Elizabeth Warren, Senator from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, is a liberal Democratic politician who is a darling of the American progressives. She came to the forefront while serving as a professor of Law at Harvard University, advocating for changes in financial regulation to benefit consumers.
However, this article isn’t going to be about Senator Warren’s progressive bonafides, because, this I don’t usually blog about politics, except in context of science support or denialism. And with respect to vaccines, science denialism is hallmark of the left and right, though lately it’s been some sort of lunatic rallying cry of the Libertarians, you know, those crackpots who think that there’s too much government. They want to go back to the time of dirt roads, children working when they’re 8, no rules, no regulations, and other such 1700’s thinking.
Rand Paul, Senator Warren’s colleague in the US Senate, babbled about mandatory vaccinations, saying it was an issue of freedom, despite the fact that the kids, who are usually the victims of vaccine preventable diseases, have no choice in the matter and lose their freedom to live healthy lives as a result of their ignorant parents.
Then, Senator Paul doubled-down on his lunacy by stating that vaccines cause “profound mental disorders.” Of course, real science says that they don’t. Once again, just because one has an MD (or whatever degree), doesn’t prevent them from evolving into a science denier. On the other hand, Senator Paul has no clue about the age of the earth.
On the contrary, Senator Warren is a firm, solid advocate and supporter of the need, effectiveness and safety of vaccines. And Warren is not some recent convert to the vaccine debate (it’s not a debate) just to make a vaccine denying physician Senator look bad. Back in 2013, Warren was pushing for increased research funding into new and better vaccines. Last year, she was arguing that the government shutdown would affect quick development of ebola vaccines. So, she’s no johnny-come-lately to the issue of vaccines.
Last week, there was a Senate hearing with the one of the leading experts on vaccines and immunization at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Anne Schuchat, MD (RADM, USPHS), the assistant Surgeon General, who has spent her whole career after her medical residency advocating for public health and studying immunization, infectious diseases, and respiratory diseases.
According to Dr. Schuchat, “Public service is a privilege. For me it has also been a joy.” She has given up huge salaries and glory by helping save humans from dangerous, vaccine-preventable diseases. Her expertise in vaccines intimidates me, because I couldn’t hope to know what she does in a thousand years of studying. Her knowledge far exceeds the fallacious authority figures offered up by the vaccine deniers as “proof” of whatever delusion they’re pushing this week.
But there was a moment at that Senate committee, where the entire conversation about health risks and vaccines was laid open to the essential truth. Sen. Elizabeth Warren asked Dr. Schuchat whether vaccines are safe – nine different ways:
WARREN: Is there any scientific evidence that vaccines cause autism?
WARREN: Is there any scientific evidence that vaccines cause profound mental disorders? (Note–did she just troll Rand Paul? I just spit up my coffee.)
SCHUCHAT: No, but some of the diseases we vaccinate against can.
WARREN: The diseases can, but not the vaccines. Is there any scientific evidence that vaccines have contributed to the rise in allergies or autoimmune disorders among kids?
WARREN: Are there additives or preservatives in vaccines that can be toxic to kids?
SCHUCHAT: Not in the amounts that they’re in in vaccines.
WARREN: Is there any scientific evidence that giving kids their vaccines further apart or spacing them differently is healthier for kids?
SCHUCHAT: No, it actually increases the risk period for children.
WARREN: So it adds to the danger?
WARREN: Is there any scientific evidence that kids can develop immunity to these diseases on their own, simply by eating nutritious foods or being active?
WARREN: How do the risks of a child responding negatively to a vaccination compare with the risks of skipping vaccinations and risking exposure to a deadly disease?
SCHUCHAT: Vaccines are safe and highly effective, and it’s important for parents to know that they’re the best way to protect their kids.
WARREN: So I think every parent wants to protect their children, and parents should know that all of the credible scientific evidence suggests that modern vaccines are safe, modern vaccines are effective, and modern vaccines are our best chance of protecting our children from diseases that can kill them. Is that right?
SCHUCHAT: That’s right.
WARREN: Thank you.
Every statement made by Dr. Schuchat was and is supported by a mountain of evidence. Of course, our friends at the Age of Not Caring about Autism have decided to publish their own questions using ignorance, lies, science denialism, cherry picking, appeals to authority, and general gibberish to mock Senator Warren. Compared to the questions of one of our best Senators, and the answers from one of the leading authorities, experts, and leaders in public health–both agreeing that vaccines are critical human health.
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I know that this doesn’t shut the door on this fake debate. If it did, I’d give all of my money to Senator Warren’s future campaigns (if I only were a Koch brother, but the liberal younger black sheep version).
Let me try to make this as un-snarky as I can. Dr. Schuchat is a brilliant public health specialist. Her job, her life, and her noble calling is to protect everyone in the world, including children, adults, whatever nationality, whatever class. She is a rear admiral in the US Public Health Service, a group whose whole purpose is to serve the health of the nation (with military officer salaries, not exactly a way to buy a new Ferrari). The CDC and US Public Health Service are independent from the politics of the USA, and are considered to be the finest public health officials in the world. If they thought that vaccines harmed anyone in the world, they would be the first to say “let’s look at this and see if there’s something that should be done.”
The CDC (which has a lot of US Public Health Service officers) takes years to add vaccines to the schedule. Why? Because they demand outstanding research. So the vaccine schedule authorized by the CDC is not a statement issued by a bunch of bureaucrats, but is a living document that evolves with new data. Their knowledge of science and the evidence behind vaccines is beyond reproach. When one of their officers or leaders says “vaccines are safe and highly effective,” then to contradict that, you need to bring real evidence with real science published in real journals. Inventing strawman arguments like “Big Pharma pays off the CDC” is inane and absurd. It shows ignorance of the highest level.
So, let me repeat, thanks to Senator Warren and Dr. Schuchat–VACCINES SAVES LIVES.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published in February 2015. It has been completely revised and updated to include more comprehensive information, to improve readability and to add current research.