In a recent broadcast, “Tracking H1N1,” Fox News taps the wisdom of Dr. Kent Holtorf to advise America as the fall flu season kicks off. They describe him as an “infectious disease expert.”
Twitter tipped me off again here, with @ivanoransky noting that Holtorf is, in fact, not an infectious disease expert, but an "anti-aging" specialist, according to the bio posted on the website of his own clinic, where he advocates the use of “bioidentical” hormone therapy for a (very broad) range of medical problems and symptoms. Holtorf’s clinic profits from selling their own individually mixed prescriptions, which they claim are better than hormone therapy available at regular pharmacies.
Holtorf’s arguments and published advice to patients about his brand of Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) are not supported by the FDA, or by well-controlled clinical trials. In the past, Holtorf has been accused of manipulating and cherry picking data to support the picture of HRT he advocates at his clinic.
More germane to the recent broadcast on swine flu by Fox News, none of Dr. Holtorf’s activities or practices--whether they are clinically sound or not--appear to have much to do with infectious disease.
Yet, in the H1N1 Fox News report, the host twice identifies Holtorf as an expert on infectious disease, and allows him to make unchallenged statements about the safety of flu vaccines, confusing FOX’s audience who might make ill-informed medical decisions as a result.
“I have more concern about the vaccine than I do about the swine flu,” Holtorf says in the video, calling the H1N1 vaccine (of which the United States has approved several different versions) “Rushed to market” and saying that it has “high levels of adjuncts” and was created using an “unrefined method.”
Holtorf then says that vaccines have been “highly implicated” in autism, and because the H1N1 flu vaccine contains the preservative thimerosal, he “definitely would not” have his children vaccinated for H1N1 flu.
Thimerosal-containing vaccines, and vaccines in general, have NOT been “highly implicated” in or linked scientifically to autism. In a single case, a judicial ruling has linked vaccination to autism-like symptoms in a child with a mitochondrial disorder. The court’s ruling, however, is not representative of a scientific proof of the link, according to this actual expert in infectious disease--Dr. Paul A. Offit, chief of infectious diseases at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia--writing in the New England Journal of Medicine. A more recent court ruling has since found no link in three other cases.
Moreover, Holtorf doesn’t seem to know that only some of the swine flu vaccines will contain thimerosal. The nasal spray version of the H1N1 vaccine, for example, will contain no thimerosal at all. Neither will single dose units of the injected vaccine, according to the CDC. Only multi-dose vials of vaccine will require thimerosal as a preservative to prevent contamination inside a multi-dose vial, which can cause serious illness or death.
Holtorf’s report is presented as that of an expert, but clearly he does not know his facts. Thimerosal has not been scientifically shown to be dangerous, and vaccination is an important part of our national public health efforts. To advocate against it is dangerous, and certainly suspect, for a doctor. To bring on a guest who does so and tout them as an “expert” is dangerous practice for a news outfit, including Fox.