A pox on antivaxxers

By Phil Plait | November 5, 2011 7:00 am

A couple of antivax stories hit the web in the past day or so, and both have me pretty angry, shaking my head about how people can manage to get things so wrong.

First, the antivax organization that is (Orwellianly) called the National Vaccine Information Center has paid for ads to run on in-flight Delta airline TVs. These ads give what can charitably be called misleading information about vaccines. Skepchick has the details, as does Harpocrates Speaks.

NVIC is an organization that is resolutely antivaccination, despite the overwhelming evidence that vaccines are one of the greatest medical science triumphs of all time, having saved hundreds of millions of lives. NVIC, on the other hand, is a group that likes to try to sue critics into silence while at the same time spouting statements so ridiculous they make my irony gland fear for its life.

I decided to make a short and simple tweet about the ads being run on Delta airlines:

I mean it, too. The link in the tweet goes to the Skepchick article linked above, which also links to a change.org petition, which I signed — and I rarely do such things. But Delta really needs to take those ads down. Groups like NVIC are a public health threat.

I also write about this on Google+. It got some of the usual anti-vax nonsense in the replies, but also overwhelmingly positive responses in general. With this many people involved, I’m hoping Delta takes notice.


The second bit of news is so appalling it’s difficult to overstate. On Facebook, parents belonging to an antivax group were encouraging others to send postal mail to each containing items like lollipops infected with saliva containing chicken pox.

I will give you a moment to pick your jaw up from off the floor. When you’re done, watch this:

I can hear jaws all over the world right now smashing right through the ground.

Yes, this is for real. The idea is to have what’s called a "Chicken pox party", where parents purposefully infect their kids with a disease that can put them at great health risk, because they so strongly dislike the idea of vaccinating their children. This idea all by itself is incredibly bad — once you’re infected, the virus stays with you for life, putting you at risk for shingles as an adult, and can cause severe complications to people with compromised immune systems.

I understand that a lot of parents don’t think chicken pox is that big a risk. Many of us had it as a kid, and it wasn’t much more than an inconvenience. I had it, and I remember being miserable and itching like crazy, but that was about it.

But even so, sending a known biohazard through the mail? Does this not cause alarm bells to go off in anyone’s head? And rubella? Measles? Are you kidding me? Measles can kill.

Incredible.

Again, Harpocrates Speaks has more on this, as does Tara Smith, who is a Professor of Epidemiology, and knows of what she speaks.

I just hope none of these people have mail carriers with rheumatoid arthritis or lupus, and are taking immunosuppressants.

All I can add is to say what I did on Google+ on this issue:

Once you let go of evidence-based reasoning, anything at all makes sense. Sometimes even putting your own children at grave risk.


Related posts:

Confirmed measles cases in US tops 150
Pertussis and measles are coming back
Help stop antivax ads in NYC
Bill Gates lays it on the line about vaccines

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Alt-Med, Antiscience, Piece of mind

Comments (171)

  1. Maugrim

    I have been profoundly deaf since I was about two years old. The suspected cause was chicken pox.

    Not always harmless.

  2. Scott Romanowski

    I just finished reading Dr. Paul Offit’s book “Deadly Choices” about how the anti-vaccine people endanger everyone. I highly recommend it. It’s a great source of counters to anti-vaccination misinformation and lies.

  3. Narvi

    Given this obvious example of bioterrorism, how long of a prison sentence are we looking at, and what’s the chance they’ll be convicted? I really want to know.

  4. Joel

    To use one of my favourite lines from an otherwise iffy movie: “Jesus Harold Christ on a f***ing rubber crutch!!!!!”

    Now sure, hundreds of years ago, it wasn’t uncommon for parents to try and infect their children with diseases that were less harmful in childhood, but I for one would like to think that we’ve moved on a little since those days.

    You’d think tragic stories like that of Dana McCaffrey would be enough to shut this sort of thing right off. But no. Never underestimate human stupidity.

  5. I think that page has been brought down on facebook. I can’t find it anywhere.

  6. Wzrd1

    Narvi, my thoughts exactly. Indeed, I’ll personally make it a personal mission in life to see to it that those morons are arrested, charged and convicted of bioterrorism, as they have very little chance to contain the pathogens in their mailed packages only to their packages, therefore, they present an infection risk to every member of the public who receives paper mail.
    Indeed, such lunacy is so dangerous, those who are sending such highly pathogenic items in unprotected mail should be held with the Al Qaeda prisoners at GITMO!

  7. Wzrd1

    What is funny is, college professors have been charged with bioterrorism for mailing samples of non-pathogenic bacteria, yet these lunatics get away with mailing virulent pathogens, potentially contaminating the mail of every postal customer!
    http://scienceblogs.com/aetiology/2007/10/mail_harmless_bacteria_go_to_j.php

  8. Peter B

    Joel said @ #4: “Now sure, hundreds of years ago, it wasn’t uncommon for parents to try and infect their children with diseases that were less harmful in childhood, but I for one would like to think that we’ve moved on a little since those days.”

    The process was called variolation, and it applied specifically to smallpox. Healthy children would be infected with the weaker strain of smallpox through a small external wound. This still had a 1-2% mortality rate, but it protected against both forms of smallpox, of which the worse form had about a 30% mortality rate.

    Variolation went out of fashion when vaccination with non-fatal cowpox was shown to be much safer and just as effective.

    The bizarre thing about these pox parties is that they’re intended to achieve exactly the same effect as vaccination, but do so in a less controlled way. So when anti-vaxxers complain that vaccines involve injecting foreign substances into someone, that’s exactly what they’re doing too.

    However, as my wife pointed out today, we’ll need to make an appointment for our younger son to get his 18 month old vaccinations soon. Our older son has just turned four, but had his four year old vaccinations a couple of months ago.

  9. Mike

    These people are certifiably insane.

  10. Jim Saul

    Depressingly insane.

    I wish that had gotten around before Halloween. The prospect of purposefully-infected halloween candy would have found its way onto every local newscast in the country.

    Perhaps it’s not too late… what’s the incubation period of chicken pox? One of those fruitcakes may have virus bombed their whole neighborhood. Perhaps even unintentionally… “Ummm, which bowl of candy did you use for trick-or-treat honey? We were saving the infected ones for the childhood leukemia support meeting.”

  11. Wzrd1

    @Jim Saul, #10: We’re still within the incubation window for chickenpox or measles. Perhaps a news tip to your major network affiliate and let it run wild? ;)

  12. Gary Ansorge

    European tolerance for smallpox allowed for a mere 30% mortality rate. Native Americans however, had no prior exposure and selection for smallpox resistance, so when our ancestors gave them wool blankets contaminated with the oozing from smallpox pustules, it killed nearly 90% of the tribe.

    Some of our ancestors were really nasty buzzards,,,

    I wonder how many of these parents opt for direct exposure to live, un-attenuated polio virus?

    I also wonder why Homeland Security isn’t all over these,,,terrorists,,,

    Gary 7

  13. Daffy

    Yep, Gary. As far as I know, the first example of biological warfare.

  14. Dan I.

    I have a sneaking suspicion that deliberately sending disease infected food through the mail violates some federal law or other.

    What is the difference between that and sending anthrax except a matter of degree of severity (which the law rarely recognizes in these kinds of incidents.)

  15. Gary Ansorge

    13. Daffy

    As I recall(imperfect memory warning), during the middle ages, siege armies would catapult the bodies of plague victims into a city.

    Bio-warfare has been around a long time,,,

    Gary 7

  16. Daniel J. Andrews
  17. K

    Hey, the very best way to do chicken pox is like I did. Get it with the flu. I didn’t have any itchy bumps at all! Freaky tidbit of the day.
    But yeah, I homeschool and back in the day when my tiny pig (he’s 6’1″ at 15) was little-little, sure, we ran into all sorts of homeschooling crazy people. Anti-vax is just the tip of the iceberg. Sure, they had pox parties to get each other infected. You can’t surprise me with socially unacceptable behavior anymore.
    I was like, “Denny, how COULD you not vax your kids? They’re 3 little GIRLS! Their little faces could end up scarred!”
    She went on with how her cousin was autistic from vaccines. There was no convincing her.
    But hey, if you think that’s bad, they’re also big on nursing. FOREVER. How long is too long? Well, at one outing, one of the moms was just distraught that her son was self-weaning. I know, right? To normal people that’s a wonderful thing, something to be proud of the little tyke for taking his first step to independence all by himself. By the way, her son was 12. Years, not months.
    Hey, didn’t I read that you can still get shingles even with the shot?

  18. Todd B in Denver

    My 2nd reaction was the same as Wzrd1.

    My first was, anyone giving these lollipops to kids should be subject to a child abuse investigation.

  19. Stefan Krastanov

    Just a remark on the second part of the post. (TL DR: I agree with Phil but there is something else to take into account)

    When my parents were still children (here in Europe) it was common for real doctors to suggest “chicken pox parties” to parents. There are obviously some precautions (only to children that are not with a compromised immune system and so on). The rationale was that:
    1. It’s really dangerous to get chicken pox when you are an adult (a healthy child will fight it off much better than a healthy adult) so it’s better to go trough it when you are young (because after the first time you get an immunity).
    2. It would be in a more controlled manner as the doctor and the child will be prepared.

    So when speaking against this strange idea bear in mind that it was common 40 years ago and be ready to explain why the doctors changed their methods as technology progressed and vaccines were developed.

  20. Guy P. Harrison

    Great post, Phil.

    I encourage everyone, especially parents, to read the following books so that they are informed on this important issue:

    Deadly Choices: How the Anti-Vaccine Movement Threatens Us All, by Paul A. Offit

    Autism’s False Prophets: Bad Science, Risky Medicine, and the Search for a Cure, by Paul A. Offit

    The Panic Virus: A True Story of Medicine, Science, and Fear, by Seth Mnookin

  21. Chris

    I think I’m going to start microwaving my mail now

  22. Trebuchet

    My mother actually hosted a chickenpox party when I had it. But that was over fifty years ago, there was no vaccine. It made a certain amount of sense at the time as getting “childhood diseases” was considered pretty inevitable and the parties allowed parents to control the timing of the illness, avoiding having it during the school year or while on vacation. Now that there’s a vaccine, these people are simply morons.

    My legacy from the chickenpox was a nasty case of shingles 20 or 30 years later. Ugh.

  23. pete

    It’s selfish, pure and simple – “I want my way, and who cares what harm comes to others because of it” These people are willing to risk the lives of countless others because they mistakenly believe that a disease is safer than its vaccine; they are also willing to risk others’ lives by not vaccinating their kids and allowing them to be a vector population for diseases that affect other people.

  24. noen

    Narvi said:
    Given this obvious example of bioterrorism

    Don’t be silly, it isn’t terrorism. They may be ignorant but they are not seeking to inflict terror on the general population.

    Gary Ansorge said
    so when our ancestors gave them wool blankets contaminated with the oozing from smallpox pustules, it killed nearly 90% of the tribe.

    There is no evidence that was ever carried out. The supposed “Smallpox Blankets” scheme was debunked years ago. The only supposed evidence was a few letters between a couple of British officers discussing whether they should try to spread smallpox to the Indians using blankets and no evidence that this was ever put into effect. A diary entry, truncated and taken out of context, is often used to try to support the claim.

    In an incident where Mandan Indians died after an ill advised attempt to inoculate them against smallpox it was sepsis caused by poor preservation of the serum which lead to the deaths. Ward Churchill , the noted fraud and plagiarist, tried to stir up these old genocide claims a few years back, his works didn’t hold up to scrutiny.

    Such obscure historical references such as “the goods of the guineamen” were taken to mean infected blankets and such. The goods of the Guineamen turned out to be African slaves sold to the Indians, some of these slaves were apparently carriers of small pox. Yes, Native Americans had African slaves.

    There was never an official government policy to wipe out the Indians

    I think it’s hilarious when so-called skeptics repeat myths, legends and deliberate hoaxes as if they were true just so long as those myths confirm their political presuppositions.

    Funny how that works. Kettle, meet black.

  25. josie

    I just submitted a complaint to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint center. I would guess that they have already seen this since local news stations are broadcasting reports about it. It might help, it might not. Having had chicken pox as a young adult I would not wish that on anyone. I still have nasty scars 20 years later and I have shingles to look forward to.

  26. Renee

    It is very sad that our society simultaneously allows liars to abuse the courts to silence critics and protects the liars from any punishment for their own dishonesty.

  27. Elmar_M

    retweeted your tweet right away Phil.
    Also saw the article on the pox- party thingy on gizmodo yesterday and already made a tweet about it. This is absolutely horrible!

  28. Joel

    @8 Peter B: Thanks for the more detailed information. I probably should have probably looked it up myself to be honest, rather than going off half-remembered facts.

  29. Sean

    This is terrifying.

    Not just for the children, but because adults will be handling the infected materials. I have had to care for adults with chickenpox as a health centre worker, and I can tell you that chickenpox in adulthood is a very very nasty disease indeed.

    Please notify Homeland Security; this is bioterrorism as well as a Federal offence under US Post Office rules.

    (Yes I know that I am English but that doesn’t mean I don’t know relevant US law).

  30. Mindbender

    @noen: care to revise your smallpox blanket claim?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siege_of_Fort_Pitt

  31. Greg

    Measles? These people would intentionally give measles to children? That is disgusting.

  32. Infinite123Lifer

    Wow. I wouldn’t call myself an”antivaxxer” but when weighing the risk for my child. . . I don’t even know how to set up the scale or who or what to believe. Why the autism accusations? Why do I need $ if its so damn important for community health? Why do they offer homeopathic vaccinations (or from a homeopath who states the vaccine they have is “less” dangerous)? I thought chicken pox parties were normal (evidently not). How many vaccinations should I “help” my child get (iam aware of 3 or 4 which need follow up shots every so often for x amount of time)? From the time my child is born throughout his first year of Life it was recommended that he have about 29 shots! Really 29 shots is what we were looking at. I am all for getting out of the dark ages & obviously my child’s safety is numero uno. . .the thing is as a parent, I am horribly confused about what is a healthy dose of science vs.nature & what is a harmful dose of thymerosol, mercury & pathogens. Dr’s differ so much on the subject we don’t know which one to listen to. My instincts tell me there is a fine line between antivax & extreme vaccination. Where that line is I am still searching for. I could ask questions about this all day & have & still have yet to find somebody who is reasonable enough to understand just how seriously overwhelming these decisions are. I have heard most of the basic arguments for and against vaccinations & still feel torn that I can make a good decision. After our soccer game I intend to investigate the links in this post. I don’t want to be labeled certifiably insane but more importantly I don’t want to Be certifiably insane.

  33. Lucy Kemnitzer

    I contacted Delta customer service and told them I won’t be buying any of their ticklets till they get rid of the announcements. I just got my D-TAP and flu shots yesterday, like every year — I work with tiny infants who can’t be vaccinated, so I need to stay on top of it. It pisses me off that I’d be put in the position of having to watch that.

  34. Infinite123Lifer

    Help. Parent who does not know what is best for child. I should have gone to med school to find out for myself. Our dr’s over the years have different opinions. Homeopaths offer “different” shots. Wt* is really going on It is tough to entertain something more important. We have heard I think the basic arguments for ( u don’t want your child to die or be seriously ill) and against (thymerosol & mercury are bad). But doesn’t the proper dosage & which vaccinations to get extend further to some fine line in between??? I remember when our Son was born that he was to have 29 shots within a year. 29! For a guy whom the world handed a tough hand from the get go we could not get all 29…(forever to my doom?) Seriously, why why why.

  35. Bart

    Here’s my suggestion RE the facebook group: Visit the page (search for “find pox party”), scroll down to the bottom of the left column and click “Report Page” and then report them as “violent or harmful behavior” – “credible threat of violence”. (I considered “suicide” but that’s even less accurate.)

  36. Infinite123Lifer

    (Edit)
    Forever to his/our/my doom? Seriously, when 3 Dr’s give 3 accounts & your not a Dr than who do you trust in?

    After our soccer game this morning we intend to hash this out once again, using the BA as a starting point. We appreciate the scope of your blog Phil.

    Sincerely,
    Reasonably confused parents.

  37. Laurie

    How long can chicken pox live on lollypops? Besides being absolutely disgusting, this doesn’t seem like a very effective way to transfer the illness. I personally don’t feel that chicken pox is in the same category of disease as measles or tetanus or small pox or polio. Yes, it’s absolutely miserable and it’s risky for adults who’ve never had the disease and haven’t been vaccinated, and for high risk kids, and you can get shingles as an adult which is miserable also. All good reasons to vaccinate. But the risk for healthy kids is fairly low. A lot of the comments seem to equate all vaccinated diseases at the same level. Chicken pox is nasty but it’s not small pox or polio or even measles. For most people it’s a miserable disease that’s inconvenient for working parents. And it’s risky for certain subgroups. And any adults out there who haven’t had chicken pox should get vaccinated right away.

  38. amphiox

    Yes, this is for real. The idea is to have what’s called a “Chicken pox party”, where parents purposefully infect their kids with a disease that can put them at great health risk, because they so strongly dislike the idea of vaccinating their children. This idea all by itself is incredibly bad — once you’re infected, the virus stays with you for life, putting you at risk for shingles as an adult, and can cause severe complications to people with compromised immune systems.

    I wonder if these people recognize the irony that what they’re doing here is actually a form of vaccination? Except without all the modern safeguards and safety advantages?

  39. Nick

    Pox parties used to make a little sense, before 1995 when the vaccine was released. It was safer to get chicken pox as a kid than as an adult. But now it’s tantamount to child abuse and assault.

    And what I think is the most annoying thing about anti-vaxxers is that if we did vaccinate everyone for everything for the next, maybe 10 years or so, no one would need vaccines anymore!

    But then they’ll claim any new disease was engineered just so we’d need to vaccinate for it, or something…

  40. Patricia

    I’m not sure if this is a ray of hope or not, but our local news has carried a couple of stories this week about doctors refusing to accept patients who have not been vaccinated.

    @Infinte123Lifer – check with whomever is vaccinating your child. Thimerosal has been removed from MOST vaccines administered in the US & Europe.

  41. Georgijs P

    This is unbelivable… We don’t have this problem of anti-vaxination in my homeland so i find this to be disturbing to say the least.

  42. amphiox

    Why the autism accusations?

    There is no credible link between autism and vaccines. The autism scare can pretty much be traced back to the fraudulent work of Andrew Wakefield.

    Why do I need $ if its so damn important for community health?

    That is an issue relating to your nation’s medical system, or lack thereof, and is peripheral to the question of vaccinating.

    Why do they offer homeopathic vaccinations (or from a homeopath who states the vaccine they have is “less” dangerous)?

    Because there has always been money to be made selling useless snake-oil.

    From the time my child is born throughout his first year of Life it was recommended that he have about 29 shots! Really 29 shots is what we were looking at.

    Why do you think 29 shots is so much? What’s so special about the number 29?

    Dr’s differ so much on the subject we don’t know which one to listen to.

    It would be helpful if you described how and in what details these doctor’s differed. And how it came about that you ended up getting so many different opinions. The ideal situation is always to have a single primary pediatrician following your child, from birth onwards, with whom the child and family can establish a long-standing trust-relationship with, who can answer these questions and also explain the reasons being apparently differing recommendations from other doctors.

    Here’s one example of a recommended immunization schedule. It’s broadly similar throughout the Canadian provinces. These are the core vaccinations for which it is strongly recommended that all children should have. Additional vaccines are more of a situational, individual decision based on circumstances thing.

    http://www.medicine.usask.ca/pediatrics/services/childhood-immunization-schedule-1/

  43. josie

    @ Laurie

    Not very long. I doubt there is going to be a high success rate for infection of the intended target this way. For the unsuspecting mail carriers? It’s probably a higher risk. The main point is, this is intended dissemination of a contagion. We also don’t know what other communicable critters the ‘donor’ child has. It’s stupid and dangerous all around.

  44. amphiox

    I thought chicken pox parties were normal (evidently not).

    Chicken pox has an interesting feature, in that it is, on average, a much milder disease in young children compared to adults (which is the opposite of many other diseases). As such, it actually presents a much lower risk of serious complications in a young child than in an adult.

    Thus, chicken pox parties for young children is actually a form of primitive vaccination, following the same principles of exposing someone early to a less virulent illness, that then afford protection from a more virulent illness later on. Except in this case the “attenuation” is a result of the disease’s own specific nature, and not some additional manipulation you do to the pathogen itself.

    But “milder” and “less likely to have serious complications” does not mean “no chance of complications” or “always not severe”. It’s a risk-benefit thing, and now that there actually is a safe chickenpox vaccine available, the idea of a chicken pox party can no longer be considered a tenable alternative.

  45. amphiox

    For the unsuspecting mail carriers? It’s probably a higher risk.

    And the mail carriers, being adults, are more likely to suffer more serious complications.

  46. amphiox

    We have heard I think the basic arguments for ( u don’t want your child to die or be seriously ill) and against (thymerosol & mercury are bad).

    There has actually never been any credible link between thimerosol and any bad side effects of vaccines whatsoever. Thimerosol was used as an antibacterial component to increase the shelf life of vaccines, so they could be more safely transported and stored, and so they would be safer to administer. It had the advantage over other available alternatives at the time because it did not reduce the immunological potency of the vaccine, while those other alternatives did. Thimerosol is a mercury compound (not elemental metallic mercury). Many mercury compounds are effective antimicrobials, so they are often used as preservatives and antiseptics.

    The initial decision to remove it from vaccines was a political one, in response to public panic drummed up by the autism-link liars, not a scientifically based one. At the time when thimerosol was commonly used in vaccines, it was also commonly used, at far higher concentrations, in pretty much every bog-standard over-the-counter antiseptic that you’d buy at the drug store and paint over your child’s cuts and scrapes, and there were never any safety concerns.

    Today we have replaced thimerosol with other antimicrobials, and found other solutions to get around the potential problems with reducing vaccine potency, and there is no thimerosol in most commonly used vaccines (the only exceptions I know of are some versions of the flu vaccine that are recommended for use only in children over 2 and adults).

  47. jwoodguy

    Based on this story, it appears people are taking substances from perfect strangers and giving it to their own children?! In a world of crazy, sick people, how long before some ill-intended goon sends lollipops with tuberculosis, HIV, anthrax or some other REALLY serious contagion? This is sick on so many levels. My only hope is this groups of people “Darwin” themselves out of the gene pool without taking the rest of us with them.

  48. Elmar_M

    @ Infinite123Lifer
    Homeopathy is quackery! Stay away from these crooks and dont believe a word they are saying. They are not real doctors and if they have a license it should be taken away from them!

  49. troy

    @jwoodguy:

    HIV is actually quite brittle and doesn’t last long outside of the body. (But there have been cases of people sending Other Nasties through the mail that have a much longer shelf life and maintain the prospect of environmental transmission.)

  50. PayasYouStargaze

    @Infinte123Lifer

    If you want good advice for your child then go to your local doctor. Make sure it’s a real doctor, a paediatrician, and not some homoeopathic fraudster. When it comes to medical advice, go to a qualified professional rather than the comments section of a blog.

  51. Tera

    this makes me absolutely furious… I didn’t get the vaccine when I was a kid (I got chickenpox in ’93 or ’94 and the vaccine came out in ’95) and I ended up being at risk for shingles because I had such a mild case.
    Sure enough, in 7th grade, the kids that hadn’t gotten the vaccine before started getting them, and because it was a live vaccine, I got shingles (or thats how my doctor explained it to me).
    It was excruciating. It is NOT just chickenpox 2.0, and its something I would never wish upon someone else. It’s not just ‘irritating’ or ‘miserable’, it was something that made me unable to focus on my work and start failing classes, the itching was so bad i wanted to cut my leg off, and the pills were so huge I would be at risk for choking and vomiting every time I tried to take them.
    Yeah I know I probably had a more severe than normal case, but for every one of these kids not getting the vaccine, thats another kid that could possibly end up in my situation. I cannot believe these parents are so heartless that they’re putting their kids at risk for this. Can’t people learn from others mistakes instead of having to go through it themselves?

  52. abadidea

    noen: I would say that deliberately infecting children with dangerous diseases against their will is, in fact, inflicting terror on them. Mailing diseases with intent of infection sounds like the very definition of bioterrorism to me.

    A hundred years ago, semi-controlled infections may have been the best choice available, just like bloodletting once seemed like a good idea even if it killed off the occasional George Washington. We don’t use leeches anymore. We don’t deliberately infect with live diseases anymore. It’s far more dangerous than the modern alternative and hence should be considered utterly unacceptable.

    edit: Funnily enough, I got chicken pox as a small child literally weeks before the vaccine hit the market. (Fortunately, no complications.) I remember that a few years ago it suddenly occurred to me that everyone I knew who was older than me had chicken pox, and I had never heard of a single person younger than me having it…

  53. 4littlesox

    People do stupid, dangerous sh*t to their own kids all the time. What bothers me the most about the anti-vax crowd is that they either completely fail to see, or don’t care, that they are endangering other people’s kids too. I had a friend whose one-month-old son (too young for the vaccine) caught whooping cough from an older, intentionally unvaccinated kid and he came very, very close to dying from it. Listening to an infant having to fight for each and every tiny breath is a horrific experience. He made it, but many don’t.

    There are also kids who can’t have certain vaccinations because of specific health reasons or a history of reactions, and what keeps them — and babies, and adults with immune system problems — safe is when the community around them is diligent about keeping those diseases out. Not vaccinating is not just making a stupid choice that could kill or cripple your kid for life, it’s deciding you have the right to risk everyone else’s kids too.

  54. Geoff in Oz

    It’s a constant source of amazement to us in Oz that anyone could doubt that vaccination saves lives.
    In this country, failure to complete the childhood vaccination program is considered to be evidence of Child Abuse by Neglect and parents can be prosecuted and in extreme cases, their children placed in care to ensure they are vaccinated. The parents can believe any non medical propaganda they like, but they do not have a right to overrule qualified medical opinion because some unqualified git in the USA thinks vaccination is a government mind control program or something equally ridiculous.
    As to this mercury nonsense, more psuedo science. METALLIC mercury is toxic but many mercuric compounds are excellent antibacterial agents and have been used as such for a long time.
    Remember MercuroChrome? Guess what’s in that, and it gets painted on cuts and abrasions to this day, the recipients do not succumb to heavy metal poisoning…
    It might be time for the US government to look carefully at what these nits are encouraging – free speech does not include making claims that are false with the intent of causing harm or alarm.
    (The USSC ruling on that quoted ‘yelling fire in a crowded theatre’ as going outside free speech constitutional protection, and I’d be fairly confident that could be demonstrated here.

    Vaccinate your kids. It’s their lives, not yours.

    Geoff in Oz

  55. David Wiley

    You don’t have to wait to get shingles later. My first exposure to chickenpox led to shingles in the first grade. I missed two weeks of school and still have scars. These parents are idiots.

  56. Andromeda

    My mom had always told me that she thought I had been vaccinated against chicken pox. It wasn’t until last year, at the age of 32 when I got chicken pox, that I looked it up and found out the vaccine didn’t come out until 1996. As a child I was sent to those pox parties and never got chicken pox. I figured I must have gotten a very mild case or was naturally immune (i read once that a very small percentage was. i could be wrong about that though) Anyway, it was MISERABLE. the worst though was that my youngest was only 7 months old at the time and too young to be vaccinated. He was on schedule to be vaccinated at 10 months, but it was too late. He got a horrible case of the pox. they were even inside his eyelids. Poor guy cut his first tooth at the same time so the drool was crazy. In the end he had to go on anti-biotics because those pox around his eyes and mouth got infected. My doctor told me last week at his 2yr checkup that he was the reason she decided to vaccinate her own girls for it. She is not at all anti-vax, but chicken pox being what it is and not that dangerous in small kids she thought she might skip that one but after seeing my guy she realized it was in the best interest for her kids to get the shot.

  57. Gopal

    Fly AirTran, Phil. They have some of the best domestic rates on the market and are one of the few airlines that still offer complementary drinks and snacks.

    Delta is terrible as an airline anyways. This offers even more reason not to fly with them.

  58. Jelle

    I recently read a very interesting meta-analysis that claimed/discovered there was no evidence flu-vaccinations had a benefit for normal/healthy people.

    Unfortunately the article is in dutch, but it was done by a respectable organisation.

    Not sure what to think now :S

  59. As always, the facts instead of fantasy can be found at: http://factsnotfantasy.com/vaccines.php

  60. pv

    @ Infinite123 and for all those who don’t know what homeopathy is, or are confused about it… in liquid form it is water, and in tablet form it is sugar. That’s it. It does nothing and is completely harmless if you are well or have an otherwise self-limiting ailment. If you are ill with a non-self-limiting disease, or you are suffering complications from a self-limiting condition, then doing nothing (using homeopathy) can cost you your life.
    There are no cases and even less evidence for homeopathy being a useful intervention for any medical condition. All existing credible evidence from all properly run trials and studies unequivocally points to homeopathy (aka expensive water) being of no medical use for any condition.

    Homeopathy is the 200 year old product of the imagination of Samuel Hahnemann, at a time when medical science was in its infancy and conventional practice at the time was often worse than the conditions it aimed to cure. Homeopathy contains no medically active ingredients (them having been diluted out of existence) and is the medical equivalent of doing nothing – which with many ailments is all that is needed. If you get better taking a homeopathic remedy you would have recovered just the same, but cheaper, doing nothing.

    Homeopathy is medical fraud. The people who promote it are either deluded or dishonest (they are the only options).

  61. Alan(UK)

    In the UK children are not routinely immunized against chicken pox because it is considered that it would increase the risk of shingles in older people: http://www.nhs.uk/chq/Pages/1032.aspx?CategoryID=62&SubCategoryID=63 Vaccine is available for certain special categories of people: http://www.nhs.uk/chq/Pages/1033.aspx

    Chicken pox immunization is rather curious. Normally, for other vaccines, an increasing take up causes a general reduction in the disease in the population including among those who are not immunized. In the case of chicken pox, immunization confers protection on the individual who is immunized and would tend to reduce the current endemic nature of the disease among the young. This would result in an increase in the number of adults who have not gained immunity due to having the disease in childhood. Not immunizing children is a remarkably effective way of ensuring a 90% immunity rate among adults!

    An effective immunization program against chicken pox would require a high take up among babies, finding and immunizing older children who are not already immune and finding a way of increasing the immunity of older people who are no longer being exposed to infectious children.

    These chicken pox parties are nuts. The poor children are receiving their future immunity to the disease in a far more dangerous and unpleasant way compared to vaccination. If the take up of vaccination has already reached a level where the disease is no longer endemic, then the children are being sent out to spread the disease among the unimmunized, especially among the vulnerable.

  62. DrFlimmer

    There are only 2 things that are infinite: The universe and human stupidity. But I am not so sure about the former.

    Albert Einstein

  63. Infinite123Lifer

    Yes, we totally agree PayasYouStargaze. We are not exactly seeking medical advice though, rather trying to sift through all the. . . anti-vax stuff (we just got hot with the cell phone while waiting for the rain and typed carelessly away, my bad).

    When somebody tells you that they have proof that you are going to “poison” your child while simultaneously thinking that your actually protecting them in the long run by getting vaccinations and their boosters, well, it should not be too difficult to understand what an annoyingly complex set of problems that entails for your average adults.

    We really do not know how to discern one complicated set of scientific evidence from another set or who is lying or who’s in it for the money or who actually wants to help us protect our child. We get feelings about all the above but I cant say with 99% certainty (probably not even 50%) who we should be trusting.

    The main discrepancy between the dr’s advice was:

    1. our delivery room dr (and the nurses involved with our education) recommended no shots until he was 3 months old and to “take it light” whatever the hell that meant (i think he meant to only get the most important ones…which again, whatever the hell that would come to mean)

    2. our 1st pediatrician (at birth) recommended the full spread….everything possible as an infant…i.e. the 29 for the first year of Life. (I just think 29 is a big number when we are talking Life-saving, paid for in cash shots. It is not the money…we will gladly find a way to pay to keep him playing, but we were scared that we were just being taken advantage of and possibly putting our Son’s Life in danger)

    3. we went to a different pediatrician to get a second opinion because of the discrepancy between the delivery room dr’s and nurses and our pediatrician, there we were told to get probably only the “big guys” (or most common), which were described to us as pertussis, diptheria, pnumococcal & MMR but that if we “felt weird” or were “scared” that some of the others he could “probably” go without and that that was perfectly normal which MANY people do. eh…eh…eh

    4. at the homeopath we were told to get the big guys, namely the 4 I mentioned but then we were told by them that their vaccines came from a different company than….i believe it might have been Merck, and that there were less toxic ingredients in their form of the shot.

    Ok as a parent…with perfect blood-pressure
    I felt and feel like I am going to have a heart attack.

    (thanks to all the confusion) I feel like we are one step away from :
    hoping he does not get sick. . . scared to make a move thinking it might be the wrong one and scared not to make a move.

    Maybe if we had had 2 doctors in a row that agreed it would of been less tragically problematic.

    How sad is that? But that is what is happening to a good portion of the population I think ( I meet about 50 new people every day for the last 10+ years working in the public domain).

    Damn folks. . . I would say half the jane and joe’s out there feel the same way we do; Confused. There is A LOT of confusion amongst normal hard working decent folks who just plain don’t know who to believe in, who to trust. When your child’s Life is potentially hanging in the balance and your dealing with strangers…what do we do? (well I started asking questions 8 years ago and have not stopped since.)

    We got the recommended “big guys”. And nothing more. It was what we thought; based on our understanding, what was best for him. Nothing more nothing less.

    Much appreciated amphiox. You guys all rock here. For an issue that seems to be Settled amongst professionals I find myself with that nagging leftover…

    Gov. Rick Perry as supported by Merck. Now as we understand it Merck financially supports Perry and is always pushing “to move” its vaccines. The HPV vaccine was to be administered to all young girls entering the 6th grade in the hopes of preventing cervical cancer in the future.
    Now whether Perry is doing something good by pushing this for the “wrong” reasons (IOW: vaccines should be given but he is only doing it because he is getting paid) escapes us.

    Now we got Merck, Republicans, people like Rick Perry and our child all rolled up together in one ball. Please don’t tell me. . . whats so difficult about deciding who to believe?

    It is one gigantic cluster$%*$. And that IS what it is.

    One wonders if it was more peaceful running from saber-tooth tigers and battling waterborne diseases and starvation whilst grunting around in a circle by the fire celebrating the first “club” trying to count a vote on whether to outrun the ice storms or hunker down and wait for the 30 year old elder’s Mammoth’s to show up.

  64. Tribeca Mike

    Thanks for the info and the petition link. This is really beyond the pale.

  65. My childhood bout of chicken pox was incredibly miserable. Once in awhile a child will get a terrible case and bad complications (secondary infections, dangerously high fever, nasty scars). I got some of those complications when I got sick at age 10. I was out of school for a long time, setting back my education significantly. It was a really really nasty experience, and one I cannot imagine causing to a child. How can a parent watch their feverish itching crying child break out in sores on every surface and not feel awful? This disease is preventable, those complications are preventable, that pain is preventable.

    Before the vaccine became available up to 100 children died of chicken pox in the US each year. DIED. I was lucky and survived with nothing worse than some pretty nasty scars and an allergy to an anti-biotic. But these parents are puting their own children and those they come in contact with at risk of a potentially deadly illness. Even completely healthy children like I was can have serious problems from it.

    I’m baffled by this, and was even more disgusted when I tweeted about this story and discovered a friend of mine is trying to get her 4 year old chicken pox (not through the mail). I’m sickened.

  66. Kim

    Infanite123:
    Do not trust what a homeopath or naturopath tells you. They don’t have the training and correct information. Homeopathy is a made up concept that is so full of contradictions and wrong info that if we told you all of them at once it would make your normal blood pressure go from thinking you’re going to have a heart attack to your head actually exploding.
    Go to a licensed Medical Doctor or check with your local health board.

  67. Another Eric

    I just went through a case of the Shingles this Spring, OMG was that ever painful. I can’t remember being in that much pain!!!

  68. There is a huge outbreak of measles in Quebec right now http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/story/2011/10/27/mtl-measlesoutbreak.html – effing antivaxxers are for certain responsible – Montreal appears to have lost its herd immunity

  69. scgvlmike

    Maugrim, #1: You have my sympathies. I was temporarily deaf as a child as a result of a chicken pox infection which spread through my jaw and inner ear. Tubes and various medications cleared the problem, but in the meantime I’d developed speech patterns that have stayed with me for life, and have sometimes socially handicapped me.

    The idea that someone would willingly infect their children with a disease, even knowing that chicken pox is not normally very dangerous, at least for a first infection, is mind-numbingly baffling to me.

  70. amphiox

    We don’t use leeches anymore.

    Actually, we do!

    We don’t deliberately infect with live diseases anymore.

    Attenuated vaccines can be live. And in the sense of fully virulent pathogens, there actually is some research, relatively fringe, but certainly not quackery (ie it has reasonable theoretical motivation), on its controlled usage for certain indications.

    But of course the important point is that we in both cases we are doing it in very controlled, monitored, and narrowly restricted circumstances.

  71. Stephanie

    I got chicken pox in 2nd grade from someone at school, and we had a “pox party” for my kindergarten-aged sister and two of her friends who had much-older siblings (so they didn’t get it from their sibs). The girls spent the night and got chicken pox from me. In the late ’80s, I guess it was considered safer for kids to get it young. Luckily none of us had any complications.

    But now that a vaccine is available, still doing that? Insane. Trying to infect people through tainted food? Criminally insane.

    I have a friend who has a weak immune system in general, and she has gotten shingles twice. It is nearly debilitating and she has had chronic problems with the nerves in her jaw due to it.

    Is there anything an adult that has already had chicken pox can do to avoid shingles?

  72. JustFacts

    Thanks to a FOIA request for documents, the CDC has been caught deliberately altering data to try to cover up evidence linking mercury in vaccines with autism.

    Don’t suppose this group of vaxxers would want to hear about vaccine industry lackeys and science frauds…
    http://www.naturalnews.com/034038_vaccines_autism.html

  73. Naomi

    I honestly have no idea if I’ve ever had chicken pox, actually! I went to one of those pox party things when I was about six or so (1993), but nothing ever came from it. Either I completely lucked out and didn’t get infected, or I had such a mild case that I never even realised it.

    My friend’s mother, who had never had it and was only getting it now for the first time as an adult? Was sick enough that they had considered taking her to the nearest hospital at one point.

    Okay, so it is better to get it as a kid than as an adult – your chances are better, and I can… SORT of see the idea behind pox parties. (Especially since it is actually an extremely primative, risky form of immunisation, actually!) But on the other hand, sending PATHOGENS through the MAIL? What were they smoking?! This isn’t just from one child to another – there’s a whole chain of people who have to handle that disgusting virus-laden mail between them!

    And as for Delta, I despise them anyway and wouldn’t fly with them if you paid me. So yeah.

  74. Joseph G

    @74 JustFacts: So let me get this straight – you’re linking to a site that’s known to lack credibility (Natural News) which itself simply links to another organization with a stated agenda (COMED) which claims to be correctly interpreting a study which is most likely in another language (and doing a better job of interpreting it then the CDC – the CDC mind you, not a trade organization like the AMA) and which itself is only a single study in a sea of thousands?
    I’m counting at least 5 reasons to be extremely dubious about the conclusions you’re drawing.
    Personally, I love to hear about industry lackeys and science frauds. When you come up with something, please let me know.

  75. Joseph G

    Delta sucks, but you have to admit that any airline might have been suckered by this ad. If you don’t pay attention to antivaxxer antics, you might assume that the NVIC is a reputable organization. And as Phil points out, most of what is said in the spot is fairly good advice, and the stuff that isn’t innocuous (heh) isn’t immediately recognizable as flawed unless you stop and think about it.
    I wouldn’t blame Delta for getting duped and running the ad; I’d blame them if they continue running it after the NVIC’s duplicity has been pointed out.

  76. Grand Lunar

    Never flown on Delta, and I don’t plan on it in the forseeable future.

    Now, if it was a f;ight on a Delta IV Heavy….

    As for the second piece of news, that is truly appalling.

    I say those that take part in that are guilty of child abuse.
    ‘Nuff said.

  77. DLC

    Thanks for hitting this topic Phil. it’s worth repeating that this kind of thing is not only idiotic and dangerous but may also be illegal. It’s not just dangerous because of the potential risk of complications from induced chicken pox, but the potential for something going wrong is immense.
    Consider for a moment . . . you’re asking a total stranger you met on the internet to send you contaminated items containing sputum from an allegedly affected child. OR anyone ELSE.
    anyone. You cannot know what who did to those things before packing them and mailing them to you.
    Again. I want to stress. . . This is some person you do not know, sending you something that is supposed to be contaminated. Gods Damn, how stupid is this ? Aside from the communicable disease you want, what else could be in there ? bacteria ? you really want to risk your child might get chicken pox and listeria ? or chicken pox and salmonella ? Is it sinking in yet ? I really hope so.
    why risk the horrible unknown or even a 100% chance of your child being miserable for 10 days when you can have immunization at a low cost for a ridiculously low risk of complications.

  78. Peter B

    Infinite123Lifer @ #65 said: “When somebody tells you that they have proof that you are going to “poison” your child while simultaneously thinking that your actually protecting them in the long run by getting vaccinations and their boosters, well, it should not be too difficult to understand what an annoyingly complex set of problems that entails for your average adults.”

    I imagine it would be a tricky issue, but one point worth considering is this: literally billions of people around the world have been vaccinated against various diseases. Yet the world’s population is still 7 billion. We haven’t had billions of people die from poisoning.

  79. oxo

    @31
    That’s one of the cases that has been debunked. Two blankets don’t make for a plague. The pox out of Fort Pitt was spread by many other natural vectors.

    and that, children, is why you don’t use Wikipedia as a citation.

  80. QuietDesperation

    I had everything as a kid. I don’t think I even had an immune system until I was in my 20s. Now I wander the viral landscape like a boss and hardly ever get sick, and when I do it’s really minor. I figure all the ones I has as a kid made my immune system like the Encyclopedia Galactica. There’s nothing it can’t figure out.

  81. Peter

    @Infinite123Lifer

    Almost all pediatricians in the US belong to the American Academy of Pediatrics. There are about 60,000 or so pediatricians in the US. In a very real sense the AAP speaks for US pediatricians. Pediatricians are the best source of information and guidance regarding the health of children. I know many pediatricians and it’s not just their job. Being a pediatrician and making sure “their” kids are as healthy as they can be is something that they are passionate about.

    Every pediatrician I know had all of their own children fully immunized according to the AAP’s best practices at the time.

    Speaking of best practices here is the AAP’s page about immunizations:
    http://www.aap.org/healthtopics/immunizations.cfm

    and here are their answers to the kinds of questions you are asking:
    “The Childhood Immunization Schedule: Why Is It Like That?”
    http://www.aap.org/immunization/families/faq/Vaccineschedule.pdf

    this is the current “best practice” schedule:
    http://aapredbook.aappublications.org/resources/IZSchedule0-6yrs.pdf

    Just to be clear there are 10 vaccines listed up through 12 months but the “29” number you heard is likely the number of “shots”. Many vaccines have multiple shots and they explain why this is in the “Why Is It Like That” document above.

    No pediatrician wants to give kids shots. No nurse wants to give kids shots. They give them the shots because they know that these shots save lives. If pediatricians could help kids to be healthy without giving them any shots or just a couple of shots they would be dancing in the streets with joy.

    Peter

  82. I had chicken pox in 1986, when I was a year and a half old. My cousins had it, so my mother took me over to stay with them for a couple of days so that I could get it while I was still young. She claims that it didn’t bother me at all. My father, on the other hand, says that it made me so sick that it actually scared him a bit. Now, I had all of my other vaccinations on schedule, so I’m sure if the vaccine had been available then, I would’ve gotten it rather than being infected intentionally. However, asking a stranger to send a lollipop that’s been in their infected kid’s mouth? How does anyone think this is okay? There are so many things wrong with that, I can’t even put it into words.

    For what it’s worth, I now have lupus. My immune system may not be able to keep the virus at bay, and I run a higher risk of coming down with shingles. Had I not gotten chicken pox as a toddler, I could have been vaccinated against it a few years later, and I wouldn’t have to concern myself with it now.

  83. @ 24 noen wrote:

    There was never an official government policy to wipe out the Indians

    You sir, are playing with semantics. Clearly, there was a systemic approach to the genocide practiced upon the indigenous peoples of the Americas… for 400 years!

    it’s hilarious when so-called skeptics repeat myths, legends and deliberate hoaxes as if they were true just so long as those myths confirm their political presuppositions.

    Project much?

  84. Stargazer

    My suspicion is that this and other similar organisations are not doing this out of ignorance or stupidity, but malevolence. No one can be this misinformed without ever having been corrected by the educated.

  85. jeremy greenwood

    63. alan UK.
    In the UK we do not immunise against chicken pox. I believe vaccine given in childhood tends to wear off and need boosting, whereas childhood infection does not (though it does predispose to shingles). Thus vaccinating children potentially exposes more unprotected adults to the disease, which can be extremely nasty, especially in the latter stages of pregnancy.
    Neither do we have many chicken pox parties. Over here it might not be a bad idea, but in a country with a vaccination programme I can see the potential problems.
    In effect there is a controlled trial going on here between our two countries, huge populations though poorly randomised, I hope someone follows up on it.

  86. Stargazer

    To the antiscience trolls I can only say we should have seen a noticable increase in autism in Sweden since the public vaccinations started, but we haven’t. We did see a sharp decline and soon eradication of Polio and other diseases though.

  87. Jules

    Some absurdities of the case. These people are “vaccinating” their kids, only in a more dangerous, less controlled, manner. From the pox parties where they would get together with people they presumably knew, and putting their kids in the presence of others who had the disease they were targeting, now they’ll just stick some contaminated lollipop into their kid’s mouth. From total strangers, no less. For all they know that stranger really has a rabid dog, instead of a child with chicken pox. Can you really be so paranoid, that such a clear potential risk seems less likely than some small statistical danger posed by controlled vaccination?

    Doesn’t the track record of vaccination which has all but eradicated the most deadly diseases stand on its own? I guess the problem is that public health care has had so much success during the last century that people have forgotten how things were before. Are they going to have polio parties too? I for one am happy that my child is not likely to get polio thanks to vaccination.

  88. Gary Ansorge

    31. Mindbender

    Good link however, I tend to ignore everything Noen says. He/she/it is about as accurate as a random search for nonsense,,,

    Having been born in the early 1940s, I have been exposed to all of the “childhood” diseases. Fortunately, I don’t remember being sick from them.

    As much as I hate shots, I had MY children given every immunization that was available to them. Today, they’re healthy, productive humans. A sore arm was a small price to pay for their protection.

    Gary 7

  89. Daniel J. Andrews

    @74 JustFacts, If you link to Natural News, you automatically lose the argument. Mike Adams has demonstrated many many times that he is grossly ignorant of basic biology, immunology, genetics, and pretty much most of the other fields in which he has an opinion. Repeatedly, he’ll take a latest study or news item and manage to get it wrong, badly wrong. You can verify this for yourself by 1) borrowing a biology textbook from the local library, and/or 2) Google “respectful insolence”, and then type Mike Adams into the search bar there.

    As an aside, why is it that people with monikers like TruthSeeker, TrueFacts, RealSkeptic, etc are almost invariably not interested in anything of the sort?

  90. Ken

    My parents tell me they considered exposing me to chicken pox when I was young, only because there was no vaccine at the time. I did get MMR shots, etc. Technically, I was around one kid who had it, and didn’t get it, so I might be naturally immune. But I found out there was a vaccine in my teens, got it, and now I’ll almost certainly never get chicken pox or shingles.

    For those of you who did have chicken pox, did you know there’s a vaccine for shingles now? It’s not recommended for those under 60, such as Phil at this time, but consider it as you get older.

  91. Stathis Dimopoulos

    I understand the Freedom of Speech issue. But when spreading false information shouldn’t be a mechanism to prevent such groups from spreading their nonsense ? Vaccination is one of the 10 biggest accomplishments of humanity, along with the wheel and atomic energy . What about poliomyelitis ? Do these antivaccers forget the huge wards filled with iron lungs? Pasteur must be spinning in his grave.

  92. Sean

    Phil: fly United. If you are lucky my extremely yummy friend LaShawn will be one of the flight attendants

  93. jude jones

    As someone half way through her fourth month of the hell that is Whooping Cough (bordetella pertussis) I have no tolerance for this anti-vaccine crowd and plan to lick the next parent I meet who says vaccines are dangerous. The stats on risk are so overwhelmingly miniscule compared to the exceptional contagion of some of these bugs that parents like this should really be made to HAVE one of these illnesses in adulthood (because that too is who they are putting at risk) to see how they feel about ‘risk’. My bronchi may never recover fully from the damage that still has me susceptible to violent coughing fits when the pressure in my lungs and upper naso-pharynx differs and my tubes are too inflexible to deal with it, or when I yawn or lift something or walk up a hill and wind up hacking from the momentary trauma to the expanding tissues. I’ve broken two ribs coughing as well and have fainted seven times. Or maybe I can suck on a lollipop and mail it to one of them.

  94. Joseph G

    @83 QD: Now I wander the viral landscape like a boss and hardly ever get sick, and when I do it’s really minor. I figure all the ones I has as a kid made my immune system like the Encyclopedia Galactica.

    Same here. I think my immune system is similarly pumped up.
    Unfortunately, it turns out I have hypothyroid and RA, which means my strong immune system is now chowing down on my own body. I wonder if eating all that dirt as a kid turned my immune system into the equivalent of a paranoid Cold War-era bunker dweller, convinced that the Commies are hiding behind every bush?
    In any case, if anyone comes up with a vaccine that DE-vaccinates against certain stuff (such as myself), I’ll gladly be their sex slave for life. Particularly if the discoverer is a woman. Mmmmm, cutting-edge female research scientists….
    *Homer Simpson-esque drooling spate*

  95. Joseph G

    @95 Sean : Phil: fly United. If you are lucky my extremely yummy friend LaShawn will be one of the flight attendants

    Didn’t we just have an entire discussion about what a bad idea it is to put lollipops that you get through the mail in your mouth? And now you want Phil to start tasting strange flight attendants? Who knows how many passengers have licked that very same attendant? :-P

  96. jdc

    I joined the Find A Pox Party group on Facebook in order to correct some of the misinformation being published there. I got banned by the group and all my comments were removed by the admin. They’re a cultish group.

  97. @ 82 wrote:

    That’s one of the cases that has been debunked. Two blankets don’t make for a plague.

    Citation please.

  98. sal

    If you want to know if you’ve ever been exposed to chicken pox (varicella), your doctor can easily order a blood test for a varicella titer (varicella IGG). Costs about $40US.
    The immune system “learns” in a way much different than folks “learn” arithmetic. As far as we know, giving multiple immunizations at the same time _enhances_ the effectiveness of the immunization, as one vaccine “alerts” the immune system to be “on the lookout” for other pathogens.
    The most important insight to be given about immunizations is that they don’t cause you to be perfectly immune, they drastically decrease your susceptibility. Immunizations work much like fire retardant in forest fire control. The fires can still burn (like folks can still get sick after an immunization), but they can’t spread as quickly and tend to burn out in protected areas, but in unprotected areas, they rage out of control (like big epidemics).
    p.s.- there’s more mercury in a tuna sandwich than in a flu shot. I don’t hear anybody claiming tuna or fish sticks causes autism (because it DOESN’T).

    I hear a lot of confused responses re: vaccines in the parents I associate with, and I see that confusion reflected in discussions like this. The problem, in part, comes from the fallacy of “equal time to opposing views” in our news. In peer reviewed scientific literature, there is no such thing. It’s “put up or shut up.” Editors would refuse to publish an item that was lacking in scientific merit or rigor (or, what the layperson would consider “truth”), and if even they get snookered (see the Wakefield papers), they will issue public retractions. That’s not true about CNN, Fox News, and to a lesser extent NPR, where, “if it bleeds, it leads.” The only way around this is to instill a need for editorial rigor in our news organizations by calling them to task on their message boards, or to perform due diligence and don’t believe what you see on the news if it doesn’t match established scientific principles.

  99. Joseph G

    @ Solius: To be fair, it sounds like trying to prove that a lava monster committed arson. Perhaps it actually intended to, but the odds are that it accidentally started fires before intentional arson even occurred to it.

  100. Gunnar

    Before the availability of the chickenpox vaccine, my younger sister had a neighbor who thought she was doing the other neighborhood mothers a favor by letting her chickenpox infected child outside to play with the other neighborhood kids, so they would also get chickenpox while young, and thus become immunized and avoid getting the disease later in life when it would likely be more serious.

    Consequently, my 4 year old (at the time) nephew got chickenpox with a comparatively rare complication. He seemed so lethargic and listless that my sister feared he might die. With difficulty, she managed to convince her pediatrician that there might be a life-threatening emergency and had him rushed by ambulance to a major pediatric hospital–just in time to save his life. They found that the varicella virus had infected the pericardium sac that encloses the heart, causing a build-up of fluid that greatly hindered the normal functioning of the heart. The doctor had to puncture the pericardium with a large syringe to suction out this fluid. Unfortunately, they accidentally stuck the needle in a little too deep and also punctured the heart itself, which meant they had to open him up and surgically repair the damage they had caused to the heart.

    This turned out, in a way, to be a blessing in disguise because while repairing his heart, they found adhesions they would otherwise not have found, also caused by the infection, that had to be scraped out rather than suctioned out, and which also hindered normal heart function in a potentially life-threatening way. Though they managed to save my nephew’s life, the operation left his heart permanently scarred and damaged, which eventually resulted in a fatal heart attack at the age of 12 while playing basketball with some of his friends. Thus this beautiful, intelligent and very much loved boy’s life was cut tragically short due to that neighbor’s misguided “favor” of exposing him to chickenpox.

  101. Andrew

    JustLies: ” Don’t suppose this group of vaxxers would want to hear about vaccine industry lackeys and science frauds…
    http://www.naturalnews.com/034038_vaccines_autism.html

    Notice how anti-vax posts are not censored on pro-children blogs.

    Now try to post something positive about vaccinations on a pro-disease blog like “Age of Autism” where the proprietors boast of censoring all disagreement to create a “safe environment” (http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2010/03/quoth_mark_not_a_doctor_not_a_scientist.php) , and see what happens.

    Can you explain why Phil isn’t afraid to have your posts show up here, and JB is terrified of having dissenting voices on his blog?

  102. Andrew

    JustLies:

    “Don’t suppose this group of vaxxers would want to hear about vaccine industry lackeys and science frauds…
    http://www.naturalnews.com/034038_vaccines_autism.html

    Notice how your post wasn’t censored on this pro-health blog? Notice how pro-disease blogs boast that they censor all dissent in their comments (see JB’s comment here http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2010/03/quoth_mark_not_a_doctor_not_a_scientist.php, talking about how he ‘protects’ his followers from comments that disagree with him.

    Can you figure out which group isn’t afraid of facts, and which group fears them?

  103. Mr.Fat

    Hey Andrew can you point out exactly where orac says he deletes disagreeing posts

  104. Paula Helm Murray

    I have a co-worker that I had no reason to feel badly toward (she’s smart, she’s funny, she’s raising children…) until someone mentioned flu shots and she stated, “I won’t vaccinated for anything and neither will my children. All those diseases are dead and viruses in a test tube.” Her reason? A friend’s mom got polio after her baby was vaccinated with it, long ago. (Probably MLV and Real Bad Hygiene on mom’s part….)

    I was dumbfounded. Now I just think she’s stupid and flighty.

  105. Andrew

    Sorry about the duplicate post.

  106. Maria

    *shakes head* My grandmother told me about the pox parties they had but it wasn’t along the lines of “oh the good old days.” More along the lines of “thank GOD modern medicine does some things better.”

    As to leaches (someone posted up there about modern medicine not using leaches anymore).
    Leaches are still used in very specific (and controlled!) circumstances where modern medicine just can’t beat them.

    Specifically after surgery in limb reattachment. They keep the blood circulating and prevent blood pooling. They also have a mild pain relieving function. There’s even a supplier for “medical grade” leaches. It’s kinda cool if you think about it. :D

  107. Theron

    I have had shingles. Caught it early, responded well to drugs, so by the standards of shingles, it was minor. It hurt like bejeesus. These people are nuts. I’m actually too young for the shingles vaccine — I wish to heck the FDA would hurry up and approve it for younger ages.

  108. Bruce of Canuckistan

    @63 Alan(UK)

    IMHO the UK’s decision to not vaccinate against chicken pox out of fear of an increase in adult shingles is highly unethical, as much as the crank vax-truther’s pox parties. Here is my reasoning:

    1) If you get chicken pox, later in life you are at high risk for Shingles, roughly 1/3 odds. Shingles is, as many have said above, much nastier than chicken pox itself. The pox virus never leaves your body, and can come back as you get older and attack via nerve trunks. That hurts as much as it sounds.

    2) All available evidence is that those vaccinated against pox have a much lower risk of Shingles later in life, and if they do get it, it will be far milder.

    3) Adults who had chicken pox as children apparently have a reduced risk of shingles (50% or so) if they are exposed to children with pox. The kids effectively act as human booster shots.

    4) There is also a shingles vaccine, basically just a stronger dose of the pox vaccine. This also reduces your odds of shingles by about 50%, and if you get it anyways, it should be milder.

    So from my read, here are the choices:

    A) Childhood vaccination Avoids a week of suffering or worse, and minimal risk of shingles for the child later in life.

    B) Childhood vaccination, and adult vaccination against shingles. A touch expensive on a broad scale, but reduces adult’s risk by 50% or more. Children’s risk of shingles later is minimal.

    C) Allow children to suffer through pox, have a high risk of shingles later in life, but reduce the shingles risk for the adults around them by about 50%.

    Now, is it just me, or is the UK decision just shifting the risk of shingles from adults to their children? If adults do NOT get the shingles vaccine in late adulthood, yes, the rate of shingles may go up for a few decades. However the trade off is a generation of children who will not get shingles. And isn’t it the *Adults* responsibility to protect themselves, and the state’s responsibility to protect children?

    Even in the worst case, if the adults don’t get the shingles vaccine, the net lifetime shingles load seems roughly zero-sum. And what kind of monster protects themselves against shingles by condemning their children to it?

    It seems to me the UK NHS made a decision based on cost, and cost alone.

  109. Bruce of Canuckistan

    BTW, just to be really clear: having read up on the above, it was an extremely easy decision to have my kid vaccinated against chicken pox, primarily to protect him from shingles later in life. It really seems sociopathic to do otherwise, given the option, regardless of whether I receive the shingles vaccine.

    It almost boils down to, do actually you love your child? The vax-truthers are sacrificing their children on the alter of their crank ideologies.

  110. Michelle

    I’ve had the shingles twice. It’s been well over a year and a half since the last bout, and I still suffer from post-herpetic neuralgia, which means the pain from the shingles continues after the shingles itself has subsided. For some people this pain is so severe that they even consider suicide. Unfortunately I also suffer from an auto-immune disease which contraindicts the shingles vaccine for me. It would have been far better for me to get a vaccine than the chicken pox itself, since 50 years after I got the original infection the virus is still wreaking havoc in my body! And I could still get another flareup! God help me that it doesn’t happen on my face or in my eyes.

  111. Maybe it’s time to file charges against these people. If you send your Congressman anthrax in the mail, you go to jail. File charges. You know the people don’t listen to reason.

    Also, fellow skeptics, please argue correctly. Yes, we who know approve of vaccines, but it is simply not correct to state that what these people are doing is “uncontrolled vaccination” and that if they would just realize the irony then they might be convinced. What they object to are additional substances in the vaccine and the fact that the vaccine is administered in an unnatural way. Yes, both points are rubbish, but that is what they believe, so don’t mischaracterize them by saying that they are unwittingly doing (uncontrolled) vaccinations.

  112. Jeff B.

    Yesterday’s paper had a story from the A.P.; the Tennessee Attorney General stated very clearly that what these people are doing violates the same law prohibiting transfer of more deadly pathogens like anthrax, and that people who continued would be prosecuted. He refused to say if his office was conducting an investigation.

    The CDC was also cited numerous times in the same article, but interestingly, there was no “false equivalency” through interview with any of the anti-vaxxers. Score one for the papers.

  113. Gary Ansorge

    As has been suggested by other posters, “alternative medicine” becomes real medicine when it works.

    Here’s something else which apparently works(for cancer),,,

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0tghUh4ubbg&feature=share

    Self disclosure; I have a positive bias toward cannabis,,,

    Gary 7

  114. Anonymosity

    Take a look at the US Postal Service regulations regarding Hazardous materials:
    http://pe.usps.com/Archive/PDF/DMMArchive0514/601.pdf

    The relevant section states:

    8.5 Harmful Matter—General
    Except as provided in this document, any article, composition, or material is
    nonmailable if it can kill or injure another or injure the mail or other property. Harmful
    matter includes, but is not limited to:
    a. All types and classes of poisons, including controlled substances.
    b. All poisonous animals except scorpions mailed for medical research purposes
    or for the manufacture of antivenom; all poisonous insects; all poisonous
    reptiles; and all types of snakes, turtles, and spiders.
    c. All disease germs or scabs.
    d. All explosives, flammable material, infernal machines, and mechanical,
    chemical, or other devices or compositions that may ignite or explode.

    At a minimum, are they labelling the envelopes as “HAZMAT”?

    Sounds like a felony mis-use of the postal service to me.

  115. Nigel Depledge

    K (17) said:

    But hey, if you think that’s bad, they’re also big on nursing. FOREVER. How long is too long? Well, at one outing, one of the moms was just distraught that her son was self-weaning. I know, right? To normal people that’s a wonderful thing, something to be proud of the little tyke for taking his first step to independence all by himself. By the way, her son was 12. Years, not months.

    Current WHO recommendation is to breastfeed for a minimum of 2 years, which also happens to be the global average. From 6 months onwards, solids may be introduced (but, apparently, children younger than 6 months are unable to digest solid food).

    From what I heave read, children lose the ability to suckle at around 8 years old, but maybe this is the average of quite a broad range and that 12-year old is an outlier.

  116. Ryan H

    I won’t fly on Delta just out of general principle – they are leading the charge on finding ways to screw customers these days, and I consider them an evil company – but I can’t believe they’d be so blatantly irresponsible. Well, actually I can, I just don’t want to believe it.

  117. Nigel Depledge

    Noen (24) said:

    There is no evidence that was ever carried out. The supposed “Smallpox Blankets” scheme was debunked years ago. The only supposed evidence was a few letters between a couple of British officers discussing whether they should try to spread smallpox to the Indians using blankets and no evidence that this was ever put into effect. A diary entry, truncated and taken out of context, is often used to try to support the claim.

    Yeah, from what I understand, many native Americans were wiped out by syphilis, not smallpox. And (IIUC) the syphilis was spread in the usual way, not in any deliberately underhanded scheme.

  118. Blargh

    Nigel:

    Yeah, from what I understand, many native Americans were wiped out by syphilis, not smallpox. And (IIUC) the syphilis was spread in the usual way, not in any deliberately underhanded scheme.

    That sounds… off. The best guess to the origins of syphilis places it as endemic to the Americas and only spread to Europe with the return of Columbus’s expedition.

  119. “Current WHO recommendation is to breastfeed for a minimum of 2 years, which also happens to be the global average.”

    Indeed. In a country in which it is difficult to nurse in public, this might seem strange, but it is more or less the norm in the rest of the world. However, this is vastly different from the anti-vaxxers since the only people affected by long breastfeeding are the mother and the child (no-one else), and they are not negatively affected.

  120. Andrew

    Mr. Fat:

    Orac doesn’t delete dissenting posts; JB Handley does – see JB’s comment (#137) in the thread I cited.

  121. Daffy

    #118 “Yeah, from what I understand, many native Americans were wiped out by syphilis, not smallpox. And (IIUC) the syphilis was spread in the usual way, not in any deliberately underhanded scheme”

    Oh, well, that’s OK then.

  122. Nigel Depledge

    Infinite123Lifer (35) said:

    Help. Parent who does not know what is best for child. I should have gone to med school to find out for myself. Our dr’s over the years have different opinions.

    Yes, as the understanding of medical science has evolved, I guess the advice given by physicians would have changed.

    Homeopaths offer “different” shots.

    Yeah, you could call them different. They contain no actual vaccine.

    Wt* is really going on

    Modern vaccines are as safe as pretty much anything else. Do you ever take paracetamol / acetaminophen / tylenol (same stuff, different names – chemically, it is para-acetamidoyl phenol) for a headache? Modern vaccines are (approximately) that safe.

    It is tough to entertain something more important. We have heard I think the basic arguments for ( u don’t want your child to die or be seriously ill) and against (thymerosol & mercury are bad).

    The basic arguments “against” are lies. To the best of my knowledge, vaccines never contained elemental mercury, and thimerosol has pretty much been phased out over the last 20 – 30 years. Not that it was ever particularly dangerous in the first place, as it is a pretty small dose of a substance that gets metabolised into ethyl mercury (not the far more hazardous methyl mercury, which is what the antivax scaremongering seems to assume).

    But doesn’t the proper dosage & which vaccinations to get extend further to some fine line in between???

    I don’t quite understand what you’re asking here.

    I remember when our Son was born that he was to have 29 shots within a year. 29! For a guy whom the world handed a tough hand from the get go we could not get all 29…(forever to my doom?) Seriously, why why why.

    To protect him from many communicable diseases against which we had only recently developed effective vaccines. Interestingly, my 6-month-old son has had about 6 or 7 shots so far (some of which were combined vaccines such as MMR) – maybe the 29 shots recommended for your son was all individual vaccines?

  123. Patrick Thomas

    Your vaccinated kids are bio-weapons, shedding their live viruses all over my unvaccinated kids.

    Here’s info direct from the label of Rota Teq Rotavirus vaccine: http://www.merck.com/product/usa/pi_circulars/r/rotateq/rotateq_pi.pdf

    RotaTeq is a live, oral pentavalent vaccine that contains 5 live reassortant rotaviruses. In phase 3 studies, shedding was observed as early as 1 day and as late as 15 days after a dose. Caution is advised when considering whether to administer RotaTeq to individuals with immunodeficient close contacts such as: • Individuals with malignancies or who are otherwise immunocompromised; or Individuals receiving immunosuppressive therapy. Can potentially be transmitted to persons who have contact with the vaccine. The potential risk of transmission of vaccine virus should be weighed against the risk of acquiring and transmitting natural rotavirus.

  124. When I was a kid, pre Varicella vaccine, when one of our neighbors had Chicken Pox, my mom made sure to arrange a play date to facilitate exposure. I remember her telling me as a kid, its better you get it now than as an adult. That was about minimizing risk pre-vaccine as it is typically safer to get it as a child. With the advent of the vaccine, its nothing more than reckless. And depending on how it is packed, they could be endangering postal workers. Disturbing if true.

  125. Patrick Thomas

    Why do they keep saying it’s illegal to ship these types of things when most of the major governments are doing it through FedEx, etc?

    FedEx Truck Carrying Microbes Crashes In Winnipeg

    http://www.rense.com/general63/microb.htm

    ‎”The truck was carrying five packages to the Canadian Science Centre for Human and Animal Health, the federal virology lab downtown. The packages contained samples of anthrax, E. coli, salmonella, tuberculosis, influenza and a sexually transmitted disease. Officials with the lab say the microbes were not in forms that could be lethal.” – – – – – –

    (Hahahaha, “not in forms that could be lethal”……………TRUST US – WE ARE THE “EXPERTS”)

  126. Nigel Depledge

    Blargh (122) said:

    That sounds… off. The best guess to the origins of syphilis places it as endemic to the Americas and only spread to Europe with the return of Columbus’s expedition.

    Interesting. What’s your source for this?

    IIUC, syphilis was widespread in Europe for a very long time. And Columbus’s expeditions never made landfall in continental North America.

  127. Robin

    Well, instead of wandering the viral landscape like a boss, many like me wander the viral landscape with severely handicapped immune systems because of transplants, illness, or other processes….or because of youth which can put people at risk of infection and subsequent death from said infection….would like to thank the anti-vaxxers, pox-partiers, and turds of the same ilk for putting some of our kind at a much greater risk of death. Do you really think that disease you’re choosing to spread is innocuous? Well, you had better think again, especially when your decision can affect more than you and your family.

  128. Patrick Thomas

    .

    Hey, you all think these pox parties and lollipops are bad (although no one has died or will die) – check out this mainstream news story that just came out of PBS:

    “Reused and repackaged vaccine syringes cause an estimated 1.3 million deaths and 21.7 million new Hepatitis B infections ANNUALLY !!(PBS)”

    http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/2011/11/self-destructing-syringes-force-safer-injection-practices.html

    Excerpts:

    About 40 percent of all injections are given with unsterilized, reused syringes and needles, reports the World Health Organization. An estimated 1.3 million deaths — and 21.7 million new Hepatitis B infections — occur each year as a result of the unsafe practice.

    Regular disposable syringes can also make their way back into the marketplace after being used. People will take syringes from a health clinic’s trash, wash them and repackage them for resale. “You can find in a market a perfectly well packed syringe, then you look closely and you can still see some blood in the syringe from the last person,” he said.

    An investigation in India in 2009, reported in the Lancet, found warehouses filled with syringes and needles recovered by waste-pickers and repackaged to be sold on the black market.

    .

  129. Patrick Thomas

    .

    Think pox shipping and pox parties are bad? Well who gave the vaccine-makers the RIGHT to turn-on and turn-off our genes?

    Out of The New Scientist:

    (Excerpt): “vaccine trials now use microarrays of DNA sequences to track which genes get turned on or off in response to a vaccine.”

    http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn20877-vaccines-enjoy-a-healthy-return.html?DCMP=OTC-rss&nsref=online-news

    .

  130. I think the leeches represents a good lesson in why we need Medical science.

    Now some might say, “Oh, the old wisdom was right!”

    Except it wasn’t. See, what they believed back in Washington and Jane Austen’s day was that disease came from the imbalance of humors, namely blood, phlegm, bile, and black bile. So, remedies often meant bleeding patients, making them barf, giving them laxatives, and making them cough stuff up. This was one reason that delusional systems like Homeopathy popped up, because physicians in those dark ages were quacks in comparison to ours.

    Leeches were part of that, literally brought in to make the patient less “sanguine”. (terms like Melancholy, phlegmatic, choleric come from this legacy of bad medicine.)

    In the middle ages and Renaissance, they had all kinds of magical ideas about how the world worked. Even Newton himself, whose laws of motion are considered the epitome of hard science had a consuming interest in alchemy.

    Gradually, and by good fortune, we moved on from such ideas. We started experimenting and noting differences in results between when we did one thing and another. Today’s use of leeches is a result of such testing. They didn’t rely on the authority of some philosopher from ancient Greece, or some other authority of the dusty tome, they examined the effectiveness of the treatment in a narrow, focused way, and avoided excessive generalizations.

    The problem with anti-vaxxers is that they have become too reliant on what you might call social authority, a distant cousin to the academic dependence on the old authorities in the natural sciences. Somebody’s made a bunch of fallacious, but aesthetically compelling arguments, and people are reacting out of fear and paranoia, the paranoia helping to close people off from those who might convince them otherwise.

    They need to realize that compelling ideas, ideas that sound right, can be wrong. People can imagine more and different things about a given phenomena than what actually exist. Science is about creating synchrony between what we imagine are the causes and underlying principles of the natural world, and what is actually the case.

  131. Bob in Easton

    I had Chicken pox in 1958 and my best friends Mom brought him over to play with me so he would get it as well….and he did. I remember being sick with it and how much it sucked. My Grandmother gave me milk baths to help with itching. I have a couple of scars on my face 55 years later. The biggest drawback to getting the Chicken Pox as a child is it makes getting the shingles later in life a real possibility.

    http://www.nfid.org/pdf/factsheets/varicellaadult.pdf

  132. BT

    @Patrick Thomas

    It’s legal only under very specific conditions. Proper permits are required (which I doubt a single one of these parents would actually be able to get for this purpose), proper packaging must be used, proper handling procedures followed, etc.

    Here’s the excerpt from the Canadian FedEx terms of service:

    “(g) Blood, urine and other liquid diagnostic specimens
    containing infectious substances are considered
    dangerous goods and must be accompanied by
    appropriate documentation (See “Dangerous Goods”).
    IATA and Canadian Transportation of Dangerous Goods
    regulations apply. Note: Regulated infectious substances
    must not be shipped in a FedEx® Clinical Pak. Instead, use
    the FedEx® UN 3373 Pak for Biological Substance,
    Category B (UN 3373) shipments. You may use the FedEx
    Clinical Pak as an overwrap only for noninfectious blood,
    urine and clinical samples packed to specific FedEx
    standards (See “Packaging and Marking”).”

  133. PayasYouStargaze

    @127 Patrick Thomas

    Your unvaccinated kids are bio-weapons, shedding their live viruses all over my vaccinated kids.

  134. truthspeaker

    Infinite123Lifer, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is a good, reliable source of information.

  135. Kim

    @ Patrick “Why do they keep saying it’s illegal to ship these types of things when most of the major governments are doing it through FedEx, etc?”

    Because they know how to label it (note how they knew exactly what was in it) and to package properly so even though the truck carrying it was in an accident the package wasn’t damaged and there wasn’t a woory that anything was released.

    Note, it is legal to ship all sorts of hazardous materials (chemicals, radioactive material, live animals, etc.) but you have to do it in a legal and safe manner. The problem with these people mailing potentially hazardous materials is that they aren’t following the law in the labeling and packaging. Therefore, it is illegal to do what they are doing.

  136. RobT

    I always laugh, sadly, when I hear people ask why they need the Flu shot or that they never get sick from it or that it is harmful. I ask them if they know how many people die each year from the flu? When I tell them that the flu is directly or partly responsible for more than 70, 000 deaths in North America each year they almost don’t believe me. I tell them to research it. Most people have trouble believing that number because of the comparably small number that died from SARS yet that was seen as such a huge problem and got so much attention from the press. I wish they would cover the flu deaths each fall to urge people to get vaccinations.

    As for chicken pox – I never had it as a child despite my sister having it. Instead, I got it as an adult, at 29, and it was terrible. The sores and itching only lasted a couple of days and didn’t bother me much but the after effects were so much worse.

    I was off work for 2 weeks – I had absolutely no energy and slept 12 hours a night with a 2 – 3 hour nap in the afternoon. Even after the 2 weeks when I returned to work I was on light duty and only worked 6 hour days. I would not wish anyone to go through that so why would parents willingly infect their children?

  137. Patrick Thomas

    .

    Oh yes, the “proper” labeling, packaging, shipping, licensing, and manufacture of enormously dangerous bio-weapons/pathogens makes me SO much more comfortable. Just leave it to the “experts”. They have it all under control – JUST like they did in Fukushima. (That nuke plant was properly licensed, etc.)

    Just wait until we have a major natural or man-made disaster (accidental or planned) which releases the pathogens at numerous bio-weapons labs.

    Here’s a search link to a now-removed article from the New Scientist publication:

    ” Plague of bioweapons accidents afflicts the US

    http://www.newscientist.com/search?doSearch=true&query=Plague+of+bioweapons+accidents+afflicts+the+US+

    A growing biodefence industry employing thousands, and a culture of denial in accident reporting are putting the public at risk, say campaigners

    Debora MacKenzie 05 July 2007

    ——————————————————–

    Here’s a re-posting of that article at a different link:

    http://www.informationliberation.com/?id=22821

    .

  138. Calli Arcale

    noen:

    There was never an official government policy to wipe out the Indians

    Actually, there was, but it was via more direct means (i.e. killing them personally). To my shame, one of my ancestors was involved; he was awarded land grants for his effectiveness in removing Indians from land desired by the crown. (This over a century before the revolution.) Granted, their goal was more extirpation than extermination (Indians could live as long as they lived somewhere else), but they did manage to wipe out entire tribes.

    Laurie:

    Chicken pox is nasty but it’s not small pox or polio or even measles.

    No, which is why those other diseases got vaccines first. Go for the worst threats first. We’ve traditionally taken chicken pox lightly, but read the first comment in this thread; it’s from somebody who is deaf because of it. It can also blind, and it can develop into encephalitis, same as measles. Shingles can even be lethal (either directly or by driving a person to suicide; the pain can be quite intense). It’s true most cases won’t be lethal — but unfortunately, you can’t tell ahead of time which yours will be.

    Patrick Thomas:

    “Reused and repackaged vaccine syringes cause an estimated 1.3 million deaths and 21.7 million new Hepatitis B infections ANNUALLY !!(PBS)”

    Yes, this is a major problem in many parts of the world, particularly areas with large areas with poor infrastructure and/or widespread poverty. Sometimes clinics have no good alternative; it’s generally advised to try not to get sick or seriously injured in these parts of the world, although there aren’t good ways of ensuring that. India is a particularly troublesome area for that sort of thing, due to their unique combination of poverty and population density.

  139. Patrick Thomas

    .

    Oh, and why is it “legal” for vaccinated military fathers to come home and infect their kids and wives with smallpox?

    From Reuters:

    Toddler survives smallpox vaccine reaction:

    http://www.reuters.com/article/2007/05/18/us-smallpox-boy-idUSN1744524120070518

    Excerpt:

    (Reuters) – A two-year-old boy who developed a serious reaction to his father’s smallpox vaccination has recovered but disease detectives found infectious virus all over his house, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported on Thursday.

    The Indiana toddler developed a rare rash known as eczema vaccinatum after playing with his father, a soldier vaccinated for deployment in Iraq, reported Dr. John Marcinak of the University of Chicago and CDC experts.

    ———————————————————————————————–

    Woman ill after sex with vaccinated man

    http://www.upi.com/Health_News/2010/07/01/Woman-ill-after-sex-with-vaccinated-man/UPI-64061278038484/

    Excerpt:

    ATLANTA, July 1 (UPI) — A woman who had sex with a member of the U.S. military vaccinated against smallpox subsequently contracted a related virus, health officials say.

    .

  140. Drunk Vegan

    Anyone else see the South Park episode where their parents infect them all with chicken pox? When the children find out about it, and hear that it’s a form of herpes, they hire a prostitute who has herpes to infect the parents’ personal belongings like toothbrushes, etc. with herpes.. I think these parents deserve the same sort of karma.

  141. Chris

    Patrick Thomas:

    Oh, and why is it “legal” for vaccinated military fathers to come home and infect their kids and wives with smallpox?

    It is usually because they did not follow the post vaccination instructions. They were not supposed to remove the bandage. There is a more cogent commentary on the 11 July 2010 “This Week in Virology” podcast #90 that is titled “Guano Happens.”

    And they were not infected with variola (smallpox), but with vaccinia. A different disease that is milder but related, it is actually a version of cow pox.

    The real point of the story is mailing infectious agents in the mail, and the fact that the lollipops could infect the children with other diseases.

  142. Infinite123Lifer

    Wow. Deciphering information is one thing when your searching for the trajectory of an asteroid or wondering about tidal forces. But researching how to protect my child sure creates an anxiety driven desperation which I have never known before.

  143. Peter B

    Infinite123Lifer @ #147: Consider this: smallpox has been eradicated. Polio has been nearly eradicated. The number of people dying of measles fell to *only* 165,000 in 2008, but this was only a fifth of what it had been ten years earlier. The reason? Vaccination.

    Some people claim that these events occurred because of things like improved hygiene. If that’s so, how is it that some diseases have been eradicated or nearly so, while others still kill tens of thousands?

  144. Patrick Thomas

    Sorry, but smallpox, polio, measles, diphtheria, etc, were NOT eradicated by the vaccines. In the case with smallpox, the vaccine made the situation worse. Here are two history books and another link to show those who actually are students of uncensored, non-book-burned history the truth of the matter:

    “Proof That Vaccines Didn’t Save Us”
    http://genesgreenbook.com/content/proof-vaccines-didnt-save-us

    “THE POISONED NEEDLE
    Suppressed Facts About Vaccination”
    By Eleanor McBean 1957
    http://www.whale.to/a/mcbean.html#CHAPTER%20II

    “HORRORS OF VACCINATION EXPOSED AND ILLUSTRATED”
    BY CHAS. M. HIGGINS 1920
    http://www.whale.to/vaccine/higgins_b.html

    “The Age of Polio: How an Old Virus and New Toxins Triggered a Man-Made Epidemic”
    http://www.ageofautism.com/mark_blaxill/

    “The polio vaccine: a critical assessment of its arcane history, efficacy,
    and long-term health-related consequences”
    Neil Z. Miller
    http://www.thinktwice.com/Polio.pdf

    “Polio: The Virus and The Vaccine”
    Author:Janine Roberts
    http://reducetheburden.org/?p=2778

  145. Nigel Depledge

    @ Patrick Thomas (132) –

    Assuming that report is accurate (it says it was reported in The Lancet, but your excerpt had no reference), we’d all better avoid going to India for our vaccinations.

    Oh, wait, that’s not exactly going to be difficult. So, how is this relevant to the antivax movement in the US, Australia and the UK?

  146. Nigel Depledge

    Patrick Thomas (133) said:

    Think pox shipping and pox parties are bad? Well who gave the vaccine-makers the RIGHT to turn-on and turn-off our genes?

    Out of The New Scientist:

    (Excerpt): “vaccine trials now use microarrays of DNA sequences to track which genes get turned on or off in response to a vaccine.”

    Erm, we all did.

    You should ask instead, who gave food manufacturers the right to turn our genes on and off (gene expression can be altered by diet)?

    Or, who gave power station operators the right to turn our genes on and off (gene expression alters in response to the presence of pollutants in the air)?

    Or, who gave farmers the right to turn out genes on and off (gene expression alters in response to pollutants in the water we drink)?

    Etc.

    Have you ever yelled at a total stranger? Who gave you the right to turn that person’s genes on or off? (Yes, gene expression alters in response to emotional stress).

    At least they are trying to understand how people’s bodies respond to vaccines, now that the technology is available to do so.

  147. Nigel Depledge

    Patrick Thomas (144) said:

    Oh, and why is it “legal” for vaccinated military fathers to come home and infect their kids and wives with smallpox?

    From Reuters:

    Toddler survives smallpox vaccine reaction:

    reuters.com/article/2007/05/18/us-smallpox-boy-idUSN1744524120070518

    Excerpt:

    (Reuters) – A two-year-old boy who developed a serious reaction to his father’s smallpox vaccination has recovered but disease detectives found infectious virus all over his house, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported on Thursday.

    The Indiana toddler developed a rare rash known as eczema vaccinatum after playing with his father, a soldier vaccinated for deployment in Iraq, reported Dr. John Marcinak of the University of Chicago and CDC experts.

    I do not consider Reuters to be a reliable source of data.

    Who, for example, is Dr Marcinak? What is his area of expertise, and how relevant is it?

    Who are the “CDC experts”?

    Have you ever heard of the term “due diligence”? It certainly seems that the Reuters agency has not. Before you go posting sensationalistic headlines on a science blog, maybe you could do a little background research to find out if what you’re posting is actually right. Did you ever think of doing that?

  148. Nigel Depledge

    Patrick Thomas (141) said:

    Oh yes, the “proper” labeling, packaging, shipping, licensing, and manufacture of enormously dangerous bio-weapons/pathogens makes me SO much more comfortable.

    Actually, you should distinguish between a bioweapon and a pathogen. Pathogen samples are sent between labs routinely for a variety of perfectly valid reasons, and it is possible to do this in such a way that it is safer than crossing a street.

    Bioweapons are a different kettle of fish altogether, being banned by the Geneva Convention.

    AFAICT, no western nation is developing any bioweapons (although many of them are working or have been working on countermeasures). If you have evidence to the contrary, please do share it.

    Just leave it to the “experts”. They have it all under control – JUST like they did in Fukushima. (That nuke plant was properly licensed, etc.)

    Yes, but they weren’t trying to send Fukushima through the mail were they?

    As it turns out, the operators of Fukushima were inadequately prepared for the earthquake and tsunami – but was anyone expecting them to be ready for a magnitude 9 earthquake and the ensuing 30-metre tsunami? It’s all too easy to be critical with hindsight. Were you concerned about the ability of nuclear power stations to withstand earthquakes and tsunamis on the same day before the 11th of March? If not, you can shut the hell up about it.

    Just wait until we have a major natural or man-made disaster (accidental or planned) which releases the pathogens at numerous bio-weapons labs.

    Here’s a search link to a now-removed article from the New Scientist publication:

    ” Plague of bioweapons accidents afflicts the US

    [URL omitted]

    If I recall from reading those articles in the print edition at the time, they all arose through people failing to follow the correct procedures. There is no indication that the procedures themselves are inadequate, just that the compliance to those procedures is inadequate.

    Also, (again, IIRC, because it was roughly a couple of years ago that those articles came out) although those accidents involved pathogens that might be used as bioweapons, they were not actually “weaponised” forms of the pathogens.

  149. SkyGazer

    I´m so hopping mad that I can´t even type a decent repsonse.
    I hate antivaxers.

  150. PayasYouStargaze

    @149 Patrick Thomas

    Sorry, but smallpox, polio, measles, diphtheria, etc, were NOT eradicated by the vaccines.

    Eh? Smallpox was eradicated. It took 5 seconds of googling to find that it was declared eradicated in 1979. Without vaccines this would not have been possible.

    Sidenote: It’s interesting that one of your sources is a paper from 1920. You might want to look up something that is not almost a century old. Another from 1957.

  151. Patrick Thomas

    You all are so awash in lies and deception that I cannot keep up.

    I am in shock that I read someone above saying that we should ignore a book from 1920 because it’s “almost a century old” and also ignore one from 1957.

    That has to take-the-cake for the most ignorant statement I’ve ever seen in my entire life.

  152. Nigel Depledge

    Patrick Thomas (149) said:

    Sorry, but smallpox, polio, measles, diphtheria, etc, were NOT eradicated by the vaccines.

    As has been pointed out, this is wrong.

    Smallpox has indeed been eradicated and the eradication was achieved by vaccination. This is a matter of recorded history.

    In fact, about 20 years ago there was a debate about whether or not we humans had the right to render smallpox extinct by destroying the last frozen research samples.

    In the case with smallpox, the vaccine made the situation worse.

    This is just so, so wrong.

    First, smallpox vaccine was originally based on cowpox (I don’t know what the more modern ones were based on, because I can’t be bothered to look it up, but maybe you could do some of your own legwork for a change), and the effects of smallpox were always either death or disfigurement, so it’s hard to envisage any vaccine making things worse. Cowpox was always temporary (which is why milkmaids were so reputedly pretty – they caught cowpox from milking the cows, which cleared up as they developed immunity to it, and this immunity protected them from the closely-related smallpox, which meant they never got pox-scarred).

    Second, smallpox is extremely virulent – i.e. very easily transmissible and almost always causes disease (so you don’t get asymptomatic carriers as you might with some viruses).

    Third, smallpox symptoms show up very quickly after infection, which makes it easy to target vaccination to the right areas. Some infections only show up symptoms in the later stages, and the host is almost always infectious for some time before they even know they have an infection. Flu is like this – by the time you get symptoms, you’ve almost finished being infectious.

    Here are two history books and another link to show those who actually are students of uncensored, non-book-burned history the truth of the matter:

    Yeah, that’s uncensored fiction, mate.

    If you’d rather believe that than the evidence, you go ahead. Just keep it to yourself.

  153. Nigel Depledge

    Patrick Thomas (156) said:

    You all are so awash in lies and deception that I cannot keep up.

    Projection much?

    You have yet to support any of your claims with any evidence at all.

    Links to websites where people try to sell me stuff is not evidence.

    Also, who the hell are you that to be calling me a liar? I have a PhD in biochemistry and spent three years working in a Virology department funded by the UK’s Medical Research Council, so, although I’m not an expert virologist, I have an understanding of the relevant basics. And the most pertinent fact is that vaccines work, and have repeatedly been proven to do so.

    I am in shock that I read someone above saying that we should ignore a book from 1920 because it’s “almost a century old” and also ignore one from 1957.

    Why does this shock you?

    Does the invention of television shock you?

    Does the invention of the electronic computer shock you?

    Why are you shocked that vaccine technology has also moved on, to the extent that books published in 1920 and 1957 are no longer relevant?

    That has to take-the-cake for the most ignorant statement I’ve ever seen in my entire life.

    No, it makes sense, when you consider the fact that technology (including vaccine technology) changes.

    What is ignorant is every single comment you have made claiming that vaccines do the opposite of what they are supposed to do.

  154. Nigel Depledge

    @ Patrick Thomas –

    I just noticed that one of your linkys in #149 is to ageofautism. What makes you think that linking to a website published by known liars supports your case? Is it just because they say the same stuff as you do?

    If so, why do you think that having more poeple say the same thing adds weight to your argument? This is akin to the logical fallacy known as argument from authority, and it fails for two reasons. First, it demands that both sides of the argument recognise the authority, and, second, it demands that said authority be right every time. And yet even the most authoritative sources have famously been wrong about some stuff (for example: Linus Pauling believed that high doses of vitamin C protected against cancer; Einstein refused to accept an expanding universe or quantum mechanics; and Newton was a believer in alchemy).

    Whether your argument is right or not hinges solely on the evidence, not on how many other people say the same thing. And evidence means the reasults of controlled experiments (in the case of a medical intervention, these must be randomised controlled double-blind trials to be valid, and must for preference include many thousands of patients to lend the result statistical power), not a bunch of random anecdotes. Most of the antivax “arguments” rest either on made-up “factoids” (such as the claimed presence of thimerosol in vaccines that never actually contained thimerosol) or on logical fallacies (such as, commonly, the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy, in which a causal link is assumed from a temporal association when the data support no such link).

    And all the evidence that I have seen indicates that vaccines do work in most people, and that the claims made by the antivax crowd are a crock of bovine faecal matter.

  155. Buzz Parsec

    Patrick Thomas @ 149: your first link is to a summary of highly deceptive “research” credited to Raymond Obomsawin, who’s fundamental intellectual dishonesty has been thoroughly disclosed by Orac.

    Then you go on to cite whale.to and AoA. Really, is that the extent of your knowledge? If your misinformation wasn’t so dangerous, it would be laughable.

  156. Infinite123Lifer

    For Nigel 126:

    “Yes, as the understanding of medical science has evolved, I guess the advice given by physicians would have changed”

    I was talking about the first 2 years(my bad) of his Life in which not much had changed but since 2003 I would agree weve come along way. Perhaps everyday somewhere “we come a long way” :) agreed.
    _________________
    “Modern vaccines are as safe as pretty much anything else. Do you ever take paracetamol / acetaminophen / tylenol (same stuff, different names – chemically, it is para-acetamidoyl phenol) for a headache? Modern vaccines are (approximately) that safe.”

    Nigel. Tylenol is not as safe as a vaccine? A vaccine has certain POTENTIALS for rare cases of people becoming seriously ill…example, a person gets a chicken pox vaccine and they come down with chickenpox. example, there have been bad batches of vaccines.
    Yes there have probably been bad batches of tylenol as well and some people might react badly to it; the analogy you have made Iam guessing does not realistically weigh these 2 vastly different medical wonders.

    We would have to look at the number of vaccinations gone awry and the amount of tylenol cases gone awry. I am also Guessing :( that tylenol has long since been a solid well understood drug both in its mechanisms and in its side effects for much longer than vaccines.

    As was mentioned vaccinations because of good science has/is improves with time. How long has it been since Tylenol improved?

    Long term…20-50 year “herd” studies of vaccines also leave room for questioning.

    Iam just saying I think we know more about tylenol as a safe drug than vaccinations.

    After all, they ask a lot of questions when getting vaccinated. Tylenol is basically inflammatory candy, among its other uses. Vaccinations are very complicated immune system territory where tylenol is probably a bit different. But i could be wrong.
    (as is my understanding). I think you might of just understated it a bit :/

    Perhaps flying in airplanes is as safe as vaccinations. :)
    So your saying taking tylenol is as dangerous as getting vaccines? that they are both not on a whole dangerouso. Which makes sense but to be….picky I don’t think it is a good comparison.
    ________________
    But doesn’t the proper dosage & which vaccinations to get extend further to some fine line in between???
    “I don’t quite understand what you’re asking here.”

    What I meant was although there is a national recommendation our Dr for instance did not think TB or Hep B shots were imperative for an infant although the federal recommendation was for ALL shots. I was thinking based on my child’s medical history that a full spectrum of shots might not be exactly what the Dr orders. Somewhere in between for each individual.
    __________
    “To protect him from many communicable diseases against which we had only recently developed effective vaccines. Interestingly, my 6-month-old son has had about 6 or 7 shots so far (some of which were combined vaccines such as MMR) – maybe the 29 shots recommended for your son was all individual vaccines?”

    There were I think 5 shots, then 3 shots, then with all the boosters it came to about 29 in the first year or two. It was 8 years ago so iam a little rusty but 29 is the flabberghasting number that his mom and I remember.

    _______________

    Looks like you have got your hands full here though :) Whats new ah dude? No rest for the wicked.

    post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy. temporal association. I ve always been way out of my league around these parts. But I am still at home. Forever forward.

    I asked for a TB vaccine at my dr today. He said “well typically we don’t give those around here…it is basically not something to worry about.” I was surprised.

  157. Nigel Depledge

    Infinite123Lifer (160) said:

    Nigel. Tylenol is not as safe as a vaccine? A vaccine has certain POTENTIALS for rare cases of people becoming seriously ill…example, a person gets a chicken pox vaccine and they come down with chickenpox. example, there have been bad batches of vaccines.
    Yes there have probably been bad batches of tylenol as well and some people might react badly to it; the analogy you have made Iam guessing does not realistically weigh these 2 vastly different medical wonders.

    Yeah, I was being very approximate.

    My point really was that pretty nearly all the antivax crowd would not think twice before taking a painkiller for a headache, but they’re making a huge fuss about something that is actually safer (paracetamol overdose is, apparently, a very very nasty way to die).

  158. Nigel Depledge

    Infinite123Lifer (160) said:

    As was mentioned vaccinations because of good science has/is improves with time. How long has it been since Tylenol improved?

    Probably it has not.

    Long term…20-50 year “herd” studies of vaccines also leave room for questioning.

    I’m not sure I agree. We can be certain that the incidence of many communicable diseases has declined dramatically since the introduction of widespread vaccination against each of those diseases.

    For example, I don’t know anyone who has had polio, but it was common enough in my parents’ generation that most kids at that time knew or knew of someone who had had polio.

    Iam just saying I think we know more about tylenol as a safe drug than vaccinations.

    Well, it’s not so much that we know it is a safe drug as that the side effects are very well characterised, which is slightly different.

    But there are several different basic types of vaccine (for instance, killed pathogen, attenuated pathogen, pathogen surface protein), with different potentials for side effects and more potential for patient-to-patient variation. Paracetamol is a small molecule that behaves in a relatively predictable way in most people.

    After all, they ask a lot of questions when getting vaccinated. Tylenol is basically inflammatory candy, among its other uses.

    Heh. It’s nowhere near as good an anti-inflammatory as aspirin or ibuprofen. Paracetamol’s main mode of action is as a peripheral painkiller. Yet all of these NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) act through the inhibition of prostaglandin biosynthesis.

    Vaccinations are very complicated immune system territory where tylenol is probably a bit different. But i could be wrong.

    Well, you are right insofar as paracetamol is a small molecule and vaccines act through long-term activation of the immune system, but the two are aimed at achieving very different effects.

  159. Nigel Depledge

    Infinite123Lifer (160) said:

    No rest for the wicked.

    Not even the extremely wicked. ;-)

  160. Blargh

    I am also Guessing :( that tylenol has long since been a solid well understood drug both in its mechanisms and in its side effects for much longer than vaccines.

    Actually, paracetamol/acetaminophen’s mechanism of action is rather poorly understood. :)

  161. Chris

    Buzz Parsec:

    Then you go on to cite whale.to and AoA. Really, is that the extent of your knowledge? If your misinformation wasn’t so dangerous, it would be laughable.

    You might like this link: photoninthedarkness DOT com/?p=241

    Also, Infinite123Lifer, tylenol/paracetamol/acetaminophen is also toxic. The lethal dose is surprisingly small. Some of the saddest medical blog entries I have read are from emergency room personnel who have dealt with teenagers that have committed suicide by taking too much paracetamol/acetaminophen.

  162. Buzz Parsec

    Thanks, Chris @166! :-)

  163. Kate

    Argh, this makes me so angry!!! I think every parent considering not vaccinating there kid should be burned with hot pokers and stuck with needles to simulate the pain of Shingles. I had the chicken pox along with my siblings when I was a kid, and I’ve now had Shingles twice once when I was 17 and once when I was 24. The extra stress of exam times during December lowered my immune system enough for me to get it, both times at Christmas. I got them on my back, and spent two weeks lying on my stomach, crying in pain, trying to move as little as possible. I know have scarring and residual nerve damage so I still get twinges of pain. For any parent to willingly expose their children to this smacks of child abuse, and I think all countries should adopt laws similar to Australia’s.

  164. Ukmum

    In the uk we don’t vaccinate our children against Chicken Pox! No idea why not. My daughter caught it naturally at around 5 years old (shes now 8). I’m completely FOR vaccinations but confused now, given how strong your fears are about this disease in the US. Here’s what our National Health System offers. http://www.nhs.uk/Planners/vaccinations/Pages/Vaccinationchecklist.aspx

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