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Two examples of “antivaccine”

In the process of laying down a little of the ol’ not-so-Respectful Insolence on the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC), Barbara Loe Fisher, and Jenny McCarthy yesterday, I briefly discussed what the term “antivaccine” means. It’s a topic I’ve discussed at length before and that Steve Novella recently wrote about. The long version is in the links, but the short version is that, unlike the “pharma shill gambit” favored by antivaccine activists and others who aren’t too fond of science-based medicine (SBM), it’s not just a convenient label for supporters of SBM like me to use to demonize opponents. Rather, it’s an attempt to describe their mindset, which is most accurately described as being antivaccine. Hiding behind a veneer of being “vaccine safety activists,” They believe that vaccines are ineffective and harmful, blame them for autism and a host of other conditions, and cherry pick and distort the scientific evidence in order to cast vaccines in the most unfavorable light they can. To them, it’s first and foremost always about the vaccines. Always. One telling indication of this is, as I discussed yesterday and on other occasions, that if you ask an antivaccinationist what vaccines she would support including in the childhood vaccination schedule, you’ll get dissembling, dancing around the question, and self-pitying justifications–anything but a straight answer.

You’ll also see recycling of the same antivaccine talking points.

There were a couple of examples of all of this on display just this week. Regarding the first example, I can’t make up my mind whether this lazy regurgitation of a spectacularly stupid (and already refuted) talking points was due to contempt for his audience combined with the need to fill space between Christmas and New Years with a minimum of work or whether he forgot, but Joe Mercola is defoliating all of Kansas in order to gather together the raw materials to rebuild a massive straw man that I took a flamethrower to when Mike Adams first proposed it back in October. It’s no better when Joe Mercola is amazed to discover that New Study Exposes the “60% Effective” Flu Shot as 98.5% Useless. This would be an example of what I’ve described as trying to spin a study to put it in the most unfavorable light.

Like Mike Adams two months before, Joe Mercola is amazed–or pretends to be amazed–that there is a difference between absolute risk reduction and relative risk reduction. Like Adams, Mercola is shocked–shocked, I say!–to discover that the finding of a 60% reduction in the risk of getting the flu due to the flu vaccine doesn’t mean that the vaccine prevents the flu in 60 out of 100 people who get it. Seriously, Adams at least has the excuse that he’s not a scientist or physician. Mercola has a DO degree, and in the US DOs learn pretty much the same thing as physicians. Consequently, while Adams might genuinely (and ignorantly) think that he’s discovered some deep, dark secret about the flu vaccine, Mercola should know better. In fact, I strongly suspect he does and has so little respect for his readers that he thinks nothing of deceptively portraying this concept as some sort of great revelation that proves that flu vaccines don’t work.

In addition, Mercola goes on and on about how “most flu-like illnesses are not the flu.” Ya think? No one ever said that the flu vaccine protects against flu-like illnesses. It’s only designed to protect against influenza. What that does mean is that flu-like illnesses are a confounding factor that make the determination of the efficacy of flu vaccines more difficult than it is for most vaccines. Mercola also seems inordinately impressed with himself when he points out that the yearly flu vaccine doesn’t protect against all strains of the flu. No kidding, Sherlock. Scientists never said that it did. To imply that is to construct a Burning Man-sized straw man argument, pour gasoline over it, and apply a lit match. Scientists try to figure out in advance which strains of influenza virus will be circulating each flu season and then design the vaccine to cover those strains. That’s part of the reason why the relative efficacy of the flu vaccine is only around 60%, which, by the way, is actually pretty darned good given the scientific and logistical problems producing the vaccine every year.

Next up is Mercola harping on a study that’s rather interesting. Basically, back in 2005 a group of investigators investigated whether there was bias in studies of the flu vaccine in the elderly. To do that, they tracked a cohort of over 72,000 people age 65 or over for eight years and looked at their risk of death from any cause as a function of time during that period. What they found was that the risk of death was decreased in the vaccinated seniors was decreased relative to the unvaccinated in all three time periods, before, during, and after flu season. Their conclusion was that this represents a “healthy user effect” in which healthier seniors tended to get vaccinated.

This study is all very well and interesting, but it has a number of problems, many acknowledged by the authors themselves. First, it’s an observational study. More importantly, it didn’t look at flu-specific outcomes. Mercola claims that you have to understand mathematics before you can understand the flu vaccine. Too bad he doesn’t apply that same principle to his own writing. As the authors of this study state:

It is important to note that, like other observational studies, we did not evaluate outcomes specifically due to influenza infection, because influenza infections are rarely documented by laboratory testing. The limitation of this approach is that prevention of influenza-related complications may have relatively little impact on the broader, non-specific study outcomes. This problem can be illustrated by considering the possible effect of influenza vaccination on the risk of all cause mortality. Assuming, for example, that influenza vaccine reduces the risk of fatal influenza infection by 58%, which is the level of efficacy against serologically confirmed influenza infection reported by a randomized trial of older adults, and that influenza infection accounts for 10% of all deaths during influenza season, then influenza vaccination would be expected to reduce all cause mortality during influenza season by 5.8%. The corresponding estimate of the relative risk of all cause mortality for vaccinated persons compared with unvaccinated persons, in the absence of bias, would be ∼0.94.

In other words, all-cause mortality is not a very sensitive outcome to use to determine whether the flu vaccine works in the elderly. As explained above, even if the flu vaccine were very effective at preventing death from the flu during flu season, one could expect to see a reduction in all-cause mortality of only around 6%, which could easily be missed if there were confounding factors not adequately accounted for in the study. This is probably at the high end. What if flu only caused 5% of all deaths in the over-65 age group during flu season? Then you’re looking at a reduction in all-cause mortality of only around 3%. For the reasons cited above, the authors of the study conclude:

For this reason, our finding that differences in health status between vaccinated and unvaccinated groups leads to bias in estimates of influenza vaccine effectiveness against all cause mortality and other non-specific outcomes does not mean that there is no effect of vaccination against serious complications of influenza infection. Our results do suggest, however, that other methods for evaluations of influenza vaccine effectiveness should be explored. These methods could include prospective ascertainment of influenza-specific outcomes, to improve study sensitivity to detect a true vaccine effect, as well as more accurate characterization of disease severity and functional status, to allow better adjustment for confounding. In future studies, assessment of the effect of adjustment in the before influenza period may assist in evaluating the degree to which influential differences between vaccinated and unvaccinated persons are controlled for in analyses of events during influenza season.

In other words, all this study suggests is that there’s a factor not being accounted for in observational studies. This factor could be obviated by concentrating more on flu-specific outcomes. Moreover, it’s not coincidental that Mercola picked a six-year-old study. Let’s look at a more recent study. Authors in this study tried to quantify the magnitude of biases and found that vaccinating the elderly against flu decreased all-cause mortality by 4.6%, which represents approximately a 47% decrease in risk from dying from the flu. This is actually also pretty good, and, given how safe the flu vaccine is, suggests that the risk-benefit ratio for flu vaccination in the elderly is strongly in favor of being vaccinated.

Mercola then demonstrates yet again that he only “understands” math when it suits his purpose with this truly mind-numbingly stupid section:

Vaccine effectiveness simply cannot be taken at face value, and this applies not only to the flu vaccine but also to other diseases, like measles. Measles cases have greatly increased in parts of Canada and the United States this year. Although unvaccinated children and teens are often blamed for driving the high numbers, a recent investigation into a measles outbreak in a high school found that about half of the cases were in teens who had received the recommended two doses of vaccine in childhood.

In other words, many of the cases were among those whom health authorities would have expected to have been protected from the measles virus. Conventional medical wisdom states that the measles vaccine should protect against measles infection about 99 percent of the time.

This is, of course, a common fallacy used by antivaccine advocates. Sheer numbers don’t tell us much, particularly in this report, because we need to know at the very minimum what percentage of the population was unvaccinated to estimate the effect of vaccination on this outbreak. To get a real estimate that’s worth hanging your hat on, we also need to know what percentage of the two groups, vaccinated and unvaccinated, caught the measles to be able to figure what the relative risk of getting the measles is depending on vaccination status. When studies are done correctly, they have consistently found that the risk of getting a disease is much, much higher in children who have not been vaccinated against that disease. An excellent example was a study from a couple of years ago that demonstrated that children not immunized against pertussis have a 23-fold increased risk of getting pertussis.

Even with these numbers, we can still make a quick and dirty estimate of what’s going on. 52 out of 98 teens who got the measles were reportedly “fully vaccinated,” which means that 53% of the students who got measles were “fully vaccinated” and 47% were presumably unvaccinated or inadequately vaccinated. If vaccine uptake rates were 90% (a typical number), that would leave approximately 10% unvaccinated. If further the measles vaccine were actually completely ineffective, we would then expect that the cases of measles would be divided roughly evenly between the vaccinated and unvaccinated, or that roughly 90% of the cases would occur among the vaccinated and 10% among the unvaccinated. We don’t see that. Instead we see that 47% of cases occur among the 10% of the population that’s unvaccinated. If the number of unvaccinated is even lower, say, 5%, the disproportionate attack of measles among the unvaccinated (47% of the cases in 5% of the population) becomes more stark.

Of course, Mercola probably knows that.

Now, it could well be that MMR vaccine protection wanes in the teen years, but that would be easily remedied by adding a booster vaccine in that age group. It might well be that the relative risk of getting measles in vaccinated teens compared to unvaccinated teens has declined to too low a difference in Quebec. As epidemiologists point out, if that’s true, then it’s not evidence that the vaccine is ineffective. It’s evidence suggesting a reappraisal of how the MMR vaccine is given. In any case, the MMR is still pretty potent, based on the numbers cited by Mercola itself.

Mathematics, Joe. Mathematics.

Joe also seems to misunderstand herd immunity, which is not surprising, given that he relies on Barbara Loe Fisher as his information source. Read Mark Crislip, a real infectious disease specialist, instead. Barbara Loe Fisher lays down a swath of burning stupid, too, about how “natural immunity” is better:

“In most cases natural exposure to disease would give you a longer lasting, more robust, qualitatively superior immunity because it gives you both cell mediated immunity and humoral immunity,” Barbara explains. “Humoral is the antibody production. The way you measure vaccine-induced immunity is by how high the antibody titers are. (How many antibodies you have, basically.)

But the problem is that cell mediated immunity is very important as well. Most vaccines evade cell mediated immunity and go straight for the antibodies, which is only one part of immunity. That’s been the big problem with the production of vaccines.”

Sure, all you have to do to get that natural immunity against measles is to accept the risk of encephalitis and possible death. To get that “natural” immunity against pertussis, all you have to do is to get pertussis. If you’re a baby, you’ll suffer with coughing so severe that it causes pain and you can’t catch your breath, not to mention a distinct possibility of hospitalization, secondary pneumonia, or death. But, hey, “natural immunity” is worth it, right? It never ceases to amaze me that parents who insist that vaccines be absolutely, positively, 100% safe will blithely subject their children to the risk of serious complications and death in search of that “natural immunity” when the risk of vaccination is so incredibly low. It boggles the mind.

So does this, the second example of antivaccine idiocy on Mercola.com this week. It’s Barbara Loe Fisher speaking out against vaccines:

Get a load of some of the analogies she makes! She starts out by saying just how much compassion Americans have for those less fortunate than themselves, pointing to examples of relief efforts in Haiti, victims of hate crimes, children living in poverty, and victims of floods, violence, disease, and other disasters. To her, all of these are just like the “vaccine-injured,” except for this:

So it is sad to see what happens in America today when babies, children and adults react to vaccines and become permanently injured or even die. When healthy people suffer complications from infectious diseases, they are treated with compassion. But when healthy people suffer complications from vaccination, often they are not treated with compassion.21 22 Many times, vaccine victims are victimized all over again by those who deny the reality of what happened or use a utilitarian rationale to dismiss them as acceptable losses in the War on Infectious Disease.

Except that we do treat such children with compassion, to the point that our government set up a compensation fund, the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, that bypasses the regular courts and has a lower standard of evidence for compensation. It even pays for the legal costs of claimants arguing for compensation! What we do not have so much compassion for are antivaccine activists like Barbara Loe Fisher and their fear mongering about vaccines based on bad science, cherry picked studies, and outright pseudoscience, particularly their tendency to advocate subjecting “vaccine-injured” children who are not vaccine-injured to various forms of quackery, up to and including stem cell quackery and beyond, all in order to try to “recover” or “cure” them of conditions that were not caused by vaccines. As I have said before,

I was going to march through each point Loe Fisher makes in this video, but a quick perusal demonstrates that I’ve addressed all of them before at one time or another. I’m more interested in Fisher’s attitude, which is exemplified by this passage:

When you enter the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., you see an inscription that says “The first to perish were the children…. From these a new dawn might have risen.”71

The loss of compassion and, then, freedom in any society always begins with people looking the other way when those in power justify exploiting a vulnerable minority for what they say is the benefit of the majority.

Yep, because vaccination and the issues of risk-benefit analyses for various vaccines are just like the Holocaust and vaccinating children is just like the Nazi T4 euthanasia program, which is what the inscription cited by Fisher is referring to. Yes, indeed. I’m surprised that Fisher restrained herself from explicitly likening vaccine manufacturers and doctors promoting vaccination to Hitler. Of course, that’s what she just implicitly did. In fact, it occurs to me: This video is excellent ammunition to use against the NVIC antivaccine ads in Times Square this New Year’s Eve. It’s also the “compassion gambit” writ large, in which any criticism of promoters of vaccine pseudoscience is spun as a lack of compassion for children with autism or other severe conditions that people like Fisher incorrectly attribute to “vaccine injury.”

Both of these examples from Mercola.com are also examples of what I mean by “antivaccine.” Mercola bobs and weaves, twisting the actual scientific evidence into pretzels in order to support his preexisting notion that vaccines are useless and harmful, while Fisher likens vaccination programs to the Nazi T4 euthanasia program. This particular Nazi atrocity, as you recall, was a precursor to the death camps and was intended to kill disabled and developmentally delayed children who were deemed “life unworthy of life.” In both cases, vaccines are viewed as evil, a plot designed to dominate and control, a means of making our children sick (although why the government would want to make our children sick is something I could never figure out). No matter what the scientific evidence says, to people like Mercola and Fisher, it’s first and foremost all about the vaccines. It’s always been all about the vaccines. No matter what new science is done, it will always be all about the vaccines.

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]

126 replies on “Two examples of “antivaccine””

But David, anti-vaccine (or anti-semetic, or anti-science) is what you call anyone you consider a heretic, i.e. anyone who disagrees with your religion.

No use lying about. I know your arse-kissers all buy it, but the rest of us know this is true.

Orac, thank you for writing about the flu vaccine’s effect on the elderly: I so often hear various woo-boosters pooh-pooh the vaccine as being “in-effective” for them. Going against medical advice and all reason. It makes me want to scream because people *listen* to these idiots.

My father lived until a very advanced age with serious heart conditions: he didn’t die of the flu or pneumonia (for which he was vaccinated) but of *ventricular tachycardia* ( not preventable by vaccines) in 2001. My aunt died of the flu, unvaccinated, aged 90 in 2002.

Had a doctor’s appointment today. got a flu shot.
So, when can I expect the first symptoms of Autism ? According to Jenny McCarthy (any relation to Charlie?)
I should have immediately experienced mental deficit and social withdrawal. Must take longer in some victims.

“although why the government would want to make our children sick is something I could never figure out”

not just one government, either. Governments all over the planet, with all sorts of political, medical, and economic systems, all want to make children sick or kill them.

[email protected]…the gummint wants to make our sojers sick too, that’s why all active duty personnel are required (no waivers for you, lance corporal) to follow a comprehensive schedule of vaccines. Including seasonal flu.

Gotta be a plot by that atheist Nazi Kenyan mooslim and his New World Order masters to weaken the forces of democracy!

Orac:

It might well be that the relative risk of getting measles in vaccinated teens compared to unvaccinated teens has declined to too low a difference in Quebec. As epidemiologists point out, if that’s true, then it’s not evidence that the vaccine is ineffective. It’s evidence suggesting a reappraisal of how the MMR vaccine is given. In any case, the MMR is still pretty potent, based on the numbers cited by Mercola itself.

I remember reading a news article that the outbreak was prompting an evaluation of the MMR schedule used by Quebec. The Health Canada Immunization Schedule has an option of getting both MMR vaccines before the age of two, very unlike the schedule south of its border. I am not Canadian, but I married into a Canadian family. Even I get tired of folks like Mercola thinking Canada is just a suburb of the USA and forget that there are some very significant differences especially with legal, political and health care policies.

Well, in my family’s case vaccines must have caused the ADHD in my side of the family and the spectrum symptoms on my husband’s side of the family. Apparently the vaccines only affected his siblings, his father and his father’s brother. His mother’s family was mercifully unaffected by The Evil Vaccines.

I believe you can inherit a lot more than eye color and astigmatism. Spontaneous mutations also happen, as well as translocations and deletions.

Genetics certainly make more sense than vaccines. I’d expect a fairly random distribution of autism if it was solely due to vaccines. The one mother who has three autistic girls – has anyone calculated the odds of that RANDOMLY happening if it was due to vaccines? One – could be. Two of three – wow the incidence of autism in females is low compared to males. Three of three – I think the odds are roughly one in one million IF autism was due to something completely random.

I encounter a lot of things that make me go “hmm…..” in the anti vaccine world.

I was amused back in October when Mike Adams complained that:

most people think that “60% effectiveness” means that for every 100 people injected with the flu shot, 60 of them won’t get the flu.

In fact almost 99 of 100 people getting the flu vaccine won’t get the flu, so by Adams’ standards it’s much more effective than the 60% figure implies! I find it even more amusing to see Joe Mercola getting his math in a similar twist over this (I don’t expect much of poor Mike Adams as he clearly isn’t very bright – remember that mouse study he thought proved astrology works?).

Incidentally, the fact that only 3% of unvaccinated people got the flu in each season is interesting. That means that each of us can expect to get the flu only once every 33 years, on average. That goes a long way to explaining the anecdotes of people who tell us that they haven’t had the flu since they started taking [insert supplement, herb or magical substance of your choice] every day.

No seriously, vaccines are not 100% safe as you suggest. Reading the insert is a good idea and should be encouraged. I think all sides of the issue should encourage reading the insert. I get very sick every time I take a vaccine. Its not worth it. I’d rather just get the disease. I’m serious. Kudos to you for being so much better than me and not having any side effects. But its not like that for everyone and people should be informed of the harm a vaccine can cause.

What Mike Adams is saying is that in a particular study 60% effective means it’ll prevent the flu in 1.5 persons out of a hundred. The other 98 people who took the shot will or will not get the flu regardless of the shot they took. There is certainly more to it than simply slapping a label saying it is 60% effective without explaining how the number was cooked up.

He explains it very nicely. I don’t understand why you have a problem with that.

Don’t stop there, Angela! There are so many other comment threads where you can spam the same commemt!

I haven’t gotten the flu because…

I don’t get The Flu. I get a mild head cold, some sniffles and that’s it. The full body ache? No. Vomiting? Nope. Nausea? Nada. Diarrhea? Negative. Flat on my back in bed for days or weeks? Hasn’t happened in my lifetime.

I blame my genetics. I asked my family this year: “When was the last time you were sick with the flu.”. The answers varied between “a long time ago” or “I can’t remember.”. None of us gets an annual flu vaccine regularly. I’ve had both children down with the hit-by-a-truck flu, presumably H1N1, while I was fully functional. Colds cause me more distress than The Flu.

Maybe it’s my amazingly healthy diet? My daily exercise? The immune enhancing supplements I take? Meditation? Can’t be. My diet is mediocre, I get occasional exercise and I take no supplements. My daily meditation is “Gee, I should really get off my butt more.”.

On the not so good side, this means that instead of staying holed up at home while I am “sick”, I am out in public possibly spreading flu where ever I go.

I’m peeved my children apparently haven’t inherited this resistance.

Some people don’t get the flu because they simply don’t get the same symptoms as everyone else. If I was prone to spending up to 2 weeks every year sick and barely functional, I’d probably rush to get the vaccine the week it was available. (Or if I still worked in a hospital where flu vaccines were free and convenient.)

Orac,

I’d like to know what your background in math is. I have graduate degrees in mathematics and I don’t see anything wrong with anything I have read from Joseph Mercola nor Mike Adams. Perhaps you can explain how you are so qualified to criticize something that is perfectly sound to everyone else.

Julio

Julio, do you have any details, or are you just here to beat us over the head with a degree?

@Julio

“..perfectly sound to everyone else.”

Speak for yourself, son. I have a graduate degree in epidemiology and biostatistics, and I can see bullsh*t all over the place in anti-vax screeds.

How do you like them apples?

If as you say, vaccines really work. Then save yourself the trouble of writing this article and arguing with people who disagree and just worry about your own damn vaccine!!

@ Julio

I would like to know where you graduated in mathematics. Apparently, statistics and their interpretation were not a big part of your program.

The logic in the numbers are perfectly fine. I don’t see what bullsh*t you are referring to. There is nothing wrong with the calculations they made.

@Roderick

We also worry about the people who will be misinformed by anti-vaccine propaganda, those who will choose not to vaccinate and pay dearly for it. Just look at the Somali community in Minnesota. They were told by antivaxers that they shouldn’t vaccinate and they had a measles outbreak that was sizeable and costly. That’s why we fight the misinformation.

Contrary to what you may believe, it’s nothing personal.

“Angela,” “Julio,” and “Roderick” are sockpuppets. Sockpuppetry is one of the few reasons I ever ban anyone. This is the only warning there will be.

Glad to see Julio acknowledging his failure to learn while earning a degree in mathematics.

@Ren

All that NVIC is suggesting is to get informed about benefits and risks of vaccines. If through the process someone decides vaccines is not for them, then it is un-American to force someone to do so otherwise. Taking away alternate means of information is also un-American. Ren, I know you want to rule the world because you know so much better than all the rest of us and we are all so damn stupid. The word is respect. Respect other people capability and right to make their own decisions.

We were told a decade ago that Hormone Replacement was perfectly safe. Now we are told its a different story and that it carries a significant risk of breast cancer. No matter how much you believe in whatever anyone is saying. It may end up not being true in the end. People should to make their own decision on whether to inject aluminum, mercury, MSG, and aborted fetal tissue into their bodies especially in a time when pharmaceutical facilities keep coming up with larger and larger court decision against them for negligence and failure to adhere to regulatory procedures resulting in questionable product given to the consumer. Even if vaccines are perfect, the risk associated with its manufacturing appears to be getting greater and greater. I should be allowed to choose whether I want to take the risk.

Not you, not anyone else, should make that choice for them.

Let’s play with numbers, shall we?

Let’s say that we had 98 cases of measles in a school, and that 52 (53%) of those cases were immunized. That means that 46 (47%) of those cases were no immunized. So the vaccine doesn’t work, right? Well, it’s all about proportions.

See, the 52 immunized cases are a subset of the 90% who are immunized. The 46 non-immunized cases are a subset of the 10% who are not immunized.

We don’t know what X (the total number of kids in the population) is, but we can replace any number and the difference in proportions will still be the same. So let’s say that there were 1,000 students. That means 900 are immunized and 100 are not immunized.

So which is bigger, 52/900 or 46/100? Don’t strain yourself (Julio), 46/100 is .46 while 52/900 is 0.06. In this theoretical population (based on an actual outbreak), children with measles are 7.6 times more likely to be un-immunized (if we do a case-control study). You can replace any number, really…

500? 52/450 is bigger than 46/50… Seven-point-six times bigger.

So, take the vaccine and be seven times less likely to get measles, or don’t take it and be seven times more likely to get it.

*Drops the chalk and walks away.*

Not that I LIKE statistics, but I feel that a few courses in that field would help me decipher studies faster and better.

On the other hand, I don’t believe every number someone presents. I spent years reading political blogs where various factions cherry picked data to compare, analyze and use to support their particular narratives.

My first focus is on The Narrative. Then I look for data manipulation, misinterpretation and so on. The more someone has to massage the available data to fit The Narrative, the less I believe it. The more someone insists that a study unconditionally supports a claim, the less I believe it. I may not know much about statistics, but I know what a Margin Of Error is.

Translation: Nothing is 100% certain.

Science says “This is how much we know, and THIS is how much we don’t know.”
Zealots say “This we know and we know this with complete and utter certainty! There is NO DOUBT!”.

Orac:

“Angela,” “Julio,” and “Roderick” are sockpuppets.

It also shows that person’s level of honesty. I suspect the graduate degree in mathematics is from the University of Google.

If vaccines caused autism, we’d see similar symptoms in the domestic animals we vaccinate.

We don’t.

Joe also seems to misunderstand herd immunity, which is not surprising, given that he relies on Barbara Loe Fisher as his information source. Read Mark Crislip, a real infectious disease specialist, instead. Barbara Loe Fisher lays down a swath of burning stupid, too, about how “natural immunity” is better:

Ahh…Mark Crislip…he’s far too busy looking for herd immunity of smallpox between 1971 and 1980. How about your own understanding of herd immunity, Orac? Let’s find out, shall we?

Sure, all you have to do to get that natural immunity against measles is to accept the risk of encephalitis and possible death.

Herd immunity for those who survived, no?

To get that “natural” immunity against pertussis, all you have to do is to get pertussis. If you’re a baby, you’ll suffer with coughing so severe that it causes pain and you can’t catch your breath, not to mention a distinct possibility of hospitalization, secondary pneumonia, or death.

Which will result to herd immunity for the survivors, no?

But, hey, “natural immunity” is worth it, right? It never ceases to amaze me that parents who insist that vaccines be absolutely, positively, 100% safe will blithely subject their children to the risk of serious complications and death in search of that “natural immunity” when the risk of vaccination is so incredibly low. It boggles the mind.

Well, it boggles my mind as well as you don’t have any established definition of herd immunity, Orac. Well? No hyperlink means $#!+.

If vaccines caused autism, we’d see similar symptoms in the domestic animals we vaccinate.

I don’t know…I’ve seen some pretty strange cow behaviour…

…but we can probably blame that on genetics (i.e. the genes that code for being a cow in the first place). 🙂

As an aside, what is it with cranks and their linking of mainstream science to the Nazis? Is there an internet rule about this, like Godwin_Plus?

Well, it boggles my mind as well as you don’t have any established definition of herd immunity, Orac. Well? No hyperlink means $#!+.

Where are the time goes to avoiding getting itty bitty bits for them into from the virus not fit in the deaths for the whine?

Here’s the thing that gets me about “natural immunity”: what about those diseases where you only get one go-round? Let’s take Hep B as an example. You get it, you’ve got it. Period. You never “get over” it, so it isn’t protecting you, it’s making you sick.

Or herpes. (Chickenpox! Shingles!) Yes, you don’t get chickenpox again, but the virus is still there, hanging out in your nerves.

Or tetnus? I mean, you might survive a mild case with good, modern supportive care, but you might not.

Or rabies? How many known cases are there where the patient survived without prophylatic IgG?

These “natural immunity” folks have an unhealthy attachment to the idea “that which does not kill me makes me stronger,” and to hell with everyone it does kill.

“”Angela,” “Julio,” and “Roderick” are sockpuppets.”

Dangit, just when I was starting to believe in a race of “extremely intelligent” antivaxers, jammed full of advanced degrees in math, education etc. yet unaccountably prone to lapses in critical thinking, not to mention susceptibility to horrifically bad grammar and punctuation.

Count me OUT for “natural immunity” to rabies and tetanus.

Both diseases are horrible and usually fatal. Surviving them requires prompt diagnosis and intensive medical intervention.

I’m not particularly interested in acquiring “natural immunity” to other vaccine preventable diseases. Covered in pox or a head to toe rash, or worse yet acquiring rubella while pregnant…I want NO part of that.

I keep wondering how many unvaccinated girls will reach child bearing age without gaining “natural immunity” to rubella. A potentially asymptomatic viral infection that can lead to stillborn or badly damaged infants? No thank you, no thank you, NO THANK YOU!

Have Ob-Gyns encountered pregnant women with no immunity to rubella?

@JustaTech

Actually, there is evidence to indicate that since the Chickenpox vaccine is a live virus vaccine, it can actually cause more cases of shingles than not getting the vaccine.

Here’s the link:

http://drtenpenny.com/chickenpox_elderly.aspx

And here’s a quote from the link:

“The researchers worked out a mathematical model that predicts that eliminating chickenpox in a country the size of the United States would prevent 186 million cases of the disease and 5,000 deaths over 50 years. However they said it could also result in 21 million more cases of shingles and 5,000 deaths.”

I have never heard anyone in the informed consent campaign suggesting that people who want to get vaccinated to not do so. In fact, all I have seen is people suggesting that others be informed. I don’t have a problem if you want to get vaccinated even though vaccine shedding is a real risk of infection from vaccinated people to unvaccinated people. I trust enough in eating healthy and other healthful means that I don’t worry about this sort of thing. That’s my choice. I have better things to do than impose on others’ choice. I am simply here to defend my right to choose which is a freedom that we are at risk of losing. All vaccines carry a risk. All pharmaceutical products carry a risk. With pharmaceutical products being at the height of manufacturing malpractice, even if vaccines were as safe as they are made out to be, there is a real risk of manufacturing defect that this country cannot seem to keep control over. I don’t see how anyone should enforce on me a vaccine with such a questionable outcome…But if you want to take the vaccine, go ahead. I believe it is a choice for the individual as is encouraged by everyone else in the informed consent campaign.

Anj – I never had rubella as a child, and there wasn’t a vaccine when I was growing up, but I went ahead and got the vaccine a couple of years ago so that I couldn’t spread it to pregnant women. It seems to me that sometimes we should get vaccines to protect other people as well as ourselves.

Ralph R, do try something that is not Sherri Tenpenny. You are going to have to debate with real science from researchers who know what they are doing.

Plus, you are using the Nirvana Fallacy: nothing is 100% safe. But the data show that the vaccines are much safer than the diseases. If you have evidence to the contrary then please post the actual scientific documentation (an example in included in this comment, try to find it).

Justatech, apparently there is no such thing as “naturally acquired” immunity from tetanus. It is just like the strep bacteria, it hides from the immune system.

Also, another bacterial infection, pertussis, does not confer permanent immunity after you spend three months trying to cough up your lungs:
Pediatr Infect Dis J. 2005 May;24(5 Suppl):S58-61.
Duration of immunity against pertussis after natural infection or vaccination.

Which says:

A review of the published data on duration of immunity reveals estimates that infection-acquired immunity against pertussis disease wanes after 4-20 years and protective immunity after vaccination wanes after 4-12 years.

@Lyr

I have to say that I have seen autistic-like behavior in dogs, but I usually attribute that to not breeding for proper temperament. They sell Anxiety Wrap vests for dogs to help calm anxiety prone dogs. I saw that and thought “Gee, that’s exactly what they use for ASD children.”.

I think that purebred dogs are a fantastic resource for genetic research because they have so very many documented genetic disorders. Look up autoimmune disorders of Tolling Retrievers for an excellent example.

If there is an incidence of autistic-like symptoms in purebred dogs, we should be investigate it! It’s likely that we could find genetic causes for a disorder in a closed gene pool. Whether this information will have any use in similar disorders for humans remains to be seen.

(Yes there are anti-vaxxers among pet owners. Despite the real risks of diseases like parvo, distemper and rabies, Natural Rearing insists that dogs do not need vaccines to protect them.)

@Rebecca

FYI: You may be doing more harm than good depending on the vaccine that you are taking. There is such a thing as vaccine shedding that will cause a vaccinated person to spread the virus to unvaccinated people.

Here is a link to the article:

http://insidevaccines.com/wordpress/2008/02/24/secondary-transmission-%EF%BB%BFthe-short-and-sweet-about-live-virus-vaccine-shedding/

Here is a quote from the article:

“Shedding is when the live virus that is injected via vaccine, moves through the human body and comes back out in the feces, droplets from the nose, or saliva from the mouth. Anyone who takes care of the child could potentially contract the disease for some time after that child has received certain live vaccines. This was a huge problem with the oral polio vaccine, and was one of the reasons why it was taken off the market in the US.”

Ralph R:

There is such a thing as vaccine shedding that will cause a vaccinated person to spread the virus to unvaccinated people.

No, sorry, not a good reference. Do show post the title, journal and title of the study indexed in PubMed that shows that the current MMR vaccine sheds and causes illness in others.

And before you post again, please read the advice Liz Ditz posted: Pablo’s First Law of Internet Discussion. Basically, this is a science blog, so you should actually respond with real science as evidence.

RalphR @39

That article you ‘cited’ is one of the most disingenuous pieces of garbage I have read in quite a while. I laughed. Then I cried.

None of the points raised by that article, nor any of its twisting of the journal articles cited therein, is new to any of us.

We’ve seen it all here before, and dealt with these very points on numerous occasions. You are dealing with real scientists here. We know how to critically analyze research and come to reasonable conclusions, rather than copy and paste from an article we read. You’d best give up while your mythos remains intact.

Have Ob-Gyns encountered pregnant women with no immunity to rubella?

Is that rhetorical?

AdamG, Inside Vaccines is a site that is notorious for cherry picking and misrepresentations (Deetee sometimes comments here).

(I see you are local to me, do you go to the local Skeptics Meetup? I need to start going again, but a set evening thing kept me away for a while.)

Oh. My. God. I just figured it out. The antivaxxers and the provaxxers are on the same side! It’s like pro wrestling! Their shared goal is to create an environment so hostile and distrustful that there will never be any way for the average person to know what to believe! What I hear from all you folks is “Look at the facts!” “They’re lying!” “They’re injuring children!” “Oh, gawd, we’ve got to stop them by any means necessary! Let’s just say whatever the f*** we feel like it!” Antivaxxers and provaxxers sound exactly alike to me and many other parents I’ve talked to. Keep it up. You will ensure that people remain confused. My guess is that vaccination rates will continue to drop. I’m being sarcastic (just to fit in here), but truly you seem much more interested in entertaining yourselves than educating or facilitating debate. (cue attack on me and finger pointing) A pox on both your houses.

Gabe, do you have a point?

What is wrong for asking for data? I want to know what evidence the newbies here are using, yet I have seen very little produced. What I have seen are random blog posts, a forum posting and one paper that did not say what the person thought it said.

So, really, what is wrong with asking for the evidence?

Gabe:

Antivaxxers and provaxxers sound exactly alike to me and many other parents I’ve talked to.

While we’re sharing anecdotes, here’s mine. When I was first married (almost nine years ago), I frequented a message board that had a few “mother warrior” types (and a few other credulous members) who tried to insist that vaccinations were very, very bad and that thimerosal was causing autism, etc. I had no strong opinion of vaccines – they were something I basically took for granted – but what they said just didn’t sound right. It took very little research from reputable sources to confirm my suspicions and demonstrate that vaccines are in fact quite safe and not responsible for any of the conditions that anti-vaxxers blame them for. That was how, even before my wife and I began thinking about having children, we decided that we were not going to withhold vaccines from our children simply because some people had unwarranted fears about them.

But you know what one of the biggest differences was between the anti-vax members and others who perhaps could be called “pro-vax”? The former always countered my skepticism with “Well, you need to do more research,” while the latter helped find credible sources of information on the topic. It was very clear to me that the two sides were not equivalent.

And even though there are some commenters here who like to have a little fun at the expense of rabid anti-vaxers who come in and spew the same talking points that have been refuted over and over, I think it is also quite clear to any fair-minded individual that the anti-vaxers who drop in and the regular RI commenters who counter them are not simply two extreme sides of the same coin. From one side, you get vast conspiracies and claims of intentional harm, and from the other side, you get peer-reviewed research and expert opinions. This is simply a false equivalence.

Chris, people feet really tired, generally speaking of you/science bloggers’ admission that “vaccines have risks, side effects” but you have very little to say about those risks and quite frankly that’s because most of the studies you and people like Offit refer to are bad science. Really. Like looking at vaccination uptake in one city and incidence of autism spectrum disorders in another (Fombonne). Like adding in outpatient diagnosis of autism later in a study so it looks like thimerosal removal actually causes problems! (Madsen). You can say all you want that there are ethical problems with doing a vaccinated VS unvaccinated study but people are starting to notice that funny, any study such as Hewitsen’s showing some problems with vaccinating primates gets pulled from a pharma journal. Wakefield gets skewered in a way that people like Thorsen never will be even though he has been indicted for fraud and done fraudulent studies. It would all be comical if it wasn’t so sad. Also, forget about the whole “vaccines aren’t money-makers’ gambit. They are a huge growth market. My parents are being pestered to take statins lately by their doc and they are feeling frustrated by that even though they do not fall into the group who would clearly benefit from them and they have done just fine at 81 and 84. People are sick of the crap.

Jen, do you have a point?

First let me just point out the entire fallacy of your whining by asking you if you think John Salamone was more or less effective than Barbara Loe Fisher.

Also, you have still not pointed a critique of any of those studies from a qualified source. When are you going to post a review indexed in PubMed from someone who is not a journalist or venture capitalist? (oh, and Hewitson had a conflict of interest)

Like good all good little AoA sheeple, you just parrot what they write and don’t look any further.

@Jen

It would be refreshing if you happened to, I dunno, go out and learn a thing or two about science. Instead of spouting the same tired points over and over, being shown how you are wrong and asked for original opinions of your own, rather than simply regurgitating what you’ve read at Age of Autism, try bringing something new to the table.

Gabe
I’m assuming you’re new. I’m a lurker who has watched these threads unfold for some time and learn something nearly very thread. Sit back. Relax. TAKE IT IN!!!
If you really think both sides are confusing you, go back up to the top of the thread and reread it. If that doesn’t help, I’m sorry for you.
Da Robb

“Also, forget about the whole ‘vaccines aren’t money-makers’ gambit. They are a huge growth market. My parents are being pestered to take statins lately by their doc and they are feeling frustrated by that…”

Statins are vaccines? I learn something new every day on Respectful Insolence.

Or possibly Jen is just throwing out random sentences that have nothing to do with each other.

“Wakefield gets skewered in a way that people like Thorsen never will be even though he has been indicted for fraud and done fraudulent studies.”

What is the basis for your claim that Thorsen has “done fraudulent studies”? Citation needed, if you please. “My friends and I don’t like the results” does not constitute a valid basis for this claim.

The last time someone mentioned a “Thorsen” study I asked which ones he was the first or last author of… the reply was reminiscent of the silence being broken by the faint sound of crickets chirping.

Ralph R wrote:

Here is a quote from the article:

“Shedding is when the live virus that is injected via vaccine, moves through the human body and comes back out in the feces, droplets from the nose, or saliva from the mouth. Anyone who takes care of the child could potentially contract the disease for some time after that child has received certain live vaccines.

My middle-school kid was able to understand that exposure to (via shedding of) the attenuated viruses that are contained in the few live-virus vaccines included in today’s pediatric vaccine schedule should enhance immunity without causing serious cases of the diseases that are associated with more virulent wild-type viruses. Why are you unable to grasp that obvious point? Do your parents know that you are using their computer?

Jen,
I patiently explained to you back in February that you were mistaken about the Madsen study, that the addition of outpatients didn’t affect the results and that it is explicitly stated in the study that the rates increase with or without the outpatient data. Have you forgotten, is there some reason you disagree with what I explained before, or would you like me to explain it all again?

There is an undeniable correlation between the administration of vaccines and death.
Do a mathematical correlation between the administration of vaccine and the onset of death after only 50 years.
It’s frightening. It’s even worse if you go out to 60 years.

Krebiozen, I’ll take “I really hoped that nobody would remember and leave that chestnut unchallenged” for $200.

SillyPutty, can I play? Can we narrow the set down to those under 8 years of age?

Can I?

[email protected] — If you consider the vaccines given in infancy, the really alarming effects on the death rate don’t cut in until you get out to, oh, 70 or 80 years. And by the time you get to 100 years, well, I don’t even want to think about it.

Also, forget about the whole ‘vaccines aren’t money-makers’ gambit. They are a huge growth market. My parents are being pestered to take statins lately

There are enough non-secateurs here to fill an entire non-garden shed.

LW:
What is the basis for your claim that Thorsen has “done fraudulent studies”? Citation needed, if you please. “My friends and I don’t like the results” does not constitute a valid basis for this claim.

You (and Chris, and Krebiozen) evidently do not understand that as soon as Jen used the magical word ‘Thorsen’, she automatically won the argument. No further details were required. The name has apotropaic powers, apparently.

Do a mathematical correlation between the administration of vaccine and the onset of death after only 50 years.
It’s frightening. It’s even worse if you go out to 60 years.

Hehehehehe…
How about:
Do a mathematical correlation between the year of birth and the onset of death after only 50 years.
It’s frightening. It’s even worse if you go out to 60 years.!!111!!!

Chris, I didn’t mean for it to look like I was replying specifically to you.

Christian Cynic, well, yes, my comments about my experience are anecdotal. But i don’t think it is a false equivalency. You are free, of course, to disagree. People always think that they’re right, and that that makes the way they communicate their information irrelevant. But I just don’t think that’s a realistic way to look at how people seek out and process information. You and your wife made a certain decision based on how you interpreted the information you found. Other people do the same thing, but come to different conclusions than you do. It’s been my experience that antivaxxers also, and frequently, tell people to do more research. The word sheep gets thrown around a lot no matter who’s talking. The one thing I’m trying to address here is the atmosphere that’s being created. What I’m saying is that in this atmosphere, where people can’t turn anywhere for information without watching a mudfight, it becomes less and less important who is right because no one can trust anyone. For instance, you couldn’t resist using the word “credulous” to describe other parents. Antivaxxers use that sort of language, too. I’ve also seen people been told to do more research, then when they did, been criticized for not having the credentials to understand science! Most of us aren’t scientists. We have to rely on people we trust. Most people find it harder to know whom to trust in the midst of a shitstorm. The reason for that is that, I think, (warning! Opinion!) people who do have the truth on their side don’t have to resort to nastiness. Being “right” doesn’t give anyone license to be an incredibly bad communicator. I still say all of you are at cross purposes with yourselves. You are squandering the opportunity to do some good, if you really are as right as you
say. Of course, if your purpose is to scream at people you will never convince and strive for the applause of people who already agree with you, you’re doing a great job.

Chris, I didn’t mean for it to look like I was replying specifically to you.

Christian Cynic, well, yes, my comments about my experience are anecdotal. But i don’t think it is a false equivalency. You are free, of course, to disagree. People always think that they’re right, and that that makes the way they communicate their information irrelevant. But I just don’t think that’s a realistic way to look at how people seek out and process information. You and your wife made a certain decision based on how you interpreted the information you found. Other people do the same thing, but come to different conclusions than you do. It’s been my experience that antivaxxers also, and frequently, tell people to do more research. The word sheep gets thrown around a lot no matter who’s talking. The one thing I’m trying to address here is the atmosphere that’s being created. What I’m saying is that in this atmosphere, where people can’t turn anywhere for information without watching a mudfight, it becomes less and less important who is right because no one can trust anyone. For instance, you couldn’t resist using the word “credulous” to describe other parents. Antivaxxers use that sort of language, too. I’ve also seen people been told to do more research, then when they did, been criticized for not having the credentials to understand science! Most of us aren’t scientists. We have to rely on people we trust. Most people find it harder to know whom to trust in the midst of a shitstorm. The reason for that is that, I think, (warning! Opinion!) people who do have the truth on their side don’t have to resort to nastiness. Being “right” doesn’t give anyone license to be an incredibly bad communicator. I still say all of you are at cross purposes with yourselves. You are squandering the opportunity to do some good, if you really are as right as you
say. Of course, if your purpose is to scream at people you will never convince and strive for the applause of people who already agree with you, you’re doing a great job.

Gabe:

On the one hand we have an aggregate of people who support their claims with evidence provided by (inter)-national public health agencies and the body of epidemiological literature.

On the other hand, we have an aggregate of people who support their claims with garbage studies (eg. Wakefield et al 1998), misrepresentations of the evidence, outright fabrications, and patently ridiculous allegations of vast globe-spanning conspiracies.

So insisting that there exists some kind of false balance between the two on account of similarities in tone (although I defy you to find any mainstream science-based vaccine advocacy blog with the same kind of overall tone, as, say, Age of Autism) strikes me as entirely inappropriate.

Anj @34:

Have Ob-Gyns encountered pregnant women with no immunity to rubella?

Yes. Case in Sweden reported earlier this week. This one wasn’t due to anti-vaccination hysteria, just an woman’s bad luck to be born in a country where vaccination was rare, emigrated to Sweden, returned to country of origin and acquired the infection early in pregnancy. Actually, it’s her infant’s bad luck….

According to Medscape, a 2004 review found about 91% of the US population is immune.

The CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Report is the best source. For 2009: (the last year reported)

Two CRS cases were reported in the United States in 2009. Both infants were born during 2008 and officially reported to CDC after investigations of the cases were completed in 2009. The first case was in an infant born to a U.S. resident with a travel history to India and China during time of conception and early in her first trimester of pregnancy. The infant, with a syndrome clinically compatible with CRS, tested positive at birth for infection with rubella genotype 2B virus. The source of infection for the second CRS case reported in 2009 is unknown. This infant was born to a U.S. resident who reported no international travel during her pregnancy. The case was diagnosed by PCR testing at a commercial laboratory; however, specimens were not available for confirmation and genotyping at CDC. Neither an epidemiologic nor virologic link to an importation could be established (CDC, unpublished data).

As more undervaccinated women reach childbearing age, I imagine the incidence will go up, unless of course the undervaccinated women come to their senses and have the vaccine before attempting pregnancy.

It can become very frustrating for contributors to this blog with backgrounds in medicine, epidemiology, statistics or other sciences where critical appraisal of evidence is essential see other contributors just not “get it”. The truly aggravating thing is when they seem to have no idea of their lack of understanding of basic principles of scientific study. For the lay public these principles can be hard to grasp. So lets look at this in a different manner. For the anti-vaccers to be right you have to assume that 1000s of our brightest and well trained medical scientists are either willfully choosing to disregard their “evidence” or are not just bright enough to see their wisdom. Then you have to assume that virtually all governments have chosen the same path and just can’t see the light. Now if this isn’t enough you then have to accept that the most successful investor in history, Warren Buffett, who has only got where he is by critical analysis, and one of the most successful businessmen in history, Bill Gates, have also been taken in and foolishly invested their philanthropic fortunes into vaccination programs for the developping world. Forget the science for a moment and just step back and look at the big picture.

Gabe: “Oh. My. God. I just figured it out. The antivaxxers and the provaxxers are on the same side! It’s like pro wrestling! Their shared goal is to create an environment so hostile and distrustful that there will never be any way for the average person to know what to believe! What I hear from all you folks is “Look at the facts!” “They’re lying!” “They’re injuring children!” “Oh, gawd, we’ve got to stop them by any means necessary! Let’s just say whatever the f*** we feel like it!”

I dunno, Gabe. I figure that if a visitor who really is undecided or has serious unanswered questions reads Orac’s detailed and well-referenced articles, then visits the comments and takes advantage of similarly detailed, thoughtful and well-referenced answers, they’ll have an excellent opportunity to be convinced of the value of immunization.

On the other hand, if they are so hung up on tone that they ignore all the good and valuable information here in order to focus on sarcastic/snarky remarks, they likely are unable to get much out of a site like this and should instead visit straightforward info sites like the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia vaccine info section, or read good books like Arthur Allen’s “Vaccine”.
It’s possible that the freely expressed views here occasionally turn off an honest inquirer, but more often it seems that Offended Visitors are actually tone trolls with antivax sympathies, who couldn’t be convinced even if everyone bent over backwards to be polite 100% of the time.

Perhaps I was too terse in my response to Anj above. I was under the impression that prenatal screening for rubella immunity status was routine.

Gabe, I have a wife? What!? Wait until my husband finds out! I could really use one since I really really hate folding laundry.

I know you were not replying specifically to me, but it was a way to point out that you were generalizing.

For one thing, I am only an engineer and a mother of a kid who need herd immunity for pertussis when our county was having an outbreak (he has a few health issues, which is why I had to quit work). So my credentials are okay, but not stellar. In fact you can occasionally bemoan how clueless some engineers are (Gary Goldman of Medical Veritas, Andy Cutler of the Autism/Mercury Yahoo group and Amy Lansky who claimed to cure her kid from autism with homeopathy, despite the child never being formally diagnosed).

What I do insist on is a certain level of credentials in the scientists who do the research. So I will not accept medical research from a journalist or business administrator, nor someone who pretends to be a doctor. Many people here who are not scientists have learned how to look at science and are able to determine its merits, including at least one composer, a specialist in reading disorders and others.

The biggest difference is that we have open minds and are willing to learn. Would you like me to list the books I have read (some with the help of the local children’s hospital resource center) as I attempted to learn about my son’s seizures, speech/language disorders, psychological challenges, nuances of special education policies, and genetic cardiac issues? Be assured that absolutely none of the books were written by someone who acted on any stage.

Chris, I think the wife comment was directed at me, not you.

Gabe, most of your complaints are about tone, which I get but don’t find very compelling. You took me to task for using the word “credulous,” but that word accurately describes the people in question. For one, not all were parents, and the others I mentioned were also truthers – if that doesn’t clearly qualify, then we’re just getting too hung up on the word. It wasn’t a pejorative, but you took it that way on an assumption. That seems to cut against your supposed dispassionate attitude toward the topic.

But to the larger point: this is a polarizing issue. Emotions tend to run high. But when one side censors opposing views, tries to shout down reasoned arguments, and appeals to hidden conspiracies – while the other responds with at worst mockery and disdain for ridiculous and easily disproven arguments – then it should be obvious which side is more credible. There is no screaming from this side, and I don’t know where you got that. The equivalence is false, period.

Ooop, you are right, Christian Cynic. Well, it was a bit of fun, and my excuse is being tired. Though I did point out that the vaccine issue is very real for us.

“Perhaps I was too terse in my response to Anj above. I was under the impression that prenatal screening for rubella immunity status was routine.”

Testing for immunities against rubella and varicella are done during the first trimester, as is testing for HIV. Vaginal and rectal swabs are done ~ 36 weeks gestation to test for Group B strep colonization and if there is a positive culture for the bacterium, the woman will require IV antibiotics at the time of delivery.

When the pregnant woman is found to not have immunity against rubella and/or varicella, the vaccine(s) should be administered prior to leaving the birthing hospital…to protect any infant born subsequently from contracting the diseases in utero and being born with congenital rubella syndrome and/or congenital varicella syndrome.

Anj @ 34 (& Liz Ditz later): I received all available childhood vaccines; my mother was big on them having had polio herself. Before we decided to try for a baby (I was in my early 30s at the time) I was checked for rubella immunity – had none! So was revaccinated. Three years later (before trying for child #2) another check found – again – that I lacked any immunity to rubella, so was given another booster shot. I guess for whatever reason my immune system simply doesn’t respond particularly well to rubella antigen…

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