Thursday, August 23, 2012

Breaking News From Age of Autism: The Immunization Partnership Applauds Meachum's Ruling, Exposing Her Conflict of Interest

Author's Note: Thank you, Katie Kagan for inviting me to this terrific blog. My name is Jake Crosby; I am a public health graduate student studying epidemiology at GW, a contributing editor to Age of Autism and am diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome. I write a regular column for the site accessible here:

Followers of my writing know that my stance on autism is that it has exploded to epidemic proportions thanks to our government's vaccine program. I am a proud supporter of Dr. Andrew Wakefield - the scientist who first seriously raised the possibility in the Lancet more than a decade ago. Earlier this month, Dr. Wakefield's defamation case against the pharma-backed British Medical Journal and its hired gun Brian Deer was thrown out of district court by a terribly conflicted judge, Amy Clark Meachum. The story below ran on Age of Autism today and is about how Judge Meachum is more conflicted than I had ever previously imagined.

The Immunization Partnership Applauds Meachum's Ruling, Exposing Her Conflict of Interest
By Jake Crosby
Confirming her conflict of interest, Judge Amy Clark Meachum's decision to throw Dr. Andrew Wakefield's defamation case out of district court was publicly applauded by the President/CEO of The Immunization Partnership who promised to continue working with theTexas Academy of Family Physicians (TAFP), for which Judge Meachum's husband lobbies.
On August 9th in the comments section of “Science”Blogs, The Immunization Partnership President/CEO Anna C Dragsbaek wrote:
Thanks for your very humorous blog. I am the President and CEO of The Immunization Partnership, the organization that hosts The Texas Immunization Summit every two years. We applaud the judge’s decision in this case and continue to work with TAFP, and countless other organization around the state to ensure that Texas is protected against vaccine preventable diseases. As you might imagine, we are at ‘ground zero’ in the anti-vaccine debate. We fight everyday to counteract the egregious flow of misinformation and erroneous assertions that are propagated by Andrew Wakefield and his colleagues. As for the conspiracy theory, if working in collaboration with all of the stakeholders locally and nationally to ensure that families do not suffer the consequences of vaccine-preventable diseases is conspiracy, then color us guilty. In the meantime, we will continue to advocate for evidence-based immunization laws and policies, educate the public and support immunization best practices. We welcome your participation in our upcoming Texas Immunization Summit, September 27th and 28th. Come see how Texans are stepping up to the plate on this critical issue.
However, the keynote address at this upcoming TAFP-sponsored summit will not be given by a Texan, but by the vaccine industry's media go-to guy Seth Mnookin, who has made libeling Dr. Wakefield a considerable part of his career. At the 2011 World Science Festival in New York City, I was standing right next to Mnookin when I heard him tell another attendee that Dr. Wakefield “faked his data.” At a conference put on by a Merck-chaired organization, Seth Mnookin booted me out when I defended Dr. Wakefield in Q and A. Similarly, when the judge's decision was announced, Mnookin tweeted:
Wakefield harassment suit against BMJ & journalist thrown out of court.… h/t @ejwillingham
In 2008, the Texas Immunization Summit hosted a keynote speech by millionaire vaccine industrialist Paul Offit and in 2010, hosted a talk – sponsored by TAFP – given by anti-vaccine-autism research group Autism Science Foundation's president/founder Alison Singer. She tells parents to vaccinate recklessly even though she split the MMR vaccine into three separate shots for her neurotypical second daughter.
The week Dr. Wakefield's lawsuit was filed, the Houston Chronicle quoted The Immunization Partnership's co-chair to its advisory council Dr. Julie Boom, as saying:
"Yes, there are many who have 'hurt feelings' regarding the aftermath of his faulty research," in response to “Injury to feelings” being listed in Dr. Wakefield’s lawsuit as one of the damages sustained as a result of the British Medical Journal's libel.
Last June, Dr. Boom sat on a panel with Alison Singer hosted by The Immunization Partnership titled“Vaccine Safety Concerns and How to Respond to Vaccine-Hesitant Parents.”
In a slide presentation for that event, Dr. Boom even embellished the accusations against Dr. Wakefield by stating that in “2011 -BMJ investigation labels Wakefield's study 'an elaborate fraud' and Wakefield's medical license is revoked.” In reality, the revocation of Dr. Wakefield's medical license had nothing to do with Deer's fraud charges; it was based on charges of serious professional misconduct in the Lancet paper that would later be officially disproved on appeal by Dr. Wakefield's colleague, Professor John Walker-Smith.
The Immunization Partnership obviously does not care; they need Brian Deer and the British Medical Journal’s defamation of Dr. Wakefield to support the vaccine-autism cover-up. It does not matter that the accusations against him are completely made-up; the whole reason they were made-up in the first place was to keep his voice out of the vaccine-autism controversy and continue to cover up the fact that vaccines do cause autism. Any judge deciding the merits of Dr. Wakefield’s lawsuit should not be tied to The Immunization Partnership, which its own President/CEO admits has a huge stake in the suit’s outcome. Yet the judge in this case, Amy Clark Meachum, is still married to Kurt Meachum who lobbies for the Texas Academy of Family Physicians, which continues to work with The Immunization Partnership.
Adding further insult to injury, Judge Meachum’s husband is also a lobbyist for the Texas Chapter of the American College of Physicians, which promoted and linked to the BMJ's defamation against Dr. Wakefield in its online publication ACP Internist. All things considered, Amy Clark Meachum should recuse herself from any future decision-making related to Dr. Wakefield's lawsuit. That she failed to do so discredited her ruling to toss out his case and was a breach of ethical judgment.
Jake Crosby has Asperger Syndrome and is a contributing editor to Age of Autism. He is a 2011 graduate of Brandeis University with a BA in both History and Health: Science, Society and Policy. He currently attends The George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services where he is studying for an MPH in epidemiology.

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