This morning, Orac called Keith Olbermann out on his ridiculous “worst person in the world” slot yesterday, where he (Olbermann) named Brian Deer as one of his ”worsts”. Olbermann called Deer’s reporting of the Wakefield MMR/autism fraud “journalistic malfeasance”, apparently because The Times didn’t mention that the investigation into Wakefield was the result of a complaint by Brian Deer. Leaving aside for now the fact that that Deer is not the complainant in this case anyway, my reaction was “so what?” How would Deer being the complainant change the facts so that Wakefield suddenly magically didn’t commit fraud any more? Obviously, it wouldn’t.
Of course, we know that Wakefield's work was flawed at best, and paid for by those seeking to sue vaccine manufacturers. Deer (as anyone knows) has been covering this story for years. As Orac writes:
Olbermann apparently doesn't know that the reason Deer made the complaint to the British GMC was because of what he found in his original report in 2004 and then again in 2006. In other words, Deer discovered that Wakefield had been in the pocket of a trial lawyers seeking to sue vaccine manufacturers, having accepted £435,643 in fees, plus £3,910 expenses for his "research." Who wouldn't have reported him to the GMC for that?
Talk about a conflict of interest. We now know that Olbermann’s piece was essentially written for him by anti-vaccine crank David Kirby, who is crowing about it today on the Huff Post. Several people including Brian Deer himself have written to Olbermann today to inform him of his mistake(s), but since there was no retraction from Olbermann tonight we have to conclude that Olbermann is happy with his hatchet job on a respected journalist. Pretty ironic for someone who criticizes Fox News presenters for reading talking points given to them without checking the facts.
Vaccines Didn’t Cause Autism
Which brings us to a related story. Today a special court ruled that evidence presented to the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program did not demonstrate a link between autism and childhood vaccines:
In a statement shortly after the release of the decisions, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said it continues to support research "to better understand the cause of autistic disorders and develop more effective methods of treatment."
However, "the medical and scientific communities ... have found no association between vaccines and autism."
This is possibly a bigger deal than it may appear. The Vaccine Injury Compensation Program was set up to compensate anyone who might have been injured by vaccines. And quite rightly so. Everyone benefits from a vaccinated population, and so it’s only fair that the very small number of people who are actually injured by vaccines should be compensated by the rest of us. With this in mind, the Compensation Program was set up to make it easy for anyone injured by vaccines to claim compensation, with minimal legal and financial hurdles to overcome. The result is that the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program is very favorable to litigants. The standard of proof is much lower than it would be in a regular court. And of course, in a regular court, the standards of evidence are much lower than they would be in the world of science. So these hearings would have been expected to be very friendly to the litigants. The fact that even these courts found no link from vaccines to autism is very telling.
I predict that Kirby and his merry band will now commence smear tactics on the special masters of the court, and/or anyone else they can blame for this eminently sensible decision. One thing they will not do, I predict, is reflect that maybe, just possibly, it is just conceivable that they might be wrong about vaccines and autism. They won’t do that because nothing will ever change their minds. It’s the vaccines. It just has to be. Anyone want to bet I’m wrong?