53 Comments

I am going to express disappointment with the way you are steering this "conversation" at this point. Having watched RFK Jr of late, it is clear he is not the dishonest, malicious individual that you are portraying him to be, nor is he particularly ignorant of many of the more technical issues surrounding the development and licensure of vaccines. To many that have actually listened to him, even those of us that are well versed in the scientific method, these assertions ring hollow.

Is he right about everything? Of course not, no one is. Does he represent an increasing number of Americans that have questions, and that want to see engagement by the establishment, rather than just being at the receiving end of lectures from "the experts"? Most definitely.

I presume the reason you got into your profession was to find ways to make people healthier through the practice of medicine, and to proactively ward off disease through vaccines. Many of us were concerned during the COVID-19 pandemic that the ensuing mass vaccination policies degraded from this more lofty purpose, transitioning into the realm of profit and control, and that this adversely impacted traditional medical care, particularly including trust in vaccines. This is the case among a (still) growing percentage of the populace.

As someone that wants to see the situation remedied, watching the establishment digging into their safe spaces and taking pot shots at RFK Jr is not a good look. Perhaps you resent him for what he has said and done in the past, which you believe has resulted in undeserved anger being directed at yourself and your peers, and that is understandable. Likewise, he has been ostracized for years, censored far more than most, so it would not be surprising if he feels a certain way was well. But at least he is willing to engage the other side, often in a one on many format, to present his arguments and concerns. And people are listening.

My suggestion is you do the same. You are probably the best person to do this with your combination of gravitas and ability to clearly communicate the issues. Doing the podcast with Vincent Racaniello is fine, but you need to also transcend beyond the echo chamber if you want your message heard by the skeptics, and many others that have always followed establishment guidance, but that are finding RFK Jr more than a simple conspiracy theorist.

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What a thoughtful and respectful comment James! Thank you for writing this.

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No, I don't think globalists are putting mRNA vaccines in our food. Let's have a serious discussion Sandy.

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Nothing productive would come from a debate with RFK Jr. Glad Jake Tapper rejected holding a town hall for RFK Jr.

George Lakoff -

"Of course, there are times when it is legitimate and necessary to debate and disagree. Some issues are matters of opinion or preference rather than fact. But when confronted by someone who does not regard facts as relevant, you’re better off skipping the debate and saving your energy for a more productive conversation.

As a general rule: Don't take the debate bait! Engaging someone with zero credibility or validity only helps them to gain status and spread lies. By trying to negate their false ideas, you'll end up activating them. Remember: They win by making the difference between lies and truth seem like a matter of opinion."

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To be able to debate, facts and not impressions/misrepresentations must be required. Clearly Kennedy is incapable of marshaling scientific data (or interpreting it) and relies on conspiracy theories or things made of whole cloth.

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Do you read the studies?

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of course, I am a scientist

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So when you read the pfizer eua document and their research — amended with more deaths after eua— and you see no problem with the greater number of coronary related deaths in the vaccinated group?

Or the Cochran study about autism that is inconclusive that both sides cite? I read it, it proves not enough studies have been conducted…So it proves nothing.

I have never thought of science as decided. It is always ongoing, but right now, the field science is so full of bias, it stifles.

I never doubted vaccines until covid, but too many older relatives were directly injured by mRNA. So I started researching by looking at the fda and cdc and nih sites and listening to the fda advisory meetings and reading the documents. Wow. They dismiss everything. Child paralyzed 12 hours after experimental shot, unrelated bc children become suddenly paralyzed all the time, lol… it quite shameful the dismissals of adverse reactions in the meetings. And then we just have to use it and see… lol. Right. How’s that going with heart damage? I know of two teens who have pace makers now. What the heck.

I have now apologized to my grown child for vaccinating her. I had no idea how dangerous and toxic vaccines were or that physicians are paid according to vaccine percentages. How terrible.

No wonder when her pediatrician moved on we were harassed so violently about the hpv shot. But that one has cause immediate permanent injury to someone we know. So… we just were waiting on safe and effective, but that “doctor” wanted her money from pharma? Shameful.

Where’s the balanced science?

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Or the Cochran study about autism that is inconclusive that both sides cite? I read it, it proves not enough studies have been conducted…So it proves nothing. Therefore RFK shouldn't cite the data to advance his argument.

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"So when you read the pfizer eua document and their research — amended with more deaths after eua— and you see no problem with the greater number of coronary related deaths in the vaccinated group?"

Please post the exact section you are references and point out the numbers.

Thanks

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Can you just stop with the RFK Jr bashing and just come out and admit that the medical community screwed up. That you and the rest of the medical community, intentionally or not does not matter, spent decades misleading the public into thinking that long term placebo (as generally understood by the public) controlled studies had been done on all the vaccines on the childhood schedule when they in fact had not. Can you admit that it would have been better to have had an honest and open discussion with the public about what was actually done and why it was done the way it was instead of assuming that the public is too stupid and needs it all dumbed down so they can understand it. Can you further admit that it was wrong to spend years vilifying and calling liars those that pointed out that these types of studies were not done and that a better approach might have been to admit that yes the studies performed were done differently than for other drugs and explain why that was the case (To be honest I don't think even most doctors were aware of this fact until recently). Can you admit that doctors scaring parents into getting the COVID or any other vaccines rather than explaining the actual risks/benefits and allowing them to decide for themselves was and always will be a mistake and does not constitute informed consent. Can you admit that name calling of people that were skeptical of this or other vaccines was an ineffective and dangerous approach and that as medical professionals you vow to avoid that kind of divisive behavior in the future and condemn it publicly in other medical professionals if you see it.

If you can't see that these are the kinds of things that have gained RFK Jr traction today and that the only way out of this is for you and the rest of the medical community to admit these mistake very publicly and vow to never make them again then there is likely no hope for regaining trust. It seems to me that instead of doing any of this most in the medical community simply want to point fingers at people like RFK Jr and move on with business as usual. There are exceptions to this, Vinay Prisad comes to mind, but largely the medical and regulatory community seems unwilling to take any responsibility for the mess we are in when in reality they bear the brunt of the blame for it. People like RFK Jr seem to be just a convenient way to avoid taking any responsibility for many in the field even if they are doing that subconsciously rather than intentionally.

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This is from a 2007 paper

The study population consisted of healthy infants born in Havana. A total of 166 infants were randomly assigned to two groups. Group A received a combination of the diphtheria–pertussis–tetanus (DPT) vaccine, the Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) vaccine, and IPV (DPT-Hib-IPV) at 6, 10, and 14 weeks of age. Group B, the control group, received a combination of the DPT vaccine and the Hib vaccine at 6, 10, and 14 weeks of age. Another group (group C, 100 infants), which did not undergo randomization at the same time as groups A and B, received the DPT-Hib-IPV combination at 8 and 16 weeks of age. Serum samples were collected before vaccination and at least 4 weeks after the last dose. Stool samples were obtained before and 7 days after challenge with OPV.

From 2013

In our double-blind, randomised, placebo-controlled phase 2b trial, we enrolled healthy infants (aged 4–6 months) without HIV infection who had previously received BCG vaccination. We randomly allocated infants (1:1), according to an independently generated sequence with block sizes of four, to receive one intradermal dose of MVA85A or an equal volume of Candida skin test antigen as placebo at a clinical facility in a rural region near Cape Town, South Africa.

If you’re testing a new drug rather than a vaccine then the placebo is likely to be a sugar pill or similar, if people on the placebo arm say they feel better then that is the placebo effect. If you’re testing a new cancer treatment then the control arm will still receive the normal treatment. If you’re testing a vaccine then the control arm is either the vaccine less the antigen or it’s another known vaccine. The former will give a baseline for adverse effects of the supplementary ingredients, whilst the latter will give a comparison for the immune response. It depends on what you’re looking for.

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Jul 5, 2023·edited Jul 5, 2023

Yes, but the issue is this was never made clear to the public in general and people were led to believe, not intentionally but that is irrelevant, that what was being done is that an inert placebo such as your sugar pill example was what was used. I honestly believe that even many doctors believed this was what was being done as well which is why what was actually going on was never properly explained to most in the public at large. Once they find out that what they believed was being done was not they want to know what happened which sometimes leads them to people like RFK Jr but he is not the root of that problem. The root of the problem is that there was never any good communication with the general public, typically through their PCP, about the fact that this was what was really going on. This is a failure of the medical community not the now skeptical or distrusting patients or even RFK Jr and the medical community needs to own it very publicly and make sure that in the future things like this are properly understood by all involved. You don't have to agree with me on this but I suspect that if this does not happen then the trust will not be won back for a very very very long time.

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Then that is a problem of education, which scientists are not very good at with a few exceptions.

The participants are most definitely told to obtain informed consent.

I don’t actually like the use of the word placebo for that very reason. There are three different uses of the word that a google search shows.

Really the control arm of a trial should be referred to as that and not the placebo arm.

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Jul 6, 2023·edited Jul 6, 2023

I agree and I think this is really the root of the problem I don't think the disclosure portion of informed consent has really been being satisfied in the case we are talking about which is a huge issue. My guess is that many doctors and nurses were not even really aware of the way the term placebo was being used here and so they were just passing along what they believed to be the case but was'n't. As you mentioned the syntactical overloading of the word placebo is part of the problem here but regardless it appears that doctors failed to actually get informed consent. I believe what we are seeing is the backlash from that lack of informed consent with anger and distrust from a large part of the public due to that realization and they are misinterpreting it as having been intentionally lied to in many cases (that is not necessarily an unreasonable conclusion for them to draw but I disagree with it). Even if there was no intentional misleading going on it is always the doctors responsibility to make sure the patient understands fully before they give consent and this seems to have not been going on for a large part of the population for a long time. COVID vaccines made it obvious what was going on but the COVID stuff is just a symptom of miscommunication on the part of the medical community that has been going on for a very long time.

This is why I think the only real way out of this is for the medical community to stop focusing on people like RFK Jr and start very publicly owning this, apologizing, clearly explaining the way these studies are done, even admitting some studies are flawed, and then working on real solutions to make sure they are really getting informed consent going forward. This can't involve brow beating people that don't give consent. Patients have that right and they shouldn't be berated by their doctor for not giving consent and way too much of that kind of thing has happened with this particular vaccine and worst a lot of it was coming from the medical community.

I am guessing that the doctors that were doing things like name calling and berating of patients were being driven by fear themselves and that is a big problem this all exposed too. If you are a doctor who is going to be so scared of something like this that you are going to suggest things like withholding care based on vaccine status, which plenty of doctors did suggest as a possibility, you probably are in the wrong profession. These kinds of behaviors should be called out by the medical community loudly and clearly always so that things like that don't tarnish all medical professionals.

Vinay Prasad put out a good lecture yesterday explaining the overloading of the term placebo and going through some studies to explain it (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U4LuEPYMl_k). He does a good job of not pointing fingers at anyone or calling names and even gives credit for things that people like RFK Jr get right while pointing out the things they gets wrong. He also is not shy about admitting places where the medical establishment is screwing up and is trying to find ways to fix those problems. Most importantly he is doing all of this very publicly and unashamedly. What we need is more responses like Dr. Prasad's and less like what others seem to be doing which is finger pointing and name calling. There is a way to address all of this that does not involve division.

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As always, Paul, well said!!!

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One day when I was in high school, one of the popular kids, Jeff, was at his desk at the back of the classroom violating the rules by smoking a cigarette on school property. It was between classes so students were still filing into the room and the teacher, Mr. Mills, had not yet arrived. Then, suddenly, in came Mr. Mills. He glanced towards Jeff, catching him with a lit cigarette puffing away between his lips. Though it was too late, Jeff quickly pulled the cigarette out of his mouth and hid it under his desk. Mr. Mills barked out, "Jeff, would you please put out that cigarette." A look of shock came over Jeff's face. He replied, "But Mr. Mills, I don't have a cigarette. How could you accuse me of such a thing. I don't even smoke. I hate the smell of cigarettes." This despite smoke curling up from below his desk. Jeff was popular and had a couple of his pals sitting around him, all of whom concurred, Jeff was not smoking a cigarette.

Up to that point I had never seen anything quite like that. Just deny what all evidence says is true. Simply say that the obvious facts are not true. Of course, this phenomenon exists today. People deny all evidence. Jeff has greatly expanded his number of followers, and he has become RFK Jr.

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For the better part of 2 years, anyone who merely questioned the efficacy of Covid vaccinations, masking, or school, playground, and business closures was ridiculed, shamed, coerced, bullied, threatened with loss of job, and/or called a data cherry-picker. My own family doctor, in hushed tones at one of my checkups, intimated that her career was in jeopardy if she so much as questioned the narrative (and in previous appointments she very much questioned the narrative). Doctor Offit is continuing with the Covid-19 tactics of public smearing and name-calling. Far from countering RFK's claims, he calls him a liar, and as proof of his assertion, he tells us about two other people who called RFK a liar. Excuse some of us for having flashbacks to 2021.

I am educated in biology, virology, and probability and statistics. As recently as 2019, I would have concurred wholeheartedly with Doctor Offit on vaccine safety. However, is it any wonder that I and others like me all now have our ears a little more open to the question on the table, especially after an article like this?

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And then almost two years after Covid ravaged many countries, NZ finally got Covid. By that time, most of the population was vaccinated. And deaths were a fraction of what other countries saw.

People who questioned the efficacy of XYZ were not ridiculed, they were pointed to the evidence (which was constantly being added to, and recommendations changing based on matching the changing situation re community cases, and the new knowledge gained). When those people _denied_ the evidence, _ignored_ the fact that advice given/restrictions when cases are low will necessarily differ from when cases are high (eg re masking, which seems to STILL be misrepresented as primarily protection for the wearer), and started parroting out the same anti-expert "gotchas" as each other while insisting on being recognised as "independent" critical thinkers, even within discussions that had *already* addressed and dismantled their claims...well sure, ridicule and shaming at being so wilfully ignorant and arrogant was warranted. Because their refusal to engage with public health measures made it worse for everyone, including themselves.

NZ had a nationwide lockdown days after the first case was identified and by and large everyone complied, even in places no cases were seen then, and not for several months after. Yes, it was a pretty strict lockdown, but it WORKED. We got rid of Covid from our community and then got to enjoy a return to pretty much normal life, albeit with much reduced tourism, for _months_ until the next case popped up. If only other places had taken it seriously and locked down, they too could have bought themselves time (to wait until a vaccine was available) and freedom (after a temporary curtailment of it).

But no.

While trumpeting how their ancestors had fought for their freedom with their lives, they showed no inclination to make *any* sacrifice, of anything at all, not even wearing a mask, ffs, in order to secure their future freedom nor save lives in the meantime. They refused to follow public health advice, claiming that some principle or other was more important. And this contributed to a massive death toll. Shame, shame, shame on them.

And that's not even starting on the people denying there was even a pathogen at all. Ugh.

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Brian, do you know how your doctor’s career would have been in jeopardy? Would she have gotten in trouble with her state medical board? Or with hospital group administrators? Or does she think she would have been ostracized by colleagues?

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She and I didn't further discuss the specifics of the threat to her. I only recall her saying--in hushed tones--that it could jeopardize her career, and I recall the feeling of disgust and alarm I felt that my doctor was even put in such a position. I used to imagine, as a kid in the 1970's, that conversations like that only took place in the Soviet Union.

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Both sides stretch data on vaccines. I read the links doctors post on both sides. Vaccine advocates ignore severe side effects as “noise” something naturally occurring. Or the other vaccine/metals in the placebo cause as much adverse health issues as the vaccine, so therefore the vaccine is safe. This is such a logical fallacy. I am allergic the most all metal after a flu shot in 2004. Was it the vaccine? I can’t say, but I had no other medicines/life changes.

I also saw a lot of weird stuff happen and still see weird medical stuff since the mRNA gene editing injections (we can argue the gene editing… but the industry leaders involved certainly are excited about editing genes to stop cancer with the same tech…) As an older rather than younger teacher, I can confirm that statistics showing a rise in mental disorders such as autism and ADHD and depression are sky high compared to 20/30 years ago. Is it social toxicity? Or something in our environment? Is it the geo engineering in the skies? The industrial chemically built farms? Or the medicines/vaccines we use? And when will doctors want to know?

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“Both sides stretch data on vaccines.” This is spot on. Many people want to understand things as they are, they’re not interested in the cherry picking of either “side.”

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What an absolute take-down of RFK. Two people remember events differently! You've proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that the man has nothing to say that is worth listening to. Excellent work.

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"...nothing to say that is worth listening to." This kind of thinking is extremely dangerous and divisive. No one is always right but neither are they always wrong.

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It was sarcasm

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I see. Let me like it then because I agree.

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Tell that to the FDA, CDC and Pharmaceutical companies that lost lawsuits filed by RFK Jr.

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I keep asking for someone to provide a relevant example of one of these lawsuits....but so far no one has!

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The bad actor problem you describe can be circumvented by allowing both debaters to share their screen and pull up studies

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After mentoring the Nye/Ham debate in your discussion with Racaniello on this topic, it’s very thoughtful of you to provide us with these details that are such an excellent, straightforward example of what can or is cannot accomplished depending on the HONESTY of the debate when he/she is the validity of the EVIDENCE being used. On another podcast “Making Sense”, Sam Harris also talks similarly about why RFK,Jr questionable honesty in his use of information since much of it is cherry-picked to suit and manipulated to bolster his OPINIONS versus just presenting currently accepted facts. Just thought you’d want to know that other scientists have recognized RFK Jrs blatant dishonesty and are willing to point it out as it happened on Rogan’s show.

Unfortunately many podcasts become popular today by hyping differences of OPINIONS without presenters being challenged to support their opinions. It’s like the difference between a Olympic wrestling match, with holds being refereed and thus participants being held responsible for their actions in real time vs World Wide wrestling matches with its anything goes approach. How would the responsible wrestler (in this case you) fare in a world wide wrestling match? And in today’s world, which venue would garner most attention? We know the answers to that so it’s a combination of an honest, responsible refereed debater as well as venue’s responsibility to be responsible for the veracity of the information being aired. If the host of exchange between individuals is unwilling to uphold his responsibility for the veracity of the information it shouldn’t be called a debate. IMO it should be aired as an opinionated discussion so the audiences (who have their own opinions) are thereby forewarned of the nature of the information being presented.

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"Unfortunately many podcasts become popular today by hyping differences of OPINIONS without presenters being challenged to support their opinions."

You're correct, most hosts aren't experts in these subjects so they just ask questions and allow the guests to pontificate. This is why people so desperately want to see someone like Offit in conversation with RFK jr. No one is challenging what he is saying in real time. Most people aren't going to do deep dive research themselves so the scientists need to go on shows like Rogan's and meet people where they are.

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equating the Nye/Ham debate as an example of why NOT to debate RFK Jr is nothing but a Straw Man argument and a poor one at that. in fact, by reading your piece I became more inclined to believe you have ulterior motives here. since Kennedy has called you out publicly, you should be the first to invite debate to clear things up. after the Covid fiasco, you can't blame anyone for being skeptical about vaccines. I first became aware of you from Dr.Z's podcast. I was impressed by your willingness to push back on the insane movement to vaccinate every human being alive.

please reconsider your actions here doc...it's a bad look for you and just makes RFK more believable. if you have been unfairly maligned, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain...

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Offit is incapable of holding a serious scientific debate. The facts are overwhelming.

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We agree!

The facts are overwhelming!

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“Nye countered that to deny evolution meant ignoring 250,000 years of fossil records.” Presumably you or he meant 250,000 fossil species, which is about the right number. We have not been keeping records of fossils for 250,000 years. If you or he meant the duration of the fossil record, then Nye argued that the earliest fossils go back billions of years.

“Nye said that carbon dating of rocks showed that Ham was off by about 4.5 billion years.” This is just a blunder by either you or Nye. Carbon-14 has a half life of only 5,730 years, so carbon dating can be used only up to about 100,000 years. After that, the number of remaining C-14 atoms is below detection limit. And Carbon-14 is not used to date rocks but organic samples.

“Noah’s Ark contained 14,000 animals which, paired male and female, represented 7,000 different species. Given that there are 16 million different species of animals on the Earth today, this would mean that 11 new species would have had to have been created every day, ” You must compare apples with apples. Ham said that the Ark contained only land vertebrates, and that number referred to genera not species. The 16 million species include invertebrates and marine creatures, that Ham argues were not obligate passengers because they could have survived off the Ark. Ham certainly doesn't think that invertebrates evolved from vertebrates, or that fish evolved from reptiles. It is important to address the actual argument being made, not a straw man. Applies to the important vaccine debate too.

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Offit, whose entire career was funded (directly or indirectly) by the vaccine industry (like all pediatricians) is trying to say that RFK Jr is paid by his own legal practice and therefore cannot hold a debate. Well , then every medical , environmental, human rights, etc lawyers would be precluded from the public discourse: why? because they defend the customers against giant corporate entities. Not that hard to understand whose camp Offit works for. Choose your camp carefully. Life and health are at stake.

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"Offit, whose entire career was funded (directly or indirectly) by the vaccine industry (like all pediatricians)"

Yup, the anti-vaccs really do just keep making crap up....counting on folks to be too clueless to think.

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Dear neo Nazi. My grandfather spent 6 years in your camps. So please understand me when I stay away from your (bat shit crazy) type. Get some more chemicals in your body. For protection.

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It's no good having journalists interview these people alone. No journalist can be an expert on every topic, they don't have time. Quality journalism should be the moderation of two experts on a topic. In the Nye/Ham situation you had Nye right there putting the facts under Ham's nose, so it's useful. With an RFK town hall, you'd need a scientist with the pro-vaccine facts and data ready to refute RFK's most common claims. Otherwise it just perpetuates misinformation. And we need good moderators... which should be the skill journalists learn these days as their main value-add.

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I believe you mean Children's Health Defense, a very different organization from the Children's Defense Fund.

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