So I friended some anti-vaccine people on Facebook…

…And, Jesus H. Christ, are they nutty.

Apparently, there are “thousands and thousands” of children being “injured” daily by “toxic chemicals” in vaccines. Of course.

First, we have Christina England, who wants vaccines to be 100% safe and 100% effective. Only then will she stop misinforming people about them:

Screen Shot 2015-06-19 at 6.50.35 PMThen we have Tristan Wells, who is a germ theory denialist and thinks that vaccines didn’t save us:

Screen Shot 2015-06-19 at 6.50.56 PMAlso, I’m an unhealthy and uneducated person:

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They also don’t understand the Nirvana Fallacy:

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Then they call in the clown car:Screen Shot 2015-06-19 at 7.15.17 PM

Then a person hiding behind a computer screen writes this:

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And, of course, they deny they’re anti-vaccine:

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Then there was this conversation with “Thinking Moms Revolution” blogger Zoey O’Toole:

Me:To be honest, I want to know if anti-vaccine people like you really do believe that required vaccination policies are like the Jewish Holocaust that almost killed my great grandparents.

Zoey: You can’t expect people to think you are seriously interested in their thoughts when you use a term like “anti-vaccine people” at the outset, especially when you are using it to refer to people who mostly vaccinated their children just as they were told. In addition, there is no quality or belief that everyone in the group of people you are referring to shares but a desire to improve children’s health. No one can or should speak for everyone else, including me. I’m going to overlook these things, however, and I’m going to answer your question seriously because promoting understanding is important to me and there is the tiniest possibility that by answering your question seriously understanding can result.
I’m not Jewish, but I grew up in two heavily Jewish communities, spent four years with an Israeli that I nearly married, and live in a house owned by Hasidic Jews who consider me, a very “modern” single mother of two children, to be the best tenant they could ever have imagined. In addition, as an empathic person, I have always felt drawn to the huge physical and psychic wound of the Holocaust. I’ve read a number of biographies of people who lived to tell the tale (and I know that only a small percentage did), watched Shoah in its entirety with tears streaming down my face, and even played Anne Frank on stage. As the very Jewish director said at the time, “You’re too old, too tall, and too blonde (I dyed my hair to do the part), but I want you to do it anyway.”
I understand why people feel the way they do about the Holocaust. It was a tremendous injustice perpetrated on innocent people, and it’s one that we should remember and make absolutely certain never happens again. If I had lived in Europe at the time, there is no doubt whatsoever in my mind that I would have been part of the Resistance because injustice demands resistance.
Now . . . imagine you have a child, a beautiful, healthy baby. You are told that to keep that beautiful, healthy baby safe you must repeatedly inject a slew of toxic chemicals into that child’s body. You do as you are told because, of course, you want to protect that innocent child whose life depends upon your making smart decisions. Only, instead of being “safe,” your child spikes a fever, screams in an unearthly way that you have never heard before, has grand mal seizures and loses all his/her previously acquired skills right before your eyes. Your child comes down with a host of related physical conditions that make life difficult and possibly dangerous for all concerned, resulting in repeated ER visits, stress on the order of combat veterans, and the complete devastation of your finances. Then you find out that the same exact thing has happened to thousands and thousands of other babies.
Can you understand why people might feel very strongly about something they were told would HELP their children but, instead, ended up harming their innocent babies beyond anything they could possibly have imagined? Can you imagine what it’s like when the world doesn’t listen and not only does not acknowledge their losses, but actively DENIES them as well? Denies them to the point of ADDING unnecessary mandates that are going to reap more and more victims on a global scale? I know you don’t believe this is the case, but just IMAGINE for a moment what it would be like for YOU if it WERE the case. (Because it IS the case for many, many people.) FEEL the despair. Feel the anger.
The people who compare what happened to their children to the Holocaust are NOT trying to diminish what happened to people like your great-grandparents in World War II; they are trying to get you to understand the depth and intensity of their feelings about what happened to their own children when they did as they were told. They’re trying to get you to see that “doing as you are told” can get you hurt or killed now, just as it could get you killed as a Jew in Germany in the 1930s. And that’s just not right.
Injustice is injustice, and allowing it to continue hurts us all.

Me: Thank you for your lengthy response. Let me begin by defining what I mean by “anti-vaccine.” When I call someone anti-vaccine, I am not denying that they at one time or another vaccinated their children. I am not denying that they themselves may have been vaccinated at one time. However, they are now exaggerating the risks of vaccination while minimizing the benefits. They claim, as you do, that there are “thousands and thousands” of children hurt by vaccines when all the evidence is that there are not.
Now, in your mind, instances of things like autism, cerebral palsy, allergies, and so on are the result of vaccination. Why? Perhaps because those conditions were only recognized after an exposure to a vaccine in utero or once born. Or perhaps because the lies and misinformation posted widely on blogs and websites has convinced them of this. However, people who have been trained extensively on teasing out coincidence from associations have found that the observed associations in “thousands and thousands” of children with different diseases fade away when confounders and effect modifiers are taken into consideration.
But that won’t convince you or your friends because we are paid shills. The men and women, parents themselves, who have worked to make vaccines as safe and effective as possible with the technology we have and in the imperfect world that we live in are called things like “devils,” “pharma shills,” or worse. To people like you, we are not experts even with our myriad of degrees, our work in the field treating and preventing vaccine-preventable diseases, or the papers that we have published in peer-reviewed journals. We are not experts especially if we are not parents, as if I could go have sex right now and be branded an expert in about 40 weeks. Or, if we do have children, we are not experts because our children are neurotypical or otherwise healthy. Or, if we do have children with autism or any other of the conditions you attribute to vaccines, then we are not experts because we do not see the world as warped as you think that it is.
Not only do I disagree with you that you are not anti-vaccine, I disagree with you that anyone in any circumstance is justified in comparing the Holocaust to anything but the Holocaust. The Holocaust was a systematic program to exterminate an entire people. At last count, it killed 12 million (half of whom were Jews). The vaccine program in this country and around the world is not designed to make a people disappear. It is not aimed at putting anyone in slavery so that one day they be killed in cold blood.
And that’s another big error in the narrative of the anti-vaccine groups in California and everywhere. Diseases and conditions like autism, cerebral palsy, allergies, etc. are not death sentences. The children are still there, still alive. They were not stolen. They were not taken. They were not killed in a systematic way in hopes of purifying humanity. To put it simply, there is no Holocaust caused by vaccines, and there is no justification in comparing the perceived association between a child’s health and vaccines to the Holocaust.
Speaking of Freedom and Justice. Freedom goes hand-in-hand with Justice. While we are free to be vaccinated or not, it is unjust for us to not spread out the risks and the benefits of vaccination among all of us. It is unjust for any of us to sit in our position of privilege, with access to some of the best healthcare in the world, and spread ideas that convince people who do not have said access to skip or outright refuse a public health intervention.
I don’t deny that vaccines have caused unfortunate severe reactions in children, but they have done so at a rate orders of magnitude smaller than what or would like us to believe. Likewise, they have saved lives in orders of magnitude larger than what TMR or Lowell Hubbs wants us to believe. Anyone who says that vaccines are 100% safe and/or 100% effective are no better than anti-vaccine people, and I will be among the first to call them out. But you know what I haven’t seen any “pro-vax” person do? I haven’t seen them protest with such vitriol and such hatred as I’ve seen some of your friends do. I haven’t seen a pro-vax person tell an anti-vaccine person that they’re going to hell, or, as has done, engage in anti-semitism such as the blood libel of their “Thanksgiving Dinner” photoshop fiasco.
So we are on opposite poles, Zoey. I’m sitting here in Seoul looking at an enormous outbreak of something very deadly, praying to God that we can control it and come up with a vaccine soon. I bring with me the tools of epidemiology, the knowledge collected by generations of people who saw associations and decided to explain them with science not rhetoric. And I will never, ever stop.
You and I will be long gone form this earth, Zoey, and children the world over will still be vaccinated, diseases will be forgotten. And that right there is worth debating you and your like-minded colleagues… That right there is worth not using caps lock.

Zoey: Right off the bat your definition of my friends and I is completely off. We do not “exaggerate the risks of vaccines while minimizing the benefits.” We tell the truth. There is plenty of evidence that there are thousands and thousands of children who have been badly harmed by vaccines, and many, many others who have been less badly harmed, but you are not willing to see it. We have no motivation to tell anything other than the truth because we are concerned with the safety and health of children, all children, first and foremost. There are some people who do exaggerate surely, but then there are some people on every side, including yours, of every issue who exaggerate.
The only way for you to believe what you’re saying is to discount the evidence of thousands of smart, caring, attentive parents and their doctors, many of them my very good friends. Not just the evidence of what happened to them in the first place, but the evidence on what happens to them when they are treated for the damage that was done. Shockingly enough, many of them get well. Some of them completely. Being a smart, caring, attentive parent myself, I cannot discount that testimony so easily.
NO ONE is an “expert” in MY health or my children, but me. So, no you are not an expert in what has happened to me or my children, nor are you an expert in my friends or their children. And, no, those parents are not going to believe your “expert testimony” over what they saw with their own eyes and what the lab tests told them. When they DID listen to “people like you” (and sorry, but that “people like you” is offensive because you clearly know nothing about me) their children got sick, very sick. There are those who can “tease out” etiologies of issues, but they are rarely considered the “experts” by the mainstream. The “experts” merely shrug their shoulders, throw up their hands and say, “I’m sorry, you’re just unlucky.” Or “It’s genetic.” Only when the parents stopped listening to the so-called “experts,” did they figure out how to get their children well. Which do you think is more motivating to a parent? The road where you arrive at a very sick, supposedly “incurable, genetic” condition? Or the road where that child gets well? Is it any wonder those parents aren’t listening to you? You may not be a parent, but I hope to God that, if and when you ARE, you choose the road with the well child.
I never said “anyone in any circumstance is justified in comparing the Holocaust” to anything. I tried to get you to understand, just for a minute, why someone would do it. I agree that the Holocaust was about systematic extermination. While genocide is not unique in human history, the scale and cold efficiency of the Third Reich was indeed unique, and I hope it stays that way. I do not believe that the vaccine program is INTENDED to harm children. I think that there are a great many people of integrity working within the system trying to do their best to serve humanity. However, the vaccine program as it is currently constructed IS harming children on a large scale (mainstream study determined up to 54% of American children today are living with chronic health conditions when you include obesity. Clearly all that vaccinating is making us the healthiest population on the planet — oh, wait. No, it’s not) and the people in charge of the program either truly don’t believe it (largely because they don’t want to, there is PLENTY of evidence), or because they simply don’t care because the situation as it is feeds their egos, their desire for power, and/or lines their pockets. THAT is not in any way unique in human history, unfortunately.
So . . . you’re not a parent, right? I suspect you don’t have any idea how offensive the parents you’re talking about would find your paragraph about “diseases and conditions like autism, etc.” not being death sentences. Just as they may not understand why you find the Holocaust comparison so offensive. Would it really be “okay” with you if your beautiful, healthy child were rendered permanently ill by something you were told was “perfectly safe” and would “protect” your child? Would you really console yourself with the fact that your (previously healthy) child, who has multiple seizures daily, can’t talk, is still in diapers and beats you frequently because he is in so much pain, is “still there”? “Still alive”? Would you really say to Karen Kain, whose daughter Lorrin spent her short life on many seizure medications, with a breathing tube and a wheelchair, you “didn’t lose her”? And when your child’s sensory processing is so over-the-top that ordinary moments cause the child to “bolt” with no warning from safe places with no awareness of safety, to the point that no less than five children with autism ‘wandered” to their death in the last few weeks, would you say, “Well, hey, that’s fine with me, at least he won’t get measles”?
I happen to be the parent of a child who died, and you know what? I’d take my chances with measles any day, and I’m not alone because existence is not all anyone wants for his or her children. And it’s not all they should want for their children. We are not guaranteed existence. Children are killed by car accidents, drowning accidents, freak illnesses, etc. every day, and that is tragic, yes, but it is simply impossible to escape all risk of death. And if you spend your life trying to avoid death rather than living it to the fullest, you render it meaningless.
You haven’t been paying attention to your “pro-vax” friends if you’re not seeing vitriol. EVERY SINGLE one of us has been told MANY times that we’re “child killers,” “cunts,” and that people hope that our children die of vaccine-preventable diseases. Someone even made a website with a “Jenny McCarthy body count” because Jenny McCarthy DARED to TELL THE TRUTH about what happened to her child. Believe me, you”re getting off easy with “devil.” I have no idea what you’re talking about with the Age of Autism Thanksgiving Dinner photoshop stuff.
*sigh* “Generations of people who saw associations and decided to explain them with science not rhetoric.” You know what I find most ironic here? Your use of the name Edward Jenner. You want to know why? Edward Jenner listened to “anecdotes.” He heard that milkmaids didn’t get smallpox. He thought about what that might mean. Maybe it meant that people who got cowpox were then immune to smallpox. Did he have any scientific data to support that hypothesis? Hell, no! Just a bunch of “anecdotes.” The whole field you’re talking about was BUILT on anecdotes, but now, somehow, “anecdote” is a dirty word. As if by ignoring them, we can pretend they have no bearing on reality. Any scientist with a truly curious mind who wishes to solve problems, one worth their salt in other words, knows that in those “anecdotes” lies scientific gold, clues to questions worth answering, some of which haven’t even been imagined yet. It’s piles of data just begging to be quantified, and yet no one has. So much for “seeing associations” and “explaining them with science.” You may not know this because it is probably of no interest to you, but virtually every scientific study that has any value to the autism community is merely confirming things that those “crazy, anti-vaccine” people knew a long, long time ago and that “experts” — “people like you” told them was categorically untrue. A truly scientific mind would find it curious that these people could be right about everything else, and yet be so “wrong” about something so basic as vaccines.
In addition to not discounting the testimony of thousands of literally thousands of parents, I cannot discount the science I had read that makes it very clear that what is injected can indeed affect the brain, especially if it is injected before the blood/brain barrier is closed. I gather you are an epidemiologist. I don’t know how much you know about immunology, but if you really wanted to “explain associations with science” you would be interested in the fascinating science being done on how autoimmunity can be induced with hypodermic needles and aluminum adjuvants. I suggest you hunt it down, otherwise you will be completely taken by surprise when people actually stop vaccinating — at least wide-scale vaccinating — because they recognize that it has caused a host of unintended consequences that is slowly crippling the population, well maybe not that slowly anymore.
I’m sorry if my use of caps lock annoys you, but in addition to a degree in Physics, I have a background in acting. In my head I emphasize certain words, and I like to convey the sense as I think it. Facebook does not give me the option of italics, so caps lock it is.

I didn’t respond after this. It’s just not worth it. She’s not going to understand that we live in a world where there are easy scientific tools to look into the spurious associations that her and her friends see. We don’t live in the times of Jenner or Pasteur. We don’t need to take coincidences as “scientific gold,” and we don’t need to be parents to understand the science of vaccines.

The only silver lining in all this is something that a friend wrote on his blog: Many years from now, the anti-vaccine people will be remembered en masse for the whacky things they said and wrote. The rest of us will be remembered for standing up to the lies and for promoting a public health intervention that has saved millions of lives.

No honor amongst anti-vaccine activists (or keeping your Facebook friends closer)

The last time I wrote to you, I told you all about a woman by initials “CKW”. I told you about how she saw spurious associations between Big Pharma, the government, vaccine scientists, physicians, epidemiologists, pro-vaccine advocates, etc. You may have even read the part about how her blog post on spurious associations was plagiarized by that weirdo over at that “daily web newspaper” of the non-existent autism epidemic. (Go ahead and click on the link to her post. It won’t increase her page rank.) In essence, if she were presented with a connect-the-dot drawing, she would probably draw something like this:

Connecting the dots between cause and effect

Continue reading

The callousness of some people

If you’re a regular reader, you’ll no doubt have heard before the lengths to which people who lie about vaccines will go to prove their point. They will lie. They will misinform. They will twist facts, take statements out of context, and they will bash anyone that gets in their way.

Me? I’ve gotten used to being called all sorts of names whenever I counter the anti-vaccine talking points. I’m a “shill,” a “bastard,” a “traitor,” and worse. What I don’t understand is why some people go to severe lengths to make their point. Friends of this an other blogs may know who “The Vaccine Machine” is. He is this guy. This guy used to troll over at Orac’s for a while before he decided to start a blog of his own and try to get an in with the anti-vaccine groups. His writing is tedious, to say the least. He tries, but his rants get out of hand. It even looks like Generation Rescue has stopped publishing his rants on their site. But that’s not the worst thing he’s done.

Today, he did his worst (so far). A concerned mother went on Facebook and implored people to vaccinate their children against influenza:

“We don’t have the nasal mist where we are, but as a parent who lost a child earlier this year as a result of complications from a flu related pneumonia, I would implore you to please have your child immunized against the flu. If not just for his own protection but for the protection of those with fragile medical conditions who are more susceptible to severe complications. All of my other four children had the shot, my eldest acquired it influenza from a care provider who had refused the vaccine and subsequently infected more than a dozen medically fragile children, all of whom ended up in hospital with complications.” (my emphasis)

“The Vaccine Machine” replied:

“It’s the flu. What’s to worry about. Are you really going to have your child get a shot every year of his or her life to possibly prevent a minor illness? I wouldn’t”

And then he went on to blame the victim:

“As to the mist, based on the side effects your giving the kid what you are trying to avoid”

This is not unprecedented in the anti-vaccine world. Anti-vaccine people told a father that his child died of a vaccine-preventable disease as the result of natural selection (i.e. survival of the fittest), and the parents of a little girl who died from pertussis in Australia were hounded for even suggesting that other parents vaccinate their children against whooping cough. Yet, somehow, we’re supposed to listen to the shrieking screams of parents who swear that their children are “lost” or “dead” from autism that, in their minds, came as a result of vaccination. As usual, anti-vaccinators want it both ways.

(Below are the screenshots of that Facebook discussion, in case you can’t log in and read it. Click to enlarge.)

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Believing what you want to believe, not what reality dictates

Thank you, Reasonable Hank, for pointing out to me this incredibly creepy thread going on on Facebook. (No login is required to read it.) NVIC, as I’ve told you before here, here, and here, is an anti-vaccine organization that seems to have a weird obsession with Dr. Paul A. Offit. It appears to me that they see no bigger threat on the planet than vaccines, followed closely by Dr. Offit. Of course, we know why they hate vaccines. Dr. Offit’s “crime” was to co-develop a vaccine that has saved hundreds of thousands of lives. And that’s not some weird estimate based on opinion. It’s a fact.

But just go read the comments about the doctor. I won’t repeat the vile ones here. Hank has a good sampling.

One thing that is interesting is the complete disconnect from reality that the anti-vaccine activists seem to display. For example, this woman had this comment when a fellow skeptical blogger pointed out that the rotavirus vaccine has, as a matter of fact, saved countless lives:


I almost commented myself, but a friend and colleague stepped in before I did and pointed out that, yes, rotavirus kills hundreds of thousands of children per year and the vaccine prevents this:


Presented with actual evidence, the hounds were unleashed:


Yeah, we’re the morons.

In addition to his random capitalization and insults, “LS” refuted our friend’s link about cancer rates with a WHO link about overall population health, and then he called someone notoriously wrong on vaccines an”higher eminence.” Then he challenged our friend with this:


I died laughing.

So, does the WHO say something different about cancer than CDC? Remember, in the minds of the anti-vaccine activists, vaccines cause cancer. Yet cancer rates continue to fall. According to CDC:

“Death rates from all cancers combined for men, women, and children continued to decrease in the United States between 2004 and 2008. The findings are from the latest “Annual Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer,” coauthored by researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries, the National Cancer Institute, and the American Cancer Society.”


  • “The overall rate of new cancer diagnoses, also known as incidence, among men decreased by an average of 0.6% per year between 2004 and 2008.
  • Overall cancer incidence rates among women decreased 0.5% per year from 1998 to 2006; rates remained level from 2006 through 2008.
  • Lung cancer death rates among women decreased for the second year in a row. Lung cancer death rates in men have been decreasing since the early 1990s.
  • Colorectal cancer incidence rates decreased among men and women from 1999 through 2008.
  • Breast cancer incidence rates among women decreased from 1999 through 2004, and remained level from 2004 through 2008.
  • Incidence rates of melanoma and pancreas, kidney, thyroid, and liver cancers increased from 1999 through 2008.”

Someone made fun of that 0.6% drop between 2004 and 2008. I wish they could go and laugh in the face of those people who get cancer. Given what they’ve written about Dr. Offit, I wouldn’t put it past them. Now, remember that this is a CDC report on the United States. Here’s what WHO says is going on in the world (my emphasis):

“Infectious diseases will still dominate in developing countries. As the economies of these countries grow, non-communicable diseases will become more prevalent. This will be due largely to the adoption of “western” lifestyles and their accompanying risk factors – smoking, high-fat diet, obesity and lack of exercise. In developed countries, non-communicable diseases will remain dominant. Heart disease and stroke have declined as causes of death in recent decades, while death rates from some cancers have risen.”

But that’s opposed to what CDC said! No, it’s not. WHO is talking worldwide. CDC is talking US only. CDC is talking new diagnoses and death rates by cancer. WHO is talking only death rates, not new diagnoses. Also:

“Cancer will remain one of the leading causes of death worldwide. Only one-third of all cancers can be cured by earlier detection combined with effective treatment. By 2025 the risk of cancer will continue to increase in developing countries, with stable if not declining rates in industrialized countries.”

Well, I’ll be damned. They’re not saying opposite things.

Again, when discussing science with anti-vaccine and anti-science people, you’re not going to convince them to see reality for what it is. More likely than not, they’re going to lash out against you and vilify you like they’ve done with Dr. Offit. They’ll go cherry-pick some study or some article, and they will present it to you as evidence without really knowing what they’re doing. It reads/sounds good, so it’s “evidence.” There’s reality, and then there’s whatever these people want to believe.

One last thing, submitted with no comment:


Anti-vaxxers ask, I answer

From an anti-vaccine Facebook group claiming to “cure” you of “DNA damage” allegedly caused by vaccines and to do so in 12 weeks provided you pay a $25 fee and listen to a teleconference comes this statement:

I haven’t done a ton of research my eyes have just been opened within the last year to this! One thing I did find and I found very odd on the CDC website they list some of the ingredients but at the bottom it has in italics if any person is allergic to these items they should (essentially) not get the VAX. My question to them is how do you know when your newborn baby is taken to get their VAX if they are allergic?! You don’t!!! Its also startling how much more VAX a kid gets now vs the 1980’s and how many more sicknesses there are now.

Well, I don’t work for CDC, nor do I ever want to, but, still, I’ll take a stab at the question I highlighted in bold up there…

Dear anti-vaccine activist,

First of all, let me just warn you that you are exhibiting a phenomenon called “confirmation bias”. In this bias, you only take in information that supports your already-made-up mind. If you see information that doesn’t agree with you, you attack it or blame it on Big Pharma or something. So just be warned that you sound/read ridiculously unreasonable.

That said, the answer to your question is easy. Newborn babies are not born with allergies. We develop allergies as we grow. See, babies are born with a very basic immune system, and one that has not been exposed to anything in the womb (so long as the mom didn’t catch something like rubella, a vaccine-preventable disease that causes severe malformations in newborns). We develop allergies when something like cat hair or eggs is inhaled or eaten by us and causes an immune response. The immune system then goes into “standby” against these things — these “allergens” — until the next time you encounter them. That’s when you have an anaphylactic reaction and get allergy symptoms. Some symptoms may be mild while others may be serious.

There are those of us who get over our allergies and everything is fine. The science is still out on how this happens. I got over a severe cat allergy. Some long hairs still make me sniffle, but I certainly don’t get the throat-closing reaction that I used to.

Further, you don’t get an allergic reaction to eggs if you are in the same room as an egg. Obviously, you need to ingest it. The same goes for allergies to grass; you need to inhale them. And, like with many other things in life, the dose makes the poison. You need a certain dose of allergens to trigger an allergic reaction, and that dose or “trigger point” varies from person to person.

The people who recommend vaccines know this, but they still need to warn you against possible allergic reactions because it’s the right thing to do. If you have had a previous reaction to polysorbate 80, found in ice cream, then you probably don’t want to be exposed even to the incredibly tiny amount of it in some vaccines because that tiny amount may be beyond your personal trigger point.

So, please, for the sake of your children and everyone around them, schedule an appointment with a licensed healthcare provider to talk about getting their vaccines. The many “sicknesses” you’re seeing out there have always been out there. You’re just noticing more because of, you guessed it, confirmation bias.

But there is good news. You know what sicknesses are not out there as much as they used to (or at all) because of vaccines? Sicknesses that could do this to your child:





Congenital Rubella Syndrome

But, you know what, keep on doing “your own research“, comfortable in the knowledge that vaccine campaigns around the world are keeping the above diseases away from your kids. Just don’t spread around your fears and misinformation. I don’t want to ever see another child with meningitis.

One error that every anti-vaccine activist jumps all over (UPDATED)

There is this book called “Your Baby’s Best Shot“. It’s a book about childhood vaccines and their benefits versus their perceived dangers. It’s pretty good, but it’s not perfect. In one of their pages, the word “free” is missing from a statement. The statement reads like the authors are recommending “aspirin” instead of “aspirin free” fever reducers. We’ve known for a while that aspirin and kids with fevers don’t get along because there is an increased risk of a condition called “Reye’s Syndrome“. It’s a serious condition that can be seen with viral infections and the administration of aspirin. The aspirin doesn’t cause it, necessarily. It does increase the risk of it.

UPDATE: The authors have issued a correction on their Facebook page. I made the mistake of saying that “free” was left out. It wasn’t. As you can see in the correction, it was something else entirely:

“It has been brought to our attention that a typo exists on page 71 of the book. The sentence that reads: ‘A mild vaccine reaction is easily treatable with a few aspirin’ should have read ‘A mild vaccine reaction is easily treatable with a few Tylenol.’ Children should not be given aspirin due to the possibility of developing Reye’s Syndrome, a rare but serious illness. We apologize for the typo, and are grateful for your continued support of the book!”

Yes. I make mistakes too. We all do. Unlike anti-vaccine people, and other unsavory characters, I try to spread out my mistakes throughout my lifetime, not concentrate them in one single anti-vaccine blog post.

I knew a girl in high school who had it when she was ten years old. She had a lot of trouble walking after it. Very bad.

The book has that one flaw, that one little thing. The authors are aware, and they are working on issuing an erratum to amend that mistake. But that has not stopped the anti-vaccine people from relentlessly attacking it, calling for a banning of the book:

Vaccine Skeptic Society” is the online, Facebook-only pseudonym of a woman who has gone by “Stacy” in the past. Stacy has openly claimed that she is a healthcare worker, but she’s also clarified that her work in healthcare goes as far as working as a medical transcriptionist/coder out of her home. Her science degree diploma must be enormous. Yet she’s not the only one getting all bent out of shape over that one error in the book:

Her followers may very well be frothing at the mouth. To please them even further, Stacy went and created a whole new Facebook page aimed at the book and its authors. Medical coders have so much time on their hands.

The worst thing is that a person who is reasonably pro-vaccine decided to attack the book on her Facebook page. I hate Facebook. I’m hardly on it anymore. Here is what she wrote:

The way you look at the timeline of events, the only reason Stacy learned of the error was from “Informed” writing about it, all the while “Informed” is just writing about it out of concern.

What a mess.

The same rule does not apply to all the lies and misinformation in anti-vaccine books and publications, of course.

Oh, ye who have ears and yet won’t listen

There is a hilarious thread going on on Facebook right now between an anti-vaxer and a pro-vaxer. (Yes, I checked in with a few comments and explanations, but mine are just a small fraction of the comments.) Go over and check it out before it gets deleted by the anti-vaxer.

If you don’t want to go over and read, I’ll give you the long and short of it:

The anti-vaxer calls herself “Vaccine Skeptic Society” and a “non-profit organization”. Mind you, she is just one person, an at-home medical coder (per some conversations of hers on Facebook), and someone who is totally ignorant of science. Okay, maybe not totally ignorant, but she does come off as knowing nothing, absolutely nothing about science.

(She should also be careful because calling yourself a non-profit without being one is a crime, and I have been so far unable to find her registered as a non-profit anywhere.)

The anti-vaxer began claiming that the influenza season is a result of influenza vaccination. That is, she postulated that the flu vaccine — and shedding from the vaccine, which is incredibly improbable with the nasal vaccine and impossible with the injected vaccine — causes the yearly epidemics that we see in the northern and southern hemispheres. I’m not kidding. Check this out:

And Easter eggs cause Easter

Those 150 comments are her and a couple of science-oriented people, myself included, trying to set her straight. But then she just goes off on a tangent. This is a later post of hers, in which she alleges that H. influenzae (a bacteria) is what really caused the pandemic:

Because something believed in 1918 is so true today

Now, I would try to explain to her why she’s wrong and why that was just what scientists believed at the time, but it would be pointless. (Viruses as such were theorized before 1918, but it wasn’t until the invention of the scanning electron micrograph that they were visualized and later isolated. Shortly after that, we had a vaccine. In between the SEM and the vaccine, we were able to isolate antibodies. Later, we’d isolate the virus from corpses of people who died in the pandemic, but no H. influenzae.)

It would be pointless to argue because she is a germ theory denialist.

Anyway, if you want to have a good laugh at someone who is rabidly anti-vaccine and wants to come off as a scientist, go over to her page. Chuckle as you read her write over and over that she’s “just asking questions” and wants to have a “balanced” debate.

There are bigger, more important reasons why I’m pointing out her stupidity. I’m pointing out her stupidity because it is classic of most anti-science and anti-vaccine people. They know very little to nothing about the sciences of microbiology and immunology, yet they pretend that they do. They then go and google for any science article that sort of kind of confirms their beliefs and post it on their own echo chambers to show to their followers how smart they are. (Their followers are just as clueless about science as they are, by the way.)

This brings to the forefront the need for better science education at the elementary and secondary school levels. We really can’t get more people like the idiot above get out into the public, create Facebook pages alleging to be non-profit organizations (a crime) and “just ask questions” that lie and deceive unknowing people out of a safe and effective way to prevent deadly communicable diseases. Because, soon enough, some poor new parent is going to stumble onto her rants and get the wrong idea about vaccines, refuse to vaccinate their child, and lose or have that child injured by a vaccine-preventable disease.

Oh, yes, it’s that important to learn science early and often.

Vaccines and Raw Milk

There is a facebook group that I belong to called “Anti-Vax Wall of Shame”. It’s a group of people, myself included, who take screenshots of the ignorant, stupid, crazy, astonishing things that anti-vaccine people write online. We post the screenshot, have a laugh, and then fire back something witty — albeit coated in science — to counter the anti-vaccine message. It’s a great group of people… For the most part.

One of the long-time members of the group, Ren (known to you as “Epi Ren”) left the group yesterday after having an exchange on the page with people arguing about the regulation of raw milk. Some people were arguing that it was very much their right to choose what to drink, and that it didn’t matter that there was plenty of evidence that pasteurized milk was better in terms of preventing infection from contaminated milk. Someone went a step further and asserted that they were not concerned with unpasteurized milk because anyone drinking that milk did not pose a public health threat.

If those arguments sound familiar to you, they should — especially if you’ve been reading this blog for a while. So let’s take them on one at a time, the way it should be.

One of the big arguments of many in the anti-vaccine camp is that they have some sort of a right to refuse vaccination while still having a right to public education and other services that are conditional on your vaccination status. Yes, they do have a right to refuse vaccination. In fact, I will go to war (figuratively) to defend their right to refuse any medical intervention, so long as they are well-informed and in full use of their mental capacity. The second part of that, the right to public services that are conditional on your vaccination status, is not a right.

Why? This is the land of the free, right?

Well, yeah, it’s the land of the free, but we all also took a vote and decided, based on tons of good evidence, that vaccines are good to keep some really bad things at bay. And we’d like to keep it that way. Don’t want to cooperate with us solely because of your “philosophy”? Then don’t. Homeschool your kids or find a school that doesn’t care that they’re one snotty kid away from an outbreak of something evil.

What about the raw milk crowd? It’s pretty much the same thing. They seem to think that they live in some sort of a vacuum where their drinking of unpasteurized milk harms no one. Well, tell that to the parents of an unfortunate child who acquired hemolytic uremic syndrome as a result of an E. coli infection from a hamburger he ate at the home of and prepared by a neighbor who, as you should have guessed by now, drinks raw milk. The E. coli would be eventually traced to the farm where the neighbor got the milk.

Here’s an interesting fact about E. coli, ladies and gentlemen. It lives in the gut of all cows. Not just some cows but all cows. And if it’s not the one that humans carry in their gut, then it is pathogenic (capable of causing disease) and sometimes deadly to us. Just because the farm is “clean”, whatever the heck that means, or because they claim to be organic or some nice-sounding name like that, it doesn’t mean that they’ll be free of pathogens.

So, no, drinking raw milk is not just about you. Neither is vaccination.