by Marco Cáceres
My favorite late night television host of all time was David Letterman. He was on the air for 33 years, from 1982 to 2015.1 I thoroughly enjoyed his wacky, cutting edge, biting humor. He was definitely not palatable to everyone’s taste—certainly not like Johnny Carson. But you just had to love his Stupid Pet Tricks segment or crazy stunts like the time he had the U.S. women’s soccer team kick soccer balls off the roof above the Ed Sullivan Theater in New York City.
Perhaps the segment I looked forward to the most was Dave’s nightly Top 10 List where he would read (or have a guest read) a list of 10 items on a particular theme, going from least ridiculous or outrageous to most ridiculous or outrageous. In all, Dave presented a total of 4,605 Top 10 Lists.2
The other day, I was reading an article by pediatrician Paul Offit, MD, who is the director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia3 and a well-known spokesperson for the vaccine manufacturing industry. The article is titled “Fading Immunity to MMR Vaccine May Be Behind the Mumps Epidemic.”4 There was nothing particularly groundbreaking about Dr. Offit’s piece. The main point had to do with the apparent resurgence of mumps in the United States of late and how the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is looking into addressing the failure of the mumps vaccine by recommending a third dose of the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine for children 11-13 years of age.
But there was a little dig tucked away in the middle of the article that did not escape me. Dr. Offit wrote that the reason for mumps outbreaks in the U.S. is because “some parents are choosing not to vaccinate their children.”4
This is a common refrain by many pediatricians throughout the country when vaccines fail to prevent infectious diseases, and certainly by those who have a vested financial interest in the production and sale of vaccines. In an article I recently wrote about pediatrician Peter J. Hotez, MD, PhD, director of the Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development in Houston and dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at the Baylor College of Medicine, I noted that Dr. Hotez employed the same blame game tactic:
Dr. Hotez cites a report by Daniel Salmon at the Johns Hopkins Institute of Vaccine Safety and Saad Omer at Emory’s Rollins School of Public Health claiming that most of the measles cases in the United States in 2015 can be blamed on “intentionally unvaccinated” people.5
So threatened is Dr. Hotez by parents and others who choose to defend their informed consent rights with regard to vaccination that he believes that “we need to take steps now to snuff it out”—referring to what he calls the “anti-vaccine” movement.5 I suspect Dr. Offit may well share this sentiment. Few people have been more aggressive and vocal than Dr. Offit in criticizing those who dare question the mainstream vaccine paradigm that assumes vaccines are safe and effective and opt to make their own informed decisions. In the process, Dr. Offit has a long list of beliefs that, at least to me, sound bizarre.
The following is my Top 10 List for statements made by Dr. Offit:
10. “They’re communities that have large populations of Caucasian, upper middle class residents who are college educated, often graduate school educated, and believe simply by Googling the term ‘vaccine’ on the Internet, they can know as much, if not more than anyone who’s giving them advice. …They have an amazing ability to ignore scientific consensus.”6
9. “A choice not to vaccinate is a choice not to trust those who research, manufacture, license, recommend, promote, and administer vaccines—specifically the government, pharmaceutical companies, and doctors.”7
8. “I think it is not important to have a debate about the science with someone who clearly doesn’t know the science. … I don’t think it is fair to have a debate with two sides when only one side is represented by the science.”8
7. “Mercury certainly is a toxin, there’s no doubt about it. But as Paracelsus said in the 16th century, the dose makes the poison. That’s always true.”9
6. “Aluminum is considered to be an essential metal with quantities fluctuating naturally during normal cellular activity. It is found in all tissues and is also believed to play an important role in the development of a healthy fetus.”10
5. “I think the good news is the media, certainly the mainstream media, has gotten much more responsible about covering this subject (vaccines). It used to be that they would tell two sides of the story, when only one side was supported by the science… that’s not true anymore. Mainstream media is much better about this, even entertainment television…”11
4. “I don’t think there’s an epidemic of autism. I think that if we went into a time machine, and went back 30 or 40 years, and use the same diagnostic criteria that we currently use to diagnose autism, and introduce it into the communities so that everybody is aware as they are now, and also make it very clear in that community now 30 years in the past that you will qualify for services if you have this diagnosis, I think you would find that the incidence of autism would be the same 30 years ago as it is now.”12
3. “A more practical way to determine the diversity of the immune response would be to estimate the number of vaccines to which a child could respond at one time… each infant would have the theoretical capacity to respond to about 10,000 vaccines at any one time.”13
2. “If you want to know whether or not something is harmful in children, test it in children.”12
And the number 1 statement by Dr. Offit (drum roll, please) is…
1. “I’m sorry. I have no financial conflicts of interest. This is my only real conflict is that I am a Philadelphia Eagles season ticket holder, which gives me an inability to actually effectively assess that team.”14
For the record, Dr. Offit has earned millions of dollars in royalty income from the sale of the Rotateq vaccine which he co-developed with Merck & Co.15 16 17 I think that pretty much says it all. The rest of the List more than amply speaks for itself. (Side note: The choice between number 1 and number 2 for the top slot was very hard.)