Dr. Jim Meehan anti-vaccine rant – examining his claims

Jim Meehan

An anti-vaccine doctor from Oklahoma, Dr. Jim Meehan, wrote an online post about why he would no longer vaccinate his children. It’s pretty clear that his post is not so much a discussion of his own children (most of whom are adults) as an attempt to deter other parents from protecting their children from preventable diseases. His post is basically a set of claims trying to convince parents that vaccinating is very dangerous.

His claims are nothing new – they are strictly out of the anti-vaccine playbook. But the post has received some attention in the anti-vaccine world and was shared several thousand times, likely because many people treat an MD as an authority on the subject. So I decided to take a few minutes to explain why his claims are not good reasons to reject expert opinion and not protect children from disease.

Dr. Meehan’s claims fall into several categories (which will be discussed individually below):

  1. The diseases we vaccinate against are not dangerous, and it’s okay, even good, to encounter them naturally.
  2. Vaccines have toxic ingredients.
  3. Vaccines are dangerous to children.
  4. The science behind vaccines is corrupt because the pharmaceutical industry controls it and then corrupts it.
  5. We should listen to him because he is a doctor and knows what he is talking about.

Note: Dr. Meehan’s post doesn’t present these claims in that order. I have changed the order because I want to address the claims in a logical order, that is, first his claims about vaccine safety, then the conspiracy theory that underlies them, and finally, his appeal to authorityContinue reading “Dr. Jim Meehan anti-vaccine rant – examining his claims”

Public health and vaccines commentaries – employment repercussions

public health and vaccines

When employees speak up on matters of public health and vaccines in their free time, those who do not like the speech may retaliate by complaining to their employers, who may be tempted – or feel forced – to act against the employee. But employers should not, and some types of employers – public employers – are likely barred from doing so.

This post considers mostly employees in public institutions – department of health, teaching hospitals, or universities – because these employees have legal protection against sanctions – an employer is likely legally prohibited from acting against them because of speech on matters of public health and vaccines in their free time.

However, the points made about defamation and the policy considerations also apply to private employers, those who can fire employees at will, at least when the employees provide mostly accurate, fact-based information.

These issues can come up in a variety of contexts, some of which the employer may appreciate more than others. One situation is when an employee working for a public institution spends part of his personal time commenting on public health and vaccines issues and informing the public through a personal blog, on which his position is mentioned, or by commenting on social media, Facebook or Twitter.

The employee provides information, corrects misconceptions, and criticizes those offering bad advice or factually inaccurate information, sometimes with strong language. A person so criticized contacts the public institution and threatens to sue for defamation if the blogging does not stop and the statements are not retracted, or if the employee is not otherwise dealt with.

Or, for example, an employee makes a joke about a public health issue – in good or bad taste – in her personal time. People offended complain to the employer, either just criticizing the employee or threatening legal action. In both cases, employers should not take measures against the employee.

First, in most circumstances, there would almost certainly be no defamation case here. Second, limits created by the First Amendment on the ability of public employers (though not private ones) to fire an employee for their speech likely apply here. Finally, there are public benefits from allowing the employee to speak in this manner. Continue reading “Public health and vaccines commentaries – employment repercussions”

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”

October 2019 ACIP public comments – anti-vaccine complaints, part 2

2019 ACIP public comments

This is part 2, the 2019 ACIP public comments, of Professor Dorit Rubinstein Reiss’ review of the recent Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) meeting. Part 1 can be found here.

There were 18 people slotted for the October 2019 ACIP public comments. Because more people signed up for comments than could fit in the hour allotted for it, they used a lottery to determine who will comment (note that in addition, the committee offered unlimited opportunity to comment in writing).

However, six of these people did not attend the meeting, so there were 12 commenters in all. Three of them were pro-vaccine, two members of the Immunization Action Coalition – LJ Tan and Julie Murphy – and one, a pediatrician from Oklahoma, Dr. Eve Switzer.

Nine of the 2019 ACIP public comments were from anti-vaccine individuals. Continue reading “October 2019 ACIP public comments – anti-vaccine complaints, part 2”

Science journal says Israeli immunologist Yehuda Shoenfeld is anti-vaccine

shoenfeld

We have been critical of Israeli immunologist Yehuda Shoenfeld for years. Recently, both Dorit Rubinstein Reiss and the old raptor have written critical articles about Shoenfeld’s anti-vaccine opinions that are being used as a false authority by the anti-vaccine zealots to push their harmful narrative.

Shoenfeld has invented and continued to push a medical condition he calls ASIA – autoimmune syndrome induced by adjuvants. He claims it is a risk for receiving the cancer-preventing HPV vaccine. However, there is simply no evidence that ASIA exists.

However, there isn’t one femtogram of evidence supporting the existence of ASIA, let alone any link to any vaccine.

ASIA is not accepted by the scientific and medical community (and see this published article), was rejected by the United States vaccine court as a claim for vaccine injury, and should not be accepted by parents deciding whether they should vaccinate their children.

Furthermore, the European Medicines Agency, which is the primary regulatory body in the EU for pharmaceuticals, has rejected any link between the HPV vaccine and various autoimmune disorders. They state that the science directly contradicts any autoimmune syndromes being caused by any vaccine.

Moreover, the respected World Health Organization (WHO)  has scientifically rejected the quackery of ASIA (if it even exists) is caused by vaccines, notably, the HPV vaccine.

A while ago, I reviewed another study, which was a properly designed case-control epidemiological study. According to the study published in the Journal of Autoimmunity, HPV vaccines do not increase the risk of developing autoimmune diseases (ADs). This adds to the body of research, based on a methodology that helps us establish correlation and causation, that rejects the hypothesis that the HPV vaccine is related to ASIA.

But if that’s not enough to convince you that Yehuda Shoenfeld is anything but an anti-vaccine pseudoscientist, let’s take a look at a new article published in the very prestigious journal Science.

Continue reading “Science journal says Israeli immunologist Yehuda Shoenfeld is anti-vaccine”

Israeli medical association calls out Yehuda Shoenfeld on vaccines

yehuda shoenfeld

This reblogged article about Yehuda Shoenfeld was originally published in the Times of Israel blogs. It was written by Dorit Rubinstein Reiss, Professor of Law at the University of California Hastings College of the Law (San Francisco, CA), who is a frequent contributor to this and many other blogs, providing in-depth, and intellectually stimulating, articles about vaccines, medical issues, social policy, and the law.

Professor Reiss writes extensively in law journals about the social and legal policies of vaccination. Additionally, Reiss is also a 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.

On September 24, 2019, Israel’s Association of Public Health Physicians criticized Dr. Yehuda Shoenfeld’s “severe lapse of judgment” in publishing a book review of an anti-vaccine pamphlet by two non-experts and called for his resignation as editor-in-chief of the prestigious Israeli (Hebrew) medical journal Harefuah. Justified as the criticism was, the Association did not go far enough. For years, Dr. Yehuda Shoenfeld has used his considerable influence to support the anti-vaccine cause. His publications on vaccines and his behavior show his commitment to spreading and promoting anti-vaccine claims. He should not be teaching students on vaccine issues, nor should he be given additional positions of scientific authority, like the Israeli Academy of Sciences and Humanities. Continue reading “Israeli medical association calls out Yehuda Shoenfeld on vaccines”

Anti vaccine conspiracies – the Skeptical Raptor is Paul Offit delusion

anti-vaccine conspiracies

Here we go with another set of anti-vaccine conspiracies from crackpots running a vaccine denier website. Once again, the old feathered dinosaur (modern or Cretaceous) is part of a broad conspiracy that includes Paul Offit, Dorit Rubinstein Reiss, UC Hastings College of Law, and Kaiser Permanente. Because anti-vaccine conspiracies are only more hilarious when they get more complicated.

Because I am amused by all of this, I must, according to the rule of scientific skepticism, snarkily debunk it. Now, science isn’t good at “proving the negative,” like trying to “prove” that I am not, nor have ever been, Paul Offit. On the other hand, I cannot prove that I am not Barack Obama. Or Tom Brady. Or Elvis. You just never know. Continue reading “Anti vaccine conspiracies – the Skeptical Raptor is Paul Offit delusion”

Evee Gayle Clobes – another tragedy incorrectly blamed on vaccines

Evee Gayle Clobes

On March 1, 2019, Evee Gayle Clobes, a six-month-old baby, died in her mother’s bed. Because Evee had received her vaccines 36 hours before her death, and with the urging, courting and support of anti-vaccine activists eager to use her and her story, her mother blamed vaccines.

However, this tragedy is even less appropriately blamed on vaccines than most, because there is a clear other cause for Evee’s death: According to the evidence detailed in a letter from the medical examiner, Evee Gayle Clobes, sadly, tragically, suffocated to death because of unsafe sleep conditions.

It is horrible to lose a child, and no parent should have to pay such a heavy price for a choice that could be mistakenly thought to be a reasonable one. But blaming vaccines incorrectly here can actively hurt others in multiple ways. Continue reading “Evee Gayle Clobes – another tragedy incorrectly blamed on vaccines”

Professor Dorit Rubinstein Reiss – 11 questions about vaccines (mostly)

Professor Dorit Rubinstein Reiss

This is the first of a series of virtual interviews of people who support vaccines. We start with Professor Dorit Rubinstein Reiss, a Professor of Law at the University of California Hastings College of the Law (San Francisco, CA). She is a frequent contributor to this and many other blogs, providing in-depth, and intellectually stimulating, articles about vaccines, medical issues, social policy, and the law.

Professor Reiss writes extensively in law journals about the social and legal policies of vaccination. Additionally, Reiss is also a 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.

The purpose of these interviews is to give you more background on those who fight for vaccines in social media and in public. Continue reading “Professor Dorit Rubinstein Reiss – 11 questions about vaccines (mostly)”