Sunday, May 29, 2005

More antivaccination puffery on The Huffington Post

A few days ago, I posted a long piece about how antivaccination fallacies are being given wide distribution on the new group celebrity blog, The Huffington Post. I then posted an addendum mentioning for the sake of fairness that at least The Huffington Post allowed one expert to post a rebuttal. Well, as expected, it didn't take long for Dr. Jay Gordon to post his response to the rebuttal. As with his other pieces, it's a relatively content-free post, in which once again Dr. Gordon makes dire insinuations that those who don't believe that the objective evidence supports the contention that mercury in vaccines causes autism are shills for the pharmaceutical industry:
The American Academy of Pediatrics (of which I have been a member for a quarter century) has a very cozy relationship with the vaccine industry. Most authors and speakers in the vaccine controversy have been paid consultants to the vaccine industry. Most of these researchers still accept funds while commenting on the issues.

OK, Dr. Gordon, so you think that the American Academy of Pediatrics is biased because of a "cozy" relationship with the vaccine industry? If that's so, then why has the AAP come out for removing thimerosal from vaccines--as you yourself pointed out, "adamantly" for it. (I'd have to guess that it's mainly it's because of activists like you, not because of the experimental evidence for a link, which has always been very weak at best and is becoming weaker and weaker with each new study. Apparently, the AAP's "cozy" relationship with the pharmaceutical industry didn't stop it from recommending this.) I'd also turn Dr. Gordon's insinuation around and ask him if he's ever accepted funds from any groups advocating that thimerosal in vaccines is a major cause of autism. If he has, then perhaps he would explain to me why his "accepting funds while commenting on the issues" himself" is any different from other doctors doing the same.

But what about researchers on the "other" side of the issue. In Dr. Gordon's view, apparently it's not good for one's objectivity to have a financial interest in one side of the issue. Fair enough; most people would probably agree that a researcher shouldn't have a strong financial interest in one side of a question. (Leave aside for the moment that most scientists who don't have a financial interest in vaccines also have concluded that there is no link between thimerosal in vaccines and autism and not just in this country.) Given that, why, then, does it not seem to bother Dr. Gordon in the least that David Geier and Dr. Mark Geier, whose research he once again singles out to cite approvingly and both of whom make a significant part of their livings providing legal counsel and consulting and expert witness services to parents pursuing legal action for alleged "injuries" due to vaccination? Doesn't that count as a financial conflict of interest? Yet Dr. Gordon thinks their research is "excellent." Or why doesn't it bother him that their work has been criticized for sloppiness and methodological flaws and they've been rebuked for risking patient confidentiality while mining the CDC's database.

Oh, wait. I get it. The Geiers are not in the pockets of the pharmaceutical industry (pharmceutical industry: always bad). They're in the pockets of trial lawyers and antivaccination activists (antivaccination activists: always good). They're on the "right" side; so Dr. Gordon appears willing to overlook their blatant conflict of interest, while at the same time making vague insinuations of a conflict of interest against by claiming that most researchers in the field accept funding from pharmaceutical companies that manufacture vaccines.

It looks as though Dr. Gordon is going to be a regular at The Huffington Post. Unfortunately, that means he'll have a huge platform for pushing his antivaccination misinformation. That means he'll also probably be occasionally providing me with ideas for this blog for some time to come. But I'd give up all that material in an instant if he's stop making exaggerated claims for a link between thimerosal and autism that almost certainly doesn't exist.

9 example(s) of insolence returned:


At 5/29/2005 11:41 AM, Anonymous Skeptico said...

I note this latest Puffington Host post accepts comments. Just sayin..

 

At 5/29/2005 4:48 PM, Blogger Dreaming again said...

They'll never get it will they? Until they actually see the devestation that those diseases actually heaped on the generations that came right before us, they will never get it.

They see the diseases as benign chicken pox like diseases that were blips on the screen of life that caused discomfort and a challenge to the routine of life. It might have occassionally caused a bit of chaos, but in reality, how serious were they, really now? Must we really jam these needle's full of poison into the arms & legs of our precious innocent pure children and damage their immune systems beyond repair for diseases that really, are natural and quite easy for the immune system to fight naturally?

Sorry for the deep sarcasm. Wednesday we find out of my husband's heart problems are the complications of polio from 1958, something our generation will never deal with. People who don't like vaccines and think they are poison ... GET A GRIP ...those diseases KILLED!!!! They MAIMED and they were DEVASTATING!

They were NOT chicken pox or a mere interruption. They were dangerous, disabling and deadly.

Vaccinate.

 

At 5/31/2005 12:15 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have made a habit of checking news.google.com for specific words like "measles", "mumps", "pertussis" and other diseases.

This has led me to news articles on where the diseases are breaking out (like the mumps epidemic in the UK), but also where journalists write the latest sob story. These are sob stories where a parent is blaiming a vaccine for their child's austism. At least once every three months or so it will have the phrase "the thimerosal that is in the MMR vaccine". Since MMR is a live virus vaccine and does NOT contain thimerosal I take this as an indication that the journalist did not do any research.

I will often email the author to tell them that they are wrong. So far only two out of half a dozen or so have emailed me back saying "oops, I made a mistake". I am the poisonous person who started this thread:
http://forums.randi.org/showthread.php?s=&threadid=40903

By the way, I never did get a reply back for Discover Magazine for this travesty:
http://www.discover.com/issues/mar-05/features/our-preferred-poison/ ... the author has a paragraph about the MMR vaccine withOUT stating that it never had thimerosal in the first place!!!!

HCN

 

At 5/31/2005 12:39 PM, Anonymous Ron Sullivan said...

Hell, even chicken pox isn't "just chicken pox." When I feel the need to swat with an effective anecdote, I mention the kid I took care of years ago (before the vaccine) who lost his legs at the age of two to complications of chicken pox.

If I want to swat hard, I mention that the facts that he was so young, still had lots of growing to do (including the bone growth in his stumps) and scar tissue is unyielding and doesn't grow meant that he had to come in periodically for scar revisions -- which need was signalled by serious pain. And that this would go on until he reached adulthood... Which he has by now.

The picture of a four-year-old child writhing, weeping, and waving his stumps in the air, well, this is about the power of anecdotes I guess. You and I know that anecdotes don't make good science, but their illustrative power can be useful to us. That power is why the hottest news stories get a photo too. Sometimes people need the picture for which lab research and double-blind studies (and the passion that drives them) are the text.

 

At 5/31/2005 6:33 PM, Anonymous gadfly said...

(Meekly raising his hand, gadfly beings to speak)

I’m coming to this topic late (and not as informed as I should be). But here are my observations/questions at this point.

If thimerisol contributed to (or caused) autism, shouldn’t there be an epidemiological increase around the time that Thimerisol is first used in vaccines? Or has it always been used, and therefore no datapoint can be taken? Further, shouldn’t there be a direct correlation between number of vaccinations and number of autism cases? I’m assuming (for this moment) that these studies are out there and show no correlation.

Second, if there is a genetic component to Autism, could it be “triggered” by something such as mercury or some other external agent? (I am very interested in this topic of “triggered” genetic predisposition. Any recommendations for further reading?)

Third, if mercury is causal, at what level? And related to this, how much mercury does it take to affect a fetus or even the neural tube (does it affect the neural tube?) Further study/question...Is there any correlation between mothers who got flu vaccines and autism in their babies?

Forth - is there a cumulative affect wherein environmental exposures to mercury combine with other types of exposure to somehow “overwhelm” the body?

Final (for the day) When the EPA says it’s okay to consume this much fish (based on mercury levels), or a power plant can emit so much mercury, I have to assume (cause you know it’s their job to know this stuff) that they consider the entire spectrum of exposure for a given pollutant. That is to say, they take into account that the average American eats so much fish, gets one flu vaccine a year, has some other exposure factors, so therefore we can allow power plants to emit x parts of mercury knowing that the average person will absorb Y parts from that source in addition to everything else. At which point they will still be below a certain threshold considered unhealthy for Americans. Does the EPA do that?

 

At 6/01/2005 8:59 AM, Blogger Orac said...

Yikes. That's a lot of heavy-duty questions.

The very reason that the mercury-autism crowd started to postulate a link is because supposedly autism was unknown until the 1940's, a few years after the first thimerosal-containing vaccines were introduced. However, given that autism wasn't described as a specific condition until 1943 by Dr. Leo Kanner, that is not surprising. Yes, back in 1911 or so, Eugen Bleuler coined the word "autism" in schizophrenic patients who screened themselves off and were self-absorbed, but "autism" wasn't considered a specific diagnosis until the mid-1940's. So naturally, there was no "autism" as such before then. There were "schizophrenics," some of whom had "autistic" characteristics. For a very long time autism and psychosis were often confused. Given the relatively primitive state of psychiatry in the first half of the 20th century, who knows what the true autism rate was?

Once again, correlation is not causation.

As for the mercury link, I have been unable to find any good evidence that the rate, severity, or prevalence of autism is in any way correlated with dose of mercury.

Finally, I'm not entirely clear on exactly how the FDA came up with the maximum recommended mercury guidelines. That's something I should look into more when I get a chance. I do know that the FDA tends to err on the very conservative side when making such guidelines.

Clearly there is a genetic component to autism. (The 4:1 boy:girl ratio of autistics alone argues for that.) However, the evidence for an environmental "trigger" is very weak at best, nonexistent at worst.

A source of more information:

http://www.autism-watch.org/ (also contains lots of links to other good sources)

http://autismdiva.blogspot.com/

http://www.kevinleitch.co.uk/wp/home.php

 

At 10/10/2005 2:56 PM, Blogger Peter Spero said...

hmm...

 

At 11/09/2005 12:40 AM, Anonymous HCN said...

Ignore Mr. Spero... his blogs are all sex related, and probably very very boring.

 

At 11/09/2005 7:42 AM, Blogger Orac said...

Actually, I did ignore him.

 

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