Vaccines Archives

Autism Doctor a Fraud, But Hardly Alone

By Michael Fumento

"A deliberate fraud." That's what the British Medical Journal, one of the world's most prestigious periodicals, has written of the study that kicked off the current anti-vaccine movement. It's "clear evidence of falsification of data should now close the door on this damaging vaccine scare," it said in a heavily documented editorial.

The lead author of that anti-vaccine study, which also appeared in one most respected medical journals, The Lancet, was British physician Andrew Wakefield. And its consequences, as I write in AOL News, include millions of terrified and confused parents, large drops in vaccination rates and death.

This is the face of pertussis.

Many people, including me, have spent years puncturing his claims and those of his acolytes in the anti-vaccine movement. But a media that thrives on sensationalism instead played up the phony link.

Yet while this "deliberate fraud" has been exposed, others continue to go unchallenged, or worse, get trumpeted by reporters who should know better.

Last year the World Health Organization, having exaggerated the world AIDS problem by 12-fold, then hyped SARS and then spent four years terrifying us over avian flu (remember avian flu?), converted the mildest flu strain in decades (swine flu H1N1) into the first flu pandemic in 41 years simply by rewriting the flu pandemic definition. Aiding it was a study in Science magazine that completely misrepresented the citations it used as authority.

Likewise, San Francisco last year became the first jurisdiction in the country to put warning labels on cell phones, influenced in great part by a series of studies published in peer-reviewed journals alleging they cause brain tumors. Yet as I wrote in a CEI paper, "Celling Fear," they're all by a single environmental activist and totally fly in the face of the main body of research. Plus the city relied on an Environmental Working Group paper that used citations saying exactly the opposite of what the report claimed.

Why does fraudulent science thrive? Better to ask, "Why not?" It pays.

Even when the fraudsters get caught, they often laugh all the way to the bank. Wakefield gets more than $300,000 a year in salary alone from an anti-vaccine group.

Why! That's even more than I got for writing that article for AOL News!

January 10, 2011 03:11 PM  ·  Permalink

Supreme Court Case May Wipe Out Vaccine Industry

By Michael Fumento

Back when Congress knew how to pass good legislation, in this case in the mid-1980s, it took most cases involving vaccine liability out of the normal court system and put them in a special vaccine court where science and medicine would rule instead of the whims of scientifically and medically ignorant juries.

That's because vaccine companies were going the way of the woolly mammoth, in part because it's just not a very profitable business and in great part because they were awash in over $3.5 billion of lawsuits claiming little more than the post hoc fallacy of "Before the person was vaccinated her or she was fine and since the vaccination he or she became sick." Seriously.

If certain people in black robes make the wrong decision, this guy in a black robe will need to be paid overtime.

Even as it dramatically cut spurious claims, it helped persons who really had suffered from adverse reactions both by cutting litigation costs and by taking them outside of "roulette wheel" justice wherein a case might net a reward of millions while a virtually identical one would be rejected entirely.

But as I write at Forbes.com, this system itself is now endangered by a Supreme Court case in which the plaintiffs are claiming that having lost their case in Vaccine Court that rather than appeal within that system they should be able to try the case in state or federal court. And Congress did allow for some such exceptions.

But no, not this one. It's very clear from the history of what led up to the statute that Congress did not want cases such as these to bypass the system. Why? In part as one court found, it could to a great extent destroy that very system. I provide other arguments. If we lose this system many, many children will not get their vaccines until something else is instituted. And many will die.

October 27, 2010 10:53 AM  ·  Permalink

"The Damage of the Anti-vaccination Movement," my LA Times piece

By Michael Fumento

The Doctor who launched the modern anti-vaccine movement acted "dishonestly and irresponsibly," Britain's General Medical Council has ruled. But fear not. Dr. Andrew Wakefield is still a hero to his many acolytes. And others, with curious credentials, fight on to terrify parents into not getting their children inoculated.

Jenny McCarthy's expertise is evident.

In 1998 Wakefield wrote and then vociferously hawked an article in the British medical journal Lancet linking autism to the MMR vaccine (measles, mumps and rubella). After the council's decision, Lancet this week retracted the article. Among the facts that have come out of the inquiry of Wakefield's research is that two years before his paper appeared lawyers seeking to sue vaccine-makers paid Wakefield the equivalent of $700,000.

But the damage is done. Anti-vaccination groups have popped up like toadstools after rain (there are more than 180 on the Web), while older ones such as the National Vaccine Information Center were reinvigorated. For the most part, these groups have had only a marginal effect on national vaccination rates, but they have encouraged localized boycotts of immunization. (In one Washington county, a stunning 27% of children had vaccination exemptions in 2006-2007.) The result has been a resurgence of diseases gone so long that some doctors don't even recognize them. And children die because of it.

Read the rest of this fascinating, yet sad piece that has a direct human impact (I interviewed a mother whose daughter needlessly died of pertussis) at the same time it makes the point of what happens when a large segment of society just tosses away science in favor of superstition and conspiracy theories. And when we eschew scientists in favor of celebrity experts like Playboy Playmate Jenny McCarthy, whose expertise is readily apparent in the inset image.

February 5, 2010 12:43 PM  ·  Permalink

Brit M.D. who tied MMR vaccine to autism acted "dishonestly and irresponsibly"

By Michael Fumento

The doctor who first suggested a link between MMR vaccinations and autism - and subsequently made rates of measles and other skyrocket - acted "dishonestly and irresponsibly" in doing his research for a landmark 1998 Lancet paper, says Britain's official General Medical Counsel.

Measles in the U.K. are skyrocketing

During over two years of hearings Andrew Wakefield was accused of a series of charges, including that he didn't have ethical approval or relevant qualifications for such tests, he improperly gathered blood samples (paying children 5 pounds each for the samples at his son's birthday party), and (here's the kicker) not disclosing that he had been paid to advise lawyers acting for parents who believed their children had been harmed by the MMR.

The GMC also declared two of Wakefield's former colleagues at the hospital where he worked had also broken the guidelines.

In 2004, 10 of the 12 co-authors of Wakefield's paper issued a retraction.

The board didn't look into accusations that Wakefield had outright faked his data, yet a 2009 Sunday Times investigation, confirming evidence presented to the GMC, revealed that:

In most of the 12 cases, the children's ailments as described in The Lancet were different from their hospital and GP records. Although the research paper claimed that problems came on within days of the jab, in only one case did medical records suggest this was true, and in many of the cases medical concerns had been raised before the children were vaccinated. Hospital pathologists, looking for inflammatory bowel disease, reported in the majority of cases that the gut was normal. This was then reviewed and the Lancet paper showed them as abnormal.

But the damage has been done. After Wakefield's study appeared, new anti-vaccination groups popped up like toadstools after rain. (There are now over 150 anti-vaccine Web sites.) Older ones such as the National Vaccine Information Center were reinvigorated. This in turn caused surges in cases of all three viral diseases, each of which is highly infectious and potentially fatal.

This notwithstanding an absolute mountain of evidence that the MMR vaccine and other childhood vaccines (all under fire) are safe. Some of the epidemiological evidence for this comes from whole countries and one body of evidence includes the entire state of California. I have written repeatedly about this problem.

Measles, mumps, pertussis, and other illnesses are on the rise. The accompanying graph shows U.K. measles cases going from nearly zero to close to 1,500 in just the past four years. Not all children need be vaccinated to prevent any disease, but there need to be enough to maintain "herd immunity" or around a 95 percent rate depending on the specific disease. In many areas, rates have fallen well below that level. The ferocious anti-vaccine lobby (and if you think I'm kidding about the ferocity, you should check out my hate mail on the subject) is literally killing our children.

Because vaccines are so effective, people don't remember these diseases and how they would kill. But we're being forced to relearn.

January 29, 2010 03:48 PM  ·  Permalink

Cal. study gets vaccines off hook again for autism

By Michael Fumento

Grant the anti-childhood vaccine fanatics this; they are dogged. As I write in The American Spectator Online, "Absolutely no amount of data and no number of studies from any array of sources will sway them from their beliefs - or claimed beliefs - that thimerosal, a mercury-containing vaccine preservative once used in many such injections, is causing the so-called "autism epidemic."

Therefore a California Department of Public Health study in the current Archives of General Psychiatry hasn't either. It shows absolutely no decrease in the rate of increased autism diagnoses, notwithstanding that thimerosal was discontinued in childhood vaccines in 2001. (I include a graph that makes the point abundantly clear.) Yet not only did the nut cases claim the California data would eventually prove their case, they even claimed it already had.

For the rest of us there are two valuable lessons. First, the lack of a thimerosal connection to the developmental disorder has once again been reaffirmed. And second, those fanatics really and truly are fanatical - as a British Medical Journal book reviewer put it, an "angry and paranoid universe."

I've already gotten a barge-load of nasty e-mail from this paranoid universe. See what's made them so incredibly angry.

January 22, 2008 05:21 PM  ·  Permalink

Hysteria, not illness or death, drives gov't disease spending

By Michael Fumento

You've heard that the highly-drug resistant germ MRSA causes 94,000 U.S. invasive infections each year, with about 19,000 deaths. Here's what you haven't heard. As I write in the New York Sun, the government is doing practically nothing about it.

Meanwhile it's working mightily and spending the bank on three diseases that have yet to kill a single American and probably never will: Ebola virus, SARS, and avian flu. Federally-funded Ebola and SARS vaccines are in human trials and the government is already stockpiling FDA-approved avian flu vaccine. Yet government-funded MRSA vaccine research is still in mice.

One spending comparison: Congress has specifically earmarked $5.8 billion for avian flu, the threat of which continually recedes. Yet, although the CDC lists in addition to MRSA 8 important diseases connected to antibiotic resistance, the total annual budget for these is merely $221 million.

I conclude: "We need a government that pays more attention to medical statistics than to headlines. The one we have now is killing us."

November 8, 2007 12:26 PM  ·  Permalink

Another blow against anti-vaccine hysteria -- or is it?

By Michael Fumento

The vaccine preservative thimerosal has jumped the safety hurdle. Again. So indicates the Sept. 27, 2007 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. But as I write in my TCS Daily piece, "again" is the problem. One huge study after another has cleared thimerosal as a cause of child developmental disorders, but there is a powerful lobby that couldn't care less.

Jenny McCarthy
You can see why Jenny
McCarthy is treated as an expert
on childhood vaccines and autism.

There are over 150 anti-vaccine web sites. None will disappear as a result of the new findings. After all, who cares what a multitude of huge epidemiological studies from all over the world say when former Playboy Playmate Jenny McCarthy, with her 38 C IQ, claims on Oprah and in the new book she's hawking that her son got autism from a vaccine?

The major problem with this hysteria? It scares parents away from vaccination programs, even mandatory ones. And only mandatory programs can confer "herd immunity," meaning that immunization rates in the wider population are high enough (for example, 85 percent for diphtheria) to protect those not immunized.

Those who encourage parents to avoid vaccinating their kids are telling them to become free riders, relying on those parents who do vaccinate. But if enough people try to free ride, then herd immunity is lost and what follows is the return of childhood diseases we hardly think about anymore. Diseases like pertussis have made comebacks in countries as diverse as Australia, Japan, and Sweden after anti-vaccinationist scares.

Better known as "whooping cough," pertussis is a highly contagious bacterial disease that causes uncontrollable, violent coughing. Pertussis cases went from fewer than 8,000 in the U.S. in 2001 to over 25,000 in 2005.

Reaching parents who have already been practically brain-washed is hard, but for the sake of our children we must do so.

October 24, 2007 02:25 PM  ·  Permalink

The case against HPV vaccine mandates

By Michael Fumento

To hear the politicians say it, Merck's new HPV vaccine is the greatest health advance since penicillin. Hence, like Polio shots, it should be mandatory for all 11 to 12-year-old girls. Only those "nut cases" on the religious right could oppose a miracle like this, right? Wrong. Indeed, as I write in The Weekly Standard some of those politicians and allegedly neutral groups lobbying them are being paid off by Merck. The reality is that this vaccine provides protection 70% of the time against the HPV strains that causes about 1 in 75 U.S. female cancer deaths a year. Moreover the incidence and death rate of that cancer, that of the cervix, has been steadily dropping for decades. It also takes about 30 years on average for those few HPV infections that do cause cancer to reach the point where they are life-threatening, during which time all of those women should be receiving regular Pap smears that would catch the cancer from HPV - or other causes - in its tracks. Yet for this we're going to mandate a series of three injections costing $360 total? And we're in such a hurry to do it that we can't wait for the almost inevitable approval of a competitor vaccine later this year? Hey, you can't blame Merck for trying - but you can blame our elected officials.

March 4, 2007 07:59 PM  ·  Permalink

Bad News for Vaccination Conspiracy Mongers

By Michael Fumento

The only serious harm associated with the mumps-measles-rubella (MMR) vaccine is the risk to the health of children who don't receive it, an international team of investigators announced today.

"In particular we conclude that all the major unintended events, such as triggering Crohn's disease or autism, were suspected on the basis of unreliable evidence," said Vittorio Demicheli, M.D., of the Servizo Sovrazonale di Epidemiologia here and his colleagues in a systematic review from the Cochrane Collaboration. The Cochrane Collaboration is an international non-profit and independent organization, dedicated to making up-to-date, accurate information about the effects of healthcare readily available worldwide. It produces systematic reviews of healthcare interventions that are considered the gold standard in the business.

On the other hand, said the Cochrane group, "Mumps, measles and rubella are serious diseases that can lead to potentially fatal illness, disability and death."

As I wrote early last year, the idiocy over autism and the MMR probably wouldn't exist but for a tiny yet massively-publicized British study that turned out to have been paid for by trial lawyers who -- you got it -- were suing vaccine makers. In fact, some of the children in the study were their clients! When the news got out, the chief author was fired (he now works for the vaccine conspiracy nuts), the medical journal disavowed the study, and the co-authors also disavowed their participation. None of which mattered a bit to the conspiracy-theorists, who prize "real life" X-Files episodes over children's health and blasted me with more hate mail than I'd received on any subject to date.

November 1, 2005 01:52 PM  ·  Permalink

Vaccines and the luck o' the Amish

By Michael Fumento

After I wrote recently about the lack of evidence connecting childhood vaccines preserved with thimerosal to autism, here and here, I received a slew of nasty letters from angry parents. Several cited "studies" showing that while the autism rate is 1 in 166 among the general public, there is no autism among the Amish who refuse vaccinations. Actually not all Amish do refuse vaccinations and there were no such studies. That assertion came from a single UPI story in which reporter Dan Olmsted pretended to have done his own survey. Muy scientifico. In the event, an Amish community has now suffered from the first U.S. polio outbreak in five years. That's what you get from not vaccinating your kids.

October 14, 2005 06:07 PM  ·  Permalink

Vaccine fearmongering and "intellectual prostitution"

By Michael Fumento

Mark Sircus, head of something called the International Medical Veritas Association, needs to learn a bit about the meaning of "Veritas." In a commentary titled "Intellectual Prostitution," he calls a whore anybody who disagrees with the proposition that childhood vaccines containing the preservative thimerosal (half of which is ethyl mercury) cause autism. They're all on the take; that's the only possible explanation for their positions no matter how authoritative and detailed their arguments may be. I am one of the named prostitutes. Commenting on a column of mine that appeared in Townhall and another piece in the Wall Street Journal, our three-ring Sircus says, "Mr. Fumento's [sic], of the Hudson Institute, recently published essays on thimerosal, [which] like many of the others, were bought and paid for by the pharmaceutical industry so one should read his and many of the current articles proclaiming the safety of known poisons with salt."

Does he have the least evidence that I was actually paid? No. It's supposed to be guilt by association, but it turns out to not even fit that.

"When it comes to the Thimerosal [sic] debate and Fumento's opinion it is not a coincidence that the Hudson Institute [where I'm a senior fellow] is based in Indianapolis, home of Eli Lilly, the pharmaceutical giant that holds the patent on Thimerosal [sic]," he writes. He also ties Dan Quayle and former OMB Director Mitch Daniels to both Lilly and Hudson.

Aside from not being able to spell "thimerosal," Sircus seems ignorant that Lilly patented the preservative in 1930 and therefore must have its rights half a century ago. Hudson is not based in Indy, but Washington, D.C. It moved a year ago, which is to say a year before I wrote my pieces. Hudson formerly received major funding not from Lilly the pharmaceutical company but from the Lilly Endowment, which truly has a Chinese wall between it and its drug company donors. In any event, the Endowment focuses heavily on Indiana projects and stopped funding Hudson when it moved.

But this isn't to say Sircus knows nothing about intellectual prostition. He makes his living running a clinic in Brazil that uses "chelation therapy," a fraud denounced by many medical organizations. Far from extracting "toxins" as claimed it merely extracts green material from the pockets of gullible parents of autistic children (and sufferers of countless other illnesses). It is the money trail behind the "vaccines cause autism" hysteria, the conspiracy behind the conspiracy theory if you will.

July 10, 2005 08:17 PM  ·  Permalink  ·  TrackBack (0)