Antivaccine nonsense Autism Complementary and alternative medicine Medicine

Do you believe autism and vaccines are linked?

Of course, the best way to decide such questions is to vote, right?

I know, I know, I’ve complained about poll-crashing before, but, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.

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]

67 replies on “Do you believe autism and vaccines are linked?”

How about:
“Do you believe the dead are returning to life and attacking the living?”

I find it heartening, that the majority of respondents don’t believe they are linked!

Some of comments are headdesk-worthy.

Posted by alaskamommy Thu Mar 11, 2010 5:52pm PST

I don’t believe that vaccines alone cause autism. I believe that certain kids (my son being one of them) are born pre-disposed to getting autism and it takes a trigger such as multiple vaccines to actually bring the autism to the forefront. This is why my son has had zero vaccines and is not autistic. But I fully believe that had I vaccinated him, he would be autistic

So…you didn’t vaccinate your kid and your kid’s not autistic, therefore vaccines cause autism?

Seriously, the vote will settle this once and for all! Except it won’t…because it is just public opinion…and a stupid idea…never mind.

Hey, ‘Off’ is my favorite channel! Season 3 of ‘Dark’ was really good, much better than this season of ‘Static’…

Of course they’re linked. They’re linked all over the place, even in the title to this post.

Why would you crash a poll when the article is already leading people to doubt the two are linked? That’s just stupid.

Mr. Hosting, what exactly do you agree with?

Also, how do explain why Kim Stagliano’s youngest daughter who has also had zero vaccines is autistic? Please tell us, with actual data.

Ah, that explains the blatant stupidity!

(okay, it was good spam software in that it actually related to the blog posting)

If alaskamommy really believed that “off” was a TV channel, she might not have fallen victim to the antivax propaganda.

That reminds me, has anyone proposed that DEET causes autism?

In the “stupid do-you-believe tricks” category, several people have reported getting a phone poll from the National Organization for MarraigeMarriage (NOM) asking “Do you believe that marriage between only one man and one woman should be legal?” I’d answer it with “no, I believe an aardvark should be a required part of every marriage.”

What the frak does “belief” have to do with it? Science is science, whether you believe in it or not. So annoying.

And Scientizzle, I only got three comments in before I had to stop reading for the safety of everyone around me. I honestly empathize with scared, worried parents of a sick kid, but it’s heartbreaking how many of them flee scientific thought — and have absolutely no consideration for other people’s children — as a result. These mothers claim they are more compassionate and more tuned in to children’s health than doctors, and yet they’re endangering everyone *including* their own precious snowflakes with their decisions. Awesome.

For fucks sakes. Pardon my french but when are people going to realize that it’s not what you BELIEVE, but what you can PROVE. *sigh*.

One just has to look at the media coverage to see that vaccines and autism are clearly linked. They are not causally linked, and they are probably not even significantly correlated, but they are inextricably linked in the minds of confused and misled parents around the USA. Their coexistence in so many headlines is a similar kind of link between the two.

But… I don’t think that’s the kind of link that the poll was referring to.


Oh Goodness, not this again. I shouldn’t have read those comments, they make me so sad. And I’m a mother of TWO (Count ’em! TWO!) kids with autism, in varying degrees, born two years apart, who had the same vaccinations and medical issues and parents and food and house that they grew up in, etc, etc. Next they are going to tell me it was lead dust + vaccines+mercury in my breast milk+ not enough probiotics, etc, etc, et. It will be twisted anyway it can be twisted just to prove, somehow, that they are right about the dang vaccines.

Did anyone else see the user name Alaskamommy and wonder if the commenter was Sarah Palin?

Why can’t we settle this once and for all? I call for a battle-royale-type event whereby we put this issue to rest once and for all…

Two men enter, one man leave.

Many of the comments have just made my eyes bleed, and my brain go into spasms.

If the media devoted one tenth of their efforts spent in reporting this crap, into promoting early intervention, respite and appropriate education for children on the autistic spectrum, I would be a much happier parent of an ASD kid.

Yikes, I just voted and it’s still a 23/77 split. I posted a comment but it never posted, are they screening them first? I posted the analogy that my grandma told me the moon is made of cheese, dozens of scientists go to the moon, find no cheese. And that believing vax cause autism is similar to believing the moon is made of cheese.

Agree with DebinOz… Many of the comments did make my eyes bleed inside. Many of the anti-vaccine idiots are either wilfully or ignorantly bending Julie Gerberding’s words (from her CNN House Call appearance) to make it seem that she admitted that vaccines cause autism! Whom does this dishonesty benefit?

For those that are interested, here is the link to the transcript of the CNN show.

What’s the Orac version of Pharyngulating a poll?

Posted by: Pablo | March 15, 2010 9:13 AM

I believe vaccines and autism are linked. When you look at the totality of the situation (the studies-pro and against, parent’s stories, media bias, drug company histories) it is the only logical conclusion. Some day soon the Poul Thorsens’,Brian Deers, and CDC, AAP will have their come to Jesus moment.

I decided to vote

Do you believe autism and vaccines are linked?



I selected NO and I got;
Unxepected error occurred try again later or soemthing to that effect.

I cracking up!!!
Clearly some sort of conspiracy!!!!


I believe vaccines and autism are link.

It is not a matter of belief, but evidence.

If you have real “the studies-pro and against” that support your belief, feel free to share. Just remember that to be taken seriously here they must meet a minimum set of criteria. For one thing, not published in non-peered reviewed journals like JPANDS or Medical Hypotheses.

Also, “parent’s stories” are anecdotes. The plural of anecdote is anecdotes, not data.

I should also remind you (again) that Paul Thorsen was not a main contributor to the two Danish papers, and was not involved in anyway with the following papers:
Taylor et al., 1999 [5] Ecological United Kingdom
Farrington et al., 2001 [6] Ecological United Kingdom
Kaye et al., 2001 [7] Ecological United Kingdom
Dales et al., 2001 [8] Ecological United States
Fombonne et al., 2006 [9] Ecological Canada
Fombonne and Chakrabarti, 2001 [10] Ecological United Kingdom
Taylor et al., 2002 [11] Ecological United Kingdom
DeWilde et al., 2001 [12] Case-control United Kingdom
Makela et al., 2002 [13] Retrospective cohort Finland
DeStefano et al., 2004 [15] Case-control United States
Peltola et al., 1998 [16] Prospective cohort Finland
Patja et al., 2000 [17] Prospective cohort Finland

Stehr-Green et al., 2003 [22] Ecological Sweden and Denmark
Fombonne et al., 2006 [9] Ecological Canada
Hviid et al., 2003 [24] Retrospective cohort Denmark
Verstraeten et al., 2003 [25] Retrospective cohort United States
Heron and Golding, 2004 [26] Prospective cohort United Kingdom
Andrews et al., 2004 [27] Retrospective cohort United Kingdom


Parent’s stories are proof of our existence, too.

It’s established by the authors of the poll that 1/4 believe that vaccines cause autism. So they put up a poll to establish… what exactly?

“Approximately 1/2 of the world’s population is female. Our poll question today: Are you female? YES/NO”

Helpful! This poll will finally debunk the veil of secrecy and lies perpetrated by Big Ovary.

Say what you will, but after reading some of her comments I’m forced to partially agree with AlaskaMommy. I share her belief that the deck is stacked against her children achieving normative mental function.

LOL, Raka, you made my day… which started off head-bleedingly bad after I read the comments on that article.

Chris, you have included Fombonne in many of your references to vaccine safety research.
I think it should be pointed out that Fombonne is a psychiatrist with ties to Sanofi-Pasteur and is not an epidemiologist. In his study looking at thimerosal (like Thorsen)he claimed that not only did the autism level not go down after thim “removal” but rather went up, there were alot of problems with his finding. A Dr. King noted a negative enrollment bias since Fombonne looked at a kindergarten class for which enrollment was optional. Only half the kids enrolled out of the total but all the kids with autism did because of its special services to children with autism. Also, there was expposure to thimerosal during the years he claimed as “nil.” Not a good study. And how many more like this crap??!!
Also, his MMR studies of 2001 where he looked at immunization rates in one city (Quebec) and prevalence in Montreal. Ya right. Makes McGill look stupid. Cochrane Collaborative Reviews said, “the number and posssible impact of biases was so high that interpretation of the reults was difficult.” Not good.
Seriously, there really are question marks around alot of the studies you people hold up as being good scientific evidence. Well, Fombonne’s evidence is not good and it should not be referred to. I have also heard alot about Vaerstraten’s findings.

The poll results at the moment are 80% sane and rational v. 20% hysterical and reactive. Doesn’t say how many respondents there were, but there are 83 comments so far.


Things aren’t as black and white as you’re making out. Yes, there are imperfections in all of the studies. No one should suggest otherwise; nothing (and certainly no scientific study) is perfect. The relevant question is whether those imperfections are sufficiently significant to change the conclusions – and they are not. *Particularly* when you consider all of them in aggregate.

It is most emphatically not true that pointing out a flaw in a study renders it meaningless. The nature and degree of the flaw must be properly evaluated before the extent to which it invalidates the conclusion may be ascertained.

That still leaves the several other studies. You should really not parrot the horrible “14 Studies” website. As noted several times, including here and here, that it is an uneducated piece of opinion that has nothing to do with science. The latter article says this:

Their insightful analysis of the article starts “What is it with Eric Fombonne and Pediatrics? ” I do not think they approve of Fombonne. Next they will accuse him for something he didn’t do (11). Not a sign of compelling science analysis and they do not give a reason for the 1 rating, the link takes one to another site for analysis. Suggesting again a mini-industry of bogus scientific ratings trying to refute the idea that MMR and autism are not related.

And further down he notes that they go:

This is really odd. Their ‘headline’ is “Fombonne again.” But the authors of this reference are Kumanan Wilson, MD, MSc, FRCP(C); Ed Mills, DPH; Cory Ross, MSc, DPH, CHE; Jessie McGowan BMus, MLIS; Alex Jadad MD, DPhil, FRCP(C). I cut and pasted it from the reference.

jen, have you ever tried thinking for yourself? Do try it sometime, and come up with some actual real scientific evidence that proves your point. Something that is real.

(Oh, and if you don’t like Fombonne, did you get a peek of who wrote the paper I got the list of studies from? It is in the URL link just before the list. Hint: the word is in blue letters.)

PrOffit- vaccine patent holder defending vaccines. Hardly surprising! No, Chris I don’t like Fombonne’s “studies” (I believe his studies show more than a few little “imperfections”, Scott. What is scary is that people like you guys (who are presumably scientists) defend studies like these and hold them up as examples.
This other scientist from McGill once referred to an article on how vaccines supposedly are not money makers for Peds. Well, I read the article-which I don’t think that he even did. It basically stated that yes, for gp’s the vaccines aren’t big money makers but for the Peds it was another story completely.Profit margins varied and in fact one ped was quoted as saying, “they’re (vaccines) what bring the kids in.” And this article was suggested to me by this published scientist as proof that the vaccines don’t bring in any profit. He basically lied. It just doesn’t lend any credibility to the ‘vaccines don’t cause autism’ side. Fombonne, Thorsen and their undisclosed conflicts of interest. What next? When I consider them in aggregate it doesn’t look good.

I believe his studies show more than a few little “imperfections”, Scott.

Then you should have no trouble explaining precisely how those imperfections are large enough to invalidate the conclusions, particularly when those conclusions come from the entire body of research. Everything you’ve mentioned thus far is strictly minor.

Well, I read the article-which I don’t think that he even did.

You did not comprehend, apparently – the quote you mention quite firmly supports the positions that the vaccines aren’t profitable for the pediatricians. (Hint – “what bring [them] in” isn’t mentioned as the important bit if they’re profitable in their own right.)

And even beyond that, it’s quite irrelevant to the question.

I’m late to the party. Nice poll crashing. It’s almost PZ-esque.

I bet the resident trolls think it’s a BigPharma job, though.

Hey Jen, who was payin your buddy Wakefield ?
come on, take a guess.
until recently, it was a woman by the name of Johnson.
common enough name isn’t it. Except this common-named Johnson is a daughter of the Johnsons who started the Johnson & Johnson co, which is one of the world’s great pharmaceutical houses
What do Mark and David Geier do, when not doing studies with monkeys ?
Oh right, they own a multi-state “biomedical treatment” corporation which exists solely to provide their brand of quackery to autistic children.

Though it show that she does not bother to click on any provided links. If she had she would pulled out the old “let’s call the mean ol’ doctor names!” gambit earlier.

Her mind is welded shut.

I made the mistake of reading all the comments from that poll. Oh, dear Lord. I don’t mean to be nasty to women who have autistic children and who can’t post a 3-sentence comment without babbling away about how much they love their kids, but I have to say – reading those comments made me feel as good about my intelligence as makes me feel about my fashion sense (and BMI).

I’m not sure who’s more frightening on there, the women who are hopeless idiots and can’t say anything more than random emotional babble, or the ones who have picked up a scientific word here and there and misuse it completely.

Scott, I’m quite sure he didn’t read the article, for it clearly stated a healthy margin of profit for all the Peds. The regular docs, not so much. So the vaccines are profitable And they bring the kids in. Scott, come on, looking at immunization rates in one city and then autism prevalence in another? And this is acceptable how? And negative enrollment bias doesn’t sound like something that exactly makes a study reliable or valid. Chris, I have looked at the links you kindly provided.

Scott: when studies like this make up “the entire body of research” then the body tends to look bad-sick. That is my point.

I knew that scien blogs were dishonest about evolution and American history. I even knew that PZ MYers liked to fornicate polls. I also knew that from time to to time Greg Laden would join in the poll fornication. Now the grandmaster of the medical field who can cure all diseases through those safe and highly effective vaccines, has indulged in poll fornication. You guys keep me busy. It is my job to guard the polls from the evils of poll fornication. I must now go and correct this poll.

I already correctly numerous polls for PZ including Electios Meter evolution poll.

Beware! Poll fornication can lead to mental breakdown! Wait a minute I got that backwards. Mental breakdown can lead to poll fornication.

Kimberly@46: “I don’t mean to be nasty to women who have autistic children?!” Save your pity and fright for people like Fombonne who conduct research so bad that Cochrane came short of calling it idiotic. People like Fombonne should know better.

This poll was originally crashed by the anti-vax side:

The entire point of this exercise is to show how ridiculous these polls are. And to show that the anti-vaxers are a vocal minority.

At the moment, the vote is 82% (No) vs. 18% (Yes), showing that the science-based side is at least more computer literate 😉

@Dumbass Poll Article:

“And there is some validity to that statement. The parents, teachers, and caregivers are certainly on the frontlines of spectrum disorders in a way that research cannot reflect.”

“The question becomes, who is the authority on the matter of autism?”

“based on the information from both sides that we have”

ARGHHHH! To use one of Orac’s sentences, “The stupid, it burns!” At least, if you bother voting at the end of the article, you’ll see that 82% believe there is no connection between autism and vaccines.

“you’ll see that 82% believe there is no connection between autism and vaccines.”


Better recount that and make it 41% since poll fornication was used. That’s like the lie that most Americans want Obama socialist single payer HELLthcare. Most Americans do NOT want it. That’s why it is not so called law yet. If the majority wanted it, then it would have been passed last year. They need to scrap this labor union laden socilaist plan and adopt a brand new one in front of everyone on C-SPAN. You know. Like Obama said HE would do during his campaign. I guess leftist campaign promises don’t mean anything either.

Oh, and there is another lie going around saying that 30 million Americans are without health insurance. That is a LIE! Only about 10 to 12 million are without. The other 20 million or so are illegal aliens, which are NOT AMERICANS therefore they do not get benefits unless they pay into the system like everybody else! Otherwise, I’ll renounce my citizenship and become illegal in order to get “free” healthcare, “free” education, and “free” housing. Man, I should be an illegal. I woner if I go to Mexico by sneaking in illegally, would they provide me a job with benefits, free food from the government via stamps, and a free education. Why not? They do it to us? We can’t do it right back? That’s discrimination!

I knew that was coming.

“The results of the poll aren’t valid because a whole bunch of visitors came over from this place called “science based medicine” and they distorted it…”

[preaching to the converted]
So Alaskamommy believes autism is a greater risk to her child than HIB meningitis, polio, measles etc. Good mommy. I wish I couldn’t care

How much time and effort goes into debunking the SAME FUCKING THEORY that could otherwise be spent researching actual causes, advancing public education on the condition and developing effective therapies? It’s like a teacher continually holding up the class to argue with the kid in the dunce cap that 1 + 1 does NOT actually equal “apples”.
[/preaching to the converted]

“Save your pity and fright for people like Fombonne who conduct research so bad that Cochrane came short of calling it idiotic.”

I will say this much to you, Jen. Whatever your life situation I refuse to compromise on what can be reasonably concluded from the collected body of data and which medical opinions accurately reflect that of the medical community. I may not be a doctor by trade or have any formal training but I do have a sense of integrity and a respect for knowledge and the discipline it takes to acquire it.

The anti-vaccine movement is dishonest, irrational and dangerous. Its leaders and followers have no sense of integrity or responsibility. Their enemy is an imagined one and the means they use to defeat this non existent threat have placed society itself in danger and retarded relations between the medical community and the public for several years to come.

well I hope we all have a sense of integrity and a respect for knowledge. What scares the hell out of me is that people like Fombonne compromise the health and well being of children when his shoddy research (complete with bias from his Sanofi-Pasteur link) gets the nod by pharma-sponsored journals, falsely assuring the public that all is well when it may not be. And Thorsen (with the problematic thimerosal studies). They do not earn our respect. Children’s health and well being is a far too important thing than to be played with. Thousands of families are waiting for their cases to be heard in vaccine court. Vaccines do cause damage in many cases. Yet pharma is absolved of all responsibility. It’s not right.


Thousands of families are waiting for their cases to be heard in vaccine court. Vaccines do cause damage in many cases.

Except that the six very best test cases they could come up with, and with five years to come up with data all lost. Did you even attempt to read the rulings? Do you understand that the test cases were part of deciding those 5000 cases?

They lost. They did not win. The evidence they spent five years gathering was not enough.

If they failed to us evidence that you think is relevant, please tell us what you think should have used.

If you have actual evidence that “vaccines do cause damage in many cases” please provide it. Show us exactly the data that show vaccines often cause harm greater than the diseases. Since measles is actually known to cause serious and grievous harm (even death) at a rate of at least one out of thousand cases, you must show with real documentation that vaccines cause harm in at least that level.

If you are including autism, then you must show the real actual evidence that vaccines cause autism. Just be sure to real peer reviewed papers.

I’m going to start a viral internet meme suggesting that commercial baby food is linked to autism. Because a whopping 98% of kids with autism were given commercial baby food at some point in their young lives, after which they developed autism!

Hell, I bet I can even work in some woo about “toxins” to make it really believable.

*rubs hands in glee*

@Oleander Tea

Did you know that some legumes contain pyrrolizidine alkaloids? PAs cause liver damage! Peas are legumes that we feed to BABIES! We’re killing babiesz’s livers!!1!eleventy!!!

Fombonne compromise the health and well being of children when his shoddy research (complete with bias from his Sanofi-Pasteur link) gets the nod by pharma-sponsored journals, falsely assuring the public that all is well when it may not be. And Thorsen (with the problematic thimerosal studies).

You keep complaining about ‘shoddy research” and “problematic” studies. But you never say what you find problematic about the studies. What errors do you find in the methods, data, or analyses which lead you to believe that the studies are of unacceptable quality? If the research is really that bad it should be easy to point out specific problems as orac and others have done with the Geiers and Wakefield’s research numerous times.

@Dianne: part of her “shoddy research” is that Fombonne accidently referred to the incorrect city when he wrote his paper…I forget now (it’s rather irrelevant in MY mind) if he wrote Montreal when he meant Quebec City or the reverse. Of course, jen has never made a mistake in her life. And, of course, the Thorson issue, although the main researchers of both papers stated that he had little or nothing to do with the papers except for some review of data. Jen strains at gnats.

Is it too soon to say that jen was clearly so sure of her position she took it to the opposition, yet when queried on it couldn’t bring the facts or back up any of what she was saying and has now slunk off?

“is that Fombonne accidently referred to the incorrect city when he wrote his paper”

I was under the impression that he was given data from another education area.

However, a section of the paper was concerned with looking at vaccine uptake across the region, and found that it was fairly uniform.

In effect, people are criticising Fombonne for making a ‘mistake’, when their concerns were already (inadvertantly) addressed in the actual paper, in the most relevant section.

I’ve had discussions with critics who have claimed to have read the paper, and those critics have requested references to this section of the paper, believing it to be a seperate review.

Boggles your mind sometimes.

“You would have to be an idiot not to see they are linked.

Yes indeed, as has already been noted they are linked in the title of this post, and are often linked to each other by idiots, in fact there is just about every link between them except a causative one.

OMG! Please! My poor brain! WHEN WILL YOU PEOPLE WHO BELIEVE THINGS THAT ARE PATENTLY FLASE IN THE FACE OF OVERWHELMING EVIDENCE GOING TO PULL YOUR HEADS OUT OF YOUR COLLECTIVE ASSES AND WAKE UP? Do you not get it? FACTS, people, facts! I am truly sorry that someone’s little Timmy has autism but as much as I, as a father, can sympathize with your pain I cannot condone choosing fantasy to make yourselves feel better! The evidence is clear in so many of these cases…vaccines do not cause autism, period. What I do know is that mumps and measles can (and used to) kill, that polio must have sucked, that the reason we did not see a humongous outbreak of swine flu was probably due to vaccine management, that herd immunity protects those people too stupid to see the overwhelming benefit of vaccinations, and that if you are so convinced that vaccines are dangerous then move to a community that does not have a vaccine program (or start one) and let’s see how long you stay before running to the nearest hospital for help.

What is truly amusing is the mental gyrations that must occur for these people to keep the facts out of their worldview. That, and I will just bet that virtually ALL of the so-called “anti-vaccers” out there would also agree that the Scientology “e-meter” was nonsense, that the bomb detecting dowsing rod was crap, etc. because the facts and evidence didn’t support the efficacy of either!

Continued applause to Orac and all of the rationalists out there. Show me one scintilla of evidence- real, scientific evidence- about ANYTHING and I will consider it and potentially change my mind. That’s what skepticism is about. Until then…aarrgh!

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