Don’t vote Green in Dublin Central!

I’ve long held green views, and have always voted green — I believe climate change, damage to the environment and pollution are extremely serious problems, especially for Ireland. At the same time, I also believe that science and technology has a key place in a better, greener future — a Viridian, bright green / electric green viewpoint, in other words.

Given this, I was really shocked and appalled to hear (via the lovely C) of an interview on Today FM with Patricia McKenna, a Green Party candidate for my local constituency of Dublin Central — one I’ve voted for before, no less! — in which she revealed that she believes in the thoroughly discredited scaremongering regarding a link between the MMR vaccine and autism, and has taken the appallingly irresponsible position of not allowing her children to be vaccinated.

This blog post discusses the interview, which was broadcast on Today FM’s The Last Word show on Tuesday 13 March. Here’s an archived podcast of that interview so you can listen to it yourself, and here’s a local copy of that WMV file in case that first link expires any time soon.

Here’s a transcript of the part of the interview once the issue of vaccination is brought up. Matt Cooper is the host of the show. Keith Redmond is an opposing candidate, for the PDs. The timestamps are in minutes and seconds from the start of the audio file.

  • 8:30: Patricia McKenna: Parents have the right to choose what they opt to do, and in relation to some vaccinations, there are serious question marks hanging over them but that’s not what we’re talking about here…

  • 8:44: Matt Cooper (clearly annoyed): No its not, but now that it’s up there, couldn’t it be irresponsible for parents not to vaccinate children against serious issues (sic), if they don’t have reputable scientific facts to back up the decision not to vaccinate?

  • 8:54: Patricia McKenna: Many parents in this country have chosen not to vaccinate their children in relation to the MMR because of the links to autism.

  • 9:00: Matt Cooper: Utterly untrue, totally unproven, absolutely bogus and false.

  • 9:02: Patricia McKenna: Hold on a second…

  • 9:03: Matt Cooper: Andrew Wakefield has been utterly and totally discredited in relation to that. Anyone who doesn’t give the MMR vaccine to their children because of a fear of autism is almost in danger of endangering their child themselves. We’re going to have a rise of measles again in this country because of people not actually giving the vaccine.

  • 9:17: Patricia McKenna: First of all, we’re moving away from the issue…

  • 9:22: Matt Cooper: Yeah we are, but it’s come up now, let’s deal with it…

  • 9:23: Patricia McKenna: It’s come up, right. Eh, have you had the measles? I’ve had the measles, and I’ve got over them well, I have a strong immune system, my 10 year old son has had the measles…

  • 9:30: Matt Cooper: And you are aware that unhandled the measles can have very serious side effects?

  • 9:33: Patricia McKenna: Look — the side effects that are linked to the measles are in relation to… there are other things linked to it in relation to the child’s well being initially. Now you just look at the number of people when you were young, all of your peers I would say have had the measles as with mine, and I think we have a tendency to over-indulge in vaccinating our children and vaccinating ourselves, because what we need — our immune systems are getting weaker and weaker by the day, it’s a — I think we need to be very careful about how we actually approach this so that when medicines are necessary, we will not be immune to them…

  • 10:08: Matt Cooper (interrupting): Do you know that children have died of the measles in this country in the last 5 years?

  • Keith Redmond: because of views like that.

  • Patricia McKenna: Well I’m saying is that, as far as I’m concerned…

  • 10:18: Matt Cooper (repeats): Do you know that children have died of the measles in this country in the last 5 years?

  • 10:30: Patricia McKenna: The children that have died of the measles because of other complications (sic), not the measles themselves.

  • Keith Redmond: that have not been vaccinated.

  • Patricia McKenna: Not the measles themselves, but other complications, right? Now if you’re saying that parents should — it’s a bit like —

  • Keith Redmond: Matt, can I just come back to…

  • 10:32: Matt Cooper: Sorry, one second Keith. Would you also concede Patricia, that there is absolutely no link between the MMR and autism, that that link was a bogus link put up by Andrew Wakefield who has been completely and utterly discredited and it has done an awful lot of damage, the misrepresentation of his views in relation to the MMR and autism.

  • 10:50: Patricia McKenna: Well in relation to the MMR, I am not satisfied that it’s safe, and I am not satisfied with the idea of lumping a whole lot of vaccines — different vaccinations together en masse, inducing them (sic) to our children — but having said that, parents should have the right to choose and decide what is best for their children…

  • 11:06: Matt Cooper: But would you concede that Andrew Wakefield, who is the man that pushed that whole agenda, was exposed as a fraud?

  • 11:11: Patricia McKenna: But the jury is still out in relation to…

  • 11:15: Matt Cooper: No, it’s not.

  • 11:16: Patricia McKenna: Yeah well I’m sorry but the jury is still out in relation to how safe the MMR is. And I think it’s unfair to label all parents who decide for their own children’s safety, that they may not want to go down the route of vaccination, that they’re being irresponsible, because I wouldn’t consider myself irresponsible, I would consider I want what’s best for my child.

  • 11:37: Keith Redmond: [again says something]

  • Matt Cooper: Give Keith a chance to come in.

  • 11:41: Keith Redmond: This totally exemplifies the Greens’ approach to any kind of science. We have a woman there who knows, in her heart of hearts, that her argument is wrong but refuses to admit it because it relies on science. Now, we have exactly the same issue with flouridation — we know the science, we know the facts, and we still have this scaremongering every now and again. And the Green Party are totally irresponsible and you’re right, they are frightening parents across the country right now and it’s absolutely reprehensible.

My god, this insanity has me agreeing with a feckin’ PD!

This is luddism, pure and simple. Matt Cooper is spot on the money — children are dying in Dublin because of this “my child, my rules” selfishness and simple inability to understand the science surrounding vaccination as a public health policy.

This is appalling. To put it bluntly, there is no fucking way I’ll be voting Green if this kind of cargo-cult, anti-science superstition is the kind of shite they’re espousing these days. …and if you think I’m feeling strongly about this, you should hear my (zoologist) wife.

But it goes on — here’s a letter to the Irish Independent on this issue from Feb 9 2007, which raises another worrying factor:

… until two days ago, there was a statement on the Green Party website informing voters that there were “serious question marks about the benefit of mass vaccination programs”.

Furthermore, the party promised that there would be a “major review” of vaccination if they were returned to office.

Now that these statements have apparently been removed from the Green party website are we to take it that they are no longer Green policy?

This blog posting at Winds and Breezes also notes this. So — is this official Green policy or not?

Update: In the comments, it was noted that McKenna is pretty much acting alone in this; it, apparently, is not Green Party policy at all. I’ve updated the title to reflect that it’s only one constituency’s candidate that needs to be shunned.

Also, Conor O’Neill has a great idea over here:

I was thinking further on this yesterday and I realised what the Greens need to do in order to be taken seriously… They need to become the “Party of Science”. Proper environmentalism is based on rigorous science and strategic thinking. Every policy they define should be backed up with rock-solid science and a detailed long-term financial analysis proving why it is in our best interests to adopt them.

Man, I would love to see that!

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  1. monica
    Posted May 18, 2007 at 18:04 | Permalink

    wow, interesting that my entire post was removed, maybe because it had some truth to it?

    I think everyone would have found the links interesting…

  2. monica
    Posted May 18, 2007 at 18:07 | Permalink

    Would you think I don’t have it saved and cannot repost?

    The only studies discrediting Wakefield’s theory I have read have been epidemiologic, and I hope you are intelligent enough to know that we can manipulate numbers in these studies. There have been NO clinical scientific based studies that prove live virus vaccines do not cause autism.

    I would like to share a story about a similar conflict in our recent history. Another time when the medical community relied on epidemiologic studies.

    There were many epidemiologists, including prominent statisticians Joseph Berkson and Sir Ronald Fisher (often considered the “father of modern epidemiology”) who stood firm in their view that the link between cigarette smoking and lung cancer was simply a coincidence. Many scientists had blamed the increase in lung cancer on air pollution. For many years, the medical community relied on Sir Ronald Fisher’s epidemiologic studies (such as current studies dismissing the link between vaccines and autism), and not clinical research (such as Wakefield’s, or Bradstreet’s studies on autism) in stating that smoking did not cause lung cancer.…mererDirectCross.PDF…ld+Fisher%22+tobacco

    A few scientific studies, looking for a relationship between smoking and lung cancer, had been carried out before the Second World War, and indeed had found some evidence of such a relationship, but generally their results were not particularly persuasive and had very little impact on the medical establishment or on public opinion.

    It seems as though history is repeating itself.

    So if you believe the epidemiologic studies that smoking does not cause cancer, I suppose my argument is lost on you.

    Here is a clinical scientific study that proves there is a link between the measles and autism-

    Can you explain to me how the vaccine strain measles virus ended up in the cerebral spinal fluid of these autistic children, yet was not found in any typically developing controls? Can you find a similar study on the csf of autistic children that does NOT replicate these findings?

    The measles virus is an extremely nasty bug- and can cause severe neurologic damage. Take a look at SSPE (subacute sclerosing panencephalitis), or MIBE (measles inclusion body encephalitis). Here you will find studies that show what the mealses virus can do to a compromised immune system.…22autism%22+MET+gene…_panencephalitis.htm

    I find it interesting that the Mayo clinic associates Childhood Disintegrative Disorder (one of the many conditions under the umbrella of autistic spectrum disorders) with SSPE.…r/DS00801/DSECTION=3

    Why don’t all children who receive the MMR develop regressive autism? Because they don’t all have the same immune response. Vaccines were created largely in anticipation of one typical immune response. With amazing HIV research in the past 2 decades, we now know that there are over 100 immune responses.

    Do some research on Primary Immune Deficiency, or Primary Immunodeficiency, and learn how horribly underdiagnosed this condition truly is. It is also fact that individuals with immune deficiency are contraindicated for live virus vaccine administration.

    The latest scientific genetic studies show that children with autism have ATYPICAL IMMUNE FUNCTION.…22autism%22+MET+gene

    Sadly, the children that have adverse reactions to live virus vaccines, are also likely to have serious sequela to vaccine preventable diseases, such as SSPE or MIBE, and even death, so herd immunity is still very critical to protect these individuals. It is quite a double edge sword.

    Regressive autism shares the same symptoms as encephalopathy.

    In the US, the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program does pay out to autistic children injured by the MMR, if the virus is found in the CSF, although- parents and doctors are instructed to use the diagnosis of “encephalopathy”, as the NVICP refuses to pay out for a diagnosis of autism. I have spoke with 2 parents who have gained compensation in this manner.

    Check out what the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program in the US will cover-

    As a parent of a child who had undiagnosed immune deficiency before vaccination with the MMR/Varivax, a child who now has regressive autism, empty sella syndrome, and GI dysfunction that did not appear before a reaction to the MMR/ Varivax combination- I can assure this is a topic I have spent thousands of hours researching.

    My daughter had seizures, fever and rash 2 wks after the mmr, and then severely regressed within 2 wks of the reaction. We have since learned that she has an immune deficiency, and the virus over replicated. She also has pituitary damage that can only have been caused by an infection of the csf. Now her docs say no more live virus vaccines- EVER.

    Even the CDC states in their own vaccine information statement for the MMR and chickenpox vaccines; “Some people should check with their doctor about whether they should get MMR / chickenpoxvaccine, including anyone who: – Has HIV/AIDS, or another disease that affects the immune system”

    here is some more scientific evidence, not numbers, for you to chew on

    Abnormal Measles-Mumps-Rubella Antibodies and CNS Autoimmunity in Children with Autism…7&filename=65007.pdf

    The AUTISM RESEARCH MONOGRAPHS of Teresa Binstock goes into great detail explaining the effects of live virus vaccines on a dysfunctional immune system , and how it contributes to autism.

    Here you will find 38 references to SCIENTIFIC STUDIES that support Wakefield’s theory

    Status of Serological and Molecular Virological Findings Implicating Measles Virus in the Etiology of Autism

    And this, this is just the tip of the iceburg of information implicating live virus vaccination in the etiology of autism.

    Medicine, as all science, is continually evolving. To think we have all the answers now is incredulous. Should we eliminate the vaccine- by all means, NO. We should follow suit with recent changes in the administration of the polio vaccine. Many are surprised to learn that the only cases of polio on the US over the last 20 yrs were caused by the OPV- oral polio vaccine, which is a live virus vaccine. That is why the US government began using IPV, an inactivated polio virus vaccine in 2001. Children with immune deficiencies contracted VDPV, or vaccine derived polio virus from virus replication of the OPV, and are now crippled for life.

    An inactivated measles vaccine HAS been created. It is time we start using it.

  3. Posted May 24, 2007 at 14:59 | Permalink

    ‘wow, interesting that my entire post was removed, maybe because it had some truth to it?’

    Monica — the blog software put it into “moderation required” status, I don’t know why. it does that occasionally, probably as some kind of mistaken anti-spam measure. I was on holidays so missed it. I’ve just approved all pending comments now…

  4. monica
    Posted May 25, 2007 at 03:18 | Permalink

    thank you for the response =O)

    my comments are often deleted from blogs, many people do not like the truth

  5. Shamrock
    Posted June 15, 2007 at 14:52 | Permalink

    As someone with a geology degree, and therfore someone who is very aware of the environment, and the cycles of this planet we live in, I have to say I am appalled at the amount of brain washing that goes on by the green party. Example, climate change is not a new phenomenon. It has been happening since the genesis of this planet 4.6billion years ago. Sea level rises, poles contract, sea currents change, it has always happened and it will always happen. There were no cars/planes/ 10,000 years ago at the end of hte last ice age, sea levels rose then, when the glaciers retreated, the land bridge linking ireland to the UK landmass disappeared, (this is why we have no snakes or moles in Ireland)

    SO, this mumbo-jumbo claptrap about carbon footprints is a load of my ar$e and makes my blood boil.

    Why is the combustion of oil products the only bad guy in the so called ‘carbon footprint’ arguement, why is it never mentioned about the carbon needed to make steel to make the cars and planes, the carbon in paper products etc, etc

    I too believe that we should live in a green environment, we should not have dead sheep in ditches, we should not have kids going to school in reconstituted portacabins, we should not have to wait 1.5 hours for a bus….environmental and social problems will NEVER be solved by Green Party tactics, as the appeal to the lowest common denominator, people who have green tendencies but no science to back it up. These people would not need science degrees if the green politicians actually spoke the truth in the first place.

    If we all voted green, industry would dry up, emigration would increase and women would be back tied to the kitchen sink…, keep doing your composting and organic gardening, but for gods sake, don’t support green politics until it wakes up and gets a scientific backbone.

  6. Posted June 16, 2007 at 00:18 | Permalink

    Shamrock, as somebody with a geology degree and a “scientific backbone”, you are no doubt basing your “climate change is 100% natural” position on some peer-reviewed scientific research. Can you direct us to the papers in question?

  7. Stephen
    Posted July 29, 2007 at 19:24 | Permalink

    Justin – many bits of blog software automatically tag any post (such as Monica’s) with a relatively high number of links as potential ad spam.

    Monica – with regard to the specific paper you cited:

    While this does not directly address CSF (it’s considered generally unethical to subject young children to such biopsies without extremely good reason), but rather dealt with blood samples (which are expected to provide good correlation), it found no agreement with such results. Similar trials have been done on the measles-in-gut claim, with comparable results. The obvious response is, of course, that this is the wrong sample of the population, and these were ‘natural’ autism cases, due to the small sample size. The difficulty arises in actually getting a sufficient sample size to both pick up this “at risk” group, and study them – If there is indeed a link between MMR and Autism, it would likely have a risk factor on the order of tenths of a percent. To obtain meaningful statistics on such a thing (sample sizes of thousands would be required to even begin to get reasonable results) simply requires epidemiological studies, as there is no way to get that quantity of data otherwise, and despite your mistrust, epidemiological studies are not inherently flawed. This leads into the claims of conspiracy or deception on the part of the study writers – but this is quite a grave accusation, really. Are you suggesting that people who write epidemiological studies are somehow less reputable than those who perform clinical trials, or that it is somehow easier to lie in one than the other? I would in fact argue the opposite – deception in a clinical trial is vastly easier, as most epidemiological studies are performed on data which is generally available, and any serious study will publish its methods, so they are relatively trivial to double-check. This is in contrast to clinical trials which typically involve data gathered by the authors, making it vastly easier to hide. This is especially telling given the storm of accusations which are welling up around Wakefield’s work on the MMR. A quote from the transcripts of one of the many recent hearings on the MMR/Autism link, from a collaborator who was involved in some of the preliminary work to the Lancet paper:

    “Q So you personally tested while you were in Dr. Wakefield’s lab gut biopsy material, CSF and PBMCs? A Yes, that;s right.

    Q And all the results were either negative, or if they were positive it always turned out that they were false positives? A Yes, that’s correct.

    Q Did you inform Dr. Wakefield of the negative results? A Yes. Yes.”

    One of many such pieces of testimony. People from Wakefield’s -own research group- contradict his findings on the presence of the measles viruses in these assorted places, in the very trials he is putting forward as evidence. Moreover, world experts in the field of the analytic methods he and Krigsman eventually used also come forward with explicit details of why the approach was flawed, and why many samples were likely tainted.

    Plenty of extremely serious accusations here – the key point is, to simply dismiss epidemiology out of hand because you feel it is inherently untrustworthy, while simultaneously holding out repeatedly discredited clinical trials as the gold standard of research does a grave, grave disservice to the many people dedicated to public health who produced these studies.

    The typical response to such stories is to lay the accusations of bias and deception on the part of the “establishment”, trying to keep the maverick who wants to spread the truth down, but such things really should be evaluated on their merits, as such accusations run both ways.

  8. soubresauts
    Posted October 18, 2007 at 08:57 | Permalink

    Those who think the eradication of polio is one great vaccination success story aren’t reading the news. See, for example,

    Note that the WHO kept the news under wraps for a whole year. Vaccination programmes depend on ignorance.

    Ask yourself: If you were the parent of a child in Nigeria and you knew what was happening, would you go for the vaccination?

    Can it really be more expensive to provide clean water for these people than to pursue such bone-headed vaccination programmes, funded by Bill Gates and other ignorant people? And even if it is more expensive to provide clean water, shouldn’t we do it anyway?

    I bet the cost of providing clean water for everybody in Nigeria would be a tiny fraction of what the U.S. has spent on its military build-up around Iran, not to mention the cost of the Iraq war.