Tag: autism

Who's Not Vaccinating?

By Sheril Kirshenbaum | October 20, 2010 4:22 pm


Matthew Lacek become stricken with a rare bacterial infection, which is prevented through vaccines.

Must read from CNN:

The rate of vaccination for kids covered under private insurance fell 4 percentage points in 2009, according to a nonprofit association that certifies health care organizations. It was the first time a drop had been seen.

There are theories that the recent whooping cough epidemic, which has killed ten in California, is a result of lagging vaccinations. In California, 320 new whooping cough cases have been reported this week. Health authorities urge booster shots for everyone 10 years or older who has not yet received it, especially women of childbearing age and health care workers who are in contact with pregnant women or infants.

A small subset of the population, typically well-educated, white and in the upper-middle class, have grown skeptical of immunizations, said Jason Glanz, a senior scientist and epidemiologist at Kaiser Permanente’s Institute for Health Research.”

There is no conspiracy over vaccines. The often cited paper by Andrew Wakefield from 1998 involved just 12 children and had conflicts of interest. It was later retracted and may have been fraudulent.

The real research? A recent study of 70,000 children born between 1994 and 1999 confirmed that there is no link between vaccines and autism. For more information see Nestor Lopez-Duran’s terrific blog post about this study*.

The dangerous storm of misinformation and pseudoscience regarding vaccines infuriates and saddens me because we are losing children to diseases that had been mostly eradicated. Short and simple, vaccinate your kids.

* Citation:  Price, C., Thompson, W., Goodson, B., Weintraub, E., Croen, L., Hinrichsen, V., Marcy, M., Robertson, A., Eriksen, E., Lewis, E., Bernal, P., Shay, D., Davis, R., & DeStefano, F. (2010). Prenatal and Infant Exposure to Thimerosal From Vaccines and Immunoglobulins and Risk of AutismPEDIATRICS, 126 (4), 656-664 DOI: 10.1542/peds.2010-0309.

Delightful Smears from the Anti-Vaccine Folks

By Chris Mooney | March 20, 2010 12:06 pm

I get smeared sometimes. As a journalist who has actually written on conflict of interest, it can be amusing to watch–but rarely this amusing:

Chris Mooney’s Pharmaceutical Influence

By Jake Crosby

He is the drug industry’s newer, trendier go-to guy in the media, replacing the role of Arthur Allen, who took a break to write about tomatoes. An ex-patriot of “Science”Blogs who now blogs for Discover, and contributing editor to Science Progress, Chris Mooney is perhaps Pharma’s newest writer who has taken on the task of spoon-feeding its message to the public.

From there it is smears all the way down. You can read the whole thing here. My favorite sentence:

Yet despite the previously described mingling with obvious denialists and plagiarists, Chris Mooney is perhaps most notorious in the autism community….

You complete the sentence. But make sure to include the word “Pharma” at least twice….

PS: Orac has more on Jake Crosby’s endeavors…..written pretty kindly, as I think this particular case deserves.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Unscientific America, vaccination

Insights from the Paul Offit Interview, Part III: The Resurgence of Diseases

By Chris Mooney | February 17, 2010 7:57 am

(If you haven’t yet heard the first episode of the new Point of Inquiry, you can listen here, and I also strongly encourage you to subscribe via iTunes from the same page.)

Perhaps the most alarming  part of my conversation with Paul Offit came when he argued we’re already seeing many scary diseases return, thanks to reduced vaccination rates in certain communities around the U.S. I wasn’t sure whether there was clear evidence of this yet (save the obvious case of the measles in the UK). But Offit certainly sounded sure. I asked him the following question, “The public health fear is that diseases that were once vanquished or rare will return. How much evidence is there that that’s happening?” Here is his reply around minute 25:30:

Abundant evidence. I would have said ten years ago it was theoretical. And certainly, if we had immunization rates that dropped from 98 percent to 95 percent, or 94 percent, you wouldn’t see what we’re seeing now.

Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: point of inquiry, vaccination

Insights from the Paul Offit Interview, Part II: Blame the Scientific Journal, Not the Media

By Chris Mooney | February 16, 2010 10:52 am

(If you haven’t yet heard the first episode of the new Point of Inquiry, you can listen here, and I also strongly encourage you to subscribe via iTunes from the same page.)

The second insight from my chat with Paul Offit involved who he felt deserved the chief blame for the now notorious 1998 Wakefield paper (which, essentially, presented a claim of correlation between getting the MMR vaccine and getting autism based on a tiny sample of children, with a rather questionable mechanistic hypothesis attached). Offit said, very candidly, that he didn’t blame the media for going gaga over the study when it was published; rather, he blamed the Lancet for publishing it in the first place. As he put it around minute 10:

I think journals are a public trust, and when that’s published in Britain’s oldest and arguably most respected general medical journal, the media is going to see that as information, they’re not going to see it just as a hypothesis raised, they’re going to see it as a study done. And for them, they’ll jump on it and say, “Here’s at least a cause of autism,” and scare the hell out of people. Which is what happened. I actually don’t blame the media for this. I think that when something is published in the Lancet, I can see where they would jump all over it. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: point of inquiry, vaccination

Yesterday's "Morning Joe" Segment With Dr. Nancy Snyderman

By Chris Mooney | February 16, 2010 7:54 am

You can watch it here. No “balance”–the guests, Dr. Snyderman and myself, strongly agree that vaccines don’t cause autism. Enjoy!

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Once again, link to the segment can be found here.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Media and Science, vaccination

Insights from the Paul Offit Interview, Part I: Waking the Silent Majority

By Chris Mooney | February 15, 2010 9:25 am

(If you haven’t yet heard the first episode of the new Point of Inquiry, you can listen here, and I also strongly encourage you to subscribe via iTunes from the same page.)

There were many aspects of my interview with Paul Offit that I found very informative, even surprising, and I thought I would highlight some of them here on the blog this week. Perhaps the first was Dr. Offit’s response to my second question–when I asked him, around minute 6, about all the hate mail he receives (including some death threats). I was expecting dire tales of the extremism that had been directed at my guest; but instead, Offit opened up about the incredibly positive response his book has received: Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: point of inquiry, vaccination

Paul Offit Will Be My First Point of Inquiry Guest

By Chris Mooney | February 11, 2010 6:07 pm

autism-false-prophets-258x400For those of you waiting with bated breath…

I’m happy to announce that, following last week’s news about the Lancet’s retraction of the 1998 paper that started the modern vaccine-autism scare, I decided to focus my first Point of Inquiry episode on this topic–and secured a guest who’s probably the best in the business for that purpose. I’m referring to Dr. Paul Offit, Director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, life-saving inventor of the rotavirus vaccine, and most important for our purposes, the author of the single best book on the whole autism-vaccine fiasco, 2008’s Autism’s False Prophets: Bad Science, Risky Medicine, and the Search for a Cure.

I’ve now read Offit’s fantastic book twice, and greatly enjoyed the conversation we had about it for the show. (Minus the gazillion technical hoops I had to jump through to learn how to record the program, which will hopefully get a lot easier.) I won’t tip my hand about the show any further–it airs tomorrow, please listen then–but I’m confident that listeners will enjoy and learn much from it (even though, given that this is my first show as a radio host, utter perfection is hardly to be expected).

I’ll have a post tomorrow as soon as the show is up and available for download.

Will the Vaccine-Autism Saga Finally End?

By Chris Mooney | February 3, 2010 10:40 am

My latest Science Progress blog post riffs on the news about Andrew Wakefield and the Lancet yesterday. In case you didn’t hear:

The Lancet, the prestigious British medical journal, has now gone to the extreme of fully retracting a notorious 1998 paper by gastroenterologist Andrew Wakefield and his colleagues, purporting to show a shocking new cause of autism—the MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine. Wakefield and his team studied digestion in 12 children with various types of behavioral disorders, nine of whom were autistic, and found inflammation in the intestines. The vaccine was blamed for letting toxins loose into the bloodstream, which not only caused the intestinal problems but, it was conjectured, then also affected the children’s brains.

The 1998 paper hit the British public like a thunderclap, triggering a decline in use of the MMR vaccine as well as a resurgence of the measles. It was the opening shot in the vaccine-autism controversy that still rages today (albeit in varied forms, not all of which still focus on the MMR vaccine). But the credibility of Wakefield’s work has since taken a steady stream of hits, culminating in this last devastating blow.

The post then goes on to relate the whole Wakefield story, and to extrapolate: Now that we know this study has been pretty much totally discredited, whence the vaccine-autism controversy, which the study kicked off back in 1998? Shouldn’t it, too, go away?

Sadly, I’m not optimistic about that happening. You can read why here.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Unscientific America, vaccination

Responding To Ginger Taylor: On Autism And Vaccination, Do Not Confuse Correlation With Causation

By Sheril Kirshenbaum | August 26, 2009 11:41 am

Over at Age of Autism, Ginger Taylor posted a letter to us regarding Chris’ recent LA Times interview with Lori Kozlowski. She begins:

Lori, Chris and Sheril,

I am an autism parent with an MS is Clinical Counseling from Johns Hopkins University and a contributor to Age of Autism. I maintain my own blog at Adventures in Autism.

I saw Lori’s piece today and would like to point out a few things that seem incredibly obvious from where I am sitting, but you genuinely don’t seem to have on your radar (from what I could tell from the article), in regards to why America is not embracing “science” as you think they should. I hope you will be open to hearing from me for a moment, because there is a problem, but the problem may not be the public.

I feel like you may have confused actual hard “Science” with “things that most scientists think”, as there seems to be a denial of the fact that scientific consensus has quite often been (and most assuredly still is in many places) wrong.

I was going to respond this morning, but Orac’s already done a terrific job:

We humans are hard-wired to leap to conclusions and confuse correlation with causation. If we weren’t, we might not need science nearly as much as we do to determine what causes what disease and what treatments work for what disease. Harriet Hall explains it well when she observes that “I saw it with my own eyes!” is not enough. We humans confuse correlation with causation all the time. Given the millions of children who receive vaccines around the age range that the first symptoms of autism most frequently manifest themselves, it is to be expected that some children will regress after vaccines by random chance alone. To those parents, it seems for all the world that the vaccines caused the regression.

Orac goes into great detail explaining all the trouble with Ginger’s argument. Go read his full response at Respectful Insolence

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Culture, Education
MORE ABOUT: age of autism, autism

On Vaccination And Autism: Don't Believe The Hype

By Sheril Kirshenbaum | April 8, 2009 10:07 am

Until today, I have not discussed the anti-vaccination hullabaloo because there’s not a serious argument from the dark side worth time and attention.  There’s no ‘debate’ on this–our children must be protected.  But the issue finally hit home last week when a good friend and new mom decided not to get her daughter immunized because she’s afraid the infant might contract autism.  I’m furious Jenny McCarthy and her entourage have been fostering a state of panic that promotes the resurgence of preventable infectious diseases.

Look, yes Jim Carrey’s a good actor and Singled Out continues to wow audiences in its latest incarnation: The Bachelor.  In fact, my former co-blogger Chris Hardwick at Wired Science was McCarthy’s on camera sidekick back then.  But parents, please, for the sake of our kids, do not confuse entertainment with the ability to provide sound medical advice.

I’m reminded of the 32nd President’s inaugural address. Make no mistake that with regard to autism and vaccination, the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.

Embedded video from <a href=”http://www.cnn.com/video”>CNN Video</a>

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Culture, Education, Media and Science

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