Roald Dahl on vaccinating your kids

Here's Roald Dahl's impassioned plea to get your kids immunized. I live in East London, where we have live measles afflicting otherwise healthy kids who could have been vaccinated against them, but whose parents have been duped by a falsified claim that vaccinations are linked to autism (here's a non-falsified claim: measles leads to permanent disability and even death).

I remember when my daughter got sick and broke out with measle-like spots when she was too young to have had her vaccination against the disease. As I contemplated the possibility that my daughter might be permanently disabled or even killed because gullible people were choosing not to vaccinate their kids, I wanted to start wringing necks.

Dahl had a child die from measles, and he was determined that no other child should die needlessly from fear and ignorance.

Here in Britain, because so many parents refuse, either out of obstinacy or ignorance or fear, to allow their children to be immunised, we still have a hundred thousand cases of measles every year. Out of those, more than 10,000 will suffer side effects of one kind or another. At least 10,000 will develop ear or chest infections. About 20 will die. LET THAT SINK IN. Every year around 20 children will die in Britain from measles. So what about the risks that your children will run from being immunised? They are almost non-existent. Listen to this. In a district of around 300,000 people, there will be only one child every 250 years who will develop serious side effects from measles immunisation! That is about a million to one chance. I should think there would be more chance of your child choking to death on a chocolate bar than of becoming seriously ill from a measles immunisation. So what on earth are you worrying about? It really is almost a crime to allow your child to go unimmunised. The ideal time to have it done is at 13 months, but it is never too late. All school-children who have not yet had a measles immunisation should beg their parents to arrange for them to have one as soon as possible. Incidentally, I dedicated two of my books to Olivia, the fi rst was James and the Giant Peach'. That was when she was still alive. The second was 'The BFG', dedicated to her memory after she had died from measles. You will see her name at the beginning of each of these books. And I know how happy she would be if only she could know that her death had helped to save a good deal of illness and death among other children.
MEASLES: A dangerous illness by ROALD DAHL


  1. Dahl was a legend. Boy and Going Solo are two amazing memoirs. never knew about the dedications til now though.

  2. I always find this stuff amazing. I’ve come across people who have made arguments against vaccinations and they frankly lack any capacity to adequately assess the evidence.

    My wife has a Masters Degree in public health (one of four degrees she has) with a focus on demographics. As she often points out, the facts speak for themselves but people often don’t know the facts. They read some crank website or poster.

    Her favourite is illness caused by power lines. She says you can see the clusters when you look at power lines. You can also see the clusters if you look at streets, rivers etc. It’s often a matter of selective attention to some but not all the evidence.

    Unlike me, she’s rather polite when people raise anti-immunisation arguments.

    Good on you Roald Dahl.

  3. My daughter missed her second MMR booster. She’s getting it this week. Her decision, with parental support. She’s 21, a biochemist, and way smarter than those people who need to blame autism on external causes.

  4. The one human affliction for which there is no cure is stupidity.

    The anti-immunization people will never be convinced with evidence that they are wrong because they just “know” they are right.

  5. Not that this diminshes the importance of this article, but Dahl’s essay was written in 1986. Just for context.

  6. I’m actually taking my son in for his MMR today because I am convinced the outbreak in England will work it’s way to the states.

  7. @ Donnie #3:

    There are plenty of True Believers who are positive that vaccinations cause autism and other ailments, but I think more parents may fall into the “I’m not sure but I’m not going to risk it” category. Why they would worry about the infinitesimal risk of an autism link but not the very real risk of measles is beyond me.

  8. The anti-vaccine sect doesn’t realize that the only reason kids/people aren’t dying of contagious diseases today is b/c previous generations of U.S. children have been vaccinated. As more and more children go unvaccinated, we will surely see the onset of an epidemic that will kill scores of children/people.

    My mom let doctors vaccinate my sister when they were living in a Southeast Asian refugee camp. Many other moms refused out of fear, and many of their children fell ill and died. People who have lived their entire lives with western and preventive medicine take their health for granted.

  9. Cue self-righteous “how dare you pump toxic metals into my child!” conspiracy theorists on 3, 2, 1 . . .

  10. This is probably gonna be the one to get me banned after all these years… BUT.

    First.. the straw man : Very few people are saying and practicing “no vaccines”. Scientologists and who? In the age of the internet, we know that for every nutty scenario, there is a small group of people who are sticking to it.

    What is happening, in my experience (I have two children in vaccination ages and many friends in the same group) is that parents are saying, “what exactly are you planning to give my child and why?”

    That is the best thing to happen in health care management in years. Combined with the ubiquity of internet information you get two things. You get parents eager to understand every chemical that comes near their children and you get a ton of information of various qualities.

    Take thiomersal, which in America is the primary concern for parents who are speaking out (despite the fact that it has largely been phased out). I refused any vaccine that uses it. I insisted on alternatives that didn’t use the preservative. Am I a crack pot? An uninformed idiot? I hope not. Have I fallen for some correlation vs. causality mix up?

    No. I have heard over and over again, “It’s safe, don’t worry” and “it’s not absorbed in the body” from researcher after researcher. Does that mean it’s safe? Of course not, that means that the specific study did not find a link between a specific chemical and a specific condition. For a high quality paper, that is excellent evidence that no link exists. Enough of these papers might sway me but that would be me falling for the reverse causality argument.

    Just because no one has found problem, doesn’t make it safe. I recognize that all drugs are tested and approved this way, but that doesn’t mean they are safe, that means there is not really a better way to get treatments validated.

    What I have not found is a single report that validates that the thiomersal in vaccines is excreted by children. If such data exists it is hidden behind the wall of the expensive exclusive club that is peer reviewed journals.

    I am not a fool, and I have not been fooled. I am a skeptic. I understand the need for immunization and I understand that pharmaceutical companies are more than willing to risk my child’s health to save money.

    In my mind, this isn’t a media problem, it’s a science problem. Researchers and institutions are unable (or more likely unwilling) to come up with clear definitive documentation for the lay person to stay as informed as possible.

    Sorry if this is all over the map.. I’m multitasking.


    Cue the ad-hominem and reductio ad absurdium arguments from the pseudo scientists or pharma shills.

    Lets see if you can twist my other comment to imply that I am anti vaccination..

  12. I guess I should add that the point with thiomersal is that it itself is not the vaccine. It is a preservative to lower the cost of delivery. That’s a good thing, except that it is a form of mercury which is unequivocally a bad thing. So we are asked to believe that this form of mercury is safe. It may be, but as it is only a preservative, it is an unnecessary risk.

  13. I insisted on alternatives that didn’t use the preservative. Am I a crack pot? An uninformed idiot?


    All the “concern” about thiomersal comes from one crackpot who falsified his data to “prove” a link between it and autism. And as you even admitted, thiomersal isn’t even used any more!

    Concern trolling your child’s health is stupid and dangerous, as you are endangering other people’s lives as well.

  14. Roald Dahl died in 1990. Not that I’m complaining at his wise words, or that it invalidates anything said – just thought I’d point it out. (The linked site says it was written 23 years ago.)

  15. @ Dilapidus #8

    What’s wrong with a Reductio Ad Absurdum? I’ve always found a properly used RAA to powerful and versatile rule for proving valid arguments.

  16. Coming down against Reductio Ad Absurdum certainly isn’t an anti-vaccination position but it’s definitely not pro-logic.

  17. I suppose the most ironic thing about vaccination is that it was originally based on homeopathic ideas. Vaccination hasn’t always been so safe – apparently a vaccine against smallpox (back in the 18th century) used to kill 1 in 40 people inoculated. Of course, this had to be weighed against the fact that 80% of people who got smallpox died.

    Measles is nasty, ignorance is worse.

  18. We did a modified vaccination schedule for our daughter (no more than 2 shots per visit) but still did all the recommended vaccines. And I understand the worries about thimerosal (not “thiomersal”, thanks google!) and am glad it got phased out.

    But sad to say, no straw man here. People really are so freaked out about this issue that they aren’t getting their kids immunized. And some of the arguments are pretty darn wacked-out.

    This is a posting I wrote a while back on the subject, complete with the anti-vac point of view… it made no sense to me.

  19. The solution is simple. You are welcome not to immunize your children so long as they do not affect the rest of us. So, if your children are not immunized then they should not be able to attend public schools, enter public libraries, attend public universities, play in public parks, use public transportation, enter public buildings, etc. Your right not to immunize ends when it interferes with mine and my children’s right to life.

  20. I once took a course on risk and the fascinating thing is that people are more willing to accept risk if they feel they have some control over the outcome of the situation. They hate risk, even minimal risk, when they feel they are not capable of affecting the outcome. Of course, this is complete bunk, but it’s the way the mind works. It’s why people are more willing to accept risk driving a car than flying in a plane, even though planes are statistically safer. I can see that operating here: parents being terrified that an action they took (immunization) would cause a problem, even if the risk is negligible, compared to a problem caused by disease (higher risk) which they might feel is just fate and something they cannot stop (which is wrong, of course, since immunization will stop it).

  21. There is not a left/right anymore – no simple right/wrong paradigm here. We must all wake up from that trance. The problem is not that there are vaccines but rather that there are too many vaccines.

    It’s true that there are many fear mongers on this issue, from both sides. There are ignorant people in one camp that say “Trust the man in the white coat, why would he hurt us?”, though the real question is “Why would he care about us?”. There are others that suggest we must give up all the benefits of modern science.

    Extremists that advocate mandatory vaccines are just as bad or worse than those that advocate none.

    Think for yourself. Make you own choices. It’s called freedom. Don’t let one personal anecdote from someone’s life dictate policy that can be used to take away that freedom.

    We will never live in a world where no one dies from disease. But there is a very real possibility we may live in a world where every life is overregulated to death.

    War is Peace.
    Freedom is Slavery.
    Ignorance is Strength.

  22. I can attest to the existence of non-vaccinating parents. I live in Los Angeles and I have had clients that were very adamant about not vaccinating their kids. I couldn’t believe it. Granted they are super-lefty, mystical, hipster types, but I guess we do have a lot of those out here. A friend who is a school principal runs into this sort of problem all the time, and she is dumbfounded as well.

  23. #11 Chumpmeat

    Isn’t Ad Absurdium when the argument is no longer valid logically?

    #14 KJFalk

    “Thimerosal” Thanks.. I need to stuff that into my computer dictionary.

    #15 CapeMonkey

    Thank you. That is the first useful study I have ever seen.

  24. Yo Boing Boing, I’m glad you guys are covering these stories of quackery, like this and the doctors vs WHO snake oil story earlier.

    I think these problems of rampant disinformation are just as important as the copyright fight you guys are obviously so passionate about. One of the side effects of fast free information, is tons of false information that is slurped up by the gullible and overly paranoid.

  25. Dilapidus,

    That’s charming except that a) there’s zero evidence that thimerosal was ever a problem and b) thimerosa is no longer used in the vast majority of vaccines anyways (indeed, as far as I’m aware the only vaccine still using it is some of the adult flu-shots. Can someone correct me if I’m wrong?)

    And yes, people are really just not vaccinating. That’s precisely why we are now getting outbreaks of diseases that the population used to have herd immunity to. If you think no one is avoiding vaccination then go take a look at the people at Generation Rescue or Age of Autism.

  26. Dilapidus, thanks for the thoughtful posts.

    I’ve spoken to doctors and health professionals who, off the record, believe that IF there are some inherent problems with the efficient production, distribution and application of population wide vaccination programs that effect a relatively small percentage of those receiving the treatment, the benefits to the society as a whole justify the collateral damage.

    A moral quandary I guess. Isn’t that what this all boils down to? Add to the equation that there is big money to be made in all of this.

  27. Cry- Hw, xctly, ds th nfctn f n chld rs th ptntl fr nfctn n yr chld f yr chld hs bn vccntd? D th vccntns nt wrk?

    s n sd, ‘m cnsstntly mzd by yr ndlss blty, Cry, t ngg n vr-hypd rhtrc tht ctlly ds dssrvc t yr cs; s hs bn wrttn hr, th vst mjrty wh’r skptcl f vccntns n gnrl r nt “nt-vccn”, r mkng rdcls rgmnts gnst vccntn s rl. Thr r mny dffrnt knds f vccns.Thr r vld qstns t b skd. Bcs y’r cnvncd f n pstn ds nt mk nybdy nd vrybdy ls “dp”
    ‘m srsly strtng t qstn why nybdy wld tk y srsly s blggr t ths pnt.
    f t’s yr dsr t rs wrnss bt th bnfts f vccntns, ) Dn’t lnk t n rtcl wrttn vr 20 yrs g, b) try t ngg ppl n th ctl sss; sk yrslf why ppl mght b skptcl f crtn vccns nd mv n frm thr n rspctfl mnnr. f y dn’t blv nyn hs ny jst rsn t b skptcl f th rsrch, tll s why.
    Y’r bcmng th Bll ‘rlly f th cbcl crtv st.
    dn’t cm t Bng Bng t gt tlkng-t frm smn wh ffrs n rl thrty n gvn sbjct, r vn ttmpts t cmmnct n rspctfl mnnr.
    Th fct tht y prcd s thgh ths sn’t ncssry sys nthng t ll bt th wndrs f vccntn nd nstd sms t ndct tht y blv y hv th grvts r thrty t d wtht thm. Y my hv lt f fns n vrs Nn Prft gncs r Stt cltr pmp gncs, bt thnk y’d d yrslf fvr by ssmng ths s nt gnrlly tr.

  28. How do you know that your daughter didn’t pick up the virus from a child who was also too young to get the vaccine?

  29. Sigh. Oh, thimerosal. People made a stink about it (even though it was never linked to any sort of serious vaccine side effects), and because it’s only a preservative, vaccine manufacturers decided to phase it out rather than fight the same mercury battle over and over again. Well, OMG! They took it out of the shots! It must be REALLY DANGEROUS then! I will never vaccinate my child against ANYTHING because vaccines are full of DANGEROUS TOXINS!!!11!! Unfortunately, this may be a case of good intentions leading to catastrophic consequences.

    The “too many, too soon” meme is equally silly. Using a modified vaccine schedule is better than using none, but the CDC spent decades perfecting their schedule, and there is no evidence to suggest that it is harmful. If people have the time, money, and patience to bring their kids back for a new shot every month (you need to space them by about 30 days to ensure a sufficient immune response — this is not an issue with simultaneous administration of vaccines, but sequential administration can ‘confuse’ the immune system), they will be protected, eventually. But the current recommended schedule is designed to protect children as early as possible from deadly diseases. Every month you go without a vaccine is a month during which your child could be exposed to disease (especially if they’re attending a day care with unvaccinated children). It’s up to parents to do the cost/benefit analysis, and the media has been so flooded with spurious claims about vaccine safety that people think the “risk” of vaccinating is higher than the risk of disease. That’s not true.

  30. Surprised no one has mentioned Oprah yet (then again, we’re probably not a bunch of Oprah watchers, in the main. I learned of this reading Newsweek)–Oprah has taken up Jenny McCarthy’s anti-MMR vaccination case in a big way. So expect the numbers of mothers who refuse to vaccinate to grow exponentially.

  31. “How, exactly, does the infection of one child raise the potential for infection in your child if your child has been vaccinated? Do the vaccinations not work?”

    Sometimes the vaccinations don’t work. And some people cannot be vaccinated, either because they are too young or because they have a disease of the immune system. These people are protected by “herd immunity” under most circumstances, because the disease can’t take hold in the general population when everyone else is protected by vaccines. Once people stop vaccinating, herd immunity is off, and those who chose not to vaccinate, who cannot be vaccinated, or who failed to develop immunity after vaccination are screwed.

    More on vaccine-preventable diseases and why you DO NOT WANT:

  32. I can attest to non-vaccinating parents whose sons have Asperger’s anyhow (and who have since been vaccinated).

    But I can also say that is an anecdote, and not data.

  33. I just hope I didn’t inadvertently start something when I said we were counting on the innoculating benefits of playing in the dirt. The dirt would be on top of the complete set of every vaccination that’s available. I trust the doctors as people of science, and from a public health standpoint, vaccination seems like the responsible thing to do. (Although no question it is a little unsettling to watch the nurse stick your child repeatedly with antibodies to dreaded diseases. But rationally, you know it makes sense.)

    I imagine that people who put off or avoid vaccinations altogether have their reasons, and I’m sure they’ve done lots of research on it themselves and probably know a great deal about it. Calling them quacks is not too helpful.

    There are public ramifications for personal decisions all the time, but that’s life in the big city. You can’t force people when it comes to decisions with people’s own bodies and their children’s bodies. It is very very personal, and should stay that way.

    I’m probably reading waaaaay too much into this, but if anyone was trying to convince me about the benefits of timely vaccinations, not to worry, I’m already convinced. And in such good company with dear Mr. Dahl. :)

  34. @26 Ravenword

    From the wikipedia article:
    “Thiomersal is very toxic by inhalation, ingestion, and in contact with skin (EC hazard symbol T+), with a danger of cumulative effects. It is also very toxic to aquatic organisms and may cause long-term adverse effects in aquatic environments (EC hazard symbol N).[8] In the body, it is metabolized or degraded to ethylmercury (C2H5Hg+) and thiosalicylate.”

    Why would you ever want this in your body? I’ll take a vaccine, but keep the mercury and other toxic materials out of it.

  35. @ Dilapidus #19

    What I mean by Reductio Ad Absurdum is the proof structure in propositional logic in which you prove the validity of an argument by supposing its invalidity (i.e., you assume its premises true and its conclusion false) and showing how this must lead to a contradiction.

    I used to work at the Logic Help Desk of my university. When I left I took the sign on the door with me. Ah, the good old days.

  36. @30 Seanboing — The dose makes the poison. The levels of thimerosal previously used in vaccines were not significant enough to cause harmful effects. People can eat mercury-contaminated tuna or inject botulinum toxin into their wrinkles without dying. Sure, it would be preferable to eat a different fish or use a saner beauty treatment, but that doesn’t mean that tuna salad sandwiches and Botox must be banned. Thimerosal has been taken out of vaccines anyway, because people with degrees from Wikipedia University are scared of it. If that makes people feel safer, good. But it seems to have incited even more fear of vaccines, and that’s unfortunate.

  37. Uland @23, you need to looko up “herd immunity.” Essentially, if the fraction of a population that is vaccinated is very high (say over 90% or so) then non-vaccinated individuals (such as babies who are too young to be vaccinated or people with other problems that prevent them from being vaccinated) still benefit because the disease is much less prevalent. This is also important for people like AIDS patients, chemotherapy patients and organ recepient who even if they have been vaccinated may have compromised immune systems. Also, there are some people where the vaccines just don’t work (generally a very tiny fraction) and they won’t know unless they get the disease. For all these people, having a large fraction of the population vaccinated is very important.

    In this case, Cory’s daughter was too young to safely receive the vaccine. For such children, herd immunity is extremely important. When you fail to vaccinate you endanger many other people.

  38. People think they are being lied to about the safety of the measles vaccination. You are lying to them. This will not help your case.

    The last person to die from measles in the UK was an already sick child in 2006. He was the first to die for 14 years. (He was not the child of trendy parents, he was from a traveller family.)

    Note: “Measles cases in England and Wales rose by 36% in 2008, figures show.

    Confirmed cases increased from 990 in 2007 to 1,348 last year – the highest figure since the monitoring scheme was introduced in 1995. ”

  39. As someone who was rendered permanently deaf in my right ear at the age of three from mumps (ironically, it was the first year that they started vaccinating three-year-olds for mumps routinely–missed it by that much), I look forward to the current scaremongers trying to sue the ex-Playmate for “misleading” them.

  40. the camp that says “I don’t know, but I don’t want to risk it” basically don’t understand the concept of risk (as well as not knowing how terrible the diseases are). My mum is one of them.

    they need it explained in terms they can easily understand, and have the message driven home:
    “vaccinating your child is kinda like making sure they’ll never ever get run over by a car.
    Not vaccinating is like risking your child getting run over, and having them pull other unfortunate kids under the wheels with them”

    something like that.

  41. Ravenword, I think the people who believe in the autism link also tend to believe in homeopathy, the basis of which is stronger results from weaker doses.

    They just don’t get science.

    Logical, fact-based, evidence-driven, scientific thinking is hard.

    Primitive fear-based responses to difficult thoughts is much easier.

    Teach their children.

  42. first, do no harm.

    What is the object here? In order to convince people to immunize their children, you must have their trust. Quite a lot of trust, this is their children we are talking about.

    How do we obtain trust? By browbeating? By name-calling and accusations of neglect? By proffering reams of indigestible scientific journals? To people who may not have the education to read them but are surely bright enough to know when they are being lied to or patronized?

    Patience, patient explanation, consistent explanation, respect.

    This is an emotionally charged an issue as primates can have. If you want those who have been led to fear immunization to change their minds, don’t insult them, don’t lose your temper, don’t condescend.

    Remember what you are trying to do. The object here is not to “win” the argument. You are trying to save the lives of little children.

  43. JoshuaZ- I think one in Cory’s position has to offer some evidence that suggests that the strain of measles in question is in fact taking hold, or is more present than it otherwise would be, directly because some parents – still a very small minority- are choosing not to vaccinate their children. After all, measles outbreaks occurred before the anti-vaccination movement took hold, while measles vaccinations were in use. I can’t imagine that the tiny statistical differences in rates of vaccinated/not-vaccinated children could reasonably be explained as the “cause” of his childs’ strain ( did she actually get measles, Cory?) or the one ongoing in the UK. Does it really increase the risk, statistically, that a child too young for the vaccination will contract measles?
    Are you sure that the MMR live virus vaccination includes, or covers, the current strain?

    Thimerasol is still present in many vaccines, fyi. They were not taken off the shelf, and many have very long shelf lives.
    It is not the only concern of those skeptical of current vaccination practices.

  44. Our paediatrician studied in what used to be East Germany during the Cold War. She has seen children die from measles, mumps, tetanus…all of them.

    I was never, ever in doubt, but to see the shadows cross this wonderful woman’s face when she talked about watching little kids die long, painful deaths…and of grieving parents who had to witness it…was enough to ensure I wouldn’t ever think twice about vaccinations.

    Jenny should go hold a child dying of one of the diseases so easily prevented by vaccinations…nah — she’s not human enough to realize what she was seeing.

  45. The suggestion that very few people are opting not to have vaccinations is wishful thinking I’m afraid. I can’t speak for the US, but in the UK about 1 in 4 children under 5 have not had vaccination against measles. On top of that there are others who are going for individual vaccines rather than MMR because they believe this is somehow safer. (Which means paying a substantial amount of money, for what is an unlicensed medication, exposing their child to more jabs than entirely necessary, and leaving a much longer period until they are fully vaccinated.)

    I’ll confess that I’m a GP, and so I’m probably wildly biased in this discussion, but the rise in measles in this country is mildly terrifying. I trained when measles was considered an illness from history, and confidently never expected to see it. The notion that people are once again beginning to die from it, seems bizarre. (Mumps, too, is firmly on the rise.)

    Of course, people are right to want to know what the hell their child’s being injected with, and they should certainly be allowed to decide for themselves. (Current calls in the UK for MMR vaccination to be a compulsory requirement if you wish to attend school are frankly insane.) However, anecdotally at least, many of the people making these decisions feel they are well informed, but in reality have done lots of research of the “Google reasons not to vaccinate” variety. People are just plain scared, and when it comes to their kids, they’ll do what feels right, not necessarily what is right.

    Erm. That’s probably enough, or I’ll veer off wildly into rant territory. As a final note, I’ll simply say that to date the most effective way I’ve found to persuade parents of the merits of MMR vaccine is not to show them the piles of evidence demonstrating its safety and efficacy. Instead I give them a copy of Wakefield’s original paper and gently walk them through it. Many are astonished that something so fundamentally flawed could have caused so much trouble…

  46. I know two couples that believe vaccinations had a role to play in the radical change they witnessed in their children, both boys, directly after rounds of massive vaccinations. Shortly after both boys were diagnosed with autism.
    They don’t believe in homeopathy, they are not conspiracists, they are working, even tempered, educated professionals.
    You might not agree with their position, they may be proven wrong at some point, but I think it’s our obligation to deal with their genuine concerns in a respectful way. There are hundreds of thousands of parents just like them who’re seeking answers from multi-billion dollar pharmacuetical corporations and the government agencies they essentially control.
    Cory, I sort of wonder what position you might take if your daughter experienced massive seizures right after being vaccinated, and was thereafter irrevocably changed from a bright-eyed, normal child, to an incommunicative, unknowable vessel of their former selves.

  47. My religion tells me that the parent of a child who infects mine with a disease that they could have been immunized against gets to have their ass kicked up and down the stairs.

  48. This is an emotionally charged an issue as primates can have. If you want those who have been led to fear immunization to change their minds, don’t insult them, don’t lose your temper, don’t condescend.

    Wise today, Taku-san. Did you forget to take the pills?

    The attitude and behaviour of people who are trying to promote vaccination is quite often appalling.

    For example, here in these comments – Dilapidus correctly points out that it is not necessary for any vaccine to contain mercury, ever. This is a fact. Mercury in vaccines is used to increase the profit margin of vaccine makers. It serves no therapeutic purpose and is a known dangerous toxin that is cumulative, so it makes sense to never knowingly allow it to be administered to your children, who may have already been unknowingly exposed.

    For this, he is attacked and belittled. Way to make your case, vaccinators!

    There are non-mercury vaccines available because and only because people like Dilapidus told their paediatricians that under no circumstances would they suffer their children to be injected with mercury, thus creating a market for non-toxic vaccines.

  49. Tin Robot wrote:

    “The suggestion that very few people are opting not to have vaccinations is wishful thinking I’m afraid. I can’t speak for the US, but in the UK about 1 in 4 children under 5 have not had vaccination against measles.”

    -Is this the rate of children whose parents have refused the MMR vaccine, does it include those to young to receive it or otherwise have no access to the vaccine?

    If not, I’m very surprised indeed. One would imagine that Measles would be running rampant.

  50. Darwin at work. Simple as that. It is about time we culled the “herd”. Let the stupid and gullible go first.

  51. Uland – You’re quite right, such parents do absolutely need their concerns to be dealt with in a genuine, considerate and respectful fashion. They are absolutely right to be asking questions. But at what point do we need to stop and accept that with respect to MMR those questions have been answered?

    There are huge questions left about autism, its causes, and the best way to deal with it. I find it genuinely frustrating that huge quantities of time, money and talent have been expended on pursuing a single, well publicised red herring, when all of that energy could instead have been ploughed into providing the real answer to those parents’ questions.

    Meanwhile a potentially fatal disease has gone from “eradicated” in this country to “endemic”.

  52. Uland (*51 – I type slow)

    The figure quoted is for the uptake of MMR in the under 5’s. i.e. Of those eligible to have had it. (The figures for younger ages only are better, as parents who are just getting babies vaccinated now are more likely to do so than those a couple of years ago.)

    MMR’s not “running rampant” courtesy of those who have had the vaccine conferring a reasonable degree of herd immunity on the others. The herd immunity threshold is something like 80% for measles (a bit lower for mumps), so if it carries on at current levels we could well be in difficulty…

  53. Uland @ 47, measels rates have skyrocketed as vaccination rates have declined. See for example:

    After the early 1990s measles was so well dealt with the UK that all cases were due to infected individuals from elsewhere. This was true through about 2004. See for example.

    The only way Cory’s child would have any chance of getting measles almost at all in the UK is because so many people have failed to vaccinate. Saying that Cory doesn’t have direct evidence of a specific individual infecting his child is like a young earth creationist who criticizes evolution because we can’t list every single ancestor of any given human going back to a single-celled organism.

  54. No, I’m not saying he was “working for the man” when it came to the vaccine issue, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the British Health Ministry asked him nicely to write something about vaccines, right or wrong.

    hey, just so you know, your tinfoil hat fell off.

    seriously? you dismiss one man’s statement about vaccines because he worked for the government? And that somehow magically dismisses all the other evidence that proves how paranoid delusional you really are? Do you have nice conspiracy theories to dismiss every other scientist who says vacine your kids?

    Here’s the problem with conspiracy theory psychos. They dismiss broadly accepted facts that have been established by the general consensus of experts in teh field, and instead, they allow their insanity to pick some fear and turn it into a psychosis, and they let their doubt and the doubt of a slim minority of wackos to become proof that everyone else is crazy instead of them.

    For any sane person, teh choice of which is more sane (1) roald and everyone else is correct about vaccines or (2) roald was hired by the evil government to enforce vaccines and every other scientist is in on it to, all apparently to secretly poison the population for no governmental benefit;

    then a sane person would say (2) is insanity talking and (1) is much more likely true than (2).

    but not you. You say (2) is more likely to be true than (1). You’d believe an extremely improbable sequence of causation over a far more mundane explanation. That way lies madness.

    they may be proven wrong at some point, but I think it’s our obligation to deal with their genuine concerns in a respectful way

    flat-earth morons need facts, not hand-holding their nervous breakdowns being terrified of everything. Especially when insane parents put their kid’s lives and everyone else’s child’s life in danger. Screw that.

  55. How would you feel if your unimmunized child passed measles to a child who either wasn’t old enough to be immunized, or to someone with an immune deficiency who couldn’t be immunized?

    How would you ever face the family of that person? Could you look them in the eye? How do you justify that geez, you just didn’t think it was that big a deal, or I was afraid, to someone who now would give their very soul to have their kid in their arms…even if that kid was autistic.

    I’ll grudgingly say that a modified schedule is okay, but if there isn’t a medical reason why you and your kid cannot be immunised, then you’re selfish, misinformed, and shouldn’t be allowed to be a member of society.

    (recaptcha: ruined reunion. Indeed.)

  56. People against vaccines are like that nutjob in “Alice in Wonderland”, the white night, who put ankle-bracelets on his horse to protect against shark bites.

    They get scared of something. sharks or autism.

    They come up with their own solution to prevent the thing they’re scared of. ankle bracelets or no vaccine.

    “It’s my own invention” they proudly proclaim.

    When the thing they are afraid of doesn’t happen, they say it is proof that their solution worked.

    And they’re friggen idiots. And normally, I’m fine with idiots going off and doing idiotic things. But when morons start acting moronically and endangering everyone else around them, then I’ve got zero tolerance for stupidity that can harm other people.

  57. I’m reprinted one of my old comments:

    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.

  58. I cannot believe that people are claiming that nobody – or very few people – among the vaccine theorists are against all vaccinations. Yes, that is exactly what LOTS of them are advocating. I know several.

  59. I know two couples that believe vaccinations had a role to play in the radical change they witnessed in their children

    What. the. hell.

    This is anecdotal evidence. You wanna play anecdotal evidence, fine:

    I know millions of people who had vaccinations and did not get autism.

    So there.

    You’ve proven nothing. All you’ve done is try to use your anecdotal evidence as an attempt to cast doubt on vaccines, and then with that doubt introduced, you imply a link between vaccines and autism. You have to imply the link, because you cannot, obviously, prove the link.

    Standard conspiracy theory tactics.

    Introduce bogus evidence to attempt to cast doubt on the established scientific view.

    from within that doubt, imply that the wack-job alternative explanation, conspiracy theory, is actually the root cause.

    When anyone points out that whack-job explanation is whacked and has absolutely no proof, refocus the attention onto casting doubt on the established scientific view.

    You cannot prove squat, so you have to wage guerrilla war by making people suspect the scientific view, and hoping they adopt your alternative instead.

    Wanna example???

    Every nutjob who has said “the jury is still out on global warming”??? Notice that not a single one of them can actually prove that the climate is not affected by CO2. They can’t do it. So what they have to do is say the data we have thus far is inconclusive. Cast doubt on the established scientific view, because they’re unable to prove their own insane version of reality.

    Statistically, vaccines prevent disease. Statistically, herd immunity will allow some small number of crazy people to not vaccinate their children and the disease will still be kept in check.
    Statistically, your two anecdotes about people who claim their child’s autism was caused by vaccines, is overruled by the millions and millions of people who got the vaccine and did not get autism.

    You cannot prove anything, so all you can do is cast doubts.

    You’re not exercising the scientific method. You’re operating standard conspiracy theory tactics.

  60. @ Uland #49: I know two couples that believe vaccinations had a role to play in the radical change they witnessed in their children, both boys, directly after rounds of massive vaccinations. Shortly after both boys were diagnosed with autism. They don’t believe in homeopathy, they are not conspiracists, they are working, even tempered, educated professionals. You might not agree with their position, they may be proven wrong at some point, but I think it’s our obligation to deal with their genuine concerns in a respectful way. There are hundreds of thousands of parents just like them who’re seeking answers from multi-billion dollar pharmacuetical corporations and the government agencies they essentially control.

    The two couples you know are not unique. Many people have this experience. Some theories to explain their experiences are as follows:

    1. Correlation vs. Causation. The age at which many children are vaccinated correlates highly with the age at which kids first receive the diagnosis of autism. In fact, most children exhibit more subtle symptoms of autism all along, and studies of first-birthday-party videos have shown differences between kids who will become autistic and kids who won’t at very early ages. The fact that the symptoms become more noticeable as children grow up leads to the association between the autism spectrum disorder and the most common medical treatment given to toddlers, i.e. vaccination, even though the two are not causally linked.

    2. Immune response and fever after vaccination. Oddly, having a fever can improve some of the symptoms of autism. (For more info: ) Many children run a fever after their vaccinations, as a consequence of the immune response to the vaccine. Occasionally these fevers can be dangerously high, but most of them are mild. After recovering from a vaccine-induced fever, children may regress suddenly and display symptoms all at once when the fever goes away. Seeing this kind of behavioral shift within a week or so of vaccination can cause parents to panic, and it is logical that they might think the vaccine did this to their child. The real mechanism is more complicated, however, and many people are unaware of the counterintuitive relationship between autistic symptoms and immune reactivity.

    You’re absolutely right that these concerns should be addressed respectfully. Studies have shown that people reject “expert” advice when they feel that the experts are insufficiently compassionate. They would prefer to listen to non-experts, if those non-experts touch them emotionally. We scientists sometimes get frustrated with people who make their decisions based on fear and scandal rather than on a careful review of the literature, and throwing facts at people doesn’t usually convince them. It’s important for scientists and health care providers to stress that vaccinating children is part of good preventive care, and that every loving mother or father should protect his or her children in this way. Sometimes I lose my cool and let fly with some snide lolspeak, but I am an imperfect human, too.

  61. “measles leads to permanent disability and even death”

    For some reason this reminded me of the Daily Mail’s hysterical declaration that “There is only one truth about Ecstacy – IT KILLS”. Measles can of course lead to disability and death but it usually doesn’t and I, everyone in my class at junior school, my wife and my daughter are living proof of this.

    My daughter is ten now and was born into the middle of the first big MMR hysteria. She reacted very badly to an earlier three-way jab (typhoid/polio/diptheria I think it was) so we were concerned about the prospect of her receiving MMR given what we had heard about it (What parent wouldn’t be? What parent simply believes whatever a doctor says?) and read as much as we could on both sides of the MMR discussion. The atmosphere was hysterical and most of what you read back then was more heat than light to be honest.

    We found it impossible to assure ourselves one way or the other, we were not particularly concerned about herd immunity (Boo!) we were concerned about our baby girl, and finally we decided “why take the risk?”

    Since then she’s had measles and mumps and is therefore immunised against both diseases for life (unlike those who got MMR who will I understand need a top up later in life) and MMR is therefore now redundant for her. She will be immunised against Rubella at puberty, unless of course she catches it beforehand.

    So that’s our story. If you think it makes us insane, or morons, screw you.

  62. @ Uland #49: I know two couples that believe vaccinations had a role to play in the radical change they witnessed in their children, both boys, directly after rounds of massive vaccinations. Shortly after both boys were diagnosed with autism.

    Then you know two people who (in lieu of facts) have come to believe that correlation IS causation, and who (in lieu of training) have used the internet to outthink thousands upon thousands of medical professionals who have spent careers trying to understand autism.

    Whatever, they have strong faith that they are correct, I just hope they don’t kill anyone (or cause anyone to die needlessly from an ill-concieved avoidance of life saving preventative measures).

    I say this as a diagnosed high-functioning autistic / aspergers person with a degree in environmental toxicology: Your friends are wrong. They need to listen more and assume less.

  63. New Zealand has a relatively low rate of immunizations. I think it’s somewhere around 80%. I don’t know why it is so low. I’ve heard of plenty of people who don’t immunize their children.

    We also have another problem in NZ which is a low level of iodine in the soil, meaning the majority of our cooking salt is iodised. The need for using iodised salt for cooking was well known by our grandmothers, and is much less well known now. There are a few reasons for this: people don’t cook at home as much, rock salt is popular for cooking and is not iodised, people like “natural” foods. I’ve seen “organic” salt where the lack of iodine is proudly displayed as a positive attribute. The cheapest brand of salt in the supermarket is now not iodised. Rates of goiters have increased here in recent years.

    I think the problem is lack of education. Maybe public health campaigns about the necessity of idodised salt and immunizations would increase compliance.

    In NZ most of the ads for immunizations (like gardasil) and for cervical screening and breast screening (which are free under the public health system) use Maori or Pacific Island actors. These groups always sit at the bottom of the social stats and I think it’s a really positive move to use these actors to appeal to those most at risk.

  64. (we) read as much as we could on both sides of the MMR discussion

    yeah, you do realize that you’re arguing “Teach the Controversy”, right?

    Take (1) the view of the medical establishment as one side, (2) take some insane nutjob who falsified data to “prove” his conspiracy theory as the other side, then take the average, and that’ll be “truth”?

    You’re using exactly the same argument as creationsists. Both sides are “valid”, neither side is “proven”, treat both sides as equal.

    we were not particularly concerned about herd immunity

    That just means you don’t give a damn about anyone else.

    Since then she’s had measles and mumps and is therefore immunised against both diseases for life

    Wow. You didn’t immunize for measles or mumps, and…. she got measles and mumps??? Who would have figured that one?

    From the original post:

    Every year around 20 children will die in Britain from measles. … one child every 250 years who will develop serious side effects from measles immunisation

    So, to unitize the numbers: in 250 years:

    1 vaccinated child will get serious side effects
    5000 unvacinated children will die

    And you chose to not vaccinate. Yay, you.

    You rolled the dice with your kids life because you couldn’t separate fear mongering nut jobs from actual science.

    screw you.

    right back at ya’. When enough morons stop vaccinations and herd immunity fails and endemics return, it’ll be folks like you who brought it upon us. And you’re proud of your accomplishment. Yay, you.

  65. I’m a medical student, this issue is one of those which really puts me off being a GP because no matter how much I will try and convince some parents to vaccinate I’m sure they won’t. Then I’ll feel guilty when they get measles.

    I don’t know about parents preferring risks they dont control like Antinous says but I certainly prefer a risk I can control, I’d much rather take the responsibility along with the power than have neither.

    As such I’ll be an orthopaedic surgeon and only treat elective patients who’ve injured themselves through no fault of their own and comply with all my lifestyle advice. A man can dream…

  66. we were not particularly concerned about herd immunity

    So that’s our story. If you think it makes us insane, or morons, screw you.

    Well, at minimum it makes you self-centered. But yes, it isn’t a decision that makes much sense in the context given the information. I’m happy that things worked out ok for your daughter. But it really isn’t the right thing to do even if you just make a risk/benefit analysis for your own case without caring about the potential negative effects on your friends and neighbors.

  67. apoxia,

    I think the problem is lack of education. Maybe public health campaigns about the necessity of idodised salt and immunizations would increase compliance.

    I appreciate what you are saying, but the use of a word like ‘compliance’ is what causes people to rebel against public health measures.

    The goal is to increase public health, not to comply with public health law.

    Sorry if that sounded pedantic – I actually agree with your premise, and want you to be more effective in spreading it.

  68. Greglondon: I wasn’t arguing anything actually, I just gave the history of what we did and why. I thought this might be a useful insight for people who aren’t parents and/or who didn’t live through that period in the UK, into why some parents became MMR refusers.

    Do try to calm down btw, you’re coming across a bit teary and a bit ner ner ner-ner-ner.

  69. Greglondon – When enough morons stop vaccinations and herd immunity fails and endemics return, it’ll be folks like you who brought it upon us.

    On the upside, Darwin.

  70. Allow me to chance a few days off for ya Greg.

    Paul Bowen – Do try to calm down btw, you’re coming across a bit teary and a bit ner ner ner-ner-ner.

    And you’re coming across as a patronizing crank. Screw You Too.

  71. a campaign must be mounted to make the anti-vaccination lobby appear ridiculous. This is a battle for hearts ands minds and all the principles of propaganda must be respected and used.

    Open the vaults and revive the public health programmes of early last century, where basics like public sanitation and food purity had to be taught to a first time audience.

    It must be disassociated from the usual governmental public health system, obviously its conduct has lost the confidence of many.

  72. I wasn’t arguing anything actually, I just gave the history of what we did and why.

    Why you told the story is irrelevant. You did all the wrong things for all the wrong reasons.

    I thought this might be a useful insight for people who aren’t parents

    The useful insight was that you invoked fear-based actions rather than logic because your child was involved. in short, you invoked the “for the sake of the children” response.

    and/or who didn’t live through that period in the UK, into why some parents became MMR refusers.

    It’s obvious why people refuse to immunize their kids. They stop thinking logically. They stop thinking scientifically. They stop thinking statistically. ANd they start subscribing to fear-based conspiracy theories that have no basis in facts.

    Do try to calm down btw, you’re coming across a bit teary and a bit ner ner ner-ner-ner.

    I believe your sign off phrase was “screw you”. Now you’re attempting to claim the high road? I don’t think so.

  73. please! stop invoking Darwin! It is one thing for an adult to make a choice and die for it, quite another to condemn dependent children. And no cracks about carriers of genes, there is no way you ALL had wonderful relationships with your fathers.

  74. Even for vaccines that do contain Thimerosal, giving your child the vaccine exposes them to less mercury than letting them take a bit of your tuna. The total mercury in the vaccine is less than in an 8 ounce can of tuna AND it is not bioavailable.

    Robert Kennedy Jr., Jenny McCarthy, and Oprah are siding with disease against humanity.

    Science is not a government conspiracy. If we let people promote the idea that it is, they’ll end up burning us at the stake.

  75. #68 ravenword: That’s the most sensible, respectful and logical explanation I have heard so far.

    #69 pAULbOWEN: Thank you for restoring some dignity to those who make the best choice they are able to, based on careful consideration – whichever choice that happens to be.

    I find the the name-calling throughout this thread offensive for those who choose to assess the situation and make a choice (whichever that is) rather than blindly believing the men in white coats.

    I’m a parent. I don’t have a particular problem against vaccines, but I do harbour a natural skepticism towards the universe. Pumping my baby’s body full of germs is a good thing? Rationally and statistically, yes. Emotionally, no.

    Medicine is not an absolute. Certainties get debunked regularly, conflict of interest create conflicting reports and studies, things which were considered beneficial ten years ago are now found to be detrimental.

    As a skeptic, I try to learn everything I can about any given subject and make my own decisions. That’s my right. No need for name-calling.

  76. All of the arguments claiming the MMR jab (which I had as a kid and am just fine, thanks!) seem to be very correlation=causation with an unhealthy dose of paranoia and irrationality mixed.

    In fact, here’s my impression of people who do not get the MMR jab. Homer Simpson will fill in for them, while Lisa Simpson plays me:

    LISA: “By your logic, I could claim that this rock keeps tigers away.”
    HOMER: “Hmm; how does it work?”
    LISA: “It doesn’t work; it’s just a stupid rock!”
    HOMER: “Uh huh.”
    LISA: “But you don’t see any tigers around, do you?”
    HOMER: “Lisa, I’d like to buy your rock.”

    So, anti-MMR-jabbers, I’ve got this vaccination against Autism. It’s just a sugar bill, but I took it today, and I don’t have Autism. I also gave it to my husband and my kids, and we’re all autism-free! It’s only $1/pill.

    Queue forms over here….

  77. “you invoked the “for the sake of the children” response”

    Didn’t need to invoke it, just sorta happened. I’m a bad man.

  78. A couple of links on vaccine safety, vaccine refusal, and the vaccine/autism controversy, for people interested in reading more from the experts:

    Recent article in the New England Journal of Medicine about vaccine refusal and its role in elevating the risk of preventable disease:

    Discover Magazine article on vaccines and autism, and how there is no link:

    Med-student blogger tackles vaccines and autism — he covers the “gray fallacy,” in which people examine real evidence and contradictory anecdotes, then assume the truth must lie somewhere in between:

  79. Yep, what drives me nuts is the refusal of anti-vac people to acknowledge the simple fact that what they do, or don’t do, DOES affect other people. At least in the United States, you’re not forced to get shots or have your kid get shots. Great! But with that freedom of choice comes some responsibility to make decisions based on…well… reality.

    I do believe not everybody can be safely vaccinated.

    But that’s all the more reason that those of us who can, must.

  80. Chiming in a little late here, but I’m actually glad for the anti-MMR people because without meaning to they’ve forced the scientific establishment to take a harder look at autism spectrum disorders. My small child is living with Asperger’s, and no one can really give a reason why. Maybe the uproar will eventually bring answers, and in a few decades, the public and the medical establishment will be able to understand and treat autism as routinely as epilepsy.

  81. This thread is full of holier-than-thou rants from supposedly logical and scientific minds. But it’s also full of little information from either side, I don’t see lots of links to studies and data. Just claims. Without supporting your scientific claims, you are asking me, as a parent, to vaccinate based on my BELIEF in the science of vaccination, not in my logical and educated ability to understand it and support it.

    I’m a parent. I made the decision to not vaccinate my young kids with my then-wife. Now, I think that was a wrong decision, but I’m now in a bad relationship with my ex-wife and there’s little sound relational basis for negotiating a re-assessment of that decision. So, what I could use is not the rants and the fire-and-brimstone scientism (hah!), but some good solid information to help me make a decision and have a conversation. This is not an easy subject to learn about and fully understand. Try googling “thimerosal vaccines”, the amount of articles and arguments and sites is bewildering. So, how about some help with:

    • Can I get vaccines without Thimerosal?
    • How do I ask my doctor for them?
    • What are some good resources for refuting the various anti-vaccine arguments?
    • Where can I get a really good, well organized, set of data comparing risk in these scenarios (vaccine vs. none)?
  82. Oh hang on, you probably meant invoked in the legal sense of calling on the support of an argument I think? For the record, I have no idea what the “for the sake of the children” response might be so I wasn’t invoking in this sense either.

  83. Pumping my baby’s body full of germs is a good thing? Rationally and statistically, yes. Emotionally, no.

    Well, that pretty much sums it up righ there.

    Without supporting your scientific claims

    wow. one google search finds this from the Center for Disease Control

    There is no credible evidence that measles vaccine or MMR increases the risk of autism.

    And if you seriously, for even one second, think that the CDC is part of any conspiracy, you forfeit your argument.

  84. This page by the CDC lists 9 different studies conducted investigating MMR, thimerosal, and Autism

    Here’s a summary from each of teh studies:

    The increasing trend for autism is most notable in Denmark where the number of autism cases rises substantially even after the discontinuation of thimerosal use.

    No association was shown with autism.

    The weight of the evidence from
    this study does not support an association between early ethyl mercury exposure from
    thimerosal-containing vaccines and/or immunoglobulins and neuropsychological
    functioning at ages 7 to 10 years.

    The overall results of the study do not support
    neurological or developmental harm to children resulting from thimerosal exposure.
    This strong study adds to the body of scientific evidence that thimerosal in vaccines is
    not harmful to children.

    The Danish study, which followed more than 500,000 children, over 7 years, found no association between the MMR vaccination and autism.

    The study found that the overall distribution of ages at MMR vaccination among children with autism was similar to that of matched control children; most case and control children were vaccinated between 12 and 17 months of age.

    All of these studies were published in medical journals, American Journal of Preventitive Medicine, New England Journal of Medicine, Pediatrics, etc

  85. Apoxia @ 71

    New Zealand’s low vaccination rates are due to the combination of two factors:

    Firstly there are same kind of middle class sceptics who can’t do maths, but think they’re too intelligent to take advice from those who can. They are the same sort of people that are mainly affecting the UK rates and tend to be predominantly (but not exclusively) of white European descent/Pakeha here in NZ.

    Secondly the group of socio-economically deprived families who are too dysfunctional to follow public health programmes for whatever reason. Maori and Pacific Islanders sadly form a large proportion (but again, not all) of this group. As they are a large minority of the population as a whole they further skew the results.

    COI: My kids are vaccinated to the hilt. We even dipped into our own pockets for jabs that weren’t on the schedule. I think compliance with the vaccination schedule should be a condition of entry to public/state schooling. You should be prepared to home educate your kid if you want to selfishly run the risk of him/her infecting mine after I took the (much lesser) risk of damaging mine to protect yours.

  86. @Anonymous #91:

    Can I get vaccines without Thimerosal?

    Yes. Most vaccines in the US are no longer made with thimerosal. From the CDC: “Since 2001, with the exception of some influenza (flu) vaccines, thimerosal is not used as a preservative in routinely recommended childhood vaccines.”

    How do I ask my doctor for them?

    See above. Unless you’re coming in for a flu shot, it shouldn’t be an issue. If you are concerned about the contents of flu shots, ask what alternatives are available. Get the brand names and look them up to see the ingredients for yourself.

    What are some good resources for refuting the various anti-vaccine arguments?

    You can check out and, two sites geared toward educating parents about the need for vaccines. The CDC website is also good for this. They have a lot of FAQ pages, etc. You can also look into Paul Offit’s book “Autism’s False Prophets” for more about the vaccine/autism controversy and how it’s not based on real evidence. Science Based Medicine is a good blog written by doctors that covers many medical issues — their posts on vaccines can be found here:

    I recently went to a talk by Dr. Melinda Wharton of the CDC where she showed a PowerPoint very similar to this one: It covers a lot of concerns about vaccine safety from the POV of how health care providers should frame this when talking to patients/parents. It’s a bit technical, but it shows you real data and it also shows that doctors DO care about your family’s concerns, and are trying to find ways to get you the information you need to make an informed choice about protecting your children.

    Where can I get a really good, well organized, set of data comparing risk in these scenarios (vaccine vs. none)?

    The best way to prove this would be to do a controlled study in which you select matched groups of children, then vaccinate one group while leaving the other group unvaccinated and see what happens to each. Because this would be extremely unethical (as the unvaccinated group would be exposed to a large, unnecessary risk), it has never been done. We can examine existing cohorts of children who are vaccinated and groups who are unvaccinated, but those two groups tend to differ in many ways, not just in their vaccination status (geographic location, socioeconomic status, etc.), so it’s difficult to tease apart the variables and show the exact role played by vaccination status. That said, large studies like the Danish study have not shown any causal relationship between vaccines and developmental disorders like autism.

    I hope this helps.

  87. # Can I get vaccines without Thimerosal?

    Yes. In the U.S. and the EU thiomersal is no longer used in routine childhood vaccination schedules.

    # How do I ask my doctor for them?

    Try this: “Doctor, may I please have a thimerosal-free vaccine for my son/daughter?”

    What are some good resources for refuting the various anti-vaccine arguments?

    What are the various anti-vaccine arguments?
    Both the original article proposing the thimerosal-autism link and the article refuting it were printed in the Lancet, a medical journal. Your local library will either have a subscription or be willing to get it if you ask them nicely. At the least they’ll be able to provide digital copies.

    Where can I get a really good, well organized, set of data comparing risk in these scenarios (vaccine vs. none)?

    1. Autism rate is the same in vaccinated and non-vaccinated populations, about 0.1% lifetime prevalence.
    2. Autism has not decreased after thimerosal was discontinued, the prevalence of autism has not decreased.
    3. It’s hard to say how many would die if everyone suddenly stopped vaccinating against Measles, but in Nigeria, with a population of about 148 millions, over 500 children died in less than three months after superstition caused a decline in the immunisation rate. Globally, 500,000 people died from measles in 2003.
    4. You can get this article at your local library as well. It pretty much blows a giant hole in the autism-vaccine link by using a really good, well organised, set of data.

  88. My memory could be fuzzy, but my understanding on thiomersal in the MMR vaccination was that though it was banned in further production, any vaccinations made before the ruling were acceptable for use, and that some of the vaccinations made before the ruling had an expiration date/shelf-life of 2012.

    This is was what my GP told me as a teenager, around 2002ish. I was not vaccinated as a child and my parents left it to me to decide at that time.

    I don’t know when the the whole autism/MMR debate got started, but I think my parents reasoning was akin to Antinous’ original post. I had a lot of allergies as a child.

  89. This is for the anti-vaccination folks:

    The reason you get such an angry and condescending reaction is because your decision not to vaccinate your kids is inherently selfish. Vaccinations, while extraordinarily good for your kids (preventing death and disability and all that), are also a duty you are expected to pay for living in civilized society.

    We all make a social contract when we choose to live together. There are many benefits (no roaming warlords, public sanitation, etc. etc.) but there are also many responsibilities – taxes, abiding by just laws (and resisting unjust laws), and vaccinating your children and yourselves.

    The science says vaccines are safe, even with thimerosal/thiomersal. There are occasional complications, as there are with every duty in life – but the odds are far in everyone’s favor when people do as they should and get vaccinated.

    I understand parents who worry about their children – however, those parents must actually do the research to find out that vaccines really are safe, and that the misinformation out there saying otherwise is just that: misinformation.

    The decision to not vaccinate is a violation of the social contract, and it is one of the reasons the Supreme Court has ruled that mandatory vaccination is constitutional. I sincerely hope that the anti-vaccination crowd does not force the federal and state governments to mandate vaccination, but that will happen if people continue to abdicate their responsibilities.

    1. “…Typhoid Mary, was the first person in the United States to be identified as a healthy carrier of typhoid fever. Over the course of her career as a cook, she is known to have infected 53 people, three of whom died from the disease. Her notoriety is in part due to her vehement denial of her own role in spreading the disease, together with her refusal to cease working as a cook.” –

  90. Corey,
    Why do you keep throwing this raw meat into the scrum? You did it not so long ago, and got the same response from readers. Do you do this so that we will vaccinate our children? Do you feel that your public health argument (w/ post-humous debate from Roald Dahl) will be the deciding factor for those of your readers on the fence with vaccine aged children?

    It is a little Rush Limbaugh-ish. I actually have an MPH in community health organizing, 2 children (one on the spectrum and one with epilepsy), both of whom are caught up on their shots, also did quite a bit of bench research in cellular immunology at Rockefeller University, and yet do not feel in the least bit moved to have this argument with people.

    Did you just come upon the Dahl thing? I would think you are too smart and busy to get caught up into this fray. Anyway, I feel you are more interested in goading people into a fight under the purview of your blog, then you are in actually getting people to vaccinate their kids.

    1. Do you feel that your public health argument (w/ post-humous debate from Roald Dahl) will be the deciding factor for those of your readers on the fence with vaccine aged children?

      Funnily enough, previous posts on this subject have inspired parents to vaccinate their children and come back to comment about it. So, yes, as a matter of fact.

  91. Someone likely mentioned this already, but since I’m not going to read through 100 comments, I’ll say it just in case…There was a really interesting Law and Order: SVU episode on recently that dealt with the topic of vaccinations and the consequences unvaccinated children bring to those who are too young to be. Episode is called “Selfish” and you should really check it out if this topic interests you. Really makes you think.

  92. Fascinating discussion. For fun, I’d like to be self centered for a moment and say that I enjoy being the rare one who had “the” adverse reaction to the measles shot oh so many years ago (not 250, though). And, as luck would have it, I have had the measles three times since that shot. I’m lucky to not have too many complaints, other than I’d like to stop catching things, now, please, before the odds run out.

  93. I don’t know if this has already been touched on, but as a young adult who has lost his vaccination records,doesn’t have insurance, and wishes to attend college, the cost of these shots are phenomenal! The poor GP took pity on me and only charged me for half. but still… DANG!!!

    On the conspiracy side of things: I have been recently diagnosed as having a compromised immune system due to reasons not yet ascertained.

    To all the unvaccinated people out there: My immune system doesn’t work. Stay way from me because I don’t want to die. Kthxbai.

  94. A few things to consider …What concerns me most about this debate is that people widely believe if you are vaccinated you won’t get the disease – wrong. No vaccine is 100% safe or effective, nor do all people who receive vaccines actually develop antigens toward the virus. Recent UK studies have revealed that triple antigen shots are far less effective than single shots – due to under developed immune systems not being able to deal with the introduction of more than one virus at a time. Hep B is a great example of a completely unnecessary shot for a new born baby, seeing the prime risk group for this disease is 16-30yr olds(sexually active) or intravenous drug users. Secondly the antigens developed from this shot only last 3 – 4 years so booster shots are required – why expose a newborn to this unnecessary shot at such a young age? This is a minority shot at the least. I think it is interesting in this society where more and more kids eat more and more crap and undertake less and less activity (video games/TV/internet) developing juvenile diabetes etc from diets high in sugar – when one of the best preventions from disease is good hygiene, nutrition and exercise. It may not stop you from getting the illness, neither does the vaccine, but you may be in better shape to fight it, probably more so than someone with a diet high in sugar, which lowers your immune system. People die from complications from medications and diseases all the time, but a lot of people worldwide have had many of the childhood illnesses we vaccinate for and lived – myself had measles and chickenpox, vaccinated for neither. Drunk drivers also kill, should we develop a vaccine that allows us to drink as much as we like without getting drunk? I think we need to revisit the current vaccine scheduling system (most of us adults received well spaced singles shots) unlike what our children are exposed to currently. Pharmaceutical companies are removing these choices and bundling them together with very little research and longterm study undertaken. How soon we forget about ‘Thalidomide’ babies of the late 50s,prescribed widely to pregnant women for morning sickness. Drs and pharmaceutical companies do not always get it right, Thimerosal included. The interesting thing here, they remove it and are of the hook. Public confidence is restored? Why? We have to consider the synergistic properties of these vaccines, for which there is actually very little research. Also it is wise to remember pharmaceutical companies pay big bucks to Drs to promote their products, they also fund a lot of the research that promotes they are safe. The last time you took your child to be vaccinated did you actually read the ingredients list and ask to see to the manufacturers list of possible side effects? I think it is important to be informed, no matter what camp you are from.

  95. I’ve posted this before but I’ll throw it in again.

    When we asked our Doctor about the MMR vaccination, he managed to frame the situation in a very compelling way.

    Autism and its causes are poorly understood. We don’t know what causes autism, what environmental factors might contribute to it.

    However, we have just finished the most massive and conclusive study into any single possible cause of autism, and we can say, with absolute confidence, that the ONE thing that does NOT cause autism is the MMR shot.

    Anything else might. But not the MMR shot.

  96. on top of being a brilliant writer and a seemingly quite fantastic person he also encouraged his very young children to drive (which they did with out his supervision at times)to eat as many sweets as they could get away with and regularly disregard rules and authority,he also smoked right up until his death even in hospital. I wasn’t immunised had chickenpox and mumps and survived wether this was right or wrong is a matter you have already decided irrelevant of what any body says like most things people have chosen their sides and information rarely changes that, but for all the possible evidence for or against i don’t think your childhood favourite author is any kind of expert (by the way i loved all of Roald Dhals books and so does my chickenpox survivor clever little princess)

  97. Thanks Pesto, we can stack your ASCII brick on top of Moodkiller’s, and make a small ledge.

  98. First.. the straw man : Very few people are saying and practicing “no vaccines”.


  99. ASCII brick … makes it harder for people to shoot holes in my argument – i would prefer to make a fortress :) glad that study is so conclusive – be interested to know who funded it, seeing everything else has the potential to be a factor …

  100. I simply don’t understand why – for want of a better phrase – the geek community consistently misrepresents those parents who object to the MMR jab.

    No-one is saying “don’t vaccinate your kids.”



    What we’re saying is, why is the government forcing us to give our kids all three jabs in one go when separate vaccines are available? This is not about paranoia, it’s not about being irresponsible members of society, it’s about freedom of choice and about the precautionary principle. I choose to vaccinate my kids; I choose to do so using three separate vaccines to minimise the risks associated with vaccinations, as negligible as these may be.

    I honestly would have thought that my point of view on this would strike a chord with Boing Boing readers (and contributors).

  101. Except, Ottocrat, that there are a lot of people saying, “Don’t vaccinate your kids.” And there are a lot of people not vaccinating their kids. Maybe you are only worried about the MMR shot and would prefer to get separate vaccinations, and I do not doubt that there are more like you, but there are plenty of people who take it a lot farther than that.

    In other words, if it’s not about you, it’s not about you.

  102. Giving the three jabs might cause autism. Theres not been a large enough study to prove otherwise. MMR on the other hand…

    Titled: Don’t Vaccinate Your Kids
    “To reveal the myth that vaccines are necessary, safe and effective”
    check the image: “Love them, Protect them. Never Inject Them”
    check the image: “Love them, Protect them. Never Inject Them”

  104. @Ottocrat #117: I’m sorry, but LOTS of people say “don’t vaccinate your kids.” People in this very comment thread have said as much, and there are widespread anti-vaccination campaigns that say as much. I’m glad that you have a more logical view of the issue than some people, but there are plenty of people whose views are more extreme than your own.

    As for your choice to separate the MMR into three shots — that’s a reasonable choice to make, although there is not much evidence to support the need to do so. (Some studies have shown the MMR vaccine to have a higher rate of side effects than other, single-antigen shots, but the overall incidence of dangerous side effects is still very low.) The most common concern parents have with vaccinations (according to CDC surveys) is that they don’t like to see their children get scared of the needle and cry. As the list of vaccine-preventable diseases grows and the number of recommended shots increases, doctors have combined several antigens into one shot to try to alleviate this concern. If you’re upset about possible risks of multiple-antigen vaccines, you may choose to have your child get three separate needles in one doctor’s visit, or bring him/her back to the doctor’s office on three separate occasions (spaced appropriately, to allow formation of an optimal immune response against each, but not TOO far apart, because you want him/her to be protected ASAP!). Many parents don’t want to do this, however, and if parents don’t want to do something, vaccination rates drop. MMR and other combination vaccines are an attempt to solve this problem, but they seem to have created new problems as well.

  105. @116 – Um, you might want to take one or two “breast feeds” out…

    See this informative post:

    >>As with other environmental contaminants, our exposure to mercury begins before birth. Most of a baby’s mercury exposure from the mother occurs during pregnancy, via the placenta.

    Although mercury does pass into breastmilk, the amount of mercury in breastmilk is not expected to be a problem under normal circumstances. Per Lawrence & Lawrence, in Breastfeeding: A Guide for the Medical Profession (2005, p. 417), “Acute exposures to methylmercury from industrial or environmental sources should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, although it appears breastfeeding is safe.” * * *

    The mother’s diet appears to be, by far, the primary source of mercury in breastmilk — studies have shown higher levels of mercury in the breastmilk of mothers who eat large amounts of fish. Mercury levels in breastmilk are about one-third the level of mercury in the mother’s blood. The amount of mercury that reaches the milk depends upon the form of the mercury: inorganic mercury compounds enter the milk easily but are poorly absorbed by baby; organic mercury compounds do not enter the milk easily but the small amounts that do get through are easily absorbed by baby. * * *

    [But, no worries (at least, not yet)] In the two long-term studies of children exposed to methylmercury via breastmilk, no adverse effects were documented; in fact, the breastfed children scored better on developmental tests….<<


    paulbowen at #69 explains that he did not MMR vaccinate his daughter, and she ended up getting measles and mumps from someone.

    Before you shout so loudly, you might want to read the actual comments in the thread.

  107. Antinous, I know that a handful of people stated that after reading this that they indeed would have their children vaccinated. However, I expect that was their intention all along. The amount of vituperative debate this has generated here is not worth the stated intention of the post.

    Besides, he has said this already. How much do you think the dedicated reader community of BoingBoing has grown since the last post of this sort anyway?

    Vaccination is a hotly debated policy issue that has been predominately controlled by big pharma. OK, Cory is for it, we get it, but his presentation here bares little merit on the pros and cons of the debate other then he is pissed at whoever got his kid sick and that we should vaccinate. Oh yeah, that and a lot of people are getting unnecessarily pissed off at each other.

  108. Ottocrat (117) – “What we’re saying is, why is the government forcing us to give our kids all three jabs in one go when separate vaccines are available?”

    Two main reasons:
    1) Experience with other vaccines that require multiple trips to the clinic (and treatments for mostly symptomless conditions) has taught the NHS that an amazing number of patients will forget or simply stop turning up to the latter appointments. Getting 95% of the population to turn up for one injection is already a herculean task; asking them to turn up for three injections a month apart (then three more for boosters) is expected to lead to a huge drop in uptake.

    2) Three separate jabs means three appointments, tripling the time that each patient takes in the clinic. It’ll probably also cost nearly three times as much for the vaccines themselves, as most of the cost comes from quality control, storage and transportation of doses rather than the actual ingredients. So each patient now costs the NHS around three times a much as before.

    You can bet that it’d be perceived as safer if widely offered (“why would they bother if it isn’t safer?”) and there’s be huge uptake. So the cost of the vaccination programme would triple while the rate of successful vaccinations would actually fall significantly.

    bklynchris“Vaccination is a hotly debated policy issue that has been predominately controlled by big pharma.”
    I’m involved in medical research and all of my money comes from the government (via semi-autonomous “research councils”) and a couple of charities. This is an extremely common setup across Europe, the USA, Canada, etc.

    Yes, some pharmaceutical companies have lots of money riding on vaccines. And yes, some of them get up to various unpleasant PR tricks to promote their wares. But please don’t believe for a second that they’re the only ones doing research into or controlling policy on this stuff. Especially in areas like epidemiology (where questions like “is this vaccine safe enough and cheap enough to be better than just treating the sick people?” get addressed), there’s an army of independent and passionate researchers scrutinising what’s going on.

    Also, the fact is that public health really is a numbers game. It can sound terribly callous but it’s true. For example, the smallpox vaccination is expected to kill about 1 patient in every 1,000,000 and produce unpleasant side effects in many more; it’s therefore certain that the worldwide effort to eradicate smallpox was directly responsible for deaths. This is tragic of course, but still far better than the millions of people who would suffer or die every year if smallpox was still in circulation. Ditto polio: the rare unpleasant side effects are considered far better for society than the common partial paralysis and rarer deaths that were rampant before.

    So while it sounds terrible, even if a tiny number of babies do have unpleasant reactions to vaccination, it’s probably still better that allowing measles (ranges from fever to blindness to death) and rubella (causes birth defects) to run riot through our societies again. You can bet that even as we’re having this debate, researchers in more than one university are monitoring the actual data and patient reports, not just the tabloid headlines, and constantly re-assessing exactly this question.

  109. everyone that keeps saying big pharma big pharma big pharma. Please look up how much and how many companies still are making vaccines. Then please look at how many companies are still researching vaccines. No one wants to make vaccines anymore. Unless it’s about sex. Why? Because they don’t make large profit on vaccines.

  110. Darn. I should stress that above I was writing about the live smallpox vaccination, “vaccinia” and its relatives. The vaccine that’s used these days doesn’t contain ANY live virus and, as such, is perfectly safe.

    As an example of a vaccine that isn’t worth it, we do have an effective vaccine against rabies. Unfortunately the risk of side effects is unacceptably high (in the region of one in [tens of thousands]) so it’d be crazy to give it to the general population. The numbers only come out in its favour for people who’re very likely to get exposed at some point (e.g. vets) and people who’ve already been bitten by an animal that’s known to be infected.

    So yeah, numbers game. Any medicine worth taking has potential to do you harm: it’s always a question of “are the side effects better than the disease?” That’s exactly the question we ask about vaccines, except we have to ask it as a whole society instead of an individual patient.


    paulbowen at #69 explains that he did not MMR vaccinate his daughter, and she ended up getting measles and mumps from someone.

    Before you shout so loudly, you might want to read the actual comments in the thread.

    I just re-read my comments and I can’t find the bit where I said ‘don’t vaccinate your kids’. I simply explained the process by which my partner and I arrived at the decision not to take our daughter for MMR, and then said my daughter later got measles and mumps. How can that be construed as telling anyone else not to vaccinate their kids? Do you imagine I consider myself so boundlessly charismatic that my example has the weight of an instruction? Well I don’t and I leave it to clever people like you to make with the shouty-bossy.

  112. Cory,
    Herd immunity is important.

    Vaccines might not be the best method of conveying herd immunity. But, it is an available technology.

    Perhaps if we could admit that they are not the best we could start looking into alternatives for conveying “immunity.”

    I think this requires a change of paradigm, as the determinants of health and the forces that rule the universe are not working in congruence with vaccines. We know that.

    I hope that soon I can post something about autism spectrum disorder, because there’s a lot of new informtation about it lately. One of the correlations in ASD kids is the high levels of heavy metals: mercury and lead. Vaccines are a source of heavy metals.

    When it comes to contraction of any illness, susceptability is key. I contend that in our population, complex environmental factors are converging to exceed our childrens’ susceptability levels to this disorder. In the majority of people, a DTaP vaccine (I know you mentioned MMR, but DTaP is also implicated), won’t trigger this disorder. But, in a growing percentage of the population, their thin veil of protection is waning. Why is that? We have some ideas.

    There’s a doctor, Matt Baral, ND, connected with the Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine ( / who could explain this better than me. He treats children with ASD from a different paradigm using modern scientific methods. Sometimes you just have to look at the studies for yourself!

    Jon Ritz
    4th year med student

  113. Patter:

    1: everyone should vaccinate.
    2: with every vaccination ever made.
    3: twice. Or more, if you have time.
    4: no one has ever been hurt by a vaccination, ever. Ever.
    5: Pharmaceutical companies have only our good health at heart. Thank goodness.
    6: Also true for the CDC. Thank goodness.
    7: Heavy metals in your body, in tiny or large doses, can’t hurt you. Stop saying otherwise.
    8: No further research need be done on the subject of vaccination “injuries”, it’s a known quantity (see #4). Stop the research. #5 and #6 know all we need to know.

    That is all.

  114. Paul: Well I don’t and I leave it to clever people like you to make with the shouty-bossy

    rather than read your post, you should have re-read ottocrat’s post. He was the one with the shouty-bossy:



    What we’re saying is, why is the government forcing us to give our kids all three jabs in one go when separate vaccines are available?

    See, ottocrat was arguing between (1) vaccinate all at once versus (2) vaccinate with three spaced out shots.

    which of those two options did you chose? Oh, of course, you know better, so you invented option (3) and not vaccinate at all.

    Either way, a kid didn’t get vaccinated that should have, and it happened because someone, who isn’t a doctor or a medical researcher, thinks they know more than the entire CDC plus 8 or 9 studies they’ve done to show no link between MMR and autism.

    According to the World Health Organization (WHO), measles is a leading cause of vaccine-preventable childhood mortality. The fatality rate from measles for otherwise healthy people in developed countries is 3 deaths per 1000 cases.

    That’s the risk you took with your daughter’s life. And because you didn’t vaccinate, she got the disease, and because she got the disease, she could have infected others, and you’d be taking a risk with their lives too.

    3 per 1000 infected die of measles. That’s the first choice. What’s the second choice? Get the vaccine and risk getting autism. What’s the risk of getting autism?


    I listed nine, count them nine, studies listed by the CDC looking at the links between MMR vaccines and autism. They found none. In fact, the first study said the number of autism cases rose substantially in Denmark after the discontinuation of thimerosal use. Another Danish study followed more than 500,000 children, over 7 years, and found no linkage.


    3 out of 1000 people infected with measles will die.

    The original post says that there is about a million-to-one chance that someone will develop serious side effects from the vaccine.

    no vaccine: 3 out of 3000 infected will die.

    vaccine: 1 out of 1,000,000 will have serious complications.

    There are only two choices here: iether you get vaccinated or you do not. If you do get vaccinated, you’ve got a one in a million chance of having problems. If you do NOT get vaccinated, you’ve got a really good chance of getting measles, and a 3 in 1000 chance of dying.

    Based on that, anyone dealing with the numbers and dealing with logic and dealing with reality would vaccinate.

    You, on the other hand, chose to alter the numbers.

    Rather than compare 3 out of 1000 with 1 in 1000000, you instead said that the jury is still out on global warming, on intelligent design, on MMR vaccine links to autism, and instead decided to compare 3 out of 1000 to ???.

    What you did was walk up to a roulette table, and some mathematician explains to you that the wheel has 37 numbers but the most the table will pay out is 36-to-1. The mathematician then explaisn to you that in the long run, the house wins. The best bet is to not play the game at all. But you didn’t understand a word of what he just said. you look at the shiny equipment and the bright colors and you decided to roll with it, risk your daughter and other’s people’s lives and place a bet.

    The Center for Disease Control, the World Health Organization, the Red Cross, the UN/UNICEF, all say vaccinate. They all explain that you’ve got a choice with odds on each choice, and the better choice is to vaccinate. But you decided you knew better, so you manufacture some boogeyman, and replace 1 in a million with “boogeyman” and decide it’s better to risk 3 in 1000 lives instead of risk teh boogeyman.

    but, boo hooo, I’m all shouty-bossy, because I just keep throwing hard facts at you. The odds are this. The choices are that. You took the choice with the bad odds. The only possible way you can defend it is by defending it from ignorance. “We didn’t know” you say. “We weren’t sure” you say. Well, the odds are what the odds are, and everyone from the CDC, to the red cross, to the UN, to the world health organization, has explained to you what those odds are.

    But you thought you could win at roulette over the long run, so you gambled your daughter’s life and the lives of everyone she infected.

    You want me to present those hard facts in a nice “oh, it’s OK, you just risked someone’s life because you didn’t know any better” touchy feely way? And if I don’t, I’m “shouty bossy”? You risked people’s lives out of ignorance but you want to claim you’re the good guy because you were polite about it? You made a bad choice, end of story. How you want to package it emotionally, has got squat to do with that simple fact: You made a bad choice. You needlessly risked other people’s lives.

  115. Hancocks, you’ve proven nothing. All you’ve done is attempt to strawman the scientific research that has been done and show no link between vaccine and autism.

    Can you prove a link between teh vaccine and autism? Of course not. If you could, you’d link it in a heartbeat.

    can you prove that the risk of autism from vaccination outweighs the risk of dying from measles if you don’t vaccinate? Of course not. YOu probably don’t even know what the risk of measles is.

    Can you prove that the pharmaceutical companies are paying people to lie? Certainly not. If you had proof of bribes from BigPharm to members of the CDC, Red Cross, WHO, and UNICEF, you’d likewise be posting that link in a heartbeat.

    Can you prove anything at all? No. ALl you can do is strawman the actual facts in order to “disprove” the facts in your mind, leaving room for you to insert your conspiracy theory.

    You’ve modeled exactly the tactics of someone pusing a conspiracy theory.

    try proving something next time. See how that goes.

  116. RitzJohn (131) “Perhaps if we could admit that they are not the best we could start looking into alternatives for conveying “immunity.” “
    RitzJohn – Do you have a method in mind? The body only develops a population of memory lymphocytes against an antigen after mounting and expanding an immune response against it… how can we do that without exposing people to either recombinant antigen, killed organism or the live disease itself?

    Feel free to get as technical as you like. I’m a molecular biologist and while my immunology is a bit rusty I have some expert colleagues to help me keep up with you.

    The only way I can think of doing it is extracting dendrocytes, culturing them and exposing them to the antigens in question ex vivo, then re-injecting the primed dendrocytes into the body. That does sort of work in mice, I’ve no idea whether it has been successfully done in humans? Even if so it’d be hellishly time consuming and expensive to do it for an entire cohort in a country, not to mention the increased contamination and cancer risks from large-scale culture and re-injection of cells.

    And for the record: No large-scale study has managed to link MMR — or any other vaccine — with autism rates. Yes autism tends to emerge at about the age that MMR is administered, which is why people perceive a link. But the big meta-studies (for the conspiracy nuts: funded and run by independent academics NOT by “Big Pharma”) show that, if you look at children who are vaccinated and children who aren’t, there’s no difference in autism rates. The only piece of research published that does support a link is that piece of crap by Wakefield, which had just 12 patients, was methodologically flawed (his statistics calculations were crap), has been disowned by the co-authors and is under investigation for including falsified/distorted data. Seriously, the entire thing is just a media cock-up of gigantic proportion. The editors and journalists responsible for propagating this shit-storm long after it became obvious that evidence doesn’t support it have children’s blood on their hands.

  117. Greg, I would like to point out that Paul and his wife made the decision not to give the MMR to their daughter after she had a bad vaccine reaction. That’s one of the valid reasons to be wary about vaccinations. People who have bad vaccine responses are among those who need to be protected by herd immunity. It’s not as though he just read about the small possibility of a bad reaction and panicked. She actually had one.

    Of course, she probably wouldn’t have gotten measles or mumps if people without cause hadn’t been careless about vaccinations, but that’s not Paul’s fault.


    •Measles is a leading cause of death among young children even though a safe and cost-effective vaccine is available to prevent the disease.

    •In 2007, there were 197 000 measles deaths globally – nearly 540 deaths every day or 22 deaths every hour.

    And while all the anti-vaccine nuts are harping about Big Pharmaceutical companies buying off the CDC, the Red Cross, UNICEF, and the World Health Organization, let’s take a quick look at where the anti-vaccine nuttery actually started:

    In February 1998, a group led by Andrew Wakefield published a controversial paper in the respected British medical journal The Lancet. The paper reported on twelve children with developmental disorders referred to the Royal Free Hospital in London. The parents or physicians of eight of these children had linked the start of behavioral symptoms to MMR vaccination.

    In February 2004, investigative reporter Brian Deer wrote in The Sunday Times of London that Wakefield had received £55,000 funding from a group sueing phramaceutical companies, and that several of the parents of the 12 children in teh study were part of the lawsuit.

    In March 2004, immediately following the news of the conflict of interest allegations, ten of Wakefield’s twelve coauthors retracted

    November 18, 2004, Deer alleged in a report that Wakefield had applied for patents on a vaccine that was a rival of the MMR vaccine, and that he knew of test results from his own laboratory at the Royal Free Hospital that contradicted his claims

    IN 2006, Deer reported in The Sunday Times that Wakefield had been paid more than £400,000 by British trial lawyers attempting to prove that the vaccine was dangerous, with the undisclosed payments beginning two years before the Lancet paper’s publication

    So the entire anti-vaccine insanity was started by a guy who was paid to create evidence for an ongoing lawsuit against pharmacy companies, and that same guy was trying to patent a competing vaccine.

  119. Reply to Anonymous #112: “Human milk is the preferred feeding for all infants, including premature and sick newborns…It is recommended that breastfeeding continue for at least the first 12 months, and thereafter for as long as mutually desired”
    – excerpt from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) breastfeeding guidelines

    Breastfeeding is one of the most important things you can do to give your child the very best start in life. Breast milk provides the optimum nutrition for your baby. Despite their efforts, formula companies simply CANNOT duplicate the amazing benefits of breast milk. The World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding for AT LEAST two years.

    Health Benefits for Baby

    Breast milk is more easily digested than ANY formula, resulting in less colic, gas, and spitting up

    Breastfeeding reduces or even eliminates food allergies & eczema. Babies who are breastfed for less than six months have seven times the incidence of allergies as those who are breastfed longer than six months.

    Breastfeeding is associated with a much lower incidence of wheezing, prolonged colds, diarrhea, and vomiting (Merrett, T.G., “Infant Feeding & Allergy: 12 Month Prospective Study of 500 Babies Born into Allergic Families”. American Allergies, 1988.)

    Eczema is less common and milder in babies who are breastfed. In one study, (Chandra R.K., “Influence of Maternal Diet During Lactation and the Use of Formula Feed and Development of Atopic Eczema in the High Risk Infants”. Br Med J. 1989) it was found that of infants fed soy based formulas, 63% developed eczema. In those fed cows milk based formulas 70% developed eczema.”

    Formula fed children have a drastic increase in childhood cancers. “The risk of artificially fed children was 1-8 times that of long-term breastfed children, and the risk for short term feeders was 1-9 times that of long term breast feeders.” Davis, M.K. Infant Feeding and Childhood Cancer. “Lancet 1988

    Breastfed babies get protection from bronchitis, bronchiolitis, pneumonia, diabetes and asthma.

    Formula fed babies suffer higher instances of cardiopulmonary disturbances. (Particularly preterm infants)

    Breastfed babies have fewer diaper rashes .

    Breastfed babies have 5-10 times fewer stomach infections than formula fed babies

    Babies who are breastfed are 10 times less likely to be admitted to the hospital during the first year.

    Breast milk contains endorphins, chemicals that suppress pain.

    Breast milk contains at least 100 (some sources say up to 400) ingredients not found in formula including at least 4 unique proteins. There are unique and powerful immune building properties in breast milk, and it can enhance brain development

    There is growing evidence that breastfeeding can raise your child’s I.Q. and there are numerous studies pointing to higher developmental test scores in breastfed children.

    Breast fed babies have up to 50% fewer ear infections than bottle fed babies

    A recent study by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development indicated that breastfeeding was protective against SIDS. (Hoffman, H.J., “Risk Factors for SIDS: Results of the SIDS Cooperative Epidemiologic Study”. Ann NY ACAD Sci, 1988.)

    Another source states that “Breastfed babies are one-third less likely to die of SIDS.”

    Breastfeeding enhances the baby’s development of oral muscles and facial bones.

    On the MMR note:

    Interestingly enough Japan abandoned the MMR if favour of single shots some years ago, they are also a nation of co-sleepers with negligible SIDS (controversial in the West where we see high rates of SIDS).

    In 1990, the New England Journal of Medicine confirmed that vitamin A supplements significantly reduce measles complication and death rates: patients (including infants) with measles when given vitamin A supplements see their complication rates and chances of dying significantly reduced. As early as 1932 (prior vacc) doctors used cod-liver oil high in vit A, to treat measles and lower mortality, this was soon replaced by antibiotics which was ineffective, then followed the vaccination and this very effective form of treatment feel by the wayside.

    I am not anti-vacc I am extremely concerned with vaccine safety and about having choices. Why can’t we access single shots in the West? Can anyone present an argument that can convince me that I am without rights in this respect or freedom of choice? Because it’s not about health, it’s about cost effective vaccine delivery.

    In 2007 the vaccine industry was worth around US$6.9 billion globally and this is expected to almost triple by 2010. And players said the majority of growth is expected to come from the Asia Pacific. I find it hard to believe no one is making a profit here (Singapore News).

  120. sorry Robulus that reply post on Breastfeeding was for reply #122 … notice my appropriately spaced post !!! :)

  121. Greglondon: sure, sure. But I didn’t, at any point, say “don’t vaccinate your kids”, did I?

    By the way, did I mention that I sometimes cycle through red lights? (May as well try to get a single unified rant out of this.)

  122. I’m on trial? You won’t admit your error but anyone who cares to look can see you’ve misrepresented me and that you lack the class to acknowledge it.

  123. Paul: You won’t admit your error but anyone who cares to look can see you’ve misrepresented me and that you lack the class to acknowledge it.

    OK, fine. Tell me, Paul Bowen, where exactly did I say ‘Paul Bowen said “dont vaccinate your kids”‘? I didn’t.

    At #123 I said paulbowen at #69 explains that he did not MMR vaccinate his daughter, and she ended up getting measles and mumps from someone. Is this, gasp, misrepresentation? Did I lie?

    No, that’s reporting the actual facts. You didn’t vaccinate, she got measles and mumps. That’s what you said happened.

    After you throw a snit, that you never said “don’t vaccinate your kids”, I explain at 133 that ottocrat was trying to portray the issue as if everyone is choosing between (1) vaccinate all at once versus and (2) vaccinate with three spaced out shots. But you were in a third category that ottocrat didn’t mention. You didn’t vaccinate at all.

    You’re the one who invented the idea that I said “Paul Bowen quit his job and started a ‘Don’t Vaccinate Your Kids’ program.” I never said that. And after explaining it to you in 133, you still insist that I made that accusation when I didn’t. ottocrat was portraying the issue as if the only people involved were (1) vaccine all at once or (2) spread the vaccines out over time. And you were in a third category of “didn’t vaccinate at all”

    ottocrat was wrong. it wasn’t just (1) or (2). People like you are doing (3) and not vaccinating at all.

    If you charge people with misrepresentation and say they don’t have class to acknowledge it, it might help if actual misrepresentation occurred.

    I never said what you accuse me of saying. I explained as much in 133, but you insist on continuing fabricated charges. Show me where I said “Paul Bowen said Dont Vaccinate Your Kids”. I didn’t.

    So the question is will you have the class to admit your error.

  124. Greg, as someone who is EXTREMELY PRO-VACCINATION and doesn’t know Paul Bowen at all, your comment at 123 very much implied exactly that. More to the point, just because one guy doesn’t give his kid the MMR doesn’t prove Ottocrat’s point wrong. The fact that there is an actual movement to keep people from vaccinating their kids does. Paul Bowen does not appear to be a part of that movement at all. And you’re kind of being a dick. Please stop making this comment thread more toxic than it needs to be.

  125. ..just because one guy doesn’t give his kid the MMR doesn’t prove Ottocrat’s point wrong.

    No, but the fact that people, myself included (@120), cited other clearly anti-vaccination material does.

    A billboard that says “Love them, Protect them. Never Inject them.” is pretty clear.

    Ottocrat was wrong to but the arguments in either/or terms, there are indeed people say “Don’t Vaccinate Your Kids”.

  126. Paul@130: I can’t find the bit where I said ‘don’t vaccinate your kids’.

    Paul@145: I didn’t, at any point, say “don’t vaccinate your kids”, did I?

    euryale: your comment at 123 very much implied exactly that.

    Pedantic Paul accuses me twice of saying something about him that I never actually said, and you quietly change his charge to implication?

    If he was concerned about implications, then 133 should have cleared it up that ottoman committed a bifurcation when Paul and others are in a third group that ottoman denied even existed. Some people don’t vaccinate at all. If you were concerned about implications, then 133 should have cleared that up as well.

    But no, Paul in unconsolable. Paul says I don’t have the “class” to admit my “error” and to “acknowledge” that I said something I never actually said.

    And now you chime in that I implied somethign that I already explained at 133 was never implied?

    If you and Paul need an apology to get on with life, then Paul, I’m sorry I never said the thing you twice accused me of saying. And Euryale, I’m sorry I never implied the thing you accuse me of implying.

  127. Arkizzle @ 150: You’ll note in my post at 118–directly under Ottocrat’s, I might add–and again in my post at 149 that I know this. I know there are people who are saying that. Paul Bowen is not one of those people.

    Greg @153: You said it without saying those exact words. That’s what your post meant. You’re putting Paul in the “Don’t Vaccinate Your Kids” camp. Paul is not in the “Don’t Vaccinate Your Kids” camp. Paul is in the “My kid had a bad vaccine response, so I didn’t give her the MMR vaccine” camp, which is entirely different. His kid should have been protected by the herd immunity that the people in the former camp–the one you keep accusing him of being a part of–is destroying.

  128. The Age of Autism and Generation Rescue people cited above are a bottomless well of passionate, detailed, totally misguided and very dangerous reading for parents already worried about possible links between autism & vaccinations.

    I appreciate Mr. Doctorow’s clear, brief, facts-based plea to vaccinate our children. We need more people with clout to take stands like his, to counter arguments like the one below:

    “It’s actually not even entirely about vaccines and Autism, believe it or not. It’s profoundly bigger than that, frankly.

    “No, this entire controversy is about the following fundamental questions; questions that have been for far too long ignored. They are:

    “By use of a pharmaceutical product that the government mandates, endorses, and legally protects, and by means of the medical community that helps create and administer said product, have we unintentionally or recklessly swapped infectious disease for chronic disease; and if we have, at what point does the risk of one outweigh the reality of the other? Who gets to decide that and how?


  129. if immunisation is effective and you got your baby jabbed with all three at birth don’t worry what the others are doing your safe your doctor told you so

  130. I have to say, I chuckled when I read the comment from the naturopathic “Med Student.”

    As for this preposterous notion that measles just magically stopped killing people, anyone who knows anything about the state of living standards in the 1920s versus the state of living standards in the late 1960s aught to be able to put two and two together, not to mention the particular circumstances of that (totally canned) date. Vaccination worldwide dropped the number of fatal cases of measles by 74% between 2000 and 2007.

    If that is too long or poorly written to bother with, I’ll say the same thing I say with global warming:

    There’s a nobel prize waiting for whoever can disprove that vaccines help. Do you really suppose that Mr. Nobody from X-Unaccredited University has figured out something every single medical doctor in the history of modern civilization couldn’t?

  131. Someone might have said this already, but I’m too lazy to read all the comments: I find it quite ironic that Roald Dahl mentions children choking on chocolate bars.

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