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Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and his World Mercury Project: Antivaccine, NOT “fiercely pro-vaccine”

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. claims that he is “fiercely pro-vaccine.” His words and actions say otherwise, for instance his Indiegogo campaign to raise money to promote antivaccine misinformation.

Whenever I write about Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and his World Mercury Project, it brings back memories of over 12 years ago, when I first became aware of him and deconstructed his highly deceptive and dishonest bit of conspiracy mongering published simultaneously in Rolling Stone and on, Deadly Immunity. He quickly provided more blogging material, with conspiracy mongering and attacking critics of antivaccine pseudoscience as misogynists who hate mothers. More recently, RFK, Jr. met with Donald Trump during the Presidential transition to discuss vaccine safety or the “autism epidemic” or…something. It’s not exactly clear what. His claim was that the Trump Administration wanted him to chair a “vaccine safety commission,” but the Trump transition team quickly denied that version of events. None of this stopped RFK, Jr. from sending an e-mail to members of the Waterkeepers Alliance, which Kennedy leads, announcing that he would leave the environmental group if the commission actually comes to be. More recently, RFK, Jr. issued the most spectacularly dumb “vaccine challenge” since Jock Doubleday. Basically, like many antivaccine activists, RFK, Jr. dons the mantle of a “vaccine safety activist,” even though he’s anything but, his risible oft-repeated claim to be “fiercely pro-vaccine” notwithstanding.

Yes, RFK, Jr. is antivaccine to the core.

I was reminded of this when, for reasons that now elude me, I wandered over to his World Mercury Project. I wish I hadn’t. What I saw posted there was this video:

Basically, it’s an appeal for cash:

World Mercury Project is in the last 36 hours of our crowdfunding campaign for the Vaccine Safety Project. We know we’ve alerted you many times to give, but this project is so important… probably the most important issue of our lifetime because it involves the health and well-being of our children. With 54% of America’s children suffering from a chronic health condition, we don’t have a moment to waste. Donate now at

It’s a litany of antivaccine misinformation, as described over at the Indiegogo page for this fundraising campaign, which is introduced with this video:

In it, RFK Jr. touts how for over 30 years he’s been “successfully fighting the biggest bullies on the American political landscape,” such as the oil companies, coal companies, chemical companies, and big agriculture, all polluters. He then announces that he’s taking a hiatus from fighting these companies because he wants to take on what he considers a more important battle, to fight “criminal conduct” by another industry. What industry is this? Take a guess. Yes, it’s the vaccine industry and the pharmaceutical industry. Specifically, RFK, Jr. is cheesed that states are tightening vaccine mandates and views this as a plot by the “rapacious” pharmaceutical/vaccine industries. Apparently, it’s the last 36 hours of this fundraising campaign, which ends at midnight tonight. Unfortunately, as of this writing, RFK Jr. had raised $41,352 of the $50,000 goal. Yes, basically, RFK Jr. is raising $50,000 to go to war against states trying to protect their children by either eliminating nonmedical exemptions to school vaccine mandates or at least making such exemptions more difficult for parents to obtain.

He begins the video by presenting a study that was going around earlier this year suggesting that the DTP vaccine was associated with increased mortality in an urban African population in Guinea-Bissau in the early 1980s. To be honest, I don’t recall why I didn’t blog about this study when it was released and then later when it was being flogged by RFK Jr. and antivaxers, but I plead my case by citing the simple fact that there’s just too much antivaccine misinformation resulting from too many bad studies out there for me ever to cover them everything, even studies picked up by a lot of antivaxers. It was a very small retrospective study published by Scandinavian researchers in an obscure open-access journal that I had never heard of before, although oddly enough it’s a collaborative effort between Cell Press and The Lancet.

Let’s just put it this way. The study has many flaws, as was pointed out by our scaly friend Skeptical Raptor, and, having now read the study, I agree with him. Indeed, I was scratching my head as I read it. Basically, in Guinea-Bissau, the health authorities instituted a vaccine program in 1981 in which they would administer the DTP (diptheria-tetanus-pertussis) vaccine and the oral polio vaccine (OPV) at the quarterly weighing sessions for infants. As a result, because there were three monthly weighing intervals, children received their vaccines either early or late between 3 and 5 months of age. Reading the methods section of the paper, to be honest, left me scratching my head, as I had a hell of a time figuring out just what the heck the investigators had done, but basically they compared mortality between three groups of children, those vaccinated at a weighing session between 3-5 months of age, those who attended a weighing session but were not vaccinated, and those who did not attend a weighing session at that age. Through a convoluted analysis, they concluded that DTP is associated with a five-fold increased risk of mortality but that concurrent OPV vaccination might have reduced these negative effects.

The problems with this study were many. It was very small for an epidemiological study of vaccines (1,057 subjects); the whole cell version of the pertussis vaccine was in use at the time; the number of deaths observed was tiny, and the deaths were not categorized. Basically, the study is an outlier, and RFK Jr. cherry picked it. Big surprise. It’s even less of a surprise that he uses this one cherry picked study to ask whether the US has a surveillance system that would pick up a such an incident in the US, if a vaccine were causing increased mortality of such a magnitude. He claims the answer is no. He is, as usual, full of crap. There is the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS) Database and also the Vaccine Safety Datalink. There are various post-licensing surveillance programs. Basically, RFK Jr. here is wrong or lying or deluded (I suspect he last of the three).

Once again, RFK Jr. promotes the nonsense that, because vaccines are biologics, the FDA can fast track them without rigorous science. He focuses on the “safety period” prior to review, which ranges from a few days to 30 days. As I described in detail a few months ago, this is a highly deceptive argument that cherry picks data and ignores longer, more rigorous testing. Although he doesn’t explicitly invoke it in this video, his argument has been recently that vaccines shouldn’t be licensed without testing long enough to verify that they don’t cause autism. This is, of course, a ridiculous standard, given that there is such copious evidence that vaccines are not associated with autism that it would unnecessarily prolong the evaluation process and add huge expense to wait the five or ten years RFK Jr. seems to think that pre-licensure trials of vaccines should take. In essence, RFK Jr. wants the FDA to require testing of each new vaccine, even vaccines for diseases for which other vaccines already exist, long enough to assure him that complications of vaccination that have never been demonstrated for any vaccine (autism, neurodevelopment disorders, autoimmune diseases, diabetes, other chronic diseases) do not occur. From a scientific, ethical, and financial standpoint, what RFK Jr. is advocating is an intentionally unreasonable standard.

Basically, RFK Jr. claims:

Here are the facts:

  • One in every 2 American children (54%) are chronically ill
  • One in every 6 American children (15%) has a developmental disorder
  • One in every 8 American children (13%) require special education services
  • One in every 10 American children (11%) have ADHD
  • One in every 13 American children have eczema and food allergies including deadly peanut allergies
  • One in every 68 American children have autism
  • Infant mortality (SIDS, etc.) in America is much higher than in other high-income countries

I note that here is no good, credible scientific evidence that vaccines cause any of the above “facts.” Particularly despicable is the insinuation that vaccines cause infant mortality or sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). They do not, and the arguments made to claim that they do are breathtakingly ignorant.

RFK Jr. also cites supposed conflict of interests in the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). As I’ve described before, it’s an antivaccine myth that ACIP is a tool of the pharmaceutical companies and riddled with serious conflicts of interest. RFK Jr. tries to get around that by citing a 2009 Inspector General Report that the “a systemic lack of oversight of the ethics program.” One can’t help but note that this report describes a situation 10 years ago, as the Inspector General examined reports from 2007. Presumably, if this situation hadn’t been rectified, RFK Jr. could have found more recent evidence. Basically, there was a problem with oversight, but no evidence that the ACIP was riddled with conflicts of interest, such that it was in the pocket of the pharmaceutical industry. As I like to point out, the two pharmaceutical company members of the committee are non-voting.

Another deceptive bit is where RFK Jr. points out that reporting to VAERS, which is a passive reporting database, might represent underreporting, with as few as one in ten adverse reactions being reported. Although this might be true, it doesn’t account for the types of adverse reactions that might be underreported or overreported. For instance, as I discussed so long ago, vaccine litigation distorts the VAERS database, with conditions thought by antivaccine activists and lawyers seeking to bring cases to the Vaccine Court being over- not underrepresented in the VAERS database, as lawyers encourage parents to report autism as an “adverse reaction” to a vaccine. It’s not for nothing that I often refer to examining the prevalence of autism using VAERS as dumpster diving.

What’s RFK Jr.’s answer? He has six actions he wants to see:

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.'s World Mercury Project demands
Tell me again how RFK, Jr. is “not antivaccine”?

To this end, he plans on this:

WMP needs your help to meet our goals. The above-mentioned meeting was a start. There are many more to go. We plan to hand deliver this presentation and supporting materials to every member of Congress. And we will hold Congressional briefings for Congressmen and their staff to help them understand the gravity of the facts presented. We won’t stop until decisive action is taken to meaningfully address the serious health issues affecting over half of our country’s children!

Lovely. Just what we need. An antivaccine crank promoting his conspiracy theories to every member of Congress.

As for the specifics, #1 is nonsense. Vaccines already are subject to the same level of rigorous evaluation before licensing as other drugs. Mandatory reporting of vaccine adverse events is not as easy to achieve as RFK Jr. thinks it is. Besides, does he know what the Vaccine Safety Datalink is and how it works? Here’s how:

The Vaccine Safety Datalink (VSD) is a collaborative project between CDC’s Immunization Safety Office and eight health care organizations. The VSD started in 1990 and continues today in order to monitor safety of vaccines and conduct studies about rare and serious adverse events following immunization.

The VSD uses electronic health data from each participating site. This includes information on vaccines: the kind of vaccine given to each patient, date of vaccination, and other vaccinations given on the same day. The VSD also uses information on medical illnesses that have been diagnosed at doctors’ offices, urgent care visits, emergency department visits, and hospital stays. The VSD conducts vaccine safety studies based on questions or concerns raised from the medical literature and reports to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS). When there are new vaccines that have been recommended for use in the United States or if there are changes in how a vaccine is recommended, the VSD will monitor the safety of these vaccines.

That’s not all, though. There are active monitoring systems that cover vaccines, such as the Clinical Immunization Safety Assessment (CISA) project, in which the CDC partners with several large academic medical centers and Kaiser Permanente Northern California to study vaccines safety:

CISA addresses vaccine safety issues, conducts high quality clinical research, and assesses complex clinical adverse events following vaccination. CISA facilitates CDC’s collaboration with vaccine safety experts at leading academic medical centers and strengthens national capacity for vaccine safety monitoring. The CISA Project provides consultation to US clinicians who have vaccine safety questions about a specific patient residing in the US. In addition, CISA provides consultation to US healthcare providers and public health partners on vaccine safety issues, and reviews clinical adverse events following immunization ( AEFI) involving the US-licensed vaccines.

Then there’s the FDA’s Post-licensure Rapid Immunization Safety Monitoring System (PRISM):

The word “prism” might make you think of a triangular piece of glass that separates white light into a rainbow of colors.

But at FDA, it means a powerful, computer-based system that separates critical bits of information from vast streams of healthcare data in order to investigate adverse events and determine if there is a connection to a specific vaccine. And while the FDA prism–called Post-licensure Rapid Immunization Safety Monitoring System (PRISM)—might not have such a colorful name, it’s a bright light in the agency’s continual efforts to identify adverse effects in a timely manner.

PRISM is a cooperative effort between FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research and its partners in the health care and medical insurance communities. It analyzes health insurance claims data from four national healthcare plans: Aetna, HealthCore (Wellpoint), Humana, and OptumInsight (United Healthcare).

And more:

PRISM is one component of FDA’s Sentinel Initiative, which monitors the safety of a variety of FDA-regulated medical products by examining information in electronic healthcare databases.

Sentinel performs what is called “active” surveillance, as opposed to “passive” surveillance. Passive FDA surveillance systems depend on industry, consumers, patients, and healthcare professionals to recognize and report suspected adverse events to an FDA web site, such as the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS). This means that FDA might not become aware of potential problems related to a licensed product for months.

Unlike passive surveillance, Sentinel’s active surveillance lets FDA initiate its own studies using existing electronic healthcare data in a timely manner. Sentinel also lets FDA evaluate safety issues in targeted groups, such as children, or to evaluate specific conditions (e.g., heart attacks) that are not usually reported as possible adverse events of medical products through passive reporting systems.

In other words, systems exist to monitor vaccine safety, and they are just like the ones that RFK Jr. claims not to exist!

To say that there is no system in the US that would pick up a 5- or 10-fold increase in childhood mortality associated with vaccines is, to put it bluntly, bullshit. The VSD, for instance, uses real medical records, and if children started dying in higher numbers associated with a specific vaccine that association would certainly be picked up by VSD on the basis of medical records, and PRISM and CISA are active surveillance systems. RFK Jr. is intelligent enough to understand this, but he either chooses not to or is lying. Take your pick. I tend to favor the latter.

A lot of the other points on RFK Jr.’s list are standard antivaccine tropes, such as CDC conflicts of interest. Not surprisingly, there’s the “special snowflake” gambit, in which somehow, some way, various factors somehow make certain children more susceptible to “vaccine injury.” I like to point out that the only reason this gambit came about is because in populations no convincing scientific evidence supporting a correlation between autism and vaccination has yet been found; so antivaxers started saying that there must be certain genetic and environmental “triggers” that make children more susceptible to “vaccine-induced” chronic illness. Of course, they have yet to produce convincing evidence to support the existence of such “triggers.”

Then, of course, RFK Jr. goes full “health freedom” mixed with “misinformed consent.” The first trope ignores the rights of the child as an autonomous being who deserves protection from disease, while the second warps the concept of informed consent by downplaying vaccine benefits while exaggerating (or making up) risks of vaccination. So basically, RFK Jr. has laid down a veritable “greatest hits” of antivaccine tropes, lies, misinformation, cherry picking, and pseudoscience.

Tell me again how RFK Jr. is “fiercely pro-vaccine.” He’s not. He’s antivaccine to the core, and he’s either lying or self-deluded when he claims otherwise.

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]

78 replies on “Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and his World Mercury Project: Antivaccine, NOT “fiercely pro-vaccine””

If RFK Jr is so concerned about vaccine safety, why doesn’t he put up some of HIS money (he’s a Kennedy, after all), for a rigorous, IRB reviewed study of vaccine safety? I mean this is important to him, right? SURELY he wants good research that proves his point, not the cherry picking he’s doing currently. And I’m also sure he truly cares for open, honest results, and will have unbiased researchers all over the world doing the testing.

Yes, this is sarcasm. RFK Jr doesn’t care about vaccine safety. He cares about being in the limelight, touting his screed. If he really cared, he’d review the research done world-wide that shows no correlation between vaccines and any of those diseases. 1 in 2 US children are chronically ill??? Really? Where are these children? I’m obviously only seeing the non-chronically ill kids, because most of my daughters’ friends with children have healthy, UTD vaccinated kids with no chronic illnesses.

I know. He’s raising $50,000. For what he wants to do, that’s not a lot of money. It’s also not a lot of money compared to the Kennedy family wealth. If RFK Jr. were truly sincere, wouldn’t he take some of his wealth and do what other wealthy philanthropists do when they want to champion a cause, namely use some of his money to start a foundation to dole out grants to support the cause he wants to support?

In case anyone else read Kennedy’s claim about 54% of American children being “chronically ill” (due to vaccines, no doubt) and went Huh? – that figure comes out of a study touted by AoA. The “chronic illnesses” it cites include such things as obesity, anxiety, speech problems, developmental delay, allergies, having 3 or more ear infections in a calendar year, brain injury from trauma and so on.

That’s a pretty liberal definition of “chronic illness” (we’re apparently supposed to think that all those kids have diabetes, asthma, cancer etc. that are somehow tied to vaccination).

Using deceptive statistics in that manner does not indicate that RFK Jr. is fiercely pro-vaccine, doggedly pro-science or strongly pro-honesty for that matter.

@DB: AND…the risks are higher in children who are ‘publically insured’ (read: Medicaid, to those non-USAians) compared to ‘privately insured’. So…it’s not AT ALL possible that socioeconomic factors have anything to do with these “chronic” illnesses, right? RIGHT?

All of those diseases that the Age of Autism Antivax group blames on vaccines…actually have multiple causes that are completely unrelated to vaccines.
Why blame vaccines for the obesity epidemic in children? Especially since there is also an obesity epidemic in ADULTS. Obesity is a disease caused primarily by a sedentary lifestyle and by eating more calories than one burns up during exercise.
Childhood brain trauma has multiple factors…not the least of which are physical accidents, malnutrition/starvation ( which are primarily caused by poverty and neglect), and physical abuse like being violently shaken during infancy. What is worse is that there is a much higher risk of accidental starvation in infants that are exclusively breastfed from the moment of birth… By “exclusively breastfeeding” an infant from the moment of birth, said infant is actually deprived of any sort of nutritional supplementation or hydration (other than from the breast) hours to days before the mother’s milk fully “comes in”. This vastly increases the risk of jaundice and brain damage during infancy.
Also, the frequency of childhood ear infections are due to the physical structure of a child’s ear canal… which is completely unrelated to the frequency or ingredients of vaccines.

Two things. First, it bothers me to no end that RFK jr. repeats the claim that vaccines as biologics are regulated less than other products, exactly because as a lawyer he should know that the opposite is true. As I’ve been teaching and my colleague who teaches Food and Drug law pointed out, biologics are subject to two regulatory systems: they’re regulated under the Public Services Act, and in addition, the FDA subjects them to all the requirements other drugs are subject to. They’re regulated more, and a lawyer should be able to easily find them

Second, it might be of interest – you mention it in passing, but it might be of interest to make it clear – that besides VSD we have two other active monitoring systems that cover vaccines –
o The Clinical Immunization Safety Assessment (CISA) project, an active surveillance system in which the CDC partners with medical centers to study vaccines in particular groups of people.
o The FDA’s Post-licensure Rapid Immunization Safety Monitoring System (PRISM) ( which is also an active surveillance system.

I don’t know what shifted RFK, Jr. to go from respected and effective environmental lawyer to a derpy anti-vaccine activist. I also don’t know why he decided one of his children was “destroyed” by mercury (his words not mine).

@ Science Mom:

He wrote that when he was working to clean up rivers, he was approached by many distraught mothers who told him their tales of woe regarding vaccines and autism so he decided to take on that form of pollution as well.

I’m surprised he’s looking for small change like 50 K:
in the last few years, he’s moved to the West Coast**, married an actress ( Cheryl Hines of Curb Your Enthusiasm) and purchased a home for 6 million USD. ( I noted these events here @ RI)

-btw- that ” 1 in 6″ always gets me for obvious reasons.

** oh well, I guess I won’t get invited to estuarian research soirees at Georgian estates with him present anymore.

I may be wrong, though it is possible that the “destroyed” comment stems from a forward RFK Jr wrote for the book entitled The Peanut Allergy Epidemic. I haven’t read it; a pediatric buddy mentioned it to me after an encounter with a patient. Apparently he considers that his son Conner’s severe peanut allergy is caused by childhood vaccines he received. As has been mentioned many times before on this blog: it’s always the vaccines; it has to be the vaccines…

When your question peaked by interest today I found this article in which RFK Jr not surprisingly attributes the increased frequency of food allergies to the CDC’s expansion of the vaccine schedule in 1988, which increased mercury exposure (the comment is toward the end of the interview transcript):

I’m not familiar with that book. My comment derived from what he said at that silly “CDC Whistleblower” rally two years ago where he stated, “And by the way my child was destroyed by them, by this mercury.”

I looked it up, and Conor was born in 1994, which would have made him around 10 or 11 when Kennedy first “came out” as an antivaccine conspiracy theorist by publishing Deadly Immunity in Rolling Stone and I wonder when Conor started to develop his allergy. It wouldn’t surprise me if it were a couple of years before that, after which RFK Jr. started doing his “research” for Deadly Immunity. But I don’t know.

I’ve always wondered what per cent of vaccine safety advocates have children who have conditions they blame on vaccines?
My guess is MOST- except for those who profit off of woo et al ( and Jake who has AS).

Science Mom, as you can tell from the Amazon summary, it isn’t the kind of book that a reasonable, vaccine-supporting person would buy:

RFK Jr appears to like the term “destroyed”. I thought I remembered seeing it recently attributed to him. In fact he did use it earlier this year (thank goodness it isn’t just my aging brain) when he apologized about his “holocaust” reference and replaced with his preferred hyperbole:

“They get the shot, that night they have a fever of a hundred and three, they go to sleep, and three months later their brain is gone…. This is a holocaust, what this is doing to our country.”
(Kennedy later apologized for using the word “holocaust,” clarifying that he was merely struggling to “convey the catastrophic tragedy of autism which has now destroyed the lives of over 20 million children and shattered their families.”)

Standards for FDA approval of vaccines are higher than other pharmaceutical, including larger sample sizes and testing of vaccine constituents. And the post-marketing surveillance and response is far superior to other pharmaceuticals. Remember the flu vaccine shortage in 2004? A few lots were found contaminated with the bacteria Serratia marcescens and without checking other lots, it was banned. In 1999, Rotashield, a vaccine against rotavirus, was approved. At the time, rotavirus resulted in 50,000 or more hospitalizations and 20 – 60 deaths per year in the US. In the Third World, the number of deaths was in the 100s of thousands. The approval process was based on over a dozen studies with the final clinical trial on more than 11,000 children. Within six months of FDA approval of the vaccine, VAERS reports came in of a rare disorder, intussusception, where the intestines fold in on themselves. This disorder also occurs from natural rotavirus; but based on VAERS validated reports, the vaccine caused a four-fold increase, 60 cases in all. Most cases fully recovered; but there was one death. Based on the six-month VAERS report, the CDC ordered a stop to the program, did a further evaluation, and the vaccine was withdrawn within one year of its approval. Other studies have not confirmed the relationship between the vaccine and intussusception; but even if valid, another vaccine based on 72,000 sample size was not approved until 2006. During that period about 250,000 hospitalizations and between 100 and 300 deaths occurred as opposed to, if the vaccine had continued, at most 300 cases of intussusception, almost all successfully treated with, tragically, perhaps, up to five deaths. So 100 to 300 deaths vs 5. If I had had an infant at the time, I would have gone with the odds and opted for the vaccine. If one looks at the history of other drugs that have eventually been withdrawn from the market, many killed or injured large numbers of people and took literally years, even decades, to get removed. So, not only is the approval process for vaccines more demanding than other pharmaceuticals; but the post-marketing surveillance and authority to act are exponentially stronger for vaccines.

CDC (2015). Chapter 4: Vaccine Safety. In Epidemiology and Prevention of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases, The Pink Book.

Marion F. Gruber & Valerie B. Marshall (2018). Chapter 79: Regulation and Testing of Vaccines. In Stanley A. Plotkin et al. Vaccines (7th Edition). Elsevier.

Frank DeStefano, Paul A. Offit & Allison Fisher (2018). Chapter 82: Vaccine Safety. In Stanley A. Plotkin et al. Vaccines (7th Edition). Elsevier.

Jason L, Schwartz (2012). The First Rotavirus Vaccine and the Politics of Acceptable Risk. Milbank Quarterly; 90(2): 278-310

Lynn R. Zanardi (2001 Jun). Intussusception Among Recipients of Rotavirus Vaccine: Reports to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System. Pediatrics; 107(6): e97-e102.

Igho J. Onakpoya et al (2016). Post-marketing withdrawal of 462 medicinal products because of adverse drug reactions: a systematic review of the world literature. BMC Medicine: 14(10) (22014 Jan 30). 35 FDA-Approved Prescription Drugs Later Pulled from the Market.

Wikipedia. List of Withdrawn Drugs.

Wikipedia. Drug Recall.

Thomas J. Moore (1995). Deadly Medicine: Why tens of thousands of heart patients died in America’s worst drug disaster. Simon & Schuster.

Kennedy is not exactly a paragon of integrity and honesty in his personal life. He carried on an extended and rather open extramarital affair and cut his estranged wife off financially, which led to speculation that his conduct was largely responsible for her suicide.

Another mark of RFK Jr.s (dis)honesty: his recent book on thimerosal* calls for removing this “known neurotoxin” from “vaccines” – strongly implying it pervades the vaccine schedule, instead of being in just one routinely given childhood vaccine (some forms of flu vaccine). If he was being straightforward with readers, he’d just recommend they seek out the readily available single-dose flu shot for their kids.

But it suits his agenda to use this nonsense to try to scare parents away from all vaccines.

*virtually all of the contributors to this book** (“Thimerosal: Let The Science Speak”) vehemently proclaim how intensely pro-vaccine and/or pro-science they are. Talk about protesting overmuch.
**weirdly, no one owns up to actually being the author.

Point 4 Kennedy raises is bothering me a little. If it was true that vaccines were approved prior to Evidence-Based Guidelines, haven’t any vaccines in this group been reevaluated? I would have thought they would have been.

Evidence-based guidelines simply involve collecting all the scientifically valid studies and ranking them by strength of methodology, then drawing a conclusion; however, they are more necessary when there does not exist strong well-done studies, e.g. a number of smaller studies, including observational. Take the Salk polio vaccine. The original trial had two arms, one a placebo based double-blinded randomized clinical trial of almost 800,000 children. The clinical trial for approval of the Rotateq vaccine involved a placebo double-blinded randomized clinical trial of 72,000 children. And both involved earlier pilot studies. And there have been meta-analyses, numerous comprehensive reviews of various vaccines, and, or course, post-marketing surveillance studies. Plus, the Institute of Medicine has conducted numerous extensive reviews of vaccine safety for various vaccines. Available at: Requiring one specific peer-reviewed

Kennedy is creating a straw man argument. He ignores all the literature that doesn’t conform to his ideology, then claims not there.

If he didn’t have the Kennedy name, would anybody even give him the time of day?

“He begins the video by presenting a study that was going around earlier this year suggesting that the DTP vaccine was associated with increased mortality in an urban African population in Guinea-Bissau in the early 1980s.”

Guinea-Bissau is one of the poorest countries on this planet:

Over half of its population is under the poverty line, and ranks fourth in infant mortality rates. Life expectancy at birth is just 51 years old, they are ranked 223rd. The risk of disease is very very high. Most likely cause of death of those in that study could have been diarrhea from just being exposed to many waterborne diseases. Another reason would have been a mosquito transmitted disease like dengue, yellow fever and malaria.

As I have said before, anyone who thinks that Guinea-Bissau is equivalent to the USA or UK should go over there and live on the economy. They experience trying to scrape up enough food to eat, get clean water and avoid insect bites. Until then, using any study from there is the height of hypocrisy.

I say this as someone who actually got dengue fever in a tropical country, and saw first hand how the very very poor live.

This story from Science about the drop in uptake of HPV in Japan, just further illustrates how dangerous the antivaccine campaigners are. Post 1998 Wakefield in England, MMR went from hovering around 90% to around 80% and in some regions down to 50%. HPV in Japan has gone from 70% of eligible girls to less than 1%. ( do not think this is behind a paywall, but registration may be required )

I greatly fear these combined efforts of dirtbags like Kennedy, Wakefield and Adams combined with the increasingly vocal group of anti-vaccine quack physicians in the US will cause major VPD outbreaks in the US in the next several years–as I’m seeing more and more families refuse vaccines these last 2 years. And, yes, I’m still dismayed at the lack any push back by large medical groups in the US like the AMA and AAP (as well as the utter apathy of state medical boards against the quack docs). And even after these outbreaks I’ll be surprised if more than a handful of US states can pass SB277-like laws. I have absolutely no hope for such a law here in Arizona where the state legislature is a mess.

The last place to emulate for vaccine policy is Japan:
Vaccine chronicle in Japan

The last few sentences of that article:

Although issues on immunization should be discussed based on scientific evidence as a third party, it belongs to the political side at present. It may be hard to listen to the clinical needs of general physicians for the improvement of immunization practice. It should be organized for the purpose of promoting public health with a longitudinal vision for immunization policies and prompt responses to the critical issues, without the influence by political changes.

Japan is the poster child of what happens when politics overrides science in health policy. Something that we are seeing in a very real way now in the USA. And what Canada experienced under Harper:

Chris – Thanks for the links as I had never read the material.

As a general commentary:

Japan is a nation of contrasts, if not contradictions, where for example, their food distribution and restaurant cleanliness is first class while vaccine uptake is not.

Admitting to my biased view, the Atlantic article is essentially correct with a slant, problematic on the census. The Harper government was not anti-science per se as they did fund research with a strong emphasis on the practical rather than basic research. The dogma, by especially Finance Minister Flaherty, was to fund selected promising industries, because that is the business of a Conservative government, which creates jobs, prosperity, growth, tax revenue blah blah. Essentially he did not understand or care to admit to the value of basic research, which was what much of the uprising was about. As to the muzzling of scientists, they were not the only ones, just part of the generalized control freak operation of the highly centralized government. Harper did pledge to reduce emissions by 30% below 2005 levels by 2030. The problem was he never said how that was going to be done, and to protect his constituency, he tried hard not to fund any climate science so as not to upset the ecological disaster that is the tar sands in Alberta, amongst others. Canadian science, publication worthy, was never censored for publication. What is happening at the CDC with the prohibition on certain words, ( “vulnerable,” “entitlement,” “diversity,” “transgender,” “fetus,” “evidence-based” “science-based.” ) and the climate deniers like Pruitt is very different, while being more troubling. Am quite sure from an Orac comment there shall be more soon.

While essentially OT, the elimination of the long form was not an attempt to make certain facts unavailable, unlike what seems to be in the USA. It was a case of StatsCan being overzealous with mundane or invasion of privacy information some of which was available elsewhere. Since the government cannot dictate the questions, the only recourse was to eliminate the whole form in 2010, and after the dust up, the long form modified was back in 2016 with 61 questions. Since the census is every five years they missed out on one round. In 2001, I was the lucky recipient of the long form and I refused to answer around 10 of the questions. They did not take that lightly where I got multiple visits and phone calls. After some months I demanded they put their concerns in writing, and being government, they promptly replied along with the fine and possible incarceration time. I wrote back stipulating that I have rights to privacy, was not refusing, just seeking guarantees of privacy, and in the event that the information became public, the amount I was to be substantially compensated. Never heard back.

Thanks for the clarification. I do listen to a couple of Canadian radio shows (“Quirks and Quarks”, “Science for the People”), what I mostly remember is frustration with Harper.

One of the very first absolutely bold faced lies I encountered in the late 1990s was that Japan stopped vaccinating for pertussis and they stopped getting SIDS, or another version that they still don’t vaccinate until age two years. You can still get a gist of what the lying liar was doing here:

The author did get some clarification from someone, so with a cut and paste I present:

April 10: Jennifer Bankers-Fulbright wrote me about the explanation for the Japan SIDS business.

JAMA 257: 1375, 1987: “In Japan, the problem of vaccine-associated SIDS was eliminated not by the introdution of acellular pertussis vaccines, but by the change of immunization from 3 months to 2 years.”

The rate of SIDS in Japan did not change, but because the immunization schedule was changed, people stopped blaming the vaccine.

I have spent a lot of time looking for this often-cited Japanese evidence, and have found so little that I must believe that the story originated with the misinterpretation of one person and spread like wildfire (as all the really “good” stories do). The rate of SIDS, I recall, did not change over the time-frame when this vaccination schedule shift occurred… Clearly it is the “vaccination-associated” classification of SIDS that went away; not SIDS itself.

6//7/00: A correspondent shared an account of the SIDS in Japan business. An online account of further deceptions involving vaccines and SIDS is also down.

And since we are on the west coast we there was lots of news coverage on the measles outbreak in Japan. Especially since they sometimes caused outbreak here:

The doctors’ frustration is evidence in the last paragraph:

The Japanese Government has recognized the global health impact of measles exportation to the United States and other countries. Over the past several years, Japan has made efforts to increase immunization coverage in collaboration with academia, local governments, and medical associations. National vaccination coverage increased from 75% in 199616 to 81% in 2000.17 But the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare has not yet played a leading, decisive, or prominent role in promoting measles vaccine coverage.18 This preventable health problem should be solved by strong leadership of Japanese public health professionals. Such efforts should contribute to measles elimination in the Western Pacific Region by 2012, a campaign initiated by the World Health Organization.19

As a summary, I get angry when anyone cites Japan as an example of prudent vaccine policy. Um, no… the elected folk bend with the bamboo. That means the politicians ignore science and listen to the loudest, even if it is nonsense, voices.

The two Japanese papers I posted are just a couple of many on PubMed of Japanese doctors who are really annoyed at the political policies that make kids sick, and much too often die.

By the way this is an open version of the link about the Japanese doctor who won an award standing up for science:

Don’t even get me started on the idiots who like to separate medical science geographically with the idiotic “Western” versus “Eastern” science. It totally denigrates the real science done in Japan, like the development of the varicella vaccine.

Totally OT but sceptics should know when a well known altie entrepreneur spreads hate…

I usually read through Mikey’s nonsense ( natural News) and have a hard time not laughing BUT today was different;
he presented a cockamamie theory about cell phones affecting young people AND then presented video compilations of various youths discussing gender in order to insult and ridicule them viciously.

I think he’s spreading hate.

Why Mike? What has a transgender or gender fluid kid ever done to harm you?

Why is it alright to be nasty to people who are different ?

I know that he has followers who subscribe to a conservative agenda and live in more conservative areas:
is he being a good example to his followers? Attack kids who are LGBT- yet he calls himself spiritual

Shame shame, shame.

I think he’s spreading hate.

Of course he is. You can Google “NaturalNews transgender” and come up with all kinds of vicious anti-trans screeds. I skimmed the article you mention but didn’t watch the videos; not in the mood for hate at the moment. What really struck me as absolutely f***ing hilarious is that, just to the right of the article at the top of the page, is an add for the NaturalNews app for iPhone and Android.

Ell. O. Ell.

Why is it alright to be nasty to people who are different ?

Well it ain’t natural, ya know.

Careful everyone, we are no longer allowed to use the terms “science-based” or “evidence-based” when discussing disease control.

RFK Jr could have used his credibility and influence as an environmental lawyer to fight the greatest threat to world health – global climate change.

Instead, he is destroying his reputation with his crusade against an imaginary issue and his sucking up to climate change deniers like Donald Trump. He has been reduced to a pathetic crackpot.

Tragic? No, deserved.

But TBruce, working against climate change might be a lot of work:

he’d have to study the science and present day law in many countries as well as its history- vast topics all
he’d have to compete for attention with people who have made this their life’s work and who are articulate and educated
he couldn’t just use his name to impress the gullible
he wouldn’t automatically have hoards of fans like those who frequent AoA, TMR, the Canary Party, Safe Minds ( oops, those last two were overly redundant) by just reciting their memes and saying Wakefield often
there wouldn’t be as many quasi-celebrities around as there are in his current social milieu ( LA film, television people?)

Reality is too difficult.

I’ve written a climate-change scholarly book

Sans anything resembling editing, or “for certain values of ‘scholarly’.”

Narads writes,

Sans anything resembling editing…

MJD says,


Q. Can you put the letters in the right sequence for me without using a reference, Narad.

Can you put the letters in the right sequence for me without using a reference, Narad.

You can’t even figure out where you want to put a hyphen in “global warming related.” The extract is an affront to professional standards, not to mention logical sentence construction: “The world is a better place when ideas are disclosed, patented, and attain financial success.” Arguendo, what’s wrong with trade secrets?

Your quotation marks aren’t even in the same typeface, and the language is just as sloppy. “Scholarly” is not a euphemism for “semiliterate.”

Oh, dear G-d, if one starts at page 16, there’s basically two complete pages that are just a barely decipherable block quote.

MJD – OK I took the bait and looked at your link, especially so after the Narad comment. You, sire, remind me of one certain Joseph (Joe ) Mercola DO, where he claims on his website under Medical Publications the British Medical Journal (BMJ). The reality is that he sent a letter(s), which got published in correspondence. You upped that with this treasure: “He is an active participant in the Science Blogs™ Respectful Insolence.” Better get your publisher to update that information, while I suggest you also change participant to commentator. Orac may have other ideas like a permanent ban.

Narad writes,

Arguendo, what’s wrong with trade secrets?

MJD says,

There’s nothing wrong with a trade secret, especially if the product is impossible to reengineer.

For your information, though,it’s impossible to write a scholarly book about trade secrets.

Hint: There’s a lack of information. 🙂

Alain asks,

Why do you “had” to write a book?

MJD says,

Thank you for the question, Alain.

I believe climate change is an important issue.

I hope you agree.


I also believe that climate change is important but it doesn’t mean I have to write a book about it. Thus, logic fail: I can decide to write a book or not write a book regardless of the importance of any topic.

Furthermore, the same logic can be used to justify Orac releasing you from auto-moderation. Writing a book has absolutely no bearing on the decision of one putting you on auto-mod or releasing you from auto-mod.


Oh, I’m aware. I was thinking of taking good it on Monday for SBM, but I learned about the Orwellian edict to the CDC not to use the words “fetus.” “transgender,” “evidence-based,” and “science-based.”

But, Dr G, if we all stop vaccinating, the 43% of American children who are obese will magically all become skinny! And all special education services will go away because all children will be working at grade level! It’s magic!!! (snark)

I really that trope about children being unhealthy and blaming it all on vaccines. As a special ed teacher, I know that in my childhood we had no special ed services and these kids were simply hidden away or failed.


You noted in passing references to the USA infant mortality being higher than other (less developed) countries. That is (if true) obviously a statistical “glitch” due to more rigourous reporting standards. In any case, it is a trope which has been flogged by many woo purveyors in recent years and may, in itself, be something for you to “have at”.

It could also be real (in some demographics in the US) because we have simply atrocious prenatal care, particularly for low-income people, which results in terrible maternal and infant outcomes (for the developed world). And in the US very premature births that result in the death of the infant fall under “infant mortality” where in other countries (Spain, for example) describe those deaths as “miscarriage” or “stillbirth”. It’s not a true “glitch”, it’s a difference in definition.

Funny guy to be talking about safety. He wrote a book to falsely incriminate an innocent party regarding his cousin’s murdering Martha Moxley.

The sad thing is if any member of the public listens to this criminal. They are a mafia family, Robert was about the only good one.

DW:Attack kids who are LGBT- yet he calls himself spiritual.

Isn’t that the point of being religious or spiritual? At least it’s been that way all my life. At some point it may have been different, but growing up I picked up that ‘anti-gay’ and ‘religious’ were more or less synonymous.


First of all, being anti-gay isn’t the same as hating trans people and non-binary people. There are in fact a lot of gay and lesbian people who hate us.

(And, in fact, some trans people are gay and some are not. Who you are is different from who you are attracted to.)

Second, religious is different from “spiritual.” Sort of. Most people who define themselves as “spiritual but not religious” are just fine with LGBTQ folks.

Third, even a lot of religious people, even some Christians and Muslims, are fine with us. Sure, the community is divided, but they don’t all hate us.

Fourth, “we” (TINW) can speak for ourselves, thanks. Some of us are even (gasp!) religious or spiritual.

But yes, the Christianists, in this country al least, are our biggest adversaries. (Although lots and lots of people who aren’t religious, even atheists, hate us.) See Rod Dreher and his Chicken Little “The queers and trans people are destroying civilization!!!” routine. Ugh.

And even some feminists used to hate trans people, not to mention gay and lesbian people, who considered trans people to be gay or lesbian and not wanting to acknowledge it.

The CDC confidently states, “Vaccines Do Not Cause Autism”.

The CDC refuses to make the following statement: Vaccines Do Not Cause Regressive Autism.

It’s unclear if vaccines adversely affect the incidence and prevalence of regressive autism, therefore, RFK, Jr. efforts are commendable, brave, and for the better good.

The CDC refuses to make the following statement: Vaccines Do Not Cause Regressive Autism.

Studies have determined that vaccines do not cause autism. Therefore, it is unnecessary for the CDC to say that.

It’s unclear if vaccines adversely affect the incidence and prevalence of regressive autism…

Incorrect. Since vaccines do not cause autism, it is clear that they do not “adversely affect the the incidence and prevalence of regressive autism”.

…therefore, RFK, Jr. efforts are commendable, brave, and for the better good.

Since the first part of your “argument” is refuted, the second part fails too.

It appears Julian Frost is trying to convince himself, and others, that vaccines can not affect the severity of an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in that vaccines do not cause an ASD.

I respectfully disagree with Julian Frost.

In my opinion, a disorder with unknown etiology is not protected by the phrase “do not cause”.

Analogy: Atypical immunity can not affect the severity of ASD in that such immunity “does not cause” an ASD.

Once again replying for the benefit of the lurkers.

In my opinion, a disorder with unknown etiology is not protected by the phrase “do not cause”.

Wrong on both counts.
1) The question of whether or not vaccines cause autism has been looked at. Vaccines have been positively excluded as a cause of autism.
2) Evidence, including studies of identical twins, strongly points to genetics as a cause of autism.

Analogy: Atypical immunity can not affect the severity of ASD in that such immunity “does not cause” an ASD.

Very well. How could something that has been confirmed not to cause autism worsen it? And that’s not a rhetorical question. Propose a mechanism by which vaccines can strengthen autism.
Time to put up or shut up, Michael.

Julian Frost suggests,

Propose a mechanism by which vaccines can strengthen autism.
Time to put up or shut up, Michael.

MJD says,

Absolutely, to do this properly I’d need to use 2,000 +/- 250 words.

Convince Orac to allow an MJD post on RI and your request will be granted, fully illustrated.

Absolutely, to do this properly I’d need to use 2,000 +/- 250 words.

Convince Orac to allow an MJD post on RI and your request will be granted, fully illustrated.

Or, you could, you know, devise a hypothesis, design a study to test it, write up and submit a grant application and then test your hypothesis, like a proper scientist, then post a link to your results here.
Or is that too much like real work?

It may be “unclear” if vaccines cause regressive autism, however NO evidence has been found that vaccines are involved. RFK Jr is delusional, not brave, and his efforts are a real threat to children’s health. I stand by my assessment that he has become a pathetic crackpot, although a dangerous one.

Chris, I have a lot of good background information on the whole Japan-SIDS thing. I wonder if it is worthwhile to do a post about that since I don’t see that particular myth tossed around much any more.

While I don’t see posted as much as before, it still pops up once in a while (ridiculously easy to refute by posting an easily available link to the present Japanese vaccine schedule). As a resident of the west coast, we were very aware of the measles outbreak in Asia during the first decade of the 21st century*, now it is the HPV fuss… and what is not so known is a recent epidemic of Congenital Rubella Syndrome in Japan. Yes, it is still relevant given the ongoing Japanese anti-vax pressure on their government.

I would love to read about it with your perspective.

A couple of years before the year 2000 the second MMR vaccine was not given until just before 6th grade (when my oldest got it), but then there was on outbreak of measles in a private school that was located too close for comfort. So our family doctor had no issue with me asking that my four year old and my eight year old get their second MMR sooner than required. Then a year or so later the recommendation was that the second dose be given at around age four/five years.

MJD :In my opinion, a disorder with unknown etiology is not protected by the phrase “do not cause”.

Except that autism and asd have been studied to death. Also, you’re just making ‘etiology’ up.

Lemme put it this way, since you’re rather hard of thinking: there’s no need to deny patently ridiculous allegations. When NASA was accused of having sex slaves on Mars, they should have just maintained radio silence, rather than deny the claim. In the same way, the CDC doesn’t engage with anti-vaxxers, because they make ridiculous claims, and also they waste other people’s time.

JP: There are in fact a lot of gay and lesbian people who hate us.

Yeah, I’m aware of that. I used to frequent feminist blogs when I was in college, and there were a lot of fights about trans people. But mostly, in my opinion, being religious is more or less code for ‘I’m a judgemental, power seeking hypocrite, who wants a high horse to look down on people from.” I admit, though, that this time of year, not being religious hits a bit hard- but it’s a little less hard than life without a library card, deleting all my music and never looking up.

If you read the preface in the book your question will be answered, PGP.

Here’s a suggestion, use the WorldCat site below and locate a library copy.

Wait a minute, it’s the holidays therefore I’d like to provide the preface in that “sharing is caring”.

As we discover more about climate change and attempt to reduce global
warming, science and innovation will guide our success. With respect to
global warming-related patents, I wrote this book to capture some of
mankind’s effort to sustain and protect life on the planet Earth. These
inventions clearly show that many are proactive, and change their life
style, to benefit the wellbeing of future generations. The book “Patents
and Climate Change: There’s No Place Like Home” has taught me that
climate change is manageable.

MJD: If you really cared, you’d stop writing doorstops that waste valuable trees. Have you ever considered that there might be a reason most of your books never left the publisher’s warehouse? A collection of buzzwords does not a writer make.

Most of that paragraph is gobbledygook that’s also wrong. How do you suggest people ‘manage’ hurricanes, fires and floods? Turn their houses into boats? Fireproof them?

Jeez PGP, I tried to answer your question with my documented thoughts (i.e., preface) on climate change.

PGP asks,

How do you suggest people ‘manage’ hurricanes, fires and floods? Turn their houses into boats? Fireproof them?

MJD says,

My next book titled, “Patents and Artificial Intelligence: Thinking Computers” is in the formatting stage of production. This book may have answers to your questions. Enjoy!

MJD: No, you answered with buzzwords, there were no ‘thoughts.’ I guess you think climate change is a non-issue.

Sigh. That’s not an answer. AI won’t save us from climate change.

Really weird. I wonder if it isn’t just a double-sided publicity ploy. First, it keeps his name and cause buzzing around the ‘net. Second, he can later say “Look how important this cause is, people raised 50,000 in 36 hours !”

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