Skeptical Raptor's Blog hunting pseudoscience in the internet jungle

Debunking myths about Dr. Paul Offit

Dr. Offit and Phillie Phanatic at a Philadelphia Phillies game

Updated 17 November 2013.

I consider Paul Offit as one of the leaders of the theme that Vaccines Saves Lives, and as someone who is truly dedicated to vaccines. He has done great work at great personal sacrifice to do so.

Being one of the “leaders” has caused his name has been demonized by the anti-vaccine lunatics, who use the Big Liea Nazi propaganda technique where a known falsehood is repeatedly stated, then treated as if it is self-evidently true in hopes of swaying the course of an argument in a direction that takes the big lie for granted rather than critically questioning it or ignoring it. The vaccine deniers constantly repeat untruths so that those lies evolve into apparent truths, at least for those who hold onto their pseudoscientific anti-vaccine beliefs.

The problem is, of course, that if you’re a new parent who is confused by what vaccines may or may not do, you’d assume you could not accept anything that Dr. Offit says because of the anti-scientific memes and tropes of the vaccine denialists. And the Big Lies told about Dr. Offit.

Let’s counter the Big Lie with the Big Facts.

Dr. Offit’s biography is simply one of a person who is passionate about helping children. His first book, Breaking the Antibiotic Habit: A Parent’s Guide to Coughs, Colds, Ear Infections, and Sore Throats, was one of the first popular books that asked parents to start reducing the use of antibiotics, because they may have long-term consequences for the children. Obviously, the antibiotic industry didn’t get to him then. But most of his career has been in studying and supporting vaccines as the best method to prevent deadly diseases. Here are just a selection of what he’s done:

That is an impressive resume. It is also frustrating that individuals with little or no biomedical background can spend 10 minutes on google searches and proclaim themselves smarter than Dr. Offit. I actually have a strong biomedical background (and 25 years of experience), yet I’m an amateur compared to him. 

In the book Outliers: The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell states that the key to expertise and success in any field is, to a large extent, a matter of practicing a specific task for a total of around 10,000 hours. That’s about four years of 8 hour days, with no breaks for the bathroom, phone calls, texting your friends, or meals. It’s focused studying. Based on the Offit’s productivity, he has far exceeded those 10,000 hours of training and studying.

A while ago, I ran across Left Brain Right Brain’s blogpost, Your Baby’s Best Shot: Why Vaccines Are Safe and Save Lives,  which was quick review of the book I mentioned above by Hagood and Herlihy with a forward by the aforementioned Dr. Offit. The blog post really was nothing much more than the blurb about the book, a quickie article to update their readers about something new and interesting, which that book most certainly is. However, the blog post’s comments section was filled with some of those Big Lies about Dr. Offit:

We should just point out that he was reprimanded by Congress for voting on vaccine policies for which he had financial conflicts.

According to Liz Ditz, no he wasn’t. He was “harassed” (my words, not Ms. Ditz’s) by a vaccine denialist member of Congress, Representative Dan Burton, an Indiana Republican, who has since left Congress. According to the report from Congress, which was a critique on the CDC’s policies and its enforcement of those policies, mentioned that Paul Offit abstained from a critical vote on rotavirus vaccine. Not really a reprimand. In fact, though the report was awfully wordy, it seemed like he was being praised for his decision. Dr. Offit, because he was the inventor of the vaccine which saves hundreds of thousands of lives, decided to recuse himself from the vote on the vaccine, which was the ethical, moral, and right thing to do. No one reprimanded him.

Refuted. Next on the list of Big Lies in that comment section:

Also, his chair at the Children’s Hospital is paid for by Merck, which by any definition represents a continuing conflict of interest.

Yes, Dr. Offit is the Offit is the Maurice R. Hilleman Professor of Vaccinology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. Yes, Merck gave an endowment for the Maurice R. Hilleman chair, but it was mostly set up Hilleman himself prior to his death. Merck does not have special rights to come to his office and demand that he do anything. Merck and the University of Pennsylvania make the funding public. And Merck, like all pharmaceutical companies, has a charitable foundation that gives boatloads of money to many worthy causes. Diabetes. AIDS/HIV. Asthma. This money funds research, not “controlled” by the company. The same foundation gave the “no-strings-attached” funding for the new Vaccinology chair.

Moreover, and I’ve never gotten this, why do the vaccine deniers (actually all science deniers) think that people are so easily bought and sold? Maybe the antivaccinationist’s morals are abject failures in human society (of course, they don’t want to save children, so I might actually be onto something) that they are so easily bought and sold they project their lack of ethics onto others. I can only speculate.

The Pharma Shill Gambit is getting awfully tiresome, a trope barely worthy of consideration and response. Without any evidence whatsoever, pseudoscience pushing anti-vaccine lunatics keep using ad hominem arguments that somehow the pharmaceutical industry is filled with evil people. Provide evidence of that, because almost everyone in the industry, including researchers, executives, engineers, and everyone else in the industry is devoted to doing everything they can to help humanity.

Every morning, every employees feels empowered to do one more thing that saves one more life. How many people in the world can say, “I’m not a doctor, but what I do saves lives and provides the world with a better way to live longer?” That they make a bunch of money on that, well, after all that work, why not? It’s hard work, and it takes the years of training to actually create a vaccine that prevents diseases. Or a cancer drug that increases your lifespan. Offit developed vaccine to save hundreds of thousands of lives. What has an vaccine denier done to save a single life? 

Back on point. Liz Ditz penned “Meryl Dorey: Seven Assertions. One is Factual. Six Are False” in her I Speak of Dreams blog about autism. She takes Meryl Dorey to task about her lies about Dr. Offit:

  1. Paul Offit Works in Pennsylvania — TRUE!
  2. Paul Offit sat on the FDA Committee--FALSE!
  3. That Approved His Rotavirus Vaccine — FALSE!
  4. Paul Offit Continues to Derive Revenue from RotaTek patent – FALSE!
  5. Paul Offit “Has Set Himself Up” As An Expert on Vaccines — FALSE!
  6. Paul Offit “Opposes All Vaccine Exemptions” — FALSE!
  7. Paul Offit Published A Study Proving the “100,000 Vaccines at Once” Safety Claim–FALSE! (This particular zombie antivaccination meme has arisen lately by the obnoxious and unethical Meryl Dorey)

There’s more out there, but we’ve hit the top 10 list. OK, top 7 list.

I still cannot understand why people with no education in the fields of vaccines, immunology, medicine and/or pediatrics think that they know more than an expert. Is it because people feel empowered by uninformative websites? Is it because they think that they know more than a highly educated and trained physician? To become a physician and researcher of Dr. Offit’s level takes 4 years of college, 4 years of medical school, 2-3 years of internship and residency, 4-7 years of further training, and constant retraining and studying of anything new. Most of that time, it requires nearly 100% focus on studying and training. He’s obviously far surpassed Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hours of training–I bet that Dr. Offit is on his fourth or fifth round of 10,000 hours.

Vaccine denialists think they can throw around words like “immune system”, or “mercury poisoning”, or “autism can be ‘cured'” haven’t a clue. The immune system takes years to understand. It is a complex system of immunoglobulins, cells, proteins, and organs (and I’m probably missing something) that has a nearly infinite number of permutations. Researchers spend years to just understand one tiny portion of the immune system. How can someone do that with a college degree in art, reading google hits for a few hours? They can’t.

Dr. Offit rocks. And Vaccines Save Lives. 

If you need to search for accurate information and evidence about vaccines try the Science-based Vaccine Search Engine.

Comments (37)
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  • Someone

    So one-sided. Vaccines have risks and DO kill. Vaccination is a choice. No need to force these on anyone. If you believe they work then the unvaccinated should be of no threat to you. If paul loves them so much he should take 10,000 in one day as he says babies can take. Surely he would seize and croak, or suffer permanent neurological damage.

    • notation

      And you claim you’re a doctor? That you took classes in biology? No, you didn’t. You are a complete fraud. This post is evidence that you aren’t even smart enough to figure out how shoelaces work.

      • Cathy McMahan

        don’t have to be a doctor to read the package insert, duh

        • notation

          The package insert doesn’t say what you think it does, nor do the “reported” adverse reactions mean what you think they do. DUH.

          • Cathy McMahan

            of course they don’t, they are worse than what they say.

          • notation

            You don’t know what you are talking about. I’ve read your other posts, and you appear to be incapable of sentient thought.

          • Cathy McMahan

            stop looking at yourself, the inserts are there for a reason dumb ass

          • notation

            The inserts describe “adverse reactions” that have been REPORTED AFTER VACCINATION. These are not necessarily DUE to the vaccine.

          • http://www.skepticalraptor.com/skepticalraptorblog.php Skeptical Raptor

            Your over reliance on the package insert belies your ignorance about them. Package Inserts are regulatory documents required by the FDA, and adverse reactions are simply listings of everything “observed”–and in science, observations are about at the level of anecdotes. In fact, in the case of listings in a package insert they are anecdotes.

            Observations cannot establish correlation. And more importantly, they do not establish causality. I forget which package insert included a broken ulna as a potential adverse effect, but it’s just random probability.

            You fail to understand that observed adverse reactions after vaccinations are often less than the background rate for said events. It’s because your knowledge of mathematics fails to reach the third grade level.

            Finally, only in a controlled study over hundreds of thousands of patients can you establish causality, and factually, there are hardly any adverse effects (other than pain or infection at injection site) causally related to vaccinations. And, as far back as the late 1980’s, no deaths, NONE, can be definitively causally linked to vaccines.

            Are you embarrassed to be so ignorant of basic knowledge.

          • notation

            No, she doesn’t have any idea that she’s completely uneducated.

            Loni Hull is a close second. https://disqus.com/home/discussion/kpcc/the_persistence_of_the_vaccine_autism_controversy

            And our old friend eggman is still foaming at the mouth about Indians, “first day infant mortality” and “fishes in tap water.”

            I have such a friggin’ headache.

  • Someone

    Paul is that you? Your in disguise . Either that or this blogger is your boyfriend, lololol

    • notation

      It’s “YOU’RE in disguise,” you illiterate moron.

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  • Dorit Reiss

    Thanks for speaking up. I have not heard of Dr. Offit before I got involved in this debate, but everything I’ve learned since getting involved is to his credit, and this compilation answers to the unfounded claims anti-vaccine activists make about him is very, very helpful.

    He’s a real hero.

  • elishua Fernandez

    man you are FULL OF SHIT. . so because someone is anti-vaccine they are a “lunatic”.. how do you expect to be taken serious, i never received a vaccine because my mom was a natural health enthusiast..never became sick a day in my life. is my mom a ”lunatic”..you really need to think over the crap you write. . another thing there are certified doctors, some with more education than you, who are anti vaccine, i’m guessing they’re “lunatics too huh. . like Dr. Meyer Eisenstein , Dr. Suzanne Humphries, Dr. Sherri J. Tenpenny, Dr. Richard Moskowitz , Dr. Tim O’Shea, Dr. Garth Nicolson ,. . but they’re all ”lunatic” right. . also why did the vaccine injury protection act of 1986 give pharmaceutical companies and doctors legal immunity in cases of vaccine related injury or death, if vaccines are so effective, why do they need this legal protection if something were to happen. . if vaccines are so effective then why are you so concerned about unvaccinated people, the vaccine should protect you from them right, so why even give a damn if someone decides not to get them. . vaccines are a billion dollar racket, that’s why mandatory doses have quadrupled since the 90’s, this is all about money. like it always is, some babies are given 6-7 shots in one visit, how in the holy fuck is this ”safe” on any level. . vaccines didn’t get rid of no diseases, all of those diseases they say were eradicated by vaccines were in rapid decline before vaccinations came into the picture due to better sanitation, clean water, overall hygiene.

    • Mike Stevens

      “vaccines didn’t get rid of no diseases”
      I quite agree with you.

      • http://www.skepticalraptor.com/skepticalraptorblog.php Skeptical Raptor

        I almost, barely within a mm, of missing your snark. There is nothing better than real dry sarcasm. That was the Sahara of sarcasm.

        • Mike Stevens

          Atacama, more like?

    • Ian Zacher

      Lol, 20 years ago, they barely knew what autism was, so it’s a bit obvious that autism DETECTION itself is on the rise. Please find me a scientific, peer-reviewed article linking vaccines to autism. And not one by a fraud that has been retracted.

    • Mike Stevens

      If he wants to get rich, why does Offit donate the proceeds of his best selling books to autism charities?

      So tell us, which charities get the proceeds of Jenny McCarthy’s books?
      Or Doctor Bob Sear’s books?
      Or Kennedy’s?

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