From time to time, my wife or one of our friends will forward one of the latest health rumors going through the email lists in our community. The usual email list is the one that goes out to moms of young kids living in our ethnic/geographic community. Usually I shrug it off, but every once in a while, my wife and I get fed up and try to spread the truth.
The latest was sent by a friend and colleague who took one look at it and thought, “I bet this’ll piss off Pal.” She was right. The email contained a link to a notorious anti-vaccination site, and to one post in particular that repeats every inane vaccine myth as if it were fact.
It’s not that there don’t exist legitimate questions about some vaccines—it’s that this author, well-known to me from many internet discussions, spews out the most ridiculous assertions as if they were facts. I beg of you—really, I’m begging—if you’re on this email list, read a little further here, and spread the word, before it’s too late.
The swine flu (H1N1) is here, and if you’re a parent, you’ve probably seen it. It hit hard in the spring, then jumped to the summer camps, and now it’s back. Somewhere around 20-40% of young people who are exposed to it will catch it and get the usual flu—fevers, body aches, cough. A certain percentage of those who get it will end up with a severe case, especially if they have asthma or other underlying conditions. The current vaccine (which should be available in a few weeks) is manufactured the same way we’ve always made flu shots, and is perfectly safe. Since there is no data to show otherwise, people who are against vaccines will make up reasons.
In the current email going around, the writer focuses on the ingredients of the shot. First of all, we know that people allergic to eggs can’t have it. That’s because they are manufactured using chicken eggs. That’s a no-brainer—allergic to eggs, no flu shot (and you’d better hope a lot of other people get the shot so that they don’t give it to you). I’ll focus on just some of the more ridiculous lies in the piece (although it’s hard to choose).
The writer “warns” us that many vaccines contain the antibiotics gentamycin, neomycin, or polymyxin. These are sometimes added to vials to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria in the bottles. She goes on to warn of the dangers of kidney failure from these ingredients. This is the height of either mendacity, stupidity, or both. Kidney damage can be caused by giving massive doses of gentamycin intravenously for severe infections. Genatmycin is used in hospitals in very sick patients, typically in amounts several thousand times greater than what may be in a vial of vaccine. The damage can only occur if it is administered this way, not if a few molecules enter your muscle from a shot.
She also makes the following insane statement about cancer risk:
Potassium chloride (30), calcium chloride (31), and sodium chloride (32) are also listed as ingredients for CSL. All three are considered mutagenic [cancer causing] for mammalian somatic cells.
Sodium chloride is table salt. All of these minerals listed are a common part of our diet, and in much larger amounts than in any vaccine.
Any medical or scientific professional who reads this piece recognizes it as the internet equivalent of a newspaper-cutout ransom note, the indication of a disturbed individual.
Look, you don’t have to believe me—I’m just some doctor with fancy degrees and a couple of academic appointments. But you shouldn’t believe some psychopath with internet access either.