Audio: Examining the anti-vax movement

Preamble…

Recently with the decision by Robert De Niro to pull the dangerous and fraudulent film “Vaxxed…”, from the Tribeca film festival, antivaccinationists have been amusingly “outraged”.

The film appears to be a collation of misleading to bogus claims, deceptively produced to appear as a “documentary”, with the aim of selling the ludicrous claim by one Brian Hooker that CDC scientist William Thompson had blown the whistle on CDC fraud. The fraud purportedly being an increase in autism in African-American boys receiving MMR “on time”. This nonsense brings us to the final card that the film’s director, Andrew Wakefield, is not only innocent of the fraud that saw him deregistered but an ethical hero “working to make vaccines safer”.

The hilarity of deceit at play here requires length and focus. The facts are examined here, here and here. This blog’s Wakefield tag is here. What has been predictable is the conduct of the anti-vaccine lobby. The film’s producer Del Bigtree reached new heights of conspiracy laden fallacy in an interview on USA’s ABC. It was “censored” (it wasn’t) because Big Pharma didn’t want “you” to see it. To accept that, one must accept the whole global Pharma-vaccine conspiracy.

Supporters believe this rot without seemingly questioning a jot. But why? How do they reach a state of intellectual helplessness and gullibility? Why are they incapable of discerning reputable information? As it turns out there are many sources discussing conspiracy theory mindsets, cognitive bias, distrust of authority and more. But for now I’ll avoid such in favour of the audio narratives below. I’m sure I’m not alone in musing about the conduct of antivaccinationists, particularly the similarities in spreading deception and abusing those who hold them to account for such dishonesty.

Here in Australia last January saw the acceptance of a PhD thesis from antivaccinationist and conspiracy theorist Judy Wilyman, by the University of Wollongong. This has rightly attracted wide criticism with respect to academic rigour as the work advances a conspiracy theory by advancing incredulous and debunked claims, citing criticised authors and works.

What is of note here is the contribution of her supervisor Brian Martin who has written that Wilyman has been unfairly attacked by critics. This is not an accurate portrayal of the intellectual and academic challenges Wilyman was met with by any means. Martin goes on to accuse Stop the Australian (anti) Vaccination Network (SAVN) of making complaints to “official bodies” and of seeking to prevent anti-vaccine talks.

This is quite true but I note that SAVN has never been so much as cautioned for vexatious conduct. Complaints are made with good reason and can only take shape thanks to the irregular conduct, or worse, of those complained about. Preventing the abuses of free speech that opponents of evidence based medicine and antivaccinationists engage in is essential to the defence of sound public health.

So what would drive an educated individual to work to enable the scurrilous conduct of his student, rather than encourage critical thought and intellectual honesty? This got me thinking of a worthy production.

Audio…

In August 2015 the BBC broadcast an inquiry, What’s behind the ‘anti-vax’ movement? [© BBC] It could dig a little deeper if we consider the abuse of grieving parents and vile threats that pepper social media. However I think the building blocks of such anti-vax conduct is presented.

  • Listen with the player below…

The four part programme features Dr. Dyan Hes, Brian Deer, Juniper Russo and Heidi Larson. The producers take the view that the so called debate surrounding vaccination has not only been settled, but in view of Andrew Wakefield’s fraud, is a misleading claim. Thus the programme is introduced with the promise that false balance will not be entertained.

Be sure to catch Juniper Russo (Part 3 – The Crunchy Mom) at the 11:15 mark. Juniper was the ideal nature loving mom from Tennessee, convinced Big Pharma had conspired to silence Wakefield. She was wired into the online anti-vax movement and chose to keep vaccines, and other awful medicines, away from her daughter. Juniper’s vaccine beliefs changed when her daughter was diagnosed with autism.

Juniper now takes an evidence based approach to lifestyle and is the author of the blog, Back From Nature.

Enjoy.

Advertisements

Wakefield innocent, Deer lied, Earth flat

The good citizens from The Twilight Zones of teh interwebs keep us reliably informed, in the face of mountains of evidence to the contrary, that Wakefield is “innocent”.

Andrew Wakefield is infamous for the fraudulent invention of ileal hyperplasia and non-specific colitis induced by the measles component of MMR. Leaving the bowel damaged and “leaky”, this allowed the escape of opioid peptides into the bloodstream and eventually the brain whereby they caused autism. So infamous, that two words, “Wakefield innocent” are only rivalled in this story by “Deer lied”, yet another commandment from The Twilight Zone.

Yet innocent of exactly what aspect of the raft of calculated, cruel and callous transgressions committed? Or what part of his planning and financial inducements leading up to his academic fraud? The invasive abuse of his small sample and manipulation of data gleaned? The fabricated patient selection criteria, clinical histories, and neuropsychiatric diagnoses? Or how his filing for a patent for a “safer [monovalent] measles vaccine” in June 1997 predicated his surprise (in fact well kept secret) announcement to the press in February 1998 that MMR was a likely cause of autistic disorders?

In general it doesn’t really matter. So distorted has the issue become in almost 14 years that specifics don’t count. In effect “Wakefield innocent” is a vaccine myth with multiple faces. A licence to not vaccinate. It means that all vaccines do horrible damage to children. That they do so due to ghastly toxins with long dastardly names, heavy metals that poison the brain, alien cells and viruses that ravage young bodies, promote disease, drain vitality, bring death and much more.

“Deer lied” is the inescapable binary to this scenario. It signifies his mythical role as a Big Pharma hit man paid a whopping journalists salary with expenses to destroy Wakefield. To keep the truth hidden by governments, pharmaceutical companies and medical establishments. That vaccines are not only unnecessary but experimental, or knowingly useless poison pushed for profit. The conspiracy is all powerful and so encompassing it accommodates any bizarre fantasy. Evidence has no impact.

Today “Wakefield innocent” can also mean all vaccines cause autism and brain damage. That they do not prevent disease. That they are not needed. That today’s children are the sickest of any generation in memory. That vitamins, a few herbs, some homeopathic hanky panky and a connection with the cosmos is all that’s needed to defeat vaccine preventable disease.

The real point is, those defending Wakefield have just as much a predetermined agenda as he did. Facts will not get in their way. The BMJ is “disgraced”, in a “panic” or existing in terror of the day Wakefield is “vindicated”. As Meryl Dorey puts it, “digging a deeper and deeper hole”.

Three weeks after the BMJ published Brian Deer’s How the case against the MMR vaccine was fixed, eminent enemy of conventional medicine Mike Adams gushed, Documents emerge proving Dr Andrew Wakefield innocent; BMJ and Brian Deer caught misrepresenting the facts. Really? A Trifecta Mike? Do tell:

Newly-revealed documents show that on December 20th, 1996, a meeting of The Inflammatory Bowel Disease Study Group based at the Royal Free Hospital Medical School featured a presentation by Professor Walker-Smith on seven of the children who would later become part of the group of patients Dr Wakefield wrote about in his 1998 The Lancet paper (which was later retracted by The Lancet) […]

These documents reveal that the British Medical Journal has been caught in its own fraud for willfully ignoring this evidence, which was presented to it long before its recent publication of Brian Deer’s article calling Dr Wakefield a fraud […]

[Brian Deer] lied about his identity and entered the home of one of the parents of the autism children. Specifically, he claimed he was working for The Sunday Times even though he was never a Sunday Times employee.

It’s pretty much a direct copy and paste of Wakefield’s own document. That and email correspondence with Fiona Godlee is here in PDF under the amusing Gaia Health heading DR. ANDREW WAKEFIELD WAS RIGHT. BRIAN DEER IS THE LIAR. THERE WAS NO FRAUD. NO HOAX. HERE’S PROOF. Age of Autism, Vaccine Safety First, Child Health Safety…etc, all crowed vindication.

The nonsense about Brian Deer is hearsay from a “letter to The Sunday Times”, seeming to serve no purpose beyond trying to label him a liar. Wakefield himself also alludes to the BMJ not “checking facts”. Yet the actual “proof” strikes me as tenuous. Wakefield confidently writes:

I present evidence that completely negates the allegations that I committed scientific fraud. Brian Deer and Dr. Godlee of the British Medical Journal (BMJ) knew or should have known about the facts set out below before publishing their false allegations. [….]

His [Professor John Walker-Smith’s] notes of the presentation continued: “I wish today, to present some preliminary details concerning seven children, all boys, who appear to have entero-colitis and disintegrative disorder, probably autism, following MMR.

Speaking of not checking facts. Deer had already quite arguably dispatched with Wakefield’s chronological innocence in writing How the case was fixed…:

Curiously, however, Wakefield had already identified such a syndrome before the project which would reputedly discover it. “Children with enteritis/disintegrative disorder [an expression he used for bowel inflammation and regressive autism] form part of a new syndrome,” he and Barr explained in a confidential grant application to the UK government’s Legal Aid Board before any of the children were investigated.

And that grant application happened to be submitted 6 1/2 months earlier than Walker-Smith’s presentation. It was:

Proposed protocol and costing proposals for testing a selected number of MR and MMR vaccinated children (and attached specification). Submitted to the Legal Aid Board 6 June 1996. [GMC fitness to practise panel hearing in the case of Wakefield, Walker-Smith and Murch. Day 11.]

We can even get more fussy and note the language used in describing bowel inflammation and autism. Entero-colitis (used by Walker-Smith) is inflammation of the colon and small intestine. Enteritis (used over 6 months earlier by Wakefield) is inflammation of the small intestine. Both use “disintegrative disorder”. Confidentially Wakefield was postulating a “new syndrome” well before Walker-Smith offered “preliminary details”.

Just recently on November 9th this year some new information arose when David Lewis published a letter in the BMJ. Lewis came to review histopathological grading sheets that Wakefield claims were filled out and solely interpreted by co-authors Dr. Amar Dhillon and Dr. Andrew Anthony. This was after Lewis attended, “a vaccine safety conference in Jamaica, where Andrew Wakefield discussed his research”, that was a five star extravaganza paid for by the “vaccine-safety” promoters. Wakefield was the headline act.

Lewis argued in the BMJ that he did:

… not believe that Dr. Wakefield intentionally misinterpreted the grading sheets as evidence of “non-specific colitis”.

So, who is David Lewis? Well for Aussies or anyone familiar with the Australian Vaccination Network and their main academic supporter, Dr. Brian Martin, supervisor of anti-vax conspirator and PhD candidate Judy Wilyman, this is a bit creepy. Lewis is from the US National Whistleblowers Center. Brian Martin is president of Whistleblowers Australia.

Brian Martin wrote the “document” the AVN have used to dismiss the HCCC public health and OLGR charitable status findings as an attack on free speech. He has written on successfully raising dissent against scientific, government and academic consensus. He has also written extensively on challenging the origin of AIDS, going as far in 1998 to link it to the polio vaccine. He denies having any position on vaccination.

Lewis bills himself similarly:

My responsibilities include investigating “institutional research misconduct” in which government, industry, and academic institutions use false allegations of research misconduct to suppress research.

Nature News reports that Lewis claims he was “falsely accused of misconduct after alleging links between human illness and the spreading of sewage sludge”. Either way he was ejected post haste from the EPA. The US National Whistleblowers Center is listed under “Suppression of dissent” Contacts on Brian Martin’s website. Both Dorey and Wakefield have indisputably been shown to cause damage to public health and act illegally. Ironically, Wakefield’s treatment of one whistleblower is available thanks to Brian Deer.

Before publishing Lewis’ article the BMJ had gastroenterologist Ingvar Bjarnason review the material. He claimed there was insufficient evidence to support a new disease, as Wakefield et al. had done. He also notes that “The data are subjective. It’s different to say it’s deliberate falsification”.

The last sentence caused some in The Twilight Zone to go into overdrive. Brian Deer’s Charges Against Wakefield Are False: Documents Analyzed by Outside Expert offers Gaia Health. Who regrettably also adds the somewhat partisan claim:

In the end, as with most things involving conventional medicine, it’s all about money. The lives of children have been sacrificed—and continue to be laid on the altar of Profits and Greed.

Age of Autism also seize upon the few words to suggest the BMJ is crumbling and attack BMJ editor-in-chief Dr Fiona Godlee for “declaring war” on University College London. Rather, Godlee wants a parliamentary investigation. She is quite rightly stressing that UCL, who it’s been alleged used Wakefield’s claims to get money, must finalise their own inquiry having had 8 months to begin. Medical News Today quote Godlee who wrote to UCL:

Continuing failure to get to the bottom of the vaccine scandal raises serious questions about the prevailing culture of our academic institutions and attitudes to the integrity of their output. Given the extent of involvement of senior personnel at the highest level, only an independent inquiry will be credible.

This is not a call to debate whether MMR causes autism. Science has asked that question and answered it. We need to know what happened in this inglorious chapter in medicine. Who did what, and why?

The fact that the grading sheets from Dr. Dhillon show no abnormal pathology raises the question of Wakefield’s falsification of “non-specific colitis” and ileal-lymphoid nodular hyperplasia in autistic children. Wakefield omitted that Ileal-lymphoid nodular hyperplasia was viewed as benign and “normal” in children by gastroenterologists.

His supporters now seem to argue he did not intentionally misrepresent histopathological data. This is strange given the mammoth effort to show that inflammatory disease has been confirmed in the intestines of autistic children, and “in five different countries” according to Wakefield on Age of Autism in April this year. Yet Pediatrics published findings from an expert panel in January 2010 stating no GI disturbance specific to autism had been established.

Wakefield seems content to pick and choose, shaping his innocence in retrospect. The original paper states he “assessed” biopsy specimens. Wakefield claimed two years ago, “Dr Dhillon’s diagnosis formed the basis for what was reported in the Lancet, I played no part in the diagnostic process at all.” Which is also strange given that Dhillon did not report any children as having enterocolitis. Yet Wakefield’s paper argued a finding of “autistic enterocolitis” which formed the basis for the primary submission of lawyers in the failed multi-party MMR lawsuits in Britain.

For colitis to be present epithelial damage must have occurred. But Dhillon recorded nothing of the sort. Deer writes:

No cell counts or clinical diagnoses appear on the forms, and neither Crohn’s disease nor ulcerative colitis was even considered “possible” by Dhillon.

Nor did Dhillon use the term “non-specific colitis”, reported in 11 of the 12 children five of whom were acute. Dhillon’s grading sheets did have a tick box for “non-specific” and from here Wakefield took his cue to claim “non-specific colitis”. Paola Domizio, a consultant histopathologist and professor of pathology education at Queen Mary’s College, London who was “astonished” at the normality of the specimen findings suggests the “non-specific” option allowed Dhillon to note “changes of uncertain significance”.

Walker-Smith conducted blood tests and colonoscopies – both of which showed no pathology. Still in search of abnormality Walker-Smith ordered ileocolonoscopies on these very ill children. The biopsies returned normal findings. All these tests were omitted from the final paper. Only when Wakefield got hold of Dhillon’s grading sheets – which also showed nothing abnormal – did “autistic enterocolitis” emerge.

Consultant histopathologist Susan Davies had documented healthy biopsies which were reported as diseased in a draft paper. After raising concerns about reported “colitis” she deferred to Dhillon after a research “review”. It seems clear that the team was intent on showing this “new condition”. In the case of one 3 year old boy Susan Davies and Amar Dhillon “found mild caecal inflammation, with no abnormality or changes in other biopsies”. When the final paper was published the same boy had the mild inflammation changed to, “Acute caecal cryptitis and chronic non-specific colitis.”

Even had the dodgy data been sound the omission of the fact almost all the children had chronic constipation would have clinical implications. Deer writes:

This omission of constipation was no small matter. It went to the heart of how the paper would be read. Specialists told me that both mild inflammation and prominent lymphoid follicles may be expected to be associated with this sign.

“The increase of colonic lymphoid aggregates found in severely constipated patients may represent a protective mucosal mechanism toward the chronic fecal stasis,” suggests a team of Italian and Swiss researchers, for example, in a study of adults.

But such prosaic observations would not have helped the lawsuits—for which Wakefield was hired before any child was referred, and which in the UK paid him more than £400 000. Five other Royal Free doctors—Davies and Dhillon were not among them—shared more than £100 000 to back him.

If there is one word that does not apply to Andrew Wakefield it is “innocent”. Fiona Godlee estimates at least six more of his reports need independent investigation and the exact role of the other authors must be elucidated.

£400 000 to push along lawsuits against MMR, plus vaccine patents, plus income from treating this new “syndrome” is a lot of reasons for Wakefield to lose his objectivity. Supporters need to snap to and remember this is not about vague interpretation of histology samples.

Labelled dishonest, irresponsible, unethical and showing “callous disregard for the distress and pain of children”, Wakefield was eventually struck from the medical register. “Erased” is the term used. His syndrome was a foregone conclusion. He joked about buying blood from children who vomited and passed out.

His fraudulent paper was retracted by Lancet editor, Richard Horton. Expunged from the evidence base of our species’ medical knowledge library to be a tad dramatic. But not before ten of the thirteen authors had removed their names, stating there was insufficient evidence for an association between MMR and autism whilst also expressing regret over the “major implications for public health”.

Another paper attempting to link thimerosal – he was learning on his feet – with neurological problems was withdrawn from the journal NeuroToxicology. He has never apologised, nor admitted his obvious guilt. He has become a beacon for disturbed and mistaken followers and quickly turned that fact into a huge income, feigning compassion as a seeker of truth. Wakefield can never be “innocent” for his crimes are so multitudinous.

So next time you hear of another anti-vaccine zealot bellowing “Wakefield innocent”, you’re entitled to ask, “Of what exactly?”

Andrew Wakefield and the MMR fraud: Science Betrayed

From the BBC’s Science Betrayed, March 16th 2011. Dr Adam Rutherford does a splendid job of investigating the scandal and ethical breaches that led to the greatest medical and public health related disaster in the post penicillin era.

Recently there’s been a push by anti-vaccination lobbyists and those horrid folk from Age of Autism to argue that the BMJ committed fraud. They have a particular angle on Brian Deer and the entire campaign smacks of revenge borne of a total lack of evidence. Mike Adams is another source of woe begotten opportunism peddling this nonsense. Meryl Dorey is piping their tune in Australia despite originally screaming Wakefield’s disclaimer in his defence: “No association proved with MMR” – something Wakefield sticks to when questioned.

“We never said there is a link to autism”, Meryl Dorey of The Australian Vaccination Network lied as Wakefield’s obliteration became complete. “Just to bowel disorders”. Of course, they quickly changed their tune to line up with the rest of the conspiracy cranks worldwide.

I feel like saying they make me sick. But that’s nonsense. In truth, they make sick children even sicker. What I find truly bizarre is that “anti-vaccination hero” Andrew Wakefield, filed patent for monovalent vaccines nine months before publishing his paper. Just as unethical is monovalent vaccine administrator Dr. Richard Halvorsen, author of The truth about vaccines. He is paid hundreds of dollars per shot. If anybody schemed to push vaccines it is these men.

In The Lancet article, Wakefield et al. wrote, “we did not prove an association between measles, mumps and rubella vaccine and the syndrome described”. Yet he wrote a letter with Richard Barr one of the lawyers paying Wakefield, and representing anti-vaccination litigants, before beginning the study. Written on June 6th, 1996 it described a vaccine induced autistic and intestinal disorder. This was over two weeks before selecting the first child to be “studied” as part of The Lancet sample. It included;

Children with enteritis and disintegrative disorder, form part of a new syndrome. The evidence is undeniably in favour of a specific vaccine induced pathology.

Hired by lawyers with a predetermined agenda, inventing a vaccine induced syndrome at the behest of anti-vaccine activists, selecting a sample picked by the lawyers and lobbyists, filing for monovalent vaccine patents well before publishing his work, denying any link in print, suggesting this very same link in a press conference, making plans for a “treatment” centre for his pretend syndrome that he would run…

All to be abandoned by most co-author’s, struck off the medical register as callous and unethical and for his fraudulent “research” to be retracted. There can be no doubt. Andrew Wakefield is a fraud and those seeking to exhume the corpse of this despicable scam have embarked on yet another course of unique child, parent and indeed social abuse.

Although there’s a plethora of articles debunking this awful business, here’s some you may like to read.

http://www.bmj.com/content/342/bmj.c7452.full

http://www.bmj.com/content/342/bmj.c5258.full?sid=4d2cb324-6535-4766-8f06-6d398fc84c42

http://www.bmj.com/content/342/bmj.c5347.full

http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20126964.000-mmr-vaccine-not-linked-to-autism-says-us-court.html

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/3315651/MMR-is-not-linked-to-autism-say-Japanese.html

http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn7076-autism-rises-despite-mmr-ban-in-japan.html