Giving vaccines a shot in the arm

By Phil Plait | May 6, 2009 11:03 pm

Reading through the truly awful antivax responses to my post where I state flatly and with conviction and evidence that the antivax movement is killing people, I was stunned to see Toni McCaffery had posted a response as well. Ms. McCaffery is the mother of Dana, the infant who died recently from whooping cough because the vaccination rate in NSW Australia is too low to afford herd immunity.

Toni: if you read this, please know that my heart goes out to you, and I swear to you that the bloggers on the right side of this issue will not rest, and we will continue to fight this fight as long as we can. It’s the least we can do for you, and for Dana.

A Facebook page has been created in Dana’s memory, and a website has been started as well to help get Australians to immunize their children.

I think that all of you reading this might also enjoy these four items that show you that we can help.

1) will donate toward vaccinations for every trivia question you answer correctly. In a few minutes I was up to 30 correct answers.

2) Here’s a terrific post from an astronomer who vaccinated his son. It’s in Spanish, but there’s a link there to translate it.

3) Orac takes on Huffington Post, and annihilates them in stark detail.

4) But of all of these, this might be my favorite: an antivax mom comes around and becomes provax for all the right reasons. That’s a great story and really made my day.

We’re facing a huge and growing problem, but we have to continue to fight. Lives are at stake, the most innocent lives of all. Keep fighting, keep being heard, and keep spreading the word.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Antiscience, Cool stuff

Comments (69)

Links to this Post

  1. A long fight « A Man With A Ph.D. | May 8, 2009
  2. Anti-Vax madness « Mal-Content | May 8, 2009
  1. To Toni McCaffery:

    Near the end of your response, you state: “At the moment, I am really wondering why we went public at all…”

    You have the best reason to do so: you want to save lives. Had you remained silent, those that oppose vaccinations would have one less person to counter their lies, one less counter-example to their mountain of dubious anecdotes.

    Naturally, these people won’t give up their beliefs easily. Nobody does. You have faced, and will continue to face, angry words and even threats from them. It will try your patience, at best.

    When you feel the sting of their words, stop and remember two things:

    1. Based on the opinions of doctors and experts, you did everything you could to save Dana’s life. The only people who say otherwise are ignorant or pushing an agenda. Who’s words carry more weight? Who’s words can be safely ignored?

    2. If we could magically bring Dana back to life, ever so briefly, what would she have wanted you to do? Let other children die? Or put up with the slings and arrows, and continue to argue against those fools who threaten the safety of other babies?

  2. I suggest the anti-vaxxers have a symbol
    here’s my suggestion

  3. JustAsItSounds

    This is indeed a sad state of affairs. Like all conspiracy theorists, the anti-vaxers seem to jump through some monstrous mental hoops in order to cling to their treasured idea that vaccines are evil.

    In one fell swoop they implicate the entire worldwide healthcare profession, the CDC, the WHO, the health authorities of every government in the world in some grand conspiracy, and to what aim is this sinister worldwide cabal supposed to be dedicated? Make a whole generation of autistic kids?

    It’s either that or they do not trust the overwhelming majority of healthcare professionals, immunologists etc to do their jobs properly – and instead listen to lone, discredited quacks like Andrew Wakefield.

    I’d also like to congratulate the McCaffrey’s for taking the brave step of coming forward, in their time of grief, to try and stem this madness and for them to take heart that the majority of people deplore the behaviour of this vocal anti-vaxxer minority.

  4. I have posted on our blog that people of so called authority are recommending not to vaccinate, chiropractors, alternative health professionals etc. I have started to push for and support the idea that a law should be passed in our state that the so called people of authority, not parents, should be held accountable for children harmed by their recommendations not to vaccinate, legally. As children are too young to make the decision for themselves are the ones hurt by such actions.
    Peace The Skeptical DoDo

  5. Charlie Foxtrot

    A link from The Age web site (a Melbourne, Australia newspaper) took me to a fairly popular parenting site called ‘Essential Baby’ and a blog entry there from a lady giving a positive story about vaccinating her child. It naturally attracted a good number of anti-vax and pro-disease comments. In my terse reply to some of these I included a link to Bad Astronomy. I hope you pick up some extra traffic from this and hopefully a few more parents vaccinate.
    The new website has a suggested letter to the PM that is a great idea – I’ll be firing one off to Kev and some of his ministers tonight!

  6. Pieter Kok

    I would also express my symathy to Toni McCaffery and her family. I think you are making a real difference.

  7. Bah – was having fun on that GiveVaccines quiz until it tried to tell me that ‘sesquipedalian’ meant ‘pretentious’. Since when was it pretentious to love language? And surely, given the nature of the quiz, sesquipedalians are going to do well – are they, in that case, calling their audience pretentious?


    I kept going though, 36 and counting… :-)


    You have quite an obsession with this stuff, don’t you?

  9. Pr. Théodose

    Thanks for all those links and useful resources. They might not be of immediate use for me, as anti-vax movements are very limited in France and have almost no access to mainstream media, but who knows when it could be useful…

    The quiz is an excellent and motivating way to revise (and expand) its vocabulary, especially useful for a non-native English speaker like me. Now to find a German version of this site ! *me in intense needs of resources to revise this language*

  10. Lawrence

    My heart goes out to the McCaffrey family – their trauma shouldn’t have to be a wake-up call to the rest of us, but it is. There is too much disinformation, outright lies, and half-truths being perpertrated by the anti-vacc crowd & it is having a serious negative impact on our children. Kids are dying folks – they are dying of diseases they have no business getting in the first place.

    Please, give your children the same protections that you enjoyed – because your parents were smart enough (and scared enough of what measles, mumps, rubella and polio could do to you) to get you vaccinated. Don’t deny this same protection to your own kids. Vaccinate!

  11. Cheyenne

    My deepest condolences to the McCaffrey family. Thanks for having the courage to speak out in public. I know you are helping to save lives.

  12. All vaccine issues aside for a moment..I can’t imagine what the McCaffrey family is going through-the sorrow, the pain and the absolute rage at the senselessness of their loss. I hope that they are able to find some peace.

    Children are dying. Isn’t that enough cause to vaccinate?

  13. Phil, you are really going to bat for the McCaffrey family and we here at Australian Skeptics and the Skeptic Zone Podcast. We have more on this story on the next show out on the 8th of May.

  14. Anticontrame

    Ms. McCaffery: Don’t be dissuaded. You bring a very powerful story to the discussion, one that our citing of science, statistics, and abstract numbers could never approach. Sadly there are many people who won’t be inclined to look into the facts unless given the emotional connection, and your family’s tragedy definitely brings that. Personally, I couldn’t stop myself from crying while watching your news piece.

    I’m sorry for your loss. I can only hope knowing that your speaking out is most definitely saving lives will be of some small solace.

  15. Jack Mitcham

    If you read this Toni:

    I don’t know how much comfort you get in a complete stranger offering condolences, but you have mine. Keep up the good fight, and this random stranger on the opposite side of the globe will do what little he can to help.

  16. I copy-and-pasted this from my own reply on Shannon’s blog:

    For what it’s worth, while it happens on both sides, the quantity of cursing, thinly veiled threats, character assasination, abuse of statistics, spreading doubts and rumors, and knowingly telling lies, is running rampant among vaccination doubters. The vitriol and the preparedness to come down on griefstricken parents (as happened in the case of Dana McCaffery) completely devoid of any sensitivity (‘you are not right’ can also be said in a more friendly way), with some Meryl as good as accusing Dana’s parents of murder is despicable. Jenny McCarthy is another person who curses in abundance.

  17. Greg

    The words get hard around level 7, yipes. No amount of SAT prepwork makes “tergiversate” grokkable.

  18. Greg

    Transitory is most like: Fugacious


    Have you seen this? Slate mag gives Oprah a hard time for giving Jenny McCarthy a bully pulpit. My husband and I are writing her a letter – ooooooooh. Snap!

    My very intelligent and educated friend is considering not vaccinating her kids, because Jenny and Jim are pretty convincing, she says. I’m running my own campaign to change her mind – or sadly, her kids and mine will not be hanging out together until all of my kids are fully vaccinated and “have their armor on,” as I like to call it.

  20. Jenny McCarthy is supposed to be on “The Doctors” today on NBC. This show is produced by Phil McGraw so I don’t expect anything beside them given her a pulpit to preach her fear-mongering.

  21. Janet

    If you’re finding the English language section hard, try the medical terminology option. I got up to level 10 on med terms and 250 correct answers to net 2.5 ml of vaccine.

    Thanks for posting the link, Phil. I’ll have to start doing a syringe or two worth of questions every morning!

  22. A note to any who read comments before following links: the GiveVaccines quiz does sometimes ask you whether you think that a word is most similar to itself. This results in some faulty logic: apparently “mound” is more similar to “hillock” than it is to “mound”!

  23. Mark

    I have only one thing to say that seems appropriate.

    Dana McCaffery might be the youngest hero I’ve ever seen.

  24. @Gillian

    Send your friend the info linked via my name at Also, the CDC, FDA and AAP have some pretty good info on vaccines, as does the U.K.’s MHRA. Orac, at Respectful Insolence, also regularly corrects the misinformation put out by the antivax/pro-disease movement.

  25. DalianBound

    I thought this was an astronomy blog… can we end this thread and get back to space… if I want to read about medicine I will go to a health blog

  26. In a few minutes I was up to 30 correct answers.
    The first 30 were the easy ones, Phil. I gave up at the 33rd, but I shall return!

  27. Zucchi

    Too bad about the Huffington Post. I always thought Arianna Huffington had more sense than that.

  28. MJBUtah

    Ms. McCaffery, I am so sorry for your loss. Thank you for speaking out.

    In related news, this we are having a local outbreak at an elementary school of chicken pox, over 30 children have come down with them already. The school district does require the immunization to enroll, but parents are allowed to ask for “waivers” and the news story specifically mentioned that as a suspected cause of the rapid spreading of the virus.

  29. DalianBound: no one is stopping you. In fact, I encourage you to go find some.

  30. @MJBUtah

    Can you provide a link to the news article? Also, keep us updated on how this turns out.

  31. I don’t doubt that Toni and David wonder what on Earth they’ve wandered into. It’s impossible to imagine the roller-coaster of emotions whilst trying to fight nonsense at the same time as grieving. The only consolation I can think of is that by speaking out they have, for now, opened a can of worms that had largely resisted being opened before now. Let’s hope the rest of us can keep that can open long enough to assure change.

    (On the word game, I gave up when it said that “mound” was not the most similar word to “mound”. 47 points.)

  32. Peptron

    To repeat what some others have already said, I think that the McCaffrey’s did not actually know about the extend of the antivax movement and the zeal of its members; and so they did not expect such backlash from doing the rather sensible thing of saying that since diseases kill and vaccines prevent diseases, might as well get vaccinated.

  33. Richard Smith

    @DalianBound: I agree! You paid good money for this astronomy blog, and here it is not talking about astronomy! Demand a full refund, I say!

    (Removing tongue from cheek…)

    @Peregrine: I caught a few minutes of that episode of The Doctors last night, and had to change channels pretty quick. Some guy (Mr. Black Sweater) just ranting at the doctors (something about only two of over thirty ingredients having been properly tested (!), and so on…), and at least one of the doctors looked like he was going to start crying any second, and was saying something pretty close to “Can’t we all just get along?” So much concentrated BS, those few minutes took me hours to calm down from. Bleagh.

  34. Jeremy

    A little note for those that want to use (or its hunger equivalent, remember to turn off Adblock for those sites. These places are getting the money to support their charitable giving in part, at least, through the ad revenue for ad imprints while you play the game. Running Adblock deprives them of that revenue, and is consequently very unhelpful to their cause.

  35. Dan

    THANK YOU TONI for going public. I stopped my daughter’s vaccinations a couple years ago because she was having allergic reactions to the shots. Your story inspired me to get her caught up anyway (bonus: she didn’t have an allergic reaction this time). By going public, you may have saved my own daughter’s life.

  36. From item (4):

    I’m sorry, Jenny, but Mariska Hargitay, Christopher Meloni, Ice-T, and Stephanie March say that measles kills and that we need to vaccinate our kids not just to keep them healthy, but also to protect other people’s kids. And because the SVU team is on TV too and outnumbers you & Jim Carrey, I’m going to side with them.


    And, in case you didn’t read the whole article, here’s her next paragraph:

    I kid, but only slightly, as I really do prefer my son alive, autism and all. And I seriously doubt Jenny would volunteer to give her son measles — or pertussis, diphtheria, tetanus, or polio if she’d actually seen these diseases affect a child, or considered that acquiring these diseases is much riskier than getting vaccinated for them.

    And, Mrs. McCaffery, if you’re still listening, let me say that the reason the antivaxers came down on you so hard is because that’s all they can do. All they have is emotional rhetoric. They have no real evidence to support their cause (whatever that “cause” is — I don’t realy know), so the resort to trying to hurt anyone who stands in their way.

    Those of us who understand the evidence tend to stick to non-emotional facts. Perhaps we need to change that, since raw emotions tend to get stronger reactions. Stories such as yours bring an emotional punch that “all scientific studies show there is no link” just doesn’t have.

    My deepest condolences to you and your family. Please know that there are plenty of people on your side, both here and elsewhere.

  37. Phil, thank you for the links and the constant battle. I link to nearly every post you make in my blog entry about vaccinations, and I make it very clear to everyone who knows me where I stand in this battle. A lot of people have a soft spot for Jenny McCarthy because she’s a mommy, but they have to understand that she is wrong and she is dangerous. The more people who can get the information out there to counteract the nonsense, the better.

    My heart and thoughts go out to the McCaffreys. I can’t imagine their grief, but am in awe of their courage to do the right thing and try to ensure that their tragedy doesn’t become someone else’s. Now if only Ms. McCarthy and her goons had the same grasp on reality…

  38. @Dan

    I stopped my daughter’s vaccinations a couple years ago because she was having allergic reactions to the shots. Your story inspired me to get her caught up anyway (bonus: she didn’t have an allergic reaction this time).

    Good that you got her up to date, but I’m curious, did you discuss the allergic reaction with her pediatrician before continuing with the shots?

    For other people reading here, allergies to previous injections should be taken seriously and discussed to determine the best course of action. Not all vaccines use the same growth media, excipients and adjuvants, so certain vaccines may still be okay to give. Likewise, the severity of the allergic reaction should be considered.

  39. is a great idea and I will plug it mercilessly on my Facebook, et al. Don’t forget, too, about and, while we’re clicking to do good…

  40. My condolences to the McCaffery family.

    As a parent, I can imagine the pain and suffering they have now.

    Dear Ms. McCaffery, you are not alone. And don’t feel discouraged! You are doing a terrific job on behalf or your little Dana. Keep going!

  41. And now that I have been unmarked from the spam files, Todd W.’s excellent writeup can be found at (site under construction with additional information even). Sub-menus aren’t working yet, but we’ll get to that.

    To the McCaffery family, I can’t even imagine how hard it must be for you, but take some comfort in the awareness you bring to this issue. You have millions of people supporting you.

  42. Selasphorus

    Phil, thank you for continuing to press this issue.

    Toni, my deepest condolences to you. Thank you for your fight.

  43. Charles Boyer

    Arthur Allen has a great article at the link above.

    “I think show business crosses the line when they give contracts to people like Jenny McCarthy,” Tayloe says. “If you give her a bully pulpit, McCarthy is going to make people hesitate to vaccinate their children. She has no medical or scientific credentials. It disturbs us that she’s given all these opportunities to make her pitch about vaccines on Oprah or Larry King or U.S. News or whatever. We have to scramble to get equal time—and who wants to see a gray-haired pediatrician talking about a serious topic like childhood vaccines when she’s out there blasting the academy and blasting the federal government?”

    –David T. Tayloe, president of the American Academy of Pediatricians.

  44. I’m shocked that someone would send hate mail to a greiving family. Toni: I’m so sorry for your loss, and for how you’ve been treated after going public about the dangers of whooping cough. I’m sorry that you now have regrets about going public, but I know that despite the negative responses you have received, there are more mothers and families that know that these illnesses are serious and better understand the importance of vaccinations. I know this was not an issue you chose to be involved with, but one that you were forced into through tragic circumstance.

    Please know that you have a lot of supporters, and that you have done a lot of good.

  45. Jules

    My heart goes out to the McCaffery family. This antivax movement chaps my hide big time. I have never been able to be vaccinated even against small pox and I the last birth year suppose to be vaccinated with (anaphylactic reaction to vaccines due to anaphylactic allergy to egg white protein.) Unfortunately, I passed that allergy onto my youngest and his immunizations had to be halted after the 3rd one. On top of this I have Lupus.

    Was does that mean for my family? We have to go into reverse quarantine anytime there are any reported cases of anything in the area in which I live. With my Lupus, any of the things that the vaccines help prevent, would most likely be fatal to me if I were to contract them. And to make matters worse, my youngest would get extremely ill.

    The McCaffrey family is yet another more extreme example of what happens when people choose not to vaccinate.

    Even so I have many issues with modern medicine for overstepping what I feel are certain boundaries, this is one area where they have done a wonderful thing and people need to pull their heads out of their asses, vaccinate their children so that they are not killing their own children, but many others out in the general population who for whatever reason of weakened immune systems or have no immunity.


  46. Ray

    Slate has an article taking Oprah to task for her support of Jenny McCarthy. I was quite surprised that Slate would do it.

  47. Lubeg

    Dr. Plaitt, I only very quickly skimmed the other comments here, so I apologize if someone has made note of this to you. But, I think it would be very encouraging if you added this URL to your earlier list. The page, below, shows the number of units donated. The volume donated, today, 37,601 at the time of my writing, is a significant increase from yesterday’s volume. I hope you and the rest of your readers find this as encouraging as it seems.

    A superficial analysis suggests that you are making an impact.

  48. Hey, the GAVI Alliance lists a nice quote that may be useful in combating the stupidity of celebrities like McCarthy.

    “Childhood immunization is undoubtedly the best investment we have ever made.”
    — Bill and Melinda Gates

  49. Daniel J. Andrews

    To the McCaffreys. My heart breaks for you. Please don’t regret coming forward. You may very well have saved at least one other child when that parent vaccinates them because of what happened to you.

    Anyone who sends you hate mail or blames you for your daughter’s death is just ignorant of science, of vaccines, and of medicine and disease in general. They are also so lacking in empathy that they surely must be pathologically self-centered and a potential danger (in many regards, not just physically) to those around them. Avoid them, ignore them, they are not worth your time and energy. Do not let such vile people add more pain to your loss.

    Lubeg: Thanks for that update. Go BA!!

  50. Lisa

    Ms. McCaffery: I’m very sorry for your lost. Please remember this is not a lost cause and you’re doing the right thing here by promoting awareness on this issue.

    Phil: Thanks for the GiveVaccines link! Time to brush up on my vocabulary.

  51. Mark Hansen

    Dalian, what part of “Giving vaccines a shot in the arm” mislead you into thinking this thread was about astronomy? And if you weren’t mislead and are not interested in vaccines, why click on it at all? And how many threads on astronomy have you posted in to say “Thanks, BA, for sticking to astronomy like you legally should even though this is your own blog”

  52. Dan

    Todd W.:

    My daughter’s allergies to previous vaccines manifested as localized, painful swellings that would persist for several days. It wasn’t life threatening but to this overprotective dad it certainly seemed cruel and unusual, and our pediatrician agreed. As the risks from skipping vaccinations changed, the calculation did too — and again, our pediatrician agreed.

    I also believe in involving children in decisions that affect them, in an age appropriate manner of course. This brave little 8-year old girl went into the doctor knowing that she might spend the next few days in pain, and agreeing that it was worth it so she would be safe from some really nasty diseases. She is as happy as I am that it didn’t turn out that way!

  53. Wow Phil, you have really become a warrior for this cause, in a way that makes it clear the issue is near and dear to your heart. I’m glad that you fork off into non-astronomy issues like this, and as a loyal reader who loves your astronomy posts, I fully support and encourage you to continue doing so. You’re an intelligent and eloquent speaker on the subject, and one reason I recently started my own sci-skep blog was because I was inspired by reading your postings, and realized I might be able to help just a tiny bit by posting my own thoughts on the subject (my blog is new, so I’m still working on that first anti-vax article, but it will be a frequent subject of mine. I did finish a “skeptic versus denial” article that lays the groundwork for much of what I plan to write about, including with regards to this issue, where active anti-vaxxers are clearly denialists, not true skeptics).

    I have two kids of my own, and whether or not to vaccinate was never even a question. I feel badly for all the parents who are so poorly served and misinformed by these willfully ignorant celebrity miscreants, and if those of us who speak out against them can convince even a few parents that they’re listening to the wrong people, it will all be worth it. Keep up the good fight!

  54. QUASAR

    @ John Paradox

    They should have this sign!

    anti-vaccination Pictures, Images and Photos

  55. @Dan

    Good to hear it was just localized reactions. Good on you for making informed decisions!

  56. Peter B

    Well, Bundle had his chicken pox vaccine last Tuesday. That was his only 18 month vaccine. He had a big wail when the needle came out (he does miserable very well), but completely forgot about his pain when the nurse gave him a shiny toy.

    No more until he turns 4, which seems such a long way away!

  57. whb03

    Anyone notice an eerie lack of trolls on this post? Not sure whether to be relieved or furious. All the facts used to denounce the antivax “cause”, all the research, all the statistics, all the reasoned arguments in the world won’t keep them from attacking the parents of a victem of nonvaccination. But start fighting on an emotional level on behalf of the parents whom they attacked without shame, and suddenly, silence. Apparently, where reason fails, fighting words based on emotion work. Guess that tells us the character (and that term is used ever so loosely here) of the so-called cause. They had no problem at all attacking before the gloves really came off, when the appeal was largely based on fact and reason. But start fighting on their level by laying a deceased child at their feet, and where are they now? To misquote the great Jack Nicholson, probably at home, washing their tights.

    If the McCafferys are reading this, please know that your bravery, difficult as it is, DOES have an impact. Please, continue to expose these vile morons as the uneducated, willfully ignorant, fact-ignoring, shameless cowards they are.

  58. For those that are interested, I’ve added a section of additional resources to I’m going to be adding in some stuff about Gardasil as I find time. Anyone have any other suggestions to add?

  59. HCN

    About Gardasil, did you see this?:

    “As of December 31, 2008, more than 23 million doses of Gardasil were distributed in the United States. …
    …”As of December 31, 2008, there have been 32 U.S. reports of death among females who have received the vaccine. There was no common pattern to the deaths that would suggest that they were caused by the vaccine.”

    Then there is a link to a pdf file on those deaths. It seems that the 32 deaths out of 23 million doses is within the noise of normal events. The pdf slide file has more information (many of the young women had some underlying medical conditions, and at least one was a drug overdose – and I am assuming the drug overdose was not the vaccine!).

  60. @HCN

    Yep. I was going to be looking at how to incorporate the CDC info. I didn’t see the pdf yet, though. Thanks!

  61. Calli Arcale

    My thoughts and prayers go out to the McCaffrey family. Also my heartfelt thanks for doing what you’re doing. The loss of a child is incalculable and inexpressible; no one would blame you for just quietly dealing with your grief. But instead, you are using that grief to fuel you, to warn others of the danger that is so easily averted if everyone vaccinates. Right now, infants are only protected from pertussis by herd immunity. If we don’t vaccinate ourselves, they are vulnerable. And the anti-vaccinationists need to know that. Even more, the general public needs to know that. To refuse vaccination just because someone said “well, nobody can prove they *don’t* cause autism” is shockingly ignorant, and it’s a challenge that needs to be met.

    I applaud you, Toni McCaffrey, and will keep you in my thoughts and prayers. Be strong. As far as the disgusting bile spewed by the anti-vax brigade, nil illegitimi carborundum (don’t let the bastards grind you down).

  62. Kirk

    Hey, if anyone wants to drop some knowledge in the comments of a vaccine story done by our local television station, feel free:

    Comments are currently filled with the usual hysterical nonsense. The story was basically focused on the effects of not vaccinating children (the spread of disease), rather than a lengthy look at all of the anti-vaxx claims, so there wasn’t really room in it for a complete refutation of everything that the commenters are now bringing up.

    New Hampshire has one of the highest vaccination rates in the country, and it would be nice for that to not start changing.

  63. Wow.

    I am just amazed at what has been going on regarding anti-vax. I am so thankful to Phil and Steve Novella and Orac and a multitude of others. If it wasn’t for them I never would have thought of creating the Jenny McCarthy Body Count. And it was just a coincidence that it went online when it did. I’m glad that people are finding it useful and I’m amazed that it was linked to in the Slate article.

    If my multiple Star Trek viewings don’t take up too much time this weekend I should be able to get more of the illness and death data recalculated to the more accurate (and much higher) numbers.

    Derek Bartholomaus

  64. In response to:
    “Cannonball Jones Says:
    May 7th, 2009 at 2:36 am
    Bah – was having fun on that GiveVaccines quiz until it tried to tell me that ’sesquipedalian’ meant ‘pretentious’. Since when was it pretentious to love language? And surely, given the nature of the quiz, sesquipedalians are going to do well – are they, in that case, calling their audience pretentious?
    I kept going though, 36 and counting… ”

    Canannball Jones,

    Thank you for playing and helping us in our mission to protect the children from devastating disease.

    Your comments are much appreciated and there is a much more common choice for the definition of “sesquipedalian” which would be “polysyllabic” We got our current answer from “” which lists the definition of the adj. as :

    1. sesquipedalian – given to the overuse of long words; “sesquipedalian orators”; “this sesquipedalian way of saying one has no money”
    pretentious – making claim to or creating an appearance of (often undeserved) importance or distinction; “a pretentious country house”; “a pretentious fraud”; “a pretentious scholarly edition”

    Wikitionary uses the example “Our dinner guest was so sesquipedalian that no one could understand what he said.”

    Since this definition is not found in Webster or Oxford in this manner, we will change the quiz question.

    Thank you again for your input and for your support.

    Dr. Sam

  65. Every day 7000 mothers lose a child from a disease that can be prevented with a vaccine. These are quiet deaths. The world pays them no attention. THANK YOU to this blog and to all of the comments for paying attention! This Mother’s Day go to and play the game for some of the mothers in your life. Go to and read about Angie and Tiemany Diarra – 2 mothers who lost 2 children to a vaccine preventable disease in the space of one year.

  66. A Nonny Moose

    Sorry to drag this topic out of the depths, but I don’t know how to email Phil, and I really want him to see this link:

    Not only autism, but vax also causes Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (as proposed by a doctor who wants to sell their NEW IMPROVED baby monitor)

  67. HCN

    Ummm… not really. “shirleys-wellness-cafe” is on the same line of reality as (Scopie’s Law applies). In reality, SIDS has decreased with vaccination.

    One paper:
    Vaccine. 2007 Jun 21;25(26):4875-9. Epub 2007 Mar 16.
    Do immunisations reduce the risk for SIDS? A meta-analysis…
    “CONCLUSIONS: Immunisations are associated with a halving of the risk of SIDS. There are biological reasons why this association may be causal, but other factors, such as the healthy vaccinee effect, may be important. Immunisations should be part of the SIDS prevention campaigns.”

    Also, if you look at Japan, they only stopped blaming vaccines when it was revealed that pertussis killed more infants than SIDS (since they were not vaccinated you could not blame the vaccine!):
    Expert Rev Vaccines. 2005 Apr;4(2):173-84
    Acellular pertussis vaccines in Japan: past, present and future….
    “An antivaccine movement developed in Japan as a consequence of increasing numbers of adverse reactions to whole-cell pertussis vaccines in the mid-1970s. After two infants died within 24 h of the vaccination from 1974 to 1975, the Japanese government temporarily suspended vaccinations. Subsequently, the public and the government witnessed the re-emergence of whooping cough, with 41 deaths in 1979. This series of unfortunate events revealed to the public that the vaccine had, in fact, been beneficial. ”

    Then there is the blaming the HepB vaccine, versus the co-sleeping bit:
    Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 1999 Dec;153(12):1279-82.
    Neonatal deaths after hepatitis B vaccine: the vaccine adverse event reporting system, 1991-1998….
    ” CONCLUSION: Few neonatal deaths following HepB vaccination have been reported, despite the use of at least 86 million doses of pediatric vaccine given in the United States since 1991. While the limitations of passive surveillance systems do not permit definitive inference, these data suggest that HepB immunization is not causing a clear increase in neonatal deaths.”
    (if you access through PubMed… the report is available for free, one baby was found under the couch that was used for co-sleeping)

    There is a reason why I do not like random websites like shirleys-wellness-cafe or as evidence that a vaccine is worse than the disease. They usually only include cherry picked evidence, and have not gone through any sort of peer review. As I look at both, it is mostly scare stories with no real evidence.

    So far I have not had any real evidence produced that the DTaP is worse than diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis… and pertussis kills over a dozen American babies per year. I am not talking about pseudo-shaken-baby syndrome, but actual death. Oh, since my oldest child had a real seizure disorder, I know that “healed broken bones” is not a real result of seizures!


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