Without evidence of benefit, an intervention should not be presumed to be beneficial or safe.

- Rogue Medic

Ignorance and Misunderstanding Science

An interesting way to look at the evaluation of science is presented in last night’s Frontline episode Vaccine Wars.

One of the ways that misinformation is spread about science is mentioned by Dr. Paul Offit. Dr. Offit is portrayed by the anti-vaccinationists as corrupt, because he made a lot of money creating a vaccine for an illness that kills hundreds of thousands of lives of children each year.[1] Almost all of the children, who will have their lives saved by this vaccine, live in other countries. The opponents of vaccines will tell you that they do not care about children dying in other countries. They are only interested in creating suspicion and fear about the health of children in this country.

The anti-vaccinationists defend Dr. Andrew Wakefield. What did Andrew Wakefield do? He took hundreds of thousands of pounds from lawyers to create a study to make it look like the MMR (Measles/Mumps/Rubella) vaccine causes autism. Nobody has been able to scientifically reproduce this study. An important parts of the scientific method is that research must be capable of being reproduced. Research that cannot be reproduced is flawed. Flawed is the polite way scientists have of saying BS.

The General Medical Council ruled he (Andrew Wakefield) had acted “dishonestly and irresponsibly” in doing his research.[2]

Do the anti-vaccinationists criticize Andrew Wakefield for creating a fake scare about the MMR vaccine?

Do the anti-vaccinationists criticize Andrew Wakefield for selling out to a bunch of lawyers, who are only looking for a multi-million pound settlement?

Do the anti-vaccinationists realize there is a problem when Andrew Wakefield is forced out of his job at Thoughtful House, an autism advocacy organization?[3]

Do the anti-vaccinationists realize there is a problem when another of Andrew Wakefield’s research papers is retracted as bad science – so bad that it is unfit for publication?[3]

No. The anti-vaccinationists defend Andrew Wakefield.[4] Barbara Loe Fisher is the head of the National Vaccine Information Center and claims to be “dedicated to preventing vaccine injuries and deaths through public education and defending the informed consent ethic.”[5] Informed consent is important. Informed consent requires that we provide accurate information about the risks and benefits of any medical decision. Barbara Loe Fisher acts as if screaming, Evil! Evil! Evil! at every opportunity is providing informed consent. She is misinformed. Those who listen to her are also misinformed. To be fair, Barbara Loe Fisher is most accurately described as a liar.

Frontline describes Barbara Loe Fisher as vaccine watchdog. This is an interesting choice of words. She is a watchdog in the way that a dog trained to kill anything that moves is a watchdog. Her goal appears to be the elimination of vaccines. Maybe they would describe Timothy McVeigh as a government watchdog. McVeigh’s death toll is likely to be much lower than Barbara Loe Fisher’s. How many children will die because of Barbara Loe Fisher’s lies?

Several months ago, Barbara Loe Fisher sued Dr. Paul Offit for libel for comments he made to a reporter. Barbara Loe Fisher also sued the reporter and sued the periodical. This is the part she sued about –

“Scientists, bound only by reason, are society’s true anarchists,” he has written — and he clearly sees himself as one. “Kaflooey theories” make him crazy, especially if they catch on. Fisher, who has long been the media’s go-to interview for what some in the autism arena call “parents rights,” makes him particularly nuts, as in “You just want to scream.” The reason? “She lies,” he says flatly.[6]

Dr. Offit writes a lot about vaccination and the anti-vaccine/pro-disease movement. In order to try to stop Dr. Offit, dishonest people will resort to law suits, just as the BCA (British chiropractic Association) did when Simon Singh pointed out that the BCA was telling lies. Simon Singh was telling the truth, while the BCA was trying to silence him with a libel charge. That did not work. The result was that there was much more exposure of the lies of the BCA.

Barbara Loe Fisher had her case dismissed.[6] I guess it is not libel to call Barbara Loe Fisher a liar. Maybe it is just accurate.

It is interesting that Barbara Loe Fisher started her misinformation warehouse based on the pertussis vaccine scare. When Andrew Wakefield’s Lancet paper was published, there was no scientific basis for the panic, but the media jumped all over it. The media have been encouraged to scare people by public menaces, such as Barbara Loe Fisher. Her business model is to sell fear and books, based on the thoroughly debunked autism/vaccine fraud. Barbara Loe Fisher is a liar. She will encourage you to endanger your child, but she does not present any legitimate reason to avoid vaccines. She lied about the pertussis vaccine. She lies about all vaccines.

Here is what was written comparing the original fraudulent Wakefield vaccine scare paper to the scare over the pertussis vaccine. This was before the abundant research that has made it clear that there is no vaccine/autism link. Even then, the scientists realized that this was nonsense. The anti-vaccinationists haven’t figured it out, yet.

The experience with pertussis in the 1970s was also based on anecdotal case reports linking pertussis vaccination with infant brain damage.9 Again a temporal link between a vaccine and a devastating childhood condition whose natural peak onset was at the very time when most children received that vaccine was misinterpreted as a causal relation. A national study eventually showed that, while there was a temporal association with encephalopathy, any risk of lasting damage was so rare as to be unquantifiable.10 But the initial report, then as now, attracted media attention; parental and professional anxiety soared; and national immunisation rates fell from 80% to 30%. The number of susceptible children rose, and in the 12 years after 1976 three major pertussis epidemics accounted nationally for over 300000 notifications and at least 70 deaths. The suffering of families experiencing long miserable illnesses was considerable, and in some cases long term damage ensued. Some parents came to believe that an immunisation they had approved had damaged their child.[7]

Jenny McCarthy has said that we need to bring back the diseases that are prevented by vaccines.[8] Jenny McCarthy believes that the vaccines are more dangerous than these diseases that kill millions

Dr. Offit does research on vaccines and talks to people about vaccines – they threaten to kill him.[9] All of the research supports Dr. Offit. His is the rational approach.

The discredited Andrew Wakefield is defended by those, who want us to ignore the research. Since the research continues to show the same thing – vaccines are safe – they lie. Their’s is the irrational approach.

Even the courts have ruled that there is no evidence of any link between autism and vaccines.[10]

Apparently, the anti-vaccinationists are facing the worst kind of conspiracy. A conspiracy that will not stop. A conspiracy of truth.

Footnotes:

^ 1 Rotavirus vaccine
Wikipedia
Article

^ 2 MMR scare doctor ‘acted unethically’, panel finds
By Nick Triggle
Page last updated at 17:35 GMT, Thursday, 28 January 2010
BBC News
Article

^ 3 Andrew Wakefield: Destined for even more disrepute
Respectful Insolence
Article

^ 4 Dr. Andrew Wakefield and his compelling courage, as recounted by Barbara Loe Fisher
Natural Health strategies
Article

^ 5 Barbara Loe Fisher
Wikipedia
Article

^ 6 Barbara Loe Fisher’s lawsuit against Paul Offit dismissed
Left Brain/Right Brain – Autism Blog
Article

^ 7 MMR vaccination and autism 1998.
Nicoll A, Elliman D, Ross E.
BMJ. 1998 Mar 7;316(7133):715-6. No abstract available. Erratum in: BMJ 1998 Mar 14;316(7134):796.
PMID: 9529392 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

Free Full Text                 Free PDF

^ 8 Jenny McCarthy on Autism and Vaccines
By Jeffrey Kluger
Wednesday, Apr. 01, 2009
Time Magazine
Article

^ 9 Stomping Through A Medical Minefield
The author of a new book about autism says exactly what he thinks about vaccines and other hot topics.

By Claudia Kalb
Published Oct 25, 2008
Newsweek
Article

^ 10 2010: Another bad year for the anti-vaccine movement, as the Special Masters rule
Respectful Insolence
Article

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