[Abstracts] vs. anecdotes: What we have here is a failure to communicate

April 18th, 2011 → 10:25 pm @ // No Comments

The fact that so many people still believe vaccines cause autism is due to many factors — but ultimately, I think it’s a failure of communication on virtually every level.

Today, Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, unintentionally provided another example of how the medical infrastructure in this country has a lot to learn in that department. In what was intended to be a partial antidote to the embarrassing PBS Newshour series “Autism Now,” Pediatrics released 18 vaccine-safety reports for free. As far as scientific journal articles goes, they’re fairly easy to understand…but compare Pediatrics‘s point of entry:

eFirst artices are published online in advance of appearing in standard issue of the journal. These articles have been peer-reviewed, edited, typeset, and approved by the author.

Click the [Abstract] link to view an article. Use the ‘Get All Checked Abstract(s)’ button at the bottom of the page to review multiple abstracts; select the abstracts by checking the boxes to the left of the titles. Click the [PDF] link to view an article.

with that of Newshour:

The PBS NewsHour is launching a special series of reports, both on-air and online, about a puzzling disorder that touches many lives across the U.S.: Autism Now will take a unique — and uniquely personal — look at how the condition impacts families, schools and communities.

Now tell me: If you were a parent seeking information, which website would you be more likely to click on?

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12 Comments → “[Abstracts] vs. anecdotes: What we have here is a failure to communicate”

  1. Lisa R.

    13 years ago

    And they even had a typo in their leading paragraph…about how the articles have been typeset. Wow, compelling.

    If AAP actually thought timing the release of this supplement (which has surely been in the works for many months) to coincide with the start of the NewsHour series would do anything to temper people’s reactions to the show, one has to wonder what they were thinking. Pediatrics is not a mass-market publication. Are they doing this in place of preparing something like a responsive press release? I hope not.


  2. ZDoggMD

    13 years ago

    This is a great example of how we physicians and scientists manage to alienate ourselves from the public at large. We speak Latin to patients and expect (and demand) that they understand and comply. We can (and must) do a better job; the alternative is just too grim.


  3. sharon

    13 years ago

    I’d read both. I’m calling it as I see it. There is a lot of intellectual laziness around. I can’t count the times someone has told me to keep an open mind about the bullshit they want me to believe, and I struggle not to point out their mind is so open their brain has fallen out.


  4. ZDoggMD

    13 years ago

    A group of us docs made a couple of pro-vaccine rap parody videos in an attempt to better communicate a message to which people can relate, using humor and music.



  5. sharon

    13 years ago

    I think you got an honorary mention over at Respectful Insolence some time back ZDoggMD.


  6. Jake Crosby

    13 years ago

    “If you were a parent seeking information, which website would you be more likely to click on?”

    If I followed the money, not Pediatrics:

    Or the people who cite them, like you or your buddy Kurt Andersen on NPR. I would definitely choose public television over public radio.

    And Bob’s your uncle:


  7. Moderation

    13 years ago


    In my opinion, one measure of the quality of the available sources of information on autism is how open blogs and websites are to comments by those with opposing views. While this blog and many others like it allow very open commenting and discussion, you, Jake, retreat to the echo chamber that is your blogging home, Age of Autism with its highly restricted posting policies. Jake, you resort to personal attacks rather than relying on the evidence. Anyone who doubts this can read some of Jake’s posts at AoA and see for themselves.


  8. ChildHealthSafety

    13 years ago

    “The fact that so many people still believe vaccines cause autism is due to many factors — but ultimately, I think it’s a failure of communication on virtually every level.”

    No Seth it is not Here are perfectly good examples of communication with links to sources.

    You do not seem to have covered these in your book. What is your position on them?


    A) the current President of Merck’s Vaccines Division, Julie Gerberding confirmed to CBS News when she was Director of the US Centres for Disease Control that: “So if a child was immunized, got a fever, had other complications from the vaccines. And if you’re predisposed with the mitochondrial disorder, it can certainly set off some damage. Some of the symptoms can be symptoms that have characteristics of autism.” [1]

    B) Autistic conditions can result from encephalopathy following vaccination. The US Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) confirmed to CBS News that of 1322 cases of vaccine injury compensation settled out of court by the US Government in secret settlements: “We have compensated cases in which children exhibited an encephalopathy, or general brain disease. Encephalopathy may be accompanied by a medical progression of an array of symptoms including autistic behavior, autism, or seizures.” [2], [2a], [3].

    C) It is biologically plausible that a live virus vaccine like MMR [which] contains live viruses one of which is scientifically accepted as causing autism. The first known cause of autism was rubella virus.

    … rubella (congenital rubella syndrome) is one of the few proven causes of autism.“ Walter A. Orenstein, M.D. US as Assistant Surgeon General, Director National Immunization Program in a letter to the UK’s Chief Medical Officer 15 February 2002.

    rubella virus is one of the few known causes of autism.” US Center for Disease Control.

    rubella can cause autism” The Pediatrician’s Role in the Diagnosis and Management of Autistic Spectrum Disorder in Children – PEDIATRICS Vol. 107 No. 5 May 2001

    D) Autistic conditions can result from acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (ADEM) following MMR vaccination as held by the US Federal Court in the case of Bailey Banks [4].

    In his conclusion, US Federal Court Special Master Abell ruled that Petitioners had proven that the MMR had directly caused a brain inflammation illness called acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (ADEM) which, in turn, had caused the autism spectrum disorder PDD-NOS in the child:

    The Court found that Bailey’s ADEM was both caused-in-fact and proximately caused by his vaccination. It is well-understood that the vaccination at issue can cause ADEM, and the Court found, based upon a full reading and hearing of the pertinent facts in this case, that it did actually cause the ADEM. Furthermore, Bailey’s ADEM was severe enough to cause lasting, residual damage, and retarded his developmental progress, which fits under the generalized heading of Pervasive Developmental Delay, or PDD [an autism spectrum disorder]. The Court found that Bailey would not have suffered this delay but for the administration of the MMR vaccine, and that this chain of causation was… a proximate sequence of cause and effect leading inexorably from vaccination to Pervasive Developmental Delay.

    E) Autism is not caused by genes. And what does not cause autism?

    Dr Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D. the 16th and current Director of the US$30.5 billion budget National Institutes of Health [nominated by President Obama: NIH News Release 17th August 2009 ] stated in evidence to US House of Representatives Committee May 2006 when Director of the US National Human Genome Research Institute [5]:

    “Recent increases in chronic diseases like diabetes, childhood asthma, obesity or autism cannot be due to major shifts in the human gene pool as those changes take much more time to occur. They must be due to changes in the environment, including diet and physical activity, which may produce disease in genetically predisposed persons.“

    F) Autistic conditions affect approximately 1 in 100 US children. They affect 1 in 64 British children [1 in 40 are boys] according to a Cambridge University study [6].

    “Conclusions: The prevalence estimate of known cases of ASC, using different methods of ascertainment converges around 1%. The ratio of known to unknown cases means that for every three known cases there are another two unknown cases. This has implications for planning diagnostic, social and health services.”

    G) It is estimated to cost the UK £28 billion per annum [roughly US$42 billion]: [7]

    [1] HOUSE CALL WITH DR. SANJAY GUPTA – Unraveling the Mystery of Autism; Talking With the CDC Director; Stories of Children with Autism; Aging with Autism – Aired March 29, 2008 – 08:30 ET

    [2] CBS News Exclusive: Leading Dr.: Vaccines-Autism Worth Study Former Head Of NIH Says Government Too Quick To Dismiss Possible Link – WASHINGTON, May 12, 2008

    [2a] [see text of email exchanges between US HRSA and Attkisson – attached]

    [3] Vaccine Case: An Exception Or A Precedent? – First Family To Have Autism-Related Case “Conceded” Is Just One Of Thousands – CBS News By Sharyl Attkisson WASHINGTON, March 6, 2008]

    [4] [Banks v. HHS (Case 02-0738V, 2007 U.S. Claims LEXIS 254, July 20, 2007)]

    [5] Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D. evidence to US House of Representatives Committee May 2006


    [7] [“Economic Consequences of Autism in the UK” – London School of Economics – Study by team led by Professor Martin Knapp

    [Executive Summary]


  9. Jake Crosby

    13 years ago

    “In my opinion, one measure of the quality of the available sources of information on autism is how open blogs and websites are to comments by those with opposing views.”

    Then we can certainly scrap The New York Times as a quality source.

    “While this blog and many others like it allow very open commenting and discussion…”

    The host of which obviously saves up his censorship energies for mainstream media, which he tells to only report the side of his and your industry.

    “retreat to the echo chamber that is your blogging home, Age of Autism with its highly restricted posting policies.”

    Well then I’d really like to know how Liz Ditz managed to squeeze through this “echo chamber” in the comments under my latest piece:

    “Jake, you resort to personal attacks”

    And what was Seth Mnookin doing at American University calling a person with my viewpoint an “asshole”?

    “Anyone who doubts this can read some of Jake’s posts at AoA and see for themselves.”

    Even Brian Deer of all people could see for himself that I never even mentioned Seth Mnookin’s past habits – only the purely criminal acts he committed: burglary, dealing drugs, and biting a police officer.


  10. Jake Crosby

    13 years ago

    “The host of which obviously saves up his censorship energies…”

    On second thought, I take it back; he also censors his own blog by closing up the comments without responding to anybody who asks him a critical question.


  11. Moderation

    13 years ago

    Wow Jake a single post from Ms. Ditz. Please, post here and with a straight face tell me that AoA has an open commenting policy. You complain that Mr. Mnookin does not answer you question. That is not the same as not allowing you to even speak. The beauty is that anyone can go over and quickly count up the comments after each of your articles at AoA and see the echo chamber you live in.

    Come on, I don’t care that you review Mr. Mnookin’s personal history. You could have saved yourself some time and simply referenced his own article about his past. I read your article and encourage others to do the same. That way they can see your writing and tone in context and judge for themselves the quality of your character.


  12. Michael Polidori

    11 years ago

    @Moderation – Unfortunately an “open commenting policy” cannot be permitted with the drug industry fueling the misinformation campaigns like NeurolgicaBlog or ScienceBasedMedicine
    Open commenting would result in the drowning of the facts in a deluge of pseudoscience from compensated and/or sociopathic shills such as yourself, “Moderation”

    The 2011 Vaers reports show vaccines correlated to 25,000 injuries & deaths (3500 serious enough to require medical intervention). The CDC says because VAERS is voluntary these 25,000 adverse events are only a “small fraction” of the true number.

    If that “small fraction” is 1-5% the actual association of vaccines to adverse events ranges from 500,000. to 2.5 MILLION. Serious events from 70,000 to 350,000. I am well aware this is correlation, not causation.

    Does this prove vaccines are causing the injuries & deaths? No, but this mountain of data is clear justification to do the clinical studies necessary to find the truth. The epidemiology that shills refer to is an inappropriate response to the mountain of epidemiological correlation produced directly & indirectly by VAERS. You don’t try to deny correlation established by epidemiology or the accumulation of data by claiming the correlation doesn’t exist with conflicting epidemiology. This is what the drug-industry compensated statiisticians, epidemiologists, doctors & scientists try to do.

    Here’s a simpler truth. Read Merck’s 2010 MMR package insert (http://www.merck.com/product/usa/pi_circulars/m/mmr_ii/mmr_ii_pi.pdf ). Although this vaccine has been out for decades Merck still lists Diabetes as an ADVERSE REACTION (along with pancreatitis, various encephalopathies,convulsions & dozens more). Adverse reactions are adverse events for which causal evidence exists. The IOM has reported in 2004 there is no correlation of MMR to Diabetes… then why is Merck still reporting Diabetes as an Adverse Reaction?

    I talked to an FDA spokesperson. They have the causal evidence Merck has reported for these MMR adverse reactions. They won’t release it without an FOIA request. The wording of my request would have to be specific as careless FOIA’s commonly retrieve mountains of information or no information. I was also told that once the data was retrieved it may not be released, depending on the nature of the info & how FOIA rules were interpreted to apply to it.

    Regarding the vaccine autism link, shills quote fraudulent epidemiological studies, which cannot prove anything. Yet some actually claim these manipulations of data prove vaccines do not cause autism. The careful shills use the phrases “found no evidence” or “did not find a correlation”. No evidence is exactly that… no evidence.

    The late Dr Bernadine Healy, in a 2008 CBS News interview said “Vaccines may cause autism… It’s inexcusable that the proper research has not been done”. Dr Andrew Wakefield called for similar studies to be done in 1998… 14 years, no progress, exactly what the drug industry wants. No real science, no truth, only a fraction of the compensation to vaccination’s victims that should be paid & tens of billions in liability-free vaccine profits, with mandates & govt purchasing contracts.

    The null hypothesis, “Vaccines do not cause autism spectrum disorders”, has been disproven by the Bailey Banks & Hannah Poling cases as well as several British cases. Gayle DeLong & Mary Holland have both completed epidemiological studies showing vaccines ARE causally correlated to autism & other autism spectrum disorders.

    The Vaccine Injury Table lists hundreds of types of injures & deaths, many neurological, that are accepted as proved to be caused by vaccines. It is no longer a question of whether or not vaccines cause autism, but how vaccines cause autism & how much autism is being caused.

    You, Mnookin & your ilk are the true anti-science denialists, data manipulators & sociopaths willing to continue injuring kids to protect drug industry profits from declining or paying liability claims.

    You deny truth, convincing parents to vaccinate children blindly, resulting in permanent neurological or physiological injuries & deaths in kids who should have been properly screened for immune problems or sensitivities to the antigens, toxins & other contaminants in vaccine… & you don’t care…

    Try visiting or volunteering at an autism treatment center or going to the grave of some vaccine victims… hopefully this could spark your humanity.

    Proper regulation of the drug industry, proper oversight of the regulators/officials during & after employment with the government (like Julie Gerberding or Arthur Hayes) & screening kids for susceptibilities prior to vaccination would increase vaccine safety/effectiveness & dramatically reduce injuries while improving infant/child health & survival

    The USA has the highest infant/child mortality & poorest health compared to other western nations, in spite of (or as a result of?) being the most highly vaccinated population in the world.


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