Total Drek

Or, the thoughts of several frustrated intellectuals on Sociology, Gaming, Science, Politics, Science Fiction, Religion, and whatever the hell else strikes their fancy. There is absolutely no reason why you should read this blog. None. Seriously. Go hit your back button. It's up in the upper left-hand corner of your browser... it says "Back." Don't say we didn't warn you.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Not my best decision ever.

Regular readers of this blog know that I am something of a fan of vaccines and have often defended them against the anti-vaccination folks. I've been involved in this issue for quite a while and recently revisited the matter in a pair of posts. In response to one of these recent posts I received a comment from a Paula Rothstein that more or less called me names and implied that I didn't know a damn thing about vaccination. She also suggested that as a sociologist I am entirely unqualified to talk about the vaccine/autism issue- a claim that will doubtless come as a shock to Peter Bearman. In any case, Paula concluded by angrily informing me that if I wanted to write about vaccines I should watch a movie available here on the subject. Given that I pride myself on being willing to examine the claims of those I disagree with, I decided to do as she suggested.

As it turns out, this was not one of my better decisions. The reason, I am afraid, is that the movie is long. I mean really long- over two and a half hours long. Now, this might have indicated that it was chock-full of facts, figures and useful dialogue. As you might guess, this was not the case. The movie in question is basically a recording of anti-vaccine activist Mary Tocco presenting her evidence for the dangers posed by vaccines. It is poorly organized, horribly argued, and supported by such an incredible mess of questionable sources as to make my brain bleed. I would not say that it was the worst two and a half hours of my life but I will say that, knowing what I know now, if I were given the choice of either watching this movie or hammering a nail through my hand, I'd need to think about it for a while. Very quickly as I began watching I realized that I would require some kind of release and, so, I began to respond to the various "points" she was making. I recorded each response with the corresponding time during the video and I am sharing these semi-coherent responses with you now. Aren't you lucky? Think of it as similar to that time I watched "Crossroads," with the exception that given a choice I would greatly prefer to watch that Britney Spears vehicle two or three times rather than sit through more of Mary Tocco.

Before you begin, I want to make a few brief points:

(1) I, personally, am not a medical doctor or biologist. As such I am not the best person to respond to a lot of this junk. Having said that, however, I should also note that Mary Tocco is also not a medical doctor and while she implies that she has medical expertise, it appears limited to being the office manager for chiropractic clinics. I can't even tell if she has a college education. So, in short, she and I are at worst equally qualified. In reality, I am more or less convinced that her grasp of causal logic is so weak that we are not evenly matched, but I digress.

(2) It will not surprise you to learn that I get snarky quite a lot in here. This is not necessarily always fair to Ms. Tocco BUT she spends a lot of time implying or outright stating that most individuals who advocate vaccines are stupid, greedy or evil. As such, I don't really care that I'm a tad snarky. On a related point, I sometimes remark on the potential financial conflicts of interest I discover among Mary's sources. I actually do not think that doing so is at all a strong way to dismiss someone's work- after all, even someone who is biased can be correct. I really only do it because Mary frequently makes unsupported allegations of financial conflicts of interest among vaccine supporters but seems unaware that the same is true of many anti-vaccine folks.

(3) Oftentimes in these sort of debates each side accuses the other of lying. I want it known that I suspect Mary Tocco to be entirely sincere in her beliefs about vaccines. I do not think that she is deliberately spreading questionable information but, rather, think that she is simply misguided.

(4) I provide links and argumentation where possible but, really, I adhere to a sort of "five minute rule." This means you get the data that I could track down in a fairly short period of time. I have little doubt that more information is out there.

(5) All times are approximate. I tried to get the reference as close as I could but the progress slider jumps in increments of about a minute and doing this required an ungodly amount of my time as it is. In point of fact, this absorbed so much of my time that I'm not going to blog again for at least a week. Basically, this one post sucked up the time I would normally devote to a week or more of blog posts. Sorry for the lack of updates but seriously people I'm trying to get real work done here.

(6) Normally if I provide an update to an existing post I just add it at the end and leave the original intact. This is my way of being honest about what I actually said. In this case I suspend that policy and will revise the post as needed if new information comes to light.

(7) I normally have a standing offer to post rebuttals from anyone I attack on here. In this case that policy is also suspended. I have included an embedded player for the movie below and you can reach it on a different page as well. This means I have provided multiple ways to access an extensive amount of "argumentation" from the anti-vaccine side. I simply do not feel that I can be asked to provide any more exposure to such a poorly-supported set of assertions with so much potential to cause harm. If asked I will, however, post a link to a rebuttal hosted elsewhere.

And with that, I wish you good reading and will see you all again in a week or so.

Oh, yeah, by the way: I suggest you let the movie buffer quite a bit- it's a huge f-ing file.

Are Vaccines Safe?

00:04: Oh wow. This starts with Mary thanking her children for understanding her passion for "saving babies." I know this is intended to be heartwarming but, really, it comes across as more creepy than anything else.

00:35: Whoops! She's thanking the chiropractic community. Always a good sign when someone is going to dispense medical information. Fun Fact: Chiropractic does not accept the germ theory of disease!

1:00: Awesome. A disclaimer that asserts, in part, that the DVD is for educational purposes only and is NOT intended as medical advice. A fairly important disclaimer since Mary Tocco, the spokesperson, is not a doctor. She is, in fact, the manager of a chiropractic clinic. Not a chiropractor, mind you, just the clinic manager. By that logic you should be able to get drug prescriptions from your doctor's scheduler. This is going to go well, I can tell.

1:15: Damn. They left the disclaimer up for a good fifteen seconds. They really want us to get the message, don't they? And that message is, "Please do not sue or prosecute!"

1:54: Aweome title sequence, though.

2:10: We're hearing from a "Phillip C. DeMio" about how qualified Mary Tocco is to tell us about vaccines. Basically a poorly-executed argument from "authority." For his part, DeMio is a doctor who treats autistic children. Particularly, he "treats" them with chelation therapy, among other things. This wouldn't be so bad except that there is no evidence at all that chelation therapy can help with autism and ample evidence that it's dangerous as all fuck. See here for one review. In any case, profit motive ahoy!

2:23: WTF? In the last few seconds we've had multiple cuts in the film (i.e. jump cuts). It's the video equivalent of quote mining. One is forced to wonder what the original complete sentences were.

2:27: We have just a big still of Mary Tocco on screen. Okay, we get it, you're blonde. Jesus.

2:30: "Mary Tucco 7:18"? Is this a newly-discovered book of the bible or something? Nah, wait, sorry, that's how long this segment is going to be.

2:40: Holy fuck. Those are some awesome drapes.

2:42: "I don't want you to take my word for anything." Oh, don't worry Mary, I won't.

3:00: She keeps emphasizing that she's been "researching" for 26 or 27 years. Of course, she has no appropriate credentials for performing research, but who cares about a little thing like that?

3:35: She's talking about the removal of a philosophical exemption to vaccination laws and then interprets that as a removal of some of our rights. It's an interesting argument, I concede. Nevertheless, do individual rights always outweigh the well-being of the society? I wonder what she thinks of seatbelt laws?

4:26: She's claiming most doctors don't know what is in vaccine shots. Evidence? Please?

5:00: This is going to give me a headache. She needs to slow the hell down and finish one point before she starts the next.

5:30: She claims to be an independent vaccine researcher which is important because no one is paying her. Well, aside from the revenues from her DVD or from her speaking engagements. I don't mind that she has a profit motive but, really, shouldn't she at least be up front about it?

5:42: First claim that pro-vaccine research is supported by pharmaceutical companies. Let's ignore all the studies performed by university academics, government agencies, and health insurance companies. Clearly, that's not relevant.

5:55: She's asserting that running a chiropractic office is a credential. Note, of course, that even if a chiropractor were a doctor, being an office manager for a chiropractor would not actually make you a medical expert in anything.

6:05: Awesome. She says that by adopting a vaccine free model she made the decision that she wasn't going to: "...use DRUGS on healthy children." Well, um, since vaccines are a preventative treatment, that's really the only way to use them. I suppose by her logic we should make sure to close the barn door after the horses escape.

6:18: There's a more vitalistic approach to healthcare? What the hell does that mean?

6:24: "...drugs are toxins." Awesome logic. Know what else is toxic? Fucking everything, okay? In the right dosage anything can be dangeorus, including water and oxygen.

6:35: "You have to be proactive in promoting health." Yes, indeed, and such is the point of vaccines. She goes on to speak highly of nutrition, which I agree with, and chiropractic, which has no basis in fact whatsoever. One for two ain't bad I guess.

7:08: Okay, she's claiming that vaccines are the number one cause for autism in the U.S. Too bad there's no evidence for that...

7:21: "We believe that vaccines are the most biggest insult you can do to the human body." Aside from the grammar, I think that is probably closer to the most biggest insult you can do to the human body, but I digress.

8:20: "If you're not going to vaccinate and you're not going to use antibiotics you need to know what to do to promote their [your children's] health." Step one: Pray that everyone else vaccinates and uses antibiotics to shield you from infectious agents.

9:08: "What is the difference between natural exposure to infections agents versus unnatural exposure through injectable vaccines?" Well, for a start, the vaccines contain dead or weakened versions of the pathogens so they're much, much safer.

9:50: We're at the beginning of chapter one. This should be fun...

9:55: "I think it's very important that you understand where we get our health care beliefs from." Well, not from videos by totally unqualified whackjobs if that's what you mean.

10:42: "Back when they [chiropractors] were still called quacks." They're still called that, actually.

10:55: This is interesting- she keeps linking what medical strategies you use to a "belief system." On one level she's right, if you don't accept science you won't use its treatments but, on another level, I think she's trying to equate modern scientific medicine with chiropractic hooey by declaring them both "belief systems."

11:20: She doesn't agree with what schools teach about nutrition. I wonder, has she been in the field of nutrition for 26 years as well? Perhaps as a forklift operator in a soup factory?

12:00: Well, I agree with her that there's way too much advertising for medicines but, that said, aside from "Gardasil" can anyone remember seeing a drug maker advertise a vaccine in the last twenty years?

13:28: So far the only evidence she's presented has been anecdotal. I would love to know where she's getting her figures from, though.

13:36: "Are your healthcare beliefs based on indoctrination or education?" Ooooh! Ooooh! I know the answer! Me, me!!!

14:40: Awesome- we have a call and response activity coming up here.

14:50: Ah. She's having people complete the slogan. A valid activity, but what does this have to do with vaccine safety? Answer: Nothing.

15:00: On the other hand, it's hysterical how listless her audience is. Sounds like she has an audience reaching into the dozen in size.

15:44: Interesting. She's using this to prove that we are conditioned. Well, sure, but conditioned to complete a slogan isn't the same as conditioned to buy a product. I could complete "Great Taste!" with the requisite "Less Filling!" but I don't drink at all.

16:30: And it's time for chapter 2. What did we learn in chapter 1? Um.... nothing.

16:38: This chapter asks "When did we begin to vaccinate?" and the first slide reads "When did we begin to use vaccines? In the 1950's." Shortest. Chapter. Evar.

16:55: She says people think that vaccines have been around forever and that, really, they haven't been around that long. True and false depending on how you look at it. If we started mass vaccination in 1950, then we've been doing it for almost sixty years. That's not a bad track record.

17:00 "For centuries and centuries and centuries humans lived without vaccines." Yep, that's true. At the same time, we were routinely getting our asses kicked by bubonic plague, whooping cough, polio, measles, mumps, rubella, typhus, diptheria, hepatitis... need I go on?

17:50: She's remarking on modern practices of vaccinating at earlier ages. True but (1) we can build better vaccines now and (2) that really is a better way to stave off infection. Until you're vaccinated, you are fully vulnerable to all those agents. Fun, eh?

18:05: "According to Ted Corin, who is a chiropractor/vaccine researcher." Nice combination, a little like an intelligent design/evolutionary biologist.

18:15: Seriously, people, listen to what she says: her words don't even come close to matching her slide. Always a confidence booster.

18:20: "That's a lot of vaccines." Relative to what? Receiving no vaccines? One vaccine is a lot relative to no vaccines.

19:05: Chapter 3. What did we learn in chapter 2? Um... well... that there are some number of vaccines that we receive but, really, we're not sure how many because her words contradict her slides? I am less than reassured.

19:50: After some nonsensical rambling, we're about to get in to the three waivers you can use to avoid mandatory vaccination. Oddly, she still hasn't told us why we should want to do such a thing, but I digress.

20:15: First up: religious exemption. Because if god hadn't meant us to suffer and die from infections he wouldn't have designed malaria.

20:30: She says that you just have to have a strong religious conviction (and she parenthetically defines conviction as "belief" for the quasi-illiterate in the audience) but then comments that your religion is your choice. Amazingly, the whole logic behind a religious exemption is that your religion is not a choice- your convictions are so strong that you cannot go against them. Ah, the hypocrisy.

20:38: Great. If you e-mail her she'll supply you with Biblical reasons not to vaccinate. Because, you know, the authors of the bible knew all about vaccines.

20:50: Next up: medical exemption. In other words, if the vaccine is likely to pose a too high a risk.

21:00: What the hell? Her slide lists autism as an "auto-immune disorder." This would be fine except, you know, it isn't. It's a neurological disorder that has some indications of PERHAPS incorporating a compromised immune system, but there are no signs of it being an auto-immune disorder as yet.

21:35: And last, but not least, the philosophical exemption. To use this just check the box on the vaccine consent form that reads, "I don't want my child vaccinated. No reason, I just don't feel like it."

23:00 We're twenty-three minutes in and we still have not been told why we should fear vaccines aside from bizarre references to neurotoxins and "chemicals." We have, however, been told how to evade vaccines if we want to. Hey, here's an idea: how about we put the cart behind the horse for a while?

23:08: Time for chapter 4- natural exposure differences. I just hope and pray that this chapter doesn't include any indecent exposure or southern exposure or even over exposure.

23:13: "What is the difference between a normal exposue to infectious illness and unnatural exposure through injectable vaccine?" Well, one of them is MUCH more likely to kill or cripple you than the other. Hint: not the vaccine.

23:30: "I had the opportunity to sit in and listen to Dr. Marini, who is a chiropractor/immunologist." Right. This is along the same lines as a Muslim/brewer, right? From here on in, I urge you to consider this video to be a drinking game: every time she refers to a chiropractor as an authority, do a shot. Do two shots if she refers to a chiropractor-slash-something. I expect we'll all be shitfaced before noon.

23:45: She explains to us that, if nothing interferes with a child in the womb, they are born with two eyes, a nose, ten toes, etc. Well sure, if there are no germline mutations.

23:50: "When that child is born every part of the body is underdeveloped except for one- the brainstem." Good thing, since the brainstem controls breathing and the heartbeat. She also claims that it is the only organ fully developed and fully functioning at birth. Well, the heart isn't fully developed in a sense since it's going to get bigger but, really, it had better be fully operational or the kid is fucked. Likewise lungs.

24:18: "That's why I'm a big supporter of chiropractic, because we have to make sure there's no pressure on that brainstem for newborns." Are you shitting me? You want to let a chiropractor "adjust" your infant's spine? What good would that do, since the brainstem is largely in the skull anyway?

24:40: Ah. I see. She's using all this as a way to set up her rhetorical question, "Isn't this the time to protect children from neurotoxins? When all of this stuff is developing?" [heavy paraphrase] I've been wondering why we were talking about the brainstem. Not that it isn't cool, mind you.

24:45: "After a child is born its exposure to infectious agents is through its nose, its mucous membranes." Well, shit, don't forget about things that the child eats (disease transmitted through breastmilk, for example).

25:30: "When something that is foreign gets in there, it gets identified- the tonsils are involved-" Well thank god! I was wondering when tonsils would enter into this! Seriously, though, she's right that newborns get exposed to a lot but, at the same time, they get pre-conditioned for a lot of infectious agents both in the womb and through breastmilk. Which is a fancy way of saying, "Their immune systems aren't totally on their own."

26:00: If you watch no other part of this video, start at 25 minutes in and go from there. She's trying to explain how the immune system works and it's a lot like watching an five year old try to read a physics textbook. C'mon, Mary, sound it out- you can do it!

26:47: "Many times people think that the fever is bad." Well... yes. The fever is part of your normal immune response but it has also been known to cook the brain a bit. That's a problem for most of us.

27:10: "Fever and sweats are part of your normal immune function. Does that mean it's good? YES!" Uh... not always. A fever that gives me brain damage is not f-ing good, okay? It is the body gambling that the temperature will wipe out the invader before the brain dies which, you know, is not the kind of gamble I like to take.

27:40: "There is no system in the human body that gets strengthened by avoiding challenges." What the hell does that even mean? If nothing else, I suspect my bones are stronger for not having been broken previously.

28:10: This woman scares the hell out of me. Really. There's this weird virtue through sufferng undercurrent here that just worries me.

28:41: She's asserting that vomit and diarrhea are all signs of the body expelling the infectious agent. This is true but often is exactly what the agent wants- how else is it going to spread? It isn't like there's a finite supply of virus in the body that just has to be removed. You have to kill it at a rate faster than it can reproduce and, in the meantime, a lot of our systems get subverted by the contagion. This can even extend to behavior.

29:00: Aaaaand we have our first implicit claim that trying to understand things is bad. Awesome.

30:10: "When my kids got chicken pox, I was delighted." I have no comment to offer here. She's probably (actually, she is- she mentions it later in the video) a huge fan of pox parties which are a tad unwise.

31:25: "Now, let's look at the allopathic model." This should be fun. For those who are unaware allopathy is a largely derogatory term invented by homeopaths (pronounced: "frauds") as a way of referring to conventional medical practitioners.

31:50: And we have an explicit comparison of vomiting following food poisoning to vomiting during an infection. Great except that what's going on in each case is completely different. All of what she's saying would be fine except for the fact that many symptoms of disease are not under the control of the body but rather the control of the infection. Does it really seem like a good idea to allow a hostile infectious agent to just do whatever the hell it feels like?

32:24: Now we get to hear how things differ when a child is injected with a vaccine.

32:40: She observes that when we vaccinate we expose kids to multiple agents at once whereas in the wild they probably wouldn't run into all of them at once. Fantastic logic except the wild-strain is the fully-potent version of the infectious agent whereas the vaccine is a defanged version. I imagine the immune system can handle several strains of largely inert pathogens more readily than one or two strains of full-on want-to-kill-you pathogens.

33:00: Remember, they're not just getting the virus or the bacteria [in the vaccine] but all the neurotoxins I described." WHEN?! When did you describe these? You haven't described any neurotoxins!

33:15: This is bizarre. She's claiming that a vaccine allows infectious material into the bloodstream but that a normal infection doesn't. I don't know that I can even dignify that level of stupidity with a response.

33:48: We now have the claim that immunizations don't confer lifelong immunity because they don't stimulate T-1 cells but, rather, stimulate T-2 cells. I don't even begin to have the expertise to lecture on the adaptive immune system but, as far as I can tell, these cells just have different roles in the immune process. Neither is more related to longterm immunity than the other. Besides, vaccines are often not guaranteed to provide permanent immunity and actually contracting a disease often doesn't confer perfect immunity either.

34:20: We're moving on to the vaccine scheduling again. I'm still waiting to hear how vaccines generate a different response than the main disorder. I mean, she's TOLD me they do, but she hasn't explained why or how.

34:35: She's referring to Hepatitis B as a sexually transmitted or blood-borne disease. True enough. An argument could be made that we don't need to vaccinate kids against this at birth. On the other hand, given how often kids cut and scrape themselves and how cool they find blood and wounds.... yeah.

35:35: "It [the hepatitis B vaccine] was developed for the prostitutes and the drug users." You don't want YOUR child to be a prostitute or drug user, do you?

35:55: "We're exposing them to an adult disease when they're brand new." Fortunately all pathogens come with "In order to contract me you must be X high" tags. It's a fact!

36:07: "Vaccines cause poisoning." She just threw that one out there for us.

36:17: "I know the chiropractic community is the largest non-drug healing arts in the whole world." Wow!

36:35: She's not referring to a single chiropractor here but, really, DRINK.

36:50: "Why do we all feel so obligated to go to vaccines?" Because they f-ing work.

37:13: We're talking about Robert Mendelsohn now, who did a lot of good but was also opposed to fluoridated water and routine x-rays. Speaking as someone whose life was saved because a routine x-ray detected a serious problem, I'm just as happy Mendelsohn's influence hasn't been greater.

37:40: She reads a quote from Mendelsohn suggesting that you keep your child away from the doctor unless it is an emergency, likening regular visits to dependency. I'm forced to wonder if she would agree with the same statement about chiropractors? Given that she seems okay with letting a chiropractor work on a newborn [see 24:18 above], I'm guessing "no."

38:15: "I chose not to take my baby in to find out if it was well." And fuck are you happy about it.

39:52: It's really interesting to listen to her equivocating. She strongly advises her audience to not vaccinate and forego doctors but keeps refusing to take responsibility for that advice.

40:08: Chapter 5- Vaccine production ingredients. Maybe now we'll learn what the hell she's actually talking about.

40:40: She starts by trying to make everyone feel like they're ignorant about vaccines. Then brings up the requirement for vaccination before kids attend school.

41:10: Listing of substances in vaccines with an emphasis on the allegedly toxic ones. I say "allegedly" because dosage is everything here. Most substances are only harmful at particular dosages. Besides, she lists "MSG" up there with the risk summed up as "Monosodium Glutamate allergy." Whooping cough or MSG allergy: You MAKE THE CALL!

41:34: "How would you know if your three or four month baby is allergic to any of these products?" In fairness, how do you know if they're allergic to anything? It's not like they come with instructions so you're going to discover allergies in the same way for everything: when they first get exposed to it.

42:20: Apparently vaccines have fecal matter in them along with pig blood. Assuming for a moment that this is true, so do M&M's so I'm not sure that panics me. More to the point, she gives us no idea about concentrations on any of this crap. Tiny quantities of just about anything are not going to prove problematic.

42:40: "The growth mediums used to grow the bacteria and viruses are known to be contaminated with animal retroviruses. They contain rare material like DNA and RNA." Okay, one, there is a species barrier. Two, DNA and RNA are NOT rare. Not even close. Not even slightly.

43:10: She makes a big deal out of the SV-40 detected in old-style Polio vaccines. An interesting issue except that there's no conclusive evidence linking SV-40 to cancer in humans. This does not, however, phase Mary in the slightest.

44:00: "Right now we're not just aborting babies, but we're using their body parts to create vaccines." Oddly, this doesn't bother me. Then again, since the standing order to my family should I die unexpectedly is "Let the docs harvest whatever they want, I won't be needing the meat anymore," that shouldn't surprise anyone.

44:25: She lists formaldehyde as unnatural. Great logic except that it does appear in nature, specifically when methane oxidizes in the presence of light (i.e. fart in the daytime and you've created formaldehyde). Feces, DNA and RNA also appear in nature. So what the fuck does "natural" mean, then, Mary?

44:40: Woah. She's now claiming that shampoo goes through more vigorous testing than do vaccines. Given that I worked with the FDA for a while, I cannot wait to hear this. Oh. Never mind. Unsubstantiated assertion.

45:14: Chapter 6- Are vaccines working? But wait, I thought we were going to hear about thiomersal in the last chapter? No pseudoscience for you!

45:21: "Credit has been given to vaccines for wiping out infectious disease all around the world." Well, in combination with improved sanitation, antibiotics and regular medical attention.

46:26: Ahoy there, strawman argument! Nobody is claiming that vaccines are the sole cause for decreases in infectious disease. Better sanitation and nutrition have all been extremely helpful BUT eating well isn't gonna save your ass from Polio. Just ask FDR.

46:44: She's arguing that vaccination hasn't eradicated any diseases. You know- aside from smallpox. That was a fun one.

47:07: Awesome air quotes.

47:13: She's referring to an article titled, Medical Measures and the Decline of Mortality, by John and Sonja McKinlay that appears to come from a book "The Sociology of Health and Illness: Critical Perspectives," edited by Peter Conrad and Rochelle Kern. My local library does not have a 5/e copy of this and so I can't get my hands on the actual paper she references. If someone can, by some chance, find me a .pdf I'd be ever so grateful. In any case, Mary claims that the article shows that only a small fraction (3.5%) of the reduction in infectious disease is due to modern medicine. Given my long experience with these sorts of claims, however, I'd like to find the original paper and read it myself. I'd also like to point out that running this citation to ground was quite the ordeal. John McKinlay doesn't seem to have a webpage (although he does have an ASA award statement that makes no reference to this seminal work) and Sonja McKinlay is similarly mysterious. It's probably also worth noting that, given the source, this is probably not a peer reviewed piece of work.

47:30: "He [John McKinlay] has said that this study is so thorough that no one will even debate it. No one can disprove it." I really doubt that. Academics will debate anything. We have arguments the way dogs hump legs.

48:23: We're talking about early America. Outhouses and such. What?

49:10: We're hearing about how rodents got into the food supply and people used to live close to animal products. Well, that's the natural life for you!

49:35: "The cities were cesspools of filth." That's a tad redundant. When was the last time you heard about a cesspool of perfume?

50:50: "Polio is not as deadly as most would believe." True! Thanks to modern medicine, we can get it down to horribly crippling a lot of the time. Yay!

52:47: "Measles is not life-threatening in most people." True! But the complications can be a bitch. Who doesn't love corneal scarring?

52:37: "I have found that fear is the big motivator." Well, that does explain your insistence on the vaccine/autism link, doesn't it? Fear your doctor, fear your government... you're all about fear, Mary.

52:45: Oh wow, her kid had whooping cough? Jesus. She blames it on the vaccine that another kid in her neighborhood received. Interesting argument.

53:21: "It's [whooping cough] only very dangerous in young children because they can't cough." The inability to cough is not the fucking problem. The inability to stop coughing is. I'll just quote from wikipedia here:

After a two day incubation period, pertussis in infants and young children is characterized initially by mild respiratory infection symptoms such as cough, sneezing, and runny nose (catarrhal stage). After one to two weeks, the cough changes character, with paroxysms of coughing followed by an inspiratory "whooping" sound (paroxysmal stage). Coughing fits may be followed by vomiting due to the sheer violence of the fit. In severe cases, the vomiting induced by coughing fits can lead to malnutrition and dehydration. The fits that do occur on their own can also be triggered by yawning, stretching, laughing, or yelling. Coughing fits gradually diminish over one to two months during the convalescent stage. Other complications of the disease include pneumonia, encephalitis, pulmonary hypertension, and secondary bacterial superinfection.

Because neither vaccination nor infection confers long-term immunity, infection of adolescents and adults is also common. Most adults and adolescents who become infected with Bordetella pertussis have been vaccinated or infected years previously. When there is residual immunity from previous infection or immunization, symptoms may be milder, such as a prolonged cough without the other classic symptoms of pertussis. Nevertheless, infected adults and adolescents can transmit the bacteria to susceptible individuals. Adults and adolescent family members are the major source of transmission of the bacteria to unimmunized or partially immunized infants, who are at greatest risk of severe complications from pertussis.

53:47: Ah, we're talking about Smallpox now. She claims that only 10% of the global population received the vaccination which, even if true, doesn't necessarily mean that the vaccine didn't work since smallpox infection confers immunity. You only have to vaccinate the at-risk population. Since smallpox has no animal reservoir all you have to do is prevent it from spreading for a long enough period that it runs out of hosts. So, a 10% figure, even if true, doesn't mean that it's incorrect that vaccination eradicated smallpox. Secondly, she claims that panels were convened after 9/11 to discuss the need for smallpox vaccines. This wasn't because we were worried about a natural recurrence, however, so much as a biological weapon. A lot of us have never been vaccinated since the wild virus doesn't exist any longer. Finally, she claims that a Dr. Mack at the CDC commented that smallpox would have died out anyway without the vaccine, it just would have taken longer. Given that I can't find the minutes of the meeting in which he said that it's hard to validate the claim (It’s from the June 20, 2002 meeting of CDC-ACIP if anyone wants to lodge a FOIA request) but, from what I can tell, his basic point is that with stern isolation measures we could have defeated smallpox without vaccines. I'm betting if you asked him, though, he probably wouldn't advocate that as a preferred solution, however.

54:37: Chapter 7- Thiomersal and Autism. Finally, I've been waiting for this.

54:54: Fun fact: One of Mary’s heroes is Congressman Dan Burton, who convened a set of hearings on the alleged thiomersal/autism link. The FDA refused his demands to eliminate thiomersal, claiming that no link had been shown between it and autism, but manufacturers removed mercury-containing preservatives anyway. Sadly, removing thiomersal does not appear to have reduced the autism rate at all. I say "sadly" because, really, it would have been nice if it were that simple.

55:30: She refers to Burton's grandson as a "hoped to be basketball player," until he developed autism after his 18-month well-baby visit. I'm sure the parents had a lot of hope but, really, is there any way to assess someone's probable skill at basketball when they're about as TALL as a basketball is?

55:40: "Congressman Burton KNEW- that family KNEW- that something profound happened when that baby went in for that visit." Always good evidence: personal conviction.

55:55: She's claiming that they identified very, very high levels of mercury in the child's bloodstream. My guess is she's referring to what Burton said in his opening statement for the hearings. I can't evaluate the veracity of the claim but I will, instead, point you to the FDA report on the overall issue which includes the following:

In 2004, the IOM's Immunization Safety Review Committee issued its final report, examining the hypothesis that vaccines, specifically the MMR vaccines and thimerosal containing vaccines, are causally associated with autism. In this report, the committee incorporated new epidemiological evidence from the U.S., Denmark, Sweden, and the United Kingdom, and studies of biologic mechanisms related to vaccines and autism since its report in 2001. The committee concluded that this body of evidence favors rejection of a causal relationship between thimerosal-containing vaccines and autism, and that hypotheses generated to date concerning a biological mechanism for such causality are theoretical only. Further, the committee stated that the benefits of vaccination are proven and the hypothesis of susceptible populations is presently speculative, and that widespread rejection of vaccines would lead to increases in incidences of serious infectious diseases like measles, whooping cough and Hib bacterial meningitis.

57:08: Awesome. She discusses the tylenol tainting scare and then asks, "Why is it then that a Congressman whose own grandson, he believes, was injured by his own vaccines can't get vaccines recalled?" My guess would probably be (a) we don't live in a dictatorship and (b) there was no solid evidence that the vaccines were harming anyone.

58:05: This is awesome. She's using Burton's figures to "calculate" how many kids are at risk from Thiomersal, which she keeps referring to as mercury. Wanna know a funny thing about thiomersal and infants? Also from the FDA report:

One final piece of data regarding thimerosal is worth noting. At the initial National Vaccine Advisory Committee-sponsored meeting on thimerosal in 1999, concerns were expressed that infants may lack the ability to eliminate mercury. More recent NIAID-supported studies at the University of Rochester and National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, MD examined levels of mercury in blood and other samples from infants who had received routine immunizations with thimerosal-containing vaccines. [Pichichero ME, et al. Lancet 360:1737-1741 (2002)] Blood levels of mercury did not exceed safety guidelines for methyl mercury for all infants in these studies. Further, mercury was cleared from the blood in infants exposed to thimerosal faster than would be predicted for methyl mercury; infants excreted significant amounts of mercury in stool after thimerosal exposure, thus removing mercury from their bodies. These results suggest that there are differences in the way that thimerosal and methyl mercury are distributed, metabolized, and excreted. Thimerosal appears to be removed from the blood and body more rapidly than methyl mercury.

So, it appears that thiomersal is substantially LESS likely to be retained than is standard methylmercury. Good to know.

58:31: "And these vaccines contain the full amount, by the way." Full amount of what? I would love a noun if it's okay with you.

58:40: She's complaining about the Measles/Mumps/Rubella "cocktail" (i.e. the MMR vaccine) but if you examine the FDA's data you find that the MMR vaccine doesn't contain thiomersal and never has. Awesome.

59:51: She's claiming that Eli-Lilly, makers of Thiomersal, have been scrambling to avoid lawsuits. God I hope she doesn't go for implied guilt here.

1:00:06: Hallelujah! I passed the one-hour mark!

1:00:39: Long sequence of claims to the effect that high-ranking personnel in the FDA own stock in various drug companies. I really wonder how this is being counted but it doesn't shock me overmuch. I have to point out, though, that treating a disease is much more profitable than vaccinating against it. If pharmaceutical corporations really wanted to make every last dollar they could, they should be helping Mary get vaccines outlawed so that they can go back to selling shitloads of antibiotics, antivirals, and drugs for supportive care.

1:01:31: FYI: "There is no FDA, ONLY ZUUL!"

1:01:48: "So how can we be confident in a process where there is so much financial money involved?" As opposed to what kind of money, exactly?

1:02:18: She's gearing up to bitch about Dr. Paul Offit.

1:02:35: She's harping on how Offit will benefit financially if the new rotavirus vaccine becomes mandatory. Fair enough, but I wonder if she's ever going to disucss her own financial interest in the vaccine scare? Oh, wait, she claims to be "independent." Never mind.

1:03:03 Listen to the next twenty seconds or so: she cites a claim without a source. It boils down to, "This dude I met once tells me that the studies were insufficient." Way to be convincing, Mary.

1:03:51: She asks her audience to raise their hands if they know a child with autism and then claims that about 50% do (I can't verify, given the camera angle). This is what often makes me sad: the folks she is preying on are those most desperate for something, anything, to do or a person to blame.

1:04:18: She's going on about how autistic children can't see. Speaking as someone who has worked with autistic children fairly intensively- bullshit. They see just fine, they just don't react to it the same way as non-autistic people do.

1:05:05: And we know this because they asked an autistic adult to draw a face and the resultant image was "fragmented and scary." There are plenty of opportunities for something other than sensory defects to play a role in that test. I have no doubt the research was done but I strongly doubt her interpretation of it. Though, really, office managers at chiropractic clinics are well-known for their neurological skill.

1:05:28: "And that's how we discovered that the eye is affected by some of the neurotoxins in vaccines." NO! No it isn't! That isn't even the start of a protocol sufficient to show such a thing!

1:05:50: She claims that myelination occurs in the first five years of a child's life. Not true: it occurs during a four month span around birth, two months preceding and two following. Additionally, while mercury poisoning can result in demyelination, autism doesn't appear to include that particular physical defect.

1:06:02: "They" have discovered? Who are "they"? This video is an absolute disaster.

1:06:14: I don't have any idea what this delayed demyelination disease is.

1:06:32: FYI: So far as we can tell autistic children are not more likely to have GI issues than non-autistic children.

1:06:51: She asks why it is vaccines can contain mercury when pregnant and nursing women are advised not to eat fish, which contains mercury. Well, first off, as we discussed earlier (see 58:05) thiomersal is different biochemically from mercury and, second, dosage is important. Believe it or not, tuna contains a lot more mercury than the vaccines.

1:07:01: "Mercury is the worst neurotoxin on the face of the Earth." I probably would have gone with sarin myself, but what do I know?

1:07:09: What is this "full level" business? What is a full level of mercury?

1:07:31: As she goes through her assertions about how much mercury vaccines contain, compare her figures to the FDA figures. The heaviest dose I can come up with for a child under 6 months of age is 37.8 micrograms (if I'm understanding the table properly) which is a bit under her 65 micrograms figure. In either case, research suggests that thiomersal doesn't reach toxic levels until a dosage of at least 3 milligrams per kg of body weight (i.e. 3,000 micrograms per kg) and additional research finds no connection between thiomersal dosages ranging between 0 and 160 micrograms during the first six months of life and any deleterious effects.

1:07:42: When attending to her slide on screen, keep in mind that there are several forms of mercury. Methylmercury is one of the most lethal- and probably what Mary is talking about- but thiomersal is an ethylmercury.

1:08:52: When checking out this slide note two things. First, the 37.5 micrograms figure is a lot closer to my 37.8 than her stated figure and, secondly, this is the dude she refers to. Particularly, pay attention to the controversy surrounding his work and, in particular, to the fact that he and his son are on the patent for Lupron, a drug meant to assist with Chelation therapy (see 2:10 above). Using Mary's earlier concern about FDA officers having ties to drug companies, why the hell are we listening to this dude?

1:10:09: Now she's got the mercury total to over 212 micrograms by six months. I have no idea at all where she's getting her figures since I'm using the FDA-CBER data as well. Even multiples of my figures don't get us to 212 micrograms very easily.

1:11:14: Whoops! She's claiming that the U.K. has the same "autism epidemic" that we do. Fine, except that we shouldn't see that if vaccines are causing it UNLESS the vaccine schedules are the same. Oddly, she doesn't mention the UK vaccine schedule at all.

1:11:46: Aside from her claims about the nervous system, the remainder of these autism symptoms are largely or totally speculative.

1:13:38: Cue the paranoia: "Our government wants us to believe that autism is genetic."

1:14:15: And we're back to Phillip DeMio who you may remember from the beginning of the video (see 2:10 above). The interesting thing is that she seems to be going to DeMio because she doesn't like the answer given to her by her last talking head.

1:15:17: I'd comment more, but she's just babbling on with a variety of anecdotes. I'm still waiting for her to demonstrate that thiomersal is a cause of autism but, so far, no luck. She hasn't even addressed the question, just danced around it by claiming that mercury is harmful. This is true but thiomersal is not the same as elemental mercury- equating them is a lot like saying that carbon-monoxide and oxygen are the same thing.

1:16:20: Her favorite remark is, "And I'm going to cover more about that later." So far, it's uniformly false.

1:16:34: Her bit about only one study having been done on thiomersal is horseshit and you can use my earlier links to the FDA to see this.

1:16:50: She says that a study used thiomersal on 30 patients with bacterial meningitis and all thirty died- but supposedly not from thiomersal. She then gives us a skeptical look. Then again, the study is from 1931 (Powell HM, Jamieson WA. Merthiolate as a Germicide. Am J Hyg 1931;13:296-310), before antibiotics were available, and bacterial meningitis is highly lethal. Why is any of this suspicious, exactly? It's not, but she doesn't tell her audience that it's a study from 1931- I had to go to the FDA for that.

1:17:11: She claims thiomersal has never been studied. AHEM!

1:18:12: Oh, awesome. She's saying that, even if you have removed thiomersal from the vaccines, what is it replaced with? I get the concern but, bloody hell, is there any way to win with you?

1:18:21: "There are a lot of questions with no answers." Largely due to your willful ignorance, though.

1:18:46: Autism is considered the "silent killer?" It's not a lethal disorder.

1:19:29: Aaaaaand we're back to the paranoia.

1:19:51: Awesome. She believes that all learning disabilities are caused by heavy metal toxicity.

1:20:09: She believes that the metals impair the gut which prevents the gut from absorbing minerals and vitamins leading to "starving brains." Okay, but that does seem like a new causal mechanism. In other news: Hot damn! I'm over halfway through this.

1:20:21: She's lecturing us on what autism does and, as before, includes the claim about immune system problems.

1:20:32: Apparently Mary derives a lot of her information from "the websites." As we all know, nothing on the internet is EVER wrong.

1:20:42: We now have Mary talking about David Kirby, a journalist who concluded that the evidence against thiomersal is inconclusive. Having said all that, you should probably check out some more recent news about David Kirby.

1:21:51: Quote mining, ahoy!

1:23:00: She just claimed we have a crisis in this country and an autism epidemic. Oddly, she's presented no evidence that the incidence of autism has changed. Seriously.

1:23:13: She's claiming that studies showing that vaccines are safe are flawed. Just go read this and then we'll talk more.

1:23:32: Now we're talking about Neil Miller, a journalist with a degree in psychology who is a big hit on the vaccines-cause-autism lecture circuit. What an undergrad degree in psychology has to do with epidemiology, I'll never know.

1:23:39: Fun fact: Correlation does not equal causation. Now somebody tell Mary.

1:23:59: Now she's discussing journalist Dan Olmsted who claims that the unvaccinated Amish also have no autism. Too bad that, as it turns out, they do.

1:24:15: I just want to observe that she's referring to Olmsted by saying "his paper," as though it's an academic work. Nice.

1:25:00: Welcome to the cherry-picking anecdote hoe-down! Yee-haa!

1:25:11: "Being a part of the chiropractic community..." DRINK! Good thing, too. The alcohol dulls the pain.

1:25:17: Oh hell. Watch from here for about 40 seconds. She concedes that she's met someone who was not vaccinated and yet is still autistic, but claims that this is because several generations of vaccination have resulted in gene damage. To the best of my knowledge neither mercury nor thiomersal are mutagenic so, really, that's quite the rationalization.

1:26:01: "Most of the time the parents who don't vaccinate have these wonderful healthy kids." Keep in mind: this is coming from the woman whose child had whooping cough.

1:26:17: Go here for about 30 seconds to hear the least scientific approach to recruiting research subjects ever.

1:27:03: And we now see Mary trying to shift the burden of proof and, arguably, force the government to prove a negative.

1:27:08: "The flawed studies that they reference is not good enough for me." Why are they flawed, Mary? I thought I wasn't supposed to take your word on things? Why won't you elaborate?

1:27:11: Whoops, sorry, she claims they're all backed by pharmaceutical companies. I've dealt with that claim elsewhere so I'm not going to fuck with it again now.

1:27:39: Okay, now we're talking about Bernard Rimland who- surprise, surprise- is actually a physician. And when I say "physician" I don't mean "chiropractor."

1:28:26: I'm not going to comment particularly on Rimland's claims that vaccines cause autism. He appears to have a long career in medicine so I'm going to leave it to the medical and biological community to hash this one out. I'm not going to trash a guy or insinuate wrongdoing without actually seeing indications of it. As of right now while I am skeptical of his position I see no reason to doubt his sincerity.

1:29:35: She's discussing efforts to write legislation that protects the manufacturer of Thiomersal against prosecution. This is being used as evidence of malfeasance though, personally, I suspect it's typical corporate ass-covering. Imagine a product liability suit that pits bereaved parents against a huge faceless corporation: who would you be more sympathetic towards? So, knowing that, if you were aforementioned huge faceless corportation, whether your product was dangerous or not, what would you do? Oh well. The "Methinks thou doth protest too much" thing worked great for Othello and it's working great for Mary, too.

1:30:10: *sigh* Back to the conspiracy theories.

1:31:05: Ahoy there, dramatic oversimplification!

1:32:26: Oh thank god. Chapter 7 is over. Holy shit, that took forever. Now we're on to Chapter 8- Can vaccines cause illness? Seems to me this should have been the first f-ing chapter, but I digress. What did we learn in chapter 7? Well, mostly that Mary has some pretty iffy sources and funky math.

1:32:47: Wow. This is a tad curious. Mary is claiming that there was an epidemic of polio in five New England states in 1954 and 1955 "just after the mass polio vaccination started." This is rather surprising since Salk developed the vaccine in 1952, tested it in 1954, and was licensed for use in 1955. She may be thinking of the 1952/1953 polio outbreaks in the U.S. but, in any case, 1954 & 1955 precede mass polio vaccination.

1:32:56: She claims that prior to the vaccine deaths from polio were nearly nonexistent. In 1952 there were 58,000 cases. Depending on specific type of polio, patient and supportive care, the mortality rate can vary from 2% to 75%. You do the math.

1:33:09: She claims that almost all cases of wild polio were caused by the oral vaccine. As with much in her presentation, this is true but needs to be viewed in perspective. It is possible for oral polio vaccine to revert to a strain that is as virulent as wild-type, but the same is not true of the original inactivated polio vaccine. As it happens, the U.S. has switched over to the inactivated version to avoid this risk. I was able to make out enough information on Mary's slide to track down the original "USA Today" article she used for her information and learned that between 1980 and 1994 there were 133 confirmed cases, 125 of which derived from the oral vacccine. So, basically, during that 14 year period we're looking at about nine cases a year caused by the vaccine versus the 58,000 cases in 1952 ALONE without the vaccine. I dunno about you, but I like the odds better now.

1:33:41: She refers to a doctor who told her something about the live polio vaccine but I can't figure out how to spell his last name so, you know, best of luck. She's also going off on a lot of personal anecdotes with no evidence.

1:33:49: "And the article I'm referring to is 'USA Today' by Tim Friend." Folks, that's the quality of citation I've been dealing with for the past hour and a half. If you don't think I'm working hard enough at running down her references, you can go to hell.

1:34:02: Mary's talking about a book by Robert Sottile. Based on the only info I can find, Sottile appears to be a hardline Chiropractor (DRINK!) who focuses exclusively on subluxations and none of that therapeutic bunk. If you don't know what the hell subluxations are, see this. On an unrelated note, be sure to look at the article on Sottile- it has one of the most frightening illustrations I've ever seen.

1:34:40: And Mary demonstrates that she doesn't even begin to understand the concept of herd immunity.

1:34:51: Oh hell. She wants to talk about Gulf War Syndrome.

1:35:01: Watch as Mary proves she has no idea what the phrase "due diligence" means.

1:35:41: She's talking about James Tuite III now, and this is the best I can do for you. In any case, she's alleging that experimental vaccines may be related to Gulf War Syndrome. What this has to do with non-experimental vaccines, I have no idea.

1:36:03: And we have another reference to Neil Miller (see 1:23:32). Good to know he's versatile.

1:36:36: She's referring us to The Power Hour. Doubtless a referral to The Power Mall is only moments away...

1:37:11: And we're on to Boyd Haley, a chemist who thinks that autistic children may be less able to rid their bodies of mercury than non-autistic children. Notably, a lot of his research appears to rely on vaporized mercury which is not exactly the same as thiomersal. For another succinct, but brutal, perspective on Haley see here.

1:37:55: "...he found that brand new babies are being born with a full load of mercury." Seriously, what the fuck does that even mean?

1:38:09: Notice two things: (1) claim that babies can be exposed to mercury VAPOR while in the womb and (2) a statement of personal conviction used as evidence.

1:39:08: She keeps commenting on how babies can be born with autism now. The thing is, if autism is genetic, then they always were born with autism. Considering autism is defined as having an onset prior to the age of three, but with no minimum age, I don't see that as unreasonable.

1:39:26: We're discussing one Howard Urnovitz, who has some fairly interesting perspectives on "foreign substances." You can find some of his research through google scholar. To her credit, Mary does point out that he is an employee of the XOMA corporation, which creates products that, arguably, could compete with vaccines. Where's Mary's concern with conflict of interest now, I wonder?

1:41:02: Once again, and all of you say it with me: Correlation does not equal causation.

1:41:18: Awesome. It's time for measles and the autism connection. The short description is: there isn't one.

1:41:22: We're about to talk about Andrew Wakefield, a British researcher who claims that measles are related to autism. Of course, as it turns out (start reading here and go to the end) he had a financial interest in such a conclusion and used a sample of only 12 patients. It's also worth starting here and reading to the end as well.

1:42:15: "He looked through everything that was written on autism and there was not one mention of gut problems." An interesting thing for Mary to claim given her earlier assertion that autism is associated with gut problems. So which is it?

1:42:36: Ah. Never mind. Apparently the entire medical community is out to lunch and never noticed a strong correlation (r= 1.0) between gut problems and autism. Sounds reasonable.

1:42:50: Okay, Wakefield claims the kids with severe gut problems were suffering from a persistent measles infection in their colon. Okay but, if so, what the hell does that have to do with autism? As a side note: there are indications that his findings were due to contamination of the samples.

1:43:29: And we're back to the raging paranoia. Also: gross misrepresentation of the facts.

1:43:55: "Congressman Burton has seen all of his evidence on several occasions and believes that there's something to it." Because, as we all know, Congressmen are exactly who you want evaluating scientific evidence. Right.

1:44:13: She claims that many doctors in the U.S. have replicated Wakefield's work. Just... uh... try this.

1:44:31: Okay, and now we have the claim that autism is caused by vitamin deficiency. But I thought it was caused by mercury? I'm confused.

1:45:07: Oh jesus. Now she's claiming that parents who treat the "gut issues" are bringing the kids out of autism. Leaving aside that this has nothing to do with the earlier mercury business, I hate the way she's peddling false hope. Personally, I wonder how many of those kids were treated for their "gut problems" without being treated otherwise for autism. Put another way: how can we be sure it was the GI treatment as opposed to the normal behavioral therapy? As I said, I've worked with autistic kids and they are capable of a lot with good behavioral therapy. It just takes time.

1:45:41: "We don't need to be rocket scientists to see this." But man do I ever wish you had a basic grasp of causal logic.

1:46:09: She's referring to a study from 1995 "That the Lancet did," because, you know, journals do their own studies. In any case it links measles to inflammatory bowel disease and is co-authored by our friend Andrew Wakefield. Always a good sign.

1:46:47: She's talking about Japan's decision to withdraw the MMR vaccine. I wonder how she'll deal with the fact that, after doing so, Japanese cases of autism continued to rise?

1:47:12: Also interestingly: the issue with the MMR in Japan was concern that the mumps portion was producing non-viral meningitis. The measles component had nothing to do with it.

1:47:25: *sigh* Correlation does not equal causation.

1:48:34: Don't ask me to evaluate what she's talking about here- I can't read the cite at the bottom and she hasn't given me a name.

1:49:29: Woo-hoo, long string of anecdotes and uncited claims.

1:51:01: Good luck figuring out how to find that "Channel 7 news" cite. We don't even know what city this is being filmed in.

1:52:58: She's pitching her DVD to the friends and families of her audience. This segment is like an AmWay meeting.

1:53:55: She's claiming that the rubella vaccine causes arthritis. then again:

The most frequently reported autoimmune manifestations for the various vaccinations, were: hepatitis A virus (HAV) — none; hepatitis B virus (HBV) — rheumatoid arthritis, reactive arthritis, vasculitis, encephalitis, neuropathy, thrombocytopenia; measles, mumps and rubella vaccine (MMR) — acute arthritis or arthralgia, chronic arthritis, thrombocytopenia; influenza — Guillain–Barre syndrome (GBS), vasculitis; polio — GBS; varicella — mainly neurological syndromes. Even these ‘frequent’ associations relate to a relatively small number of patients. Whenever controlled studies of autoimmunity following viral vaccines were undertaken, no evidence of an association was found.
Very few patients may develop some autoimmune diseases following viral vaccination (in particular — arthropathy, vasculitis, neurological dysfunction and thrombocytopenia). For the overwhelming majority of people, vaccines are safe and no evidence linking viral vaccines with type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis (MS) or inflammatory bowel disease can be found.

1:54:28: We're talking about Harris Coulter now.

1:56:10: She's talking, but I dunno what the hell this is supposed to convince me of.

1:56:20: And we have the weirdest metaphor ever...

1:56:51: OH! He's testified before Congress! Well, they are the ultimate in scientific authorities.

1:57:41: She's complaining about the "live virus" pertussis vaccine. This is problematic on two levels: (1) Pertussis is bacterial and (2) the U.S. now uses a safer acellular version anyway.

1:58:17: I don't think Mary actually knows what the word "proof" means.

1:58:24: Okay, she's annoyed about Prevnar now, which is an optional vaccine in the U.S. For anyone watching, there is at least one study not funded by Wyeth or including the researcher Mary hates.

1:58:49: When she says a researcher got paid over $255,000 to study safety and efficacy, I'm forced to wonder if that's a direct payment or a grant. Because, you know, if the NSF gives me a grant it's for research purposes, I can't go buy a new car with it.

1:59:10: "I believe that people who are getting money are not going to be able to do a good job." And the entire basis of our economy is now in question.

1:59:39: If she doesn't like how vaccines are made, she should try sausages. As a side note, for those who are curious, this is what I can find on Michael Horwin.

2:00:02: Gah! Two hours down. Only 37 minutes to go.

2:00:31: Now she's questioning the ability of nurses to give shots to babies because they (the babies) are so small.

2:01:01: "Well, what if your child is immune-compromised?" In that case, Mary, nobody is suggesting your child be vaccinated for anything.

2:01:10: "What if your child is premature?" Um... well, I'm guessing they're not going to give the shot at six weeks then. It's not like we're morons here.

2:01:35: "In a report called the National Center for Health Statistics..." That's a crappy name for a report. For anyone who is curious, the NCHS is part of the CDC.

2:01:51: Oh the hell with this. If you're worried about Prevnar, go here.

2:02:31: Keep in mind when listening to this that the definition of "adverse event" is sickeningly broad.

2:03:07: Wait... what? How does it mean their studies are bad if they continue to learn new things?

2:03:51: NEWS FLASH! If a vaccine can't protect against all strains of a pathogen, why bother? Well, becuase it protects against some of them, maybe?

2:04:18: And we're talking about W. John Martin now. If you're not familiar... nice guy.

2:04:54: Okay, now autism is caused by mercury, measles and a "stealth virus." No, I didn't make that up, that's what it's called. In breaking news, autism may also be caused by bigfoot.

2:05:30: Oooooohhh! Cytomegalovirus has been found in polio vaccines! Too bad the virus in question is endemic and almost always totally harmless. Color me terrified.

2:06:12: Aaaand now we're moving on to a claim that vaccines cause SIDS. Then again, maybe not.

2:06:49: And now we're talking about Boyd Haley (See 1:37:11) again and his mercury studies. For a useful review of his work, see here.

2:07:00: As a side note, Haley did not find thiomersal in the brain. He did examine mercury levels in hair. The one is not the other.

2:07:07: Hmmmm.... most children with autism are boys. Also: most children who die from SIDS are also boys. MY GOD! SIDS must be due to vaccines. This is amazing! My god! Color blindness also predominantly affects males! Vaccines strike again! And erectile dysfunction! How deep does this conspiracy go?!

2:07:35: And Mary apparently knows more about SIDS than people who actually work with the SIDS issue. See, for example, this which indicates that vaccines reduce the likelihood of SIDS.

2:07:38: We're talking about Viera Schreibner now. You're on your own, her footprint on the web doesn't give me much to go on.

2:08:01: Oh for the love of- I couldn't find anything on Viera Schreibner because her name is Viera Scheibner. Way to misspell, Mary. In any case, I'm glad I figured this out because Viera is a... wait for it... retired geology professor. What the fuck do rocks have to do with vaccines? In any case, I'm not going to argue medicine with a geologist.

2:09:05: "Well, after she [Scheibner] came out with this [a book against vaccines] they began to ruin her, and they took away all of her funding..." (a) It probably didn't help that she was working way, way outside her field and (b) what funding? She didn't start down this road until after she retired.

2:09:24: Wait, we're talking about a SIDS conference from 1970? I've just gotta ask: is research from 38 years ago still cutting edge?

2:09:45: Don't even ask- I can't validate a claim she makes about what was said at an unidentified conference held 38 years ago. She's also talking about Australia's vaccination program which appears to be optional but highly recommended. And as long as we're on the subject, Australia rejects the MMR/autism link as well as the thiomersal/autism link.

2:10:09: No citations here folks- nothing for me to say.

2:10:18: Um.... crazy woman? Have you ever noticed that for all of our medical technology 15.8% of Americans in 2006 had no health insurance? Given that you're comparing us to nations with socialized medicine, is it possible that's related to SIDS?

2:10:48: "So we know that vaccines can cause sudden infant death syndrome..." No, we don't! In fact the research tends to show the opposite. What the hell is the matter with you?

2:11:01: And on to hepatitis b.

2:11:22: Lest you be taken unaware, Barbara Loe Fisher is the founder of a group that, while sounding quite official, is more or less anti-vaccine in nature.

2:12:05: I don't even begin to follow the logic here.

2:12:23: And now we're talking about the chickenpox vaccine.

2:12:48: I don't have a lot to say except that the chickenpox vaccine appears to be highly safe and effective and her anecdotes are the worst sort of "evidence."

2:13:16: I dunno what to say about this. She's claiming that if you don't get chickenpox as a kid then your chances of developing shingles are greater. This is a little weird since shingles is caused by the same virus just lying dormant in the body for a while. So far as I can tell, when you get chickenpox is irrelevant. Unless she thinks that not getting chickenpox at all makes you more vulnerable, which is breathtakingly stupid.

2:13:38: She's right, most children do fine with chickenpox. Too bad adults are so much more at risk from it.

2:13:53: Cha-ching! She's talking about the National Vaccine Injury Compensation System now.

2:14:15: No, they have 17 attorneys fighting frivolous claims.

2:14:20: "You have to be able to prove that your child was vaccine injured." And that's unreasonable... why?

2:14:51: God. This whole section boils down to, "Other people have made cash off of the government and YOU CAN TOO!"

2:15:05: We're on to tetanus now. That's a fun disease if there ever was one. She's also talking about Mendelsohn again (See 37:13).

2:15:12: I'd like to quote directly from her slide: "Boosters are basted on guesses, not science." Do we baste booster shots now? What?

2:16:21: Her views on wound management are... novel. Granted, properly cleaning a wound will help prevent tetanus, but do you want to bet your life on having immediate access to soap?

2:17:22: Raging paranoia? CHECK!

2:17:28: "Right now there are hundreds of vaccines being developed..." Because it's just so profitable for drug companies... That was sarcasm, people.

2:17:50: "Okay, so, we're winding down here." Oh for the love of god, PLEASE!

2:17:55: "You know sickness in this country is a six-hundred dollar billion industry." At this point I'm so tired of watching this that I can't quite bring myself to make fun of her constant mistakes with the spoken word. What I'll do instead is just observe that, yes, healthcare is an enormous industry and anyone who thinks that chiropractors, natural health product makers, and so forth aren't trying to make their buck off of it is nuts. Conventional medicine does not have a monopoly on the profit motive.

2:18:10: And we have a more general pitch against modern medicine here.

2:18:15: This is utterly nonsensical. We're not going to lose "an entire generation of boys to autism." Even the most pessimistic estimates don't suggest that.

2:18:47: And it's time for Chapter 9 "Help! My child is sick" What did we learn in chapter 8? Well, mostly that Mary seems unable to clearly explain a causal mechanism for autism and that a lot of her sources are highly suspect. Also, I'm pretty sure vaccines are safe but this video makes me want to die.

2:18:56: In the event your child is sick, Mary recommends: Pull vaccine records, report to NVIC so you can get PAID, find a holistic medical doctor, begin to "detoxify", get a chiropractic evaluation... all winners. But remember, folks, she's not giving medical advice. Clearly.

2:19:02: The criteria she lists for deciding if your kid is vaccine injured are a tad broad: Asthma, allergies, "gut problems." Apparently my wife and I are vaccine injured. Who knew?

2:19:23: We're talking about DAN! now.

2:19:47: And she claims there's an autism cure again... Because, if that existed, it wouldn't be huge news or anything.

2:19:55: "If your child is sick you have to do several things-" Once again folks: NOT medical advice.

2:21:23: We're talking about a dietary therapy that is still being assessed but, so far, doesn't appear encouraging.

2:21:41: Woo-hoo! She's advoctating chiropractic as a solution for asthma.

2:21:51: Yet, amusingly, she just claimed that chiropractic doesn't cure anything. Well duh.

2:22:46: She really likes darkfield microscopy for some reason.

2:22:53: And we have a pitch for chelation therapy. Once again: not medical advice.

2:23:31: Awesome listing of the signs of a vaccine reaction. The first one is particularly subtle: "extremely loud screaming."

2:24:24: "You're probably going like, 'Oh my gosh, I can't handle anymore!'" Lady, you have no idea.

2:24:49: She advises her audience to "always know what you are consenting to." I have to admit it: genuinely good advice.

2:25:50: She says we shouldn't let money dictate where we go for healthcare. That's nice in theory but, in practice, a lot of people really don't have many options.

2:26:33: Holy shit! She just thanked them for being a great audience! Does that mean it's over?

2:26:39: She flashes a slide referring to the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons. For those who don't know them already, imagine that a bunch of folks from Conservapedia formed a medical group.

2:26:43: Oh fuck. Chapter 10 which is, apparently, by Phillip DeMio (See 2:10).

2:27:08: This is irrelevant to his competence, but he looks creepy as all hell.

2:27:43: We have the rampant jump cuts again. What is up with that?

2:28:01: This dude is angry and, on reflection, looks a lot like Christopher Walken.

2:28:53: From what I can tell, he's exaggerating the degree of controversy that exists around all this.

2:29:19: He just said that knowing how these disorders are caused allows us to know what the cause is. That's deep, man.

2:29:45: I have a lot more sympathy for this guy than I do for Mary Tocco. I genuinely feel for him.

2:30:37: He's speculating on what autistic children know. He may be right but this is pretty hard to substantiate.

2:31:19: Really, all of Chapter 10 so far boils down to an appeal to authority where DeMio is pitched as the authority. He is, in essence, serving to "validate" what Mary Tocco has been telling us.

2:33:04: No new information. Just a repeat of Mary's lecture sans crappy references.

2:35:43: He just mentioned the "Simpsonwood Episode." Try here.

2:37:45: And I'm done. Free at last, folks, free at last!

UPDATE: Years later, there's yet more madness from Mary Tocco! See here!

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Blogger Plain(s)feminist said...


First, thanks for watching that so I didn't have to. As you know, this is an issue I've thought about quite a bit, and I found your response quite helpful. I wish I'd seen it about 6 years ago!

A couple of things.

I do not think that she is deliberately spreading questionable information but, rather, think that she is simply misguided.

I think this is true of pretty much all the people who are arguing against some form of the medical establishment. Unfortunately, though, as you have pointed out, a lot of people who don't have the qualifiations to do research are the ones who are making claims about - oh, for example, the "fact" that ultrasound is radiation, which is one I've heard a number of times.

Re. her statement about shingles - what I read, probably in Mothering Magazine, is the idea that *getting the chickenpox vaccine* puts one at greater risk of getting shingles, and that the rate of shingles among children had gone up with the introduction of the chickenpox vaccine. It sounds like she's simply (wrongly) concluding that it's not getting the illness as a child that is causing the increased rate of shingles. And I don't know if getting the vaccine has anything to do with shingle or not.

Monday, March 17, 2008 2:08:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Perhaps you would change your view if your child or loved one developed an autoimmune issue such as a life-threatening food allergy, Multiple Sclerosis, or diabetes after being vaccinated with the Hep B vaccine. The point of the vaccine is to prevent the contraction of Hepatitis B which is generally due to kinky sex or intravenous drugs -- so why is this vaccine given to infants?

Monday, March 17, 2008 8:10:00 PM  
Blogger Plain(s)feminist said...

Anonymous -
What's "kinky sex," exactly? Because I'm pretty sure that role-playing or leather fetishism doesn't lead to Hepatitis B...

Tuesday, March 18, 2008 1:47:00 PM  
Blogger Mister Troll said...

Drek -

I must echo, wow. I'm afraid I only skimmed (portions of) your comments, but your post was... thorough. Amusing. Terrifying. All sorts of things!

Plain(s)feminist -

I may be nitpicking here, but ultrasound is radiation. It is *not* ionizing radiation, which is usually what people mean when they say "radiation".

My understanding is that the (chickenpox) vaccinated cohort is at less of a risk of developing shingles.

Anonymous -

There are risks with vaccines, but developing an autoimmune condition is not one of them. To take only one example, the onset of MS is usually during or after the teenage years. Having received a vaccine before this time in no way suggests that it was the vaccine that caused MS.

Hep B is transmitted through other ways than drug use or sex, kinky or otherwise. It's true in well-developed countries, the risk of contracting hep B is fairly low. In the States, the goal is to eliminate hep B from the adult population. Currently about a million people in the States have chronic hep B, which kills 5000 per year. We could do without this disease.

Why vaccinate children instead of only sexually active adults? From AMA: "Routine vaccination of all children and adolescents is recommended because a major part of the disease burden of HBV is due to the large number of HBV infections that occur among children." In other words, the chronic carriers were often infected as children. So it's necessary to vaccinate children to protect the adults.

I think you should consider very carefully the horrible and life-threatening issues associated with developing diseases for which we vaccinate. Measles, rubella, polio... Perhaps you would change your view if your child or loved one had developed incurable liver cancer from a hep B infection.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008 5:59:00 PM  
Blogger said...

drek, a few comments on the movie's citation of the mckinlay article.

i haven't seem the film myself, but if her words are as you say they are, then she is indeed misquoting the article. the mckinlay's argue that the majority of the decline in MORTALITY, not "infectious diseases," as you claim to be said in the film, was largely due to factors other than medicine. if she did indeed say infectious diseases (which is itself a vague term for quantitative analysis), then she is misquoting the mckinlay's statistic.

what the mckinlay's argue is that most of the decline in mortality rates had already occurred by the time medical hegemony had begun (acceptance of germ theory, etc.), and that much of this decline was due to factors more related to public health such as adequate sanitation, improving nutrition, etc. i studied the article myself as a sociology student and found it to be very reputable.

what i would like to point out, however, is that many people use a straw man argument with this article, and believe that the mckinlay's are claiming that medicine has no use whatsoever. they make no such claim in the article. they simply stick to their main statistic: that medicine's effect on morality rates has been negligible. this does not translate to "medicine is worthless." such a study does not take into account the difference between health and mortality, and provides no insight into the effects of medicine on quality of life. i swear by this article and will soon be working towards a degree in medical sociology, and yet in the meantime am enrolled in school to become a nurse. clearly, i know that there is a difference between the valid point that the mckinlay's have made and efficacy of medicine. otherwise, i would not currently studying to be a nurse.

as for the peer review, i recall that all of the sources in this anthology were peer reviewed by the original sociology journals that they were published in, but i don't have the anthology with me at the moment and so can't say for certain. arguments from authority can be pretty empty, but i will also say that peter conrad is a very respected academic within sociology circles. it's my confident impression that the article was peer-reviewed....and i'm admittedly curious as to why you would assume that it was not. a sociology bias, perhaps?

regardless, i wanted to set the record straight on what exactly the article says.

enjoying the blog as always,

Thursday, March 20, 2008 8:31:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You just liveblogged two and a half hours of madness. Consider my hat doffed and such.

Thursday, March 20, 2008 5:41:00 PM  
Blogger Drek said...

Hey all! Thanks for all of the comments. I've been avoiding paying attention to the blog for my sanity, but I'm glad people are having reactions to all this.

Two specific responses:

Anonymous: I spend an absurd number of hours debunking a loony video and your response boils down to, "Yeah, well, you'd sure feel bad if you were wrong"? I am less than impressed. This is particularly the case given that, as Mister Troll did, I could as easily ask you how you'd feel if your child contracted an easily preventable disease. Put some actual thought into your responses or don't waste my time.

David: Thanks for the info on the McKinlay piece. I don't know what you mean by "sociology bias," but I viewed this work as coming out of sociology. My suspicion that the work wasn't peer reviewed stems more from experience with how a lot of edited volumes are put together (invites without review) and a general understanding of Mary Tocco's approach to citations. I am, however, extremely pleased to hear that the work is probably being misused. Makes me feel better about my own discipline!

Thursday, March 20, 2008 7:53:00 PM  
Blogger Doctor Strange said...


Woweeweewow. I linked to your site from a respectful insolence archive piece on the notorious "Simpsonwood meeting". And then snorted and giggled my way through your breakdown of this insane video.

I think this movie should be used as Exhibit A in support of the case that the antivax movement is mostly composed of paranoid lunatics (and the people who love them...)

I would actually propose you submit a bill for your services to this woman as reimbursement for the time you've spent critiquing her work.

Friday, March 21, 2008 3:32:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lol, THE longest post ever! Good stuff!

Monday, March 24, 2008 7:24:00 AM  
Blogger Sminthia said...

I don't know how you got through that thing without throwing something! It's amazing what some people will accept as "science". Thanks for your patience.

I was going to take you to task for your spelling of "thiomersal" until I discovered it is an acceptable alternative spelling of thimerosal.

So I learned something today, but not from that video.

Thursday, April 03, 2008 8:26:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am not a proponent of vaccines and frankly agree with a lot of what she said, however, I do not feel her arguments were well supported on that DVD and she did seem to have a lot of anecdoctal examples. However, I would have taken your opinions more seriously and looked for confirmation of her comments/studies if you had refrained from your sarcasm and your clear desire to put everyone in the vaccine-aren't-safe camp as a total quack. You lost your credibility with me pretty early on. (Same with your comments about how everyone basically still feels that chiropractors are quacks.) It's simply not true. Those of us who believe in a holistic way of approaching health are not
"quacks", anymore than someone who choses to go see their doctor is one. We simply want to look at other options for healing our children from autism when the doctors don't have any answers but to medicate them. As for the vaccination issue, I certainly believe it can be a factor, I don't know that its the ONLY factor. But I think its worth looking into and your obvious hostility towards the whole concept frustrated me as a mom who is trying to find answer to heal them and do the best for her 3 children with autism.

You say you've worked extensively with children with autism and "they can see fine" (I may have not quoted you exactly.) I would have to say that if you have worked with that many ASD kids you would know that there is a huge amount of differences in how ASD children react, their behaviors,
how they see, and their health issues. And yes there are a lot of children with vision issues -- and I don't mean, can they see 20/20, but how they see things around them and the distortions of what they see. It not just a matter of it being "different" from the way normal people see. There also does in fact happen to be a lot of connections with gut issues with ASD children (as you disputed as well.)

Mary Tocco is just one voice out there. As I said, I did feel she used too many anecdotal stories to support her conclusions, but there are a ton of books with lots of good studies behind them supporting many of the concepts that you have said are ridiculous. It's not just a bunch of "quacks" with no credentials running around making false claims.

For those who do question, please refer to books like "Children with Starving Brains", by Phyllis Candless, work by Dr. Stephanie Cave, MD (can be found easily on the web), work by Autism Research Institute and Dr. Bernard Rimland, just to name a couple. Also studies by Dr. Amy Yasko (where she feels that a combo of underlying genetics, infectious diseases and environmental toxins have added up to cause many developmental problems today.) There is much information dealing with biomedical interventions and treating autism ... THE POINT being that vaccines may not be the only cause but I believe there is enough evidence out there to show that they can have an affect and relationship to autism and other brain or health disorders. If its a possiblity its something worth exploring. I think many who have lost a child to autism feel this way.

I'm sorry you made such a mockery of a very serious issue. I know you see the vaccines as a serious issue. Frankly most of us parents with special needs children do to. It's not an easy decision for us to walk out of that doctor's office literally being scoffed and scowled at by the staff. But when you've seen your child slip out of reality and out of your fingers, you've watched them cry because they cannot tell you what is inside their head, you've been stared at and left out of family life going on all around you, and when the doctors only suggestions are to medicate your child, then you are willing to open you mind to some other possibilities and options for their healing. And by the way, there are children who have totally recovered through chelation treatment and many who have improved greatly as well.

Back in the 50's doctors were convinced and convinced moms it was ok to take Thalidomide too ... that turned out to be wrong with disastrous results.

Saturday, April 19, 2008 4:53:00 PM  
Blogger Drek said...

Hey Anonymous,

Thanks for your thoughts. I’m going to try and respond to your comments bit by bit.

I am not a proponent of vaccines and frankly agree with a lot of what she said, however, I do not feel her arguments were well supported on that DVD and she did seem to have a lot of anecdoctal examples. However, I would have taken your opinions more seriously and looked for confirmation of her comments/studies if you had refrained from your sarcasm and your clear desire to put everyone in the vaccine-aren't-safe camp as a total quack. You lost your credibility with me pretty early on.

Well, a large part of the problem with her DVD is that her arguments have effectively no support whatsoever. Many studies she cited in favor of her position either did not support it, were invalid for a number of reasons, or were misrepresented. In fact, the relatively light degree of fact checking I subjected her video to leads me to believe that Mary is either startlingly incompetent as a “vaccine researcher” or a willful fraud. I don’t consider either to be something to aspire to, but prefer to think that her excess of concern has simply led her into making some very serious errors of judgment. You’re right, I was very snarky and warned readers that I would be right from the beginning BUT Tocco makes me very angry. Autism is a serious issue and we need to understand what’s going on with it. The thing is, repeating incorrect claims from poor research actually hurts our chances of unraveling the autism puzzle. From my perspective, Mary Tocco is well intentioned but, nevertheless, part of the problem rather than part of the solution. Given that, I think I am permitted a certain degree of hostility. I would, however, urge you to look at the sources I link to as well as the sources of hers that I link to- I believe that the pattern of evidence generally disagrees with Tocco’s views. The issue is not my “opinions” or Mary’s- the issue is what the data support. You are correct that, to an extent, I am scornful of the vaccines-aren’t-safe camp. The issue, however, is that at present I have not seen any reliable evidence that vaccines are unsafe. They can have certain serious side effects that are known and understood but the risks are vastly outweighed by the benefits. A person who expresses a healthy concern for the safety of medical treatments will receive considerable respect from me. A person who, on the other hand, rants hysterically about invalidated “threats” from treatments will not. To the extent that the anti-vaccine camp falls mostly into the latter rather than the former category, I will most likely continue being derisive about it.

(Same with your comments about how everyone basically still feels that chiropractors are quacks.) It's simply not true. Those of us who believe in a holistic way of approaching health are not "quacks", anymore than someone who choses to go see their doctor is one. We simply want to look at other options for healing our children from autism when the doctors don't have any answers but to medicate them.

Well, fair enough. Not everyone thinks that chiropractors are quacks- this is obviously true or they all would have gone out of business by now. That said, I don’t think we should rely overmuch on popular opinion when it comes to medical treatments. Chiropractic has essentially no evidence supporting its account for disease. Studies attempting to validate it have consistently failed. People who use chiropractic report feeling better- at least for a while- but the placebo effect is a powerful force. My personal favorite example of this comes from my middle school where one student sold tylenol capsules he colored with a sharpie for $20 a pop. More intriguingly, he had repeat business. These capsules could not produce a high but, nevertheless, his customers believed they would and experienced something akin to it anyway.

As for the “holistic” approach to health- what does that even mean? Nobody in evidence based medicine would object to obtaining proper diet, exercise, and so forth in addition to medication. There is nothing wrong with seeking treatment not based in medication BUT medication is not inherently bad nor are non-medication treatments inherently good. All too often “holistic” is just a more pleasant term for “not supported by evidence.”

As for the vaccination issue, I certainly believe it can be a factor, I don't know that its the ONLY factor. But I think its worth looking into and your obvious hostility towards the whole concept frustrated me as a mom who is trying to find answer to heal them and do the best for her 3 children with autism.

I am not hostile to the possibility that vaccines could be a problem. I AM hostile to the claims made to this effect thus far for the simple reason that not only do they lack supporting evidence, but multiple intersecting lines of evidence have invalidated the their causal arguments. Put another way, I might be receptive to the argument that men and women have biological differences in how they think about the world while nevertheless being hostile to the invalidated idea that there are dramatic differences in the average intelligence of males and females. Likewise, I am receptive to the idea that vaccines may cause harm in ways we haven’t foreseen, but am not receptive to the repetition of arguments that have already been shown to be false.

You say you've worked extensively with children with autism and "they can see fine" (I may have not quoted you exactly.) I would have to say that if you have worked with that many ASD kids you would know that there is a huge amount of differences in how ASD children react, their behaviors, how they see, and their health issues. And yes there are a lot of children with vision issues -- and I don't mean, can they see 20/20, but how they see things around them and the distortions of what they see. It not just a matter of it being "different" from the way normal people see. There also does in fact happen to be a lot of connections with gut issues with ASD children (as you disputed as well.)

There are apples and oranges here. I would not dispute that “…there is a huge amount of differences in how ASD children react, their behaviors…” This is, after all, the heart of the condition. That said, I have seen no reproducible evidence that their vision is the culprit. ASD children do have eye problems at the rate of non-ASD kids, but their differences in reaction and behaviors seem not to be generated from vision differences. Put another way, we agree that they react and behave oddly but that doesn’t have to mean that their vision is altered. As for the gut issues, my personal experience with ASD children does not support the gut issues fixation and the literature on autism doesn’t either.

Mary Tocco is just one voice out there. As I said, I did feel she used too many anecdotal stories to support her conclusions, but there are a ton of books with lots of good studies behind them supporting many of the concepts that you have said are ridiculous. It's not just a bunch of "quacks" with no credentials running around making false claims.

No, the issue is not that she uses too many anecdotes, although that is a problem. The issue is that the weight of the “evidence” she presents is of such a spectacularly low quality that, were Mary a licensed medical practitioner, she would be opening herself up to malpractice charges. I agree there are a ton of books on her claims but there is a much larger mass of evidence from reputable labs and researchers contradicting these arguments. More to the point, I am forced to doubt your claim that the ton of books supporting Tocco contain “lots of good studies.” So far every study I’ve been directed to by the anti-vaccine camp has been of dubious quality at best.

For those who do question, please refer to books like "Children with Starving Brains", by Phyllis Candless…

I think you mean Jacquelyn McCandless. Studies testing the gluten approach and other dietary changes have turned up poor results at best whenever controls were adequate.

…work by Dr. Stephanie Cave, MD (can be found easily on the web)…

You’re right, she is easily located, and not entirely to her credit. Specifically, I don’t know what you want me to make of her work since the thiomersal/autism link has been invalidated in numerous ways, including the simple expedient of removing thiomersal and seeing what happens. Specifically: nothing.

…work by Autism Research Institute and Dr. Bernard Rimland, just to name a couple.

Dr. Rimland has done a great deal to help ASD children, including discovering its neurological basis. That said, the thiomersal hypothesis has received virtually no support and has often been contradicted by research- Rimland’s stature does not, in and of itself, matter a hill of beans against hard evidence.

Also studies by Dr. Amy Yasko (where she feels that a combo of underlying genetics, infectious diseases and environmental toxins have added up to cause many developmental problems today.)

She also thinks you should buy a lot of her products. Really.

There is much information dealing with biomedical interventions and treating autism ... THE POINT being that vaccines may not be the only cause but I believe there is enough evidence out there to show that they can have an affect and relationship to autism and other brain or health disorders. If its a possiblity its something worth exploring. I think many who have lost a child to autism feel this way.

I agree the possibility is worth exploring BUT so far the answers from multiple explorations have been “no, vaccines are not contributing to autism.” Moreover, the weight of evidence in support of the vaccine/autism link is vastly, spectacularly outweighed by the evidence against it. If you want to refer me to experts, first explain to me why they are right and the vastly numerically superior group of their colleagues must be wrong.

I'm sorry you made such a mockery of a very serious issue.

With respect, Mary Tocco makes a mockery of a serious issue. I make a mockery of poorly informed, badly argued nonsense.

I know you see the vaccines as a serious issue. Frankly most of us parents with special needs children do to. It's not an easy decision for us to walk out of that doctor's office literally being scoffed and scowled at by the staff. But when you've seen your child slip out of reality and out of your fingers, you've watched them cry because they cannot tell you what is inside their head, you've been stared at and left out of family life going on all around you, and when the doctors only suggestions are to medicate your child, then you are willing to open you mind to some other possibilities and options for their healing.

And this is the crux of the issue. I have nothing but sympathy for your challenges as well as the pain experienced by both ASD individuals and their families. Unfortunately, we are very limited in what we can do for autism right now. That, however, is at least partly what motivates my distaste for Mary Tocco. It’s one thing to tell parents honestly that medicine is limited in its ability to help. It’s another to promise pie-in-the-sky cures that have not been shown to work at all, much less cure a serious neurological condition. A snake oil salesman remains a snake oil salesman no matter what beneficial properties his oil would have if it only worked.

And by the way, there are children who have totally recovered through chelation treatment and many who have improved greatly as well.

Show me the studies. Anecdotal evidence is entirely uninteresting to me.

Back in the 50's doctors were convinced and convinced moms it was ok to take Thalidomide too ... that turned out to be wrong with disastrous results.

And this, more than anything, makes my point for me. Thalidomide was a serious danger but it was never cleared by the FDA for sale in the United States. Its availability in this country was purely as part of an investigation of its effectiveness. So, while 10,000 children were born with drug-related deformities worldwide, only 17 of those were in the United States. My main point, thus, is that the FDA frequently works exactly as intended and while thalidomide was a recently-developed drug, we have been using vaccines for decades on a massive scale. The opportunities for us to detect serious complications have been legion and, to date, reliable evidence supporting a connection between autism and vaccines is lacking.

Secondarily, the thalidomide affair is instructive for another reason: while a powerful pharmaceutical corporation pushed hard for its acceptance the FDA not only stood fast but the medical community rapidly broke the news about the dangers. Why, then, would the far less profitable business of vaccination be the beneficiary of a conspiracy of silence?

Autism is a serious issue and deserves research, but in our haste to respond to it let’s not fall prey to grievous errors in judgment that could do even more harm. If thalidomide taught us anything, it’s the foolishness of using (or discarding) a treatment without enough evidence to support it.

Monday, April 21, 2008 10:45:00 AM  
Blogger Mister Troll said...

Resurrecting a very old post...

I just read with disgust a news article about parents protesting a new law in Jersey, which mandates flu shots for children attending day care and preschool. Bah.

I thought you might be interested, if you hadn't already heard.

Thursday, October 16, 2008 6:54:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


While I do agree with the majority of your statements, I really wish you wouldn't bash on chiropractors so much. While there is a community of D.C.'s that believe strongly in the anti-vaccine stance, not everybody in the field is included. We that aren't zealots get discouraged by those who assume that we all follow suit.

As a chiropractic student who was vaccinated as a child, I do believe that some vaccinations are necessary. I don't, however, believe that kids should be bombarded with as many vaccines at once (as they are these days). If a parent wants their kid vaccinated, I think they should at least spread it out a bit. Many claims the anti-vaccine crew have made can't technically be backed up by accepted scientific research, but what's the harm in at least spreading it out a little?

However, back to my point. Don't lump all chiropractors with the outspoken ones making radical claims. Many of us are interested in simply helping a patient with their spinal health and helping maintain a healthy nervous system. As in all things, whether it be politics or anything else for that matter, usually the most outspoken are the most radical and probably the ones you shouldn't listen to in the first place.

Thank you for your time

Wednesday, March 04, 2009 4:19:00 PM  
Blogger Drek said...

Chiropractic Student (not crazy):

Thanks for your comment! Given the length of my response, I have elected to leave it here.

Thursday, March 05, 2009 9:13:00 AM  

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