David Brown: Return of the Burd: AoA's worst makes a comeback

Kwombles' note: (I wouldn't place Burd as the worst, personally...)

 By David N. Brown
This is a PUBLIC DOMAIN document (dated 6/16/10). It may be copied, forwarded, cited, circulated or posted elsewhere. The author requests only that it not be altered from its current form.
It is easily forgotten, in surveying the swamp of misinformation that is Age of Autism, that AoA is in all likelihood one of the better anti-vax sites.  They have of late been inadvertently highlighting this by increasing use of Outside material. In March, they linked to a hoax by Jane Burgemeister for the first post about Poul Thorsen.  (See “Thorsen” page.)  Before that, they were making their regulars look good with a spate of “reports” on the GMC hearings against Wakefield by “Liar For Hire” Martin J. Walker.  (See “Wakefield's Shill”.) And last Fall, they took a single “contribution” from David Burd.

As I outlined in my essay “Fools in the Courts of Prester John”, Burd made two interesting claims about Australia:  The first was that Australia had no H1N1 vaccine.  The second was that the smallest continent was not suffering from an H1N1 vaccine.  On investigating the matter myself, I made surprising discoveries: First, Australia had developed an H1N1 vaccine as early as spring.  Second, Australia's authorities reported fifty new, confirmed H1N1 deaths in one week.  Based on these and other mind-boggling fictions, I roasted Burd so completely I suspected even AoA would not sink so low as to let him come back.  Obviously, I overestimated them, as Burd has made at least one more “contribution”: “With Flu Season Over, Canada Shows Flu Vaccinations to be Worse Than Useless”.

I have been losing taste for refuting AoA factoids lately, Burd's prose makes for unpleasant reading, and the work in question has been vividly demolished in a Canadian bog post, “David Burd Is a Bird Brain”. So, this time I will look at just one of his claims:

“Canada the last four years totaled sixteen `flu-associated' fatalities for their paediatric age category, defined as everybody under 18, and this included all H1N1 and seasonal cases. Three-quarters of these deaths had severe and chronic underlying health conditions, as did the mortality of a similar percentage of adults over 18. Thus over the last four years Canada averaged but a single paediatric flu-associated death per year (not having severe chronic health issues) among its paediatric population of 7.86 million, Canada's total population being 33 million (Flu statistics are from The Public Health Agency of Canada's Fluwatch website).”

Let's compare this to information from  FluWatch, the source he claims to be citing:  “Since the beginning of the pandemic, ten paediatric deaths due to pandemic H1N1 2009 were reported through the IMPACT network among children 18 years of age or under. Seven (70%) of those deaths reported had at least one underlying medical condition.”   That's in 2009-2010 alone, from H1N1 alone.  In 2008-2009, five deaths were reported, three from H1N1, and it was also noted: “Those under 1 year of age have the higher hospitalization rate (32.5 per 100,000) followed by the children between 1 and 4 years of age (12.4 per 100,000) and between 5 and 14 years (7.5 per 100,000).  In 2007-2008 and 2006-2007, a total of five pediatrics deaths were reported.  That adds up to 20 deaths, with ten occurring in the last year alone. 

Also, the statement falls short of validating the claim that  “(t)hree-quarters of these deaths had severe and chronic underlying health conditions”.  Now, one may say that 70% is close enough to “three-quarters” (75%) to serve for purposes of discussion.  But there is nothing about those conditions being “severe and chronic”.  Still more problematic is how much Burd makes of the role of other health conditions.  I will not presume to say what he thinks, but I will say what it sounds like.  It sounds like he considers the deaths of three people with preexisting health problems of no more importance than one “healthy” person, and four deaths from disease less of a loss than any number of living children than autism.  It even sounds like he may consider it desirable for those with “severe and chronic” conditions to die of disease.  Then there is an even more sordid angle on Burd: Both Australia and Canada, which Burd insists were not harmed by H1N1, reported that the flu took an especially heavy toll on their “aboriginal” populations.  This makes it sound like, perhaps, Burd thinks poor dead black bastards don't count! 

I think it is also worth reprinting a recent comment I saw on “Respectful Insolence”:  “Your position reminds me of the advise some people give to women in the case of sexual assault.... the old `Just relax and try to enjoy it' position that shows an utter lack of even basic compassion or understanding. Disgusting. You even know that modern medicine can get rid of death from some diseases, but you just want to lay back and let people die, since you can't be bothered to get 2 small shots (assuming no valid medical contraindications). This seems to be a common pattern among many deniers. Deny the problem, deny the solution, and when you can't do that any more deny that anyone should do anything about the problem in the first place.”

This was directed against someone claiming that problems with measles were solved without vaccination.  But it could apply perfectly to anti-vaxers' handling of H1N1.  They denied the flu was a significant health threat, even when detailed reports of deaths began piling up.  They insisted the flu vaccines were dangerous, on negligible evidence.  Now that the smoke has cleared, they are bold enough to step forward and claim to have been vindicated.

Time for a reality check.  Whatever else may be said of the flu, it did claim hundreds of lives.  Whatever else may be said of the vaccine, it was widely received by the public, despite rumors and “scare” stories that AoA promoted.  The latter fact confounds any attempt to claim that supposedly limited harm from the flu somehow vindicates vaccine critics.  In the early phases, uptake was high enough to exceed available supplies.  It is a logical possibility that this initial response alone was enough to dissipate the brunt of H1N1's impact, which would make any genuine reduction in the impact of the flu potentially a vindication of the vaccine.  It is now, of course, much too late to know, and it would have been irresponsible then to wait and see.  But, of course, anyone ignorant and lazy enough to claim that a vaccine was unavailable where in fact it was is not going to let such subtleties stop him from claiming that he was right all along.  Perhaps this will be enough to shame AoA out of ever using his work again.

David N. Brown is a semipro author, diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome as an adult. Previous works include the novels The Worlds of Naughtenny Moore, Walking Dead and Aliens Vs Exotroopers, and the nonfiction ebook The Urban Legend of Vaccine-Caused Autism. This and other articles related to autism are available free of charge at evilpossum.weebly.com. 


Corina Becker said...

great piece, just one question

"PUBLIC DOMAIN document (dated 6/1610)?" I think there's a slash missing....

Kim Wombles said...

Hee, I fixed it. :-)

David N. Brown said...

An additional blooper: In the second paragraph, at one point I used "H1N1 vaccine" where it should be "H1N1 virus".
Off-track, shameless plug: My latest ebook, "Anio, Son of Poseidon" is up on the Amazon Kindle store.