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BMJ, Brian Deer file anti-SLAPP motion against Andrew Wakefield

11 Mar

About 2 months ago Andrew Wakefield filed a defamation lawsuit against the British Medical Journal, Brian Deer and Fiona Godlee for the series of three articles “The Secrets of the MMR Scare” and public comments made since. In particular, Mr. Wakefield took issue with statements about his research being fraudulent (and variations on that term like “fraudster”, “bullshit” etc.). Mr. Wakefield claimed that the facts presented by the BMJ articles were incorrect and based on information not available to him at the time he wrote his Lancet article.

Mr. Wakefield chose to file his defamation suit in Texas (his home state). This presented him immediately with two hurdles. First he has to show that the court has jurisdiction over primarily UK entities. Second he faced the possibility of an anti-SLAPP motion. SLAPP stands for “Strategic lawsuit against public participation“. Per Wikipedia:

A strategic lawsuit against public participation (SLAPP) is a lawsuit that is intended to censor, intimidate, and silence critics by burdening them with the cost of a legal defense until they abandon their criticism or opposition.

The typical SLAPP plaintiff does not normally expect to win the lawsuit. The plaintiff’s goals are accomplished if the defendant succumbs to fear, intimidation, mounting legal costs or simple exhaustion and abandons the criticism. A SLAPP may also intimidate others from participating in the debate. A SLAPP is often preceded by a legal threat. The difficulty, of course, is that plaintiffs do not present themselves to the Court admitting that their intent is to censor, intimidate or silence their critics. Hence, the difficulty in drafting SLAPP legislation, and in applying it, is to craft an approach which affords an early termination to invalid abusive suits, without denying a legitimate day in court to valid good faith claims.

Many states in the U.S. have enacted anti-SLAPP legislation. Texas enacted a law fairly recently and this motion could be the first major test of that law. I say “could” because of the first hurdle: jurisdiction. As Popehat has already noted, the plaintiffs in the anti-SLAPP motion “specially appear”. I.e. they keep the right to fight on jurisdictional grounds.

The motion and Mr. Deer’s supporting declaration can be found on Mr. Deer’s website. Mr. Deer’s declaration goes through the full history of his involvement with Mr. Wakefield’s research.

As Popehat notes, the motion appears quite strong. As is the case with legal motions, it covers multiple arguments. For example, they not only argue that the statements on their own are permissible speech, but they argue that the statements themselves are accurate.

Here is a section of the table-of-contents for the motion:

V. TEXAS’S NEW ANTI-SLAPP STATUTE APPLIES TO DR. WAKEFIELD’S CLAIMS.

VI. DR. WAKEFIELD’S CLAIMS FAIL BECAUSE HE CANNOT SHOW THAT THE CHALLENGED STATEMENTS ARE FALSE

A. Dr. Wakefield Must Prove that Defendants’ Statements Are Not Substantially True.
B. Dr. Wakefield Is Precluded from Re-litigating the GMC’s Findings, Which Establish the Substantial Truth of the Challenged Statements.
C. The Undisputed Evidence Also Establishes the Substantial Truth of the Challenged Statements.

1. Dr. Wakefield’s Misreporting and Falsification Permeated His Research.

2. Dr. Wakefield’s Undisclosed Conflicts of Interest.
3. Dr. Wakefield’s Review of the GP Records

VII DEFENDANTS’ STATEMENTS OF OPINION AND RHETORICAL HYPERBOLE ARE NOT ACTIONABLE.
A. Several of Defendants’ Statements, Including that Dr. Wakefield’s Research Must Have Been “Fraud,” Are Nonactionable Expressions of Opinion.
B. Defendants’ Expressions of Rhetorical Hyperbole and Colorful Language Are Not Actionable.

VIII DR. WAKEFIELD’S CLAIMS BASED ON BRIAN DEER’S WEBSITE PUBLICATIONS ARE BARRED BY THE STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS.
DR. WAKEFIELD IS A PUBLIC FIGURE, AND HE CANNOT SHOW ACTUAL MALICE.
A. Dr. Wakefield Is a Public Figure.
1. The “MMR Scare” Is a Public Controversy.
2. Dr. Wakefield Had More than a Trivial or Tangential Role in the
Scare.
3. Dr. Wakefield’s Claims Are Germane to His Participation in the
Controversy.
B. Defendants Did Not Act with Actual Malice.

1. Actual Malice Is an Exceedingly Difficult Standard to Satisfy.
2. The Evidence Here Precludes a Finding of Actual Malice.

Mr. Wakefield faces a number of burdens to overcome this motion. He must show that the statements made were more damaging that the truth. He must show that the statements are false–not just minor wording differences but that the “gist” of the truth is missing from the statements made. He must show that either he is not a public figure (very difficult for a doctor who has had a publicist for at least 10 years and has certainly put himself into the public sphere). He must show that Brian Deer, Fiona Godlee and the BMJ acted with actual malice.

He must present substantive evidence for each of these before he can go to trial. If he fails, he faces not only payment of reasonable legal fees and costs, but also the possibility of a penalty to deter future frivolous lawsuits. In that regard, the motion puts forth the history of Mr. Wakefield’s previous legal threats and lawsuits.

The most famous instance of Mr. Wakefield’s litigious history is his lawsuit against Brian Deer in 2004. Justice Eady made very clear statements on that:

[Dr. Wakefield] wished to use the existence of libel proceedings for public relations purposes, and to deter critics, while at the same time isolating himself from the ‘downside’ of such litigation, in having to answer a substantial defence of justification.

To put this in perspective–such a statement by the judge in Texas would almost certainly be followed by not only a dismissal of the case, but a financial judgement in favor of Mr. Deer, Ms. Godlee and the BMJ.

The motion makes it clear that Mr. Wakefield has faced negative commentary on his work and his character from many quarters in the past few years. From their introduction:

Two months ago, Dr. Andrew Wakefield was named by Time magazine as one of the “Great Science Frauds” of modern history. Last April, the New York Times described him as “one of the most reviled doctors of his generation.” In 2009, a Special Master presiding over vaccine litigation in the United States Court of Federal Claims recognized that Wakefield’s 1998 paper in The Lancet medical journal, which suggested a possible link between the lifesaving Measles, Mumps, and Rubella (“MMR”) vaccine and the development of autism in children, was considered a “scientific fraud.”

The Lancet has now fully retracted Wakefield’s paper, and its editor has state publicly that the paper was “utterly false” and that Wakefield “deceived the journal.” Wakefield’s home country’s medical board, the United Kingdom’s General Medical Council (“GMC”), convicted him in 2010 of multiple charges of “serious professional misconduct,” including “dishonesty” and “unethical conduct.” It further held that his misconduct had been so severe and extensive that the only punishment that would adequately protect the public from him was the permanent revocation of his medical license. As the New York Daily News put it, “Hippocrates would puke.”

As to specific instances of calling Mr. Wakefield’s work fraudulent, they quote multiple instances of the term being used. As noted above, one of the Special Masters in the Omnibus Autism Proceeding (vaccine court) called the work “scientific fraud”. Probably the most damaging instance for Mr. Wakefield are quotes from his own attorney in the General Medical Council (GMC) hearings who stated that some of the charges, if found proved, would amount to charges of fraud. Those charges were found proved.

There is definitely a movement amongst Mr. Wakefield’s supporters to recast his defamation suit as a retrial of not only his Fitness to Practice hearing before the GMC, but as a legal test of the validity of his MMR/autism hypothesis. Even just within the past couple of days Jenny McCarthy re-emerged in her role as a vocal Wakefield supporter with this (and other) erroneous arguments.

Courts are well aware of attempts for people to use defamation cases as a proxy for fighting other arguments. For example, readers might recall a recent defamation case where Barbara Loe Fisher (of the self-named National Vaccine Information Center) sued Dr. Paul Offit, writer Amy Wallace and Conde Nast publications for two words in an article: “she lies”. In the decision dismissing the defamation suit the judge noted:

Not only does Plaintiff’s claim of the statement’s falsity invite an open ended inquiry into Plaintiff’s veracity, it also threatens to ensnare the Court in the thorny and extremely contentious debate over the perceived risks of certain vaccines….and, at the bottom, which side has the truth on its side. This is hardly the sort of issue which would be subject to verification based on a core of “objective evidence”

and

Courts have a justifiable reticence about venturing into a thicket of scientific debate, especially in the defamation context

However, one must note that Mr. Wakefield’s defamation suit does *not* involve the issues of his research conclusions/findings (or non-findings as they have been retracted from the public sphere). The question put forth by Mr. Wakefield was whether statements such as “fraud”, “fraudster”, “determined cheat” are actionable defamation and whether these are based on allegedly misrepresented details from the research–such as diagnoses of the children and when symptoms appeared. Mr. Deer shows in his declaration that the facts presented in the BMJ studies are accurate.

On the “weight of evidence” front, consider this: Mr. Wakefield submitted a 17 page defamation claim. The defendants have responded with a 53 page anti-SLAPP motion and 5 declarations. The declarations include one from Mr. Deer with 101 pages and 104 exhibits. Where Mr. Wakefield is using a neighbor as his attorney, one who is not a specialist in health, media or defamation cases, the BMJ team are using a top Texas law firm and a total of seven attorneys. The lead attorney is listed as having experience with healthcare and publishers:

Tom has a wide range of experience in state and federal appeals and trials. His experience includes commercial, intellectual property, and healthcare litigation, and class actions. He has represented publishers and broadcasters in all aspects of media litigation throughout his career.

the second attorney listed has direct experience on defamation:

Marc’s practice focuses on media and privacy law, class actions, and general commercial litigation. His media law experience includes representing publishers in litigation involving claims for defamation, invasion of privacy, misappropriation, copyright, and related causes of action. In addition, he has defended companies in consumer class actions across the country relating to advertising and digital privacy. He regularly provides advice regarding website terms of service, arbitration agreements, and privacy law.

According to the BMJ’s motion, ” To avoid dismissal, the plaintiff [Mr. Wakefield] must submit “clear and specific evidence” to support each essential element of his claims.”

I suspect that Mr. Wakefield will have a meeting with his attorney very soon to discuss strategy. They are outclassed on the facts of the case, on the manpower and expertise of the attorneys and the credibility of the witnesses. They will discuss “each essential element of his claims” and how they stack up against the evidence presented. One might suspect that Mr. Wakefield’s attorney was unaware of how shaky their position was at the start, getting his facts from Mr. Wakefield. They now know, through hundreds of pages of arguments and evidence, how the defense can answer the “essential claims”.

If they can dismiss before the jurisdiction question is addressed and avoid the anti-SLAPP motion, they might be well advised to do so. The “reasonable costs” the BMJ are incurring are sure to be sizable. And the litigious history of Mr. Wakefield will surely play into a determination of whether to impose penalties on top of those.

From where I sit, Mr. Wakefield just doesn’t have the facts on his side. Nor does he have the law on his side. The jurisdiction question may be a blessing in disguise for Mr. Wakefield: giving him the opportunity to bow out before the anti-SLAPP motion goes into effect.

NVIC claims “intimidation” and “censorship” over Delta videos

16 Nov

The National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC) is angry with the American Academy of Pediatrics. It is very hard not to follow up a sentence like that with “so, what else is new?” The AAP promotes vaccines and vaccine safety. NVIC, not so much. What caused the present altercation? Both organizations were invited to place advertisements/information segments on Delta Airlines in flight entertainment for this month. After finding out that Delta would also host ads by NVIC, the AAP sent a letter to Delta.

In response, NVIC has issued a press release: “National Vaccine Information Center Calls Out AAP for Using Public Intimidation to Censor NVIC Flu Prevention Video Offered to Delta Travelers”

“Public Intimidation”? AAP sent a letter to Delta. That’s public intimidation? I (and others) obtained a copy of the letter and made it public. I guess that’s the “public” part. A weak argument. “Intimidation”? Sorry, just no evidence to support that word.

“Censor”? Strong words from Barbara Loe Fisher, who attempted to quash public discussion with her lawsuit against Paul Offit, Amy Wallace and Conde Nast. (a lawsuit she lost, just to remind you that free speech is still protected in the U.S.).

So, on the one hand we have NVIC and Barbara Loe Fisher who use lawsuits to try to change the public discourse, and the AAP who send letters on the other hand. And we are to believe it is the AAP who are promoting censorship?

Before we get to the NVIC press release, here is the letter that In Flight Media sent to organizations asking them to buy space for their “Lifestlye365-Cold, Flu, and Fall Allergy Season” series. Part of the offer by In Flight Media was the chance to advertise the organization.

Subject: IMA/Delta Air Lines Present “Lifestlye365-Cold, Flu, and Fall Allergy Season” Featuring [REDACTED]

Dear [REDACTED]

We would like to invite [REDACTED] to participate in our in-flight video series called Lifestyle 365, now airing on Delta Air Lines and Virgin America. We work with organizations around the globe creating in-flight video features that raise the profile on important topics affecting every ones lives. “Where you Live”…“How you Live”…and “What you Do”…it’s your Lifestyle 365.

For our November 2011 video segment we are producing a special health spotlight just in time for “Cold, Flu and Fall Allergy Season.” At a time of year when the weather is changing, kids are going back to school, and families are traveling for the holidays, it is important to raise awareness on the latest resources available for preventing and treating cold, flu and allergy symptoms. This is also a perfect time to remind our audience of the importance of adult and childhood vaccination by showing them when and where to go to get caught up on regular immunizations as well as this years’ flu vaccine. Why not take this opportunity to showcase your organization or product in front of millions of captive airline passengers!

We are proud to extend this opportunity to your organization and have attached additional details regarding pricing and exposure options for each airline. We are offering an exclusive 5-minute option for a rate of $49,500 (Standard is $75,000) with commitment by May 30, 2011.

Here’s a bit more on what you can expect by joining us in this program:

·Placement and production of content utilizing your raw footage within our Lifestyle365 program

·IMA to provide script, voice over and video production creative services at no additional charge, excluding all on- location shoot services.

·Delta Air Lines: Segment to air for a full calendar month on over 17,375 flights in front of an average of 2.5 million passengers

·Virgin America: Segment to air for 60 consecutive days, in front of 880,000 passengers on 7,500 flights

·Delta and Virgin America’s fleets are equipped with WIFI, passengers watching the program can log into your website right from their seat using their laptops or smart phones and instantly make a donation and learn more about your cause

·Show reference in Sky magazine and http://entertainment.delta.com/television/ (would link directly to your website).

·Your organization will maintain the rights to the completed piece to use in future marketing initiatives.

·Video placement on IMA’s YouTube channel, Facebook, and other social media sites

For more than a decade in the airline industry, In-Flight Media Associates (IMA) continues to bring the utmost level of innovation and creativity to organizations around the globe looking to reach the captive airline audience. With a core philosophy that entertainment attracts attention…advertising may not; they create and deliver messages that resonate with passengers in a non-intrusive way.

Our portfolio can be viewed at http://www.in-flightmedia.com. I will contact you in a few days to add more details, but please feel free to contact me at 760-944-6575, or via email at allison@in-flightmedia.com should you have any questions.

Thanks in advance for your consideration. We look forward to helping build Your Image in the Sky®.

Sincerely,

Let me draw your attention to two statements in the above:

“Why not take this opportunity to showcase your organization or product in front of millions of captive airline passengers!”

and

Delta and Virgin America’s fleets are equipped with WIFI, passengers watching the program can log into your website right from their seat using their laptops or smart phones and instantly make a donation and learn more about your cause

Clearly, a big piece of the motivation for organizations (NVIC included) to purchase time was to advertise themselves. NVIC acts as though the complaints (including mine) were not about this at all. How can I tell? Well, the NVIC has responded with a press release. A press release quite full of straw-man arguments:

WASHINGTON, Nov 15, 2011 (BUSINESS WIRE) — The non-profit National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC) is calling public pressure placed on Delta Air Lines by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) to censor an NVIC video about flu prevention an “act of intimidation” to block public access to full and accurate health information about influenza.

NVIC was offered the opportunity to be a paid sponsor of a video about staying well during the flu season that would be included in Delta’s in-flight programming during November 2011. On Nov. 7, Forbes magazine published an article with a copy of a letter signed by the AAP President Robert Block, MD, accusing Delta of “putting children’s lives at risk” by showing travelers the NVIC sponsored video because it contains “harmful messages.”

In the AAP letter, the Pharma-funded medical trade association alleged that “The [NVIC] ad urges viewers to become informed about influenza and how to stay well during the flu season without resorting to the influenza vaccine.”

NVIC co-founder and president Barbara Loe Fisher responded, “Without cause, the AAP has used their considerable financial resources and political influence to intimidate Delta for simply showing a video that offers accurate information about ways to stay healthy during the flu season, including talking with doctors about getting a flu shot. Censorship and attacks on consumer advocacy groups working to institute informed consent protections in public health policies should not be tolerated in this or any society that cherishes free speech and the right to self determination.”

The AAP letter stated that “influenza vaccine continues to be the best way to protect against the disease,” without acknowledging that a recently published scientific study found that the flu vaccine is less than 70 percent effective in preventing influenza, which confirms previous studies questioning influenza vaccine efficacy and effectiveness. A top flu expert at the CDC has said that about 80 percent of flu-like illness reported in the U.S. every year is not influenza but is caused by other viruses and bacteria.

“The AAP’s leadership is clearly threatened by educated consumers, who have every right to engage in critical thinking when making choices about how to stay healthy,” said Fisher. “Why is the AAP so afraid to admit that washing our hands, covering our mouths when coughing, eating nutritious foods, getting enough sleep, exercising, and lowering stress are also important ways to stay well during the flu season and all year around?”

In the letter to Delta, the AAP alleged that NVIC “opposes the nation’s recommended childhood immunization schedule and promotes the unscientific practice of delaying or skipping vaccines altogether.” During NVIC’s three-decades of work to secure vaccine safety and informed consent protections in U.S. public health laws, NVIC has criticized one-size-fits-all vaccine mandates and advocated for more and better quality vaccine safety science but has not told individuals to use a particular vaccine schedule or told them not to get vaccinated.

“NVIC is a non-profit charity led by educated health care consumers. We are not doctors and do not tell people how or when to vaccinate or advise people not to vaccinate,” said NVIC’s Fisher. “We have a long public record of promoting well-informed, voluntary health care decision-making.”

This is the second time this year that the AAP has publicly attacked NVIC and taken action to censor information NVIC has made available to the public. In April, the AAP publicized a similar letter sent to CBS in an unsuccessful attempt to strong arm CBS into removing NVIC’s 15-second message shown on the Jumbotron in Times Square through the month of April.

Parent co-founders of NVIC worked with Congress on the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986 and were responsible for securing historic informing, recording and reporting safety provisions in that law. The AAP and vaccine manufacturers lobbied Congress to secure a shield from civil liability for vaccine injuries and deaths in the 1986 law.

“Twenty five years ago, the AAP got liability protection for their pediatrician members, who are no longer accountable in a court of law when the liability-free vaccines they give ending up hurting a child,” said Fisher. “Almost immediately following the 1986 law’s passage, the AAP narrowed medical contraindications to vaccination so that, today, almost no child qualifies for a medical exemption to vaccination. Now, the powerful AAP is lobbying in states like California and Washington to strip parents of the legal right to exercise informed consent to medical risk taking for their children or file non-medical vaccine exemptions. This is becoming a civil and human rights issue involving censorship, inequality, discrimination and persecution of citizens by medical doctors wielding too much power.”

The National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC.org) is a 501C3 charity founded in 1982 by parents of vaccine injured children and is dedicated to preventing vaccine injuries and deaths through public education and protecting the informed consent ethic in medicine.

I will say I found this statement amusing: “Without cause, the AAP has used their considerable financial resources and political influence to intimidate Delta …”

Yes, the AAP used “considerable financial resources and political influence”. No ordinary organization could send a letter! Why, they used the United States Government in the form of the Postal Service to deliver their message. Would that I could tap into that sort of “political influence”.

Without cause? Perhaps NVIC could review the AAP letter, or the many complaints others have made about Delta’s decision to host the NVIC video.

Let me put it simply: Delta should consider seriously whether they wish to promote an organization like the NVIC. Playing these advertisements was clearly a promotion of the organization, as spelled out in the letter In Flight Media sent.

“Censorship and attacks on consumer advocacy groups working to institute informed consent protections in public health policies should not be tolerated in this or any society that cherishes free speech and the right to self determination”

I find it hard to give Ms. Fisher the moral high ground on free speech issues after she sued Paul Offit (and lost), Wired Magazine and Conde Nast.

That said, why do I think that Delta should reconsider supporting NVIC? How about the NVIC press release?

The AAP letter stated that “influenza vaccine continues to be the best way to protect against the disease,” without acknowledging that a recently published scientific study found that the flu vaccine is less than 70 percent effective in preventing influenza, which confirms previous studies questioning influenza vaccine efficacy and effectiveness. A top flu expert at the CDC has said that about 80 percent of flu-like illness reported in the U.S. every year is not influenza but is caused by other viruses and bacteria.

First off, notice how NVIC glossed over the statement by the AAP that “influenza vaccine continues to be the best way to protect against the disease”? They don’t come out and say AAP is right or wrong. What they do is follow it with nonsequiturs which downplay the need for the vaccine.

It’s pretty slick. They get to give the impression that the AAP is incorrect about the statement, and retain deniability.

NVIC: how about a simple statement. Is the flu vaccine the best way to protect against the disease or not?

On with the paragraph. NVIC pose that the 70% efficacy of the flu vaccine as a bad thing that is being kept hidden. Hey, I’d like a flu vaccine that was more than 70% effective, but, 70% is well worth it. 70% less chance of being sick with the flu? 70% less chance of passing the flu on to someone who is vulnerable to injury or death from the illness? I’d say “sign me up” except that I already got my shot this year.

That said, can NVIC offer an alternative which is proven better than 70%? Can they provide a method which is better than the combination of taking care of one’s self, attention to hygiene, plus the vaccine?

The second sentence in that paragraph is also troubling. “A top flu expert at the CDC has said that about 80 percent of flu-like illness reported in the U.S. every year is not influenza but is caused by other viruses and bacteria.” So? The statement was “influenza vaccine continues to be the best way to protect against the disease”, not “influenza vaccine continues to be the best way to protect against the disease and every other disease which is similar.”

This is exactly the sort of message I disagree with NVIC about. Downplaying the need for vaccines. Does NVIC say, “80% of flu-like illnesses might be caused by other disease–so, we should be looking for vaccines to protect against those viruses and bacteria as well”? Or, “Influenza vaccines might be only 70% effective, so we want research into a more effective vaccine”? Hardly.

NVIC claims that the AAP is “accusing Delta of “putting children’s lives at risk” by showing travelers the NVIC sponsored video because it contains “harmful messages.”

See how they want to ignore anything outside of their video? Let’s take a look at the paragraph with the “putting children’s lives at risk” phrase:

By providing advertising space to an organization like the NVIC, which opposes the nation’s recommended childhood immunization schedule and promotes the unscientific practice of delaying or skipping vaccines altogether, you are putting the lives of children at risk, leaving them unprotected from vaccine-preventable diseases.

AAP are objecting to promotion of the NVIC in general, not just the video. I guess NVIC didn’t want to address the question of whether they promote delaying or skipping vaccines, and whether this is unscientific.

NVIC tries to frame itself as a “vaccine safety” organization, asking only for “safer vaccines”. As I pointed out in an earlier post, they never define “safe”. They don’t seem to have called any vaccine “safe”.

Frankly, this looks like an effort for NVIC to try to get more publicity. In doing so, they are probably guaranteeing that Delta will not accept their advertisements in the future (or they have given up on any future spots) .This is a public relations nightmare for Delta. Last thing they want is a public debate about how they are contributing to a group who is putting children’s lives at risk. And, let’s face it, the American Academy of Pediatrics is well respected.

I’ll close by responding to a statement in the press release: “NVIC is a non-profit charity led by educated health care consumers’

Left Brain/Right Brain is also a group of educated health care consumers. Educated enough to reject the NVIC’s message. The real message, not the one they hide behind. The message of a group that thinks that vaccines are a “holocaust of poison“.

In which I agree with Barbara Loe Fisher…

12 Nov

The response to the decision by Delta Air Lines to air a commercial by the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC) has been much larger than I would have predicted. Case in point, the Atlanta Journal Constitution has an article, Delta in-flight ad opposed; airline considers video change, discussing the reaction to the NVIC advertisement. This article notes:

Delta Air Lines will change its approval process for in-flight programming after a video advertisement drew opposition, leading to an online petition calling for its removal.

They note the online petition, “Tell Delta to Stop Putting their Passengers’ Health at Risk” (at over 2400 signatures so far).

The AJC also quotes Barbara Loe Fisher of NVIC:

“I don’t understand why there’s this controversy,” she said. “We need to be able to criticize organizations that we think could do a better job. … For the people who want to use vaccines, we are fighting for safer vaccine policies and safer vaccines. I don’t see what’s wrong with that.”

And this is where I agree with Ms. Fisher. We do need to be able to criticize organizations that we think could do a better job. She seems unaware that this is precisely what a number of us who are doing in discussing Delta’s decision to host this video. Criticizing NVIC, whom we feel could do a (much) better job.

I will note I find that quote very strange indeed. I wonder if she realizes the strawman argument she has created? People are not criticizing NVIC about “fighting for safer vaccine policies and safer vaccines.”

For example, I count myself amongst those who want to use vaccines. In that effortI do not want the sort of support that NVIC offers in working towards safer vaccines. For example, I don’t want the spread of misinformation about vaccine-induced epidemics of autism, which NVIC promotes. It is a message which has caused and continues to cause harm in the autism communities.

Oddly enough, in a quick search for “safer vaccine” on the NVIC.org website, I found no examples of a statement of the type, “this new vaccine is a safer vaccine” or anything which actually calls a vaccine “safer”.

There were only four hits for the phrase “safe vaccine” on the NVIC website. Those links are mostly to comments on blog posts. No statements by NVIC saying, “here is a safe vaccine” or “here is our definition of a safe vaccine”. The one hit for something actually posted by NVIC was from a testimonial, where safe was put in quotes: “…and the doctor suggested she have this “safe” vaccine…”

I am very interested in the continued effort to improve vaccines, including improving safety. I do not feel that NVIC represents my views in any way. I do not find their brand of “information” to be the sort I would recommend to anyone looking to educate themselves on vaccines.

I do agree with Ms. Fisher: we should be able to criticize those groups whom we feel could do better. Do better NVIC, or you will continue to be criticized.

Change.org ask ‘Did the Anti-Vaccination Movement Cause the Whooping Cough Epidemic?’

2 Nov

A great post over at Change.org asks the question and delivers the right answer – yes, yes they did. It also targets the right org as being responsible – Barbara Loe Fischer’s anti-vaccine group NVIC.

Whooping cough is making a comeback. This summer, the highly contagious upper respiratory infection struck more than 6,000 people in California — the most cases since 1950. Ten people died, all infants.

The stubborn belief that vaccines are harmful to a child’s health show just how damaging — even deadly–unscientific movements like the NVIC’s are. And how wrong.

…not vaccinating children erodes the “wall of immunity” that keeps all kids safe from life-threatening diseases. When infections have fewer potential hosts, there is less of a chance that those infections will be able to spread from child to child. When kids are vulnerable to nasty germs — because their parents don’t immunize them — they put their friends and classmates at risk, too.

Change.org have a petition up to deliver the untasty truth to NVIC – it caters to non-US residents from all over the world. Please sign it, tweet it or retweet this post, Facebook it, blog it and email it. These people need to be held accountable for their actions.