A board-certified practitioner of family medicine from the prestigious Cleveland Clinic in Ohio has sparked an online uproar after he published a “Words on Wellness” column for the new year – a commentary that was filled with anti-vaccine rhetoric, including the widely discredited theory that linked vaccines to autism.

The article, written by Dr Daniel Nedies, was immediately met with backlash by the medical community, who called the article “vile” and “false”.

“That article… contains many of the tired, unsupported, irrational concerns about paediatric vaccines, as well as generally unsupported thoughts on ‘toxin’ exposure,” said Dr Vinay Prasad, a haematologist-oncologist at the Oregon Health and Sciences University.

“Frankly, it is a little surprising it is written by a doctor, and not someone on the fringe, who lacks basic science and medical training,”

Controversial comments started with a rant

“I am tired of all the nonsense,” wrote Neides as he described his personal account of opting for a “preservative free” flu vaccine, only to find out that it contained formaldehyde.

“How can you call it preservative-free, yet still put a preservative in it?” he lamented. “And worse yet, formaldehyde is a known carcinogen. Yet, here we are, being lined up like cattle and injected with an unsafe product.”

As Neides went on to express his disapproval of the toxins in consumer products, he shifted the focus to discuss the link between autism and vaccination.

“Does the vaccine burden — as has been debated for years — cause autism? I don’t know and will not debate that here. What I will stand up and scream is that newborns without intact immune systems and detoxification systems are being over-burdened with PRESERVATIVES AND ADJUVANTS IN THE VACCINES,” he wrote.

“Some of the vaccines have helped reduce the incidence of childhood communicable diseases, like meningitis and pneumonia,” he continued. “That is great news. But not at the expense of neurologic diseases like autism and ADHD increasing at alarming rates.”

Neides’ claims slammed for having no scientific backing

Neides’ comments triggered a chorus of disapproval by health experts who expressed their disappointment of the doctor’s apparent endorsement of the long disproved notion that linked autism with vaccinations.

Tara Haelle, a freelance science journalist for Forbes, also debunked Neides’ claims, explaining that formaldehyde is a chemical that naturally occurs in fruits and vegetables, and is used to inactivate the virus in the vaccine so that it will not be able to replicate when injected.

“If Neides wants his flu vaccine without formaldehyde, he might as well inject himself with the flu virus and spend two weeks with a fever, chills and body aches, hoping he doesn’t end up hospitalised,” she wrote, adding that his article risks misleading patients.

“This is really part of a larger movement that distrusts mainstream medicine, distrusts mainstream public health, and really trades in conspiracy theories,” said Dr Benjamin Mazer, a resident physician at Yale-New Haven Hospital.

“It’s just a shame that it’s a physician spreading these conspiracy theories because people naturally trust physicians,” he said, adding that Neides’ article was an example of a dangerous trend in which health professionals promote conspiracy theories that undermine evidence-based practices.

“We strongly support vaccinations,” reassures clinic

It was learnt that Neides was also the director and CEO of the Cleveland Clinic’s Wellness Institute, which promotes homeopathic and alternative remedies.

A lawyer and health policy professor at the University of Alberta, Tim Caulfield, said that it was “infuriating” that hospitals were “providing therapies that don’t have good evidence behind them, and it absolutely opens the door to this kind of nonsense.”

However, the clinic was quick to disavow Neides’ stance.

“He wrote this opinion piece on his own and it does not reflect the position of the Cleveland Clinic whatsoever, and we strongly support vaccinations and the protection of patients and employees,” spokesperson Eileen Sheil quickly announced.

She added that the article has been taken down and that “appropriate disciplinary action will be taken” against the doctor.

Neides has since issued an apology for his statements.

“I apologise and regret publishing a blog that has caused so much concern and confusion for the public and medical community,” he said in a statement.

“I fully support vaccinations and my concern was meant to be positive around the safety of them.” MIMS

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