WUSA-TV in Washington, DC, is the oldest CBS affiliate in the country, dating back to 1949 when the station’s call letters were WOIC. Since 1985, it has been owned by the Gannett Company, the largest newspaper publisher in the country
If you didn’t know this, and just happened to tune into yesterday’s 5 pm broadcast, you might think you had stumbled onto a small market news outlet, where the reporter doubles as camera operator and green screen technician.
The story was Dr. Mark Geier’s appearance before a state administrative law board, where he is fighting to keep his license to practice medicine in Maryland. The state’s medical board suspended his license last month for medical malpractice, and allowing his son to practice medicine without a license.
WUSA’s report ignored these details. According to general assignment reporter Scott Broom, Geier’s license suspension “has all gone unexplained.” You see, the Maryland Board of Physicians “has no obligation to make its proceedings public, and they’re not doing it now.” When Broom tried to attend today’s hearing, he was asked to “vacate the room”, such was the shroud of secrecy.
Here’s what Broom doesn’t know, but should:
Physician disciplinary hearings are held behind closed doors in order to protect patient privacy.
Geier’s medical malpractice is hardly breaking news. The Chicago Tribune wrote about it here on May 4. The next day, the Washington Post ran a story which said:
The Geiers’s views, spelled out in papers and by the state Board of Physicians that suspended Mark Geier, have been discredited by the Institute of Medicine and mainstream medical science. They connect autism to the mercury in vaccines. Among the treatments the Geiers say they’ve developed is one that uses Lupron — a drug that many autism experts have called dangerous for children.
How did Broom miss that? It’s in the Washington Post, which is delivered daily to the doorstep of WUSA! And if WUSA’s weather mascot chewed up the paper that day, Broom could have Googled Geier’s name and found the same article online.
But who needs court documents and mainstream medical science when a spokesperson for the Autism Society of America is camera ready? Jeff Sell, ASA’s VP , told WUSA that Geier’s theories “hold water”, and he has no idea if they are accepted by mainstream medicine, telling the credulous Broom “Whether their treatment protocol has been worked out in a scientific way that meets the rigorous criteria of medical boards I just don’t know.”
Sell is a Texas trial lawyer whose firm worked on legal cases linking autism with vaccines, another fact that either escaped Broom or not considered important enough to mention. As a trial lawyer, Sell knows that Mark Geier’s testimony is routinely blocked by judges in vaccine cases, and that chemical castration is not the standard of care for autism in the US or any other civilized nation.
“The Geier name at one time had a lot of credibility,” Broom says in the closing minute. “(Mark Geier’s) son, David, until recently served on the state’s autism commission. But he was removed as this all unfolded in the last couple of months.” Broom has no idea why. “It’s hard to say what information we may be able to pry out of this,” says Broom, referring to Geier’s court hearing, “Because they’re closed.”
David Geier was removed from the state autism commission because the medical board says he was practicing medicine without a license, a story factually covered in the Baltimore Sun and elsewhere. The state autism commission went along with the conceit for two years, listing Geier fils as “Dr. David Geier, diagnostician” on its website.
“If there is research to back up (Geier’s) treatment, that would be valuable for the public arena,” says news anchor/ health reporter Anita Brikman.
“Yes, it’s hard to understand why the state doesn’t want this information out there.” says Broom, “on the doctor’s side or not.”
If chemical castration is a viable treatment for autism, the proof would not be found in an administrative law hearing. It would be published in numerous peer reviewed journals. And if Washington, DC residents want to know why a Maryland physician is about to lose his medical license, the answer is not to be found in a Washington, DC, CBS affiliate’s newscast about the administrative law hearing. For that you’d have to change channels.
WUSA removed the video of its newscast, and ran a correction and its mea culpahere. The money quote:
In Maryland’s Administrative Hearing process, judges have the discretion to open hearings. In this case, a request by Geier’s attorneys to open the hearing was denied.
However, to suggest the reasons for the Board’s findings against Geier are a “secret” is not accurate.
After sitting through two very boring presentations at this year’s Autism One conference, it was apparent to my colleague and I that writing about the annual anti-vaccine trade fair would be a challenge bordering on pointlessness. What could we say that hasn’t been said before?
An hour later we were standing in the lobby of the Westin Lombard, surrounded by four policeman, three hotel security guards, and a growing crowd of curious parents. And then were kicked out, for no serious reason. For me, it was deja vu all over again.
We arrived in Lombard, a Chicago suburb of 42,000, at 10 am, after a 30 minute drive from Hyde Park. That’s where my friend and colleague, Jamie Bernstein lives. She’s a graduate student at the University of Chicago and VP of Women Thinking Free, and blogs at Hug Me I’m Vaccinated. This was Jamie’s first AutOne conference, and she wasn’t sure what to expect.
We walked down narrow hallways packed with exhibitor tables before heading to the Grand Ballroom for the disgraced UK gastroenterologist’s 10 am talk on Münchausen Syndrome by Proxy. When he walked to the podium, the magical sparks from his boyish grin, amplified by two giant flat screens, convinced 1,000 grateful parents to leap to their feet and applaud the man whose fraudulent 1998 Lancet article resuscitated the modern anti-vaccine movement. Wakers, as he is known, spent the next hour sharing the sad tale of corrupt doctors, clueless social workers, and the brave parents of five autistic children in a case Wakefield calls “The Arizona 5.” The story first surfaced last fall, when Wakefield promised a giant December rally to focus the nation’s attention on the anti-vaccine movement’s “Rosa Park’s moment.” The rally fizzled, Rosa’s bus route stopped short of Crazy Town, and the Arizona 5 slipped down the memory hole.
Chicken Tenders, Pizza, and ThinQ® Energy Drink still life by Jamie Bernstein
While Wakefield spoke, the efficient and polite Westin staff set up folding tables with white linen and gleaming metal trays of chicken strips and pizza, with a frozen dessert treat, coconut milk and a fruity energy drink in a solid metal container that could safely store nuclear waste. The chicken strips had a faint, chemical aftertaste that reminded me of novocaine, and my fudgesicle tasted like wheat germ. But the coconut milk, served in a juicebox, was delicious. So far, lunch was the big story. I started to look at my watch.
Jenny hit her mark at 11:45, all curls and smiles. She told a touching story about Evan’s love of escalators, and long hours spent at the local mall, just your average single mom and her special needs child. Then she introduced her friend and spiritual guru Katie Byron, a silver-hair matron with a penchant for long pauses and thousand-yard stares which she used to great effect as she plumbed our deepest fears. She started by walking her audience through a questionnaire that read like a Mad Lib for the terminally melancholy. Examples: I am ______ with _______ because _____________ . I want _____ to _________ . She invited audience members to read their Mad Libs aloud while McCarthy held a mic, Phil Donohue style, which made me think Byron was auditioning for her own Oprah Network talk show. My suspicion was soon confirmed when Byron invited an audience member to sit with her on a generic talk show set – two comfortable chairs facing one another, every word streamed live on the internet. For two mind-numbing hours. This was McCarthy’s keynote address: a visit with her shrink, who isn’t a doctor but wants to play one on TV. The grand ballroom was emptying fast. When the session had mercifully ended, half the seats were vacated.
McCarthy made one more appearance to thank everyone for coming, and to introduce a familiar 20-minute video which homologously recombined into the movement’s tinikered DNA about three conferences ago. Jenny on Oprah, Jenny on Dr. Oz, Jenny on Good Morning America, Jenny leading her angry mob in another grand ballroom.
We decided it was time for a cup of coffee, and walked to a nearby Starbucks where Jamie and I talked about what we had see. Jenny made no mention of vaccines, and one parent whose Mad Lib read “I am angry with the pharmaceutical companies because they hurt our children” was talked down from her ledge by Katie Byron. Was this Jenny’s way of distancing herself from the craziness? Did we just witness the first step of McCarthy’s 12-step career recovery process? Jamie was skeptical, but that comes with the territory when you are a Woman Thinking Free. Still, I saw no clear theme to this year’s conference. Just speculation and finger pointing, which I can’t do without paying royalties to Generation Rescue.
We finished our lattes and walked back to the Westin. It was raining, and we probably looked pathetic when we reached the lobby a few minutes later. I felt bored and anxious, more eager to get back home than to revisit the vendor tables. We were on time for a talk on “Cannabis and Autism”, but Jamie and I thought that was just too depressing. If we waited 90 minutes we could catch Mark Blaxill and Dan Olmsted talk about their anti-vaccine book which rocketed to number five million on the Amazon sales charts. Did we want to do that? The thought of killing time in the gauzy, bordello-themed Generation Rescue salon did not appeal to either of us.
As we entered the l0bby I saw two women staring at us with a look of low-grade panic on their faces. I knew right away we had been spotted. Obviously a “be on the lookout” had been issue for two heretics. The women quickly turned and walked to the registration desk, where an animated conversation ensued. The women looked at us, then looked quickly away.
“We been spotted,” I said to Jamie, as we continued to walk toward the exhibit areas at the back of the lobby. We stopped near a hyperbaric oxygen tank display. I wondered if it mattered to anyone that a recent paper co-authored by Wakefield found no benefit from HBO for the symptoms of autism. So little of what I had seen and heard made sense.
Then Jamie took her 35mm SLR digital camera out of her handbag and snapped a picture of an HBO poster. Seconds later the conference organizer, Teri Arranga, walked up to us. She was all business. “There is no photography allowed here,” she said. To prove her point, Teri sent a volunteer to bring back one of the many signs posted throughout the area that said “No video or audio recording allowed.”
Jamie pointed out, politely and correctly, that a 35mm camera which only takes still pictures is not a video or audio recorder. No problem: Arranga had a sign for that too, and sent her volunteer to fetch it. We were soon joined by two hotel security guards, then four uniformed Lombard police officers. The “no still cameras allowed sign” was never produced, but it didn’t matter. After much scurrying about and conferring with persons unseen, a visibly upset Arranga had made her decision – we had to go.
Arranga had an answer for that – the registration rules posted on the AutismOne website, which she read verbatim in a quavering voice. First, Autism One had the right to deny registration to anyone for any reason. I had registered in March, paid my $25 with a credit care, and received confirmation via email. Jaime was also pre-registered, and had a name badge ready at the registration desk that morning. The second part said that the conference organizers could ask someone to leave if their conduct interfered with the other attendees. “How is our conduct interfering,” I asked Arranga. She had no answer.
We were warned that if we returned we’d be charged with trespassing, then were led, Dead Man Walking style, to the front door. On the way out we passed David Geier, accused by the Maryland Board of Physicians of practicing medicine without a license. He was standing behind the ASD Centers table, expressionless. One day the police will come for him, I thought. But not today.
According to US Department of Health and Human Services rules, research on human subjects is subject to prior approval by an Institutional Review B0ard (IRB). Pace University has two IRBs, according to the DHHS’s Office of Human Research Protection database. “Human subject” is defined by the DHHS as “a living individual about whom an investigator (whether professional or student) conducting research obtains data through intervention or interaction with the individual, or identifiable private information.”
IRB approval for research on human subjects, even studies that only administer an autism screening questionnaire, is a universally-accepted ethical standard, with the exception of rogue nation states such as North Korea, Libya and Somalia.
According to the Pace University Institutional Review Board (IRB) website, “The IRB was established to protect the rights and privacy of human participants in research that is conducted by members of the Pace University community – faculty, students, and staff – and by external parties who wish to conduct research on any Pace University owned and/or operated site.”
When asked if the Pace study had IRB approval, Pace Law spokesperson Lauren Rubenstein referred the question to the study’s co-author, Louis Conte. In an email, Rubenstein wrote “Louis Conte has told me that there was no human subjects research in this study.”
“If an investigator believes that his/her project qualifies for exemption, he/she should submit one copy of the completed signed Proposal Form (included in application packet) and associated materials. A designated member of the IRB must “concur” that the project qualifies for exemption. An investigator cannot exempt him/herself.”
Conte did not respond to an email asking if EBCALA sought IRB approval for its study. A call to EBCALA’s Brooklyn office was not returned. There is no mention of an IRB in the study.
Rubenstein distanced Pace Law School or Pace University from the study, and said her office would have no further comment on the article. “Pace had no participation in the paper. Pace Law students assisted with legal research of the vaccine court decisions and creating an objective database of the case holdings and facts, but neither Pace Law School nor any of our students had anything to do with the article or its findings or conclusions nor do we express any opinion on the article or its findings.”
In another email, Rubenstein wrote “It is accurate to say that the ARTICLE, which was published in the Pace Environmental Law Review, found that some of the children compensated by the vaccine court had autism.” She ended her final email with “I’m afraid I cannot answer any more questions about this. I’ve told you everything I know.”
Curiously, the Birt Center authors acknowledge Pace’s assistance in the study in language that cleared peer review:
Pace Law School provided significant research support for this study. The authors thank former Environmental Law Dean Alexandra Dunn and law students Jillian Petrera, Kyle Caffrey, Sohad Jamal, Alison Kaplan, Georgine Bells, Jonne Ronquillo, Lisa Hatem, Allison Kazi and Adrienne Fortin.
Under the heading “Subsequent Investigation”, we find this:
The authors began a research project with Pace Law School students to locate and analyze VICP cases assessing whether the VICP had in fact compensated vaccine-induced brain damage, including autism, while perhaps not using that term specifically.
And on the next page:
The authors, with the assistance of Pace Law students, created a database of VICP published decisions that used relevant terms related to autism.
EBCALA also partnered with Pace Law School to undertake a study of the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program of the Court of Federal Claims.
A press release issued by the Center for Personal Rights prior to last Tuesday’s EBCALA press conference claimed that Pace’s involvement went even deeper. Its headline read:
Major Law School to Join Autistic Children, Parents and Activists to Announce Historic First Study that Links Vaccines and Autism.
The Center for Personal Rights sponsored last year’s anti-vaccine rally in Grant Park that featured disgraced UK gastroenterologist Andrew Wakefield. Wakefield lost his medical license last year for, among other things, performing autism research without ethical approval.
Established in 1982, the Pace Environmental Law Review (PELR) was one of the first scholarly environmental law journals. It is run by Pace Law School JD candidates. PELR adopted a peer-review process two years ago to select articles for publication. According to the Pace Law spokesperson, submissions are reviewed internally, and then forwarded to academics, practitioners, and experts in the field, including members of Pace Law School’s faculty.
Peer reviewers have “wide discretion in selecting articles for publication,” according to the school’s website. Optional criteria for article review include such questions as “Does the author demonstrate a comprehensive knowledge of the subject matter being discussed?”, “Has the author sufficiently supported his arguments?”, “Is there any part of the article that is purely speculative?”, and “Were sound scientific research methodologies employed?”
The Birt Center study has come under withering criticism from science bloggers and others.
“The authors are trying to stretch the definition of ‘autism’ to include whatever they might like,” writes an academic researcher at Photon in the Darkness. “The reason that the DSM-IV (and, presumably the DSM-V) require a certain number of behaviors or findings in each category to qualify as a diagnosis of ‘autism’ or ‘pervasive developmental disorder’ is precisely to make a distinction between ‘autism’ and ‘autism-like symptoms.’”
Activists from an anti-vaccine law center told nine Capitol Hill staffers today that the purported connection between vaccines and autism is a national problem that Congress needs to address.
Mary Holland, Lou Conte, and Lisa Colin of the Elizabeth Birt Center for Autism Law and Advocacy (EBCALA) hosted the briefing, after they released a study Tuesday which claimed the US government has been secretly compensating cases of vaccine-induced autism for over 20 years. The paper was published in the Pace Environmental Review, a student publication associated with Pace Law School. The study claims that Pace students and faculty helped with the investigation. Pace Law School says the study was peer reviewed prior to publication.
The paper’s authors held a press conference Tuesday in front of the US Federal Court of Claims, where lawsuits claiming vaccine injury are decided under a 1986 federal law called the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program.
The major push from Holland and her colleagues for Congressional action and review into VICP follows recent devastating setbacks for the anti-vaccine movement. They include:
A US Supreme Court ruling in Bruesewitz v. Wyeth which preempted all design-defect claims against vaccine manufacturers outside of vaccine court.
An action by the Maryland Board of Physicians this week which suspended the license of Mark Geier, a geneticist and leading figure in the anti-vaccine movement who treats autistic children with a chemical castration drug.
The continued disgrace of Andrew Wakefield, the UK gastroenterologist whose fraudulent 1998 Lancet article is now publicly tied to vaccine rejectionism.
A measles outbreak in Minnesota over the winter which is tied to fear of vaccines spread by Wakefield and others
The favorable publicity surrounding several books, released over the last six months, which are heavily critical of the anti-vaccine movement.
Meanwhile the Executive Branch stands behind HHS and the CDC, two powerful federal agencies that rely on best available scientific evidence to defend the vaccine program against misleading information and outright propaganda.
Of the nine staffers in attendance at today’s briefing, half were junior colleagues. They represented Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY), Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-MN), and Sen. Olympia Snowe (D-ME).
Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., a Pace law professor, had scheduled his own press conference in front of the White House on April 11 to talk about the study, but cancelled the event. A spokesperson for the law school said Kennedy cancelled because the study was still being reviewed for publication.
Tuesday’s EBCALA press conference, which was held in front of the US Court of Claims, has been largely ignored by news media. One exception is Fox News, where Alyson Camerota characterized the study as “a major investigation.”
In a Wednesday report, the Boston Fox affiliate mischaracterized today’s briefing as “a Congressional hearing.”
New research published today in the American Journal of Psychiatry shows a 1:38 autism prevalence in South Korea – more than twice what was found in a much quoted but less rigorous 2006 CDC study. Two-thirds of the Korean children diagnosed with an ASD had no previous diagnosis, and were attending mainstream schools with no special services.
“The study’s primary message,” says Dr. Bennett Leventhal, one of the study’s authors, is that “if you really go look carefully amongst all children everywhere, you find that things are far more common than you previously expected.”
Under the leadership of Yale psychiatrist and epidemiologist Young-Shin Kim, all children were screened with surveys distributed to both parents and teachers, and then evaluated using comprehensive diagnostic assessments. Unlike the CDC study, which analyzed records and registries, the researchers in Korea attempted to look at each child in every school, even those who did not have a record of any special education need. This method unmasked cases that could have gone unnoticed to epidemiologists relying on a records-based approach.
The researchers estimated that the rate of autism spectrum disorder is as high as 2.6 percent among school-age children, equivalent to 1 in 38 children. The study “Prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorder in a Total Population Sample,” reports on 55,000 children ages 7 to 12 years in a South Korean community. These children include those enrolled in special education services and a disability registry, as well as children enrolled in general education schools.
“While this study does not suggest that Korean children have more autism than other populations or that a more accurate rate for the U.S. is closer to 2.64 percent, it does suggest that autism may be more common than previously thought,” said Roy Richard Grinker, GW professor of anthropology and international affairs and member of the study’s research team. “This research powerfully demonstrates that the methods one uses to study prevalence will profoundly influence the estimate.” Grinker is the author of Unstrange Minds: Remapping the World of Autism.
To date, researchers have not found a difference in the way ASD is expressed in children around the world, but certain cultural factors may affect diagnostic practices and prevalence estimates. Therefore, this study took a comprehensive and anthropological approach to mitigate potential cultural bias. Parent and teacher focus groups were conducted to identify local beliefs that might influence symptom reporting and other misunderstandings. Additionally, the diagnostic tools were also translated, back-translated and validated for Korean children and only best-estimate clinical diagnoses were reported. Furthermore, each diagnostic team was composed of Korean diagnosticians with extensive clinical and research experience in both the U.S. and Korea and a random sample of diagnoses was validated by North American experts.
The team considered that more Korean children with ASD may be found in mainstream education settings based on the design of the Korean educational system. In these settings, instruction is highly structured with significant behavioral regulation across a longer school day – often more than 12 hours long, with 5-6 days of instruction each week and extracurricular academic tutoring at off-site academic institutes. This structure may help children with ASD to function at various levels in the Korean general population while not receiving special education services.
The researchers emphasized that this study is further evidence that autism transcends cultural, geographic and ethnic boundaries and that autism is a global public health concern, not limited to the Western world. Additionally, they highlighted that appropriate translation and adaptation of the gold-standard assessment methods used in the U.S. and other English-speaking countries can reliably diagnose autism in other languages and cultures.
This research was primarily funded by a pilot research grant from Autism Speaks with additional funding from the Institute for Ethnographic Research, part of GW’s Columbian College of Arts and Sciences. In addition to this study, Autism Speaks is supporting similar efforts epidemiological research efforts in India, South Africa and Taiwan.
Veteran journalist Robert MacNeil recently emerged from his 16-year retirement to tell the story of his grandson, Nick, and his daughter Alison. But instead of a grandfather’s musings on his autistic grandson, PBS framed the series as “the most comprehensive look at the disorder and its impact that’s aired on American television in at least five years.” So far so good.
But things went quickly awry, starting with MacNeil’s introduction to episode one: “In recent years, the diagnosis of autism has shown startling growth, now affecting one in 110 American children.”
It’s usually a bad sign when a report starts off with a nod toward the myth of the autism epidemic. But soon it became apparent that MacNeil’s report was influenced more by his daughter’s anecdotes than scientific evidence. Alison MacNeil, unfortunately for PBS, is an outspoken anti-vaccine activist. A week before the series ran, she posted this on David Kirby’s EOH (Evidence of Harm) anti-vaccine listserve:
Hi, my name is Alison MacNeil and I have been a listmate here for a long while. This series was born out of 3 yrs of conversations with my dad after my son Nick regressed into Autism following his MMR, Dtap and Hib at a 15 month well-baby visit. It was a long journey getting this program off the ground and some really terrific experts in our community helped to convince my dad that this was really imperative. The program is no where (sic) near as hard driving and aggressive as I had intended but, in it’s own quieter way, some key points are made. In the first segment I discuss Nick’s regression post vaccination, we make the point very clearly that he is physically sick and that we have been terribly let down by the mainstream medical establishment, and that when we get to decent medical help Nick starts to get better.
The anti-vaccine group SAFE-MINDS, perhaps sensing a winner, doubled down on Alison’s claim with a press release:
Alison MacNeil issued the following statements today regarding vaccines. MacNeil’s family Autism story is running on PBS this week:
“When I vaccinated my son Nick, I did not know vaccine manufacturers are not required to test the safety of vaccines given simultaneously – the outcome remains largely unknown. Many thousands of parents with Autistic children report that, like Nick, their children were progressing normally until they were vaccinated, after which they were never the same again. Following receipt of the DTaP, MMR and Hib at a 15 month doctor’s visit, and a loss of skills, Nick was diagnosed with Autism at 21 months. He has since been diagnosed with encephalitis, seizures, inflammation in his gastrointestinal tract, and a mitochondrial disorder.”
But Alison has trouble keeping her stories straight. She has also written:
My son’s autism also came in gradually, no huge drop in skills or immediate medical crisis after a specific shot. But he got the Hep B, at one month premature, underweight, and one day old…then he was fully vaccinated from there. The biggest decline happened after the (15 months) MMR -we were in the hospital within 2 weeks with croup/?whooping cough, double ear infections, bronchitus (sic) next….spiral, spiral down….21 months diagnosis autism. Alison M
Another time she blamed thimerosal for her son’s autism, even though Nick was born years after the preservative was phased out of the pediatric schedule. On her blog, My Vaccine Injured Child, Alison wrote:
“I think my son’s immune system was hit too hard, too quickly and with ingredients such as aluminum and mercury which synergistically exacerbated his decline.”
Alison has some other theories about autism. On yet another anti-vaccine listserve, she wrote:
“I have a dear friend who vaccinated her first son, he regressed into her autism.She didn’t vaccinate her second son, born when her first son was around 2.5, he regressed into autism.Is it possible that her 1st con’s vaccines shed horizontal virus to her second child? Second question…my daughter was 4 and was and remains nt and received her boosters just as my son was born. He fell apart accumulatively as we completed all his vaccines by 15 months with the final blow then the mmr. Could he have been affected by her shots?Alison M”
But it isn’t always about the vaccines. She has also written:
“I spent a fair amount of time going to Grateful Dead shows in college, and took some stuff here and there and I have always told my husband that my son looks like he’s tripping.Of course, I’ve also wondered how much damage I did with all of that, fair amount of guilt there.But, we were having a good tiiiiiiiiiime. Alison M”
So where does this leave Robert MacNeil and the venerated NewsHour? Embarrassed, one would think.
America’s oldest anti-vaccine group has fired back at the AAP following its criticism of an anti-vaccine ad placement on the Times Square jumbotron.
The misleadingly-named National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC) accuses the AAP of “bullying parents instead of being partners in preventing vaccine reactions.” The group was responding to an April 13 letter the AAP wrote to CBS asking the network to remove a 20-second anti-vaccine message on the CBS Jumbotron in Times Square.
Anti-vaccine activist Fisher
NVIC claims the AAP provided the letter to bloggers, who “orchestrated an online smear campaign to discredit NVIC.”
Barbara Loe Fisher rarely lets facts intrude on her anti-vaccine agenda . NVIC’s latest press release falsely labels Dr. Paul Offit as a “vaccine patent holder.” Offit is co-inventor of Rotateq, a rotavirus vaccine which saves hundreds of thousands of lives. He stopped receiving royalties on Rotateq nearly two years ago, a fact that is conveniently overlooked by Fisher and other critics.
Offit is quick-witted, funny, and — despite a generally mild-mannered mien — sometimes so assertive as to seem brash. “Scientists, bound only by reason, are society’s true anarchists,” he has written — and he clearly sees himself as one. “Kaflooey theories” make him crazy, especially if they catch on. Fisher, who has long been the media’s go-to interview for what some in the autism arena call “parents rights,” makes him particularly nuts, as in “You just want to scream.” The reason? “She lies,” he says flatly.
In dismissing the suit some eight months later, the judge wrote:
Under controlling state and federal law in this jurisdiction, the challenged remark by Dr. Offit, about a matter of substantial public concern, is not actionable as defamation because it is neither capable of being understood as stating actual facts nor of being proven true or false. It is, therefore, an expression of opinion that is immune from civil liability under the common law of Virginia, the Constitution of this Commonwealth, and the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.
Fisher’s press release also blasts the AAP for successfully lobbying Congress for the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986. Fisher didn’t mention that her activism was itself instrumental in the passage of that law.
After accepting Specialist Journalist of the Year at the British Press Awards, Brian Deer told his fellow scribes:
“I’d just like to say that this award does have my name on it but in many ways I think this is an award for the industry as a whole. Because this is a story where some of us, some of my colleagues, our colleagues I think got the story wrong and became prisoners of their sources for over a long period of time. And I think this is an award for an industry that gets it right and an industry that I am very proud to be a party to.”
Disgraced UK gastroenterologist Andrew Wakefield’s shoddy Lancet study would have passed unnoticed were it not for the help of credulous editors and reporters. The scare headlines did Wakefield’s work for him, causing needless panic about the MMR vaccine in the UK, and about vaccines in general in the US.
New American research shows that there could be a link between the controversial MMR triple vaccine and autism and bowel disease in children.
The study appears to confirm the findings of British doctor Andrew Wakefield, who caused a storm in 1998 by suggesting a possible link.
Now a team from the Wake Forest University School of Medicine in North Carolina are examining 275 children with regressive autism and bowel disease – and of the 82 tested so far, 70 prove positive for the measles virus.
The “new American research” reporter Sally Beck quotes is an unpublished poster presentation from five years ago. Becks’ 2011 article is a word for word reprint of article than ran in 2006.
If that’s not enough, the “studies” primary investigator told Clinical Psychiatry News in 2006 that contrary to Beck’s interpretation, the “study” does not confirm Wakefield’s findings.
MONTREAL — Measles found in the intestines of a cohort of autistic children with bowel disease should not be perceived as proof of an association between the measles vaccine and autism, Stephen J. Walker, Ph.D., stressed at the 5th International Meeting for Autism Research.
“We haven’t done anything to demonstrate that the measles virus is causing autism or even causing bowel disease. We have simply shown that there is measles virus in the guts of a large number of children who have regressive autism,” said Dr. Walker of Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C.
Walker is on the editorial board of AutismInsights, an online journal started in late 2009 by Andrew Wakefield. But Walker’s “measles in the gut” study remains unpublished.
An email to the Daily Mail, pointing out the errors and asking for a correction and retraction, drew this reply:
Thank you very much for your recent communication.
We receive a great deal of correspondence each day and, although I may not be able to respond to you personally, please rest assured that I do take the time to read all the emails I receive. Those intended for publication on the letters page will be considered carefully.
If you do not see your point of view in print, however, I hope you will appreciate it is only possible to publish a small percentage of the letters we receive.
Any emails deemed more appropriate for other departments will be forwarded for their consideration.
Thank you for your interest in the Daily Mail, I am grateful to you for taking the time to contact us.
Daily Mail Readers’ Letters Editor
Another case of journalistic Stockholm syndrome comes to us from the Orange County Register, where editors corrected a two-year old story about the anti-vaccine movement’s favorite boogeyman, Dr. Paul Offit.
An OC Register article dated Aug. 4, 2008 entitled “Dr. Paul Offit Responds” contained several disparaging statements that Dr. Offit of Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) made about CBS News Investigative Correspondent Sharyl Attkisson and her report. Upon further review, it appears that a number of Dr. Offit’s statements, as quoted in the OC Register article, were unsubstantiated and/or false. Attkisson had previously reported on the vaccine industry ties of Dr. Offit and others in a CBS Evening News report “How Independent Are Vaccine Defenders?” July 25, 2008.
False and unsubstantiated claims constitute the lingua franca of the anti-vaccine movement, so it’s alarming to see a newspaper accuse the evidence-based science community of doing the same. So what did Offit say that drew a correction, two years after the fact?
Offit told the OC Register that he provided CBS News “the details of his relationship, and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s relationship, with pharmaceutical company Merck.” However, documents provided by CBS News indicate Offit did not disclose his financial relationships with Merck, including a $1.5 million Hilleman chair he sits in that is co-sponsored by Merck.
The idea that an academic chair is something to sit in is as nonsensical as Attkisson’s recent “homologous recombinaltion tiniker” quote. The “Hilleman chair” is an endowment to fund research, and Offit has the right to direct the funds from the endowment. Merck’s control over how the money is spent ended when the pharmaceutical giant cut the check. The OC Register is imagining a conflict of interest where one doesn’t exist.
And then there’s this:
The CBS News documentation indicates Offit also did not disclose his share of past and future royalties for the Merck vaccine he co-invented.
The royalties that Offit received for the 25 years he and two other researchers spent developing Rotateq did not come from Merck. The patent is owned by CHOP and Wistar, which may sell or license them. Offit’s royalites, which were discontinued in the summer of 2009, came from his institution, not Merck. Once again the OC Register alleges a hidden connection which simply did not exist.
The OC Register needs to correct its correction, hopefully not two years from now.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has asked CBS Outdoor to pull an anti-vaccine video from the Times Square jumbotron. The 20-second ad is sponsored by the deceptively-named National Vaccine Information Center, and quack-medicine vendor Mercola.com. According to NVIC, “the message is shown every hour for 18 hours a day on the 20 by 26-foot full color big screen located on 42nd St. between 7th and 8th Avenues near Broadway and the NY Port Authority and directly beneath where the crystal ball drops at midnight on Times Square every New Year’s Eve.”
Here is the letter:
April 13, 2011
Mr. Wally Kelly
Chairman and CEO
405 Lexington Ave., 14th floor
New York, NY 10174
Dear Mr. Kelly,
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) objects to the paid advertisement/public service message from the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC) being shown throughout the month of April on the CBS JumboTron in Times Square, New York. The AAP and many other child health organizations have worked hard to protect children and their families from unfounded and unscientific misinformation regarding vaccine safety. Vaccines are safe.
By providing advertising space to an organization like the NVIC, which opposes the nation’s recommended childhood immunization schedule and promotes the unscientific practice of delaying or skipping vaccines altogether, you are putting the lives of children at risk, leaving them unprotected from vaccine-preventable diseases. Diseases like measles and pertussis (whooping cough) can have serious consequences, including seizures, brain damage and even death. From January 1 through December 31, 2010, 9,477 cases of pertussis (including ten infant deaths) were reported throughout California. This is the most cases reported in 65 years there.
The AAP’s 60,000 member pediatricians urge you to remove these harmful messages, which fail to inform the public about the safety of life-saving vaccines. Please do your part to help reassure parents that vaccinating their children on schedule is the best way to protect them from deadly diseases.
O. Marion Burton, MD, FAAP
The ad tells parents to “get informed”, but directs them to NVIC and Mercola, where misinformation about vaccine risks, ingredients, and benefits abound. Here is the ad:
The Minnesota Department of Health has so far confirmed 14 cases of measles, six eight of which have required hospitalization. All but one of the cases has been linked to an unvaccinated Somali child who picked up the disease during a trip to Kenya. MDH daily updates can be seen here.
Of the 14 cases, seven have been in Somali children- six of them were not vaccinated, one was not old enough for the shot. Several of the Somali parents told MDH they had avoided the vaccine out of fears their children would be at risk of autism. Those fears can be directly linked to anti-vaccine activists such as Andrew Wakefield, the disgraced UK physician who associated the MMR vaccine with autism in his discredited and fraudulent 1998 Lancet paper. Wakefield has visited the Minnesota Somalis three times since last December to spread more fear, uncertainty and doubt about the safety of vaccines. Most Somalis are dismissing him for the crackpot that he is. But enough have taken him seriously for measles to have gained a toehold in the community.
Over half of the measles cases in this month's outbreak have resulted in hospitalization.
Wakefield tells anyone who will listen that autism rates are abnormally high among Somalis, a claim based on a deliberate misreading of a 2010 MDH study. A few caveats that Mr. Wakefield has conveniently skipped over, and won’t address. First, the MDH did not examine children or their medical records. They accepted the diagnoses — some by doctors, some by school evaluators — that admitted children to special education classes.
Second, the relative differences between Somali and non-Somali children decreased markedly over the 3-year study period, meaning that differences in administrative prevalence between Somali children relative to non-Somali children decreased in a short amount of time.
Then there’s this: the 0.93% to 1.54% prevalence for Somali children is high for 3-4 year olds. However, it’s not high if they were 6-11 year olds. In other words, it appears that Somali’s are diagnosed at a higher rate as 3-4 years olds, but by the time they are 6-11 their rate is no higher than for the rest of the population.
The MDH admits its conclusions are tentative, but anti-vaccine interest groups such as Jenny McCarthy’s Generation Rescue have seized on them to spread fear, uncertainty and doubt. As a result, Somali vaccination rates have plummeted, leading to an outbreak of measles that threatens Hennepin County and beyond.
Whatever the Koran says about bearing false witness doesn’t apply to Mr. Wakefield. Fortunately, most Somalis still know it’s wrong, and have refused to follow Mr. Wakefield down the anti-vaccine path. There’s still time for others in that community to do the same.