MMR and Statistical Manipulation

07 Sep

David Bradley is blogging again about MMR..asking good questions. This posting exposes again the ongoing debate about the MMR vaccine, a recent article in the Times examining the statistics and asking the question do the statistics stack up to vaccination. I encourage you to read the post (I prefer not to grab others words and post them to my blog but direct you to their site. It might encourage you to add Sciencebase to your favorites!)

Once I can figure out how to get a comment posted (validation code issues there right now) I will be posting my own commentary scientists we must keeping asking questions. The AngryToxicolist does…

“David…you’ve hit on a conversation of significant personal interest with this one. However, I AM biased based on personal experience with vaccines as explained at . That blog explains my own experiences around MMR and sourcing separate vaccines.

Friends have accused me of being anti-vaccine and willing to have 1000s die instead. Far from it. I am not against vaccines. What I am for is looking at the data, listening to the questions, searching for answers, minimizing risk and not putting fairly nominal cost differences above health. The biggest piece is the necessary conversation between doctor and parents. Here’s what I’d like to see happen right now based just on many of the reports..whether those of overly conservative parents or conspiracy theorists. Educate the doctors to offer the CHOICE to parents that says “Here are the stories about MMR as a cocktail vaccine. It is possible to have each component of the vaccine separately. Here are my comments as your doctor. The choice is yours”. Wat has not happened, in my experience, and in that of many of my friends, is that the doctors share some of the perceptions of the cocktail and let the parents choose. In fact MANY doctors I know of do not offer the choice and even discourage it.

Relative to your question “but isn’t MMR less expensive than the three vaccines given separately” and so the pharma industry doesn’t make much money so it would be more profitable for them to have them separate. I am not an economic expert in this domain and judge you may be right but it’s really about profit. What does it cost to produce the single vaccine versus three…relative to the sales costs and the associated profit margins. These are likely fairly comparable. The bigger push is on the parents to not have their child cry three times, visit the doctor three times, pay doctors fees three times etc. In fact the cost benefits are likely more for the HMOs than the pharma companies. The HMOs SAVE money by having the vaccination done in one hit.

My preference remains separate the vaccines. Intuitively I wouldn’t want to challenge the immune system of my child with three components simultaneously (as well as all of the preservative chemicals) when I have the option to separate. And..I DON’T like having my children cry when they get choice is short term tears over long term debilitation.

Just for clarity in my biases I am also on the side of questioning fluoridation ( as I have expressed elsewhere ( My consultation with experts (one included here ( and a growing movement in the USA right now suggests the days of fluoridation may be limited too. I personally believe good oral cleanliness is way more important. We have twin five year olds…not one cavity in their mouth. We are on a water well, non-fluoridated toothpaste and no fluoridated drops when they were babies. Time will tell whether we are right. For now…brush, brush, brush….”


About tony

Antony (Tony) J. Williams received his BSc in 1985 from the University of Liverpool (UK) and PhD in 1988 from the University of London (UK). His PhD research interests were in studying the effects of high pressure on molecular motions within lubricant related systems using Nuclear Magnetic Resonance. He moved to Ottawa, Canada to work for the National Research Council performing fundamental research on the electron paramagnetic resonance of radicals trapped in single crystals. Following his postdoctoral position he became the NMR Facility Manager for Ottawa University. Tony joined the Eastman Kodak Company in Rochester, New York as their NMR Technology Leader. He led the laboratory to develop quality control across multiple spectroscopy labs and helped establish walk-up laboratories providing NMR, LC-MS and other forms of spectroscopy to hundreds of chemists across multiple sites. This included the delivery of spectroscopic data to the desktop, automated processing and his initial interests in computer-assisted structure elucidation (CASE) systems. He also worked with a team to develop the worlds’ first web-based LIMS system, WIMS, capable of allowing chemical structure searching and spectral display. With his developing cheminformatic skills and passion for data management he left corporate America to join a small start-up company working out of Toronto, Canada. He joined ACD/Labs as their NMR Product Manager and various roles, including Chief Science Officer, during his 10 years with the company. His responsibilities included managing over 50 products at one time prior to developing a product management team, managing sales, marketing, technical support and technical services. ACD/Labs was one of Canada’s Fast 50 Tech Companies, and Forbes Fast 500 companies in 2001. His primary passions during his tenure with ACD/Labs was the continued adoption of web-based technologies and developing automated structure verification and elucidation platforms. While at ACD/Labs he suggested the possibility of developing a public resource for chemists attempting to integrate internet available chemical data. He finally pursued this vision with some close friends as a hobby project in the evenings and the result was the ChemSpider database ( Even while running out of a basement on hand built servers the website developed a large community following that eventually culminated in the acquisition of the website by the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) based in Cambridge, United Kingdom. Tony joined the organization, together with some of the other ChemSpider team, and became their Vice President of Strategic Development. At RSC he continued to develop cheminformatics tools, specifically ChemSpider, and was the technical lead for the chemistry aspects of the Open PHACTS project (, a project focused on the delivery of open data, open source and open systems to support the pharmaceutical sciences. He was also the technical lead for the UK National Chemical Database Service ( and the RSC lead for the PharmaSea project ( attempting to identify novel natural products from the ocean. He left RSC in 2015 to become a Computational Chemist in the National Center of Computational Toxicology at the Environmental Protection Agency where he is bringing his skills to bear working with a team on the delivery of a new software architecture for the management and delivery of data, algorithms and visualization tools. The “Chemistry Dashboard” was released on April 1st, no fooling, at, and provides access to over 700,000 chemicals, experimental and predicted properties and a developing link network to support the environmental sciences. Tony remains passionate about computer-assisted structure elucidation and verification approaches and continues to publish in this area. He is also passionate about teaching scientists to benefit from the developing array of social networking tools for scientists and is known as the ChemConnector on the networks. Over the years he has had adjunct roles at a number of institutions and presently enjoys working with scientists at both UNC Chapel Hill and NC State University. He is widely published with over 200 papers and book chapters and was the recipient of the Jim Gray Award for eScience in 2012. In 2016 he was awarded the North Carolina ACS Distinguished Speaker Award.
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Posted by on September 7, 2007 in Uncategorized


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