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The Ministers of Vaccination Misinformation

Posted Aug 01 2011 12:00am

Talking-heads By Robert Schecter
Over past year the vaccine establishment has been pushing back against those questioning the advisability of vaccinating and revaccinating, into perpetuity, every man, woman and child on the planet.
Dr Paul Offit, the establishment’s de facto spokesman and author of countless books on the miracle of vaccination, has been spearheading these efforts.
What’s truly disturbing is that Offit, the archetypical “expert” to which parents are directed in order to obtain vaccination advice, and other members of the medical community, are using patently false information to advance their agenda.
For example, in a 2008 video on promoting his book Autism’s False Prophets, Offit, responding to concerns that vaccines might cause autism, claimed that studies comparing vaccinated and unvaccinated children had been done and all was well [1]. He stated 
A few years ago there was born the notion that vaccines might cause autism, so the public health community responded. They responded by doing a series of studies to try and answer the question, “were you at greater risk of getting autism if you’ve gotten vaccines and if you hadn’t” and the answer was clear and consistent and reproducible. No. The risk was no greater if you had gotten vaccines or if you hadn’t.
But it’s common knowledge such studies haven’t been done. Only one vaccine, the MMR, and one vaccine ingredient, thimerisol, have ever been studied to any great extent.
Even Offit, in another interview  -- conducted during the same month as the amazon video premiered -- contradicts himself, stating studies comparing vaccinated and unvaccinated children would be both unethical (some children would not have the protection of vaccines) and even if such studies were performed, they would be "fraught with bias." These are his own words [2] 
…such a study [comparing children who have received vaccines with those who haven't] would be unethical. That vaccine-preventable diseases occur and that vaccines prevent them is not a matter of debate--one cannot follow unvaccinated children prospectively in good conscience. So, the study could only be done retrospectively and would be fraught with bias, primarily differences in healthcare-seeking behavior. And even if performed and performed well, it would not end the debate. Because those who believe that vaccines are causing chronic diseases will never be swayed by data.
Additionally, Dr. Offit, when discussing the risks posed by vaccine-preventable illnesses, is often wildly off base. For example, on page 56 of his book Vaccines: what you should know - and elsewhere - he states that, in the pre-vaccine era (the late 50s and early 60s) deaths occurring as a result of measles-related complications numbered 3,000
Yet the CDC [3], the textbook Vaccines and the American Association of Pediatrics [4] state the number of reported cases was only ~450. Even considering that some cases could have gone unreported, it’s hard to imagine a scenario in which thousands of measles deaths went unaccounted for.

Then, just this year, in a bizarre statement on the vaccine advocacy website Vaccinate Your Baby, he calls the measles a “routine killer,” claiming;
chickenpox is not the routine killer that, say, measles was [5]
Yet since routine can be defined as occurring “in the ordinary course of events,” no one in their right mind would claim that death to be ordinary outcome of the measles.
Then in regards to rubella a.k.a. the German measles, Offit claims 
Before vaccines, Americans could expect that every year…rubella (German measles) would cause 20,000 babies to be born blind, deaf, or mentally retarded…[6]
But Americans could expect nothing of the sort. The rubella epidemic Offit describes as happening over one year actually occurred, according to Wikipedia, the Journal of the American Medical Association and emedicine over several: 1962-1965. The 20,000 babies he describes were the victims of a once in a generation epidemic, so to expect that such carnage would occur on an annual basis is absurd.

Especially when reported cases of CRS settled into the mid double digits following the aforementioned epidemic. According to the textbook Vaccines(4th ed. pg 712), pregnancies affected by CRS plunged from 100 per 10,000 during the mid sixties to 4-8 per 10,000 during the later part of the decade and before the introduction of vaccination. And in 1970, shortly after the licensure of the vaccine, and well before its distribution could reduce by much the incidence of rubella in those of child-bearing age, only 68 cases of CRS were reported.
Additionally it is my belief that, vaccination or not, an epidemic of this magnitude would never have again occurred. Awareness of the risks presented by the German measles to those of child-bearing age would have motivated families to ensure their children contracted an illness that one prominent doctor of the time, called “a pipsqueak disease [7]”
Finally, Dr. Offit arrives at the topic of pertussis, asserting that 
During the past 100 years, pharmaceutical companies have made vaccines against pertussis (whooping cough)[the vaccine was introduced in the 1940s]… As a consequence, the number of children in the United States killed by pertussis decreased from 8,000 each year to less than 20…[8]
And again he’s wrong. According to The Encyclopedia of Public Health
Between 1940 and 1945 in the United States, an average of 175,000 cases and 2,700 deaths occurred from pertussis each year [9].
And while 2,700 deaths is still a high number, one must remember pertussis mortality was in the midst of a virtual freefall and those deaths would have likely continued to plummet with or without a vaccine.
Offit, while certainly the most energetic and least trustworthy of the vaccine advocates, is not alone in his attempts to advance the cause of vaccination by any means necessary.
Dr Glenn D. Braunstein, the Chairman of the Department of Medicine at Cedars-Sinai, who in March 2010 wrote an error riddled piece for the Huffington Post [10]. The article beganMedically speaking, the good old days aren't something a physician gets sentimental about, unless there's a soft spot in his or her heart for the Middle Ages when small pox wiped out most of Western Europe; or the nineteenth century, when typhoid had its way with millions of children; or after World War I when influenza practically killed more people than the war itself.

 These were terrible diseases we've conquered thanks to vaccines.

OK, where to begin? Since it's rare for two paragraphs to contain so much misinformation, I'll just start from the top. Did the smallpox wipe out most of Western Europe during the Middle Ages? Of course not. According to Wikipedia [11]
During the Middle Ages, smallpox made periodic incursions into Europe but did not become established there until the population increased and population movement became more active during the time of the Crusades.

So it's difficult to have an increasing population at the same time smallpox is raging through and decimating that very same population.

But before we continue lets define what we mean by the Middle Ages. Again, using Wikipedia, we learn
The Middle Ages...was a period of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century. And just to make sure we're correct, let's look at another source that examines the incursion of smallpox into Europe.

And to be sure we've got our facts straight about what the smallpox was doing during this time period, let's look at secondary source. On page 28 of Donald R. Hopkins' book The Greatest Killer: Smallpox in History we learn
During the fifteenth century...smallpox apparently began to slowly gather momentum in Europe
So at the end of the Middle Ages smallpox is not wiping out population; rather it's just slowly gaining a foothold.

Maybe Dr. Braunstein simply has his time periods confused. The population must have been nearly wiped out, just at a later date: when smallpox was in its prime. But when smallpox was, in the 18th century, a leading cause of death in Europe, the population was exploding, going from one hundred to two hundred million people [12].

OK, so even given the benefit of the doubt about time frames, its clear the assertions regarding the smallpox are complete nonsense; lets then move on to his next claim: that typhoid was conquered thanks to vaccines.

According to the textbook Vaccines (4th edition pages 1060-61)
The highest incidence usually occurs where water supplies serving large populations are contaminated by fecal matter. This situation existed at the end of the 19th century in most large cities in the United States...causing the disease to be highly endemic in large cities. With the introduction of water treatment at the turn of the 20th century...the incidence of typhoid plummeted precipitously in the large cities of the United States.

And according to Arthur Allen, a great friend of vaccination and the author of Vaccine: The controversial Story of Medicine's Greatest Lifesaver, Nationwide, the typhoid death rate declined 99 percent from 1906 to 1936, with little vaccination. (pg 137)So in reality vaccines had nothing to do with the conquest of typhoid. The assertion is just another erroneous claim advanced to further the cause of vaccination.
And now finally, in regards to Braunstein's last claim -- the conquest of the flu --I was not personally aware that the flu had been conquered. But this is of course wonderful news. Please excuse me while I go tell my Walgreens pharmacist.
Before the article ends Dr Braunstein advances one final noteworthy declarationAnd as far as all the scares and controversy about vaccinations lately, let's not confuse sound medical practice with making healthy choices on a visit to Whole Foods, especially since the assumption that vaccines aren't pure and natural is inaccurate.

Here he’s right. After all, in France, cave paintings clearly show early humans injecting one another with all types of vaccines. Additionally, the now-extinct trees and bushes on which syringes and vaccines grew are also depicted.

Finally we conclude our look at this rogue’s gallery of misinformation with Nancy Snyderman, a TV doctor who, astonishingly, despite years of delivering false information to parents, continues to a appear on NBC as a medical “expert.”
In May of 2009 Snyderman appeared on a segment of the Today Show [13] and claimed that pertussis was “an easily to die from illness” She failed to explain how that made any sense when, out of one million1 [14] estimated cases each year, only ~20 deaths occur.
During the same segment, she went on to lament:
“We nearly wiped it [pertussis] out but we’ve become complacent and now so complacent such that in 1994 there were about 1000 cases of whooping cough in this country a decade later 26k cases” Yet she did not elaborate as to how we became so complacent when rates were and are at all-time highs?
The implication was clear, parents were no longer vaccinating to the degree that they had vaccinated in the past - this even though rates were, and are, at all time highs. To paint this distorted picture, she had to willfully ignore the universally acknowledged fact that it was not complacency, but waning immunity and past pertussis underreporting that were responsible for a pertussis “resurgence.”
Then in 2010 [15] she reported on a number of measles deaths in Philadelphia. These deaths turned out to have been nothing more than figments of her imagination. Yet she repeated the claim in February 2010 on MSNBC’s Morning Joe [16]
Right now we have children dying in the United States of America from measles, mumps…

Lastly, In January of this year, she appeared with Matt Lauer on a Today Show segment entitled Prepare for Winter Illnesses [17]. Matt wanted to know the difference between having the flu and having a cold. The ever- authoritative (yet consistently incorrect) Snyderman replied, when you have the flu you’re “usually out of work for two weeks”. Two weeks? Really? That seems strange. After all when I was a school child none of my classmates missed school for two weeks due to the flu. And have you ever heard of or seen a hockey or basketball player missing two weeks of their season due to the flu. Do news anchors or anyone else appearing on live TV generally disappear from our living rooms for two weeks each winter? Sadly, there seems to be nothing supporting Dr. Snyderman’s wild claim. But wait those are just anecdotes. Have any studies been done. Well, I’m glad you asked. This is from Flu Prevention Partners [18], a site encouraging flu vaccination:
Flu: Work Loss (days/case): Work Loss Days are the number of work days absent, per episode of influenza illness. A study of the impact of influenza and influenza-like illness on productivity and healthcare resource utilization in a working population by Keech, et al. found that the mean of lost workdays was 2.8, with a range of +/- 2.0.
Ironically, Offit, the leader of this campaign of misinformation, in his latest book, and despite all the aforementioned errors, falsehoods and mistruths, exhorts us to trust him and the other ministers of misinformation, saying
When parents choose to vaccinate their children, one element is critical to the decision: trust. A choice not to vaccinate is a choice not to trust those who research, manufacture, license, recommend, promote and administer vaccines – specifically, the government, pharmaceutical companies, and doctors. If we are again to believe that vaccines are safer than the diseases they prevent, we’re going to have to trust those responsible for them. This isn’t going to be easy.
You're right doctor, it’s not going to be easy. That's because trust isn’t built on a foundation of misinformation and deception. Trust is earned by trustworthy behavior. If you truly wanted to build trust you and your colleagues would provide credible information not spin and propaganda

That is if you were concerned about building trust. Unfortunately you’re not; you’re concerned about selling vaccine.

Therefore, rather than inspiring trust, you and the ministers of misinformation inspire me to question more deeply expert opinions and proclamations regarding vaccines and the infectious illnesses for which they promise protection.

Robert Schecter is the parent of a fifteen year old unvaccinated daughter; a stock & commodities investor, writer, and founder & editor of The Vaccine Machine: a blog challenging the vested interests dedicated to vaccinating our children by any means necessary. Visit us at the blog or on Facebook.

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Posted by Age of Autism at August 27, 2011 at 5:43 AM in Vaccine Safety Permalink

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