Anti-vaccine kooks still at it

All parents will strive to do what is best for their kids, so when faced with a photograph of a mother cradling her naked baby accompanied by the words: “Vaccines: Know the risks.” it gains some attention. The image is faded out, and then replaced by the Statue of Liberty and “Vaccination. Your Health. Your Family. Your Choice.”, how would any parent react?

The ad links to Mercola and NVIC  websites full of articles blaming common ingredients in vaccines for a number of health problems from breast cancer to infertility. The very seed of doubt is enough to cause any concerned parent to pause and opt not to vaccinate.

The only problem is that it is all an outright lie.

Right now this controversial message is being sold to the American public via a CBS billboard in Times Square and is being paid for and endorsed by the non-profit National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC) and (self-proclaimed World’s Number 1 Natural Health Website).

So what are the facts?

  • Vaccines do not guarantee complete protection from a disease, but they are generally very effective for most.
  • The benefits of preventing suffering and death from serious infectious diseases greatly outweigh the risks of rare adverse effects following immunization
  • Spreading unfounded information about the medical risks of vaccines increases rates of life-threatening infections, not only in the children whose parents refused vaccinations, but also in other children, perhaps too young for vaccines, who could contract infections from unvaccinated carriers

By skewing the facts and selling the idea that it is a lot riskier that it really is, you sow the seeds of doubt into the minds of many parents. As a result there is now a growing body count of children who are dead due to this nonsense. If you support the anti-vax movement, then you have human blood on your hands.

[Edit: The above paragraph originally claimed zero risks for vaccines, but that is not factually correct, so I’ve fixed it.]

The American Academy of Pediatrics has urged CBS Outdoor to take down this advertisement, because leaving it up creates the risk that more children will die.

There is a good article in the Guardian today that goes into the details …

Mercola and the NVIC use the ad to endorse their websites, linking the public to what the AAP deems “misinformation” – a barrage of articles blaming common ingredients in vaccines for a number of health problems from breast cancer to infertility.

The NVIC publishes a disclaimer on almost every article, assuring readers that it is not anti-vaccination – despite the fact its spokesperson, Playboy model Jenny McCarthy, has publicly described vaccinations as “a product that’s shit”.

For Mercola, NVIC and McCarthy, thimerosal – a mercury-containing preservative – is Public Enemy Number One. All three insist there has been a direct connection between vaccines containing thimerosal and the increasing number of children being diagnosed with autism.

McCarthy’s own son has the condition, which she blames on the MMR shot he received before his diagnosis. Her bestselling Louder Than Words: A Mother’s Journey in Healing Autism warns parents of the “dangers” involved in vaccinations. NVIC’s website recommends A Shot in the Dark, one of the first books to link vaccines to autism and, in its words, a “classic”.

As a precautionary measure thimerosal has been reduced or eliminated from vaccines in the US and Europe, but in 2010 it was proved that the preservative was not linked to autism and the AAP is keen to defend it.

And of course no article on the anti-vax folks could be complete without a reference to Wakefield (quite rightly, he is a complete rogue) …

Would an ad campaign like this be allowed to run in the UK? It seems unlikely given the recent discrediting of Andrew Wakefield’s research linking the MMR vaccine to autism.

Interestingly, Wakefield continues to work in America, despite being accused of fraud by the BMJ and struck off by the General Medical Council. Having resigned from the NHS for being (in his words) “unpopular”, he set up the Thoughtful House foundation in Texas, which researches autism.

Wakefield’s research continues to be recognised by Thoughtful House and the National Autism Association, despite having been discredited by the AAP and the American Medical Association.

Humm yes, I guess Wakefield was indeed “unpopular” in the NHS, but then writing papers in BMJ journals using faked data in order to discredit the MMR vaccine so that your own individual vaccine can instead be sold at a handsome profit would do that for you.

The only conclusion I can come to here is that in the US it would appear that you can make any outrageous claim, just pay enough and other considerations such as medical ethics or public safety can be ignored. Now that in itself is a real concern.

Oh, I almost forgot, the Guardian article can be found here.

6 thoughts on “Anti-vaccine kooks still at it”

  1. As a biostatisticial forced many times to slice the datum in order to get desired results rather than finding the truth I would like to tell You firmly and decisively that this article is nothing more than a piece of useless … which fuels antivaccination movements. You are too limited to understand this. Do not collect detalied datum dilligently about adverse reactions. Do not exclude those who are susceptible. Deny with flawely designed trials and poor quality of evidance. The antivaccine movements will persist. You’re guys admonish The Science? I got cheilosis due to the fact that I can’t stop laughing.

  2. The anti vaccine group of doctors make up less than 1/10 of 1% of doctors in the US. Kook is the nicest name which came be planed on them

  3. Dr. Andrew Wakefield was a gastroenterologist; a doctor who expertise is in the study of the digestive tract and the related disorders that interfere with its normal functioning. He was not a vaccine expert nor an expert on neurological disorders, like autism. Medical agencies investigated Wakefield’s claims and “Later, a press inves¬tigation revealed that the doctor had falsified patient data and relied on laboratory reports that he had been warned were incorrect” (Immunization Action Coalition). According to the CNN article, “Godlee, the journal’s editor-in-chief, said the study shows that of the twelve cases Wakefield examined in his paper, five showed developmental problems before receiving the MMR vaccine and three never had autism” (CNN Wire Staff) There are many other factors in Wakefield’s experiment that are unethical and questionable.

    In 2004, the MMR vaccine was passed for safety and proved unrelated to causing autism by the Immunization Safety Review Committee. Vaccines, especially the MMR vaccine, are essential to preventing life threatening diseases and promoting a healthy life. Mumps, measles and rubella are all dangerous viral illnesses that, when untreated, can cause other illnesses that can be fatal.

    @Sam: I am very happy that your child has never been sick with measles, mumps or rubella but 4 years old is still pretty young, they still have time to get sick. Most children are in a germ and bacteria filled environment 12 hours out of the day. Although being vaccinated doesnt guarantee they will not get measles, mumps or rubella, it increases their chances of not getting sick. It is better to be safe than sorry.

  4. Sam,

    It’s clearly you who needs to do their research.

    You don’t appear to understand that the MMR vaccine is not 100% effective. It requires 2 doses to get to about 95% coverage, meaning even after both doses, a child could fall into the remaining percentage of unprotected children. This fact has never been covered up.

    You cannot rely on anecdote to prove a point, you need science. Science has shown it is excessively unlikely that either MMR or thimerosal cause autism. (And science has revealed that Wakefield’s work was incorrectly performed by the way – both labs that he drew his results from have been found to be unreliable, one regularly turning out false positives.) Science has shown how well vaccines work, or don’t work, and the side effects. No one is hiding this data – it’s all there if you look for it, there is no conspiracy going on.

    “Dr” Wakefield is NOT a doctor, so it is you who needs to do their research (again). He has lost that title, and all respect, after unethically performing dangerous tests on children, falsifying data, lying about payment received after not revealing the payment in the first place. Again, all of this is now common knowledge. I’m not sure how it slipped past you, wilful blindness perhaps?

  5. Is this “article” for real?!

    What I find amusing is that ‘pro-vax’ articles try to claim that the unvaxxed are a risk. They could infect children too young to be vaxxed, or those for whom the vaccines didnt work (of course the latter is a ridiculously small number, isn’t it? ;) )
    Funny then, how my *MMR vaccine-free* 4yr old is nice and healthy and never had Measles, yet I *personally* know 3 children who had the MMR, at the recommended time, and still got measles a year or two later. Odd that, huh?

    Oh and try researching Dr Wakefield before making claims on his paper.


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