Mercury Rising 鳯女

Politics, life, and other things that matter

The Battle Is Joined

Posted by Phoenix Woman on July 24, 2008

There is a well-publicized, well-funded war by anti-science types, led by a few mendacious jerks like Andrew Wakefield, that’s led to the breakdown of measles herd immunity in the UK and the weakening thereof in the US. The reason? The totally unfounded and utterly debunked claim that a) there is a “worldwide autism epidemic” and b) vaccines are the alleged culprits.

Until recently, the pro-science and pro-child voices have been drowned out by the celebrity power of the likes of Jim Carrey and Jenny McCarthy. But more and more actual experts like Steve Novella are taking up the pro-science cause — and that’s scaring the antivax crowd enough to send out Dr. John Poling and David Kirby to attack him:

Dr. Poling’s letter looks like part of a coordinated attack by the mercury militia. David Kirby has joined in.

I think I know what’s going on here. Antivaccinationists can dismiss me when I post about mitochondrial disorders because I’m a cancer surgeon and researcher, and autism and vaccines are not my primary area of expertise. They can also point to my use of a pseudonym to try to tear down my credibility. At the same time, they can proudly point to Dr. Poling, who is a neurologist, as an actual authority giving credence to their beliefs.

Then along comes Steve Novella. Not only is he a neurologist, too, just like Dr. Poling, but he’s also an academic neurologist–just like Dr. Poling. Not only that, but he’s an academic neurologist at Yale, which is on par with Johns Hopkins, which, if I remember correctly, is where Dr. Poling is on faculty. Not only that, Dr. Novella doesn’t buy the whole vaccines-cause-autism myth, and he knows how to argue against it. He even understands quite a bit about mitochondrial disorders and can say why antivaccinationists are misusing the science there and how Dr. Poling is letting them. Consequently, Dr. Novella is seen as a much more serious threat than I or many of the other bloggers who have criticized the whole claim that vaccines somehow “trigger” autism in children with mitochondrial disorders. He has to be countered; he can’t be ignored. A counterattack had to be launched.

My only question is this: Who put Dr. Poling up to writing that letter? J. B. Handley, perhaps? David Kirby? Mark Blaxill? Who knows? What I do know is that this reeks of a coordinated program, given that Dr. Poling’s letter has been posted at Age of Autism and David Kirby has posted about this on the Huffington Post.

Interestingly enough, Dr. Jon Poling — the antivax exponent cited above — has both a wife and a colleague who disagree strongly with him as to the cause of his child’s autism:

I don’t think anyone disputes that your daughter has autism according to the DSM-IV criteria.

What we do (at least I do) doubt is that her autism was ’caused’ by her vaccines. I’ve seen no definitive statements from anyone aside from yourself and David that that is the case. The case study you co-authored with Shoffner et al stated ‘autistic-like’ symptoms following vaccination. This means she had symptoms like those found in autism and indeed, a side-by-side comparison of those listed in your case study and the DSM-IV criteria clearly shows that Hannah lacks a goodly amount necessary to give her a diagnosis of autism.

Indeed, this also seems to be the opinion of one of your co-authors – John Shoffner, who states:

Jon Poling, says Shoffner, has been “muddying the waters” with some of his comments. “There is no precedent for that type of thinking and no data for that type of thinking,” Shoffner says.

and indeed, your wife, Terry Poling RN, made this statement to the Yahoo Group ‘Recovered Children’ in Nov 2001*:

She has mitochondrial disease which causes her autism.

No mention of vaccines causing her autism.

This is by no means the end of the fight. It’s just the beginning.

*Actually, she made the statement in March 2004, in Post #12098 on the Recovered Kids Yahoo Group. I now have a screen shot in case it’s ever made to go away.


10 Responses to “The Battle Is Joined”

  1. BB said

    Terry Poling’s comments should be in bold and broadcast over the ‘net. Especially posted as a comment to blogs by, well, you know whom- the McCarthyites, Kirbyites, etc.

  2. A-yep.

    What I’d really like to see is several pro-science sites getting together and linking in a legit (non-Googlebomb) fashion to a select group of webpages that debunk the antivaxers. Then maybe when Googling for info on autism and vaccines, we won’t get the crap pages hogging the first dozen or so Google finds.

  3. Terry Poling said

    Why not just go look for yourself instead of believing everything you read and see what Terry Poling really said. I would like to see it if you find it

    Terry Poling

  4. MEC said

    Ms. Poling, feel free to post links to any sites that contain your statements on the subject. You’d know where they are, so if you want us to read those statements you can save us the time of looking them up.

  5. Kev at LeftBrainRightBrain has a link to a screen shot of one of Ms. Poling’s posts, as well several other quotes of hers.

    AutismDiva has more on Ms. Poling.

  6. Stormcrow said

    The alternative press is not always our friend in this business.

    This from, just a couple of days ago: Vaccines and Autism – The science and the politics.

    This makes me want to bang my head against a wall.

    If these people were around 70 or 80 years ago, we’d still be seeing periodic smallpox epidemics. You think vaccines were tricky prior to removal of thimerosal? How about Dryvax?

    If I remember correctly, the odds of serious complications from Dryvax were about 1/4000. And the odds of vaccination-induced fatality were about 1/1,000,000. That was why it was yanked in 1972.

    And Dryvax was light-years better than what preceded it, which was usually direct inoculation of one patient with serum from an unhealed vaccination lesion on an earlier patient. Yeah, these were often infected.

    This ghastly mess was itself preceded by innoculation of the skin with the Real McCoy, variola major itself, with about a 1% chance of death.

    The only reason people took risks like this was because they were preferable to the alternative.

  7. ANB said

    Ms. Poling, when will your family release Hannah’s medical records so that disinterested third party experts can evaluate them? Do you believe that would end the public’s speculation about this case?

  8. Charles said

    Wikipedia says that CDC used Dryvax as recently as 2003, Stormcrow. It’s wonderful what one learns in the course of looking things up.

    I have to admit I think the truth is somewhere in the middle, here.

    * No, I don’t think that thimerosal in vaccines is a major cause of autism and think that the energy that goes into establishing a link is, based on present evidence, misdirected.
    * However, I do think that basic pharmaceutical principles require that much more effort should have been devoted to finding safe alternative preservatives decades ago.
    * I also have pointed out that, while the mercury hypothesis is a minority viewpoint, peer-reviewed papers supporting it have been published quite recently. Science is a dialogue.
    * If parents are frightened by misinformation, that represents a failure of public health leadership. The parents and people whose information they rely on should not be blamed (absent clear evidence of a scam, as happened with Laetrile, for example).
    * 100% immunization is not required to achieve public health goals. Granted, we don’t want to let immunization levels fall far enough to give serious disease a foothold, but we can accommodate modest numbers of holdouts without running significant risks. Herd immunity is achieved at 75-95% immunization.

  9. Stormcrow said

    Yeah, I’d heard about Dryvax being used post 9-11. *Sigh* Stocks of the stuff were still around, and people wanted to hedge their bets versus the possibility of smallpox being used as a weapon by a non-state actor.

    Come to think of it, that would be just about a worst-case attack. You wouldn’t need the complex R&D to deliver the stuff the way you would if you’d chosen an anthrax weapon, because smallpox is so contagious. Pulmonary anthrax isn’t, so you have to work up a weaponized aerosol and effectively deliver it, so you need a long expensive period of development and test and mass production. So a mature attack is much harder to put in.

    And, yeah, you don’t need 100%.

    In fact, the New York incident of 1947 featured a mass vaccination program with no official compulsion at all, from what I’ve read.

    Of course, given what was at stake, little was needed.

    The threat was credible and ghastly – three men, literally dying on their feet, came in by car from Mexico. They were walking dead men because they had hemorrhagic smallpox. That variant is much worse than common smallpox: somewhere between “95% lethality” and “go find yourself a shotgun”, depending on which source you read.

    The terrible nature of the threat and the fact that the medical community, the mayor’s office, the Federal authorities, and the press all worked from the same sheet music, was what got more than six million New Yorkers vaccinated within a month. It wasn’t all of them, but it was enough.

    So 1947 was the year of the Pandemic That Wasn’t.

  10. Charles said

    It just goes to show that public health can work if the leadership is there.

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