#Vaxxed, reviewed: What happened inside the movie

Jennifer and I saw Vaxxed in Kansas City on June 11, along with her sister Julie. We have a lot of observations and thoughts about the movie, so we’ll probably be doing several articles discussing the film itself, the audience’s reaction to it, the protestors, our responses, and a lot more. Jenny’s post is here, and covers some of what happened after and as we left the movie.

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Not exactly a full house; theater staff said about 1,100 tickets were sold for the entire week. The number may go up, but that’s consistent with the movie’s low numbers.

My first, strong reaction was that very few people leaving the movie would have any idea what happened with the “CDC Whistleblower.” The audience left knowing next to nothing about the events it’s supposedly about; I confirmed that by talking to people afterwards, and they had very little grasp on the facts.

That’s no surprise. The movie is propaganda—it’s not educational, it’s manipulative and inflammatory. We can’t fact-check every statement or point out every strategic omission in the movie, so here are some simple and obvious illustrations of how it deceives audiences.

To fans of the movie who have seen it: I don’t expect this will change your mind. I don’t think much of anything would, really; I asked people on the ConspiraSea Cruise what evidence would change their minds, and not a single person could describe evidence that would persuaded them they were wrong. (Even Wakefield gave me a roundabout, evasive response.) Doesn’t that sound like ideology to you? Even if this doesn’t change your mind, I hope it makes you think. Do you know what William Thompson really thinks about vaccines? Or about Wakefield or Hooker? Do you know what data the CDC supposedly destroyed, or whether anyone has ever found any actual problems with the study it performed? Do you know what other independent organizations have found the same thing the CDC did—a total lack of any causal connection between vaccines and autism? Most fans of the movie don’t know anything about these subjects. If it leaves you scared and angry but misinformed, doesn’t that make it propaganda? And if you think it did leave you informed, well, see how many of these facts you actually knew.

Where is William Thompson, and why did they rearrange his words?

The movie is supposedly built around the statements of William Thompson, the “CDC Whistleblower.” He didn’t participate in the film, so they used recordings of calls he made to an anti-vaccine activist named Brian Hooker. I don’t have any problem with using recordings to construct a documentary, but that’s not exactly what Vaxxed did. The filmmakers selectively edited those phone calls, splicing different comments together without preserving the original context. Without a transcript of the movie I can’t catch every instance. Fortunately Matt Carey at Left Brain, Right Brain caught such a splice in the trailer, so I was listening for it.

Early in the movie, you hear Thompson’s voice say, ““Brian, you and I don’t know each other very well. I don’t know how this is all gonna play out. You have a son with autism and I have great shame now when I meet families with kids with autism because I have been part of the problem.” It sounded like one statement to me, but I knew from reading Carey’s piece that it’s not. It’s at least three different lines, taken from different places and jammed together. You can see where two of the lines come from, in context, in Carey’s piece. I can’t tell where the other line comes from, because I couldn’t even find it in the released transcripts of the Thompson calls.

It’s not just that they edited calls together to make new statements. The creative editing also changes the meaning of what Thompson was saying. Carey explains in more detail, but for example, when Thompson says he was “part of the problem” he’s saying that he feels guilty that the CDC hasn’t done more research into a supposed (and thoroughly debunked) connection between vaccines and autism. The Vaxxed crew spins it, connecting that statement to one that makes it sound as if this is the call in which he first met Hooker (it’s not, far from it). I think they’re trying to make it sound as if Thompson’s ashamed that he and/or the CDC is somehow to blame for Hooker’s son’s autism. In the transcript, which you can see at Left Brain Right Brain, even Hooker acknowledges that’s not true.

You’d need a transcript of the movie and a lot of time to check every sound bite for other creative edits; I don’t have it. So I can’t say for sure they only did this cut-and-paste job in the first minutes of the movie. Do you think that’s the only time they did it? I don’t. I think just the only time they’ve been caught so far.

What does William Thompson believe?

Vaxxed is an angry, emotional appeal designed to get parents to avoid vaccinations. Not just the MMR, all vaccinations. In fact, the Vaxxed panel at the screening we attended explicitly urged parents to stop seeing pediatricians completely! Thompson’s voice is a major part of that appeal, the supposedly factual foundation that is supposed to make parents distrust scientists and experts.

Interviewing an attendee after the movie, I focused on asking what he thought Thompson believes about vaccines. He had no idea Thompson supports vaccination, including the MMR. Of course not. The movie is about scary music and appeals to emotion, not confusing facts.

The movie misled him. Thompson does not think that parents should avoid vaccines. I think he’d be horrified, even furious to hear his words being chopped up, edited, and used to convince parents to stay away from pediatricians altogether.

Here’s what Thompson actually said about vaccines: “I want to be absolutely clear that I believe vaccines have saved and continue to save countless lives. I would never suggest that any parent avoid vaccinating children of any race. Vaccines prevent serious diseases, and the risks associated with their administration are vastly outweighed by their individual and societal benefits.”

Thompson made that statement himself, through his own lawyers, while protected by federal laws that would make it impossible for the CDC to punish him for speaking out (not that they’ve ever done so, or even tried). So it’s not something he had to say to keep his job, he’s protected there. He said it because he believes it. Vaxxed withheld it from you because they don’t want you to know what he thinks.

I confronted Wakefield about this after the movie. He denied any responsibility for giving audiences the full story, because “that’s not what the movie was about.” He’s right. The movie was about fear and anger, but it’s hard to make people scared enough about vaccines if you tell them that the CDC Whistleblower himself says they save lives and any risks are “vastly outweighed” by the benefits. So instead of his actual beliefs, they chop up recordings of his voice and blend those edited remarks in with scary music and graphics to make you scared and angry. Then people leave not only uninformed, but misinformed, actively believing that Thompson is opposed to vaccination. It’s propaganda, and it’s intentional. Vaxxed wants parents to be angry, even if it has to mislead them to get them there.

What about his allegations? Why doesn’t anyone take them seriously?

Because the world has looked at them and decided “there’s no whistle to blow.” Vaxxed makes a big deal about the documents Thompson released to a congressman. It doesn’t reveal that Wakefield didn’t release those documents to the public. Matt Carey, the autism advocate referenced above, did that just by asking the congressman for copies. Carey, not Wakefield, made sure the documents got released. He did it because he wanted people to know what’s in them. Wakefield didn’t do it, apparently because he wants people focused on his edited and carefully massaged version of the facts instead of reading the actual documents for themselves. So what’s in them?

Nothing.

The analysis plan that Vaxxed says the researchers deviated from? See if you can go through the actual documents, or Carey’s explanation if you don’t have the time, and find where the CDC team actually deviated from the analysis plan to cover anything up. I couldn’t. And the Vaxxed team apparently couldn’t, because they use slick graphics and voiceovers instead of just showing the final analysis plan in context. For example, they play Thompson’s voice saying that he would share a “draft” analysis plan with Hooker, but we can actually look at the drafts and final plans. And what that shows is that the Vaxxed narrative is just plain wrong. The CDC didn’t decide at the last minute to dump some of the children out of the study to reduce its statistical power; as Carey points out, “the full paragraph references table included in the analysis plan made it clear that race was to be analyzed for the birth certificate sample, not the total sample as Mr. Wakefield is leading us to believe.” (He’s analyzing a slightly earlier version of Wakefield’s charges, but I think the point is the same given the charges Vaxxed made.)

As for the destroyed documents, well, here’s an interesting question: what documents were destroyed? What data did the CDC try to delete? I asked as people were leaving the theater. I asked Twitter via the #Vaxxed hashtag. I even asked Wakefield, in person, while he was speaking at the ConspiraSea Cruise with other conspiracy theorists.

I have still not received an answer. No one seems to be able to say. The person I interviewed leaving the movie didn’t know. No one on Twitter seems to know. And Wakefield didn’t know. When I asked him what data were destroyed, he seemed taken aback by the question. I don’t think it had even occurred to him. At first he said that tables were deleted from the draft study—but that’s not destroying information. (Nor is it a problem, see the bottom of this piece.) Then he said that Thompson claimed all the data were going to be destroyed, and would have been if he hadn’t saved them.

But Wakefield has the kind of reputation that makes you double-check the things he tells you. So we checked. And I’m glad we did. Here is what Thompson actually said: “All the associated MMR-Autism Study computer files have been retained on the Immunization Safety Office computer servers since the inception of the study and they continue to reside there today.”

It seems Thompson explained that the CDC team met to destroy hard copies, which is what you do when you don’t need paper copies anymore—you leave the data stored digitally and clear out the paper. He might have been afraid that the CDC would delete data from the servers, but if he was, he was wrong. Even he admits the CDC never did that, and there’s no indication they ever wanted to. (We know that because the data aren’t a problem. Even Wakefield and Hooker couldn’t gin up an analysis that actually showed a serious issue with that data. See the next section of this piece.)

So once again, the facts don’t support the terror and anger Vaxxed is trying to gin up. So they get buried, and instead the movie tries to make audiences believe that the CDC destroyed actual data. It’s not true, but it’s convenient, and over and over again Vaxxed chooses messages that are ideologically convenient over true facts.

Don’t agree with me? I hardly expect the hardcore conspiracy theorists who were screaming in passion and rage during the screening to be persuaded by this. But think for a moment: when you left the theater, did you know that Thompson didn’t participate? Did you know that he opposes the anti-vaccine mission of the film? Did you know that the filmmakers were editing the tapes of his phone calls to splice together sentences from different parts of the conversation, making them sound like a single statement? Did you know that Thompson actually recommends that parents not avoid vaccines? Did you know that he flatly stated that the study files were always stored safely on the CDC servers, and never deleted? No one I talked to knew any of these things… except Andrew Wakefield. Who decided not to share those facts with you. As he said, that’s not what the movie’s about. He was honest about that. It’s not about facts.

So why aren’t there any experts taking Brian Hooker seriously?

When I say “any experts,” I mean actual experts in this field: epidemiology, neuroscientists, development specialists, etc. And they completely reject the things Hooker and Wakefield have been claiming. That’s why the movie relies on Stephanie Seneff, a computer scientist who laughably claims 80% of boys will be autistic soon, rather than a scientist who’s actually trained to analyze this kind of data. Or Luc Montagnier, who despite some kooky ideas is a legitimate virologist—but not an expert in autism or vaccines or epidemiology, and is onscreen for about ten seconds. I don’t think they could find any actual experts in this field who would read the kind of propaganda Vaxxed uses a straight face. We know that because even the makers of Vaxxed couldn’t show real problems with the CDC’s study, when they had a chance to really scrutinize it in the scientific literature.

The ultimate question here is, was the CDC right to conclude that there’s no causal link between autism and vaccines? (It’s the same conclusion scientists everywhere reach when they study this question, too–not just the CDC.) Vaxxed relies on one in-depth analysis to challenge that claim: the work of Brian Hooker, who took Thompson’s data and wrote it up in a journal. But this isn’t Hooker’s area of expertise, and in my opinion—and the opinion of every exert I’ve seen comment on it—his re analysis was neither well-done nor reliable.

Here, for example, is an analysis of the statistical analysis Hooker did. It’s specific, detailed, and quite clear in its conclusions: “Hooker’s results have no scientific value at all.”

I would like to link to a contrary opinion from the anti-vax crowd. But I can’t find a single statistician who would defend the analysis Hooker did. Nor any epidemiologist. Nor any vaccine expert. Nor any autism expert. Nor any neurologist. The usual explanation for this is, of course, that it’s all part of the giant vaccine conspiracy. Which shows how silly conspiracy theories get; after a while, the conspiracy theorists have to assume that all the pediatricians are in on it, all the epidemiologists are in on it, all the neurologists are in on it, all the immunologists are in on it, all the WHO are in on it, all the CDC are in on it, all the federal courts are in on it, and now all the statisticians are in on it… the conspiracy theory grows to any size it has to, because the conspiracy theorist isn’t about to admit, “Wait, maybe Hooker was just wrong.” But that’s what happened here. Hooker was just wrong.

The journal that published Hooker’s paper retracted it. Not because of secret pressure because by evil pharma companies, even Wakefield admits that. When I asked Wakefield that, he said, “It was retracted on the basis that [Hooker] did not disclose a conflict of interest.” As I understand it, the conflict is that Hooker has an autistic child and went to court to try to get compensation under the theory that a vaccine caused it. He apparently decided not to tell the journal about that, which is a major ethical problem; the journal decided that was and “undeclared competing interests on the part of the author which compromised the peer review process.” (Wakefield got in similar trouble back with the Lancet paper, when he failed to disclose the massive amounts of money he was making related to attacks on the MMR vaccine.) When I asked him whether Hooker’s statistical results were any good, he pointed out that they’d passed the journal’s “rigorous criteria,” referring to the peer review process.

Again, it’s Andrew Wakefield. You’ve got to check these things. And again, I’m glad we did. What the journal actually said was that Hooker had failed to disclose a conflict of interest, and that “post-publication peer review raised concerns about the validity of the methods and statistical analysis, therefore the Editors no longer have confidence in the soundness of the findings.” So the undeclared conflict of interest wasn’t the only problem—the journal that published the paper, whose “rigorous standards” Wakefield cited, has no confidence in Hooker’s work. Oh, and when Wakefield pointed out that Hooker’s paper had passed peer review? The journal publicly stated that Hooker’s “undeclared competing interests” had “compromised the peer review process.”

Wakefield must have read the annotated interview where we caught him on this. When I asked him about it at the screening, his story had changed. His new explanation was that when the journal sent Hooker a letter about the retraction, the only problem they mentioned was that he used a single population for his analysis. That can’t be a real problem, Wakefield implied, because that’s exactly what the CDC did.

I haven’t read that letter. And I’d like to, because I’ve learned it’s very important to fact-check Wakefield’s explanations. But let’s assume he’s telling the truth about the letter—is it true that the CDC use one population for its study? Good lord, no. It used a much larger, more diverse data set. Hooker pared it down into a tiny population and that does indeed seem to have been a serious problem with his biased study.

On these statistical problems with Hooker’s work, I’m no statistician, so I can’t really follow the critique. Why do I think it’s right, then? Because Hooker and Wakefield have caved. They’d surely love to have actual published science supporting their conspiracy theory. The data just don’t support it.

So they don’t bother. Rather than publish science, they made a documentary. Documentaries don’t get the same kind of scrutiny as scientific papers, and aren’t held to the same standards of honesty and forthrightness. They can get away with things in a documentary they can’t in a published paper. (You can’t quietly edit and rearrange numbers, as they did Thompson’s voice!) So why would they even bother to try to fix that paper? Indeed, when I spoke to Wakefield at his conspiracy theory conference, he didn’t seem to care much whether Hooker’s work was valid. He hadn’t looked into the criticisms. And I’m not surprised. No research paper is going to generate standing ovations for him. He needs a movie for that.

Is Wakefield really that dishonest?

I think so. He was exhaustively investigated, had the opportunity to defend himself, and even took his accusers to court. And he lost. And lost. And lost. The facts have been beaten to death, and only die-hard conspiracy theorists think he was exonerated. (He wasn’t.)

But here’s a more personal anecdote from the screening itself. My sister-in-law, Julie, attended the screening with us. We sat separately because we thought there was some chance the Vaxxed staff would keep me out of the screening, as they did when they showed it to the conspiracy theorists on the ConspiraSea Cruise. (I’m a big conspicuous bald guy, I don’t really blend into crowds.) They didn’t, though. Instead, once the Q&A started, Wakefield asked if anyone attended the movie as a pro-vaxer and didn’t have their mind changed. I looked over and there’s Julie, bold as brass, standing up to challenge Wakefield.

Now Julie doesn’t follow this stuff very closely. She cares about science and health, but she’s not as in the weeds on the anti-vax stuff as Jenny and I are. She made a comment to Wakefield about how she’d heard that he made over $600,000 as part of his efforts to make money attacking the MMR vaccine in England. He took the opportunity to make the following self-serving speech:

“I was asked by lawyers to take part in a litigation [inaudible] in the UK, in which I worked as a medical expert, between 1996 and 2004. I, along with about 50 other experts, some working for the children, some working against the children for the pharmaceutical industry, everyone was paid. They were paid a standard rate. I was paid the same rate as everyone else, perhaps slightly less. Over the nine years, I made considerably less than the figure you quoted. All of that money that I earned, not that anyone else earned, was donated to an initiative to build a center at the Royal Free Hospital School of Medicine, to research and care for children with neurodevelopmental disorders and gastrointestinal injuries. Sadly that initiative failed because I was forced to leave England. So did I make any money out of it? No. Did I lose my career? Yes. Do I mind? No. [applause]” (emphasis added)

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No one should have to tell you how great, decent, noble and honest they are. The truth is in their actions, and in Wakefield’s case, the numerous investigations and court cases.

A few things jumped out at me as he gave this speech. First, I was shocked that he would characterize other people as working “against the children.” Wakefield was found, after a careful investigation, to have acted with “callous disregard to pain and distress of children” and “contrary to the clinical interests” of children. Not children generally, specific children under his care. It’s a cold, ugly thing for him to smear the people who disagreed with him as working “against the children,” given his history. Similarly, I’m very skeptical of his story about the treatment center he was supposedly going to create. Wakefield has for example made serious money off of a nonprofit supposedly benefitting autistic kids; he apparently made $316,000 in one three-year period, administering just $80,000 in grant money in that time. Would this center have been a similar moneymaker for him? He’s also collaborated, directly and indirectly, with deeply scary autism profiteers like Arthur Krigsman (who lost hospital privileges for “performing medically unwarranted endoscopies on autistic children”) and the Geiers (who charged exorbitant fees to subject autistic kids to a chemical castration drug, based on a useless “junk science” theory). I don’t know what this center would have looked like, but I’m glad autistic kids in England never had to find out.

But what really struck me about this speech was the idea that he made less than $600,000 from his anti-MMR efforts in England. His denial was so carefully structured it got my lawyer senses tingling. Why focus just on the rate he was paid, when there were more sources of money flowing to him? To me, that sounds like someone hedging bets. It sounds like a tacit admission that there was a lot more money he doesn’t want to talk about.

So I went digging, based on that and a half-remembered report I read once about how the money he made was structured to go through a company in his wife’s name and other channels, rather than to him directly. What I found was that not only does that appear to be true, it looks like Wakefield made far more than he represented to the Vaxxed audience.

This isn’t my personal research. The journalist Brian Deer did the legwork on this, and did it incredibly thoroughly. Here is a table showing ₤439,553 paid to “Dr. A. Wakefield.” That’s over $800,000 in 2016 dollars. Here is a letter from Wakefield showing that he expected to bill through his wife’s company; I think it’s for the same payments, but it could be for more or different money. There’s nothing wrong with that in principle, except that he seems to have forgotten about this money when he answered Julie’s question. And that’s not all; Wakefield was a director of a company called Unigenetics, which also took money: “After Wakefield submitted a confidential report to the Legal Aid Board, Unigenetics was awarded—without checks—£800,000 of taxpayers’ money to perform polymerase chain reaction tests on bowel tissue and blood samples from children passing through Malcolm ward.” That’s well over a $1 million in 2016 dollars. So even though he told Julie he made less “considerably less” than $600,000 over nine years, it looks to me like he made considerably more. I think he just phrased his answer very carefully to make himself sound good, knowing his audience of conspiracy theorists would eat it up.

Not all of that money would have gone to Wakefield’s pockets, but that’s not all the sources of money, either. There are more stories about the money Wakefield made, and the millions upon millions he hoped to make, here and here and elsewhere. For him to cry poverty, and simultaneously declare himself a martyr for the children, is the kind of shameless hypocrisy that just makes you feel sad.

So what really happened with the CDC study?

As far as I can tell, Thompson believed there were indications in the data that African-American kids were more susceptible to autism depending on when they were vaccinated. The other authors disagreed with him, as do all the relevant experts, and he didn’t take their disagreement very well. That’s too bad, because the huge body of research on this point is very clear that all the experts were right—vaccines don’t cause autism. But Thompson took his complaint to Hooker, who tortured the data to try to prove the point. He failed, because he was wrong. Ultimately the CDC didn’t do anything wrong: they preserved their data, they followed the analysis plan, and they found (as have other unaffiliated researchers) that there’s no link between autism and vaccines. That’s why Thompson tells parents they shouldn’t avoid vaccines, and it’s why Hooker and Wakefield couldn’t put up an analysis of the paper that would withstand scrutiny by people who understand the science. And it’s why their results were consistent with the consensus of studies done by other labs and scientists around the world, who aren’t part of the CDC or even in the United States but have also found that vaccines–including the MMR–are safe and effective.

But those are the facts. And that’s not what the movie is about. It’s about making parents angry and afraid and desperate. It’s about convincing them that no vaccine is safe. It’s about convincing them to go see holistic healers and avoid pediatricians. It’s about making money. It’s about repairing Wakefield’s tattered reputation. It’s about the applause he gets when he tells an audience of conspiracy theorists that he’s a martyr for them. It’s about a lot of things.

It’s just not about facts.

 

Jenny’s piece is going up at the same time as mine. I think it’s interesting that we didn’t really compare notes. We just divided up general topics and wrote down our own individual impressions. I’m not surprised that we came to the same conclusions. Great minds think alike. And hers is pretty great, which is why I’m so happy and proud that today is our first wedding anniversary. It’s been a great year, even if Vaxxed tickets were a pretty crappy present.

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Here are the unappreciated heroes of the Vaxxed screening–protesters from the Autistic Self Advocacy Network showing up to speak out against the movie’s treatment of autistic people. For all the abuse the Vaxxed staff and fans hurled at them, they were calm, collected, and very impressive. Their presence and demeanor did more to defuse the Vaxxed message than any blog post ever could. Thank you!
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69 thoughts on “#Vaxxed, reviewed: What happened inside the movie

  1. reissd June 13, 2016 / 5:36 pm

    Thank you. I really appreciate both the thoroughness of this review and the tone – direct, non-confrontational, and thought provoking.

  2. guillermo3rd June 13, 2016 / 5:50 pm

    Wakefied and Too Many Others to List,though Ickes CAN’T be omitted are part of ‘Net-Engendered/’Net-Sustained Paranoid Schizophrenic Hysteria that poses as Established Fact POISONING the American mind.

  3. Colin June 13, 2016 / 6:01 pm

    Just remembered two things I was going to add to the piece!

    First, it’s ludicrous that they put up two doctors (Jim Sears and one of the doctors from Bigtree’s show) tell audiences that the information in the documentary made those doctors reject vaccines. But they don’t tell the audience that both of those doctors were ALREADY anti-vaccine. (The doctor from Bigree’s show less so than Jim Sears, who’s notorious–but she’s also got a business connection with Bigtree.)

    Second, they repeat for the umpteenth time that supposedly people who are actually injured by a vaccine can’t sue pharma. It’s not true! It’s harder to sue pharma, but only because parents get the faster, easier, and better Vaccine Court as an alternative. And they CAN nevertheless sue pharma. The myth is so entrenched that even showing someone an actual case in which parents sued pharma doesn’t budge it. And Vaxxed is just another tool for further entrenching misinformation like that.

    Maybe it’s best I forgot to add those to the article, it’s already very long.

    • Colin June 13, 2016 / 6:10 pm

      (And someone just corrected me via direct message to say I confused Jim and Bob Sears, and that Jim wasn’t notorious for being anti-vaccine–it’s a fair point, but he was already largely in that camp: http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2008/12/23/run-dont-walk-from-these-doctors/. Apparently he was also a regular on Bigtree’s show, so hardly a disinterested observer. At any rate, apologies for mixing them up.)

  4. janem1276 June 13, 2016 / 7:10 pm

    Great dissection. Haven’t had a chance to see it yet and as a pediatrician, I feel it’s important to know what people are saying against vaccines

  5. Anonymous June 14, 2016 / 3:52 am

    You going to need to accept a large percentage of parents cannot be wrong. It’s about the pharamacticual companies and government covering up wrong doing. ASD individuals are taking this as an personal attack on them. That they are all victims and injuiried in some way. I wished they would stop being selfish. And think of those that can’t speak for themselves. That have been poisoned. It’s not just about the MMR is it. It’s about what are the government doing to our food and is medical intervention in our best interests.

    • Alex White June 14, 2016 / 7:52 am

      You’re going to need to accept that its a tiny percentage of parents, and they are still wrong.

    • gewisn June 14, 2016 / 8:28 am

      Anonymous,
      When you wrote “You going to need to accept a large percentage of parents cannot be wrong,” I’m afraid I don’t know just what you mean. I don’t want to presume that I do know and then jump to conclusions in responding. If I were to hazard a guess, I’d guess that you had several different thoughts portrayed in your paragraph and just didn’t have time to flesh out all of them,

      So, I’m asking, if you have the time and inclination, that perhaps you could expand a bit on each of your points and explain a little more of what you mean. I, for one, would like to read them.

      Another request: if you care to do so, picking a nickname allows us to speak back and forth a bit, and not get too confused by different people being listed as “Anonymous.” But that request is just for the sake of ease of conversation, and nothing more. I don’t think anyone will be upset if you choose not to pick a nickname. Anonymous or named, I’d still like to hear a little more from you.

    • JerryA June 14, 2016 / 8:43 am

      The percentage of people with hard-core anti-vaccine views is about 9%, according to a poll conducted by the Washington Post. Roughly twice as many people mistakenly think the sun goes around the Earth, according to a Gallup poll, so (a) these are not a “large percentage” of parents, and (b) of course many people are wrong about many things, all of the time. See
      https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2015/02/09/heres-how-many-americans-are-actually-anti-vaxxers/
      and
      http://www.gallup.com/poll/3742/new-poll-gauges-americans-general-knowledge-levels.aspx

    • Chris June 14, 2016 / 10:21 am

      “You going to need to accept a large percentage of parents cannot be wrong.”

      No, a large percentage of parents are not wrong: they are the at least 90% who vaccinated their under 35 month old kids with at least one MMR vaccine.

      “It’s about the pharamacticual companies and government covering up wrong doing.”

      And Wakefield has done no wrong? Then where does he still legally practice medicine?

      “ASD individuals are taking this as an personal attack on them.”

      Because it is, which is clearly evidenced by your next few sentences.

    • JGC June 14, 2016 / 4:39 pm

      “You going to need to accept a large percentage of [Alien Abductees] cannot be wrong. It’s about the [shape-shifting reptillian overlords] and government covering up wrong doing. [People abducted by aliens and subjected to anal probes] are taking this as an personal attack on them. That they are all victims and injured in some way….”

      Shall I go on? The ‘evidence’ in support of alien abduction is, after all, indistinguishable from that in support of a causal association between vaccination and autism spectrum disorders, taking no form other than personal testimonials and anecdotal accounts.

      • ZOLTON June 14, 2016 / 5:43 pm

        I agree

    • Anne October 18, 2016 / 10:58 am

      Completely agree. Thousands and thousands of parents are not wrong. The current vaccine schedule is a menace to our future and our children.

      • Colin October 18, 2016 / 11:05 am

        Of course thousands of parents can be wrong. I’ve interviewed people alleging that vaccines caused their child’s autism. I always ask, “How do you know? How do you know that they wouldn’t be autistic anyway?” Not one person has given me a way to distinguish correlation from causation. In fact, I have yet to meet an anti-vax parent who has even thought about the problem prior to being asked about it.

      • gewisn October 18, 2016 / 9:54 pm

        “Thousands and thousands of parents are not wrong.”

        If we checked with a million parents whose children had the vaccines and found zero correlation with autism, would you change your mind? Or would that evidence not matter to you?

      • JGC October 19, 2016 / 9:54 am

        Your evidence that the current routine childhood vaccination schedule recommended by the CDC is “a menace to our future and our children” would be what exactly, Anne?

        I mean, you do actually have some–right? Something more than completely unsubstantiated claims founded in nothing other than a post hoc ergo propter hoc logical fallacy?

  6. Laura Elliott June 14, 2016 / 10:40 am

    I have to disagree with the accusation that the movie was promoting fear and encouraging parents not to vaccinate. The argument was why do we have to give so many vaccinations at once. Wakefield said that when the MMR vaccination specifically was adminstered individually (a different vaccine for the measles, mumps, and rubella)there wasn’t an issue, it’s when the pharmaceutical companies combined these vaccines is where statistically we saw a rise in autism. Not to mention the countless parents who have claimed that their once developmentally thriving child was not the same after their 15month vaccinations. I am a special education teacher and the movie was not the first time I heard this. If anything these parents need to be heard. The pharmaceutical companies need to be held more accountable for these vaccines.

    • Jennifer Raff June 14, 2016 / 10:50 am

      Laura, I have been very interested in this particular point. I’ve seen it made in several places, and I came to the movie trying to get a sense of what the people behind it believed.

      I asked Sheila (one of the panel members) after the Q&A and she said unequivocally “NO vaccine is safe.” In the Q&A she also cited GMOs as contributing to the autism epidemic. Sheila’s view was shared by most members of the audience. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to get a clear response from Andrew Wakefield on this question.

      Do you agree with Sheila, or do you think that it’s just MMR that’s a problem? I’m genuinely curious about this.

      • Sullivan (Matt Carey) June 14, 2016 / 3:06 pm

        “Unfortunately I wasn’t able to get a clear response from Andrew Wakefield on this question.”

        I’ve been hoping someday someone would ask,

        “So, Dr. Wakefield, let’s say you have your medical license back. Let’s say your office does general pediatrics. Let’s say the single vaccines are available and a parent asks you for them. Do you listen to the parent and administer them?”

        • Colin June 14, 2016 / 3:13 pm

          I think he would refuse to answer; he wouldn’t even disclaim chemtrails as a possible cause of autism.

          • Sullivan (Matt Carey) June 14, 2016 / 10:08 pm

            He “liked” a chemtrails page from his Facebook account a while back.

      • Noah Ruderman June 19, 2016 / 6:00 pm

        Japan did exactly what the film proposes in 1993. They banned the MMR vaccine and went to individual shots. Did autism rates lower or, at the very least, remain stable after? No, they ROSE.

        Funny how the film fails to mention this.

        • Chris June 20, 2016 / 12:14 am

          I suspect they also failed to mention this other outcome form Japan removing their version of the MMR (which is different from the American version that has been used since 1978). From Measles vaccine coverage and factors related to uncompleted vaccination among 18-month-old and 36-month-old children in Kyoto, Japan (I added the bolding):

          According to an infectious disease surveillance (2000), total measles cases were estimated to be from 180,000 to 210,000, and total deaths were estimated to be 88 [11,12]. Measles cases are most frequently observed among non-immunized children, particularly between 12 to 24 months.

          Perhaps because dead toddlers are better than dealing with autistic adults. Le sigh.

    • Colin June 14, 2016 / 10:53 am

      Have you seen the movie? It literally uses scare cues like ominous music and creepy syringe graphics to build negative sentiment around the concept of vaccines. And the Q&A panel made it explicit–they literally, in so many words, asserted that no vaccines are safe and that parents should not even see pediatricians, much less get vaccinated.

      I’d be very interested in a citation to some evidence that autism rose in synch with the advent and deployment of combined vaccines. And, given that correlation is not causation, even more interested in actual experts identifying a causative link.

      Your point about parents pushing the “my child was not the same” narrative is probably the most efficacious anti-vax narrative. It’s the excuse many anti-vax parents use to just stop thinking about whether the anti-vax scare narrative makes sense. I’ve had this conversation with many, and it’s difficult; you can’t express any skepticism without being perceived as attacking parents, which is obviously not what we want to do.

      The plain fact is that you can’t see such causation. Parents can only identify when they first noticed symptoms, which will often be around the time of some vaccination or another. In other words, there are hundreds of millions of people in America. Assume that the scientists, doctors, and experts are right and that vaccines don’t cause autism–a large number of autistic children will be first diagnosed/first show signs of autism around the time of a vaccine purely by chance.

      It’s normal for people to search for patterns. Especially when they’re scared or passionate. So parents who are looking for a cause for their child’s change sometimes identify the recent vaccination, even though they didn’t–couldn’t, in fact–actually see causation, only correlation. Especially when anti-vax demagogues are screaming at them that vaccines are poison.

      You’ll notice, if you dig, that these stories never really go beyond anecdotes. Anti-vax researchers have never been able to actually show a documented trend of autism appearing disproportionately right after vaccines. And many of the anecdotes are just wrong. Jenny McCarthy, for example, claimed that her child first developed signs of being neurologically atypical right after a vaccine–until her own mother stepped forward and admitted that in fact symptoms were evident before the vaccines. (Not to say that McCarthy or any parent is lying. Noticing and acknowledging such symptoms is going to be a subjective thing.)

      So let me ask you this: epidemiologists study trends like this. They have the tools, education, and experience to dive deeper into the statistics, data, and evidence than anyone else. And they uniformly conclude, based on years of study, that there’s no causative link between autism and vaccines. In other words, the more someone has access to data and hardcore analysis, the less likely they are to believe that vaccines cause autism–and at the very top of the pyramid, the experts completely reject the theory.

      Why is that? Why do you think that belief in the theory is negatively correlated with expertise?

    • Chris June 14, 2016 / 11:14 am

      “Wakefield said that when the MMR vaccination specifically was adminstered individually (a different vaccine for the measles, mumps, and rubella)there wasn’t an issue,…”

      What evidence does he base that statement on? Did he provide any kind of verified documentation dated before 1990 that autism went up in the USA during the 1970s and 1980s coincident to the use of the MMR there after it was introduced in 1971? Did he provide the efficacy of the single vaccines to prevent measles, mumps and rubella versus any form of the MMR vaccine?

      “Not to mention the countless parents who have claimed that their once developmentally thriving child was not the same after their 15month vaccinations.”

      Those are anecdotes. The plural of anecdotes are not data. The parents have been heard, that is why the Autism Omnibus was set up to get through the thousands of those claims. They chose the three best, and had the evidence presented. It turned out that the video evidence did not help the parents’ story:
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cedillo_v._Secretary_of_Health_and_Human_Services

      And it continues, where the story by the parents does not match up with the evidence, a more recent Vaccine Court Ruling:
      https://ecf.cofc.uscourts.gov/cgi-bin/show_public_doc?2003vv0632-358-0

      That one concludes with these words:

      ASD can be a devastating injury, and that is certainly true in A.K.’s case. Only a heartless individual could remain unmoved by the testimony of petitioners in this case. If sympathy alone were a basis to award compensation, such an award would certainly issue in this case.

      It is not. Petitioners, like every other petitioner to claim that vaccines cause or substantially contributed to a condition that led to an ASD diagnosis, have been unable to muster preponderant evidence in support of vaccine causation. As such, I have no choice but to dismiss their vaccine injury claim.

    • Chris June 14, 2016 / 11:27 am

      “The pharmaceutical companies need to be held more accountable for these vaccines.”

      It would be better if Andrew Wakefield could be held more accountable for his actions. Real people have been hospitalized and died due to his “research.”

      On the Cedillo case, a declaration was made by someone who did analysis from Wakefield’s now retracted 1998 Lancet paper. There is a summary of Nicholas Chadwick’s statements on Matt Carey’s website.

      Unfortunately the linked court transcript was moved. You should click on its new location and look for what Dr. Chadwick told the court:
      http://www.uscfc.uscourts.gov/sites/default/files/autism/OmnibusTrialsTranscripts/cedillo/20070622_cedillo_pps2278-2495.pdf

    • Sullivan (Matt Carey) June 14, 2016 / 3:02 pm

      “Wakefield said that when the MMR vaccination specifically was adminstered individually (a different vaccine for the measles, mumps, and rubella)there wasn’t an issue”

      Ever seen his evidence for that?

      Neither have I.

      Wakefield claimed to have done a literature search on vaccine safety studies and come to this conclusion. As far as I’ve seen (and I have looked hard), he’s never actually shared his report.

      And that was 20 years ago. Who studied the question of vaccines and autism before then? No one. So, how can he say the single vaccine would be safer?

      He can’t.

      And here we are 20 years later and we have study after study after study on the combination MMR and autism, and still none on the single vaccine and autism.

      Not only was Wakefield just making facts up 20 years ago, he’s now ignoring a mountain of evidence that proves him wrong. And still caiming he has evidence on the single vaccines–which he doesn’t.

      But he keeps saying the same thing and people keep repeating it.

    • Sullivan (Matt Carey) June 14, 2016 / 3:04 pm

      “Wakefield said that when the MMR vaccination specifically was adminstered individually (a different vaccine for the measles, mumps, and rubella)there wasn’t an issue,”

      “…wasn’t an issue”.

      What was the “issue” Wakefield claimed? A “new syndrome” of bowel disease unique to autism.

      A “new syndrome” that doesn’t exist. Here we are 20 years later and not only has no one shown this “new syndrome”, but a recent study showed there is nothing unique about the bowel diseases that happen in some autistics.

      ” If anything these parents need to be heard. ”

      They have been. Which is why many millions of dollars was spent checking their claims.

      It’s time for these parents to do the listening. And not to people like Wakefield, but actual experts. People who have actually done quality research on the topic.

    • JGC June 14, 2016 / 4:52 pm

      “The argument was why do we have to give so many vaccinations at once.

      Laura, do you have any actual evidence that giving vaccinations according to a different schedule or individually is associated with less risk than giving them according to the schedule recommended by the CDC?

      “it’s when the pharmaceutical companies combined these vaccines is where statistically we saw a rise in autism”

      No, it’s was when the diagnostic criteria for autism spectrum disorders changed following the publication of DSM 4 in 1984 that we saw an increased incidence of diagnoses of ASD’s. DSM 3 specified 6 mandatory criteria to be diagnosed as autistic, whereas DSM 4 specified 16 optional criteria of which any 8 were sufficient to qualify one as having an ASD. Additionally, the stringency of the criteria were much greater in DSM 3 than in DSM 4: where DSM 3 required an autistic individual to exhibit “a pervasive lack of responsiveness to other people” and ““gross deficits in language development” which in DSM 4 became exhibiting a lack of spontaneous seeking to share achievements with other people and difficulty sustaining a conversation.

      “Not to mention the countless parents who have claimed that their once developmentally thriving child was not the same after their 15month vaccinations.”

      You’ll want to google the classic logical fallacy post hoc ergo propter hoc, laura.

      • Chris June 14, 2016 / 5:53 pm

        “the publication of DSM 4 in 1984”

        Your typo is off by about a decade, it was in 1994. Which just about the year that autism was included in IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act). This is exactly why my son did not get an autism diagnosis in 1991 when he was three years old, nor did anyone in the school bring it up until his senior year of high school.

        • JGC June 27, 2016 / 2:24 pm

          Thanks for catching the typo–errors like that always creep in when I try to post using an iPhone’s keypad (my fingertips are just too damn big).

          • Chris June 27, 2016 / 2:39 pm

            Tell me about it. I hate those tiny keyboards.

    • Tress October 17, 2016 / 7:28 pm

      One of the reasons Wakefield wanted to bring the combined MMR vaccine into disrepute is that he had filed a patent for single doesage vaccines. He stood to make a great deal of money from this, had he not been struck off the medical register for faulsifing data.

      There is still no conclusive evidence to prove autism is linked to vaccines. What we have improved is our methods of detecting autism. Our health care providers, educators and us as parents are more attune to noticing spectrum traits. Years ago the phrase “boys will be boys” was used frequently to discribe those hyper kids that have an abundance of energy. Now we realise that those traits could be linked to a spectrum behaviour. (I use boys as an example because currently more boys are diognosed with autism than girls)

  7. Laura Elliott June 14, 2016 / 11:34 am

    To be honest, I don’t know. I’m not a doctor and I’m not a medical researcher. I’m just someone observing an issue. As a parent of three, I feel for Sheila and she probably truly feels that vaccines should not be given. I respect that. What I saw in the movie was the issue of how the vaccines are administered and the lack of testing, which I stated in my first comment. I did not witness a movie promoting parents not to have their children vaccinated.

    • reissd June 14, 2016 / 11:44 am

      I would point out the movie misrepresents the facts about vaccine testing as well. Here is a detailed discussion of this, but the short version: the claim that vaccines are not tested in combination is simply false; and the claim that vaccines are tested less than other pharmaceutical products is false too. They’re tested more.

      http://www.skepticalraptor.com/skepticalraptorblog.php/debunking-myths-about-vaccine-testing-and-safety/

      See also: http://www.harpocratesspeaks.com/2016/04/wakefields-vaxxed-demands-less-safety.html

      To remind you, the movie used scary pictures of syringes with green stuff around crying children, and the whole message was aimed at scaring you about vaccines. It doesn’t have to say “don’t vaccinate” to promote not vaccinating. It can just scare you about vaccines – and that what it was trying to do. Did it succeed?

    • Colin June 14, 2016 / 11:49 am

      If you assume, at least for the sake of argument, that the movie was spreading false fears about vaccine testing, would you agree that spreading such misinformation is a way to discourage parents from vaccinating?

    • Chris June 14, 2016 / 12:05 pm

      “I’m just someone observing an issue.”

      If you were sincerely observing an issue you would click on the links I provided, and read them with an open mind.

      The problem is that you said “Wakefield said that when the MMR vaccination specifically was adminstered individually (a different vaccine for the measles, mumps, and rubella)there wasn’t an issue,…” So I asked you what supporting evidence he gave for that statement.

      Did you just believe him without asking?

      “… I feel for Sheila and she probably truly feels that vaccines should not be given.”

      Do you think we should judge disease prevention by how someone we do not know “feels”?

      “What I saw in the movie was the issue of how the vaccines are administered and the lack of testing,”

      And you just believed it without asking for evidence? Truly, you need to read Dr. Chadwick’s testimony, it illustrates the problems Wakefield had with veracity dating back for almost two decades.

    • Chris June 14, 2016 / 12:12 pm

      Quoting REISSD: “To remind you, the movie used scary pictures of syringes with green stuff around crying children, and the whole message was aimed at scaring you about vaccines.”

      A little over a year ago I got an MMR vaccine (due to being born on the wrong side of 1957, and my mother died too long ago to tell me if I had measles). I can guarantee that the needle is less than a half inch long, and is very thin. There was also no green to be seen.

      It was given subcutaneously (just under the skin), and I felt nothing.

      One reason I got it was not only did I not know my measles infection status, but I was traveling to California shorty after the Disney measles outbreak. Trust that teeny tiny needle was nothing compared to the dozens of people who came down with measles, the one in ten who got hospitalized, and the unfortunate woman who died from measles (someone with measles went to the clinic where she was getting treatment for an immune disorder).

    • Sullivan (Matt Carey) June 14, 2016 / 3:09 pm

      ” I feel for Sheila and she probably truly feels that vaccines should not be given. I respect that”

      We all feel for her. Some of us because we see that she has taken on extra pain and guilt by accepting an idea that is clearly false.

      “I respect that”.

      Agreeing with someone whose stance is not only clearly wrong, but is damaging, is not respect.

      If someone said, “I know in my heart that my child is autistic because I was a refrigerator parent”, no one would say, “support his/her decision because we must respect it.”

    • gewisn June 14, 2016 / 4:10 pm

      “To be honest, I don’t know.”
      That, right there, is a courageous statement and I thank you for it.

      It seems it’s a rarity for someone on the internet to admit not knowing something.
      Most of what is known in the world, I don’t know.

      When I do want to know something, the question for me is always,
      “What’s the best way, the most useful process, for me to find out enough accurate information for my purposes, within the time/effort I’m willing to invest in this topic?”

      Sometimes, the answer is to trust “the experts,” like an electrician or the consensus among top astrophysicists, since I’m not going to invest the time/effort to find out for myself.

      Sometimes the answer is to look at the evidence myself (because I’m practiced and successful at reading the scientific journals in my field) and also to consult the best experts I can find, like when I need to find out the chances of success when prescribing a medicine for a patient who’s failed the usual treatments and now we are trying a medicine that was developed for something else.

      Sometimes, the answer is to go find out for myself, like when I want to know if I can safely use this ladder to get onto that roof in order to replace that roofing tile. (the answer to that one is always “I don’t think so, honey. You better call the guy.”)

      So, for you, Laura,
      What’s the best possible learning process that is likely to get the most “true” information (and I guess you have to decide what “true” means to you in this context) for this particular issue?

      Are you going to get PhD’s in virology and immunology? Probably not. By the time you’re done, any kids involved will be grown.

      Are you going to just find things on the net that agree with what you already think?
      I know better than that from what you’ve already written.

      Are you going to just throw up your hands and proclaim that nobody can know anything so it’s all just a matter of opinion? That doesn’t sound like you from the tiny bit I know of you?

      But I think it’s an important question, when you’re worried that your decision could affect the long-term health of your kids regardless of what direction you decide to go.

      So, Laura, what do you think is the most useful process for you to learn enough about this subject of vaccines (or maybe just the one vaccine that Wakefield made his reputation on, the MMR vaccine) in order for you to make an informed decision for your own family or to give advice to others who might ask you what you think?

  8. Krong June 21, 2016 / 7:45 pm

    This blog post is propaganda. Can you honestly say there is no independent research linking autism and vaccines? If that’s your conclusion then either you have not done any research, or you do not have the research skills of a PhD, which your bio says you have. You concur that Hooker’s paper should have been withdrawn due to a conflict of interest, but Hooker did not procure the data. Therefore, it is improper to retract an article based on COI where the COI could not have influenced the data. The only scientific reason for retracting an article such as Hookers is based on error in data analysis. So where did you post the incorrect analysis? Did you look into it? What are the specifics? Or did you just take the publisher’s word for it that the analysis was questionable, but you won’t take the word of anyone else. You are free to only apply the scientific method to one bias, but try not presenting yourself as unbiased. It’s just as bad as the people you are criticizing.

    • Colin June 21, 2016 / 9:04 pm

      This blog post is propaganda. Can you honestly say there is no independent research linking autism and vaccines?

      No, I can’t. Let’s take a moment to observe that there is also independent research identifying Bigfoot DNA as being part alien and/or angel. The question isn’t whether there is any research supporting a conclusion, but what the best research shows. The overall consensus is also relevant, if not dispositive.

      If that’s your conclusion then either you have not done any research, or you do not have the research skills of a PhD, which your bio says you have

      You’ve confused me with Jenny. I don’t have a PhD, I have a JD–universally acknowledged as the superior doctorate.

      Therefore, it is improper to retract an article based on COI where the COI could not have influenced the data.

      The retraction notice indicates that the COI influenced the peer review process, which holy damn is a good reason to retract a paper. But even if it were just the analysis, where on earth did you get the idea that an analysis tainted by an undeclared conflict of interest isn’t a good reason to retract a paper?

      Even if there were some rule that said “We can’t retract your paper no matter how bad the conflicts are, as long as they only bias your analysis”–and that would be a bonkers rule–how does it affect the conclusion? It’s not like we should start taking Hooker’s work seriously because the conflict just affected the analysis.

      And to reiterate, that doesn’t seem to be the limit of the damage. “The Editor and Publisher regretfully retract the article [1] as there were undeclared competing interests on the part of the author which compromised the peer review process. Furthermore, post-publication peer review raised concerns about the validity of the methods and statistical analysis, therefore the Editors no longer have confidence in the soundness of the findings.”

      Did you look into it? What are the specifics? Or did you just take the publisher’s word for it that the analysis was questionable, but you won’t take the word of anyone else.

      I am not a statistician–statistics are one of only three fields in which I am not an acknowledged master. (The other two being fly fishing and internal combustion engine repair.) So I looked at experts’ critique of the analysis. Orac did a good one, as did the stats blog I linked above. I also looked for defenses of the work, in vain.

      • Jennifer Raff June 21, 2016 / 9:11 pm

        “universally acknowledged as the superior doctorate.” In your dreams, buddy.

        • gewisn June 22, 2016 / 6:36 am

          That’s “Dr. Buddy,” to you.

    • Chris June 22, 2016 / 12:57 am

      “Can you honestly say there is no independent research linking autism and vaccines?”

      Then please post the studies dated before 1990 by reputable qualified researchers that the MMR vaccine used in the USA caused autism in the 1970s and 1980s that coincided with the use of the MMR vaccine that was introduced in 1971 and revised in 1978 (when it became the preferred vaccine for the 1978 Measles Elimination Program). Wakefield was only researching with three MMR vaccines introduced in the UK in 1988, but a version had been used in the USA for almost twenty years. If the MMR vaccine caused autism it would have been seen in a country with a much larger population and using the vaccine a much longer time than the UK.

      “The only scientific reason for retracting an article such as Hookers is based on error in data analysis. So where did you post the incorrect analysis?”

      Actually, there are several places where how much Hooker botched the analysis is explained.

      But in the end it does not matter, because even after torturing the data it only showed an uptick in African American boys who were vaccinated after the normal timeline, essentially after 24 months. So the main point of Hooker’s retracted study is to make sure you get the kids vaccinated on time (though it might have been that they were identified as autistic, and in order to get services they were required to get vaccines). From the first link:

      A study (“Measles-mumps-rubella vaccination timing and autism among young african american boys: a reanalysis of CDC data”) published in August 2014 in the journal Translational Neurodegeneration by Brian S. Hooker did conclude that there was an increased risk of autism in African American boys who were given their first MMR vaccine between 24 and 31 months of age (Hooker cut off at 31 months, rather than 36 months as in the CDC study, because, after excluding low birth weight infants, there were “insufficient cases” at 36 months; the subgroup he analyzed is different than in the CDC’s study). His study also found that there was no association between MMR and autism at other ages, nor was there any association for African American girls nor for children of any other racial category. However, his results regarding African American boys are almost certainly wrong.

    • JGC June 22, 2016 / 12:38 pm

      “Can you honestly say there is no independent research linking autism and vaccines?”

      Well, I for one am quite familiar with the studies regarding routine childhood vaccination and autism spectrum disorders and I’m unaware of any evidence credibly supporting the existence of a causal association between the two.

      “You concur that Hooker’s paper should have been withdrawn due to a conflict of interest, but Hooker did not procure the data”

      Not only because of the COI, however, but also because (direct quote from the journal editors “This article has been removed from the public domain because of serious concerns about the validity of its conclusions”. Hooker committed multiple errors during his statistical analysis, such as analyzing a data set from a case-control study as if it were from a cohort study and failing to adjust P-values to reflect multiple comparison, sufficient to render his conclusions unfounded.

  9. Anonymous June 21, 2016 / 11:01 pm

    I wish it was clear cut. I just want to do what’s best for my child.

    I see the benefits of vaccines, yet I also see that they have heavy metals in them- such as mercury. Why is that? It couldn’t be a conspiracy to make us all sick could it? Why would anyone do that? Then again abortion is legal
    ….so idk. (Population control?)

    I feel this article is just pushing the opposite side of the anti-vaxer spectrum. I do appreciate hearing that some of this movie is genuine bs. What about what’s not bs in it?
    It’s good to hear both sides. I just want the truth. Idk if we are going to get it. Somebody is covering up something. Actually, many people (probably on both sides) are covering up many things.

    • Colin June 21, 2016 / 11:38 pm

      It is very clear cut. Why don’t you take an afternoon and go looking for any epidemiologist who doesn’t say that vaccines are safe and effective? Even William Thompson, the “CDC Whistleblower,” says that vaccines are safe and effective–he openly asked parents to keep vaccinating despite his complaints about the CDC.

      And no, it really couldn’t be a conspiracy. Pretty much a mathematical certainty. It would have to include all or virtually all epidemiologists, immunologists, and neurologists. Plus basically every major university and private lab. And all the government health agencies around the world (not just the CDC). And all the major NGOs doing vaccination work.

      Vaccines make money for pharma, but that much–not nearly as much as hair cremes and boner pills. There isn’t enough money in vaccines to buy all those people. There isn’t enough money in the world to buy all those people. Much less to keep anyone from ever talking about it.

      It’s not a conspiracy. The best thing for your child is to a pediatrician and ask for advice on proper medical treatment for him or her. Same way you’d go to an electrician to get advice about your wiring or a geologist to find out whether there’s oil under the house. Expertise matters.

    • Chris June 22, 2016 / 1:17 am

      “I see the benefits of vaccines, yet I also see that they have heavy metals in them- such as mercury.”

      In which country? Because thimerisal was removed from vaccines in Europe and the USA at least fifteen years ago. Even someone in SafeMinds had trouble finding a specific vaccine with thimerosal in 2001:

      Subject: Thimerosal DTaP Needed
      From: Sally Bernard
      Date: Wed, 27 Jun 2001 00:01:50 -0400
      Yahoo! Message Number: 27456
      Onibasu Link: http://onibasu.com/archives/am/27456.html

      Hi all:

      A group of university-based researchers needs several vials of the older DTaP vaccine formulations which contained thimerosal for a legitimate research study. If anyone knows an MD who might have some of these vaccines or knows where to get them, please email me privately.

      Thank you.

      Sallie Bernard
      Executive Director
      Safe Minds

      Also, as it pertains that this movie was just about the MMR vaccine: no version has contained thimerosal, starting from the one introduced in the USA in 1971.

      Population control? Seriously? Before vaccines families a century ago would have five to six kids to make sure at least a couple made it into adulthood. My grandmother was one of five kids, both of her brothers died before age ten. When parents are certain more of their kids will live, they tend to have fewer children.

      By the way, another factor in the creation of smaller families is educating women. Girls who are allowed to go to school and learn to read tend to have fewer babies. Would you ever say that teaching girls to read is “population control”?

    • JGC June 22, 2016 / 12:40 pm

      No, vaccine formulations don’t have mercury in them. Some multi-dose vials incorporate a mercury-containing compound (thimerosal) as a preservative but that’s not the same thing at all, any more than table salt is metallic sodium.

      • shay June 23, 2016 / 8:44 am

        And none of the vaccines on the current American children’s schedule contain it.

  10. Chris June 27, 2016 / 1:50 pm

    “As I understand it, the conflict is that Hooker has an autistic child and went to court to try to get compensation under the theory that a vaccine caused it. He apparently decided not to tell the journal about that, which is a major ethical problem; the journal decided that was and “undeclared competing interests on the part of the author which compromised the peer review process.””

    Brian Hooker lost in Vaccine Court:
    http://ia902504.us.archive.org/31/items/gov.uscourts.cofc.2340/gov.uscourts.cofc.2340.118.0.pdf

    • Colin July 10, 2016 / 9:18 pm

      Posey is the same person who’s been paying lip service to anti-vax constituents for a long time now-the video’s a year old. Why do you say he’s pro-vaccine?

  11. Kathy Young August 11, 2016 / 8:43 am

    The movie VAXXED was very straightforward with the CDC’s own results from their own MMR study, how they did “massage” (take out) the data to falsify the results. Then, they tried to cover it up. Dr. Thompson of the CDC told Dr. Brian Hooker what to ask for so that they story would come out. How anyone could trust the CDC after this, I really don’t know. They are liars. Julie Gerberding, the former head of the CDC, now has a nice position at Merck. Plenty of good information out there if anyone cares to research. Oh, and by the way. I AM VACCINE INJURED. So are MILLIONS MORE. In 1086 Congress passed a law protecting vaccine manufactures from being sued, The PRIVATE vaccine court, complete with gag orders, has paid out 3.4 BILLION to injured parties or the families of those killed by vaccines. And this is just the ones who know about the court, and make it through the court. Do some research on nagalase and GcMAF. Start with Dr. Bradstreet. Cheers. I hope you start to learn the truth.

    • reissd August 11, 2016 / 1:09 pm

      I would urge you to carefully read this review and follow the link. It shows how Wakefield, Hooker and the other people involved in Vaxxed misrepresented evidence related to this CDC study, to create the appearance of wrongdoing where the evidence doesn’t support it. I think the evidence we have now is of lies by Wakefield et al, not by the CDC.

      Serious harms from vaccines are very rare. I understand that the 3 billion number can appear scary, but you need to remember that one debilitating injury costs millions. In fact, the small number of compensations reinforces how safe vaccines are: there are less than one per million. And NVICP decisions are actually public. As is the program: it’s mentioned on every Vaccine information Statement given with each vaccine.

      I have read about GcMAF. It has nothing to do with vaccines. And about Dr. Bradstreet, who was under investigation by the FDA for fraud before his death, likely by suicide.

    • Chris August 12, 2016 / 7:06 am

      “I AM VACCINE INJURED. So are MILLIONS MORE.”

      How did your claim go with the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program go?

      “I hope you start to learn the truth.”

      Do provide us some then. You can start with the PubMed indexed studies by reputable qualified researchers (not Wakefield) that the present MMR vaccine causes more injuries than measles, mumps and rubella.

    • JGC August 12, 2016 / 1:42 pm

      One simple question, Kathy: how exactly did you factually establish the injuries you believe you have suffered as a consequence of being vaccinated actually were caused by the vaccines you received?

      It is, I trust, on some basis other than a post hoc ergo propter hoc logical fallacy.

  12. Anna September 3, 2016 / 7:25 am

    ” When I say “any experts,” I mean actual experts in this field: epidemiology, neuroscientists, development specialists, etc. And they completely reject the things Hooker and Wakefield have been claiming. ” And when they DO support it? They suddenly stop being “experts” and start being “quacks.” Like the witchunted Dr Chris Shaw, a neuroscientist. It goes like this “Don’t listen to those Anti-Vaxx people! Listen to Scientists…no, not THOSE scientists, the scientists that agree with us…read scientific studies and papers, no, not THOSE scientific studies and papers, THESE ones, which agree with us…” It’s ridiculous. In addition, “Anti-Vaxx” doctors are “just in it for the money and are trying to dupe parents” .. “But this scientist actually has a kid with autism and was just trying to get to the truth.” “Oh, he’s clearly emotionally biased.” The levels of cognitive dissonance and abuse of parents, and children, by the advocates for Glaxo and others is just astonishing.

    Science 101, folks. If there is an effect, there is a cause. These kids were fine. And now they are not. Ergo, there is causation. These kids are not being hit with the autism fairy. To simply go on saying “we don’t know, we don’t know” is unacceptable. And until such time as autoimmunity and autism is fully investigated, you can rule out nothing that acts on a child’s immune system. We simply do not know enough to be able to say with an degree of certainty that agents designed to trigger an immune response do not affect, in some way the neuroimmune development of a child whose brain at 15 months is far more vulnerable to toxic insult than an adults. Until you can say to Dr Hooker, or any other parent living in the life sentence that is being the parent of a severely disabled child “we did some research and this is what caused your child’s brain injury” then the silence will prompt speculation. Don’t tell us what didn’t cause it. Tell us what caused it. Get off your arses and do some experiments.

    Why not start with a double blind randomised trial of a cohort of children on the pre-1988 vaccine schedule versus the current one? Testing, this time, for the full battery of autoimmune and neurological conditions? We’ll start from there.

    • Chris September 3, 2016 / 11:17 am

      “Like the witchunted Dr Chris Shaw, a neuroscientist.”

      With him, you just have to follow the money. His research was funded by the Dwoskin Family Foundation, who include people closely associated with SafeMinds:
      http://www.harpocratesspeaks.com/2013/08/a-snapshot-of-deep-pockets-of-anti.html

      Plus, his “research” had lots of methodological errors, which have been discussed extensively elsewhere.

      “Science 101, folks. If there is an effect, there is a cause. These kids were fine. And now they are not. Ergo, there is causation. These kids are not being hit with the autism fairy. ”

      So why does it have to be vaccines?

      “We simply do not know enough to be able to say with an degree of certainty that agents designed to trigger an immune response do not affect, in some way the neuroimmune development of a child whose brain at 15 months is far more vulnerable to toxic insult than an adults. ”

      Children live in the environment as everyone else, they are constantly being assaulted by pathogens. Why would the vaccines cause more affect that the full blown pathogens?

      “Why not start with a double blind randomised trial of a cohort of children on the pre-1988 vaccine schedule versus the current one”

      Which version of the DSM would the autism diagnosis be used? The one in use during 1988 for those born in the late 1990s be acceptable? Since you have that deep understanding of “Science 101”, you should design that study. Design it, make sure it complies with the Belmont Report, get it past an Independent Review Board, write a grant to get it funded, and then submit that grant to places like Safe Minds, the Dwoskin Family Foundation, Autism Speaks. Then go do it!

    • JGC September 8, 2016 / 10:35 am

      “Science 101, folks. If there is an effect, there is a cause.”

      The difficulty in in identifying causes. With respect to parents who believe their children suddenly developed ASD’s as a consequence of being vaccinated, they have made no attempt to do so: they’ve instead leapt to a conclusion that the vaccines received caused their children’s ASD on no basis other than a post hoc ergo propter hoc logical fallacy.

      “Until you can say to Dr Hooker, or any other parent living in the life sentence that is being the parent of a severely disabled child “we did some research and this is what caused your child’s brain injury” then the silence will prompt speculation.”

      Nonsense: it isn’t necessary to identify the cause or cause of ASD’s to rule out suggested causes. (consider that if your argument was valid we’d still have to consider ‘refrigerator moms’ to be a viable potential cause of autism).

      “Why not start with a double blind randomised trial of a cohort of children on the pre-1988 vaccine schedule versus the current one?”

      Aside from the fact that it would be completely unethical to conduct such a study, you mean? Such a prospective double blind study would deliberately place individuals in the pre-1988 schedule at increased risk of contracting serious infectious diseases such as HiB (added to the childhood schedule in 1988 ), HepB (added in 1992) and varicella (added in 1996).

      • Chris September 8, 2016 / 1:01 pm

        Anna said earlier: “Until you can say to Dr Hooker, or any other parent living in the life sentence that is being the parent of a severely disabled child…”

        JGC, it seems that Anna has not read the US Court decision where Hooker lost. Apparently his son had noticeable developmental delays very early on… before most vaccines.

        From about page 13 of the decision: “During SRH’s early months, using the Denver II Developmental Screening Test(“DDST”), Dr. Heller-Bair frequently recorded SRH’s developmental progress. (Ex. 35, pp. 4, 5,8, 11, 13, 24.) This screening tool allows medical personnel to indicate a “pass” (“P”) or “fail” (“F”) for each infant milestone, on a chart divided into age groups. At four months of age, Dr. Heller-Bair noted “fail” for three developmental milestones that SRH had not achieved.”

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