Taking the Plunge

By Phil Plait | April 1, 2010 7:29 am

Dylan Otto Krider wrote a nice piece about antivaxxers in the Denver magazine recently. He interviewed me for it, and I’m pleased with how it came out. Otto is one of the good guys, and one of the few in the MSM willing to take this topic on without pandering to nonsense to provide false "balance":

One of [Plait’s] latest causes has been debunking the antivax movement that he sees as dangerous. “They don’t have anything to stand on except emotions,” he says. “They play on the heartstrings, and unfortunately, people tend to listen to their emotions.”

He says the antivax movement is having an effect. “You can see it,” he says. “The number of people getting vaccines is going down.” What he finds particularly annoying is that when things change — for example, thimerosal has been largely, although not entirely, eliminated as a preservative in vaccines — antivax groups just “move the goalposts” and claim vaccines do something else.

I’m glad to see this getting more press, and I’m very glad to see the antivaxxers getting hit harder and harder. Every time their garbage is aired out, a few more kids get a chance to live a life with a lower risk for preventable diseases.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Alt-Med, Antiscience

Comments (28)

  1. Froggy

    The BBC has an article about Simon Singh today too:


    Good news all round!

    (Let’s hope it’s not an April Fools joke)

  2. Fair warning in regards to that Dylan Otto Krider character: he used to make fun of me in high school for watching Doctor Who. Other than that, he’s one of the best people I’ve ever known.

  3. well the comments on that post should be fun

  4. Michel

    Even as this is good news it depresses me.
    Can I have a nice astro post?

  5. Martin A. Lessem, J.D.

    One minor, minor thing with the article itself. The very last sentence is, “Although too young for a vaccination, she was born in an area with low vaccination rates and would not have caught the disease if not for that lack of herd immunity.”

    As a person working in a medical/pharmaceutical field, I am not a huge fan of absolute language, and feel that, especially as the article is a very good one, this last sentence should read, “Although too young for a vaccination, she was born in an area with low vaccination rates and would *likely* not have caught the disease if not for that lack of herd immunity.” (*’s used to show added word). At 4 months old there is a chance, however slim, that Dana could have caught whooping cough even if the vaccination rates were high enough to have a herd immunity in place.

    Aside from that, I really liked the article and have already shared it with many friends.

  6. It’s one of your “latest” causes. I’ve been coming here for over a year and half, and you’ve been debunking them.

  7. MD(me doctor)

    Hey Phil. Vaccines are not just for children. Can you give us the dates on when you recieved your CDC adult reccomended shots for H1N1, seasonal flu shot (s), MMR booster, Td, Pneumococcal, Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Meningococcal? What? You haven’t had yourself injected with any of these. Call my bluff Phil. Put up the evidence.

  8. Heather

    I am so sick of pesudo science and idiots(read Jenny McCarthy) discussing the *harm* of vaccinations. Thanks for this post. Now back to astronomy,:)

  9. Michel

    Good news:
    Science writer Simon Singh wins libel appeal

  10. QuietDesperation

    Can I have a nice astro post?

    Ask and ye shall receive!

    Click link to embiggen or go there or something.


    The Gum 19 nebula, where the light and dark sides of the force combine!

    Well, light and dark nebula, anyway.

    A Golden Compass reference might work better here.

  11. MD(me doctor)

    Heather, Have you gotten your H1N1, seasonal flu shot (s), MMR booster, Td, Pneumococcal, Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Meningococcal and HPV shots? You know you’re endangering the public if you haven’t, right.

  12. Vaccination Dalek
  13. Michel #5: It’s my blog, and I write about what I want to. In the sidebar is a link to why I write about politics and religion and my answer covers your complaint.

    MD(me doctor): What’s your beef/agenda here? Why assume I have not been vaccinated, and why demand I do it? You posted anonymously; why should I take you seriously and have any reason to think you’re actually a doctor?

  14. GuruOfChem

    Keep at em, Phil – all of us sane folk appreciate your work on this front, astronomical or not. Bad science, fear, and ignorance must be fought vigorously by all those capable of doing so!

  15. Richard Wolford

    Phil, I don’t think Michel was being a pain, but rather he was expressing a bit of sadness even after the winning of the appeal and was whimsically asking for a distraction.

    MD, where is the evidence that you’ve been fully vaccinated? I’ve gotten all of my shots, save for H1N1, I did the nasal on that one since they were out of the jabs. Do you have evidence that we’re all a bunch of hypocrites or are you simply projecting?

  16. jcm

    I’m glad antivax woo is being exposed.

  17. Greg in Austin

    @MD(me doctor)

    If you followed this blog at all, you would have seen Phil’s post on Sept. 17, 2009.
    Your assumptions are wrong.

    If this were my blog, I would politely tell you that my health records are none of your d*mn business.


  18. @MD

    Let’s see, for me:

    H1N1 – Got that several months ago
    seasonal flu shot – Similarly got it several months ago
    MMR booster – Check, though I can’t recall the exact date
    Td – Check, several years ago and will be getting a booster (with pertussis) in a few years
    Pneumococcal – Can’t recall exact date I got it
    Hepatitis A – Currently in the series
    Hepatitis B – Currently in the series
    Meningococcal – Check, but can’t recall the exact date
    HPV – not in the recommended population (I’m male and older than the age range for which the vaccine is recommended), as well as likely already exposed to the virus, so the vaccine would do nothing in me.

    And your point would be?

  19. RobertC

    I’m 50 years old, and my shots are current.

  20. QuietDesperation

    antivax woo

    Great name for a band. Just sayin’

    Or maybe the Woo Fighters? :-) Could do songs that speak against various forms of woo-ery.

  21. MD(me doctor)

    Phil, You ask, “Why assume I have not been vaccinated, and why demand I do it? ” Let’s see Phil, if our kids don’t get vaccinated the parents are parasites and child abusers. But it’s ok if you’re not vaccinated Phil? Hypocrasy anyone. And Greg in Austin you say, “my health records are none of your d*mn business.” But our kids vaccination records are the business of the government, schools, public health officials, etc. Oh, now I get it.

  22. MD:
    – assorted flu shots and MMR are contraindicated for me due to allergy, I’ve also had measles, mumps, and rubella. I’ve also had my immunity to mumps confirmed by blood test.
    – Td – it’s been about 15 years, although living in a northern clime where the disease is not endemic reduces the risk substantially. Should it become necessary to travel somewhere where the disease is endemic, I’ll be lining up for that shot right quick.
    – The Coccals – I probably need these shots. I will have to look into these, thank you for reminding me.
    – Hep A/B – 1999, last time I travelled to a country for which it was recommended.
    – HPV – not in the population

    What’s your business, and the business of the government or other designate agency tasked with overseeing the public health are two different things entirely. As a group, we empower those people to make it their business. As individuals, we do not empower each other so. Therefore it is, in fact, none of your damn business, but it may well be the business of the government, the schools, public health officials, and so forth.

  23. Greg in Austin

    MD(me doctor) said,

    “But our kids vaccination records are the business of the government, schools, public health officials, etc. Oh, now I get it.”

    I’m glad you get it. The people in this country voted to have a government agency in charge of public health and safety. It is indeed their business to maintain public health, and unless you are my doctor, or work for the Dept. of Health and Human Services and have a direct need for that information, my health records are none of your frakkin business.


  24. MD(me doctor) said,

    “Can you give us the dates on when you recieved your CDC adult reccomended shots for…” [list excerpted for space]

    With three exceptions (Tetanus, MMR, and Varicella), all of the shots listed on the CDC’s adult guidelines are ONLY for when “specific risk factor(s) for infection” are present. (Age itself is a risk factor, so these may become mandatory at certain age brackets.) For those remaining three, not only is Tetanus the only one which has a recurring shot requirement (MMR is twice only and Varicella is once only), but MMR & Varicella are also on the childhood immunization requirements sheet!

    So assuming that Phil is a male between age 18 and 60, non-smoker, was fully immunized as a child and lives a healthy lifestyle … he doesn’t need more than 1 immunization shot per decade, really.

    So let me repeat MD(me doctor)’s question a little more politely: Phil, do you have a guess when your next Tetanus booster is due?

    [[ Read for yourself the CDC’s guidelines at http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/recs/schedules/Adult-schedule.htm — the “Easy format” makes it clearest that these shots are almost entirely optional! ]]

  25. Gary Ansorge

    23. MD(me doctor):

    People who imply they have doctor qualifications but can’t even use a spell checker(it’s “hypocrisy” NOT “Hypocrasy” ) are hardly qualified to zing anyone, let alone a highly educated humanist like Phil Plait.

    I use my real name when posting for one simple reason; anyone who doesn’t like what I say is welcome to come to Georgia and kiss my white, hairy, fat,,,donkey,,,

    Dang! I think I’ve had too much caffeine.

    Children (with their uneducated immune systems) attending a public school are exposed to a wide variety of potentially lethal disease. THAT is why we require childhood vaccinations, to educate is to protect. The HPV vaccine is useless for adults (at least, those already sexually active, something you, who claim Dr. credentials, should know).

    About the only time most people (in the USA) get a tetanus booster is when they’ve been potentially exposed to tetanus, as was I when I stepped on a nail.

    If we ever come up with w/a cancer vaccine, I’ll likely opt for that as well. Since I’ve lived in the middle east and traveled around the world, I’ve had most of the available immunizations(not H1N1 though. I’m male and nearly 70, so have been exposed to it before).

    The objective here is to limit childhood death and disability as much as possible. As for adults(like MD), if YOU avoid these immunizations(for other than immunological disability) , stay away from me and mine. Go live in a cave.

    Gary 7

  26. Gaiainc

    Methinks the supposed MD has no clue about what immunizations are and are recommended for those above age 18 years. Since I practice family medicine in an university hospital system, have had a child, and have traveled to East Africa, I’ve gotten my fair share (more even as I am part of the 1970’s cohort that needed a MMR booster which I think I’ve had three or four times now). This list includes yearly flu, recent H1N1, yellow fever (the one I’ve disliked the most), typhoid, hep A, and hep B. Oh and a separate measles so I could work on the peds floor in residency. I’m too old and too boring for HPV. Meningococcus is not indicated for me and I’m too young without the correct diseases for pneumococcal or shingles. Got my Tdap a few years ago which means I’m getting due for Td (though I may do Tdap again as I’m not 100% sure utcwad Tdap). Thus when I say I think people who don’t immunize are idiots, I have my bonafides. In less than three weeks my child will be uptodate as well (behind in my mind as the fam doc skipped a well-child visit I usually do, but I’m trying hard not to be the doc for my kid).


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