Smackdown of McCarthy on Larry King

By Phil Plait | April 7, 2009 2:00 pm

So "journalist" Larry King, friend of quacks, frauds, and antiscience peddlars everywhere, had Jenny McCarthy on his program the other day, and let her rant on about vaccines, autism, and loads of nonsense. I don’t have time (or the will power) to go through what she said step-by-step, by happily David Gorski did. He even has video of her on the show, and a righteous smackdown it is.

Now, we just need to let Gorski have as wide an audience as King, and the world will be a far, far better place.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Antiscience, Cool stuff, Debunking

Comments (97)

  1. Todd W.

    To get it out of the way for the inevitable pro-disease antivaxers who will visit this thread:

    * MMR never had any mercury in it.
    * Thimerosal was removed from most vaccines back in 2001/2002.
    * Vaccines that still have thimerosal have only trace amounts and are often available in thimerosal-free formulations.
    * Thimerosal is ethylmercury, not methylmercury (which has exposure limits set by EPA). Ethylmercury has a half-life of a few days to around a week. Methylmercury has a half-life of several weeks to months.
    * Hannah Poling suffered from a mitochondrial disorder, not autism. Mitochondrial disorder is not autism.
    * Bailey Banks suffered from acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (ADEM), which is also not autism.
    * No case before the vaccine court has established a causal link between vaccines and autism.
    * The oral form of the polio vaccine (OPV) did indeed spread the vaccine form of polio, which spread immunity. The rate of paralytic polio from OPV was around 6-8 cases per year, compared to 13,000-20,000 cases per year from wild type polio. Ergo, the OPV vaccine (which is not used much any more, if at all), lowered the rates of polio and paralytic polio.
    * The basis of the MMR=autism argument is a flawed study by Andrew Wakefield, who had several ethics breaches, including failure to disclose financial compensation from a lawyer representing families claiming MMR cause their children’s autism, failure to disclose financial interests in patents for MMR alternatives, failure to include data which contradicted his conclusions, use of contaminated samples to support his conclusions.
    * There exists no sound, well-controlled studies showing a causal link between vaccines and autism.
    * There exist many well-controlled studies showing no link between vaccines and autism.

    Hmm…let’s see, did I miss anything?

  2. Charles Boyer

    It’s not news, it’s CNN. The network almost as bad as Fox.

    In other news, is Elon Musk (and SpaceX) about to go broke?

    “Acquaintances have been saying for some time that Elon is essentially broke, save for his illiquid stakes in Tesla Motors and SpaceX, his rocket-ship startup. We hear that he had to liquidate investments at a loss so he could participate in Tesla’s most recent round of funding, and that he’s couch-surfing with friends on his frequent trips from Los Angeles, where he lives, to Silicon Valley, where Tesla is based.”

    – from gawker.com

  3. I used to like Jim Carrey. Dang…guess I will have to boycott his work until he stops spouting ignorance.

  4. Todd W.

    Oh, almost forgot:

    * Vaccines are not 100% safe. No one in the industry, at FDA or CDC make that claim. That typically is a lie spouted by the pro-disease/anti-vax movement.
    * Reduced vaccination rates lead to higher incidents of infection. This has been illustrated in the U.K. following Wakefield’s bogus study, in Germany in 2006 (including two deaths in unvaccinated children), in California, in MN (where an unvaccinated child died from hemophilus influenza type b).

  5. Phillip Mixon

    Well at least it was Larry King and not a News Program with climbing ratings. LK’s rating have been plummeting recently. Hopefully this is one of the night no one was watching.

    I like the Dr’s comments about Mercury, MMR and now it is too many. Well which is it?

  6. AJ

    Awwww, I was so disappointed… your headline makes it sound like Larry King gave McCarthy the smackdown. Finding out the truth was quite a let down :(

  7. I thought the same thing AJ, and was wondering if someone was seeing sense!

  8. Craig

    Trouble is, smackdowns will only be read by people who don’t subscribe to the McCarthy dogma. Most people who believe something that is built on a shaky foundation hardly wish to seek out information which would out them as being ignorant.

    My parents ensured that my sibling and I were vaccinated, but now my mother believes that vaccines are bad — but only because the government and pharma giants are using them to experiment on the masses. Sigh. Try and counter that argument, willya?

  9. Nathaniel

    Might want to clarify that the smackdown didn’t occur on Larry King Live (which would be cool), but that the linked blog entry is what lays down the “smackdown.” Unfortunately for us, the latter doesn’t do nearly as much to counter the misinformation spread on Larry King Live.

  10. Cheyenne

    I Tivo’d the show and watched it later. What frightens me is that she (and the panel) came off as sounding like they were making sense.

    I know better because I read blogs like these and listen to the experts. But to the average mom and dad out there that don’t pay much attention to this……ugh, King has a huge audience and they definitely persuaded some people to not vaccinate (or to spread out and reduce the number of vaccinations). This is definitely a fight worth getting into. I really don’t want to see kids getting hurt from diseases that they shouldn’t have gotten.

    @Todd- Nicely done.

  11. Lawrence

    Very scary stuff – encouraging parents to be afraid of autism & not all of the horrible childhood illnesses that vaccines protect against. Unforunately, the medical establishment is “partially” to blame. They did too good a job against these diseases – they aren’t the boogeymen they once were & parents aren’t scared of them.

    Just wait until we get smacked with one good-sized outbreak of whooping cough or measles & kids start dying (or going blind – or with Mumps, becoming sterile). It is a very bad way to get the message across, but death seems to be the only way to get people to listen.

  12. Excellent summary, Todd W.

  13. TS

    It seems that Jim Carrey wasn’t doing any acting in Dumb and Dumber…..

  14. Winter Solstice Man

    Most actors are not Rhodes scholars. A lot of them dropped out of high school and especially college (or never attended) to pursue their careers.

    But the sheeple listen to them because they are on TV.

  15. Alan French

    Indeed, an excellent summary by Todd W.

    I’m really going to have to nominate Phil, however, for the “Misleading Headline of the Day.” It really did sound like she got smacked down on the show.

    Clear skies, Alan

  16. Alan French

    Indeed, a fine summary by Todd W.

    I’m really going to have to nominate Phil, however, for the “Misleading Headline of the Day.” It really did sound like she got smacked down on the show.

    Clear skies, Alan

  17. Winter Solstice Man

    Jim Carrey may not actually be dumb, but merely has a case of the hot blond that can make a man do whatever she wants syndrome which far too man of males have suffered from throughout history, with no end in sight.

  18. Zar

    I’d add to Todd W.’s very good summary:

    -Having polio/measles/mumps really, really bites.

  19. tmb_68

    My son is autistic and that’s just how he is. It’s not because of some vaccine. We need vaccines and too many parents are listening to goofballs like Jenny McCarthy and rejecting vaccines. Whooping cough went around this past year (2008) here in the Dallas/Ft.Worth metroplex. An older woman at work caught it from her grandchild who caught it at day school. They were both seen by doctors and treated for a cold. After getting much worse, they were finally diagnosed with Whooping Cough 2-3 weeks later AFTER they had been at work, home, school, malls, parks, eateries, hospitals, doctor’s offices, etc….

  20. Alan French

    @Winter Solstice Man

    I think that is one good definition of being dumb, although he could argue “extenuating circumstances.”

    Clear skies, Alan

  21. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    Todd, we aren’t worthy!

    … though I might add Phil’s persistent reminder of the qualitative transition between herd immunity or none, and what state you would like you and your children to find ourselves in.

    [Btw, does anyone know if that is a true phase transition in epidemic models? Intuitively I would expect virulence transmission chains of all lengths close before herd immunity, AFAIU one sign (but certainly not a test) of a phase transition. Eeck, a fascinating and depressing subject! :-]

  22. Technogeek

    @Craig

    I prefer to counter such arguments via percussive education.

  23. Zetetic

    Todd:

    Nice list! It should be included at the end of all vaccine related posts.

    I would add
    - The rate of Polio was not in an overall rate of decline before mass vaccination was started in the USA. The rate of Polio in the USA did start to drop dramatically not long after mass Polio vaccinatio was started.

  24. Adam Altman

    When does President Obama get humilatded for cutting NASA’a budget? Oh wait he won’t ever. I undersatnd he is opening doors in other aspects of science but he is also closing alot of other doors and no one seems to care.

  25. Another Todd:

    *”Big Pharma” makes only minimal profit (if any) from vaccines.

    J/P=?

  26. Adam

    I watched the farce of a show last week. It was laughable, the things that she says and the “wisdom” of Jim Carrey on this topic.

    I have written to CNN, specifically Larry King, and asked that they please present the other side of this argument. Allow the doctors and scientists to show the evidence as so far, the reporting has been incredibly one-sided. I suggest that anyone else who has an interest in seeing the truth promoted do the same. Maybe if enough of us write and request this… Larry King will oblige and present the true facts.

  27. QUASAR

    Listen, vaccinations might improve your immuny but won’t they weaken the immune system as we evolve? When did the human immune system become so weak anyway? Since when do we have to fill up our children just to keep them alive?

  28. QUASAR

    A small correction ‘… might improve your immunity…’

  29. john

    Right — let’s put mercury back in vaccines. In fact, let’s put more mercury in this time.

    Did someone mention FDA? CDC? EPA? You’re talking the US FDA & US CDC & US EPA, right? — Aren’t these vaccines made in China & India? -because I don’t think I’ve ever heard of an FDA of China, or an EPA of India. Have you?

    You could prbly do a quick search for – autism vaccines, india, ?
    http://www.blisstree.com/autismvox/vaccines-and-autism-in-india/

    Did you really put an ‘antiscience’ tag on this post? Really?

    Phil – I love this blog. Sorry to be a wiseass. Would you please take some time to do a post on the potential causes or possible cures for autism — because I’m at a loss.

    Thx

  30. Daffy

    “Listen, vaccinations might improve your immuny but won’t they weaken the immune system as we evolve? ”

    Couldn’t that be said of ALL modern medicine?

  31. MJBUtah

    I was very very very happy to see this today too:

    http://www.dooce.com/2009/04/07/word-or-two-about-vaccinations

    such a well thought out argument, articulated by a smart mommy.

  32. JIM CARREY’S in on this too?

    Crap. I always liked him.

  33. QUASAR, that’s not how diseases and human immunology works in relation to evolution. Flawed question from the start.

  34. QUASAR

    @ LarianLeQuella

    Please explain!

  35. QUASAR

    Because I think that if we keep putting that stuff into humans, the body wll gradually realise that there’s no need for a strong immune system and that some fancy liquids may replace it!

  36. QUASAR

    Oh, wait, sorry! Not reaplce it but not giving it a chance to develope!

  37. 1.) The vaccines use the mechanism of our immune system to give us the natural immunity that exposure to the full blown disese would have given us, without the dire consequences of the disease. It’s not the “fancy liquids” that give us the immunity, but rather the way our body creates the antigens for the disease, thus letting our immune system tackle them as if we had already been exposed to the disease. If anything, it is giving our immune systems a workout like going to the gym before trying to do serious powerlifting.

    2.) Evolution doesn’t have a goal. Just because we are doing something to improve our lifestyle, evolution could care less in that regard. It’s not all of a sudden going to say that “Well, they are doing something about it so I might as well eliminate the immune system.” First of all, that’s anthropomorphising evolution which is incorrect. Second of all, see 1.)

  38. Todd W.

    Thanks, all, for the additions to my list. I know I missed some stuff. There are just too many myths…hard to keep track of them all.

  39. Alan French

    @QUASAR,

    Google “how vaccines work.” Fancy liquids replacing the immune system isn’t even in the same universe.

    Clear skies, Alan

  40. George E. Martin

    QUASAR, It sounds like you might believe in the Lamark theory of evolutionary change.

    Vaccines do not supplant the immune system. They prime it, give it a head start so that it will know how to produce the needed antibodies before they are needed to fight infectious diseases.

    George

  41. QUASAR

    Correction in one of my other comments. Yes, I know it’s not the “fancy liquids” but the weakened pathogens that trigger the immune system’s response!

    My question is does it give us the COMPLETE natural immunity that we would get if we were to be exposed to the disease naturally! Because it was a weakend pathogen that we were given and not the “healthy” one. Now, I think it has been clarified to me!

  42. A vaccine* is a biological preparation that establishes or improves immunity to a particular disease; it is not intended to replace the body’s natural immune system, but rather to stimulate/enhance it by exposing the body to dead or inactivated organisms or purified products derived from them. This ensures that the body’s immune system is then ‘armed and ready’ for a real attack by a pathogen.


    *Source: Wikipedia — Vaccine (click on my name for the link).

  43. George E. Martin

    P.S.

    Phil,

    When I registered for TAM7, I included a contribution for the Las Vegas vaccination effort that is running in conjunction with TAM7. Perhaps some readers here who will not be able to go to TAM7 would like to contribute to this.

    George

  44. IVAN3MAN

    Hmm… I now see that others have responded to QUASAR’s question. Oh well…

  45. Yes, Jenny is an idiot, especially with her anti-vax crap, but, let us never forget the ONE positive thing she did with her life… posing for Playboy.

  46. I think they’re Scientologists to boot…

  47. Keith

    I always knew Jenny McCarthy was stupid, but Jesus!

  48. TheBlackCat

    I’m glad I’m not the only one who was initially confused by Phil’s title.

    And I never liked Jim Carrey to begin with, so there!

    My question is does it give us the COMPLETE natural immunity that we would get if we were to be exposed to the disease naturally!

    If it didn’t, then we would be getting the disease.

  49. PJE

    Does the immune system “adapt” to prevent diseases? I mean that suppose you get a flu virus 3 yrs in a row. Would the immune system adapt to recognize a similar type of virus and stop it?

    I’m a mathemetician, well, a math teacher :) , not a sicientist

    The vaccines are mostly for nasty diseases, like Polio

    I met an asian kid who had a bout of polio. His left leg didn’t work properly. He adapted really well and kicked my ass at singles badminton

    My uncle had polio in the 40′s and has never been able to walk properly. I’ll be vaccinating my upcoming child.

    On a side note…Phil et al… I’m gunna be a daddy!

    Pete

  50. TheBlackCat

    I should add a few things to Todd’s list comment (and clarify a few):

    * No case in the vaccine court has awarded anything to any family claiming their child got autism from vaccines or anything remotely related to vaccines. The only 3 cases so far ruled the exact opposite.

    * Vaccines are not harmless, but the rate at which they cause harm is much, much, much lower than the rate at which the diseases they protect against cause harm.

    * Improves sanitation does not protect against airborne diseases, which many of these diseases are.

    * Children are not getting too many vaccines at one time. Children are exposed to thousands of new antigens (the stuff in vaccines) every day on average. Vaccines add less than a dozen to that.

    * Vaccines do not contain antifreeze. Antifreeze is ethylene glycol, one vaccine (influenza), includes polyethylene glycol, a similar-sounding but completely different chemical that is used a lot in medicines because of its extremely low toxicity.

    * If you are afraid of toxins in the vaccine, breaking up the vaccines and spreading them over a longer period of time will expose your kid to more toxins, since they will be getting more shots (all of which contain the same toxins) rather than fewer.

    * There are no deaths conclusively linked to HPV, and even if all the deaths that even happened at remotely the same time as the vaccines really were caused by the vaccines it is far, far less than would have died from the cancer the vaccine protects against.

    * There is no evidence that chelation helps with autism. Chelation is a dangerous procedure, especially for children, and there are numerous confirmed cases of it causing serious harm and even death.

  51. Sir Eccles

    @Quasar

    My question is does it give us the COMPLETE natural immunity that we would get if we were to be exposed to the disease naturally!

    Generally speaking, the unvaccinated children that die from preventable diseases caught naturally such as measles and polio are totally immune from catching anything else.

  52. TheBlackCat

    Does the immune system “adapt” to prevent diseases? I mean that suppose you get a flu virus 3 yrs in a row. Would the immune system adapt to recognize a similar type of virus and stop it?

    Short version: no.

    Long version: the antibodies produced by the immune system to combat viruses are extremely specific. Each antibody attaches to a specific part of a specific protein. It can only attach to proteins that have that specific part. Your body produces a huge number of such antibodies by randomly combining three different pieces, and the cells that produce that antibody float around. Just by pure luck one of those combinations happens to match a part of a protein in a virus. Once it does, the cell that made that antibody starts duplicating and pumping out more of them. But neither the cell nor the body has any way of knowing what triggered the binding, why, how, what the problem with it is, or what other features it might have. In fact neither has any way of knowing what the actually combination of pieces were used to make that antibody, only that the cell in question found a match and that the cell should duplicate itself.

    The vaccines are mostly for nasty diseases, like Polio

    Influenza kills

    Inlfuenza kills hundreds of thousands of people a year and makes millions seriously sick. An influenza pandemic was the most deadly disease outbreak in history.

  53. IVAN3MAN

    @ PJE,

    For your 20 seconds’ of pleasure, you’re gonna get 20 years’ of pain!
    :-)

    I’ll get my coat and see myself out…

  54. Brian

    Sir Eccles: Well stated.

  55. @PJE: Gonna be a Daddy?

    What vaccine is responsible for that?

    That reminds me of a childhood story. When I was 10 or 11, I had this friend who, in a young boy’s talking about our vast knowledge of sex, was asking how his parents, who absolutely hated each other, could have done the deed and produced him.

    I, demonstrating my advanced wisdom, proudly stated that there was a thing called the Birth Control Pill, and, that people took this pill and it caused them to get pregnant without having to ever do the “deed.”

  56. Michael Finn

    Here’s the FCC”s website if you want to complain about “obscene” TV. It was to me…
    http://esupport.fcc.gov/complaints.htm?sid=d1e640&id=d1e669

  57. Michael Finn

    I’m sorry, here is the correct one.

  58. Michael Finn
  59. MadScientist

    What filthy lying tools. “We’re not saying don’t vaccinate – but you know, if you vaccinate your kids they’ll become autistic because the greedy Big Pharma is selling you poison.”

    There are many cures for the incurably stupid, and for Carrey and McCarthy I prescribe: “Go hang yourselves, you morons”.

  60. sophia8

    Quasar: Yes, a species can evolve immunity to a specific disease. But only when the disease kills every non-immune member before the infection can die out naturally; that’s what happened when myxomatosis was introduced in the UK and Australia to eliminate wild rabbits. There was an immediate holocaust of rabbits, but there were enough immune survivors to ensure the breed lived on. So, to breed humans that are immune to vaccinatable diseases, you have to have most of the global population wiped out by these diseases all at once.
    To give an illustration – most of my ancestors were dirt-poor Irish farmers. Every generation – EVERY generation, I’ve seen the family records – they would lose a child or two to measles, whooping cough etc. My own mother, as a child, lost two of her younger siblings that way. All that supposedly ‘bred-in’ immunity didn”t stop me from nearly dying from measles as a baby.

  61. Todd W.

    @john

    Did someone mention FDA? CDC? EPA? You’re talking the US FDA & US CDC & US EPA, right? — Aren’t these vaccines made in China & India? -because I don’t think I’ve ever heard of an FDA of China, or an EPA of India. Have you?

    Actually, I have. Both China and India have equivalents of the FDA. Granted, they haven’t been around nearly as long as the FDA has, but they have them and are workng to improve conditions in those countries just as the FDA has improved things here. Also, any products manufactured in other countries still need to meet FDA regulations when they come into the U.S.

    As for the EPA, not sure if those countries have an equivalent, but my guess is that they have some form of environmental agency. But, the EPA doesn’t really matter in regard to vaccines; it’s the pro-disease crowd that keeps drawing them in with their mercury exposure junk, using the wrong guidelines!

    But, nice job trying to build a strawman and play on people’s prejudices against Asian nations. Such a classy move.

  62. Andy Cooke

    Excellent post by Todd W, and a useful ready reference as well.

    I’d chip in one extra fact. In Battlestar Galactica style, “All of this has happened before; all of this will happen again”:
    In the early 1970′s there was a controversy in the UK over the whooping cough vaccination. A single study, published by a charismatic researcher, purported to show a likn between the pertussis vaccine and epilepsy.
    The media blew it up and the panic caused led to huge numbers of parents refusing to vaccinate their children against it. The effects lasted for years, even after the report was discredited by a journalist called Brian Deer.

    Over a hundred children died of whooping cough in the UK – totally unnecessarily. I personally nearly died as a child because my mother chose not to vaccinate me against it.

    Oh, and one extra note: the money being made out of all of this isn’t being made by the “Big Pharma” or the Government. It’s being made by lawyers. Where there’s blame, there’s a claim. Jenny McCarthy is a shill for ambulance-chasers, not a spokesperson for the parents of autistic children.

  63. john

    @Todd W. – calling someone a bigot is the first line of defense in liberal fascism, but thx for looking into the safety issues of vaccines made in India & China.

    If you have a strong stomach, please read this father’s account of his vaccine-injured son
    http://www.causecast.org/member/tanners-dad

    BadAstronomy readers – you may or may not believe in vaccine injuries; Hell for that matter you may not have ever seen or met someone w Autism, but it may be worth your time and money to use your big brains to stop more kids from becoming Autistic.

    I read every day about biotech VCs investing millions of dollars into new startups in the fields of cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cystic fibrosis, alzheimer’s , med devices, etc., etc.

    How many autism-focused startups have you read about that have gotten funded? It’s a pretty wide open space. It’s a big opportunity.

  64. Todd W.

    Oh, one more thing about this whole McCarthy brouhaha:

    * Jenny McCarthy extols the virtues of Botox, which uses a neurotoxic protein from the bacteria C. botulinum. This protein is one of the most deadly toxins known, being lethal in 50% of a given population at a mere .005-.05 micrograms/kg. To put that in terms that are a little more readily understood, a 45kg (~100lb.) individual would probably die from as small an exposure as .225 mcg (.000000225 g) – 2.25 mcg (.00000225 g). That lethal dose is way smaller than anything in any vaccine. But, it clears away those wrinkles, so it’s okay!

  65. Todd W.

    @john

    Aren’t these vaccines made in China & India?

    Forgot to address this, but many of the vaccines are made in the U.S., for the U.S., as well as for shipment to other countries.

    Oh, and after a brief google search, I found that China and India do, indeed, have equivalents to the EPA. China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection and India’s Ministry of Environment and Forests. And just for clarification, China’s drug regulatory agency is the State Drug Administration, while India’s is the Central Drug Standards Control Organization.

    Next time, take a couple minutes to do a little research before posting. It may save you from making silly statements.

  66. Ala'a

    Larry, the nutcase and the bimbo; all three suffer from a severe case of “S**thideous Maximus”.

  67. Gary Ansorge

    john:
    If you’re really interested in possible alternative causes of autism, Google Vitamin D and Autism. It’s an interesting area of research,,,

    Craig: Remind your Mom that the evil pharm and guvmint “experimentation” has resulted in a doubling of the average human life span since the advent of vaccines. Prior to the development of vaccines, the average(due to the death of children before puberty from communicable diseases) life span was around 35 years. Now it’s in the mid 70s. That might give her pause for thought,,,

    Gary 7

  68. Todd W.

    @john

    calling someone a bigot is the first line of defense in liberal fascism, but thx for looking into the safety issues of vaccines made in India & China.

    Where did I call you a bigot? I fail to find where I used that term. Also, by what means did you determine that I am a liberal fascist? I don’t see where I stated I was a fascist, liberal or otherwise, nor where I stated I am a liberal.

    If you have a strong stomach, please read this father’s account of his vaccine-injured son

    Woohoo! An anecdote. Please understand, while we can feel sympathy for people who tell these accounts, they are only personal accounts and are not scientific evidence that vaccines cause autism. They lack controls, so we cannot be certain that there is not something else causing it, we can’t be sure that some form of bias has not crept into the account, and on and on. Pro-disease anti-vaxers provide lots and lots of anecdotes, but never any valid science.

    you may or may not believe in vaccine injuries; Hell for that matter you may not have ever seen or met someone w Autism, but it may be worth your time and money to use your big brains to stop more kids from becoming Autistic.

    Vaccines do cause some injuries, just not autism. And I have met several people with autism. Since vaccines do not cause autism, how do you propose we go about stopping kids from getting the disease? I know there are a lot of people looking for the actual cause(s) of autism, which may be linked to vitamin D, high levels of testosterone in utero, and various genetic links.

    How many autism-focused startups have you read about that have gotten funded?

    All those other areas you listed have known causes and treatments. As yet, we do not know the specific cause(s) of autism, though we know it isn’t vaccines, and there are no products that effectively treat the disease, though Applied Behavior Analysis helps with the behavioral symptoms. So, no money to be made in the field of autism, yet. Therefore, no start-ups.

    Best of A of A: Autism Explosion Followed Big Change in MMR Shot

    Citing Age of Autism is a good way to lose your argument quickly. They are a bastion of flawed research, misinformation and outright lies. They seem not to really care about autism so much as proving that vaccines are to blame. But, I will try to take a look at that link and see what it says. My expectation is that it will be just as flawed as everything else they have on their site.

  69. unquiet_mind

    Question: Where did J&J come up w/ the number 36?

    I’m not a parent, but that is certainly not the number of diseases children are vaccinated against. (Right?)
    Is that the # of shots? Still doesn’t sound right. I didn’t think that many required more than 1 shot.

    So did they just take it completely out of context from somewhere…or flat make it up?

    Just curious…

  70. Todd W.

    @unquiet_mind

    Most of the vaccinations are in series of 3-4 shots. For example, DTaP is given as a 4-shot series. However, the overall number of shots can be reduced by using combination vaccines, such as Pentacel (combo of DTaP, IPV and HiB), meaning only 4 shots instead of about 8-10.

  71. Andy Cooke

    @ john
    “Hell for that matter you may not have ever seen or met someone w Autism, but it may be worth your time and money to use your big brains to stop more kids from becoming Autistic. ”

    I have. I call him “my son”. And hell, if Jenny McCarthy’s allowed to use her status as the parent of a child with autism to give her opinion high weight, I reckon you’ve got to accept the same from me.

    Why don’t you read this link: http://content.nejm.org/cgi/content/abstract/347/19/1477
    Freely available online and jampacked full of good scientific techniques, it compares the incidence of autism between Danish children who received the MMR vaccination and those that didn’t, over the time period January 1991-December 1998. More than half a million kids. Conclusion: no statistically valid difference (very slight difference towards vaccinated children being LESS likely to develop ASD).
    That one’s from a reputable peer-reviewed journal.

  72. Gary Ansorge

    Phil: Twice I have tried to post :

    1) a link to the CDC and
    2) no link to the CDC but a copy of their list of preventable diseases and,,,
    both times my submittal failed to post.

    What’s up with that?

    Gary 7

  73. Gary Ansorge

    unquiet_mind:

    There are only 27 diseases we can vaccinate against and since some of them are tropical diseases, we in the USA don’t need them,,,

    GAry 7

  74. Robert Carnegie

    I didn’t see the show, but put me down too for “No Smackdown of McCarthy on Larry King” as the correct headline. “Blogger complains” in extremely small print after. I hope [The Daily Show] picks it up, however.

    You could of course say “Smackdown of ‘McCarthy on “Larry King”‘”. Well, not so much “of course” as “maybe”.

    There are several things to be said about vaccine provision in the “Third World”, but let’s start with “who even gives a damn, and why”. Did you know that several countries in Africa have serious flooding right now? I only know because I heard it on BBC radio accidentally. Did you even know there was just an earthquake in Italy? Okay, maybe you did, since President Obama was in Europe. Don’t worry, he wasn’t hurt! But, if you never care about India or Africa or China most of the time, why suddenly start caring when it’s vaccines? Don’t you understand that these vaccines prevent people from coming to spread disease in America?

    If your immune system isn’t good, then, as pointed out, a vaccine won’t work on you.

  75. Tom

    So we should use Hospitals and research for injuries and trauma. Treating and finding cures for disease is silly due to our magic DNA. After all I am sure we will be free of cancer soon due to our immune system already working on it (not). I thank the Scientific clear thinking people. The Jenny McCarthy people of the world scare me.

  76. TheBlackCat

    @ John:

    BadAstronomy readers – you may or may not believe in vaccine injuries;
    Did you even read Todd’s and my list of points about vaccines? We both clearly stated that vaccines can cause injuries, but they do so at a much, much, much lower rate than the diseases they prevent. It really hurts your case when the claim you make has already been refuted twice.

    How many autism-focused startups have you read about that have gotten funded? It’s a pretty wide open space. It’s a big opportunity.

    It isn’t wide open, all of these anti-vaccination groups are, just by coincidence, also selling long-discredited “cures” for autism based on the assumption that vaccines cause the autism (primarily the non-existent mercury in vaccines). I would only be willing to sell treatments that have shown success at helping autistic people with a high degree of confidence, while the anti-vaccination crowd is willing to sell treatments that have been shown to unsuccessful with a very high degree of confidence. That would put me at a great disadvantage.

  77. Retrogarde

    Not that bad, Phil. They say they are not against vaccination, they are against too much vaccination that came to the system lately. Of course the god/heart argument is not valid. That vaccination would cause autism is poor speculation. However, keep in mind that the pharmaceutic industry likes to make money and tries to push things. That’s nothing new, here in Europe we have tax payed advertisements for gum with nicotine. It hardly works for people quiting smoking (tested), but nevertheless it is promoted everywhere. I welcome skepticism against anything although in this case I think it should be from a different approach. These people are misinformed and (the woman at least) is very happy making a living out of scaring people, selling books and making claims that are simply wrong.

    Some friends of us do have children diagnosed with autism and with proper treatment, recognition of the condition and with just a little extra attention these children do not differ that much from other children. They are not ‘cured’ though. Why should they in the first place. They enjoy live, have friends, enjoy their hobbies, go to school and do OK and, above all, they are just nice young people as they are.

    Personally I think some forms of autism might be stimulated by the overwhelming impulses that rain down on us from the first minute on. Especially the younger generations. And it has been exploding. Attention is directed at children including artificial attention like interactive toys, massive amounts of TV shows, computer games, lots of people who ‘understand’ you and who are trying to stimulate/correct you, tight 24/7 schedules, continuous monitoring, pressure to perform and excel, advertisements, etcetera. There is such a difference since the 70′s. Children need room to learn things on their own at their own pace. That, Jim and Jenny, is something that has changed dramatically since ‘your’ 1989.

  78. Retrogarde

    And sorry for the typo’s.

  79. I have one question for the Age of Autism crowd; has anyone considered the fact that screening for autism has increased at an explosive rate in the last twenty years? I’m 47 and trying to find a medical facility that will screen me for autism spectrum disorders; they all say I’m too old. But 40-45 years ago, no one screened me. Ever. Mom was concerned because I spoke very late, but once I spoke, my extreme introversion just became a “quirk.”

    These days I’d have been in the neurologist’s office in a microsecond.

    Make sense? This is anecdata, of course, so ymmv, but I’d like to know if anyone mentions this amid the “epidemic.” I’d look it up but the antivax sites make my hands hurt because I have to sit on them so very very heavily.

  80. Zetetic

    @ John:
    Your remarks are not just prejudicial but they also ignore that to be used in countries such as the USA, the vaccines still have to meet quality control standards. As usual for your position you also ignore the fact that your side has zero credible evidence backing it up that there is any relationship between vaccines and autism in study after study from around the world.

    The articles that you linked to (as usual for the pro-disease crowd) has no credible evidence. One just sites a newspaper story reporting fears caused by people like Carey/McCarthy. It also sites that usual bogus claims about using chelation to cure autism, a claim with no credible evidence backing it up. The other just makes claims with out credible evidence, on a site with virtually no medical/scientific credibility.

    @ Retrogarde:

    Not that bad, Phil. They say they are not against vaccination, they are against too much vaccination that came to the system lately. -Retrogarde

    Yes they are now that people are pointing to them that children are dying from their fear mongering. Don’t forget though that Jenny McCarthy also stated that it’s OK if other people’s children die as long as her imaginary fears get pandered to…

    I do believe sadly it’s going to take some diseases coming back to realize that we need to change and develop vaccines that are safe. If the vaccine companies are not listening to us, it’s their f___ing fault that the diseases are coming back. They’re making a product that’s s___. If you give us a safe vaccine, we’ll use it. It shouldn’t be polio versus autism.

    http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1888718,00.html

    Also Retrogarde, you seem to be ignoring two very important details in your conspiracy theory. First, that medical companies often make more money from treating the sick that they do on vaccines. Second, that they is a lot of money behind pushing the pro-disease movement from so-called “alternate medicine” quacks and some religious extremist groups. So if it’s the money that makes the conspiracy, according to you then, that makes the pro-disease side that ones that have the most to gain financially.
    The facts of the matter remains that modern vaccines are very safe (even though nothing is perfectly safe) and they are proven to be effective at reducing the spread of communicable disease.

    Finally Retrogarde your hypothesis is lacking in any evidence. There is no credible evidence of any major increase in autism outside of a change in the defining criteria and people’s imagination. Before much of what we now call autism used to be called “metal retardation” and other such terms. Also, since infants actually need stimulation to develop and in some cases survive (look up “failure to thrive”) it seems unlikely that stimulation is a factor even if there actually was an increase in autism. You seem to be making a “post hoc” fallacy.
    http://www.csun.edu/~dgw61315/fallacies.html#Post%20hoc%20ergo%20propter%20hoc
    You could just as easily blame the decline of Disco music, increasing use of Salsa, etc.

    Let’s again take a look at the claims about the so-called “autism epidemic”…
    http://photoninthedarkness.com/?p=158

    I guess that makes another one to add the the list….
    - There is no credible evidence of an “explosion” or epidemic of autism. Such claims can be explained by changes in the diagnostic definitions.

  81. Todd W.

    @Erik

    I’ve yet to see any of the anti-vax crowd like AoA/Generation Rescue acknowledge changes to diagnostic criteria, increased awareness of the disorders, increased misdiagnosis, improved diagnostic tools (i.e., better questionnaires, etc.). Those all create statistical noise that muddy the “epidemic” chant.

  82. J

    * Thimerosal was removed from most vaccines back in 2001/2002.
    * Vaccines that still have thimerosal have only trace amounts and are often available in thimerosal-free formulations.

    So you agree that thimerosal is not something that one would desire to put into their bodies.
    But a person who has no idea about the presence of thimerosal in vaccines must ask for the thimerosal-free formulation, which is more expensive and not always available. If they are unaware, they will most likely be injected with mercury. People need to ask the doctor to see the insert, which will say whether the vaccine has thimerosal in it. Chances are it will, and they will need to request thimerosal-free vaccine.

    * Thimerosal is ethylmercury, not methylmercury (which has exposure limits set by EPA). Ethylmercury has a half-life of a few days to around a week. Methylmercury has a half-life of several weeks to months.

    Ethylmercury is one of the metabolites of thimerosal, not thimerosal itself.
    And just because it may not be more toxic than methylmercury, which is lethal in small doses, doesn’t mean that it is a good thing to have in your body.

    You see people needlessly freaking about about playing with metallic mercury, but then have no problem with injecting organomercury compounds (the actual toxic stuff) into themselves and their children.

  83. Steve

    Now, I know Wikipedia isn’t the be-all and end-all when it comes to thoroughly researching a topic. Far from it. But because I wanted to give myself a refresher on autism before contributing to this discussion, I googled it and started reading. This little gem of information crops up in the second paragraph of the Wikipedia entry:

    The prevalence of ASD is about 6 per 1,000 people, with about four times as many boys as girls.

    (my emphasis added, and ASD refers to ‘autism spectrum disorders’, i.e. the whole family of autism related disorders including Asperger syndrome)

    So… does that mean that the alleged triggering of autism by the Thimerosal in the MMR vaccine is *selective by sex*? To me, this cries out that autism must have an underlying cause that is predisposed to the male by virtue of his genes. Or am I missing something?

  84. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    When did the human immune system become so weak anyway?

    Ha, that is so funny!!!

    AFAIU the problem we human apes have is that our immune system is way, way, way too aggressive!

    We are, I believe, the only ape that have problems with auto-immune diseases. We are the only ape which can’t seem to incorporate our variants of SIV (the two or more different HIV populations) in our germ line to make them relatively benign as other apes have, because our immune system freaks out waaay before that. (And the HIV viruses take advantage of that, as it must to survive this onslaught.) And we feel really miserable from influenza mostly due to our immune system nearly killing us in a supremely overblown effort to get rid of a relatively harmless virus. (In some cases it succeeds – suicide by immune system.)

    IIRC some biologists speculate that some hundreds of thousands of years ago the whole human population was nearly wiped out by some influenza like virus, and the only survivors were the ones with this freakishly overactive immune system.

    And perhaps that is why the bottleneck population in genetics research seems to have been a mere effective 1-2 000 individuals or perhaps less, way fewer than chimps ever were. Where were the vaccines when we needed them the most, to prevent this major disaster of nature?

  85. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    @ J:

    So you agree that thimerosal is not something that one would desire to put into their bodies.

    That is implying false causality. Thimoseral-free vaccines where developed since people where objecting to the use of the old preservative.

    Vaccines with preservatives are safer (guaranteed to be bacteria free), so they would be the better choice if you would like to minimize danger and maximize health in a population. I bet they are cheaper too, due to lower demands on production and storage.

    (Though the FDA approved them so presumably the risks are low enough, though perhaps then only compared to the high risks from the diseases.)

    You see people needlessly freaking about about playing with metallic mercury, but then have no problem with injecting organomercury compounds (the actual toxic stuff)

    Mercury by itself is one of the compounds that can cause mercury poisoning, mostly from vapor (due to the otherwise low absorption). This is why you should be careful among mercury spills.

    The common population have no problem with ingesting much larger amounts than from a shot, of the more hazardous methyl mercury no less, simply by eating popular fishes. So why would they see these puny amounts of a proved harmless preservative (~ 80 years worth of tests and usage) as a problem?

  86. Quasar,

    Natural immunity is not an evolutionary advantage.

    Acquired immunity only applies to those who survive the original exposure. Some may have no noticeable illness. Some may have a minor illness. Some may be permanently disabled. Some may die. How many fall into each group will depend on a number of factors, such as the illness, the strain of that illness, the health of the person at the time of exposure, . . .

    Vaccination provides immunity that does not have the same serious risks. There are risks. They may include death, but at a tiny fraction of the death rate of the illness itself.

    Vaccination may need to be supplemented with a booster shot, but even infection does not always provide life long immunity.

    You ask why our immune systems are weak compared to long ago. Our immune systems are not weak. If you compared the immune system of a child with Daniel Boone. Daniel Boone is not somebody considered wimpy, but compared to the immune system of a modern day vaccinated child with that of Daniel Boone. Daniel Boone is the one with the wimpy immune system.

    The average life expectancy back then was a little more than half of what it is now. Only a little more than half.

    Why? Many reasons, but one is a lack of vaccinations.

    Vaccines allow us to grow up, live healthy lives, raise kids, . . .

    Another scientific advance that helps us to live long lives, but may seem as if it weakens us, improved sanitation. We do not want to play in filth, or have our children play in filth. Having clean water, disposing of waste, and controlling vermin all contribute to greater health.

    These improvements do not weaken the immune system. What weakens the immune system is exposure to an illness that kills the individual. Dead individual = weak immune system.

    Should we return to the rough life, where we did not clean out filth, where we did not have vaccines, but we only lived to be about 40 years old, on average? Would that be better?

    We have not evolved an immune system that is able to tolerate all of the illnesses it is exposed to, at least not without help. Maybe this is as evolved as the immune system will ever be.

    We have evolved a brain to create vaccines to prevent us from becoming temporarily ill, permanently disabled, or dead. It would be a waste of that evolved brain to not use its evolutionary benefit to improve our survival. It would be contrary to natural selection.

    we have used our evolved brains to create shelters with all of our modern conveniences. We have created societies with a division of labor, so that we do not have to provide for every part of our own survival. We have improved farming to the point that nobody needs to starve. Starvation occurs due to politics. We can increase our knowledge while sitting at home using a computer. These are just some of the improvements that have come about because of our brains.

    Our brains provide a tremendous evolutionary advantage. No other species is able to adapt to its environment the way we are. Arctic. Tropic. Under the sea. Out in space.

    Whether we evolved this brain for a reason is debatable, but to abandon the advantages of that brain, because of a belief that it is unnatural, that is not good use of the brain.

    Vaccines are the safest protection from disease that we have.

    Nothing is safer.

    We do not fill children up with toxins. We give them a tiny amount of stimulant to the immune system. This vaccine makes the immune system stronger.

    If you doubt the safety of vaccines, look at the results when there is an outbreak of a vaccine-preventable illness. Do those children end up better off than all of the vaccinated children you see on a regular basis. Except in small communities, almost all of the children are vaccinated, or in the process of completing their vaccinations. They are healthy.

    The children who receive the vaccines with thimerosal are healthy. the children who receive the vaccines without thimerosal (almost all vaccines) are healthy. The children who are not vaccinated are just as healthy, but only until these unvaccinated children are exposed to the illnesses they should have been vaccinated against.

    Some have a minor infection. Some have a serious infection. Some end up permanently disabled. Some die. The parents cannot control what happens to their children.

    When these children get sick, they are taken to the doctor. there is no anti-treatment movement led by a nose picking stripper. The Botox hypocrite is still smart enough to take a sick kid to the doctor. It is only the more sensible preventive treatment, that is avoided. Not a fully functional brain.

    Would you claim that treating an illness is not a good idea? Going to the doctor to have the doctor give a child an antibiotic is putting a much larger volume of chemicals into the child than any vaccine will. Antibiotics cause more allergic reactions than vaccines. Antibiotic allergies are common. Then there are the side effects – nausea, diarrhea, decreased appetite, weight loss, dehydration, . . . . True, not all treatment is with an antibiotic, but this is just an example.

    Where are the protesters against treating sick kids? We have all of these protests against protecting kids, isn’t treating them just a continuation of protection?

    Choosing to vaccinate our children is one of the best uses of the evolved parent’s brain.

  87. Todd W,

    Great example of a form of vaccinating those commenting with accurate information.

    Very nicely done.

  88. Todd W.

    @J

    So you agree that thimerosal is not something that one would desire to put into their bodies.

    Did I say that thimerosal was something that one would not desire? I don’t see that in any of my comments. As Torbjörn said, thimerosal helps to ensure that the vaccine does not become contaminated with bacteria or fungi. As to the removal of thimerosal, that was largely a political move to placate a worried public. Some people raised the spectre that thimerosal was dangerous, but they didn’t have studies to show this conclusively. The FDA decided to play it safe and recommended that manufacturers devise thimerosal-free formulas. Today, I think it is only the flu vaccine that has thimerosal above trace amounts in the finished product, and there are thimerosal-free alternatives.

    But a person who has no idea about the presence of thimerosal in vaccines must ask for the thimerosal-free formulation, which is more expensive and not always available. If they are unaware, they will most likely be injected with mercury. People need to ask the doctor to see the insert, which will say whether the vaccine has thimerosal in it. Chances are it will, and they will need to request thimerosal-free vaccine.

    You raise a good point about expense. Because thimerosal has been removed from vaccines in the U.S., vaccines are only available in single-dose vials. Furthermore, those vials expire earlier due to a lack of preservatives, meaning the must be replaced more frequently. This increases the costs of production, the costs to physicians’ offices, and ultimately the costs to insurance providers and patients. This is a good argument against the claim that manufacturers used thimerosal to increase profits.

    Ethylmercury is one of the metabolites of thimerosal, not thimerosal itself.
    And just because it may not be more toxic than methylmercury, which is lethal in small doses, doesn’t mean that it is a good thing to have in your body.

    Yes, I should have been clearer in my wording that thimerosal metabolizes down to ethylmercury and some other compounds. I would, however, bring up the saying “the dose makes the poison”. In other words, the amount of ethylmercury from thimerosal in vaccines is low enough to be excreted from the body without causing damage. The short half-life that I noted means that, unless you’re going around scarfing ethylmercury, it won’t be in your system long enough to build up to toxic levels. Methylmercury, on the other hand, and as Torbjörn mentioned, finds its way into peoples’ bodies at far greater amounts with no ill effects.

    You see people needlessly freaking about about playing with metallic mercury, but then have no problem with injecting organomercury compounds (the actual toxic stuff) into themselves and their children.

    When it comes down to it, you have to ask yourself which is worse: taking the risk that the vaccine you’re getting might have bacteria or fungi contaminating it, or minute amounts of mercury below the toxic threshold. Yes, parents need to read the inserts and be aware of things, but they also need to approach the issue from a realistic perspective, rather than a misinformed, phobic point of view.

  89. Todd W.

    @Rogue Medic

    Thanks, though it appears I wasn’t thorough enough. I’m working on a cleaner, more organized version of the list for future posts. I’ll need to add in the bit that the removal of thimerosal was based on fear and politics, rather than on science.

  90. Mark Hansen

    Torbjörn, your post has fired my curiosity. You say that, to the best of your knowledge, we are the only ape that has an auto-immune disease problem. Do you know if we are also the only ape that has allergies?

    Note to any ID’ers/creationists reading this: We are biologically hominidae AKA great apes. Live with it.

  91. Gary Ansorge

    Too bad we can’t vaccinate against stupidity,,,

    GAry 7

  92. TheBlackCat

    @ Mark Hansen: did you look? Try to google: “chimpanzee allergy”, the first page that shows up is an article about a chimpanzee with allergies.

  93. Gary Ansorge,

    Reading here. Understanding the difference between science and anti-science. That provides a sort of immunity to stupidity. Enough to get us to stop and question bizarre suggestions, find out the unbiased relevant information, and make informed decisions.

    If people learn to do this, they have a sort of immunity to those spreading the miasma of stupidity.

  94. Mark Hansen

    @Black Cat
    I looked but the wrong way. I tried “Ape allergies” and got nowhere. In my defence, it was late here (Sydney, Aust) and I was tired. So, yes, they get allergies too. Should have realised they would as our previous cat had an allergy to fleas. Must not post when tired.

  95. Sir Eccles

    Of course other animals have allergic reactions. But how many chimps do you know that carry an epi-pen?

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