Antivaccine nonsense Complementary and alternative medicine Medicine Quackery

Rumors and urban legends in the antivaccinationist movement

One of the most common aspects of any good conspiracy theory is that “they” know about it but are covering it up, “they” usually being the government. Usually, the “evidence” that “they” know consists third- or fourth-hand unverifiable stories from a “friend of a friend of a friend” who, very conveniently, just so happened to be in just the right place at just the right time to overhear just the right tidbit of information that shows that “they” know all about “it.” The exact conspiracy theory is almost irrelevant. Be it alien abductions, the “9/11 Truth” movement, Bigfoot sightings, or whatever, believers always claim that “they” know all about it but are either doing nothing or even actively suppressing their special information, usually for some dark and nefarious purpose.

Add the antivaccination movement to this list of conspiracy theorists. Its favored “they” rumor these days seems to be the claim that the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Mike Leavitt, has supposedly “admitted” that “we know” that mercury (or vaccines in general; pick one) causes autism. Naturally, the creduloids at Age of Autism can’t help but keep repeating this rumor once again as though a “friend of a friend of a friend”-type story has any more credibility than any other urban legend:

On June 2nd, my wife, our son, our younger daughter and I were in D.C. for the Green Our Vaccines Rally. While there, we went out to dinner with an old friend and his family. While his neurotypical son patiently tried to communicate with our non-verbal son, my wife and I explained the purpose of our visit.

We detailed to them, again, that the vaccines and the toxic bouillabaisse brewed into them caused our son’s autism, and there is indeed an epidemic of autism in the world, caused in large part by toxic vaccines. We told them the current CDC schedule is 37 injections before the age of five, and that one of one hundred and fifty kids gets autism and that one out of six children has some form of neurological damage. I said the government had to know and must be covering it up.

Guess what his response was: “Yeah, they know. Leavitt knows the vaccines are responsible.”

I wasn’t shocked. I have to admit that this was the second time he’d told us that higher ups in HHS know that vaccines are causing a lot of damage to our kids, including the epidemic of autism. So why should I believe him? Here’s two reasons.

First, I’ve known him for a long time. He’s as honorable a person as I have ever known. I trust what he tells me. Second; he works at HHS and he hears, and knows things. Plus, he told us essentially the same thing last year on a trip to D.C.

Just to remind you; HHS is the department that oversees the FDA, and our friends at the CDC. They are the department that acknowledged Hannah Poling and other children were injured by their vaccines.

So, Dan Olmsted hears the story over lunch from a friend, and I hear essentially the same story from a source inside HHS. But it’s all hearsay evidence, and I’m as certain that Mike Leavitt would deny he said anything of the kind as I am the sun will rise in the East tomorrow morning.

Amazing. Shocking. “They” knew all along! (I will give some props to the author for the term “toxic bouillabaisse,” though. It’s way more creative a term than the usual dullards at AoA can come up with.) Maybe Dan Olmsted was right two months ago, when he first published an identical rumor! The Illuminati want your children to be vaccinated and get autism! (Or maybe it’s the alien lizards who really rule the world.) Naturally, to any good conspiracy theorist, the very fact that the person who supposedly “admitted” that the government “knew” in private would deny it when questioned about this admission must be slam-dunk evidence that there really is a conspiracy.

Of course, it’s not enough that Leavitt “knows.” Oh, no. The American Academy of Pediatrics, the physician group whose recommendations for the vaccination schedule are followed by many pediatricians, has to “know” as well! See:

While taking our circuitous route back to Chicago, via Appomattox Courthouse, my wife reminded me of what she had heard from another friend back home, the mother of an autistic boy. When we returned to Chicago, I called our friend and asked her to tell me the story.

It seems that a neighbor of hers, Ms. Carolyn Kolbaba, is the former head of Public Information at the American Academy of Pediatrics. Back in the fall of 2005, while doing PTO stuff in our friend’s living room, they began discussing her son; she told her fellow parent Carolyn that she believes vaccines and mercury caused his autism. Ms. Kolbaba replied that the AAP knows vaccines are causing autism, but they will never make a public statement admitting that, “…because most parents wouldn’t understand and they’ll stop vaccinating and children will get sick and die.”

I wonder what Ms. Kolbaba, if she exists, would say about this rumor.

Never mind those nasty skeptical thoughts, though. Remember instead: It ain’t just the guv’mint! It’s them damned doctors too! (No doubt all in the pockets of big pharma.) They’re all in on the conspiracy, along with the Masons, the Illumnati, George Bush, alien lizards (I know, it’s hard to tell them apart from George Bush), the Mossad, the CIA, and the Cigarette-Smoking Man. Next, they’ll be saying that vaccination was a Nazi plot developed by Dr. Mengele and continued after American and Soviet troops discovered Nazi secrets after the fall of the Third Reich, and that the Crystal Skull is somehow involved, not to mention space aliens. Either that, or they’ll be saying that alien black oil is in vaccines–put there by the Syndicate, no doubt, because aliens want to turn the whole human race autistic.

Or something.


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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