Christopher Bunch – another tragedy blamed on the HPV vaccine

christopher bunch

This article about the tragic story of Christopher Bunch was written by Dorit Rubinstein Reiss, Professor of Law at the University of California Hastings College of the Law (San Francisco, CA), who is a frequent contributor to this and many other blogs, providing in-depth, and intellectually stimulating, articles about vaccines, medical issues, social policy, and the law.

Professor Reiss writes extensively in law journals about the social and legal policies of vaccination. Additionally, Reiss is also a member of the Parent Advisory Board of Voices for Vaccines, a parent-led organization that supports and advocates for on-time vaccination and the reduction of vaccine-preventable disease.

On 14 August 2018, fourteen-year-old Christopher Bunch died from acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (ADEM), leaving his loving, devoted family reeling. The family blamed his death on the HPV vaccine that Christopher received, and they were quickly surrounded and courted by anti-vaccine activists.

My heart goes out to Christopher’s family. I followed the case since he was in the hospital, hoping and praying with them for a good outcome, and I feel their heartbreak. I was also deeply impressed by their initial reaction, which was to create a positive legacy for Christopher, making him visible and famous.

I would rather not write about this, which is why this post is so long after the fact. But Christopher’s death is since being used to try and scare people away from HPV vaccines or vaccines generally, putting others at risk of cancer and death. With very little basis: the timing and the epidemiological evidence do not support a link between Christopher’s death and HPV vaccines. Christopher Bunch deserves a better legacy than that. Continue reading “Christopher Bunch – another tragedy blamed on the HPV vaccine”

Robert F Kennedy Jr used Alan Dershowitz in anti-vaccine fake debate

Robert F Kennedy Jr

This article, about an anti-vaccine fake debate between Robert F Kennedy Jr and Alan Dershowitz was used to promote anti-vaccine misinformation, was written by Dorit Rubinstein Reiss, Professor of Law at the University of California Hastings College of the Law (San Francisco, CA), who is a frequent contributor to this and many other blogs, providing in-depth, and intellectually stimulating, articles about vaccines, medical issues, social policy, and the law.

Professor Reiss writes extensively in law journals about the social and legal policies of vaccination. Additionally, Reiss is also a member of the Parent Advisory Board of Voices for Vaccines, a parent-led organization that supports and advocates for on-time vaccination and the reduction of vaccine-preventable disease.

On July 23, 2020, anti-vaccine activists aired what they described as a heated debate between Attorney and Professor Alan Dershowitz and anti-vaccine activist Robert F Kennedy Jr. The “debate” was a good example of why debating anti-vaccine activists is a bad idea.

Basically, Kennedy did most of the talking, and most of his talk was not – as initially suggested – about the law, but a recitation of anti-vaccine talking points, most of them either misleading or blatantly untrue. Dershowitz, who is not a public health expert or a debunker of anti-vaccine misinformation, was not prepared to address them. While he did push Kennedy on some issues, with Kennedy’s misinformation left unaddressed, viewers may come out with the impression that Kennedy’s points had merit.

The points do not. Robert F Kennedy Jr consistently misrepresented the facts, and was not quite accurate on the constitutional law, though he was closer. He misrepresented the regulatory framework on vaccines. In essence, Kennedy used this as an opportunity to share misinformation while using Dershowitz’s comparable legitimacy to give weight to his claims. Continue reading “Robert F Kennedy Jr used Alan Dershowitz in anti-vaccine fake debate”

Latest “act” from Andrew Wakefield – recycling 1986 anti-vaccine tropes

Andrew Wakefield

This article about the Andrew Wakefield movie, 1986: The Act, was written by Dorit Rubinstein Reiss, Professor of Law at the University of California Hastings College of the Law (San Francisco, CA), who is a frequent contributor to this and many other blogs, providing in-depth, and intellectually stimulating, articles about vaccines, medical issues, social policy, and the law.

Professor Reiss writes extensively in law journals about the social and legal policies of vaccination. Additionally, Reiss is also a member of the Parent Advisory Board of Voices for Vaccines, a parent-led organization that supports and advocates for on-time vaccination and the reduction of vaccine-preventable disease.

In 1986: The Act, Andrew Wakefield has created a very long parade of anti-vaccine claims from the past forty years or longer. The movie combines half-truths, facts taken out of context, and blatant misrepresentations to try and mislead people into refusing to vaccinate and protect their children.

In his post on the topic, my friend and colleague Dr. Vince Ilannelli addressed the potential motivations behind 1986: The Act from Andrew Wakefield, the problems with the credibility of the director and many of the main actors, the problematic nature of the sources in the movie, and some of the inaccuracies surrounding DTP.

In this post, I will cover some of the same ground, but my main focus will be to show why the film is unreliable. Obviously, I cannot cover every detail of the long film and keep this manageable, but I can cover many of the highlights, and I hope to make it clear why I think it’s unreliable.

Before starting on those, however, readers deserve a reminder that Andrew Wakefield, the creator of the film, has a well-earned reputation as a dishonest scientist. Wakefield misrepresented information about MMR and hid conflicts of interests, and as a result, outbreaks of measles in Europe and the United States harmed and killed children.

And Andrew Wakefield has continued to misrepresent information in ways that harm children. 

Andrew Wakefield is not a reliable source, and his previous movies show this, too. 

1986: The Act is no different.

The movie is framed as a discovery journey of a couple from the point where the woman discovers she’s pregnant to the point where she gives birth, during which they go through a lot of anti-vaccine sources and become thoroughly and extremely anti-vaccine, ending the movie as participants in an anti-vaccine event. It is, as I mentioned, a parade of greatest hits of the anti-vaccine movement – mostly claims that have been addressed again and again over the years, some twenty years old, some almost forty years old, some older still. There is little new in 1986: The Act. Continue reading “Latest “act” from Andrew Wakefield – recycling 1986 anti-vaccine tropes”

Coronavirus vaccine skeptic – why I am uneasy about a new vaccine

coronavirus vaccine skeptic

The more I read about the rush for a new vaccine, the more I am becoming a coronavirus vaccine skeptic. I think that we’re doing this all wrong, and I think that this vaccine could be a disaster if it is rushed to the market.

Because too many people don’t read articles beyond the title, like anti-vaxxers who can’t be bothered to delve into the science beyond abstracts, I want to be clear about something. All vaccines available today are overwhelmingly safe and effective – any possible issues with vaccines are substantially smaller than the harm caused by the disease.

This is settled science.

I am a passionate supporter of all vaccines, anyone who reads this blog knows that. I am only a coronavirus vaccine skeptic – and just to be clear again, I am a scientific skeptic which means I follow evidence derived from the scientific method to a conclusion. 

My coronavirus vaccine skepticism, at least right now, is based on the fact that there is little evidence supporting either it’s effectiveness or safety, although those are not really issues because we are very early in the development of these vaccines. My skepticism is in the methods that we are employing to rush this vaccine to market.

This is totally different than your typical anti-vaccine zealots like Del Bigtree  Littletree and RFK Jr who ignore all scientific evidence to push their anti-vaccine narrative. 

Although I’ve written about my concerns regarding our rush to get a vaccine previously, I’ve made more observations that bother me. Continue reading “Coronavirus vaccine skeptic – why I am uneasy about a new vaccine”

“The COVID-19 Vaccine Dilemma” – tempering the over-optimism

Professor Dorit Rubinstein Reiss, a frequent contributor to this and many other blogs, has published an important article, “The COVID-19 Vaccine Dilemma,” regarding the pitfalls and challenges to bringing a new COVID-19 vaccine to the market. 

Professor Reiss, for those of you who may not know, is a Professor of Law at the University of California Hastings College of the Law (San Francisco, CA), writes in-depth, and intellectually stimulating, articles about vaccines, medical issues, social policy, and the law.

The paper, published online on SSRN (and can be found here), discusses significant points regarding how we should proceed with the development and manufacture of a new COVID-19 vaccine. As I’ve discussed before, the rush to getting a new vaccine is necessary, but we should be aware of all that is necessary to get a safe and effective vaccine for the people of the world.

I’m going to hit the most important points of the article that I think is important to the conversation about developing a new COVID-19 vaccine. Continue reading ““The COVID-19 Vaccine Dilemma” – tempering the over-optimism”

Anti vaccine social mobilization is a virus in the coronavirus world

anti-vaccine-social-mobilization

This article about anti-vaccine social mobilization was written by Dorit Rubinstein Reiss, Professor of Law at the University of California Hastings College of the Law (San Francisco, CA), who is a frequent contributor to this and many other blogs, providing in-depth, and intellectually stimulating, articles about vaccines, medical issues, social policy, and the law.

Professor Reiss writes extensively in law journals about the social and legal policies of vaccination. Additionally, Reiss is also a member of the Parent Advisory Board of Voices for Vaccines, a parent-led organization that supports and advocates for on-time vaccination and the reduction of vaccine-preventable disease.

Viruses are the ultimate parasites. Viruses are little packages of genetic material whose whole existence is about finding a host cell they can enter, use the cell’s machinery to make copies of themselves, often killing the cell in the process, and move to another cell – often inflicting substantial damage on the whole host organism (when the host is not a single cell).

Obviously, no human is like that. Nor is a movement like anti-vaccine social mobilization. But the term “viral” has been used to describe things that are not actually viruses. In several ways, the anti-vaccine movement can be argued to have similar qualities to viruses.

First, viruses succeed by misrepresenting themselves. They get into cells by convincing the cell’s receptors that they should be pulled in, that they belong. In a similar way, anti-vaccine social mobilization simulates other social movement’s use of the law by misrepresenting legal claims – blatantly or less blatantly.

They present settlements as wins. They present a case that rejected an argument that the Childhood National Vaccine Injury Act embodied the idea that vaccines are “unavoidably safe” by saying “US supreme court ruled vaccines “unavoidably UNsafe” [sic] in 2011.”

Second, anti-vaccine activists are parasitic in the sense that they coopt previously successful legal claims used by other movements. For example, in attacking laws trying to tighten vaccine mandates anti-vaccine activists compared them to segregation, going as far as to refer to Jim Crow, Rosa Parks, and separate water fountains.

In more than one lawsuit they cited Brown v. Board of Education to support a claim of discrimination (Reiss, 2018). More recently, they invoked the language of “my body, my choice” used by supporters of reproductive rights, and to the Me Too movement.

Third, anti-vaccine activists’ content goes viral. Although the content does not often break outside their network, the coordinated nature of their network and their sophisticated efforts make it quickly go viral within the network.

In these different ways, the anti-vaccine social mobilization has a viral-like quality, with more than one meaning, that is unlike the social movement previously written about.

As the editor, I’d like to add a fourth point. Viruses have no intelligence or free will. They are organisms at the edge of life, barely living. Compare that to the anti-vaccine social mobilization. Just saying.  

Vaccine ingredients are not equal to injecting disinfectants for COVID-19

vaccine ingredients

This article about vaccine ingredients and how they are not equivalent to injecting disinfectants was written by Dorit Rubinstein Reiss, Professor of Law at the University of California Hastings College of the Law (San Francisco, CA), who is a frequent contributor to this and many other blogs, providing in-depth, and intellectually stimulating, articles about vaccines, medical issues, social policy, and the law.

Professor Reiss writes extensively in law journals about the social and legal policies of vaccination. Additionally, Reiss is also a member of the Parent Advisory Board of Voices for Vaccines, a parent-led organization that supports and advocates for on-time vaccination and the reduction of vaccine-preventable disease.

On April 23, 2020, President Donald Trump speculated about the possibility of hitting people with internal, high doses of ultraviolet light or injecting disinfectant to treat COVID-19, highly dangerous suggestions.  Whatever his intent, the impact was such that companies selling disinfectants felt a need to warn people against injecting it.

At least in part, there is concern that the President’s comments about disinfectant were motivated by lobbying from a group selling a dangerous supplement that is, in essence, industrial-strength bleach,  a supplement touted in the past as a magical cure and used against children with autism by misguided parents and sellers willing to harm them.  A group selling the supplement was recently subject to a court order after touting it as a cure for COVID-19. Continue reading “Vaccine ingredients are not equal to injecting disinfectants for COVID-19”

Nick Catone Facebook lawsuit – more questions than answers

Nick Catone Facebook lawsuit

This article about the Nick Catone Facebook lawsuit was written by Dorit Rubinstein Reiss, Professor of Law at the University of California Hastings College of the Law (San Francisco, CA), who is a frequent contributor to this and many other blogs, providing in-depth, and intellectually stimulating, articles about vaccines, medical issues, social policy, and the law.

Professor Reiss writes extensively in law journals about the social and legal policies of vaccination. Additionally, Reiss is also a member of the Parent Advisory Board of Voices for Vaccines, a parent-led organization that supports and advocates for on-time vaccination and the reduction of vaccine-preventable disease.

Recently, Nick Catone – who lost his son tragically in 2017, and blamed vaccines for it, with no good supporting evidence –  sued – or tried to sue – Facebook in federal court for, allegedly, removing his account.

The Nick Catone Facebook lawsuit is problematic, and the story, in its entirety, seems strange. Continue reading “Nick Catone Facebook lawsuit – more questions than answers”

ICAN FOIA lawsuit – misrepresenting another non-win from anti-vaccine group

ICAN FOIA lawsuit

This article about another ICAN FOIA lawsuit was written by Dorit Rubinstein Reiss, Professor of Law at the University of California Hastings College of the Law (San Francisco, CA), who is a frequent contributor to this and many other blogs, providing in-depth, and intellectually stimulating, articles about vaccines, medical issues, social policy, and the law.

Professor Reiss writes extensively in law journals about the social and legal policies of vaccination. Additionally, Reiss is also a member of the Parent Advisory Board of Voices for Vaccines, a parent-led organization that supports and advocates for on-time vaccination and the reduction of vaccine-preventable disease.

The Informed Consent Action Network (ICAN) is an anti-vaccine organization, founded in 2016 by Del Bigtree, largely funded by a New York couple, Bernard and Lisa Selz.

On March 4 and March 5, 2020, ICAN claimed a “win” against the CDC that, they said, prevented CDC from claiming vaccines don’t cause autism. In reality, the ICAN Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit was settled, and the settlement doesn’t counter the existing scientific consensus that vaccines do not cause autism. Continue reading “ICAN FOIA lawsuit – misrepresenting another non-win from anti-vaccine group”

February 2020 ACIP Meeting review – Ebola, influenza, and coronavirus

february 2020 acip meeting

This article about the February 2020 ACIP meeting was written by Dorit Rubinstein Reiss, Professor of Law at the University of California Hastings College of the Law (San Francisco, CA), who is a frequent contributor to this and many other blogs, providing in-depth, and intellectually stimulating, articles about vaccines, medical issues, social policy, and the law.

Professor Reiss writes extensively in law journals about the social and legal policies of vaccination. Additionally, Reiss is also a member of the Parent Advisory Board of Voices for Vaccines, a parent-led organization that supports and advocates for on-time vaccination and the reduction of vaccine-preventable disease.

I attended a large part of the February 2020 ACIP meeting (Advisory Committee of Immunization Practices) in Atlanta, GA. I had planned to stay throughout, but my airline changed my return flight and I had to leave before the end on the second day. I did, however, watch the first day and the first two parts of the second.

The coronavirus crisis changed some things. For example, there were multiple international groups visiting the CDC (there was also at least one group that was there for other reasons and sat on part of the meeting). And we had a presentation on the topic from Dr. Nancy Messonnier.

I will describe the meeting in the order it happened, though this is the very abbreviated version. As I said before, an ACIP meeting is a geek’s dream – there’s a lot of data provided and in-depth discussions of details. The committee has a heavy and important responsibility, and since it was targeted by anti-vaccine activists is carrying it out under tricky circumstances. Continue reading “February 2020 ACIP Meeting review – Ebola, influenza, and coronavirus”