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"An Epidemic of Fear." Wired takes on the anti-vax movement
October 28, 2009 9:48 AM   Subscribe

Wired profiles pediatrician Paul Offit, co-creator of the RotaTeq rotavirus vaccine and a primary target of the anti-vaccination movement. Dr. Offit published a book,“Autism’s False Prophets” in 2008 but didn't tour, because he had received too many death threats.

The profile by Amy Wallace*, is part of a collection of articles on vaccinations, including "The Misinformants: Prominent Voices in the Anti-Vaccine Crusade", "How To Win An Argument About Vaccines", and "A Short History of Vaccine Panic".

*Wallace is receiving hate mail for it. She's been twitting about that here.

(Vaccines: Previously on MeFi)
posted by zarq (136 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite

 
In a sane world Offit and those like him would be universally hailed as heroes; it is a sign of deep societal dysfunction that the creators of vaccines must fear for their lives.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:51 AM on October 28, 2009 [32 favorites]


Dr. Offit published a book,“Autism’s False Prophets” in 2008 but didn't tour, because he had received too many death threats.

That sentence is absurdly depressing. Even if you ARE an anti-vaccine nut... death threats!?!?!
posted by haveanicesummer at 9:53 AM on October 28, 2009


Also, the National Autism Association (linked above) has a number of press releases on their site concerning Dr. Offit, including:

Vaccine Expert Offit Dodges Vaccine-Mercury Debate on MSNBC, says National Autism Association (from 2005) and Conflict-of-Interest Reporting Serves to Replace Fact with Fiction in Vaccine Injury Cases (from 2007)

The organization seems determined to discredit him.
posted by zarq at 9:55 AM on October 28, 2009


In a sane world Offit and those like him would be universally hailed as heroes; it is a sign of deep societal dysfunction that the creators of vaccines must fear for their lives.

It was gratifying to see Wallace so clearly link the anti-vax movement to anti-intellectualism.
posted by zarq at 9:57 AM on October 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


death threats!?!?!

People who are angry and/or sad are being told that they can direct that anger or sadness against a target. Just like blaming gays for Katrina or Jews for economic woes. It's medical/scientific hate speech.
posted by DU at 10:00 AM on October 28, 2009


Even if you ARE an anti-vaccine nut... death threats!?!?!

It sounds batshit to us, but put yourself in the shoes of an anti-vax loony. You believe that vaccines not only are not beneficial, but cause widespread brain damage and even death, and that they're being forced on small children who cannot defend themselves. Furthermore, when you speak, people either don't take you seriously or tell you that you are wrong. Is it better to try and convince a public that refuses to listen, spending your entire life trying to convince people who don't want to hear while children are being brain damaged and murdered, or to take direct action against the perceived source of death and sickness?

It's like the abortion clinic bombing question. Sure, it looks crazy if you don't share their fundamental beliefs, but if there were a concentration camp gassing Jews in your town and the authorities refused to do anything about it, how would you respond? By respectfully and politely trying to convince people that it's wrong, with babies being murdered all the while?

Yes, it's stupid and crazy and ignorant, but if your stupidity and craziness and ignorance lead you to believe that mass murder is taking place, violent resistance looks like the correct response.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:01 AM on October 28, 2009 [19 favorites]


I always take a little Jon Stewart when a little thing like death threats against brilliant pediatricians upsets me. As he said during the Ayers uproar, "Oh, angry mob, is there any problem your wisdom and torches can't solve?"
posted by bearwife at 10:06 AM on October 28, 2009 [9 favorites]


FUCK VACCINES. AND WHILE WE'RE AT IT, FUCK SIMPLE MACHINES, TOO. LAST YEAR I USED AN INCLINED PLANE TO HELP SLIDE SOME FURNITURE OUT OF OF A MOVING VAN. THEN THE VERY NEXT WEEK, MY KID GOT AN INFECTION ON HIS BACK. IT WAS COVERED IN OOZING SORES, WHICH MADE ME THINK, BECAUSE NORMALLY WHEN I BEAT HIM HIS BACK HEALS JUST FINE. COINCIDENCE??????????????????? GUESS ALL THAT "CHANGE" OBAMA PROMISED WAS JUST MIND CONTROL CIA SHIT FARts
posted by Damn That Television at 10:09 AM on October 28, 2009 [37 favorites]


The funny thing is that if H1N1 had the same virulence as say, H5N1 (the bird flu), you know the anti-vaxxers would be rioting for a chance to get their stick. The only reason these idiots are afraid of the vaccine is because they're privileged to have been born in a world where the consequences of refusing vaccine were invisible. Unfortunately, their kids aren't going to be so lucky.

I'd say it was natural selection at work, but it's not fair for their kids (or the rest of us), who have no say in the matter.
posted by longdaysjourney at 10:10 AM on October 28, 2009 [6 favorites]


Popey Baby, I think your metaphor slipped a little at the end of paragraph two, there.
posted by rokusan at 10:11 AM on October 28, 2009


My point is that the two are analogous- in both cases, we have this belief- that it's crazy is beside the point- that mass murder is being carried out and that the authorities are not only doing nothing about it, they are actively protecting the perpetrators. It should not surprise us that these beliefs lead to violence.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:14 AM on October 28, 2009


The depressing take away for me from the Wired article was that not getting vaccines is also detrimental to people who do get vaccines, as a very small amount of the vaccines just "don't take." When you're surrounded with people who have been vaccinated and it did take, it's not a big deal because you won't be exposed to the disease, but with my people refusing the vaccines, you're more likely to be exposed.

So other people's poor choices could have a negative effect on you.
posted by drezdn at 10:15 AM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


GUESS ALL THAT "CHANGE" OBAMA PROMISED WAS JUST MIND CONTROL CIA SHIT FARts

Some of them are that guy, but a truly disturbing number are lefty Whole Foods shoppers that claim loudly and at great length in all other circumstances to be members of the "reality based community."

Anti-intellectualism and anti-science views are to be expected from the widely anti-intellectual and anti-science right. But the participation of the left is what drives this out of the tinfoil-lined closet.
posted by rusty at 10:17 AM on October 28, 2009 [7 favorites]


I'd say it was natural selection at work, but it's not fair for their kids (or the rest of us), who have no say in the matter.

Or anyone who is immunocompromised.
posted by zarq at 10:17 AM on October 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


a very small amount of the vaccines just "don't take."
How's that false sense of security treating you?
posted by Balisong at 10:18 AM on October 28, 2009


Reading the comments on these Wired articles is profoundly depressing.
posted by lholladay at 10:18 AM on October 28, 2009


I'd say it was natural selection at work, but it's not fair for their kids...

When is natural selection fair to the kids?
posted by DU at 10:20 AM on October 28, 2009 [16 favorites]


How's that false sense of security treating you?
posted by Balisong


Oh hey! Will you actually be listening this time or will this be another vaccination thread about how you don't like vaccines regardless of what all evidence says and we can't do anything but argue with you?
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:21 AM on October 28, 2009 [12 favorites]


I can't even fucking process stories like this. God bless Offit and Wallace and the scientists and journalists out there fighting the good fight, but there shouldn't be a good fight over one of the Top 5 inventions in the history of the human race. This shit is somehow even stupider than not believing in evolution. People who are anti-vax need to be kept off the fucking airwaves, out of book stores and basically quarantined in whatever pathetic subculture they crawled out of. The entire country -- the entire planet -- needs to aggressively boycott anyone who brings one of these fuckers on as a guest, or prints one of their books, or does anything at all to help them try to actively perpetrate their stupidity-driven biological warfare on the whole goddamn world.

Just as a great thing to tell yourself:

http://www.physorg.com/news175354299.html

It is 2009, America has a black president, robotic prosthetic hands can restore a sense of touch to patients, and there is a growing anti-vaccination movement led by a former playboy playmate who is living with Jim Carrey.
posted by Damn That Television at 10:23 AM on October 28, 2009 [19 favorites]


Aside from humans' notoriously poor abilities at assessing relative risk, plus a factor of The United States Has a Sketchy Relationship with Science, there's an additional disconnect from reality lurking in there, which is that I believe most parents subconsciously "rank" potential deaths and long-term disabilities as more devastating as coming from consequences of their risk-reducing actions, rather than their inactions. Thus, vaccinating your child and having some very unlikely reaction looms larger than "letting nature take its course" and taking a somewhat larger risk. There's also "what other people can do/not do for my kid" in the mix.

It seems to go, in order of increasing horrorflavor:

My inaction (could have, should have, would have)
Other people's inaction (why didn't you take care of this?)
Other people's action (what the hell are you doing to my kids?)
My action (my God, what have I done?)

It seems likely that someone would have a name for this kind of phenomenon by now. It seems to be particularly magnified when a poorly-understood topic, like medicine, crosses a subject of enhanced irrationality, like "my kids."
posted by adipocere at 10:23 AM on October 28, 2009 [22 favorites]


Also, thanks for posting this. These loons need to have the critical spotlight shone on them at every possible turn.
posted by lholladay at 10:25 AM on October 28, 2009


People who are angry and/or sad are being told that they can direct that anger or sadness against a target.

Hearing from the anti-vax parents of autistic children, I get the impression that they're very devoted to their children and spend all their time trying to find treatment for them. They get offended and take it personally when you say, "vaccines didn't cause your child's autism" because in doing so, you take away a piece of the structure they've constructed around their devotion to their children. They "know" their children and they "know" that vaccines caused their children's autism, so when you point out this isn't true, they fell like you're taking part of their lives away or claiming that you "know" their children better than they do. It doesn't make any logical sense, but that's what it appears to be about.
posted by deanc at 10:25 AM on October 28, 2009 [5 favorites]


My memory recalls a study connecting vaccines and autism that was the genesis of the anti-vax movement (French?) and the doctor who authored the study was later exposed to be a complete fraud. Am I making this up?

FUCK VACCINES. AND WHILE WE'RE AT IT, FUCK SIMPLE MACHINES, TOO.

Kanye? I didn't know you were on Metafilter.
posted by incessant at 10:25 AM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Be sure to read the Readers Respond pages as well. My hat's off to the parents of autistic children who are pro-vaccination.
posted by longdaysjourney at 10:26 AM on October 28, 2009


How's that false sense of security treating you?

One could ask you the same question.
posted by zarq at 10:29 AM on October 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


This is the kind of shit that makes me despair for the human race. And I know people, decent people, who aren't vaccinating their kids. It's impossible to argue with people logically about something that they feel so close to their kids.

Obligatory link:

Jenny McCarthy Body Count
posted by lumpenprole at 10:30 AM on October 28, 2009


incessant:

You're referring to Doctor Andrew Wakefield, who posited a connection between the MMR vaccine and autism. He was later found to have multiple conflicts of interest, and to have tampered with his data.
posted by lholladay at 10:31 AM on October 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


My memory recalls a study connecting vaccines and autism that was the genesis of the anti-vax movement (French?) and the doctor who authored the study was later exposed to be a complete fraud. Am I making this up?

Nope! The dude is an Englishman named Andrew Wakefield. Not only was he found to have falsified his data, he was also found to have a financial interest in doing so- he and a partner were preparing a lawsuit against vaccine manufacturers. He's basically a really terrible person. Orac over at scienceblogs.com has a really good summary of Wakefield's scumbaggery.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:31 AM on October 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


Also, let me add a note that Twitter sucks. Wallace isn't sending 140-byte messages about individual messages she's received as they come in. She's writing an essay in 140-byte segments which, because of twitter's format, you have to read from bottom to top. She could have simply written it all at once and twittered a few choice quotes and a URL.
posted by deanc at 10:33 AM on October 28, 2009


lholladay: thanks, and you're very welcome.
posted by zarq at 10:35 AM on October 28, 2009


You believe that vaccines not only are not beneficial, but cause widespread brain damage and even death, and that they're being forced on small children who cannot defend themselves.

WE NEED TO BUILD CHILD-SIZE PISTOLS AND GIVE THEM TO CHILDREN TO DEFEND THEMSELVES AGAINST PEDIATRICISTIS AND OTHER MOLEESTERS

VOTE RON PAUL!
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:40 AM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


look it was that or bevets okay

Well, great. Now we have to hear about how we're the ones who don't know what we're talking about, because even though we believe the decades of scientific research performed by thousands of reputable researchers, we didn't read "Cold War on Children: Why America and the Soviet Union Conspired to Kill Our Kids with Vaccines," by Dweezil Pontchaine, Ed.D., Puerto Rico State University Press (available now in your local Christian bookstore or natural foods outlet), so obviously we're the ignorant fools who don't know what we're talking about.
posted by billysumday at 10:43 AM on October 28, 2009


Kanye? I didn't know you were on Metafilter.

RotaTeq, I'm really happy for you and I'ma let you finish, but the inclined plane is best invention ever ...
(Sorry.)
posted by octobersurprise at 10:44 AM on October 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


The only reason these idiots are afraid of the vaccine is because they're privileged to have been born in a world where the consequences of refusing vaccine were invisible. Unfortunately, their kids aren't going to be so lucky.

This is exactly what I think when I read that wealthy, white, liberal, educated Marin County has seen waivers for vaccination exemptions increase by 6.3 percent from 1999 to 2008.*


*pretty sure the stat in the Wired article is incorrect.
posted by oneirodynia at 10:47 AM on October 28, 2009


I don't have anything else to do today. No work, and it's snowing outside. I think I'm getting a runny nose.


Ha! Just joking. I'm healthy, thanks for caring, tho.
That said, death threats are way over the top, right on par with abortion activists.
I don't care what his positions are, as long as I am still free to weigh the evidence, personal stories, and my own intuition and make my own decisions, just as you do. Having others make their opinions carry force of law is where I get outraged.
Bird flu? I didn't worry about it. Swine flu? I don't worry about it. There are plenty of opinions out there. Pick and choose your own. But please, golly, please, don't take my word for anything other that one opinion. I don't want to tell anyone else what they should or shouldn't do.
posted by Balisong at 10:47 AM on October 28, 2009


Yes, it's stupid and crazy and ignorant, but if your stupidity and craziness and ignorance lead you to believe that mass murder is taking place, violent resistance looks like the correct response.

I've always wondered this about "mainstream" anti-choicers. Who the hell are these people who go around believing that abortion is murder, but not the kind of murder they're willing to step in and stop? Huh. It's almost as if the pro-life position is fundamentally flawed or something.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 10:49 AM on October 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


From the article: "counterintuitively, higher rates of non-vaccination often correspond with higher levels of education and wealth."

Thank God for this little aside. I'm sort of tired of the poor and the ignorant getting disproportionately blamed for the public health problems in this country, though of course I'm usually as guilty of this as anyone. Marin County sophisticates skipping little Johnny's DPT and MMR (perhaps while also disdaining breast milk in favor of a liquified vegan diet for their little munchkin) -- now there's a perversely entertaining notion.

That more education = less vaccination... well, education tends to engender a healthy skepticism towards both received wisdom and the infallibility of experts. This is usually a fine thing, but not so much when it comes to vaccinating your kid.
posted by killdevil at 10:49 AM on October 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


There's this idea that humanity is going to split into two species: an overclass and an underclass, genetically determined and, not coincidently, related to generational wealth.

Methinks the anti-vac crowd's future lies with the underclass. Uneducated, sickly, unskilled workers who die young and are easily replaced from the overbreeding hordes. They'll be typically religious fools who subscribe to creationism, abstinence, homeopathics, and other retarded shite.

Good luck with bringing up your children to be anti-science, folks. I'm sure you'll get all that you deserve.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:50 AM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Uhoh. Maybe I just disproportionally blamed the public health problems on the poor and ignorant.

It looks like the wealthy ignorant are even more at fault. Of course, it's going to be hard for them to retain that wealth in the face of ignorance.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:52 AM on October 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


Okay, the problem with the view that these lunatics are harmless and only hurting themselves or other lunatics that believe them is that it's nonsense. The higher the percentage of the population that refuse vaccination, the greater the chance that the disease will not only take root but mutate into a form that even the vaccinated can't resist. So these idiots are not just committing suicide - which I wish they'd all just do already - they are potenially committing murder, or even genocide.
posted by Aversion Therapy at 10:52 AM on October 28, 2009 [8 favorites]


I'm a pro-vaccine parent of an autistic son. I cannot even begin to tell you how thoroughly the anti-vaccine movement has infested the autism community. It's not just presented as a theory or belief held by some outliers, but as a point of fact. Of course, these same people will tell you that you're contributing to your own child's autism if you dare feed him bread or milk.

Even if you buy into the anti-vaccine movement, accusing Dr. Offit of being motivated solely by greed is bizarre. Seems to me that if someone if looking to hoodwink the public to make a quick buck, there are only about a zillion others ways to do it rather than spending years of education, research and development on creating a new vaccine.
posted by The Gooch at 10:56 AM on October 28, 2009 [23 favorites]


Are antivaxxers against the polio and smallpox vaccines as well? Do they think those were a bad idea?
posted by haveanicesummer at 10:58 AM on October 28, 2009


Having others make their opinions carry force of law is where I get outraged.

Indeed. Not only do you confuse opinion with research, but through your outrage, you would rather force society to not only enable your irrational behavior but cause the side effects of your irrational behavior to make other parents' kids sick and die, if not let your own children sicken and die.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:59 AM on October 28, 2009 [7 favorites]


Having others make their opinions carry force of law is where I get outraged.

I agree! Just the other day I wanted to help myself to my neighbor's plasma screen television, only it turns out that some hoity-toity know-it-alls have decided that their opinion that you can't go around taking people's televisions should carry the force of law! And then I thought about killing this guy who was annoying me, but... nope! Turns out that opinion's been enshrined in law too. And now they want to stop people endangering the health of entire communities! Outrageous.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 11:00 AM on October 28, 2009 [17 favorites]


I don't care what his positions are, as long as I am still free to weigh the evidence, personal stories, and my own intuition and make my own decisions, just as you do.

If I were king of the world, early childhood vaccination would be just as mandatory under the law as not beating your kid. Maybe more so, actually, since beating your kid harms only your kid, while not vaccinating your kid harms everybody else's kids too.
posted by killdevil at 11:00 AM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yeah, that's analogous, Game Warden.
posted by Balisong at 11:01 AM on October 28, 2009


/hamburger.
posted by Balisong at 11:02 AM on October 28, 2009


Good luck with bringing up your children to be anti-science, folks. I'm sure you'll get all that you deserve.

But it is the kids that will suffer, and I am sure there are parents who won't care about those sorts of issues, because their consciences are clear in the way adipocere describes.

I grew up in a church which expressed doubt about plate tectonics because it 'wasn't in the Bible'. And yet I grew up to have a degree in science and can appreciate quite well the problems of anti-vax propaganda. Ignorance, while usually inherited, is not inevitable.
posted by winna at 11:04 AM on October 28, 2009


There's a place for tolerating different points of view, but vaccination has eliminated untold suffering the last few centuries. It really should be criminal to oppose it. Parents who refuse to have their children vaccinated for influenza and other common deadly diseases are essentially committing acts of violence to their and others' children. There's a good argument that their children should be taken into social services as quickly as possible, if not themselves be put into jail for endangering others' lives. Hopefully it will not take another epidemic and millions of deaths to get to that point.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:08 AM on October 28, 2009


I find it kind of ironic that you all think the anti-vaxers are batshitinsane for sending out death threats to Offit, but it's ok for you to wish death, harm, and misfortune to those children (or to their parents) who's parents opted not to vaccinate them.

Does that somehow make you superior?
posted by czechmate at 11:09 AM on October 28, 2009 [4 favorites]


I'm totally pro-vaccine and have two kids. My background is in biology and I am well aware that the risk of vaccine side effects is very low, and that there's no known autism link.

But here's an example of an unrelated thing that some people would probably lump in with their general fear of vaccines: My cat died of cancer caused by a vaccine. It seems to be related to aluminum in the vaccine. Obviously the standards are different for cats and people, but emotionally it did turn on the "scared of vaccines" switch in my head for a while. It was really obviously related, too, since it was right between the shoulders where they give them the injections. We got a settlement from Ft. Dodge.

But I still got my flu vaccine this year and so did my kids.
posted by freecellwizard at 11:11 AM on October 28, 2009


Oh hey! Will you actually be listening this time or will this be another vaccination thread about how you don't like vaccines regardless of what all evidence says and we can't do anything but argue with you?
Huh, don't you want the chance to beat up an anti-vaxxer?

I saw a study the other day that indicated that people who are anti-vaccine are much more likely to be wealthy and well educated. The fact that rich, educated people tend to live in the same areas means that people without vaccinations are actually clustered together.

Oh and Chech this crazy shit out:
I am trying to put together a chicken pox party and am looking for someone to donate their chickenpox to the event. I was thinking of having it at McDonald or some place with toys to play on.
--
Methinks the anti-vac crowd's future lies with the underclass. Uneducated, sickly, unskilled workers who die young and are easily replaced from the overbreeding hordes.
Ugh, what is the deal with people wanting to think that people who disagree with them are stupid and/or poor? I remember seeing all kinds of posts about how "poor people" kept voting for republicans, when in fact republican voters are wealthier then democratic voters. The same is the case with the anti-vaxxers. They are wealthy and well educated, not poor. If their descendants ended up poor then they would also probably become part of the class of people who would be less likely to be anti-vaxxers (assuming that's still around in 200 years or whatever).

In fact, since family wealth has an impact on decedents wealth, the anti-vaxxer's decedents will of course be wealthier then average.
posted by delmoi at 11:11 AM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Balisong: "I don't care what his positions are, as long as I am still free to weigh the evidence, personal stories, and my own intuition and make my own decisions, just as you do. Having others make their opinions carry force of law is where I get outraged.
Bird flu? I didn't worry about it. Swine flu? I don't worry about it. There are plenty of opinions out there.
"

hey, I'm not sure I understand where you're coming from. Are you explaining your position as someone who is anti-vaccine? as someone who is pro-vaccine, but doesn't worry about some flu viruses? I don't quite get where you're at. It sounds to me right now like you're saying "doctors are cool and all, but all that training, experimentation and rigorous scientific discipline has just given them another opinion, and hey I got opinions too, ya know?" which... I mean, shit. come on. that's not what you're saying, right?
posted by shmegegge at 11:16 AM on October 28, 2009


I remember an interview with a local neurologists who explained that entire pediatric neurology wards have closed down due to vaccines.

These wards were once filled with 50-100 kids with brain damage caused by measels.
posted by pivotal at 11:16 AM on October 28, 2009 [15 favorites]


what is the deal with people wanting to think that people who disagree with them are stupid and/or poor?

If it makes you feel better, most people I disagree with tend to be well-educated, well-off elites who are very focused on themselves and have high intelligence but a low level of interest in social problems, the arts, or learning that doesn't produce a financial reward.

Actually, that makes me feel sort of bummed out ...
posted by freecellwizard at 11:17 AM on October 28, 2009 [4 favorites]


(Oh, note that the -- in this comment separated out the quote from the link and the quote from fff that I responded too)
posted by delmoi at 11:17 AM on October 28, 2009


Is it a solvable problem? If you want to live in a democracy, you have to accept that everyone understands dead and disabled kids, and not everyone understands statistics. What option is there, other than either ensuring that the vast majority receive adequate education (which a significant minority disagree with), or forcing a significant minority to consent to medical procedures which they neither understand nor agree with? I guess a some small number know that they are endangering their kids, as well as others', but consider the moral hazard of killing their child with a voluntary procedure to be greater than killing someone else's child or their own through inaction.

If we take the analogy of drunk driving, you don't have the choice of risking other members of society. If we take the analogy of driving, you ARE allowed to cause respiratory illness, environmental damage, and other social problems.

I am fully convinced that vaccines are effective and that fewer people would suffer or die if vaccines were compulsory. Is that really the only criterion for making them compulsory? Are there any other examples where you are compelled to risk the life of your own child in order to protect them and others (in US or other legal systems)?
posted by Wrinkled Stumpskin at 11:24 AM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


"I find it kind of ironic that you all think the anti-vaxers are batshitinsane for sending out death threats to Offit, but it's ok for you to wish death, harm, and misfortune to those children (or to their parents) who's parents opted not to vaccinate them."
All? All? Not even remotely close.
posted by edd at 11:27 AM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Is it a solvable problem? If you want to live in a democracy, you have to accept that everyone understands dead and disabled kids, and not everyone understands statistics

Yep. Since it's a democracy, we put the issue up for a vote. The people who couldn't understand statistics lost.
posted by deanc at 11:29 AM on October 28, 2009


There are plenty of opinions out there. Pick and choose your own. But please, golly, please, don't take my word for anything other that one opinion. I don't want to tell anyone else what they should or shouldn't do.

So, how would you feel about an ebola infected person running around spewing viruses all over you? Would you like to tell them what to do?
posted by Mental Wimp at 11:32 AM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


There's a place for tolerating different points of view, but vaccination has eliminated untold suffering the last few centuries.

Yes, some of these folks need to visit old graveyards and see how many children are buried in them.
posted by Mental Wimp at 11:37 AM on October 28, 2009 [4 favorites]


GET YOUR KIDS VACCINATED I DON'T WANT TO DIE OK
posted by infinitywaltz at 11:43 AM on October 28, 2009


I saw a study the other day that indicated that people who are anti-vaccine are much more likely to be wealthy and well educated. The fact that rich, educated people tend to live in the same areas means that people without vaccinations are actually clustered together.

A pox on Wall Street, then!
posted by five fresh fish at 11:43 AM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


I don't care what his positions are, as long as I am still free to weigh the evidence, personal stories, and my own intuition and make my own decisions, just as you do. Having others make their opinions carry force of law is where I get outraged.

So here's the problem:

I have four friends who are currently undergoing chemotherapy. They are immunocompromised. If they get sick with something severe it may quite literally kill them, either directly through whatever it is they contract, or by forcing an illness-related delay in their cancer treatment regimens.

Three of them have grade school-aged children. Two of those kids are attending schools in a state with a vaccination opt-out program. They are potentially immune carriers, which means that it is possible for them carry a contagion from asymptomatic yet contagious friend to their parents, who are vulnerable.

Why should anyone be legally allowed to endanger the lives of others in that way? For that matter, let's consider the link delmoi posted above. Chickenpox is extremely contagious and can be spread through direct contact, droplet and airborne transmission. Why should the immunocompromised be forced to completely avoid public spaces (and by extension anyone who spends any time in public,) out of fear for their lives?

Our opinions and actions affect others. Part of living in a civilized society is minimizing their negative impact, out of respect, politeness and fairness to the people around us.
posted by zarq at 11:45 AM on October 28, 2009 [15 favorites]


All I know is this guy's vaccine went into my baby. Twice. He did fine with it, as well as some other shots. He gets everything there is to give him, age-appropriate of course. I'd rather see him vaccinated than see him sick and know it's my fault for not doing anything. Sure, I got a little of the rotavirus vaccine on my hands and ended up sick for a day, but I still would love to thank Offitt for his tireless work in developing the vaccine. He should by all rights be a hero. Did he get paid for it? Yes, and it was a lot - but what kind of price do you think it is worth, for the life of a child? Or the thousands of children that USED to die from this annually? You can't put a dollar value on that. It's idiotic to even try, let alone to do so in effort to discredit the man as a money-hungry monster.

It disgusts me that the single greatest communal effort ever made by humankind - the struggle to inoculate the world against diseases we can safely and effectively eradicate forever - has been shot down by people too stupid and shortsighted to even understand the enormity of their sin against humanity. The development and distribution of the polio vaccine is one of the few great shining moments of human history, and stupid people like McCarthy want to shit all over it.

I mean, your kid has a problem, and I feel for you, Jenny, but you are fucking wrong, and you can go to hell. And take your unscientific asinine concepts with you.
posted by caution live frogs at 11:46 AM on October 28, 2009 [16 favorites]


I find it kind of ironic that you all think the anti-vaxers are batshitinsane for sending out death threats to Offit, but it's ok for you to wish death, harm, and misfortune to those children (or to their parents) who's parents opted not to vaccinate them.

Well, most of what I'm getting here is that people are concerned about the health and quality of life of children whose parents choose not to vaccinate - with that can come a frustration with those parents who don't understand the impact that decision has on both public health and the health of their kids. When you're talking about this issue on a level that isn't really focused on specific families, specific parents, specific kids, it's easy to see "death, harm, and misfortune" as a particularly cruel object lesson about the consequences of not vaccinating your kids. I suspect, however, that there isn't a single person on this thread who genuinely wants a kid to die in order to teach a lesson to their parents.

That being said, this is essentially a debate about the validity of science and its methods. To quote a "researcher" at the Institute for Creation Research,
"Since of the two [science or scripture], Scripture speaks with greater clarity, until a satisfactory resolution can be made about the conflict, I will proceed with confidence in my interpretation of Scripture."
Replace "Scripture" with "parental instinct" or "the consensus of the autism community in my area" and you have what seems like a pretty accurate portrayal of a lot of vaccination=autism thought.
posted by OverlappingElvis at 11:49 AM on October 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


with regard to someone upthread saying that there a bunch of Whole-Fooders (Fooder's?) out there saying they are part of "reality" when spouting their anti-vax stuff....

i showed someone (who does not shop at Whole Foods but is part of that stereotype/demographic) an article in a magazine about how Wakefield had been discredited and the people who had wrote that article with him retracted their co-authorship and that Wakefield had been proven to be a fraud.

she told me it was "propaganda".

it's not just "poor, uneducated" people who believe this stuff. this woman is not stupid and reads up on this stuff. somehow, the idea that vaccines are going to kill or maim her baby is more urgent than her desire to not have her baby killed or maimed by measles, mumps, rubella. etc. her husband agrees with her on all of this.

it's absolutely ridiculous.
posted by sio42 at 11:49 AM on October 28, 2009 [5 favorites]


I think a lot of this comes from a fundamentally misunderstanding of how genuinely dangerous the world at large is and how hostile it is to human life, generally speaking. I have numerous friends who accept very little to no western medicine, instead believing that a "natural" path leads to improved health. They don't seem to grasp that the "natural" path is filled with untold horrors that would permanently rob them of sound sleep if they ever came face to face with them.
And this, I feel, is a product of privilege. When you are raised with western medicine and are exposed to the marginal risks associated with it - somehow it seems logical to believe that if you could just go "off the grid" you could avoid those marginal risks. But "off the grid" is a very, very bad place to be. Mother nature waits with slavering jaws and a hungry gullet for mammals who go "off the grid" of western technology. After all, that's why there are so many of us humans around these days.
The problem, as I see it, isn't so much that hippies are doctor-averse, but it is the threat that they refuse to stay "off the grid" and will keep coming back into society and infecting us with all the bullshit that we've been trying to keep out.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 12:02 PM on October 28, 2009 [26 favorites]


Additional links, found after I posted:

Philadelphia Magazine: "Will This Doctor Hurt Your Baby?"

Newsweek: "Stomping Through a Medical Minefield"

PR Newswire: "Author Royalties from Autism Book Donated to Autism Research"
posted by zarq at 12:08 PM on October 28, 2009


I can't help but wonder if the continuing privatization of everything somehow is contributing to anti-intellecutualism and the distrust of "experts" that we're seeing that results in movements like this.

After all, we've seen plenty of cases where corporations have hired "experts" expressly because of viewpoints that chemical X or action Y doesn't do any harm, even when they're contradicting most science. With enough money, you can probably find someone to agree with your point of view or approve of your actions, no matter what they are. As a result, people start believing that anyone that appears to have some vested interest in a viewpoint is no longer trustworthy. And with Offit working for a drug company that makes money from vaccines, it's not a big leap to believing he is not impartial.

With more and more science being done in large corporations, combined with what appears to be a growing anti-corporatist movement, growing mistrust of industry experts is understandable. The problem is that it seems to lead to things like this - people listening to the opinions of the non-"experts", just because they don't have any ties to the industry they're decrying, therefore they must be impartial. When those non-experts are promoting views and actions that are harmful to society as a whole, it becomes a serious problem.

Perhaps if we stopped privatizing so much, and went back to more public funding of research through universities and the like, we could have more experts that people are willing to trust and listen to again, more experts to help out in government without appearing have a vested interest in certain outcomes that would clearly benefit their (former) employer. I don't know, just an idea, but it seems to me that something could be done here to improve the situation.
posted by evilangela at 12:14 PM on October 28, 2009 [10 favorites]


My BF and I argue over the seasonal flu vaccine every year. We don't have kids - he won't get it for himself. He refuses to get vaccinated now because when he was forced to get it in the Army 20 years ago, he's convinced it gave him the flu.

This is a really intelligent guy, but no argument will budge him. It makes me insane for the very reasons you all have mentioned above - you get vaccinated for yourself (or for the health of your children) but also because you are a decent human being playing a bigger role in society (doing for the herd). I want to get hold of a syringe-full and jab him in his sleep, just to prove the point.

Incidentally, last year he actually got the flu, and was really, really sick for about a week. Naturally, being a typically very healthy male, he acted like he was dying and refused to listen to advice/reason about staying in bed, fluids, blah blah blah.

Funny, but this year he doesn't remember any of that - claims it was just a mild cold for a couple of days - and still refuses to get the flu shot. Maybe the fever he had for 4 days last year cooked his brain....
posted by East Siberian patchbelly wrangler at 12:18 PM on October 28, 2009


Your replies all stem from the premise that the human population needs to maintain its current count. This is faulty.
posted by clarknova at 12:21 PM on October 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


For a couple of years I was on some parenting mailing lists, labelled "progressive" or "positive discipline" because the advice I'd been getting from the "mainstream" just wasn't fitting what my instincts and observations told me would work.

There's a lot of talk about your "mommy-gut" and how you should trust it over, well, just about anything. One woman even went so far as to say you could fall unconscious while giving birth and your newborn would crawl up your belly to get milk. So you know, don't worry about complications and shit.

That's not to say there was groupthink: we had a former pharmacist who'd correct the really egregious scientific claims, and some ladies had nurses for parents, too. There was one lady who'd actually been a missionary in Papa New Guinea who told the elimination communication list that yeah, moms did go 'round smelling like pee because they couldn't get the kidlets out of the sling quick enough, and there aren't that many laundrettes available there.

We had a convo about vaccination about two years back (just looked up the thread) that was on the whole pretty civilized, if still biased against vaxing. The main points were not far off from Mrs. Balisong's writings from when we did this before. Back then the autism thing was not quite as noisy as it is now. Parents were afraid of diabetes and nerve damage and chronic something or others.

It didn't stop me from vaccinating, because on the very same mailing list we spent MONTHS bucking up a mom whose kids had pertussis all freaking winter long.

The really sad part for me is that this is a failure of critical thinking. Even if people are thinking critically, they're opting for "not taking a chance", which is in fact a bigger chance - they just don't see it. They think they're thinking "Why would my totally breastfed, living in a first world, two month old baby be at danger for tetanus?" "I live a clean life! It's INSULTING that they think my baby's going to get Hepatitis!". They're thinking that if they control everything, it'll be just fine. Some of them felt like they had the choice taken away when a nurse came in and jabbed the baby (probably thinking "why on earth would you object?") and that made then turn away from any and all vaxing.

We've got books and websites and all kinds of stuff to back us up, so do they. We've got magazines, so do they. On the internet, nobody knows you're a god, so it really does look all the same, even to well-educated folks. Hell, even I was taken in by Robert Kennedy, Jr.'s writings on Common Dreams. That just wasn't all I happened to read.

There's some people we can't get through to. I think most people are on the fence, because of that one minute soundbyte they can't get out of their heads. If we can counter with enough factual soundbytes, it can help, I think.
posted by lysdexic at 12:31 PM on October 28, 2009 [9 favorites]


Your replies all stem from the premise that the human population needs to maintain its current count. This is faulty.

you first
posted by Baby_Balrog at 12:32 PM on October 28, 2009 [13 favorites]


You know, anti-vaccination (as a social movement) makes me fear that societal development may be increasingly limited by the growing incomprehensibility of the science that has driven it since the beginning of the modern era.

Vaccination should be viewed in terms of the social contract: i.e., as overwhelming evidence has demonstrated that vaccination is a net good for society, your individual right not to vaccinate is voluntarily surrendered as a prerequisite for participation. But for this to work, it has to be reasonably easy for educated people to understand WHY and HOW vaccination is a net social good. The mechanics of vaccines, though, they're HARD to understand, and since immunology and its prerequisites aren't exactly part of the core curriculum, most of us don't really even have the tools at our disposal to do so, even if we're motivated to. So it's not surprising that we have large numbers of educated people opting out (enough so that U.S. state law, which tends to mirror the will of the majority, explicitly permits opt-out in many parts of the country): for someone who really understands vaccination, opting out is not the rational choice, but in the absence of understanding it's an entirely rational fallback position.

We can extrapolate from this to say that as researchers continue to limn the detailed mechanics of life, the increasing complexity of the full picture will make it less and less intelligible to the average person. So it'll get harder and harder to bridge the gap between improved scientific understanding and the behaviors and choices that, if widely embraced, would continue to improve everybody's health and welfare -- because it'll be harder for people to comprehend WHY those behaviors and choices are in their best interest. And into the breach will gallop superstition, that old standby, that cognitive crutch as old as our species, holding us back, pulling us down into the depths, as ever, like a boat anchor.
posted by killdevil at 12:36 PM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


evilangela: I agree 100% that that's a factor. Another factor is our lazy media. Instead of actually, you know, investigating things, they just host a debate among people who represent the different sides of the issue at hand; nobody who has an impartial stake (the reporter) comes out and says that the person represents position B is speaking out of his ass.

It's the 'teach the controversy' mentality.

This morning, MSNBC was on while I was at the gym. The anchor held up a copy of the very partisan Washington Monthly to display its inflammatory and unsupported accusation about Obama and then listened to Michael Steele and some other talking head spout their partisan crap for several minutes. Too lazy to actually research the story behind the headline and draw conclusions on its support, veracity, etc.
posted by tippiedog at 12:38 PM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


<> I think not.
posted by clarknova at 12:39 PM on October 28, 2009


I can't help but wonder if the continuing privatization of everything somehow is contributing to anti-intellecutualism and the distrust of "experts" that we're seeing that results in movements like this.

I think you're on to something there: tobacco companies, global warming denier scientists. I don't think they'd be getting this far into peoples' heads though, if they weren't already primed to go with their "guts".
posted by lysdexic at 12:42 PM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


The worst rates of vaccination in Oregon are in pockets of the well-educated and very liberal. Also, pediatricians seem to have worse rates than family docs in some cases. Again, selection bias (if I am using that correctly) since my experience with people who deliberately choose a pediatrician over FP tend to also have their own high-maintenance issues about the color and consistency of their infant's shit and snot, the timbre of their cough, the errant patch of semi-chapped skin on the left arm, and an endless list of other anxieties for which their is no counsel other than further validating their smothering neuroses. I have never, ever, ever, recalled being told by one of my public health care parents that they worried about vaccines.
posted by docpops at 12:45 PM on October 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


Yeah, that's analogous, Game Warden.

I'd love it if you'd have a shot at explaining why it's not analogous. It is the "opinion" (your word) of society that stealing other people's property is bad enough to create a law against it. It is the "opinion" of many that the damage caused to a population's immunity by people who fail to get their children vaccinated is bad enough that there ought to be a law against it.

Your stance that everyone should be entitled to reach their own opinions on everything and act on those opinions is either completely disingenuous or utterly simpleminded; the law is nothing but "opinion", broadly defined.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 12:45 PM on October 28, 2009 [4 favorites]


I just can't keep away from a good anti-vax thread. Sorry.

There are at least three other factors affecting this that I can think of, which tend to severely muddy the waters and make it awfully difficult to get people who have been inoculated (ha) with anti-vaccine rhetoric to even listen to you when you talk to them about vaccination.

First: The flu vaccine fiasco. The massive scare campaign about swine flu, coupled with a really dire lack of clinical evidence that the flu vaccine does much of anything, means tha the first thing you have to try to do is split off flu vaccine from all the required childhood vaccines. I know people who are both convinced that the flu vaccine is dangerous and contains deadly mercury toxins and who bitch because they can't get a shot. The flu vaccine is a losing proposition all around, and my advice is don't get drawn into trying to defend it.

Second: The overall unreliability of western medicine, as practiced generally up to today. This is where your Whole Foodies enter the argument, with their (on the whole reasonable) proposition that a lot of the things science and technology have given us have turned out, in hindsight, to have been ideas that exist on a spectrum running from bad (monoculture farming, factory feedlots) to horrific (thalidomide, nuclear weapons). Medicine in particular, when you look under the hood, is a whole lot less science-based than anyone wants to admit, but it hides behind a white lab coat of scientific precision. This amounts to the worst of both worlds. When some widespread medical practice is revealed to have been ineffective (at best) or actively harmful, it's not the voodoo "we've always done it this way! / we have to try everything! / how dare you question me, I'm a Doctor!" attitude that is actually to blame that takes the hit. It's the public perception of science as having failed us yet again.

What works in medicine works really well. Unfortunately there are vanishingly few medical treatments that actually work. Antibiotics and vaccination are very nearly the only two things medicine can claim as unmitigated successes, and both are now in great danger of being widely rolled back, largely due to the cultural failures of western medicine.

And third: vaccination, as a public health measure, conflicts very badly with what Americans rarely even question as the Greatest Overarching Principle of All That is Right. That is, "I must always be free to make up my own mind." There's a corollary to that principle that unfortunately goes unspoken virtually all the time, which is "...as long as I am not hurting anyone else." In this case, the only way to decide not to vaccinate and still meet both parts of this principle is to kill yourself. Or in this case, your child. Otherwise, your decision puts everyone else at a risk we did not choose. Vaccination happens all the way at the pointy socialist end of the individual rights vs. social responsibility spectrum, and Americans are unfamiliar with the territory, and dislike being reminded that there are some things that are really not amenable to Rugged Individual Choice.

All of this by way of explaining why I can understand the positions of (at least some of) those who object to vaccination, which I think is really important if we're to convince them that they're wrong. It's satisfying to vent, but unless you can convince someone to change their mind, you're not really going to be helping.
posted by rusty at 12:45 PM on October 28, 2009 [15 favorites]


"I live a clean life! It's INSULTING that they think my baby's going to get Hepatitis!"
People do find the Hep B vaccine to be pretty insulting when it is required (I had to get it to go back to grad school) because Hep B is primarily sexually transmitted. The solution to this problem has simply been to play down its nature as an STD. I'm also vaccinated for Hep A, which can be contracted through contaminated food and water, and since my travels have taken me to areas where the quality of the water system might be in doubt, this was a good idea.

What's I've realized is that anti-vaxxers are not about protecting against thimerosal or even about protecting against autism-- you tell them that thimerosal doesn't cause autism, they move on to the other bad things about thimerosal. You tell them that thimerosal isn't in vaccines, they tell you about the other dangers of vaccines. The problem is that the act of vaccination just seems scary to people. Injecting someone with a substance that creates a permanent change in someone (that change being immunity to disease) freaks people out. The fact that giving a shot to a little baby causes the kid to scream in pain doesn't make it any easier for the parent to deal with.
posted by deanc at 12:50 PM on October 28, 2009


I’d met Linderman at Autism One. He’d given his card to me as we stood outside the Westin O’Hare talking about his autistic son. “We live in a very toxic world,” he’d told me, puffing on a cigarette.

What a fuckwit.
posted by docpops at 1:03 PM on October 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


Antibiotics and vaccination are very nearly the only two things medicine can claim as unmitigated successes

Man, I hope you're kidding. Gene therapy is now a reality and just cured some kid's blindness. HIV is survivable now. Plus, you know, if you get in a car accident, do you wave away the ambulance in favor of aromatherapy?
posted by lumpenprole at 1:03 PM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


From this website:
Why is this vaccine recommended for all babies when most of them won't be exposed to HBV for many years, if then?
There are three basic reasons for recommending that all infants receive hepatitis B vaccine, starting at birth.

First, babies and young children have a very high risk for developing chronic HBV infection if they become infected at a young age.

It is estimated that about 1 out of 3 of the nearly 1 million Americans with chronic HBV infection acquired their infection as infants or young children. Those with chronic HBV infection are most likely to spread the infection to others. Infants and children who become chronically infected have an increased risk of dying prematurely from liver cancer or cirrhosis.

In contrast to other vaccine-preventable diseases of childhood, HBV infection in infants and young children usually produces no symptoms. Thus, the small number of reported cases of hepatitis B among children represents the tip of the iceberg of all HBV infections in children. For every child with symptoms of hepatitis B, there are at least 100 HBV-infected children with no symptoms---hence the increased risk to spread the infection to others without knowing it.

Second, early childhood infection occurs. About 16,000 children under 10 years of age were infected with HBV every year in the United States before routine infant hepatitis B vaccination was recommended. Although these infections represented few of all HBV infections in the United States, it is estimated that 18 out of 100 people with chronic HBV infection in the United States acquired their infection during early childhood. Clearly, infections occur among unvaccinated infants born to mothers who are not HBV-infected. In addition, unvaccinated foreign-born children account for a high proportion of infections. More effort needs to be placed on vaccinating these unprotected children.

Most early childhood spread of HBV occurs in households where a person has chronic HBV infection, but the spread of HBV has also been recognized in daycare centers and schools. The most probable ways children become infected with HBV are from skin puncture (e.g., biting) or from having their mucous membranes or cuts and scratches come in contact with infectious body fluids from an HBV-infected person. HBV remains infectious for at least seven days outside the body and can be found on and spread through sharing of inanimate objects such as washcloths or toothbrushes.

Third, long-term protection following infant vaccination is expected to last for decades and will ultimately protect against acquiring infection at any age.
posted by Mental Wimp at 1:08 PM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


During the eradication of smallpox, the vaccination teams faced some huge hurdles, especially in countries like Africa where many people were poor, dispersed, and nomadic.

One problem was that many people believed rumors that the vaccines were various flavors of some evil part of western domination, and opted to avoid them.

Another problem was that many people were nomadic - there was no village center in which to set up operations, people were just out and about all over the place.

In some cases, to solve these problems, they used a live vaccine.
Give it to someone, and a few days later, they get mildly sick, like a regular cold. But the sickness renders immunity from smallpox - and it is contagious!

This cold would pass through the nomadic populations as they passed among each other. And it would pass though the populations of those who did not want the injection.
The vaccine would spread itself throughout the population!

And the result was the greatest achievement in the history of humanity.
A legacy gifted to future generations so wonderful as to be all but incomprehensible by us. (Smallpox isn't just lethal, it's a beyond-horror-films terrible way to go.)

Bring that live-vaccine shit to America!

There is something satisfying about granting opponents of vaccination their choice to gain immunity to disease the natural way - by taking your chances with getting sick (and hoping you get better).
posted by -harlequin- at 1:09 PM on October 28, 2009


lumpenprole: See, that's how you alienate someone who almost certainly is on your side here. No, I don't favor "aromatherapy." But thank you for asking. I favor evidence based medicine, which has been widely shit on by the medical establishment, in favor of overblown defensive hysteria in the face of any hint of questioning, as perfectly exemplified by you, above. Google it. And think especially on the fact that the name "evidence-based medicine," specifically meant to denote the application of the scientific method to medical practice, was first used in the early 1990s. Though the concepts involved reach waaaaay back to the late 1970s.

We are still in the dark ages of medicine. There are hints of light, but the only way we'll get there is by not pretending it's otherwise.
posted by rusty at 1:18 PM on October 28, 2009


Antibiotics and vaccination are very nearly the only two things medicine can claim as unmitigated successes

I agree with your overall point, but can't let this stand. Have you ever seen the effect of salbutamol on someone having an asthma attack? In the space of seven seconds, a person goes from suffocating, to breathing normally. It's a fucking miracle in a bottle. A real-life no-shit laying-on-of-hands life-saving snap-your-fingers miracle.

You're probably a guy, else you would have included painkillers on that list.

But if you're a guy, you REALLY want to include family planning on that list. That stuff is awesome! :-)
posted by -harlequin- at 1:20 PM on October 28, 2009 [6 favorites]


See, that's how you alienate someone who almost certainly is on your side here

Well, okay. But when you make blanket statements that increase this feeling that western medicine is failing, instead of constantly increasing the standard of living in the western world, I need to call bullshit.

We are still in the dark ages of medicine

Um. No we're not. The dark ages were the dark ages of medicine. I'm sure that future generations will look back and shudder at our medical methods. But then, they'll do that about our fuel consumption, and hopefully, social mores. Please don't minimize the amazing work of medical researchers around the world. They're trying to help, I promise.
posted by lumpenprole at 1:31 PM on October 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


What works in medicine works really well.

I'd venture to say instead that what works in medicine doesn't always give an ideal result.

There are plenty of medications and treatment regimens that simply mask symptoms and don't treat underlying causes. Tylenol is a good example of this. It can reduce a fever without treating the condition that's actually causing the fever. Fever reduction can be both positive and negative. On the one hand, it can give a patient some physical relief. On the other, it can prevent a physician's from formulating an accurate, early diagnosis and appropriate treatment for viral and bacterial infections, especially in children.
posted by zarq at 1:34 PM on October 28, 2009


We are still in the dark ages of medicine

Find someone around 70 years old or so, preferably someone who came into contact during his career with a wide swath of people (say a priest, minister, social worker, etc.) and ask him if he agrees with your assessment.

It is only because of our modern privileged lives that we can afford to discuss the problems on the margins of health care when it comes to criticizing modern medical practice.
posted by deanc at 1:36 PM on October 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


Somebody upthread asked if anti-vaccinators feel the same way about the polio vaccine.

Some do. Somebody online was trying to make the case to me that polio was all but eliminated until they started vaccinating against it, and that's when it made its comeback. I asked her to back up what she was saying, because, based on what I have read, in 1952, polio paralyzed more than 21,000 people. In 2002, there were no cases of polio in the United States. She told me she didn't remember where she read that, but it was in her papers somewhere, and I shouldn't believe everything I read online.

At that moment, a little bomb made of irony and hypocrisy went of in her head, and she died. True story.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:39 PM on October 28, 2009 [7 favorites]


It's satisfying to vent, but unless you can convince someone to change their mind, you're not really going to be helping.

I don't know; a lot of people still believe the earth was made a few thousand years ago. Perhaps if some people are beyond help, better to move on with rational policy and enforce it by law, until they die out.

Vaccination is as much of a success story as having a clean water supply. No one with half a brain cell would still argue we should be drinking unfiltered sewage in 2009.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:44 PM on October 28, 2009


I don't know; a lot of people still believe the earth was made a few thousand years ago. Perhaps if some people are beyond help, better to move on with rational policy and enforce it by law, until they die out.

Yeah, but as pointed out upthread, there's two problems with this.

One, it affects all of us. Check out herd immunity. When diseases come back, they can get you if you're immune system is comprimised in some way, to say nothing of the general stress on our medical system.

Two, there's not as much overlap as you think. It's a lot of educated, liberal, new age types who are in favor of teaching evolution, but think they're being poisoned by western medicine.
posted by lumpenprole at 1:47 PM on October 28, 2009


...so as it turns out, the "old man" is really a computer!
posted by Iridic at 1:53 PM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's a lot of educated, liberal, new age types who are in favor of teaching evolution, but think they're being poisoned by western medicine.

People are just too goddamn nice these days. We need to go old-school Mennonite and just shun there people. Don't speak to them, don't reply to them and if truly pressed tell them they're an idiot because they don't get vaccinated.
posted by GuyZero at 1:54 PM on October 28, 2009


The fact that giving a shot to a little baby causes the kid to scream in pain doesn't make it any easier for the parent to deal with.

I think you're on to something there; I bet if it made the baby giggle, the parents would be all over it. Getting an injection hurts and it's scary and so we get an emotional gut feeling and gut memory that partially overrides our higher faculties. Add a baby crying, something we're hardwired to respond to, and I'd be looking for reasons not to get an injection. This is why Balisong says I weigh the evidence, personal stories, and my own intuition and make my own decisions. I'm sure with respect to other fields of scientific inquiry, he believes in scientific research and statistics, but for this, he'll let emotion trump reason.

Now, about my father. He's 50+, and has broken his legs, what four times in the last decade? At least three. Once was from tripping on a pine cone. About the last time, he said. "It wasn't that bad this time", he's become a fucking connoisseur of broken legs and hospital visits.

He has very strong feelings about vaccinations, especially polio, and nothing but contempt for parents who endanger their children and their community by preventing their kids from getting vaccinated.

I need to get away from the computer for a little while.
posted by sebastienbailard at 1:55 PM on October 28, 2009


You know what else makes little kids scream and cry in what sounds like mortal agony and terror? Vacuum cleaners and daddy long legs.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:57 PM on October 28, 2009 [6 favorites]


The fact that giving a shot to a little baby causes the kid to scream in pain doesn't make it any easier for the parent to deal with.

Yeah, well tough shit. A wiser man than me once wrote:

This is the noble truth of suffering: birth is suffering, aging is suffering, illness is suffering, death is suffering; sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief and despair are suffering; union with what is displeasing is suffering; separation from what is pleasing is suffering; not to get what one wants is suffering.

You don't like pain? Stop living. Or that whole eightfold-path thing.

You know what else makes little kids scream and cry in what sounds like mortal agony and terror? Vacuum cleaners and daddy long legs.

Also, homework, housework and yardwork.
posted by GuyZero at 2:01 PM on October 28, 2009


After spending a few days researching autism, I can empathize with the people looking for a reason to lash out at vaccines. It's crazy, I know, but just consider that scientists still have no real definition of what autism actually is.

There is the "autism spectrum" that is defined by behavior, but they know very little of it's causes for any point on that spectrum besides a few possible experimental ideas about chromosomal damage you might find in the recent issues of New England Journal of Medicine. They're not sure if it's genetic or environmental or a combination of the two. And the rates are growing exponentially. When parents have what might appear to be a randomly autistic child, which is a severely depressing thing to go through, I'm sure you start looking at any kind of answer.

A lot of parents of autistic children get conned by experimental behavioral pseudo-cures, but the anti-vaccine one is the biggest lobby. It would be helpful if this battle over vaccines could instead shed some light on how backward our understanding of this particular disease might be.
posted by destro at 2:06 PM on October 28, 2009


People who are anti-vax need to be kept off the fucking airwaves, out of book stores and basically quarantined in whatever pathetic subculture they crawled out of.

I agree completely, in regards to anyone who disagrees with me.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 2:08 PM on October 28, 2009


If you want to see the hate in full force, go to iVillage and on the vaccine message board. Holy shit fuck of hate.

My uncle was stricken with polio as a kid and when I hear anti-vaccine moms say "well it's dead so there's no chance of getting it" I tell them to talk with my uncle on whether or not he thinks the polio vaccine is a good idea. I guess they don't get the link that many illnesses are suppressed because we vaccinated. What is going to happen as the anti-vaccine population rises? Small pox and polio all over again? Is that worth it?

The option of thermisol-free vaccines are on the market. One would think the anti-vaccine people would be happy to have choices.

I think if anything is tied to causing autism, it would be the horrendous amounts of artificial preservatives, coloring, pharmaceuticals in our water, BPA toys, PVC, etc. people are exposed to.
posted by stormpooper at 2:11 PM on October 28, 2009


But when you make blanket statements that increase this feeling that western medicine is failing, instead of constantly increasing the standard of living in the western world

Can it not be doing both? It is increasing the standard of living, without a doubt. And it is also failing to increase that standard as much as it could, because of a lot of superstitious nonsense believed, and passed on to the public, by doctors who should really know better.

For some background on where I'm coming from here, or at least just a good read, check out The Ghost Map, about Dr. John Snow and the 1854 London cholera outbreak. As much as any other single event, this was the beginning of modern epidemiology and modern medicine. And here we are now, barely 150 years into even considering the idea that germs cause disease. I'm not ready to say we've gone as far as we can in understanding the incredible complexity of human health and all that affects it.
posted by rusty at 2:14 PM on October 28, 2009


The only other comment I have to make is that a few of my choosey anti-vaccine freinds dont' want to get the Hep B shot. They feel that their kid won't be a junkie. I guess they think their kid is immune from surgery or transfusions where Hep B is a possibility. I told them my son had double hernia surgery at three months. We never expected him to have surgery that young (who does) but you know, at least he had his Hep B shot just in case crap hit the fan and he needed a transfusion.

Why people associate Hep B only with junkies is beyond me.
posted by stormpooper at 2:14 PM on October 28, 2009


It's a lot of educated, liberal, new age types who are in favor of teaching evolution, but think they're being poisoned by western medicine.

Educated, liberal =/= new age

Affluent + uneducated = new age

New age is for basically decent people who have the opportunity to become educated, but not the discipline.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 2:15 PM on October 28, 2009 [8 favorites]


I am still free to weigh the evidence, personal stories, and my own intuition and make my own decisions

Ah yes, Anti-Science--where anecdotes and gut feelings are given the same credence as evidence.
posted by turaho at 2:21 PM on October 28, 2009 [5 favorites]


This is the person leading the autism/anti-vaccine debate? Hmmm ok.
posted by stormpooper at 2:24 PM on October 28, 2009


Stormtrooper:

A) Not Safe for Work
B) The fact that she had a comical photo taken on a toilet is no reflection of her mental abilities; the fact that she thinks her children were cured of autism by a special diet is.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:31 PM on October 28, 2009


Er, Stormpooper.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:31 PM on October 28, 2009


zarq: "Why should the immunocompromised be forced to completely avoid public spaces (and by extension anyone who spends any time in public,) out of fear for their lives?"

This is a really interesting question, and I think it gets down to the crux of the problem.

On one hand, you have immunocompromised people, who have—by definition—an immune system that is not working as well as would be normally expected, but still want to be able to walk around and participate in society.

On the other hand, you have anti-vaccinators, who—for whatever reasons, be they quasi-scientific or religious or whatever—want to have absolute control over what gets injected into their bodies or their children's bodies, and want to walk around and participate in society.

I'm not sure I'd be willing to place a bet on which way that particular conflict will shake out. The right to refuse medical treatment is viewed, at least in the US, in pretty absolute terms, and there's a lot of not-totally-subconscious bodily-integrity / "precious bodily fluids" baggage tied up in there. And, although the arguments may be specious, the anti-vax people can point to a pretty sordid and cringe-inducing history of forced medical treatments that turned out to do more harm than good. (If I were them, I'd open with an icepick lobotomy simile. And use the word "stabbing" a lot.)

Combine all that with the general discomfort that much of the public has with Science in general and the medical profession in particular, and it's a nasty combination. It's entirely possible that immunocompromised people might get thrown under the bus in favor of preserving an absolute right to refuse medical treatment.

If the anti-vax movement continues gaining traction I could see it leading to some pretty interesting court cases, though.
posted by Kadin2048 at 2:37 PM on October 28, 2009 [2 favorites]



This morning, MSNBC was on while I was at the gym. The anchor held up a copy of the very partisan Washington Monthly to display its inflammatory and unsupported accusation about Obama and then listened to Michael Steele and some other talking head spout their partisan crap for several minutes. Too lazy to actually research the story behind the headline and draw conclusions on its support, veracity, etc.

Right on. Thank goodness Jon Stewart gave me catharsis about the way the cable networks love to line up people to shout at each other, then refuse to provide any actual information. This time he was ragging on CNN.

Please, news folks, do your job and provide some actual information! I do believe it would help against the forces of ignorance/anti vaccination.
posted by bearwife at 2:57 PM on October 28, 2009


Antibiotics and vaccination are very nearly the only two things medicine can claim as unmitigated successes.

Speaking as someone who would probably be dead right now (probably burned as a devil of some kind) if not for advances in anticonvulsants and neurology, and whose wife and son would definitely be dead right now if not for advances in obstetrics, I'm going to call that one of the biggest loads of crap I have ever read on MeFi. And that's saying something.
posted by The Bellman at 4:02 PM on October 28, 2009 [7 favorites]


Christ, you people are just as irritating as anti-vaxers. And that's saying something!
posted by rusty at 4:10 PM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


"This is the person leading the autism/anti-vaccine debate? Hmmm ok."
No, it isn't. It's one of the really peculiar things about the antivaccination debate.
In the US you're arguing about thimerosal.
In the UK, we think MMR is to blame.
In France, vaccines cause multiple sclerosis and not autism (or something, by this point I'm resorting to pot luck googling).
In Africa, they're probably still arguing about the polio vaccine.
Goodness knows what's going on in China, but I bet you if they could openly argue about it they'd find some jab to blame on some other condition.

Frankly, most people in the UK have no idea who Jenny McCarthy is. Our antivaccine movement is led by idiotic or irresponsible journalists far more than any celebrity.

It's a perversely regional phenomenon which is global only in the post hoc ergo propter hoc misinterpretation of a range of conditions and one of the few widespread medical interventions that are in use.

It's a hydra, with a different head in every locality, and which is as difficult to kill as the mythical beast.
posted by edd at 4:33 PM on October 28, 2009


rusty: And third: vaccination, as a public health measure, conflicts very badly with what Americans rarely even question as the Greatest Overarching Principle of All That is Right. That is, "I must always be free to make up my own mind." There's a corollary to that principle that unfortunately goes unspoken virtually all the time, which is "...as long as I am not hurting anyone else." In this case, the only way to decide not to vaccinate and still meet both parts of this principle is to kill yourself. Or in this case, your child. Otherwise, your decision puts everyone else at a risk we did not choose. Vaccination happens all the way at the pointy socialist end of the individual rights vs. social responsibility spectrum, and Americans are unfamiliar with the territory, and dislike being reminded that there are some things that are really not amenable to Rugged Individual Choice.

This, 1000 times. Vaccination only works properly if you do it at a population level. This is not something we have a choice about, if we want it to work, and that's really problematic for the American Psyche.™

I have a friend who's about to have a kid, and I disagree with a lot of things she says she's planning on doing with the child-rearing, from Attachment Parenting (which I think is bad for the kid and the parent both, but that's not exactly my business) to raising the kid vegan from birth (which again not exactly my business but I worry about the kid's health, can you step in out of health concerns for a minor, etc.). But, she's also planning on not vaccinating him, and that's where I personally start to wonder where respecting a person's choices ends and laying into them for being so f*****g stupid begins. In a nice but firm way.
posted by Barking Frog at 4:41 PM on October 28, 2009


Not sure if anyone's linked to it, but BastardSheep has coimpiled Amy Wallaces tweets, for easier reading, here: http://bastardsheep.com/2009/10/27/a-reaction-to-factual-stories-on-vaccination/
posted by JustAsItSounds at 5:35 PM on October 28, 2009


...BastardSheep has coimpiled Amy Wallaces tweets, for easier reading...

THANK YOU! Much easier.
posted by zarq at 5:43 PM on October 28, 2009


I think we should be drinking unfiltered sewage.
posted by tkchrist at 6:12 PM on October 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


In Africa, they're probably still arguing about the polio vaccine.
Yep. Western conspiracy to sterilize Africans, don'tyaknow?
posted by sebastienbailard at 6:52 PM on October 28, 2009


received too many death threats

I like that. What's the threshold for number of death threats, where you start thinking 'hey now, that is one death threat too many.... I was OK with 4, but 5? No thanks!'
posted by joz at 7:04 PM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


But, she's also planning on not vaccinating him, and that's where I personally start to wonder where respecting a person's choices ends and laying into them for being so f*****g stupid begins. In a nice but firm way.

Take her to an old time cemetery, and/or gently ask her what the consequences of not vaccinating her child are? Maybe a short quiz, giving

Q: Whooping cough has at least x% mortality rate in infants.
A: x = 1%. -citation?

Q: Whooping cough has a less than x% chance of causing autism?
A; .0001% -citation?

etc.

Also remind her that if she sends her child to a school where everyone else does this, her precious sprogling is more likely to get it in the neck because all the unvaccinated kids are going down.

Hell, anecdote is probably better. Didyaknow that a 13yo died from swine flu up here in Ottawa, with no previous health issues?
posted by sebastienbailard at 7:05 PM on October 28, 2009


You know what else makes little kids scream and cry in what sounds like mortal agony and terror? Vacuum cleaners ...

Not me. Weirdly, I associate the hum of vacuum cleaners with nap time. To this day, the sound of a vacuum cleaner makes me feel all safe and cozy and sleepy. I can barely manage to vacuum my own floors without wanting to lie down on the sofa with my blanky.

Daddy long legs OTOH, creepy.
posted by octobersurprise at 7:33 PM on October 28, 2009


This is a little over the top:
J.B. Handley, the founder of Generation Rescue, the anti-vaccine group that actress Jenny McCarthy helps promote, sent an essay title” “Paul Offit Rapes (intellectually) Amy Wallace and Wired Magazine.” In it, he implied that Offit had slipped me a date rape drug. “The roofie cocktails at Paul Offit’s house must be damn good,” he wrote.
Come on, the guy was obviously speaking metaphorically. It's obvious he didn't mean that she was literally raped. I'm sure he's a crackpot but come on.
posted by delmoi at 7:41 PM on October 28, 2009


There is the "autism spectrum" ... And the rates are growing exponentially.
posted by destro


Just wanted to note that I think we should be very skeptical about the rate of autism growth. There are many reasons for this increase, one of which is just that it's a fairly new diagnosis (which is a spectrum as you said) so that naturally leads to more diagnoses as awareness goes up. (This article covers that to some extent).

This article in The Atlantic sheds light on how parents are encouraged by the system to have their children with various problems diagnosed as autistic for monetary reasons.

I also think there is a tendency for the autism groups to cite these scary numbers to fit their cause. I'm not trying to say it's not a problem, I just think it's unlikely to be a brand new problem, and I don't think the rates are at all likely to keep increasing like they have been in statistics over the past few years.
posted by haveanicesummer at 7:43 PM on October 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


This whole thing has confirmed my suspicions about these autism groups and some googling just found this article about Autism Speaks and how they're putting their donated money into vaccine = autism research. Definitely going to be discouraging anyone and everyone from giving money to these groups.
posted by haveanicesummer at 7:47 PM on October 28, 2009


MetaFilter: defending rape jokes since 10539.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:15 PM on October 28, 2009


I went looking and for some reason I couldn't find anyone opposed to the use of the rabies vaccine in humans, even in children or infants who are bitten by a wild animal. Funny that. After all, what will rabies do that meningitis won't? Well, aside from the hydrophobia. Hell, rabies is even treatable without a vaccine nowadays. (The treatment is admittedly horrific, uncertain and costly.)

(There are many sites out there opposing mandatory vaccine of domestic animals for rabies. The argument there is that so few domestic animals contract rabies, so the vaccine is unneeded. I'm seeing a gap of logic here, personally.)
posted by Hactar at 2:11 AM on October 29, 2009


I went looking and for some reason I couldn't find anyone opposed to the use of the rabies vaccine in humans, even in children or infants who are bitten by a wild animal
posted by Hactar

I've heard of HMOs that refuse to give it to people if they couldn't track the animal down to prove it was rabid. That...sortof...counts?
posted by haveanicesummer at 4:45 AM on October 29, 2009


And I know people, decent people, who aren't vaccinating their kids.

No you don't. Not vaccinating your kids makes you indecent. And a bad parent. Period.

Personally, I think anti-vac parents should have their kids taken away. But that's me.
posted by fourcheesemac at 4:46 AM on October 29, 2009 [6 favorites]


MetaFilter: defending rape jokes since 10539.

I wasn't defending the joke, I was only pointing out that it was a joke, rather then a literal statement.
posted by delmoi at 4:48 AM on October 29, 2009


You know what else makes little kids scream and cry in what sounds like mortal agony and terror? Vacuum cleaners and daddy long legs.

Also: the word "No," having their diapers changed, mom leaving the house, going outside, going inside, sitting in the high chair, getting down from the high chair, tossing themselves headbutting the ground in disgust after finding out that kitty doesn't LIKE having his tail pulled, wearing shoes, not having THAT toy, having THAT toy, the existence of other human beings, not being allowed to run into the street.

I could go on.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 11:13 AM on October 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


Seriously, some of y'all need to ramp back your rhetoric; you sound as illogical as the teabaggers and birthers. People who don't get flu vaccines should have their children removed, or be killed or imprisoned in concentration camps? Really? This is this really the tone you want to take? And you don't see how that makes you sound just as nutty as the people you rage against?

Look, there are very few studies on the efficacy of flu vaccines. Of those that have been done; The meta-analyses examined the efficacy and effectiveness of inactivated vaccines in adults,[36] children,[37] and the elderly.[38][39] In adults, vaccines show high efficacy against the targeted strains, but low effectiveness overall, so the benefits of vaccination are small, with a one-quarter reduction in risk of contracting influenza but no significant effect on the rate of hospitalization.[36] However, the risk of serious complications from influenza is small in adults, so unless the effect from vaccination is large it might not have been detected. In children, vaccines again showed high efficacy, but low effectiveness in preventing "flu-like illness", in children under two the data are extremely limited, but vaccination appeared to confer no measurable benefit.[37]

See also Cochrane.org studies on flu vaccines. Also, the only clinical test on kids and H1N1 was a tiny group, and it showed limited effectiveness on the primary demographic for which the vaccine is being heavily pushed.

I agree that most vaccines are important. Absolutely, I've followed the CDC guidelines and timeline for my son's vaccines. Even if I didn't want to, kids have to be vaccinated to go to school. There is no "opt-out" option for our school district. Now, granted, I went through some hoops to make sure that the vaccines we got were single-patient vaccines (rather than vials that are used on multiple patients) thereby free of thimerasol and other mercury based preservatives, but other than that single bit of weirdness, we followed all the recommended guidelines for vaccinations.

But the flu vaccine? No. There isn't the evidence or the clinical trials that support making the claim that parents who don't get them should have their kids removed. Really, some of you should be ashamed. If you're that afraid of the flu, buy yourselves some tissue boxes for your feet and play Howard Hughes. (For the record, we've already had swine flu, it swept through the school system long before the vaccine was available....even now it's not available here, and well over 80% of my son's school has already had it, recovered, and is back in classes.)
posted by dejah420 at 3:22 PM on October 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


parents are encouraged by the system to have their children with various problems diagnosed as autistic

My best friend is a special-education teacher. He's trying to get his extremely bright son diagnosed as autistic, because then he'll get extra attention within the school system, whereas if he's gifted, he'll be ignored and bored.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 3:39 PM on October 29, 2009


If you're that afraid of the flu, buy yourselves some tissue boxes for your feet and play Howard Hughes.

You realize that this reference is not only completely hilarious but likely dates you (and me) as a total fossil.

Like, most kids will be going "Whaaaaa? Who? That movie with Leonardo DeCaprio and Gwen Stefani? Whaaa?"
posted by tkchrist at 6:50 PM on October 29, 2009


"The worst rates of vaccination in Oregon are in pockets of the well-educated and very liberal. Also, pediatricians seem to have worse rates than family docs in some cases."

See also: The Huffington Post's active promulgation and promotion of anti-vaccine, New Age-y, pseudoscientific bullshit on a daily basis. Most of those getting into flame wars in the comments sections are above average in terms of wealth and education. It's their white guilt and ultra-political correctness that drives them to concoct straw-men to eviscerate in desperate anecdotal appeals to conspiracy. These people are clearly scientifically ignorant and are applying their social-justice modality to empirical phenomena to disastrous ends.

Sad and worrisome but always love reading your comments docpops.
posted by inoculatedcities at 7:26 PM on October 29, 2009


destro: A lot of parents of autistic children get conned by experimental behavioral pseudo-cures, but the anti-vaccine one is the biggest lobby.

I'm curious to find out what you think falls under the experimental and pseudo part. As far as I know using the term "cure" and autism is a subjective speculation and is usually granted as an endearment from the parents. I also probably would be careful in bunching those things into the same group as anti-vaccine.

All that aside, we all can agree autism is a spectrum. It's net is cast very wide. ADD and Autism are not comorbid. There is even a diagnosis of PDD-NOS, which means Pervasive Developmental Disorder - Not Otherwise Specified. So doctors have a way of saying your kid is autistic-like without even saying the word autistic.

One point of contention I'd like to make; some people avoid certain things in their diets as those things may tend to aggravate some kind of symptom. These things may range from lactose, to caffeine, or to gluten. A parent giving a child a special diet because they've noticed certain symptoms appear when eating certain foods, seems to me to be perfectly sane rather than not.
posted by P.o.B. at 12:18 AM on October 30, 2009


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