On the Orwellian language and bad science of the anti-vaccine movement: “SmartVax” versus “MaxVax”?

If there’s one thing that’s true of the human race, it’s that when it comes to persuasion language is has power. Words have power. Just ask the advertising industry or politicians, who rely on their skills manipulating language to persuade for their very livelihood and authority. In the specific bailiwick of this blog, Science-Based Medicine, many of us have spent considerable verbiage describing how advocates of unscientific modalities rebranded as “complementary and alternative medicine” (CAM) and/or “integrative medicine” (IM) are incredibly skilled at the manipulation of language and renaming of terms in order to make them sound more persuasive, particularly to make it sound as though their modalities are scientifically supported or that it’s just another “alternative” to SBM. In fact, Kimball Atwood has made a special study of the language of CAM, even going so far to do an amusing feature that he used to call the Weekly Waluation of the Weasel Words of Woo. Indeed, the very name “integrative medicine” is a masterful term that makes it sound as though they’re just “integrating” the best of scientific medicine and “traditional” or “alternative” medicine when in fact what is happening all too often is the “integration” of quackery with medicine or, as I sometimes like to call it, “integrating” fake medicine with real medicine. Unfortunately, my definition of “integrative medicine” doesn’t appear to be winning, although I was gratified that I got several Tweets during our panel at TAM9 quoting my line about integrating quackery with medicine.

The anti-vaccine movement has been pretty good, albeit not as masterful as, say, Andrew Weil, when it comes to manipulating language to its own end. Who can forget three years ago, when the meme started spreading throughout the anti-vaccine movement that it’s “not anti-vaccine but rather ‘pro-safe vaccine'” and started demanding that the government and pharmaceutical companies “green our vaccines.” The reason is obvious; even anti-vaccine activists know that it’s a public relations loser to be explicitly anti-vaccine, which is Jenny McCarthy and the anti-vaccine groups that participated in her “Green Our Vaccines” rally did their best to downplay and hide their radical anti-vaccine base. They failed. (The signs about vaccines as “weapons of mass destruction” rather undercut the “pro-safe vaccine” message. I’ve dealt with this fallacy before in depth, explaining why it is appropriate to call them “anti-vaccine,” even as they strenuously deny that they are. More recently, the preferred narrative has been “too many, too soon,” which leads me to another term coined by the group SafeMinds and promoted on—where else?—Age of Autism.

Now, the SafeMinds/AoA approach is being dubbed “SmartVax.”

The Orwellian language of the anti-vaccine movement

I have to hand it to the anti-vaccine movement in general and SafeMinds in particular. I really do. Whatever the deficiencies in their knowledge of science, anti-vaccine advocates sure can spin the Orwellian language, where up is down, left is right, and vaccines are alway, always, always the cause of autism, or at least more harmful than good. The first stroke of propaganda genius about this site is the term “SmartVax” itself. Yes, it’s painfully obvious. After all, who wants to be in favor of the implied opposite of “SmartVax,” such as “DumbVax” or “StupidVax”? Of course, I fervently hope that some day a vaccine against dumb and stupid will one day be invented, but most likely I hope in vain. If there is one thing that isn’t vaccine-preventable, it’s stupidity. Yet that’s not the propaganda genius, at least not in and of itself. What elevates the dreck on the SmartVax website into the realm of brilliant P.R. is how the anti-vaccine activists contrast “SmartVax” with what they call “MaxVax.” Let’s take a look, shall we? It begins with a bit of revisionist history in a section entitled Overview of the SmartVax Philosophy:

In the early 1900’s, scientists coined the terms “allergy” and “anaphylaxis” to describe vaccine-injuries; at present, the mechanism by which vaccines cause injury is still not scientifically understood. Historically, the vaccine-injury risk has caused vaccine manufacturers and public health officials to be conservative when recommending new vaccines or administration of vaccines at earlier ages. However, vaccines proved effective against some deadly diseases and by the 1970’s a “maximize vaccination” philosophy arose that viewed vaccines as always having more benefits than risks.

Not exactly. The assertion that scientists coined the terms “allergy” and “anaphylaxis” to describe vaccine injuries is a distortion, with one minor grain of truth. Let’s start with the term anaphylaxis, the coining of which had nothing to do with childhood vaccines. Rather, it derived from the studies of Charles Richet and Paul Portier over 100 years ago of the toxin produced by a jellyfish, the Portuguese Man of War. During an oceanographic expedition, Richet and Portier managed to isolate the toxin and thought that they might be able to use the toxin in order to obtain protection, or, as they called it, “prophylaxis” in order to protect swimmers who came into contact with the jellyfish. When they returned to France, they didn’t have access to the jellyfish anymore; so they turned their attention to the toxin produced by the sea anemone Anemona sulcata, the “sea nettle”, which could be harvested in large quantities from the Mediterranean Sea. They injected venom from the sea nettle at various doses into dogs. The dogs that survived were allowed to recover and then reinjected. To their surprise, subsequent small doses of the toxin produced a dramatic illness that resulted in difficulty in breathing followed by rapid decline and death. Richet and Portier called this reaction “anaphylaxis,” meaning “against protection.” They concluded correctly that the immune system becomes sensitized to the toxin and that re-exposure to the same substance could result in a severe reaction, a discovery for which Richet won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1913. Vaccine injury is not exactly the same thing as what the SmartVax website is referring to.

SafeMinds is also distorting the history of the term “allergy,” which actually was not coined to describe vaccine “injuries.” Rather, the term “allergy” was first coined in 1906 by Clemens von Pirquet. A year earlier, von Pirquet studied the describe adverse reactions of children who were given repeated shots of horse serum to fight infection. Here’s a hint: Injecting horse serum to fight infection is not the same thing as being vaccinated. Indeed, Emil Adolf Behring won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1901 for the development of the diptheria antitoxin, having observed that injecting extracts of diptheria cultures containing diptheria toxin into an experimental animal induced the animal to produce something in its serum that could protect another animal against infection with diptheria. Ultimately, this led to a treatment for humans in which horse serum antitoxin was used in order to treat and prevent the disease, but unfortunately proteins in the horse serum could at times result in allergic reactions upon repeated doses. The following year, the term allergy was proposed to explain this unexpected “changed reactivity” in response to exposure to the horse serum. Later, in 1907 Pirquet characterized the same effect due to repeated doses of the smallpox vaccine–after he had coined the term for his previous observations.

After that little paragraph of revisionist history follows more revisionist history that consists largely of confusing correlation with causation (the “autism epidemic” that isn’t), claiming that the anti-vaccine groups that arose during the 1980s advocated a “smarter” vaccine schedule, and pointing out the 1986 law that created the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program without mentioning that anti-vaccine grande dame Barbara Loe Fisher was a driving force behind the passage of that law. Anti-vaccine groups only turned on the law when they didn’t like how the Vaccine Court had the temerity to try to use actual science to determine what does and doesn’t constitute a true vaccine injury. It didn’t matter that the Vaccine Court bent over backwards to give parents the benefit of the doubt, that it came up with a list of “table injuries” that are presumed to be due to vaccines even when the evidence is somewhat questionable, and that it paid most legal fees fo its petitioners, whether they won or lost. When the Vaccine Court didn’t accept the pseudoscientific view that vaccine injuries cause autism, the anti-vaccine movement turned on it and now generally rant that the requirement that vaccine injury claims go through this special court has allowed vaccine manufacturers to avoid any accountability. Never mind that the FDA and FTC regulate them and that the regulations covering pharmaceutical products (like vaccines) require considerably testing and oversight.

The revisionist history here didn’t exactly make me confident in anything else on this website, but let’s move on. Here is where we get to the meat of the matter; this is what SafeMinds describes as the difference between what it calls the “SmartVax” and the “MaxVax” philosophies:

SmartVax and Max-Vax are both “pro-vaccine” philosophies, in that both philosophies consider vaccines an important component in an overall children’s health program, but SmartVax differs from Max-Vax in important aspects of safety, research, and policy. The SmartVax philosophy is all about being smart with vaccinations: don’t over-use them, don’t bypass good science, understand the risks, and ensure that the risks are not hidden from the public.

Uh, no. Not even close.

Does SafeMinds really think we’re stupid enough to believe that its philosophy is in any way “pro-vaccine”? Think about it this way? Have you ever seen SafeMinds advocate the routine use of any vaccine or defend any vaccine? I certainly haven’t, and I’ve scoured its website looking for such a statement. What I see instead are unending claims that vaccines are unsafe or haven’t been adequately tested based on misinterpretation and cherry picking of studies, fear mongering, and rejection of studies failing to find a link between vaccines and autism almost before they are published. Just type the word “SafeMinds” into the search box in the upper left hand corner of this page, and you’ll see copious evidence of the anti-vaccine activism of SafeMinds, including, most recently, its purchasing public service announcement time in AMC Theaters for its anti-vaccine message, which, not surprisingly, has led to complaints of “censorship” and conspiracy theories about big pharma, pediatricians, and the government trying to shut SafeMinds down. That’s hardly about “not bypassing good science,” which is exactly what SafeMinds does every time it trashes studies that fail to find a link between vaccines and autism.

Basically, SafeMinds contrasts its “SmartVax” (i.e., its anti-vaccine policy in disguise) with “MaxVax” (what it labels the current vaccine schedule) by two “pillars”:

  1. Evidence-Based Scientific Research (go where the evidence leads)
  2. Appropriate Checks-and-Balances on Vaccine Policy

Pillar one is based on a delusion coupled with a massive straw man:

The first rule of SmartVax is the pursuit of evidence-based scientific research on vaccine-injuries to an unbiased conclusion, without being afraid of what the evidence might show, to develop the knowledge for a safer and more effective vaccine program in the long-term. This is in stark contrast with the Max-Vax tenet that such research should be avoided because the results might undermine public confidence in the current vaccine program.

The delusion is, of course, that SafeMinds or any other anti-vaccine group does or advocates anything resembling unbiased, evidence-based research. Quite the opposite, as we’ve documented time and time again over the last three years right here on this very blog, for example here. The straw man is that scientists claim that research should be avoided because the results might undermine public confidence. A more accurate and honest representation of the Orwellian-named “MaxVax” position would be that a link between vaccines and autism is highly implausible and that, although it is impossible ever to prove a negative completely (i.e., that there is absolutely no link between vaccines and autism), enough studies have been done to estimate the chances of such a link existing to be very, very, very low. After all, even Generation Rescue’s attempts at finding a link between vaccines and autism have failed utterly. In actuality, it is SafeMinds and its ilk that require more and more such research for the very purpose of undermining public confidence in the current vaccine program; that’s the raison d’être of anti-vaccine groups. And, of course, the “MaxVax” moniker itself is a not-so-subtle attempt to paint the public health establishment with the brush of unreasoning extremism and dogma.

Here’s pillar two:

The SmartVax view holds that appropriate checks-and-balances on vaccine policy will produce the most beneficial vaccine program long-term for children’s health. Government-owned research data on vaccine-injuries should be made open to the public and easily accessible to all researchers. Long-term double-blind placebo studies tracking both acute and chronic health conditions (e.g. asthma, allergies, ADHD, and autism) should be required prior to any vaccine approval. Philosophical exemption, by which a parent can opt to delay or exempt certain vaccines for the child without discrimination such as loss of federal benefits or access to public schools, should be a fundamental right in the USA (as it is in Canada and other countries).

Clearly, the message hasn’t gotten through to SafeMinds, although perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised about that, given how research ethics appears not to concern anti-vaccine groups very much when it comes to their own, which is in marked contrast to their attacks on pharma and “conventional” science. Performing randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled studies of currently used vaccines is completely unethical because it leaves the control group unprotected against vaccine-preventable disease. In fact, the only time such a trial could be ethical is if there is no currently existing vaccine for the disease; i.e., the vaccine is a new vaccine for a condition for which there currently isn’t a vaccine. If the vaccine is for a condition for which a vaccine currently exists, then the appropriate design of a clinical trial is to test the new vaccine against the old vaccine; doing otherwise would leave the control group unprotected against a vaccine-preventable disease. In addition, even doing epidemiological studies looking at health outcomes in vaccinated versus unvaccinated children is highly problematic, both on practical, scientific, and ethical grounds. On the other hand, in a perverse way, I’m glad that SafeMinds has put itself on the record as supporting an unethical clinical trial design motivated by its anti-vaccine views. It makes it so easy for me to go after its position.

The rest of its position is the same sort of superficially plausible-sounding nonsense that we’re accustomed to hearing from SafeMinds and its ilk. The real reason it wants access to data on vaccine injuries is so that it can “reanalyze” it and come to different conclusions, the way Mark and David Geier tried to do several years ago, and, of course, its call for “philosophical exemption” is nothing more than warmed-over “health freedom” rhetoric. Overall, then, there appears to be nothing new in the “philosophy” behind SmartVax. It’s nothing more than what we’ve been hearing from the anti-vaccine movement for a long time. It is, however, wrapped up in an appealing-sounding package. Unfortunately, the material is rotten to the core, just as pillar two of the SmartVax philosophy is unethical to its very core.

Where’s the beef?

Now that I’ve dealt with the revisionist history and Orwellian language of the “philosophy” section of the SmartVax website, let’s look at the “beef,” so to speak. What, exactly, is it that SafeMinds says about its “SmartVax” philosophy and what science does it use? The answer to the first question is, in essence, to claim that SafeMinds advocates “rigorous science” to justify its warmed over “too many too soon” complain coupled with an even more warmed over Bob Sears-stylealternative vaccine schedule” that would leave children unprotected against diseases like measles and pertussis for far too long. Perhaps the best example of the scientifically bankrupt and deceptive “SmartVax” reasoning can be found in a section entitled Weigh the Risks of Vaccination. One thing that is very apparent upon trying to wade through this site is that it superficially looks very “science-y.” However, the more I waded in, the more frustrated I became. In many cases, I couldn’t figure out how SafeMinds calculated its numbers and, worse, in many cases references weren’t easily locatable because they weren’t cited properly. For example, SafeMinds takes huge leaps based on a study of asthma rates in children in Manitoba based on vaccination timing but doesn’t actually cite the study on the page where it makes the claim or on the page where it explains the claim. This is a perfect lead-in to an example of the intellectual bankruptcy that is the SmartVax website.

Let’s take a look at the sorts of methodologies that SafeMinds recommends for estimating the “risks” of vaccination. Before I do this, however, let me just reiterate that it is a strawman argument that is being attacked when it is claimed that the “MaxVax” philosophy denies the possibility of vaccine injury. Scientists most definitely do not; in fact, it is scientists and physicians who study vaccine injury and estimate the frequency with which it happens, as well as potential predisposing factors. Think of it this way. Who did the studies that SafeMinds cherry picks? Not The difference is that scientists and science-based physicians base their estimates on science and epidemiology, not anecdotes, and most especially not on cherry-picked studies. Perhaps the most egregious example occurs when SafeMinds attributes a risk of 1 in 13 of “vaccine-induced asthma.”is administered according to schedule compared to a delay of three months, which leads it to produce this meaningless table. I also note that the Manitoba study was not a study of whether vaccination itself was associated with the later development of asthma but rather a study of whether the timing of vaccination with DPT was associated with asthma. There is a difference; yet SafeMinds uses the data from that study to make an estimate that 7.9% of the population is at a risk of “vaccine-induced” asthma from the DTP and Hib vaccines, even though the actual experimental group still got the vaccines, just three months later. One also notes that whole cell pertussis, as in the DTP vaccine, is no longer used in most countries. In any case, the authors themselves stated in the discussion:

On the other hand, McKeever et al did not find an association between asthma onset and the age at first injection of diptheria, polio, pertussis, and tetanus vaccine in their database of study of 29,000 children. To our knowledge we are the first to report that delay in adminstration of the first dose of DPT immunization is significantly associated with reduced risk of developing asthma in childhood.

One wonders why SafeMinds didn’t acknowledge this. It also fails to acknowledge that in the CDC study it also cites as evidence that the Hib and hepatitis B vaccines were associated with a weakly increased risk of asthma the relative risks were very low and the authors themselves did an analysis to determine whether a confounding factor might account for the elevated relative risk and concluded:

To evaluate the magnitude of possible medical care utilization bias, we performed a subanalysis restricted to children whom we knew were using two of the VSD HMOs (GHC and NCK) for their health care because they had made at least two medical care visits during their first year of life. In this subanalysis the relative risks for almost all of the vaccines of interest decreased, including those for Hib and hepatitis B. In another subanalysis in which we tried to reduce possi- ble health care utilization bias by restricting the analysis to children who had received at least two OPV, two DTP and one MMR, the relative risk of asthma associated with hepatitis B vaccine was less than that found in the main analysis. We conclude from these findings that the results of our main analysis are probably biased upward and tend to overestimate the relative risks associated with vaccination.

In conclusion medical care utilization bias did seem to influence the results for Hib and hepatitis B vac- cines, for which we found weak associations with asthma. Despite a similar bias that would favor finding an increased risk, we found that DTP, OPV and MMR vaccines did not increase a child’s risk of developing asthma.

In other words, the CDC Vaccine Safety Datalink team found no increased risk of asthma associated with vaccines for most vaccines, and for the two where they did the risk appeared to be very small and likely attributable to confounding factors. Yet SafeMinds mentions none of this, nor does it mention a recent meta-analysis that asks the question, “Is Childhood Vaccination Associated With Asthma?” The answer, in case you’re wondering, is a resounding no. Several other studies also support this conclusion, for example with respect to vaccination against pertussis and a recent German study that demonstrate no differences in allergic diseases between vaccinated and unvaccinated children. I will be honest here; the question of whether any vaccines are associated with an increased risk of asthma is not an entirely settled question yet, but one thing we can say. The vast majority of studies do not support such a link, and the Manitoba study is an outlier that needs to be confirmed, particularly given that it disagrees with a previous study. Moreover, the Manitoba study looked at a vaccine that is no longer used because its problems were recognized—by scientists!—and a safer version of the vaccine developed. Yet SafeMinds deceptively handwaves and in essence extrapolates a risk from a single outlier study to a more general risk and exaggerates a possible risk found in an old CDC study.

Such deceptive or incompetent (take your pick) biased cherry picking does not give me confidence in the rest of the “scientific” analyses of vaccine risks presented on the SmartVax website. Perhaps if I have time for a future post doing so, I’ll delve into the even more science-y tables presented as overall risks of vaccination versus the diseases protected against, but this post is already reaching a long length, and I’m getting tired. Also, I don’t want to finish without mentioning one last aspect of the SmartVax website.

Promoting anti-vaccine advocacy

Perhaps the most telling part of the SmartVax website is the About Us section. It’s all very confused, starting out focusing on mercury in vaccines as a cause of autism, even though it’s clear from numerous epidemiological studies that it almost certainly is not. It also parrots a number of anti-vaccine tropes:

Vaccines contain a number of components that have been linked to vaccine-injury, including aluminum adjuvants, mercury, antigens, and endotoxins. Research indicates that combining multiple vaccines into a combination vaccine can increase adverse reactions from vaccines, and also that adminstration of vaccines at an earlier age can increase risk of vaccine-injury. Research has not been performed on most vaccines in vaccinated vs unvaccinated children to determine whether there are links to the autism, ADHD, and allergy epidemics; research on asthma indicates that there is a link to vaccines. The entire USA vaccination schedule, which has approximately tripled since the 1986 law which protects manufacturers from vaccine lawsuits, needs to be studied and analyzed with an unbiased approach to find scientific answers. Similarly, there is a dearth of research on “Environmental X Factors” that contribute to these epidemics.

Yes, indeed. It’s the “toxin gambit,” coupled with “too many too soon” and the myth of an “autism epidemic” all rolled into one. SafeMinds then goes on to say:

Beyond the personal impact to individuals and families, the epidemic of vaccine-injuries has enormous implications to the public. A future America will be competitively disadvantaged due to medical costs, lost wages, reallocation of personnel into care-giving roles, and a smaller pool of qualified military recruits. Such a bleak future can be avoided, but it will require the American public to take action. Synergistic research from diverse scientific fields such as toxicology, endocrinology, and immunology could lead to a fundamentally new scientific understanding of how vaccines work and how vaccine injuries occur. This could provide the knowledge of how to design a new vaccination program that is both safer and more effective. But recent history indicates that Max-Vax proponents in the government and public health industry will suppress such science, unless there is a “SmartVax” consumer advocacy movement to protect these researchers from discrimination and encourage elected officials to insist that the CDC and FDA take action to recognize and reduce vaccine-injuries.

At its essence, the SmartVax philosophy is all about being smart with vaccinations: don’t over-use them, pursue the science, understand the risks, and ensure that the risks are not hidden from the public. A SmartVax approach will lead to improved children’s health by minimizing vaccine-injuries and protecting against infectious diseases. With SmartVax, the future vaccine program will be both safer and more-effective.

Except that, as I have just shown, SmartVax isn’t so smart about pursuing the science. The purported link between vaccines and asthma is but one example. In every case I’ve taken a look at, SafeMinds has cherry picked data, choosing only the research that suggests the highest risk and discounting all the other research that finds no risks. In the rest, SafeMinds distorts history, uses logical fallacies, and in general does its best to hide its anti-vaccine agenda. Amusingly, that is not enough. Looking through the comments of the announcement of the SmartVax site on AoA, I find it apparent that anti-vaccine advocates are not happy, nor are they necessarily fooled. Here are some examples:

Ray Gallup:

I’m anti-vaccine as well because I have seen first hand the effects of vaccines especially the MMR and in your case the DPT. Vijendra Singh noted that in his studies but of course the pro-vaccine lobby ignored his studies and focused their attacks on Andy Wakefield. The moderates in the community are basically kissing up to the pro-vaccine lobby. The moderates are timid and don’t support families and kids, unfortunately by their timid behavior.

None of us can change this behavior because these people are afraid of their own shadows. So families and kids will continue to suffer because of this cowardly behavior….on the part of parents/organizations.

Shameful. We can expect it from vaccine companies….but can we expect it from parents and autism/vaccine organizations????

Apparently so!!!

Next, here’s someone by the pseudonym veritas:

I agree with Elizabeth. Only no vax guarantees the total safety. All pediatric infectious diseases are trivial at our time, as can be treated or managed with antibiotics or proper care. I would not risk my child life with any vaccine now. They become more and more toxic and we have no idea what is in them. Experience of EU, where only a small fraction of parents vaccinate, is the best evidence that mass vaccinations are not needed and harmful. More children now die from vaccines than from infectious diseases; although tens of thousands vaccinated or not get sick from infectious diseases, they very rarely die in developed coutnries. The reverse is true with vaccines. You can recover from infectious diseases, but it is very difficult to recover to recover from vaccine-induced injuries, such as diabetes, asthma, chronic encephalopathy, autism, etc.

Actually, let’s look at the experience of the EU, where measles has returned with a vengeance, all thanks to a large pool of unvaccinated children. As for verities’ comment about all pediatric infectious diseases being “trivial” at our time, I would remind this ignorant person that, yes, even in 2011 children die of pertussis in the United States. Children still get hepatitis B and later develop cirrhosis or liver cancer at a young age. In 2011. This doesn’t even take into account the morbidity and suffering that many vaccine-preventable childhood diseases can cause.

Truly, veritas has chosen poorly for his pseudonym, given the misinformation he or she is peddling.

To conclude this post, here’s Kathy Blanco, whom I quote in her entirety:

Here we go again, the spineless approach to this worldwide epidemic, yeah, let’s be politically correct now? Not. Although I appreciate the EFFORT, to appear non aluminum foiled hatted, I know without a shadow of doubt, that it is and can trigger autism in our children. I believe NO vaccine has value or efficacy and so do top experts who have any job left. Perhaps when they read the site they may as in BIG may come to that conclusion. However, I have come to the further conclusion, that as not only a recipient of a damaging vaccine in my children (which sways opinion/vested interest, no lying), but, that the science does not support they are safe in any way, shape or fashion. That means the crowd that ashews no mercury, etc, are in fact, half right and half wrong. And I am afraid the mixed message of compliance, we can work with you attitude, is like saying, a murderer can get off or out of jail after good behavior. These people KNEW it was causing damage, and there is the bigger item for interests, and to be frank…the average parent gets the narly vision of a double breasted suit wearing liar in a vaccine regulatory chair/aka dollar signs, rather than explaining by statistic how this or that would cause or MAY cause something in their child. I think people sense the lying on pharma adds, and see the double standard business as usual stance on vaccines. Since we have started this “workable” parent routine, more vaccines have been added to the schedule. Do you know what they really don’t want to happen? Take a guess, it’s called the pocketbook. It’s called a general boycott, furthering exemptions or keeping them. That’s what they listen to. Not our sad puppy eyes, signs of damaged children at a march. Not even lawyers get them going. They know they are protected from damage claims even by the highest levels of our government, and they will continue their carnage until we finally get it, or they have completed their mission of the “soft kill”. The reality is…we are the consumers, and not consuming their garbage will stop their lying son of a gun asses. Sorry, thats this mommies humble wordly view of it. I tried to many years ago, to illuminate what child would become autistic if given a vaccine, just like this website, however, I had the balls to say it, no vaccine is safe, and don’t experiment on YOUR child. I know this won’t go pass the moderator, but it makes me feel better just typing it. What I was doing however, was suggesting to an unknowledgable average citizen, is that vaccines represent an immune challenge for which our children, in general can not handle, even on it’s premise, is the fact it is never tested in immune damaged children. And how can one “determine” such…it is more than autoimmunity in the mother, a a whole HOST of factors, generally felt by all in our community at large (toxic poisoning of our bodies by industry), that is WIDELY felt. No one goes unscathed. So therefore, no vaccine is safe. None. Deleyed reactions, of course, it’s called oncogenicicity (cancer forming), or to put it more mildly, chronic immune activation, and more mildly, WITCHES BREW.

In the end, SafeMinds is fooling no one. Its protestations otherwise that it is not “anti-vaccine” do not fool those of us who know better. Its torturing of the science, liberal use of revisionist history and bad arguments, and its favoring of Orwellian language, all coupled with never, ever conceding that any vaccine is safe and effective and never, ever accepting the evidence consistent with vaccines having no etiological role in autism pathogenesis, speak much louder than any “SmartVax” website. Even more amusingly, SafeMinds’ attempts to paint itself as a “pro-safe vaccine” organization appear to be backfiring spectacularly among the real anti-vaccine underground. Perhaps SafeMinds would do better to let the mask drop and let its anti-vaccine freak flag fly. However, if it ever did so it would lose any tiny bit of credibility that it can snooker the press into giving it. Consequently, SafeMinds’ attempts at twisting science and language will likely continue, as it walks the tightrope between disillusioning its anti-vaccine base and making it undeniably clear to everyone what a crank organization it is.

In a way, I almost feel sorry for SafeMinds. Well, not really.

Posted in: Public Health, Science and the Media, Vaccines

Leave a Comment (57) ↓

57 thoughts on “On the Orwellian language and bad science of the anti-vaccine movement: “SmartVax” versus “MaxVax”?

  1. CC says:

    I don’t feel sorry for them at all.

    Most people who aren’t already anti-vax will NOT check the science; most will only read the claims summary and believe it is accurately reported. This is probably the group they’re targeting.

    The vast majority of people don’t follow references. Period. They may alienate the hard-core anti-vaxers, but they’ll plant the seeds of doubt in people who care about their kids’ health and aren’t aware of anti-vax strategies.

    I’ve angered more than a few friends by pointing out that they didn’t do even a basic sanity check on what they forwarded to everybody they knew, and that whatever cause they were championing misrepresented the source at the other end of a hyperlink – no searching required, just a bit of reading, on the link they themselves provided. I don’t get many chain email forwards anymore, for some reason…

  2. pdxjoe1966 says:

    I have to agree with CC… the group that site is aimed at only wants to hear lies and pseudo-science that support their views (human nature, I know, but still…)

    People don’t want to hear silly things like “scientific evidence” any more. They want pseudo-science that lay people can understand without having to actually educate themselves.

    It’s *hard* to research studies. It’s *hard* to understand real science. And it takes *time* to educate yourself on topics like this.

    Most people don’t care to make the effort to overcome the difficulty, and would rather be spoon-fed information, even if it’s wrong.

    I’m so glad we at least have people willing to try to educate people when they’re demonstrably wrong. My concern is that for the time and effort it takes to convince one person that we’re giving accurate information, another 1000 people will buy into the lie.

  3. aeauooo says:

    From the “Preparing for the Pedestrian Visit” smartvax page:

    “Because a pediatrician’s license to practice medicine is often partly based upon being in good standing with the AAP, your pediatrician can be rightly concerned about being too open towards a SmartVax approach.”

    Really? I’ve been a nurse for 19 years and have never had to demonstrate membership in a professional organization, much less, “being in good standing” in any of the four states in which I’ve been licensed. Are the licensure requirements different for physicians and/or pediatricians, or is this just another case of falsely attributing authority to a reviled professional association (e.g., the AMA or IDSA)?

    I would like to thank smartvax for providing their “questions on vaccines for pediatricians.” I’ll work with the county immunization coalition to ensure that providers in this county have the resources to respond to each one of those questions.

  4. SloFox says:

    This post reminds me of the tremendous difficulty that will probably forever challenge those of us who advocate science-based medicine. Given that human nature generally favors rhetoric over evidence we will always be at a disadvantage. To make matters worse, there is no denying that Big Pharma also resorts to marketing strategies that parallel some of the strategies used by the anti-vax folks (or other pseudoscientific groups). Those of us who believe that science remains the best method for getting at the Truth (capital T intentional; yes, I’m going there) are likely to continue fighting uphill.

    I, for one, loathe even resorting to mild simplification in order to make a point. I’m even uncomfortable saying vaccines are “safe” usually qualifying the statement with the caveat “but not without risk” since the term “safe” seems to imply “risk-free” to the layman.

    Honestly, I’m (pleasantly) surprised that vaccination rates in the US are as high as they are. I’d be curious to hear how far others are willing to go to SELL a policy or conclusion soundly based on science. Is the simple fact of having better evidence substantial justification for mild distortion or simplification of the argument in order to convert the less erudite?

  5. libby says:

    I don’t understand the use of the word “woo” as a noun. It’s a verb.

    One would think that those who value a belief system based entirely on science would at least avoid the butchering of a language.

  6. Chris says:

    libby, see this definition. Imagine the sound of a “scary ghost.”

  7. Chris says:

    (oh, and libby, Dr. Gorski really really hates grammar/spelling pedants, and it doesn’t help that you have trouble staying on topic in other threads)

  8. ConspicuousCarl says:

    kathy blanco said:
    I believe NO vaccine
    has value or efficacy

    Never further has gone been gotten.

  9. JPZ says:

    “I, for one, loathe even resorting to mild simplification in order to make a point.”

    We don’t have a choice. Our failure to communicate science clearly to media and non-scientists has contributed to ignorance and distrust of science. Fortunately, you get better at it with practice – and SBM is a pretty good place to practice. :)

  10. OkieBlue says:

    One problem with the anti-vax people and quackery in general is that quacks can come up with illogical arguments and deceptive words at a rate approximately one gazillion times faster than science can rebut them. (AKA the Gish Gallop.)

    It doesn’t take much time to pull stuff out of your butt and throw it against the wall just to see if it sticks.

  11. David Gorski says:

    Methinks ConspicuousCarl wins the Internets for the day.

  12. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

    …and Libby continues her tradition of substance-free commentary. Yes, this entire post fails because someone verbified a noun. Great.

  13. CC says:


    I have to agree with CC… the group that site is aimed at only wants to hear lies and pseudo-science that support their views (human nature, I know, but still…)

    Not quite what I was trying to say. I can be a bit fuzzy at breakfast time :-)

    What I meant was not that their target audience was people who only wanted to hear pseudo-science, but that it was probably the people who care very deeply about the health of their children and their friends, and who simply don’t have the background to recognize when they’re being fed pseudo-science instead of science. Vague “toxins” also get this group alarmed easily, and since there are many true environmental toxins whose harms have been discovered relatively recently you can’t make a blanket argument against them. (BPA, for one example that studies have shown is harmful in some circumstances but has been blown way out of proportion by the media.)

    Then they get defensive when you point out they’re believing something incorrect because nobody likes to be wrong, and suddenly the discussion turns antagonistic.

    It’s *hard* to research studies. It’s *hard* to understand real science. And it takes *time* to educate yourself on topics like this.

    Very much so. I have been known to dig into papers I find on google scholar for fun, but when something is completely and utterly outside my field, I have to rely on articles that interpret and summarize, and ultimately I have to choose what I’m going to dig into deeply enough to educate myself on. As much as I’d love to know everything, there are only so many hours in a day!

  14. MS, MT(ASCP) says:

    The use of “Orwellian language” used to describe the way the alt med community describes the Evils of Vaccines reminded of a passage I hadn’t read in years (and thank you for motivating me to read a riveting account of a fictional court trial).

    “[Tom Robinson] yonder took advantage of me an’ if you fine fancy gentlemen don’t wanta do nothin’ about it then you’re all yellow stinkin’ cowards, stinkin’ cowards the lot of you. Your fancy airs don’t come to nothin – your ma’amin’ and Miss Mayellerin’ don’t come to nothin’, Mr. Finch.”

    It would be the response I’d get from a family member who swallows the alt med line hook, line and sinker. Both my relative and Mayella Ewell must cling to a certain truth, and any polite attempt to question that truth leads to violent defense of it. If their truth is exposed as a lie, then their life is exposed as an attempt to control what is beyond their understanding or ability. Mayella Ewell could never be in control of the poverty she lived in; meanwhile, the followers of the anti-vax movement revel in their self-imposed intellectual poverty. Both defend that poverty with contempt toward those who could truly help them. They lay blame for imagined assaults on those who are easy targets. And both are too scared and ashamed to admit what they are doing.

  15. libby says:


    Perhaps the error is veering away from scholarly reference materials. There appears no rational reason to take such a path.

  16. “verbified” great word.

  17. It seems we are overwhelmed with language specifically tailored to make us belief something, yet so many people I know seem completely unaware of that fact.

    Whenever I hear obvious spin, alarm bells go off and that makes me want to check into the facts behind the spin, just out of curiosity.

    But many folks don’t recognize the spin, so they don’t check.

    One of my deepest fears is that my spin detector is flawed. That I am only recognizing the spin of parties I don’t agree with and therefore missing out on a whole lotta checking I should be doing. For that reason, I try to be extra alert of any spin that I see from parties I agree with…

    But then that’s more checking. And then sometimes you find the source study or article you read has MORE spin. Like many Americans I can’t really figure out the statistics from the study in question, so I can’t check that spin. (sigh) It’s a little exhausting.

    Almost makes me wish I was one of those folks that didn’t recognize the spin or like CC says, don’t check the references.

    Not entirely, but I understand the simple approach.

  18. BillyJoe says:

    Verbify is the verbified form of the noun verb

  19. A word that is what it says. It’s like looking into a mirror with a mirror.

  20. libby says:

    “verbify” is a horrible example.

    The Latin verb “facere” means “to make” and therefore it is easy to explain such a transformation. This permits the most common method for transforming the function of a word while, and this is the important part, maintaining its meaning.

    Other examples:

    quantity – quantify
    quality – qualify

    Explain how the ‘noun’ “woo” comes from anything related to the verb “woo” or has any explicable etymology other than a pretend word conjured up in the careless mind of some individual, a word more suited to the fantasy world of Lewis than the skeptical world of Robert.

  21. Scott says:

    Everybody knows that verbing weirds language.

  22. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

    Libby, you may want to raise your concerns about the use of the word “woo” on a blog about language. Do you have anything to contribute regarding the discussion of vaccination?

  23. libby says:

    Gorski states: “…when it comes to persuasion language is has power. Words have power.”

    That’s true.

    Here’s an example of how the world of science manipulates beliefs.

    Everyone hears the common phrase, “there is no scientific basis.” But that phrase is not equivalent to, “there is no basis.”

    An example of this are discussions on NLP. The claim is that there is no scientific basis for it, but the implication of the phrase is manipulative. Most people would then assume that NLP is not valid, but that is not what is being said.

    The basis behind NLP is that some therapists, like Milt Erickson, were successful at affecting change in patients without years of therapy. Others were not so successful. Clearly there must be a difference, and that’s the basis.

    If theorists try and discover how these therapeutic techniques function, they might get it wrong. That does not mean that there is no basis for NLP, just that there is no scientific basis.

    1. Harriet Hall says:


      It appears that you still don’t “get” science. NLP is not “valid,” because it has not been shown to work. Bloodletting was not “valid” even though doctors believed for centuries that it was successful in relieving symptoms and saving lives. It’s not that NLP doesn’t have a scientific basis, it’s that it doesn’t work. Testimonials are not a basis for anything except to guide research.

  24. libby says:


    My post was about language, not about validity.

  25. Chris says:


    My post was about language, not about validity.

    Is it the homeopathic remedies that prevent you from staying on topic? Or is some other reason? Like an inability to learn? For example the use of a word many of us have been using for over a decade.

    Show us you understand what was written in the article, give us the definition of the word “anaphylaxis.”

  26. lizditz says:


    Almost identical post in two different venues. Both have folks perseverating on different topics either not not germane to the issue or on their favorite bit of pseudoscience.

    aeauooo has the best advice yet for those of us who promote science-based medicine in terms of vaccination:

    I would like to thank smartvax for providing their “questions on vaccines for pediatricians.” I’ll work with the county immunization coalition to ensure that providers in this county have the resources to respond to each one of those questions.

    That’s an action item.

  27. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

    Libby, science is about extracting what works in any given intervention, and brutally discarding that which does not. If NLP “works”, then science can determine if it works through extinction, nonspecific characteristics (i.e. a charasmatic and confident practitioner), a genuinely novel wrinkle to the nervous system that was hitherto-unknown or something else. Anything that genuinely “works” should be easy to demonstrate using science, particularly as research accumulates over time and determines what separates signal from noise. It should do so repeatedly, across studies, across individual practitioners (given adequate training), over time and across subjects.

    “No scientific basis” on a subject that has considerable research done on it (like say, physics, basic chemistry, biology, the history of Ancient Egyptian civilization vis-a-vis the lack of aliens building the pyramids) is a pretty significant mark against that topic. Science doesn’t discard an idea a priori, but when an idea violates pre-existing theories there better be damned good evidence to support it.

    That’s kinda the whole point of this blog.

  28. CC says:

    Anything that genuinely “works” should be easy to demonstrate using science, particularly as research accumulates over time and determines what separates signal from noise. It should do so repeatedly, across studies, across individual practitioners (given adequate training), over time and across subjects.

    Also, demonstrating that something works and how something works are two entirely different problems. We can use something without knowing how it works, as long as we know that it does work.

    My favourite example is Aspirin. I looked up the research papers a while ago and found out that it was in the 1980s (IIRC) that we finally figured out for certain how it works. (I’d have to find the paper again to get a better date. If somebody knows it feel free to refine it. I do recall that it was about that time period.) We’d been using it as acetylsalicylic acid for nearly a century at that point, knowing that it worked, and as purified salicylic acid for half a century before that, knowing that it worked. The point being that it had been demonstrated to work, and that was good enough for medicine to determine appropriate dosages, and use it.

    CAM? Not demonstrated to work. So what if science can’t detect auras or healing energies or anything similarly woo-rific: if there’s no effect beyond placebo, it doesn’t work. There’s no mechanism to investigate.

  29. Rob Tarzwell says:

    @lizditz: Thanks for the link to the info graphic on HPV. I especially liked the vax vs placebo study looking at adverse outcomes.

  30. Scott says:

    CAM? Not demonstrated to work. So what if science can’t detect auras or healing energies or anything similarly woo-rific: if there’s no effect beyond placebo, it doesn’t work. There’s no mechanism to investigate.

    A particularly interesting example of the special pleadings CAM advocates like to try along these lines is when they invoke quantum mechanics to argue that if you try to measure the effect, that disturbs it.

    This is a perversion of QM in so many ways it isn’t even funny, but the simplest and most layperson-friendly demonstration that it’s complete BS is to observe that the patient feeling better is a measurement. In other words, the claim that it doesn’t work if it’s measured necessarily and directly implies that it doesn’t work EVER.

  31. geack says:

    I’m not entirely sure “woo” even counts as a nounified verb in this context. It’s not like the meaning used here somehow derived from the verb “to woo”, as in “to attempt to attract or seduce” (although that kinda fits)…

    Back to topic – thx for another useful breakdown of propaganda that a lot of people will be mistakenly taking as reliable.

  32. geack says:

    And back off topic again… Why does that site always hyphenate “vaccine injury”? It’s just irritating.

  33. hammond says:

    While I agree that the anti-vax movement is filled with lackluster science and crazy word manipulation, the science of vaccines is not without real controversy. What about Marc Bisson’s

    I fear that while the author has fun dismantling the anti-vax movement bit by bit we are missing the bigger picture. And that is that the immune system is more complex than we can even begin to fathom. The medical system everyone hear seems so comfortable defending may in the end seem barbaric in comparison to future systems. And the endless double blind studies on the efficacy of a particular vaccine may be short sighted in light of future measures of the immune response of individuals. The currant crop of studies suggest that the goal of the U.S schedule is to prevent the incidence of the diseases listed on the schedule. But what about the immune response of individuals who are fully vaccinated/as compared to partially or not vaccinated to pathogens not on the schedule? These are larger issues that I fear may be lost while this author criticizes people who don’t understand science anyway.

  34. Chris says:

    Hammond, it is a letter. I can’t read the whole thing, but I assume you can. Did it take into account that the baby boom generation was getting old enough for shingles to be a risk?

    How does it compare to Incidence of Herpes Zoster, Before and After Varicella-Vaccination-Associated Decreases in the Incidence of Varicella, 1992–2002?

    Also, the letter you cited was from the UK, where there is no chicken pox vaccine. How does that work that a vaccine they are not giving affects shingles? This more recent review, The Impact of the Varicella Vaccination Program on Herpes Zoster Epidemiology in the United States: A Review, says:

    Studies from Canada and the United Kingdom have shown increasing rates of HZ incidence in the absence of a varicella vaccination program. Data suggest that heretofore unidentified risk factors for HZ also are changing over time.

    It also goes on to say that it is complicated. Because real science is like that, and it will take time to sort it all out. And the shingles vaccine age has lowered to age fifty, so us younger baby boomers are eligible. I’ll be getting mine soon.

    Personally I would have been much happier if I missed the entire month of misery of my three kids (including a six month old baby!) having chicken pox in 1994. It was sleepless nights, kids in real pain, bedding wetting, washing sheets, lots of oatmeal and bottles of calamine lotion. Fortunately none ended up in the hospital with a very real chance of losing a limb like one of the boys’ school mates (the baby did have some pox very close to her eyes). They are now candidates for shingles later, perhaps the last generation.

    Someday there will be kids who will never have to suffer chicken pox, and never get shingles. But that is going to take time.

  35. Harriet Hall says:


    “what about the immune response of individuals who are fully vaccinated/as compared to partially or not vaccinated to pathogens not on the schedule?”

    Their immune response to vaccine-preventable disease is improved. There is no evidence or rationale to suggest that their immune response is otherwise affected.

    The concerns about shingles are only short-term: if vaccines can succeed in the face of alarmist anti-vaccine fears, chickenpox can be completely eliminated, and shingles will necessarily go away too.

  36. hammond says:

    I have read the 1992-2002 study before and it concludes “The incidence of HZ remains stable.” So jury still out. The American study states “Since then, studies monitoring HZ incidence have shown inconsistent findings: 2 studies have shown no increase in overall incidence, whereas 1 study has shown an increase.” So jury still out on incidence of HZ in presence of vaccine programs. Or do you not agree?

    I fear you have missed my point. And that is that some vaccines , and particularly the U.S schedule are not based on incontrovertible science. And this author’s tone suggests the opposite.

  37. Chris says:

    If we missed your point, perhaps you should try providing some better papers to support your point. I don’t think the shingles one was adequate. It sounds like someone who wants to avoid shingles by still having children suffer through chicken pox.

    Perhaps, if your point is only the US schedule, you could point to a country with a different schedule that you feel is better supported. Just don’t use the UK or Canadian schedule, since they don’t vaccinate for chicken pox and still have increasing rates of shingles.

    And can you answer whether the letter you referenced mentioned aging population?

  38. daedalus2u says:

    The only reason that people get HZ is because they were infected with the chicken pox virus.

    Vaccination prevents infection with the chicken pox virus, and so prevents HZ in everyone who is vaccinated.

    Unfortunately people who were infected with the chicken pox virus and still retain chicken pox virus in their CNS, are still at risk for getting HZ.

    Frequent exposure to people infected with chicken pox virus does boost the immune response of people with chicken pox virus in their CNS, so they are less likely to get HZ.

    Compelling children to remain unvaccinated for chicken pox so that adults with chicken pox virus in their CNS can have their immune response to chicken pox virus boosted “for free” is a perverse, unethical and I think monstrous idea.

    Adults who consider themselves to be at risk for HZ can get themselves vaccinated to prevent or reduce the incidence of HZ.

  39. Chris says:

    daedalus2u, thank you for expressing more succinctly what I was thinking. Yes, the adults can get the HZ vaccine, especially since it does not involve the suffering of children.

  40. Harriet Hall says:

    @ Hammond,

    “some vaccines , and particularly the U.S schedule are not based on incontrovertible science.”

    Which vaccines? What do you consider incontrovertible science?
    You have not made your point clear.

  41. Nescio says:

    There are some unexpected and/or undesirable effects of vaccines, which personally I find fascinating. Science learns from them and moves on. I don’t think any of them are to do with the immune system being, “more complex than we can even begin to fathom”, or science meddling in things it doesn’t understand, but more to do with the mathematics of epidemiology. Often they are the consequences of insufficient vaccine coverage, and would disappear if vaccination coverage was high enough for long enough.

  42. Th1Th2 says:


    The only reason that people get HZ is because they were infected with the chicken pox virus.

    Vaccination prevents infection with the chicken pox virus, and so prevents HZ in everyone who is vaccinated.

    Where did get that myth from? How ironic this blog is called SBM but when you dissect it is nothing but a cesspool of ignorance and pretenders.

    First off. Herpes zoster is a consequence of primary VZV infection. So without primary VZV infection, HZ will not occur. So how does one acquire primary VZV infection; there are two ways (not one fool!)1. natural infection 2. varicella vaccine.

    Oh please STOP this nonsense, stop pretending, and please stop lying to people!

  43. Chris says:


    Oh please STOP this nonsense, stop pretending, and please stop lying to people!

    LOL… oh, the irony. Just in case some here has not dealt with this particular person: she is a delusional manipulative liar who thinks toddlers know they should stay on the sidewalk and not go into dirt.

    Ignore the troll.

  44. pmoran says:

    Vaccination prevents infection with the chicken pox virus, and so prevents HZ in everyone who is vaccinated.

    Th1Th2> Where did get that myth from? How ironic this blog is called SBM but when you dissect it is nothing but a cesspool of ignorance and pretenders.
    First off. Herpes zoster is a consequence of primary VZV infection. So without primary VZV infection, HZ will not occur. So how does one acquire primary VZV infection; there are two ways (not one fool!)1. natural infection 2. varicella vaccine.
    Oh please STOP this nonsense, stop pretending, and please stop lying to people!

    While the language is overly abusive in response to a simple overstatement, Th1Th2 is, sort of, correct. My understanding is that the varicella vaccine can occasionally cause a mild version of Herpes Zoster.

    Vaccines strive to be completely safe, but where live vaccines are concerned it is essentially a matter of substituting a very mild, most often imperceptible viral illness for one with more serious potential.

  45. Chris says:

    Dr. Moran, how many children have lost fingers after getting the varicella vaccine?

    It is at this point that I ask for real evidence that the varicella vaccine is worse then actually getting chicken pox. Since I remember my own misery from the disease, and then lost countless hours of sleep when all of my children had chicken pox… I really really want to know the number.

    Do not dare come back that some adults will get shingles. If you are afraid of shingles, then go to your local pharmacy, fork over $25 and get the vaccine!

  46. I’m no scientist, but I would have thought that the phrase “incontrovertible science” is contradiction of terms.

    I think very little science is incontrovertible* it is best that can be determined at the time with the available information. When making decisions, if you wait for incontrovertible in medical science you’ll be waiting far past the arrival of the proverbial cows. Unfortunately no decision is a decision too.

    *now all the physicists are going to explain to me how incontrovertible science can be. :)

  47. pmoran says:

    Dr. Moran, how many children have lost fingers after getting the varicella vaccine?

    Chris, you have completely misread me. All I have said is that there have been cases of HZ after varicella vaccination.

    We can’t afford to be sloppy with the facts. It can only reinforce the paranoia, and the ignorant self-confidence of the Th1Th2s, and the concerns of the simply worried.

  48. Th1Th2 says:

    Now Chris is getting sloppy with facts which is not surprising. Do you mind explaining the chronologic and pathophysiologic events on how a person could lose his/her fingers because of chicken pox?

  49. hammond says:

    @ Harriet Hall,

    I ‘m concerned about the growth of the U.S vaccine schedule since the early 80’s and the ULTIMATE goals of our vaccine program. I ‘m not neccessarily evan anti chicken pox vax, just asking questions. Will we eventually vaccinate for virtually every known pathogen and thus rob our population of the potential, as yet unknown benefits of mounting a fever and battling a real world infection (I ‘m not talking about polio, tetenus, measles or pathogens no one should suffer through but pathogens like chicken pox or flu) You may say “well flu can kill” and I realize that but where do we draw the line? That is what I’ m asking.

    Some evidence suggests that infection with real world pathogens produces different immune responses than with vaccines and this area of research seems promising in discovering the more complex underlying immune response of individuals. Also, fevers and heat related protein response is very interesting to me.

    Some interesting studies are….

    “effects of diphtheria-tetanus-pertusus or teanus vaccination and allergy-related respiratory symptoms……” hurwitz el, morgenstern h.

    “do common childhood infections teach the immune system not to be allergic?” Immunol today 21 (3) 118-20 Folkerts G.

    I ‘m not a scientist and I ‘m VERY thanklful for the relief of suffering that vaccines have afforded us. I ‘m also computer challenged and realize I probably look like a dope without links. But slow as I ‘am, I’m learning and it’s fascinating but also highly political to evan question the U.S. schedule. And I think that is sad. That is all. What do you think the goal of the U.S. schedule should be? Best of health to you.

  50. Harriet Hall says:


    Mark Crislip is really the one who should answer this, and I hope he will chime in. The concerns you raise are hypothetical; the risks of vaccine preventable morbidity and mortality are real. Vaccines exercise our immune systems in a way that is very similar to real-world infections and there is no good reason to think that we need to forgo some vaccinations and let people catch those diseases to make our immune systems somehow work better. The goal of the U.S. schedule is not to eventually immunize people against every known pathogen: it is to prevent unnecessary deaths and human suffering by using the best science-based methods and balancing risk against benefit. As we learn more about the immune system, the new knowledge will be incorporated into vaccine recommendations as it becomes available.

  51. Chris says:

    Hammond, you seem to be cherry picking. Would it be too much to ask you to cite papers more logically?

    J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 2000 Feb;23(2):81-90.
    Effects of diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis or tetanus vaccination on allergies and allergy-related respiratory symptoms among children and adolescents in the United States.
    Hurwitz EL, Morgenstern H.

    You do realize the DTP vaccine is no longer in use?

    Immunol Today. 2000 Mar;21(3):118-20.
    Do common childhood infections ‘teach’ the immune system not to be allergic?
    Folkerts G, Walzl G, Openshaw PJ.

    is a comment on another article, and it is behind a pay wall. Can you tell us what it says?

    Actually, neither cite are terribly convincing.

    And, really, how exactly is hay fever worst than pertussis, tetanus and diphtheria? One of those diseases has a 10% to 20% fatality rate. Another killed ten infants in only one state last year.

    Yes, asthma can be bad… but what happens when someone with asthma gets pertussis?

  52. Chris says:

    Dr. Hall:

    The goal of the U.S. schedule is not to eventually immunize people against every known pathogen: it is to prevent unnecessary deaths and human suffering by using the best science-based methods and balancing risk against benefit.

    Hence, things that are not on the USA vaccine schedule include smallpox, typhus, cholera, typhoid, tuberculosis, yellow fever and Japanese encephalitis. All of those are diseases for which there is a vaccine.

    I’ve actually been vaccinated for smallpox, yellow fever, typhus and typhoid because I was born overseas (and am old enough for the smallpox vaccine!). My military dependent vaccine card had a slot for a cholera vaccine, but I never had the vaccine.

    As it turns out some diseases are more easily controlled by other means (like basic sanitation). Others, not so much. Measles is airborne, so water and sewage treatment does not have much of an effect.

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