Another day, another anti-vaccine book

Lately, I’ve been tangoing online with this man. He wrote this book. Here is the book description. It’s a little long, and I’m going to deconstruct it (hence my emphasis in bold in some parts), so I won’t hold it against you if you don’t read it all:

“Using a highly personal approach, [book title] educates parents about the scientifically-documented risks involved in vaccination. Author [name] speaks from traumatic personal experience, as the father of a vaccine-injured child. His daughter developed type 1 diabetes, an autoimmune disease, at the age of three-and-a-half-years old. After much research in scientific journals and federal databases, he has concluded that a Hepatitis B vaccine, administered shortly after her birth, is to blame. “You don’t have to play the lottery with your children’s life, hoping nothing goes wrong when they are injected with the potentially lethal neurotoxins routinely included in vaccines,” writes [the author]. “This book provides you with a review of the medical and scientific literature surrounding vaccination risks as well as personal stories from those whose lives have been touched by vaccine-related injuries.” According to the author’s research, tens of thousands of children are severely injured, or in some cases, killed by their exposure to vaccines. Targeting parents and health professionals, [book title] draws on verifiable databases and peer-reviewed research to make its controversial claims. [The author] is aware that many will try to discredit his work, given that he is not a doctor or a scientist. With a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s degree in education, he is equipped to analyze scientific claims of experienced researchers who have been investigating the connections and correlations between vaccinations and the development of childhood autoimmune disorders, such as type-1 diabetes. Through his academic research, he has discovered that vaccines pose an ongoing danger to our children. [The author’s] book is a good choice read before doctors and nurses approach your family and newborn bundle of joy with a vaccination injector in hand. What lies inside the hypodermic needle is a potential mix of neurotoxins and other reactive chemical preservatives that will challenge an infant’s fragile immune system to its core. As the author reminds the readers, most parents wouldn’t take a chance on a car seat or formula without first consulting the literature or their friends. Yet when we cede ultimate authority over vaccinations to our pediatrician, we throw a far more consequential decision into another’s hands without having personally done the requisite research. This book will help parents make a proactive, informed choice no matter what their ultimate decision may end up being. “Only parents whose children have been harmed by a vaccine, or who know children who have been harmed by a vaccine, tend to research the topic of vaccine safety and effectiveness on their own,” writes [author]. “I am one of those parents.” Drawing on his research and his anger over his daughter’s illness, the author writes with passion about a topic of vital interest to families everywhere. Cogent and comprehensive, [book title] will transform your understanding of vaccines and pediatric medicine alike.”

Now, one of the personal attacks that the author has launched against myself and others is that we have not read his book. He’s right with regards to me. I have not read his book. I will not read his book. You’d have to put me in a FEMA concentration camp before I’d read his book. Why won’t I read his book? Because his own statements, along with the description of his book up there, tell me enough. They tell me that he is ignorant about science, that he holds an unbalanced, highly anti-vaccine stance, and that he thinks less of anyone who opposes him.

Here are some snippets of what he’s posted on Facebook. I’d post the links, but he tends to delete postings when enough refutations are posted to his assertions.

Too bad tens of children this flu season have not had the chance that he did. But, hey, as long as they didn’t get a vaccine injury, right?
There is no evidence in any academic or peer-reviewed studies that the flu vaccine compromises the immune system. But we’re supposed to believe that he did research?
Gives equal weight to comments on CNN’s website and medical research. Seems legit. (It’s “complement”, by the way, unless Dr. Buchwald read that comment and gave it a flattering review. But I’m not a published author. Or am I?)
Read that carefully: “I also believe that we as parents have been equipped with an instinct that supersedes science.”

And then he posts this about a recent ruling that anti-vaccine groups have been misrepresenting:

Never mind that there was never an autism diagnosis in that child. But he doesn’t let facts get in the way.

But enough of what he’s written to seal the idea that he’s anti-science all the way around. Let’s move on to the description of his [expletive deleted] book.

“Using a highly personal approach, [book title] educates parents about the scientifically-documented risks involved in vaccination.”

One of the first things you need to do if you’re going to research something about science is to let go of the personal aims of your research. Otherwise, you fall into what we call “confirmation bias“, a tendency to only look at information, data, evidence that backs up your claims, ignoring everything else. We’re all guilty of it as human beings, but we in the world of science and public health have to be more careful than that. If we let confirmation bias get in the way, the consequences can be very, very serious. In this man’s case, however, letting confirmation bias get in the way only guarantees a “great” book for the anti-vaccine forces to tout.

“Author [name] speaks from traumatic personal experience, as the father of a vaccine-injured child. His daughter developed type 1 diabetes, an autoimmune disease, at the age of three-and-a-half-years old. After much research in scientific journals and federal databases, he has concluded that a Hepatitis B vaccine, administered shortly after her birth, is to blame.”

And so we get to find out why he’s so against vaccines. He blames the hepatitis B vaccine given to his daughter as the causative agent of his daughter’s type I diabetes. Remember what I just wrote about making it personal. One has to wonder if he blamed the vaccine before or after he did his “academic research”?

” “You don’t have to play the lottery with your children’s life, hoping nothing goes wrong when they are injected with the potentially lethal neurotoxins routinely included in vaccines,” writes [the author].”

Ah, the time-honored toxins gambit. You’d think that, in all that research, he would have researched some toxicology and find out that the “potentially lethal neurotoxins included in vaccines” are included at concentrations that make them neither “potentially lethal” nor “neurotoxins”. It’s like saying that chlorine gas is a chemical weapon, and that table salt, which is half chlorine, is also a chemical weapon. It’s all in the chemistry.

“[The author] is aware that many will try to discredit his work, given that he is not a doctor or a scientist. With a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s degree in education, he is equipped to analyze scientific claims of experienced researchers who have been investigating the connections and correlations between vaccinations and the development of childhood autoimmune disorders, such as type-1 diabetes.”

He’s right. His work needs to be discredited, but I’m not here discrediting it on his academic credentials. I’m here discrediting it based on the conclusions he came up with, what he’s been stating on public postings, and what his own book description reads. There have never been and will never be any studies linking type I diabetes to vaccines, because it just doesn’t work that way. Vaccines don’t screw with your immune system, they boost it. If your own immune system was wacky from the get-go, that’s a completely different thing.

“What lies inside the hypodermic needle is a potential mix of neurotoxins and other reactive chemical preservatives that will challenge an infant’s fragile immune system to its core.”

Here’s another example that the author has no clue what he is writing about. A hypodermic needle? Not all vaccines are injected, and not all injected vaccines use hypodermic (under the skin) needles. Some, like the MMR, require an intramuscular needle. But it’s the imagery of a needle that always brings fears to parents and children alike. No one likes seeing their child look like a pin cushion, even though the current schedule of vaccines in the United States is safe.

“As the author reminds the readers, most parents wouldn’t take a chance on a car seat or formula without first consulting the literature or their friends. Yet when we cede ultimate authority over vaccinations to our pediatrician, we throw a far more consequential decision into another’s hands without having personally done the requisite research.”

This also gives us a big clue on why he is writing this book. He wants to assert himself as an authority more knowledgeable than a medical doctor. Who knows why? He mentioned something about “instinct” and “gut feelings” in our conversations on Facebook.

“Drawing on his research and his anger over his daughter’s illness, the author writes with passion about a topic of vital interest to families everywhere. Cogent and comprehensive, [book title] will transform your understanding of vaccines and pediatric medicine alike.”

Ah, the cherry on top. The author draws on his anger to make do the research and to reach the conclusions that he does. I’ve rarely seen a better case study in confirmation bias. Scratch that, I have, all the time.

One last morsel of what this guy is all about. Hint: He’s not about science. It’s not about his “academic research”. It’s about public opinion:

Read his last sentence slowly, then think about it.

So, no, I won’t be buying this book or any other books by this author. It is clear from his Facebook page that he is very angry that he has to be bothered with a sick child, that he needs someone to pay for that wrong done to him, and that vaccines, the government, and pharmaceutical companies are the best scapegoats he can find. It is even clearer that he doesn’t give a hoot about science or evidence, or any of those things that make something real in this world. No, he cares only about public opinion.

He’s the guy in high school who flunked his courses but made prom king, basically.

Also, I hear from people who’ve read his book that it reads like it was drafted by a “kindergartner high on acid.”

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One error that every anti-vaccine activist jumps all over (UPDATED)

There is this book called “Your Baby’s Best Shot“. It’s a book about childhood vaccines and their benefits versus their perceived dangers. It’s pretty good, but it’s not perfect. In one of their pages, the word “free” is missing from a statement. The statement reads like the authors are recommending “aspirin” instead of “aspirin free” fever reducers. We’ve known for a while that aspirin and kids with fevers don’t get along because there is an increased risk of a condition called “Reye’s Syndrome“. It’s a serious condition that can be seen with viral infections and the administration of aspirin. The aspirin doesn’t cause it, necessarily. It does increase the risk of it.

UPDATE: The authors have issued a correction on their Facebook page. I made the mistake of saying that “free” was left out. It wasn’t. As you can see in the correction, it was something else entirely:

“It has been brought to our attention that a typo exists on page 71 of the book. The sentence that reads: ‘A mild vaccine reaction is easily treatable with a few aspirin’ should have read ‘A mild vaccine reaction is easily treatable with a few Tylenol.’ Children should not be given aspirin due to the possibility of developing Reye’s Syndrome, a rare but serious illness. We apologize for the typo, and are grateful for your continued support of the book!”

Yes. I make mistakes too. We all do. Unlike anti-vaccine people, and other unsavory characters, I try to spread out my mistakes throughout my lifetime, not concentrate them in one single anti-vaccine blog post.

I knew a girl in high school who had it when she was ten years old. She had a lot of trouble walking after it. Very bad.

The book has that one flaw, that one little thing. The authors are aware, and they are working on issuing an erratum to amend that mistake. But that has not stopped the anti-vaccine people from relentlessly attacking it, calling for a banning of the book:

Vaccine Skeptic Society” is the online, Facebook-only pseudonym of a woman who has gone by “Stacy” in the past. Stacy has openly claimed that she is a healthcare worker, but she’s also clarified that her work in healthcare goes as far as working as a medical transcriptionist/coder out of her home. Her science degree diploma must be enormous. Yet she’s not the only one getting all bent out of shape over that one error in the book:

Her followers may very well be frothing at the mouth. To please them even further, Stacy went and created a whole new Facebook page aimed at the book and its authors. Medical coders have so much time on their hands.

The worst thing is that a person who is reasonably pro-vaccine decided to attack the book on her Facebook page. I hate Facebook. I’m hardly on it anymore. Here is what she wrote:

The way you look at the timeline of events, the only reason Stacy learned of the error was from “Informed” writing about it, all the while “Informed” is just writing about it out of concern.

What a mess.

The same rule does not apply to all the lies and misinformation in anti-vaccine books and publications, of course.

Books You Should Read: "When Germs Travel" by Howard Markel

Anyone who knows me knows that one of the big things I detest about Public Health as it is set up today is the interference of people who don’t know better into the things that we – the peons working the daily outbreaks and looking for cases of stuff – need to do without restrictions. Of course, I’m talking about politicians. The one issue that has painfully brought this to the forefront in my professional life is immigration. Time after time, I’ve seen politicians at all three levels of government call for the denial of basic health services to immigrants and their children. They reason that it is a waste of resources that could go to Americans.

It’s as if they think that viruses and bacteria know the difference between Pablo, the young apple picker from Oaxaca, and Paul, the corporate up-and-comer from Omaha with the dashing good looks. Pathogens don’t give a crap about who they’re infecting. To them, we’re all just sacs of growth media. The sooner we come to understand this, the sooner we can let go of the stigma that we cause to people based on their ethnicity and/or nationality and move on with what needs to be done.
The book “When Germs Travel” does a great job at telling us all about what happens when germs cross international boundaries and come to a new population – or society – and the kind of craziness that they cause. It covers six epidemics that were triggered by immigrants (or returning travelers) and the stupidity that ensued. For example, an outbreak of bubonic plague in Chinatown causes the authorities to cordon-off the area and not permit people who look Asian from interacting with the other ethnicities. Any epidemiologists worth his weight in salt will tell you that such an intervention by itself is useless.
You can’t quarantine or impose social distancing on just one group of people. You need to do it with all who are susceptible, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, disability, etc.
The book also covers the mistreatment of Jewish immigrants as they arrived in New York Harbor from Eastern Europe. They were screened for Chlamydia trachomatis, the causative agent of trachoma, which is an infection of the eyes. In that time, the infection was not treatable with antibiotics, for there were none. People were screened and told to go back to their country if they were found to be infected. On the other hand, if they had the right amount of money or the right connections in New York City, they were allowed to go on through.
A lot of help that screening did.
Not only that, but the screeners – medical doctors –  did not practice good hygiene. A high-ranking government official inspecting the intake points noticed this. That official? The President of the United States. Bo-yah!
I won’t spoil the rest of the book for you, but you know where this is going. You know of the treatment of Hatian immigrants because of HIV/AIDS. You know of the treatment of other immigrants because of Tuberculosis. Oh, you don’t know?
Everyone should.
One thing that resonates throughout the book is the hypocrisy of the decisions taken by politicians and the public health officials influenced by them. That’s right, not all public health workers are infallible and incorruptible. Many of them can be bought or intimidated into taking the wrong course of action when they need to protect the public’s health. And that’s one main reason why I will never, ever become a politician or play the politicians’ games.
I never want someone to write a book about how wrong I was in letting the next big epidemic or a small outbreak of diarrhea associated with a diner get out of control. That’s just plain embarrassing.