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What Is an Antivaxer?

Labels are a cognitive double-edged sword. We need to categorize the world in order to mentally capture it – labels help us organize our mental maps of the overwhelming complexity of things and to communicate with each other. But labels can also be mental prisons, when they substitute for a thorough, nuanced, or individualized assessment – when categorization becomes pigeon-holing.

We use many labels in our writings here, out of necessity, and we try to be consistent and thoughtful in how we define the labels that we use, recognizing that any sufficiently complex category will be necessarily fuzzy around the edges. We have certainly used a great deal of electrons discussing what exactly is science-based medicine, and that the label of so-called alternative medicine is really a false category, used mainly for marketing and lobbying (hence the caveat of “so-called”).

We get accused of using some labels for propaganda purposes, particularly “antivaccinationist” (often shortened to “antivaxer”). Also “denier” or “denialist”, as in germ-theory denier. Even though we often apply labels to ourselves, no one likes having an unflattering label applied to them, and so we have frequent push-back against our use of the above terms.

As with many such terms, it is really defining one end of a continuum and we recognize that there is a broad range of attitudes and opinions regarding vaccines. Not all doubts about the safety of vaccines, nor skepticism toward the motives and ethics of corporations or the effectiveness of regulatory bodies, is necessarily “antivaccine”. We are, however, frequently accused of implying exactly that, especially by those who are ironically far to the anti-vaccine end of the spectrum.

A recent e-mail to me is very typical:

I have a few questions for you. Would you give a vaccine using a formula that was a hundred years old to your children? Or if you could go into the future a hundred years, would you use today’s vaccines? If you had three children, and two died soon after being vaccinated, would you give the third the same vaccine? I’m sure some of you would not, which means you are in the same boat as the anti-vaccers. I have a problem with the way you lump everyone who disagrees with you into one hated group. Though I believe in taking the natural approach to health, the reason I avoid vaccines is because of some it’s contents, mercury, for example. I don’t believe all vaccines are bad, and I don’t blindly accept that all vaccines are safe.

I will first define what I think are some useful subcategories to the anti-vaccine landscape. The first sub-category is not truly anti-vaccine, but can be made to feel as if they are being lumped in with extremists – and that is well-meaning parents who are simply misinformed or confused.

To be absolutely clear, we are not critical of this group. They are the victims of misinformation and propaganda. For example, the e-mailer above claims that they avoid vaccines because they contain mercury. However, mercury was removed from the routine childhood vaccine schedule in the US by 2002. Tiny doses of mercury (in thimerosal) is still present in some, but not all, flu vaccines. You can get all the vaccines you need without any mercury (except for insignificant trace amounts). I should also mention that the doses of mercury in vaccines prior to 2002 was tiny, that it is in the form of ethylmercury, which is much less toxic than methylmercury (the form that is more likely to be encountered in the environment), and that the evidence does not show any link between mercury in vaccines and any adverse outcome.

So why are we still talking about mercury in vaccines? Because those who are genuinely anti-vaccine keep using this canard as a scare tactic. I use the term antivaxer not to refer to the victims of propaganda but to those who spread misinformation and propaganda about vaccines because their agenda is to oppose vaccines.

As my colleague David Gorski has written many times – with an antivaxer it’s always about the vaccine. Not safety, not autism, not any one ingredient in vaccines – it’s about the vaccines themselves. This is the “true antivaxer” category – an anti-vaccine activist.

This subgroup (not really a subgroup, it is, rather, what we actually mean by antivaxer) can be divided into several subgroups by how they got to their anti-vaccine ideology. Some in the antivaxer camp are part of what has been called for years the “mercury militia.” They are convinced that mercury toxicity is responsible for a long list of human ills, and they jumped on the anti-vaccine bandwagon because of the mercury (thimerosal) issue.

Another antivaccine subgroup are the alternative medicine proponents and practitioners. They generally do not take a science-based approach to health care, and may endorse one or more specific unscientific, mystical, or spiritual approaches. They often oppose vaccines simply because vaccines are in the science-based camp, and conveniently they have their own alternatives to sell you.

The e-mailer above may be affected by this CAM subgroup also, given her endorsement of the naturalistic fallacy. The idea that “natural” (never well defined) is inherently more safe and effective than anything “artificial” (also not clearly defined) is perhaps the most common and most effective bit of CAM propaganda, and in fact goes back much farther than the modern CAM movement. Ironically it is a label that is used to “greenwash” over the real issues – evidence for safety and effectiveness and scientific plausibility.

A third category in the antivaxer camp are those who have a specific ideology that opposes the use of medical interventions in general, or specific interventions that include vaccines (such as Christian Scientists). In this case the anti-vaccine stance is a literal religious belief. They are often happy, however, to endorse the propaganda of the previous groups in order to bolster and justify the antivaccine position they take for primarily religious reasons.

The final category (at least on my list – acknowledging that no such list can be all-encompassing) are environmentalists. I am not saying that environmentalists are antivaccine, but rather that some individuals’ journey to the antivaccine camp passes through their somewhat extreme environmentalism. In this world view corporations are evil until proven otherwise, and environmental toxins are a massive cause of human disease and suffering. They see vaccines as one more environmental toxin (and here there is large overlap with the “mercury militia”), and readily accept that there are no limits to the malfeasance of large corporations in pursuit of profits. Robert Kennedy Jr. most famously fits into this category, in my opinion.

The e-mailer hints at the conspiracy attitude with the comment that they do not blindly accept that all vaccines are safe. This is a straw man argument, since neither do vaccine supporters. There is a copious amount of evidence for vaccine safety. It is perhaps the safest medical intervention we have devised – millions of doses given with few serious adverse outcomes. But we always want more data, and so we endorse monitoring vaccine safety and performing more studies as vaccines evolve and new vaccines are developed.

Like all such categories, they are not clean. There is a great deal of overlap and ideological contamination. These are peaks in a complex landscape, but not completely discrete groups. But the one thing they all have in common is that they oppose vaccines, they engage in the abuse of science in order to engage in an antivaccine agenda, and they spread misinformation and scaremongering about vaccines.

Many people, however, have questions and concerns about vaccines. This does not make one an antivaxer. It is reasonable and healthy to have questions about any health intervention, especially when a parent is making such decisions for their children. We encourage questioning. The antivaxers (ironically while crying for informed consent) have made making an informed decision more difficult by muddying the waters. It is difficult to counter a dedicated campaign of misinformation, as it is a lot easier to sow doubt and confusion than to correct every piece of bad information.

I also want to emphasize that I encourage a doubting and questioning attitude. It is good to be skeptical of all claims, but healthy skepticism can easily slide into cynicism or denial. It is important to question all sides and see who has the better and more authoritative answers to questions.

With regard to vaccines, the data is there, published in the peer-reviewed literature. Many professional groups have thoroughly analyzed the literature and independently concluded that vaccines are safe and effective. On the other side are those promoting bad science, bad logic, conspiracy theories, and unwarranted fears that always find their way back to vaccines. That is not a healthy approach to the evidence, no matter what you label it.

Posted in: Vaccines

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35 thoughts on “What Is an Antivaxer?

  1. cervantes says:

    There is something rather mysterious about this anti-vax thing, because it goes back to the very beginning of vaccination — inoculation with cowpox, from which the word vaccine is derived. Mercury was not involved, there weren’t any environmentalists as we understand the movement today, there weren’t any corporations behind vaccination — yet there was a mass movement against it. And this has pretty much continued even as vaccination completely wiped out smallpox, made once-dreaded polio a rarity found only in distant lands, removed the threat of dying from tetanus, and yes, made the childhood diseases history in the rich countries. There has to be a deeper explanation.

  2. aeauooo says:

    A good resource for communicating with vaccine-hesitant parents is a recent Pediatrics supplement: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/127/Supplement_1.toc.

  3. Janet Camp says:

    @cervantes

    I think you are absolutely correct and I have asked a similar question on this and other skeptic type blogs. Research has shown that most people will cling to whatever notion they already firmly hold, no matter how much clear and unimpeachable evidence you show them. Evidence, for most people just doesn’t seem to come into how they process information. I don’t have a link right at hand, but I’ve read about this research in the NYTimes and other places, mostly as related to political “beliefs”.

    Belief is the problem and it seems to me, that as long as we sanction religious belief in the most preposterous things, than it becomes difficult to try to prevent this crossing over into other areas. Every time I try to present evidence to some of my true-beliver alt-med acquaintances, I am told bluntly to respect their beliefs. They see their medical beliefs as part of their religious beliefs–I find this true especially with those that lean to Buddhism, but I’m sure that’s just one example. Those of us who are more rational find it hard to grasp that these people do not care about evidence. They are committed to their “beliefs” in a religious sense and our evidence means little to them. They find the ideas of “energy” and “spiritual knowing” to be entirely plausible explanations for most anything.

    I’ve begun eliminating these people from my circle and making efforts to spend more time with skeptics and non-believers–it got too stressful to try to have a conversation and I realized that most of them are actually conspiracy theorists at the bottom of it all–this must be a brain thing. I don’t mind people who go to church and have a “spiritual” life, as long as they draw the line at some point that leaves them in the realm of SBM.

  4. ConspicuousCarl says:

    There are many stupid things which, if described vaguely enough, can be placed in a generally good category.

    SEC: “Stop lying to your clients.”
    Broker: “Hey, I’m just giving them more information!”

    Police: “Stop beating your children with sticks.”
    Parent: “Isn’t it good to spend time with your kids?”

    Teacher: “2 plus 2 does not equal 5.”
    Student: “But shouldn’t I get a large number if I add two smaller numbers?”

  5. Amy Alkon says:

    Jenny McCarthy and friends aren’t just killing kids here. They have a long reach, per a piece in the Guardian by Vivienne Parry:

    In South Africa, concerns about MMR, generated by coverage in the rest of the English-speaking world – including the UK – have led to an unwillingness to receive the vaccine, and there has been an outbreak of nearly 7,000 cases of measles. For children with poor health and limited access to medical services, this decision has been disastrous. There have already been hundreds of deaths.

  6. kathy says:

    Amy, Africa is often at the recieving end of a whole slew of Western scare-stories with no factual basis … not to mention woo generally, everything from refusing vaccines to the latest fad-diet. Remember Pres. Thabo Mbeki and AIDS? Thousands died because of that … including children born to infected mothers, who would have had a good chance of being born without HIV infection had the mothers not been refused antiretrovirals. Yet the person who invented and spread the theory that AIDS is not cause by the HIV virus, goes unpunished.

    The West, for all its sins, still has a lot of status in Africa, especially regarding anything medical or scientific. People here are very credulous about anything they see in a “big” Western newspaper or TV channel/program, like Oprah.

    I look forward to the day when the editors accept that their responsibility, like their sales, spreads beyond their own national borders.

  7. TobySaunders says:

    I wish I knew more about mercury & flu now.

  8. cia parker says:

    A lot of pro-vax websites, like Shot of Prevention, now discourage any reference to vaccine damage reports to the VAERS. This is an incredible attempt to sweep all evidence of vaccine damage under the carpet, so vacccines can continue to be touted as safe and effective. The problem, of course, is that there are hundreds of scientific studies on the mechanism and/or results of vaccine damage documented in dozens of authoritative, well-referenced books by authors like Randall Neustaedter, Dr. Mayer Eisenstein, Wendy Lydall, Cynthia Cournoyer, Jamie Murphy, Hilary Butler, and Dr. Andrew Wakefield. Everyone now sees vaccine-damaged children all around them. One in nine vacciinated children has asthma, only one in fifty unvaccinated. Vaccinated children have autism, seizure disorders, asthma, allergies. bowel disease, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, paralysis, and many other autoimmune diseases.
    My baby was given the hep-B vaccine at birth, even though I had told her pediatrician I did not want her to get it, as I had read it often caused autism. They did it without asking my permission, and she reacted with four days and nights of high-pitched, inconsolable screaming, vaccine-induced encephalitis, and was later diagnosed with autism. The Merck Manual admits that vaccines can cause encephalitis, an allergic reaction to vaccine contents, and unfortunately, they often do. Vaccines are designed to cause inflammation to force the immune system to produce antibodies, but many people’s immune system reacts much more than it was hoped that it would (encephalitis) or chronically (autoimmune disease). We realize that the news outlets and government agencies are controlled by Big Pharma, and we must seek the truth elsewhere.
    I reacted to a tetanus booster with paralysis in both arms for two days, and later developed multiple sclerosis, another disease that did not exist before the smallpox vaccine two hundred years ago.
    You mentioned the smallpox vaccine and the movement against it. Read Wendy Lydall’s account of the smallpox epidemics of the nineteenth century. Nearly one hundred percent of the hundreds of thousands who died of smallpox in them had been fully and appropriately vaccinated against smallpox, but they got it and died of it anyway, in epidemics in Great Britain, Italy, and other European countries. The numbers of the vaccinated, the diseased, and the dead were meticulously recorded by the authorities of the day, and can be easily accessed by those who want to know the truth. There were riots in the streets of several large cities by the working classes protesting the mandatory government vaccination programs, because so many of their children were crippled and/or killed by the smallpox vaccine. Jamie Murphy also writes movingly and with excellent documentation of the horrible gangrenous deaths of many children who reacted to the smallpox vaccine.
    My daughter and I are now refusers, and will never again take a vaccine of any kind. Unfortunately, it’s too late for us, my daughter has high-functioning autism, but is unlikely to ever be independent, and I have multiple sclerosis and mitochondrial damage.

  9. Chris says:

    Cia Parker:

    A lot of pro-vax websites, like Shot of Prevention, now discourage any reference to vaccine damage reports to the VAERS.

    It is also discouraged at the VAERS database website, http://vaers.hhs.gov/data/index . Please read that page closely, especially after the letters in bold that say: Please read the following statement on the limits of VAERS data. You MUST click on the box below to access the VAERS database.

    Now, you are not supposed to access the data until you click the box that says: I have read and understand the preceding statement.

    Do you understand why? Well, let us look at those statements:

    VAERS is a passive reporting system, meaning that reports about adverse events are not automatically collected, but require a report to be filed to VAERS. VAERS reports can be submitted voluntarily by anyone, including healthcare providers, patients, or family members. Reports vary in quality and completeness. They often lack details and sometimes can have information that contains errors.

    That means it is a self-selected survey. If you had taken even the basic statistics course, you would understand that this is lowest form of data. It is just like internet surveys or radio call-in polls, the ones that always have the disclaimer that they are not scientific. And they have actually received submissions of vaccines turning people into The Hulk and Wonder Woman by those testing the system, and those reports were accepted.

    Now to the next paragraph, I put an important part in bold:

    “Underreporting” is one of the main limitations of passive surveillance systems, including VAERS. The term, underreporting refers to the fact that VAERS receives reports for only a small fraction of actual adverse events. The degree of underreporting varies widely. As an example, a great many of the millions of vaccinations administered each year by injection cause soreness, but relatively few of these episodes lead to a VAERS report. Physicians and patients understand that minor side effects of vaccinations often include this kind of discomfort, as well as low fevers. On the other hand, more serious and unexpected medical events are probably more likely to be reported than minor ones, especially when they occur soon after vaccination, even if they may be coincidental and related to other causes.

    The next paragraph further explains the part I put in bold:

    A report to VAERS generally does not prove that the identified vaccine(s) caused the adverse event described. It only confirms that the reported event occurred sometime after vaccine was given. No proof that the event was caused by the vaccine is required in order for VAERS to accept the report. VAERS accepts all reports without judging whether the event was caused by the vaccine.

    Now the last paragraph:

    DISCLAIMER: Please note that VAERS staff follow-up on all serious and other selected adverse event reports to obtain additional medical, laboratory, and/or autopsy records to help understand the concern rose. However, in general coding terms in VAERS do not change based on the information received during the follow-up process. VAERS data should be used with caution as numbers and conditions do not reflect data collected during follow-up. Note that the inclusion of events in VAERS data does not infer causality. See the following section to review cautions in the interpretation of this data.

    So even if the cause of the injury was not associated with the vaccine after an investigation, it will not show up in the VAERS database.

    I will not address the rest of your comment, I will leave that to others. But I feel it is important to explain why raw VAERS data is not as important as you make it out to be. It is important to understand the value of the data you are using, and to truly understand the limitations of that data, especially when it is spelled out clearly, and you are required to read and understand them before you even access the data.

    Unfortunately many people click on that box, but do not understand what it means. So they plow through the data looking for reports and then creating scare stories about the data. The thing is that they get the numerator of a fraction, and not the denominator of the fraction. This means they totally ignore the total population.

    This is explained by Dr. Rich Condit at about hour and twenty-five minutes of this podcast, http://www.virology.ws/2011/12/11/twiv-161-concerto-in-b/ (sorry, it is two hours long, but you can pull the slider in Windows Media or Quicktime to the explanation). In short the NVIC claimed that pregnant women were more danger for certain vaccines, except they neglected to mention that numbers of these events in pregnant women who are not vaccinated.

  10. Chris says:

    Mr. Saunders, along with clicking on the “SBM Vaccination Awareness Site” on the upper right hand corner of this page, visit the FDA page on thimerosal. Look at the list of influenza vaccines, there you will see half are thimerosal-free.

  11. EricG says:

    Cia, I totally agree with you. Not too long ago, someone pretending to be an “expert engineer” offered me advice on how to build my home. I refused to take it, because it threatened my sense of self worth that someone would know something more than myself and have the data and expertise to make my objections look silly. Thankfully, my home caved in the “natural way” after I let a compassionate and wise ancient internet advisor teach me the wonders of using mud and stones. His draftableside manner was amazing, I felt in such good hands! I went on every message board I could shrieking about how victorious I had been in depriving that evil blood sucking stucco industry shill a living and tried my best to disperse the truth of homeo building (using less and less skill to build a greater and greater sense of self-righteousness).

    I also have a remedy to all causes of vaccine injury. I heard about this one from a trusted friend a long time ago. You consume a handful of naturally occurring granular material composed of finely divided variable particles. Make sure the most common constituent is inland continental coastal silica (silicon dioxide, or SiO2), usually in the form of quartz. It draws all of the toxins from your system. 3 or 4 dozen treatments and your colon will have drawn all potential biomass hazards from your system. You’ll be right as rain.

    Wait a minute, you wouldn’t happen to be that “some lady I talked to” that Michelle Bachmann expertly referenced after a GOP debate, would you?

  12. Chris says:

    EricG, ah yes, I believe Dr. Crislip addressed that in Alternative Flight, though Dr. Novella predates him with Alternative Engineering.

  13. pmoran says:

    Cia:
    You mentioned the smallpox vaccine and the movement against it. Read Wendy Lydall’s account of the smallpox epidemics of the nineteenth century. Nearly one hundred percent of the hundreds of thousands who died of smallpox in them had been fully and appropriately vaccinated against smallpox, but they got it and died of it anyway, in epidemics in Great Britain, Italy, and other European countries. The numbers of the vaccinated, the diseased, and the dead were meticulously recorded by the authorities of the day, and can be easily accessed by those who want to know the truth. There were riots in the streets of several large cities by the working classes protesting the mandatory government vaccination programs, because so many of their children were crippled and/or killed by the smallpox vaccine. Jamie Murphy also writes movingly and with excellent documentation of the horrible gangrenous deaths of many children who reacted to the smallpox vaccine.

    The people you are listening to are shooting themselves in the foot as supporters of vaccine safety when they claim that vaccines don’t work, while also immensely exaggerating the risks. They will be dismissed within scientitic and medical circles as “antivax loonies”. Try not to join them, no matter how compelling your personal experiences may seem to be.

    The smallpox vaccine did indeed have far more frequent and more serious side effects than any present vaccine. These included an unpleasant sore at the vaccination site and often painful lymph glands, along with some rarer but very serious complications from the live virus being used.

    But this was also a highly effective vaccine in those successfully vaccinated. It did enable the elimination of otherwise regular smallpox epidemics.

    If there is first-hand, well-documented data showing instances where smallpox vaccine was shown not to work, which I very much doubt given the standards of public medical record-keeping in the 19th century, this would almost certainly be due to low “take” rates through poor administration and lack of refrigeration, as the vaccine virus dies if kept at room temperature too long. A little expertise was required in administering it and you only knew that you had a “take” if the site was examined a week later, not practicable under many conditions of use.

    BTW, you should acknowledge that Andrew Wakefield himself was himself very much pro-vaccination as is every pediatrician on the planet. He merely believed that the MMR vaccine (specifically) caused autism becasue of the modified measles strain it contained, and wanted a different vaccine used (in which he had a financial interest). It has since been found that his observations were unsound for several reasons. Taking ALL the evidence into account, if vaccines do contribute to autism, it is only in rare cases already having a predisposition to it. We can be pretty certain it is not a major cause.

    You have the option of refusing vaccines, and also, I suppose, of placing your own interpretation on your personal encounters with vaccines and illness. But it is a different thing to be now engaged in spreading serious misinformation yourself.

  14. DW says:

    The elephant in the anti-vax living room is always religion. The original campaigns against vaccination were overtly religious. Few anti-vaxers today understand the historically religious roots of the cause they support. There is an overlay of concerns about “safety” and doing things “naturally,” but these are latter-day add-ons. The basic objection is religious. Arthur Allen’s book “Vaccine” is a good source on this.
    http://www.amazon.com/Vaccine-Controversial-Medicines-Greatest-Lifesaver/dp/B001SARCXO/ref=sr_1_6?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1325287851&sr=1-6

  15. sarah007 says:

    Pmoran said:

    “If there is first-hand, well-documented data showing instances where smallpox vaccine was shown not to work, which I very much doubt given the standards of public medical record-keeping in the 19th century, this would almost certainly be due to low “take” rates through poor administration and lack of refrigeration, as the vaccine virus dies if kept at room temperature too long.”

    This is a bizarre statement for someone claiming to know about the evidence basis for making facts. You seem to except that the vaccine got rid of smallpox without any well documented data mentioning the standards of medical record keeping in the 19th Century so why is your anecdote any better than Cia’s one?

    How would anyone then know whether the ‘virus’ was dead or alive and considering there were no fridges that alone by default means that none of the vaccines could have worked as most of the world is at room temperature and therefore logically the whole idea that the vaccine got rid of small pox can’t have an evidence base to support it. By your own analysis smallpox vaccine eradication is nonsense.

  16. sarah007 says:

    Pmoran said:

    “But this was also a highly effective vaccine in those successfully vaccinated. It did enable the elimination of otherwise regular smallpox epidemics.”

    What is your reference for this statement of fact?

  17. Harriet Hall says:

    @sarah007,

    Does your use of quote marks around “virus” mean you don’t accept that smallpox is caused by a virus?
    Do you think smallpox vaccines did not protect against infection?
    Do you think smallpox would have disappeared from the entire world without vaccines?
    Did you notice that “if kept at room temperature too long” was qualified by the words “too long”?

  18. Chris says:

    sarah007:

    What is your reference for this statement of fact?

    Perhaps you should have provided one in the comment you made about Iain Stephenson in the other thread.

    As far as evidence, perhaps you should read some of these papers. I would also suggest the following two books:
    Amazon.com: Pox: An American History by Michael Willrich (be sure to read about Emmanuel Pfeiffer, it also gives a history of the development of effective smallpox vaccines, and regulations to make them safer)
    and
    House on Fire by Dr. William H. Foege (on the smallpox eradication programs in India and Africa)

    As I said on the other thread, you need to look beyond certain websites for your information. The information is out there, and often for free. There are at least 260 papers available at no charge on the above link. Just be sure to read them with an open mind.

  19. sarah007 says:

    DW

    “The elephant in the anti-vax living room is always religion.”

    DW the issue is about evidence not trying to diss people. The roots of orthodox medicine are as religious as any so your comments don’t help, they gently bend the discussion up its own, and add more fog. There is plenty of evidence that vaccine epidemics like swine flu, avian flu SARS etc. that all came to nothing were based on no evidence and were fanned by people keen to make a buck out of bull.

    There are plenty of examples of medical woo and pointing all this out isn’t going to do much for science either.

    DW said:
    “There is an overlay of concerns about “safety” and doing things “naturally,” but these are latter-day add-ons. The basic objection is religious.”

    This is silly really, safety is not an overlay it is a core issue. Why would anyone want to do anything ‘artificially’. Do I have to be religious in order to ask questions about vaccine safety? How could god rule on vaccines anyway?

    I would really appreciate a serious attempt to present the vaccine issue with some kind of scientific approach.

  20. Chris says:

    Sarah007:

    There is plenty of evidence that vaccine epidemics like swine flu, avian flu SARS etc. that all came to nothing were based on no evidence and were fanned by people keen to make a buck out of bull.

    Citation needed. Especially since there was never a vaccine for SARS.

  21. sarah007 says:

    Eric G said:

    “Thankfully, my home caved in the “natural way” after I let a compassionate and wise ancient internet advisor teach me the wonders of using mud and stones.”

    Why do you assume that someone who has doubts about the validity of vaccination needs the piss taking? Ok it’s a subtle ad hom but being sarcastic is what playground scientists do, if you had a really good position on this rather than some kind of quasi religious sneer I’d much rather read that.

    Chris, the reference to the swine flu stats cooking was there if you read it, the BMJ.

    Medical peer review is a problem Chris, it is too open to population bias and too unable to stand up to critique.

    One of the papers you posted on pubmed:
    “Smallpox reemerged in the Indian subcontinent approximately 2500-3000 years before present, which resulted in endemization of this anthroponotic infection, which had been preserved until the smallpox eradication in the 20th century AD. ”

    So what kind of data collection did we have 3000 years ago Chris? If we eradicated small pox in the 20th centuary how come it’s going to come back? If none of the experts on swine flu, avian, SARS were at all right then why on earth is this kind of apocolyptical premonition any different to what one can read in an almanack? Or any other kind of religious paper?

  22. Chris says:

    Sarah007:

    Why would anyone want to do anything ‘artificially’.

    The irony is that you posted that on a computer server from another computer, probably wearing clothes, inside a human built structure, using electricity generated artificially, possibly after eating food that was created by several thousands of years of selective breeding by humans and using a language/alphabet that is definitely not “natural.”

  23. sarah007 says:

    Hi Harriet

    There are lots of anecdotal claims about smallpox. Remember the story we were told about smallpox and cowpox and milkmaids at school, that’s one of them. There is no genetic relationship between these two conditions.

    So Harriet how long is too long? I get the impression that you just believe this story, none of us has the evidence to say that the vaccine even worked. This is the issue, even in modern standards the evidence of comparison does not exist because the data is not collected, there is in effect no EBM for vaccined populations, that is my interest, I would really like to know and no one seems to be able to nail it.

    It disturbs me that you just believe that the whole vaccine issue is squeaky clean, above board and effective when so many people are questioning its validity, I just want to see the evidence.

  24. sarah007 says:

    Chris

    The point about SARS was the hype, we were all going to die till someone pointed out that BBC film crews in Asia were not wearing masks. We have had too many of these shock and awe premonitions about plague deaths and mandatory vaccination, two American states had laws put in place that meant we would all have to wear tags that would set of an alarm in a public building if you had not had a flu vaccine!

    Sorry but to put trust in the CDC and medical peer review, you must be joking!

  25. sarah007 says:

    Chris

    What is your point of view on this, it’s impossible to read anything on Pubmed with an ‘open mind’.

  26. sarah007 says:

    So Harriet

    Did you have a flu shot last year as a preventative?

  27. Chris says:

    Chris, the reference to the swine flu stats cooking was there if you read it, the BMJ.

    Which you did not provide. There was no blue type in your comment, I had to look for it. The standard is that if you make a claim, you must provide the evidence to support the claim and not make others do your homework for you. Especially if you are demanding others to post citation.

    So what kind of data collection did we have 3000 years ago Chris?

    There is this area of study known as “archeology.” Perhaps you should become familiar with it by actually reading the full books I recommended, and do what I did last week: go to a talk by a working archeologist. It is fascinating, and even more so since I had just finished reading 1491 by Charles Mann. It contained much of the history of the archeologists who studied and argued over the data, some is also included in the Pox book, plus there is lots of that history in William McNeill’s book Plagues and Peoples.

    Sorry I cannot give you a full semester of education today, I have just finished my Sunday brunch and need to prune grapes and plant a cherry tree. I suggest you find you local library and check out all of the books I have listed, they are all good reads (though Plagues and Peoples is a bit dense and scholarly).

  28. Chris says:

    Sorry but to put trust in the CDC and medical peer review, you must be joking!

    Sorry, but you seem to have a very closed mind. You need to provide some real evidence for your claims, all you seem to have posted are opinions. If you wish for a real discussion you will have open up your mind and actually read the scientific literature from around this planet, remembering that the CDC is only an American entity.

    Sorry my grapes vines and cherry tree await… none of them natural forms. They are hybrids created through years of artificial breeding over the centuries, plus the cherry tree has had four different varieties graphed on to root stock of a different cherry variety. Vaccines are more natural than most fruit and veggies in a typical garden.

  29. Harriet Hall says:

    @sarah007, “Did you have a flu shot last year as a preventative?”

    Yes, I did.

    Now that I have answered your question, please answer mine. I’ll repeat them for your convenience:

    Does your use of quote marks around “virus” mean you don’t accept that smallpox is caused by a virus?
    Do you think smallpox vaccines did not protect against infection?
    Do you think smallpox would have disappeared from the entire world without vaccines?
    Did you notice that “if kept at room temperature too long” was qualified by the words “too long”?

  30. Harriet Hall says:

    @sarah 007

    “Remember the story we were told about smallpox and cowpox and milkmaids at school, that’s one of them. Thereis no genetic relationship between these two conditions.”

    Yes there is. See: http://www.poxvirus.org/viruses.asp?taxnode=variola%20virus

    There is cross-protection because they share antigens.

  31. weing says:

    This is a democracy dammit. Sarah007′s ignorance is just as good as our facts.

  32. Chris says:

    I just popped in for a beverage break on this unusually warm day, and noticed Sarah007 has not replied. Perhaps, as hope springs eternal, she actually has gone to the library.

    Oh, well, back to pulling grape vines out of the bay laurel tree. This is the tree that real bay leaves for cooking comes from, so it is a very aromatic round of pruning. In the book A History of the World in Six Glasses by Tom Stantage that Greeks originally had grape vines winding through olive and fig trees, and possibly bay laurel, then devised an artificial trellis (which I also have, except the bay laurus nobilis is too close).

  33. Harriet Hall says:

    Chris,

    When you’re through with all the hard yard work, are you going to rest on your laurels?
    Sorry, couldn’t resist. :-)

  34. Chris says:

    :-)

    And my son did make a laurel crown for a Junior Classical League contest.

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