An anniversary worth celebrating

By Phil Plait | October 26, 2009 7:53 am

According to Wikipedia, the last naturally occurring incident of smallpox (Variola minor) happened on this date in 1977:

By the end of 1975, smallpox persisted only in the Horn of Africa. Conditions were very difficult in Ethiopia and Somalia, where there were few roads. Civil war, famine, and refugees made the task even more difficult. An intensive surveillance and containment and vaccination program was undertaken in early and mid-1977. The last naturally occurring case of indigenous smallpox (Variola minor) was diagnosed in Ali Maow Maalin, a hospital cook in Merca, Somalia, on 26 October 1977.

smallpox_goneIn the 20th century, smallpox is estimated to have killed hundreds of millions of people. Hundreds of millions. Imagine the United States — the entire country, from the Pacific to the Atlantic — empty, devoid of people, dead. Smallpox wiped out that many people with room to spare.

And yet, today, it’s gone.

Why do you think that is? Homeopathy? Detoxification? Thinking good thoughts?

Nope. Vaccinations. A global campaign was undertaken in 1950, and within 30 years smallpox was struck from the face of the Earth.

Hey Jenny McCarthy, Meryl Dorey, and all you antivaxxers and your ilk: got a response to this? Still want to claim vaccines don’t work? Still want to stop people from getting them? Do you want to see this happen to children all over the planet again (WARNING – SERIOUSLY!VERY DISTURBING IMAGE). Because if you are successful in your campaign to stop vaccinations, that’s what we’ll be facing again.

Vaccines are perhaps the single greatest triumph of modern medicine. Yet a vocal minority willing to trash facts, spin the truth, and generally spout misinformation is putting not only themselves but you, me, and everyone at risk.

Happy anniversary, smallpox, gone these past 32 years. And may I add, good damn riddance. May reason, rationality, and science-based medicine do the same for every other threat to the health and well being of the human race as well.

Tip o’ the syringe to Reddit.


Comments (79)

  1. Grey Wolf

    “Vaccines are perhaps the single greatest triumph of modern medicine.”

    Once, having lunch with a group of doctors of several specialities, I asked what was the single greatest achievement of medicine, by people saved. I was expecting vaccinations, but was wondering if it might have been antibiotics instead.

    Interestingly, the conclusion reached was neither when the microbiologist at the table pointed out that almost certainly the greatest honour goes to Nightingale, for convincing everyone to wash their hands before helping to give birth, slashing death in childbirth from one in 10 to a few in thousands.

    Still, all three are great contestants, with thousands of millions of lives saved by each of them. Lets see antivaxxers of all stripes try to even reach those numbers, one favourable example at a time :)

    Grey Wolf

  2. Jack Mitcham


    Now if only we can get a vaccine for AIDS, we’ll be able to save a lot more lives. Actually, I’d like to take this time to plug World Community Grid,

    It works like SETI@home, where work units are sent to your computer, for your computer to calculate with its idle time. They mainly work on health-related science, such as fighting AIDS, cancer, and influenza.

    They’re not working on vaccines, per se, but a lot of it is basic research. Basic research can go a long way to help the human race. Lets wipe out some more diseases from the face of the Earth.

  3. Well put, sir!
    Now if we can just get Oprah frakkin’ Winfrey to stop supporting this nonsense…

  4. GreyRogue

    And that is why science is so cool–it works in a big way.

    In other news, I’m totally going to believe Phil next time he warns about seriously disturbing images. Yikes.

  5. David

    Hear hear!!

    Dr. Plait, on a side note, one of my friends pointed out that you don’t actually present any hard evidence in this article. Perhaps you should also link to one of your other articles that does?

  6. Because if you are successful in your campaign to stop vaccinations, that’s what we’ll be facing again.

    Except, not by smallpox (unless someone breaks into a lab that has it). More likely, we’ll see it with measles (there are already upticks in areas) and possibly even polio, which was on its way to extinction, until antivax fears mucked things up in certain regions.

    Why do you think that is?

    Their answer is pretty easy: improved sanitation and hygiene, because they can’t give credit to vaccines and prefer to ignore the data. So, to anyone that believes that improved sanitation and hygiene are the reason that smallpox disappeared, please take a look at some data. (can click on my name to get there) is a good starting point to more info and resources.

  7. BILL7718

    Wow BA, you should stop mincing words and tell us how you really feel.

    Well said!

  8. Kevin

    Huzzah! Hooray for science!

  9. TheBlackCat

    As someone here pointed out before, vaccines offer the only technique we have today that allows us to completely eradicate an infectious disease, although it is only possible with viruses that solely reside in humans. Bacteria are opportunists, there are few if any that exist solely in humans, and other parasites are more flexible still.

  10. Todd W, it’s not completely clear that all reservoirs of smallpox in the wild are gone, from what I’ve read. I don’t think people take the idea too seriously, though. But I was being metaphorical anyway; if not smallpox itself, there are dozens of other preventable diseases just waiting for antivaxxers to get more political clout.

  11. Flavio

    @Grey Wolf

    Uhm I wasn’t aware of Nightingale, and looking around her Wikipedia page tones down her merits about hygiene. Can you give a reference about the delivery related deaths?
    Apparently she was also against drugging patients during amputations… and there’s a funny line about speaking to god…

  12. No Phil, it’s all living conditions and hand washing (actually heard that argument this weekend…sigh). These people with their misguided sense of self-entitlement and predisposition to panic are going to kill us all.

  13. amphiox

    Was it really Nightingale? Shouldn’t it be Semmelweis?

    When it comes to public health breakthroughs and total lives saved, I suspect that something involving sanitation will turn out to be number one, but sanitation doesn’t necessarily quality as a purely “medical” breakthrough.

    It should also be noted for the next idiot who wants to regurgitate a list of vaccine adverse reactions, that the smallpox vaccine was one of the more dangerous ones. It all boils down to risk-benefit ratios.

  14. Jaddy

    Maybe it wasn’t Nightingale but Semelweis:

  15. Wow, I had never seen an image of someone with smallpox before. That is very disturbing. And the fact that I’ve never seen smallpox is something I’m thankful to modern medicine an vaccines for. I guess that’s also why it’s so easy for people to believe the anti-vaccine rhetoric, because the efficacy of vaccines have made it possible for us to just forget that these horrible diseases exist. People need to be reminded of how lucky we are to have vaccines.

    When that Newsweek article on Oprah came out I posted on my blog about being happy that she’s being criticized for spreading anti-vaccine nonsense. Now today I have someone commenting there about how Jenny McCarthy has a point about vaccines. It’s unfortunate because on the surface what McCarthy is saying appears to make sense just because it seems like the vaccines aren’t necessary, so people tend to just go along with what she’s saying.

    There’s so much misinformation with regards to vaccines, it’s really sad. My sister’s having a hard time sorting out whether she should get the H1N1 vaccine because of the fears being spread, and she’s in the high-risk group (pregnant, third trimester).

    I’m going off on a rant here…I’ll stop. Happy anniversary to no more smallpox!

  16. Lawrence

    I’m bothered by the fact that the Russians manufacturered Smallpox by the ton durning the Cold War & planned to mount it in refrigerated warhead SS-18s for use during a nuclear exchange – and no one to this day has been able to confirm where all that Smallpox went.

    Although I hope and pray it’ll never happen, I believe it is only a matter of time before Smallpox is re-introduced into the general population – either as an accident or on purpose.

  17. Interesting Op/Ed in the NY Times today. An article in support of using our nation’s polling places (186,000 of them) as vaccination centers. They process, in one day, the votes of the nation. That’s a big job, and they do it well. Swine flu doesn’t seem to be that deadly but we know it’s just a matter of time before something much worse comes around. If we ever need to do a mass distribution of vaccine, and keep track of everybody that has been given it, this might be the best way to do that.

  18. @Phil

    Thanks for the info re: wild reservoirs for smallpox. I was under the impression that the only real spots that you could still find smallpox were in labs. But, yeah, plenty of contenders otherwise.

    And just a clarification re: sanitation and hygiene. Nightingale is credited with revolutionizing the idea of actually washing up before patient interaction. And not to dismiss hygiene and sanitation completely, they did have an impact, just not as big as what antivaxers would have one believe.

  19. Jim

    I thought it was prayer and sacrificial offerings that made smallpox disappear. Who knew?

  20. Flavio


    Right, it was indeed Semmelweis.

  21. What an odd coincidence. I started Vaccine Week on the Smithsonian blog Surprising Science today ( and had no idea I ran into an anniversary. Thanks!

  22. I thought it was the chanting of a Tibetan guru sitting on a pointed stick that stopped smallpox. 😉

  23. Quatguy

    Way to go Phil, glad you pulled out the big gun by pointing out the success of the small pox vaccination program and cast the light of truth on the anti-vax liars. I truly believe they are a scourge on society and need to be smacked down at every opportunity.

    As Shakespeare said, A pox on all of their houses!

    I have no problem with people who make personal informed choices not be vaccincated but people who spread misinformation (or support those who do, I am looking at you oprah!) are among the worst of the worst. Keep up the good work Phil.

  24. StevoR

    Its the 180th anniversary of the Orionid meteor shower too incidentally.

    That’s one worth clebrating too yeah? 😉

    “The discovery of the Orionid meteor shower should be credited to E. C. Herrick (Connecticut, USA). In 1839, he made the ambiguous statement that activity seemed to be present.”

    From :

    Going back on topic here : Let’s just not have any “plague parties” to celebrate okay? 😉

    Also I don’t know that smallpox is totally gone yet – because I understand the CDC and other labs (Russia?) have it frozen and ready in case of biological warfare / Or, sinister twist, the possible option to use it as a bioweapon.

    Have seen & heard about but not yet personally read Richard Preston’s* The Demon in the Freezer book on this issue – I think.

    That noted, yeah, I’m with you BA. Yay science, boo anti-vaxx nutters! :-)


    The same author, Richard Preston also wrote The Hot Zone a brilliant book about the very disturbing diseases Marburg and Ebola. That book literally made me miss many a bus I was supposed to catch while reading it a bookstore.

  25. mike burkhart

    Yes smallpox is gone for now but it could make a come back there are smallpox viruss stored in labs now what would happen if the labs were damanged in a say earthquake , tornato ,hurrican , or 1000s of other disaters that could happen and the virus ecaped back into the wild and even mutated or if some terorist group were to get there hands on the virus grow it and use it in a biowepons attack we stoped useing the smallpox vaccine in most nations in the 70s this means 100,000,000 of people have no imuenity to the virus so these people will get smallpox if the disaters I mentiond happen.

  26. Flying sardines

    @ 19. Jim Says:

    I thought it was prayer and sacrificial offerings that made smallpox disappear. Who knew?

    Semmelweiss apparently – & all the good modern doctors afterwards! 😉

    (Well you did ask.)

    Sadly, I’m sure some religious types around now would probably seriously credit “prayer” as the solution. :roll:

    Heaven help us (ironically) if we get an modern outbreak in their areas today …

  27. Phil Evans

    From a CBS news story in 2005

    “Most Americans do not accept the theory of evolution. Instead, 51 percent of Americans say God created humans in their present form, and another three in 10 say that while humans evolved, God guided the process. Just 15 percent say humans evolved, and that God was not involved. ”

    Not surprising there’s so much hysteria over vaccinations.

  28. RE: Nightingale and Semmelweis

    I found an article that suggests that Nightingale was not aware of Semmelweis’ findings regarding hand hygiene. So, while Semmelweis was largely responsible for changing the hygiene habits of physicians and medical students, Nightingale likely independently confirmed the idea and did for nursing what Semmelweis did for physicians.

  29. Deepsix

    “…got a response to this?”

    LOL, good one Phil. Being pro-vaccination doesn’t get you on Oprah.

  30. tacitus

    Even if smallpox makes a comeback by accident or by design, it doesn’t become infectious until after the disease presents itself in the carrier. That’s one of the reasons why we were so successful in wiping it out in the first place, and why fresh outbreaks will be contained fairly quickly with targeted inoculations.

    So there is little need for mass smallpox vaccinations, even if there was to be another outbreak. In fact, since the smallpox vaccine is known to kill about one in a million people, it would be foolish to use it in that way.

  31. Azorus

    While I will agree that vaccinations are a good thing, I do begin to wonder if “everything” in the needle is absolutely necessary. So where I do see your point in the article, I also understand where Oprah and others fears come from.

  32. Adam

    RE: #29

    Citing public disbelief in evolution isn’t a convincing reason for why today’s public disbelieves in vaccines. After all, vaccines existed before the Origin was published, and were quite popular 100 and 50 years ago, when public acceptance of evolution was probably (sorry, couldn’t find actual statistics) lower than it is now. Honestly, bringing up evolution in this discussion is probably just going to hurt the cause, because people will start thinking “well, I don’t believe in evolution, and people keep telling me that evolution and vaccines are related, so maybe I had better stop believing in vaccines.”

    My feeling is that reduced confidence in vaccines has three main causes: 1) People rarely experience serious contagious disease, so they don’t have a personal feel for what vaccines are protecting from. 2) Politics. I’ve noticed that the loudest anti vaccine types tend to have political affiliation different from the party in power. This has been noticeable over the course of the past year. During the bush era anti vaccine people were typically liberal, but now conservatives are taking up the banner and liberals are quieting a bit. Vaccines are a public health issue and thus controlled somewhat by the party in power. The party not in power generally hates everything the party in power does on general principals. And 3) Over the past 50 years a number of scientifically promoted things have turned out to have harmful side effects (pesticides, fertilizers, CFCs, asbestos, leaded gas) Because of this, some people seem to believe that every scientifically promoted product must have harmful side effects.

  33. @Azorus

    While I will agree that vaccinations are a good thing, I do begin to wonder if “everything” in the needle is absolutely necessary. So where I do see your point in the article, I also understand where Oprah and others fears come from.

    Is there anything in particular about which you have concerns? Maybe someone here can answer them. You may also want to take a look at, the CDC site on vaccines or the FDA site to see if your question might be answered there, first.

  34. This totally needs to be an unofficial holiday. Activities and parties and things to raise consciousness and all, across the world. Like Darwin Day, or Blasphemy Day. I sometimes wonder if antivaxers have ever seen the pictures of smallpox victims- or how it is they think, if vaccines aren’t effective (which many claim), smallpox disappeared in the first place.

  35. @Corvus

    This totally needs to be an unofficial holiday. Activities and parties and things to raise consciousness and all, across the world. Like Darwin Day, or Blasphemy Day. I sometimes wonder if antivaxers have ever seen the pictures of smallpox victims- or how it is they think, if vaccines aren’t effective (which many claim), smallpox disappeared in the first place.

    I just got an idea for a scary Halloween costume.

  36. Abbey

    Without a doubt one of the worst things I have ever seen. That picture is simply heart-breaking and I will never understand people who feel they don’t need to protect their children from this or worse. It’s just inconceivable to me and while I know that they believe they are right, they’re just sick and selfish.

  37. karaktur

    I think I once read in either Water Environment Technology or the American Water Works Association Journal that the greatest contributor to public health was the chlorination of drinking water. I have also recently had a conversation with a contractor who builds water treatment plants that in some areas of the US, the local population often holds community meetings to protest the chlorination of their drinking water. Fluoridation is often highly protested too. It has to be an education problem

  38. Adam

    Do scared straight tactics generally work? I don’t actually know–you get similar methods used with pictures of aborted fetuses, but I don’t know how effective such methods are. I bet there is research on it somewhere. Shudder…I agree it would make a scary halloween costume though. Happy deathaversiary smallpox!

  39. J

    Vaccines are perhaps the single greatest triumph of modern medicine.

    Not only that.

    100% of vaccines are 100% safe and 100% effective!

    Take that antivaxxers! Flipping deniers.

  40. I really don’t think that McCarthy, et al care about other people’s children. If they did, they might actually be open to reason. What they care about are their self-serving crusades that serve to keep themselves in the media eye spouting pseudo-scientific nonsense that proves they don’t have any way of comprehending reality.

    Show them that picture of the child and they’ll find a way to blame science, the parents, the gods, a broken crystal, or whatever — anything but the lack of vaccination for the child who fell prey to that disease. You wouldn’t actually expect them to take responsibility for what they say or do to stop vaccinations because then they’d have to admit they were wrong — and then the lawsuits would fly. I kind of wish somebody would sue McCarthy anyway for her non-expert medical opinions. She’s an actor. And not a particularly good one. But that doesn’t make her an expert on medicine.

  41. J

    They process, in one day, the votes of the nation. That’s a big job, and they do it well.

    insert rimshot?

    Damn, some people are so gullible. It’s sad really.

  42. IndyX

    “Vaccines are perhaps the single greatest triumph of modern medicine. ”

    indeed.. but for same is just a mean to kill the next generation….

  43. IndyX

    please ignore this comment… just read a bit more about this “Dr”…..

  44. John

    Smallpox vaccine does not equal other vaccines. There’s a huge spectrum of cost, safety and efficiency.

    Though maybe this observation is out of place. Being a political and not a scientific or medical blog, anything but absolutes tend to be disregarded.

  45. John

    @40 J

    “100% of vaccines are 100% safe and 100% effective!”

    Lol I missed that, some irony at last….

  46. jack

    this is a double edged sword though. there are still samples in labs that could be stolen and used to infect thousands- even millions before we could manufacture enough vaccine to inoculate the general public.

  47. Donnie B.

    @J #40:

    Nice work demolishing that straw man. Put up one heck of a fight, didn’t it?

  48. Ian

    Yeah. This is who eople turn to for medical advice:

    NSFW (seriously) :


  49. ndt

    I do begin to wonder if “everything” in the needle is absolutely necessary

    Why do you wonder that? Do you have any evidence that any of the ingredients are harmful? Do you have any evidence that any of the ingredients are not necessary?

  50. csrster

    Nightingale is best know for her work in British Field Hospitals in the Crimea. Childbirth didn’t constitute a major part of her practice there.

  51. Ad Hominid

    I think I mentioned before that I had argued with a friend who had bought into antivax conspiracies to such an extent that he would not even get the seasonal flu vaccine. The exchange actually got pretty heated at times.
    Well, in the kind of bitter irony that would make poor fiction but which sometimes happens in real life, he is down with the flu right now. Worse, his 10 year old son has it too.
    I would really, really rather not have been proven right this time.

  52. That photo; I’ve seen faces like that. I’m old enough.

    I’ve seen polio, too, with its residual disabilities for the lucky survivors. And painful shingles, from childhood chickenpox (harmless?). And people dying of TB. Whooping cough was a bit before my time, but Dad’s brother died of it.

    I’ve had the measles, (two weeks in a darkened room, no reading, no TV, to prevent eye damage) and worried about German measles when I was pregnant.

    In my books, anti-vaxxers are criminally irresponsible. If they’re just ignorant, that is; if they should know better, they’re out-and-out criminal.

  53. mymatedave

    Amazing event in humanity’s history. Will be forwarding to friends and aquaintences who trust tabloid journalists over medical doctors.

  54. B

    Vaccines are NOT 100% effective

    The efficacy of the flu vaccine is being called into question. It may not have any effect at all.

    Health experts are even opposed to proper placebo-controlled trials. Skepticism runs both ways. We are skeptical of antivaxxers and homeopathy. We owe the same skepticism to mainstream healthcare.

  55. Brian Too

    Not just Smallpox. Living memory is dead or dying out of widespread diseases like Polio, Measles, Mumps, Rubella, Plague, Diptheria, Leprosy, Tuberculosis, and so forth. These diseases survive in pockets but are nothing like the terrors they inflicted upon past generations.

    I’ve always thought that a terrible destiny would be to survive Polio, only to have to spend a lifetime in an iron lung.

    I’m aware that not all of these diseases have vaccines and that iron lungs are an obsolete technology. My point is that even 100 years ago the average citizen would personally know someone dead or dying from these conditions. Vaccines and antibiotics were joyfully received with the certain knowledge of what the alternative was.

    Antivaxxers are like children who don’t know or don’t care that their parents have to work to keep a safe and happy home. They know nothing of the darkness awaiting if that support is withdrawn.

  56. tm

    A depressing indication of antivax’s zealotry:

    Reporter writes a story on the antivax movement, and generally finds its underpinnings scientifically nonexistent, and then:
    “What’s interesting is what happened next. A reporter for 25 years, she has gotten more mail — and endured more nasty personal attacks — than for any other story she has written (including her first-person exploration of L.A.’s worship of female breasts.)”

    Science is indeed a candle in the dark.

  57. Brian Too, #57
    “My point is that even 100 years ago the average citizen would personally know someone dead or dying from these conditions.”

    Not even 100. In my experience, around 60.

    Life was scary, back then. Especially for parents. In my mother’s generation, every family had one or more kids dead because of those common “childhood diseases”. There was no way to prevent the contagion, no medication to stop it until it had run its course.

    I have seen, in the early 1960s, chicken pox run through an entire children’s ward in the hospital; two weeks quarantine after the last case showed up, all surgery suspended, nothing to do but comfort wailing children. One of them was mine.

    I have felt the dread when my brother came down with a stiff neck and a fever. Was it polio? Would he survive? Would we catch it? (It was, he did, we didn’t. We were so fortunate!)

    People today don’t remember. Their memories go back 30, maybe 40 years, after the vaccines had worked their wonders. They grew up taking health for granted. And they didn’t get medical history in school. It’s a pity.

  58. Andrew

    Jeez Phil. Its like a bloody uphill battle for you everyday mate. You’re like a lone ranger for rationality, logic and common sense in a battleground full of looneytunes. You have my full support fella.

    My 10 month year old daughter has had all her vaccines so far, and is a picture of perfect health. Additionally, you can count on it that my wife and I (both healthcare professionals) will have the swine flu vaccine when it is readily available.

  59. fred edison

    @#56 – B

    No one is saying vaccines are 100% effective 100% of the time in 100% of the population. But I’d truly hate to see a world without them. Not pretty.

    From a ‘Facts About Swine Flu’ FAQ link in the article, the following quote starts my anti-vaxxer receptive antennas wiggling. Oh yes, they are definitely in a furious state of motion.

    “However, injected flu vaccines may contain thimerosal, a mercury-containing preservative, which many doctors believe is safe but others believe may be responsible for effects on the brain and nervous system.”

    I invite you to read the following rebuttal to the The Atlantic article you referenced and linked to.

  60. ndt

    B Says:
    October 26th, 2009 at 5:41 pm
    Vaccines are NOT 100% effective

    Nobody claims they are. Nobody claims they’re 100% safe either.

  61. Robert Hale

    StevoR @ 24 recommended Richard Preston’s book.
    The same author wrote First Light, about the 200-in Hale Telescope at Mt Palomar

    Robert Hale (no relation)

  62. @B

    Health experts are even opposed to proper placebo-controlled trials.

    Others already beat me to the punch about the Atlantic article and Orac’s dissection of it, but I wanted to add to this. A placebo-controlled trial of vaccines would be unethical. Part of human research protections is that participants should not knowingly be subjected to harm, and that efforts should be made to minimize risk. A placebo-controlled vaccine trial would necessarily be exposing the placebo group to known risks. Please do a search online for the Declaration of Helsinki and give it a read, then come back and tell us if you still think a placebo-controlled trial is okay.

    Orac and revere go into a bit more detail about this, but just wanted to make note of it here.

  63. Gary Ansorge

    One should also note that smallpox is a remarkably lethal disease, killing about 30% of Europeans presenting symptoms and nearly 98% of Native Americans(Hey, that’s the miracle of being a descendant of a smallpox survivor). . It was nearly as bad as ebola, but a heck of a lot more contagious.Most highly contagious diseases are not particularly lethal, because that kills off their reservoir(as in the critter in which they reproduce).

    I’d just like to note that the wonder drug, penicillin, had a significant allergic side effect, from swelling at the injection site to shock and death but the diseases it successfully treated were far more lethal(pneumonia, staph,etc). I expect if Jenny or her ilk were admitted to a hospital for a bacterial disease, they would demand injection with one of those anti-biotics, despite their known potential side effects(and those side effects are a hundred times more common than those from vaccinations. Additionally, treatment with anti-biotics and hospitalization are several thousand times more expensive than vaccines.)

    I like to refer to this as the Cassandra effect. When a doctor tells you “Take this vaccine. It will PREVENT a future you won’t enjoy”, they may be ignored, which makes the prediction come true. If they heeded their doctor, that future doesn’t come to pass, so how does the ordinary person react? “Hey, I didn’t get sick so my doctor doesn’t know what he’s talking about.” Snark.

    Ah, humans. They is the strangest critters,,,

    Gary 7

  64. D. C. Sessions

    Not just breaking into labs.

    The smallpox virus has been sequenced, for one. It’s quite conceivable that someone could recreate it without any stored virus at all. In fact, that possibility is one reason for destroying the remaining sample: if we really needed to, we could replace them from bits and bytes, which are much less infectious.

    Even without full-up viral synthesis, variola is only a few codons away from a common animal pathogen; that’s almost certainly its origin. Modifying that animal virus would be easier for those who don’t have the means to synthesize it from scratch.

    Considering some of the toxic insanity that prominent antivaxxers have spread in the past regarding the “essential role” that measles (for one) plays in human development, it wouldn’t take much of a mutation for them to crossbreed with the “Animal Rights” groups. The hybrid would strike a blow for species preservation by liberating smallpox to once again play its essential role in the world.

  65. What if everything you believed about vaccines was wrong? Vaccines are targeted at disease entities that have no objective existence, are without extension in time and space. Hence, diseases are a metaphysical focus for vaccine treatment. There is no there there.

    Koch was wrong. By reducing the symptom picture to the elements in common, he missed the unique qualities of each individual. Suffering is always particular. Industrial medicine is always universal. To fit the universal into the particular, the theoretical foundation has to be created ex nihilo.

    The theoretical foundation of vaccines is a mess. Epidemiological investigation is a political and industrial tool. Any symptom can be attributed to any cause so long as it fits the prerogatives of the investigating agency. And, if the symptom appears to be caused by vaccines, then the cause is almost always a coincidence.

    A change in the symptom picture is called a success for vaccines. Whereas, the death and suffering actually increases. Deaths by smallpox have been replaced by other morbidities equally conditioned by poor nutrition, lack of clean water, and lately, GMO food.

    Disabilities and death prevented by vaccines have been superseded by an epidemic of brain dysfunction, immune failure, and CNS disorders on an unprecedented scale.

    Vaccines are the modern plague.

  66. Calli Arcale

    Vaccines are targeted at disease entities that have no objective existence, are without extension in time and space.

    Then what, pray tell, is in the scanning electron micrograph at the top of this picture?

    You might have been able to make your argument sound convincing a couple of centuries ago, when germs were just a theory. Now that we’ve actually seen them and have a pretty good understanding of how they physically cause disease, you’ve got a lot more evidence to explain away.

    Vaccinating a person against polio triggers their immune system to produce antibodies which will bind to poliovirus. These antibodies physically prevent the virus from bonding to receptor sites on cells and gaining entry — one could compare it to the police putting a boot on an illegally parked car, disabling the car. We know this because it has been observed, and because the chemistry and immunology all say it will work, and because experimental evidence shows that when people are vaccinated against poliovirus, they do not develop poliomyelitis even when exposed, and mass vaccination campaigns are consistently accompanied by a dramatic decline in the number of cases (with and without comorbitities or death).

    We know what poliovirus does. We know what antibodies to polio do. We know how to trigger the immune system to produce such antibodies. We know that vaccines are effective at providing this trigger (because of trials in which volunteers received the vaccine and had their blood tested for proper seroconversion).

    You will need to find alternate explanations for all of that if you wish to be at all convincing.

    Deaths by smallpox have been replaced by other morbidities equally conditioned by poor nutrition, lack of clean water, and lately, GMO food.

    If this is true, why has the human population exploded in the last few decades? Why has life expectancy increased rather than remaining static? (Note: good food and clean water protects you from dysentery and cholera, but it doesn’t protect you from smallpox.)

  67. tm

    “Vaccines are targeted at disease entities that have no objective existence, are without extension in time and space.”

    Dang, I guess we can do away with the hand sanitizers and antimicrobial soap now, eh? I always notice how pseudoscientists like to pull vocabulary out of physics. Granted, normally a great choice (disclosure: my degree was in physics), as Rutherford obnoxiously put it: “Physics is the only true science, everything else is stamp collecting.” Sadly, antivaxxers, in the view of Rutherford (who got his Nobel in chemistry much to his chagrin) would be over in the philatelic camp.

    “without extension in time and space” indeed. Sounds rather scientific-ky doesn’t it? Has some kind of Einsteinian ring to it, no? As if diseases and the vaccines created to prevent them would be capable of travelling anywhere near the speed of light (3 x 10E10 meters per second, or really, really fast, or, if you’re doing your physics homework: c=1). But we all know what it means: Nothing. Zilch. Nada. Pseudoscience is full of these zero information phrases, and tend to pull their words from physics more than any other science. Chemists and geologists may have a few cranks, but they all pale in comparison to what physicists have to put up with. Everyone wants to be seen as the next Einstein, but not the next Pauling.

    How many quacks and contemporary snake oil peddlers base their pitches on “quantum” something or other? Or “relativistic” hoozawazit? It’s akin to the funny mish mash of “engrish”. Except we kind of understand what the poor soul who was tasked to write/tranlsate the manual for our imported gadget meant to say. We have no clue what these phonies who steal physics vocabulary are trying to say. Well, other than “trust me, it’s complicated, just buy this thing I’m selling.”

    The funny thing is that despite this appropriation of the words, pseudoscientists rarely use the true language of physics: Math. Math that makes your head hurt and requires the use of letters that are used to sell tasty Greek cuisine. Mmmm, greek food.

  68. Mark Hansen

    @Stephen Becker
    “…What if everything you believed about vaccines was wrong?…

    Apparently in your case, it is.

  69. B

    #41 said “100% of vaccines are 100% safe and 100% effective!”

    That part of my comment was addressed to him.

    As for vaccine trials. Yeah I still approve of them. We’re not exposing them to anymore risk than they would already see in their daily lives before a vaccine existed. It is not actively injecting someone with a disease.

    Maybe you could argue there is moral hazard at play and those that believe they are vaccinated are more reckless with their health precautions.

    And that rebuttal of The Atlantic article was rather long and vitriolic. I was looking for good statistics. Not a tit for tat.

  70. sn

    to be fair, jenny mccarthy and friends are not totally anti-vaccine. they are anti toxic ingredients in vaccines (like ammonia) and also advocate a different schedule for kids’ vaccinations–instead of cramming every vax into the first 24 months of a child’s life, spreading them out so it’s easier to monitor whether the child has an adverse reaction to a particular one.

    i’m for vaccines–i agree that they have saved millions of lives and are among the greatest achievements of medical science. But why has the number of required vaccinations has nearly tripled in the past 25 years? I’m 37, had the required vaccinations as a child, and grew up hale and hearty. Why do today’s kids need so many more vaxx than I did?

  71. PJ

    Yes, two thumbs up to what sn said… While I support all parents making educated choices on when (if ever) they choose to vaccinate, the anti-vax movement is creating an all-or-nothing mentality with some parents and with pro-vax supporters. All involved could benefit from a safer schedule and fewer toxins being introduced at any age. It is always healthy to question what we put in our bodies, and our children’s bodies. When did that become inappropriate? It’s all about making informed choices based upon the individual, not blindly following a generic schedule while believing that lobbyists (pro- or anti-) are keeping your family’s best interest in mind.


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