Who will be 2014’s “Douchebag of the Year”?

A few years ago, a fan of this blog got into a lot of trouble at work because he dared call a misogynist anti-vaccine loon who was being more than creepy to women on social media a “douchebag.” The douchebag launched a series of emails to our friend’s employers. He also made an appearance in blogs talking about the issue, threatening to sue people who dared talk bad about him. Needless to say, the guy eventually backed off and went back to doing whatever people like him do when they’re not harassing people who call them on their crap.

It was because of that incident that I adopted some rules for this blog. I didn’t want what happened to our fan to happen to me, hence all the secrecy about who I (or we, at times) really are. Yeah, yeah, I’ve broken some of the rules some of the time. No one is perfect.

So we’re going to break the rules one more time before the year’s end. All of us, you included.

We’re going to name the anti-vaccine, anti-science “Douchebag of the Year.”

Feel free to nominate someone in the comments section. Nominations will be accepted until December 28. We’ll then have two days of voting before the “Douchebag of the Year” is named on New Year’s Eve in the final post for this blog for the year. A donation to a pro-vaccine organization will be given in the Douchebag’s name.

Here are my nominations:

  • Andrew Jeremy Wakefield for his race-baiting propaganda about a so-called “CDC Whistleblower” who looks more like a confused old man than someone who actually has “dirt” on the CDC. Not only that, but he also tried to scare a science blogger by threatening a lawsuit against her for calling him on his bullshit, and continues to try and sue the British Medical Journal from the comfort of his palace in Texas.
  • Anne Daschel, aka “Daschelbot,” for her almost non-stop commenting on any vaccine-related news site or blog. If you’ve read one comment, you’ve read all of her comments.
  • Cynthia Parker, aka “CIA Parker,” who, like the Daschelbot, comments and comments and comments and comments, and none of her comments really have any kind of sense. To her, everything is caused by vaccines, and her self-diagnosing is truly amazing.
  • Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., for his book on thimerosal, in which he fully joins the cult of anti-vax.
  • Ginger Taylor, for making this video and trying to sound knowledgeable when she is, in our opinions, not knowledgeable at all.
  • John Stone, the Age of Autism British weirdo, for trying to figure out who I am and where I work, as if that will stop any of us from doing what we do.
  • Peter Doshi, PhD, for being resurrected in anti-vaccine websites and talking points and not doing anything to correct the record on his apparent AIDS denialism, even when given a chance to do so.

Who do you nominate?

All the fail you can fit into an infographic

Friends on social media pointed me to this infographic the other day. It states that it wants to “set the record straight” on vaccines and autism, and it uses all of the tricks that we know anti-vaccine cult members use to try and deceive those who are uninitiated. So let’s take it one panel at a time and dissect this thing for all the fail that it is.

fail_1

The answer from the paper was not “yes.” The answer from the paper, as I’ve told you before, is that there was no association between the MMR vaccine and the syndrome (chronic enterocolitis). It was Andrew Jeremy Wakefield who stated that it was his gut feeling that this association existed, and that chronic enterocolitis led to autism. Now, that whole thing about Walker-Smith being absolved and so should Wakefield, well, it’s not that simple. When two people commit a crime in tandem, finding that one was duped by the other into committing the crime doesn’t absolve the duper, only the dupee. And, of course, Wakefield was never “charged” with research fraud because it’s not a chargeable offense. His peers and independent investigators found that his research was a fraud, which is different than charging him.

Now, notice how the authors of this infographic try to explain to us what the study was all about. They call pathology reports “statistical data.” What the hell is that? They’re trying to say that the data was somehow valid, but it wasn’t. It was taken from children who underwent invasive procedures to get pathology samples. There is also the issue of a control group. Of course it was needed. A control group is always needed to ascertain associations and causation. If I take nine people off the street and note that they all wear size 9 shoes, can I say that all people on the planet wear size 9 shoes? No, I’d go to another city and take a bigger sample of people from there and measure their shoe size. But that would have been too much work for Andrew Jeremy, I guess.

Let’s go on to the next panel, because this one did a piss-poor job of defending the Wakefield fraud.

fail_2

A “rush”, huh? There was no such rush. If anything, Andrew Jeremy Wakefield’s study was rushed. Other studies looking at vaccines and autism — the serious and credible ones — take months to design and months to conduct. They’ve looked at rates of autism in vaccinated and unvaccinated. It’s the same rate. They’ve looked at rates of vaccination in autistics and neurotypical kids. It’s the same rate. They’ve looked at how many vaccines and at what age autistics get their vaccines. It’s the same number and at the same age as neurotypical kids. Everything has been explored, but, because the cult of anti-vaccine activists need a demon to fear, they keep clamoring for more and more “research.” When the findings of said research doesn’t pan out, it’s not because there is no association between autism and vaccines. It’s because, in their mind, there is a big, huge conspiracy directed by a guy with horns and hoofed feet.

Also, as was explained in the now deleted comments of the infographic, epidemiological studies can be both about associations and about causation. (Correlation is not something you get from a study. You get that from simply plotting data on graph paper.) If Andrew Jeremy Wakefield’s study was so ground-breaking, why did his published paper not talk about causality? They never made sure to say that the kids were free of enterocolitis before they had autism. They just said, “Hey, these autistic kids have enterocolitis.” Period.

fail_3

You have to give it to the anti-vaccine fanatics. They really do think that CDC is the end-all, be-all of things epidemiological. It’s not. It’s a big institution, yes, but not all research is conducted there. In fact, most research on vaccines and vaccine safety is done by universities and the manufacturers themselves. But these people think that a group of sadists sit around and find ways to create a product that will harm the most people for the lowest price. Those cases mentioned in this panel are laughable examples of “rampant fraud.” First, the CDC whistleblower clearly doesn’t seem to understand biostatistics. Tom Verstraeten? He himself explained why the data were analyzed the way they were. Hint: It was to get at the truth and not be confused by confounders. The Merck lawsuit? Let the Skeptical Raptor explain it better than I ever could:

“The heart of this is that there is no evidence that vaccine effectiveness is, in fact, lower than described. In fact, there’s evidence against that.

  • The number of mumps cases is still very low. Before the vaccine, the United States had over 150,000 cases a year. The outbreaks reported now are in the single thousands – the 2006 outbreak had 6500 cases total, and the 2009-2010 about 3500. With respect to the 2014 mumps outbreak, the CDC stated that “from January 1 to August 15, 2014, 965 people in the United States have been reported to have mumps.”

  • There is more than a little evidence suggesting that the problem – if any – with the mumps vaccine is waning immunity, rather than ineffectiveness when given. This evidence includes most of the outbreaks in question occurred on college campuses, i.e. long after immunization and not among school children, which supports waning immunity, rather than initial low effectiveness, as the problem.

  • Other evidence supports the claim of waning immunity as the likely culprit rather than lack of effectiveness.

  • Also, the major textbook, Vaccines, states that “such estimates may also be indicative of waning of immunity, which is not a factor in controlled clinical trials with a relatively short follow-up period.” (See Page 435.)”

Somehow, because the vaccine is less effective in the real world than in the lab, it must all be a conspiracy.

Paul Thorsen? So he stole money and was an author on a paper. So what? There have been plenty of papers written that confirm those paper’s findings. Bringing his actions up is just a way to trick people away from things that bother anti-vaccine activists.

fail_4One of the things that make me laugh about the anti-vaccine crowd is that they think that they’re “free thinkers” just because they go against facts. Going against facts doesn’t make you a “free thinker” or even smarter than anyone else. It just makes you that weird uncle who believes in UFOs, especially when there is plenty of evidence against your claims. What is even more laughable is that whoever created this infographic wants to come off as intelligent when it comes to science and math by writing “…and these U.S. parents statistically have collegial educations”. Statistically what? Significant? Are you trying to write “statistically significant” as in “there is a statistically significant proportion of non-vaccinating parents who are college educated”? So what? Being college educated doesn’t save you from being gullible to anti-vaccine fabricated pseudofacts.

Also, 1.8% may opt out completely from vaccination, but there are plenty of pockets were more than enough opt out of vaccination to bring us below the “not presumed but factual” herd immunity threshold. (Anti-vaccine people with fears of persecution like to deny that herd immunity exists much like Tea Party Conservatives like to deny that CO2 causes global warming.) And those “1000s of credible studies”? Well, search PubMed and you get a few hundred:

Totally not thousands

Totally not thousands

But that’s what anti-vaccine, irrational people do. They inflate the numbers… Or, as you will see, they deflate them as well.

fail_5 fail_6

Notice how in both instances the “fully vaccinated” in outbreaks were in the minority. If you look up a couple of panels, the same people claim that anti-vaccine people are in the minority. Which is it? Proportionally, more anti-vaccine people — or unvaccinated people for whatever reason — will be part of an outbreak. They will represent more than their share of cases. Why? Because they’re not protected.

And that measles graph that supposedly shows that measles was gone before the vaccine? It only shows that deaths from measles were in decline. We got good at keeping people alive over the years. A better, more honest graph is this one:

measles

Cases of measles dropped precipitously when the vaccine was given. When a second dose was recommended in the 70s, the cases dropped to almost nil in the United States. But you won’t see that graph (published all over credible science websites) from anti-vaccine paranoids because it blows their argument out of the water. I mean, what, is it a happy coincidence that the vaccine went to market and cases dropped to nothing? Furthermore, we once thought that measles was done here in the US, but those pockets of unvaccinated people are bringing it back in a roaring fashion.

Pertussis is also one of those things that lack of complete vaccine coverage has brought back. And, no, there are no findings that state that “the unvaccinated are not to blame” or that “pertussis vaccines do not control whooping cough”. This is all cherry-picking findings in studies. Just because there are some outbreaks with vaccinated people in them doesn’t mean that the vaccine is worthless. That’s the Nirvana Fallacy that a lot of these anti-vaccine types live in. They want all vaccinated to be disease-free (any disease) or the vaccines are not to be trusted.

The truth is simple. If you are fully vaccinated, you are less likely to get vaccine-preventable diseases, and, if you do get them, you are less likely to be part of an outbreak. Those two panels up there actually said that, in so many words. Note how in both panels the “fully vaccinated” are in the minority when it comes to cases and cases in outbreaks.

fail_7

Again, almost immediately, the creator of this infographic fails. Chemicals are only toxic at certain concentrations. At the concentrations found in vaccines, they are not toxic. Hell, some of them are downright inert. But these people want you to believe that you are bring injected with Satan’s own semen, it seems. “Live viral agents!” Jesus Christ! The LIVE VIRUS VACCINE is going to have “LIVE VIRAL AGENTS” because that’s how the vaccine works. And those “live viruses” are attenuated to the point that they cannot cause disease.

Then, the recommendation for the flu vaccine is for people 6 months and older, including pregnant women. It’s not just “6 months old & those who are pregnant.” It’s everyone. Thimerosal at the concentrations found in vaccines is safe. And that claim that the injection is not the same as daily contact is a truism. Daily contact with one of these things can kill, whereas vaccines won’t. Shedding? It only happens with certain attenuated virus vaccines, not with killed virus vaccines like injectable influenza, the tetanus-diphtheria-pertussis vaccine, and others. And, again, the live viruses have been attenuated to not cause disease. (Also, the MMR vaccine so feared by Andrew Jeremy Wakefield, though he was working on his own measles vaccine, never had thimerosal in it.) This panel is nothing but lies and fearmongering, plain and simple.

fail_8

Is there something that vaccines don’t cause? Nope, apparently not. Never mind that there is no evidence of most of these things (or that they think that “sequela” is a bad thing). Likely, these people took the package inserts, which must post everything that participants experienced after getting the vaccine in the clinical trials, and ran with it. I also can’t help but notice a couple of things that have not been proven but are talking points by people who sell “natural” supplements to treat these things.

So made this infographic?

fail_9

Ah, yes, Ms. Heather White. She shows up once in a while in anti-vaccine gatherings and blogs to talk about her knowledge of science, which always ends up giving me a chuckle. Ms. White more than likely has no formal training in science, which explains all her misconceptions about vaccines and autism (and thinking that “sequela” is a disease)… And her misunderstanding of numbers.

Ms. White, there are not “thousands” of studies linking autism to vaccines, especially not in a causal way. There are maybe a handful of those, and most are by cranks who’ve chemically castrated autistics and spread far and wide by people who see autism as an excuse to kill a child. And there are not “hundreds of thousands” of children with vaccine injuries. There just aren’t. Just like there are no monsters under your bed.

 

Homeopathy for autism? Negatory!

A friend of mine sent me a story the other day of a group of homeopaths who thought they could go peddle their magical thinking in West Africa and try and treat people with Ebola. I’m happy to say that they were soundly refuted by health authorities and are now left to wander around with their tails between their legs, begging for scraps. To think that you can treat anything with magic is idiotic at best and extremely dangerous at worst.

It’s not just Ebola that these idiots are attempting to treat with homeopathy, of course. They are also trying to treat autism with homeopathy. That really grinds my gears because they, the homeopaths, prey upon unsuspecting parents who are eager for a “cure.” I’m sorry to say this to you, but there is no cure for autism.

Check that. I’m not sorry. I’m glad.

The quicker we accept that autistics are and always will be autistic, the quicker we can move away from quack treatments for it and into what works: occupational therapy, behavioral interventions, accommodations at school and in public places… Acceptance.

Take this crackpot, for example. He read a book on homeopathy, became hooked, and then got a “four year degree” in it. Now he’s offering to consult and treat autism over Skype.

Over effing Skype. I guess he has a problem looking at the people he’s swindling in the eye?

Alright, so he does have a clinic in person:

“I graduated in 2009 & now work full-time as a homeopath. I see people in my clinic in London and over Skype. I also supervise a student clinic, as well as working in one of the homeopathic pharmacies dispensing remedies & giving advice on acute conditions.

I treat a wide range of conditions, but have particular interest in treating children with autism, which I believe to be a reversible condition often caused by toxins (be they from vaccinations, or other medications or sources of heavy-metals).”

Ah, yes, the damned vaccines. It’s always the vaccines.

If you look at his blog, there is nothing there but pure, unadulterated, non-diluted (non-homepathic?) bullshit. He claims that ultrasounds cause autism, without giving much of a citation to his evidence, and dares his readers to take the detox challenge, for a convenient fee, of course.

The more I read about this guy on his blog, the more I began to be convinced that some of his testimonials are not exactly true. For example, this is his experience with an Italian mother whose child he’s treating over Skype:

“There was a clear regression at both 8 & 22 months after he received his childhood vaccines. He went white, floppy and cold after his MMR vaccine at 8 months.”

To the uninitiated — and we are initiated, aren’t we? — this might sound legit. The initiated among us know that you don’t give the MMR under 12 months because the body will not mount an effective immune response. We’d also check the European immunization schedule and find, with no surprise, that the MMR there is given at 12 months in Italy (and most of the European Union). So someone is probably lying in that story.

Big surprise.

Then again, there are plenty of people who do fall for this stuff. After all, our homeopath friend would not be in the business if it weren’t profitable. That’s the reason I teach. It pays well. I wouldn’t do it for free, that’s for sure.

He also has a history of lashing back at his detractors, so we’ll see how he reacts to some “choice” comments I made on his blog. Who knows? He might be reading this blog right now and furiously googling my name to know more about me.

You can find me in Atlanta, bro. *wink*

Before you do contact me, you should look and see what the Advertising Standards Agency has said to homeopaths like you, then decide if you want to continue your game. Read this part with particular care, almost like as if it was written by Hannemann himself:

“Before distributing or submitting a marketing communication for publication, marketers must hold documentary evidence to prove claims that consumers are likely to regard as objective and that are capable of objective substantiation.”

Can you independently prove your magic works, Alan?

Miss me?

You’ve got to give me some credit. I write more often on this blog than “the kid” does on his, and I check/cite my sources. There is more journalism in my pinky finger than in all anti-vax bloggers combined. Yes, combined.

I apologize for not posting more often lately. I’m between jobs and running in and out of cities while working on different projects. But I haven’t forgotten you.

While I come back, go check out check out the blogs over on the “blogroll” on the right.

As far as anti-vaxxers are concerned, I bet they miss me.

Dr. Bob Sears in not anti-vaccine, except when he is, which is pretty much all the time

The last time I wrote about Dr. Bob Sears, pediatrician to the uninitiated, I told you about his anti-vaccine views and his anti-vaccine activism on Facebook. Let me make it clear to you that he is an administrator of an anti-vaccine Facebook page:

PAOAVThe page is titles “Parents and Others Against Vaccines.” If that is not anti-vaccine, I don’t know what is. We rational people have a mole in that group, and that’s how we learned of Dr. Bob Sears’ involvement. Yet it doesn’t take covert action to see his anti-vaccine ways. Dr. Bob Sears does the anti-vaccine thing quite well out in the open:

“IF YOU DIDN’T HATE PAUL OFFIT BEFORE . . .
I typically just ignore my critics. None of them are worth my time or emotional energy, and very few of them have anything scientifically worthwhile to say.
But I’m going to give a shout out to my colleague, Dr. Paul Offit, for his brilliant discussion on How to Handle Questions About Vaccine Safety. Every answer he gives is spot on and completely accurate in every way. I don’t know what I’ve been thinking, questioning vaccine safety. His answers are so complete, so truthful, and so without holes that any doctor who is blessed enough to read it will be thoroughly armed with irrefutable answers, and any parent who questions vaccine safety will be instantly converted to the truth.
I wonder just how many doctors believe the arguments he puts forth in his answers. Part of me hopes that most doctors out there aren’t that stupid. That it’s just a select few who are hard-core party-liners that have lied to themselves for so long that they actually believe this stuff. A few of his laughable highlights include:
“You don’t have to trust pharmaceutical companies.” Trust the side-effect reporting system.
Every year, 18,000 young children somehow, magically, caught hepatitis B every year before the vaccine came into use.
And don’t worry about all the side effects on the package insert – they didn’t really happen (ok, that was MY paraphrase)
And the real doozy: $2.8 billion in compensation to vaccine-injured people isn’t actually for those unfortunate enough to have been injured. It’s all just for lawyers to make money. No one has to prove their case in court, so these awards mean nothing.
Now we can all rest easy and completely vaccinate all of our children, on schedule, without a care in the world. Thanks Dr. Offit for helping us see the light!
Dr. Bob”

The word “hate” is quite strong to throw around lightly against Dr. Paul Offit, pediatrician and vaccine creator, especially when Dr. Offit has received threats against his life for promoting the use of vaccines to prevent horrible death and disease in children. But it’s not like Dr. Bob Sears thinks things through very well, is it?

If you’re initiated, then you recognize the common anti-vaccine techniques that Dr. Bob Sears is using:

  1. Doctors are part of a conspiracy: “That it’s just a select few who are hard-core party-liners that have lied to themselves for so long that they actually believe this stuff.”
  2. Vaccines didn’t save us and maybe vaccines cause the disease they’re intended to prevent: “Every year, 18,000 young children somehow, magically, caught hepatitis B every year before the vaccine came into use.”
  3. If it’s on the package insert, it must be true: “And don’t worry about all the side effects on the package insert – they didn’t really happen (ok, that was MY paraphrase)”
  4. Because money has been paid out with no contest through the vaccine court, then the government must be admitting to something: “$2.8 billion in compensation to vaccine-injured people isn’t actually for those unfortunate enough to have been injured.”

I’m not going to waste MY time in debunking Dr. Bob Sears’ laughable assertions. A physician who should know better, and one who lets one of his patients kick off a measles epidemic then lies (or forgets) about it is not worth anyone’s time. Even worse when they pose for a happy time picture with one of the most disgraced medical frauds in recent memory known as Andrew Jeremy Wakefield:

BFFs? (Dr. Bob Sears on the left, Andrew Jeremy Wakefield in the center)

What I see here is a clear example of professional jealousy. I’ll explain.

  • Dr. Paul Offit was part of a team who created a vaccine against Rotavirus, a virus that causes diarrhea and kills thousands of children a year around the world. Because of that vaccine, thousands of children have been saved. Thousands! Dr. Bob Sears, on the other hand, has not done such a thing and resorts to ad hominem attacks on social media to try and counter Dr. Offit’s credibility.
  • Dr. Paul Offit works at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, a premier pediatric medicine institution. Dr. Bob Sears does not, and I’m willing to bet a month’s salary that Dr. Bob Sears could never get a job there, or anywhere where they take infectious disease of children seriously. What’s worse than an anti-vaccine pediatrician? Polio. Polio is worse.
  • Dr. Paul Offit could be living it up right now from the profits of the vaccine he helped create. Instead, he has given up all financial interests in that patent. He doesn’t make money from it. On the other hand, you know who makes money from vaccines? Dr. Bob Sears. Why? Because of his modified schedule, Dr. Bob Sears’ patients who want to “space out” their vaccines (a variation of the “too many too soon” anti-vaccine gambit) more than likely have to pay for each visit to his medical practice, or to the practice of their choice. Or, what, Dr. Bob Sears vaccinates for free? Besides, less (or no) vaccines mean sicker children, and those sick children go see pediatricians like Dr. Bob Sears.
  • Dr. Paul Offit has had dozens of peer-reviewed journal articles published. That’s a big deal if you want to call yourself an expert on something. You have to prove it in your research and your peers have to review and agree with you. Dr. Bob Sears? Not so much. I mean, he has sold hundred of thousands of copies of his anti-vaccine book, so…

One of the things I used to do in high school to impress “Pedro” (not her real name) was to act like I knew more than I did and did more than I did. Whenever some other suitor came around, I’d tell Pedro all about how the suitor was this or that. In essence, I talked smack. Then I turned 17 and realized that the true way to win a competition is to actually compete. With all the jealousy and “hate” that Dr. Bob Sears has against Dr. Paul Offit, one has to wonder about Dr. Bob Sears’ mental age. Is he trying to impress a girl or just the legion of anti-vaccine followers he has?

But, hey, I could be wrong. This could all be a misunderstanding and Dr. Bob Sears is not really anti-vaccine and doesn’t really administrate the Facebook group whose admin page links directly to his Facebook profile (something he would have had to approve of). If it is, I’d like to hear his side of the story.

What do you say, “Bob”?

Another dead autistic child killed by his mother

I’m writing this with tears in my eyes. My tears are from frustration and from a form of anger and, dare I say, hate that I feel toward certain people at this moment. I just read about yet another autistic child killed by his mother. This time, the mother (allegedly) threw the child off a bridge.

OFF A GODDAMNED BRIDGE.

Previous murders, and attempted murders, have been just as horrifying, but this one strikes me as particularly horrible because of the manner of death of the child. The child, who was a living, breathing human being with conciousness and self-awareness, who felt joy over seeing his parents reunited, was thrown off a bridge to his death in the river below. That takes planning. That takes time. His mother (allegedly) took him up to the bridge and then launched him to his death.

What was the child thinking? When he was dropping to the river, what were his thoughts?

I find myself begging and pleading to any higher authority in this universe that the child had no idea what was going on, and that his death was immediate upon hitting the water. That is the only kind of “fairness” I’d ask of God or a god.

My frustration grows even more when I realize that the Autism “false prophets” will likely use this tragic crime to bring attention to themselves and their pet projects and not to the thousands of autistic (and other special needs) children who need us to not waste money and time on chasing false causes of autism and funding false cures. Can you imagine if the money spent to buy congresspeople was donated to the family in question? That child would have likely not been killed like that.

My sadness only multiplies when I see so many parents blindly following Andrew Jeremy Wakefield and BS Hooker into the abyss.

The difference between them and us

I was talking to an anti-vaccine activist the other day, and she said that scientists, doctors, and anyone else who believed in the science of vaccines were “blindly devoted to the religion of vaccines.” I almost laughed in her face, but I was trying to be civil. After all, the woman had ventured into an institution of higher knowledge to have this debate. She was like a fish out of water as it was clear that she had no formal training in science, and she admitted to those present that she knew all she needed to know through her experience of being a mother of a child with autism.

I’ve never been tossed an easier softball for me to hit out of the park, but I just sat there and listened to what she had to say. She began her tale by telling us about her “stolen” child and how that child is now 5 and starting kindergarten. (More on how weird that sounded in a little big.) According to her recollection, her child was developing perfectly normal until he got his MMR vaccine at one year of age. It took her child two months before he started walking when most kids walk at 12 months, she said. Surely, it was the MMR vaccine that caused that delay.

She repeated other things we’ve heard from anti-vaccine activists. Her child cried for days and days until she took him to the doctor. Her child didn’t look her in the eyes. Her child watches television for hours during the day and can’t fall asleep unless she gives him an iPad to play with. Oh, and her child has allergies against everything and anything that she feeds him. She now feeds him nothing but organic chicken and vegetables. Anything else and he develops nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation… Both? Yes, she said he gets both at the same time.

But her child is 5 and in kindergarten, but is somehow “stolen”? Again, all softballs, but I didn’t bite. None of us did. It wasn’t a fight we wanted to have.

She ended her presentation to us with a set of slides about the so-called “CDC Whistleblower” and the “cover-up” of data. In her conclusion, she asked us to be “skeptical” of those who are “blindly devoted to the religion of science” and to check out the information from the National Vaccine Information Center, an anti-vaccine group that wants to feed children anti-vaccine candy this Halloween. The woman then asked for any questions, and I couldn’t resist.

“Did you read the Wakefield paper from 1998?” I asked. After a brief pause, and after seeing that I pulled out the paper, she said that she did not. “In it,” I said, “the authors conclude that there is no association between autism and enterolytic colitis.” The expression on her face changed from amusement to anger in three seconds flat. I continued, “You told us not to trust those who blindly follow science, but what about those who blindly follow Andrew Wakefield’s…”

“DOCTOR Wakefield,” she interrupted.

“Andrew Wakefield’s ‘gut feelings’,” I said. “Are gut feelings better to follow than evidence?”

“Give me that,” she said as she reached for the now-retracted Wakefield paper. She scanned the paper to the part where I had highlighted the conclusion:

“We did not prove an association between measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine and the syndrome described. Virological studies are underway that may help to resolve this issue”

The woman exploded into a barrage of accusations about me altering the paper (denial), telling me that she hated people like me who had “taken away” her child (anger), stating that if only follow-up studies to Wakefield’s were done so we all would know the truth (they were done, and also, bargaining), and then tears started rolling down her eyes (depression).

If the words in parentheses look familiar to you, it’s because they’re 4 of the 5 stages of grief. The only stage she did not display was acceptance. The woman was quiet and sitting, holding the paper between her hands, sobbing. The host thanked her for being here and we filed out of the room.

I felt like a jackass for making a woman cry. Women crying get me upset, and I honestly wanted nothing but to hug the woman and tell her that everything was going to be okay. But I think she would have completely snapped.

The difference between them and us, people who believe in anti-vaccine theories and us who don’t, is that we take the time to review the literature. We cross all the T’s and dot all the I’s. Because, in our world, being proven wrong or having someone find out that we lied or altered the data is the equivalent of social death. Just ask Wakefield, and, now, BS Hooker. They are pariahs who have either altered the data or failed to present it in an honest fashion. They may even be lying when they say that there was a “cover up” by CDC. Mark my words when I tell you that neither will ever be taken seriously by people who make policy decisions about vaccines and/or autism. And the people who follow them? Those people will never be taken seriously and be challenged on their assertions because they don’t read the papers, don’t do the homework, and don’t take the tests.

I’d like to thank the person who organized that meeting. They went to great lengths to get the woman in question to give the presentation to a group of us in northern Virginia. And that woman, if you are reading this, please know that we did not intend to deceive you into looking so foolish. You did that all on your own, and I hope you see things for what they are and not what groups like NVIC want you to believe.