Just(in) the way Andrew Wakefield likes them

Pretend in your mind that you’re a grifter, a con man, a snake oil salesman. What kind of person is your target? Would you use your theatricality and deception on someone who knows better? Of course not. I am yet to hear of an oncologist with cancer who buys into alternative medicine to cure said cancer. (Though I’ve heard of oncologists who sell supplements and complementary and alternative medicine, SCAM, to their patients. There’s a special place in Hell for them, by the way.)

If you are a known fraud who likes to promote anti-vaccine nonsense, you are not going to go to infectious disease experts and try to sell them your lies. You’re also not going to go to responsible journalists who do their due diligence and study your claims thoroughly. And you are not going to go to a parent who has a meaningful and trusting relationship with their healthcare provider.

No, if you are Andrew Wakefield, you are going to target parents (preferably new ones) who don’t have the time to check your claims. Or you’ll target populations who already have a mistrust of the healthcare system because systems all around have failed them. If you want to get your story out to the world in order to attract more victims to your fraud, then you’ll get someone who is well versed in communications and doesn’t know better. If that person happens to be a new parent, even better. And if that person happens to have a following on social media, podcasts, and other media, and comes from a somewhat well known family, even better. You’ve hit the jackpot, Andrew Wakefield.

The other day, I told you about Justin Kanew and his descent into anti-vaccine thinking. Justin is the son of Jeff Kanew, a Hollywood big shot. Justin is a producer, actor, has competed in a reality show, and has a podcast. I don’t exactly how it happened, but Justin apparently woke up with the seed of doubt about vaccines one day and decided to ask some questions. To ask these questions, Justin apparently decided to invite some people to his podcast. To promote the podcast interviews, Justin somehow got a blog post up on one of the most anti-vaccine, hate-filled, anti-Semitic blogs around: Age of Autism.

His explanation seems simple:

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This shows the first characteristic of someone who Wakefield and other anti-vaccine loons will attract: Someone who doesn’t do their homework. When asked why he posted a blog post about his podcast on one of the most vile anti-vaccine sites around, Justin’s reply was that there are no other places to do it. Had he done his homework, he would have seen Matt Carey’s blog, History of Vaccines (which has some fabulous information for parents), The Scientific Parent (who actually want blog posts on issues affecting parents like Justin), and others. There are plenty of non-vile, non-anti-Semitic blogs where discussions are not moderated to death and where we welcome open discussions on some of the most controversial issues.

Further evidence that Justin didn’t do his homework is a link he used to reply to me on Twitter:

He called Paul Offit a boy, by the way. Anyway, he links to “Whale.to” which, if you’ve never heard of it, is a website that has postings to every known conspiracy theory out there. The “CBS News” piece that Justin is referring to is nothing more than anti-vaccine propaganda from one Sharyl Attkisson, a reporter who has also tried to justify the murder of an autistic child, among other really weird things she’s said from her apparent inability to work a computer.

Alright, so Justin doesn’t know how to do research. What else? Well, Justin is a new parent, so he has some fears about what is going into his child:

He has fears and he is asking questions (albeit, the wrong questions to the wrong people), so it’s not a surprise that the anti-vaccine cult would reach out to him and sound appealing. (Seriously, did he reach out to Age of Autism, or did someone there reach out to him?) After all, all anti-vaccine parents are not really anti-vaccine, don’t you know?

They’re “pro safe vaccine” because the Phase I, Phase II, Phase III and Phase IV, and post-marketing research studies are not enough to prove safety. The billions of doses of vaccines with relatively few side-effects and even fewer deaths are not enough to prove safety. The studies done by government agencies the world over (not just CDC), academics the world over (not just Hopkins), local and state health departments, drug companies, consumer safety organizations, and just standing around and seeing kids not dying from polio anymore are not enough to prove safety.

Nothing will never be enough as long as there is cash to be made from suckers unsuspecting parents with doubts and fears about their new snowflakes. And there is a lot of cash to be made. Brian S. Hooker, one of Wakefield’s partners on the recent misadventure of a documentary, has a case before the vaccine court. He stands to make cash from that. Age of Autism asks for donations and promotes supplements. Dr. Bob Sears (our douchebag “emerit-ass”) messes around with the vaccine schedule not because it’s based on any science of knowledge or understanding of immunology (as he himself clarified), but likely because each added visit to get a child vaccinated incurs and additional charge. And don’t get me started on all the books, conferences, and videos that generate revenue for something (vaccine-induced autism) that doesn’t exist.

The UFO and Yeti believers are really jealous.

To wrap it all up, here we have a new player in the anti-vaccine camp, a man by the name of Justin Kanew. He is a new father, and he has some goddamned questions that people better goddamn answer. But the people he is asking questions of are not, you know, scientists and researchers. No. He is asking questions of Andrew Wakefield (a known fraud), two unethical researchers who think that money given through the vaccine court is an admission of guilt (which shows how much Justin investigated the vaccine court), and a computer scientist who thinks we will ALL OF US be autistic soon enough due to vaccines.

Yep, to protect his child from the evils of Big Pharma, or whatever, Justin Kanew has set up to interview the very wrong people. If anything, Justin should be protecting his child from them. And the only person who is skeptical of the vaccine-autism claim, journalist Brian Deer, gets his interview spliced and diced by none other than Andrew Wakefield! (Mr. Deer had only about 1/3 to 1/2 of the time allotted in the podcast, with Wakefield countering every point of the recording and not face-to-face.) What the hell, Justin?

Justin, you keep saying on Twitter that you’re not anti-vaccine, but how is it that you keep acting like it? How is it that you’re surrounding yourself with them and aligning yourself with their ideologies? How in the world can you expect us to believe that you’re not either fully committed to the anti-vaccine crowd or at least seriously considering it? And why did not you not serve your child’s best interest and do just a little more research into those questions you’re asking? And did you read Whale.to’s other articles (especially the ones about the Holocaust never happening) before deciding on promoting that sick and twisted website?

You don’t have to answer, Justin. They’re all rhetorical questions at this point because you’ve been extremely defensive, raising the “I’m pro safe vaccine” flag every time someone asks you to sit down and just jot down some notes from sites and publications that are not anti-vaccine. If you were to answer these questions, I’m sure it would be some form of “I’m just asking questions” (aka JAQ-ing off) or “I’m pro safe vaccine” or “I have my child’s best interests in mind, not the confirmation of my fears”, or something.

All of this is very disappointing because, as we have seen in years past with Ebola and now with Zika, health communication is very hard to do in an ocean of misinformation, fear and lies. Soon enough, blogs like Age of Autism and people like Andrew Wakefield will convince people like Justin (influential people with connections to communicators and communication machines in Hollywood) that the Zika vaccine (coming soon) is dangerous. If we, God willing, come up with an Ebola vaccine, the same anti-vaccine people will again reach out to Justin to deliver a message of “Don’t Do It! They’re Trying To Kill You!” that is hard to counter with a few public health grants. And then we’ll have Zika and Ebola and Measles and Polio to contend with.

As a public health worker, I’m happy to have job security like that. As someone who has seen dead children from vaccine-preventable diseases, it scares the shit out of me.


I’ll admit it: Wakefield’s research has been replicated over and over again

Calm down, will you? As long as you’ve been reading this blog and you think that I’m about to absolve Andrew Jeremy Wakefield? Not at all. I’m about to nail the (by my count) 145,345,364th nail in the coffin of his “MMR causes Autism” theory. See, the anti-vaccine “Wakefieldites” have been claiming that his “research” has been duplicated by other scientists. I put “research” in quotes because his paper is no research at all, from an epidemiological and even medical point-of-view. It was a fraud, but we’ll leave that for later.

Wakefield’s retracted paper has the following 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.”

My emphasis in bold.

That’s it. That’s their conclusion. Later on, the authors state that there is inadequate evidence to link the vaccine, that the onset of symptoms occurred after the vaccine, and that (as is the case in most research) further studies were necessary.

So, yes, further studies were done, and they all replicated Wakefield’s findings of no association. If you remember, it was Wakefield’s opinion that the MMR vaccine caused autism. Perhaps encouraged by the pay day coming with his patent for the single measles shot, or some other incentive altogether, Andrew Jeremy Wakefield decided to inject his opinion into this, even after the facts didn’t support his findings:

“Again, this was very contentious and you would not get consensus from all members of the group on this, but that is my feeling, that the, the risk of this particular syndrome developing is related to the combined vaccine, the MMR, rather than the single vaccines.”

My emphasis in bold, again.

Read that last quote again, ladies and gentlemen. The anti-vaccine activists, all the harm they’ve done to herd immunity, all the anti-science and hate they spew, the cheering of murders in Pakistan of vaccine workers, all of that… All of that came from how Andrew Jeremy Wakefield felt, not from fact, not from evidence, not from anything tangible… Just how he felt.