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Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Republicans Account for 60 Percent of the Unvaxxed

In The Politics of Autism, I analyze the discredited notion that vaccines cause autism. This bogus idea can hurt people by allowing diseases to spread  And among those diseases could be COVID-19.

Antivaxxers are sometimes violent, often abusive, and always wrong.  

UnfortunatelyRepublican politicians and conservative media figures are increasingly joining up with the anti-vaxxers.  There is a great deal of overlap between MAGA World and the antivax movement.

From KFF:

By April 2021, a majority of U.S. adults (56%) self-reported they had already received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Among the 43% of adults who said at that time that they had not yet been vaccinated, about four in ten (42%) identified as Republicans or Republican-leaning independents and about one-third (36%) identified as Democrats or leaned that way, while 16% identified as independents who didn’t lean toward either party. The partisan divide between vaccinated and unvaccinated adults became even more evident as larger shares of the population received COVID-19 vaccines. Now, six months later, in October 2021, one-quarter (27%) of U.S. adults say they have not gotten a COVID-19 vaccine, but the unvaccinated population is now disproportionately made up of those who identify as Republican or Republican-leaning, with six in ten (60%) identifying as Republican or Republican-leaning (compared to about four in ten of the U.S. total adult population1) and just one in six (17%) calling themselves Democrats or Democratic-leaning. 


Monday, November 29, 2021

Polling People with Disabilities

In The Politics of Autism, I write:  "Support from the general public will be an important political asset for autistic people. Another will be their sheer numbers, since a larger population of identified autistic adults will mean more autistic voters and activists."

Andrew Pulrang at Forbes has a recommendation for survey organizations:

Include questions about disability and disability issues in standard political polling. There has been some valuable work on disabled people’s voting patterns over the last few election cycles, particularly from Rutgers University and Pew Research. But we would understand a lot more if all political and opinion polls would measure disability along with race, age, gender, and other demographic categories. Over time this would also prompt more people with disabilities to think about how their disabilities might shape their political identity and voting decisions.

Sunday, November 28, 2021

Wakefield: Forefather of COVID Antivaxxers

In The Politics of Autism, I analyze the discredited notion that vaccines cause autism. This bogus idea can hurt people by allowing diseases to spread  And among those diseases could be COVID-19.

Antivaxxers are sometimes violent, often abusive, and always wrong.  The ur-antivaxxer of our time is the disgraced Andrew Wakefield.

Matthew Rozsa at Salon:
A direct line can be drawn between Wakefield's assertions about MMR vaccines and the rhetoric about COVID-19 vaccines (an issue where Wakefield is also anti-science, but has not emerged as a prominent voice). Studies have repeatedly found that general vaccine skepticism increased as a direct result of Wakefield's study; just last August, researchers writing for the scientific journal PLOS One again confirmed that vaccine hesitancy went up after Wakefield's paper came out.

"The Wakefield et al paper arrived at an interesting time in history," epidemiologist Dr. René Najera told Salon in June. "The internet was growing. The 24-hour news cycle was growing. People like Jenny McCarthy and others were becoming 'influencers.' His paper only brought to the forefront fears that many parents had: that vaccines caused developmental delays. Before 1998, you didn't have the internet as a bullhorn, or time to interview or showcase celebrities."

While hesitation about vaccines existed before Wakefield, the British doctor made it possible for misinformation to do something that had previously only occurred in the world of epidemics: achieving virality. Even after Wakefield himself sank into obscurity, other anti-vaccine activists emerged to take his place. By normalizing the practice of questioning vaccines without regard to reliable medical knowledge, they laid the foundations for the denial of the COVID-19 vaccines that is so prevalent today.

Wakefield may not be one of the so-called "disinformation dozen" —
social media voices today who create two-thirds of all anti-vaxxer content online — but he is their forefather. Without Wakefield, it is hard to imagine that the anti-vaccination movement would have been so loud before the pandemic that it would metastasize during it, to the extent that millions of Americans now view opposing vaccines as a crucial part of their identity.

Saturday, November 27, 2021

JBS and RFK Jr.

In The Politics of Autism, I analyze the discredited notion that vaccines cause autism. This bogus idea can hurt people by allowing diseases to spread  And among those diseases could be COVID-19.

Antivaxxers are sometimes violent, often abusive, and always wrong.  

The John Birch Society, an old ultra-right group of conspiracy theorists, is plugging Robert Kennedy Jr.'s bogus claims about vaccines, including the toxic myth that they cause autism.


His father criticized the Society.  From NYT (4/7/61):  -- "Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy termed the John Birch Society "ridiculous" today. He said people should stop paying so much attention to it."

The John Birch Society had little use for his uncle.  From the Wisconsin Historical Society:

An advertisement placed in "The Dallas Morning News" on the morning of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. The ad attacked Kennedy's foreign and domestic policies. The lower half had a dozen questions starting with the word "Why," preceded by the statement "MR. KENNEDY, despite contentions on the part of your administration, the State Department, the Mayor of Dallas, the Dallas City Council, and members of your party, we free-thinking and America-thinking citizens of Dallas still have, through a Constitution largely ignored by you, the right to address our grievances, to question you, to disagree with you, and to criticize you. In asserting this constitutional right, we wish to ask you publicly the following questions — indeed, questions of paramount importance and interest to all free peoples everywhere — which we trust you will answer . . . in public, without sophistry." Note that the ad has a black border, a style similar to a death notice. The ad was placed by Bernard Weissman, Chairman of the American Fact-Finding Committee. The Committee described themselves as "an unaffiliated and nonpartisan group of citizens who wish truth," but they were in fact affiliated with the John Birch Society. The cost of the ad was $1,465.00, and was provided by Joseph P. Grinnan, who was a member of the John Birch Society. Bernard Weissman was not a member of the Society. He was shocked by the assassination, and feared he would be accused of involvement with the killing. He was interviewed by the Warren Commission. Afterwards, he left the Dallas area.

 

Friday, November 26, 2021

Antivax History

In The Politics of Autism, I analyze the discredited notion that vaccines cause autism. This bogus idea can hurt people by allowing diseases to spread  And among those diseases could be COVID-19.

Antivaxxers are sometimes violent, often abusive, and always wrong.  


Kayleigh Beaveridge at McGill Health E-News:
Fear of the development of syphilis and animalistic metamorphosis have been replaced with fears of the development of autism, immune disorders, allergies and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).14 The association, in particular, between the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine and autism is one of the most frequent concerns cited by parents when deciding whether or not to vaccinate their children.15 MMR, as a causative agent of autism, became popularized in the 1990s following the publication of Dr. Wakefield and colleagues’ article in the Lancet, which claimed to have evidence of an association between the MMR vaccine and “chronic enterocolitis and developmental regression”.16 Though the methodology of the study was questioned, its results disproven, and the paper retracted, the association remains at the forefront of the vaccination debate.17 The MMR vaccine-autism association is reminiscent of the smallpox vaccine-syphilis association of the 19th century by its consequences on the population despite a lack of supportive evidence. In both cases, the words of a physician coupled with repetition through visual media and by prominent figures have had a strong impact on the general population.

Caricatures published in booklets and handed out on street corners have been digitalized and bolstered by memes and pictures propagated by social media platforms such as YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, and Tumblr. A study on the presence of anti-vaccination content on YouTube in 2019 found that 32% of videos about vaccination were against the practice and that these videos had more views and higher ratings then content supporting vaccination.2 Quick searches on other social media platforms yielded caricatures which perpetuated beliefs that vaccines cause autism or SIDS (see Figures 3 and 4).

2. Benecke O, DeYoung SE. Anti-Vaccine Decision-Making and Measles Resurgence in the United States. Global Pediatric Health. 2019 Jan;6:2333794X1986294.

... 

14.Vaccine Choice Canada. Health Risks [Internet]. Available from: https://vaccinechoicecanada.com/health-risks/
15.Dubé E, Laberge C, Guay M, Bramadat P, Roy R, Bettinger JA. Vaccine hesitancy: An overview. Human Vaccines & Immunotherapeutics. 2013 Aug 8;9(8):1763–73.
16.Wakefield A, Murch S, Anthony A, Linnell J, Casson D, Malik M, et al. RETRACTED: Ileal-lymphoid-nodular hyperplasia, non-specific colitis, and pervasive developmental disorder in children. The Lancet. 1998 Feb;351(9103):637–41.17. Bean SJ. Emerging and continuing trends in vaccine opposition website content. Vaccine. 2011 Feb 24;29(10):1874–80.

Thursday, November 25, 2021

Another Antivaxxer Gets COVID

In The Politics of Autism, I analyze the discredited notion that vaccines cause autism. This bogus idea can hurt people by allowing diseases to spread  And among those diseases could be COVID-19.

Antivaxxers are sometimes violent, often abusive, and always wrong.  

UnfortunatelyRepublican politicians and conservative media figures are increasingly joining up with the anti-vaxxers.  There is a great deal of overlap between MAGA World and the antivax movement.

Steve Neavling at Detroit Metro Times:
A Trump-adoring Wayne County Republican who spread misinformation about COVID-19 and the vaccine has been hospitalized in intensive care after contracting the virus.

William Hartmann, former vice-chairman of the Wayne County Board of Canvassers, has been on a ventilator since about Nov. 6, according to his sister Elizabeth Hartmann.

Two sources confirmed to Metro Times that Hartmann has been in intensive care since early November.

The status of his health is unclear.

Hartmann, who refused to certify the county’s election in November 2020 after Joe Biden won, downplayed the coronavirus in a February 2020 Facebook post and questioned “all the hullabaloo in the media about” COVID-19. He suggested it was “about the money.”

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Antivaxxers Get COVID

In The Politics of Autism, I analyze the discredited notion that vaccines cause autism. This bogus idea can hurt people by allowing diseases to spread  And among those diseases could be COVID-19.

Antivaxxers are sometimes violent, often abusive, and always wrong.  

Several prominent antivax talk-radio hosts have died of COVID.  Alas, they are not alone.


Michael Daly at The Daily Beast:
To hear the fringe doctors who gathered at an equine facility for the Florida COVID Summit earlier this month, ivermectin is as effective against the virus in humans as it is against worms in horses.

“I have been on ivermectin for 16 months, my wife and I,” Dr. Bruce Boros declared at the end of the meeting at the World Equestrian Center in Ocala. “I have never felt healthier in my life.”

Two days later, the 71-year-old cardiologist fell ill with COVID-19, according to the organizer of the one-day gathering and two other people with direct knowledge.

The organizer, Dr. John Littell, further reported to The Daily Beast that six others among the 800 to 900 participants had also tested positive or developed COVID symptoms “within days of the conference.”

Chiara Giordano at The Independent:

A man has reportedly died and others are in intensive care after attending “coronavirus parties” in a bid to catch the disease.

The 55-year-old man died in Austria last week after becoming infected with Covid-19 during one such event in the city of Bolzano in South Tyrol, northern Italy.

At least three other people, including a child, are said to have been hospitalised in the Alpine region after catching the virus at similar events.

 

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Age of Diagnosis and Intervention

In The Politics of Autism, I discuss evaluation and diagnosis.

 Allison Hanley, Quynh C. Nguyen, Deborah Golant Badawi, Jie Chen, Tianzhou Ma & Natalie Slopen, "The diagnostic odyssey of autism: a cross-sectional study of 3 age cohorts of children from the 2016–2018 National Survey of Children’s Health," Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Mental Health volume 15, Article number: 58 (2021)

Abstract

Background

Autism prevalence has increased rapidly in recent years, however, nationally representative estimates on the ages of first identification and intervention are out of date. Objectives: (1) To estimate the ages at which children with autism receive their first diagnosis, intervention plan, and developmental services; and (2) To evaluate differences in ages at events by birth cohort and sociodemographic characteristics.

Methods

Using cross-sectional data from the 2016–2018 National Survey of Children’s Health (NSCH), we examined associations via linear regression among a sample of 2303 children aged 2–17 years old, who had ever been diagnosed with autism and either (1) ever had a plan for special education or early intervention, or (2) ever received special services to meet developmental needs. Exposures included age cohort, child, household and healthcare provider characteristics.

Results

Most children in the study sample (n = 2303) were over age 6 years, male, of non-Hispanic white race/ethnicity and had mild/moderate autism. Mean ages (years) at first diagnosis was 4.56 (SE = 0.13); first plan was 4.43 (SE = 0.11); and first services was 4.10 (SE = 0.11). After adjustment for exposures and survey year, the middle childhood cohort was 18 months older at first intervention (β = 1.49, 95% CI, 1.18–1.81), and adolescents were 38 months older at first diagnosis (β = 3.16, 95% CI, 2.72–3.60) compared to those in early childhood. Younger ages at events were observed among: Hispanic/Latinx as compared to white children, those with moderate or severe symptoms as compared to mild symptoms, and children who received their diagnosis from a specialist as compared to psychologists or psychiatrists.

Conclusions

Children with autism receive their first diagnosis, intervention plans and developmental services at younger ages than they had in the past. Future research is needed to identify the mechanisms for these improvements in early identification and intervention to accelerate additional progress.


Monday, November 22, 2021

Learning Loss and Compensatory Services

 In The Politics of Autism, I discuss the day-to-day challenges facing autistic people and their families. Those challenges get far more intense during disasters.  And coronavirus is proving to be the biggest disaster of all.  

A release from COPAA:
As COVID-19 continues to take its toll on the education of students, 86 percent of parents of students with disabilities say their child experienced learning losses, regression or slower than expected progress; however, fewer than 1 in 5 students with disabilities has received any offer for compensatory services from their school to help the child make up the losses, according to the results of a national survey released today by the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA).

...

COPAA conducted the national survey in response to recent federal guidance clarifying that the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) allows the school team responsible for developing the child’s IEP – including parents of students – to make decisions about the need for compensatory services. The guidance also clarifies that funding for the provision of compensatory services is available to all districts through the IDEA and the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund, which provided $189.5 billion to districts for K-12 education, with $122 billion available through January 2025. The survey asked parents about their experiences with compensatory services and with their child’s school.


Among key findings, the survey found:

• Only one in four parents (25 percent) reported they were informed by their school district about compensatory services.

• Less than one in five students (18 percent) received an offer for any compensatory services. • Schools and districts are not following the federal guidance regarding the awarding of such services; including guidance that requires parent input regarding the need for services, as less than one in four parents (23 percent) reported that offers reflected their input and another 30 percent reported that schools’ offers only “somewhat reflected” their input.

• Only one in seven parents (14 percent) indicated that they felt the process for awarding compensatory services was fair. Of those who were told their student did not qualify for services, only 4 percent agreed with the school’s decision.

• Four in nine parents (45 percent) who did receive an offer for compensatory services still do not know when services will commence.

...
The survey was conducted during October 27 – November 12, 2021 and included 254 responses representing 36 states and more than 200 school districts.

Sunday, November 21, 2021

Autism Blogs

 In The Politics of Autism, I examine the role of social media in the development of the issue.  Social media can spread vaccine disinformation, but they can also provide autistic people and their families with a way to connect with one another and to press for government action.

Social media is far from a perfect solution to the social barriers we experience. It comes with its own pitfalls and frustrations. But while most people could rattle off a list of negatives, it feels like a little-known secret that social media is the central hub of a thriving autistic community, in some ways uniquely suited to people who want to connect but do so in an atypical way. While social media isn’t for everyone, it is a valid and meaningful form of socializing that should be discussed, encouraged and supported.

Saturday, November 20, 2021

Tucker Carlson Hosts RFK Jr

In The Politics of Autism, I analyze the discredited notion that vaccines cause autism. This bogus idea can hurt people by allowing diseases to spread  And among those diseases could be COVID-19.

Antivaxxers are sometimes violent, often abusive, and always wrong.  

UnfortunatelyRepublican politicians and conservative media figures are increasingly joining up with the anti-vaxxers.  There is a great deal of overlap between MAGA World and the antivax movement.

Nikki McCann Ramirez at Media Matters:

Fox host Tucker Carlson hosted anti-vaxxer and conspiracy theorist Robert F. Kennedy Jr. for a fawning interview on his Fox Nation show Tucker Carlson Today. Kennedy is a well-known figure in anti-vaccine circles and one of the most prominent backers of baseless conspiracy theories attempting to link conditions such as autism to vaccines.

During the November 15 interview, Carlson urged viewers to purchase Kennedy’s latest book, a screed accusing Dr. Anthony Fauci of intentionally bungling the pandemic, killing alternatives to the vaccine, and launching an assault on the First Amendment in order to silence critics. Kennedy walked Carlson’s audience through a grab bag of his most notorious conspiracy theories, at one point asserting his belief that vaccines had to be one of the “key suspects” behind the rise in cases of autism.


 

Thursday, November 18, 2021

"Child With Autism" Signs in Buffalo

 In The Politics of Autism, I write about the everyday struggles facing autistic people and their families -- including safety on the streets.

WRGZ in Buffalo:

The City of Buffalo has started the process of installing "Child with Autism" signs along roadways and in several neighborhoods in the Queen City.


The "Child with Autism" signs are being installed to warn drivers to be alert for children with autism who live in the area and may have difficulty recognizing the danger of oncoming traffic.

...
Based on recent state regulations the "Child with Autism" signs can be installed in an area when a child with autism is under the age of 18. The child must live in a house on a residential street where the speed limit is 35 mph or less and the daily traffic volume is less than 2,000 vehicles on average. In addition, a parent or guardian must provide a note from a medical professional saying the sign is for the safety of a medical condition.


Any parent or guardian of a child diagnosed with Autism can fill out an application for a sign by calling 311 or by going to www.buffalony.gov


Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Antivax MAGA World

In The Politics of Autism, I analyze the discredited notion that vaccines cause autism. This bogus idea can hurt people by allowing diseases to spread  And among those diseases could be COVID-19.

Antivaxxers are sometimes violent, often abusive, and always wrong.  

UnfortunatelyRepublican politicians and conservative media figures are increasingly joining up with the anti-vaxxers.  There is a great deal of overlap between MAGA World and the antivax movement.

Adam Gold at Rolling Stone:
Late last month, proponents of alternative-health treatments descended upon the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center in Nashville for a three-day event billed as “The Truth About Cancer.” At least it looked that way. While the symposium’s title suggested a gathering of health nuts, it was more so a convention for anti-vaxxers, conspiracy theorists, and pseudo-scientists.

“Reclaiming America, Health Freedom & Personal Liberty” proclaimed a banner on the event’s website, where packages for the Oct. 22-24 weekend were on sale for $300 for three-day attendance to $1,000 for access to a VIP “mix and mingle” and a DVD recording of each presentation. “The Truth About Cancer Live” was presented by Ty and Charlene Bollinger, a Tennessee husband and wife who rail against chemotherapy, are fond of words like “plandemic,” and post conspiracy theories on their website with titles like “The Truth About the Assassination of MLK.” Not surprisingly, they don’t believe in Covid vaccines either.

But their keynote speaker — Eric Trump — did.

“I’m actually a guy who got the vaccine, right? There’s other people who I know who are very near and dear to me that hadn’t, and that’s their choice to make,” Trump told Charlene Bollinger during a red-carpet interview, before proclaiming to take a wait-and-see approach toward the vaccine vs. anti-vax argument. “You can make that choice. And we’ll see, ultimately, who is right.”
...

Right-wing figureheads like Trump and Stone aren’t chemo deniers, but they can’t resist a speaking fee, or an opportunity to rile up gullible conservatives already punch-drunk on grievance politics. As Oren Segal, Vice President of the Anti-Defamation League Center on Extremism and host of the podcast Extremely, tells Rolling Stone, gatherings like “The Truth About Cancer Live” are breeding grounds for bad ideas.

“This has been quote-unquote ‘mainstream’ now for a while,” Segal says. “These narratives [have brought] what some would consider legitimate voices together with more fringe [figures] throughout the country for some time, and so obviously the big concern is the more that you have people who have a significant reach or a voice, who are giving voice to conspiracies that seek to undermine democratic institutions, the more that disinformation gets normalized and the more potential for polarization there is.”

Matt Novak at Gizmodo:
Ben Garrison, a right-wing cartoonist known for his opposition to vaccines and his extremely flattering drawings of former President Donald Trump, told Gizmodo late Sunday that he contracted covid-19 and has been sick for about two weeks. But allegedly getting covid hasn’t changed Garrison’s mind about modern medical science.

Garrison, who lives in Montana, believes that he got covid-19 while dining out at a restaurant a couple of weeks ago. Montana has seen a disturbing rise in coronavirus cases in recent weeks, with about 900 new cases each day.

“Yes, it’s definitely Covid and we’ve had all the symptoms. My wife and [I] went out with a couple to a restaurant and the next day all four of us were sick. One of us went to see a doctor and was told she had Covid, and that was the clincher,” Garrison told Gizmodo via email. (Garrison has been banned from Twitter for supporting the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on January 6.)

“We’re taking Ivermectin and various vitamins including a lot of Zinc,” Garrison continued, explaining what he’s doing to treat the disease. The cartoonist also notes he’s taking beet root juice. None of this has been proven to treat or prevent covid-19, with monoclonal antibodies and vaccines being the only real ways to fight this pandemic, which is still raging in many parts of the world.

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Antivaxxers and Nazi Symbols

In The Politics of Autism, I analyze the discredited notion that vaccines cause autism. This bogus idea can hurt people by allowing diseases to spread  And among those diseases could be COVID-19.

Antivaxxers are sometimes violent, often abusive, and always wrong.  

They often compare vaccines to the Holocaust and drive home their point with Nazi symbols.

At least two protesters displayed Nazi symbols during an anti-vaccine protest outside a Jewish lawmaker’s office in the Bronx on Sunday.

One woman held a poster that included the image of a swastika and a man wore a yellow Star of David affixed to his jacket during the protest outside the Kingsbridge office of Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz, according to photos provided by the legislator.

Dinowitz blasted the symbols as “repugnant and offensive” in a statement posted to Twitter.

“People are perfectly free to express their opinion on vaccines or any issue, but to openly display Nazi symbols outside the office of a Jewish legislator is despicable,” he said.

The protesters rallied against a state bill sponsored by Dinowitz that would require all New York students to be vaccinated in order to attend school.

The rally was reportedly organized by former Westchester County Executive and gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino.

Astorino said in a tweet Sunday night that he was unaware of the symbols.

“I had no idea until I saw this photo. If I’d seen it I’d have told them to take the sign down. No comparison to those atrocities & yes, I’ve always condemned anti-Semitism,” Astorino wrote.