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Jacob Dickerman Headshot

Vaccine Denial = Scientific Illiteracy

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Last time I wrote about this subject, I made it too subtle. I thought that deliberately tagging both David Kirby and Jenny McCarthy, titling it "to David and Jenny, with Love", and then writing about how a woman's "mommy instinct" got her to kill an unarmed black man with no evidence of harm was a funny, but subtle way to point out that really, folks like David Kirby and Jenny McCarthy are just scientific illiterates, pointing fingers at whatever they can, even though thimerosal was removed from the childhood vaccination schedule in 2001 and rates of autism diagnosis have not slowed at all. This time, as you may have noticed, I have abandoned subtlety.

Here's the cusp of the matter. These guys scream, "You're giving mercury to my kids!!! ARRRRRRGGGGGGGHHHHH!!!!" but when scientists stop giving vaccines with thimerosal to children, the anti-vaccination crowd goes "You're giving aluminum to my kids!!! AAARRRRRRRRRAAAARRRRRRRAGHHHH!!!!" And it doesn't matter that the aluminum is part of the chemistry that makes the vaccine work better, and it doesn't matter that their kid gets less aluminum from vaccines than they do from that hippy-dippy soy baby formula shit they put into their stomachs because Mommy's afraid of making cows cry. These guys will not be happy until the syringe is filled with water. Because for them, it will always be the fault of the vaccines. It doesn't matter what the science says, because these people don't care about science. Their argument is purely ideological, and does not belong in any discussion of scientific, medical, or political policy.

Let's take a hypothetical look at the anti-vaccination mindset. Imagine now that I live in Harlem for years, and am robbed multiple times, and every time I am I say, "It's the blacks." Now, most of my neighbors are black, it's not an entirely improbable thing that the people who are robbing me again and again are black, I'm probably saying that because I'm a racist, but you can't really be sure and I'm not necessarily wrong. So then I move to Greenpoint. And in Greenpoint, I am repeatedly robbed, day after day and every time I am, I say, "it's the Polish." Once again, most of my neighbors are Polish, so it's not entirely unreasonable to assume that when I am getting robbed multiple times every week, it's the Polish people around me that are doing it. So I move to Washington Heights, where I am robbed repeatedly and of course whenever I am, I tell people, "It's the Dominicans." But a pattern is starting to emerge and my friends point it out to me, and so I tell them "It's the minorities." And so eventually, when I move to Riverdale, surround myself with Orthodox Jews, and am repeatedly robbed day in and out, I tell people "It's the minorities." And it makes sense to me. And by sticking to these guns, I get to ignore the facts that my roommate is a crack addict and that in all my time living in New York City, I've never learned that I should lock my door.

There has been ONE doctor - ONE REAL DOCTOR - on their side. He was the guy who started it, Andrew Wakefield. And recently, it's been shown that he was full of shit. Kirby's last blog post took a crack at Brian Deer's article on Wakefield, but here's the thing. If Brian Deer is right on this thing in any way at all, then at the very least Wakefield is a crummy scientist, and given how little anything that Wakefield's done has been verified by anyone else, Brian Deer probably has his facts straight.

I don't think it's easy to be the parent of an autistic kid. Honestly, I have nothing against these parents. They're in an awful situation and I'm sorry for what happened to their kid. But to think that the solution is to boycott vaccines, to the point that we have horrible, brain altering diseases like Hib coming back, to the point where there's still fucking Polio in the world - if these anti-vaccine activists had been around fifty years ago, we'd still have Smallpox (it hadn't yet been fully taken out by 1960). Do you know how badly we got fucked by Smallpox? This shit was legendary. Incredibly infectious, 25-30 percent who got it died, the rest were scarred, often blinded, and disabled by it for the rest of their lives. Look up the history of this country during the revolutionary war, body-count given to the Brits is insignificant compared to how many of us were dying from a disease which today, we don't have to worry about, because of the advance of medicine.

Are vaccines harmless? Well, for most of us -- yes. There is a small (TINY) percentage of the population that can't have vaccines, immune-compromised kids, and a very small number of people for whom the vaccines will in fact have a detrimental effect. And by pushing forward their campaign to throw an ideological penny onto science's tracks, these parents and advocates are hurting those kids too. See, those kids... they can't have immunizations, and so the only thing keeping them from getting sick is that enough of their little friends have gotten those shots, making it statistically unlikely that the non-immunized kids will get these illnesses. Viruses don't thrive in a vacuum, it's called herd immunity, and without it those little kids - you know, the ones who's immune systems are screwed up and can't get the benefit of childhood vaccines - they'd probably be dead. In the UK, the original home of Wakefield and still a bigger part of the anti-vaccine movement than the states (don't worry! We can still catch up! USA! USA!), many of these childhood ailments are already making a comeback, and we have small spots in the states where it's happening too. Thank you, vaccine denialists, for saving our kids.

The science is in. Children are exposed to more new pathogens on a daily basis than the entirety of what they're given in their vaccination schedule, you get more formaldehyde into your body from the paint on your walls, and even if it was still in the childhood vaccination schedule (which it's not), the amount of mercury in thimerosal is orders of magnitude below what it would take to actually damage your brain. Vaccines do not cause autism. Measles, Mumps, and Rubella are not diseases we should let come back. Allowing these "green our vaccines" Evidence of Harm "Mercury Militia" people to have their pre-scientific crap pollute our public discourse is retarding our nation's health, and we can't stand for it anymore.

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