After yesterday’s video and the video from the day before demonstrating just what “antivaccine” means, I thought you’d all need a little something to cleanse the palate after having swallowed so much crazy. Fortunately, Paul Offit provides just the thing, a lecture at the NIH in which he discusses on vaccines and how to educate the public about vaccine science can be found here:
Dr. Offit hits all the high points, including the false “balance” in journalism, how to deal with scientific uncertainty, and when not to let oneself be sucked into “debates” with the other side (Oprah’s show represented one such situation). There’s even a visit from an old “friend” of the blog around the 42-43 minute mark, whose impudent nonsense is dealt with deftly and with aplomb.
I only wish I had been so skillful in dealing with such boorishness at the 2010 Trottier Symposium when the Royal Rife guy tried to dominate the Q&A session. I’ll keep Dr. Offit’s performance in mind the next time I’m faced with such a challenge.
63 replies on “A lesson in communicating vaccine science to the public”
Orac couldn’t resist this one…I just knew it. Dr. Offit is one of my heroes who is a top-notch public speaker and a great TV guest…his appearance on the Stephen Colbert Show is a classic and served to get the word “out there”.
I missed seeing how Jake dressed himself for this latest stalking episode. Could it be that he again wore that grungy T-shirt that he wore when he was stalking Fiona Godlee?
Oh, we will read about this at AoA…just another instance where intrepid boy wonder cub reporter Jake is denied his civil rights to get up on his soapbox and question (badger) a physician.
With all the time Jake has, that’s the best he came come up with? That is an example of how NOT to prepare for the moment…
edit, sorry…that should be “that’s the best he can come up with?”
@ wind: I suspect that there was a person with a microphone in the audience who provided the amplification during the Q&A period. When Jake started in with his long statement, rather than a question and Dr. Offit “called him out”…the microphone was switched off. Way to go, Dr. Offit…that’s the way you handle stalking cranks.
Actually I thought Offit could have dealt with Jake’s points better before slapping him down.
He should have said:
I’ll watch the video later, but will admit to some disappointment. When I read what Orac wrote “old “friend” of the blog” I was so excited and really, really thinking it would be his alter ego. (Yes, I missed that it was a hyperlink until going back and reading it after reading the comments; I haven’t had my coffee yet). After I read the comments and saw it was only Jake being his usual silly self, I haz a sad panda…
As far as the Jake part of the video, I thought it was funny that he tried to side-step the whole stalker-thing by claiming that since Dr. Offit came to DC & he (Jake) only had to come by Metro, it wasn’t stalking…..
Doesn’t he ever get tired of asking the same stupid question(s), since he should know he’s going to get the same answers….which makes even more sense that Jake himself is probably Autistic.
Overall, I thought the presentation was great – though some of the questions were pretty weak (especially the “should we use fear to convince people to vaccinate?”) – since that’s pretty much what the anti-vax people have been doing & I would really like us not to stoop to their level (though pointing out the legitimate risks of not vaccinating, both on an individual and societal level are completely valid).
Great presentation I thought but it needs to be put into practice against the public. Look on YouTube and witness the dross that passes for information there. There is no balance or quality threshold on YouTube at all. Someone ranting about vaccines being part of the NWO enjoys the same platform as a doctor arguing from a position of 20 years of research.
It may be time consuming and expensive but I think the best way to counter rubbish is by identifying the top 30 or so antivax talking points in a single website and systematically and individually destroy each one in a form that is accessible, in plain English and citable. Look at the way talkorigins crushes various creationist talking points and emulate. It might not prevent antivaxxers parroting the lies over and over but it would make it easier to counter them with a well reasoned answer.
I’ve tried to do something like that at antiantivax, though I haven’t had time to update it or make it a little more visually interesting.
Who is this “Paul Offitt” dude? Never heard of him.
“Who is this “Paul Offitt” dude? Never heard of him.”
Dude, we are talking about Dr. Paul Offit…why not view the video…you might find it educational.
Psst. Notice the smiley warthog used.
Really awful about Jake. Trying to talk sense to him in August, I got the distinct impression that he would go off the deep end and he has ( witness his interactions with Godlee, Mnookin, and now this!). He thinks of himself as an investigative reporter who will break open the grand conspiracy, gaining fame and fortune in the process.
What’s different is that while previously he *wrote* about his nonsensial ideas, facilitated by other so-called writers @ AoA, he *now* is seeking public forums to “just ask questions” ( which he doesn’t- he proselytises). I fear that he might go further, as he regards himself self-righteously as justified- he was after all *injured* by vaccines. I hope he doesn’t tail anyone in every-day life.
Which leads me to ask: shouldn’t he be off doing his classwork, writing papers, learning matrix algebra or reading useful material? This is crap: fantasy journalism to match fantasy sports that bored young men waste hours on while job or girlfriend-seeking.
I work with young people trying to improve their chances in life through higher education: they need to be focused in persuing their goals. Jake appears to be working against himself : he promotes a hypothesis ( vaccines cause autism) while simultaneously studying a field where vaccines are an important issue in controlling disease, where data trumps belief, and there is no place for grandstanding.
Suppose back in grad school I publicly promoted a hypothesis that higher mental functioning was caused by the faeries’ benevolent intervention *while* reading physio, cognition, perception,personality?
@ Denice, Jake isn’t interested in education, he is convinced he knows all he needs to; he is only in it for the certification. I had thought that GW School of Public Health had some standards but apparently they don’t as also evidenced by the employment of Dr. Heather Young, the epidemiologist who co-authored that execrable thimerosal “study” with the Geiers for the sole purpose of “evidence” for the Omnibus Autism Proceeding’s PSC. They certainly can’t complain they are being silenced.
@ Science Mom:
Actually I think I know what “books” (websites,etc) Jake really has his nose in: NaturalNews, ProgressiveRadioNetwork, Mercola, NVIC, SafeMinds, Canary Party, ThinkTwice, Rense, Whale, InfoWars, Robert Scott Bell, ad nauseum.
Witness ( yesterday @ NaturalNews) Adams writes about “Flu Shot Fantasies”- a sub-heading declares,”Vaccines cause brain damage” articulating Mikey Boy’s own personal theory of mental functioning. I like my “faeries did it” better.
@ Todd W. I cannot be held “responsible” for missing the “smiley” in the A.M., when I am caffeine-deficient. I’ve had my cuppa java now and see the smiley.
lilady may have seen the smileys, but I have seen the fnords!
I haven’t, and I’m pining for them.
Does anyone know of a website that presents good science on vaccines “gently”? I have friends who need this kind of info, but if I send them here or to SBM their whole world view will be so threatened I think they will shut down and reject all the info. Any ideas?
A few of us here *occasionally* attempt to speak to them: am I really a kinder and gentler pharma shill or is it the training I had? I also had to learn how to interview people who didn’t *want* to be interviewed.
Before we hit them with studies and data- which I feel often fall upon deaf ears- we may need to first crack through the resistant shell of conspiracy-laden thinking to get them to question those whose anti-vax positions are buttressed by pharma-governmental-media conspiracies designed to keep the brave mavericks down. You can’t have bad science without a conspiracy to explain why this “brilliance” is not mainstream.
I also like to point out the conflicts of interest anti-vaxxers and more generic woo-meisters have: strong vested emotional or financial interests that bias their position.
We’re not all fire-breathing SB dragons or wicked- but scholarly- witches here @ RI: personally, I’m quite charming and well mannered… for an evil faery.
Geminize, you could try The History of Vaccines site. You should also check the Anti-antivax link in Todd W.’s name above.
Other suggestions would include giving them the authorized copy of Roald Dahl’s biography, Storyteller. It contains what he wrote in a secret notebook on how devastated he was over the death of his oldest child from measles. Or you can get hit over the head a bit more and watch the movie Contagion when it comes out on DVD next month. Or read up on the real story of Balto and the Iditarod Race (it has to do with diphtheria), or how Henry David Thoreau felt after his brother died from tetanus.
Send them books on diseases like Gina Kolata’s Flu! (which had PBS NOVA program on the 1918 influenza pandemic), John Barry’s The Great Influenza, or David Oshinsky’s Polio: An American Story (there are also PBS programs on polio). I just noticed while looking for the PBS NOVA programs there was a special Rx for Survival, which I have not seen (just checked my library, it is from 2005, and I put a hold on it).
Essentially, have them learn the history. Because those who forget history are condemned to repeat it.
Aaagh, my comment to Geminize went into moderation. It was full of all sorts of holiday gift suggestions on history books and videos (the PBS NOVA type). Because those who forget history are condemned to repeat it.
@ Geminize: Take a look at the hospital where Dr. Offit is Director of Pediatric Infectious Diseases:
Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
Under the “Health Information” header…scroll down to the “Vaccine Education Center”.
I think this site has a wealth of information for parents, as well as some great links to other parent information sites.
Maybe someone can explain to me the difference between “using fear” and “pointing out the legitimate risks of not vaccinating”. I don’t understand what the difference is or why “using fear” is objectionable.
How would you present the risks without making the diseases look frightening (which I would think is what “using fear” means)?
These diseases *are* frightening. They can kill and maim. If you understand the risks, then you *will* reasonably be afraid — not terrified, of course, but afraid, the same way you would be afraid your toddler might pull a pot of boiling water off the stove onto himself so you try to turn the handles away out of his reach.
If everyone will forgive the OT, I canât resist sharing something I ran across today while reading a book about science in 18th-century France; it presents some unexpected parallels to the present. It concerns the following trial: a guy named Vissery put up a lightning-rod, running it across two neighboring houses as well as his own; the neighbors sued to get him to take it down. This was one of the very first lightning-rods in France, and electricity was by no means well-understood, with the most learned scientists having half-a-dozen conflicting ideas about how it worked.
The attorney for the plaintiffs argued that no-one knew if the lightning rod protected houses, or might be a fire hazard in itself — did it attract lightning that wouldnât otherwise strike? Might it melt or throw sparks? (This was not an idle fear, since a conductor struck by lightning does in fact get very hot, and the first lightning rods to be struck gave evidence of it.) He cited the low number of lightning casualties each year, and calculated that the risk-benefit ratio was against the rod, as long as it was not well understood and extensively tested.
The attorney for the defendant was none other than Maximilien Robespierre. He dismissed all the scientific uncertainties as mere theories, and proposed to base his argument on facts and on the “law of nature”: he stated with utmost confidence that electrical material had a “natural tendency” to go toward a metal bar instead of a tile roof. To confidence and simplification, he added the appeal to emotions; countering his opponentâs risk-benefit ratio, he said, “I have not verified this calculus of probabilities… What I know with certainty, is that the victims of thunder are unhappily too numerous.” In other words, people who were afraid of lightning should believe him because a) his explanation sounded simple and reasonable (and in tune with the thinking of the time), and b) he was sympathetic to them. Robespierreâs arguments won the day.
How like modern alties of all sorts Robespierre sounds! Against learned theories and in favor of explanations that sound “common sensical”, and appealing to fears and emotions as the trump card.
@Denise, @Chris, @lilady:
Thanks for your responses. Todd W’s AntiAntiVax site is clean and helpful.
I noticed my friend’s fb page includes a “like” of Joe Mercola, so I think she is most likely beyond reason, deep in the woo pit. We may simply agree to disagree, but that is so unsatisfying. Early in our discussion she took my stance as questioning her parenting ability. I’m not sure I had a chance from the start.
Here is some information about Mercola:
he has been warned by the FDA to stop making false claims about his products ( 2005, 2006, 2011). He employs more than 60 people and maintains an estate ( pictured)-(see Quackwatch, especially 5/26/11. Also- RI search box above)
His website – for reasons known only to him- features a copy of his medical licence ( Illinois).
Mercola has a close relationship with NVIC. He also touts EFT as a replacement for SB psychological care. He has other interesting false beliefs.
Again, one tactic woo-meisters use is to get followers to dis-regard information from professionals, medical associations, universities, governmental agencies, the media- to which I respond: if I shouldn’t listen all of *them*, why should I listen to *you*, who directly profit?
@ Geminize: “Early in our discussion she took my stance as questioning her parenting ability. I’m not sure I had a chance from the start.” I agree…when parents are heavily into “woo”…one must back off or face losing a friendship.
Someone (Dr. Offit or a member of the audience…not Jake), mentioned providing information to prospective parents during prenatal visits to the obstetrician. I think this would be a valuable tool to provide science-based “consumer friendly” literature to expectant parents.
I’ve commented previously on this blog about my experiences in public health, when I would get telephone calls from pregnant women and first time mothers who are concerned about vaccines.
The opportunity to speak with these women and provide them with all the current VISs and other educational material, plus user-friendly websites such as Immunize.org IMO, did much to dispel and allay their fears about vaccines. I always enclosed a short handwritten note, providing my direct telephone number for any additional questions that they might have about vaccines.
BTW, during the telephone calls, I always complimented them for their early-on inquiries. Expectant mothers and new-time mothers always need reassurances that are competent to handle their new roles of parenting an infant.
Thanks, Orac, for a breath of fresh air.
It’s also possible to refute many of the anti-vaccination arguments without a deep understanding of biology.
A popular anti-vaccination book, the Vaccine Safety Manual, was sent to me by a friend who tried to educate me on my misguided trust in standard vaccination schedules. My review of the book illustrates the flaws in basic reasoning, as well as the numerous propaganda techniques that the author uses to mislead this readers.
L. Rosenblood: That was a wonderfully well-written letter. I’m reposting your link as the way you had it didn’t work.
@ L. Rosenblood: Excellent analysis and rebuttal of the Vaccine Safety Manual. BTW, you have a “link fail” (sez the totally inept at linking, commenter). I followed your url to the articles, thanks.
O/T: I finally got two of my comments through on Judith Acosta’s blog “A Personal Case for Classical Homeopathy, Part I” on the Ho-Po…I can scarcely wait for “Part II”. Any and all of you science-y types are welcome to join me.
Dr. Offit says the media’s job isn’t to educate, it’s to entertain.
Even that isn’t true.
The media’s job is to grab people’s attention, so they’ll also hear advertising. An excellent way to grab people’s attention is to scare people. And once something has been selected as a scapegoat, as vaccines have been, they’ll keep on flogging it.
One of my neighbors is a nurse, and she brought up to me whether she should vaccinate her children. She said she thought vaccines are hard on the immune system.
People say âI believeâ in this way like they’re sharing a piece of their soul, so it should be impressive and important.
So perhaps if one says âScience isn’t a belief systemâ it might give them pause?
They don’t seem to need any evidence. People who make these assertions don’t present evidence. Just dismissive insults aimed at anything you might bring up that’s pro-vaccine or pro-science.
The other day I ran into a food paranoid in the grocery store. An old woman who was telling me how she’d bought a microwave but she was afraid to use it because microwaving must be bad for the food, radiating it and all. I told her there’s been research showing that fewer vitamins are lost in microwaving than with other kinds of cooking, and she tells me, oh, those studies are lying because they’re paid for by the microwave manufacturers. And that pesticide residues on the vegetables are poisoning people, and the orange and purple cauliflower might be dangerous because it’s unnatural. All this with NO evidence. This kind of thinking is very popular where I live, it’s like a local religion. And it becomes acceptable to people because it is a local religion. People tell you, like they’re communicating a special private wisdom, that government regulatory agencies are totally corrupt, that scientists lie to an extent that immediately disqualifies their science, that the government might do any damn awful thing to the environment it wants, at any time. I told this woman, most of the harm is what people do to themselves, with smoking, bad diets, lack of exercise.
People regularly and massively kill themselves with self-indulgence or addiction or slobbing lazily around, letting their hearts get out of shape. In the MILLIONS, they kill themselves in this manner. Then they go around getting scared of ghosts – things that are supposed to have, maybe, harmed someone badly a thousand miles away and maybe have a one in a thousand or one in a million chance of harming them. As if they cared about their safety or their children’s safety. Which they don’t, really.
I know the media has distortions and there’s a need for checks to manage corporate and individual greed. But these people take their assertions to an insane extent, and defend them – adequately in their own eyes – only with insults and anger.
As for the parenting ‘advice’ about vaccines, I’ll get right back on my hobby horse. Maternity facilities should have a clear warning notice at the entrance.
“”If you’re not up to date with your own vaccinations or your children have not yet completed the schedule, you are *required* to follow 1-3 of the instructions below. Otherwise, Number 4 is the only other option.
1. Wear a face mask during the whole of your visit, not just when you’re in the room of the person you are visiting.
2. ….. Handwashing.
3. ….. Other hygiene/barrier measures.
4. Do not enter.
Stationery and phones are provided next to this notice so that you can leave a message for your friend or relative that you will visit them at home rather than here.
Information about these restrictions is also provided at the message point. Please take special notice of the details concerning pertussis. “”
I’m not much fussed if face masks aren’t the best way to do this medically. The main point is that they’re ‘in your face’, so they’re a fantastic public health awareness move.
Thank you, lilday.
Corrected link: My review of the Vaccine Safety Manual.
I predicted on another RI blog that it would be just a matter of time until Ginger Taylor (Jake’s internet mommy) would be sending a letter to Dr. Offit about his “treatment” of Jake.
Ginger never disappoints. She has fired off a letter to Dr. Offit in a similar vein as the letter she fired off to Seth Mnookin. From Ginger’s blog “Adventures in Autism”-December 27, 2011, here is her “lead in”:
Jake Crosby has been dissecting autism research, writing about vaccine injury and exposing corruption and conflicts of interests in vaccine apologists for what, four years now? And suddenly, in the course of three weeks, he has been branded so dangerous that he must be physically removed from not one, but two separate lectures by vaccine industry defenders… after merely asking a legitimate questions, both about Andrew Wakefield?
First Seth Mnookin said he was a heckler, but now wont answer questions or offer details about said heckling. Now Paul Offit has upped the ante and announced that Jake was his stalker.
So as with Mnookin, I have written to Dr. Offit and asked him for details of Jake’s problematic behavior. You may recognize much of the letter, as I merely modified the letter I sent to Mnookin a few weeks ago, as this is practically the identical scenario that happened a few weeks ago.”
Yes Ginger “So strange”, indeed.
What do these two ‘credible sources’ have in common?
Seth Mnookin is an ex heroin addict with a conviction for burglary. He wrote a book.
Paul Offit also wrote a book. He thinks its ok (NOT a conflict of interest) to advise the public about a vaccine he receives royalties/dividends for. It is besides the point that this vaccine has caused severe bowel obstruction (intussusception).
No wonder knowledgeble persons have a difficult time finding unbiased vaccine information……
You know who else is an ex heroin addict? Robert F. Kennedy Jr. What’s your point?
And you seem to have the vaccine that Dr. Offit developed confused with another rotavirus vaccine. Also, he no longer derives royalties or dividends from the vaccine.
Perhaps you need to go out and gain some knowledge.
Well, at the NIH Event, Jake could point to the fact that he was in the same city (sort of) – what’s his excuse for making the trip all the way to New Haven?
Seth Mnookin is an ex heroin addict with a conviction for burglary.
I fail to see the pertenance. Even granting that it would pertain to credibitility, I wonder how Jenny McCarthy’s personal life would measure in contrast, given the regretable pervasiveness of drug-culture in the modelling industry… though I will acknowledge that there has been no verified claim of her abusing pharmaceuticals (excepting chelation agents here) that I’m aware of.
As to the calumnies against Dr. Offit, well, I’ll defer to those who’ve already answered as I don’t know much about the man.
Jemima illustrates the issue with getting information from certain sites that filter both the data, and do not allow dissenting comments. She has chosen to let them do her thinking for her and cannot be bothered to check up on what they write.
The information on Dr. Offit’s relationship RotaShield and RotaTeq is easily available (the ACIP meetings are online), plus all it takes is a few minutes to learn the big difference between how Mr. Mnookin and Mr. Kennedy recovered from heroin (one had his family, the other had an order from a court judge).
Fortunately, we need not rely simply on the character of those involved. There are such things as facts and data.
You mean… IT’S THE BOOKSPIRACY?!?! It’s all clear now! I just realized something: you know who else wrote a book? HITLER!!!!
@ Narad: What do two ‘credible sources’ have in common with two ‘non-credible sources’?
Seth Mnookin is an ex heroin addict with a conviction for burglary. He wrote a book.
Paul Offit also wrote a book.
Mark Blaxill and Dan Olmsted…who co-authored a book about the vaccine “conspiracy”.
WHY, ITS THE VACCINEBOOKSPIRACY!
I see Ginger Taylor has weighed in on her blog, about Jake’s latest pursuit/stalking of Dr. Offit:
“Offit gives a lecture at Yale entitled âHard Knocks: Communicating Science to the Public,â says a bunch of words, then demonstrates how to communicate “science” to someone who is a *steakholder* in the issue (Jake Crosby, who may be vaccine injured) by falsely accusing him of being a stalker, by yelling at him, by not letting him ask a question (although he is behaving completely appropriately) and by throwing him off the premises.”
Jake was holding a T-Bone steak when he accosted Dr. Offit?
Re Jake at New Haven: are there any reports from anyone else about what actually happened? I don’t particularly like reading Jake’s writing style, and Ginger Baker’s little opinion piece has no information in it.
@lilady #45 It was a Ribeye, medium rare, baked potato on the side.
So, last time, he got his undies in a bunch because he didn’t travel to harass Dr. Offit, he just rode the metro. It was Dr. Offit that had traveled to Jake’s turf. Now, Jake’s going all the way up to Connecticut.
But, you know, he’s not stalking or anything.
I wonder if, in the interest of revealing his conflicts of interest, Mr. Crosby would reveal who bankrolls his trips to
stalkharass scientists. If he’s not anti-vaccine, does he receive funds from anti-vaccine people?
PROC SARC “Oh, I’m sure not.”;
@ Reuben: I “wonder” if anyone knows his schedule at G.W. University…it seems to me he has Fridays “free”.
Boy Wonder Ace Reporter’s mommy and daddy reside in a posh-posh area of Connecticut…plenty of dough there to pay his tuition and to pay for “field trips” (associated with his studies). Mommy Nicole is heavily into the “woo”…as well.
Being a GW-grad & still in the area, perhaps I should stop down and see if I can’t find Mr. Crosby on campus somewhere – would be interesting to see his reaction if someone got all up in his business……
@ Lawrence: I’d wait a bit to see if Jake completes his MPH-Epidemiology and also to see if he is hired by any *”independent employer”*.
* “Independent employer” does NOT include Autism Trust USA, where his hero Andy has interests.
I suggested the same thing in one of the comments here an in a tweet, and he emailed all of my bosses with accusations of me stalking him and expressing concern for his physical safety. Mind you, I never physically threatened the kid. I also graduated from GW and live in the area. Maybe we can start a league of people who live in reality?
@Ren – A few groups I’ve hung with (online) over the years sometime’s host get-togethers in various local areas – meet at a good bar or pub & get the chance to actually meet and greet with each other. I don’t know how feasible that would be here, but it would be great to socialize with sane people….
As far as Mr. Crosby goes, I do get to campus from time to time – wouldn’t be difficult to track him down to do nothing more than say hello. It would be interesting to see what he’s like in person (outside of his stalking routines).
“A few groups I’ve hung with (online) over the years sometime’s host get-togethers in various local areas – meet at a good bar or pub & get the chance to actually meet and greet with each other. I don’t know how feasible that would be here, but it would be great to socialize with sane people….”
I’d love to join you guys.
I’d love to put something together – perhaps Bethesda or Silver Spring (heck, I’d even be open to downtown DC)….if there is interest, I can organize.
Count me as interested. But how can we organize and protect our identities? Well, your identities. I’m as exposed as a naked Eskimo outside in January.
“Guys”, are the RI ladies invited?
Hmmmm…..shoot, I always use “guys” as a gender-neutral term….so you got me there lilady.
As far as trying to organize with potential hostiles lurking about – well, let me give it some thought.
I’m disappointed. I gave a talk at Florida State University in November, and Jake didn’t fly down to harass me.
@ Orac: Next time schedule your out-of-town “talks” on Fridays, when Jake is not in class.
@ Lawrence et al:
A meeting of disguised pharma shills using pseudonyms is planned: *sub rosa* communiques outline their surreptitious manoeuvrings; cryptographers work day and night to guarantee success.
Is our intrepid young sleuth up for the task? Can he track down these miscreants? So much hangs in the balance.
I’ll meet you people down at the pub – the usual place. Do you like darts?
A secret meeting with pseudonyms and secret identities? How deliciously deceptive!
Please, please, count me in. Downtown DC works best for me, but I can always catch the metro out to suburbia, and I know my way around the bus lines. (I don’t have posh parents in CT to pay my way.)
You’ll recognize me immediately once you see me. In fact, I think Jake’s jaw would drop straight past the floor below him if he knew who I am.
Hint: I’m also free on Fridays.
I know a great little place on 13th & G Streets that would be perfect….
You do have a point. The FSU talk was on a Thursday. 🙂