20th anniversary of the Andrew Wakefield vaccine fraud – no celebrations

andrew wakefield

I’m a couple of months late with this article because of life and reasons, but a bit over 20 years ago, in February 1998, Andrew Wakefield published his infamous article in Lancet, which was eventually retracted in 2010. He stated that “onset of behavioural symptoms was associated, by the parents, with measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccination in eight of the 12 children.” Because Wakefield claimed that most of the behavioral problems were autism, that became the rallying cry of the anti-vaccine religion for the past 20 years – the MMR vaccine, if not all vaccines, cause autism.

I actually remember getting that particular issue of Lancet 20 years ago, and I ran across that article. My first thought was, “why in hell would Lancet publish such a troublesome article with just 12 freaking (not the word I used) data points.” Then I wondered who that Wakefield character was – was he an expert on vaccines and childhood behavioral issues? Well, the internet in 1998 didn’t have search engines like we do today, so finding out anything about Andrew Wakefield was difficult at best. I just assumed that if the Lancet, one of the top medical journals in the world, published it, Wakefield must have some level of respect.

Even though the internet was as much a bastion of pseudoscience and conspiracists as it is now, you would never “do your research” on the internet. But our local newspaper had a blurb about the Wakefield study in a Sunday health section, and my wife read the article. She got panicked that our two young daughters, who were having upcoming MMR vaccines, would become autistic. That was my first experience in having to defend vaccines against nonsense (don’t tell my wife I called her worries were nonsense).

My daughters eventually got that vaccine (and received all subsequent vaccines up to and including the HPV vaccine), although even I monitored my children for a few weeks for any behavioral changes. Knowing what I know now, I should have just a fun dad, but I admit to worrying.

Let’s remind everyone about the frauds and lies of Andrew Wakefield because it has led to the return of vaccine-preventable diseases. Continue reading “20th anniversary of the Andrew Wakefield vaccine fraud – no celebrations”

CDC updated autism statistics – not an epidemic, not caused by vaccines

CDC updates autism statistics

On 27 April 2018, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released new statistics on autism incidence in the USA – the CDC estimated that 1 out of every 59 children has been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in 2014. This is a fairly large increase over the 2002 numbers when the CDC estimated that 1 in 152 children was diagnosed with ASD. Just because the CDC updated autism statistics does not mean that there’s suddenly an autism epidemic, nor that vaccines are to blame.

Predictably, the anti-vaccine mob was resorting to their full-throated screaming mode about these new stats. And of course, even if you are a dispassionate observer of these numbers, you may wonder why the autism diagnosis rate has nearly tripled from 2002 to 2014.

And that’s why we’re here – let’s examine why and how the CDC updated autism statistics. And I’m going to show you why it’s not a sudden epidemic – it’s better scientific research. Continue reading “CDC updated autism statistics – not an epidemic, not caused by vaccines”

Anti-vaccine pseudoscientist fails to show vaccines are linked to autism

anti-vaccine pseudoscientist

Other than anecdotes, Andrew Wakefield’s fraudulent study, and a handful of speculative studies published in low impact-factor journals, the overwhelming scientific consensus is that vaccines are not linked to autism spectrum disorder. The question has been asked in literally hundreds of real scientific articles, and the answer keeps coming back that there is no link. But that doesn’t stop one after another anti-vaccine pseudoscientist coming forward with pathetic evidence to try to “prove” (see Note 1) that vaccines cause autism. They always fail.

So today we’re going to look at another “study” from another anti-vaccine pseudoscientist trying to promote a false religious belief that somehow, somewhere vaccines are related to autism. Despite the scientific consensus that has refuted those beliefs with robust and repeated evidence, this pseudoscientist makes a vain attempt and fails. Let’s take a look. Continue reading “Anti-vaccine pseudoscientist fails to show vaccines are linked to autism”

What causes autism? Maybe infections during pregnancy but not vaccines

causes autism

Despite the rigid beliefs of the anti-vaccine religion, the science is settled – vaccines are not causally linked to autism or any other neurodevelopmental issue. Arguing about this is a waste of time, if not for the fact that some parents might resist vaccinating their children because they heard these unfounded claims. But that doesn’t mean scientific research has quit looking for what causes autism.

Scientific research has focused on genetics as the underlying cause of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) (see Note 1). But often, environmental triggers could induce the upregulation of genes, which may lead to ASD.

During this search for what causes autism, scientists have uncovered a potential link between infections during pregnancy and autism. In fact, this new data may be evidence for pregnant women to be fully vaccinated before and during pregnancy to reduce the risk of those infections. Continue reading “What causes autism? Maybe infections during pregnancy but not vaccines”

Anti-vaccine James Lyons-Weiler writes about aluminum and autism

James Lyons-Weiler

Here we go again. Another anti-vaccine pseudoscientist publishes a paper that calls into question something about vaccines, and the anti-vaccine religion genuflects in their general direction. The anti-vaccine side has nearly zero evidence supporting their claims, so they have to cling to anything they can get. And a new article from James Lyons-Weiler continues that tradition.

The anti-vaccine religion is littered with these false authorities that have few credentials or experience in vaccines, yet, because of a “Ph.D.” after their name, the anti-vaxxers make it appear they speak for millions of scientists. There’s Tetyana Obukhanych, a former immunologist who has published no peer-reviewed articles about vaccines, who has denied all of her scientific education and training, and who makes egregious and simplistic mistakes about vaccines in all of her proclamations.

Christopher Shaw and Lucija Tomljenovic are multiple-retracted “researchers” who shill for the anti-vaccine religion by publishing weak and easily critiqued research that doesn’t even stand up to the tiniest of criticism. We’ve often speculated as to why the University of British Columbia, where they do their “research,” hasn’t ended their relationship.

Look, I’m not impressed by credentials and degrees. I don’t care if someone is a janitor or a Ph.D. in immunology at Harvard University. If you deny established scientific consensus based on your whims, cherry picking evidence, or rhetoric, you have nothing. You bring nothing to a scientific discussion. If you want to overturn the scientific consensus on vaccines then you better be an expert in the area of vaccines, and you better have a broad, robust body of evidence that shows problems with the scientific consensus.

Now, it’s time to look at this new false authority in the land of vaccines, James Lyons-Weiler. Is he another false authority and pseudoscientist? Or does his new paper give us something new to examine about vaccines? Yes. No. Continue reading “Anti-vaccine James Lyons-Weiler writes about aluminum and autism”

Once more about Andrew Wakefield fraud extraordinaire

For the handful of you who don’t know him, MrAndrew Wakefield fraudulently alleged a connection between the MMR vaccine, for measles, mumps and rubella) and autism – this has had the effect of suppressing vaccination rates in many countries. His claims were published in a now retracted paper published in the Lancet, a mostly respected medical journal who seemed to have forgotten how to do proper peer review back in the late 1990’s. This is a quick review of the Andrew Wakefield fraud.

Dorit Rubinstein Reiss – Professor of Law at the University of California Hastings College of the Law (San Francisco, CA) – is a frequent contributor to this blog. She had posted an article that debunks the myth that Andrew Wakefield is probably innocent of all charges made against him by the UK’s General Medical Council (GMC). Basically, some of the antivaccination crowd believes that because Wakefield’s partner in the fraud, Professor John Walker-Smith, had his own decision by the GMC overturned, it is considered evidence that Andrew Wakefield was wronged when the GMC found Wakefield, too, guilty of serious ethical violations. But that would be an incorrect interpretation of the facts. Continue reading “Once more about Andrew Wakefield fraud extraordinaire”

Del Bigtree vaccine safety complaints – HHS Vaccine Program responds

Del Bigtree Andrew Wakefield

On January 18, 2018, Dr. Melinda Wharton, Acting Director of the National Vaccine Program Office in the Department of Health and Human Services, sent Mr. Del Bigtree, an anti-vaccine activist, and producer of the anti-vaccine film Vaxxed, a response to questions he raised about vaccine safety. The response is a very informative description of the substantial efforts regarding vaccine safety, and can and should reassure parents that there is abundant data – and many monitoring mechanisms in place – to examine and address vaccine safety, and that the expert consensus that vaccines are very safe is well grounded.

This post will shortly describe the background to the letter from Dr. Wharton, then provide some of the highlights. I do, however, encourage people to read the full letter, available here (pdf), for themselves, to understand many vaccine safety issues. Continue reading “Del Bigtree vaccine safety complaints – HHS Vaccine Program responds”

Another anti-vaccine myth debunked – “too many, too soon” is bad science

anti-vaccine myth

I’m on like a 40-article streak of writing about vaccines. Each day, I have plans to write about something else, but like Al Pacino said in the Godfather, “just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.” And debunking another anti-vaccine myth pulls me back in, and my seminal article on whether Sasquatch exists has to wait for another time. Sorry kids.

Seriously, the “too many, too soon” trope pushed by the anti-vaccine religion is one of the most annoying in the discussions about vaccines. What they mean is that we give children too many vaccines too early in life, and that causes all kinds of harm. Per usual, the anti-vaccine religion lacks any robust scientific evidence supporting this claim, but you know those guys – there’s no trope, myth, or meme that they won’t employ, irrespective of evidence, to push lies about vaccines.

So let’s take a look at this old, but never boring, anti-vaccine myth in light of a recently published, powerful study that provides more evidence that this particular myth doesn’t hold any water. Continue reading “Another anti-vaccine myth debunked – “too many, too soon” is bad science”

NVICP Mini-Omnibus Autism decision – vaccines still do not cause autism

Mini-Omnibus Autism

On 7 February 2018, the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (NVICP) handed down a decision in a mini-omnibus autism proceeding asking whether petitioners established “by preponderant evidence, a medical theory connecting a vaccine and [the test case child]’s injury.”

The decision is important in two ways. First, it reminds us that NVICP has consistently and repeatedly rejected claims that vaccines cause autism. Second, it explains in detail why a theory (please see Note 1 at the end of the article) claiming human DNA fragments in vaccines cause autism – a claim whose main proponent is Dr. Theresa Deisher – is unconvincing and not supported by the evidence.

The detailed, thorough decision shows that the main study from Dr. Deisher to support the theory – a study attempting to draw a temporal connection between change points where vaccines containing such DNA were introduced and rise in rates of autism – is fundamentally flawed. It then also shows that the petitioners’ proposed mechanisms of causation – how the DNA fragments are supposed to cause autism – are untenable.

The Mini-Omnibus Autism decision is 94-pages, and this summary will just touch on the main points. I urge readers to wade into the full decision if they want to understand more.  Continue reading “NVICP Mini-Omnibus Autism decision – vaccines still do not cause autism”

Andrew Wakefield discredited – a collection of his attacks on vaccines

Andrew Wakefield discredited

Between Dorit Rubinstein Reiss and I, we have written over 100 articles about that cunning fraud, Andrew Wakefield. Are you going to find anything positive about him in any of those +100 articles? No way. Is Andrew Wakefield discredited as a physician, scientist, and vaccine expert? You bet.

Why are we so obsessed with pointing out that he has been discredited? Because he has become, through media manipulation and many anti-vaccine acolytes and sycophants, the face of the “vaccines cause autism” meme. Note to the casual reader – there is absolutely no evidence that vaccines cause autism.

Is Andrew Wakefield discredited? Damn straight he is.

Mr. Wakefield is no doctor. He has been stricken off the list of physicians in the UK which is tantamount to having his license to practice medicine revoked. Because he is no longer a physician, he can no longer be found in the Royal College of Surgeons.

And let’s not forget that Wakefield’s article, that made him a hero to the anti-vaccine crowd, in the Lancet was disowned by his coauthors and eventually retracted by the journal. Interesting little bit of trivia – the very first article (other than a welcome-test article) I ever wrote on here was about Wakefield.

Just to make life easier for those of you researching Andrew Wakefield and his various frauds, I’ve organized many of my posts into categories, so that you can find the Andrew Wakefield article that meets your needs. Continue reading “Andrew Wakefield discredited – a collection of his attacks on vaccines”