On Friday, I wrote two posts about how the “vaccine” forum section on AskDrSears.com had been removed: “Is ‘Dr. Bob’ Sears moving away from his profitable anti-vaccine pandering?” and “Does this mean no more ‘Dr. Bob’ Sears photo-ops with Andrew Wakefield?” In the first post, I noted that two years ago, when I emailed Sears asking for an interview for my book, The Panic Virus, one of his representatives wrote back asking if I wanted to advertise on AskDrSears.com. The pricing, she said, was tied to the “specifically targeted audience” the site received due to the popularity of Sears’s best-selling The Vaccine Book, which contains such nuggets as “Vaccine-Preventable Diseases Are Not That Bad” and “Natural Infection is Better Than Vaccination.” It also advises parents worried about vaccines to “Hide in the Herd”: “When dealing with anxious parents,” Sears writes, “I warn them not to share their fears with their neighbors, because if too many people avoid the MMR, we’ll likely see the diseases increase significantly.”
Later on Friday, a reader pointed out that Sears himself seemed as flummoxed as I was about his family’s website’s sudden shift in emphasis. Friday afternoon, at almost the precise time I was putting up my posts, Sears posted this message on his Facebook page:
Huh? “It looks like”? What in the heck is that supposed to mean?
Thus far, Sears hasn’t answered my queries…but some clues can be found in poking around the redesigned site, which showcases the entire Sears family: “Dr. Bill” and Martha Sears and their sons, “Dr. Jim,” “Dr. Bob,” and “Dr. Pete.” In the site’s earlier iteration, Bob Sears’s picture was the largest and his bio was the longest; now, he’s a spectral presence. The advertising that had previously run down the right-hand margin of the page has also disappeared — there are no more pitches for Vital Choice Wild Seafood (which Sears had praised as “my favorite salmon!”) or Meyenberg Goat Milk Products.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that there’s nothing to buy: the e-commerce section of the Sears site still does still sell “beverages,” “snacks,” “supplements,” and “baby care.” There are also the books that make up the Sears Parenting Library…and this is where things get really weird: Bob Sears’s name has literally been wiped off of the covers of books he had previously been given co-author credit for. Check out the cover of The Baby Book as it appears on Amazon:
And compare that to what’s currently on AskDrSears.com:
In fact, none of the books on which Bob Sears is the primary author–including The Vaccine Book, The Autism Book, Happy Baby, or Father’s First Steps–are listed on the Sears site at all, and the links at the bottom of Bob Sears’s bio page produce “Page Not Found” messages.
Sears sudden absence from his family’s online forums does not, unfortunately, mean that he’s stopped delivering his anti-vaccine messages to his fans. The first question he received on Facebook was from the mother of a 27-month-old girl who has not received the MMR vaccine. There had, the mother said, been recent measles outbreaks in the area in which she lived — so what should she do? “I don’t see the current outbreaks as much risk,” Sears replied, “but it’s up to you.”
Wow. So far this year, there have been more measles infections in the US than in any year since 1996. Eighty-nine percent of all infections are in people who are unvaccinated — and 52% of the hospitalizations are in children under five years old. Here’s a mother who says she lives in an area with outbreaks…and Sears is telling her she doesn’t see much risk? (Sears’s cavalier approach towards measles infections directly led to the 2008 San Diego measles outbreak, which began when one Sears’s deliberately unvaccinated patients was infected while on vacation in Switzerland.)
Facebook isn’t the only place where Sears is dispensing his potentially dangerous advice — on a Mothering.com forum, he tells the mother of a one-year-old that “most cases [of measles] get through the disease withOUT complications.” (To be fair, maybe he doesn’t view hospitalization as a “complication.”) He also claims the total number of infections in 2011 will “only be less than 200″ (there will almost certainly be well over 350 — there were 118 cases in the first third of the year alone) and that there are 150 million people living in America (the total is well over 300 million).
After disappearing from his family’s site, Sears tells Facebook fans that measles outbreaks not “much risk” for infants by PLOS Blogs Network, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.