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Dr. Jay Gordon: Full of sound and fury, signifying nothing

There is a trend in the media when presenting a contentious topic to provide balance.  For topics not founded upon objective facts this serves the media well; provide both sides of the argument, and let the viewer decide.  The problem is that not every issue is evenly balanced, particularly in science.  Covering the discovery of a new extra-solar planet by giving equal airtime to astronomers and astrologers, for example, would be the height of absurdity, yet this is precisely how the media approaches scientific topics with frightening regularity.  You need look no further than the coverage of evolution, or 2012, or global climate change (that list should derail the comments nicely) for excellent examples of the same type of false balance in mainstream media outlets.

It was with trepidation, then, that I waited to see how PBS’s Frontline handled the topic of vaccination.  I was pleasantly surprised.  “The Vaccine War” introduced the most common concerns expressed about vaccination, and then presented the evidence addressing each concern in turn clearly and concisely.  It gave airtime to some rather prominent anti-vaccine personalities, but the bulk of the program was dedicated to the data, the science, the evidence, and where answers are available it did not hesitate to present them baldly and clearly. “The Vaccine War” was not a comprehensive review of every perspective, every theory, every vaccine and study, but it did provide a fair discussion balanced by the science.

My first clue that Frontline had acquitted itself well was when Dr. Jay Gordon, pediatrician to Jenny McCarthy’s son, tweeted his opinion of the show:

PBS show about vaccines. Don’t bother to watch it.”

Dr. Gordon wasted no time venting his outrage at the show’s message, its tone, and the fact that he was cut from the program at The Huffington Post.  I encourage you to read the original at The Huffington Post, and to post your own comments.  I will discuss his points here in detail, providing the periodic reality check.

Dear Kate,

The Frontline show was disgraceful. You didn’t even have the courtesy to put my interview or any part of the two hours we spent taping on your web site.

Dr. Gordon was interviewed, and his contribution was not felt to provide value to the  program.  He was cut.  That is the prerogative of the producers, and they are under no obligation to include Dr. Gordon just because he was interviewed.  If he is unhappy with his treatment, he is more than welcome to decline the next interview.  In fact, I think that would be an excellent idea.

You created a pseudo-documentary with a preconceived set of conclusions: “Irresponsible moms against science” was an easy takeaway from the show.”

Dr. Gordon needs to review the definitions of “pseudo” and “documentary.”  Is a WWII program on the History channel a pseudo-documentary because it covers the war from the Allied perspective?  Of course not, it provides facts within a context, a narrative; this is essential in a documentary, and it is precisely what the producers of this program have done.  That the producers decided to provide a story based upon facts and science determined the conclusions they presented.

Did you happen to notice that Vanessa, the child critically ill with pertussis, was not intubated nor on a respirator in the ER? She had nasal “prongs” delivering oxygen. I’m sorry for her parents anxiety and very happy that she was cured of pertussis. But to use anecdotal reports like this as science is irresponsible and merely served the needs of the doctor you wanted to feature.”

This objection by Dr Gordon is petty, appalling, and hypocritical.  So what if she wasn’t intubated?  This is a suffering infant who is critically ill and will remain so for weeks.  Is her suffering not worth preventing just because she didn’t die?  Is that how low Dr. Gordon sets his threshold for a child warranting medical care?  This is appallingly callous.

The segment that portrayed vaccine preventable diseases, including the segment with pertussis, was explicitly stated by the program to demonstrate what these diseases look like to a population that, on the whole, has never seen them.  How else would Dr. Gordon propose to provide this information to the public?  This is an entirely appropriate use of an anecdote, as an example of the evidence, rather than as the evidence itself.

Furthermore, by Dr. Gordon’s own admission, the producers did not provide the worst-case scenarios of each of these diseases, all of which can be fatal, though they could easily have done so if their goal was purely emotional manipulation, rather than education of legitimate risks of these diseases.

No one pursued Dr. Offit’s response about becoming rich from the vaccine he invented. He was allowed to slide right by that question without any follow up. Dr. Paul Offit did not go into vaccine research to get rich. He is a scientist motivated by his desire to help children. But his profiting tens of millions of dollars from the creation of this vaccine and the pursuit of sales of this and other vaccines is definitely not what he says it is. His many millions “don’t matter” he says. And you let it go.”

I am glad to read Dr Gordon acknowledge that Dr Offit’s motivation to research and produce vaccines was not financial.  He is a professional who produced an excellent and badly needed vaccine to prevent a nasty disease.  Excellence in our society is usually rewarded with financial compensation.  So what?  The research that led to Offit’s rotavirus vaccine, the data supporting its safety and efficacy before licensure, and the volume of post-licensure safety and efficacy data replicated by other researchers stands on its own whether Dr Offit is penniless or a billionaire.

Jenny McCarthy resumed being a “former Playboy” person and was not acknowledged as a successful author, actress and mother exploring every possible avenue to treating her own son and the children of tens of thousands of other families.”

Frontline is not obliged to present a full CV on each person appearing in its program, and Ms. McCarthy’s role as a former Playmate is both factual and the original source of her fame.  Dr. Gordon’s perspective heavily biases his description of her as a “mother exploring every possible avenue to treating her own son and the children of tens of thousands of other families”.  She could just as easily (and perhaps more accurately) be described as a mother who, in pursuing her own ill-founded beliefs, has undermined the care of her child, placed him at higher risk of preventable disease, subjected him to worthless therapies while ignoring known serious risks, used her celebrity to disseminate misinformation and fear to the public while simultaneously diverting research time, energy and funds away from fruitful avenues of study, and delaying the time when the tens of thousands of families can better understand autism and be provided with more viable therapies.  Oh, and Frontline could have mentioned her foray into the embarrassing “Indigo Childnonsense.  Perhaps describing her as a “former Playboy” isn’t so bad.

I trusted you by giving you two or three hours of my time for an interview and multiple background discussions. I expressed my heartfelt reservations about both vaccines and the polarizing of this issue into “pro-vaccine” and “anti-vaccine” camps. I told you that there was at least a third “camp.” There are many doctors and even more parents who would like a more judicious approach to immunization. Give vaccines later, slower and with an individualized approach as we do in every other area of medicine.”

This is a straw man.  No one, even the most staunch vaccine advocates, advocate the identical vaccination regimen for every child.  There are uncommon but clear reasons to deviate from the vaccination schedule due to a child’s individual medical history.  However, these are based upon evidence, not the arbitrary judgment of individual physicians.

What evidence does Dr. Gordon provide that later, slower, individualized vaccination schedules do anything but reduce the herd immunity of a community, increase the number of doctor visits, decrease the likelihood that a child will be fully immunized, or increase the time for which a child is unprotected?  No such evidence exists, so one must wonder on what he has based this recommendation.

The “individualized approach” to medicine warrants a series of posts all to its own. Suffice it to say that while there are uncommon times when a patient’s care must deviate from the usual approach, standardization of care is one of the most effective ways of improving patient outcomes, and is one of the pillars of evidence-based (and science-based) medicine.  “Every other area of medicine” is making its best advances through the standardization of medical care, not capricious, evidence-free judgment calls of individual physicians.

What did you create instead?

“The Vaccine War.”

A war. Not a discussion or a disagreement over facts and opinions, but a war. This show was unintelligent, dangerous and completely lacking in the balance that you promised me — and your viewers — when you produced and advertised this piece of biased unscientific journalism. “Tabloid journalism” I believe is the epithet often used. Even a good tabloid journalist could see through the screed you’ve presented.”

And I believe this is one of the better examples of “projection” that I’ve come across.  I touched on the idea of “balance” in journalism at the beginning, and will not rehash it here.

You interviewed me, you spent hours with Dr. Robert Sears of the deservedly-illustrious Sears family and you spoke to other doctors who support parents in their desire to find out what went wrong and why it’s going wrong and what we might do to prevent this true epidemic.”

Dr. Gordon sets up a false-dichotomy here.  He pretends that only physicians who believe vaccines cause autism support parents of autistic children, or want to find the root cause of autism, or to find viable treatments or ways to prevent it.  This is absurd.

How deserving Dr. Sears is of his popularity we have addressed on SBM in the past, and can be found here.

Not a measles epidemic, not whooping cough. Autism. An epidemic caused by environmental triggers acting on genetic predisposition. The science is there and the evidence of harm is there.”

Autism diagnoses are higher than they have been in the past, and they are unsettlingly common, warranting a large-scale research, therapeutic, and support system that is currently lacking.  This is due in large part to increased awareness and broadened definitions of what places someone on the autism spectrum, though the possibility of a smaller scale true increase in the incidence of autism has not yet been confirmed or ruled out.  To label this as a “true epidemic” is inaccurate on several fronts.

Dr. Gordon is correct that autism has an indisputable genetic predisposition.  However, to what degree environmental triggers play a role, and which triggers these may be have not been established.  The science is there, but it does not come remotely close to supporting Dr. Gordon’s statement.

Most importantly, the evidence of harm, of vaccines causing autism, is not only not there, but the evidence overwhelmingly demonstrates no correlation between vaccines and autism.

Proof will come over the next decade.”

Oh, so Dr. Gordon doesn’t have proof now.  Thank you for clarifying.

The National Children’s Study will, perhaps by accident, become a prospective look at many children with and without vaccines. But we don’t have time to wait for the results of this twenty-one year research study:”

“We don’t have time to wait” The same can be said of every single medical condition suffered by a human being.  This doesn’t minimize their suffering, it drives home the point that we must perform the highest quality science possible and reject hypotheses that have been found to be without merit.  The proposed vaccine/autism link is one such hypothesis.

We know that certain pesticides cause cancer and we know that flame retardants in children’s pajamas are dangerous. We are cleaning up our air and water slowly and parents know which paint to buy and which to leave on the shelves when they paint their babies’ bedrooms.”

Where such statements are true they were found and confirmed by scientific inquiry, and when they are false they are refuted by the same method.  Belief and opinions are irrelevant when objective data is available, and the above paragraph is an irrelevant distraction to the topic of Dr. Gordon’s letter.

The information parents and doctors don’t have is contained in the huge question mark about the number of vaccines, the way we vaccinate and the dramatic increase in autism, ADD/ADHD, childhood depression and more. We pretend to have proof of harm or proof of no harm when what we really have is a large series of very important unanswered questions.”

That we don’t have the answers to everything does not mean that we don’t have the answers to anything, nor does it give us license to ignore the evidence we do have.

In cased you were wondering, as I practice pediatrics every day of my career, I base nothing I do on Dr. Wakefield’s research or on Jenny McCarthy’s opinions. I respect what they both have done and respectfully disagree with them at times. I don’t think that Dr. Wakefield’s study proved anything except that we need to look harder at his hypothesis.”

Case in point.  We have looked harder at Dr. Wakefield’s hypothesis, and it has failed catastrophically.  With no evidence in its favor and much against, Dr. Gordon has yet to reject Dr Wakefield’s hypothesis.

Of equal interest, is Dr. Gordon willing to acknowledge that the original paper Dr Wakefield published in The Lancet is at best a scientific embarrassment?

I don’t think that Jenny McCarthy has all the answers to treating or preventing autism but there are tens of thousands of parents who have long needed her strong high-profile voice to draw attention to their families’ needs: Most families with autism get inadequate reimbursement for their huge annual expenses and very little respect from the insurance industry, the government or the medical community. Jenny has demanded that a brighter light be shone on their circumstances, their frustration and their needs.”

I actually agree with Dr. Gordon here.  Autism is indeed a widespread problem badly in need of high-quality research, and families are in dire need of support.  It is unfortunate that the advocate they have found was so badly misguided by her pediatrician.  Dr Gordon was in the position to guide her, to educate her, connected her with experts in childhood development and autism and enable her to use her enthusiasm and desire to help her son and the rest of the autistic community.  Unfortunately, Dr Gordon squandered this opportunity, to the detriment of us all.

I base everything I do on my reading of CDC and World Health Organization statistics about disease incidence in the United States and elsewhere.”

Dr. Gordon claims that he bases his decisions on evidence.  Yet he has come to different conclusions from those who generated the evidence, and those who are experts in the field.  Only one group can be right, and neither the evidence nor the odds are in his favor.

I base everything I do on having spent the past thirty years in pediatric practice watching tens of thousands of children get vaccines, not get vaccines and the differences I see.”

Experience has value, but it is little more than a long series of anecdotes, and as such it can also be a trap.  Nearly every modern physician can make a similar statement, as can every homeopath, acupuncturist, phrenologist, faith healer and shaman.  Placing personal experience, no matter how vast, above solid objective data is a hallmark of someone practicing pseudoscience, and it is precisely this sin that Dr. Gordon commits.

Vaccines change children.”

An assertion made without evidence can be rejected without evidence.  Dr. Gordon clearly feels he has discovered new information, a previously unidentified pattern, yet he has not even bothered to publish a simple case series to try to convince the medical community of his claim.  Making such a statement without evidence is irresponsible.

Most experts would argue that the changes are unequivocally good. My experience and three decades of observation and study tell me otherwise.”

Again, Dr. Gordon feels his experience trumps evidence.

Vaccines are neither all good–as this biased, miserable PBS treacle would have you believe–nor all bad as the strident anti-vaccine camp argues.”

This is another straw-man by Dr. Gordon.  The program clearly acknowledges the presence of adverse events from vaccines, including extremely serious ones.  No one, including the producers of “The Vaccine War,” claim that vaccines are “all good.”  But the benefits do clearly outweigh the risks.

You say the decisions to edit 100% of my interview from your show (and omit my comments from your website) “were purely based on what’s best for the show, not personal or political, and the others who didn’t make it came from both sides of the vaccine debate.” You are not telling the truth. You had a point to prove and removed material from your show which made the narrative balanced. “Distraught, confused moms against important, well-spoken calm doctors” was your narrative with a deep sure voice to, literally, narrate the entire artifice.

You should be ashamed of yourself, Kate. You knew what you put on the air was slanted and you cheated the viewers out of an opportunity for education and information. You cheated me out of hours of time, betrayed my trust and then you wasted an hour of PBS airtime. Shame on you.”

As Dr. Gordon draws his rant to a close, he returns to telling a PBS producer how to do her job.  He does not, however, at any time provide any evidence to contradict a single pertinent point or piece of evidence made in the entire hour of “The Vaccine War.”

The way vaccines are manufactured and administered right now in 2010 makes vaccines and their ingredients part of the group of toxins which have led to a huge increase in childhood diseases including autism. Your show made parents’ decisions harder and did nothing except regurgitate old news.

Parents and children deserve far better from PBS.”

How can Dr. Gordon write the preceding paragraph and then claim to be anything other than anti-vaccine? PBS is not the one to be ashamed; our children deserve better stewardship than that of Dr. Jay Gordon.

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Posted in: Science and Medicine, Vaccines

Leave a Comment (51) ↓

51 thoughts on “Dr. Jay Gordon: Full of sound and fury, signifying nothing

  1. Lawrence C. says:

    As Dr. Gordon draws his rant to a close, he returns to telling a PBS producer how to do her job. He does not, however, at any time provide any evidence to contradict a single pertinent point or piece of evidence made in the entire hour of “The Vaccine War.”

    That about says it all — attacking the messenger while ignoring the message, filling a rant with images and irrelevancies that distract. Gordon seems to have bested himself, going from apologist to propagandist.

    Gordon says he bases everything he does on his personal “reading” of things. At this point, there is ample evidence to question his basic literacy. If he actually can read and comprehend what the CDC publishes then he can only be at best disingenuous. He’s apparently as culpable as Wakefield in promoting bogus theories and pseudoscience.

  2. Erika says:

    I’d be interested in whether there are others that PBS interviewed but then didn’t use for the show. There’s got to be someone out there, so that poor Dr. Jay doesn’t feel so lonely and picked on…

  3. Michelle B says:

    Excellent clarification of where Gordon goes horribly wrong (beyond the common ground that autism is a serious health problem which can wreak havoc on families who do not receive sufficient support). Gordon is deluded in thinking that medical professionals don’t get that point–in fact, it is because they get it that they are so tough on Gordon and his nonsense.

  4. Zoe237 says:

    Well reasoned, respectful, nuanced response. Bravo!

  5. rork says:

    “But we don’t have time to wait ” was the hardest on me.

    Science protects us from endlessly doing the wrong thing, believing, usually with good intentions (oh you seductive paving material), that it was the right thing.

    Not that I think autism doesn’t deserve study and resources – that’s doing something.

  6. “usually with good intentions (oh you seductive paving material)”

    Chuckling and wishing I’d thought of that turn of phrase.

  7. Man, I would have read Gordon’s statement on HuffPo, but I got sidetracked by Sandra Bullock…hard hitting journalism, there.

  8. Chris says:

    Erika, there is a comment from Arthur Allen, the author of Vaccine, at Respectful Insolence where he says he was interviewed, and also ended up on the cutting room floor.

  9. David Gorski says:

    Actually, I think that statement is worth quoting in its entirety:

    Hey Jay-bo, I was also interviewed at length for the Vaccine War story, and also was left on the editing floor. In this day and age, I guess I should have made a big stink about it to draw attention to myself. However, having been a journalist for 20 years, I happen to know that perfectly good interviews get shitcanned for one reason or another. Suck it up, baby.

    That about sums it up. Stop whining, Dr. Jay.

  10. Squillo says:

    Proof will come over the next decade.”

    This is a statement of faith, not fact, and succinctly sums up Dr. Gordon’s position on vaccines.

  11. Conner says:

    Very well written and rightfully scathing.

  12. daedalus2u says:

    Pretty good example of narcissistic injury. What Dr Jay is most upset about is the injury to the image he has of himself. An image that is pure fantasy.

    Exactly like the Emperor and his new clothes.

  13. Arthur Allen’s Vaccine book was my gateway drug into the vaccine debate. It is accessible, well-sourced, outlines the scientific method really well, and provides gut-wrenchingly compelling narrative about the dangers of vaccine-preventable diseases. Plus, the history of vaccine development is fascinating. I discovered it when I was trying to gather evidence in defense of my decision to vaccinate my children.

    Referencing medical literature was startlingly ineffective. Allen addressed several of the main points I was hearing against vaccinating in a way that was easy for me to pass along and easy for everyone to understand. (Not that this was effective either, but we all do what we can.)

    He’s been one of my personal heroes since the publication of the book. More so now for his response to Dr. Gordon.

  14. Thank you for your time and energy in deconstructing my email to PBS. As usual, I continue to learn a lot from reading your blog and following the comments.

    99% of MY time and energy go in to my pediatrics practice but I always enjoy an opportunity to gain access to TV and other media. I didn’t think this show presented a balanced picture of the opinions of the physicians they interviewed.

    Have a great weekend.

    Best,

    Jay

  15. Draal says:

    Thanks Jay, I will have a great weekend.
    I suggest you try and have yourself a great weekend too like go golfing, work on a hobby, or socialize with other people outside of work. I do commend your ability to cram TV and other media interviews, maintaining a personal website, contributing to the Huffington Post, and fielding personal emails from the general public all in that 1% you have time for. Like they say, “All work and no play makes Jay a dull boy.”
    Stay classy Jay.

  16. BobbyG says:

    I am delighted to have run across this blog. A quick topical surfing sample indicates I have much enjoyable and enlightening reading ahead (like I didn’t already have more than I can fit into each day).

  17. Thank you, Draal. I really meant that 99% of my professional time goes into the practice. I do make sure I get on the soccer pitch at least four times/week and have date nights a couple times/week.

    Jay

  18. Bitey says:

    You have to love Dr. Jay. He goes from site to site, instead of responding to the criticisms of his clearly non-evidence based approach to medicine- he simply makes asinine, non sequitur posts about the importance of himself and his time.

    Then don’t post at all, Jay. Your not adding to the discussion at all and at the same time, taking away from training for your professional soccer career.

  19. Draal says:

    One of the reasons to not vaccinate stated in the Frontline report was that presently toddlers do receive 5-6 shots in one Dr visit and up to 40 shots within ~2 years. The number of shots has increased compared to when the new parents were of the same age.
    is this really a valid argument?

    I can only wonder what the thousands upon thousands of pathogens in nature are up too when an infant is born. Could it be possible that children are only exposed to one or two infectious agents at any given time? I could see it now, a highly organized lotto system were germs take turns at challenging someone’s immune system. I mean, it’s unfathomable that our immune system could respond to multiple infectious agents simultaneously, let alone 5 or 6 vaccines.

  20. Mark P says:

    You need look no further than the coverage of evolution, or 2012, or global climate change (that list should derail the comments nicely)

    Ha, ha. Didn’t work! No derailment at all. I call you for a Troll!

    Interestingly, where I live (NZ) there is no attempt by the media at any sort of “balance” on these three issues.

    Evolution and 2012 are not matters of public discussion, since no actual policy is at dispute. They are settled in all public parties and government. There are, of course, ID proponents, but they get very little traction outside a few churches and church schools.

    Global warming gets no balance. It is true that the sceptics are given a fair bit of time in the papers, but never so as to be anything like even time or space. The TV is all warming. (Actually, I suspect that is the case in the US too. My viewing of US media does not suggest AGW sceptics get equal time. Is it that you resent the sceptics getting any time at all?)

    My conclusion is, don’t blame the media.

    ID gets lots of time in the US media because lots of people believe in it. The media doesn’t want to take a position which alienates large numbers of viewers/readers, so gives “balance”. It has no popular traction here, so gets no time.

    Meanwhile atheism gets loads of public coverage here, because so many of us are atheist. Our previous Prime Minister can be an open unbeliever and our media don’t feel the need to trot out anyone to suggest society will fail as a result. That would just make them look stupid. The US media won’t touch atheism because society won’t, not vice versa.

    NZ media’s weak points are elsewhere. Anti-fluoridation of water, for example, gets loads of public treatment.

  21. Mark P says:

    Correction: when I say “My viewing of US media does not suggest AGW sceptics get equal time.” I should point out that I don’t follow Fox or the other right-wing media.

    I will correct it to “My viewing of US media suggests the amount of time AGW sceptics gets depends on the political lean of the media. Far less than equal time in the “old” media and far too leniently in Fox and the right-wing punditry.”

    Right or wrong, neither side attempts “balance”. They take a firm position but allow the other side some time because they know that not all their audience is convinced.

    The point remains — the media follows their audience, not vice versa.

  22. BillyJoe says:

    Joseph Albeitz,

    “that list should derail the comments nicely”

    You should see the “Demonizing Big Pharma” thread. :D

  23. BillyJoe says:

    MarkP,

    “The point remains — the media follows their audience, not vice versa.”

    Well, the point is – should they?

  24. DREads says:

    Good science can be hard, really hard. I work in computational statistics/machine learning (I’m not sure whether to categorize it as science or tools to support science) and I haven’t taken a day off in months. In my field, the time it takes to develop and validate a new statistical approach can be on the order of 6 months to years. I don’t think some anti-vax people realize how hard it is to discover some small idea/phenomenon that holds weight. Good science doesn’t come out of one’s a**. Maybe it works differently in Jenny McCarthy’s world, but we don’t just make stuff up. That’s not how it works. Pursuing science (and developing tools to support science like new statistical/computational methods) takes work. Seriously hard work.

    Mark Crislip wrote in an early post that you have to pay your dues to be taken seriously. I couldn’t agree with him more. Jenny McCarthy isn’t a playmate turned PhD scientist, she is a playmate turned actress turned activist. Instead of posing nude, Jenny McCarthy could have devoted time early in her career to intellectual pursuits like taking a 101 course in biology, critical thinking, or statistics. Even after her son’s diagnosis, she could have invested time in catching up what she didn’t learn earlier in her career. The truth is she immediately jumped on a bandwagon, using her celebrity status to propagate misinformation supported with what might be mistaken for medicine from the middle ages. Even if she is a non-expert, it is utterly irresponsible to advocate that people reject established science in favor of superstition. She disingenuously advertises her beliefs as supported by science rather than altmed mysticism, which has led many parents who don’t know better to falsely believe science supports the autism-vaccine link, and thus avoid vaccinating their children. McCarthy has said publicly that she shouldn’t hold blame because parents make their own decisions. When your principle argument device involves exploiting fear and disrupting a person’s rational belief system, you are arguing irresponsibly and unethically. Thus, she can take some of the blame.

    I feel badly for many of the authors on SBM who spend so much of their time refuting drivel from non-experts rather than focusing on novel medical science. I think what they do is important and essential work.

  25. There are far more important toxins possibly involved in autism causation.

    Vaccines? No proof either way.

    Look harder at them

    Stop perseverating.

    Best,

    Jay

  26. halincoh says:

    In my 19 years of practicing pediatrics ( as well as internal medicine ) I have never had a patient have a side effect to a vaccine other than an occasional low grade fever or an occasional bruise at the site of injection. But this does not confirm an absolute phenomenon because the data reveal that serious side effects do occur on VERY RARE occasions. Anecdote is anecdote. The difference between physicians like Dr Gordon and myself is whereas I do acknowledge that a very rare, serious side effect MAY occur because the data supports this – EVEN THOUGH I’VE NEVER SEEN IT – he refuses to acknowledge that autism is NOT one of those rare serious side effects even though the data does not support that. We all have biases. But biases that can’t be altered even when evidence presents a more likely contrary opinion is always a dangerous bias indeed.

  27. Chris says:

    Dr. Gordon:

    There are far more important toxins possibly involved in autism causation.

    List them with the supporting evidence.

    In regards to vaccines:

    Look harder at them

    Why? With what evidence?

  28. GeoffreyCoe says:

    All in all this was an excellent documentary. And the documentary to have medical provide medical points of view that were ad odds with the prevailing evidence. I thought the way they did this was responsible because such opinions were contextualised in relation to the real public health concerns, and facts about vaccination

    It remains one of the most difficult aspects of pseudo-science when practitioners themselves deliberately and knowingly spread misinformation. It is one thing for idiotic celebrities to mount a campaign of fear and bogus claims. It is completely another story when MDs who should know better prop up these myths.

  29. David Gorski says:

    Vaccines? No proof either way.

    Only if you close your eyes to the scientific data and misunderstand how science works, Dr. Jay.

    Look harder at them

    On what scientific basis? On what evidence? Exactly how? Be specific, Dr. Jay.

  30. DevoutCatalyst says:

    >Stop perseverating.

    Quit self-stimulating.

  31. weing says:

    “There are far more important toxins possibly involved in autism causation.

    Vaccines? No proof either way.”

    What a maroon! Do you feel the same way about the sun and not the earth being at the center of the solar system?

  32. daijiyobu says:

    An important question to someone who holds firmly to a position:

    ‘how much evidence would be required to convince you to change your position?’

    The answer here from Dr. J. seems ‘none.’ His antivax position seems dogmatic and almost religious.

    Which reminds me of a quote from Popular Science Monthly from 1889:

    “science is never sectarian; philosophy is never sectarian. Sectarian teaching begins when you ask a man or a child to assume what can not be proved, for the sake of keeping within the dogmatic lines that fence round some particular creed.”

    -r.c.

  33. David Gorski says:

    His antivax position seems dogmatic and almost religious.

    Scratch the word “almost” and change the word “seems” to “is.”

    By the way, in case Dr. Jay is still reading, I’m sure he’ll be happy to know that there have been several posts about him on SBM:

    Dr. Jay Gordon and me: Random encounters with an apologist for the antivaccine movement
    Dr. Jay Gordon – “Anti-Vaccination”
    The fallacy of “balance” and “fairness” about unscientific health claims in the media: A case study
    Since when did an apologist for the antivaccination movement, Dr. Jay Gordon, become an “expert” in vaccine law?
    More Nonsense from Dr. Jay Gordon

  34. daedalus2u says:

    None of the symptoms of autism look like any effects of any toxins. There is no cell death, no neurotoxicity, nothing that looks like the effects of any type of “toxin”.

  35. tmac57 says:

    Dr. Gordon said:”You should be ashamed of yourself, Kate. You knew what you put on the air was slanted and you cheated the viewers out of an opportunity for education and information.”
    My question to Dr Gordon is: If the Frontline piece had sided with your view of vaccines, would it still have been “slanted” in your view? Also Dr. Gordon, in your statement “Even a good tabloid journalist could see through the screed you’ve presented.” How did you intend the use of the term “screed”?
    Was it:(From Merriam Webster)
    1 a : a lengthy discourse b : an informal piece of writing (as a personal letter) c : a ranting piece of writing
    2 : a strip (as of a plaster of the thickness planned for the coat) laid on as a guide
    Or
    3 : a leveling device drawn over freshly poured concrete ?

  36. weing says:

    “None of the symptoms of autism look like any effects of any toxins. There is no cell death, no neurotoxicity, nothing that looks like the effects of any type of “toxin”.”

    You don’t understand. Jenny is his expert and mentor on toxins and she says otherwise.

  37. cloudskimmer says:

    “There are far more important toxins possibly involved in autism causation.”

    I was delighted to see Dr. Jay on SBM. Unfortunately, his posts so far are simplistic and fail to address any questions raised here. What are these “far more important toxins” and how can you possibly speculate that they may be “involved in autism causation.” C’mon Dr. Jay: can’t you come up with evidence to support your assertions instead of just your gut feelings? And how does Dr. Jay treat autism? Chelation? Hyperbaric chambers? Massive doses of supplements? Why pick any of those “treatments” in the absence of supporting evidence and with the harmful side effects they produce?

    There’s another website (http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=vitamin-d-and-autism) which speculates on a link between lack of vitamin D and autism. Some are already convinced it’s true, though no studies support it; perhaps it is worthy of investigation.

    Saying that the episode pits moms against scientists is false; one of the moms interviewed on the show has vaccinated her kids and is alarmed at the low vaccination rate in her community, knowing that it could harm, and even kill her neighbors. And this isn’t just about infants… adults are vulnerable, too.

    I’m disappointed that the show didn’t clearly refute the woman who didn’t want her child vaccinated against Hepatitis B, because it’s a sexually transmitted disease. Does she think kids are delivered by the stork? Kids are the result of sex. HIV is a sexually transmitted disease that kids get when they are born to HIV positive moms (unless lucky or receiving proper treatment.) Maybe they thought the audience is sophisticated enough to roll their eyes at that comment, but I worry that they are not.

    Another disappointment: that the show didn’t mention Jenny’s assertion that Evan is an indigo child or crystal child. Was that before the diagnosis of autism? Is Evan cured now? How normal is he? Where is he on the ASD scale?

    Anyhow, the outrage expressed by the anti-vax crowd makes me more optimistic about the show. I noticed on the website viewers have the opportunity to vote on whether or not the show changed their minds. But it doesn’t specify the start and end points, so we don’t know if those who did/did not change were pro or anti-vaccination. Overwhelmingly, those who voted did not change their views, according to their results.

  38. weing says:

    “I’m disappointed that the show didn’t clearly refute the woman who didn’t want her child vaccinated against Hepatitis B, because it’s a sexually transmitted disease.”

    I was disappointed by that too. Since the sexual route of transmission is not the only one, especially in kids.

  39. trrll says:

    It is hardly surprising that Dr. Gordon did not make the cut. In the limited time available in a 1-hour documentary, the producers doubtless had to make some difficult decisions, but I’d be surprised if he was one of them. What point does he have to make that was not already made by somebody else. “Too many, too soon?” That point was certainly made. Does he have any evidence to support it? It appears not; the only thing he seems to have to add is, “Trust me, I’m a pediatrician.” Somebody with no other qualifications than a pediatric specialty might be qualified to describe the recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics. But a pediatrician whose views diverge from the consensus of his specialty needs to offer something more than an unsupported opinion to to be credible. And if you want a spokesman for the “alternative vaccine schedule based upon a doctor’s unsupported clinical opinion” point of view, Dr. Sears is far more prominent (and while Sears didn’t make the cut for screen time, there is a long interview on the Frontline web-site). Gordon seems redundant, at best.

  40. DREads says:

    “I’m disappointed that the show didn’t clearly refute the woman who didn’t want her child vaccinated against Hepatitis B, because it’s a sexually transmitted disease.”

    I was disappointed by that too. Since the sexual route of transmission is not the only one, especially in kids.

    I completely agree with both of you. It would have been better if the Frontline had an academic or trusted expert to clarify that Hepatitis B can be contracted without sexual activity.

    Even so, parents should vaccinate their kids against diseases that have sexual routes of transmission, e.g. HBV and HPV. There are many reasons for this. First, no matter how much parental indoctrination one does, one can’t completely control what a horny teenager does. Second, even if an unvaccinated person remains abstinent until marriage, it could be wasted effort if the other partner of the marriage was not abstinent.

    Controlling the risk population for HPV-related cancers seems like an important public health goal. Unfortunately, there is still a large portion of the public who don’t view HPV as a public health threat because its effects aren’t immediate like measles.

    Many people are incapable of thinking in terms of long-term statistics, which explains why the many Americans save so little, have no qualms about living beyond their means on credit, and invest so little. If only they knew what an exponential growth function is. Unfortunately, choice doesn’t always work.

  41. squirrelelite says:

    Yes, I noticed they tap danced around that one, too.

    Trimming down to a fixed length can lead to some tough choices, but I wish they found 30 seconds to squeeze in an answer to that one.

  42. Stop perseverating.
    Quit self-stimulating.

    The best post on this whole site.

    Dr. Gordon said:”You should be ashamed of yourself, Kate. You knew what you put on the air was slanted and you cheated the viewers out of an opportunity for education and information.”
    My question to Dr Gordon is: If the Frontline piece had sided with your view of vaccines, would it still have been “slanted” in your view?

    Yes. Hell, yes.

    “I’m disappointed that the show didn’t clearly refute the woman who didn’t want her child vaccinated against Hepatitis B, because it’s a sexually transmitted disease.”

    I was disappointed by that too. Since the sexual route of transmission is not the only one, especially in kids.

    I completely agree with both of you. It would have been better if the Frontline had an academic or trusted expert to clarify that Hepatitis B can be contracted without sexual activity.

    A clear sign of the diminshed integrity here is that no one called these people on their lack of science. Hepatitis B is transmitted “vertically” from a mother who does not she has it to her baby or “horizontally” through hifgh risk behavior such as IV drug use and unprotected sex. There still might be some places in Asia where the blood supply is not secure.

    (Not sure the HTML tags are active here, but you get the point.)

  43. pmoran says:

    Dr Gordon: “I base everything I do on having spent the past thirty years in pediatric practice watching tens of thousands of children get vaccines, not get vaccines and the differences I see.”

    Dr Gordon, can you direct me to some data? I am not against doctors forming tentative, or even strong opinions, from personal experiences, but they should be able to provide some supporting documentation if craving influence.

    Was that is why your views were considered not worth airing?

  44. David Gorski says:

    A clear sign of the diminshed integrity here is that no one called these people on their lack of science.

    Dr. Jay, you just fried my irony meter.

    Again.

    Really, to hear you complain about anyone’s lack of science is truly rich. Ever hear the term “Pot, kettle, black”?

  45. DREads says:

    Dr. Gordon writes

    A clear sign of the diminshed integrity here is that no one called these people on their lack of science.

    While we’re on the subject of your concern for a lack of science, I’m curious if you could clarify your position on homeopathy.

  46. weing says:

    “Hepatitis B is transmitted “vertically” from a mother who does not she has it to her baby or “horizontally” through hifgh risk behavior such as IV drug use and unprotected sex.”

    Have you ever watched children interacting with each other? I wouldn’t call slobbering, biting, scratching each other unprotected sex.

  47. Regarding Hep B

    From WHO – http://www.who.int/features/qa/11/en/

    “Hepatitis B virus is transmitted by contact with blood or body fluids of an infected person – the same way as the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). However, HBV is 50 to 100 times more infectious than HIV.

    The main ways of getting infected with HBV are:

    perinatal (from mother to baby at the birth)
    child-to-child transmission
    unsafe injections and transfusions
    sexual contact.”

    When we adopted, I did some research on Hep B since it is one of the special needs that comes up in international waiting child adoption programs. Also a few of the parents from adoption discussion groups I belong to have children have had (or have) Hep B.

    I think parents need to understand that it is a possibility that a child at daycare, preschool or school or in the neighborhood may have Hep B.

    I’d point out living in a family or at school is not living in a hospital. Kids have accidents, they bleed, all the other kids gather around, before you know it you’ve got 3-5 kids either holding the kids bleeding nose, walking through the blood in bare feet or touching the blood because it’s interesting. I know this is not a good idea! But realistically, school-age children are not watched closely enough to prevent all blood or body fluid contact, so I think up to date Hep B vaccines are a great idea.

    In case folks are curious about parenting a child with Hep B here’s a couple of quotes from the Hep B foundation.

    “Use common sense in deciding who you should tell about your child’s hepatitis B. Once you tell, you can’t take it back. So take your time and choose wisely as you decide who can be trusted with this information.

    Fortunately, most children are now vaccinated against hepatitis B, so the risk of your child infecting others is reduced. Most states also require the hepatitis B vaccine for school entry. Although you do not necessarily have a “duty” to inform people of your child’s hepatitis B, there may be situations where it is wise to disclose your child’s diagnosis.”

    Also

    “The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that everyone use “universal precautions” for any accident. This means that the blood and bodily fluids of all adults and children should be treated as if it is potentially infectious.

    Universal precautions (or “standard precautions”) should be followed for ALL accidents, not just the blood of those with known chronic hepatitis B infection.”

    And

    “Cleaning Up Blood Spills
    Avoid direct contact with blood, vomit, diarrhea and other bodily secretions, and ensure that others will not come into contact with them either.

    Clean all spills with a diluted solution of bleach (mix one part fresh household bleach with nine parts water).
    Discard cleaning materials into a plastic bag and tie securely. Dispose of properly in the garbage can.
    Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water.”

    the Hep B foundation http://www.hepb.org/ or WHO seem to be good resources, if you are interested in more info.

  48. Oh yes and as weing says. Little ones bite, droll, they have potty accidents and they throw-up (usually on someone) too.

    You know, now that I think of it, being a parent is kinda gross. :P

  49. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

    A clear sign of the diminshed integrity here is that no one called these people on their lack of science. Hepatitis B is transmitted “vertically” from a mother who does not she has it to her baby or “horizontally” through hifgh risk behavior such as IV drug use and unprotected sex. There still might be some places in Asia where the blood supply is not secure.

    This is akin to arguing that we shouldn’t vaccinate against polio or measles because vaccination rates are so high no-one is really at risk. I trust the irony of this statement is lost on no reader of this blog.

    The whole point of vaccination is it is an extremely low-risk intervention which can, if effective, provide life-long immunity to conditions which are not only life threatening, but also inconvenient (and in the case of HepB, embarrassing and stigmatizing). I get the flu shot so I am not inconvenienced by the flu. I got HepB because I was travelling to countries where HepB is endemic – not because I’m planning on having sex with anyone (or rubbing my lips against any open sores). I think I’ve actually been vaccinated several times now for HepB because I keep forgetting if I’ve been vaccinated or not. And sustained no harm whatsoever.

    Low risk. Large benefit. No association with autism. These are the key points of vaccination. Why would you not do what you can to prevent serious disease, or even mild inconvenience, when there is virtually no reason not to. That’s what the science says, and it’s really quite appalling that Gordon would try to call someone on “teh science” when his own activities are so consistently antiscientific.

  50. Calli Arcale says:

    From Dr Gordon’s article, quoted in the OP:

    Did you happen to notice that Vanessa, the child critically ill with pertussis, was not intubated nor on a respirator in the ER? She had nasal “prongs” delivering oxygen. I’m sorry for her parents anxiety and very happy that she was cured of pertussis. But to use anecdotal reports like this as science is irresponsible and merely served the needs of the doctor you wanted to feature.

    Dr Gordon, since you’re here in the comments, I’d be interested in any clarification you may have on this. Did you seriously mean to imply that her illness was not worthy of concern if she was not on a respirator? Requiring oxygen and hospitalization was not sufficient?

    When I was four years old, I came down with meningitis (probably viral). I was hospitalized for two weeks. I was never put on a respirator; I never required oxygen. I did, however, require IV fluids and nutrition for a while, as I couldn’t keep any food down and was delirious with fever, and was kept in isolation. So I was as sick as this child. I nearly died. I don’t think requiring a respirator is relevant. Not all life-threatening illness will require that extreme a measure in order to save the patient.

    Perhaps, though, you simply meant that anecdotes are no substitute for science. This is true. Anecdotes are useful as illustrations. They tell us why we should care. They don’t tell us what is true. I notice this does not stop you using anecdotes (your “personal experience”, and the experience of your paying customers) to decide that there must be a link between vaccines and autism.

  51. ludavince says:

    I perseverate this blog post everyday hoping to hear exactly what “far more important toxins” Dr. Gordon was referring to.

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