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Fallout of the vaccine-autism scare: Measles in Wales

24 Apr

Jim Carrey, Jenny McCarthy, Andrew Wakefield…what do these people have in common? They have all helped promote fear of vaccines–especially the Measles/MumpsRubella (MMR) vaccine–by claiming there is evidence vaccines cause autism.

To be fair, Jim Carrey and Jenny McCarthy relatively new to the scene, unlike Dr. Wakefield, whose flawed research really fueled the fear. Perhaps the actors could learn from the doctor’s lesson: you claim MMR causes autism, that reduces the number of people getting immunized and people get sick. Pretty simple logic.

Measles was considered basically wiped out in the UK until a few years ago when it returned, sickening thousands and killing a few. Last year, measles returned to the US, and it’s back this year. Now we see that the UK isn’t being spared int he 2008-09 season: Wales has approximately 60 cases of measles suspected or confirmed.

Nineteen cases are in Llanelli–that’s in the lower left corner of this map:

Map showing location of recent measles outbreak in Wales

Map showing location of recent measles outbreak in Wales

That’s a short ride from Swansea, Cardiff, Bristol…lots of high density population centers. Any reasonable person would find that scary.

We in the autism communities need to stand up against misinformation that leads to people being sickened and, in some cases, killed. The MMR-Autism link never had good evidence, and now there is good evidence that MMR does not cause autism Even people like the autism-is-vaccine-injury proponent Rick Rollens admitted it’s time to look beyond MMR (and here).

Jim Carrey seems to understand at least on some level that it is wrong to dissuade people from vaccination. He claimed (incorrectly):

We have never argued that people shouldn’t be immunized for the most serious threats including measles and polio…

Maybe there is some Clintonian logic about the words “We” and “argued”. But, on Larry King Live, Jenny McCarthy stated:

You need to find a doctor that can find an alternate schedule. Generationrescue.org has three of them on there.

Generation Rescue, aka “Jenny McCarthy and Jim Carrey’s Autism Organization” has alternate schedules on their website. The “favorite” of the three alternate vaccine schedules states, very clearly,

One should avoid vaccines that contain live viruses. This includes the combined measles mumps and rubella vaccines…

You’ve talked the talk, time to walk the walk, Jim. Pull that schedule off your website. Get your organization to make a clear statement about the value of vaccinating against measles.

I realize that I have concentrated a lot on Jim Carrey in this piece. But, there is a man who can make a difference in the future. That future will see people in the US and the UK sickened by measles. The question is how many. What Jim Carrey says could make that number larger or smaller, it all depends on whether he makes good on his sentiment that measles is a serious disease worth immunizing against.

Fallout of the vaccine-autism scare: Measles in the US

23 Apr

I thought we dodged the bullet this year in the US–no measles outbreaks like in 2008.

Then I read the Baby411 blog. Today’s post:

Several states are reporting measles outbreaks across the country this week, but particularly on the East Coast.

The following states are reporting confirmed cases of measles:
Iowa
Pennsylvania
Washington DC
Maryland
Virginia

So far, six cases in the Washington DC area, for example.

A very valid question is, “why bring this up on an autism blog?” Unfortunately, the autism community is tied to the measles vaccine scare. So, yes, I hang some of the responsibility for this outbreak on Dr. Wakefield for his terribly flawed research.

I also hang responsibility on Jenny McCarthy and Jim Carrey. Jenny McCarthy has been promoting her organization’s “alternative” vaccine schedule that gives no coverage for measles.

Here’s a quote from their “alternative”schedule:

One should avoid vaccines that contain live viruses. This includes the combined measles.mups and rubella vaccines…

Just today, her partner, Jim Carrey in a blog post denied this:

We have never argued that people shouldn’t be immunized for the most serious threats including measles and polio

Sorry, Jim, you can’t have it both ways.

Let’s hope this outbreak stays small.

An open letter to Jim Carrey

22 Apr

Today on The Huffngton Post, actor Jim Carrey posted his thoughts about autism and vaccines. With his very first paragraph it became apparent how little Carrey understood the issues involved:

Recently, I was amazed to hear a commentary by CNN’s Campbell Brown on the controversial vaccine issue. After a ruling by the ‘special vaccine court’ saying the Measles, Mumps, Rubella shot wasn’t found to be responsible for the plaintiffs’ autism, she and others in the media began making assertions that the judgment was in, and vaccines had been proven safe. No one would be more relieved than Jenny and I if that were true. But with all due respect to Ms. Brown, a ruling against causation in three cases out of more than 5000 hardly proves that other children won’t be adversely affected by the MMR…

Point one Mr Carrey. The vaccine issue is only controversial to adherents of your belief system. Within scientific, medical, legal, autistic and parental circles its not even slightly controversial.

Point two, the three cases chosen were chosen – by the plaintiffs legal team – to represent their absolute best chance of winning. If they had won, there was an excellent chance all the cases that were suggesting MMR as causation would have just ‘won’ automatically. Thats why its called an Omnibus.

Point three, regarding the MMR, it has been firmly established that:

a) The data supporting the MMR hypothesis was fixed.

b) The science supporting the MMR theory was badly wrong – both badly done and exposed to contaminants.

You might also note that the court was not attempting to see if the children were ‘adversely affected by the MMR’, it was looking to see – using the three cases the legal team representing the families thought were the absolute best – if MMR caused autism. It didn’t. Thats probably why your Campbell Brown found it easy to say the MMR hypothesis was dead and buried.

You go to say Mr Carrey that:

Not everyone gets cancer from smoking, but cigarettes do cause cancer. After 100 years and many rulings in favor of the tobacco companies, we finally figured that out.

Yes, we did – and do you know how? With _good science_ – just like the science that established in the three MMR test cases that the MMR didn’t cause autism. And its fascinating that you bring up this parallel to the smoking issue and then later in your blog post invoke the name of Bernadine Healy. Healy – who’s ‘more sensible voice’ you say you’d rather listen to. Did you know Healy used to be a member of TASSC:

TASSC was created in 1993 by the APCO Worldwide public relations firm, and was funded by tobacco company Philip Morris (now Altria)….

According to Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber in their article How Big Tobacco Helped Create “the Junkman”, one of the forerunners of TASSC at Philip Morris was a 1988 “Proposal for the Whitecoat Project,” named after the white laboratory coats that scientists sometimes wear. The project had four goals: “Resist and roll back smoking restrictions. Restore smoker confidence. Reverse scientific and popular misconception that ETS (passive smoking) is harmful. Restore social acceptability of smoking.”

[own inserts]

Is that what you consider a sensible voice Mr Carrey? Someone who supported the tobacco agenda?

Moving on, you say:

If we are to believe that the ruling of the ‘vaccine court’ in these cases mean that all vaccines are safe, then we must also consider the rulings of that same court in the Hannah Polling and Bailey Banks cases, which ruled vaccines were the cause of autism and therefore assume that all vaccines are unsafe. Clearly both are irresponsible assumptions, and neither option is prudent.

First and foremost, the vaccine court did not rule at all in the Hannah Poling case. HHS conceded. And what they conceded was that Hannah Poling was damaged by vaccines resulting in ‘autism like features’. In fact, when we look at the the one piece of medical science carried out on Hannah Poling (co-authored by her own father), we see that only three of the symptoms described as being the result of vaccine injury appear on the DSM (IV) diagnostic criteria for autism.

As for Bailey Banks, this is a perfect illustration of both how the vaccine court in the USA was designed to work and also how terrible the evidence was in the three MMR test cases.

The Banks ruling (subtitled ‘Non-autistic developmental delay’ by the way) drew a line of causation from vaccine to PDD-NOS. It is able to do this as the burden of proof for any science presented to the vaccine court is ‘50% plus a feather’. In other words, it just has to be plausible, no causation needs to be shown.

What doesn’t seem in doubt is that Bailey was injured by a vaccine which resulted in a condition called ADEM. The judge in the case then went on to accept the plaintiffs position that the ADEM in turn caused PDD-NOS. He did this seemingly because there was no evidence to the contrary – e.g. no evidence that ADEM *doesn’t* cause PDD-NOS.

In any scientific situation – including civil court in the US – this would never have been accepted. The plaintiff would have had to have demonstrated that ADEM *did* cause PDD-NOS. And a search of PubMed reveals nothing for ‘ADEM autism’ or ‘ADEM PDD’.

So, in the Banks case, because there was no evidence that ADEM does not cause PDD-NOS, they won. In every situation bar the vaccine court, the Banks’ would not have won their case. There is no science to support the idea ADEM causes autism.

Bearing this ‘50% plus a feather’ concept in mind it is clear just how utterly dreadful the evidence was to support the idea MMR caused autism. Not only could plaintiffs not provide any evidence that MMR causes autism, respondents produced reams of evidence to show it clearly doesn’t.

You carry on Mr Carrey to say:

I’ve also heard it said that no evidence of a link between vaccines and autism has ever been found. That statement is only true for the CDC, the AAP and the vaccine makers who’ve been ignoring mountains of scientific information and testimony. There’s no evidence of the Lincoln Memorial if you look the other way and refuse to turn around. But if you care to look, it’s really quite impressive. For a sample of vaccine injury evidence go to http://www.generationrescue.org/lincolnmemorial.html.

Your analogy is ridiculous. I could go to any library and find evidence for the Lincoln Memorial without ever seeing it. In fact, what your analogy does is demonstrate exactly how blinkered and able to only face one direction at one time you and your colleagues are.

The evidence you present as that being supportive of evidence between a link between vaccines and autism is equally ridiculous and blinkered. I simply don;t have the time to tackle the mountain of misinformation presented on the page you link to suffice to say there’s not a single section that doesn’t have a major error. Most of them have been tackled on this and other blogs over the years.

Next you say:

In all likelihood the truth about vaccines is that they are both good and bad. While ingredients like aluminum, mercury, ether, formaldehyde and anti-freeze may help preserve and enhance vaccines, they can be toxic as well. The assortment of viruses delivered by multiple immunizations may also be a hazard. I agree with the growing number of voices within the medical and scientific community who believe that vaccines, like every other drug, have risks as well as benefits and that for the sake of profit, American children are being given too many, too soon. One thing is certain. We don’t know enough to announce that all vaccines are safe!

Mr Carrey, *vaccines do not contain anti-freeze* – for goodness sake, even Jay Gordon, Evan’s Paediatrician knows that! Did you also know that (to quote myself):

There’s also Aluminium in breast milk so lets compare the two.

According to this paper (which is from 1990 – any more up to date papers welcomed) the amount of Aluminium in breast milk is 49 ?g/L. The average amount of breast milk expressed per day is 0.85 liters.

This means that 41.65?g Aluminium per day is in breast milk.

Now, according to this paper, there is between 125 – 850?g of Aluminium per dose in a vaccine.

So, for a 6 year old, total Aluminium is between 2,125 – 14,450?g.

In real terms this means that after between 51 and 346 days breast feeding, a 6 year old will have taken onboard the same amount of Aluminium as from the total US vaccine schedule.

Now I couldn’t find out what vaccines contained the lower amount or which contained the higher amount. Even so, this means that if every vaccine a 6 year old has that contains Aluminium contains the highest possible amount, within a year of breast feeding they will have matched that.

Or to put it another way, an anti-vax tree-hugger soccer mom who doesn’t vaccinate her baby will have given him the same amount of Aluminium he would’ve had in six years after one year of breast feeding.

And thats of course, not even touched on the fact that:

In the Earth’s crust, aluminium is the most abundant (8.13%) metallic element, and the third most abundant of all elements (after oxygen and silicon)

And is found naturally occurring in sea water, fresh water, the human body etc etc.

[Regarding Formaldehyde]…There’s also Formaldehyde in Apples, Apricots, Banana’s and….ah, I lost interest. Lots of stuff. Including the human body.

So – how much is in vaccines?

According to this and using it in combination with the US vaccine schedule referenced above, we can see that the total amount of Formaldehyde in vaccines from the vaccine schedule for a 6 year old child is 1.2016mg (again, do your own maths, correct me if I’m wrong).

For comparison to that 1.2mg in all vaccines for a 6 year old, 1 (one) banana contains 16.3mg Formaldehyde.

Mr Carrey, you’ve got to stop throwing these scaremongering nonfacts around. Its damned irresponsible for a start.

Lastly Mr Carrey, you say:

If the CDC, the AAP and Ms. Brown insist that our children take twice as many shots as the rest of the western world, we need more independent vaccine research not done by the drug companies selling the vaccines or by organizations under their influence. Studies that cannot be internally suppressed.

In terms of autism, if you want to make a big deal out of the fact that ‘our children take twice as many shots as the rest of the western world’ then please consider this – the UK has less shots than you. We also have a higher prevalence than you. 1 in 100 vs 1 in 150.

And please also don’t invoke silly conspiracy theories. Think about how science works. A study is done, funded by Eli Lily for example. It is peer reviewed and found to be good quality and it is published in, lets say NEJM. Now, *every single reader of that study* can see exactly what methods and means were used to reach the studies conclusions. I ask you Mr Carrey, how much more independent can you get? How much more transparent? Basically anyone, anywhere can try and replicate that same studies results. If they can and a few others can – the results are good. If nobody can (think Andrew Wakefield) then the results must be bad.

And for goodness sake man, grow up, who is ‘suppressing’ what study exactly? Have you _any_ evidence at all that any study ever has been internally suppressed? Or are you just throwing this stuff out to scare people?

Mr Carrey, I loved the Truman Show but this isn’t it. There’s no god like figure overseeing every aspect of your life and wanting to control it. I ask you – get in contact with an actual scientist and go through your concerns with them. At the very least they’ll be able to stop you saying silly things like there’s anti-freeze in vaccines.