Pharyngula

This is an excellent review of a program that will be on tonight:

Tonight on Frontline, “The Vaccine War” presents both sides of the controversy over whether young children should be vaccinated for diseases such as measles and polio, and in a rare display of TV-news common sense and independence, one side is shown to be — sorry — wrong. Frontline’s documentary will, I hope, leave any sensible viewer feeling that you’d have be deluded or selfish not to have your kids vaccinated.

Now I’m going to have to tune in just for the unbelievable spectacle of a television show taking a skeptical, science-based view of the issue. It’s broadcast at 8pm Central time on PBS — apparently, it will also be available online as well.


It wasn’t bad — a little dry, not quite as blunt as I’d have liked it to be, but I think it made a good case. They’d show the anti-vaxers making some claim, then they’d show how they were simply wrong. Too much time was given to the doofuses, but I think that had to be done in order to shoot them down.

The most effective bit, though, was the showing of the effects of diseases like whooping cough, which can be easily immunized against. If I were a young parent trying to make a decision about whether to immunize (because I was an ignorant git unaware of the science behind vaccines), a bunch of statistics from an epidemiological study might not be that persuasive…but a video of a baby girl gasping for air and near death because of a disease that I could prevent her from getting, I’d give her the shot. No argument.

Comments

  1. #1 ambook
    April 27, 2010

    Since I homeschool, I run into anti-vax people a lot. I can confirm – they are freeloaders and worse, and since their little disease magnets pose and actual risk to my (fully vaccinated) kids, I am very leery about encouraging any friendships with them. Not that that’s likely to happen, since they tend to be the anti-science, pro-woo variety of homeschoolers and think we have major cooties.

  2. #2 cervantes
    April 27, 2010

    Reviews I have read — including in the NYT today — suggest that although it presents the science as clearly stating that vaccines don’t cause autism and not getting your kids vaccinated is a disservice to the community, it hits the lizard brain rather differently. “Whichever side is right,” says the NYT reviewer, Neil Genzlinger, “. . . there’s a more delicate question that no scientific study can answer,” concerning individual rights. In other words, he appeared to come away unconvinced that there’s a “right” side to this.

    We’ll see what the overall impression is like, but this isn’t particularly promising. Orac is worried about it.

  3. #3 Celtic_Evolution
    April 27, 2010

    We’ll see… I hope the description above is accurate. We so need to be rid of this anti-vax insanity.

    I went to a seminar last month by noted author Dr. Temple Grandin, who is autistic. It was moving and inspirational, she is clearly an enormously intelligent and thoughtful woman. But when, during the Q&A that followed, the inevitable question was asked by an audience member about her thoughts on whether or not vaccination causes autism, she hedged. She said the answers were, in her mind, inconclusive.

    It was painful to watch. You could see her struggling with the answer, and you could tell she did so because she was trying to be “political”… She should have simply answered that despite the numerous independent studies that have been done, no link has ever been found, and the only study claiming to have found a link was found to be fraudulent.

  4. #4 Glen Davidson
    April 27, 2010

    Maybe there are worse than creationists/IDiots.

    But then, they all sort of converge on hating science, defaming scientists as a group, and conspiracy theory. So whoever’s better or worse, they’re all culpable.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/mxaa3p

  5. #5 Carlie
    April 27, 2010

    But…but…that’s when Glee is on!

  6. #6 Givesgoodemail
    April 27, 2010

    “You know what other industry besides treehugging just *loves* you anti-vaxers? The baby coffin industry! You can get little white sepulchers, and little blue ones and pink ones, and they all have pretty padded velvet linings. You can even have a new stuffed toy placed into your baby’s dead grasp.”

  7. #7 Tim_Danaher
    April 27, 2010

    (from programme description)

    “[the programme] presents both sides of the controversy…”

    THERE IS NO CONTROVERSY!!! Vaccines work and save lives, bitches.

  8. #8 Sili, The Unknown Virgin
    April 27, 2010

    there’s a more delicate question that no scientific study can answer,” concerning individual rights.

    Indeed. I reserve the right not to be killed by your poxridden self and offspring.

    By all means avoid vaccinations, but please stay at home, lock the door and don’t answer the doorbell.

  9. #9 ambook
    April 27, 2010

    You can even have a new stuffed toy placed into your baby’s dead grasp.

    The problem is that the anti-vaxers are more likely to kill MY vaccinated kids than their own non-vaxed kids. I’d prefer not to put a stuffed toy in my dead baby’s grasp, thanks…

  10. #10 Bill Dauphin, OM
    April 27, 2010

    Carlie (@5):

    Three letters for you: D V R

    ;^)

  11. #11 Carlie
    April 27, 2010

    Bill – DVR? I’m an academic; I don’t have money for fancy technology like that. :)

  12. #12 jupiter9
    April 27, 2010

    The rest of the quote:

    “Whichever side is right, that moment between Dr. Shames and the mothers who don?t have their children vaccinated reveals that beneath the heated do-they-or-don?t-they words about vaccines themselves, there?s a more delicate question that no scientific study can answer. It involves whether parents? rights to make choices about their children trump the needs of the community.”

    So at the end of the graf, the writer does acknowledge that vaccination is a need of the community. He phrases it as a question of rights.

    And I agree, there is no scientific study that can answer whether a parent has a right to allow their child to be “passively” dangerous to others by not vaccinating her or him, just like there’s no scientific study that will tell us whether I have the right to not donate a kidney if my sister needs one, or a right to serve “unhealthy” food to my (nonexistent) children.

    Rights are not scientific facts. You can use science to determine if a right has been violated, for instance — are viruses and bacteria from unvaccinated children equivalent to pollution, or second-hand smoke? But you can’t decide from that whether freedom from pollution or second-hand smoke is a right.

    I think he misinterprets the mothers’ discomfort at the question about whether they should protect too-young-to-vaccinate children. He says they react “as if confronting something they didn?t really want to think about.”

    These mothers probably *never* thought about it. Because these mothers probably *didn’t know about it*.

    They’re certainly not going to be told about it by the anti-vaxxers, right?

  13. #13 Orac
    April 27, 2010

    Antivaxers are going to be live-Tweeting and live-blogging this:

    http://www.ageofautism.com/2010/04/join-age-of-autism-live-blogging-tweeting-during-the-vaccine-war-on-frontline.html

    Personally, I’ll watch it and try to post a review soon after it’s over, but unfortunately in my neck of the woods the show doesn’t air until 10 PM. There is, however, a bit of a reason to be concerned:

    http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2010/04/the_vaccine_war.php

    On the other hand, the segment where antivax mothers are interviewed shows them to be smug and selfish. They don’t accept or understand that their actions can endanger others and, by their indifference (What do you have to worry about from me if your kids are vaccinated?) reveal that they don’t understand herd immunity and that vaccines are not 100% effective, which means that even the vaccinated are endangered when a large percentage of the population are unvaccinated.

    One other thing that gives me hope is that the antivaxers are clearly worried about it. J.B. Handley himself said this on AoA in the comments from the post to which I linked above:

    I personally spent 2 hours with Jon Palferman and Kate McMahaon, the producers of the piece. The whole point of my meeting was to explain that this was not Parents vs. The Science and that our community takes its cues from doctors and scientists. I encouraged them to interview Jon Poling, Bernadine Healy, Boyd Haley, and many others.

    When Jenny was interviewed, Jay Gordon sat next to her the entire time and was also part of her interview – let’s see if they show him.

    I told Frontline, “Get all the people from the other side you want, just be fair in telling the totality of our story, and don’t turn this into a Parents vs. the science” like the NY Times did.”

    My response back from Kate McMahon:

    “FRONTLINE will carry out a detailed and even-handed investigation including voices from all sides of the controversy including parents, activists, physicians, scientists, lawyers, politicians and vaccine manufacturers. We will examine the evidence relating to an association between increases in the prevalence of autism and hypothesized causes such as MMR vaccine, thimerosol and other toxins associated with vaccines.”

    Here’s hoping they live up to what they said they would do.

  14. #14 Jeep-Eep
    April 27, 2010

    Gotta see this. It had better be good. I normally watch the Agenda then.

  15. #15 Orac
    April 27, 2010

    I forgot to add: Teach the controversy! With Dr. Jay Gordon, yet!

    That’s what I’m afraid of, even though FRONTLINE did such a good job with the Dover case.

  16. #16 E
    April 27, 2010

    I used to work with a woman who was vehemently against anything to do with western medicine. On one occasion, when she was going on and on and on about how vaccination is the root of all evil, another co-worker walked in. He was an older guy who walked with a limp because he’d contracted polio as a child. I won’t ever forget look of disgusted disbelief on his face. I wish I could remember his reply. It was suitably cutting.

  17. #17 Brownian, OM
    April 27, 2010

    Yeah, but will Frontline have the guts to hit where it really hurts; to take on those in power by whose thoughts and wishes we live, work, reproduce, and die?

    Don’t pretend you don’t know what I’m referring to.

    That’s right: the real ugly truth you don’t wanna face is that Crystal children (and their Indigo moms) are the secret cabal behind every human incident of importance, from the sinking of Atlantis to the suppression of the oxyhydrogen car.

    How about it, Frontline?

  18. #18 MarianLibrarian
    April 27, 2010

    But Brownian, children with autism aren’t crystal or indigo children anymore. They are victims of evil science. If their autism makes them special magical crystal children, then it can’t also make them victims, now can it? Which is precisely why Jenny McCarthy took all the indigo child stuff off her website when she got on her anti-vax kick.

  19. #19 lizditz
    April 27, 2010

    Autism parent and vaccine supporter Autism News Beat will also be live-blogging the show, http://autism-news-beat.com/

  20. #20 Derek Bartholomaus
    April 27, 2010

    I will be recording this, but due to my current schedule I don’t know when I will be able to watch it. I would love to read your comments about it on the Jenny McCarthy Body Count Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Jenny-McCarthy-Body-Count/180783538575?ref=ts

  21. #21 Brownian, OM
    April 27, 2010

    But Brownian, children with autism aren’t crystal or indigo children anymore. They are victims of evil science. If their autism makes them special magical crystal children, then it can’t also make them victims, now can it? Which is precisely why Jenny McCarthy took all the indigo child stuff off her website when she got on her anti-vax kick.

    Okay, now I’m confused. This site (which you can tell is spiritually advanced because it incorporates web design from 1997 but with butterfly backgrounds and animated gifs) says that:

    The trouble comes about when the Crystals are judged by medical and educational personnel as having “abnormal” speaking patterns. It’s no coincidence that as the number of Crystals are born, that the number of diagnoses for autism is at a record high.
    It’s true that the Crystal Children are different from other generations. But why do we need to pathologize these differences? If the children are successfully communicating at home, and the parents are’nt reporting any problems… then why try to make a problem? The diagnostic criteria for autism is quite clear. It states that the autistic person lives in his or her own world, and is disconnected from other people. The autistic person doesn’t talk because of an indifference to communicating with others.
    Crystal Children are quite the opposite. They are among the most connected, communicative, caring and cuddly of any generation. They are also quite philosophical and spiritually gifted. And they display an unprecedented level of kindness and sensitivity to this world. Crystal Children spontaneously hug and care for people in need. An autistic person wouldn’t do that!
    In my book “The Care and Feeding of Indigo Children”, I wrote that ADHD should stand for Attention Dialed into a Higher Dimension. This would more accurately describe that generation. In the same vein, Crystal Children don’t warrant a label of autiem. They aren’t autistic! They’re AWE-tistic!

    So, soul-destroying vaccine or no soul-destroying vaccine, is Evan still a Crystal child?

    Further, what are the effects of copious amounts of botox to the face on an Indigo soul?

    Where’s Larry King when there are real questions to be asked?

  22. #22 AnthonyK
    April 27, 2010

    Both sides?
    How are there two sides? What would you think of a programme being “even handed” in the Great Evolution Debate?
    Well, I’ll keep tabs on the program, but the only way it’s going to be minimally truthful is to give the scientific side the last word and thus appear biased. Will they tell the story of the persecution of Paul Offit?
    “Balanced” programmes on primarily evidence-based issues are just a complete waste of time.
    But go on PBS, prove me wrong,

  23. #23 The Countess
    April 27, 2010

    “[the programme] presents both sides of the controversy…”

    I get so tired of the false “balance” in shows like these. Would there be a show about the Holocaust that allowed Holocaust deniers to voice their claptrap in the name of “balance”?

  24. #24 Yubal
    April 27, 2010

    No vaccination for kids? Not even for POLIO ? ! ?

    I call child neglect.

  25. #25 Carlie
    April 27, 2010

    This is the kind of thing I can’t watch firsthand; I have to find out if it was good or not before I can let myself watch it, or my blood pressure will go through the roof. I can’t stand even for a minute watching things that are sympathetic to anti-vaxxers.

    They aren’t autistic! They’re AWE-tistic!

    I know that’s from an old site, but damn if it doesn’t make me want to smack the person who wrote it.

  26. #26 SkepgineerChick
    April 27, 2010

    To #3 above, I had to make a note. I have read Dr. Temple’s book, Animals in Translation, and if you have read anything by her explaining how she sees things and how she explains things, you would understand she has a hard time answering any questions she has not prepared to answer. I am not sure if this is the first time she has ever been asked the question, but I know she has stated in her book she has a hard time having “off the cuff” conversations, as she sees things in pictures and not words, and has “pre-recorded” responses for those pictures. She was called “tape recorder” when she was young in school by the other children because she only said the same things over and over for different situations. She has a hard time at times with that. Just so you know. I didn’t see it first hand, but I just wanted to put this out there. She may not have been skirting, just not prepared to answer that particular question.

    That being said, even reading her accounts of her life and experiences with autism, I can’t pretend to even begin to understand what it is like to live as an autistic person. She is truly gifted to have overcome so many obstacles to become the person she is. And, I agree, she is and INCREDIBLY BRILLIANT woman, autistic or not. She is amazing, and her books are wonderful!! I highly recommend! My 2 cents =)

  27. #27 Rider1
    April 27, 2010

    uh oh, anyone seen this?

    http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/world/christians-discover-noahs-ark-on-mount-ararat/story-e6frg6so-1225859037999

    get ready for the onslaught. Although I’m confident that just this short piece alone contains enough inconsistencies with their usual claims that the counter-attack will be both strong and entertaining.

  28. #28 Ryan F Stello
    April 27, 2010

    I’m surprised at how many cogent comments were made on the EW site, more than your typical entertainment news site.

    Kudos to ‘kate’ and ‘Mike’ should they have any counterparts here.

  29. #29 Sastra
    April 27, 2010

    To be fair, there is a controversy — a political controversy. Just as there is with creationism.

    But they better not present it as a scientific controversy. Or, just as bad, one where heart is pitted against head, and it’s up to you to decide.

    I wouldn’t say that the question about forcing people to vaccinate their kids is a foolish one. Push comes to shove, and you’ve got a mom absolutely refusing — one who doesn’t care about public school requirements — what do you do? Come into their home with a trained team of government officials and grab the child from her arms while babe and mommy scream? Jail time?

  30. #30 Bunkie2
    April 27, 2010

    PBS air times vary from state to state. Alabama public television shows it at 9:00 p.m. CDT.

  31. #31 Rider1
    April 27, 2010

    (facepalm) sorry everyone, I should have read further before posting. Learnings taken.
    (shuffles away in shame)

  32. #32 skeptical scientist
    April 27, 2010

    Deluded or selfish not to have your kids vaccinated? Deluded I get, but selfish makes no sense to me. I would think pure self interest would point to vaccinating. Sure, there are positive externalities to getting kids vaccinated (you help protect others around you as well), but the main reason is that you protect your kids from potentially dangerous diseases at almost no risk.

  33. #33 Ryan F Stello
    April 27, 2010

    FYI, in some communities (like Milwaukee), the episode isn’t on until Wednesday.

    PBS has been good about making their full catalogue available online….except for non-US residents.
    It can be seen here:
    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/vaccines/view/

  34. #34 ambook
    April 27, 2010

    @skeptical scientist

    Selfish because the greater the percentage of non-vaccinated kids in a population, the greater chance that an outbreak will be able to spread in a community. So if polio or measles is introduced into a population with vaccination rates below a particular threshold (which may vary by disease), the disease will spread more widely and vaccinated kids will get it too – vaccines do not provide 100% immunity. Before the outbreak is contained, more vaccinated kids will be harmed than non-vaccinated kids. Vaccination only works because enough individuals are immune so as to prevent the pathogen from spreading. (If someone is a public health type, please explain this more clearly if I’ve gotten something wrong.)

    So yes, selfish and endangering my health and that of my kids. Also deluded.

  35. #35 Orac
    April 27, 2010

    Deluded or selfish not to have your kids vaccinated? Deluded I get, but selfish makes no sense to me. I would think pure self interest would point to vaccinating. Sure, there are positive externalities to getting kids vaccinated (you help protect others around you as well), but the main reason is that you protect your kids from potentially dangerous diseases at almost no risk.

    Selfish because they take advantage of herd immunity without contributing to it or taking even the minimal risk of vaccination. Which works, actually, until enough of them stop vaccinating. In fact, I’ve seen statements and behavior that sometimes lead me to believe that these parents actually do know this at some level and don’t want everyone else to stop vaccinating.

  36. #36 Orac
    April 27, 2010

    I also forgot: Selfish because they take a “screw ‘em all” attitude towards other people’s children.

  37. #37 lordshipmayhem
    April 27, 2010

    And just as the mother was saying, “Isn’t Hepatitis B a sexually transmitted disease? Why am I giving my newborn a vaccine against a sexually transmitted disease?”, the screen pixellated and the sound cut out. I missed about six minutes – as I type this the sound came back.

  38. #38 PZ Myers
    April 27, 2010

    They didn’t rebut her. Hep B is transmitted by blood as well, so transfusions can put you at risk…and for newborns, there is concern about vertical transmission from mom.

  39. #39 Givesgoodemail
    April 27, 2010

    Oh, crap! Don’t get me started on indigo children.

  40. #40 ERV
    April 27, 2010

    This has been really, really good so far– This thing about docs/nurses/EMTs not knowing what these diseases look like anymore.

    This is a big deal.

    Awesome for FRONTLINE for bringing this up.

    Also, did FRONTLINE give random props to ‘Science Based Medicine’?? Did anyone else catch that?

  41. #41 PZ Myers
    April 27, 2010

    That Margulis woman is a moron. “Nobody gets polio anymore, so why do we still vaccinate?” Jebus. We don’t get it anymore because we prevent it with vaccines.

  42. #42 ERV
    April 27, 2010

    hehe.

    I also like how they are emphasizing the Google-University nature of anti-vaxers.

  43. #43 tiggerthewing#8a4e4
    April 27, 2010

    SkepgineerChick @ #26

    That being said, even reading her accounts of her life and experiences with autism, I can’t pretend to even begin to understand what it is like to live as an autistic person.

    I do know what it is like to live an autistic life. So do the majority of my family (going back and forwards over several generations) and friends. In my family, autism is the dominant neurotype (by about 4 to 1). It requires no bravery, just a sense of humour to cope with the often baffling behaviours of the neurotypical. I have to add that my grandfather’s behaviour was never blamed on his autism, but on his being Welsh ;-)

    The corollary to this being, of course, that I am unable to imagine what it must be like to live as a neurotypical person. The empathy failure is, obviously from what SkepgineerChick writes, on both sides.

    I get absolutely livid at the anti-vaxxers. They not only, most importantly, risk the health and lives of their children and the rest of the community, but, as a side-effect, relegate different neurotypes to pathologies which they often claim to be “worse than cancer”. Sorry for existing, I’m sure.

    No, I’m not. Any more than gay people have to apologise for having a different neurotype, or, indeed, people with any other difference from the dominant culture need to apologise for existing. We all have different strengths and weaknesses. I am not defined wholly by being autistic any more than I am defined by my heart disorders or arthritis, my femaleness, my height, my race?

    I even managed to separate my view of myself from my upbringing as a Roman Catholic; believe me, that did more damage to my self-esteem than autism ever did.

  44. #44 PZ Myers
    April 27, 2010

    I also like how they show some anti-vaxer claim, and then refute it.

    Jenny McCarthy: ‘we’re just asking the scientists to study it, and they won’t’

    Frontline: cuts to a description of a study testing the claims.

  45. #45 Ryan F Stello
    April 27, 2010

    Oh yeah, the selfish angle comes out directly in the final chapter.

    Orac had a good point on his initial writeup about the American view of private vs. public responsibility.
    The mothers against vaccines interviewed in all stressed that it was their private responsibility to “quarantine my child” and “your job is to protect your own health”.

    Both were directed to a public health official.
    *facepalm*

  46. #46 Watson
    April 27, 2010

    Did they talk about Zimbabwe? Zimbabwe is currently undergoing a measles epidemic that has killed about 110 or so people – kids mostly – because parents in certain apostolic sects refuse to have their children vaccinated.

    They prefer faith-based “treatment” and go to great lengths to prevent their children from receiving vaccination shots.

  47. #47 Peter H
    April 27, 2010

    “They [in Zimbabwe] prefer faith-based “treatment” and go to great lengths to prevent their children from receiving vaccination shots.”

    In Swaziland, the widely-accepted witch doctors have convinced a great many the way to “cure” AIDS is to have sex with a virgin.

    Astonishing examples of flaming, destructive irrationality seem to know no political or cultural boundaries.

  48. #48 recovering catholic
    April 27, 2010

    I wish Paul Offit had just answered the question as to whether he’s profited from his rotavirus vaccine: “Yes.” Then he could have continued by explaining why it makes no fucking difference whether he has or not, because the vaccine works.

    Another reason the Margolis woman is an idiot–she chooses to ignore the fact that hundreds of thousands of children in underdeveloped countries die every year from the results of this preventable bug.

  49. #49 MoonShark
    April 27, 2010

    Glad to hear it was decent. Anybody know if the show will be available on the internet in the future? Might be a good reference for parents “on the fence”, because they don’t seem to like reading. *sigh*

  50. #50 danlwarren
    April 27, 2010

    It was good and quite convincing. Thankfully the anti-vaccine crowd are a reasonable bunch that respond well to evidence and logic, so I’m sure they’ll realize the error of their ways and issue an apology soon. We’ll finally be able to put this whole silly affair behind us.

  51. #51 Ryan F Stello
    April 27, 2010

    Anybody know if the show will be available on the internet in the future?

    Yeah, PBS has maintained an archive for most of their Frontline reports for the last five years and don’t show any sign of dropping any of them (2-parter episodes are more likely to just have a transcript available).

  52. #52 skeptical scientist
    April 27, 2010

    Right, but my point is that if you’re not deluded, there are plenty of selfish reasons to get vaccines, and no real reason not to. It’s not like getting vaccinated is an altruistic thing to do – it’s something you do primarily out of self-interest, which also happens to benefit others around you.

  53. #53 John Morales
    April 27, 2010

    skeptical scientist,

    Right, but my point is that if you’re not deluded, there are plenty of selfish reasons to get vaccines, and no real reason not to.

    Did you miss the responses referring to taking advantage of herd immunity? :)

  54. #54 islandstrust
    April 27, 2010

    The intractable attitude of the young mothers and midwife at the end of the show was striking, and of the women in the round table group. Yes, selfish, if selfish on behalf of their children. They insist on vaccination being a personal choice, so they can opt out. But they do seem to know on some level that this can only work if they are the ones privileged enough to be the ones to opt out. The idea of “vulnerable” people who can’t be vaccinated seemed to make a small dent in one woman.

    Odd sense of geography, though. Why would they be safe if the disease in question is extremely rare in the US? Have they never heard of air travel? Or has disease become something that only comes in on nasty foreigners and magically won’t affect their white babies?

    So much emphasis on personal responsibility, completely divorced from the concept of living in a community. Too bad the science of communicable diseases doesn’t read Ayn Rand. But perhaps they could say to themselves, “I am my brother’s keeper.”

  55. #55 Autumn
    April 27, 2010

    “It involves parents’ right to drive through school zones drunk just as classes let out, versus the rights of the community”.
    Fixed it.
    Without a compelling medical reason, refusal to vaccinate your children is reckless endangerment of not only your children, but more importantly, my children.
    One’s worth as an unpunished member of society has to cede to the danger that such reckless refusals cause to society as a whole.
    You don’t want to vaccinate? Fine. You get to live on the ranch without any contact with the outside world.

  56. #56 Orac
    April 27, 2010

    The video for The Vaccine War is now available online:

    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/vaccines/view/

  57. #57 jcmartz.myopenid.com
    April 28, 2010

    I won’t be able to watch it on TV. I’ll just wait until it is available on line. Phil Plait has more on anti-vaxxers: http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/tag/antivax/

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/tag/vaccinations/

    These post have links to other sites that expose anti-vax BS.

  58. #58 ambook
    April 28, 2010

    Since I think it’s probably a bad idea to send in the police to deal with unvaccinated kids, perhaps sensible parents should begin asking about the vaccination status of the other kids when their kids go over for playdates. I always ask about in-the-home smoking and guns (in a gun safe – fine, otherwise, no playdate). Perhaps doing the same thing for vaccination would be a good thing and increase the social pressure for parents to vaccinate.

    Being noisier and more visible about being a regular person who is pro-vaccination might also help – bumper stickers, buttons, etc. Right now the people who are most visible are (gasp) doctors and public health officials – they deserve to be supported, loudly, by parents and members of the public.

  59. #59 Josh, Official SpokesGay
    April 28, 2010

    perhaps sensible parents should begin asking about the vaccination status of the other kids when their kids go over for playdates. I always ask about in-the-home smoking and guns (in a gun safe – fine, otherwise, no playdate).

    “Playdates.” These used to be called, “company.” Love how “in-home smoking” ranks right up there with guns in the house. Oy vey.

  60. #60 John Morales
    April 28, 2010

    Yikes! “Gun-safe”? What an oxymoron.

    Me, I’ve never owned one, can’t imagine I ever will. I’m not a farmer.

    Keeping a tool made specifically for killing; what a concept! You Americans are crazy.

  61. #61 Josh, Official SpokesGay
    April 28, 2010

    Keeping a tool made specifically for killing; what a concept! You Americans are crazy.

    But don’t forget, John, that smoking a cigarette inside is just as dangerous as having loaded guns. Every upstanding middle class mom knows that.

  62. #62 Westcoaster
    April 28, 2010

    The tide will turn on the anti-vaxer movement, but it wont happen until we start seeing big outbreaks of measles and polio etc. It’s just a matter of time until it happens.

  63. #63 Josh, Official SpokesGay
    April 28, 2010

    but it wont happen until we start seeing big outbreaks of measles and polio etc. It’s just a matter of time until it happens.

    Sadly, I fear you’re right. People are too stupid to absorb the dangers of things they haven’t seen; they latch on to fashionable fears, and discount real dangers.

  64. #64 Watson
    April 28, 2010

    OK, I just watched the show. Jenny McCarthy was particularly irritating. Have any studies been done on the effects of excess silicone and botulism toxin on the brain? I’m seeing a causal link here.

  65. #65 skeptical scientist
    April 28, 2010

    John Morales: Did you miss the responses referring to taking advantage of herd immunity? :)
    Of course not, in fact my second comment was in response to them. You’re still missing my point, which is that the review referred to delusions or selfishness as being reasons people don’t vaccinate. My point is that selfishness is not a reason not to vaccinate, unless you are also deluded, because there are plenty of selfish reasons to vaccinate.

    Calling them selfish makes no sense, because it implies they are acting in their own interest at the expense of others. Actually, they are not acting in anyone’s best interests, and end up increasing the risks to their own children as well as to others.

  66. #66 tytalus
    April 28, 2010

    Like PZ, I enjoyed the scientific debunking of the anti-vax claims, followed by their dutiful moving of the goalposts.

    It’s interesting to see this younger generation with no experience of such diseases so easily dismiss them. Seems like a predictable response. But it’s unfortunate, what will have to happen to convince them otherwise. We can only hope that the rest of us will protect them from their own foolishness.

  67. #67 John Morales
    April 28, 2010

    skeptical scientist,

    My point is that selfishness is not a reason not to vaccinate, unless you are also deluded
    [...]
    Calling them selfish makes no sense, because it implies they are acting in their own interest at the expense of others.

    Ah, thanks.

  68. #68 HidariMak
    April 28, 2010

    Now I’m going to have to tune in just for the unbelievable spectacle of a television show taking a skeptical, science-based view of the issue.

    I’m glad that they gave the facts on the anti-vaxxers and their arguments, but couldn’t help but feel irked that they kept being referred to as “skeptics” and “skeptical”. Don’t we share a different boat than, say, flatearthers and Holocaust deniers, as well?

  69. #69 onethird-man
    April 28, 2010

    But don’t forget, John, that smoking a cigarette inside is just as dangerous as having loaded guns. Every upstanding middle class mom knows that.

    Right! I mean, come on – it’s not like the gun gives you cancer from repeated exposure, or is habit-forming.

    Talk about histrionics!

  70. #70 skeptical scientist
    April 28, 2010

    I’m glad that they gave the facts on the anti-vaxxers and their arguments, but couldn’t help but feel irked that they kept being referred to as “skeptics” and “skeptical”. Don’t we share a different boat than, say, flatearthers and Holocaust deniers, as well?

    Unfortunately, “skeptic” has more than one meaning. In the sense used in the skeptic movement, it refers to one who requires evidence before belief (a sensible idea if ever there was one). However, another common definition is simply one who disbelieves a commonly accepted fact. So despite our urge as skeptics to say, “No, they’re being deniers, not skeptics! The evidence is there!” it is an entirely correct usage of the word.

  71. #71 Rachel Bronwyn
    April 28, 2010

    The impression I got from the anti-vaxers was several of them are very pissed off individuals. I’d probably be pretty fucking annoyed if I had a severely disabled child I couldn’t help too. A friend of my partner’s knocked up his girlfriend in his teens and produced a child with PDD-NOS. Witnessing their struggle is heartbreaking. Some of these folks seem really desperate to blame someone though, as if it’s beneficial to their special needs child. Until another cause for their child’s autism has been pin-pointed (and probably after, as is the case with creationists) they’re going to direct all their anger towards vaccine distributors. Made me sad.

    Anyways, I chuckled when Jenny McCarthy was wailing about the efforts that aren’t being made by scientists regarding research into potentially dangerous substances in vaccines, followed by a slew of footage and information regarding the vast amount of research that has been done and the findings, which persistently contradict what she insists is the reality of autism. Until scientific findings demonstrate how vaccines are responsible for autism, she’s going to insist scientists just refuse to research these matters or aren’t trying hard enough.

  72. #72 Molly, NYC
    April 28, 2010

    A point that may have been too tangential to the main thrust of the program is what a gold mine autism is for quacks.

    Jenny McCarthy et al. like to pretend that everyone on their side has meticulously pure motives, but hello, there are vested, pocketbook interests promoting the the position that conventional medicine causes autism.

    Like other intractable diseases, autism creates desperate people. Once you’ve convinced them that pediatricians caused these injuries to their children, who are they going to go to for their medical needs?

    Homeopaths, acupuncturists, aura readers and such, who, just incidentally, do not work for free.

    Fifty bucks for an initial visit and another fifteen for a small bottle of water; gosh, it’s so much cheaper than an MD’s fee and prescription, and the naturopath is so nice. (1)

    The kid still doesn’t get better? It’s the fault of those money-grubbing vaccine salesmen. Of course, Reikian therapists, crystalists and Chinese traditional herb mavens are above all that filthy lucre.

    _________
    (1) I.e., they have the impeccable bedside manner you need when a bedside manner is the only thing you’re really selling. If they could actually heal anything, they could afford to be a little crabbier.

  73. #73 greg.bourke0
    April 28, 2010

    @ #3 & #26

    Off topic, but there is a wonderful BBC documentary about Dr. Grandin here.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=46ycu3JFRrA

  74. #74 angrylagomorph
    April 28, 2010

    I think it made the case for a responsibility to the community to get your children vaccinated pretty well. It waited until the last 10 mins of the documentary to do it, but juxtaposing the consequences of non-vaccination with the egotistical mewlings about “paternalism” which the anti-vaxxers put forward was pretty damning to me. Most damning of all though was one of the anti-vaxxers railing against “unnecessary vaccinations like polio and mumps. According to her, such diseases have been “eradicated” in the U.S., so vaccinating for them is unnecessary. I was stunned by such short-sightedness in a PhD.

    My one big objection to the documentary was how they put forward Polio eradication. Given that it lives in pretty much any pool of standing water it can find, I think getting rid of it requires something more than just vaccinating its potential human carriers. Until water quality and hygiene regulations are robust and enforced around the world, polio vaccination will continue to be a necessity.

  75. #75 ambook
    April 28, 2010

    But don’t forget, John, that smoking a cigarette inside is just as dangerous as having loaded guns. Every upstanding middle class mom knows that.

    For crying out loud, I didn’t say that cigarettes and loaded guns are equivalent, I said that they are both examples of ways in which social pressure has changed behavior. Smoking around young kids is a documented bad thing and social attention to this fact has changed the behavior of a lot of grandparents and led many to quit. I don’t ever harangue my friends who smoke, and if Josh OSG ever came over to my house, I’d find a heated, comfy, cross-ventilated room where he could smoke without aggravating my asthma. Or he could visit in the spring and smoke while sitting in an adirondack chair out back, enjoying birdsong and company.

    Yes, Americans are a seriously crazo about guns and I think there should be way fewer of them. But given the prevalence of guns in this country, it’s really important to be vigilant about gun safety and young kids. I started being more vigilant when I learned that an FBI agent, whose kids my kids visited, routinely left a loaded weapon on the kitchen counter. (Yikes!) It seems to me that asking helps promote a social norm where something is viewed as a dangerous activity which merits disapprobation and possibly special safety precautions.

    IRL I’m never rude to smokers, gun owners (well, I avoid them if they provoke my desire to be rude), or anti-vaxers. But if mild measures like bumperstickers and asking questions can help to change people’s behavior, couldn’t this be used for vaccinations as well?

    Oh, and “playdate” means I’ve made a special effort to get young kids together even though the adults in the family are not friends of mine, I’m not wildly pleased to be spending time with them, and I may even bug out and head to Starbucks. If I want to hang out too, it’s called “company.”

  76. #76 Josh, Official SpokesGay
    April 28, 2010

    ambook –

    My post was totally, seriously misdirected, and dumb, and I apologize (very sheepishly).

  77. #77 ambook
    April 28, 2010

    @ JoshOSG – I still love you. Or like you, given that I’m new. Basically I just wanted to distinguish myself from the loony helicopter parent image associated with a certain strain of American motherhood. (Now off to expose those kids to diseases, toxins, and projectile weapons.)

  78. #78 James Sweet
    April 28, 2010

    If I were a young parent trying to make a decision about whether to immunize (because I was an ignorant git unaware of the science behind vaccines)

    Nice job, PZ, if any young parents trying to make a decision about whether to immunize read this, and then compare to Age of Autism where they are welcome with open arms, they’ll be suckered into making the wrong decision.

    The gits are the people pushing the anti-vax movement. The parents being suckered in by their scare tactics and lies are not gits. Marks perhaps, but not gits.

    This is not an accomodationist-esque position. Go ahead and say all the nasty things you want about the anti-vaxers themselves; they deserve every word. Some people — like, surprise surprise, our old friend Chris Mooney — have called for a dialog between the leaders of the anti-vax movement and scientists and health officials. That’s dumb. We don’t need a dialog with them; their ignorance is entrenched.

    But we do need a dialog with young confused parents, and calling them “ignorant gits” is not helpful.

    I know it’s just PZ being PZ, but seriously… that’s not cool.

  79. #79 ambook
    April 28, 2010

    But we do need a dialog with young confused parents, and calling them “ignorant gits” is not helpful.

    No, we need a return to social shunning, plus bumperstickers. And a place where outrageous snark from MATTIRs (middle-aged-tone-trolls-in-recovery) is welcome. There are so few such places in real life.

  80. #80 eeanm
    April 28, 2010

    @James I think we can all agree that PZ isn’t the person to have a dialog with young confused parents. Goes without saying. :D

    If you saw the documentary you’ll kinda see what he means though. Those mothers were scary.

  81. #81 recovering catholic
    April 28, 2010

    Well said, James Sweet.

  82. #82 Carlie
    April 28, 2010

    No, I think they need to be smacked down in no uncertain terms that there is only one correct answer to that question, full stop. It’s pandering around and “understanding their concerns” and “of course you can hold off a few months while you decide” and so forth that open the door to them thinking that well, maybe they’re right about it, and maybe their kids don’t need the vaccine that badly. NO. With something this important, we have to be firm. You don’t say “Well, I understand that you feel like you have to leave the gun loaded, but as long as it’s out of reach it’s ok”. YOU SAY NO. You make public service announcements about how bad the alternative is. You make it absolutely crystal-clear that there is one choice that will help and one choice that will kill people, because that’s what the anti-vaccine movement is doing and has already done. This isn’t about which preschool your kid gets into. It’s important, and it needs to be harsh.

  83. #83 tytalus
    April 28, 2010

    Re: #72, I was glad to see at least one example of such ‘alternative medicine’ when they presented the cheerleader and her magic cure. Wonder how much they shook her down for. Pity they didn’t mention her mysterious change in accent. :)

  84. #84 Becca
    April 28, 2010

    When we adopted my kids, their birth mother tried to talk us out of vaccinating them. Part of it was the alleged autism risk, and part of it was a vague spirituality-based reason that I never fully understood (probably because I didn’t care to pursue it). Needless to say, both kids are fully vaccinated, including gardasil.

    I think that a lot of anti-vaxers have a vague sense that injecting foreign substances into their child does something like affect their soul, or have somehow vague spiritual consequences. They just seized on the fear of autism (which some people claim is a deficit in the soul, or in extreme cases that the child was born without a soul) as the outward expression of this vague spiritual discomfort.

  85. #85 ambook
    April 28, 2010

    Basically we need to make it as hard as possible NOT to vaccinate your kids. Make parents and doctors jump through hoops. Eliminate the exemption to school vaccination policies for “philosophical” reasons, which expands the “religious” exemption that we may be stuck with. (No, I don’t think this is a legitimate excuse for not vaccinating, I just think that we’re stuck with it for now.) You either belong to a religion that prohibits vaccinations or you don’t, and you should have to provide proof of your active membership and of the sect’s belief. Make not vaccinating your kids on religious grounds as hard as proving that you’re opposed to killing for purposes of establishing conscientious objector status was during Vietnam.

    Parents shouldn’t be able to pick and choose among vaccines without a doctor’s letter explaining medical reasons why (and someone keep a list of those doctors!). Homeschoolers should have to provide vaccination records when they register with the local school authorities, just like they’d have to when putting their kids into school or summer camp, and provide the same documentation of religious belief for not vaccinating.

    Making it harder NOT to vaccinate and increasing the social TO vaccinate would go a long way towards solving this problem. Becoming a dialoguer doesn’t solve anything and leads to ulcers for tone-trolls because the other side is not listening.

  86. #86 ambook
    April 28, 2010

    @Becca

    I think that a lot of anti-vaxers have a vague sense that injecting foreign substances into their child does something like affect their soul, or have somehow vague spiritual consequences.

    Another problem with the ensoulment meme.

  87. #87 nandoP
    April 28, 2010

    Just finished watching the episode online. It’s a good effort (especially considering what passes for good journalism) that will, unfortunately, not convince anyone not already convinced.

    Much as I like Jenny McCarthy getting the beatdown, it’s not enough. Presenting what actual research is uncovering about the abnormalities seen in PDD is necessary. Simply saying: “Nope, vaccines didn’t do it” doesn’t give the hook necessary for reality to latch on to. If vaccines cause autism then why are researchers finding abnormalities in children before this disorder is clinically apparent? Are the components toxic or is it the quantity of vaccines that is toxic? If either, then why is the neuroanatomy not consistent with a toxic reaction? (Last I checked cell death and scarring would be expected, not “plentiful and abnormally enlarged neurons in the brains of young autistic subjects”).

    sigh … So much science … so little public awareness of it.

  88. #88 JohnM55
    April 28, 2010

    I think that a lot of anti-vaxers have a vague sense that injecting foreign substances into their child does something like affect their soul, or have somehow vague spiritual consequences.

    Actually I think a lot of it comes down to “I don’t want that nasty doctor sticking a needle in my baby and making her cry”.

  89. #89 Lee
    April 28, 2010

    I thought the baby girl with Whooping Cough was particularly disturbing. People need to understand just how dangerous these diseases are. Then maybe they’d make the right decision.

  90. #90 eeanm
    April 28, 2010

    @nando you thought there wasn’t enough biology? That’s what would convince people?

    The baby with whooping cough is probably more convincing then a thousand biology lectures. That combined with the straightforward epidemiology research made a pretty clear case.

  91. #91 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    April 28, 2010

    Actually I think a lot of it comes down to “I don’t want that nasty doctor sticking a needle in my baby and making her cry”.

    I think there is some of that but I think it is an outcrop of the continued general drift of the base population to anti-intellectualism.

  92. #92 nandoP
    April 28, 2010

    @eeanm The whooping cough is a pretty provocative image and it is an effective one. The problem I’m referring to is the fact that people don’t really understand vaccines. They don’t see antibody production ? full blown immune response. Much less understand that there’s no reaction inside brain tissue because the blood-brain barrier won’t allow access unless it’s compromised.

    Successfully arguing the merits of vaccines or other proven therapies against feel-good new-age quacks requires many tools. I’m arguing for the use of more information in addition to epidemiological studies, images of bad consequences, exposing of fraud, etc. Bring out the guns … all of them!

  93. #93 bluebottle11
    April 28, 2010

    Calling them selfish makes no sense, because it implies they are acting in their own interest at the expense of others. Actually, they are not acting in anyone’s best interests, and end up increasing the risks to their own children as well as to others.

    I think they ARE selfish because the THINK they’re acting in their own self-interest. They BELEIVE it, whether it’s true or not.

    They also know about herd immunity, (the ones in the show, anyhow) so they know that the practice of non-vaccination as a result their beliefs is at the expense of others to some degree.

    Ergo, selfish.

  94. #94 Derwood
    April 28, 2010

    The huffpo already has jay gordon crying about being left on the cutting room floor.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jay-gordon/pbs-frontline-show-about_b_554691.html

  95. #95 Patricia08
    April 28, 2010

    I had to make this decision a decade and a half ago. Just about the time when there was maximum alarm spreading but enough scientists looking at the evidence to get some reasonable balance. No internet but I managed to find several good sources. What I remember (but it has been a long time) is that the only correlation with any evidence was between early vaccinations and increases in adverse reactions. As I remember it in countries that had later start times there seemed to be fewer overall adverse reactions (note: but not autism). I discussed it with the pediatrician and we agreed on a slightly later schedule based on the fact that he wouldn?t be in daycare until 4 months old. He got his first set at 3 1/2 months and was exposed to whooping cough slightly less than 2 weeks later by an unvaccinated 3 year old (I didn?t realize that family didn?t vaccinate until they called to tell me my son had been exposed). Both the doctor and I crossed our fingers (cause that works you know) and he never got it. This show didn?t mention anything about what I remember as an exception to the no correlation rule. Since I don?t have the need to make this decision again it probably doesn?t matter but I do wonder if that part has held up in the broader studies that have been done since.

  96. #96 Rogue Medic
    April 29, 2010

    @85 ambook,

    Basically we need to make it as hard as possible NOT to vaccinate your kids. Make parents and doctors jump through hoops. Eliminate the exemption to school vaccination policies for “philosophical” reasons, which expands the “religious” exemption that we may be stuck with.

    That depends. The Supreme Court case, Oregon v Smith, in 1989 upheld general laws banning peyote for the public good. I am not a lawyer, but I fail to see a distinction that makes it any more appropriate to allow a religious exemption for vaccine refusal, than for peyote use.

    A philosophical justification for use of peyote is not something I am aware of, but if we are going to claim that there should be a philosophical exemption for vaccine refusal, then we should consider whether the First Amendment even applies, first.

    I do not know if anyone dies due to peyote use, or what the death rates are, but the yearly fatalities are probably around zero. On the other hand, the Jenny McCarthy Body Count site lists the number of deaths and illnesses caused by vaccine-preventable diseases in the United States since June 2007, when McCarthy begame the face of the U.S. anti-vaccine movement. This number of vaccine avoidance fatalities is based on information from the CDC. The number currently is 506. That is a couple of hundred Americans each year.

    If avoiding the deaths of a couple of hundred children each year is considered to be an acceptable reason to deny a religious exemption, this should be an obvious decision.

    It isn’t as if any religious books state, Thou shalt not vaccinate.

    The idea that there is some religious prohibition on modern medicine, based on some possibly peyote-induced reading of some passage probably contradicts the exhortations to Go forth and be plentiful. Which religious interpretation is dogma? The one that kills off followers.

    If a religious exemption is permitted, maybe they should be required to identify themselves by wearing Nikes, to assist healthy children in avoiding them.

    But what do I know? I have no desire to deprive children of appropriate medical care.

  97. #97 Cuttlefish, OM
    April 29, 2010

    I know, the thread is dead, but anyway…

    http://digitalcuttlefish.blogspot.com/2010/04/dispatches-from-vaccine-wars.html

    Notes and quotes and anecdotes
    And third- or fourth-hand stories
    A cheesy website, which promotes
    Colloidal silver?s glories
    A drop of homeopathy,
    A touch of chiropractic,
    Let?s claim it?s enteropathy,
    Or try another tactic?
    It doesn?t matter much at all
    Which quack earns our reliance,
    So long as children never fall
    Into the hands of science!

    Tales of sales and such details
    Show evil in Big Pharma
    When alt-med leaves such paper trails
    We?ll claim it?s just bad karma.
    Vaccines are money-grubbing schemes?
    Each virus or bacillus
    Is part of nature?s plan?it seems
    That doctors want to kill us.
    We?ll separate the false from true
    By confirmation bias?
    There are no data we can?t skew;
    Just go ahead and try us!

    We agree, the CDC
    Has no concern for health
    It?s all a great conspiracy
    Protecting doctors? wealth
    You can?t trust doctors any more
    It isn?t even funny?
    This is important! This is war!
    We trust the former Bunny!
    Vaccines are tools of mind control
    That?s really why they?re made
    But they?ll have no effect on us?
    The tinfoil hat brigade!

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