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One Conversation: Three legitimate medical authorities ensnared in the trap of appearing on a panel with antivaxers

I was invited to discuss vaccines with antivaxers for a panel called One Conversation. Recognizing an antivaccine trap, I politely declined. Unfortunately, other legitimate medical authorities did not, thus enabling the illusion of legitimization of antivaccine views.

About a month ago, I wrote about an invitation I received to be a panelist on something called “One Conversation.” The invitation was to participate as part of a panel discussing vaccines. That, of course, immediately sent up a number of red flags, particularly given that a quick Googling of the women inviting me, Shannon Kroner and Britney Valas, were antivaccine activists. For example, Dr. Kroner spoke at the Children’s March for Humanity in June 2017:

As I discussed at the time, her antivaccine views weren’t even subtle, and it didn’t help that antivaccine stalwarts from the crew that brought us the antivaccine propaganda film disguised as a documentary (VAXXED), Del Bigtree and Joshua Coleman, also spoke at this march. As for Britney Valas? She was involved in organizing the Children’s March for Humanity, and her appearance on a podcast with Del Bigtree told me that she is antivaccine, too. However, her social media footprint that reveals her antivaccine views is not nearly as large as Kroner’s, although there is this other podcast appearance:

In 2013, Britney began questioning vaccines even though her oldest child experienced a serious illness after a flu shot in 2009. Through inspiration by God, Britney felt the energy shift and knew it was time for a national march promoting parental rights with medical freedom and exposing the true state of health for America’s youth by initiating the Children’s March for Humanity.

Yes, she’s definitely antivaccine.

One Conversation: The panel is revealed

Given that the organizers of One Conversation are clearly antivaccine, I was…leery. So I engaged in a long correspondence with the organizers. I wanted to know who was on the panel. There were enough clues to lead me to guess the identities of at least some of the One Conversation panelists—correctly in some cases, as it turned out. Indeed, the list of panelists has finally been revealed a mere four weeks before the event. The list and descriptions will both sound familiar (for several) and alarming, given how many rabid antivaccine activists are on a panel with, apparently, some real scientists and doctors who no doubt have zero idea what they are in for or the level of pseudoscience they will encounter. Here are the names and descriptions of the participants, as described on the One Conversation website:

  • Dr. Jubilee Brown, MD, FACOG: Professor and Associate Director of Gynecologic Oncology Oncology, Levine Cancer Institute, Atrium Health Charlotte, North Carolina. Dr. Brown is a board certified gynecologic oncologist with 16 years of experience treating women with gynecologic cancers. She has published over 80 peer-reviewed articles, 22 book chapters, has edited a textbook, and has lectured and taught on 5 continents. She will serve as the President of the AAGL in 2020, and her goal is to help eradicate cancer in women.
  • Catherine M. Roe, PhD: Principal Investigator and Associate Professor, Knight Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center Department of Neurology. Dr. Catherine Roe is currently an associate professor at the Knight Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center in the Department of Neurology. She completed her Bachelor’s in Psychology at Purdue and a Master’s and Ph.D at Southern Illinois University in Psychology. Her research interests are in the use of biomarkers for detection of preclinical and symptomatic Alzheimer’s disease (AD); in the prediction of AD-associated outcomes on an individual basis, and in associations between AD biomarkers and “non-cognitive” outcomes such as driving. Dr. Roe is also interested in how brain and cognitive reserve, mood, physical decline and neuropsychological factors impact both persons who are cognitively normal and persons with symptomatic AD. She is the PI of an NIH/NIA grant investigating preclinical AD and driving performance as well as other grants that examine naturalistic driving outcomes.
  • Dr. Toni Bark, MD, MHEM, LEED, AP: Founder and Medical Director for The Center for Disease Prevention & Reversal. Dr. Bark earned her Doctor of Medicine degree from Rush Medical College in 1986. She completed her Pediatric internship at NYU and Pediatric residency at University of Illinois. She trained in rehab medicine and has a Masters Degree in Medical Disaster Preparedness and Response from Boston University Medical School. She is a former Director of the Pediatric Emergency Room at Michael Reese Hospital. Dr. Bark has worked as an expert witness in the federal vaccine court and as an adverse event expert in family courts. She has been in private practice in Chicago, Illinois since 1994.
  • Dr. H. Gene Stringer, Jr., MD: Associate Professor of Clinical Medicine (Infectious Diseases), Department of Medicine, Co-Investigator Georgia AIDS Education and Training Center. Dr. Harold Stringer is an infectious disease specialist in Atlanta, Georgia and is affiliated with multiple hospitals in the area, including Grady Memorial Hospital and Wellstar Atlanta Medical Center. He received his medical degree from University of Mississippi School of Medicine and has been in practice for more than 20 years. He is one of 35 doctors at Grady Memorial Hospital and one of 5 at Wellstar Atlanta Medical Center who specialize in Infectious Disease.
  • Dr. Mahin Khatami, Ph.D: Retired, National Institute of Health. Mahin Khatami received her Ph.D. in Molecular Biology from University of Pennsylvania (UPA, 1980), after receiving her MA in Biochemistry (SUNY, Buffalo, NY), BS and MS (Chemistry and Science Education, Iran). Her postdoctoral trainings were in physiology, protein chemistry and immunology at UPA, U VA and Fox Chase Cancer Inst. As a Research Faculty (Dept. Ophthalmology at UPA) she was involved in two major projects, diabetes complications and experimental models of acute and chronic inflammatory diseases. In the first decade of her research career at UPA, by publishing 39 scientific articles and 60 abstracts in conference proceedings, she became the most productive scientist in the USA. In 1998, she joined NCI/NIH as a Program Director, involved in major clinical trials (PLCO). Dr. Khatami’s relentless efforts for promoting the important role of inflammation in cancer research paid off in the last few years as significantly funded projects are currently devoted to various aspects of inflammation within and outside NCI/NIH. Her last position before retirement at the professor level was Program Dir., Innovative Molecular Imaging Technologies, (IMAT) and Assistant Director, Technology Program Development, Office of Director, NCI/NIH. She is currently Associate Editor for Cell Biochem. Biophy, Editor and author of books on inflammatory diseases and cancer.
  • Dr. Christopher A. Shaw, Ph.D: Neuroscientist, Professor, Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences. Christopher A. Shaw, Ph.D is a professor in the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences at the University of British Columbia, with cross appointments to the Department of Pathology and the Programs in Experimental Medicine and Neuroscience. He has served as a member of ALS Canada research committee and was a member of the scientific advisory board of the Public Health Agency of Canada on neurological diseases. He is the author of over 300 articles, reviews, and abstracts. He is the author of a book on the nature of neurological diseases, Neural Dynamics of Neurological Disease (Wiley 2017). Ongoing projects in his laboratory focus on potential therapeutics for ALS, on models of the Guamanian neurological disorder, ALS-PDC, and on the role of aluminum in neurological disorders across the lifespan. In recent years, his group has investigated the impact of aluminum adjuvants in animal models of ALS and autism spectrum disorder. Chris served as a front line medic with a Canadian NGO during the liberation of Mosul, Iraq, in 2017.
  • Dr. Sherri Tenpenny, DO, AOBNMM, ABIHM: Founder of Tenpenny Integrative Medical Center, Founder of Mastering Vaccine Info Boot Camp and Educational Portals, Former Director of the Emergency Department at Blanchard Valley Regional Hospital Center. Prior to her career in alternative medicine, Dr. Tenpenny served as Director of the Emergency Department at Blanchard Valley Regional Hospital Center in Findlay, Ohio, from 1987 to 1995. In 1994, she and a partner opened OsteoMed, a medical practice in Findlay limited to the specialty of osteopathic manipulative medicine. In 1996, Dr. Tenpenny moved to Strongsville, Ohio, expanding her practice to include traditional, complementary and preventive medicine. Dr. Tenpenny is board certified in three medical specialties. She was boarded in Emergency Medicine from 1995 to 2006. She chose to not re-certify in Emergency Medicine – a time consuming and expensive undertaking – because she never plans to work again within Emergency Medicine. She has been board certified in Osteopathic Neuromusculoskeletal Medicine (AOBNMM) since 1995 and became board certified in Integrative and Holistic Medicine in 2012 (ABIHM). Dr. Tenpenny`s special interest is chronic pain and a unique approach to chronic diseases and cancer. She has taken advanced studies in women`s health, breast thermography, bio-identical hormone use and thyroid-adrenal balancing. She is excited about developing The Breast Health Center at TIMC, using MammaCare® technology and thermography to improve the health of breasts in women of all ages.
  • Del Bigtree: Medical Journalist, Founder, ICAN Host and Producer of the Highwire. Del Bigtree is one of the preeminent voices of the vaccine risk awareness movement around the world. He is the founder of the non-profit, Informed Consent Action Network, and host of a rapidly growing internet talk show The HighWire, boasting over 33 million views to date. Del’s multi-pronged approach incorporates legal, legislative, and media actions to expose the fraud, lies, and conflicts of interest that have allowed the pharmaceutical industry to evade standardized safety testing for vaccines. Del’s foray into the vaccine issue was anything but intentional. After spending a decade celebrating great doctors, cutting edge surgeries and medical breakthroughs as a producer on The Dr. Phil Show and the CBS medical talk show, The Doctors, it was a routine investigation into the story of a whistleblower at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that catapulted Del into the vaccine debate. Del put his career on the line and left network television to make one of the most controversial documentaries in history: Vaxxed: From Cover-Up To Catastrophe. Del is now one of the most sought after public speakers in the natural health arena, often gathering audiences in the thousands who travel from around the world to be inspired by his unique blend of passion, wit, and scientific expertise. He has worked directly with the likes of Robert Kennedy Jr., Robert DeNiro, and Jenny McCarthy, and was an official member of the 2017 Kennedy Vaccine Safety Delegation at the National Institute of Health arranged by President Trump. He is the recipient of multiple awards including an Emmy Award as a producer on The Doctors, Best Drama at the New York Television Festival, and the Health Freedom Hero Award from the National Health Freedom Federation, the oldest natural health organization in America. He has appeared on several primetime news networks including ABC, NBC, CBS, and FOX and has been interviewed by countless radio and Internet personalities ranging from Tom Hartman to David Knight of Infowars.

As you can see, there’s a mixture of antivaccine activists, antivaccine cranks (in my opinion), and what appear to be real scientists having this “One Conversation.”

One Conversation: First, the cranks

Del Bigtree, of course, is the producer of the antivaccine propaganda film VAXXED, a film by the guru of the antivaccine movement, Andrew Wakefield, that I once described as so over-the-top and unsubtle in its fear mongering that even Leni Reifenstahl, were she still alive to see it, would say it was too much. It was so full of antivaccine misinformation and conspiracies (particularly the “CDC whistleblower” conspiracy) as to have caused me pain to watch it and try to count and deconstruct all the examples of misinformation. Notice how there is no mention of Andrew Wakefield in One Conversation’s description of Bigtree. I’d be willing to be that the members of the panel who are not antivaccine cranks have no idea how close Bigtree and Wakefield are. They’re tight. They’re bros. One can easily predict that Bigtree will try to restrain his usual—shall we say?—ebullient nature in which he goes on about how he’s ready to die for vaccine freedom and appear to be a rational vaccine “skeptic.” It well might work.

To me, Sherri Tenpenny, of course, is an antivaccine crank. I’ve written about her on multiple occasions, but I must admit that the bit in her bio above about promoting the unproven imaging modality of thermography for breast cancer is something new that I hadn’t known about her before. If you want to get an idea of how quacky Tenpenny is, consider this epic rant by her in which she claims that vaccines are “contaminating” human DNA in the name of transhumanism. It doesn’t get much more hilariously quacky than this. No wonder she was featured on the conspiracy-fest “Conspira-Sea Cruise” with Andrew Wakefield. One wonders if she’ll regale the audience with tales of vaccines “contaminating” human DNA beyond repair. She is an extreme crackpot.

Then there’s Christopher Shaw. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve written about his execrably bad science churned out in the name of demonstrating that aluminum adjuvants in vaccines—particularly HPV vaccines—are hopelessly dangerous. He blames them for death. He tries to show that aluminum causes behavioral problems. His papers on vaccines are so bad that retraction occurs for image manipulation, which he blamed on a researcher who, conveniently enough, had left the lab. He teams up with collaborators who demonize HPV vaccines.

Toni Bark, of course, is also a “holistic” doctor. As I documented before, she’s an actual MD, but she’s also into “integrating” naturopathy and homeopathy, the latter of which is what I like to refer to as “The One Quackery To Rule Them All,” into her practice. Not surprisingly, she was also featured as a speaker on the Conspira-Sea Cruise. She’s the main narrator for much of the movie Bought, a movie combining antivaccine fear mongering about vaccines causing autism plus GMO pseudoscience.

Before I get to the doctors and scientists who appear not to be cranks, I can’t help but note that there were some…cancellations. Dr. Wilber Chen, for instance, is an infectious disease doctor and Chief of the Adult Clinical Studies section within the Center for Vaccine Development and Director of the UMB Travel Medicine Practice. I’m guessing he figured out what he was in for. Ditto R. Lee Mosley, PhD, a real immunologist who does real research into Parkinson’s disease. Then there’s David Hawkes, Ph. D, an Australian HPV researcher. Again, he figured out what he was in for. I also can’t help but note that, after I turned Kroner down, I became aware of several other doctors who had been contacted and invited to be on the panel. I also found out that J.B. Handley was going to be on the panel, but for some reason he’s not on the final list. He’s probably too busy selling his new antivaccine book.

One Conversation: Who are the scientists?

I will credit Kroner and Valas with persistence. I know they were rejected by a large number of pro-science, pro-vaccine doctors and scientists just from my communications with those who were contacted by them. I have no idea how many others they might have contacted. Unfortunately, they appear to have managed to persuade some non-cranks to agree. For instance, Dr. Jubilee Brown is a real, honest-to-goodness gynecological oncologist, which means that she treats the cervical cancer that HPV can cause and the HPV vaccine prevents. She describes herself thusly, “I am a gynecologic oncologist with expertise in minimally invasive surgery, rare tumors, and care of the patient at high risk for gynecologic malignancies.” I also note that she had been faculty at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center for 17 years before her current appointment at the Levine Cancer Center, and she’s definitely a supporter of vaccinating against HPV.

I was curious why someone like Catherine M. Roe, PhD would be invited to be on the panel. She is, after all, an Alzheimer’s disease researcher at Washington University in St. Louis, who describes her research thusly:

Under the direction of Catherine M. Roe, PhD, the Roe Lab is working to characterize functional outcomes impacted by preclinical Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Our main area of focus is on how individuals with and without preclinical AD maintain driving abilities.

This is an important public health issue, without a doubt, but what does it have to to with vaccines? Dr. Roe is not a vaccine activist, as far as I can tell. One could just as well ask why Kroner would have asked a breast surgeon to be on her panel, but I have a long history of opposing antivaccine pseudoscience publicly. I can’t find that sort of history with Dr. Roe. My best guess is that they want her to discuss aluminum and Alzheimer’s disease, given that Christopher Shaw is on the panel and it’s an antivaccine myth that the aluminum adjuvant in the flu vaccine and other adult vaccines that contributes to the development of Alzheimer’s disease. I hope she’s up on that, but I bet that she isn’t.

H. G. Stringer, MD is somewhat less puzzling entry. He’s an associate professor of medicine and infectious disease specialist at Morehouse School of Medicine whose research interests are HIV/AIDs and tuberculosis. On the other hand, even though he’s an infectious disease specialist, he’s not a pediatric infectious disease specialist, and the vast majority of the objections to vaccines are to childhood vaccines. Of course, once the names of the other panelists were finally revealed by Kroner and Valas, every pediatric infectious disease specialist out there approached probably heard the name Del Bigtree or did some Googling of other panel members and ran screaming away, as well they should. Ditto anyone active in combatting antivaccine pseudoscience, any of whom would be likely to recognize at least three of the names of the panel participants. Sadly, Dr. Stringer is likely unprepared for the onslaught of Gish galloping that he will encounter. If he is, there’s no indication findable by Google that he’s familiar with antivaccine tropes and prepared to deal with the onslaught he’s likely to be subjected to, however politely.

A surprise in One Conversation

I thought at first that Mahin Khatami, PhD, who is indeed a retired scientist from the National Cancer Institute, fell into the category of non-cranks, but I soon learned otherwise. It is true that at the time of her retirement Khatami was Assistant Director for Technology Program Development, Office of Technology and Industrial Relations and Program Director-IMAT, Office of Director, NCI, although before that she was Program Director-HAS. quickly revealed why she was chosen for the panel. High up on my Google search results is an article NIH scientist – Dr. Mahin Khatami exposes corruption in cancer and vaccine industries, which touts an article she wrote for Clinical and Translational Medicine entitled, Safety concerns and hidden agenda behind HPV vaccines: another generation of drug-dependent society? It’s a rant against both vaccines and cancer, chock full of conspiracy mongering, easily refutable tropes about cancer, and antivaccine rhetoric. For example:

Formation of a highly ordered and sophisticated medical hierarchy (establishment) in the nineteenth/twentieth century within higher education institutions (e.g., medical schools, organizations) was supported by businessmen and philanthropists with motives to profit from the sale of drugs (reviewed in 1). The power of establishment grew since 1955 when public was intentionally inoculated with million doses of virus-contaminated polio vaccines, which sharply increased the deadly cancer incidence in the current ‘baby boomers’ generation, particularly in America. In addition to increased cancer incidence and mortality, numerous other disabling acute or chronic illnesses [e.g., poliomyelitis, vasculitis, autoimmune and neurodegenerative diseases or vaccine-associated paralytic polio (VAPP)] are reported as the results of public vaccination with virus-contaminated polio vaccines that made American health status at the bottom of other healthy nations [1, 2, 3].1 , 2 , 3 , 4 , 5 The abusive power of establishment intensified since 1971, when the Cancer Act, signed by President Nixon, increased cancer research funding of National Cancer Institute (NCI)/NIH to 1.6 B, so that cancer problem be solved in 8 years! The establishment has been successful in collecting/spending several trillions of dollars from public and private resources ($1.6 trillion spent in 2008 alone on research, drug development, clinical trials and care) with claims of ‘targeted’ therapy, ‘precision’ or ‘personalized’ medicine, including the recent failed attempts for ‘immunotherapy’ [1].


Therefore, there is no surprise that outcomes of such illogical approaches (‘medical/scientific ponzi schemes’) have failure rates of 90% (±5) for solid tumors [1, 4, 5].

Yes, she’s invoking the claim that SV40 in polio viruses is responsible for an epidemic of cancer today, 50+ years later. It’s what I like to refer to as a “zombie meme,” because, no matter how many times it’s refuted, it always comes back. There are so many alternative medicine tropes about cancer and anti-HPV antivaccine talking points in this article that it might almost be worth a full blog post to deconstruct them all. Let’s just put it this way, although Skeptical Raptor has already been there. She cites an article from the rabidly anti-HPV group SaneVax in the references. In case you don’t remember, SaneVax is a foremost antivaccine group of the anti-HPV variety that specializes in trying to scare parents with stories of Gardasil contaminating patient DNA and causing brain injury using a dodgy pathologist. The antivaccine ideologues at SaneVax also promote the idea that Gardasil kills. In any event, Khatami also supported the formation of a “vaccine safety commission” with longtime antivaccine crank Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. as the chair.

Oh, and she’s also written a book, Cancer research and therapy: Scam of Century-Promote Immunity, which looks as though it were probably self-published. It features chapters with titles like:

  • Creation of a Cancer-Stricken Society for Huge Profit: Unthinkable Population Control By Drugs [Poisons] That Kill Patients while Charging the Victims! Molecular False Flags on Fraud Foundations-outcome failure rates of 90%
  • Cancer Incidence and Mortality: Health Status of Baby Boomers: Hidden Agenda: Creation of a “Magical Reality” for a Drug-Dependent Sick Society in America
  • Closer Look at Cancer Dilemma: Shared Biological Features of Potent Pathogens and Current Cancer Treatment Options: Induction of Immune Tsunami Toxicities That Kill Patients – Biological Key to Answer to Cancer: Understanding Inflammation in Health and Diseases

Hilariously, in the Dedications and Acknowledgments, Khatami writes:

For the record, aspects of this book were submitted to a scientific journal and a book publisher. However, title of the book and sections on political views of the cancer establishment were not permitted to be published.

Gee, I wonder why.

Clearly, Khatami was once a legitimate scientist at the NCI. However, sometime since her retirement (or perhaps before her retirement, leading her to be demoted from a program director), she became an antivaccine anti-oncology crank.

One Conversation: Cranks crave legitimacy

When I first discussed my invitation to One Conversation, I noted that pseudoscience-promoting cranks, like antivaccine pseudoscience, cancer quackery, alternative medicine believers (particularly homeopaths), “9/11 Truth,” creationism, Holocaust denial, the moon landing “hoax,” climate science denialists who reject anthropogenic global climate change, and all manner of conspiracy theories, crave legitimacy. As a means of attaining at least the illusion of legitimacy, they crave public “debate” with real experts in the fields whose conclusions they deny. I’ve seen it time and time again. The reason, of course, is that just by appearing on the same stage as an expert in a seemingly neutral venue, the crank wins. His appearance side by side with a real expert on the same stage gives his ideas the appearance of, if not outright legitimacy, at least sufficient seriousness as to warrant a debate. Worse, most real experts and scientists are not debaters in the sense that they are used to using facts, science, research, and reason to win the day, rather than rhetoric. Also, they are often unfamiliar with the fallacious attacks on their specialty’s findings made by cranks and thus ill-prepared to counter them; the “Gish gallop” plus rhetorical displays of a skilled debater can all too often leave them flummoxed and on defense, even though they are the experts. This is why I have a policy of not appearing with cranks, either for a debate or as part of a “discussion,” as such events are almost always weighted in favor of the cranks and I don’t wish to lend whatever small legitimacy I have to, for instance, antivaccine ideas. That’s why I refused my invitation.

One Conversation is an example of exactly what I was talking about. This panel is highly weighted towards antivaccine cranks, with two real doctors (Drs. Brown and Stringer) and one real scientist (Dr. Roe) against six antivaccine cranks, including one of the crankiest of antivaccine cranks (Del Bigtree), a retired scientists who has at some point become an antivaccine crank (Dr. Khatami), two antivaccine crank doctors (Sherri Tenpenny and Toni Bark), and an antivaccine “scientist” (Christopher Shaw) who was once a legitimate scientist but now spends a lot of time doing bad science trying to implicate aluminum as a cause of autism and death. Worse, these three legitimate medical authorities, as far as I can tell (with the possible exception of Drs. Stringer), do not have the requisite knowledge of antivaccine pseudoscience, misinformation, and lies to be able to effectively counter the message that I know the antivaccine cranks will be communicating. It’s not enough to know your science. Dr. Brown might well know the science of HPV and cervical cancer and how HPV vaccines prevent cervical cancer, but unless she’s delved into the deepest recesses of the antivaccine crankosphere I guarantee you that she will be unprepared for the Gish gallop of ant-HPV propaganda that panelists like Bigtree, Khatami, Tenpenny, Shaw, and Bark will lay down. Dr. Roe might well be an expert on Alzheimer’s disease, but I virtually guarantee you that she will not be prepared for the pseudoscience, misinformation, and lies about vaccines (particularly the flu vaccine) and Alzheimer’s that the antivaccine panelists will be likely to lay down.

If there’s one thing about cranks that I’ve noticed over the years, it’s that they believe in an adage that I like to call “all truth comes from public debate.” That’s because, just by appearing on the same stage as legitimate medical authorities, the cranks win by achieving the illusion of legitimacy, or at least of there being enough evidence on their side to warrant a serious debate. This is especially true if the “debate” is held in front of a sympathetic audience, which One Conversation will be. Remember, there is an antivaccine rally at the CDC scheduled for the day before called CDC Shutdown 2018 and sponsored by Vaccine Justice or Else:

So, yes, the audience will be full of antivaxers. Even if there weren’t a rally before One Conversation, antivaxers tend to be the ones interested in “debates” like this because those who accept the safety and efficacy of vaccines recognize such debates for what they are: Antivaccine propaganda.

Here’s hoping that Drs. Brown, Stringer, and Roe do some investigating and come to this realization. Otherwise, their appearance at this antivaccine “panel,” no matter how well-intentioned (and I have no doubt Drs. Brown and Roe are well-intentioned), will serve no other purpose than to allow antivaxers to bask in their reflected scientific legitimacy.

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]

68 replies on “One Conversation: Three legitimate medical authorities ensnared in the trap of appearing on a panel with antivaxers”

I expect people who are active in responding to anti-vaccine misinformation are more likely to know they’re being asked to be in a people with people who are not, well, credible scientists, or are not credible or scientists, and would be more likely to refuse. Going for those not active is a double gift: they won’t know the myths to be thrown at them, and they won’t know to avoid the trap.

Which is kind of what you said.

There’s a quirky rule in politics: When your candidate is polling behind, demand debates. And whenever possible, try to set the terms of such debates.

One thing that’s helped the climate deniers here in the U.S. is the default position of many media outlets of “encouraging debate”, as in bring in the talking heads “from both sides” (and don’t be surprised if none of them has any kind of climate science background) to “debate the issues”. All too often, these “debates” end up being televised shouting matches, but they’re cheaper than actual investigative journalism, and they tend to be more effective at generating clickbait.

Over the years, I’ve noticed a similar dynamic with vaccine science. Antivaxxers get their celebrity endorsers and “real, concerned parents” in the news, demand debates with pro-vaccine people, and spin these narratives about “choice”, “freedom”, and “healthy, natural living”. Never mind they don’t have any real science on their side. But as long as they can count on profit-driven media outlets seeking “sexy storylines” and “average Joes and Janes” who don’t want to sift through thousands of pages of scientific research to figure out whether vaccines are actually safe, these quacks know they’re in a good place.

No need to sift through original research if you have enough critical thinking ability to choose actual experts and then actually listen to them. But yes, I take your point, and it’s one that ORAC makes regularly. So, welcome to the Comments : ))

Is there any doubt that a selectively edited video of the “debate” highlighting any missteps (including statements taken out of context) by pro-vaccine speakers will be posted by antivaxers? Maybe a DVD of the event will be sold on Amazon and elsewhere to raise money for the “cause”.

Hopefully this RI article will be forwarded to Drs. Brown, Stringer and Roe so they have a bit more idea what they’re in for. Just being intelligent and rational and having science on your side doesn’t mean you’ll be able to deal with the tactics your opponents will use.

This gets to another quirky rule in politics: When you’re explaining, you’re losing. Anti-science quacktivists have exploited this for years by mocking “egghead elites” for attempting to thoroughly explain complex scientific data while they serve up TV-friendly lines (that can be easily edited down to 30-second-or-less soundbites). Over the years, I’ve attended a few campaign workshops where political consultants train people on how to craft their own 30-second-or-less soundbites in order to “win the media cycle”.

This is one of the things I hate the most about “the biz”. It’s so easy to latch onto what sounds good, whereas it takes more work to explain real science and debunk woo-topian rhetoric.

I was once on a panel discussing science communication, and one thing made a big impression on me. There was a media consultant on the panel, and he told us the most effective pundits are the ones who come across as absolutely certain, never express nuance or uncertainty, can express ideas in easy-to-digest sound bites, and never, ever admit it when they’re wrong. I couldn’t help but think that this description applies very well to a lot of antivaxers and quacks.

There was a media consultant on the panel, and he told us the most effective pundits are the ones who come across as absolutely certain, never express nuance or uncertainty, can express ideas in easy-to-digest sound bites, and never, ever admit it when they’re wrong.

“The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts.” – Bertrand Russell.

Here is my message for Dr Brown, Dr Roe and Dr Stringer.

You may see this as an opportunity to get your message out to a general audience. However, this is not a scientific conference, so don’t try to use scientific language and presentation methods. Phrase your talk to a general audience in standard language. Avoid the subtlety and nuances of science.

Vaccines aren’t perfect but they are extremely safe and very effective.

They are much safer than the playground equipment your child plays on at school every day

200,000 children go to the emergency room every year from playground accidents and 15 die. That’s a lot more than are harmed by vaccines. We still don’t know of any deaths that can be attributed to the HPV vaccine, for instance. And the overall risk of a long-term permanent injury from a vaccine is about one in a million.

And playground equipment doesn’t protect people from dying of a heart attack, stroke, cancer or encephalitis later in addition to the direct deaths from the diseases themselves.

Take a lesson from Steve Novella on the Dr Oz show a few years ago.

Be aware that your message will be cut and pasted and video edited without your input or control, so focus on a simple, straight-forward statement.

Research your fellow panelists. Watch at least one video by each of them all the way through. Try to have a simple, direct counter to at least one of their arguments ready.

Don’t get flustered. Just smile, be friendly, and keep making your point.

This is super good advice. If there are any email addresses to be found for these folk, we should send it out – perhaps from an account from someone a little more high profile than a shmo like me. 🙂

-First of all, it’s interesting that anyone might organise such a large event:
have these conferences been successful of late? I heard almost nothing about AutismOne this year and am not sure if AoA will do their competing educational conference at all. Will anti-vaxxers travel to Atlanta for a 4 hour afternoon event and dinner?**
Is Atlanta such an anti-vax place? Will people pay to see it on line?

-What is Del Bigtree’s story? Why did he quit ( if he indeed did quit) a paying job on television to do whatever it is he’s doing?
Has anyone actually listened to the Highwire? I have.

-Drs Bark and Tenpenny are woo-meisters so it’s understandable that they’re there.

Is someone’s money ( maybe Handley’s) behind this event? He’s been pimping that book; I listened to an interview with him somewhere and he details how to eliminate autism by testing kids who might be susceptible based on his criteria and then not vaccinating them.
NO Andy at all?

The whole thing doesn’t make sense. but then, it’s anti-vax.

** hilariously, guests are asked to have “respectful” conversations at the dinner or be thrown out.

As Orac notes, this panel is meeting the day after a big anti-CDC rally, so many of the usual suspects (and rubes who would buy tickets for this event) will be in Atlanta anyway. They probably also got a good deal on a venue–I expect that one of the organizers knows somebody who knows somebody.

Apart from that, yes, it sounds like a grift to me. But I expect them to milk the location (Atlanta is the CDC’s backyard) for propaganda value.

The hotel offers a special rate ( 142 USD) for participants which is discounted from 199 ( although I’m sure you can find it cheaper ) The hotel looks rather glitzy so I expect that the usual suspects will be impressed. Oddly, I haven’t heard any news of this from anti-vaxxers. The venue rented for the event seems to be used for weddings etc. The restaurant as well.

I can’t understand how they expect to fill up the space illustrated. Maybe fans of VAXXED!! The Film? Or ladies expecting to see Andy?

Nothing good or of value will come from this “debate”. There is nothing that can be said or done to change the minds of the cranks on that panel or the audience that will attend. These cranks deserve only ridicule and scorn and if they are physicians they should have lost their licenses and been publicly rebuked by their medical boards years ago.

What Orac said:
“the ones who come across as absolutely certain, never express nuance or uncertainty”

Exactly. There are social psych studies from long ago on this.
The problem is that SBM is not about absolute certainty: it deals in probabilities like all science. Audiences unfamiliar with statistics/ research might not appreciate this so they are impressed with woo-meisters saying that something is absolutely true. Unfortunately, I listen to the Grand Poobah of Woo who ” won every debate he ever had with doctors and scientists”
because he never qualifies a statement – there are CURES. Period. !00% improvement. Everyone recovers ( unless if they self-sabotage). Vegan, GMO-free diets cure everything. Evil foods ( meat, poultry, dairy, wheat etc) always cause illness. One drop of alcohol is too much. The French Paradox is really about the beneficial properties of GRAPES, not wine.

As a psychologist, I can say that the only science above is that it illustrates a particular style of black-and-white thinking which is what small children or the least educated/ gifted amongst adults do,
And we’ve all seen that many times.

If I had agreed to present pro-science views at this event, I would’ve insisted on having access to a complete, uncut video, to guard against selective editing.

“The French Paradox is really about the beneficial properties of GRAPES, not wine.”

Uh-oh. Hope this reference doesn’t draw the Internet’s chief promoter of resveratrol, which (according to him) prevents or cures virtually every disease (or at least as many as apple cider vinegar does), and who survived a heart attack thanks to its amazing properties (and not of course because of the interventions of the cardiac specialist(s) who treated him in the hospital).

It’s interesting for me to read that Dr. Tenpenny worked in the ER at Blanchard in Findlay, OH. I know the area as Ohio Northern University is not far from there, and I do volunteer work at ONU every summer. Whew. Talk about red state.

My advice to Drs. Brown, Stringer, and Roe is to cancel and leave the anti-vax cultists in the lurch.
If they know of any alternates they should contact them before they cancel and explain what they are doing and recommend the alternates also refuse.
As every rational person on this board knows, this is nothing more than a Gish-galloping kookfest moderated by anti-vaccine cultists. There was no attempt at full disclosure so these culties deserve no pleasantries.
Preferably cancel the day before the event.
Let them dishonestly babble in their echo chamber… they’re used to it.

“Talk about red state.”

That congressional district appears to be a Republican stronghold, but Ohio overall is a mixed bag (for example the incumbent Democratic senator up for re-election has a big lead, the governor’s race is a tossup and Trump’s approval ratings are well into negative numbers).

I’d advise the real docs to cancel, but only out of fear their participation would get O’Rourked into scurrilous BigTree-an propaganda. (Having an uncut documentation tape would do little good after a bogus representation got distributed. I’m not persuaded by the argument “just by appearing on the same stage as legitimate medical authorities, the cranks win by achieving the illusion of legitimacy,” because I don’t buy that “all believers crave legitimacy”, at least as any of us here would define the term. Rather, I think they bask in their illegitimacy, in conventional terms – that being considered illegitimate by ‘the normals’ is a badge of legitimacy as they define it.

In the WaPo today, Greg Sargent wrote of Trump’s doubling down on his statements that display a lack of any sense of a moral compass:

The refusal to capitulate to demands for contrition for the original racist or misogynist sentiment isn’t an act of stubbornness. It is active validation of the sentiment itself. The refusal to back down is itself the political statement. …the sneering at “political correctness” really amounts to a declaration that we do not have any “duty” to put in the intellectual, political and societal work necessary to counter or ease “racism, sexism, and other divisive passions” that militate against tolerance and humanism, in ourselves or in others. What Trump basically declares again and again, in one form or another, is that those who demand resistance to our basest and most divisive and hateful instincts should just shut up and stop ruining all the fun. Instead, by all means, go ahead and revel in them — without apology.

Though not reflected in the quote, what Sargent makes clear in the body of the text is that this refusal to give an inch fuels Trump’s regular denial of documented facts. To him, Muslims in NJ celebrated after 9/11, Obama is not American, only 16 people perished from Maria, etc. etc.

Antivax has a lot in common with Trumpism Both are CTs that articulate grievance in the service of “empowerment”, a term I’ve always found odd since it reflects only an increase in feelings of social/cultural/political/economic power, not any measure or change in the real thing. Both AVs and Trumpers start with a feeling of dis-empowerment – a frustration with their expectations of where they should be in this pecking order or that. There generally is some real cause for this feeling – for AVs we might cite the fear of or anger at having life plans derailed by the “burden” of having an ASD child, though it could be other things as well – which either remains obscure and unknowable to the folks in question, or too disturbing to accept somehow, leading to denialism. So the grievances have to be directed at scapegoats, and this diversion must be protected psychologically at all cost. That is the conspiracy theorist can’t even address the proposition that the grievance may be unwarranted, somehow false or mis-directed. They MUST believe.

It doesn’t matter who on the outside considers their positions legitimate. To anyone who would question the constructions that have come to act as first priciples, they have only an ‘F-you’. As Sargent says, “the refusal to back down is itself the statement of principle.” That meta-message can be filled in with any content – any thing we would gauge as an ‘excuse’ – it really doesn’t matter. These are thoroughly dispensable and interchangeabl. If one can somehow be knocked down by facts/resson/whatever, another just takes it’s place and it’s all “Oceania had always been at war with Eastasia.”

Back to the specifics of the OP: if the real docs withdraw that’s just proof “they’re scared to debate us”. If they show up, they’re lying pharma shills. Heads they win, tails we lose.

I have to disagree partially. There’s little doubt in my mind that the antivaxers crave, if not legitimacy, at least recognition by the scientific community as having legitimate arguments and science. I’ve seen it so many times. What drives them crazy more than anything else is the argument that their positions are so much crank positions that they can be safely dismissed without serious discussion. True, that might feed their sense of grievance, but watch how much they celebrate whenever one of their own gets their pseudoscience published in a legitimate scientific journal or presented at a legitimate scientific meeting.

Sadmar him/herself has in the past reminded us not to think of social trends as one thing, rightly. There are certainly those anti-vaxxers who see themselves as rebels of a sort. Nonetheless, the real danger is in CAM entryism to mainstream medicine and mainstream discourse; CAM advocates want to show their views as on par with careful science. So yes, absolutely seeking legitimacy.

Well, the comment is a bit polemic, and there’s no doubt more nuance than any broad generalization will capture. AVs aren’t all made with a cookie cutter, and I wouldn’t doubt some of them do want standard-sense legitimacy. I’d certainly put some of the swells who fund the “research” and organizations in that category. e.g. Claire Dwoskin. I just don’t think that for the typical core true believer “what drives them crazy is the argument that their positions are so much crankery”…. I mean they’re already crazy. (heh heh, sorry). Rather, what gets the crazy stirred up is the thought their crank noise isn’t being heard. They don’t want legitimacy, which would entail respect from those who disagree with them. They want to interrupt, disrupt, annoy, get payback. Again it’s the difference between power and empowerment. Legitimacy would bring actual power. But there’s more empowerment feelies to be had by sticking it to the opposition, being a pain in the ass, an outlaw.

In actual practice, when some AV pseudoscience gets published or presented, the celebration may be a mix of being about legitimacy or disruption, and the difference may be hard to parse from the outside. I think you might be influenced by your own biases in seeing this as legitimacy, because that’s what you’d want if you were them. Also, you’ve been doing this a long time, and I have no doubt the AV community was much more interested in legitimacy 10 years ago (the heyday of Jenny McCarthy) when it was a relatively new and growing phenomenon and had yet to be so thoroughly debunked. But after Brian Deer’s expose of AJW, Disneyland, SB277 etc., the legitimacy-possibility ship has left the dock.

Did you kinda fudge your claim by putting the “legitimate”s in “pseudoscience published in a legitimate scientific journal or presented at a legitimate scientific meeting”? I wasn’t aware that any recent publications were in good journals, or presentations at well-respected general conferences. I thought we were talking about sketchy pay-to-play journals and self-generated conferences which the AVs attempt to pass off as legit, yes?

Rather, what gets the crazy stirred up is the thought their crank noise isn’t being heard. They don’t want legitimacy, which would entail respect from those who disagree with them.

I offer John Stone as a counterexample: He’s both nutty as a fruitcake and, e.g., resents that the Leveson Inquiry totally ignored him.

Dr. Kroner discloses (video @16:39) that genetic testing like “23andme”, wherein you and your kids can spit in a vile, can provide a list of predisposed genetic issues that you can put in your file.

Q. If the “23andme” test determines a high genetic probability for atopy, are vaccines safe based on protein-homology determinants and immunologic cross-reactivity.

Anecdote I know, but here goes:
I have more than a “high genetic probability” for atopy. At various times in my life I have had allergic rhinitis, exercise-induced asthma and allergic dermatitis. My family history is positive for severe eczema and asthma.
I have never had an allergic reaction to a vaccine and nobody else in my family has either.

My mom was something of a worry-wart, so I was sent to the allergist twice as a kid (this came after the evaluation for Huntington’s chorea), and I have the piece of paper documenting cat allergies.

Now, I have had cats for 30 years, but working in this shelter seems to have resentitized me. I’m full of mucous and rubbing my eyes at the end of the shift. Maybe it’s the pine litter, but jeezums.

Oh, and no allergic reactions to vaccines. By vinucube’s Richet standard, I should be dead (also get scratched a lot; thank the L-rd for Hibiclens).

If the “23andme” test determines a high genetic probability for atopy, are vaccines safe based on protein-homology determinants and immunologic cross-reactivity.

I’m impressed that someone who can’t spell ᤾”vial” on his own promptly coughs up “protein-homology determinants” afterward.

FWIW, I was under treatment for eczema for several years. I gave never had an allergic reaction to a vaccine either.

I have to agree with Orac’s partial disagreement:

there are a few anti-vaxxers ( and alt med proselytisers as well) who not only crave legitimacy ( recognition by the media especially, public opinion, scientific bodies, journals) but who believe that one day their “science” will supplant the so-called orthodoxy of SBM**
These advocates ( Hooker, Handley, Conrick, RFK jr, Jake, the Prof TMR, Heckenlively others) call for specific research and enjoy masquerading in the ( cargo cult) trappings of science as do woo-meisters like Adams and Null. One of their memes is of course Paradigm Shift and belief in scientific skullduggery, Pharma Rule and fixed research by SBM ( although never in that of AJW)

The Whistleblower trope is amongst their faves: the CDC fixed results the Orthodoxy hated and one brave maverick, Thompson. came forth to blow the lid off of the ruse and another brave scientist, Hooker, published the Real Truth, which was retracted and then brave advocates ( Bigtree, AJW) made a film and that was suppressed and another ( RFK jr) wrote a book etc.
Some of them relish cosplay as Investigative Reporters as well.

** I never said that this was realistic

Orac, could you conceive of a format for a live debate that would better frame the argument for a live audience of laymen?

There is no debate when it comes to vaccination. Anti-vaxxers make up controversy where none should exist by denying science. Full stop.

So I can’t conceive of a live panel containing antivaxxers unless there was a moderator who wasn’t a nutcase.

I could see a public presentation on vaccines with a public Q&A, but again with a moderator to keep the bat shit crazies under control.

Maybe Orac has another answer for you. But this is what I see.

It only works if you have go by strict debate rules with a good moderator who can quash a Gish Gallop. In truth it is difficult to have an honest debate with those who just lie.

Dr. Novella has a provided a better alternative by online debates on his blog . If you use some search terms you will see Dr. Novella’s “conversation” with homeopaths. For instance, I “love” how one naturopath, Andre Saine, makes the claim that homeopathy works better than the modern rabies vaccines but only produces century plus old anecdotes for evidence (especially since the modern vaccine has only existed for less than half of that time).

Anyway here is this the SBM article on the “debate” with Julian Whitaker. It is highly amusing:

In it you will see photos of one of Whitaker’s flyers that he mails out. While helping to clear out my then almost 90 year old father’s house of junk I came across that same flyer. It saddened me to learn how my once brilliant father had been sucked in by hucksters. And that was just a minor part of the idiot mail we came across.

My dad was hoarding because he claimed his identity had been hacked. But what really happened is that he signed up for some right wing cause (like to support Joe Arpaio or Oliver North) and got a mailing list for many more! So he insisted we could not recycle the mail until his name and address were removed. Le sigh.

It is sad that older persons are targeted for scams. But that is the reality we live with.

Well, this promises to be one fine mess.

The Cochrane Collaboration has expelled one of its members who has a history of promoting alleged HPV vaccine dangers.

(Peer) Gøtzsche, the director of the Nordic Cochrane Center, in Copenhagen, Denmark, has cast doubts about the safety of a vaccine against human papillomavirus (HPV), a cause of cervical cancer, and says psychiatry has “gone astray” by coercing patients into taking medication, such as antidepressants, they don’t want to use and that cause “brain damage” over the long run. “The way these drugs are used today cause[s] more harm than good. So it would be better for us if the drugs didn’t exist.”

Gøtzsche, Cochrane member Tom Jefferson, and another colleague ruffled feathers at Cochrane with a July 2018 article that criticized a recent paper from the Collaboration on the safety of the HPV vaccine. The paper prompted a rebuttal from Cochrane that dismissed the concerns and stood behind the original findings.

Hilda Bastian, a founding member of the Cochrane Collaboration and an influential writer about science, called the review “a manufactured controversy — a hatchet job by people with such strong intellectual and ideological biases, that they didn’t even pick up that some of their most implausible allegations were based on their own analytical and investigative slip-ups.”

Gøtzsche, who was elected to the group’s board of governors in 2017, blamed the vote on his stance on the drug industry. “As most people know, much of my work is not very favourable to the financial interests of the pharmaceutical industry. Because of this Cochrane has faced pressure, criticism and complaints. My expulsion is one of the results of these campaigns.”

Gøtzsche has written a book called “Deadly Medicines and Organized Crime” in which he compares drug rep tactics to those of the Hitler Youth.

Reportedly, one of his Cochrane allies (Tom Jefferson) is outraged over Gøtzsche’s expulsion.

Oh, man. The anti vax crowd is going to whip this into a frenzy. We’ve already seen them true to use Gotzsche’s article to slam HPV vaccines in the comments here, and elsewhere I’m sure.

Well, those cancer conspiracy statements by Mahin Khatami sure have me seeing red. “It wasn’t easy to find a cure for cancer, therefore it is a conspiracy” is both lazy and dumb. And I have a simple refutation of the “the government wants people to have cancer”: public health groups (both government and not) in the US are against cigarette smoking (and all tobacco) and tanning beds. If the government really wanted all Americans to get cancer then there wouldn’t be any laws at all about acquisition or use of tobacco.

It’s a lovely example of crank magnetism, if nothing else.

Interesting how a group can be so into what they find factual they are unwilling to listen to others opinions. You can insert either side when reading that comment. Similar to the extreme right and left political affiliation, they’re basically complaining of the same very thing they are in fact doing.

Personally, I believe vaccines work in protecting against the condition it is intended for, but I question at what price? It’s amazing that a medicine such as Advil has ill side effects we should concern ourselves with, but a vaccine we should inject without question? I wonder if the potential long-term side effects of a chicken pox vaccine could be worth not having chicken pox as a child for a week? Science isn’t infallible. How often do we hear of items, or processes, which are said to be safe only to find out are extremely harmful? Mesothelioma, BPA, Cigarettes, processed meats, baby sleep on back, baby sleep on stomach, and the list goes on and on. My children are vaccinated and are fine, but that doesn’t mean someone else’s children are as fortunate. We also (knock on wood) never typically have side effects of medicines we might take, but that doesn’t mean everyone is in the same boat.

To question the long-term effects on a substance which is injected into your body should not be shamed and ridiculed. It should be welcomed as a potential to further understand cause and effects.

The cynic could say this seminar was put in place to create a hate video. The person who is always looking for progress would view the platform as a way to get two sides to discuss their expertise and understandings of the various topics. Slandering the hosts or panelists is counter productive and juvenile at best. I’m hopeful the commenters on this thread are kids staying up too late on their parents laptops, and not responsible adults in charge of leading our Country or Healthcare for the millions of inhabitants. Once we stop questioning is when we no longer move forward as a society.

Take a look at what you just read in your very first sentence: Interesting how a group can be so into what they find factual they are unwilling to listen to others opinions. This site discusses Evidence Based Medicine. EVIDENCE. We’re less interested in opinion and more interested in fact.

If you have facts to share, share them. Be prepared to be challenged to provide evidence for what you claim, if your claims are not factually based.

When you say “at what price?” What does that really mean? I’m sensing some antivax tropes. Vaccines are safe and side effects few. Billions of doses given in this country alone. A few hundred actual serious side effects of the vaccine.

They don’t cause autism. They don’t cause long term side effects except in the rarest of cases. You are better off getting vaccinated for chicken pox and avoiding shingles later in life.

You’re shifting the goal posts with the other issues. If you’ve got something to say about them individually, say it. We’ll rebut it.

You’re not being asked to accept anything without question. You’re free to refuse . . . but there will be consequences. You could get a preventable disease. That can be really bad. You may be barred from school, or put your job in jeopardy (flu shot is a big one for my profession, nursing). You can make your own choices, but you are responsible for the consequences. Society does not have to enable your poor decision making.

There is no debate on vaccination. None. No argument against it holds water.

And the people here are not kids. Many of us are health care professionals: physicians, nurses, other allied health. We’re scientists of various stripes, some in health care, some not. A few are other professionals who are interested in science and public policy. Our host is a physician himself. I don’t know what you were implying by suggesting we might be kids, but I find it pretty offensive that you would suggest that people of expertise shouldn’t be discussing scientific evidence or have a role in public policy. We are the very people who should have a voice in public policy in regards to health care: because most of the commenters here (with the exception of the few cranks who post here) deal daily with the issues that affect our patients.

You obviously missed my point entirely. Stating scientific fact when studies on Long-term effects haven’t been applied is a bit of double tongue. 30 years ago it was scientific fact that a baby should sleep on its stomach. Now it’s scientific fact they should sleep on their back. The whole point is that it is great to study how the vaccine prevents a condition, but to state scientific studies are infallible is an obvious blindness to historical reference. If all medicines were fully vetted during application, you wouldn’t have the YAS’s of the world. When there are still “unexplained deaths” due to SIDs, I would think nothing should be ruled out. Common rationale sense.

“30 years ago it was scientific fact that a baby should sleep on its stomach.”

Citation needed. I doubt that there were studies ever done on that. In fact I am sure that the “back to sleep” campaign came from looking at the statistics of the environment where more deaths of sleeping babies occurred. Very similar to the epidemiology studies that showed smoking tobacco caused an increase in lung cancer.

As long as the genetics of every single human varies and some things are just de novo, there will always be unexplained deaths and rare diseases. My kid has a genetic heart disease that could still cause him to die in his sleep because it causes disordered electrical behavior of the heart cells. It did not come to light until he was fourteen eyars old and another aspect of the disorder caused abnormal heart muscle growth that caused a heart murmur. He had open heart surgery to remove the obstruction, but there is always the chance that his heart cells will mis-fire in his sleep (which is why he is on beta-blockers)

What exactly is “long term”? The present MMR has been used for over forty years. The IPV vaccine has been used for over sixty years.

“When there are still “unexplained deaths” due to SIDs, I would think nothing should be ruled out.”

Except somethings can be called “unicorn” hooves. There is a much higher chance that an undiagnosed genetic disorder of the heart and/or brain is the cause than a varicella vaccine. Especially since SIDS is defined as the unexplained death of a child under the age of one year old, and the varicella vaccine is only given after the first birthday.

“Common rationale sense.”

I don’t about your “common sense”, but mine tells me you can’t die from a vaccine before you get it. And that preventing a disease that causes pain, possible bacterial infection and shingles later in life is much better long term.

Ooops, sorry. I thought I was on the chicken pox thread.

But still, keeping kids from getting diseases seems to mostly cause an increase of them achieving adulthood. By the way, going through some stuff given to me by a second cousin we discovered why one of my great-uncles died at ten months: dysentery. Though it could have been rotavirus (now that is an evil disease, it caused my kid to have seizures!).

Cole, when did I ever state that scientific studies are infallible?

Answer: never.

You want studies to give you the final, irrefutable answer, and thing science has failed if it doesn’t.

That’s not the case. That’s not how science works. Our knowledge grows and we gain greater understanding of nuance. Too often the public gets confused because the media cherry picks studies to write reports on, and uses misleading headlines. That’s not the fault of scientists.

We don’t know everything about SIDS. We know more than we did, and the number of deaths has dropped dramatically. But no one ever said we know it all. The same is true for vaccines.

When there are still “unexplained deaths” due to SIDs, I would think nothing should be ruled out.

Nice attempt to insinuate that vaccines cause SIDS, Cole. And you’re wrong. Professor Peter Fleming of Bristol University is quite possibly the world’s foremost expert on SIDS and the creator of “Back to Sleep”. He also conducted a study looking at whether vaccines cause SIDS. The result? “No Correlation”.
You are just another goalpost-shifting antivaxxer reciting P.R.A.T.Ts that many of the commentators here have each refuted multiple times before.

30 years ago it was scientific fact that a baby should sleep on its stomach.

Front sleeping was once often advised by paediatricians, but it was never the consensus position, and there was never any claim that this was “scientific fact” – just “common sense”.

From 1954 until 1988, a substantial proportion of texts consistently favoured front sleeping, although many also favoured the side and back. The sudden shift in favour of front sleeping is best illustrated by ‘Baby and Child Care’ by Dr Benjamin Spock

The actual ‘scientific fact” evidence, before and during and after that period, was that front sleeping increased the rate of SIDS.

Thank you, Smut.

Here is a funny about the “back to sleep” program: a grandmother on the listserv for a severe speech disorder (it turned out most of them were autistic) asked if the increase in speech disorders and/or autism was caused by the “back to sleep” program, which started in the mid-1990s. Um, yeah… I had to tell her my non-verbal son was born in 1988.

You reference one vaccine which occurs after the age of one. A child under the age of one receives numerous vaccines, including the tDap in utero. Is it possible to have an adverse reaction, which could include death, from one or multiple vaccines? You are correct, many decades of vaccines have been issued. When I was a child, I was given fewer vaccines during my entire adolescence than a current child receives in their first year of life.

The whole premise of science is to question everything. We are injecting foreign bodies into humans, it’s illogical to think there are absolutely no adverse effects on anyone for doing so. Are you certain when combining multiple vaccines into the human system there are no adverse interactions between the vaccines based on the makeup of that child?

There is a big difference between vaccines can cause adverse reactions – nobody is denying that, for example, vaccines can cause a severe allergic reaction, and the rate is about one per million – and claiming vaccines are dangerous. You seem to think there is not research about vaccines adverse events or vaccines combinations, and that’s just untrue. There are many studies on vaccines safety. Here is one report on them.

When the people here point out that studies show vaccines cause SIDS, they’re not guessing – they’re alerting you to the data. I recommend making an effort to read the literature, if you want to disagree with it.

Thank you for the link; that one will take me a while.

I wonder: If the oft requested vaccinated vs un-vaccinated studies were determined as unethical (increased risk for disease among the “un” group); then how were the individual vaccines tested without confounding?

We give vaccines in utero? Who knew!

Actually, MOM get the TDaP, which gives HER immunity, preventing HER from giving pertussis to her newborn, because that’s how most babies GET pertussis. From Mom. And the fetus DOES get IgG antibodies from Mom, which gives them limited protection because the newborn loses those antibodies fairly quickly. That’s why they require their own vaccines as soon as they are old enough to develop their own antibodies from that vaccine. Some vaccines produce antibodies at a very young age, like TDaP. Some don’t until months later, like the MMR. The schedule is designed to give the vaccine at the age when it will best provide lasting protection to the child.

Cases of death from vaccination are so incredibly rare, it practically never happens. I won’t say never, ever because that’s not true. Usually the cause is anaphalaxis from a vaccine component. That’s why we don’t give some types of vaccines to people with egg allergies or neomycin allergies. Billions of doses give, a few hundred serious reactions, few of which included permanent death or disability, and none of which include autism.

I don’t know how old you are. Certainly we give kids more vaccines today than we did when I was a kid. When I was a kid, it was MMR, smallpox (which has not been given since 1972 because we eradicated smallpox worldwide), TDaP, OPV.

Hep B, Hep A, varicella, pneumococcal, Hib, rotavirus, HPV, menengitis, and influenza either weren’t available, or weren’t recomended (flu I think was available but I didn’t get my first flu shot until I was an adult).

Yes, kids get way more vaccinations today than they used to. And mortality and morbidity from childhood disease has dropped through the floor, with risk to the kids so small it’s barely even there. They get cranky and maybe feverish. That’s. It.

I’ve had chicenpox, and my most recent titer indicates immunity; if it didn’t I’d get vaccinated. I got the Hep B booster 25 years ago because I’m a health care worker: twice. It didn’t take (I didn’t develop immunity). I got a booster earlier this year for school and developed immunity. I started the Hep A series at the same time, and also got the typhoid vaccine at that time to prepare for a trip overseas. I also got Yellow Fever vaccine a few weeks later. Four vaccines, nearly altogether. I’m fine . . . and protected.

I’ll be getting my next dose of Hep A soon. I’m already scheduled for my flu shot in October. I’m going to get the new shingles vaccine and the pneumonia vaccine this fall as well, when I see my doctor for a routine follow up appointment.

All those vaccines. And I’m just fine. As the kids who get them are just fine.

This whole “too many vaccines” trope is really old. And it’s never been convincing.

The whole premise of science is to question everything.

This is only partially correct.
Firstly, prior plausibility must be taken into account. Frequently, antivaxxers make claims that vaccines cause symptoms which are, to put it kindly, unlikely. Claims like HPV Vaccines causing Premature Ovarian Failure.
Secondly, your comment is incomplete. After asking questions, science must then attempt to answer said questions. And when it comes to vaccines, the questions you are asking HAVE been answered.
Vaccines do not cause SIDS. The schedule does not overload the immune system. Vaccine side effects occur far less often and are typically far less severe than the sequelae from the diseases they protect against. You mention chicken pox. For me, it was just an unpleasant week. For some, it’s a killer. And I am now at risk for shingles when I’m older, a condition so vicious that some people have been driven to suicide by the pain.

“Is it possible to have an adverse reaction, which could include death, from one or multiple vaccines?”

Well we do know that there is an adverse reaction to getting vaccine preventable diseases, including stroke. Perhaps you should explain a better way to keep kids from becoming disabled from measles and to make sure babies do not die from pertussis or rotavirus.

“When I was a child, I was given fewer vaccines during my entire adolescence than a current child receives in their first year of life.”

How did that work out for Olivia Dahl, Roald Dahl’s oldest child?

“The whole premise of science is to question everything.”

But only with plausible questions. You don’t have a clear question, it is too open ended. Plus there are much more plausible reason for what you think could be a vaccine reaction. I gave you one, a genetic heart disorder. There are more.

“We are injecting foreign bodies into humans, it’s illogical to think there are absolutely no adverse effects on anyone for doing so.”

What is really illogical is thinking you live in a sterile environment. I feel sorry if your kids live in such a protected empty room that they never get to play outside where they can get their knees scraped nor get a scratch from creating with scissors.

“… based on the makeup of that child…”

What does that mean? Do we know the full genetic sequence of each and every child, and what each and every sequence does? This is why you are not doing science with those questions, they are too vague.

Stop JAQing off.

We are injecting foreign bodies into humans

You forgot to define “foreign.” Please look up “begging the question.”

I have often inserted my own explanation of what science is when it seems relevant, but this time I think I will refer to Luis Lam of San Jose State Universtity, whose paper at the 2015 meeting of the AAAS defined it thus:

Essentially, science is humans’ honest and earnest pursuit of knowledge about Nature—which includes humans and (living or nonliving) nonhuman systems, i.e., all simple and complex systems—without bringing in God or any supernatural [2]. The essence of science is its secularity and the required reality check(which differentiates science from other forms of knowledge).

or you could go to Eric Brunsell who borrowed this definition of scientific inquiry from the Natural Resource Council.

The 5 features of science inquiry (emphasis is mine)
Learner Engages in Scientifically Oriented Questions
Learner Gives Priority to Evidence in Responding to Questions
Learner Formulates Explanations from Evidence
Learner Connects Explanations to Scientific Knowledge
Learner Communicates and Justifies Explanations

Your asking questions is not really science because you aren’t honestly and earnestly pursuing knowledge about vaccines or human biology. And you give priority to false equivalence, deliberate ambiguity and a Nirvana standard of perfection over finding out what the evidence really says about the answers to those questions.

And I checked their website and noticed that, although

“One Conversation” seeks to break down and clear the barriers of confusion with scientific data, critical thought and engaging conversation.

they still aren’t listing the panel of presenters with the conference only 3 weeks away, there are no abstracts of the initial presentations (quite unlike a normal scientific conference), nor is there information about the

Pre-Submitted and Pre-Prepared Questions offered by panelists who are interested in particular questions to be discussed among the panelists.


It seems you share a taste for confusion and obfuscation with the organizers of this meeting.

“When I was a child, I was given fewer vaccines during my entire adolescence than a current child receives in their first year of life.”

Obviously, you were not an Army brat. I bet you missed out on the smallpox, typhoid, typhus and yellow fever vaccines.

*** “I was curious why someone like Catherine M. Roe, PhD would be invited to be on the panel. She is, after all, an Alzheimer’s disease researcher … ”

Maybe … because the Microglial activation & subsequent neuroinflammation that causes the disrupted synaptic pruning seen in Alzheimer’s; is found in conjunction with the same cytokine & chemokine profile that is found in the Microglial activation & subsequent neuroinflammation that causes the disrupted synaptic pruning seen in Autism?

And because those cytokine & chemokines are biomarkers of viral exposure?

*** “This is an important public health issue, without a doubt, but what does it have to to with vaccines?”

Impaired. Viral. Immune. Response.

*** “My best guess is that they want her to discuss aluminum and Alzheimer’s disease”,

Which would be funny if it were not so sad but yes; you are probably right. Nobody ever asks the questions that I am too afraid to.

I suppose it is relevant if discussing a theory of an adjuvent accelerated “leaky” blood-brain barrier but until the points mentioned above are considered; it’s putting the cart before the horse.

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