I was a bit angry yesterday. I’m never happy when I see the overarching narrative that prescientific and pseudoscientific beliefs are equivalent and worth doing clinical trials on them. But the irritation I feel when I see examples of journalists credulously swallowing that narrative whole and regurgitating it in mainstream publications like the Wall Street Journal is nothing compared to the anger that is provoked when I see one of the worst antivaccine lies of all being promulgated by a person known for promoting it.
The person is Christina England. The tactic is trying to blame the injuries of shaken baby syndrome (SBS) on vaccines. It’s a tactic that is not new. Indeed, it’s a tactic that so shocked me when I first encountered it about 13 or 14 years ago that it prodded me to look more deeply into the misinformation promoted by the antivaccine movement and to appreciate the harm it causes. The first such case I learned about was a man named Alan Yurko, who, as you might recall, was a man who was convicted of shaking his girlfriend’s baby to death, producing a classic sad case of SBS. As a result, he became a hero of the antivaccine movement, which latched on to his story as an example of SBS being a “misdiagnosis” for vaccine injury. It’s a lie that has been used to try to exonerate child abusers all over the world, fortunately with little success thus far. Indeed, one antivaccine group, SaneVax, has even published a guide to blaming the deaths of children on “vaccine injury.”
Unfortunately, England’s at it again. Yesterday, she published an article entitled Families Ripped Apart By False Accusations of Child Abuse – Vaccine Injuries Often to Blame:
There are a growing number of parents who have been falsely accused of child abuse. Many of these cases only occur after parents mention that their child first became ill after they received a routine vaccination.
Over the years as a journalist exposing these issues, I have been asked to help dozens of families worldwide who have lost their children or are losing their children as a result of false accusations. I spend many hours sifting through paperwork and engaging with a small number of brave professionals who are willing to give up their time and experience to help in these difficult and complex cases.
She’s even included a video, which is hard to watch because it is so vile:
The video starts out with statistics on how many families are accused of child abuse in the U.K. under a surprisingly inappropriate bit of music with a beat that’s entirely too peppy for the subject matter. One would expect dirge-like music for such a topic. Shazam tells me that the tune is “They” by Jem. I suppose the lyrics, in which Jem repeatedly apologizes (“I’m sorry we do this”) and asks whether we “live like this” because “ignorance is bliss” are meant to be a commentary on the topic, but it’s a distracting bouncy pop tune. In any case, at about the 1:00 mark, the video’s text states:
Many of these cases turn out to be false allegations of child abuse. The families they affect may never be the same again. Real families torn apart. Innocent parents falsely accused of child abuse. Their children put on child protection registers, taken into foster care, or adopted. Some of these babies who have died as a result of a cot death or brain hemorrhages.
Families like these.
This might be true. After all, any human institution makes mistakes. On the other hand, England provides no statistics for what percentage of these thousands of cases turn out to be false allegations. In any case, you can tell where this is going right off the bat. England is going to blame vaccines for the findings and injuries characteristic of SBS in order to make the claim that these parents were falsely accused of harming their babies and it was the vaccines all along that hurt them. It’s the same narrative that was “pioneered” for the baby killer Alan Yurko and that has been honed over many iterations in an attempt to keep child killers from having to face justice. That’s just how strong the hatred of vaccines is; people like Christina England are willing to see child killers walk free if they can find a way to blame SBS on vaccines.
First up are Zabeth and Paul Baynes, who, it is claimed, were accused of shaking their baby to the point of calling brain bleeds but were ultimately shown to be innocent later. Statements by them about how they suffered are prominently featured, and, no doubt, if the story is as represented, it’s hard not to feel some sympathy for them for being falsely accused. Oddly enough, no mention of vaccines is made at all for this couple. Curious to find out exactly what the heck happened, I did a bit of Googling. This story, for instance, basically says the same thing and alos mentions nothing about vaccines. It’s not at all clear to me why England included this case, which appears to indicate that the Baynes were not well-served by the Canadian justice system but doesn’t even have the usual weak correlations that people like England use to try to “prove” that SBS is a misdiagnosis for vaccine injury.
Indeed, even this more detailed version of the parent’s version of the story doesn’t implicate vaccines, although the parents try hard to do it even though it was clear that their baby was having significant medical problems for many weeks before vaccination. We also learn that the baby had Glutaric Acidemia type I, an inherited disorder in which the body can’t process certain amino acids properly, leading to elevated levels of lysine, hydroxylysine, and tryptophan, leading to the accumulation of these amino acids and their intermediate breakdown products, which can damage the brain and other organs, leading to mental retardation. These babies are often born with macrocephaly and can suffer what is called an “encephalopathic crisis,” which is basically what it sounds like. But of course it had to be the vaccines. It’s always the vaccines with people like this.
Next up are Mike and Elizabeth Bruce, whose baby Cameron, it is stated, became “ill after routine vaccinations.” It’s not described how soon after these “routine vaccinations” Cameron became ill, but the story states that the baby died “a few days later,” and her parents were found innocent of any wrongdoing. It’s actually hard to find much about this case, but apparently Cameron was a twin, and the twins were born eight weeks prematurely and “fought hard to live.” Both ended up dying, which suggests to me that there was something wrong with them because being born at 32 weeks, while premature, is still highly survivable with modern neonatal ICU care. In any case, as tragic as it is, this story isn’t any more convincing an example to convince anyone that SBS is a misdiagnosis for vaccine injury.
None of the other examples are particularly convincing, either. For example, Ja’Nayjah Sanders gets the usual “vitamin C deficiency” treatment in which it is claimed that SBS is due to scurvy caused by vaccines. Jordan Arroyo died nine weeks after receiving the hepatitis B vaccine, for the most tortured attempt to demonstrate correlation, much less causation, ever. Worse, Mohammed Ali Al-Bayati, whom we’ve met before multiple times in the context of his specializing in—shall we say?—reinterpreting autopsy results to blame vaccines (as he did for Alan Yurko) or deflect blame from HIV (as he did for Eliza Jane Scovill. England is even shameless enough to include the case of Tanya and Elwood Sadowski, which I discussed in detail more than once. Again, this is not a convincing case.
As unconvincing as all these cases are as support for England’s belief that vaccines cause a syndrome like SBS, I did learn something new. At around the 3:35 point, it’s revealed that Christina England herself was accused of Munchausen syndrome by proxy. Gee, why am I not surprised by this revelation? Why am I also not surprised that she believes her son had an adverse reaction to the MMR. The video states, “Sadly, no one read the evidence.” Could it be that they did read the evidence but that it wasn’t convincing? So little information was given. Basically all we learned was that England believes she was falsely accused of Munchausen by proxy, which might or might not be true given how hideously difficult it is to prove the syndrome. It’s at least as likely that the authorities just couldn’t prove it. I have no practical way of finding out definitely, given that all that’s on the web that I can find are variations of England’s version of her story.
In any case, once again, through England’s writing, we learn just how low antivaccinationists will go. They’ll make the completely unscientifically supported claim that vaccines cause a syndrome that can be confused with SBS, apparently not caring that the end result that would occur if anyone believes that lie is to thwart justice against child abusers whose abuse results in the death of children.