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Sharyl Attkisson is back, and she’s flogging a new-old antivaccine conspiracy theory

As a reporter with a decade-long history of credulously reporting antivaccine conspiracy theories and pseudoscience as news, Sharyl Attkisson is an old “friend” of the blog. This time, she’s reporting a new-old conspiracy theory about the Autism Omnibus proceedings. I say “new-old” because she tries to mightily to produce a new version of the central conspiracy theory of the antivaccine movement.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about antivaccine tropes and conspiracy theories over 14 years of blogging, it’s that there’s never really anything new under the sun. The pseudoscience and misinformation rarely changes, and each new conspiracy theory tends to be a variation on a theme of existing antivaccine conspiracy theories. I was reminded of this over the weekend when I became aware of a report being flogged on antivaccine websites by a journalist named Sharyl Attkisson that purports to show that a prominent scientist who was a government expert witness actually believed that vaccine can cause autism in some cases but that his views were “covered up.” Sound familiar?

Since around 2014 when I first recognized a recurring pattern, I’ve referred to the central conspiracy of the antivaccine movement, which I now like to nickname, in essence, “They knew.” (Or mauybe it should be, “THEY KNEW!!!!!!!”) The “they” in the “they knew” conspiracy theory is, of course one or more of the following: the CDC, FDA, big pharma, the government, public health authorities, or pretty much anyone who has anything to do with vaccines. The idea behind the conspiracy theory is that “they” knew (and know) that vaccines cause autism and “they” have covered it up. The “CDC whistleblower” conspiracy theory resonated so much among antivaxers and even became the basis of an antivaccine propaganda movie and fake news because it basically posited the existence of a “whistleblower” at the CDC who was supposedly saying that the CDC covered up data linking the MMR vaccine to autism. (It didn’t, and not even the CDC whistleblower himself appears to believe the spin, although some credulous journalists did.)

That brings us to the latest variation on “they knew,” which is being peddled by the aforementioned Sharyl Attkisson. She’s a journalist about whom I’ve been writing on and off at least since 2007. Yes, I’m referring to Sharyl Attkisson, who recently published a report The Vaccine Debate on Full Measure, her weekly Sunday news program allegedly focusing on “investigative, original and accountability reporting.” The report alleges that two U.S. Department of Justice attorneys, Vincent Matanoski and Lynn Ricciardella, who represented the Secretary of Health and Human Services in the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (NVICP), otherwise known as the “Vaccine Court”, in the Omnibus Autism Proceedings (OAP). In essence, it is a rehash of the charges made in October by antivaccine activist Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Rolf Hazlehurst, a father who thought his child was injured by vaccines and took his case to the Vaccine Court as part of the Autism Omnibus proceedings, that a “top government expert” was “silenced,” all (of course) to make sure the government won its case and no admission that vaccines cause autism would be forthcoming.

A little background: The Autism Omnibus

Unless you’ve been following the antivaccine movement a long time, you probably don’t know what the Autism Omnibus proceedings were, given that the cases that were part of the Omnibus were decided in 2009 and 2010. I wrote about these proceedings several times while they were going on, characterizing it as the “mercury militia going to court.” Basically, the Autism Omnibus came about because in the late 1990s and early 2000s, thousands of petitions for “vaccine injury” in which vaccines were claimed to have caused autism were being submitted to the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (NCVIP) for adjudication by the Vaccine Court. Indeed, the number reached ~5,400. To handle this large number of claims, the Office of Special Masters (OSM) held a number of meetings in 2002 between attorneys who represented many of the autism petitioners (there were and are attorneys who specialize in this and represent a large number of clients), and the counsel for the Secretary of Health and Human Services, who was the defendant in these cases. Unlike the way that Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. describes it, as a system mandated by the Special Masters, in reality, as Dorit Rubinstein Reiss describes it, the petitioners’ representatives proposed a system to process the large number of cases efficiently. Here it is from Cedillo vs. HHS:

They [the petitioners’ attorneys] proposed that the OSM utilize a two- step procedure: first, conduct an inquiry into the general causation issue involved in these cases– i.e., whether the vaccinations in question can cause autism and/or similar disorders, and if so in what circumstances– and then, second, apply the evidence obtained in that general inquiry to the individual cases. They proposed that a team of petitioners’ lawyers be selected to represent the interests of the autism petitioners during the course of the general causation inquiry. They proposed that the proceeding begin with a lengthy period of discovery concerning the general causation issue, followed by a designation of experts for each side, an evidentiary hearing, and finally a ruling on the general causation issue by a special master. Then, the evidence concerning the general causation issue, obtained as a result of the general proceeding, would be applied to the individual cases.

Now, it needs to be understood that the Vaccine Court in essence bends over backwards to accommodate petitioners. For example, petitioners need to support a hypothesis of causation, a proposed biological mechanism by which vaccines caused the harm for which they are seeking compensation. Now here’s the thing. They don’t need to provide the same level of scientific evidence as they would in a regular court; they just have to suggest a mechanism and convince the court that it is a plausible mechanism, and, let me tell you, “plausible” can have a pretty wide definition. For example, the Vaccine Court once compensated a complainant for sudden infant death syndrome, even though there is no evidence that vaccines cause SIDS and evidence that vaccines might even be protective against it.

Now, at the time there were two general ideas that antivaxers had about vaccines and autism. The first was that the MMR causes autism (the Andrew Wakefield branch of the antivaccine movement). The second was the idea that the mercury in thimerosal used as a preservative in vaccines before 2002 causes autism (the Mark and David Geier or “mercury militia” branch of the antivaccine movement). The OSM therefore agreed to hold hearings that would address the 5,400 cases through six test cases that would test three hypotheses of how vaccines could cause autism:

  1. Did the mercury in thimerosal used as a preservative in vaccines cause autism?
  2. Did the MMR vaccine cause autism?
  3. Did a combination of MMR and thimerosal cause autism?

These test cases were chosen by the petitioners’ representatives as the very best cases, the most convincing cases, that they had among the 5,400 petitioners, the thought being that if the very best cases couldn’t prevail then none of the others would. Also, as Dorit noted, the second question was not examined, as the evidence for MMR causing autism was included in the third question., and the issue of whether the combination could cause autism was the first question examined. Finally, I can’t help but point out how I noted at the time just how bad the science was that the lawyers for the petitioners had chosen as the test cases. (Yes, it was really bad, given that it was the usual antivax crackpots who were chosen by the petitioners’ attorneys as “expert witnesses.”) U.S. Rep. Dan Burton, who was the friend of antivaxers in Congress at the time, even tried to weigh in to influence the proceedings.

In early 2009. the decisions on the first three test cases, in which the question of whether a combination of the MMR and thimerosal causes autism, were announced and in all cases the Vaccine Court rejected the petitioners’ claims. IN 2010, the decisions of the remaining test cases, which dealt with MMR alone, were announced and were also negative. Rolf Hazlehurst’s son Yates was a complainant in the first group of test cases, ruled on in 2009.

A little more background: Dr. Andrew Zimmerman

One last bit of background: At the time that the Autism Omnibus cases were being adjudicated, the Special Masters compensated the family of a girl named Hannah Poling for vaccine injury that the antivax movement tried to paint as the government “admitting” that vaccines cause autism when it wasn’t anything of the sort. This is the origin of the “mitochondrial autism” idea of causation. Hannah Poling had a mitochondrial disease ultimately found to be due to a point mutation in the gene for the 16S ribosomal RNA (T2387C). Mitochondrial disorders are rare genetic disorders that can make a child prone to developing encephalopathy in response to fever or stress. The idea that antivaxers used in the case was, basically that vaccines caused a stress in these children that led to encephalopathy that led to autism. Never mind that encephalopathy ≠ autism. (Basic science never stopped antivaxers.) Never mind that a fever from an actual disease is far more of a risk to a child with a mitochondrial disorder than any vaccine.

Actually, I lied. One more last bit of background: Dr. Andrew Zimmerman, the expert about whom the conspiracy theory is about, is a pediatric neurologist who examined Hannah Poling and later with her father, in a dubious bit of ethics, wrote up a case report of Hannah’s regression. I wrote about it all ten year ago, and since then it has become gospel among a certain faction of antivaxers that the Poling case is slam-dunk evidence that autism is a mitochondrial disease and that vaccines can trigger it.

On to Sharyl Attkisson’s antivaccine propaganda!

One disadvantage of how antivaccine claims keep recurring is that when they recur after such a long period of time it requires a lot of explanation. Here we are, though. Let’s look at Attkisson’s story:

Now here’s the claim:

Today we investigate one of the biggest medical controversies of our time: vaccines. There’s little dispute about this much– vaccines save many lives, and rarely, they injure or kill. A special federal vaccine court has paid out billions for injuries from brain damage to death. But not for the form of brain injury we call autism. Now—we have remarkable new information: a respected pro-vaccine medical expert used by the federal government to debunk the vaccine-autism link, says vaccines can cause autism after all. He claims he told that to government officials long ago, but they kept it secret.

See why I call this a variant of the “they knew” conspiracy theory, a.k.a. the central conspiracy theory of the antivaccine movement? Here it comes:

In 2007, Yates’ case and nearly all the other vaccine autism claims lost. The decision was based largely on the expert opinion of this man, Dr. Andrew Zimmerman, a world-renowned pediatric neurologist shown here at a lecture.
Dr. Zimmerman was the government’s top expert witness and had testified that vaccines didn’t cause autism. The debate was declared over.

But now Dr. Zimmerman has provided remarkable new information. He claims that during the vaccine hearings all those years ago, he privately told government lawyers that vaccines can, and did cause autism in some children. That turnabout from the government’s own chief medical expert stood to change everything about the vaccine-autism debate. If the public were to find out.

I can’t help but note that it was in 2009 when Yates Hazlehurst’s case was decided, but who cares about accuracy if it just “feels” right? (OK, I’ll be nice and concede that the first three Omnibus cases were argued in 2007.) That bit aside, this claim sounds damning, but in reality there’s a lot less there than meets the eye. Why? Well, the most important reason is that it’s a huge exaggeration to claim that the Special Masters’ rulings in the Hazlehurst case and other test cases was “based largely on the expert opinion of this man, Dr. Andrew Zimmerman” is a such a massive overstatement of his importance to the case as to be risible in the extreme. There was lots of other evidence and several other experts. Indeed, Dr. Zimmerman didn’t even testify! He did provide a written opinion, as did other experts. If you want to get an idea of how much weight was given to Dr. Zimmerman’s opinion, just read Cedillo vs. HHS, specifically, this footnote:

Another pediatric neurologist with extensive experience with autism, Dr. Andrew Zimmerman, also filed an expert report for respondent. (Ex. FF.) Dr. Zimmerman stated the opinion that the evidence does not support the proposition that the MMR vaccine can cause autism. (Ex. FF, p. 4.) Thus, Dr. Zimmerman’s report certainly supports the result that I have reached in this case. However, because he did not testify at the evidentiary hearing, his opinion has been far less important than that of the respondent’s experts who did testify, in leading to my conclusion.

Ouch.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Dr. Zimmerman’s submitted opinion certainly helped the government defend its case, but notice how Sharyl Attkisson’s claim rests on grossly inflating his importance in persuading the Vaccine Court to reject the claims made on behalf of the children making up the test cases. As for the decision in Hazlehurst vs. HHS, the decision is 203 pages long, and the only mention of Zimmerman is in a list of experts who submitted reports and this:

As a pediatric neurologist with a particular research interest in autism and with considerable clinical experience with autistic children, Dr. Zimmerman opined that “there is no scientific basis for a connection” between the MMR vaccination, mercury intoxication, and autism. Cedillo Ex. FF at 2, 4 (Dr. Zimmerman’s report).

And:

The undersigned has reviewed and considered the filed reports from these experts and finds that the opinions of the experts lend support to the conclusions reached in this decision. In reaching the conclusions set forth in this decision, however, the undersigned relies more heavily on the testimony and reports of the experts who were observed and heard during the hearings.

Double ouch.

So you can see why my first reaction to Attkisson’s report was: So what? Who cares? Even if everything Attkisson says is true, it doesn’t change the correctness of the rulings for the Autism Omnibus test cases, and the removal of Dr. Zimmerman’s expert report would not have changed the outcome of the Autism Omnibus Proceedings. Moreover, Dr. Zimmerman was only asked to comment on the questions before the Special Masters as part of the Autism Omnibus Proceedings: MMR, thimerosal, or a combination of the two as potential causes for autism.

Of course, key to the whole conspiracy theory is that Dr. Zimmerman was supposed to testify for HHS but in his affidavit claims that, after he told the government lawyers that he thought that there might be some exceptions to the lack of causation, namely in the case of mitochondrial diseases, he was told his testimony was no longer necessary. Whether that’s true or not, who knows? Let’s assume that it’s basically true. The government was under no obligation to bring up new hypotheses of causation, and if the government lawyers thought that putting Dr. Zimmerman on the stand might leave him open to a potentially embarrassing cross examination it wasn’t unreasonable to pull him as an expert witness. One can argue over whether it was appropriate to use his expert opinion, although there’s no evidence that Zimmerman changed his opinion on the core issues in the Autism Omnibus: thimerosal or a combination of thimerosal and MMR vaccine. Dorit discusses this issue in detail here. The bottom line: Maybe the DOJ shouldn’t have used Dr. Zimmerman’s printed expert opinion, but it wouldn’t have mattered to the outcome either way. I agree that it wouldn’t have mattered. Dr. Zimmerman’s opinion was a pretty tiny contributor to the ultimate decision.

I also note that antivaxers appear to have “gotten to” Dr. Zimmerman:

Hazlehurst discovered that later when Dr. Zimmerman evaluated Yates as a teenager. That’s when he partnered with vaccine safety advocate Robert F. Kennedy, Junior—who has a voice condition.

Kennedy: This was one of the most consequential frauds, arguably in human history.

Kennedy was instrumental in convincing Dr. Zimmerman to document his remarkable claim of the government covering up his true expert opinion on vaccines and autism.

One of the most consequential frauds in human history? Seriously, RFK, Jr.? You really need to share what you’ve been smoking. It’s been clear for some time that Dr. Zimmerman, having been flirting with the antivaccine movement because of his involvement with the Hannah Poling case, was susceptible to the blandishments of an antivaccine propagandist like RFK, Jr. Now he’s finally gone “all in.” Or maybe not. He might have produced an affadavit, but he won’t go as far as to appear on a propaganda piece disguised as a “news report” or to let anyone else interview him publicly. It can’t be because he’s afraid of “inconvenient” questions from a journalist. Attkisson won’t offer any because she’s all in as far as antivaccine conspiracies go. So it must be because he doesn’t want to be tainted by association. It could also be that he’s regretting giving in to RFK, Jr., who, if my reading between the lines is any indication, probably badgered him to “go public.” It’s the same sort of thing that happened to the “CDC whistleblower” William Thompson, who, after having spilled his guts (and grievances against various high ranking CDC officials and scientists) for months to Brian Hooker, went totally silent and lawyered up after Andrew Wakefield found out about the recordings and went public with them. Since then, antivaxers have been claiming that “the man” got to him. Maybe something like that is in progress here.

After all, if you lay down with dogs, you might get fleas. Wait a minute. I should never have compared RFK, Jr. and antivaxers to dogs. I love dogs. My wife and I foster litters of puppies from time to time. Dogs are loyal, loving, and intelligent. Sorry, dogs.

Sharyl Attkisson: Spewing antivaccine nonsense since at least 2007

One thing I’ve noticed about the reaction to this story is that far too many people seem to think that Sharyl Attkisson is a reputable journalist. I know better. True, her background was reputable. She was a correspondent for CBS News for over two decades before she resigned in 2014, believing that CBS News had a “liberal bias” and wasn’t giving sufficient credence and coverage to anti-Obama conspiracy theories, such as Benghazi. I’m not sure what happened to her, because until the early 2000s at least, anyway, she seemed to be a talented investigative journalist and has won several awards for her reporting. Then something happened between maybe 2000 and 2010 and she evolved into the crank that we know now, the one unhappy that CBS News wasn’t covering every anti-Obama conspiracy theory with the enthusiasm that she wanted to, the one who came to believe pretty much every antivaccine trope.

I first became aware of her antivaccine proclivities in 2007, when she wrote an op-ed that was published on the CBS News website that I deconstructed in amazement at the level of antivaccine crankery exhibited. I mean, seriously. It as RFK-level antivax.

Since then, evidence of Attkisson’s antivaccine beliefs has been abundant. For instance, in 2008 she published a hit piece on Paul Offit, the American Academy of Pediatrics, Every Child By Two, and the Vaccine Education Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. That same year, she appeared (to me and several others, at least) to be collaborating quietly with the antivaccine propagandists at Age of Autism to attack Voices for Vaccines after it complained about the hit piece publicly. Then, in 2009, she did a fawning puff piece on antivaccine icon Andrew Wakefield. Indeed, the number of examples of her antivaccine propaganda are too numerous to list, but I do like to mention how she likes to report credulously on particularly bad antivaccine studies and periodically try to convince people that vaccines cause autism.

Oh, and Attkisson also once included me on her list of the top 10 astoturfers, much to my amusement.

Arguably Attkisson’s most egregious behavior with respect to favorably reporting on antivaxers came in 2013, when she did a story on Alex Spourdalakis, an autistic teen who was murdered by his mother, lying by omission about Andrew Wakefield’s involvement in the case. This case was tragic and complex and is too difficult to discuss in depth here (although you can read my typical detailed deconstruction if you are so inclined, a deconstruction that led an antivaxer to complain to my employers), but it became a cause célèbre among antivaxers as portraying the “horrors of autism.” Left out of Attkisson’s reporting was the involvement of Andrew Wakefield, who made a video appeal to help Alex because he was due to be transferred to a longterm psychiatric care facility, where he would, it appears, no longer receive the “autism biomed” quackery to which his mother had been subjecting him.

Attkisson is a victim of crank magnetism as well. It’s not just vaccines or anti-Obama conspiracy theories. It’s breast cancer quackery. It’s the dubious claims that gadolinium used as contrast agents for MRI scans are killing people, including Chuck Norris’ wife. It’s so much more.

Finally, this new “report” is nothing new. Attkisson’s been flogging the Hannah Poling case ever since it hit the news. So it’s not surprising that she’d do it again. As much as she and RFK Jr. are trying to paint this as some horrific conspiracy to hide the evidence that vaccines cause autism and deny the petitioners of the Autism Omnibus their just compensation, there’s really even less here than there is in the CDC whistleblower conspiracy theory, which isn’t much. All we have is one witness who, a decade after Autism Omnibus, became somehow convinced that the government lawyers had done him wrong by deciding they didn’t want him to testify and whose importance to the case was nowhere near as critical as it is being portrayed by RFK Jr. and Sharyl Attkisson. Basically, through the Hannah Poling case, he came to believe (erroneously) that mitochondrial disease + vaccines = autism and appears to want vindication, to achieve which he’s now going public with his grievance. In the end, it’s really pathetic.

In the end, Attkisson’s piece is yet more evidence that in the antivaccine universe there is nothing truly new under the sun. There is new bogus science, but it’s almost always a variation of common existing antivaccine pseudoscience, particularly “toxins” and “too many too soon.” There are new conspiracy theories, but they are basically all variations on a theme, particularly variations of the central conspiracy theory of the antivaccine movement, while the same old conspiracy theories keep popping up every couple of years, just with new twists added.

Unfortunately, now there is an ecosystem of TV stations that will air “reports” like Sharyl Attkisson’s report as actual news:

Through her promotion of antivaccine conspiracy theories, Sharyl Attkisson was, is, and will continue to be a danger to children and public health.

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]

79 replies on “Sharyl Attkisson is back, and she’s flogging a new-old antivaccine conspiracy theory”

At least Attkisson’s misrepresentations can cause less damage from Sinclaire than when she was at CBS, which was clearly mainstream and gave her cover. I hope.

A while ago, I heard Sinclair described as being most frequently in more conservative areas, not major cities. Being unable to find said article, I instead consulted their website ( sbgi.) and discovered a map and listings ( which was a bitch to scroll through because of logos) and found that there is a tendency towards smaller, redder places ( none in NYC, LA, SF, Chicago, Boston, Detroit) BUT there were stations in Washington, DC, Baltimore, Portland ( both), Seattle. Unfortunately, SBGI clustered in a few markets where there may be no other options.
The reason I heard this originally was because they were making their stations broadcast particular opinion pieces which were rather awful and rightist. So I guess Sharyl may fit in.

This page is of person who is obviously in the back pocket of big pharma all you do is get paid to represent their point of view I completely doubt everything you say in don’t believe you sorry.

The Pharma Shill Gambit is boring and worn out. Orac’s identity is perhaps the worst kept secret on the internet. If you’d clicked on the “Who is Orac” link up top, you’d learn his real name. Ad hominem attacks just show the weakness of your position.

Off topic:

Orac writes,

Dogs are loyal, loving, and intelligent.

MJD says,

I respectfully disagree. I once had a dog who jumped on an end table to chew (i.e. destroy) a Minnesota High School Hockey ticket; championship game. A bit of advice, always wash your hands after lunch to avoid contaminating priceless items because some dogs are self serving and rude.

Certainly more than MJD did. I know 10 year olds who have figured out “Don’t leave things where the dog can get them.”

Relevant quotes:

“We believe it is much better to immunize with DTaP than risk infection with highly inflammatory and potentially damaging community-acquired pertussis (in children with a mitochondrial disorder).”

Andrew ZImmerman

“…the MMR vaccine has been temporally associated, if rarely, with regressions — with regression in AMD and other mitochondrial disease when given in the second year. Doubtless some of these regressions are coincidental, since the usual age for giving the MMR falls within the typical window of vulnerability for AMD regression.”

“I do think that — that there was much information — misinformation brought about by Dr. Wakefield and it’s — this has set the field back. I think that — that we — we have worked very hard to try to reassure the public and I agree with doing that because I am very supportive of vaccinations, immunizations in general.”

Andrew Zimmerman

https://vaxopedia.org/tag/richard-kelley/

I’ll bet Attkisson’s video does not cite these remarks by Dr. Zimmerman.*

*For confirmation, I need to wait until my stomach is a little more settled before subjecting myself to another deranged antivax video.

Silly boy. RFK’S youngest child is around 18, his second youngest around 21. By the time he emerged as an antivaxer even his youngest child had likely an all—or nearly all—recommended vaccines. Nope, not buying that defense.🙄

Plus, like any “good” Kennedy the care of the children was the duty of their mothers. He probably did not notice until the youngest was in elementary school.

A friend of mine ended up in a Twitter thread with Sharyl and was so proud of himself that he might be able to convince a fence-sitter. He was pretty surprised by how very, very far down the anti-vax rabbit hole she is. (He only knew of her as “the person who hosts an opinion show I won’t watch”.)

(Of course I sent him here for specifics.)

Orac, if vaccines are safe, why are there not double blind inert placebo safety tests done, if they’re safe, why do they contain known neurotoxins? If they are safe, why do the inserts to the vaccine list potentially fatal and or serious neurological complications. If they’re safe, why can you not sue the manufacturer of the vaccines. If they’re safe, why has vaccine court paid billions out in damages? If they’re safe, why is research Surely you can’t be so blind as to not recognize that the pharmaceutical companies list serious side effects in the inserts, and safety studies before they’re are released into the markets last DAYS, let alone years like medicines do. It seems like you are blinded by your own intelligence. You can’t inject neurotoxins into the bloodstream are safe for the brain. Check out this recent study of the dangers found from the Hep B vaccine vaccinepapers.org/wp-content/uploads/BCGhepB-vaccines.pdf

More and more research is showing there are adverse side effects, yet the majority of healthcare is silent about it. It’s like a repeat of doctors recommending smoking

Wow, what an impressive number of fallacies in such a small space.

why are there not double blind inert placebo safety tests done[?]

These have been done.

…why do they contain known neurotoxins?

What neurotoxins are in vaccines? And remember, the dose makes the poison.

If they’re safe, why can you not sue the manufacturer of the vaccines[?]

You can sue the manufacturers for defects in the manufacturing process.

If they’re safe, why has vaccine court paid billions out in damages?

Compare the number of doses issued to the amount of money paid out. It’s less than a dollar for every vaccination.

Surely you can’t be so blind as to not recognize that the pharmaceutical companies list serious side effects in the inserts…

Argument by Package Insert. Every adverse event recorded during trials must be reported and listed on vaccine package inserts, regardless of whether or not the vaccine caused it, or even could have caused it.

…safety studies before they’re are released into the markets last DAYS, let alone years like medicines do.

False.
As for your cite from “Vaccine Papers”, are you shitting me?

More and more research is showing there are adverse side effects…

You didn’t cite any of this “research”, just a blogpost from a known antivaccine site.
If, on the off chance you’re not a post and run troll, when you come back, bring the data.

Bob: “why do they contain known neurotoxins…”

Please tell me which “neurotoxin” is more potent than either tetanospan or the diphtheria toxin? Do you really think a kid would do better fighting those versus getting a DTaP vaccine?

“More and more research is showing there are adverse side effects…”

Then post that PubMed indexed researcher by reputable qualified researchers not on the Dwoskin payroll. Warning: do not ever link to “vaccinepapers” unless you like being laughed at.

“…there’s never really anything new under the sun.”
Yes, I can’t claim 14 years of reading this blog – more like 2 or 3 years, but it’s noticeable that people still repeatedly chime in with, e.g. the “but it worked for me” approach. In other words, they have no idea of how medical claims in particular, and scientific claims in general, are validated – statistical inspection, eliminating confounding variables etc etc. (I confess that I have no expertise myself in this – just this and similar blogs plus Ben Goldacre’s wonderful “Bad Science – I’m a humanities grad.)

Is it possible (and/or desirable) to have some sort of “pinned post” which lays out why such anecdotal claims won’t get very far? Some sort of “before you post, read this” sort of thing? Just a thought.

Attkisson is a ludicrous joke. She is notorious for ranting about the Obama administration hacking her computer in retaliation for her criticism, proving this by uploading a video of text being deleted from her word processor, presumably by Obama’s minions . On watching it, it was obvious that the problem was a stuck delete key. The video, of course, is now gone.
https://www.vox.com/2014/10/31/7140247/the-right-is-convinced-obama-hacked-sharyl-attkisson-over-benghazi

In reference to Attkisson’s reporting on the Alex Spourdalakis case: the 2013 CBS segment included footage of pediatric gastroenterologist Arthur Krigsman, a former colleague of Andrew Wakefield who also latched on to the measles-vaccine-virus-association-with-autistic-enterocolitis idea.

There was a 2010 article ballyhooing a clinical study Krigsman et al did (and presented at a conference, purporting to show a high rate of measles vaccine virus recovery from G.I. biopsy samples in autistic kids, thus allegedly backing up Wakefield).

“Serious intestinal inflammations were found in some of the autistic children and biopsies of gut tissue were performed on 82 of them. Of these, 70 are said to have shown evidence of the measles virus, which so far has been confirmed in 14 cases by more stringent DNA tests.

Of the handful of results that the researchers have got so far, all the measles viruses are vaccine strain and none are wild measles.This suggests that the study done earlier by Dr Wakefield and published in 1998 may becorrect.”

https://www.foodsmatter.com/asd_autism/autism_causes/research/new_study_mmr_autism.html

The report notes that the study had yet to be submitted to a journal for peer review and publication. A check of PubMed reveals no such published study (the most recent research publication co-authored by Krigsman was in 2016, outlining a possible blood test for an inflammatory bowel disease-associated set of genetic markers that the authors thought could prove useful for early autism diagnosis and/or diagnosis of autism-related G.I. issues).

Do I smell the foul odor of Andrew Wakefield all over this “story”?
.
I’m just speculating but it would not surprise me if the rumoured “VaxXed 2 Electric Boogaloo” is essentially a 90 minute redo of VaxXed only with the “CDC Whistleblower Konspiracee” replaced by the “NVICP Whistleblower Konspiracee” subbing Andrew Zimmerman for William Thompson.
It seems strangely “coincidental” that RFK, Jr. and Sharyl Attkisson, two of the more influential anti-vaccine cultists due to the platforms available to them for preaching their dangerous delusions, would make an issue of this minutia.
My bet is they are in close contact with Andy Wakefraud and Polly Tommey, etc. and have been made aware that this will be the next thrust of the ongoing grifting anti-vaccine fraud. Being the useful idiots they are, they are now laying the groundwork and seeding the Astroturf™ in preparation for Andy’s next money making anti-vax scam.
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Time will tell.

Just in case I’m keeping these takedowns at my fingertips:

This Orac article:
https://respectfulinsolence.com/2019/01/09/sharyl-attkisson-is-back/

Dorit’s takedown mentioned above by Orac:
https://www.skepticalraptor.com/skepticalraptorblog.php/anti-vaccine-activists-revive-hannah-poling-case/

Dr. Vincent Iannelli’s takedown:
https://vaxopedia.org/2018/10/18/alleged-fraud-in-the-vaccine-court-omnibus-autism-proceedings/

A 2009 exposition of Zimmerman’s position on the Poling case on Matt Carey’s Left Brain /Right Brain:
https://leftbrainrightbrain.co.uk/2009/03/24/andrew-zimmerman-finally-speaks/
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One merely has to Gaggel ” “Andrew Zimmerman” Autism Omnibus ” to see the long list of anti-vax culties who are or have flogged this idiotic piece of minutia:
Bob Sears
Dull Bigtwig
JB Handley
RFK, Jr. (I may just start calling him “Junior”)
Sharyl Attkisson
Ague of Autism
The Gnat
GreenMed disInfo
Hulda Clark Timmy Bolen Report
Alt-med grifter Ty Bollinger
etc., etc., etc.
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Of course a long list of sheep in the anti-vax cult doesn’t mean a whole hell of a lot due to the incestuous nature of that cult and the incessant sharing of DNA that goes on due to a lack of actual facts, news, and information.
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Nonetheless this does smell of a Wakefraud “manufactroversy” (h/t to Dr. David Gorski).

The fact that the whole anti-vax loonsphere repeats the same conspiracy theory is simply evidence of: 1) their incestuous nature; 2) their lack of real evidence; and 3) the need to compete for the same small number of followers.

Full Measure with Sharyl Attkisson: 1
Orac the Sterile: Zero

When will The Sterile and his impudent gang acknowledge there is plenty pf biological plausibility for vaccine-induced autism?
https://twitter.com/ClinicalImmuno/status/1061200232971673603?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Eembeddedtimeline%7Ctwterm%5Eprofile%3AClinicalImmuno&ref_url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.alliedacademies.org%2Ftimely-topics-in-clinical-immunology%2F&fbclid=IwAR2RXacykWcnKQrSAAW8MLKSYtLdnDpRH6UlMq0jwmPYDhUgbA6YFzDvk6Q

Yeah, yeah. Sure, sure.
When VaxXed 2 Electric Boogaloo comes out be sure to buy 100 tickets even if you don’t plan on attending just to line Andy’s pockets stick it to the man, Ma-aan!
You saw how successful Quaxxed The First was at convincing TPTB to legislate against vaccines (/sarc)… and as a side benefit Andy and Polly made a tidy sum from the terminally credulous anti-vaccine death cultists.
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Let the begging begin!

It seems strangely “coincidental” that RFK, Jr. and Sharyl Attkisson, two of the more influential anti-vaccine cultists due to the platforms available to them for preaching their dangerous delusions, would make an issue of this minutia.

You are going to have to do better than that, if you really want to approach Mr. Six-Degrees-of-Separation Conspiracies’ level of thinking.

Veering off topic a little:

Don’t know if you have discussed this previously but I just dipped into AOA after a long absence. Did you know that vaccines cause type 1 diabetes? No I didn’t either. Occasional commentor to this blog Mr Arumugham has put out a paper claiming that (as far as I can tell, cause he uses a lot of big words) that bovine milk in vaccines causes (or is is some way related to) T1DM.
Don’t know He rationalises the vastly variable age of onset of T1DM, since I’ve seen patients whose age at onset ranged from 8 to late 30’s and I am not an endocrine/diabetic nurse.

Oh noooo! You mentioned milk! Now he’s gonna come back an yell at us all again about the imaginary milk in vaccines causing allergies.

But yeah, that’s silly. It’s as silly as all the other times he tried to convince us of this.

My half-baked hypothesis is that vinu was once kicked by a cow (or pee’d on, maybe) and he’s developed a thing about it.

If it’s not too early to go off-topic, I only just discovered that Stephanie Seneff has boarded the bleach-enema scamwagon.
Apparently bleach destroys glyphosate, so it must be good for whatever ails you.

Can’t understand why a place like MIT would let such an dangerously deluded person work there.

I imagine they keep her for the same reason Berkeley is stuck with… I mean, KEEPS Peter Duesberg.
-btw- I just read material on both of these mavericks on Wikipedia and other sources. Oh wow oh wow.
Interestingly, even a natural health website says she hasn’t the background to prognosticate on health and they’re woo themselves! So bad even woo-meisters avoid her.

Can’t understand why a place like MIT would let such an dangerously deluded person work there.

I presume staff have the same intellectual freedom privileges as bona fide academics. That doesn’t mean CSAIL has to host her shit.

Stephanie Seneff is an equal opportunity crankster. No crank idea seems to be too cranky for her. Her series of art forms in Entropy demonstrated that she could hold half a dozen completely contradictory causes of autism in her head at the same time.

Apparently bleach destroys glyphosate

This is before they are loaded onto the dirigibles that take the glyphosate to the brain, I take it.

For those of you aching to go on the next Conspira-Sea cruise (their website says the next one is TBA), fear not – you can sail with like-minded loonies on the Flat Earth Cruise!!

https://www.theguardian.com/science/2019/jan/09/flat-earth-cruise-nautical-navigation?utm_term=Autofeed&CMP=fb_us&utm_medium=Social&utm_source=Facebook&fbclid=IwAR1lau5SjVPbrlPFj_lzE_01a1yNwUgqZaX-0_aJvgfSyj5rrsE6c6INPQ0#Echobox=1547104574

No word on if Andrew Wakefield* will be a guest lecturer.

*or Stephen Curry.

Rising to the bait here: what happens when the Flat-Earth folks watch the horizon as they move out to sea? Will they just deny it? Will they be scared they’ll fall off the edge?

Not entirely OT….

A major announcement that may be of interest to various minions commenting on this thread:

PRN will now feature a voice mail number ( 862- 800-6805) where you can leave a message/ question for any of the hosts at PRN. Today, Null answers a few callers about how to argue with doctors about vaccines, legal tactics to avoid vaccines, offers medical advice and speaks with a participant who was healed his retreat ( 30 minutes in- end)- thus, he may not have cured gangrene after all.

I imagine that a few of Orac’s minions could think of intriguing questions for the woo-meister such as:
– if you’re so brilliant and a great athlete, why didn’t you get scholarships to major universities instead of going to Dodgy U?
– who are all of these guys you’ve cured of hiv/ aids? ( claims earlier in the show)
– why are all of the celebrities you boast of knowing or treating DEAD?
– how can you advise people about where to live to avoid the effects of climate change when one of your estates was nearly swept off the map last year by a storm?
– where did you study psychology and art?

I’m sure that Dangerous Bacon, Narad, Julian**, Reality, Eric, Chris, Dorit, Dr Chris, ChrisP**, Science Mom, Smutty**, JP and others could think of questions that would reveal both his level of expertise and MO.
I can’t : my voice may be too identifiable ( I had training and sound like a fucking announcer)

** who may be out of phone range unfortunately

I had training and sound like a fucking announcer

They have announcers for that now? Is it play-by-play or just color commentary?

I even tried out for side-line commentary on Game of Thrones but they let the actors narrate instead.

But SRSLY, amongst the Dirty Dozen named above, you might contribute much to PRN’s question line. Maybe ask how those vegan cats are doing.

** who may be out of phone range unfortunately

Our length-of-string-between-two-tin-cans form of telephony works perfectly well for local communication but we have not managed to make it work internationally.

I think that their lines only work for US and Canada. They have call-in and voice mail separately.

If not, go ahead. You might be the best possible caller in the universe for these wankers. But they’d never replay you for the audience. unless you’re sneaky enough.

Thanks for covering this in such great detail. Some of us weren’t there when this all happened 10 plus years ago, and don’t have the background info to be able to defend this stuff against the anti-vaxx crowd. Now I have the details to share with folks and I can properly refute this.

Here’s another piece I’m sure Orac the Sterile and his impudent herd would prefer to ignore:

“Intriguingly, the negative effects of DTP vaccine are strongest for girls and that’s a pattern we’ve seen for all the non-live vaccines. So, for all six non-live vaccines, we’ve seen that they have very strong negative non-specific effects in females, and we haven’t got a clue why yet.”

“But when we tested what had happened when the DTP vaccine was introduced in Guinea-Bissau, we were very surprised. In spite of protecting against the diseases, DTP-vaccinated children had fivefold higher mortality than children who didn’t receive the vaccine.”
https://theconversation.com/vaccines-have-health-effects-beyond-protecting-against-target-diseases-106383?

Note: let’s discuss sexual differences in microbiota responsible for immune response to DTP vaccine.

An old study on a vaccine not used in the USA anymore and in one of poorest countries on this planet. Why do you think the conditions in Guinea-Bissau is comparable to the USA, Canada, and the UK. For a bunch who like to claim diseases went down due to clean water and sanitation, it is odd that you think it is useful to bring up a country good percentage do not have access to safe water: https://www.unicef.org/guineabissau_wes.pdf

By the way, where is that PubMed indexed study by reputable qualified researchers that the MMR vaccine used in the USA since 1978 causes more seizures than measles?

People who get seizures from measles or the MMR obviously have immune issues.

Chris, do you have any evidence that shows the number of seizures caused by both infections?

If the MMR causes a seizure, that person shouldn’t have been vaccinated.
How can we spot people who will be injured by MMR before they are vaccinated?

“People who get seizures from measles or the MMR obviously have immune issues.”

Cute way to blame the victim.

“Chris, do you have any evidence that shows the number of seizures caused by both infections”

Here is the evidence for you:
The Clinical Significance of Measles: A Review

That is known as a summary. It has references to the studies it is based on at the end.

“How can we spot people who will be injured by MMR before they are vaccinated?”

You tell us.

The question of non-specific effects of vaccines is not new and the WHO studied it for years. The general consensus of the WHO is that there is not enough evidence that DTP is connected to non-specific increase in mortality – because of limits of the studies – to justify a change in policy.
http://www.globe-network.org/sites/default/files/en/network/resource/2.terry-nolan-the-who-review-of-the-non-specific-effects-of-vaccination_0.pdf

This group is using a small, limited data set, 30 years old, in a specific country with specific and many confounding factors. They can continue to try and convince the expertss that their findings are valid. Until they do, this does not really change the picture or conclusions.

Baiscally, experts consider that there is not good data for their claims about DTP.

And note, by the way, that the other side of their claims is that live vaccines improve results. How does that fit your attempt to claim vaccines are bad, or are you going to just ignore that?

Oh boy, TEDX, the uncurated, un-challenged, anyone-can-say-anything version of TED! There was a TEDX talk by a guy who claimed he could transplant a human head. Even said he had a patient all lined up who needed his head on another body. The guy hadn’t even gotten his “method” to work in mice.

So yeah, I’m not even going to bother looking at a video from TEDX. And I wouldn’t look at it even if I thought I might agree with it. Do you have a published, peer-reviewed, non-predatory journal paper on this topic? That, I will consider. The chin-mic version of “man shouts at cloud”? Not so much.

So which bacteria protects against diphtheria, Keith?
What is the mechanism of action by which a gut bacteria protect against a respiratory infection?
(Test-based explanations only please; video doesn’t work for me. Thanks!)

That Aaby study gets mentioned a lot. I was curious about the number of subjects and how many actually died.

Fortunately the text is available for free.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5868131/

There were 553 vaccinated and 149 non-vaccinated.

If I read the numbers correctly, Table 2/analysis 1 shows 18 vaccinated and 5 unvaccinated who died which works out to 3.25% vs 3.36% if you don’t weight for person-years followed.

Table 3/analysis 2 which included all children in the cohort showed 32 deaths vs 10 or 5.79% vs 6.71%. So in both cases a higher percentage of the unvaccinated actually died.

And all six odds ratios range from below 1.0 to above 1.0. So the risk, although higher, is not significant.

I’d appreciate some input from those of you who are more familiar with these statistical analyses.

But it looks like this is mainly an artifact of how long the children were followed.

That paper is super confusingly written. And I’m a little unclear on why this data from the 1980’s is only getting written up now? Or was it written up back in the day and this is a re-analysis?

Atkinson used to be a regular on various Fox shows that find conspiracies everywhere. That’s all you need to know about her.

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