Anti-vaccine activists consistently try to incorporate other groups’ slogans and statements, such as #MeToo, to increase legitimacy. Rarely, it gets some traction – for example, they have somewhat successfully convinced some Republican lawmakers that their demand to be able to send their children to school without vaccinating them are about “parental rights”, even though they have no parental authority over the classmates that could be put at risk by unvaccinated children.
More often, these attempts fall flat. For example, the anti-vaccine movement tried to build on the black lives matter movement with their own version, “vaccine injured lives matter” – with jarring, painful results, especially from the anti-vaxxer community that skews white and wealthy.
Recently, the anti-vaccine movement has tried to adopt two other slogans. First, it tried to claim that the “my body, my choice” statement used by pro-choice activists can be used to oppose school mandates.
This is about the case of little J. B. Boatman, who was born four weeks prematurely, at the 36th week. However, he rebounded from his early start, and at his four-months, well baby pediatric visit, on September 2 was doing very well and found healthy. At that visit, J.B. had the routine 4 months vaccines. Tragically, the next day (September 3) little J.B. was found lifeless in his crib. His death was ruled to be the result of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). But did vaccines cause SIDS in J.B.?
In August 2017 the Boatmon decision was shared on anti-vaccine sites as evidence that vaccines cause SIDS. The decision does not, however, support the claim because it is flawed internally in several ways. It misuses and discounts the epidemiological evidence, accepts a problematic theory over the objection of a more qualified expert, and ignores several of the important factors of the case. In addition to its internal flaws, the decision is in tension with many other decisions of NVICP – in fact, it seems an outlier – and it is interesting that the same sites that tout this problematic decision ignore other decisions that ruled otherwise. Continue reading “Vaccines do not cause SIDS according to the Boatmon vs HHS case”
Following a pattern we have seen repeatedly, anti-vaccine activists have tried to claim a conspiracy to hide a link between vaccines and autism. The latest effort, reviving the Hannah Poling case, follows the pattern we have seen in previous cases – anti-vaccine activists claim that the government knew of evidence that vaccines cause autism (in this case, through mitochondrial disorders), that the government committed fraud to hide that information, and that the combination of fraud and evidence should be a game changer.
As with those past events, the claims cannot withstand scrutiny. In this case, another claim was added – a denial of due process for claimants in the Omnibus Autism Proceedings generally and in one family’s case specifically. This claim, too, does not hold.
In contrast to the claims in the latest set of anti-vaccine articles, there was no fraud by the government, the behavior they complain about did not decide the fate of the Omnibus Autism Proceedings, they provide no new evidence that vaccines cause autism, the mitochondrial claim is neither new nor strong, and there was no denial of due process to the claimants in the Omnibus Autism Proceeding or in the specific case in question. Continue reading “Plus ça change – anti-vaccine activists revive the Hannah Poling case”
The anti-vaccine world loves its myths, because, lacking any real scientific evidence supporting their outlandish claims, fairy tales are all they have. Not that I like picking and choosing the worst of the anti-vaccine urban legends, but the vaccine court myths are among the most egregious and ridiculous.
Although there are a lot of vaccine court myths, though this article will focus on just three:
The vaccine court vs. civil courts.
Vaccine manufacturers are immune to lawsuits.
Billions of dollars have been paid out to “victims.”
The vaccine court said that vaccines cause autism.
On September 25, 2017, Special Master Christian Moran from the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (NVICP), acting under a Court of Federal Claims decision that changed the legal standard for compensation, awarded compensation to Ms. Emily Tarsell for the tragic death of her daughter, Christina Tarsell. The family had blamed the tragedy on Gardasil. the HPV vaccine. Let’s review the facts and legal issues of the NVICP Tarsell decision.
A reading of the decision shows that the Special Master himself had serious doubts that the HPV vaccine had actually caused the death (and could probably have more strongly stated his doubts); however, he felt bound by a flawed decision of the Court of Federal Claims and compensated because of that guidance. The claimant’s theory that was used to claim that the vaccine caused the young woman’s death is also extremely far-fetched. It should not have fulfilled the plausible theory requirement even under the watered-down version ordered by the Federal Claims judge. The timing (i.e., cause and effect) was likely wrong – the Special Master thought the disease symptoms started before the administration of the vaccine – but for procedural reasons, he did not dwell on that issue.
While anti-vaccine websites present the Special Master’s award as proof that the death was caused by the administration of the vaccine, that is a serious misreading of the NVICP Tarsell decision. Ms. Christina Tarsell’s death is extremely tragic. But there is no good basis to claim that the HPV vaccine caused it.
There are three legal errors in the decision of the Court of Federal Claims judge, a decision that was then legally binding on the Special Master it was returned to for reconsideration:
Reversing the burden of proof in relation to the timing of the alleged harm;
relaxing the standard under which a medical theory is evaluated; and
applying a de novo standard instead of an arbitrary and capricious standard to the Special Master’s findings of facts (which I’ll explain).
Another day, another anti-vaccine trope finds it way out of the grave to enter the zombie apocalypse of anti-vaccine misinformation and lies. Today’s zombie trope is the one that the NVICP (National Vaccine Injury Compensation Plan, see Note 1) payouts are so huge that they the “prove” that vaccines are dangerous and should be kept it away from children.
On 7 February 2018, the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (NVICP) handed down a decision in a mini-omnibus autism proceeding asking whether petitioners established “by preponderant evidence, a medical theory connecting a vaccine and [the test case child]’s injury.”
The decision is important in two ways. First, it reminds us that NVICP has consistently and repeatedly rejected claims that vaccines cause autism. Second, it explains in detail why a theory (please see Note 1 at the end of the article) claiming human DNA fragments in vaccines cause autism – a claim whose main proponent is Dr. Theresa Deisher – is unconvincing and not supported by the evidence.
The detailed, thorough decision shows that the main study from Dr. Deisher to support the theory – a study attempting to draw a temporal connection between change points where vaccines containing such DNA were introduced and rise in rates of autism – is fundamentally flawed. It then also shows that the petitioners’ proposed mechanisms of causation – how the DNA fragments are supposed to cause autism – are untenable.
In general, the anti-vaccine religion lacks any scientific evidence supporting their beliefs about vaccine safety and effectiveness. So, they have to default to using memes and tropes based on anecdotes, fake science, or decisions made by the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Plan (NVICP). A recent paper, written by Dorit Rubinstein Reiss and Rachel Heap, reviewed how NVICP cases are being used and misused by anti-vaccine forces to prove an autism-vaccine link.
Except it doesn’t. Geier is still not a doctor, being defrocked like his fellow fraud in the anti-vaccine world, Mr. Andrew Wakefield. Geier won a lawsuit that had everything to do with some serious breaches of privacy by the Maryland Board of Physicians, who had a vendetta against Mark Geier (and his son David) for their horrendous treatment protocol to “cure” autistic children. In fact, while the Board stripped Mark Geier of his medical license, they also charged David Geier, who is not a physician of any kind, of practicing medicine without a license.
I cannot repeat this enough – Mark Geier still won’t be practicing medicine, because his medical license is still suspended. This has not changed. And David Geier is still guilty of practicing medicine without a license.