Physicians for Informed Consent – another radical anti-vaccine group

Physician for Informed Consent

There are a bunch of anti-vaccine groups out there who invent legitimate sounding names in an attempt to appear to be rational, positive organizations. They’re mostly neither rational nor positive. A new one (at least for me) is a group called the “Physicians for Informed Consent,” whose “vision is to live in a society free of mandatory vaccination laws.”

Although there are individuals who are pro-vaccine but are opposed to mandatory vaccination, mostly on a politically libertarian point of view, almost all of these groups, especially in California, are specifically anti-vaccine. In fact, “informed consent” is one of those veiled code-words used by the anti-vaccine world, especially in the fight against SB277, California’s recently enacted law that removes personal belief exemptions to vaccinations for school age children.

This article is going to examine some of the issues around “informed consent,” then look at a recent statement from the radical anti-vaccine gourd, Physicians for Informed Consent. Continue reading “Physicians for Informed Consent – another radical anti-vaccine group”

Natural News is wrong about mandatory vaccinations – Part 1

natural news

For the typical American skeptic, there is nothing surprising by a headline that says that Natural News get it’s it all wrong. Most skeptics might wonder when they’ve ever gotten it right.

Just to be thorough, Natural News is a website that’s focused on anti-science delusions and pushing junk medicine, while marketing a whole boatload of nonsense remedies and “cures” for whatever makes the website money. It is owned by Mike Adams, self-styled “Health Ranger”, considered one of the biggest lunatics on the internet. Some consider him the #1 American Lunatic (and that takes some serious effort). Adams is so delusional, he insists that he’s just as science-oriented as Neil deGrasse Tyson. Only if it’s one of those alternative universes, I suppose.

Natural News has had a long history of vaccine denial, which always piques my interest, even if it’s to laugh hysterically. Occasionally, however, Natural News takes its anti-science beliefs to a whole new level, one that requires a double-pronged rebuttal and refutation. Continue reading “Natural News is wrong about mandatory vaccinations – Part 1”

Vaccine Court – causation and administrative discretion

vaccine court

A recent case provides insight into how the decisions of the Special Master in the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program – also known as the Vaccine Court – are reviewed by the appeals system. There are two issues I hope readers can take from this story:

  1. There is an elaborate system for appealing NVICP decisions. Next time someone tries to claim there is no appeal, or that the petitioners are not given a hearing, remind them they’re very wrong.
  2. The legal standard used to assess the Special Master’s findings of facts – what it is and how it works. What we see is that both the judge in the US Court of Federal Claims and the Circuit Court gave the Special Master’s decision pretty close scrutiny. 

Continue reading “Vaccine Court – causation and administrative discretion”

Price v HHS – statute of limitations, tolling, vaccines and autism

Price v HHS

On Thursday May 9, 2014 the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled that Christopher Wynn (pdf), in the case of Price v HHS (US Department of Health and Human Services), could not be compensated through the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (NVICP) – even if he proved a vaccine injury – because his mother, Chandra Price, waited too long to pursue his claim. The court ruled against Ms. Price and Christopher on jurisdictional grounds, but also decided that there was no reason to use equitable tolling, a legal doctrine that allows the court to set aside a technical objection for reasons of fairness. Continue reading “Price v HHS – statute of limitations, tolling, vaccines and autism”

Shoulder injury related to vaccine administration and NVICP

Shoulder injury related to vaccine administration

In 1986, the United States Congress passed the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act, which among other things created the  National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (NVICP). The act’s main goal was to protect vaccine manufacturers from vaccine injury claims and liability–but not for the reasons you might think. We are going to take a look at how shoulder injury related to vaccine administration (SIRVA) relates to NVICP claims

Congress was rightly concerned that the costs for these legal actions was going to drive most, if not all, manufacturers from the USA market. That would have been  a horrific problem for the country, with no ability to protect children from deadly and dangerous diseases.

The NVICP provides a no-fault program to resolve vaccine injury claims – “quickly, easily, with certainty and generosity.” The program was (and continues to be) funded by a tax on all vaccines sold in the country. Moreover, using a system of expert administrative “judges” (called Special Masters), a petitioner seeking to establish causation-in-fact must show, by a preponderance of the evidence, that but for the vaccination they would not have been injured, and that the vaccination was a substantial factor in bringing about their injury.

Continue reading “Shoulder injury related to vaccine administration and NVICP”

Vaccines cause SIDS? Not supported by Boatmon vs HHS case

vaccines cause SIDS

This is about the case of little J. B. Boatmon, who was born born four weeks prematurely, at the 36th week.  However, he rebounded from his early start, and at his four-months well baby pediatric visit, on September 2 was doing very well and found healthy.  At that visit, J.B. had the routine 4 months vaccines. Tragically, the next day (September 3) little J.B. was found lifeless in his crib. His death was ruled to be the result of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). But did vaccines cause SIDS in J.B.?

His parents filed suit under the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (NVICP). The case was decided on July 10, 2017. Special Master  Thomas L. Gowen with the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program  granted J.B’s parents compensation.

In August 2017 the Boatmon decision was shared on anti-vaccine sites as evidence that vaccines cause SIDS. The decision does not, however, support the claim because it is flawed internally in several ways. It misuses and discounts the epidemiological evidence, accepts a problematic theory over the objection of a more qualified expert, and ignores several of the important factors of the case. In addition to its internal flaws, the decision is in tension with many other decisions of NVICP – in fact, it seems an outlier – and it is interesting that the same sites that tout this problematic decision ignore other decisions that ruled otherwise. Continue reading “Vaccines cause SIDS? Not supported by Boatmon vs HHS case”

Vaccine injury compensation and mitochondrial disorders

Vaccine injury compensation and mitochondrial disorders

This post examines the treatment by the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (NVICP) of the first of two claims (see second one here) heard from those claiming vaccines cause more injuries than acknowledged in recent days. This article will focus on vaccine injury compensation and mitochondrial disorders – while the second one will cover an NVICP decision with respect to a form of an autoimmune syndrome.

The Special Master’s decisions – as many decisions in NVICP are – are long, complex, and examine the evidence closely and in detail. They address factual debates, expert disagreements specific to the case and expert disagreements on the science.

This post won’t cover them – that’s not my goal. All I will address are the Special Master’s conclusion about two hypotheses raised by those who believe vaccines injured their child (and also promoted by anti-vaccine organizations).

The NVICP (commonly called the Vaccine Court) is a no-fault program created by Congress to serve two goals: to protect the vaccine supply by offering limited liability protections to vaccine manufacturers and providers and to help those injured by vaccines – or even those who may have been so injured – be compensated more easily than in the regular courts.

As I addressed in the past, NVICP provides petitioners – as claimants are called – with substantial breaks compared to the regular courts. Petitioners do not have to prove a product defect or any kind of fault; the requirements for proving causation are relaxed; evidentiary rules are relaxed, allowing the introduction of evidence and experts that would not be allowed in a regular court.

NVICP is not, however, a benefits program. Its goal is not providing any parent with a child with a problem support. The United States certainly needs to offer more support to families of children with disabilities, but NVICP’s aim is different: it focuses on compensating injuries that may, at least, have been caused by vaccines.

To be compensated by an NVICP decision a petitioner does need to meet minimal standards suggesting a possible connection between a vaccine and an injury (a settlement does not require similar proof; parties settle for all kinds of reasons, including a view that the case isn’t worth litigating). At the very least a petitioner needs to show an injury, and provide expert testimony (expert testimony is generally needed when someone claims medical causation in the courts as well – that a medical act, device, drug etc. caused harm – with very narrow exceptions).

Continue reading “Vaccine injury compensation and mitochondrial disorders”

RFK Jr vaccine beliefs – why experienced journalists don’t take him seriously

rfk jr vaccine tucker carlson

On April 20, 2017, Tucker Carlson from Fox News interviewed Robert F. Kennedy  Jr. on his show, and they talked about vaccines. Mr. Kennedy pointed out that this is only his second interview on the topic in ten years, and blamed it on advertising dollars (which, apparently, did not prevent Mr. Carlson from hosting him). So why are RFK Jr vaccine beliefs ignored by the mainstream press?

The reality, however, is that journalists familiar with Mr. Kennedy’s past utterances on vaccines avoid him is because of his history of saying things that are blatantly wrong, and journalists who give him credence may well end up with egg on their face. This interview is a good example.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is an environmental lawyer. Best as I can tell he started speaking on vaccines in 2005, with an embarrassingly wrong article posted on both Salon and Rolling Stone that claimed that the CDC was engaged in a conspiracy to hide the fact that the vaccine preservative thimerosal was linked to autism.

After five corrections of the blatant errors in Kennedy’s article, Salon also retracted it, explaining that critics’ exposure of further problems “further eroded any faith we had in the story’s value. We’ve grown to believe the best reader service is to delete the piece entirely.”

Kennedy has repeated the same grossly inaccurate statements – claiming a conspiracy to hide the fact that thimerosal in vaccines causes autism – since, and has not recanted, most recently publishing a book making the claim ironically named “Thimerosal: Let the Science Speak,” and also pushing a challenge to science supporters on the topic, following in the footsteps of holocaust deniers, climate change deniers, anti-vaccine activists, evolution deniers, and others.

In the intervening years studies from all around the world looked at thimerosal in vaccines and did not find a link between it and autism. More recently see publications here and here. The global nature of these studies means that even if the CDC wanted to conspire to hide a link, it wouldn’t be able to, not without controlling the rest of the world. No serious scientific source today really thinks that the tiny amounts of thimerosal in vaccines (and as a reminder, all childhood vaccines, with the exception of multi-dose influenza, contain no, or almost no, thimerosal) causes autism or other neuropsychological problems – or any other serious, long-term harms. But Kennedy does. Because conspiracy.

RFK Jr vaccine statements are hostile, and also very, very extreme.  In a famous quote, he said:

They can put anything they want in that vaccine and they have no accountability for it,[…] They get the shot, that night they have a fever of a hundred and three, they go to sleep, and three months later their brain is gone…This is a holocaust, what this is doing to our country.

Not only is this untrue, but it’s highly offensive to children with autism to say their brain is gone, as is the comparison to the holocaust. Unsurprisingly, science supporters were dismayed by Kennedy’s claims – denied by the Trump transition team – that President Trump offered him the position of leading a vaccine commission.

 

Continue reading “RFK Jr vaccine beliefs – why experienced journalists don’t take him seriously”

Vaccine legislation in the USA – a state by state analysis

vaccine legislation

One of the most successful pieces of vaccine legislation in recent years has been SB277 in California, which eliminated personal belief exemptions (PBE), that allowed a parent to exclude a child from immunization requirements for school based on the parent’s personal beliefs, including religious objections.  These PBEs had been used and abused by anti-vaccine parents to exempt their school-aged children from most, if not all, vaccines.

Other than California, only West Virginia and Mississippi have such strict prohibitions on these PBEs that they are effectively not allowed as a method to refuse vaccines before a child enters school. But many other states are considering vaccine legislation that could improve vaccine uptake. Unfortunately, there are also states on the other side of the equation that are considering laws that reduce restrictions on personal belief exemptions.

The National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC), which seems to conflate “information” with misinformation about vaccines, claims that there are 134 vaccine bills being considered in 35 states. I wish!

I thought we would could take a look at current vaccine legislation being considered by various states that could potentially increase vaccine uptake in those states. Then we’ll take a look at those states pushing legislation that might decrease vaccine uptake. This should provide real information about what’s going on with these laws, instead of the alternative facts from the vaccine deniers at NVIC.

Continue reading “Vaccine legislation in the USA – a state by state analysis”

Merck shingles vaccine lawsuit – what are the facts?

Merck shingles vaccine lawsuit

In 2016, a Merck shingles vaccine lawsuit was filed in the Court of Common Pleas in Philadelphia claiming that the plaintiff was injured by the Merck’s shingles vaccine. Since the shingles vaccine is not administered to children, it’s not covered by the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Compensation Act. Injury claims, therefore, do not go through the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (NVICP) before going to court.

That is a mixed bag for plaintiffs: on one hand, they can go directly to state courts, something anti-vaccine activists clamor for in relation to all suits.  On the other hand, they need to meet the more demanding requirements of regular courts, including showing that there was fault on the part of the manufacturer with one of the tools lawyers use to sue product manufacturers, meet the more demanding causation requirements that govern the process in state courts, and follow the rules of evidence in those courts.

To remind readers, in NVICP, a petitioner (as they are referred to, while claimants in state courts are “plaintiffs”) would only need to show that the vaccine caused their harm, and their damages, and pretty much any evidence is allowed, though the Special Masters may give unreliable evidence little weight. This Merck shingles vaccine lawsuit can suggest what these claims would have to demonstrate if they actually had to go to regular courts. Continue reading “Merck shingles vaccine lawsuit – what are the facts?”