Countering antivaxxers

By Phil Plait | July 23, 2008 12:01 pm

Antivaxxers are a major public health threat. These are misguided people — generally good-hearted but still mistaken — who think that vaccinations can cause autism in children. This is despite a raft full of evidence showing no connection whatsoever. Basically, antivaxxers resort to anecdotes, misinterpreting data, and an appeal to emotions to make their case.

They also have a lot of support by celebrities, sadly. Jenny McCarthy is a vocal antivaxxer, and she’s roped her boyfriend, Jim Carrey, into this as well. They had a big fund raiser for their nonsense recently, and I have to bite my tongue very strenuously to avoid an ad hominem here, but I’ll say that Britney Spears and Charlie Sheen attended.

On the other hand, I was very pleased to see the video below at The SkeptTick’s site. It shows actor Amanda Peet talking about this topic for Cookie magazine (a parenting mag), and it’s very effective. She obviously loves her child, and makes a strong case that we need to be more active in fighting antivaccination nonsense.

I love Ms. Peet; after being attacked by antivaxxers for her comments she held her ground. You need to read what she wrote. It’s awesome to behold.

You can search the blog here for more info on the tactics used by the antivaccination crowd. Another resource is the great blog Respectful Insolence, where Orac keeps up with them as well. Have no doubt: the antivaxxers mean well — many have autistic children themselves, and as a parent I feel for them very much — but if they are successful then many, many children will die of totally preventable diseases. And we’re already seeing a comeback of measles due to drops in vaccination rates. This is no far-flung future; the terrible consequences of antiscience nonsense are happening now.

Comments (96)

  1. We in the UK got antivax mercenary* Andrew Wakefield in the late 1990s, when I was in high school. Let’s say the experience helped shape my critical thinking and general scientific reasoning skills. Measels is now sustained in the population (we had it on the back foot for over a decade), there have been multiple deaths or serious permanent injuries in city kids, and the total cases number in the thousands per year. There are full-blown epidemics of the disease on the mainland.

    So, good luck with that. When the kids start dying, I expect that the celebrities involved will already have drifted far enough from the public eye to escape responsibility.

    *The best part of a million dollars in funding to concoct an autism-MMR link for use in a series of court cases. “Mercenary” seemed like the right term.

  2. Todd W.

    Very nice letter from Ms. Peet. Why can’t more people with celebrity status speak out in support of reason and science?

  3. Yup. No question. Childhood vaccination is absolutely the right thing to do and has jack-all to do with autism. Conversely, there’s a confirmed link between not getting vaccinations and dying.

    Generally, I think we’d prefer not to have the children dying. On the other hand, if stupidity runs in families, maybe it’s just evolution in action.

  4. amstrad

    Lets see:

    Carey, McCarthy, Sheen and Spears… total years of higher education: zero
    Peet: 4 years at Columbia

    Kinda reminds me of the Cruise/Shields confrontation. Cruise barely graduated high school; Shields … 4 years at Princeton

    Why does the general public consider these things when choosing celebrity role models?

  5. Robbie

    Are you suggesting that were you dating someone like Jenny McCarthy (or pick your favorite actress/supermodel/Victoria’s secret model) you wouldn’t go along with whatever dumb cause she was interested in that week? If that’s what you’re suggesting, then I suggest you’re lying.

  6. I’ve got an autistic kid (actually, PDD-NOS), and I can tell you, I am happy to have a kid who is healthy and never gets sick, regardless of his behavioral problems. Vaccines are important. The anti-vaxxers are, in the end, anti-science — even if they aren’t creationists, they share a lot of the same characterisitics: ignore scientific evidence, think there is a “conspiracy” amongst the scientific elite, refuse to believe they are wrong, deliberately spread disinformation, etc.

  7. As usual, Dr. Novella is on top of this and the trail of blogs and letters between the good doctor, David Kirby (on Huffingtonpost), and even Dr. Poling (who received a settlement when he sued over vaccine causing his daughters autism, though it didn’t) is extremely fascinating.

    You can get most of it from Dr. Novella’s blog Neurologica. http://www.theness.com/neurologicablog/

  8. Todd W.

    @Robbie

    Just because someone may be a celebrity, good looking, or whatever, is no reason to compromise one’s integrity. Going along with something like the anti-vax movement would be a source of tension, if it were me in the relationship. Believe me or don’t, but your stance may be more a reflection of your own behavior and integrity rather than an accurate assessment of Phil or anyone else that may respond to your comment.

  9. madge

    As a parent I know how hard it is to sift throught all the seemingly conflicting reports in order to make the right, informed, choices with regards your children ( I am currently researching the cervical cancer vaccine being offered to all twelve year old girls in the UK as this will affect my own daughter in 3 years time and I want to know the facts) But that is what you HAVE to do….look at the FACTS, the RESEARCH, the EVIDENCE. Not hearsay, anecdotal rumours, or celebrity endorsement. EVERYONE tries to do the best for their kids. Some choose to do so using Chinese whispers, I like to think most of us use science and critical thinking.

  10. Robbie, Jim Carrey is a superstar. He can pretty much literally have any girl he wants. You might consider Jenny McCarthy hot, but there are plenty of fish in the sea. Attractive women are actually a dime a dozen. Commonplace. Hardly notable. Certainly not worth getting excited over.

    You might think I’m lying, but I’m not. This position’s a deal-breaker. I’d drop Jenny McCarthy like a hot potato. Not that I’m available anyway.

  11. davery

    It’s great that somebody with media access is talking sense about this subject for a change. However, Ms. Peet also says in her original article that she only buys organic food for her child and doesn’t like to put sunscreen on her. Oops. Not totally woo woo free.

    And before all the organic food people jump on me, please read this:

    http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/green-living/the-great-organic-myths-why-organic-foods-are-an-indulgence-the-world-cant-afford-818585.html

  12. dre

    Phil, do you have a handy list of links to the major studies that showed no link between vaccinations and autism, and if so, could you drop them in the comments here? It would be good to be able to grab them for reference, and I honestly don’t know the best way to find them.

    I have a well-vaccinated 5-year-old, and I am one of those folks that tends to believe piles of agreeing scientists when they speak on their areas of expertise. I am confident that there is no actual link between vax and autism.

    A few months back, when Jenny McCarthy was on Larry King (insert sound of Obi Wan Kenobi powering down the intelligence beam on the Death Star: WOO00oo…), I tsked at the TV. My book-reading wife asked what I was tsking, and when expressed my displeasure at anti-science, there was just the slightest possible hesitation in her voice that suggested she might consider the possibility of a vax-autism link. What a sick feeling it gave me.

    Anywho, I hate saying “well, scientists did a study… somewhere… and they found that… well, there’s not a link!” and not being able to back it up. Suggestions?

  13. Dre, you should check out the Science Based Medicine blog, they talk about this topic a lot (today in fact):

    http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org

  14. glued

    Only a handful of Hollywood stars can compose a letter with such dignity and respect
    (hopefully she was the one who really made that). Nice one Ms. Peet.

    Here in the Philippines we lack such medical support. An understatement: lucky are those children with updated vaccines / shots.

  15. @dre – Phil posted a search link for his own blog. Follow that and find his original post on anti-vax. He lays out the case pretty well there. Beyond that, Google is your friend.

  16. I had a sales rep come in recently pitching magazine for a new client and that issue of Cookie was in the pile.

    I was very pleased when I flipped to the article.

  17. Robbie

    Am I the only person with a sense of humor posting replies on this blog? What the hell is wrong with you Todd W. and JediBear, specifically?

  18. allen

    > Basically, antivaxxers resort to anecdotes, misinterpreting data, and an appeal to emotions to make their case.

    With a skill-set like that you’d think they’d be global warming advocates. At least they could score some grant money then.

    > I have to bite my tongue very strenuously to avoid an ad hominem

    Oh, just give in. You know you want to and sneering is both more fun and easier then looking for an explanation that’s not quite so self-serving.

  19. Todd W.

    @dre

    Also, the link to Orac’s page should be good. As Phil said, he’s been following the anti-vax bit for a while now.

  20. @Robbie – I have a great sense of humour. You’re just not funny. ;)

  21. Todd W.

    @Robbie

    Sorry. A humorous tone does not translate well to text.

  22. Tim G

    JediBear,

    I had no idea Jim Carrey was so hot.

    Anyway, Amanda Peet referred to parents who don’t vaccinate their children as parasites. She has stated that she regrets using that strong of a word but remains committed to supporting vaccinations stating, “Vast reductions in immunization will lead to a resurgence of deadly viruses. This is as indisputable as global warming.”

    Kudos to Amanda Peet.

  23. After reading the link to the Carrey fund raiser, I have never been so grateful for a Britney Spears story. I’ll keep that in mind if I ever need a celebrity to distract from my cause.

  24. Cheyenne

    Good for Amanda Peet!

    It must be so infuriating to be a doctor and have to treat a child that you know could have been spared an illness if his parents wouldn’t have blocked his vaccinations.

  25. My expectations of celebrities had me reading that letter waiting for the blame shift. “Vaccines are not the cause! Duh, everyone knows it’s pesticides!”
    But Ms Peet pleasantly surprised me. And I am now in love with her :)

  26. Yeah, too bad she’s cast for “2012”.

  27. Shane

    I grew up in the 50s and lived through the polio panics; I remember the terror that my parents had every summer, wondering if their children would contract the dreaded disease. I had friends who had withered hands, arms, or legs, or who used leg braces and crutches. You see very few like that anymore here in the states, and near-universal vaccinations are the reason why. The antivaxxers are literally playing with fire.

  28. Wildride

    And now Jenny is teaming up with WWE. Because, let’s face it, no one is better at ignoring reality than Vince McMahon. Although in the back of my mind I can’t help but wonder if he’s doing it for the same reason he put Pete Rose in the celebrity wing of the WWE hall of fame: To be seen as rebellious and controversial.

  29. Derek

    My nephew is autistic, but his mom and dad, being scientists by trade (one is a chemist for a pharmaceutical company) naturally did their research. This was after the immunization to see if they could find an explanation for the change in their boy. They came away confident that it was NOT the vaccination, but some other unknown factor.

    They have an autistic kid, but they don’t believe the hype– it frightened them a little, but they went to the sources and researched for themselves. They came away with a sad, but probably true conclusion: no obvious action they could have taken (or not taken) would have prevented the onset of Autism, regardless of immunizations.

    Four links of importance I found when discussing this with an antivaxxer friend. Or more correctly, she wasn’t really an antivaxxer, but had fallen prey to the hysteria.

    A PDF showing 23 studies that showed NO link between autism and vaccinations, and the three that did and why those three do not stand up to scrutiny:
    http://www.immunize.org/catg.d/p4026.pdf

    CDC Studies on Vaccines and Autism Spectrum Disorders:
    http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/documents/vaccine_studies.pdf

    And two generally informitive links that lead me to those two documents above:
    http://www.cdc.gov/vaccinesafety/concerns/mmr_autism_factsheet.htm
    http://www.nichd.nih.gov/publications/pubs/autism/mmr/

  30. clem

    PalMD at the Denialism blog on Scienceblogs

    http://scienceblogs.com/denialism/

    has been posting some really good stuff on why we should fight antivaxxers recently too. Highly inspirational and interesting.

  31. Thanks for linking, Phil!

  32. I have a friend with an autistic daughter. For a while there he was anti-vaccine – convinced that the MMR vaccine caused his daughter’s autism, but after reading into the subject (LOTS of reading) he came around to the scientific/realistic side. Autism is NOT caused by vaccines.

    He got into the WWW discussion side of this and was very vocal in discussions with the anti-vaccers. In the end he had to withdraw from the whole thing – some of these anti-vaccers turned out to be not so nice after all and one particular odious man made a number of horrible statements about my friend’s daughter.

    I’m sure that most of these anti-science, anti-vaccers are just normal people blinded by some very vocal, very wrong high-profile people. Some of them, however, are not so nice.

    Glad to see that Amanda Peet is on the side of reality :)

  33. Space Cadet

    Science Based Medicine is especially pertinent today.

    http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/

    I worked as an orthotist in the late 70’s and treated many post polio patients my own age, and every time I thanked my parents for dragging me down to the school cafeteria for that little sugar cube.

    (for Robbie: The Sabin one, not the Leary one.)

  34. I’ve never understood why Amanda Peet’s star never took off. She’s beautiful, smart and a very good actress.

  35. Robbie

    You were only right about 1 out of 3 of those MikeS.

  36. MattGS

    Wow. Up until now I’ve only liked Amanda Peet for rather superficial reasons. Now I can like her for superficial reasons AND because she’s obviously a very smart lady. Phantastic!

  37. Sili

    Well, at least it wasn’t Martin Sheen. I like him.

    And I only know of McCarthy (what an appropriate name) as an antivaxer – didn’t even realise her claim to fame was being Carrey’s girlfriend.

  38. It’s amazing how low we set the bar for celebrities. Just because she happens to be right about one thing, we’re suddenly praising Amanda Peet for how smart she is?

    Don’t get me wrong. It’s great that she’s on the right side and knows how to stand her ground and all, but I really don’t think it’s all that.

  39. Bigfoot

    I have never seen her before, and I am not really sure who she is (actress? singer?), but color me impressed! It is rare to see such a well-thought-out writing from a pop-culture celebrity. And, for a human, she’s quite attractive!

  40. Anton P. Nym

    @Wildride: WWE endorsing anti-vaccine groups would be like Hormel endorsing PETA. Professional wrestling is so full of juicing that a stand by them against innoculation would be laughable. I suspect that Leno, Letterman, and O’Brian (let alone Stewart) would be overjoyed should it happen; they’d have material for weeks.

    — Steve

  41. @jedibear – Why should the bar be any higher than that?

  42. MattGS

    @JediBear:

    I’d praise anyone for saying smart things. Especially on the internet. The fact that she’s a celebrity (not that well known apparently) doesn’t make what she says more important, but she does have more influence than just anyone. And apart from that, it’s good to know that there are celebreties who know how to use their brains and their judgment. That’s obviously a rare thing nowadays.

  43. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    I love Ms. Peet

    I loved her first. But okay, she is absolutely kicking ass away from the movies as well.

    However, Ms. Peet also says in her original article that she only buys organic food for her child and doesn’t like to put sunscreen on her. Oops. Not totally woo woo free.

    Hmm, she was mentioning medicines together with sunscreen, suggesting that she was concerned with side effects.

    FWIW I don’t like to put any odd kind of sunscreen on either. They contain a lot of untested organics that is absorbed and interacts with your skin while under intense light and heat. The only kind that IIRC got some testing against cancers is inorganic titanium dioxide blockers – but mainly tested for the main ingredient.

    Of course, given the choice of going without or not, any odd sunscreen will (most, most likely) reduce skin cancer, so that is a no-brainer. But I prefer to go with the tested ones. Besides, I have worked a lot with titanium, it is a cool metal. :-P

    Organics food OTOH is strictly woo woo – it is safer to go with products that AFAIU contains less mold toxins, i.e. regular food.

  44. Ian

    Hmmm re: organic food. Yeah, it’s a luxury. But I like food that’s not covered with chemicals. I like oceans that are not huge dead zones due to chemical run-off.

    But the yield is lower and only yuppies like me can really afford it. So it’s not all rainbows and puppy digs.

  45. SLC

    Re davery

    The Independent is not exactly known for the excellence of its science journalism. Quite the contrary in fact.

  46. @Ian-

    Regular food is not only the cheaper choice, it’s also safer, better for the environment (“organic” farming produces lower yields. Really /think/ about that for a minute) and actually tastes better.

    I wouldn’t call “organic” food much of a luxury. Actually, I avoid it like the plague it is.

  47. Adela

    Sunscreen falls into the lesser of two evils. If you must expose your self to UV then use sunscreen but you do not have to expose yourself to UV in the first place. Not when clothing, hats and shelter does the job far more safely than the chemicals of sunscreen.

  48. F Franckreich

    The Japanese, having realized the dubious benefit of vaccines, the clear damage they can cause (inter alia autism, asthma, arthritis, diabetes, allergies), the fact that mandating vaccines violates numerous international medical codes as well as medical ethical canons and are essentially a violation of human rights and are criminal, do not vaccinate their children until at least the age of two (except BCG tuberculosis at 6 months). Vaccines in Japan are only administered to children by consent of the parent from age 2 to 7.
    They don’t buy the marketing nonsense and don’t try to ram what are largely untested and quite unsafe (toxic) medical products into babies through corrupt purchase of congress by lobbyists.
    Bottom line, allow informed choice, stop the medical bullying and this ridiculous controversy ends over night. Most other societies, with the exception of the Brits, do not vaccinate their children in such an overwhelmingly aggressive, unhealthy and unsafe manner. Notwithstanding the aggressiveness of the Brits on this issue, recently, one of the heads of a prominent British medical society labeled the US mandatory vaccine program “Stalinist”.

    If you believe that you should impose experimental medical treatments on infants without consent, we suggest you test your DNA for homology to Mengele.

    Amanda Peet is uninformed and was posited by the corrupt vaccine establishment as a counterbalance to Jenny McCarthy who has taken on this issue honestly and in an informed manner and has had a tremendous effect.

  49. Wildride

    > Professional wrestling is so full of juicing

    It took me a moment to figure which you meant since, in the wrestling context, it could mean steroids or blading (cutting themselves to simulate injury). Honestly, I don’t think they even know the details about the charity, it’s just something a) that works alongside their Playboy connections and b) it’s something they think they can crow about. They work with a lot of charities and causes and have no compunction about telling all about it.

  50. M2

    I was looking around for pro-vaccination shirts and buttons and such, but to my disgust, mostly I found anti-vax “green our vaccines” nonsense. So, I made my own. I used part of an old polio vaccine poster (public domain, found here: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Image:Polio_vaccine_poster.jpg), and added the common pro-vaccination slogans “Love, Protect, Immunize” or “Vaccination is an act of Love.” I put up a cafepress store so other people can get them too. There is no markup (I’m not making money on this), I just wanted to share. Here it is: http://www.cafepress.com/Wellbee

    Any other pro-vaccination slogan/poster/shirt/button ideas?

  51. space cadet

    I think I may be stuck in themoderation que because I copied a link when I tried to comment here earlier. I’ll try again without the link. If you’ve already read this, Sorry.

    Science Based Medicine (all one word with the three W’s and dot org) is especially pertinent today.

    I worked as an orthotist in the late 70’s and treated many post polio patients my own age, and every time I thanked my parents for dragging me down to the school cafeteria for that little sugar cube.

    (for Robbie: The Sabin one, not the Leary one.)

  52. Aaron Gibbons

    I have done a bit of reading into it and I am sorry to say that (at this stage) I will not be vaccinating my daughter for measles, mumps rubella.
    – How many children do you know that have died of these viruses? High death rates for these are usually found in third world areas where I believe poor hygiene plays a contributing factor.
    – There is evidence to show that if you are subject to these diseases at an earlier life your immunity is strengthened by the encounters giving you long term benefits.
    No, I’m not an out and out anti-vaccinator. I think some vaccinations are recommended – namely the ones against the bacterial diseases.

    But we are becoming a pasteurised, homogenised, pill popping, processed, liposucked, sterile species that is living longer but getting less healthy.

    It really annoys me when doctors bully using guilt tactics such as “let me take to the cemetery that has all the tiny graves” or “I’m a doctor and your not”. Your family doctor is one of the most valued groups of people in society, but he/she is not infallible.

    At the end of the day, it’s the choice of the parents. But the parents need to do the research to make the decisions, filtering out the b*llsh*t and emotion that pollutes both sides of the argument. And they need to respect other parents’ choices as well.

  53. amphiox

    The term “parasite” for antivaxxers is not too strong. That is exactly what they are.

  54. Troy

    Jenny McCarthy should use the funds to finance her PhD, then she can do research and get her thesis published in a reputable peer reviewed journal.

  55. Looks like this post got picked up by the Fox News Health section. Jeez Phil. That’s like 2 degrees of separation from Bill O’Reilly!

  56. GrammaKnows

    So would all you pro-vaxers feel more comfortable if we stopped calling it autism and started calling it serum sickness?

    (Let’s see how many of you have any idea what I’m talking about)

    Start withthe naming of anaphylaxis, Charles Richet, Nobel Prize in Medicine, 1913.

    Let me know when the light comes on.

  57. Prunesquallor

    The blogger Epi Wonk is an epidemiologist blogger who often writes about the pseudoscience around antivaxxer claims. Check him out at http://epiwonk.com/.

  58. Sarah

    I’ve heard other arguments for not vaccinating, anyone have any information on these?

    Is there any truth to the claim that many of the diseases we vaccinate against now are not as bad in children, but worse for adults? Are they 100% effective at preventing the disease for the lifetime of the individual?

  59. Jim K

    Careful. Your lack of complete truth here kind of makes you look like the cool aide drinker. Check McCarthy’s official position on this. I believe she recommends the California Dosing and Vaccine Schedule B. The gist of which is to spread out the vax so that the young immune system isn’t bombarded all at once with diseases, and remove certain known neurotoxins from them as well. I don’t think she is asking for a complete removal of vax from society as you suggest. None of that seems unreasonable.

    While I agree that celebs generally make poor PR for a cause, there is science behind what she advocates — like it or not. Yes, reputable, peer reviewed, etc. but we need to know where to find it. It won’t always show up on our nightly news broadcasts.
    Science is a very political topic. Researchers won’t bight the hand that feeds them so always follow the money when reading up on a topic. Besides, medical history is replete with one practice being overturned for another because the new one is better or the old one had unexpected and undesirable consequences. What makes vaccinations immune to this phenomenon?

    Regarding the use of the word parasites… I take exception to anyone exercising a legal right being referred to as a parasite. Our rights are dwindling fast enough as it is; please be careful what you give away voluntarily.

    Thanks for the the topic!

  60. The only thing I can find on neurotoxins in vaccines are anti-vac sites. Did you know, according to one anti-vac site, that Autism was unheard of before vaccinations? Vaccinations also cause encephalitis, brain damage, paralysis and epilepsy. Wow, just wow.

    Botulism is a neurotoxin. Do you know where you get botulism? Yes, food. I think we should stop the production of food until all the science is in on neurotoxins in food.

    They’re also developing a vaccine against botulism. Hmm, an anti-neurotoxin neurotoxin.

    Look, I can see the stress is causing worry lines on your face. How about a botox injection?

  61. Jim K said What makes vaccinations immune to this phenomenon?

    That is actually pretty funny.

    Nothing wrong with using the word parasite either. The Wiktionary defines it in the pejorative sense thus A useless person who always relies on other people’s work and gives nothing back.

  62. “Botulism is a neurotoxin. Do you know where you get botulism?”

    From my doctor, in a needle. She calls them “wrinkle vaccinations”.

    ;)

  63. Lawrence

    If you’ve ever seen a baby with the measles or mumps, you just might change you mind Aaron & Jim – and those two diseases still kill (and with Mumps – can sterilize).

    Did anyone consider that maybe one of the reasons we’ve noticed an increase in Autism is that we’re actually much better at detecting it than we once were? I can think of quite a few people I’ve known in the past that were considered “eccentric” that probably were either mildly autistic or has Aspergers Syndrom, but went un-diagnosed.

    I have a nine-month old at home & he is on the vaccine track – wouldn’t want him to miss one. Because if I can spare him from getting something that could have major long-term health issues long-term (and these childhood illnesses have proven developmental effects, unlike the “supposed” link to Autism), I most certainly will.

    The other big issue again, is letting these diseases get a foothold into the regular population. The more un-immunized people we have, the great likelihood that we’ll continue to see larger and more widespread outbreaks. Then it becomes a problem not just for one parent or parents, but a heck of lot of us as well.

  64. EspressoFrog

    VMS wasn’t that bad, it had a great security design and if a bit cryptic the people in the VMS teams were ultra-geeks. All of this anti vax this anti vax that is making me sad, especially since it comes from people who use Netbios and don’t tell me Netbios didn’t borrow from DECNET. VAXes were great !

    ;p

  65. Rob

    I’m sure you’re enjoying your big fat check from Merck. This isn’t a blog: it’s pharmaseutical propaganda. It’s like reading Readers Digest.
    Much like Gov. Perry enjoyed the thousands he made from big pharma after (attempting) to make an anti-cervical cancer vaccine MANDATORY by law (the vaccine that, like the other ones you endorse, tends to damage children.)

  66. It is not that people are anti vaccination, it is that they are anti MMR

    People want the choice to have the vaccines separately and not together because they are not convinced of the safety of putting them all together at once.

    And what do they do with the doctor why suggested a possible link?

    Hang him out to dry by putting him on a charge before the GMC, to discredit him.

  67. Jim K

    Lawrence, You have posted a thoughtful response and I respect that. Please reread my post. I don’t believe I suggested anything about NOT vaccinating. I am simply evaluating the merits of both arguments and commenting on what I see. I have also seen those eccentrics who went undiagnosed for their entire lives. There is clearly a genetic component to Autism. I also believe there is an environmental factor to it, but I don’t know what it is. To those advocating the greening of vaccines it seems to be a double edged sword. Fear that their child will contract a disease vs. fear that the cure is worse than the sickness. I imagine it is metaphorically much like putting a single bullet in the chamber of two revolvers, spinning the cylinders, putting them up to your child’s head, and pulling the triggers.

    Why is there such outrage over the idea of making sure that the good things we do are as good as we think they are? We are talking about taking a critical look at something that we purposefully inject into the arms of our children. If ever there was a topic that should be under constant, passionate scrutiny it should be the things we do to our children in the name of good health. I believe that this outrage is fueled by fear of one day learning that we did the wrong thing by them, so rather than engage in thought provoking introspection we stick our heads in the sand. (For those wishing to pillory me on what you think my stance is, please look up metacognition and formal operation, because that is what I am really addressing.) So, fear seems to be driving both sides of this issue.

    To echo Sticks point: History teaches us that the knowledge we hold as canon was decried as witchcraft by our predecessors. The list of persecuted and then vindicated scientists is long and distinguished. Call me names if you like (I don’t mind :-), but the most fool hearty thing we could do is shout down an opposing argument because we are afraid we were wrong.

  68. TheBlackCat

    Why is there such outrage over the idea of making sure that the good things we do are as good as we think they are? We are talking about taking a critical look at something that we purposefully inject into the arms of our children. If ever there was a topic that should be under constant, passionate scrutiny it should be the things we do to our children in the name of good health.

    Your mistake is in thinking that we haven’t made sure, that we haven’t looked at this issue. We have, over and over. And the results are all consistent: vaccines are very safe. Compared to the risks of the disease, which are extreme, the risks from the vaccine is tiny (and those risks do not include autism). Every time anti-vaxxers raise an issue, the medical community jumps and it and does a bunch of studies to see if there is any merit. When it turns out there isn’t, the anti-vaxxers just move the goal post and change to a new target. Then the cycle repeats. No level of confidence, no number of answers, will ever satisfy them that vaccine are relatively safe (nothing is completely safe, even you drinking water has a non-zero chance of being contaminated with heavy metals or dangerous bacteria).

    This is not about finding answers. The answers are there. This is about three things: fear, uncertainty, and doubt. These anti-vaxxers are scaring people with nonsense and people are dieing because of it. These diseases have high mortality rates, and even if they don’t kill they can leave permanent damage, including permanent brain damage with results far worse than autism. As Ms. Peet said, the people who don’t get their children vaccinated are parasites. But society can only support so many parasites, and when the number gets too big (as it already has) people will start dieing.

    To echo Sticks point: History teaches us that the knowledge we hold as canon was decried as witchcraft by our predecessors. The list of persecuted and then vindicated scientists is long and distinguished. Call me names if you like (I don’t mind :-), but the most fool hearty thing we could do is shout down an opposing argument because we are afraid we were wrong.

    I can’t speak for the anti-vaxxers, but those on the side of science are not trying to shut anyone down. No one would be upset if the anti-vaxxers were saying, “I think we should look at this issue.” They are not saying that. Just look at the posts here. They are saying, “vaccines are bad and evil and you shouldn’t use them.” They are not saying “we should look at a possible link between vaccines and autism”, they are saying “vaccines cause autism so don’t use them.” They are not saying, “we should check to make sure the substances in vaccines are safe”, they are saying “vaccines are full of toxins so don’t use them.” No one has a problem with checking for potential problems. What we have a problem with is them saying the problems definitely exist when all evidence indicates that they do not.

  69. Steven Novella

    For those who asked – the end of this article has a long list of relevant references:
    http://www.csicop.org/si/2007-06/novella.html

    Also, more here: http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/?p=95

  70. MartinM

    While I agree that celebs generally make poor PR for a cause, there is science behind what she advocates — like it or not.

    Then produce it.

  71. MartinM

    It is not that people are anti vaccination, it is that they are anti MMR

    That really depends on the people. MMR was the main issue in the UK, but one of the most common anti-vax claims in the US is that a preservative called thimerosal causes autism. MMR never contained thimerosal; this is a completely separate objection. Another common claim is that it’s not any one vaccine per se, but that too many vaccines are administered in a short period of time. The thimerosal angle is fading out, due to the fact that the removal of thimerosal from most vaccines hasn’t produced a reduction in autism rates at all. The claims change and the goal-posts move, but the one thing that remains constant is the firm, unswerving faith that vaccines are the problem.

    And what do they do with the doctor why suggested a possible link?

    Hang him out to dry by putting him on a charge before the GMC, to discredit him.

    Wakefield doesn’t need the GMC to discredit him; he managed that quite adequately himself many times over through his dishonest, unethical behaviour.

  72. Todd W.

    A couple points that I hope I can keep brief:

    On the MMR-autism link, that whole thing really got going with Dr. Andrew Wakefield. Reporter Brian Deer (http://briandeer.com/mmr/lancet-summary.htm) has an excellent report following that whole thing. In short, Wakefield’s research was bogus, unethical, and has not stood up to scrutiny, casting doubt on any claimed links between MMR and autism.

    On the thimerosal-autism link, again, numerous studies (see the CDC, NIH and FDA web sites for the reports) have shown no link between the two. Furthermore, autism cases have continued to rise despite the removal of thimerosal from vaccines.

    As someone else mentioned already, the rise in autism cases, while possibly linked to environmental factors, can also be partially explained by better diagnostic criteria and tools (e.g., observational protocols), greater awareness of the condition, as well as possible misdiagnosis.

    On the vaccine schedule…contrary to popular belief, the vaccination schedule is not mandatory. If a parent wishes to alter the schedule, then that is their prerogative. They should get informed about the schedules, the vaccines, their side-effects, contraindications, etc. They should also carefully discuss any concerns with their doctor. If something the doctor says does not jive with the vaccine literature, talk to a different doctor.

    On the contagious diseases (e.g., measles, mumps, etc.) being more of an issue in third world countries, yes, hygeine does play a part, but keep in mind, too, that these countries also have less access to vaccines and much lower vaccination rates, thereby having less overall protection of the population.

    Finally, while I agree that everyone should have a choice on whether to get vaccinated or not, I also agree with the stance that not vaccinating does pose a potential threat to the populace. Keep in mind, it’s not a threat to the people who get vaccinated. Also, my opinion is not fueled so much by concern for those who choose, for personal reasons, not to get vaccinated, but by concern for those who, due to other medical issues, cannot receive certain vaccines. Those are the people who are at greatest risk when someone chooses not to vaccinate their children. If someone gets sick because a parent chose not to vaccinate their kid, then that parent bears responsibility and blame for the other person’s illness, to some degree.

    Sorry for the length. Lots of points to address. I strongly recommend that people visit the FDA/CDC/NIH web sites and read up on their info. Also, the Brian Deer commentary is a good read, and Orac (mentioned in Phil’s post) is another good stop. To those who cry out that pro-vax people must be in the pocket of pharma companies, believe it or not, but it is possible to be independent of “Big Pharma” influences and still come to conclusions that vaccines are generally a pretty good thing.

  73. Sarcastro

    Yea, I’m anti-vax. I, for one, will not rest until the very concept of Virtual Address eXtension systems are consigned to the dustbin of history along with the rest of Digital Equipment Corporation.

    Eh? Different VAX? Cwap. Never mind.

  74. jammer

    I just love it when a know-it-all astronomer seems to think that he is qualified to expound on medical issues. Stick to being a space dweeb – something you are good at.

  75. Tony

    Can someone here tell me what causes Autism?
    Until you can tell me that, don’t tell me what doesn’t.

  76. RobertB

    Kid gets autism.
    Kid has eaten lots of strained peas.
    Kid must have gotten autism because of the strained peas.

    After all stained peas (unlike fresh peas) are foul tasting agents of corporate evil. The big stained pea lobby has been putting out reports for years claiming stained peas are actually good for children, but we all know they are just lying to line their pockets. The media never does a balanced report about stained peas. They don’t allow people like me equal time with those pro-stained pea scientists so we can show there is a controversy and let people know that almost all autistic children have been fed stained peas at one time or another. Unless you’ve had a child that has been harmed by stained peas there is no way you could understand and therefore you have no right to have any opinion about stained peas unless it agrees with mine.

  77. TheBlackCat

    Can someone here tell me what causes Autism?
    Until you can tell me that, don’t tell me what doesn’t.

    This argument makes no sense. So by this argument standing on your head is a plausible explanation for autism? Or sleeping with your toes pointing at a certain angle relative to magnetic north? Maybe we should outlaw the use of concrete in buildings since it might cause autism. You can rule out causes of something by checking to see whether changing the level of that thing changes the level of autism. That has been done, and it has been shown that it is does not have an impact. For the case of something that happens at a certain point in someone life, if the effect starts before the supposed cause then that must not be the cause. There is quite a bit of evidence that autism starts well before the first childhood vaccines, it is just that the symptoms become more noticeable shortly after.

  78. Tony

    My point is no one knows what causes Autism and attacking someone for taking precautionary measures in the hopes of not contributing to the onset is just plain wrong.

    I’m not against vaccinations, both of my kids are current with theirs. I do take issue with the preservatives that are added to the vaccines specifically if those preservatives are toxic. That is the crux of the vaccinations argument. Most people don’t see that, they just assume that any parent that is concerned about the side effects of vaccinations are wackos, idiots or parasites.

    I find it ironic that Peet can call parents parasites for exercising their parental right to do whatever they can to protect their child yet only consumes organic foods and doesn’t use sunscreen because of some of the additives it contains. That wreaks of hypocrisy.

  79. Todd W.

    @Tony

    Umm…what preservatives in vaccines? Thimerosal? Not in any of the single-use vaccines in the U.S. for quite a number of years now. It was taken out as a precaution in response to public outcries about it causing autism, yet people are still saying it’s the culprit, despite mounting evidence against that claim.

  80. TheBlackCat

    My point is no one knows what causes Autism and attacking someone for taking precautionary measures in the hopes of not contributing to the onset is just plain wrong.

    That we do not know what does cause it is irrelevant to question of whether we do know what doesn’t case it. We know vaccines do not cause autism in any significant amount. We have looked at the question and the answer cannot get much more definitive than it already is. Criticizing someone for putting other peoples’ lives at risk, and other peoples’ children at risk, by acting on a doubt about something for which there is no longer any reasonable room for doubt is not wrong.

    I find it ironic that Peet can call parents parasites for exercising their parental right to do whatever they can to protect their child yet only consumes organic foods and doesn’t use sunscreen because of some of the additives it contains. That wreaks of hypocrisy.

    Not using sunscreen does not put other people at risk. Eating organic food does not put other people at risk. Not using vaccines does most definitely put other people at risk. There is no hypocrisy.

  81. Jim K

    I was asked to provide the peer reviewed research that forms the basis of anti-vax claims. The easy answer to that is, “Go look it up on the Erik database,” however that simply would not do, so I have provided a few examples for those who truly wish to learn. For those who just want to argue about it, don’t bother continuing. While I understand the need to back up my claims, and have no problem doing so, please keep in mind that I have not declared a side in this. My claim has been that the anti-vax element is asking socially healthy and reasonable questions, and that this is a necessary process.

    (BTW, I see a lot of references to unvaccinated children putting others at risk. Would anyone care to back up their claims with credible research that shows the incidence and vectors of these outbreaks, or is it all just appeal to emotion at this point?)

    The first thing I want to put to bed is that the CDC research proved one thing or another. Both sides have claimed victory over the findings prompting the author of the study to publish a letter to the editor of the journal Pediatrics reminding everybody that the outcome of the research was actually neutral, and that his only conclusion was to recommend more research.
    >Verstraeten, T., Thimerosal, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and GlaxoSmithKline, Pediatrics 2004; 113.4.932

    Also, the US House of Representatives twice called into question the credibility of the research concluding that vaccines do not cause autism. The focus wasn’t so much on the science as it was the methods and the biased make up of the research teams.
    >Conflicts of Interest in Vaccine Policy Making Majority Staff Report Committee on Government Reform U.S. House of Representatives August 21, 2000
    >Mercury in Medicine – Taking Unnecessary Risks A Report Prepared by the Staff of the Subcommittee on Human Rights and Wellness Committee on Government Reform United States House of Representatives May 2003

    Otherwise, the reputable, peer reviewed research I was charged with producing looks something like this. This list is by no means exhaustive and in no particular order. Though not technically perfect references, the essential information is present in sufficient quantities for anyone to find and read the research. Enjoy.

    >Jeff Bradstreet, M.D., David Geier, B.A., Jerold J. Kartzinel, M.D., James B.Adams, Ph.D., Mark Geier, M.D., Ph.D., A Case-Control Study of Mercury Burden in Children with Autistic Spectrum Disorders Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons Volume 8 Number 3 Summer 2003

    >Robert Nataf, Corinne Skorupka, Lorene Amet, Alain Lam, Anthea Springbett, Richard Lathe, Porphyrinuria in childhood autistic disorder: Implications for environmental toxicity, Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology 214 (2006) 99–108

    >Mark F. Blaxill, MBAa What’s Going On? The Question of Time Trends in Autism Public Health Reports / November–December 2004 / Volume 119

    >Blaxill, Baskin, and Spitzer on Croen et al.(2002), The Changing Prevalence of Autism in California Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, Vol. 33, No. 2, April 2003

    >Craig J. Newschaffer, Matthew D. Falb and James G. Gurney, National Autism Prevalence Trends From United States Special Education Data, Pediatrics 2005;115;277-282

    >S.J. James, William Slikker III, Stepan Melnyk, Elizabeth New, Marta Pogribna, Stefanie Jernigan Thimerosal Neurotoxicity is Associated with Glutathione Depletion: Protection with Glutathione Precursors, NeuroToxicology 26 (2005) 1–8

    >Samuel R. Goth, Ruth A. Chu, Jeffrey P. Gregg, Gennady Cherednichenko, and Isaac N. Pessah Uncoupling of ATP-mediated Calcium Signaling and Dysregulated IL-6 Secretion in Dendritic Cells by Nanomolar Thimerosal, Environmental Health Perspectives 10.1289/ehp.8881 The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

    >M Waly, H Olteanu, R Banerjee, S-W Choi, JB Mason, BS Parker, S Sukumar, S Shim,
    A Sharma, JM Benzecry, V-A Power-Charnitsky and RC Deth, Activation of methionine synthase by insulin-like growth factor-1 and dopamine: a target for neurodevelopmental toxins and thimerosal Molecular Psychiatry (2004), 1–13

    >M Hornig, D Chian and WI Lipkin, Neurotoxic effects of postnatal thimerosal are mouse
    strain dependent Molecular Psychiatry (2004), 1–13

    >David S. Baskin, Hop Ngo, and Vladimir V. Didenko, Thimerosal Induces DNA Breaks, Caspase-3 Activation, Membrane Damage, and Cell Death in Cultured Human Neurons and Fibroblasts. Toxicological Sciences 74, 000-000 (2003)

    >Said Havarinasab, Per Hultman* Organic mercury compounds and autoimmunityB Autoimmunity Reviews 4 (2005) 270– 275

    >Mutter J, Naumann J, Schneider R, Walach H, Haley B. Mercury and autism: Accelerating Evidence? Neuro Endocrinol Lett. 2005 Oct 30;26(5)

    >No author listed, Retrograde Degeneration of neurite membrane structural integrity of nerve growth cones following in vitro exposure to mercury NeuroReport v.12, n.4, 26mar01

    >Bernard, S Enayati, A. Redwood, L. Roger, H. Binstock T., Autism: a novel form of mercury poisoning, Medical Hypotheses (2001) 56(4), 462–471

  82. Rob said Much like Gov. Perry enjoyed the thousands he made from big pharma after (attempting) to make an anti-cervical cancer vaccine MANDATORY by law (the vaccine that, like the other ones you endorse, tends to damage children.)

    Are you suggesting that something is wrong with trying to prevent cervical cancer? Where’s your evidence that the HPV vaccine damages children? According to what I read, Gov Perry’s executive order included an opt out clause. According to en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_papillomavirus_vaccine nearly every state tried to implement vaccination programs had an opt out clause.

  83. Jim K said BTW, I see a lot of references to unvaccinated children putting others at risk. Would anyone care to back up their claims with credible research that shows the incidence and vectors of these outbreaks, or is it all just appeal to emotion at this point?

    There’s a fairly reasonable sum-up here (www.apologia.com/vaccines/novac_death.html) of why not vaccinating is risky for everybody else. The article uses Pertussis or whooping cough to illustrate the issue.

  84. Jim K, Science Based Medicine mentions a few of the studies you’ve listed here (www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/?p=14). The article use terms like “dubious research” and “badly designed studies” and “non-peer-reviewed journals”.

    The FDA and the CDC reject any links with thimerosal and autism. There was no decline in the rate of autism when use of thimerosal declined.

  85. Shaun

    I was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome in 93 or 94 (just remember I was 9). I’ve made myself very informed on the topic since I was a kid, and tried to keep that knowledge up to date. So, while not a medically-qualified psychiatrist, I’m pretty knowledgeable on the topic.

    I recently encountered one such anti-vaccine website. I sent them a scathing email about how irresponsible it was to publish faulty autism information, and worse, encourage parents not to vaccinate their kids. To my surprise, the webmaster sent me a lengthy email back. Several emails later and well… there’s no getting through to these people.

    It’s like a religion, or political position that becomes like a religion. I think anyone who feels so strongly about a topic to create a website or “watchdog” group isn’t going to be swayed by mere logic, no matter how much sense it makes. Further, the parents of autistic (and Asperger’s) children have a vested interest in believing it was something like a vaccine. It gives them a solid cause, hope that they can therefore find a chemical cure, a person to sue, something to fight.

    Only one of the links the webmaster gave me was to an article in a peer-reviewed medical journal (from 2003). The rest were all magazines or weblogs with the sort of scientific standing of say, Cookie magazine. There is obviously not much medical debate about this, but so long as the media thinks there’s interest, and so long as they can sell magazines/viewing time by doing articles/pieces on it, they will. And the only way to counter that is with better science, and more of it.

  86. Grant

    So in looking at some of the links on the page with Amanda Peet’s response letter, I came to this page:
    http://www.cookiemag.com/entertainment/2008/07/vaccine_experts

    The first interviewee, one Dr. Paul Offit, comes across as knowledgeable on the entire history of the controversy.

    The second, Dr. Jay Gordon, comes across as concerned, sure, but lazy as a researcher. He talks about how he’s been “watching” his patients, about “temporal relationships”, and then finishes with this gem:

    I think that if we spent as much time telling people to breastfeed or to quit eating cheese and ice cream, we’d save more lives than we save with the polio vaccine.

    Wait, what?

  87. knutty knitter

    Perhaps you’d like to tell this rubbish to my friend who lost a child to vaccination or to my baby group where the only two children who hadn’t been hospitalized in the next week were those who didn’t vaccinate or to me who is now prone to allergies after a vaccination shot… need I go on. I’d say by forcing the bugs to mutate around the vaccinations you are creating a worse problem. BTW none of the above was considered important in the reporting of problems because most of it started just outside the 24 hour mark. I only know two children who have been badly affected by the actual disease… one wasn’t cared for properly (went out in the middle of winter without decent clothes) the other was badly compromised by a genetic illness already and neither of these children died.

    BTW I don’t support either group because I do think there is a time and place for vaccination. I just think we use it as a sort of panacea instead of finding out what the real problems are (poor diet, poor living conditions etc).

    viv

  88. If you go to almost any website that mentions vaccinations for anything and if that website has a feedback forum similar to this one the first few posts will almost certainly be a variation on what knutty knitter has written above. They will all have the same format with slight variations:
    1. Tragic personal anecdote
    2. Friend of a friend anecdote
    3. The disease isn’t as bad as the vaccination
    4. Blame something or someone else in cases where it can’t have been the vaccination
    5. Insult anyone who disagrees

    Coincidently I was composing this before knutty knitter showed up.

  89. andyo

    Since I don’t have any kids, and just relatively recently started living in the U.S., I haven’t read much about this thing, probably only in the last few months. But I have to say, as someone with absolutely no stakes in this (just got my own MMR), it strikes me so clearly. Lots of evidence from one side, anecdotes and appeals to emotion from the other.

    I mean not even good, rational arguments in lieu of lack of evidence. Nothing. Just “oh you know-it-all astronomer what are you doing commenting out of your field?” What?! So all those parents and celebrities are also renowned chemists, biologists and whatnot? Any competent scientist, as per understanding of evidence and the scientific method, has a better chance to form a better argument against nonsense like this.

    And of course, the pattern is just short of identical of GW denialists, 911 conspiracy theorists, UFOlogists, Bigfootologists, and even creationists. “Big Science” conspiring with the government! Oh noes!

  90. Julia

    @ amstrad (7/23 @ 12:27pm):

    I know this is a late comment, but I think you’re making a mistake by judging people on their amount of formal education. I’m not saying that education doesn’t mean anything, but neither does the possession of a degree NECESSARILY indicate a person’s intelligence. You’d probably be surprised how many non-college-grads are smarter than you think.

    I’m saying this as someone with a GED who plans to get a degree in art, so take that as you will. I don’t have a degree yet, but I take it upon myself to learn about things. Having a degree doesn’t prevent a person being ignorant on a particular subject. It’s just not a reliable indicator of intelligence/awareness/etc., and it irks me when people pretend it is.

  91. Jim K.

    Shane, Thanks for the info. I haven’t really broken it down but at first glance it looks like the concept of Herd Immunity should keep immunized people safe. An absolute minority of people are not immunized, and those who are, shouldn’t have anything to worry about if they trust their doctors. So I don’t really see why the pro-vax side of this discussion should be so quick to criticize.

    Otherwise, I also went to the CDC website and crawled all over it looking for the CDC research that supports their position. Oddly enough, there isn’t any. It looks like the CDC contracts their research out to third parties (like universities and hospitals etc.). I am talking about reading the source document, not some other web page. All of the research that the CDC has made available comes to pretty much the same conclusion, and that is that there is not enough evidence for or against. More research must be done. (One might expect that from somebody who makes their living off of doing research as a government contractor.) Interestingly they did find relationships between thiomersal and individual autistic like symptoms, but at the end of the research none of them felt compelled to pull the trigger on confirmation. I did find it very odd by the way that their most resent research, published Sept 2007, isn’t available in complete form yet. Also, there are a number of studies still in all phases of the research process including the planning phase. That seems like an awful lot of ongoing research into something that isn’t supposed to have a connection to a disease. While their published position may not support a connection, their behavior doesn’t seem to support their position.

    I looked up Thiomersal. It is an International Nonproprietary Name for an organomercury compound. That much is easy enough to find, but I also discovered that there are 41 other organomercury compounds around many of which are used the same way Thiomersal is used in vaccines. All studies that I could find on organomercury ingestion other than via vaccination show sever mental and neuro debilitation. If I could find a list of vaccine ingredients directly from their manufacturers, we could figure out if they just changed the name of the agent they use. Keep in mind, the US Army doesn’t use Napalm anymore because they were told to stop using Napalm. They do however still use gelatinized fuel weapons that work much better than the old brand name Napalm.

    Many here have said that Thiomersal is no longer used in vaccines in the US. That isn’t true either. I have found this quote at (http://www.metrokc.gov/health/immunization/ingredients.htm)

    “QUESTION: Has the thimerosal in vaccines been shown to be harmful to children?

    Note: Thimerosal has been removed from all routinely recommended childhood vaccines, except some influenza (flu) vaccine, and tetanus-diphtheria (Td) vaccine used in individuals seven years and older.”

    I stand by my original point. The anti-vax element is asking socially responsible questions and this process is necessary. My observations indicate that the pro-vax element isn’t acting like they are innocent and the chemical in question hasn’t been completely discontinued.

    Cheers!

  92. Jim K.

    Here is an interesting little piece of data. It is from the US Department of Health and Human Services.
    The National Vaccine Advisory Committee (NVAC)
    Vaccine Safety Working Group
    Meeting Summary
    Friday, April 11, 2008

    In this meeting the Committee admits that we don’t have a method of prescreening those who might be at risk of post immunization complications, even the ones that are backed by undisputed scientific research.

    The Committee also admits that we have no studies conducted on the long term (20-30 years) affects of the vaccinations currently on the market and that the practice of mass public vaccination is basically an ongoing experiment.

    The Committee further admits that the government organizations involved with vaccination programs (HHS/CDC/FDA) have major image problems and that there is a definite need for improved relations with the public. They recognize that they need to improve transparency in how they conduct business and in publishing the research data.

    http://www.hhs.gov/nvpo/nvac/minutes20080411.html

    In addition to the two US House of Reps findings of impropriety in the pro-vax research that I posted earlier, the US Senate has more recently found:

    >That the FDA inappropriately used EPA guidelines regarding dangers of mercury leading to a potential miscalculation in the toxicity of Thimerosal.
    >That CDC’s meetings at Simpsonwood (June 7/8, 2000) were questionable and gave the appearance of impropriety because the list of participants was very much one sided, and because of injudicious remarks made by several of those participants.
    >That the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences, who reviewed the data, inappropriately screened potential committee members for possible conflict of interest.
    >That US Government data used to assess links between vaccines and autism was less than open and accessible to all researchers.

    http://help.senate.gov/Min_press/autism.pdf

    Please note that these are the source documents and not some second or third party ravings.

    The anti-vax element is asking socially responsible questions and this process is necessary.

    Here is an open question considering that many diseases can regional concentrations. If we disregarded personal liberty and forced vaccination on the entire population (al a Nazi Germany) as some here have suggested, where would you find your unvaccinated control group to prove that vaccines don’t cause problems?

  93. Buzz Parsec

    EsspressoFrog, 100% on the money!

    Hey Sarcastro, you’re obviously one of those Unix bigots who think something Bill Joy or Dennis Ritchie dreamed up one afternoon and is still faithfully preserved bug for bug almost 40 years later is superior to an operating system that was *designed* and *tested*. :-) I love my VAX (a 4000-300 with 128MB clustered with a small Alpha workstation) and only wish the measles vax was around in 1954 when I almost died of it at age 1.

  94. Grant

    Jim K. said:

    …forced vaccination on the entire population (al a Nazi Germany) as some here have suggested…

    My friend, you do understand that despite the use of the weasel phrase “as some have suggested”, you just Godwined you point. But you bring up an arguement I’ve been considering, so I will respond anyway.

    You seem to be asking, “If this is a non issue, why is so much research still being conducted?” I think I can explain. There are two reasons. The first is, the original correlation studies. This whole thing got rolling when some research was done to look into the anecdotal connection between vaccination and onset autism symptoms. A (very) few showed a correlation, tough in small statistical samples. That research is out there and it isn’t going to go away, and rightly so. Since then, however, many more, much larger studies have been done, and the correlation has evaporated. This is the primary response of vaccination proponents to the anti-vaccination contingent. No consistent correlation means no causation. That might be the end of it, except…

    The second reason: this is a public health concern regarding children. (Now, the second part of that, from a rational stance, shouldn’t make a difference. However, it does crank up the emotional ante of the issue.) As such, it is as much in the public interest to continue research as it is to continue vaccination programs. Researches will continue to look for any correlation between vaccination schedules and autism spectrum diseases, even as they continue to show none. Also, the concern has raised the priority on finding a cause for autism, which is certainly a good thing.

    Regarding thimerosal: you yourself note that the compound has been removed from all vaccination preparations except some tetanus and influenza vaccines. You seem to imply that this means the failure to find a drop in autism rates is meaningless.
    However, it should be noted that neither tetanus nor influenza is universally on the vaccination schedule. As such, some of the children in the study would have gotten zero thimerosal, so some change of the rate curves would have been evident, if thimerosal were the culprit. Since there was none… well, you do the math.

    Finally, regarding herd immunity: Others above (Phil included) have pointed out recent outbreaks of vaccinated diseases, such as measles. Herd immunity is a fragile thing. Since you agree that it’s important – you imply that it is a valid reason to refuse vaccination – it seems unwise to threaten it on a problem that has a statistical probability on par with contracting the a disease from a vaccination.

  95. Frank

    She has done a lot of damage to pro vaccine camp with her irrational comments.
    Parents who question vaccines will only listen to open and honest science and not Ms peets emotional outburts.
    Rather than engage parents who question vaccine safety she is turning them away with anger, while Jenny McCarthy looks lime real honest person with real concerns Ms Peet comes across as a big pharma controlled whore.
    If Pro vaccination pepople want to get thier message dont use silly emotional outburts but real sceince. It can onluy backfire as Ms Peet proved with her humilating aopolgy she had to make for damage control.

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