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Steve Kirsch: From anti-COVID vaccine to irredeemably bonkers antivax

Tech bro turned COVID-19 misinformation superspreader and antivaxxer Steve Kirsch has now fully embraced “old school” vaccine-autism conspiracy theories, demonstrating how anti-COVID-19 vaccine antivaxxers frequently become just antivaxxers.

[NOTE: For more on Steve Kirsch’s descent to the antivax Dark Side, see this followup post on how Kirsch is now doxxing and engaging in legal thuggery against a pseudonymous physician on Twitter.]

One consistent theme that I’ve been harping on since COVID-19 vaccines were granted emergency use authorization (EUA) by the FDA in December 2020, thus sparking a tsunami of antivaccine conspiracy mongering far beyond anything seen before the pandemic, it’s that everything old is new again in terms of the claims made by antivaxxers spreading misinformation. Basically, very old antivax tropes were rapidly repurposed to be wielded against the new COVID-19 vaccines, examples including:

I used to joke that the only reasons that antivaxxers weren’t claiming that COVID-19 vaccines caused autism—the dominant antivaccine claim since the 1990s—was because they hadn’t been approved for young children at the time. To be honest, I’m rather surprised that, now that COVID-19 vaccines are recommended for children as young as 6 months, this claim hasn’t become more of a thing, but maybe it’s just because there is so much other misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines. I anticipate that it will still eventually become a thing.

One other phenomenon that I soon started noticing was how “new school” antivaxxers, who had started out just anti-COVID-19 vaccination and justified their distrust of the mRNA vaccines because they were so new and had been “rushed” through development while expressing support for other, older, more established vaccines, were quickly becoming radicalized and increasingly indistinguishable from “old school” pre-COVID antivaxxers. In other words, “new school” antivaxxers were generalizing the “old school” antivax tropes repurposed to spread fear, uncertainty, and doubt about COVID-19 vaccines back to cover all vaccines. As I have said multiple times on Twitter, anti-COVID-19 vaccine antivaxxers were increasingly becoming just plain antivax.

This brings brings me to Steve Kirsch.

Steve Kirsch goes really old school antivax

What brought Steve Kirsch to my attention more recently have been a series of exchanges on Twitter, as well as a number of articles that he’s recently published on his Substack, including, but not limited to:

I could go on, as there are more such articles. Basically, you can tell from just the titles that Kirsch has gone all-in on “old school” antivax conspiracy theories about vaccines causing autism. He’s even latched onto the old “CDC whistleblower” conspiracy theory that formed the basis of Del Bigtree and Andrew Wakefield’s 2016 antivax propaganda film VAXXED and three weeks ago was really going to town with it on Twitter:

Truly, everything old is new again. Also, Matt Carey was doing yeoman’s work refuting antivax BS when Steve Kirsch was just another tech bro.
Seriously, dude, what is this? 2014? 2016?

Truth be told, I hadn’t thought of the CDC whistleblower conspiracy theory for years, even though it was a conspiracy theory whose birth I watched in real time beginning in August 2014. The long version of an explanation of the conspiracy theory and why the CDC whistleblower does not demonstrate that Andrew Wakefield was right after all can be found here. The CliffsNote version follows.

In August 2014 Andrew Wakefield released a video claiming that earlier MMR vaccination is associated with an increased risk of autism in African-American boys and that the CDC had spent the last decade covering up this link that had been found in a 2003 study but not reported properly. These charges are based the result of a “reanalysis” by Brian Hooker published in 2014 in Translational Neurodegeneration entitled Measles-mumps-rubella vaccination timing and autism among young African American boys: a reanalysis of CDC data. The study that Hooker had “reanalyzed” was from a study by DeStefano et al (and of which the “CDC whistleblower” William W. Thomas was a co-author) published in Pediatrics in 2004 entitled Age at first measles-mumps-rubella vaccination in children with autism and school-matched control subjects: a population-based study in metropolitan Atlanta. Note that Hooker’s paper was retracted in October 2014. This “reanalysis” was undertaken as a result of a CDC scientist, William Thompson, having privately expressed concerns to Hooker about in a series of phone calls in which he basically ranted about the study’s principal investigator and CDC leadership for not having done the “proper” analysis. Hooker recorded these phone calls without Thompson’s knowledge, and Wakefield found out about them, leading to a release of a video which described the “coverup” as being akin to the Tuskegee syphilis experiment and the eventual unmasking of the “CDC whistleblower.” Again, none of this, either Thompson’s claims or Hooker’s “reanalysis” of the DeStefano study showed that the MMR vaccine was associated with autism in black boys, but it all became the basis of VAXXED.

As I like to say, antivax conspiracy theories never die. They merely disappear for a while, evolve, and then rise again. I also sometimes like to quote Yoda again with respect to antivax pseudoscience and conspiracy theories, once you start down the dark path (of antivax), forever will it dominate your destiny—consume you it will. I’m watching quite a few “only COVID-19 vaccine” antivaxxers becoming just antivaxxers and being consumed by antivax misinformation. Steve Kirsch is arguably the most rabid of the bunch thus far, which is why I decided to write this post, particularly after learning through a series of exchanges with Kirsch on Twitter and by email that Kirsch had teamed up with Brian Hooker and James Lyons-Weiler, both prominent “old school” prepandemic antivaxxers.

Yoda Antivax warning
Antivaxxers should listen to Yoda. Unfortunately, COVID-19 antivax is the gateway to the Dark Side of just antivax.

Regular readers might remember Steve Kirsch as the tech bro turned antivaxxers who loves challenging critics of COVID-19 quackery and antivax misinformation to live public debates, a common tactic of all manner of cranks ranging from antivaxxers to creationists to climate science deniers and more. Before the pandemic Kirsch was one of two independent inventors of the optical mouse in the 1980s. After that, he started several companies, examples including the search engine Infoseek in the 1990s as well as Frame Technology Corp. (which was purchased by Adobe in 1995) and a company making a spam filter (Abaca) in 2005, becoming quite wealthy over the years. Relevant to COVID-19, early in the pandemic Kirsch founded the COVID-19 Early Treatment Fund (CETF) in order to fund research into off-label treatments for COVID-19 using existing drugs already having FDA approval for other diseases. He donated $1 million himself and solicited donations from others. So far, not so bad, right? It actually wasn’t a bad idea. The problem, however, is that Kirsch didn’t seem to understand how clinical research works and what the failure rate is for testing repurposed drugs for pretty much anything, which made it unsurprising that things started going horribly wrong with Kirsch descending into COVID-19 misinformation and conspiracy theories, in the process becoming what the MIT Technology Review once called a “misinformation superspreader“:

With little government funding available for such work, Kirsch founded the Covid-19 Early Treatment Fund (CETF), putting in $1 million of his own money and bringing in donations from Silicon Valley luminaries: the CETF website lists the foundations of Marc Benioff and Elon Musk as donors. Over the last 18 months, the fund has granted at least $4.5 million to researchers testing the covid-fighting powers of drugs that are already FDA-approved for other diseases. 

That work has yielded one promising candidate, the antidepressant fluvoxamine; other CETF-funded efforts have been less successful. But that’s not a surprise, according to researchers who conducted them: the vast majority of trials for any drug end in failure. 

What has alarmed many of the scientists associated with CETF, though, are Kirsch’s reactions to the work he’s funded—both successes and failures. He’s refused to accept the results of a hydroxychloroquine trial that showed the drug had no value in treating covid, for instance, instead blaming investigators for poor study design and statistical errors. 

He’s also publicly railed against what he claims is a campaign against drugs like fluvoxamine and ivermectin. And, according to three members of CETF’s scientific advisory board, he put pressure on them to promote fluvoxamine for clinical use without conclusive data that it worked for covid.

We can see right away from this account how Kirsch reacts to disconfirming data: He denies it and doubles down, a pattern that we see in him over and over again. Moreover, since then he has only grown increasingly radical. Indeed, this part of the story really resonates because it is a clear precursor of how Kirsch became increasingly antivax. Eventually, CETF’s entire advisory board resigned, no longer wanting to be associated with him and becoming very tired of harangues by Kirsch demanding that they promote fluvoxamine based on a preliminary study, as CETF advisory board member and vice chair of research at the West Virginia University School of Medicine Judith Feinberg described:

But even she was drained by Kirsch’s constant attempts to override the data. “After one or two conversations like that, I got tired of arguing, so I started avoiding his calls,” she said.

To scientists, giving fluvoxamine a chance means running a large trial—not giving it to individual patients in the clinic, off-label and outside the context of active data collection and analysis. The board members I spoke to say they refused to publicly promote any drugs for off-label use and tried to explain to Kirsch that it’s incredibly common for exciting results from small trials to disappear in larger ones.

Avoiding his calls? After just a few email exchanges with him, I can totally sympathize with Dr. Feinberg.

Eventually, in 2021 Kirsch was promoting ivermectin as a miracle cure (with fluvoxamine) for COVID-19. By May 2021 he was that COVID-19 vaccines impair female fertility (they don’t), and by. September 2021 he was falsely claiming that the mRNA vaccines kill more people than they save—150,000 killed by the vaccines—!using some truly risible arguments to claim that grew by May 2022 to a claim that mRNA vaccines have killed over a half a million people while only saving ~25,000.

In retrospect, I suppose that it should have been expected that Kirsch would eventually expand his antivaccine messaging against mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccines to encompass all vaccines, but what surprised me somewhat were the enthusiasm with which he embraced them and how far down the rabbit hole he has gone to generate “evidence” to support his newfound total antivax stance. I mean, he’s even resurrected a variation of the Amish trope that was common in 2005, soon after I had first started my first Blogspot blog. It is a trope that I hadn’t thought of in a very long time, in which he claimed (falsely) that the Amish don’t vaccinated but that “only a handful” of them had died of COVID-19. (Regular readers might recall the false claim that there are “no autistic Amish” because they supposedly didn’t vaccinate.)

In which I am accused of “malicious manipulation” of data to support my agenda

In May, Steve Kirsch publicized what he called “the most important survey I’ve ever done.” It was a survey about vaccines and health problems suffered by children. He was soon touting its results on Twitter:

A number of Twitter users, including myself, tried very hard to explain that an Internet survey run from the Substack of an antivax activist would be, by its very nature, so hopelessly biased that one could predict with near 100% certainty that it would inevitably show that vaccines were associated with autism, autoimmune disease, and a number of other conditions. We also tried to explain to Kirsch that Anthony Mawson’s survey was horribly designed, not evidence that vaccines caused autism, and retracted once. Hooker’s study was no better. So where does the accusation that I somehow “maliciously manipulated” the data in Kirsch’s study come from?

It started with a Tweet in which Kirsch tried to deny that his survey was biased:

And:

So I obliged him:

I was even brutally honest about the effect that I thought my retweeting his poll would have:

Which led to:

And in his Substack Kirsch lamented:

The truth is now so bad for them that they have to stoop to malicious data manipulation techniques. The truth is now so bad for them that they have to stoop to malicious data manipulation techniques. I posted this poll and checked 51 minutes later on the votes and saw a 5:1 odds ratio that vaccines cause autism. This was nearly exactly as I predicted.
Then I suggested Gorski run his own poll.
I just checked on the poll 10 hours after I sent Gorski that message.

Which resulted in:

They flipped it from the vaccine causing autism to the vaccine being the magical cure for autism. This never happens in a poll unless it is being gamed.

Look at my poll now:

This is a stunning reversal from a 5:1 odds ratio (which later went to 6:1) to a 1:2 odds ratio. Basically, people who would normally have no child with autism lied and voted for the first choice so it showed the vaccines are now beneficial.

My polls weren’t gamed in the past.

Today, the opposition is now fielding armies of robot voters to manipulate the truth to support their narrative.

This shows you first hand how low these people will stoop in order to manipulate results that are counter narrative.

The only reaction that I could come up with besides a huge facepalm was: Be careful what you ask for. I also note that this is the one and only time that I’ve ever actually accepted a “challenge” from Mr. Kirsch, and it resulted in exactly what I knew would likely happen. After all, back in the day science advocates would routinely do the same thing to polls posted by creationists as a tactic to show how worthless Internet polls are as a source of actual evidence given how easily they can be influenced by where they are advertised. To be honest, even now, two weeks later, I have no idea if I had that much affect on Mr. Kirsch’s poll by myself. I was far from the only science advocate sharing it. Even so, instead of imbibing the correct lesson from this exercise, namely that his poll was biased and utterly worthless as a source of anything resembling reliable epidemiological data regarding vaccines, autism, and other health outcomes in children, Kirsch leapt to exactly the wrong explanation, namely that his poll had gotten the answer right the first time but had been corrupted by “malicious manipulation.” I’ll repeat again: If your Internet poll’s results can so easily be affected by where it is publicized, it is not a reliable source of objective information about the prevalence of a health condition or its relationship to any purported risk factors.

To top off this incident, Mr. Kirsch emailed me to ask me if I would look over his protocol in order to spot its flaws and improve it. My response was simple. I’d do it if it were a new protocol for which no data had yet been collected. However, if it was a protocol to “analyze” the “data” from his Internet survey above, then my answer would be no, because once data have been collected using a biased and scientifically worthless protocol there is no fixing it. Garbage in, garbage out. Mr. Kirsch never responded to my answer.

Steve Kirsch is now a font of old antivax misinformation

Over the last couple of months, Mr. Kirsch has become a veritable font of antivaccine misinformation of the old school “vaccines cause autism” variety. Skeptical Raptor and Dorit Reiss both addressed some of the most egregious misinformation that he’s been spewing (e.g., claims that vaccines aren’t tested against “true placebos,” a favorite old anti-HPV vaccine and even anti-MMR vaccine trope), but I’d like to conclude with one that he most recently published on his Substack, How can I be so sure that vaccines cause autism? I asked the ONE question that no autism researcher has EVER asked, with a blurb: I asked parents when they first noticed ASD behaviors in their child relative to the time of the NEAREST vaccination visit. The results were stunning.

Actually, they weren’t, but let’s quote Mr. Kirsch anyway:

If vaccines aren’t triggering autism, then the number of times a parent notices autistic behaviors BEFORE a wellness visit where a vaccine is given should be comparable to the number of times AFTER the visit.

I asked 642 parents who had previously reported having an autistic child in previous surveys to fill out my survey. I received 273 responses.

58 parents reported first seeing autistic behaviors within a month AFTER a vaccine appointment.

0 parents reported first seeing autistic behaviors within a month BEFORE a vaccine appointment.

This is stunning. It is highly unlikely you’ll get a disparity like this if vaccines aren’t triggering autism. It’s about the same as the chance of throwing a fair coin 58 times and getting all heads: 1 chance in 2.8e17 which is about as close to impossible as you will ever find in nature.

But the more stunning thing is that no autism researcher in the world has ever even thought to ask such a question. Ever.

Again, this is the same survey; so its results are, by its design, inherently hopelessly biased, unrepresentative of the general population, and scientifically worthless. Again, Kirsch’s audience clearly skews heavily antivax, perhaps with a smattering of science advocates like me who only read his drivel in order to stay informed about the latest antivaccine misinformation, and he is way too enamored of this single result. Why would this result be uninformative or even outright meaningless. The answer is simple: confirmation bias.

This is the problem with relying on anecdotes over data collected according to a protocol designed to be scientifically rigorous and thereby avoid bias as much as is humanly possible. Human memory is fallible, and, as was discussed on science and medicine blogs many times before back around 2007, parents tend to remember what conforms to their current beliefs and forget (or downplay in their memory) what does not. None of that stopped Kirsch from emailing me (and I had warned him that his emails were fair game for blogging after a certain date):

You look at the time the parent first noticed autistic behaviors relative to the most recent vaccination date.

It’s a 1:20 odds ratio for before:after! It’s really stunning.

Isn’t a shame NOBODY will do this???

It would expose the truth.

My response was simple and blunt:

Funny how you keep discovering antivax claims that were debunked a long time ago and then regurgitate them as though they were brand new.

Also, the vast majority of these claims of children “regressing” after vaccination are cases of confirmation bias. For a number of these cases, we have evidence that the child had been showing signs of ASD before the vaccines blamed by the parents for their regression. I recall one case where there was video evidence but can’t find the link right now, and Brian Hooker’s story is full of holes, as was discussed years and years ago by science communicators and advocates:

https://leftbrainrightbrain.co.uk/2016/07/07/double-checking-brian-hookers-story-in-vaxxed

https://www.skepticalraptor.com/skepticalraptorblog.php/brian-hooker-vaccine-injury-claim-denied

Sadly, truth be told, human memory is very fallible and malleable. It is quite common for parents to blame vaccines for their child’s regression or just autism even though the child had been showing signs of it before vaccination. Lest you think that it can’t be “coincidence,” it can, as was demonstrated in 2016, with an additional explanation why most anecdotes are worthless for proving causation:

https://thelogicofscience.com/2016/06/28/why-are-there-so-many-reports-of-autism-following-vaccination-a-mathematical-assessment

https://thelogicofscience.com/2016/02/10/5-reasons-why-anecdotes-are-totally-worthless

Also, your “survey” is not a representative sample, as you yourself demonstrated when you challenged me to share it and my Twitter followers answers changed the results and eliminated the correlation. Dude, you are so bad at this it isn’t even funny anymore. It’s just pathetic.

If you think I’m too “nasty,” please remember that Kirsch has been intermittently emailing me for a while with his “challenges,” to the point where they have become tiresome and annoying.

How many times have we heard the story of a mother who is utterly convinced that her child’s regression started right after vaccines but then, when her story is more closely examined, that is found not to be the case? Another example came to mind after this email exchange. In the Autism Omnibus hearings, an expert examined videotapes of the child of one of the claimants (Michelle Cedillo) at ages 6-8 months submitted by the parents to prove that their child had been fine before vaccines. Sadly, the expert saw clear signs of autism in these videotapes, as well as signs of the parents adjusting their behavior to her. It is unsurprising that Kirsch was unaware of this background, as he is a newbie to the vaccine-autism conspiracy theory, but he really did embarrass himself acting as though he had discovered something new. No doubt he will react as other antivaxxers have reacted to such observations and accuse me of attacking parents as liars, when nothing could be further from the truth. Confirmation bias is a powerful force in human memory. We are all prone to it and all experience it. It takes active effort to counter it, which post of us do not do.

Last week, Kirsch became angry at something that I Tweeted and issued yet another one of his “challenges”:

Oh, dear. Whatever would I do if Steve blocked me? Also, note the short window for a response. It’s almost as though he was just looking for an excuse to block me.

Later:

With that simple act, Steve Kirsch made my Twitter timeline significantly better and less annoying. As is my longstanding policy on Twitter, as soon as I became aware that Kirsch had blocked me, I blocked him back, lest he change his mind.

I note that the four hour time window appears to have encompassed a weekday evening and that he even appears to have given me more like six hours. I remember that evening. As happens so often on weeknights, I had fallen asleep on the couch and, as a result, wasn’t on Twitter until I got up early the next morning to go to the gym before work. It was no loss. No doubt Mr. Kirsch will harass me again by email someday when the mood strikes him.

What happened to Steve Kirsch?

When I started this post, I had planned on going through a larger number of hoary antivax tropes from 15+ years ago that Kirsch has been digging out of the muck, wiping off, and selling them as new to the “new school” antivaxxers who make up most of his readership, but then I decided that it wasn’t necessary, particularly after Skeptical Raptor and Dorit Reiss had done it recently. Instead, relating this story led me to wonder: WTF happened to Steve Kirsch? Was he always like this and no one noticed, or did he somehow become this way?

The answer, I suspect, is a combination of both. Whenever asking why people fall so far down the rabbit hole of antivaccine misinformation, I often like to remind everyone that every human being is vulnerable to a similar tendency and to remind myself that it could happen to me, too, although it would likely be different conspiracy theories and pseudoscience given how long I have combatted antivax misinformation. Conspiracy theories appeal to us because they make us feel important and heroic; We are the chosen few with hidden knowledge facing “persecution” for spreading The Truth. It’s very much like religion that way.

In Kirsch’s case, although I can’t speak to what he was like before the pandemic, the indications were there very early on after COVID-19 hit and he started CETF. At the time, it was clear that he just wanted to help by encouraging research into repurposed drugs that might be useful against COVID-19, a not unreasonable strategy. What tripped him up, as is often the case, was a combination of ignorance and arrogance. His ignorance came from not knowing how often repurposed drugs fail rigorous clinical testing against a new disease even when it seems as though they should work, or, more pertinently, how often the ultimately fail after initial promising preliminary results (e.g., the case of fluvoxamine). His arrogance came in not listening to the actual experts who tried to caution him how often repurposed drugs fail validation in clinical trials and not to get to excited about initial promising results with fluvoxamine. That same arrogance led him not to accept negative clinical trials of hydroxychloroquine.

Indeed, even in 2021, when asked about his bucking the experts, Kirsch said:

“When you need to characterize me, you need to say that Steve Kirsch doesn’t go with majority votes on interpreting data,” he told me when I asked about his views on ivermectin, which he insists is a silver bullet against covid. “If you wanna find someone to debate me for ten thousand dollars, or a thousand dollars, I’m happy to do that, just for your benefit.”

These days, anyone who follows Kirsch on Twitter or reads his Substack knows that he’s been offering $5 million to or betting $5 million to challenge anyone who can prove to him that vaccines don’t cause autism, while challenging anyone who contradicts him to “debate” him and his antivax “experts.” It is a pathetic scene, really, but revealing. Kirsch appears to equate confidence in one’s views with correctness, which leads him to conclude that anyone who won’t debate him or accept his bets over evidence regarding vaccine safety must be wrong because they lack sufficient confidence in the science to accept his challenges.

Indeed, Richard Char, general counsel of M10, the latest company founded by Kirsch and one from which he ended up stepping down as CEO after his antivax advocacy had become a distraction, was quoted saying:

He is very smart, and knows that he is very smart, and sometimes he behaves like he thinks he’s the smartest guy in the room, whether he is or isn’t.

These days, I would say that Mr. Char is being too charitable. Mr. Kirsch is not coming across as very smart to me these days, even if he genuinely does believe he is saving the world. However, he clearly does believe he is the smartest guy in the room, which has apparently led him to think that he can master clinical trials, autism, vaccine science, epidemiology, and survey design by himself or with the help of a few crank scientists like Brian Hooker. Part of this might also be fueled by his experience as a cancer patient:

Saving the world has been a theme of Kirsch’s life for years. “There are two ways I’ve discovered that I may be able to save the world,” he told an IEEE Spectrum reporter in 2000. “One is to reduce the threat of nuclear war. Another is to identify an asteroid that is going to hit the planet.” 

His efforts became more focused on medical research when, in 2007, he was diagnosed with a rare blood cancer. His foundation shifted focus to one goal—curing Steve Kirsch—by supporting one of the few scientists looking at the disease. After several failed attempts to stop the progression of his disease, he designed his own protocol for chemotherapy and doctor-shopped to find an oncologist who would give it to him. He’s now outlived his initial prognosis by several years.

Thus, a combination of wanting to save the world plus having apparently been right once—or, far more likely, just very lucky—about a medical issue appear to have led him to believe that he’s right now about early treatments for COVID-19 and mRNA-based vaccines, even though in this case he clearly is not. It’s a shame. Someone with his drive and apparent smarts could have done so much good. Instead, he’s contributing to fear and distrust of not just COVID-19 vaccines but now all vaccines, thus endangering the lives of everyone.

Indeed, just yesterday, he asked, Will you help me to redpill America? In the Substack post, he is asking:

Here’s something you can do right now that can really make a huge difference.

Call up your pediatrician and ask her to publish the 1 month autism before:after odds ratio for her practice on their Twitter feed like this: “Our 1 month AOR is 0:10.”

Nobody will know what that means except for us.

They can do it just for the most recent N patients that were diagnosed with autism where they choose N. So this can take as little as a few minutes of their time (e.g., N=5).

The one month before:after odds ratio is simply <# of families who noticed a dramatic overnight change in the behavior of their child consistent with ASD less than 1 month before the closest vaccine shot> : .

Once these numbers are published, it’s all over.

And they cannot be punished for publishing truthful information as long as they make no further comment about it. Leave that to me.

He truly doesn’t seem to realize that this would be hopelessly biased because the only physicians likely to be willing to respond to his challenge as relayed to them by patients who read Kirsch’s blog are likely to be overwhelmingly antivax. He just refuses to believe that uncontrolled Internet polls and reporting campaigns like this are not valid methods for determining the prevalence of any condition or whether any purported risk factor for that condition might actually be causative.

He is simply too arrogant and ignorant to learn, and as a result instead of being remembered for to find early treatments for COVID-19 his legacy will be to be remembered as one of the more prominent and wild spreaders of conspiracy theories and misinformation about COVID-19 and vaccines.

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]

122 replies on “Steve Kirsch: From anti-COVID vaccine to irredeemably bonkers antivax”

I find it amusing how antivaxers and fearmongers love to quote the highest autism prevalence estimates (or in this case, even inflate them) while omitting that a large percentage of these would not have been recognized as such (and thus, would not have been fearmongered about) even near the end of the 20th Century when it was just discovered that mild, absent, or fully overcome language delays were not exceptional and did not entail either never having or having outgrown autism.

It’s also interesting how much play the vaccine hypothesis has gotten over time vs how little other fringe ideas such as the TV hypothesis (“virtual autism”) have gotten. In fact, I only heard about the latter last year from a mother on social media whose 2 year old was showing signs and then started to talk more after a long TV hiatus. (But again, overcoming a speech delay does not mean overcoming autism, it only means reducing support needs somewhat.) My anecdotal experience did not match that idea either. While I did find that cutting TV helped reduce tantrums over not understanding or appreciating why the TV had to be shut off sometimes (and, therefore, complaints from nosy neighbors, without which she might not have had her rare early diagnosis), my daughter’s speech and communication began improving before her 3 month TV hiatus and continued improving afterwards as she began to use TV phrases and scenes as templates for communication and imagination a la Abed Nadir. I guess vaccines just freak people out in a way preschool cartoons never will. Unless you’re Amish or Hasidic Jewish or something. And guess what? They have autism too.

Lyons-Weiler did a hoary interview last week with Vaccine Choice Canada (likely to find more marks to con by claiming Canadian children are even more “toxic” from aluminum in vaccines than US children) where he mentioned he’s doing a survey on vaccines with Kirsch. It’s amazing how there is no bottom to this hole of idiocy they’ve fallen into.

I looked into this when my kid was of jab age 2008. I looked at VAERs reports which were mostly recorded quite close to the event. I concluded that autism was probably a rare side effect of the vaccine schedule currently being administered. I say probably because we’ll never really know because those interested in pushing vaccines are not really interested in knowing. The typical recorded side effect that sparked my curiosity was encephalopathy – which can and does cause brain damage. I was also horrified at the system of corruption that is the FDA+CDC+state regulators; the revolving doors and adding to the childhood schedule for no apparent benefit. We vaccinated on a modified and reduced schedule. After this pandemic and how much it revealed the depth of confirmation bias and/or corruption of this machine, I think I may do it differently and not vaccinate.m if I had it to do over.

Once you know someone’s a cheater and a liar then you’re not sure when the cheating began and can’t rely on their representations of such. (Did it start with gaming efficacy numbers? Lying about transmission? Lying about virus origins? Lying about masks? Or the polio vaccine many years before?) so it invalidates the entire relationship. Worse yet do they think they can get away with through abuse/coercion? This is where I and many others are at with public health.

You’re an abusive cheating, gaslighting spouse and we’re not sure if you were ever good.

In other words, you reap what you sow.

Did it start with gaming efficacy numbers? Lying about transmission? Lying about virus origins? Lying about masks? Or the polio vaccine many years before?

You have reliable proof those things occurred, right? Because if not then you’re just posing questions about things that have no basis in reality, only in your imagination and conspiracy theories.

Given your history my money is on the “Because if not then…” portion of the above.

Babies are dying in Chile right now for lack of vaccines considered safe and effective enough to give babies against the kinds of old school bad colds my own Chilean kid was hospitalized for…coincidentally just around the time she showed her first sign of autism (diminished eye contact).

If They ™ didn’t give a care about babies, the military adenovirus shots and the experimental RSV shots would be given to those babies. But nope, vaccine makers want to actually have high confidence that the risk of harm is next to nothing (statistically insignificant) compared to the risk of the bug itself.

I think my kid will suffer far less being mildly autistic than if there were more bugs around to hospitalize her (or worse). I wouldn’t change a thing. And after 2 years of speech therapy and preschool, it’s highly doubtful that her continued grammar and social responsiveness issues are purely caused by lockdowns and masks. If anything, I have lockdowns to thank for her early diagnosis and expanded support options beyond just speech therapy, via her tantrums freaking out a nosy neighbor during them.

Funny you should say. The RSV shots have been approved now by the FDA – despite that 12 infants in the trial died. FDA found there was “no connection” to the experimental vaccines. You see, where there is exactly ZERO liability to the manufacturer for injuries from the product, there is exactly zero incentive to make sure the shots are safe. The likes of Pfizer et al. are not moral entities. They, in fact, are serial felons ($4.7 billion in fines for an ongoing pattern of deeply corrupt practices). IT (Pfizer) has shown us that IT does not care if children die. Liability would make it care — why is there none? If its products were so safe, then liability would not be such a threat.

As for the FDA & CDC, they are now merely extensions of the manufacturers, so corrupted and conflicted are they by the industry they are supposed to regulate. They simply do not regulate. They green light under all circumstances. They have never seen a vaccine they do not like — interesting, right? Since vaccines are the sole drug product that enjoys such blanket liability protection. FDA/CDC have forfeited their regulatory role to participate in the lucrative profits of being willing participants. It’s too shocking for most people to countenance. But look behind the thin veil and it’s all there to see. Plain and clear.
RSV: https://twitter.com/ChildrensHD/status/1668331977391460352?s=20
9 years ago – before Pharma owned the news media, a story that you should watch, speaking to the deep conflicts of interest by FDA vaccine experts who vote to approve new vaccines: https://twitter.com/catsscareme2021/status/1668757354421137411?s=61

It’s the only product in the world where people think it makes sense if the manufacturer isn’t liable for injury. If a car company sold cars and every 1/800k injured the driver, the expectation would be 1) probably shouldn’t by the car and 2) the car company should pay. It’s remarkable how the vaxxers use fear/distorted risk perception to brainwash people into being illogical.

To further clarify, the trial had many thousands in the trial. Not sure how many of the 12 did or did not have the vaccine (someone may verify), but it seems the deaths were similar in both groups. To cap it all, about 100,000 children die each year from rsv.

“product in the world where people think it makes sense if the manufacturer isn’t liable for injury”

On the other hand, you could get an easy hand out from the VICP if the injury is already a known possible side effect.

If it’s NOT a known possible side effect, then exactly who have you got who can prove that it is, in a court of law, facing the very rich and experienced pharmaceutical company lawyers? Or are you working on the ‘facts aren’t important, the best gobshite will win’ ethos? In which case you’re a money grabbing scumbag who’s willing to threaten the lives of hundreds of thousands of people just to get a payout.

Come to think of it. Isn’t that exactly what you accuse the pharmaceutical companies of doing?

Antivaxers can repeat the “manufacturers aren’t liable” mantra ad nauseum, and they do.

In addition to awards in the federal vaccine court paid for by vaccine makers (which antivaxers trumpet, when they aren’t claiming that manufacturers have no liability). manufacturers can be sued in state courts for non-design-related issues, such as alleged production defects.

LaBarge almost certainly knows this, but spreads falsehoods anyway.

From CNBC

Twelve infants who received nirsevimab in the trials died. None of these deaths were related to the antibody, according to the FDA’s review.

Four died from cardiac disease, two died from gastroenteritis, two died from unknown causes but were likely cases of sudden infant death syndrome, one died from a tumor, one died from Covid, one died from a skull fracture and one died of pneumonia.

Hitchens’s razor: “What can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence.”

Actual evidence required from reputable sources. Twitter does not count. Nor does anything connected to Bobby Kennedy Jr.

Let’s start with the fact that the RSV vaccine is not, at this point, under liability protection – and may not be, because to get under any liability protection Congress will need to approve an excise tax.

Then we can move to the fact that as you mention, some of the thousands of infants in the trials died. Both in the vaccine and in the placebo group – actually, more in the placebo. Here is the report.

https://www.fda.gov/media/169228/download

Note that these are deaths up to 360 days – almost a year – post the first dose.

And that the causes of deaths are listed, from p. 94, and explain the investigators concluded they were unrelated.

Your leaders, in the tweet above, did not tell you that there were thousands of infants in the trials, that there appear to have been equivalent deaths in the placebo group, and that the causes were investigated.

That’s how they mislead you.

They also assume you will not have the ability – or inclination – to fact check them.

Which you did not.

They do not even respect you enough to mislead in ways that are hard to check on.

So she’s a lawyer who lies, is misled by another lawyer who lies, and hasn’t got the decency to come back and say “sorry, I didn’t know that”, her kind are misleading (lying) ordinary people who have died from covid when there was (and is) a safe and effective vaccine….she should stick to being a yoga instructor.

Ps: Igor, la barge….shut the fuq up.

Yes, this particular person is a piece of work. A lawyer turned yoga instructor and now professional vaccine liar. She is a “vaccine researcher” only in the context of making sure kids do not get protected from several nasty diseases. No actual biology education required.

As someone who had to deal with a six month old infant with chicken pox a year before the varicella vaccine was available, and earlier the seizures an older brother got as a toddler with rotavirus… I assume anyone who is thinks kids should get diseases instead of vaccine is a sadistic child hater.

I despise anyone who thinks a child should suffer from a disease instead of getting a safe vaccine. Especially if they are lawyers or engineers (which includes most tech bros).

“exactly ZERO liability to the manufacturer for injuries from the product, there is exactly zero incentive to make sure the shots are safe”

Not strictly true. If the vaccine is produced correctly and is as approved then you can go the VICP route for known possible adverse events. I believe you can go higher after this if you’re not happy. If the vaccine is manufactured incorrectly, then you can sue direct.

Maybe you should ask RFK Jr how much it costs. He’s been involved in a few direct actions against pharmaceutical companies. Wonder how he got on?

Wonder how he got on?

In May, his attempt to maintain a venue-shopping grip on this case to the notorious Judge Kacsmaryk sort of failed.

So, what deaths occurred in the placebo arms of these three clinical trials of nirsevimab? Were the number of deaths in vaccine and placebo groups comparable? What underlying conditions might these infants have had (remember that some of the trials took place in poorer countries, where RSV is an especially serious problem)?

(crickets)

I’d wager that very few of the antivaxers flogging this story know that nirsevimab is not a vaccine. Even fewer know or care that 100-500 infants die every year in the U.S. from RSV infection, and that the annual death toll globally can be as high as 200,000*.

*but they’re _foreign_ babies, so no big deal. /sarcasm

CHD did not give any llnk of course, I dd not find AstraZeneca vaccine, but there is a antiviral. You check deaths in placebo group and compre them with antiviral/vaccine group
Where are CDC’s and FDA’s lucrative vaccine profits ? CDC does not regulate and FDA does reject vaccines:
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/03/04/world/fda-bharat-biotech-vaccine.html
If you are into CH, you you should know that Robert Kennedy Jr sues vaccine manufacturers all the time.

That too. The neurons just grow and connect differently, in such a way that at an age where most kids are increasing their nonverbal communication skills and desire to use them, autistic kids are usually decreasing them and instead taking interest in peculiar sensory details of their environments and/or their own body’s movements. No “damage” involved.

There are of course hundreds of studies of vaccines and autism and many, not financed by big pharma about vaccines and transmission and masks. Because resuls are not your liking, you claim corrruption.
II A happens after B does not mean that A is caused by B.

In other news, geographers have discovered countries which are not, in fact, the USA and were shocked to find (shocked! Shocked, I tell you!) that they have regulatory authorities which are not the FDA and CDC, who can reach decisions based on evidence and pay no heed to what happens in the US…

” I concluded that autism was probably a rare side effect of the vaccine schedule currently being administered”

Which even scientists in the field cannot do from VAERS, so you certainly can’t.

Did you think you could stroll onto the sands of the arena with your white hot wit and incisive analysis, give your best Maximus Decimus Meridius pose and proclaim “Are you not enlightened”?

“Many others”

Keep dreaming.

“Polio”

Dafuq are on about now??

“Liars, not interested, omission, other bullshit.”

This seems to be your go-to charge. I AM interested in the safety of every intervention involving my patients. I care deeply for them and I swore an oath. If I had any evidence contracting the CDC or the WHO, I would ignore their recommendations out of concern for my patients’ well-being. We are not robots.

As usual, you can go f*ck yourself.

Kirsch just keeps diving deeper into the antivax septic tank.

Now he’s touting a book titled “VACCINATION Proved Useless & Dangerous” – from 1889! Steve is wildly enthusiastic about it, saying it proves smallpox vaccination “didn’t save any lives at all”.

This past few days Steve apparently was in Pennsylvania, on a gig to promote his claim that the Amish have been largely untouched by Covid-19 (the opposite is true) and finding some dingbat legislators to preach to.

The “debate me, bro!” shtick keeps taking on new twists and permutations as Steve maneuvers to dodge those who’ve shown a willingness to debate him. He’s specified that opponents must have a certain h-index, that a Q&A format be mandatory, and god knows what other jive to try to tilt the rules in his favor and duck out if the going looks tough. Documentation of how Steve weasels out of genuine debate challenges (including the hilarious excuse that he was distracted by efforts to prove his contentions about autism).

https://twitter.com/SkepticJonGuy/status/1665071657491234816

I’m sure that his H-index is higher (at least 9). But using H-index is a strange why to measure impact, as it has nothing to do with the quality of citations or how the paper is cited.

Only one of Kirsch’s publications has anything to do with vaccines, medicine or biology. This ‘paper’ was published in the Gazzette of Medical Science, by James A. Thorp, Thomas Renz, Christiane Northrup, Charles Lively, Peter Breggin, Richard Bartlett, Neil Karrow, James Welsh, Phil Euell, Ryan Cole, Jeff Childers, Bryan Ardis, Benjamin Marble, Eric Feintuch, Daniel Nagase, Richard Urso, Paul E Merik, Peter A. McCullough. This papers has been cited 4 times, with 3 of those papers published in the ‘International Journal of Vaccine Theory, Practice, and Research’ (and those papers were only cited by other papers that were also published in the IPVTPR) and one by Turni and Lefringhausen (in Journal of Clinical & Experimental Immunology).

I did look up Kirsch’s profile on Google Scholar, where his H index is 7. Google Scholar tends to inflate your H index, because it includes citations in the grey literature and on websites. It gives mine as 57.

Increasingly our bean counters are focussing on citations rather than publications in high impact journals. It makes some sense, as it does indicate whether people are reading your work. It can and is gamed.

Last I knew, there are genetic factors which contribute to the development of ASDs, and the first neurological changes take place in utero. Further, the most obvious signs appear at about one year of age – right around the time of a certain set of vaccinations. What is so hard to understand about this?

I think it’s less that the current scientific understanding of autism is hard to understand than that the quack promises of ways to “cure” or prevent it are hard for some people to resist believing. Even raising a low support autistic kid, even if you have autism or “a few traits” yourself (and as an ADHDer I find it hard to know when to shut up and how and when to focus on what most of the world expects you to), is not easy. Parents worry about their kids’ future. Some even go so far as to try to plan their kids’ future out, which I think is foolish even if you have no history of special needs in your family. Worried parents are easy marks, regardless of their kids’ neurotypes…remember the Baby Einstein and prenatal Mozart crazes for parents who wanted their kids to be “smarter” so they could grow up with fancy job options?

@ John Robert LaBarge

You just keep ignoring what Orac, myself, and others have written about VAERS. It is at best a list of suspects. And with advent of more and more antivax organizations, etc. good evidence some reports totally fake. You ignore Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc, simply that just because something follows something else doesn’t mean causes (a really stupid example would be teen drivers and automobile accidents, namely, get flu shot around time get license, so, obviously then chance of accidents) and you ignore that there are much much better datasets for evaluating vaccines; e.g., Vaccine Safety Datalink, which is connected to medical records of over 11 million people, including age, gender, comorbidities, vaccine given, including lot number, dose, and date, etc.

You also ignore that numerous studies have found autism develops in fetus. These studies include young children who tragically died and their brains were studied. What was found is that the arrangement of parts of brain could only have occurred while fetus. Other studies of toddlers, especially prior to vaccines, have found behaviors that “predict” autism. Autism can only be diagnosed accurately after a certain age; but precursor behaviors; e.g., eye focus, repetitive actions, etc. can be noticed at earlier ages.

You have NEVER answered the simple question of why you continue to believe you are right as opposed to literally 10s of thousands of experts around the world. Have you studied neurology, immunology, etc, any relevant subject??? NOPE.

This is a small thing, but I was wondering about the first picture he used, and reverse imaged it. It’s apparently a Shutterstock picture titled “cheerful boy with disability at rehabilitation center for kids with special needs.” There is nothing to say the disability is autism. It’s hard not to escape the impression that Mr. Kirsch was looking for a picture to portray children with autism in a particular way (and it’s always frustrating when they pick on a happy moment for a child with a disability to do so). It feels like ableism.

https://www.shutterstock.com/image-photo/cheerful-boy-disability-rehabilitation-center-kids-524271736

I think Orac captured really well that all the things that made Mr. Kirsch the anti-vaccine activist he is now were visible in his handling of the early treatment foundation. He has not changed.

Also, I think we need to remember that Mr. Kirsch himself is vaccinated. He got the mRNA vaccines he is maligning to his followers. And I suspect his own children are vaccinated against the disease he is working to set his followers up for.

If you check the twitter thread, there are many, many people asking why he used a picture of a child with CP for a post about autism. It’s just further proof that you scratch an antivaxxer’s surface and reveal ableism.

Proof: author of #1 paper showing no link between vaccines and autism is corrupt

Rats, I guessed Poul Thorsen, but it turned out to be Hviid.

Yeah, Kirsch started harassing Hviid a month or two ago, after he’d discovered that paper. It is rather strange that he seems not to have discovered Poul Thorsen yet.

Steve Kirsch is totally losing it on Twitter.

Steve is very very upset with a certain DrCanuck for claiming that he won a typically convoluted Kirschian “challenge” having to do with a vaxed/unvaxed study. This DrCanuck is said to be insisting on being paid the $1,000 challenge prize, but Steve says his claims of having won are “malicious and false allegations” and is enlisting his followers to discover DrCanuck’s identity so that Steve can get legal papers served on him for whatever tort may be involved.* Ultimately this could result in a U.S.-Canada border dispute in which ambassadors to both countries will be asked to surrender their passports.

https://twitter.com/stkirsch/status/1668339944144904193

One contributor to the thread has helpfully posted a link to Orac’s Kirsch article, which probably has not enhanced Steve’s mood.

*cynics might question whether legal threats are intended to discourage anyone else from participating in Kirsch’s “challenges”, so as to allow Steve hollow claims of victory.

Sometimes you really have to wonder if someone has suffered some kind of breakdown and truly needs help.

cynics might question whether legal threats are intended to discourage anyone else from participating in Kirsch’s “challenges”, so as to allow Steve hollow claims of victory.

This is normal crank behaviour. When you don’t have the evidence on your side, you spend time trying to shut up those who do.

In their normal way, cranks start projecting this behaviour on their opponents.

Steve is very very upset with a certain DrCanuck for claiming that he won a typically convoluted Kirschian “challenge” having to do with a vaxed/unvaxed study.

Kirsch did this sort of challenge twice in a few weeks* over at the Raptor’s place. Once over there being no post-licensing studies of vaccines in the US and the second time over no HPV vaccine studies with a saline placebo. On both occasions, I was able to find papers in 5 minutes of looking. Arrogance has bred overconfidence in Kirsch. He never checks whether his claims are true before issuing his challenges.

*Somewhat oddly, Kirsch created a new account for the second effort. I don’t know if he forgot his password or if the previous account had become an embarrassment.

Sounds like the ‘one true study’ gambit. Any idea what paper Dr Canuck cited for him?
Taylor et al should have put this to bed but it’s a meta-analysis and Kirsch is demanding one single study with enough power for a vaxxed-unvaxxed comparison and he also wants the data broken down in his just-before/just-after boxes.

Looks like an exercise in moving the goalposts.

A placebo study would have some big law suits by those who had family members who had the placebo and then died. Even so, that study has already been done with over 2 years of data. 1 group took up vaccinated, less deaths. Other group refused vaccines, more deaths. So kirsch wants to sacrifice a placebo group in order not to believe the results anyway.

The trick to warding off successful “challenges” is to put in so many conditions and caveats that no one can fulfill them all. And then to ensure “victory”, require your own panel of alleged experts to make a final ruling.

RFK Jr. and Robert DeNiro showed Kirsch the way, back when they did their $100,000 vaccine challenge re thimerosal.

When you’re new to the game it’s easy to overlook these crucial steps.

Thank you. That’s quite likely. I hadn’t run across that study before. It predates the autism concern movement, but it does have a timeline of when effects were reported. I didn’t see any prior to vaccine records though. Interestingly, the effects reported did NOT include autism!

A couple things occurred to me about Kirsch. First, his training and previous work were in areas (electrical engineering and computer programming) where you can envision an end product and manipulate your work to produce that product. If it doesn’t work for some reason, you can generally find some flaw or limitation of your product to fix that.

But biology and medicine don’t work that way. You can do some tests and hope that a product will have the desired clinical effect. But often biology doesn’t cooperate and it doesn’t work at all or not as well as needed. And it’s far from clear how to tweak the product to make it work better.

Also, he doesn’t show a real sense of curiosity. If I invested a lot of money in a field I had no expertise in, I would want to learn at least a fair amount of top level information about that field so I could evaluate if my investment was being used to good effect. And I would try to establish a cooperative relationship with the principle workers and try to get detailed discussions of how the work was going. Instead, Kirsch seems to have taken an adversarial approach and all the main investigators quit.

And now that he’s openly writing about Covid-19 and vaccines, he doesn’t show that curiosity either. He could read some of the research literature and ask questions of the people who have offered to debate him. I’m sure they would be glad to explain things. But instead he makes assertions based on bad research and then challenges them to debate and “prove” he is wrong. And he puts on blinders to insist that proof come in the form he chooses so he can ignore any other evidence.

Also, BTW, didn’t the original KIGGS survey give an estimate of autism in the totally unvaccinated population? Does anyone have the link for that? I haven’t been able to find it with a Pubmed search.

@ squirrelelite
Try
Robert Koch Institut KiGGS pdf
There’s lots more in German if you can read

Also Anjali Jain et al 2015 JAMA

I interacted with one autistic individual a while ago. A very nice and intelligent person with high IQ and interpersonal issues.

I believe that the entire “vaccines cause autism” talk is a total canard. Vaccines do not cause autism because children are born autistic, or born NOT autistic.

If vaccines cause something, it should be called brain damage and not autism. All my attempts to figure out if they do so (without trusting certain sources) ran into lack of data.

The general trend affecting anti-Covid vax circles is that antivaxxers won. The Covid vaccine is pretty much gone and over. Almost no one takes it. So anti-Covid-vax people are now trying to find relevance as they have audiences but need to find old topics.

With sadness, I observe a lot of people trying to jump sharks and becoming more extreme.

In addition, following conspiracies is mentally difficult and affects mental health. I see many people affected by that. I try very hard not to be affected.

Now vaccines cause brain damage. How exactly does that happen?
What parts of the brain are affected?

Denice, I am totally not sold on the story that “vaccines cause autism”. I never propagandized that sort of thing.

If you look in the VAERs db there are lots of reports of encephalitis proximate to vaccines in children. Many of these cases paid out compensation. I don’t think it’s a stretch that such reactions could cause autism and if you look into it, encephalitis is linked to autism like symptoms. That said, it’s not clear that it’s from a specific vaccine or the childhood schedule. The rates of such incidents were lower the farther back you go (I got my vaccines in the 80s and the schedule and the rates were way different) (and the farther back you go the more different the childhood schedule (less vaccines and less at the same time). For me it’s the complete lack of curiosity and the sociopathy of the companies involved that further support the notion that it hasn’t been sufficiently studied. Based on the character of the companies, their propensity to lie and then considering all the lies during the covid era, I would opt for a strong presumption that there are some safety issues with childhood vaccines and/or the schedule that either that community isn’t interested in looking into or worse knows about and isn’t telling us. That’s why I say we can’t know for sure, but I’d take the presumption that the childhood vaccine schedule in the US can cause autism in rare cases. None of this is to say that vaccines don’t or can’t work or that some set of vaccines isn’t appropriate. Rather it’s based on the apparent corruption of the industry and their distorting/bias of risk/benefit always in favor of jabs and more jabs that coincides with money and more money. I think we’re on our own to do our own research and make the best choice we can just like processed food safety and other medical/safety recommendations that are made by US authorities that are distorted through conflicts and corruption. Look into foods that European countries ban that we don’t.

Autism-like symptoms? I checked out the list of encephalitis symptoms in kids on the website below and found only two symptoms that are common (but not universal, as they are variations on broader issues) in autism: sensitivity to light (but in autism it could be any over- or under-reaction to any sensory stimulus) and difficulty talking (but some autistics are early or on-time talkers and have only non-verbal communication problems).
https://www.childrenshospital.org/conditions/encephalitis

Nowhere are nonverbal communication delays nor repetitive behaviors mentioned ib the symptom list for encephalitis, and autism is not correctly diagnosed in the DSM-5 without those two “core” symptoms. Responsible autism diagnosing involves asking parents about early signs most parents don’t know about unless they are autism-support professionals or already have a diagnosis in the family. I had no idea before my daughter’s diagnostic process, for instance, that dragging your parents to the fridge when you’re hungry or thirsty was a sign of anything more than a speech delay. (I now suppose a kid with just a speech delay would have looked, babbled, and pointed to the fridge – resorting to such extreme measures implies trouble with body language.)

But of course, prejudiced and uninformed people like Kirsch, who used a stock photo of a kid with cerebral palsy for a discussion about autism, do not care about the differences between “infamous” and sometimes-severe developmental disorders.

“The general trend affecting anti-Covid vax circles is that antivaxxers won.”

Yawn, umm, no….the general trend in anti covid vax circles is a lot of them would still be alive if vaccinated.

Igor: “The Covid vaccine is pretty much gone and over. Almost no one takes it.”

I’m reminded of Yogi Berra describing a restaurant: “Nobody goes there anymore, it’s too crowded.”

Sorry antivaxer. Even though uptake has declined from its pandemic peak, there will be a robust market for Covid vaccines for a long time. It’s anticipated that Covid vaccination will become a once-yearly affair like flu vaccination – and the emergence of combination shots against multiple respiratory viruses will make it more convenient for people to get them. Longer-lasting and broader immunity to Covid is also on the horizon.

“Pfizer is adding another strain of mRNA in its new shot that will broaden that T-cell response.”

“The strain will specifically trigger an increase in T-cells against other parts of the coronavirus called non-spike proteins. Those T-cells, in addition to the ones generated against the spike protein, will provide protection against “all corners of Covid’s viral landscape,” according to (Pfizer’s) Dolsten.”

“Non-spike proteins also mutate slower than the spike protein, which means that any T-cells generated against them will likely protect against a wide range of Covid variants.”

http://cnbc.com/2023/05/22/covid-vaccines-pfizer-moderna.html

Antivaxers are going to have to work twice as hard to convince people through memes like “Died Suddenly”, once it’s realized that the prediction of mass depopulation has flopped.

==> Non-spike proteins also mutate slower than the spike protein, which means that any T-cells generated against them will likely protect against a wide range of Covid variants

They mutate slower precisely because no vaccine targeted them.

My only hope is that this “multiple-epitope vaccine” will end up being ignored by the public, so its ill effect will be limited.

Igor displays characteristic Igor-ance.

It is loathsome to hope that people ignore a future vaccine promising to be even more effective in preventing death and serious disease from Covid-19, but it’s typical of antivaxers.

“My only hope is that this “multiple-epitope vaccine” will end up bringing deaths and severe covid for those with comorbid conditions that make them vulnerable and those who are immune compromised. That way, I can write bullshit about how their deaths are their fault and otherwise wax intellectual about things I don’t understand.”

I fixed it for you. You’re welcome.

Spike protein mutates faster because it is involved internalisation (virus going into cells) There is a huge competitive advantage invol here.

And the thing is, this science existed at the time. It’s not new. Coronaviruses aren’t new.

It’s “gone and over” because there have been almost NO cases. There is no huge push the vaccinate because the damn thing isn’t spreading like wildfire anymore; in part due to, wait for it, VACCINES!

We no longer even know how many cases we have because the embarrassed authorities discontinued case reporting. A couple of months ago a partner of my close relative had their 4th Covid. Yes that person is double vaxed.

Covid is still going strong – but the vaccine is abandoned, for a good reason.

I had covid after my 3rd dose…got my 4th.
I had it again twice after my 4th dose…got my 5th.
Why? Because anecdotes aren’t data, and I can’t rule out that without them I would have gotten covid worse (e.g., the Delta variant, or “long covid” which may include reactivating dormant herpes viruses such as mono or shingles, and I know I could get the latter and give my husband that miserable condition of adult first-time chicken pox).
Also, my first two shots were Sinovac, which already at the time of Alpha, Gamma, and Lambda variants had a reputation for only preventing severe cases and not transmission. So I might not have had full protection until my 5th shot, especially against the fast-evolving Omnicron family.
I have not had covid since my 5th shot, but I’ve had everything else shy of the flu. Because guess what? Mask mandates ended here last spring.
And why so much covid? I live in the city and have a preschooler. So I catch all the colds. Only one of my 3 covid cases was not from my preschooler, but rather from my student via her in-laws.

Hi, I just wanted to wish you the best of health, I am highly disturbed by what is happening because your anecdote is FAR from atypical.

I know someone with their 4th covid (as I said) and many more

Igor:

My wife and I, our two sons, the older son’s girlfriend, my older sister and her husband, both in their 80s, are all as up to date on shots as we can be when age is taken into account. None of us have had covid.

Of course, all of that is anecdotal — not data, the same way your “story” about your relative’s partner is. The difference is that I know that they are simply anecdotes. Other differences:

you’re committed to spreading lies and misinformation about the vaccines and covid itself because it brings you attention on your crap-stack
you’re willing to imply there’s a good chance of a link between the vaccines and your imagined rash of ‘cognitive decline’ — there’s no evidence of the second of course, but that doesn’t stop you
you’ve been moving toward the same level of dishonesty about other vaccines, again not because of any science but most likely because you’ve discovered it will attract more attention to you [and more money from paid subscribers?]
you’re comfortable giving ‘advice’ to people that, if they’re stupid enough to take medical advice from someone who has no knowledge of the relevant area, puts them at risk

You’ve repeatedly demonstrated that there’s nothing positive that can be said for your views, and shown that your willingness to learn about the relevant science and statistics is zero. How did you get started on your path to this?

“We no longer even know how many cases we have because the embarrassed authorities discontinued case reporting”

outright lie.

“the vaccine is abandoned”

outright lie.

it’s getting really hard to care about your poor edema’d foot, Igor.

The Covid vaccine is pretty much gone and over. Almost no one takes it.

And here was me getting my 5th vaccination just last week. I had to book and all the times available for the day had been taken by the time I got there.

The COVID-19 vaccines’ unpopularity is fashionable, I guess.

Now that 95% of the Australian population aged 12 and above has had 2 doses of COVID-19 vaccine, there is less of a rush on to get vaccinated. 70% of adults have had a 3rd dose, but only 25% have had subsequent doses, because they are only recommended for those over 65 years old (and those younger, but at risk).

Oh dear, yet another conspiracy blown out of the water by cold, hard facts. Still, it will probably sell OK over at Global Research.

The 95% vaccinated Australia experiences a mild dieoff, a period of heightened excess mortality.

https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/health/causes-death/provisional-mortality-statistics/latest-release

Your COVID vaccines are safe and effective, right? They are extremely effective at preventing deaths from COVID, and they are also extremely safe, right?

If so, what exactly makes Australians die at excess rates, even in 2023?

Does this dieoff in progress worry you at all?

If so, what exactly makes Australians die at excess rates, even in 2023?

Funny, that’s not what the graph of all-cause mortality shows. Oh, and what’s this? “The death rate for February was 35.8 per 100,000 people, lower than the baseline average (37.0) and 2022 (40.7)”

If so, what exactly makes Australians die at excess rates, even in 2023?

It is called getting older you dolt.

The age specific death rates for 2023 are all lower than the baseline (except for those >85). The aged are more likely to be killed by COVID-19 than any other age group, despite vaccination. Vaccination has decreased the chances of dying from COVID-19 from 1 in 3 to 1 in 15 – but that is still a lot of deaths. But I know you don’t care about other people dying.

“Not trusting certain sources”. I guess this means rejecting results you do not like ?Not a way to o science.

“.. not trusting certain sources..”
is my starting point but I think that scoffers and I define “sources” entirely differently.

Alt med/ anti-vaxxers/ CT believers define- as you suggest- sources as “people they like” or “agree with”, identifying with rebel, contrarian or chaos promoting icons who despise experts/ authorities in general.
Many of those I survey categorically reject sources like governmental agencies or university scholars ( except for a few outliers) so of course, vaccine/ PH experts like Drs Fauci, Hotez, Offit and Walensky are despised.
But Kirsh, Seneff, Rogan, Kennedy, Null, Adams, Bigtree et al are fine. No relevant degrees there.

@ Igor Chudov

It isn’t worth addressing point by point what you write as just a rehashing of your STUPID UNSCIENTIFIC ANTIVAX BIAS. You’ve made it clear you don’t understand the most basics of immunology, etc. and no indication you have done thorough searches of internet, otherwise you would have found a mass of studies that those vaccinated usually had less severe disease, fewer and shorter hospitalizations, and much much fewer deaths. YOU ARE A SICK INTELLECTUALLY DISHONEST EXCUSE FOR A HUMAN BEING.

Bottom line, you ignore many thousands of scientists around the world, don’t have the basics of immunology, ignore Orac, myself, and others on this blog, basically you know you are right because you know you are right. SICK SICK SICK

I was hoping you’d bring back the “SICK SICK SICK” it always gives me a chuckle (Primarily because it’s true)

In other news, since we’re discussing anti-vax / alt med BS:

— Natural News ( yesterday, 5-12 minutes in ) we learn – and I hope this doesn’t upset Orac– that Mikey plays medic ( if he wants to endanger his own life, who cares- he’ll show his healed wounds in a few weeks)
BUT he treats his dogs:
a few weeks ago, he superglued his male security** dog’s open wound which re-opened and oozed. Now, he treated his female dog’s snake bitten foot, which swelled up double and to the hip, with topical oregano oil and a chlorine dioxide drink. He didn’t know which kind of snake it was.
Hire a vet, you rich, greedy, stupid, unaware bitch!

— I am disturbed to hear transphobic commentary nearly everywhere I survey : it varies from cautious, ” I just care about girls’ sports!” to outright hate. Even so-called moderates/ ( faux) liberals include it: prn, NN, Age of Autism, Del Bigtree, Katie Wright, etc. It’s all over.

** trained to attack

Comment threads at NYT and WaPo include many transphobic entries from self-identified moderates and liberals. That said, I wouldn’t necessarily include your alt-med grifters in either category. Granted, other than Adams, they may not be ranting conservatives fascists, but that doesn’t slot them into any other position on the imaginary political spectrum necessarily. Doesn’t Del have some evangelical roots or something?

It’s not at all surprising that trans rights are a wedge issue. It’s a truism of cultural anthropology that homo sapiens do not react particularly well when certain fundamental binary categories they take as bedrock are thrown into question. This is especially acute in the case of ‘true’ trans-folk (as opposed to non-binary or gender fluid) who insist on the binary distinction just as vehemently, but rework the boundaries. “Lia Thomas is a WOMAN. Period. End of discussion!” Whether you support her competing in elite women’s swim competitions or not, no one should imagine this is anything but fraught hot-button politics.

@ sadmar:

Of course, you’re right about their true orientation: they identify as former democrats who keep telling us that it’s the party which has changed. They say they are feminists. They say they support LGB rights but not T and Q rights. Sometimes they go into great detail about how they worked for Gay causes and even have Gay friends.
A few -women- are totally opposed to Transwomen in sports or in bathrooms. I suspect some of them are far more conservative than they let on and that they have been so for a long time as can be seen in their support for other issues such as decreasing government influence and rejecting most well-known Democrats. They like RFK jr of course.

Del has evangelical roots: his father is a minister and his mother sold alt med products from their church along with a melange of Christian and Native religious themes. He describes himself as a kid who grew up hippie-ish in Boulder. Bigtree is his mother’s name as her father was half Native from NY State and her mother was Jewish. Both of Del’s parents were in show business before the church. Del tried to be in show business, acting in shows like Hair before his gig as a television producer.

@ Igor Chudov

Yep, you are right that fewer people are getting the COVID vaccine; but don’t understand the reasons. First, if one received, for instance, the two Moderna shots and didn’t get boosters, our immune systems are NOT black and white, that is, over time we have fewer memory immune cells; but not zero. The longer the time, the fewer antibody memory cells, called B-cells; but even fewer can still to some extent reduce severity, risk of hospitalization, and death and also if someone infected and asymptomatic, reduced risk of transmission. Of course, if one gets all the boosters, then the risk becomes lower of severe illness, hospitalization, and death and transmission.

So far I got both Moderna shots, then the booster, then the bivalent Omicron, and its booster. There is a good chance there will be another COVID booster in September and I will get it. I will also get the new Respiratory Syncytial Virus vaccine, and the flu shot. The flu shot is the weakest of any vaccine; but still reduces somewhat risk of severity, hospitalization, and death if we are able to determine which flu strains will hit North America.

And not only don’t vaccines cause autism; but they don’t cause brain damage. Of course, in a world of billions of people, always risk that a minuscule number may have some weird genetics and/or exposure, for example, to toxins or other viruses that, maybe, they may experience brain damage; but if vaccine saves literally millions of lives and risks a handful, that is all we can ask. The smallpox vaccine killed one or two per million vaccinated; but save 250,000 or more lives per million. I think those odds great. And if someone were to experience brain damage from the vaccine, odds are they would have experienced it from natural virus because of weird genetics and/or exposure to toxins and other viruses, etc.

Pandemics are occurring at ever shorter intervals, so risk of another pandemic within next 5 or so years reasonable probability. And experts believe also risk reasonable it may be much more deadly. If so, we could experience, not one million; but several million deaths, mainly in areas of US with low vaccination rates. However, as opposed to you and others like you, it is reasonable probability will occur, not certainty, and if it doesn’t occur, I and all the experts will be glad that lives and health were spared and we won’t feel we were wrong because we based our predictions on science and probability, not close-minded ignorant of science biases.

I decided the opposite. No covid, flu, and shingles vaccine for me.

I also decided that my close young relative should not get the meningococcal vaccine, which does not even reduce “carriage” of this bacteria. About 15% of people carry this bacteria and are just fine.

Almost nobody dies from this bacteria and the severe disease is mostly prevalent in certain sexual minorities to whom my relative does not belong. I am not sure what exactly these minorities are actually practicing that makes them develop deadly meningitis, and I do not want to know.

I tell you straight mate, you will wish you had taken them after you fall sick of them.

I also decided that my close young relative should not get the meningococcal vaccine

Takes a horrible person to push harmful stances to anyone, not only to a relative, but here we have igor doing precisely that.

And what if your cishet relative dates a bisexual or pansexual, or someone who dated one, and catches whatever STI makes meningococcal meningitis worse (if it’s an STI and not, say, an injury), or tries something dangerous with an opposite-sex partner if an injury is to blame? Sorry, but “it mostly happens to them” does not mean “it can’t happen to us.”

Sorry, but “it mostly happens to them” does not mean “it can’t happen to us.”

I’m reminded of back when Bob Sears said the quiet part loud and advised quietly hiding in the herd.

The problem was, though, the elitist old-school antivaxers were all about hiding from the herd so their precious heirs, erm, bundles of joy, would not catch loser-itis, and so they screwed themselves over with the measles outbreaks.

@ Igor Chudov

So, you decided the opposite, based on what? I got all the vaccines based on over 40 years studying and working in infectious diseases. I understand the immune system. You don’t. So, hopefully, you won’t get COVID or other diseases and neither will those who listen to your ignorant unscientific advice. Maybe you and they will be lucky; but I prefer science to luck.

Igor said.

“ I also decided that my close young relative should not get the meningococcal vaccine”

You really are a despicable piece of shit, YOU do not get to decide anything because YOU ARE NOT BLOODY REMOTELY QUALIFIED

Suffer grandiose delusion much? Or is it just shit for brains.

I also decided that my close young relative should not get the meningococcal vaccine, which does not even reduce “carriage” of this bacteria.

I can’t believe you are so stupid to write such a thing and expect people to be OK with your behaviour. Invasive meningococcal disease kills 10 to 15% of those who get infected. A further 20% will have life-long disability.

You really are a low life.

Almost nobody dies from this bacteria and the severe disease is mostly prevalent in certain sexual minorities to whom my relative does not belong.

Completely untrue. Invasive meningococcal disease kills 10 to 15% of those infected. A third of those who die from IMD are children under 5 years of age, a further third are over 70. Meningococcal disease is not spread by any form of sexual activity. It can be spread by kissing, but it is also spread by coughing and sneezing.

Almost nobody dies from this bacteria

13% IFR, BTW.

and the severe disease is mostly prevalent in certain sexual minorities [ sic ] to whom my relative does not belong.

N. meningitidis doesn’t just show up for the fucking tacos.

There are many strains of meningococcus. Vaccines target virulent ones.Meningococcal disease is not STD, (it is other Neisseria that is.)

@ MedicalYeti

Yep, if H5N1 becomes more transmissible and breaks out, could be a nightmare; but the current Corona virus could potentially mutate to a much much more deadly variant. In any case, antivaxxers won’t get a flu vaccine either.

The reason that Ig(n)or(ance) thinks that the vaccine is not being taken up is simply because he hangs out with antivaxxers, what would he expect. No doubt (as many antivaxxers do) he will come back and lie about pro vaxxers not taking it up.

More news from the bonkers brigade:

RFK Jr.s Children’s Health Defense is on the warpath against nirsevimab, a drug newly approved by an FDA advisory committee to prevent RSV infection in infants. Medical experts interviewed by CHD are quite concerned about this step toward final FDA approval. What experts, you ask? Why, none other than Brian Hooker, Meryl Nass and Peter McCullough.

CHD is hyping the occurrence of 12 deaths (none attributed to the drug) among infants given nirsevimab across three clinical trials in at least 21 countries, including nations in Asia and South Africa. No mention is made of deaths in the placebo groups. Meryl Nass’s take is noteworthy:

“In May, Nass wrote that the CDC published a paper on RSV deaths in infants between 2009 and 2021, which found “were only a total of 300 deaths in children less than one year over the 12 years, or 25 on average per year.” (italics added)

“Nass added that the number of injuries that may be caused by vaccines or other treatments during pregnancy “is almost certainly going to outweigh the loss of 25 babies a year from RSV.”

Nass’ figures are a bit off. RSV kills 100-500 infants a year in the U.S. according to the CDC, and the virus is responsible for 40,000-50,000 infant hospitalizations annually. Globally, RSV kills 100,000-200,000 infants a year (but most of those are foreign children, so it doesn’t really matter).

Steve Kirsch has picked up on and is promoting the CHD article. What a surprise.

I see that Nass is involved with CHD and Substack. Although I haven’t been able to ascertain it in so many words, she appears to have lost her medical license in Maine. Kirsch has written about her. She was suspended and had to undergo psychiatric evaluation leading to a court date this past January.

According to the state of Maine, Nass’ medical license remains suspended.

There have been multiple medical board hearings on the complaints against her – as recently as March of 2023, according to Quackwatch. As of last fall the board reportedly was still trying to get Nass to comply with an order for a neuropsychological examination, but I can’t find evidence that she’s done so.

The board’s suspension order contains some interesting statements by Nass, including quoting her as saying Operation Warp Speed is the result of an agenda that

““seems to be the same one that has been in play since 2001, you know, the 9/11. Which is increased surveillance, right, increased central control, and some blurring of national borders and national sovereignty, which we haven’t seen much of yet but the close collusion of many countries with the same program indicates that there is international collusion going on at high levels”

If statements like that are taken as evidence of mental imbalance interfering with a doc’s ability to provide adequate medical care, then there are multiple Covid contrarian physicians in the same boat.

“some blurring of national borders and national sovereignty,”

A New World Order conspiracy theorist. Seems to be part and parcel of being a new-school antivaxer.

@ Dr Bacon:

Thanks for that!
I searched for Meryl Nass hearing after January 2023: I knew that Kirsch was continuing to support her and that she was not happy as she continues to note/ fume at Substack at a high rate, sometimes hourly.
But it came down to Quackwatch and Dr Barrett ! Which is where I started in the early 2000s.

“the close collusion of many countries with the same program indicates that there is international collusion going on at high levels”

…and I can’t get the people I work with to put the bloody tools back where they got them. At least someone seems to be able to organise at a high level. There’s hope yet.

The weirdness keeps on expanding, threatening to consume the entire Twitter-verse.

Steve has a further example of how his opponents dodge his genius.

“1. They won’t debate me.
2. They won’t publish a slide deck refuting my deck.”

Ooooh, a slide deck challenge!

Why hasn’t Orac responded to #2, by publishing in the International Journal of Slide Deck Science, a high-impact publication that surely would boost his h-index to dizzying new heights?

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