forum discussion #28

Seth Mnookin’s ‘The Panic Virus’

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Listen to our interview with journalist Seth Mnookin.  He was the guest in this Science Forum discussion. Mnookin’s new book is The Panic Virus: A True Story of Medicine, Science and Fear. It tells the story of a powerful anti-vaccine campaign that was spurred by a fraudulent study published in 1998 in the medical journal, The Lancet.

The study was carried out by a British doctor, Andrew Wakefield. He claimed to have found a link between the Measles Mumps Rubella (MMR) vaccine and regressive autism. The findings were based on Wakefield’s study of 12 children. From the beginning, The Lancet distanced itself from the research by publishing a harsh critique alongside the study.
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“We’ve known that it was bad science for a decade,” says Mnookin.

Scientists have tried but failed to replicate Wakefield’s findings. Last year The Lancet retracted the paper and  most recently the British Medical Journal, which carried out its own investigation into Wakefield’s work, called it outright “fraud.”  Amid the controversy, Wakefield lost his license to practice medicine in the UK.

But the anti-vaccine campaign spurred by Wakefield’s work has hardly lost ground. Thousands of parents in the U.S., the U.K., and other European countries continue to not immunize their children. The movement has had support from parents of autistic children and celebrities like Jenny McCarthy.

Faced with the daunting task of caring for a child with a poorly understood disease, vaccines have become an easy target for the fear and wrath of parents, according to Mnookin. Scientists do know that autism is a complex developmental disorder with a strong genetic basis. But they are only just starting to identify some of the risk factors that increase the likelihood of parents having an autistic child.

As for cures, there are none known and Mnookin acknowledges how incredibly frightening that is for parents. But the success of the anti-vaccination movement is starting to take a toll on public health. Diseases that were considered to be under control, like pertussis (whooping cough) and measles have made an unprecedented comeback in both the U.S. and parts of Europe.

  • Are you struggling with the decision over whether or not to vaccinate your children?
  • How do you get the best scientific information to help you decide what to do?
  • Is it too late to stop diseases like pertussis, measles and mumps from taking their toll?

Join our conversation with Mnookin. It’s just to the right. He’s taking your questions until January 31st.

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Your Comments

  1. Why are parents who are concerned over vaccine safety considered anti-vaccine?

    • Lvis

      The answer to your question is:

      After numerous studies have failed to show a link between vaccines and autism or other neurological disorders. A failure to vaccinate puts, not only, one’s child at risk but others that my be around him/her.

    • Error: Unable to create directory /home/worldsci/public_html//wp-content/uploads/2014/04. Is its parent directory writable by the server? Seth Mnookin

      I don’t think parents who are concerned over vaccine safety are considered anti-vaccine; I certainly don’t consider them to be anti-vaccine. In fact, it’s probably more accurate to say I don’t consider us to be anti-vaccine, since I’m a parent and I’m concerned about vaccine safety.
      However, I think that when people continue to insist that vaccines are unsafe even after scientific evidence has shown the opposite, you have to consider what the ultimate motivation is. What we’ve seen over the last several years is a constant moving of the goalposts, all with the aim of finding a reason to show vaccines are dangerous. First it was the MMR vaccine. Then it was mercury. Then it was “too many, too soon.” Each time a pet theory is disproven, a new, equally unsupportable theory arises.

      • Jemal

        I was born and raised in Africa. I have 9 siblings, my mother father each has 8 siblings. Non of these extended family members has any developmental issues and non of us was vaccinated for anything. Only after migration to west that some of our children who were born in the west and vaccinated demonstrated ASD of various levels. I have enough statistics in my family to back the idea that vaccins hurt.

  2. Error: Unable to create directory /home/worldsci/public_html//wp-content/uploads/2014/04. Is its parent directory writable by the server? Seth Mnookin

    I’m really excited to be able to continue my conversation with The World’s audience.

    The book covers a lot of ground that Marco and I weren’t able to get to during our interview, and I’m happy to discuss any of the topics that you all want to address, from public health campaigns to vaccine safety to risk communication to the importance of science reporting to the challenges facing families with autistic children. I’m sure this will be a lively discussion and I’ll do my best to answer any questions that come up — so let’s dive right in.

    Seth

    • Shannon wood, RN, MSN

      The MMR vaccine seriously injured my one year old daughter. She exhibited the exact signs and symptoms described by the parents of the MMR injured children in Dr Wakefield’s book “Callous Disregard”. After much research, I know the vaccines are toxic & deadly (sids, siezures & ASD), so my question is Mr Mnookin, how much are the Pharmacartel paying you to mislead parents again with your deceit & deception about these killer vaccines?

      • Shannon – the findings from that study (which were the basis of the book) have been shown to be completely fraudulent and the claims and evidence of that study cannot be trusted – and should not be used by you, or anyone, to show a rational for any symptoms or diagnosis.

        I am very sorry that your daughter has had health difficulties, but I think you need to get a diagnosis from a medical doctor and find out the real cause of her health difficulties as there could be another condition that needs to be addressed.

      • Error: Unable to create directory /home/worldsci/public_html//wp-content/uploads/2014/04. Is its parent directory writable by the server? Seth Mnookin

        Shannon —
        I’m very sorry for your daughter’s health difficulties. One of the reasons this issue is so hard to discuss is because it is obviously so emotional. Another is that instead of engaging in an actual dialogue, accusations tend to get thrown about in lieu of fact-based arguments. I don’t have any relationship with any pharmaceutical companies. I spent more than two years doing nothing but research this issue and my conclusions are based on reading hundreds of papers and interviewing parents, doctors, scientists, health officials, and researchers from around the world.

      • Matthew

        The real problem with your logic here is that you’re picking the numbers that agree with your view, while disregarding the much, much larger numbers that go against it.

        You’re ignoring the fact that tens of millions of people get the MMR vaccine every single year and are fine. I had it. You’ve had it. Your siblings had it. I’m not autistic and millions of others who have had the vaccine aren’t either.

        But the way people talk about the shot, is as if it necessitates getting sick and having permanent damage. That the vaccine is simply hazardous, to everyone. If that were true, then everyone, regardless of any other factor, would experience devastating effects after taking the vaccine.

        You make the vaccine sound like poison, and poison doesn’t pick and choose who it will hurt

  3. Joseph O

    I am new to this topic. I have new inlaws who are convinced that autism is caused by the MMR virus and any evidence against is fraudulent because the big pharmaceutical companies are supporting it. It is almost like a kneejerk reaction. I have no trouble with the idea that there are problems with corporate funded studies, but that does not include every study. When I brought up the Wakefield case, my wife dismissed it immediately. There is fraudulance on all sides and money to be made on all which is what the Wakefield case shows.

    • Error: Unable to create directory /home/worldsci/public_html//wp-content/uploads/2014/04. Is its parent directory writable by the server? Seth Mnookin

      Joseph, I think you raise some very good points. There are very good reasons to be skeptical of drug companies, and certainly there have been cases where drug companies seemingly manipulated data or overstated results or papered over their connections to researchers. In this case, we do not need to rely on a handful of studies funded by drug companies. Vaccines are in all likelihood the single most studied public health initiative for children. I don’t believe the MMR vaccine is safe because Merck tells me it is; I believe it is safe because there have been dozens of studies by hundreds of scientists around the world. Arguing that vaccines are by definition unsafe because they’re made by drug companies is like arguing that Quaker Oats are unhealthy because they’re made by Pepsico.

    • a concerned relative

      Seth, I would love your advice on how to talk to family members who are fearful of vaccines and have chosen not to vaccinate their kids. If I were to send them an article or a copy of your book, that would be perceived as antagonistic and a deep affront. My husband and I are guardians for our nephew and niece should their parents die (god forbid), and the only thing they asked us to promise is that we will not vaccinate their kids. We will abide by their wishes but we don’t agree with their choice. This has become almost a “religious” issue with many people (even though not for religious reasons), and it is difficult to bring it up without creating a lot of ill will. This issue divides many families, and a lot of us keep silent while our anti-vaccine relatives prattle on about the dangers.

  4. John Bu9ckley

    Hi Seth. Have they done any studies on the occurance of autism in children who have NOT been immunized. It would seem to me that if what they believe is true (that immunization causes autism) then the opposite would also have to be true (that non-immunization prevents autism.)

    • Benjamin Greene

      I may be misinformed, but it is my understanding that there is not a single case of Autism reported among America’s Amish population, save one– A vaccinated child who was adopted.

      The Amish, I believe, could represent a non-vaccinated population, though I may be entirely mistaken.

      • Error: Unable to create directory /home/worldsci/public_html//wp-content/uploads/2014/04. Is its parent directory writable by the server? Seth Mnookin

        Benjamin — That’s actually one of the enduring myths surrounding this whole thing — that there are no cases of autism in the Amish (which is not true) and also that the Amish are not immunized (also not true). It’s hard to tell exactly where this particular canard started, but it seems to have been promoted particularly heavily by a small group of people who’ve used the claim to support their belief that vaccines are to blame for rising rates of autism. There’s a good article about this from several years ago that can be found here: http://autism.about.com/b/2008/04/23/do-the-amish-vaccinate-indeed-they-do-and-their-autism-rates-may-be-lower.htm

    • Leslie

      There have been epidemiological studies in European countries (and I think Japan)–countries that keep better records than we do–that compared nonimmunized groups to immunized groups, and found no difference in autism rates. Frontline did an excellent documentary, The Vaccine War, that talked about this.

    • Error: Unable to create directory /home/worldsci/public_html//wp-content/uploads/2014/04. Is its parent directory writable by the server? Seth Mnookin

      John — that’s a very good point. There have been retroactive studies comparing vaccinated children with children who’d received less vaccines or who were not vaccinated, and in those studies there is not any evidence correlating a lack of vaccination with lower diagnosed rates of autism. (It would be unethical to put together a study from scratch because that would entail asking a group of children to forgo what has been shown to be a potentially life-saving medical intervention.) Another point worth mentioning involves has to do with the claim that thimerosal, the mercury-based preservative that had been used in some variations of some childhood vaccines, caused autism. Thimerosal was removed from childhood vaccines a decade ago; autism rates have not gone down since then.

      • Nathan

        Could an increase in the awareness of autism, in the wake of the MMR scare, have resulted in more parents seeking an autism diagnosis for their children? If so, would not the resulting increase in diagnosis potentially offset any reduction in autism rates brought about by fewer children vaccinate?

        One of my concerns is that genetic predisposition might mean that when particular individuals are subjected to certain environmental conditions, including vaccines, they react adversely to these when most would not. Do you know of any studies that have been undertaken on this front?

        Thank you in advance

      • Error: Unable to create directory /home/worldsci/public_html//wp-content/uploads/2014/04. Is its parent directory writable by the server? Seth Mnookin

        Nathan-The question of what impact diagnostic criteria or socio factors has had on autism rates is fascinating, but neither one comes close to counteracting the decline that would have resulted if thimerosal-containing-vaccines had had a causal link.
        The problem with the “genetic predisposition” framework (and I’m not accusing you of doing this; I’m just pointing this out) is that it frames the question in such a way that it can’t ever be tested. When you define subsets so narrowly that they can’t be identified or measured, you’re moving into a realm where nothing can be quantified.
        I think environmental factors are at play here; unfortunately, all of the focus on vaccines has meant research that could/should have been focused on looking for those has been sucked up in this black hole.

    • Error: Unable to create directory /home/worldsci/public_html//wp-content/uploads/2014/04. Is its parent directory writable by the server? Seth Mnookin

      John – I realized I hadn’t answered another part of your question, which was studies on the occurrence of autism in children who weren’t vaccinated. There have been studies comparing rates of autism in children who did and did not receive the MMR vaccine, and studies of children who did and did not receive vaccines with thimerosal, the mercury-based preservative that was removed from childhood vaccines a decade ago. These studies were retrospective studies — in other words, researchers looked at children’s medical records and didn’t design a study to look at this issue. In those studies there was no difference found in the two groups.

  5. Steven

    What a stupid idea—blaming people’s fear of vaccines on Andrew Wakefield. If vaccines are so safe why do they get government protection from lawsuits through the Vaccine Court? The answer is if they didn’t get that protection there wouldn’t be a vaccine industry. Something you neglected to mention was back in the 1980’s before the explosion in autism and before Andrew Wakefield the vaccine industry was on the edge of collapse from huge losses from lawsuit. If you want to show that vaccines are safe get rid of the Vaccine Court.

    • Error: Unable to create directory /home/worldsci/public_html//wp-content/uploads/2014/04. Is its parent directory writable by the server? Seth Mnookin

      Steven — I’m not sure I understand your logic. I’m not claiming (and I don’t know any who has ever claimed) that vaccines have never caused any complications, ever. The discussion here involves the claim that vaccines can cause autism. Some children have post-measles vaccination rashes. Some small percentage run fevers. None of that has anything to do with autism or other developmental disorders.
      I’m also not sure I understand the connection between lawsuits and reality. The fact that lawsuits have claimed vaccines cause autism does not mean that vaccines actually do cause autism.

  6. Amy

    Why isn’t the need for ongoing vaccination against whooping cough being better publicized? The risk, especially to babies, is well known. Are parents refusing to have their children get this vaccine too?

    • Error: Unable to create directory /home/worldsci/public_html//wp-content/uploads/2014/04. Is its parent directory writable by the server? Seth Mnookin

      Amy — The pertussis outbreaks that have occurred in many states are a very interesting situation. For the most part, those seem to have begun in adults who did not receive pertussis boosters. (For some reason that is not clear to me, adults often get diphtheria-tetanus boosters but not pertussis boosters. I had to get my pertussis booster from my pediatrician.) Because whooping cough is often undiagnosed in adults, it’s very easy for it to spread relatively undetected — until, that is, children begin to get sick and die. In 2010, ten infants died of whooping cough. Nine of them were younger than six months old. Parents who decide not to vaccinate their children against pertussis are putting them at serious risk and are also creating more opportunities for the disease to spread.

  7. Joseph O

    Is there any connection to the MTHFR gene in terms of autism?

    • Error: Unable to create directory /home/worldsci/public_html//wp-content/uploads/2014/04. Is its parent directory writable by the server? Seth Mnookin

      Joseph — I know there has been a lot of work recently done into genetic links to autism and there have been some advances; I don’t know specifically about this gene. The Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative (SFARI) is a good place to go for the latest research on this. It’s website is http://sfari.org/.

  8. Dr. Jones

    Having the scientific knowledge and making good decisions are not common. Most people don’t want to take the time to question the who, what, when, and how about scientific articles or journal writings.

    We live in an age where information is not just for the privielged elite, but for everyone to take part and be a well informed global citizen.

    I hope parents will take the time to review and ask the right questions before deny their child life saving vaccines.

    • Larry

      We also live in an age where science is feared by a greater and greater portion of our population. Science can be complicated and confusing and can require intelligence, concentration and open-mindedness. It asks that you set aside your emotions and frame your beliefs based on facts and evidence rather than what your parents and friends tell you. This is not something that most of the US population are willing or even capable of doing. Asking people not to make the mistake of believing correlation implies causation, for instance, which is a basic tenet of scientific inquiry is a losing game. It is much easier to accuse science of collusion in a conspiracy than to think deeply, open the mind and try to understand.

  9. Dr. Jones

    Thank, Mr. Mnookin, you for your insight and bring light to this subject that has been blown ot of proportion.

  10. Fred

    Amy,
    All you have to do is to travel down the hippie trail to down east Maine, take a randy onto the tofu highway until you reach the blue hill peninsula. There you will find many young children whose parents refuse to vaccinate their children. Despite an outbreak of whooping cough last year which closed down the much beloved local Waldorf inspired school, many parents here throw caution to the wind. Oh, I would be be remiss if I didn’t tell you about the chicken pox parties that are thrown here. I am not joking.

    • Ruth

      Amy,

      Please state your point. All I see is that you’re putting down people for their chosen life-style. Public schools have been hit by chicken pox and measles outbreaks even if the children have been vaccinated, so an outbreak of whooping cough could happen in vaccinated children, too.

      • Error: Unable to create directory /home/worldsci/public_html//wp-content/uploads/2014/04. Is its parent directory writable by the server? Seth Mnookin

        I’m hesitant to wade into the middle of this back-and-forth, but I do feel like I should clarify that the recent measles outbreak in California that cost $10 million to contain, resulted in the hospitalization of at least one infant, and caused dozens of children to be quarantined was solely the result of the disease being spread in unvaccinated children. One intentionally unvaccinated child was infected while on a family vacation in Switzerland; he spread the disease to unvaccinated siblings and unvaccinated classmates. I’m not sure where the misapprehension that there are widespread measles, chicken-pox, or pertussis outbreaks among vaccinated children comes from, but it is not true.

  11. Benjamin Greene

    I am dissappointed in The World’s very one-sided coverage of this issue. Wakefield is a Straw-man, one long beaten to death. (Or am I thinking of the dead horse?)

    Both anti-vaccine and vaccine-concerned parents engage a wide ranging discourse that is FAR from resolved. Wakefield’s Lancet article has never been a foundation of the anti-vaccine movement.

    Seth, you highlight a few deaths from Pertussis and, rightly, call them tragedies. Also tragic, however, are the deaths caused both directly and indirectly by vaccines and reactions to vaccines. If anti-vaccine and vaccine-concerned individuals come across as abrasive, it is precisely because of bogus psych profiling such as that which you hint at. Vaccine concerns are not crop circles.

    • Error: Unable to create directory /home/worldsci/public_html//wp-content/uploads/2014/04. Is its parent directory writable by the server? Seth Mnookin

      We know those children died from pertussis because we can test for pertussis microbes and confirm that the children who died had been infected. When you say “deaths caused both directly and indirectly by vaccines and reactions to vaccines” I have no idea what you’re talking about. It’s not accurate to point to families who say that they believe that their children were vaccine-injured and substitute that belief for something that has been clinically and empirically proven to be true. I’m not saying I think anyone is being intentionally misleading or dishonest — I just think it’s important to draw a distinction between what has been empirically shown to be true and what some people with personal connections to the issue believe to be true.

  12. Robert

    Hi Seth,

    I’m looking forward to reading your book. Your comments on the radio reminded me of how some people are responding to climate change science. Competent scientists keep saying the world is warming due to human causes, and yet many Americans seem to be convinced there is some conspiracy to hide or falsify data. Do you think there are any lessons to learn? Is there a better way for scientists to interact with the public so that these problems won’t come up in the future?

    • Error: Unable to create directory /home/worldsci/public_html//wp-content/uploads/2014/04. Is its parent directory writable by the server? Seth Mnookin

      Robert — fascinating question. I think the situation is slightly different with regards to climate change for a number of reasons too involved to get into here, but I think several overarching problem in both cases are scientists’ difficulties in communicating with the public, the media’s difficulties in accurately conveying science to their audiences, and the public’s difficulties in understanding basic scientific principles. From my perspective, the media component is the easiest one to fix — but that’s likely because I’m a member of the media.

      • Randall

        In the podcast you and the interviewer referred to this general phenomenon wherein once a theory has been disproved, people believe it more fervently than ever. The rationale for the Iraq war was raised as a case in point. Do you know of anyone who has written on this general phenomenon?

        Thanks for a fascinating & illuminating interview.

      • Error: Unable to create directory /home/worldsci/public_html//wp-content/uploads/2014/04. Is its parent directory writable by the server? Seth Mnookin

        Randall — I’m sorry if I gave that impression; that wasn’t exactly what I was trying to say. I think you’re referring to two separate phenomena. The first is the tendency of people to believe something they hear, even if they hear it in a context of being told that it’s not true. One recent study that addresses that is Schwarz, Norbert et al. “Metacognitive Experiences and the Intricacies of Setting People Straight.” Advances in Experimental Social Psychology 2007;39: 127-161. The other is the tendency of people who already believe something to believe it in more fervently when presented with evidence that contradicts that believe. That’s the result of a cognitive bias; I have a whole chapter about these in my book.

  13. chuck

    What have you found to be an effective argument when trying to teach/change the mind of a parent who still believes in a connection between vaccines and autism, etc.? I have found these people to be passionate and unable to listen to logic, documented double-blind studies, etc. Thank you so much for wading into this. What some are calling a debate is becoming a major public health issue.

    • Jared Hughes

      please site the double blind studies you mention…I have looked for them / ask for them but no one can produce them.

    • Error: Unable to create directory /home/worldsci/public_html//wp-content/uploads/2014/04. Is its parent directory writable by the server? Seth Mnookin

      In my experience, it is very difficult to alter the views of someone who believes that his or her child was harmed by vaccines. I think that is perfectly understandable, and I can’t sit here and tell you that I would react any differently if I found myself in the same situation.
      I’m much less understanding of parents who have simply decided that they know what’s right, evidence be damned. I’m not sure what an effective way to address this is, but I do think that it needs to be pointed out to these parents the very real social, moral, and ethical repercussions of their actions. It’s simply not accurate to say this is simply a matter of personal choice — this is a societal issue.

  14. Ryan

    Hi Steven,
    I was wondering if you have heard anything about studies on how autism may be related to diet in pregnant women? My girlfriend is a holistic nutritionist and she has discovered an idea in alternative medicine circles that that autistic children’s digestive system is radically different than otherwise healthy children. According to this theory poor diet (consisting of high sugar and refined foods) in pregnant women can alter the flora and fauna in their unborn baby’s digestive system which may in turn bring about autism. Any thoughts?

    • Error: Unable to create directory /home/worldsci/public_html//wp-content/uploads/2014/04. Is its parent directory writable by the server? Seth Mnookin

      I don’t know anything about this. It sounds similar to the pathways Andrew Wakefield theorized about in his 1998 paper that have been discredited: Gut disorders (in that case supposedly caused by the measles vaccine) caused digestive peptides to leak into the bloodstream before crossing the blood-brain barrier and injuring children. There are many reasons why pregnant women should be careful about their diet; I don’t think this is one of them.

  15. Shannon wood, RN, MSN

    Avandia & Vioxx(diabetic drug, pain killer) killed over a 100 thousand people, before they were pulled off the shelf by the FDA. The vaccines may have killed more due to vaccinal induced SIDS & seizures, yet the FDA refuses to pull this product. The new insert on the DTaP vaccine indicates SIDS, SEIZURES & AUTISM, as possible side effects, yet doctors refuse to warn parents of this. What’s really sad, is the fact that these infants & children are put at this huge risk-for nothing. The DTaP DOESN’T WORK. VIRUSES MUTATE!!! Last year in our county, we had over 600 whooping cough outbreaks, and almost all of the kids had received the five recommended dose of this highly toxic, ineffective vaccine. Explain this MR Mnookin.

    • Jared Hughes

      As of September 30, 2010, there have been 56 U.S. reports of death among females who have received Gardasil. Thirty of these reports have been confirmed and 26 remain unconfirmed due to no identifiable patient information in the report such as a name and contact information to confirm the report. Confirmed reports are those that scientists have followed up on and have verified the claim. In the 30 reports confirmed, there was no unusual pattern or clustering to the deaths that would suggest that they were caused by the vaccine.

      More information is available at:

      Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP): Summary Report [PDF - 2.37 MB]
      October 22-23, 2008
      Atlanta, Georgia

    • Error: Unable to create directory /home/worldsci/public_html//wp-content/uploads/2014/04. Is its parent directory writable by the server? Seth Mnookin

      There are so many factually incorrect statements I’m not even sure where to start. The five doses of the DTaP vaccine aren’t completed until a child is between four and six years old. The first three doses are needed to establish a base-line of immunity. I don’t know the age of the 10th child that died last year in California, but as I said above, nine of them were younger than six months old — which means they had not yet received their initial three doses. Writing in all caps and bandying about scary claims doesn’t change the reality of the situation.

  16. justine

    I have two concerns with vaccines:
    1. Vaccines are not tested for their safety in babies because it would be unethical, so how do we know they are safe before we give them to our children? I had a seizer after a vaccine was administer.
    2. If the whooping cough vaccine is effective then why is there still natural out breaks every few years?

    even though we made the decision to no vaccinate our son I am still looking for the best information out there on the subject.

    • Sam Edwards

      What are you defining as “effective”?

      No vaccine is 100 percent effective, but when a mostly effective vaccine is used by everyone, it increases “herd immunity” (look it up) and prevents outbreaks. Sometimes, this can be done to the point of eradicating the virus, as was done with Smallpox and Polio (except for east asian countries).

      Because no vaccine is 100 percent effective and 100 percent of people don’t take vaccines, there are still outbreaks. This isn’t a failure of vaccination, it’s a failure of adherence and not a long enough time for things to work.

    • Error: Unable to create directory /home/worldsci/public_html//wp-content/uploads/2014/04. Is its parent directory writable by the server? Seth Mnookin

      Justine — I have most of a whole chapter in my book dealing specifically with vaccine safety testing; that’s not a way of saying you need to buy my book in order to get the answer to your first question, it’s a way of saying I can’t give an adequate answer in 800 characters or less. You should not be worried that vaccines are untested before they are used.
      As for your second question, I think some of my answers above get to that point: Outbreaks can occur as a result of adults who haven’t received boosters or in under- or unvaccinated children. It’s important here to remember the concept of herd immunity — it order for a given disease to disappear from a population, somewhere around 95% of the population needs to be immune — and that was not the case in California.

  17. norman

    The problem with the vaccine is the alum used to hold the protein particles in the vaccine. The immune system will react with the alum to form an imflammasome complex. The imflammasome is non-pyretic but could be the source of imflammation affecting neurons, since this condition is not recognize or corrected. Of course, the basic of the problem is poor immune regulation that neccesitate the need for vaccines and the development of an immune response to alum.

    • Error: Unable to create directory /home/worldsci/public_html//wp-content/uploads/2014/04. Is its parent directory writable by the server? Seth Mnookin

      I have absolutely no idea what this is supposed to mean. I know aluminum has become one of the latest bogeyman for people determined to show vaccines are not safe. The maximum amount of aluminum an infant could receive in vaccines during the first six months of life is less than half of the amount that infant will receive in breast milk; about a tenth of what an infant would receive in infant formula; and about one-thirtieth of the amount an infant would receive on a diet of soy formula. “There’s aluminum in vaccines!” sounds very scary — and it is, in the absence of any context. (For parents or parents-to-be interested in a fact-sheet on aluminum, there’s a PDF download available from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia here: http://www.chop.edu/export/download/pdfs/articles/vaccine-

  18. I have a hard time being polite to people who don’t immunize their children. I can’t help pointing out that they are relying on the vast majority of families that do immunize. As with the whooping-cough babies in California, they also expose others to the diseases.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wuvn-vp5InE&feature=related

    Mr. Mnookin’s point is good: People who have seen children die, or suffer brain damage, or just plain suffer from these diseases are much more willing to immunize.

    I got a smallpox vaccination as a kid. The worldwide vaccination effort was very successful. As a result, there have been no cases of smallpox in the world since 1971, and kids no longer have to have the vaccine. Let’s think bigger about vaccinations.

  19. Stephanie

    Appreciated your comment that refusing to vaccinate has become a “problem of affluence”. Vaccines were developed for a reason and we are now seeing the results of not vaccinating. Three casses of whooping cough appeared last year at my 7/0′s school.In an affluent neighborhood, at an expenesive private school, in Los Angeles.

  20. Karlin Merwin

    Yes their is a scientifically proven treatment for autism! Thank you for your interview and your research. During your interview you said there was no treatment, or no effective treatment, for autism. There is a treatment for autism with 20 plus years of peer reviewed science to back it up. It is called Applied Behavior Analysis (“ABA”) and the outcome for the vast majority of the autistic children that receive this treatment is that they participate in regular education with their typically developing peers. You can find out about ABA at http://www.lovaas.com

    • Error: Unable to create directory /home/worldsci/public_html//wp-content/uploads/2014/04. Is its parent directory writable by the server? Seth Mnookin

      Karlin – You’re right; thank you for the correction. ABA is the most widely-accepted treatment for autism and there is a robust body of research supporting its effectiveness, especially when used as an early intervention. ABA isn’t universally accepted and there have been some pointed critiques of it, but it was wrong for me to say categorically that there is no scientifically supported treatment.

  21. Rose Moltisanti

    I argue with my husband every year over the flu vaccine. He believes the children should get it and I disagree. Getting the vaccine doesn’t prevent you from getting the flu. They only use a few strains to make up the vaccine. You can get vaccinated and still get the flu. He believes we should vaccinate to reduce the chances. I don’t feel we should subject them to something that may not work. I am also reluctant because of how the drug companies push the vaccine on people. There is something in my gut that says DON”T DO IT!

    • Error: Unable to create directory /home/worldsci/public_html//wp-content/uploads/2014/04. Is its parent directory writable by the server? Seth Mnookin

      Rose, I understand your hesitation (although I’m not entirely sure where you’re getting your information). I also know how hard it can be to go against your “gut instinct” when it comes to dealing with your children’s health.
      However, I do not think instinct is a good way to go about making decisions about medicine or health; in fact, that’s one of the major themes of my book. Many medical interventions seem to go against “common sense”: Chemotherapy (killing live tissue to protect someone), re-breaking bones in order to heal a fracture, etc. (Part 2 of this response to follow.)

      • Error: Unable to create directory /home/worldsci/public_html//wp-content/uploads/2014/04. Is its parent directory writable by the server? Seth Mnookin

        There are several reasons you should vaccinate your children against the flu: An average of between 20,000 and 30,000 Americans have died of flu-related complications over the past 35 years. The elderly and infants are most at risk for serious complications, and by not vaccinating your children because your “gut says don’t do it,” you are putting the most vulnerable members of society at risk. (You’re also putting pregnant women at risk.)
        One last point: There is no medical intervention that is guaranteed to work, from taking aspirin to heart or lung transplants. If you didn’t have your children undergo medical interventions that may not work, they literally would never receive treatment.

    • Michael

      Listen to your husband and not your gut. I went to a presentation about a year ago and was shocked to learn the death rate for flu in the U.S. I’m sorry I don’t remember the number right now but it was pretty substantial. If a quickpoke in the arm has even a relatively small chance of saving my child’s life the decision is easy.

  22. Karlin Merwin

    Thank you for your interview and your research. During your interview you said there was no treatment, or no effective treatment, for autism. There is a treatment for autism with 20 plus years of peer reviewed science to back it up. It is called Applied Behavior Analysis (“ABA”) and the outcome for the vast majority of the autistic children that receive this treatment is that they participate in regular education with their typically developing peers. You can find out about ABA at http://www.lovaas.com

  23. Stacy

    Could you please explain how the safety and mechanism of vaccines in the human body are scientifically proven if their pharmacokinetics (the study of bodily absorption, distribution, metabolism and excretion of ingredients) are never examined or analyzed in any vaccine study?

    Can you provide a risk/benefit profile on how the benefits of injecting a known neurotoxin (aluminum used as adjuvant in vaccines) exceeds its risks to human health for the intended goal of preventing disease?

    • Error: Unable to create directory /home/worldsci/public_html//wp-content/uploads/2014/04. Is its parent directory writable by the server? Seth Mnookin

      Stacy, I’m not trying to be impolite, but it doesn’t seem as if you actually want to have a conversation. I’m not sure where to begin addressing the claim that the pharmacokinetics of vaccines are never examined or undertaken. Search for “pharmacokinetics vaccines” in PubMed or Google scholar and you literally get tens of thousands of results.
      As I said above, any “risk” or the amount of aluminum in vaccines is lower than the “risk” associated with the amount of aluminum in, well, being alive.

  24. Stacy

    It appears to me that vaccine supporters generally assume that anyone who questions the safety and effectiveness of vaccines and contemplates the benefits/risks of vaccines individually and as a whole is only worried about autism. Vaccines can cause a variety of side-effects, many serious, indeed sometimes deadly. People who question the safety and effectiveness of vaccines are worried about more than autism. Why doesn’t the debate seem to move beyond Andrew Wakefield and the Lancet study?

    It is a fact, that no well-designed study has ever examined and compared health outcomes of non-vaccinated children with vaccinated children. Asthma, ADHD, diabetes are just a few of the many problems associated with vaccines.

    • Sam Edwards

      This is like the “Well, I know someone who wore a seatbelt in a car accident and he was killed by it”. It’s an irrelevant point.

      You don’t have an established baseline to compare what a vaccine does with what the illnesses do. I can’t find any reputable sources that claim that ADHD and Asthma are caused by vaccines, but I can find some reputable sources that say that vaccines prevent measles, mumps and rubella, and even more reliable sources saying that those three illnesses *do* kill people.

    • Matt

      Not really. Lots of people are concerned about vaccine safety.

      It’s the difference between saying, “you know, this theater could be more safe” vs. “FIRE, there’s a fire in this theater!”

      In Wakefield’s case, he created the smoke.

      Why shouldn’t he be in trouble? He created it for himself.

  25. Matt

    Seth,

    I’m glad you wrote this. I wish it had come out years ago. As an autism parent, I had to wade through all this myself for years. The arguments can be made to look convincing that MMR or mercury caused autism. It is easy to make vaccines sound scary. It is easy, and for some it is a conscious decision to instill the fear.

    I suspect it is only a matter of time before someone here or elsewhere claims that anything from “The World” is suspect since they are sponsored by the medtronic foundation and Amgen.

    • Error: Unable to create directory /home/worldsci/public_html//wp-content/uploads/2014/04. Is its parent directory writable by the server? Seth Mnookin

      Matt — I really appreciate your comment. I think one unfortunate aspect of this whole debate is the perception that there’s a monolithic “autism” community that is fixated on vaccines. The reality is that there’s a small number of people who are very vocal. An enormous number of people with personal experience with autism feel the way you do.

  26. Desdemona

    I am curious to know why the media has completely ignored the other scientists and studies that show concern over vaccine safety. A number of pro-vaccine scientists have testified in front of Congress regarding their own concerning vaccine study results and concern over our vaccine schedule. They also testified that they felt pressure not to conduct studies that may put vaccine safety into question. Many of these scientists are highly regarded and have no connection to Wakefield.

    • Error: Unable to create directory /home/worldsci/public_html//wp-content/uploads/2014/04. Is its parent directory writable by the server? Seth Mnookin

      Who are you referring to?

      • Desdemona

        Vijendra Singh, PhD
        Bernard Rimland, PhD
        Michael J. Goldberg, MD, F.A.A.P.
        Mary Megson, MD
        John Upledger, D.O., O.M.M.
        Ronald Kennedy, PhD
        James Bradstreet, MD, FAAFP
        Cindy Schneider, MD, FACOG
        Jeffrey Segal, MD
        Walter Spitzer, MD
        Boyd Haley, PhD
        David Amaral, PhD
        Mady Hornig, MD

        just to name a few. These names are from only 3 hearings, but there were many more with other doctors and researchers. As someone who wrote a book on the topic, I am sure you are familiar with the Congressional hearings on vaccines, but links to the hearings can be found toward the bottom of this page:

        http://www.circare.org/lex/fedhearings.htm

        Another link to check out is here:
        http://www.ucdmc.ucdavis.edu/mindinstitute/newsroom/vaccineposition.html

      • Error: Unable to create directory /home/worldsci/public_html//wp-content/uploads/2014/04. Is its parent directory writable by the server? Seth Mnookin

        Jeff Bradstreet is a former colleague of Wakefield’s, publishes studies in non-indexed journals, and has been accused by parents of using exorcisms to cure children of autism. He has, in the past, sold the same alternative treatments he advocates. He runs something called “The Good News Doctor Foundation,” has filed suit claiming his child was injured by vaccines, and publishes in a journal run by an organization that claims Obama won the presidency in part by using mind control on Jews and intellectuals.

      • Error: Unable to create directory /home/worldsci/public_html//wp-content/uploads/2014/04. Is its parent directory writable by the server? Seth Mnookin

        Boyd Haley sells something called OSR#1 to parents as a supposed treatment for autism. The FDA recently warned him to stop marketing the product as a harmless supplement because it is a toxic, unapproved drug that has side effects including hair loss and abnormalities of the pancreas.
        Mary Megson has promoted the use of cod liver oil to treat autism.
        Mady Hornig has said publicly that the way her research is being interpreted with regards to vaccines is not valid.
        I could go through this list one-by-one but I suspect this will quickly turn into a game of whack-a-mole.

    • Matt

      Interesting list of names.

      To pick one–Mady Hornig. Are you aware that she was the first author on a paper that attempted to replicate Wakefield’s work?

      Attempted and showed that Wakefield’s work couldn’t be replicated?

      There are a lot of people who study vaccine safety. Most are people who don’t push the notion that vaccines cause autism.

  27. Seth Mnookin will be in Grand Rapids, MI tomorrow, Wed. 1/26/11 to speak on his book The Panic Virus at Center For Inquiry Michigan.

    Details: http://www.cfimichigan.org/events/event/fe-012611/

    • Error: Unable to create directory /home/worldsci/public_html//wp-content/uploads/2014/04. Is its parent directory writable by the server? Seth Mnookin

      I can categorically confirm that this was true.

  28. Laurel

    Matt, your comment about distrusting The World because they are sponsored by the Medtronic Foundation and Amgen sent me to google. There may very well be a conflict of interest here. Google either organization with the word “glutamate” added……….the pharmaceutical industry and the food industry are in a deadly symbiotic relationship at our expense.

    • Error: Unable to create directory /home/worldsci/public_html//wp-content/uploads/2014/04. Is its parent directory writable by the server? Rhitu Chatterjee

      Laurel,

      The World’s science reporter here. I’d like to note that our funders have no say in our editorial decisions on what we cover and how we cover them.

      Rhitu Chatterjee

  29. Marjorie D. Wertz

    About 20 years ago (approx) I read an extensive article about the polio vaccine which was administered to lots of children was possibly contaminated. The manufacturers rushed to make enough of it and allegedly did not take enough precautions. The article was in New York Magazine.

    As a recipient of that mandatory shot, I have been worried about the “monkey vaccine”, the term used in the article.

    How do I know that the vaccine dose I got did not affect me adversely? How does anyone prove scientifically this cause-effect or lack thereof?

    • Error: Unable to create directory /home/worldsci/public_html//wp-content/uploads/2014/04. Is its parent directory writable by the server? Seth Mnookin

      Marjorie — I believe you are referring to the Cutter Incident, which I write about in my book. After the Salk polio vaccine was introduced, the Cutter pharmaceutical company in California released contaminated batches of the vaccine. It was one of the worst vaccine-related health disasters in history. Dozens of children were paralyzed and some died.
      This occurred in the days after the vaccine was first used, and it was not “mandatory.” (In fact, there were widespread fears of vaccine shortages.) If you were not vaccinated between April 12 and April 26, 1955, you are at no risk of having received a vaccine from the Cutter labs — and the side effects were either paralysis or death, so you’d know in either case.

  30. Paul

    Apparently the reporter has not even read the 1998 Wakefield et al Lancet paper, as that paper does not, as asserted here, claim a link between the Measles Mumps Rubella (MMR) vaccine and regressive autism. The paper is not a study, as claimed here, it’s a case series, aka an early report. Know the difference?

    The “fraudulent” label comes from the reporter (not a scientist) who admits he was commissioned to write his piece, and who did not provide verifiable evidence of his claims. None of the actual findings in the paper have been repudiated.

    It’s no wonder that autism parents with scientific training do not trust the hit pieces such as this.

    • Error: Unable to create directory /home/worldsci/public_html//wp-content/uploads/2014/04. Is its parent directory writable by the server? Rhitu Chatterjee

      Just to clarify, a couple things. I think Paul’s referring to the British Medical Journal (BMJ) investigation. That was done by investigative reporter, Brian Deer on behalf of the BMJ. However, the journal endorsed the results of that investigation. You can read what the journal editors had to say here: http://www.bmj.com/content/342/bmj.c7452

      And the Wakefield paper was retracted by The Lancet last year. You can read the retraction notice here: http://press.thelancet.com/wakefieldretraction.pdf

    • Matt

      Paul,

      A couple of points. A case-series *is* a study. It’s a study of a series of cases. Andrew Wakefield even referred to it as a study when it was ongoing and after it was recently published.

      Wakefield has tried to distance himself from the word “study” because of the problems he got himself into. His “case-series” wasn’t really a case-series, but a study funded by and driven by litigation in the UK. It had the goal to provide evidence usable in court for many of the parents of the children involved in the study.

      “Fraudulent” comes from the editors of the BMJ, who are doctors and researchers.

      I am an autism parent with scientific training. Seth’s book and this interview were spot on. Findings of the Lancet paper have been repudiated. If one looks at the paper by Hornig, one will find that a true case series of children with GI complaints, there isn’t the history of regression after MMR as Wakefield claimed in his paper. Hornig also repudiates a later Wakefield paper which claimed to find measles virus in gut tissue of children with autism.

    • Error: Unable to create directory /home/worldsci/public_html//wp-content/uploads/2014/04. Is its parent directory writable by the server? Seth Mnookin

      Paul – You’re technically correct that the actual Wakefield paper does not “claim a link” — it posits a link.
      You are not correct, as Matt points out below, that a case series is not a study. A case series is also not by definition an early report, and the early report label that was placed on this paper was put there by the editor of the Lancet after concerns were raised about the paper’s quality.
      What’s more, Wakefield did not treat his paper as an “early report”; in the press conference held announcing the results, he told the press he recommended parents not give their children the MMR vaccine.
      Whether or not you want to label the paper outright fraud, it’s undeniable that the findings have both been repudiated by the paper’s other authors and contradicted by numerous other studies.

  31. Leslie

    As a new parent in the midst of a whooping cough outbreak in my city, it is so upsetting to me that parents are willing to put other people’s children at risk for serious, even fatal diseases–and yes, many of them realize they are taking that chance and don’t immunize anyway. It is no surprise that outbreaks of whooping cough, etc. are occurring in overprivileged areas with lower vaccination rates than the rest of the country. These people are ignoring hard science, spending way too much time on the Internet, and gambling with other kids’ lives. Unfortunately children will die because of their foolishness, selfishness, and paranoia. (Sorry, that wasn’t a question… :) I look forward to reading your book.)

  32. CJsDad

    I am the father of a now 25 year old son with autism. Since he was young, we have heard of a “regressive” form of autism, where children were developing normally until some “event”, after which they went rapidly downhill in their behavior and development. My son did not have a “regressive” form, he has always (as far as we known) been “autistic”.

    I do not “know” that vaccines or thimerisol “cause” autism. What I do know is that there are many many parents whose have had similar experiences. Their children have had bad reactions to vaccinations and within 2-4 weeks they have “regressed” into autism. There is no explanation for these cases. Hannah Polling is one of them. Until these cases can be explained, some members of the public will continue to doubt the medical establishment.

    • Alysia

      I have to chime in. My 3 year old son was diagnosed at 18 months with autism but we saw signs of this condition when he was only a few months old, long before his MMR vaccines. I have been disheartened that the discussion of autism has been hijacked by the anti-vaccine folks for so many years. It’s important to sort out the routes of autism but since so many children suffer this diagnosis I think we should be looking at the effects of raising a special needs kids on couples, families, communities.

    • Error: Unable to create directory /home/worldsci/public_html//wp-content/uploads/2014/04. Is its parent directory writable by the server? Seth Mnookin

      CJ’s Dad – I’m confused by your comment. In your first paragraph, you seem to be saying that you do not believe your son regressed or had regressive autism and in your second paragraph you seem to be saying the opposite. I’m not trying to be obtuse — I just want to make sure I’m not misunderstanding you.

      • CJsDad

        I’m sorry my comment was confusing. In my son’s case, there is no evidence of “regressive” autism. But there are many parents who have experienced such cases, and until the medical establishment can deal with those cases rather than simply dismissing them, there will be doubt and mistrust.

        I personally believe that there are probably several/many causes of what we call autism. There are clearly genetic components, but likely environmental triggers or aggravating causes as well.

        On the vaccination angle, I am personally concerned about the massive explosion in vaccinations since my sons were born in the 1980′s. Do we really need to vaccinate newborns for hepatitis? But the establishment won’t allow a reasoned discussion of the schedule and labels parents who object.

      • Error: Unable to create directory /home/worldsci/public_html//wp-content/uploads/2014/04. Is its parent directory writable by the server? Seth Mnookin

        There’s widespread acceptance that there is likely an environmental component — that component just isn’t vaccines. One of the unfortunate things about the obsession with vaccines is that millions of dollars that could have been spent looking at other potential triggers was spent replicating experiments that have already been done.
        The “massive explosion” you refer to is actually an increase of seven vaccines. Because of advances in our knowledge of virology and immunology, even with the addition of those vaccines there are many, many times less of a viral load than there was in the 1980s.

  33. Peter Draughon

    I had measles in 1960 when I was 6 yrs old. My mother found me in bed…I didn’t show up to watch ‘Captn Kangaroo’. I was unconscious..puss out of my ear and 104+ fever. I was in a coma for 1-2 days. It wasn’t until I was 25 yrs old that I realized my ‘nausea’ that I had experienced since the coma was actually simple seizures/mild epilepsy. The research I’ve done indicate I had a 50/50 chance of living. People that fear immunization need to be taught statistics – 1)The odds of complications without immunization 2) odds of complications with immunization 3) odds that their unimmunized child spreads measles/death/damage to another child that hasn’t been immunized..but was intended to be. If damage/death occurs because someone intentionaly does not immunize, who is guilty/liable?

    • Michael

      Darn, I was hoping to find a response with numbers to a question like this. I use vaccinations (absent actual data) as an example of incomplete reasoning/risk assessment.

      I sincerely believe that the number of infected children who will die of measles, pertussis, etc vastly exceeds even the worst fear numbers of those who fear vaccinations.

      What does the anti-vaccine crowd claim as the numeric risk? Out of 100,000 vaccinated children how many will suffer ill effects?

      What are the actual values for the various preventable diseases?

      I have no doubt in my mind that the real, documented risks of diseases prevented by MMR vastly exceed the alleged risk of the MMR vaccine. I would just like the numbers to support that position.

  34. Error: Unable to create directory /home/worldsci/public_html//wp-content/uploads/2014/04. Is its parent directory writable by the server? Rhitu Chatterjee

    Hi everyone,

    The World’s science reporter here. I’m also the moderator for this discussion.

    Just a quick note to say that if you don’t see your question/comment here, don’t worry. We’ve had an overwhelming response to this discussion and I’m working through a huge backlog of comments….I’ll post yours very soon.

    Also wanted to add that Seth is traveling. So, expect a small delay in hearing from him.

    Thank you all for sharing your thoughts and questions in this discussion!

    Rhitu

  35. Chris Converse

    Thank you for your book, Seth. As with so many emotional topics, questions are being framed in black & white. “Does the MMR Vaccine cause autism?”, “Are vaccines dangerous?”". Unfortunately for all, Wakefield’s work has been distilled to these simple yes/no arguments. His “study” was a case series. The protocol of child selection was not the same as a double blind study selection, nor should it have been. Case series are written as observations in clinical practice, with further recommendations for research. As a parent, I look at risk to the disease, efficacy of the vaccine, and risk of the vaccine. The CDC publishes all this data. I encourage all to make these inquiries rather than accept the good or bad argument. Wakefield’s work was not conclusive either way.

    • Error: Unable to create directory /home/worldsci/public_html//wp-content/uploads/2014/04. Is its parent directory writable by the server? Seth Mnookin

      Chris – you’re definitely right that Wakefield’s work was not conclusive either way (although as I mention above, he did make wholesale public health recommendations based on his results).
      Regardless, the problem with Wakefield’s paper goes far beyond the fact that it was a case series that only included a dozen children. In 2010, the UK’s General Medical Council revoked his license to practice medicine because of what it found were “dishonest, irresponsible, and…misleading” representations about his work, including that the children were not consecutive random referrals; that he had taken out a patent for an alternate measles vaccine before his paper was published; and that he had a financial relationship with a law firm working with parents on possible lawsuits related to vaccines.

  36. Error: Unable to create directory /home/worldsci/public_html//wp-content/uploads/2014/04. Is its parent directory writable by the server? Seth Mnookin

    Hi, folks — sorry about the delay in getting to these; I’m currently in O’Hare and headed to Grand Rapids. I’ll get to the unanswered questions above as soon as I can. If you don’t see an answer from me right away, it’s likely because I’m planning on circling back to it or because it’s something that has (or will) come up again.
    Thanks for all the questions and feedback — it’s great to know this is a topic so many people are interested in and feel strongly about.

  37. Error: Unable to create directory /home/worldsci/public_html//wp-content/uploads/2014/04. Is its parent directory writable by the server? Seth Mnookin

    I was able to get to a bunch for comments today — keep them coming. The last few days have been plagued by logistical mishaps and physical maladies, but I’ll keeping coming back here as much as possible, and at least once a day…

  38. Jennifer

    Thanks for your interview and I look forward to the book. Even though Wakefield’s research etc has been discredited, I am still wondering how to contend with the fact that many parents, including some I’ve met personally, have had tragic outcomes after vaccinations. I trust parents who say their otherwise healthy child experienced severe symptoms the night after being innoculated. I have seen this in my own kids: spiking high fevers after shots and I’ve known it was causation — not a sign of coincidental illness, and it abated w/in 12 hrs — yet thankfully I have not experienced anything more dramatic. I believe the science, but I also believe these parents’ stories and some of them are so distressing – seizures, loss of affect, etc. Signed, Struggling with Cognitive Dissonance!

    • Error: Unable to create directory /home/worldsci/public_html//wp-content/uploads/2014/04. Is its parent directory writable by the server? Seth Mnookin

      Jennifer – you raise a series of excellent points. I actually talk a lot about cognitive dissonance (and other cognitive biases) in the book.
      I’ve spoken with dozens of parents who believe their children experienced an extreme downturn in developmental abilities following a post-vaccination fever. I am 100 percent confident that all of these parents are being completely honest.
      It is a reality of human nature that we do not deal well with randomness–we re-order past events to create narratives that are coherent. There have been a number of court cases in which parents’ recollections about their childrens’ pre- and post-vaccination development has been contradicted by contemporaneous medical records or videos.

  39. James W

    Thank you Mr. Mnookin for your work on this topic.

    My take on this debate is this. When asked if she would change her mind about a vaccine/autism link if she was presented with proof that there was no connection, a mother said no. Nothing could convince her there wasn’t a connection. Scientists, however, finding even a single bit of proof (repeatable and reliable) would have to change their theories. That’s the basis of science.

    Personally, I think most of them would love to find a connection. Companies could then make people pay for the research of a new vaccine AND a treatment for autism. Why would pharma-companies NOT want to do that? The logic of them hiding that their vaccine causes problems is flawed.

  40. Error: Unable to create directory /home/worldsci/public_html//wp-content/uploads/2014/04. Is its parent directory writable by the server? Seth Mnookin

    I want to bring up a point raised above by Desdemona, who wrote that the media ignores “other scientists and studies that show concern over vaccine safety. A number of pro-vaccine scientists have testified in front of Congress regarding their own concerning vaccine study results and concern over our vaccine schedule. They also testified that they felt pressure not to conduct studies that may put vaccine safety into question. Many of these scientists are highly regarded and have no connection to Wakefield.” I really am curious to know who these people are, and if anyone can point me to them I’d be grateful.

  41. Error: Unable to create directory /home/worldsci/public_html//wp-content/uploads/2014/04. Is its parent directory writable by the server? Seth Mnookin

    Hi, all. Sorry for the brief disappearance — I was dealing with a combination of travel woes and physical maladies. Tonight is going to be the last night of this particular conversation — I’ll get to some more questions in a bit, and then sign off…

  42. Error: Unable to create directory /home/worldsci/public_html//wp-content/uploads/2014/04. Is its parent directory writable by the server? Seth Mnookin

    I answered a handful of the previous questions — they’re inserted above. That’s all we have time for — thanks for all of the great questions, and I hope everyone keeps on looking into the issue.
    Best,
    Seth

  43. C Lindstrom

    How wonderful for the drug companies! There are so much more to say against various vaccine campaigns. This “balanced” discussion is a perfect example of PR tactic to seed doubt and it is disgusting to present this as science when the interest is so clear.

  44. Sue Mahany

    The vaccination decision has been the most stressful decision I have made as a parent. A naturopath told me to do tetanus and make sure to ask for a single dose vial. I do personally know a mother of a child that screamed for four hours solid (she had never done that before) after getting a vaccine and when she called to ask the doctor about it he said that it was unrelated to the vaccine she had gotten that morning. For sure, he did not report it. The tricky thing about the statistics and the studies is that, as a parent, they have lost their power over me because there has been so much misinformation and misplaced trust. In the end, it made more sense to me to concentrate on building my kids immune systems with healthy food and simple supplements like Vitamins C&D, Iodine, and fish oil.

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