Sep 292012
Study provides evidence for effect of expanded diagnostic criteria on rates of autism

Many people are very concerned with the apparent “explosion” of autism rates. Back in the 80s and 90s, autism prevalence was very low at about 4/10,000. More recent estimates from the CDC currently stand at 1/88, a significant change. As the pattern-seeking animals that we are, many people have made a connection between the apparent rise in autism rates and an expansion of the childhood vaccination schedule, drawing an immature, and scientifically unsupported, conclusion that vaccines must have cause the increase in autism rates. Alternative explanations have been put forth, the most plausible one being the “casting of a wider ———->FULL ARTICLE

Feb 232012

Recently a new study came out which suggested that changes to the brains of autistic children might be detectable as early as 6 months of age. Steve Novella has covered this particular study at his Neurologica blog so there is no need to repeat what he said there. Predictably, the anti-vaccination crowd has come out restating their belief that vaccinations are still to blame. Now, to be fair nothing in this study proves that vaccines cannot cause, or have any effect on, autism. All it says is that it may be possible to notice differences in the brain as early ———->FULL ARTICLE

May 142011

One of the points that anti-vaccine proponents keep bringing up is how autism prevalence has been going up over the past few decades. They notice how autism diagnoses have gone up and correlate that with an expanded vaccine schedule, then finally make the leap to imply it was the vaccines that caused autism. When we say that an expanded definition and expanded surveillance is what has in big part resulted in the increase, they laugh it off. That is not possible, they say; the increase must be a real increase of actual cases. Recently, a new study came out of ———->FULL ARTICLE

May 062011
Age of Autism considers reliable only the sources that agree with them

Between the Obama ‘Birthers’, climate change deniers, and those who insist that Osama bin Laden’s reported death was staged, conspiracy theories and denialism have been ubiquitous in the news lately. Science journalist and author Chris Mooney has only been one of many to recently discuss the psychology of denialism at length. Mooney’s latest article on the topic begins with an appropriate quote by  Stanford University psychologist Leon Festinger, who observed: A man with a conviction is a hard man to change. Tell him you disagree and he turns away. Show him facts or figures and he questions your sources. Appeal ———->FULL ARTICLE

Apr 082011

Given that April is Autism Awareness Month, it seemed appropriate to briefly discuss the early history of the autism-vaccine hypothesis. Though this alleged link is often stated as having begun with Andrew Wakefield’s 1998 Lancet paper, Trine Tsouderos, a science journalist at the Chicago Tribune, reminded the audience at a recent panel discussion on vaccines in New York City, it really began in 1982 with a television documentary by Lea Thompson called DPT: Vaccine Roulette. The film, which earned Thompson an Emmy Award, caused hysteria by suggesting the DPT (diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus) vaccine was dangerous and propelled Thompson into the ———->FULL ARTICLE

Mar 122011

This is part 3 of my report on the book launch for Vaccine Epidemic: How Corporate Greed, Biased Science, and Coercive Government Threaten Our Human Rights, Our Health, and Our Children, held at New York University (part 1 and part 2). In this installment, I’ll cover the second panel discussion on the topic of personal injury stories moderated by Kim Mack Rosenberg. Yes,it’s a panel discussion on anecdotal evidence. This is also the subject of the whole second section of the book. To get a better understanding of why anecdotes are viewed by science as notoriously weak forms of evidence, ———->FULL ARTICLE

Mar 032011

Last week, I began my 4-part report on the book launch for Vaccine Epidemic: How Corporate Greed, Biased Science, and Coercive Government Threaten Our Human Rights, Our Health, and Our Children, held at New York University. In part 1, I covered the ten-minute introduction by the book’s co-authors, Louise Habakus and Mary Holland. In this second installment,  I’ll look at the first of the three panel discussions. I apologize if I seem to editorialize a little more  or become snarkier in part 2, but some of the statements made by the panel were quite audacious and difficult to treat as ———->FULL ARTICLE

Nov 022010
Journal Club Debunks Anti-Vaccine Myths

READ THE REST OF THIS ENTRY AT SCIENCE BASED MEDICINE American Family Physician, the journal of the American Academy of Family Physicians, has a feature called AFP Journal Club, where physicians analyze a journal article that either involves a hot topic affecting family physicians or busts a commonly held medical myth. In the September 15, 2010 issue they discussed “Vaccines and autism: a tale of shifting hypotheses,” by Gerber and Offit, published in Clinical Infectious Diseasesin 2009. The article presented convincing evidence to debunk 3 myths: MMR causes autism. Thimerosal (mercury) causes autism. Simultaneous administration of multiple vaccines overwhelms and weakens ———->FULL ARTICLE