Antivaccine cardiologist Jack Wolfson and the resurrection of false balance about vaccines…again!


I swear, I had wanted to write about something else today. I really had. The reason is that we’re in one of those stretches of time where things seem to be happening fast and furious that have led most of my posts over the last couple of weeks to be about the Disneyland measles outbreak, how it was facilitated by the antivaccine movement, and the fallout, both in terms of the measles outbreak continuing to spread and the pushback by antivaccinationists anxious to distance themselves from blame for the outbreak. Yes, I’ve written about “Dr. Bob” Sears, “Dr. Jay” Gordon, and, most recently, the most despicable antivaccine doctor of all, a cardiologist named Jack Wolfson.

Indeed, Dr. Wolfson has to be one of the most vile antivaccinationists I’ve ever encountered, and I slammed the local Phoenix NBC affiliate, USA TODAY, and CNN for featuring this pathetic excuse for a physician, particularly CNN, which featured him in the classic “debate” of pseudoscience that provides false balance, the impression that there is a scientific disagreement about vaccines when there is none.

Ooops, CNN did it again. Yesterday. In a story by Elizabeth Cohen and Debra Goldschmidt entitled Arizona measles exposure worries parents of at-risk kids CNN couldn’t resist giving the vile Dr. Wolfson more national exposure. Yes, it’s a story similar to one I mentioned last week in which the parents of a child with leukemia are, quite understandably, terrified that their child will be at risk for the measles. The reason is this. MMR is a live attenuated virus vaccine, and live virus vaccines are contraindicated in cancer patients who are immunosuppressed due to chemotherapy. Such children have a legitimate medical contraindication to vaccination and therefore rely on herd immunity provided by having a high level of vaccination in the population of children with whom they come into contact. It’s an understandable fear, which is described in the story:

Anna Jacks checks her baby’s forehead over and over again. Is he hot? Does he have a rash? Is his nose still runny?

Her son has been sick before, but this time it’s different: Last week Eli was at a Phoenix Children’s Hospital clinic with a woman who had the measles, which spreads easily from person to person. Now he’s showing signs of the virus, such as runny nose and cough and fatigue.

At 10 months old, Eli is too young to get vaccinated and would be especially vulnerable to serious complications of measles, such as deafness and brain damage or even death. But his parents have an even bigger worry. If Eli does have the measles, he could give it to his 3-year-old sister, Maggie, who has leukemia.

So far Maggie is feeling fine, but her parents know that with her immune system wiped out by chemotherapy she’s even more vulnerable than her brother to complications.

It turns out that Eli was exposed to the measles by a a woman who was infected by a members of a non-vaccinating family and got her measles at—you guessed it—Disneyland. Eli’s father happens to be a physician and vented his frustration at antivaccinationists in a blog post that is a must-read. Indeed, Maggie’s family is so worried that they wouldn’t let the CNN crew into their home to see Eli or Maggie. In the story, Eli and Maggie’s mother is quoted as saying, “If you don’t want to vaccinate your children, fine, but don’t take them to Disneyland.” This is, of course, an entirely reasonable sentiment. If you don’t want to vaccinate your children, you shouldn’t be taking them to places where they can so easily be disease vectors.

Of course, if there’s one thing I’ve noticed when I describe selfishness as being one of the core motivators of the antivaccine movement, basically a lack of concern about other people’s children built on the false notion that others shouldn’t need to worry about their unvaccinated children if their children are vaccinated, it’s that people unfamiliar with the antivaccine movement have a hard time believing it. They don’t think that people can be so callous or that such callousness is baked into their antivaccine philosophy. For those people, I present to you: Dr. Jack Wolfson. Behold his staggeringly assholish response to the concerns of parents of children who can’t be vaccinated against the measles regarding the latest measles outbreak:

But Dr. Jack Wolfson said it’s the Jacks family who should keep themselves at home, not him.

Wolfson, an Arizona cardiologist, refuses to vaccinate his two young sons. He said the family that didn’t vaccinate and endangered the Jacks children did nothing wrong.

“It’s not my responsibility to inject my child with chemicals in order for [a child like Maggie] to be supposedly healthy,” he said. “As far as I’m concerned, it’s very likely that her leukemia is from vaccinations in the first place.”

“I’m not going to sacrifice the well-being of my child. My child is pure,” he added. “It’s not my responsibility to be protecting their child.”

In other words, screw you. I got mine, and I don’t care about anyone else and am perfectly satisfied to sponge off of herd immunity. Even worse, he’s blaming cancer on vaccinations without a shred of evidence to support his viewpoint. That this man is an actual cardiologist is a profound embarrassment to the specialty of cardiology. No, it’s a profound embarrassment to all physicians. I am profoundly embarrassed that such an pathetic excuse for a human being is a fully board-certified member of my profession.

Look, I can understand (sort of) the sentiment of some antivaccine parents that their child should be their first concern and that they are not responsible for other people’s children. I can (sort of) understand it, but I still find it to be an abhorrent attitude. However, as much as I can somewhat at least understand the roots of such an attitude, even as I disapprove of it, what I can’t understand is how someone like Dr. Wolfson takes that attitude and cranks it up to 11 and beyond:

CNN asked Wolfson if he could live with himself if his unvaccinated child got another child gravely ill.

“I could live with myself easily,” he said. “It’s an unfortunate thing that people die, but people die. I’m not going to put my child at risk to save another child.”

He blamed the Jacks family for taking Maggie to the clinic for care.

“If a child is so vulnerable like that, they shouldn’t be going out into society,” he said.

As I said: What a pathetic excuse for a physician and vile human being. And, again, I’d tell him that to his face if I were ever to encounter him. Worse, it’s not an isolated incident. It’s a pattern, as several of you have pointed out to me. Indeed, a commenter noted that this is not the first time Dr. Wolfson has blamed parents of a child with cancer for their predicament. Interestingly, the original post referenced has been removed from Dr. Wolfson’s website. Fortunately, the Wayback Machine remembers all, and the post is archived. In case Dr. Wolfson figures out how to change his robots.txt file to stop further archiving of this post, I will reprint the whole thing in all its evil glory, in order to make sure that its text never disappears:

Recently, a child died from complications of the chicken pox and now her mother wants to make sure everyone gets injected.

While the death of any child is a travesty, this one could have been prevented, not with injecting more chemicals into this young girl, but with good nutrition and chemical avoidance. She was likely fed GMO, sugar, gluten, soy, corn, and other items that led to her demise. Her mother sadly blames the doctor (who advised her against the vaccine) and the rest of us who demand the freedom to choose whether or not to inject chemicals into our children.

Here is the response of my wife, Dr. Heather Wolfson, to a column on Yahoo.

Where do I begin?!! I can go on forever about it. First of all, the little girl was born without a spleen therefore she was immunocompromised since birth. The lack of this vital organ was probably caused by some drug the mother took while pregnant! Immunocompromised individuals are not supposed to receive vaccines. Kudos to the pediatrician who steered the mom and child away from the chicken pox shot. I’d like to shake his hand. He probably saved the girls life given she may have died due to complications of vaccines based on her poor immune status. i Maybe the mother got an extra five years of life from her daughter by not participating in vaccine schedule folly. She should be thankful to the doctor.

Secondly, the mother probably gave fever reducers such as Tylenol. This depletes glutathione and is a sure fire way to allow your child to succumb to such a benign childhood illness. In this country, one in 30,000 of those with chicken pox died every year, for a grand total of 100 per annum. Those were usually adults. Please don’t pass a law forcing us to vaccinate and inject chemicals into our children because 100 people died per year. What was the health status of those 100 prior to chicken pox? Probably not good. Your healthy, breast fed, organic child will not suffer the same fate.

If this mother would have sought out chiropractic care, gave just two simple vitamins A and C, she would have never developed pneumonia. Also, mom fed her garbage food and exposed her to thousands of chemicals. This little girl is dead, not from chicken pox, but from chemicals and poor nutrition. Additionally, she probably had at least one vaccine, hepatitis B, when she was first born in the hospital which would have destroyed her immune and nervous system from the start.

The mother is ignorant, uneducated, and a danger to all other parents and children. She should spend her time learning how the human body works instead of spreading her deadly advice to the rest of the world.

Yes, this is what Dr. Wolfson says about a mother who has lost her child, that she is “ignorant,, uneducated, and a danger to all other parents and children,” even though her advice is in agreement with virtually the entire pediatric profession. This is the sort of man CNN has gone to more than once for its stories on the Disneyland measles outbreak.

In fact, Dr. Wolfson reminds me more than a little of J. B. Handley (remember him?), who has recently reappeared at the antivaccine crank blog Age of Autism. Just as he gloated over the role of the antivaccine movement in driving down parental confidence in the vaccine program, he’s gloating now about…well, let me just quote him:

While I think Nyhan is generally correct, I also have a much simpler explanation for why the messaging by the pro-vaccine community is backfiring:

They’re fucking lying.

There, I said it. It really is that simple. You can’t suppress truth forever, no matter how hard you try. Richer, more educated parents vaccinate less because they are smarter and have more resources and their bigger brains and pocketbooks give them the time and money to research the issue and when they do they are scared shitless that vaccines might trigger Autism in their child. They compare that risk to measles and guess what? Bye bye MMR.

Yes, Wolfson is nothing more than J.B. Handley with an MD. He is full of the arrogance of ignorance and practically breaks his arm patting himself on the back for being so smart when his scientific ignorance is beyond epic. Indeed, he even seems to think that you can eliminate stupid things you’ve posted on the Internet by just deleting the post in which you said them.

And did I say again that this is the sort of idiot that CNN features on its news reports about the ongoing measles outbreak?