Barb Loe Fischer Is Using Truisms to Get You to Not Vaccinate

Yeah, yeah. I don’t name people by name, but this one deserves to. Barbara Loe Fischer is one of the architects behind the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act back in the 1980’s. When the whole thing backfired on her anti-vaccine views, because so many cases which required only 50% plus a feather of evidence and not a preponderance of evidence didn’t show vaccine injuries whatsoever, she and her friends became the leading advocates of trying to go back to a system where the lawyers get all the money and the parents who are led to believe their children were injured by vaccines are left holding the bag.

And the bag is empty, by the way.

Before I go any further, let me explain to you a bit of logic. Did you know that antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria are most often seen in people who take antibiotics? This is because the antibiotics take out the antibiotic-susceptible bacteria, so all that is left for them to catch are the resistant strains. Makes sense, right?

Well, not if you’re an anti-vaccine zealot. In antivax world, the antibiotics are what causes the resistant strains to be identified in the people who take them. In antivax world, people shouldn’t take antibiotics and that will remedy the whole thing. Or, at least, that’s what I get from this idiotic image that Barbara posted on her Twitter account:

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See the lapse in logic? Of course vaccinated persons are going to have the vaccine-resistant strains more often… BECAUSE THEY DON’T GET THE VACCINE-SUSCEPTIBLE STRAIN. And, because of this flawed logic, Barbara and the National Vaccine disInformation Centre are quick to tell you that the pertussis vaccine is bad. This is typical behavior for anti-vaccine nuts. They conflate an association with a causation.

Now, notice that they don’t tell you the actual numbers. More often? Does that mean one more case? Two more? 10%? 100% more? Nope, they just tease you with a number in order to get you to look. If they spread this lie enough, they might get one person to believe them and avoid getting vaccinated… Which is one person too many.

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Our Military Families Deserve Better Than Dr. Bob Sears

You remember Dr. Bob Sears? He is one of our Douchebags of the Year, and, hence, one of our Douchebags Emerit-Ass. He’s been put on probation by the California Medical Board for, according to the LA Times:

“Sears found himself in hot water because, according to the medical board, he wrote a vaccine exemption for a young boy without obtaining even basic medical information, such as the child’s history of vaccines. He took the boy’s mother at her word when she said her son lost urinary function and went limp in response to previous immunizations, according to the filing.”

Remember that this is the same Dr. Bob Sears who denied ever talking to a writer about a measles outbreak being started by one of his patients, when there were recordings of the conversation as part of Seth Mnookin writing a book. The same Dr. Bob Sears who admitted to just making up his “alternative vaccine schedule” without any science. I mean, seriously, why haven’t we re-nominated him to be Douchebag of the Year again?

As it turns out, Tricare, the health insurance that handles healthcare payments for military members and their families (if they go outside the VA system), doesn’t like physicians who run afoul of the standard of care. And we don’t blame them. Would you spend money on someone who’s so seemingly anti-vaccine? (And that wasn’t the only thing Dr. Bob Sears did that got him in trouble.)

Of course you wouldn’t.

We’re guessing that Dr. Bob Sears doesn’t have a personal mental health counselor because it seems that he takes to Facebook to work things out in his head, and get a lot of loving attention from his anti-vaccine followers. And that’s just what he did when Tricare decided to not pay for his care anymore.

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Somebody call the whaaaaaaaambulance!

You know what? Good! Military families already sacrifice enough without this douchebag placing them at risk of vaccine-preventable infections just by having them in his waiting room. Physicians like Dr. Bob Sears who flaunt making up vaccine recommendations, give out unjustified vaccine exemptions, fail to properly assess the health status of a child after said child gets hit by a hammer, and acts like such a pompous douche do not deserve the privilege to serve as physicians to anyone, let alone children of military parents.

“With Love and Prayers”? People of real Faith don’t lie, Dr. Bob Sears.

Douchebags do.

No, Vaccination Is Not Rape, Assault, or Murder

I’ve got to give it to the anti-vaccine zealots. They know how to tie anything happening anywhere in the world to their cause. A few years ago, when First Lady Michelle Obama posted a picture of herself holding a sign that stated “#BringBackOurGirls” in protest for the abduction of female students in Nigeria, the anti-vaccine activists were quick to act.

This is the original picture:

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And here’s what those weirdos did:

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We’ve written before that autism is nothing like actually losing a child. But too many anti-vaccine types are horrified at the prospect of having to raise an autistic child that, instead of walking away, they try to blame on anyone and anything that fits a pseudo-scientific framework and justifies their anger over a perceived harm. There is no social justice movement that they have not tried to highjack.

They even tried to convince Black communities that they were at higher risk of autism from vaccines.

The latest social movement being attacked by these strange people is the #MeToo movement. In case you’ve been living under a rock, the #MeToo movement is a social justice movement led by women who are bringing to light the fact an unacceptable number of women are harassed and/or sexually assaulted, and that they are not heard by social and/or legal authorities… Or they decide not to say anything because they know they will not be heard.

This movement has taken up the #BelieveHer or #BelieveWomen hashtags on social media after the revelations by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford that Supreme Court Nominee Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were in high school. Dr. Ford didn’t tell anyone then about her attack becase, like too many women, the fear and the lack of social acceptance to her being in a house with boys where alcohol was consumed prevented her from going to anyone for help. It wouldn’t be until she was an adult that she started to deal with her assault. When she saw that Judge Kavanaugh was nominated to a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court, she spoke up.

Since then, the #BelieveWomen movement has been active in raising awareness that women’s testimonies about their experiences with sexual harassment and assault deserve — at the very least — to be listened to and that the benefit of the doubt needs to be given to them so that all women can feel comfortable in coming forward and seeking justice. Otherwise, as is often the case with impunity, these kinds of assaults will keep on happening.

Well, the anti-vaccine jerks don’t see it quite that way.

Ginger “The Ging” Taylor, a well-known but not exactly well-respected anti-vaccine advocate published a tremendously stupid essay over at Age of Autism (go find it yourself since I won’t be linking to them and giving them the clicks they desperately need). In it, she compares herself to the female victims of sexual abuse… Or, rather, she compares the lack of belief by reasonable people in her stories about vaccines causing autism to the lack of belief by biased people in testimony about sexual crimes.

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The big problem with her argument (like all of her anti-vaccine arguments) is that people who have claimed that vaccines cause autism have actually been heard. They’ve been heard to the point where we’ve spent millions of dollars trying to confirm the elaborate scam put forth by Wakefield and friends. Instead of using resources to accommodate the needs of autistic children and adults, we wasted those resources chasing a monster made of smoke. (Or a “smoke monster,” if you will.)

I mean, we did case-control studies, observational studies, cohort studies, and we tested the crap out of the vaccines in the vaccine schedule. Nothing every came out of it. Vaccines simply do not cause autism, and everything is pointing to a genetic cause for autism… A variation of what “normal” is. Everything points to us, as a society, not doing enough for autistic people and even marginalizing them. And one of the biggest sources of marginalization is to think that something is “wrong” with them and blaming vaccines (without any kind of evidence) instead of accepting where the evidence is really leading us and doing something to accommodate their needs.

Anti-vaccine people who highjack legitimate social justice movements are the biggest kinds of jerks.

Bless Your Heart, JB. Bless Your Heart.

You guys remember JB Handley? He’s the guy who can’t seem to get his story straight about the vaccine injury he claims his child received. He’s basically claimed that vaccines hurt his child to the point of causing autism, but he can’t quite nail the timeline. Anyway, he’s always lurking in the anti-vaccine recesses of society, the places where aliens, Bigfoot, and ghosts exist. And he’s back.

He’s written some book about ending the “autism epidemic.” (Note: To our knowledge, Joe Blow Handley [as we assume his real name is Joe Blow] is not an epidemiologist. How he intends to end an epidemic without knowledge of epidemiology is beyond us. Better yet, there is no autism epidemic. Seriously, there isn’t. Nope, there’s not.)  Come on, Joe Blow. When you don’t know the difference between incidence and prevalence of autism, you probably shouldn’t be jumping into the deep end of the scientific pool.

As it turns out, he wasn’t anti-vaccine enough for his friends, and he took to Facebook to whine about it like a three-year-old. Since he didn’t post his screed to the public, only to his friends, one of his friends took it upon themselves to stab Joe Blow in the back and posted a screenshot for the rest of us to see. Ready for some whine with anti-vaccine tear-flavored cheese?

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Vaccine abolitionists? Seriously, these “freedom fighters” think that they’re being oppressed to the point of calling themselves abolitionists. This as they endanger African American children by lying to them about vaccination. We’ve never seen a bigger collection of privileged people be so self-aggrandizing. (Except maybe for the Trump Administration.)

True to form, Joe Blow has decided to tone down his anti-vaccine rhetoric and recommend a “reduced vaccine schedule, with many screening tools, delays, etc. rather than an elimination of vaccines.” By now you should know that alternative vaccine schedules are not scientifically nor medically sound, and the douchebag who made alternative vaccine schedules a thing has publicly admitted to making it up out of nowhere:

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No, there is no evidence alternative schedules encourage vaccination, either. If people think vaccines are poison, they’re not going to want a little bit of poison, would they?

In the past, Joe Blow “JB” Handley has stated that he wants to bring the US vaccine program to its knees, but here we see his “softening” about vaccines in the name of convincing more people to come to his side. The health and safety of children, protecting them from deadly vaccine-preventable diseases, you see, is some sort of a game for Joe Blow “JB” Handley.

There is no reliable evidence that 5%-10% of children should “NEVER” be vaccinated. There is no reliable evidence that a lower “vaccine load” would do anything to reduce the number of autistic children… BECAUSE VACCINES DON’T CAUSE AUTISM. In fact, we’d wager that you would get better vaccine advice from Miss Cleo, from the grave, than you would from Joe “Self-Righteous” Blowhard “JB” Handley.

Of course, he closes by mentioning his appearance on a television show. If that’s the standard by which we’re measuring someone’s expertise on something, then you need to remember that Charlie Manson was interviewed by Geraldo, so…

At the end of the day Joe Blow “JB” Handley is just another privileged guy with a ton of cash with a chip on his shoulder about his child. It seems that he sees his child as lost or stolen or dead from autism when nothing could be further from the truth. He uses that privilege and that cash to promote his ideas and get people on his side all riled-up. And then, as you see above, he seems to get all riled-up himself when someone dare criticize him. He’s such a big, fat snowflake.

Folks, get your vaccine advice from your personal healthcare provider, someone who is licensed in your state to deliver care, someone who went to school for a very long time and had his knowledge tested by people who know better, and someone who is not out to be popular and/or on television for the hell of it… Someone who isn’t a self-righteous douchebag.

Anti-vaccine people are going to kill us all: Exhibit #605,678

Check out this story from Houston:

“A nurse at Texas Children’s Hospital has been discharged after she posted information on social media about a boy who tested positive for measles, hospital officials said Tuesday afternoon.

The nurse posted about the child on an anti-vaccination group’s Facebook page called Proud Parents of Unvaccinated Children-Texas, according to screenshots of posts obtained by The Houston Chronicle.

It’s not clear whether the child was vaccinated for the measles virus. The boy had recently traveled overseas, Houston Health Department officials said in a Facebook post Monday night.

The nurse, who listed Texas Children’s as her workplace on Facebook, described her experience seeing a child with measles for the first time.

“I think it’s easy for us nonvaxxers to make assumptions but most of us have never and will never see one of these diseases,” she said. “By no means have I changed my vax stance, and I never will. But I just wanted to share my experience and how much worse it was than I expected.””

Imagine that! Measles is much worse than what she expected. Remember, these are the people who are convinced that autism is worse than death, that autistic children are like animals, and that they would rather have children suffer through these things than be vaccinated. The nurse even contemplated sharing this “much worse” disease with her child at home:

“The postings included some comments by other group members, and at one point, the nurse commented, “I’m not kidding that I thought about swabbing his mouth and bringing it home to my 13 (year old).””

That’s right. She thought about taking this deadly disease that put a child in ICU home to her son. I wonder if she thought about spreading it to other parts of the hospital?

Sure, she’s been fired, but where will she go next? What will she attempt to spread? Who will suffer the consequences of her science denialism while working in a very sensitive position when it comes to the public’s health?

No, Kiddo. Venezuela Doesn’t Have a Measles Epidemic Because of Socialism. It’s Because of People Like You.

We were going to write a big old blog post on how Socialism and Capitalism are not opposites of each other. We were going to tell you that there are Capitalist societies deeply embedded in Socialist states. And then we were going to argue against The Kid’s assertion that Venezuela has a measles outbreak because of Socialism. Nothing could be further from the truth. Not only that, but the United States can never become like Venezuela.

In essence, he is comparing apples to giraffes again.

This one screenshot wraps up his thesis:

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“She” is a young woman who graduated from the Kid’s college and is advocating for a more Socialist approach to the way that the United States deals with certain issues, like healthcare.

Hilariously, that same screenshot wraps up his naïveté. “That country has also embraced socialism more than any other country in the Americas that isn’t an island.” Think about that for a second, and then think of how much this Kid has not traveled the world.

Living in a cocoon is difficult, but that should not preclude a self-anointed epidemiologist from picking up a goddamned book once in a while. Bolivia is just as Socialist as Venezuela, perhaps even more, and yet it is thriving:

“Since 2006, Bolivia has been run by socialists every bit as militant as Venezuela’s. But as economist Omar Zambrano has argued, the country has experienced a spectacular run of economic growth and poverty reduction with no hint of the chaos that has plagued Venezuela. While inflation spirals toward the thousand-percent mark in Venezuela, in Bolivia it runs below 4 percent a year. Shortages of basic consumption goods — rampant in Caracas — are unheard of in La Paz. And extreme poverty — now growing fast in Venezuela — affects just 17 percent of Bolivians now, down from 38 percent before the socialists took over 10 years ago, even as inequality shrinks dramatically. The richest 10 percent in Bolivia used to earn 128 times more than the poorest 10 percent; today, they earn 38 times as much.”

 

So that kills that whole argument about scary “Socialism” and how it ruins things. And that comment about an “island” is a swipe at Cuba, one of the places on the whole continent where public health is the strongest. They don’t kid around there. Because of the size of the island, the culture of the Cuban people, and the authoritarian/military regime, things get done. People get vaccinated. Water gets cleaned. Outbreaks are stopped in their tracks.

They do such a good job with diseases in Cuba that they sent their physicians to Africa to help with the Ebola outbreaks! (Colleagues who worked side-by-side with Cuban public health workers in Africa have nothing but good things to say.)

What does ruin things? Why is Venezuela so screwed up? Why are measles on the comeback? That, dear reader, would involve a very long discussion on what got Venezuela to where it is. The story would involve authoritarianism, an over-reliance on oil as a source of cash, and a constant friction with American-allied countries (Colombia, Brazil) while being aligned with OPEC countries. This timeline from BBC is a good primer.

We’ve known awhile that the Kid is an Alt Right believer who has stated that social movements like Feminism and Black Lives Matter are “a cancer.” We know that he is a big fan of the current Administration (which is hilarious because the authoritarianism being shown by POTUS 45 and company rivals what Hugo Chavez did in his first term in Venezuela). And we know that he is anti-vaccine.

If anything is going to make measles great again, it’s people like the kid, not someone looking to strengthen public health through policies that are put in scary quotes and are obvious dogwhistles.

Tdap vaccine is not linked to autism, just like any other vaccine (including the flu vaccine)

I remember when my dad told me that there was no such thing as Santa Claus. He sat me down and told me that it had been him all these years who had been buying me gifts and placing them under the tree. It was quite a shock to have this revealed to me; it shook my world. I did everything in my power to reason it through. In my head, dad was a liar. Dad wanted to take the credit for the big jolly guy who’d given me all the gifts I’d ask for in the letters I sent him through my dad.

I was 27 years old.

Soon enough, I came to accept the truth. All the evidence was there in the form of my dad’s receipts for the gifts he had gotten me. People had seen him buy me those gifts. Mom swore to having helped him wrap them. The evidence was compelling, substantial, tangible, credible… Santa Claus was no more.

I’m sad to say that this is not the case with the anti-vaccine crowd. You can tell them all you want that vaccines do not cause autism, and that vaccines actually protect from diseases that are deadly and/or disabling. But they will refuse to believe it because their entire ecosystem depends on the belief that vaccines cause autism. Anything short of that sucks away their life, their reason for living.

One such anti-vaccine zealot is everyone’s favorite “kid.” Even with a master of public health degree in epidemiology, he seems to remain convinced that vaccines cause autism. He’s stated on his blog that evidence he saw in school to the contrary is all a conspiracy from the pharmaceutical industry. It seems that, to him, the lies he has been exposed to over and over from a very young age have made up his mind. To him, Santa Claus (i.e. vaccines cause autism) still exists, and it will continue to exist because anything short of that eliminates his reason for living.

Seriously, he doesn’t seem to live for anything other than that. The primary example is a recent blog post of his where he takes a study that clearly shows that the Tdap (Tetanus, Diphtheria, and acellular Pertussis) vaccine doesn’t cause autism, and then he states that the study confirms that the influenza vaccine does cause autism.

Yeah, I was confused too.

His whole argument hinges on one table in the Prenatal Tetanus, Diphtheria, Acellular Pertussis Vaccination and Autism Spectrum Disorder by Becerra-Culqui et al.

This is table 3:

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Table 3 states that women who were vaccinated with Tdap during pregnancy had a similar incidence rate per 100,000 person-years of having an autistic child. Vaccinated women had an incidence rate of 3.78 autistic children per 100,000 person-years while un-vaccinated women had an incidence rate of 4.05. The ratio between the two was 0.98, meaning that vaccinated women had a lower incidence rate than vaccinated. Anything over 1.0 would indicate that vaccination leads to more autistic children being born.

Because this is one study with a limited number of people, and not a study looking at the entire universe of children born, scientists also report the 95% confidence interval (0.98 – 1.09). The 95% confidence interval is a way of us saying, “We are 95% confident that the true hazard ratio in the entire population (the whole of the population) is between 0.88 and 1.09.” Because it includes 1.0, we cannot say that this observation is not by random chance.

But look at how the kid displays the table on his blog:

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Only point out the things that seem to support your argument.

He points out that the adjusted hazard ratio of 0.85 (with a 95% confidence interval of 0.77 to 0.95) is adjusted for, among other things, influenza vaccination during pregnancy. In epidemiology and biostatistics, “adjusted for” means taking it into consideration. Let me give you an example:

Suppose that there are a group of people from Texas and a group of people from Alabama, and that we look at their test scores in biology. The group from Texas had an average test score of 77% while the people from Alabama had an average test score of 89%. You would conclude that being from Alabama leads you to having a better test score, right?

But what if we told you that they don’t teach biology in all schools in Texas? What if we told you that they only teach it in private schools in Texas, and that only 30% of schools in Texas are private schools? And then we told you that they teach biology in both types of schools in Alabama, and that there is a 50-50 split in the proportion of private to public schools in Alabama? How does this change your conclusion?

To reach the proper conclusion, you have to compare apples to apples, and oranges to oranges. You would compare the private school scores in each state to each other, and likewise with the public school scores. This is an adjustment. This is taking into account the differences in the distributions of a characteristic between the two groups being studied.

As it turns out, in the study in question, women who get their Tdap were much more likely to get their influenza vaccine. It makes sense, right? Women who vaccinate in general are more likely to vaccinate in particular. So, in order to compare apples to apples, the researchers adjusted for influenza vaccination. That is, they compared flu-vaccinated women who got the Tdap and flu-vaccinated women who did not get the Tdap, AND non-flu-vaccinated women who got the Tdap and non-flu-vaccinated women who did not get the Tdap.

Taking flu vaccination into account, and the bias that would creep in because women who vaccinate against influenza seem to be more likely to vaccinated with the Tdap vaccine, vaccinating with Tdap is not associated with having a child diagnosed with autism.

So why does the kid think this proves that influenza vaccine causes autism?

It beats me. All they did was make the adjustment to make things equal between the two groups, something every epidemiologist worth their salt should do… Unless you want to misinform the public?

Hmmmm?

He then takes a table from a different, unrelated study and points out to just one result on it as evidence that influenza vaccine causes autism:

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The red circle seems to be his way of saying, “Only this matters! Pay no attention to the whole of the evidence!”

This is another misrepresentation of the findings, and I kind of blame the authors of the study for making the table so busy. Look at the “Variable” column on the left. All that the data circled in red are saying is this:

“Of the 13,477 children whose mothers were vaccinated in the first trimester, 258 (1.91%) of them were diagnosed with autism. Their hazard was 26% higher for an autism diagnosis when compared to children whose moms were vaccinated in other trimesters. However, when adjusting for maternal allergy, asthma, autoimmune conditions, gestational diabetes, hypertension, age, education, race/ethnicity, child conception year, conception season, sex, and gestational age, the hazard of autism diagnosis went down to 20% over children whose moms were vaccinated in other trimesters.”

The fact that the hazard ratio went down after adjusting tells us that there is something else explaining the elevated hazard (risk). Look at what happened in the adjustment in the other trimester groups… Nothing changed. Look at what happened in the adjustment in the “Anytime During Pregnancy” group… Nothing changed. So what could that “something else” be? I’m not an obstetrician, but it’s reasonable to conclude that outcomes measured in the first trimester are different than outcomes measured in the other trimesters.

Finally, look at the reasoning that the kid used. In the first table, because numbers were adjusted for influenza vaccination, then it must mean that influenza vaccination causes autism. In the second, he doesn’t say that all the factors adjusted for cause autism… Because that would tear down his narrative.

I’m not surprised at all by his misunderstanding of all this. After all, to my knowledge, he doesn’t work as an epidemiologist anywhere. Like any good muscle, lack of practice of your epidemiology skills leads you to lose them. Being unpublished, not working as an epidemiologist, and a staunch defender of the so-called autism-vaccine risk leads the reasoning muscle to atrophy.