Scientist who criticised DJ for vaccination scare talk gets copyright threat

Dr Ben Goldacre, who writes the Guardian's "Bad Science" column, blogged about a UK radio DJ's irresponsible reporting on vaccination, including the 44 minute radio show in audio form (he could have edited down, but he didn't want to be accused of selective editing). In response, the radio station, LBC 97.3, sent lawyers after him, threatening to sue him for copyright infringement.

In my part of London, we have live smallpox measles and TB scares on a regular basis, because so many parents have been convinced that inoculation is bad for kids that they won't get them their jabs. They're not just risking their children's lives, but the lives of the kids around them -- first, the kids who are too small to get inoculated, and second, the kids for whom the inoculations don't take, who would otherwise be protected by herd immunity.

The science on inoculations is a settled matter. The fact that some vaccinations are given around the same age in which autism symptoms first present means that some fraction of kids will develop autism around the same time that they get their shots. This is not causality, it is co-occurrence. Everyone knows someone whose kid got sick around vaccination time -- but the plural of "anaecdote" is not "fact."

Goldacre wants to systematically rebut every point that this DJ, Jeni Barnett, made on the public airwaves. There is a compelling public interest here that makes this a case of fair dealing -- but the radio station's deep pockets and retained lawyers mean that this doesn't matter.

Two days ago I posted about a broadcast in which their presenter Jeni Barnett exemplified some of the most irresponsible, ill-informed, and ignorant anti-vaccination campaigning that I have ever heard on the public airwaves.

To illustrate my grave concerns, I posted the relevant segment about MMR from her show, 44 minutes, which a reader kindly excerpted for me from the rest of the three hour programme. It is my view that Jeni Barnett torpedoes her reputation in that audio excerpt so effectively that little explanation is needed.

LBC’s lawyers say that the clip I posted is a clear infringement of their copyright, that I must take it down immediately, that I must inform them when I have done so, and that they “reserve their rights”.

Er, “help”. Legal Chill from LBC 97.3 and “Global Radio” over Jeni Barnett’s MMR scaremongering (Thanks, Paul!)


  1. The science on inoculations is a settled matter.

    Watch out, Charles Platt will post some sort of claim that actually vaccinations are the bad, because A)He decided to do an experiment by not getting vaccinated himself, and hey nothing bad happened as a result. or B)He read some book by some doctor that said vaccinations are a bunch of hooey.

  2. Effing retards… (c) law has exemptions for citations, criticism and news reporting; especially when it’s related to issues warranting public debate.

    Moreover, since the UK is a signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights, art. 10 (freedom of expression) applies too, and could very well (should, imho) trump copyright in this case.

  3. Don’t worry. I work for Global Radio. They don’t have very deep pockets. They certainly wouldn’t go after anyone. They can barely pay admin staff.

  4. What next? Parliamentary copyright? Bad enough that some jurisdictions see fit to prosecute people on laws they are not legally allowed to read…

    Journalism is meant to be public — the inanity of broadcasting, then clawing back, is the real issue.

    Want to keep something forever? Fine, never release it. If you give something to the world (aka publish) you must know there will be criticism, sampling, etc.

  5. I’m not a person that gets angry or upset very often. I’m generally pretty mellow, and I don’t sweat the small stuff. People are always going to be wrong about things in life, but that’s no reason for me to get hopping mad and start spilling angry comments on blogs.

    Except for this vaccine/autism issue. Every time I hear one of these selfish yuppie “I don’t trust science! My kid will only eat organically grown fruits that have been fertilized by unicorns!”-parents make this ridiculous connection my blood starts to boil. I literally have to leave the room if I’m talking to a person like that.

    There’s an overwhelming tonnage of scientific evidence that it’s simply not true. Global Warming is a mere hypothesis in comparison to how settled this science is. But NO!, these people obviously know better than every single fucking doctor in the world, and thus they feel that they have every right to put other kids in danger. Honestly, I find it almost revolting.

    If these people had been around 40 years ago, smallpox would still be ravaging the world.

  6. The problem with modern vaccination is not vaccination itself. Vaccination is a real boon to prevention in dense populations. Please get your children vaccinated!

    The problem is most cheap vaccines use Thimerosal to preserve them. Thimerosal is a mercury based preservative that has been linked to the sharp rise in autism. Unfortunately mercury is highly toxic, even small amounts, especially in small children.

    Health studies with higher grade mercury free vaccines show zero link to any increase in autism, unlike the cheaper mercury containing ones.

    Almost all doctors use the cheaper Thimerosal preserved vaccines because of cost and the longer shelf life. Vaccines with alternative mercury free preservatives are available across the board for all vaccinations. You have to request them as an alternative from your physician or doctor specifically, usually a week or two before the planned vaccination so they can order them. They cost more and are not covered by most insurances as they don’t see it as a “necessary” expense but they are worth every penny!

    It is your child’s health at stake!

    That is my understanding of the issue, i hope it helps shed some light on the vaccine debate.


  7. In 2005-2006 I put up on my blog, Spocko’s Brain, audio clips of the violent rhetoric from radio hosts Melanie Morgan, Lee Rodgers, Brian Sussman and “Officer Vic” at ABC/Disney radio station KSFO. I contacted the advertisers to alert them of the type and tone of content they were paying for to see if they wanted to keep advertising. After listening to the audio as well as checking on the station directly, they agreed with my assessment and pulled their ads. 28 advertisers, including major national brands eventually pulled their ads.

    As Matt Zimmerman from the EFF said, “While such radio personalities certainly have a right to air their views, the First Amendment says nothing about a right to advertiser-subsidized speech.”

    Station management attempted to find my identity so they could out me. Then they threatened sue me for “everything I’ve got.” finally they filed a cease and desist order with my ISP, 1&1 hosting on Dec. 21 2006. I was given 24 hours to remove the audio.
    I removed all the audio EVEN THOUGH I WAS CONVINCED IT WAS FAIR USE. The host still shut down my blog because of the letter from ABC Disney- (C&D letter from ABC to 1&1)

    I had talked with the Electronic Frontier Foundation earlier to ensure that my clips met the criteria for fair use. That didn’t stop the ABC/Disney lawyers from sending the C&D letter. Interestingly, they did NOT use the DCMA which would have allowed me to turn around and sue them for their misuse of the DCMA. I was told it was just saber rattling. Well it worked, it scared the hell out of me. I’m still hiding.
    ABC Radio/Disney and the talk radio station KSFO used their power to silence an effective critic using a bogus copyright claim. (So much for their claims to love of the “marketplace of ideas!)

    I found another blog host, Marc Perkel, who knew about copyright law and republished the blog and the audio clips via his hosting firm (Also a number of other bloggers replicated the clips around the world) The EFF sent a note back to the ABC/Disney lawyers pointing out how they were wrong and I had the right to use the clips.

    The ABC lawyers never even bothered to respond to the EFF’s letter on my behalf. Instead the hosts went on air and embraced their violent rhetoric and said that any issue about copyright was “above their pay grade”. They proceeded to call me a thief and a crackpot to the entire bay area and the world. If I criticize them in the future I expect privacy invasion and more character assassination.

    “Copyright law is not designed to silence speech that you dislike,” said EFF Staff Attorney Matt Zimmerman. “ABC and KSFO know that their legal threats were absolutely groundless. Their time and efforts are better spent explaining why they think Spocko is wrong, and letting the public decide, instead of resorting to thuggish legal tactics.”

    After my experience I advised another group composed of multiple religious organizations “Hate Hurts America” who used the same methods I devised and followed the same fair use guidelines to contact the advertisers of Michael Savage. They alerted them to his violent anti-Muslim rhetoric and asked if they wanted to keep advertising. At least 18 choose to remove their ads based on the evidence they heard as well as their own internal guidelines. Michael Savage sued them (specifically one member of the group, CAIR) using the same type of meritless copyright claim that KSFO/ABC/Disney used regarding my clips. Savage also filed a RICO suit at the same time.

    The EFF defended CAIR as they did me.
    The courted ruled in favor of CAIR and Fair Use in that case.

    I’m not a lawyer, but I believe that both of these cases may have bearing on this situation.

    Because of hard work of the EFF lawyers, bloggers and others we now have more solid examples and more case law to back up people who need to use copyrighted audio under fair use for criticism, comment, new reporting, teaching, scholarship or research.

    BTW, if you hear someone on RW radio screaming about how the people on the left are going to try and silence them with the “Censorship Doctrine” (Fairness Doctrine) always remember who on talk radio actually silenced whom using a groundless copyright claim.

    I encourage you all to go to the EFF web page to read more about fair use, copyright and bloggers rights.

  8. Yup, unlike others the smallpox vaccine has statistically significant risks. That are completely worth it.

  9. Agreed, the science on vaccinations causing autism is overwhelmingly on the side of no causality. But it hasn’t been really settled until fairly recently, and most parents don’t keep up on these things.

    The true evil of “family values” is the tragedy of the commons; most parents have no qualms about doing things that ruin society more than it helps their child.

  10. I’m sure Ben’ll relish the legal challenge: he’s not one to back down from a confrontation, especially where fuzzy-headed irrational unscientific claptrap is concerned!

    That being said,(and in no way related to the legal challenge) having met Mr Goldacre in person, you couldn’t hope to meet a more self-satisfied, lairy, disagreeable boor if you logged on to and clicked “ok”

    I’m equally torn between indignation and schedenfreud.

  11. When I went to talk about vaccination with my GP after the birth of my first child, the first thing he told me was “If you’ve been researching the subject, you probably know more about it than I do.”

    He then told me that his own wife, a health visitor, had been against vaccinating his children and so he did it covertly at night, without her knowledge or permission. The reason he thought I should vaccinate? He’d seen children with pertussis at six months and “you don’t want your children to go through that.”

    That isn’t the scientific information I wanted, and it didn’t help to take the decision at all.

    I looked into the timing of the vaccines too, as the old system of 3, 6, and 9 month vaccinations had been changed to 2, 3, 4 months. When I looked into it it seemed that they had changed the system to catch the largest number of children – it was an admin decision to administer the vaccinations at 2,3,4 months, not a medical decision. The original vaccination programme was better for the children… but within a few months articles endorsing the medical benefits of administering them very early were being written.

    I did vaccinate my eldest child, until at his pre school check up he had a violent reaction to his boosters. I went with him to the doctor the following day and was told that it was probably a reaction, but the doctor made no attempt to report this on the yellow card system. My sister’s daughter had the really scary reaction to her second set, high-pitched screaming, high temperature and all, and was told never to give her any others, but again, no report on the yellow card system.

    This undermined my faith that the vaccination system properly recorded the adverse reactions which doctors were ascribing to the vaccines. I think that it is terribly hard to know whether a violent projectile vomiting incident is related to a vaccine, but if no possible adverse reactions are reported, the reporting system is worthless.

    The authorities withdrew an MMR vaccine when my son was about four and a half because the mumps element was causing mumps meningitis, and in a few months after that it was announced that all children who had had the 18 month shot of MMR should get a measles booster… strangely enough this was of Measles AND rubella, and they said in their leaflet (which I still have) that rubella is also a serious childhood disease. It isn’t, and the lie undermined my faith that they were telling me the truth. It *is* dangerous if you are pregnant, to the unborn child, but then rubella immunity from the injection is far less effctive than rubella immunity from having the disease, and so your chances of not being immune are far greater… and the length of time that immunisations are effective shortens with each booster given.

    Strangely the NHS had vast stocks of Measles/rubella which was about to go out of date, when they initiated this mass vaccination booster. It undermined my faith that they were doing the right things for our children. I felt it was more about money, and less about what was right either for our individual children OR society and a whole.

    People, good people, who care about society, and about what happens to other people’s children may not immunize, but should not be characterised as selfish fools who know nothing about the subject. The fact that my eldest son has Crohn’s disease is not proof of anything, but it made me think very carefully about the wisdom of my decision to vaccinate. Having a lot of contact with parents of autistic children who reported children who had eye contact and no problems deteriorating rapidly after vaccination at 18 months also gave me pause for thought.

    There is a lot of evidence that thiomersal in vaccinations may have had a role in autisticm for some children who do not metabolise mercury well. Why it ever seemed like a good idea to put a deadly poison into vaccinations is beyond me. The good scientists who have reported their findings in this area have been vilified by the other scientists, assuming that they are supporting Andrew Wakefield’s discredited theories. That isn’t based in science either – they reject the findings summarily.

    In my experience, asking for information from the health professionals responsible (and paid) for advising, leads them to parrot the advice in the NHS guideline, and gives me no confidence that it is something they actually know about. In fact the head of medical ethics society in 1994 during the controversy about the Measles/Rubella booster wrote to the Times and said that vaccinations would fail the ethical guidelines if they were treated as new drugs, due to lack of good clinical research to support them.

  12. Oh phew! I was worried this morning when I couldn’t get into – thought the lawyers might have got to it. Now I realise it’s only because it’s been boingboinged.

  13. Oh and I’m pretty sure that no thimerosal preserved vaccines are used in the UK, where this story originates.

  14. those old enough to remember first hand the pre-vaccine time should testify. I remember whooping cough, the struggle to breathe. A sibling with diptheria who nearly died, people with pockmarked faces that didn’t look like acne, mumps,chicken pox, measles,rubella,rheumatic fever,a neighbour with tetanus, sulfa powder on everything, “blood poisoning”, the edge of the polio time, shitty dental anaesthesia – foot pump drills even and dentists who didn’t believe in freezing, nothing but a couple of antibiotics and hope to hell they worked….

    There should be a control island. Those who don’t want the “risks” should go live apart with the realities.

  15. “In my part of London, we have live smallbox”

    Psst! Typo for “smallpox” here, obviously.


  16. Yeah! A control island!

    We could store all the global warming deniers, the people who believe that HIV swims through a condom’s pores, Darwin casualties and catholic priests there as well!

    Now for some large, secluded piece of land. Perhaps something with a Great Internet Firewall? Hmmm.

  17. UK law states that anything maybe reproduced for review, parody or research without consent. In this case it’s clearly a matter of review. I don’t think he has anything to worry about.

  18. No escape from the vaccine scare lies even here, then? I don’t say we shouldn’t care about the children who become autistic shortly before their injections of pure mercury, but when is someone going to do something about the high levels of toxic chlorine in the salt which is poisoning us all?

  19. You wrote:
    “In my part of London, we have live smallbox and TB scares on a regular basis, because so many parents have been convinced that inoculation is bad for kids that they won’t get them their jabs”
    I dont believe it! I thought these things where a thing from the mid-20th century!
    TB and small(p)ox????? I think here in Spain there are 1 or 2 cases every now and then, but “in a regular basis” ?
    How can a parent say inoculation is bad for kids? Absolute nonsense!

  20. Thimerosal and Autism


    “A new study published in the journal Pediatrics provides more evidence against any link between thimerosal (a mercury-based preservative in some vaccines) and autism or other neurological disorders. This study adds to the large and growing body of scientific evidence for the safety of vaccines, and contradicting the claims of the anti-vaccine movement that vaccines cause autism.”

    Or more simply:

    Thimerosal has been absent from most vaccines for several years now, yet the rate of autism diagnosis continues to rise. Conclusion: Thimerosal doesn’t cause autism.

    Fewer parents are vacciniting their kids, yet the rate of autism diagnosis continues to rise. Conclusion: Vaccines doesn’t cause autism.

  21. In Hubbard v Vosper – yes, that Hubbard – the Court of Appeal held in 1971 that an author who had reproduced extensive extracts from Scientology texts for the purposes of detailed criticism of them could rely on the defence of fair dealing. Ben Goldacre’s case seem to be clearly analogous, in that the programme he is criticising contains so many dubious assertions that the only meaningful way to say more than “it’s complete rubbish” is to nit-pick every single one, and that requires reproducing the whole thing either in audio or as a transcript.

    I have just emailed Ben to volunteer any help I can offer. I’d urge any other legally-qualified BB readers who care about this issue to do likewise. (His contact details are at his site, which seems to have recovered from being BB’d).

  22. There was a recent episode of This American Life called Ruining It for the Rest of Us that covered (in one story) a recent measles epidemic caused by a kid whos parents refused to vaccinate. I thought it covered both sides of the issue pretty well.

  23. I’m mostly in agreement about childhood vaccines, and certainly about the contemptible misuse of IP law, but you choose poor examples of disease scares due to unvaccinated children.

    The last case of smallpox was in 1978 and it is considered to be eradicated; children are certainly not vaccinated against smallpox in the US and I would be surprised if they were in the UK. If there has been a smallpox “scare” in London, it was a tabloid-manufactured one; there ain’t no more smallpox.

    And TB does not have an effective vaccine; the existing TB shot (BCG) is only good against some strains which are mostly prevalent in the third world, and it’s not given widely in the US since the side effects are considered to be higher risk than contracting the disease, which is serious but (1) treatable and (2) not very communicable.

  24. Whilst I can understand people being reulctant to give their children the MMR jab, they are not given the option to take the individual injections as they’re considered too costly now.

  25. My partner just acted as a sperm donor for a friend, and she’s decided not to get the lil’ boy inoculated.

    While I respect her for being able to stand behind her views, with her own “research”, I can’t help but think it is irresponsible. Seeing first hand kids who have come from countries without a paid for immunising scheme, and the pain they have had to go through and the damage disease has caused. All preventable.

    More voices need to be out in the public sphere rebutting those who discredit inoculation.

  26. You know even if some kids are discovered to have autism related to vaccination jabs, I still think that it’s a good risk to take.

    People these days have never seen the effects of all those diseases these days. They live in a society where a child dying at birth is a rare and tragic event so have no idea. There’s a very good reason to vaccinate against these diseases. The infant mortality rate is very high. Check out infant mortality rates in Victorian times before vaccination. Having given birth to 6 kids and 2 surviving, that sort of thing.

    I’ve ADHD and it’s possible that it could be related to vaccines. I don’t believe this though, I believe it’s more likely that it’s due to the anti-malaria medications my mum took when she was pregnant with me. She had malaria and that’s no joke when you are pregnant. For those who don’t know, malaria is a parasite that gets into the blood cells, it multiplies in the liver and the eggs go throughout the entire body through the circulatory system. That includes the fetus.
    I would rather have the ADHD than be dead.

    And healthy, natural, herbal medicines against these diseases make me laugh. What do you think humanity has been using for the last couple of millenia??? We’ve been using natural medicines since the year 100,000. Ha ha ha ha ha.

  27. “The problem is most cheap vaccines use Thimerosal to preserve them. Thimerosal is a mercury based preservative that has been linked to the sharp rise in autism.”

    No it has not. And while mercury is very toxic, and causes a number of neurological symptoms, it does not cause autism.

  28. has there been a sharp rise in _autism_ (no offense meant, but kids who scream and soil themselves when you say ‘the magic word’ for that day, or otherwise have no connection to reality or ability to communicate), or a sharp rise in _autistic spectrum diagnoses_?

    anecdote time: I believe I got an awful reaction from one of my vaccines. It was something like the flu, plus my leg hurt terribly.

    anecdote time 2: my parents’ cat nearly died _twice_ from allergic vaccine reactions.

    anecdote time 3: the worst childhood disease I – a vaccinated child – have had was mononucleosis. (I may have had chicken pox but we’re not sure.)

    result: nothing I said proves anything, except that I was vaccinated against some diseases and never got them. Well, probably not even that much.

  29. When was there an outbreak of Smallpox in London?

    The department of health has a good pulication for health workers called ‘The Green Book’. It has details of all infectious disease in the UK as well as prevention and treatment.

    In December 1979, the Global Commission for the Certification of Smallpox
    Eradication declared the world free of smallpox and this declaration was
    ratified by the World Health Assembly in May 1980.

    In response to the threat of a bioterrorist release of smallpox, in 2003 the
    Department of Health published Guidelines for smallpox response and
    management in the post-eradication era (smallpox plan)

    Outside the context of this plan there is no indication for smallpox vaccination
    for any individual with the exception of some laboratory staff and specific
    workers at identifiable risk.

    Immunisation against infectious disease 2006 – ‘The Green Book’
    Department of Health

  30. Thimerosal is a mercury based preservative that has been linked to the sharp rise in autism.

    [Citation needed]

  31. Hey #9.. posting behind “Anonymous” gives your words far less weight. I’d like to tell you that you’re wrong, yet I have to tell ‘Anonymous’ that they’re wrong. Not the same thing.

    The problem with people having access to so much information on the Internet is that most people are not scientists, but everybody wants to make a conclusion. For most people it’s just easier to believe some baseless thing than to sift through the usually-large bases of evidence on either side and come to their own -informed- conclusion. The more controversial the subject, the larger the piles of evidence on either side. Uninformed discussion never adds much to the debate.

  32. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the following about smallpox.

    While the disease was largely controlled in Europe and North America by the mid-20th century, it took a concentrated, worldwide effort combining mass vaccination with close surveillance over many years to finally stamp out the disease. The last case of smallpox in the United States was in 1949, and the last naturally occurring case in the world was in Somalia in 1977…….

    …….Although 2 cases of smallpox occurred in England in 1978 as a result of a laboratory accident, smallpox was gone as a naturally transmitted disease.

  33. If one in ten thousand kids does in fact get hurt from a vaccination it’s worth the risk. How many millions would have died of small pox without the shot? Or any of the other diseases that still kill lots and lots of children each year. Ah, the good old days of iron lungs and small coffins. I’ll take an autistic kid over a dead kid any day.
    And by the way, Adults need to get their booster shots. Whooping caugh is a bitch.

  34. Looking at many of the comments, it is clear that several of you should read Ben Goldacre’s book “bad Science”

    Note that I am in no way connected to him other than I am currently reading this truly revealing book. Then perhaps you WOULD be more informed and perhaps revise/review your comments. This book has to be the most informative and truthful book I have read in a long time. Five Stars. Just read the comments….

  35. If most people were scientists, they’d know that there is really only one pile of evidence. They’d know how to extract it from the mountain of crap in which it is often embedded and they’d know how to evaluate it. “Balanced“ journalistic-style discussion rarely adds anything to the debate either.

  36. And good for Cory for pointing out what a most folks miss about herd immunity.

    Currently, herd immunity protects kids that can’t vaccinated. It also protects kids that were vaccinated but, for whatever reason, the vaccine didn’t “take.”

    Parents who rely on herd immunity are selfish and antisocial. They’d rather not take on any risk (no matter how slight) and, perhaps, cause damage to people who do the right thing.

    And yes, for the thousandth time, thimerosal isn’t linked to autism. It was removed from every mandatory vaccination in the US (except trace amounts in one — of three — DTaP vaccine). You can find thimerosal in some flu vaccines (but not all).

    Thimerosal is a preservative, originally used to make sure fungus or bacteria do not grow inside bottles of vaccine. That’s fine in the West, where we can afford single dose bottles of vaccine, we don’t need the preservative. The Third World, of course, is screwed over. Less kids will be vaccinated, and more will die because of people like Jenny McCarthy.

    By getting rid of Thimerosal, the FDA made a horrible precedent and fueled the anti-vaccine screwjobs. And it ain’t just in Africa or Asia where we’ll see this. Just last week in Minnesota, a Hib outbreak killed an unvaccinated infant. Hib is a virus that causes meningitis in children. You might not have heard about it, but your grandmother or great grandmother might have lost a sibling to it.

  37. For those of you who wish to take issue with their company “Global Radio” Send them an email, phone, write, whatever:

    Global Radio
    30 Leicester Square
    London WC2H 7LA

    T: 0207 766 6000
    F: 0207 766 6111

    Or, for those who are able to listen to them, switch off. Incidentally, you could also write to one or more of their advertisers telling them what you are doing and why.

  38. Cory,

    Well, you appear to have stepped squarely into a really hot issue.

    Here’s my take:

    1) Some vaccinations are good and important things
    2) Some vaccinations are not good and important things, but are driven off of commerce (unfortunately).
    3) Anyone who thinks that injecting a known neurotoxin into a human being (mercury or other metal derivatives) in any quantity is “OK” is either not particularly understanding of science or has other motivations for their position.
    4) The “for the good of the herd” position is a favorite one for pro-vaccination. It does not help those, however, who are crippled or die (in possibly small numbers) as a result of an injection.
    5) Here’s a thought: in a manner similar to that of Asimov or Clarke (don’t remember which one) who said that (paraphrasing here) “Any sufficiently advanced technology will appear as magic to those less educated”, one could make a great case for “Any currently known medical fact or procedure will appear as horribly barbaric or greviously wrong once knowledge has evolved sufficiently”. Remember leeches? They’re actually still used…but they don’t fix all that much anymore. Once, tho’, they were kings.
    6) To say that there are no such things as vaccination injuries (as in, ever) is pretty shortsighted given the bell curve of genetic makeup, don’t you think?
    7) To inherently trust governmental (and to some degree, certain scientific) positions on vaccine matters and not trust those positions on other matters seems to be a disconnect.
    8) In a manner similar to fundamentalism in religion, those who protest with a certain volume and a certain manner or style come across as nuts. This interferes with the credibility of any position as a whole, and makes it much easier to dismiss.
    9) There is a pretty good collection of data on both sides of this issue. I think that credibility on either side can only be enhanced or discredited with a major and serious review of each and every one of these studies, and who has time for that? (Meaning, “who amongst us…”) So, we read the summary and decide this way or that. Along those lines, one needs to dig deeply to find out who has financed any or all of these studies…(“follow the money”). It doesn’t make them inherently false, but it can sure color the waters if one discovers (as an example) that a “comprehensive study” exonerating vaccinations as an injurious agent is financed by, say, Pfizer, wouldn’t you say?
    10) Cory, you’re as straight-up a guy as I can say based on what I have read that you have written (about so many things). I think this issue is far, far more complex than any of us know, and to hand vaccinations a sweeping green light or a flashing red light is a really serious oversimplification…IMO (of course).
    11) (with a small smile) – government surveillance is good for you and good for the overall safety of the public. We all know that, lots of studies can show…

    Best regards,

    – Stu

  39. Brooklyntwang @1: Charles Platt is a guest here. No matter how passionately you disagree with his views, making jokes about him in unrelated contexts is excessive.

  40. Did he really need to post the whole 44 minute audio excerpt? If he wanted to dispute specific statements, couldn’t he have just transcripted them? Or even just cut it into smaller pieces? I mean, I know it would’ve been more work, but it *does* seem excessive to post the whole thing as one big chunk.

  41. #21 hit it right on the head.

    People flip out when they hear that thimerosal is mercury based. Yes, the chemical compound has mercury in it. That’s NOT the same as pure mercury floating around in the syringe. Your table salt has sodium – an element that explodes when it comes into contact with water – and chlorine – a poisonous gas at room temperature – in it. And yet you put it on your food…

    Those of you claiming there is a lot of evidence supporting the hypothesis that thimerosal causes autism need to get a handle on what “a lot” means, and know how to tell good evidence from bad. There are no sound, quality, statistically significant studies showing that thimerosal or any other vaccines cause autism.

    Of course all that’s moot, because thimerosal hasn’t been used in vaccines for a few years and yet autism rates continue to go up, even in unvaccinated populations.

    It’s a fairly clear-cut issue for people who understand science and have a solid basis of critical thinking skills.

  42. Hancocks @40: There is not “a good collection of data” on the anti-vaccination side. A glance at Goldacre’s book, Bad Science, would show you that each country has its own local scare story about vaccinations, each of which is different and each of which has no evidence to back it up. The MMR scare is based on journalists’ inflation of one poorly-done study of twelve autistic children. The fact that without vaccination we would have many more dead and damaged children is beyond argument. There is no balance between these sides, and trying to create one is absurd.

  43. I have to agree with anonymous # 9, not in the details but in the generalities.

    People do not trust medicine any more.

    Why? Because the information available in the media is full of lies. If you get your information about medical or health related issues from the media and most people do, then much of what you believe is true is a lie.

    The reason, I believe, is because pharmaceutical companies have completely gamed the system. Therefore we get Prozac that is no better than placebo, we get other meds that actively kill people but those studies were suppressed.

    Corporations would feed you shit if they could.

    Oh wait, they already do that as anyone who has seen “Super Size Me!” knows.

    There is pus in your milk.

    I simply do not trust our health system any more. Well, what’s left of it. Most people no longer have access to health care. There is a war going on against the poor and middle class. Why would the same people who are actively trying to eliminate me care about my health?

    I don’t believe it and I don’t trust them.

    Here in Minnesota we’ve had an up tick in Autism cases. The reason for this is because of recent Somalian immigrants. Their home country is a toxic wasteland where pesticides were uncontrolled and children were routinely exposed. Now they are here in the US and it’s coming out.

    I live in Minnesota and really, you shouldn’t eat the fish any more. Not from just any lake, you should check and see if it’s safe first. Ya know, that just speaks volumes and volumes doesn’t it?

    Better living through chemistry.

  44. I know someone whose very young child (pre innoculation age) was nearly blinded through catching measles from some idiot parents’ older child (not innoculated through anti-MMR yuppie stupidity). There is no excuse.

    I have donated to the Bad Science cause, in case they need legal fees.

    I have complained on the LBC website:

    Ofcom, however, have a lame form that tells me that LBC isn’t a broadcaster they have heard of. WTF? What am I doing wrong?

  45. IIRC the high incidence of TB in London is largely due to the (non-vaccinated) immigrant population.

  46. “If you get your information about medical or health related issues from the media and most people do, then much of what you believe is true is a lie. The reason, I believe, is because pharmaceutical companies have completely gamed the system.”

    You mean, the 10 year MMR vaccine scare that was actively supported by the media in the UK was a result of the Big Pharma plot?
    Man, they’ve outsmarted themselves this time.

  47. Nelsonc, #45:

    1) Jesus is lord, Allah is evil.
    2) Allah is supreme, Jesus is evil.
    3) Perspective drives all (I’m certainly no exception).
    4) Any chance that you’re wrong? Or that I am? How strong is your certainty factor?

    – Stu

  48. Nice post Stu,

    this has a tendency to be a real knee jerker of an issue …

    The statement: “The science on inoculations is a settled matter.” does provoke by being general enough to re ignite the discussion here…

    One remark I d like to add

    I think that what is a settled issue is what vaccines HAVE done in the past .. does this mean that pharma should be getting a blank cheque and we should follow what vaccination schedule they suggest?

    To do so would assume they are motivated COMPLETELY out of good will and with no regard for financial interest. If you feel comfortable with this (?)and not thinking critically about being selective about vaccines then thats good for you.

    I don t personally feel I can relax scrutiny of an idustry that is so resistant to making public studies – even though numbers exist – and also vilianizes any calls for studies as anti-vaccine.

    I think you can accept that polio and smallpox vaccines have been a boon – and it is not contradictory to still question/test/scrutnize new vaccines – and there are alot – proposed to you today by pharma as part of a recommended vaccine schedule

    thimersol is still used here in Canada in some vaccines

    was interesting to read the comments!


  49. This whole thread and no mention of possible contamination of vaccines with simian retro-virus. That’s way scarier to me than mercury. I get plenty of that already ;)

    Note that I DID have my kids vaccinated when I obtained custody of them because my former spouse did not believe in vaccines. I DO think there is a small risk involved. But that is because these products are manufactured by companies that are motivated by profit. They represent income. Caveat Emptor.

  50. the plural of “anaecdote” is not “fact.”

    That’s definitely my take-away from this article. Awesome.

    Though I might spell anecdote differently.

  51. I just hope a significant number of these fools don’t accumulate to erode herd immunity.

    That said, how many of you seek immunizations to viruses uncommon in the modernized parts of the world, such as for yellow fever or Japanese encephalitis?

    How many of you kept up with your hepatitis B and tetanus boosters?

    How many of you receive the influenza vaccine every year?

  52. Hancocks @49: No. Do not pull any of that “science=belief” rubbish on me. If you’re part of the reality-based community, then attempting to balance Wakefield’s bad methodology and a journalistic whirlwind on one hand with millions of dead and ill children on the other will not result in an even balance.

    And, yes, I do doubt. I doubt everything. That’s how I check that I’m not believing something that’s contrary to reality. And I’m even wrong sometimes. When the MMR thing reached its peak a few years ago, a couple I knew asked me about getting their children vaccinated. Because I didn’t know then what I know now, I said to avoid the MMR and get the separate vaccinations instead. I’m now pretty sure that I was being unnecessarily cautious. Has there been a spectacular rise in autism since the MMR was brought in? I think not. What there has been is a clear rise in epidemics of these diseases among unvaccinated children and non-immune adults.

    If you believe that your perspective outweighs the experience of millions, then you better have something solid to back it up. You have nothing.

  53. I only trust the vaccines that I make myself.

    Is that like verifying the source code to GPG and the operating system you compile it on?

  54. I don’t think it’s helpful to label people as stupid or ignorant because they don’t get immunized. For some that may be true, especially in recent immigrant communities.

    But for others I think the reason is a lack of trust. I know for a fact that here in the US my government lies and the media repeats those lies. So why should I believe then when it comes to health matters? Especially if it would be in their interest to lie. And it quite often is.

    That’s the real issue, the betrayal of trust by those in a position of authority.

    If then one of their children dies because they are too god damn cheap to fund public schools, so that people understand the need for immunization, and too god damned greedy not to destroy health care services that care about the general welfare and are not tools to funnel money into their pockets, and as a result there is an epidemic. Well then that’s just too damn bad. More of their children need to die if that’s what it takes for them to get a clue.

  55. Glad to see the update from “smallpox” to “measles” above. It’s tragic and stupid: Measles incidence in the UK rose 2000% in 10 years thanks to non-immunizing. The curve is supposed to be going, umm, the other way.

    (And to answer #52: flu, Hep B, tetanus, yellow fever, yep yep yep yep. No JE because I don’t go places where it is endemic. Also Hep A and typhoid, though it isn’t a very good vaccine.)

  56. Noen,

    “Most people no longer have access to health care.”

    [citation needed]

    My feeling is the more people than ever have access to health care, and that makes those that don’t desire it even more. Look back 100 years and what percentage of the population would never have seen a doctor in their entire lifetime?

  57. Noen, if they are not making good choices because they do not have the proper data set, then they are ignorant. Not the same thing as stupid. But, there are people who make bad choices even when they have have most of the facts. Science is not perfect, but the alternative is what? I read too much history to ever want to live without our level of medical technology.

  58. use of vaccinations is a private medical decision and not anyone’s business but your own. how and why you choose to accept, monitor, decline or frequent them is up to you and your healthcare provider.

    1. use of vaccinations is a private medical decision and not anyone’s business but your own. how and why you choose to accept, monitor, decline or frequent them is up to you and your healthcare provider.

      Typhoid Mary?

  59. House: Missing her vaccination dates?
    Mother: We’re not vaccinating.
    House: Think they don’t work?
    Mother: I think some multinational pharmaceutical company wants me to think they work… pad their bottom line.
    House: You know another really good business? Teeny tiny baby coffins. You can get them in frog green or fire engine red. Really. The antibodies in yummy mummy only protect the kid for six months, which is why these companies think they can gouge you. They think that you’ll spend whatever they ask to keep your kid alive. Want to change things? Prove them wrong. A few hundred parents like you decide they’d rather let their kid die than cough up forty bucks for a vaccination, believe me, prices will drop really fast.

  60. The issue with vaccines is complex, not settled. My wife and I chose carefully which we allowed administered to our kids and which we didn’t.

    ALL of those we passed over have since been removed from the market (US) for health and safety reasons. We were stupid to deny those to our kids?

    Also, I have a bottle of Thimerosal right here in my lab (T5125-10G, Sigma Aldrich)and can vouch that it is a very nasty fellow with one of the highest toxicity warnings in my lab. Whether it’s linked to autism or not, you don’t want to be on the business end of this compound.

  61. I’m glad this is being addressed. Not unlike global warming and other high-profile scientific issues, it seems that some people want to remain willfully ignorant.

  62. @ dculberson

    “Most people no longer have access to health care.”

    [citation needed]

    Me. I’m the source. Oddly enough you then follow your request with your own “feelings”. So your insistence that I provide a cite strikes me as hypocritical. You do not hold yourself to the same standards so I don’t take your demand seriously.

    Of course I don’t mean that nobody in the entire world has any access to any health care of any kind at all anywhere in the entire universe or at any time in the history of the world forever and ever. Only a fool would think that was the intended meaning.

    ‘At this festive season of the year, Mr Scrooge,’ said the gentleman, taking up a pen, ‘it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for the Poor and destitute, who suffer greatly at the present time. Many thousands are in want of common necessaries; hundreds of thousands are in want of common comforts, sir.’
    ‘Are there no prisons?”

    ‘Plenty of prisons,’ said the gentleman, laying down the pen again.

    ‘And the Union workhouses.’ demanded Scrooge. ‘Are they still in operation?’

    ‘Both very busy, sir.’

    ‘Oh. I was afraid, from what you said at first, that something had occurred to stop them in their useful course,’ said Scrooge. ‘I’m very glad to hear it.’

    ‘Under the impression that they scarcely furnish Christian cheer of mind or body to the multitude,’ returned the gentleman, ‘a few of us are endeavouring to raise a fund to buy the Poor some meat and drink, and means of warmth. We choose this time, because it is a time, of all others, when Want is keenly felt, and Abundance rejoices. What shall I put you down for?’

    ‘Nothing!’ Scrooge replied.

    ‘You wish to be anonymous?’

    ‘I wish to be left alone,’ said Scrooge. ‘Since you ask me what I wish, gentlemen, that is my answer. I don’t make merry myself at Christmas and I can’t afford to make idle people merry. I help to support the establishments I have mentioned-they cost enough; and those who are badly off must go there.’

    ‘Many can’t go there; and many would rather die.’

    ‘If they would rather die,’ said Scrooge, ‘they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.”

    Scrooge’s other name is “Libertarian”.

  63. Anonymous, if this were my weblog, I’d have disemvowelled your comment, then apologized and explained why I’d done it. The supposed thimerosol-autism connection has been disproved, and is getting more disproved all the time. PLEASE STOP TELLING PEOPLE NOT TO VACCINATE THEIR CHILDREN ON THAT ACCOUNT.

    Let me quote Takuan on the subject:

    Those old enough to remember first hand the pre-vaccine time should testify.

    I raise my right hand.

    I remember whooping cough, the struggle to breathe.

    It’s not like anything you’ve ever seen. The coughing is so severe and prolonged that it can break blood vessels and ribs. You can puncture a lung.

    A sibling with diptheria who nearly died,

    Ever seen parents bury more than one kid at a time?

    people with pockmarked faces that didn’t look like acne,

    Blind, too — both smallpox and measles can scar your corneas.

    mumps, chicken pox,

    Causes severe birth defects in utero, and leaves all its victims with a lifelong susceptibility to shingles.


    Extremely infectious, and it kills. Death rate: in healthy first-world patients with access to good health care, 3%. In underdeveloped areas with poor nutrition and health care, 28%. In immunocompromised patients, 30%. Complications include encephalitis, leading to brain damage, and the corneal scarring mentioned earlier.


    Spontaneous abortion and severe fetal damage. Pregnant women dreaded exposure to rubella.

    rheumatic fever,

    Kids would disappear from school for months at a time.

    a neighbour with tetanus,

    An ugly illness. No one should put a child through that.

    sulfa powder on everything, “blood poisoning”, the edge of the polio time…

    Iron lungs to keep patients breathing when paralysis would have suffocated them. People in wheelchairs. Little kids dragging around in heavy leg braces and crutches. People who’d recovered from relatively mild cases but were left with a clumsy foot, or a near-useless hand, or one leg shorter than the other.

    And Takuan, you left out a couple of them. One is pneumonia, for which there is now a vaccine. Another is meningitis. A friend of mine caught it when he was stationed in the Suez, and it completely took out his auditory nerves. HiB meningitis has been in the news lately. Five children in Minnesota came down with it. None of them appear to have been in contact with each other. One of the children died. There’s no word yet on damage or deficits in the others. Meningitis is a nasty infection.

    It’s appalling how quickly everyone’s forgotten. They’re cultivating hair-fine scruples over speculations about statistically unlikely possibilities of subtle subclinical damage. Meawhile, what we know for sure is that the diseases vaccines prevent can kill and maim.

    I’m being a bad moderator. This entry isn’t primarily about the vaccination controversy. It’s about LBC 97.3 misusing copyright to suppress discussion of a stupid and irresponsible radio segment they’d broadcast. Take what I’ve written as an explanation of why Dr. Goldacre is so keen on rebutting that broadcast in detail.

  64. How significant is the mercury exposure from thimersol in vaccine compared to, say, eating tuna?

    I’m not sure they are easily comparable.
    Thimerosal breaks down in the body to ethylmercury, which is quickly excreted. The mercury in large carnivorous fish (e.g. tuna) is in the form of methylmercury, which accumulates in the body.

    Parents who are worried about their kids being exposed to mercury compounds might be better off campaigning for stricter emission standards for coal-fired powerplants.

  65. Noen @57, for me the big trust issue is that parents hold their children’s lives in trust. Sure, we all worry about the government and Big Pharma. We should go on worrying about them. But that doesn’t justify putting others’ lives at risk as clearly as we do by not vaccinating.

  66. Martha_Macarthur @62:

    use of vaccinations is a private medical decision and not anyone’s business but your own.

    Wrong. Infectious disease is everyone’s business, and always has been.

    how and why you choose to accept, monitor, decline or frequent them is up to you and your healthcare provider

    That’s not true even of individuals. It’s absolutely not true for those who have small children in their care.

  67. @ #70 – Sigma lists Thimerosal with a risk warning of 33 = cumulative effects, and a hazard code of T+ = very toxic.

  68. The Bad Old Days. I’m surprised my siblings and I survived those goddamn childhood plagues (I’m old enough that the word “siblings” sounds silly). Between us we had everything offered, except polio and meningitis. I even had scarlet fever, and my sister survived rheumatic fever. But the three of us agree that the worst thing was the goddamn dentistry. Thousands upon thousands of dollars and a thousand acres of pain — and it’s still going on!

  69. #69 You misread, Anonymous says: “Please get your children vaccinated!” and encourages safer varieties of the same vaccines without mercury.

    #66 Thanks for the Thimerosal info. I don’t know why people argue for using thimerosal in vaccines when there are safer alternatives. Even if the risk is small i’d rather not risk my child.

    #22 & #33 There are many:
    “An article in the March 10, 2006 issue of the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons ( shows that since mercury was removed from childhood vaccines, the alarming increase in reported rates of autism and other neurological disorders (NDs) in children not only stopped, but actually dropped sharply — by as much as 35 percent.”

  70. @73, Teresa,

    agreed, and the responsibility of having small children in our care obligates us to take careful consideration of what happens to them even in the doctors office. Good vaccines please. Not bad vaccines.

  71. #73

    infectious diseases like what, knee jerk reactions and superiority complexes?

    are you going to start criticizing, insulting and degrading people for not getting flu shots now too or how about the HPV vaccines that have killed a few dozen young girls, that we know of.

    vaccines and the diseases they are available for effect everyone differently because all humans bodies are different. it is up to the individual person contemplating the use of vaccines to discuss their options with the experts available to them in order to make their own decision.

    there are many reasons (religious, philosophical and medical) that cause people to choose not to get vaccinated, or to get selectively vaccinated or to get fewer inoculations than other people might get and the entire process is their business as well as how they manage any instances of contracting communicable disease.

    Obviously people need to keep the community in mind when making these discussions but it is not up to you or anyone else to make demands as to what what they put into their bodies.

  72. @#74 – Sigma may not be completely up-to-date:

    Salient quote:
    “Researchers learned that, in all three age groups, the half-life of ethyl mercury in the blood – or, the time it takes for the body to dispose of half the mercury, and then another half, and so on – was measured to be 3.7 days. That’s a far cry from the blood half-life of methyl mercury, which is 44 days.”

  73. But for others I think the reason is a lack of trust. I know for a fact that here in the US my government lies and the media repeats those lies. So why should I believe then when it comes to health matters? Especially if it would be in their interest to lie. And it quite often is.


    For those who don’t know, when you feel “lack of trust” or when you feel “trust”, you’re feeling what we call an emotion.

    Trust has nothing to do with fact.

    The common emotion that people use to justify an illegal war is fear. September farking eleven caused so many people to wet their panties in total fear that they were willing to kill millions of innocent foreigners if it meant it might make them feel safe.

    When faced with an emotion like fear or anger or mistrust, the facts don’t change. But the emotion becomes a lens that distorts the facts for people. They start believing what they fear is true and disbelieving all the facts around them.

    In 2000 Scott Ritter, the man in charge of US weapons inspections in Iraq during the 90’s, published a book saying that Saddam was 90 percent disarmed and that the only reason Saddam kicked the inspectors out was because CIA spies in the inspection teams had used inspections to get targeting information to try and kill Saddam and get “regime change”. When the inspections resumed in 2002, Iraq would only agree to them if they were UN inspections, not US. Hans Blix posted a report in February 2003 sayign that inspections were working, and would be certified complete in a few months.

    In March 2003, the US invaded. President Bush’s approval rating was 80%.

    Fear distorts the mind to the point that it overrides facts.

    “trust” is nothing more than a modified version of “fear”. it’s an emotion. It isn’t fact. And it distorts people’s minds as much as fear does.

    And I am sick to death of hearing people citing their mistrust of something as why they give themselves a free-pass to ignore the actual facts.

    Saying “I don’t trust (fill in subject)” doesn’t prove a gawdamn thing about the subject. All it proves is your emotional state.

  74. Xopher, heartily disagreed. Bad vaccine is bad science and letting bad science slip by and harm people is dangerous and wrong. Particularly when preventative steps exist.

    But then I work in medical research and my lab is inside a medical school, across the street from two hospitals. Daily I see how bad science hurts people and how dependent the new generation of doctors are on their “appreciation” of the pharmaceuticals.

    We work hard to do good science and know the lazy bums who don’t. They are out there.

  75. Martha, I think everyone should get a flu shot, so as to support the huge production capacity that a bird flu(or some other horrible flu) vaccine will require. The drug companies need a reason to build and keep those factories running. Those sensitive to flu shots just won’t get them.

    In this day in age our saving grace from extinction may be drug companies’ ability to make billions of doses of vaccine. When half of China is dead you’ll be glad to be one of the lucky ones that got the shot. Right?

  76. I mean “if you have a vaccine for a disease like measles, and it’s the only vaccine, you should use it even if it causes severe neurological problems in a tiny fraction of the population. You should not use it if there’s a vaccine that doesn’t, but even the damaging vaccine is better than letting a much larger slice of the population get measles.”

    You may not agree with that either. But I’m against bad science as much as you are (and the vaccine phobia now rampant in the UK is an example of the horrors it can wreak).

  77. @ 82

    Spazzm – interesting paper. I suggest in a best case scenario it might be true. However, when the clinic misplaces your records and vaccinates your child 2x over the prescribed amount in a short period of time you need to pay more attention. Things like this happen every day. I’m simply arguing for informed use of good vaccines over being a good sheep and doing what “science” or the “doctor” tells us to.

  78. #87
    Really? The Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons is a highly political publication that holds the following views.

    * that the Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services are unconstitutional
    * that “humanists” have conspired to replace the “creation religion of Jehovah” with evolution
    * that increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has not caused global warming
    * that HIV does not cause AIDS
    * that the “gay male lifestyle” shortens life expectancy by 20 years.

    They have published articles unsupported by data that claimed a link between abortion and cancer (refuted by just about every major cancer research organization) as well as leprosy and illegal immigrants.

    They are a scare mag, with no credibility whatsoever.

  79. Xopher,

    I take your point. Albeit very easy to do inside a comment box. Disturbing and guilty memories plague me as a father for having let things happen inside the doctor’s office when we were new parents and were scared sh*tless.

    Much harder to make these choices on the spot when it’s your baby girl and not yourself.

  80. @ 73 Theresa
    “But that doesn’t justify putting others’ lives at risk as clearly as we do by not vaccinating.”

    Yes, you’re right. Health care is a hugely triggering issue for me so it’s probably best if I will try to refrain from letting my emotions hijack me.

    @ GregLondon
    “Saying “I don’t trust (fill in subject)” doesn’t prove a gawdamn thing about the subject. All it proves is your emotional state.”

    I understand that. My point was that my emotional state is reflected in that of others. I drew a distinction between those who don’t get immunized due to being recent immigrants or are otherwise poor and uneducated. Let’s set those aside.

    There are others who are not so poor, in fact they can afford to shop at organic health food stores. As I understand it some of them are also not getting immunized. Sometimes fear about thimerosal is given as a reason why.

    I am putting forward my theory that with this latter group their resistance is more related to a lack of trust in officials than it is to scientific ignorance. They feel betrayed and alone. The last eight years have given people plenty of reasons to distrust sources such as the government of the media.

  81. Zuzu 64: Thanks for that dialogue quotation. I don’t watch that show myself, but this is a really good bit of snark, and I’ll be using it when I encounter anti-vac nutbars in the future.

    I’m ashamed to admit that I didn’t say this before because of our conflicts elsewhere. My apologies.

    AKillian 90: I’m more than sure it is. To my mind, that’s an argument in favor of making certain vaccines mandatory. This would take the anguish of deciding off the parents, though of course it has serious drawbacks and would have to be carefully considered!

  82. I am putting forward my theory that with this latter group their resistance is more related to a lack of trust in officials than it is to scientific ignorance.

    And my point is that there is no difference between “lack of trust” and “scientific ignorance”. Both are emotions that people use to justify logical fallacies.

    The only difference between the two would be equivalent to the difference between, say, “fear” and “anger”. Sure, they’re not exactly the same, but they’re both emotions.

  83. vaccinate your kid and feel guilty when they cry over the needle. Vaccinate your kid and feel guilty when they get sick with something else anyway. Vaccinate your kid twice by accident and feel guilty. Vaccinate your kid and watch them never get sick and feel guilty anyway. Don’t vaccinate your kids and watch them die and feel guilty. Don’t vaccinate your kids and they don’t get sick but you wonder and feel guilty anyway. Vaccinate some but not all of your kids for everything and feel guilty.
    See your kids get sick with anything and feel guilty. Live with your healthy kids that never get sick and wonder if you are really doing enough and feel guilty.

    Look, you were fucked the moment you decided to have them. Try very hard to sort that out in your head and do use advice from competent others about your duty to your kids and the kids of others.

  84. Nelsonc, #54,

    It’s not a question of “pulling” anything on you, or anyone else for that matter. My points are only these:

    – What we are so sure “we” (the royal we) know today is often overturned tomorrow. People got hung for the round-earth hypothesis. And they had reasonable ideas for backing that up. Oops.
    – Thimerosol OK? Read the other posts, for starters (about toxicity). Then tell me how much gamma radiation is “OK” for the human body, and why. Many people shed mercury “well”. Some do not. With respect to gamma, for example, millions of particles (not really a particle but that’s not for this discussion) whistle through us all the time. Occasionally, one does not. And occasionally, one hits the wrong cell nucleus at the wrong time in the wrong person. Why defend thimerosol? It’s not a necessary ingredient for vaccinations for any reason other than fiscal. And it is not out of all vaccines in this country, yet. Thimerosol does not protect the body from anything…

    I’m not trying to enter a pissing contest with you, or anyone. I respect your beliefs here even as I disagree with them. Sixty-three years ago, some very, very bright physicists made a reasonable case for the first atomic test igniting the atmosphere and, well, winding up the planet. Some very, very bright physicists disagreed. Two good sides… one was correct, and no one “knew” until the kaboom.
    I think it’s great, and correct, to question everything (I try to, and sometimes I don’t do it as well as I should). I don’t believe in God, either, but if some day “He” should pop in for a chat (and I’m sober at the time) I imagine I’ll pay more attention. Yes, I know people who have had him pop in for such a chat…just hasn’t been me (perhaps I’m on the list).
    As others have posted, you will comport your life and your family’s life around what you believe, as will I. I don’t think that’s a bad choice for anyone (and the herd argument is interesting, but much more complex than is typically characterized here).
    Also, if it was found that some percentage of the population was susceptible to vaccine damage, either from the agent or the (unneeded) preservative, AND it was possible to test that individual ahead of time for that suscepibility, then why would it be a bad idea to follow that route and exempt those who would be hurt?

    Good luck to you and yours. I can’t say that I don’t get bent out of shape over certain arguments, but when I do my thought processes does not function as well as I would like.


    – Stu

  85. Thimerosal has mercury in the compound – not methylated, and not neurotoxic, and in /extremely small/ amounts, as a preservative.

    Other preservatives: Table Salt has chlorine – as an ion, not a free radical gas.

    A /real/ concern for environmental sources of mercury:

    The high-quality interior latex house paint on the walls of the kids’ bedroom? Has a fungicide capable of eating a man’s entire arm off from a single drop. When released into the air inside the house, is capable of causing acrodynia. Phenylmercuric acetate.

    Didja paint the inside of the home with exterior paint? Didja use old or badly formulated paint? Didja kid chew on the paint or eat the paint?

    Then there’s phtalates, which have been in everything from baby bottles to clothing, chew toys, pool toys, and the anti-rust linings of canned food cans. They cause endocrine disruption, altering the timing of physical and mental development … Like what happens in autism!
    People most likely to eat canned foods, feed canned foods, dress kids in inexpensive clothing, and give cheap PVC toys to kids: Mothers on welfare stipends.

    It’s far more likely that a child’s systemic reaction to a partially-live vaccine has more to do with disrupting the timing of their neurological or endocrinological development than the excessively tiny quantities of ethyl mercury they’re exposed to from a vaccine.

    People rave about mercury-free vaccines as if it were /the/ solution for a complex problem, and rave from ignorance of the other, much-higher-risk, environmental conditions and risks they expose their children to.

  86. Looks like this has become the bad science page. Thermisol has been out of vaccines for years. Yet autism rates continued to climb. No serious medical journal has published anything about vaccines causing anything except potential reactions such as egg allergic reactions or the one I got as a child to the pertussis vaccine (which is since been modified to lessen reactions). If you want to look for causes of increased allergies in the world, especially the western world, then consider this: Determining the impact of vaccines is easy. Go to a place where children don’t get vaccinations and see if these supposed effects don’t occur there. Of course they do, but make sure you take in account the impact of them having worms too. :-)

  87. #9 posted by Anonymous , February 5, 2009 11:35 PM

    The problem with modern vaccination is not vaccination itself. Vaccination is a real boon to prevention in dense populations. Please get your children vaccinated!

    The problem is most cheap vaccines use Thimerosal to preserve them. Thimerosal is a mercury based preservative that has been linked to the sharp rise in autism. Unfortunately mercury is highly toxic, even small amounts, especially in small children

    Anon #9, you are wrong.

    There is no link between vaccinations and autism, nor with Thimerosal and autism. Several large studies have proven that.

    And, there is no Thimerosal in childhood vaccines and hasn’t been for years, yet the rate of autism hasn’t gone down.

    You are spreading falsehoods. Please check the “Bad Science” site and other real science sites for accurate information.

    Childhood vaccinations are safe and vital for the health of individuals and the popluation.

  88. Interesting discussion, to say the least. Mostly rational.
    Given that anti-vac parents seems to link mercury-based compounds (or something) in vaccines to the rising incidence of autism, is it at all possible that actual mercury contamination might be a factor here? As in the recently alleged trace amounts of mercury to be found in high fructose corn syrup — knowledge of the same having been held in confidence by the FDA for a number of years now?
    Because it’s not like consumption of HFCS started at around the same time as the rapid increase in autism cases … er … oh wait …
    Call me paranoid, but I’m much more suspicious of Big Agriculture than I am of Big Pharma.

  89. #104 You are forgetting to account for the the time it will take for the phase out effects to become known. The phaseout allowed for a time period for the switchover and all existing stock to be used so it took a few years before they were removed from use. It won’t be until 2011 when the children having received only Thermisol free shots will be old enough to have exhibited the effects of this change that we will have enough data.

    I’m finding many credible studies both ways.

  90. @ Greglondon
    “And my point is that there is no difference between “lack of trust” and “scientific ignorance”. Both are emotions that people use to justify logical fallacies.”

    Only if you believe that all truth comes from authority. If for instance traditional sources have become corrupted and one feels they cannot be trusted then everything breaks down.

    If pharma companies sell drugs that are useless or even actively harmful then is it really such a surprise that people stop trusting them and turn elsewhere? Not everyone is seeking to justify their pseudoscience but in an environment where the truth is tainted alternatives start to look good.

    Let’s take an example. In Germany St. John’s Wort is available to treat mild depression. Last time I looked it worked fine for that, though it was a long time ago. In the US however it is depreciated as an herbal remedy. It has a very second class status here. People who are looking for a cheaper alternative to antidepressants might give it a try and it might work for them. So it gets passed along by word of mouth.

    A network then builds up and information is passed along. It isn’t good information, but it’s better than nothing. Then along comes this clusterfuck of an administration that takes corporate greed and malfeasance to unheard of levels. So it should come as no surprise how people react.

    My emotions are not important, but I don’t think I’m alone. I think we’ll have riots this summer. Healthcare and jobs will be why.

  91. Era: And that “secret” meeting, and those discussions, discuss corellation, not causation. The inability to distinguish between correlation and causation is the heart of this matter. WTG!

  92. Only if you believe that all truth comes from authority.

    You’re missing the point and changing the subject.

    traditional sources have become corrupted

    citation needed as applied to vaccines.

    they cannot be trusted

    citation needed as applied to vaccines.

    pharma companies sell drugs that are useless or even actively harmful

    citation needed as applied to vaccines.

    the truth is tainted

    citation needed as applied to vaccines.

    administration that takes corporate greed and malfeasance to unheard of levels.

    citation needed as applied to vaccines.

    My emotions are not important

    Seriously? The above excerpts from just your last post show nothing but fear, bordering on paranoia. You don’t think that colors your vision? YOu don’t think that affects how you see the facts?

    What you’re thinking right now is something along the lines of

    “but its true”

    and you’re wrong.

  93. Here’s my take on parental motivations. Assume a disease that will kill one in ten thousand and a fully effective vaccine that will kill one in a million. Many parents will choose the higher risk of not vaccinating. If the child dies after being vaccinated, the parents feel personally responsible. If the child dies from the disease, it’s the hand of God or whatever is analogous in their belief system.

    If you listen to what people say about this it runs to, “Oh, my God, I would feel so terrible if I did something that…” Some parents will choose a greater passive risk to their children in order to avoid guilt after the fact. Parental motives are not necessarily clear to anyone (including the parents) and are not always effectively altruistic. Guilt avoidance is a huge motivator in parenting. cf Free Range Kids.

  94. Quoting from a couple of the links above, it sounds like the ETHYL mercury in themiorsal isn’t very well-studied versus the METHYL mercury found in, e.g., fish, polar bears and mommy’s breast milk. And everywhere else on earth.

    From the health canada statement:

    “Very little is actually known about ethyl mercury metabolism in humans, including whether it has the same potency as a neurotoxin, whether the blood concentration is ever significant, and even whether it crosses the blood-brain barrier. It is presumed […]”

    …and from the ehponline article:

    “Ulfvarson (63) demonstrated that the type of anion attached to the alkyl mercury radical made little difference to the ultimate disposition in the body. These include such anions as hydroxyl, cyanide, and even the thiol-containing propane diolmercaptide. These findings suggest that the mercury radical rapidly dissociates from the anion in the parent compound to attach to ligands in tissues.”

    “Therefore, it is assumed that administration of thimerosal results in the immediate release of the ethyl mercury to the surrounding tissues. Toxicologically, ethyl mercury in thimerosal is assumed to follow the same pathways of disposition as ethyl mercury absorbed into the body from other ethyl mercury compounds. ”

    The heavy use of words like “theoretically”, “postulated”, “presumption” and “assumption” about what happens to mercury-derivatives in my body doesn’t give me warm fuzzy feelings about how safe it might be…

    If you want to inject themiorsal into your kids, go ahead — just don’t ask me to.

    …so, sure, *vaccinations* in general seem like a good risk/reward ratio, but of course one should have the opportunity to look at them individually. For example, does smallpox make sense still? Almost certainly not.

  95. Greg, you are missing the point and stop acting like a geek and talk normal. I don’t need to provide cites for my feelings or impressions because I am the source. You appear to want to talk about a different issue than I do. Sorry, I’m not interested.

  96. If you want to inject themiorsal into your kids, go ahead — just don’t ask me to.

    Nobody is asking you to do any such thing.

    This can’t be said enough. Large epidemiological studies have proven that there is NO, that’s “N” “O” correlation between childhood vaccines and autism. None.

    Second, and this can’t be emphasized enough, either, there is no thimerosal in childhood vaccines.

    The FUD, it burns…

  97. mikewarren: Going backwards –

    Yes, smallpox vaccinations still make sense; It has not been completely eradicated from the planet.

    It’s “thimerosal” or “thiomersal”.

    The ethyl mercury metabolite of thimerosal is expeditiously removed from the body because it is water-soluble. Methyl Mercury is not, because it is merely fat soluble, and thus gets shunted to parts of the body using fat … like, for example, neurons.

    The quantity of mercury in a multi-dose vaccine is TINY compared to what a child would get if they, for example, ate shark or swordfish or other mercury-laden fish, or licked older exterior latex paint, or lived in a room in which a mercury thermometer (or a fluorescent lamp) had been broken.

  98. #86 posted by buddy66 , February 6, 2009 10:14 AM

    The Bad Old Days. I’m surprised my siblings and I survived those goddamn childhood plagues (I’m old enough that the word “siblings” sounds silly).

    You are a survivor, and still alive to tell the tale. Others were not so lucky and by dint of being dead from infectious diseases that we now have vaccinations for aren’t around to point of the fallacy of your position…

  99. There you go talking sense in a senseless world.

    Like so many discussions we have here, this topic is never about science, and always emotion.

    Just this morning I saw a bumper sticker that stated “1 in 150 kids has autism. Why?” First of all that statistic is false. First, that ratio is only in some areas of the country. Secondly, only a small portion of that 1 in 150 actually have Autism.

    To quote the CDC:

    ASDs occur in all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups and are four times more likely to occur in boys than in girls. CDC’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network released data in 2007 that found about 1 in 150 8-year-old children in multiple areas of the United States had an ASD.

    First, in other words, 1 in 150 children has one of many Autism Spectrum Disorders, which is an ever growing umbrella for everything from Autism to your kid ain’t perfect. Secondly, that ratio is only in some areas of the country. Thirdly, only a small portion of that 1 in 150 actually have Autism.

    Quoting the CDC:

    ASDs include autistic disorder, pervasive developmental disorder – not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS, including atypical autism), and Asperger syndrome. These conditions all have some of the same symptoms, but they differ in terms of when the symptoms start, how severe they are, and the exact nature of the symptoms. The three conditions, along with Rett syndrome and childhood disintegrative disorder, make up the broad diagnosis category of pervasive developmental disorders.

    Furthermore Thimerisal has been removed from all single dose vaccines. Multi dose vaccines have extremely small amounts of Thimerosal, on the order of 25 micrograms per 0.5 ml dose. One milliliter is roughly 1 gram depending on the specific gravity of the compound. Please see this page of FAQ’s and this page, which includes a chart of Thimerosal levels in vaccines, from the evil FDA, which is trying to remove all Thimerosal from all vaccines.

    A vaccine containing 0.01% thimerosal as a preservative contains 50 micrograms of thimerosal per 0.5 mL dose or approximately 25 micrograms of mercury per 0.5 mL dose.

    In some cases, thimerosal is used during the manufacturing process and is present in small amounts in the final vaccine (1 micrograms mercury or less per dose).

    To understand these numbers understand 1 milliliter is 1/1000 of a liter and weighs one gram and equals 1 cubic centimeter in volume, and 1 cubic cm equals only 0.06 cubic inches. A miligram is 1/1000 of a gram and 1 milligram equals 1,000 micrograms. In other words one microgram is one millionth of a gram or 1 billionth of a liter. So, in that 0.5 ml dose, which is the same as saying 500 milligrams, the dose contained 25 millionths of a gram of mercury.

    Children receive only a few vaccines, which include this preservative. The MMR and the Flu vaccines are important vaccines that save the lives of thousands of children every year.

    On a more personal level, my heart goes out to those who have children with one of the ASD’s, my own child my have some mild problems. However, vaccines are not the cause and I’m sick and tired of this Dark Ages discussion and those who exploit the herd immunity to further their own ignorance and fear. Autism and the other disorders under the broad ASD umbrella are most likely predominately genetic. I’m with Takuan, move to some place without vaccines and let someone there, who watches children die, move here and take advantage of our wealth and good fortune at being born in the developed world.

  100. doesn’t give me warm fuzzy feelings about how safe it might be. If you want to inject themiorsal into your kids, go ahead — just don’t ask me to.

    Duly noted, your fear has now been converted into sufficient certainty that you are willing to take action. You don’t know anything about the mercury, other than a lack of “warm fuzzies” and yet that is enough to take action to NOT vaccinate your kid. Regardless of the risk that “no vaccine” might have.

    oh and the “you can do it, don’t make me” argument? That’s stick figure libertarianism, where individual choice is given supremacy over all else. laissez faire capitalism is little more than stick figure libertarianism. Hey, if you want to submit your sausage plant to government inspections, go for it, just don’t force me to go along with your stupid plan.

    Removing certain options can make everyone safer. Labels on food being a mandatory legal requirement removes options from the public. And yet, everyone is safer for it.

    Vaccinations are of the same category.

    You’re howls of indignation that you might be forced to do something are little different than some capitalist howling against minimum wage laws. If people want to work for less, then they ought to be allowed to work for less, they argue. Let the workers choose. No, that isn’t how it works. YOu want to run a corporation and have employees, you have to pay them a minimum wage. You want to make sausage, you have to meet certain food requirements.

    If all you’ve got for facts against vaccinations is a lack of “warm fuzzies”, then you’ve got nothing but argument from ignorance. And if you’re going to use ignorance to put the entire population at risk to diseases that had been wiped out by vaccines but come back due to your ignornace, then your “choice” no longer affects just you, and I wouldn’t have too much problem if the law pushes for vaccinations.

  101. @BARDFINN: “Conversion to inorganic mercury. There is, however, one important difference from methyl mercury illustrated in the report from Matheson et al. (59). Inorganic mercury accounted for about 50% of the total mercury in blood samples collected from this patient. This is in marked distinction from methyl mercury, where inorganic mercury accounts for only about 10% of total mercury in blood (10).”

    “Similar findings were made in the case described by Suzuki et al. (58). A significant fraction of the total mercury in both gray and white matter of the brain was in the form of inorganic mercury of the order of 30-40%. The kidney cortex had the highest percentage. These findings are confirmed by studies on experimental animals (32). Blood and tissue levels, including the brain, were higher in animals dosed with ethyl mercury compared with an equivalent dose of a methyl mercury compound. The high tissue levels of inorganic mercury seen in both humans and animals indicate that ethyl mercury breaks down to inorganic mercury more rapidly than methyl mercury. ”

    @SKEP: yes, not any longer. There *was* however, and there still is in flu vaccines as well as Hep B vaccines (although you’re correct that, in Canada, the vaccinations “normally” given kids no longer have thimeiorosal or however you spell it).

    Also, let us not ignore the conclusion from the ehponline link:

    “As we gaze at these three modern faces of mercury and reflect upon the extensive research conducted in our lifetime, we must reluctantly agree with the title of a BBC documentary broadcast over 25 years ago that this metal still remains “an element of mystery.””

    Again, not producing warm fuzzies over here, especially not to avoid a little flu (for example)…

  102. If people are interested in the full transcript (rather than annotating themselves or having to hear the whole thing) – the blow-by-blow of what was said features here:

    The Full Transcript:
    Part 1 – Science Punk
    Part 2 – The Lay Scientist
    Part 3 – PodBlack Cat
    Part 4 – The Skeptic’s Book
    Part 5 – Science Punk
    Part 6 – Holford Watch

  103. @ #100


    Um, no, I am a paid medical researcher (scientist) and try to get people to listen to good science everyday. But if you automatically accept whatever your doctor (and by doctor I mean it in the general sense) says because of an assumed ‘science’ principle, you are an idiot (again, ‘you’ in the general sense ;)

    @ Takuan, you are obviously the only consciousness in this thread, thanks for taking my remarks so seriously.

  104. might I emphasize that the Greater Good is not served by engaging in polarizing, combative argument with parents over the vaccination of their children, anger feeds fear, fear can only be beaten when ignorance is beaten. And no one like to be told they are ignorant. Calm , rational discussion, citation of best available facts and arrival at un-coerced consensus. Primates are hard-wired to protect their young to the point of death.

  105. Actually, there is little or no good evidence that thiomersal has a role in autism. In any case, its use as a preservative was dropped several years ago. But for the anti-vaccination crowd it will always be 1491.

  106. @GREGLONDON I don’t know how you concluded that I’m not vaccinating myself, or any children I may have and your raving about libertarianism is, uhm, curious.

    I am merely pointing out that it seems like there might be risks to injecting ethyl mercury-compounds into yourself which aren’t well understood AND you have no right to force me to inject anything at all, no matter how great a “public good” you think it serves (even if you’re right).

  107. AND you have no right to force me

    choice over all else

    no matter how great a “public good”

    who is raving?

  108. So, I can assume no one here who fears vaccines be cause of Thimerosal’s unsubstantiated links to Autism has ever given their children any shrimp, canned light tuna, albacore tuna, salmon, pollock, or catfish, and they especially avoid any and all shark, swordfish, king mackerel, or Tilefish.

  109. Zuzu #52:

    That said, how many of you seek immunizations to viruses uncommon in the modernized parts of the world, such as for yellow fever or Japanese encephalitis?

    I don’t recall ever getting the immunization for Japanese encephalitis, but I definitely had the one for yellow fever.

    How many of you kept up with your hepatitis B and tetanus boosters?

    I’m totally up to date on both.

    How many of you receive the influenza vaccine every year?

    Every year, and I encourage everyone around me to get theirs. Influenza kills people.

  110. Mike 134: you have no right to force me to inject anything at all, no matter how great a “public good” you think it serves (even if you’re right).

    Unless you live in bioisolation from anyone who hasn’t signed an “at your own risk” agreement before visiting you, you’re quite wrong about that.

  111. Thimerosol’s been out of children’s vaccines (except flu) for something like 7 years. It’s just not relevant.

  112. #123 Skep: “You are a survivor. Others were not so lucky and … aren’t around to point of [sic] the fallacy of your position.”

    What position? It’s just a brief recounting.

    you sure got the kids guilt trip right. Guilty if you do, guilty if you don’t. I once concluded it was a colossal irony: My kids were driving me nuts but, finally, they were the only thing that kept me sane.

  113. @GREG:
    You keep conflating our desire for choice in what’s injected into our bodies with some kind of extreme libertarianism, “choice over all else.” It doesn’t appear at all that simple to me.

    I’m a pretty big fan of having a choice about what is put into or taken out of my body. The value of “my body, my choice” arguments can be seen by looking at another major issues of our time, which I won’t even mention by name because I don’t want to tangent that way.

    I trust vaccinations enough not to resist them, when my doctor recommends them. I’m not aware of having received any recently. But that’s only because I trust my doctor. You make call me stupid or selfish for doing so, but if someone is coming at my body with something I don’t trust, I’m gonna fight back. Maybe that’s totally irrational and emotional of me, but hey, survival instincts are survival instincts.

    So the questions for me are really, how much force are we gonna use to overcome any backlash of fear to a given vaccine? Are we really just going to declare “science has spoken” and shove this in the arms of a scared populace? Is that sort of thing really what’s best for the herd?

    If someone’s frightened we can’t just say “Don’t be so emotional!” Sometimes that helps, but often that just further entrenches the fear. The people talking about their feelings here aren’t without logic, and don’t deserve to be treated as such. Don’t look at them as arguments to be defeated, look at them as people to be convinced. Their feelings deserve respect and consideration–at least if we intend to jab them or their kids in the arm with anything.

  114. Noen @54: (” Most people no longer have access to health care. “)

    Cory’s in the UK. Where _Everyone_ has access to health care. Universal Coverage. Free at the point of use. Cradle to Grave.

    Many of your points might relate to health care in the US, but they’re not nearly so relevant in the UK, where, as someone else points out, there has been a significant increase in Measles cases, including the first deaths for years.

  115. From Jeni Barnett’s blog:

    Dear All,

    The reaction to the interview about the MMR jab is growing like a fungus.

    I am not a scientist, I would not claim to be a scientist. When tested on the contents of the MMR vaccine I told the truth. I did not have the facts to hand. Was I ill informed? Yes.As a responsible broadcaster I should have been better prepared as a parent, however, I can fight my corner. I don’t know everything that goes into cigarettes but I do know they are harmful.

    As a professional should I have been better prepared – YES – but the discussion took off in a direction I hadn’t expected when I received a vicious phone call from a Nurse I was utterly thrown. I won’t get thrown again.

    I find it interesting that the vitriol that comes out of the pro MMR lobby is precisely why Allopathic medicine is struggling. Most of us who seek alternatives allow others their position but often the ‘others’ have a real problem allowing us ours.

    Doesn’t change my mind though. The fact that I decided not to have my child jabbed was my decision alone. And it is a lonely decision. To be singled out and held totally responsible for a measles, mumps or rubella ‘epidemic’ is clearly ludicrous.

    Single jabs on demand? Why is that a problem?

    Injecting tiny babies with substances that may compromise their immune system needs to be looked at not shouted down.

    And I do not accept that my position, as a radio broadcaster, is irresponsible if I should choose to share my own personal dilemma. I would like some of my critics to try and run a three hour programme.

    I am interested in the debate not a witch hunt.

    Should anybody from BAD SCIENCE read this I urge you to continue the debate, and if it gets too heated there is always the option of turning me off.

  116. there’s a powerful undercurrent to this debate in the u.k that goldacre picks up on occasionally – that ‘outsider’ or ‘stand alone’ intelligent free thinkers are the ones who are being silenced because they dare to speak out against the tyranny of big pharma and government edict. jeni barnett shamelessly thumps this button in the first few minutes of her show, even using the ‘herd’ part of ‘herd immunity’ rhetorically to label all those who have made the decision to get their kids MMR’d with some bovine mindset – essentially passive and ignorant. this is the usual ‘shock-jock’ tactic as applied to any emotive public issue (crime, health, taxation) and is an important factor behind these new measles figures.

    these topics generate good figures for the media, especially if the ‘common sense maveric’ card is played, and it’s unwise to ignore this aspect. a notable example is melanie phillips in the daily mail who memorably described goldacre’s citing epidemiology stats as a ‘category error’ in this debate. these people love to portray themselves as lone voices put upon by the ‘nanny state’.

    until this aspect can be defused, the MMR thing will never settle down.

  117. Cory, thank you for consistently hitting the nail on the head. I’ve been following the anti-vax stuff online for a while and it just makes me want to scream. This and your global warming posts make me feel proud to participate in this community.

    And props to Teresa and Takuan, too, for reminding us of the horrors humanity has only recently escaped. My grandmother was one of eleven; six of her brothers and sisters died in childhood, three of them of diptheria. She went on to have twelve children: ten are still alive, aged 70 to 92.

    Anyone who wants us to go back to a world where it’s normal for parents to bury half their children is one sick f*ck.

  118. Many children have been found to be eating solid food at the time they develop autism. The evidence is clear…SOLID FOOD CAUSES AUTISM. Before solid food, kids were breast-fed until their early teens, which prevented accumulation of alkali metals and halogens such as KCl and NaCl or even KI in their early brains.
    I repeat SOLID FOOD CAUSES AUTISM. I’m just trying to protect your kids. Of course if you really wanted to prevent autism you wouldn’t have any kids.

  119. I highly recommend everyone read Dr. Paul Offits’ book “Autism’s False Prophets”. The doctor has not been able to do much of a book tour due to death threats. This is a very good NYT article

    From the Times article:

    Dr. Nancy J. Minshew, a neurologist at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and a leading autism expert, said she had begun telling any parent asking about vaccines to read the Offit book. A brain-imaging specialist who gets no money from vaccine companies, she said she had never met or spoken with Dr. Offit.

    Autism, she said, is one of many diseases, like dyslexia, Elephant Man’s disease, tuberous sclerosis and schizophrenia, that are caused by genetic flaws but show no symptoms for years.

    She blamed journalists for “creating a conspiracy where there was none.” By acting as if there were two legitimate sides to the autism debate, she said, “the media has fed on this — it’s great for ratings.”

    Many doctors now argue that reporters should treat the antivaccine lobby with the same indifference they do Holocaust deniers, AIDS deniers and those claiming to have proof that NASA faked the Moon landings.

    Does this sound familiar? Reminds me of the creationists convincing everyone there are actually two sides to the faux evolution debate.

  120. I am a paid medical researcher (scientist)

    Whenever someone hints/flat out states his credentials as a member of the intelligentsia I get immediately sceptical.

    Heck, this is the internet. Everyone has double PhD’s in whatever topic happen to be under debate.

    If you can’t sway me with evidence (which you haven’t even tried to), don’t waste your time with trying to impress me with your brains.

  121. @ Yog, # 137 -I get a flu vaccine every year too. Anyone who’s not going to have a bad reaction to the shot should as well.

    Most westerners haven’t live in a nation where disease regularly kills large swaths of the population if preventative measures aren’t taken. Having lived in an area where Dengue Fever was a possibility, you get a different perspective. Communities have to act in concert, or everyone suffers. If you want to be a rugged individual, or an iconoclast, an violate health safety rules you suffer some pretty strong consequences.

  122. Boy, oh, boy…


    1) vaccinate your kids where appropriate.
    2) don’t vaccinate them where not appropriate.

    Now, what’s appropriate and what’s not? That’s up to all of us. But force it on people? You’ll end up in a shooting war. I promise.

    In perhaps 30 years, an awful lot of this stuff is going to look a lot different. In one hundred years we will likely look back upon “those barbarians” (us),

    “…would you believe they actually CUT PEOPLE OPEN for surgery???!!!???” AND, they INJECTED people with ALL SORTS OF STUFF!!! All of this was prior to the Gen-Mod Plasma System that we all undergo as part of every LabSpawn creation that makes all of us today.

    Those primitive, heartless bastards. Of course, no one knew any better…”

    – Stu

  123. I only have a few things to say on this. Some of this may come off as ‘facts not in evidence’. However, it will be more to make the point than be completly factually correct.

    Do vaccines make people sick. Yes. But a small portion. Are there some people who should NOT get vaccines, again, yes. Vaccines are like any other medical procedure or medicine, or barring that food product, or generally being alive. That being…they have side effects. Have you ever seen drug ads on TV? Sometimes the listed side effects are WORSE than the condition. But…things only happen to a small portion. Hell, a new athsma drug may INCREASE THE RISK OF DEATH FROM ASTHMA.

    Vaccines themselves are NOT the problem. Yes, some people cannot get them for whatever reason (egg allergy or whatever). Not getting a vaccine based on incorrect facts could hurt all of us in time.

    Those who choose not to vaccinate because it may cause autism (it doesn’t) or contains mercury (very few, and in such small amounts in likely can’t even be detected once injected), I wonder what they would do if their child needed a blood transfusion. Transfusions ‘could’ contain many nasty things (HIV…). They don’t however thanks to better science. Science isn’t perfect, never was, never will be. Is the mercury harmful that was there, probably not. But its not used anymore, so…moot point.

    Rambling on, I wonder if these may be the same parent who get their kids antibiotics for everything. Which of course has led to things like MRSA and VRSA.

    My non-doctor advise: Vaccinate kids, keep up to date with yours, and don’t use antibiotics for things that they can’t help with. Antibiotics are good for certain things, but not all. Try a placebo, it’ll make ya feel better : )

    As to the flu vaccine, since it’s a best guess anyway, and I’m a healthy ‘middle age’ individual, I don’t get one. I’ll stay home and fight it off. However, for the elderly, young and those with compromised immune systems…take it. It ain’t gonna kill ya…the flu however might!

    /off soapbox /

    BTW – in Canada, mumps means a 9 day quarantine. I don’t know if its a mandate or a suggestion. And I can’t cite this one…it was on a poster in the bathroom at U of T.

  124. I’m safe from SPAZZUM’s contempt, since I’m on record as saying my dissertation was rejected. How do you get into this intelligentsia racket anyway? Sounds cool.

    While I’m here: TWIMC, take note: There is no tat in preventive. See: I can be a snotty pedant without a Ph.D.

  125. @#76 Akillian

    A couple of things. Toxicity depends on DOSAGE. There is even a human LD50 value for water or the horrendously toxic sodium chloride, if you insist.

    As you have Thimerosal handy in your lab (all 10g of it), why don’t you have a look in the COSHH form for it what the LD50 for it is? Then go and compare that with the quantity used in vaccines actually is (if it is still there at all).

    And then go and contemplate why certain elements which are highly toxic in elemental form (Na, Cl, for example) can be quite harmless (in appropriate dose) in compound form (say e.g. table salt).

  126. Antinous,

    I googled “iron lung”. Nice machine.

    I have a friend with polio, altho’ not in need of “the lung”. It sucks (leg weakness, not wholly paralytic). So (since I’m assuming that was the gist of your message), what do we know about polio vaccinations?

    – they used to be oral (and some still are), and those use a live vaccine. Not even injected, how nice. Except that in certain cases they will cause polio in the very people they are trying to “save”, and kids, for a (short) time after taking the live oral polio vaccine, will shed the virus and can pass the live virus onto other (close, proximate) children. Oops. This is a good reason to seriously consider this vaccine. You can request a thimerosol-free version. Be careful, there may still be stockpiles of thimerosol-preserved versions. I don’t know what’s left in inventory, if any, but I would find out before I jumped with my kids.

    – Flu vaccine…great subject. I keep running into the fact that these are still preserved with thimerosol…and I still don’t like that. The other part is, I think the US loses about 20,000 people a year to the flu…many millions of us get the flu vaccine every year (% of injuries unknown, at least to me), but the “funny” part? EVERY YEAR I hear that the vaccine is only “partly effective”, or “may have little or no effect” because they’re always shooting at last year’s strain.


    The flu mostly kills those with compromised immune systems (elderly, HIV/AIDS infected, compromised infants). Of course, those are the ones least able to cope with certain foreign substances injected into their bodies.

    The ironies continue.

    – Stu

  127. Sorry, one other thing:

    One has only (again) to look back through history at how many instances of science and/or the government telling us what was good for us, because THEY KNOW and THE EXPERTS HAVE PROVED IT, SEE THE FACTS WE HAVE HERE????!!???

    – injected uranium
    – injected radium (products containing both of these were the rage for a bit in the ’50s)
    – radiation was actually good for you
    – (a while before all that) bloodletting was the correct treatment for a great many things. Try that if you’re actually anemic. Outside of perhaps hemochromatosis, bloodletting (currently upgraded to “phlebotomy”) is not going to do a while lot for you.
    – Ask the Tuskeegee Airmen about what’s medically good for you, I think they had a bit of “fun” with the government along those lines…but it was for the good of the country. Of course.

    I’m sure someone has written a book on “old medicine”. Someone will write another one in a century or two. Pre-order your copy from Amazon.

    – Stu

    1. hancocks,

      Smallpox has been eradicated because of vaccination. Polio has been eradicated everywhere except the places where pseudo-science and superstition have convinced people not to allow their children to be vaccinated. There’s a difference between crackpot medical experiments and vaccines that have proven their worth over the course of decades with a population of billions of people.

  128. “The science on inoculations is a settled matter” – Cory you are neither a scientist or a Doctor – your a blogger.

  129. Since anecdotes apparently count as evidence these days, I should note that I’ve never had an ill effect after a vaccination (MMR, polio, diphtheria, tetanus and meningitis C recently), and I also went to the pub after each vaccination.
    My sister was ill after her vaccinations, and didn’t go to the pub. You may draw your own conclusions, but I think it’s obvious: Alcohol cures autism.

    Anecdotes aren’t evidence. Science, in general, works (I’m a physics student, not a med student, so I can’t speak with absolute certainty (If you can find a scientist who will speak, on the record, with absolute certainty, don’t trust them)). Vaccinations are, as far as I can tell, a good thing. In general. There are side effects, and your GP should point these, and the probabilities, out to you before sticking a needle in you, but autism isn’t one of them. Again, as far as I can tell. Point me towards multiple, reputable, well researched studies, and I will reconsider (Not that it really matters to me now, until I have children. Like I said, I’m a physics student, it might never happen :P).

  130. Hancocks: rigor is important in science. As it is in other things. The Tuskegee Airmen were aviators. The Tuskegee syphilis study was in Tuskegee. The name does not mean they are the same thing.

  131. Hancocks, One has only (again) to look back through history at how many instances of science and/or the government telling us what was good for us…..

    Know who isn’t recorded though? The manifold misinformed cranks who died of rubella.

  132. Ww, n f th mst rrspnsbl fr mckng rtcls hv vr rd. ‘Srry smllpx mnt msls t ws lt t nght..’. Dd, dd y rn t stmpnk, pls g bck t stmpnk.

    nd, ths t lttl t b vccntd? Wht d y mn? Chldrn bgn vccntn n th stts bfr thy lv th hsptl thy hv rcvd thr frst nncltn fr HpB. S mprtnt, bcs gd knws n nfnt’s chncs f cntrctng Hp B r s hgh!!!!

    Yr wn chld s ld ngh t bgn vccntn. ND F sh hs nt hd hr cmplt cmplmnt sh shld nt b flyng ntrntnlly!!!!! Y thn, sr, r drggng rnd vctr thrgh th ntrntnl r. Y r slfsh!!! Y r dpndng n hrd mmnty fr yr wn chld. nd btw-pls dn’t try t tss t th cncpt f pssv mmnty t m s tht s nly s gd s th mthr’s mmnty stts, nd whthr th nfnt s brst fdng NLY.

    @31,38,45 xctly

    Thr s n vccntn fr TB, r ffctv vccntn, n ny ntnwd prvntn prgrm. Thr s th tn tst t s f n hs hd xpsr nd rqrs trtmnt.

    f chs nt t vccnt my chldrn, rlly wld nt pt ny hp n hrd mmnty t prtct thm.

    , t, trst scnc. thnk y ssm t mch t thr s ctl scnc. Jst lk ssm tht mst f wht rd n Bng Bng s ctl jrnlsm.

    Wht s hppnng t ths st?

  133. I’m not convinced that thimerosal is a magic bullet responsible for autism but I am horrified of the scientific buffoonery otherwise intelligent scientists are willing to engage in just to prove themselves right. Dr. Bad Science is a prime example.

    The fact remains that ideopathic autism is virtually, perhaps completely unknown in unvaccinated children. Why is this simple truth being overlooked by rational, intelligent researchers? If the vaccines weren’t responsible then the drug companies would have an easy time clearing themselves based on statistical evidence. But they can’t do that, and it’s not for lack of trying–especially with the makers of thimerosal.

    “A new study published in the journal Pediatrics provides more evidence against any link between thimerosal (a mercury-based preservative in some vaccines) and autism”

    I followed the link. All subjects in the study group received thimerosal.

    1. The fact remains that ideopathic autism is virtually, perhaps completely unknown in unvaccinated children.

      Couldn’t possibly have anything to do with the fact that unvaccinated children and their parents are holed up in survivalist compounds and are unlikely to get any reputable medical care. No, no causation there. Just correlation, boy howdy.

  134. So sorry, “YOU” was actually meant to be a third person…no, really. Oh, now I get the censorship! Dang, promised to not respond to such.

    What he is suggesting is far worse than my potentially yelling at him. Really, he just went way out on a limb. The actual intent of the article, copyright laws, is lost in the emotional sentiment stealthed into a germane topic. Its most ironic.

    You could have just censored the yelling and not the actual argument. Go figure. Are you the moderator or his mother?

    I think I am going back to newsprint. You used to be the perfect chimera of the New Yorker and WIRED. Now…its a vanity fest.

  135. “Couldn’t possibly have anything to do with the fact that unvaccinated children and their parents are holed up in survivalist compounds and are unlikely to get any reputable medical care. No, no causation there. Just correlation, boy howdy.”

    This is in such poor taste I don’t know how to respond other than to make known my disdain.

  136. For the record – I am up to date on MMR, Yellow Fever, Hep A and B, Tetanus, Typhoid blablabla vaccines . The last time I went to a vaccination clinic the nurse was impressed – she usually doesn’t see people this well immunized. I agree vaccines are good.
    That said – I recently heard an interview with Dr. Sears (he wrote the vaccine book – which I have not read). From what I understand – he is pro vaccination – but he seems to think slowing down the rate at which little babies are given vaccines is wise. He also recommends doing your best to avoid mercury and not getting combo shots (like measles mumps rubella) all at once. Just to make it easier on little bodies. Get the really urgent ones first and then gradually collect the rest. It makes sense to me.
    I don’t trust big drug companies – I think the marketing of syndromes on TV in the States is crazy. I do think vaccines, antibiotic, and that kind of thing are really important. I guess – find a good doctor who you trust, ask questions and get a second opinion.

  137. interesting Spazzm, I wonder, what qualifications do you think I have?

    This is a tricky concept with numerous pitfalls, so I’ll break my position down as carefully as I can, before I answer your question:

    1. Anyone can claim to have any qualification on the internet. There’s no way of verifying it, and people fall for it all the time. It seems that the default human position is to trust complete strangers because, hey, they’re stranger – why would they lie to me?

    2. Therefore, I cannot trust anyone saying “I’m a specialist in so-and-so, and I looked carefully into such-and-such before deciding to do this-and-that.” Chances are they are just a 12 year old boy who knows how to use google and a spellchecker who are doing this for shits and giggles. If anyone wants to convince me of anything (I can’t for the life of me imagine why, but lots of people seem to be trying) they better have a scientifically peer-reviewed paper, published in a well-respected journal (or at least conference) in hand. If the claim is really outrageous, I’ll hold off until the study has been repeated and verified by a third party.

    The world is full of suckers and, consequently, also full of people who pray on suckers. If we are to avoid falling pray to that sort of…humans, we must demand solid evidence. Don’t buy the horse without counting its teeth.

    So, back to your question: I have no idea what qualifications you possess – I haven’t even pondered the issue. It’s just not important on the internet. All that is important is the logical consistency of your argument and the verity of your facts.

    Actually, not only have I not thought of what sort of qualifications you hold, I haven’t even thought of what your age or gender is.
    Now that I think about it, I still find it doesn’t matter. But I sort of hope you are a 28 year old, smoking hot negresse who is working her way trough medical school, has a penchant for classical music and speaks in a Cockney accent.
    Don’t correct me if I’m wrong, I prefer to live with the illusion now.

  138. The fact remains that ideopathic autism is virtually, perhaps completely unknown in unvaccinated children.

    Ooooh boy. This is getting tiresome:
    [Citation needed]

    Why is this simple truth being overlooked by rational, intelligent researchers?

    Maybe because rational, intelligent researchers use a different definition of ‘fact’ than you do?

  139. what’s wrong with 27?

    “All that is important is the logical consistency of your argument and the verity of your facts.”
    And here we are in complete concordance. That is what we should all strive for.

    (ever met Thandie Newton?)

  140. Beware, beware – opinions not arguments below!

    A friend of mine had a rather nasty cough recently; having jokingly commented that he should stay clear of his pre-schooler, he replied that he had in fact caught whooping cough from her, and that she in turn had caught it from the one non-immunised kid at her preschool. Which was unpleasant for both of them, but they and most of the other kids from the school were fine. For one poor mite, on the other hand, it was infinitely more serious – having had an organ transplant and being on immuno-suppressants up to the eyeballs is bad enough without catching an easily fatal illness into the bargain. Last I heard, she was touch-and-go with pneumonia (I haven’t had the guts to ask whether she pulled through or not).

    Personally, I think not vaccinating your child has a tendency to be shortsighted and a little selfish (no yelling, now) – after all, your little one may just manage to fight off measles, but who’s to say the baby next door can? – but what really irritates me is people who are enthusiastically anti-vaccination: I worked in a school a few years back when there was a rash of meningococcyl about; one student lost her fingertips and my cousin was in hospital for weeks. The government (NSW) offered free vaccinations in schools. It wasn’t costly. It wasn’t compulsory. But a couple of parents complained and the school cancelled the room where it was going to be held.

  141. Antinous #161,

    I am not anti-vaccination. I am pro responsible vaccination. Huge difference. It’s the devil in the details that concerns me (snd should us all).

    #162 Neptunefrost, bingo, that’s what got me going to begin with. “The science on leeches is a settled matter”, Dr. Thomas B. IMadeHimUp, 1877.

    #165 Takuan, brain glitch, my bad. s/Airman/syphilis group/

    #166, MDH: I think these two ideas coexist “happily”…

    SPAZZM, you’ve said so much of this better than I can, thanks…

    EVERYONE: emotional issue? Button pusher? You bet. Heated argument? It’s a good thing. What’s the worst thing here? If no one got mad, on either side. IMO. It’s only through discourse that anything positive happens. I want maximum benefit for the world’s population without sacrificing the individual. Do I think that’s possible? Sure. Is it happening now in the vaccination biz? Nope. Now wouldn’t that be nice if and when it does…

    Thanks for playing, all.

    – Stu

  142. jack: If someone’s frightened we can’t just say “Don’t be so emotional!” Sometimes that helps, but often that just further entrenches the fear. The people talking about their feelings here aren’t without logic, and don’t deserve to be treated as such.

    That’s just it, though. People aren’t relating to their feelings as feelings. they’re relating to their feeligns as fact.

    If people were acknowledging that what they’re feeling is feeling, then I probably would have said nothing. But people were reporting their feelings as if they were fact, as if it were logic, and I am pointing out the difference.

    “I feel scared” is different than “vaccines have been scientifically shown to cause autism”. What a number of people have been saying lacks a distinction between their emotions and scientific fact. And when people aren’t distinguishing their feelings from facts, and it can cause actions which impact society, then it needs to be pointed out.

  143. 182,

    I’m not sure where your going with that leeches comment. They are still used in modern surgery. The difference is now they’re grown in a lab so they’re sterile, versus collected in the pond.

    Coincidentally, maggots are also still used in modern surgery. They only eat dead flesh, and if grown in a lab, are sterile, so good for de-breeding burns and the like. They stop eating when they reach live tissue.

  144. You have a right to health preservation.
    You have a responsibility not to infect others.

    If you don’t like vaccines, you’re welcome to remove yourself from the possible area of infection. I suggest Venus. The flaming clouds are beautiful this time of year

    Logos superne omnis.

  145. Ooooh boy. This is getting tiresome:
    [Citation needed]

    I agree Spazzm. Citation is sorely needed. The hypothesis is that unvaccinated children do not develop ideopathic autism. Logically, the most efficint method to disprove the hypothesis is to document a small number of sample cases of ideopathic autism in unvaccinated children. Hell, one case–just one single case–would warrant publishing in medical journals. But this approach hasn’t been taken–and that fact is troubling on multiple levels.

    There are currently more than 5,000 cases in litigation in the US alone about this very issue, a number expected to balloon in coming years. One case was recently settled for an undisclosed amount, but the dollar figure was likely larger than the funding required to define the rate of autism in unvaccinated children, and with millions upon millions of dollars at potential risk for drug companies, insurance companies and the government these entities should be keenly interested in funding the one study which can eliminate speculation that vaccinations are in part responsible for ideopathic autism. However to date, they have shown no public interest in taking the logical approach to disproving the hypothesis.

  146. The fact remains that ideopathic autism is virtually, perhaps completely unknown in unvaccinated children.

    Let me clarify my comment from last night. Autism spectrum disorders are poorly understood and generally underdiagnosed. It’s only in the last decade that Asperger Syndrome was known outside of research circles.

    Parents who are less likely to vaccinate are probably less likely to receive a correct diagnosis of an autism spectrum disorder in their child. This correlation could exist for various reasons, the most obvious being inadequate access to health care. Lack of access to health care could be because of poverty. It could also be due to physical isolation from specialized medicine.

    I would also suggest that, in the US at least, some parents who refuse to vaccinate do so for ideological reasons. These same reasons might make them less likely to take a child to see a physician who could accurately diagnose an autism spectrum disorder. Any correlation is just correlation and says nothing about the cause of autism.

  147. these entities should be keenly interested in funding the one study which can eliminate speculation that vaccinations are in part responsible for ideopathic autism

    citation needed or flag as unfounded fear mongering

  148. since we diverge to autism; in hindsight it’s clear to me that many “weird kids” or “dumb kids” or “the poor immigrant families kids” or “born criminal kids” et cetera ad nauseam that I grew up with were
    quite possibly undiagnosed. The same way some psychopaths I recall from my school days now occupy high office.

  149. Regarding the Smallpox case’s in london comment.

    The only thing i remember hearing was that a live sample of the virus had been found. This was a sealed container containing the live virus that was found in a hospital fridge…nobody was infected. This would have been mid to late 80’s sometime.

  150. Way up in #s 16 and 63, mention was made of Andrew Wakefield, whose tiny 12-subject study published in The Lancet in 1998 kicked off the current ant-vax scare. Well, it appears that it was not only bad science, but fraudulent science — one that it looks like he was going to profit from personally.

  151. “The fact remains that ideopathic autism is virtually, perhaps completely unknown in unvaccinated children.”

    The fact remains that the diagnosis and definition of autism came about first in the 1940’s, and was only accepted in the English-speaking world in the 1990’s. Throughout that time period, most children in modern civilisations in the developed world were immunised.

    Your statement is equivalent to “The fact remains that complex grammar is virtually, perhaps completely unknown in non-human children.” Accurate, but cherry-picks / ignores relevant context to tell a lie as the truth.

    Thus –

    Children with Autism / ASD in non-modern civilisations are set to work in some capacity they can manage or are committed to mental institutions – as they once were in America and the UK if they were unable to care for themselves once grown, or while children under a diagnosis of childhood or infantile schizophrenia. Or they were/are killed outright as abberrations, demonspawn, witches, or simply an unacceptable burden on society.

    Also, reduction ad absurdum:

    Albert Einstein. Not vaccinated as a child. Had HFA/Asperger’s.

    Hans Asperger – documented to have many of the symptoms of Asperger’s Syndrome himself.

    There are other examples.

    Thank you, have a nice day.

  152. @138 XOPHER: don’t *your* vaccinations protect you against all the various diseases? I don’t see how it’s relevant what I’ve been inoculated against

    @136 FOETUSNAIL: “So, I can assume no one here who fears vaccines be cause of Thimerosal’s unsubstantiated links to Autism has ever given their children any shrimp, canned light tuna, albacore tuna, salmon, pollock, or catfish, and they especially avoid any and all shark, swordfish, king mackerel, or Tilefish.”

    They are different mercury compounds anyway (methyl vs. ethyl), but I doubt anyone is giving 2-month-olds 8 ounces of swordfish. Just a wild guess, though.

    A lot of you seem to want to boil everyone’s position down to a black/white “for” or “against” vaccination. (This seems to be especially popular in the US).

    It’s not that simple; for example, some vaccines don’t use an entire pathogen and so it’s literally impossible to get the disease from these vaccines — some DO use an entire pathogen and some use living pathogens (like measels). Hence, some vaccines do give a risk of getting the “real” disease. So if the risk of being exposed “in the wild” is less than the risk from the vaccine, obviously you’d be a fool to take the vaccine (right?).

    Also, bear in mind we’re talking (mostly) about injecting small babies (well, I am anyway) — who do not have a fully-developed immune system and get antibodies from mom anyway (in utero and via milk). So, for example, I can agree with the wisdom of vaccines *in general* but I am not convinced injecting 2-month-old babies is a good idea. Why not wait until they’re a little older?

  153. @MIKEWARREN (#202) “So if the risk of being exposed “in the wild” is less than the risk from the vaccine, obviously you’d be a fool to take the vaccine (right?).”

    Doubly wrong. Wrong mainly because the vaccine measles virus isn’t the same – it’s an attenuated strain – and wrong because even in your prisoner’s dilemma-like view of the logic of the decision, you’d need to take into account the change in the penalty that’d face your child due to others taking the ‘right’ (no vaccine), decision.

    “Why not wait until they’re a little older?”

    Because, contrary to some appalling allegation about it having been a matter of administrative convenience earlier in this thread, the vaccine schedules are decided on the science (paediatric immunology included) and with a view to maximising the benefit to the health of the vaccine recipients. So unless you and your GP have good reason to believe otherwise, a delayed schedule is not likely to be wise.

  154. @203: PLH: do you have more information about the different scheduling systems and the thinking (science) behind them?

    …and as to what you call a prisoner’s dilemma-like argument: absolutely you’d need to consider the chance times the outcome…and if you conclude that the chance of wild exposure is greater than the chance of artificial exposure, why would you take such a vaccine? What possible motive would you have?


    I don’t know what you mean by the “chance of artificial exposure” but the motive for vaccination should be obvious. There is a nice little table here:

    If it is not obvious to you, and if you have genuine concerns, you really should consult your GP rather than me (even for information) but further information on scheduling rationale and the vaccinations themselves are available at these sites:

  156. I’m here, just a note to anyone still watching this thread, I took my son to have his vaccines. On Monday, he got the MMR, the Varicella, and Hep-A. We are finally caught up.

    Antinous, I told my wife about your comment @118, we both agree with your point. I’ll admit to being fearful, but we suppressed our irrational fear.

    BTW, spoke with our doctor, who is a board certified pediatric E.R. physician. In all of his years of practice, he has never seen any child with any serious vaccine reaction, just the usual inflammations, low grade fevers and a few mild cases of chicken pox, which my oldest had when he was vaccinated.

  157. Thread back from the dead.

    Great, time for my anecdote!

    After reading whatever stuff was published in the intarwebs about the association between MMR and autism, my wife had decided we’d get the separate injections and just pay for them. Its hard to find them and they are not subsidised, but why take a risk, however small? I went along with it without giving it too much thought.

    Then we talked to our GP, who managed to phrase it the best way I’ve heard yet:

    The MMR vaccination is the only thing we know of, out of any possible cause, that definitely does not cause autism.

    Autism and its causes are poorly understood, pretty much anything might be causing it. But we have just completed one of the biggest studies ever into any link between the MMR vaccination and autism, and its been ruled out.

    We gave our boy the MMR vaccination and didn’t give it another moment’s thought.

  158. Is this a bad time to admit that I got a 104º fever after my last DPT shot. I was due-ish for tetanus and there was an adult pertussis outbreak going on, so I thought it prudent to get it, but what a nasty reaction.

    On the other hand, I had measles and chickenpox once, rubella twice and have a shriveled nut from mumps. Plus I went to school with kids who were in wheelchairs from polio and I’ve worked with people who were disfigured by smallpox.

  159. Robulus, that’s a great way of looking at this non-issue.

    Antinous, I too went to school with children who wore polio braces. I also knew one kid who, in hindsight, was possibly one of the very few Thalidomide victims in this country; he was missing both arms.

    Our doctor is from India, he has seen children dying from almost all of these diseases. Most children are never vaccinated, or only receive a few. He mentioned, one of the biggest problems, besides money, is keeping the vaccines properly refrigerated. Often, if the children are lucky enough to receive a vaccine, the efficacy is questionable due to improper storage. He also, said that in most areas of the world all vaccines are multi-dose.

    He has seen patients with Autism, but finds this whole scare over vaccines foolish, and thinks most of us would think differently after a trip to India.

  160. wow. so democracy and free will now mean that the opinion of a plumber or a radio host on health issues has the same weight as a doctor’s. just wow.

    so everyone is a doctor now just by reading a couple of articles (that he clearly does not understand).

    i feel dumb for actually studying medicine, i could just read the internets and i would have saved time and money.

    what’s next? someone will pull out how big pharma does not want you to know about the miracles of homeopathy and chinese traditional medicine?

  161. Hi,

    I did try to create an account to comment on the thread that started with the Posted by Cory Doctorow entry on February 5, 2009 at 10:03 PM but received an error message. Please email me at [redacted] with the correct link so I can post the comments below under my pseudonym, Kejamo.

    “The plural of “anecdote” is not “fact” is now part of my lexicon. Thanks and I hope you won’t sue me for copyright infringement!

    #73 and other Libertarians out there. We don’t own our children. They have their own inalienable rights. We are merely their guardians charged with doing the best possible things for them until we declare them adults at which point they make decisions for themselves. But some parents, because of their ignorance or religious/philosophical beliefs, don’t do the best thing for them. On moral grounds alone, Society (consisting of those who make decisions based upon the logical consistency of their argument and the verity of their facts – again I hope Spazzm won’t sue me for quoting #177) has an obligation to protect children against bad parental decisions by making a decision for the child based on the best scientific evidence available that is in the best interests of the child. Period, end of story. Beyond that you could make an additional self defense argument that Society is obligated to intervene for the safety of the greater population. I do agree with you on allowing adults making their own decisions that affect just themselves including taking their own life.

    #114 And that is why we need to confirm that there is a role for government in our lives. If we outsource everything to the private sector, then everything is subject to the profit motive, even the truth. Government has no profit motive; its prime directive is the good of all. I would trust that if I could trust that the private sector doesn’t own my government (as under Bush). That doesn’t mean we should abandon government’s role. It means we need to work harder to make government more effective and accountable (as Obama is trying to do).

    #131 And primates seem hard wired to fling shit at each other. Does that mean we shouldn’t try to correct it?

    On Halloween we dress up as the scariest thing possible for a child. But no one has put on the scariest costume of all. They should dress up as a Catholic priest as no other figure in history, goblins, ghosts and otherwise, has done more proven damage to small children. And to think the fundamentalist Catholics call celebration of Halloween evil!

    1. Kejamo,

      You’re not in the system. Try again to create an account. If it doesn’t work, e-mail me at my name at this domain and I’ll try to sort it out.

Comments are closed.