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Posts Tagged ‘Vaxxed’

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…

Sorry Kennedy, Being Anti-Vaccine Does Not Mean You’re Pro-Safe Vaccine

February 21, 2017 2 comments

Last week, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., of the World Mercury Project, orchestrated a major publicity stunt designed to question the safety of vaccines.  Since he had no real evidence to present, and the same accusations which have been repeatedly refuted for years, he attempted to garner attention by offering journalists a glimpse at a new anti-vaccine celebrity and the promise of a $100,000 challenge. 

During an hour-long press event on Wednesday, Kennedy was joined by other vaccine critics such as ‘Vaxxed’ movie producer Del BigTree, San Antonio District Attorney Nico LaHood, Tony Muhammed of the Nation of Islam and celebrity actor, filmmaker and father of an autistic child, Robert DeNiro.

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Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. addressed a small gathering of people at last week’s  press conference.

While each had their turn to suggest there was a worldwide scientific conspiracy to lie about vaccine safety, Kennedy concluded by announcing that he would give a $100,000 award to any American journalist who could produce a study that proved that the level of thimerosal used in vaccines was deemed to be safe.

(Of course, since he failed to mention the fee required to participate in the challenge, made no reference to a scientific expert(s) who would assist in evaluating the science, and refused to accept the mountains of studies that already exist on the subject, his promise of a payout was seen by many as an elaborate publicity scam.)

On Thursday, Kennedy continued his crusade on Capitol Hill by renting out a Congressional briefing room and attempting to lure legislators with the involvement of celebrity Robert DeNiro. While staunch vaccine refusers were invigorated by these meetings, hanging on the hope that Kennedy could possibly make inroads with the current administration and put an end to vaccine injury once and for all, the reality is that hardly anyone was listening.

With about 40 people in attendance on Wednesday, and not one member of Congress showing up on Thursday, it’s safe to say that Kennedy’s message is only echoing among those who already support him.  Even DeNiro appeared to have lost interest since he was notably absent from Thursday’s event on Capitol Hill.

As expected, there have already been dozens of commentary that address Kennedy’s misinformation.  However, there is still one statement he made that I feel the need to address.

Kennedy claimed, “I’m not anti-vaccine.  I’m pro-safe vaccines.”  

It’s understandable for people to say,“Yes, I vaccinate, but I don’t feel completely certain that vaccines are safe.” Since we’re unable to guarantee that vaccines will be 100% safe, this “pro-safe vaccine” battle cry is an effective way to appeal to parents who don’t have the time, the understanding or the inclination to delve into the science that supports the widespread use of vaccines.

cf8oebjwqaa6l2nBy using this “pro-safe vaccine” label, Kennedy and others like him play into the emotional need of parents to protect their children while dangerously misleading them into thinking that vaccines are far more dangerous than the diseases they prevent.  In essence, this statement is used to help anti-vaccine crusaders turn vaccine safety into a personal and anecdotal issue, when we should all be demanding that vaccine safety be investigated and addressed with scientific objectivity.

Kennedy continues to try to discredit his critics by questioning, “Why wouldn’t anyone be agreeable to studying vaccine safety?”  He seems to suggest that anyone who isn’t “with” him in arguing that vaccines aren’t safe, is simply against safe vaccines.

This couldn’t be further from the truth.  Vaccine experts ARE agreeable to studying vaccine safety. In fact, that is largely what they do. But unlike Kennedy, they don’t rely on anecdotal evidence.  They demand scientific evidence and they go to great lengths to get it. 

If we were to go back in history, we would see plenty of examples of how our current vaccine safety protocols have successfully identified problems and taken steps to address them.  Consider the history of the rotavirus vaccine.  The vaccine was withdrawn in 1999 after scientists associated it with a rare intestinal problem called intussusception.  This would not have been identified if it weren’t for the vaccine safety monitoring systems that we currently have in place.  And what about the nasal spry flu vaccine which was pulled just prior to this flu season?  The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) decided not to recommend the vaccine based on low efficacy studies, especially among children.  Again, an example of action taken by one of our current vaccine oversight committees.  There are plenty of other examples of vaccines being pulled from the market – the whole cell pertussis vaccine (DTP), Lyme vaccine, and oral polio to name a few. These instances occurred because of the vaccine safety protocols in place. Read more…