Del Bigtree misleads his audience over vaccine safety testing

In a second episode dealing with the Lies of Vaxxed published by More Truth © an old standard of the anti-vaccine lobby is subject to facts.

The lie Del Bigtree smothers his uncritical audience with is that, “there is not a safe vaccine out there” presumably because as he continues to lie, “there is not a decent safety study on any of the vaccines”.

Lies of Vaxxed: Episode 2 “Vaccine Safety Testing”

What we learn from the video above is that there are six main stages of vaccine development is the US. Including;

  • Exploratory
  • Pre-clinical
  • Clinical development
  • Regulatory review and approval
  • Manufacturing
  • Quality control

During the exploratory stage scientists focus on identifying an antigen that can prevent a specific disease. Without success during this process development goes nowhere. It cannot continue. Nonetheless, the exploratory stage takes years of diligent laboratory research.

When the exploratory stage yields viable results production continues into the pre-clinical stage. Here progress with tissue or cell-culture preparation involves animal testing. This aspect of the pre-clinical stage will assess the safety, or lack thereof, of any potential vaccine. Another aspect of the pre-clinical stage is assessing the ability of the potential vaccine to stimulate an immune response.

Despite the cost and time invested by this point, the majority of potential vaccines do not satisfy the rigour of the pre-clinical stage. In these cases again development cannot continue.

The diligence of the clinical stage can be seen as a three part process.

  • In the quest to ascertain safety, trial vaccines are tested on a small sample of healthy adults.
  • Vaccines are tested on a sample of several hundred adults.
  • Finally the clinical stage involves testing the vaccine on tens of thousands.

With vaccines being developed for children the clinical stage process continues. The age of test subjects is lowered incrementally until the target age is safely reached.

The final stages of clinical development include randomised and double blind trials. The potential vaccine is tested against a placebo. It takes from six to ten years to complete these safety tests. Whilst medications in the USA are subject to the same intense testing it’s worth noting that sample populations are three times smaller than for vaccine studies.

There are six more stages overseen by the FDA for regulatory review and approval of vaccines. This involves safety inspection of manufacturing facilities by the FDA and even more testing.

Safety monitoring, including phase IV trials, continues indefinitely once a vaccine has been approved. In the USA there is the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) and the Vaccine Safety Datalink – a nationwide set of linked databases.

I certainly recommend watching this video because it is clear that safety is the primary element in vaccine manufacture. Claims to the contrary by Del Bigtree and the Vaxxed cronies are demonstrable lies. Under present manufacturing guidelines and restrictions most potential vaccines do not reach clinical development. As is clear in this video the reason is safety.

Professional anti-vaccinationists like Bigtree, or any who promote Vaxxed in order to consciously profit from their manufactured controversy, are a malignant force in public health. As such they deserve our derision.

 

♣ Despite this reality, in Australia the self appointed “vaccine experts” from the anti-vaccine lobby such as Meryl Dorey, Judy Wilyman and Tasha David insist no randomised double blind trials or testing against placebo has ever been carried out.

♥ Australians may likely remember from 2010, a significant number of AEFI. Febrile seizures in children aged 6-59 months following administration of CSL’s Trivalent Influenza Vaccine. One chid was ultimately compensated. This event resulted in the FDA inspecting CSL laboratories and outlining five “objectionable conditions”. Australia’s TGA reported at length on the event, the FDA inspection and the process of TGA inspection of CSL manufacturing facilities.

Whilst this was an unwanted, unfortunate event, it is also an example of safety and quality control procedures being firmly implemented.

 

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Conspiracy Theorists: obsessed and beyond reason

This morning I was met with the news that a train accident in Hoboken, New Jersey had left one person dead and over 100 injured. It was being described as “the worst NJ transit incident in the recent past”.

Moments later I was pondering what conspiracy theorists would be doing with this information. I didn’t expect much but a visit to Prison Planet – a hive of conspiracy paranoia fathered by Alex Jones – yielded some pickings. Comments lay under opening paragraphs from an NBC New York article. One read:

Yet another “accident” hundreds in serious condition, death toll still rising.

Note the press will not identify the train engineer.

Note how the press wont even identify if train was under control of “PTC” positive train control.

PTC prevents this, unless its tampered with. PTC cannot turn the power “up”, in a train, only “down”. That region was one the 1st in the USA to get PTC. Appears Mr. Obama needs a few days to work a narrative.

The author seemed to be “arguing” that the event was executed deliberately. His over confident assessment of “PTC” train control in that region suggested such an accident was unlikely if not impossible. The press, in his mind, were suppressing two vital facts: the driver’s name and the presence/absence of PTC control. President Obama thus, needed “a few days” to mislead the American public.

As it turned out the driver, engineer Thomas Gallagher had spoken to authorities “within hours” of the accident. He had been rescued from his crushed cabin and is reported to be in a critical condition.

Another commenter had worked it out using exclamation marks. This was no accident. It was the “scum Muslims”. He’s quite likely blown his ten bucks – unless the almost certainly American born descendent of Irish-Americans, has converted to Islam:

Can you say Tabotage / Terrorism !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The scum Muslims have struck again. This was no accident !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!. Ten bucks – the engineer was a Muslim.

Someone had posted Beastie Boys Sabotage clip, which was followed by Beastie boyz are enemy jews. Why do you listen to their music?

By this point someone gleaned the rules, summarising them neatly:

RULES FOR POSTING ABOUT THIS STORY:
1. DO NOT WAIT FOR ANY FACTS ABOUT WHAT REALLY HAPPENED. IT IS IMPORTANT THAT YOU IMMEDIATELY POST WHATEVER MINDLESS CONSPIRACY THEORY YOU CAN THINK OF.
2. BLAME THE JEWS

So why was I pondering what these enemies of reason would be thinking? Recently, I’ve been considering the intractability of conspiracy theorist thinking. Or is that lack of thinking? Either way it (the pondering) is likely a constant for those who value the role of evidence in public health and appreciate the harm caused by opportunists who benefit from peddling fear and confusion.

This week I’d enjoyed a discussion in a clinical setting with a physiotherapist about “vitalistic” chiropractic. Whilst familiar and infuriated with the lack of evidence behind treatment claims, she was fascinated to learn of the anti-vaccine slant in chiropractic.

I’ve been as fascinated as disgusted with the antics of David Thrussell who, as artistic director of the Castlemaine Local and International Film Festival, attempted to bring the rankly deceptive anti-vaccine film Vaxxed to Castlemaine. An outstanding conspiracy theorist and blatant liar, Thrussell has played the victim whilst misleading both the media and sponsors of the film festival.

As always the delightfully unstable Judy Wilyman has been showing off her declining grip on reality. Of late she has chosen to bully the Executive Dean of the Faculty of Science, Medicine and Health at the University of Wollongong and also the Minister for Social Services. Wilyman’s ranting is so far from possessing an evidence base or a cogent stream of argument that it beggars belief. Unless of course, one considers it through the eyes of a conspiracy devotee.

Rob Brotherton (@rob_brotherton) authored Suspicious Minds – The Psychology of Conspiracy Theories. He suggests that to the conspiracy theorist their beliefs are unfalsifiable. There is simply no evidence to prove them wrong. In addition, driven by a need for control – a need which they cannot develop when faced with reality – the likes of Thrussell, Wilyman and Meryl Dorey, develop compensatory control.

The misleading film Vaxxed has given compensatory control to so many who lack control. We may consider Dorey’s misappropriation of funds, Wilyman’s feverish ranting about her superior “research” and Thrussell’s manipulation of others as types of compensatory control also.

Suffering from the insignificance that comes with no control over reality, such conspiracy prone personalities fall victim to proportionality bias. Events they desire to control, but can’t, must have a complicated – indeed powerful – cause. We see this also in their propensity toward other conspiracies.

Between 1/4 to 1/3 of Americans believe 9/11 was the result of some type of conspiracy. Usually the Inside Job theory. Within days of Kennedy being assassinated more than half of Americans believed Lee Harvey Oswald did not act alone. Today, according to Brotherton, “the majority of Americans” believe some type of conspiracy led to the Kennedy assassination.

The audio below is from ABC’s All In The Mind and includes an excellent interview with Rob Brotherton. I certainly recommend it.

  • © ABC All In The Mind

 

♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

 

Floppy Fascism

Since announcements that the Abbott government will from January 2016 introduce a “no jab, no pay” policy, noting the increasing misuse of particular terms became inescapable.

Fascism, Nazism, Nazi, Fascist, Mandatory, Forced, Freedom. These words are being used increasingly by anti-vaccine lobbyists to describe changes in public health policy. Changes planned to protect the wider community from the impact of increased vaccine preventable disease notification consonant with lower herd immunity.

The words are being used incorrectly due to error born of ignorance by some, and plain cunning to create fear and loathing by others. By that I mean the terms are employed to elicit maximum effect even though their association with the proposed policy is absurdly tenuous and patently wrong.

forced vaccinations_gas mask

For this reason I’ve come to muse over it as “Floppy Fascism”, for want of a description. Take away the sneering thugs on social media, the logical fallacies contending that democratic rights and freedom are at risk. The same conduct was evident in the USA in the lead up to and after the signing of SB277. Clearly from reading this there is no “mandatory vaccination” – nor mandatory any hint of impending vaccination checkpoints as somberly depicted below.

mandatory_vaccine

Indeed, to get an idea simply turn to Melbourne Australia and the public response to a poorly prepared press release indicating the silly Border Force would be checking visas on Melbourne Streets. The Abbott government’s disdain for refugees and it’s hype over border protection was likely to create the mess it did. But the lesson is that if Australian rights are under threat, we will know. The world will know. Who won’t know? Why… the government. Who else?

So, back to the rot about Nazism and those wicked vaccines.

Despite the ranting, hysteria and proclamations of freedoms crushed under mandatory vaccination there is indeed no mandatory vaccination. In both Australia and the USA the choice to not vaccinate remains. What is unfolding in front of us are nothing more than the consequences of those who, for whatever misguided reason, insist upon conscientious objection to, and the spreading of lies about, mass vaccination.

In Australia from January 2016 “conscientious objection” will be removed as an exemption category for childcare payments (Child Care Benefit and Child Care Rebate) and the Family Tax Benefit Part A end-of-year supplement. Consecutive states are also making vaccination compulsory for children to attend day care, under the “no jab, no play” laws. Western Australia has rejected this to date as “not proper”.

Ignore the passive-aggressive support behind that gentle Michael Leunig mask and his offensive Fascist Epiphany cartoon, the genuine manifestation of Godwin’s Law based upon flawed thinking. Replace the intuitive magnetism of floppy fascism with reproducible, falsifiable, cold, calm evidence and the notion of Health Fascism collapses like a house of cards in a slow drizzle.

Fascism most importantly, is a dictatorial system of government. Key elements stand out in basic definition:

A governmental system led by a dictator having complete power, forcibly suppressing opposition and criticism, regimenting all industry, commerce, etc., and emphasizing an aggressive nationalism and often racism.

The most striking example of Fascism is the government of Mussolini; Italy 1922 – 1943. Other features are active racism, upholding the belief of supremacy of the Fascist ethnic group and unquestioned obedience to an individual leader. Thus:

The term Fascism was first used of the totalitarian right-wing nationalist regime of Mussolini in Italy (1922–43), and the regimes of the Nazis in Germany and Franco in Spain were also fascist. Fascism tends to include a belief in the supremacy of one national or ethnic group, a contempt for democracy, an insistence on obedience to a powerful leader, and a strong demagogic approach.

One may be familiar with contempt for democracy and social responsibility manifested by anti-vaccine activists, passive aggressive demand for obedience and the demagogic belief in Andrew Wakefield, Sherri Tenpenny, Barbara Loe Fisher, Australia’s Meryl Dorey and more.

Most commonly has been the use of memes, social media posts and conspiracy rants likening features of Nazi Germany to mass vaccination. Other features have been the nonsensical “floppy fascist” commentary postulating that “the unvaccinated” may find themselves with an identifying patch, as did the Jews in Fascist Germany prior to and during WWII.

Another feature I’ve notice receive extra currency, despite already being a long time favourite of antivaccinationists is the rewording of Martin Niemöller’s famous poem. First they came for the Socialists and I did not speak out – because I was not a Socialist. This is not new. I remember a deft hand at reproducing works such as Martin Walker’s Health Fascism in Australia, July 2010.

Meryl Dorey of (the then) AVN later wrote Make an informed vaccination choice, March 2, 2012. On July 20th 2012 one Tom wrote to “Admin”. He was concerned about “the vilification of people who choose not to vaccinate their children in the mainstream media” and the inclusion of polls inquiring after reader views on mandatory vaccination (Please note it’s vilification in mainstream media, not vaccination of children in mainstream media).

Dorey replies in floppy fascist style that were the AVN not there did Tom really believe, “the people trying to take away your rights would go away? Wouldn’t vaccination be more likely to be compulsory without the AVN opposing it?” Purportedly the AVN has been “so successful in helping parents become aware of their rights and of the scientifically-based downside to vaccinations.”

She argues it is AVN success that has brought sustained activity against and exposure of the AVN, contending, “… the attacks are a sign of their fear of our success – not of our failure.” She adds:

And if the AVN weren’t here, vaccination would have been compulsory years ago because back in 1997, the government was trying to bring this in and it is only via our lobbying for the conscientious objection clause, that it did not become a reality.

Oh really?

And before we forget Martin Niemöller, Dorey continued:

Martin Niemöller_July2012AVN

To diverge a little, keeping pace today with the “fascist vaccinators” (shall we say) is an almost identical drama unfolding with respect to fluoridation of water supply. The mayor of Lismore in NSW, Jenny Dowell was assaulted on June 20th this year. Since Lismore City Council decided to fluoridate the town’s water supply in December 2014 there have been episodes of verbal abuse and threats.

However on this occasion an out of control 43 year old woman bailed the mayor up to unleash her verbal concerns about fluoride. The mayor had to leave and as she was getting into her car, the woman slammed the door into her head, called her a “f…ing bitch” and scurried away. The episode left a tender aftermath on Jenny Dowell’s cheek and ear. It isn’t surprising that since the decision was made to fluoridate the water, Mayor Dowell has been subject to “more than a dozen verbal attacks”.

The content of these attacks? Unsurprisingly Jenny Dowell informed The Northern Star:

“I’ve been called Genocide Jenny, I’ve been called Hitler…”

So it’s no surprise memes such as these exist. In fact the central claim is immediate Godwin’s Law at play.

fluoride_hitler

In a piece entitled Beware the violent antis – Lismore Mayor physically assaulted, reasonablehank draws on Jenny Dowell’s observation that public office came with the consequences of being seen differently by “some people”. Not seen as a person, or worthy of normal, decent behaviour.

“You’re fair game”, she said. As Hank notes this resonates uncomfortably with the history of respect and mimicry the AVsN has for Scientology.

So what drives such aggressive conspiracy tones? The evidence needed to condemn vaccines is 100% absent. No vaccine is 100% effective and any vaccine presents a miniscule risk. Yet the risk-benefit ratio is so far in support of vaccines that the discussion of vaccinating vs not vaccinating is pointless to have. Our grandparents lived with the constant fear of vaccine preventable diseases taking lives or making children very, very sick.

We live with the luxury of pretending they make our kids sick. This is not to say there are no reactions. There are at a minuscule rate. The present claims of injury by anti-vaccine activists of frequent and very harmful injuries are incorrect and/or intentionally deceiving.

So, without the evidence they need the anti-vaccine lobby commonly fabricates “vaccine injury” rates. The content of vaccines are purposely fabricated and/or the effect of vaccine ingredients are presented as highly dangerous. Judy Wilyman who lobbies against the HPV vaccine insists today’s generation of children “are the sickest” we have seen. She readily instills fear over trace elements in vaccines. Despite the fiction of this quote, Wilyman has used it to instill fear into parents.

How does a trace amount of mercury combined with a trace amount of aluminium adjuvant react in an infants body? They don’t know. It is counter-intuitive to suggest adding toxins to infant’s bodies makes them healthier. It doesn’t make them healthier. Black is not white.

Source W.A. Audio  (at 26min)

The scale of deception here is stunning. Health authorities “don’t know” how vaccine “toxic” components “react” following vaccination? Then from a PhD student the audience is actually led to form a conclusion based upon intuition. Intuition! Not science, dear reader, but intuition. And why? Because Wilyman has decided trace element vaccine components known across the globe to be absolutely safe, are “toxic”. Yes, that meaningless marketing word that we cannot really define.

Sidestepping the role of antigens, Ms. Wilyman’s feelpinions focus on “toxins” that sound nasty, so must therefore be unhealthy. After all – black is not white.

Floppy Fascism includes the unquestioned notion that governments, health authorities and evidence based medical institutions will harm the populace.

An excellent example of completely ludicrous abuse of terms from the Fascist dictatorships responsible for WWII is the recent use of “Gestapo” by Sherri Tenpenny. Thanks to @reasonable_hank for tweeting what goes on in Tenpenny’s mind.

Tenpenny_Gestapo

Why did she choose “gestapo”? The Gestapo were:

The German secret police under Nazi rule. It ruthlessly suppressed opposition to the Nazis in Germany and occupied Europe and sent Jews and others to concentration camps. From 1936 it was headed by Heinrich Himmler.

The specificity of the Gestapo role is touched on above. They existed to solidify Nazi rule and acted to identify and eliminate any potential opposition to Nazi supremacy. Tenpenny strongly likens a call by the American Nurses Association to have their members protected, and to protect their patients from vaccine preventable disease to the activity of a dictatorship. Perhaps she sees the ANA as an enforcement arm of Fascist health authorities.

Gestapo

Consequences of wide acceptance of this mindset may lead to violence, harm and/or vandalism perpetrated against public health and/or civic authorities due to the belief the individuals and institutions are genuinely perpetrating crimes against democratic peace. In short the continued peddling of this mindset, along with the efforts to sustain the belief of being victims may easily lead to more events such as the assault of Lismore Mayor, Jenny Dowell or indeed worse.

The escalating reference to senior members of the Nazi party and the likening of Nazi human experimentation and/or Josef Mengele to vaccination in Australia is appalling. This again, is not without history. The reasoning follows the line that vaccines have never been properly tested, and never tested in randomised controlled trials (both false).

Antivaccinationists insist the components of vaccines include poisonous elemental heavy metals, dangerously high amounts of other heavy metals (such as Al), carcinogenic levels of poisons (e.g.; formaldehyde), unstable biological material (the false claim of foetal cells and animal tissue), and that all these have never been monitored over long periods (incorrect). It is claimed that vaccine viral material is poorly understood and of course, “too much, too soon”.

It thus follows, that essentially an experiment is underway. Recall Wilyman’s false assertion above that “they don’t know” how trace elements do or do not effect infants and children.

In this present anti-vaccine cry of persecution one may well anticipate, and find, reference to The Nuremberg Code. Briefly put The Nuremberg Code is ten points that were accepted after The Doctor’s Trial held during the Nuremberg Trials post WWII. They constitute research ethics for human experimentation. The Nuremberg Code is not accepted as law globally or in the USA, Germany or the UK. Along with the Declaration of Helsinki it constitutes the format of the USA Code of Federal Regulations of the Department of Health and Human Services. This code oversees federally funded human research in the USA.

It is true to say that The Nuremberg Code has been incorporated into the law of individual states in various countries. One such state is California. It remains one of medical ethics most important documents. Yet in reality The Nuremberg Code is no friend to the anti-vaccination movement. Their constant insistence for a trial of “vaccinated vs not vaccinated” would not pass an ethics test using the ten points of The Nuremberg Code.

These are:

1    Required is the voluntary, well-informed, understanding consent of the human subject in a full legal capacity.
2    The experiment should aim at positive results for society that cannot be procured in some other way.
3    It should be based on previous knowledge (like, an expectation derived from animal experiments) that justifies the experiment.
4    The experiment should be set up in a way that avoids unnecessary physical and mental suffering and injuries.
5    It should not be conducted when there is any reason to believe that it implies a risk of death or disabling injury.
6    The risks of the experiment should be in proportion to (that is, not exceed) the expected humanitarian benefits.
7    Preparations and facilities must be provided that adequately protect the subjects against the experiment’s risks.
8    The staff who conduct or take part in the experiment must be fully trained and scientifically qualified.
9    The human subjects must be free to immediately quit the experiment at any point when they feel physically or mentally unable to go on.
10  Likewise, the medical staff must stop the experiment at any point when they observe that continuation would be dangerous.

Update: Sept. 1st. Facebook’s Vaccine Resistance Movement.
nuremberg_facebookThis post highlights the significant flaw in the anti-vaccine movement’s continual citation of sections of, but particularly Item One of The Nuremberg Code. That flaw?

Mass vaccination is not a human experiment. Indeed the conscientious objection to vaccination based upon manifestly erroneous beliefs and opinions is somewhat experimental in the vaccine/anti-vaccine dynamic.

Reasoning with certain mindsets appears pointless. These entries follow:

eugenic culling3

Striking a Walter White theme for his profile Paul seems to believe vaccination is “planetary culling”. By that I guess he means global culling, not planetary as opposed to say, Lunar Culling.

End Update

Prior to widespread effective mass vaccination one manner of managing outbreaks was quarantine. Judy Wilyman has previously misquoted Sir Frank Macfarlane Burnet. One reality of the time in which Macfarlane Burnet worked and researched was the quarantine of individuals with infectious disease.

I do wonder how today’s self-righteous anti-vaccine warriors would weigh up the balance of non-negotiable quarantine or access to a vaccine that would provide immunity to diseases citizens were regularly quarantined in response for. Quarantined for their own safety or quarantined by order of the state.

In reality the changes in legislation are a reaction to the public health damage caused by the anti-vaccine lobby. The damage they have caused is due to absurd pseudoscience, fear and deception. There is no risk of forced vaccination. There is no fascism. There are no mandatory health changes under way.

Little wonder then, that their only response is Floppy Fascism.

Alternatives to medicine continue to sail a wave of misinformation

Every week up to a thousand Australians are dying in the public hospital system alone from adverse reactions to properly prescribed medication and hospital borne infections and medical error. This is the elephant in the room. If the government and medical community are really concerned about the health of Australians, why aren’t they doing something about this obvious, um, huge cause of death in Australia instead of worrying about measles?

Meryl Dorey, anti-medical science lobbyist – October 19th, 2013

The arguably spectacular misinformation Meryl Dorey pushes as an antivaccinationist, comes often as what can most kindly be called an utterly ridiculous mantra designed to promote fear of scientific based medicine.

double standards

This was in response to eight infant fatalities associated temporally with Hepatitis B vaccination in China. Regrettably China’s growing success with mass hepatitis B vaccination has now met a challenge. Fortunately in China the medical community is working effectively with the evidence and training they have. Despite the unambiguous harm HBV has caused China and the success of HBV vaccine programmes worldwide, Dorey commented on Facebook as seen above.

I won’t overly review Dorey’s claims on medical error and hospital borne infection. Although (updated in December 2011) a 2009 report from the Australian Group on Antimicrobial Resistance cited Commun Dis Intell 2011;35(3):237–243, and notes in the Abstract (bold mine):

Given hospital outbreaks of CA-MRSA are thought to be extremely rare it is most likely that patients colonised at admission with CA-MRSA have become infected with the colonising strain during their hospital stay.

We can place the general figure on medication in context by looking at adverse reactions. The TGA reporting system kicked off in the late 1960’s becomming computerised in 1972. As 2011 came to a close there were 247,000 suspected adverse events in the TGA database. It’s also worth adding that a primary aspect of “medical error” is indeed that of Adverse Drug Reaction, making Dorey’s claim somewhat meaningless.

Adverse reactions_TGA_drop shadow

Origin of Adverse Events 2006 – 2011 (TGA)

In 2011 the TGA received approximately 14,400 reports with 52% from pharmaceutical companies, 12% from hospitals, 7% from General Practitioners (GPs), 18% from State and Territory Health Departments and 3% from consumers. The sources for other reports (8%) include community pharmacists and specialists.

Placing the scale of insult inherent in Ms. Dorey’s deceit even more in context we should note that the TGA received an average of 1,200 reports each month. This includes all events – not just those involving mortality. More so the TGA receive data from six sources with the category of “hospital” enveloping public and private. The Department of Health and Ageing regards hospital outbreaks of community-associated MRSA as “extremely rare”.

Thus, Meryl Dorey’s 1,000 fatalities per week in Australian public hospitals appears to be beyond tenuous.

However there are a number of problems facing those taken in by the growing trend of “natural” or “alternative” choices to medicine. Not only is there growing evidence of harm, the absence of any efficacy at all is frequently documented.

Seventeen year old Christopher Herrera is one of a growing number who face organ damage, organ failure or death thanks to herbal supplements each year. In his case a “fat burning” dietary supplement resulted in liver damage. Initially placed on a transplant list, Chris was able to keep his liver but his lifestyle is now markedly compromised.

The New York Times report that such supplements account for 20% of drug related liver damage. This is a three-fold increase from a decade ago and comes from a review of the most severe cases in the USA. Evaluators believe the actual figure is higher. As is the case in Australia a lack of strict regulation standards for these products result in over-inflated claims, not backed by evidence, and the potential for adulteration of the product itself.

This December 17th, The Annals of Internal Medicine published three conclusive articles on both the harm and inefficacy linked to alternatives to medicine. An editorial Enough Is Enough: Stop Wasting Money On Vitamin and Mineral Supplements, summarised the research.

After reviewing 3 trials of multivitamin supplements and 24 trials of single or paired vitamins that randomly assigned more than 400 000 participants, the authors concluded that there was no clear evidence of a beneficial effect of supplements on all-cause mortality, cardiovascular disease, or cancer.

In another instance the efficacy of daily multivitamin usage to prevent cognitive decline in just under 6,000 men aged 65 or older was evaluated.

After 12 years of follow-up, there were no differences between the multivitamin and placebo groups in overall cognitive performance or verbal memory. […] … compatible with a recent review of 12 fair- to good-quality trials that evaluated dietary supplements, including multivitamins, B vitamins, vitamins E and C, and omega-3 fatty acids, in persons with mild cognitive impairment or mild to moderate dementia. None of the supplements improved cognitive function.

Another study looked at supplement with high-dose, 28-component multivitamins involving 1708 males and females who had previously suffered a myocardial infarction.

After a median follow-up of 4.6 years, there was no significant difference in recurrent cardiovascular events with multivitamins compared with placebo (hazard ratio, 0.89 [95% CI, 0.75 to 1.07]). The trial was limited by high rates of nonadherence and dropouts.

The authors note that research into vitamins and minerals in the prevention of chronic disease “have consistently found null results or possible harms”. Data from tens of thousands of people in randomly assigned trials show “β-carotene, vitamin E, and possibly high doses of vitamin A supplements increase mortality”.

Yes – increase mortality.

Later they stress most supplements do nothing when it comes to preventing chronic disease or death and with no justification for use, should be avoided.

An audio summary of these editorial points can be accessed here.

An audio summary of the editorial is below, or an MP3 may be downloaded here. (Firefox Users. If you’re using the Bluhell Firewall add-on click “allow” as the file is quite safe).

Thus whilst the anti-vaccine and anti-medical science lobby continually manage to distort discussions on the value of conventional medicine, the evidence is time and again not in their favour. We are either hearing of the dangers of modern medicine itself or the wonders of natural concoctions.

Both trends are dangerous and fallacious.

Dealing with the Brian Martin dilemma

Recently Brian Martin a Professor of Social Sciences at the University of Wollongong, published an article in Health Promotion International.

Dealing with dilemmas in health campaigning appears to be a bipartisan analysis of social dynamics and some areas of public health. However whilst Martin relies upon science and methods employed by the scientific community to sustain his argument he demonstrates his signature ignorance of the scientific method and the import of evidence.

In short Martin has continued his campaign to elevate supporters and perpetrators of scientific fraud, pseudoscience, censorship, personal vitriol, calculated deception and dangerous scams to the status of legitimacy. Rather than admit his role in supporting and coaching Australia’s premier anti-vaccination lobby, Martin hides this affiliation behind:

I give a few examples, especially from the vaccination controversy in Australia.

I selected the dilemmas discussed here based on my studies of a large number of public controversies, including informal conversations with prominent as well as lower-profile campaigners. […]

A key aim of this paper is to make these dilemmas explicit so they can be given the scrutiny they deserve.

Health campaigners today face intractable ideological devotion manifesting as evidence denial. The resistance of certain scientifically durable realities that play important roles in the maintenance of public health, is commonly presented as “the other side”. In fact cursory examination reveals malignant intent, bogus information, illegal pursuits, frequent monetary scams and outright fraud.

Certain areas have become key targets of a persistent opposition that uses pseudoscience, conspiracy theory, evocation of public fear and the exploitation of scientific ignorance in an attempt to mask ideological persuasion as legitimate science. Whilst the intellectual paucity of these proposals are immediately apparent to scientists, and consequently dismissed out of hand, the mechanisms behind why this is so are not apparent to the lay reader.

As such, scientists face a dilemma in managing, preventing or containing what may be a disproportionately negative effect on public confidence in crucial areas of health policy. The problem with engaging vested interests that promote pseudoscience and scientific denial is that the risk of lending legitimacy to demonstrably false contention, is significantly heightened when recognised scientists (or health authorities) respond.

On the one hand the public have a right to expect reputable authorities address falsehoods in a transparent manner. On the other hand, notions such as the scientific method, scientific consensus, the impact of evidence and abuse of statistics is poorly understood by the general public. Understanding risk-benefit is a skill the largely scientific illiterate public in developed nations lack. Poor, and at times, irresponsible reporting by media outlets compounds this problem.

Recently a bogus claim by Natasha Bita of The Australian drew immediate condemnation from Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration. Influenza vaccination has been conclusively linked to no deaths in Australia. However Bita misused information from the Database of Adverse Event Notifications, to insinuate ten deaths were “linked to anti-flu vaccine”. Meryl Dorey, president of the anti-vaccination group Martin is a member of has been continually pushing the falsehood launched by Bita.

Interestingly in another of his articles, Suppressing Research Data: Methods, Context, Accountability, and Responses Brian Martin offers an excellent account of Dorey’s conduct:

Censorship, fraud, and publication biases are ways in which the availability of research data can be distorted. A different process is distortion of the perception of research data rather than distortion of the data itself. In other words, data is openly available, but efforts are made to shape people’s perception of it.

Although he’s referring to publishers, the above paragraph adequately describes how Dorey conducts herself. In Dealing with dilemmas in health campaigning, Martin raises the prospect that not engaging anti-science proponents such as anti-vaccination lobbyists may have a negative effect on public perception. Yet the complex reality of how adverse reactions are reported, accepted, documented and how they must be interpreted would be lost on the bulk of the public. The catchy, but false, ten deaths linked to anti-flu vaccine would have an impact.

More so, placing a callous, dishonest, unqualified opportunist such as Dorey alongside a genuine health authority creates the illusion that there actually is a debate to be had. Worse is that the individual lies and tricks of the anti-science identity by extension gain credibility. As I note below new research reinforces that opponents to public health and even the myths they create are best ignored when seeking to address they mess they’ve created.

Consequently, engaging such extreme minority views can be detrimental to public confidence and rather than removing respect for ideological falsehoods may well create an impression of legitimacy. Given his affiliations it is almost certain Brian Martin seeks to do exactly this in his article.

In fact the above quote splendidly describes Martin’s own generalised distortion of data. A suitable example follows. Rather than tackle the disparity between anti-vaccination propaganda and say, the risk of flying, driving, overseas travel or any day to day task he writes:

Supporters of vaccination emphasize the large benefits from being vaccinated, notably a reduction in disease, including associated deaths and disabilities. They also emphasize the social benefits, due to herd immunity, from high levels of vaccination (Andre et al., 2008). That is straightforward. But is it wise to mention that a small number of individuals will have adverse reactions, including death and permanent disability?

The advantage of sticking to positives and not admitting shortcomings is that the message is much more powerful. ‘Vaccines are safe’ is far more reassuring than ‘Vaccines are nearly always safe’. ‘Vaccines are safe’ is also clear and uncomplicated and hence far easier to sell. Furthermore, any admission of weakness is likely to be seized upon by opponents and trumpeted far and wide.

Unsurprisingly the second paragraph is without citation. What Martin is doing is constructing a faux dilemma that resonates with poor appreciation of risk-benefit. The fact is vaccines are safe. They are monumentally safe and to use such a vague term as “nearly always safe” conveys a risk-benefit somewhat more dangerous than riding high speed motorcycles on city streets.

To then suggest without breaking stride the proper description of vaccine safety makes them “far easier to sell”, is simply outrageous. This is exactly the sort of bogus information I mentioned above. It is the perpetuation of the malignant untruth that vaccines need a market and supporters of vaccines will pursue this. At one point we read an equally outrageous slur on scientists:

The most common way to deal with vested interests on one’s own side is not to mention them, relying on the belief held by scientists that they are objective, so it does not matter if corporations offer research funding and perks.

Recent research into debunking myths has underscored the perils of not only engaging proponents of evidence denial, but of simply repeating the myth itself. This material may help explain why, on the topic of scientific dissent, Brian Martin continues to give unjustified credence not only to soundly scientifically refuted notions (fluoride in drinking water, vaccination, conspiracy theory put forward as “vested interests” and even HIV/AIDS denialism), but also to the view that a “debate” may be legitimate.

Indeed not only are terms such as “debate” entirely inaccurate in a scientific sense, they at once distract from the true dynamics at play and arguably with tragic consequences, lend even more false legitimacy to what is essentially pseudoscience, abuse of science and denial of evidence.

Martin continues to place anti-science lobby groups on equal footing with public health authorities or refer to unqualified saboteurs of public confidence as “citizen campaigners” seemingly simply raising legitimate concerns. This fails to acknowledge scientific consensus, its import and value to community health, and its dependence upon the rigours of the scientific method.

In short Martin demonstrates an alarming ignorance of the scientific method and its ability to expunge in totality such ill conceived ideas that “debate” rightly applies to numerous areas of outright denial of evidence. Martin is a financial member and published supporter of Meryl Dorey’s anti-vaccination group and the PhD supervisor of radical anti-vaccine conspiracy theorist, Judy Wilyman. Yet again he has labelled volunteers who deconstruct the harmful messages of Meryl Dorey to suit himself.

Thus it is right and just to call into question Brian Martin’s acceptance or not of moral responsibility. Prior to this article he was furnished with ample facts that he’s chosen to ignore despite claiming to have been in discussion with participants. Clear demonstration of the bogus claims of the AVN that impact heavily on his subject material have been omitted. Impartiality is clearly irrelevant if not inconvenient to Brian Martin.

Amusingly he again raises the silliness of Dorey’s obsession with global conspiracies as an apparent fiction invented by her critics. After a frustrating exchange of emails over a year ago I demonstrated that yes, in their own words the AVN do believe in vaccine delivered microchips and global culling. I’m quite surprised he saw fit to republish such a ridiculously irrelevant aspect to this ongoing saga.

More seriously, the scientific community would quite rightly be justified to review reference to the bulk of scientific methodology and accepted consensus as “the dominant paradigm” or “the dominant epistemological position” in dismissive terms. Whilst it is true that scientific findings remain always open to further inquiry and challenge, this process cannot be jump-started by suggesting evidence denial constitutes scientific “debate” or that the very methods and practices that led to The Enlightenment constitute a “paradigm”.

It can be far more adequately argued that proponents of pseudoscientific beliefs and evidence denial have not, over the entire course of their existence, altered scientific consensus as it pertains to their chosen ideology. This is especially true of anti-vaccination, anti-fluoridation, alternatives to medicine and the denial of HIV/AIDS.

In this light we can see such groups as disempowered and effectively divorced from scientific and genuine skeptical inquiry. With no evidence to further their belief structure or force their ideology into reality we witness a constant recycling of well documented falsehood. This is backed by predictable contrariness that is more and more prone to argue their evidence is not flawed, but suppressed or censored by a covert conspiracy. Needless to say this has never been demonstrated.

Alienated, irrelevant and left to defend overwhelmingly debunked and thoroughly refuted notions, those incapable of accepting this reality predictably lash out and attack conventional science in an increasingly extremist fashion. Clearly these groups crave acceptance by the scientific community as they continue to use scientific terminology and mimic scientific research, discussion and reasoning.

However since their inception they have never once produced material that is accepted as genuine research or conclusive evidence. Their modus operandi is to shirk genuine research and produce bogus reviews they falsely label as “critiques”. These are carefully produced selections of cherry picked data presented with a false argument.

In addition they rely overwhelmingly on the alarmist and pseudoscientific work of a small number of faux professionals, whose greatest skill is the abuse of science – not its application.

This impasse has been manifestly apparent for many years. Thus far from accepting these groups have any legitimate contribution to make it should be stressed that the areas they continue to challenge are indeed settled scientifically. Yet Martin writes:

Supporters of the dominant position often say that the existing research base is more than sufficient to conclusively support their stand. Sticking with this claim has the advantage of not admitting weakness. It also can have an economic justification: unnecessary research is avoided.

The disadvantage of rejecting calls for more research is that the critics have a continual source of complaint. When critics have little capacity to undertake their own research—at least research requiring substantial funding—they can portray the defenders of orthodoxy as stonewalling in the face of legitimate doubt.

Again this is manufacturing a dilemma. With respect to vaccination health authorities have gone to extreme lengths researching, and continue to research, every possible adverse reaction or problem with vaccines. The research called for is today unethical and methodologically impossible. Other research demanded has already been conducted. Yet the goal posts are continually moved.

Consequently it is regrettable that certain authors appear to go to extreme lengths to cast denial as genuine dissent whilst insinuating that science has, and will, progress from those who consistently attack the process that does not produce the results they seek.

It should be noted Martin’s article has clearly been firmly edited away from his usual obvious slant in praise of scientific dissent. Its overall tone is seemingly reasonable. Nonetheless that’s not the real point.

Brian Martin has again shown he will be deceptive in the pursuit of his own interests.