Tag Archives: Vaccine controversy

The Anti-Vaccination Movement invokes Godwin’s Law

Just when you think the anti-vaccination movement can’t get more extreme, they do.

Check out the lyrics to their new rally song.

Vaccine Gestapo
They have swastikas on their shoulders
They’re such patriotic soldiers
They’re like a militia in Montana
They’re a government agency in Atlanta

Vaccine gestapo! Vaccine gestapo!
Vaccine gestapo! Vaccine gestapo!

They’re a medical military priesthood
Just like Adolf they preach the greater good
Consciencious objectors are just little snots
Why don’t you quit complaining and go get your shots

Vaccine gestapo! Vaccine gestapo!
Vaccine gestapo! Vaccine gestapo!

If you are feeling particularly sadistic, you can listen to this song by the band The Refusers here.

Surprisingly for the HuffPo, they have an article speaking out about these tactics.  I strongly agree with the last line of this article – Jenny McCarthy and her band of scaremongers have no business being anywhere near children.

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The Latest Round in the Vaccination War

Tensions have flared once again between those that support vaccinations and those that oppose them with the publication in WIRED magazine of an article by Amy Wallace entitled “An Epidemic of Fear: How Panicked Parents Skipping Shots Endangers Us All.  This well researched article which is part interview with vaccine co-inventor Paul Offit and part vaccine history lesson has the anti-vaccination fringe all upset.  They are so upset in fact that J.B. Handley, the founder of Generation Rescue, an anti-vaccine group has written in the blog Age of Autism a commentary piece originally entitled “Paul Offit Rapes (intellectually) Amy Wallace and Wired Magazine.” which has now been toned down to just ” Wired Magazine and Amy Wallace Drink Paul Offit’s Kool-Aid”.   The line ‘the roofie cocktails at Paul Offit’s house must be damn good’ has been removed and now Amy is just innocently sipping Paul’s kool-aid rather than being date-raped.

It is interesting to see that a female journalist who writes a scientific piece that others disagree with has sexual references made about her whilst male journalists usually just get their credibility called into question.  In fact this point has been taken up by Abel Pharmboy in his insightful post, “When critics disagree with me, I’m a Pharma Shill.  When critics disagree with a woman it gets sexual.” The sexual name calling doesn’t stop with Handley’s horrible article, unfortunately.  Amy has received many letters in which is called a prostitute, a whore and other even more terrible things after the publication of her article.  She has now started twittering sections of letters both in support of and opposing her article.   Bastard Sheep has done and excellent job chronicling her tweets and putting them in a more readable format.  They are compelling reading.

For those interested in reading a great opinion piece about the tensions that have flared up over Wallace’s article, check out Science-Based Medicine’s post, “The effectiveness wordsmithing of Amy Wallace”.

For me, as someone new to the vaccination information war, this latest ‘battle’ has been very eye-opening in terms of how each side presents their arguments and responds to arguments from the other side.  As someone who has a science degree, I am always going to find solid scientific facts much more compelling than hearsay and personal anecdotes.  However, the behaviour of the anti-vaccination groups has made me realise that if the only way you can try to win a fight is to resort to name calling and other dirty tactics then you must not hold a lot of faith that your arguments can stand up to critical analysis.

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The Dangers Of Not Vaccinating Your Child

The anti-vaccination movement has gained popularity in recent years with Jenny McCarthy in the US (who frequently appears on Oprah) and the Australian Vaccination Network here in Australia.  They encourage parents not to vaccinate their children through misinformation and fear.

For instance, this is what the AVN have to say about the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccination

Unlike vaccination (which offers only temporary immunity), the natural occurrence of each of these diseases (all non-threatening illnesses in early childhood) generally results in lifelong immunity.

According to the AVN measles, mumps and rubella are all non-threatening illnesses – illnesses that can not harm your child.  Now let’s actually look at the scientific data on the effects of measles, mumps and rubella in children and adults.

Firstly measles.  The World Health Organisation (WHO) says

    Measles is a leading cause of death among young children even though a safe and cost-effective vaccine is available to prevent the disease.

      In 2007, there were 197 000 measles deaths globally – nearly 540 deaths every day or 22 deaths every hour.

        22 kids die every hour from measles.  Does that sound like a non-threatening illness to you?  Complications from measles can also cause blindness, encephalitis (an infection that causes brain swelling), severe diarrhoea and related dehydration, ear infections, or severe respiratory infections such as pneumonia.

        With mumps, death is extremely rare but some serious complications can occur such as deafness, sterility (both male and female), meningitis and pancreatitis.

        With rubella, the people most at risk are pregnant women and their unborn baby. There is a 90% chance of a pregnant woman passing rubella onto their unborn baby.  Rubella causes deafness in the unborn child and can also cause defects in the eyes, heart, and brain.

        So how does that compare to the complications that the MMR vaccination can cause?

        Medinfo has a fantastic table which I have replicated here.

        Complications Risk after natural disease Risk after first dose of MMR
        Fits (convulsions) 1 in 200 1 in 1000
        Meningitis / encephalitis 1 in 200 to 1 in 5000 1 in 1000000
        Conditions affecting the clotting of the blood 1 in 3000 1 in 24000
        Severe allergic response (anaphylaxis) 1 in 100000
        Deaths 1 in 8000 to 1 in 10000 (depends on age) 0

        To me, there is no contest, the vaccine is far safer than the diseases it is preventing.

        So far, we have just investigated the risks to the child who is getting the vaccination, but what about the risks to the wider community?  This is a topic that is largely ignored by the anti-vaccination movement.

        There is a heart-breaking article in the Slate by Stephanie Tatel, the mother of a 2 1/2 year old boy who has leukemia.  Because of the chemotherapy her son is receiving, he can not be vaccinated nor does his body have the number of white blood cells to be able fight diseases like measles, whopping cough and chicken pox.  If he contracts any of these diseases his chance of surviving them is very low.  Therefore, he can not go to child care because of unvaccinated children also at the centre.  When he becomes school age, his parents have to make the decision to risk sending him to school where unvaccinated children will be in attendance.  Even visiting a doctor’s surgery could be deadly for this kid if another child sitting in the waiting room has chicken pox or whopping cough.

        Then there are the sad cases of children too young to receive vaccinations dying from whopping cough and measles because of unvaccinated kids and adults.  Kids too young to be vaccinated rely on the herd immunity of their community to keep them safe from these deadly diseases, but as more and more people go unvaccinated, the herd immunity drops to a level where it no longer offers any protection.  There was a horrible case in March this year of a 4 week old infant dying of whooping cough because of the herd immunity in NSW had dropped so low that there is now an epidemic.  This little girl should not have died from a disease that can be so easily prevented through vaccinations.

        Parents should investigate vaccinations before getting their child vaccinated, but instead of only getting one side of the story from the anti-vax groups about the small risk of harm a vaccine might do a child, they should also be told about the much greater risk that the diseases pose to both the child and to the wider community.