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Sunday, 18 March 2012

If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck then its.....Ben Goldacre and the 'Media's MMR Hoax'

Ben Goldacre is a highly influential Science Journalist. He has a weekly column in the Guardian and his own website called badscience.net. He also has a book out called Bad Science. The thrust of this book is that Ben is going to explain to his readers what 'bad science' is. Judging from the merchandise on offer on his badscience.net store, Ben thinks the MMR vaccine is safe, that Nutritionists are 'quacks', and it also looks like he's got his own slogan "i think you'll find it's a bit more complicated than that". He also has a penchant for rubber ducks, they adorn his badscience.net blog and have provided the inspiration for the title of my piece. 

It was recommended to me that I read his blog post titled the 'Media's MMR Hoax' (which is also features as a chapter in his book). The thrust of the post is that Goldacre will explain how it wasn't Wakefield et al that should be held responsible for the 'MMR hoax', instead it was the untrained and hysterical media. The implicit assumption Goldacre makes is that the MMR vaccine was, and is, safe.  While Goldacre is no doubt a talented writer, I was actually somewhat surprised at  much of his reasoning, logic but mostly the lack of information for the topic at hand.  I have offered a critique of this article below. I hope those that read it will have a rethink about the suitability of Dr Goldacre as an authority figure in the MMR-Autism debate.  If you are not familiar with Goldacre's original article you will find it here

There are two concurrent themes in Goldacre's piece, i) that vaccines are safe and the evidence clearly shows this, and ii) that an uneducated and unskilled media are to blame for influencing the public to think otherwise. The red font below is from Goldacre's original piece.

Goldacre begins with the vaccines are safe theme and and really starts the ball-of-misinformation rolling with...
“The MMR and autism scare, for example, is practically non-existent outside Britain.” 
 
Oh dear, if Ben Goldacre is this mis/un-informed, then already I'm already beginning to doubt his credibility to comment in this area. For example, CNN listed the Autism MMR vaccine controversy as one of the top stories of 2008. See what CNN have to say about this here. In fact Autism and vaccines have been very big news indeed outside of Britain, with the US Government conceding that multiple vaccinations were responsible for the later seizures of Hannah Poling. See the verbatim US Government concession here on the huffington post and and also this article also on the huffington post on the same topic. But the most glaring omission of all is that the Japanese government banned the MMR jab in 1993 due to serious side effects following vaccination. This lead to millions of dollars in compensation to victims families. Read more here and here.

Surely, Ben Goldacre has the resources available to him to check what’s happening outside the UK?. The fact that theses stories escaped him, or that he saw no relevance in them, does not fill me with confidence that he is sufficiently informed to offer a valid opinion on this area. Anywho, it's still early doors, perhaps this was an uncharacteristic slip up, lets see...

 On to the hepatitis B vaccine and France in the 1990s... 
“But throughout the 1990s France was in the grip of a scare that hepatitis B vaccine caused multiple sclerosis.”

What was that catchphrase again? Oh yeah...'I think you'll find it's a bit more complicated than that'...

Firstly, it looks like it was a little bit more than a  "scare", (with the associated implication that it was just a ‘state of mind’), at least according the the French courts that awarded compensation to sufferers of multiple sclerosis (MS), which occurred following vaccination against hepatitis B.
"A French court has upheld a lower court ruling that found a link between GlaxoSmithKline's hepatitis B vaccine and multiple sclerosis (MS) and has ordered the company to pay two women who contracted MS after receiving the vaccine an as-yet undetermined amount of compensation."  Agence France Presse (www.afp.com) (05/03/01)
Courts in the US are also compensating Hep B vaccine victims see here and here
I wonder why this Harvard study, published in Neurology in 2004, failed to catch Dr Goldacre's eye? The authors concluded "These findings are consistent with the hypothesis that immunization with the recombinant hepatitis B vaccine is associated with an increased risk of MS, and challenge the idea that the relation between hepatitis B vaccination and risk of MS is well understood." Oh well, you don't catch them all I guess.

Goldacre's commentary predates the Neurology study of October 2008 that showed exposure to the Hepatitis B vaccine in children was associated with a 50% increased risk for CNS inflammatory demyelination.So we can't blame him for missing this particular study. The study also showed that for children who got the GlaxoSmithKline's Engerix B vaccine, their risk was elevated by 74%. Among Autism Spectrum Disorder children with confirmed multiple sclerosis, the risk increased by 177% (read more here). I 'm sure Goldacre's website addendum is in the pipeline, if not I look forward to seeing the study discussed in the next edition of Bad Science.

And how about the thoughts of Dr Mark Girard, commissioned as a medical expert by French courts in the French criminal investigation into the introduction of universal Hepatitis B vaccination in France? This is what he had to say on the matter:
"Whilst the risk factors for babies have changed little, there is now impressive evidence that for a preventive measure, hepatitis B vaccine is remarkable for the frequency, variety and severity of complications from its use. The toxicity of this vaccine is so unusual that, even if crucial data are regrettably concealed or covered by Court order, scientific evidence is already far higher than normally needed to justify severe restrictive measures." see more
 More on Girard's work here


After the simplistic and nonchalant treatment of Hep B vaccines in France, Goldacre shifts his lens to the US... 
“In the US, the major vaccine fear has been around the use of a preservative called thiomersal, although somehow this hasn’t caught on here, even though that same preservative was used in Britain.”  

Thiomersal? That's a peculiar sounding substance, but it's only a preservative how bad can it be? Let's google it and see...hmm, ah well, I guess the question should be 'how bad is mercury?' A  quick browse on Wikipedia yields this piece of info...
"Mercury and its compounds have been used in medicine, although they are much less common today than they once were, now that the toxic effects of mercury and its compounds are more widely understood. The element mercury is an ingredient in dental amalgams. Thiomersal (called Thimerosal in the United States) is an organic compound used as a preservative in vaccines, though this use is in decline" see more
Click here for 45 studies that have found links between mercury and ASD, MS and various other neuorodegenerative disorders. Also check out the compilation of approximately 80+ studies on the toxicity of Thiomersal, again in peer reviewed scientific and medical journals.  Perhaps there is something to this whole thiomersal 'fear' thingy?

By this point, we can safely say Goldacre is uninformed, yet he does clearly possess the journalistic 'street smarts' to keep himself out of trouble. For example, he says the 'fear’ never really caught on in the UK; he could merely be saying that people in the US are more simply informed about vaccines? But the implication is clearly that there was nothing to fear in the first place. He cleverly doesn't commit and offers no opinion on whether he thinks thiomersal is safe or not.  He also veers well clear of discussing any actual evidence on the matter. It would seem that Goldacre doesn't want to talk himself into a position that he suspects is untenable. Unfortunately, it is unlikely that all of his readers are this shrewd, and some who read this piece will come away thinking thiomersal is safe.

With Hep B and thiomersal  out of the way it's now time for the whooping cough vaccine to get the Goldacre treatment...

“In the 1970s there was a widespread concern in the UK, driven again by a single doctor, that whooping-cough vaccine was causing neurological damage.”

Again, we see the same Goldacre slickness, he doesn't name the 'single Doctor'. He refuses to commit. Were the concerns justified? The implication is they weren't but Ben ain't gonna say that, it's left for the reader to fill in the blanks.  Is he criticizing this single doctor or praising him/her for generating this concern? It reads more like scorn than praise, but let's look a little deeper into this to see if he/she warrants praise or criticism.  This Guardian article, should offer a little more clarity on the matter. Here's an excerpt:
British drug giant GlaxoSmithKline has finally admitted that thousands of babies in this country were inoculated with a batch of toxic whooping cough vaccines in the 1970s.
Some experts believe that these Trivax vaccines - which had not passed critical company safety tests - may have caused permanent brain damage and even fatalities in young children. In 1992, the family of an Irish boy, Kenneth Best, who suffered brain damage from one of these toxic vaccines, was awarded £2.7 million in compensation by the Irish Supreme Court. Despite a long and fierce battle with the drug giant, the boy's family finally won this historic case after his mother Margaret made a startling find when sifting through tens of thousands of company documents. She discovered that the Trivax vaccine used on her son, from a batch numbered 3,741, had been released by the company despite it having failed to pass a critical safety test. Documents revealed that the 60,000 individual doses within this batch were known to be 14 times more potent than normal.
At the time the Irish judge accused GlaxoSmithKline - then known as Glaxo Wellcome - of negligence and attacked the company's poor quality control at its Kent laboratory. Immunology experts condemned Glaxo in court for what one US scientist described as an 'extraordinary event'. Last year an investigation by The Observer found evidence to suggest that vaccines from this faulty batch, which may have wrecked Kenneth Best's life, had also been used in Britain.
I know the media can get it wrong at times but surely we can trust the Guardian, right? Or would Goldarce have us believe that the reporting of the above documented facts was some sort of Guardian driven 'media hoax' also?  Goldacre goes on to say ...“because if the vaccine for hepatitis B, or MMR, is dangerous in one country, it should be equally dangerous everywhere”. And guess what, countries around the world are finding the same vaccines to be dangerous, funny that
...Last year Australia temporarily banned their seasonal flu vaccines after 23 children experienced convulsions and were hospitalized following their vaccination. The same year, Sweden found the Pandemrix swine flu vaccine increased the chance of children under 19 years old developing narcolepsy by 400%. If 400% wasn’t bad enough, Finland’s study found the same vaccine increased a child’s risk of developing narcolepsy by 900%! Thankfully those countries took action and banned the vaccine for children.  read more
Also...
In 1977, a Russian study found that adults exposed to ethylmercury, the form of mercury in thimerosal, suffered brain damage years later. Studies on thimerosal poisoning also describe tubular necrosis and nervous system injury, including obtundation, coma and death. As a result of these findings, Russia banned thimerosal from children's vaccines in 1980. Denmark, Austria, Japan, Great Britain and all the Scandinavian countries have also banned the preservative. read more
Goldacre continues...
“and if those concerns were genuinely grounded in the evidence, especially in an age of the rapid propagation of information, you would expect the concerns to be expressed by journalists everywhere.”

Er, but if they're all as uninformed as you are Ben then, probably not. Thankfully, thousands of scientists and journalists are documenting and reporting on the dangers of vaccines. The trick is to do the research.


Under the guise of discussing the media's initial 'low-key' treatment of Wakefield et als original studies, Goldacre tries to undermine important findings with some cleverly crafted pot shots...


“The study itself was fairly trivial, a “case series report” of 12 people – essentially a collection of 12 clinical anecdotes ….For things as common as MMR and autism, finding 12 people with both is entirely unspectacular.”

This is a little misleading, the initial points of interest were not MMR and Autism but that the children shared ASD as well as inflammation of the large intestine and swelling of the lymph glands in the intestinal lining. However, the study also revealed that parents of 9 of the children associated the onset of symptoms ASD with MMR vaccination. This finding was and is interesting and certainly warrants further investigation. Perhaps not 'spectacular' but definitely interesting. In all, Wakefield's case study served it's purpose well; it generated a new hypotheses that have been tested in subsequent research.  For example:
  • Horvath, Papadimitiou et al, Department of Pediatrics, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, Gastrointestinal Abnormalities in Children With Autistic Disorder , Journal of Pediatrics, 1999 November, Vol 135 (5), pp559-563
  • Wakefield, Anthony et al, Enterocolitis in Children with Developmental Disorders , American Journal of Gastroenterology, Sept 2000, Vol 95, No. 9, pp2285-2295
  • Furlano, Anthony et al, Colonic CD8 and T-Cell Infiltration With Epithelial Damage in Children with Autism , Journal of Pediatrics, 2001; 138; No. 3, 366-372
  • Paper by Dr. Timothy Buie, Harvard Massachusetts General Hospital, presented to the Oasis 2001 Conference for Autism, Portland, Oregon, November 2001  
  • Ashwood, Murch et al, Royal Free Hospital, London, Intestinal Lymphocyte Populations in Children with Regressive Autism: Evidence for Extensive Mucosal Immunopathology , Journal of Clinical Immunology, Vol 23 No. 6 Nov 2003 pp504-517
Goldacre increases the pace a little...
“In 2001 and 2002 the scare began to gain momentum. Wakefield published a review paper in an obscure journal, questioning the safety of the immunisation programme, although with no new evidence.” 

Maybe I'm missing something here, but should there be new evidence in a review paperAs most scientists will tell you, evidence doesn’t  have an expiry date, it accumulates. This is why review papers are so useful. Funnily enough, Goldacre is  in fact tacitly admitting there was indeed preexisting evidence. It's also not really clear what particular paper Goldacre is referring to here. He refers to the journal as 'obscure' but I'll leave it up to the reader to decide. Here is a link to Wakefield's publication record (up to circa '09). As you can see it is extensive and publications in 'obscure' journals are certainly the exception and not the rule.

“He published two papers on laboratory work using PCR (a technique used in genetic fingerprinting) which claimed to show measles virus in tissue samples from children with bowel problems and autism.” 

Here comes Ben's street skills again, notice how he describes how Wakefield's research ‘claimed’ to show…'.  Funny how these peer reviewed studies can only  muster a grubby ‘claim’. The implication is  that these studies amount to nothing more than just unfounded ‘claims’ rather than important scientific findings that merit serious consideration.We’ll later see that when it’s research that's more in line with the Goldacre stance, 'claim' mysteriously goes AWOL, leaving behind a glistening and definitive set of findings.  Some might argue that these are cheap linguistic parlour tricks, but let's not be too judgmental, there is a certain craftiness about them that is quite compelling. 

Goldacre now shifts gears and really starts to 'large up' the media's role in the' MMR hoax'. He's main argument here is that the media took a trivial piece of research (Wakefield's study), misinterpreted it, and using all manner of deceptive tactics, blew it out of all proportion, and scared the British public half to death in the process...

"The coverage rapidly began to deteriorate, in ways which now feel familiar and predictable. Emotive anecdotes from distressed parents were pitted against old men in corduroy with no media training. The Royal College of General Practitioners press office not only failed to speak clearly on the evidence, it also managed to dig up anti-MMR GPs for journalists who rang in asking for quotes. Newspapers and celebrities began to use the vaccine as an opportunity to attack the government and the health service, and of course it was the perfect story, with a charismatic maverick fighting against the system, a Galileo-like figure. There were elements of risk, of awful personal tragedy, and of course, the question of blame: whose fault was autism?"

Okay Goldacre senses that we've entered the 'championship rounds'  and now it's time to crank it up a notch or two. Linguistic tricks are ditched, instead it's time for some conceptual restructuring, Goldacre style. Under the guise of criticizing the media for portraying the MMR-Autism story unfairly, Goldacre cleverly tries to frame the argument as a battle between emotion and irrationality on one hand, and reason and objectivity on the other. Goldacre would have us believe that representing emotion and irrationality is Wakefield, his mob of angry parents and a handful anti-MMR GPs'. On the side of reason, are a lone group of sober scientists in their corduroys. They're re not in it for the 'hero-worship', Goldacre implies, they are in it to uphold science and protect the masses from their own irrational beliefs.

What Goldacre attempts here is to disguise the true reality of why parents, scientists and GPs alike question the safety of the MMR vaccine. The reality is that this story 'broke', spread and remains as important as ever, because of research published in scientific journals, by corduroy wearing scientists. The evidence indicating that vaccines are unsafe did not start and end with Wakefield et al It continues to this day and continues to be published in scientific journals. Meanwhile, it's actually the very media that Goldacre chastises, that are discrediting the evidence that vaccines are, in fact, far from safe. The fact that Goldacre earlier jokes of defending the 'heretic'(referring to Wakefield) is a tacit admission of how complete the media demonisation of Wakefield has been.  We only need take a look at the following list of studies to see that it is the world of science, rather than media, that is the biggest threat to Goldacre & Cos position, i.e. that the MMR vaccine is safe. 


Goldacre also talks about how the media ignored the research that supported the idea that the MMR vaccine was safe but then ‘squealed’ loudly when they found research that suggested otherwise.  I find this media bias that he talks about a little hard to swallow.  Google News has an interesting feature that allows you to search news from particular years. I tried a search for “MMR vaccine” and this is what I found for 2001, 2002, 2004 and 2005-2007. Even better, you can try search google's newspaper archive, try different search terms e.g. "MMR Autism". From playing around with this for a little while the bias seems to have been against an Autism MMR link. This is by no means meant to be definitive, but it’s a starting point towards adding some degree of scientific methodology to the issue of media bias and the MMR vaccine. I'm not sure how Goldacre arrived at his 'media hoax' conclusions, perhaps he did a more thorough analysis? he doesn't really say, so I guess we don't really know.


Goldacre continues...

"And while most other politicians were happy to clarify whether their children had had the vaccine, you could see how people might believe the Blairs were the kind of family not to have their children immunised: essentially, they had surrounded themselves with health cranks. There was Cherie Blair’s closest friend and aide, Carole Caplin, a new age guru and “life coach”. Cherie was reported to visit Carole’s mum, Sylvia Caplin, a spiritual guru who was viciously anti-MMR (“for a tiny child, the MMR is a ridiculous thing to do. It has definitely caused autism,” she told the Mail). They were also prominently associated with a new age healer called Jack Temple, who offered crystal dowsing, homeopathy, neolithic-circle healing in his suburban back garden, and some special breastfeeding technique which he reckoned made vaccines unnecessary."

Ben's leaving nothing to chance, if his readers haven't been hoodwinked by his manufactured 'Reason versus Irrationality' dichotomy, then the false paradigm of  'anti-MMR quacks' versus 'pro-MMR rational scientists', should do the trick.  Those who opt not to have their children inoculated with the MMR are under the influence of ‘cranks’ and ‘quacks’. These are not rational people, they are misguided soles that don’t understand science and how it works, for if they did they would surely know that the MMR vaccine is safe.  This is all very clever stuff, but unfortunately, these underhand tactics do influence and shape peoples' views. 

Nevertheless, it is peer reviewed research and scientific rigor that remains the biggest threat to mass acceptance of MMR vaccination, not the media and not Tony and Cherie Blairs' ‘life coaches’ and ‘spiritual gurus’. By the by,  it's an often used trick in academia that if you want to try and discredit an opponent or a piece of work, that you try and find some way of associating it/them with homeopathy. Goldacre, rather crudely, manages to associate skepticism on the safeness of MMR with homeopathy, via the Blairs and their associates.  This is perhaps not Goldacre's most seamlessly crafted insinuation, but hey, he got there in the end.


Goldacre contiues...
“Journalists are used to listening with a critical ear to briefings from press officers, politicians, PR executives, salespeople, lobbyists, celebrities and gossip-mongers, and they generally display a healthy natural scepticism: but in the case of science, generalists don’t have the skills to critically appraise a piece of scientific evidence on its merits. At best, the evidence of these “experts” will only be examined in terms of who they are as people, or perhaps who they have worked for. In the case of MMR, this meant researchers were simply subjected to elaborate smear campaigns.”

Er, kettle pot black etc etc. A little rich considering how uninformed this piece has been.  If Goldacre does actually consider himself one of the experts that has ‘the skills to critically appraise a piece of scientific evidence on its merits’ then lets give him the benefit of the doubt and just say that he had a real 'off day' when he put this piece together.

“Any member of the public would have had very good reason to believe that MMR caused autism, because the media distorted the scientific evidence, reporting selectively on the evidence suggesting that MMR was risky, and repeatedly ignoring the evidence to the contrary.”

This certainly is not true today (and from searching media archives doesn't seem to hold up for back then either). Thanks to clever smear tactics, such as those employed by Goldacre in this article, anyone questioning the safety of MMR vaccines today is likely to be labelled a ‘quack’, ‘crank’ or ‘kook’, before they begin to defend their point or cite the relevant evidence. 

"In the case of the PCR data, the genetic fingerprinting information on whether vaccine-strain measles virus could be found in tissue samples of children with autism and bowel problems, this bias was, until a few months ago, quite simply absolute. You will remember from earlier that Wakefield co-authored two scientific papers – known as the “Kawashima paper” and the “O’Leary paper” – claiming to have found such evidence, and received blanket media coverage for them. But you may never even have heard of the papers showing these to be probable false positives."

By now we are familiar with Goldarce's linguistic tricks, he again describe Wakefield’s findings as ‘claims’ and then remarks that they are ‘probable false positives’.  This is very unbecoming for 'a man of science' like Goldacre. On what basis are these false positives? Was his methodology flawed? Did samples get mixed up? How does one find a vaccine strain measles virus in intestinal tissue, if in fact (as Goldacre insinuates), it wasn’t there?

Goldacre then describe two studes (D’Souza et al 2006 & Afzal et al 2006) that failed to find vaccine strain measles in the intestinal tissue of children with autism. Notice that he doesn't describe these findings as 'claims', funny that.  But at least we are discussing actual evidence, so kudos to Goldacre for that. So so surmise; Goldacre has presented his readers with two studies finding MMR stain measles in the intestinal lining of children with autism and bowel problems, and two that did not, yet the reader is 'guided' to think that a link between MMR and autism is absurd. Nice try Ben

He then turns his sights to Dr Arthur Krigsman…
“Dr Arthur Krigsman was claiming he had found genetic material from vaccine-strain measles virus in some gut samples from children with autism and bowel problems. If true, this would have bolstered Wakefield’s theory, which by 2006 was lying in tatters…. What was this frightening new data? These scare stories were based on a poster presentation, at a conference yet to occur, on research not yet completed…Two years after making these claims, the study remains unpublished.”

We've no good reason to doubt Krigman’s findings, but Goldarces makes us feel like we should doubt them anyway? He also cleverly tries to shape the reader to feeling that evidence for a link between MMR and autism 'hinged' on whether or not Krigsman could get this research into a journal. The reader is lead to believe that this Krigsman study is the only research out there that might just support a link between autism and MMR. Again this is total nonsense from Goldacre. Below is a small sample of research that supports a link between MMR and autism, again, these somehow escaped Goldarce.

Singh, Nelson, Jensen and Bradstreet, Abnormal Measles Serology and Autoimmunity in Autistic Children , Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology 109 (1) S232, January 2002, and also presented to the 102nd General Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology, Salt Lake City, Utah, May 2002
Bitnun et al, Measles Inclusion-Body Encephalitis Caused by the Vaccine Strain of Measles Virus , Clinical Infectious Diseases Journal, 1999, 29 855-61 (October)
Bradstreet, O'Leary, Sheils et al, Detection of Measles Virus Genomic RNA in Cerebrospinal Fluid in Children with Regressive Autism by TaqMan RT-PCR: A Report of Three Cases , summarized at the Institute of Medicine, February 2004 and subsequently published as Bradstreet, Dahr et al, Detection of Measles Virus Genomic RNA in Cerebrospinal Fluid of Children with Regressive Autism: A Report of Three Cases , Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons, Vol 9, No. 2 Summer 2004
Wakefield, Stott and Limb, Gastrointestinal Comorbidity, Autistic Regression and Measles-Containing Vaccines; Positive Re-challenge and Biological Gradient , Medical Veritas 3 (2006) 796-802

I hope by now we are aware and thus somewhat 'immune' to the deceptive tactics that Goldacre employs to manipulate his readers. Instead of debate the evidence he employs ad hominem tactics to undermine the credibility of authors that don’t take his view. He uses terms such as 'quack', 'crank' and 'kook' to scare the unwitting to accepting his story. The reality is that Goldacre's own work is weak and misleading, although cleverly crafted to avoid blatant falsehoods.  He creates false dichotomies, such as the 'scientific pro MMR camp' fighting a lone battle versus the axis of media, emotional parents and anti-MMR ‘quacks’.  We have seen that these dichotomies are patently false.  The reality is that good science supports a link between MMR and autism, and thus it is good science that is the real threat to Goldacre & Cos blindly pro MMR stance. Don't be swayed and bullied into accepting the Goldacre narrative, it's not all that clever or even all that scientific either.



9 comments:

  1. He's also a trained doctor, but you ignored that bit for your article's benefit didn't you?

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    1. So I wonder what I meant when i referred to him as "Dr Goldacre" in the second paragraph. That he was an untrained doctor?? Is this all you have to contribute? Not even sure what point you were trying to make here

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  2. Oh, and by the way, can I actually see some statistics showing the causal link between MMR and autism? You seem to have forgotten the most important part of your argument.

    Could it be because there is none available?

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    1. I would advise you to re-read the post if you think showing a "casual link between MMR and autism" was the most important part of my argument.

      What is clear from my post (for anyone with any degree of intelligence) is that there is an abundance of evidence to cast doubt on the idea that vaccines are safe. The is also an abundance of evidence that indicates that a link between MMR and autism should certainly not be dismissed, and warrants further serious research and scrutiny. Again, please read the post again if you are in any doubt about this. But listen, don't take if from my mouth that 'MMR is safe tell your friends' (as Goldacre has emblazoned on bibs and thongs in his online shop). Why not take a look at what the MAKERS of the MMR vaccine have to say about it's risks. These are some of the adverse reactions that Merck admit you may face if you take the vaccine. You may notice that 'encephalitis' and 'death' are included in the list.

      Adverse Reactions

      Panniculitis; atypical measles; fever; syncope; headache; dizziness; malaise; irritability.
      Cardiovascular System
      Vasculitis.
      Digestive System
      Pancreatitis; diarrhea; vomiting; parotitis; nausea.
      Endocrine System
      Diabetes mellitus.
      Hemic and Lymphatic System
      Thrombocytopenia (see WARNINGS, Thrombocytopenia); purpura; regional lymphadenopathy;
      leukocytosis.
      Immune System
      Anaphylaxis and anaphylactoid reactions have been reported as well as related phenomena such as
      angioneurotic edema (including peripheral or facial edema) and bronchial spasm in individuals with or
      without an allergic history.
      Musculoskeletal System
      Arthritis; arthralgia; myalgia.
      Nervous System
      Encephalitis;
      encephalopathy;
      measles
      inclusion
      body
      encephalitis
      (MIBE)
      (see
      CONTRAINDICATIONS); subacute sclerosing panencephalitis (SSPE); Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS);
      febrile convulsions; afebrile convulsions or seizures; ataxia; polyneuritis; polyneuropathy; ocular palsies;
      paresthesia.
      Respiratory System
      Pneumonia; pneumonitis (see CONTRAINDICATIONS); sore throat; cough; rhinitis.
      Skin
      Stevens-Johnson syndrome; erythema multiforme; urticaria; rash; measles-like rash; pruritis.
      Local reactions including burning/stinging at injection site; wheal and flare; redness (erythema);
      swelling; induration; tenderness; vesiculation at injection site.
      Special Senses — Ear
      Nerve deafness; otitis media.
      Special Senses — Eye
      Retinitis; optic neuritis; papillitis; retrobulbar neuritis; conjunctivitis.
      Urogenital System
      Epididymitis; orchitis.
      Other
      Death from various, and in some cases unknown, causes has been reported rarely following
      vaccination with measles, mumps, and rubella vaccines; however, a causal relationship has not been
      established in healthy individuals (see CONTRAINDICATIONS). No deaths or permanent sequelae were
      reported in a published post-marketing surveillance study in Finland involving 1.5 million children and
      adults who were vaccinated with M-M-R II during 1982 to 1993.56
      Under the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986, health-care providers and manufacturers
      are required to record and report certain suspected adverse events occurring within specific time periods
      after vaccination. However, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has established
      a Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) which will accept all reports of suspected events.47
      A VAERS report form as well as information regarding reporting requirements can be obtained by calling
      VAERS 1-800-822-7967.

      http://www.merck.com/product/usa/pi_circulars/m/mmr_ii/mmr_ii_pi.pdf

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  3. Thank you for this post, I too thought Ben's post was of poor quality and left me with more questions than I have time to research the answers to!
    I think the saddest part of the whole vaccine hoo-har is that it seems no longer acceptable to ask questions. I'm not into homeopathy or whale music, or giving up gluten because of some fad! But I am interested to know the safety and efficacy of all the vaccines that are offered and try to make an informed decision.
    I was surprised by Ben's post on this because I thought he was an advocate to questioning and seeking the truth in terms of science and drugs.

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    1. Thank you for your thoughtful comments Anna. I agree totally that the biggest shame is the crushing condemnation that meets anyone who dares question the safety of vaccines. Somehow MDs and 'big pharma' have dictated that those that question the safey of vaccines are 'not scientifically minded' etc. This of course is absurd. Particularly when there is overwhelming evidence casting serious doubts on the effectiveness and safety of vaccines. It is so important that parents made at the very least an informed choice and are not afraid to ask the really important questions.

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    1. Yes, that's right. I'm in Redhill Surrey UK, but I am willing to travel to Delhi if it means you can treat my hair loss effectively.

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  5. You attack Goldacre because he has a different idea of what is big news in the UK and America? How scientific of you...He lives in the UK, perhaps he (like most people in the UK) don't pay attention to what CNN are saying that day, and why does it even matter? This is a debate about the science, not news.

    This aside, you clearly have a preconceived idea of what is right and wrong, and this is a real problem in this field. You quote small scale bias and dubious studies like they prove something (I think you even quoted Wiki...)

    No one is doubting that vaccines can have adverse reactions in SOME people, but the risk of reaction is FAR less than that of catching a disease. It is a public health issue, and the facts are that if everyone is vaccinated, then more people are healthy.

    Looking at the facts, if you do not get vaccinated, you are 15.5 times more likely to get a serious life altering (or ending) disease than a reaction to a vaccine. These are odds I like and you can ready more about it here: http://www.thehealthcloud.co.uk/are-vaccinations-worth-the-risk/

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