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Has Dr. Oz become antivaccine? The answer would appear to be yes.


ORAC NOTE: I’ve added the links to the video segments, which are now up at the Dr. Oz website. I also did a screen grab of a certain really stupid thing that I noticed when I watched the segment but, because I was watching it on DVR, didn’t have the ability to show you. It’s near the end. Enjoy.

When last we left “America’s doctor,” Dr. Mehmet Oz, in June, he was having his posterior handed to him by Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) in a Senate hearing about the deceptive marketing of supplements in which his over-the-top promotion of supplements like Garcinia gambogia, green coffee bean extract, and raspberry ketone. It was an unexpected pleasure, not for Dr. Oz, obviously, but for skeptics who had been concerned when they had learned Dr. Oz was going to appear before the Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, which Sen. McCaskill chairs, that it would turn into a love-fest or a grandstanding opportunity for Dr. Oz. It wasn’t. In fact, even though at the end of his punishment Dr. Oz promised to clean up his act and tone down his overenthusiastic boosterism for supplements, without of course making any specific promises, I had little doubt that Dr. Oz would revert to his old ways as soon as the new season started.

I wasn’t wrong. In fact, I think I can now safely say that, in addition to the quackery and weight loss supplements that he promotes regularly on his show, Dr. Oz has started down the path to become antivaccine, if he’s not antivaccine already. Of course, I had seen rumblings of antivaccine proclivities coming from Dr. Oz before. For example, nearly five years ago, he was interviewed by Joy Behar, as noted on the antivaccine crank blog Age of Autism. During that interview, he admitted that his children had not received their flu shots during the H1N1 pandemic and strongly implied that his wife had been responsible, saying, “I`m in a happy marriage and my wife who makes most of the important decisions as most couples have in their lives who absolutely refuses.” Of course, at the time I knew that Oz’s wife is a reiki master and clearly heavily into quackery. Whether it was she who influenced Oz to go as far as he has into the wild world of woo or whether he discovered it himself, I don’t know. What I do know is that anyone who produces a segment like the one he produced on yesterday The Dr. Oz Show is well on his way to being antivaccine. What do I mean?

Take a look at the thimerosal segment on yesterday’s The Dr. Oz Show, and you’ll quickly see what I mean:

Dr. Oz had as guests on his show antivaccine loon Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and his partner in crime against vaccine science, “functional medicine” expert Dr. Robert Hyman, on his show in a credulous segment about the mercury-containing preservative thimerosal that buys into virtually every trope about mercury in vaccines promulgated by the antivaccine movement. The reason, of course, is because Kennedy and Hyman have a book out. It’s a book entitled Thimerosal: Let the Science Speak: Mercury Toxicity in Vaccines and the Political, Regulatory, and Media Failures That Continue to Threaten Public Health that I’ve discussed before in which, as I put it, Kennedy parties about thimerosal like it’s 1999.

To give you an idea what this segment was like, let me tell you how it was advertised and introduced. That’s almost all you need to know. Before the thimerosal segment, there was a somewhat useful segment about heart disease in women. (At least, there wasn’t anything objectionable from a medical standpoint in it.) After that segment concluded, there followed a teaser for the upcoming segment that blared:

Flu shots under fire. Why is a toxic ingredient that was banned lurking in your vaccine?

Things went downhill from there after the commercial break, when Oz introduced the thimerosal segment by describing RFK’s and Hyman’s book as a “controversial” new book that asks the question, “Why does the US government allow a toxin to be added to one of your most common medicines?” He then stated that two “world class leaders have come together to write a book that will change the way you think about the flu shot.” Ugh. “Controversy” is the wrong word. “Manufactroversy” is the right word.

Oz then went on to observe that vaccines have come “under a lot of fire in the medical community.” It was at this point that I wanted to reach through the screen and strangle Dr. Oz, its taking a major effort of will not to do so. (Such blatant stupidity has that effect on me, particularly dangerous antivaccine stupidity such as what Dr. Oz had just regurgitated to millions of viewers. Fortunately, I am not a violent person, but I’m sure anyone who’s pro-science will understand the momentary urge.) No, no, no, no! Vaccines have NOT come under a lot of fire from the medical community. The medical community is virtually universally supportive of vaccines. Rather, vaccines have come under fire from a number of misguided activists who mistakenly think, despite mountains of evidence to the contrary, that vaccines cause autism. They’ve also come “under fire” from quackery supporters like RFK, Jr., and, yes, Mark Hyman. In any case, in order to “clear the air,” Oz went on to ask Hyman and RFK whether they are antivaccine. I almost laughed when RFK said that he’s “fiercely pro-vaccine,” which, given the level of sheer pseudoscience, conspiracy mongering, and stupidity that he’s laid down over the last nine years on the topic, has to be either a lie or the most amazing case of self-delusion I’ve seen in a very long time or an outright lie. Hyman chimed in, assuring that he, too, is pro-vaccine, which is nonsense. If you’ve collaborated with a book with the likes of RFK, Jr. that lays down scads of pseudoscience, conspiracy mongering, and misinformation about vaccines, you’ve lost your right to call yourself pro-vaccine, or at least you’ve lost any expectation that people won’t laugh in your face when you do something as risible as claiming that you are not antivaccine.

Next followed a brief video about the history of the use of thimerosal in vaccines, which noted that thimerosal came to be suspected of causing autism in the 1990s. In fairness, the segment stated that the link between thimerosal-containing vaccines and autism has been discredited, but that was buried under sensationalistic fear mongering, with alarming images, the observation that the government got rid of thimerosal in vaccines because, “Better safe than sorry,” and the conspicuous notation that thimerosal is gone from childhood vaccines with the “glaring exception” of some flu vaccines, not to mention the claim that the EPA considers medical products containing thimerosal to be “hazardous waste,” decorated, naturally, a big picture of a biohazard symbol in the background. At one point, he displayed an Erlenmeyer flask full of what looked like liquid mercury, swirling the liquid metal, and then added the “mercury” into a beaker of water meant to represent a multi-use vial of vaccines to demonstrate how “mercury” is added to vaccines to prevent bacterial overgrowth that can occur as a result of bacterial seeding that can result from entering the vial with more than one needle. It’s one of the dumber visual demonstrations I’ve seen on The Dr. Oz Show, and that’s saying a lot. Thimerosal is not metallic mercury. One would think that Oz might have picked up a bit of organic chemistry in his premed courses or in medical school.

After the video, Hyman claimed that children receive just as much thimerosal now as they did in the old days because it’s in the flu shot. This is, of course, utter nonsense. Children get one flu vaccine a year. Many don’t even get thimerosal-containing versions of the vaccine; indeed, many receive a live attenuated influenza vaccine (LAIV) like FluMist, which is given intranasally. The hilarious thing about this segment is how much of a non-issue this is and has been since 2002 at least. RFK claimed that when he gets his flu vaccine he asks for the thimerosal-free version and that his doctor has no trouble keeping it in stock. Unfortunately, Hyman couldn’t resist chiming in to call mercury a “neurotoxin,” which it is, but not at the amounts and in the form received by infants from vaccines. He implied but didn’t explicitly state, that mercury at the level in vaccines could cause neurodevelopmental difficulties, which, as I’ve pointed out time and time again, using citations to large, well-designed studies to back me up, is simply not true.

One thing I do believe is the part where Dr. Oz described how he had polled his viewers with the question, “Do you trust that vaccines are safe?” and found that 65% of them said no. Given that this is a Dr. Oz audience, that’s not surprising at all, although it is still very depressing. This result led Dr. Oz to claim that the reason he did this segment on thimerosal is because he’s all about “restoring trust” in vaccines, as did Hyman, who says that he and RFK are all about getting people vaccinated and also restoring trust in vaccines, to which I say: Bullshit! Using such tactics to “restore trust” in the vaccine program is akin to showing flaming car crashes and dead victims in order to “restore trust’ in automobile safety.

You can see this in the part where Dr. Oz briefly reads part of a CDC statement:

The conclusion of the scientific community is clear that thimerosal-containing vaccines are safe and effective and do not represent a public health risk.

To this, RFK had the actual cojones to claim that the CDC statement was “not a scientific statement.” I say again: Bullshit! I particularly call BS on RFK’s claim of spending three years reviewing the literature with a “crack scientific team” with the best research scientists and editors (one wonders if he included Mark and David Geier on that “crack team”). He claimed that he couldn’t find a single “valid, plausible study that said that thimerosal was safe.” Well, here, Robert, I’ll help you out. Here are a few that I’ve blogged about myself over the years. Of course, you probably don’t think they’re “valid” because they conclude that thimerosal-containing vaccines don’t cause all the horrible things you think they cause, but they’re there, and they’re valid. Hyman then pulled the nonsensical gambit that the FDA has banned thimerosal to put on your skin, asking, then, why is it still safe for vaccines? Funny how he neglected this statement from the FDA:

Studies have shown that there is no known harm from thimerosal preservative-containing vaccines. In 1999, FDA conducted a review of thimerosal in childhood vaccines and found no evidence of harm from the use of thimerosal as a vaccine preservative, other than a reaction at the injection site. The Institute of Medicine’s Immunization Safety Review Committee reached a similar conclusion in 2001, based on a review of available data, and again in 2004, after reviewing studies performed after its 2001 report. Since then, additional studies have been published confirming these findings.

I won’t quote what the CDC says about thimerosal, because it’s very similar. The idea that thimerosal in vaccines causes autism is a long-failed hypothesis. In any case, at the very end of the segment Oz concluded:

First of all, pregnant women and babies, and people over 65, you’re at risk. You should ask for thimerosal-free vaccines, like the kind you find in a single dose. As for healthy adults up to the age of 50, it’s pretty simple. Consider asking for a flu nasal spray. That doesn’t contain any thimerosal, you don’t even need a needle, just put it in your nose. It’s just as effective.

While this advice is unlikely to cause harm, it’s also unnecessary. Most children don’t get thimerosal-containing vaccines anymore, and there’s no evidence that thimerosal-containing vaccines are harmful to adults or even to pregnant women. Ironically, research by the “CDC whistleblower” himself, Dr. William Thompson, is some of the key evidence that thimerosal does not cause neurodevelopmental disorders in children or problems when administered to pregnant women.

So has Dr. Oz gone antivaccine? I’m sure that he thinks that he hasn’t. He might even believe that tripe he fed his audience about wanting to “restore trust” in the vaccine program by prodding the CDC to remove all thimerosal from vaccines, even though it isn’t necessary to do so. I don’t believe him, though. If that was really his intent, he sure has a funny way of doing it, instead doing everything possible to play up the fear of thimerosal: Portraying thimerosal as this incredibly toxic compound, going on and on about its neurotoxicity, and likening it to toxic waste, with images of biohazard symbols and closeups of babies being injected, while giving only perfunctory acknowledgment of the real science showing no link between thimerosal and autism, after which he let RFK, Jr. and Mark Hyman basically say whatever they want about thimerosal. I mean, seriously. RFK, Jr. calls himself “fiercely pro-vaccine”? Seriously? If that were true, his supporters in the antivaccine movement would drop him like a rock. Like many in the antivaccine movement, RFK, Jr. might think himself to be “pro-vaccine safety,” but his words and deeds belie that claim.

In fact, the dead giveaway that Dr. Oz has either gone antivaccine or is so irresponsible that he’s willing to put forth a camouflaged antivaccine message in search of “controversy” and ratings is the very fact that he had RFK, Jr. on his show to talk about vaccines. Remember, RFK is one of the key people go really stoked the fear of thimerosal-containing vaccines back in 2005 when he published his misinformation-filled “expose” that popularized the central conspiracy theory of the antivaccine movement. Surely Dr. Oz and his producers must have known this, even if they didn’t know this:


Notice something? (Besides the vacant look on RFK, Jr.’s face?) The caption says “In 1999 thimerosal began to be removed from childhood vaccines like measles, mumps, and rubella.” Apparently Dr. Oz’s staff and Dr. Oz failed to realize that the measles-mumps-rubella trivalent vaccine doesn’t contain thimerosal. It never contained thimerosal. Ever. It’s an attenuated live virus vaccine, which means thimerosal would kill the virus in it. Even RFK, Jr. and Mark Hyman probably know that! Seriously, if Oz’s staff can’t get something that basic about vaccines right, what else did they get wrong? I think we all know: This entire segment and the fear mongering about thimerosal. Dr. Oz kept saying that he couldn’t figure out why thimerosal is still in vaccines and that “not one person” could give him a good reason. He must not have looked very hard.

Vaccination rates are plummeting in enough places to produce pockets of unvaccinated and undervaccinated children among whom outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases can start, thanks to antivaccine celebrities, the antivaccine movement, and, now I fear, Dr. Oz. Maybe this is the first step of his finally going all in. After all, he’s been criticized as a hypocrite and “vaccine charlatan” by antivaccinationists for telling people to vaccinate while his wife doesn’t vaccinate his own kids.

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]

226 replies on “Has Dr. Oz become antivaccine? The answer would appear to be yes.”

Has Dr. Oz become antivaccine?

Why not?

He has bought into most other variants of pseudoscience.

“people over 65, you’re at risk”

People over 65 are at risk of becoming autistic due to vaccines? And people under 65 too I guess, if like me they’re asthmatic and can’t have the live virus vaccine.

Does Dr. Oz’s audience skew older? I know my wife’s grandparents watch Dr. Oz and then go out and buy what he says. The elderly tend to die in the largest number from the flew. I wonder how many additional people will die because they don’t get a flu shot this year after watching Dr. Oz?

If I were

Acting Surgeon General, Rear Admiral (RADM) Boris D. Lushniak, M.D., M.P.H.

I would call up Dr. Oz personally and ask him what the hell he thinks he’s doing.

And if I didn’t get a really, really contrite answer, and an on-air correction, I would hold a press conference and let him have it, by name, with both barrels. Metaphorically, of course.

Oz, like Bob Sears, are say-anything-for-a-buck physicians who need official reprimanding by their respective state licensing boards (as well an any academic medical societies to which they belong) but are unlikely to get it (with the notable exception of the verbal flogging Oz got from Senator McCaskill this summer as you note above).

Besides the straight talk here about quack physicians, I do like the multimedia beatdown of Oz by ZDogg MD ( , and )

At this point, I think holding out any hope for Dr. Oz is probably a fool’s errand. Even if he does not personally believe these things, he is perfectly willing to act as though he does for the sake of ratings.

An aside, the mercury gambit with vaccines has always fascinated me – only because it is truly so short-sighted. I learned a while ago that a single serving of most kinds of fish will contain more mercury than the entire CDC-approved vaccine schedule combined. However, that factoid somehow goes right past the likes of these people. Maybe it’s just too much work for these people to troll the frozen food aisles and seafood counters of their local Whole Foods. Maybe vaccine quackery is just easier.

It looks like Dr. Oz is getting some unfavorable publicity. The FTC charged that green tea extract weight loss program that Dr. Oz touted on his program and on his website. That company negotiated a $3.5 million dollar settlement with the FTC.

“A company pushing bogus diet pills touted by Dr. Oz settles with the FTC. Will the medical world weigh in?”

I honestly wonder if the whole McCaskill situation made Oz turn even further to quackery on his show out of spite, a sort of “just you try and stop me now” attitude. Based on the profiles and interviews I’ve read he seems like just the kind of egotist who would do such a thing.

FYI and entertainemnet:

simply search *Dr Oz house Cliffside Park*-
you’ll find lovely aerial photos of his ostentatiously grandiose tile-roofed mansion on the cliffs…which means great views.
Oz lives in an extremely high rent/ real estate district so whatever estimated value pops up in your mind, please multiply by at least 5. Maybe more.

It was still priceless to see his face looking like something from as he had to just sit there and take a very public verbal lashing. But yeah, I agree AdamG it probably completely turned him to the dork side.

What the anti-thimerosal crowd seem to forget is that prior to the mid-1990’s, mothers were swabbing their kids’ cuts and scrapes with the stuff in the form of merthiolate (AKA monkey blood). The autism “epidemic” is supposed to have begun about the time topical merthiolate antiseptic were banned in the US.

I learned a while ago that a single serving of most kinds of fish will contain more mercury than the entire CDC-approved vaccine schedule combined. However, that factoid somehow goes right past the likes of these people.

I would guess they’re not really afraid of mercury, they’re looking for an excuse for a preexisting aversion to vaccines (perhaps originating in a fear of the “unnatural”, or simply of needles). They have no similar aversion to fish, so mercury in fish is not as salient.

Between assassins, compulsive sexual behavior, plane crashes, and mountains of cocaine*, I’d think thimerosal would be the least of the worries for the surviving Kennedys.

*actual potent neurotoxin

What do you suppose it would take to get a segment onto Oz in which a really well-prepared, media-savvy, telegenic expert pointed out how dangerous Kennedy’s blatherings are to public health?

That might save a few dozen (or maybe many more) old folks from dying of flu this winter …

Well….with Oz’s reach, I would guess I won’t have any trouble finding adequate vaccine supply when the time comes…

they’re looking for an excuse for a preexisting aversion to vaccines (perhaps originating in a fear of the “unnatural”, or simply of needles)


They didn’t reason themselves into their position, they are trying to rationalize it after the fact. It’s understandable to be afraid of needles. Getting one stuck in you tends to hurt. Those of us who get vaccines for ourselves, and any children who may be under our care, do so because we have concluded that the benefits of doing so outweigh the pain of having that needle stuck in the arm. Others (some of them drug addicts, but some diabetics are also in this category) will inject stuff in their arms because the pain of not getting their insulin injection/drug fix is worse than the pain of injecting it. But there are some people who aren’t or won’t be persuaded that the pain they avoid by getting that vaccine would be worse than the pain they suffer during the vaccination, and they look for reasons, however faulty, to justify their fear of the pain.

I have an acquaintance who’s a health professional, and who also has an exceptional talent for anticipating and understanding how people react to different turns of phrase.

She suggests that the word “vaccination” tends to carry more negative connotations than “immunization”. I think she’s onto something. For one thing, “immuniization” reminds people of the purpose — to prevent them from getting a disease.

Eric @19 — I think you’re onto something.

Unfortunately, Hyman couldn’t resist chiming in to call mercury a “neurotoxin,” which it is, but not at the amounts received by infants from vaccines.

The trick, of course, being that it’s very likely the intact compound that is the neurotoxic agent, with the dealkylated inorganic mercury being responsible for the nephrotoxicity.

If your sale pitch is not usually guided by science, why would vaccines form any part of your marketing strategy?

@ Harold Gaines:

My previous hypothesis was that mercury might have been protective against ASDs because rates went up after it was removed from most children’s vaccines in the US: your comment lends additional weight to my supposition

Remember, minions I DID say it first!

@ palindrom:

One of the id… woo-meisters I survey always shrieks that ‘vaccination is not immunisation’ because he wouldn’t want them to associate/ identify this evil with something GOOD..

Why does Dr. Oz do what he does? He’s been exposed to a known neurotoxin as well, two of them, actually. Celebrity™ (Immagodil Bowbeformeum) can affect the adult brain even more radically than it does that of children. It causes delusions of grandeur, confirmation bias and has a contact side-effect on other primates nearby Yesman’s Syndrome. The other deadly toxin is Affluenzexx™ (Fucheumax Igotmynavir). This deadly toxin causes massive overconsumption, strips compassion, reason and common sense from the addicted. I fear the poor man’s been mainlining both.

I would love to ask RFKjr:
Me: Has the number of autism cases increased in the last 15 years?
“Yes”, we will say.
Me: Do children receive as much thimerosal as they did before 1999?
“No”, he would have to say if he was honest.
Me: Then, by your logic, thimerosal was preventing autism. Shouldn’t we put it back into vaccines not removing it?

Maybe someone should point out that antivaxxers are exposing future generations to the risks of vaccination by keeping the diseases from going extinct. Measles and polio should have been a non-issue by now, such that taking them off the schedule would be the most sensible thing to do for the same reason I haven’t had a smallpox shot. If they’re concerned about “too many too soon,” the shot being obsolete because the disease no longer exists would be a non-controversial way to get rid of the “too many” part, after all.

Chris H., thanks for the ZDogg links. That’s awesome good stuff! Tuned right to the age group and demo that needs to hear this.

OneOther, excellent! The fish comparison is like the asteroid analogy only better. The regular folks will get it immediately. For flu-shot worries anyway, it’s better than 100 scientific studies that prove thimerosal is safe, because it defines the issues in terms of their personal experience: ‘ I eat fish and I’m fine’. Unfortunately, this won’t help with the infant vaccine, as pregnant moms are told not to eat fish, and new moms told not to feed fishy things to newborns exactly because of the high mercury content…

Andreas J. and Eric Lund, brilliant! IMHO, tracing the issue back to a fear of needles is spot on. I don’t think it’s just a pain issue, though. Think about the ‘hard-wiring’ we inherit from millions of years of evolutionary adaptation. Creatures who have an aversion to body penetrations are going to be preferred by ‘natural selection,’ as are creatures who develop the knowledge that ingesting certain things will help them survive. Any oral vaccine is far less threatening than an injection, and a recognition of the naturalness of injection-aversion is a first step to developing effective psychological/rhetorical counter-measures physicians can employ other than just saying ‘roll up your sleeve’ or ‘drop trou and bend over.’

palidrom, OUTSTANDING! IMHO this is the most valuable post I have ever seen on RI.

(Of course, the hard-core anti-immunizers will babble about ‘natural immunity,’ and Sears-ites will babble that they just want a ‘safer’ immunization schedule, but they will be back-pedaling as they do so. As things are now, it’s the pro-vaxers who are backpeddling from the natural appeal of “why should I stick a sharp object into my child to inject a foreign substance into its body!” )

With respect, Orac, I think you are asking the wrong question. It should be “has Dr. Oz decided to show that e is antivaccine?”

Is anyone else getting the feeling that this is pure damage control from the antivacine brigade? The timing seems suspicious coming right on the heels of the nova segment on vaccines.

Celebrity™ (Immagodil Bowbeformeum)
Affluenzexx™ (Fucheumax Igotmynavir)

Brilliant! Consider these stolen.

My hunch is that Dr Oz’s staff and producers put together most of these shows, and Dr Oz pretty much goes along with the script. (No single person could do the research and put together these shows, so much of the legwork is obviously done by staff.)

Staff has a job to do–put together a show! And, do it everyday. So, whoever is available for on-air, whoever has a new book out, etc., will always be given a featured role.

And, it’s always easy to find another “miracle” supplement to fill a time slot.

Most of what is on these shows is just time-filler. It’s not that Oz sits down at the beginning of the year and decides what topics, such as “restoring trust in vaccines” are top of his agenda to educate his audience.

It’s time filler. The staff does the work. Oz is just the front man.

@ sadmar:

Not only the fear of pointed sticks** and whatnot BUT fear of poisoning:
toxins- whether they reside in vaccines, meds or GMO- and/ or gluten-laden foodstuffs/ bad seafod all frighten the h3ll out of them.

** obligatory Pythonism

For those who only know ‘The Wizard of Oz’ from the movie, the original book by L. Frank Baum is a Populist allegory, an attack on the Gold Standard and advocacy of Free Silver. Dorothy (the future of America) joins Scarecrow (the Farmer), Tin Man (the Industrial Worker) and Cowardly Lion (William Jennings Bryan) down the yellow brick (Gold) road to Oz (the Capital, named after the measure of Gold) to seek the aid of the Wizard of Oz (the politicians who rule the Gold).

They discover his schtick is empty BS designed to ward off challenges to the established monetary order. In the book, Dorothy returns to Kansas with her new wisdom by clicking her magic SILVER slippers.

(They changed it to Ruby for the movie because it would look better in color, and they weren’t doing outdated “Cross of Gold” era anti-establishment politics in a mainstream depression-era family film, either. And after the commercial success of the first Oz book, Baum had eliminated the allegorical angle from the many sequels.)

And here we have the ‘wizardly’ Dr. Oz (Dr. Goldlove) promising those who follow the Yellow Brick Road (shell out money for ‘health supplements’) that he has the power to solve their problems, only to hand them empty placebos (diet diploma, weight-loss watch, mercury-consciousness medal) and add more bricks to his own bunker of bullion.

I don’t think it’s ‘damage control.’ As Rob notes, scheduling and prepping show topics takes a lot of lead time, and unless someone on Oz’s staff had an inside source at NOVA, they wouldn’t have known what would be in the program before it aired. In addition, while the NOVA piece was thoroughly pro-immunization, it was boring weak-sauce as filmmaking, totally hamstrung by PBS conventions of ‘objectivity’ and ‘sobriety’ and deadly ‘voice-of-god’ voice-over narration from an anonymous, disinvested narrator. This is why theatrical-release docos that go with voice over use identifiable celebrities with positive public personas — Morgan Freeman on March of the Penguins, for example. The audience then feels like they’re being addressed by a real person, and a trustworthy one to boot.

I would guess they’re not really afraid of mercury, they’re looking for an excuse for a preexisting aversion to vaccines

I think this is right on the money. People who claim they’re not anti-vaccine but “pro-safe-vaccine” remind me of a racist I once saw on one of those daytime talk shows. I was quite young at the time so I’m hazy on the details, but at one point an audience member asked him how he could teach his kids racism. His response was, “I’m not racist b/c I don’t hate black people for being black, I hate them for what they do” – and started reciting the usual stereotypes about black people being criminals, drug users/dealers, unwed mothers, etc. Reasonable people know these are stereotypes, but this guy believed them b/c they justified his pre-existing racism, not the other way around.

I think in light of the recent CDC scandal where vital information regarding autism was covered up and hidden from the public for 13 years, it makes this article sound a bit ridiculous. There most certainly is a link between vaccines and autism, it can no longer be denied. Taking cheap shots at Dr. Oz and Kennedy by calling them loons just makes your comments that much less credible. Other silly comments like it’s ok to eat fish so thimerasol is safe is laughable. Something eaten has to pass through the digestive system and be filtered through the body whereas an injection of a neurotoxin such as thimerasol/mercury or aluminum can and does cause brain damage. People who blindly believe in these toxic poisons injected into newborn babies is mind-blowing to me. Obviously the CDC does NOT have our best interest at heart, to defend them just makes you look uneducated and in denial.

Sarah A @40 — Your anecdote reminds me of a great T-shirt from The Onion that reads: “Stereotypes are a real time-saver!”

Penny @41 – Don’t assume that we’re unaware of this. Orac devoted a solid week of posts to the CDC “scandal” as it unraveled, and “unraveled” is indeed the word.

Penny @41 — a disinterested statistician evaluated the relative strengths and weaknesses of the deStefano 2004 and Hooker 2014 papers, summarized at A Statistician Evaluates DeStefano 2004 and Hooker 2014.

Thanks to the tiny sample and the uncontrolled confounding variable, Hooker’s results are both imprecise and biased. Consequently, my personal opinion is that Hooker’s results have no scientific value at all.

So. No scandal, no controversy, so no “whistleblower”, still no evidence that vaccines are in any way implicated in causing autism.

@ Liz Ditz:

Please don’t tell Jake**, we’ll lack entertainment for months.

** not that he’d listen to you

I had wondered about Oz for a long time, then, about a year ago, I accidentally chanced upon one of his shows as it was beginning. I was astounded to see him and his guest promote numerology, especially the hallucination that we each have a magic number that dominates our lives, including a so-called “life path number” that can be arrived at by adding the numbers in one’s birth date. Someone with a mind would have immediately asked, well, what about anyone born in Turkey prior to 1927, when the Gregorian calendar was introduced. Is their magic number calculated using the Julian calendar or the Gregorian one? Certainly one would have to ask whether, in China, where the Gregorian calendar is used for some purposes and the traditional Chinese calendar for others, which calendar one would use to calculate one’s magic number. There are literally dozens of other calendars in use here on earth, each of which would reduce down to a different “magic number” for the same day. Which is the “real” magic number? What about people who are multicultural? Would a person here who’s, say, part Jewish obtain his or her magic number using the Jewish calendar, or the Gregorian calendar?

I cannot believe that anyone who would put up with such nonsense–and who did not immediately ask the obvious questions–could possibly have an intellect exceeding that of a cucumber (cucumbers, please accept my apology for the comparison.) Oz might well be perfectly capable of stitching up a wound, and he might very well be a fine clinician, but he proves that his judgment is worthless. Oz does have a syndicated newspaper column, but it’s in conjunction with another physician, and, from the relative sanity of the column, at least compared with the show, I suspect that he must not have much to do with it. If Oz stated that the sun rose in the east, I’d first look to the west, thinking that the earth must have mysteriously started rotating in the opposite direction while I was asleep. 🙂

#31 “Oh no, we’ve lost Dr. Oz to the Dark Side.”

No. The Dark Side has lost Dr. Oz to the Darker Side. The Darkest Side is biding its time.

Once the genetic predisposition puzzle resolves, thus providing accurate baseline information relating to the pediatric genome, this whole argument goes away. Well, maybe for the 65% that don’t want to watch me stick a breathing tube in their baby so that the kid can possibly survive the respiratory problems coming from a preventable yet deadly infection. Maybe they survive, maybe, and only after everyone in the family goes through hell by watching a microbe rip a new ass in their little one. At least the parents can say the internet empowered their choice to get the ideal baby coffin.

@Denice Walter
I can’t emphasize this enough:
I’m not talking about the loons in any of my ‘PR’ comments.

Any kind of persuasion campaign begins by identifying a target audience of people-who-don’t-have-a-fixed-position-and-are-open-to-opinion-or-behavior-change. The odds of influencing the folks with a fixed-stance against you are so small you don’t bother.

In this case, the fear of getting poked with sticks containing any foreign substance is far more primal and potent than fear of ‘toxins’, a rather abstract concept in comparison.

Now, the general public IS afraid of ‘poisons’ hidden in the products of industrial society, and rightly so: Love Canal, oil spills, etc. These are common enough that an awful lot of people have been exposed to them.

I grew up daily inhaling the fumes from the creosote plant that treated all the railroad ties used in the Upper Midwest. I didn’t know that the creosote runoff was also polluting the water in the city wells. The plant closed in 1972, when I was a sophomore in college. In 1980 the grounds were designated the number 2 Superfund site in the US by the EPA. Later that year the Feds sued the plant’s former owners in Federal Court under the Superfund Law, the first suit of that kind.

I relate this because I think my response to environmental or product-carried ‘poisons’ is fairly typical. There are just SO MANY potential man-made health concerns to residents of industrial society that they don’t even get on my radar unless they pass a pretty high threshold of both seriousness and credibility. Even then, I’m likely to just give a so-it-goes shrug, as I have more pressing personal concerns on my mind, though I’m probably inclined to be more vigilant about those things down the road.

Being 60, I’d say I’ve encountered how enough people feel about these things to have a somewhat valid qualitative sample. I’d say the largest chunk of folks pay no attention to these issues whatsoever, followed by folks like me who have a passive interest in the Big Stuff, followed by folks who have latched onto one (and only one) specific more paranoid issue they talk about often but do little or nothing about, followed by a quite small group of single-issue activists, followed by a miniscule group of multi-issue activists (I’ve never actually met one of those in the flesh).

And by ‘specific issue’ I don’t mean anything as broad as ‘toxins’ in general, but one particular ‘toxin’, say gluten in the current fad-o-sphere. I mean, mercury in fish is a Real Thing, yet the number of non-vegetarian folks who have removed fish from their diets is pretty small.

Anyway, the point is people who have the h3ll frightened out of them by ALL the alleged toxins are not the people we have to worry about in terms of public health issues.

There seems to be some good evidence that anti-immunization and anti-GMO activism correlate with economic privilege, which makes a lot of sense to me. Jo(e) Schmo’s are wound up in their everyday lives of work and family responsibilities, and likely to spend their ‘free time’ on the entertainments of pop culture. They don’t have TIME for this stuff. I don’t know if there’s any formal or even anecdotal study of the demographics of ‘Thinking Moms’ but I’d make a hypothesis that there’s a high percentage of stay-at-home spouses in that group relying on their partners for income, with time available during the day to Follow and Tweet and Like and read AoA and post all over the web.

The audience that actually matters in terms of decision-making is WAY less involved. These are peripheral issues for them. They’re not going to come here and read Orac’s scientific analyses OR go to AoA and read Dan Olmstead’s screeds.

That’s why little things like a change in terminology can make a huge difference — those terms circulate where the broader discussion never penetrates. So again, I’ll note how horribly counter-productive it is for pro-SBM spokespersons to employ the term ‘herd immunity’ in any public forum. I have noticed a couple references to ‘community immunity’ though, which is MUCH better, and hopefully will gain much wider usage.

Other silly comments like it’s ok to eat fish so thimerasol is safe is laughable. Something eaten has to pass through the digestive system and be filtered through the body whereas an injection of a neurotoxin such as thimerasol/mercury or aluminum can and does cause brain damage.

You lose. Ethylmercury has no access to the brain until it’s complexed with cysteine in the liver, just like methylmercury.

Was this taped after the spanking Claire McCaskill gave Dr. Oz?

Yes. It was taped in late August, but before the whole “CDC whistleblower” manufactroversy was flared up by antivaccinationists. Otherwise, I’m sure Hyman or Kennedy would have mentioned something about the “senior CDC scientists who proved the CDC has been covering up” vaccine safety problems.

Orac, you might want to look into this:

You apparently didn’t notice that I linked to that very article in the last paragraph. 🙂

The Oz Show segment was taped on August 20th. Science blogger Keith Kloor has blogged about Kennedy’s feeble attempts to market his warmed over theory about Thimerosal-induced-autism:

What a sad, sad day for Kennedy’s and Oz’s fans. Oz will continue to push his particular brand of alternative medicine and Kennedy’s next gig will be on the Autism Media Channel.

@ Johnny:

You know, I expected at least _a little more_-perhaps his professional explication of the secrets of the Dark Art of Statistical Analysis ™ but alas!
No way, Jose,,, I mean Juan.

One of us should really grill him on that..erm… subgroup-ish thingy. You know. Whatamacallit’s correction. Heh. Heh.
And OTHER stuff.

I’m amused, and very disappointed. I expected he’d at least try to appear scientific…..

Oz has not only crossed the Woobicon
Is this one of those rivers that you can only step in once?
Possibly I am getting confused with Empedocles who proved that you can only step in an active volcano once.

Oz has not only crossed the Woobicon, I think he’s about to lap it.

That conjures up an image of Oz on all fours lapping up those sweet woo-filled waters like a poochie. Seems about right!

I just had a nose around at Jake’s blog, and the comments. White Rose is a barrel of laughs, isn’t she? “The CDC = the Criminal Destruction of Children”. If someone posted that here I would assume it was a Poe.

More seriously, the statistical analysis of DeStefano and Hooker that Liz linked to (thanks Liz!) is interesting, though there are no surprises. This passage, in my opinion, sums it up nicely:

Hooker has a small data set in which a known confounder (low birth weight) is over-represented. Other studies have estimated that low birth weights can increase the risk of autism by 5 times! Because Hooker’s analysis does not control for this factor, we must assume that the estimated risk of autism is positively biased for this group. In other words, the estimated relative risk of 3.36 is likely higher than the true amount.

A known serious confounder that was corrected for in De Stefano, but not in Hooker? That alone leads me to agree with Mr. Frost that, “Hooker’s results are both imprecise and biased [and] have no scientific value at all”.

I think it would be interesting if more of Orac’s minions dropped by Jake’s place from time to time as have L, R, N, P et al. If I do so, I’ll probably have to utilise one of my _other_ names as Jake has already declared my commentary tainted and compromised or suchlike.

@palindrom – I believe that’s the part of Minnesota where all the children (or at least their parents) are below average

A known serious confounder that was corrected for in De Stefano, but not in Hooker?

Ah, but Hooker has explained why his way is correct, and why “the final study protocol was not followed”:

There was a sentence that said “the only variable available to be assessed as a potential confounder using the entire sample is child’s race.”

Re. ‘immunisation,’ check, will update my usage accordingly.

I don’t like needles either, but two seconds of minor ‘ouchie’ is a small price to pay for avoiding the risk of two weeks of misery.

Notice Dr. Oz’s adoption of standard conspiracy theory language: ‘The Truth About (whatever).’ That kind of phrasing has become common in the conspiracy theory subcultures, to the point where rational people refer to CTers as ‘Truthers.’

Wow some people I had the flu shot twice my whole life that was the sickest I have ever been . Almost lost a child due to a vaccine. My children are able to fight things off themselves without chemicals and aborted fetus stem cells and other toxins in their bodies. And my children never get sick since we decided to stop vaccinating . I god didn’t I tend for this junk to go into our bodies for a reason. He gave us immune systems for a reason and it doesn’t matter if your name is in his book when its your time you will go either way I choose to let my family have the best life they can without being poisoned again. My son is nonverbal and autism from a vaccine a vaccine took things away from him that he shouldn’t have had takin away. My choice is to let my kids live a life free from those toxins and free from the corruption that’s behind it. Thompson clearly proved there is way to much corruption in the cdc

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