Is Airborne supporting Generation Rescue in a bid for a “vaccinated versus unvaccinated” pseudostudy?

Well, well, well, well.

What is this I found forwarded to me in my in box? It’s from the anti-vaccine group Generation Rescue, and it is most interesting:

Generation Rescue is in the final stages of receiving grant funding for a vaccine research study on the long term effects of the current U.S. recommended schedule. The last thing we need are declarations of support from our community who purchased Airborne Health.

  1. Did you purchase Airborne during May 1, 2001 – November 29, 2007?
  2. Do you support a vaccine research study on the long term effects of the current U.S. schedule?
  3. Do you support a study on vaccinated vs. unvaccinated children?

If you answer yes to all three of these questions, then you are a supporter and can help Generation Rescue provide ground breaking research.

The first 40 respondents will receive a free bag of revitaPOPS for completing a declaration of support.

Please email Candace McDonald to receive your declaration form! Hurry supplies will go fast.

Thank you to our partner revitaPOP.

Best to you,

The Team at Generation Rescue

phone: 1.877.98Autism

Generation Rescue is an international movement of scientists and physicians researching the causes and treatments for autism, ADHD and chronic illness, while parent-volunteers mentor thousands of families in recovering their children.

This struck me as very curious. Very curious indeed.

I’ve written before about how anti-vaccinationists are so keen to do a “vaxed versus unvaxed” study and how difficult it would be to do such a study in a way that would produce meaningful results that they have tried to do a phone survey and disguise it as a “scientific study.” That’s just for starters. This year they did an even more ridiculous pseudo-study about health disparities in different countries allegedly correlating with vaccination schedules. This latter “study” was so brain-meltingly bad that I think J. B. Handley owes me recompense for the loss of neurons from having read it.

Generation Rescue’s history aside, Airborne is the herbal concoction “created by a school teacher” that I first wrote about nearly four years ago. The company marketing Airborne took full advantage of the DSHEA, the federal law that in essence prevents the FDA and FTC from taking action against supplement manufacturers, as long as they keep their health claims vague. Unfortunately, for Airborne, it did go over the line was forced to settle a class action suit for $23 million for making false claims.

Why is this relevant to the question of why Generation Rescue is sending out e-mails asking for declarations of support from people who purchased Airborne from 2001 to 2007 and who are also down with the idea that vaccines are harmful and cause all sorts of neurodevelopmental disorders, in particular autism? I think Sullivan has probably speculated the closest to what the answer is:

My speculation: there is a big pot of the $23M left over, and Generation Rescue is trying to get Airborne to donate it to fund a vaccinated/unvaccinated study.

The reason? Possibly this:

The deadline to submit claims was December 5, 2009 (4 days ago). It strikes this observer as likely that only a small percentage of Airborne’s customers saved their receipts and were able to be compensated, leaving a large amount of money unclaimed.

I really wonder if Airborne knows what sort of group they are working with in Generation Rescue. Soon Airborne will receive testimonials from people who claim to have purchased their products, who want a Vaccinated/Unvaccinated study done by Generation Rescue.

The very fact that Generation Rescue is paying people to submit testimonials should raise red flags at Airborne.

Perhaps so. On the other hand, maybe not. After all, Airborne totally relied on testimonials rather than valid evidence from clinical trials in order to sell its product. (Well, that and a highly dubious “clinical trial” with no validity whatsoever.) However, I do agree that it is highly coincidental (and suspicious) that this appeal from Generation Rescue comes on the first business day after the deadline for claimants to submit claims to the settlement fund has passed. It may well be that Airborne, for whatever reason, is interested in funding a “vaxed versus unvaxed” study, although I really can’t figure out why it would, unless it is planning to market Airborne as an “immune booster” that can substitute for vaccines. However, that doesn’t make a lot of sense and would be highly risky in light of the class action lawsuit. On the other hand, one also has to look at the Center for Science in the Public Interest as well. One wonders if there’s someone on the board or high up in the organization who has anti-vaccine tendencies and is therefore helping Generation Rescue out. Whatever the reason, the claim by Generation Rescue that it is “in the final stages of receiving grant funding” for such a study coupled with its appeal to its members to complete a declaration of support two days after the deadline for submitting claims for the class action suit, strongly suggests that it is trying to get some funding from Airborne to produce yet another pseudoscientific attempt to prove that vaccines cause autism. The reason comes from the settlement:

If the aggregate value of Valid Claims by Settlement Class Members is less than the amount of the Net Settlement Fund, the balance of the Net Settlement Fund, after payment of all Valid Claims of Settlement Class Members, shall be distributed cy pres to non-profit organizations. Class Counsel shall nominate the non-profit organization(s) that will be recipients of any cy pres funds, which shall then be subject to the consent of Defendants (which Defendants shall not unreasonably withhold) and approval by the Court. For purposes of this paragraph, Defendants agree that in order to validly withhold consent, Defendants must demonstrate that including a non-profit organization as a recipient would substantially undermine Defendants’ legitimate business interest or is otherwise improper, and that Defendants’ refusal to consent is not philosophically or politically motivated. Plaintiff agrees that the Center for Science in the Public Interest will not be a recipient of cy pres funds.

Yes, I do think that Sullivan’s on to something, particularly in light of this post on Age of Autism yesterday by Kent Heckenlively. It’s about Generation Rescue’s “Green Vaccines” initiative, wherein they have tried to win through politics where they can’t win through science by trying to promote a variety of anti-vaccine pet beliefs as law. This time around, poor Kent appears unhappy that things aren’t going as well as he’d like. There have apparently been lots of objections to his “pragmatic” new initiative, but in particular it appears that many of objections have been that the initiative just doesn’t go far enough in the anti-vaccine direction, as Kent himself points out:

I read with great interest an open letter to me from the Natural Solutions Foundation which made the assertion that there is no such thing as a “safe vaccine.” I find myself in sympathy with such a view and am certainly acting as if there is currently no such thing as a safe vaccine by not getting any myself or having them given to my children. I might eventually take such a position. However, it seems to me that to move things forward we need to change public perception from the belief that vaccines are universally safe, to one that they have troublesome components which render them potentially unsafe to a certain subset of the population, as a prelude to a full and objective look at the safety of the entire vaccination program.

Meanwhile, in the comments, AoA readers show in no uncertain term that they are anti-vaccine, not pro-safe vaccine, as Dawn Winkler (remember her?) does in this comment:

I also have to agree that there is no safe vaccine and can never be a safe vaccine, whether you take the mercury or any other ingredient out. So to me, a Green Vaccine campaign is not something I could ever support. Vaccination choice and education is in my opinion the better way to go. We desperately need a study that compares overall health of vaccinated vs unvaccinated. It is my belief that right now, ALL focus should be on this one goal. Yes, there are people working on this and I think we should ALL be supporting it in whatever way we can rather than diluting our collective effort by attempting something that is not possible, “greening” vaccines. Actually, I think that “greening” vaccines could be to our detriment because it could lead new parents in the future to believe that somehow the problems have been fixed when in fact they have not. Just because you take mercury out of a vaccine does not mean in any way shape or form that it is safe. The powers that be could also use this to ultimately TAKE CHOICE AWAY. They will point to whatever has been done and say “see, we listened and we made them safe. You have no excuse to want to opt out”. It’s a slippery slope and I can see where it’s going. I think that ultimately, we should focus our efforts on goals that we know will absolutely support maintaining and expanding vaccination freedom of choice and not risk supporting anything that might undermine it.

This additional exchange was particularly illustrative:

what would you do if the results of a trial were negative?

Amazing! A reasonable question in the comments of AoA! Was there a reasonable answer? What do you think? The response from a commenter named Benedetta:

If this research is done fairly as science should be and not done by some EPA official – and from what I have witnessed and many other parents have witnessed — IT WON’T !!!!!

It sounds to me as though Benedetta wouldn’t believe the results of the study if they went against her beliefs. If the results went against her beliefs she would simply find a convenient reason to dismiss them as either pharma- or EPA-influenced–whatever it takes for her to justify in her mind ignoring any “inconvenient” scientific results. Of course, if Generation Rescue designs the study, it would be among the safest of bets that it will be so poorly designed and biased that it will find the desired results. If it doesn’t, you can also count on its never being published anywhere.

What is clear to me are two things. First, the anti-vaccine movement is failing at restraining its true nature. For a while, “Green Our Vaccines” and the claim that they are not “anti-vaccine” but rather “pro-safe vaccine” veiled the true aims of the movement, but the veil is coming off the longer science fails to support its pseudoscience and the more studies fail to find a link between vaccines and autism. As a result, the anti-vaccine movement launches initiatives that try to win through the political process what anti-vaccinationists haven’t been able to win fair and square through science, and as an alternative strategy they also try to pose as real “autism charities” in order to win grants to fund their pseudoscience.

So what’s next? I don’t think that the anti-vaccine movement will be able to paper over the differences between the “pragmatists” who want to take an incremental approach to their goal of eliminating any vaccine mandates and those who are totally against vaccines, period. Consequently, what we see is an increasing emphasis on an approach that will unite them all and sound oh-so-fair to average Americans, namely “vaccine choice.” This is not the first time we’ve heard this. After all, it sounds a lot more positive to say you are for something than against something, and what red-blooded American could say he is against “choice”? However, vaccine “choice” is very similar to “health freedom,” “health choice,” and other euphemisms for getting that pesky government from interfering with quacks; in reality it’s much more than claiming the right to refuse vaccines. In any case, look for “vaccine freedom” or “vaccine choice” to be more and more the rallying cry of the movement. After all, it’s a lot easier to sell than “no vaccines.” After all, average people still know that vaccines save lives.

Sadly, the anti-vaccine movement is doing its best to change that.