Professor Reiss writes extensively in law journals about the social and legal policies of vaccination. Additionally, Reiss is also a member of the Parent Advisory Board of Voices for Vaccines, a parent-led organization that supports and advocates for on-time vaccination and the reduction of vaccine-preventable disease.
Today is 2020 Vaccine Day. It’s not an official holiday with Hallmark cards but it is an annual event where #DoctorsSpeakUp about vaccines and remind the world that vaccines stop diseases.
And they are safe.
And they are effective.
This article isn’t here to argue about some obscure point about vaccines like they don’t cause autoimmune diseases, because they don’t. I just want to cover some of the more important issues about vaccines about which I wrote over the past few years (I’ve been writing here since January 2012).
On January 7, 2020, my school informed me that it received a new Public Records Act request for my emails, this time from the Informed Consent Action Network (ICAN), a well-funded anti-vaccine organization headed by Mr. Del Bigtree. The request was submitted via the law firm of Siri and Glimstad in New York, though it was not signed by Aaron Siri, a lawyer who represented groupsfighting vaccines in the past.
On January 18, 2018, Dr. Melinda Wharton, Acting Director of the National Vaccine Program Office in the Department of Health and Human Services, sent Mr. Del Bigtree, an anti-vaccine activist, and producer of the anti-vaccine film Vaxxed, a response to questions he raised about vaccine safety.
The response is a very informative description of the substantial efforts regarding vaccine safety, and can and should reassure parents that there is abundant data – and many monitoring mechanisms in place – to examine and address vaccine safety, and that the expert consensus that vaccines are very safe is well-grounded.
Lately, I’ve seen ludicrous articles from the anti-vaccine religion demanding a vaccine debate between the well-known pseudoscience liars, like Robert F Kennedy, Jr and Del Bigtree, and legitimate vaccine scientists and experts. I always laugh, and then I always recommend not participating.
The problem is that if you pay attention to any scientific topic, like climate change, evolution, and, yes, vaccines, you’d think that some scientific principles were actually being debated by scientists. The unfiltered information about important scientific subjects allows the science deniers to use a false equivalency to make it appear that the minority and scientifically unsupported point of view is equivalent to the scientific consensus which is always based on huge amounts of published evidence.
From listening to the screaming and yelling, you would think that there is a great vaccine debate. Or an evolution debate. Or a climate change debate.
There aren’t any debates in any of those (and hundreds of other) scientific topics. Just because someone, like RFK Jr or Bigtree, thinks that there is some “debate,” it doesn’t mean there actually is one. All that happens is one side, almost always the science deniers, use misinformation, lies, anecdotes, and pseudoscience while attempting to scream and yell as loud as possible, then claim they’ve won.
On March 1, 2019, Evee Gayle Clobes, a six-month-old baby, died in her mother’s bed. Because Evee had received her vaccines 36 hours before her death, and with the urging, courting and support of anti-vaccine activists eager to use her and her story, her mother blamed vaccines.
However, this tragedy is even less appropriately blamed on vaccines than most, because there is a clear other cause for Evee’s death: According to the evidence detailed in a letter from the medical examiner, Evee Gayle Clobes, sadly, tragically, suffocated to death because of unsafe sleep conditions.
Here we go again – a pseudoscience website claims that a former Merck scientist does not vaccinate his kids because of random reasons. But before you perk up and think that this is a real, we should start with “Merck scientist.” Yeah, those scare quotes have meaning.
I don’t have it in me to write about everything wrong with this “documentary” – to be honest, I heard not one single bit of science-based fact presented with respect to the MMR vaccines and autism spectrum disorder. The fraudumentary mostly presented lies, misinformation, anecdotes, and, notably, no real science. Worse yet, it tried to make Wakefield into a hero – maybe even a deity of some sort.
So, let’s be clear – this movie is about Wakefield. Not children. Not identifying real causes for autism. Not anything important.
Almost all legitimate science researchers who focused on autism never bought into the vaccines link. Not only was there no evidence of this imaginary link (thanks to the cunning fraud Andrew Wakefield), when scientists went looking for a possible link, they never found one.
However, investigators have been searching for legitimate underlying etiologies for ASD – the hypothesis that genetics cause autism has been the center of research for years.