Every 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. Today we will feature Dr. Harrison’s latest paper, John Stone and the “Best of Age of Autism”: Just Plain Wrong About Everything.
by Joel A. Harrison, PhD, MPH
John Stone is listed as the UK Editor for Age of Autism, a daily web newspaper. He is author of numerous articles posted on Age of Autism as well as an active writer of comments, not only to Age of Autism articles; but to articles on other websites, including this blog. I have written a number of commentaries on John Stone and his antivaccinationist views, but after seeing Stone’s article “Paul Offit’s 10,000 Vaccines and the Milgram Experiment, ” now being posted for the fourth time, I just had to get out my pen and pad once more.
In his article, Stone discusses four topics:
- Using the Milgram Experiment as an explanation for why doctor’s vaccinate
- Profits made on the manufacture and sale of vaccines
- Paul Offit’s oft out-of-context quoted by antivaccinationists “10,000 vaccines”
- The Cutter Incident
In my paper, John Stone and the “Best of Age of Autism”: Just Plain Wrong About Everything, I show that not one of his claims has any validity; but, rather, clearly display many of the flaws in Stone’s thinking as well as other antivaccinationists, including: poor scholarship, a deficient understanding of scientific thinking and methodology, deficient knowledge of immunology, microbiology, and epidemiology, deficient understanding of basic economics, the illogic of false analogies, as well as a lack of common sense, plus a blatant hypocrisy.
Stone’s knowledge of the Milgram Experiments appears to be based only on one article he found in a popular magazine and on a movie clip. Based on his writings on the Milgram Experiments, it does not appear that he even bothered to read the original articles, and isn’t aware that it wasn’t the Milgram Experiment; but Experiments. If he had accessed the original articles, he would have found the study procedures and results to be quite different from the description in Psychology Today. Different enough to make him guilty of the False Analogy Fallacy, a logical fallacy that occurs when applying facts from one situation to a substantially different situation, precluding the ability to draw a logical conclusion (Rational Wiki. “False analogy”)
Stone repeats the antivaccinationists’ trope of 10,000 vaccines, ignoring context and a clear display of lack of common sense. As an analogy, imagine a 15 – 20 minute lecture or 2,500 word article about research into potentially almost limitless energy. The last sentence states: “Our research indicates we could theoretically put 10,000 gallons of gasoline in your car tank.” The average gas tank holds probably up to 25 gallons. Given Stone’s lack of common sense, I assume he would take the 10,000 gallons literally. Most rational people would understand, even without context, that the 10,000 gallons did not refer to actual gallons of gasoline but to the energy/mileage equivalent. The physical impossibility of giving 10,000 vaccines at once to an infant or anyone together with the exponential leap from the current 17 vaccines, there not even being remotely so many microbes that vaccines would ever be developed for, says it all.
He continues to display faulty reasoning, actually a display of hypocrisy, when attacking the profit motive behind vaccines. He and other antivaccinationists seem to have NO problem with the purveyors of complementary and alternative medicines making profits, so it seems that the making of profits is only unacceptable when selling something Stone and other antivaccinationists disagree with. Of course doctors get paid for giving vaccinations. Should they give them for free? As a further display of his ignorance, Stone doesn’t seem to be aware that the profit margin for vaccines pales in comparison to other pharmaceuticals and that the amount doctors make on administering vaccines is, at best, marginal. In fact, some doctors take a loss on vaccinations.
Finally, Stone goes back 60 years in time to the Cutter Incident where approximately 200 people, mainly children, were paralyzed from an inadequately killed vaccine and thousands more exposed. Stone is either unaware of or intentionally ignores that this incident led to ever-increasing safety regulations and surveillance of vaccines. If one were to use Stone’s approach to medicine, since many beneficial medicines and interventions had problems years ago, much of modern medicine would be rejected. In fact, historically, one can find problems with much of modern technology. Is Stone’s approach even rational? And, again, Age of Autism chooses to repost Stone’s article as an example of “The Best of Age of Autism.”
And there you have John Stone and the Best of Age of Autism in a NUTshell!
Read Dr. Harrison’s full article, John Stone and the “Best of Age of Autism”: Just Plain Wrong About Everything, click here.
Please note: The opinions in this article reflect the views of the author who is not an employee of Every Child By Two and do not necessarily reflect the views of Every Child By Two. Dr. Harrison volunteers his time to provide in-depth, well-researched analysis of articles which ultimately make false claims about the safety of vaccines. His articles are summarized here on Shot of Prevention with links to the full response on the Every Child By Two website.
I have to admit, I was curious to see how Dr. Paul Offit would be interviewed on Comedy Central’s Colbert Report, which is why I stayed up until midnight to see the show air last night.
I must say, Dr. Offit seemed oddly comfortable with the slightly ridiculous questions he received from Colbert in this comedy format. Of course, I’m not surprised. The world needs more people like Dr. Offit. He is direct, to the point, and not afraid to tell it like it is. Yet, what is most impressive is that he does it so effortlessly and in a way that anyone could understand. All great news for parents who question vaccines.
Obviously Colbert was prepared with all the obvious, slightly ridiculous questions like, (and I’m paraphrasing), “My kid doesn’t ever get sick, so why does he need vaccines?” Read more…
By Christine Vara
Since the media exploded with the “not-so-new” news regarding Andrew Wakefield, I have immersed myself in the coverage; from newspaper editorials, to interviews on major news channels, to science blogs. Honestly, my mind is still working to process all the information I have read and seen these past few weeks. Declarations (made many times before) that there is no link between vaccines and autism should be regarded as great coverage to anyone who advocates for public health, right?
Well, yes. However, it’s not so simple.
What I have witnessed, in the aftermath of the latest Wakefield developments, is a renewed interest by the media to address the issues of vaccines and autism. I’m not going to complain. These opportunities to illustrate Wakefield’s fraud should help get the message out to parents that there is no proven link between vaccines and autism. In turn, one could venture to say that this coverage should only help to promote further vaccination, right?
Again, I would like to say yes, but this alone will not make the difference. It takes time. It takes perseverance. And it requires a great deal of resolve and commitment.
It appears that, for the time being, the general media has altered it’s non-committal stance on vaccines from years past and come down strongly against the notion that vaccines cause autism. Rather than sensationalize a poorly researched suggestion that vaccines are in some way linked to autism, the media has recently grabbed hold of the ammunition provided by Brian Deer, to call out Wakefield on his fraudulent research. Additionally, growing concerns about pertussis outbreaks in states like California, along with recent book releases such as Deadly Choices: How the Anti-Vaccine Movement Threatens Us All by Dr. Paul Offit, and The Panic Virus: A True Story of Medicine, Science and Fear by Seth Mnookin, have all helped draw media attention toward the concerning immunization culture in this country today.
But while Brian Deer’s reports are full of detail that certainly damage Wakefield’s reputation, the fact is Wakefield is still being called upon for interviews, thereby using his voice to declare an elaborate conspiracy against him. Sadly, there will be people who want to believe him. Worse yet, there will be others that are scared not to believe him, left wondering, “Why should I risk autism for my child, when we really don’t see these diseases we are vaccinating against?” Then, there will be some who have never even heard of him, but who have somehow heard of a possible connection between vaccines and autism.
In the end, what matters is not just what information is being shared through the media, as much as how the information is being received by the parents – the ultimate immunization decision makers.
I found it interesting to review the results from a new Harris Interactive/HealthDay poll that appeared in US News with the lead “Slightly More Than Half of Americans Say Vaccines Don’t Cause Autism”.
First, I question what the title was meant to suggest. Wouldn’t this statistic indicate that almost half still believe there is a link? The poll goes on to reveal that “69 percent of respondents said they had heard about the autism-vaccination theory — but only half (47 percent) knew that the original Lancet study had been retracted, and that some of that research is now alleged to be fraudulent.” Are we to assume that those who have heard of the retraction believe vaccines don’t cause autism? And likewise, that those who haven’t heard of the retraction still believe there’s a link?
Secondly, I question whether the timing of the poll was meant to assess whether this latest round of Wakefield coverage was having any impact on the opinions of the general public. Are we to believe that a few days of main stream media attention would actually convince people to cast away their previous concerns about vaccines? Wishful thinking, to say the least. Let’s recognize that concerns aren’t just centered on autism.
Addressing the growing vaccine hesitancy in our country will probably require a well-orchestrated and specific plan. One, in my humble opinion, that requires the voices of many more vaccine advocates – to include parents, public health officials, doctors and scientists in a concentrated collaborative effort.
While it is important to seize this media opportunity to get a message out to parents about the importance, safety and efficacy of vaccines, we can’t rely on the whim of main-stream media to arbitrarily choose the message or the messengers. We must actively seek opportunities across a variety of mediums.
After reading today’s “A Century Of Vaccines” series in The New York Times, I have to agree with author Michael Willrich, associate professor of history at Brandeis University, on several key points he makes in his article entitled, “Why Parents Fear the Needle”. In reviewing the history of vaccine hesitancy, he comments on how we might regain the public’s confidence in vaccines and states,
“America’s public health leaders need to do the same, to reclaim the town square with a candid national conversation about the real risks of vaccines, which are minuscule compared with their benefits. Why waste another breath vilifying the antivaccination minority when steps can be taken to expand the pro-vaccine majority?
Obstetricians, midwives and pediatricians should present the facts about vaccines and the nasty diseases they prevent early and often to expectant parents. Health agencies should mobilize local parents’ organizations to publicize, in realistic terms, the hazards that unvaccinated children can pose to everyone else in their communities. And health officials must redouble their efforts to harness the power of the Internet and spread the good word about vaccines.”
This nation needs to tap into the many public health advocates who have a clear understanding of the risks and benefits of immunization and encourage them to engage parents on a more personal level. Day in and day out I read hundreds of comments that are posted on our Facebook page in response to immunization news that is shared. I am impressed that there are several devoted supporters who go to great lengths to offer valid research that counters the anti-vaccine sentiment that we are bombarded with. However, we need more people willing to go to take such great measures.
Clearly, the majority of parents are vaccinating. According to the Health Day poll, about 92%. But what do they know about vaccinations? Are they vaccinating because they are told to, or because they truly understand and believe in the benefits?
Once we assist parents in understanding immunizations and the science behind them, then we may find that they will gladly roll up their sleeves and those of their children. If we can establish a strong partnership of respect between parents and medical professionals, than I believe we will begin to build upon a culture of renewed trust that will help ensure good health for generations to come.
Unfortunately, if we are not effective in reaching out to parents, they will be more likely to embrace their emotional fears and refuse the scientific logic that suggests that vaccines can save lives. Let’s not sit idly by, but look for new ways and opportunities to reach out to others.
By Christine Vara
Last night, I sat in a room filled with an eager audience. Infectious-disease expert, Dr. Paul A. Offit, was launching his newest novel, Deadly Choices: How the Anti-Vaccine Movement Threatens Us All. I would venture to guess that most people in the room were already familiar with much of the content of this new book. Many in attendance were vaccine advocates. Many have autistic children. Some have sadly lost children as a result of vaccine preventable diseases. Yet, there was still a sense of excitement -perhaps even a ray of hope – that publications like “Deadly Choices” could help to educate people and work to debunk the myths regarding vaccinations.
I couldn’t help but consider the irony of the night. Just hours before, through my involvement with Every Child By Two, I was already aware that a big story was brewing. A British investigative reporter by the name of Brian Deer, had written an article published in the British Medical Journal detailing how the now-retracted British study that had linked autism to childhood vaccines was an “elaborate fraud”. The investigation concluded that Dr. Andrew Wakefield misrepresented, or altered, the medical histories of all 12 of the patients whose cases formed the basis of his 1998 study.
Last night, as we listened intently to the perspective of a man who has devoted his life to public health, we were all eager for his suggestions on how we could collectively combat anti-vaccine misinformation. Standing before us was a man who demonstrated genuine compassion for children and who generously donates the proceeds of his book to autism research. Yet, outside of the room, journalists from most major news stations were busy putting Andrew Wakefield in the spotlight (once again), based on the immoral and fraudulent nature of his study that has had an overwhelming negative impact on the vaccination of children.
So what will it take to undo the damage of Andrew Wakefield?
Unfortunately, many of the parents I come in contact with haven’t really followed the story in detail. Yet, they are somehow familiar with the frightening play-ground suggestions that vaccines cause autism. Which is why I have been pleased with all the news coverage.
Yesterday and today various reporters highlighted the recent developments in the Wakefield saga, (including CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360, ABC World News Tonight, Good Morning America, USA Today, Wall Street Journal and numerous others), and each illustrated that his study linking vaccines to autism was completely falsified. My hope is that the continued coverage of this story will work to change the opinions of those who aren’t already well versed on the subject. Even if the story is not necessarily “new” news, today’s reports are just another opportunity to reinforce the fact that the research was fraudulent. Vaccines don’t cause autism. They save lives.
Perhaps, if you have refused or delayed vaccines for your child based on concerns about autism, the current news may give you reason to reconsider. I would even encourage you to visit the Vaccinate Your Baby website today to view a list of studies that have disproven any link between vaccines and autism. It’s important that your child be protected from potentially dangerous and life-threatening diseases, so be sure to get the information you need to make an informed decision. You may even want to read the official statement below that has been issued by Every Child By Two, an organization who supports this blog and who has worked hard for the past 20 years to promote children’s health through immunizations.
Let us know what today’s news reports mean to you. Have they reinforced your view of vaccines or have they forced you to reconsider? Are you pleased with the coverage or are you fed up with the media?
Every Child By Two, the Carter/Bumpers Champions for Immunization, works to ensure that all children receive timely immunizations and continues to seek methods to institutionalize vaccine delivery and ensure access to vaccines for all children. Their statement follows:
Wakefield Study Claiming Vaccines and Autism Link Is a “Fraud” : Misinformation Leaves a Deadly Legacy
January 6, 2011 (Washington, D.C.): An investigation by the British Medical Journal has confirmed not only that Andrew Wakefield’s 1998 study linking vaccines with autism and gastrointestinal disorders was patently incorrect, but that Wakefield altered or misrepresented data to come to his harmful conclusions. Unfortunately, parents across the world have been deceived by Wakefield, and as a result, the United States has seen the return of disease outbreaks such as measles and pertussis that have taken the lives of children.
Word of Wakefield’s false research findings spread quickly and widely, and since then, thousands of parents have chosen to exempt their children from vaccines. As a direct result, in 2008 hundreds of unvaccinated children and children too young to be vaccinated in California were infected and hospitalized with measles, a disease on its way to eradication in the U.S. Since 2010, almost 24,000 unvaccinated children across more than 18 states have become infected with pertussis and more than a dozen children lost their lives.
“Over the twenty years that Every Child By Two (ECBT) has been working to promote timely immunizations a number of allegations regarding the safety of vaccines have been purported. The medical community took each of these allegations very seriously and each was thoroughly investigated. In each instance vaccines have been declared safe. Getting our infants vaccinated on time is unequivocally the best decision a parent can make to ensure the health of their children. ECBT will continue to strive to provide the public with science-based information about vaccines,” says Amy Pisani, executive director of ECBT.
For comprehensive, scientific-based information on vaccines, visit www.vaccinateyourbaby.org.