Pseudoscience about the MMR vaccine pervades all corners of the internet. Many of us have spent years (I have been doing it for nearly two decades) debunking the ridiculous myth that the MMR vaccine causes autism. Now we have a radical anti-vaccine religious group claiming that the MMR vaccine causes seizures, based on an opinion (not scientific evidence) from a renowned anti-vaccine activist.
The organization making this ridiculous claim is Physicians for Informed Consent, a California-based anti-vaccine group, that makes absurd claims that either vastly overstate the risks of vaccines, or vastly understate the benefits of vaccines. And they do this without a stitch of scientific evidence, meaning that their value in the discussions about vaccines approaches zero.
There are a bunch of anti-vaccine groups out there who invent legitimate sounding names in an attempt to appear to be rational, positive organizations. They’re mostly neither rational nor positive. A new one (at least for me) is a group called the “Physicians for Informed Consent,” whose “vision is to live in a society free of mandatory vaccination laws.”
Although there are individuals who are pro-vaccine but are opposed to mandatory vaccination, mostly on a politically libertarian point of view, almost all of these groups, especially in California, are specifically anti-vaccine. In fact, “informed consent” is one of those veiled code-words used by the anti-vaccine world, especially in the fight against SB277, California’s recently enacted law that removes personal belief exemptions to vaccinations for school age children.
Several people have asked me whether having school mandates is in tension with the idea of vaccine informed consent . The answer is no. While school mandates have some effect on parental autonomy, the doctrine of informed consent should not be conflated with autonomy.
Other than California, only West Virginia and Mississippi have such strict prohibitions on these PBEs that they are effectively not allowed as a method to refuse vaccines before a child enters school. But many other states are considering vaccine legislation that could improve vaccine uptake. Unfortunately, there are also states on the other side of the equation that are considering laws that reduce restrictions on personal belief exemptions.
I thought we would could take a look at current vaccine legislation being considered by various states that could potentially increase vaccine uptake in those states. Then we’ll take a look at those states pushing legislation that might decrease vaccine uptake. This should provide real information about what’s going on with these laws, instead of the alternative facts from the vaccine deniers at NVIC.
Professor Dorit Reiss has written another wonderful article here clarifying that there really is a lack of conflict between so-called “informed consent” and public health mandates to keep citizens (especially children) safe from infectious diseases. It could not be clearer (at least to me) that informed consent does not trump the needs of the greater good.
In the Star Trek Movie, the Wrath of Khan, Spock and Kirk had this conversation:
Spock: Do not grieve, Admiral. It is logical. The needs of the many, outweigh…
Kirk: The needs of the few.
Spock: Or the one.
There’s an appalling story out of Ireland that has dominated the news for the past few days. Over a period of 35 years, St Mary’s Mother and Baby Home, a Catholic home for unwed mothers in County Galway (on the west coast of Ireland), apparently buried some children in a sewer system after dying in that home. You might have heard from some irresponsible journalists that over 800 children were buried in the septic tank, without questioning whether 800 bodies could actually be buried in the septic system, and without determining when the home was moved to a County sanitary sewer system, making it impossible to dump dead children in the septic tank. OK, that’s a small point.
According to the individual who actually uncovered this atrocity, Catherine Corless, an academic historian, she claims, through her research of birth records and other information, around 800 children died at this home over 36 years. The Irish Times reports, “between 1925, when the home opened, and 1937 the tank remained in use. During that period 204 children died at the home. Corless admits that it now seems impossible to her that more than 200 bodies could have been put in a working sewage tank.” OK, it’s sad and maddening that 22 children died every year at this home, even if infant mortality rates were substantially higher back then because of malnutrition and vaccine preventable diseases (like measles, mumps, polio, rotavirus and others) that would run rampant through closed quarters like that.