Let me tell you a story…

Spoiler alert: This story does not have a happy ending.

Back in 1932, the United States Public Health Service (USPHS) decided that it would be a good idea to understand the natural history of syphilis infections. They wanted to know what happened to a human body when the infection took place, from beginning to tragic end. To that end, they “enrolled” 600 African-American men from Tuskegee, Alabama, into a study where the men would be given free medical exams, free meals, and burial insurance.

Over the course of the next 40 years or so, this would become one of the most shameful episodes in the history of my profession. It was shameful for several reasons. First, the men in the study were not fully told what the study was about. They were not told that scientists would observe their bodies succumb to a disease. Second, when penicillin became widely available in the 1940’s (especially after World War II), the very effective antibiotic treatment that penicillin offered against syphilis was withheld from the study participants. Third, by the time the “study” was concluded in 1972, an untold number of men had died or been hurt by syphilis unnecessarily. Their wives were infected as well.

Some good did come from this, however. Because of this embarrassment, this abomination to science that was eclipsed only by the Nazi human experiments during the Holocaust, protections of human subjects in research studies (private and public) was finally codified into law. Today, you cannot have someone participate in a research study without their complete and fully informed consent, without the study benefiting the subject in some way, and without doing all that is possible to keep the subject from any harm. If you do something that violates these principles, the consequences can be very grave.

The story did not end with the class-action lawsuit that the Tuskegee participants launched against the US Government. It didn’t end when President Clinton apologized on behalf of the nation for that horrible crime. Oh, no. Thanks to the wild imaginations of people like Brian Hooker and Andrew Jeremy Wakefield, the story continues today. Although, today, the perpetrators of the lies and deceit of the African-American community are not in the employ of the US Government. Today, it’s the anti-vaccine groups that are lying through their teeth so that Hooker wins his court case (and the sweet, sweet cash that comes with it), and Andrew Jeremy Wakefield gets some sweet cash donations for his next film.

After all, Andrew Jeremy Wakefield is now a filmmaker, don’t you know?

Yes, these two sorry excuses for human beings are telling the African-American community that the so-called “CDC Whistleblower” has “revealed” that a study by staff from the Immunization Branch of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention clearly shows that there is an association between the MMR vaccine and autism, and that this association is more pronounced in African-American male children than in any other group.

This is a bunch of baloney, as several people have explained here, here, here, here, here, here and here. Oh, and here.

In their long-winded speeches about what the “whistleblower” may or may not have said, neither BS Hooker nor Andrew Jeremy Wakefield mention how much money they stand to make from the whole thing. They don’t mention the mountains of evidence against them, either. Andrew Jeremy Wakefield never mentions how he is no longer a licensed physician anywhere in the world because of his elaborate fraud to try and link the MMR vaccine to autism when he was getting paid by lawyers to find that link (by any means necessary?) and how he was planning to patent a vaccine of his own to compete with the vaccine he was trying to destroy.

BS Hooker doesn’t tell people about his current case in the Vaccine Court and how he stands to get money if he wins it. It even seems that he goes one step further and not tell even the people he’s suckered into working with him about this, citing no conflicts of interests in his papers and being an “independent” researcher according to hack reporters he’s using to spread the “whistleblower” mythos. But, somehow, a study of children in Georgia done with full institutional review, adhering to the Belmont Principles, and whose results are clear and verifiable, somehow that study is the big lie being told to the African-American community?

Brian S. Hooker and Andrew Jeremy Wakefield (and RFK Jr. and company) must think that African-Americans are stupid in general. There’s no other explanation for why they are proudly and openly lying about the “whistleblower.” If you look at the documents that the “whistleblower” passed on to Congress at the behest of Hooker and Wakefield (in the expectation that Congressional hearings would be called and someone would have a Perry Mason moment on the stand) there is nothing of substance in any of those documents. Even Ben Swann, the orange-colored not-so-super reporter who was fooled into making a YouTube video about this, kind of put out his video and then walked away.

But you know what is really the worst part of this? Hooker and Wakefield and friends do not tell African-Americans the very real consequences of not getting vaccinated. They are two fat, happy White men who have the resources available to get care if they get sick who are going around to communities of people whose access to care is less-than-appropriate telling people in those communities to forgo one of the most important ways of staying healthy. And, should it come to pass that any of those unvaccinated children are harmed by a vaccine-preventable disease, I bet you good money that both of these very privileged men will wash their hands of the whole thing.

Heck, I’ll even go one step further and predict that they will distance themselves from the Nation of Islam and other African-American-centric groups the minute they feel that they are not getting their money’s worth. Andrew Jeremy Wakefield already did it with the Somali community in Minnesota. He went up there and scared them away from the MMR vaccine, triggering a measles outbreak, and has not been back since. He might as well have mooned them when he heard there was a measles outbreak.

Yes, I’m blaming you, Andrew Jeremy, for the measles outbreak that hurt African-American children in Minnesota. And I’m not the only one. And now, I’m blaming you and your friend, BS Hooker, of scaring away an even wider audience of African-Americans from the one public health intervention that has not failed them, of trying to break the trust that we in public health have been trying to rebuild since Tuskegee, and of me, personally, being physically threatened over something that happened before my time and that you two despicable jerks are bringing up as if it is happening again.

Remember how I wrote up there that this story doesn’t have a happy ending? It really doesn’t. We all lose when lies and greed seed so much doubt and fear that people, even one person, gets hurt. Last time there was this much mistrust toward my profession was for a very good reason. This time, it’s because BS Hooker and Andrew Jeremy Wakefield seem to can’t do without that sweet, sweet, motherf*cking cash.

I hope they’re happy.

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Perhaps not the best anti-vaccine argument you should use

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In a Facebook discussion about vaccines, “Kitti St. John” decided that she was going to display her bigoted views of autistics. While trying to convince people that vaccines are bad, she linked vaccines to autism and then compared an autistic child to “an agro chimpanzee.” She then goes on a rant about diets and nature and how vaccines have torn us all apart or something. She even believes that people, healthy people, “do not catch contagious disease.”

Kitti is just one of thousands of anti-vaccine activists who take their misinformed views of vaccines a step too far and demonize autistics of every age. It’s not just the comparison of children with learning disabilities to animals like Kitti just did. It’s also the whitewashing of murders of autistic children. Calling a mother and a caregiver who brutally killed Alex Spourdalakis the victims rather than the murderers that they confessed to be is just one more step in the anti-vaccine playbook of people like Andrew Jeremy Wakefield, people without a shred of evidence that vaccines cause autism but yet want to paint autism as a horrible “disease” that is preventable, avoidable, or curable.

Autism is not preventable, avoidable, nor curable. In fact, one of the biggest signs of quackery is someone who wants to sell you an autism cure or an autism preventative. That’s when you know you’re dealing with loonies, with fraudsters.

I’d like to ask the Andrew Wakefields of the world what they’re doing to ensure that autistic children and adults get all the help they can to live a long and fruitful life. Because, whatever Wakefield did to “help” Alex Spourdalakis failed phenomenally and no one should trust him in any way with their autistic child, ever.

If you want to argue that vaccines are part of some big plot, go ahead. If you want to say that they cause more harm than good, go ahead. All your points are easily refutable. What you shouldn’t do is denigrate autistics to the point that you endanger them and, by extension, endanger all of us. Because failing to protect the weakest among us is a sign that we’re on a downward spiral as a society. We’re circling the drain, so to speak.

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:

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

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chickenpox_mom

 

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:

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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.

A quick story about dirty tricks

This quick story is about a man who likes to call himself a “health reporter” or “health advocate” or some such nonsense. His “reports” consist of rambling blog posts in which he follows every “I” with his own name in a foolish attempt at winning the search engine optimization wars because, when you Google his name, you get a video of him making a fool out of himself during a deposition. Go watch the video. It’s hilarious.

Yet, this man who doesn’t remember what kind of education he had, wants us to believe that vaccines cause autism. Shocking, I know. He wants to promote the idea during a meeting of anti-vaccine and alternative medicine people in Chicago this summer. But he made one crucial mistake: He pissed off the people running the show.

How did he piss them off? He published another rambling blog post by an anti-vaccine activist who accuses the people running that meeting of some improper — in their view — some improper actions. This led to infighting which you can read about here, here, and here. Get out the popcorn, indeed.

Anyway, the “health advocate” writes that he doesn’t want to get into a controversy in Chicago, so he’s not going to speak there anymore. (This guy not speak? Good question.) More than likely, he probably got asked not to speak because of the internecine war he triggered by hosting that other blogger. Not to be “neutral” about it, he wrote this (redacted by me to remove names, replaced with Persons A, B, etc.):

“Throughout the discussions with Autism people about what I call the “Autism leadership problem” one other situation kept coming up – the relationship between [Person A] and [Person B]. Both [Person A] and [Person B] have children with Autism – and both seem to be married to someone else – that someone else who takes care of the autistic children while [Person A] and [Person B]… travel together, endlessly, running, and/or influencing, various organizations (SafeMinds, Facing Autism, the Canary Party, Age of Autism), all of which claim to speak for the Autism community.

I’m told that the night before the infamous Congressional Committee on Oversight and Government Reform committee hearing on November 29th, 2012, the one [Person C] talks about in his article, that [Person A’s Wife], [Person A]’s wife, confronted [Person A] and [Person B] about their “relationship.” [Person A] was quoted as saying “that was the worst night of my life.” I’m told that Capitol Police were notified to be on alert that [Person A]’s wife might try to disrupt the televised hearing. 

While I was at the private meeting in Washington DC I received a message from [Person D] (AutismOne) that [Person A] and [Person B] were going to pull the Canary Party’s $9,000 sponsorship of AutismOne if I, [“health advocate”], remained on the AutismOne Speaker Schedule. They were reacting to me having made [Person C]’s article available to Autism leadership. They said I was “destructive.” [Person D] and [Person E] refused to remove me, so they lost that sponsorship.

I have since removed myself from those speaking engagements. I need to stay neutral.”

Neutral? Accusing someone of adultery is being “neutral” in the anti-vaccine book, I guess. It sure as heck isn’t neutral in the real world.

Look, it’s one thing to have a beef with someone and maybe even call them names like “Pharma Shill” or “Vaccine Industrialist” or “Son of a Bitch”. It’s a completely different thing to make accusations as serious as infidelity and adultery. Those kind of unfounded accusations can tear apart families and end marriages. And what about the children of the people being accused?

These anti-vaccine activists want to convince us that they care about the children. They don’t. They’ll bring down whomever they need to bring down in order to… to… to what? Speak at a conference?

That was a dirty trick, and — as much as I love seeing them fight with each other — I totally despise that trick.