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Dr. Ken Walker (a.k.a. Dr. W. Gifford-Jones) plays the martyr over his antivaccine op-ed

Dr. Ken Walker (more famously known as Canadian syndicated columnist Dr. W. Gifford-Jones) wrote an antivaccine op-ed for The Toronto Sun so full of antivaccine misinformation that was retracted after a flurry of complaints and bad publicity. Now, he plays the martyr. Unfortunately for him, he does it while spewing the same sort of antivaccine misinformation for which his previous op-ed had been retracted.

I had been debating whether to finish off the week with yet another post about vaccines given how much I’ve been writing about vaccines over the last couple of weeks and how little I plan on writing during the holidays (i.e., either not at all or only if something happens between Christmas and January 2 that is utterly irresistible to me as a blogger, such as a study that I feel that only I can deconstruct the way it needs to be deconstructed or a news story that is so perfect for me that I must interrupt my break—which, if history is any indication, usually happens once between Christmas and New Years). However, if there’s one thing I like about blogging, it’s that I often get a chance to follow up on a topic, news event, or incident previously written about and, in doing so, provide either closure, analysis, and/or mockery, as appropriate depending on the circumstances. In particular, I love doing this when it’s a story, study, or case that no one else is likely to write about. In this case, it’s Ken Walker, MD, a syndicated columnist for a number of Canadian newspapers who writes under the name of W. Gifford-Jones, MD. You might remember that about a year and a half ago Dr. Walker/Gifford-Jones wrote an article entitled What you may not know about vaccines. (I linked to the Archive.org version of the post because The Toronto Sun and several—but, alas, not all—of the other Canadian newspapers that ran it retracted it under criticism.) It was an article full of such horrendously ignorant (and downright dumb) pseudoscience and fear mongering about vaccines that I couldn’t resist a bit of not-so-Respectful Insolence his way. So did several others, and Twitter, as is its wont, erupted in disapproval. Ultimately, the editor of the Sun grudgingly retracted the article:

As I noted at the time, whenever I hear the word “balanced” used in the context of vaccine coverage by the media, it’s almost always false balance that gives way too much credence to antivax misinformation—false balance of the type that Dr. Walker/Gifford-Jones tried to spin in his op-ed.

So what’s the update? Well, Dr. Walker/Gifford-Jones is unhappy that his op-ed produced such blowback and ultimately ended up being retracted from so many newspapers that had run it. I found out about it on—where else?—that wretched hive of scum and antivaccine quackery, Age of Autism (AoA), in the form of a press release called Why Doctors (and Newspaper Columnists) Rarely Dare to Question Vaccine Safety. It turns out that the original press release was published earlier this week on the Orthomolecular Medicine News Service. I was duly amused. Here’s a hint. If you want to project scientific credibility while defending an article you wrote about vaccines, releasing it as a press release on the Orthomolecular Medicine News Service is exactly the wrong way to go about it. Orthomolecular medicine is a form of quackery emphasizing megadoses of vitamins and “micronutrients.” Basically, to orthomolecular medicine, if a little of a vitamin is good, megadoses are better. An example of someone who fell for orthomolecular medicine is Linus Pauling, who claimed that high dose vitamin C could cure cancer and the common cold.

Let’s watch Dr. Walker/Gifford-Jones do what antivaxers always do when their antivaccine nonsense is removed from a mainstream media outlet. Play the truth-telling Cassandra and victim of rigid groupthink and conspiracy:

Do you need excitement in your life? If so, just write a column on the rewards and risks of vaccination. Then find a safe, secure hideout. Pour yourself a drink and wait for those who want to boil you in oil. This scenario happened to me when an editor pulled my syndicated article, balanced I thought, after it was published, due to criticism.

See what I mean? The only thing missing from Dr. Walker/Gifford-Jones’ self-pitying whine is an invocation of Galileo or Ignaz Semmelweis. The “Galileo gambit” is a favorite of cranks, to which, Carl Sagan had the best response: “The fact that some geniuses were laughed at does not imply that all who are laughed at are geniuses. They laughed at Columbus, they laughed at Fulton, they laughed at the Wright brothers. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown.” Ditto persecution. My view on this is that if you write something full of pseudoscience and nonsense, you should be prepared for criticism. (You will richly deserve it.) Like so many cranks and ideologues, Dr. Walker/Gifford-Jones seems to want to be able to publish pseudoscience without consequences. In other words, he implicitly equates freedom of speech with freedom from criticism. The sad thing is that Dr. Walker/Gifford-Jones actually thinks that the dreck-packed load of the fetid dingos’ kidneys of science that he wrote was “balanced.”

Next up, Dr. Walker/Gifford-Jones defends the cranks who think the way he does:

A professor of medicine in Calgary writes, “I was horrified that you would publish these remarks for unsophisticated readers.” This implies newspaper readers are stupid! Another reader wrote, “Your recent piece is a threat to public health. You should be ashamed for spreading lies and fear.” These are damning comments that must be challenged.

No, “unsophisticated” doesn’t mean “stupid.” In this context, it means not medically knowledgeable enough to recognize what Dr. Walker/Gifford-Jones for the misinformation and pseudoscience that it is. That is true of most lay people. Worse, because he is a doctors (and a very old one at that), Dr. Walker/Gifford-Jones has more authority than he would have if, say, someone like J.B. Handley or another lay person who is not a scientist or physician had written the article. He knows this, unless, as all too many doctors I’ve met are, he’s blissfully oblivious to the high degree of privilege, authority, and trust he enjoys from the public as a physician.

So how does Dr. Walker/Gifford-Jones “defend himself” and “challenge” this professor of medicine who correctly took him to task for the nonsense that he published? Does he produce a well-constructed, logical argument defending the points he made in his op-ed? Does he cite well-designed studies published in respected peer-reviewed journals? Does he reference basic science findings relevant to immunology, infectious disease, and vaccines? Of course not! Instead, he trots out a bunch of praise from readers who complained to the Sun for its decision to yank his op-ed:

I also received an overwhelming positive response from readers. The general reaction was “Thank God a doctor has finally had the courage to speak out about this matter.” A few predicted I’d be fired. Another wondered why I wasn’t stoned at my front door!

WD from Toronto replied, “I cannot believe your column on vaccines was removed. What is happening in this world? Big pharma has its teeth in everything and people blindly follow. Your column simply advised people to look at both sides of the coin. We are living in a sad time.”

From the Prairie Provinces: “You are one of the brave. All mothers out in the trenches are celebrating your article.” Another reader in Massachusetts claimed that “Dropping the column was an attack on free speech.”

MG writes, “With my first and only flu shot I developed Guillain-Barre disease and became paralyzed. I’ve regained the ability to walk, but have permanent nerve damage. It’s so frustrating to hear that flu shots are safe as one nearly killed me. Thanks for speaking up.”

From Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario: “I’m a registered nurse who worked in Toronto and never took a flu shot. Like you, I take a lot of vitamin C, and also bee pollen to increase immunity.”

A doctor from Mexico says, “I wasn’t taught about immunology and I was impressed and shocked to read about the dangers of vaccines in your column.”

Word to the wise: Avoid this doctor from Mexico. Unfortunately, his name is not listed, but it’s clear from his support for Dr. Walker/Gifford-Jones’ ignorant stylings about vaccines is any indication, he is not good at evaluating science and the medical literature. Of course, there were the usual antivaccine bits there: Big pharma conspiracy mongering; an appeal to “free speech”; praising Dr. Walker/Gifford-Jones as a “brave maverick doctor“; an unverifiable anecdote; and claims of “natural immunity” from vitamin C. Let’s just put it this way. The responses chosen by Dr. Walker/Gifford-Jones to use to defend himself say way more about him than they defend him.

Then he dives into a predictable list of antivaccine tropes:

What have critics missed in denouncing this column? Investigators always counsel, “Follow the money to find the answer.” This means following 3.6 billion dollars, awarded to families due to the complications of vaccines. It’s a huge pay out if nothing wrong ever happened.

That sounds like a lot of money, but, as I’ve discussed many times, that’s over 30 years and many claims. Not only that, but the Vaccine Court by design is set up to make compensation easier than the normal courts. The evidentiary standard is, as they say, 50% and a feather. The court pays the complainants’ court costs. Although most of the time the court gets the science right, occasionally it accepts highly dubious scientific “ideas” for how a “vaccine injury” might have occurred. There are so-called “table injuries” that are automatically compensated, whether caused by a vaccine or not. I pointed out several of these things in response to the original op-ed.

Next up, there’s an appeal to exaggerated uncertainty:

Critics also make the error in ignoring the fact that no therapy in this world is 100 percent safe. I could never guarantee that my surgical patients would have an uncomplicated recovery. Every day people die of blood clots after surgery and prescription medication. Vaccines are no exception.

Yes, it’s true that no therapy is 100% safe. It’s also irrelevant to antivaccine misinformation. The key consideration in any therapy is the benefit/risk ratio. For vaccines, that ratio is astronomical. Vaccines are very, very safe and range from just effective to very, very effective. When antivaxers invoke the risks of medical procedures to justify discussing the “risks of vaccination,” it is always, always, always in order to exaggerate the risks of vaccines—or to make up nonexistent risks of vaccination, such as autism, autoimmune diseases, diabetes, and the like.

He continues in this vein:

Some critics claim that substantial amounts of mercury are no longer used in vaccines. But mercury even in small quantities is dangerous. Common sense tells us that something in the vaccine triggers occasional complications. To date, we regrettably do not have a utopian 100 percent safe vaccine.

No, “critics” do not “claim” that substantial amounts of mercury are no longer used in vaccines. Substantial amounts of mercury are no longer used in vaccines—and haven’t been in the US since around 2002. Also, the mercury in the thimerosal used as a vaccine preservative up until 2002 does not cause autism. As for the bit about the “utopian 100% safe vaccine,” no one—and I mean no one—claims that we do have vaccines that are 100% safe. We point out that the benefit-risk ratio of vaccines is incredibly favorable and that vaccines do not cause all the health problems that antivaxers attribute to them. Of course, antivaxers are the utopian ones. They love the “Nirvana fallacy,” in which if something (in this case vaccines) is not perfect, it’s crap. To them, if vaccines are not 100% safe and never, ever cause even minor harm to anyone, they are horrifically dangerous. (I exaggerate, but only slightly.)

Next up, Dr. Walker/Gifford-Jones invokes a bogus appeal to “informed consent”:

I am a moderate, actually. I’ve previously written that vaccines have thankfully saved countless lives from infectious disease. I have never counseled anyone to refuse vaccines. Rather, the decision should always be made by the patient and his/her doctor. Informed consent should include the possibility of an unexpected, minor or serious complication.

In the antivaccine world, “informed consent” is in reality what I like to call misinformed consent, as I pointed out in response to his original article. Basically, misinformed consent exaggerates the risks while downplaying and/or denying the benefits of vaccines in order to tilt the apparent benefit-risk ratio to an unfavorable range, thus inducing parents to refuse vaccines for their children. I also note that a favorite tactic of antivaxers is to portray those who criticize their promotion of pseudoscience as frenzied, self-righteous zealots who can’t be reasoned with. (Yes, they do like to project.)

Finally, Dr. Walker/Gifford-Jones plays the flawed human messenger just trying to do the best he can to tell the truth, even if it is not believed or unwelcome, you know, like Cassandra or the Oracle of Delphi:

One thing I do know. I’m not related to the Almighty. I therefore can’t be infallible. I also know that readers often request that my column be discontinued when I write about controversial social and medical issues.

In view of what happened should I have bypassed a column on vaccines? I hate hypocrisy, so I’d be the world’s worst hypocrite if I followed the non-controversial path. Medicine is made up of many controversies.

An editor 45 years ago counseled me, “It’s the job of a journalist to make people think.” This has left me with scars. But if I get fired for writing what I believe should be said, it’s time to stop. After all, the motto of the Harvard Medical School is one word, Truth. I will live or die by it.

Except when he spreads antivaccine misinformation. Then the truth is optional if it doesn’t support his narrative.

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]

142 replies on “Dr. Ken Walker (a.k.a. Dr. W. Gifford-Jones) plays the martyr over his antivaccine op-ed”

Dr. Walker/Gifford-Jones a doctors (and a very old one at that)!

He must be pushing 90 at least. I remember reading his column as a teenager and I am retired.

I remember seeing a column of his a few years ago where he said that the scientific evidence was against the utility of massive doses of Vitamin C but, mumble, mumble, he still thought it was a good idea. Clearly those massive doses of Vitamin C are working. He is still out there spreading sweetness and light. Or do I mean misdirection and confusion?

A doctor from Mexico

An N.D rather than an M.D.?

“only I can deconstruct”
“provide either closure”
“Orthomolecular medicine is a form of quackery”
“someone who fell for orthomolecular medicine is Linus Pauling”
“The “Galileo gambit” is a favorite of cranks”
“Like so many cranks”
“defends the cranks”

The deconstruction: Vaccines can’t stand up to free speech.

vaccines, products so perfect it needs a defense team.

And yet, you have folks like Alan Phillips of Asheville, North Carolina actively lying. Why do that? He actually claimed that Japan stopped vaccinating with the DTP until age two years, and SIDS went away. Actually SIDS was still there, the problem with over forty babies died of pertussis.

That was a long time, and how I learned early on that folks like you tend to lie, lots. Check it out, over twenty years ago and Phillips’ with his “Dispelling Vaccination Myths”:
http://www.pathguy.com/antiimmu.html

So I guess lies are free speech. But so is pointing out the blatant lies. Obviously, if you must rely on lies, then there is no reason to care about what you think.

So I can say: “David Ball is a fool.”
You can say nothing and we can assume you agree.
You can defend yourself and prove that you can’t stand up to free speech.
See how that works?

Or, for that matter, the paper’s freedom to publish what it wishes (not that Canada has the equivalent of the First Amendment in the first place).

“The deconstruction: Vaccines can’t stand up to free speech.
vaccines, products so perfect it needs a defense team.The deconstruction: Vaccines can’t stand up to free speech.
vaccines, products so perfect it needs a defense team.”
In every generation, in every forum, and in every place, truth needs to be defended against those who would deny or suppress it.
To which I can only add:
http://drikkes.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/tumblr_kvlr3gRNsf1qzmkiyo1_500.jpg

At 94, he might hold the record for most ancient antivax doc, beating out other luminaries like Richard Moskowitz, who’s only 80, and Russell Blaylock who’s a relative youngster at 73.

http://www.wholehealthnow.com/bios/richard-moskowitz.html

A listing of antivax docs*:

https://www.skepticalraptor.com/skepticalraptorblog.php/anti-vaccine-doctors-naming-names/

*the term “doctor” is loosely applied here.

In David Ball’s world. anything (including civil rights protections, access to medical care, immunization, free elections, adequate response to climate change etc.) that requires active defenders must be worthless.
Vaccines easily stand up to free speech, even when it’s ignorant and stupid.

Vaccines do not need defending – research and practical experience shows that they are effective and safe, however, people need defending from preventable diseases that were once common but are now on the rise thanks to various groups lying about vaccine safety and effectiveness. There’s a good article in the Guardian:

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/dec/21/measles-cases-at-highest-for-20-years-in-europe-as-anti-vaccine-movement-grows

People are dying because of this nonsense.

What is wrong with defending actual scientific prevention of diseases? Yet, you seem to be content to defend liars. Why is that? Do you also teach your children that it is good to lie?

You are trying to defame them – unsuccessfully, while others are responding to your defamations – successfully. You are employing a rhetorical trick to make it seem that vaccines need defending, whereas it is actually you who are wrong and therefore need to defend your erroneous position.

This half-remembered quote from Hitch-hikers guide to the galaxy sums it up ‘Man became so clever he argued that white was black – and promptly got killed on a zebra crossing’

Similarly people are dying of measles because they haven’t been vaccinated due to the false arguments of anti-vaxxers.

We defend them because the ignorant, the evil, and the delusional spread and swallow lies.
As a Jew, I constantly find myself correcting or denouncing the same anti-Semitic garbage that has been around for a millennium or more. People are always looking to spread it and people allow themselves to accept it. I don’t drink the blood of any children, Christian, Muslim, or anything else, for example, yet it has to be denounced over and over like a life or death game of whack-a-mole.
I am bisexual, and the number of times I have had to either put up with or deny the stereotypes that come with it is daunting. At least I haven’t recently had to prove my existence, which I once did by poking the denier hard in the chest while telling him that this wasn’t happening because I didn’t exist. I don’t know if I convinced him, but to hear him announce “Dude, you’re crazy!’ as he beat a retreat was sheer poetry.
Truth, facts, have to be constantly defended, because liars lie, idiots are idiotic, ignoramuses persist in their ignorance, and the greedy know no limits to their greed.
If you think that defending the truth against forces of untruth proves that the truth is not the truth (like that poster boy for dementia Rudy Giuliani says), then you are suffering a serious deficit in your logic and/or intelligence.
http://drikkes.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/tumblr_kvlr3gRNsf1qzmkiyo1_500.jpg

“Common sense tells us that something in the vaccine triggers occasional complications. ”

Well, yes, no immune response can be 100% safe. But vaccines are the safest way to elicit them. If your kid had a febrile seizure in the doctor’s office after a vaccine, the chances are good that they would have had a worse one farther away from help and support if they encountered the pathogen in the wild…

The deconstruction: Vaccines can’t stand up to free speech.

vaccines, products so perfect it needs a defense team.

There are plenty of true and real things these days that need defending from free speech, including –and not limited to– the roundness of the Earth, the occurrence of evolution in biology and what quantum mechanics actually says about the Uncertainty Principle. People don’t fall over dead for either spouting or believing lies, but that doesn’t suddenly put a lie on the same level of reality as the truth. Vaccines are one example where your choice to not vaccinate is directly tied to the health of someone you not only don’t know but would normally claim to not give a damn about, whether you realize it or not. How should other people feel about your advocacy for a pseudo-reality helping to endanger their loved ones?

The delusion of the Freedom of Speech is that all things which can be said are equally valid and that all speakers can meaningfully add to a conversation. It’s an extraordinarily egotistical presumption. Should somebody who can’t balance their own checkbook have a hand in fiscal policy? In our society, not only are they are allowed… they are given a seat at the table and specifically consulted in every election. Yes, many things need protection from the freedom of speech and people really should be stopping and taking stock of this.

Certainly.
Unfortunately, alt med provocateurs and election meddlers have had free reign across the internet “educating” the unprepared, naïve or unsuspecting.

Anybody can say anything and usually, will get an audience if they cater to common whims and fears. I often hope that there were legal means to either frighten away or dissuade outright prevarication such as what I hear and read on a near daily basis. BUT it’s hard to sue or censor liars like those we know who distort research and general information in ways that can harm the public. So what’s left to us but countering with facts and data.

HOWEVER I despair because so many opponents of reality are incredibly adept at stacking the deck by using emotional grandstanding and theatrics to serve their own purpose and frequently, pad their own wallets and egos. That’s where we need to educate people.

Lots of research about how poorly educated people are vulnerable to the grossest appeals from demagogues. That’s how we got into this terrible situation in the US. Education is not the answer because ignorance rejects education. That’s the fallacy and complete misunderstanding of well-educated people. We think that if people get the right information that we can somehow magically change their understanding of the world.

NO.

Part of my background is in clinical psych. Such people do NOT respond to more education. They just dig in their heels and resist any attempt to change their ideas. There is literally a ton of research on this. Many of them are recalcitrantly rigid people who do not accept new information and are just impossible to reason with. It’s partly a total educational failure in the US, but they are also predisposed to what I described.
.
This is really not the place to discuss this except to say that this absolutely the wrong approach. Education and information mean nothing to rigid, authoritarian personalities who need to.reinforce their pre-existing notions of how societies should work and how they want their lives to be.

Ignorance/rigidity is really the issue. You will not change them. Ever They will always have some unreasoned defense for their ignorant notions as these anti-vax nuts continually demonstrate..

And no one has ever been arrested for telling the lie that vaccines are not safe, sure they get criticized and mocked and find it hard to get published in reputable publication, the fact this idiot Dr is still spouting nonsense about vaccines is testament his free speech has not bee interfered with.
Sure he might not like being mocked and criticized, but then if you like free speech you can’t so very well complain when others use their free speech to challenge your BC

Paul Krugman had a funny column years ago in the NYT about false balance. Should the Flat Earth Society be given the same coverage as, you know, actual physicists with actual PhDs in their field and training in all that nerdy, esoteric stuff?

The degradation of science journalism is now cringeworthy. There have been well organized networks for decades of experts you can consult if you need to fact-check. It was a quick/dirty tool we often used when I was a magazine editor. There are no excuses for the weenie disclaimer this editor used. The tools are there. Your default reaction should not be a response to public criticism. Do your job before publishing crap. This guy’s claim of victimhood follows all the usual scripts, as Orac pointed out.

I don’t know anything about this Toronto paper, but it sounds little better than what passes for science coverage in our increasingly irrelevant mainstream crappola press in the US. Apologies to Canadians…..

Your educational system is better than ours, but don’t look to print journalism that’s now drifting aimlessly on past credibility and prestige. That does not exist now.

There is no “paper of record” now. My stepfamily founded and still controls the New York Times. Long story there. It’s running on fumes and PR. I like Krugman, but they have some really dubious columnists raking in way too much money.with totally skewed editorial priorities overall..

I don’t know anything about this Toronto paper

The Toronto Sun is a tabloid that once was very useful for wrapping fish and chips. Blasted health departments!

I very seldom look at it but it is better than the British Daily Mail. Much of it’s news has “some” relation to reality. It tends to be very right-wing. I believe it has an excellent sports section.

It is not exactly a “newspaper of record”.

We seem to have cultural amnesia about this in the US. Our old shibboleth that you don’t cry “FIRE!” in a crowded theater has been somewhat forgotten. There are clear limits to free speech. The First Amendment in the US Constitution/ Bill of Rights does not automatically confer protection from criticism and give you the right to say any stupid, destructive thing that pops into your head that could harm other people.

He’s 94. That Toronto newspaper should have called him to clarify his statements before publishing and make sure he was not suffering from some kind of dementia. Context is critical. Conversations about trivial things can often illuminate it..Negligence by the paper and its editors, I think…….

Sara- The Toronto Sun is akin to the UK “paper” The Daily M(f)ail, or not quite up to the quality of the New York Post in my not so humble opinion of tabloid rags. Since Dr. Walker has been writing a column for decades there is little to check, except milk it for all that is left, which is not much. For that I do fault the media.

Although I agree with Orac this is a target that is covered fairly by him, I still feel sorry about it. Dr Walker at one time was OK, and gave up his license to practice in June 2012 ( as noted in my comments with the first Orac post November 5, 2018 ). It is sad that Dr.Walker does not seem to have the presence to also withdraw from public comment, to at least preserve some positive legacy.

Ego and narcissism, maybe. Some people can’t give up being seen as paragons of wisdom and authority figures even when they no longer have legal authority for that. Hidden big narcissism in his case, I suspect. As Orac mentioned, having an MD provides big cover for some really bad narcissism.

I have to wonder, though, why he bothers to have this pseudonym. Does he need an alter ego or internet disguise for some other reason? Hmmmm………

The in-your-face nature of his defensiveness is also suspect. I said in a previous message that I have a background in clinical psych. I see this a lot in these quackeroonies. There’s a whole lot of psychopathology there that can be difficult to unravel.

Maybe this is somewhat of the Oz effect. I had some contact with that guy a gazillion years ago when he was a respected surgeon–imagine that–and not this stupid quack now selling who knows what and just shilling.

What happens to these.people’s minds?!? Why do physicians do this? I really do not get this. Why do they just turn into shills and start selling dangerous stuff to people who don’t know they are buying stupid stuff?!?

It cannot be just the money. Something happens to flip a switch. I really do not get it. Oz is the classic example.

We seem to have cultural amnesia about this in the US. Our old shibboleth that you don’t cry “FIRE!” in a crowded theater has been somewhat forgotten. There are clear limits to free speech. The First Amendment in the US Constitution/ Bill of Rights does not automatically confer protection from criticism and give you the right to say any stupid, destructive thing that pops into your head that could harm other people.

Paging Narad.

Legal background here and would appreciate Narad’s input about it. This is a First Amendment Issue in the US that I take very seriously. This Canadian paper has clearly been careless.and has a staff who cannot deal with this problem. Probably junior staff who don’t fully understand the problem and are not really competent. Don’t know….

I imagine he’s busy at the cat shelter or something (Narad), but the whole “fire in a crowded theater” thing is a real bee in his bonnet, as you might find out if he shows up.

Does he need an alter ego or internet disguise for some other reason?
IIRC, his original editor, probably from a local small town paper, suggested it to him back about 60 or so years ago. Probably to avoid being accosted on the street on a daily basis by patients and other people who knew him.

@ Sara:

I’m talking about specific education into how alt med works. Long ago, a few writers uncovered the tricks of commercials and print adverts for consumers. How supermarkets fool you. What sells a car. Why you buy what you do.

AND there are some people you just can’t reach ever. No one will ever talk sense to Kim or Ginger or the Prof BUT we can possibly reach their followers. I doubt that the thousands who regularly read AoA or TMR are all unreachable. Parents who believe that their children were destroyed by vaccines will probably never change because that position is an attempt at salvaging their egos ( as if having a child with an ASD brands you as deficient) but I imagine that many of their readers are sympathetic to them but not in the same position or as needy.

Alt med presents a few concepts that appeal to hopes and fears: most people already know that in some way but we can explicate it in detail. For example, healthy diets can affect outcomes but not to extent suggested by woo-meisters who just HAPPEN to sell the exact supplements you need to make up for poor choices. There is a very high correspondence between those who advocate special diets and those who sell superfoods and supplements.

Discussing motives of sellers ( of products or ideas) can enlighten many who are in the dark now. Those who criticise “money hungry” SBM are often multi-millionaires themselves who live on estates ( we have photos). Lots of other material along these lines for the general public.

My big bugaboo with these people is the BIG PHARM IS JUST EVIL! ridiculousness. Big Pharm is really indeed a nasty money-grubbing industry on many levels, but balance that against how many people have been saved by vaccinations and truly life-saving drugs. It’s a mixed bag. I worked for Big Pharm and saw this from the inside. My BIL works for Abbott Labs and tells me a lot about this..

The priority as Orac so consistently says is to fight the unregulated shysters who prey on the vulnerable who lack knowledge to understand how they are being ripped off by supplement hucksters, cancer treatment charlatans, and everyone else out there who see that they can make a buck from desperate people. US law is so weak to get these terrible people/criminals reined in that I think there is little will on the federal level to stop them. We need stronger federal laws, but thanks to Orrin Hatch and his bought-off ilk we will have to wait until those b**tards are long gone to stop this..

I’d be dead of any number of things (I seem to have won the genetic booby prize) if it weren’t for Big Pharma.

As I mentioned before. I don’t think rigid and uneducated people are reachable. This is not my snobbery; the research verifies this. They just dig in and you really can’t get to them. They just reinforce their existing beliefs, and you can’t change that no matter what kind of information you give them. They just completely tune out. If they are challenged they retreat into existing beliefs and are totally entrenched in those beliefs. Rigidity takes over when they are challenged by threatening facts.

mixed bag here today hmmmm some good thoughts but ..ok yes just want to wish all well over the xmas new year break ..here in perth western australia nice 39c degrees beach day,,,getting up too 47c in the kimberly area up north wa 3000kms up cattle & iron ore mining country so all the best to all..cheers happy bob from oz

Pour yourself a drink and wait for those who want to boil you in oil

I am reminded of Eli Wallach’s scene in Circle of Iron/The Silent Flute. The only clip I can find at the moment is poorly dubbed into Spanish, I’m afraid.

Butthurt antivaxxer, your misery is of your own making. Battle with reality for as long as you wish. See where it gets you.

There’s a lot of real psychopathology going on here, and it can’t really be fought. I keep trying to tell people this on skeptical sites, but a lot of people don’t get it. You cannot ever change the unchangeable rigidity of these people’s dumb beliefs. They just dig in deeper. That’s the nature of their rigidity. They just dig in their heels and do whatever they have to do to justify their idiotic delusions.This is what fanatics do. It’s not ideological; it’s what their psychopathology dictates, and it really can’t be changed. So give up the ship. No amount of education, information, or anything else will ever bring them around. No use fighting it by trying to educate them. Useless.

Try to get to questioning people who still have some capacity for reason and are not totally crippled by psychopathological problems. Some people are not reachable and will never change nor accept reason. Seek out those who might be reachable.

Sara,

I Tend to think that most / all skeptical sites would caters to fact being discussed. I, for one, would love to discuss psychopathology but it range more into subjective beliefs as opposed to fact which are supposed to be more objective.

As an example, I offer you this: Benita Alexander’s story with disgraced trachea surgeon Macchiarini:

https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2016/01/celebrity-surgeon-nbc-news-producer-scam

That kind of article provide a real good glimpse into the psychological inner working of a murderous person (facts) who is likely a sociopath (subjective beliefs regardless of how much said belief is supported by the data at hand).

We don’t know what’s going on into the mind of Macchiarini, we don’t know what’s going on in Dr Ken Walker’s mind or any other scammer’s mind either. That said, we do know, in the case of Ken Walker how much nonsense he put on in his articles so we can act on that.

Now, David Ball, don’t try to use Macchiarini’s affair to libel any other surgeon or medical doctors, painting them into the same light. As I said, no one really know what goes on in the mind of anyone else and everyone is different in that regard. Even the scientists working in big pharma labs, or, for that matters, the business administrator of said pharma lab or even, natural product or vitamins labs. Everyone’s motive in any business is different and in this case, I do support Sara’s quest to discuss motivation behind the actions of rogue elements in the society, with good data and a dose of humility, which is something you don’t show to have.

Alain

No reasonable sceptic is ever trying to convince the leaders/ diehards/ fanatics- they’re too far gone :
we’re addressing those who are “on-the-fence”, still playing with a full deck, uncertain:

that is, the AUDIENCE not the bloggers/ lecturers.
Not every one speaks up.Sites like AoA often censor dissenters’ comments.

I assume that every group has a distribution of strength of beliefs. There are strong believers and weak believers- probably most are in between.
I’m sure that some followers read AoA or hear a woo-meister and occasionally think, ” That can’t be true!” They aren’t totally convinced. They might fear vaccines but find some of the other information questionable.
Or a young parent might read an anti-vax mother’s article but also see more reality based material.

Some of these sites/ FB/ twitter boast 15-50K followers. Not every one is a lost cause.

We know from recent activity ( PRN) that Wikipedia, SBM and RI HAVE affected how woo-meisters are perceived leading to less invitations to speak and lower profits. Similarly, a well known anti-vaxxer was cancelled as a speaker as “controversial”.

Wow, yet another blog post about vaccines…what a shock. Is this one the 1538th? I lost count.

What is surprising however is that this “miracle of modern medicine” requires so many newspaper stories, TV shows, TV commercials and blog posts to convince people to take, more so than any other intervention in history. People these days typically hop on whatever new therapy appears without much fear, but vaccines require a really hard sell from all fronts and yet people still turn them down. It would seem that it has less to do with ingredients or adverse events than basic trust at this point. Once that’s gone, no amount of blogging will restore it.

“Wow, yet another blog post about vaccines…what a shock. Is this one the 1538th? I lost count.”

If this is boring to you, skip this blog. Or write your own more exciting blog.

“…but vaccines require a really hard sell from all fronts and yet people still turn them down.”

Really? How much? Please provide the evidence of the percentage of parents turn them down. Then explain how their kids are doing. Include these studies:

Pediatrics. 2009 Jun;123(6):1446-51.
Parental refusal of pertussis vaccination is associated with an increased risk of pertussis infection in children.

Am J Public Health. 2014 November; 104(11): e62–e84.
Nonmedical Exemptions From School Immunization Requirements: A Systematic Review

JAMA. 2000 Dec 27;284(24):3145-50.
Individual and community risks of measles and pertussis associated with personal exemptions to immunization.

And for an international flavor, include these two studies:

Diphtheria in the former Soviet Union: reemergence of a pandemic disease.
and:
Vaccine chronicle in Japan

“If this is boring to you…”

I certainly can’t be the only one. How many vaccine blog posts have you read now? How many more do you want to read? If you don’t find that very boring at this point then there’s likely something wrong with you. OCD would be my diagnosis here…

“Really? How much? Please provide the evidence of the percentage of parents turn them down. Then explain how their kids are doing.”

Well this blog is all the evidence you should need. If people weren’t turning them down, we wouldn’t need 1538 RI blog posts promoting vaccines and convincing readers to accept them would we? So a priori knowledge is all that’s needed here.

Nice use of non-sequitors there, Chordiyalis. You were challenged to provide the percentage of parents turning down vaccination for their children. In other words, hard numbers.
w.r.t. people who turn down vaccination, may I remind you that there are people who deny the Holocaust, people who believe the Moon Landings were faked, and people who believe our Earth is flat. All beliefs that are verifiably false. Just because “a bunch of people believe X” is not proof. It’s a fallacy called argumentum ad populum.

“Well this blog is all the evidence you should need.”

That is dumbest answer I have seen in a while, and I have seen some serious doozies.

You have just admitted that you do not know, do not know how to find the data and simply do not care. That is because you are only here to troll.

Trollin’ Trollin’ Trollin’
Trollin’ Trollin’ Trollin’
Trollin’ Trollin’ Trollin’
Trollin’ Trollin’ Trollin’
Rawhide!
Trollin’ Trollin’ Trollin’
Though the threads are swollen
Keep them comments trollin’,
Rawhide!

Cherry pick!
(Head em’ up!)
Move goalposts!
(Move ’em on!)
More insults!
(Head em’ up!)
Rawhide!
Make stuff up!
(Paste ’em in!)
Change topics!
(Cut em’ out!)
Whine some more!
Paste ’em in,
Rawhide!
Keep trollin’, trollin’, trollin’
Though they’re disaprovin’
Keep them comments trollin”,
Rawhide!
Don’t try to understand ’em
Just rope, laugh, and ignore ’em
Soon we’ll be discussin’ right without ’em

Not to threadjack, I hope, but even a former anti-vaxxer I recently met has come to understand how the more virulent anti-vaxxers around her are putting her son in danger. She is a devout Mennonite, and some of them here are extremists–don’t vote, homeschool (so why vaccinate, some claim), and are all over the map when it comes to acceptance of standard medical practice. The possibility that a serious disease could re-emerge because of this irrational, paranoid nonsense scared the daylights out of her. Some people are opening themselves to reason in light of the re-emergence of all these threats–due to the idiocy of fanatical anti-vaxxers. Consider following suit.

” It’s a fallacy called argumentum ad populum.”

You seem to have neglected your association fallacy regarding your list of crackpots….tsk tsk. When accusing others of fallacies it’s wise to not actually make one while doing so.

“Associating something with negative things is not a fallacy if it’s correct.”

But it is when you simply associate an argument with a bunch of crackpots without any evidence of any association, which is exactly what you did. It’s there in black and white. So you are correct, but failed to satisfy your conditional statement, so your entire post is fallacy.

“If this is boring to you…” I certainly can’t be the only one.

Why, no, you’re not, for certain values of “this.”

…when you simply associate an argument with a bunch of crackpots without any evidence of any association…

Fair enough. Here’s evidence of antivaxx crackpottery.
Antivaxxers continue to blame vaccines for making their children autistic, despite the fact that large studies have not shown any correlation. They have attempted to explain away unvaccinated autistic children by stating that the vaccines the parents received are responsible for the autism. They have accused vaccines of causing all sorts of harms (like SIDS) despite a lack of evidence, and even in some cases good negative evidence.
They downplay the risks of diseases. An antivaxxer wrote a book “Melanie’s Marvellous Measles”, which claimed that getting Measles was beneficial for children’s development. Others have argued that getting diseases in childhood lowers the risk of getting cancer as an adult.
When Dana McCaffrey, an Australian baby, died of Pertussis, Australian antivaxxer Meryl Dorey harassed her grieving parents then attempted to access Dana’s medical records because she couldn’t believe that a “harmless childhood disease” could be deadly.
Thebottom line is, antivaxxers are ideologues. The ystart from the premise that vaccines are worse than the diseases they prevent and reach for any evidence to support that belief, not matter how flawed it is.

Some flat earth societies are ironically named and are just freethinkers, but others genuinely believe the earth is flat. The breatharians are also going strong. One of the founders of that bunch was caught pigging out at a McDonald’s. Makes you wonder how many of the anti-vax “leaders” actually believe the stuff they peddle and how many are just peddling actual stuff to the credulous. I think everyone knows the answer to that one…

I suppose that breatharians would argue he didn’n need the food, but he just wanted the taste. One could ask him, why he didn’t just take a deep breath inside McDonalds, wouldn’t the smell be enough to satisfy his needs?

And that movement survived its fraudulent founder and has been revived. Like cockroaches, these nuts and their nuttiness seem to be indestructible and always seem to outlive any bump in the road of their absolute rectitude. The anti-vaxxers and cancer quacks (and homeopaths, I’d say) and all the other people who make a buck shilling this dangerous nonsense are just a more socially acceptable and now slicker variation of that. Look at Andrew Wakefield and his survival by association with celebrities. He will never go away with his tail between his legs–not when there’s money to be made and marks to target. Like all true con men…..

I may have misplaced this reply. Thanks to anyone who read my original response. I get lost in the web of the responses. Confused, even. Sorry about that….

Early in my editorial and then academic career, I had to pay the bills by working in marketing/ad crap and being immersed in the marketing strategies of utter slime who figured out how to sell complete garbage to the public and had calculated how to parse various consumer segments to a degree that would make you want to jump off a cliff if you still had any integrity.

It is absolutely accurate to assert that the same strategies used by the tobacco industry decades ago are now being applied by fake “public interest” (front) groups of all kinds to confuse the public and completely obfuscate facts.

This is a critical point that is sometimes overlooked by crusaders who think the facts speak for themselves. Absolutely not. That is the perspective of an educated, rational person. That’s not the world in which ignorant fanatics and their enablers operate. They are in a dark and unreachable world of unreality in which reason has no place. It’s the result partly of psychopathology and partly of this brave new (horrible) world in which fanatics can easily find each other and reinforce their shared craziness. Add onto that the tactics of slimy people who know how to sell any stupid idea or product to anyone. Truly retchworthy.

Hope I’m not being redundant as per previous messages and responses on how these people have learned to sell stupid ideas.

I spent decades as an academic but had a brief interlude while young in the ad and marketing world. These people know all the tricks about seducing the uncritical.This really tells you everything you need to know if you are new to their tricks. They take their model from the best of the best from the ad/marketing world. The target is always dumb and vulnerable people who have a need that they don’t even know they have. Of course it’s not a genuine need, but they are slick enough to persuade you that they have what you need.

In the case of people open to the anti-vaxxers, homeopaths, cancer quacks, and you name it….I have no doubt the Sears-type people have very sophisticated marketing slime on the payroll to sell their products and the attendant marketing strategies to get people on the fence. This is really no different from any other unscrupulous business. Except, of course, that when they lasso in really sick people, they can kill and should be subject to manslaughter laws and criminal prosecution under federal law. Very difficult, but that should be the goal: get these people for criminal manslaughter when their quackery does real harm. It should be uniform under federal law and should not be subject to some weenie state laws.

This is a response to Old Rockin’ Dave, and I am absolutely lost in the maze of responses on this thread. Apologies to others because I am in a blithering fog about where to put this.

This is so completely off-topic that when Orac returns I hope I will not be banned.

Mary Ann of Gilligan’s Island was a friend (more than that) of my housemate when we shared a house in Nashville in the late seventies. He worked on one of her rental properties. One thing led to another for them, but unfortunately I did not meet her.

To her great credit, Dawn Wells started a business to create specialty clothing for the disabled almost fifty years ago. She has apparently been in several other businesses over the years, but from what I’ve seen that business for helping disabled people have manageable clothing has been a constant. This is special for me because I am also minorly disabled and have big trouble getting in and out of clothing.

David, my long-ago housemate, said she quietly does a lot of this to help people under the radar. I have no idea whats he is involved in now.

Orac, please don’t ban me. I was just responding to a Gilligan’s Island reference and wanted to offer what little I know about one of the actors. (Cowering….)

I did not know about the clothing for the disabled, Which is awesome. She had been part of the local radio and TV culture about twenty years ago, possibly due to a friendship with Russell Johnson. There was/is a local radio program called “Imagination Theater.” She was in some of the stories (FYI… which are being released now on Radio Spirits)

She did show up on this local comedy show:

I am sure you know more about her.

David, my housemate, said she was a lovely and very strong woman who was trying to use her celebrity to do some useful and pragmatic things to advance her private values and priorities. Unfortunately on their personal terms. he said the age gap was insurmountable. He gave me the impression that he greatly admired her and had very deep affection for her. He was viscerally disappointed that they could not create a long-term bond to overcome the age gap.

Sara, I was only playing off Denice Walter’s comment, but thank you for your update on Dawn Wells. I didn’t know any of that, and it’s nice to read about it.
“Gilligan’s Island” will always have a special place in my life – I had simultaneous crushes on Dawn and on Russell Johnson (He was my first male crush.).
Just to add a bit, Russell Johnson had enough integrity to insist that anything scientific the Professor said in the script be vetted by an actual scientist so he wouldn’t be spouting nonsense.He lost his son to AIDS and in his later years became an active and effective fundraiser for HIV research. I have the impression that he was as good on the inside as he was good-looking on the outside.

Yeah, a good source in that world of Nashville in the 70s/80s when I was really active told me that Russell put some serious money into good solid money into charity efforts. Don’t know, though.

I misplaced a comment in response to you. Apologies.

I met Russell Johnson for just a few minutes. He was a lovely and gracious, kind person. I hope he is still alive. Thank you for reminding me about this.

I hope to talk to him again. He is very old now.

In Mississippi last year in the US a little boy died from a really bad infection. His home was a trailer. His adults and grandparents got a little bit sick but are now OK. They could not save this child, though. I don’t have many details.

Please save your lordly first-world arrogance. Children born into dire poverty are casualties and victims in rich countries, too. It’s terribly sad that any child dies this way no matter whether it happens in a rich or poor country. So , so sad for them. .

Yes, David C said Dawn told her this. They did a few tribute gigs after the series ended, and she said he was not crazy about doing the followups, which he disliked. Thirdhand of course, here…Miss Wells told my housemate that she really liked him and respected that when fans came up to talk he would always make a little pitch for real science and trying to stress giving kids a sound foundation in real science and working hard to learn the real stuff.

Wish I could have met him…….

I talked to Russell Johnson for a fleeting few minutes decades ago. This really drives home the point of how important public figures are. We have really offensive quacks such as Oz who is milking his academic affiliation for it is worth and the almost equally venal Andrew Weil who has coasted on his credentials for too long.\

I spent thirty years in the academic medical world and was part of several investigations of scientific and professional misconduct. A couple of people got tossed sideways but not out to my great frustration. They got their little heads stroked and patted. They should have had their careers publicly ended. That was not my decision, though, and I’m still really pissed about it.

Public figures even through silly stuff such as TV series have an enormous impact that can’t be ignored.

Could a statistics nerd please explain this? I’m a nerd in other other ways, but I really don’t get why one thing is not more prominent. Why can’t we do a point-for-point comparison showing that yes, there is a correlation between this and that which indicates a strong connection. It does not necessarily show a statistical link.

This is the weak point in all this publicly communicated garbage-y stuff to try to reach people about biomedical research. Now we have poorly trained pseudo-journos. I’m often shocked about what these pretentious little people don’t know. Another post for another time.

Sorry to intrude too much onto Orac’s blog. Please don’t ban me. Sad face.

This is the psychopathological aspect of these people that really baffles me. They are the textbook definition of entitled sociopaths. They feel entitled to get into your face with their unjustified beliefs and intrude on your own life with complete impunity just because they are just so damn right about everything in their weird little world. I’m not sure it’s sociopathy/psychopathy as much as outright craziness. They are so pure and righteous that manners and social convention go right out the window.. I’m sure people are already studying this. They are so dominated by their extremities that normal social convention no longer applies. The twistedness of it is interesting. Let someone else get immersed in it, though. Not me.

Yeah. Crackpotness. These people are just a bit deranged. Socially OK, but still deranged. What do we do about socially acceptable crazy people? Maybe the same thing we have done for thousands of years with relatively benignly weird people. Those issues have valuable information because we can learn from them without being threatened. It’s a cautionary tale, though, and can contain some important information info for public health issues and should not be dismissed as trivial.

What do we do about socially acceptable crazy people?

I prefer socially unacceptable crazy people. Schizophrenic Jerry (he says his voices are benign) sometimes. He can be temperamental, and I don’t believe that he was Abbie Hoffman’s lawyer, but he does have a broad knowledge of history. How often does one get to argue Burke versus Paine with a random disheveled person?

Needed the big laugh, so thank you for that comment.

I hope that schizophrenic people you know are not struggling, though. My cousin is a seriously disabled paranoid schizophrenic. He has a great life with a job and an apartment living in a well-monitored place and has enough autonomy and really good care so we don’t have to worry about him going off the rails.

Seriously schizophrenic people can live normal and productive lives, so please be open to that.

“Antivaxxers continue to blame vaccines for making their children autistic, despite the fact that large studies have not shown any correlation.”
Well it said so right on the vaccine insert for a long time, so it’s hardly a surprise that parents read it and believed it.

“They have attempted to explain away unvaccinated autistic children by stating that the vaccines the parents received are responsible for the autism.”
Can post some evidence of this?

“They have accused vaccines of causing all sorts of harms (like SIDS) despite a lack of evidence, and even in some cases good negative evidence.”
Well it said so right on the vaccine insert for a long time, so it’s hardly a surprise that parents read it and believed it.

“They downplay the risks of diseases. An antivaxxer wrote a book “Melanie’s Marvellous Measles”, which claimed that getting Measles was beneficial for children’s development. Others have argued that getting diseases in childhood lowers the risk of getting cancer as an adult.”
There is certainly ample evidence that a coddled immune system is unhealthy. Use it or lose it as they say.

“When Dana McCaffrey, an Australian baby, died of Pertussis, Australian antivaxxer Meryl Dorey harassed her grieving parents then attempted to access Dana’s medical records because she couldn’t believe that a “harmless childhood disease” could be deadly.”
Can post some evidence of this?

“Thebottom line is, antivaxxers are ideologues. The ystart from the premise that vaccines are worse than the diseases they prevent and reach for any evidence to support that belief, not matter how flawed it is. Holocaust, people who believe the Moon Landings were faked, and people who believe our Earth is flat.”
Again with the association fallacy…..

I’m not sure what your point is. No one on this blog has time nor inclination to get into ad hominem nonsense. The facts speak for themselves as they always do. Anecdotes and beliefs are not facts. Suspicions about connections/correlations are not facts. Somebody somewhere had a terrible problem after receiving a vaccination. OK, that’s very, very sad. We get it. Responsible, caring people will commiserate. That does not generalize in any way into some kind of factual assertion about vaccinations that have saved many, many millions of lives over many decades.

I’m mouthing off too much lately because I miss Orac’s voice and don’t want to let certain statements go without comment. Apologies to anyone or everyone if I have been obnoxiously intrusive of late.

I live in a crazy little evangelical world here where truly/possibly dangerous fanatics scream at you at traffic intersections while thumping their bibles.

Fanatics are a true threat. They scare the daylights out of me.

“There is certainly ample evidence that a coddled immune system is unhealthy. Use it or lose it as they say.”

Who says? Provide a citation. Show us that it is better to get measles rather than prevent it by providing PubMed indexed studies by reputable qualified researchers. And not that Japanese study of random old guys who all got measles as kids.

“Can post some evidence of this?”

Here you go: http://bfy.tw/Laua

That’s ridiculous. How 18th century. Get cowpox to protect yourself from cowpox. Should we all go out and expose ourselves as adults to chicken pox now with all the problems adult exposure can cause? Or measles? This is such a Nietzschean concept: whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger? Or….something?

Plenty of people have compromised immune systems and don’t know it. I was one of them. A MRSA several years ago nearly killed me because I didn’t know my immune system could not handle it and may not have been able to handle it even if I had been totally healthy. I almost lost my leg, too, and have permanent problems from serious IV antibiotics.

Do not give me a little spiel about coddled immune systems. I am only here to tell the tale because a couple of sharp infectious disease docs and some very good nurses suspected there was a big problem.

When you can present some credentials as an infectious disease expert or immunologist, that’s different. Until then, kindly take a seat and keep your opinions to yourself or go share misguided notions with the captive audience wherever you get these ideas.

Opinions are not facts. Suggest you get out of whatever echo chamber you inhabit. We have this tool called science. It’s a good thing. It saves lives. It saved me.

My hubby does basic cancer research and is physically here now for a couple of weeks. We just had a gloriously wide-ranging conversation about how the crazies are affirming my own theory about the inverse model of science v. anti-science. I graph it thus: Good science reveals that an exciting new point of view may be not much of anything (interleukin, for example)–i.e. stuff rises to a big peak and then craters as people who really understand the issues realize it’s a dud. It falls off a cliff. At that point the marketers and charlatans move in to make a buck off often frenzied public interest that lingers behind scientific consensus. As informed interest turns to disinterest or indifference, residual markets remain ripe for the pickings. They make their money and await the next boom/bust. Same old same old. I’ve seen this dozens of times.

Well it said so [autism and SIDS] right on the vaccine insert for a long time

Argument by package insert? Seriously? By law, package inserts have to list any adverse events reported during trials, regardless of whether or not the vaccine caused, or even could have caused, said adverse events. An adverse event listed on a package insert is NOT proof the vaccine caused the adverse event.

There is certainly ample evidence that a coddled immune system is unhealthy.

You’ve asked for evidence from me. I return your request.

Can post some evidence of [Meryl Dorey harassing the McCafferys]?

Here you go:
Just leave our little girl alone: Dana McCaffery’s parents plead with anti-vaccination activists
I’ll come back later with examples of parents saying their vaccines caused autism in their children.

Again with the association fallacy

Nope. I listed examples of said crackpottery, so not a fallacy.

Again with my (possibly obsessive) interest in how these people’s minds work…..Who harasses the parents of a child who recently lost a battle with any disease–much less one as contentious as these vaccine-preventable infectious diseases? What kind of cruel person would put a personal and obviously politically motivated agenda above the basic human kindness and compassion that these people deserve to grieve the loss of a child?

Don’t get it. But these people do show a pattern. They do not give a rat’s about helping parents recover from a devastating loss. They seem to care above all for their ideology, and it seems to trump everything. I am really starting to look at this and talking to practitioners who regularly deal with such people. There is some really serious stuff going on with them.

Anti-vaxxers do this all the time. They ignore the difference between a side effect and an adverse event.

I ran across a trial report once (don’t remember the drug involved) that listed 3 deaths as adverse events. The causes of death were a suicide and two homicides.

There are some conditions and some treatments where you do seriously have to be concerned about suicide as being related to the treatment, and it’s not just depression. It’s also a problem in studies of non-responsive skin disorders, because those can be so terribly socially isolating.

And you do have to report all deaths, even “plane crash (passenger)” or “earthquake”. But yeah, it mostly proves that you’re taking your data recording duties seriously.

“Anti-vaxxers do this all the time.”
Vaxxers do this all time, claiming all anti-vaxxers are doing something all the time when obviously they can’t be.

“They ignore the difference between a side effect and an adverse event.”
A distinction without a difference.

“I ran across a trial report once (don’t remember the drug involved) that listed 3 deaths as adverse events. The causes of death were a suicide and two homicides.”
Yeah, sure ya did.

I can second you on the package insert. When I was in practice I worked on several drug studies. The researcher from the company was more than diligent, almost to the point of my frustration. Her name was Wanda, and i used to say that I was America’s Most Wanda’ed.
Adverse events were so broadly defined that I tested her.to see if there was any kind of adverse event that would be so unlikely to be connected, I asked her if the patient getting killed by a meteor strike would be considered a reportable event.In all seriousness, she told me that it was – maybe the drug interfered with their ability to evade the meteor.
I was reminded of this by the Chelyabinsk strike. I wondered if there were any study subjects there at the time.

When Orac returns, I will ask for some definitions from the anti-vaxx crowd. He may not be willing to accept this, though. I want these people to just stop it and shut down discussions of vague notions of “treatments” outside the mainstream and outside US regulation of products sold to the public. What do you mean when you refer to something that is unregulated by the FDA? I really don’t get it. I just don’t. What’s the good research? What are the claims, and how do you support them? How are you getting around the criminality now inherent and almost built into the anonymity of the web?

Much more to say if anyone is interested.

General comment here for anyone who has animals. I ran a rescue group for many years. Whole lot to say about that.
I was recently dumped by a practice who embraced a real nut-job homeopath. This crap is infiltrating veterinary practice, too. I’m getting worried about it. Ask big questions because vets smell money, and a lot of them are marginally ethical. Sad but true. So-called ” integrative” crapperooniness is becoming established, but you really have to look for it.

Dumb homeopathic chick has a DVM but missed my little girl’s huge problems. Her son now has a hemangiosarcoma that must be very carefully monitored. She totally missed that. I now have a wonderful vet whom I deeply trust.

Lot to say. I was in the horse business and have lived with many different species for many decades.

Moral: The owner of this practice defends this complete quack. Be careful. Talk to vets and know them well before you trust.

Sara, you might be interested in this blog: https://www.doctorramey.com/
He’s a horse vet that has some, forgive me, horse sense. I am not a horse person, but I still find it a good read, often educational, and often entertaining.
Incidentally, I emailed him to ask whether the antivax crowd thought that there were horses made autistic by vaccination. He responded, telling me that there was some of that, but they got shot down by reality-oriented vets and owners (IIRC).

Random post because I’m kind of lost in this thread. What follows is just an opinion. I welcome better information.

I’m seeing a scary development in the literature. Medline is now indexing some journals that I consider really dubious. The open-source outfits have figured out how to conform to Medline’s inclusion algorithms and indexing criteria. Human editors intervene at some point to distinguish crappola from good journals, but I’ve seen some really bad journals that I know are house organs or are otherwise fronts for supplement manufacturers and commercial entities. I don’t know anything about how the NLM chooses journals now, though. Inclusion in PubMed or in any iteration of the Medline database is no longer a guarantee of a sound peer review process nor of a good and trustworthy journal..

The new entrepreneurs have also learned to fake the peer review process in some way that NLM librarians and data managers don’t have the resources to track, and they’re getting really good at it. Just last week we tried to identify a candidate journal that’s indexed and has some good people editing it. Turns out most of the editors are on the board of directors of a known commercial entity, and after a couple of phone calls I discovered that it’s part of a group of journals that are not financially independent and are owned by a fakey (I think) pretend non-profit. The IRS can’t track that, either.

Roaccutane or Accutane in particular. I’m 60 and a friend had a weird resurgence of serious adult acne in her 50s. She said she was suicidal on it and had really, really bad problems with depression. Maybe this is underreported. When she stopped it, the depression was relieved. Her doc said she had seen this a few times.

“The deconstruction: Vaccines can’t stand up to free speech.”

I’m always amazed at how many people, in situations like this, confuse Capitalism with Free Speech.
Also, XKCD has a good take on it (don’t forget the mouseover text) https://xkcd.com/1357/

Julian Frost: “By law, package inserts have to list any adverse events reported during trials, regardless of whether or not the vaccine caused, or even could have caused, said adverse events. An adverse event listed on a package insert is NOT proof the vaccine caused the adverse event.”

Agree with the second sentence, would like to see documentation of the first. From what I’ve seen, drug companies are supposed to list adverse events on package inserts if there is “some basis” for believing they are associated with the drug or vaccine.

You’re all wrong. I guess reading thousands of blog posts on vaccines hasn’t led to a decrease in ignorance. An adverse event is an untoward event that occurs after a vaccination that might be caused by the vaccine product or vaccination process. Events range from common, minor, local reactions to rare, severe, allergic reactions. Manufacturers are required to report all adverse events that occur after vaccination to VAERS, whereas health-care providers are required to report events that appear in the reportable events table on the VAERS website.

Wow, what a short memory you have, not even good for 24 hours or so. Here is what you said.

“By law, package inserts have to list any adverse events reported during trials, regardless of whether or not the vaccine caused, or even could have caused, said adverse events.”

Here is what I said:

“An adverse event is an untoward event that occurs after a vaccination that might be caused by the vaccine product or vaccination process.”

Can you spot the difference or am I going to have to come back and explicitly show you?

OK then. I googled “adverse event definition”. Here’s what was returned:

Any untoward medical occurrence in a participant, which does not necessarily have a causal relationship with the trial intervention.

Your “definition” of adverse event omits random chance as a possible cause for the adverse event. You are either ignorant or dishonest.

Julian is correct. Adverse events only have to have a temporal relationship with a treatment or drug (ie, happen after the patient has the treatment or drug). And if you work at a pharma company then you will have had training on how to report anything that anyone thinks might have been an adverse event. And by anyone I mean patients, doctors, nurses, family members, friends, etc etc. It can even be something like “My cousin’s golf buddy took your drug [cancer drug] and got a sunburn a week later.” You’ve got to report it.

Trust me, I have to do this training at least once a year every year (and no, I don’t make vaccines). An adverse event can be anything, it doesn’t have to have any plausible relationship to the mechanism of action of the treatment.

Lol…so I guess the CDC is ignorant or dishonest then. “My” definition was taken directly from the CDC website. Oops! So I guess that makes you the ignorant or dishonest one….likely both it seems, not to mention hubristic.

Chordyalis, is your comment directed at me or Julian?
The CDC may have a more narrow definition of AEs during clinical trials than the FDA has for post-approval surveillance.

Actually, I don’t lose.
There is one word in that sentence that is important – the word “might”.
So an adverse event “might be caused by the vaccine product or vaccination process”, but might also be due to random chance. You are engaging in semantics.

Do you have a problem with comprehension or something?
The CDC doesn’t say an adverse event “might be or might not be caused by the vaccine product or vaccination process”, as is claimed here.
It says exactly what it says, that an adverse event is an event that “might be caused by the vaccine product or vaccination process”.
Apparently no commenters here can tell the difference between these two sentences, or alternatively and far more likely, is they are being willfully ignorant to inconvenient facts. Its embarrassing that this is lost on all here.

Do you have a problem with comprehension or something?

No, but you appear to.
As doritmi points out, “might” includes an implicit “but might not”. My comment simply made the “but might not” explicit.

Do you have a problem with comprehension or something?

If only there were some way to impose tariffs on irony.

Oh I have to love the backtracking you all have to do now that you know where I got the quote from…lol. Suddenly the word “might” has a completely different definition. Religious zealots often use the same technique, redefining well known terms to try and force an erroneous conclusion.
Of course, the CDC could have very easily said that it doesn’t matter if the adverse event has nothing to do with the vaccines just administered, report it anyway, but yet they didn’t.
This blog is just a bunch of liars without enough brain cells to even put a cogent argument together without resorting to techniques used in disinformation campaigns. I’m putting this blog’s bookmark in my “propaganda” folder. There’s no truth to be found here just pure propaganda. Good luck with the fake news!

Oh I have to love the backtracking you all have to do now that you know where I got the quote from…lol. Suddenly the word “might” has a completely different definition.

“Backtracking”? We haven’t backtracked at all. Looks like you’re the one with a comprehension problem. From your previous comments:

An adverse event is an untoward event that occurs after a vaccination that might be caused by the vaccine product or vaccination process.

I went to the CDC link you posted. A few sentences on in the same paragraph from which you took your definition:

However, establishing evidence for cause and effect on the basis of case reports and case series alone is usually not possible, because healthproblems that have a temporal association with vaccination do not necessarily indicate causality.

Let’s go back to another comment of yours, specifically JANUARY 2, 2019 AT 3:24 AM where you responded to me about argument by package insert:

Well it said so right on the vaccine insert for a long time, so it’s hardly a surprise that parents read it and believed it.

It looks as if you are insinuating that adverse events can’t be the result of random chance. The page you took your quote from says they can. We’re not the ones being disingenuous here, you are.

This blog is just a bunch of liars without enough brain cells to even put a cogent argument together without resorting to techniques used in disinformation campaigns.

I don’t think ridiculing you amounts to such a “technique,” but I’m more than happy to be more direct, O whining sack of shit: You and the mule you rode in on are more than welcome to fuck the fuck off, and I hope the mule kicks the living crap out of you when you try to fuck it.

I’m putting this blog’s bookmark in my “propaganda” folder.

I presume this refers to your natal cleft.

Oh how I love the sound of ad hominem. It means you’ve got no valid argument to make. But I understand why. Arguing against logic is a waste of time, so it’s probably better that you just stomp and scream like a little kid who has missed his nap.

Chordy, I love how you can’t tell the difference between an ad hominem and blatant insult.

“Arguing against logic…”

Hilarious.

Why are you here if you think this blog is boring? Also when are going to answer my request: “…Show us that it is better to get measles rather than prevent it by providing PubMed indexed studies by reputable qualified researchers. And not that Japanese study of random old guys who all got measles as kids.”

Either provide that data or just stop posting your nonsense here.

Just because somebody thinks a jab caused something doesn’t mean they’re right.
Here’s a quote from the article:

“You can’t get that from a flu shot,” said Dr. Wachs. “A flu shot will not inject anything into you, Guillain-Barré is your body’s response to a flu shot or a pathogen.”

Also, GBS is 17 times more common from flu than from the jab.

I, for one, would rather just suffer through the flu.

1) That would increase your risk of GBS 17 fold.
2) I’ve HAD a bad bout of flu. I was in my mid 20’s and going to gym regularly. In bed for two days, during which the only thing I ate was a banana, which I promptly vomited back up. Sick for three whole weeks, lost 9 KG.
You are risking severe consequences from the flu to avoid something which is vanishingly rare, and an order of magnitude more likely from getting the flu.

I’ve had the flu a few times, no big deal at all. A little worse than a common cold and it was done in a few days. I realize that you have to way overstate illnesses to justify vaccine sales, but that’s all it is, hyperbole. I’ve seen it occur on numerous occasions where the medical marketing way overstates the impact of an illness when there is a vaccine to sell, then does a complete 180 when the vaccine gets pulled from the market, and suddenly its a trivial illness. So you aren’t fooling anyone.
Since the flu vaccine is so ineffective, its not worth risking what happened to the fellow above. Of course the doctors couldn’t blame the vaccine or its administration that’s de rigueur in modern medicine. He was probably reading your quote directly from an email from the legal department. We are all very aware its prohibited to admit fault no matter how obvious it may be.

“I’ve had the flu a few times, no big deal at all. A little worse than a common cold and it was done in a few days.”

Cool. That is just one N=1 survey. Now gather about ten thousand randomly selected cases, do the statistical math of them, write a paper and then it published. And you might have some actual evidence. Until then, you have nothing.

You’ve only ever had mild bouts of flu? Lucky you, but as Chris says, you’re a sample size of N=1. Every year, people are put in hospital with pneumonia thanks to the flu. Also, I don’t appreciate your insinuation that I’m lying. I told the truth about what happened to me.

I’ve seen it occur on numerous occasions where the medical marketing way overstates the impact of an illness when there is a vaccine to sell, then does a complete 180 when the vaccine gets pulled from the market, and suddenly its a trivial illness.

Name them. Name the years, name the vaccines, name the illnesses they protect against. If you’re not bluffing, that is.

Yep. The last time I had the flu was around 11 years ago. For some reason, I hadn’t gotten my vaccination that year. (I think it had something to do with my changing jobs and just having never gotten around to it.) It knocked me on my ass for a week. I can totally see how someone less healthy than I was at the time could suffer seriously complications.

“Lucky you, but as Chris says, you’re a sample size of N=1. Every year, people are put in hospital with pneumonia thanks to the flu.”
N=1 is me, and that’s who I know and care about obviously. But you think I should get a flu shot and risk GBS because other people are put in hospital? Can’t see how that makes any sense at all frankly…

But you think I should get a flu shot and risk GBS because other people are put in hospital?

Way to miss the point.
1) Just because YOU have only ever had mild bouts of flu doesn’t mean everyone else has.
2) Just because you have only ever had mild bouts of flu doesn’t mean that one day you won’t have a terrible bout.
3) GBS is 17 times more likely from the flu than from the flu shot. By refusing the flu shot, you are actually increasing your risk of developing GBS.

“1) Just because YOU have only ever had mild bouts of flu doesn’t mean everyone else has.
2) Just because you have only ever had mild bouts of flu doesn’t mean that one day you won’t have a terrible bout.”

Neither of these is justification for me to get the flu shot, and there are many like me.

“3) GBS is 17 times more likely from the flu than from the flu shot. By refusing the flu shot, you are actually increasing your risk of developing GBS.”

Complete and utter propaganda. Even assuming this BS was true, you like to claim that GBS from a flu shot is vanishingly rare. What’s 17 times vanishingly rare? Still vanishingly rare.
QED.

Complete and utter propaganda [about GBS being more common from flu].

Not propaganda at all.
From http://www.formularywatch.com/feature-articles/risk-guillain-barr-syndrome-after-influenza-vaccination:

The risk of GBS is estimated to be over…18 times greater for those with influenza and influenza-like illnesses.

There are also links to studies on the page.
As for:

Neither of these is justification for me to get the flu shot, and there are many like me.

Just because you’ve never had a bad bout of flu doesn’t mean you never will. Just because others have never had a bad bout of flu doesn’t mean they never will.
The bottom line is, you are refusing vaccination for something that:
a) is a minimal risk, and;
b) is caused by the flu at a much higher rate than by the vaccine.
You are also risking all sorts of negative sequelae from a disease that every year kills thousands and hospitalises several times the number it kills.

Let’s pick apart this blog then. Pretty easy, really. The industry that you’re all being paid by has once again cast out one of their own for having an opinion. He’s a Harvard medical graduate. The industry I refer to is obviously big pharma. I bet my left nut this blogger has been paid to write this piece. Just as mainstream media has been bought out. Big pharma accounts for over 75% of all advertising across all mainstream media outlets, showing the control and power they have over what we see and hear. As the old saying goes ‘Believe only half of what you read and less of what you hear’.

Rod, if you don’t like direct-to-consumer advertising of pharmaceuticals, please direct your complaints to the FTC.

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