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Adventures of a science-based mole at an antivaccine crankfest (part one)

Last week antivaxers Shannon Kroner and Britney Valas held an antivaccine quackfest known as One Conversation. It had started as a “balanced” debate/conversation/panel/roundtable, or whatever, but rapidly devolved into an antivaccine crankfest as the pro-vaccine scientists invited declined. A brave minion attended and is now reporting back.

[Orac note: A couple of months ago, two antivaccine activists named Shannon Kroner and Britney Valas invited me to a forum/roundtable/debate, or whatever you want to call it, called One Conversation. The “One Conversation” was to be about one of my favorite topics, vaccines. I did what I always do in these cases, and investigated the principals. It didn’t take me long to figure out that Kroner and Valas were definitely antivaccine. It further didn’t take long for me to figure out that this was going to be one of those debates/discussions/roundtables in which there was nothing but false balance between antivaccine cranks and legitimate scientists; i.e., it was going to be an antivaccine crankfest. That was probably why multiple people on the “pro-vaccine” side had been invited and declined, which I did. I also blogged about it. I later also learned that three legitimate medical authorities had accepted Kroner’s offer and still later learned that they backed out, thus causing One Conversation to devolve into what it was always going to devolve into, an antivaccine crankfest with bonus antivaccine cranks. That’s where I left it.

Little did Kroner and Valas know, however, that Orac has eyes everywhere. All I had to do was to appeal to our scaly overlord, Lord Draconis Zeneca, and ask if there were any Atlanta-area minions who could attend this antivaccine crankfest and report back. It would be a difficult assignment. The minion would have to be highly intelligent, but, even more importantly, have a superhuman tolerance for antivaccine pseudoscience and bullshit. As you will see, our Great Scaly Pharma Lord’s minion (loaned on a temporary basis to Orac) came through marvelously, particularly given that the event stretched to five and a half hours, with only one fifteen minute intermission. So here, read the report of just what went on. Here is part one of what is a very rare occurence on this blog, a guest post. Because this minion is in deep cover, total anonymity will be maintained. Orac knows who this is, but, sadly, no one else will.]


The One Conversation event in Atlanta, Georgia took place on October 11, 2018 and was indeed a one-sided conversation featuring some of the most notable anti-vaccine luminaries out there discussing the perils of vaccines. Although there were “pro-vaccine” panelists who had been invited to attend but later canceled, it was clearly never intended to be a balanced and fair presentation of vaccines.

I attended the One Conversation event in Atlanta, Georgia this past Thursday evening. For more information on the pre-event and participants, please refer to:

The event begins

The event began late an lasted over five hours, with a 15 minute intermission, and there are two videos. I will refer to them by video (1 or 2) and timestamp; e.g. (2/1:45). The theater had a capacity of 220 and was less than half full; so, by my estimation, there were at most 100 people in attendance. We were asked by a media person to sit together in front for “better camera shots,” and when no one moved we were asked by Ms. Valas to sit together in the center leaving the aisle seats for late-comers. No one moved, and there were no late-comers. At one point, the audience was asked to please stand if they or someone they knew was vaccine-injured, and about half the audience stood up.

The whole antivaccine quackfest is available on Youtube. So that you can follow along, here is Part One:

The conspiracies flow as the quackfest begins

The panelists seats were arranged in two groups with “canceled” signs predominantly displayed on one set to represent the pro-vaccine scientists who had canceled prior to the event. Dr. Kroner and Ms. Valas explained that the pro-vaccine panelists really wanted to be there but that organizations such as the ACP(American College of Physicians) and the AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics), along with the scientists’ respective institutions, intimidated them into canceling. The event began with a video explaining how One Conversation came about (1/29:00). Dr. Kroner stated (1/30:00):

I have no doubt that there is a link between vaccines and neurodevelopmental disorders.


The way that One Conversation came about was wouldn’t it be really great if people who really push vaccines could address the people who were speaking against vaccines, there needs to be some kind of public debate.

Dr. Kroner posted an email response from Dr. Stringer, a pro-vaccine panelist who canceled to support her claim that the pro-vaccine panelists really wanted to be there but were intimidated by their institutions and medical organizations to decline attending (1/33:24). In it, he asked that any mention of him in association with One Conversation be deleted, and there was nothing that suggested he was intimidated, just informed. The pro-vaccine panelists had been duped into believing they were presenting their work to a diverse lay-audience because no mention of vaccines was made until the anti-vaccine panelists were publicly announced and/or they were alerted to the anti-vaccine stance of the organizers Dr. Kroner and Ms. Valas. Dr. Kroner contacted Dr. Stanley Plotkin who referred to what they were doing as “shameful and disgusting” (1/33:50). They flashed through several cancellation emails and none appeared to be due to intimidation but rather due to finding out the true agenda of One Conversation or for completely unrelated reasons.

The premise of the event was thus set very early on that pro-vaccine voices are being silenced by nefarious forces, that vaccine science is dubious, and that the anti-vaccine panelists are the experts who are willing to fearlessly discuss vaccines. Because of course it was.

Meet the panelists

At this point, the panelists were introduced: Bob Sears, Sherri Tenpenny, Toni Bark, Del Bigtree, and Christopher Shaw (1/41:35). Del Bigtree began by explaining how his expertise is due to working on television shows like The Doctors and reading the medical literature. He presented slides of The Introduction of Diphtheria-Tetanus-Pertussis and Oral Polio Vaccine Among Young Infants in an Urban African Community: A Natural Experiment and stated that it is “a perfect randomized vaccinated versus unvaccinated study” and that children who received DTP died at ten times the rate of those who did not. Mr. Bigtree blamed vaccines for increased infant mortality in the U.S. at least partially based upon this study. Of course, is study, the Mogensen study, was not a randomized study and that Bigtree’s was not an accurate representation of the study. It was a natural experiment, a large number of unvaccinated children were actually vaccinated and there were no statistical differences between groups. It is an intriguing study with limitations and strengths and should not be dismissed out of hand however it cannot be taken as definitive nor applicable to anywhere outside of the study population.

Mr. Bigtree also claimed that the rise in developmental disorders and chronic illness in children is concurrent with the rise in the number of vaccines, stating (1/1:15:50):

Hepatitis b is a virus like AIDS that you’re not going to come in contact with unless you’re sharing heroin needles or sleeping with prostitutes.”

Bigtree further claimed that vaccine clinical trials are only done for a few days; no placebos are ever used, or the DTP vaccine is used as a placebo, which kills ten times the children that didn’t receive it; and that the CDC approves vaccines. Mr. Bigtree further stated that Stanley Plotkin said:

Where there is a lack of science, we assume safety.

The audience gasped although I could find nothing that indicates Dr. Plotkin ever said this. Mr. Bigtree described VAERS as a reporting system without qualifying it as passive and prone to a high degree of unrelated or inaccurate reports. He went on to describe how VAERS is under-reported by more than 99% and uses this number to re-calculate some VAERS data to show that adverse reactions in all categories such as deaths and hospitalizations are ‘in the ballpark of” 100 times higher than reported. (1/1:23:25) After Bigtree finished, Shelley Wynter, a local Atlanta right wing talk radio host tapped to moderate the panel, asked questions about DTP vaccination, and Christopher Shaw said that between 1990 and 2018 there were 345 deaths from pertussis but 1,700 deaths reported to VAERS.

Next to speak was Dr. Bob Sears (1/1:29:10). He told us that 99% of pediatricians say vaccine reactions don’t happen, denying the reactions that are listed in the vaccine information sheets (VIS) and claimed that he is an expert in vaccine reactions. According to him, there is a zero percent chance of dying of measles in the U.S. He then uncritically presented Allergic disease and sensitization in Steiner school children and Pilot comparative study on the health of vaccinated and unvaccinated 6- to 12-year-old U.S. children as evidence that unvaccinated children are healthier than vaccinated children. He then said this is a pilot study, we need to do another but no one will do a large-scale study and continues (1/1:45:20):

…the government told the CDC to do the study like five or six years ago, the CDC said no thanks we can’t do the study so now the government is trying to get the NIH to do the study and hopefully they will someday because we have to know if it’s true about unvaccinated kids.

Then, Shelley Wynter asked Dr. Sears:

If I am an unvaxxed family, everything about my family is going to be healthier I think, food, diet, exercise is going to be healthier than a vaxxed family, I assume is going to give a lot of Doritos, is going to pass a lot a junk food to you know, get the kids through the day but the unvaxxed family is starting from the outset a healthier lifestyle at the outset. Do you think that could be play why they’re healthier kids in the unvaxxed because the family is going to be a healthier-living family?

Del Bigtree responded that in the meeting he and Robert Kennedy, Jr. had with the NIH, CDC, FDA etc. that they (either Tony Fauci or Francis Collins) said they couldn’t do that study because they know how it would how it would turn out because there is an advantage to the lifestyle of the unvaccinated. Shelley Wynter equated vaccination with “poisoning the kids” and likened vaccine testing to the Tuskegee experiment. And, of course, to them, pro-vax scientists have no common sense, and that’s why they weren’t here. The audience howled and clapped wildly.

A video clip of several media reports about how vaccines don’t cause autism was shown as a segue into Dr. Toni Bark’s presentation (1/1:58). She asked, “If we don’t know what causes autism, then how can we say vaccines don’t cause autism? She attempted to answer this question by using attributable risk and show a slide (1/1:59:27):

Toni Bark does epidemiology.

She also said that we can’t say vaccines don’t cause autism because there has never been an unexposed group or “completely unvaccinated,” which is part of the equation for attributable risk. To here, there are some “kind of bogus studies” on MMR and on thimerosal but no studies on other vaccines, the entire schedule relative to completely unvaccinated children. She implied that doctors are just true believers and aren’t thinking and relayed a correspondence she claimed to have had with Siddhartha Mukherjee about a comment he made comparing cell phones and brain cancer to autism and vaccines (and how neither are supported by evidence) taking him to task for making an untrue statement about vaccines and autism, with him admitting he didn’t have evidence but refusing to publish a correction.

She further argued that vaccines aren’t worth the risk because she’s gone through the notifiable diseases data and considered “long-term sequelae” e.g. young children only miss a week or two of school which is not really a big deal for them. To her, the the measles vaccine does work to reduce measles but causes too many problems, and the only measles cases she has ever seen were in two teenagers who got it from their vaccination a week earlier but they were fine because she gave them vitamin A. Those vaccinated with live viral vaccines shed for months and spread disease, whereas unvaccinated who feel sick stay home. To her, no vaccine can create lifetime immunity, leaving infants susceptible to disease when they weren’t with “natural immunity.” Any vaccine safety studies that demonstrate adverse effects are not published, are retracted or the author “gets beat up”. She claimed that the Cochrane Collaboration studies don’t have safety studies and need them and that vaccines cause autism although not the only cause.

Christopher Shaw was asked why aluminum is in vaccines and answered it’s bad in your body (1/2:16:50), stating, “When you put aluminum in stuff, you break stuff.” He presents Aluminum adjuvant linked to Gulf War illness induces motor neuron death in mice. and really believes that he had demonstrated damage. He said that AlOH was discovered as an adjuvant in the 1920s because “they” were trying to get the diptheria vaccine to work so “they” rummaged around a chemical cabinet and found AlOH. His claim of toxicity (at any amount) was based upon a paper from 1911. He was told to “stop talking about aluminum.” and invoked a conspiracy that other aluminum researchers are told to stop talking about it but he will not. He said Lucija Tomljenovic is no longer in the field (1/2:24:46), after which he went on to compare ingested aluminum and injected aluminum, stating that ingested aluminum is excreted with normal kidney function,while injected is “parked in the brain” by macrophages, as shown by Gherardi et al. He then scoffed, “People like Gorski and others like to say dum dums, you don’t know the difference between correlation and causation, well we kind of do.”(1/2:28:23).

Shaw clearly believes that aluminum is either a primary or secondary cause of autism but with caveats that more research is needed. To him, aluminum is not a “fast toxin” and causes chronic immune disorders as evidenced by Shoenfeld, Gherardi and Exley along with Shaw’s group. Of course, the scientific community denies the existence of their findings. Shelley Wynter was very impressed with how smart these doctors appeared to be to him, while Bob Sears and Del Bigtree invoked a David and Goliath scenario, with the government and pharmaceutical companies are “stuck” with aluminum adjuvants, researchers like Christopher Shaw showing how toxic aluminum is and being ignored. Toni Bark said that Chris Exley isn’t allowed to conduct research on autopsy samples for her court cases and has spent a year trying to find neuropathologists to examine tissue samples but that the federal government and academic institutions won’t allow it (1/2:33:53). Shelley Wynter announced he’s a conservative because he doesn’t “trust the government” and was greeted with wild applause. He said it’s safer to drive home drunk than it is taking a vaccine as he introduced Sherri Tenpenny.

Sherri Tenpenny wrapped up the first block (1/2:37:03). She started by asserting that vaccines are “nothing more than an injection of a wad of foreign matter.” She calculates that infants receive 5000 μg of aluminum by one year old and all the vaccines children get by 18 years old and even includes vitamin K at birth. She blamed ADHD, depression, aggression and gun violence on vaccines, video games and diet and has five points why vaccines aren’t safe: Number one is that there are no double-blind, placebo-controlled RCTs. New vaccines are tested against existing vaccines, HPV trials only had an “aluminum shot” as a placebo. Number two is vaccine trials are only ever done on healthy children; children with any pre-existing conditions are always excluded. Number three is that vaccine trial attrition is mostly due to vaccine reactions including death and are ignored by trial investigators as, “dismissed with the stroke of a pen.” Investigators don’t include any reported side effects in the final analyses. Number four is foreign chemicals (of which there are over 80) are not tested for synergy.

She reported having her Vaccine Boot Camp students compiling vaccine ingredients and quantity so she can sum up the total amount of “foreign matter” we are injecting into our kids and ourselves, making claims such as that polysorbate-80 “punches holes in the blood brain barrier” and that is why it is used with chemo drugs for brain cancer. Since Polysorbate-80 is in vaccines, “it punches holes in the blood brain barrier and aluminum gets a steady ride into the brain.” Doctors don’t pre-test children for mitochondrial disease and doctors ignore family history “to toxicity”. Number five is that vaccines are not tested for carcinogenicity, mutagenicity, teratogenicity and longterm fertility. She stated that teratogenicity, “breaks up your genes and causes abnormalities in your developing organs.” She claimed she attended a CDC conference in 2004 when influenza vaccination for pregnant women was being discussed and a speaker said, “We’ll never get the OB-GYNs to do this, never ever ever unless we put the fetus onto the injury compensation program because we know these vaccines are going to cause all kinds of problems and we’re not going to know how to sort them out or whatever.” (1/2:53:10).

At the end of her talk Shelley Wynter, referring to influenza vaccination during pregnancy commented, “Women are given the flu to keep from getting the flu.”

Sherri Tenpenny responded, “yea kind of”.

She finished by discussing Tdap during pregnancy results in blunted immune response in infants except that she didn’t give a citation. She claimed that the study demonstrated that maternal vaccination with Tdap causes a complete non-response to DTaP in the infant so they get all the side effects and no benefit from the vaccine.

An antivaccine Q&A

The question section began (1/3:12) and I’ll list only a few questions:

Q: What training do doctors receive in vaccine reactions?
A: The panel said “none” and Toni Bark claimed she saw an intern observe a vaccine reaction and was told by the attending physician not to report it. Bob Sears said that physicians are trained that reactions are coincidental and would have happened anyway. Sherri Tenpenny said that HPV vaccines cause “POTS syndrome”, seizures and asthma and doctors will put patients through expensive testing to prove that it wasn’t the vaccine. Bob Sears nodded in agreement.

Q: Are autism rates on the rise?
A: The panel said yes. Del Bigtree explained that there was no autism prior to 1938/1944 and autistics were put in insane asylums.

Q: Will you cover fluoride? Fluoride helps aluminum travel to the brain.
A: Christopher Shaw said that aluminum fluoride compounds are not a good idea.

Q: Do vaccines cause acid reflux?
A: The panel said yes. Toni Bark explained that aluminum causes autonomic dysfunction and acid reflux is autonomic dysfunction.

Q: How can the CDC refuse to do a vaccine study that was ordered by the government?
A: Del Bigtree said that the CDC is “sitting on a pile of money for a vaxxed versus unvaxxed study” and it’s a shell game where the CDC kicks it back to the government and the government kicks it back to the CDC. He asked why didn’t the government call Dr. Thompson and the five scientists involved in the MMR fraud? He launches into a spiel about mistrust of government and how the pharmaceutical lobby is the largest lobby and buys off politicians. Toni Bark interjects that Dr. Insel of the IACC is the one who defunded the $5 million set aside to do the unvaccinated versus vaccinated study because, “he didn’t like the optics of it.”

This is the first half of the presentation, the second will follow and is mercifully shorter. I have gained considerable insight after watching this. The panelists were not unlikeable, genuinely believed what they were saying and particularly proud of the information they imparted on the audience. They raised some fair points such as some paucity in vaccine safety data and pharmaceutical companies having too much influence. However, I felt as though those valid points were lost in the drive to cast vaccines and vaccine science in the worst possible light. There were conspiracies invoked, shoddy data and ideas presented and valid studies misrepresented that magnify why anti-vaccine scientists and physicians have problems with credibility and acceptance by their peers. This, in turn, leads to insulation from critique and validation and adoration by those who are like-minded.

I would like to thank Orac for allowing me the rare honor of guest post and access to his readership who I find to be a wonderfully diverse, intelligent, evolving and humorous group as there ever was on the internet. Stay tuned for part two.

[Orac postscript: I thank Lord Draconis and his minion on loan for enduring this blizzard of misinformation about vaccines delivered at this antivaccine crankfest. I plan on watching the videos, but I don’t know if I can manage to watch the whole thing. I await with anticipation and trepidation part two of the report. I’m including part two of the video below, just in case any of you want to get a head start on part two of the report.]

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]

60 replies on “Adventures of a science-based mole at an antivaccine crankfest (part one)”

Laughable to claim the AAP intimidated anyone out of appearing given that Bob Sears continues to have FAAP status despite violating multiple sections of AAP membership requirements in their bylaws.

I started watching this video and realized the first 30 minutes was nothing but their logo. Apparently these geniuses haven’t learned how to edit (that would be Bigtree’s expertise). Then there is about a 1/4 second mismatch between audio and video that also shows the level of intelligence of this lot–geez, line up your audio and video tracks before posting to youtube.

Thank you to the mole for the insufferable amount of stupid they endured, watching these quacks and cranks try to one up each other with their wildly false claims. That only 100 people showed is encouraging.

the first 30 minutes was nothing but their logo

It could have been worse. They might have changed the logo for the screengrabbed text at the top of this article, and then you’d have had to stare at that terrible punctuation and grammar for half an hour.

I agree; that particular logic train — that the AAP is toothless to challenge Sears for his obvious AV stance though Mafioso strong when intimidating vaccine supporters from attending One Conversation — just doesn’t appear to stop at the Logic Central Station.

That moderator wasn’t even trying to pretend to be anything but antivaccine, was he? (And cringe-worthily lacking in knowledge).

And reading emails telling them that people didn’t appreciate being set up for an antivaccine event as “intimidated” is quite the creative reading.

And Dr. Sears really should avoid making such antivaccine statements in public while his cases are litigated.

What a set of incorrect claims.

By the way, if there were no people with autism before 1938, how could they be in asylums?

Thank you for going through this, brave anonymous minion.

I wondered about the asylum thing too. At a real science conference, these people would be fending off a lot of questions like why are the aluminum numbers all over the place, why didn’t the pilot study verify the actual health records, etc.

On a side note, is Dr Bob related to Dr Al Sears? I opened my newspaper today to find a half page ad for his new COQ10 supplement with a photo-op picture with Dr Oz at a March Health and Wellness festival put on by a Florida TV station.

Interestingly, as far as I can tell the word “autism” wasn’t used before 1938 when Asperger first discussed the condition. So, you, know he was right in the way you would be right if you said oxygen didn’t exist before 1777 when Antoine Lavoisier first named it.

” .. how could they be in asylums?”

Dorit, perhaps at some level they comprehend that there WERE people with autism prior to 1938 and that they were in institutions labelled as having another condition: either childhood schizophrenia or an intellectual disability.
How could they be in asylums if autistics didn’t exist because the chemicals that caused autism were not in use yet?

( and yes, I did read most Olmsted’s investigation about the originally diagnosed people)

Sears took a horrible risk. If someone sends that video to the California Board of Medicine, they might conclude he’s violated his consent agreement.

I would like to agree, Panacea. I suspect, however, if Sears is called out by the medical board for these anti-vax talks that he will say he is exercising his 1st Amendment free speech rights and not at all practicing medicine by giving these talks. This is the same reason Dr. Oz can promote dangerous quackery on his show and if someone tries it and gets hurt….well they can’t sue Dr. Oz (this really happened– ). Some state disciplinary boards can discipline a physician if s/he is a danger to the public, but this is typically interpreted as being a danger due to being drunk or on drugs or having severe mental illness. I don’t know of any medical board that have acted upon a physician for harming public health–which is exactly what anti-vax physicians do.

Congratulations to your minion for being able to sit through all of that. I have a headache from just reading about it.

Dearest Minion/ Mole**,

You’ve done a bang-up job! Draconis will be very pleased.

I like your descriptions of how the audience were arranged in order to simulate attendance ; this resulted in some interesting shots:
Pro tip: if you’re trying to make it look like a crowd don’t shoot from NEARLY THE FRONT of the rows ( but then, they didn’t have much choice, did they?)

Both Drs Bark and Tenpenny are frequent participants in anti-vax films so they’ve really got their act down. I won’t bother critiquing their fashion choices but- Oh boy!

It’s nice news that Lucija T. will no longer be involved although I did like how she spoke, not what she said, mind you, but she had a nice Mittel European vibe that would work well at RT

I haven’t watched all of the videos yet but I will.

I am left with one question
why do they do this? It isn’t for money obviously: it must have cost them quite a bit to rent the venue. They were supposed to have a dinner afterwards. They need to stay in hotels, fly in from other locales, most likely. Isn’t it easier to just make videos and sell them or stream them as “seminars” for pay?
** -btw- I think I know who you are -at the Bohemian Grove festivities 2 years ago, we both were in the Arcadia pantomime- you had a beige tunic, amirite?

I was wondering who funded this exercise. Clearly, with an attendance of only around 100, there’s no way the organizers would be able to cover the cost of the venue and the travel, lodging, and meal expenses of their panelists, none of whom were likely to show up to do this for free, much less to pay their own way to do this event. So who’s paying?

They were relying primarily on “private donations” and they did pay for all expenses for the panelists. The venue was not an inexpensive one either so Kroner and Valas received substantial private donations given the tickets were $15 and attendance was sparse. Some of the panelists have associations with CMSRI and Focus for Autism.

Q: Are autism rates on the rise?
The panel said yes. Del Bigtree explained that there was no autism prior to 1938/1944…”
I can NOT stand this idiotic belief. That the diagnosis of autism did not exist before 1944 does NOT</b. mean autism did not exist before then, merely that it wasn’t diagnosed.
Q: Do vaccines cause acid reflux?
The panel said yes. Toni Bark explained that aluminum causes autonomic dysfunction and acid reflux is autonomic dysfunction.”

“My Johnny was developing normally until he had his DTaP and then he started getting acid reflux.”

Is there any health condition these nutbags won’t ascribe to vaccines?

I can see it now.

“When my Jenny caught the clap it was 4 years after getting the HPV vaccine. The vaccine must have caused it.”

“why do they do this? It isn’t for money obviously: it must have cost them quite a bit to rent the venue. They were supposed to have a dinner afterwards.”

It can be promoted as a Grand Event, to amp up DVD sales and get news coverage, at least from local outfits desperate for something to report.
It’s an excuse to get together and pig out at a fancy steakhouse, or for lesser budgets the Chinese buffet or Golden Corral,

Seeing as flu season is upon us, I’d be nervous about congregating with a bunch of antivaxers but as we know, Natural Infection* is better than getting shot up** with aborted fetal cells, polysorbate 80, formaldehyde, monkey parts and sucrose.

*for Natural Infection, you really want to eat out at Chipotle.
**I had my flu shot yesterday; unfortunately the nice employee health nurse could not grant my request for extra thimerosal as she only had single-dose formulations.

I’m grateful to the minion for what must have been a most unpleasant night in the anti-vaccine echo chamber and like others I look forward to a future guest post. I do respectfully disagree with the summary statement that “some paucity in vaccine safety data” exists. I acknowledge that for the A-V cult there will never, ever be enough safety data; however, it is inaccurate to infer any scarcity of safety data for vaccines.

Seeing the video of Del Bigtree and reading the minion’s “paucity” comment reminded me that earlier this year Mr Bigtree (and his Informed Consent Action Network, ICAN) received answers to their top questions about vaccine safety from the CDC. The huge volume of details for such a broad topic are summarized by Orac’s feathery friend on his blog ( To briefly explain, Bigtree used a provision of the NCVI Compensation Act to submit questions about vaccine safety and CDC was obliged to respond in writing. From a science perspective it did not go well for Bigtree. Strangely he doesn’t mention this entire episode at One Conversation despite the significant time it must have cost him. No conspiracy mongering, not a single slide to nitpick about some arcane detail, no reference to it at all. Nada; it never happened.

No part of clinical researching, publishing about, or licensing vaccines involves a debate with a partisan audience responding as though they were attending a WWF cage match. That he failed in a format so fundamental to supporting vaccines is understandable given his complete lack of meaningful experience. I thought after so many months Bigtree would use One Conversation to rationalize about why he did so poorly making the case in writing that vaccines are unsafe. C’mon Del, tell why it was so unfair to have to make your case in writing to the CDC and your version of what went wrong…

I do respectfully disagree with the summary statement that “some paucity in vaccine safety data” exists. I acknowledge that for the A-V cult there will never, ever be enough safety data; however, it is inaccurate to infer any scarcity of safety data for vaccines.

Thank you for your kind words. I agree that nothing will ever satisfy anti-vaccine groups but that is not what I had in mind. We may disagree on this and can spend a lot of time talking about it but I feel as though there is some paucity in vaccine safety data, not absence or scarcity and certainly not anything that nullifies current vaccine programs as these panelists would have us believe. Without distracting from the topic at hand too much, I believe that we can do a better job of filling in some gaps in order to provide more confidence in vaccines by a segment of the public that could fall prey to these anti-vaccine activists. As to your other point about Del Bigtree, if you care to watch his segment, he doesn’t address his correspondence with the HHS directly but now that you mentioned it, I believe he does do a passive-aggressive attack on the information that Dr. Wharton had provided him and misrepresents it.

Dearest Minion-mole;

Do you mean a paucity in data or studies OR a poor manner of presentation by SBM that allows anti-vaxxers wiggle room to misrepresent information to the naïve?
I find whilst surveying woo that true masters know how to conveniently leave things out or distort points in order to scare people.

As Orac has often shown ( with cancer science especially) there is complexity the general public does not envision : alt med proselytisers can thus jam in their own pseudoscience in whatever gaps exist in the minds of the general, non-expert audience.
As sceptics we must often point out those misappropriations and gaps, illustrating the alties’ lack of expertise and truthfulness.

Do you mean a paucity in data or studies OR a poor manner of presentation by SBM that allows anti-vaxxers wiggle room to misrepresent information to the naïve?
I find whilst surveying woo that true masters know how to conveniently leave things out or distort points in order to scare people.

The former since in my experience, SBM presenters are very adept at covering their topic. Alt-med gurus are going to abuse data no matter how copious or quality they are because the ends justifies the means for them. There is a caveat regarding SBM presentations that I think you may be talking about as opposed to me. There are some brilliant researchers who aren’t great about conveying information, particularly to a lay audience. But the abuses that alt-med types perpetrate shouldn’t rely on oral presentations, rather what do the data say. Did that make any sense at all? BTW, I was the one in the beige tunic.

First, thanks again for the reporting and I look forward to the second segment. I hope you are willing to do this again because you have a knack for it and obviously more patience than your average moose. Second, I consider paucity to be a synonym for words like sparse or scarce. Probably best to discuss; if we meet by chance someday I promise to try and get my antlers around your more nuanced term of “gaps”. Third, I observed that Del continues to misinterpret VAERS, the African study, true placebo, and the too many vaccines gambit in considerable detail (with slides) at One Conversation and any other venue he can. What restrains him from his usual hyperbole as regards Dr Wharton’s team’s written responses especially since it is in the public domain? Bigtree is nothing if not egotistical, so what makes him wait rather than lash out at length and with slides in response to CDC?

Thank you, Orac and Minion for this report.
That “… there were at most 100 people in attendance.” is heartening as is the fact that “about half the audience stood up” “if they or someone they knew was vaccine-injured”.
“about half”… Meaning it was the cult leaders preaching to the choir who all know someone with cradle cap, acne, or dental caries caused by teh ebil vaccines!!!!11!!
Equally revealing is that “we were asked by Ms. Valas to sit together in the center” duplicating the request of the “media” person in an obvious attempt at dishonestly misrepresenting the attendance.
Isn’t vaccine troof and medical freedumb all about the TRVTH!!!11!! which is being hidden by teh NWO Aluminutty CDC, FDA, and every government and scientist/science org on the planet? Yet here they are staging disinfo photos…
That they couldn’t garner more attendees in a city that size speaks volumes.
In any event, thanks to the Minion for reporting as having watched a few minutes of the non-stop lies in the event vid gave me a massive headache – not to mention skyrocketing blood pressure and the urge to throw a pie or a shoe at someone…
Looking forward to report #2.

Mini mole writes,

I would like to thank Orac for allowing me the rare honor of guest post…

@ Orac,

I would like to request the honor of writing a guest post to bring balance to Respectful Insolence, especially with respect to vaccines.

About 2,000 words with an introductory image, and 2-3 videos will suffice.

Please advise, Orac (a.k.a. The One)


Since when does Respectful Insolence need balance? Haven’t you learned that journalistic balance is bad?


I would like to request the honor of writing a guest post to bring balance to Respectful Insolence, especially with respect to vaccines.

Respectful Insolence has balance on vaccines. Vaccines work to protect people against disease and are generally safe. End of.

What you are doing is trying to substitute complete nonsense for balance.

No matter how pompous and officious you get, it should be clear by now that false balance is a trick of every fraudster in the world (e.g., climate change deniers), and you will never con anyone into offering it here. It is kind of fun to read your endless pretense at being polite as though your attenuated Crazy has any relation to the facts, though. You really are in the wrong place, you know. Just as the anti-vaxxers are ideologically inflexible, so are people who actually know the facts. So why do you waste your time here with all these attempts at false civility? The consensus is to go away and just pompously preach to the converted somewhere else.

Ugh. Too many people believe, incorrectly, that journalistic balance requires telling “both sides of the story.”

It doesn’t. Not in cases where there are no “two sides.” Journalists report facts. Since antivaxxers have none, there is no need to “balance” the story by giving them airtime.

Whatever they personally believe, mainstream journalists seem to behave as if 1) there are two sides to every story, and 2) only two sides.

100 participants.

Wow. So sad. In a town like Atlanta they should have been able to do better.

I bet they get a heck of a tax write off for this waste, and the hotel went laughing to the bank.

there were at most 100 people in attendance

Ah, but you forget Bigtree’s VAERS-Correction factor… to correct for underestimation, you need to multiply every number by a factor of 10 100 1000 some figure made up on the spot.

He presents Aluminum adjuvant linked to Gulf War illness induces motor neuron death in mice. and really believes that he had demonstrated damage.

That would be the first in a long line of Shaw papers that was totally worthless because of statistical incompetence.

a local Atlanta right wing talk radio host tapped to moderate the panel

I remain entertained by the way that Shaw still preens himself for his progressive politics despite ending up in bed with the extreme Trumpist end of the rightwing spectrum.

It would also be interesting to know how strongly this fiasco was promoted by Shelley Wynter on his radio talk show as I would assume the organizers and he pimped the event at which he would “star”. If that is the case then the low attendance is even more pitiful.
Since, of the 100 or so who did attend, it can be assumed that a number of them were attached to the production of the event itself (camera crew, ushers, wives, husbands, SOs, etc.) making the number of paid seats and “reach” of this event even lower. In a city with a metro population of ~6 million less than 100 is at the level of “why bother?”.
Snail races could draw more attendees.
As Orac ponders – Somebody forked over some Bux$ for this event… but who?

I had forgotten to respond to this Reality. Del Bigtree was on Shelley Wynter’s show either that day or the day before the One Conversation talk. That and there was yet another anti-vaccine “rally” at the CDC on October 10th. Given the inexpensive ticket prices and those factors we both mentioned, I would have thought they would have had a full house.

As for aluminium toxicity, I cite VaccinePapers (really). They set intravenous LOAEL 100 mg/kg. This is not much different than oral one, which is understandable, because it is reasonable that aluminium is readily absorbed. So there is no real difference between oral and intravenous route. And cobratoxin is a protein and not a metal. Proteins are digested, you know.e
And removing thiomersal did not result with any health benefit, only result was that multiple shot vials are no more used.

MJD could probably get a guest post published over on the Gazillions of Health Freedom Loonies website. Apparently nothing is too insane for that bunch.

MJD doesn’t ever expect Orac to let him post something here. His whining about it is probably grist for his conspiracy theory.

Perhaps if MJD really tried he could, by persistently calling in, sending e-mails and distributing copies of his writing, become a featured guest and THEN, eventually, a show host at
I’ll bet that if he dedicated as much effort there as he does at RI, he might** broadcast or have an article posted on a weekly basis. After all, he would probably agree with much of their beliefs about how the mainstream shuts down innovation. Plus, they’re looking for insider information about sceptics and Wikipedia.

AND PRN claims much higher numbers of readers/ listeners than RI.

** like LK Habakus, David Crowe, Peter Breggin, Gerald Celente- mavericks all.

But Michael, you had your chance!

Don’t you remember the end of the year 2011?
You spammed the comments of multiple blog posts, trying to promote your book.

Orac allowed you as much forum-time as you could use.

Your comments were boring then. Your constant “please let me have a guest post . . .” whine is no less boring now.

“…the government told the CDC to do the study like five or six years ago, the CDC said no thanks we can’t do the study so now the government is trying to get the NIH to do the study and hopefully they will someday because we have to know if it’s true about unvaccinated kids.”
Not really the government. More like congressman Posey harassing CDC director Coleen Boyle with impossible demands and not listening for explanations at the autism congressional hearings.

“To her, there are some “kind of bogus studies” on MMR and on thimerosal but no studies on other vaccines, the entire schedule relative to completely unvaccinated children.”
I started to hear this new argument a few weeks ago. (not the “vaxxed vs unvaxxed” one, the “but you didn’t study all the other vaccines !!!”). Might have originated from an Handley article ?

“Those vaccinated with live viral vaccines shed for months and spread disease, whereas unvaccinated who feel sick stay home.”
Yeah, that’s why since we have the MMR, there are measles epidemics everywhere among the unvaccinated (voluntarily or not (too young etc.)), because of these vaccinated people shedding everywhere. I mean, if it was real, then we still would have measles among entire new generations, right ?
And staying at home when you’re not feeling well worked so well before the vaccine.

I always liked the line, ‘Anybody who says there are two sides to every story has never tried to interview three different people about the same accident report.’

They seem to love to trot out the same debunked ideas time and time again. “Toxins” gambit, “fetal/animal parts” , No vaccinated vs unvaxxinated studies. Ad Nauseam.
By the way; Who in blazes is Dr Stanley Plotkin ?

He also developed the modern rabies vaccine. Apparently the anti-vaccers hate him, but they seriously will not answer if they will or will not get the rabies vaccine if they come in contact with a bat. The most common way humans in the USA get rabies. A disease that is almost always fatal.

Read more about him and the very important Dr. Hayflick in The Vaccine Race by Meredith Wadman.

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