UK in trouble? Measles, antivax garbage on the rise

By Phil Plait | February 6, 2009 12:22 pm

More bad news from the UK: Measles cases rose 36% in 2008 over the previous year, from 990 to 1348.

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.

Immunisation expert Dr Mary Ramsay said the rise was “very worrying”, adding measles “should not be taken lightly”.

No, it shouldn’t, given that it can lead to pneumonia and encephalitis.

This news comes on the heels of an antivax diatribe by "journalist" Jeni Barnett on LBC radio in England. Science advocate Ben Goldacre, who writes Bad Science, takes her to task here and here.

Continuing on with irrationality: LBC lawyers told Ben to take down the clip of her irrational spewings. Of course, that’s their right; he posted all of it, so they have a copyright claim. However, doing something as dumb as that just means people will take all the more glee to get the word out there, as I’m doing now.

And, of course, it’s still all over the web. It’s on YouTube thanks to Rachel Dunlop, for example. A series of skeptics have posted transcripts of it, too, so you can read what Ms. Barnett said. You really have to read it for yourself to see the level of nonsense on display, like this:

I want to know from some kind of expert what measles is and what is in the vaccine, and why people have a reaction to it, and really my question is: what is wrong with childhood illnesses? Is it – to hark back to the first hour – because we don’t have parents at home looking after the children? What’s going on? Is there something wrong with having mumps…

So she doesn’t know what measles is, or what’s in the vaccine, or what’s wrong with childhood illnesses, or what’s the problem with mumps… but she goes on the radio railing against vaccination?

What mad world?

I’m sorry that antivax crackpots are not restricted to only the US. But if you run across one, send ’em here, send ’em to Orac (who has written about Ben’s post as well), send ’em to Ben. We’ll win this yet.


Comments (127)

  1. Todd W.

    And Dr. Andrew Wakefield’s legacy continues.

  2. Felix

    There’s a FaceBook group you can join to show support for Ben.
    Let’s remind these corporate bullies how many people care about the issues of MMR, science, and suppression of criticism.

  3. We in the US would be happy to trade our antivaccination crackpots for crackpots of a more harmless variety, should any other country be willing. We would particularly be interested in acquiring crackpots who search Nessie and other animals for which no substantial evidence of their existence exists, as lake monsters and unicorns are very amusing figments. Perhaps one such crackpot could set up shop here in Charleston, SC, and boost the local economy by creating South Carolina Lizard Man-based tourism. (:

  4. Todd W.

    @Aaron Adelman

    We already have a Nessie-like set of crackpots looking for “Champ” in NY.

  5. Lauren

    My mother has a friend who thinks children should “have their childhood illnesses.” She seemed to think that little harm could come from that. Right, other than illness, pain, preventable disease, disfigurement, death… Twenty years later, her children may well be some of the most unhealthy I have ever met. Curious.
    Why on earth would you want to subject your child to an awful, horrible disease, or even the chance of it, when it can be prevented? Talk about irresponsible parenting!

  6. I started reading the transcripts (cause I’m at work and YT is banned) and came across this gem:

    Tracy, let me ask you this. When measles-if there’s a case of measles at the kids’ school, or if there’s a case of mumps or chickenpox-what do you do?

    Tracy: I say, “Great! Come on kids – let’s go get it”. Because
    children get childhood diseases for a reason. It’s to boost their immune system so that later on in life when they come into contact with those diseases, it doesn’t affect them so severely. And that is why they are called childhood diseases.

    Tracy, the homeopath, thy name is legion…

  7. qwints

    Wow, phil, you crashed Ben’s website!.

  8. Todd W.


    Because the spectre of autism (or other purported harm from the vaccines) is far more prominent than the complications from the diseases themselves. With herd immunity, the likelihood of actually getting a disease is pretty low, so we don’t hear about outbreaks of the diseases nearly as often as in the past (though that is changing). This gives the illusion that the disease is safer than the vaccine. Combine that with the scare tactics used by Jenny McCarthy, Jeni Barnett and their ilk, and the problem is made worse.

  9. Todd W.


    That bit sounds like what ccpetersen mentioned in one of the other threads: pox parties.

    These people need to realize that vaccines accomplish the same thing, with significantly less risk.

  10. dave_renoir

    It all makes perfect sense to me. They get the disease in childhood, and they’re protected by developing an immunity for later life.

    If only we could find a way of giving them the immunity without having to get all those awful symptoms! Can’t scientists work on that?

  11. Retrogarde

    In Holland a former super proponent of creationism and ID, the locally very popular evangelic talk show host Andries Knevel, made his sincere apologies on prime time TV for misleading viewers and his children in the past. He even signed a declaration wherein he states that he believes in evolution and promises never to believe or promote faerytales nor pseudo-science again. This happened a few days ago and the orthodox christian part of our nation is in shock. Some people are very angry, some think he lost his mind but there are also some who dare to speak out for themselves. There is a huge debate now.

    Another former super proponent of Intelligent Design, the awarded dutch nanotechnology scientist professor Cees Dekker, declared that he no longer believes in intelligent design and that he accepts evolution as scientific fact. A few years ago Dekker convinced the Dutch minister of education to propose ID to be taught in schools.

    Times are changing. I guess organized lunatism has blown up into such proportions that anybody sound of mind simply cannot continue supporting all the nonsense floating by. It was about time. In Holland we’ve also seen outbreaks of dangerous diseases amongst anti-vaxers. Hopefully common sense returns to the whole western world and every child will get the protection it deserves.

  12. Jay

    “what is wrong with childhood illnesses?”

    Anyone who feels the urge to even ask this question should start researching what it was like for children in the 1800s and before. Making it to age 18 was hardly a near certainty like it is now, and the diseases that vaccinations help prevent were the primary cause of childhood death in those days.

  13. SionH

    Thanks Phil, for helping this get more coverage.
    Ben Goldacre is one of our finest and needs all the support we can give.

  14. David

    Can’t access Ben’s site at the moment – let’s hope the corporate goons haven’t acted to cut it off

  15. You’re welcome. You can see all of us bloggers on the following sites:

    The Full Transcript:
    Part 1 – Science Punk
    Part 2 – The Lay Scientist
    Part 3 – PodBlack Cat
    Part 4 – The Skeptic’s Book
    Part 5 – Science Punk
    Part 6 – Holford Watch

    Be sure to catch the Skeptic Zone podcast, where Dr Rachael Dunlop interviews Ben Goldacre.

  16. Todd W.

    From the transcript:

    this debate is going to go on for ever and ever and always at the back of it, in my head is ‘hold on a minute, there’s a drug company that’s making lots of money out of it’.

    As opposed to, say, the drug and medical device companies that are not making lots of money from ibuprofen, acetaminophen, bandages, vitamins, surgical instruments, MRI machines, anesthetics, disinfectants, etc.

    Too many antibiotics and now we have MRSA and superbugs.

    And this has what to do with vaccines?

    I’d comment on more from the transcript, but my brain is hurting too much.

  17. blf

    Can’t access Ben’s site at the moment – let’s hope the corporate goons haven’t acted to cut it off

    David, Highly unlikely. Ben’s site is (now) hosted by a company (whose name escapes me at the moment, sorry!) which has a track record of not backing down, and also of willingly hosting sites that are threatened by loons. If my memory serves, the Quackometer is hosted (now) by the same company. And continuing to presume my memory is correct, in Ben’s case, he moved there after he was kicked off by his old hosting company for having too much traffic; In the Quackometer’s case, after the Quackometer was threatened(? sued?) and his old hosting company caved in.

    Speculating, I’ll guess the problem is a mixture of heavy traffic—this is all over the science blogsphere—and the effects of the very bad weather in the UK for the last week (heaviest snow in something like 20 years, all week).

  18. This makes me so mad I can hardly see straight… Do we have any good photos of children suffering from Mups and Measelr to send to these crackpots? Do they even know what it is we are trying to prevent? And again they can’t get it through their thick skulls that there is no link to whatever woo they are peddling…

  19. @Todd W: That whole “drug companies are profiting from this or that” argument really sticks in my craw.

    What is it that causes these people to think that because someone makes a profit off of a product, they’re evil and purely self motivated?

    I can see some point, however, in how a lot of the pharmaceuticals advertise their products. That bugs me, too, but not nearly as muchas statements like “Paul Offit has made millions off of a vaccine, so that makes him a bad person who is purely monetarily driven.”


  20. And finally this:

    JB: The Department of Health frightens people.

    …and just what is she doing by spouting all this garbage?

  21. Todd W.

    Did you catch the part where she said she would have nothing to do with “allopathic” medicine?

  22. Randy A.

    If you heard a “clunk” noise just now, it was my jaw hitting the floor.

    As a Peace Corps volunteer in Africa, I saw children suffering from “childhood illnesses.” To think that their suffering could be prevented by a quick, simple and cheap needle jab…

    Please — if any of you reading this live in England, can you find out which mental institution Jeni Barnett escaped from, and see that she gets the treatment she needs? Thanks.

  23. DrFlimmer

    Even in Germany there is a rise in measle outbrakes because of fewer vaccinations. I agree, what a mad world! We have the knowledge and technology to make life better and easier for everyone and still there are people who don’t understand. That’s too bad!

  24. cabe

    Stop ranting and just answer the woman’s questions.

  25. Calli Arcale

    Is there something wrong with mumps? Something wrong with mumps? MUMPS???

    Well, I dunno, Ms Barrett. Is death a bad thing?

    Wow. I heard about this because I heard that her employer is going after Ben Goldacre for libel because he pointed out what a twit she’s being. But I hadn’t yet read the transcript, or heard just how STUPID her statements were. It’s worse than the usual antivax stuff. It’s . . . it’s . . .


  26. What questions that haven’t already been answered over and over again??

  27. Abdulaziz

    I’m astonished and speechless, this is beyond words. As much nonsense as there is in the Middle East. We still don’t have any anti-vaccination movements. None that I’ve heard of in here at least. However, it’s not a pleasant sight when pseudo-science is promoted right in the lobby of the faculty of medicine.

  28. I have a daughter on the autistic spectrum. She is very high functioning, thank goodness,but only after a lot of intervention. This is a bewildering condition, so I understand the fear in parents. I always knew she was different, and could never blame the vaccines for “causing” it. All my kids were fully vaccinated (except for chicken pox…they got it naturally).

    I get asked ALL THE TIME as a scientist and a mother of a child with autism what I think of this vaccine dilemma. So, I often just take one lecture period a year and discuss the latest state of autism research, which the students always appreciate.

    What I think is this: According to chinese medicine (not saying this is science, mind you–just pointing that observations have been made and documented from a very ancient tradition, pre-dating the so-called vaccine related onset of autism), there seem to be two “types” of autism onset, one seemingly there from birth (my daughter) and one with an onset at 18 months of age. MMR vaccine, of which one in the series falls at 18 months, seems to correlate to onset of autism with digestive troubles (I’ve met dozens of families whose babies were fine and then seemingly after the vaccine, saw a devastating deterioration–extraordinarily painful for the parents).

    It seems to me then, that maybe it wasn’t wrong for Wakefield to at least look into this possibility, but now that it has been proven non-causal, we need to continue looking at what is happening developmentally at that time (18 months) that seems to be related to onset and discover what apparently the Chinese practioners had observed.

    Eventually, the misinformation should dilute out of society as we come closer to deciphering what is really happening with autism. A dose of compassion seems fitting.

  29. quasidog

    Ok I heard the first 2 parts of this radio bit …. and I have to say … I don’t agree with antivaxxers in general, but I think people are over- reacting to what she is saying here. So far I have head her talk about the ‘right’ a parent has to choose, and also that she is not saying to go back to the dark ages, but to investigate the reasons. Although I would get vaccinated and vaccinate my children I feel she is making some valid points here. I will have to listen to the rest.

  30. bigjohn756

    Sometimes mumps can result in male sterility. This might be a good thing if we could get this to occur in the proper boys. Something like a Darwin award could be given to Jeni and Jenny for their contributions.

  31. quasidog

    OK after hearing most of the rest of it I will comment that she is wrong about most things, and is being largely one sided in here arguments. One of her main debates is arguing that its all because of money making that drug companies are pushing this. Money talks, and I see the point, and in part it could be true at some level, but I would disagree that it is the reason DOCTORS and medical experts push it. Medical experts are medical experts for a reason, so I guess their opinions are the most valid. Yep, doctors win, vaccines are a good thing.

    However, one thing she says stands out as an important issue here, and one that I agree with wholeheartedly, that is that of freedom of choice, and the right for a parent to refuse a certain treatment for their child. That is a basic issue in the medical field. If a person refuses radio-therapy for cancer and opts for another treatment, it is the job of the medical field to comply with their wishes and look for another treatment, if there is one. In that case there is (as my family has been there, and been successful in its application), or if someone refuses a blood transfusion and looks at alternative treaments (of which there are many) … it it the persons right, or the parents right to choose.

    That is freedom. That is what the world fights for every day. Forcing a treatment on someone goes against freedom. This point needs to be considered in the whole debate.

    I am pro-vaccination, I am also pro-freedom to choose. How many other issues similar to this revolve around one’s freedom to make a choice for themselves and their family. Discussion with professionals and experts in certain fields is paramount, but at the end of the day its the patients right to choose.

    The more rights we take away from individuals the more we become a police state and the less human we all become.

  32. But you don’t have the freedom to not put your child in a car seat. You don’t have the freedom to not feed them, or leave them out in the cold all night. One of the more basic issues here is that we’ve decided that children aren’t capable of making rational decisions for themselves (they’d eat McDonalds and ice cream for breakfast lunch and dinner, stick forks in electrical outlets, put on a red cape and jump off the roof without supervision, for example).

    They’re dependent on their caregivers to make good, sound, rational decisions on their behalf for their health. Sometimes, unfortunately, children do not have good, sound, rational caregivers. At that point, someone else has to step in.

    With vaccines, the health of not only one child with an irrational caregiver is at stake, but many, many other children.

    You can choose to leave your kid out in the cold all night, and hope that he/she will be okay in the morning. But science tells us that hypothermia will likely kill your kid, and if not, at least leave them in severe discomfort. Like having the mumps or measles.

    I don’t know if it’s a crap analogy or not, but we’re talking about individual freedoms vs. the general good. It’s a tricky balance, but at least in the area of the public health, and in the area of caring for those who cannot care for themselves, the general public good has to win.

    I don’t have the individual right to drive the wrong way down a one way street because I could hurt or kill other people. That’s pretty basic. I don’t have the right to withhold lifesaving vaccines from my child because I could hurt or kill him/her. It just seems logical in a very basic way to me.

    There are just tons and tons of laws that may intrude upon individuals liberties, but the overall comfort of living in a civilized society is a greater benefit.

  33. Richard

    Right. Jeni Barnett, listen carefully. I’ll speak slowly so you can understand.

    You. Are. Stupidly. Wrong.

    “What’s wrong with having the measles?” Is it not the happy-go-lucky virus that makes you all giggly because you see pink unicorns? Are you related to Gumby (not the little green guy)?

    Why don’t you, oh Ms. Jellybaby Brain, do a Google Image Search for “measles,” “mumps,” “rubella,” and “smallpox.” These are the viruses that vaccines try to stop.

    After that, read up on the diseases. Measles can kill. Mumps can make one sterile. Rubella in a pregnant woman can cause birth defects. Smallpox can kill. Got that? Oh, what’s that, Jeni, covered your ears with bricks again…repeatedly.

    What’s wrong with having childhood diseases? Well, simply this: your child will hate you for disfigurements when you could have prevented it with vaccinations.

    Jeni Barnett, you are an idiot.

    You can quote me on that.

  34. AnthonyK

    Another huge problem with the anti-vaxers is that they’re conspiracy nuts. It’s not that they’re unconvinced that vaccines are 100% safe (they aren’t, though they are pretty safe, and of course they don’t cause autism or Pervasive Development Disorders) it’s that they see a global conspiracy. Big Pharma, acting through doctors and health professionals – and of course people like Phil and Orac – actively conspire to push dangerous and unproven medicines (safety tests all faked) for harmless/archaic/easily cured childhood diseases. And all this just to make money.
    It’s insane, and they’re nuts, but in a bad way.
    They want someone, or something to blame for their children’s, or their friend’s childrens learning difficulties, and its vaccines and Big Pharma, and people promoting evidence-based medicine who must be the villains.

  35. AnthonyK

    Another huge problem with the anti-vaxers is that they’re conspiracy nuts. It’s not that they’re unconvinced that vaccines are 100% safe (they aren’t, though they are pretty safe, and of course they don’t cause autism or Pervasive Development Disorders) it’s that they see a global conspiracy. Big Pharma, acting through doctors and health professionals – and of course people like Phil and Orac – actively conspire to push dangerous and unproven medicines (safety tests all faked) for harmless/archaic/easily cured childhood diseases. And all this just to make money.
    It’s insane, and they’re nuts, but in a bad way.
    They want someone, or something to blame for their children’s, or their friend’s childrens learning difficulties, and its vaccines and Big Pharma, and people promoting evidence-based medicine who must be the villains.

  36. AnthonyK

    Oops. Sorry. Nice quote:
    “Alternative medicine has either not been proved to work, or proved not to work. And what do we call alternative medicine that works? Medicine
    And yes, of course, they all believe in alternative medicine, but not the real stuff. Which works. Like vaccination.

  37. Scott

    OMG, even by their usual standards of idiocy, that was a remarkable stupid thing for Ms Barnett to say.

  38. David M.

    Hey all you vaccine happy talkers – and you know who you are – Phil, Dr. K, Richard and all the other haters above.
    Did you see the story on CBS Evening News which outlines the dangers of the Gardasil vaccine – which includes 29 deaths over the last two years. Here is the link.
    There is even a fancy PDF which outlines the science behind the research.
    And to quote some of the happy talkers – death is a bad thing. And teenage girls have died from this vaccine. Any snappy comebacks out there, vaccine happy talkers?

  39. David M.

    Second attempt to post this…

    Hey all you vaccine happy talkers – and you know who you are – Phil, Dr. K, Richard and all the other haters above.
    Did you see the story on CBS Evening News which outlines the dangers of the Gardasil vaccine – which includes 29 deaths over the last two years. Here is the link.
    There is even a fancy PDF which outlines the science behind the research.
    And to quote some of the happy talkers – death is a bad thing. And teenage girls have died from this vaccine. Any snappy comebacks out there, vaccine happy talkers?

  40. quasidog

    Allyson … the comparisons you mention are against the law. Vaccination is not law. Therefore the right to choose is valid.

  41. quasidog

    When it becomes a legal issue all those points you raise will be valid.

    If anything people shoulg be fighting to make it a legality… if they feel so strongly about it.

    Until then … I still stand by the values of freedom to choose what is right for you, and for your family, as long as it does not breach the law of the land.

    I am pro-vaccination.

  42. David M.

    Third attempt to post this…Phil, you need to get a half decent spam filter. Geez. I guess you set it so that anyone who disagrees with you doesn’t get posted. I give up if this doesn’t post.

    Hey all you vaccine happy talkers – and you know who you are – Phil, Dr. K, Richard and all the other haters above.
    Did you see the story on CBS Evening News which outlines the dangers of the Gardasil vaccine – which includes 29 deaths over the last two years. Here is the link.
    There is even a fancy PDF which outlines the science behind the research.
    And to quote some of the happy talkers – death is a bad thing. And teenage girls have died from this vaccine. Any snappy comebacks out there, vaccine happy talkers?

  43. IVAN3MAN

    Larian LeQuella:

    This makes me so mad I can hardly see straight… Do we have any good photos of children suffering from Mups and Measelr to send to these crackpots? Do they even know what it is we are trying to prevent?


    This child shows a classic day-4 rash with measles.
    Credit: CDC/NIP/Barbara Rice (Click on picture for full resolution).
    Click here to read article.
  44. David M. : <sarcasm>Yes, I have hacked into the spam filter code and put in keywords so that anyone who disagrees with me on any topic gets held in moderation. </sarcasm> <rolleyes>

    By the way, I use Aksimet, the most popular blog spam software on the planet.

    David M., the dangers of vaccines are well known. Would you rather have measles outbreaks? Are you a fan of rubella, smallpox, polio?

    Picking out one thing like that is bad logic. No one is saying vaccines are totally safe. We’re saying that they save hundreds of thousands of lives a year, and have saved millions of people over time.

  45. davidlpf

    “sometimes you have to be the lone cow under a tree” she says something like this a couple times during the first two segments rachel put up. There is good reason there as well it is called lighting.

  46. quasidog

    I had measles. I looked like that. I am fine. I got over it. I also had mumps. I got over that too. I had chicken pox. Got over that. I have photos and I looked like a freak :) , but I got over it. Seeing this picture does not make me angry at all.

    The argument for me is not measles in itself. I know people can die from it, but I think everone at my school had it, and I never heard of anyone dying, nor did my parents. It is very rare.

    The argument I am concerned with is the rare cases of death that it can cause and if it is because they have underlying conditions that increase the chance of it. It is that that I am interested in. The other stuff to me is an over-reaction.

    I am pro-vaccination.

  47. quasidog

    Wow Phil … after reading your last post …. where you suggest you will filter out people that disagree with you, it makes me rethink a few things. Not a fan of freedom of speech? Strange.
    I am an Australian but I thought you guys over there were really pro freedom of speech, no matter what? I must admit I am really surprised by this.

    I agree with vaccination, but come on. That sort of censorship can have a negative effect no ? I know its your blog and you can do whatever the hell you want, but, I would hate to think the comments here are mostly one sided, yes even the so called crackpots need a say. I am big enough to ignore a lame rant when I see one.

  48. davidlpf

    When I was child I was ill in and out for about ten years because doctors could not figure out it was Asthma. I got my asthma more less through genetics, I have couple of distant relatives who have it also.
    Anyone ready for their to get on purpose instead of a couple of needles should be charged with endangering a minor.

  49. davidlpf

    “Anyone ready for their children to get that ill on purpose” that is what it should of said.

  50. quasidog

    Phil .. where you quote to David.M…

    “David M., the dangers of vaccines are well known. Would you rather have measles outbreaks? Are you a fan of rubella, smallpox, polio?”

    … you admit there are some (if small) dangers in vaccines. I agree that I would rather have a vaccine that have a disease, but I am still not convinced that its an ‘this or that’ case. I really want to see more research. I am slowly learning but it takes time, and until such time I am not going to take sides with ALL diseases. Some diseases are more life threatening than others.(although I am in favour of vaccination in most cases) I know many have made up their midn either way, and I am vaccinated vs alot of stuff, but I am not vaccinated against every disease that I can be. I will take each one as it comes.

    When I go on holidays I can get vaccinated for a bunch of different diseases, but its my right, and something I do not to be vaccinated against diseases I may not get, ones that are rare. I only get vaccine for common ones, and for situations I may be in .. high risk situations.

    I just think rather than jupm on the .. all vaccinations are good .. or alll are bad boats … I can at least decide for myself whether or not I really need to take a vaccine .. when I may not possibly need it. I mean … if there is a small risk a vaccine can do harm … why even risk that ?

    I just think it’s possibly a little more complex and would love to see more research on these subjects in the future.

    But for the record … in general … I am pro-vaccination.

  51. quasidog

    davidlpf … I agree with what your saying.

    The point I am making .. and I am repeating myself … is not all diseases a equally bad. Some have higher risk. Some are longer lasting. Some are genetic.

    Each disease needs to be weighed individually.

    I would be far more concerned if my child had asthma .. than if my child got measles, becasue I got measles and I was ok. My dad has asthma and its effected him his whole life.

    (stupid analogy but bear with me) I am a skateboarder. I have had injuries. I snapped my arm in half. I know people that have died from skateboard injuries. Would I stop my child riding a skateboard ? No. Ok this analogy is not a disease related thing … but just because there is a small risk of death from something … doesn’t mean I should panic.

    Diseases are not all created equal. Some should be more of a concern than others. Aids is nasty, and to completely prevent someone from getting it you could suggest abstaining from sex for the rest of their life. Condoms are not 100% effective. Is that going to stop people having sex ? Is that going some parents condoning their child having sex if they use a condom? Many have argued in this blog … no. Not all risks involving kids are equal.

    I get the argument .. and I would vaccinate my children … but to force my opinion on someone else is wrong. We gotta quit with this self righteous garbage.

  52. Chris

    quasidog said “I know people can die from it, but I think everone at my school had it, and I never heard of anyone dying, nor did my parents. It is very rare.”

    Is one out of a thousand very rare? The last big outbreak in the USA between 1989 and 1992 killed over 120 people at a rate of about 1 in 500. Just because you did not know them does not mean they did not happen (do you know who Roald Dahl was and what happened to his oldest child?). A blogger noted some of the recent numbers:

    You also said “where you suggest you will filter out people that disagree with you, it makes me rethink a few things”

    That was a joke. I have been filtered a couple of time (usually when I rambled on, I think the last time I was off topic on a post that had scrolled to the second or third page). I don’t give it much thought.

  53. José

    @Todd W.
    We already have a Nessie-like set of crackpots looking for “Champ” in NY.

    When I was in third grade, I actually made my mother take me to see a Champ hunter give a presentation. I even got the guys autograph.

  54. David M.

    Hey Phil – my son has measles in his small intestine from his MMR vaccine. And his immune, digestive and brain are full of inflamation.
    How is that for an outbreak?
    But guess what, he got that from his CDC, FDA approved vaccine. Do you want me to send you the photos from when he had a camera stuck up his rectum to prove it. Or am I making that up too.
    Your views are so biased it isn’t even funny. So 29 girls die and that is what “collateral damage” or maybe “the ends justifies the means” or some other vaccine happy talk BS.
    Did you even read the CBS piece. Any snappy comments on that story or are you just going to say vaccines aren’t safe.
    You and the rest of the vaccine happy talkers always says “where are the studies. Show us the studies.”
    I just gave you one on CBS that ran TODAY and that was your best comeback. Vaccines aren’t safe. Boy I thought you had a bigger brain than that. I guess I was wrong.
    Vaccines are fine, according to you. Gee, that solves my son’s problems. You said in earlier in one of your snappy comebacks to me that your daughter had all her vaccines and is doing fine.
    Have you taken her for her Gardasil one yet. Bet that CBS piece has you thinking – if you read it. Or do you just swallow everything the CDC and big pharma say. Good luck with that one.
    My daughter, who also had all her vaccines and is doing fine, will not be getting that one. Thank you very much.
    Also, did you see the big story earlier this week that mercury is in corn syrup and was found in 45 percent of food on grocery shelves – cereal, yogurt, fruit juice. And did you read that the FDA knew about this. Check out U.S. News if you don’t believe me.
    Wait, let me guess what you will say. Mercury in small levels is fine. Or, mercury is overrated as a toxin. Or mercury has been around for a long time. Mercury is just fine for children. The FDA is a great government organization. Well, if you believe that, I have some nice peanut butter crackers for you.

  55. Chris

    Oh dear, my comment is in moderation. Anyway, long story short: measles has a about a 1 in 1000 death rate, and is a cause of blindness, deafness and can cause severe neurological damage (like mental retardation, paralysis, etc). You can search PubMed for statistics on the American outbreak between 1989-1992. You should also look for this paper “Impact of specific medical interventions on reducing the prevalence of mental retardation” on PubMed (the full paper is available without charge at the link on the right).

  56. José

    @David M.
    Any snappy comebacks out there, vaccine happy talkers?
    Yes. If you have a link in your post it will be held for moderation.

  57. quasidog, I was being sarcastic about censorship. The only comments that get deleted are ones using bad words, are spam, or where people are being jerks. My comment policy is linked in the sidebar.

  58. Chris

    Phil Plait said “where people are being jerks”

    Oops… yeah, I guess I was sometime last week or so. 😉 No worries.

  59. José

    @David M.
    Nobody is saying all vaccines have equal risk/benefits. The first smallpox vaccine has been around for a good thousand years and involved rubbing the puss from an infected persons sores into a scratch. It had a mortality rate that may have been as high as 2%. But this has no bearing on this conversation any more than your Gardasil study does. It may be an important discussion in its own right, but since Phil post has nothing to do with defending the Gardasil vaccine, it doesn’t apply here.

  60. IVAN3MAN

    Phil Plait, may I suggest that the next time you want to make a sarcastic comment, that you end the sentence with an exclamation mark within parentheses — (!) — or, if it’s a sarcastic question, a question mark within parenthesis — (?). This is common practice in closed-caption subtitles for the hard-of-hearing, in order it indicate sarcastic tone. That way, you avoid any misunderstanding. 😉

  61. David M:

    You have so much misinformation in your comments it’s difficult to know where to start. So I’ll start by saying I’m sorry your child is ill. That’s never a good place to be. But blaming the wrong cause is a worse place to be, so let’s look at that.

    How do you know his vaccine gave him measles? How do you know he actually has the measles? Some measles DNA will be present in the intestines, even when there is no real infection. Your claim that he has measles in his intestines is a little odd; it’s very similar to what Wakefield claims, but has been shown to be without basis (other sources showing Wakefield’s errors abound). In other words, Wakefield was wrong, and measles don’t cause bowel inflammation in autistic children.

    The Gardisil article is full of rhetoric but short on actual facts. 29 girls died after getting the shot. Out of how many? And how many girls do you expect to die, statistically, out of that group? Just saying that 29 died means nothing. For example: everyone who ever ate anything has died. By your logic, food causes death.

    Note that in the anecdote they use in that article, the neurologist says he suspects Gardisil caused one girl’s death. “Suspects”? He has no actual evidence, just a correlation in time. But that’s not cause. As the article does say, studies have shown no link between the vaccine and deaths… and the link they give to a study that does show it is from an antivax site that links autism to vaccines, which we know for a fact are not linked. So that site is clearly biased against reality.

    My daughter is fully vaccinated with Gardisil. I’m glad we did it. The CBS article did make me think: it made me think that lazy journalists don’t always go to the right sources to get the whole story. Their link to an antivax site makes that obvious.

    And the mercury stuff: you might want to listen to last week’s Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe podcast, where Dr. Steve Novella shows why this report isn’t that big a deal.

    So there you go. If your son is that sick, then you should probably take him to get a second opinion. In cases of serious illness that’s a good idea. I hope he gets better soon.

  62. Ah, IVAN3MAN, I did put a (rolleyes) after my comment, but I used brackets, which the blog software interpreted as HTML code. Since “rolleyes” is not an actual HTML code, it left it off completely! I fixed it.

  63. Joe Albietz

    David M,

    Thus far there have been approximately 20 million doses of Gardasil distributed, which will fully vaccinate just over 6 million women. We have 27 (29 if you accept the source cited above) deaths temporally associated with the administration of Gardasil. That comes to 1 death temporally correlated with Gardasil in 200,000 women exposed. The teen death rate is approximately 60-80 per 100,000 from all causes in the United Sates. It would be remarkable if Gardasil administration was not associated with this number of deaths by now. Even if we accept that every single one of those deaths was caused directly by Gardasil (zero of them have been associated by autopsy), that is still in contrast to the 4,000 women who die every year in the US from HPV associated cervical cancer.

    That said, any death associated with a vaccine should and will be taken seriously. That is the reason for the existence the VEARS system. Vaccines, including Gardasil, are continuously monitored for serious effects above that expected in the background population, and should anything be even mildly concerning, we will be conducting studies to specifically investigate the correlation. The experience with to old rotavirus vaccine and intussusception is a perfect example. At the present, there is no evidence (not anecdotes, evidence) that Gardasil causes a higher risk of death.

    From the CDC website:
    “27 U.S. deaths have been reported to VAERS as of August 31, 2008. Each of these deaths has been reviewed and there was not a common pattern to the deaths that would suggest they were caused by the vaccine. In cases where there was an autopsy, death certificate, or medical records, the cause of death was explained by factors other than the vaccine. Some reported causes of death received to date include illicit drug use, diabetes, viral illness, and heart failure.”

  64. Oh, quasidog: I’m glad you and your friends got through measles and the other diseases in good health. Statistically speaking, though, measles can cause other serious health problems, which, as you say, is why it’s important to vaccinate against it.

    The process of vaccinating has solid evidence on its side. The antivaxxers have rhetoric, anecdotes, no data, and data against them. They also get a sympathetic ear from the media because we’re talking about kids here, kids getting sick, and that’s truly awful. But the problem is, they’re going to make kids even sicker; besides the measles in the UK I’m reading that there have been 11 cases in Australia this year so far, after just one month! The past few years, total, have had far fewer than that.

    What we’re seeing here is a tremendous health threat. I’ve said this before, that antivaxxers are, in my opinion, one of if not the greatest health threat we face right now. Kids are getting sick because of them, and it’s getting worse.

  65. José

    Phil Plait, may I suggest that the next time you want to make a sarcastic comment, that you end the sentence with an exclamation mark within parentheses

    Don’t listen to IVAN3MAN! I can’t feel superior if everyone gets it. I need this for my low self-esteem.

  66. IVAN3MAN

    Phil Plait, if you want to do the “rolleyes” emoticon, then use this code — :_roll_: (leave out the spaces).

    Like this: :roll: :roll: :roll:

  67. Pete

    For all those measuring the risk of the childhood diseases, are you even considering the MUCH LOWER risk the vaccines have? Isn’t it our responsibility to protect our children and communities by reducing the risk of communicable diseases as much as reasonably possible?

  68. Autumn

    Slightly off topic, but regarding the Gardasil vaccine, it’s not just for girls, even though that’s where the push to vaccinate has been aimed. Males are common carriers of the viruses and should probably recieve the vax as well.

  69. Joe Albietz

    I am saddened to hear that your son has autism. I am more disturbed to know he is in the care of physicians that would expose him to a procedure with a measurable risk, namely endoscopy with tissue biopsies, when there is no clinical indication for such a procedure for a child with autism. The associations between the measles vaccine, intestinal inflammation, and neurologic dysfunction have been investigated and refuted, and the studies which originated the suspicion of correlation are fatally flawed. Such a practice outside of a research protocol (and perhaps even within) borders on malpractice.

    Furthermore, the studies to which you refer and the reports you cite are taken horribly out of context and do not support any of your assertions.

    Finally, I think you miss the irony of your closing comment. The FDA and CDC are the organizations responsible for identifying and addressing the current Peanut Butter / Salmonella contamination, not the one causing it. You should be saying “thank you.”

  70. By the way, David M, Joe Albietz is a pediatrician, and a very good one. He has done the research.

  71. David M.:
    I have 2 daughters who’ve had the Guardisil shot series. Both healthy, no side FX at all. So I have twice the anecdotes in my favor than you. Thus it goes. Anecdotes are amusing, but not science. They’re dime a dozen. Without controls they’re useless. If your idea of science is “A happened, then B happened, therefore A caused B” then you’re sunk. This is not science.

    Who’m I kidding? This guy will ignore all contradicting evidence, he doesn’t need evidence. His mind’s made up. Waste of time.

  72. Alright, I’ll throw my two bits into the hat. Because it looks like some folks here might be prone to rip others apart based on their credentials, I’ll come right out and say that I’m not a medical professional (but I could play one on YouTube if it made anyone feel better). I did, however, grow up with a mom that was in medicine, and is currently considered one of the top 16 nurses in her state. Additionally, my wife happens to be a pediatric nurse. As a result, I’ve picked up enough to have an educated opinion.

    Since pulling my punches would be meaningless, I’ll make it clear – I feel that parents who put a blanket banning on all vaccines for their kids are at the very best misinformed and/or ignorant. At worst, they’re terrible people who should be stripped of their children for the sake of the young lives they will no doubt corrupt, either through misleading them in their educations or outright killing them because of their backwards medical misconceptions. Someone, cue my lynch mob.

    Now, I’m not advocating that all vaccines are safe. Not in the least. I am also not saying that parents shouldn’t be concerned about vaccines. We’re pregnant with our first child, and we’re already going over the early medical decisions. I think a responsible parent uses their brain, and thinks critically about what is best for their children, and what is best is usually going with the vaccines, ESPECIALLY the standard ones, like MMR.

    Sure, there are risks to any vaccine. I’ll be really honest, when my wife asked me if I wanted to get the new inhaled flu vaccine this year, the one that still has live flu bugs in it, I declined. Risks, though, need to be weighed. The potential harm to a child because of vaccine is FAR lower than the potential harm to a child because the parents were too dense to get them vaccinated.

    This is purely my opinion, but I think the risk is worth it. My brother has autism. I grew up with it being a daily part of my life. Frankly, If I had to pick I would rather have an autistic child that leads an otherwise healthy life, than a child that starts with full mental capacities but winds up dying young because of a disease we’ve been able to prevent for ages.

    Sure, there are kids that don’t get vaccinated that never get these horrible ailments, but there are also people who walk away from a game of Russian roulette. Just because someone happened to survive, it’s not a promise that you’ll be so lucky.

    In closing, let me say that while i don’t fully trust in medicine, and sometimes I opt not to believe what I see in medical journals, I believe that not vaccinating your child is a risky, dangerous venture that I personally as an expectant parent would not consider taking.

  73. The chickenpox (varicella) vaccine for example does not just prevent chickenpox, it prevents the terrible, painful disease shingles. Over 1 million Americans, largely over the age of 60 get shingles as the Herpies Zoster virus remains in the body, dormant for decades. 1 in 2 of the elderly over age 85 will suffer from shingles.

    Some diseases are not just childhood diseases and having them does not prevent future disease.

  74. Okay, my last post is awaiting moderation, no doubt because I don’t write posts – I compose novels. :)

    Long story short, failing to vaccinate your child is perhaps the least intelligent thing a person can do. The benefits far outweigh the risks.

  75. quasidog

    Sorry Phil … Chris … my sarcasm alert was not on 😛 My mistake. I tend to take things on face value.

    @ Phil : Yeah I know about the statistics … and as I said .. I am not taking sides … so for me its not a “I am completely pro vaccine .. or completely not. I was pointing out that each disease is different and some have a bigger threat level than others. That is just a fact. All I was saying was that I will take each one as it comes with the information I have at hand … because at heart .. I am a skeptic. That’s why I used the analogy of vaccinating when going overseas … I will only vaccinate vs things I have been informed of are most probably going to effect me, due to not wanting to take a vaccine for some things .. risk getting a side effect from a certain vaccine .. and not even coming into contact with the virus that causes that particular one. It’s also why I used the analogy of letting my chicld ride a skateboard even though I hurt myself badly and I know of people dying from it. I was stating that I am not going to panic about it, nor label people as ‘cranks’ just because they have a different opinion. Everyone has the right to choose what is best for their family and themselves as long as the law allows it. If everyone feels so strongly about it … then sent letters to Government and try to make it a legal issue.

    I am saying I disagree with the idea that the results on all these vaccines are finalised. Nothing is science is ever finalised. I will point to antibiotics and the belief that they are creating super-bugs as an example. There is boat loads of evidence to support this now and most medical professionals agree its a problem they didn’t for-see. Back in the day they gave out anti-biotics for every sniffle … now Docs know better. I have been to numerous Doctors that only suggest taking them as a last result. Things change with more information, and the medical profession has changed it’s staunch viewpoints time and time again. Blood tranfusions were a big issue, now many who have refused them (and survived in nearly all cases) have added a massive amount to non-blood medicine, and it’s not really as big an issue to those informed about the procedures anymore. In the process countless lives have been saved from contracting disease via blood, or having bad reactions etc. Things change with more information. That’s the nature of science. (Hat’s off to JW’s … the media has destroyed your reputation with hype … go figure) So I must remain a skeptic on these issues.

    However in most cases I would immunise my child againt the major ones, polio etc. But when I finally have kids I will do a lot more homework on the subject. However if my kid go chicken pox or mumps or even measles before I had a chance to immunise (which I know is done mostly at birth these days) I would not panic. I didn’t panic when I was a kid, nor did my Mum. However I will do everything in my power to safely … that’s safely … insure they have a healthy life. If I discover through research these vaccines are 100% safe I wont hesitate, but until they are deemed so … I will err on the side of the skeptic. I don’t really believe anyone, especially where emotions are involved.

    I love science and I love medicine, but I don’t think it is flawless. I must remain skeptical in ALL issues regardless of what the majority of experts say. The experts have been wrong before.

  76. Nanne

    The thing is, you’re trying to call “i will believe whatever i want, with or without reasons” the same as being a skeptic.
    A skeptic doesn’t believe something just because someone says it, or because there are anecdotes. A skeptic requires evidence and therefore places value in the majority of experts Remember that experts are those people who know the most about the subject. It is implied in the whole term that these are JUST the people to turn to for your information.

    So if you have information (real information, not “well, people have been wrong”) that makes these experts wrong, you are being an expert yourself. And they should listen to you. But trying to opt for a dangerous course just because “you shouldn’t trust the experts!” is … illogical.

    You are not erring on the side of the skeptic, you are erring on the side of the “experts are scary people”, or some feeling like that. Please don’t confuse your way of decision making with skeptical thinking or science.

  77. wench

    Had a french teacher who had a permanent, very noticeable limp due to polio from when she was a kid. She was careful about what she said in class, but every class that went through got a dose of her “if we could just vaccinate everyone we could eliminate polio forever the way we did with smallpox” lecture once. That combined with a few pictures of what polio was doing in Africa did us a world of good; it immunized us against the current debate.

    Second, perhaps unscientific point: I get my cats their vaccines against all the nasty stuff out there because I love them and don’t want them to suffer. In fact, animals get almost as many vaccines as people, and they don’t show signs of poor reaction to them. Hmmmmmm. You’d think if there were a real issue PETA would know about it and be all “Don’t vaccinate the cows!” or something.

  78. AnthonyK

    I didn’t have chicken pox when I was little (no vaccine then) but I did have measles (ditto). Measles caused great alarm then, even though it was common, largely because of the risk of blindness, as I recall. It was usual to have measles/chicken pox parties in those days; failing a vaccine even then people knew that actually having the disease in a controlled way was better than to let an outbreak run rampant – though just thinking about it, it does seem rather strange. Incidentally because I never had chicken pox when I was younger I caught it in my 30s – and by god it was awful – ill and disfigured for weeks. Trust me, you don’t want to get it as adult. And if my parents could have vaccinated me then, they would have.
    Phil, as alway happens, the anti-vax nuts like David M are out in force here. Imagine – a programme on CBS saying vaccines are unsafe! Time to change your mind, eh? Bollocks! But then, you wouldn’t trust such a “scientic” source, would you, being in the pay of Big Pharma, and all. (And please let me declare an interest – I personally receive thousands of dollars a year from Merck to promote child-killing vaccines on sites like this. I bet your millions come in handy for that new telescope, eh phil? Winks 😉 SARCASM!)
    A last word on children who do get ill after/during/just before vaccination. You really have to be a full-blown conspiracist nut – David M that’s you – to think that thousands, or even hundreds, of kids falling horribly ill after their vaccines would go unnoticed by the health-care professionals who give them. They don’t. Complications are rare. All those who give vaccines would worry and speak out if they saw this happening – they don’t, they vaccinate their own kids – and they’re not pharma shills. It’s unfortunate that some children fall obviously ill with Pervasive Development Disorders around about the time they get vaccinated (ie early childhood) but blaming vaccinations for this is conspiratorial hogwash. And don’t be taken in by the “pro-vaccine/pro-science” liars – they’re wrong, and they know nothing, and care less, about public health and disease prevention. Hey David, tried homeopathic “medicine”? Accept the “germ theory” of disease – homeopathy doesn’t? Thought so.

  79. David M.

    “Anecdotes are amusing but not science” – 29 girls die from the Gardasil vaccine but this is funny, I guess to some. Person A says something stupid. That makes them stupid. How is that for logic?

    “You really have to be a full-blown conspiracist nut – David M that’s you – to think that thousands, or even hundreds, of kids falling horribly ill after their vaccines would go unnoticed by the health-care professionals who give them. They don’t.”

    Hmm, there were more than 8,000 people who marched on Washington DC last summer to protest against vaccines. All those people had someone who was impacted by vaccines. No one from that group has been contacted by any doctors, groups representing doctors or the CDC. Also, there have been 10,000 plus lawsuits filed by families impacted by vaccines. They are all conspiracy nuts too.

    This blog with all its vaccine happy talk is always a fun read. People who have no idea the damage vaccines cause because all they do is read biased studies or send around links. Or talk about polio. I recommend that you talk with “actual” people who have experienced these problems from vaccines but that is unscientific. So I send around a new study from CBS that shows a vaccine has caused huge health problems and even 29 deaths. But now that study is discounted by you all. Amazing. Real people impacted – doesn’t count. New studies – don’t count either. Who is being close-minded now?

    Have a nice life everyone. I am moving on to other things. Just keep posting away and patting yourselves on the back. Over and out.

  80. AnthonyK

    A “study” from CBS? Now there’s an unbiased instition to get your science from. I hear they’ve also done some quality work on UFOs and 9/11. Yet I’m still sceptical. Oh, and by the way Merck – that’s another $1000 you owe me – :)

  81. @David M: I think that Phil did quite a nice job a pointing out the problems with the CBS piece (note that I did not say study, because nothing on CBS is a “study” in the true sense of the term). CBS is a news outlet that gets money based on ratings and advertising, and I’ve felt for a long time that news outlets are not out to report the news or the truth, but to get their ratings and advertising dollars. Ten minutes watching the 24 hour news channels shows that.

    @quasidog: I’ll agree that people have the right to make a choice. But, it should be an informed choice based on medical evidence that has been peer reviewed and accepted by the medical community at large. Not a choice based on Google University. The problem that we’re trying to face here is people making a choice based on the shrill screaming of the scaremongers like the one this article pointed out who, tend to be the loudest voices in the crowd. Mostly because their evidence is weak and anecdotal so they go for volume instead of quality.

  82. @David M: Oh BTW, any post that contains a link in it is automatically held for moderation. So, relax and just a wait a bit and if you’re not violating the blogs rules, Phil will eventually get around to publishing it, he’s a busy man.

    If there’s one thing that I’ve noticed about Phil, it’s that he doesn’t attempt to quash opposing opinions. Yes, he will pick them apart like a crow going after roadkill, but he lets people have their voices heard. As long it’s done in a respectful and clean manner.

  83. ccpetersen

    I suppose for antivaxxers it’s q question of “herd stupidity” rather than assessing the risks of what can happen if you don’t vaccinate. CBS News is not a credible source of accurate science reporting. And funny how you can embrace voodoo science on a TV network but ignore years of real, actual science research…

    You anti-vaxxers do know what the damage is that can be caused by childhood diseases, right? These are things that can be largely prevented by vaccinations. Whereas there is NO scientific proof that vaccines cause autism. None. If you don’t know, I suggest you pour as much of your time and attention to fully understanding what you’re risking you child for. I mean it. If you don’t, then your arguments vis-a-vis anti-vaxxing are just so much hogwash, since you haven’t fully educated yourselves.

    Not vaccinating against things like MMR and chicken pox brings on the very REAL and provable risks of deafness, blindness, meningitis, pneumonia, miscarriage in pregnant women who are exposed who have not had mumps previously, sterility, and the list goes on.

    And so, by NOT vaccinating, I can only assume that you want your children to be the bearers of such happy conditions, all so you can prove some erroneous point.

    And what do you say on the day when your deaf/nerve-damaged, fragile child uses sign language to sarcastically thank you for sticking you fingers in your ears and singing “LALALALA I can’t hear you” when reasonable people tried to explain that the risk for autism from vaccinations is nonexistent but that the childhood disease your child suffered through needlessly was directly responsible for his/her deafness/nerve damage and could have been prevented.

    Or the day you bury your child because he/she died from complications from a preventable disease. Or the day your neighbors bury their child because he/she caught something from your unvaccinated child?

    Step back to the Dark Ages if you must, but don’t take everybody else with you.

  84. Joe Albietz

    @quasidog: I agree that medicine is far from perfect. Some of the examples you give like the indications for blood transfusion appropriately highlight how new evidence can change medical practice. That is of course the beauty of science; it is self correcting, getting ever closer to the best possible practice of medicine.

    This is, however, a false analogy when applied to vaccines. Old transfusion practices were derived largely from clinical experience and expert opinion, which is clearly not the same as evidence-based practice. Over the last several decades there has been a growing effort within medicine to re-analyze all of our practices, no matter how old or venerated, to see if they pass scientific muster. This is the current push of Evidence Based Medicine. In the case of blood transfusion thresholds, we compared the old threshold of a hematocrit of 30 to a lower threshold of 21, found no detriment to the patients by not transfusing, and of course found fewer complications from transfusions. The evidence supports adoption of the lower threshold (within the studied population), and practice has changed.

    With vaccines we are starting out with a remarkably strong data set regarding the efficacy and safety of the vaccine before it is ever adopted into practice. We are not relying upon expert opinion or tradition. Like any good scientist or skeptic, we let the data speak for itself. We have a very good and ever improving grasp of the safety of all of our vaccines.

    What you ask, that vaccines be proven to be 100% safe before they are used, is an impossible goal. Anything that is physiologically active will contain some risk, no matter how small. As you pointed out, we must compare risk to benefit, and rely upon the data, not opinion. Luckily for us, the data exists, and it is strongly in favor of vaccination.

    Being skeptical is highly encouraged, especially on this site, but a skeptic does more than just doubt. A skeptic seeks and accepts the evidence.

  85. Grump

    @ David M

    “Anecdotes are amusing but not science” – 29 girls die from the Gardasil vaccine but this is funny, I guess to some. Person A says something stupid. That makes them stupid. How is that for logic?


    Really, guy, you shouldn’t post on the intertubes if you can’t even read, moron. That very point has been discredited: There is no evidence that these girls died from the vaccine, and definitive evidence that several of them died from something else entirely.

    Persisting with the “Gardasil kills children” emotional blackmail makes you either (a) too stupid to read, or (b) a liar.

    Just like the blinkered 1/4-wits who go still on and on about mercury, even years after mercury was withdrawn from all vaccines.

    Parents do have the right not to vaccinate their kids. But other parents have the right to tell your little germ-filled time-bombs to keep the hell away from their kids. Just home-school them, then they won’t get infected, nor will they infect other kids.

    They’ll just get these diseases as adults, and suffer even more.

  86. TheBlackCat

    David, it is a simple matter of cost vs. benefit. Cervical cancer kills about 4000 women a year in the U.S. Even ignoring the fact that you can’t get cervical cancer below a certain age, that means that about 1 in 40,000 women in the U.S. die from it in a given year. Even if we assume that all cases where girls died around the time they got the gardisil shot were killed by something related to the shot, which I can guarantee you they were not, that means the rate of death is only 1 in 200,000. So even if we greatly increase the number who died from the vaccine (which may very well be zero) and greatly reduce the number who died from the cancer (by looking at the entire female population and not the age groups that are at risk), then we still end up with the cancer killing people at a rate 5 times higher than the vaccine. Can you honestly call something dangerous when the alternative kills 5 people for every one the supposedly dangerous thing causes?

  87. veritas36

    I received a shot for whooping cough (pertussis) when it became available (long ago). I have forever been grateful to my mother after I saw children returning to school, pale and weak, after 6 weeks absence. The father of a sick child down the street had a seriously ill wife; he got tuberculosis after tending all night a whooping child, working all day and everything else.
    I had measles and mumps; not fun at best. I am a firm supporter of vaccinations.
    Why has autism increased greatly? My home city had none when I was a child. Now the schools are dealing with 140 autistic children! (City of ~40,000 population.)
    Something happened to change the rate of autism in the early 90s. If it wasn’t the increased vaccination — what is it? The sole case of autism I knew of before the 1990’s was associated with a difficult forceps birth. Now, there are children who are fine — until 18 months? What happens then? and don’t try to tell me the moms wouldn’t notice (as well as pediatricians).

  88. David M said: “29 girls die from the Gardasil vaccine but this is funny, I guess to some.”

    I’m curious David M, do you have any idea how reality works? Did you not read what Dr. Joe Albietz and I wrote directly after your Gardisil comment above?

    You claim that 29 girls died from Gardisil. Prove it.

    You can’t. That number is statistically insignificant, as Dr. Albeitz points out, when compared to the number of girls at that age you expect to die from other causes. There is no evidence whatsoever that those girls died from complications of their Gardisil vaccinations. You can stamp your feet and hold your breath until your face turns blue all you want, but that won’t change the facts.

    The only thing antivaxxers are inoculated against is reality.

  89. sophia8

    I had measles as a baby – I ended up with partial blindness in one eye. But I was lucky – I almost died.
    Think, people! If these childhood infections are so “harmless”, why on earth did anybody ever think of looking for vaccines?
    The problem is that vaccination has been so successful that you have to go to parts of the Third World to see the effects of living without vaccines – and very few people do that. What is needed is something like the Holocaust memorial sites and museums, where Holocaust survivors leave their accounts of what happened. Maybe we should start collecting old peoples’ accounts of what it was like to live with rampant measles, diptheria etc.

  90. @veritas36: It has been put forth that the increase in the number of autistic diagnoses is due to the change in how children are diagnosed. Many who were, in the past, diagnosed as “mentally retarded” to use a non-PC term, are now put on the autism spectrum. This, along with advances in the method of diagnoses, I think attributes the increase in the number of diagnoses.

    As an analogy, before the mid-90’s I have never heard of Attention Deficit Disorder. Suddenly, it was everywhere. In the past, these kids were just waved off as hyperactive.

  91. Radwaste

    “Person A says something stupid. That makes them stupid. How is that for logic?”

    Well, perfect, when you’re David M!

    I dunno if you saw this, but PBS ran a show about polio, The March of Dimes and the Salk and Sabin vaccines.

    If you want horror, just wait ’til your precious wilts away in paralysis if polio comes back. She’ll have every opportunity to listen to you explain how vaccines are dangerous, stuck in the iron lung.


    Something for all of you to consider, and I’m sure the doctors will agree: you are unique. Some common factors make it possible to treat you for diseases and vaccinate you against some others. Your fingerprints, and actually everything about you is different, though, and so your susceptibility to some diseases and maladies will differ from everyone else.

  92. AnthonyK

    A major, perhaps the only, reason for the “increase” in autism since the 1990s is a huge increase in the diagnosis of autism.

    1) Aspergers Syndrome and other conditions on the Autistic Spectrum were first recognised in the early 90s. Before that, people with the syndrome were simply thought of as odd, friendless, withdrawn, and obsessional. They rarely presented huge problems to society – indeed they don’t today – but the recognition of these behaviours, and a diagnosis, produced the numbers.
    2) Previously, those now categorised as (severely) autistic were often simply called “mentally handicapped”. Autism itself was only recognised in 1936 – before that there were no “autistic” people at all!
    3) There is no standard, clinical, test for autism; rather there is a ticklist of traits, evaluated by experts. The cause is also unclear – it appears to me mainly genetic, and to appear first in the womb, though very often no symptoms appear until early childhood – often accompanied by apparent regression. (These traits often become apparent around the time of vaccination)
    3) It’s a label. If your child is somehow not quite right, most probably you will seek one to enable you to access appropriate education and help. People are now very aware of autism, and are on the lookout for it.

    So do these account entirely for the “rise” in autism? Well, maybe. After all, how many children now are dyslexic? Could the enormous rise in this diagnosis be associated with vaccine use. No, clearly not. But there’s one thing we do know about autism – it isn’t vaccines that cause it.

    If I’ve got anything wrong here, please correct me. Oh, and if anyone out there hasn’t read “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time”, you should. No vaccine needed

  93. HCN

    AnthonyK said “If I’ve got anything wrong here, please correct me. Oh, and if anyone out there hasn’t read “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time”, you should. No vaccine needed”

    Excellent book! I would also add Elizabeth Moon’s “Speed of Dark”. Her son is autistic, and this is a very different sci-fi book looking into the personalities, and unique features of high functioning autistic people, and the challenges of becoming “normal”.

  94. AnthonyK

    One of the very saddest things about the “vaccine gave my child autism” crowd is their failure to get over it, to pass beyone the idea of “cure”, let alone to stop “blaming” someone. Move on, love your child, and discover a different kind of person! Add to that the looney cures they often put their child through – chelation, anyone? – and end up putting themselves in the hands of just the kind of money-grabbing charlatans they think the doctors are!

  95. Richard

    “Vaccine happy talkers,” new REM song? Maybe “Shiny Happy People, Part 2”?

    I’ll take the word of a medical expert (especially one who works within the realm of infectious diseases) over the word of a ratings hungry “reporter.”

    And I’ll take the word of a infectious disease researcher over the word of Jeni Barnett. She is still an idiot.

    As previous quoted studies have shown, your evidence about Gardisil is less than flimsy. However, any real associated risks (and there are some, to be sure) are viewed to be less than the risk of cervical cancer, of which the human papilloma virus may cause in women.

    Any medicine has risks but those risks must be balanced against the risks of what is being treated. It’s “risk assessment.” Get yourself informed about the risks before saying yes or no, much like “quasidog” has done. He may disagree, but he sought out information, not conspiracy theories.

    I had chicken pox when I was kid, at least twice. My mother chastised me when I tried to poke at the poxes. Now I’m kinda bummed at developing shingles in my ’80s. (And, yes, I came down with full body shingles a few years back. Not fun.)

    Should I call you, David M, “vaccine grumpy talker”? I mean, it sounds as inane, but still kinda catchy, too. So, then Anti-vaxxers can safely be called “vaccine grumpy talkers.” Yay.

    Last thing, here, I may not give “Big Pharma” my full trust (I mean, come on, they have screwed up in the past) but I trust them far more than “Pseudo Pharma.” Why, despite their profit motive, Big Pharma has done good things for our health. Pseudo Pharma (unregulated herbal meds, and such) has the same profit motive, but nowhere near the same results. To say that there is no risk with alternative medicine because it doesn’t do anything is wrong (well, maybe it’s true for homeopathy)–it just doesn’t do much and any associated risks far outweigh any benefits.

    I hate getting shots, but I know that sometimes they’re necessary.

    “Conspiracy theories. Not just for bad suspense movies anymore.”

  96. Richard


    Well, now it looks like withholding vaccines may cause autism.

    I’m not saying that it’s true, but it makes illogical sense, in the same way chelation “cures” autism.

  97. IVAN3MAN

    Phil Plait, the link that you posted just above does not work. I think that it could be because, instead of the URL, you wrote your own thoughts between the double-quotation marks within the link HTML tags:

    <a href=”Founder of antivaccination movement may have faked his original results. What a little prick.”>I <i>just</i> posted about that</a>


  98. Pete

    Re the rise in autism

    A web article (sorry, I lost the link) recently discussed a study that showed correlation between paternal age and a number of mental illnesses (schizophrenia and autism).. Given the general tendency for older parents over the past few decades, it might be possible this is the reason.

  99. Chris

    Phil Plait said “Chris: I just posted about that.”

    Yeah, but because of the link my post was held in moderation! 😛

  100. TheBlackCat

    @ Pete: schizophrenia has been linked to mutations in so-called fragile sites, places in DNA where mutation are relatively common. These tend to increase as you age, since there are more cell divisions in the male gametes and thus more chances for a mutation to occur. I have not heard of such a thing being tied to autism, although I suppose it is possible.

  101. James

    I have very little to add here that has not already been well-trodden; unreason is more offensive to me than say, breaking wind at the dinner table, and certainly more dangerous (in the literal sense of having associated with it an increased risk of actual physical danger).

    Antivaxxers are credophiles – these folks are actively anti-reason. The fact of the matter, unfortunately (and this is simply a tautology, for which I apologize) is that an anti-reason person simply cannot be reasoned with to abandon such illogic. This is the case regardless of the nature of the sand in their shorts. The argument and energy unfortunately gets lost mostly as waste heat pretty quickly.

    That doesn’t stop us, though, thankfully. (Thanks Phil, and folks like Shermer)

    Those things having been said, it seems to me worthwhile to point out that there exist folks I’ll classify as “opinion apologists”. The way to spot an opinion apologist is that they use lofty verbage, invoking ideals of liberty and free speech, essentially to make the case that because everyone is entitled to their own opinions that this entitlement has the added, unrelated effect of making those opinions all equally valid.

    Now mostly, when dealing with opinions, that’s a reasonable position. My girlfriend and I may disagree on what tastes better. Peanut butter or chocolate? Ultimately, those are opinions, and the reason that both of those opinions are equally valid is that by the very nature of the phenomenon under discussion, there is no way to measure – either quantitatively or qualitatively – which flavor tastes better. You can of course conduct rigorous scientific polls to determine which flavor is more popular, but that’s not the same thing at all. Tastes in music, literature, feelings about politics, all of these things are evaluated by people with opinions, and all of those opinions are equally valid. (The preceding paragraph is heavily oversimplified, and my undergraduate philosophy professors would tear me apart if I made that assertion in an unqualified way. The world is also full of ethical systems and critical systems for evaluating opinions on subjective matters, but those are outside the scope of this discussion.)

    There are, however, those phenomena in the Universe in which we live which are measurable in repeatable way, which we can quantify, or which we can evaluate qualitatively on an objective basis. All people can of course harbor opinions about these matters, particularly about the truth of statements regarding them. But because we can actually just go and look, opinions which do not reflect reality are no longer useful, and indeed are less valid than opinions which reflect a grounding in reality.

    Opinion Apologists fail to – either through desire or strict inability – engage a critical reasoning capacity to tell the difference between those two sorts of situations. In arguments over matters of scientific fact, the equivocate about the validity of the opinions of all peoples, and use words like “freedom” and particularly invoke the concept of freedom of speech – all the while utterly failing to understand that simply because someone has the freedom to believe a thing does not mean that the belief is necessarily true, or more importantly that the rest of us with freedom of speech are required to actually support them in their wrongheadedness.

    It is this equivocation that provides the rich soil for the weeds of illogic and unreason to grow.

  102. I took my kids to a gonarrhea party so they would get it young and not have to worry about getting it later.

  103. LS

    I’m torn, and I’ll admit it frankly. I see clearly the benefits of vaccines for things like polio, measles, etc., which otherwise cause so much harm. I don’t see that we should necessarily always vaccinate against everything just because we can. Chicken pox, for example. Chicken pox is a fairly low-risk childhood disease. The vaccine in its current form doesn’t provide permanent immunity. There’s now concern that outbreaks of shingles — which is worse than chicken pox — will be more common and of greater severity because fewer people have the immunity provided by having chicken pox as kids and being exposed to chicken pox later on by younger relations.

  104. JT

    There’s now concern that outbreaks of shingles — which is worse than chicken pox — will be more common and of greater severity because fewer people have the immunity provided by having chicken pox as kids and being exposed to chicken pox later on by younger relations.

    That simply doesn’t make sense. Having chicken pox does not immunize you from shingles. In fact, it’s the exact opposite. Shingles is a re-activation of the chicken pox virus that can only occur AFTER being infected with chicken pox. How exactly would being vaccinated increase your risk from a disease caused by the virus you were vaccinated against?

  105. Carlos

    Plenty of refutations to the antivaxers, so I won’t add any more here. However, those of us who strongly believe in the science, need to take a look at our approach at changing people’s behavior in this area. The sad truth is that most people don’t really understand statistics. (Is that a statistic itself?). Pointing out the 29 nine deaths “attributed” to Gardasil may just be part of the normal 60 out of 100,000 teens that die from any cause will get lost on the majority of the viewing population. I can easily understand cause-and-effect claims; I can easily understand 29 dead girls; but what does 60 out of 100,000 really mean? One is a concrete number, the other is a statistic. Combine the fear/misunderstanding of statistics with the general population’s mistrust of the government and big industry — and you get an environment ripe for conspiracy theories.

    The problem is made much worse by the approach that most pharma companies take with respect to new drugs. The truth is that there have been “safe” medications in the past that later turned to be unsafe; there have been companies (pharma and otherwise) that covered up negative results; there have been regulatory agencies that were asleep at the wheel.

    Some suggestions of the top of my head as I read this (I’m not in the healthcare industry, and have never given this much thought.)
    – Pharma companies should NOT be allowed to do any sort of advertising of prescription drugs (including vaccines). Advertising a drug make puts the decision in the hands of mostly uneducated people, AND it makes it seem like a drug is just another commodity that is making big $$ for the company
    – The current system of funded drug studies perhaps needs to be changed. When a company funds a study to determine the safety of a drug, it sets up a perceived conflict of interest. I’m sure most of these studies are true blind trials with honest results. But the perception of influence is always there. A solution that comes to mind is to set up a trust fund administered by the FDA, CDC, or an NGO. Drug companies would contribute dollars to the fund, and then would request dollars to carry out studies. The fund would serve to shield the study authors from direct involvement (or even knowledge?) with the drug company itself.

    Just some thoughts…

  106. Carlos

    I forgot to add… One mustn’t forget the the socio-economic costs.

    If you have the right not to be vaccinated, then insurance companies and/or the government (depending on your country) have the right to refuse treatment when you or your children do get the disease! Why should other policy holders/taxpayers have to subsidize your poor decisions?

  107. rp

    Someone up at the top of this thread mentioned that recognition of some forms of autism hapens to correlate in timing with the administering of the MMR vacination, at 18 months. Cause and effect is infered becasue of the timing of the vacine. I wonder if there’s any substantial increase in risk by putting off MMR to 24 months.

    I also wonder if we have any statistics of autisum in unvacintated children?

    I’m of an age that I had been vacinated against smallpox. The scar from this is still visible over 50 years later. You could clearly see this scar on the sholders of all my friends growing up. Today they do not routinely give this vacination (and have not in teh US since 1972) because smallpox has been “effectively” eliminated and the risk of the vacination is now greater than the risk of actually getting the desease. If polio is “extinct” then theres no sense in doing the vacination, no matter how low the complications were, and they were not that low.

    If Pharm companies were profit only, wouldn’t we still be vacinating against smallpox?


  108. Deemer

    It’s not just the UK, US, Australia…(story from World Radio Switzerland)

    Health board investigating 4 doctors after measles outbreak

    Four doctors in the canton of Vaud are being investigated after claims they failed to report measles cases they knew about. The allegation’s going to be looked at by the canton’s health board, which comprises of doctors and lawyers. It can decide on sanctions if the doctors failed in their duty to alert authorities. The measles epidemic is continuing in Vaud, with more than 40 cases now confirmed at 10 schools. All but four of the ill children have connections to the Steiner school, in Crissier. A 12 year-old girl, who lived near Geneva, recently died from the disease.

  109. Lily

    Retrogarde-“In Holland a former super proponent of creationism and ID, the locally very popular evangelic talk show host Andries Knevel, made his sincere apologies on prime time TV for misleading viewers and his children in the past.”

    How did this happen? We in the US are overrun with these crazies, and are in desperate need of a treatment for them.

  110. John Bennetts

    OK,anybody who has read this far is clearly both interested and prepared to read a bit further.

    I am an Australian, so I tend to come into contact with Australian sites. This might be reassuring to some of you, because these sites lack local bias if you happen to live elsewhere.

    Sydney University is the largest and oldest university in Australia.

    Check out the fact sheets on available from the follong site to emsure that your information is both current and respected.

    Further, as a memebr of a Rotary club, I am proud to have been associated with the Polio Plus campaign which has virtually eradicated polio from all but 5 or 6 countries worldwide. This is no esay feat. Rotary may have started this program, but WHO and many public and private benefactors have come on board and together an enormous amount of good work has been achieved.

    The remaining countries, which are thus potential reservoirs of wild poliomylitus waiting to affect the other 5 billion or so of us are mainly war zones. I am only 60, but one of my best friends had polio as a child and to this day considers himself lucky that he only lost the use of one leg through this disease.

    Today, none of your children are exposed to this most unpleasant disease. This is entirely due to vaccination.

    Please keep an enquiring mind and be skeptical, but be prepared to research and to question.

    The world would indeed be a much better place were it not for eradicable diseases.

    We could then focus more big guns on the real killer of the future – Malaria. With global warming, the toll from this disease is likely to double from the present 1,200,000 per annum. It is not a nice way to go and it affects a disproportionately high percentage of mothers and children.

    BTW, I have zero patience for diptards who own computers yet fail to use the search engines provided by Google and resources such as Wickipedia. If you haven’t taken the time and care to read up on your subject, please do not preach to me – it only displays your sloth and ignorance.

  111. Chelle

    I don’t understand why those pro vaccine fear the anti vaccine so much. Your protected aren’t you. You went in and got your vaccine, as well as your children’s vaccines, so whats the big deal if others choose not too? Your protected aren’t you?

    Could it be that you harbor some doubt that the vaccines you received are effective in preventing the disease? If you believe in all you say, then why do you care what others choose not to do? This is the only question you really need to be asking yourself beyond that it’s not you at risk it’s those who choose not to vaccinate.

    Problem solved. Really no need for debates anymore now is there ? Unless you care about those children being harmed by brain washed parents who rush their child to the nearest flu immunization clinic, then you may still have a fight on your hands.

    Funny we spend billions to protect our children from “childhood disease” yet we spend only millions to protect from food born illness that kills hundreds and thousands each year. Wake up people and fight about the bigger issues.

  112. Chelle (125): You don’t understand? Then I’ll make it simple: I don’t like it when babies die of preventable diseases. Especially when it’s due to blatant and easily disprovable misinformation.

    Simple enough for you?

  113. GraysMama

    I dont know if my comment worked, I may of been cut off. Here it is again:

    Wow, non-vaxers never talk about pro-vaxers in such a rude and mean way.

    Did you know they think you are just as ignorant and misinformed? In truth most non-vaxers have done so much research it would make your head spin. We dont go all over the internet bashing you. I cannot believe some of the things I read above. I am not sure if I will remain a non-vaxer forever, but I knew that I wanted to take my time in making this choice for my son. You know why? Because I love him more then anything and any decison I make regarding him will be made with due care. It will not simply be done because someone told me it was best. And for those people that say we dont care or love our kids, if you really think that you have major problems. This decison has been agonizing, its been the hardest thing that I have ever been through. It would of been a heck of a lot easier to just go and get the shots.

    The herd immunity thing still makes me giggle. It has been proven that the whooping cough vaccine does not help with transmission, yet they are urging parents with newborns to get the shot. By the time a newborn can get the shot themselves the riskiest time for them has past. And then in five years the shot will wear off and then they will need another! And its also fantastic that because I got my MMR shot when I was small it has also worn off, and has off for a lot of women by the time they are childbearing age, which is the whole purpose of the rubella shot. And then I am pregnant, not immune to rubella and little Johnny gets his MMR shot and now I get rubella because his shot shed.

    Disease are part of life. Even the prevnar vaccine is a good example – it started as a vaccine that covered 7 strains, then those strains were gone more moved in.Now it is against 13 strains, and now again the rise is in strains that we have no vaccine for. Bacteria is a really difficult thing to catch up to.

    I think people forget that vaccines are not a sure thing – that people can still get the disease. In fact a few months ago here a little vaccinated boy died of meningitis because they did not check if it was meningitis because he was vaccinated. As you probably know this disease moves fast, by the time they figured it out and treated him it was too late.

    I am not a conspiracy theorist.I am not a medical doctor. I am also not a crankpot. I am a mom who loves my babe and I am doing the very best I can. And yes my resources are real studies, real doctors, it is not from the university of google. I have read over twenty books, anti and pro vaccine. I am still unsure about what I want to do.

    I really can not get over all the really rude people. Is there a vaccine for that?


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