The Latest Round in the Vaccination War

Tensions have flared once again between those that support vaccinations and those that oppose them with the publication in WIRED magazine of an article by Amy Wallace entitled “An Epidemic of Fear: How Panicked Parents Skipping Shots Endangers Us All.  This well researched article which is part interview with vaccine co-inventor Paul Offit and part vaccine history lesson has the anti-vaccination fringe all upset.  They are so upset in fact that J.B. Handley, the founder of Generation Rescue, an anti-vaccine group has written in the blog Age of Autism a commentary piece originally entitled “Paul Offit Rapes (intellectually) Amy Wallace and Wired Magazine.” which has now been toned down to just ” Wired Magazine and Amy Wallace Drink Paul Offit’s Kool-Aid”.   The line ‘the roofie cocktails at Paul Offit’s house must be damn good’ has been removed and now Amy is just innocently sipping Paul’s kool-aid rather than being date-raped.

It is interesting to see that a female journalist who writes a scientific piece that others disagree with has sexual references made about her whilst male journalists usually just get their credibility called into question.  In fact this point has been taken up by Abel Pharmboy in his insightful post, “When critics disagree with me, I’m a Pharma Shill.  When critics disagree with a woman it gets sexual.” The sexual name calling doesn’t stop with Handley’s horrible article, unfortunately.  Amy has received many letters in which is called a prostitute, a whore and other even more terrible things after the publication of her article.  She has now started twittering sections of letters both in support of and opposing her article.   Bastard Sheep has done and excellent job chronicling her tweets and putting them in a more readable format.  They are compelling reading.

For those interested in reading a great opinion piece about the tensions that have flared up over Wallace’s article, check out Science-Based Medicine’s post, “The effectiveness wordsmithing of Amy Wallace”.

For me, as someone new to the vaccination information war, this latest ‘battle’ has been very eye-opening in terms of how each side presents their arguments and responds to arguments from the other side.  As someone who has a science degree, I am always going to find solid scientific facts much more compelling than hearsay and personal anecdotes.  However, the behaviour of the anti-vaccination groups has made me realise that if the only way you can try to win a fight is to resort to name calling and other dirty tactics then you must not hold a lot of faith that your arguments can stand up to critical analysis.

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13 responses to “The Latest Round in the Vaccination War

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  2. I didn’t know “intellectual rape” was a sexual act?

    • You are right, intellectual rape is not a sexual act, but the term would never be used to criticise a male journalist, which is my point. It is only when criticising female journalists that they bring it out and that is because even intellectual rape has sexual connotations.

  3. I read Amy’s article. I am a big fan of Wired Mag. I was surprised not to read more compelling information that would have possibly changed my mind. Not much new there. Just the same old same old.

    • Well the facts don’t change. They don’t become different or more sensational over time. It is only those who rely on pseduoscience who seem to get new “facts” all the time, each more dangerous and sensational than the last one.

  4. Riayn, I am open to the unproven. I am open to the proven. My gut feeling in regards to vaccines is to proceed very cautiously. I am woman. I always listen to my gut feeling when making big choices. For now, my choice is to refrain from vaccinations. Hoping to hear a balanced, honest view somewhere, somehow soon. My point being that there is truth in both sides.

    • The choice to vaccinate your children is yours, but I really must compel you to do some research into the risk factors of the diseases your children could quite possibly get if they are unvaccinated and comparing those risk factors to the risk factors of getting the vaccine.
      The science shows that getting the vaccination has a much lesser risk of serious side effects then getting the disease, some of them which can kill your child.
      I recently wrote a post entitled The Dangers of Not Vaccinating Your Child ( looking at the risks of not vaccinating especially against MMR and the risks to not only your child but children and adults in your local community.
      Don’t be fooled into thinking that childhood illnesses are non-life threatening.

  5. This doctor seems to have a very different take than Wallace/Offit?

    Blinders won’t reduce autism
    Friday, March 13, 2009
    For the million plus American families touched by autism, like mine, there is real urgency to find scientific answers to help loved ones and prevent future victims. Unfortunately, some doctors still fail to even accept the increasing autism rate as real, rather than their own better diagnosis.

    The collateral damage of “better diagnosis,” the idea that we are simply better at detecting autism, is the abandonment of families coping with autism by the medical establishment, government and private insurance companies.

    Beyond the high emotional toll autism takes on a family, many have been financially ruined. Public school systems are drowning in the red ink of educating increasing numbers of special-needs students.

    Fortunately, the ‘better diagnosis’ myth has been soundly debunked. In the 2009 issue of Epidemiology, two authors analyzed 1990 through 2006 California Department of Developmental Services and U.S. Census data documenting an astronomical 700 to 800 percent rise in the disorder.

    These scientists concluded that only a smaller percentage of this staggering rise can be explained by means other than a true increase.

    Because purely genetic diseases do not rise precipitously, the corollary to a true autism increase is clear — genes only load the gun and it is the environment that pulls the trigger. Autism is best redefined as an environmental disease with genetic susceptibilities.

    We should be investing our research dollars into discovering environmental factors that we can change, not more poorly targeted genetic studies that offer no hope of early intervention. Pesticides, mercury, aluminum, several drugs, dietary factors, infectious agents and yes — vaccines — are all in the research agenda.

    An inspiring new text, “Autism-Current Theories and Evidence,” has successfully navigated the minefield of autism science without touching the “third rail,” as Dr. Sanjay Gupta aptly describes the vaccine-autism debate.

    Dr. Andrew Zimmerman, who has studied autism for decades, prophetically writes, “The clinical heterogeneity of this disorder, together with the inherent dynamic changes during children’s growth and development, confound static, linear models and simplistic, unilateral approaches.”

    Zimmerman’s book is dense with cutting-edge science on cell biology, metabolism, oxidative stress, neuroinflammation, auto-immunity and brain pathology. That’s right — autism isn’t simply a genetic program for brain development gone awry. Dr. Martha Herbert, of Harvard Medical School, writes the final chapter defining autism in the larger framework of a multiple organ system disease with potentially reversible impairments.

    As an affected parent, I am left with a sense of hope that these professionals will produce results to stem the tide of new autism cases and ameliorate symptoms of those currently suffering.

    On the other hand, Dr. Paul Offit, the vaccine inventor whose Rotateq royalty interests recently sold for a reported $182 million, has written a novel of perceived good and evil called “Autism’s False Prophets.”

    The tome is largely a dramatic account of why Offit, who self-admittedly is not an autism expert, feels vaccines should be exonerated in the autism epidemic. In the story, Offit takes no prisoners, smearing characters in the vaccine-autism controversy as effortlessly as a rich cream cheese.

    “False Prophets” has curiously garnered support from several senior physicians in respected medical journals.

    After Offit’s drama is complete, these cheerleaders fail to realize they have traveled the road labeled “Dead End — No Through Traffic.” In his epilogue, Offit credits autism parents who have likewise gone down the dead end path to autism acceptance, without search for cause or cure.

    As both parent and doctor, I cannot fathom turning my back on a child nor science, in order to avoid inconvenient questions about vaccine safety or any other reasonable environmental factor.

    President Obama has recognized that “we’ve seen just a skyrocketing autism rate” and plans to appoint an “autism czar” to coordinate his policy efforts. Science is moving forward to connect the three dots of environment, genes and plasticity of a developing child’s brain circuitry. In the end, logic and reason will prevail over politics and profits.

    • Dr. Jon Poling, an Athens neurologist, is an assistant professor at the Medical College of Georgia. His daughter, Hannah Poling, has been a successful petitioner in the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program.

    • I agree with Poling that much more research needs to be done into the causes of autism, but already there has been over 20 studies into whether there are any links between vaccines and autism and none have been found. How many more millions of research dollars do we need to spend looking into whether there are any links between vaccines and autism that could be spent researching other areas of autism?

  6. Wondering, there is no true rise in autism because the rise in autism diagnoses was balanced by a drop in diagnoses of mental retardation & developmental delays or learning disabilities.

    A couple of recent studies have indicated that lack of Vitamin D in parents is associated with more autism in children.

    • That is a very good question.

      I think in terms of learning disabilities we are still seeing the same number if not more kids diagnosed thanks to teachers being better trained in how to spot them rather than letting those kids languish in the classroom which is what used to happen.

      I haven’t read any of the studies that show a lack of Vitamin D in parents contribute to autism. Do you have any references?

  7. Thanks for your information friends

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