An antivaccine activist complains about a pro-vaccine conference

A week and a half ago, a conference was held at the NYU Langone Medical Center, Confronting Vaccine Resistance: Strategies for Success. It featured speakers and panelists whom I admire quite a bit, including Paul Offit, the man who is to antivaccine loons Satan, Darth Vader, Voldemort, and Sauron all rolled up into one. Also featured were Richard Pan, the California state senator who co-sponsored SB 277, which passed and is now a law that bans nonmedical exemptions to school vaccine mandates; bioethicist Arthur Caplan, a strong advocate for vaccines; Dorit Reiss, a law school professor and strong advocate for vaccines who over the last couple of years has become a favored target for the antivaccine movement; and Bernard Dreyer, the president of the American Academy of Pediatrics. As I put it at the time, it was as though the greatest enemies of the antivaccine movement were all concentrated in one place. It was thus utterly irresistible to antivaccine cranks, and, not surprisingly, the VAXXED bus, Del Bigtree, and a bunch of antivaccine activists showed up. One of them even harassed Paul Offit in the cafeteria, asking him to come down to the bus to be interviewed. Dr. Offit responded in exactly the fashion that was required.

Hilariously, more tha a week later, antivaccine loons are still very upset about the fact that the conference was held in the first place, gleeful that they think they have something they can criticize Paul Offit for, and delusional about what they think they can accomplish because of the conference. In other words, it’s just antivaccine activists being antivaccine loons, which is how they usually behave. Passenger one on the train to delusionville is Laura Hayes. We’ve met Ms. Hayes before, for instance introducing a screening of the antivaccine propaganda film VAXXED by referring to the vaccination program as “this ever-increasing medical tyranny, this abominable Vaccine Holocaust, this present evil.” It’s a metaphor she likes to use a lot. This time around, she’s very, very unhappy that the NYU Langone Medical Center held a pro-vaccine conference where medical students and faculty were the main attendies and the message was how to overcome vaccine resistance in parents. In fact, she’s so upset and deluded that she’s been pestering NYU Langone and writing about it on the antivaccine blog Age of Autism:

Last week, on Monday, Nov. 21st, I called the Office of the President at NYU to express that I was both disappointed and disturbed by a lecture being presented at NYU, specifically, the lecture by Paul Offit, Richard Pan, and Dorit Reiss titled “Confronting Vaccine Resistance: Strategies for Success”. I spoke to the woman who answered the phone in President Andrew Hamilton’s office, Kyle, for 10-15 minutes. She was polite and professional, and heard me out, which I greatly appreciated. I gave her my contact information in hopes that Mr. Hamilton, or someone in his office, would call me back to discuss my concerns further. I did not hear back from anyone.

Today, I called again, and spoke to Kyle for the second time. Again, she was polite and professional, and heard me out. I inquired as to whether or not NYU was going to host another lecture to counter and correct the information that was presented at NYU last week. She did not know, as the President’s office had not been in contact with the Director of Langone Medical Center. She ended up giving me the number for Langone, and told me I could email Mr. Hamilton, as he was presently out of town. I followed through on both counts.

I called Langone Medical Center, and first spoke with a woman in the Office of Communications. She transferred me to the Director of Media Relations, Mr. James Devitt. I told Mr. Devitt my concerns about NYU hosting the lecture and speakers that it did last week, and asked whether a subsequent lecture would be offered to counter and correct what was shared with NYU’s medical staff and students. He did not know anything about the lecture to which I was referring, so he took down my name and number, and said he would check into it and get back to me.

I must admit, I felt sorry for the people who had to answer the phone when Laura Hayes called. It reminded me yet again why I would be terrible at a job in PR or having to deal with cranks who call to complain. Chances are, I’d be out of Kyle’s job within a few weeks, if that. Be that as it may. Here we have an antivaccine activist complaining to the president of NYU because the NYU Langone Medical Center held a conference that, from a scientific, medical, and academic standpoint, was utterly uncontroversial. Maybe she was every bit as polite as she claimed. Probably she was. That doesn’t change the fact that she was complaining about a conference that was completely unobjectionable to anyone aware of vaccine science, particularly pediatricians and public health officials, because it presented a science-based view of vaccines and didn’t accept her fixed belief that vaccines cause autism and are the equivalent of the Holocaust. Let’s just put it this way. Just because Hayes thinks that what was presented at that conference was support for the “autism Holocaust” doesn’t make it so.

Her letter, however, does make for some seriously hilarious reading:

I am writing to express my grave disappointment at NYU’s hosting a lecture for its medical staff and students last week titled Confronting Vaccine Resistance: Strategies for Success, with speakers Paul Offit, Richard Pan, and Dorit Reiss, and moderator Arthur Caplan.

A summary of what was shared by these speakers can be listened to here, as lecture attendee, Dr. Suzanne Humphries, gave an interview immediately following the lecture:

Dr. Humphries opens her recap with: “It was more social engineering, brainwashing of medical students.”

Not surprisingly, Hayes reveals nothing about Humphries’ background. We’ve discussed her before here on a fair number of occasions. She is affiliated with major antivaccine groups. She’s also known for referring to vaccines as “disease matter.” An MD she may have, but she’s no longer a physician in any sense of the word, if you know what I mean. As for her characterization of the talks as “brainwashing of medical students,” well, one woman’s brainwashing is another person’s training, and medical training is supposed to be based on science. Science doesn’t support the beliefs of antivaccinationists that vaccines cause autism, autoimmune diseases, and all the other conditions and diseases antivaccinationists like to blame on vaccines. It does, however, support the contention that vaccines are effective and safe and that they save lives. It’s therefore entirely appropriate that medical students be taught how to persuade vaccine-averse parents to vaccinate their children.

Hayes seems particularly annoyed at Humphries’ report, which Age of Autism’s “media editor” Anne Dachel transcribed. Not surprisingly, at a pro-vaccine conference, the speakers were not exactly enamored of antivaccinationists and even made jokes about them. It’s even less surprising that they view Dr. Bob Sears negatively. (Certainly I do.) It’s also quite expected that the speakers recommended making non-medical exemptions more difficult to obtain. I can’t help but point out that Dorit Reiss was the one who allowed Humphries to attend in the first place. It’s not as though this were some sort of secret cabal or secret meeting. If it were, no one who wasn’t prescreened and absolutely reliable would have been allowed in that auditorium.

Not surprisingly, Hayes doesn’t see things the way we do:

I am wondering if you were aware of this lecture at NYU’s Langone Medical Center? All of the speakers and the moderator are in favor of overriding parental rights when it comes to vaccination. This despite the fact that not one vaccine has ever been proven safe, efficacious, or necessary, and despite the fact that millions have now been injured or killed by vaccines, and despite the fact that the recommended and mandated lists for vaccines continue to grow, without any type of proper or ethical testing. And the definitive study, a comparison study between the vaccinated and the completely unvaccinated, continues to be refused to be done by those profiting from vaccines, which is a statement in and of itself.

I almost feel sorry for Hayes. Almost. If you start writing about how vaccines have never been demonstrated to be efficacious or safe and how “millions” have been “injured or killed by vaccines,” what sort of reaction do you expect from a university president? Hint: It’s highly unlikely to be sympathetic or favorable, although I did find Hayes attempt to appeal to President Hamilton’s background as a chemist chuckle-worthy:

As a distinguished chemist, I hope you will be interested to utilize the link at the end of my presentation which will take you to a listing of all vaccine package inserts. Please look at the amounts of aluminum, mercury, formaldehyde, polysorbate 80, and other ingredients. Please analyze the clinical testing methods, and note the lack of placebos and proper control groups, not to mention the incredibly short clinical observation periods. With a chemist’s knowledge, do you deem it safe to be injecting these ingredients into pregnant women, fetuses, newborns, infants, toddlers, young children, right on up to the very elderly, with no pause?

Please update me regarding any actions you take to address and refute the inaccurate, unethical, and dangerous information that was shared at NYU by Paul Offit, Richard Pan, and Dorit Reiss.

I’m sure President Andrew Hamilton will get right on that. Definitely. Right on that. Right away. I’m sure he’ll read all those presentations and rants.

If Hamilton is a “distinguished chemist,” no doubt he recognized Hayes’ nonsense for the nonsense that it clearly is. The beauty of Hayes’ letter is that she thinks that Hamilton’s background as a chemist means that he’ll accept her claims. In reality, if you’re a chemist (unless you’re Boyd Haley), it’s the exact opposite. If you’re a chemist, it’s far more likely than not that you’ll recognize Hayes’ nonsense for the scientific nonsense it is.

I’m actually rather grateful to Laura Hayes for writing her letter. It’s a perfect example of the delusional world that antivaccinationists live in. Hayes actually believes that the vaccination program is a holocaust and that, if only she can get the President of NYU to read her claims and evidence, she can convince him that the vaccination program is a holocaust too.