My irony meter exploded in a near-nuclear conflagration, leaving nothing but a sputtering, molten puff of plasma when I was referred to this gem from Kim Stagliano over at Age of Autism directed at the enemy of all anti-vaccine pseudoscience, that Dark Lord of Vaccination (to anti-vaccine loons) himself, Paul Offit:
You’ll blame the “anti-vaxxers” for the public refusal of this vaccine. Spare me. We are a cap gun compared to your nuclear bomb when it comes to the media. We’re ragtag colonials hiding behind trees as you Red Coats march in military precision with fine weapons. How much money has your ally, the US government, spent on the H1N1 flu campaign. How many TV programs have been dedicated to promoting the vaccines? You had everyone including Elmo and Sid the Science Kid trying to convince Americans to get their shots.
Here’s my real concern. What if there is an anthrax attack on American soil? Or a biological attack that could be thwarted with a vaccine? (You think if Ebola is killing my neighbors, I’m going to let my kids exsanguinate rather than vaccinate them? Think again. Vaccine safety advocates weigh risk and return, just like you businessmen.) If such an attack happens, will the nation hold you responsible for having diminished the public’s trust in vaccines? I think that’s entirely possible. And dangerous. What a legacy.
Project much, Kimmy?
It is not Dr. Offit who has “diminished the public’s trust in vaccines.” It is anti-vaccine activists from Generation Rescue and other groups, people such Kim Stagliano, J.B. Handley, Jenny McCarthy, Jim Carrey and Barbara Loe Fisher, who have demonized vaccines, used pseudoscience to claim that they cause autism and all other sorts of health issues, that they don’t work, and that there is a conspiracy going on to “cover up” these “facts.” True, health authorities such as the CDC, NIH, and WHO haven’t always been particularly competent in their responses or their communication with the public, but that is because the the antivaccine movement got the jump on them a few years ago. Indeed, only in the last year or two have these organizations finally roused themselves from their slumber to the awareness of the danger that anti-vaccine groups like Generation Rescue pose. However, it is not these organizations that bear the primary blame for the increasing distrust people seem to be developing regarding vaccines, other than through their failure to wake up earlier to the danger posed by ideological campaigns to sew fear and doubt about vaccines.
Even so, if anyone is guilty of having degraded the ability of the United States to respond to a bioterrorist attack, it’s Kim and her merry band of anti-vaccine propagandists over at Age of Autism. Part of the reason that the U.S. had to spend so much time, money, and effort to promote the H1N1 vaccine is because of the efforts of pseudoscience-boosting arrogantly ignorant self-righteous know-nothings like Kim. Indeed, I find it particularly telling that the post from which the above two paragraphs were excerpted was in essence one massive gloat that there is a large percentage of the U.S. population that does not plan on getting the H1N1 vaccine. The obsessive, cult-like concentration on vaccines by the “autism biomed” movement belies its denial that it is not “anti-vaccine” and its claim that it is “pro-safe vaccine.” It’s always about the vaccines. If it weren’t, then why does AoA concentrate so much on Gardasil, a vaccine that isn’t given until long after the age at which children develop the first symptoms of autism and thus couldn’t possibly be implicated as a causative factor? It’s because, according to principle related to that of the “vindication of all kooks” corollary to the principle of crank magnetism any perceived complication from any vaccine is painted as an indictment of all vaccines and “proof” that the vaccine-autism crowd must be on to something.
No, I’m afraid that Dr. Offit’s legacy will be that he fought to protect children against deadly diseases through vaccination programs. It is Kim and her fellow anti-vaccine activists whose legacy will be not only the resurgence of vaccine-preventable diseases but a long-lasting unjustified distrust of vaccines. Furthermore, I fear that only a major epidemic of a vaccine-preventable disease will change the distrust that anti-vaccine activists like Kim and her crew at AoA have cultivated over the last few years. We may well have gotten lucky with the H1N1 pandemic (although that still remains to be seen and it is clear that children and the young have been especially hard hit), but next time we may not be so lucky.