Antivaccine nonsense Autism Complementary and alternative medicine Quackery

And now Anne Frank is dragged into the antivaccine picture

I guess that the antivaccinationists didn’t listen to me last time when I suggested that maybe—just maybe—using Holocaust analogies when discussing autism and vaccines is just a wee bit inappropriate, such an overblown analogy that it spreads far more heat than light. At least, Kent Heckenlively didn’t, and, because his invocation of the Nazi card came in the context of dealing with an issue that I blogged about before, I couldn’t resist commenting on it again.

But first, the gratuitous Nazi analogy, courtesy of that “nice guy” Kent Heckenlively, which comes near the end of his post:

When I was young I remember reading Anne Frank’s quote that, “Despite everything, I believe that people are really good at heart.” I thought she was a fool. She thought people were good. The Nazis killed her.

And yet I find as I get older I have a greater understanding of her wisdom. We are engaged in a great conflict for the health of future generations. Many will not understand. A few will be hostile. And yet the great majority of people are really good at heart. They can be made to understand what is at stake in this fight.

That’s right, the forces arrayed against Kent and his antivaccine agenda are just like Nazis hunting down and murdering Anne Frank and her family, but the people that he thought to be evil before are really “good at heart.” They apparently just don’t understand the things that Kent understands! So what is it that he understands that those nasty, reductionists scientists and doctors who deny the “autism Holocaust” don’t? That vaccines cause autism, of course! Except, of course, that they don’t and Kent’s belief is a delusion. None of that stops him from championing that view and, sadly, subjecting his autistic daughter to all manner of quackery up to and including stem cell injections into her cerebrospinal fluid, even at the expense of hitting up his family for thousands of dollars to pay for it.

The background behind Kent’s little rant is as follows. About a year ago, the President of the Board of Education of the San Ramon Valley Unified School District, Greg A. Marvel, wrote an open letter in which he promoted the antivaccine film The Greater Good, concluding by strongly recommending “that every parent watch this film.” At the time, I pointed out that Marvel was abusing his position as President of the School Board to promote a viewpoint that is actively harmful to the children he is supposed to be serving. Unfortunately, if Heckenlively is to be believed, there were complaints:

Last year the President of our School Board wrote a public letter of support after viewing “The Greater Good”, a documentary about the danger of vaccine side-effects. Since that time other members of our union and the school board have also viewed it and provided me with their supportive comments. There will be more showings of the film in the district.

Several curious things happened to the President of the School Board after he wrote the letter of support for “The Greater Good.” He told me he got the ugliest hate letters he’d ever received in more than ten years of public service and his e-mail account was hacked. He still won re-election. (Note to the opposition – That kind of activity doesn’t win allies to your side. In fact, it sort of makes people more willing to listen to my concerns. And I should inform you I am now the union liaison to that school board member.)

Alright, people. Hate letters are not cool. However, I do take Heckenlively’s account with a grain of salt. He provides no evidence that the e-mail hacking had anything to do with Marvel’s open letter, and he provides no examples of letters to show that these letters were truly “ugly hate letters.” From my experience, antivaccinationists are very quick to claim persecution and don the mantle of free speech martyr. They do it at the drop of a hat; it’s a feature, not a bug. I’m not saying that Marvel didn’t get hate mail, but I’m not taking Heckenlively’s word that it went down the way he claims.

More interestingly, apparently Kent Heckenlively’s antivaccine activities have also had…consequences:

Kent Heckenlively, Gale Ranch Middle School teacher, shared that he has a vaccine-injured child. Approximately three years ago, he wrote an article about vaccines injuring students. Someone from outside of the district complained and his administrator said in order to protect him, she was going to put an unofficial letter of reprimand into his personnel file because of this article. Mr. Heckenlively found this action unjust. He is telling his story to show support for his fellow teachers.

Normally, I’m not a fan of people bringing private blog issues into the bloggers’ work. Having been at the receiving end of that sort of tactic many times from the antivaccine movement and from various quacks, I understand that in most cases it is nothing more than a naked attempt to intimidate me into silence by trying to get my bosses to do what the quacks can’t: Shut me up. It hasn’t worked so far, and fortunately the two cancer centers at which I’ve worked during the time I’ve been blogging have had leadership enlightened enough to recognize such complaints for what they are and a sufficient commitment to academic freedom to ignore them after a polite acknowledgment, which is, of course, all that cranks rate, if even that. Yes, it’s pretty obvious that these complaints come from cranks. Of course, I can’t help but note the irony that Heckenlively is so upset at complaints about his apparently good buddy Mr. Marvel and him but seemed quite OK when a bunch of antivaccinationists tried to get me fired from my job three years ago by flooding my dean’s office and the office of the board of governors of my university with bogus complaints about my alleged undisclosed conflicts of interest that in actuality didn’t exist.

The question is a bit dicier when a teacher advocates viewpoints that are in direct contradiction to school district or state school policy; i.e., Heckenlively’s opposition to vaccines. The San Ramon Unified School District promotes and implements state vaccination policy. In fact, Heckenlively recognizes that, as he said in remarks to the school board:

The schools have a unique role to play in this debate as you are both an accomplice, given the recommendation you make to parents that they should follow the CDC’s immunization schedule, and you are a victim, because you are left with these broken children to care for and educate as best you can.

Actually, teachers and school districts do have an important role to play in promoting immunization, as well they should. School vaccine mandates have been enormously successful in keeping vaccination rates high. If a teacher is a public activist for a cause that directly opposes the policies of the district for which he works and that could potentially harm the children his district serves, it is not unreasonable to make reasonable complaints about him. In particular, it is perfectly justified if the person making the complaint lives within the school district and has children attending a school in that district. Such a person is both a taxpayer and a customer, so to speak, and is perfectly within his rights to complain, and a school district is perfectly within its rights to look into the complaint.

Unfortunately, from Heckenlively’s post, it’s obvious that he’s agitating among antivaccinationists in his school district and among his fellow teachers. His long, rambling statement laden with antivaccine tropes indicates this:

I come before you as the father of a vaccine-injured child, a science teacher, and as chairman of the Health and Safety Committee for the San Ramon Valley Education Association.

I come before you to ask for your engagement on the issue of how vaccines are damaging the health of our children.

Last December, shortly after I became Chairman of the Health and Safety Committee I began to raise these issues with the executive board of our teacher’s union. I provided them with peer-reviewed science articles, and statements from top medical officials, including Dr. Bernadine Healy, former head of the National Institutes of Health, to the effect that proper vaccine safety studies had not been done and that officials had told her that such studies would not be done for fear of what they might find.

Our children deserve better. The executive council of our local union voted without a single dissenting vote to support my motion to have the California Teachers’ Association consider the issues I had raised.

The sad thing is, Heckenlively is a science teacher. Whether that gives him any special credibility among nonmedical people or not, I don’t know, but he mentions it frequently; so I assume that he thinks it should. Moreover, it’s very clear that he’s agitating and proselytizing his fellow teachers, trying to persuade them of his antivaccine views, bombarding them with pseudoscience, misinterpreted studies, cherry picked studies, and all manner of antivaccine misinformation.

After I saw Kent’s post, it occurred to me yet again. Teachers really are on the front lines here. True, they’re not as much on the front lines as school nurses, but all it takes are a few antivaccine parents or a couple of antivaccine teachers to embroil them in this conflict. In fact, reading Kent’s post calling them “accomplices,” I thought: “Kent, you say that as though it were a bad thing!” To be an “accomplice” in promoting vaccination and thus the prevention of serious diseases that once ravaged children is a badge of honor, a high calling, something to be proud of. Joining Kent in his crusade to frighten parents into not vaccinating is exactly the opposite of what teachers should do. It’s a profound betrayal of their duty to be advocates for the health and well-being of the children they serve.

I feel sorry for the teachers who work with Kent Heckenlively. I feel equally bad for the children of the school district.

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]

81 replies on “And now Anne Frank is dragged into the antivaccine picture”

Dear Kent,

Your comments about the Nazi regime invoke a terrifying picture of whole groups of people hunted down because of their religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and political affiliation.

Your statements touched me deeply, however, it was not in the manner that you intended. You see Kent, what many people do not know is that the “undesirable” groups I mentioned above were not the initial focus of the Third Reich. Hitler used the economic crisis in Germany to
claim that those who were “Life unworthy of life” were taking food out
of the mouths of the ordinary volk. He used political statements to provoke outrage at the money being used to care for these people, statements like:

” you are the victim[s], left with these broken children to care for”

“Broken” children and adults, not people with feelings, personalities and potential, but the human equivalent of a cracked coffee mug. Broken, pointless, better off disposed of. Like your daughter, eh Kent?

Statements like yours were used to engender first pity, then antipathy against the “broken”, so that ultimately, euthanising them was seen as the right thing to do, for their own sakes, and for the sake of the German people.

Go and read about Aktion T4, Kent. and see where rhetoric like yours, and like that of the whole “vaccine injury” movement. Read about the ultimate effect of dehumanising people like your daughter by referring to them as if they were damaged goods, empty shells, soulless beings without light or life in their eyes.

Tread very carefully Kent. Your martyr complex and insistence that it is everybody but disabled and non-NT people who suffer because of their very existence, is chilling if, like me, you’re able to see the deeply disturbing parallels with the primary phase of Aktion T4.

People who are ignorant of history are doomed to repeat it. If you truly care about your daughter and her peers, please embrace them for who they are, instead of mourning for what they are not.

Yours in hope,


Note to self: Insomniposts after three hours of sleep lead to mistakes, such as chunks of missing text.

So, a correction:

” Go and read about Aktion T4, Kent. and see where rhetoric like yours, and like that of the whole “vaccine injury” movement has the potential to lead to

Emotional elburto hates idiots who invoke the holocaust, because not only were her relatives slaughtered, but as someone who’s gay and disabled, there’s no way she’d have made it out of Germany alive. And yes, referring to herself in the third person is weird, but it’s a defence mechanism against the horrible truth that even today there are people who consider her to be “Lebensunwertes Leben” for both who and what she is.

Emotional elburto hates idiots

Emotional elburto has every right to be emotional.

The anti-vax crowd is really pulling out all the stops aren’t they? Is there not one sympathetic historical figure that they have not yet co-opted to somehow show some similarities to their current “plight?”

I guess when you continue to have zero credibility or scientific evidence to back up your statements, you have to grasp at straws, right?

As a high-functioning autistic with a strong sense of justice and an interest in WW2 history (not as strong as my interest in the ACW, though!), these analogies chafe my undies.

Not only do they threaten to send medicine into the dark ages with their rheotirc, they threaten far worse when they Godwinize their aguments like this.

Thank DOYC that I at least live in a stable democracy where the chance of a Hitler-esque man rising to power is practically nil.

Excuse me, I meant “rhetoric.” Kinda hard to type when you haven’t had your coffee yet.

I suspect there might be a bit of irony involved in antivaxers getting overwrought over “hate mail” directed at them* but seeing nothing wrong with terming pro-immunization advocates Nazis. Give me time, I’ll figure it out.

*I share a bit of skepticism too over what sort of “hate” might have been contained in those communications to the school board president, seeing how there was an online antivaxer rant not long ago that proclaimed use of the term “antivaxer” to be hate speech. Civility has always been a peculiar construct where antivaxers are concerned (and viewed as a one-way street where they can fling whatever insults they like).
Not that it isn’t a good idea to avoid succumbing to the name-calling and other misbehaviors of the antivax movement, but it’s important to recognize Civility as the dodge that it is, and stick to facts and evidence, where antivaxers are at the most severe disadvantage.

Well said, elburto. There is a reason that Godwin’s Law comes with the convention that whichever side makes the first gratuitous Nazi invocation has lost the argument. Heckenlively, like the other idiots Orac mentioned in the previous posts, has gone there because he really doesn’t have anything more convincing.

Since Heckenlively et al. have already Godwinned the topic, I’ll say this. Anti-vaxers promote pseudoscientific theories which hold that certain people (autistic children) are not fully human. You know who else promoted pseudoscientific theories which held that certain people were not fully human, right?

Oh, and he’s posted this gem on the AoA comments too.

AoA has never been an anti-vaccine site.

Ha ha ha.

@Rebecca Fisher

Looking at the comments posted over there, it boggles the mind to see the amount of stupid that the anti-vax side places on full display.

And to make matters even worse, Andy pops up @ AoA and offers to debate.

I just thought of another n-azi meme that anti-vaxxers use all the time – ” I was only following orders”
I just viewed TMR’s post today ( what moms believe caused their children’s autism) which consistes of video and comments-
one of their leaders says how she went along with doctors’ advice and vaccinated.
“I’m innocent!” they protest, ” I listened to my superiors”- in order to assuage their own guilt ( based on a lie) that they themselves enabled the fatal action that caused autism.

Other causes mentioned include antibiotic use ( by child and mother), mothers’ amalgam fillings, lead in dirt in a park.

All of these problems ultimately are the responsibility of others ( the medical establishment, dentists, city officials etc), basically the martyred parents are innocent of any wrongdoing. Victims as much as their children.
Evil is elsewhere.
That’s why they have to talk about it so much.

lead in dirt in a park

But children don’t play in the dirt, according to a certain troll?

Q Renate:


But if you observe the vorciferousness of their hatred for the medical establishment you begin to wonder if it has something to do with casting off the terrible guilt-ridden feelings they have themselves.
For which they can thank Andy. And all of the others who teach vaccine-autism pseudo-science.
Which is now accompanied by several other auxilliary hypotheses involving antibiotics, metals, non-organic food , what-have-you.

Other causes mentioned include antibiotic use ( by child and mother), mothers’ amalgam fillings, lead in dirt in a park.

Two of those three things are actual problems, though they are not (to my knowledge) linked to autism. There are physicians who prescribe antibiotics inappropriately (they do nothing for viral infections), and that contributes to the MRSA problem. There have also been some studies published in recent years that convincingly trace the epidemic of violence in the 1960s-1980s to lead (both lead-based paints and, more recently, tetraethyllead used as an anti-knock compound in gasoline) in urban environments. But I suspect the TMR folks aren’t making these arguments; they are just blind squirrels finding a couple of acorns here.

@ Eric Lund:

No. Like the Canary Party, they believe that SBM and the toxic environment of recent** years is responsible for their children’s problems.

** which is actually an improvement over what those now over 50 experienced as children.
We should all be dead I suppose.

“We are engaged in a great conflict for the health of future generations”.

It’s a fairly one sided “great conflict”.

I’m sure a guy who subjected his own child to illegal medical experiments needs to find the Nazi in everybody else.

Okay, time for me to put up the actual email that I sent to Mr. Enoch, School Superintendent, San Ramon School District, alerting him that his School Board President Greg Marvel sent a letter to parents in the district, urging them to see “The Greater Good” movie:

Dear Mr. Enoch:

I am wondering if you are aware that your school board president has taken the unusual step of writing to parents within the District about the airing of a very controversial movie on Current Television. The entire letter was reproduced and posted this morning:

I am hoping that you will reassure me that your school board president’s letter was not sanctioned by the Board of Education…and that you will personally write a letter to parents within the district that the school board’s president was promoting a personal agenda, that is not consistent with the policy of the school district, and not consistent with State Education and Health Department Regulations regarding childhood immunizations.

I am a recently retired public health nurse/clinician. I know only too well the impact that the Age of Autism blog and other notorious anti-vaccination websites have on public health initiatives to have school children fully immunized against childhood diseases.


BSc-Nursing, R.N.

After requesting my telephone number to discuss Mr. Marvel’s letter (which he was unaware of), I received a telephone call from Steven Enoch. I discussed the letter and the “Greater Good” movie and appropriateness of a school board president using his office to advance an agenda and reminding parents that they could “opt out” of vaccines (using California’s Personal Belief Exemption). I also discussed the California School Boards Association directives about school board members not using their office to advance personal agendas. Here is Mr. Enoch’s reply to me:

Dear lilady,

I did discuss the matter with Mr. Marvel. He correctly points out that he stated in his letter that he was not representing the full board. He also indicated that his main interest was to make certain parents know of their right to opt out of immunizations, as opposed to receiving immunizations.

Because I do not speak for the Board I would suggest that you address your question to Mr. Marvel and /or to the whole Board. Their email addresses are shown on the district website.

Thank you,

Steven Enoch

Here’s Greg Marvel’s original letter, printed on Board of Education stationery that first appeared on the Canary Party website…note the comments…from the “usual suspects” at AoA:

Here’s the post from AoA that reproduces the Canary Party post…note the comments:

@lilady , you hatemonger you!

@Wzrd1 – Wow. She could not have suffered more, poor bairn. My eyes are stinging, I hadn’t expected a stark mortality report to do that, and I went in unprepared. And still, the science-deniers will persist with their pox parties, their pox-pops by post, all the while claiming “It’s harmless!”.

@Rebecca – Torygraph+AOA = guaranteed hilarity.

@All the fab RIers reeling the irony and stupidity displayed when Kent (appropriate name) et ass Godwin those who care about public health, at actively aping Hitler’s “Leben unswertes Leben” rhetoric about their own f*cking children, then having the temerity to call us Nazis, I salute you. I also wish to recommend purchasing replacements for blown-out irony lobes in bulk, from Amazon. The Chinese ones on eBay have very low resistances, thanks to cheaply made capacitors. Trust me, I once merely saw an oblique reference to TMR and *BOOM*, not only did my irony load blow, but it took out my bloody Cynicator 3000 module too. While I was waiting for the replacement I ended up believing that Dr Drew was not a charlatan, and that Gillian McKeith was not Zelda from the Terrahawks, peddling bottled crapulence. Dark days indeed.

@my fellow “broken” and “damaged”, and those who actually care for us (especially those of us without a voice) without shoving bleach into our every orifice, keep on sciencing the trolls and wooligans away. They will never defeat us.

Now I have to see if there’s anything within a three foot radius (the length of my grabber) that I can wipe my eyes on, because I’m still desperately upset at the senseless, needless death of a child, from chickenpox. Chickenpox, that “trivial” disease.

I have not the best personality for homeschooling my kids, but if I were in that school district I would immediately remove my kids from their school and send out my own “open letter” (even if I had to personally deliver them all by hand) to the district parents stating my reasons and urging them to do the same. And whatever enrollment steps would cause the most fiscal pain to the school district (short of being arrested for aiding and abetting truancy), I would encourage that as well. An epidemic of VPD would cost the district at least that much, especially if the Board President’s actions came up in any legal pursuits.

sorry you got such a mealy-mouthed buck pass from the Superintendent. Good job for writing to him anyhow.

@my fellow “broken” and “damaged”

Don’t worry, there will be autistics forever and I’ll keep on sciencing 🙂


Kent Heckenlively claims that Greg Marvel received “ugly hate letters” and that his email account was “hacked” after Marvel sent a letter on School Board stationery to every parent in the school district urging them to see the “The Greater Good Movie”, and to remind parents of their right to “opt out of vaccines using California’s Personal Belief Exemption.

Does this appear to be an “ugly hate letter”?

Here’s the email I sent On March 20, 2012, to San Ramon School District Superintendent Steven Enoch, School Board President Greg Marvel and every member of the School Board:

‘Enoch, Steven [EC]’; ‘[email protected]’; ‘[email protected]’; ‘[email protected]’; ‘[email protected]’; ‘[email protected]

Dear Mr. Enoch
Dear School Board Members:

I have enclosed correspondence between me and Mr. Enoch regarding an article that I viewed of the Age of Autism website. That article linked to the Canary Party and the letter that was written on school board letterhead, by Mr. Marvel:

I had a telephone conversation with Mr. Enoch yesterday who informed me that the letter in question did not represent school district policy and did not represent school board policy. I discussed my great concern about this letter, which encourages parents to opt out of immunizations, based on Mr. Marvel’s personal beliefs and on his personal anecdotal discussion of his child’s immunization reactions.

Many science and medical blogs, that I post comments on, have now reported on the Age of Autism and Canary Party activities, and have reproduced a copy of Mr. Marvel’s letter:

I am requesting a confirmation from the Board of Education about their policy regarding childhood immunizations and requesting that Mr. Marvel write a letter of retraction to the Canary Party, and any and all organizations which he gave permission, to publish his letter on their websites.

I am a recently retired public health nurse/clinician and worked at a large County health department, Division of Communicable Disease Control. I know only too well the consequences of parents’ refusals to vaccinate their children according to the CDC Recommended Childhood Vaccines Schedule and, I know only too well the influence that virulent anti-vaccine websites have on credulous parents who “opt out” of immunizations.

Thank you for your anticipated quick response.


BSc-Nursing, R.N.

@ lilady:

Just being curious- did you use your real name, e-mail etc?

@Alain – I’m the triple threat, non-NT, physically disabled, and mentally ill. The normals fear me, bwahahahah!

Actually, they’re quite right to be afraid, I’m modding my powerchair so that it looks and acts like something from the schlock horror novella/film ‘Maximum Overdrive’. First I’ll go for the science-deniers, then the ableists, and carry on until I feel the world is a more just place.

@ Denice Walter:

“@ lilady:

Just being curious- did you use your real name, e-mail etc?”

Of course I do, Denice. How do you think I was able to email School Superintendent Mr. Enoch and the School Board members? (I also provided my “real” telephone number to Mr. Enoch, when he asked to speak with me).

Does anyone know what type of article/where the article was published, by Heckenlively…that evoked a response from an assistant principal at his school? (The strangely appearing/disappearing complaint in his Heckenlively’s personnel file, circa 2009-2010, that Orac references here?).

“Kent Heckenlively, Gale Ranch Middle School teacher, shared that he has a vaccine-injured child. Approximately three years ago, he wrote an article about vaccines injuring students. Someone from outside of the district complained and his administrator said in order to protect him, she was going to put an unofficial letter of reprimand into his personnel file because of this article. Mr. Heckenlively found this action unjust. He is telling his story to show support for his fellow teachers.”

@ Elburto,

Any chance that you’re studying in an university presently? If so, I might recruit you for an autism related science project?


Does anyone know what type of article/where the article was published, by Heckenlively

Beats me, but when looking around, I was amused to note that he was all over what proved to be the Mikovits/XMRV debacle back in the day.

@ lilady:

And I thought *everyone* had fake phone numbers, e-mails, multiple last names, etc.
Live and learn.

The Swansea measles outbreak is doing my head in! Local news stories seem to consist of : measles is bad – look at this kid with measles and regretful mum. Look at all these parents queuing for the shot now there’s an outbreak. Now here’s a shrill autism parent who insists the vaccine stole her child. Once again it’s the Wakefield groupies being called upon for the perspective of parents of autistic kids. Ugh!

@ Autismum:
Do tell.
Although. understanding them, we can imagine what the groupies have to say.

More and more, I’m perturbed by this issue for another reason:

At what point do we start taking action to protect these people’s children?

Being subjected to torturous, agonising, and dangerous faux-medical procedures that can not and will not “cure” their autism is clear, unambiguous child abuse. At what point will anyone do anything to help these poor kids?

OMG…”Jen” at AoA thinks I emailed staff at the San Ramon School District using my internet ‘nym!. Didn’t she open Orac’s link from last year? I was the first one to comment, and I discussed my emails and the telephone conversation I had with Steven Enoch.

Hi Autismum: I see you have a new post up about the measles outbreak in the Swansea area of Wales. Your little guy Cledwin is adorable.

I’m probably a horrible person, but sometimes I think the establishment should give the anti-vaxxers what they want, and see how long it takes before they start screaming for the return of vaccines. Yeah, I know, it’d be unethical, horrible and cause a lot of deaths, but it might be the only way to drive the point home. Or they could be sentenced to read Louisa May Alcott and Laura Ingalls Wilder. I remember, as a kid, being horrified at what happened to Mac in Eight Cousins and crying when I read about Beth’s death. Mac, by the way, was a bookish young man who contracted measles, and nearly went blind. Beth (spoiler warning) died of scarlet fever, which she contracted from an infant who had pertussis.
Wzrd1: Oh god, that poor family.

Elburto– Off topic, have you ever costumed your powerchair as a Dalek? Because DALEK!!! 😀

I have to focus on silly things because this antivax stuff makes me so freaking angry I could just spit. I just cannot take the Anne Frank thing, not from Heckenlively.


Speaking of the Wales outbreak, have you noticed that the media is generally being pretty good about pointing out Wakefield’s role in contributing to the current situation? Meanwhile, at Age of Autism, Wakefield is placing the blame on the UK government.

See, in his mind, he didn’t do anything wrong. It’s the government’s fault for halting importation of the single measles vaccine, leaving all those parents that he whipped up into a fear-mongering frenzy with no alternative!

It’s also a bit amusing that several of the AoA commenters are appalled that Wakefield has admitted to supporting the single vaccine (’cause all vaccines are bad, dontcha know). Also, he has finally, unequivocally stated that 1) the MMR is unsafe and 2) the MMR causes autism. No more hiding behind protestations that he never said that MMR causes autism. And I’ve saved a screenshot of the article, in case they decide to put anything down the memory hole.

Alain – sadly not a student. Currently confined to bed, that’s why I spend so much time plotting evil schemes online!

@Melissa – My partner wants me to be Davros. Our GP said “Oh yeah, she even has the long nails”. Trust him to encourage her Whovian fanaticism, bad, bad man!

@Autismum – We have the same problem here in the North-East. Fortunately they’re not giving much truck to child-hating muppets who lack any sense of social conflict. I’m terrified my partner will bring measles home. In the eight years we’ve been together I’ve had mumps and pertussis, both were hell, but coughing up blood while going blue in the face was a special kind of Milton Keynes 😉

@PGP – If the science-deniers were given their wish, it probably wouldn’t be them that suffered. That would be the babies too young to be vaccinated, people allergic to various culture media or with health problems that preclude it, the chronically ill and immune compromised, and the elderly.

I can’t be vaxed due to allergies and the risk of increased intracranial pressure, and I’m also chronically ill and immune compromised.

So, I collect VPDs like philatelists collect stamps, live in the centre of an epidemic zone, and have a partner whose colleagues are almost all mothers of primary-school aged children. I am sh¡tting myself at the possibility that she’ll bring measles home this time. She is too, her brother (he’s 47) contracted measles as a toddler and suffered permanent sequelae including optic neuritis and neuropathy that still causes him leg/hip pain and affects his gait.

#5 Arguments by analogy aren’t worth the quintlesauer it takes to agribiffle the sprogetwinches.

Beth (spoiler warning) died of scarlet fever, which she contracted from an infant who had pertussis.

Scarlet fever is a result of strep, not pertussis, but anyway, the current idea is that it was actually meningoencephalitis. And she didn’t die, she was blinded. And it was Mary.

Elburto: If the science-deniers were given their wish, it probably wouldn’t be them that suffered.

I’m aware of that, believe me. I am just as appalled at parents these days. I’m in the age group of the youngish parents; I grew up on horror stories of the time my dad had mumps, measles and rubella in the same year, that Grandpa had the mumps- heavily implied to be the reason dad’s the only biological child- and I had a friend come down with whooping cough. Not to mention my childhood reading list, which consisted of a lot of books written before vaccines were introduced. (I’m aware that reading is a socially unacceptable hobby- at least it was in my school days.)
Why do people turn off their brains so easily these days?

Narad: I was referring to Little Women, not Little House on the Prairie.

It’s also a bit amusing that several of the AoA commenters are appalled that Wakefield has admitted to supporting the single vaccine

I think Stone’s initial contribution is the best of the lot.

I was referring to Little Women, not Little House on the Prairie.

Ah, OK, I get it now.


Narad: I was referring to Little Women, not Little House on the Prairie.

Thank you. Beth died early on. Though I thought it was from diphtheria. (I read both books over thirty years ago)

And, yes, Mary’s blindness in Little House on the Prairie has come under literary scrutiny lately. The reality is that it could have come from all sorts of infections. The medical knowledge and diagnostic tools were just not available then.

Elburto, your partner sounds awesome. But then, I’m a Doctor Who obsession enabler, myself! 🙂

I always wondered how Mary got blind. On the tv show they made it look like she fell off the woodpile and was… suddenly blind. It confused me as a kid, but then I don’t know very much about brain things unless autism-related.

During the 2008 measles outbreak in Tucson (21 cases total), the county health department declared a medical emergency. I called the local school districts to ask why they hadn’t sent home all the unvaccinated children as required by Arizona law during a vaccine-preventable disease outbreak (parents can opt their children out of vaccines here for any “personal” reason they want, but the law states if there is an disease outbreak, students not vaccinated against that disease must either be vaccinated or sent home for their own safety for the duration of the outbreak.). The school districts told me they were waiting for the county to tell them to do this. I called the county and they said it was up to the school districts to decide on their own. The schools then told me they wouldn’t enforce the law until a child caught measles at a school. I tried explaining that by that point it is too late to stop a measles outbreak in a school. There was an advisory physician from the CDC in Tucson for this outbreak as well. I talked to him and he told me that his job was only to advise, so of course, he wouldn’t advise the schools to send the unvaccinated kids home.

I don’t much trust the public health system in Tucson after that, but I am grateful there are no leadership-level antivax quacks in Tucson like the ones cited here.

@ Chris Hickie: Is this the measles outbreak you are referring to? Unless I am misreading this article from the IDSA, the outbreak occurred in a hospital.

It wouldn’t be necessary to send unvaccinated kids home from school, but if one of those unvaccinated HCWs who contracted measles had a school-aged child who was not vaccinated, then the department of health would have instructed the family to keep the child home. A health care doctor or nurse, would have brought measles vaccines to the home to vaccinate any all unvaccinated close household contacts…if the parents were “willing”. Otherwise, the unvaccinated school aged child would be restricted to the home until the end of the incubation period to contract the disease.

Wow, just wow, look how the hospital messed up. They exposed people in the ER, patients and staff in the hospital after the patient was admitted to the hospital one day later…and never tested/got the results of a positive measles IGM titer for eight days!

That measles outbreak was not facilitated by inaction of the public health department or inaction by the school districts, as far as I can determine. The royal screw-up was in the admitting hospital.

I need a cookie, but will add my observation that if you wanted to design a virus that was as contagious as possible, you couldn’t do much better than measles. When inhaled it suppresses its host’s immune system so it can infect the cells lining the respiratory tract, and causes irritation that makes its host cough and sneeze. At the same time it is commandeering its host’s cells to make billions of copies of itself that are then broadcast through the aforementioned coughing and sneezing, but doesn’t produce a rash, or make the host sick enough to stay at home in bed, until a few days after infection. The patient turns into an exquisitely engineered measles virus manufacturing and distribution system.

Krebiozen @ 56
Evolutionarily, it is just what you would expect. Remember Orgel’s second law: evolution is cleverer than you are.

Beth March in Little Women barely survived scarlet fever at age 12 or 13. She was never strong thereafter, and she died of consumption (TB) at age 19 or 20.

Narad and Chris: You’re welcome. Sometimes my fingers get ahead of my brain and I often have to clarify what I’m talking about.
DT35: It’s been a while since I read either book, so you’re probably right.

DT35, thank you. I read Little Women and a couple of the sequels in the early 1970s when I was in about sixth to eighth grade (I think one sequel and several of the Little House books was when I spent five weeks out of 8th grade with pneumonia).

(Thanks to another science blogger)…The video from April 8, 2013 IACC Hearing…featuring Jake Crosby. He *doesn’t disappoint”.

He’s just so precious isn’t he? Shaping up to be quite the public speaker with his over-wrought air quotes, fast-talking fallacious rhetoric and character-assignations. I wonder when his next chest-thumping hit piece will appear on PattiTimmy’s page.

@ Science Mom: Did you *catch* his finger pointing at the people attending the hearing…including Mark Blaxill?

Right about now, I’m betting that Brian Hooker is looking to ditch his new BFF.

I wish I could listen to that video but this will have to wait until tomorrow night.


Beth March in Little Women barely survived scarlet fever at age 12 or 13.

Naturally, there is a homeopathy angle, brought to us by none other than Dana Ullman (who gets the story wrong anyway). Now, that Alcott was a fan is not in dispute. However, the belladonna in the book, rather than the movie, is not explicitly homeopathic. If we examine J. W. Begbie’s On the Use of Belladonna in Scarlatina, we find Hahnemann in 1799 using just under a 6X dilution (“which, according to [his] subsequent experience, is rather too large a dose”) of 1 grain. Further investigators of the treatment, on the other hand, were administering a much as half a grain per day.

Camphor was also employed as a treatment for scarlet fever, but in order for it to “antidote” homeopathic belladonna, as Ullman asserts, one seems obliged to assume that it was a regular tincture. Now, if one is to accept that the camphor wasn’t homeopathic, why should one assume that the belladonna was?

@ lilady:
@ ScienceMom:

I just watched JC’s part-

To riff on my own- ( he came , he saw, he aggravated)
he came, he saw, he confused-

What in the world is he talking about? What sort of convoluted, imbroglio of a Rube Goldberg device -cum- Stieg Larsson novel plot is he ranting about?

This one said this- and that one did that- he did that and she then said…on and on.. nothing is based on any evidence…no documents… no anything.. just hints and plots.

He accuses people and agencies of cover-ups and malfeasance and provides nothing to back up those charges.

Anyone can say anything about anyone else. Doesn’t make it meaningful or realistic.

@ lilady, Jake seems to pop up about 219 minutes into the video (that is about three hours and 39 minutes in) rather than at 2:19, as you indicated. I suppose that, based on Crosby’s presentation, it’s now Jake, Wakefield, and Hooker against the world–everyone else is tainted.

I’d think twice about joining forces with Hooker — his record at Chancellorsville speaks for itself.

@ Lilady #55

Yes, that is the outbreak, and it did seem that the hospital involved didn’t handle it well. But as seen here ( the county did declare an emergency as cases unlinked to the hospital appeared, some of them children. My point was, if the county is worried enough to declare an emergency, I would have thought the schools would have been either safety conscious enough (or at least lawsuit wary enough) to realize that sending the unvaxed kids home would be the right thing to do both for their protection and the protection of the vaxed kids (some of the schools here have only 50-80% vaccination rates and are not the place to have your child).


I’d think twice about joining forces with Hooker — his record at Chancellorsville speaks for itself.


@ Chris Hickle: It was not JUST the hospital that *messed up*…according to this extensive report from the Pima County Health Department:

– Why were there so many unvaccinated HCWs/staff in the hospitals and in the local health department without a record of immunization/proof of immunity against measles?

– What was the delay in reporting a suspect case of measles to the local health department and why did it take two days for confirmation of measles IGM titer(s)..once blood was drawn? Those positive serum tests should have been available within a few hours.

A few unvaccinated children were identified as cases, but they did not contract measles in school. (There were five generations of transmission); some kids contacted the disease from patients and staff who were infected, but they also needlessly exposed others by visiting private doctors’ offices and private labs…where they were sent to get “tested”…atrocious policy.

The staff at the local health department were somewhat *clueless* about handling one case, clusters and outbreaks of measles. Why?

Pima County health department ran “short of measles vaccine”. Why? The State health department has emergency supplies and the manufacturer’s can ship thousands of doses of MMR vaccine overnight.

Does Arizona even have a communicable diseases case surveillance manual? Pima County health department staff should have been well-versed in the measles case surveillance/case containment CDC Surveillance Manual

@Shay – the fine art of Civil War humor is a never ceasing source of amusement…

Good morning 🙂

Can I have a cookie please (just trying my netbook with chromium-os).


Alain et al,
If you use a cookie manager (there’s one for Chrome here)and set the comment_author_ and comment_author_email_ cookies to read only, the ‘Recent Insolence returned’ problem is solved.

However, I haven’t yet figured out a fix for the ‘Recent Insolence delivered’ problem.

I’m not holding my breath, but thus far the ‘Recent Insolence delivered’ problem is also solved.

It seems copy protecting those cookies solves the ‘Recent Insolence returned’ problem, but not the ‘Recent Insolence delivered’ problem.

I viewed the portion of video featuring Jake Crosby and I have to wonder, what’s the point? His speech went in one ear and out the other and I guess it is exactly how the comity treated his speech.


One does wonder how the culminating experience is going to go down after such performances. I don’t even want to think about the practicum.

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