Vaccines and autism: A thorough review of the evidence

The following post is an exceptionally detailed review of the evidence, and scientific consensus, specific to the persistent claim of a link between vaccination and autism.

Those familiar with the integrity of the scientific method and its value in examining this particular issue will be grateful for both the quality and extent of this review.

Use of the seven tiered Hierarchy of Scientific Evidence provides an excellent device by which to gauge the value of evidence, and as such, introduces one to a reliable tool for similar endeavours.

I trust you find the article a valuable resource.

Hierarchy of Scientific Evidence

© thelogicofscience.com

The Logic of Science

One of the most common concerns that people have about vaccines is that they might cause (or exacerbate) autism. This idea is perpetuated by celebrities and innumerable websites, and it has become one of the cornerstone arguments of the anti-vaccine movement, but is there any truth to it? Perhaps unsurprisingly, both sides claim a superiority of evidence. Indeed, you can find numerous websites presenting lists of papers that they claim provide evidence that autism is caused by vaccines (such as “124 research papers supporting the vaccine/autism link“). Conversely, those who support vaccines also have lists of papers which they present as evidence that vaccines do not cause autism (for example, here and here). So which is correct? The internet is full of misinformation on this topic, so I want to cut through that crap and talk about the actual studies themselves rather than simply tossing lists around…

View original post 17,466 more words

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.

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.

Family Court continues to defend vaccination

While ever the child remains unvaccinated, he remains at risk of contracting these diseases

– Justice Jenny Hogan: Family Court of Australia. July 17, 2015 –

“I’ve done my research”.

So goes the inaccurate claim of the anti-vaccine convert. As I’ve noted before this claim should be questioned as to what independent evaluation took place to discern the quality of such “research”. I realise this isn’t very user-friendly. Thus it’s a way of underscoring the inappropriateness of mums and dads using the term to defend their ignorance of vaccine efficacy and safety.

Perhaps this “research” should be compared to the advice and conclusions published by reputable health authorities. Perhaps the most simple approach is to run up a tally of reputable source information vs that from woo and quackery public health menaces. Ideally parents will see that ample research has already been done and their role is to seek advice from a GP.

Yet we know in a number of cases that won’t happen and anti-vaccine fear mongering and deception will be eagerly devoured and believed by some. Many will continue this “research” to varying degrees, perhaps joining forums, Facebook pages and YouTube channels, sinking ever deeper into hive mentality.

A July 17 Family Court of Australia finding provided a glimpse of the harm such forays into the dark and absurd realms of the Internet can potentially cause. In this case of “Arranzio and Moss” before Justice Jenny Hogan, Ms. Moss had told the court she intended to;

…never consent to the child being vaccinated [because she] has a conscientious objection to vaccination on the basis of her research.

Moss was seeking an injunction that would prevent her six year old son (who has never been immunised) being taken by his father for immunisation, “without her written permission”. She believes vaccines may cause cancer and “other health problems”, and believes her son suffers from “a range of allergies to different foods”.

Both parents had witnesses appear on their behalf.

The mother’s doctor, known as Dr J, told Justice Hogan that she had previously held ‘anti-vaccination views’ but now believed that vaccination was sometimes appropriate for children who were, for example, not breastfed.

[…]

Justice Hogan said that “no weight could sensibly” be given to Dr J’s views on the case at hand, because Dr J had not even seen the child when she decided that he had an “underlying immune shift” that might make vaccination problematic for him.

Dr. G, appearing for the father had studied at the Mayo Clinic and is a specialist in childhood allergies. He commented on the uselessness of “tests” Dr. J suggested the child was in need of, describing them as “total nonsense”. He went on to reject the claim that the chicken pox vaccine causes shingles as “bunkum” and noted that allergic reactions to vaccines are so rare he had “only one or two people referred to him over the years”.

The injunction was not granted. The finding quite firmly highlights the risk of contracting disease due to being unvaccinated, as opposed to the fallacious beliefs of the anti-vaccine lobby:

Justice Hogan said “the consequences for the child of contracting a disease weighed significantly against the grant of an injunction” – meaning the father should not be banned from having the child vaccinated because harm from potential diseases posed unacceptable risks.

“While ever the child remains unvaccinated, he remains at risk of contracting these diseases,” she said.

“Having regard to the above, I am not persuaded that an order restraining the father from having the child vaccinated is appropriate for the child’s welfare or in his best interests.”

What is immediately apparent with respect to these cases is that the so-called “evidence” that makes up the body of anti-vaccination “research” is presented in a law court in opposition to genuine evidence provided by qualified medical professionals. Family Court findings uphold the best interests and welfare of children.

In these cases the efficacy and safety of vaccines are themselves arguably on trial.

When the Australian Vaccination-skeptics Network reacted to the announcement that Family Tax Benefits would be denied on the basis of vaccine conscientious objection they posted a Facebook meme likening vaccination to rape. This was the second time this group has used that comparison to vaccination.

On January 15, 2011 Meryl Dorey (then steering the group under its old name: Australian Vaccination Network) reacted to the first Family Court case of this type. In this instance the Court favoured the father’s wish to have his five year old daughter vaccinated. Dorey exploded on Facebook:

Court orders rape of a child. Think this is an exaggeration? Think again. This is assault without consent and with full penetration too. If we as a society allow this crime to take place, we are every bit as guilty as the judge who made the order and the doctor who carries it out. If anyone knows this family, please put them in touch with me – xx xxxx xxxx – I would like to see if there is anything the AVN can do.
MD

In this case the witness for the anti-vaccine mother was chiropractor Warren Sipser. It was reported:

The mother produced opposing evidence that the vaccinations were unnecessary, but was criticised in the judgment for submitting evidence from an “immunisation sceptic”, who made what the magistrate described as “outlandish statements unsupported by any empirical evidence”.

Chiropractic Association of Australia (CAA) member Warren Sipser quite recklessly described the outcome as “dangerous”. Sipser is unsurprisingly also a past professional member of the AVN (2004 – 2011), and a board member of CAA Victoria. He is also Secretary of CAA Victoria. The important thing is this “paediatric chiropractor” was comfortable with “outlandish statements unsupported by any empirical evidence”, being put forth to advance his client’s case.

In an October 19, 2012 Family Court ruling Justice Victoria Bennett rejected a Victorian mother’s claim that living a simple lifestyle, avoiding toxins and eating organic and unprocessed foods would develop the immune system of her eight year old daughter. A senior paediatrician from the Royal Children’s Hospital advised Justice Bennett that the homeopathic methods used by the mother had no basis in evidence.

In this case the child’s father had remarried and it was reported his daughter;

…was immunised for diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, hepatitis B, polio, HIB, measles, mumps, rubella and meningococcal C.

The father told the court he hoped to continue to “secretly vaccinate” her because he did not want to play “Russian roulette with her health”. He said he wanted to protect her from infectious diseases, and he was also concerned the child of his new wife, who is now pregnant, could contract a disease from an unvaccinated child.

In a convoluted and drawn out Family Court case that ended in April 2014 a Sydney father won the right to have his children – who turned 12 and 14 last year – vaccinated. Justice Garry Foster quite rightly observed that the 42 year old mother was narrowly focused with vaccination “perhaps to the point where the best interests of her children have been subsumed”.

As other matters of separation between Mr. Randall and Ms. Duke-Randall continued the court restrained either parent from vaccinating either child until a three day hearing into vaccination took place. The mother kept the children on a low-salicylate and low-amine diet, and was apparently wasting court time in an attempt to obtain evidence that the children would be adversely effected by vaccination. However:

Justice Foster [found] the mother had been deliberately delaying proceedings and ignoring directions, which led to the ”strong inference that she has done so to suit her own end that the issue as to vaccination be delayed for as long as possible”.

[…]

Justice Foster accepted evidence from a senior consultant in immunology, given the pseudonym Professor K, that both children are healthy and do not have any allergies or any other contraindications to vaccination.

This case was particularly concerning in that the children’s mother sought to have immunisation declared a “special medical procedure”. [Family Court: March 11, 2013. July 18, 3013]. This would have placed vaccination in the same category as gender reassignment or sterilisation of intellectually disabled girls. Her quest to convince the Family Court her children would suffer adversely from vaccination included collection of blood, urine and faecal matter.

It is fortunate the Family Court found in favour of the children’s father.

Similar trends are documented in the USA, the UK and other developed nations where an anti-vaccine lobby seeks to spread deception and misinformation. It would appear these cases may well become more frequent. Thanks to the work of groups who tackle the anti-vaccination lobby the public is becomming increasingly aware of the extent of harm “anti-vaxxers” have on their children.

As I mentioned above, these Family Court cases are in many ways a legal challenge to, or opportunity for, anti-vaccination beliefs.

Fortunately in the Family Court of Australia, the anti-vaccination lobby has had no success at all.

The man who draws ducks draws a long bow against vaccine science

Michael Leunig was a guest on ABC News Breakfast to chat about his new book Musings From The Inner Duck, his role as a cartoonist and the impact of his commentary both political and social.

It wasn’t long at all before discourse turned from reflections on the Leunig duck to Leunig’s support of quackery. Particularly his April 15th cartoon in response to Scott Morrison’s removal of up to $15,000 in tax payer funds to parents who seek to claim “conscientious objection” to vaccinating their children.

The awful piece of nonsense from our 1999 National Living Treasure firmly ran the ignorant antivaccinationist banner up Leunig’s flagpole. One doesn’t say so lightly, but the cartoon and subsequent interview ticked all the worst of the anti-vaccine boxes. I’ve also no doubt Leunig would have kept digging had he more time. Headed Some mothers do ‘ave ’em the piece continued;

They have maternal instincts
That contradict what science thinks.
They stand up to the state:
A mother’s love may be as great
As any new vaccine
That man has ever seen

Leunig_April15_2015Problems with Leunig’s thinking come across in the text.

Mothers have maternal instincts that contradicts what science “thinks”. I realise a rhyme is important here but there’s no reason why mothers can’t have maternal moods that contradict what science concludes. Because science must not drift off into thinking or feeling or musing. It follows a strict set of processes designed to invite replication and strident attempts at falsification. This doesn’t involve just one, two or a handful of variables. Multiple factors help form hypotheses in this process until a scientific consensus is formed. In the face of new evidence and conclusion a new consensus is formed in the same way.

Nor is this a matter for the famous Leunig “whimsy”. If we honestly made way for this new antivaccinationist insistence of maternal instinct ruling over what science “thinks” (because ‘science always changes its mind’) we would be beset with tragedy. Recent revelations about the conduct of midwife Gaye Demanuele give valuable insight as to what is at stake when ignorance and/or defiance clashes with evidence based health practice as recommended by national health experts.

Speaking of “the state”, Leunig tells us these mothers (who let’s face it are either part of, or misinformed by the anti-science in medicine chapter) also “stand up to the state”. Perhaps he’s referring to the reckless and abusive decisions they make in denying their children the protection of vaccination. He winds up letting readers know a mother’s love can apparently create antibodies and/or protect from vaccine preventable disease as well as any vaccine.

Underneath the text is a plainly shocking cartoon. A mother sprinting, baby in pram, away from giant flying syringes. It seems like the cartoon version of those Photoshopped images favoured by Natural News, Mercola, Age of Autism and other junk sites that depict lines of crying children or babies jabbed with multiple syringes.

“It does seem to be an odd thing to assert Michael Leunig, that a mother’s love may be more beneficial for a child than a vaccine”, offered Virginia Trioli.

Leunig tries to dodge this claiming he is “not taking a position publicly”… but is concerned that the maternal instinct is being asked to step aside and accept what the state is saying. Virginia challenges his claim of not taking a public position. Leunig works his way around to asking “…if we should sweep aside those mothers who in great conscience, intelligence and research feel they just can’t go ahead with this. Should we demonise them? Should we criminalise them? Should the whole society make them feel a pariah? That the traditional work of the cartoonist is to stand up for the improbable, the minority which seems to be of true heart and sincerity”.

“Isn’t it an issue about science?”, Virginia asks.

“Well science is… it depends on whether you believe science is the final say on everything”.

“Most people do”, offers Michael Rowlands.

“Well they did when they had Thalidomide…”, Leunig replies bizarrely with confidence, probably blissfully unaware what a cruel and ignorant fool on this topic he has just revealed himself to be. Dragging out the Thalidomide card in this instance is thunderously immoral. All antivaccine champions ignore the fact that drug trials and testing were forever changed for the better.

Virginia baulks at this nonsense and pulls the cartoonist up. “Ooh, that’s a difficult comparison, because there was a concerted cover-up about that for many, many years, and such corporate malfeasance that it’s probably unparalleled in medical history, so you’re not asserting something similar to that are you?”

And then it happens. The man who draws ducks proclaims, “There is a science against vaccines also”, masterfully ignoring that he just informed us that “…it depends on whether you believe science is the final say on everything”.

As Michael Rowland observes at this point, “It’s not science Michael”.

Leunig denies upholding “a lot of evidence (against vaccination safety)” and warns beware the crowd. He contends that science is not complete [yawn] then just to prove he’s reading lots of antivaccine dreck, poses “… and what is this impulse that’s universal, it’s not freakish but I’ve seen a lot of very intelligent women and parents hold a really grave concern… and there are really bad consequences of some vaccinations…”. He thinks the science is incomplete. Disagrees with the finding Wakefield is a fraud.

Delightfully, with the feel of a eulogy, Virginia’s next sentence is “But as someone who has been much loved as a cartoonist can I just show you one response to your cartoon”?

It’s a tweet from Hannah Gadsby (@Hannahgadsby) and reads;

After years of enduring Leunig staring at her, the duck finally spoke “I can’t give you the benefit of whimsy today. You’re a dickhead”.

HannahGadsby_tweet

Leunig is now worried that this means “so we don’t tolerate the outsider voice that says the improbable. That’s what my job is, it’s not to march entirely with science it’s to be the improbable”. He suggests Virginia and Michael should be getting fired up about criticism of the antivaccination lobby.

“What is this fierce anti anti-vaccination… why so emotional…?”.

“It’s called public health Michael”, Michael Rowland cuts of the rant.

Dismissively, the man who draws ducks reckons “If we cared about public health we wouldn’t design cities like this, …terrible television, dreadful media. Public health is in disarray at so many levels and all we’re worrying about is this little needle”.

You know that little needle – perhaps the greatest medical breakthrough of all time. Virginia tries to see him off.

“But I’m not standing against vaccination”, Leunig lies as all antivaccinationists do. “It’s this thing as a matter of conscience”.

He was a C.O. to the Vietnam war so knows what he’s talking about he finishes.

The biggest problem – or a very big problem – with Leunig is that he’s had a long time to work his way through the science around Wakefield’s fraud. Indeed, vaccine science in total. This was Leunig on January 29th 1997;

Leunig_Jan29_1997

This cartoon pushes the old and rather pointless defence of pseudoscience that argues “science doesn’t know everything”. Or rather, it’s that defence on steroids. Unapologetically we’re asked to believe a cruel and arrogant medico has jettisoned any capacity to be humane or understand the whole person as a patient and reacts aggressively to the mother. Nothing could be further from the truth, and no reaction could better impede the aim of vaccinating the mother’s baby. In fact it’s quite silly in that any medico so dangerously constrained by medical science would point out the heart is a pump and emotions, superstitions are seated in the brain. But the point is taken. Doctors and medical science are pathologically removed from understanding emotion, preferring to belittle human nature as some primitive throwback to be “immunised” against. “It is a disease in itself”. This nasty, inaccurate and combative message, dreamt up by opponents of medical science, is entirely without merit.

Thirteen months later Wakefield’s infamous fraud was published and public health has suffered immensely ever since. Largely thanks to fools and egos like Michael Leunig. To sit there and say “there is a science against vaccination also” and that he has detected “a universal impulse” and is standing up for intelligent people who have researched and hold “grave concerns”. These poor people treated as pariahs or criminals and pushed about by the state. The softly spoken champion for the maternal instinct. He’s not antivaccine – nooo – but just doing his job. What was it? Oh yes, “it’s not to march entirely with science it’s to be the improbable”.

Well I find it improbable in the extreme that Leunig had such views 18 1/2 years ago and just happens to have them again today because it’s “his job” to worry about one of the most dangerous and most cruel antiscience and antimedicine cults at the present time. Leunig is an antivaxxer, cut from the same mold of them all.

His duck will now be remembered for its quackery.