Oliver vaccine injury case – Court denies appeal of NVICP ruling

vaccine injury case

On January 9, 2019, the Federal Circuit’s Court of Appeals decided not to rehear an appeal by Laura and Eddie Oliver of a decision of a vaccine injury case (referred to as “Oliver”) by a special master of the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (NVICP) who ruled that the NVICP would not award compensation to their son for his developmental delays and seizure disorder.

Circuit Judge Pauline Newman dissented to the Court of Appeals decision, joined by Judge Jimmie V. Reyna. Although Judge Newman’s dissent carries no legal authority, it can be offered as persuasive materials in other cases. It should not, however, carry much weight, because Judge Newman’s dissent mischaracterizes the Oliver vaccine injury case, mischaracterizes the relevant science, and makes numerous other errors.

This article will examine the Oliver vaccine injury case along with the scientific issues involved. Continue reading “Oliver vaccine injury case – Court denies appeal of NVICP ruling”

Anti-vaccine activists links itself to women’s #MeToo issues – not credible

metoo

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.

Second, it tried to claim that the #metoo movement means that it’s inappropriate to disbelieve mothers who claim their children were injured by vaccines. Both claims are incorrect and jarring, though in different ways. This second post will address the second claim, about the #MeToo movement. Part addressed the “my body, my choice” claim. Continue reading “Anti-vaccine activists links itself to women’s #MeToo issues – not credible”

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”

Vaccines do not cause SIDS according to the Boatmon vs HHS case

vaccines cause SIDS

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.?

His parents filed suit under the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (NVICP). The case was decided on July 10, 2017. Special Master  Thomas L. Gowen with the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program granted J.B’s parents compensation.

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”

Plus ça change – anti-vaccine activists revive the Hannah Poling case

Hannah Poling

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”

NVICP Tarsell decision not proof of HPV vaccine-related mortality – just legal errors

NVICP Tarsell decision

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:

  1. Reversing the burden of proof in relation to the timing of the alleged harm;
  2. relaxing the standard under which a medical theory is evaluated; and
  3. applying a de novo standard instead of an arbitrary and capricious standard to the Special Master’s findings of facts (which I’ll explain).

Continue reading “NVICP Tarsell decision not proof of HPV vaccine-related mortality – just legal errors”

Vaccine injury payouts – another trope that abuses NVICP statistics

vaccine injury

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.

My friend Liz Ditz wrote about this trope and gave it a solid debunking a couple of years ago. She is much nicer than yours truly, the cranky feathery dinosaur. We’re going to give it the full Skeptical Raptor treatment which means a lot of science, some snark, and a dollop of mockery. More seriously, I wanted to update her numbers and make a few more, possibly sarcastic, points. Continue reading “Vaccine injury payouts – another trope that abuses NVICP statistics”

NVICP Mini-Omnibus Autism decision – vaccines still do not cause autism

Mini-Omnibus Autism

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.

The Mini-Omnibus Autism decision is 94-pages, and this summary will just touch on the main points. I urge readers to wade into the full decision if they want to understand more.  Continue reading “NVICP Mini-Omnibus Autism decision – vaccines still do not cause autism”

Using NVICP cases to prove vaccine-autism link – anti-vaxxers get it wrong

vaccine-autism link

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.

Mostly, the anti-vaccine zealots use NVICP cases to attempt to convince the world that there is actual “evidence” that vaccines cause autism spectrum disorders. Of course, we know that the vast body of scientific research tells us that there is no vaccine-autism link. Professor Reiss’ article examines key NVICP cases and shows how they are being used and misused by anti-vaccine forces.

This post is going to review some of the key points presented by Professor Reiss and Ms. Heap in their published article. Of course, their article is over 70 pages long (with extensive footnoting), so I’m just going to hit the key points. However, the full article (pdf) is an important and detailed discussion of the misuse and abuse of NVICP cases in an attempt to claim that there is a vaccine-autism link. Continue reading “Using NVICP cases to prove vaccine-autism link – anti-vaxxers get it wrong”

Anti-vaccine doctor Mark Geier not exonerated – license still suspended

Mark Geier

Autism quack and anti-vaccine Mark Geier, a former physician stripped of his medical license by the State of Maryland, won a lawsuit against the Maryland Board of Physicians that awarded the Geier family $2.5 million in damages. Of course, the anti-vaccine and anti-autism world will claim that Mark Geier is an innocent man, and this ruling “proves” that.

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.

Because this story is so important, we’re going to talk about Mark Geier, what he did, and what this case really means.  Continue reading “Anti-vaccine doctor Mark Geier not exonerated – license still suspended”