Despite the false claims from Robert F Kennedy Jr and other anti-vaxxers, the scientific facts is vaccines do not cause autism.
This post examines a newly published article that claims that ethylmercury (in this case, thimerosal or thiomersal) crosses the blood-brain barrier (BBB). Of course, it comes from anti-vaccine non-scientists.
As we recently celebrated the 10th anniversary of the retraction of the fraudulent study from Andrew Wakefield and colleagues  (retraction notice), this celebration is only half-tone as we have seen more and more an influx of junk studies coming from a new breed of anti-vaccine “scientists” (such as Christopher Exley, Christopher Shaw, James Lyons-Weiler, Romain Gherardi, Yehuda Shoenfeld, Walter Lukiw, citing the most prolific of the bunch) take over the torch and publish deeply flawed studies, if not completely fraudulent in peer-reviewed journals.
Worse, we have seen indeed that some journals, such as the Journal of Inorganic Biochemistry or Journal of Trace Elements, have become a hive of anti-vaccine pseudoscience for studies as presented in their published form. They should not have passed a peer-review filter.
Yet, these journals have accepted these articles, despite their important factual errors, botched experimental design and inaccurate conclusions which are not supported by the experimental results. I recently got wind that the infamous Geiers are up into flogging a dead horse once again, this time with the benediction of the journal Environmental Toxicology and Pharmacology .
If this article was published in a low-tier or a predatory journal, I would understand. But seeing a paper authored by a quack doctor that lost his medical license to practice in 2012 (you can read the detailed case of his disciplinary action here), as well as the recent retraction of a study, with three out of the four authors accused of gross negligence on the claims made and failure to disclose a conflict of interest.
This should have been a red flag for the editor-in-chief and reviewers. Yet, we have a situation similar to the canary in the coal mine, this time about the canary slowly suffocating from the methane slowly leaking into the shaft, but no one taking action.
Seeing the field of academic publishing allowing such biased and non-sequitur review to be published (albeit being in review/revision for 4 months) is concerning. Quacks and charlatans are invading peer-reviewed journals, with the dangerous blessing of their editors and reviewers.
Does this review which was written by the Geiers, the Thenardiers of “autism treatment” (see Note 1), hold up or is completely full of logical flaws?
I was given the opportunity recently to watch Mr. Andy Wakefield’s fraudulent and self-serving anti-vaccination documentary Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Controversy, produced by the non-vaccine scientist, Del Bigtree. After getting physically ill and angry, I thought it was my duty to do my own Vaxxed review, something more in-depth than the general criticisms I’ve done with this piece of junk in the past.
I don’t have it in me to write about everything wrong with this “documentary” – to be honest, I heard not one single bit of science-based fact presented with respect to the MMR vaccines and autism spectrum disorder. The fraudumentary mostly presented lies, misinformation, anecdotes, and, notably, no real science. Worse yet, it tried to make Wakefield into a hero – maybe even a deity of some sort.
So, let’s be clear – this movie is about Wakefield. Not children. Not identifying real causes for autism. Not anything important.
There are a lot of excellent reviews of this “documentary,” including a recent one by David Gorski (you know, my doppelgänger according to certain crackpots on the internet) in Science-Based Medicine, “Read More »Vaxxed review – Del Bigtree fraudumentary dropped from Vimeo
If you spend any amount of time on the internet researching science and pseudoscience, you’ll find alarming claims about toxic vaccines chemicals – you know, aluminum, mercury, formaldehyde, and whatever unpronounceable molecule are all the rage for the anti-vaccine crowd. Of course, we obsess over substances not only in our vaccines, but also in our foods, air, water, and coffee. Many of us try to present scientific evidence about those toxic vaccine chemicals. It can be frustrating and time-consuming.
Generally, the pseudoscience argument proceeds along the lines of “these unpronounceable chemicals are going to cause cancer.” Followed by a new trope or meme that something in vaccines does something, often without a picogram of evidence.
But what the vaccine deniers are pushing about vaccines is based on a lack of knowledge about how toxicology – the study of the adverse effects of chemicals on living organisms, determines what is or isn’t toxic.
Paracelsus, a 16th-century Swiss-German physician, alchemist, astrologer, is traditionally thought to have founded the discipline of toxicology, an important branch of medicine, physiology, and pharmacology. Paracelsus wrote one of the most important principles of toxicology:
All things are poisons, for there is nothing without poisonous qualities. It is only the dose which makes a thing poison.
In other words, if you’re speaking about substances in foods or vaccines or anything, the most important principle is that the dose makes the poison (or toxin). Everything that we consume or breathe is potentially toxic but most important, overriding principle must be the dose.
So, I’m going to a disservice to the whole field of toxicology, which takes a lifetime of research and study, and I will attempt to digest it down to a few paragraphs, especially as it relates to those vaccine chemicals.
Other than anecdotes, Andrew Wakefield’s fraudulent study, and a handful of speculative studies published in low impact-factor journals, the overwhelming scientific consensus is that vaccines are not linked to autism spectrum disorder. The question has been asked in literally hundreds of real scientific articles, and the answer keeps coming back that there is no link. But that doesn’t stop one after another anti-vaccine pseudoscientist coming forward with pathetic evidence to try to “prove” (see Note 1) that vaccines cause autism. They always fail.
So today we’re going to look at another “study” from another anti-vaccine pseudoscientist trying to promote a false religious belief that somehow, somewhere vaccines are related to autism. Despite the scientific consensus that has refuted those beliefs with robust and repeated evidence, this pseudoscientist makes a vain attempt and fails. Let’s take a look.Read More »Anti-vaccine pseudoscientist fails to show vaccines are linked to autism
Here we go again. Just like the popular zombie TV shows, the flu vaccine myths continue to rise from the dead, scaring people away from protecting themselves from a dangerous disease. And just like Rick Grimes, it’s my job to help my fellow skeptics stop this zombie outbreak and safeguard the innocent from the brain-eating tropes of the anti-vaccine crowd.
Since we’re entering the 2017-2018 flu season in the Northern Hemisphere, your best weapon to avoid the effects of the flu is the seasonal flu vaccine. Despite the known overall safety and effectiveness of the flu vaccine, the anti-vaccination cult is pushing their ignorant nonsense all over social media, especially Facebook.
Let’s take a look at these zombie flu vaccine myths, and debunk them once again. Zombies are so hard to put down.Read More »Flu vaccine myths – zombie anti-vaccine lies blanket Facebook
When dealing with those pushing pseudoscience, like the antivaccination cult, the most frustrating thing is that they tend to ignore and deny the most basic tenets of science. If denying the fact of gravity would further their goals of “proving” vaccines are neither effective nor safe, they would do so. And now that it’s flu season, they’re producing zombie tropes about flu vaccine ingredients.
If the antivaccination movement didn’t lead to epidemics of long-gone diseases, which can harm and kill children, the conversation would be over. I would just put the vaccine deniers in the same group as evolution deniers (creationists) or gravity deniers (there has to be some, somewhere). I would mock their pseudoscience, and move on. Of course, their denialism does lead to deaths of children, so we have to do what is right, and stop their lies, misinformation and ignorance in every forum we can.
We have to appeal to scientific values, and despite the fact that antivaccination pushers don’t share those values, we must continue to try. I have gotten enough emails and comments from people that they have started to vaccinate because of what I have written, so maybe some child’s life is better because all of us who support vaccines are heard.
On April 20, 2017, Tucker Carlson from Fox News interviewed Robert F. Kennedy Jr. on his show, and they talked about vaccines. Mr. Kennedy pointed out that this is only his second interview on the topic in ten years, and blamed it on advertising dollars (which, apparently, did not prevent Mr. Carlson from hosting him). So why are RFK Jr vaccine beliefs ignored by the mainstream press?
The reality, however, is that journalists familiar with Mr. Kennedy’s past utterances on vaccines avoid him is because of his history of saying things that are blatantly wrong, and journalists who give him credence may well end up with egg on their face. This interview is a good example.
Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is an environmental lawyer. Best as I can tell he started speaking on vaccines in 2005, with an embarrassingly wrong article posted on both Salon and Rolling Stone that claimed that the CDC was engaged in a conspiracy to hide the fact that the vaccine preservative thimerosal was linked to autism.
After five corrections of the blatant errors in Kennedy’s article, Salon also retracted it, explaining that critics’ exposure of further problems “further eroded any faith we had in the story’s value. We’ve grown to believe the best reader service is to delete the piece entirely.”
Kennedy has repeated the same grossly inaccurate statements – claiming a conspiracy to hide the fact that thimerosal in vaccines causes autism – since, and has not recanted, most recently publishing a book making the claim ironically named “Thimerosal: Let the Science Speak,” and also pushing a challenge to science supporters on the topic, following in the footsteps of holocaust deniers, climate change deniers, anti-vaccine activists, evolution deniers, and others.
In the intervening years studies from all around the world looked at thimerosal in vaccines and did not find a link between it and autism. More recently see publications here and here. The global nature of these studies means that even if the CDC wanted to conspire to hide a link, it wouldn’t be able to, not without controlling the rest of the world. No serious scientific source today really thinks that the tiny amounts of thimerosal in vaccines (and as a reminder, all childhood vaccines, with the exception of multi-dose influenza, contain no, or almost no, thimerosal) causes autism or other neuropsychological problems – or any other serious, long-term harms. But Kennedy does. Because conspiracy.
RFK Jr vaccine statements are hostile, and also very, very extreme. In a famous quote, he said:
They can put anything they want in that vaccine and they have no accountability for it,[…] They get the shot, that night they have a fever of a hundred and three, they go to sleep, and three months later their brain is gone…This is a holocaust, what this is doing to our country.
Not only is this untrue, but it’s highly offensive to children with autism to say their brain is gone, as is the comparison to the holocaust. Unsurprisingly, science supporters were dismayed by Kennedy’s claims – denied by the Trump transition team – that President Trump offered him the position of leading a vaccine commission.
Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Robert De Niro just had a press conference to push their anti-vaccine nonsense on the public. This time, they’re offering US$100,000 to anyone who can show that mercury in vaccines are safe. Well, they can write me the check today, since there is NO mercury (really, there never was) in vaccines, so based on their lame accusations, it’s safe.
I’m starting to think that the anti-vaccine forces think that the wind is blowing in their direction. This so-called press conference was held at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, an important venue for announcements. The National Press Club ought to be embarrassed – how could a prestigious institution allow such junk “news” at their site. But that’s a story for another day.Read More »Anti-vaccine nonsense – Robert F Kennedy Jr and Robert De Niro jump in
Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Robert De Niro just had a press conference to push their anti-vaccine bullshit on the public. This time, they’re offering US$100,000 to anyone who can show that mercury in vaccines are safe. Well, they can write me the check today, since there is NO mercury (really, there never was) in vaccines, so based on their lame accusations, it’s safe.
I’m starting to think that the anti-vaccine forces think that the wind is blowing in their direction. This so-called press conference was held at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, an important venue for announcements. The National Press Club ought to be embarrassed – how could a prestigious institution allow such junk “news” at their site. But that’s a story for another day.Read More »Anti-vaccine bullshit – Robert De Niro and RFK Jr are full of it