Thursday, January 11, 2018

#1947: James Maskell

James Maskell is an anti-vaccine campaigner and the CEO of Revive Primary Care, an organization promoting altmed and conspiracy theories. Maskell believes that vaccines (may – he’s JAQing off) lead to a slew of negative health outcomes, including autism, which is false, and moreover that “vaccine side effects are largely underreported because the passive nature of the legal system puts the onus on the victim to make the connection, file extensive paperwork, and report the issue,” which sort of neglects the number of large-scale studies done on vaccines. Given his complete inability to assess evidence, probabilities and health outcomes, Maskell concludes that he “fear[s] the risk of complications from vaccines more than [he] fear[s] the risk of complications from infection,” since the risk of death from, say, measles is roughly 1/1000 (if not worse) and the risk of serious vaccines reactions (not death) is one in a million or lower. Also toxins; according to Maskell, vaccines commonly contain aluminum, “antibiotics, formaldehyde, MSG and thimerosal.” Most importantly, however, “I’ve seen scientists get it wrong before, and I don’t want my daughter to be a statistic,” which she sort of is becoming by not being vaccinated and which one would particularly become by succumbing to a vaccine-preventable disease. “Between the 1920s and 1960s, the same groups that are used to sell vaccines today (doctors, industry marketing, etc.) were used to sell cigarettes, and this has become known as ‘tobacco science’,” which is quite simply false regardless of how you try to view it (though the parallel between those who denied the link between tobacco and cancer and promoters of “natural cures” rejecting the evidence of the safety and efficacy of vaccines, is rather striking). Most importantly, vaccines have, according to Maskell, been insufficiently studied, where the standards for “sufficient” would be coming to the conclusions he wants the studies to arrive at, otherwise never.

Instead, Maskell promotes natural health (apparently he also takes his daughter to a chiropractor, which is … not recommended, but hardly surprising). Indeed, according to himself, he has spent the last few decades “encouraging a shift away from conventional western medicine and toward a wellness-centered, functional medicine model,” that is, away from the cold, alienating strappings of evidence and science toward the natural, which is a more personal, warm and fuzzy dogma since you can apparently define it any way you want and it is completely impervious to evidence, fact and skeptical investigation, and the anecdotal.

Like most anti-vaccinationists and conspiracy theorists, Maskell has a complicated relationship with honesty, as shown by the interview he did on ABC’s 7:30 show. Reporter Jane Cowan should receive an honorable mention as antivaxx sympathizer for failing to declare Maskell’s conflicts of interest (no entry, since she is not American).

Diagnosis: Conspiracy theorist, denialist and hardcore promoter of pseudoscience. Though perhaps not among the most famous members of the antivaccine brigade, Maskell does seem to have some influence, and his apparently ability to formulate grammatical sentences and assume what might immediately appear to be a relatively friendly and humble demeanor, might make him somewhat more dangerous than some of his ilk.

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