Dr. Sanjay Gupta: Getting clueless over the vaccine-autism “debate”

I’m about to head home from the conference; so I don’t have much time to do one of my usual posts. However, there is a brief bit that irritated me regarding the Hannah Poling case, and it comes from Dr. Sanjay Gupta:

I want to continue the discussion today. Couple of points. First of all, it seems as if parents bring up concerns about vaccines, they are automatically portrayed as anti-vaccine. Why is that? Is it possible to completely believe in the power and benefits of vaccines, but still have legitimate and credible concerns?

This statement shows that Dr. Gupta is rather clueless about the true nature of the “debate.” It’s also a massive huge straw man.

All but the most loony antivaccinationists preface their complaints about vaccines with the obligatory, “I’m not antivaccine,” “vaccines have saved many lives,” etc. Not doing so, they know, would reveal themselves as too clueless to be taken seriously, although, make no mistake, there are a few truly loony ones out there who think that vaccines do more harm than good or that they are a population control plot by the Illuminati. The latter category, however, are generally not the antivaccinationists who get in the media, at least not revealing the full extent of their lunacy. When I (and most others) refer to antivaccinationists, we are not referring to parents who “bring up concerns about vaccines.” Many, if not most, parents express concern about vaccines at some point during their children’s upbringing. We are referring to people, be they parents or not, who have shown that no amount of evidence for the efficacy and safety of vaccines will make them change their mind: people who hold up signs with a syringe emblazoned with a skull and crossbones as they demonstrate in front of the headquarters of the American Academy of Pediatrics; clueless celebrities who, having attended the University of Google, spout the most idiotic nonsense about “toxins” in vaccines; people who, time and time again, use pseudoscience, badly designed “studies,” and distortions of existing studies to cast doubt on the safety of vaccines, including physicians who use the claim that mercury in vaccines cause autism to push a panoply of quackery to “detoxify” and cure autistic children. Yes, and we are including people who are jumping all over the Hannah Poling case as slam-dunk “evidence” that the government has “conceded” that vaccines cause autism, when it has, in fact, not.

In short, we are talking about vaccine denialists, and they are out there in droves. Dr. Gupta, in his cushy CNN medical consultant position, has probably not seen what these antivaccinationists say and write. I have. But Dr. Gupta’s getting an education. The very first comment after his post repeats a common antivaccinationist “toxic myth” about vaccines.

I have no idea whether Dr. Poling is a vaccine denialist. I’ve gotten the impression from a couple of interviews I’ve seen with him that he’s uncomfortable with the position that he is and that his wife may have drunk of the antivaccination Kool Aid far more than he has. However, they are both apparently willingly allowing their case to be used for propaganda purposes by the antivaccination movement. Whether they are simply dupes or sympathize with the mercury militia, I have no way of saying. What I can say is that Dr. Gupta is clueless if he thinks that all it takes is “expressing concerns” about vaccine safety to be labeled antivaccine. It takes a whole lot more than that.