Tag Archive for 'vaccines'

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Stanford Medicine Magazine

The spring 2009 issue of Stanford Medicine Magazine, a publication of the Stanford University School of Medicine, examines the turmoil swirling around vaccines. In “Hot Shots: Vaccines under the gun” one can read any of ten articles (not counting an introductory comment by Rosalyn Carter):

  • The demonization of immunization: Shots get the once-over
  • What is a vaccine? Immunization demystified
  • Asking How: Vaccine Side Effects Probed
  • When science gets hijacked: NBC News chief medical editor tells why she broke her silence
  • Insourced to India: A vaccine for a scourge of the developing world
  • Peet’s passion: The medical education of Amanda Peet
  • Field yields: Can genetically engineered plants provide vaccines?
  • Shoot it, don’t smoke it: An injectable tobacco-grown vaccine
  • Golden needles: Vaccines for seniors
  • Grow up: Can vaccines built for kids work in older immune systems too?

Few of the folks who ardently oppose vaccines will likely be swayed by the content provided here. However, this magazine provides an excellent broad-brush treatment of the topic for those who are curious, savvy, and vulnerable to reason.

Link to the issue on the Web. Flash of the electrons to Liz Ditz for alerting me to this excellent resource.

Autism-x-immunization rates

Probably someone’s done a much more sophisticated version of this analysis, but I fiddled with it just to see what I’d find. I took the number of children identified as having Autism by the schools in each US state (as a percentage of the state’s population) and correlated that with the number of children who are immunized in each state (also as a percentage). If vaccination ==> Autism, then states where vaccination rates are higher should have higher rates of Autism, and vice versa.

The relationship between the two variables is .071, which is not a significant correlation when one has 50 pairs of scores. In fact, for the a correlation to be significant at the convention level (p < .05), it would have to be > .275.


  • The 2006 U.S. Report to Congress on IDEA, Volume 2, p. 38.
  • The H. K. Kaiser Foundation’s State Health Facts data on immunizations.

Please keep in mind that I’m not offering this analysis as anything profound. There are much stronger data showing a lack of relationship between immunizations and Autism. I just happened on the data and figured I’d entertain myself with analyzing them.

Gorski: “bad year for antivaccinationists”

Over on Science-Based Medicine, Dr. David Gorski has an extended entry entitled “2009: Shaping up to be a really bad year for antivaccinationists.” Dr. Gorski, who has repeatedly written on the topic of putative causes of Autism, connects lots of dots in this piece.

Wakefield data questioned again

In the context of increasing cases of measles in Great Britain—cases rose from 990 in 2007 to 1348 in 2008; add those ’08 data to the accompanying graph—there is another report that the foundational study of the putative link between vaccinations and Autism may have used cooked data. Writing in the London (UK) Sunday Times on 8 February 2009 under the head line “MMR doctor Andrew Wakefield fixed data on autism,” Brian Deer reported the results of an investigation of medical records for the cases on which Dr. Wakefield based his famous (notorious?) study published in The Lancet:

THE doctor who sparked the scare over the safety of the MMR vaccine for children changed and misreported results in his research, creating the appearance of a possible link with autism, a Sunday Times investigation has found.

Confidential medical documents and interviews with witnesses have established that Andrew Wakefield manipulated patients’ data, which triggered fears that the MMR triple vaccine to protect against measles, mumps and rubella was linked to the condition.

Mr. Deer has been hard on this case for some time now. This is the latest in his on-going investigation. (As a result of his reporting, he has been accused of being in the pocket of pharmaceutical companies.) One can learn much more about his investigation from Brian Deer: the Lancet scandal.

The measles data come from a BBC story. Flash of the electrons to Phil Plait (and Todd Cissell) of Bad Astronomy for the alert to the most recent Times article. For more reaction, see Orac (great detail), Pharyngula, MedicFacility, SkepticsBook, The Voyage, JohnRay, and HunterGatherer. Harold Doherty of Facing Autism in NB considers the conviction of Dr. Wakefield premature: “These are obviously very serious allegations. Perhaps I am biased, being a humble, small town lawyer in New Brunswick, Canada but I prefer to await the decision of the tribunal before reporting the verdict.” For a contrary view, see on Sunday Times – Sinks To New Low With Yet More MMR Junk Journalism on ChildHealthSafety. Others will emerge.

NYT Autism coverage

For folks who are following press coverage of Autism, there are two items of potential interest in the New York (NY, US) Times. Under the headling “Book Is Rallying Resistance to the Antivaccine Crusade,” Donald G. McNeil, Jr., reports about the effects of Dr. Paul Offit’s book Autism’s False Prophets on efforts by some to dissuade people from vaccinating their children. According to a note appended to the story, another relevant article is pending: “Next week: In the Personal Health column, Jane E. Brody will write about efforts, so far fruitless, to find a cure for autism.”

Link to Mr. McNeil’s article.

Gupta, Autism, and EBD policy

It will be interesting to watch what happens if Dr. Sanjay Gupta becomes US Surgeon General and a chief advisor on public health policy for the Obama administration, as many news sources are reporting is likely to happen. Of special interest to those who are concerned about Emotional and Behavioral Disorders will by how Dr. Gupta addresses issues associated with Autism. Vaccines? Facilitated communication?

As Harold Doherty noted about a year ago on Facing Autism in New Brunswick, in his public career on the news-and-information source CNN Dr. Gupta has promoted discussion of some questions from his CNN pulpit. However, there is a lot more to Autism than providing a forum for people to brandish their often-ill-informed opinions about vaccines.

CNN is one of the world’s great communication and education organizations. People around the world listen to CNN and learn about the world from CNN. Hopefully Dr Gupta means it when he says he wishes to report on ALL aspects of autism. He might start by visiting the Long Island residential care facility where a middle aged woman who could not communicate at all was repeatedly abused by staff until outed by a conscientious co-worker and video recordings. The good doctor could also interview people with knowledge of the life of Tiffany Pinckney who died in Toronto from starvation and neglect while living in “the care” of her adoptive sister. Or he could talk to parents whose autistic children wandered into traffic to be lost forever or who have been restrained physically, left in a brick walled isolation room for hours, or simply sent home from school.

The list could continue: Parents who have taken out mortgages to secure financing for the private therapy their children desperately need but that schools will not provide. Promulgation of best-evidence interventions. Coordination of services across the disparate agencies that affect the services individual children receive. Respite care so that parents can catch their breath for a weekend. Etc. And we haven’t even begun to list medical, behavioral, or educational research needs. (Add other potential foci in the comments, please.)

As the holder of one of the most influential posts in public health, Dr. Gupta will need to wade into some difficult issues. He will have to go beyond simply making statements that solicit viewer interaction while avoiding alienating them, a strategy that serves one well in promoting discussions. Discussions are nice, but US health policy—about Autism and many other issues closely connected to Emotional and Behavioral Disorders—needs bold leadership informed by the best available science. Such leadership is likely to cause dissatisfaction among those who receive their wisdom from anecdotes told on popular mass media shows, give as much credence to evidence-based presentations as to an individual’s illogical assertion of correlation, and embed ad hominem attacks in their anonymous comments on discussion boards.

How would Dr. Gupta respond to questions posed by folks representing diverse views about Autism (see, e.g., Kristina Chew’s note about the participation of the Autism Self-Advocacy Network in discussions with the Obama administration)?

Review Mr. Doherty’s comments from his post about Dr. Gupta in January of 2008. For a sample of the interactions about Autism that have been engendered by Dr. Gupta’s work on CNN, see this discussion of vaccinations. Consider saying something about Dr. Gupta’s CNN pieces on FC.

Updates (of a more general nature):

More: Huffingtonpost post: Conyers: Obama Should Not Nominate Sanjay Gupta;