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More false “balance” on vaccines and autism

There’s so much horrible reporting on vaccines and the whole manufactroversy that promulgates the myth that vaccines somehow cause autism through a combination of confusing correlation with causation, bad science, quackery, and misrepresenting autism that it’s gotten harder for me to be sufficiently irritated to write about it. When I see yet another another example of credulous reporting, it has to be either truly egregious to the point of catching my attention above the baseline noise of stories presenting anti-vaccine pseudoscience as though there were any truth to it or somehow illustrate something about the anti-vaccine movement that needs to be pointed out–or both. Not uncommonly, such articles are touted on that repository of anti-vacccine quackery and propaganda, Age of Autism, as examples of the media “finally getting it.” So it is with a truly execrable piece of crap journalism that the merry band of anti-vaccine propagandists over at AoA–specifically, one of that merry band, Anne Dachel, Media Editor of AoA–found and promoted yesterday. It’s an article that was first published in The Hudson Reporter entitled To ‘V’ or not to ‘V’? Free vaccinations offered; controversy continues.

It turns out that, since my departure, New Jersey has become a hotbed of “vaccine choice,” a.k.a. anti-vaccine propaganda masquerading as “personal exemptions,” “health freedom,” and “vaccine choice.” The staff reporter who wrote this article, Lana Rose Diaz, has dropped a steaming, drippy turd of a “tell both sides” article that really doesn’t tell both sides. Rather, it tells the side of Louise Kuo Habakus, Founder of Life Health Choices. We have, of course, met Ms. Habakus before. For example, she was awarded the AoA Person of the Year Award for 2009. Most recently, she was one of the main instigators of the anti-vaccine rally in Chicago attached to Autism One that turned into an embarrassing fizzle. Basically, she’s a woman who’s made a name for herself opposing vaccine mandates in New Jersey and New York based on the same sort of rank pseudoscience that AoA promotes on nearly a daily basis. No wonder AoA likes Ms. Habakus so much!

So what sort of nonsense is Ms. Habakus spewing in this article this time? Plenty, actually, and AoA loves it because in writing the article Ms. Diaz uses the time dishonored tactic of letting the advocate of pseudoscience blather on and on and then only at the end provide the science-based viewpoint, almost as perfunctory afterthought that had to be included because it’s expected. However, it’s obvious where Ms. Diaz’s heart is, and it’s not with the science-based viewpoint, at least not on this issue. After all, why else would she represent a clueless advocate of pseudoscience like Ms. Habakus as a “mother turned medical practitioner”? Get a load of this:

Louise Kuo Habakus, a member of the New Jersey Coalition for Vaccination Choice, which held a session last year at a restaurant in Hoboken, is also the director and founder of The Center for Personal Rights, a non-profit organization based in Middletown.

Habakus said she got involved in the fight for vaccination choice after two of her children were injured by vaccines. She said they developed inflammatory bowel disease, which got progressively worse after each vaccine.

However, she stressed that the injuries her children faced may be less or more severe than what others could face.

“Vaccine injury manifests very differently in different people,” said Habakus.

A former corporate executive, Habakus took on the mission of poring over studies in her quest to advocate for research, education, and informed consent when it comes to vaccination and ultimately became a holistic health practitioner.

I wonder what kind of “holistic practitioner” Ms. Habakus decided to become. So I did a little Googling. Apparently she represents herself as “specializing in integrative nutrition and homotoxicology.” Of course, “integrative nutrition” appears to be pure quackery, if the Institute for Integrative Nutition website is any indication. On the website, the glories of Andrew Weil, MD, Arthur Agatston, MD, Barry Sears, PhD, Mark Hyman, MD and Deepak Chopra, among many others, are touted as the source of much of the knowledge of woo that the institute wants to impart to its students and the curriculum features “major dietary theories from Ayurveda to The Zone.” Meanwhile, as it is claimed for “instegrative medicine,” integrative nutrition “integrates” woo and quackery with “conventional” nutrition. Of course, looking at the website, I rather suspect it’s a homeopathic integration in that the woo is probably used to serially dilute and succuss the conventional nutrition until nothing is left. Not surprisingly, the Institute for Integrative Nutrition has its very own page on Quackwatch.

As for “homotoxicology,” as you might imagine, that is pure quackery as well. In fact, according to Habakus’ own website, homotoxicology is described thusly:

Homotoxicology is the science of toxins and their removal within the human body. It offers a theory of disease which describes the severity and duration of an illness or disorder based on toxin-loading relative to our body’s ability to detoxify. We should normally be excreting toxins through the primary pathways of feces, urine and sweat. When the immune system is challenged, however, our body’s ability to eliminate toxins is also compromised. There are progressive stages of illness which correspond to the bio-accumulation of toxins. After excretion, we move to deposition, then impregnation, degeneration and finally neoplasm (cancer). Symptoms of disease are the result of appropriate biological resistance to toxic substances. In other words, conditions such as asthma or skin rashes are predictable ways that we might respond to toxicity. If we attempt to suppress the symptoms at an earlier phase, for example, through the use of steroids or other prescription drugs, we drive the toxins deeper into our cells, which can result in advancement of illness and disease.

That’s right. Homotoxicology is pure “detoxification” woo. Never mind that our bodies are quite capable of removing most “toxins” without the help of the dubious nostrums that dubious practitioners like Habakus recommend, including “serially agitated homeopathic dilutions” (surprise, surprise). According to “homotoxicology,” diseases result from the body’s attempt to expel those magical mystical “toxins” that supposedly build up in everyone’s body, denying the central tenets of the germ theory of disease. These toxins are referred to as “homotoxins,” and consist of pretty much everything in the environment to which we are exposed. In contrast to homeopathy, homotoxicology is less concerned with “like cures like” than with using substances that, according to the principles of this woo “activate the greater defense system” and force the body to expel the “toxins.”

Habakus also recommends “homeoprophylaxis” to prevent infectious diseases in children. It’s depressing to think that Habukus would substitute magic water instead of effective vaccination to protect our children from infectious disease, but clearly she has fallen for pure magic. After all, she is, it would appear, a homeopath of a sort, and anyone who thinks that the principles of homeopathy are the least bit based on any science–or even that they don’t conflict with the known laws of science to the point that, for homeopathy to be valid much of what we know about physics and chemistry would have to be spectacularly wrong–is not a rational thinker. She is a magical thinker.

No wonder she’s so firmly of the belief that vaccines cause autism, and depressingly our intrepid reporter Diaz didn’t notice any of the quackery espoused by Habakus.

The rest of the article is basically Habakus making the argument that more vaccine exemptions should be allowed and that the state of New Jersey should not mandate vaccines. I’m not going to get into the political argument over whether the state should have the power to require vaccines. Many people who fully accept the efficacy of vaccination and do not buy into the pseudoscientific myth that vaccines cause autism will argue that on libertarian principles the government shouldn’t have the power to require vaccination as a precondition before a child can attend public school. Personally, although I accept that adults should have the right to determine what is done with their bodies, I’ve never bought that argument for children any more than I’ve bought the argument that parents should be allowed to choose quackery over science-based medicine to treat cancer in their child. My opinion of the argument or not, arguing against school-mandated vaccination on libertarian reasons is not a scientific argument, but rather an argument about philosophy and public policy that is far more about the principles one values than the science. I would point out that, even in New Jersey, it’s still not that difficult to get an exemption. It’s not as though state officials are going to ask parents who claim vaccination is against their religion to prove it. In fact, there are times when I wish they would. But they don’t, and it’s highly unlikely that they will.

Unfortunately, the rest of the article is a heapin’ helpin’ of confusing correlation with causation liberally sprinkled with–of course!–conspiracy theories:

In New Jersey, the autism rate is 1 in 94. Some have said the high rate is due to the many resources that exist in the state, a situation that draws people with autistic children to move here. In addition, more children may be diagnosed here.

Habakus pointed to the fact that the Garden State gives more shots, offers no vaccine choice, and is the U.S. and worldwide headquarters for over half of the world’s pharmaceutical firms.

“Is that a coincidence?” she said. “The pharmaceutical industry is such an important tax base in our state, you could argue that it would be impossible to be elected in New Jersey without pharm support.”

Habakus said that sufficient research has never been put into vaccines to see who is susceptible to possible complications prior to administering vaccines, because the people conducting the studies are the same ones selling the product.

“We’re not saying don’t vaccinate,” said Habakus. “We’re just saying do your research.”

Read more: Hudson Reporter – To ‘V’ or not to ‘V’ Free vaccinations offered controversy continues.

OK, I’ll give Diaz a bit of a pass on the first paragraph in that it is quite possible that the prevalence of autism in New Jersey may be higher because of those very reasons. Having lived in New Jersey, I know that the state charges outrageously high property taxes but does pour a lot of that money into schools and special services that are superior to those of any other state I’ve lived in. There are a lot of early intervention programs and a lot of resources thrown into screening for learning disabilities and then trying to help these children. Of course, to Habakus, it’s all a big pharma plot to make the children of New Jersey autistic and make billions of dollars doing it, not to mention Diaz, who turns a story that should be an optimistic story about a good thing, offering free vaccines, into a paranoid, conspiracy mongering mound of nonsense, thanks to her choice of Habakus as her main interview subject.

One thing that this story demonstrates about the anti-vaccine movement very clearly is that, to anti-vaccine activists, left is right, up is down, and anti-science is science. Look, for instance, at what Anne Dachel at AoA says about the story:

I like to think that reporters are someday going to start telling the truth about autism and catch on to the fact that if you only talk to health officials, you’re only getting one side of the story when it comes to the controversy over vaccines and autism.

Personally, I, too, like to think that reporters are someday going to start writing accurate stories about vaccines and autism. Several months ago, when Andrew Wakefield had his medical license removed and then as a result the editors of The Lancet retracted his misbegotten amalgamation of bad science published in their journal in 1998, I was pleasantly surprised that most journalists actually got the story pretty close to right and seemed to be stopping the false balance of “tell both sides.” Unfortunately, that progress towards reason, skepticism, and science appears as though it might be in danger of eroding now that the memory of Wakefield’s disgrace is starting to fade.

With Wakefield’s disgrace no longer front and center, reporters are in danger of falling back to their old ways of “balance,” and, to the Bizarro World of AoA, false balance is balance, as Anne Dachel makes explicit:

We can also hope that more reporters will do their job—and give us the arguments from both sides. That’s all we ask. It’s what they mean by “fair and balanced.”

Actually, I find it rather telling that Dachel chooses to appropriate the FOX NEWS catchphrase “fair and balanced” to describe the kind of reporting it wants. It’s hard not to note that, even at its worst, FOX NEWS isn’t as biased and full of misinformation as AoA–or Habakus. The sorts of spin, misinformation, and pseudoscience regularly delivered by AoA and Habakus would make Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity blush in embarrassment.

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]

181 replies on “More false “balance” on vaccines and autism”

“We’re not saying don’t vaccinate,” said Habakus. “We’re just saying do your research.”

This line almost makes me as mad as Mercola’s yesterday to someone claiming him of nutritional reductionism:

“You are clearly out of line nandi. I have made the distinctions crystal clear and there is no nutritional reductionism here. My guess is that you are unwilling to carefully evaluate the evidence because of your preconceived notions. I have always said whole fruit is fine unless you exceed 25 grams a day of fructose and have insulin resistance.
Suggest you more carefully review the research. While fructose from whole fruits is clearly superior to refined fructose as the micronutrients help to offset the damage, one still can not eat them without any regard to their own insulin resistance.”

Carefully review the research? AHHHH

Oh, I could do a whole riff on the anti-vaccine idiocy of “do your own research.” I see the brain-meltingly pseudoscientific results of antivaxers “doing their own research” every day.

@Orac: “Oh, I could do a whole riff on the anti-vaccine idiocy of ‘do your own research’. I see the brain-meltingly pseudoscientific results of antivaxers ‘doing their own research’ every day.”

This I’d love to see, actually. Just to see what kind of crap they come up with. Dunno about you, Orac, but the bullshit they trot out regularly on here suggests that their research ‘skills’ are – if I’m to be nice as possible – somewhat lacking.

The sorts of spin, misinformation, and pseudoscience regularly delivered by AoA and Habakus would make Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity blush in embarrassment.

I find that difficult to believe. They spin fast enough to put a neutron star to shame (as would their density).

Homotoxicology is a strange name…they’re saying all toxins are the same? Or did they just appropriate the prefix from homeopathy in an attempt to give homotoxicology some ‘credibility’, not realizing what they were parsing?

I know that the state charges outrageously high property taxes

The New Yorker in me wants to giggle hysterically at this, but really I don’t know anything about either state’s property taxes. NJ income taxes are ridiculously low, though and it shows in the availability of services.

but does pour a lot of that money into schools and special services that are superior to those of any other state I’ve lived in.

Again, I know nothing about the schools but the social services available for people who become sick without resources are inadequate. Then again, I’m talking post-Christie.

It’s bizarre to think of a “homotoxicologist” driving down the New Jersey Turnpike engulfed in the fumes of petrochemical and other refineries, obsessing about the horrors of vaccine “toxins”.

Wake up, Ms. Habakus (Hobokus?) and smell the…whatever it is.

I hate to do a shameless plug, but I wrote about what I called the “more research” gambit here a few months ago, which I consider to be in the same vein as “do your own research.” I don’t generally write about anti-vaxers, but that was the first – and probably best – example of this tactic that I saw. (Guess where the person who told me that I was wrong to believe the science on vaccines got her information? That lovely compendium of idiocy known as Mothering.com. Yeah, I trust that kind of “research.”)

It’s bizarre to think of a “homotoxicologist” driving down the New Jersey Turnpike engulfed in the fumes of petrochemical and other refineries, obsessing about the horrors of vaccine “toxins”.

The dose of “toxins” (ie particulates and carbon monoxide) one gets from driving down the NJ turnpike is by no means “homeopathic”. So presumably a homeopath thinks it’s perfectly safe-at least unless someone makes the mistake of cleaning up and increasing the efficacy of the toxins…

When the immune system is challenged, however, our body’s ability to eliminate toxins is also compromised

Most toxins are cleared by hepatic metabolism and/or renal excretion. The quoted statement is as bogus as Donald Trump’s hair.

She needs to work on her conspiracy theory generation a little better. Habakus makes a big deal about how many pharma companies there are in New Jersey – which is true. Then, she claims that New Jersey doesn’t have vaccination choice. So, that means that all of the people that work for the pharma companies who have children will be mandated to vaccinate their children. That doesn’t make sense if the pharma companies know that vaccinations harm people because they would be intentionally harming their own children. Plus, those children will be covered by the health plans offered by the pharma companies, which would drive up their health care costs.

No matter how you dice it, it just doesn’t make sense. I guess by know I should have learned not to expect it to make sense.

We should normally be excreting toxins through the primary pathways of feces, urine and sweat.

So far, so good.

When the immune system is challenged, however, our body’s ability to eliminate toxins is also compromised.

*sigh* I guess it couldn’t last for very long.

… Hmmm, though they might have a tiny point. Antitoxins are antibodies which neutralize toxins, so for certain toxins the immune system might be of some help.

Symptoms of disease are the result of appropriate biological resistance to toxic substances.

Good gravy, don’t these people know anything about cellular biology and biochemistry?

(I remember arguing on Usenet with a germ-theory denying, Bechamp supporting homeopath who used a similar argument.)

we drive the toxins deeper into our cells,

What does “deeper” mean? Further away from the surface of blood vessels? In the nuclei of cells?

After all, she is, it would appear, a homeopath of a sort, and anyone who thinks that the principles of homeopathy are the least bit based on any science–or even that they don’t conflict with the known laws of science to the point that, for homeopathy to be valid much of what we know about physics and chemistry would have to be spectacularly wrong–is not a rational thinker. She is a magical thinker.

I wonder if homotoxicology might not be considered a worse offense against science than homeopathy. Homeopathy posits that some unknown mechanism of physics/chemistry gives water “memory”, and that some unknown mechanism of biology lets this memory have an effect on living things. Homotoxicology, on the other hand, posits things about toxicology, toxin elimination and symptom causation that are completely wrong.

Oh frig. Or perhaps I should say,”Frigg”, dealing as we are with the cult of home, family, and rampart “momism”. Be that as it may, I first heard of Kuo Habakus on Null’s radio woo-topia as they prepared for their first assault on Trenton. On her website, she identifies herself as an “MA” while the IIN site advertises “a career in a year”: I get the impression that those two “degrees” are unrelated although she might want us to think otherwise.( I wouldn’t be surprized if she had an MA in marketting). She lives and works in Red Bank / Middletown (Monmouth County), an area which has recently seen rapid growth in middle class affluence and neo-yuppism with tinges of nature worship ( I live in Bergen County where most worship the “other green”). Indulging in a conspiracy theory of this scope would require employing ( what one skeptic calls) “cascade logic”: in order for the imagined conspiracy to be maintained, larger and larger pools of willing participants would be necesaary as well as a more convoluted imbroglio of secret trists, meetings, documents, and cover-ups. I characterize many of these conspiracists as amateur *noir* novella writers- creating pulp fiction instead of the usual “science” fiction.

Mr B – I checked out your blog about the “do some research” gambit. I left unsatisfied. There’s a hint of useful points in there, but mostly left insufficiently stated.

You do get to the most critical part about it, though: “Research” is only as good as the sources you rely upon. This is where the biggest problem comes in. Someone who “does their own research” by doing a google search is going to be inundated by anti-vax information. If you go through and read all the sites, you are going to be overwhelmed with anti-vax crap. If you are lucky, you might stumble upon the AAP, CDC, or WebMD pages, but hey, those are only three sites compared to the dozens of anti-vax screeds you will find. It’s not surprising that you would conclude that there is a lot the GOVERNMENT isn’t telling you.

The problem with this is that it is like comparing a big pile of cow manure with a small amount of caviar. From a distance, that big pile of cow manure looks a lot more impressive, but when you get up close, you discover that it is simply a big pile of shit. Meanwhile, that caviar (or make it whatever delicacy you prefer) is highly coveted and very high quality.

So as you noted, the first thing you have to do when deciding to “do your research” is to determine what constitutes quality sources and what is the steaming pile of poo. This has to be determined not by the content of what it says in there, but by other factors of what makes this source worth listening to?

For example, if someone says to spend some time reading sMothering.com to learn about the link between vaccines and autism, you have to ask, why? Who are the people there and what makes their opinions about vaccines worth listening to? What expertise do they have in this matter?

And, to be fair, it’s not a bad idea to do the same with other sources, including the “government.” When talking about the CDC’s vaccination policy, people talk about it as if it is some big government conglomerate. Is it? It doesn’t take a lot of work to actually figure out where those recommendations come from. People act like “the government” is a monolithic, nameless entity, but it’s not. You can actually find the names and qualifications of the people who determine the vaccination schedule. Shoot, I bet you could even email them and ask them a question or two and they would answer.

So yes, do your research, but do it properly. Investigate the qualifications of the sources upon which you are relying. If, after that, you conclude that random mom in Tacoma, WA who claims that her unvaccinated child is autistic because of mercury in her mothers milk originating from when she was vaccinated as a child knows more about the effects of vaccination than the Head of the Pediatrics Dept at LSU, whose specialty is infectious childhood disease, then there really is no hope for you. However, at least you’ve gone about it the right way.

There’s something contradictory here! If you want to *decrease* toxins and believe in homeopathy (where “less is more”) wouldn’t cutting down the toxins lead to *poisoning*?

@13 Pablo

Well, there is one method by which the authority or reliability of your sources doesn’t impact your research. Experimentation is new knowledge creation. Clearly, more anti-vaxxers need to become biomedical researchers, and get involved in clinical vaccine trials.

It might at least make them too busy to be annoying, while they get their degrees.

Well, there is one method by which the authority or reliability of your sources doesn’t impact your research. Experimentation is new knowledge creation. Clearly, more anti-vaxxers need to become biomedical researchers, and get involved in clinical vaccine trials.

LOL! Point taken.

Unfortunately, in lieu of such activities myself, I will instead rely on the opinions of those people who do them.

Like the members of the CDC committee on vaccination…

I realize that it jeopardizes our collective herd immunity, but could we not simply allow ALL medical conspiracy theorists to evolutionarily self-select against themselves and their progeny, for the eventual benefit of the entire species? We can then award them posthumous “Darwin Awards” for cleaning up the gene pool(http://www.darwinawards.com), and everybody gains something!?

Apparently she represents herself as “specializing in integrative nutrition and homotoxicology.”

But does she know anything about heterotoxicology?

WHAT?

They aren’t following ORAC’s supreme commands and orders and reporting the vaccine script as dictated? Shame, shame, shame. Woo I say, quackery I say, conspiracy theorist nuts, progpaganda, etc, etc, etc, etc, etc, etc, etc, etc.

Have these people not heard that all vaccines and all vaccine ingredients have been proven safe for all time beyond any further need for human examination or questioning?

WHAT?

They aren’t following ORAC’s supreme commands and orders and reporting the vaccine script as dictated? Shame, shame, shame. Woo I say, quackery I say, conspiracy theorist nuts, propaganda, etc, etc, etc, etc, etc, etc, etc, etc.

Have these people not heard that all vaccines and all vaccine ingredients have been proven safe for all time beyond any further need for human examination or questioning?

“Have these people not heard that all vaccines and all vaccine ingredients have been proven safe for all time beyond any further need for human examination or questioning?”

Because that hasn’t happened, and no one is saying that.

If you believe they are, you will provide a direct quote and explain how it meets your interpretation, if such activities are still within your capabilities.

Now, silly question this given your – aha – ‘reputation’, but are you actually capable of addressing anything in this thread or are you just going to be a sarcastic pillock with no effort towards any real contribution?

You deniers are the equivalent of holocaust deniers. Ignore every carefully controlled test, every piece of evidence causal and not, which undermines your poorly thought out and even more poorly tested hypotheses. I’m sorry your kids have autism. Start looking for legitimate ways to cure it and let the rest of the world be safe from disease. There’s no point making a bad thing worse by subjecting children to death and illness because you engage in magical reasoning.

“Ignore every carefully controlled test, every piece of evidence causal and not, which undermines your poorly thought out and even more poorly tested hypotheses.”

Which carefully controlled tests? Which pieces of causal and non-causal evidence? How is the hypothesis poorly thought out? Why are the tests – which magically retain 100% validity when used in attempts to prove the autism epidemic is real and not an artifact – somehow poor quality?

We can’t ignore what you don’t present.

People like Mr. Doherty are the main bit of evidence in the utter failure of the “do your own research” approach.

“People like Mr. Doherty are the main bit of evidence in the utter failure of the “do your own research” approach.”

Oh, I think he does do his own research.

It is suspiciously rank and file vaccine skeptic research, and he never ever ever presents any of the alternative sources at any point, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t do it himself.

Sometimes doing the research yourself is the cause of the problem, not the solution.

The main issue I’ve found with the “do your own research” bit is the fact that most legitimate studies are unavailable to the common web user. Aside from the abstracts – which don’t always prvide clear information on results – many studies need to be purchased to see them.

Compare that to the anti-vax woo which is free for all to view and be misinformed by.

So, of course they say do your own research – most of what you find will be pseudoscience junk (redundant, I know).

People like Mr. Doherty are the main bit of evidence in the utter failure of the “do your own research” approach.

Indeed. It’s no wonder Mr. Doherty is so annoyed by my criticism of her ignorance and embrace of quackery.

Sorry about being a sarcastic “pillock” Dedj. I was just trying to pass for one of the locals in this internet village full of sarcastic pillocks. (You Brits have a way with derogatory slang I give you that.)

The position that vaccines shall not be questioned because they are beyond reproach, because they have been proven safe for all time, is implicit in every post on this forum except those of visitors who do not share the cult like vaccine faith.

If you seriously think that the posters on this site contribute to anyone’s understanding of vaccines and their possible impacts, positive or negative, well you are in your own words just another backslapping “pillock”.

Paul Offit to the contrary, journalists putting alternative points of view in a report on any subject is not providing false balance, it is practicing real journalism.

Dedj — reread MM’s post. I think you’ve understood it backwards. (I initially did as well, before I realized who MM was addressing as “you deniers”. He’s addressing the anti-vaxxers, not us.)

Mr. Doherty, I just spent some time reading your blog, and was wondering, how can someone write so well and still come over as a raving anti-vax lunatic on RI? Until I got far enough back and found that when it comes to vaccines you’re indeed all you seem to be here.
It’s odd that someone who’s doing so much reading and good writing can be so enormously mistaken in regards to evidence on vaccines and autism. Doing your own research took you some strange places.

@dedj:

If you believe they are, you will provide a direct quote and explain how it meets your interpretation,

I wonder if some people take an unqualified “safe” to mean “100%” safe; it would explain those people who think that vaccine advocates claim that vaccines are 100% safe. If so, I wonder if they’re the same people who think that driving is 100% safe if they’re the one behind the wheel.

The position that vaccines shall not be questioned because they are beyond reproach, because they have been proven safe for all time, is implicit in every post on this forum except those of visitors who do not share the cult like vaccine faith.

A mammoth strawman. No one here, to my knowledge, has ever made any such statements. I’m afraid that your accusation of cult-like faith is positioned towards the wrong side. Anti-vaxxers are continually rejecting properly-conducted studies in favour of pseudo-scientific offerings. See the latest Hewitson et al. monkey study, for example.

If you seriously think that the posters on this site contribute to anyone’s understanding of vaccines and their possible impacts, positive or negative, well you are in your own words just another backslapping “pillock”.

Wishful thinking on your part. And I daresay that sites such as AoA, AVN and JABS are actually driving former and potential supporters away by spewing the completely incredulous nonsense that they do.

When I was an undergrad working on a degree in toxicology, I found a general rule to be true: always be a little extra skeptical of any tox paper which doesn’t mention P450 enzymes (exceptions including a pathway which does not involve P450, or a paper which does not talk about detoxification pathways).

I’ve yet to find a woo article that even alludes to knowledge of those enzymes.

The position that vaccines shall not be questioned because they are beyond reproach, because they have been proven safe for all time, is implicit in every post on this forum except those of visitors who do not share the cult like vaccine faith.

No, it’s a convenient straw man argument used by anti-vaccine activists like yourself. No, no, don’t bother to deny that you’re anti-vaccine. Your writings here on this blog show clearly that you are, particularly your use of terms like “cult-like vaccine faith.” In fact, we question specific vaccines all the time based on valid scientific evidence. I myself have expressed skepticism over whether we should be rushing forward to mandate, for example, the HPV vaccine. This is in marked contrast to anti-vaccine zealots, who “question” vaccines, their safety, and their efficacy based on pseudoscience and anti-science and claim that they cause autism and all sorts of other health issues based not just on bad science but going against existing science.

@Denice Walter: nice to know there is another NJ person since Orac left. I live in Morris Cty, but my husband works in Bergen Cty.

There is a lot of woo around. I work for an employer who promotes evidence-based medicine, but a lot of my co-workers are woo-minded. Had an argument with one coworker who is “pretty sure” vaccines cause autism, because his nephew was diagnosed with autism a few weeks after getting his vaccines. When I pointed out that maybe it was the fact that the MD saw something at the visit that raised his concerns, coworker insisted that X was in perfect health until after the vaccines. What can you do?

They aren’t following ORAC’s supreme commands and orders and reporting the vaccine script as dictated? Shame, shame, shame. Woo I say, quackery I say, conspiracy theorist nuts, propaganda, etc, etc, etc, etc, etc, etc, etc, etc.

Project much?

journalists putting alternative points of view discredited nonsense in a report on any subject is not providing false balance, it is practicing real journalism impersonating Fox News.

FTFY

@ MI Dawn : 1.What to do? Other than educating them about what *neurodevelopmental* _actually_means? ((shrugs)) It’s very hard to get that much SBM info out in a conversation contra sound-bite new age woo and *idees fixees*. Of course you can always refer them to the excellent educational websites we frequent.2. Morris? Probably like Monmouth? For myself, with Kuo Habakus’ activities and Deirdre Imus’ “center” @ H.U.M.C., I thinking about saying that my *family* is from NY and/or the Hudson Valley (it’s true).

#17, yes we could do that and it might have a deterrent effect. We could also execute the children of rapists and it might have a deterrent effect but it wouldn’t be ethical.

Great blog. I’ve learned a good deal about the anti-vaccine movement from reading the posts here. The tactics used by them are strikingly similar to the ones used by other pseudoscientific groups, especially the appeal to “personal freedom” and keeping things “balanced” in the media. Lately I’ve been encountering the argument that getting vaccinated is a violation of one’s personal freedom of choice. Of course then it makes it seem like the one supporting good science is against freedom. (The creationists use a similar tactic with their “academic freedom” bills.) It’s difficult to argue with that, because then they can shift the discussion from giving any positive support for their claims into the old “you don’t like freedom” argument.

Anyway, keep up the good work and I look forward to learning more here.

@Denice Walter: There is a fair amount of woo available (from what I have viewed;haven’t really investigated) in Morris County. Lots of chiropractors who will cure whatever ails you by adjusting your subluxations. :-/

I’ve debated saying I’m from Michigan (very true) or Virginia (also true). But, as Orac has written, both have blotted their copybook regarding antivax quackery anyway, so I guess I’ll just stick with NJ for now. I will just keep stressing that my family is up to date with all available vaccines. (We may all be very strange, but can’t blame the vaccines for that. LOL)

Re: #1 comment: The ironic thing is that one of his jobs is to make sure the doctors he works with keep up to date with patient immunizations! He will admit that they are a good thing, but then spouts off the “toxins, mercury, formaldehyde” crap. I spent an hour reasoning with him, showed him websites (RI is propaganda, I’ll have you know!!!) and got nowhere, so I gave up, and just keep hoping he does not have children in the future whom he leaves unimmunized (he is currently single and childless).

so you’re basically upset that Ms. Habakus thinks that her children developed inflammatory bowel disease and other problems after vaccination and that other children’s problems could be more or less severe due to vaccinations? Sounds to me like you have a personal investment at stake here (i.e. with Sanofi-Pasteur).

Posted by: jen, Nattering Nabob of Nonsensical Non-sequiturs | August 18, 2010 1:31 PM

so you’re basically upset that Ms. Habakus thinks that her children developed inflammatory bowel disease and other problems after vaccination and that other children’s problems could be more or less severe due to vaccinations? Sounds to me like you have a personal investment at stake here (i.e. with Sanofi-Pasteur).

Non-sequitur. It’s that there’s absolutely no evidence for her so-called “hypothesis”. That’s how science works. It’s called a nulll hypothesis. But then, you wouldn’t know that, what with being totally oblivious to science and all.

And yes, everyone who disagrees with you is part of a conspiracy, the same one which successfully pulled off the moon landing in a Hollywood studio.

By the way, posting something five times doesn’t increase its impact.

Lately I’ve been encountering the argument that getting vaccinated is a violation of one’s personal freedom of choice. Of course then it makes it seem like the one supporting good science is against freedom. (The creationists use a similar tactic with their “academic freedom” bills.) It’s difficult to argue with that, because then they can shift the discussion from giving any positive support for their claims into the old “you don’t like freedom” argument.

Gerald – on the surface, this seems logical, but the problem is, their decision to not vaccinate does not just affect them (if it did, I’d say screw them). Their decision to not vaccinate puts others at risk, in two ways: 1) those who are too young or unable (for medical reasons) to vaccinate are left exposed, and
2) vaccination isn’t (nor claimed to be) 100% effective, and its effectiveness, even for the vaccinated, relies a lot on herd immunity.

Therefore, not vaccinating one’s child puts others at risk, in addition to their child. And as they say, your freedom to swing your fist ends at the tip of my nose.

In fact, I didn’t because all that bothered with anti-vaxxers until I had a child of my own. At that point, it got personal. They are putting my child at risk with their actions, and no, I don’t consider that acceptable.

Of course, it goes well beyond that. The social contract of herd immunity that vaccination relies upon cuts both ways. While I don’t consider it acceptable to put my child at risk, by vaccinating, I do my part to help protect your child, too. In fact, those who pronounce that they are willing to take their chances with infectious disease are able to do so because of people like me, who do vaccinate and therefore contribute to herd immunity. Basically, they think that vaccination is harmful, and won’t do it themselves, but count on folks like me to take all that supposed risk so they can get the benefit.

I’m not too keen at people who take advantage of my good nature.

I’d also draw an important distinction between adults choosing to not be vaccinated and parents choosing not to have their children vaccinated. In many other contexts, we allow adults to do risky things themselves which we do not allow parents to do to their children. And properly so – making a decision for oneself is very different from making a decision for another, even if that other is one’s child.

I am, in general, a pretty firm libertarian. But given the strong impact vaccination decisions have on others’ health and even survival, I make an exception there. I’ll grudgingly accept an adult’s decision to forgo boosters. But IMO parents should be strictly required to vaccinate their children, adhering to the CDC schedule. Even Christian Scientists and the like. Medical exemptions ONLY. As I see it, a parent has no more right to put their child at risk by forgoing vaccination than they do to put their child at risk by relying on exorcism to treat seizures.

I am, in general, a pretty firm libertarian. But given the strong impact vaccination decisions have on others’ health and even survival, I make an exception there.

I don’t think it is an exemption. I also am an advocate of freedom, but freedom has limits. If you want to practice behavior that puts yourself at risk, I won’t stop you. I won’t pay for it, either, but you go ahead. However, the limit is, you put yourself at risk. Not me, and certainly not my child. Especially considering that my child is put at risk (real risks of vaccination – not the imaginary risks of the anti-vaxxers) to protect you and your offspring.

So libertarian or not, we have a social commitment. You are free to chose not to vaccinate, but that does not mean you must be given a free ride. Don’t vaccinate, fine, but then you give up access to public interactions, including the use of public sidewalks or schools.

The libertarian in me affirms everyone’s right to choose to not be part of society. However, if you want to share in the benefits of society, then you share the responsibility.

a parent has no more right to put their child at risk

I think the fundamental problem is in the use of the expression “their child”. We don’t own our children. A parent has no more right to put “their child” at risk than they have to put any random neighbourhood child (or other person) at risk.

That’s no moral right of course, legal rights, sadly, are another question.

The arrogance and vitriol of many of your contributors is breathtaking. Can someone explain how not being vaccinated generates a risk to others that is not first experienced by the unvaccinated individual? Would it be because the unvaccinated person is not threatened by the feared disease?
If that is the case then may I invite the vaxxers to stand first in line ahead of those to be vaccinated to demonstrate their faith in this process. I understand many health professionals have refused this challenge. In the UK 22% of people opting for single vaccine shots are medically qualified. They wouldn’t seem to have the fullest confidence in this product. Like them everyone should have a choice. Tony Bateson, Oxford, UK.

Quoting Pablo: “In fact, I didn’t because all that bothered with anti-vaxxers until I had a child of my own. At that point, it got personal. They are putting my child at risk with their actions, and no, I don’t consider that acceptable.”

Exactly what happened with me. I always thought that it was looney religious cults that didn’t vaccinate. When I got pregnant and starting poking around the internet for info as a first-time parent, I was shocked at all of the anti-vax crap out there. My daughter was born premature and at high-risk of complications from something as simple as a cold, let alone flu or pertussis. It was at that point I got angry.

Just Sayin’: obviously I kept hitting post because it didn’t go through. Shit happens. I am just saying that ORac seems all upset about Ms. Habakus primarily because she claims her children developed inflammatory bowel probs after vaccination. I mean, there are, God forbid, problems that develop due to vaccination. Vaccine court was developed around that concept and the package inserts even aknowledge as much. Funny how when anyone actually mentions it, though, they are written off as “non-scientists,” conspiracy weirdos and basically whack jobs. I’m sorry if the truth hurts but sometimes vaccines cause problems for the people who get them. You can’t wish that away. It would be nice, but you can’t.

she claims her children developed inflammatory bowel probs after vaccination.

Not quite. She claims her children developed inflammatory bowel probs after vaccination and that therefore the “probs” were caused by the vaccinations.

Vaccine court was developed around that concept and the package inserts even aknowledge as much. Funny how when anyone actually mentions it, though, they are written off as “non-scientists,” conspiracy weirdos and basically whack jobs. I’m sorry if the truth hurts but sometimes vaccines cause problems for the people who get them. You can’t wish that away. It would be nice, but you can’t.

Why do your ilk insist that we are ignorant of adverse vaccine reactions? When, clearly, we discuss them on a regular basis. Just because someone makes a claim of vaccine injury, doesn’t mean that it should be accepted at face value; that is how ‘your side’ does things and you end up very disappointed that no takes you seriously and craft machinations of conspiracies. You have an odd definition of ‘truth’ if someone can just say ‘vaccine reaction here’ and you fall over yourselves to validate them, even without sufficient evidence of even biological plausibility.

Oh, and you are not new to posting here and know that posts can get caught up in the spam filter. What made you think that it would be posted after 5 furious hits of your ‘enter’ key and not just one?

As mentioned multiple times, the science is not in the package insert! Those are written by a legal team that puts every conceivable reaction on them without context.

Sure seizures can happen with a vaccine, but at a rate much much smaller than the actual disease.

Also, if it looks like the post hangs up… open another browser window to see if your comment came through. This is a busy blog and it takes longer for comments to come through. Especially when someone is furiously hitting the enter key.

Jen – no one here has said or is saying that there haven’t been legitimate injuries that have resulted from vaccinations. The fact that the Vaccine Court has awarded over $2 Billion dollars worth of claims supports that as well – although the standard of proof is certainly not “scientific,” but it has allowed for the continuing research and development of new vaccines from a time when the industry as a whole was prepared to drop out due to excessive litigation.

Overall, the vaccination program has resulted in an increase in overall health & lifespan, the eradication of smallpox (and almost polio), and certainly prevented many more less serious side-effects that normally result from childhood diseases such as Mumps, Ruebella & the Measles.

So I don’t know why you continue to come in here & claim that “we” say vaccines are 100% perfect. We have a problem with people that claim that vaccinations aren’t effective, in the face of decades of positive results and scientific research / studies to the contrary.

When one person or a small group getting the measles is a national headline, from the days when it was reasonably assured that 99% of the people would contract the disease, is a huge deal – it shows how truly effective vaccines have been.

And in cases where there is an issue, we have a system set up to compensate – so what’s the problem again?

Their decision to not vaccinate puts others at risk, in two ways: 1) those who are too young or unable (for medical reasons) to vaccinate are left exposed

This is something the anti-vaxers seem to ignore completely most of the time. I have heard some say that children who can’t be vaccinated for medical reasons (and most likely wouldn’t survive a bout of a serious disease) should simply be locked away from other children. Most repulsive of all, some have the opinion that if one of these immunodeficient children get sick it is no big deal. They seem to be saying; ‘Can’t survive the disease? Oh well, sucks to be you’.

In my sons class there is a boy with a mitochondrial disease and he can’t (as in-has a real reason) be vaccinated. He is a wonderful child and it sickens me that there are some selfish assholes who don’t care if their unvaccinated little disease vectors kill him. I am betting they would care if he was their child.

Pablo #52 wrote:

Therefore, not vaccinating one’s child puts others at risk, in addition to their child. And as they say, your freedom to swing your fist ends at the tip of my nose.

In addition, the concept of having a “freedom to choose” between alternatives assumes that this choice is going to be based on having correct information about the alternatives. There’s got to be a genuine controversy, a real reason to weigh pros and cons. If a person is needlessly misled on the facts, they themselves would agree that their choice is not a real choice. They were not “free” to make the decision they think best.

Misinformation leads to less freedom, not more.

David wrote:

Most toxins are cleared by hepatic metabolism and/or renal excretion. The quoted statement is as bogus as Donald Trump’s hair.

For whatever reason, a lot of people worried about “toxins” seem unable to process the idea that dangerous chemicals can be broken down or otherwise detoxified by one’s body. They always seem to assume that excretion and accumulation are the only options.

Someone who “does their own research” by doing a google search is going to be inundated by anti-vax information. If you go through and read all the sites, you are going to be overwhelmed with anti-vax crap. If you are lucky, you might stumble upon the AAP, CDC, or WebMD pages, but hey, those are only three sites compared to the dozens of anti-vax screeds you will find. It’s not surprising that you would conclude that there is a lot the GOVERNMENT isn’t telling you.

Hell, I thought I was a reasonably science-literate layperson, but I had no idea PubMed existed until I started hanging out here.

PubMed I didn’t know, but I did know a few other literature databases in other fields. I knew there was something like PubMed, but didn’t know what it was.

But I wonder, why should it matter that something like PubMed isn’t easy to find via web search engine? I mean, when they say, “Do your own research” do they really mean, “Do some research” or do they mean “Do google search”?

(that’s rhetorical, btw)

Because “look up information that is quick and easy to find” is not what comes to mind when I hear the word “research.”

Jeez, even when we were in elementary school, we knew that “researching information for a paper” meant more than “looking in the encyclopedia.” (and shoot, at least the World Book encyclopedia was semi-reliable)

The complaint that “scientific studies are not conveniently accessible by a google search” seems like a red-herring to me, one that completely misses whole point of what it means to research a topic.

Kristen–

There’s also an interesting imbalance there. We’re supposed to be prepared to lock up the kids who can’t be vaccinated, like the one you mention, or just buy black clothes for their funerals. But if you suggest that their children risk side effects from a vaccine, they scream.

I suppose it’s consistent with the idea that autism is worse than death.

I first encountered the medical literature index at my local public library when I was trying to find information about my son’s disability before we had internet service.

At first I had to ask a librarian to do the search, and she gave me a printout. Then later I could access something I think was called “Medline” or “Medical Literature Database” through the newly installed computer terminals at the library (which were text based), and then print out a list from thermal printer.

When we got a dial-up modem I could directly dial up the library and access some of the databases (oh, and put holds on books). We then got internet service, and I found a bare bones version of the NIH library index. I think I had to remember the full “http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov” address (I still have it bookmarked!). If I needed to I could get a whole paper sometimes from the public library, and from the local medical school library (which anyone can still do!).

I also found UseNet, and got hit with a huge list of PubMed cites from some guy who claimed me drinking milk caused my son’s seizures (he first tried telling me that is was son drinking milk, but backtracked when I told he was only breastfed, and was I supposed to switch him to soy formula!). I actually went through and picked apart each abstract (they were mostly one person case reports, so I just wrote “statistically insignificant”), and then sent them back in two very long emails (stupid me, I was new to Newsgroups) over a phone modem. I think he stopped telling parents in that newsgroups (misc.kids.disability?) that all their kids were disabled due to drinking milk.

Ah… I really don’t miss the 1990s.

By the way, in recent Google searches I have seen PubMed abstracts come up. So it is getting easier. Unfortunately the uneducated dreck still dominates.

I first encountered the medical literature index at my local public library when I was trying to find information about my son’s disability before we had internet service.

At first I had to ask a librarian to do the search, and she gave me a printout.

Bwahahahaha! (that’s the hearty version, without the mustache twirling and cape)

“Gave you a printout”? Try sitting with the bound version of the annual index and a notepad, making a list of abstract numbers and then tracking them down in the actual abstracts? Fortunately, they also had a 5 year index, so you could save some time there, at least in getting the abstract numbers.

Then you had to head to the stacks to find the stupid journal and make the photocopy.

That’s how WE did literature searches.

(oh sure, by the early 90s we did have access to the librarian electronic search, but those things were so hopelessly fragmented and expensive that it was far more efficient to still dig through it all by hand)

BTW, the Google search engine is nothing more than an American Idol-style popularity contest. The more “hits” on the link, the higher its prioritization. the faster it shows up and at the top of the list.

Isn’t it great that they use the same model system that gets some kids elected in a high school elections? Popularity does not produce the best results in many cases. Those who have been trained how to perform research no this. Those that are self-educated and “do their own research” probably don’t.

So, by that crazy logic, whenever they do a news item about the Orion mission to the moon, they MUST invite the people who say it was staged. Heck, let’s include the “9/11-truthers” in the current discussion on the Mosque near (two blocks away) the WTC site. (After all, if it wasn’t the Muslims, then what’s the big deal?) Let us also interview the president of Iran in an article about the commemoration of the Holocaust, or neo-Nazis when talking about D-Day. Let’s just go all the way, shall we?

That’s how WE did literature searches.

Through three feet of snow! Uphill! Both ways!

@Pablo

The only time I’d put your child at risk is if I were infected and came into contact with him or her. Since I’m not infected I’m not putting your child at risk. It’s a rather simple concept. Besides mandatory vaccination directly assaults my child so you can obtain your little dose of imaginary protection. If your child is too young to get vaccinated and you’re scared of the mumps keep him or her home. And make sure the whole family is up to date on all their boosters so you can create a cocoon of perfect safety.

Hey, Sid. What about immunodeficient children who can’t survive a serious illness and can’t be vaccinated?

Kristen,

Do you see how you’ve needled the entire argument down to a very small specific population? You want mass vaccination coverage forced or coerced unto all available recipients based on this small subset of the population. The only thing left to do now is….move the goalposts/vaccine judo.

And on top of that you haven’t provided any sound literature that shows it would make a difference in mortality for that population. Ie., they get polio herd immunity but then die from non-vaccine strain influenza.

” If your child is too young to get vaccinated and you’re scared of the mumps keep him or her home.”

Translated Sid: “Not only am I an idiot about medicine, vaccinations, and science in general, I’m a pompous asshole who thinks my right to endanger others means others just have to adjust.”

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