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”
The Washington Post dropped this provocative headline on its readers yesterday, “Researchers find a hint of a link between flu vaccine and miscarriage.” And you know what will happen next –every anti-vaccine website will claim that the flu vaccine causes miscarriages.
Of course, the evidence based facts fail to support the future trope that the flu vaccine causes miscarriages. A careful reading of the Washington Post article is filled with nuance and hedging, because the underlying published article does not actually provide robust evidence that any flu vaccine increases the risk of miscarriages.
The Washington Post made several points that are important to consider, and we’ll examine the underlying research in more depth. But the most important point they made is that,
The findings suggest an association, not a causal link, and the research is too weak and preliminary, experts said, to change the advice, which is based on a multitude of previous studies, that pregnant women should get a flu vaccine to protect them from influenza, a deadly disease that may cause serious birth defects and miscarriage.
I wonder how many anti-vaccine radicals will fail to make that point, instead, screaming that “vaccines are dangerous and the worthless flu vaccine causes miscarriages.”
Well, of course. Del Bigtree isn’t known for his scientific knowledge.
Well, we don’t cherry pick our evidence here, so we’re going to look at the broad body of evidence with respect to the flu, flu vaccines and pregnancy. Because that’s how we roll here. And because we think pregnant women deserve the best information possible to protect themselves and their developing babies. Because that’s also how we roll here. Continue reading “Flu vaccine causes miscarriages – the real evidence says otherwise”
In previous posts I addressed three of the lawsuits filed against SB277, all of which suffered defeats, at least for the moment: Whitlow, Buck, and Torrey-Love. There was a fourth lawsuit, however, filed in July 2016 that I did not address until now – the SB277 RICO lawsuit from Travis Middleton.
This lawsuit had, in my view, the lowest chances from the start, and I was not sure how to cover it in the best manner, given its writing. But I think it’s time, since although a formal decision has not come down, a recommendation to dismiss the SB277 RICO lawsuit was filed. Continue reading “SB277 RICO lawsuit – Bad arguments and conspiracy theories updated”
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?”
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”
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”
The anti-vaxxer cult, also known as vaccine deniers, are infamous for their ad hominem personal attacks on anyone who disagrees with their pseudoscience, anti-science beliefs. I’ve documented a tiny percentage of their vile hatred towards us, but I don’t have enough time to keep up with their hate speech.
These anti-vaxxer crackpots were beside themselves recently, when the New York University Langone Medical Center hosted a lecture and panel discussion entitled “Confronting Vaccine Resistance – Strategies for Success.” Sounds like a great one to attend.
But what must have caused arteries to burst across the anti-vaxxer world are the list of speakers – Dr. Paul Offit, Dr. Richard Pan, and Prof. Dorit Rubinstein Reiss. If you’re unfamiliar with these three, at which point I would have to ask why you don’t know them, let me spend a minute just telling you about them.
Dr. Offit is one of the leading authorities on vaccines on this planet. He has committed to world-class research and training to understand all facets of vaccines. His left pinky finger probably knows more about vaccines than the whole lot of the anti-vaxxer cult. He invented a vaccine for rotavirus, which is the source of all sorts of anti-vaxxer attacks, ignoring the fact that hundreds of thousands of lives are saved every year by the vaccine.
Dr. Pan is a California State Senator who lead the fight for California SB 277, which mandated vaccines for children in school. Of course, the anti-vaccine movement did not appreciate this effort to save lives of children, so they attacked Dr. Pan in some particularly filthy ways.
Finally, Prof. Reiss, a tenured professor of law at University of California Hastings School of Law, is a regular contributor to this website. She is an expert on vaccines and the law and is one of the most civil individuals I know in spite of withering attacks on herself, her family, her education, and yes, her ethnicity. She has to deal with disgusting and disturbing anti-semitic attacks, along with just about every other personal attack one could imagine.
So these three are together in New York discussing how to overcome vaccine resistance. I’m almost certain that the anti-vaxxer cult will will think these lectures are presented in the Gates of Hell by three demons. Nah, I’m sure I exaggerate, they will hardly notice.
Continue reading “Anti-vaxxer personal attacks – embracing hatred and ad hominems”
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”
Over the past few months, Vaxxed producer Del Bigtree, who formerly worked on the show The Doctors, has made numerous statements about vaccines and vaccine safety. His claims about fraud by the CDC have been addressed in the past, and the evidence doesn’t support his beliefs. But the claims he makes about vaccines go beyond the movie, and he makes an effort to present himself as an authority on the issue.
Mr. Bigtree’s statements are consistently inaccurate, suggesting he is not a good source of information about vaccines. It’s impossible to address every single wrong claim Mr. Bigtree has made about vaccines, of course. But these problems should demonstrate that Mr. Bigtree’s claims about vaccines cannot be relied on. Continue reading “Vaxxed producer Del Bigtree – not credible on vaccines”
On 19 July 2016, autism self-advocate Fiona O’Leary, an Irish mother of five children, two of them autistic – a powerful and long-time fighter against alternative treatments of autism and the myth that vaccines cause autism – posted a video to her Facebook page. In the 15-minute self-interview, Ms. O’Leary called out certain statements made by a team of the creators of the anti-vaccine “documentary” Vaxxed as they travel the United States, holding question and answers session with viewers. In response, the Vaxxed distributor threatened her.
What prompted Ms. O’Leary to speak out is that the Vaxxed team are forming groups to bring the film to Ireland and the UK. On July 19, Ms. O’Leary started a petition calling on the Texas Attorney General to act against the movie and the statements by its team. and published her Facebook video to YouTube.
On July 21, 2016 Phillippe Diaz, CEO of Cinema Libre, the company distributing Vaxxed worldwide, sent Ms. O’Leary a letter claiming that her statements were defamatory. Also, the Vaxxed distributor threatened her with a defamation lawsuit if she didn’t stop talking about Vaxxed and its team. The team includes disgraced former scientist turned film director Andrew Wakefield, producer Del Bigtree, and their associate Polly Tommey. There is no indication a lawyer saw the letter beforehand, though an attorney is copied.
On July 22, 2016, the Australian science blogger Reasonable Hank published six of the videos from the Vaxxed team, validating Mrs. O’Leary’s claim that the Vaxxed team has indeed made the reprehensible statements. Diaz’s letter is therefore clearly an attempt to intimidate Ms. O’Leary.
She interpreted the letter as a clear attempt to intimidate, as she explains in a second video.
This post will touch on some of the legal issues. Continue reading “Vaxxed distributor threatened Fiona O’Leary – they’re afraid of facts”