Despicable: A parents’ guide to blaming the death of their child on vaccines

When I first started this blog, I had little idea of what I was in for. I thought I had some idea from having read a bunch of blogs and found role models whose blogging style I tried to emulate back in those early days, long before I developed the persona and writing style that most of my readers love and quacks and antivaccinationists really hate. Now that I’ve been at it for nearly eight years, there’s very little that surprises me. Much of the quackery, pseudoscience, and nonsense that I see is stuff that I’ve seen before and possibly blogged about multiple times before. I’m starting to see recurrent patterns in scientific studies that catch my attention as well. Arguably, the form of pseudoscience that I address the most frequently on this blog is antivaccine pseudoscience and quackery. Ever since I dived into it in a big way back in 2005, I’ve been coming back to it again and again. As a consequence, if there’s a form of pseudoscience in existence where I think I’ve seen it all, it’s antivaccine pseudoscience. Having seen antivaccinationists advocate the chemical castration of autistic children to facilitate the chelation of mercury (from vaccines, fo course) and seriously claim that shaken baby syndrome is really a misdiagnosis for vaccine injury, I am no longer easily surprised or shocked.

This next bit both shocks and surprises me. Just when I thought I had seen just how low antivaccinationists can go, they go lower. They go so low that subterranean doesn’t even begin to describe it. I’m referring to a vile little article I saw on the SaneVax website. SaneVax, as you might recall, is an antivaccine group with a particularly visceral hatred of the HPV vaccine (i.e., Gardasil), so much so that it spreads misinformation and pseudoscience far and wide about it, painting it as the most dangerous thing since Nazi gas chambers. (Yes, the Nazi allusion is intentional, because that’s how over-the-top SaneVax is in its rhetoric.) Whether it’s trying to blame a death that was most likely due to a congenital heart problem on Gardasil, claiming that childhood vaccines are contaminating children’s DNA with HPV DNA through “microcompetition,” promoting truly awful review articles trying to blame aluminum adjuvants for all manner of ills, claiming there are “pesticide chemicals” in vaccines, or teaming with a “brave maverick” pathologist in order to spread antivaccine fear mongering, few antivaccine groups bring the crazy home as powerfully as SaneVax. Indeed, SaneVax even gives that wretched hive of scum and antivaccine quackery, Age of Autism, a run for its money.

In an article by Norma Erickson, President SaneVax Inc. & Catherine J Frompovich, who bills herself as a “Consumer Health Researcher & Author,” I just saw how low SaneVax can go. AoA, you really need to crank up the crazy if you’re going to compete with this. Even Jake Crosby will be hard-pressed to top this. The article was announced earlier this week and is entitled A Parent’s Guide: What to do if your child dies after vaccination. And, yes, it’s exactly, what the title says it is. The not-so-dynamic duo justify the “need” for such an article thusly:

Vaccine-related deaths are considered such a rare event medical personnel/coroners receive no training to help them recognize telltale signs/symptoms, leaving survivors forever questioning the unexplained death of their child. This is not acceptable.

The SaneVax Team is pleased to announce the pending publication of A Parents’ Guide: What to do if your child dies after vaccination, on August 22, 2012 via VacTruth.com and SaneVax.org. The guide was created by consumer health researcher and author, Catherine J. Frompovich, and President of SaneVax Inc., Norma Erickson in response to multiple inquiries from parents, medical professionals and attorneys who were looking for a means to establish a causal relationship between vaccines and serious adverse outcomes.

The article is also crossposted at VacTruth.com.

Before I get to the actual article, let’s take a look at one other argument that Erickson uses to justify the need for this:

Consider the following:

The VAERS database was established in 1990 to monitor the rate of adverse events occurring post-vaccination. Since that date an average of 217 deaths per year have been reported, or one every 40 hours. The CDC estimates only 1-10% of adverse events are reported.

  • At 10% reporting, a death after vaccination occurs every 4 hours for an average of 2,170 per year
  • At 1% reporting, a death after vaccination occurs every 24 minutes for an average of 21,700 per year

These startling figures alone demonstrate a dire need for such a guide. One has to wonder why ‘public servants’ employed at the CDC, National Institutes of Health and/or the FDA have not already provided such a guide to medical professionals, pathologists and coroners.

To which I retort: Consider the following. VAERS data reports are notoriously unreliable. Anyone can enter a report, and saying that a death occurred “after vaccination” doesn’t really tell us anything. Did it happen within minutes of vaccination? Within hours? Within days? Within weeks? In the world of antivaccinationists, it’s not infrequent for deaths occurring after vaccination to be blamed on the vaccine. Indeed, we just saw a case of this in New Zealand, where Jasmine Renata died months after her last dose of Gardasil and her mother is trying very hard to blame it on the vaccine. So already that figure of 217 deaths after vaccination is highly suspect and does not indicate causation. Now consider this: Erickson is trying to imply that the “true” number of vaccine-related deaths is somewhere between 2,170 and 21,700 a year. But how many children die in a year? According to government statistics, in 2007 there were approximately 33,000 total deaths of children aged three or under (chosen because that’s when children receive most of their vaccines and because the numbers decline to only a few hundred a year per age from ages 4 to 12 in the entire country). So what Erickson is trying to imply is that vaccines are causing a percentage of total childhood deaths that is completely implausible. For instance, let’s be as generous and look at the total number of childhood deaths between ages 0 and 19 in 2005 (53,501). Using that number, Erickson is implying that vaccines could be causing as much as 40% of all childhood deaths. It’s even worse than that, though, considering when vaccines are given and that a substantial fraction of childhood deaths (more than 30%) are due to trauma, which is the single largest cause of death in this age range. Even the looniest antivaccine loon can’t attribute traumatic deaths to vaccines. The looniest can, however, given how some of them already try to claim that shaken baby syndrome is a “misdiagnosis” for “vaccine injury.”

In addition, Erickson’s numbers don’t make sense, except in antivaccine land. When you consider that child mortality rates have fallen incredibly over the last 75 years and continue to do so, her argument doesn’t even make sense. Use antivaccine “logic,” in which the number of vaccines have skyrocketed over the last 20 years. If vaccines were as deadly as Erickson and Frompovich’s deeply ignorant argument implies, child mortality rates should not be decreasing; they should be increasing.

So what is the purpose of this “guide,” and what do our not-so-dynamic duo recommend? Basically, they recommend that parents be prepared in case their child dies after vaccination to push the coroner to do unnecessary tests in order to “prove” that the death was due to vaccination. I kid you not. That is what they recommend. They also state that the “mommy instinct” trumps science:

Parents should realize their gut instincts most often are correct, especially about their child whom they have been taking care of since birth. No one knows a child better than his/her mother. Ideally, parents will have documented any new health conditions their child experienced after receiving vaccinations, e.g., screaming fits, seizures, fevers, etc. That documentation will be most helpful later on.

There is nothing a parent can experience that is more traumatic than the death of a child. But, when a death tragically occurs shortly after vaccination, time is of the essence. Usually, the coroner is appointed by government authorities. Parents need to know they have every right to request the pathologist perform post mortem blood and tissue assays/analyses, and to preserve the samples and data they reveal. Parents may need an attorney’s legal help and/or intervention to get the proper tests performed. Nevertheless, parents have every legal right to request an autopsy be performed, including certain tests looking for toxins, similar to what is done in drug overdose deaths. Parents also have the right to request storage of samples for future tests that are developed as new scientific discoveries are made.

In other words, store samples from your dead child against the day that antivaccinationists think of new dubious tests to run to “prove” that vaccines caused the death. Get a lawyer to force the coroner to do an autopsy, whether it’s indicated or not. Then badger the coroner to run a whole bunch of tests unnecessary to identify the cause of death. Remember how I was discussing how antivaccine quacks have taken findings of alterations in indicators of immune function in autistic children to imply that autism is a condition of abnormal immune function due to—of course!—”insults to the immune system due to the evil vaccines! They blame vaccines enough that they are even willing to subject autistic children to autologous mesenchymal stem cells, which tend to be immunosuppressive.

Based on this idea, not well supported by science (a massive understatement), Frompovich and Erickson recommend badgering the coroner to draw a “cytokine panel” of a bunch of common cytokines. Many of these could be elevated by a wide variety of problems that have nothing to do with vaccines or the immune system. Many, such as tumor necrosis factor, interleukin-6 and -8, and fibrinogen can be elevated fairly nonspecifically in very ill people. If they are elevated in the blood of a child who died unexpectedly, it says close to nothing about whether the cause of death was due to vaccines, and they are likely to be elevated a lot. For instance, Erickson and Frompovich recommend measuring C-reactive protein because “if inflammation is high, that would indicate vaccines were to blame as a small infant or toddler could not generate such results) This would indicate severe brain inflammation.” There’s just one problem. C-reactive protein is nonspecific, although it does have some value in the diagnosis of sepsis in infants and children before cultures come back positive, and high CRP levels are correlated with bad outcomes. In other words, what Frompovich and Erickson are claiming is utter nonsense. One wonders who the “medical experts” they consulted were.

Our duo also suggests that blood and tissue be tested for the usual suspects the antivaccine movement accuses of being horrific “toxins” in vaccines, including mercury and aluminum. It is here that they deliver a real howler:

Test for formaldehyde and Formalin—in particular–which would come from vaccines. Even though the body manufactures a little formaldehyde, large amounts would implicate formaldehyde, or Formalin especially in vaccines.

It’s amazing that an antivaccinationist admits that the body actually does make a bit of formaldehyde as part of its normal metabolism. That in and of itself is a victory. On the other hand, from this passage you’d think that vaccines are the equivalent of injecting a quart of embalming fluid straight into the bloodstream. In fact, the maximum amount of formaldehyde that an infant can receive at one time through vaccines is five-fold less than the amount of formaldehyde commonly found in an infant’s bloodstream. At most, a bunch of vaccines could boost the amount of formaldehyde in an infant’s body by 20%, and then even not that much because formaldehyde is rapidly cleared from the bloodstream. The statement above about how finding large amounts of formaldehyde in a dead infant’s bloodstream could implicate vaccines as the cause of his death is, as they say, so wrong it’s not even wrong. It’s black-hole grade ignorance, sucking any semblance of actual science out of the room and bending the light of reason around it, so that no enlightenment can even come near it.

And I didn’t even mention how the article advises parents to get bone density tests on their dead infants to “prove/disprove” shaken baby syndrome. What does shaken baby syndrome have to do with whether or not vaccines killed a child? Nothing at all. It’s the resurrection of the vilest antivaccine lie of all: That shaken baby syndrome is a misdiagnosis for vaccine injury. It’s not worth going into the details, because it’s all nonsense, and I’m now thoroughly disgusted at just how disgusting this “parents’ guide” is.

Frompovich and Erickson promise to update their guide periodically “as pathologists and MDs report back to us what they feel is necessary to ascertain cause of death revolving around vaccine issues.” I can’t resist mentioning that pathologists are MDs. More importantly, what doctors contributed to this “guide”? Whoever they are (if they exist), the sheer scientific and medical ignorance in this guide should be prima facie evidence that they are not fit to practice medicine. However, I fear that there are some doctors like this. How they got that way, how they forgot everything about medicine and medical ethics, I don’t know, but they did. Or maybe there weren’t any doctors at all helping the authors. I don’t know. What I do know is that I can still be suprised by just how vile antivaccinationists can be. Apparently trying to exonerate baby killers from being convicted of shaking babies to death by blaming shaken baby syndrome on vaccines isn’t low enough. Now they have to prepare parents, in the fortunately highly unlikely event that they lose a child, to pounce and try to find “evidence” that vaccines killed their child.

I also have a hard time figuring out just who this whole guide is for. After all, the parents who would be most responsive to its message don’t vaccinate anyway. All this “guide” can do is sharpen the pain of parents who have already suffered one of the worst things anyone can suffer, the death of a child. Obviously, Erickson and Frompovich don’t care. Their only purpose is to demonize vaccines, and, as they just showed here, they will stop at nothing to do it.