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The annals of “I’m not antivaccine,” part 20: “There is no safe vaccine” and excusing the murder of autistic children

One of the most insidious and oft-repeated myths of the antivaccine movement is that vaccines cause autism. Certainly, it is true that there was an antivaccine movement long before anyone thought of linking vaccines to autism. For example, in the the 1980s the DPT (diptheria-whole cell pertussis-tetanus) vaccine was linked to encephalitis and neurological damage, a scare that lead to a wave of lawsuits against vaccine manufacturers that threatened the US vaccine program. Congress replied by passing the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986, a “no-fault” act in which vaccine manufacturers paid into a fund to compensate families of children with legitimate vaccine injury and in return all vaccine injury claims had to go through the newly created National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) and Vaccine Court. Children with certain “table injuries” would be compensated rapidly and surely, and their legal costs were paid, win or lose.

Unfortunately, in the 1990s the myth arose that vaccines could somehow cause or trigger autism. this myth arose in part because broadened diagnostic criteria in the early 1990s coupled with screening programs that would result in diagnoses of autism where before there had been other diagnoses, such as mental retardation, resulted in a huge increase in the prevalence of autism. Humans being humans, some linked the increase in the number of vaccines in the vaccine schedule around the same time to this increasing prevalence of autism, and the vaccine-autism myth was born. Add to that Andrew Wakefield’s 1998 Lancet case series that purported to show an association between the MMR vaccine and autism, and the myth was greatly strengthened, such that now it is one of the central organizing myths of the antivaccine movement, along with the conspiracy theory that the CDC has slam dunk evidence showing that vaccines cause autism but is hiding it because it is in collusion with big pharma to keep selling vaccines.

Indeed, there is now a documentary making the rounds that makes in essence exactly those claims, using a disgruntled CDC scientist named William Thompson, who had a disagreement with his co-investigators over the interpretation of a 2004 study that failed to find a link between the MMR vaccine and autism and, as a result, reached out to a biochemical engineer turned incompetent antivaccine epidemiologist named Brian Hooker. Thompson helped Hooker get access to the raw dataset for that 2004 study, which he reanalyzed in a now-retracted paper that purported to show a correlation between vaccination with MMR and autism in African-American males. Thus was born the “CDC whistleblower” saga, which is now the subject of a movie produced by Del Bigtree and directed by Andrew Wakefield, VAXXED: From Cover-up to Catastrophe.

I’m not going to discuss VAXXED any further this post, although I have finally seen it and will in a few days be posting a modified version of a lengthy review I posted elsewhere. The reason I bring it up is because various combinations of Del Bigtree, Andrew Wakefield, and Polly Tommey have been going around the country promoting the movie and doing Q&As after screenings, which they’ve been recording and posting to Facebook and YouTube (for example, here). I’m going to discuss a couple of more of these videos because, better than anything I’ve seen recently, they demonstrate that when antivaccinationists claim not to be “antivaccine” but “pro-vaccine safety” or “vaccine safety activists,” they are either self-deluded or lying. It’s worse than that, though. When they claim to be “autism activists” or advocates for autistic children, that too is a lie or delusion.

Here is the main video I’m talking about, posted to Del Bigtree’s Facebook page of his Q&A with Polly Tommey in Pittsburgh on July 10:


The first relevant part of the video has been nicely excerpted by Reasonable Hank:

Polly Tommey states unequivocally that there is no such thing as a safe vaccine:

In my mind, Polly Tommey as a parent, people that I’m speaking to, there clearly is no safe vaccine, because the only person that I will believe—and every single parent stood up who’s lived the same misery that I have, I can tell you, we will never trust again. We will never stick another needle. You can say this is a safe vaccine, but we will never believe you. How can we believe you?

Got that? Tommey says unequivocally that there is no safe vaccine and that she will never believe scientists that vaccines are safe, no matter what. From the tone of her voice, her combativeness, it is easy to see that she means what she says. It’s also easy to see that it’s unlikely that any amount of evidence will lead her to change her mind.

Indeed, she goes beyond that. Before the clip above, before Tommey says she will never, ever vaccinated, she invokes a common antivaccine trope, namely that vaccines kill. Check it out around 14:00:

America, you have really opened our eyes up. We are hearing from parents whose babies have died from their Hib vaccine, babies who have died from the DTaP vaccine, and then they call it…SIDS. And from where we’re standing right now, that is a new word for “death by vaccine,” because nobody will acknowledge but the parents know. We parents know what happened to our children, and, death after death after death, it is incredible. It’s almost every Q&A we’re getting at least one baby that died from the the Hib or the birth [Hepatitis B vaccine] or from the DTaP. And then there are children like mine, who have seizures and regress, and that’s called “autism.” To me now, that’s just another word that we’re chucking our children under the rug, because actually what it really is is vaccine injury. Anything but vaccine injury, anything but death by vaccine. Why are they not talking about the fact that these vaccines are killing, maiming, and murdering the brains of our children? A 19-year-old boy wants to go to college, gets a flu vaccine, and dies. The Gardasil victims, it’s everywhere. It’s every single vaccine. We didn’t start out to listen to this. We just had our story to tell here, and now we’re hearing from the military. It’s coming out of every corner.

So let’s see. Wakefield, Bigtree, and Tommey are “not antivaccine.” At least, that’s what they’ve claimed again and again and again. Yet they’ve just made a movie filled with nearly every antivaccine myth, conspiracy theory, and trope known to humankind and are selling it by saying things like “Vaccines kill”; SIDS is “death from vaccines”; autism is “vaccine injury,” the result of vaccines “murdering the brains of our children”; that it’s “every single vaccine”; and that there is no safe vaccine. One of my favorite tricks to get an antivaccinationist to reveal herself is based on a similar trick I used to use in alt.revisionism regarding Holocaust history. Basically, it involves asking a couple of very simple questions:

  • Are there any vaccines you consider safe and effective enough to give your child
  • If the answer is yes, please name them and tell me why.

Someone who is not antivaccine will usually be able to rattle off at least a couple of vaccines—even if it’s just the tetanus vaccine—as being worth receiving. Antivaccinationists like Tommey, on the other hand, will either answer “none,” or, sensing the trap, equivocate, waffle, and go on a rant about specific vaccines.

This is just a taste, too. Elsewhere in the Q&A, Bigtree rants about the evils of big pharma and blames it for all this alleged death and destruction. In another Q&A in May, Tommey described a conversation she had from a caller to a radio show in which she was being interviewed, in which she was asked about California after SB 277, the law that eliminates nonmedical exemptions to school vaccine mandates:

This one guy called in, and he says, “I have a four year old daughter who’s unvaccinated. Everything’s great. But now I have to vaccinate her.” And I couldn’t get him to say, “No you don’t have to vaccinate her.”

Here’s the thing. Parents are so worried—well, they should be worried; they’re in California. There’s no school, no job, no house, no anything worth putting a vaccine in your child, and it doesn’t seem to be sinking in, and I’m not judging, because I used to be that person. I mean, he saw VAXXED; yet he still says , “I live in California. I’m going to have to vaccinate my child.”

“There’s no school, no job, no house, no anything worth putting a vaccine in your child”? That doesn’t sound as though it’s something a vaccine safety advocate would say, but it sure does sound like something an antivaccine activist would say.

So does this gem from Bigtree at a different Q&A for VAXXED:

In this segment, Bigtree is clearly discussing SB 277 when he asks, “What were the Jewish people thinking when the Nazis took over?” (He even made a reference to the Yellow Star of David, just like Heather Barajas did last year when she likened herself and her daughter to Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto during the Nazi occupation.) Nazi analogies are very popular among antivaccine activists and the antivaccine-sympathetic, after all. Oh, and Bigtree also likens the rhetoric about vaccination to slavery, as well! Truly, it’s a two-fer of antivaccine persecution complex.

It’s also far from the only time Bigtree has invoked such rhetoric:

Yes, in this selection of excerpts from speeches and appearances, Bigtree likens those promoting vaccination to Nazis during the Holocaust, to slave owners and slavery advocates before the Civil War (even explicitly saying that parents and children are being “enslaved”), and to whites during apartheid, with he and his brave band of antivaccine activists being the Jews, the slaves, and the blacks, respectively, in those historical events. Unfortunately, when you compare those who disagree with you to Nazis, slave owners, and whites enforcing apartheid and those people happen to be pro-vaccine advocates looking for strategies to increase vaccine uptake, it’s hard not to conclude that your rhetoric has nothing to do with vaccine safety and everything to do with being antivaccine.

It’s worse than that, though. Not long after Tommey’s little rant about how vaccines kill and cause autism and how there’s no safe vaccine, she sinks even lower. This brings me to the second claim that antivaccine activists like Polly Tommey frequently make, that they are advocates for the autistic. Indeed, Tommey started a magazine called The Autism File, as though it were a lifestyle and advocacy magazine for families with autistic children and adults, even though in reality it is more a paean to Andrew Wakefield and a repository of quack “autism biomed” treatments designed to treat the “vaccine injury” that Tommey believes autism to be. Another example is the antivaccinationists who believe that vaccines cause autism who started a blog. When they named it, they named it “Age of Autism,” even though it’s around 90% about vaccines and how they believe that vaccines cause autism, 9% about quack “autism biomed” treatments, and maybe 1% true autism advocacy. (OK, I’m probably giving them too much credit.) Yet another group is “Generation Rescue,” the idea being to “rescue” autistic children from autism.

Now let’s see what Tommey thinks of autistic children, as we pick up where we left off in her Pittsburgh Q&A:

And who is going to look after our children? Who’s going to take Billy on? Who’ll be able to stand Billy with those terrible tantrums he has? Who? No one’s going to take him on. They’ll put a four point restraint bed and psychotropic drugs or see him out on the street.

Then, she says this:

I’m going to let you listen to this for yourself, but I will point out that she concludes by saying I will “never judge them for what they did,” the “them” being parents who murdered their autistic child.

Just let that sink in a moment. Polly Tommey won’t judge parents who kill their autistic children. No doubt part of this reticence comes from the murder of Alex Spourdalakis, an autistic teen whose mother killed him. It was a story that was reported dishonestly by antivaccine reporter Sharyl Attkisson, but, worse, it was a tragedy that Andrew Wakefield and Polly Tommey glommed onto in order to make a video for their Autism Media Channel.

Matt Carey sums up her involvement thusly:

But the low point of Polly Tommey’s advocacy career came when she and Andrew Wakefield “helped” a family in crisis. They were working on a reality TV show (that failed to get off the ground) called the Autism Team. The idea was simple: find a family with an autistic child who is in need of help. Swoop in with Team Wakefield, blame vaccines, claim it’s all about gastrointestinal issues, claim to have helped the family and move on to the next. But it all fell apart with one family–that of Alex Spourdalakis. In the autism community, a community were people have extraordinary needs, Alex had extraordinary needs. What he didn’t need was for his mother to be fed false hopes and bad advice, which is what Team Wakefield did. What he didn’t need was for Team Wakefield to walk away to their next project, leaving his mother with nothing when the hope they were sold proved false.

Alex was murdered. Brutally murdered. By his mother and another caregiver. Alex was poisoned. When that failed to kill him, he was stabbed. Repeatedly. His wrist was slit to the bone. By his mother and caregiver. Alex bled to death, leaving a grisly scene for when his father, estranged from the mother, found him.

The fact that Polly Tommey won’t face up to her abject failure with Alex Spourdalakis is not surprising. It is also not surprising that Polly Tommey won’t judge the people who committed that brutal murder, or any other murder by a parent of an autistic child. Not surprising, but an example of the failure of Polly Tommey and other faux autism advocates to actually stand up and lead. How hard is it to say, “No! Murder is wrong”?

Polly Tommey met Alex Spourdalakis. But she “won’t judge” the person who plunged a knife into his chest. She won’t judge the person who poisoned him. She won’t judge the person who slit his wrist.

No, she won’t judge Alex’s murderers. Instead she and Wakefield capitalized on the tragedy to make “documentary”, taking Alex’s story to promote their own agenda.

I don’t think I could have said it better than that, particularly given that I lack the direct experience with autism that Carey has. All I really have to add is that Tommey seems to be like a lot of mothers of autistic children who have turned to the Dark Side (become antivaccine). She doesn’t seem to view her child as fully human; her “real” child was the normal son she had before his symptoms of developmental delay and autism manifested themselves. Once that happened, the very human tendency to need an explanation manifested itself, and unfortunately, for whatever reason, the explanation that most resonated with her was vaccines.

Tommey might think herself a vaccine safety advocate uncovering CDC malfeasance and a champion for autistic children, but her own words and behavior show quite conclusively that nothing could be further from the truth. I wonder what Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, who met with Bigtree in June to listen to the pleas of antivaccine activists to subpoena the “CDC whistleblower” would think if he knew just how antivaccine Bigtree is. Probably nothing, and that’s depressing.

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]

187 replies on “The annals of “I’m not antivaccine,” part 20: “There is no safe vaccine” and excusing the murder of autistic children”

When you assume there’s no good future for your son, it feels like it would be a self-fulfilling prophecy. At the very least, it probably means you are not working, making powerful efforts, to make such a future. People have limited energy, and with Ms. Tommey devoting all hers to fighting vaccines, how can she be working to help make sure there is an infrastructure in place to help and support adult Billy?

And her dehumanizing comments about him – as you pointed out – are so, so troubling. Is he ever seen as a treasure rather than a burden? Appreciated?

And the fact that Vaxxed team still go around saying that they are not anti-vaccine while saying these things doesn’t do much for their credibility, such as it is.

Tommey, Wakefield and Bigtree are the worst sort of ghouls–making their coin off pretending to help children when in reality everything they say and do hurts children. I hope this message gets out strongly and widely that those who made the movie Vaxxed think it’s allowable for parents of an autistic child to kill that child.

Meanwhile here in Phoenix only 60 miles from the largest current measles outbreak in the US ( at 22 patients in a federal detention center– and having continued for the last six weeks only because unvaccinated employees that detention center have refused vaccination), Vaxxed is now returnin to the Phoenix area but at least two if not three showings in a local movie theater chain that has been anti-vaccine as long as they’ve been in existence, even refusing to show PSAs for vaccines. Given that Arizona has the worst MMR vaccination rate in the country for 2015 per CDC survey , this is all very concerning. The Vaxxed group is throwing gas on a fire.

The worst part of this is that the antivax cult is so deeply ideologically vested in its belief in the evils of vaccines that there is literally nothing that can change their rhetoric. As Lenin said, a lie told often enough becomes the truth, and for these people the lies they tell have become truth and any information conflicting with that “truth” is therefore evidence of suppression and cover-up.

It is the same kind of paranoid delusional behaviour seen in 9/11 Truthers and elsewhere, but the political system cannot fix it because the political system decades ago gave up even pretending not to be dominated by corporate interests, and that means trust is essentially forfeit for a substantial minority of the population.

Shaken baby syndrome

Nice of them to put it on top of their list. Didn’t need to read any further.
Antivaxers are baby-killers, the lots of them.

Someone who is not antivaccine will usually be able to rattle off at least a couple of vaccines—even if it’s just the tetanus vaccine

Ah. Indeed.
I just found out a French antivaxer who published a book this month on how the tetanus vaccine is doing nothing, tetanus is just an illness of the elderly (so what’s the big trouble?) and most people survive it anyway.
Example of a link to the book (in French)
Let’s just say I was yelling a lot at my computer screen while reading the summary. Mostly on the lines of “biology doesn’t work this way, you m0ron”.
But no, she is not antivax, just for safeguarding civil liberties and providing all the info on vaccines.

Cherry on top of the cake: there is currently a trial in France about the case of a 8-year old child who contacted tetanus after stepping on a chunk of broken pottery (so, not an illness of the elderly after all – well, maybe he lied about his age).
Since the tetanus vaccine in mandatory in France, the child’s pediatrician is suspected to have not provided it and falsified the child’s vaccination card. He has been suspended by the French board of pediatricians.(article in French)
And this pediatrician? He is a homeopath. Oh, and it’s the fault of the hospital staff, maybe they didn’t dress the wound properly.
Sounds familiar.

In a similar vein, our happy Professor Joyeux has just had his physician licence revoked this week by the French medical board. But no, he is not antivaccine, he was just complaining (I say jumping on the bandwagon) about the shortage in France of DTP vaccines (which are mandatory), forcing people to purchase more expensive hexavalent vaccines (the other three components, like HiB, being only recommended). I admit it’s a real issue in terms of economics and seller-buyer relationship: it’s a forced sale.
But no, no antivaccine at all. Well, he did say everything would be better if women were staying home breastfeeding babies instead of vaccinating them. Oh, and there are toxic loads of aluminium and mercury in vaccines. And HepB vaccination is useless for babies and give multiple sclerosis and it’s a just a risk for promiscuous people. And…
OK, I’ll stop here. The regular readers have long recognized the usual suspects.

tl;dr: don”t worry, yankees, it’s not just in the US. We French also have our lot of freedom-loving, pro-safe-vaccine advocates.

@Helianthus: Question about Dr. Bry in your article – is she also a doctor of medicine? (I’m not sure what the designation would be in France). Or is she only a homeopath? I’m not sure how it works.

@ Dorit Reiss

is she also a doctor of medicine?

That is not completely clear, I will admit. In another article, Dr Bry is refereed as physician (“médecin”).

I believe he is a regular physician who further specialized into pediatrics and into homeopathy (not necessarily in this order).
Checking the French status, I found out that the French board of medicine is recognizing homeopathy as an acceptable specialty since 1997 (integrative medicine at work).
So, yes, I think he is a doctor of medicine as well as an homeopath. Hence the board of medicine suspending him – as one of their own – for malpractice/falsifying records rather than going after him for illegal exercise of medicine.

(BTW, yes, Dr Philippe Bry is a “he”. The woman on the article’s picture is his lawyer)

I suppose one could answer the flyer at the beginning with a simular flyer, which opens with: “There are no innocent childhood diseases”.

Guy [email protected]: “The worst part of this is that the antivax cult is so deeply ideologically vested in its belief”

It’s not just ideology. It’s also about certainty, status, power, and in quite a few cases wealth. Without their beliefs they are nothing – just pathetic little nobodies with empty “failed” lives, terrified and hiding from a vast unpredictable universe they cannot understand or control.

The rest of us can point out all their lies till the last proton winks out and it won’t make a lick of difference to them: the lies are the product, and they will never abandon it no matter how transparently manipulative and dishonest those lies may be. That’s because it’s the ownership of the product – not its content – that they are actually buying, along with all the rights and priveleges that come with that ownership – including the right to lie to others inside and outside their movement in order to make it bigger and stronger and righter – and thus make themselves bigger and stronger and righter too.

Not that we point out antivax lies for the movement antivaxxers’ benefit, of course – they’re a paranoid fascistic personality-driven cult with blood on their hands, and the only thing they flay harder than the vaccines is any dissent amongst their own – but for the fencesitters and shruggies and the newcomers who haven’t been around long enough to fully realize just how utterly hateful and insane the antivax movement really is.

As to politics failing to fix antivax (and a myriad other societal woes) – I know the ‘corporate influences’ line is a popular theory, but I think it’s really far simpler than that: politics won’t even get out of bed for any issue that affects less than 10% of a nation’s population/GDP/whatever, because numbers smaller than that simply don’t hold any significant value. Never put down to vast paranoid conspiracy theory what can be fully explained by simple individual human nature: people just don’t give a shit for strangers’ problems, only for their own.

To be clear, the flyer above is not the product of Polly Tommey or the VAXXED publicity team. I simply used it because it came up on the first page of a Google image search for “antivaccine” and caught my eye.

The fact that they insist that SIDS and shaken baby syndrome are caused by vaccines really infuriates me.

It’s been said before, but since babies get vaccines at least every 2-3 months in their first year of life, anything can be a vaccine injury using their logic.

If we all just stopped vaccinating right now, and SIDS didn’t change, autism rates didn’t change, these anti-vaxxers would just change to something else (toxins in the environment, GMOs, etc.).

Plus, maybe they would want to start vaccinating when VPDs come roaring back. (Or not…they would say something else is causing it).

Shaken Baby Syndrom I don’t even begin to understand how vaccines are supposed to have been the culprit. Does it super-charge the infant’s cells with vibrational energy or something and sets them off like something that fell out of mommy’s nightstand and dailed-up to eleven?!

Dorit: ” People have limited energy, and with Ms. Tommey devoting all hers to fighting vaccines, how can she be working to help make sure there is an infrastructure in place to help and support adult Billy?”

Unfortunately, this sounds a lot like the argument just made in the comments section of another thread, where an antivaxer suggested that Orac needed to stop talking about vaccines and concentrate on saving breast cancer patients. People can and do devote attention to issues with which they’re deeply concerned (regardless of how off-base they might be) while carrying on competently in other spheres.

To further make myself popular this morning: It troubles me to hear occasional comments here about how some parents of autistic children don’t recognize their humanity/intrinsic worth. Personally I’ve had very limited exposure to profoundly autistic children who are uncommunicative, violent and/or self-destructive, and I can’t really imagine what it must be for parents to live with that on a daily basis, and would allow them despairing remarks about what used to be or could have been.

Yes, the vehemently antivax contingent is wrongly assigning blame and threatening the health of children in general. But maybe those who do not have autistic children should cut them some slack in how they discuss their “lost” kids.

Sorry Dangerous Bacon, I’m going to have to disagree.

But maybe those who do not have autistic children should cut them some slack in how they discuss their “lost” kids.

While the frustrations of dealing with an autistic child are significant, that language doesn’t hurt just their children, it hurts ALL autistics. Their narrative says that we’re damaged goods. That we’re less than human. That murder of autistics is forgivable, acceptable, sometimes even a good thing. And that is something I will not stand for, no matter how much I sympathise with the struggles of Tommey and other parents of autistics.

@Dangerous Bacon:
Your first point is well taken: what I said was wrong. It should be possible for people to devote themselves to a cause or a job and make provisions for their children future.

That said, for these parents, the all-encompassing cause seems to take over instead of doing that. At least, Ms. Tommey’s words and as far as publicly seen her action suggest her focus is on the cause to the extent of excluding working to their future.

On the second issue I agree with Julian. We can understand distressed, despairing parents using wrong language. But this dehumanizing language has very, very pernicious consequences in terms of what can be done to kids – theirs and others. It just legitimizes too many bad things.

@DB: there is a difference between what has been “lost” – potential of an independent life, a long life, a healthy life (depending on illness) and a “lost kid”.

The problem is, parents who are facing issues with their children can handle it many ways. The best way, like my cousin who is dealing with the regression and probably early deaths of two of her 3 children to GM1 gangliosidosis.

She mourns for what her children have lost in health and ability but loves them deeply and rejoices in their current abilities, as small as they may be. Her children are not lost. Their potential has been. They spend days in pain and confusion. But she would not and has not ever thought of them or treated them as “lost” the way many of these parents treat their children.

(She’s also very provaccine. If someone threatens her children’s health with their antivaccine nonsense, or tried to convince her the childrens’ issues are related to vaccines, they’d have their heads handed to them on a platter.)

@ Dangerous Bacon: No one forced Polley Tommey to say what she said at that Q & A for Vaxxed. And certainly that media mogul Del Bigtree must screen and edit all these videos before posting them publicly on the Vaxxed website. Sorry, she/they don’t get off on this one.

Polley Tommey is a vile person–as vile as Wakefield and only slightly less slimy.

@ Angela

If we all just stopped vaccinating right now, and SIDS didn’t change, autism rates didn’t change, these anti-vaxxers would just change to something else (toxins in the environment, GMOs, etc.).

To some extent, that happened in Japan in the middle 70’s.
After a few SIDS, pertussis vaccines were blamed and the authorities decided to delay them.
Then a few babies got sick and died of the diseases these vaccines were designed to prevent. And SIDS rate actually increased.
Antivaxers usually only remember the first part – Japanese authorities fingering the vaccines as guilty of inducing SIDS.

Looking for some reference, I found this link of interest. The dozen other pages I found were antivax.

It’s been said before, but since babies get vaccines at least every 2-3 months in their first year of life, anything can be a vaccine injury using their logic.

This is a textbook example of the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy. Just because B happened after A doesn’t mean that A caused B. Unfortunately, we don’t do a good enough job of teaching basic logic in schools.

Of course if it weren’t vaccines it would be somebody else. This crowd wants some assurance that their children’s autism is Not Their Fault, i.e., that the cause is some external environmental factor rather than genetic, or something about their parenting.

Time for a visit from our resident “vaccine safety” mugwump, demanding proteomic testing for children before vaccination.

OK, too many people have latched on to the shaken baby syndrome part of the image I chose for this post, even though it is not really that relevant, to the point that on Twitter and Facebook (as well as, to a lesser extent, here) that’s dominating the discussion.. Let me be clear: Bigtree and Tommey are despicable and blame vaccines for all sorts of things (including SIDS), but they did not in these videos blame them for shaken baby syndrome. Other antivaccinationists have done that on numerous occasions, and for all I know maybe Tommey has at some time blamed vaccines for shaken baby syndrome, but she didn’t do so here. Shaken baby syndrome is a distraction to the post, and I’m changing the picture, as I had only chosen it originally because it was a good example of the sorts of things these self-proclaimed “vaccine safety advocates” blame vaccines for.

Amethyst:

Shaken Baby Syndrom I don’t even begin to understand how vaccines are supposed to have been the culprit. Does it super-charge the infant’s cells with vibrational energy or something and sets them off like something that fell out of mommy’s nightstand and dailed-up to eleven?!

I’ve read some of the material. (And yes, felt like I needed a shower afterwards.) They don’t claim it causes the baby to shake; they actually question the coroner’s findings, and in some cases accuse the coroner of faking the results. They claim the subdural hematomas and damaged retinas and so forth are actually a hitherto-unknown form of stroke that, they claim, can only be caused by vaccines. I mean seriously, they go through all the findings showing a brain that has been smacked around back and forth inside the skull, and even detached retinas and torn tissue in the neck, as some kind of a stroke. They infuriate me. I mean, I might have sympathy for them and think they were just misguided if they weren’t willing to jump on LITERALLY ANYTHING, including DEFENDING OBVIOUS MURDERERS, if only it will in some way denigrate vaccines. Seriously. Yellowstone could erupt and kill thousands and they’d find some way to link it to vaccines, and be happy.

She won’t blame an insane mother (and I use the term mother very loosely) for poisoning and then stabbing her own son but she will blame vaccines despite the overwhelming evidence that they don’t cause autism. Right. Delusional, thy name is Tommey.

People like this are why we can’t have nice things.

Ugh. The Nazi comments are antisemitic and the thing is, when you point that out they totally fail to get the point. Stop using our tragedy to advance your cause, it’s disgusting and the comparison diminishes how terrible the Holocaust was.

“Poor us; we need to vaccinate our kids to be able to send them to public school. That’s just like that time when Hitler systemically killed six million of your people, right?”

F*ck off.

Yes, they went there.

There’s a reason why, in the original statement of Godwin’s law, the side that first compared their opponents to Nazis was considered to have lost the debate. Argumentum ad Hitleram is all too frequently the resort of people who aren’t debating rationally. As we all know, this describes the core anti-vax crowd to a T.

[email protected]: “The fact that they insist that SIDS and shaken baby syndrome are caused by vaccines really infuriates me.”

Ah, but that’s only because you’re not a sickeningly amoral monster who says and does absolutely anything they can to recruit both crying heartbroken parents and malevolent child abusers to your cause. Otherwise you would see absolutely no problem here.

“It’s been said before, but since babies get vaccines at least every 2-3 months in their first year of life, anything can be a vaccine injury using their logic.”

Hell, the really experienced antivaxxers will happily blame it on the vaccines given to the parents when they were infants.

Come to think of it, I’m honestly amazed that none of them have yet thought to blame vaccine pollution entering the waste water supply when newly vaccinated babby gotta go pee, only to be recycled via ocean evaporation into clouds into rain into reservoirs into the very water we drink from our very own household taps exclusive all-natural holistically-blessed 100% pure Alpine spring bottled water supply. Hey, if it’s good enough for the Homequacks…

Vaccine Cooties, They Get Everywhere!

I’ve thought of two things that might help. First of all more provisions and financial support for respite care, and a provision for legal abandonment with financial support only, after the autism diagnosis is confirmed.Anti-vax parents get a five-minute presentation about murdered autistic kids and what led up to the murders- if they are capable of thought, it might cause them to think.Anti-vax parents also get sent to the back of the line when they seek non-emergency medical treatment, which would infuriate the warrior moms, especially if they see poorer people being treated better and more swiftly than they are.

HDB: Tetanus as a disease of the elderly?I’d like to see actual stats, because it seems to me that the elderly, at least in industrialized countries, are less likely to get tetanus.First of all, you’ve got a fairly large swathe that is hospitalized or in care. The mobile population is going to be more aware of risks and they’re careful of where they put their feet, since even a tiny fall could lead to major consequences. So, I think this guy is using rectum based statistics.

To be fair, the Nazi and slavery references seem to be only a one time thing for him.

Oooh. I didn’t see that video. I’m adding it to the post! 🙂

Speculating about the [email protected] and slavery references –

could it be because the movement is comp0osed of mostly lily white** Christian, middle class-plus parents who may not be socially sensitive enough to discern their error?

I believe that Jewish and black members might school them well.

To be fair, I believe that at least one of the TMs might be Jewish ( I forget her name but she appeared on one of the parent panels at Autism One 2015) There is one Moslem, a Hispanic-American and a French woman. Sheila Ealey is a recent addition.

Otherwise…

Our friend Dr Jay was unhappy with yours truly for once describing his clientele as such. There have been studies which Orac cited that described the anti-vax movement as quite white and affluent.

** I should talk!

re that ‘modified version’ of Orac’s ‘lengthy review’ to be posted..

Why? The original is just fine.

could it be because the movement is comp0osed of mostly lily white** Christian, middle class-plus parents who may not be socially sensitive enough to discern their error?

That plus being so far off the deep end that they don’t realize they are talking crazy talk.

Alternatively, some of these parents might be undiagnosed high-functioning autistics themselves. Michael Lewis’s book The Big Short has a central character who is an example of this: he only realizes that he is autistic when his son is so diagnosed, and recognizes that the symptoms the doctor is describing could equally well apply to him. He made a bundle of money shorting mortgage backed securities because he had the patience (which, as he later realized, came from his autism-related ability to focus on a problem he found interesting) to read the prospectuses and recognize these AAA-rated investments as junk

Hi people. I am terrified of getting Japanese Encephalitis, Typhoid, Rabies, Cholera and Diphtheria.

What are the chances that I would get side effects from these vaccines?

And what are the chances that an unvaccinated person would catch these horrible diseases?

Does Japanese Encephalitis make your head look Japanese? That would be worse than Rabies.

@ Dorit Reese
People have limited energy, and with Ms. Tommey devoting all hers to fighting vaccines, how can she be working to help make sure there is an infrastructure in place to help and support adult Billy?
Several prominent antivax parents have put their autistic children away in “residential treatment facilities,as soon as they hit 18 or 21,in order to devote all of their time to “the cause”.If Ms. Tommey has done this,she would not be the first.

I’m not going to discuss VAXXED any further this post, although I have finally seen it and will in a few days be posting a modified version of a lengthy review I posted elsewhere.

Or you can just go read it at the not so secret other blog.
790 comments so far.

R.P. McMurphy, have you ever heard of Google? So sorry we will not be accepting your thread hijacking attempt today.

Do try again on another day when we are not discussing those who think it is perfectly fine to murder people who are not considered normal.

I don’t follow.

Are you saying that withholding vaccines is murder?

R.P. McMurphy @39: No, Chris is saying that stabbing an autistic child to death is murder. In case you somehow missed that huge part of the original post.

Also, your statement about Japanese Encephalitis @35 is incredibly racist.

McMurphy, are you saying poisoning, stabbing, smother and throwing a kid off a bridge just because they have a neurological difference is okay?

Go take your racist creepiness elsewhere.

#20 ” that the cause is some external environmental factor rather than genetic, or something about their parenting”

It think would be hard to make a case for genetics, but psychological abuse has been implicated in autism for quite some time. The first to use the term “Autism”, as it is understood today, was Leo Kanner. Kanner believed Autism to be the result of Sociological factors.

Whether this be true or not, most mothers would surely prefer other aetiological explanations.

Chris said that: “…poisoning, stabbing, smother and throwing a kid off a bridge just because they have a neurological difference is okay…”

What a terrible thing to say Chris.

Orac: “Indeed, Tommey started a magazine called The Autism File, as though it were a lifestyle and advocacy magazine for families with autistic children and adults, even though in reality it is more a paean to Andrew Wakefield and a repository of quack “autism biomed” treatments designed to treat the “vaccine injury” that Tommey believes autism to be.”

I remember that rag. When my son was in the hospital a bit over four years ago I went down to the gift shop to get something. And among the magazines were several copies of that vile excuse of autism exploitation. This was on a day that a nurse had offered to vaccinate my son before he was discharged.

Guess who its scientific editor was? Dear ol’ fraudypants Wakefield.

So I complained to the hospital. It turns out they were not very pleased. Apparently the magazine vendor had place the copies of “Autism File” in the gift shop by mistake. The hospital customer service people went down and removed the rest of copies.

They were not keen on having something that was counter to their hospital policies (all employees must be vaccinated) that are in place to protect their patients. Like the ones who go to the Heart Transplant clinic down the hallway from the gift shop.

“Also, your statement about Japanese Encephalitis @35 is incredibly racist.”

True, but I was just trying to be funny. Perhaps I should have used a more flattering stereotype such as:

Does Japanese Encephalitis mean you become really good at math?

McMurphy @47:
That’s just as racist. And in no way funny.

Strike 2 (at least).

I am a lousy comedian.

I am not racist though, and have a very favorable impression of the Japanese. I apologize in anyone took offense.

In a historical context these people are vary similar to the Nazi, Khmer Rouge and ISIS (I am sure I left out many others) that if you are not what we call normal then we can kill you. And if you are not normal you; then are not human and we will feel no guilt when we kill you.

The more I read, the more I realize that the anti-vaccine moment (particularly those with autistic children) is more a cult moment than anything else – and most of its leaders/activists are the “high-priests/priestesses” (the larger portion of them likely sincere but wrong- which explains why they are so tenasous in their beliefs).
Their comments on Apartheid RSA, they haven’t a clue, but I do – as a white South African I lived through it and all its ugliness. On the Nazis claim, they are even more misinformed. If they really want to get a glimps of what the Nazis were really like, the Nazis true evilness, they should watch the series:- World at War – particularly the eprisodes on the Final Solution.
DELUDED, HURT, RAGING AND ENTRENCHED – that is what they are.

Hell, the really experienced antivaxxers will happily blame it on the vaccines given to the parents when they were infants.

I give you the blurb for Dr Heinz Reinwald’s* presentation at Scamfest2016:

ASD may not only derive from peri- and postnatal insult to the brain, but also from pre-natal stresses and lifestyle of the mother. Toxic loads and diet habits (e.g., teeth fillings, exposure to toxins, high carb, low fat) of the mother, C-section, too early weaning and the use of baby formulas instead of breast feeding, antibiotic abuse during and after birth, adjuvants in vaccines and high carb consumption may be just some of the determinants forcing this development. All the named aspects, amongst others,…

* PhD in Political Philosophy.

If they really want to get a glimps of what the Nazis were really like, the Nazis true evilness, they should watch the series

Don’t get Orac started on Aktion-T4, the warm-up for the Final Solution, when the victims of mass murder were autistic kids and other unproductive burdens.

But Polly Tommey would “never judge them for what they did”.
“Watch the series”? It would suffice to look in the mirror.

Travis @43 and in 1969, Leo Kanner made a public apology to the Autism Society of America for the damage he had done with the “refrigerator mom” theory. The idea that autism is a result of something mom did to her kid is as pernicious as the idea that vaccines did it. Not all of us parents of kids with ASDs are like Tommey et al.

RP McMurphy: Most people don’t actually need to be vaccinated for rabies, unless they get bitten by an animal that might have rabies. The easiest way to prevent rabies is to vaccinate the family pet-assuming it is a small mammalian carnivore. Or, you know, not be a mammal, as I don’t believe birds and reptiles can get rabies.

.In your case, however, I’d suggest that the easiest way to prevent rabies is to sell the house and immediately relocate into a cave full of bats. Make sure you handle the bats daily. Alternatively, find a skunk and corner it.

Everyone else: please don’t spoil the surprise for Mr. Mc Murphy. Though I am sorry for the bats, as they have to live with a Trumpeeter.

DW: : could it be because the movement is comp0osed of mostly lily white** Christian, middle class-plus parents who may not be socially sensitive enough to discern their error?

I don’t think social nous has a thing to do with it. I think it’s just that the leaders of the anti-vax movement are fundamentally unpleasant people and the rest take their cues from them. In the same way that athiesm has become a very unpleasant place for non-white and non-male people because most of the “leaders” are white, male and techy, and lead very sheltered lives where they never encounter anyone who is not in their field, not the same color that they are , and is female. The anti-vaxxers simply have never met normal, nice people. Yet another reason I wouldn’t live in the suburbs- it’s like an inescapable high school.
(Mssrs Dawkins and Hitchens also share part of the blame, as they have spent their entire lives avoiding women and minorities they don’t employ.)

It doesn’t help that the anti-vax people forgot everything they ever learned and only vaguely remember that the holocaust and slavery were supposed to be bad, but they don’t remember why or even how to access that information. It’s kind of amusing, in a way, that they spend all that time online, and don’t ever access Google or Netflix.

I did not know that Emma.

I did not mean to imply that all cases on the Autism spectrum were caused by their mothers. I will maintain, based on my experience, that sociological factors can cause symptoms and behaviors similar to what is seen in Autism.

Since the diagnosis of autism is based on behavior, I doubt there could be one cause responsible for every single case.

Travis,

Actually you are correct.

Although the “refrigerator mom” hypothesis is not entirely accurate… deprivation during early postnatal development is actually a significant risk factor for the development of autism in genetically susceptible individuals.

There have been a number of studies on orphaned children and autism which support this connection. Romanian? IIRC.

Anyways, As is always the case, the individuals– genetics, environment, and development (both in utero and postnatal) are very significant factors.

Perhaps two different conditions are commonly diagnosed as Autism: one being Lead Poisoning, and the other being Kanner’s Autism.

There has been studies showing higher than normal levels of Mercury and Lead in hair samples of so-called “Autistic Children”: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4609793/

And this study from the Journal of Toxicology found a striking correlation between Lead Toxicity and Autism: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2809421/
With smaller but significant correlations with the elements Hg, Sn, and Sb.

Kanner believed Autism to be the result of Sociological factors.

Travis @43 and in 1969, Leo Kanner made a public apology to the Autism Society of America for the damage he had done with the “refrigerator mom” theory.

Kanner noted that the parents of some of his autistic cases displayed milder forms of the same behaviour, but he was equivocal about explaining this in terms of inherited traits or as transmission through upbringing.
He can be forgiven for his ambiguities and dithering, as he was working at a time when the Eugenics movement was still strong, and he did not want to give the eugenicists fresh excuses for extinguishing unfit bloodlines.

@Travis, your second link has Bradstreet as an author, and the References include articles written by Bradstreet, Geier, Blaxill and Haley. Those are familiar names to our host and the readers here.
The first link’s references include both Geiers, Kern, Blaxill, Haley, Tomljenovic and Shaw, and Blaylock. Also familiar names to our host and the readers.
Already, they’re dubious.

Travis, I didn’t think you were trying to say all cases were mom’s fault, but for a long time that is what everybody thought. People a generation or so older than me sometimes still think my kid is just badly behaved because we’re crappy parents, and telling them he is autistic just solidifies that in their minds (and don’t get me started on the “if only he had been breastfed” camp. I made myself crazy for a month and a half trying to nurse a baby who had ZERO interest. In retrospect that may have been signficant).

HDB @59 exactly. And boy, it sure made our decision to have a second child rather fraught looking at ourselves and our families…

Does anyone else want to attempt an explanation for the Autism epidemic?

Perhaps the Hg connection is being obfuscated by the clout of the notorious ADA? [ominous music and thunder]

Yes. I went there. Increase my “woo” score by 63 points.

@Travis, your second link has Bradstreet as an author, and the References include articles written by Bradstreet, Geier, Blaxill and Haley.

That is to say, it was a paper co-authored by a known fraudster (who shot himself when the scope of his fraud was about to be exposed). It presents itself as a step in Bradstreet’s campaign of legitimising part of his fraudulent career (pimping chelators as an autism cure).

We also read that

Briefly, this study was conducted with the approval of the Human Subjects Institutional Review Board of Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine.

That is to say, it was conducted by quacks.

Now it happens that the impact on children’s health from exposure to environmental mercury are well-known from large-scale epidemiology studies (in New Zealand, the Faroes and the Seychelles), and from other observational studies; these neurotoxic effects are nothing like autism.
None of this body of research is cited in either of the papers you mention. This deliberate omission in itself would be enough to convince me that the authors are simply dishonest.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3096006/
— Refs 113 and 114 in that paper are also valuable.

the Journal of Toxicology
A Hindawi journal, from a publisher noted for having negotiable standards of peer review. I am not convinced that either paper would have passed actual review.

It seems odd, Travis, that you are so unacquainted with the mainstream studies on mercury toxicology, if your search of the literature was so thorough that you encountered a couple of cranks publishing in a vanity press. You should probably refine your search terms.

Does anyone else want to attempt an explanation for the Autism epidemic?

I prefer not want to gallop that particular Gish.

@ Politicalguineapig #29

HDB: Tetanus as a disease of the elderly?I’d like to see actual stats

I believe it was me who quoted this crazy one, upthread at #5.
(it’s easy to tell me and Herr Doktor Bimler apart, he is the witty one)

Actually, in developed countries where the tetanus vaccine coverage is adequate, tetanus has become an illness of the elderly, I guess in people whose immunity waned out.
(source: WHO weekly epidemiological record from 2006, via Wikiped – scroll down to page 200)

OTOH, in countries without good vaccine coverage, newborns, children, and young adults are more often the victims. This include women who just became mothers.

For the nitpickers, hygiene is a definite factor in preventing a tetanus infection. Although, as the bacterium is omnipresent in soil, manure and the like, anyone working in the countryside or simply having a garden in its backyard is going to be exposed to the bacterium, good hygiene or not.

It is always flattering when a comment from Helianthus is attributed to me.

Travis, there isn’t an autism epidemic.

This has been discussed and demolished here and elsewhere more times than I care to think about.

Rates of autism diagnosis have risen in the UK, where we don’t use DSM-whatever.

Yes, diagnostic criteria have changed over the years (do I need to point out, yet again, that a diagnosis of Asperger’s could not have been made before the mid-80s?, but of more importance is that, certainly in the UK, there are more services (well,until 2010) around providing assessment and diagnosis, we got a lot better at assessment as we became more experienced and got better tools.

And prior to the ’90s no-one has a clue what the actual prevalence of autism was, because NO-ONE WAS LOOKING! Anecdotally I, and several colleagues, were pretty sure that quite a few folk we knew from long-stay wards of the large psychiatric hospitals we trained in had been mis-diagnosed and were actually autistic rather than psychotic (I can remember a consultant psychiatrist in around 1996 mis-diagnosing a 16 year old with classic Kanner type autism as being psychotic).

Oh, and autism does not resemble the neurological sequelae of any heavy metal poisoning…

There was an Autism epidemic, at least in the imaginations if millions of people.

In your opinion: Was the “epidemic” merely an artifact of an overly-sensationalistic media?

@Travis:

In your opinion: Was the “epidemic” merely an artifact of an overly-sensationalistic media?

Partly. Especially the media that trumpeted Wakefield’s “Case Study” and then failed to do the journalism that would have exposed his dishonesty. Also, it could be due to people not realising that more diagnoses does not automatically mean more cases.
Perhaps I am using the word “epidemic” too loosely, but the prevalence has more than doubled in one decade according to the CDC.
A rising rate of diagnosis does not automatically mean that the rate of autism is rising. Broadened diagnostic criteria, increased awareness and previous underdiagnosis mean that diagnoses went up, but the real prevalence of autism likely is unchanged. In fact, people are now being diagnosed in their 40s or later.

” …rising rate of diagnosis does not automatically mean that the rate of autism is rising. Broadened diagnostic criteria, increase…”

I did allude to that earlier.

“Perhaps the Hg connection is being obfuscated by the clout of the notorious ADA?”

What’s notorious about the American Diabetes Association? Or is the fault of the Americans with Disability Act?

We are confused.

@ Amethyst 13 / Calli Arcale 23

Shaken Baby Syndrome. I don’t even begin to understand how vaccines are supposed to have been the culprit.

To add to Calli’s explanations, another “theory” from the truly vile part of the crankosphere is the “sudden scurvy” effect.
It started with a study which found that after immunization, rats have a sharp drop of their blood vitamin C level – so, eh, instant scurvy, with internal hemorrhage, bruises, broken bones, the work.

Never mind that the study also showed that their vit C level got back to normal after a few days.
Or that a vit C deficiency must abide by the ontological inertia* in the real world. Meaning, previously healthy bones don’t magically become brittle the same day your diet was short of 10 mg of vit C – it will take some time to deplete your reserves, and then some more time for the lack of vit C to result in damaged tissues.

This “sudden scurvy” theory – or any other alternative theory – also fails to explain how bruises on the baby’s arms would look very much like the shape left by the fingers of an adult’s hand.

Calli wasn’t exaggerating when talking about the need of a shower after reading the related reports. I would propose a chlorine shower, myself. Really not something you want to read if you have to watch your blood pressure.

As you may have seen, it’s a berserk button for a number of us. We just tripped on the “shaken baby” part and didn’t read very carefully after that.

I was primed for this by reading about a recently published article which concluded the number of cases of abusive head injuries are increasing in the US (I saw this on a French medical newsletter, and the writer was clear that my country may be no different).
While a misdiagnosis of shaken baby syndrome is possible (and has happened a decade ago in the UK, IIRC), we really don’t need evil clowns running around and adding confusion.

* beware, TVTropes will ruin your life.
Also, I’m only a poor amateur in literature analysis, so I may be manhandling the concepts a little.

@Travis: quit derailing. The point is, you apparently feel, like the horrible people discussed in the post, that it’s just fine to be able to kill your child because they have autism. Since you don’t condemn their actionis and keep talking about spurious things.

As for mercury: that’s so 1990s. Join us in 2016.

Um, badly worded sentence in my first paragraph of #75:

To be clear, the vit-C depleted rats did not have anything like scurvy themselves, sudden or otherwise.
It’s the phantasmagorical human vaccine-induced sudden scurvy which is supposed to make its victim look like a beaten baby.

The reason why there *seems* to be an autism epidemic is because no longer do we label them with some out-dated mental illness and toss them away in a home (home if lucky, asylum if not!) somewhere.

No, the appearance of an epidemic is because we are better at diagnosing it as well as trying to help them get by with their lives and integrate with society rather than shut them away.

This is not rocket surgery. 1+1=2.

@Helianthus & Calli – Thank you both for the elaboration/explanation. Disgusting, to say the least..

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