Recently, the news and opinion site HuffPost removed an article that had been up for more than six years. The piece, titled “Government Concedes Vaccine-Autism Case in Federal Court – Now What?” was published in January of 2013, and dealt with a case in which the US government’s Court of Federal Claims conceded that routine vaccination had aggravated a child’s underlying condition and led to that child developing “features of autism spectrum disorder.”
Now, the following statement appears in place of that article:
A previous blog post published on this site has been removed in the interest of public health. The article expressed the sole opinion of its author, who retains the rights to publish it elsewhere. Multiple studies have demonstrated that vaccines are safe and effective. Our letter from the editor has more on this decision.
This retraction did not occur in a vacuum. The first half of 2019 has seen a coordinated effort to scrub the Internet of any information that is critical of the claim that “vaccines are safe and effective.” The push began last fall, but gained momentum in January when the World Health Organization declared “vaccine hesitancy” to be a “global health threat,” placing it alongside Ebola, cancer, war zones, and drug-resistant pathogens. Dissolving Illusions: ... Best Price: $38.50 Buy New $21.60 (as of 11:00 EDT - Details)
On March 1st, US Congressman Adam Schiff wrote to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and, after stating that “there is no evidence to suggest that vaccines cause life-threatening or disabling diseases,” expressed his concern that Amazon might be allowing content with “medically inaccurate information.” He asked what action Amazon was taking to address “misinformation about vaccines.”
Later that day, Amazon pulled from its streaming service the documentary “Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe,” along with other “anti-vaccine” documentaries including “Man Made Epidemic“ and “The Greater Good,” a film that “…weaves together the stories of families whose lives have been forever changed by vaccination.”
Schiff had written similar letters to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, and Google CEO Sundar Pichai. Not long after Amazon pulled the documentaries from its streaming service, other platforms began to follow suit. On March 7, Facebook announced that it would reduce the visibility of groups and pages that “spread misinformation about vaccinations,” and would no longer accept advertisements containing what it deemed to be “misinformation” about vaccines.
Back in August of 2018, Pinterest had already begun removing content (later accounts, and then search results) that it said contained “medical misinformation,” and in February, YouTube demonetized all videos that “promoted anti-vaccination content.” Etsy, Vimeo, MailChimp, and GoFundMe have all joined these other platforms in pledging to either prohibit or demote content deemed to contain “misinformation” about vaccines.
So what is the “misinformation” that the WHO, Congressman Schiff, and these social-media giants are so determined to remove from public view? Let’s start with the article mentioned above that was pulled from HuffPost:
The piece—which you can now read here—deals with the case of Hannah Poling, whose family was awarded more than $1.5 million by the US Court of Federal Claims after it acknowledged that her “regressive encephalopathy with features of autism spectrum disorder…” was the result of vaccinations she received at 18 months that aggravated an underlying mitochondrial condition. The article is a fairly straightforward accounting of the case, followed by questions it raises about such issues as research, public health, and the vaccine-autism debate.
HuffPost’s letter from the editor, explaining its reasoning for removing articles like this one, states:
HuffPost has decided to remove dozens of blogs that perpetuate the unfounded opinion that vaccines pose a health risk to the public. Allowing these blogs to remain on our platform does a disservice to our readers that outweighs any ostensible value as part of the public record.
HuffPost’s editors also chose to remove the Federal Claims Court document itself, which had been posted separately. Where that document was once found, there is now the same statement that replaced the above article, along with the assertion that it “…expressed the sole opinion of its author.”
But that is complete nonsense. There is no “author” of this piece (other than for the very brief introduction to the document), and it does not represent anyone’s “opinion.” It is an official record of a concession made by the Secretary of Health and Human Services, submitted to a Federal court. It is indeed a part of the public record—a part that HuffPost’s editorial team doesn’t believe its readers should be able to see.
Other “misinformation” that has been removed from major platforms include this fully referenced article by Anne Mason, on the scare tactics being used to incite fear of measles, taken down by Medium in February, and the Pinterest accounts of both GreenMedInfo and the National Vaccine Information Center, both of which provide well-referenced information on vaccine safety and efficacy.
In June, the email marketing service provider MailChimp announced that it would prohibit “anti-vaccination content.” However, even before announcing this policy change, it had already removed several accounts without warning, according to their owners. Some of these included organizations simply opposed to vaccine mandates, such as Health Choice Vermont, and Colorado Health Choice Alliance, both of which had their accounts closed suddenly in June.
And in May, GoFundMe took down the fundraising campaign for Dr. Kenneth Stoller. Dr. Stoller had been raising money for his legal defense fund after having been served with a subpoena to turn over patient health records by the San Francisco City Attorney as part of a public nuisance investigation regarding his writing of medical exemptions to vaccines.
As these last two examples reveal, this effort aims to suppress not only voices that question the official line on vaccines, but also those that are opposed simply to mandated vaccines, as well as a doctor raising money to defend himself from the threat of state action against himself and his patients.
Given the deep concern felt by these media giants for accuracy in coverage of the controversy over vaccines, it is surprising to find that so much misinformation on the topic remains in place on their platforms.
Contrary to the oft-repeated mantra in the mainstream press, the science about vaccines is far from “settled.” There is much that is a fair topic for debate, and there is much research that simply has not been done. There are, however, some easily refuted falsehoods, several of which feature prominently in nearly every story on vaccines that appears in a major media outlet.
Here are a few samples:
- “Vaccines are safe and effective.”
How “safe”? How “effective”? Nothing is completely safe, and no medical treatment is completely effective all the time for every person. The only meaningful interpretation of “safe” in this context is that “vaccines are safer than the diseases they prevent.” But that has not been established.
To take just one example, the MMR vaccine, the Cochrane Review found, in its meta-analysis in 2012, that:
The design and reporting of safety outcomes in MMR vaccine studies, both pre- and post-marketing, are largely inadequate. The evidence of adverse events following immunisation with the MMR vaccine cannot be separated from its role in preventing the target diseases.
I have written elsewhere about the fact that there is no solid data available to tell us how many vaccinations result in serious injury or death, that vaccine injuries are badly underreported, and that those who claim that the rate of vaccine injury is “one in a million” are referring only to severe anaphylactic shock, ignoring the multitude of other possible injuries. Without this information, there is no way to know whether the risk from vaccines (specific vaccines or all vaccines) is greater or lesser than the risks of contracting and being harmed by the diseases they are meant to prevent.
Likewise, “effective.” The fact that vaccines are not 100% effective is not even remotely controversial. And the degree of effectiveness can vary widely from one vaccine to another. The question is: Given the expected efficacy of a given vaccine, is the protection it offers worth the risk of the harm it may create. We simply do not have the information needed to make that assessment with any certainty.
- “Vaccines do not cause autism.”
No matter how many times major media outlets repeat this phrase, it has not been established that vaccines do not cause autism. Indeed, there is evidence that they can, including, but not limited to, the Federal Claims Court’s decision in the case of Hannah Poling that HuffPost is so determined that you not know about.
Those who insist that any connection between vaccines and autism has been discredited like to point to studies like this meta-analysis, or to this more recent Danish study looking at more than 600,000 children, both of which are used by defenders of vaccines to refute any association between vaccines and autism. However, a closer look reveals not only that these studies fail to do this, but that neither even addresses the question.
As with most studies purporting to refute an association with autism, those in the meta-analysis (all ten of them) look only at a single vaccine (the MMR and/or the monovalent measles vaccine) and/or specific ingredients (cumulative Hg dosage and/or thimerosal exposure), comparing those who have received it/them to those who are otherwise fully or partially vaccinated.
They are also observational studies, which means that they are subject to selection bias, including the risk of “healthy user bias,” which is especially relevant when looking at possible injury from vaccines. This is because families who have experienced a possible injury with one child might be less likely to give that vaccine to their other children. By thus excluding some of those who might be most at risk of vaccine injury, this can artificially skew the results of the vaccinated group toward better health outcomes.
As CDC researchers Dr. Paul Fine and Dr. Robert Chen wrote in their 1992 paper looking at confounding factors in studies of adverse reactions to vaccines:
…individuals predisposed to either SIDS or encephalopathy are relatively unlikely to receive DPT vaccination. Studies that do not control adequately for this form of “confounding by indication” will tend to underestimate any real risks associated with vaccination.
The Danish study by Hviid et al likewise only examines the possible impact of the MMR vaccine. It does also compare rates of autism diagnosis across sub groups, including those who have had some or all of their first-year vaccines and those who have not. However there is no true unvaccinated group (the closest being the group of those who had received no first-year vaccines—a whopping 0.7% of the total cohort). And the authors themselves acknowledge that the study suffers from the risk of healthy user bias.
Meanwhile, there are plenty of studies that do show a possible relationship between autism and vaccines. You just won’t see them splashed across the front pages of major newspapers and magazines.
Moreover, one of the world’s leading experts on vaccines, and former government witness in the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (NVIC)’s “vaccine court”, pediatric neurologist Dr. Andrew Zimmerman, has famously stated that:
…in a subset of children, vaccine-induced fever and immune stimulation did cause regressive brain disease with features of autism spectrum disorder.
Others, including former director of the National Institutes of Health Dr. Bernadine Healy and former CDC director Julie Gerberding, have also acknowledged that some children—particularly those with a mitochondrial disorder—can suffer damage from vaccines that leads to the symptoms associated with autism. In 2008, Gerberding told CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta:
…if a child was immunized, got a fever, had other complications from the vaccines. And if you’re predisposed with the mitochondrial disorder, it can certainly set off some damage. Some of the symptoms can be symptoms that have characteristics of autism.
For the population as a whole, the bottom line is that there are no conclusive studies on either side of the autism-vaccine debate. Having media outlets endlessly repeat the claim that there are, and that the debate is “settled,” doesn’t make that claim any less false. Jabbed: How the Vaccin... Best Price: $18.85 Buy New $19.03 (as of 12:00 EST - Details)
A DANGEROUS CONVERSATION
Let’s be absolutely clear: The position of the people who pressured Amazon, Facebook, Pinterest, GoFundMe, and other platforms to shut down content critical of vaccines is that ordinary people should not be free to discuss, debate, nor share information about, the safety of vaccines.
The question is: Why?
Those who make and promote vaccines are right to worry about a free and open conversation about the safety of their products. Their strategy to date has been to insist that “there is no debate” about vaccine safety, that “the science is settled.” And for a very long time they have gotten away with simply repeating these mantras. But the more they engage in what can only be described as Orwellian suppression of information, the more people start to wonder what they are afraid we might find out.
Once anyone starts looking closely, it becomes very clear just how mendacious both the industry and the media have been. It quickly becomes apparent that the WHO declaration is a truckload of nonsense; that vaccines have not, in fact, been proven to be “safe and effective”; that the science is not settled with regard to the vaccine-autism connection; and that the illnesses the vaccine proponents want us to be afraid of are in fact, not all that scary—certainly not as scary as a government with the power to force people to inject substances into their bodies against their will.
For those whose livelihoods are tied to an ever-increasing vaccine schedule, and ever-increasing sales of vaccines, this is a very dangerous conversation indeed.