I haven’t written much about the Vaxxed bus tour, except in the context of how Australia has banned entry of a couple of the anti-vaccine participants from re-entering the country in the future. In case the Vaxxed bus tour isn’t at the top of your daily reading material, it is a gang of anti-vaccine radicals have been traveling in a bus across America promoting the anti-vaccine fraudumentary, Vaxxed.
The movie, directed by the cunning con-man Andrew 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.”
This bus tour pushes pseudoscience and vaccine lies to gullible audiences across America. And the Vaxxed bus tour was heading to Australia to promote that unscientific nonsense to the continent down under. But Australia did the aforementioned banning of the participants.
The Vaxxed tour bus has included some of the most unprincipled and shameless anti-vaccine radicals. The fraud, Andrew Wakefield. The loon, Suzanne Humphries. The crackpot, Polly Tommey. All of them making the unscientific claim that vaccines cause autism.
Except, we know that vaccines are not linked to autism. Real science is searching for the real causes of autism, and they still have concluded it’s not vaccines. Continue reading “Vaxxed bus tour – one man trolling against anti-vaccine lies”
Anti-vaccine activists constantly look for any science that seems to support their beliefs about the safety and effectiveness of vaccines. Lately, they have gravitated to the writings of Peter Doshi, who has made a career talking about vaccines. Although Doshi lacks the credentials in any area of science related to vaccines – immunology, microbiology, virology, public health, epidemiology – the anti-vaccine forces embrace him like he’s a Nobel Prize winning scientist. Which he is not.
Let’s take a look at Doshi’s credentials and what he’s written about vaccines, specifically the flu vaccine. Continue reading “Peter Doshi flu vaccine study – misused by anti-vaxxers”
I have long considered Paul Offit MD as one of heroes and leaders of the public discussion of how vaccines save lives, and how they have made the lives of the world’s children healthier and better. Dr. Offit, together with Edward Jenner (the father of immunology), Jonas Salk (discoverer of the polio vaccine), and Maurice Hillman (inventor of the MMR vaccine against measles, mumps and rubella), should have statues place outside of every pediatric hospital in the country for the number of lives that they have saved.
Unfortunately, since Dr. Offit is considered one of the “leaders” of the pro-vaccine majority, his name has been demonized by the anti-vaccine cult. These people use the Big Lie, a Nazi propaganda technique where a known falsehood is repeatedly stated, then treated as if it is self-evidently true in hopes of swaying the course of an argument in a direction that takes the big lie for granted rather than critically questioning it or ignoring it.
The vaccine deniers constantly repeat untruths about Dr. Offit so that those lies eventually evolve into apparent truths, at least for those who hold onto their pseudoscientific anti-vaccine beliefs.
The problem is, of course, that if you’re a new parent who is confused by what vaccines may or may not do, you’d assume you could not accept anything that Dr. Offit says because of those Big Lies, and many of the ridiculous tropes and memes of the vaccine denialists. And this is sad.
Let’s counter the Big Lie with the Big Facts.
Continue reading “Paul Offit MD – debunking the anti-vaccine tropes and myths”
On March 13, 2015 Dr. Bob Sears, a California antivaccine physician, wrote a post on Facebook attacking Dr. Paul Offit, pediatrician, vaccine inventor, scientist, vaccine advocate and educator.
Dr. Sears wrote:
A FAILED ATTEMPT TO CHANGE HIS NAME FROM DR. PROFIT TO DR. PROPHET
Everyone’s favorite infectious disease doctor tried to write a compelling argument as to why parents should not have religious freedom to decline vaccines, and the New York Times shot it down. Here’s a link to the Time’s review. So, sorry to help publicize this waste of trees, but the more people who know that this vaccine advocate doesn’t care about religious freedom in the United States the better. Enjoy!
Continue reading “Bob Sears’ personal attacks on Paul Offit – anti-vaccine evidence”
There are a large number of tropes and myths pushed by the anti-vaccine crowd. Like toxic chemicals in vaccines. Or vaccines cause autism. And one that keeps showing up – multiple vaccines overwhelm the immune system.
And like other articles I’ve written about anti-vaccine myths and tropes, the idea of multiple vaccines harming children is easily debunked by scientific facts. And we’re doing that right here.
Continue reading “Multiple vaccines overwhelm immune system – another myth debunked”
There are so many annoying issues about the antivaccination cult, that most of us can’t even keep up with it. If only they would provide evidence published in high quality, peer reviewed journals (yes, a high standard, but if we’re talking about public health, a high standard is required), the fake debate would move into a real scientific discussion. One of their favorite feints against real evidence is to push people, like Tetyana Obukhanych, who appear to have great credentials, but once you dig below the surface, not much is there.
One of the most irritating problems I have with the antivaccination movement is their over-reliance on false authorities, where they trumpet the publications or commentary from someone who appears to have all of the credentials to be a part of the discussion on vaccines, but really doesn’t. Here’s the thing – it simply does not matter who the authority is or isn’t, all that matters is the evidence.
For example, Christopher Shaw and Lucija Tomljenovic, two researchers in the Department of Ophthalmology at the University of British Columbia, have, for all intents and purposes, sterling credentials in medicine and science. However, they publish nonsense research (usually filled with the weakest of epidemiology trying to show population level correlation between vaccines and adverse events) in low ranked scientific journals.
Now the anti-vaccine world has a new hero – Tetyana Obukhanych. Continue reading “Tetyana Obukhanych – another anti-vaccine appeal to false authority”
In the hierarchy of scientific principles, the scientific consensus – that is, the collective opinion and judgement of scientific experts in a particular field – is an important method to separate real scientific thought from junk science, pseudoscience, cargo cult science, and other fake beliefs.
I often discuss scientific theories which “are large bodies of work that are a culmination or a composite of the products of many contributors over time and are substantiated by vast bodies of converging evidence. They unify and synchronize the scientific community’s view and approach to a particular scientific field.”
A scientific theory is not a wild and arbitrary guess, but it is built upon a foundation of scientific knowledge that itself is based on evidence accumulated from data that resulted from scientific experimentation. Generally, a scientific consensus eventually leads to a scientific theory.
I have written frequently about the scientific consensus, because it is one of the most powerful pieces of evidence in a discussion about critical issues of our day – evolution, climate change, vaccines, GMOs, and many other scientific fields. Continue reading “Scientific consensus – collective opinion of scientists”
Dr. Sherri Tenpenny is one of the leading activists on the anti-vaccine side. Yes, she’s a real physician – she’s actually a DO, an osteopath (see Note 1). Despite her medical education and training, she is a science denier on many levels. Not only does she hate vaccines, ignoring the wealth of science supporting them, but also she denies a lot of basic scientific principles.
For example, Tenpenny denies the Germ theory of disease, which states that infectious diseases are caused by microorganisms. Germ theory is one of the basic foundations of biology – denying it implies either she doesn’t know anything about biology, or she has a vast body of evidence to overturn a scientific theory. My guess it’s the former, rather than the latter.
Instead, Sherri Tenpenny believes that diseases are due to toxins flooding the body, and germs subsequently jumping into the toxin-damaged tissues. Let’s be clear, there isn’t a stitch of evidence supporting this idea. Of course, once Tenpenny denied Germ theory, she would find vaccines to be useless. The vaccines aren’t actually protecting against disease in her mind.
Does Dr. Sherri Tenpenny have any training, education or background in infectious diseases, immunology or microbiology which would lead one to think she has a clue about all of this? Not as far as anyone can tell. She’s board certified in osteopathic neuromuscular medicine (AOBNMM) and the woo-based integrative and holistic medicine (ABIHM). Again, there is absolutely no indication that she actually has any kind of research, training or educational background in anything to do with vaccines, infectious diseases or epidemiology. She fails basic science here.
Despite this lack of serious knowledge about vaccines and infectious diseases, she makes herself out to be some authority figure regarding the danger of vaccines. Anti-vaccine activists will constantly quote her, as if she has the same credentials as Dr. Paul Offit, who really knows vaccines and diseases, and who invented the rotavirus vaccine that saves hundreds of thousands of lives every year.
In a recent post in the anti-vaccine website, Vaxxter, Tenpenny pretends she’s Jesus (as in the Christian myth) telling a parable on how she tries to pass out information on the evils of vaccines – but that her claims are rejected by “close-minded” pro-vaccine types. Like me I suppose.
Shall we take a look? Sure, it’s a good day to debunk some anti-vaccine nonsense.
Sherri Tenpenny and Jesus
To be honest, doesn’t directly compare herself to Jesus. But she comes really really close.
Jesus often told stories called parables to teach a lesson through an example. Many of you may be familiar with the Biblical story, “The Parable of the Sower.” For those who don’t (and there are many faiths here, so many may not), here is a summary of The Parable of the Sower. I always keep this in mind as I am sowing seeds of information about vaccines (emphasis mine).
In essence, this parable attempts to assert that the seeds of faith (the word of Jesus, I suppose) can’t take root everywhere. But where it does grow, the rewards will be abundant. As an atheist, I find all of this to be ridiculously obtuse, but she’s the one claiming to use the parable to spread the seeds of her anti-vaccine information.
Let’s examine this.
The Parable of the Sower of Vaccine Seeds
So, Sherri Tenpenny, the Jesus of vaccines, says the parable fits into her dogmatic religion of the anti-vaccine. She’s the savior in this metaphor, I suppose.
Let’s take a look at them one by one.
1–Some seeds never have a chance. There will always be skeptics and “know it alls” who believe in the Religion of Vaccination and can never hear the information. Try as you might, they will never hear. Like the hard soil, their mind is closed. Save your energy. Move on.
She says that we’re close minded? I don’t think that means what she thinks it means. A close minded person has established a conclusion, evidence be damned. An open minded person (yours truly is one) only comes to a conclusion after weighing all of the highest quality evidence. In fact, the seeds of science never have a chance with Tenpenny and her ilk, because they believe in the Religion of Anti-vaccination, a faith based group. They ignore all the high quality evidence to stick stubbornly with the pre-conceived conclusions demanded by their religious faith.
The evidence for the efficacy and safety of vaccines is mountainous. But like creationists, another science denying religion, anti-vaccine-ists (yeah, I did that) rely upon anecdotes, misinterpretation, logical fallacies, and all of the other tools of the science denying crowd to close their mind to real science and evidence. So Dr. Tenpenny, look at yourself in the mirror. Seeds of knowledge, truth and science have no chance with your closed mind.
2–Some seeds of truth will start to grow because the truth is exciting and their interest starts to sprout.
Actually, a lot of anti-vaccine-ists do see these seeds of truth, and end up accepting the facts about vaccines. But to be honest, for the science deniers, they’re still stuck at #1. They can’t get past their notions and conclusions, so these seeds never get a chance. This is sad really.
3–Some seeds start to grow, but the truth is quickly choked by the weeds. Family members in healthcare, social media friends, community nay-sayers crush the spirit of the growing seedling. Discouraged and literally choked out, the seeds of truth die.
This is where my job starts. I need to get rid of those weeds of science denialism with a good dose of Truth™ glyphosate. Just about anyone who supports vaccines does the same – they get rid of the weeds of doubt, misinformation and bad science so that open-minded parents will realize how valuable vaccines are to the health of their children.
4–But a few seeds of truth will take root, and grow…and grow..and grow. Some who heard the truth about vaccine hazards immediately embraced and understood it. Their resolve grew the more they studied. They joined a like-minded community for personal support. The seeds planted within this person grew into a massive plant.
Yes, there are many, over 90%, who have heard the truth about vaccine hazards and immediately rejected the nonsense spread by Sherri Tenpenny. Then they vaccinated their children. To abuse this parable (or Tenpenny’s version of said parable), the massive plant of like minded people who accept science and knowledge, and understand who is and isn’t speaking the truth have made sure their children are protected against vaccine preventable diseases.
To be frank, Jesus Tenpenny’s version of the parable of the sower fits more for her sycophants and followers rather than for the “pro-vaccine” side. Because the parable is about faith and accepting the teachings of a god, while rejecting science and evidence.
Science isn’t about faith and blind acceptance. Sure, I am not an astrophysicist, so I tentatively accept what Neil DeGrasse Tyson says about Pluto being a planet or not, because he presents evidence, and he’s not ridiculed by the vast majority of astrophysicists. But if further evidence appears, supported by brilliant scientists say he’s wrong about Pluto, I’d rethink my position. But on vaccines, I’ve done the research, not as an amateur accepting by faith the statements of others, but as an expert in several biomedical sciences who can read the thousands of studies supporting vaccines. The evidence leads me to the conclusion about the safety and effectiveness of vaccines, not “faith.”
Sherri Tenpenny lacks any authority or credentials in infectious diseases. She asks her followers to have “faith” that she’s right, and the scientific consensus on vaccines is wrong. Why, because, she’s Jesus?
- In the USA, a licensed physician may be either an MD (medical doctor) or DO (doctor of osteopathy). DOs attend osteopathic school, rather than medical school, and are generally taught evidence based medicine. Its roots are somewhat based in medical woo, but that’s more historical than current philosophy. A DO must go through the same training process as an MD – they have to compete for the same internships, residencies and fellowships as MDs. Currently, it’s really hard to tell the difference between and MD and DO with respect to your own health care.
Several of the ongoing memes, tropes and fabrications of the vaccine deniers is somehow, somewhere, in some Big Pharma boardroom, a group of men and women in suits choose the next vaccine in some magical way, and foist it upon the world just to make billions of dollars through vaccine profits. Of course, while magically concocting this vaccine brew, these pharmaceutical execs ignore ethics and morals just to make a profit on hapless vaccine-injured victims worldwide.
The Big Pharma vaccine profits conspiracy trope ranges across the junk medicine world. Homeopathy, for example, claims that Big Pharma suppresses the data that shows water cures all diseases. Like Ebola.
But the Big Pharma vaccine profits conspiracy is still one of most amusing myths of the antivaccination world.
Continue reading “The myth of Big Pharma vaccine profits – it’s not what they say it is”
I don’t judge people by their looks, intelligence, bank account or fame. I only judge people by the good things they have done to save and improve lives. It’s a simple equation. Using a similar life calculator, Dr. Paul Offit, in an article in the Daily Beast, examined the legacy of Rachel Carson, and her groundbreaking book, Silent Spring. Published in the early 1960s, Carson was the first to warn that DDT effects include accumulation in the environment, and by doing so, it could bring harm to wildlife. She also warned that its overuse could make it ineffective. And finally, she said that we should use natural means for pest control, like bacteria that killed the mosquito larvae.
If you’re unfamiliar with Paul Offit, he is an inventor of a lifesaving vaccine and provider of scientific information about vaccines – he absolutely cares about human lives, despite the nastiness thrown his way. Dr. Offit’s rotavirus vaccine, which he invented, has saved millions of lives across the world. Who amongst us can make that claim, of saving so many lives?
But Dr. Offit looked at something that is generally ignored with regards to the most important of DDT effects – it killed malaria carrying mosquitoes that kills millions of lives. Today, because of DDT, there is no malaria in the USA. But it’s more than just America, Dr. Offit looks carefully at other successes of the pesticide:
As malaria rates went down, life expectancies went up; as did crop production, land values, and relative wealth. Probably no country benefited from DDT more than Nepal, where spraying began in 1960. At the time, more than two million Nepalese, mostly children, suffered from malaria. By 1968, the number was reduced to 2,500; and life expectancy increased from 28 to 42 years.
It’s hard to imagine, but Nepal had a 99% decrease in malaria infections just because of DDT. From our cozy homes in the wealthy developed world, malaria seems like some distant disease that matters not. But it wasn’t too long ago that malaria was rampant in many areas of the developed world, like Italy, the American south, Greece, and other areas. It’s not some boring disease, it kills.
And since DDT was banned, malaria has come screaming back. According to Dr. Offit, “since the mid 1970s, when DDT was eliminated from global eradication efforts, tens of millions of people have died from malaria unnecessarily: most have been children less than five years old. While it was reasonable to have banned DDT for agricultural use, it was unreasonable to have eliminated it from public health use.”
There is a claim out there that whether we chose DDT, and killed ourselves and the environment, or choose malaria with no DDT, it was all the same. But in fact, real scientific studies have since shown us that the danger from DDT was overstated, while the danger from malaria stayed the same.
It’s the 0,1 binary scale of decision making that we see by a lot of anti-science types. DDT may save lives of by preventing malaria, but any harm to the environment is bad. Either an insecticide must be 100% safe, or it’s 100% unacceptable.
Let’s go into more detail about DDT and Rachel Carson – the story is complicated. Continue reading “DDT effects – Paul Offit tries to set the record straight”