The Anti-vaxxers Might Wish that What was Lost had not been Found

The anti-vaxxers went wild after the recording of the Minnesota Senate hearing regarding an immunization bill (SF380) was lost. They had brought Dr. Toni Bark (who runs a website called SkinandchocolateDOTcom and recently helped release an infomercial-disguised-as-documentary) whose testimony was long. And that’s the end of my positive description of her testimony. Actually, one pro-vaccine advocate told me they heard a senator at the hearing say to an anti-vaccine organizer that they should never have her testify again because she was so unimpressive. Yet, the anti-vaccine word was that the recording was purposely hidden because her testimony was good and a threat to all things pro-vaccine. I don’t know whether or not they are rejoicing, though, at the found recording, which can be found here and on the Minnesota legislature website. If I were them, I would be particularly embarrassed at this exchange between Senator Carla Nelson and Dr. Toni Bark, where Senator Nelson questions how Dr. Bark could point to Minnesotan Dr. Greg Poland‘s research to support her position. I will transcribe the important part (about one hour in) here:

Sen. Nelson: My question, Dr. Bark…is you’ve referenced Dr. Gregory Poland and his study The Paradox of Measles, and I couldn’t tell exactly from your testimony if you were indicating that he was in opposition to this bill or support.

Dr. Bark: Oh, I don’t know how he would feel about the bill, all I know is…I have no idea how he would feel about the bill. So I spoke to him when I was writing my papers for my medical, my graduate school program which is a two year program in medical science and disaster medical management, and I focused on vaccines in that two years, and he has written extensively about measles outbreaks and talks about the paradox of measles and he’s not the only one. There’s mathematical biologists who actually because it’s a live viral vaccine and you shed and there’s going to be about 15 to 20 percent of the population that might not get an antibody response from the vaccine and then we know from certain outbreaks that even with an antibody response, you are not necessarily protected. So the mathematical biologists, and Poland has agreed, state that you can never eliminate measles and that, in fact, part of the reason because of what was said before is that women who didn’t have measles as children do not impart the same immunity. The immunity to their infants does not last as long, and so we tend to see measles in a vaccinated population going from a younger age and an older age, and not the normal age that you would normally see. So it is kind of complex, but he does, it’s the paradox of measles because the paradox does seem that most people with measles have been vaccinated.

Sen. Nelson: Madam Chair and Dr. Bark, well, I did just get off the phone with Dr. Greg Poland.

Dr. Bark: Oh wow!

Sen. Nelson: Because I had visited with him about this bill myself. It was a very important bill, and I know he is an expert on measles vaccines particularly. So, I will just tell you what he reiterated to me on the phone now. He is not in favor of mandated vaccines, except in certain cases such as healthcare workers, something like that. But this bill does not mandate vaccines.

Dr. Bark: Right.

Sen. Nelson: So we want to be very clear about this. It does not mandate vaccines. He also talked a little bit about the paradox in measles, and talking as a scientist, how exactly, as you said, he doesn’t believe that measles will ever be eradicated, for maybe all the reasons you said. But he also said that sometimes people who oppose the vaccines will pick out one sentence in the scientific study and extrapolate it to mean things that it does not mean. So he did say that he does support certainly informed exemption, such as this bill is, and his closing comment to me was also the first part is what you said, but perhaps not the second. He said that measles is the most contagious disease that we know, and yet we found that fear and ignorance is more so. So I just wanted to clarify the record on that Madam Chair.¬†

This exchange is, of course, full of anti-vaccine misinformation and smacks of anti-vaccine desperation in the Gish Gallop Dr. Toni Bark provides. I could do an in-depth analysis of how the measles vaccine does not shed or how most people who contract measles during an outbreak are unvaccinated, but I think the fact that she tries to hang on the words of a pro-vaccine doctor in his own state, to his own state senator, shows just how insulated and clueless the anti-vaccine movement is. That and the fact that they had her testify again in Vermont. Cue sad trombone.

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