1/31/2011

Offit Is Everywhere you Want To Be


Dr. Paul Offit is the Hillary Clinton of the autism world. Or is he? It seems really unfair that a well-respected pediatrician and infectious disease expert who has devoted his career to saving lives is the recipient of the vitriol that places like Age of Autism and people like its editors and followers heap on him, all because he has the courage to stand up to their intimidating tactics and speak out honestly about vaccines. He's one of the first to admit that vaccines have caused damage; he writes openly and honestly about the live polio vaccine causing polio, about Cutter laboratories. 

He writes eloquently of the role that concerned parents and consumers can have in calling for safer vaccines, in more vaccine research to minimize the unfortunately occasional severe side effect (like the Sabin polio vaccine had in infecting six to eight kids per year in the US with polio rather than preventing the disease (page 58 of Deadly Choices).

Offit writes that if parents are looking to advocate on vaccines, pushing growing vaccines in "mammalian cells rather than avian ones. Although this procedure wouldn't be easy, it's doable. But, absent a public outcry, pharmaceutical companies have had little incentive to make the change and public health agencies haven't insisted they do it. Again, it's a perfect situation for an advocate" (page 59).

So why is Offit constantly vilified by the likes of Age of Autism? Why is it so easy for so many to get the facts wrong? In an earlier post, I noted the tendency of people to rely on the claims of others (like Age of Autism) rather than looking at the evidence for the claims. 

For two years, Age of Autism has consistently written outright falsehoods regarding Offit; even when there is every reason to believe they know their information is bad, they continue to dispense it. This week, Age of Autism has felt the need to launch multiple attacks on Offit.

Offit has never passed himself off as an autism expert, despite repeated allegations by Age of Autism editors and commenters that he has done so. Today at Thinking Person's Guide to Autism, Offit responded to the notion that he is an expert on autism (he is a pediatrician and is likely to be more an expert it on it than Wakefield ever was):

"That's a fair question. But I would argue that Jenny McCarthy is also not an autism expert. Nor is J.B. Handley, nor are any of these other celebrities that you see on TV. But I have read the research on the subject since 1940; I'd say that I've read as much if not more than anyone else who is also "not an expert." And as a scientist and clinician, I can form opinions that are reasoned and well-informed. 
I'm never going to be an autism expert. The first thing I say when people ask me, "what do you think causes autism?" is that I'm not an autism expert, but I can tell you which studies are compelling. And I *am* a vaccine expert. 
I don't represent myself as an autism expert, and I think people like Jenny McCarthy need to be upfront about that as well. They're experts in their own children, they're not experts in autism."

You'll never see the folks at AoA or their true believers evaluate this; Wakefield remains a saint, even though it's clear he was dishonest and fraudulent, even though there is no doubt that he took a sizable amount of money from lawyers seeking to get money for MMR adverse effects. Wakefield, because he's "helping" autistic kids (how has never been explained; he's not licensed to practice medicine and was not legally allowed to see patients). No, the truth is that Wakefield fed parents what they wanted to hear and offered them false hope. He catered to their need for answers and someone to blame and he basked in the parents' adoration. He still does. Wakefield is not the only one to profit from desperate parents. The list of folks profiting off of them is pretty high. Let's not leave out Boyd Haley. Or the Geiers. Or any of the regulars who frequent the woo conventions and sell MB-12 pops and supplements and the hope of a cure.

Blaxill pulls new numbers out of his sorry hide to keep rallying his troops that Offit's made money on vaccine invention. His numbers aren't right, of course, and they're irrelevant to the question of whether vaccines, specifically the MMR or thimerosal cause autism. The answer appears to be a pretty conclusive no. And the rotavirus vaccine has never been implicated, hinted at, etc. by this crowd of woonuts. 

Handley this week feels the need to call Offit a lunatic and a liar and whip his followers into a frenzy. The Colbert Show page at facebook is awash in anti-vaccine conspiracy theorists.

Offit donated the royalties of Autism's False Prophets to the Center for AutismResearch (CAR) at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. The royalties from his new book go to the Autism Science Foundation. He's not profiting on his books. He's not out attacking people's wives either and insisting they're anonymous bloggers who are fathers to a child with autism.

Handley writes frequently about the hungry lie, but the truth is that Offit is not a part of that hungry  lie. Neither is Trine Tsouderos. Or Amy Wallace. Or Sanjay Gupta. Nor are Matt Lauer, Anderson Cooper and George Stephanopoulos.

One need look no further than the antics of the writers, editors, and frequent commenters of AoA to see that there is an insatiable hunger to attack anyone who speaks out about the science on autism and vaccines. One doesn't need to go further than people who think the vaccine program is a eugenics program, that the world governments and pharmaceutical companies, and mainstream science have all conspired to bring one lone wolf, saint Andy, down.

Paul Offit is not a saint, and he doesn't need to be put on a pedestal. He's a man with strong convictions, who works to save the lives of infants around the world from a disease that takes 500,000 a year. In his own words, he speaks out against vaccine misinformation not because there is profit it in it, but  "Because it's the right thing to do. Because children are getting hurt by all this misinformation. It's the reason I went into pediatric infectious diseases in the first place -- because kids get hurt." 

Don't take my word for it, though, and for gods's sakes, don't take Blaxill's, Olmsted's or 
Handley's (because I'm not sure they could find the truth if it gave them a lap dance). Go read Offit's interview at TPGA. Watch him on Colbert. Read his journal articles and his books.

And in the meantime, watch this:






NECSS 2009 - Paul Offit from Maggie McFee on Vimeo.

12 comments:

sharon said...

My forehead is becoming flatter by the day as I slap it time and again after reading the anti Offit sentiments on the internet. I just cannot see any logic to their claims, and I really have tried. Perhaps all my head slapping has impaired my cognitive functions?

Autism Reality NB said...

Thank heavens we have an infectious disease expert to tell us all about autism disorders.

farmwifetwo said...

I'm not anti-Offit but over the years of reading about the debate I only have more questions than answers.... Which is why I have decided to take out of it and do what is right for us and not worry about everyone else. I appreciate that as a scientist and a Dr his mandate "to do no harm" is first and foremost when he designs vaccines but I too am not convinced they are "safe". The extent of the research bandied around is taking a group of kids, seeing how many have autism, how many have had their vaccines and saying "there". Well, my my world (BSc(Eng)) that is not science, that is social science and venn diagrams.

There is no follow-up on vaccines. There is no database where when my eldest had all symptoms of rubella after the first MMR shot we got told "he has a fever, it was not caused by the shot" Ummmmm... it followed right behind the shot, in the middle of summer where the chance he was coming down with a bug is very unlikely. Then the second one that was in his leg and he could barely stand for 3 days afterwards. Nowhere is this documented... I'm not even certain the Dr's listed it in his charts. It definately was not sent to the Health Unit and it should have.

Children are not tested for markers prior to these shots. Why are they not?? The vaccines had to carry from Mother to child in the womb. Why is this not studied??

Saying that we've had the basics that were paid for plus we paid for the meningitus one. Too far from a major medical center and I didn't wish to worry every time my kids got the stomach bug and a fever. We've caught the chicken pox and we've never had a flu shot (FYI I've never had a ped recommend one and we got H1N1 in May prior to the shot coming out the following fall).

When proper research, proper follow-up is done and PUBLIC on vaccines as it is done on all other medications - which we see the results of it, the warnings every evening on the news - then I'll decide they are 100% safe.

I have no doubt Dr Offit cares and does his very best.... but.....

Nickel's worth and dinner conversation in our house - I am also not convinced that Modern Medicine has made us healthier either. Oh, we're living longer... but I'm not convinced we're healthier.... I'm not just talking about getting fat but also the fall-out from antibiotic use, cancer treatments, adding extra "stuff" to food (yet, GMO's are bad but we can add anything to our food - HUH??) etc. These drugs are now in our water supplies, they are in our blood supply, we must past some of it on to our children or why are they collecting eggs and sperm from cancer patients... So... why not pass along vaccines??

I have many questions... and yes, I can play devil's advocate with the best of them :)

KWombles said...

FW2 :-) Questions are good; even Offit says so.


Harold, nice of you to stop by; I gave you a blog award last week, so don't forget to collect it!

As to your comment, did you miss where Offit himself said "I'm never going to be an autism expert. The first thing I say when people ask me, "what do you think causes autism?" is that I'm not an autism expert, but I can tell you which studies are compelling. And I *am* a vaccine expert." He is, however, a pediatrician. Now what was your Bernadette Healy again that made her your favorite go-to doctor?

KWombles said...

Oh and Harold, you seem to have no problem with a disgraced and delicensed gastro acting like he's an autism expert. Just saying.

KWombles said...

FW2, they're never going to be 100% safe; there is always going to be risk involved with every vaccine, just as there is with every medication we take and every procedure we undergo.

farmwifetwo said...

Exactly, so why are we not doing research to see if we can improve upon that? Why are we not collecting side-effect information and making it public?? Well, I know why not, b/c they don't want people to stop using the vaccines... but it isn't helping the "fear" aspect it's being used against those that make the vaccines.

I gave False Prophet's to my son's Teacher so I can't quote it exactly, but Offit had an interesting quote in the beginning which I thought was very true... about magic and medicine.

Now... you know why I simply stay out of the debate since I sit on the fence. It's better to discuss it on a front porch with an adult beverage. I have no strong feelings either way. I appreciate their role in healthcare, but at the same time (magic and medicine) people no longer fear illness and expect Dr's to cure everything.

How's the weather?? We didn't get much last night, worst is later today but that wind is CCOOLLDD!!!

KWombles said...

Enough snow and ice to shut everything down here. :-)

I've written on it before; there are constantly new trials on vaccines occurring, but can't find the post or comments that detail the number of clinical trials involving vaccines right now, so I looked to see what the results are from a current search.

http://clinicaltrials.gov/ "Find trials for a specific medical condition or other criteria in the ClinicalTrials.gov registry. ClinicalTrials.gov currently has 102,218 trials with locations in 174 countries."

"Found 2725 studies with search of: vaccine safety"

"Found 3617 studies with search of: vaccine"

I recall that my argument in the the post or comment relating to studies was just because we might not know about it didn't mean it wasn't being studied. However, if I remember right, I didn't manage to reach the person I was responding to. Sigh. Anyway, it's clear from a current search that there are an abundance of ongoing studies into vaccines, their efficacy, and their safety.

Yup, people expect doctors to fix all that ail them, including the aches and pains that we all experience as we age. Unrealistic expectations about what modern medicine can do lead people to woo, that's for sure, since modern medicine is bound to fail them at some point.

Yea, adult beverage and front porch discussion much better way to do it. I certainly don't understand the nastiness that the conversation tends to engender with so many.

autismandoughtisms said...

That was a superb video. I am so impressed by Paul Offit and what he is trying to achieve (and in fact achieving). I found that quite inspirational, thanks for sharing :)

sharon said...

farmwifeteo, I admire your capacity to keep an open mind.

Carol And Stacy said...

Dr. Mercola has spoken out against vaccines too. Think about this. virtually no cases of whooping cough in the United States, then they come out with the whooping cough vaccine, start giving it out and then of course there's an outbreak in the area where they gave out most the vaccines. Why? Because they just injected the whooping cough into people,some get sick and pass it on. Crazy. It's called being manipulated by a billions of dollars pumped by the pharmaceutical companies. Sorry for the rant. I just feel the American public is being bamboozled! Great blog, great video! Found you from the BlogFrog. I would like to share a different viewpoint on autism if I may. Here's a review Stacy did on the fabulous book Awesomism by Suzy Miller. http://www.intentionalconsciousparenting.com/2010/09/stacys-top-ten-reasons-why-awesomism-is.html

KWombles said...

Carol and Stacy, nice of you to come visit; I do appreciate it.

I'm afraid you'll find that we're incompatible on the whole Mercola thing; I've actually written rather critically of him (just today in fact); he may be rather popular, but he's rarely factually correct, and the spread of blatant misinformation is a bit of a bugaboo for me.

Thank you for the link; if Kathleen and I haven't already added you to the Autism Blogs Directory, I'll do that as soon as I hit publish on the comment.

It's okay to have different points of view when our intent and purpose is to provide a diverse, supportive community. :-)