Studies show filmmakers are not experts in vaccines

Another day, another anti-vaccine “press release” from people who think they know better. This one would be extremely hilarious if it wasn’t deadly serious to put people at risk of contracting vaccine-preventable diseases. If you think that Michael Moore should run the Treasury Department, that Quentin Tarantino should be our Attorney General, or that Steven Spielberg should run NASA, then you’re going to love this press release from the makers of “The Greater Good,” an anti-vaccine “documentary” from anti-vaccine zealot Leslie Manookian.

The “press release” begins with a lie:

“Health officials are blaming unvaccinated children for the recent measles outbreak that started at Disneyland. However, with no blood tests proving the outbreak is from wild measles, the most likely source of the outbreak is a recently vaccinated individual, according to published science.”

Wrong! Big shout out to Todd W. for bringing to our attention this statement from CDC:

“Measles genotype information was available from 9 measles cases; all were genotype B3 and all sequences linked to this outbreak are identical. The sequences are also identical to the genotype B3 virus that caused a large outbreak in the Philippines in 2014. During the last 6 months, identical genotype B3 viruses were also detected in at least 14 countries and at least 6 U.S. states, not including those linked to the current outbreak.”

So, no, Leslie Manookian, the virus that is infecting people and making them sick and started off in Disneyland is not the vaccine strain. It’s very much the wild virus that infects and makes people sick in “Third World” countries. (Congratulations, America, you’re now in company with the Third World when it comes to vaccine preventable diseases.)

The press release continues:

“Scientific evidence demonstrates that individuals vaccinated with live virus vaccines such as MMR (measles, mumps and rubella), rotavirus, chicken pox, shingles and influenza can shed the virus for many weeks or months afterwards and infect the vaccinated and unvaccinated alike.1,2 3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10.”

Those numbers are citations, because press releases should read like scientific papers in order to confuse Google University attendees into thinking that they’re reading something that is well-researched. The citations are cherry-picked studies and abstracts of studies that Leslie Manookian probably thinks support her theory. For example, this study (reference #2) looked at the urine of 12 children after they got the MMR vaccine. Ten of those 12 children had measles RNA (the genetic material) in their urine. To Leslie Manookian, this probably means that ten children having RNA and not the whole measles virus in their urine means that these kids are shedding measles at a phenomenal rate and making everyone sick.

Reference #4 is a paper on sibling transmission of Rotavirus vaccine strain virus. This one I actually know a lot about because I did some epidemiological data analysis when they first started noticing what was happening. To Leslie Manookian, this probably looks like a whole bunch of kids were getting diarrhea and dehydration from the vaccine strain after their siblings were vaccinated. To the professional epidemiologist and anyone with an ounce of scientific reasoning, this means that you don’t need to vaccinate all children for Rotavirus if you’re low on resources. Vaccinating one per household seems to spread the vaccine virus to others, giving them much slighter versions of the full-blown disease and in fact immunizing them against any further infection from the actual virus. It’s an effect that we have seen with polio as well, and something that we’ve built into immunization plans in order to maximize effectiveness when the program country doesn’t have the resources to get everyone vaccinated. As a bonus, the rate of complications from the vaccine strain are much, much lower than the rates of complications from the wild strain.

Let’s keep reading the press release:

“Furthermore, vaccine recipients can carry diseases in the back of their throat and infect others while displaying no symptoms of a disease.11,12,13

“Numerous scientific studies indicate that children who receive a live virus vaccination can shed the disease and infect others for weeks or even months afterwards. Thus, parents who vaccinate their children can indeed put others at risk,” explains Leslie Manookian, documentary filmmaker and activist. Manookian’s award winning documentary, The Greater Good, aims to open a dialog about vaccine safety.”

Those three references (#11, #12, #13) all do not say what they think they say. Number 11 is about how influenza is passed from one animal to another. Number 12 takes you to the same link as number 11, so a big fail there. And number 13 is a New York Times article that actually emphasizes the need for parents to be immunized against pertussis so that they don’t get it and pass it on to their too-young-to-be-vaccinated children. Do anti-vaccine loons ever read their own citations, or just the titles?

And, yes, you read that right. The authority on this matter is Leslie Manookian because she made an anti-vaccine film. Why else? And what awards did it win? According to Wikipedia, it won an award from the Amsterdam Film Festival in 2011 for “Cinematic Vision.” Yeah, that makes the three anecdotes in the movie totally legitimate.

For the remainder of the press release, we get this:

“Both unvaccinated and vaccinated individuals are at risk from exposure to those recently vaccinated.  Vaccine failure is widespread; vaccine-induced immunity is not permanent and recent outbreaks of diseases such as whooping cough, mumps and measles have occurred in fully vaccinated populations.14,15  Flu vaccine recipients become more susceptible to future infection after repeated vaccination.16”

Again, their citations are all being used in a misleading way. Yes, both vaccinated and unvaccinated are at risk from exposure, but the vaccinated will get the disease at a rate hundreds or even thousands of times less than unvaccinated people. If you have 100 people and 90 of them are vaccinated, you can have an outbreak of 20 cases where 10 are vaccinated and 10 are not. But, when you do the math, 100% of the unvaccinated are sick while only 1/9th of the vaccinated are sick. Ten out of ten is more than one out of nine. Math, however, has never been in the anti-vaccine person’s realm of mastery.

To mislead you even more, the press release cites another expert:

“”Health officials should require a two-week quarantine of all children and adults who receive vaccinations,” says Sally Fallon Morell, president of the Weston A. Price Foundation. “This is the minimum amount of time required to prevent transmission of infectious diseases to the rest of the population, including individuals who have been previously vaccinated.””

It is the Weston A. Price Foundation that is putting out this press release, by the way. Sally Fallon Morell has degrees in English, with no apparent formal training in biology, medicine, or epidemiology. Yet that doesn’t stop her from making the ridiculously stupid suggestion that vaccinated children and adults should be quarantined. If her theory were to be true, which it is not, the quarantine should be longer than two weeks. After all, there are plenty of vaccine preventable diseases which have longer incubation times, like Hepatitis A. You should also note that they don’t make any distinction between live attenuated vaccines and killed vaccines, or vaccines that don’t even have whole viruses but only parts of them (like the acellular pertussis vaccine that we use today). The level of ignorance from Leslie Manookian and Sally Fallon Morell is phenomenal.

I’m impressed. I mean, look at this next in the press release:

“”Vaccine failure and failure to acknowledge that live virus vaccines can spread disease have resulted in an increase in outbreaks of infectious disease in both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals,” says Manookian, “CDC should instruct physicians who administer vaccinations to inform their patients about the risks posed to others by those who’ve been recently vaccinated.””

Sweet Jesus, this is ignorant. If anything, CDC should instruct physicians to give their patients a medal for wanting to be part of the herd and protect those who are too young, too old or too sick to be vaccinated.

The press release closes with the real intent and level of epidemiological misunderstanding and misinformation from the Weston A. Price Foundation:

“According to the Weston A. Price Foundation, the best protection against infectious disease is a healthy immune system, supported by adequate vitamin A and vitamin C. Well-nourished children easily recover from infectious disease and rarely suffer complications.

The number of measles deaths declined from 7575 in 1920 (10,000 per year in many years in the 1910s) to an average of 432 each year from 1958-1962.17 The vaccine was introduced in 1963. Between 2005 and 2014, there have been no deaths from measles in the U.S. and 108 deaths from the MMR vaccine.18”

These are probably the same loons that think that Ebola can be treated with IV vitamin C or something like that. And, no, well-nourished children don’t “rarely” suffer complications. The complications from things like measles are actually quite common, with ear infections, pneumonia, encephalitis, and even death being much more common in those who get measles than in those who get the MMR vaccine. How much more common? Thousands of times more common.

Finally, the idiots who drafted this press release tell us that the measles deaths were on the decline before the vaccine came online. That’s true. We learned to keep people alive with medical technology. We also developed antibiotics to treat secondary bacterial complications from measles. There was also more access to healthcare and such. What they don’t tell you is that we continued to have cases of measles right up until the end of the 1960s, once herd immunity really kicked in from the measles vaccine that was introduced in 1963. And that last reference, #18, is a paper from CDC talking about how much of a resounding success the MMR vaccine has been. And, much to your surprise, there is zero mention of the “108 deaths from the MMR vaccine” in that paper. That number has been thrown around from VAERS reports, a database of adverse events associated with vaccines to which anyone and everyone can report and which has counted as “vaccine associated” deaths involving drowning or car accidents months after the last vaccine was given.

Anti-vaccine zealots like Leslie Manookian and Sally Fallon Morell go out of their way to bring this kind of misinformation to the public through press releases. If they had one shred of credible evidence to what they say, scientists would listen. But we look at their interpretations of the articles they cite and laugh. No, seriously, we laughed. Someone suggested sending them a copy of a Godzilla movie to scare them into anti-nuclear activism so they can help stop the giant lizards that roam the ocean floors near Tokyo. Because that is the level of ignorance of science and biology that we’re dealing with here. Anyone who takes this press release as genuine medical advice or some kind of scientific breakthrough is a fool.

Don’t try to reason with the unreasonable

FYI: This is the third of ten posts not related to vaccines.

I have a friend who is an amateur photographer. You may have seen some of this stuff over on his blog. We all went out to dinner the other night, and he brought his camera with him. His camera is not small. It’s a rather bulky DSLR camera, and he had a rather bulky lens on it. We walked down the street to where we were having dinner, and he took pictures of buildings and people along the way. No one really seemed to care. Our nation’s capital is a big city and most of us carry around a camera in our phones anyway.

It’s not the same way in England, apparently. My friend shared this video with me off of YouTube. In it you can see several photographers taking pictures around London and being harassed by security guards over taking pictures of several buildings. Before you watch the video, keep in mind a few things. First, the photographers are in London, a very touristy city. In 2011, there were over 15 million tourists who visited there. Surely, they took pictures. Second, notice that these are security guards and not law enforcement. Keep that in mind as you hear them trying to quote laws and regulations. Finally, keep in mind that the photographers are in public places with big cameras. If they are conducting “surveillance” of buildings to “bomb”, then they’re going about it in a very open and obvious way. I have the sneaking suspicion that terrorists don’t act the same way.

Oh, one more thing. Notice how the security guards stand their ground and so do the photographers. Their back-and-forth reminded me a lot of how we may try to reason with the unreasonable but end up nowhere.

More real threats to public health

Let’s play a mental exercise. In this exercise you are a parent of a child. There is a virus out there that can give your child some nasty sores which can get infected with things like MRSA, a high fever, and make them feel like crap. Furthermore, because there are many people out there with compromised immune systems from things like HIV, treatment for auto-immune disease, or in treatment for cancer, you do not want that virus to be anywhere near them. It could be deadly to other people and cause your child to be sick. As a good parent, you want to protect your child and your community from this virus. So what do you do?

Do you immunize your child with a vaccine that has been shown to be safe and effective? The chances of a bad reaction from the vaccine are one-in-a-million, if that. Maybe there will be soreness at the site of the injection. Maybe, if your child is very young, he or she will be fuzzy and have a slight fever. Maybe. There won’t be any pustules, rashes, high fevers, or chance of death.

Or do you continue to propagate the virus with the flawed thinking that immunity this way is somehow “safe” or more “effective”? Do you do what this worthless excuse of a parent did:

No words.

No words.

That’s right. This parent went and got a lollipop from a person infected with chickenpox and gave them to their child. A lollipop that was licked by a sick child was given to a healthy child. Because THAT is safer than a vaccine?

It doesn’t stop there. The same group has other gems very openly displayed on their Facebook page:


Bullshit! The chickenpox vaccine is not given until 12 months of age. But truth has never been something these psychopaths can deal with.




In case you missed it, these so-called parents knowingly and willingly expose their otherwise healthy children to an infectious agent that causes a disease capable of killing their children. But, you know, vaccines are the real evil in their world. I’d try to argue some sense with them, but this is the typical response you get from the anti-vaccine activists among them:


Who can argue with reasoning like that?

If you picked the vaccine for our mental exercise, then you’re a reasonable and caring parent who looks after the health of their children. If you picked the infected lollipop, then you might as well hand over your children to people who will really care for them and step away before you kill them.

What’s the harm, really?

One thing that anti-vaccine types keep asking over and over is the following:

“If your kid is vaccinated, and if vaccines work as well as you say they do… Why is my kid a threat to your kid?”

It’s an interesting mental game to play with them if you’re so inclined. It probably won’t get you anywhere with the hardcore anti-vaccine activists, the ones that blame everything and anything on vaccines. But the “softer” ones may still be reachable. Here’s how you play the game: Continue reading

John Stone of Age of Autism is officially a “weirdo”

Remember a couple of weeks ago I told you that someone called the department of health and wanted to report that someone there was impersonating an epidemiologist? That person said something along these lines: “This man demonstrates little knowledge or competence in epidemiology.” That was the whole of the evidence that I was impersonating an epidemiologist.

Guess what John Stone of “Age of Autism” just wrote? I bolded the best part:

“As it is her [Dorit Rubinstein] defence of vaccines often rests on the rants of David Gorski or the blog of Liz Ditz, and if she tends to play her hand courteously (at least superficially) she is surrounded by a ragbag of supporters and associates who do anything but. This week found her in trouble defending flu mandates for young children in New York on the comment page of theJohn Gambling Show  and resorting to anonymous Facebook page “notes/chillin-out-vaxin-relaxin-all-cool/flu-shots-for-kids-two-year-yes they are effective”.

But it got worse. She also cited the “Poxes” blog of “Reuben Gaines”, known as well for his “Edward Jenner” Facebook page. As I pointed out Gaines had made fraudulent claims in Age of Autism to be a professor of epidemiology working at the Department of Health in Washington DC  while naming Johns Hopkins as his academic institution. He has also demonstrated only very little knowledge or competence in epidemiology.”

Ta-da! We now have a better understanding of who called the health department and whined like a little girl with a scraped knee that someone there was “impersonating” an epidemiologist. No wonder we all had a laugh at your expense, John Stone of “Age of Autism”.

John Stone, I know you read this. You hint at what I write all the time. You neither know science or epidemiology enough to know my competence in it, or that of anybody else. You’re just a loon that is so opposed to vaccines that you even throw your own deity, Andrew Jeremy Wakefield, under the bus just to smear someone. Guess what, John Stone? I’m still here. I’m still in public health. I’m still making decisions that save lives of the very people you seek to kill or maim with your anti-vaccine theories. And I’m going to be here longer than you will be alive. You will die of old age and your words will scatter into dust being nothing more than the fear-filled rants of someone who doesn’t want to see the world for what it is.

So good luck with your rants and conspiracy theories and random calls to health departments across the Atlantic Ocean, you foolish, foolish man. I may be “contemptible” to you, John Stone, but I am, and always will be, your huckleberry. (Until I get bored with your stupidity, of course.)

The crazy rises again, and again, and again

Sorry I’ve been away for a bit. I’m finishing up the details on my likely new job. I’m weighing my options. A well-paying job up north, or a not-so-well-paying job down south, but in a great place down south? The options are endless when the world is your oyster. I’ll let you know once that decision is made, but I’ll be traveling a lot to both places in the meantime. Me and Pedro (not her real name) have to decide.

Speaking of jobs, there’s a reason why I will keep the new job’s location, nature, and name very much hermetically sealed. Remember my first legal threat? The same guy has been at it again. This time, he’s going after Dorit Reiss, a lawyer law professor and vaccine advocate from California. And he has done it in the most creepy way:

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

What? He didn’t have pictures of her kids to really ramp up the creepiness factor to 11?

Of course, if you’re diligent enough, you can find these things out on your own. The creepiness comes from a rabid anti-vaccine activist who continues to claim that his very much alive child is dead due to vaccines (hence his former Facebook name of “Death by Vaccination”) and his call for people to harass a vaccine (and, thus, science) advocate. If they can’t win the scientific argument, they’ll do this. They’ve done it before. They’ll do it again. Just read what “the kid” tried to do to Orac a while back, or what a “douchebag” did to Ren a couple of years ago.

It’s how they roll. It’s how they’ll continue to roll because the science doesn’t back them up.

No, No, No, and No!

It looks like someone over at the “daily web newspaper of the (non-existent) autism epidemic” is all worked up over people telling her the truth. In a weird blog post, an anti-vaccine activist asks 15 questions of us “vaccine bullies”. Go read them. Every answer, from me, is a resounding “NO”. The best question was number 14:

“If a parent has independently researched vaccines, possibly to a level that exceeds that of any healthcare practitioner they might see, and is confident that they have reached the best decision for their family, would you be okay with that parent exempting their children from vaccines?”

I needed a good laugh after this week. (Work gets rough as the cold and flu season picks up in the capital area.) People “doing their own research” “to a level that exceeds that of any healthcare practitioner they might see”? Please. The only way this is true is if they’re seeing a chiropractor. Continue reading