Saturday, November 21, 2015

#1524: Vicky DeBold

The National Vaccine Information Center is a deranged hub of conspiracy theorists devoted to the promotion of pseudo-scientific denialism about vaccines. Being that organization’s director of research and safety is not anything to be proud of and if you, like Vicky DeBold, hold that position while being an RN and a PhD, your career has taken a serious wrong turn at some point. In fact, DeBold has, according to her bio at NVIC, extensive experience “as an ICU nurse, health care administrator, health policy analyst and research scientist primarily focusing on pediatrics and patient safety.” At present, she is even “Research Scientist and Affiliate Faculty member at George Mason University in the Health Administration and Policy Department where she teaches Health Services Research Methods and Introduction to the US Healthcare System.”

Yet the NVIC remains one of the most influential anti-vaccine organizations in the US, and DeBold is an anti-vaxxer. Crankery rarely comes in isolation, however, and like many anti-vaxxers, DeBold is apparently also attracted to the anti-GMO movement – after all, anti-GMO crackpottery is also often characterized by fallacious appeals to nature, and tends to rely on strikingly similar types of misinformation and pseudo- or bad science to attack GMOs as the anti-vaccine movement uses to attack vaccines. And when you’re both antivaxx and a GMO-conspiracy theorist, there’s at least one move that you can’t resist: According to DeBold, you should be deeply concerned about those GM vaccines, some of which are already on the CDC’s recommended vaccine schedule. Frankenvaccines, really. And it doesn’t matter what science, evidence or tests say – intuitions tell DeBold that such unnatural abominations can be nothing but unholy: Foreign DNA will contaminate your child’s precious bodily fluids and affect your child’s essence, or something. “I think the use of foreign DNA in various forms has a potential to cause a great deal of trouble. Not only because there is the potential for it to recombine with our own DNA, but there is the potential for it to turn the DNA’s switches, the epigenetic parts of the DNA, on and off.” And the proposed mechanism by which this is supposed to happen? Black magick, it seems. Certainly there are few other alternatives.

Given her credentials, DeBold is, however, a popular speaker at various antivaxx quackfests, including Autism One, where she e.g. in 2010 tried to tell attendants how “[i]n addition to producing antibodies, vaccine adjuvants can stimulate the immune system to produce abnormal responses in some individuals leading to autoimmunity and chronic diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.” Or what about this one? That is what the term “cargo cult science” was invented to describe.

Diagnosis: Yes, there are serious cranks with real credentials out there – and though they are few, they do wield an uncanny amount of influence (mostly precisely because they stand out). DeBold is as seriously cranky as they come, and definitely among the more dangerous ones.

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