Survival of the fittest, vaccine preventable diseases and autism

We all know that anti-vaccine activists, especially the really rabid ones, have very little knowledge of science. They think that they can figure out the intricacies of the human immune system just by reading what Age of Autism or some other trashy website full of lies has to say on vaccines. They also think that they know what evolution is all about.

Here is “concerned momma” telling the minions at Age of Autism all about survival of the fittest:

survival_fittest

That comment is in the discussion section of a most vile post by head anti-vaccine taskmaster JB Handley. Here’s the whole comment text:

“Oh! CNN actually is daring to let both sides speak on the issue and a woman mentioned the CDC whistleblower. An Arizona doctor even stated (and I quite agree with him) that his children are not responsible for the health of children with leukemia etc. I love that he just came out and said it. It seems to me that risking healthy children for all those that have grave health problems and may not live anyhow is not sensible. Survival of the fittest is rough but it is nature’s way and it’s that way for a reason. Pharma just loves to play on this angle, meanwhile they don’t give a damn about none who is vaccine- injured. How convenient for them.”

According to “concerned momma”, you can’t risk the 1 in a million chance of some reaction to a vaccine in a healthy child just to keep healthy children with leukemia or some other immunosuppressive disease. If I were an insufferable douchebag, I’d ask her right back: Why should we care at all about your vaccine-injured kids? They couldn’t take a vaccine, so it’s only “survival of the fittest” that those of us who can take a vaccine go on to live.

But I’m not an insufferable douchebag, like JB Handley. I don’t write idiotic statements like:

“…I also have a much simpler explanation for why the messaging by the pro-vaccine community is backfiring:

They’re fucking lying.

There, I said it. It really is that simple. You can’t suppress truth forever, no matter how hard you try. Richer, more educated parents vaccinate less because they are smarter and have more resources and their bigger brains and pocketbooks give them the time and money to research the issue and when they do they are scared shitless that vaccines might trigger Autism in their child. They compare that risk to measles and guess what? Bye bye MMR.”

Yeah, we’re lying, JB. All 99.9% of scientists, healthcare providers, epidemiologists, and everyone else involved in saving children from infectious diseases are liars. Oh, but you figured us out, JB. Hooray for you! You win a prize.

Asshat.

This is who we’re dealing with, ladies and gentlemen. We’re dealing with people who think it’s okay for children to die because “survival of the fittest” (which has very little to do with evolution) and with people who think everyone but them is lying. And with the insufferable douchebag who is “scared shitless” over autism.

You know what’s worse than autism? Dying from holes in the brain as the measles virus works its way through it.

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I’m just asking questions here

One of the favorite pastimes of denialists of all shapes and sizes is the “I’m just asking questions” gambit. They pose questions about something that has already been scientifically settled and say that they’re just looking for “honest debate” on the subject. But it’s often, again, on things that have been settled. It’s like the holocaust revisionists who say that they just want to “set the record straight” about what happened in German-controlled Europe in the 1930s and 40s. They’ll put a little bit of untruth in the truth and seed doubt in the minds of their readers and followers.

Anti-vaccine activists will say that there have been no double-blind clinical trials on vaccines and then walk away from the conversation, knowing that they have put doubt in the minds of people who don’t know better. While there have been such trials on most vaccines, a lot of what we know about vaccine safety and efficacy comes from observational studies. We know that vaccinated people are less likely to be part of an outbreak as a group and that individuals are less likely to catch a vaccine-preventable disease if they’re immunized. It would be highly unethical for us to take a group of babies at birth and randomize them into a “to be vaccinated” and “to not be vaccinated” group now that we know what we know about vaccines and the diseases they prevent. Continue reading