Antivaccine nonsense Autism Medicine Politics

Anti-vaccine activism, not autism activism

Remember how I said that I was trying to take it easy this week? I still am, but there’s something bugging me enough to draw me out of my grant-induced cocoon for a little while in order to pontificate on it in the not-so-Respectfully Insolent way that I am so often wont to do. True, it’s something that’s been annoying me for a time now, but it’s becoming acute as the end of the year approaches. The reason is simple. The anti-vaccine crank blog Age of Autism is starting to announce its 2009 awards. Regular readers may remember when AoA announced its 2008 awards. Truly, that was a hoot, although I must admit that I was disappointed that I didn’t win “Worst Blogger Ever” or “Nastiest Blogger to AoA,” or “Most Vicious Attack on Jenny McCarthy.” I doubt that AoA’ll give it to me in 2009 either, because they know that I’d be proud of the “honor,” although they did do me other “honors” in 2009, namely two–count ’em, two–full frontal assaults on me by J.B. Handley himself, once in February and once in November. I suppose that will have to be enough.

My bruised ego notwithstanding, however, the very first choice of AoA for its awards serves an excellent purpose and an excellent excuse for a year end lesson. Remember how the anti-vaccine movement really, really hates it when you call them what they are, namely anti-vaccine? Remember how its members will inevitably say something along the lines of “I’m not anti-vaccine, I’m pro-safe vaccine,” usually in an offended tone? Remember how, for example, Generation Rescue and AoA insist that they are about “autism advocacy” rather than against vaccines. Yet, the very first choice of AoA for its 2009 “Person of the Year” belies that claim, right from the very introduction:

It’s been a rough year for people concerned about the relentless onslaught of autism in America’s children. First, the U.S. vaccine court ruled against three brave families who were fighting to establish a link to their children’s disorders, dismissing the parents as dupes and their lawyers and scientists as worse. Then a slew of negative and know-nothing articles tried to make anyone concerned about the issue look not just dumb but downright dangerous.

First, what does the U.S. Vaccine Court’s ruling against the test cases for the Autism Omnibus have to do with the “relentless onslaught of autism in America’s children”? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. That decision was simply an acknowledgement of the mind-staggeringly poor science behind the claims that vaccines somehow cause autism. Under conditions that were as complainant-friendly as can be imagined short of just ceding the case to the Omnibus complainants, in which the court, throwing aside Daubert rules, allowed the lawyers for the test cases to introduce extreme pseudoscience to support their cases, the Vaccine Court rejected the claims of the very best cases that the lawyers for the Omnibus complainants could come up without of the nearly 5,000 taking part in the Omnibus. These were cases believed to be the strongest of all, and their arguments failed–and failed miserably.

So who is AoA’s Person of the Year and why? Let’s find out:

But amid the doom and gloom, there were bright spots — none brighter, ironically, than New Jersey, the place with an autism rate so high the CDC “disappeared” the entire state in its latest calculation; not coincidentally, it’s also the home of rivers of toxic waste, an armada of pharmaceutical companies, and a torrent of legislated vaccine mandates taken to extremes never before witnessed in America.

But New Jersey is home, too, to Louise Kuo Habakus, who did something quite amazing this year – rallying vaccine advocates and concerned citizens in numbers that made the difference in the New Jersey governor’s race, defeating Jon Corzine and carrying Chris Christie, the first candidate to go on record for vaccine choice, to victory.

First off, it’s a huge exaggeration that “vaccine choice” was somehow a major deciding factor in why Christie beat Corzine. Corzine was a lousy governor in many, many ways. Republicans could have run Bozo the Clown against Corzine and have had a better than 50-50 chance of winning. More importantly, once again, the anti-vaccine crank blog conflates resistance to mandatory vaccination and the broadening of vaccine exemptions with some sort of autism advocacy when the science simply does not support a link between vaccines and autism, no matter how much anti-vaccine advocates claim that there is one.

And, make no mistake, resistance to the requirement that children be vaccinated before they can attend school is exactly what Louise Kuo Habakus is about. Her website, Life Health Choices, is chock full of links to anti-vaccine sites, such as Generation Rescue, National Vaccine Information Center,,, Mothering Magazine, Inside Vaccines, Think Twice, and Medical Voices. Just a brief perusal of these sites, such as Think Twice, demonstrates some serious misinformation. For instance, here is Think Twice answering a question about unvaccinated children spreading disease:

Some doctors will say anything to get parents to vaccinate, even if it doesn’t make sense or is an outright lie. They spread this incredible baloney to make parents like you feel guilty, and to create tension between parents of vaccinated and non-vaccinated children. It is a ploy to coerce you into vaccinating your child.

First of all, how could your non-vaccinated child be a danger to the vaccinated child? If the vaccines are effective, then the baby should be protected. Actually, it’s the vaccinated children who spread disease. Many of the disease outbreaks that we are warned about today, are caused by, and occur in, recently vaccinated children.

And some anti-vaccine websites will say anything to scare parents out of vaccinating or to make them feel that their decision not to vaccinate has no ill consequences, even if it doesn’t make sense or is an outright lie. They spread incredible baloney to make parents like the one here feel good about leaving their children unprotected and potentially exposing other children to vaccine-preventable disease, and to ridicule the anger parents who vaccinate their children feel whe faced with unvaccinated children. Mroeover, as has been pointed out time and time again, vaccines are not 100% effective. Think Twice’s idiotic answer above would only make sense if vaccines were 100% effective.

And in response to parents who say that they don’t want their children to get shots but don’t want their children to get sick, either, this is what this site said:

Parents must educate themselves prior to making a decision regarding vaccines so that they may sleep comfortably at night. If you are unsure, I recommend further investigation into this subject. Some of your options are to vaccinate, to consider homeopathic alternatives, or to do nothing and contend with disease if and when it occurs. (Many intelligent people do not think every childhood ailment is a grave cause of concern. They wonder why a child’s immune system needs special treatment. Breastfeeding and natural foods work for many families. And besides, there are no guarantees that your children will not contract diseases after they are vaccinated.)

Homeopathy is quackery, pure and simple. I don’t know how many times I have to repeat this, but it is. Just search on this blog for “homeopathy,” as I’ve written time and time again why homeopathy is nothing more than water and sympathetic magic. Yet this website recommends it as a means of treating and/or preventing vaccine-preventable diseases, which is incredibly irresponsible and dangerous advice. Yet Habakus describes the Think Twice website as “clean, clear and thoughtful” and suggests that readers start with its FAQ, which, by the way, is exactly from where I pulled the frightening tidbits of misinformation listed above. In other words, Habakus’ understanding of vaccine science is on par with that of the bloggers at AoA: Either nonexistent or so wrong that it’s not even wrong. Meanwhile, on her website is a nonsensical letter to President Obama that consists mainly of fear mongering regarding the H1N1 vaccine. I’ll just pick a tidbit from it that encapsulates the misinformation and ignorance embodied in the letter:

Effective alternatives to vaccination exist. There are scientifically-proven techniques and treatments from multiple medical systems that might help our patients to support and strengthen our immune systems. We would do well to consider the example of Switzerland which recently adopted complementary and alternative medicine into its national healthcare system.

Uh, in a word, no. CAM does not substitute for vaccination.

There’s also the usual antivaccine misinformation about squalene (never mind that squalene is not used in H1N1 vaccines used in the United States). Overall, I conclude from the content of Habakus’ website and speeches that she is anti-vaccine, through and through. She talks the talk and walks the walk. She uses the same pseudoscience, bad science, and talking points, parroting them credulously. Heck, like J.B. Handley, she falls for the story of a Robert Wanek, the student who claimed that he was unjustly treated for passing out anti-H1N1 vaccine fliers, apparently not noticing that the kid is actually a 9/11 Truther (something someone from New Jersey should find particularly despicable but apparently Habakus doesn’t mind) and all-around New World Order conspiracy theorist as well as poorly informed about science, school policy, and the law. In the end, Habakus’ activism for “vaccine choice” appears to be no more than a front for anti-vaccine activism.

AoA apparently agrees, as Dan Olmsted concludes:

A new Age of Activism has begun in the autism community that will come to fruition over the next few years, and in 2009 Lousie Kuo Habakus helped show us all the way forward.

Note the conflation between autism activism and anti-vaccine advocacy. To Louise Kuo Habakus, Handley, and the rest of the crew at AoA, the two are the same. To those with an understanding of science, they are not, and the push for “vaccine choice” on the part of people like Habakus or Handley is nothing more than a thinly veiled activism against vaccination. Sadly, this equating of autism advocacy with anti-vaccine (excuse me, “vaccine choice”) activism by anti-vaccine advocates like Louise Kuo Habakus and the denizens of the anti-vaccine crank blog Age of Autism will not only harm autistic children but endanger all children by discouraging vaccination against vaccine-preventable diseases.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

100 replies on “Anti-vaccine activism, not autism activism”

You know, with people like Louise, Cruise, and Travolta so proud of their NJ heritage,maybe I should start saying my *family’s* from NY(it’s true, actually). I am familiar with her and her organization (NJ Coalition for Vaccination Choice); if some of her antics and tactics seem familiar,she is a frequent guest and “student”( and I use that word loosely)of Gary Null, guest-star at her rallies in Trenton and at Wm. Paterson University.About Corzine,I think it had more to do with reductions to the “Homestead Rebate”(a yearly property tax relief check) to higher income homeowners and an increased sales tax than it had to do with vaccines.

Okay, I know it’s wikipedia, but after that “we would do well to consider the example of Switzerland…” comment:
“The Swiss government, after a 5-year trial, withdrew homeopathy and four other complementary treatments in 2005, stating that they did not meet efficacy and cost-effectiveness criteria.”

Once again, AOA and the antivax crowd conflate “autism advocacy” with their own “anti-vaccine, pro-vaccine safety/choice etc.” agenda. Looks like more of the same’s coming up in 2010; readying the blogging forces…. Agree with you about Corzine but not looking forward to what’s ahead Jersey-politico-wise either, under the next regime.

Orac, my head exploded reading that info from Think Twice, resulting in higher premiums for my insurance. Thanks a lot.

The mind boggles at just how…ignorant isn’t good enough…stupid, idiotic and totally devoid of any connection to reality such drivel is.

three brave families who were fighting to establish a link to their children’s disorders

Oh dear, I hope no one was hurt in the fighting /sarcasm

Actually, it’s the vaccinated children who spread disease. Many of the disease outbreaks that we are warned about today, are caused by, and occur in, recently vaccinated children.

That is a massive and demonstrable lie. The outbreaks i’ve heard about were ALL caused by pockets of unvaccinated children. You should most definitely call them out on that.

From the independent “Half of the cases (662) of the potentially fatal disease occurred in London, where the MMR vaccination rates are lowest, the Health Protection Agency (HPA), which published the figures, said. It was a record number of measles cases in the capital. Records have been kept since 1995.”

Plus there was case recently of an outbreak where 9 out of 10 were unvaccinated. And I think the 10th wasn’t properly vaccinated or something. Anyone got a link? I can’t find it.

Uh, in a word, no. CAM does not substitute for vaccination.

Its also probably more expensive.

Pathetic, sniveling, lying toads.

I actively followed the NJ race (I voted for the third party candidate) and I did not hear a thing about Christie being pro vaccine choice until I saw something about it on the Age of Autism. I think this was a case of them hearing what they wanted to hear from a candidate.

Stupid is everywhere.

Corzine was pretty lame and in the face of our current economic climate, a vulnerable Dem like him is much more easily defeated. Christie’s ads were very polarizing and I predict he wont get a second chance once he tries to foist his fundamentalism on the state. His election was a vote against Corzine not for him. Leave it to the activists to zero in on one small topic amid the current chaos to support their side. Very likely we will have UK style outbreaks in NJ in a few years if Christie gets his way causing herd immunity to drop.

The selfish pricks at AoA should be made to pay the cost.

Just an aside – thanks to Big Heathen Mike, we have a word for “so wrong that it’s not even wrong” – “worng” 🙂

The CNN story doesn’t mention how many, if any, of the kids weren’t vaccinated because they were too young to get the vaccine; exposure of infants to unvaccinated older kids (sometimes in pediatricians’ offices!) has been a factor in Western outbreaks.

Republicans could have run Bozo the Clown against Corzine and have had a better than 50-50 chance of winning.

They did and he did.

I work but don’t live in NJ, but my most lasting impression of the latest election comes from a comment between two coworkers that I overheard:

Coworker 1: “So who are you going to vote for?”

CW2: “I don’t know…Corzine is a disaster but Christie is a nut.”

CW1: “Yeah, it’s a problem”

@Elf eye

Thanks for the link. I’ve added it to in some comments about how measles, mumps and rubella aren’t harmless.

Anti-vaxers will, however, likely brush the story off, rationalizing that clearly the problem must be with poorer hygiene or some other variation on the fact that African nations tend to be less affluent than the U.S.


I believe “not even wrong” was originated by Wolfgang Pauli, and has now become pretty common.

I like fractally wrong, but it is a bit subtle for some uses. Worng is both compact and self-defining.

Rumour according to Wiki has it that “not even wrong” was originated by Austrian(?) physicist Wolfgang Pauli, who said,

Das ist nicht nur nicht richtig, es ist nicht einmal falsch!

Not only is it not right, it’s not even wrong!.

“fractally wrong”–I like it. I’ll use it.

Orac wrote;
“And, make no mistake, resistance to the requirement that children be vaccinated before they can attend school is exactly what Louise Kuo Habakus is about.”

This is one of the most disturbing behaviors in the quest of many to become the most righteous mother. I cannot count the amount of times that benign situations at the schools have been blown out of proportion by a “caring mother”. Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of situations having to do with safety that Joe citizen has been a central part in avoiding catastrophe however these are often individuals that have felt the righteous glow of false leadership and attention. This is particularly evident in the special education field. The vaccine issue is a manifestation of of the Jenny McCarthy “I’m a mother and I know” insanity that typically make for good media bait. The media is always fascinated by the “dog bites Mailman” possibilities.

Why do the most militant and righteous insist on running public education and policy. If they are indeed that concerned send your child to a private institution of learning. Oh, that right because many would be dismissed by the private institutions for such actions.

Well, I didn’t vote for Christie or Corzine as I disliked them both (voted for a 3rd party). However, I really don’t recall hearing Christie being “pro-vaccine-choice” until either right before or just after the election. (In the back of my mind I either overheard an ad on TV or read it in the paper but I honestly don’t remember).

Louise Kuo Habakus is very scary and I’m almost ashamed to admit I live in the same state. But, knowing there are people like her just give me more impetus to stress the importance of vaccines to my coworkers, friends and family.

They do have one good use though: they spew enough nonsense that my children have sworn that if they ever have any children they will make sure the children are fully vaccinated! They’ve led my kids to reading books like “Guns, Germs, and Steel”, books by Dr Offit and books by Arthur Allen. So, although their actions may not have had the results THEY want, they have done some good (at least in MY mind…)

I wonder whether the mysteriously disappearing Desiree Jennings will win an AoA award for discouraging the greatest number of vaccinations in the shortest period of time.

Thanks for this post, Orac. I only wish that the autism-vaccination issue was something abstract that could be safely ignored, but it has serious consequences in the way autistic kids are treated medically as well as on parents’ willingness to provide preventive health care for all kids.

I am so sick of anti-vaccine nutters. The real risk to children is seatbelts and pasteurized milk.

Ummm, Maryn, is that just a drive-by statement, or are you going to provide some evidence?

I love the last part quoted from Dan Olmsted (and as of this comment, it’s still up there as follows):

We at Age of Autism couldn’t agree more. A new Age of Activism has begun in the autism community that will come to fruition over the next few years, and in 2009 Lousie Kuo Habakus helped show us all the way forward. [emphasis mine]

Yes, I’m sure that she is, if anything, Lousie.

When does the balloting for Clueless Celebrity Antivax Pediatrician begin?

There could be brisk competition – we’ll want to cast votes for our local favorite.

Maryn sounds more sarcastic than anything (giving her the benefit of the doubt!), I doubt those are her real concerns. The crunchy mama brigade (which makes up a great deal of the anti-vax fanatics) are always going on about things like that. I’ve seen a few go on things like raw milk that just make you roll your eyes (which their husbands do as well because they learned long ago that they would be cast aside if they so much as question any of that). It’s not so much the issue, it’s more the “I know better because having a baby makes me smarter than statistics”.

They love natural and completely dismiss the fact that everyone did things “naturally” 200 years ago and lived to a ripe old average age of 35. Apparently clean water and hand washing solved that pesky life expectancy thing. Oh, they usually hate tap water too, because oh no it has fluoride in it and trace amount of horrible toxins. So it must just be hand washing (and it’s great fun to watch some of the germ theory denialists explain why washing your hands improved health).

In reality, it’s more about who can go against the grain the most to win the Mommy Olympics. Because they think parenting can be reduced down to a simple set of natural rules that will always work. There is a long thread on where some are falling apart at the seams because their natural ways still resulted in an autistic child and they have crazy amounts of off the wall theories trying to explain how avoiding vaccines didn’t work.

When does the balloting for Clueless Celebrity Antivax Pediatrician begin?

There could be brisk competition – we’ll want to cast votes for our local favorite.

Now, now – let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Dr. Jay has been pretty quiet on the headlines lately. After all, he didn’t save a Redskins cheerleader from a condition she didn’t have after a flu shot with a day’s worth of chelation. Buttar may have the edge on that category, thanks to his “miracle”.

@Chris – I do have evidence. The Amish don’t use seatbelts and they don’t have autism.

Since Orac linked Inside Vaccines, would either he, or one of his ‘followers’ demonstrate the quackery contained on that site.

Thanks in advance.

There are plenty of antivax talking points here:

Science-free “concerns” that vaccines cause huge numbers of autism, autoimmune diseases, asthma, etc., the “vaxed versus unvaxed” canard, misunderstanding of the VAERS system, whining about not being “anti-vaccine,” etc. I could write an entire Orac-length post deconstructing all the canards, antivax talking points, and “just asking questions” disingenuousness in that post. Maybe I’ll make it a post for the new year; I’m trying to take it easy this week, and refuting all the nonsense and clever misdirection in that post would take more effort than I’m willing to expend this week.

ababa said (in commenting on the competition for Clueless Celebrity Antivax Pediatrician):

“Now, now – let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Dr. Jay has been pretty quiet on the headlines lately. After all, he didn’t save a Redskins cheerleader from a condition she didn’t have after a flu shot with a day’s worth of chelation. Buttar may have the edge on that category, thanks to his “miracle”.

I think that as far as the wider world of antivax goes, Dr. Bob Sears has more appeal than either of the medicos you mentioned.

I think you’re right. Dr. Bob is the new rising pediatrician star of the antivax movement. Dr. Jay’s star seems to be fading, I’m afraid.

Chris, how often in a given day do you use the term “cherry picking?” Quite alot, I’ll bet. It must be galling for you all to see that basically autism incidence spiked quite nicely along with increased uptake of hep b vaccines at birth. Nice. I’m not going to bother giving the link. You can see the info for yourselves. I also like how the CDC sneaks this in right before Christmas. Nice.

Well, this seems to be representative of significant quackery. A brief read over posts above the fold reveals language and canards typically used by the anti-vaccine. Typical enough that I’m pretty sure that if I look below the fold I’m going to see batshit crazy, were I motivated to expose myself to it.

Never mind that the site’s tagline is “from parents for parents”.

It must be galling for you all to see that basically autism incidence spiked quite nicely along with increased uptake of hep b vaccines at birth.

If there were anything like this, it would certainly raise some questions. But there is not. I’ve actually looked at data on HepB uptake in California. It spikes and then plateaus, unlike the administrative prevalence of autism, which shows gradual exponential growth (like any awareness/word-of-mouth driven series.)

22 died from “harmless” measles in Zimbabwe, all unvaccinated. Apparently they need to wash their hands more.

They needed to get out of Zimbabwe

“After all, he didn’t save a Redskins cheerleader from a condition she didn’t have after a flu shot with a day’s worth of chelation.”

That reminds me, and perhaps I’m late to the observation, but is gone.

Now, now – let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Dr. Jay has been pretty quiet on the headlines lately.

Maybe he’s been staying away from the ether.

There is nothing in the world more helpless and irresponsible and depraved than a man in the depths of an ether binge — Hunter S Thompson

@Maryn(#29) I’m sure you’re being facetious, but for the record, the Amish do have autism, the notion that they don’t is entirely fabricated.

This anti-vaccine award has got me thinking. They talk about the high rate of autism in New Jersey and about New Jersey’s vaccination policy. As a geographer, this makes me wonder if there is a pattern with regard to vaccination rates and autism rates. I’m betting not. I wonder if I could get county level autism rate and vaccination rate data for the nation. A geographic study should help to separate out the temporal link that anti-vaxers see by showing that there is no spatial link. Hmm, this should be publishable in the geography journals if the data is available (which I doubt). I know, it won’t really convince them, but I always imagine that the more evidence there is and the more available it is, the more we can keep sensible parents from falling prey to anti-vaccine lies.

@Gus Snarp

Interesting study idea. It would, of course, need to control for people moving to a new address around the time of vaccination and/or diagnosis.

Mrs Wakefield just wrote a touching and stupid piece on AoA lamenting all the pain she & Andy have suffered and the terrible cost of the GMC complaint. Money that could have been spent on research. So much bullshit in so little space is mind boggling.

Her hubby should rot in hell for the pain he has caused and will yet cause because of his greed and lies.

Orac writes: “I must admit that I was disappointed that I didn’t win “Worst Blogger Ever” or “Nastiest Blogger to AoA,” or “Most Vicious Attack on Jenny McCarthy.””

When I told my husband about these “awards” he didn’t believe me that they were real until he looked for himself. He wonders why they spend so much energy trashing the other side and making themselves appear unreasonable and angry.

Here’s to you winning one or more of these prestigious awards and another year of Respectful Insolence.

IIRC, Buttar has been prohibited from treating children and cancer patients by his state medical board.

I suspect those were his major sources of income, and he now needs a new source.

Hence, chelation for “vaccine injury” with Jennings as free publicity.

@Todd W. Unfortunately that would likely be impossible. We geographers often have to begin our papers with a long list of limitations of the study, and that is likely to be one of them. The hope is that dealing with overall rates should insulate you from that a bit, but the high mobility of Americans certainly is a problem. One could look at migration rates and flows in general to give some indication of what’s going on. Of course if you had individual cases to go on you could do much more, but that’s likely going to be difficult to get. Hmm, one of my advisors is a medical geographer, might just run this idea by him.

Gus & Todd,
Couldn’t you use the length of time in residence as one of the variables and run the results for various times as well as autism and vaccine uptake? If this question seems foolish, I am a programmer by trade rather than a scientist actually performing these kinds of studies. Just wondering.

@Todd W and Gus Snarp: I’ve heard from friends that one reason NJ has such a high number of autism dx is because they have really good services, so people move here for the services with their autistic child. Yeah, it’s anecdotal, but seems logical to me (If I needed to move to a state where services for my child were really good, I’d do that sort of thing, provided I or my spouse were able to find a job in that state.)

Re: vaccinations. One child was almost fully vaccinated in the great Commonwealth of Virginia before we moved to NJ. The other received most of her vaccines here. Neither is autistic (identical vaccines given on identical schedules, even though we lived in different states). And yes, we do have autism in the family genetic history. My kids just didn’t get the genes. My cousin’s kids did (also fully vaccinated, in Ohio).

@MI Dawn

I have a friend who used to work for COSAC and still works in the autism field in NJ. She has, in the past, mentioned the high level of services available as compared to other states. So, that could be a major factor.


That could work, but the flaw I mentioned would still be there. The reason I brought it up is because, if such a study showed no correlation between residence in a locale with tough vaccination regs and autism, anti-vaxers would undoubtedly bring up people moving as an excuse to devalue any such study.

@MI Dawn – Yes, yet another confounding variable. Not only might parents of autistic children, or autistic adults themselves move to a state with better services, there might also be a difference in state rates of autism simply because of different diagnostics and reporting by state. This kind of thing is what makes geography so much fun. Even with all these issues though, we should be able to show that there is no spatial correlation between autism rates and vaccination rates, which would at least disprove the premise of the AoA writer claiming that New Jersey’s autism rates are related to its vaccination policies.

@Gus Snarp: it would be neat to see a graph with no correlation; how would you do it if you created one (even hypothetically)? (I’m statistically challenged and infinitely curious. But very visual and understand graphs better than numbers).
I hope this makes sense; as I re-read my comment doesn’t seem clear but I can’t figure out how to say what I mean!

@Gus Snarp

Hmm…another thought occurred to me. It might be good to show some comparison between vaccination rates/regulations and quality of autism services, in addition to the autism rate comparison.

@MI Dawn – Frankly I’m not sure off the top of my head. I would have to sit down with the available data and determine the best statistical approach. It depends a lot on scale factor (county level data would be better than state level), but you also have to consider that near things tend to be more alike (Pennsylvania’s rates and New Jersey’s are probably similar) and you can actually deal with that statistically to isolate the correlation between autism and vaccination from the spatial autocorrelation (fancy technical term for similarity between near things) that exists independently. This would also deal with some of the migration issues. All of it means you get an answer that is too complicated to avoid attacks from the anti-vaccine crowd, but anything that has any statistics is going to be. For public consumption the best approach is a map instead of a graph. You can use different symbols for autism rates and vaccination rates on one map, you can make two maps, or you can map a ration of vaccination rate to autism rate.

Wow, that almost sounds like I still remember all that stuff. I would have to do a lot of review to get my stats back up to the level to actually do this.

A further complication to any geographic study is that there’s a lot of variation in the quantity and quality of records that states’ school systems keep on their kids. In the studies that show NJ with the highest autism rate, the authors have remarked that NJ had the most detailed records of all the states they studied.

@Gus Snarp: Well, whether you remember or not, you explain very well and I was able to visualize what you meant! Thanks.

@Gus Snarp, the study you propose would be fascinating. There was a study similar in form, comparing rates of prescription of ADHD medications on a county-by-county level. IIRC there was enormous variation both at the county and state level. (I have lost the PDF of the study so can’t provide any more information, such a a citation.)

Let us not forget the scenario alleged in the letter below

Letter published in Pediatrics October 9 2009

The author is Cheryl Pace, her email leads to Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community Schools in Scottsdale, AZ 85256

She is also a part-time instructor at a satellite campus of Northern Arizona U.

Parents who beg educators for the autism diagnosis
9 October 2009

Re: Parents who beg educators for the autism diagnosis

Dear Authors,

I am curious as to if your survey can pick out those parents who are going to medical doctors and educational professionals in public school to request that their child be diagnosed with the autism label.

This is happening often in the public schools. Since autism is also an educational diagnosis as well as a medical diagnosis, as an evaluator and part of an educational evaluation team I have witnessed many parents asking that their child receive the autism diagnosis because they can then get life-time medical insurance for the condition. I have seen parents study the symptoms of autism and tell their child to act certain ways so that they do look like they have autism. When completing the CARS or GARS or other checklists, they know the right answers to make their child look autistic.

I have also often witnessed medical doctors providing a parent with the autism diagnosis if the parent is insistent. In these cases, it is usually the same medical doctor who easily will give the diagnosis.

It is my hope that the medical field becomes aware that these scenerios are happening, not just in the state I live in but in other states.

Personally, I doubt Pace’s claim that it “happens often”. However, depending upon the state/county, a child may get better services (speech therapy, occupational therapy, respite care) with an autism diagnosis than some other disability.

but for the record, the Amish do have autism, the notion that they don’t is entirely fabricated.

You’re right Gus the community is literally being overrun by autism

WIZNITZER: Years ago, I thought about this idea among the Amish population here in northeast Ohio, to whom I am actually the neurologist. And I went to the public health nurses and said, tell me about their vaccination rates. And I was told that there is a very high rate of vaccination amongst the Amish population. Out of ten thousand of individuals in our population, we have one child with autism. I see all these children.

I actually grew up in the Ohio county with the largest Amish population in the world. I lived next to them, went to school with them and worked with them. I’m pretty confident that I know more about Amish people than anyone posting on this page.

Maryn, do you more than the folks at the Clinic for Special Children?

So does lack of seat belts cause Maple Syrup Syndrome or the fatal seizure disorder some the Amish babies get?

Do you know more than the authors of Gene associated with seizures, autism, and hepatomegaly in an Amish girl? The abstract says:

A genetic defect causing autism and epilepsy involving the contactin associated protein-like 2 gene (CNTNAP2) has been discovered in a selected cohort of Amish children. These children were found to have focal seizures and autistic regression. Surgical biopsy of the anterior temporal lobe of two such children revealed cortical dysplasia and a single nucleotide polymorphism mutation of this gene. The present case is that of a related but geographically distant proband with a similar phenotype but a single-base-pair deletion in the CNTNAP2 gene. This patient exhibited the additional features of periventricular leukomalacia and hepatomegaly.

Really, Maryn, you are going to have to get some real evidence, not just what you think you saw.

This is why I have trouble see who is doing a Poe, and who is being serious!

Also, there is no doctrine prohibiting the Amish from vaccinating.

From Pertussis Outbreak in an Amish Community — Kent County, Delaware, September 2004–February 2005:

Amish persons typically have lower vaccination coverage and often delay or avoid seeking medical care (1). Since 1980, public health nurses in Delaware have conducted immunization clinics at two fixed outreach sites in Amish homes, but coverage rates have remained low. After the outbreak described in this report, DPH staff distributed educational pamphlets discussing immunization and VPDs, including information about Amish immunization outreach clinics. The reasons cited by persons in Amish households for failure to vaccinate children (e.g., fears of vaccine-related adverse events and general lack of awareness regarding vaccination) were not religious or doctrinal. This suggests that enhanced outreach and education regarding vaccination safety and protective benefits might help increase coverage rates.

and from Epidemiologic Notes and Reports Follow-Up on Poliomyelitis — United States, Canada, Netherlands:

Investigation and control of the outbreak involved exceptional cooperation between local and state officials in the 21 states with Amish populations and CDC. …snip… The programmatic efforts to reach and vaccinate Amish populations were coordinated through the Division of Immunization and state immunization programs, and used the efforts of many CDC public health advisors. Vaccination efforts involved extensive contacts with Amish groups in the 21 states and ultimately resulted in vaccination of approximately one half of Amish persons in the United States.

The Amish and seatbelts thing was sarcasm. If that wasn’t obvious then it is either the fault of my sense of humor or yours.

I stand by my contention that I know more about the Amish than people challenging my obviously facetious comment. People like Dam Olmsted claim to have done “studies” of the Amish that are then quoted all over the place when they obviously know very little about the culture. But both sides only quote from the internet as far as I can tell.

The Amish are not a simple subset of the population – there are different Amish orders(Beachy, Swartzentruber, etc) and they have varying attitudes about things like vaccination, health issues and what they might tell people who are asking questions about autism (which is all Dan Olmsted appears to have done).

Also there are a lot of myths about who the Amish are and what they do. And many of those myths are perpetuated by the Amish themselves.

I am pro-vaccine, most of the Amish I know have had their children vaccinated, and I do not believe there is a link between vaccines and autism. But I can also tell you that autism rates among Amish would be very difficult to determine as many are hesitant to have their children tested. Any teacher in the public schools will tell you the same.

Here’s an interesting article by a Physician in Chicago with a large practice, who has associates working alongside him.

The Age of Autism: ‘A pretty big secret’

UPI | December 7, 2005

It’s a far piece from the horse-and-buggies of Lancaster County, Pa., to the cars and freeways of Cook County, Ill.

But thousands of children cared for by Homefirst Health Services in metropolitan Chicago have at least two things in common with thousands of Amish children in rural Lancaster: They have never been vaccinated. And they don’t have autism.

“We have a fairly large practice. We have about 30,000 or 35,000 children that we’ve taken care of over the years, and I don’t think we have a single case of autism in children delivered by us who never received vaccines,” said Dr. Mayer Eisenstein, Homefirst’s medical director who founded the practice in 1973. Homefirst doctors have delivered more than 15,000 babies at home, and thousands of them have never been vaccinated.

The few autistic children Homefirst sees were vaccinated before their families became patients, Eisenstein said. “I can think of two or three autistic children who we’ve delivered their mother’s next baby, and we aren’t really totally taking care of that child — they have special care needs. But they bring the younger children to us. I don’t have a single case that I can think of that wasn’t vaccinated.”

The autism rate in Illinois public schools is 38 per 10,000, according to state Education Department data; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention puts the national rate of autism spectrum disorders at 1 in 166 — 60 per 10,000.

“We do have enough of a sample,” Eisenstein said. “The numbers are too large to not see it. We would absolutely know. We’re all family doctors. If I have a child with autism come in, there’s no communication. It’s frightening. You can’t touch them. It’s not something that anyone would miss.”

This column has been looking for autism in never-vaccinated U.S. children in an effort to shed light on the issue. We went to Chicago to meet with Eisenstein at the suggestion of a reader, and we also visited Homefirst’s office in northwest suburban Rolling Meadows. Homefirst has four other offices in the Chicago area and a total of six doctors.

In practice, that’s unlikely to account for the pronounced absence of autism, says Eisenstein, who also has a bachelor’s degree in statistics, a master’s degree in public health and a law degree.

Homefirst follows state immunization mandates, but Illinois allows religious exemptions if parents object based either on tenets of their faith or specific personal religious views. Homefirst does not exclude or discourage such families. Eisenstein, in fact, is author of the book “Don’t Vaccinate Before You Educate!” and is critical of the CDC’s vaccination policy in the 1990s, when several new immunizations were added to the schedule, including Hepatitis B as early as the day of birth. Several of the vaccines — HepB included — contained a mercury-based preservative that has since been phased out of most childhood vaccines in the United States.

Medical practices with Homefirst’s approach to immunizations are rare. “Because of that, we tend to attract families that have questions about that issue,” said Dr. Paul Schattauer, who has been with Homefirst for 20 years and treats “at least” 100 children a week.

Schattauer seconded Eisenstein’s observations. “All I know is in my practice I don’t see autism. There is no striking 1-in-166,” he said.

Chicago is America’s prototypical “City of Big Shoulders,” to quote Carl Sandburg, and Homefirst’s mostly middle-class families seem fairly representative. A substantial number are conservative Christians who home-school their children. They are mostly white, but the Homefirst practice also includes black and Hispanic families and non-home-schooling Jews, Catholics and Muslims.

They tend to be better educated, follow healthier diets and breast-feed their children much longer than the norm — half of Homefirst’s mothers are still breast-feeding at two years. Also, because Homefirst relies less on prescription drugs including antibiotics as a first line of treatment, these children have less exposure to other medicines, not just vaccines.

Schattauer said Homefirst’s patients also have significantly less childhood asthma and juvenile diabetes compared to national rates. An office manager who has been with Homefirst for 17 years said she is aware of only one case of severe asthma in an unvaccinated child.

“Sometimes you feel frustrated because you feel like you’ve got a pretty big secret,” Schattauer said. He argues for more research on all those disorders, independent of political or business pressures.

The asthma rate among Homefirst patients is so low it was noticed by the Blue Cross group with which Homefirst is affiliated, according to Eisenstein.

“In the alternative-medicine network which Homefirst is part of, there are virtually no cases of childhood asthma, in contrast to the overall Blue Cross rate of childhood asthma which is approximately 10 percent,” he said. “At first I thought it was because they (Homefirst’s children) were breast-fed, but even among the breast-fed we’ve had asthma. We have virtually no asthma if you’re breast-fed and not vaccinated.”

Because the diagnosis of asthma is based on emergency-room visits and hospital admissions, Eisenstein said, Homefirst’s low rate is hard to dispute. “It’s quantifiable — the definition is not reliant on the doctor’s perception of asthma.”

Several studies have found a risk of asthma from vaccination; others have not. Studies that include never-vaccinated children generally find little or no asthma in that group.

Earlier this year Florida pediatrician Dr. Jeff Bradstreet said there is virtually no autism in home-schooling families who decline to vaccinate for religious reasons — lending credence to Eisenstein’s observations.

“It’s largely non-existent,” said Bradstreet, who treats children with autism from around the country. “It’s an extremely rare event.”

Thimerosal, which is 49.6 percent ethyl mercury by weight, was phased out of most U.S. childhood immunizations beginning in 1999, but the CDC recommends flu shots for pregnant women and last year began recommending them for children 6 to 23 months old. Most of those shots contain thimerosal.

Thimerosal-preserved vaccines are currently being injected into millions of children in developing countries around the world. “My mandate … is to make sure at the end of the day that 100,000,000 are immunized … this year, next year and for many years to come … and that will have to be with thimerosal-containing vaccines,” said John Clements of the World Health Organization at a June 2000 meeting called by the CDC. <<<<< Let's not forget that the W.H.O. recently reported that there are way too many people on the planet, and that they need to 'cull the population' from useless eaters. 6 Billion people on planet earth, and they want to reduce this number by 90%. And in their detailed plans, begun back in the 1980's, it states that they will accomplish this goal partly by using vaccines that will perform a 'slow kill'. That's a nice one... and using our Tax Dollars to boot! I know who will be frying in hell when judgment day comes, and I know you do too. Please refer to and read the Congressional Testimony link, referring to bioterrorism and the cure which they want to stockpile. You can get it now and be prepared for when all hell breaks out. Can someone please tell me why the information in the following U.S. Government Patent Office website has been suppressed for so long? Could it be pressure from Burroughs-Wellcome who provides AZT to HIV and AIDS patients? Who knows whom to blame, but it certainly seems cruel to withhold this life-saving information:

Dr Drea

Thank you, Maryn. Yes, you do more about the Amish than several, especially Olmstead (there is a subset in our state that are very different from those on the other side of the country).

Seriously, I ever since I went on the internets (starting with Usenet almost almost 15 years ago), I have dealt with many who wrote more insane stuff than you did. There was one lady who would post her “theory” on how many diseases occurred (Crohn’s, autism, seizures, etc). Her “theory” was that if someone was taking certain medications or smoking marijuana thinking about a person would cause that person to come down with some ailment. She usually haunted the group, but she sometimes ventured over to the group and post her “theory.” She actually told me that my son’s seizures were from someone thinking about him when they were on her odd list of drugs.

Here is the Gail Michael FAQ. When you read it, you will see why I have trouble spotting the Poe posts. I should add that when I first encountered John Scudamore ( guy) and Roger Schlafly on Usenet, I thought they could be reasoned with. I was wrong, very, very wrong.

I’m for vaccinations if given at 3-5 years of age, when the neurological system is more developed, and if they are given at least a month apart.
Having worked at a Daycare center in Hudson, Ohio for 3 years, I had the rare opportunity of seeing the before and after effects on infants and young children who had been vaccinated. About 25% of them showed marked differences in behavior and physical fitness. I was surprised to learn that Tetanus, which my daughter received at 3 yrs old, when most young children go play outdoors, is now given at 8 weeks! One vaccine is even given at the hospital, right after birth!

Babies cannot even turn over in their crib until 4 months old, so there is no reason to vaccinate an infant who obviously cannot go play near barbed wire or rusty metal that has been used near horses or cows, where the Tetanus germs reside.
No one could explain to me why this is happening, and the parents of these children, overwhelmed and over tired from work and stress, just go along with the new vaccination schedule without even asking the pediatrician why.

Our daughter, now 22 who just graduated from Kent State U. received about 8 vaccinations before entering Kindergarten when she was about 5 years old.
Now, the scheduling of vaccines, as proscribed by the Manufacturers, is over 20 by the time the child is entering Kindergarten, and they say it may reach 30 shots!
Still, no parents asked why so many more than before. A few more involved parents asked for the vaccines to be given 3 -4 weeks apart, and they paid the extra doctor’s visit fee to do this for their children.

Regarding the Seasonal Flu vaccine and the H1N1 vaccine, the makers of these products warn NOT to intermix them, due to the fact that each one has a different aminoglucoside (antibiotic), such as Neomycin, Polymyxin B sulfate, and Gentamycin.
Therefore, people should not get both vaccines on the same day, as they double their risk of side effects. This is what Novartis, who makes them says:

>>Neomycin and polymyxin are listed as contraindications for CSL’s (2) and Novartis’ (3) vaccines. “Neomycin may cause damage to the kidneys and/or nerves. Kidney function and drug levels in the blood may be monitored with blood tests during treatment. Tell your doctor if you experience decreased urination, hearing loss, ringing in the ears, feeling of fullness in the ears, dizziness, numbness, skin tingling, muscle twitching, or seizures which may be signs of kidney or nerve damage. < < Teva Pharmaceuticals, which provide the antibiotics to Novartis, to be used as a sort of preservative, says this about its products: >> According to Teva Pharmaceuticals, the effects of neomycin may not be evident until long after the medication has been discontinued. Just exactly how long is unclear at this time. (8) Polymyxin has its own set of possible adverse reactions. “Neurotoxic reactions may be manifested by irritability, weakness, drowsiness, ataxia, perioral paresthesia, numbness of the extremities, and blurring of vision. These are usually associated with high serum levels found in patients with impaired renal function and/or nephrotoxicity.” (9)

Furthermore, all four Flu vaccine makers warn that children and adults who are allergic to eggs or poultry (15 million people) are contra-indicated to receive the vaccine. Also, people who suffer from Asthma are contra- indicated, and these are 40 million people. Plus NSAIDS and cholesterol lowering drugs are also contra-indicated for any of the Flu vaccines.

I’m sure that formaldehyde is known by most readers to cause cancer, so I won’t list the side effects for this dangerous chemical.

I suggest people read the Package Info Insert very carefully, and then go to the different Pharmaceutical companies websites, and read up on their vaccines, and how they were tested, on how many subjects, final results, both in-house and paid independent results. Learn the facts from the horses’ mouths, then you can discuss this subject with authority and facts behind every statement you make. If you need the spelling of the various makers, then please refer to this website that lists them:
Don’t be surprised by the $millions$ in sales by the top 12 companies.

A well known author, lecturer, and Physician here in Ohio, who has had great success in healing autistic children, and also helping people with asthma, allergies, chronic pain, etc. is Dr Sherri Tenpenny. Please refer to her website, and read thru it with an open mind. She has treated hundreds of cases with much success, and is very health oriented. People from 38 states and 9 countries come to her to get well.
She has lectured at Universities in Cleveland, such as the prestigious Case Western Reserve University, where only successful top notch doctors are invited to speak to students in the medical school.


On vaccines:

Case studies in respected medical journals and Universities:

In conclusion, we are for free choice, as in having the LIBERTY to chose what will happen to our own bodies, for which we alone are responsible, as declared in our Constitution. These rights of life, Liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are granted by the Creator, and cannot be taken away by ‘the state’.

Learn what you can do to improve your own Immune System, so that you will not get ill, or if you do it will be milder and of shorter duration.

You can get a vaccine blood test that will determine which antibodies you already have, which means you have been immunized already, (by any vector) and can defer the vaccination. It’s a “titer test”:

God Bless everyone, and may you all have a Healthy and Happy 2010!
Respectfully submitted,
Dr Drea

Dr Drea:

Here’s an interesting article by a Physician in Chicago with a large practice, who has associates working alongside him.


The Age of Autism: ‘A pretty big secret’

UPI | December 7, 2005


What wild stretch of imagination makes you think that Dan Olmsted is a physician in Chicago? The guy is not even a journalist anymore, he is an editor at the Age of Autism job (because for some strange reason UPI decided not to pay him anymore).

Did you even read what Maryn and I just posted (okay, one of my comments is in moderation, but it has nothing much to with Olmsted)? Have you even heard of the Clinic for Special Children? Because Olmsted didn’t until his first idiotic article. When he was made of aware of them and called them up, they rightly refused to talk to him because they knew what a hack he is.

Also, you should really use the little search box on the left hand side of this page. Here is one hit I got using Eisenstein as the word (and there are several more).

So, Dr. Drea, you are cool with babies dying from pertussis and Hib? Nice, really nice. You are despicable.

Babies cannot even turn over in their crib until 4 months old, so there is no reason to vaccinate an infant who obviously cannot go play near barbed wire or rusty metal that has been used near horses or cows, where the Tetanus germs reside.

Clostridium tetanii is everywhere in the environment. Newborns have umbilical cord stumps. Neonatal tetanus is a common cause of death in the Third World.

No one could explain to me why this is happening

Who did you ask – the pizza delivery kid?
Any doctor or nurse worth his or her license would tell you about neonatal tetanus.

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