Vaccines, Autism, and the Anti-vax Movement: Part 1

I’m going to start this post with my opinion on something: Jim Carey and Jenny McCarthy are idiots.

They are also idiots that kill people. I’m serious. They don’t kill people directly, but through their anti-vaccination propaganda machine Generation Rescue. But let’s start at the beginning, because this is a long story, and the beginning is usually a good place to start.

In 1998 Andrew Wakefeild published a study in the Lancet, a British medical journal. This study showed a link between the Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccine and Autism (you can find the text of the study here). This triggered a panic. Suddenly vaccines were no longer safe. Our children were in danger. Autism rates were on the rise, and the number of vaccines in the vaccine schedule had increased. Coincidence? No! is what many people thought. There must be a connection and this study proves it.

Welcome to one of my favourite logical fallacies: correlation does not necessarily imply causation. This is what science is for. When you look to see if two things are related, you start with a preliminary study asking “Is A related to B?” This could be almost anything. At this point of the process anecdotal evidence is a useful starting point. Once this preliminary study is done, the results are published in a peer reviewed journal. This is like saying, “Hey guys, look what I found!” The other scientists gather around a say “Oh that’s interesting,” and they begin looking into that topic themselves, developing their own studies. Their methodologies might differ a little depending on what is being researched. Some studies aim to replicate the original study to see if they get the same results (a very important element of the scientific process). Most, if not all of them, should be double blinded (neither the patient or doctor knows if the treatment is real or a placebo) and the placebo controlled. The placebo effect is very interesting, but that is for another discussion. Basically when given a placebo (a fake treatment) there is a physiological reaction. This occurs in humans and animals. In order for a treatment to be considered effective, it must produce results beyond the placebo effect.

After a period of time enough studies have been done that a conclusion can be reached, and this conclusion can be reached only after a preponderance of evidence supports that conclusion. This is one problem with the media, a study will come out linking A with B and the media latched on to it, but that is only one study. Only one piece of evidence. That is not enough. Not even close.

Back to vaccines. So this one study was released and people went crazy. Of course, there were follow up studies. A large majority of them show no link between vaccines and autism, but it was this one study that had the largest impact. This was the study.

Let’s flash forward a couple of years to 2006. Ah, 2006. The Turin Winter Olympics, Saddam is executed, and Jenny McCarthy embraces an odd type of nonsense about “Indigo Children.” What, you might ask, is an Indigo Child?

Well, if your child’s aura is indigo, it is an indigo child. Lets ask Generation Indigo for more information:

The term indigo generation is somewhat of a blanket term that refers to the increased amount of the color indigo present in new babies Auras. Around 30 years ago some babies were exhibiting this phenomena and the number has steadily increased until now where every new baby is an Indigo. Although all indigo babies have this increased amount of indigo in their auras they can vary widely in other ways.  The majority of Indigo’s are simply reincarnations of the same group of beings who have always made up the human race. For instance you may be 35 years old and you are not classified as being an Indigo and you may give birth to a child who is an Indigo. The being incarnating as this child could be someone who you had been with in another life who was at that time not an indigo but just a normal incarnation just like you are now. If you were to die tomorrow and reincarnate next week you would then be an Indigo. It is not that the Indigo’s are different beings but simply that they are incarnating some energies which were not being incarnated in normal people 30 years ago or more.

Aliens are involved too. It’s all on that website. I’m not sure what it all means, they can’t shoot lightning out of their hands or fly, so what’s the point? There is more meaningless nonsense too, but anyway, Jenny McCarthy’s child is an indigo child. Take a look at the bottom of this website for the Indigo Network. It offers a link to a site run by Jenny McCarthy, but leaves out the link. A search on the Google will bring up nothing.

Hello way back machine. Hello Indigo Moms. While there you can read all about how to protect your child from negative energy, learn about energy healing, and something about angles.

So why was this wonderful website removed? Oh yeah, her son was diagnosed with autism.

Autism is no laughing matter. It is a very serious condition that affects many children. There is no treatment and the cause is still unknown. This can be frustrating to the hundreds of thousands of parents facing the challenge of raising an autistic child. The internet can provide a lot of useful information. It can also provide a lot of harmful misinformation. It is hard for me to believe that people actually believe the nonsense that is out there, but if you are desperate and someone is offering a cure…all too tempting.

Jenny McCarthy switched gears in late 2006/early 2007. Indigo Moms was shut down and she became the spokesperson for an organization called Generation Rescue.

Generation Rescue is good at one thing: rehashing old arguments, cherry picking data, and aiding measles breakouts all over the world. I guess that is three things… According to their About section:

Generation Rescue is an international movement of scientists, physicians and parent-volunteers researching the causes and treatments for autism and helping more than 20,000 children begin biomedical treatment.

Allow me to translate:

A group of people conducting bad science and pseudoscience using treatments that don’t work and using confirmation bias to confirm their results.

These treatments involve strict diets, detox routines, avoiding “toxins” (WTF are “toxins”????), taking supplements, and probiotic treatments. None of these have been proven to work. Some are actually harmful. The idea of “toxins” has evolved over the years. It started as a push to remove a preservative known as thimerosal. This was removed from most vaccines around 2002. Autism rates did not decline, so they moved on to other “toxins” like antifreeze and formaldehyde. The formaldehyde thing is interesting. It is an naturally-occurring organic chemical (see, not everything organic is good for you). In large doses, it is very toxic, but in the amounts that would be in vaccines it is safe. Also, it is NOT IN VACCINES!

That, and Jenny McCarthy apparently loves to inject “toxins” into her face.

“I love Botox, I absolutely love it,” she said. “I get it minimally, so I can still move my face. But I really do think it’s a savior.”

Botox. Botulinum toxin. As each argument that they put forward gets crushed by Science! they move on to the next thing. Again and again. These are the people we are dealing with. Totally detached from reality.

But the Saga of Vaccines and Autism is far from over…

Continued in Part 2.

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2 Responses to Vaccines, Autism, and the Anti-vax Movement: Part 1

  1. Mandi says:

    Jenny McCarthy is a parent like me who has a child with autism. If you are like me, your 2nd reaction to the “your child has autism ” diagnosis, is to find out why and how to make it better. The first reaction is grief. Anyway like me, she became desperate and researched all the treatments and probably read books on how to “heal” autism….thats where vaccines, and the D.A.N. protocol come in (diet, chelation, probiotics….etc) Here’s the difference between me and Jenny (besides looks unfortunatly lol) I got had to jump off of that heal-my-son train ride for several reasons: 1. We could barely afford the hundreds of dollars worth of suppliments let alone the dr visits 2. My son wouldn’t take the medicine. He kept spitting up $7.oo worth of the special probiotic each time we administer it to him. 3. it almost caused our family to fall apart 4. The natural paths hair sample test and his M.D.s blood test did not match up. The hair sample said he had high amounts of heavy metals in his system………the blood test showed all normal.

  2. Pingback: Vaccines, Autism, and the Anti-vax Movement: Part 3 « DC Skeptics

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