Antivaccine nonsense Autism Complementary and alternative medicine Entertainment/culture Medicine Quackery

Noooo! Antivaccination nonsense in Michigan!

You know, I keep trying to get away from this topic for a while. But, as Michael Corleone said in The Godfather, Part III, “Just when I thought I was out… they pull me back in.” I suppose it is unfortunately a measure of the success that antivaccinationists have been having with their public relations effort this year that this stuff keeps popping up everywhere like some mercury- and “toxin”-crazed Whac-A-Mole™ that I can never seem to stay quiet more than a couple of days on the topic lately. Sometimes I ignore it, even when it’s David Kirby. Sometimes I can’t.

This time I can’t, because it’s in my home state.

I’m talking about a breathtakingly idiotic and scientifically ignorant article published in the Battle Creek Enquirer by a woman named Carlene Clements entitled Issue of autism: This epidemic can be halted.

The stupid, it goes thermonuclear–nay, supernova!

This article is not worth fisking in its entirety. It doesn’t deserve that much respect; I’ll leave what I don’t take on as an exercise for the reader, as well as any commenting my Michigan readers (or any reader) might want to do on the newspaper’s website itself. Instead I’ll just take a couple of tidbits:

Autism was nearly unknown until 1943 when it was diagnosed among 11 children born in the months after thimerosal, a “mercury-based preservative,” was added to baby vaccines. Prior to 1989, American preschoolers received only three vaccinations (polio, diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis and measles-mumps-rubella). Ten years later, children were receiving heavy doses of thimerosal in the 22 immunizations required by the time they reached first grade, with some immunizations starting soon after birth. More than 500,000 children currently suffer from autism, with 40,000 new cases being diagnosed each year – currently one in 150. (Is this not an epidemic? Is this not a lost generation? What’s wrong with this picture?) Of course, authorities claim it’s due to “better diagnosis.” Hmmm. Ask all these parents what they think.

No, no, no, no! Autism was unknown until 1943 because that’s when it was first described as a syndrome. Guess what, Carlene? Most conditions and diseases are “unknown” before someone puts a name on them! (Clearly Carlene has been reading RFK, Jr.) Either that or they were “known” as something else or as a constellation of symptoms! Then, of course, once again she parrots the myth of the very likely nonexistent autism epidemic! And, no, it’s not just because of “better diagnosis,” but it’s also due to better awareness and diagnostic substitution. It’s possible that the true prevalence of autism may have risen somewhat, but it’s by no means an “epidemic.

Another tidbit:

Discontinuing immunizations is not the aim. Immunizations themselves are fine, but they need to be safe – free of harmful preservatives – and they shouldn’t be given at such early ages. Some babies have a weak immune system when they are born, and it needs to mature.

Ah, yes, the “toxin” gambit and the wonderfully Orwellian “green our vaccines” gambit. Sorry, Carlene, but the above paragraph just goes to show that you lack a single clue about this issue.

Of course, here is where I’ll be accused of “lacking compassion” or being “mean.” The reason, of course, is that Carlene has a power that I’ll never have. She can pull the “grandma gambit”:

I’m not an expert, just a grandma.

Noooo! I wither in the face of the grandma gambit. Grandmas are lovable and cuddly, while Orac is nothing more than an arrogant clear plastic box full of blinking lights, spewing venom hither and yon upon these brave grandmothers and mothers who only want to help their children by subjecting them to injections, bizarre diets, and huge numbers of supplements to “cure” them of their autism. How can Orac demonstrate such a lack of sympathy for these parents? [Note: Orac’s been meaning to address this particular rankling charge for a long time now. Maybe tomorrow or Tuesday.]

Unfortunately, Carlene shows that, however loving and kind grandmas may be, they are just as capable of being just as scientifically ignorant as any other antivaccinationist:

If you have a child, grandchild or know of someone who does who has been diagnosed on the autism spectrum, please, please, go to the Internet and do a search. Some of the sites are,,, These organizations are spreading, but many states still have no resources to help these families.

A book to read is written by Jenny McCarthy called “Louder Than Words.” Jenny and comedian Jim Carrey are very involved in getting this information out. They, along with numerous autism organizations, parents, doctors, etc. will be leading a march in Washington, D.C., on June 4 to get this message out.

No, what Generation Rescue and its fellow travelers, aided by the useful idiot Jenny McCarthy, are pushing are myths and harmful quackery. What they’re pushing is chelation therapy, the Geiers’ chemical castration, and Dr. Buttar’s quackery, and being well-intentioned is no talisman to protect one against criticism for the results of one’s actions.

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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