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TruthKings: Not so truthful about vaccines

When I wrote about a systematic review of the medical literature regarding measles and pertussis outbreaks that demonstrated quite convincingly that, for these two diseases at least, the nonmedical exemptions and vaccine refusal endanger everyone, not just the unvaccinated, I was rather disappointed. I was rather disappointed because, although the article had been in press a couple fo days at the time, no antivaccine loon had taken it on with the bad arguments that I mentioned. If there’s one thing that seems to escape antivaccinationists, it’s that the unvaccinated are at much more risk in outbreaks than the vaccinated, up to 35-fold more so, but the really bad thing about vaccine refusal driven by antivaccine lies is that it also endangers the vaccinated as well. The reason is quite simple. No vaccine is 100% effective, and herd immunity (also known as community immunity) is degraded, thus making the fraction of the vaccinated for whom the vaccine didn’t induce adequate immunity susceptible to the disease.

I should have waited a day.

Of course, I had already waited a day longer than I had planned, and I really wanted to discuss the article; so I just did. Then, just as I was going to risk serious injury to my neurons by taking on this bit of stupidity over at the antivaccine crank blog Age of Autism (you have been warned), I came across a (somewhat) less brain-meltingly confusing bit of stupidity over at TruthKings. Now, I haven’t really written about anything published by TruthKings yet that I can recall, but perusing the site I can definitely say that it’s on par with Mike Adams and for the depth of its commitment to pseudoscience, quackery, and radical politics. In this case, it’s a post by someone named Shirley Shaw, who is billed as the mother of two children, one of whom is on the spectrum. It’s presented as an “open letter” with a title that should remind you of Jenny McCarthy, namely Mom’s Letter ‘I’d Rather My Child Have Measles Than Autism’. Yes, it’s the very same false dichotomy that Jenny McCarthy pulled out of her nether regions when she famously (and incredibly ignorantly) said, “It shouldn’t be polio versus autism.”

Yes, the post is that bad. Shaw also seems to think that she knows how to deconstruct a study or systematic review, but in doing so demonstrates a level of scientific ignorance typical of antivaccinationists. After saying she’s going to have a “closer look” at the findings in the JAMA and quoting results from the abstract (which is about as much depth as she can muster), Shaw bloviates:

First, let’s look at that portion I placed in bold regarding pertussis vaccinations. We’ve seen a lot of recent cases regarding pertussis being spread FROM the vaccinated TO the vaccinated. We’ve also seen this with Mumps recently (which is a part of the MMR cocktail): Here, here and here. The JAMA study and mainstream news stations both place these pieces of information as footnotes, of course. But the reality is, this study blatantly says that vaccinated people spread one of the illnesses. I’ve not taken one thing out of context; you can read it and source it for yourself.

No. the study says nothing of the sort, unless you twist it mightily, and the links she uses to back up her claims are more pseudoscience from TruthKings. Shaw’s first link is about waning pertussis immunity. This is indeed a problem, as I discussed before, but that doesn’t mean the vaccine doesn’t work or that vaccinated people are more likely to spread disease than the unvaccinated. It just means we need a better vaccine. In the meantime, the current one works, just not as optimally as we might wish.

The second link trumpets the story of six people previously vaccinated with MMR who contracted mumps. Hilariously, the article tries to use these six cases as “evidence” that the mumps vaccine is worthless and that the “vaccinated ARE the ones spreading the illnesses most of the time.” Even by antivaccine standards, this article is pathetic. The third one isn’t much better, as it’s the same thing, this time a story of Harvard students who were vaccinated but got the mumps. Let’s just put it this way. Waning effectiveness of pertussis vaccine is not “proof” that the vaccine doesn’t work or shouldn’t be given, and the fact that sometimes the mumps can be sometimes be caught by those who are vaccinated. Again, no vaccine is 100% effective; only in the magical thinking of antivaccinationists is a vaccine either 100% effective or utter crap.

Next up, our intrepid antivaccine loon named Shaw tries to argue that because no one died in the cases evaluated in the systematic review that vaccines are crap and the evidence showing how vaccine exemptions and vaccine refusal lead to outbreaks isn’t all that big a deal because measles isn’t that big a deal. It’s a profoundly stupid argument that we’ve heard before. I’m surprised she didn’t throw in the “Brady Bunch argument,” based on a 45-year-old episode of The Brady Bunch in which a measles outbreak in which all six children got sick was played for laughs. The claim, of course, is that the measles is such a bening disease that we really shouldn’t need to worry about vaccinating against it or even fear it. Of course, the past and present rebuke those who would make such a profoundly ignorant and incorrect argument. The measles is not benign. That doesn’t stop Shaw from claiming it is:

Now there is the case of measles. We are talking about just upwards of 1400 cases. In these cases, there have been 0 deaths and no known injuries. Furthermore, half of the individuals were vaccinated. The new vaccine industry lingo, “waning vaccine,” is applied to justify such results. Also, “herd immunity” can explain the remaining curiosities. Again, however, we are talking about measles.

Yes, Shaw really said that. Because no one died, measles is no big deal. She also clearly misunderstands basic math. When the unvaccinated make up such a small percentage of the population, the fact that half the measles victims were unvaccinated should tell her something, and it’s not that the vaccine doesn’t work. I mean, seriously. How difficult are basic fractions? How hard is it to understand that when only maybe 2% or 3% of the population is unvaccinated but 50% of measles patients are unvaccinated, it doesn’t mean that the vaccine doesn’t work. It means that the vaccine works quite well.

Shaw even dives deeper into the stupid, with some irrelevant and meaningless comparisons:

There have been ten measles deaths since the year 2000 in the United States, according to data from the CDC. By comparison, in the United States, 1 in 68 babies born will have autism. Autism services cost U.S. citizens $236-262 billion annually. (Buescher et al., 2014). In 2014, more than 28,000 were killed by prescription medications (source). Pharmaceutical companies cause 28,000 deaths per year from prescription medications; measles doesn’t even qualify as a one death per year. The same industry which makes the MMR vaccine, of course, takes no responsibility for it’s relationship to autism. Autism is a magical disease found when children accidentally climb Jack’s beanstalk without permission. So autism has no cause.

This is what’s known as the technique of throwing a bunch of meaningless and irrelevant statistics against the wall and seeing if anything sticks. Since vaccines don’t cause autism (there are many studies that have failed to find a link) it’s irrelevant to point out that the prevalence of autism is 1 in 68 and an study that estimates that autism services cost US citizens $236 billion annually. It’s also equally irrelevant that 28,000 people a year die of opioid overdose which is what Shaw was referring to.

But the stupid doesn’t end here. Get a load of this incredible false dichotomy:

I’d rather my child have measles than I would have autism or become an OxyContin addict. All the resources I see wasted on measles is so draining to my soul it ‘s hard to watch even the news. The subjugation of information, such as the vaccinated spreading the illnesses, is a comment on society’s preoccupation with reality TV narratives and their subjugation by the media. We aren’t even willing to explore the truth anymore; we are too busy licking what’s left from the spoon. The problem is, the reality TV narratives shall soon be us. Because our reality, while we’ve been preoccupied, has caused us all to become characters in a dreadful movie that has an even worse end whereas we’ve ended up skeletons of our once healthy beings.

Is it possible to come up with a dichotomy more false than this? Measles versus autism or becoming an OxyContin addict? That latter one doesn’t even make any sense. Not that making sense was ever anything that die-hard antivaccine loons cared about.

In the end, I’m that I haven’t been able to find a lot of antivaccine cranks taking a run at this systematic review. I looked at the usual suspects, such as the merry band of antivaccine propagandists at Age of Autism (although there is an article about a doctor in California trying to use the letter of the law to violate its spirit as he sells nonmedical exemptions to vaccine mandates and bragging about it), the wine-fueled “thinking” that goes on at The Not-So-“Thinking” Moms’ Revolution, the science-y wannabes at SafeMinds, or the grande dame of the antivaccine movement herself, Barbara Loe Fisher at the Orwellian-named National Vaccine Information Center. Nothing, nada, zip. Not even Mike Adams at took a run at it. There might be more that I missed, but none of my usual go-to major antivaccine sites even acknowledged it, as far as I can tell, at least as of this morning.

Nope, instead only TruthKings, a website, apparently set up by “renowned” antivaccine crank Sherri Tenpenny, that I had heard of but as yet had never bothered to delve into, decided to take a swipe at the JAMA article. In doing so, its author, Shirley Shaw, helped illustrate exactly the antivaccine fallacies I discussed yesterday.

It’s also a new wretched hive of scum and quackery to provide me with blogging material.

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]

57 replies on “TruthKings: Not so truthful about vaccines”

There have been ten measles deaths since the year 2000 in the United States, according to data from the CDC.

Gee, ya think that mandatory vaccination may have something to do with the lowness of that number?
I’ve occasionally mentioned that vaccines are the victims of their own success. My recall may be faulty, but I’m quite sure that nobody I knew was off sick from school for measles, mumps or rubella.

@Julian Frost

She’s also focusing only on acute measles deaths. We’ve also had around 32 SSPE deaths since 2000. SSPE is one of those incredibly nasty complications of measles: a slow, painful death that can pop up anytime from weeks to years after the initial infection.

I get so angry when I read about measles being “no big deal.” I grew up knowing that my aunt was in a wheelchair due to having measles when she was 9 years old. According the my dad, it was awful what she went through. She almost died a couple of times. This was right before the vaccine came out in the ’60’s.

Oh, but I guess the MMR causes just as many disabilities in children as measles used to? That’s the answer from the anti-vaxxers.

The problem is, the reality TV narratives shall soon be us. Because our reality, while we’ve been preoccupied, has caused us all to become characters in a dreadful movie that has an even worse end whereas we’ve ended up skeletons of our once healthy beings.

WAKE UP SHEEPLE. Really, we should play “Conspiracy Nut Bingo” with all these tropes she keeps tossing our way.

Ha! I notice that Orac links to that incredibly bad post at AoA yesterday. Her character/ acronym naming is as heavy-handed as the title ‘Truth Kings’ which -btw- I tried to g–gle today and wound up with a bunch of Bible references.

Don’t these people re-read and critique what they write and try to imagine how others will respond?

In these cases, there have been 0 deaths and no known injuries.

Lucky them. In Europe, a fairly recent measles outbreak resulted into a dozen deaths.
And death from measles complications is a daily occurrence in third-world countries.

Accesses to proper nutrition and modern medical facilities are big factors in how a measles infection may turn out; but even then, I feel like “a little bug which can send you to the hospital” is stretching the definition of “no big deal”.
“Not dying” does not equate to “not being harmed”.

This is similar to deciding not to wear a seatbelt because you read that someone died in a car accident in a car with their seatbelt on.
When discussing vaccination with patients I frequently hear the argument “I never get sick.” I then will ask them if they wear a seatbelt. When they inevitably answer yes, I ask them why, because to my knowledge they have never suffered a serious injury in a car accident.

“Not dying” does not equate to “not being harmed”.

I wonder what they think about Polio, seeing as how it rarely killed…

“Not dying” does not equate to “not being harmed”.

I think most of the anti-vax crowd (particularly the vaccines-cause-autism crowd) understand this at some level. They are perfectly aware that their autistic children are not dead, but they insist that those children have been harmed. The problem is that they are applying this principle selectively. They have no experience of seeing people with chronic complications of vaccine-preventable diseases.

That echoes Julian’s point about vaccines being a victim of their own success. In the West, people younger than about 50, myself included, didn’t have classmates in school who contracted polio or measles. Now many of those people are parents, and some near the upper end of the range are grandparents. Societal memory of the time before vaccines is waning. Success stories like smallpox eradication are few and far between.

@ Amethyst

I wonder what they think about Polio

Oi. Don’t worry, they manage to spin something. They rewrite history and put it into ‘no big deal’ column, too.
By example, AVers like to say that polio didn’t disappear thanks to vaccination, but was rebranded into different illnesses. See all these paralyzed people around you? Also, nutrition and hygiene/sewers**.
If a polio denialist shows up, prepare yourself to be disgusted.

* the transition from a pre-industrial society to a modern urban lifestyle actually increased the transmission rate of polio, because cities tend to crowd people together, and water-borne bugs have an easier life when plenty of people share water resources, like public swimming pools, but never mind…


IIRC, modern sanitation also increased the risk of complications from polio, as it delayed exposure. Like chickenpox, polio is one of those viruses whose risks increase with age.

P… polio denialism? Seriously? As in not being critical of the vaccine (i.e anti-vax) but of the actual disease being a real thing (i.e like HIV/ADIS denialism)?

Man, the things I learn on this blog can be just as disheartening as they are enlightening…

I once commented on an anti-vax blog, asking what do they (the anti-vaxxers) think would happen if we all just stopped vaccinating today.

I got several answers. They basically think that we would see some diseases come back, but it wouldn’t be that bad. One said that chronic diseases and autism would go down drastically. We would all be healthier.

They really believe this.

That California doctor giving exemptions should lose his license. Stoller has already proven his incompetence in New Mexico by obstructing a child abuse investigation because Stoller just “knew” that a parent couldn’t possibly abuse their child.,%20Kenneth%20P.pdf

As to TruthKings? Another POS echo chamber for AVers that unfortunately continue to increase and propagate.

After reading “Dr.” Stoller’s comments – how is that not admitting fraud?

He isn’t using anything based on actual contraindictions to grant medical exemptions….

Is there anyone in CA that could pass that AoA interview with Stoller along to the relevant medical governing bodies in that state? He certainly appears to be using the new law to line his own pockets with that mandatory genetic testing he says he requires.

I like Bob Moffitt’s comment about appointing Dr. Stoller as surgeon general. Not a snowball’s chance in hell of that.

@Todd #2 that article you linked to was even more embarrassing than the one Orac took apart here.

@ Amethyst:

Believe it or not, although the hiv/aids denialism movement has nearly died out ( both figuratively and literally), a few of its most adamant proponents back in the day now have switched to vaccine denialism – Celia Farber, Ruggiero, Clark Baker and even former hiv realim- turned hiv/ aids denialist Montagnier have written articles, appeared at anti-vax conventions, sold cures ( some involving yoghurt etc).

I suppose it’s where the spotlight is often.

I like Bob Moffitt’s comment about appointing Dr. Stoller as surgeon general. Not a snowball’s chance in hell of that.

Well, except for President Trump doing it.

@ Amethyst:

P… polio denialism? Seriously?

Maybe I should have said “downplayism” rather than denialism. At least for the non-fringe elements.
Most AVers will, as you surmised, deny the polio vaccines’ efficiency (or accuse them of spreading the illness, which has some grain of true for the live virus vaccine – sorta). The same, or others, will deny that polio disappeared.
Most will deny that it was that bad.

Then again, you have the true denialists who say that polio was actually caused by DDT.

It’s a big world, and you can find all kinds of crazy. Internet is actually very good at enabling people to gravitate toward their own flavor of weirdness and find like-minded spirits.

I used to reassure myself by thinking that AVers and other CAM proponents were a fringe subculture, not harmless, but avoidable. And then, forward and center, came The Donald and a few other political figureheads…

@ Todd W:

You linked to Heather Fraser. HEATHER FRASER!
She is the one who goes on about peanut allergies like someone we know goes on about *something else*. She also has a book.

She has been featured on TMR- writing or presenting on one of their webinars ( I think there are- thankfully- less of those recently/ not much about the internet TV either). She’s from Canada and has several degrees in art, art history and education.

How nice it is that most of these deniers have never had to deal with polio. I am old enough that I remember waiting in line for to be vaccinated when the first vaccine came out.

Unfortunately, the vaccine was not developed in time to prevent my friend Roy from contracting polio. He had other health issues but he died between first and second grade.

The number of people in the US that can remember what polio is really like is fewer everyday because of the vaccine. Vaccines should be held as one of man’s greatest inventions.

“Autism is a magical disease found when children accidentally climb Jack’s beanstalk without permission. ”

So this is where all of us who are/were involved in assessment for potential autism went wrong: we should have been looking for giant bean stalks…

And then to prevent autism we should have sprayed any of them we found with glyphosate? That’d be right, yeah?

Is it possible to come up with a dichotomy more false than this? Measles versus autism or becoming an OxyContin addict? That latter one doesn’t even make any sense.

Particularly given that, according to one of the AoA comentariat (Benedetta?), vaccines cause drug addiction later in life.

I just found this in the Seattle Times, the proposal is in Pediatrics today.

Seattle docs buck trend, want to allow vaccine opt-outs — except for measles

Originally published March 17, 2016 at 9:36 pm | Updated March 18, 2016 at 9:22 am

Top Seattle doctors have issued a controversial proposal that would allow exemptions for vaccines for schoolchildren, except for the shot that prevents measles. This could preserve liberty and ensure higher vaccination rates overall, they write.

JoNel Aleccia 

Seattle Times health reporter

Amid growing calls to limit vaccine exemptions for children in public schools, several Seattle doctors have come up with a controversial plan: Allow personal and religious opt-outs for all shots — except the one that prevents measles.

The proposal, published Friday in the journal Pediatrics,

I didn’t copy the entire article.

I saw that article. It was kind of confusing.

I wish they would stop quoting Belkin for that idiotic false balance. Next time they should tell him to bring up the medical records to support his anecdote.

I looked at the online version, and the comments are most pro-vax.

Rich Bly@29:

This could preserve liberty

What about MY liberty to do 80mph through school zones? What are they doing to preserve that?

I didn’t copy the entire article.

I guess you were too busy throwing things.

OT but seriously, it’s late, a weekend, there are many comments and really, the minions should enjoy this…

It seems that dear, old Mikey is trying to
1. pre-sell his book,
* Food Forensics* ( on Amazon and Barnes and Noble at BARGAIN prices!) which includes analyses of foods which he himself completed in his lab that show heavy metal contamination!!!! so you should indeed rush and order a copy immediately-
AND 2. publicise his lab ( now re-named CWC Lab) to which you can send food and supplement samples for testing
( no hair, blood etc please!). It even has its own ( not entirely completed) website called “CWC Labs”.

Lab minions should ‘enjoy’ his state of the art facility.
Other minions may just laugh

Rich Bly and Chris: When I saw that article this morning I almost threw my English muffin. Just measles?! Ooh boy, can’t wait for all those outdoorsy kids to come down with tetanus!

Though I can see why the Seattle Times writer concentrated on measles, since the most resent person to die of measles was in Washington State.

Gah! Not Helping! Not helping at all. What were you thinking, Pediatrics?

I didn’t copy the whole article because I didn’t want to pay for the broken screens and keyboards from all the objects being thrown.

Hopefully, Pediatrics will get a lot of letters from this article.

@34 has Wow. Just wow.

I had a jokester friend who put out cans saying she was collecting money for the mother of the unknown soldier. She was horrified to realize people were actually tossing in their spare change, whisked the cans away and donated the money to a local charity that helps teen mothers. Somehow, I don’t think quantumman is doing that.

The “deaths caused by pharmaceutical companies” trope is often invoked by sCAMmers. Here, Shaw combines opioid deaths and heroin deaths to arrive at an irrelevant, but big, number. It’s another facile false choice/nirvana argument: since medicine isn’t perfect, it’s worthless. What makes this particularly contemptible is that Shaw is rounding up vaccines to heroin, while rounding down measles to zero-risk. Of course, this is SOP for many antivaxxers, but it always boggles my mind when I read a dumb-ass proof by assertion that the risks of vaccines are certain and grim, while measles — a disease that still kills 300 children each day — is utterly benign.

@Jean – certain anti-vaxers blame the death of Dahl’s child on the fact that she consumed sugar….seriously.

Anti-vaxers are, for the most part, beyond reason.

@has, #34

Oh boy, oh boy! If there was anything I thought regular medicine lacked it was a good helping of neon greens and purples.

Hence she has had -0- vaccinations and wants to get fully vaccinated.

If she enlists, Uncle Sugar will take care of that for her.

certain anti-vaxers blame the death of Dahl’s child on the fact that she consumed sugar…

Why am I so unreasonably angry all of a sudden?

@shay #45: Heh. My ex was still complaining about the YUUUGE shots over 40 years later. Who’da thunk a paratroop willing to jump out of perfectly good airplanes would quail at the sight of a needle? Well, as he told it at least, a lot of them. At least he was safe from plague and all sorts of other interesting bugs.

@Charles McCreary #41: I posted a note with info that may help, unfortunately stuck in mod purgatory (excessive links) until our erstwhile host is not otherwise occupied and frees it.

I also shared the gofundme link on social media, partly due to the title (made me laugh), in addition to the good cause. I might suggest raising the campaign’s target, as donations appear to have exceeded it.

palindrom @46 Oh, it gets worse. He wrote that book that encourages other kids to eat sugar, don ha know? So we can blame him for the childhood obesity epidemic as well as any other US measles deaths, not just hers.

Kfunk937: “Who’da thunk a paratroop willing to jump out of perfectly good airplanes would quail at the sight of a needle?”

Would help that as a ten year old girl I went through most of those shots just fine over forty years ago? We were getting ready to move to South America, so I got smallpox, typhoid, DT, typhus, polio and yellow fever. Not the plague. Apparently I had to get the smallpox twice, each about a week apart.

I have them listed on my DoD shot record that was started when I was born as an Army brat. It also reveals that I got boosters for some of those six years later, when I took myself to the Post Dispensary.

Though I will definitely not jump out of a perfectly fine airplane.

On my 19th birthday I presented that shot record to the young doctor who was giving experimental swine and Hong Kong flu shots in the dorm to us student volunteers. I remember him reacting in surprise when I presented the DoD shot record, which he dutifully filled out. His signature was clear enough that I was able to find him still attached with our local medical school.

He explained that he had finished his military medical tours of Vietnam (which had ended), and was starting research at the university (hence being a bit freaked out to see the familiar looking record in a college dorm). He said they had to suspend that bit of vaccine testing because too many of teenage women were fainting. He is now an emeritus professor at the medical school, and he spends about half the year in Vietnam doing doctor stuff.

I believe that volunteering to be a pin cushion is how I managed to not get the Russian flu that knocked my (now) hubby and several friends flat on their backs a year or two later.

#34: Adams’ pathetically primitive and obsolete “Analog Medicine” room and postal service is just so Primitive and Obsolete. GENUINE State-of-the-Art Medicine is now 100% Directly Downloadable to your Smartphone TODAY!!!!!!!!

IIRC, the “QuantumMan downloadable woo” scam has featured at RI:

Before that, there was Quantum Xrroid Consciousness Interface.

The whole grift is so egregiously silly that it’s hard to get worked up about loons who fall for the stupidity tax. Some people are determined not to retain their money.

I must repeat myself but …

isn’t ‘Truth Kings’ an extremely stupid, lame, clumsy, g-d awful, horrible name for a website?
And although nearly as terrible, ‘Truth Queens’ would be more appropriate because of Tenpenny ( but insulting to queens).

FWIW, the QuantumMan downloadable scam — from Zürich Alpine Group — is the work of J S Van Cleave (Media Director) and Michael H. Uehara (Director), based in the very Swiss location of Honolulu.

Their previous exercise in separating fools from their money was the Hydroceutical Corporation, a kind of New-Age Homeopathy scam, using Quantum Entanglement to imprint water with Healing Vibrations (not to be confused with Hydroceutical Products who are a different bunch of grifters).

Jon Cleave is a broad-spectrum scammer, though I don’t know if he’s still an osteopath after his legal complications from stalking and molesting teenage patients. Uehara sells gold nuggets on-line. I think it’s fair to say that they are professionals, and that the QuantumMan site is not the outcome of sincere self-delusion.

Before that, there was Quantum Xrroid Consciousness Interface.

Needs an h in the middle. Planck’s constant, and all.

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