The Cleveland Clinic is one of the more prestigious medical centers in the USA. It’s cardiology program has been ranked the best for 20 years running in the USA. Much of my career was in cardiology, and if the Cleveland Clinic rejected one of our new products, it could mean the end of careers. Most of the innovative ideas in treating cardiovascular disease came from the Cleveland Clinic.
The Cleveland Clinic has numerous other respected medical programs, but this stands in stark contrast to the Clinic’s reputation in patient safety. In a Kaiser Family Foundation review of Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) data for hospital acquired conditions in 2014, the Cleveland Clinic received a 8.7 score (1–10 possible, with 10 being the worst), which ranked the Clinic at the bottom 7% of hospitals. The Cleveland Clinic has instituted numerous strategies to improve its quality, but it does show some inconsistency on the management of their hospital.
Then this happened – Daniel Neides is a primary care physician and the director and chief operating officer of the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute, a claptrap of alternative medicine and medical woo. Dr. Neides decided to write a blog, and unsurprising internet indignation ensued as a result – he claimed that preservatives and other ingredients in vaccines are dangerous and are likely responsible for the increase in cases of neurological disorders such as autism.
And in case you think Dr. Neides has any useful words to contribute to this conversation, you would be wrong. The vast weight of real evidence supports the fact that vaccines are unrelated to autism spectrum disorders. The weight of evidence isn’t based on logical fallacies or cherry picking data, it is based on the scientific consensus.
Vaccines offer the promise of protection against a variety of infectious diseases. Despite much media attention and strong opinions from many quarters, vaccines remain one of the greatest tools in the public health arsenal. Certainly, some vaccines result in adverse effects that must be acknowledged. But the latest evidence shows that few adverse effects are caused by the vaccines reviewed in this report.
Let’s look at Dr. Neides pseudoscientific nonsense essentially using the Cleveland Clinic as his own personal imprimatur of authority.
What did the Cleveland Clinic doctor write?
Dr. Neides went full anti-science while writing his screed for cleveland.com. Here are some of his key comments:
Does the vaccine burden – as has been debated for years – cause autism? I don’t know and will not debate that here. What I will stand up and scream is that newborns without intact immune systems and detoxification systems are being over-burdened with PRESERVATIVES AND ADJUVANTS IN THE VACCINES.
Dr. Neides you foolish man, there is no debate. None. There is the Andrew Wakefield fraud that has evolved into an internet meme. But real science published in real journals from real researchers say one simple fact – vaccines are not related to autism. The only debate is in your simple mind.
Furthermore, your lack of understanding of toxicology makes me wonder where you got your medical education. The amounts of preservatives and adjuvants in vaccines are so tiny, 10,000X lower than what could expected to cause harm. Dr. Neides, you are just pushing a trope that has absolutely no basis in real science and real medicine.
But he proceeds with his ignorance:
Some of the vaccines have helped reduce the incidence of childhood communicable diseases, like meningitis and pneumonia. That is great news. But not at the expense of neurologic diseases like autism and ADHD increasing at alarming rates.
Typical of the anti-vaccine crowd, they try to pretend that they aren’t really anti-vaccine. They try to make it sound like vaccines work, but not at the risk of their children. Except, once again, the “expense” is simply not neurological diseases. Let me repeat a simple fact – 100s of large, well-designed, medical studies have shown no increased incidence of autism spectrum disorder after vaccination. None. And Dr. Neides, you can keep repeating your imaginary story all day long, but that won’t make it factual. It just makes you look like a fool.
Furthermore, you’re ignoring all the diseases prevented by vaccines – measles, rotavirus, chickenpox, polio, diphtheria, whooping cough, hepatitis A&B, along with meningitis and pneumonia. You write like an amateur. Just because you’ve never seen a polio case, you forget what keeps it away from children – vaccines you fool.
Your knowledge of vaccines and neurological disorders seems to come from Jenny McCarthy and the aforementioned Wakefield. Are you embarrassed that your depth of knowledge depends on a bottom of the barrel actress and a defrocked British “physician?” If the Cleveland Clinic hires individuals like you, I have to wonder if the rankings for your institution are inflated and without merit.
Yes, Dr. Neides, you have the right to babble on about anything you want. Apparently your Wellness Clinic gets that right, as much of what I read on the website sounds like unmitigated medical woo. Of course, the Cleveland Clinic has become the center of quackademic medicine, so your quack medicine beliefs are obviously not very far off from what the Cleveland Clinic seems to believe.
— David Gorski (@gorskon) January 8, 2017
Yeah, Dr. Neides isn’t alone. Apparently, Cleveland Clinic has really invested itself into wholesale anti-vaccine beliefs.
The predictable internet outrage
Twitter blew up yesterday, which is always a fun time.
Wow, this quack is the head of an institute of an actual medical center?
Entire article empty rhetoric & harmful jenny Mccarthy myths https://t.co/1UNcOQjiNe
— Vinay Prasad (@VinayPrasad82) January 7, 2017
— Jeff Matthews MD (@JBMatthews) January 7, 2017
— David Gorski (@gorskon) January 8, 2017
— Yoni Freedhoff, MD (@YoniFreedhoff) January 7, 2017
Dr. Benjamin Mazer, a pathologist at Yale-New Haven Hospital tweeted this out his feelings on this topic to his followers:
This is one of the most vile, false things I have ever read by a doctor. I hope this is somehow fake. https://t.co/c1No1zG7NJ
— Benjamin Mazer (@BenMazer) January 7, 2017
Dr. Mazer told STAT:
This is really part of a larger movement that distrusts mainstream medicine, distrusts mainstream public health, and really trades in conspiracy theories. This article is a really prime example of that. It’s just a shame that it’s a physician spreading these conspiracy theories because people naturally trust physicians.
And the fact that the Cleveland Clinic, which promotes itself as an leading medical institution, tacitly supporting this without suspending or firing Neides, means that someone should examine Cleveland Clinic’s standing next time it’s reviewed. Seriously, how can we accept the quality of a hospital when one of its management, Dr. Neides himself, promotes harming children by denying vaccines. That isn’t real medicine. That’s just delusion.
And the Cleveland Clinic responds
The Cleveland Clinic published a press release this morning.
Cleveland Clinic is fully committed to evidence-based medicine. Harmful myths and untruths about vaccinations have been scientifically debunked in rigorous ways. We completely support vaccinations to protect people, especially children who are particularly vulnerable. Our physician published his statement without authorization from Cleveland Clinic. His views do not reflect the position of Cleveland Clinic and appropriate disciplinary action will be taken.
Generally public relations people aren’t this blunt. I hope the appropriate disciplinary action is termination. But I’m tough when it comes to protecting the health of humans.
Don’t worry Dr. Neides – you can write for the Age of Lying about Autism claiming your first amendment rights to lie about science were violated. Because those of us who embrace real science know that vaccines are safe and effective. You, good doc, are all about embracing lies, frauds and scientific bullshit.
I apologize and regret publishing a blog that has caused so much concern and confusion for the public and medical community. I fully support vaccinations and my concern was meant to be positive around the safety of them.
We weren’t confused Dr. Neides. You said vaccines cause autism. I hope you’re fired.