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False balance about vaccines rises from the grave…again

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Imagine, if you will, a time machine capsule going all the way back to the earliest days of this blog, back in 2005 and 2006. Now consider the antivaccine movement, which somehow I became very interested in very early, an interest that continues to this day. Do you remember one theme that I kept hitting again and again? Besides the pseudoscientific quackery often promoted by antivaccinationists, that is? That theme was false balance. Back when I first started blogging, no matter what the angle of the story, when the press reported about the topic of vaccines—or the topic of autism, for that matter—the story would almost always contain a quote from an antivaccine activist or even full interviews with the likes of Jenny McCarthy. Yes, I’m referring to the false balance the press often provided on stories about vaccines.

Those were heady days for the antivaccine movement. It got to the point where in one sense I used to dread every April, because I knew that during Autism Awareness Month the antivaccine loons would come out to play. We”d see the likes of J. B. Handley, Jenny McCarthy and her then beau Jim Carrey, Andrew Wakefield, and various other luminaries of the antivaccine movement featured on various talk shows as though they had something worthwhile to say to juxtapose with what real experts say. In another sense, as much as I hated this, from a blogging standpoint I kind of used to look forward to April, because I knew I’d have stuff to blog about, but the false balance was irritating to me and many other pro-science advocates.

Then something happened. It seemed to coincide with the complete implosion of Andrew Wakefield’s then lucrative career as the public face of the antivaccine movement, in which first he was stripped of his UK medical license, then his infamous 1998 Lancet case series that sparked the MMR scare was retracted, and then he was basically fired from his position as the medical director of Thoughtful House, the antivaccine quack clinic dedicated to “recovering” autistic “vaccine-injured” children. False balance started to go away. Oh, sure, it still pops up from time to time, but it appears to be much less frequent than it did ten years ago, or even five years ago. News stories do the “false balance” thing far less frequently, apparently having finally realized that in some scientific issues there are not two sides of an issue and that citing or interviewing antivaccinationists for “balance” is akin to interviewing geocentrists for stories about astronomy, HIV/AIDS denialists for stories about AIDS, or moon hoaxers for stories about NASA ande space exploration. You’d think that during a major measles outbreak like the Disneyland measles outbreak that’s still raging the press would be even more careful not to give false balance to the antivaccine side.

You’d be wrong.

First, there was this awful article in the New York Times by Adam Nagourney and Abby Goodnough from a week ago entitled Measles Cases Linked to Disneyland Rise, and Debate Over Vaccinations Intensifies. In amongst the rest of the article discussing the Disneyland measles outbreak, I was disheartened to find

Organizations that have led the campaign of doubts about vaccinations suggested that it was too soon to draw such a conclusion. The groups cautioned parents not to be pressured into having their children receive vaccinations, which the organizations say have been linked to other diseases. Health professionals say those claims are unfounded or vastly overstated.

“It’s premature to blame the increase in reports of measles on the unvaccinated when we don’t have all the facts yet,” said Barbara Loe Fisher, the president of the National Vaccine Information Center, a group raising concerns about inoculations. “I do know this: Fifty-seven cases of measles coming out of Disneyland in a country with a population of 317 million people is not a lot of cases. We should all take a deep breath and wait to see and get more information.”

A handful of doctors seem sympathetic to these views. Dr. Jay Gordon, a Santa Monica pediatrician who has cautioned against the way vaccines are used, said he had “given more measles vaccines” than ever before but did not like giving the shot to younger children.

“I think whatever risk there is — and I can’t prove a risk — is, I think, caused by the timing,” he said, referring to when the shot is administered. “It’s given at a time when kids are more susceptible to environmental impact. Don’t get me wrong; I have no proof that this vaccine causes harm. I just have anecdotal reports from parents who are convinced that their children were harmed by the vaccine.”

Oh, bloody hell! Citing Barbara Loe Fisher? Seriously? She’s the founder of one of the oldest antivaccine organizations currently in existence. She’s the friggin’ grande dame of the modern antivaccine movement, and here the NYT is citing her alongside real scientists and doctors like Dr. Jane Seward, the deputy director of the viral diseases division at the CDC and Dr. Eric G. Handler, the public health officer for Orange County. As I’ve discussed on more occasions than I can remember, Barbara Loe Fisher spews pseudoscience and quackery about vaccines with the worst of them, having even collaborated with über-quack Joe Mercola.

The article gets worse than that, though. Barbara Loe Fisher wasn’t enough. Oh, no. Next up, Dr. Jay, who’s been getting his posterior handed to him in the comments of this post and this post. A week ago, he was being interviewed by the NYT and said:

A handful of doctors seem sympathetic to these views. Dr. Jay Gordon, a Santa Monica pediatrician who has cautioned against the way vaccines are used, said he had “given more measles vaccines” than ever before but did not like giving the shot to younger children.

“I think whatever risk there is — and I can’t prove a risk — is, I think, caused by the timing,” he said, referring to when the shot is administered. “It’s given at a time when kids are more susceptible to environmental impact. Don’t get me wrong; I have no proof that this vaccine causes harm. I just have anecdotal reports from parents who are convinced that their children were harmed by the vaccine.”

I have only one question for Mr. Nagourney and Ms. Goodnough: what the hell? If Dr. Jay doesn’t have any evidence to support his viewpoints other than his confirmation bias-laden anecdotes to support his “concerns” that vaccines are given at a time when kids are susceptible to environmental impact and that the MMR vaccine causes harm. He even knows that there’s no scientific evidence, but he keeps repeating the same information that’s not just wrong but spectacularly wrong.

And the NYT gave him a national outlet for spreading fear about vaccines. Worse, so did CBS News, which featured an interview with Dr. Jay himself just two days ago.

It’s a painful interview to watch. Worse, Dr. Jay pulls the old antivaccine trick of trying to convince CBS viewers that the measles is no big deal. He out and out says that he doesn’t think that the measles outbreak “poses any risk to a healthy child.” Seriously, he said that. In fact, in response to a question about a child with measles walking into his office, Dr. Jay doubles down:

If somebody with measles walked into Dr. Gordon’s office, 90 percent of the unvaccinated people who come in contact with them would get measles. I asked Dr. Gordon to explain how that type of contagion isn’t a risk.

“You just said it, they’d get measles,” Dr. Gordon replied. “Not meningitis, not the plague, not Ebola, they’d get measles. Measles is almost an always a benign childhood illness.”

Ah, yes. Dr. Jay is repeating once again a variant of argumentum ad Brady Bunchium, just as he did four years ago. His arguments were dumb then, and they’re even dumber now in the middle of an outbreak. As I pointed out, measles is not a benign disease, contrary to Dr. Jay’s delusions otherwise. The past and present rebuke Dr. Jay for his delusions and tell him he is wrong, wrong, wrong.

We also learn from the interview that Dr. Jay has signed hundreds of personal belief exemption forms. In response to a question over whether he feels any personal responsibility for helping to bring measles back, Dr. Jay becomes even more delusional:

“Individual parents making that decision are not the ones bringing back measles,” answered Dr. Gordon. “Measles isn’t coming back. We have 70 cases of measles right now and we have 30 million Californians.”

Yes, that’s how it starts, fool. The number of cases can be zero. It should be zero. Measles had been all but eliminated from the US, until the last few years when pockets of non-vaccinating parents drove MMR uptake rates below the level of herd immunity in areas where the patients of Dr. Jay (and, of course, Dr. Bob) live. The elimination of measles is an achievable goal, an achievable goal being undermined by useful pediatrician idiots to the antivaccine movement like Dr. Jay. Yes, that’s not Respectful Insolence. It’s not-so-Respectful Insolence, but it’s what Dr. Jay deserves right now.

Indeed, if you don’t believe me, then check out Dr. Jay’s Twitter feed. I did, and I was utterly appalled at his recent activity. Take a look:

And:

Which is, of course, an example of Dr. Jay’s monumental ignorance on the topic of measles. After all, it’s not the overall vaccination rate over the entire state that predisposes to outbreaks. It’s the low uptake in localized areas that drive MMR uptake down to the point where herd immunity is weakened to the point where outbreaks become possible. As I’ve said before, it’s not surprising that there are outbreaks in California, because there are large pockets of unvaccinated children providing the raw material for such outbreaks.

He also bears a share of responsibility for things like this:

Carl Krawitt has watched his son, Rhett, now 6, fight leukemia for the past 4 1/2 years. For more than three of those years, Rhett has undergone round after round of chemotherapy. Last year he finished chemotherapy, and doctors say he is in remission.

Now, there’s a new threat, one that the family should not have to worry about: measles.

Rhett cannot be vaccinated, because his immune system is still rebuilding. It may be months more before his body is healthy enough to get all his immunizations. Until then, he depends on everyone around him for protection — what’s known as herd immunity.

But Rhett lives in Marin County, Calif., a county with the dubious honor of having the highest rate of “personal belief exemptions” in the Bay Area and among the highest in the state. This school year, 6.45 percent of children in Marin have a personal belief exemption, which allows parents to lawfully send their children to school unvaccinated against communicable diseases like measles, polio, whooping cough and more.

Which has led to:

Now Krawitt and his wife, Jodi, have emailed the district’s superintendent, requesting that the district “require immunization as a condition of attendance, with the only exception being those who cannot medically be vaccinated.”

Carl Krawitt provided me with Superintendent Steven Herzog’s response. Herzog didn’t directly address their query, instead saying: “We are monitoring the situation closely and will take whatever actions necessary to ensure the safety of our students.”

That’s right. Thanks to antivaccinationists, aided and abetted by pediatricians like Dr. Jay Gordon and Dr. Bob Sears, there are parents of children with leukemia who are terrified to send their children to school because there are too many children with philosophical exemptions to school vaccine mandates.

This is what scientifically ignorant pediatricians like Dr. Jay have wrought. How pediatricians like Dr. Jay and Dr. Bob can live with themselves, I don’t know.

I just don’t know.

Most of all, I don’t know what the hell CBS News and the NYT were thinking when they decided that Dr. Jay has anything of value to say about 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]

466 replies on “False balance about vaccines rises from the grave…again”

“Doctor” Jay is a fool. Sooner or later, an un- or under- vaccinated child will die, or worst of all, develop SSPE. Several have already been hospitalised.

Dr Jay has signed hundreds of personal belief exemption forms

The same Dr Jay who just told recently on another thread “You have me confused with someone who doesn’t vaccinate and who doesn’t adjust to new problems.”

The picture of a corkscrew comes into my mind.

“Measles isn’t coming back. We have 70 cases of measles right now and we have 30 million Californians.”

“Dr.” Jay is making the rookie mistake of using the entire population to dilute the attack rate of measles rather than susceptible population. Or maybe not a mistake and just dishonest. I’m glad “Dr.” Jay was given this platform to air his speshul beliefs, any public health official or physician up to their elbows controlling this outbreak who hasn’t heard of him, will. “Dr.” Bob is a little slicker and won’t give interviews to anyone who isn’t going to cast him in a good light.

it seems there’s an over-reliance on serious complications being something like 1 in 100,000 or something “hundreds of thousands.” But really looks more to me like 1 every 1000 – 3000. Not all that common, but not as ‘rare’ as his information is leading parents to believe. I guess my question is why aren’t more accurate epidemiology reports getting deseminated to media? Maybe it’s just not a sexy enough disease like fearbola.

“Dr. Jay pulls the old antivaccine trick of trying to convince CBS viewers that the measles is no big deal. He out and out says that he doesn’t think that the measles outbreak “poses any risk to a healthy child.” Seriously, he said that.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics should be thinking about how ignorance of this magnitude expressed by one of its members reflects on the organization as a whole.

Individual parents making that decision are not the ones bringing back measles

Reminds me of the demotivational poster for irresponsibility: “No single raindrop believes it is to blame for the flood.”

Having read this blog for a while, I don’t think I’ve seen Orac so angry – love it!

More not-so-respectful insolence please.

It’s not just kids with cancer. There are other health issues that mean children cannot be vaccinated. A friend of mine has a child with cystic fibrosis – and there are thousands like her in the UK and US. Her immune system is too weak to take vaccination, so she’s entirely dependent on those around her being vaccinated. A serious bout of infectious disease could literally kill her – no exaggeration. But I guess to the anti-vax bunch that’s just fine if i’s someone else’s dead kid. They were sick anyway, who cares? It makes me so mad.

I can only hope that when, inevitably, one of Dr. Gordon’s patients dies of the measles or has permanent serious sequelae, he is slapped with the malpractice suit that he truly deserves.

I was glad that Orac explained the “argumentum ad Brady Bunchium” in a previous blog entry. I had thought (incorrectly) that it was the fallacy that Avocado Green was an acceptable refrigerator color.

Dr. Finfer @11 — As I said the other day, such a lawsuit would unfortunately be a thin silver lining on what would otherwise be a terrible event.

I heard that Dr. Jay was on the Diane Rehm show the other day (WAMU, an NPR affiliate). I haven’t heard it, but there were actual experts on the show so I hope he was challenged.

If you haven’t heard Diane Rehm, she’s an excellent interviewer; she has a vocal palsy that makes her sound like she’s about a million years old, and forces her to speak very slowly, but she uses this to her advantage — her show can’t become a shout-fest, because it would sound like the guests were beating up on a handicapped person.

The American Academy of Pediatrics should be thinking about how ignorance of this magnitude expressed by one of its members reflects on the organization as a whole.

He’s not just a member, he’s a Fellow (that’s why he proudly displays the credential FAAP). How he got that distinction I do not know, and I’m not sure I want to know.

I just want to say, as a former anti-vax parent, don’t give up. Keep writing and refuting the nonsense. Thanks to this blog and SBM, my kids are now fully vaccinated.

There are a lot of logic-resistant whack jobs out there. Mostly though, there are scared parents confused by the scientific sounding numbers and questions thrown out by these doctors like Jay Gordon and Bob Sears that should know better. I mean geez, I know know not to listen to an actress, but when doctors bring up nonsense it’s more convincing.

Thanks for teaching me to trust my (real) doctor again. I am woo-resistant, now!

I was JUST having a Facebook conversation about vaccines last night with an antivaxxer. We were friends over ten years ago before we had kids, and remained acquainted on FB. During our conversation, I occasionally turned to Google when I needed to get a stat, or snag a quote to reinforce my point.I was really disheartened by how much gobbledygook I had to muddle through before I got to some real information. What can I do to help change this? Combined with the advertising the antivax movement is doing, I’m really concerned this wildfire is going to spread out of control.

But I guess to the anti-vax bunch that’s just fine if i’s someone else’s dead kid. They were sick anyway, who cares?

^This. Doctors Jay and Bob and their ilk keep going on and on about how the measles is not a dangerous disease for “healthy” children. I mean, that’s a lie to begin with, but what about all the not-so-healthy kids out there who are vulnerable through no fault of their own or their parents’? It’s just totally fine to watch them die, I guess. It’s a level of sociopathy which I find nearly unimaginable, and it makes my blood boil.

I guess they’re the type of people who believe that health is completely a personal choice, and if you aren’t healthy, it’s your own d*mn fault. Shoulda been eating more organic “superfoods!” Oh, you fed your kids macaroni and cheese last night? Well, you’re just a bought-and-sold sheeple, then, anyway, so I don’t care if you or your kids die. For yea, verily, the woos shall inherit the Earth.

Every time I think of the Brady Bunch I think of Marsha getting hit in the nose with a football.
Whenever I see Jay Gordon trotted out to tell people that all those vaccinations he never gave won’t harm anyone, and “it’s only measles” I think of hitting him in the nose with a football.
Oh, and Barbara Loe Fischer ? who interviewed her, Sharyl Attkisson ? Did the antivax contingent arrive at the studios in a clown car ?

““Dr.” Jay is making the rookie mistake of using the entire population to dilute the attack rate of measles rather than susceptible population. Or maybe not a mistake and just dishonest. “

In my opinion, it’s blatant dishonesty. He’s been told time and time again how incidence rates work. Hell, I dedicated a whole blog post on the Epi Night School to it:

http://epinightschool.blogspot.com/2012/11/incidence-and-prevalence-part-one.html

I kept referring him to it whenever he said that hundreds of cases of measles was “statistical porn.”

Let’s face it. Dr. Jay Gordon seems to have chosen his camp. It’s not science and medicine. It’s something else.

It’s fame… Or infamy.

Oh, and we now have 5 cases of measles in Arizona, thanks to people who had contact with people who got the disease at Disneyland. I see in the news Disney is planning a special 60th anniversary event for their park in California. Perhaps they should give out free vaccinations with every day pass bought ? MMR is cheap, supportive care for MMR isn’t.

I actually read one of Dr. Jay’s/Sears’ books once, having innocently plucked them from a library shelf in the medical section (hah!). I had small children and rather liked the book at the time. The interesting thing is that when I questioned the family doctor about the vaxes, and he brushed off any ideas of harm from them, I BELIEVED him. He told me that “good doctors” don’t write books like that and I believed that too. Guess I was born skeptical–or a shill for allopaths! 🙂

Dr. Jay pulls the old antivaccine trick of trying to convince CBS viewers that the measles is no big deal. He out and out says that he doesn’t think that the measles outbreak “poses any risk to a healthy child.” Seriously, he said that.

It’s even more dishonest than it seems, really, since almsot everybody thinks of themselves and their children as “healthy” because they’re not currently in the hospital and don’t have any major health issues and get plenty to eat. Even the same people who think you need to be detoxing regularly don’t usually think of themselves as unhealthy. But what does it take to move out of the “healthy” group and become more vulernable to measles?

Not a lot. Almost everybody gets a cold this time of year. if you’re fighting a cold when measles comes along, you’re not in the healthy group. Got food poisoning the day before you were exposed? Hey, you’re not in the healthy group.

I have seen folks express a eugenicist bent, probably somewhat unconsciously, saying that maybe its better for the gene pool if the unhealthy die. They aren’t bad people for thinking this way; they just haven’t thought it through all the way. And this is because they’re comfortable. People don’t ask questions when they’re comfy. And they’re comfortable with this largely because of a conviction that they’re not in that group. It’s complacency.

So if we want to fight this complacency, perhaps we’d be better off not trying to invoke their sense of altruism and instead reminding them how perilously close they and their kids really are to being in that unhealthy group.

How pediatricians like Dr. Jay and Dr. Bob can live with themselves, I don’t know.

They have followers who keep telling them how great they are and paying them well for their advice, and anyway, they are not “someone who doesn’t vaccinate and who doesn’t adjust to new problems”.
History is full of people who didn’t do anything wrong. Heck, if they repeat it often enough, they may come to believe it.

Even the same people who think you need to be detoxing regularly don’t usually think of themselves as unhealthy.

You’re right. Theythink of themselves as superhumanly healthy, precisely because they do constantly detox, eat “superfoods,” and whatever else. They think of themselves as basically a separate species from those sheeple who eat “industrial” food and swallow Big Pharma’s pills and yadda yadda yadda.

So if we want to fight this complacency, perhaps we’d be better off not trying to invoke their sense of altruism and instead reminding them how perilously close they and their kids really are to being in that unhealthy group.

The thing is, I don’t think they can be reminded of that, or at least a lot of them can’t. Because they’re special, see, they’re the wonderful high-vibration super-healthy New Agers who are going to survive the collapse of Western civilization and inherit the Earth. They are the elect and this is the new Calvinism.

Although it’s certainly not as bad as what Orac has featured here, the LA Times had an interview in the editorial section of yesterday’s paper with Elena Conis (I’d never heard of her before, but she’s apparently an Emory University historian and has written a book about the history of vaccination) that struck me as being a great example of the fallacy of the golden mean. She described anti-vaxxing as being an outgrowth of the environmental and women’s health movements, but used a lot of weasel words to imply that it’s nearly as valid a concern as those are, and that if the paternalistic medical establishment would just start listening to mothers better the whole issue would melt away. Of course, I think everyone here realizes just how far from the truth that is.

Anyway, I’m not terribly good at picking apart opinion pieces like this in detail, but if anyone is interested in taking a look at the interview it’s on the LA Times website under the opinion section and looks like it’s free even to non-subscribers.

This week The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore had one of the shows on vaccination. He usually has a panel with people of differing views and at least one comedian.

They do a question thing at the end (one that usually has some dilemma based on the view point) and one of the Thinking Moms on the panel. Her question was if a vaccine was developed that would prevent autism would you get your kids vaccinated. She absolutely would not as it could not be trusted.

During the panel discussion part she did manage to throw out the how many dollars pharma companies make (which I think was the total profit as usually vaccines aren’t that big a money maker for them) and the CDC Whistleblower meme. No one really counter either argument but it was more just let the drunk person rant at the party and don’t engage as you don’t want to give them any reason to keep going.

@JP, and considering that most of the “them” are consuming a low fat, high veggie, nutrient high diet, then they look around at the McDonalds/China buffet wide loads. They see themselves as the fit one and the rest of the rubes as the unhealthy one.

Sometimes entwined attributes cause problems in reaching the correct solution. The strong progressive cliche that I occasionally jam with looks by most demonstrative measures to be healthier, more fit. They are leaner, better conditioned and dare I say much better pickers and players. Thus, they are often “confused” that their choices are the best just because their outcomes are better than the general population.

Of course, I am sure both of us agree that the optimal strategy would be to follow much of the diet, exercise and lifestyle regime along with a sensible use and respect for standard medicine.

Liked your thought on “the new Calvinism”, although I tend to use that term towards those that have obtained wealth and believe that shows themselves as God’s favorite. Still, I like your usage too.

Sure, eating a reasonably healthy diet and getting some exercise are great things to do. A healthy lifestyle is no panacea, though, and it’s not going to stop your kids from getting leukemia or you from getting that brain tumor or catching dengue fever in Thailand or whatever. Some of the health problems we fact in this nation are in fact a result of lifestyle, but a whole lot of “health” is just a result of luck. (One might also point out that people nowadays live long enough to experience “lifestyle” diseases.)

But hey, y’know, the parents who take their kids to McDonald’s on occasion or rely on easy meals sometimes are not somehow lesser beings. I’m sorry, but when both parents (or the sole parent) work tiring jobs all day, it’s not always possible to make a beautiful, organic, from-scratch supper. And a little junk food here and there isn’t going to kill anybody, I mean, unless it’s poisoned or something. (My particular weakness is fired chicken.)

But the super-nutty-crunchy types treat diet as religion, and they must remain pure at all costs. (Not all of them are progressive, either, by any means. Lots of way-far-libertarian views and conspiracy mongering to be found, as well.)

And Jeez, don’t even get me started on the “Prosperity Gospel” types. They’re as bad as the New Agers, and pretty similar in a lot of ways.

Isn’t there another ‘academy’ of pediatrics, that’s a haven for woomeisters and antivaxxers?

Last I checked, the case load from the Disney outbreak has just gone over 100, and approx. 20 of them are spread out across the country. America is well on its way to adopting yet another British cultural trend, to wit, endemic measles.

About Dr. Jay: I would hypothesise that the way he and his ilk operate, they look for little market niches they can occupy, where they can pick up a guaranteed clientele (at 170 dollars a pop) and gain fame (free marketing) by being ‘spokespeople’ for a ‘point of view.’ Pure distilled cynicism at first, until they come to believe their own horse stuff, and become True Evangelists for a Cause.

As for School Superintendent Steven Herzog, ‘We are monitoring the situation closely…’, that is just absolutely classic horse stuff, that one hears from witless wankers posing as management types, whether public sector or private sector. Someone needs to give him a full-strength dose of disrespectful insolence for that, followed by a disability rights lawsuit.

@KayMarie (#29):

This week The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore had one of the shows on vaccination….one of the Thinking Moms on the panel.

Normally, I’m not one to shout at the TV, but for some reason, during that particular half hour, whenever she spoke…

JP:

The thing is, I don’t think they can be reminded of that, or at least a lot of them can’t.

I think the ones that far down the rabbit hole of alt med are beyond reason. I’m thinking more of the everyday ones. I’ve encountered a lot of those on forums, people who are generally sensible but who think vaccines are unneccesary because hey, they’re healthy, so what do they have to fear? They hear “only unhealthy people have to worry” and think of Bubble Boy. They don’t realize that *everyone* is unhealthy at some point. Generally healthy people, strong, good evolutionarily fit people included. And the voices of people like Dr Jay feed that mindset. By dismissing measles as only something to worry about if you’re “unhealthy”, Dr Jay is riding that misconception. It’s a bait-and-switch. He is saying one thing, and almost certainly aware that people are hearing something different.

@ JP:
” A healthy lifestyle is no panacea”

Which is what most reasonable people believe and what data show…
HOWEVER those entranced by woo believe the polar opposite : that lifestyle choices pre-determine health outcomes for serious illnesses- by prevention as well as cure.

They believe because those who make alt med their cash cow ( even when they’re vegans) preach the gospel of clean living/ veganism/ raw food/ phyto-nutrient loading/ natural, organic, GMO-free, vaccine-less purity.

People spend alarming amounts of money because they believe- in a denial of reality- that they can prevent most serious illness and increase longevity through these methods even though there is little evidence to support these claims.

As a psychologist, I venture that this is a way to pretend that one can control what are indeed the uncontrollable factors that affect health. I would add that particular individuals are most likely more vulnerable to these overtures by alt med salesmen. The claims advertised and perpetuated by alties filtre out reasonable SB people as a matter of course:
one offering a few years ago was entitled ( I kid you not)-
How to live forever.

And the rest of us- sinners all- are doomed or eternally dmned or something.

Even if it were true that measles didn’t pose a risk to healthy kids, presumably it would still pose a risk to unhealthy kids. So, what, let’s let the kids who are already unhealthy be extra vulnerable by dispensing with herd immunity? That’s the mentality of a sociopath.

I cried yesterday reading that NPR piece on Rhett Krawitt. The fact that a little boy who has spent the majority of his short time on this planet fighting a sh!tty disease has to even face this fear fills me with rage. Thanks Dr. Gordon, thanks Dr. Sears. This is what your beliefs and practices have wrought upon kids like that victorious little boy standing so proudly next to his grade one classroom.

I’m ashamed to live in a world where we don’t value the lives of ALL children. This is for NOTHING — all of your fearmongering, all of your profiteering, your fame, your shoulder-rubbing with celebs — NOTHING.

@Denice Walter

Just did a quick Google check, and it was Zoey O’Toole. Can’t watch it through the office firewall, but this page may have a relevant clip (Deseret News).

@ Richard Smith:

Thanks.
She is one of the founders of the crappy TMR blog/ book writing/ charity/ bs artistry movement.

@JP Now, did I ever say that a healthy lifestyle was a panacea, or even a pancreas.

My point which is part of my theme, is that so many of the progressive/former commune types that I know are demonstratively healthier than hyper-obese no-vegs microwave only land walruses. Thus, the true effect of their other poor choices are often masked by the overall effect of multiple variables.

Almost a musing, about whom do you believe is being worse to their child, one that skips a MMR vac or one that allows their child to be obese. Yes, the worst case is an morbidly obese child with no vaccines and the best is a sensible diet fit vaccinated child.

I don’t mean this as a dog of straw, I actually saw this in meeting a few years ago with the parents of a blimpo complaining about the dirty disease carrying river hippes. The irony made me leave the auditorium.

P.S. My own efforts to obtain a measles vaccination for myself are not going smoothly. I might need to be tested first to confirm, and the dang testing will be out-of-pocket.

Checking the info on the website for the show.

Zoey O’Toole was the thinking Mom.

the other panelists
Holly Phillips, M.D., is a medical contributor for CBS News
Judy Gold – comic.
Mike Yard – comic.

@Calli:

I guess I was thinking that anti-vaxxers sort of have to be pretty far down the alt-med rabbit hole to begin with. I suppose you’re right, though, there must be some fence sitters in amongst them, or at least some people susceptible to reason, given that Doctors Jay and Bob have had to be dissmissive of fears in the first place, and to start giving vaccines to worried parents and so on.

@Denice:

Funny story – I went to college with a guy who apparently believed in physical immortality. (He believed in a whole load of other BS, too.) He was also an insufferable git, but constantly wore this calm, beatific exterior which made it all the more annoying.

He was in a seminar once with myself and some of my friends, friends who I’m still close with, actually. Anyway, we were discussing an existentialist text on the fear of death, and he said, “Well, you only think you have to die because you believe in death.” I was, for once in my life, speechless. He also used to try to find any excuse to bring any conversation around to raw foods and superfoods and blah blah blah. It was super annoying.

Anyway, I was up visiting my friend Andy a few years back – he lives in Madison, WI, now – and we were like, “Hey, I wonder whatever happened to that guy we hated and used to make fun of all the time?” He’s down in NoCal now, livin’ the life. If you wanna barf, you should watch this hilarious conspiracy video of his. He gets, like, a million points for unironic use of the word “sheeple” and for flashing a book cover by David f***ing Icke when he starts talking about “truth tellers.” Oh, he also has an abysmally bad “rap” about raw cacao. And, of course, a website hawking expensive BS. Truly, I am ashamed to share an alma mater with this “man.”

@Denice. Not just woo-sters. I used to hire a gaggle of bright young grads with the Master’s of Public Health degrees freshly in their frames. One of the best and brightest of the bunch, dropped dead while on his lunchtime jog. The line I overheard at the funeral, and I know this was mainly the grief talking, was “He was fit, in shape, eat all the right foods, he wasn’t suppose to die” .

@Colonel Tom:

I wasn’t arguing with you when I said a healthy lifestyle is no panacea, I was merely pointing out what is, to me, obvious. Referring to people as “land walruses” does actually smack a bit of the attitude which I find so distasteful in the alt-med types, though.

More on Zoey O’Toole:
her ‘nym is -believe it or not- *Professor* and she tweets as TMRProf.

JP and Colonel Tom:
They are insufferable, self-adoring, candyarsed whiners, aren’t they?

Seriously, I think that to the faithful someone like me who exercises (perhaps 3-5 hours a week) eats carefully ( no red meat, lower fat, etc) and who has never been heavy would be considered just as lost as those who live on fast foods, never exercise, smoke and are quite overweight.

BECAUSE I’m not pure.
And I like a little gin and wine ( but not together)
And I occasionally eat cheese ((shudder))
some of which is blue/ bleu ((((((shudder)))))))
and I don’t police food labels for organic, GMO, chemical-free ( heh)
and I eat chicken and salmon.

Dr. Jay Gordon during his television interview on Scott Pelley’s nightly newscast is on record for this quote “Measles is almost always a benign childhood disease”. Except when it isn’t “a benign childhood disease”, Dr. Gordon.

I posted the comment and the link to NPR’s article about the six year old California child who is in remission after treatment for leukemia, and whose parents have appealed to the school authorities to ban those children who are not vaccinated with the MMR vaccine.

Just in case you don’t believe that the AoA critters couldn’t sink any lower, I submit to you this comment from Laura Hayes at Age of Autism…in reply to CIA Parker:

http://www.ageofautism.com/2015/01/age-of-autism-midweek-mashup-minneapolis-minnesota-measles-minnie-and-more.html?cid=6a00d8357f3f2969e201b8d0ca61c7970c#comment-6a00d8357f3f2969e201b8d0ca61c7970c

“Cynthia commented, “Irony abounds.”

My thoughts exactly this morning! There is a story about a dad in Marin, CA, whose young son had leukemia, is now 6, and “cannot be vaccinated because his immune system is rebuilding.” He now wants his son’s school to bar all unvaccinated students to protect his son.

http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2015/01/27/381888697/to-protect-his-son-a-father-asks-school-to-bar-unvaccinated-children

Talk about irony! Clearly, this dad does not know that it was his son’s own vaccines that could very well have caused his leukemia! Vaccines contain known carcinogens, while at the same time, they are not tested or studied for carcinogenic effects. I know, WHAT?! Additionally, they contain many immune-weakening and immune-destroying ingredients, making recipients more vulnerable to both acute and chronic illnesses, cancer included. This dad also doesn’t seem to know that any and all students and teachers who receive any one of the many live-virus vaccines now available are contagious and can shed that live vaccine virus for weeks, exposing his son to many viruses in that way. And now this dad wants other kids forced to get these same vaccines, or be kicked out of school? If only he had the knowledge needed to see this very real and very tragic irony.

Furthermore, another irony of sorts related to this story. Why is your child more worthy than the children of others? Why should others risk their children’s health and development for your child’s? As discussed in my article on AoA this week, both vaccines and illnesses carry the risks of disability and death. Vaccines are not some magic medicine that are always safe for everyone. Quite the opposite, as they have been legally declared “unavoidably unsafe”, and have a lengthy track record going back hundreds of years which testifies to their ability to harm and kill.

If this man’s son is severely immune-compromised and medically fragile (which is very sad and unfortunate; it is tragic what is being done to our children in the name of poisons for profit), then he needs to keep his son at home, in a protected and controlled environment. This is not unlike those of us who have children with vaccine-induced autism. There are many places we wish we could take our children, or have them go (i.e. to school, a friend’s, or the store by themselves; to a sporting event, in which they are playing; to college; to a church service; to a paying job that would support them; to their own home one day where they could live independently and/or with their own family; and more), but we can’t, so we don’t. That is life. Each parenting situation is different, and must be handled as such. If your child is endangered by the germs of others, then exposure to those germs should be limited as much as possible by keeping the child at home in as clean and safe an environment as possible.

Yep, it’s a day for many ironies, Cynthia, isn’t it?

Posted by: Laura Hayes | January 28, 2015 at 02:01 PM”

Re: The Nightly Show

I thought Wilmore, overall, did a pretty good job handling the topic (so much so I included a bit about the episode in a recent post). I was disappointed, though, that no one called O’Toole on the CDC whistleblower nonsense, but was very pleased at Wilmore’s rejoinder to the “but they’re making money, the fiends!” [paraphrasing] comment.

I’d compare Jay Gordon to excrement, but that would be an insult to excrement, which we can at least throw in the trash.

Carl Krawitt made an interesting point in the story I read on NPR:
“Krawitt has been speaking up about vaccination for a long time now. He told me about going to a parent meeting at his daughter’s school just before the start of the school year, where a staff member reminded parents not to send peanut products to school, since a child or children had an allergy. ‘It’s really important your kids don’t bring peanuts, because kids can die,’ Krawitt recalls the group being told.”
If schools can tell parents not to send PBJs for lunch, surely they can tell parents not to send unvaccinated children to school.
California (and most of the rest of the US) should just do what Mississippi and West Virginia do, and say that the only exemption from vaccination is medical contraindication.

And I will say this as well: WHERE is the American Academy of Pediatrics during all this? WHERE?

A: NOWHERE. They are true cowards who used to once speak up against groups like the NVIC but now won’t and have never, ever once done anything against the anti-vaccine members in their ranks–who all need to be expelled.

JP: It also makes no sense, cause walruses are found on both land and sea. I’ve heard of ‘land whales’ but I think the other is either a malaprop or a regionalism.
And of course ‘Colonel Tom’ works in public health. Since lilady’s time, that’s become a breeding ground of woo. Possibly because most of the people who work there tend to be the sort who think the heart overrules the brain and have an exaggerated sense of their own competence.

Said Art Caplan, 1 minute ago on MSNBC:

“I’d rather get my medical information from a doormat than Jenny McCarthy.”

@JP, to my mind the phrase “land walrus” has no more negative connotations than morbidly obese, or type 2 diabetes. Could we settle on “dietary child neglect”?

@Denise Are you sure about the cheese? According to the “French Paradox” cheese might just be fine for you, although you might be talking the strain of vegetarian that eats no dairy. There so very interesting studies linking red meat to heart disease by way of digestive bacteria. So I’ve jumped on that “trend” too. , Although previously I only ate flesh that had been killed by my own hand. Although that was not a health reason. Can’t do the dairy for obvious genetic reasons.

“And of course ‘Colonel Tom’ works in public health. Since lilady’s time, that’s become a breeding ground of woo. ”

You are a fucking ignoramus.

Well, this is about as sad and distressing as the what is happening to Rhett Krawitt above: a 3 year-old getting labs at the end of chemotherapy for leukemia is exposed to measles at a pediatric clinic in Arizona (along with her 10 month old brother who is too young for the MMR vaccine). Dad is a pediatrician, and he is upset at the exposure as well has his children needing to receive IVIG for post-exposure prophylaxis. Oh…and 195 kids total were probably exposed at that clinic to measles. http://www.kpho.com/story/27967620/az-pediatrician-angry-over-cancer-fighting-daughters-exposure-to-measles , and see also http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/12-news/2015/01/28/12news-195-people-exposed-to-measles-at-hospital/22453857/

This is infuriating.

@JP, to my mind the phrase “land walrus” has no more negative connotations than morbidly obese, or type 2 diabetes. Could we settle on “dietary child neglect”?

Well, your mind works differently from the average mind, I suppose, which would classify one as an insult and the other two as conditions. It’s obviously healthier to be at a healthy weight. That’s a tautology. But throwing insults doesn’t do anything to help anybody or anything.

I invite you to move to Detroit, and raise a couple kids with the average Detroiter’s monthly income, availabe food choices, and transportation options. Really, I think it’d be educational.

I do think that not vaxing is basically medical neglect, but there’s a whole lot more that goes into everyday dietary choices than the simple decision to take your kids for their shots or not.

Thanks Shay, for your reply to pgp:

a) pgp is incredibly gullible for believing Colonel Tom works in public health.

b) pgp knows nothing about public health and nothing about the staff who work in the public health field…but that doesn’t stop her from making her ignorant remarks.

c) pgp has a false sense of her competence in multiple fields and blunders into discussions to drop her turds.

d) pgp needs to stop stereotyping people.

Isn’t there another ‘academy’ of pediatrics, that’s a haven for woomeisters and antivaxxers?

Are you thinking of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons? (the John Birch Society with a stethoscope).

I invite you to move to Detroit, and raise a couple kids with the average Detroiter’s monthly income, availabe food choices, and transportation options. Really, I think it’d be educational.

From the hints Colonel Tom has made about his background, I imagine that he is fully acquainted with the social and economic conditions that restrict a family’s dietary choices.

@JP, point well made. Poor is bad for your health, and bad food is cheap food. The poor have a high hurdle, many bad things contribute to their plight. It is harder than for most, but being hard is no reason to stop trying.

One of my daughter’s friends is extremely overweight, her parents are well off, in my mind’s image that was population I was unleashing my small glib.

Shoot, next time I am up that we we can go grab a picnic on Squaw Island and talk the matter through.

@Shay, I am not now, nor have I ever worked in public health. My work was bought by an insurance company and trust me the insurance industry has nothing to do with public health. I said I had hired employees that had MS.P.H.

I was looking to see if Ben Carson might have been a member of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, but he doesn’t seem to be, though AAPT seems to be very enthusiastic about him. The great Charlie Pierce began a column on Carson with

I begin to suspect quite seriously that Dr. Ben Carson honed his very legitimate skills as a gifted neurosurgeon by practicing on himself. I further suspect that whatever portion of the human brain is dedicated to the study of history is hanging on the wall of Ben’s office, next to the diploma.

Pierce is often extremely funny.

@palindrom
Love that. I am also guessing he started on Louie Gohmert, just for practice. He may also have done a little work on Palin just before her Iowa speech.

Thank you Herr Doktor, although even when things were really hard after my father’s death, aged 38 from his third heart attack, my mother worked very hard to provide us with decent food and everything else. I likely think that her example of putting her children ahead of almost everything I likely have too hard of an opinion for those that do not. We all have some bias in our lives.

I miss her, she’s two years on the ground now. Aortic aneurysm, she contracted MRSA during a surgical repair. They pumped her full of antibiotics and it took almost 18 months before the inevitable.

@Indigo_Fire (#28)

In the LA Times piece, Conis does have a point about there being some common ground between the women’s and environmental health movements and the anti-vaxxers. But what she fails to appreciate is that it’s a very confused common ground. Indeed, that’s how we get people like RFK Jr. But most, especially on the environmental health side, should (and usually do) know better. After all, they have their own problems with science denial and the climate skeptics.

I like your characterization of “weasel words.” The interviewer should have done a better job of framing the interview with an explanation of how Conis’s “nuanced” view differs from mainstream, science-based public health recommendations.

I can tell you exactly what the CBS Evening News producers were thinking: The Disneyland measles story is hot hot hot, so let’s find a dumb-ass SOB we can pin the blame on, serve him up on a platter, and dismember him with a meat cleaver in front of 7.1 million viewers, which just might help us gain some more ground on Brain Williams and Diane Sawyer.

The CBS News piece isn’t ‘balanced’ at all, false or otherwise. It’s a classic 60 Minutes style take-down of Dr. Jay Gordon. It’s an audience-pleaser in dramatic form: a good guy, a bad guy, a twist, a reveal…

1) Introduce scumbag and let him state his BS: “measles poses no risk to a healthy child.” (Dr. Jay is not a smart man. He doesn’t see what’s coming).
2) Put scumbag back on his heels with challenging ‘but’ question: “But a sick person who contacts YOUR patients will infect 90% of them. How is that not a risk?”
3) Stupid scumbag fails to realize his legs have just been cut off, and starts trying to dance out of trouble: “Measles is a benign childhood illness.”
4) …and he walks right into the knife!: “is it YOUR personal choice to bring back an eradicated disease?”
5) Writhing, twisting the blade further and further into his dub-ass self: “Measles isn’t coming back”
6) And the ambush trap springs shut, pulling Dr. Jay off the screen: Animated graphic! Before vaccines 481,530 cases, 408 dead. And lets see a pro-vax Dr. now to show just how big a bozo has been swallowed by the mighty jaws of the edit bay! We’d seen Hollywood-groomed-guy Dr. Jay in his posh private office – in dress shirt, suit jacket and periwinkle tie — and here’s Dr. Deborah Lehman at Cedars Sinai Medical Center, a woman in a frumpy outfit under a lab coat walking the halls of what appears to be real Children’s Hospital ward…
7) Dr. Lehman starts moving her mouth and words must be coming out, but no one will hear them, as we’re 3/4 of the way into the TRT of the piece, and that means it’s climax time — Four Ken Burns Effect photos of kids in anguish completely covered with red dots. Benign my ass!
8) Cut back to Dr. Lehman for a few seconds. She’s still saying something we’re not listening to, as we take a breath to recover from those pictures of measles…
9) Which we do just in time to hear correspondent Ben Tracy pour the verbal dirt into Dr. Jay’s lying-arse grave. The anti-vaxers have changed their minds, and rushing to Dr. Jay to get shots for their kids.
Boom goes the dynamite!
And the continuous thumping noise in the background since that clip aired is the sound of six figures worth of un-vaxers hopping down off the fence.

This is the news story of your dreams, gang. You may think you want scientists and doctors delivering the truth about vaccines with no time devoted to the likes of Dr. Jay, but TV doesn’t work that way. No villain, no drama, no viewers. Put just Dr. Lehman on the screen, and the folks at home change the channel. Add Paul Offit, Steve Novella, and somebody from the CDC and it’s worse: too many voices on screen, no focus. On the other hand, you might think if they’re going to go after the anti-vaxers, they ought to debunk them more broadly, get Dr. Bob and RFKJ in there too. Nope.

Here’s the classic 60 Minutes ‘expose’ formula: The star is the newsman-as-private-eye — tough, street-smart, relentless Mike Wallace. He’s the viewer’s surrogate, out to skewer the pompous fools that plague us in everyday life. The piece is a classically structured narrative arc portraying the lone detective’s investigation of a single low-life. Plot is character, and character is plot. In order to develop character in a short segment, there’s only room for two principals, though a side-kick of the week may step in to help lower the boom.

The bad guy falls to his own hubris. He thinks he can handle Mike Wallace. The crew is coming to his office. He’s at home, not downtown in the police interrogation box. He doesn’t understand that Mike has brought his ‘box’ with him. He can’t tell what the camera’s doing, but it’s framing him in a tight close-up. Mike’s more amiable in person than on TV. They talk for awhile – the interview might last a half-hour or more in real time. Slowly the questions become a bit tougher, and the bad guy starts to squirm. He’s trying to catch back-up to that feeling of poise and comfort he’d had just moments before, and then… the (in)famous 60 Minutes “Gotcha” drops on his head.

The bad guy might even recover fairly well in reality, but his goose is already pre-cooked. Back at the shop, the producers/directors/editors chop up the rushes, pull out all the juicy stuff, and put it into proper story order, where the magic of TV lets ‘Mike’ pull out the ambush edit at exactly the right point(s) in the story arc — and here’s the picture sequence SHOWING (not telling) that everything the guy has just said is a self-serving lie.

Good stories usually have interesting bad guys. Khan, The Joker, HAL. By themselves Kirk, Batman, and Dave Bowman are just tiresome boors. There’s a high likelihood that Dr. Jay was cast in that the LA staffers know both Gordon and Sears, concluded that Dr. Bob would come off more likable on-screen and have a better line, while Dr. Jay would look like a weasel, and be far more prone to put his foot into his mouth. Per the script, which was already written in the sense the pro-vax info was already lined up, the humble science WOMAN (these producers do not miss a trick) already cast, the story outline already sketched.

Without Dr. Jay, you got nothing, TV-wise.

Now here’s what Dr. Jay getting the 60 Minutes treatment should tell you (or re-affirm): the anti-vaxers are now losers. Not after Dr. Jay getting sliced and diced by Ben Tracy’s video Vegomatic. Before. It was only on very rare occasions – e.g. the tobacco story fictionalized in The Insider – that Mike Wallace went after anyone with real power and influence. The targets were usually middling con-artists with puffed up egos: 3rd tier televangelists, regional snake oil salesmen, shady attorneys… yeah, Dr. Jay fits right in!

Dr. Chris (not FAAP) says:

Chris Hickie
January 29, 2015
“I’d compare Jay Gordon to excrement, but that would be an insult to excrement, which we can at least throw in the trash.”

I wasn’t going to comment on this post but Dr. Hickie’s incredibly clever comment made me come by to say hello.

Jay

Dr. Jay – how does it feel to be in the epicenter of the worst outbreak of Measles in the US in the past decade?

For what it’s worth to you, Dr. Jay, I’m really disappointed in you. There was a real opportunity here for you to make a difference. Yeah, I know, it doesn’t matter.

@Sadmar: I think at least some of the audience may assume that an experienced pediatrician’s word should be taken seriously, and miss some or all of the takedowns and the lack of real, evidentiary basis for the claims.

That may mislead them into accepting his perspective as at least a valid one – even though it is unsupported. That’s the danger of false balance.

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