Intended for healthcare professionals

Feature Secrets of the MMR scare

How the case against the MMR vaccine was fixed

BMJ 2011; 342 doi: (Published 06 January 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;342:c5347

Re: How the case against the MMR vaccine was fixed

The comments so far has shown how the term “anti vaccine” derails a discussion. The term is ill defined, leading to much time spent debating whether one is or is not “anti vaccine”. For example, Prof. Shaw and Lucija Tomljenovic in their comments focused on this point in his defense of the conference they helped organize.

I would have appreciated if Mr. Shaw would have discussed the conference organization and focus, given his experience as an organizer and attendee. Specifically, the intentions of those who provided the principle financial support (the Dwoskin Family Foundation) and the primary sponsor (the National Vaccine Information Center) [1]. These organizers hold positions on vaccines which are clearly out of the mainstream. Claire Dwoskin has stated from her position as a board member of the National Vaccine Information Center that “Vaccines are a holocaust of poison on our children’s brains and immune systems.”[2] Ms. Fisher, president of the NVIC and conference speaker, has posed the vaccine discussion as being between two camps: “The fact that manmade vaccines cannot replicate the body's natural experience with the disease is one of the key points of contention between those who insist that mankind cannot live without mass use of multiple vaccines and those who believe that mankind's biological integrity will be severely compromised by their continued use.”[3]

Whether these positions are “anti vaccine” or not, they are clearly not pro vaccine, or really supported by science.

Lucija Tomljenovic made a case that the conference was “not an anti-vaccine campaign” by focusing on one speaker at the conference who has expressed pro-vaccine views. Again, rather than debate such an ill-defined term as “anti-vaccine”, it might be worth considering whether the conference is pushing the enveleope or outside the envelope. Other talks at the conference [4] included Lucija Tomljenovic’s own “Gardasil: prophylaxis or medical misconduct?” In addition, Shiv Chopra spoke on “Vaccination programs: prevention or corruption?” Another example of a speaker perhaps outside the envelope would be Lawrence Palevsky, who spoke on “Rethinking the germ theory”. His website promotes disease over vaccination with statements such as: “children need to be allowed to experience symptoms of acute illness in order for their bodies to appropriately cleanse the wastes and toxins from their systems, and so they can go forward in their lives toward greater optimal health and wellness”[5]. In an interview where he purportedly exposes “vaccine myths” he makes a statement directly on point of vaccine safety:“…I cannot understand how a vaccine with a virus can be safe.” [6]

The conference had as a primary goal networking not only the researchers themselves, but connecting the researchers with private donors to support research which is not being funded through regular channels[1]. Further, Prof. Shaw has put himself in the position of defending not only the conference he helped organize, but the viewpoints of a present and possibly future source of funding, as he is supported by the Dwoskin Family Foundation[7].

Just as the attendees of the Jamaica conference have the right to offer criticism of a vaccine program which they may see as a “holocaust of poison”, those of us who rely upon a safe and effective vaccine program should be free to offer criticisms of views of the conference organizers and attendees. Was the conference organized by “anti-vaccine campaigners”? I’ll let each decide that based on their own definition of “anti-vaccine”. Was it a “vaccine safety” conference as it purports to be? Not by my definition.








Competing interests: Father of an autistic child

19 December 2011
Matthew Carey