Australia blocked anti-vaccine radicals from re-entering the country

Australia blocked anti-vaccine

For those of you who don’t follow these shenanigans, a gang of anti-vaccine radicals have been traveling in a bus across America promoting the anti-vaccine fraudumentary, Vaxxed. They push their pseudoscience and vaccine lies to gullible audiences across America. The Vaxxed tour was heading to Australia to promote their unscientific nonsense to the continent down under. Lucky for the citizens of the fine country, Australia blocked anti-vaccine radicals from returning to that country.

Let’s backtrack a bit and talk about the Vaxxed bus tour. It includes a rotating cast of deplorable characters including the fraud Mr. Andrew Wakefield, the pseudoscience pushing Suzanne Humphries, Vaxxed producer Del Bigtree, and the reprehensible Polly Tommey. Continue reading “Australia blocked anti-vaccine radicals from re-entering the country”

Vaxxed misinformation – legal remedies for those harmed?

vaxxed misinformation

The documentary Vaxxed uses misrepresentation to scare people from vaccinating and protecting their kids from disease. For example, it strongly suggests that MMR causes autism, and doesn’t mention that studies from all around the world show otherwise. Scientific research solidly refutes any link between vaccines and autism. I think it is time to examine if there are any legal remedies for those harmed by Vaxxed misinformation.

The documentary claims that there is a conspiracy by the CDC to hide the link between MMR and autism, even though the documents supposed to support that conspiracy do not support such accusations. In spite of the fact that even if the CDC wanted to hide such a link, it couldn’t control studies done in other countries looking at the issue (and finding no link). It makes untrue statements about vaccine testing, like falsely claiming that vaccines are not tested in combination.

In addition, in several cities, the Vaxxed team – discredited scientist Andrew Wakefield, his collaborator Polly Tommey, and producer Del Bigtree, and occasionally others – followed certain screenings with a question and answer session. In those sessions they made false claims that could mislead parents away from protecting their children by vaccinating.

The Vaxxed team claimed that preventable diseases were not prevented by vaccines. Among other things they claimed that vaccines were both ineffective and unsafe, ignoring abundant research showing the opposite: modern vaccines are extremely safe and effective.

Del Bigtree falsely described the hepatitis B vaccine – that protects against a virus that can cause liver disease and cancer – as “injecting a sexually transmitted disease”, potentially scaring parents off protecting their children against this dangerous infection. Finally, the Vaxxed team warned listeners against seeing pediatricians, because they can’t be trusted (see here and here for more of their misrepresentations and misinformation).

If a viewer watches Vaxxed and listens to the team’s advice, decides not to vaccinate based on this misleading information, and their child gets a preventable disease and is harmed by it, can they sue for money damages in torts?

What if their unvaccinated child infected a third party who was harmed?  Continue reading “Vaxxed misinformation – legal remedies for those harmed?”

Index of articles by Prof. Dorit Rubinstein Reiss

Dorit Rubinstein Reiss

Editor’s note – this index of articles by Dorit Rubinstein Reiss has been updated and published here. The comments here are closed, and you can comment at the new article. 

 

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 and many other blogs, providing in-depth, and intellectually stimulating, articles about vaccines (generally, but sometimes moving to other areas of medicine), social policy and the law. Her articles usually unwind the complexities of legal issues with vaccinations and legal policies, such as mandatory vaccination and exemptions, with facts and citations. I know a lot of writers out there will link to one of her articles here as a sort of primary source to tear down a bogus antivaccine message.

Professor Reiss writes extensively in law journals about the social and legal policies of vaccination–she really is a well-published expert in this area of vaccine policy, and doesn’t stand on the pulpit with a veneer of Argument from Authority, but is actually an authority. Additionally, Reiss is also 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.

Below is a list of articles that Dorit Rubinstein Reiss has written for this blog, organized into some arbitrary and somewhat broad categories for easy reference. Of course, she has written articles about vaccines and legal issues in other locations, which I intend to link here at a later date. This article will be updated as new articles from Dorit are added here.

Continue reading “Index of articles by Prof. Dorit Rubinstein Reiss”

Are vaccines and autism linked? Answers from the best scientific studies

vaccines and autism linked

I have written more about the question, “are vaccines and autism linked?,” than just about any other topic other than the cancer preventing HPV vaccine, Gardasil. Unless you want to ignore the overwhelming evidence, the scientific consensus is pretty clear – vaccines are not linked to autism.

In my article, Vaccines and autism – science says they are unrelated, I list out over 125 published, peer-reviewed articles (as of today) that basically provide us with some of the overwhelming evidence that debunks the myth that vaccines cause autism. But that’s a long list that takes quite a bit of time to absorb. I think it’s more important to focus on the handful of the best studies that provide the best evidence. I hope this kind of resource helps you refute arguments from patients, friends, and family members who might try to claim that “we don’t vaccinate because of the autism risk.” I can’t guarantee that a few important studies will convince anyone, but maybe it will help with a fence sitter.

I’m relying upon Dr. Peter Hotez’s article, The “Why Vaccines Don’t Cause Autism” Papers, published in PLOS Blogs to choose the best of the best papers. I’m going to add a couple of more categories, because they discredit some of the arguments that try to state that the answer to the question, are vaccines and autism linked, is yes.

So let’s dive into this scientific research.

Continue reading “Are vaccines and autism linked? Answers from the best scientific studies”

Vaccines and autism – science says they are unrelated

vaccines and autism

Vaccines and autism are not linked or related according to real science, published in real scientific journals written by top scientists and physicians.

But this false claim is in the news again. Probably as a result of reports that more and more children are being diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders. So let’s take a look at the science.

On 28 March 2014, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that new data show that the estimated number of children identified with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), a disorder of neural development, usually appearing before the age of 3 years, characterized by impaired social interaction and verbal and non-verbal communication, and by restricted, repetitive or stereotyped behavior, continues to rise.  The picture of ASD in US communities is changing. Continue reading “Vaccines and autism – science says they are unrelated”

Future of vaccines – what Donald Trump is doing and saying

future of vaccines

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know two things – my support for vaccines is unwavering, and my loathing of Donald Trump is unmatched by just about anyone in politics. Seriously, Trump makes me yearn for the days when George W Bush was running things. So when it comes to the future of vaccines and Donald Trump, I’ve reached a whole new level of abhorrence.

In case you’ve not kept up, let’s have a quick review of Donald Trump’s views on vaccines. They’re not good.

First, Trump has been tweeting about vaccines since 2012. He thinks that vaccines cause autism, and he’s been wrong on almost everything about them. He thinks that that children get too many vaccines, he’s wrong on that too, although if he has some medical background which he hid from the world, we’d be glad to hear what his research tells us about “too many vaccines.” He claims that doctors are wrong about vaccines. Oh really? Where’s the evidence.

I don’t know why I would ask for evidence from a man who spends almost all of his day denying evidence for most science.

Of course, the fraudster Andrew Wakefield has had an ongoing bromance with Trump, and explicitly endorsed Trump for President. Talk about putting the fear into the future of vaccines.

The bromance continued after the election, which has had more than a few pro-science types nervously joking that Wakefield might be appointed CDC Director. Of course, Trump wouldn’t choose Wakefield for such an illustrious position. It just doesn’t make sense. Of course, it doesn’t make sense that Betsy DeVos, who has approximately zero knowledge of the American educational system, is confirmed to be Secretary of Education under Trump. I’m laughing nervously.

Next up, Trump had a meeting with vaccine denier, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., who, despite his family’s illustrious liberal name and support of science, wanted to work for Trump to investigate the safety of vaccines. Depending on the source, Trump either asked or didn’t ask Kennedy to chair a vaccine safety commission. We’re hoping Trump didn’t, but you never know.

Then, Trump named Tom Price to head the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which has the ultimate responsibility for America’s vaccine program. Price is a physician, which should be a good thing at HHS. Unfortunately, Dr. Price belongs to a radical, right wing physician’s group called the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS). If you’ve never heard of AAPS, they are a politically conservative non-profit association founded in 1943 to “fight socialized medicine and to fight the government takeover of medicine.” Along with being opposed to many public health and right to healthcare issues, they’re not big fans of vaccines and mandatory vaccinations.

Given all of this bad news, where do we stand right now with regards to the future of vaccines and Donald Trump? Well, let’s get to the good news first. Because those of us who are appalled by Donald Trump need all the good news we can get.

Before we discuss the Trump administration’s actions on vaccines, let’s make sure everyone understands that the American public is not in sync with Trump’s views on vaccines. According to the Pew Research Center, 82% of Americans support requiring students in public schools to be vaccinated against measles, mumps and rubella with the MMR vaccine. Moreover, Pew found that about 88% of Americans say that the benefits of vaccines outweigh any risks – an overwhelmingly positive finding about the public perception of vaccines.

On the topic of the future vaccines and Trump, not only is he wrong about the science, but he’s way outside of the mainstream of American’s feelings about vaccinations. Since Trump seems addicted to polls, maybe he’ll see this Pew poll and let the CDC do its job with being encumbered by an anti-science directive. One can only hope. But we’ll circle back to the CDC in a couple of paragraphs.

Also on the “good news” side of things, during the confirmation hearing for Dr. Price, he was asked whether vaccines caused autism – his answer, “I think the science in that instance is that it does not,” was reassuring. Price also said that he would “make certain that factual informing (of public health issues) is conveyed to Congress and the president and the American people.”

Sadly, his comments about vaccines were sometimes less than “full-throated” support. When asked if he believed that the CDC (which is part of HHS) schedule (pdf) for vaccinations should be followed by parents, he answered, “I think that the science and healthcare has identified a very important aspect of public health, and that is the role of vaccinations.” It’s a good answer to some question somewhere, but it did not answer the question about the CDC schedule, which Trump thinks is wrong. I hope I’m not reading between the lines, but it is troubling to read these statements.

A few other pieces of good news should brighten our day with regards to vaccines. Andrew Wakefield has not been nominated to head the CDC. Of course, Trump hasn’t chosen anyone for Director as of yet.

And on the bad side of the news, the CDC seems to be under pressure to bend to Trump’s will. The CDC cancelled a conference on climate change and public health – climate change has a huge impact on public health, and the CDC should be at the forefront of the scientific information about it. Unfortunately, with a climate change denier in the White House, the CDC probably was under pressure to cancel.

I guess the news around the CDC is mostly bad these days.

As for the vaccine investigative commission (or whatever it will be called) that is supposedly going to be headed by Robert F Kennedy, Jr? Well, other than the flurry of reports when they met in early January, there hasn’t been a stitch of news since then – thus on our scale of no news is probably better than whatever horrible news we’ll get from Trump about the future of vaccines, this averages out to pretty good news. Right now, we don’t know anything, other than Kennedy and Trump met to discuss vaccines. There’s no word from the White House whether Kennedy will be heading up this investigation, even if there’s going to be an investigation into vaccines.

Right now, we’re not sure which way the wind is blowing on Donald Trump’s influence on the future of vaccines. Will the CDC quit promoting its vaccine schedule? Will Tom Price push his views about vaccines in a positive or negative way? Will Robert F. Kennedy Jr have a major role in what we perceive about vaccines? Will Trump change his mind and do nothing?

As with almost everything this administration has done, we expect the worst and hope for the best. Unfortunately, “the worst” keeps happening. But, so far, there’s nothing but rumors and suppositions about what will happen with vaccines. And for today, we’ll take that as hopeful. But I’m not sure what’s going to happen tomorrow or next week with regards to Donald Trump and vaccines. I’m hoping that the future of vaccines looks good, but I’ve got a bad feeling about this.

 

Cleveland Clinic physician claims vaccines cause autism – outrage ensues

Cleveland Clinic

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.

There’s even a scientific consensus on vaccines, written by the the most prestigious scientific academy in the world, the National Academy of Sciences:

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. Continue reading “Cleveland Clinic physician claims vaccines cause autism – outrage ensues”

Mumps outbreaks in 2016 – highest number in over a decade

mumps outbreaks

Over the past few years, there have been outbreaks of diseases we all assumed had been eradicated – chicken pox, measles, and, more recently, mumps. According to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there were over 4,000 mumps cases in the USA in 2016. Mumps outbreaks may be the new normal thanks to clusters of unvaccinated kids.

The mumps vaccination program started in 1967 – before that there were about 186,000 cases reported each year (and that number might be low because of underreporting). Once mumps vaccinations were commonplace, the incidence of the disease fell by over 99%. For those who think that better sanitation or whatever caused decreases in diseases, I think that 1967 is fairly recent, and it’s clear that the vaccine itself started the precipitous drop in mumps outbreaks. Since the start of the vaccine era, annual mumps cases in the USA hovered below 1,000 during most years. But over the last 10 years, there has been a noticeable uptick in annual cases, with a high of over 6,000 cases in 2006.

Let’s examine the mumps outbreaks and see what may be the cause. Spoiler alert – expect Andrew Wakefield’s name to appear.

Continue reading “Mumps outbreaks in 2016 – highest number in over a decade”

CDC director Thomas Frieden resigns – time for a Trump appointment

CDC director Thomas Frieden

CDC director Thomas Frieden has announced his resignation from his position at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The federal agency’s main goal is to protect public health and safety through the control and prevention of disease, injury, and disability across the world. And our favorite anti-science president-elect, Donald Trump, will appoint his successor.

The agency focuses its attention on infectious disease control partially through advocacy for vaccines. The staff of 15,000 scientists, researchers, physicians, and US Public Health Services commissioned officers, are dedicated to investigating infectious diseases, food borne pathogens, environmental health, occupational safety and health, health promotion, injury prevention, and public health educational activities – all are designed to help improve the health of Americans and people across the world.

CDC officials are often the first responders to ground zero of dangerous infections. They are generally the first scientists who determine the proper course of treatment for novel diseases, while monitoring its spread across a geographic area. They are warriors in the fight against diseases across the world, including Zika virus and many others.

A significant part of the CDC’s mission involves attacking public health problems globally. In today’s interconnected world, a disease that shows it’s ugly head in an isolated village in the Amazon can be transported to a major city in another country in less than 36 hours. This take money. And this takes manpower.

Let’s take a look at the career of CDC director Thomas Frieden, and the potential consequences of a Donald Trump appointee to the position.  Continue reading “CDC director Thomas Frieden resigns – time for a Trump appointment”

Vaxxed – a guide to Andrew Wakefield’s fraudulent film

vaxxed

This is the 7th out of 13 most popular articles on Skeptical Raptor for the 2016 Year in Review. It’s all about the fraudumentary, Vaxxed.

This week, the Tribeca Film Festival, a New York City based film festival that focuses on independent films and documentaries, is highlighting one documentary, MrAndy Wakefield’s fraudulent anti-vaccination movie “Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Controversy.

The movie, directed by the cunning con-man Wakefield, promises to feature “revealing and emotional interviews with pharmaceutical insiders, doctors, politicians, parents, and one whistleblower to understand what’s behind the skyrocketing increase of autism diagnoses today.”

There’s been a lot of criticism by the pro-science community about  this film, including this series of three articles by the enigmatic and inscrutable Orac:

Although you should definitely read all three articles, the Delphic Orac’s response to Tribeca’s implication that the movie represents part of the “debate” (there is no debate) about vaccines and autism is legendary:

It’s a common excuse made by, for example, reporters for “telling both sides” about scientific issues. Here’s the problem. This sort of attitude might make sense for social and political issues, but science is different, because in science there is often a right and a wrong answer.

You can have all the “dialogue and discussion” you want about a scientific topic, such as the question of whether vaccines cause autism, but at the end of the day there is a correct answer based on science

In other words, there is no debate in science.

The Los Angeles Times, which has a long history of fighting the ignorance against vaccines, published an editorial entitled “Has Robert De Niro’s Tribeca Film Festival sold out to anti-vaccine crackpots?”  They follow the trail of Andy Wakefield from his fraud to this “documentary.”

And of course, the website, Age of Lying About Autism, made up of Wakefield sycophants who deliver deceitful garbage about vaccines, is having a huge orgasm over the featuring of this movie.

I don’t want to tread on what other’s have written. From the oracular Orac, you can get the whole story, the criticism, and the debunking of the “this is censorship” nonsense.

I just wanted to give people a quick list of the facts about this story, a quick debunking tool, if you will. Let’s talk about Wakefield’s Vaxxed.

Continue reading “Vaxxed – a guide to Andrew Wakefield’s fraudulent film”