Get out the popcorn! Leslie Manookian attacks fellow antivaxer James Lyons-Weiler

I’ve been blogging about the antivaccine movement now for over 13 years, and before that I had been refuting its misinformation online on Usenet and other discussion forums for nearly five years. So I think I have quite a bit of perspective on what constitutes being “antivaccine.” Admittedly, I sometimes liken antivaccine pseudoscience to pornography, echoing Brennan’s famous statement about how I know it when I see it. I’ve also rarely been wrong. Still, just because it’s difficult to articulate exactly what constitutes antivaccine views doesn’t mean that I don’t like to show you examples, so that, hopefully, you too can learn to recognize it when you see it.

One of the biggest lies told by antivaxers it that they are not antivaccine. I suppose that in some cases it’s possible that they actually believe that they are not antivaccine and are deluding themselves otherwise, but most of the time I sense the “I’m not antivaccine” gambit as a ploy, as PR. Being antivaccine is viewed highly negatively by most people, and rightly so. Antivaxers know this. They also know that it’s better to represent themselves as being vaccine safety activists, hence Jenny McCarthy’s famous claim, “I’m not ‘antivaccine,’ I’m pro-safe vaccine.” It was nonsense then, and it’s almost always nonsense now. Indeed, here’s a pro tip: Whenever you hear someone say that, it’s highly accurate indicator that that person is, in fact, antivaccine.

Now, by any stretch of the imagination, James Lyons-Weiler is antivaccine. You might remember him ranting about who killed Colton Berrett Colton Berrett, as you might recall, is the unfortunate teen who developed the rare condition called transverse myelitis that one of his arms useless, the other almost useless, and him on a portable ventilator, paralyzed. Antivaxers blamed it on Gardasil, although the temporal relationship between Colton’s receiving the shot and the onset of his symptoms was tenuous at best. Ultimately, he committed suicide, leading to a “Gardasil killed Colton Berrett” narrative making its way around the Internet. His antivax cred is impeccable, particularly his ability to claim that he’s read far more studies on vaccines than is humanly possible and praising horribly awful antivaccine studies. Yet, in some quarters, he is not sufficiently antivaccine. I kid you not.

I learned that the other day on—where else?—that wretched hive of antivaccine scum and quackery, Age of Autism. There, I found that Leslie Manookian deems James Lyons-Weiler to be insufficiently pure, to be insufficiently antivaccine. Manookian, if you’ll recall, was responsible for the antivaccine propaganda film The Greater Good, routinely spreads antivaccine misinformation, and really, really doesn’t like Dr. Paul Offit. (I’ve even met her. It happened when she was the moderator at a debate about vaccines between Steve Novella and Julian Whitaker.) This time around, she’s really, really unhappy with Lyons-Weiler, asking, in fact, Has James Lyons-Weiler Lost It?

Get out the popcorn. I love it when two antivaxers go at it:

In his recent article, “New York Times Has Lost It,” James Lyons-Weiler wrote that, “Mandates without exemptions create a situation where those who are destined to be injured by vaccines will be found, and injured, with mathematical certainty” – a line of reasoning he’s employed before.

So he’s advocating for mandates as long as there are exemptions? Really? What about freedom and bodily autonomy? What about first do no harm? I wonder how any educated reader can take him seriously when he espouses such dangerous ideas.

Methinks Ms. Manookian can’t read very well. I read Lyons-Weiler’s article. It’s about as far from “advocating for mandates” as you can imagine. Basically, he’s not “advocating for mandates.” Rather, he’s grudgingly accepting school vaccine mandates, but only if there are exemptions. Does this sound like he’s advocating for vaccine mandates? I think not:

California is the worst possible example for other states to follow. The New York Times has lost their collective minds. Mandates without exemptions create a situation where those who are destined to be injured by vaccines will be found, and injured, with mathematical certainty.

Mandates for vaccines are, for some,

Mandatory death sentences, for having the wrong genes.

Mandated Guillan Barre Syndrome.

Mandated lifetime paralysis.

Mandated lifetime autoimmunity.

Mandated food allergies.

Mandated encephalopathy, leading to autism, for millions.

Mandated tics.

Mandated seizures.

Mandated job loss, for exercising their rights to informed consent.

Autism rates in CA jumped 7% in CA.

I would recommend not reading the New York Times until they retract their call for injury and death in a genetic minority of people who, through no fault of their own, are susceptible to vaccine injury.

This does not sound like an endorsement of vaccine mandates to me, but a demand that, if there must be mandates, there must be nonmedical exemptions. But that’s just me. Being someone who’s always thought that nonmedical exemptions to school vaccine mandates should be restricted to as few as possible, if no eliminated altogether, I did not read the passage above and see it as any sort of endorsement of school vaccine mandates. Quite the contrary.

Maybe Ms. Manookian was “triggered” by this:

The majority who benefits from the suffering of a minority should protect the minority, and lift them up as heroes, not toss them to the side and deny their suffering and mandate that more people be injured because vaccine injuries are causing “vaccine hesitancy”.

On the surface, it looks as though Lyons-Weiler is actually admitting that vaccines do good. After all, consider what he’s saying here: The majority benefit from vaccines, but there’s a minority who suffer “vaccine injuries.” On one level, he’s not entirely wrong. There is such a thing as vaccine injury. It is very rare, but it exists. Of course, you and I know that Lyons-Weiler doesn’t mean that. He thinks that vaccines cause autism, neurodevelopmental disorders, autoimmune diseases, diabetes, and all manner of other health issues, but even to him the children affected by “vaccine injury” represent a minority. I suspect that the contention that most children benefit from vaccines is what really bothered Ms. Manookian, who did not react well:

Vaccines injure all who receive them. ALL. There is no such thing as a safe dose of mercury or aluminum or many of the other toxins. There is no science proving what that level is. Any scientist who argues that only some individuals are susceptible to vaccine injury despite any science to substantiate this assertion is not a true scientist. Mercury, aluminum, and all the other poisons in vaccines don’t miraculously become health promoting when contained in a vaccine. Advocating for mandates with exemptions for those “susceptible few” sounds like a vaccine maker’s dream come true, doesn’t it? How’s that working out in California where there’s a veritable witch hunt for doctors who write medical exemptions?

Pro tip: Now that’s antivaccine. She won’t even accept a common antivaccine trope that vaccines are safe for most, but that there are “susceptible” individuals who, through genetic predisposition, suffer extreme “injury” due to vaccines, viewing that idea as a boon to pharmaceutical companies:

Your first goal would be to manage the conversation so that you could retain control of the market. And how would you do that? Simply concede that there are indeed a “few susceptible” individuals and recommend testing to determine who’s susceptible. Then you reap all the kudos of being the good guy while deflecting away from the true issue of poisonous, failing vaccines.

Next, you create the tests to determine those “few susceptible” individuals. (Lyons-Weiler’s stated goal in other communications.) This is vital as you not only replace your lost profits from conceding some people are harmed you retain control of the conversation. You develop a test or two. You say it’s all genetic. You say the form of mercury in vaccines isn’t the problem – it’s your genes. You pay scientists to conduct studies and ghost write papers saying the aluminum is nothing to worry about. The media aids you in this endeavor, as they are nothing more than the propaganda arm of the corporations and state. The uneducated and naïve public buys the story because the vaccine makers “did the right thing” and we skip merrily along towards complete loss of freedoms.

See what I mean? Ms. Manookian doesn’t accept even that vaccines are safe for most children. Rather, she thinks vaccines are dangerous to each and every child who receives them and that vaccines harm each and every child who receives them. No exceptions. None. She even goes so far to portray the very idea that only a minority of children are susceptible to “vaccine injury” as a triumph of pro-vaccine forces, in which scientists can claim to develop tests to identify who is and isn’t susceptible to such “injuries.”

Pro tip: That’s antivaccine.

Don’t believe me? Check this out:

Vaccines today are NOT safe, period. Everyone deserves bodily autonomy, period. There is, and never will be, a place for medical mandates of any kind in a free society. The sooner our community starts calling out those who defend vaccines, vaccine mandates, and the practice of vaccination, the better.

To Manookian, vaccines are just plain dangerous. Always. In a previous interview, she demonstrated this inadvertently by listing a number of requirements that she sees as necessary before she views vaccines as safe:

  1. All ingredients must be studied singly and in combination with all other ingredients to prove safety.
  2. Vaccines must be studied singly and in all combinations in which they might be administered to prove safety.
  3. Vaccine trials must use a true placebo not another vaccine or active substance like mercury or aluminum.
  4. The cumulative effects of the vaccine schedule must be studied to determine long-term impact.
  5. A vaccinated versus unvaccinated study must be conducted to ascertain long-term health outcomes of the continuously expanding schedule.
  6. The impact of vaccine ingredients on our genetic makeup must be determined.
  7. The risks of the culture media in which vaccines are grown and the long-term impact on the human body must be determined.
  8. An ‘active’ adverse reactions monitoring system must be implemented.
  9. Vaccines must not be fast tracked.

The first one is, of course, a variation of the “toxins” gambit. By implying that there are all sorts of “toxins” in vaccines and insisting that all ingredients be studied individually and then in combination, she is, whether she realizes it or not, setting up a standard that is so cumbersome and lengthy as to be totally impractical. It’s unnecessary as well. For instance, we know that formaldehyde, one of the most commonly demonized “chemical” ingredients of vaccines is safe at the dose used because the human body makes formaldehyde as a normal byproduct of metabolism and there is far more formaldehyde in a baby’s body at any given time than there is in any vaccine. #2 is, of course, a variant of #1. Vaccines are, of course, studied in combination with the existing vaccine schedule. I’m not sure what she meant by “in all combinations in which they might be administered,” but clearly she is talking a lot of combinations. This, too, would be so time consuming and expensive as to be totally impractical. Similarly, #7 is a variant that pushes the goalposts back to the culture medium used to grow the cells that produce the viruses used to derive the vaccine. Never mind that the culture media is removed, except for traces.

#3, of course, is another bogus antivaccine that I’ve addressed on multiple other occasions.

#4, #5, and #6 are antivaccine tropes that follow a common theme, that somehow vaccines are causing some sort of long term injury. Of course, it’s not true that there haven’t been “vaccinated versus unvaccinated studies.” That is a myth. Ironically, existing “vaccinated/unvaccinated” studies not only don’t support the antivaccine view that vaccinated children are unhealthier, if anything they lean towards supporting the opposite. As for #6, again I don’t even know what Manookian means by the “impact of vaccine ingredients on our genetic makeup” but it sure sounds a lot like General Ripper’s concern about how fluoride in water will “sap and impurify all of our precious bodily fluids.” My guess is that she’s probably invoking that antivaccine misuse of epigenetics, as antivaxers are wont to do without knowing what they are talking about.

But what about the lack of an active monitoring system for vaccines? Well, that’s just not true, either. Yes, the most famous system, the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS) is a passive system. However, there are at least two active systems, one run by the FDA called PRISM (Post-licensure Rapid Immunization Safety Monitoring System) and the VSD (Vaccine Safety Datalink), which is run by the CDC. Around the world, there are a number of other active surveillance systems examining vaccine safety, although some are not restricted to vaccines and examine drug safety in general. Examples include Canadian systems, such as the Canadian Network for Observational Drug Effect Studies (CNODES) and the Vaccine and Immunization Surveillance in Ontario (VISION); European systems, such as the Exploring and Understanding Adverse Drug Reactions by Integrative Mining of Clinical Records and Biomedical Knowledge (EU-ADR) Alliance and the Vaccine Adverse Event Surveillance and Communication (VAESCO); Asian, such as the Pharmacoepidemiology Network (AsPEN) and the Shanghai Drug Monitoring and Evaluative System (SDMES); and the UK, such as the Vigilance and Risk Management of Medicines (VRMM) Division and the Drug Safety Research Unit (DSRU), an independent academic unit.

Basically, antivaxers who claim there are no active surveillance systems for adverse events for vaccines do not know what they are talking about or are lying. There is no third option.

Of course, James Lyons-Weiler was not pleased by this attack by a fellow antivaxer. He showed up in the comments to complain:

I greatly appreciate your work and dedication. But you really missed the mark on this one. Of course, it is not a genetic minority that is damaged by vaccines or who carry all the risk. You know there are glyphosate and biologically incompatible nanoparticles (and who knows what else) in these drugs. Having great genes (whatever that means) will not protect against these contaminants. Then there is the damage done by artificial man made immune system stimulation and all the crap in these drugs that genes have nothing to do with. Your thesis is oversimplified and just incorrect and that isn’t like you. I hope you rethink your position.

Actually, Manookian’s “thesis” (such as it is) is exactly liker her. Still, what do you call a man who thinks that vaccines are full of all sorts of horrific toxins and that it is “not a genetic minority that is damaged by vaccines or who carry all the risk”? What do you call a woman who thinks that vaccines harm all children? Antivaccine, of course. As I said, I know it when I see it.

And I do so love a good fight between antivaxers. Get out the popcorn.

ADDENDUM: And James Lyons-Weiler has fired back this morning by asserting his antivaccine purity and claiming he never argued that vaccine mandates are acceptable. Quite the contrary, he calls them unethical and unscientific. This is getting good.