quite there yet and I kinda had to, not lower my vibration, change my vibration to focusing on the world hearing that message. Hearing that biomedical treatment does help these kids.

And then, slowly, you know I can put it in my speeches. and then in my last book I talked about the indigos and crystals. And I’m just like, I’m really following source, kind of I felt the need to do that, I’m just kind of dribbling it here and there until people, you know, have that spiritual awakening of spirituality.”

That’s where you’re going. You’re close to abandoning any kind of rational basis for your beliefs and just becoming Jenny’s followers in an Indigo Spiritual Awakening to herald in the New Earth..

The Irrelevant Objection Fallacy – I’m Insulted!

21 Jun

In some cases, the irrelevant objection fallacy can also bee seen as the, “shoot the messenger” fallacy, or in this case, maybe even, “shoot the straw messenger”.

Over at Age Of Autism, Ginger Taylor writes:

The American Academy of Pediatrics now recommends that pediatricians tell parents who don’t vaccinate their children that they:

Are “Selfish”
Are “Self-Centered”
Are “Complacent or Lazy”
Are often “Emotional” decision makers
Have “Unacceptable attitudes”

But they do not believe that insulting you like this is in any way coercing you to vaccinate your child.

Does the American Academy of Pediatrics really recommend that? Ginger’s assertion is based on is a sample letter from a private pediatric practice (All Star Pediatrics). The sample letter does in fact clearly communicate this practice’s position and opinions about the importance of vaccination and probably does serve a healthy portion of a ‘not-so-pretty look in the mirror’ at attitudes surrounding vaccination refusal. Yes, this sample letter is available on the AAP website, but, is it really a “recommendation” from the AAP?

This sample document was created by All Star Pediatrics. It is provided only as a reference for practices developing their own materials and may be adapted to local needs. This document does not represent official American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) policy or guidelines and the AAP is not responsible for its use. You should consult an attorney who is knowledgeable about the laws of the jurisdiction in which you practice before creating or using any legal documents.

If the sample letter from All Star Pediatrics is not official policy or guidelines, what is?

This maybe? (from the AAP Policy website).

What is the pediatrician to do when faced with a parent who refuses immunization for his or her child? First and most important, the pediatrician should listen carefully and respectfully to the parent’s concerns, recognizing that some parents may not use the same decision criteria as the physician and may weigh evidence very differently than the physician does.21 Vaccines are very safe, but they are not risk free; nor are they 100% effective.22 This poses a dilemma for many parents and should not be minimized. The pediatrician should share honestly what is and is not known about the risks and benefits of the vaccine in question, attempt to understand the parent’s concerns about immunization, and attempt to correct any misperceptions and misinformation.23–25 Pediatricians should also assist parents in understanding that the risks of any vaccine should not be considered in isolation but in comparison to the risks of remaining unimmunized. For example, although the risk of encephalopathy related to the measles vaccine is 1 in 1 million, the risk of encephalopathy from measles illness is 1000 times greater.22 Parents can also be referred to one of several reputable and data-based Web sites for additional information on specific immunizations and the diseases they prevent (see pages 52 and 53 of the Red Book25 for a list of Internet resources related to immunization).

Many parents have concerns related to 1 or 2 specific vaccines. A useful strategy in working with families who refuse immunization is to discuss each vaccine separately. The benefits and risks of vaccines differ, and a parent who is reluctant to accept the administration of 1 vaccine may be willing to allow others.

Parents also may have concerns about administering multiple vaccines to a child in a single visit. In some cases, taking steps to reduce the pain of injection, such as those suggested in the Red Book,26 may be sufficient. In other cases, a parent may be willing to permit a schedule of immunization that does not require multiple injections at a single visit.

Physicians should also explore the possibility that cost is a reason for refusing immunization. For a parent whose child does not have adequate preventive care insurance coverage, even the administrative costs and copayments associated with immunization can pose substantial barriers. In such cases, the physician should work with the family to help them obtain appropriate immunizations for the child.

For all cases in which parents refuse vaccine administration, pediatricians should take advantage of their ongoing relationship with the family and revisit the immunization discussion on each subsequent visit. As respect, communication, and information build over time in a professional relationship, parents may be willing to reconsider previous vaccine refusals.

Continued refusal after adequate discussion should be respected unless the child is put at significant risk of serious harm (as, for example, might be the case during an epidemic). Only then should state agencies be involved to override parental discretion on the basis of medical neglect. Physician concerns about liability should be addressed by good documentation of the discussion of the benefits of immunization and the risks associated with remaining unimmunized. Physicians also may wish to consider having the parents sign a refusal waiver (a sample refusal-to-immunize waiver can be found at http://www.cispimmunize.org/pro/pdf/RefusaltoVaccinate_2pageform.pdf). In general, pediatricians should avoid discharging patients from their practices solely because a parent refuses to immunize his or her child. However, when a substantial level of distrust develops, significant differences in the philosophy of care emerge, or poor quality of communication persists, the pediatrician may encourage the family to find another physician or practice. Although pediatricians have the option of terminating the physician-patient relationship, they cannot do so without giving sufficient advance notice to the patient or custodial parent or legal guardian to permit another health care professional to be secured.27 Such decisions should be unusual and generally made only after attempts have been made to work with the family. Families with doubts about immunization should still have access to good medical care, and maintaining the relationship in the face of disagreement conveys respect and at the same time allows the child access to medical care. Furthermore, a continuing relationship allows additional opportunity to discuss the issue of immunization over time.

I read the sample letter from All Star Pediatrics, and in my opinion, it follows the Clinical Practice paper on the AAP Policy website pretty closely. I encourage everyone to read it in its entirety before commenting.

Let’s take a look at what the sample letter from that pediatric practice states, that apparently “insulted” Ginger:

Re: “Selfish,” “Self-Centered,” and “Unacceptable”

Furthermore, by not vaccinating your child you are taking selfish advantage of thousands of others who do vaccinate their children, which decreases the likelihood that your child will contract one of these diseases. We feel such an attitude to be self-centered and unacceptable.

Ouch. Unguided by sound science or logic and reason, parents who refuse to vaccinate probably rely heavily on beliefs and things like communal reinforcement to internally justify their decisions. Having one’s beliefs challenged in an ethical context (social responsibility), but based on science (herd immunity) could be quite uncomfortable for some. Is it easier for someone to acknowledge a potential lack of social responsibility, or is it perhaps easier to cry, “I’m offended!”?

Re: “Complacent” and “Lazy”

The vaccine campaign is truly a victim of its own success. It is precisely because vaccines are so effective at preventing illness that we are even discussing whether or not they should be given. Because of vaccines, many of you have never seen a child with polio, tetanus, whooping cough, bacterial meningitis or even chickenpox, or known a friend or family member whose child died of one of these diseases. Such success can make us complacent or even lazy about vaccinating. But such an attitude, if it becomes widespread, can only lead to tragic results.

Hmmm. This looks more like a reasonable concern, and it’s expressed as a possibility.

Re: “Emotional”

We recognize that the choice may be a very emotional one for some parents.

Not too inflammatory in my opinion, but perhaps that’s just me.

At any rate, here’s the bottom line – this sample letter from All Star Pediatrics (which is not in and of itself an AAP policy or guideline), clearly communicates the position and professional opinions of All Star Pediatrics. In my opinion, this practice’s outlined policies seem mostly in-line with the Clinical Practice paper on the AAP Policy website. How it oulines those policies is direct, and very possibly quite uncomfortable for those who would refuse vaccinations. Objecting to that direct and potentially ‘uncomfortable for some’ tone, is irrelevant to the importance of preventing childhood disease.

What does any of this have to do with autism? Well, nothing really, but don’t shoot the messenger.

David Kirby is right (and wrong)

6 Apr

David Kirby has an excellent title for his blog post: ‘CDC Has Lost Control of the Autism Argument’.

I happen to to think he is 100% gold-plated correct. In fact I would go even further than that – the CDC, the FDA and the AAP have become, on this issue, little short of a laughing stock. They have bungled, mismanaged, failed to address and not known how to retort at just above every step of the process.

Controversially perhaps I think a lot of it has to do with the bureaucratic nature of these monoliths – they need to reform their way of working. They’re slow and outdated in their PR and media handling. That is not to say that the people working within these systems are terrible useless people – clearly they are not – but they operate within a system that cannot seem to effectively communicate the scientific truth behind the various vaccine hypotheses.

And now we truly _do_ have various vaccine hypotheses. Once it was ‘….nothing more than mercury poisoning.’. Then it was the MMR too. Then it was a combination of both. Then it wasn’t _just_ mercury in vaccines it was all the other ingredients too.

Now we have another twist: the mito/autism/vaccine hypothesis which I have no doubt has sent scores of parents all over the Western world forking out for yet another set of tests and will no doubt prompt yet another set of questionable treatments repackaged and rebranded for autism.

I think its worth while remembering at this point that, despite the furore over the last few weeks, one thing has not changed: *the science* .

All the talk shows and Larry King appearances and cloak and dagger leaked reports are all very exciting and good blogger fodder for people like me and David but the bottom line is this: no new science has been added to the equation regarding any vaccine/autism hypothesis. So, when I read the Larry King transcript and saw David snapping ‘the debate is over!’ I raised an eyebrow as I couldn’t recall any new science being brought along that night (or any other night) that had caused the debate to be over.

Anyway, back to David’s HuffPo entry. Now, I’ve swapped very courteous emails with David Kirby and whilst I have also posted quite angrily about him too I think he cares about people. Which is why when I read a paragraph such as the following I get perplexed. Here’s David:

A recent government decision to award nine-year-old Hannah Poling taxpayer dollars for her multiple vaccine-induced autism, has left parents anxious and alarmed….

A recent government decision. Hmm. Lets see what the Special Masters who are overseeing the Autism Omnibus (of whom Hannah Polings case was until recently a part of) said:

….reports have erroneously stated that the Office of the Special Masters has recently issued a “decision,” “opinion,” or “ruling” concerning the issue of whether a Vaccine Act claimant’s autism symptoms were caused by one or more vaccinations. The OSM has not issued any such decision, ruling or opinion.

No decision.

And David Kirby also refers to Hannah Poling’s ‘multiple vaccine-induced autism’. Lets see what the OSM says:

this court has issued no decision on the issue of vaccine causation of autism

But maybe by ‘government’ David means the HHS? Not the courts? If thats so, can David – or anyone else – point out to me where in any HHS statement they note that have decided to award Hannah Poling money for ‘vaccine-induced autism’?

Or maybe David means someone else when he refers to ‘government’?

And lets also be clear. Not only has the OSM _nor_ the HHS referred to ‘vaccine-induced autism’, neither has any aspect of the medical literature written about Hannah Poling (or any other claimant).

So yes, I find David’s over-exuberance perplexing on occasion. I am also concerned that paragraphs such as the above are muddying waters that need to be crystal clear right now. We serve no one by misleading them either intentionally or not.

Jenny McCarthy on Larry King Live

3 Apr

Well, she’s just an actress…and unfortunately, we place too much value on the opinions of actors in this country.

~ Erik Nanstiel, Feb 2006

Now Erik was discussing Sigourney Weaver (the future Mrs Leitch if she ever stops stalking me) and her role in Snowcake but I thought it might serve as an interesting comparison for how another actress, Jenny McCarthy, is currently viewed.

In point of fact, I entirely agree with Erik, we _do_ place far too much importance on what acctresses and actors say. For example, on Larry King Live last night jenny McCarthy spoke quite a lot but didn’t actually _say_ much at all.

For example:

It’s a global epidemic…

Really? Where is the science that supports that position? Because there is an _awful_ lot of evidence that entirely refutes it.

I went online and I found a community called Defeat Autism Now……I believed enough — even though my pediatrician at the time said it’s all bull — and followed this treatment and my son got better

Yeah, that and all the ABA, and the Indigo/Crystal beliefs:

The day I found out I was an adult Indigo will stay with me forever. I was walking hand in hand with my son down a Los Angeles street when this women approached me and said, “You’re an Indigo and your son is a Crystal.” I immediately replied, “Yes!” and the woman smiled at me and walked away. I stood there for a moment, because I had no idea what the heck an Indigo and Crystal was, but I seemed so sure of it when I had blurted out “Yes!” After doing some of my own research on the word Indigo, I realized not only was I an early Indigo but my son was in fact a Crystal child.

A what?

The Indigo child concept was first publicized in 1999 by the book The Indigo Children: The New Kids Have Arrived, written by the husband-and-wife team of Lee Carroll and Jan Tober. Carroll insists that the concept was obtained via conversations with a spiritual entity known as Kryon.

Wikipedia

Except, the website that carries all her beliefs has been quietly vanished. If you want to find this info now, you have to look in Google Cache.

Onwards,

I’m not, nor is the autism community, anti-vaccine. We’re anti-toxin and we’re anti-schedule.

The autism community? Who _is_ this woman with the ego to think she speaks for the entire autism community? Good grief. And as for the section of the community she speaks for not being anti-vaccine? Try these on Jenny:

!http://www.kevinleitch.co.uk/images/eoh/PowerOfTruthRallySign.jpg!
!http://www.autismrally.com/IMG_5365.jpg!
!http://www.autismrally.com/IMG_5426.jpg!

All taken from the sort of rally you’re promoting later on in the show.


JM:

And isn’t it ironic, in 1983 there was 10 shots and now there’s 36 and the rise of autism happened at the same time?

Ironic like this?

No, its not ironic. Its another example of correlation not implying causation – you can see another graphic example on the ‘canards’ page of this very website.

JM:

I believe that parents’ anecdotal information is science-based information

Yeah. Its not.

JM:

environmental toxins play a role. Viruses play a role. Those are all triggers. But vaccines play the largest role right now

No evidence of any kind was presented to back this up. Later on McCarthy sneered at the AAP for talking about studies that weren’t ‘independent’ (what she meant by that is anyone’s guess) but in short succession she said that parental anecdote was good science and that vaccines play ‘the largest’ role in causing autism.

David Kirby was sitting right next to McCarthy and yet neither of them mentioned his HuffPo entry in which said:

And, if 20% of autism cases are mito related, and 6% of those cases regressed because of vaccines, that would mean that at least 1% of all autism cases were vaccine related.

1%.

Lets compare that to the approximately 40% already genetically accounted for. I don’t think its difficult to process which is the larger number.

And after that Dear Reader I simply can’t carry on ploughing through the rest of McCarthy’s contributions. They range from the offensive to the inane.

But here’s an offer for Ms McCarthy – and David, I know you’re a reader so feel free to pass this on:

Come and pay my family and me a visit Ms McCarthy. Just you and maybe your son – no media, no journos, no cameras, no Hollywood bullshit. You and I can have a proper well mannered debate whilst our kids play and see if we still feel the same afterwards. What about it? Got the balls?