Archive for the 'Vaccination inanity' category

Mercola appears to lie about vaccines and fertility (#vaxfax)

Oct 18 2010 Published by under Absurd medical claims, Medicine, Vaccination inanity

When well-reasoned discussion fails to convince someone of your strongly-held beliefs, the most effective tool of persuasion you have left is lying. This has always been the fall back position for quacks and politicians (a group with perhaps some significant overlap). This week, as reported by Respectful Insolence, anti-vaccination activists are launching a week of activism based on their usual fall back strategy.  Everyone is encouraged to spread the news, and help refute the lies with the cold, harsh light of truth.  On twitter, the news will be trending at the hashtag #vaxfax.  There is not formal aggregation of posts yet, but we'll let you know as soon as we have a website up.

Meanwhile, bloggers and others are strongly encouraged to refute the lies coming from infamous antivaccination nuts such as Barbara Loe Fisher and Joe Mercola.  As my first contribution to this week's battle, I give you an over-the-top piece of idiocy which is either mendacious or blindingly stupid.  Or maybe both, who can really say.

It comes from one of the biggest gurus of medical misinformation, Joe Mercola.   He titles his post, "What is in the flu vaccine that can cause infertility?" which is akin to asking, "when did you stop beating your wife?"  He could just as easily have asked, "What is in the flu vaccine that can cause an alien invasion?"  In this case, he bases his question (which I cannot say with completely certainty to be the product of fantasy, intentional lying, idiocy, or whatever) on a package insert for flu vaccines.  His entire article goes on to state the usual thought-free lies about vaccine contents, but we'll focus on his headline.  Is there evidence that flu vaccines cause fertility problems?

First, is the idea plausible?  What causes infertility?  Fertility can have male causes, female causes, or can be a combined cause.  It can be temporary or permanent.  Common causes (other than intentional interruption of fertility) include disorders of sperm production, egg production, fertilization---there are many causes and combinations of causes.  If a flu vaccination were to be contaminated with a significant amount of a hormone or hormone analog, I suppose it could contribute to temporary infertility, but it's hard to conceive of how this could happen.

Here is Mercola's smoking gun:

A study done in Slovakia on female rats found that when newborn rats were injected with the substance [flu vaccine] within a week of birth, they developed damage to the vagina and uterine lining, hormonal changes, ovarian deformities and infertility.

The package insert for Fluarix mentions that the manufacturer cannot guarantee your fertility will be unharmed...

What does this compelling evidence actually tell us?  First, from the package insert:

FLUARIX has not been evaluated for carcinogenic or mutagenic potential, or for impairment of fertility.

The issue of fertility and this flu vaccine has not been specifically tested in humans, mostly because the idea is insanely improbable. But what about the rats? He doesn't cite any actual Slovak study, but the package insert says this:

A reproductive and developmental toxicity study has been performed in female rats at a dose approximately 56 times the human dose (on a mg/kg basis) and revealed no evidence of impaired female fertility or harm to the fetus due to FLUARIX. There are, however, no adequate and well-controlled studies in pregnant women.

So other than a putative Slovak study that may have shown "something", a something not borne out in any human studies after billions vaccinations over decades, what does Mercola have to offer?

The package insert for Fluarix mentions that the manufacturer cannot guarantee your fertility will be unharmed.

While I cannot find this particular phrase in the manufacturer's literature, let's pretend it's there.  The manufacturer also cannot guarantee that aliens won't come probe your rectum after your flu shot.  There are lots of negatives that cannot be proven.  The overwhelming evidence is that flu shots are not only safe, but beneficial in preventing flu and complications from the flu.

I got mine, and so did my six year old daughter who is everything to me.  If even one person is harmed by following Mercola's advice, he is morally culpable for the injury or death of that person. He should be ashamed.

18 responses so far

Too many too soon?

May 24 2010 Published by under Medicine, Vaccination inanity

Too many too soon: that's Jenny McCarthy's rallying cry.  The disingenuous activists of the antivaccine movement use this motto as a foot in the door, claiming that they are not truly "anti-vaccine", just pro-"safe vaccines".  This is despite the fact that vaccines have proved themselves to be one of the safest and most effective medical interventions in human history. 

Pediatricians in the community are struggling with the fallout of the antivaccine propaganda, having to spend their finite patient-care hours trying to explain to parents why they should vaccinate their children properly.  While they are fighting this difficult but good fight, popular celebrity doctors such as Dr. Bob Sears and Dr. Jay Gordon are shouting about the horrors of evidence-based vaccination and offering their own made-up alternatives.

In addition to promoting the resurgence of several infectious diseases, these "activists" have forced the medical and scientific community to waste valuable resources studying the same questions again and again.  And when the question is answered, the infectious disease promoters yank up the goalposts and start running.  There is no data set that will ever convince Jay Gordon, Jenny McCarthy, or Bob Sears that current vaccine recommendations are safe and effective.  There is also no external evidence that will cause them to alter their own recommendations for "alternative schedules". 

But given the public health importance of vaccination, we are forced to counter the propaganda.  A new study in the journal Pediatrics does just that.  This study appears to have been designed to answer the questions frequently raised by antivaccine activists.  When thimerosal was proved to be innocuous they moved on to "toxins".  When this gambit failed, they moved on to "too many too soon". As this argument has unraveled, they have called for "vaccinated vs. unvaccinated" studies, prospective studies which follow children who are and are not vaccinated and look at different rates of autism.  Epidemiologists have been all over the question of causation, but not surprisingly, the antivax crowd hasn't been satisfied with them to date.  The new study adds another layer of evidence to what we already know: vaccines do not cause autism. 

But this study goes one step further and asks the question, "is it really 'too many too soon?'" The study's conclusion is in its title: "On-time Vaccine Receipt in the First Year Does Not Adversely Affect Neuropsychological Outcomes."  The authors used vaccine data from several thousand children.  They compared children who followed the recommended vaccination schedule in the first year of life vs. those who did not, and compared neurological outcomes 7-10 years later.  The data were unequivocal: there were no significant neurologic problems present in the "off-schedule" group compared to the on-time group.  This very strongly argues against "too many too soon". 

There are two rational complaints likely to be raised by the antivaccination crowd.  One is potential conflicts of interests in the authors.  Both authors have disclosed various types of financial support from drug companies in either research funding or speaking fees.  This does not mean the data are tainted, but it does mean the data require close scrutiny.  Neither the data nor conclusions in this study seem to suffer from undue influence, as far as I can tell from my reading. There is always the possibility of outright fraud, something that would be hard to detect in reading a study, but I see no reason to suspect this.  Also, their data and conclusions track very closely with what we know from previous studies on vaccination and neurologic problems.

The second question likely to be raised is whether this study captured the correct populations.  The data make clear that when the recommended vaccination schedule is followed in the first year of life, there are no significant neurological sequelae in later childhood.  But the study did not specifically look at "alternative vaccine schedules" such as those proposed by alternative doctors.  It also did not specifically look at vaccination outside the first year of life.  It did however divide the children into "most timely" and "least timely" groups too look for effects that might be missed in aggregate.

This is a strong study.  It seems likely that if vaccines given according to the recommended schedule during infancy were to lead to autism or other severe neurologic disorders, this study would have found an effect.  Since autism usually manifests by age 2, it is unlikely that an exposure in the second or third year of life would contribute significantly to the development of autism.  There is no such thing as "too many too soon"; it is simply another evidence-free attack on one of our safest and most effective public health measures.


Michael J. Smith, & Charles R. Woods (2010). On-time Vaccine Receipt in the First Year Does Not Adversely Affect Neuropsychological Outcomes Pediatrics, 125 (6), 1134-1141 : 10.1542/peds.2009-2489

4 responses so far

Vaccination's night of the living dead

Apr 03 2010 Published by under Absurd medical claims, Medicine, Vaccination inanity

Some crazy, currently unbloggable crap is going down around Casa Pal this week, so I'm going to have to open up a bloggy doggy bag for you. I have a nice piece in the works for Sunday or Monday which is brand, spanking new. This was originally published on 5/6/2009. --PalMD
Some bad ideas refuse to die. Others die and then come back to eat your brains. Of course, zombies don't just rise from the grave for no reason. They need some sort of animating principle, like meteors, puffer fish toxin, a voodoo priestess, or all three.


Brain-eating, measles-promoting zombies. Not pictured: Andrew Wakefield

I'm sure Oprah can afford any or all of these, and she's certainly putting them to work. The latest reanimation from Oprah's Harpo Studios is Jenny McCarthy, Queen of the Undead, at least as far as the army of infectious disease promoters goes. You see, not only has Jenny been spreading lies about public health, her activities have breathed fresh life into infectious diseases that were "mostly dead". She even admits that increasing the incidence of dangerous infectious diseases is a likely consequence of her actions. Hell, she revels in it.
So Oprah, Queen of TV woo, with friends like Mehmet Oz and Christine Northrup, is helping to keep alive the Bad Idea that Wouldn't Die. Oprah is in a very powerful position, as we all know. If she brings out the Jenny, people will listen.
And when people listen to Jenny, children die. It's really that simple.
So thanks, Oprah. Thanks for raising a zombie army of people who would rather we sicken and die of infectious diseases because of their own baseless fears. Our brains will never be safe again.

16 responses so far

Chopra, soul, and a big, insoluble mess

The recent arrests of the Hutaree cult here in Michigan are part of a tradition of militant separatism in this part of the country, beginning with the militia movements in the late 20th century and climaxing (hopefully) in the terrorist acts of Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols. This latest incident is interesting in that it appears to share some qualities of the militia movement, the Christian Identity movement, and the Tea Party movement (although what sorts of ideologic connections there really are will take some time to figure out.)

Cults in general scare me. They scare me not just because of their acts and their ideas, but their attractiveness. They have the ability not just to attract those of similar ideas, but they also seduce those who may simply be vulnerable to their philosophies. The flames of hatred are being fanned by those on the right, including teabaggers and so-called mainstream right wing commentators. The economic times, an "ethnic" president who represents the future of the US population, and an utter failure of others on the right to speak out against the hate feed these right-wing violence cults.

But cults don't just feed on hatred. Cults, like street gangs, also seduce with love, with pleasant-sounding ideas that are congruent with and confirm one's own beliefs. The antivaccine movement (as opposed to individuals with their individual beliefs) are a cult. They have charismatic leaders (such as Barbara Loe Fisher, JB Handley, and Jenny McCarthy), they have their own beliefs that are impervious to the assault of actual facts, and they accrue followers, spreading their lies. Their lies have helped to lower vaccination rates and increase the incidence of vaccine-preventable diseases. And their success depends upon a general cheapening of the meaning of "experts", and a vilification of earned scientific authority when it disagrees with their beliefs.

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17 responses so far

Sanity vs Insanity: cage match at HuffPo

Mar 27 2010 Published by under Medicine, Vaccination inanity

I love Icelandic names. Just reading them makes me think of Vikings and valkyries. One name that I can't get out of my head right now is "Iris Erlingsdottir". She's an Icelandic journalist who put up a pro-vaccine piece on Huffington Post. Not only is the piece pro-vaccine, but it is quite critical of her fellow HuffPo blogger "Dr." Jenny McCarthy, the actress who, after having a child and doing a lot of googling, decided that vaccines are evil. She is so convinced of the danger of vaccine that she explicitly wishes our children to suffer from vaccine-preventable diseases to try to prove her point.
I'm not sure if Jenny is a liar, or just so damned stupid that she'll parrot everyone else's lies. But Ms Erlingsdottir doesn't seem to be too concerned with Jenny's lies, but the truth about vaccine-preventable illnesses. Given HuffPo's history, I'd imagine She'll get some pretty unpleasant responses. It couldn't hurt to go over there and give her some support.

53 responses so far

Vaccinations and autism: we're number one?

Mar 24 2010 Published by under Absurd medical claims, Medicine, Vaccination inanity

It has been alleged by Great Minds such as Jenny McCarthy (D.Goog.) that the US recommends far more vaccinations than other countries.  Her precise statement was, "How come many other countries give their kids one-third as many shots as we do?" She put this into the context of wondering if our current vaccine schedule should be less rigid.  The entire piece was filled with what could charitably called less-than-truthful assertions, but I'm not feeling that charitable: they are lies (or the rantings of an idiot, or the delusions of lunatic.  There are probably other possibilities that I haven't thought of). 

Oh, Jenny.

First, we need to parse out this "more shots than everyone else" statement. Dr. Jenny may think she understands what this means, but I doubt it.  Some countries--Haiti, for example--give far fewer vaccines than we do because they are desperately poor and in a constant state of crisis. Because of this, they have very high rates of vaccine-preventable diseases.  They want to vaccinate more, but can't.  Then there are countries who can afford to vaccinate. Let's look at what three industrialized nations recommend before six years of age.

Vaccinations, by disease and country, 0-6 years of age

Vaccine France Germany USA Iceland
Hepatitis B Yes Yes Yes No
Rotavirus No No Yes No
Diphtheria, tetanus, and pertusis Yes Yes Yes Yes
Hib Yes Yes Yes Yes
Pneumococcus Yes Yes Yes No
Polio Yes Yes Yes Yes
Influenza Not reported Not reported Yes No
Meales, mumps, rubella Yes Yes Yes Yes
Varicella No Yes Yes No
Hepatitis A No No Yes No
BCG (disseminated TB) Yes No No No
Meningococcus No Yes For some Yes

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22 responses so far

Barbara Loe Fisher owes me a new irony meter

Jan 07 2010 Published by under Absurd medical claims, Medicine, Vaccination inanity

As we mentioned earlier, Barbara Loe Fisher, founder of the infectious disease promotion group NVIC, is suing a bunch of people for "defaming" her.

Today she posted a piece at Age of Autism entitled, "2010 Needs A Fearless Conversation About Vaccination." She is suing a nationally-known vaccine expert, the reporter who interviewed him, and the magazine which ran the story about vaccination.

So much for fearless conversation.

3 responses so far

Vaccination: it's a mitzvah

Jan 02 2010 Published by under Medicine, Vaccination inanity

Being a physician and a father, I keep an eye out for news about childhood vaccinations. I've always been concerned about local statutes that allow kids to be admitted to school unvaccinated, especially when all that is required is an affirmation or a letter from a doctor or religious figure. This not only endangers these individual children but also others. As the rates of vaccination drop vaccine-preventable diseases regain a foothold. Children and adults who are either ineligible for vaccination or in whom vaccination was not completely effective can become ill. Parents can, of course, do nearly whatever they want, even when it borders on abusive, as vaccine refusal does, but they should not have the right to endanger others.

This is why I was heartened to see this piece out of Pittsburgh. The three Jewish day schools in the area decided to mandate strict vaccination policies for their students.  Private schools have often provided a refuge for anti-vaccination parents, and probably always will, but at least one set of schools won't tolerate such narishkeit.  According to the The Jewish Chronicle:

The new standards were set forth in a letter from the physicians to area Jewish schools last spring. They proposed that vaccination -- with certain medical exceptions -- should be mandated by Jewish schools as "an active step toward ... fulfilling the mitzvah to preserve health."

Physicians took action and helped the community make a change for the better.  The local religious authorities then took on the issue and decided that from a religious perspective, vaccination, given the evidence, is also an individual and community obligation.  They based this not just on scripture but on the scientific data presented and on fact that vaccinations rates in a community as a whole go up when schools mandate vaccination.  The decision is especially heartening given the news of the mumps outbreak in an Orthodox Jewish community in New York.  

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37 responses so far

Damned lies and idiots

Dec 30 2009 Published by under Absurd medical claims, Medicine, Vaccination inanity

Dr. Sherri Tenpenny is reportedly a doctor, although according to her website, she no longer practices medicine in any recognizable way. Perhaps that's why she utters completely idiotic statements such as this one pointed out to me by Brother Orac:

Study these numbers. We've had SARS, Bird flu and Swine flu. On average, approx. 190 children/year die from the flu. Considering there are about 62M kids under the 14 years of age in the US, this is NOT "statistically signficant" and should not even make the radar screen. See how they manipulate parents into vaccinations?

Next year, PLEASE do not be afraid of the flu. Ever person here should pass this on to at least 25 people! Please pass this to at least 25 friends.

Before we get to the above inane statement, let's see what Dr. Tenpenny claims about her own expertise:

Dr. Sherri Tenpenny is respected as one of the country's most knowledgeable and outspoken physicians regarding the impact of vaccines on health.

As a member of the prestigious National Speaker's Association, Dr. Tenpenny is an outspoken advocate for free choice in healthcare, including the right to refuse vaccination.  

No. No, she's not. Paul Offit is a nationally known vaccine expert. Dr. Tenpenny is not. If you're going to call yourself an expert on vaccines and vaccine-preventable diseases, you should probably have training in infectious disease or immunology and you should probably have published significant research. Tenpenny is a washed-up osteopath who has given up real practice to pursue the one vestige of quackery left in osteopathic education---manipulation. And being "a member of the prestigious National Speakers Association" only means that you are a member of an association of public speakers; it says nothing about your qualifications to speak on any particular topic. No physician with real medical expertise would list something like that rather than, say, their medically-related qualifications.

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112 responses so far

Dangerous flu misinformation from HuffPo----again

Nov 25 2009 Published by under Absurd medical claims, Medicine, Vaccination inanity

We already know about the Huffington Post's war on science and its shameless publication of snake oil ads disguised as journalism. Now, Mark Hyman, an evangelist for the cult known as "functional medicine", is giving even more bad flu advice (and shilling for his books).

He begins his blathering, misleading sales pitch with this bit of mendacious drivel:

The main question my patients have been asking is whether they should get vaccinated against H1N1 or against the regular flu.

This is not a simple yes or no answer. The guiding principle of functional medicine is personalized care, not the one-size-fits-all belief that everyone should have the same treatment. This applies equally to vaccines. There is risk and benefit to every medical treatment or procedure.

He is of course implying that real medicine does have a one-size-fits-all philosophy, which is of course incorrect.  There are many factors that go into advising someone whether or not to get a flu shot. First, are they in a recommended high-risk group?  Second, are there any contraindications to a flu shot?  And that's about it really.  After that, the patient has to decide.  As I think about it, it's not that hard.  There is no secret information out there, no special tests, no "personalized" magic other than that.  Anyway, what follows is much more disturbing.  There are "the facts as he sees them", to which I will respond with the well-known adage that you are entitled to your own opinions, but not your own facts.  But this stuff is dangerous enough to require a more detailed response.

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11 responses so far

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