Antivaxxers and the media

By Phil Plait | August 6, 2008 8:30 am

I have said this before, and I will say it again many times in the future: antivaxxers are potentially the Number One health hazard in America.

These are people who (very incorrectly) think that vaccines are linked to autism. It has been shown, conclusively, that no such link exists. Every time an antivaxxer is shown this data, they move the goalposts, claiming it’s some other vaccine feature causing autism, or cite outdated and flawed studies. The problem (for them) is, you can show that the number of autism cases diagnosed is totally unrelated to vaccines. They deny this, they spin, they distract, but in the end this simple fact proves them wrong.

We need vaccines. We have stopped smallpox cold with vaccines. Rubella, measles, and pertussis can be stopped. Where antivaxxers have sown distrust in vaccines, these diseases have been making a comeback, and kids have died.

Let me repeat that: children have died because they haven’t been vaccinated. And when a large enough segment of the population doesn’t get vaccinated, we lose our herd immunity, and more people die. This type of antiscience thinking is getting people killed.

Yet on they go. There is a push to vaccinate babies being sponsored by the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the antivaxxers, led by Jenny McCarthy, planned to protest the press conference. Amanda Peet — who, in my mind, is a hero — was there, as well as other people who have an actual grasp on reality. I hope they’re ready for the vicious lies some of these antivaxxers will spread. Ms. Peet has already had a taste of it.

The Science Based Medicine blog has more on another line of attack by antiscience people including antivaxxers. This time, it’s a mainstream medical news site that has been infiltrated by this nonsense, printing already-disproven claims attacking Gardasil, the vaccine that can prevent cervical cancer in millions of women.

If you think this is a harmless group of cranks, think again. Cervical cancer kills thousands of women every year, and with vaccination it is almost entirely preventable (the vaccine protects against Human Papilloma Virus, or HPV, which is responsible for the cancer).

Antivaxxers claim they care about people, especially, children — and I am very sure they do. But by being blinded by antiscience their effect is exactly the opposite. Antiscience kills. Educate yourself.


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