Look to your left, Mr. Bateson

It has always been very funny to me that anti-vaccine types who believe, desperately, that thimerosal causes autism (because mercury) are quick to blame the MMR vaccine for autism as well. MMR never had thimerosal in it, so it must be that it causes autism some other way. Anti-vaccine activists bend over backwards to find evidence that fits their theory, not the other way around. One such piece of work is Tony Bateson, he’s been looking for autistic children who are unvaccinated:

“WIth Britain’s annual birth rate of 600,000 upwards this meant that 60,000 a year for forty years, 2.4 millions may not have had paediatric vaccines! Astonishing then that I could not find even a handful of unvaccinated people who were autistic out of that vast pool.”

He reiterates this demand for unvaccinated autistic children in comments on science blogs:

“Of coourse it is extremely difficult to find an environmental cause for autism when an enormous barrage of dollars is directed towards frustrating that search. For my small part I have relentlessly searched for autistic people who are not vaccinated without ever finding one who is unequivocally so. I do not mean just amongst my neighboours and acquaintances I mean amongst hundreds of autistic families I know (I was Vice Chairman of the UK National Autistic Society and knew hundreds) and as a prolific writer, broadcaster and website owner, I made contact with thousands. Just where are the unvaccinated?”

And here:

“Autism is decidely not congenital. Autism is not present in unvaccinated peoples nor in the unvaccinated population of the UK.”

Such conviction to his beliefs. He must truly believe it.

And on Left Brain / Right Brain:

“For heavens sake where do they all come from? Look it is simple – there are no autistic people in populations where there has been no vaccination! Over three million kids have not been vaccinated in the UK where vaccination is optional and parents have chosen not to vaccinate. More than ten years of aggressive searching in this group has failed to find autistic people! Like the Amish, like Homefirst there are no autistic people in this group.

Let the vaccine lobby explain what the prevalence of autism is in unvaccinated groups. That is the only evidence worth having. Wake up America.”

The only person who needs to wake up is Mr. Bateson. He writes for Age of Autism, right? Kim Stagliano, who writes and is an editor at AoA has a child who is not vaccinated and is autistic. So, there you go, Mr. Bateson, that’s one. Shall we continue?

One of the reasons why we scientists and reasonable people can say without a doubt that autism is not caused by vaccines is because we’ve compared rates of autism in vaccinated and unvaccinated populations. To do so, we required to find unvaccinated with autism, otherwise we wouldn’t have a rate of autism in that population. (Zero divided by any number throws out an error in any statistical package… And in math, you cannot divide zero.) Mr. Bateson could go to any of those researchers, email them, and just ask for the numbers of unvaccinated autistics. In a perfect world, the fool would just pick up those papers and look at the tables.

But that would be a reality-shattering proposition for him, I suppose. Like any other anti-vaccine activist, he comes off at the kind of person who would crumble into a heap of goo at the sight of evidence conflicting with his reality.

The Weirdo John Stone from Age of Autism agrees that thimerosal is not toxic

You know what I love about John Stone, the resident weirdo at Age of Autism? I love that he thinks he knows science then posts something that he thinks agrees with him when it clearly doesn’t. For example, here is a comment of his in which he thinks that the idea that methylmercury is just as bad as ethylmercury:

“The person who doesn’t do science is Mr Kluger. Here we are from 2013:

J Appl Toxicol. 2013 Aug;33(8):700-11. doi: 10.1002/jat.2855. Epub 2013 Feb 11.
Toxicity of ethylmercury (and Thimerosal): a comparison with methylmercury.
Dórea JG1, Farina M, Rocha JB.
Author information
Abstract

Ethylmercury (etHg) is derived from the metabolism of thimerosal (o-carboxyphenyl-thio-ethyl-sodium salt), which is the most widely used form of organic mercury. Because of its application as a vaccine preservative, almost every human and animal (domestic and farmed) that has been immunized with thimerosal-containing vaccines has been exposed to etHg. Although methylmercury (meHg) is considered a hazardous substance that is to be avoided even at small levels when consumed in foods such as seafood and rice (in Asia), the World Health Organization considers small doses of thimerosal safe regardless of multiple/repetitive exposures to vaccines that are predominantly taken during pregnancy or infancy. We have reviewed in vitro and in vivo studies that compare the toxicological parameters among etHg and other forms of mercury (predominantly meHg) to assess their relative toxicities and potential to cause cumulative insults. In vitro studies comparing etHg with meHg demonstrate equivalent measured outcomes for cardiovascular, neural and immune cells. However, under in vivo conditions, evidence indicates a distinct toxicokinetic profile between meHg and etHg, favoring a shorter blood half-life, attendant compartment distribution and the elimination of etHg compared with meHg. EtHg’s toxicity profile is different from that of meHg, leading to different exposure and toxicity risks. Therefore, in real-life scenarios, a simultaneous exposure to both etHg and meHg might result in enhanced neurotoxic effects in developing mammals. However, our knowledge on this subject is still incomplete, and studies are required to address the predictability of the additive or synergic toxicological effects of etHg and meHg (or other neurotoxicants).

Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.”

All bolding is mine, by the way.

I’ve told you before that in vitro (in a lab) is different than in vivo (in an actual organism), and this supports it. But, in the weirdo’s crazy little world, this one study is the Holy Grail of comparing ethyl mercury to methyl mercury. Why? I have no clue. This study confirms that biological systems are more complex than cells in a petri dish, and that we react differently to the ethyl mercury that thimerosal metabolizes into. In essence, we don’t get hurt or become autistic, like anti-vaccine activists and weirdos might want us to believe.

So thank you, John Stone of Age of Autism, for confirming this for us.

john_stone_aoa_toxicity

What does autism look like?

If you asked me what a child with Down syndrome looks like, I would probably tell you that the child has slanted eyes, a small chin, flat and wide face, a short neck, and extra space between the first and second toe. (I got this from Wikipedia, by the way.) These physical characteristics come from the extra chromosome found in people with Down syndrome. The same can be said for people with other disorders and conditions that affect both body and mind. But what does autism look like?

Well, if you ask Lyn Redwood, vice-president of SafeMinds (and anti-vaccine group that pushes the thimerosal-autism pseudoconnection), a child with autism looks like a child with mercury poisoning. Why? Because her child looked just like a child with mercury poisoning, and her child (according to her) is autistic because of vaccines:

“When he was born, my son weighed close to 9 lbs. He was a happy baby who ate and slept well, smiled, cooed, walked, and talked all by one year. But shortly after his first birthday, my son began to regress physically and developmentally, losing speech, eye contact, and social interactions. He no longer slept through the night and suddenly refused to eat foods that he had previously enjoyed, gagging and spitting them out… I am a nurse. My husband is a doctor. We would have never made a correlation between our son’s illnesses and vaccines. But in July 1999 I read that a preservative, thimerosal, utilized in some infant vaccines actually contained 49.6% ethylmercury… I quickly pulled out the thick file containing my son’s medical records. My worst fears were confirmed. All of my son’s early vaccines had contained thimerosal.”

She follows up with a picture of her child and a picture of a child with mercury poisoning. Go look at the post (or the picture) yourself if you want to see it. It’s not for scientific or educational purposes, so I refuse to violate the child’s privacy by posting his pictures openly online. She continues the post with a gross misunderstanding of pharmacokinetics, immunology, and toxicology. Frankly, if I were part of the graduating class that put forth this nurse, I’d be embarrassed.

All of her son’s vaccines had thimerosal? MMR and other live-virus vaccines don’t have thimerosal. Did the child not receive those? But I digress…

What really grinds my gears is that she is trying to convince her readers that her child has mercury poisoning because he looks like a mercury-poisoned child. To me, her child looks sleepy (and annoyed) more than suffering from mercury poisoning. Go and Google “sleepy face” and tell me if those are all mercury poisoned people. Is that what autism looks like? Not at all. Autistic children look all sorts of ways, and you’d be hard-pressed to identify an autistic child out of a line-up on physical traits alone.

Lyn finishes with this bit:

“When you talk with your representatives, please encourage them to pass legislation mandating the removal of mercury from all medical products and to put an end to this madness once and for all. And, finally, we need you to be savvy consumers and to just say no to any medical products, including vaccines, which contain mercury. I’ll be writing more about what you need to know about mercury in prescription drugs in the coming weeks, so check back soon. The pharmaceutical industry must heed our call. The government must start paying attention and start protecting our children. This should be a no-brainer. How could anyone possibly justify injecting mercury into a pregnant woman or small children? It’s time for the government to do its job. We need to stop putting poison in our children.”

Oh, good, I’ll have more to blog about.

What does God know about vaccines?

I don’t like to discuss religion. I don’t like to discuss the existence of nature of a god or the God. Those are all philosophical things that have no place in scientific discourse and, in non-scientific discourse, usually end up getting us all up in arms about this or that. However, we need to acknowledge that an enormous proportion of us humans believe in God or gods, or, at the very least, believe that we are not in charge of our destinies, at least not 100% percent.

There are times when anti-vaccine and anti-science types try to use religion as a way to promote their ideas. Take for example this post by “Megan“. Megan’s about page reads like something out of a quack’s dream:

“I have a degree in Political Science, a law degree, and am a Naturopath, Certified Natural Health Educator, Registered Power Yoga Instructor, writer, and stay-at-home mama. My better-half holds a biology degree, chemistry minor, is a Family Practice Physician, and is a Captain in the United States Air Force. Together we have four kids under three; and yes, we plan to have more.”

Four kids under three?! I’m not a mathematician, but that’s more than one kid per year. Get a hobby, you two.

Oh, and get a clue. Her “better-half” has those degrees but is a “Family Practice Physician”? Either Megan forgot to mention the “doctor of medicine” or “doctor of osteopathic medicine” degree, or we have some shenanigans going on here. I’m inclined to call shenanigans because she goes on and write:

“We eat a gluten, dairy, meat, sugar, and genetically modified free diet; yet, our food still tastes good!”

Nothing genetically modified? I didn’t know people could live on sunshine alone. Apparently, people do. (Of course they don’t.)

Megan goes on:

“We do not vaccinate. We do not medicate… We advocate natural medicine in most situations.”

Which is it, Megan? Do you medicate or not? To me, Megan reads like a Poe. I ran her profile by several rational people, and we agree that it doesn’t make sense. Her husband is a physician but they don’t medicate? Does he medicate his patients? If so, he’s a hypocrite. He’s in the Air Force but they don’t vaccinate? I know first-hand that the military does not ask you if you want to be vaccinated. You kind of just get vaccinated, even against smallpox. So, yeah, hypocrisy again. Furthermore, Megan is a naturopath, and all those other things, but:

“I became interested in natural medicine six years ago when I was hospitalized and diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. Determined to avoid drugs, surgeries, and horrible side-effects I sought alternative therapies and a major lifestyle change; and it worked. I no longer have Crohn’s disease and have been symptom and medication free since. I’ve also recovered from candida, hashimotos thyroiditis, liver disease, gastroparesis, kidney infections, adrenal insufficiency, pituitary hypo function, polycystic ovary syndrome, a horrible skin condition, weight problems, hypoglycemia, dysthymic and postpartum depression, infertility, and more…naturally.”

Holy shit. Pardon my French. People that list these many conditions are what we call “train wrecks” and there usually is a strong psychogenic component to being so sick.

Finally:

“[Her website] is meant to build-up, empower, and encourage you to channel your inner crunch.”

Your inner crunch? I can’t… I JUST CAN’T, OKAY?!

Anyway, I just took ten minutes to myself to relax and be able to write about Megan’s post on how God doesn’t like vaccines. She begins:

“Christians, we need to talk. If you are not a Christian, this post is not for you.”

Because, you know, Jesus only preached to Christians.

“No judgment here, but I need to speak to my Jesus peeps. You see, there’s this little thing called a religious exemption, and it’s being threatened.”

No judgment, then proceeds to judge. More hypocrisy. The whole post is full of it. She goes on to write about religious exemptions and how they’re being done away with a little at a time. Like all of that is a bad thing.

“Then there’s the propaganda by religious leaders geared towards people like us. If your pastor says it’s okay…then it must be okay right? No…because your pastor isn’t Jesus and probably hasn’t read the vaccine inserts or additives list.”

But guess who is about to pretend she’s Jesus (or knows as much as Jesus)? You got it…

“We actually think “we” hold the key to improving upon His design… as if He forgot something when He created the immune system.”

Well, it’s not so much that God forgot. It’s more like He dropped us into a world filled with pathogens, many of them deadly. The immune system can only take so much. If the immune system was perfect, then we wouldn’t get sick at all. Heck, if God really wanted to cover all the bases, he would have just done away with pathogens.

I know. I know. I can feel the atheists rolling their eyes. But that post is not for you, remember? So humor me.

“God is pro-life. This is an un-contested issue. There is zero scriptural support to the contrary.”

There is also zero scriptural support to rejecting vaccines.

“If you’re a Christian, you might be surprised to know that more than 23 vaccines contain cells, cellular debris, protein, and DNA from aborted babies, including: Adenovirus, Polio, Dtap/Polio/HiB Combo, Hep A, Hep A/Hep B Combo, MMR, MMRV Pro Quad, Rabies, Varicella, and the Shingles vaccines.”

I know for a fact that scripture warns against lying, Megan. There are no fetal cells from “aborted babies” in vaccines. The viruses that are used to create the vaccines are grown in cell cultures. Those cell cultures are derived from other cells. Those other cells are derived from even other cells, and so on all the way back to, like, the 1960s. As someone with so much education, Megan, you and your husband should realize the amount of bullshit you’re spreading. As a Christian, you should be pretty much afraid of eternal damnation right now.

“First of all, sacrificing the few for the many is biblically unjustifiable.”

Like Jesus’ sacrifice for the world? Like the flood, in which the world was sacrificed for Noah et al to repopulate the Earth? Like Samson sacrificed himself by taking down the pillars? No, nothing in the Bible about sacrifice.

“In fact, aborted babies are being used everyday to create new cell lines for more vaccines.”

Lies.

“It’s true… most Christians don’t question vaccinations and haven’t thought about God’s take on the issue. I used to be one of them. Regardless of your denomination, we all serve the same God, and God does not support vaccines.”

Well, all we have to do is ask God to get rid of vaccines or vaccine-preventable diseases. After all, it states in the Bible that He will answer our prayers, right, Megan?

Perusing through the rest of Megan’s blog, I came to the conclusion that she is, indeed, a big hypocrite. She used a verse from the Bible about how blood is supposed to remain pure and not contaminated, not even with other human blood, but then she writes this on a post appropriately titled “Everyone Needs a Good Quack Doctor“:

“I’m not anti-modern medicine. I think prosthetics and organ transplants and the doctors who help us pick up the pieces from our poor lifestyle choices and sew our legs back on after car accidents are great.”

Ah, so Megan hypocritically tells us that “contaminating” our bodies with organs from another human is okay, but God forbid we get cells into us through vaccines.

Finally, Megan concludes with this enormous lie:

“Modern medicine is an epic fail; and to be honest, the medical community that claims to be ahead of the game is so far behind the curve it’s not even funny. Consider this, we haven’t a single cure for any chronic disease, nor do we know (or acknowledge) the causes either.”

So there’s no cure for diabetes? We don’t know that diabetes is caused by overweight and obesity or pancreatic failure? We don’t know that losing weight or going on a diet cures it? We have ignored that insulin and other drugs control blood glucose to the point that diabetes can be cured?

Nah, we don’t know nothing about none of that.

So I’m calling shenanigans. In my opinion, based on her screeds, Megan is not any of the things she claims to be, not even a Christian. A true Christian, as devout as she claims to be, would be afraid of lying so much. I think she’s a plant to try and bring out the crazy in her readers.

I think she’s a troll. I think she’s Craig Egan.

Just in case there was any doubt

Ren wrote a great post on his blog the other day on what makes an epidemiologist. He didn’t mention The Kid (a.k.a. Jake Crosby) by name, but I’m pretty sure that’s who Ren was talking about. It seems that Jake Crosby, on account of having earned a Master of Public Health degree from the George Washington University, fancies himself an epidemiologist. I agree with Ren that people like Jake Crosby are not and never will be epidemiologists. Jake Crosby is not an epidemiologist because he does not work as one — to the best of my knowledge — and, most importantly, he is not an epidemiologist because he believes that vaccines should be eliminated altogether. Anyone with an ounce of decency and common sense in their bodies would not call for the end of something that has saved countless lives.

Just in case there was any doubt of his stance on vaccines, on his blog, this is what Jake Crosby wrote when one of his readers suggested that we (humanity) vaccinate no more:

end_vaccines_comment

The book in question is a new book by RFK Jr. about vaccines and neurodevelopmental disorders. As you can see, Jake Crosby and his reader appear to have developed a macropapular rash when the book is quoted as lauding vaccines for the “achievement in medical science” that they are. “That ingredient” is thimerosal, a compound that contains mercury but is touted as being nothing but mercury by people like Jake Crosby and others. Jake Crosby is apparently angry because one of his (apparently former) idols, Robert Kennedy Jr., is promoting a book about thimerosal causing, among other things, autism but doesn’t go as far as to call for the end of vaccines.

There was a time, way back when, when I would have given Jake Crosby the benefit of the doubt and chalked his anti-vaccine screeds to him just being fed anti-vaccine lies by his friends at Age of Autism. Today, Jake Crosby is an adult who has attended a four-year college and a two-year master’s degree, has been given all the tools of epidemiology to use, has been given all the evidence when it comes to vaccines, and he still calls for the elimination of the vaccine program. How he can classify himself as an epidemiologist after writing those things is beyond me, and beyond reason.

I think Ren went lightly on Jake Crosby’s antics. Me? Not so much. Jake Crosby will never be an epidemiologist because epidemiologists read the evidence and come to the reasonable and proper conclusions. They don’t see monsters under the bed or chase windmills. They don’t call for the elimination of the vaccine program and thus, in essence, call for the return of diseases that would kill thousands upon thousands of children worldwide every day. It’s par for the course for anti-vaccine types, however.

One physician comes back from the dark side, sort of, while another goes over, kinda

Remember that “pediatrician to the stars” that I mentioned to you a while back? The one that has his doubts about vaccines and has even used “The Brady Bunch” as his basis for the severity of mumps? He’s (probably) coming back from the dark side. He posted this summary on his blog of a study on the safety of vaccines. Is he coming back? Is he going to stop it with the questioning of the evidence of the safety of vaccines?

We’ll see. We’ll see.

On the other hand, we have this article from this physician about mandatory influenza vaccination of healthcare workers. Unfortunately, she hits a lot of the anti-vaccine talking points in her disagreement with hospitals’ policies on having their employees vaccinated against the flu:

“But I choose to take the flu vaccine realizing that the vaccine won’t necessarily protect me against all the different strains of the flu virus, and knowing too that I could suffer severe side effects.”

Ah, the “severe” side effects of the flu. You’ve probably heard about them and how “common” they are. (They’re not that common, and they’re not that severe.) The worst side effect from a flu vaccine in terms of mortality is Guillain-Barré Syndrome. It can be very severe and life-threatening, but you can also get it from a viral infection alone. This leads us to believe that it’s not the vaccine, per se, but the immune response to viral infection.

The article continues:

“I’ve always agreed with the general recommendation that people who work in health care should be vaccinated against the flu, but that still needs to be a personal decision, not a government mandate. Each person has individual responsibility to make decisions about safety issues of all kinds — whether or not to smoke, to eat that second piece of cake, to get the tires checked on the car before the road trip. While we acknowledge that bad decisions may put others at risk to a greater or lesser degree, in America we still believe that personal decisions are just that: personal.”

This is the “freedom gambit.” On its face, it makes sense that it’s up to us whether or not to make the decision to be safe. In this case, we’re not making a decision to be safe for ourselves. This is a decision that also affects the safety of others, i.e. the patients. Equate this to washing your hands. It’s your decision, but woe be unto you if you don’t wash your hands in a healthcare setting. You’re placing in jeopardy your safety and that of your patients. I’d say to Dr. Sibert that people who work in healthcare chose to be in a profession where their “freedom” can very well kill people. If she, or others in healthcare, cannot deal with that, they’re more than welcome to exercise their freedom in other professions.

She adds:

“If I should become ill with a strain of influenza that hasn’t been covered by this year’s vaccine, since I’ve been vaccinated I don’t have to wear a mask though I could be quite contagious for at least a day before I develop overt symptoms.”

Well, now we have a quadrivalent vaccine, Dr. Seibert, so you can take that to further reduce this theoretical situation of yours from happening. I mean, the odds of it happening are pretty low already because the way we select the strains to go into the vaccine have been very good for the Type A (and more severe) strains. The type B selection was tricky, I’ll admit it, but the quadrivalent vaccine takes care of it.

Issues of vaccine effectiveness aside, this argument of hers that there maybe, possibly, probably, in some weird situation be a strain that is not covered is hogwash. If there was some big problem with the vaccine not covering a strain, we epidemiologists would make it known to her and her colleagues so that everyone exercises the proper precautions at all times.

And then this:

“No hospital (to my knowledge) is requiring patients’ visitors and families to provide evidence of flu vaccination or wear masks, though they go in and out of patient care areas at will. If we are really to be logical and scientific about flu transmission, either we all should wear masks or none of us should bother.”

Wow! Just, wow! Replace masks with “hand washing” and see where she goes off the deep end on her argument. “None of us should bother?” Excuse me, doc, with all due respect, YOU CHOSE THIS PROFESSION. You also come into contact in a more direct way with a lot more patients that a visitor. And, if you look into isolation precautions, you’ll note that visitors to patient areas where there are severely sick and immune-compromised people are required to wear masks and gowns and gloves. You should have really consulted with your facility’s infection preventionist. You really should have.

Finally:

“Many of us in clinical health care have good reason to resent the obvious HIPAA violation that is taking place when health care workers are required to divulge whether or not they’ve been vaccinated against this year’s most likely influenza strains. Apparently, HIPAA only applies to some patients, not to all.”

What? Yeah, so her whole argument is that her private and protected medical information is being divulged to the public when she is required to either wear a badge that states she’s been vaccinated or wear a mask if she refuses to be vaccinated. You’ve probably seen this anti-vaccine argument before. It stems from the “sacred and impenetrable” relationship between a provider and their patient. However, there are two things at work here. Number one, she is not a patient. Whether or not she is vaccinated is not between her an a healthcare provider. It’s between her and her employer. And, number two, exclusions to HIPAA are allowed in matters of public health (as this so obviously is) and when the information needs to be divulged in order to operate the hospital in a better way. What do you think we, the public, think when we see someone with a cast over their arm? We think that they broke it. No HIPAA violation there. Why is it a HIPAA violation if we see your badge (if you got vaccinated) or your mask (if you’re not)?

If you feel like it, go read the article yourself, but, if you want to keep your sanity, stay away from the comments section. There’s even more anti-vaccine insanity there.

Autism is like Alzheimer’s?

Think about that for a little bit.

Done?

The same people who tell us time and time again that death is better than autism is now telling us that autism is like Alzheimer’s disease. Sure, they slapped on the qualifier “4 many,” but how much is many? Too many, sadly.

Do I need to compare and contrast these two things? I hope not.