The Kenyan Catholic Bishops are at it again, this time spreading fear of the polio vaccine

There's a delightful meme going around Facebook right now, featured above, that portrays five African women, fists raised, all wearing aprons proclaiming "Kick out polio!" Accompanying the meme is a message from the American Academy of Pediatrics celebrating that yesterday marked one full year since the last case of polio was recorded on the continent of Africa and praising African leadership in executing successful vaccination campaigns against this dread disease, in particular recent declarations in support of eradication from the African Union Heads of State Summit and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation Foreign. I don't know if these women are nurses, doctors, or aid workers, but it's a great picture showing determination to eliminate polio, an achievable goal.

Unfortunately, it's not all African leadership. At the same time there were news stories celebrating this important landmark in the effort to eradicate polio from Africa (and eventually the world), there were other stories that were not so heart warming because, after briefly mentioning this achievement, the report switches gears and interviews Dr. Wahome Ngare, who invokes the specter of eugenics before launching into a rant about vaccines:

But last week, a polio vaccination campaign in Kenya faced an unlikely opponent: The country's Conference of Catholic Bishops declared a boycott of the World Health Organization's vaccination campaign, saying they needed to "test" whether ingredients contain a derivative of estrogen. Dr. Wahome Ngare of the Kenyan Catholic Doctor's Association alleged that the presence of the female hormone could sterilize children.

Ngare is a practicing gynecologist with no infectious disease experience.

He raises the specter of eugenics — sterilizing segments of human populations. He put forth other objections as well: "There are all sorts of stories out there," he told me. "Vaccines can cause autism. Vaccines have been used for spread of HIV. There are some cancer-causing viruses that you'd find in vaccines. So there are lot of stories. Some of them we don't know whether they're true or not true."

Here's the audio:

Oh, no. Not again.

Unfortunately, yes, it's happening again. You might remember that last fall, the same clueless cast of characters used essentially the same fear mongering rumor to stoke fear, uncertainty, and doubt about the tetanus vaccine right in the middle of a vaccination campaign in young women to prevent neonatal tetanus in their babies after they were born. In that case, the general class of misinformation was the same, namely that somehow vaccines would sterilize their women or children. Last time around, the Kenyan bishops, aided and abetted by the Kenyan Catholic Doctors, claimed that the campaign to vaccinate young women against tetanus was in actuality a "mass sterilization exercise using a proven fertility regulating vaccine." In fact, proving that once a crank latches onto an idea he never lets go of it and, in the antivaccine crank world, if your only tool is a hammer every vaccine turns into a nail. Nagare is the same doctor who was spreading the misinformation that the tetanus vaccine was a plot to sterilize young Kenyan women in the prime of their fertility; his lack of imagination has apparently led him to say the same thing about the polio vaccine, except that this time it's sterilizing the children.

As I detailed at the time, it was a conspiracy theory that conflated an old attempt to develop an immunocontraceptive; i.e., a vaccine that would serve as a contraceptive. In the case of the tetanus vaccine, Ngare claimed that it contained beta-HCG, sometimes called the "pregnancy hormone" because of its critical role in maintaining the pregnant state. That made it a promising target for immunocontraceptives, and decades ago vaccines were tested that targeted hCG, the intent being to result in the inability to maintain a pregnancy. It takes little more than a quick trip to Wikipedia (among other sources) to learn that as far back as the 1970s, hCG was conjugated to a protein known as the tetanus toxoid in order to make a vaccine against hCG. The reason was that hCG itself did not provoke enough of an immune response. It’s not necessary to know all the details and history. However, from the 1970s on, there have been clinical trials of such vaccine contraceptives using hCG, and it is possible to prevent pregnancy by this approach, although antibody response against hCG declines with time. Overall, it was not a very good method of contraception, which is why there's little interest in it today. However, there's a lot of interest in conflating the tetanus toxoid in the old hCG vaccines tested 20 years ago with the tetanus vaccine. It's a conspiracy theory based on a profound misunderstanding of what was actually done. It's also not unique to Kenya but has appeared in the Phillippines and other Third World countries.

So what is the story this time around? There's no tetanus toxoid in the polio vaccine to produce confusion like this, and besides, vaccination campaigns against polio are focused more on children. The story mentions a derivative of estrogen, which, if Ngare is to be believed (he isn't), can sterilize children (even if it were in the vaccines it can't). I can't really figure out where Ngare got this idea. He's gynecologist and should know female hormones and what they do. He should know that a small amount of estrogen from a single vaccine is not going to be enough to sterilize a child, but apaprently he doesn't. At least in the case of the conspiracy theory campaign against the tetanus vaccine, there was a mechanism for the charge that at least sounded superficially plausible. True, it disintegrated rapidly under even a little bit of scientific scrutiny, but it was way more specific than this latest charge of there being "estrogen" in the polio vaccine, which is so vague that Ngare might as well have just said "toxins."

Naturally, Ngare claims he is not antivaccine:

But Wahome is not, he insists, anti-vaccine. He administers vaccines to patients in his clinic. His children are vaccinated. "Regular immunizations are safe and they must continue," he says. "You must immunize your child."

But are his children vaccinated against polio? Against tetanus? Of course, as is the case with our very own American antivaccinationists, most likely Ngare is feeling a little cognitive dissonance at his views on the tetanus and polio vaccines. Also, he knows it's generally not a good thing to be antivaccine or even perceived as antivaccine, especially if you're a doctor; so he resolves the conflict by convincing himself he's "pro-vaccine safety." Jenny McCarthy couldn't have done it better. No doubt Ngare thinks he's protecting Kenyan children from the evil depredations of the United Nations and World Health Organization, but in reality all he's doing is impeding the efforts of the Kenyan government to eradicate polio.

It's tempting to stand back and mock someone like Ngare, and, given his medical education, he really should know better. However, we have our very own antivaccine doctors—pediatricians, even!—right here in the good ol' U.S. of A.; so we shouldn't feel too smug. Also, given the history of colonialism and exploitation of Africa by European powers, it's not surprising that distrust of outside institutions like the WHO is easily stoked there:

In Kenya, vaccine suspicion has taken its own local strain, aimed less at vaccines themselves than at the international bodies, like the U.N. and WHO, that distribute them. The distrust has been fueled by WHO's decision to blanket Kenya with polio vaccines, well over and above routine injections, in an effort to boost population immunity. The idea is that some of the people reached by the campaign will have already been vaccinated, but some will not. The WHO says there's no harm in giving extra vaccines to children who are already vaccinated.

Which is true, but you can see how that might raise suspicions, particularly after this incident:

Their concerns heightened after a recent unrelated incident in which about 30 children who received an injection of an anti-malarial drug in a dispensary in western Kenya appeared to be paralyzed. The drug, believed to be quinine for advanced cases, was found to contain the pain drug paracetamol, according to the bishops. Paracetamol is also known as acetaminophen.

In particular, the CIA fed these sorts of conspiracy theories when it was revealed that in 2011 it organized a fake vaccination drive in Pakistan to get a hold of Osama bin Laden family DNA.

Fortunately, the Kenyan government isn't taking this lying down and is working hard to counter this latest bit of antivaccine misinformation:

...the vaccination programme is necessary to control any recurrence of the disease and the bishops' opposition has been met with dismay by officials.

The ministry of health released a statement from Dr Nicholas Muraguri, director of Kenya's medical services, who said: "Any attempts aimed at mobilizing the public against taking their children for vaccination is a serious violation of the right of children to health and survival.

"The ministry of health once again reassures the public of the safety of all vaccines used in Kenya. I therefore appeal to all stakeholders, especially the leadership of the Catholic Church, to continue supporting" the immunization campaign.

And, in response to the Catholic Bishops' demand that the vaccines be tested by an outside agency:

However, health cabinet secretary James Macharia said that the ministry could not accede to demands made by different religious groups. "We have different religions with different doctrines. If we allow health to be managed based on people's beliefs, we will have major problems in this country," he said.

"We are not about to back down on campaigns because of one religion. The bigger picture is the children who are at risk."

Exactly. Antivaccinationists, be they religiously-motivated or motivated by pseudoscience (or both), should not hold a government campaign to eradicate a deadly disease. Fortunately, it appears to be working, at least for now.

Maybe the five women in the meme above should pay Dr. Ngare and the Kenyan Catholic Bishops a visit to knock some sense into their heads. That, I would love to see.


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Last year with the tetanus farrago, we heard a lot of the notion that the Kenyan bishops were misguided but sincere (despite the fact that the source of their misguidance was someone whom they had explicitly chosen to put in a position from where he could disinform them); that they were acting in good faith. As opposed, for instance, to the theory that they are a vile pack of theocratic sh1tweasels who were doing their best to sabotage a public-health campaign simply because it was a secular campaign, with the potential to make non-religious authorities look good if it succeeded, and without enough rake-offs for themselves.

Perhaps the current imbroglio will remove any doubt on the good-faith / sh1tweasel question. I will check over at Rational Catholic to see what they make of it.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 11 Aug 2015 #permalink

At least in the case of the conspiracy theory campaign against the tetanus vaccine, there was a mechanism for the charge that at least sounded superficially plausible. True, it disintegrated rapidly under even a little bit of scientific scrutiny

It didn't help that the proposed mechanism kept morphing. First, it was anti-estrogen immune induction, like the original tetanus toxoid/hCG mix.
Then it was the estrogens in the vaccine doing all the work, derailing pregnancies and sterilizing women - never mind the tiny amounts (if any) or that hCG is actually needed by a pregnant woman.
I lost track about this point.

this latest charge of there being “estrogen” in the polio vaccine, which is so vague that Ngare might as well have just said “toxins.”

That would seem to be the case.

@ hdb

Perhaps the current imbroglio will remove any doubt on the good-faith / sh1tweasel question.

Judging from health cabinet secretary James Macharia's response - in essence, very politely calling them religious bigots whose opinion is irrelevant and, moreover, harmful to the country - I have this feeling Macharia has already come to his own conclusions.

By Helianthus (not verified) on 11 Aug 2015 #permalink

Steady on chaps!

The self-appointed interweb Catholic police will be along at the merest sniff of anything which might possibly be construed as anti-RC.

Well, that's what happens on The Guardian's website...

Oh, but what is a big deal about Polio? As Kate Tietje would gladly let us know, we don't have to rely on those Iron Lungs of old and there are more sophisticated machines for the patiens.


By The Smith of Lie (not verified) on 12 Aug 2015 #permalink

this latest charge of there being “estrogen” in the polio vaccine

The Catholic Church has a history of squicking out at the notion of female sexuality. That may be what's at work here: they claim that there is estrogen, a female sex hormone, in the vaccine, and draw a straight line from there to sterilizing (in this case, male) children. Neatly designed to stoke fears in a patriarchal society, and Catholicism tends to be more patriarchal than most religions.

Of course there are many other ways males get exposed to estrogen. Prenatal exposure seems likely, and there is plenty of estrogen in the environment as well. I'm not sure whether males actually produce small amounts of estrogen (it is normal for females to produce small amounts of testosterone, which is a male sex hormone). So there is no reason to think that a small amount of estrogen in vaccines would result in male infertility. It is, as Orac notes in the OP, a variation on the toxin gambit.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 12 Aug 2015 #permalink

I said it before with the tetanus deal and I'll say it again now: the Catholic leadership needs to reign in these bishops. As far as I'm concerned, their lack of action makes them complicit in all this. Last time people argued that the Vatican supports vaccination and that a couple miscreants doesn't reflect poorly on the church as a whole. I think the Vatican's continued silence significantly weakens that argument.

By capnkrunch (not verified) on 12 Aug 2015 #permalink

According to woo-meisters, the horrible, dangerous side effects of HRT can be avoided by ingesting vegetables, spices and herbs which contain the IDENTICAL hormones in smaller, safer doses, which were produced phytogenetically- in harmony with nature- not in a lab.

Thus, African women should FEAR the YAM- also ginger, anise, fennel, angelica .

I understand that yam tubers are an essential component of several African cuisines, perhaps the Church should also keep its eyes upon those wily, sterility-inducing, baby killing chefs and cooks.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 12 Aug 2015 #permalink

In the 2014 Kenyan tetanus manufactroversy, the webpage of the Kenyan Conference of Catholic Bishops published several press releases stating their opinion.

This time, nothing. No mention at all.


The AAP trumpets no polio in Africa for a year but conveniently forgets/ignores that measles had been eradicated from the US in 2000. Eradicated, that is until two FAAP pediatricians started their anti-vaccine scaremongering in the US, leading to the resurgence of measles to the level that other countries have travel advisories about their citizens coming to the US.

Yeah, nice job, AAP. Next time, show some spine and stand up to antiv-vaccinationists.

By Chris Hickie (not verified) on 12 Aug 2015 #permalink

What capncrunch said. The Roman Catholic church is not anti-vaccine and needs to call these bishops on the carpet.


Of course, the anti-vax response to the obvious success of the polio vaccination program in Africa will be that polio is still rampant in Africa and it's just called "Acute Flaccid Paralysis" now.

I don't understand why the UN would want to sterilize Kenyan women. Isn't that where they get all the UN soldiers that are being hidden in American National Parks?

By Militant Agnostic (not verified) on 12 Aug 2015 #permalink

“Any attempts aimed at mobilizing the public against taking their children for vaccination is a serious violation of the right of children to health and survival."

We need more of this kind of talk here in the US. Instead of pussyfooting around the issue with talk about what we can restrict if parents choose to opt out, how about more talk about not LETTING them opt out, since their ridiculous beliefs don't give them the right to revoke their children's right to live.

The current Pope appears to have a healthy respect for scientific evidence as well as excellent science advisors.

Here's hoping he kicks some ass and takes some names.

By palindrom (not verified) on 12 Aug 2015 #permalink

Fortunately in this case, Protestants outnumber Catholics by 2 to 1 in Kenya. The real question seems to be the border with Somalia, where the WHO has been unable to rule out low-level transmission.

Not even Cog-fer-life, which has been behind the hCG routine from the start, is down with this one yet.

You can be excommunicated from the RCC for giving a woman a medically indicated, legal abortion. And these guys just run around fearmongering at the expense of public health with impunity?

By Roadstergal (not verified) on 12 Aug 2015 #permalink

...they claim that there is estrogen, a female sex hormone, in the vaccine...

#@%!#$^%! is it with vaccines being used to deliver all types of substances in the name of social engineering and/or being the cause of all ills? I'm surprised I haven't read that vaccines cause hirtuism, gout, jet lag and Reality TV. Perhaps it would be more efficient if they provided the lay public (me) with a list of things vaccines don't cause. I am sure it would be a short list.

No offense intended but as helpful as the scientific types here have been, they haven't been the nail in the coffin of the anti-vaccine movement for me. It's the movement itself adopting whatever they think will resonate with the public and running with it.

I hope the opposition is reading this because I want them to know that although they wouldn't have prompted my skepticism with their irrational pleadings, they might well have aroused my suspicions. But after all this wide net BS I see them put out, Big Pharma Gov't could pay Orac 80 million dollars for his anti-vax work and I would still think they are peddling a load of crap.

By Not a Troll (not verified) on 12 Aug 2015 #permalink

What may be what’s at work here: they claim that there is estrogen, a female sex hormone, in the vaccine, and draw a straight line from there to sterilizing (in this case, male) children.

Any attempt to work out how Kenyan Catholicism could misunderstand biology so profoundly, may be over-thinking it. From the NPR story:

I pointed out to [Ngare] that research has shown that claims of vaccines being linked to autism and HIV and cancer are in fact not true.
His response: "We could debate this forever."

The guy instigating the anti-vaccine campaign, the guy appointed by the Kenyan bishops to be their personal pukefunnel, is of the "Facts are stupid things" persuasion.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 12 Aug 2015 #permalink

More evidence, as if we needed any, of the dangers inherent in hyping up the alleged dangers of vaccines and downplaying the risks of real diseases. The antivaxxers don't care how many children have to die, so long as they can feel their special snowflakes are not put at risk. Nice touch, the way the head denier swears up and down that he is not against vaccines: just like every crackpot ever.

@Militant Agnostic #13

That would be Pakistan, at least the ones masquerading as harmless tourists in the Utah national parks. Have you not noticed that the highway signs on I-15 are already marked up in Urdu on the back, ready for the drive-on-the-left occupiers to roll?

By Robert L Bell (not verified) on 12 Aug 2015 #permalink

It took me a while to make sense of this story.

After the great Kenya-tetanus manufactroversy of 2014-2015, where the Kenyan Conference of Bishops (KCB) were shown to be flat wrong about the purity and safety of the tentanus vaccine, they (KCB) demanded that any future mass vaccination campaigns include safety testing of all vaccines before, during and after the campaign.

When the mass polio vaccination campaign was announced in J July, the KCB not only demanded testing, but that the KCB be included. The Ministry of Health declined to include representatives of the KCB, and that's when the KCB held its press conference. (July 27, I think). The newspaper report did not then say anything about contaminants in the polio vaccine.

For clarity's sake, does Kenya generally use the oral (live attenuated) polio vaccine or the injected (killed) polio vaccine?

Because if they use the oral vaccine that makes the whole estrogen fear mongering even more ridiculous. People eat foods with naturally occurring estrogen all the time, and the whole world is clearly not sterilized.

As for the women in the picture, I read in the paper today that many of the aid workers are local mothers because they are better able to convince younger mothers to vaccinate, and they're more reliable about showing up for work.

By JustaTech (not verified) on 12 Aug 2015 #permalink

In other anti-vax breaking news...

In a short while ( 6pm EDT; 3pm PDT; 11pm GMT...8/10 am in Oz and NZ, respectively), creatures from AoA, the Canary Party, TMR, Andy's crew etc
will be twittering their sorry arses off in a festival of magical non-recursive thought # VaxWhistleblower and
# GarbageCan and I assume, other haunts of unseemly obsessional typing ( @ Tannersdad, @ Kim Stagliano, @ JakeLCrosby @ CDCWhistleblower )

Lloyd Levine wasn't very impressed with their social media efforts since it turned out to be ineffective in the recent California debacle.

At any rate, I will attempt to flit around and see what I can see.
All of you are formally invited for drinks.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 12 Aug 2015 #permalink

As it turns out, the polio drive in Kenya was postponed from an earlier date, because of the tetanus manufactroversy. In the ensuing months, evidently there were many meetings with stakeholders (Including the KCB) to make the August 1-5 mass polio campaign a success.

So the hissy fit the KCB pitched on Tuesday was a last-minute power-play, or something.

On Wednesday July 28, Health Cabinet Secretary James Macharia told the KCB in no uncertain terms to back off and shut up:

WHO country director Custodia Mandlhate accused the church of “lying and being hypocritical” while Medical Services Director Nicholas Muraguri said the campaign would go on despite the church’s resistance.

He said the vaccine had been distributed to 8,000 health centres in readiness for August 1 to 5 immunisation.

Dr Muraguri accused the church of dishonesty, saying it was among the 200 stakeholders consulted before the immunisation was announced.

“Many meetings have been held after we postponed the campaign five months ago but we reached a point where we had to make a difficult choice to ensure children are not exposed to polio. We will not allow three people to stop this campaign,” he said.…

Unfortunately The Nation (Nairobi) does not have an obvious date stamp. I think this is from July 29, but it might be a later date, but prior to August 5.

It looks like from the image that Kenay is using OPV (at least for infants) but may be using IPV for older people? Can't tell.

Despite the numerous assurances, the Catholic Church maintains that the vaccines are not safe.

“It’s unfortunate that they can pay for adverts yet the vaccines are contaminated, we conducted tests in April this year and I saw it with my own eyes,” said the chairman of the Catholic Church Health Commission Dr Stephen Karanja.

Speaking to the Nation by phone Saturday, Dr Karanja could however not state which labs conducted the tests, or the samples used.

“The ministry should present to the public their research and when they do, we will present ours to counter their findings.”

The controversy is similar the one that happened late last year when the Catholic Church raised a storm over the tetanus vaccination which they claimed can cause sterility in women.

Similarly, Dr Karanja says the polio vaccine which “is not like the ones used for the routine vaccination exercise and available in any hospital” is “laced with an active ingredient, a hormone that if injected to children - male or female - it will affect their growth and reproduction abilities.”

On Friday, a polio campaign ambassador Clinton Werema filed a case through his lawyer Fred Athuok at the High Court to bar the Catholic Church from issuing statements against the campaign pending hearing and determination of the case.

So Dr Karanja is muddying the waters by claiming the vaccine is not the usual and has "hormones". Interesting.…

When the mass polio vaccination campaign was announced in J July, the KCB not only demanded testing, but that the KCB be included.

The Catholic church in Kenya has become a protection racket. They are will disrupt any public-health initiatives unless they are bought off with a slice of the cake.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 12 Aug 2015 #permalink

There were various letters to the editor supporting the polio campaign from August 2-4, then this, on August 4:

Dr Hezekiah Chepkwony, head of the lab, said yesterday: “We conducted tests on the polio vaccine, and we can confirm they are free of any impurities. We want to assure Kenyans that the vaccine is safe”

He added: “We carried out the tests on July 31, before the campaign in 32 counties.”

Dr Chepkwony said the lab had always invited representatives from the Catholic Church in joint testing of some vaccines but they pulled out during sampling. He said they were not present during the testing of the polio vaccine.…

This came out on August 5:

A Catholic bishop has welcomed the release of the polio vaccine test result as “positive” and an assurance of the safety of the immunisation drive.

Embu Bishop Paul Kariuki Njiru, who heads the church’s Health Commission, Wednesday said the results, which were released on Tuesday, should have come out early to avert confusion.

The statement could help to clear up the controversy that has dogged the national campaign since it began on Monday.

However, his views contradict those of Dr Stephen Karanja, the chairman of the Catholic Doctors Association.

Dr Karanja shared with the Nation a report of a test he said was conducted in April on the vaccine.

The samples used for the test, according to the report, were from his private clinic.

So it is looking like this Stephen Karanja is driving the "contaminated polio vaccines !!!!!" bus, and has convinced some of the KCB to speak against the drive. But there's still no formal pronouncement from the official KCB website, which I find curious.…

The most recent article in The Daily Nation was an op-ed On Monday:

The church’s claims about polio also turned out to be rumours based on ignorance and superstition, just as I expected. Sadly, the drama had to go all the way to a lab to certify what all right-thinking persons believed.

The vaccine was fine; it was the church that had a problem.

This church has a habit of opposing medical advancement at every turn.…

So maybe this manufactroversy is a one-man show (Stephen Karanja, MD), who has the ear of one or more bishops, who may be gullible.

Or... follow the money? What financial benefits did Karanja reap from opposing the tetanus campaign on pro-life basis? This opposition to the polio vaccine also has pro-life roots.

I found this interview with Karanja last year quite appalling:

The campaign was targeting girls and women mostly in remote areas, where giving birth at home is common and hard for them to access the tetanus vaccine. Would you support such a campaign if the vaccine was proven clean?

No. Those communities living way out there have a strong immunity. Their immunity is 100 times higher than that person living in this contaminated city of Nairobi.

Over 60 percent of all deliveries in Nairobi take place at home. The only difference is that they take place in the shanties where there is no toilet and water. Weigh out that in the countryside where there is water and free fresh air. That's where we were all born. We never got neo-natal tetanus.

There are other vaccination campaigns that have taken place recently like the polio one. Could it also be having some dangers to the children?

I have not tested that vaccine but I am very shocked on how they are giving it out. Traditionally the vaccine that was given for polio at childhood was enough. Now they are telling you that even if your child is fully immunized and wherever they find your child at home or at the roadside they give him.

They could be doing it for subliminal education. That is if you continuously give people vaccinations without any reason they become used to consuming them even if you bring a vaccine that is poisoned.

So maybe this manufactroversy is a one-man show (Stephen Karanja, MD), who has the ear of one or more bishops, who may be gullible.

The question of the status of Stephen Karanja -- and of his organisation, the Kenyan Catholic Doctors Association -- came up during their tetanus antivax campaign. And the answer is that the KCDA is not some flaky little outside organisation that managed to get the ear of one or two gullible clerics; it exists under the auspices of the Kenyan Convention of Bishops (and blessed by the Cardinal / Archbishop) -- they founded it explicitly with the goal of bringing medievalism back into medicine, and turning health care back into a branch of theocracy, the way it's meant to be.…

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 12 Aug 2015 #permalink

Embu Bishop Paul Kariuki Njiru, who heads the church’s Health Commission, Wednesday said the results, which were released on Tuesday, should have come out early to avert confusion.

Bishop Kariuki is being disingenuous. I don't really see him as the Voice of Reason. Last year in his Health Commission role he was instrumental in the tetanus anti-vax campaign, with a similar claim that the health workers were forcing him to oppose vaccination by not showing him the full-length birth certificate sufficient proof of non-contamination.

Confusingly, Dr / Bishop Stephen Karanja* is also listed as
chairman of the Catholic Church Health Commission.
Who's running that show? And does it have any existence outside its vaccine-opposition role?

* Karanja doesn't just have "the ear of one or more bishops", he is a bishop. The bullsh1t is coming from inside the house!!

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 12 Aug 2015 #permalink

The current Pope appears to have a healthy respect for scientific evidence as well as excellent science advisors.
Here’s hoping he kicks some ass and takes some names.

That would be nice. But in this case, the ass most deserving of a kick is Kenyan Cardinal / Ngare, who gave his imprimatur to the KCDA and owns all the fabrications coming from Karanja and Ngare (the Cossacks work for the Tsar). And

On Saturday, 30 November 2013, Cardinal Njue was named a Member of the Congregation for Catholic Education by Pope Francis

so I think his ass is safe.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 12 Aug 2015 #permalink

^^ Should read "Kenyan Cardinal / Archibishop John Njue, who gave his imprimatur to the KCDA".

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 12 Aug 2015 #permalink

Well, after traipsing about the twit-sphere for NEARLY THREE HOURS!!!! all I can report is that there wasn't much of a storm- perhaps poufs of hot air rather than tornado blasts creating irrevocable damage to the entrenched status quo of CDC malfeasance-as-usual.
Fortunately I observed SB fellows- Boris, Rene and Raptor, testing the malodourous waters in those dead marshes of unreason where few of us dare to tread.

Don't worry, what they've got isn't contagious or even viral.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 12 Aug 2015 #permalink

Denise, that twitter "storm" about vaxwhistleblower and garbagecan was far too boring.... Except. They are advancing the idea that actual data was destroyed.

Here is what Posey read into the Congressional Record, reported William W. Thompson's words -- abstracted from I believe documents that Thompson supplied Posey (in some manner that is not yet clear)

All the authors and I met and decided sometime between August and September ’02 not to report any race effects for the paper. Sometime soon after the meeting, we decided to exclude reporting any race effects, the co-authors scheduled a meeting to destroy documents related to the study. The remaining four co-authors all met and brought a big garbage can into the meeting room and reviewed and went through all the hard copy documents that we had thought we should discard and put them in a huge garbage can. However, because I assumed it was illegal and would violate both FOIA and DOJ requests, I kept hard copies of all documents in my office and I retained all associated computer files. I believe we intentionally withheld controversial findings from the final draft of the Pediatrics paper.

Now, as I understand it, the underlying database is still extant -- in fact, isn't that what Hooker had access to to run his, well, inappropriate and later retracted analysis?

No matter. The current howl from the Society for the Promotion of Vaccine Preventable Disease is imprinting the (false) idea that actual data has been destroyed, rather than data analysis.

Further, it isn't clear at all that this putative event, The Great Garbage Can Caper, ever even happend.

It's the Simpsonwood manufactrovery, in a different suit.

The very term "hard copy" suggest to me that the documents were just that - paper versions of documents that were originally electronic. Keeping paper docs is expensive and next to worthless unless accompanied by records adequate to allow retrieval.

I would actually expect pitch-and-toss get-togethers to be rather common, ever since computers hit the desktop and aided the rapid generation of mountains of redundant paper.

In a province so cool even the Hutterites are hipsters.

I haven't been paying attention. What are the Hofers & the Walters up to now?
This has probably been a rather disastrous summer for many Hutterite colonies. The drought will have hit them pretty hard (one colony I know of has a break-even point of almost 5 million dollars for their grain crops).

Well, after traipsing about the twit-sphere for NEARLY THREE HOURS!!!! all I can report is that there wasn’t much of a storm....

More of an intermittent drizzle, I'd say. Has anyone copped to the fact that this was supposed to be some sort of morale-boosting rally?

I haven't quite figured out given a rat's ass how the Dachelbot's hash tag "CDCGarbage" turned into the ironic "GarbageCan," but it seems overall to have been the most embarrassing – metaphorically – symbolic pseudomilitary* parade of all time.

* Speaking of which, I guess the Fruit of Islam were otherwise occupied.

@ doug:

So there are Hutterite Walters too? Hah! Not just atheists?

At any rate, I wonder if I'm distantly related because I seem to be related to nearly everyone according to my cousin who looks into that sort of thing as a hobby.
BUT it's a fairly common name: I've heard of a Natural Hygiene doctor, a newspaper founder, an actress and if you count translations, a conductor and a fashion designer.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 13 Aug 2015 #permalink

@ Liz:

I agree: how did they ever get wind of this UNLESS it was lying around somewhere for Hooker to get his claws into it?

Can we figure out how Hooker went from requesting information to becoming a confidante for Thompson who bared his soul - and/ or his hidden ledgers- to him? Supposedly Thompson said his travailles as an informer would be little compared to that of a parent who had to deal with an autistic child on a daily basis: so did Hooker 'prime the pump' with his tales of woe?

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 13 Aug 2015 #permalink

@ Narad:

This event was seriously disappointing: I had hoped for showers of inspired madness but all I found were scattered dribbles of predictable complaining .I notice that the cast of dramatis personae seemed smaller than previous efforts.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 13 Aug 2015 #permalink

@ Denice Walter #45

Even though I think Lloyd Levine (in my link above) misjudged what the Wired article was saying about the effectiveness of the individual twitter campaign against SB 277, I linked to his commentary because of what he shared about the outcome and how the movement shot itself in the proverbial foot with it.

Anti-vaxers can only take their hysteria so far and I think that even their base is beginning to realize that what is wafting out of the #CDCGarbage can is not smoke from a gun but the stench of rotting refuse.

By Not a Troll (not verified) on 13 Aug 2015 #permalink

@ Not a Troll:

Exactly about Mr Levine.

The anti-vax movement- by which I mean its parent/ website/ facebook leaders, not its stars like AJW- lack the ability to stand outside of themselves and surmise that none of their extreme actions ever get anywhere because most people don't give a hoot about their pet theory of vaccine injuries and governmental/ corporate/ media criminality. Most parents don't despise or fear doctors and meds- although they may not love them they see them as necessary.

The anti-vax movement has always been a fringe group that may receive sympathy from other larger fringe groups- anti-establishment in general and back-to-nature - but none of those other people will devote much time and energy to another cause as they have their own hobby horses to ride.

Alt med types ( Bolen, Adams, Null) even attempt to take anti-vaxxers under THEIR OWN ( scurvy, crappy, misbegotten) WINGS in order to increase their numbers whilst Blaxill et al in turn, tried to increase their own followers through the Canaries/ Health Choice by including 'chronic illness' as well as ASDs.

It hasn't been working out so well I venture. Facebook numbers stay in the same range has they have for years despite efforts to plump up their figures- I imagine- by the die-hards ( altho' that may not be the best estimater)

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 13 Aug 2015 #permalink

Eric Lund:

I’m not sure whether males actually produce small amounts of estrogen (it is normal for females to produce small amounts of testosterone, which is a male sex hormone).

They do, which of course makes the fretting over possible estrogen even more ridiculous. Estrogen in males is even involved in the production of sperm, so it's not just a vestigial thing. And it also does stuff totally unrelated to sex as well. Most hormones (maybe even all of them) have multiple functions, due to the prolific code reuse in the vertebrate genome. ;-)

By Calli Arcale (not verified) on 13 Aug 2015 #permalink

Calli is correct: the whole system can be represented in terrific charts about the relationships between the hormones- which I once had to commit to memory- perhaps someone could find charts?

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 13 Aug 2015 #permalink

Narad @ 16: "Fortunately there are more Protestants..."

Whoa there! A number of Protestant denominations in Africa have been getting subverted by the American religious right. In Uganda the religious right has supported what is famously known as the "kill the gays" bill. There has been a schism from the Anglican church in another country, opposing the Anglican acceptance of gay folks. I don't have the details at my fingertips but go to and you'll find articles on US religious right activity in Africa.

While they aren't directly feeding anti-vax paranoia, these religious-right-influenced churches are also doing their damn level best to bring about theocracy far more harsh than anything in the Catholic universe in centuries.


What to do about this:

Catholics should speak with their priests about it, and everyone should send postal mail to the Pope about it.

It's highly likely that this hasn't gotten the Pope's attention yet because the individuals who are responsible for the problem are not informing the Pope of what they're up to. He can't be expected to know about everything that's happening in the Catholic universe. But enough postal mail and reports from clergy, will put the item in his in-box.

And I'm quite certain that once he knows about this, he will take steps to rein in the anti-vaxers in the Church in Kenya.

By Gray Squirrel (not verified) on 13 Aug 2015 #permalink

Not a Troll, Denice Walter: Lloyd Levine set up the Wired article as a strawman -- ignoring fact that the article was written just as SB277 was stalled.

I do not like Levine's article for a number of reasons:

Lloyd Levine's basic premise is flawed. Social media *did* influence some legislators to abstain or to vote no -- mostly that from their own constituents, though, not the onslaught from the anti-vaccine echo chamber *outside* of their own constituencies.

The other thing Levine seems entirely ignorant of is that the infighting amongst the opposition also had a deleterious effect on their advocacy. This is ongoing -- there are still fights the referendum supporters and those who prefer to let the bill go to law and then litigate is continuing.

What's unfortunate about Levine's piece is it draws a false and dangerous conclusion: public health advocates can safely ignore social media tools because they weren't effective in derailing SB277.

Pro public health folk MUST become adept users of social media. It's an effective tool for forming and shifting public opinion.

Somewhat off-topic from the original topic (anti-vaccine nonsense in Kenya) but apropos here: Karen Ernst has a new post up on how the anti-vaccine movement constantly makes itself seem bigger by launching new enterprises, staffed by the same old same old.

We cannot stop anti-vaxxers from repackaging their internet rumors. But we can be aware that when we run into a new website and social media outlet, we are likely simply running into the same old people trying something new.

@ LIz Ditz #51.

I agree with you on the strawman argument. Wired was being factual discussing the campaign against SB277 and they were speaking to the power of social media in general but they weren't making any claims to the impacts on this particular bill, even including this:

"Like many fringe communities, while the group is extremely well-organized and passionate they are largely tweeting into an echo chamber. Twitter users who don’t look for these hashtags would likely not know that they exist."

However, I didn't get the impression from Levine's article that public health advocates can safely ignore social media tools because this time they weren’t effective in derailing SB277.

My take-away was rather that this particular social media campaign spectacularly failed and it supports the case that social media is a tool that can easily return unintended consequences aka what companies have discovered the hard way:

It is also interesting that he advises "haters" (my term) not to use social media. But he is incorrect here as well. It isn't that it doesn't work, as the many cases of bullying can attest to, but rather that in this campaign the anti-vaxxers were largely incompetent in using it.

However, that may change in the future, so always vigilant

By Not a Troll (not verified) on 13 Aug 2015 #permalink

^ Also, I don't know Lloyd Levine and what his motives are. It appears he is trying to be helpful.

But your point that pro public health MUST become adept users of social media is the correct advice. Because if they are not careful one of their campaigns could easily go south as well.

This all reminds me of this Tolkien quote:

“It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to.”

And, that is social media.

By Not a Troll (not verified) on 13 Aug 2015 #permalink

@ Liz Ditz:

Although I enjoyed the puffer-fish analogy I recall that someone** @ RI occasionally likened their activities to a mammal whose hair stands on end and which adopts a characteristic posture to appear much larger than it really is to opponents ( I'm visualizing a dog or a cat but a wolf is probably more apropros).

Of course, the Canaries and Health Choice grew out of AoA as did the TMs etc etc etc. Then there's GR and the others.

There's a similar phenomenon occurring in woo-topia wherein our faves, Mikey and Gary, grow additional companies, labs, radio stations, institutes, TV, advocacy groups and 'charities'.TMR now has a charity as does AoA.

Mike has Truth Publishing, an Encyclopaedia, a lab, a charity*** that supplies schools with woo-lit and gardening products, a hydroponic gardening site, a 3D print farm, a search engine, a news service, a web store etc. Gary has PRN, the Nutrition Institute of America***, a Veteran's Village***, retreat palaces****/ rental estates. films as well as stores and shops ( real and virtual)

Multiple attempts to entice paying customers and make oneself appear not to be purely a money grubber. .

I really wish that someone would look further into these so-called charities. I notice 'donate' buttons on sites I survey.

** (Ahem!)
*** these entities are registered in Texas
**** expect more on this soon.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 13 Aug 2015 #permalink

Not a Troll @54: That must be why my MPH program insists that we take a class on mass communication. I just wish it had spent a little more time on message content compared to message medium.

By JustaTech (not verified) on 13 Aug 2015 #permalink

( I’m visualizing a dog or a cat but a wolf is probably more apropros).

Don't porcupines do that as well?

^ Yes, but porcupines mean it.

There’s a similar phenomenon occurring in woo-topia wherein our faves, Mikey and Gary, grow additional companies, labs, radio stations, institutes, TV, advocacy groups and ‘charities’.


By Not a Troll (not verified) on 13 Aug 2015 #permalink

@ Not a Troll:

Unfortunately, there are things even more sickening -

the aforementioned charlatan runs retreats (as a supposed fundraiser for a land-based radio station BUT I imagine he benefits somehow) where
- he proselytises about various cures prefaced by saying, "There's no talk of illness here"- after he talks about helping people with AD, MS, cancer etc. who then later give testimonials. Cost 2500 USD a week. Energy healings and re-education camp at his private estates in Florida and Texas. In the future, there may be more of this with woo-docs

- he hires nutritionists who counsel people for free ( in his brick-and-mortar store / on the phone) who then recommend his products to the sufferers

- he's involved in a campaign to turn people vegan in order to 'save the planet' by showing upsetting films of animals being 'murdered' by the food industry to students.

- he advises people about their investments relying upon the 'wisdom' of Gerald Celente and advises where they should re-locate to avoid various catastrophes.

It's a f@cking cult, I swear.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 13 Aug 2015 #permalink


I've worked in business where they've debated a word in a sentence for weeks but as far as social media goes there isn't time for that.

To your point, I don't know if anyone can reliably teach content yet as it seems like everyone is still trying to figure it out.

By Not a Troll (not verified) on 13 Aug 2015 #permalink

@ Denice Walter #59

Wow. Unbelievable.

It’s a f@cking cult, I swear.

No doubt.

By Not a Troll (not verified) on 13 Aug 2015 #permalink

Not a Troll @60: Honestly, I think I'm learning content here. I know there is academic/scientific studies on what does and doesn't work to get specific types of messages across, it just doesn't seem to be widely used in public health.

By JustaTech (not verified) on 13 Aug 2015 #permalink


I'm sorry. I misunderstood. I thought you meant how to craft content that persuades specifically for social media platforms.

Your reply prompted a question. What do public health use now as far as content then? Canned CDC literature?

By Not a Troll (not verified) on 13 Aug 2015 #permalink

A lot of us in PH fall back on what the CDC provides because it's free and because we don't have the resources in-house to craft all of the needed messages.

We have a staff of 86 for a county of 174k (which doesn't include the 25-30k college students at our two universities). At least we have a communications specialist, but she's also our marketing director, our public information officer, our web-mistress, and our social media guru.

I should have added in addition to being free it usually is offered in Spanish as well as English.

TMR now has a charity as does AoA.

It's too bad that the latter doesn't seem to have any state or federal (EIN 47-1831987) paperwork available on-line, as there are certain... questions that have occurred to me (*koff*e.g.*koff*electionunderAITCH*koff*).*

I have half a mind to write away for the Form 1205 and so forth.

* Ann bait, perhaps.

@ Narad:

It would be interesting to see all of these charities' papers.

I know that Null's set of charities/ businesses seem to have the same personnel. There are at least 4 entities at last count.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 13 Aug 2015 #permalink

It would be interesting to see all of these charities’ papers.

It would indeed, but I've been wondering about this one vaguely for a week or two* and spent a bit of time today reviewing some, ah, documents and bureaucratic forms.

I'm disappointed that bypassing the process put in place for the sheeple isn't a benefit for routine shills or minions.

* I don't have the original post to hand, but I thank whomever identified the correct entity name.


I feel your pain, and more acutely, the pain of your communications specialist. Any organization trying to run an their social media with a fifth of a person is a losing battle especially as it becomes more important as time passes.

Btw, I checked out the Twitter timelines of the CDC and the Red Cross. They are pretty good. Usually I cringe at the printed and online material they have as too academic or too childish; hard to find something in-between But I think they are doing well with their push content on Twitter

By Not a Troll (not verified) on 14 Aug 2015 #permalink