Other than stating that I objectively support Dr. Summers’ statements and conclusions, I don’t have much else to say. But you and I know that an op-ed piece by a real doctor will be noticed by someone in the vaccine denier world, and they will pull out every single trope, myth, and conspiracy theory to claim that Dr. Summers is wrong and that there really is a “vaccines cause autism debate.”
I came across an article by Jeremy R Hammond in the right wing alternative news website, Personal Liberty, which attacked Dr. Summers with those aforementioned tropes, myths, and conspiracy theories. The same ones you’d see from any of your standard, run-of-the-mill vaccine denier.
Let’s take a look at Hammond’s article. Generally, I can only get through about half of an anti-vaccine article when I have to stop because I’m banging my head against the desk too much. I need to protect the neurons in my brain from further damage. But I will try to persevere in the name of science.
There are so many annoying anti-vaccine arguments that make me laugh and cause my rational brain to explode. The anti-vaccine religious acolytes don’t understand one basic thing – we scientists would accept their claims if they presented actual scientific evidence. They haven’t.
Most scientists and skeptics are open-minded to new ideas and evidence. Yes, they may be resistant, especially if the evidence is preliminary. I was in graduate school during the early 1980s when Luis and Walter Alvarez proposed that the mass extinction of non-avian dinosaurs and about 99.99% of life on Earth during the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event was caused by a huge bolide impact.
When they first proposed it, scientists laughed. Today, it is widely accepted as a scientific fact. But it was accepted because of powerful evidence that kept supporting the original hypothesis, not because of “beliefs.” Being “openminded” doesn’t mean that we accept any silly claim made by random people – it means being openminded to reviewing the evidence, then, determining if that evidence supports the claims being made.
The anti-vaccine religion screams and yells to push their lies about vaccines because they don’t have evidence. It gets tiresome, and some of us just laugh when we hear it. Yesterday, for example, I wrote about how the anti-vaccine pseudoscientist, Christopher Exley, was banned from receiving funding because his research is both incompetent and false. Yet, the anti-vaccine crowd whined that some nefarious Big Pharma conspiracy was keeping Exley from his money.
He then turned to GoFundMe to raise money, and they also rejected him. GoFundMe stated that “campaigns raising money to promote misinformation about vaccines violate GoFundMe’s terms of service and we are removing them.”
Fringe conspiracy-theorist terrorists, called ‘anti-vaxxers’ are multiplying so fast that some counties, cities, and states have vaccination rates below community or ‘herd’ immunity levels across the U.S. With more parents buying into the conspiracy that vaccines contain toxins, cause autism, and are unsafe, children, the elderly, and immunocompromised are suffering. These people need to be called out for what they are; anti-vaxxers are terrorists that kill and harm our children.
Even if you oppose anti-vaxxers, you might think it’s too extreme to use the “terrorist” label in this case. I do not. Though there is no single agreed-upon definition of terrorism, most agree that it consists of using fear as a tool to achieve political or social change while disregarding harm done to others in the process. I think anti-vaxxers meet every part of that definition.
After giving it much thought, I think I’m going to have to change my description of these nutjobs from anti-vaccine religious extremists to anti-vaccine terrorists. Maybe it’s harsh. But it’s deserving.
Like all medical procedures, devices, and pharmaceuticals, vaccines are not perfect – there are rare vaccine adverse events. What matters is that the benefits, not only medically but also economically, outweigh any risks. As far ask I know, no perfect medical procedures, devices or pharmaceuticals, none, that are perfectly safe or perfectly effective. Sometimes the ratio is small. For example, there are chemotherapy drugs that only add a few months to a patient’s life, usually with substantial side effects to the medication.
Today is Valentine’s Day, 2016. For many of you, it’s all about roses and chocolates. But for a bunch of us, it’s all about The Walking Dead and zombies. And in honor of the return of The Walking Dead, let’s talk about zombie anti-vaccine tropes that never die – the infamous CDC whistleblower oh my.
The antivaccination cult, lacking any real evidence for their unscientific beliefs, tend to grab on tightly to the flimsiest of stories. They love to scream “GOTCHA” to anything that shows up on the internet that puts vaccines in a bad light. A few years ago, they were jumping for joy regarding some comments from Dr. Diane Harper, who was promoted by the antivaccination crowd as the “lead researcher” for Gardasil. Except, the story was a lot different than they claimed.
Here we go again. Fake anti-vaccine research, which has no scientific value, but beloved by the pseudoscience pushing vaccine deniers, arises once again from the dustbin of science like a brainless zombie on a popular TV show.
Since the anti-vaccine religion has little or no scientific evidence to support their myths and beliefs, they need to rely upon dead and buried anti-vaccine research to invent their fake science about vaccines. And here comes ambling, confused “research” that we thought was dead and buried five years ago (yes, five years ago) to try to eat the brains of people who listen to the anti-vaccine pseudoscience.
Last week, former Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Dr. Thomas Frieden was arrested and charged with groping a woman at his home. The former CDC Director was charged with third-degree sexual abuse, forcible touching, and harassment, the last of which carries a fine but no jail time.
Of course, within a few nanoseconds of the arrest, anti-vaccine quack websites did their best to tie his arrest to some imaginary and nonsensical malfeasance at the CDC. I don’t think any of us were surprised by this kind of attack by the anti-vaccine religion, but just in case someone thinks that what the former CDC Director did AFTER he was in charge of the CDC has something to do with vaccines, I’m here to disabuse anyone of that thought.
First of all, let us remember that Dr. Frieden has been charged but not found guilty of his actions. I know that the world has changed with the MeToo movement, and many of us have a sinking feeling that since he was caught here, there may be many more cases of it that will be uncovered from his past. Despite the current world where we no longer believe in “innocent until proven guilty,” it’s probably important to remember he has not been “proven guilty.”
Secondly, what has this got to do with vaccines? Well, nothing, but the anti-vaxxers love their silly strawman arguments and pseudo-conspiracies, so they will use it as a proxy to “prove” that the CDC is so corrupt that we can’t trust them on vaccines.
Maybe some of you haven’t been following the reports about the European measles epidemic, but it’s scary news. The BBC Newsreported that more than 41,000 people have contracted measles in the first six months of 2018. Worse yet, 37 of those people have died of that virus.
Let me be blunt – nearly every one of those 41,000 cases and 37 deaths could have been prevented by the MMR vaccine (for measles, mumps, and rubella). Period. Full stop. End of story.
In case I wasn’t clear, let me repeat myself – indulge me, we’re talking about children dying of an entirely preventable disease. Every single case of measles could have been prevented. Every single death could have been prevented. This isn’t a complicated story.
Maybe you think that Europe is a big area with over a half billion people, so this might be expected. That would be incorrect. Measles was almost extinct in much of the developed world. In 2016, there were just 5,273 measles cases for the whole year. In 2008, there were only 3,575 cases and one death. Measles was almost eliminated.