Anti-vaccine Zika virus conspiracy fails to surprise

It was an event so impossible to predict it is absent from the highly respected Before It’s NewsWhat Did Nostradamus Predict For 2016? Or the Top 10 Nostradamus Predictions for 2016. Yet anti-vaccine conspiracy theorists reckon neonatal microcephaly associated with maternal infection with the mosquito-borne Zika virus, is actually due to… a vaccine.

It’s not spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito they warn. This truth of course, is being suppressed by a conspiracy.

A few days ago I wondered what potions, cures or other nonsense homeopaths might be selling to save the world from Zika. As it turned out I happened upon an article entitled Zika Virus. Are we being told the truth? The hosting blog, Homeopathy Safe Medicine is concocted by Steve Scrutton. Steve is also upset that the BBC aren’t playing ball with the CDC whistleblower fallacy that there is indeed a link between MMR and autism (also suppressed by a conspiracy)  – “particularly with black children”, and is happy enough to publish a final email exchange.

A little more searching would save Steve ample time on this point. For example Orac at Respecful Insolence, Rene’ Najera at Science Based Medicine and an even earlier article at SBM yield facts.

Or of course one may visit Snopes.

CDC_whistleblower_snopesSo Steve’s a conspiracy theorist. Anyway, to get back on track, you may have already guessed Steve’s answer to that title question above on Zika virus. From there we’re introduced to a fine upstanding crock of a site named The Unhived Mind III.

Here Steve alerts us to the delicate title Brazilians not buying Zika excuse for babies with shrunken brains. Charming, no? The author of this article, Jim Stone, applies the Judy Wilyman theme of logic. Namely that morbidity and mortality are not high enough for all this fuss. Jim quotes the BBC:

Zika is generally mild and only causes symptoms in one in five people. It is spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which also spreads dengue and chikungunya.

And adds himself:

My comment: Ok so a do nothing virus is going around that only makes one in five people get mildly sick, with no symptoms in 4 out of 5 people.

Had he continued quoting the BBC we’d have read more on this “do nothing virus”:

Brazil is experiencing the largest known outbreak of Zika.

President Dilma Rousseff, visiting Recife in the worst-affected north-east of the country, said Brazilians needed to engage in the fight against the virus. […]

Forty-nine babies with suspected microcephaly have died, Brazil’s health ministry says. In five of these cases an infection with Zika virus was found.

Jim Stone has his own tortuous conspiracy ramble site including an utterly ridiculous piece on the Zika virus. Jim advises his poor readers:

The claim is that a mosquito naturally carried this disease across almost all of South and Central America in only six months. This defies all logic because mosquitoes have a life cycle that is too long for immediate propagation and won’t fly more than a mile from where they hatch, which would limit the movement of a totally new disease to a mile or so a month, not 30 miles a day.

Jim gets pretty worked up about reports on the Wikipedia Zika virus page suggesting the carrier can “just rip across continents to all corners in months, faster than a bush tribesman could travel. It really is that way, Wikipedia said so!”. Well, no not really. What Wikipedia did note but Jim didn’t is:

The global distribution of the most cited carrier of Zika virus, A. aegypti, is expanding due to global trade and travel. A. aegypti distribution is now the most extensive ever recorded – across all continents including North America and even the European periphery. […]

Jim has also conveniently ignored the impact of human travel. Like many who seem happy to blame the Tdap vaccine, Jim is worried that the association between microcephaly and Zika virus has not been made before. It was initially identified in rhesus monkeys in 1947 then in humans in 1952, in Uganda.

Conspiracy theorists fail to grasp that the first documented outbreak of Zika virus in a human population was in 2007 and 2013 in the Pacific (Yap and French Polynesia, respectively), and later in the Americas in 2015 (Brazil and Colombia) and Africa (Cape Verde) [WHO Zika Fact Sheet]. ( Edit: The possibility of sexual transmission {2} is being investigated ). It is believed to have arrived in Brazil in 2014, and spread slowly. The outbreak in Columbia was reported by the WHO on October 21, 2015.

These relatively recent initial outbreaks are exactly why little is known about complications associated with the disease. Experts, including the WHO are not yet certain a causal link has been established between microcephaly and Zika virus. However health officials are operating under the assumption there is one.

Should this be the case it appears that infants born to mothers who had the virus during the first trimester are at an increased risk of microcephaly. The failure of the Tdap conspiracy theorists is partially evident in their inability to produce any data beyond a crude correlation. The Tdap vaccine is being offered in the third trimester (28 to 32 weeks). In the US and UK when there is a suspicion of foetal microcephaly where pregnant women have returned from Latin America, ultrasound screening will be offered from 20 weeks every 2 to 4 weeks.

Thus foetal microcephaly due to maternal infection with Zika could be evident 2 – 3 months before the vaccine is even offered. Essentially the conspiracy coincidence is vanishingly small and demonstrably false.

It would thus seem there is an opportunity to identify the time of malformation or the absence of genetic material of the Zika virus in placental tissue, to advance the case of the conspiracy theorists. Their case could do with real hard evidence as opposed to yet another vaccine timing coincidence.

The Internet is of course teeming with rubbish sites pushing the lie of vaccine induced birth defects. The Zika virus gives them something to exhaust the correlation gambit on. A nice twist that appears on No Vaccines Australia evokes The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The release of genetically modified Aedes aegypti mosquitoes by a British biotech’ company they fund, named Oxitec has come under scrutiny. However a critical 2010 Science article suggests the Foundation had not funded a 2009 project that saw release of the mosquito on the Caribbean island of Grand Cayman. In a very recent article on the Zika virus the authors give the same GM project the thumbs up.

They write under There must be a better way to control mosquitoes?

Not yet but they’re in the works. A British biotech called Oxitec—which was recently purchased by Intrexon, a U.S. synthetic biology company—has developed A. aegypti mosquitoes containing a gene construct that will kill their offspring before they reach adulthood. When massive numbers of male individuals of this strain are released in the wild, they will mate with local females, producing offspring that are not viable, which has been shown to make a dent in the population.

For now I can offer the below press releases.

To wind up we can turn back to Steve the homeopath to realise that like Nostradamus he’s had a bash at predicting the future.

He writes:

If there is any truth in this, conventional medicine will have to act quickly and effectively.

  • They will have to denounce this as a ‘conspiracy’ theory.
  • They will have to convince us that it is mosquitoes, and not Big Pharma, who have caused this microcephaly.
  • They will have to move quickly to defend mandatory vaccination, especially the vaccination of pregnant women.
  • They will have to convince us that the TDAP vaccine is different to the DPT vaccine that they have been giving our children for decades.

And perhaps most difficult of all, the pharmaceutical industry, and conventional medical doctors, will have to convince us that this time they are telling the truth about this matter!

In fact if there were a conspiracy under way the amount of work needed to pull it off would simply dwarf Steve’s list. More so all evidence suggests it is impossible to convince such minds of the truth – regardless of evidence.

Regrettably this is just another opportunistic and disturbing effort by predictable conspiracy theorists.

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The madness of the anti-medicine movement

Long term anti-vaccine lobbyist, Judy Wilyman recently had one of her standard attacks on HPV vaccination republished on the site of the ambitiously named The New Zealand Journal of Natural Medicine.

The same page on which Wilyman’s piece appears has a link to the New Zealand 3D Investigative TV3 report on the types of injuries and even deaths Wilyman contends are firmly associated with the HPV vaccine Gardasil. The programme, entitled Cause or Coincidence? aired on November 9th 2015.

The Immunisation Advisory Centre based at The University of Auckland have responded directly to claims raised in the programme. Three NZ girls have become ill and two girls have died after receiving the HPV immunisation. The IAC provided a comprehensive response, which included:

There is absolutely no evidence that the Gardasil® vaccine has caused death, complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS), postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS), or any other related fatigue syndromes.

Just because these conditions occurred after vaccination it does not mean that they were caused by the vaccine.

It was also stated in the programme that fatalities of this nature and illnesses of this type are occurring at rates that they would had their been no HPV immunisation programme.

In no way can The New Zealand Journal of Natural Medicine be called a “journal”. It constantly hits the peak of the very worst deceptions peddled by paranoid pushers of alternatives to medicine. Certainly there are advertisements for a cornucopia of unproven concoctions promising to improve or cure a host of mild to moderate ailments. Yet articles seem to follow a pseudo-binary opposite theme. A browse through some available samples is most revealing.

If something is in the realm of science based medicine it is not just useless, but harmful. Not only is this publication in the style of Natural News, but it heavily republishes articles from Adams’ anti-science hysteria website. A typical example is, Why won’t Big Pharma ever cure cancer? Because “the cancer industry is probably the most prosperous industry in the United States”. Exactly why “Big Pharma” should bear this manufactured blame when cancer research continues apace in various research institutions isn’t made clear. Readers are supposed to swallow the tired line that profit from treating cancer is what ensures the “cure” never surfaces.

Readers are of course not alerted to the advances cancer research has delivered, leading to full remission in cases where this was once unheard of. Or treatments that have improved both the quality and duration of life for patients across a range of cancers. Gerson cancer treatment gets a plug. Vitamins C,D,E, Chinese herbs, Ayurvedic herbs, selenium, turmeric and high protein diets which increase the immune system’s ability to kill cancer cells also feature. Homeopathy improves quality of life for cancer patients, and is in fact “extremely helpful” at doing so.

This is just a snippet of cancer treatments. Of course, you must be wondering why we have never heard of this. Simple.

You see “the early Rockefellers” thought up the “business plan of our current medical system”, and “gained control” of most medical schools in the early 20th century.

The plan was to create all sorts of diseases, say with vaccines (e.g. autism, cancer, etc), fluoride, pesticides, junk “food” and the like, and then invent drugs to manage said diseases for the life of the patient, all the while getting gobs of taxpayers’ hard earned dollars to pay for said drugs and management.

Never, ever, ever actually CURE any disease, as that would not be profitable, but get ever increasing increments of cash to “manage the disease” and continually “LOOK FOR” the cure.

Then get nice little old ladies and school kids with freshly baked cookies to raise money for “charity” societies, like cancer, diabetes, heart stuff of all kinds, birth defects, autism, ad infinitum.

Most if not all of which societies are linked to the very same corporations that helped create the diseases in the first place, e.g. cancer societies being funded by pesticide manufacturers.

Call your brand of medicine “scientific” and “evidence-based” while disparaging anything that comes from beyond the pale as “unproven” or worse, “anecdotal”.

When someone comes along with an actual cure, disparage them, ensure their funding gets revoked (if by some miracle it happened in the first place), and in extremis have them imprisoned or murdered.

Hey, nothing personal. It’s just business.

However, millions of people are now waking up, albeit more slowly that one would hope, although it’s sometimes amazing that there are people “out there” who are still thinking for themselves at all.

And, as long as it lasts, the Internet is at your service, where everyone can do their homework.

Oh, my. Murdering those who have an “actual cure”. Ongoing perusal of this esteemed “journal” reveals a Natural News piece informing us that certain medications causally increase our potential to murder up to 200% in the case of anti-inflammatory painkillers. Opioid painkillers “increase the risk by 92%”. Antidepressants – 31%. Tranquilizers – 45%.

The Finnish study, published in June this year in World Psychiatry deals with association between the medications and murder. Yet the study is misrepresented by Natural News/NZ Journal of Natural Medicine under the heading Certain Medications cause people to commit murder…

This has a sub-heading Homicide risk increased by 31% to 200%… 100 million Americans take these drugs. It goes on to claim that the study:

…found that several classes of prescription medications – including antidepressant drugs, tranquilizers and anti-inflammatory painkillers markedly increased the chances of someone murdering another human being.

Which, like the sub-heading, is highly misleading because the study concludes (bold mine):

These results – which may probably be generalized to other developed and stable societies that have a low to medium homicide rate, although not necessarily to countries with higher rates of organized and premeditated crime – imply that the use of antidepressants should not be denied to either adults or adolescents due to a presumed risk of homicidal behavior. The surprisingly high risk associated with opioid and non-opioid analgesics deserves further attention in the treatment of pain among individuals with criminal history.

It can’t be ignored that the study itself notes “non-scientific” organisations blame psychotropic medications, especially antidepressants for large scale shootings in the USA, citing the Citizens Commission on Human Rights of Colorado: a front shop for Scientology’s anti-psychiatry propaganda and lobbying. A 2011 issue of the NZ publication asks on its cover, “Is Psychiatry A Hoax?”

The NZ Journal of Natural Medicine targets a number of areas where conspiracy meets evidence based medicine. Fluoride and how to detox from it, is accompanied in various issues with all the pseudoscientific horrors that are caused by this “poison”.

Predictably since the proposed Australian No Jab No Pay legislation gained increasing media coverage over 2015, this was picked up in NZ. The image below is from Issue 17, May – August 2015.

PreviewScreenSnapz008

Heavily laced with USA-centric articles this edition also included a piece entitled The Government Knows It’s A Medical Killing Machine, as its Health Freedom highlight. Although published in late 2013 the piece rattled off many figures we’ve been fed here by Meryl Dorey pushing the line that the medical system kills hundreds of thousands per year. Vioxx, Avandia, Paroxetine is apparenty ample evidence that peer reviewed publication peddles fraud. Also readers enjoyed this well known image:

PreviewScreenSnapz009

The article following this the incredible “Forced Vaccination At Gunpoint”. This is the same article word for word at Natural News, published November 19 2007 by Mike – Health Danger – Adams. Yep. By the time the NZ Natural Medicine “journal” published it it was 7, 1/2 years old. This image was added:

PreviewScreenSnapz010

Broaching the topic of No Jab No Pay in Australia comes The War Against Vaccine Refusers, written by an editor:

Make no mistake, there is a war hotting up against people, who for want of a better name I will call “vaccine-refusers” – people who choose not to be vaccinated (or allow their children to be vaccinated) or people who may agree to one or more vaccinations but don’t want to have every new vaccine that Big Pharma brings to market injected into them or their children.

In Australia, Prime Minister Tony Abbott recent announcement that the government planned to remove the “conscientious objection” category from vaccination exemptions from January 1, 2016 is especially worrying. Families who do not vaccinate their children (who do not belong to the Church of Christ, Scientist, and/or cannot obtain a medical exemption from vaccination) would lose their eligibility to the “Child Care Benefit and Child Care Rebate and the Family Tax Benefit Part A end of year supplement)”. The loss of these benefits could cost a family approximately $15,000 per child.

[…]

If the pro-vaccine lobby is successful in inculcating in the general public the belief that people do not want to be vaccinated (or parents who choose not to vaccinate their children) are “irresponsible” or “free- loaders”, the social conditions in which a coercive or even compulsory vaccination policy can be instituted will have been created.

If you take into account all the recent news from the USA (including the forced vaccination of children detailed elsewhere in this issue), the many bills before different US State governments, and the announcement by the Australian PM and the recent promotion of compulsory vaccination by Dr. O’Sullivan in NZ, it becomes clear that Big Pharma and its minions are obviously unhappy that there may be anyone refusing to be vaccinated – even if vaccine-refusers are only a small percentage of the population.

In fact as we know members of the Church of Christ, Scientist were not required to abuse their children by denying them the protection of vaccine induced immunity. Only medical exemptions are valid reasons to not lose access to benefits.

I can’t possibly comprehend why Judy Wilyman would want her name associated with a magazine populated with such varied deception and conspiracy. There is one small piece in this same issue some of you may have read before. There is very little original – or up to date – material in this so-called “journal”. As such they have chosen to publish the utterly insane, amusing as it is offensive piece from the Journal of Public health and Epidemiology, 2014; 6: 271-86.

This has been republished across the Internet, even starring in What Doctors Don’t Tell You. So I’ll publish it in full below:

 

Autism ‘Caused By MMR Using Human Fetal Cell Lines’ October 16, 2014

The explosion in autism has been caused by the introduction of human fetal cell lines in the manufacture of MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccines, a major new study has concluded.

Before 1987, when the vaccines were produced with animal cell lines, autism cases were relatively low. Today, it’s been estimated that 1 in 50 children has autism.

Stem cell researcher Theresa Deisher and others say that the correlation between the sudden explosion in autism cases and the introduction of the new MMR vaccines is too strong to ignore – although, as the old maxim goes, correlation doesn’t prove causation.

The ‘change point’ – when the numbers of autism cases rose sharply – happened in the UK in 1987, just when the new MMR vaccine, using human fetal cells, was introduced. A similar correlation was seen around the same time in Denmark, while the autism change point in the US was 1980 to 1981 after the introduction of the new MeruvaxII and MMRII vaccines in 1979. Both vaccines used human fetal cells [as a culture medium for the rubella viruses in the vaccine – Ed] for the first time.

WI-38 and MRC-5 human diploid cell lines are used in the production of hepatitis A, rabies, rubella, varicella and Pentacell DTaP-IPV/Hib as well as MMR.

The article Vaccines Contain No Aborted Fetal Cells looks at the bogus claims of fetal cells in vaccines.

So-called “research” in anti No Jab, No Pay submissions

A casual review of anti-vaccine submissions pertaining to the Social Services Legislation Amendment (No Jab, No Pay) Bill 2015, reveals a striking repetition of unsubstantiated or demonstrably false claims, mixed with more of the misguided beliefs that have brought Australia to this point in the first place.

The most prominent theme backed by deceptive pseudoscience or distortion of genuine science is that vaccines are harmful. More so they are either not needed due to the wonders of modern snake oil or have never had the dramatic impact on the scourge of vaccine preventable diseases, that they have indeed irrefutably had. Vaccines are however, capable of causing the diseases the public is deceived into believing they prevent, and go on to enable their spread.

A while back I touched on the triumphant antivaccinationist claim of “having done my research”. I suggested a lack of critical thinking and cognitive bias left a great deal of these “researchers” incapable of discerning reputable source material from nonsense. That the unwary reader is presented with huge volumes of championed material, yet lacks the rather vital tools of cognition to identify and trust the genuine expert. This is a fast track to accepting opinion (or worse) as fact.

Tim Harding tackles this problem in more depth and with far more care than I, in his article How Dr Google spawned a new breed of health ‘experts’. Harding identifies key elements contributing to this phenomenon. Under the heading Misunderstanding democracy, he writes;

Reducing the influence of experts is sometimes mistakenly described as “the democratisation of ideas”. Democracy is a system of government — it is not an equality of opinions.

While the right of free speech prevents governments from suppressing opinions, it does not require citizens to treat all opinions equally or even take them into account. Equal rights do not result in equal knowledge and skills.

[…]

Deakin University philosopher Dr Patrick Stokes has argued the problem with “I’m entitled to my opinion” is that it has become shorthand for “I can say or think whatever I like” without justification; and that disagreement is somehow disrespectful.

Dr Stokes suggests that this attitude feeds into the false equivalence between experts and non-experts that is an increasingly pernicious feature of our public discourse.

The truth and import of Dr. Stokes’ observation of false equivalence between experts and non-experts is a reality I feel we should readily accept. Skeptics and science advocates have experienced and will continue to experience such when it comes to the anti-vaccination lobby.

In recent weeks this lobby has accused its critics of being worse than Nazis. They have launched a concerted attack against the families and grieving parents of infants lost to pertussis. They have produced memes likening vaccination to rape – and defended criticism of this. Whilst less insulting but no less ludicrous they’ve insisted democracy in Australia is dead.

Yet they never doubted their democratic right to swamp the No Jab, No Pay Social Services Amendment process with submissions accommodating a host of patently ridiculous, fallacious and time wasting material.

Some don’t know they are parroting nonsense. Meryl Dorey’s old trick attacking pertussis vaccine efficacy pops up here and there. 1991 was the first year for compulsory notification of pertussis cases, which were recorded by the National Notifiable Surveillance Diseases System. 1991 was a different time. Not all health professionals were logistically prepared to diagnose, much less report pertussis cases. Sensitivity of diagnostic equipment was magnitudes less than today. This was five years prior to the Immunise Australia campaign, launched by Michael Wooldridge.

So the deception runs that in 1991 with only around 71% of 0-6 year olds vaccinated, there were only (according to one submission) 347 cases. In fact there were only that many cases reported. NNSDS pertussis figures for 1991 still creep up at about five per year. 1991 notifications in 2012 are 332. This year to date: 345. The same submission goes on to report that in 2011 with a 95% pertussis vaccine uptake in 0-6 year olds, “there were 38,725 cases of whooping cough”.

Notice the age of vaccination is the 0-6 years cohort, but the pertussis notification figure is Australia wide. This includes overseas visitors, workers and new arrivals who brought the infection with them.

And of course by 2011 it’s not that PCR testing can detect Bordetella pertussis in samples hundreds or thousands of times smaller. And days older. Or that practitioners are constantly on the lookout for signs, or that documentation of notification is meticulous. Or sciencing in this field is better and faster.

Or that it is therefore significant that last year’s total of 11,866 (approx. 700 more than 2005) is comparatively low, and the high figures collated for 2009 – 2011 reflect the national outbreak that is reported as beginning in Meryl Dorey’s backyard. NB: article uses a number of media sources.

Nay. It’s the vaccine whatdunnit, dear reader, and Meryl Dorey has been peddling that lie and tripping up people who “do their research” for years. She never has replied to my January 2012 email wherein I step by step showed her how she pulled off this trick.

Vaccines it is argued, still cause autism. One may read that “autism-like symptoms” are in fact autism. That the US Vaccine Injury Compensation Program has compensated cases of autism arising from vaccination. This is most certainly untrue. The VICP continue to deny ever having compensated any individual for autism caused by vaccination.

Whilst terms such as “autism-like symptoms” are used the Compensation Program at no time refers to anything like “autism arising from vaccination” or “autism as a result of vaccination”. The Pace Law School scandal is deconstructed here. Meryl Dorey’s fraudulent addition of the word “[Autism]” to the US Court of Federal Claims case file dealing with the case of Bailey Banks is documented here. Sadly it is not realistic to think these claims have not influenced opinion in some.

Across the internet the false tale of 83 vaccine induced autism cases, compensated by the US Vaccine Injury Compensation Program will pop up. It refers to a paper written by Pace Law School Students entitled, Unanswered Questions from the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program: A review of compensated cases of vaccine induced brain injury.

I wrote in 2011;

Reading the document reveals ample use of terms such as “settled cases suggesting autism”, “language that strongly suggests autistic features”, “published decisions that used terms related to autism”, “payment of vaccine injured children with autism”, and not – as Seth Mnookin pointed out – “because of their autism”. More so, the authors spend some time arguing why there should be no distinction between autism and autism-like symptoms. This is a major concession they award themselves.

The paper includes caregiver opinion, parental opinion, phrases from doctors who gave evidence at hearings and provides a case table of “Language suggesting autism or autistic-like symptoms”. A notable concern is referencing The Age of Autism: Mercury, Medicine and a Manmade Epidemic [2010] by Dan Olmsted and Mark Blaxill.

This issue of insisting “autism-like symptoms” should be accepted as autism may have an intuitive feel to it but would ultimately reap an injustice on individuals involved. If we consider patients who have experienced brain injury from head trauma, stroke, near drowning or drug overdose, each may present with near identical symptoms. However the mechanism of brain injury is different and demands specificity of treatment.

So it is with autism. Diagnosis, treatment and prognosis are not opinions one can choose. Other erroneous opinions we find as a result of anti-vaccine research lean towards the legislative change being an abuse of rights and freedoms. It is an abuse of our constitution. Vaccines, being poisonous and responsible for chronic disease in children will reap harm because natural is best whilst chemicals and toxins are bad.

In fact the submissions rejecting No Jab, No Pay appear to be a cornucopia of all anti-vaccine misinformation. The authors have indeed “done their research”.

The problem of clustered drops in herd immunity

There are many reasons anti-vaccine lobbyists push the falsehood that herd immunity “is a myth”, is not important or simply doesn’t exist.

To listen to recent untruths from Meryl Dorey, one should eagerly accept that it is “documented” in peer reviewed literature as being more or less non-existent. Indeed, “it is a lie” lies Dorey. By essentially mocking the importance of herd immunity, garden variety anti-vaccine tricksters can shirk the responsibility that not vaccinating may harm the wider community, innocent infants or children, and deny larger scale resistance to infection that the immune-compromised rely on.

Herd immunity is an impressive function of mass vaccination. More so it is remarkably easy to understand. But the anti-vaccine lobby refuse to accept any need for or benefit from, mass vaccination. It is even more bizarre when one considers the parallels to so-called “natural immunity” – such as with marvellous measles, or “right of passage” infection and immunity. With mass vaccination we can control the spread of immunity and thus the spread and ultimate impact of vaccine preventable disease.

We should never forget that claims of raising impeccably healthy and disease-free unvaccinated children can exist only for as long as vaccine-induced herd immunity remains at a crucial level. The level that permits a free ride and protection from most vaccine preventable diseases for these very children.

Once again the formula frequently relied upon is “< 100% = 0%” – such as this 1973 article. One popular mode is that if a child is vaccinated against X, they should be safe from infection with X. Even worse is a distortion of epidemiological factors at play. This involves citing nationwide or statewide vaccination rates – which level out as reasonably high – along with reported outbreaks, such as those seen of pertussis or measles. Or including individuals who have had just one MMR jab (in the case of measles) or those whose vaccine-induced pertussis immunity has certainly waned.

This not-very-clever deception ignores the fact that areas with low vaccination uptake provide the ideal conditions for infection to spread rapidly.

The video below compares the difference in infection spread in the sparsely located unvaccinated compared to a cluster of unvaccinated individuals.

Herd Immunity

The importance of critical thinking in discerning reputable sources

The volume of material published and shared by anti-fluoride, anti-vaccine, pro “alternative” health – all which fall under the deceptive catch phrase of “pro-choice” – is notably bereft of critical thinking.

No doubt there will always be some attracted to the notion of oppressive governments and dark conspiracies. Research indicates the psychological predisposition to conspiracy theory is highly resilient. Yet the persistence of the claim vaccines are the cause of a host of childhood ailments, that homeopathy is effective or that fluoride is a poison added to water supplies, may in part indicate poor cognitive manipulation of available information.

It is not uncommon to find preposterous claims circulating as a purported superior health choice. Such material is favoured by those who contend they are exercising “pro-choice” as a result of having “done my research”. It’s clear that no independent, accredited source has evaluated this “research”. It is more evident that the person has not sought reputable source material or thoroughly investigated critiques of the main aspects of their research. Let’s try claims by one so-called alternative. Homeopathy.

A good example would be claims made by homeopath Isaac Golden. Golden claims homeoprophylaxis (homeopathic immunisations) are a safe and effective alternative to vaccination. In a very short time one can find that homeopathy has not been shown to offer any measurable effect beyond placebo.

Consider the National Health and Medical Research Council statement on homeopathy [PDF].

The media release opens:

The National Health and Medical Research Council today released a statement concluding that there is no good quality evidence to support the claim that homeopathy is effective in treating health conditions. Its release follows a thorough review of the evidence, conducted as part of NHMRC’s responsibility to provide advice and support informed health care decisions by the Australian community.

The conclusion is based on the findings of a rigorous assessment of more than 1800 papers. Of these, 225 studies met the criteria to be included in NHMRC’s examination of the effectiveness of homeopathy. The review found no good quality, well-designed studies with enough participants to support the idea that homeopathy works better than a placebo, or causes health improvements equal to those of another treatment.

A little more time reading evidence based material will reveal the mechanism of homeopathy to be impossible. In short it simply cannot work without rewriting aspects of physics and chemistry. Homeopaths often actually admit this – while being dishonest about observed effects.

Homeopathy Plus

Golden himself makes much of having completed a PhD in homeoprophylaxis, leaving the uneducated listener or reader under the impression that this thoroughly discredited pseudoscience is in fact a safe option in health science. Or as opponents of vaccination insist: a Choice. Indeed Golden claims homeopathic vaccines are an option which is “comparably effective but which is non toxic, which provides no danger, no long term side effects”.

In June this year “Dr. Isaac Golden’s Academy” was offering a YesCourse.

IsaacGolden_YesCourse

Yet in his PhD abstract Golden admits;

The effectiveness of the program could not be established with statistical certainty given the limited sample size and the low probability of acquiring an infectious disease.

Indeed. Not to mention the reality of an ethics committee. Let’s be clear. No success was demonstrated with this paper. So Golden also writes:

However, a possible level of effectiveness of 90.3% was identified subject to specified limitations. Further research to confirm the effectiveness of the program is justified.

Possible efficacy, subject to specified limitations, that requires further research is a very, very clear way of documenting no effect. I apologise but there are no prizes for guessing Golden has not gone on to search for, much less publish, the possible efficacy. This won’t prevent him waxing lyrical on “my own PhD” as a source in defence of homeoprophylaxis.

Furthermore Golden’s work has been cited by Fran Sheffield of Homeopathy Plus in defence of her own business. The danger of Golden’s ambitious work and lax clarification can be summed up in Sheffield’s marketing. Referring to his inability to establish efficacy to any degree, she advertised:

Dr Isaac Golden confirmed that homeoprophylaxis provides the same degree, or better protection, than vaccines with none of their side effects or complications

In 2010, following a complaint from Dr. Ken Harvey, the TGA’s Complaints Resolution Panel ordered that a Retraction be published on site. Sheffield ignored the request. Regarding the TGA Therapeutic Goods Advertising Code, Sheffield was also noted to have acted in a misleading manner, abusing the trust and exploiting the lack of knowledge of consumers. A summary and key details can be found here at the Skeptics’ Book of Pooh-Pooh.

The notion that parents who choose alternatives are not actually researching or seeking reputable advice on their apparently “informed choice” is in this case further highlighted by ongoing offending by Fran Sheffield and Homeopathy Plus! In May 2012 the ACCC announced it had responded to complaints from the medical industry about bogus claims on the Homeopathy Plus! website. Namely that the pertussis vaccine was ineffective and that Homeopathy Plus! offered an effective homeopathic immunisation for pertussis.

On February 21st 2013 the ACCC instigated Federal Court proceedings against Homeopathy Plus! as the pseudoscience recalcitrant persisted in endangering the health of Australian children and infants. The claims made were in breach of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010, and were misleading and deceptive. The ACCC media release included;

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has instituted Federal Court proceedings over allegedly misleading claims on a homeopathy website regarding the effectiveness of the whooping cough (pertussis) vaccine.

The ACCC has taken proceeding against Homeopathy Plus! Australia Pty Ltd and against the owners of the Homeopathy Plus! website.

The claims on the Homeopathy Plus! website include statements that the whooping cough vaccine is “unreliable” and “largely ineffective” in preventing whooping cough and that homeopathic remedies are a safe and effective alternative for the prevention and treatment of whooping cough.

On December 23rd, 2014, the ACCC reported that the Federal Court had found both Homeopathy Plus! and Frances Sheffield had engaged in misleading conduct and made false or misleading representations regarding the effectiveness of the whooping cough vaccine and homeopathic remedies as an alternative in breach of the Australian Consumer Law. Sheffield and Homeopathy Plus! had engaged in misleading and deceptive conduct. Put simply, Fran Sheffield had continued to use her website to lie to unfortunate visitors who were not in the habit of critically investigating such claims.

Harking back to the echo of Isaac (My own PhD) Golden we read (emphasis mine);

The Court also found that Homeopathy Plus! and Ms Sheffield engaged in misleading and deceptive conduct and made false and misleading representations to the effect that there was an adequate foundation in medical science for the statement that homeopathic treatments are a safe and effective alternative to the whooping cough vaccine, when in fact no such foundation exists and the vaccine is the only treatment currently approved for use and accepted by medical practitioners for the prevention of whooping cough.

I should be clear. This is only one arm of a notable junk science making as a matter of course outrageous claims. To see that so many can be fooled into believing plain water can protect from disease in a manner no-one can explain, is to some, mind boggling. But to be even clearer the information to debunk such nonsense and thus protect yourself and family is there to be found.

It is plain that scam artists, conspiracy theorists and so on cannot be swayed by the findings of official investigations or years of scientific consensus. Thus it is better to ignore those who claim to hold an apparent truth or a wonderful therapy and subject their claims to robust and varied critique.

Critiques can be made for all of the pseudosciences purporting to offer a superior or natural alternative to evidence based medicine. The same applies to the unwarranted attacks on vaccines, fluoride, medical intervention and so on. A far better way to approach these topics is to do so with the confidence to review material from a bipartisan standpoint. Where claims of conspiracies or corporate corruption for profit are made be very skeptical.

Make a habit of visiting consumer advocacy groups, such as Choice. Spend some of that research time looking over the Therapeutic Goods Administration and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. We looked at both of these and the NHMRC, above. Let’s say the best your new friends at Essence Of Moonbeam are offering in response is a claimed conspiracy, the mocking of “sheeple” or bemoaning the trampling of rights (or that “informed choice”). I’d say you’re pretty safe in concluding genuine evidence has caught up with debunking their claims.

No-one can develop the skills or knowledge base from the Internet to argue that “my research” on one topic is sufficient to make decisions that are traditionally overseen by specialists or experts. The skill we can develop is that by which we can discern between a reputable source and a disreputable source. And this process should include discussions with genuine, experienced practitioners.

There is too much information on individual areas of health to allow us to investigate fully and believe we may come away educated and/or able to advise others. Where new trends are jostling for our attention and money there are recurring themes that help reveal them to be useless.

The skills we develop in discerning the reputable from bogus information sources are increasingly the skills that will benefit us in more ways than seeking optimal health.

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