IAS talks about vaccination

By Grant Jacobs 24/02/2012 76


[Update: those looking for a breakdown of the IAS article, it’s in the Appendix.]

The suggestions they make are appalling.

I was tempted to add to the title ’, does this really help anyone?’

Seriously: is encouraging people to be defensive in a tit-for-tat fashion using potted answers really helpful?

I have seriously mixed feelings about writing this sort of thing. On one hand I’d much rather be examining some interesting science. I’ve a lot of that lined up. One out recently is how a rare aggressive thyroid cancer syndrome dominantly found in children of older men is likely to be caused by mutations accumulating in sperm, possibly through germline selection.[1] But I hate to let things like this article on the IAS website stand unanswered. And it’s Friday. There’s always that excuse.

The Immunisation Awareness Society (IAS) has come under question here on sciblogs for it’s advocacy of anti-vaccine stances under the guise of a charitable organisation (see under ‘Related articles’) and for remarks offered to journalists.

This post is on the long side (given how busy I am) so allow me to offer equally busy souls a condensed take before elaborating.

IAS claim to offer an ‘informed choice’. It’s a common among some people and groups who oppose vaccines to claim that they are, for want of a better term, ‘pro-choice’ when all they write is ‘anti-’. IAS reads that way. In order to be true to offering informed choice, information presented should be sound and presented fairly without pushing a particular viewpoint. This article from IAS does none of these. My key objection isn’t even the individual errors [which I’ll address later], bad as they are, but the larger thing of taking a totally negative oppositional approach. If they sincerely want to take vaccine issues forward don’t ‘tell people what to say’, as their article does–that’s the rote evangelism of overbearing ideology–instead investigate what they believe is true using sound sources and present their arguments to open discussion. My challenge for them [is] to live up to what they claim to represent.

My encounter with this particular story starts at another site, the Facebook page of Vaccine Free Families in New Zealand.

(A word to the wise. I am not encouraging people to hassle this group. If you must offer comments there, please be polite. I would encourage people to instead offer their responses here.)

Over there a reader started a game, in their words:

’Ok time for a little game. Im going to post a few common comments which are said by pro vaccine or unaware families and I want to see what your response would be if this was a face to face situation. I want to see what ammo you keep in your mind, your go to facts rather than the “its my family, my choice” kind of answers which are perfectly fine I just want to know what facts you can pull out of your brains quickly….no googling!!’

This developed as a series of questions, listed below, with readers of the Facebook page writing in answers. Whatever you think of these questions and their responses, they provide a useful sample glimpse into some of the beliefs / thoughts that some of those that oppose vaccines have.

Here are the questions asked:

Q: “oh you dont immunise? Arent you worried your kid will get real sick and die?”

Q: “dont you know theres a measles epidemic at the moment!”

Q: “”oh well you know you cant put your kid into school if their not up to date with their jabs.”

Q: “You know that whole Vaccines cause autism thing was a fake right”

Q: “So your kids will spread all these diseases around and give them to those unable to be vaccinated and with low immunity” (There were not many replies to this one.)

Q: “But if you dont immunise then your not protecting the rest of the countries children thru herd immunity, thats just selfish”

Much of this really lies in the replies rather than the questions, which are riddled with misunderstandings and errors. I’d offer a sampling of the replies and address the concerns raised, but there’s rather a lot of them and my time is (very) limited. Maybe in a later article.

To my real target, the IAS.

They put up a similar series of questions where they offered their readers ‘ready answers’:

People find themselves in a variety of situations where the topic of vaccination comes up. Often people who have chosen not to vaccinate cannot remember facts and figures to give others or think of what to say. Don’t let this stop you from speaking up.

Here are some examples that may help:

  1. When you hear someone saying something incorrect about vaccination, simply say ’I used to believe that until I got more information — would you like to me to get you some more information?’
  2. When a doctor or nurse asks why you haven’t vaccinated, simply say ’I am open to vaccination but have not found any SCIENTIFIC evidence vaccination works — do you have any SCIENTIFIC proof?’
  3. When an elderly person tells you that polio was very bad and will return, simply say ’the official info states that polio was 90% gone before vaccination was widely used, so what got rid of the 90%?’
  4. When a well meaning friend or relative questions your decision, simply say ’I fail to see how injecting heavy metals, foreign proteins, multiple viruses and many toxic substances into a body all at one time can keep someone well, can you explain it to me?’
  5. When someone questions your responsibility as a parent, simply say ’I think a responsible parent investigates any procedure to be carried out on their child and does not simply following like sheep out of fear and ignorance, what do you think?’
  6. When someone says your baby will die if not vaccinated, simply say ’I would be more worried if I vaccinated as SIDS is most common at 2, 4 and 6 months — when vaccines are given. In Japan they stopped vaccinating young babies and the SIDS rate plummeted — isn’t that interesting?

This is followed by some general closing thoughts (with straw-man statements).

Rather than tackle these statements here (see the Appendix for that), what I’d like to do is put aside all the questions and their replies for a moment and look at the larger picture – the aims of IAS and it’s existence.

IAS-logo

They offer themselves as ’for an informed choice’, the motto (or slogan) in their logo.

What was presented in their Q&A is neither well-informed nor encouraging choice.

It’s not presenting information and examining it, but, literally in this case, telling people what to think.

If you read the IAS website, you will quickly learn that when they offer information it is usually inaccurate, unsubstantiated or out of context. You will also learn that they do not encourage free choice, as such, but rather encourage a particular choice–their favoured anti-vaccine view.

In Australia, the New South Wales Government Health Care Complaints Commission (HCCC) has issued a public warning about the Australian Vaccination Network (AVN) following complaints laid (PDF file), primarily from the Stop AVN Campaign. (Discussion on this, naturally, abounds. This warning was recently challenged in court;  one informal summary is offered on an Australian blog.[2])

The observations the HCCC notes of AVN are also true of IAS:

  • provides information that is solely anti-vaccination
  • contains information that is incorrect and misleading
  • quotes selectively from research to suggest that vaccination may be dangerous

(IAS probably do less of the latter as they rarely refer to the research literature at all.)

What IAS offer is quite a different thing to offering information and letting readers draw their own conclusion.

In order to genuinely advocate ’informed choice’–what they claim to offer–the information presented must be accurate, be presented fairly and the organisation should not push a particular view.

These oppositional question-and-answer games certainly do not do this.[3]

I would challenge IAS, rather than tell people what to say, to investigate what they believe is true using sound sources and present their arguments to open discussion.[4]

Appendix

Let me take each question and it’s reply and very briefly offer some comments. My replies are to the person defending their choice not to vaccinate:

When you hear someone saying something incorrect about vaccination, simply say ’I used to believe that until I got more information — would you like to me to get you some more information?’

What matters is if your information is sound; checking it against sound sources could be a start.

When a doctor or nurse asks why you haven’t vaccinated, simply say ’I am open to vaccination but have not found any SCIENTIFIC evidence vaccination works — do you have any SCIENTIFIC proof?’

What about your decision? Is that based on sound information?

Looking for proper evidence is indeed a good thing. You would be better to either ask an advisory service like IMAC or look up the scientific literature as these represent the medical science community. The sources I referred to earlier try condense the key points to something more readable.

When an elderly person tells you that polio was very bad and will return, simply say ’the official info states that polio was 90% gone before vaccination was widely used, so what got rid of the 90%?’

By all accounts the polio epidemics were indeed bad, but the idea that polio mostly declined before the vaccine were introduced is incorrect. A number of anti-vaccine sites seem to spread this particular myth. It’s usually based around pointing out a (gradual) decline in deaths then saying the number of cases fell, when they didn’t. (I recently learnt from experience that in a few cases the myth comes from leaving the Salk vaccine out of the picture.) The original data for polio cases in the USA over 1952-1962 can be found on the excellent History of Vaccines website.

When a well meaning friend or relative questions your decision, simply say ’I fail to see how injecting heavy metals, foreign proteins, multiple viruses and many toxic substances into a body all at one time can keep someone well, can you explain it to me?’

Alison has told me that she wants to cover this one, so I’ll await her contribution. [Update: it’s here.] If IAS or you aren’t familiar with what enables vaccines to work, perhaps it’s best look to those that develop them, are responsible for vaccine safety or study immunology? As I was writing earlier, the better people to ask are those the represent the medical research community. IMAC, the CDC and my suggested sources are some possible starting points. (The claim of ’toxic substances’ and ’heavy metals’ is overplayed, as Alison will no doubt explain.)

When someone questions your responsibility as a parent, simply say ’I think a responsible parent investigates any procedure to be carried out on their child and does not simply following like sheep out of fear and ignorance, what do you think?’

The use of ‘fear and ignorance’ is replying to a straw-man, the person is quite likely quite happy with their decision. We all defer to experts in pretty much every area of our lives because we recognise that they know better than we do. My impression is that many ‘anti-vaccine’ parents feel they cannot trust those with better knowledge to represent their interests. I can sympathise (but not agree) with that, but reflecting your distrust onto others isn’t right or fair. (You might be better to investigate and learn why they are confident, perhaps?)

When someone says your baby will die if not vaccinated, simply say ’I would be more worried if I vaccinated as SIDS is most common at 2, 4 and 6 months — when vaccines are given. In Japan they stopped vaccinating young babies and the SIDS rate plummeted — isn’t that interesting?

Shame on IAS to repeat a well-established myth, although I have to say it is typical of what I have seen of their ‘information’. As the burden of proof lies with them, IAS should verify their own claim, but allow a few quick pointers.

IAS will need to clarify which vaccine they mean, but is likely to be the DTaP vaccine. The CDC has a brief explanation that the rate of SIDS if anything is somewhat lower amongst those who have taken a DTaP vaccination. (Some sites suggests this particular myth traces back to an error made by anti-vaccine proponent Viera Scheibner.) Note also that when Japan stopped the whooping cough (DTaP) vaccine, over the next 8 months they experienced approx. 13,000 cases of whooping cough as a consequence.

The questions are followed by some general thoughts, the first of which is:

Finally, if you cannot remember any of the above, no matter what someone is saying, simply ask ’can you prove that?’ This is the show stopper as vaccinators cannot prove anything they say in regard to vaccines being safe or effective. They are simply not safe and effective.

What matter is what you think.[5] If you choose not to take vaccines, it is for you to determine that choice is sound.

Later we read:

People who vaccinate can rarely answer any intelligent questions about vaccination.

To my judgement those replying to the questions on the VFFNZ Facebook page offer, to be polite, poor responses. If their responses are typical, then those that oppose vaccines do no better. I’m not really surprised neither ‘side’ does well at this, as few people will be well versed in the research literature involved. That’s why I suggested ’You would be better to either ask an advisory service like IMAC or look up the scientific literature as these represent the medical science community’ earlier.

What I do think is bad, though, is to think that you can speak more accurately on a subject than those who have spent many years studying it, on the basis of a few hours on the internet.

Skipping the next paragraph (it’s neither here nor there other than it stereotypes those who oppose vaccines and speak out as ’open and responsible’), we read:

A final word: People who vaccinate their children out of fear and ignorance do not have to justify their decision.

You don’t have to either, so stop thinking you do!

Actually this isn’t quite right. Lets put aside that the straw-man of ‘fear and ignorance’ being played again (as I mentioned early, many of these people will be quite happy with their decision). Those medical community are in fact obliged to justify the decision to offer the vaccines. Most people are aware of them, even if at a distance and in a vague sort of way. They know the medical community has control systems for these sorts of things. In that wider sense, the decision is justified and is obliged to be.

In the same sort of way, those that choose not to should really justify there decision too. After all it’s their families and the wider community that will be affected. Disowning responsibility entirely like this a bit irresponsible. Think how you’d be taken if you said ’I don’t have to justify keeping my kids clean because others do.’ You keep them clean because you know it’s the responsible thing to do. The medical community offers that advice. Now, why would the medical community turn their advice all upside down just for vaccines?

The IAS article closes with:

Be proud you have done the research and acted responsibly based on your new knowledge.

What research? Where is this ’new knowledge’? The IAS article doesn’t present any. That was one of my key criticisms of it – that it presents inaccurate information and doesn’t examine the information presented.

Knowledge isn’t about rote copying other’s words. It’s about understanding things, about testing ideas. That’s why I called for the IAS to ’investigate what they believe is true using sound sources and present their arguments to open discussion.’ It’s why science uses an approach of rigorous testing and discussion. It’s how we learn what still needs further work and what is sound. You’ll never get that from rote copying of other’s words.

Footnotes

1. Or Dravet Syndrome, which would be of more interest to those with an interest in vaccines.

2. My thanks to lizditz who helped with these links. The amount of time and energy Liz pours into combating ‘woo’ is impressive. It gets worse when organisations that (claim to) offer sound advice to families (say) host guest articles by the likes of AVN, as the Australian group BellyBelly has done. (I wrote several days ago politely suggesting that they take this page down, but they have not acted nor replied. It is difficult, to say the least, for them to claim to be offering good advice to families and also present this sort of wildly inaccurate material. Are we to be left to presume that they are content to be considered an unreliable source of information?)

3. See also a recent post by Alison on the issue of discussing issues with strongly-held views, here be dragons.

4. This page answers a few of the more common vaccine myths.

You might note that this is asking to be positive, in the sense of presenting material that moves things forward. It’s the reason, for example, that I feel reluctant writing these sorts of posts as I prefer to offer constructive material. It’s the reason that despite having written an long reply to the article Michelle Rudgley’s posted in response to my examining her statements to a journalist, I have not posted it. It was easy enough to show the claims she presented were unsound (if time consuming as I had to dig back to the sources), but to present it positively I’d have to also do what IAS hasn’t, essentially do their work for them: research each question, examine what is there and present a fair presentation of it. That would take an entire series of long posts to examine each issue in turn.

5. Let’s do a longer take on just this one. There are several errors here. One is captured in the cliché that ‘a lack of evidence is not evidence of a lack’. Or, put differently, it’s a logical fallacy to argue that ’if ‘Y’ cannot prove for ‘X’ is right, then ‘not X’ must be right’. For example, ’if Yvonne cannot prove the car was red, then the car must not be red’ is a nonsensical. IAS are arguing, or strongly implicating, that a (claimed by them) lack of proof of vaccines as being safe, is a proof of vaccines not being safe.

A second error is, of course, that ’as vaccinators cannot prove anything they say in regard to vaccines being safe or effective’ is a straw man statement – it’s not correct and seeks to dismiss out-of-hand.

A third, more subtle, issue hidden in this is that safety or effectiveness is not absolute but relative; vaccines are ‘more safe than’ or ‘sufficiently effective to make an acceptable difference’. By setting up absolute standards, you artificially set up a demand for absolute safety and absolute effectiveness. This demand for perfect safety, in turn, harks to calling for safety in terms of every individual, rather than looking at it from a population view. The correct question is if the population is better off, not if every single person is perfectly protected. What in the end matters is if the vaccines are (much) safer than the disease in the absence of vaccine and if the effectiveness is sufficient to deliver this benefit.

A few related articles on Code for life:

Reviewing Deadly Choices

Fact or fallacy, a survey of immunisation statements in the print media

Immunisation, then and now

Rubella, not a benign disease if experienced during early pregnancy


76 Responses to “IAS talks about vaccination”

  • Grant says, “In order to be true to offering informed choice, information presented should be sound and presented fairly without pushing a particular viewpoint.”

    Brilliant! Totally agree. So can I take it from that the the MOH and IMAC are not interested in informed choice? If I’m wrong, can you point to their information presented without pushing a particular viewpoint?

  • Ron,

    Trying bait to shift topics to your own interests is a waste of space. Be done with it, please.

    So can I take it from that [, that] the the MOH and IMAC are not interested in informed choice?

    You wrote that claim of MoH and IMAC, not me. Asking me to defend your words is trolling and pushing your own barrow (yet again). I know you have a long history of, to put it politely, ‘tilting’ at these two organisations; if you wish to write about that why not go to blogger.com, or whatever, and set up your own blog?

    My article is about IAS. Note carefully that the conflict referred to is with IAS’ slogan.

    Can you explain […]

    I haven’t time (seriously) and to be frank this reads as being disingenuous as as you claim to be a risk analyst (self-styled, in my opinion), this topic is a hobby horse of your’s and particularly as you surely know the answer to the second as you’ve raised it often enough before.

  • Ugh, I can’t help but feel a tad personally responsible for setting the IAS on a counter offensive.

    Basically, in an argument I had with them, Michelle cracked and ended up posting a selectively edited portion of it to their website (“conspiracy theorist, pseudo scientific, nonsense”). Now they’ve upped up their crazy, I fear I may have been the catalyst there.

    If you’d like the full email to publish, I’d be happy to send it to you, however it’s not my best work as to be honest, I don’t take debating these chumps seriously. But it’s still entertaining, especially when they go all crazy conspiracy theorist on me.

    p.s. Sorry for the bad grammar, I’ve had a long day in the lab thus I’m too tired to write properly :/

  • Ah, you’re the Ben they referred to! Their ‘transcript’ of the conversation Ben refers to is here:

    http://www.ias.org.nz/natural-immunity/conspiracy-theorist-pseudoscientific-nonsense/

    My own impression is that the Q&A post I tackled follows on from the ‘exercise’ on VFFNZ, but it’s possible that just reflects on how I came upon them. (I’ve seen IAS either copy ideas from elsewhere or sound them out like this before so I though it to be more of the same.)

    If you’d like the full email to publish, I’d be happy to send it to you, however it’s not my best work as to be honest, I don’t take debating these chumps seriously. But it’s still entertaining, especially when they go all crazy conspiracy theorist on me.

    I’m a bit busy until late next week; best not to get distracted! You could try your hand at a guest post – we have a guest blog for that sort of thing. Peter Griffin is the one to contact. Personally I tend not to address the organisations or the ‘top’ people directly, although I did in the first part of article above. Usually I focus on their readers, as I did in the appendix.
    (In hindsight I should have split these sections into two posts, one for each audience.) Without meaning to be defeatist the likes of Michelle are usually too wedded to their beliefs to really change in my experience, or at least only very rarely.

    You might read the discussion on Alison’s post for more on this general issue:

    http://sciblogs.co.nz/bioblog/2012/02/25/anti-vaccination-anti-science/

    I hope to put in a few words on this next week. (If I don’t get distracted…)

  • I probably should add that I let IAS know of this article immediately after it went up. As you can see – no response (so far). I’ve likewise suggested strongly to BellyBelly to remove the AVN-authored piece, but they haven’t.

  • Ben: That email exchange made for a good read. Good on you for taking the time to try and engage them. It’s a shame (but not at all surprising that she avoided pretty much every point you raised). What an appalling and blatantly disingenuous site IAS is.

    Grant: Regarding your discussion of ‘the aims of IAS and it’s existence.’ Perhaps you should send that on to the Charities Commission? A very quick glance at their site shows that they are very one sided and don’t follow their own objective “to provide information for parents so that they can make an informed decision about vaccination,” as you said. How they even managed to achieve charitable status is beyond me. They’re certainly not advancing education.

    Please do keep posting about them, when you find the time. The more the spotlight is kept on them, the better. I wonder if Orac will find the time to look into it too? He’s written about AVN before, I think.

  • Hello Hannah,

    All comments are written in haste! 😉

    Perhaps you should send that on to the Charities Commission?

    Darcy has written to them earlier. I probably should follow his lead if/when I find time. Certainly what the claim to offer and what the do differ.

    One I wouldn’t mind Orac looking into Fluhrer’s & Genostics’ blood tests of cancer patients that F. apparently uses to decide what alternative treatments to offer the patients. I’ve had a look into it myself, but it’d be better in the hands of someone with a specialist cancer treatment background.

    There’s a little of the story that brought to my attention to this here:

    http://sciblogs.co.nz/code-for-life/wp-admin/post.php?action=edit&post=8117

  • Forgot to add – I did in fact ask him in the comments, but he’d get too many people asking him favours and probably hasn’t time to read every comment either. After all a hundred comments is pretty routine for his blog, and pretty uncommon for mine.

  • Hi again Grant

    “Darcy has written to them earlier. I probably should follow his lead if/when I find time. Certainly what the claim to offer and what the do differ.”

    Yes, definitely, and in quite a strident way. They even have a quote, in bold saying “Yes, vaccines can CAUSE autism!” (their caps) here on this page: http://www.ias.org.nz/vaccine-information/autism-vaccines/

    The more I poke around that site, the more I feel that their charitable status is inappropriate. There’s a lot of blog fodder there if you have the intestinal fortitude for it, that is!

    Regarding Fluhrer & Genostics, could you please repost your link (it asked for a login)? It sounds interesting and I’ve had a poke around their website.

  • Hi Hannah,

    They even have a quote, in bold saying “Yes, vaccines can CAUSE autism!”

    I don’t think I want to think about that tonight. For whatever it’s worth I’ve written a couple of times about autism, only once directly about the vaccines-autism thing. (I written about one or two of the genetics studies that have been done.)

    The broken link should have been this one but looking at it again I don’t think you’ll get much out of it. Dr Joachim Fluhrer’s website is here: http://www.doctorfluhrer.com.au/doctorfluhrer.com.au_website/Cancer.html

    This isn’t a case of simply ‘selling woo’ – the blood tests to select an alternative treatment are done after conventional treatment is applied, but none the less I tried to look into it as enough little things bothered me. While there is some detail on the CTC tests, it’s not clear what is done to select alternative treatments.

  • Hi Darcy,

    Thanks for the link. Looking back my linking to your post is a little obscure :-) I tucked it under ‘a charitable organisation’ linked to a later post that listed all of the posts you had written on this – wanted to capture the lot in one shot. If anyone wants to track back to this the ‘Related Articles’ section here should give you heaps to read! –

    http://sciblogs.co.nz/skepticon/2011/10/19/get-your-up-to-date-vaccine-news/

  • Love this bit… ““Heavy metals”: could they mean (gasp!) mercury? It’s hard to tell, with such a non-specific term. But if they do mean mercury, then this phrase can only be construed as intending to mislead: mercury (as thiomersal) was phased out of New Zealand’s paediatric vaccines in 2000. In reality, the “heavy metals” actually include some elements that are required for life (such as iron, molybdenum, & cobalt) as well as the harmful ones like lead & plutonium – and mercury.”

    The wikipedia article reference concluded, “The term heavy metal has been called a “misinterpretation” in an IUPAC technical report due to the contradictory definitions and its lack of a “coherent scientific basis”.[1] There is an alternative term toxic metal, for which no consensus of exact definition exists either.”

    So Alison’s blog uses a non-scientific definition to argue against anti-science… is that another skeptic’s paradox????

  • Ron,

    Don’t play childish games, please. The passage you quoted is from Alison’s blog – you said so yourself in that comment. You can comment over there – you’re being rude cross-posting comments like that when the original forum is accessible to you.

  • Simple Grant… I saw it on this blog… :-))
    No, you didn’t. You copy-pasted it from my blog. Happy to discuss it with you there, but I’m not going to play silly games here.

  • go six posts up… someone posted the link on here… I read it and commented…

    It’s a classic skeptics paradox… double standard… hypocrisy… whatever…

  • Ron,

    All your comments are proving is that your interest is in trolling this blog, not in the subject matter.

    If you wish to deal with the subject engage with the original source as anyone would.

    No more trolling please.

  • Sorry for the rather later response, sure, I contacted peter (I think I did it correctly).
    But yes, you are right about the likes of Michelle, I don’t think there’s any reasoning with persons in such a state of confirmation bias. The way I see it, Iall you can hope to do is ridicule them, or make them ‘snap’ and act crazy in front of an audience.

  • Ben, that sounds like a sensible, mature response for a rational thinking skeptic… ridicule is always a good option when devoid of logic. Well done!

  • Hope to see your guest blog. I ought to have passed on Peter’s email for you when I think about it. (Sorry.) I’d take it up myself, but I figure that’s what the guest blog is for!

    The way I see it, all you can hope to do is ridicule them, or make them ’snap’ and act crazy in front of an audience.

    I’ve two minds about that. I generally don’t aim to write directly to these core people, as they are too ‘stuck’ on their ideas. Like many tackling these issues I tend to be aiming at those who are either ‘undecided’ or fence-sitting. It can be a little hard to pick this up: even when I’m apparently addressing one or other well-known player, the target audience I have in mind are those who might be ‘followers’ or theirs or who don’t quite know which way to take what they say.

  • Yea, I think it is a good idea to reason with people who are genuinely confused, however when it comes to the peddlers of nonsense, I think it best to ridicule them for the dishonest twits they are.

    Speaking of which, mu friend Michelle made an interesting submission to parliament in which she tries to paint a good picture of anti-vaxers as being “…middle to upper income earners, well educated and mostly white.”
    I guess white people are meant to make more informed decisions? Seriously, is that ranting bigot the best the IAS has to offer?

    Source: http://www.parliament.nz/NR/rdonlyres/1BA23737-665E-4D8F-9189-67A859AB1CDF/135742/49SCHE_EVI_00DBSCH_INQ_9658_1_A36924_MichelleRudgl.pdf

  • Ben, to be fair, she is not referring to av’s per se, but she is referring to people she knows… it’s important for skeptics to be accurate in the way they present evidence, don’t you think?

  • however when it comes to the peddlers of nonsense, I think it best to ridicule them for the dishonest twits they are

    I meant to write a post in response to Jean asking how to address those who oppose medical treatments (or something along those lines). My basic thought was that the approach depends on your intended target audience. Might come back to you later on that.

    “Michelle made an interesting submission to parliament”

    Is that submission still open? Is there an URL for it? The article has no link back to the submission it’s from, which is a shame (it’s pity they don’t put a standard header on the top giving the details).

  • Gosh, Grant. Ben has provided the link to the actual submission. People in the know would know that the HSC report was released quite some time ago.

  • Ron,

    It is possible to just give people information without being rude, childish or making nonsensical accusations.

    On a daily basis over the past few weeks you have been repeatedly disruptive on my blog, and have hassled me on other’s blogs. I have tried putting up with your nonsense over these last few weeks as an exercise in giving you the opportunity to contribute positively indicating where I think a fair line is, but all you seem to have done is abuse it. Your loss, then.

    Seeing as you are continuing to troll after I have asked you not to, you have continued these incredibly childish attacks after I’ve cautioned you about them, etc., I’m putting you on moderation for a week + two weeks for trying to contact me directly. No comments from you before Friday, in three weeks time; usual rules apply. I won’t be posting notes of extensions to you if break the usual rules – keep count yourself, you know how it works.

    Two points:

    I’ve told you before your comments are manually moderated – I have to log into the backend to approve them – as you are very low on my priority list of things to do, you just have to wait until I get around to it. That’s just the price you pay for being constantly rude earlier.

    You know I don’t censor – endlessly repeating this childish accusation is silly and disingenuous. You are moderated because of how you treat others. Your childishness and rudeness knows no bounds it seems – I guess that’s just what you are, but this is my blog and I ask for a better standard of conversation. If you can’t meet it, that’s your problem.

    I suggest you spend some time thinking about that if you abuse what I have set as guidelines, you’re hardly helping yourself get what you seem to want (to comment here) and that making silly accusations at me (or others) is hardly going to help your cause.

  • Ron, if you weren’t such a moron, you’d have taken the time to read the part where it says: “The closing date for submissions is Friday, 4 May 2012”.
    I made a submission yesterday, sport.

  • Oh, and yea, if the submission Michelle Rudgely made was from another committee meeting, eh, my bad I guess (I did a quick google – she isn’t exactly the kind of ‘foe’ one needs to take seriously). It still doesn’t change the obscenity of her submission, nor that I came across it after seeing them rally up anti-vaxers for making submissions for a current select committee meeting.
    Honestly, if you’re going to troll, do it right.

    The submission I made was pretty brief, it was about doing more to prevent the unintentional child abuse arising from parents denying their children proper medicine in favor of ‘alternative’ treatments.

  • Ben,

    Not much point in arguing with Ron. (Besides, as a practical matter, he won’t be able to reply for a while.)

    Thanks for the pointer but I think Ron’s right (for once). VFFNZ certainly made a call for submissions to the child abuse one, which struck me as odd when I saw it—thinking that didn’t have much to do with vaccination—but then a small number of anti-vaccine proponents have the idea that vaccination is child abuse so perhaps that’s why – ? (I don’t know, it’s not as if I can get inside their minds, but it’s at least consistent with statements I’ve seen some opposing vaccines write.)

    The one Ron refers I remember well for the submission(s) Erwin Alber made. All the ‘usual suspects’ are there Hilary Butler, Sue Claridge, etc., including Michelle Rudgeley’s submission.

    There are several parts to Erwin’s submission – this is the main entry:

    http://www.parliament.nz/NR/rdonlyres/E124943B-C80B-4D38-9A08-033F952068B0/135718/49SCHE_EVI_00DBSCH_INQ_9658_1_A36923_ErwinAlber_1.pdf

  • No worries, excuse me if I was curt to Ron. You are probably better off with him banned – fleas are never productive.

  • VFFNZ certainly made a call for submissions to the child abuse one, which struck me as odd when I saw it—thinking that didn’t have much to do with vaccination—but then a small number of anti-vaccine proponents have the idea that vaccination is child abuse so perhaps that’s why – ?

    There are some in the anti-vaxx movement who make the claim that some symptoms of child abuse (things like shaken baby syndrome) are actually due to vaccination. Viera Scheibner is a proponent of this particular canard: http://www.bibliotecapleyades.net/salud/esp_salud33d.htm

  • unfortunately she’s not alone – there’s been at least one case in the US where the ‘shaken-baby=vaccine-damage’ has been used as a defense in a murder trial. Yuck.

  • For whatever it’s worth, it seems VFFNZ have taken to deleting what they don’t like to see – another internet echo chamber formed. (A reader posted a comment criticising the rotavirus trial, part of which is based in Dunedin. A few reader’s comments were inaccurate and I offered corrections, I thought politely, e.g. that the safety of the vaccine had already been examined, etc.)

  • Yes, well, that’s the difference between many anti-science or pseudo-science sites, & science sites like Sciblogs – they censor opposing views. And we don’t.

  • They say they are about “Finding other vaccine free families in your area and offering support to other like minded parents.” When they write asking to meet other parents who don’t vaccinate, etc., I wouldn’t (and don’t) say anything – there’s nothing for me to say anyway. But when they stray off that to asking questions about vaccines (literally posed as questions), it’s bit unhelpful—to their own members, too—to delete the reply when someone who has some understanding offers an answer.

  • Ron,

    Earlier I placed you on temporary leave from my blog (furlough was the word I used) in response to your trolling, etc. I also said earlier I wouldn’t ‘report’ on you extending your temporary leave from Code for life as you are aware that ‘answering back’ to me or trying to hassle me directly results in the temporary leave being extended and you know how to keep track that yourself.

    However I have bring it up now. By my count you have now extended your temporary leave—by your own hand, i.e. at your choice—so that you can’t comment before December 21st.

    There’s no good sense in my having to continue to monitor your furlough if you’re so lacking in respect about it or me as to to bother me personally about each and every comment you are ‘concerned’ about. So, as a practical matter, I’m blocking you from Code for life permanently. Once that’s done I’ll revert my email back to blocking emails from you.

  • Hi, I’m one of the admins on the VFFNZ page.

    Just to clear this up (and then I’ll politely take my leave; we may not agree on vaccination but I’m not interested in an argument or debate, I don’t see how it’ll get any of us anywhere or change any views, so that’s fine. We’re all different, and I’m sure on many other things we’d be in total agreeance!)

    Apologies if you’ve been offended or upset by being blocked, but we have reiterated several times that it isn’t a page for arguing the merits of vaccination. There are plenty of other pages on facebook for that to take place, but few havens for those of us who choose not to vaccinate to talk amongst ourselves. It’s important for our members to have that space and to feel as if they can speak freely, in the same way people who subscribe to any other school of thought should have their own safe area. Think of it like an online coffee group for Mums and Dads (and others) who’ve made up their mind not to vaccinate, if that’s a somewhat reasonable analogy.

    Or to put it more simply… it’s a page for Vaccine Free Families to find support and have somewhere to talk, as there aren’t many of us and it’s often hard to discuss things with friends and family when they’re all of the firmly pro-vaccination persuasion. (Imagine being the sole atheist in a family of devout Mormons or something!). We’re people who’ve already done our research and made up our minds, so the need for debate has long since passed. Again, there are loads of other pages around where that kind of debate is allowed, and even encouraged, but for the sake of peace and of the safety of our members and purpose of the page, we’ve had to block a few people. Maybe we’ll see you on some of these others sometime? 😉

    Again, I’m sorry if you’ve taken any offence, and the intent certainly isn’t to create an ‘echo-chamber’ – it’s less the content of what you were posting, and more that you’re obviously not of the vaccine-free family persuasion and it was steering things away from what the page actually is and the purpose it’s there to serve.

    Best wishes,
    Erin

  • Erin,

    How do you defend your claim that the intent is not to create an echo chamber? It seems totally contradictory to your previous paragraphs and the purpose of the group.

  • Hi Erin,

    No need to “take your leave” – anyone is free to comment here, provided they’re not being persistent trolls or whatnot 😉 (You can comment directly now your first comment has been approved – first-time comments are moderated to trap spam.)

    “we have reiterated several times that it isn’t a page for arguing the merits of vaccination”

    To my own reading I’ve only seen this once, quite a while back.

    Please note I was not ‘arguing’, as you put it, but (politely!) correcting errors of fact as opposed to offering opinions on vaccines. The difference matters. To me anyway :-) I didn’t stop anyone from having whatever opinion they have or ‘oppose’ them or give my opinions on vaccines or the people in your group.

    If you look back you’ll see I only wrote when someone has asked a question – your readers were already raised the topic and I was addressing their questions.

    “and the intent certainly isn’t to create an ‘echo-chamber’ ”

    Whatever your intent, that’s what you create when you allow only voices of only one persuasion to speak. You can’t have that aspect both ways really. It comes with creating ‘closed’ groups.

    “it was steering things away from what the page actually is”

    Sorry about this, but that’s not right – your readers had already taken the discussion in the direction they did and you seem content with the topics – I just offered to correct a couple of points of fact.

  • Sorry – ‘your readers had already’. (Cut’n’pasting things around I missed that the tense had changed! There’s probably more in there…)

  • I saw the new “skin”. One quirk at the moment is that you can’t get to the archived material from the top page! The old stuff is still there, but the links to archived material either go back to the top page (opps) or take you around in a cycle of the articles on the top page. Presumably they’ll get it sorted out in time – would have been better to do a touch more testing before letting it go “live” IMO, but it happens I guess.

    Design by woo themes! :-) Oh, dear. I wonder if they saw that?

  • Should add that it promoted me to go back & look at the reply to Michelle Rudgley’s “rebuttal” I wrote. In hindsight I did a reasonable job and perhaps I ought to have published it, but I guess it can wait until some appropriate opportunity to redress the topic arises.

  • Darcy,

    Really? I haven’t checked for myself (time…) but that wouldn’t be a good look – it would gives the impression that they’re dropping all ‘balance’ from their content (esp. as regards their slogan ‘for an informed choice’).

  • I wish I’d archived the previous version so I could be absolutely sure (I did for some articles and the disclaimer) but I note in my complaint that there were prochoice and pro-vaccine sections and I seem to recall MoH and the IMAC webpage being on there.
    Can’t find them now. There is a MoH page listed but it’s only for breastfeeding.

  • I recall there being ‘pro-choice’ and ‘pro-vaccine’ sections too, quite sure of that, and I recall the MoH/IMAC being referred to too. Can’t recall the references exactly, but one was a (MoH?) report on vaccination that they cite in a number of the articles. Not that this matters now – it’s their site after all – but it’s disappointing that they’d make their site even more biased that it already was. To me it’s a bit hard to claim to be offering an informed choice if you don’t look at all the material on offer or present balanced views/content/etc.

  • Ashton – thank you. (It was MoH’s Immunisation Handbook I was thinking of.)

    Readers can compare the page Ashton offers and the current resources page:

    http://www.ias.org.nz/vaccine-information/vaccine-resources/

    As Darcy noted, (at the time of writing) these sections have been dropped

    – New Zealand Government and Pro-vaccine websites

    – International Pro-vaccine Websites

    and ‘Pro-choice Websites’ has been renamed ‘Pro informed choice Websites’.

    Best perhaps to give them a few days; I have the impression they’ve got a few gremlins in the site as it is, so they might still be working on things but, yes, some content on that page has been removed.

  • Well, on the bright side they look more overtly insane, hopefully this puts at least some parents off taking their advise.
    Actually, I had just posted a comment on their facebook page addressing how they censor anybody who questions their ‘information’.

  • Now the IAS Facebook page has several posts opposing the pertussis (whooping cough) vaccine and suggesting alternatives, e.g.

    “If […] you were considering vaccinating, seriously DO NOT BOTHER!”

    – ‘airplane’ (altitude) treatment (of the cough)

    – High-dose Vitamin C (I examined this in an earlier article that IAS’s Michelle Rudgley has read.)

    I’d write something looking into these to show why they aren’t useful claims to make but I’m reluctant to spend the time if they would simply delete any link to it on their Facebook page rather than let their readers consider the points for themselves – ? (Anyone from IAS is welcome to answer. Might try asking over there as well later.)

  • Their advocacy for using quackery to treat whooping cough, combined with statements from the likes of Meryl Dorey that whooping cough is ‘no big deal’ concern me greatly. It’s as if since the death of Dana McCaffery the Australian and New Zealand anti-vaxers have gone into pertussis denial too.

  • I’ve had a bit of a look at the altitude/decompression ‘treatment’ earlier this afternoon (the second one I listed). What is written on the IAS Facebook page goes well beyond the material they cite.

  • Hmm, I’ll take some screen-shots and send in another complaints to the charities commission. Since they’re clearly advising parents to neither vaccinate or seek medical treatment for serious diseases. How do they even think decompression is going to affect whooping cough? from what I can make out they’re basing everything on some anecdotal evidence from the RAF in the 1950s.
    viat

  • Ben,

    There’s a little more to it than that if you read further (e.g. back to Banks 1955), but certainly what’s on IAS goes well beyond what has been written in the medical journals and in many ways is quote mining or at the very least glossing over (or ignoring) details that matter.

  • If I’m reading it correctly they found a moderate effect in the reduction of vomiting in the later stages. And this is being taken to mean that an airplane flight is a complete cure for pertussis; no need to worry, no need to vaccinate.

  • Yea, I wonder if they tell the pilot of the charter plane that they’ll be exposing them to whooping cough. But hey, I guess they won’t catch it since they’re flying too. What’s the betting an anti-vaxer will use that logic?

  • I wrote polite comment encouraging a reader at the IAS Facebook page to investigate investigate homeopathy more and that recommending homeopathy for a child that needed treatment wasn’t a good idea — and IAS removes the comment (and, as far as I can see blocks me from commenting there).

    Why?

    I didn’t write a thing against IAS. I didn’t offer any particular stance on vaccines. I didn’t oppose anyone, in fact.

    Come on IAS – buck up and raise your standards. If you want people to write you off, you’re going about it the right way.

  • Perhaps they don’t want their members getting too much exposure to the outside world. To use an alt-med catch phrase: “what are they afraid of?”

  • I have written to IAS, politely asking if they would elaborate. To give you a feeling for it, here’s an excerpt (I’d paste it all, but I’m trying to keep this shorter!):

    “Homeopathy is well-known to be limited to a placebo effect only. This is not controversial. it follows it is not something to recommend to a child that needs treatment – something I would have thought your organisation would advise it’s readers. Similarly, IAS should be happy with me pointing [that] out, surely?

    My comment on your Facebook page was polite and did not put any particular view on vaccines (for or against). […]” etc.

    I’m still curious as to why they removed my comment. As I noted it didn’t offer any view on vaccines, it was not rude and I did not attack anyone (or their views).

    This afternoon (Saturday April 14th) I have received an answer,* copied below in its entirety but with the sender‘s personal details removed:

    “If you are based in Auckland, I am very happy to meet with you in person to discuss the matter further. However, I will not be engaging in any online discussions with you.”

    To be honest, I’m not trying to be rude or argumentative here – just honest,** it looks like a non-reply and an attempt to avoid giving a public answer.

    I would prefer a short statement explaining why – I feel they owe me and to their readers one. A simple statement would not involve “an online discussion”* and would be what I would expect from an organisation. (As a registered charity, you’d like to think they should uphold some sort of responsibility for their actions, esp. in public settings.)


    * When I wrote to IAS I wrote that “I’ll take replies to this as for my blog, i.e. as to be published openly.” – I encouraged them to reply here in these comments; if they chose to reply by email I was happy with that, but felt that their reason should be noted publicly. (FWIW, as a comparison, I’ve done the same for the only person I eventually felt obliged to block after (literally) putting up with months of personal insinuations, etc.; I haven’t certainly done the equivalent to IAS or it’s readers/followers!)

    ** Note – other commenter’s views are not mine.

  • In cleaning up drafts (mostly ideas for articles), I ran into a selection of the replies to the questions IAS asked. Rather than delete this, I’m placing it here for reference. (I could add this to an appendix to the article, but for now I’ll leave it here.)

    ——–

    I’ve offered a small sampling of the replies to give some feel for some of what was presented. I’m not giving names to underline that I’m not interested in ‘hitting on’ people. It’s what is said, not who said it, that matters. These aren’t as representative as I’d like them to be, especially as different responses have different logic and factual issues.

    Q: “oh you dont immunise? Arent you worried your kid will get real sick and die?”

    ans: ’I have seen un-immunise kids have less colds, bugs etc then immunised kids’
    ans: ’Vaccination works 40 – 60% at best for a limited amount of time and once that time has gone, often when the person catches the ‘childhood diseases’ they are an adult and get it worse with complications. Actually getting the virus in childhood gives lifetime immunity without the added vaccination risks.’
    ans: ’LOL…heres one you are more likley to die from the MMR vacine than from the comlications associated with measles. Measles itself wont kill you its the complications. If you contracted measles and had very low Vit A levels complications could most definatley arrive. Our MUMs Grans where given cod liver oil daily to keep there levels of Vit A up. Aucklands starship hospital uses IV Vitamin A to give to people with the measles. The Autism link is also about the level of metal toxcity your child has before recieing MORE in the vacine causing an exteme immune respone s the levels become dangerously high. Wakefield say to check for metal toxcity before chosing to give MMR the test is called a C.H.A.T screen worthdoing.’
    ans: [From the organisors of the group, who are presumably seen as ‘authorities’ by many of the readers] ’No, why would I be worried? We eat extremely healthy, nutritious food, our immune systems are robust and strong (far more so than those damaged and adulterated by vaccines!), I understand the disease processes of these illnesses and how to combat them so they can pass without complications or lasting effects, and our bodies are intact and not having to fight a daily battle against the havoc created by vaccines on the system… why should I be afraid? -My standard response. -’

    Q: “dont you know theres a measles epidemic at the moment!”

    ans: ’Yes I do, but don’t you know that measles itself is rarely dangerous? […]’
    ans: ’85% of serious complications in the US, resulting from measles infection are actually in vaccinated children who should in theory be protected.’

    Q: “”oh well you know you cant put your kid into school if their not up to date with their jabs.”

    ans: ’That is total b******t there is no school in NZ who can refuse to take your child just because you choose not to vaccinate. They are just being bullies!!! Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise..’

    Q: “You know that whole Vaccines cause autism thing was a fake right”

    ans: ’It was ruled that there is “no proven association” That’s not the same as proving there is no association!’
    ans: ’Tell that to the parents I know who had it happen to them. Fine healthy baby reaching all their milestones one minute, nex minit after vaccination…. Autistic…..’
    ans: ’Well actually there has just been a recent press release de-bunking the de-bunking of Dr Andrew Wakefield, and 27 other studies have been conducted with regard to the MMR vaccine and it’s link to autism which have all proved there is a definate link.’
    ans: [A source was offered for the above with this added as a later thought.] ’Dr Mercola has all the interviews on his site ww.mercola.com’

    Q: “So your kids will spread all these diseases around and give them to those unable to be vaccinated and with low immunity”

    Not many replies (4) to this one.

    ans: ’You do realise the MMR vaccine sheds right, so when your child gets it done they are far more likely to give that disease to someone who is immuno-compromised.’
    ans: ’I would have a cheers Mr insensitive, we have been advised by our specialist not to vaccinate due to congenital abnormality, and potential issues with lowered immunity. Your vaccinated children actually put mine at risk due to vaccine shedding, and potential lack of healthcare and dietary knowledge by ill informed parents. Questions? p.s. cool thing to keep people on their toes!’

    Q: “But if you dont immunise then your not protecting the rest of the countries children thru herd immunity, thats just selfish”

    ans: [Typo later corrected by the writer.] ’I’m [protecting] my kids from the crap they put in vaccines to start with. Immunisation is the best thing we can do for our kids health according to a government department, and they always tell us the truth don’t they.’
    ans: ’why if your kids are immunised do you worry about kids that are not ? Do you not think the vacination works ?’
    ans: [From an IAS spokesperson.] ’Stupid thing about that statement is that they just want it both ways, first they want to tell you your kids are protected because of all the vaccinated kids through “herd immunity” then they want to tell you it’s because of your unvaccinated kids that we’re having outbreaks of the illness in vaccinated kids. As I said, bottom line, does the vaccine work or doesn’t it?’

  • The IAS have posted an article. This is in response to their status as a registered charity being revoked. (Note that’s not via any efforts on my part.)

    Their ‘response’ includes examples of the inaccuracies that have been my main concern about the IAS.

    The article of mine that they cite (the one above) is clearly set around the point that if they are to be offering ‘informed choice’ (their slogan), then their content should be “be accurate, be presented fairly and the organisation should not push a particular view.” – whereas their article advocates, or pushes, a particular view with no critical examination and is repeatedly inaccurate and misleading.

    Despite this, they claim my focus is to “make life a bit harder for” them. This despite that, in that article they offer to support this claim I encouraged my readers not to harass them, the opposite of what they have attributed to me. This is what I wrote there: “(A word to the wise. I am not encouraging people to hassle this group. If you must offer comments there, please be polite. I would encourage people to instead offer their responses here.)”

    Part of the reason I wrote that aside was that I have no interest in hassling their followers or readers. My concerns are with the inaccurate, misleading and inflammatory claims made and offered to others.

    Similarly, they write that I “have tried to silence the IAS”. Not true as that wouldn’t be possible as people are entitled to their opinions (as I have written elsewhere). I have, however, pointed out inaccuracies in what they offer. I have pointed out that they are not offering balanced ‘information’ but advocating an anti-vaccine position, despite their claims otherwise. I’ve also pointed at the lack of open discussion on their forums. Authors and organisers of organisations of any organisation are open to criticism – that comes with presenting an organisation or material in public.

  • Eh, their response doesn’t surprise me. Just look at this peice of paranoid rambling http://www.ias.org.nz/vaccines/cyber-bullying-the-anti-vaccine-movement/ – I think they like to imagine that any and all opposition must stem from a well organised, well funded conspiracy.
    That and the irony of the blog complaining about how other people have the time to blog.

    I had to email her back though; I don’t like liars going un-chastised – it reinforces the behavior.

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