More antivax hammering

By Phil Plait | April 11, 2010 8:01 am

The antivaxxers are getting more media attention, and it’s not good for them. NPR has a story about measles being on the rise in Vancouver, and make it clear that it’s due to antivax fear-mongering. Money quote:

CDC officials are watching the Vancouver outbreak closely, as neighboring Washington state has sizable populations of vaccine refusers.

"If measles crossed the border into those populations, there’s a potential for a sizable outbreak," says Dr. Jane Seward of the CDC.

The antivaxxers are nothing if not ironic: they say they want to protect our health, and yet put it at grave risk, and the fear they monger about vaccines is the exact opposite of what we really should be afraid of: outbreaks of preventable and potentially fatal diseases.

Tip o’ the syringe to Evan Wilson for the NPR story.

MORE ABOUT: antivax, measles, NPR

Comments (50)

  1. Gary Ansorge

    I have a friend who interprets for the deaf. Most of her clients are deaf because of brain damage from measles. She remarked several years ago that the number of deaf people had been declining for several decades, because of the success of vaccine protection. As the anti-vaxers succeed in reducing immunity to measles, the number of new deaf patients WILL increase, so she, at least, should make out well, since her client base will increase.

    See how much good the anti-vaxers are doing? So many potential new clients for my friend Dawn,,,

    Gary 7

  2. Pete

    Phil, there is a recent article about the diptheria and pertussis resurgence in the former Soviet Union after the breakup. Apparently the medical system broke down at the same time, and vaccinations fell sharply, leading to a rise in infections from those diseases.

    Google provides these: http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/?p=4601#more-4601 and http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/eid/vol4no4/vitek.htm

  3. Allen

    I can’t believe the amount of people that continue to buy stock in these dangerous practices. I would say Darwinism would be going to work right now, but unfortunately, it can harm innocents who are usually protected by the herd immunity. Next flu season, I’m actually going to get a shot because I can’t trust my fellow human beings anymore with my own health.

  4. Holli

    I’m not sure they say they want to protect OUR health. They want to protect their own kids’ health. I think they could give a fig for our health. Obviously.

  5. Allen

    Obviously. Still, it just blows my mind that so many people are stupid enough to believe this stuff. I can understand if they’re religious, but these are college-educated people. They have no excuse for this huge lapse in judgment.

  6. Russell

    I live in Washington state just south of Vancouver, every year Canadians kill us with their shockingly bad driving, now they are bringing disease… I say we build a Great Wall of ‘Merica.

  7. Gary Ansorge

    5. Allen

    “these are college-educated people”

    Education doesn’t mean smart. Just having access to knowledge doesn’t mean someone will know what to do with it.

    Gary 7

    PS; Remember, if you want the degree, to “Render unto the teacher that which is the teachers but never let him know you think he’s an idiot,,,”

  8. Don’t forget: http://factsnotfantasy.com/vaccines.html

    And Todd’s antiantivax flurf page.

  9. Allen

    @7 Gary

    You make an excellent point. I used to work with a college-educated man who voted for Bush twice.

    And careful, I’m sure there’s a couple of educators roaming around here. :P

  10. I am strongly opposed to the anti-vax crowd. I have made a number of videos on my YouTube channel speaking out about them. Which of course has garnered me quite a few negative comments from the anti-vax supporters and cost me the friendship of someone I love. But I am constantly amazed at the disrespect and outright hostility to those who hold religious beliefs on this site. It appalls me. For a group espousing an open minded view of the world, you seem to be rather closed minded when religious belief is involved. You can in fact be both a theist and still maintain a science based view of the world. Faith and reason are not dichotomies, unless you choose to see them that way. Be aware of your own bias and prejudice. Disrespect for others isn’t going to win over any people to your view.

  11. Oli

    If we keep discussing and bashing them, they’ll only get more motivated to spread the rubbish…

  12. Allen

    @10 Tetsubo

    I’m of the persuasion that science and religion are mutually exclusive. Both claim domain over the same subject, namely, the universe. Where one has evidence based on it’s conclusions, the other does not. One is constantly revised when new data is presented, the other puts it’s fingers in it’s ears and shouts really loudly.

    And to me, and many others on this site, one’s religious beliefs shouldn’t be excluded from scrutiny, especially when there are people that push those beliefs on others.

    I don’t particularly believe that I’m disrespecting someone when I saw their beliefs are false, either. I have respect for people who show me respect, but when someone gets deeply offended because their beliefs are put up to scrutiny, that tells me they should not go outside.

    It’s not a prejudice, or a bias. No more than saying believing in Zeus is stupid is prejudice.

  13. Gary Ansorge

    9. Allen

    While I can count the number of GOOD teachers I’ve had in my life on one hand, that doesn’t mean those who are interested enough to peruse this blog aren’t among them. The best teacher I ever had was Dr Wolfgang Rindler (Univ. of Texas at Richardson, Tx). He managed to teach me differential equations in one pass, while my smarter,older brother had to take that course three times(from three different teachers) to get a decent grade.

    I know many people of faith who are really good people and as long as they don’t go ballistic about the disparities between the bible(Christian) and my/our evidence based approach to reality we get along just fine.

    I am a man of little faith but a great deal of curiosity. Arguments from authority do not impress me. Evidence does.

    Gary 7

  14. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    I would say Darwinism would be going to work right now,

    Not unless anti-vaxxing is correlated to inheritable traits, like low intelligence (as most traits likely partially inheritable) or inability to suppress influence of eager pattern detection on thinking (again likely partly inheritable). But we don’t know that.

    [Myself, I’m partial to denialism blog “Theory of the Crank”: cranks such as these are mostly incompetents. That is (again!) likely partially correlated to those factors above, but it isn’t a pervasive social behavior.

    Helplessness is in parts learned behavior, and likewise one has to learn how to learn. It can happen to anyone. In fact, it may be helplessness is actually more prevalent among intelligent people for a number of reasons. They can get away with it, et cetera.]

    @ 12 Allen: Hear, hear!

  15. Han

    I was pleasantly surprised to see an excellent article regarding vaccines in the most recent issue of Parents magazine. It gives a short history behind the anti-vax movement, including Wakefield, Generation Rescue, and Jenny McCarthy, then goes on to give a brief overview of the science behind the “debate”, acknowledging the risks of vaccines while touting the benefits. An article like this is such a mainstream publication does not bode well for the anti-vax crowd. Their ship is sinking, and I couldn’t be happier about it.

  16. colluvial

    10. Tetsubo Says:

    You can in fact be both a theist and still maintain a science based view of the world. Faith and reason are not dichotomies, unless you choose to see them that way. Be aware of your own bias and prejudice. Disrespect for others isn’t going to win over any people to your view.

    There are several points to address here.

    1) You can certainly maintain both a faith-based and scientific view of the world. It’s called mental compartmentalization.
    2) My estimation of religionists may be lower because of their supernatural beliefs, but that certainly doesn’t give me the right to disrespect them. However, expressing one’s opinion on ideas is an entirely different matter. Unsupportable ideas do not deserve respect.
    3) You shouldn’t imagine that every time people express their opinion they’ll feel compelled to carefully consider the marketing implications and structure it to have the maximum recruitment effect, especially in the comments of a blog.

  17. @ 12 Allen : Whether you scrutinize my faith or not is immaterial to me. It will have no effect on what I believe. What we are discussing is vaccinations however. If you want to take on my support or denial of vaccinations, that would be pertinent to the discussion at hand. But since I fully support vaccinations it isn’t going to take long. My spiritual beliefs have zero bearing on my ability to understand and support scientific thinking. If you see these two concepts as being opposed, that is your issue, not mine. Faith and reason only battle over the same territory if you view that territory as being either one or the other, science based or faith based. I see reality as a far more complex and interesting place. One not bound by binary thought. For me at least, the spiritual is just as much a part of reality as is physics. Feel free to disagree. But showing disrespect for people isn’t going to win them over to your way of thinking. It is in fact going to become a point of contention and a barrier. Which would seem to run counter to your desired goal of defeating ignorance. If we don’t find a way to live together in peace, we are unlikely to live at all.

  18. T_U_T

    One not bound by binary thought.

    So, the idea that zeus either exists or not, is false ? So he a kind of both exists and not ? Or both does not exist is not nonexistent ? Or both he exists and does not exist and does not exist, is existent and nonexistent ? Must be very interesting watching you searching for lost car keys, when they can be at one place and at the same time not be there.

  19. Ken

    @6 Russel. … Speaking as a Canadian, we would love it of such a wall existed … assuming it could keep you amurricaaans contained.

    I’m not so worried about your affect on Canada, we’re used to sleeping next to the elephant. I’m just thinking about the hundreds of thousands of innocent people you’ve intentionally killed in Iraq.

  20. jcm

    Great shot at the antivaxxers.

  21. George Martin

    Oli @ 11 says:

    If we keep discussing and bashing them, they’ll only get more motivated to spread the rubbish…

    If it were only that simple! The anti-vaxers are so full of the ignorance which they consider to be THE TRUTH, that they will continue evangelize whether people like Phil keep quiet or not.

    If people like Phil keep hammering on them, maybe Oprah will stop giving Jenny a forum. We can hope. It won’t happen any other way.

    George

  22. Mary

    I saw this quote today. It seems a fitting descripti0n of the way the anti vaxers cherry pick their information.

    “He uses statistics as a drunken man uses lamp-posts…for support rather than illumination.”

    Andrew Lang (1844-1912) Scottish poet, novelist and literary critic

  23. Daniel J. Andrews

    @6 Russell. It ain’t all Canadian drivers who are bad. You just happen to be living next to an area of the province which has some of the worse drivers in Canada. Us other Canucks make fun of these idiots here. There’s a good reason why the drivers here are worse than anywhere else in Canada, but that’d be opening up a whole can of off-topic worms (as if I’m not already off-topic).

    Southern Quebec actually gives the BC folks stiff competition for worst drivers, but at least in Quebec they know the rules of the road–they just ignore them. In BC I’m not convinced they even know the rules of the road. If you’re a pedestrian at a crosswalk make the assumption there’ll be at least one vehicle that won’t stop and will try to zoom around the stopped vehicles.

    –dan (an easterner currently in the lower mainland visiting my sis and family, and wondering if he’ll ever see the east again when he has to drive anywhere into Vancouver; and yes, my sister’s kids are fully vaccinated, but I’ll tell her about this anyway).

  24. SLC

    Re Daniel J. Andrews @ #24

    If you’re a pedestrian at a crosswalk make the assumption there’ll be at least one vehicle that won’t stop and will try to zoom around the stopped vehicles.

    Sounds like Boston. In Boston, when a driver sees a pedestrian step off a curb, he/she speeds up!

  25. Trebuchet

    To Daniel J. Andrews — In my experience (as a Washington state resident), BC drivers are great compared to the next province east. I mentioned this once to a co-worker who was a BC native and he said “That’s why they give them those yellow warning flags.” Referring to the former color of their license plates.

  26. dragonet2

    I sent Oprah a polite and well-spelled out message as to why she should not support Jenny McCarthy’s position on vaccination and it just went off into the ether.

    I suspect she believes what she is told by ‘friends’ like ms McCarthy and wont dispute them because that might cause her friend not to like her.

    That’s my take on it. She’s about as deep as a mud puddle as far as I can tell…

  27. Floyd

    I don’t understand why the antivaxers want to unnecessarily expose their children to disease. Two days ago I got a DPT shot at the VA doctor’s (this is the one the antivaxers are all scared of), and feel much better about having that shot as it had been ten years. Tetanus kills, and death from lockjaw is a painful way to go.

  28. Ramon D

    Jonas Salk would never have imagined this controversy happening in a million years…..

  29. Zubeneschmali
  30. Pi-needles

    Money quote: CDC officials are watching the Vancouver outbreak closely, as neighboring Washington state has sizable populations of vaccine refusers wingnut* anti-vax idiots.

    Fixed that for you! ;-)

    * That’s the polite substitution for the stronger descriptive word I’m not allowed to use here.

    @ 29. Ramon D Says:

    Jonas Salk would never have imagined this controversy happening in a million years…..

    In a million years it probably won’t – by then they’ll have died off & the descendents of sane folks will be around instead. ;-)

    The tragedy is the inadvertant innocent casualties the wingnuts will take with them. If we could only guarantee that just the anti-vaxxers suffer the illnesses they help … :-(

    @ 27. dragonet2:

    She’s about as deep as a mud puddle as far as I can tell…

    The depth of puddles can vary considerably – I’d say Oprah’s “as deep as a lipstick mark on a mirror” instead! ;-)

    @ 19. T_U_T Says:

    So, the idea that zeus either exists or not, is false ? So he a kind of both exists and not?

    Actually, that’s a tricky one – the idea of Zeus and many mythical and artistic impressions of him do exist but the actual god does not. So yeah, Zeus both exists and doesn’t depending on how strictly you define the word “exist” & esp. whether you say ideas or myths can be said to exist or whether existence is purely a physical, tangible thing external to people’s minds.

    Although I’m being overly pedantic here & yes I get – & agree with – your point. ;-)

  31. Aren’t dying children a big enough reason to abandon libertarianism and come out in favour of mandatory vaccinations? Or do you want to continue to play the appeasement card?

  32. Off topic: Another book review. http://barrelsofmonkey.blogspot.com/2010/03/book-review-death-from-skies.html I also sent you an email on this. I’ll let IVAN3MAN beat the dead horse for us though. :D

  33. Mike Mullen

    “Aren’t dying children a big enough reason to abandon libertarianism and come out in favour of mandatory vaccinations? Or do you want to continue to play the appeasement card?”

    Phillip if you think this blog appeases anti-vaxxers I shudder to think what would constitute an attack.

  34. @19 T_U_T: I suggest a reality where Zeus and science coexist without conflict. You can of course find conflict if you seek it. Feel free. But I prefer to not seek conflict. I am both a theist and scientifically minded. Without mental compartmentalization. Reality is greater than you seem to think it is.

    And I don’t lose my keys because I put them in the same place every time.

  35. MadScientist

    Meh. Measles kills primarily children – so What’s the Harm?

  36. truthspeaker

    18. Tetsubo Says:
    April 11th, 2010 at 2:11 pm
    @ 12 Allen : Whether you scrutinize my faith or not is immaterial to me. It will have no effect on what I believe. What we are discussing is vaccinations however.

    Then why did you bring up religion?

  37. truthspeaker

    34. Tetsubo Says:
    April 12th, 2010 at 7:00 am
    @19 T_U_T: I suggest a reality where Zeus and science coexist without conflict.

    That means there are two different explanations for the existence of lightning. How can there not be conflict?

  38. Gary Ansorge

    37. Truth,,,

    Well, in QM, Zeus CAN be in both states simultaneously,,,until we open the box and look. Funny how every time we do that, the field collapses and Zeus disappears. I wonder why reality is so damn stubborn as to insist Zeus doesn’t exist? Dad gummed liberal reality,,,

    Gary 7

  39. @Tetsubo,

    I think many here might be a bit gun-shy from religious folks who feel it is their duty to impose their religious beliefs on the world (lest they “go to hell” or something). For example, the people who keep insisting that “Intelligent Design” needs to be taught alongside Evolution in order to “teach the controversy.” (Translation: We need to push Creationism in the schools and push out Evolution.) Saying you follow a religion, unfortunately, makes people jump to the conclusion that you want to impose that religion on others.

    Personally, I do follow a religion (Judaism) but don’t feel the need to push my religious beliefs on others. I’ll talk about them if asked or if I feel it is relevant to the discussion, but I’d never be so arrogant as to try to force someone else to follow it. I certainly wouldn’t try to force my religious beliefs into a science class. I think part of that outlook is the result of encountering too many people who think that my following Judaism means they have an opportunity to “save” me by making me “accept Jesus.” (Most recent one was in a Walmart elevator!)

  40. Allen

    @36 truthspeaker

    Technically, I brought up religion. And it wasn’t just a jab at religion. There are certain religions that prohibit the use of vaccines and modern medical technologies that puts not only their child at risk, but other children as well. That is lunacy.

    @18 Tetsubo

    As I’ve said, I don’t disrespect the person, I just don’t agree with their beliefs, which is not disrespect. Most of my friends, in some way or another, are religious. Saying their belief is stupid is the same as saying Jenny McCarthy’s (former) belief about vaccinations is stupid, it’s not disrespecting the person, just the position they extoll.

  41. Calli Arcale

    Tetsubo @ 18:
    I am a Christian, and proud of it. Truthfully, I have never felt bashed here. Yes, there are those who think my beliefs are foolish, and are willing to say so. In a world of people who think different things, this is inevitable, and I think it behooves the faithful such as ourselves to get used to that. Especially if we want to visit scientific websites. Science thrives on debate, and it expects ideas to be challenged; if you can’t stand having your ideas challenged, this may not be the ideal place for you. I hope you can stay, though, because it’s a worthwhile experience. Having your ideals challenged makes you a better person, in my opinion.

    Now, on to the topic….

    It’s sad but not in the least bit surprising that outbreaks are happening. It was inevitable. Of course, it will not sway anti-vaccinationists. It will, however, be persuasive for the many on the fence. It’s just tragic that children have to suffer in order to persuade people that for this, the risk of *not* vaccinating is higher than the risk of vaccinating.

  42. Charlie Young

    You have to assume that a majority of those opposed to vaccination were vaccinated as kids. They’re not the ones they put at risk. They put their own children and others children at risk. Now that the outbreaks are cropping up again, maybe they’ll see what they are doing. They never had to endure what was commonplace before the advent of vaccines. I guess this generation of kids will get a taste of it. Very sad indeed.

  43. Greg in Austin

    Tetsubo said,

    “But I am constantly amazed at the disrespect and outright hostility to those who hold religious beliefs on this site. It appalls me. For a group espousing an open minded view of the world, you seem to be rather closed minded when religious belief is involved… Disrespect for others isn’t going to win over any people to your view.”

    Then, later, you said,

    “My spiritual beliefs have zero bearing on my ability to understand and support scientific thinking… But showing disrespect for people isn’t going to win them over to your way of thinking.”

    Who here has shown any disrespect to yours or anyone else’s religion? You are the first person to bring up religion on this topic. If your religion has no bearing on the topic of vaccines, why did you bring it up in the first place?

    8)

  44. Ross

    8. Larian LeQuella Says:
    April 11th, 2010 at 10:34 am
    Don’t forget: http://factsnotfantasy.com/vaccines.html

    And Todd’s antiantivax flurf page.

    Thanks for posting that. A friend of mine was asking about vaccines the other day, and I feel like I know enough to be of help, but he and his wife have other well-intentioned friends telling him about possible autism links, and the dangers of mercury. One of these other friends tried to say that herd immunity is not real. Any info I can get to help this couple know to keep their kids safe I appreciate.


  45. “Aren’t dying children a big enough reason to abandon libertarianism and come out in favour of mandatory vaccinations? Or do you want to continue to play the appeasement card?”

    Phillip if you think this blog appeases anti-vaxxers I shudder to think what would constitute an attack.

    Suppose it were another topic which damages people—poison in food, sexual abuse of children, whatever. Imagine that bloggers criticised the guilty, but stopped short of any sort of mandatory state-controlled action which would put a stop to their crimes. How believable would that be?

  46. truthspeaker

    Imagine that bloggers criticised the guilty, but stopped short of any sort of mandatory state-controlled action which would put a stop to their crimes

    In most states, kids going to public school are required to be vaccinated.

  47. “In most states, kids going to public school are required to be vaccinated.”

    Yes, but that’s not the case everywhere, and Phil has pointed this out on his blog, and related epidemics. Once, he mentioned that he wasn’t sure if it was a good idea to have mandatory vaccinations, citing his libertarian bent. He has since remained silent on the issue.

  48. Daniel J. Andrews

    Trebuchet @26—I’d never heard that one before. That’s great and I’ll probably think of it every time I see an Alberta plate.

    Phil…if you’re still reading, I see A Photon in the Darkness has linked to you regarding one of your posts on vaccines, referring specifically to a post by a commenter who had trouble with basic math. Worth reading.

    http://photoninthedarkness.com/?p=187

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