Maine anti-vaccine legislation appears again – flawed and misleading

On 4 January 2019, the Maine Coalition for Vaccine Choice – a Maine anti-vaccine organization – posted an article about a proposed bill that they called “The Maine Vaccine Consumer Protection Program.” As with the coalition’s previous attempt to pass such a bill, in 2015, the proposal is ill-founded. The premises it is based on are flawed, and the proposals themselves range from directly misleading to not very meaningful. Continue reading “Maine anti-vaccine legislation appears again – flawed and misleading”

Former CDC director arrested – hey anti-vaxxers, not relevant to vaccines

Former CDC Director

Last week, former Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Dr. Thomas Frieden was arrested and charged with groping a woman at his home. The former CDC Director was charged with third-degree sexual abuse, forcible touching, and harassment, the last of which carries a fine but no jail time.

Of course, within a few nanoseconds of the arrest, anti-vaccine quack websites did their best to tie his arrest to some imaginary and nonsensical malfeasance at the CDC. I don’t think any of us were surprised by this kind of attack by the anti-vaccine religion, but just in case someone thinks that what the former CDC Director did AFTER he was in charge of the CDC has something to do with vaccines, I’m here to disabuse anyone of that thought.

First of all, let us remember that Dr. Frieden has been charged but not found guilty of his actions. I know that the world has changed with the MeToo movement, and many of us have a sinking feeling that since he was caught here, there may be many more cases of it that will be uncovered from his past. Despite the current world where we no longer believe in “innocent until proven guilty,” it’s probably important to remember he has not been “proven guilty.”

Secondly, what has this got to do with vaccines? Well, nothing, but the anti-vaxxers love their silly strawman arguments and pseudo-conspiracies, so they will use it as a proxy to “prove” that the CDC is so corrupt that we can’t trust them on vaccines.

In case you weren’t watching, this has happened before when the anti-vaxxers invented a conspiracy when a Danish CDC researcher, Poul Thorsen, who stole about US$1 million from research funds. And that had nothing to do with vaccines.

The anti-vaccine conspiracies about former CDC Director Frieden have nothing to do with vaccines.  Continue reading “Former CDC director arrested – hey anti-vaxxers, not relevant to vaccines”

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”

Vaccine lawsuits – overview of litigation across the USA

vaccine lawsuits

The goal of this overview is to tell you about vaccine lawsuits in the federal and state courts (but not in the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program). As an overview, the discussion of each case will be very short. If you want more information, please let me know in the comments section. If you know of cases I have missed, also mention that in the comments.

The vaccine lawsuits overview is arranged by topic, and without topic by states, and within states in alphabetical order. I have chosen August 1, 2016 as a starting point to keep this manageable.

Note that the “claims” section provides a summary of what a complaint is claiming – what it is trying to do – and not an analysis of the claims’ validity. Where available, I link to a post discussing the claim’s merits more in detail. Where not, I add some comments about the validity. But the claims section just provides what the plaintiffs are claiming – it doesn’t mean their claims, hold water. Continue reading “Vaccine lawsuits – overview of litigation across the USA”

Vaccine skeptics – let’s be clear, they are really science deniers

vaccine skeptics

I get so tired of this, the press describing vaccine deniers as “vaccine skeptics.” I wish the press would stop doing this, but no matter how much we say it, we continue to see it. I took the cantankerous Orac’s suggestion to Google “vaccine skeptic” and “Robert F Kennedy.” And, I got over 2 million hits. Two million!!!

Now, you might be asking yourself, “self, why is this feathery dinosaur getting all cranky about whether these people are called skeptics or deniers?” Because skepticism, even to the lay person, implies that the person has some legitimate beef with the science of a topic based on a thoughtful and unbiased review of said science. That is actually the furthest thing from the truth for these so-called vaccine skeptics.

Besides I’ve been cranky and snarky about misusing the term “skeptic” in science for years. And when this feathery dinosaur sees the press lending some legitimacy to the illegitimate beliefs of Robert F Kennedy Jr, it requires some cranky commentary (although the crankier Orac took some wind out of my sails). Continue reading “Vaccine skeptics – let’s be clear, they are really science deniers”

UPDATED – Trump asks vaccine denier Robert F Kennedy Jr to chair vaccine panel

Robert F Kennedy Jr

President-elect Donald Trump has met with Robert F Kennedy Jr., a notorious vaccine denier, today. The two will discuss “the issues pertaining to vaccines and immunizations.” And whatever tiny spark of hope that maybe Trump was pandering to the anti-vaccine wing nuts for votes has been put out with a bucket of water.

Kennedy, who is a member of the family that is the icon of liberalism, has been increasingly attacking vaccines and their supposed dangers. Kennedy continues to push the trope that vaccines cause autism, despite the overwhelming scientific evidence that it simply does not. Moreover, Kennedy pushed the CDC whistleblower myth, which has been debunked so many times, that I should create a macro just to respond to it whenever it appears in a comment thread.

Kennedy has also stated that thimerosal in vaccines causes autism, a belief that has been rejected by real science many times. Kennedy checks off most of the key denier talking points for vaccines, including comparing the damage done by vaccines to the holocaust. He made that comment while promoting an anti-vaccine propaganda film, Trace Amounts.

Trump himself shares many of the Kennedy’s anti-science beliefs on vaccines, including claiming that there is a link between vaccines and autism. During a 2015 GOP primary debate, Trump said

I am totally in favor of vaccines. But I want smaller doses over a longer period of time. Same exact amount, but you take this little beautiful baby, and you pump–I mean, it looks just like it’s meant for a horse, not for a child, and we’ve had so many instances, people that work for me. … [in which] a child, a beautiful child went to have the vaccine, and came back and a week later had a tremendous fever, got very, very sick, now is autistic.

One of the things I’ve learned, while fighting the good fight on science on the internet for over 20 years, when someone says “I am totally in favor of XYZ,” they generally will follow up with how they really aren’t. Trump does the same.

Ironically, Kennedy was a strong critic of Trump, calling the President-elect, “dangerous and deceptive.” I guess when it comes to vaccines, politics does make some strange bedfellows.

But the story gets worse. Several tweets just hit my timeline that makes me physically ill:

 

This is just incredible. Robert F Kennedy Jr chairing a panel on vaccine safety? Who is he going to put on this panel, Mr. Andrew Wakefield?

According to a news report,

Outspoken vaccine critic Robert Kennedy Jr. has accepted a position within Donald Trump’s administration as chair of a panel on vaccine safety and scientific integrity — the clearest sign yet of the president-elect’s suspicions about vaccines.

The offer, which came in a Wednesday meeting between Trump and the scion of America’s most prominent Democratic family, is likely to concern scientists and public health experts who fear the incoming administration could give legitimacy to skeptics of childhood immunizations, despite a huge body of scientific research demonstrating that vaccines are safe.

Kennedy told reporters after the meeting,

President-elect Trump has some doubts about the current vaccine policies and he has questions about it. His opinion doesn’t matter but the science does matter and we ought to be reading the science and we ought to be debating the science. And that everybody ought to be able to be assured that the vaccines that we have — he’s very pro-vaccine, as am I — but they’re as safe as they possibly can be.

Yes, Mr. Kennedy the science dos matter and you are on the absolute wrong side of science. Face it, you’re a science denier on the facts of vaccines. Moreover, science is not subject to debate – either the evidence is solid or not, and you don’t debate. You provide scientific evidence equal to, or better than, the science presented that supports my understanding of vaccines. Claiming that yourself, or Donald Trump, are “pro-vaccine” falls on deaf ears when it’s clear that you will use any lame conspiracy theory, bad science or outright lies to support your point of view about vaccines.

Robert F Kennedy Jr – you are an embarrassment to liberal ideals on science. You are an embarrassment to the legacies of your father and your uncles. You’re just an embarrassment.

Now this science denying ignoramus might chair a panel to look at vaccine safety. Maybe I should hope that Kennedy gets shamed into accepting the scientific facts. But my hopes are starting to be delusions.

Update 1

A Trump spokesperson put out this statement:

The President-elect enjoyed his discussion with Robert Kennedy Jr. on a range of issues and appreciates his thoughts and ideas. The President-elect is exploring the possibility of forming a commission on Autism, which affects so many families; however no decisions have been made at this time. The President-elect looks forward to continuing the discussion about all aspects of Autism with many groups and individuals.

So Trump may or may not set up this panel and may or may not appoint Kennedy to chair it.

Update 2

Politico is reporting that:

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. told members of his environmental group late Wednesday that he expects to temporarily leave it to chair a vaccine safety commission he has been discussing with President-elect Donald Trump and his aides for more than a month.

So, RFK Jr has been discussing this panel for much longer than it appeared when this news first broke. And it kind of supports the notion that this will happen, causing unneeded confusion about the safety and effectiveness of vaccines, which is beyond dispute. At least beyond dispute of that uninformed, unscientific group.

I am not alone at being appalled by this turn of events. Nearly every scientific, medical and skeptical writer has expressed either shock, alarm, humor, or crying. Maybe all four at once.

Kennedy no longer represents liberal democrats to me. He’s an unscientific traitor.



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Antiscience Donald Trump elected President – man the science barricades

antiscience donald trump doesn't know science

I disappeared for a few days after the election of a man who espoused racism, xenophobia and misogyny as the reasons to vote for him. His actual policy proposals were threadbare and, if he really believed them, we are looking a historical dismantling of all that is special about the USA. It’s hard to choose what scares me most about this sexual predator’s policies, but the antiscience Donald Trump ranks pretty much at or near the top.

Generally, the Republican party is quite antiscience. Republicans deny climate change. Republicans deny evolution, while Trump’s running mate, Mike Pence, is hypercritical of evolution. And of course, Republicans have shown themselves to be vaccine deniers. There’s a lot more, but many of us consider those topics to be in the top 5 list of science denial. Frankly, if someone said that Trump believed in alien visitations and Sasquatch, and he was sending tax money to investigate them thoroughly, I wouldn’t be surprised.

On a broader level, a Trump administration will probably gut science research by cutting funding to National Institutes of Health and NASA programs in basic scientific research. There are probably areas, where Trump will appoint directors who are opposed to the years of science that form a basis of policy.

Despite the press tacitly being in bed with Trump, never really investigating him, Hillary Clinton won the election based on the popular vote, with a several hundred thousand vote lead over Trump. I think most Americans wanted a President who supported science. Sadly, Trump won the election because the USA uses an antiquated and anachronistic method to actually choose the president. A method that is based on needs of 250 years ago and on the negotiations required to get slave holding states to agree to the new Union. But, I’m not a political scientist, and the arguments for and against the Electoral College system of voting would be far beyond what are topics for this website.

Let’s just look at the antiscience Donald Trump, sticking to the key issues of climate change, evolution, and vaccines.

Continue reading “Antiscience Donald Trump elected President – man the science barricades”

Del Bigtree compares anti-vaccine cult to Founding Fathers

Del Bigtree

Vaxxed promoter and producer Del Bigtree has decided to take his ignorant anti-vaccine beliefs to whole new level – he compares himself and the anti-vaccine movement to America’s Founding Fathers‘ fighting against the tyranny of the British. You read that right. Del Bigtree thinks he’s a modern day Thomas Jefferson and John Adams. And he’s leading the charge against the tyranny of mandatory vaccinations.

I know, many of you are laughing so hard, it may not be possible to read the rest of the article. Don’t worry, it’ll be here after you catch your breath.

I was thinking maybe Bigtree has watched Hamilton too many times.

Now, part of the reason Bigtree conflates the anti-vaccine movement with the Founding Fathers is that many of these activists are Donald Trump type Republicans. He’s pandering to the anti-government and anti-science beliefs of these people. To be fair, a lot of the anti-vaccine gang are crunchy liberals, but they have their own special type of arrogance about science.

If Del Bigtree is going to compare himself to Adams or Jefferson, then let’s see how that works out. Warning – snark infested verbiage ahead.

Continue reading “Del Bigtree compares anti-vaccine cult to Founding Fathers”

CDC refuses to allow William Thompson to testify – business as usual

william thompson

On October 19, 2016 a press release appeared in several outlets claiming – naming Mr. Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. as a primary source – that the CDC “blocked” (his term) the appearance of Dr. William Thompson, the so-called CDC whistleblower, in a medical malpractice case. This was done, apparently, in a letter Dr. Tom Frieden, CDC Director, sent in response to attorneys asking that Dr. Thompson testify in a malpractice case. Several articles, based on the press release, troubled me because of numerous clear inaccuracies. I therefore asked for, and obtained, the CDC’s letter (pdf) and read it to understand the CDC’s decision.

This post proceeds in three parts:

  1. I will explain some of the warning signs – the clearly inaccurate claims – in these articles, using the longest article, in Ecowatch, as the main source.
  2. I’ll explain what the CDC letter actually said, and why the decision was well-reasoned and not unusual.
  3. I’ll explain what the standard would be on appeal, if Kennedy and his colleage, Mr. Bryan chose to appeal to federal court, and why they’re unlikely to meet this standard.

There is one more part to this puzzle. This article will examine a lawsuit was filed for Yates Hazelhurst, whose claim – that vaccines caused his autism – was rejected in detailed decisions by the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, by a Court of Federal Claims judge on appeal, and by the federal circuit on further appeal (Hazelhurst v. Secretary of Health and Human Services, 604 F.3d 1343). I would like to be able to address that suit, but have not yet been able to obtain the complaint, and would rather look at the primary materials than rely on press release with the kind of warning signs these have.  Continue reading “CDC refuses to allow William Thompson to testify – business as usual”