(or) this is just too ridiculous.

Regular readers of my blog would know that that the anti-vaxers are prone to a little hysteria and exaggeration from time to time.

Whether this involves large leaps of logic when extrapolating scientific data or claiming that a car crash death following a vaccine was a direct result of the vaccine, nothing is too ridiculous for them.


What appears to be a stock photo (c) Adrian Brooks at Imagewise may not be what it appears..

Whilst I may have made the latter up, I predict it will be so in the near future. The former however, is true and refers to the recently published Wakefield study, which reported impaired neural development in baby macaques (monkeys) following an injection with low concentrations of thimerosal, lower than what is normally found in vaccines. This was all the evidence the anti-vaxers required to prove that thimerosal is the cause of autism. The scientists amongst you would know this is a preposterous leap where the most you could really say about a causal link with autism is that the data is interesting and may warrant further investigation. Howe er you may even hesitate to do this before very closely analysing the study, since Wakefield does not have a good reputation for publishing accurate data.

You may recall that the Lancet publication which started the whole autism/MMR controversy has since been retracted by the journal, and 10 of the 12 authors also stated unequivocally in a publication in 2004 (1);

“(we) wish to make it clear, that in this paper no causal link was established between the MMR vaccine and autism as the data were insufficient. However the possibility of such a link was raised and subsequent events have had a major implications for public health. In view of this we consider now is the appropriate time that we together formally retract the interpretation placed upon those findings in the paper, according to precedent”.

It has also since been revealed that the PCR data which reported measles RNA in the gut of the children, and this data was critical for the conclusions of the study, cannot be replicated and is now suspected to be fabricated. Other damning evidence which bring the paper into disrepute is information that Wakefield was paid 400,000 pounds by lawyers looking for a link between autism and MMR and also that he himself was involved with the development of a single measles vaccine.

Now all of this taken together would make any intelligent critical thinking person ever after suspicious of Wakefield’s work.

I review papers as part of the peer review process and had I seen the macaque manuscript, I would have been very careful to thoroughly scrutinize it before approving it for publication (assuming I did), particularly after I read the conflict of interest statement herein;

“Prior to 2005 CS (Carol Stott, third author) and AJW (Wakefield) acted as paid experts in MMR-related litigation on behalf of the court retained by plaintiff lawyers. LH (Laura Hewitson, first author) has a child who is a petitioner in the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program. For this reason, LH was not involved in any data collection or statistical analyses to preclude the possibility of conflict of interest”.


..it's proof that Tamiflu is really really DANGEROUS

I’m not sure this gets the authors off the hook in my opinion. This is a pretty serious conflict of interest, for all of them. Wakefield runs a woo clinic charging large amounts of money to administer quack, very expensive and dangerous autism treatments. The lead author on the paper is attempting to sue the government for vaccine damage to her daughter and both Wakefield and third author Carol Scott get paid to say MMR is bad. I would have to leave this to the discretion of the editor but this seems like a too serious breach of conflict of interest to me to let it go unquestioned. And perhaps it wasn’t – I am not privvy to the review process on this paper, but I would certainly love to know.  (As an aside, I have selected “alternative medicine” as one of my areas of speciality, but as yet I have not received such a manuscript to review).

In any case, it now seems that hysteria, cherry picking and jumping to conclusions is not limited to published data. It now includes photographs.

So behold readers, now the anti-vaxers are claiming that the photo to the right is photographic evidence that the drug used in the treatment of H1N1, Tamiflu is so dangerous that you can only handle it wearing a mask, EVEN WHEN IT IS SEALED!

This is a stock photo, made to look sciencey by the presence of the mask. If Tamiflu were that TOXIC then why would the scientist not be wearing gloves? Or a HAZCHEM suit? I DON’T KNOW BUT I’M NOT HANGING AROUND TO FIND OUT, ARGHHH. TOXIC! WASTE! STUPID! BURNS!

(1) Lancet, 2004 Mar 6;363(9411):750.

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