Dr. Bob Sears: Stealth anti-vaccinationist?

Dr. Bob Sears is the bane of science- and evidence-based pediatricians everywhere. As pediatrician Dr. John Snyder relates, whenever he hears a parent say “I was reading Dr. Sears” or sees a patient in his office holding a copy of Dr. Sears’ The Vaccine Book: Making the Right Choice for Your Child, he knows what’s coming next: Resistance to vaccination. It would be one thing if this resistance were based on evidence or science-based concerns about the safety of vaccination, but it’s not. As Dr. Snyder explains, while playing the “open-minded” “tell both sides” gambit, Dr. Sears credulously regurgitates virtually every anti-vaccine canard as though it had scientific validity. At the end, he presents his very own “alternative vaccine schedule,” which delays various vaccines and, according to Dr. Bob, is safer than the currently recommended schedule. All the while, he urges parents not to tell their neighbors if they don’t vaccinate in order not to spread their fears to others, because an increasing number of unvaccinated children will result in a decline in herd immunity and a resurgence of vaccine-preventable diseases.

That spreading fear about vaccines could lead to decreases in vaccination rates, the decline of herd immunity, and the resurgence of diseases like the measles is about the only thing Dr. Bob gets right. It’s also as cynical as anything J.B. Handley or Jenny McCarthy has ever said or written.

If there’s one thing you need to know about Dr. Bob, though, it’s that he desperately craves credibility among doctors. He desperately wants to be taken seriously by the medical and public health establishment. He really, really does. Unfortunately for Dr. Bob, has a funny way of showing it. Recently, despite continued oh-so-piously indignant and wounded protestations that he absolutely, positively is not anti-vaccine, Dr. Bob’s actions have been strongly suggesting otherwise. The last time I dealt with Dr. Bob, he had actually written a post for that most rabid of anti-vaccine blogs, Age of Autism, entitled If A Vaccine/Autism Link is Proven, Will Vaccine Policy Change?, which I tore into with gusto because, well, Dr. Bob deserved it. I also pointed out at the time that, if you want to destroy any shred of scientific or medical credibility that you have left, writing for the anti-vaccine loons at Age of Autism is about as excellent a way of doing it as I can think of.

Yesterday, I learned that Dr. Bob did me one better. He thought of an even better way of destroying his scientific credibility and at the same time demolishing any claim he might have had left that he is not “anti-vaccine.” No, he didn’t sign on as a regular writer for AoA, although that certainly would have been one way to top his previous height of self-immolation. But he did come up with something probably as good.

Dr. Bob is going to be a speaker at the National Vaccine Information Center‘s very own 4th International Public Conference on Vaccination in October. The NVIC, in case you’re not familiar with it, is one of the oldest and (prior to the emergence of Generation Rescue) most vociferous anti-vaccine groups, having been formed in 1982 by that grande dame of the anti-vaccine movement, Barbara Loe Fisher, who announces it thusly:

Note the clever P.R. Note how Fisher never uses the word “against” or “anti-” anything. She paints her antivaccine group NVIC as “pro-education” and “pro-informed consent” and for “defending your right to choose.” She even ends her video by saying, “Stand up for vaccine freedom of choice.” To look at Generation Rescue, note how Jenny McCarthy is always saying she’s not “anti-vaccine” but rather “pro-safe vaccine.” The anti-vaccine crowd knows that it’s far better PR to be seen as being for something rather than just against something.

But let’s get back to Dr. Sears. Everyone who pays any attention to vaccine issues knows that the NVIC is anti-vaccine to its very core, and Dr. Sears is giving a lecture on his “alternate” vaccine schedule and one called “To Vaccinate or not to Vaccinate? Is That the Question?” at the yearly propaganda gathering for one of the oldest anti-vaccine groups in the country. Great going, Dr. Sears! That tops Generation Rescue’s Age of Autism blog any day! But let’s take a look at some of the luminaries of the anti-vaccine movement and the alternative medicine movement who will be speaking with Dr. Sears:

Or maybe not. Look who else is speaking at this anti-vaccine quackfest. That’s right, David Ayoub. Yes, David “New World Order” Ayoub. This is a guy who’s so into conspiracy theories that he thinks that vaccines are part of a population control plot by the Illuminati, along with birth control, women’s rights, and all sorts of other nefarious plots by the government, all complete with black helicopters and everything. Really. Just scope out this video:

Check out around the 44 minute mark, where Ayoub starts talking about “stealth population control” and genocide. Truly, the crazy is strong there. One wonders if he’ll restrain his NWO Illuminati Black Helicopter tendencies for this conference. (Hey, “Illuminati Black Helicopters” would be a great name for a band, don’t you think?) Speaking of Black Helicopters, Ayoub mentions them right around the 57 minute mark.

But, hey, what good are masters of woo as speakers if they don’t deliver the goods? And deliver they do! Check it out:

“Homeopathy: The Impossible Cure”
Amy Lansky, PhD
Executive Board, National Center for Homeopathy

“Pregnancy, Birth & Child Health: Why Chiropractic Works”
Jeanne Ohm, DC
Executive Board, International Chiropractic Pediatric Association

“Vaccines & Inflammation”
Andrew Wakefield, MD
Executive Director, Thoughtful House Center for Children

“Homeopathy & Vaccines: What Our Pets Teach Us”
Richard Pitcairn, DVM, PhD
Founder, Animal Natural Health Center

“Vaccines, Informed Consent & Public Health: A Chiropractic Perspective”
Matthew McCoy, DC,MPH
Associate Professor, Clinical Sciences, LIFE University

Wow! Not one but two talks on homeopathy. What does homeopathy have to do with vaccines, I wonder? Who knows? Yes, I realize that some homeopaths try to liken homeopathy to vaccination as “like cures like,” but that’s a specious analogy. In any case, if you peruse the list further, you’ll see lots of talks on “health freedom” (which I like to call “quack freedom” or “freedom for quacks”) and how to evade vaccination by using philosophical exemptions.

And Dr. Sears is right in the thick of it with a talk about his “alternative vaccine schedule.” What many also don’t know is that he’s an “expert” for Mothering.com, that haven of “mommy instinct” anti-vaccine nuttiness, and an advisor for Andrew Wakefield’s home in exile for anti-vaccinationists, Thoughtful House.

In many ways, Dr. Sears is a lot like Dr. Jay Gordon. Both have deluded themselves into believing that they are not anti-vaccine, even as they give speeches to anti-vaccine groups and pal around with leaders of the anti-vaccine movement. Both have forged a role for themselves as the go-to pediatrician “vaccine skeptic” that any media can call when they need to present a false sense of “balance,” as though the anti-vaccine movement’s views are anywhere near on par with the science that has found no association between vaccines and autism–or any of the other horrible things anti-vaccinationists blame on vaccines. In fact, these days, I find Dr. Sears to be far more of a problem than Dr. Jay. The reason is obvious. Dr. Sears’ The Vaccine Book has sold a lot of copies and resulted in the spreading of unfounded fears about vaccines to far more parents than Dr. Jay could ever do in his dreams. All the while, he has a seemingly “respectable” face to the rest of the world.

But his appearances at events like the NVIC tell another tale. He is two-faced, seemingly reasonable in front of mainstream audiences (and oh-so-craving of acceptance by reputable physicians and scientists) but willing to spread the Gospel of Anti-vaccinationism far and wide among true believers. In a way, I’m glad that Dr. Sears has agreed to speak in front of the NVIC, as I was when he did a guest blog for AoA. If you want the fastest and most efficient method of utterly destroying any scientific and medical credibility regarding vaccines, associating with AoA and the NVIC is definitely the way to go, and that’s just what Dr. Sears is doing. I don’t know if he realizes it, but it’s a very dangerous game that he’s playing. On the one hand, Dr. Bob needs to try to stay “respectable” so that he can continue the Sears empire of popular pediatrics advice books started by his father Dr. Bill. On the other hand, there’s so much adulation from the anti-vaccine movement to be had, not to mention money. There’s also the attraction of being the “brave maverick doctor” who bucks the status quo (even though there’s no good evidence to support what he’s doing). Anti-vaccine woo is drawing Dr. Bob like the gravity well of a black hole, and his giving speeches on the same bill as nutcases like Gary Null and anti-vaccine pseudoscientists like Andrew Wakefield may mark his passage across the event horizon.

Yes, I suspect that mask has finally really slipped, revealing the inner anti-vaccinationist within Dr. Bob.