Antivaccine nonsense Autism Complementary and alternative medicine Medicine Quackery

Deirdre Imus gives everyone the gift of stupid for Christmas

I’ve mentioned before that it irritates me that Don Imus is back on the air. It’s not that I give a rodent’s posterior that he made an offensive comment about the Rutgers women’s basketball team that lead to his being fired from his previous gig. It’s actually more because he somehow managed to displace the radio show that I usually listened to on my way to work in the morning (and in my office on mornings when I didn’t have any clinical responsibilites), Curtis & Kuby, which may have been getting a little bit long in the tooth but was still usually far more entertaining on its worst day than most radio shows are on their best. It’s because Don Imus is a washed-up has-been hack who, the few times I listened to him, was so relentlessly inane and boring that he inspired an irresistible twitch in the finger controlling the radio tuner that forced me to flip to another station, any station, to escape that droning voice. Above all, though, it’s because Don Imus has been a supporter of the mercury militia and its discredited notion that mercury in vaccines somehow causes autism, meaning that we again have to put up with not only his support of the mercury militia, but also with the prominent idiocy of his wife Deirdre, who is even more of a rabid antivaccinationist than Don is.

Deirdre apparently decided to prove just what an antivaccination loon she is once again with a little pre-Christmas turd-bomb that she dropped on the Huffington Post on Friday entitled Missing the Mercury Threat: An appeal to New Jersey’s Governor. Imus starts out with a quote from Einstein, that “only two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity.” She’s absolutely right, just not in the way she thinks. It turns out that her post demonstrates unequivocally that infinite stupidity is hers.

It’s not surprising that the recent mandate in New Jersey to add four new vaccines to the list of vaccines required for children to attend school, the influenza vaccine, pneumococcal, meningococcal, tetanus, diphtheria and acellular pertusis (Tdap) vaccine. Antivaccinationists are simply beside themselves over this decision. One of them even went so far as to contrast how New Jersey recently abolished the death penalty with this new vaccine mandate in breathless, hysterical terms in a piece entitled Newest New Jersey Joke: Spare the Criminals, Sacrifice the Kids, a truly amazing blast of idiocy that stunned even me, someone who’s been following these issues for nearly three years.

Imus, not wanting to be left out, can’t resist trying to top this:

Unless Governor Corzine, the state legislature, or perhaps a judge intervenes, New Jersey will go down in history as the first state in the nation, for that matter the world, to order parents to vaccinate their preschoolers with a known developmental neurotoxin, which many parents, physicians and scientific research suggest is linked to the epidemic of developmental disorders, including autism.

The PHC recommendation came just days before another “first in the nation” law was passed by Minnesota lawmakers who voted to ban the use of mercury in mascara and other cosmetics. “Mercury does cause neurological damage to people even in tiny quantities…can retard brain development in children and fetuses who are most vulnerable to the metal’s toxic effects” stated the Minnesota officials.

That’s right, you can’t put mercury on your mommy’s lashes in Minnesota but New Jersey health officials just can’t wait to inject it into your young children.

The stupid, it burns.

The Minnesota law appears to be directed at thimerosal that was sometimes used in topically applied products like makeup for the same reason it was used in vaccines, as a preservative. I could point out that one difference between makeup and vaccines is that women use makeup every day. I could also point out that, for most people, thimerosal is safe when topically applied. Indeed, it used to be used in eyedrops and contact lens solutions. The reason it was removed was because of the incidence of contact dermatitis and allergies. As far as thimerosal in vaccines, the concept that mercury in vaccines has anything to do with autism, which was never really that convincing in the first place but just barely credible enough to have been worth investigating 8 years ago, has failed to pan out. Multiple large studies have failed to find any link whatsoever between thimerosal in vaccines and autism or indeed vaccines in general and autism. Moreover, there is no sign at all that autism incidence has started to decrease in the cohort of children 3-5 years old, even though the last thimerosal-containing vaccines expired in 2002, a result that replicates the experience in Canada, Denmark, and other countries after thimerosal was removed from childhood vaccines. Moreover, even with flu vaccines, some of which contain trace amounts of thimerosal, the exposure of a typical child to mercury from vaccines today is far lower than it was in the 1990s. Indeed, it’s lower than it’s been since the 1970s. Yet autism rates still do not fall. Whatever problems thimerosal in vaccines may cause, this is about as slam-dunk as epidemiological evidence goes that it does not cause autism.

Not that that deters deluded mercury militia idiots like Deirdre Imus, who confidently spouts the same talking points that antivaccinationists have been using for years now without any scientific support:

While some NJ public health officials arrogantly dismiss the link between vaccines and autism as “scientifically unfounded,” and tell reporters concerns about thimerosal is “a moot issue,” since most vaccines are either free of the compound or contain only trace amounts, like the preschool flu vaccine.”, a growing body of published scientific research shows this opinion cannot be factually supported.

To the contrary, approximately 90% of the influenza vaccine supply still contains thimerosal. According to the FDA, the 25 micrograms of mercury in one influenza vaccine is NOT a “trace amount”. According to EPA guidelines, this amount can only be considered safe if a person weighs 550 pounds. You would think a health official would know this.

The FDA guidelines are for daily exposure to mercury, not episodic exposure, as is seen in vaccines. This is a very common antivaccinationist canard favored of the mercury militia. So are attacks on big pharma:

Look, everyone knows what these new recommendations are all about. MONEY, MONEY AND MORE MONEY!

Vaccines have become the lifeblood of the pharmaceutical industry…

I note this particular year’s report because it was in 2003 that industry, along with health officials, aggressively forged ahead with a masterful marketing plan. Create fear that terrible diseases are going spread through schools like wildfires if every kid isn’t vaccinated through a very well financed lobbying and advertising campaign. Then get a handful of health officials; to “rubber stamp” exactly what the industry wants. What corporation wouldn’t covet a program sanctioned by the government that forces the public to use their products? [‘Dire’ CDC warning hiked flu shot demand: UPI, 10/15/04]

The profits from mandated vaccines has resulted in billions of profits for the drug companies and if enacted, the new vaccine recommendations will deliver billions more.

An easy and guaranteed flow of revenue for industry and physicians alike.

Yeah, because pediatricians make so much administering vaccines. (Hint: It’s just another office visit or frequently bundled in with well baby visits.)

I particularly like where she references the quackery- and antivaccination-friendly forums as one of her sources for deciding that there’s a big pharma marketing conspiracy, as well as a New York Times that cited claims of antivaccinationists as “a growing body of published scientific research” that supposedly shows that the link between vaccines and autism is scientifically founded. She even credulously cites the DeSoto and Hitlan study as though it actually were slam dunk evidence that mercury causes autism.

It’s not, but that’s just what Deirdre Imus would call an “arrogant dismissal.” Personally, I think it’s arrogant for a know-nothing like Imus to pontificate about science that she clearly doesn’t understand, but that’s just the elitist in me speaking.

Of course, like all antivaccinationist mercury militia members, Deirdre Imus is quick to reassure us that she really, really isn’t antivaccination:

For the record, I have repeatedly acknowledged the importance of vaccinations. There is no question that vaccines have saved many lives but they are not without risks. Over the last decade, however, serious and legitimate questions have arisen regarding the number of vaccines we are giving our children today and whether the ingredients in those vaccines are as safe as we, the public, have been led to believe.

Sure, Deirdre. We believe you when you say you’re not antivaccine. You’re about as convincing as your husband’s apology for the behavior that got him fired.

I suppose that I should be grateful that Imus refrained from using one of the most easily debunked mercury militia lies, namely that the symptoms of autism are “exactly the same” as those of mercury poisoning.

Not surprisingly, Imus doesn’t appear too enamored of critical comments directed her way. If you look at the comments after her post, you’ll see that most are sycophantic, with almost nary a negative word about her credulity and endorsement of pseudoscience. You might wonder why. There have been reports to me from people who’ve tried to post comments critical of Imus’s misinformation that were not by any stretch of the imagination “abusive,” who’ve told me that their comments were not approved or that they showed up and were later deleted. I propose that we test this. Let’s tell Imus what the real evidence shows and see if she and the moderators at the Huffington Post will let them be posted.

Any bets as to the outcome?

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

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