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?”

Rachael Ross gets Vaxxed – that’s never good for a real doctor

Rachael Ross gets Vaxxed

Recently,  Dr. Rachael Ross, who gained fame when she was on the medical talk show, The Doctors has written a letter that suggests she now subscribes to a large number of anti-vaccine tropes. While there really isn’t anything new in the letter – the claims in it are far from original, and have been repeatedly shown untrue – as a doctor, her words carry weight. So Rachael Ross gets Vaxxed – it’s worth responding to her.

I don’t know what drove Dr. Ross to promote anti-vaccine misinformation. It may have been misplaced trust, believing in Del Bigtree, Vaxxed producer, who has been promoting quite a bit of misinformation recently, some of it incredibly harmful. She may have already been susceptible. Maybe all of the above. It doesn’t matter.

She chose to speak up, and whatever her intent, the result is that she provided ammunition to anti-vaccine activists and anti-vaccine parents that can be used to sway others away from protecting children from disease. Dr. Ross includes in her letter the mantra of “do no harm.” But a letter promoting this kind of misinformation – by a doctor, with the authority the profession confers – is very likely to do harm. It’s unfair to the children denied vaccines because of it.  Continue reading “Rachael Ross gets Vaxxed – that’s never good for a real doctor”

Vaxxed – a guide to Andrew Wakefield’s fraudulent film

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”

Italian MMR Autism Decision Overturned

italian mmr autism overturned by higher court

This article reviews a recent ruling from an Italian Court of Appeals that overturns a widely ridiculed decision by a Provincial Court in 2012 that claimed that the MMR vaccine (for measlesmumps and rubella) causes autism. Apparently, that court rejected all other science, and only accepted the fraudulent work of MrAndy Wakefield to validate the claims about the vaccine and autism. The Italian MMR autism decision has started to return as a zombie trope. Probably as a result of the kerfuffle about the anti-vaccine propaganda movie, Vaxxed. 

In June 2012, a provincial court in Rimini, Italy granted compensation to the family of a child named Valentino Bocca. The family alleged that the MMR vaccine Valentino received as part of his childhood immunizations caused his autism, and the court compensated them on that theory. The lower court’s decision was never on very firm grounds: it depended in part on testimony of an expert witness who relied, in turn, on Andrew Wakefield’s debunked study. Unfortunately, this Italian MMR autism decision has been used by anti-vaccine activists as part of their claims that vaccines cause autism.

Continue reading “Italian MMR Autism Decision Overturned”

Merck vaccine lawsuit – implausible narrative, bad law and facts

Merck vaccine lawsuit

On 19 July 2016, New York Attorney Patricia Finn filed a complaint in a federal district court against the pharmaceutical firm Merck, officials in the Department of Health and Human Services, and Julie Gerberding (formerly director of the CDC, and currently Merck’s Executive Vice President for Strategic Communications, Global Public Policy and Population Health). This Merck vaccine lawsuit, called Doe v Merck,  is an amended complaint that was filed on 20 July, and will be the one examined in this article.

While the complaint was filed in the name of a Jane Doe and Baby Doe, the text of the complaint made it very clear that Jane Doe is in fact Maria Dwyer, and Baby Doe is her son Colin Dwyer.  Colin Dwyer’s case was one of the test cases in the Omnibus Autism Proceedings (OAP) for the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (NVICP). The Dwyer case, like the other five test cases in the OAP, was rejected.

The Doe v Merck complaint makes two demands. First, that Merck’s license to produce the measles, mumps, rubella vaccine (M-M-R®II ) be revoked.

Second, it asks for damages for Colin’s alleged vaccine injuries. The complaint is problematic from three aspects:

  1. The story it tries to tell is full of holes;
  2. as a legal matter, it makes no case; and
  3. it includes many factual inaccuracies.

In short, the Merck vaccine lawsuit is bad work.  However, the complaint is being shared widely, and a discussion of its shortcomings might be of value to many readers.  Continue reading “Merck vaccine lawsuit – implausible narrative, bad law and facts”

Nobel laureate Andrew Wakefield – and other delusions

Nobel laureate Andrew Wakefield

You’d think I would be kidding, but I am not. But I am not the delusional one. Yes, there is an effort to try to get the world’s greatest scientific fraud to become Nobel laureate Andrew Wakefield.

I know. I have to give all of you a few minutes to vomit or go scream at the wall. Please, take your time. I’m here for you.

Before you get too upset, this is just a change.org petition. Change.org is probably the least one can do to effect change in the world. Many of us think it’s the center of the slacktivist universe.

What’s a slacktivist? Well, it’s those individuals who think they’re making change by literally sitting on their butts and sharing a meme on Facebook.

What I’m saying, in so many words, is that there is more of a chance that sasquatch exists than the Nobel Foundation even considering Wakefield for any award. Then again, Donald Trump won the Republican nomination for US President, so who knows? Maybe the Nobel Foundation will drink too much aquavit and wake up the next morning with a hangover – Wakefield is announced as the winner by some clerk.

Continue reading “Nobel laureate Andrew Wakefield – and other delusions”

Brian Hooker’s vaccine injury claim denied by NVICP

Brian Hooker holds a Ph.D. in chemical engineering and has a background that involves researching and teaching in related areas. He is also the father of a boy – now almost young man, at 16 and a half – with autism. Brian Hooker believes his son’s autism was caused by vaccines, and he has been vocal about it.

He is the one who initiated the most recent claims that the CDC conspired to hide a link between vaccines and autism because of calls he had with a CDC scientist (the so called CDC whistleblower)– claims shown, on examination of the data, to be incorrect. He has also, in recent years, published (problematic) research articles claiming a link between vaccines and autism. One of his articles has been retracted because of undeclared conflicts of interests and methodological flaws.

In 2002 Brian Hooker filed a claim with the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (NVICP), the special administrative program created in 1986 to compensate vaccine injuries. On 19 May 2016, the court rejected his claim in a detailed, comprehensive decision. The Special Master explained that “this is not a close case.”

This post explains the decision, explaining the legal framework and the application of it. In short, the claim was rejected because:

  1. The evidence suggested that SRH – the initials by which Hooker’s son was known – had symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) from early on. In fact, these symptoms appeared long before receiving the vaccines alleged to cause his harm. Moreover, there was no evidence of regression or other severe reaction to the vaccines.
  2. The evidence does not support, and in fact, contradicts, Hooker’s contention that thimerosal-containing vaccines cause autism. This evidence consisted of scientific studies and expert reports. Hooker’s experts’ had questionable credibility and qualifications, and were, at least, far surpassed by the Respondent’s, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, experts.
  3. This decision follows the thorough and detailed Omnibus Autism Proceedings, along with many other decisions that found the same.

Continue reading “Brian Hooker’s vaccine injury claim denied by NVICP”

Vaxxed emotional appeal – putting kids at risk

Vaxxed emotional appeal

The Vaxxed emotional appeal, not supported by scientific evidence, can and will put kids at risk. To help those of you who will see the movie, I’ve created a flier to hand out to attendees that refutes much of the misinformation presented in the documentary.

The goal of this flier is to provide a  concise explanation of some of the problems with the movie Vaxxed, with links for those who want to delve deeper or see the support for the points made. Use it however you need to.

Some ways I think it might be useful are:

  1. If you are protesting or attending a screening and want to provide a short handout to help counter the movie’s misinformation.
  2. If you want to explain to people who have or have not seen the movie why it is not a good source of information – including friends, policy maker, or theaters considering whether to show it.

I hope this handout helps. Please also note Dawn Pedersen’s wonderful flier on the movie: http://dawnsbrain.com/vaxxed-counter-flyer/ Continue reading “Vaxxed emotional appeal – putting kids at risk”

Tribeca pulls the Wakefield fraudulent documentary

Wakefield fraudulent documentary

Not much to say here – the Tribeca Film Festival and Robert De Niro have chosen to pull the Andrew Wakefield fraudulent documentary, Vaxxed. Here is their statement:

[infobox]UPDATE: 3/26/2016 Statement from Robert De Niro, co-founder of the Tribeca Film Festival, regarding VAXXED at the Festival: “My intent in screening this film was to provide an opportunity for conversation around an issue that is deeply personal to me and my family. But after reviewing it over the past few days with the Tribeca Film Festival team and others from the scientific community, we do not believe it contributes to or furthers the discussion I had hoped for. The Festival doesn’t seek to avoid or shy away from controversy. However, we have concerns with certain things in this film that we feel prevent us from presenting it in the Festival program. We have decided to remove it from our schedule.”[/infobox]

Concerns like Wakefield is a fraud and conman, and the CDC whistleblower controversy is nothing? Or that autism is not linked to vaccines? You mean those concerns?

But to be positive, thank you Mr. De Niro and Tribeca Film Festival for listening to the rational voices, and rejecting those who seek to harm children.

There are literally dozens of articles out there from blogs, journalists (and journalist who have blogs), Facebook memes, and just about every where else, that were opposed to this film. Geez, the Skeptical Raptor and Dorit Rubinstein Reiss have written three articles about the the Wakefield fraudulent documentary in the past few days (see here, here, and here). Short of  places like the Age of Lying About Autism, there is simply no one with a rational mind who cares about the lives of children who think Tribeca and De Niro were right in showing this fraudulent documentary by a conman. No one.

Well, I can’t complain. Like a couple of years ago, when the restaurant chain Chilis took heat for making a large contribution to an anti-vaccine charity,  the vox populi of rational science supporters who know there is no controversy, and there is no debate about the safety and effectiveness of vaccines won the day.

But I know it’s not over, I’ve been battling anti-science cretins for more years than most reading this blog have been on this earth. Cue the whining, conspiracy theories, and hate from the vaccine deniers.

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Wakefield, Tribeca Film Festival – old claims new package

wakefield, tribeca film festival

In the words of my young son, it appears that Tribeca Film Festival made a bad choice (thumb down). It apparently decided to screen a problematic film by a man with a problematic history. Let’s look at the Andrew Wakefield, Tribeca Film Festival “partnership” for this “documentary.”

It was, appropriately, called to task for it by science bloggers, and journalists from several sources, for example Jezebel, LATimes, and others. Especially after it provided a very problematic non-response response to the criticism.

Observers pointed out that even the trailer included misrepresentation of facts, as have previous pronouncements on the issue by its two top anti-vaccine actors, Andrew Wakefield and Brian Hooker.

This post isn’t going to repeat these points. Instead, I want to remind readers that there’s nothing new in this; it’s old news in a new package, and it’s not anymore true now than it was in the past. Tribeca’s bad choice and Andrew Wakefield’s bad movie do not change the basic facts. MMR does not cause autism (nor do vaccines more generally). There is no massive conspiracy to hide vaccine harms; and Andrew Wakefield’s past actions still discredit him as a scientist and as a source of information on vaccines and autism.

The Wakefield, Tribeca Film Festival partnership should be judged carefully by the examination of evidence.

Continue reading “Wakefield, Tribeca Film Festival – old claims new package”