Antivaccine nonsense Medicine Pseudoscience Skepticism/critical thinking

Jami Hepworth (a.k.a. Skeptical Doctor’s Wife): The latest antivaccine activist on the block

Jami Hepworth is a doctor’s wife. Having dubbed herself the “Skeptical Doctor’s Wife,” she has become an antivaccine activist. Unfortunately, doctor’s wife or not, medicine and science are clearly not her forte. She also doesn’t like laughing emojis directed at her.

One of the most common tactics used by antivaxers to give themselves a patina of seeming authority is to invoke a degree or something about their background to assert that they know what they’re talking about. It is, in reality, an appeal to false authority. Sometimes this takes the form of actual physicians who are not pediatricians pontificating about “vaccine injury,” when their backgrounds do not give them an understanding of the science. More commonly, naturopaths, chiropractors, and other quacks do this all the time, as though their quackery-infused education provides them with sufficient expertise to give them authority discussing vaccines, autism, chronic disease, and the like, when in fact, if anything, there is a negative correlation between the possession of degrees in naturopathy, chiropractic, and other “alternative health” titles and saying anything science-based about vaccines. Sometimes, it’s scientists in disciplines unrelated to immunology or neuroscience throwing together bogus studies seeking to correlate vaccination and autism. In fairness, sometimes people with real backgrounds in immunology or real pediatricians like Drs. Paul Thomas, Bob Sears, and Larry Palevsky go antivax, and that’s a real problem because, although science-based pediatricians and immunologists immediately recognize the promotion of pseudoscience by these people, to the public their authority to the public appears real. In contrast, sometimes, antivaxers’ desperation to project an air of authority goes to truly ridiculous, risible levels. I’m referring to a woman named Jami Hepworth, who has dubbed herself the Skeptical Doctor’s Wife and, through her website and Facebook page, dedicated herself to spreading antivaccine propaganda.

Here’s how Ms. Hepworth introduces herself:

Welcome friends and skeptics! My name is Jami Hepworth. I am Skeptical Doctor’s Wife! I have always been a truth seeker, but the truth about vaccines was one that found me instead of the other way around.

Four years ago, I discovered with the tip of a friend, that some vaccines contain cell-lines derived from aborted babies. This was repulsive to me as a pro-life advocate and mother. How had I not known this information before I had agreed to vaccinate my children?! This ignited a sustained passion in me to research everything I ever thought I knew about vaccines. What I discovered shocked me even further. Not only were there moral issues, but there were significant safety concerns with vaccines, too. And the stories we have been told about the necessity of and victory over death attributed to vaccination were not in line with data presented on official government sites.

With my husband being an M.D. you might correctly imagine that my increasingly unorthodox views according to the Western medicine paradigm have presented a bit of a rocky road for us. They certainly did. But traveling this road has made me an exceptional truth advocate, steeped in knowledge of the most relevant peer-reviewed literature and the gaps in the story about vaccines as shared by official sources.

Before I go on, I must point out that, whenever I see this particular trope used, I can’t help but retort to someone like Hepworth that, no, vaccines do not contain cell lines derived from aborted babies. They just don’t. The virus used to make some vaccines are grown in one of two cell lines (MRC-5 and WI-38) to make up stocks to use in vaccines, each cell line derived from an aborted fetus in the mid-1960s, but no cells remain by the time the virus or viral proteins end up in the final vaccine product. If you’re seeking to convince me (or anyone else) that you know what you’re talking about, the quickest path to failure is to publish blatant misinformation about it. Again, there are no cells in vaccines, and, secondly, the cells used to grow the viral stocks for vaccine manufacture are so far removed from their original source that it’s an intentional deception to claim that they are “derived from aborted babies.” Being antiabortion is no excuse, as one can construct an argument based on that without promoting misinformation. It’s a bad argument rejected by the major religions, but one can construct an argument without parroting misinformation about “fetal cells from aborted babies.”

Some antivaxers are knowledgeable enough to know that there are no “fetal cells” in vaccines, which is why they’ve dropped back to a second line claim that there is “fetal DNA” from those cells in vaccines (one even going to a truly bizarre extreme to claim based on bad science that an entire fetal genome is in vaccines), a claim that is almost as deceptive. In any event, these “fetal cells” have contributed to saving millions of lives and preventing billions of cases of disease.

Of course, Ms. Hepworth’s use of her husband’s title is intentional. She is obviously seeking to have some of his authority as a physician reflect back on her to give her antivaccine propaganda a boost. It’s even reflected in her logo, which includes a pair of glasses, because, you know, glasses = smart or intellectual. Let’s just put it this way. Just because your spouse is a physician doesn’t mean that you are the least bit qualified to speak on medical matters. Physicians’ spouses can be ignoramuses, or they can be smarter than their spouses, or they can be anywhere in between. In this case, I learned that Jami Hepworth has a BA in German literature from Brigham Young University. Where did I learn this? From her testimony against AB123, a bill proposed in Nevada earlier this year to enhance the data collection process and centralize immunization information for rapid use during a disease outbreak. During the same testimony, she referred to vaccination as an “example of medical cannibalism.” She also stated that, over time, these cell lines “wane” and that they “have to get new cell lines,” implying that vaccine manufacturers are on the lookout for new aborted fetuses to make new cell lines. Nope. The same two cell lines have been in continuous use since the 1960s, and there is no sign that we are running out of them. She also said that her doctor had “never heard that these human cell lines were in vaccines.” There’s a reason for that. They’re not in vaccines. They are removed from the mix when the virus particles are harvested. How many times do I have to repeat this?

She was allowed only two minutes for testimony, but Ms. Hepworth tried to make the most of that time, laboring mightily to pack as many antivaccine tropes in the second minute as she could, including the bogus claim that vaccines are not tested against saline controls. This is one of the single dumbest and most easily refuted antivaccine claims, as a quick search of PubMed will demonstrate. Del Bigtree likes to repeat this lie, and it was easy to show how wrong he was for just one vaccine, without even listing all the others. If you’re interested, Dr. Vincent Ianelli has listed a bunch of these studies. Basically, this whole antivaccine trope rests on two misunderstandings. First, there is a misunderstanding of what constitutes a good placebo. In the case of vaccines, often the best placebo is to use the vaccine solution from which only the antigen has been removed. Sometimes saline placebos are used. The second misunderstanding is based on a misunderstanding of medical ethics. In the case of new vaccines against diseases for which there is no approved, standard-of-care vaccine generally recommended, it is ethical to do randomized trials using placebo controls, be they saline placeboes or vaccine minus antigen placebos. However, if a a vaccine exists against a given disease and is already in general use, then it is unethical to do a placebo-controlled randomized trial, because such a trial would randomize the control group to be unprotected against a disease for which the standard of care dictates vaccination. So, for instance, there will never be a new placebo-controlled randomized clinical trial for MMR, because it would be unethical. Instead, if there’s ever a new MMR vaccine, it will be tested against existing MMR vaccine for what we call non-inferiority, meaning that it’s tested to make sure that it’s at least as good as the existing vaccine. That’s the only ethical way to do a clinical trial once a vaccine against a given disease becomes the standard of care.

As for the rest, Ms. Hepworth packs in an “antivax greatest hits” in the last seconds of her testimony, including fear mongering about aluminum adjuvants and claims that they cause autoimmune diseases, apparently referencing Yehuda Shoenfeld’s highly dubious “ASIA” condition.

Here’s Ms. Hepworth again in a video from February against the same bill:

She really hates now that under AB123, if passed, nonmedical “personal belief” exemptions and medical exemptions would have to be submitted every year, that the records of exemptions would be kept in a centralized state agency, and that exemption letters would have to be signed by a physician or advanced practice nurse. She argues that this is discriminatory against the poor (yeah, right) and that it’s “insensitive” to parents who’ve had a child “die from vaccination,” claiming that they most likely have a genetic predisposition. (No such genetic predisposition to die after vaccination has ever been demonstrated.) She also claims that in 1986 the Supreme Court ruled that vaccines were “unavoidably unsafe.” (No, that was Bruesewitz v. Wyeth in 2011, and the term “unavoidably unsafe” is a favorite of antivaxers to parrot and bandy about without understanding what it means, which, when you consider the context, is not what it sounds like. Basically, legally, it means that nothing can be done to make the product safer without compromising its function.) She then goes on to claim that the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986 made it impossible to sue the vaccine manufacturers. (It’s not; parents just have to go through the Vaccine Court first, which is actually easier to obtain compensation through than regular courts—and it pays complainants’ court costs, too, win or lose.) She denies that herd immunity is real, confusing waning immunity from pertussis vaccination (which can be remedied with a booster shot) with lack of herd immunity, parroting the dubious claim that vaccinating against a disease leads to resistance to the vaccine. (Andrew Wakefield repeated a whopper of a version of that bit of misinformation pretty recently.)

She even claims that no one in developed countries dies of the diseases that we vaccinate against. Oh, really? Tell that to the one in a thousand who die of measles, or the countless children who died of haemophilus influenza type B, which was a scourge that killed children until the vaccine was introduced in the early 1990s. In the mix, she even claims that we aren’t paying attention to the 20,000+ people who die of antibiotic-resistant infections every year. Again, oh, really? That must be why I see so many stories in the media about the threat of “superbugs.” Naturally, she concludes her video with an appeal to “health freedom.” Because of course she does. In any event, listening to her testimony and watching her video, I can’t help but conclude that Jami Hepworth is actually more ignorant of the science and facts about vaccines than the typical antivaccine activist. It’s embarrassing, really. Cringe-inducing.

On the other hand, it’s possible that she might have gotten better, become a cleverer, less ignorant antivaccine propagandist since February, which is when the video and testimony were recorded. So I perused her Facebook page, which seems to be where the bulk of her activism and posts are. It’s a new page, with her posting her introductory post on October 22:

There, I found that things are apparently not going so well. Ms. Hepworth appears to have been having difficulty dealing with refutations to her antivaccine pseudoscience, such as her sharing a list of scientific papers that allegedly support a link between vaccines and autism and various other conditions. (Hint: They don’t. Antivaxers love to confuse quantity of bullshit with quality of science. They list bad papers supporting their position and misinterpret good ones that don’t, all in the service of their propaganda.) In any case, she posted this:

Poor baby. Did someone use the laughing emoji reaction to your ignorant posts? How horrible! How ever can you stand it? Ridicule in tone? That’s a mild reaction! Then, after whining about “incivility, including “ridicule in tone” and the use of the dreaded laughing emoji reaction, Ms. Hepworth writes:

I maintain the position forever and always, that anyone who believes in and works for vaccines to be mandated without informed consent is an enemy of freedom and goodness, and is acting as a tyrannical extremist. Bodily sovereignty is a natural human right and needs to be maintained. If a product is good, you should be able to persuade without force or violence for others to willingly consume it. Violence in speech and action, starting with blatant disrespect to other human beings are indicators your seed is bad.

Apparently civility is a one-way street. Of course, Ms. Hepworth can run her page any way she pleases, but I can call out her hypocrisy.

Amusingly, three days ago, Ms. Hepworth held that most scientific of measures, a Facebook poll:

She then “analyzed” the results:

And, then, predictably, she decided to start blocking provaccine advocates who didn’t measure up to her expected level of “civility”:

While saying she’s “completely opposed to censorship,” she then describes her rules for conduct on her page, failure to adhere to which will lead to her censorship of you. Yes, I’m being sarcastic. Again, it’s her page, and she can run it any way she wants, and blocking trolls is certainly often necessary. However, perusing her page, I saw very little in the way of posts by provaccine advocates that could be considered trolling or abusive, and I did peruse most of the comments on the relatively few posts on her page. Basically, Ms. Hepworth has a rather thin skin for criticism and has no answers to the justifiable criticism. That’s why I can’t help but suspect that she’s decided to start blocking pro-vaccine commenters under the excuse of enforcing “civility.”

This brings me back to one last question. Ms. Hepworth is not a doctor. She’s not even a scientist, nor did she even obtain a degree in science. Her degree is in German literature. In the video above, she invokes her husband, Squire Hepworth, a family practice hospitalist who has actually commented on her page:

Squire Hepworth comments on his wife Jami Hepworth's Facebook page.

Ms. Hepworth is banning calling people “antivaccine” or “pro-vaccine,” which is amusing, given how she just characterized everyone who supports vaccine mandates as fascists. That’s why I call her appeal for “civility” and scientific debate a smokescreen.

Basically, she quotes him and his doctor friends as having told her that they were taught things in medical school that have become obsolete, which is, of course, true. Medical science marches on, and our understanding of disease and its best science-based treatment evolves. That does not mean that the current understanding and medical consensus that vaccines are safe and effective and do not cause autism or the other conditions for which antivaxers blame it. I will also call BS on her claim that doctors practice “about 30 years behind the times of evidence-based care.” If her husband said that, then he’s an idiot, and if he practices 30 years behind the times he should lose his license. Thirty years ago (even 20 years ago), we routinely removed all the lymph nodes under the arm of every patient with breast cancer. Yes, there are a few doctors who are unacceptably slow to change with the times, but 30 years ago would go back to me in medical school learning things that have long since been supplanted and that no doctor I know has done in a couple of decades. I must say, though, that I was incredibly amused at Hepworth’s invocation near the end of the video of “bloodletting” as not being wrong for hemochromatosis, as if this demonstrates that not all ancient medicine is wrong.

I also have to wonder what her husband Squire Hepworth thinks. Is he antivaccine too? Is he just tolerating her antivaccine activism now, in hopes that she’ll come around? Is he sympathetic to her antivaccine views? I know that, in the unlikely event my wife ever went antivaccine to the point of testifying against bills to strengthen vaccine mandates and becoming active with a statewide antivaccine advocacy group, it would place a horrific strain on my marriage that would likely destroy it before too long. Fortunately, this is an incredibly unlikely outcome.

What I do know is that Jami Hepworth is a new antivaccine activist. She’s appealing to the false authority of being a doctor’s wife, and she’s even more ignorant of science than the average antivax activist. In spite of that (or even because of that), I suspect that she’ll soon be sharing a stage with Del Bigtree and Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and cosplaying V in antivaccine protests. More’s the pity.

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]

80 replies on “Jami Hepworth (a.k.a. Skeptical Doctor’s Wife): The latest antivaccine activist on the block”

It also looks to me, perusing the Nevada government website, that the bill passed the Assembly overwhelmingly but died in the Senate. Is that correct?

If people don’t die of VPDs in developed countries, I assume she’s willing to intentionally contract tetanus to prove her point.

“With my husband being an M.D. you might correctly imagine that my increasingly unorthodox views according to the Western medicine paradigm have presented a bit of a rocky road for us. They certainly did.”

So her husband is pro-reality?

I suppose if you were to ask me who knows more about vaccines, a doctor’s wife or a plumber’s husband, the odds would favor the doctor’s.

Until you tell me that the doctor disagrees with her.

It’s telling that she calls herself “The skeptical doctor’s wife” and not “the doctor’s skeptical wife.” She wants to imply as much as possible that he agrees with her without actually stating he does.

Precisely. Her very name implies that her husband agrees with her, when it appears that he probably does not (her mentioning that her “increasingly unorthodox views according to the Western medicine paradigm have presented a bit of a rocky road for” her and her husband)

Her very name implies that her husband agrees with her, when it appears that he probably does not

FWIW, he endorsed pneumococcal vaccines and acknowledged herd immunity in passing. Two authors, so there’s no telling, but he’s the lead.

He went to medical school at University of Arizona. Given all the woo at U of AZ thanks to Andrew Weil, he could have been corrupted by it there.

“It’s telling that she calls herself “The skeptical doctor’s wife” and not “the doctor’s skeptical wife.” ”

My bet is that it is probably just an unrecognised grammatical error.
Or that the former just sounds better – a bit like some modern song lyrics which are there simply because they sound good.

In the video above, she invokes her husband, Squire Hepworth, a family practice hospitalist….

“Four years ago, I discovered with the tip of a friend, that some vaccines contain cell-lines derived from aborted babies.”

In 2015, he had just completed his M.D. in Nevada and started his residency in Idaho. I wonder how malleable he might have been that early in his career. On her older blog, he brings up “Hypnobabies” repeatedly. This one stands out:

“The only thing Jami had not gotten around to preparing: a snack for the nurses. Hypnobabies suggests this, I think probably because for the hospital staff it is a big hassle to deal with all these special requests that go along with mothers who want a ‘natural’ childbirth. I tried to get Jami to give this idea up, but she insisted that I stop and buy some cookies for them. So I went in and bought some bakery cookies.”

With contractions at “forty-five seconds to a minute, and two minutes from the start of one to the start of the next.” Hoo boy.

Ugh. Why did I look at her blog? She claims that after four years of use the Salk vaccine was replaced by the Sabin vaccine because the Salk version was not safe. She then references the Cutter Incident. Cutter was six years before the Sabin vaccine was commercially available….

I would have thought that the idea of glasses making someone look intellectual died when Rick Perry started wearing them. Especially now that Perry has been implicated in the Ukraine-manufacturing-dirt-on-Hunter-Biden scandal. But I digress.

I have to admit that someone who calls her rhetorical opponents fascists, and then complains when they use laughing emoji in response to her, has inspired me to do a little emoji experiment on this site:
If the experiment was successful, what you see above is the actual size violin I am playing on Ms. Hepworth’s behalf.

I would have thought that the idea of glasses making someone look intellectual died when Rick Perry started wearing them.

Well, that assumes one knows who Rick Perry is. As a Canadian, I don’t. I did Google him twice in the last 24 hours but he was not important enough to remember. Well, he is not a hockey player.

Is this a new career choice for bored women? **

SRSLY. There are just too many anti-vax mothers and natural health advocates lolling around the net of late : I guess making earrings on etsy, creating fashion videos or re-selling vintage clothes on the net are totally passe.

There seem to be a few ready made role models to explore: the devoted mother who saw her child “disappear” after vaccines who is trying to save other children ( many of these), the ardent revolutionary crying “health freedom”, the truth teller exposing the crimes of SBM, the naturalista proclaiming the joys of organic lifestyles, assorted rappers, pseudo-scientific theorists and quasi journalists. I’ve seen them all.

I suppose it is easier than going to school and actually learning science, politics or advocacy ( and many women DO return to higher education when they are older) and instantly pays off in rewards by like-minded partisans who will automatically accept whatever they present. In social media, courting ‘likes’ and ‘follows’ may predispose them towards hyperbole and grandstanding in order to become ( at least) a micro-influencer.. They seek out additional platforms such as internet radio, more trafficked websites, conventions and protests where they can make videos of their contribution to display on their own media as well. Some write books or start groups that call themselves charities: a few may make a living through their position as web managers or editors.
I imagine they get a self-esteem boost by falsely claiming expertise and arguing with professionals on twitter or comment sections as well: they seek out admiration from followers and offer their wisdom to young parents, misleading them usually.

(I wonder how they manage to call their efforts “charities”: many of the woo-meisters or anti-vaxxers I survey claim charity status legally: they provide unrealistic information to worried parents. Some are businesses.Should they be legal charities at all?)

** yes, I’m a feminist so as they say “It took Nixon to go to China” so I will go there.

Denice Walter November 26, 2019 at 12:35 pm

many women DO return to higher education when they are older

A good friend of mine was in a friendly competition with her younger daughter as to who got their Ph.D. first. She won but it was close.

@ John Kane:

I imagine we’ll see even more of that trend as the occupational landscape shifts.

Anti-vaxxers follow another strategy- they pick and choose what concepts fit into their desired scenario, vaccines cause autism: there are ready made templates for theory building which they incorporate while neglecting salient issues that the subject matter demands:
pseudoscientists link autism to GI issues so of course the microbiome is at the top of their list as is autoimmunity because vaccines affect immunity, the BBB is another topic they select for their collage.

HOWEVER issues already shown to be extremely relevant- and researched – are tossed aside:
the influence of genetics, pre-natal influences and early indicators of ASDs in infants. These don’t exist to them.
Thus, their “research” and “study” involves only a few concepts while neglecting the big picture. Katie Wright- who is on the boards of a few anti-vax orgs- can’t understand why research grant money is being wasted on genetic research or the search for early indicators BECAUSE she is lost in her cargo cult of anti-vax “science”.

Thus, what these people do in no way resembles formal study as a few of our regular commenters illustrate when discussing immunology or other SBM. Anti-vaxxers, like other woo followers- choose the easy path that allows them to cosplay expertise that they can’t legitimately claim. :

So he’s a Squire, but what’s his name?

Child-naming has fallen on hard times.

She’s a Mormon (him too, no doubt) and it does not surprise me in the least that people who sincerely believe that Jesus came to America in a submarine (and loads of other truly weird things, to say nothing of magic underwear) would easily fall prey to anti-vaxx nonsense.

So he’s a Squire, but what’s his name?

Dean. It’s been the middle name of first Hepworth sons for at least four generations.

Did any become lawyers? I am wondering how {first name] Squire Hepworth, Esquire would work out.

Did any become lawyers?

There are three licensed in Texas, but I don’t think there’s any relation.

I am so hoping for a Squire Hepworth, Esq. I knew someone who was an Army brat with the first name “Major.” Unfortunately he became a doctor and did not go into the service. It would have been amusing to see a Major Major Jones. 😉

I knew someone who was an Army brat with the first name “Major.”

That would be an instance of life imitating art, if the kid had gone into the military. The novel Catch-22 features the character Major Major Major Major. It’s mentioned in the novel that the character got his rank because of his name.

Mormons don’t believe Jesus came to America in a submarine nor do they wear magic underwear. But if you think Jews wear magic hats I guess that’s consistent for you. A majority of Mormons are pro vaccine. If you know as much about vaccines as you do about Mormons…. ?

Now I hate to be pedantic. (Not true that; I revel in it.) Is she the wife of a skeptical doctor? What is the dear man sceptical about? (Note English spelling there). Should it not be the Doctor’s Skeptical Wife?

My friends tell me all sorts of things. No matter how much I like my friends, I always check for myself. Not so Ms Hepworth.

Hopefully it’s because her doctor husband is sceptical of her beliefs. It isn’t that clear. ?

@ Anonymous Coward,

I believe that it is at least clear that he does not object. Look at his reply to her: Socrates — ‘Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel

He is implying that the well educated should not be confused as having a vessel full of knowledge but that they have the ability to seek knowledge. A well-educated person who refuses to keep learning & critically think; has left an empty pot on the stove to burn.

I believe that it is at least clear that he does not object.

Then again, you believe quite a number of things without a coherent defense.

He is implying that….

This is just another deployment of your demonstratedly flabby mind-reading pretensions.

A well-educated person who refuses to keep learning & critically think; [sic] has left an empty pot on the stove to burn.

Not really an opportune moment to whomp up some dime-store Confucianistic aphorism, I’m afraid.

@Christine: His post is ambiguous at best. It could equally be interpreted as a passive-aggressive jab at his wife’s foolishness, one that might have sailed right over her head. And over yours.

By the way, you can make emojis in Windows 10.
Press [WIN] + “.” or [WIN] + “;” and an emoji menu will open. From there, select your emoji and it will be written into the text box you’re writing to.

I am truly baffled why folks like Ms. Hepworth and others are more concerned about the fate of two fetuses that were legally aborted over fifty years ago over the health of real living children.

If one they or a loved one encountered a rabid animal, like a bat, would they get one of the modern rabies vaccines or just let nature take its course? If they opted to get treatment for rabies this is one of them:

Not even the Catholic Church, that most anti-abortion of all religions, seems to care very much that some vaccines are ultimately derived from aborted human fetuses, and they fully endorse vaccination.

One must realize that the Catholic Church is essentially pro-science. Outside of a few core beliefs it is quite flexible.

The Church’s position on vaccines is quite reasonable.

I don’t know if it’s more prevalent in the US (or just louder) but there seems to be a complete freedom to create your own religion.

Got a prejudice against foreigners? Come to the Jesus was American prayer club. We don’t hold with namby pamby Catholic morality. Jesus had an AR and enjoyed sending Mexicans to hell. Whatever we don’t like is a sin. What ever we do like is morality.

Pick ‘n mix Bible. More worryingly, the invented religious group above probably does exist.

I am an architect’s husband and I have done my research on Google.

So when am I going to be allowed to tell you how to design a bridge? Tell me that.


You are allowed to proclaim your opinions about about how to design a bridge right now. No one is stopping you. Just like no one is stopping the skeptical doctor’s wife from proclaiming her opinions on vaccines. The problem is not that people are allowed to give their opinions.

And we are well within our rights as well to criticize those opinions & show actual facts where she is wrong.

The problem is that my ideas about bridge design are ignorant and uninformed and I would be using my wife’s profession as an appeal to authority by association.

So everyone should be able to criticize my ideas about bridge design without me calling them fascists and claiming censorship.


You are correct. Her critics have the same freedom of speech she does.


Your first sentence is correct, but you are allowed to throw insults at your critics in response as well as long as you don’t cross the line into libel. Expressing your opinion of your critics is equally allowed with expressing your opinions on bridge-building and vaccines.

I think that qualifies you to tell people when to “get over it”. Engineering might be a bridge too far.

But, if you don’t think my bridge would survive the first storm that come along, you must be getting paid by Big Construction to spend all day on the internet putting it about that proper training is required for civil engineers.

the term “unavoidably unsafe” is a favorite of antivaxers to parrot and bandy about without understanding what it means, which, when you consider the context, is not what it sounds like

Say what? Actually, if we screened for genetic predispositions to SAE’s; vaccines could be avoidably unsafe. But Dr. Gregory Poland (& the ACIP) thinks it’s better to just cause SAE’s, for many reasons but one of them is because it’s cheaper … for YOU:

We have certainly considered prevaccine screening for immune status but in many cases, (with the exception of the unvaccinated adult with respect to varicella), vaccinating is cheaper than testing

That’s nice. I’ve now lost $1 Million in wages & provided over $2 Million in uncompensated caregiving services for my vaccine-injured child; only to find out I have the exact IL-1, IL-4 & IL-18 variants that contribute to an increased predisposition to SAE’s from the MMR; that Poland discusses in that article.

Not to mention that I had that damn MMR four times before anyone understood that I am a non-responder to that MMR & have struggled with vaccine-injury since that time. Mute point in my case, because the HLA alleles were not confirmed until the late 19990’s & the IL’s later but certainly in enough time to have spared my son.

Avoidably unsafe, had I only avoided it for my child.

This ‘second golden age of vaccinology’ is poised to begin, and along the way many insights into the immunogenetics of immune responses to antigens and accelerated and directed methods for vaccine development will become apparent

No, Dr. Poland. Next gen vaccines could have been in development a decade ago but …

Our uptake-metrics that we now celebrate as the highest we have ever achieved in the history of public health depend on our one-size-fits-all approach to vaccination

… My child was considered an acceptable loss, out of the ACIP’s preference for ‘uptake-metrics’.

Fix this & I will stop warning parents about vaccines. Fix this & I will resume vaccinating. Don’t fix this & vaccine’s will remain ‘unavoidably unsafe’. YOU are now the barrier to improved vaccine-uptake & you ARE the antivaxxers. I DID vaccinate.

She does a lovely bit of cherry picking. For instance, she claims “I have the exact IL-1, IL-4 & IL-18 variants that contribute to an increased predisposition to SAE’s from the MMR; that Poland discusses in that article.” and implies that this is why he son is autistic.
The article merely mentions “certain haplotypes in IL-1, IL-4 or IL-18 genes” may make people more prone to “febrile reactions.”

<blockquote<I’ve now lost $1 Million in wages & provided over $2 Million in uncompensated caregiving services for my vaccine-injured child; only to find out I have the exact IL-1, IL-4 & IL-18 variants that contribute to an increased predisposition to SAE’s from the MMR; that Poland discusses in that article.

The haplotypes in question had been identified as possible contributors to fever after smallpox vaccination. Stanley et al. 2007 speculated the same might be true of MMR as MMR has a high rate of febrile reactions. To date, that does not seem to be the case. The IL-4 variants reduced the susceptibility to fever, as did some variants in IL-1A and IL-18. More significantly, the haplotypes were only predictive for fever in non-naive individuals.

So your claim? No its bogus.

@ Chris Preston,

Dr. Poland has been studying immunogenomics since at least 1998. First, I believe were the HLA alleles. Ironically, given the 2016 Measles outbreak in the Somali community; Dr. Poland was studying how the Somali people had a high frequency of those HLA alleles.

That there would be an outbreak 18 years later in the same community he was researching could have been predicted.They DID have a higher frequency of SAE’s which led to lower confidence in vaccines & ultimately; low uptake & an outbreak.

It had nothing to do with antivaxxers at all.

I wouldn’t go as far as to say that it was the IL’s & the IL’s ONLY that contributed to what appears to be a high genetic risk of me & mine to SAE’s from vaccines. I have 12 of the 30+ identified (that I know of). It could be attributed to none of my IL’s or a combination.

The point was that despite having the knowledge to screen; they are not. What else could that mean, other than they see me & mine as an acceptable loss. What if if you will be the next? That’s unacceptable.

Nice bit of goalpost moving there, but still hasn’t helped.

The genetic variants that appear to be related to febrile seizures following MMR specifically are in CD46 and IFI44L. The first is the measles virus receptor and the second an interferon stimulated protein. Given this, febrile seizures would be just as likely, possibly more so, following measles infection.

The OR for the CD46 and IF144L variants and febrile seizures is only about 1.4. There are only a half a dozen events per 10,000 children vaccinated in a background of 2-5% of children suffering febrile seizures, mostly due to infections. Why would you subject children to additional testing for a risk this small? Note we are talking about one off febrile seizures here. Scary, but virtually all children completely recover.

Variants in SCN1 are known that appear to pre-dispose children to febrile seizures irrespective of vaccination and often leading to Dravet Syndrome.

Both of my children have a mutation in a completely different gene that would mean if they caught measles as an infant, they would have a high probability of dying. I suppose you would see that as an acceptable loss.

Finally I am sure that the targeting of the Minnesota Somali population by Andrew Wakefield and Del Bigtree had nothing to do with the lack of vaccine uptake in these communities. Oh no. ?

Chris, She’s made it clear. She doesn’t care about anyone else’s suffering. I think she wants other people to suffer, like it’s some kind of vindication for the hardships in her own life.

My family carries the PiZ mutation for alpha 1. Like sickle cell, AAT is a codominant gene, so even carriers, which accounts for the majority of my family, are at increased risk of COPD. Damage is caused by neutrophil elastase produced in response to respiratory infections. I live in dread of cold and flu season, and the idea of whooping cough or measles, with it’s risk of pneumonia, making a comeback horrifies me. Even a common cold often makes me cough until my ribs crack. And I have the mildest form.

Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency, according to some studies, may be one of the most common serious hereditary diseases worldwide.

But who cares if people can breath, right?

The paper had this: “Nonetheless, such prevaccination testing is now routinely done among military recruits in the US” This should make you happy. Point is, does it help at all.
None of genes you shared were related to ILs. Have you found new ones ? Instead genes you mentioned were related to brain signaling or mutations that would damage brain first. And besides, remember, amongst others, an actual experiment: in Japan MMR vaccination was practically ended, and autism rate still went up. How you can explain this ?
“Unavoidable unsafe” is a tort term. Explanation can be found there:
Notice vaccines and drugs are not included. Blood transfusion is example given, because blood is not a manufactured product.

It’s unavoidably unsafe to cross the road, eat food, breath, not vaccinate, take medication, not take medication and a million other things we might do every day.

“Unavoidable unsafe” is a tort term.

Yes, and let us (tinu) not forget that what’s being invoked here is the plaintiffs’ attempt to use comment k in Bruesewitz v. Wyeth, which led to Scalia’s trademark textual analysis in the Court’s rejection of the claim.

All attempts by antivaccine cranks to plop down this phrase as some sort of magical incantation are doomed by the fact that the majority didn’t buy it, 7–2 IIRC.

As usual you’re dedicating a lot of time and effort to someone whose views you believe are insignificant, why is that? Oh yes! That’s because you’re a big pharma damage limitation blog, so Jami Hepworth must be worth listening too if she’s put the wind up your handlers. Love your work!

I think you’ll find that Orac counters this sort of delusion because he wants to. Big pharma doesn’t give a sh#t. You could get rid of every vaccine in existence and their profits would just increase due to the additional drugs required to treat the consequences of VPDs.

However, if you want to get your medical advice from someone with no medical knowledge, there’s a nice new fad in anal sunburn going around.

Please explain how treating this little boy for tetanus is cheaper and safer than getting the DTaP series:

Do tell us how the almost one million dollars spent in the state of Washington was cheaper and safer than kids getting the MRR vaccine:

Take note, that is just in one portion the USA. It does not include the large outbreak in New York, nor even in Samoa. Also this does not include the cost of ongoing chicken pox infections, pertussis, influenza, etc. Also, please look into your inner self and reflect on why you want children to suffer from high fevers, seizures and possible permanent disability. Because only a sadist would want kids to suffer like that.

Support your answer with a verifiable economic report equivalent to this:
Pediatrics. 2014 Apr;133(4):577-85.
Economic Evaluation of the Routine Childhood Immunization Program in the United States, 2009.
Zhou F1, Shefer A, Wenger J, Messonnier M, Wang LY, Lopez A, Moore M, Murphy TV, Cortese M, Rodewald L.

@ Terrie, Chris P, Number, Arno, Chris, Man, Narad, squirrel and Joel ( other thread):

Although I enjoy your input very much, you can’t teach these people. They’re not here to learn: they’re here to fight, insult and blame us. It has nothing to do with reality and therefore can’t be countered by reality. HOWEVER it does allow us to view them more closely– to see how they dodge facts and research, conflate issues, misinterpret results and accuse SBM supporters without data or facts. In fact, it’s easier to watch how they respond rather than to try to engage professional woo-meisters who are already well-versed in evasion and CYA activities; so we get the altie BS second hand but unfiltered. The TRUE woo.

Also, we can monitor how anti-vax woo changes: why just a few years ago, some partisans were advocating for fevers to combat the symptoms of ASDs! Remember that anyone? I do. If you watch AoA and twitter, you might see much about the microbiome and immunological speculation which are all the rage these days BUT when you look at standard research about these topics, it doesn’t link to vaccines at all but to other ideas and concepts.

In short, you’re instructing SBM advocates including silent ones who appreciate your work because…
SIWOTI !!! and we’re here to fix it- a thankless, endless task but it could be worse: we could be fighting woo-meisters’ PR on Wikipedia which is fine for masochists.

Also, there are lots of people like me who stumbled across this blog by accident (I really can’t remember how I first came across it now) and, having no background in the area, are really grateful for the educational opportunities – it puts potential misunderstandings straight and gives enough to google on if I want to pursue something further. So thanks everyone for shining a light in the darkness – even Greg just gives an opportunity for illumination, even if he can’t see the light himself.

So Cheers, and as they say around here, Tara a bit.

This is interesting since my story is similar, except I know how I found RI. Years ago I was brushing up on (and explaining to others) Bayesian statistics for a commercial software project on which I was the technical lead. Real world examples help with that so I went trolling the intertubez. It turns out that at least half the examples you find are about epidemiology, and some of those links were to RI. It was hard not to love the combination of science, skepticism, insolence, Monty Python and prog rock. Although I read a few articles from time to time it wasn’t until more recently, after I decided to retire, that I became a regular reader. Happy Thanksgiving (to those in the US).

I read Quackwatch because I was disgusted by the availability of alt med BS about medical/ psychological issues especially in books.. Over the net, I found another sceptical doctor who recommended Orac.

Prior to 2000, I delved extensively into New Age nonsense even attending lectures and events about natural health, non-SB nutrition and those which showcased extravagant claims for exercise-based yoga/ tai chi ( which may actually have some realistic benefits). Around the turn of the millennium, I became shocked by garbage I heard over the radio which I then followed for years.

Around 2007-8, I became aware of sceptics on the net and discovered that there were EVEN MORE QUACKS who operated exclusively on the internet as well as about the growth of the anti-vax movement.. In late 2001, my cousin became a father ( after a long wait) and he was concerned about vaccines because of Wakefield-generated fear mongering: he asked me because he knew that I studied neurophysiology, child development, cognition etc. I reassured him: I had read AJW shortly after his article was published and found it suspect: it went against research I knew about brain development and it didn’t fit in with most other studies in existence. PLUS it had only a few subjects. It seemed odd and wrong. Later, he was relieved to learn about AJW’s fraud. His son is vaccinated and fine.( and now 18 years old)

Orac weaves many threads together into a coherent fabric of advocacy: highlighting really bad information around that can harm the unwary. In addition, some aspects of the current Zeitgeist encourage rejection of expertise and promote self-initiated so-called education in areas that affect human physical and mental health. PLUS he does all this in an entertaining manner that attracts SB people who can experience solidarity here and practice their debunking skills on a regular basis.

The Clueless Doctor’s Wife has posted on her Facebook page that her husband, Squire the Hospitalist agrees with her “opinion” on vaccination, and says that mean people should not contact his hospital to complain.

She’s right. The poor guy has enough embarrassment to deal with as it is.

Just like anti-vaxxers never contact the employers of people who tell them they are wrong? Like Orac and several others?

If medical boards did their damn job right, MOPs wouldn’t need to complain to employers because the incompetent bums would already be struck off. #BuggeringTheBursar

I agree. Her opinions having nothing to do with how well he does his job.

The evidence suggests that Dr Squire Hepworth is not anti-vaccine, well at least he wasn’t in 2018.

I’ll just leave this here:

Psychological profiles of anti-vaxxers:
Hornsey et al ( 2018) looked at over 5000 subjects in 24 countries and found that
–anti-vaxxers were more likely to believe in additional conspiracy theories ( examples given)
— they were more reactive (having low tolerance of impingement of their freedoms)
— more disgust with blood etc
— individualistic/ less belief in hierarchies
There was NO effect for education.

Other studies have shown a relationship to higher affluence, white race
Other studies show overarching concerns with liberty and purity ( covering both ends of the political spectrum)
Also others show more likely to select foods/ products.

So, privileged, self-centered, contrarian conspiracy mongers?

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