And the winner is…Fox News

Why did I even bother to ask?

Earlier today, Fox News took the bait about the new autism/vaccines “study” and ran a piece titled “Probe to reveal link between vaccine settlements and autism.” Anchor Alisyn Camerota introduced the segment by advertising a “Fox News exclusive.” (I’ve been getting press releases about tomorrow’s press conference since last week.) “We have breaking news over the debate over autism and vaccines,” she said. “A group of families…are set to announce the results of a major investigation.” She then called on Trace Gallgher, who, after referring to Andrew Wakefield as a “prominent scientist,” said the report…

…will present^ evidence that the federal government, through this Vaccine Court, has given dozens and dozens of children multi-million dollar rewards, and these kids are autistic — the question being if there’s no cause and effect, why the muti-million dollar rewards? … This same group says they will come out and present evidence that is indisputable that there is a link between autism and vaccines.

Missing from their dispatch was any context about the substance of this new “study”  — how the Vaccine Court works, what this data might mean, etc. — which, as I tried to point out, only requires a basic understanding of epidemiology.

Also missing was any background about the study’s four authors — none of whom are research scientists (or epidemiologists).` They are Mary Holland, a lawyer who wrote the chapter defending Andrew Wakefield in the recent book Vaccine Epidemic; Louis Conte, the father of two boys he believes are vaccine injured and the former director of something called the “Vaccine Injury Compensation Program Justice Project”; Robert Krakow, who is an attorney who represents clients who have filed Vaccine Court claims and who has filed his own claim on behalf of his son; and Lisa Colin, one of Krakow’s colleagues.

This doesn’t mean any of them are bad researchers. It is, however, important context. I first met Krakow at a seminar he helped lead in which the American government’s vaccine policies were compared to Nazi eugenics. Conte has for years been writing about how the CDC’s “annual propaganda session” about vaccines is designed “to insure that Americans continue to poison themselves.” And Holland’s publisher asked me to participate in a live debate with Andrew Wakefield at an event promoting the book’s launch. (I declined.)

^ Edited 5/10/11 9:38 am from “preset” to “present” because of typo.

` Edited 5/10/11 10:45 am to clarify backgrounds of study authors.

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47 Responses to And the winner is…Fox News

  1. Just checking, as I don’t think you mentioned it in the last post either–this isn’t any kind of peer-reviewed paper, right? Just their “investigation” with results released via press conference?

    • The “prestigious” Pace Environmental Review, as Fox calls it, is a student-run journal. It was supposedly reviewed by law school faculty and “experts” in the relevant field.

  2. Matt Carey says:

    The journal declined my request for an embargoed copy. All for the best. Too much real news this week.

    Much of the same team has put on a couple poorly attended press conferences. Even a little press is more than they usually get these days. GR’s email announcement sounded a bit wistful for the days when they had real news.

  3. Pingback: News about Breaking News issue #1 | Conservative Homepage | Best Conservative News Sites

  4. Pingback: Autism Info & Resources » Blog Archive » Analysis Finds Evidence of Autism in Many Vaccine Injury Cases – FairWarning

  5. Correct me if I’m wrong but as far as I can tell, a bunch of settlements in/out of court only proves that there have been settlements in/out of court. Right?
    Isn’t that the point of a settlement? That it doesn’t prove anything one way or another, they settle?

    Also, to my knowledge, no one has ever once denied that there are vaccine injuries. Everyone knows that there is a small percentage of people that do have “adverse” effects, some even die.

    I could understand if they hit Washington or even the media with this list of court cases and demanded an explanation but shouting from the rooftops that it’s definitive proof just doesn’t make any sense at all.

    But then, I guess that wouldn’t have the same impact and wouldn’t get any of the media to jump on board with it.

  6. Lisa says:

    It would help me to fully understand the distinctions made between the neurological damage for which the Vaccine Court HAS awarded compensations (including the Polings) and the “official” symptoms of autism. It’d also be helpful to know how the term “autism” is being used, and whether its use reflects today’s DSM criteria or the criteria from the time when the settlements were made.

    My sense is that the DSM criteria for autism are pretty broad; is it the case that NONE of the awardees’ symptoms include those symptoms listed under PDD’s in today”s DSM? I would think that at least a few would qualify.

    Let’s say for the sake of argument that over 40+ years 10 kids were awarded compensation because of neurological damage which, after examination, could be described as a PDD (autism spectrum disorder). From a media perspective, presumably, that would be huge – while from an epidemiological perspective it would be utterly irrelevant…

    My guess is that there is a very small risk of neurological damage from vaccines which could, potentially, result in symptoms diagnosable on the autism spectrum. Clearly, those children – and families – would be eligible for Poling-style compensation.

    If such is the case, the risk would almost certainly be much less than the risk of, for example, overdosing on tylenol… being injured in a car crash on the way to the grocery store … or slipping and falling in the tub.

    But we humans are not especially good at thinking about relative risk: during the “summer of the shark” we were all terrified of being eaten alive, despite the fact that only about 4 people in the whole world suffered that fate.

    Lisa

    • Ottoschnaut says:

      The Fox Report interviews a doc lady who claims she was told to shut up about her settlement or the funds would dry up. What does that mean, if it is true?

      • Doug says:

        The “Lady doc” turns out to have been a PhD “doc” psychologist with a website that shows she is fishing for clients… Just sayin…

    • Matt Carey says:

      Lisa,

      Most of the decisions listed are for the early days of the Program. They were still working things out. For example, here is the definition of autism that shows up in a number of cases.

      “Autism is a severe mental disorder with onset in infancy characterized by preoccupation with “inner thoughts, daydreams, fantasies, delusions, and hallucinations; egocentric, subjective thinking lacking objectivity and connection with reality. The self often predominates to the total exclusion of that which is not self.” Dorland’s Medical Dictionary 169 (27th ed. 1988). “It differs from . . . mental retardation in the presence of intelligent, responsive facies and in that the full syndrome of infantile autism is not produced by mental retardation.” Dorland’s at 495-97.”

      I believe “facies” is supposed to be “faces”

      Not precisely a modern definition.

    • Twyla says:

      Lisa, we really don’t know how small that risk is.

  7. René Najera says:

    It seems to me that these folks use the Dick Cheney approach to data manipulation. They don’t “massage” the data until they get the numbers they want. They waterboard the data until they get numbers that mean completely a different thing than what they were intended to mean in the first place.

  8. Ottoschnaut says:

    I guess Seth you did not view the second part of the report? The medical doctor lady talking about how there was a clear demarcation in her son’s behavior, and most interestingly, she was told (she claims) that her annuity would “dry up” if she discussed an autism vaccine connection in relation to her settlement from VICP. Any thoughts on that part of the report?

  9. Ottoschnaut says:

    Here is the full report, it includes the second segment that is not included in Seth’s link

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tXp4hM3eQuI&feature=player_embedded

  10. brian says:

    Almost all of the cases that the authors reviewed involved the DTP vaccine, which was alleged to cause injury in about half of the cases that have been compensated by the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program. Encephalopathy following receipt of DTP was for some years a slam-dunk justification for compensation—but now that’s no longer true, as there is overwhelming evidence that such cases involved a pre-existing mutation that causes encephalopathy and the same clinical course whether or not the first seizure happens to occur in proximity to vaccination.

    It is now clear that mutations in genes that encode proteins that form neuronal ion channels are responsible for these alleged DPT-related “injuries.” The most common syndrome involves the SCN1A gene, which encodes a subunit of a sodium channel. This gene is expressed at a very low level at birth, but its expression increases until the time that seizures begin to manifest. (This doesn’t occur just in humans: (unvaccinated!) rat pups also become susceptible to seizures after a period of normal development, at a couple of weeks post-weaning, when the mutant gene reaches full expression.) This common genetic syndrome was described by Dravet, who noted: “Marked slowing or stagnation of psychomotor development, accompanied by psychotic or autistic traits and hyperactivity, was observed between the ages of one and four years. [Wolff M, Cassé-Perrot C, Dravet C. Severe myoclonic epilepsy of infants (Dravet syndrome): natural history and neuropsychological findings. Epilepsia. 2006;47 Suppl 2:45-8]

    Many of the mutations in this gene cause febrile seizures, but the genetically-determined seizure disorder (and what Dravet described as autistic traits) may or may not happen to be revealed by a febrile episode, which, nonetheless, clearly does not “trigger” the development of the disorder—or autistic traits.

    The nonscientists who put this document forward demonstrate their profound ignorance of medicine, developmental biology, and genetics. They did note this: “This assessment of compensated cases showing an association between vaccines and autism is not, and does not purport to be, science.” Sigh. They didn’t even realize that the certainly did not show show an association of vaccines and autism.

  11. Jim Gregorich says:

    “And Holland’s publisher asked me to participate in a live debate with Andrew Wakefield at an event promoting the book’s launch. (I declined.)”

    Just curious as to why you declined. It seems that this would be an excellent opportunity for all to gain a deeper understanding of the issue and ultimately the truth of the matter.

  12. TT says:

    Seth-
    Please clarify for all of us your expertise, your degrees as a scientist, your published research articles, and anything else you find pertinent. All I can find online is a Salon article you wrote about being on drugs. TIA

  13. Doug says:

    Basic real story:

    1. Vaccine court pays for damages (of any kind) that are caused by vaccines.
    2. Some settlements are for kids who have, among other problems, autism.
    3. Vaccine court does NOT claim that the vaccine CAUSED autism (and every reputable study confirms that).
    4. The lady doctor is not a medical doctor.
    5. The lady doctor is probably violating the terms of her settlement.
    6. Alisyn Camerota is a moron.
    7. Where have all the real journalists gone? You know, the ones who look for the truth?

  14. Doug says:

    Here is the real news for you persons opposed to vaccination programs:
    According to the CDC (http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5733a1.htm):
    “The number of measles cases reported during January 1–July 31, 2008, is the highest year-to-date since 1996. This increase was not the result of a greater number of imported cases, but was the result of greater viral transmission after importation into the United States, leading to a greater number of importation-associated cases. These importation-associated cases have occurred largely among school-aged children who were eligible for vaccination but whose parents chose not to have them vaccinated.” Measles encephalitis has a 15% mortality rate. Unvaccinated children,native or “imported” will cause higher incidence of measles, and measles deaths in a US population where measles was once essentially eradicated because of vaccination programs. Way to go you anti-vaccination proponents!

  15. Low Budget Dave says:

    In each case, we can follow the money easily to determine which argument smells fishy.

    If a vaccine company spends millions of dollars lobbying Congress to pass bills making them “immune” from prosecution, that does not necessarily made them evil, it just makes them immune from prosecution.

    If a vaccine company spends millions of dollars paying off doctors to write scathing attacks on the anti-vaccine crowd, that starts to smell a little. If you were actually right, why bother?

    But if a vaccine company then spends millions of dollars to whitewash proven injuries and to cover up accidental contamination, then it starts to small a lot.

    Big vaccine manufacturers are no longer spending anywhere near as much money to determine how to make vaccines safe as they are spending attacking people who point out their misdeeds.

    Here is the best way to get me taking my vaccines again: come clean. Stop covering up your mistakes and participate in an open and honest discussion. But if you just keep sending out poorly informed shills, we will keep knocking them down.

    It is getting easier every day. Because the science is not on their side, and every new research project uncovers another mistake made by vaccine manufacturers.

    If one in 100 children were being born without legs, you can bet we would be trying to find a solution instead of just blaming it on parents.

    • Doug says:

      If a vaccine company spends millions of dollars lobbying Congress to pass bills making them “immune” from prosecution, that does not necessarily made them evil, it just makes them immune from prosecution.
      CHECK
      If a vaccine company spends millions of dollars paying off doctors to write scathing attacks on the anti-vaccine crowd, that starts to smell a little. If you were actually right, why bother?
      CITE SOURCE PLEASE?
      But if a vaccine company then spends millions of dollars to whitewash proven injuries and to cover up accidental contamination, then it starts to small a lot.
      CITE SOURCE PLEASE?
      Big vaccine manufacturers are no longer spending anywhere near as much money to determine how to make vaccines safe as they are spending attacking people who point out their misdeeds.
      CITE SOURCE PLEASE?
      Here is the best way to get me taking my vaccines again: come clean. Stop covering up your mistakes and participate in an open and honest discussion. But if you just keep sending out poorly informed shills, we will keep knocking them down.
      PERHAPS THE “POORLY INFORMED SHILLS” KEEP COMING OUT BECAUSE THE SCIENCE IS ON THEIR SIDE?
      It is getting easier every day. Because the science is not on their side, and every new research project uncovers another mistake made by vaccine manufacturers.
      CITE SOURCE PLEASE?
      If one in 100 children were being born without legs, you can bet we would be trying to find a solution instead of just blaming it on parents.
      ACTUALLY THE ACTIONS OF PARENTS (LIFESTYLE/DRUG/ALCOHOL ABUSE, ETC) COULD CAUSE SUCH BIRTH DEFECTS. ALSO SEE THALIDOMIDE.

      (SORRY ABOUT ALL THE CAPS. SIGNED, CAPTAIN CAPS LOCK.)

    • Chris says:

      Please look at page 30 of this pdf and tell us where vaccines fall in the table:
      http://timewellness.files.wordpress.com/2011/04/ihii_useofmed_report.pdf

    • Venna says:

      I’m curious to know since when has anyone been blaming autism on parents? Certainly nobody has blamed me for my son’s autism. If you’ve been blamed, I’d change doctors if I were you because since nobody knows what causes autism, for all intents and purposes it literally is like a bolt of lightning striking. It can’t be predicted where or who it will strike. Nobody can be blamed for lightning, therefore really nobody (at least at this time, until a cause is found) can be blamed for any child developing autism.

      But blaming something that has been shown over and over again to have no link is just silly and wrong. Just as wrong as blaming autism on parents except that if people buy your argument, and they don’t vaccinate their children, their children catch measles, pertussis, HIB and die. If it was between blaming myself and blaming vaccines and I had to carry those deaths on my conscience, I’d take the blame for my son’s autism myself. Vaccines prevent disease, save lives and allow people who can’t get vaccines to rely on herd immunity so they can enjoy a fuller life then if there were these preventable diseases running rampant and unchecked across the country.

      Granted sources of the data you state here would be more convincing then you just spouting off what so many other anti-vaxers have been saying for the past decade and honestly, I’m getting tired of hearing it. Your argument, when compared to scientific fact, is HUGELY unconvincing.

      Another thing, if you knew anything at all about the vaccine injury compensation fund, you would know that it isn’t the pharmaceutical companies that are paying out the injury claims that are proven, it’s the government and it is so the pharmaceutical companies will continue to manufacturer vaccines because if they had to pay out the compensation funds, they would decide to just not make vaccines because it really doesn’t make them a lot of profit.

      Thinking as a business, it doesn’t make sense to continue manufacturing a product with low profit margin to begin with and then have to have a fund set aside specifically to compensate for possible injuries that may be sustained by a few individuals who have an adverse reaction to your product. If pharmaceutical companies had the choice, they wouldn’t continue to manufacture vaccines. They continue because the government has allowed them immunity from prosecution for the rare injury that might occur and because the government can’t actually produce the vaccines themselves, they rely on and fund pharmaceutical companies to do it for them in accordance with federal immunization guidelines and programs.

      From what I have seen, pharmaceutical companies are actually losing interest in continuing to produce vaccines because there is so little profit. The costs to research, develop, test and manufacture vaccines to them (as it would be for any other company) not worth the profit they bring in. To me, this is a really scary thing to think about. If pharmaceutical companies stopped producing vaccines, we wouldn’t have access to them any more and we would see diseases again running rampant. I personally hope we don’t see that day happen. But then again, that might just be the next phase in natural selection. Only people who have already been vaccinated will remain, except those who manage to survive the diseases, but it’s likely they would have injuries and disabilities from them (my younger sister is deaf in one ear from contracting spinal meningitis when she was 18 months old because my mom didn’t believe in vaccines. That is mild compared to what happened to others who suffered the diseases.)

  16. David Gorski says:

    FOX News was totally schooled This “study” doesn’t even qualify as a scientific study and in essence supports the current consensus that vaccines don’t cause autism:

    http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/?p=12610

  17. Twyla says:

    Here’s another good story on Fox:
    Vaccine-autism link: New investigation
    http://www.myfoxboston.com/dpp/morning/vaccine-autism-link-new-investigation-20110511

    • Venna says:

      OMG! I want to slap the walrus mustache right off that so called doctor. *Let’s hope the government come clean that this is all just a huge cover up.* Honestly? Does he realize how ludicrous that sounds to rational thinking people?

      And this mother stating her son had an egg allergy and had an adverse reaction to his vaccines because of it so he never should have been vaccinated. OK, but that doesn’t mean he wouldn’t have developed autism anyway, but we will never know. I’ve had allergic reactions before, but none of them ever caused me to develop autism… If vaccines cause autism in a child with an egg allergy, do eggs also cause autism then? Hmm…

      This just makes me so angry when people are talking like they are the last authority on it and nothing anyone else says matters! My son is being left behind because he didn’t get vaccinated, but he still has autism! How about we find out why he has autism? How about we find out why all these other children who didn’t have an adverse reaction to their vaccines or didn’t get vaccinated at all but still have autism? Where’s the attention and the help and the research for them?

      edited for content

    • Chris says:

      Twyla, did you miss the link to the same news story in Dr. Gorski’s comment just before your comment? Also, why would you believe studies on medical conditions done by lawyers than actual medical doctors and researchers?

  18. Twyla says:

    On this topic, Fox News — in particular, Alisyn Camerota — rocks!
    http://video.foxnews.com/v/4687300/law-school-links-autism-vaccines-in-report/

    • Chris says:

      Twyla, did you miss Dr. Gorski’s post just above? He wrote about it:
      http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/?p=12610

      And do you actually seek out medical research done by lawyers? If you happen to slip down some stairs and sprain your ankle where will you hop to: a doctor or a lawyer?

      • Twyla says:

        David Gorski sure loves the term “anti-vaccine”. He used it about 14 times in the course of his brief article. He claims that the Pace Environmental Law Review article is “propaganda”, but his article is far more propagandistic. He uses terms such as “Flacks”, “cranks”, “anti-vaccine crankosphere”. He makes vague statements about science being all on the side of there being no vaccine-autism link, and says that law is not science, and quibbles about percentages — not much to his article at all. He says, “After all, if they stuck to arguing facts, science, and evidence, they wouldn’t be cranks.” But actually, these authors are aguing facts and evidence. This is a whole lot more evidence linking autism and vaccines. Not proof, not a scientific study, but evidence that cries out for further study.

        It’s incredible that our govt agencies are not even tracking how many vax injured children have autism, nor studying the vax injured children to better understand why their injuries occurred, who is susceptible to these injuries, how such injuries can be prevented, and how they can be treated. To call for this kind of study is not “anti-vaccine”. It should be part of the vaccine program. Chris, are you aware of any such studies of vaccine injured children by doctors or scientists? If so, I would be interested in reading them.

        The down sides of vaccine must be explored, not swept under the rug and ignored.

  19. John Stone says:

    Hi Seth

    The US government says:

    “The government has never compensated, nor has it ever been ordered to compensate, any case based on a determination that autism was actually caused by vaccines. We have compensated cases in which children exhibited an encephalopathy, or general brain disease. Encephalopathy may be accompanied by a medical progression of an array of symptoms including autistic behavior, autism, or seizures.”

    Paul Offit says:

    “Dr. Offit said the study authors reach erroneous conclusions due to an erroneous definition of autism. A child with measles encephalopathy, he said, may have severe cognitive deficits that fall into the autism spectrum, but such symptoms themselves do not necessarily translate into a diagnosis of autism.”

    But can you tell me what the difference is between having an autistic spectrum disorder and having an autistic spectrum disorder?

    http://www.bmj.com/content/342/bmj.d2642/reply#bmj_el_260517

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