Tag: Andrew Wakefield

Vaccine Scare Stories

We know why some parents are hesitant to get their kids vaccinated and protected against vaccine preventable diseases.

“In today’s world, smallpox has been eradicated due to a successful vaccination program and vaccines have effectively controlled many other significant causes of morbidity and mortality. Consequently, fear has shifted from many vaccine-preventable diseases to fear of the vaccines.”

Marian Siddiqui et al on the Epidemiology of vaccine hesitancy in the United States

These vaccine-hesitant parents have become more afraid of vaccines than of the vaccine-preventable diseases that they have never seen – thanks to effective vaccine programs.

Although there have always been folks around pushing misinformation about vaccines, stoking those fears, there is no denying that vaccine scare stories in the media have played a very big role in the history of the modern anti-vaccine movement.

Vaccine Scare Stories

The media does a good job in helping vaccine controversies either get started or at least spreading to a lot of people.

In addition to helping to publicize the controversy in the first place, you are likely see false balance in their reporting, making it seem like many experts believe that these are real controversies.

“Many recent immunization programs have suffered setbacks from immunization scares. Children have been needlessly put into danger by frightened parents that refused immunization for their children after “scare stories” about particular vaccines.”

WHO on the Impact of rumours and crises

This was certainly true during the “media’s MMR hoax” surrounding Andrew Wakefield.

Why blame the media for Andrew Wakefield’s MMR scandal?

Did a case report about 12 kids really set off a panic about vaccines and autism? Of course, Wakefield deserves a lot of the blame too, but why were his papers so widely  publicized?

“Whatever you think about Andrew Wakefield, the real villains of the MMR scandal are the media.”

Ben Goldacre on The MMR story that wasn’t

Maybe because the British media didn’t learn anything after the pertussis outbreaks of the 1970s and 80s.

In 1973, Dr. John Wilson took to the media to scare parents because he had “seen too many children in whom there has been a very close association between a severe illness, with fits, unconsciousness, often focal neurological signs, and inoculation.” What followed was a drop in DPT vaccinations in many countries and vaccine lawsuits, even though his study was later found to be seriously flawed, with most having no link to the DPT vaccine.

When articles from daily and Sunday papers in Great Britain from the time were analyzed, they were found to be “irresponsible in their attitude” towards vaccines and often depicted “rare, negative events.”

In the United States, Dr. Robert Mendelsohn, one of the first celebrity, anti-vaccine pediatricians, was a frequent guest on Donahue and other talk shows during the 1970s and 80s.

And in 1982, Lea Thompson‘s anti-vaccine documentary DPT: Vaccine Roulette, helped start the modern American anti-vaccine movement.

“Many activists, like Robert Kennedy Jr., have blamed some vaccines for IQ loss, mental retardation and autism. I think that activists and lawyers may be killing people by frightening the public about vaccines. My own daughter got whooping cough after our pediatrician saw a 20/20 report that scared viewers about the whooping cough vaccine and didn’t give her the final vaccination. Fortunately, my daughter recovered, and she will appear on the program. I confront one of the lawyers about “scaring people for money.”

John Stossel 20/20 “Scared Stiff: Worry in America” (2007)

What followed were vaccine scare stories about DPT “hot lots,” vaccine injury stories on Nightline, and Jenny McCarthy on Oprah. There was also a lot of Wakefield on TV, from a 60 Minutes segment in 2000 to a long interview with Matt Lauer in 2009.

“The stories in the media have focused on anecdotal reports of adults and children who developed several different disorders after vaccination.”

Institute of Vaccine Safety Position on Hepatitis B Vaccines

What else have we seen? Stories about:

The New York Times did a report about the First Deaf Miss America, saying a reaction to a DPT shot - she didn't.
The New York Times did a report about the First Deaf Miss America, saying a reaction to a DPT shot – she didn’t. The revised story didn’t get as much attention though.
  • hepatitis B vaccine causing multiple sclerosis
  • DPT and other vaccines causing SIDS
  • the HPV vaccines causing autoimmune diseases and other side effects

Lately, the media seems to be doing a better job talking about vaccines, except for a few cases, including Katie Couric discussing the HPV vaccine on her show in 2013 and the TODAY Show letting Robert DeNiro talk about Andrew Wakefield’s anti-vaccine movie VAXXED in 2016.

Worldwide, most vaccine scare stories are limited to tabloid type papers these days. The mainstream media is finally learning about the damage false balance in reporting can cause.

CBS News, who previously had been credited with having a four year run of “extremist views of vaccines and autism,” even ran a story recently educating viewers that dozens of studies have confirmed that the HPV vaccines are safe and that “We need to do better at protecting our children from cancers they never need to get.”

Unfortunately, yesterday’s vaccine scare stories have been replaced by vaccine injury stories on Facebook and YouTube.

Are they the new fuel for the modern anti-vaccine movement? Or is it talk about choice and mandates, making parents fear that they will be forced to vaccinate their kids?

Get educated about vaccines so you don’t get scared away from vaccinating and protecting your kids.

What To Know About Vaccine Scare Stories

Vaccine scare stories in the media, fueled by anecdotal reports and false balance in their reporting, have helped scare parents away from vaccinating and protecting their kids.

More About Vaccine Scare Stories

Anti-Vaccine Movement Timeline and History

After 1883, Leicester became a a stronghold for the anti-vaccination movement. Outbreaks of smallpox soon followed, as is seen in this New York Times report from 1884.
After 1883, Leicester became a a stronghold for the anti-vaccination movement. Outbreaks of smallpox soon followed, as is seen in this New York Times report from 1884.

When did the anti-vaccine movement start?

Some people will be surprised to learn that it didn’t start with Bob Sears, or Jenny McCarthy, or even with Andy Wakefield.

The anti-vaccine movement started even before we started giving vaccines.

“By the 1930s… with the improvements in medical practice and the popular acceptance of the state and federal governments’ role in public health, the anti-vaccinationists slowly faded from view, and the movement collapsed.”

Martin Kaufman The American Anti-Vaccinations and Their Arguments

But while anti-vaccinationists might have “slowly faded from view” in the 1930’s, they came back…

And that’s why we often associate the modern anti-vaccine movement with Bob Sears, and Jenny McCarthy, and even with Andy Wakefield. But who inspired them? The modern anti-vaccine movement took root with a discredited bit of research that was published by a doctor in London, but it wasn’t by Wakefield.

Anti-Vaccine Movement Timeline

Again, the anti-vaccine movement predates modern vaccines, but not surprisingly, they have always used the same arguments:

  • The Rev. Cotton Mather’s house is bombed after he started a smallpox variolation program in Boston in 1721

“Every year, thousands undergo this operation, and the French Ambassador says pleasantly, that they take the small-pox here by way of diversion, as they take the waters in other countries. There is no example of any one that has died in it, and you may believe I am well satisfied of the safety of this experiment, since I intend to try it on my dear little son. I am patriot enough to take the pains to bring this useful invention into fashion in England…”

Lady Mary Wortley Montagu On Small Pox in Turkey (1717)

  • Dr. Benjamin Mosely, who had a very busy practice inoculating people against smallpox, becomes “the first antivaccinist,” writing against Jenner’s new smallpox vaccine in 1798, warning about “cow mania” and “to guard parents against suffering their children becoming victims  to experiment.”
  • The satirical print, Admirable effet de la Vaccine, appears in France in 1801, depicting horns sprouting from the forehead of a man who was just vaccinated against smallpox.
  • Also in France, Dr. Jean Vernier and Dr. Joseph Vaume each publish pamphlets critical of Jenner’s vaccine.
  • In 1802, another satirical print appears in England, The Cow-Pock-or-the Wonderful Effects of the New Inoculation!, depicting people turning into cows after being vaccinated
  • The Anti-Vaccination League is created in England in response to the passage of the Vaccination Act of 1853, which made getting the smallpox vaccine compulsory
  • Dr. C. C. Schieferdecker, writes about the Evils of Vaccination in 1856 in which he set out to “prove vaccination to be nonsense before reason – a miserable illusion, in a scientific point of view, and, in regard to history, the greatest crime that has been committed in this last century.”
  • the Anti-Cumpulsory Vaccination League is founded after the passage of the Vaccination Act of 1867
  • The New York Times announced the formation of the American Anti-Vaccination Society in 1885.
    The New York Times announced the formation of the American Anti-Vaccination Society in 1885.

    Lewis Carroll argues with folks pushing anti-vaccine information about the smallpox vaccine in 1877

  • William Tebb, a British anti-vaccinationist, visits the United States in 1879 and helps start the Anti-Vaccination Society of America.
  • Alfred Russel Wallace is recruited to the antivaccination movement after reading Papers on Vaccination
  • Leicester Demonstration March of 1885 – around the time that Leicester had become “a stronghold of anti-vaccination.”
  • In 1882, Henry Bergh, founder of the ASPCA and a vocal member of the anti-vivisectionist movement, which were often anti-vaccine, writes an article against vaccines. He later helped found the American Anti-Vaccination Society.
  • Lora Little speaks out about vaccines and writes Crimes of the Cowpox Ring in the late 19th century
  • George Winterburn, like many homeopaths of the time (1886), becomes an outspoken critic of vaccines, writing the book The Value of Vaccination, in which he tries to proves “how little of scientific research it was adopted, and how much the whim of a few fashionable folk shaped its destiny.”
  • In 1890, Dr. AN Bell debates Dr. Robert A. Gunn, who had “long held that vaccination would in time be relegated to the long list of medical fallacies, and such works as I mention seem to indicate that it will not be long before that time comes,” in a series of articles over several months, “The Truth About Vaccination,” in their respective medical journals, The Sanitarian and Medical Tribune.
  • Dr. Immanuel Pfeiffer didn't think smallpox was contagious. He was wrong...
    Dr. Immanuel Pfeiffer didn’t think smallpox was contagious. He was wrong…

    William Tebb publishes the book Vaccination and Leprosy in 1893, in which he pushes the idea that an increase in leprosy is caused by smallpox vaccinations. A review in the New York Times wonders “Can it be possible that for all the years of the present century we have been believing in the potency of vaccination and been stupid enough to work in the wrong direction? Such a conclusion forms the basis of Mr Tebb’s arguments.”

  • In 1902, Dr. Immanuel Pfeiffer, argues that smallpox wasn’t contagious, was allowed to visit the Gallop’s Island smallpox hospital in Boston. A few weeks later, he was found to be critically ill at his home – with smallpox.
  • Dr. Reuben Swinburne Clymer, an osteopath, in 1904, writes Vaccination Brought Home to You, which “tells what vaccine is and how it is procured from the calf; tells how some have been killed and others made to suffer untold miseries by being inoculated with pure vaccine [poison]; gives facts and figures showing the results of vaccination… All of which show that vaccination don’t prevent small-pox, but rather tends to increase it. It exposes some of the lies of the wily Medicoes.” Clymer was also an occultist, an Rosicurcian (a self-proclaimed community of mystics who study and practice the metaphysical laws governing the universe, but more commonly called a fake secret society), and wrote about alchemy.

“Here I would like to say a word or two upon one of the most terrible of all acute infections, the one of which we first learned the control through the work of Jenner. A great deal of literature has been distributed casting discredit upon the value of vaccination in the prevention of small-pox. I do not see how anyone who has gone through epidemics as I have, or who is familiar with the history of the subject, and who has any capacity left for clear judgement, can doubt its value…

I would like to issue a Mount-Carmel-like challenge to any ten unvaccinated priests of Baal. I will go into the next severe epidemic with ten selected, vaccinated persons and ten selected unvaccinated persons – I should prefer to choose the latter – three members of Parliament, three anti-vaccination doctors (if they can be found), and four anti-vaccination propagandists. And I will make this promise – neither to jeer nor jibe when they catch the disease, but to look after them as brothers, and for the four or five who are certain to die, I will try to arrange the funerals with all the pomp and ceremony of an anti-vaccination demonstration.”

Sir William Osler, MD Man’s Redemption of Man (1910)

  • The anti-vaccine American Medical Liberty League is founded in 1918 by D.W. Ensign, the owner of Ensign Remedies (which sold mail-order cures to all diseases), and works against the American Medical Association, employs Lora Little and Charles M. Higgins of the Anti-Vaccination League of America
  • Mahatma Gandhi writes A Guide to Health in 1921 and states  that “vaccination is a violation of the dictates of religion and morality”
  • Dr. John H Tilden writes the book Toxemia Explained: The True Interpretion of the Cause of Disease in 1926 and explains that “Every so-called disease is built within the mind and body by enervating habits.” In addition to pushing germ theory denialism, he is of course, anti-vaccine, calling vaccines poison.
  • Louis Siefgried, a Brooklyn chiropractor, writes The Quest Against Vaccination and Cruel Vivisection in 1926 and is soon arrested for refusing to vaccinate his daughter
  • George Barnard Shaw wrote that “vaccination is nothing short of attempted murder” in a 1944 letter to the Irish Times

“I think it can be said that this demonstrates a conscious over-anxiety to appease what I may call the vaccine-damage lobby, which may have led to decisions being biased against the vaccine.”

Justice Murray Stuart-Smith on Dr David Miller’s DPT study (1986)

  • Dr. John Wilson of London, in 1973, presents to the British Pediatric Association and later publishes an article, “Neurological complications of pertussis inoculation,” in the Archives of Disease in Childhood describing “36 children, seen in the past 11 years, who are believed to have suffered from neurological complications of pertussis inoculation.” While Wilson actually supported immunizations, like Wakefield, he later took to the media to scare parents because he had “seen too many children in whom there has been a very close association between a severe illness, with fits, unconsciousness, often focal neurological signs, and inoculation.” What followed was a drop in DPT vaccinations in many countries and vaccine lawsuits, even though his study was later found to be seriously flawed, with most having no link to the DPT vaccine.
  • Rosemary Fox, forms the Association of Parents of Vaccine Damaged Children, for which Wilson becomes an adviser. Fox, who believed that her daughter was “damaged by vaccination,” distributed questionnaires to the parents of suspected vaccine injured children, many who were seeking compensation in lawsuits, and many of which were then used in the National Childhood Encephalopathy Study by Dr Gordon Stewart and Dr David Miller.
  • Jack Ashley MP begins asking questions in Parliament about adverse events after vaccinations, soon after Wilson’s paper is published in 1974, supported by Rosemary Fox and almost 300 families from her Association of Parents of Vaccine Damaged Children.
  • Dr. Robert Mendelsohn, one of the first celebrity, anti-vaccine pediatricians, was a frequent guest on Donahue and other talk shows during the 1970s and 80s, prompting the AAP Committee on Infectious Disease to call him out in a “Red Book Update” published in Pediatrics in 1982, stating his “views are counter to scientific evidence and clearly they do not reflect Academy policy or recommendation.”
  • Dr. David Miller publishes a study in 1981 that showed a link between seizures in kids and receiving the DPT vaccine. A link that could not be confirmed in any other studies and a study that was published before all of the data had been completed. Like Wilson’s study, the Miller study quickly fell apart upon closer examination, including a finding that of seven children reportedly having vaccine damage, “three of the children had been incorrectly labeled as brain damaged when in fact they were normal both before and after vaccination.”
  • Lea Thompson‘s anti-vaccine documentary DPT: Vaccine Roulette aired in 1982 and is often credited as helping start the modern American anti-vaccine movement, but would she have been able to make her documentary without the groundwork laid out by Wilson and Miller?
  • Mirroring the work of Rosemary Fox, Barbara Loe Fisher, with Kathi Williams, soon form the group Dissatisfied Parents Together (DPT) shortly after watching Vaccine Roulette. They later changed their name to the NVIC, which was once described as the “single most powerful anti-vaccine organization in America.”
  • The press in Great Britain, when articles from daily and Sunday papers from 1982 were analyzed, were found to be “irresponsible in their attitude” towards vaccines and often depicted “rare, negative events.”

“…because so many parents refuse, either out of obstinacy or ignorance or fear, to allow their children to be immunised, we still have a hundred thousand cases of measles every year…

It really is almost a crime to allow your child to go unimmunised.”

Roald Dahl Death of Olivia (1986)

  • Lisa Bonet, of The Cosby Show, appeared on Donahue in 1990 and said that vaccines could “introduce alien microorganisms into our children’s blood and the long-term effects which could be trivial or they could be quite hazardous”
  • Barbara Loe Fisher writes A Shot in the Dark in 1991
  • Heather Whitestone becomes the first deaf Miss America, winning the Miss America pageant in 1994, and promptly gets media coverage for her ‘vaccine injury,’ which was really caused by a Hib infection. Not surprisingly, the true story, that her deafness wasn’t caused by a vaccine injury, didn’t get nearly as much media coverage.
  • Andrew Wakefield publishes his first study trying to find a virus that was causing inflammatory bowel disease in 1992, “Detection of herpesvirus DNA in the large intestine of patients with ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease using the nested polymerase chain reaction.” He moves on to the measles virus the next year with his study, “Evidence of persistent measles virus infection in Crohn’s disease.”
  • Andrew Wakefield publishes his first Lancet article in 1994, “Perinatal measles infection and subsequent Crohn’s disease.” The next year, he gets another study published in Lancet, “Is measles vaccination a risk factor for inflammatory bowel disease?” Foreshadowing what was to happen with his later “autism” study, his research was found to be “flawed because of biases from differential loss to follow-up and case ascertainment in the vaccinated and unvaccinated cohorts.” The findings of his study also could not be replicated by others and was flagged for “epidemiological weaknesses and lack of biological plausibility.”

“It would be most unfortunate if the publication of this controversial work led to public anxiety over the safety of measles vaccine.”

KC Calman on Wakefield’s 1995 Measles Vaccination Study

  • Beginning from at least 1995, and over the next 10 years, 37% of all vaccine safety articles “had a negative take-home message.”
  • Katie Couric does a segment on the NBC News show Now with Tom Brokaw and Katie Couric about DPT “hot lots.”
  • David Miller writes a letter to the BMJ about a study he did, “Measles vaccination and neurological events,” and in which he concluded that “these findings provide no evidence of a risk of long-term neurological damage associated with measles vaccine.” Not surprisingly, Wakefield took issue with Miller’s study, but many will be surprised about one of  Wakefield’s problem – ” a reaction to vaccination resulting in regressive autism is likely to be a rare event, so the number of cases used for Miller and colleagues’ analysis is woefully inadequate to investigate such a reaction.”
  • At one of the first anti-vaccine conferences of the modern era, the First International Public Conference on Vaccination, in September 1997, Andrew Wakefield gives a presentation and Lea Thompson gets an award.
  • Andrew Wakefield publishes another study in the Lancet in 1998, setting off a media frenzy by stating that “Again, this was very contentious and you would not get consensus from all members of the group on this, but that is my feeling, that the, the risk of this particular syndrome developing is related to the combined vaccine, the MMR, rather than the single vaccines.” Although widely discredited, his paper isn’t formally retracted until 2010.
  • In 1999, ABC’s 20/20 airs a segment about the hepatitis B vaccine, “Who’s Calling the Shots?,” which has been described as “a program that deeply scared the American public.” ABC’s Nightline also does a segment on vaccine injury featuring Barbara Loe Fisher.
  • Beginning in 2000, Dan Burton begins holding Congressional hearings trying to prove that there is a link between vaccines and autism
  • Also in 2000, Andrew Wakefield appears on the 60 Minutes segment “The MMR Vaccine”
  • And that’s the year that Cindy Crawford appeared on Good Morning America with her celebrity pediatrician, Dr. Jay Gordon, after which he said “They edited the segment to make me sound like a vaccination proponent. We also have to understand the impact of a person as well-known as Cindy Crawford delaying vaccines for over six months.”
  • The CBS Evening News begins their four year run of “extremist views of vaccines and autism,” including going “after vaccine makers and the make-believe link between vaccines and autism, taking up the cause of trial attorneys on the one hand and glossing over the scientific data demonstrating no relationship on the other.” This 2004 segment by Sharyl Attkisson, on “Vaccine Links to Autism?,” featured a ‘landmark study’ by Dr. Mady Hornig about overdosing  mice with thimerosal.
  • Bill Maher appears on Larry King Live in 2005 and warns people about flu shots
  • Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. gets his “error-laced” expose “Deadly Immunity” published in Rolling Stone magazine in 2005 (it is later retracted). He also appears on the CBS Evening News with Dan Rather.
  • Jenny McCarthy appears on Oprah, Good Morning America, Larry King Live, and 20/20 in 2007 to promote her book about how she cured her non-Indigo autistic son who got the “autism shot”

“When a well-meaning parent like Jenny McCarthy blames vaccines for her child’s autism, placing the fear of God into every parent who has a baby, it’s not only irresponsible – it’s dangerous. Why? It’s simple math: vaccines are less effective when large numbers of parents opt out. And the more who opt out, the less protected ALL our children are.

Celebrity books come and go . . . but the anxiety they create lives on in pediatricians’ offices across the country. A small, but growing number of parents are even lying about their religious beliefs to avoid having their children vaccinated, thanks in part to the media hysteria created by this book.”

Ari Brown, MD on The New McCarthyism in the Wall Street Journal (2007)

  • Dr. Bob Sears publishes his Vaccine Book in 2007 which leads vaccine hesitant parents across the country to request that their pediatricians follow Sears’ non-evidence based alternative immunization schedule instead of the standard CDC schedule, leaving these kids unprotected from many vaccine preventable diseases
  • In 2008, Jenny McCarthy and Jim Carrey lead the Green Our Vaccines rally in Washington, D.C.
  • The pilot episode of Eli Stone aired on ABC in 2008, a show described as “anti-vaccination idiocy about autism.”
  • The CBS Evening News with Katie Couric, airs a segment in 2008, “How Independent Are Vaccine Defenders?,” pushing the idea that “strong financial ties” between vaccine manufacturers and the AAP and other groups pushing the idea that “industry ties could impact the advice given to the public about all those vaccines.”
  • Jenny McCarthy in Time magazine in 2009 and appears again on Larry King Live
  • Matt Lauer interviews Andrew Wakefield on Dateline in 2009 in the hour-long episode “A Dose of Controversy”
  • Barbara Loe Fisher discussing “Forced Vaccinations” on Lou Dobbs Tonight in 2009
  • Bill Maher again warns people about flu shots in 2009 (during the H1N1 pandemic), this time on his own show Real Time with Bill Maher
  • Bill Gates gives a Ted Talk in 2010, says that “The world today has 6.8 billion people. That’s heading up to about nine billion. Now if we do a really great job on new vaccines, health care & reproductive health services, we could LOWER that by perhaps 10 or 15 percent,” and folks think he has a plan to depopulate the world using vaccines.

“The way forward is clear. Because no credible evidence during the past 13 years supports the hypothesized connection between the MMR vaccine and autism disorders, it is bereft of credible evidence and must be discarded. At the same time, autism is a public health concern that must be addressed by enhancing research funding and directing that funding toward studies of credible hypotheses of causation.

To continue pouring money into futile attempts to prove a connection to the MMR vaccine when multiple high-quality scientific studies across multiple countries and across many years have failed to show any hint of a connection, and in the face of biologic nonplausibility, is dangerous and reckless of lives, public funding, and ultimately public health.”

Gregory A. Poland, MD on Vaccine Nihilism and Postmodern Science (2011)

  • The Greater Good movie, which has been described as “pure, unadulterated anti-vaccine propaganda,” debuts at the Dallas International Film Festival in 2011
  • Rep. Michele Bachman in a 2011 interview on Fox News discussing the HPV vaccine, says that “There’s a woman who came up crying to me tonight after the debate. She said her daughter was given that vaccine. She told me her daughter suffered mental retardation as a result of that vaccine. There are very dangerous consequences. It’s not good enough to take, quote, ‘a mulligan’ where you want a do-over, not when you have little children’s lives at risk.”
  • Katie Couric has a segment about HPV on her show Katie in 2013 in which she “promotes dangerous fear mongering”
  • In 2014, the Dwoskin Family Foundation creates and funds the Children’s Medical Safety Research Institute, which is reported to fund much of the anti-vaccination research that is done over the next few years. Previously, much of that research was funded directly through the Dwoskin Family Foundation itself.
  • Robert DeNiro appears on the TODAY Show in 2016 to discuss why his film festival pulled Andrew Wakefield’s movie about the CDC Whistleblower, VAXXED
  • Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. who has said both that he is “not anti-vaccine” and that after kids get vaccinated, “their brain is gone. This is a holocaust…,” also claimed, in 2017, that he is to lead Donald Trump’s “vaccine safety commission.”

While the names change and we now have anti-vaccine propaganda on the internet instead of hand printed pamphlets, the key messages they use to scare parents away from vaccinating and protecting their kids are surprisingly the same.

What To Know About the History of the Anti-Vaccine Movement

As you follow the anti-vaccine movement from the very beginning, it is easy to see the common threads that connect all of the players from the Victorian Age to the 21st Century. Germ theory denialism. Alternative medical providers. The media.

What else?

Fear, especially fear of vaccine-injury.

And although George Bernard Shaw once wrote that “the antivaccinist is facing very serious persecution without any prospect of personal gain,” you just have to look at all of the eBooks, eCourses, conferences,  seminars, supplements, and autism “cures” many of them push and sell to know that isn’t true.

The modern anti-vaccine movement certainly also has a wider forum these days, making them an even more vocal minority. Facebook. Twitter. YouTube. E-books.

But not much else has changed.

One can’t even really say that the names have changed. Folks in the modern anti-vaccine movement continue to bring up the work of long discredited anti-vaccinated propagandists from the past, even going so far as continuing to believe that germs don’t really cause disease, vaccines don’t really work, and that vaccines aren’t really necessary.

Tragically, we are also mostly fighting the same vaccine-preventable diseases.

More About the Anti-Vaccine Movement Timeline and History

Updated on June 12, 2017

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About Those Research Papers Supporting the Vaccine/Autism Link

Have you heard about the ever growing list of research papers that ‘support’ a link between vaccines and autism?

Over 1,000 studies support the fact that vaccines do not cause autism.
Over 1,000 studies support the fact that vaccines do not cause autism!

They don’t.

Are you surprised?

On the other hand, there is plenty of evidence that vaccines do not cause autism.

Research Papers ‘Supporting’ the Vaccine/Autism Link

The list of research papers that supposedly support a link between vaccines and autism has now grown to 131.

That is a lot of research.

“Even though anti-vaccers claim to have lengthy lists of papers supporting their position, most of those papers are irrelevant, used weak designs, and had small sample sizes.”

The Logic of Science

So what’s wrong with the list?

Why doesn’t it really support a link between vaccines and autism?

As pointed out in this review, “Vaccines and autism: A thorough review of the evidence,” the papers on the list include:

  • papers that aren’t about vaccines!
  • papers that aren’t about autism!
  • papers that are about research done on cells or tissues in a petri dish (in vitro trials)
  • animal trials (how do you show that an animal has autism?)
  • papers about elemental mercury or methyl-mercury, even though thimerosal, which was removed from almost all vaccines in 1999, is ethyl-mercury
  • conference abstracts (these haven’t made it into a medical journal yet)
  • case reports (basically a story about a patient)
  • opinion papers
  • non-research papers
  • reviews that “are deceptively only showing the papers that support their position while ignoring all of the papers that refute it”
  • a few that were retracted!

What’s wrong with animal trials and in vitro studies? They are simply among the weakest type of study you can do. The evidence is considered to be much stronger if you can a meta-analysis or systemic review or a randomized control trial.

So they are left with about a dozen studies that are about vaccines and autism, including:

  • SeneffEmpirical Data Confirm Autism Symptoms Related to Aluminum and Acetaminophen Exposure – misuses the VAERS database, so the reports of autism are unconfirmed
  • DeisherImpact of environmental factors on the prevalence of autistic disorder after 1979 – has a ton of problems with the way it analyzed its data
  • NevisonA comparison of temporal trends in United States autism prevalence to trends in suspected environmental factors – tries to correlate autism rates with a list of environmental factors, from maternal obesity, pollution, and glyphosate on foods to aluminum adjuvants in vaccines
  • Tomlejenovic and ShawDo aluminum vaccine adjuvants contribute to the rising prevalence of autism? – “yet another association study. It cannot demonstrate causation,” with tons of other problems
  • Gallagher and GoodmanHepatitis B triple series vaccine and developmental disability in US children aged 1–9 years – a small study that used parental surveys, and although the study found higher levels of early intervention or special education services in vaccinated boys than in unvaccinated boys, it found significantly lower levels of early intervention or special education services in vaccinated girls than in unvaccinated girls?!?
  • Gallagher and GoodmanHepatitis B vaccination of male neonates and autism diagnosis, NHIS 1997–2002 – used a “weak experimental design with a tiny sample size,” just 33 autistic kids
  • Singh – Serological association of measles virus and human herpesvirus-6 with brain autoantibodies in autism – a poorly done paper with so many problems that it has been labeled “fraudulent” and which found “no significant difference in viral levels in the autistic and non-autistic group (which is the opposite of what you would expect if exposure to the virus caused autism)”
  • Singh – Abnormal Measles-Mumps-Rubella Antibodies and CNS Autoimmunity in Children with Autism – discredited by several papers which found No Evidence of Persisting Measles Virus in Peripheral Blood Mononuclear Cells From Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder
  • Kawashti – Possible immunological disorders in autism: concomitant autoimmunity and immune tolerance – while trying to link autism to the formation of autoantibodies to casein and gluten antibodies and the immune response to the MMR vaccine, they state that “at this stage, we can conclude that M.M.R. vaccine may not be a cause of autism”
  • MumperCan Awareness of Medical Pathophysiology in Autism Lead to Primary Care Autism Prevention Strategies? – a poorly done “retrospective study with no control group” with a very small sample size
  • KawashimaDetection and sequencing of measles virus from peripheral mononuclear cells from patients with inflammatory bowel disease and autism – a study that was done with Andy Wakefield
  • DeisherEpidemiologic and molecular relationship between vaccine manufacture and autism spectrum disorder prevalence – the study talks about residual human fetal DNA fragments in vaccines and that somehow “fetal DNA in these vaccines can recombine with infant DNA to cause autism.” It can’t.

What about any new studies they say supports a link between vaccines and autism?

Are they about vaccines?

Are they about autism?

What kind of study was it?

What journal was it published in? A predatory, pay-to-publish journal with a low impact value or a real, peer-reviewed, medical journal like PLos One, Lancet, JAMA, or Pediatrics?

Although 6 or 7 studies were recently added to their list, most get excluded right off the bat using the above criteria (not about vaccines or autism, animal studies, in vitro studies, etc.). The one that gets included (and has already been retracted)?

  • MawsonPilot comparative study on the health of vaccinated and unvaccinated 6- to 12- year old U.S. children – published at Open Access Text (is that really a journal?) after it was retracted at another journal last year, this survey of homeschoolers is being billed as the “First Peer-Reviewed Study of Vaccinated versus Unvaccinated Children,” which is strange, as this study was done in 2011!

What were you expecting?

Do you really think that you will first read about a real study proving a link between vaccines and autism will be found on an anti-vaccine website or list?

What To Know About Research Papers Supporting the Vaccine/Autism Link

There is still no research supporting a link between vaccines and autism.

More About Research Papers Supporting the Vaccine/Autism Link

Updated on May 21, 2017

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Obstetric Tetanus Is Still a Thing in the United States

Yes, even though we have had a tetanus vaccine for over 80 years, obstetric tetanus is still a thing in the United States.

Obstetric Tetanus in Kentucky

According to a report from the CDC, in July 2016, an unvaccinated Amish woman in Kentucky developed “facial numbness and neck pain, which progressed over 24 hours to stiff neck and jaw and difficulty swallowing and breathing” about nine days after “she delivered a child at home, assisted by an unlicensed community childbirth assistant.”

She  was hospitalized for a month, during which time she had seizures and was on a mechanical ventilator to help her breath for a “prolonged” amount of time.

Fortunately, her baby didn’t also develop tetanus, even though the family refused a recommended dose of tetanus immunoglobulin that could prevent neonatal tetanus from developing.

Surprisingly, after this incident, only 12% of community members agreed to be vaccinated with a tetanus vaccine. One pregnant woman even refused to get vaccinated. This is even less than the response to the Ohio measles outbreak in 2014, when up to 28% of unvaccinated Amish members got vaccinated with an MMR vaccine.

Neonatal Tetanus

An 8-day old baby with neonatal tetanus born to an unvaccinated mother.
An 8-day old baby with neonatal tetanus born to an unvaccinated mother. (CC BY 3.0)

In addition to obstetric tetanus, getting tetanus during or right after a pregnancy, neonatal tetanus is a big concern for unvaccinated mothers. Just like if their mothers don’t get a flu or pertussis containing vaccine, without a tetanus vaccine, newborn babies don’t get any passive immunity and protection against tetanus.

In 2015, 34,019 newborns died from neonatal tetanus worldwide. Amazingly, that is down from 787,000 newborns in 1988 “through immunization of children, mothers, other women of reproductive age (WRA) and promotion of more hygienic deliveries and cord care practices.”

It is not all about hygiene though. Tetanus spores are everywhere. For example, in the Kentucky case, the CDC found no evidence of “birth trauma, unsterile conditions, or other complications.”

In Montana, the baby of an unvaccinated mother developed tetanus that was linked to a non-sterile clay that was given to them by a midwife for home umbilical cord care.

Fortunately, these kinds of cases are rare. There have probably been less than 40 cases of neonatal tetanus since the early 1970s, and only two since 1989, but they should still be a reminder of what could happen if we stop getting vaccinated.

Risky Umbilical Cord Practices

Adding to the risk of getting tetanus, the same moms who aren’t getting vaccinated and protected may be following unsafe umbilical cord care practices.

“…tetanus in neonates can result from umbilical cord colonization, particularly in countries with limited resources. This infection results from contamination of the umbilical separation site by Clostridium tetani acquired from a nonsterile device used to separate the umbilical cord during the peripartum period or from application of unhygienic substances to the cord stump.”

AAP – Umbilical Cord Care in the Newborn Infant – 2016

In countries that are still combating neonatal tetanus, we hear of mothers in rural areas  putting herbs, herbal pastes, chalk, powders, clay, oils, and even butter on their baby’s umbilical cord.

These natural substances are certainly not safer than more standard care, as they can be contaminated with something else that is natural – tetanus spores.

What natural things, and risky, things can you see recommended for umbilical cord care in developed countries? How about honey, goldenseal powder, Frankincense and myrrh oil, and Aztec Healing Clay?

You don’t feed honey to infants because of the risk of botulism spores, but you are supposed to put it directly on their umbilical stump?

Some midwifes even recommend ground rosemary or other dried herbs that you are actually supposed to sprinkle directly on your baby’s umbilical stump. The use of dried herbs is especially problematic. It is well known that these products are not sterile.

“Spore forming bacteria (B. cereus, C. perfringens) that are capable of causing foodborne disease when ingested in large numbers are frequently found in spices and herbs, but usually at low levels.”

Food Microbiology. Volume 26, Issue 1, February 2009, Pages 39–43

If dried herbs are also contaminated with tetanus spores (C. tetani), and you place them on an umbilical cord stump of a child whose mother wasn’t vaccinated against tetanus, then you unnecessarily increase the risk for neonatal tetanus.

Not that you would ever hear about this risk from anyone who pushes these practices or tells these moms to avoid getting vaccinated. What happened to informed consent?

And what happens as Andrew Wakefield‘s kids continue to grow up, move beyond getting measles, and begin to have kids? If they still aren’t vaccinated, they and their babies will be at risk for diseases that we thought we had gotten well controlled, like obstetric tetanus, neonatal tetanus, and congenital rubella syndrome.

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Autism and Vaccines

Vaccines don’t cause autism.

Continuing to push the idea that they do is harmful to autistics.

More Information on Autism and Vaccines: