[I've updated this post to include more links to blogs covering this, and to add information on the serious complications of measles, mumps, and rubella. There's also a link to Jeni's 'response' to the Bad Scientists.]
I was going to post some ramblings on the dangers of homophily, but I’ve just found out that LBC have contacted Ben Goldacre (or had their lawyers contact him) to complain about a segment of Jeni’s show that appeared on the Bad Science blog along with (brief) commentary from Ben. I think this is a bad move – LBC should really be apologising to the nation for allowing Jeni to pollute the airwaves with ignorant tosh about vaccines, a subject she seems to know very little about. I don’t know why LBC chose to send in the lawyers, but Legal Chill is a pretty disgusting way of attempting to silence criticism.
What I think LBC should be doing is making the clip freely available so we can all discuss it. Here, though, is one highlight referred to by a reader of the BadScience blog:
“Is there anything wrong with having measles?”
Well, only if you consider (for example) death or subacute sclerosing panencephalitis to be serious. Other than that sort of awkward complication, Jeni is right – there’s nothing wrong with having measles. [EDIT: there's a handy post by the Lay Scientist on the dangers of measles - here. And more at the bottom of this updated post.]
Here’s something from Jeni’s blog:
Injecting tiny babies with substances that may compromise their immune system needs to be looked at not shouted down.
Uh-huh. Actually, Jeni, multiple vaccines do not compromise the immune system. “By providing protection against a number of bacterial and viral pathogens, vaccines prevent the “weakening” of the immune system and consequent secondary bacterial infections occasionally caused by natural infection.” [Offit - PDF available.] The concept of immune overload was also referred to by Cassandra Jardine last December in the Telegraph (which I only mention because I blogged it).
Here’s a bit more:
Single jabs on demand? Why is that a problem?
Erm – because spacing out the vaccinations leaves children unprotected from serious, preventable diseases? For example, following a schedule of single measles jabs (e.g. measles one year, mumps the next, rubella the year after that) leaves children exposed to two-out-of-three of these diseases for 12 months and to one-out-of-three for 24 months. Which is clearly a recklessly stupid course of action.
Here’s something else from Jeni’s blog:
Should anybody from BAD SCIENCE read this I urge you to continue the debate, and if it gets too heated there is always the option of turning me off. [My italics.]
Clearly not a sentiment shared by LBC and their lawyers…
EDIT: More, more, more…
This has now been covered by a number of bloggers: biggerpills.com; DrRachie (who has excerpts on Youtube); and Dr* T and Holfordwatch have fuller lists of bloggers covering this story (Holfordwatch also have a transcript of part of the broadcast here, with more on layscience.net). A couple more: nontoxic.org.uk; Political Scientist; and a picture tells a thousand words.
Jeni’s blog is here [EDIT 10/2/09: the page is down - see the Quackometer blog for more.] and she has support from John Scudamore and John Stone of JABS. The only problem I have with that is that homophily breeds ignorance. EDIT: Jeni has now posted a response to the criticism of her spouting dangerously wrong bullshit about MMR: here; and rather than engage with the perfectly legitimate criticisms, has decided to complain about sarcasm and arrogance. If there’s a point, you can guarantee Jeni will miss it. People are not nitpicking over semantics, people are not unduly angry with Jeni, people are genuinely concerned about the way LBC have given Jeni a platform to misinform the public about serious public health issues such as vaccination. Jeni is ill-informed on the subject and as a result, her listeners have been exposed to misinformation – and it is a very important subject indeed. Measles is by no means trivial, and neither are mumps or rubella come to that. In fact, although one of the concerns about MMR is the mistaken belief that it causes autism, high rates of autism have been observed in children with congenital rubella infection – here is a paper on this topic. There’s also this one. Here’s a PDF showing (on page 6) the rates of complications of measles in comparison with vaccination and (on page 2) graphs showing the rates of measles, mumps, and rubella prior to and since vaccines were introduced. This PDF presents a rough overview of the evidence on MMR and autism: here (note that 25 studies show no link and of the three that do, one has been retracted). [BPSDB]