Flyer for "CDC Truth" Rally. Apparently a bunch of antivaccine activists showed up in Atlanta on Saturday to annoy CDC employees and try to use the manufactured "scandal" of the so-called "CDC whistleblower" to attack vaccines. Same as it ever was.

Flyer for “CDC Truth” Rally. Apparently a bunch of antivaccine activists showed up in Atlanta on Saturday to annoy CDC employees and try to use the manufactured “scandal” of the so-called “CDC whistleblower” to attack vaccines. Same as it ever was.

If there’s one thing that’s guaranteed to anger most antivaccine activists, it’s a skeptic calling them “antivaccine.” The reason, of course, is that (1) many of them actually believe they are “not antivaccine” but rather “pro-vaccine safety,” even though their words and actions proclaim otherwise and (2) they crave legitimacy. They want desperately to be taken seriously by the government and scientific community. The problem is that, again, by their very words and actions they make it almost impossible for anyone who knows anything about vaccines to take them seriously, except as a threat to public health. They have no one but themselves to blame, as a critical perusal of Age of Autism, The Thinking Moms’ Revolution, VacTruth (and VaxTruth), or any number of antivaccine websites and blogs will indicated to anyone of a scientific bent who has the intestinal fortitude to plunge down any or all of those rabbit holes of magical thinking and pseudoscience.

Another thing that I’ve come to understand over the more than a decade that I’ve been doing this is that there is a profound tension between what I like to call the two wings of the antivaccine movement. Basically, as is the case in most political or ideological movements, antivaccine activists gravitate towards one of two views. The first (and most prominent view) tends to be the pragmatic view. These are the antivaccinationists who deny vociferously that they are “antivaccine” and instead portray themselves as “pro-safe vaccine.” They want to appear reasonable and are willing to take partial victories on an incremental path towards achieving their ends. Then there are the “loud and proud” antivaccine activists. They don’t eschew or hide from the term “antivaccine.” They embrace it and proudly proclaim that they believe that vaccines are irredeemably toxic, that they don’t protect against disease, that big pharma is a criminal syndicate intent on poisoning their children and turning them autistic, and that the CDC is complicit in the whole plot. Of course, like all ideological movements, there is not a dichotomy; rather, there is a continuous spectrum between the two. Also, in this case, the two groups differ more on tactics than actual beliefs. As I’ve found many times, push a “reasonable” antivaccinationist, one who proclaims herself “not antivaccine” but “pro-vaccine safety,” and it’s usually not hard to get them to say things indistinguishable from the hard core antivaccinationists. They’ll basically cling to their self-perception as “pro-safe vaccine, while making the same evidence-free claims that vaccines cause autism, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), autoimmune diseases, diabetes, and all the other conditions on which antivaccinationists blame vaccines.

In which I contemplate why I like watching antivaccine freak flags flying

All of this is why I actually rather like it when antivaccinationists hold protests and rallies. Besides showing how small the number of actual hard core antivaccinationists are who attend these rallies, they inevitably provide me with great “teachable moments” that demonstrate just how fringe the movement is. Greatly assisting me in this process is the antivaccinationist penchant for videotaping every gloriously pseudoscientific moment. It happened seven years ago when Jenny McCarthy’s antivaccine “march on Washington” helped me demonstrate that she and her then boyfriend Jim Carrey were antivaccine, not pro-safe vaccine. It happened again over the weekend when Barbara Loe Fisher and the Orwellian-named National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC) teamed up with the Nation of Islam and other antivaccine groups to hold a protest in front of the headquarters of the CDC on Friday, followed by a “VIP” dinner Friday night and a rally in Grant Park on Saturday afternoon. There were lots of Periscope videos out there for me to watch and whose streams I could capture. There were some skeptics, like Tim Farley, were there making observations. And, of course, Barbara Loe Fisher herself couldn’t resist making her Periscope videos available on Katch.me, a service that can be used to archive Periscope videos, which normally disappear 24 hours after being posted. I urge you to peruse as many of them as you can stomach. As for me, because this post would grow beyond Gorskian proportions if I tried to cover them all and because I want to emphasize just how antivaccine this unholy confluence of the Nation of Islam and the antivaccine movement is, I will concentrate mainly on three of the speakers, the “big guns,” if you will: Barbara Loe Fisher of the NVIC, Minister Tony Muhammed of the Nation of Islam, and, of course, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.

But first, here’s a little background on the so-called #CDCtruth rally that took place in Atlanta and Oakland this weekend.

#CDCwhistleblower, the Nation of Islam, and the antivaccine movement: Three crappy tastes that taste crappy together

Readers not familiar with this whole saga might reasonable wonder: How on earth did the Nation of Islam and the antivaccine movement come to collaborate in this manner? The origins of this strange alliance date back over a year to the creation of “#CDCwhistleblower” manufactured scandal. Given that I’ve blogged about this particular antivaccine bête noire multiple times before, I’ll give you the CliffsNotes version. For more detail (a lot more detail), read these posts:

Basically, between November 2013 and July 2014, a troubled CDC psychologist named William Thompson, who had been involved with some seminal studies testing whether there was a link between vaccines and autism—surprise! surprise! they found there weren’t—engaged in a number of phone calls with an biochemical engineer turned incompetent antivaccine epidemiologist named Brian Hooker. Not realizing that Hooker was recording the phone calls, Thompson took the opportunity to kvetch to Hooker about the CDC in general and his co-investigators in particular, especially Frank DeStefano and Thompson’s other co-authors on an important 2004 paper that examined whether there was any relationship between MMR vaccination and autism. As a result, Brian Hooker did an epically incompetent “reanalysis” of the paper and managed to get it published in a relatively new journal. What this reanalysis claimed to find was that DeStefano et al. had done some statistical prestidigitation to eliminate a statistically significant difference in African American males correlating with age of MMR vaccination. Of course, as I discussed at the time (as did many others), Hooker, in his love of “simplicity,” had neglected to control for important confounders and imputed way too much significance to a spurious correlation that disappeared when proper correction for confounders was made. As I’ve put it many times, simplicity in statistical analyses of epidemiological data is not a virtue. In any case, so incredibly incompetent was Hooker’s analysis that the journal actually retracted the paper.

Likely because Brian Hooker couldn’t keep his big mouth shut about his “good friend” and source within the CDC, Andrew Wakefield found out about Thompson. Hooker appears to have wanted to keep Thompson secret a while longer, the better to pump him for more information, but Wakefield couldn’t resist making a video proclaiming the “CDC whistleblower.” It wasn’t long before the identity of this “CDC whistleblower” was revealed, resulting in a Twitter storm from antivaccinationists who seemed to believe that the central conspiracy theory of the antivaccine movement (that the CDC knew vaccines cause autism but were hiding it from the public) had just been proven. Nothing really ever came of it other than Wakefield complaining with Hooker to the CDC about “scientific fraud,” leading to the destruction of thousands of irony meters everywhere, and to Representative Bill Posey (R-FL) giving a mostly-ignored talk in front of the House accusing the CDC of malfeasance, possibly revealing that William Thompson really is antivaccine.

Fast forward to this summer. In the wake of the Disneyland measles outbreak, California was on the way towards passing SB 277, a bill (now law) that eliminated nonmedical exemptions to school and day care vaccine mandates. It was at this time that the antivaccine movement in California and Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. cozied up with the Nation of Islam to help oppose SB 277 by using images of the Tuskegee syphilis experiment and invoking the “CDC whistleblower” to convince Minister Tony Muhammed and Minister Louis Farrakhan that the CDC was covering up a link between MMR vaccination and autism in African American boys. Brian Hooker and RFK, Jr. even spoke at a Nation of Islam event held at a Church of Scientology public center. (In recent years, the Nation of Islam has more or less become a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Church of Scientology. At the very least, there is a close relationship now.)

Fast forward to this weekend. The “fruits” (if you can call them that) of the alliance between RFK, Jr. (and other antivaccine groups) and the Nation of Islam were on display in Atlanta for all to see.

Right from the start, a little taste of conspiracy

Before I get into the “meat” of the antivaccine proceedings, something happened at the Friday protest that perfectly encapsulates antivaccine thinking and the tendency of these groups to engage in conspiracy mongering. Naturally, there were the usual exaggerated claims of 1,000 people (on the part of antivaccine activists) versus the estimate of 200-300 attendees by some skeptics with who were there and with whom I’ve been in contact (and of them, one third seemed to be from Nation of Islam). That sort of thing happens at pretty much every protest, with proponents claiming larger turnouts than what others estimate. More telling, perhaps, is a particularly “enthusiastic” antivaccine activist on Twitter posting this:

Later, another protester Tweeted:

As Tim Farley made clear in a Twitter exchange with these two antivaccine activists and in this video, all that was happening was that there was a worker power washing a wall near where they were protesting.

My first reaction to this was, understandably I think: WTF? Fortunately, Tim Farley was out on his morning run and captured video:

As you can see, it was just some poor worker doing his job, not some nefarious security detail from the CDC-pharma cabal “hosing down” the protesters. I feel sorry for the guy. On the other hand, he probably has an amusing story to tell his friends over beers about the cranks who thought he was some sort of secret security agent.

Elsewhere, I saw Periscope videos with protestors chanting “Stop killing our babies!” and “No more vaccinations!” Unfortunately, I didn’t figure out how to save these videos before their 24 hour expiration time hit. However, to give you a flavor, there does remain one saved video showing a woman ranting about how you “cannot inject toxic chemicals and kill our babies” and explicitly comparing the vaccination program to the Holocaust (“we’re gonna have another…where you put ’em in a camp and kill ’em”):

But, whatever you do, don’t you dare call them antivaccine, and don’t call them conspiracy theorists. I will illustrate with three vignettes involving the headliners of this weekend’s proceedings. I’m going to include a lot of video, not so much because I expect anyone to watch it all (I assure you as someone who’s watched many of these videos that they are all very tedious to watch), but so that those who are inclined to check my commentary against the video record may do so if they doubt what I write.

Barbara Loe Fisher: Same as she ever was, the grand dame of the antivaccine movement

I’ve referred to Barbara Loe Fisher as the grande dame of the antivaccine movement because her organization, the NVIC, has, as far as I know, been around the longest. I’ve also said on several occasions that I don’t believe that Fisher was antivaccine 30 years ago when she and NVIC co-founder Kathi Williams held a demonstration in Atlanta, which she described in this video urging people to attend.

There actually is a difference between thirty years ago and now, though. Thirty years ago, as I stated, Barbara Loe Fisher wasn’t truly antivaccine. She actually worked with legislators to pass the National Child Vaccine Injury Act of 1986, which set up the Vaccine Court that she now castigates so regularly. In the 30 years since those early rallies, Fisher has become quite antivaccine. If you don’t believe that she and the NVIC aren’t antivaccine, just peruse the site for a while, particularly its memorial for “vaccine victims” and its pseudoscientific vaccine ingredient calculator, and you’ll see that it’s as antivaccine as they come. This was in evidence during her talks. For instance, here’s her talk the night before the Grant Park rally, at a VIP dinner:

Note her “research priorities.” For instance, her second research priority:

Research priority number two: Set up epidemiological studies to evaluate whether the artificial suppression of viral and bacterial diseases by mass vaccination is, in conjunction with the overuse of antibiotics and exposure to environmental toxins, preventing the human immune system from being naturally challenged and strengthened [in] childhood as it was in the past generations by infectious diseases, leaving today’s highly vaccinated population more vulnerable to new and more virulent viruses and bacteria.

This is, of course, nothing more than the naturalistic fallacy writ large, the claim that getting diseases “naturally” is better and that vaccination is somehow unnatural (“artificial,” as Fisher put it) and therefore inferior. Fisher also has no clue what she is asking for. The epidemiological studies necessary to test such a complicated, multi-linked hypothesis would be many and enormously expensive. There is no scientific rationale for doing such studies, given the lack of compelling preliminary evidence to suggest that this hypothesis needs to be tested. Besides, the hypothesis is an amorphous mess. Which vaccines? Which diseases? Which antibiotics? Which environmental “toxins”? The combinations are endless. Maybe that’s the point.

Naturally, she wants links between vaccines and ADHD and learning disabilities investigated, even though there is no good evidence to suggest that there is a link. Then, of course, there’s autism:

Research priority number five: Conduct studies to investigate the possible link between vaccines and autism…Set up studies which will on a continuing long term basis scientifically reevaluate each of the ten vaccines—ten vaccines, it’s 16 vaccines now—ten vaccines currently being given to children, including full evaluation of the safety of growth mediums, adjuvants, preservatives, and other additives, as well as identification of genetic and other high risk factors in order to screen out high risk children.

This is just pathetic. Fisher at this point is just throwing everything against the wall and seeing what sticks. The amount of research she is proposing is massive and, more importantly, largely duplicative and/or just plain unnecessary, given the lack of evidence to support such studies. It’s basically the “toxins gambit,” wherein if it’s not the thimerosal in vaccines, it’s the adjuvants causing autism, and if it’s not the adjuvants, it’s the growth medium. But above all else it must be the vaccines because, to Fisher, it’s all about the vaccines. It’s always been all about the vaccines. It always will be all about the vaccines.

It’s just more of the same at Grant Park, where her introducer laughably refers to her as an “expert in vaccine science”:

In this one, Fisher indulges in a lot of pharma bashing, vowing to protect “this and future generations from exploitation by the pharmaceutical industry,” which, she claims, has “created the sickest and most disabled child and young adult populations” in our nation’s history.

But, no. Don’t you dare call Barbara Loe Fisher antivaccine. Never mind that she is trotting out a talking point with little evidence. Think of it this way: How many children had their health permanently damaged by polio, leaving generations of children disabled? How many tombstones of babies and children are there in cemeteries with dates of death before the introduction of these vaccines that Fisher castigates as evil?

No, don’t you dare call Barbara Loe Fisher antivaccine, even though it is the truth.

Enter the Nation of Islam

The Nation of Islam has always been full of bizarre ideas. Perhaps that’s the reason why over the last several years it has become more and more closely associated with the Church of Scientology. It’s therefore not surprising that Minister Tony Muhammed would be susceptible to the race angle. Given the higher level of distrust of the medical profession and medical research among African Americans, not entirely unjustified given history like the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment, it doesn’t take much to convince someone like Muhammed that the white-dominated CDC, government, and pharmaceutical injuries are harming black babies, even if that claim is based on evidence as bogus as Brian Hooker’s “reanalysis” of DeStefano et al. and claims of a “CDC whistleblower.” I include Minister Muhammed’s two speeches if you wish to watch them. They are strikingly similar to each other, such that I wouldn’t bother to watch both. They also show just how much the Nation of Islam, at least as represented by Tony Muhammed, has become antivaccine. Here he is on Friday night.

And here he is on Saturday afternoon (another version here):

Much of both of these talks is devoted to religion, thanking the sponsors of the event, and praising Barbara Loe Fisher and RFK, Jr. more than talking about vaccines, such that I’m only going to focus on the most telling part, which is this passage, included in both talks in one form or another. It’s so telling that I transcribed it extensively:

The Honorable Elijah Muhammad in the 1930s and 40s warned the Nation of Islam that there are wicked people in high places who are coming up with experimental chemicals that could hurt the human family of the planet. And we were always warned not to take certain vaccines. And as a result, we have not suffered from the autism, from the measles, from the many viruses and sicknesses that are happening in our community. The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan also said, “This is prophecy. I need you to listen.” He said when you go into the Book of Exodus, there was a Pharaoh who saw in the Book of Exodus that the slaves was getting restless, and Pharaoh knew that it was time for a deliverer to bring them out from under his control. And Pharaoh made this statement. “Come on, let us deal wisely with them.” Then he said, “Let’s kill the males and spare the females.”

Then Minister Farrakhan went to the New Testament. Herod looked at the stars and knew that it was time for a deliverer to come and lead the people into a new kingdom. And Herod said, “Let’s kill all babies two and under.” So it is no surprise that the vaccine makers have now increased the vaccine and are trying to get it to our boys before they are three years old. It’s in prophecy. He then went to the Book of Revelation as I close. He said in Revelation there is a woman who is pregnant with a child, and then there’s a dragon standing in front of the woman. The dragon wanted to devour the child before it was born. Now big pharmaceutical companies they have become the dragon of this whole planet, and all of their products once you inject them into your body or take them into your mouth it drags your mind down and you lose control.

Here is the relevant passage from Revelation:

A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. 2 She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth. 3 Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on its heads. 4 Its tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth. The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that it might devour her child the moment he was born. 5 She gave birth to a son, a male child, who “will rule all the nations with an iron scepter.”[a] And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne.

OK, so Minister Muhammed wasn’t exactly correct about the dragon wanting to devour the savior before he was born; rather he was waiting until he was born. Still, Tony Muhammed told both crowds that vaccines are part of Biblical prophecy (and not a good part), that they are of a piece with the Pharaoh’s slaughter of the children of the enslaved Israelites, Herod’s slaughter of the male children under two, and the dragon of Revelation devouring the savior as soon as he is born, likening big pharma to that dragon of Revelation.

But don’t you dare call Tony Muhammed and the Nation of Islam “antivaccine,” even though it is clearly true.

What I’m afraid of is that the cynical coupling of antivaccine imagery with religious imagery and the distrust many African-Americans feel towards the medical establishment will promote the same sorts of pockets of low vaccine uptake that we’ve already seen among affluent white communities with large number of antivaccine parents, in the poorest African American communities, whose children are not as well fed, do not have access to the best health care, and will therefore suffer more than the children of the “Thinking Moms.” Worse, in his talk on Friday night, Muhammed promised that he was working with hip hop artists to get the message out, claiming that he had been invited to meet with Atlanta artists on Thursday night.

Oh, and to him pharmaceutical companies are gangsters, pure evil.

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. lets his antivaccine freak flag fly even higher

Longtime readers of my not-so-super-secret other blog might remember that the post that arguably got me the most noticed in my first year of blogging was a discussion of the errors of fact and science coupled with massive conspiracy mongering in Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.’s 2005 antivaccine magnum opus “Deadly Immunity“. I’d periodically discuss some bit of antivaccine misinformation or pseudoscience RFK, Jr. was promoting, but then he seemed to disappear off the face of the earth (at least as far as vaccines went) for a few years, with hardly a mention. Then, in 2014 he resurfaced in a big way, publishing a book about the evils of thimerosal in vaccines, something I thought to be very quaint, so very 2005, given that there hasn’t been more than trace amounts of thimerosal in vaccines since 2002, including making a guest appearance on Real Time with Bill Maher and The Dr. Oz Show to spew his usual antivaccine nonsense while risibly proclaiming himself “fiercely pro-vaccine,” and, of course, teaming up with the Nation of Islam to oppose SB 277 and attack the CDC.

Here he is speaking to the antivaccine activists at Grant Park on Saturday. It’s painful to listen to:

Not surprisingly, as has become his routine, RFK, Jr. objected to the news coverage of the event that described the protesters as “antivaccine.” He repeated what has become a cliché in his repertoire, clutching his pearls at such a charge and proclaiming himself “fiercely pro-vaccine,” a line that never fails to get a hearty chuckle from me. (Maybe it was my imagination or confirmation bias, but to me the crowd was noticeably more silent when RFK, Jr. went on and on and on about how pro-vaccine he is. Whatever.)

Once again, I note that RFK, Jr. repeats his oft-repeated bit of misinformation about how there have been four “studies” (or investigations) of the CDC that have found it to be a cesspit of corruption. I’ve discussed these distortions before, but apparently I need to mention them again, at least briefly. For instance, RFK, Jr. claims that the “Congressional Oversight Committee” investigated the CDC for three years and found all sorts of corruption. Of course, what RFK, Jr. was clearly referring to here is Rep. Dan Burton’s hearings back in the day, or to the mummer’s farce that was Rep. Darryl Issa’s “autism” hearing in 2012. Probably both. Similarly, he notes an investigation by Senator Tom Coburn, who issued this report in 2007. I can’t help but note the report discussed potential financial mismanagement, but nothing in it implicated the vaccine program. Rather, it concentrated on Congressional earmarks being funneled through the CDC to various states, such as grants to Hawaii earmarked by Senator Daniel Inouye (D-HI) and extravagance in building the Thomas R. Harkin Global Communications (and Visitor) Center. Given that Coburn was a Republican and Inouye and Harkin were Democrats, one can’t help but sense some political score settling in this report. Read it for yourself and see.

RFK, Jr. also cites an investigation by the HHS Office of Research Integrity (ORI) into CDC misconduct last year. I can’t help but strongly suspect that what he’s referring to is the very manufactroversy known as the “CDC Whistleblower scandal” that isn’t a scandal and didn’t show that the CDC covered up data showing an alleged link between the MMR vaccine and autism in African American boys. Brian Hooker, Andrew Wakefield, and James Moody did write a letter to the HHS ORI last October. On the other hand, the resignation letter of the former director of the ORI, David Wright, who resigned in February 2014, is publicly available online. Tellingly, there is nothing about the CDC in his letter, which complains mainly of a hidebound and secretive bureaucracy and Dr. Wright’s difficulty in getting anything done. While it’s true that Wright did characterize HHS as a “remarkably dysfunctional bureaucracy” in his resignation letter, I couldn’t find any primary sources to back up RFK, Jr.’s quotes attributed to Wright about how the agency is so corrupt as to be unfixable. I call BS on RFK, Jr.’s claim here.

I also call BS on RFK, Jr.’s claim about Paul Offit, too. He’s lying again, which he does at about the 16:45 mark. Calling Offit the “Lex Luthor of vaccines,” RFK, Jr. also refers to Offit as a “toady of Merck” because he holds the Maurice R. Hillman Chair in Vaccinology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. Playing on the ignorance of how endowed chairs work, RFK, Jr. claims that because Offit holds this chair he is in the pocket of Merck. Of course, Merck, like many corporations, has a charitable foundation, and the charitable foundation donated an endowment to found the Maurice Hillman Chair, which Hillman had worked to set up before his death, specifically $1.5 million, while the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) provided $500,000. Moreover, Merck has no say in who holds the chair, as described in the press release announcing the chair:

The Hilleman Chair will be awarded to a physician/scientist making significant contributions to vaccinology on the standing faculty of Penn. The Hilleman Chair holder will be selected by an interdisciplinary search committee appointed by the President and Chief Executive Officer of The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and the Dean, School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.

One notes that RFK, Jr., either through sloppiness or dishonesty, implied that Offit was awarded this chair in 1989, before he was appointed to the committee that sets the vaccine schedule. The Hilleman Chair, however, was not established until 2005.

RFK, Jr. then goes on to lie some more. He states that Paul Offit voted to add the rotavirus vaccine he had invented to the vaccine schedule and that he sold his patent after it was on the schedule. It is a lie that Offit voted on adding a vaccine for which he had an interest, a lie ably refuted by Liz Ditz and Skeptical Raptor. And, no, Offit was not reprimanded by Congress either. He did nothing wrong.

Not surprisingly, RFK, Jr. also misrepresents the science, as he has been doing for more than a decade, even invoking his ad hominem term “biostitutes,” which is his term for scientists he views as having “sold out” to big pharma. Be that as it may, RFK, Jr. lays down the howler that scientists shouldn’t be doing epidemiological science, but rather animal studies, where they can examine animal organs, and toxicological studies in Petrie dishes. His rationale? Because epidemiological studies look at groups and can be manipulated. He even trots out one of the dumbest examples I’ve ever heard, claiming that you can design a study that shows that sex doesn’t make you pregnant by excluding people who are pregnant from the study. I mean, seriously, listen to it for yourself beginning around the 19:00 mark. RFK, Jr. owes me a new keyboard, because I made the mistake of having a mouthful of coffee when that passage played on my laptop! (I really should know better now.) He then claims that this is the same thing as excluding autistic children and children with neurological disorders before doing the epidemiological study. Never mind that this is done to make it easier to see any observed effects and to avoid confounding.

Truly, RFK, Jr.’s ignorance of epidemiology is even more epic than even Brian Hooker’s. What he says doesn’t even make a tiny amount of sense. Indeed, I bet that even Brian Hooker, if he saw this talk, would cringe.

But don’t you dare call RFK, Jr. “antivaccine,” even though it is true. After all, he claims he is “fiercely pro-vaccine.”

Antivaccine, not pro-safe vaccine

I could have gone through several of the other talks if I wanted this post to balloon to an even more unmanageable than usual size; so I refrained. Much of it was just the same old antivaccine pseudoscience that I’ve been writing about for years. Indeed, I was tempted not to discuss RFK, Jr.’s talk at all, given that it was basically an expanded version of his interview with Bill Maher from a few months ago, complete with the same lies about Paul Offit, the same distortions about the CDC, but with extra added bonus ignorance about science. The same was true of Barbara Loe Fisher, but I thought her comments on her “research priorities” are very useful to illustrate just how little she understands science. In reality, though, the only real new wrinkle in this antivaccine rally, the only thing new under the antivaccine sun, are the collaboration of the Nation of Islam and the attempt by antivaccinationists to use them as an “in” to the African-American community. This alliance has the potential to cause real mischief among people who are already disadvantaged with respect to health care.

Antivaccine poster targeted at African-Americans. But don't call them antivaccine. They just have a poster picturing a crying baby boy being injected with numerous vaccines surrounded by logo proclaiming "the greatest lie ever told" to be that "vaccines are safe and effective." Don't you dare call them antivaccine.

Antivaccine poster targeted at African-Americans. But don’t call them antivaccine. They just have a poster picturing a crying baby boy being injected with numerous vaccines surrounded by logo proclaiming “the greatest lie ever told” to be that “vaccines are safe and effective.” Don’t you dare call them antivaccine.

In the end, though, I find this “rally” (or these “rallies”) to be evidence of just how marginalized the antivaccine movement is. I would like to think they are a sad, last gasp of a dying movement, but, if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that the antivaccine movement, no matter how beaten down it is, never dies. It’s Halloween week; so I’ll use a slasher flick analogy. Like Michael Myers or Jason, no matter how many times it seems to be dead or dying, the antivaccine movement always returns to endanger our children and kill again. I fear this time it will be no different.

It’s already no different:

Same as it ever was.

Posted by David Gorski

Dr. Gorski's full information can be found here, along with information for patients. David H. Gorski, MD, PhD, FACS is a surgical oncologist at the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute specializing in breast cancer surgery, where he also serves as the American College of Surgeons Committee on Cancer Liaison Physician as well as an Associate Professor of Surgery and member of the faculty of the Graduate Program in Cancer Biology at Wayne State University. If you are a potential patient and found this page through a Google search, please check out Dr. Gorski's biographical information, disclaimers regarding his writings, and notice to patients here.

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