Doublespeak: A Dr. Bob Special

Dr. Bob Sears is the author of a bunch of books, the salesman of supplements, a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics, and a master of doublespeak about vaccines. According to Dr. Bob, he gives vaccines in his office every day. Why, then, does he work so hard to frighten parents about vaccines and downplay the effects of the diseases they prevent?

His newest venture, a supposed non-profit organization called Immunity Education Group (Do Not Link hyperlink), is a case in point. The website itself says almost nothing useful to anyone, but it appears that the real meat of his work is on the associated Facebook page, co-adminned by self-proclaimed data analyst Melissa Floyd.

The past few weeks, I have been ignoring Dr. Bob’s new Facebook page because sometimes ignoring them makes them wither and fade away. But one post last week drew in my attention (and some of my precious time and efforts):

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Since Dr. Bob is so long-winded, I didn’t screen capture the entire post. But this is the part that caught my attention:

Do you see it now? This press conference wasn’t about disease information; it’s the beginning of a hunt for pockets of vulnerability. And, I gotta hand it to them, the CDC’s answer was sheer brilliance. “No, we’re not the bad guys. We won’t share the data. School vaccine laws and sharing exemption information is a STATE and local matter. We’re are staying out of that.” The quotes are my paraphrase of the CDC answer. But the CDC wrapped it up this this statement (my quotes again, but it’s almost word for word):

“We encourage parents to find out their local vaccine exemption levels so that they can work together to help everyone do what’s good for their community.” Yes, they actually said that. It sounded so righteous, useful, and proper yesterday. But when you look at the whole picture, I worry that it’s a portend of what’s to come.

This is why we must work hard to come together, understand one another, start having conversations, accept one another’s varying medical beliefs, and learn to live together in peace and harmony. The current system is working well; diseases are under control, and we have very high vaccination rates. Less than 1% of families make the medical decision to forego vaccines. Coercion is unnecessary and divisive. The alternative, as laid out by the Centers for Disease Control and Propaganda, almost seems like the beginnings of a which hunt: which kids are unvaccinated in YOUR neighborhood, and what are YOU going to do about it?

– Dr. Bob Sears, Immunity Education Group

In other words, Dr. Bob doesn’t want vaccination rates at the school level (or district level, county level, whatever level) shared because he is afraid that it will turn into a “which hunt” for his patients. Or unvaccinated patients in general.

So much about this caught my attention since I was on that same CDC media call. Here’s a screen grab of my less-alarming notes:

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Yes, I cannot use less than symbols properly when typing quickly.

You’ll note the lack of CDC intimating that parents should go out and harass the parents of their children’s unvaccinated classmates. Since 21 states now offer this information, you would think the anti-vaxxers would be recounting these incidents if they were happening. But they aren’t. In fact, most parents I know who seek out this information want to know their child’s chances of being exposed to measles or chickenpox. Others want their children going to schools with high science literacy.

In fact, I’d venture to guess that most parents looking up immunization rates for their schools are using them far more legitimately than those looking up free and reduced lunch rates at schools. All sorts of data is available to parents in ways that preserves the privacy of students.

At one point on Facebook, Melissa Floyd, who is not a doctor, took over the reins of moderating the thread. And things went downhill.

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At that point, I asked Melissa for a citation showing that the CDC claims that immunity against measles lasts for a maximum of 15 years after MMR. I also pointed out that a woman in Washington died from measles. My comment asking for a citation seems to have disappeared, and Melissa moved on claiming that no school district with high PBEs was part of the measles outbreak and other such fabricated bologna. Fortunately, others asked her for a citation, and Dr. Bob jumped in to correct this piece of misinformation, right?

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Oh dang.

So we know that Dr. Bob isn’t very good at math (by his own admission) or at getting information about vaccines correct. He’s not good at social media, and he’s not good at choosing which side has the larger market base (hint: it’s the side with the 95% of parents who vaccinate).

But he’s great at doublespeak.

See, it’s not that measles lasts a lifetime. It’s that the package insert shows antibodies after 11-13 years. Dr. Bob still has antibodies from his MMR. But some adults might not have antibodies. How many adults? Not important. But the vaccine wears off and the CDC recommends boosters for people like pregnant women because of their rubella immunity. Oh, and if you spread misinformation, he will ban you.

It’s almost magnificent, the amount of obfuscation. In fact, he’s saying almost nothing. He is saying both that immunity from measles lasts 13 years, and that it lasts for much longer. He is saying that immunity from the MMR wanes and that it doesn’t for most people. And he is using pregnant women and their need to be immune to rubella as proof that measles immunity…something.

He might as well have posted a William Carlos Williams poem and told people to interpret it as they see fit.

His comment regarding the woman who died in Washington, though, was much clearer. He says we cannot know if she died from measles, and his actions show that he would prefer to believe that she didn’t because then he can’t lull people into believing that protection against death from measles is a matter of nutrition.

But here’s the thing. The coroner and the state department of health think she died from measles:

The death of a Clallam County woman this spring was due to an undetected measles infection that was discovered at autopsy.

The woman was most likely exposed to measles at a local medical facility during a recent outbreak in Clallam County. She was there at the same time as a person who later developed a rash and was contagious for measles. The woman had several other health conditions and was on medications that contributed to a suppressed immune system. She didn’t have some of the common symptoms of measles such as a rash, so the infection wasn’t discovered until after her death. The cause of death was pneumonia due to measles.

Dr. Bob can dissemble and juggle with the truth all he likes, but had this woman not been exposed to measles because of unvaccinated people, she wouldn’t have died.

That one fact, that someone in the United States in the year 2015 has died from an illness we can easily and safely prevent, is not something to ploy coy with. And because of her senseless death, parents want to make sure that their children are in places where such diseases are not spread. And I think that it’s every parent’s right to know how vulnerable their schools are to the spread of preventable disease.

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4 thoughts on “Doublespeak: A Dr. Bob Special

  1. I think it is particularly dishonest of Dr. Lob Fears (Chris Hickie’s name for him) to raise fears about the reporting vaccination rates at the school level, as California has been publishing said data for YEARS. Up until fairly recently (2008-2009, IIRC) they only published PDFs, but California’s immunization department has been publishing searchable, sortable spreadsheets with just that data.

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  2. “All women of childbearing age who have lost their immunity to rubella are recommended to get a booster.”

    How common is that?

    I would say the attempt to downplay the harms of measles is just as bad as the attempt to downplay the strength of MMR, one of our most effective vaccines. We don’t want children in the U.S. dying from SSPE.

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