Institute of Medicine Slams Anti-Vaxxers, Again

By Chris Mooney | August 26, 2011 9:53 am

A new report is out from the Institute of Medicine, a branch of the National Academy of Sciences, on vaccine safety. In the voluminous report, the committee of course does not find that every vaccine is perfectly safe for all time–there are certainly some risks. But it once again rejects the claim that the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine causes autism–the evidence, the committee said, was more than adequate to reject this causal assertion.

You can read the report for free here. The New York Times report, titled “Vaccine Cleared Again as Autism Culprit,” is here.

Please note: Anti-vaxxers will not change their minds based on this major scientific consensus report. They will argue back and challenge its conclusions.

So it goes.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Motivated Reasoning, vaccination

Comments (9)

  1. Gaythia

    In my opinion, your comment above just shows how much perpetuating this vaxx/antivaxx jousting matters, to both people such as yourself and the antivaxxers.

    The point of the report is to reach everyday people who need to make decisions regarding vaccinations for themselves and their families. Effective communication strategies for reaching these people do not involve repeatedly highlighting the views of extremists.

  2. davenoon

    Actually, the point of the report is to offer some updated guidance to the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, so that genuine adverse events — the rare types described in the report — can be distinguished from those not supported by the evidence. True, it should also provide physicians and other health care providers with some additional tools for discussing vaccine concerns with patients. But it’s one of our great generational misfortunes that the “extremists” have had such a mainstream impact that we’re now seeing outbreaks of diseases like measles that were effectively eradicated in the US ten years ago — there’s simply no way to have a conversation about vaccine safety without directly engaging the fallacious arguments circulated by groups like SafeMinds and Age of Autism.

  3. Miles B.

    RE: “Effective communication strategies for reaching these people do not involve repeatedly highlighting the views of extremists.”

    1. OK. Care to describe an effective comm strategy? Because that’s been a problem for all of time. Robert Heinlein said “Never try teaching a pig to sing. It wastes your time and annoys the pig.”

    2. But highlighting extremists is FUN!

  4. Gaythia

    @2 For new parents, vaccine information is heard as if for the first time. This does mean that pediatrician’s offices will probably always need to have procedures for educating new patients about issues long settled. Given payment and time limitations, maybe this could be done with a nurse practitioner in the lead role. Part of the problem, I think, is, that for first time parents, the pediatrician himself/herself and the office in general are new. After lots and lots of contact with the OB/Gyn office, suddenly a switch is made. Perhaps this lack of continuity could be addressed.

    There have been great strides made already by public health groups willing to ignore the antivaxx battles and implement new and innovative programs. For Pertussis (whooping cough) for example, CA and TX are making progress with emphasis on providing a “cocoon of safety” around a newborn infant. Adults may have never been immunized, or may have lost immunity. This recognizes that parents and other caretakers are the ones in direct contact with these infants, not the kid down the street. Where necessary, some parents are immunized at the hospital at the time of delivery. In similar fashion, programs have been devised for HepB that specifically target communities where Hepatitis B at birth is a high risk matter.

    At the policy level, in my opinion, we are lacking adequate intelligent conversations and program development regarding which vaccines are developed, their availability, how they are distributed and what should be required when.

    I don’t think that any of this has to do with teaching “the pig to sing”. I believe that the pig itself can be ignored and instead, outreach efforts should be directed at the public at large. Your #2 is an issue, and what I was getting at in my first comment. Can science bloggers live happily ever after without anti-vaxxers to joust with?

  5. Gaythia

    My @ was directed at Miles B, which was @ #2 when I attempted to post it.

    With regards to davenoon’s comment: In the early period, when vaccines are first introduced, there is a difficult to navigate time in which special attention is paid to adverse effects, and yet early reports may not be substantiated as significant once more data is in. All the more reason that effective tools for discussions between health care providers and patients be developed.

    In my opinion, the issues raised by extreme anti-vaxx activists only need to be addressed at the secondary level, with actual patients, and with mainstream media, who should understand what they should be covering. That is different than giving a platform to the antivaxxers themselves by jousting with them directly.

  6. AdamS

    @6 So a bunch of anti-vaxers dismiss any criticism by claiming the critic is ‘In the pocket of Bug Pharma!’ (whoever they are). It’s hardly a new argument and is no more convincing than Scientologists claiming all of their critics are closet murderers.

  7. AdamS

    Apologies that should have been “Big Pharma”.

  8. Andrew

    @7: It’s even more hilariously stupid than that. They claim that the critic is in the pocket of “big pharma,” but they post a link to their accusations on the critic’s blog. Apparently, they have implicit trust that big pharma shills are all devoted to free speech and would never delete a comment that was critical. E


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About Chris Mooney

Chris is a science and political journalist and commentator and the author of three books, including the New York Times bestselling The Republican War on Science--dubbed "a landmark in contemporary political reporting" by and a "well-researched, closely argued and amply referenced indictment of the right wing's assault on science and scientists" by Scientific American--Storm World, and Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future, co-authored by Sheril Kirshenbaum. They also write "The Intersection" blog together for Discover blogs. For a longer bio and contact information, see here.


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