Posts Tagged ‘Dr. Paul Offit’

In “The Pathological Optimist” Wakefield Profits From False Hope and a Disproved Autism-MMR Hypothesis

October 23, 2017 33 comments

This guest post has been written by Every Child By Two Board Member, Dr. Paul A. Offit, who is a professor of pediatrics and Director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. 

The Pathological Optimist, which had its theatrical release on September 29, 2017, is a movie about Andrew Wakefield, the British doctor who claimed that the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine caused autism.

Although much has been written about this man and his discredited hypothesis, one question remains unanswered. And it’s this question that makes Andrew Wakefield such an interesting character study.

Among scientists, Andrew Wakefield is unique.  He’s not unique because his explanation for why MMR caused autism was nonsensical. (MMR vaccine doesn’t overwhelm the immune system; measles vaccine virus doesn’t damage the intestine; and brain-damaging toxins don’t then enter the body and cause autism). And he’s not unique because 17 studies performed in seven countries on three continents showed that those who received MMR weren’t at greater risk of autism. (Four thousand studies are published in the scientific and medical literature every day; not surprisingly, false claims are published all the time). He’s not unique because the Lancet, the medical journal that published his original paper, retracted it when the editor learned that Wakefield had misrepresented biological and clinical data. (Researchers who falsify data are an occasional problem in science—a human endeavor). And he’s not unique because several of the families mentioned in his paper were in the midst of suing pharmaceutical companies, essentially laundering their legal claims through a medical journal. (Conflicts of interest occasionally confound medical research). Finally, he’s not unique because his misrepresentations and falsehoods caused him to lose his medical license. (Every year some doctors lose their license to practice medicine).

No. What makes Andrew Wakefield unique is that unlike many of the discredited, defrocked, and humiliated scientists who have preceded him, he continues to insist that he is right and that the rest of the world is wrong.

The question is: Why? In The Pathological Optimist, executive producer Miranda Bailey pulls back the curtain.

Between 2011 and 2016, Bailey, who is best known for her work in Swiss Army Man, The Diary of a Teenage Girl, and Norman, embedded herself in Andrew Wakefield’s life. Bailey is no novice. She’s spent a lot of time working around people who act for a living. She’s not easily fooled. And she’s not fooled here.

Throughout the movie, Andrew Wakefield’s grandiosity, his exaggerated sense of self-importance, his fantasies of brilliance, his sense of entitlement, his need for constant admiration, and his arrogance are on full display.

The Pathological Optimist follows Wakefield on what appears to be a cross-country, money-seeking tour targeting parents of children with autism. Wakefield isn’t raising money for research on autism’s causes or cures. And he isn’t raising money to promote better services or better educational tools for children with the disorder. Rather, he’s raising money for himself; specifically, to pay legal fees for his lawsuits against Brian Deer, the investigative journalist who had exposed Wakefield’s falsifications in the Lancet paper, and Fiona Godlee, the editor-in-chief of the British Medical Journal who had called Wakefield’s paper fraudulent and challenged the Lancet to retract it.

Wakefield is out to restore his reputation. And he’s taking advantage of vulnerable parents who believe in him to do it. For Andrew Wakefield, it’s all about Andrew Wakefield.

Read more…

How Are People in the U.S. Impacted By Polio Around the World?

October 18, 2016 1 comment

On October 24th, Rotary International will host the fourth annual World Polio Day event to raise awareness, funds and support to #EndPolioNow.

Since Rotary and its partners launched the Global Polio Eradication Initiative nearly 30 years ago, the incidence of polio has plummeted by more than 99.9 percent, from about 350,000 cases a year to 26 confirmed as of Sept. 19, 2016. Today, polio remains endemic in three countries – Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan.


Until poliovirus transmission is interrupted in these countries, all countries remain at risk of importation of polio, especially vulnerable countries with weak public health and immunization services and travel or trade links to endemic countries. Without full funding and political commitment, this paralyzing disease could return to previously polio-free countries, putting children everywhere at risk.

Before we engage in the global discussion on polio eradication next week, we’ve asked Every Child By Two Board Member and infectious disease specialist, Paul A. Offit, MD, to elaborate on the “State of the ImmUnion” for polio here in the United States.  


This is what he had to say:

What is the most striking fact about polio that you wish people knew?

That once people are affected, there isn’t much you can do to make them better. The only real weapon against polio is the vaccine. Everything else—iron lungs, braces, hot packs, and occupational therapy—are far too little far too late.

How would you describe the current “State of the ImmUnion” for polio? Are there still cases of polio in the U.S.? Are enough people protected? How could people in the U.S. get polio?

Read more…

Can Infants Really Handle 10,000 Vaccines At a Time? Dr. Harrison Explains

March 24, 2016 85 comments
journalsEvery Child By Two is pleased to launch another article in their Expert Commentary series featuring guest writer Joel A. Harrison, PhD, MPH, a retired epidemiologist who has worked in the areas of preventive medicine, infectious diseases, medical outcomes research, and evidence-based clinical practice guidelines.  His articles are summarized here on Shot of Prevention with links to the full response on the Every Child By Two website.

Today we will feature Dr. Harrison’s latest paper,

by Joel A. Harrison, PhD, MPH

A recurrent concern among parents is that the mounting number of vaccines now administered to babies is a major challenge to the infantile immune system. Leading advocate of childhood immunizations, Dr. Paul Offit, has sought on numerous occasions to reassure parents by emphasizing how robust and effective babies’ immune systems are at responding to the daily threats from the enormous number of bacteria and viruses they are exposed to. He has illustrated this by showing how – in theory – a baby’s immune system could cope with the number of epitopes (parts of a microbe recognized by our immune system) represented by 10,000 vaccines at one time. While 10,000 seems like a lot, as Dr. Offit explains, even this number is small compared to the capacity of our immune system and, yet, it is exponentially greater than the epitopes represented by all the vaccines given to children.

Well-organized, well-funded groups have sprung up trying to persuade parents of the alleged dangers of vaccines. Their arguments are mistaken, confused, lacking in scientific rationale and logical cohesion. There is one claim, based on one statement/sentence made by Dr. Paul Offit, repeated umpteen times all over the blogosphere, that I think encapsulates their flawed thinking. This claim takes one sentence out of context, ignoring the entire lead in to it. However, even without the context, antivaccinationist’s use of it contradicts common sense. Rather than doing their homework, they amplify each other in a near hermetically sealed self-reinforcing closed circle.

I believe that there is not a single book or paper that I couldn’t find one or two sentences that I could take out of context in order to prove any point I wish to. The purpose of this paper is to once again explain how our  immune systems work, how vaccinations fit in the picture, and to show just how flawed antivaccinationist thinking is. Read more…

Five Ways to #BeLikeBen and Stand Up For Public Health

February 18, 2016 5 comments

got_public_healthLast month marked the 310th birthday of Dr. Benjamin Franklin.  While Dr. Franklin is well-known for his historic role as a founding father and diplomat, he was also an accomplished author, politician, scientist, inventor, and health care visionary who created a lasting legacy to American medicine and public health.  His civic involvement included the creation of the first public hospital and his avid support for smallpox inoculation.

Each year, an individual who exhibits significant accomplishments in a field of Franklin’s interest is presented with the Benjamin Franklin Founders Award.  This year, the chosen field of interest was public health and the honored recipient was none other than Every Child By Two Board Member, Dr. Paul A. Offit.

While Dr. Offit is clearly well deserving of this award, I believe he received this honor for more than just the obvious reasons.

pauloffitYes, Dr. Offit has a long list of significant professional accomplishments, to include the Director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, a  Maurice R. Hilleman Professor of Vaccinology and a Professor of Pediatrics at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. He’s the co-inventor of the rotavirus that has the potential to save millions of lives around the world, and he gives generously of his time to speak and write about vaccines and vaccine safety.  Frankly, he’s received more awards than I have time to write about, but that is not what I believe makes him so worthy of the Benjamin Franklin Founders Award.

He is most deserving of this award due to the many small, but significant ways in which he advocates for safe and healthy communities.  

Dr. Offit is not only one of the coolest scientist I know, but he has also been an enormous help to me and many other parents who are interested in learning more about the science and sensibility of immunizations.  His commitment to educate others on the need, benefit and importance of safe and effective immunizations goes well beyond what could be expected of such an accomplished scientist. In the six years since I’ve met Dr. Offit, there have been dozens of times when he has agreed to talk one-on-one with a parent who is confused and concerned about vaccinating their children. While I can’t imagine that he has the time, he always makes the time.  Not only has he helped countless people understand the complexities of immunology, what he teaches others sends ripples of knowledge out into the public health community.

Dr. Offit reflects Dr. Franklin’s commitment to the improvement of civic life, both as an extraordinary scientist, and as tireless public health advocate, but also in his commitment to make our community a safer place for us all.

Today, I would like to respond to a request by the Vaccine Education Center, and ask us all to consider how we can #BeLikeBen.  But not by becoming some big-time inventor or accomplished scientist.  But rather, in finding ways to be a positive influence to the public health of our communities. 

You don’t have to be employed in public health to be a public health advocate.  

By suggesting vaccine recommendations in your casual conversations, you can help give people the information they need to make informed decisions. Of course, no one wants to be that person who only talks about one thing, even if it’s something as important as vaccines.  But I’ve come to recognize that I have plenty of opportunities to discuss immunizations in ways that are entirely appropriate in my everyday conversations with others.

Here are 5 simple things you can do to support public health and immunizations:

1.) With Your Comments and Posts On Social Media

jyTzFXoGSocial media is a place where we can share the important (and sometimes not-so-important) things that go on in our lives.  It’s also a place where relationships are nurtured and important conversations can influence others.

When a friend talks about preparing their kid for college, show how much you care by making sure they are informed about the dangers of meningococcal disease and the importance of vaccines for young adults.  When people are discussing the health of their elderly parents, be sure they know that shingles, pneumococcal and influenza vaccines can help protect them preventable illnesses.  When someone announces that they are expecting, congratulate them and then help educate them about the Tdap and flu vaccine recommendations for pregnant women.

Of course, sharing posts from the Vaccinate Your Family Facebook page will also help raise awareness about disease outbreaks, immunization policy changes and vaccine safety studies. Correcting vaccine misinformation you see on other people’s posts is another important way to help ensure vaccine confidence among your contacts.

2.) With Your Family At Holiday Functions

When my expectant cousin mentioned she wouldn’t be attending a family wedding because she was hesitant to travel with her newborn, she opened the door for an important health discussion.  I explained how the flu and Tdap vaccines during pregnancy could help protect her and her newborn baby, and she was open to my suggestion that her husband, parents and others with close contact with her baby, be vaccinated in the weeks before she was due.  When her mother insisted that she wouldn’t need any shots because she had been vaccinated as a child, I explained how immunity wanes and how an adult Tdap booster would be the best protection.  By the end of the night, every family member knew that their vaccination status was critical in helping to protect her baby and every other baby they came in contact with.

3.) With Your Friends While Out to Dinner

While enjoying dinner with friends one night, the conversation turned to our children and their summer activities.  One couple mentioned that their daughter was attending science camp and learning about infectious diseases.  The conversation continued and I soon learned that one of the men had suffered with meningitis as a teenager, one of the women had a bone marrow transplant that prevented her from being vaccinated, and another couple was hesitant about the need for boys to get the HPV vaccine.  When I mentioned that HPV-related throat and penile cancers could be transmitted to men in ways that they hadn’t thought of, they began asking questions.  By the end of the night, parents were planning meningitis boosters for their college-bound kids and asking if it was too late to get the HPV vaccine series for their sons.

4.) With Your Neighbors At the Bus Stop

When a neighbor was complaining about her son’s asthma, I asked if he received a seasonal flu vaccine.  Although his doctor recommended it, she explained that her husband didn’t trust government agencies that seemed to push the vaccine year after year, so they never got him vaccinated.  After sharing statistics on the dangers of the flu and referring her to an abundance of scientific research on flu vaccine safety, she revisited her decision to get her son and all other family members vaccinated.

5.) With Your Vote On Election Day

In the upcoming elections, it’s important to consider  supporting candidates at the local, state and national level who will stand up for public health issues.  Many states are considering legislation that will help reduce the number of non-medical exemptions to school required vaccines.  In order to get such bills passed at the state level, we need public servants who understand that every student in entitled to an education in a safe environment that is free from preventable diseases.

317 CoalitionOn the federal level, we need a Congress that will support the 317 Coalition, which advocates for federal appropriations to support our nation’s immunization infrastructure by adequately funding vaccine activities at the national, state and local levels.  We also need a Congress that will commit the funds necessary to maintain much needed public health programs in our own country and abroad.  After all, last year’s outbreaks of measles and Ebola have demonstrated how our nations’ public health is inevitably tied to various global health challenges and initiatives around the world.

We hope that the public service of both Dr. Franklin and Dr. Offit will inspire us all to #BeLikeBen and help make our communities a safer place for us all.  I think you will find that sharing immunization information in everyday conversations is not as hard as you may think. 

Please comment below to let us know how you are making an effort to #BeLikeBen day after day, with public health contributions that are big or small.  And join us in using the hashtag #BeLikeBen on social media to share your ideas and contributions.  

Dr. Offit Explains How Bad Faith Undermines Modern Medicine

Every Child By Two Executive Director, Amy Pisani, reviews Dr. Paul Offit’s latest book.

A riveting new book by Dr. Paul Offit hits the shelves this week; Bad Faith: When Religious Belief Undermines Modern Medicine.  

Offit-Bad FaithDr. Offit’s latest book chronicles the stories of several families who made decisions for their children’s health based on their religious beliefs, even when the consequences have resulted in the loss of lives.

In one most respectful account, Dr. Offit delves into the psychological forces that resulted in the worst possible outcome for the Swan family.  The Swans, both of whom grew up as Christian Scientists, allowed religious leaders to persuade them to deny medical care to their child even as he suffered agonizing pain.  When inviting religious healers to their home, the Swan’s – who were taught that disease is a figment of the imagination of the unfaithful – believed they were seeking appropriate medical care for their child.

But is it appropriate for religion to shield a parent from denying life-saving medicines, including vaccines, for their children?

Bad Faith takes a stark and disturbing look at the surprising capacity of both individuals, and policy makers here in the U.S., to risk the health and safety of children, all in the name of religion.

Bad Faith holds no religious-based medical practices on a pedestal.  The writer does not condemn any specific religion, but rather the specific practices that are followed in the name of religion.  His examples include the practices of some Orthodox Jews who refuse to acknowledge 21st Century hygiene techniques to protect infants undergoing circumcisions, various extreme Christian religions who preach the denial of life-saving medicines including antibiotics and vaccines, even Catholic hospitals who deny life-saving care to women, all in the name of Jesus.

This book comes out on the heels of a measles outbreak that has spread throughout the country, sickening more than 125 people in fifteen states, Canada and Mexico.  The cause of the outbreak? Parents who have chosen not to vaccinate their children, many basing their decision on personal or religious beliefs.  The question at hand is how could this still be happening, and why are we letting it happen in 21st Century America?

Read more…

Why Dr. Offit is the Coolest Scientist I Know

I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and speaking with Dr. Paul A. Offit, MD on many occasions. In getting to know him over the past four years I’ve come to the conclusion that he is, hands down, one of the coolest scientist I know.  So last night, after hearing his latest interview excerpt on Comedy Central, I made a short countdown of the top five reasons why I admire Dr. Offit.  

Reason #5:  He gets it. And better yet, he can explain it.  

pauloffitWhen I first met Dr. Offit he was speaking at the official launch of his book, Deadly Choices, in Washington, DC.  He stood at the podium and casually answered a variety of questions from a curious audience.  In addition to being a world-renowned expert in the field of vaccines and epidemiology, I immediately recognized that he is also adept at communicating complex scientific information in a way that any lay person can comprehend.  As the Chief of Infectious Diseases at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, he continues to work directly with patients and their families, some of whom are hesitant or even fearful of vaccines, which is what makes him so effective at addressing their concerns.  This is perhaps one of the leading reasons he is featured in countless interviews and videos that address everything from the most common questions people ask about vaccines, to details about current immunization related research, recommendations, and disease outbreaks.   

Helping people to understand the importance of vaccines is very cool, but doing it so effortlessly is even cooler.   

Reason #4:  He just keeps going and going and he doesn’t back down.

Read more…

The Sense and Nonsense of Alternative Medicine

June 10, 2013 41 comments

DoYouBelieveInMagicIn his new book, Do You Believe In Magic? The Sense and Nonsense of Alternative Medicine, Dr. Paul A. Offit takes a critical look at the field of alternative medicine and separates fact from fiction and science from snake oil.  Since fifty percent of Americans use some form of alternative medicine, and ten percent use it on their children, Dr. Offit examines the questions, does it really work and where is the scientific proof?

As a multiple best-selling author, Every Child By Two Board Member, and Chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases and Director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Dr. Offit suggests that while American’s love alternative medicine, they are paying a high price for it.  From regular visits to acupuncturists, chiropractors and naturopaths to the daily ingesting of homeopathic remedies, Chinese herbs and megavitamins, the use of alternative therapies has not only become a $34 billion-a-year industry, but a practice that promotes miracle cures that are often ineffective and very harmful to our health.  Drawing on current research and real-life experiences of patients, this book investigates alternative therapies for such ailments and conditions as chronic pain, Lyme’s disease, cancer, menopause and aging.  Grounded in science, Dr. Offit’s book warns that alternative medicine is an unregulated industry under no legal obligation to prove its claims or admit its risks.

“Making decisions about our health is an awesome responsibility,” writes Dr. Offit.  “If we’re going to do it, we need to take it seriously.  Otherwise we will violate the most basic principle of medicine: first do no harm.”

While the book will be released by Harper Collins next Tuesday, June 18th, we are organizing a “flash mob” pre-sales event tomorrow, Tuesday, June 11th.  To help drive media attention and book sales on this one day, please consider purchasing a copy of the book (or several to gift to family and friends) on June 11th.  Hard copy purchases are best, but eBooks help too.

You can purchase Do You Believe in Magic? The Sense and Nonsense of Alternative Medicine online at Amazon here or through Barnes and Noble here.  When you make a purchase you can do so knowing that all proceeds from the sales of the book will be donated to the Vaccine Education Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, a resource that we regularly reference and refer others to for accurate vaccine information.