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FDA appoints anti-vaxxer to Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee

November 15, 2013

Hello Reader,

I would apologize for my extended absence but I’m sure you’ve been busy with your own life and haven’t even noticed. I felt that I had to write today, because it seems that common sense has been tossed out the window once again. Why? Because the Food and Drug Administration has seen fit to appoint an anti-vaccine advocate, Dr. Stephanie Christner, as the Consumer Representative for the Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC).

Dr. Christner may appear to have the qualifications (described further below) for membership on VRBPAC, as she is a D.O. However, there are other issues that may outweigh her ability to objectively review and evaluate the safety, effectiveness, and appropriate use of vaccinations. As covered by Orac in the past, Dr. Christner tragically lost her infant daughter in 2008. As also covered by Orac, Dr. Christner blames the death of her daughter on vaccines. I have a great deal of empathy for Dr. Christner, as losing a child is simply matchless in terms of devastation. However, I do have some concerns in that she appears to be unmovable in her view that her daughter died as a result of vaccinations, despite a dearth any supporting data for this belief.

Dr. Christner described her horrifying ordeal in the antivaccination film “The Greater Good”. This particular movie has been justifiably and thoroughly dismantled, piece by piece, as a misleading and frankly deceptive bit of anti-vax propaganda. She is also a current board member of the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC), a well-known anti-vaccine organization that cloaks itself in claims that it is merely trying to promote “well-informed vaccine decision-making”. Unfortunately, both the organization and its leader are quite adept at passing on blatant misinformation.

Dr. Christner’s affiliations with this film and with NVIC strongly suggest that she is a poor choice for VRBPAC, which, according to its website:

“reviews and evaluates data concerning the safety, effectiveness, and appropriate use of vaccines and related biological products which are intended for use in the prevention, treatment, or diagnosis of human diseases, and, as required, any other product for which the Food and Drug Administration has regulatory responsibility”.

The page also states that the FDA is currently engaged in

“ongoing efforts to recruit qualified experts with minimal conflicts of interest who are interested in serving on FDA advisory committees”.

So how does one become a member of this committee, you may be wondering? Well, no need to cogitate further:

Members and the chair are selected by the Commissioner or designee from among authorities knowledgeable in the fields of immunology, molecular biology, rDNA, virology, bacteriology, epidemiology or biostatistics, allergy, preventive medicine, infectious diseases, pediatrics, microbiology, and biochemistry.

Reader, am I the only one left scratching my head about the selection of Dr. Christner for this position? It appears to me that this appointment gives a false legitimacy to the anti-vaccination position, and while the potential long-term effects can only be speculated upon, I’m not seeing kittens and unicorns. If I were on the board, I would resign in protest.

From → vaccines

17 Comments
  1. lilady permalink

    I remember Dr. Christner and I posted this comment about her and her child’s death on Respectful Insolence (# 48):

    “Strange, isn’t it that Dr. Stephanie Christner, parent of the five month old baby who, she reports, died from childhood vaccines…has her own website:

    “Stephanie Christner D.O. is co-founder of H.O.P.E Food Sciences. After graduating from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas with a Bachelor’s in Business Administration and a Bachelor’s of Science in Economics, she completed her pre-med requirements at the University of Colorado in Boulder. In 2000, Dr. Christner received her medical degree in Tulsa from the Oklahoma State College of Osteopathic Medicine. She completed a one year internship in Family Medicine and a 4 year residency in Psychiatry at the University of Oklahoma in Tulsa. Dr. Christner is a mother to three boys and stepmother to two girls. Three of the children suffer with asthma, two have significant attention issues, and one has severe learning disabilities. After the death of her daughter at 5 months old, her eyes were opened to the toxins in the American food supply and other significant sources that are contributing to the staggering increase in neurodevelopmental disorders and immune system problems. Her husband, herself, and two boys suffer from food sensitivities and one suffers from life-threatening food allergies. She supports improving ones mental and physical health through individualized nutrition and supplementation.”

    I am mistaken here? No mention of vaccines causing the death of her child. She seems to be stating that it is the “toxins” in the American food supply…not toxins in vaccines.”

    • Yes, it is all very curious. A lot of woo there with very little science to back it up. I would surmise that one of the sentences above, “her eyes were opened to the toxins in the American food supply and other significant sources that are contributing to the staggering increase in neurodevelopmental disorders and immune system problems” would be hand-waving about her anti-vax beliefs.

      There have been a number of interesting conversations about her appointment that I’ve been following online since I posted this. Some people seem to believe that it’s an innocuous move by the FDA in the interest of appearing to be fair. They seem to think that it’s a “no harm, no foul” situation because she will be outvoted 11-1 every time. However, the problems with this “strategy” are several.

      1. It gives false validation to the anti-vax stance, which in turn
      2. Will allow Christner and NVIC to use her FDA position as currency to make it appear that their viewpoint is legitimate.
      3. It gives her a platform to put her anti-vax views into the public record under the auspices of the FDA, even when not supported by any science whatsoever, which in turn boosts #1 and #2.
      4. It is a very dangerous game to place a person who holds irrational beliefs into a position where the science is all that matters.
      5. She is going to waste the time and energy of other board members.
      6. If this is some vainglorious attempt by the FDA to change her mind, they are in for a very unpleasant surprise. If a person has reached a conclusion in the absence of logic, then logic cannot be used to change their mind. They have already tried this experiment with Barbara Loe Fisher, and that didn’t turn out too well, did it?

    • munchausen by proxy?

  2. And she has no logical reason whatsoever to even blame vaccines for her child’s death. So her entire viewpoint about vaccines is based on irrationality. Her baby died at 6 mos, long after any vaccine had been given.

    http://www.nvic.org/Vaccine-Memorial/VM-Search-Details.aspx?ReportID=536

  3. So she is an osteopath, not a medical doctor? I’m pretty sure they will live to regret their decision because she will at best be disruptive and at worst completely obstructive. I hope there are enough other committee members to override her.

    • Chris permalink

      In the USA an Doctor of Osteopathy does pretty much the same course work and passes exactly the same licensing exam as MDs:

      a medical student officially enrolled in, or a graduate of, a US medical school leading to the DO degree that is accredited by the American Osteopathic Association (AOA),

      Plus they go through the same hospital residency regime. When my son was last in an emergency room the resident/intern who attended to him at the hospital attached to a medical school was a DO.

      This is only for the USA. Osteopaths in other countries have not gone through their programs to bring them up to the same standard of medical schools.

      • Yes, in the U.S. a DO is equivalent to an MD. There are a lot of great ones out there, some of whom post here. Unfortunately it’s like any profession, with some good eggs and some bad eggs. Tenpenny and Christner are two DOs who fall into the latter category.

        • Chris permalink

          “Unfortunately it’s like any profession, with some good eggs and some bad eggs.”

          Which also means the same goes for some MDs. Like Mark Geier and Russell Blaylock, plus a few others.

        • Absolutely, Chris. Somebody has to graduate at the bottom of the class.

  4. And sadly there are also some bad-egg MD pediatricians like Sears and Gordon who are anti-vaccine for the fame and fortune.

    This appointment was a very bad thing.

  5. lilady permalink

    I believe that Orac, relying on some sketchy information about Dr. Christner’s baby’s death, opined that the baby died in her sleep from SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome), which is a “diagnosis of elimination”, made after a thorough autopsy which rules out other causes of death such as congenital anomalies, major infections leading to septicemia and child abuse/neglect.

    Dr. Christner seems to confirm what Orac and others surmised, about this infant’s death, with her posting on the NVIC’s International Memorial For Vaccine Victims webpage:

    http://www.nvic.org/Vaccine-Memorial/VM-Search-Details.aspx?ReportID=536

    “She was given her vaccinations on 10/22/2008. Initially she was extremely sleepy and less responsive. Five days later she was irritable, she wouldn’t eat. As well, her tongue began involuntarily protruding. 5-6 weeks after vaccination she had runny nose, low-grade fever, and suffered an apneaic episode/seizure. After 4 month vaccines she continued to become less interactive to audio and visual stimulation- constant allergy symptoms. She passed away in her sleep while in her swing. Autopsy found nothing. She will be missed dearly by her parents Danny and Stephanie, as well as her three brothers Daniel, Forest, and John, along with an endless list of close family and friends.”

    Appointees to this FDA Advisory group are supposed to have “minimum conflicts of interest”, yet Dr. Christner failed to mention in the CV that she submitted to the FDA, that she attributes attributes her child’s death to vaccines and that she considers her child is a “Vaccine Victim”.

    http://www.fda.gov/downloads/AdvisoryCommittees/CommitteesMeetingMaterials/BloodVaccinesandOtherBiologics/VaccinesandRelatedBiologicalProductsAdvisoryCommittee/UCM363214.pdf

    Dr. Christner also failed to mention in her CV another “conflict of interest”…the lawsuit that she and her husband filed, February, 2011, with the United States Court of Claims (Vaccine Court), for compensation for her daughter’s death due to vaccine(s) she received.

    http://dockets.justia.com/docket/federal-claims/cofce/1:2011vv00074/25815

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Trackbacks & Pingbacks

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