A Collection of Strange Beliefs, Amusing Deceptions, and Dangerous Delusions

History of Vaccines

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anti-vaccination movement (AVM)

Fewer youngsters worldwide are dying of childhood diseases now than at any other time in history. About 80% of children today are vaccinated against such deadly illnesses as measles and polio, compared with 20% in the early 1980s.*

There were an estimated 30 to 40 million cases of measles in 2000, causing some 777,000 deaths.*

...immunization can be credited with saving approximately 9 million lives a year worldwide. A further 16 million deaths a year could be prevented if effective vaccines were deployed against all potentially vaccine-preventable diseases.*

"Health officials say aggressive efforts to vaccinate young children against measles have resulted in a 74 percent global decline in the number of deaths due to the illness [between 2000 and 2007]. Experts say the biggest decline, 90 percent, occurred in the Eastern Mediterranean region."*

In England and Wales, measles cases increased 36% in 2008.* Measles cases more than doubled from the year before during the first half of 2008 in the United States.*

"Before smallpox was eradicated with a vaccine, it killed an estimated 500 million people. And just 60 years ago, polio paralyzed 16,000 Americans every year, while rubella caused birth defects and mental retardation in as many as 20,000 newborns. Measles infected 4 million children, killing 3,000 annually, and a bacterium called Haemophilus influenzae type b caused Hib meningitis in more than 15,000 children, leaving many with permanent brain damage. Infant mortality and abbreviated life spans — now regarded as a third world problem — were a first world reality." Amy Wallace

The anti-vaccination movement (AVM) is at least two-pronged: one prong denies a causal connection between vaccines and the eradication or significant reduction of diseases like smallpox, polio, measles, and rubella; the other prong perceives vaccines as causing diseases, e.g., it claims that the MMR (mumps-measles-rubella) vaccine causes autism. Either way, the AVM proponents oppose vaccination against disease.

One might consider a third prong of the AVM to be those who advocate homeopathic "vaccines" or isopathic preparations for such things as meningococcal disease, the "flu", childhood illnesses, malaria, and HIV. Such people offer magic water in place of an actual vaccine developed and properly tested by scientists. They believe the water has been energized and has a selective "memory" of molecules long gone in the homeopathic dilution process. Most homeopathic vaccines are nothing but water or inert substances and cannot protect anyone from anything. They endanger people's lives when they are offered as protection against diseases like malaria. They are sought out by people who do not trust real vaccines and who live according to the principles of vitalism and magical thinking. Thus, we might well say that those who recommend homeopathic vaccines are part of the AVM since, in effect, they oppose real vaccination against disease.

One thing that unites these three prongs of the AVM is that each is selective in its picking of evidence to support its viewpoint and to denigrate one of scientific medicine's major contributions to public health.

are vaccines effective?

Robert Mendelsohn, M.D. is one of the leading opponents of vaccination. He claims that there is "no convincing scientific evidence that mass inoculations can be credited with eliminating any childhood disease." He thinks nobody knows why diseases such as polio have almost been eliminated, though improved living conditions might have something to do with it. Quackwatch calls this misconception #1 about immunization. Mendelsohn reasons that inoculations are ineffective because the diseases diminished not only in the U.S. when vaccinations were widespread but also in Europe even though no mass immunizations took place there. I don't know if this is true, but it should be. In isolated populations with little immunity to a disease, one would expect an infectious disease to either kill people or make them immune to further infection. In any case, whether infectious diseases diminished without inoculation is irrelevant to the causal effectiveness of vaccines. What is relevant, for example, is that the incidence of measles certainly went down due to vaccination programs in the U.S. and the U.K. (Now that a significant number of parents do not have their children vaccinated, measles outbreaks have occurred in both the U.S. and the U.K.)

There is ample and compelling evidence that vaccinations do work, despite what a few contrarians might argue. (See, for example, the Centers for Disease Control's page on vaccines and immunizations.) The evidence, of course, must be understood against the background of immunization theory, going back to Edward Jenner's reasoning about milkmaids and small pox. For example, we know what happened in Japan when the vaccination rate for pertussis (whooping cough) dropped 70% from 1974 to 1976. In 1974 there were 393 cases of pertussis and no deaths. In 1976, there were more than 13,000 cases and 41 deaths.*

Another example that vaccines work is the success of the Hib vaccine for meningitis caused by the bacterium Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib). When the vaccine was Introduced in the U.S. in 1990 there were about 15,000 cases and 400 to 500 deaths every year from this bacterium and those numbers had been steady for decades. "After the current Hib vaccine was introduced, the incidence of Hib meningitis declined to fewer than fifty cases per year!"* If considered in isolation, these examples might look like post hoc reasoning. But they are not isolated; they are presented within the larger context of our understanding of how the immune system works.

Anita Petek-Dimmer is another opponent of vaccination. She writes:

Switzerland was affected by a mumps epidemic from Autumn 1999 until Spring 2000. The Swiss Federal Office for Health (BAG) eventually admitted, upon the pressure of the medical profession, that more than 75% of those who contracted Mumps had been fully up to date with their vaccinations. No further comment is necessary here!*

Actually, a comment is in order. Vaccinations are not 100% guaranteed to prevent a disease in everyone who is vaccinated. The Institute of Child Health says:

After one dose of MMR, approximately 90-95% of children are protected against measles, over 95% against rubella, and 85-90% against mumps. After two doses, almost 100% of people will be protected against all three diseases. Because the diseases are so infectious, it is necessary to have very high levels of immunity in the population to control the diseases. It is only possible to do this, if children receive two doses of the vaccine. For this reason, almost all countries, recommend two doses of the vaccine. Those countries that have a high uptake of two doses of MMR vaccine have been most successful at eliminating the diseases.*

If everybody in a population is vaccinated, the chances of contracting the disease is near zero. But the more people in a population who do not get vaccinated, the more the whole population is jeopardized. Imagine a robust individual who is not vaccinated and gets mumps. Before his parents keep him home from school he infects half his classmates, some have been vaccinated and are not affected. Some have not been vaccinated and they get the mumps. Most recover. Maybe one of the non-vaccinated dies. There may also be a child who was vaccinated but who is not very robust and she gets infected by several people, some of whom have been vaccinated and some who have not. Both can be carriers of the virus. The weak but vaccinated girl dies. Does this mean the vaccine doesn't work? No. It means that if some people don't get vaccinated they can jeopardize those who do. On the other hand, if most people have been vaccinated, those in the population who haven't been vaccinated benefit from the actions of the others and get protection against the disease without being vaccinated. If too many people take this free-ride approach, the group suffers.

The previous paragraph indicates why immunizations are not optional in public school districts in the U.S. Because of our peculiar religious history, we make exceptions for those who have religious reasons for not getting their children vaccinated. We also make exceptions for those who have medical reasons for not being vaccinated. As long as the number of parents seeking exemptions for their children is small, school districts can tolerate some non-compliance with vaccination programs. But when the numbers get too large, as they have in some places, the school district will have to take action or the whole point of vaccination will be defeated and the threat of an epidemic becomes very real. For example, two months into the school year, school officials in Prince George's County, Maryland found that more than 2,000 students (out of 132,000) still didn't have their required vaccinations. School officials went to court and Circuit Court Judge C. Philip Nichols ordered parents in a letter to appear at the courthouse and either provide proof of vaccination, get their children vaccinated on the spot, provide an explanation for their failure to have their child vaccinated, or go to jail for up to 10 days.* Even after a deadline had passed, there were still more than 900 students with no record of being vaccinated. A group opposing required immunizations protested the action. Charles Frohman was one of them. He thinks people should have a choice in getting their children immunized. This sounds reasonable but it isn't: those who don't get vaccinated jeopardize those who do and they prevent the eradication of the causal agent of the disease.

Some people seem to think that their children would be better off catching a disease than taking a risk with a vaccine. According to the Institute of Child Health:

If you allow your children to catch the disease, they run the risk of being seriously ill or even dying. On the other hand, the vaccines only rarely cause serious adverse effects. It is true that vaccines do not give long lasting protection 100% of the time but then neither do many diseases. For example, you can catch whooping cough, Hib, meningococcal disease and rubella more than once. However, even if a child does catch the disease after they have had the vaccine, the disease is usually milder. By giving the vaccine most children are spared the effects of the disease. Even if immunity from the vaccine wears off, if enough people are immunized, there will be herd immunity and so this should not be a problem. This will protect people who have lost their immunity.

So, no, the odds are that your child will not be better off if she gets measles, mumps, or rubella. She might end up deaf, paralyzed, or dead.

do vaccines cause diseases?

Most people who don't get vaccinated or don't have their children vaccinated, however, are probably in the camp of the AVM that thinks vaccinations cause diseases. One of the more widespread myths about vaccines is that the MMR vaccine causes autism,* either by itself or by thimerosal or by the combination of the two. (Thimerosal has been used since the 1930s as a preservative to prevent contamination by microbes, but it has never been used in the MMR vaccine, nor has it ever been used in varicella (chickenpox), inactivated polio (IPV), or pneumococcal conjugate vaccines.* In any case, one would think that if thimerosal were so harmful, we might have detected it before now.) This view that vaccines cause autism is growing, despite the fact there is no compelling evidence for it. This prong of the AVM has a strong parent-run lobby and has been aided by questionable medicine, celebrity and media propaganda, as well as by politicians like Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

Denmark removed thimerosal from its vaccines in 1992. Other countries have followed suit, not because the evidence strongly linked thimerosal to autism or any other disorder. It was removed because of fear generated by anxious parents and the media, and the threat of lawsuits.  A study published in Pediatrics magazine (2003) concluded that there is strong evidence from a study in Denmark that thimerosal is an unlikely contributor to the development of autism. The researchers examined data on 956 children diagnosed with autism from 1971 to 2000. The autism incidence rate climbed steadily from less than one child per 10,000 in 1990 to nearly 5 per 10,000 in 1999, seven years after thimerosal was removed from vaccines in Denmark. "Thimerosal has been eliminated from childhood vaccines in most industrialized countries," said lead author Dr. Kreesten Meldgaard Madsen. "If indeed thimerosal was an important cause of autism, (autism rates) should soon begin to decline in these countries."* Unfortunately, there was no sudden drop in autism spectrum disorders after thimerosal was removed from vaccines. (One report makes the claim that there was such a drop but it has been thoroughly refuted.) In 2004, a committee of experts appointed by the Institute of Medicine concluded an examination of scientific studies worldwide and found no convincing evidence that vaccines cause autism. In particular, no link was found between autism and the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine or vaccines that contain thimerosal.*

Thimerosal was pegged as potentially harmful because it is a mercury compound and is metabolized in humans to ethyl mercury. It is possible that some in the AVM mistook ethyl mercury for methyl mercury, which is known to be harmful. Some parents subject their autistic children to chelation therapy to remove heavy metals from their blood. Chelation should not be taken lightly.* There is even one case where it led to the death of an autistic five-year-old.

There are several anti-immunization websites and some of them are posting inaccurate information about the evidence of a causal connection between vaccinations and autism. Many of the websites have been set up by parents of children with autism. Dr. Michael Fitzpatrick, author of MMR and Autism, is concerned that some parents of autistic children believe their personal experience and research—most of which has been guided only by the desire to prove what they already believe, namely, that their children's autism was caused by vaccinations—qualify them as experts on both autism and vaccination.* As the parent of an autistic child, Fitzpatrick sympathizes with the desire to find something to blame for the autism. But, as Dr. Fitzpatrick notes, being a parent of an autistic child does not give him "any special insights into the question of what causes autism, or into any other aspect of the condition."

Fitzpatrick's concern, however, is not just that misinformation is being spread on the Internet but that

Any parent who looks to the anti-immunization campaigns for information will readily find strident condemnations of the government, the medical establishment and the drug companies. Anybody who defends immunization can expect abuse and allegations of corruption or conspiracy. The basic thrust of much of it is that the pro-vaccination party has commercial links with drug companies. Yet, perhaps not surprisingly, these anti-vaccination groups often have their own links with commercial interests.

He notes that a group that goes by the swell name of Jabs (Justice, awareness and basic support) has been in litigation against MMR for more than a decade. The legal firm of Alexander Harris

cleared around £5m out of the total of £15m of legal-aid funding spent before the Legal Services Commission pulled the plug last October. Jabs' encouragement of parents to join this ill-conceived quest for compensation has had a demoralizing effect, not only on the families involved, but on the parents of children with autism, who have been made to feel guilty that by giving their children MMR they may have caused their condition.

Also, Dr. Andrew Wakefield, who sounded the alarm a few years ago about a possible connection between the MMR vaccine and autism and bowel disease in children,* was paid more than £400,000 by lawyers trying to prove that the vaccine was unsafe. The payments were part of £3.4m distributed from the legal aid fund to doctors and scientists who had been recruited to support a now failed lawsuit against vaccine manufacturers.* Thanks in part to Wakefield's false alarm, children in Europe began dying of measles again. Throughout Europe many parents stopped bringing in their children in for the MMR vaccination. Cases of measles in England rose to a 20-year high following the collapse in MMR immunization rates.* In 2007, the National Disease Surveillance Centre in Ireland issued a paper on controlling measles after immunization rates plummeted.* Scotland, where Wakefield operates, also reported troubles with measles. (A detailed and thorough review of every claim made in Wakefield's book about vaccinations concludes: "I have shown that every major claim Wakefield makes in his book concerning vaccine safety is wrong." See "Wrong About Vaccine Safety: A Review of Andrew Wakefield’s “Callous Disregard”" by Joel A. Harrison, PhD, MPH in The Open Vaccine Journal, Vol 6, 2013, pp 9 – 25.)

According to Fitzpatrick, the anti-immunization websites provide links to private clinics offering alternative vaccines to MMR and to "mercury-free" vaccines. "These clinics have been major beneficiaries of popular anxieties about immunization, making 'substantial' profits by providing inferior vaccines at inflated prices, to parents whose fears have been inflamed by misinformation and scare-mongering journalism." One such beneficiary was Dr. David Pugh, whose clinics in Sheffield and Elstree, Hertfordshire, were closed down after allegations of unsanitary and fraudulent practices. Pugh, who faces trial on criminal charges, has been endorsed by a number of parent groups.

In the U.S., over 4,900 autism claims are pending. They've been piling up for about eight years (Novella 2007). In June 2007, nine cases were heard by three "special masters" of the Autism Omnibus, a U.S. Court of Federal Claims. The Court issues updates from time to time. The latest, as of this writing, was July 8, 2008. The plaintiffs are covering all bases, arguing three different lines of causation: MMR vaccines and thimerosal cause autism, thimerosal alone causes autism, MMR alone causes autism. How the court rules in the nine test cases will affect the outcome of the other 4,900 claims. Of course, if the Court rules that the evidence is not compelling for a vaccine-autism causal link, many of the plaintiffs will see "conspiracy" once again. The Court is in the pockets of Big Pharma. Or something like that. The fact is, there is no telling how a court will rule, no matter what the science actually says. (See Here’s How the Anti-Vaxxers’ Strongest Argument Falls Apart for the truth about this special court.)

vaccines and harm

There is evidence, however, that some vaccines do cause harm. In northern Nigeria, there was a polio outbreak in the summer of 2003 that was triggered by a vaccine designed to eliminate it.*

Muslim clerics and disgruntled northern politicians banned polio vaccinations in the area, claiming that the drugs were a Western ploy to spread HIV and sterilize Muslim girls. The year-long mass boycott of the vaccine sparked a rash of new infections, and the virus jumped to about a dozen other countries — a devastating rollback for a polio eradication campaign that seemed finally on the verge of success....

...the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control revealed in early October [2007] that 69 Nigerian children had been paralyzed by polio virus since 2005 — and had contracted the illness through exposure to the live virus found in the oral vaccine ....(Time)

Even so, vaccine coverage has doubled countrywide in Nigeria from 35% in 2005 to a high of about 76% in 2007. Rates of new infections have dropped dramatically. Nigeria no longer has the highest number of polio cases worldwide. In 2006, Nigeria accounted for 1,125 of the 2,000 polio cases worldwide. In 2007, there were only 198 cases through October. In 2008, however, there were 788 cases, prompting a vigorous campaign to encourage vaccination.* (For comparison, in 1988 there were 350,000 new cases of polio in 125 countries, most of them in the developing world.*)

"The campaign to eradicate the polio virus must be intensified," says Sheikh Ahmed Gumbi, the powerful chief imam of the Sultan Bello mosque in Kaduna [Nigeria's second largest northern city]. "The good job must be completed. The vaccine is safe and healthy, despite a few cases of vaccine-induced infections. The immunization should continue until Nigeria is polio free." (Time)

AVM proponents note that only 1 in 200 cases of polio causes paralysis. Fever, flu-like symptoms, or no symptoms are typical in those carrying the virus.* We should remember, though, that only a very small percentage of those vaccinated with the polio virus will contract polio and that percentage will be much smaller than the percentage who will contract polio if there is no vaccination program. "The outbreak was caused by the live polio virus that is used in vaccines given orally — the preferred method in developing countries because it is cheaper and doesn’t require medical training to dispense."* The Nigerian outbreak was not the first. In 2001, 22 children were paralyzed from polio in the Dominican Republic and Haiti. "The oral polio vaccine contains a weakened version of polio virus. Children who have been vaccinated excrete the virus, and in unsanitary conditions it can end up in the water supply, spreading to unvaccinated children."*

No vaccination is completely without risk. Public health officials require certain vaccinations in order to prevent outbreaks of contagious diseases, whose costs would be far greater than the costs incurred by vaccinating.

do vaccines weaken the immune system?

Finally, some people think that the immune systems of children are being weakened by vaccines, making them vulnerable to illnesses later on in life. Quackwatch calls this misconception #7. For example, some think that their child's asthma or respiratory problems may be due to "vaccine overload" on their immature immune systems.

In fact babies have an ability, right from birth, to cope with lots of different germs. The body is constantly surrounded by germs and has to react to them in different ways. The advantage of being immunized rather than catching the disease is that the vaccine uses only part of the germ, or, if the whole germ, it is either killed or toned down (“attenuated”). In this way, the challenge to the immune system is less than that from the disease, but it is enough to produce protection.

In 2002, the Immunization Safety Review Committee of the American Institute of Medicine made a detailed examination of all the evidence about the effects of multiple immunizations on a baby’s immune system. They concluded that there was no evidence to support the suggestion that multiple immunizations overwhelm the immune system. They strongly supported the continuing use of vaccines against multiple diseases....

If immunizations are delayed, a baby will remain unprotected for longer than necessary. This could be particularly dangerous for whooping cough and Hib. Very young babies, if they catch whooping cough, are likely to be much more seriously ill than older children and are more likely to need hospital care. Babies under a year old are more likely to catch Hib than older children Studies have shown that when the vaccines are given at the younger age, babies have fewer reactions such as fever, sore injection sites etc, while at the same time they are still protected.*

There have been many well-designed studies that have examined claims that vaccines cause chronic diseases such as asthma, multiple sclerosis, chronic arthritis, sudden infant death syndrome, and diabetes. The studies have not found compelling evidence for any such links.* That has not stopped some anti-vaccinationists from speculating that some children are "especially sensitive" to vaccines and that scientific control studies can't be refined enough to validate this claim.

See also 9/11 conspiracy, climate change deniers, and contrarian.

Some motorious anti-vaccinationists: Russell Blaylock, M.D., Barbara Loe Fisher,Jay Gordon, Rauni Kilde,  Robert Mendelsohn, M.D., Joseph Mercola, Viera Scheibner, Ph.D.,  Andrew Wakefield, and Julian Whitaker, M.D.

further reading

reader comments

author's writings on the subject

Vaccines and Rights

Antivaxxer Plague

the flu vaccine

Oprah and the mother warriors against science

Robert F. Kennedy's rant about conspiracies

mass media funk 26

mass media funk 35

mass media funk 39

mass media funk 40

What's the harm? 11

What's the harm? 3

books and articles

Fitzpatrick, Michael. (2004). MMR and Autism. Routledge. (A Kindle edition is also available. For more on Kindle click here.)

Judelsohn, Richard G. (2007). "Vaccine Safety: Vaccines Are One of Public Health's Great Accomplishments." Skeptical Inquirer. November/December.

Michaels, David. 2008. Doubt is Their Product: How Industry's Assault on Science Threatens Your Health. Oxford University Press.

Norman, Matthew and Jesse Dallery. (2007). "Mercury Rising: Exploring the Vaccine-Autism Myth." Skeptic. vol. 13 num 3.

Novella, Steven. (2007). "The Anti-Vaccination Movement." Skeptical Inquirer. November/December.

Offit, Paul A. (2007). Vaccinated: One Man's Quest to Defeat the World's Deadliest Diseases. HarperCollins.

Offit, Paul A. (2008). Autism's False Prophets: Bad Science, Risky Medicine, and the Search for a Cure. Columbia University Press.

Offit, Paul A. (2010). Deadly Choices: How the Anti-Vaccine Movement Threatens Us All. Basic Books. Reviewed by Theodore Dalrymple, a physician and a contributing editor of City Journal and the Dietrich Weismann Fellow at the Manhattan Institute.

Wallace, Amy. (2009). An Epidemic of Fear: How Panicked Parents Skipping Shots Endangers Us All, Wired. To hear his enemies talk, you might think Paul Offit is the most hated man in America. A pediatrician in Philadelphia, he is the coinventor of a rotavirus vaccine that could save tens of thousands of lives every year. Yet environmental activist Robert F. Kennedy Jr. slams Offit as a “biostitute” who whores for the pharmaceutical industry. Actor Jim Carrey calls him a profiteer and distills the doctor’s attitude toward childhood vaccination down to this chilling mantra: “Grab ‘em and stab ‘em.” Recently, Carrey and his girlfriend, Jenny McCarthy, went on CNN’s Larry King Live and singled out Offit’s vaccine, RotaTeq, as one of many unnecessary vaccines, all administered, they said, for just one reason: “Greed.”

websites and blogs

Vaccines and infant mortality rates (Respectful Insolence) "...anti-vaccine activists have been busy touting two "studies" or "reports." I've already discussed one of these, a legal opinion piece masquerading as a "study" that managed to bring out the usual suspects completely missing the point about why it's so bad. That leaves one that I've been meaning to apply a bit of the ol' ultra-Insolence to as a teaching and learning exercise before I try again to move on to other topics. It's a study that claims to link the vaccine schedule in the U.S. to increased infant mortality and, not surprisingly, was announced by the ever-popular all-purpose quackery website, NaturalNews.com, which touted a study claiming to have found that nations requiring the most vaccines tend to have the worst infant mortality rates:...as skeptics have to be very careful not to become so jaded that knee-jerk hostility predominates. As unlikely as it is, there is always the possibility that there might be something worth taking seriously there. Next off, we have to be prepared to analyze these studies and explain to parents, when appropriate (which is the vast majority of the time) exactly why it is that they are bad science or why their conclusions are not supported by the data presented. Finally, we have to be prepared to provide these analyses fast."

History of Vaccines

Frontline - Jenny McCarthy Changes her Story Again Jenny McCarthy changes her story about when she first noticed something was wrong with her son. First it was MMR vaccine and then "BOOM--the soul's gone from his eyes." Now it's "maybe a couple of months, a month or so after the MMR, I started to notice some physical ailments such as constipation, rashes, eczema."

Should kids be vaccinated? 'Frontline' and science say 'yes'; Jenny McCarthy and a lot of selfish Gen X'ers say 'no' 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.

“Vaccines didn’t save us” (a.k.a. “vaccines don’t work”): Intellectual dishonesty at its most naked by David Gorski "If there’s one thing about the anti-vaccine movement I’ve learned over the last several years, it’s that it’s almost completely immune to evidence, science, and reason....The anti-vaccine website Vaccine Liberation has a large set of graphs purporting to show that the death rates of several vaccine-preventable diseases, including whooping cough, diphtheria, measles, and polio were falling before the vaccines for each disease were introduced...." (After that, it gets complicated.)

The Misogyny of the Anti-vaccination Cult by Rebecca Watson A post on Age of Autism's indecent sense of humor, irrationality, and hatred of women in the guise of "helping" mothers and children. Personally, I find the folks at Degenerate Miscue too unbalanced to engage.

An Open Letter to Bill Maher on Vaccinations by Michael Shermer

The Truth About The Evils Of Vaccination

Swine Flu Vaccine Fearmongering by Harriet Hall, M.D. and

H1N1 Update by Steven Novella, M.D.

Vaccine refuseniks are free-riders by Janet D. Stemwedel - Adventures in Ethics and Science "In the simplest terms, a free-rider is someone who accepts a benefit without paying for it. The free-rider is able to partake of this benefit because others have assumed the costs necessary to bring it about....Thus, when I claim that people who opt out of vaccination are free-riders on society, what I'm saying is that they are receiving benefits for which they haven't paid their fair share -- and that they receive these benefits only because other members of society have assumed the costs by being vaccinated."

"Cashing In On Fear: The Danger of Dr. Sears" by John Snyder - Science-Based Medicine "Dr. Bob, along with a growing platoon of other prominent anti-vaccine spokespeople, is leading parents into a trap that not only threatens their own children’s health, but the health of the entire nation as well."

Welcome back, my friends, to the show that never ends, part II: Generation Rescue, the anti-vaccine propaganda machine, and “Fourteen Studies” - David Gorski - Science-Based Medicine "There’s just so much nonsense laid down by antivaccinationists these days that it’s utterly impossible for one blogger to keep up with it all."

A Personal Attack By J.B. Handley [founder of Age of Autism] -  Steven Novella - Neurologica Blog "Handley’s attack is an astounding example of hypocrisy, logical fallacies, and tortured reasoning. He really exposes the intellectual bankruptcy of the anti-vaccine movement...."

Jeni Barnett and the LBC Radio MMR Vaccine Segment: Updated with links of blog coverage Jeni Barnett exemplifies "some of the most irresponsible, ill-informed, and ignorant anti-vaccination campaigning that I have ever heard on the public airwaves." Holford Watch

Read a transcript of Jeni's rant or

Listen to Jeni's 44-minute rant in defense of freedom of choice, parenting in ignorance, and the evil drug companies. Download from: Sweden, US, Sweden2, Latvia, Slovakia, UK, Finland, Netherlands, Poland, Tonga, Europe, SSL, Tor

The Great DBH Rant - Jeni Barnett Has Removed All Comments To Her Blogposts but here they are anyway

LBC, MMR, Jeni Barnett, an Early Day Motion, the Times, and, er, a bit of Stephen Fry… Ben Goldacre, Bad Science

Bucking the Herd by Arthur Allen "Parents who refuse vaccination for their children may be putting entire communities at risk."

Ruining It for the Rest of Us Reports on the"San Diego parents who didn't vaccinate their child for measles. When their seven-year-old caught the disease on an overseas trip, this decision became a whole community's problem. The outbreak infected 11 children and endangered many others."

Institute of Child Health: Immunisation FAQ

Vaccine-Preventable Diseases: Improving Vaccination Coverage in Children, Adolescents, and Adults

Misconceptions about Immunization from Quackwatch

History of the AVM - Wikipedia

Why Do Anti-Vaccinationists Believe? by Jacob Dickerman
"As paradoxical as it may initially seem, I think the belief that autism is caused by vaccines gives anti-vaccinationists a sense of security.

It's an exceedingly human reaction. It's how we react to everything that scares us.

None of us are completely immune to these fears. That the world is not ours to control, that random bad things can happen to any of us at any time, that perhaps it doesn't matter what we do -- this is a terrifying notion, and I can understand why it could be even worse for a parent who has to watch these random acts of horror to happen to their child."

news stories

The toll of the anti-vaccination movement, in one devastating graphic

Aaron Carroll offers a graphic depiction of the toll of the anti-vaccination movement.

Malaria vaccine may save millions of lives "The results of the largest-ever malaria vaccine study, involving 15,460 babies and small children, show it could reduce the impact of the disease, which claims nearly 800,000 lives a year, most of them children under five. The vaccine has been in development for two decades - the brainchild of scientists at British drug company GlaxoSmithKline, which has promised to sell it at no more than a fraction over cost price."

Measles outbreak hits Europe, most cases in France; WHO blames lack of vaccinations The World Health Organization said Thursday [21 April 2011] that France had 4,937 reported cases of measles between January and March — compared with 5,090 cases during all of 2010. In all, more than 6,500 cases have been reported in 33 European nations.

Vaccinated Children Not at Higher Risk of Infections or Allergic Diseases, Study Suggests The evaluation showed that unvaccinated children and adolescents differ from their vaccinated peers merely in terms of the frequency of vaccine preventable diseases.

Flu deaths continue to increase Thirty-nine people in the UK have now died with flu-like illnesses this winter, figures show. All but three of them were infected with the H1N1 swine flu virus, while the remainder had influenza B....at-risk groups ... include pregnant women and people with chronic respiratory diseases, or chronic heart, liver or kidney disease.

Health Officials to Consider Tightening Vaccine Exemptions "Six percent of the state’s kindergartens – up from 2 percent a decade ago – have so many unvaccinated children that public health officials consider them “sites of concentrated vaccine-preventable disease risk,” according to a 2009 report by the California Department of Public Health. At these schools, more than 10 percent of the students were exempted from providing proof that they’re up to date with all their vaccines."

Vaccines Halt Polio Outbreak in Tajikistan After an outbreak of more than 413 cases of polio in Tajikistan, 1,000 teams of doctors and nurses working under a USAID grant and the Tajikistan Ministry of Health have stopped the spread of the disease nearly three months after the first cases were registered....In April, the World Health Organization (WHO) confirmed seven children in Tajikistan had contracted polio. Over the next three months, 413 cases were confirmed, signaling the largest polio outbreak in the world since 2004 and outstripping traditional polio hotspots like India and Nigeria. It was the first time such an outbreak had occurred in the Central Asian region since 2002. And, by mid-July, WHO reported nearly 700 cases of acute flaccid paralysis, a type of paralysis that is often caused by polio, in Tajikistan. Emerging cases of the paralysis usually signal the beginning of a polio outbreak.

Seniors now urged to get whooping cough shot

As of July 16th, there were 1,496 confirmed cases in California of whooping cough (pertussis) this year, a fivefold increase over last year. The state has declared the outbreak an epidemic....

Seven infants in Southern California have died of the disease, and health officials said a sixth infant death in recent days is under investigation. The infants were all under 3 months old and had not yet been vaccinated.

The California Department of Public Health has broadened recommendations for vaccinating against pertussis. Officials suggested an adolescent-adult booster known as Tdap for:

General: Anyone 7 years or older who was never vaccinated or whose immunization has begun to wear off. For the first time, those older than 64 are being urged to get the booster.

Women: Women of childbearing age before pregnancy, during the second or third trimesters or immediately after giving birth.

Others: Anyone who is in contact with infants and pregnant women.

Amputee, 21, Fights for Law Requiring College Vaccinations Hundreds of students at UT-Austin were vaccinated this spring for a potentially lethal form of meningitis, thanks to the special case of Jamie Schanbaum, a 21-year-old student who contracted meningococcal septicemia in 2008. She had to have both legs amputated below the knees as well as has portions of her hands....Schanbaum and her mother worked to pass the Jamie Schanbaum Act in 2009, requiring freshman attending Texas colleges and living on campus to get the meningitis vaccine. The law went into effect January 1, and approximately 5,000 new students are expected to be vaccinated when they arrive at school in the fall.

Study: Early Childhood Vaccines Don't Damage Kids' Development "...a new study in Pediatrics examined the long-term effects of delaying vaccines and found that children whose parents refused or postponed vaccines did no better than children who were vaccinated on time when tested on things like speech, language, achievement, fine motor skills, attention, and general intellectual function seven to ten years later....[Researchers] evaluated the records of 491 children born between 1993 and 1997 who got vaccinations on time, 235 who got recommended vaccines but not on time, and 311 who didn't get all of the recommended vaccines."

Despite the facts, the perception of many parents is that vaccinations are risky. "A new survey reveals that 54 percent of parents are concerned about the adverse effects of vaccines, and 25 percent think some vaccines cause autism in healthy children....[Even so,] the vast majority of parents do have their children vaccinated against childhood diseases; 88 percent of the 1,552 parents polled in the January 2009 survey ... published in Pediatrics said they follow their doctor's recommendation for childhood vaccines. But 11.5 percent said they'd refused at least one vaccine for their children....The vaccine most often refused is the new HPV vaccine against a virus that causes cervical cancer. Fifty-six percent of the parents said they had refused that shot for a child. When asked why, parents said it was because there has not been enough research on this vaccine (78 percent); that the vaccine has not been on the market long enough (75 percent); that "my children are at low risk for this disease" (59 percent); and that "the risk for adverse effects from this vaccine is too great" (59 percent). The HPV vaccine was approved in 2006, and it protects against a sexually transmitted virus, so it makes sense that parents of young girls are willing to wait a few years for more information. Contrast that with the reasons parents gave for refusing the MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine. Parents' concerns were not with how long the MMR has been used (the three vaccines were approved in the 1960s) but rather, 'I have read or heard about problems with this vaccine'."

Measles outbreaks threaten progress in child mortality in west and central Africa Sixteen countries of West and Central Africa are in the throes of a measles outbreak, with 22,364 cases and 185 deaths, in the year to 28 March. 

it's all a plot to anti-vaccination conspiracy nuts Meet the 3 Stooges: Drs. Russell Blaylock, Leonard Horowitz, and Rauni Kilde

Fearing a Flu Vaccine, and Wanting More of It "There is a peculiar duality in the collective cultural mind just now, a kind of pandemic doublethink. Other doctors I know are all eagerly having their own children immunized....But at the same time, we are all coming up against parents who are determined to refuse that same vaccine."

Autism fears fuel measles outbreak Measles program in South Africa harmed by unscientific claims about vaccine

Global jump in swine flu deaths More than 5,700 swine flu deaths were reported by 25 October, compared to nearly 5,000 the week before. The biggest rise was in the Americas where 4,175 deaths have been reported, up 636 from the week before.

Flu Story: A Pregnant Woman’s Ordeal "On Oct. 1, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said 100 pregnant women had been in intensive care with swine flu and 28 had died. That is a tiny fraction of what are believed to have been millions of cases in the country."

11 More Children Die From Swine Flu: CDC The flu season hasn't even started but "86 children have died from the H1N1 swine flu since the virus emerged last spring, with 43 of those deaths coming in September and early October alone. That underscores the concern that swine flu is particularly dangerous for children and young adults who may not have immunity to the disease. During the past three years, deaths among children from the regular seasonal flu ranged from 46 to 88 annually....about half of the children who have died since the end of August were teenagers."

Swine Flu Shots Revive a Debate About Vaccines According to a CBS News poll conducted last week, only 46 percent said they were likely to get the [flu] vaccine. The nationwide poll, which has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points, found that while 6 in 10 parents were likely to have their children vaccinated, less than half said they were “very likely to.” Web sites, Twitter feeds, talk radio, and even elevator chatter are awash with skeptics criticizing the vaccine, largely with no factual or scientific basis.

Some anti-vaccine groups are also highly organized and quick to respond to openings to promote their message. For instance, this week, an 8-year-old boy from Long Island died roughly a week after receiving a swine flu vaccine, though officials from the New York State Department of Health denied a connection.

Almost instantly, on a memorial page on Newsday’s Web site for the boy, Sean Weisse, a message from an anti-vaccine advocacy group appeared: “We are so sorry to hear about Sean. My understanding, and forgive me if I’m wrong, is that this was a vaccine-related injury. If so, we would like to help you. Best regards, Stan Kurtz, Generation Rescue, Jim Carrey and Jenny McCarthy’s Organization.”

Measles outbreak 'worst in years' 19 May 2009. "Health chiefs in Wales are dealing with a "massive" measles outbreak, with numbers already four times the highest figure recorded over the past 13 years....Last week, the NPHS said its research had shown the MMR uptake in one school in the Carmarthenshire area was as low as 14.8%. The vaccine needs a 95% uptake to achieve the herd immunity needed to ensure the disease cannot take a hold in individuals who are not vaccinated."

See also a recent exchange on this issue with "an informed American."

Oprah offers Jenny McCarthy her own TV show McCarthy has signed "a multi-platform, multi-year development deal with Harpo Productions."

Some Muslim clergy join Nigeria's war on polio In the dusty streets of Kano, northern Nigeria's main city, town criers with bullhorns cut through the traffic and crowds, urging parents to take their children to one of hundreds of vaccination centers. Radio and newspapers are full of get-vaccinated ads. One victim-turned-campaigner is 43-year-old Yusuf Umar, his legs withered by polio, propelling himself on hand-held blocks of wood. "Look at me," he tells parents of young children waiting to be immunized at a ramshackle Nigerian clinic, just in case any are having second thoughts. "Do you want your child to look like me?"

Minn. Illnesses Worry CDC Officials "Five Minnesota children have grown sick — and one of them died — from a germ that can cause meningitis, causing U.S. health officials to warn of the importance of a common childhood vaccine."

Poliovirus Infections in Four Unvaccinated Children

Whooping Cough Raises Concern "The more unvaccinated children we have, the more likely that all of us can contract pertussis."

Immunization Could Have Prevented Fatal Measles Outbreak In Germany "A study of the outbreak in the German city of Duisburg found that at least 80% of 614 measles cases in 2006 were reported as "unvaccinated". The main reasons given were that parents either forgot to take their children to be vaccinated or rejected the vaccine, for various reasons including the mistaken belief that it was dangerous."

Rise in measles 'very worrying' "Measles cases in England and Wales rose by 36% in 2008, figures show....Health Protection Agency experts said most of the cases had been in children not fully vaccinated with combined MMR and so could have been prevented."

Book Is Rallying Resistance to the Antivaccine Crusade

Defending Vaccines: Actress Dispels Link To Autism Amanda Peet teams with Dr. Paul Offit to counter the assault on vaccines by Jenny McCarthy, Jim Carrey and Holly Robinson Peete.

Lack of Association between Measles Virus Vaccine and Autism with Enteropathy: A Case-Control Study

Number of Cases of Most Vaccine-Preventable Diseases in U.S. at All-Time Low

YouTube breeding ground for anti-vaccination views

Last updated 27-Aug-2015

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