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In which pro-vaccine advocates are inappropriately portrayed as frenzied, self-righteous “zealots”

One of the odd things about having been a blogger as long as I have been is that, occasionally, posts that I wrote years ago rise up to bite me long after I’ve forgotten that I even wrote them. Actually, that’s usually not the right way to put it. Blogging is a very short term activity in that most posts are very ephemeral. They’re usually (but not always) about something immediate, of the moment. Don’t get me wrong. There are quite a few posts that I’ve written that aren’t so ephemeral and could be read now without reference to the events or news that inspired them and be just as good now as they were then. But most posts are firmly rooted in the moment they were written. Actually, what usually happens is that someone finds and old post of mine, is offended by it or otherwise unhappy, and then writes an article or a blog post in response.

So it was yesterday, when a post from three years ago was resurrected for the sake of complaining about how very, very unfair and mean I am about antivaccinationists and how I should never, ever have called a man by the name of Mark Largent “clueless” even though what he wrote was, in fact, evidence of cluelessness. Those of you who’ve followed the antivaccine movement along with me for a while will know, upon seeing the title of the article (What if not all parents who question vaccines are foolish and anti-science?, with the subtitle It is not completely unreasonable for parents to ask about safety concerns) just how problematic its contents likely will be. The first indication that the author of the post is attacking a straw man is right there in the very title! No one, least of all I, says that all (or even most) parents who doubt vaccines are antiscience and antivaccine. Rather, we recognize that the leaders of the antivaccine movement tend to be profoundly antiscience because science doesn’t support their antivaccine views. Indeed, I long ago lost track of how many times I’ve said this and added that it is at the fence sitters and the parents who have doubts that I aim my deconstructions of antivaccine pseudoscience. I don’t blame the author of this piece, Alice Dreger, for not reading some of the other posts I’ve written on the subject. No one expects that. But it would have been nice if she actually read the post that she uses as an example of “pro-vaccine zealots” supposedly mindlessly label all parents who express doubts about vaccines as “antivaccine,” because nowhere in that post do I recognize her characterization of my arguments.

Indeed, Dreger arguably missed the point entirely when I pointed out that the fears of vaccines are almost always rooted in pseudoscience. They are, but, as I’ve pointed out more times than I can remember, to someone who is not knowledgeable enough about the topic to recognize the pseudoscience, those irrational pseudoscientific arguments seem rational. If you mistakenly believe the misinformation, it is rational, based on what you know, to start to fear vaccines. It’s concept I’ve referred to as “misinformed consent” not to vaccinate. If you start to believe the misinformation of the antivaccine movement claiming that vaccines are dangerous and that they don’t work that well, then of course you’re going to start to become worried and fearful! That’s what we’re fighting, the misinformation that poisons the decision-making process of these parents who are vaccine-averse!

Let’s take a look at Dreger’s complaints. Before she launches into her harangue directed at me (and other skeptics who battle antivaccine pseudoscience), she very explicitly (and defensively) tries to inoculate herself against charges of being “antivaccine” by holding up her 15 year old son as an example, wielding him like a shield by emphasizing that she always kept him “exactly on the vaccination schedule required by our state of Michigan” and bragging that at age 15 he is “fully vaccinated according to public health recommendations.” All of this is well and good, but none of it means that the arguments she makes are a good ones, nor does it necessarily inoculate her against charges of being “antivaccine,” particularly given that she definitely comes across as trying too hard when she goes on to relate how she pesters her doctor about whether there are any vaccines she’s missing and how she got the HPV vaccine, even though it’s not specifically recommended for women in their 40s, because she thought it would give her more authority when she urged young people to get it. After all, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., one of the most vociferous antivaccinationists out there over the last decade, risibly describes himself as “fiercely pro-vaccine” and brags about how he vaccinated all his children—while neglecting to mention that his youngest child was born five years before he started publishing antivaccine articles and likening vaccination to the Holocaust. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think she is antivaccine. Rather, like Largent, she is merely ignorant about the antivaccine movement and a little too enamored of her self-proclaimed “reasonableness” because she’s not a “zealot.”

This brings her to the crux of her complaint:

But I suspect all that testimony won’t matter given what else I’m about to say. Because as soon as one questions anything about vaccines – as soon as one expresses any doubt or concern about any vaccine practice – one risks being labelled an “anti-vaxxer”. Or at least represented as a kind of gunrunner to the anti-vax camp.

Or, as Warren Zevon put it and Linda Ronstadt sang it so long ago, Poor, Poor Pitiful Me. Let’s just put it this way. Express pro-vaccine advocacy and criticize antivaccine pseudoscience, and you’ll be labeled a corporate shill, an unfeeling monster who attacks mothers of special needs children, or even downright evil. You might even be subjected to campaigns to get you fired from your job. Oh, wait. I was! On multiple occasions!

This segued into her account of a meeting with Mark Largent, author of Vaccine: The Debate in Modern America, which Dreger describes thusly:

In his work, Largent refuses to take sides with either a) the anti-vaxxers, who think vaccines cause disorders such as autism, or b) the anti-anti-vaxxers – let’s call them the vaccine zealots – who think any parent who resists any vaccination is a dangerous idiot. Even though Largent is easily as “pro-vaccine” and pro-science as I am, among the frenzied zealots his sympathy for resister parents has marked him out as a heretic.

And Dreger wonders why Largent catches flak. She should look no further than her own description of him. Then she should go back and look at what I actually wrote about him in a post whose title should tell you where I’m coming from: Respecting parental concerns versus pandering to antivaccine fears. What pediatricians do when discussing vaccines, even with vaccine-averse parents, is to respect parental concerns and try to address them. What people like Largent and Dreger seem to think we should be doing is to pander to antivaccine fears, as you will see. Ironically, in her post, Dreger even describes an example of how a pediatrician should respect parental concerns even as she’s complaining about a nurse whom she perceived as not doing that. (See below.)

Note the framing of the issue by Dreger. She couldn’t be more blatant (while claiming to be even-handed) if she tried. To Dreger, Largent is oh-so-reasonable because he refuses to take sides between the “antivaxers” who think vaccines cause autism and the “anti-antivaxers,” who are portrayed as being “zealots,” the implication being that they are just as unreasonable as the antivaxers. It’s the appeal to moderation (a.k.a. the fallacy of the golden mean) writ large. Where people like Largent and Dreger go wrong is in the assumptions inherent in this fallacy, which are that (1) extreme positions are never reasonable or correct and (2) the correct answer lies between the two extreme positions somewhere. An excellent example to illustrate the problem with this fallacy can be found here, where an example is provided:

Bob wants to exterminate all the termites in the house. Alice doesn’t want to exterminate them at all. Therefore, the correct course of action is to kill exactly half of the termites.

This is an exaggeration to make a point, of course. Sometimes the “golden mean” will involve killing 75% or 25% of the termites. The point behind the fallacy is that it is never, ever correct in the minds of those appealing to moderation to take one side or the other. Unfortunately for Dreger and Largent, for some questions of science there are actually right and wrong answers. The answer to the “debate” between science and pseudoscience is not halfway between the two. It’s science. This is the fundamental problem with the sorts of arguments Largent and Dreger make.

Also, as I said before, none of this means that one can’t respect parental concerns without compromising on science, but that’s the fundamental false dichotomy on display here. To her, Largent is a brave maverick historian because he “thinks differently”:

Largent also bucks the usual trend among the sometimes self-righteous zealots by refusing to see public-health vaccine recommendations as a purely scientific prescription. In fact, he calls the recommended childhood vaccination schedule “a political artefact” – not a simple blooming of the science but a wrangled set of mandates and recommendations that it is not unreasonable for parents to question.

Which shows that, when it comes to who is and is not “antivaccine,” Dreger is just as clueless as Largent. (Yes, I’m intentionally using that word.) She’s attacking yet another straw man. First of all, no one has said that it’s completely unreasonable for parents to question the recommended vaccine schedule or claim that the CDC-recommended schedule is a “simple blooming of science.” However, when you compare the claims of antivaccine zealots (to steal Dreger’s term shamelessly) with the CDC schedule, only one is supported by science. (Hint: It’s not the claim of antivaccinationists.) In fact, as I read through Dreger’s article, I couldn’t help but thinking of a term I once heard: A pyromaniac in a field of straw men. It’s a good description.

Dreger relates an incident that gives an idea where she’s coming from. Basically, it’s all about the needles and how some health care professionals deal with parents. Dreger starts by lamenting how in the first 18 months of life children receive 25 vaccinations and how that was too much for her, at least, to process:

I remembered with some surprise that I could have reasonably been labelled a “vaccine-anxious parent”. My maternal instinct was riled with every new round of shots and cries and tears: I remembered one particular visit to our paediatrician when my gut instinct had a sharp argument with my brain. I can’t even remember what the vaccine was; I just remember that Gut was yelling, “Enough already! Stand between our baby and that needle!” Trying to stay calm, Brain answered: “Vaccines are safe, and necessary not just for our baby’s health but for the health of those around him, especially children more vulnerable than him . . .”

That one time, I asked the nurse if I could see the written literature on this vaccine. I wanted more information not because I was going to refuse the shot, but because I wanted Brain to shut Gut up. She looked shocked and annoyed and told me testily that there wasn’t any information available. The jab was just compulsory.

No pamphlet in the box, for parents? I asked.

No, she said.

I suddenly regretted even asking. Would I be labelled a “worried” mother, or worse, a “non-compliant” one?

At this point the doctor came in the room and addressed her fears, printing out information sheets about the vaccine. In other words, she encountered what sounds like an impatient nurse, who might have been a bit more snippy than she should have been with a patient’s mother. Then the doctor came in and was more patient and allayed her fears. I’m sure scenes like this play out in pediatricians’ offices all over the country. And who knows? If the doctor isn’t effective in allaying the fears or isn’t as understanding as Dreger’s pediatrician was, they probably contribute to antivaccine views. Moreover, contrary to Dreger’s straw man portrayal, it is also these parents that I’m worried about because they are the very ones who are susceptible to the blandishments and pseudoscience promoted by the antivaccine movement. They’re the ones who have doubts that can be inflamed by the misinformation promoted by the likes of Jenny McCarthy.

Largent and Deger go especially wrong in giving way too much benefit of the doubt to a leader of the antivaccine movement. I’m referring, of course, to Jenny McCarthy, whom Largent doesn’t label as an “antivaxer.” That, of course, is truly clueless as well. I’ve discussed on many occasions how Jenny McCarthy’s claim that she is “not antivaccine” but rather is “pro-vaccine safety” is disingenuous and not convincing (it is, after all, one of many antivaccine tropes), and her knowledge of science that she uses to justify her antivaccine views is epically woeful. Let me quote Jenny McCarthy again:

People have the misconception that we want to eliminate vaccines. Please understand that we are not an antivaccine group. We are demanding safe vaccines. We want to reduce the schedule and reduce the toxins. If you ask a parent of an autistic child if they want the measles or the autism, we will stand in line for the fucking measles.

If that’s not antivaccine, I don’t know what is. So is this post by Laura Hayes, hot off the presses on the antivaccine crank blog Age of Autism, in which she asks questions like:

  • What mother willingly poisons her own child?
  • What mother would allow something that could cause cancer, say asbestos, to be injected into her child?
  • What mother would allow something that could cause life-altering and life-threatening asthma and allergies to be injected into her child?
  • What mother would allow something that could kill her baby to be injected into her otherwise healthy child?
  • So then, what mother willingly poisons her child with the vaccines recommended by our nation’s CDC, which are then mandated by the state in which she lives?

And then she makes it very clear:

Please help stop this vaccine madness, this vaccine holocaust against our children.

In case you think she doesn’t know how ridiculous her exaggeration is or what the Holocaust was, she defines it parenthetically:

(The definition of a holocaust is destruction or slaughter on a mass scale, which is exactly the effect that our nation’s vaccine program is having.)

There’s another post on the very same day (today) that very much like that by William Gaunt entitled The Elephant in the Living Room. The post is built around a metaphor involving a two-year-old child found in the living room with his head crushed. In the room there is also an elephant whose “hooves” are dripping with blood. This happens as the police are examining the crime scene:

The younger detective says, “What about the elephant? It seems clear that…” His older partner interrupts him and takes him aside. He says, “If you want to keep your job, you will disregard the elephant as a suspect. It is an absolute career killer to accuse an elephant of anything bad. The CDC has funded several scientific studies which show that elephants are safe and effective and above reproach. Take it from me, you don’t want to go there. We can come up with any cockamamie story we want but it is totally politically incorrect to even mention the possibility that the elephant had any role in this child’s death.” The younger detective said, “Sorry. I didn’t know.”

That’s right. To this naturopath, using a metaphor in which vaccination is likened to an elephant crushing a toddler’s head but not being suspected because of a religious or ideologic belief that the elephant can’t do anything wrong is perfectly “reasonable.” And you know what? That post on AoA sounds not unlike what Dreger is claiming when she accuses us “vaccine zealots” of this:

But as Largent has been learning, you can’t say these things. You have to subscribe to vaccine exceptionalism – vaccines are all necessary, safe and effective and should never be questioned! – or risk being crushed. In the zealots’ eyes, in the battle to vaccinate the world, moderates must be crushed so that children can be saved.

It’s eerie how much Dreger sounds like Gaunt, isn’t it? Hers is exactly the same complaint as Gaunt’s (that you can’t criticize vaccines, no matter what), minus Gaunt’s nauseating dead child metaphor.

Elephants aside, what would Largent or Deger call someone like Hayes, who likens the vaccine program to the Holocaust and means it. She’s not alone among these “vaccine-averse” parents, either. As I alluded to above, no less a luminary of the antivaccine movement, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. has used that very same analogy at least twice that I know of. RFK, Jr. is not alone, either. Perhaps the most offensive example of this sort of behavior comes from Heather Barajas, one of these “vaccine averse” parents, who unironically donned a badge with a syringe with a red line through it and juxtaposed that image with Jews during the Holocaust being forced to wear a badge with a yellow Star of David on it. Indeed, I have a whole running series of posts called Annals of “I’m not antivaccine” in which I’ve documented these “vaccine averse” parents likening vaccines to human trafficking, rape, and other evil as varied as the Oklahoma City bombing and the sinking of the Titanic. This series has been going on for five years now and is up to installment #17, with no sign of running out of material. I could go on and on if I want to.

I wonder whether Largent or Dreger has ever asked one of these “vaccine averse” parents like Jenny McCarthy or one of the merry band of antivaccinationists at, say, Age of Autism or The Thinking Moms’ Revolution a couple of very simple questions:

  • Is there a vaccine that you consider safe and effective enough to give to your child? (The answer will either be no or consist of dodging the question.)
  • What would it take to demonstrate to you that vaccines are safe and effective? (The answer will inevitably be levels of evidence not attainable in the real world.)

That’s because, as I point out from time to time, aside from a few refreshingly honest and self-aware antivaccine zealots, no one wants to be perceived as “antivaccine.” So antivaccinationists tell themselves that they aren’t “antivaccine” but rather “pro-vaccine safety” in order to deflect that charge.

Not surprisingly, Dreger, as pro-vaccine as she is, can’t resist agreeing with certain antivaccine tropes. She points to the varicella vaccine as unnecessary because chickenpox is a “a minor disease for most healthy children.” (Don’t mind those kids who suffer encephalitis or secondary infections.) Yes, it’s uncommon, but Dreger seems to be echoing the appeal to The Brady Bunch argument, which downplays the seriousness of measles based on an old sitcom, only with a different disease. She goes on and on about pharmaceutical company influence (yawn). She cites the anthrax vaccine as an example of an unsafe vaccine, as if public health scientists and physicians don’t weigh the risk-benefit ratios of the various vaccines in the pediatric schedule, which by any stretch of the imagination are incredibly safe.

Make no mistake, Dreger paints pro-vaccine advocates as being fanatics. She uses the word “zealot” repeatedly to describe them, adding to them on occasion the descriptors “frenzied” and “self-righteous.” I respond, at least to the charge of self-righteousness: Pot. Kettle. Black. Dreger’s article oozes self-righteousness out of every paragraph. Just look at the way she repeatedly takes great pains to contrast herself and Largent to those self-righteous frenzied pro-vaccine zealots, painting them as being unfairly attacked for daring to be different and speak The Truth because those damned vaccine zealots are too dogmatic to be able to see that they really are pro-vaccine. In Dreger’s mind, she and Largent are clearly oh-so-reasonable (and therefore oh-so-superior to those of us who take a stand), while “pro-vaccine zealots” (like me and, presumably, many of my readers) are fanatics who subscribe to a black and white view of everything and view her and Largent (who, of course, can see the “shades of gray”) as “heretics” against what she refers to as the “deeply embedded dogma.”

Indeed, I find it amusing how much she complains about my language when her post drips with language every bit as loaded as anything I’ve ever written. I mean, seriously. Her whole point in this article is to portray us as religious zealots, the implication being that our beliefs are more akin to religion than science. This leads me to ask: Is it any less hard core to portray someone you disagree with as a self-righteous zealot subscribing to unscientific beliefs who can’t see shades of gray than it is simply to label someone clueless about the realities of how the antivaccine movement operates? I say no. In fact, I ask you to go back and read my original article. See if you don’t agree that, in many ways (other than the use of the word “clueless” to describe Mark Largent in one paragraph), its language is more nuanced and less loaded than Dreger’s article. Let’s just put it this way. If she thinks that we don’t know that vaccine guidelines are not pure science or that public health recommendations involve making hard tradeoffs, it is she who needs an education.

In the end, Dreger’s problem is obvious to me. She doesn’t seem able to properly differentiate between real vaccine-averse parents, whom those of us who are pro-vaccine completely sympathize with, from the hard core antivaccine movement whose face has been Jenny McCarthy. While it’s true that the line between the two is not always a sharp one, Dreger seems all too willing bend over backward to draw the line deep in antivaccine territory, to the point where she is willing to agree with Largent that Jenny McCarthy is not antivaccine. As I point out frequently, the normal run-of-the-mill vaccine-averse parent isn’t antivaccine, but she does have fears. These fears often flow from the same primal instincts that led Dreger to recoil at having her baby stuck with needles, but they are stoked by the pseudoscientific propaganda promoted in the media by Jenny McCarthy and multiple antivaccine blogs, websites, Facebook pages, and Twitter accounts.

Dreger mentions an observation by Largent that the number of hard core antivaccinationists (the ones who refuse all vaccines) has remained steady at around 3% for the last century (as if we don’t know this), further noting that he doesn’t include “people who resist particular vaccines or who deviate from the mandated schedules.” What Dreger doesn’t seem to recognize is that we don’t count those people as antivaccine either. We worry about them because they are the ones influenced by the hard core antivaccinationists, who, thanks to the Internet, have far more easy outlets to spread their misinformation and stoke the fears of these parents about specific vaccines. It is not these parents at whom our criticism is primarily aimed. It’s at the 3% who make up the population who maintain blogs like Age of Autism, publish books like Thimerosal: Let the Science Speak: The Evidence Supporting the Immediate Removal of Mercury–a Known Neurotoxin–from Vaccine make movies like The Greater Good, and publish false antivaccine research like Mark and David Geier or Andrew Wakefield.

And, no, we do not hold back when attacking these antivaccinationists.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

193 replies on “In which pro-vaccine advocates are inappropriately portrayed as frenzied, self-righteous “zealots””

On our favorite hive this AM, there is a post by one Dr. William H. Gaunt, a retired naturopath, who compares vaccination to a rogue elephant with hooves dripping with blood. People like Gaunt are embraces by the hard-core antivaxers because that is what they really believe.

Spot on, Orac. Self-righteous columns like Dreger’s (which also plugs her new book (“Galileo’s Middle Finger: Heretics, Activists, and the Search for Justice in Science”) ) feed the false middle ground between the solid science of vaccination and the pseudoscientific nonsense of anti-vaccinationists. In that sense Dreger stand in this “middle” with the likes of Largent and Drs. Gordon and Sears. That “middle” unfortunately creates a bridge which allows anti-vaccinationists to convince well-meaning parents into not vaccinating their children–and for that I truly despise those in this “middle” at least as much if not more than those who are 100% anti-vaccine. Those who create this “middle” do so either out of some misguided sense of justice (with “justice” being (to me) wrongly-placed word in the title of Dreger’s book as science is not at all about “justice”) or purely for profit and fame (i.e. Sears and Gordon, those two glory-hounding quacks responsible for the low vaccination rates in Southern California which triggered the Disneyland measles outbreak).

Those who work to create this “middle” in the false “debate” on vaccination deserve attack as well, both for an ignorance of science that’s almost on par with that of antivaccinationists, as well as being “gunrunners” (or “bridge builders”) for antivaccinationists.

On our favorite hive this AM, there is a post by one Dr. William H. Gaunt, a retired naturopath, who compares vaccination to a rogue elephant with hooves dripping with blood. People like Gaunt are embraces by the hard-core antivaxers because that is what they really believe.

Great minds think alike. As you were writing that comment, I noticed that post on AoA and added a couple of brief paragraphs to note how eerie the similarities between a passage in Dreger’s article on how antivaxers must be “crushed” and Gaunt’s post. Go back and take a look. 🙂

Hayes et al. demonstrate why Godwin coined his eponymous law. And let us recall the convention stated in that law: the party that brings up the Nazi analogy is considered to have lost.

Of course there are areas of medical science which are subject to debate, and I’m sure Orac and others actively debate these subjects at conferences. Vaccination is not one of these areas. We know that vaccines prevent certain diseases which are known to have nasty effects, up to and including death. We also recognize that certain individuals (far fewer in number than the AoA types want us to think) cannot or should not be vaccinated, and we provide ways for these people to be exempted from vaccine mandates, but we vaccinate as many others as we can to provide these people with herd immunity. If somebody thinks they have a better way of implementing the goal of preventing these diseases, we might be able to talk, but for now vaccines are the best available tools, and the burden of proof is on the people claiming to have a better method.

[Dreger] also plugs her new book (“Galileo’s Middle Finger: Heretics, Activists, and the Search for Justice in Science”)

From bad to worse. They laughed at Galileo. They laughed at Einstein. They laughed at Bozo the clown.

In his work, Largent refuses to take sides with either a) the anti-vaxxers, who think vaccines cause disorders such as autism, or b) the anti-anti-vaxxers – let’s call them the vaccine zealots – who think any parent who resists any vaccination is a dangerous idiot.

To paraphrase some guy from long ago, “Upon this strawman I will build my argument.”

Writers like Dreger and Largent are particularly annoying because they do burn a whole lot of straw to portray themselves as paragons of balance. I wonder if they would lend such false balance to issues that they had more familiarity with but didn’t agree with a “particular side”.

I’m not sure why refusing to take sides might be presented as a positive attribute here. It is desirable in judges and referees, but when faced with an important issue which requires a decision we are to admire the man who votes ‘Don’t Know’? Surely a reasonable person learns all they can and makes their best judgement rather than simply refusing to have an opinion.

Today’s abhorrent post on Age of Flatulism by Mr. Gaunt is the type of burning stupid that I think only a few parents would buy into if there were none of these “middles” like Dreger who mistakenly think antivaccinationists must have something of merit if only because their numbers are growing and they’ve learned how to make pretty web sites.

There is an elephant standing near the body. It’s hooves are dripping with blood.

Yet more evidence that Mr. Gaunt is rather disconnected from reality: elephants do not have hooves.

Actually at least one group of anti-vaxxers- TMR- is taking pains to insure that they aren’t perceived by readers as wild-eyed rebels, despite their name and the general direction of their activism, incessantly flailing towards paradigm shift.

The Prof, Zoey O’Toole- who sat in for MacNeil- ran the Writers’ Workshop, instructing would-be bloggers to be very careful by not insulting their audience with snark, not defaming anyone, by appealing especially to readers who are ‘on the fence’ AND by always presenting reliable evidence for claims they make. They should ‘tone it down’.

Now it may be PURELY a coincidence, but after viewing perhaps 8 of their videos over a few days I seem to have developed a headache and ear problem as if my innermost being were crying out for relief: “Please don’t subject me to that nonsense any more!”

SO I’ll take a rest from videos since I’ve already spoken out..

Funny, but that advice sure doesn’t seem to have seeped into the TMR hive mind.

Of course, their idea of “evidence” involves the purest pseudoscience. They do, after all, seem to have a thing for homeopathy and reiki, in addition to their antivaccine proclivities.

I despise the middles. The seemingly thoughtful, reasonable middles. The Dregers of the world represent about 90% of the anti-vax parents I’ve encountered. The other 10%, the hardliners, they are either a. so far off the wagon trail that few people outside of their own kind find them to be even remotely credible or b. raving paranoiacs.

The middles, they’re just looking for common ground! They’re just asking questions, you guys.

True. In fact in their “recovery panel”, homeopathy and GFCF/ MAPS dietary woo were the treatments most frequently mentioned. We should remember that their sisterhood also includes a channel, Laura Hirsh( Oracle) and a [email protected] curebie, Thalia Michelle ( Tex)

What’s so wrong with compromising between pro and anti-vaccine views?

Just give half the recommended vaccines. Or at half the recommended dosage. What’s the problem?

Similarly, to counter fears of too much antibiotic use, just give antibiotics to half the people who develop a serious infection. Or halve the dose.

When you have experts recommending a course of action and those uneducated in the field recommending another path, split things right down the middle and go with what mediocre minds are saying. There’s nothing wrong with mediocrity, as that great sage Roman Hruska once told us.

They’re just asking questions, you guys.

There is a fairly obvious (to people who know colloquial English) but NSFW line that applies to these folks.

instructing would-be bloggers to be very careful by … always presenting reliable evidence for claims they make

Which will happen approximately when hell freezes over. If the “Thinking Moms” had any reliable evidence, we would have seen it by now.

“My maternal instinct was riled with every new round of shots and cries and tears: ” and this is why I no longer take my husband with us when the toddler is due for an immunization. The crying is just too much; even his son was giving him weird looks.

“What would it take to demonstrate to you that vaccines are safe and effective? (The answer will inevitably be levels of evidence not attainable in the real world.)”

This really stood out for me, because these folks are willing to use all of their naturopathic/homeopathic (or worse, things like MMS) which have NEVER been tested, and certainly wouldn’t meet their high standards if they were. Think about it – they would put bleach in their child’s colon before they would use a vaccine which has decades of safety testing, on MILLIONS of people, behind it. Amazing.

Also, the elephant in our living room isn’t dripping blood, She’s coated in cookie crumbs. She’s been my18mo son’s bff for a whole year so he shares.

@#18 Thank you for the best laugh I’ve had all week.

One thing I’ve found about the middles is that it’s about elitism fueled by narcissism, to a certain extent. I had one delayed/select Mom tell me that “I exclusively breastfeed, I don’t do daycare, I don’t take my babies out to Walmart, I’m confident in my vaccine choices.” I have heard several variations on this theme from upper-middle class Moms in describing their “thoughtful” vaccine decisions.

In other words, my choices, which are inherently superior, are what will protect my child from, let’s say, an airborne VPD. I am able to make choices that separate me from the great unwashed, and these choices confer protective benefits.

One thing I’ve found about the middles is that it’s about elitism fueled by narcissism, to a certain extent.

Indeed. and self-righteousness, wherein there is clearly assumed to be not just intellectual superiority (“I’ve considered both sides and taken a middle ground, unlike those zealots”), but moral superiority in not being on one of the “extremes,” and, above all, in being so very, very “civil.”

Delphine @21 —

I don’t take my babies out to Walmart,

Because “everyone knows” that people who shop at WalMart are unclean.

Ugh, As the Onion reminds us, stereotypes are a real time saver.

Demodocus @20 — That’s adorable! (Or as my daughter would have said when she was little, “a doorbell!)

Those were her words, verbatim. She can afford to make different choices. Her “middle” vaccine position is just another lifestyle choice designed to show the world she’s privileged.

She had no idea that you actually had to be immune to a VPD in order to confer benefits to the fetus/baby via the placenta/breastmilk. “I wasn’t aware of that, but I do know there are a lot of good things in breastmilk that can’t be replicated…”

Orac, at Delphinette’s preschool, there’s a child who attends sporadically due to the fact that she is recovering from leukemia. She is not UTD on her vaccines at this point. Every other child, save one, is UTD.

One parent refuses to immunize for varicella, because in her words, “I have done the other vaccines, but chicken pox is not a big deal and the shot hasn’t been around long enough for me.”

This preschool is a co-op, parents met to discuss, and determined that the child would either need to be immunized for varicella, or leave the preschool. The parent reacted by asking why we can’t all just work this out. She was very civil, very polite. She expressed a great deal of surface empathy for the sick child. She refused to get her own child a safe shot that could prevent this sick child from suffering serious illness or even death. But she’s very reasonable.

I am disappointed at her definition of vaccine zealotry, A vaccine zealot would probably be a person who believes that there are no allergies to ingredients in vaccines and that people with certain kinds of cancer should also get vaccines. This is because a zealot would always think vaccines were safe regardless of the studies just as anti-vaccine people think vaccines cause negative side effects despite all the studies.

Funnily enough, last week my therapist and I were discussing my tendency to try and define things in black-and-white terms. “You have to learn to cope with the fact that most of life is made up of gray areas” she said. I responded, “Sure, but if you look at those gray areas real close, you often find that they’re actually made up of black and white pixels.” I was only half joking – I think a lot of the time the invocation of “gray areas” or “lets agree to disagree” is used as an excuse to avoid looking at an issue more closely, whether out of laziness, to avoid conflict, or out of fear of having to change one’s views in light of new information.

I was going to say that Dreger’s position is similar to the Old Testament’s King Solomon, but it’s not really a good analogy. She’s similar in that she is essentially calling for the baby (vaccine schedule/policy) to be cut in half, but that’s where she stops. Her position doesn’t follow through to the end, where the liar is revealed.

You know, it just occurred to me. I knew I had heard of Dreger before, other than a brief mention on my blog a long time ago in an unrelated post. (Search for it if you’re curious.) She’s the professor who live-Tweeted her son’s abstinence-based sex ed class:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2015/04/17/what-happened-when-a-medical-professor-live-tweeted-her-sons-sex-ed-class-on-abstinence/

http://www.thestranger.com/features/feature/2015/04/15/22062331/i-sat-in-on-my-sons-sex-ed-class-and-i-was-shocked-by-what-i-heard

One parent refuses to immunize for varicella, because in her words, “I have done the other vaccines, but chicken pox is not a big deal and the shot hasn’t been around long enough for me.”

Funny you should mention that – just today I learned that Japan was using the varicella vaccine for 30+ years before the FDA would approve it. They wanted to see if it would make vaccinated adults more susceptible to shingles before they let it be used in the U.S. Apparently, vaccines in general are easier to get licensed in European countries (plus Japan), so most of the vaccines we use in the U.S. were used in Europe first.

@Sarah A

Well, IIRC, varicella vaccine was developed by the Japanese, so it makes sense before it gained widespread use in the U.S. And I think your numbers may be slightly off. It was approved in Japan around 1988 and in the U.S. in 1995.

Re Delphine’s patient @ 21

I don’t take my babies out to Walmart

In 2015, more people came down with measles contracted at Disneyland than at Walmart.

And being “confident in my vaccine choices” isn’t going to help her much when her entire delayed vaccine playgroup ends up with pertussis or chickenpox.

You know, it just occurred to me. I knew I had heard of Dreger before, other than a brief mention on my blog a long time ago in an unrelated post. (Search for it if you’re curious.) She’s the professor who live-Tweeted her son’s abstinence-based sex ed class:

Well that doesn’t sound very balanced to me and completely unfair to the teacher who firmly believes in abstinence-only sex education who is unfairly being branded a heretic by Ms. Dreger. Why it’s almost as if Ms. Dreger is rather zealous about this issue.

@Todd W.

I was just repeating what one of my professors said in class – I should have looked it up first but I wanted to mention it before 50 more comments were put up and it was no longer relevant. Apparently the vaccine was initially developed in 1974 – so I guess he meant that they were waiting to see if the adults used in the early clinical trials were more susceptible to shingles before licensing it (that’s still only 20 years, though – I wonder if he was thinking about the 2006 ACIP recommendation that added the second dose to the routine schedule.)

It’s been fascinating learning about vaccine development from people working in different aspects of the field, but it’s also frustrating because they’re often speaking from experience so there’s either no source or the source is some obscure, not-terribly-informative technical document. I’m trying to distill everything I’m learning into a sort of “vaccine development for dummies” version that I can use to refute the antivax trope that vaccines aren’t regulated or studied thoroughly enough, etc. My favorite example so far: not only are there SOPs for every aspect of the clinical trials right down to using a pipette, there are actually SOPs for writing SOPs!

We work hard in law school to teach our students to see and anticipate the arguments the other side will make, because in legal context there will be a different view, and understanding their argument is often crucial to being able to respond to them – or knowing when to cede. But what Orac is highlighting so well is that understanding what the other side says and understanding there is another dude making argument does not automatically translate into thinking those arguments are correct or have merit. Sometimes, only one side has merit – and one of the thing we also want to teach students is to identify those situation and know when there’s no argument because good lawyers also need to be able to advise clients when there is no case and they shouldn’t waste time and money on a doomed claim.

This author seems to have missed those latter parts. I liked Orac’s termite analogy.

I’ve also recently been explaining gravity to my son, not yet five, and I think that’s another example: if I was willing to treat my son’s view that maybe if he gets the right costume he will be able to fly up, we would have a problem.

From his point of view, given TV shows etc’ it’s not unreasonable. It’s just clearly wrong, and accepting it would be dangerous. No middle ground.
Here neither.

Slightly off topic, except that it’s about an anti-vax zealot. Regarding the recent finding from UVA, published online and soon in print in Nature, showing that the lymphatic system is directly connected to the brain http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-06/uovh-mlf052915.php#.VWzrrUM7T6Y.mailto :

The science has already been slaughtered by VRM, aka Vaccine Resistant Movement (“We Won’t Get Fooled Again”).
http://vaccineresistancemovement.org/?page_id=14408

I fear this is just the beginning of the pseudoscience to be tortured out of this discovery.

That elephant/ crushed head metaphor bothers me:
alright, it IS disgusting but so [email protected] unsubtle as well.

It reminds me so much of metaphors, analogies and embarrassingly impotent attempts at scathing sarcasm / targetted joking by various woo-meisters and anti-vax mothers whom we all know and love.

Just hit readers over the head with your overwrought comparisons will you?. These folks believe that vaccines cause ASDs which are – to them- brain damage so the metaphor uses the physical image of a crushed head to imply autism. Yiiiii.

We know that kids’ writing/ creative efforts go from the very physical like slapstick comedy to -eventually- more verbal and finely honed, articulated usage of language and imagery. Obviously a shift occurs around the time of adolescence with the development of abstraction in formal operations/ executive functioning in the symbolic realm, Not everyone gets to that level, AS we know all too well.

Think a little about Mikey’s well-known cartoons or jokes: why does he always aim for the most obvious or most outlandish example he can find? Why is it always N-azis?
Why is it always poisons being injected into innocents?
Now he claims to have ‘aced’ educational testing as a teenager ( see Health Ranger bio) so why does he sound so incredibly childish? People who have high scores on verbal tests should as a matter of course be able to create more subtle and appropriate expressions.

But he doesn’t. And neither does Gary Null, who unceasingly reminds us of his genius and great erudition as he blithely mispronounces common words and malapropises wildly.

Occasionally, hyperbole can be effective in jest but seriously, these people have little else at their disposal.

And don’t we all judge a person’s abilities based upon how they speak and write? There’s a reason for that..

@ Delphine:
Ha!
But by now you should know that ADULTS should be living on juices- mostly green, loaded with ground nuts, berries and superfoods- and not ever eat anymore.

For some parents, saying you’re going to Disney is worse than admitting you let your child drink juice.

I’ll admit to some sympathy to this point of view, but it’s not so much the sort of people who go to Disney[1] as Disney fatigue on my part. I grew up in Florida, so Disney World was the standard out-of-town trip, and I’d be happy if I never visited Disney World again. And fruit juice, like so many other comestibles, is something that’s fine in moderation–just don’t overdo it.

Sometimes, only one side has merit

I’m sure you’ve heard this old saying. When the law is on your side, pound on the law. When the facts are on your side, pound on the facts. When neither is on your side, pound on the table. It’s similar in science, except that the law and the facts normally coincide in science.

it IS disgusting but so [email protected] unsubtle as well

This is the kind of person who uses, with a perfectly straight face, the Holocaust analogy — what else can we expect?

I’ve also recently been explaining gravity to my son, not yet five, and I think that’s another example: if I was willing to treat my son’s view that maybe if he gets the right costume he will be able to fly up, we would have a problem.

When I was a kid, I received one of these for Christmas. I remember it well. What I don’t remember is what followed, i.e., the eyewitness reports that I was inconsolable after it did not actually allow flight.

It’s always the same.

Every crackpot begins by swearing to his love of Science. Every antivaxxer wails that his own children were vaccinated.

It’s just that he has questions. Maybe more research is needed – is that unreasonable to wonder? What if this, what if that, what about that horrible thing fifty years ago?

Maybe he has an appealing story to tell, for a few paragraphs, to get you nodding in agreement and to lull your skepticism in slumber, before he slips in a few oddities.

Which, should you fail to bail out that point, leaves you in the company of the True Believers when he goes full bore lunatic and cranks the crazy to eleven.

To agree with Delphine I have also met my share of moms who claim that through their own ‘healthy’ choices their children are magically immune from pathogens. I was not aware that a trip to a Disney park is now equated with the borderline child abuse of letting a kid drink some juice. My husband has been counting down days practically until he gets to take ours to Disneyworld. I also laughed out loud (really) at Demodocus. I sympathize, my husband is extremely (EXTREMELY) needle phobic to the point where I took my son to all of his immunization appointments because the very sight of the needles gave the hubby the screaming heebie jeebies and I didn’t want him to cue small child into screaming. Actually, my son handled most of his injections really well, he really hated being held still, but once the shot was over, and no more restraint he was generally smiling at the nurse before she finished leaving the room. Needles don’t bother me in particular having done two rounds of fertility (each lasting about a year) I have injected myself numerous times, and I am a notoriously hard blood draw. Personal best of four sticks before they found a vein that would hold up. The self-righteous ‘middle ground’ group bothers me as well because really when you are dealing with science there is an answer. I have had the same argument with raw milk middle grounders who think that well it might be a bit risky but its really their choice. No, its a dangerous risky product (lots of data backs this up) and increases illnesses and deaths, so no it should not be legal!

There is an elephant standing near the body. It’s hooves are dripping with blood.
Yet more evidence that Mr. Gaunt is rather disconnected from reality: elephants do not have hooves.

It was probably a PONY.

Orac: ” It is not these parents at whom our criticism is primarily aimed. It’s at the 3% who make up the population who maintain blogs like Age of Autism, publish books like Thimerosal: Let the Science Speak: The Evidence Supporting the Immediate Removal of Mercury–a Known Neurotoxin–from Vaccine make movies like The Greater Good, and publish false antivaccine research like Mark and David Geier or Andrew Wakefield.”

Because this is the result of their efforts:
Parents of diphtheria-stricken boy feel “tricked” by anti-vaccination groups

I knew that silly elephant ‘hoof’ analogy sounded familiar. I came across Dr. Tenpenny spouting something very similar just recently. In this case it is Blue Foot Syndrome, which parents report happens after a frozen turkey is dropped on their child’s foot:

“Tisk, tisk,” says the doctor. “We have proven that frozen turkeys have no link to Blue Foot Syndrome. In a study of more than 4 million kids, the number who developed a blue foot after being struck by a frozen turkey was statistically insignificant. We have determined something else must be causing Blue Foot Syndrome.”

Just as foolish and just as disingenuous as the elephant tale. As if a large epidemiological study would find no link between blunt force trauma and injury.

Because this is the result of their efforts:
Parents of diphtheria-stricken boy feel “tricked” by anti-vaccination groups

Compare and contrast:

Yes, young teenagers that have not received the tetanus shot should be banned from school cause they could give tetanus to the rest of the school.

Hmmmmm, well really.

They thought about that one and combined the whooping cough and diphtheria in with it. Cause Diptheria is still around – right?

blithely mispronounces common words and malapropises wildly.

I was once catching up with a friend after some time, and it turned out he had been dumped by his girlfriend. He said that she had “come up with a whole catalog of malapropisms against me.”

He claims to this day that this was intentional.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again… Anyone who treats vaccines as a sacred cow is not pro-science. In fact, Dr. Paul Offit has voted against some vaccines to be used because they’re just not needed, e.g. the smallpox vaccine. He didn’t make that decision lightly, and I hope no one with his credentials ever does. Instead, a person of science looks at the evidence, weighs the risks and benefits, and then makes the decision. Anti-vaccine people look at false evidence, exaggerate the risks, diminish the benefits, and then not only make the wrong decision for themselves but try to encourage others to make the same wrong decision. What’s the sacred cow then? For them, the sacred cow is vaccine injury. Anyone who questions a vaccine injury is deemed a heretic. That’s not a “middle ground.”

Infectious disease experts: am I correct in thinking that the bacterium Corynebacterium diphtheriae is a common part of the human microbiome, and only causes disease in susceptible individuals? In other words, that it isn’t a candidate for elimination (unlike smallpox, rinderpest, polio, and possibly measles)?

The Pink Book implies that it is endemic in less-industrialized tropical countries.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this Fallacy of the Golden Mean seems to play a significant role in the creation of integrative medicine programs around the country. This trend towared quackademic medicine clearly comes from the misguided belief that there must be something to all these “alternative” approaches to medicine, and we should combine the best of both worlds. Bad logic that leads to the integration of bad science.

@ Ism:

Apparently Ann Dachel is already on the case.

Before long there should be explanations of how this research profoundly affects the microbiome and/or geopolitics courtesy of Conrick and Gamondes, respectively,

@ Liz, C. diphtheriae carriage is common where endemic so not really in the U.S. or Western Europe. The interesting thing about the organism though is that it can acquire a bacteriophage which encodes a tox gene and causes C. diphtheriae to produce the diphtheria toxin. The non-tox strain can also cause illness but pathology is different. But you are correct that it is not going to be eradicated any time soon as it’s a soil microbe too.

Infectious disease experts: am I correct in thinking that the bacterium Corynebacterium diphtheriae is a common part of the human microbiome, and only causes disease in susceptible individuals? In other words, that it isn’t a candidate for elimination (unlike smallpox, rinderpest, polio, and possibly measles)?

IANAIDE. Carter Center (pdf):

Chief obstacles to eradication: Difficult diagnosis; multiple-dose vaccine

Conclusion: Not now eradicable”

PMID 16989265:

“While improved coverage of children in developing countries with diphtheria toxoid has led to progressive decreases in diphtheria; eradication is unlikely in the foreseeable future and gaps in immunity among adult population exist or are developing in many other countries.”

I’d suggest looking into whether the commensals are diphtheroids.

Actually it’s on the schedule that I find it hardest to really argue ‘the case’ for science. That is, I’ve had quite a few conversations with parents who partially vaccinate, but skip one or a few, mainly the lower risk of exposure/consequence (yes I get the hide in the herd problem there) or those which are later or not listed in other countries (can’t remember the specifics – I’m in Australia, and I think UK and Japan have lesser items?)

If seeking to not marginalise or radicalise someone in this camp, it does seem a bit dogmatic to argue for ‘the science’ when countries vary. Or when a particular one – I think hep B at birth – might be justified as due to maternal risks, or in our case, regional travel risks, which make sense as population level advice but not necessarily at an individual level.

From this there is a problem of arguing the middle ground, but I don’t think it’s really so simple an argument as ‘trust the schedule, it’s following the science’. Even if public health professionals are making risk/benefit assessments, these again are population calculations. I can understand for example, parents not taking heb B at birth, but following the rest of the schedule ( and perhaps a little late, not as per following a quack schedule, but accounting for periods of sickness etc)

I have a problem where now the govt here is denying standard tax benefits to parents in such contexts. Firstly, these benefits were never set as part of a social contract of this nature. Secondly, it’s enough to push people to trust the state less, and then move towards the pseudoscience.

Any thoughts on discussing with the vaccine wary in this case?

it does seem a bit dogmatic to argue for ‘the science’ when countries vary

Why would you expect the pediatric vaccine schedule to remain constant when the spectrum of vaccine-preventable diseases varies in populations?

I don’t. But nor am I sufficiently informed to argue the context with any conviction or substance. The vaccine wary parent will assume that another government is more cautious, and perhaps more correct, on the risk side. And I think that is an entirely understandable point of reference.

I think it akin to the differences between USA and Europe in precautionary principle, at least in perception.

Eliot: “I think it akin to the differences between USA and Europe in precautionary principle, at least in perception.”

How about different regions of the USA itself? You bring up HepB, It is a disease that is actually endemic in Asia (that includes teeny tiny children!), and there is a portion of the USA with a great deal of communication and contact with that part of the world. Do you know where that might be? Do you think there might not be contact between preschoolers in that region with other preschoolers who came from where HepB is endemic?

Despite our best efforts, no one has been able to prevent children under age five to not injure themselves so they don’t bleed on other kids. I assume that problem has been solved where you lived… along with making sure persons who live where certain diseases are not endemic do not ever leave your local airports.

What is the name for accusing someone else of doing the thing that you, yourself are doing?

Actually it’s on the schedule that I find it hardest to really argue ‘the case’ for science. That is, I’ve had quite a few conversations with parents who partially vaccinate, but skip one or a few, mainly the lower risk of exposure/consequence (yes I get the hide in the herd problem there) or those which are later or not listed in other countries (can’t remember the specifics – I’m in Australia, and I think UK and Japan have lesser items?)

Eliot, you have posted a thoughtful comment. As brian has stated, different countries have different schedules for different reasons. It is not a science-based decision to pick a countries’ vaccines schedule (say Sweden) for a child living in the U.S. simply because a parent likes it more. The endemicity of diseases is different and the healthcare scheme is different. Parents choosing another countries’ vaccine schedule are not taking such parameters into account because, at the risk of sounding condescending, most parents don’t have the background to consider these factors.

Chris, my point and question was “Any thoughts on discussing with the vaccine wary in this case?”

And this was put in the context of a set of understandable concerns, perceptions and rational (but not fully informed) views.

This is a question about communication style as much as about key points of local context/evidence.

To take the one example…

I understand the contextual risks of HepB contraction (Australia being in Australasia), and thus the reason for it being on the schedule here. I’ve not really convinced anyone of merits on that basis alone however – their focus is not on this point.

Rather it is on:
a) a sense of this alone not justifying a newborn jab for their minutes-old child – who isn’t travelling or going into care any time soon (nor drugs, unprotected sex etc, as per ‘high risk of HepB’ materials)
b) an interest in the risks of the vaccine – based in part on the misinformation of Mercola et al, but bolstered by the fact it’s only on the UK NHS for high risk groups
c) general wariness of the state. with our government I can understand this – they are both anti-libiterian and there has been local vaccine scares before (a flu vax for under fives that caused hospitalisations a few years back in western Australia), which stay in the memory, not in the specifics but in the general sense of a less than adequately managed health system.

So an argument from authority (the health authorities) is not very persuasive in this context. I feel a bit stuck at this point – something I’m expressing here, as, as Orac says, his aim is not to change the minds of the hard liners but the wavering.

I’ve had similar points raised on another vax, can’t remember which, but it isn’t on the Japanese schedule or has been taken off. The parents there aren’t asking whether this was because of lower need for it there, rather they are asking ‘what are Japanese authorities concerned about that ours are ignoring’?

This same set of concerns extends to things like neonics banning in Europe – hence my comparison. Where another government is seen as more balanced/precautious, and thus more trustworthy, it further weakens the ‘argument from authorities’ line.

Thanks for the comment Science Mom. No they don’t have the background – and nor do I, although I’m probably a bit less naive given I’ve spent my reading time here (and I’m not Dunning Kruger enough to call this reading time research!)

My points above about trust of the state are equally relevant to this aspect. when I speak with someone parent to parent, we aren’t debating as public health professionals. These other more nebulous and emotive aspects, like ‘trust’ of the state come into play. Plus it’s not socially appropriate to argue as one might in an online context. I already ruffle feathers in my non-apologetic rubbishing of bad ideas and their purveyors on Facebook!

To cap my points – its the nature of communication style that I’m raising, and reflecting that ‘pro-vax’ are seen as zealots – unable to countenance any variation from the state script – by considered, educated parents (I’m thinking to a conversation with a scientist-parent just last week who said as such).

I sometimes wonder if it’s better, strategically, to duly acknowledge concerns – not as an argument of the false middle ground, but to loose the battle to win the war, so to speak. That is, to increase confidence and trust at the broader scale.

The science is correct, but public policy and public opinion aren’t engaged purely on these grounds.

It’s for these reasons that I think the new Oz government’s tax benefit exemption policy (no jab, no pay) is terrible public policy. I suspect that while further cementing the total anti vaxxers, its more likely to drive people on the fence to the hardline camp, than achieve any real uptake.

My points above about trust of the state are equally relevant to this aspect. when I speak with someone parent to parent, we aren’t debating as public health professionals. These other more nebulous and emotive aspects, like ‘trust’ of the state come into play.

And therein lies (lays? I can’ keep them straight) the problem. For the vax-anxious parents who are made fearful by full-on anti-vaxx contingents, it is difficult to unscare them. There is also another cultural shift which needs to be addressed (how, is another matter) and that is self-entitlement and ignoring the social contract that pervades our first-world society. We could borrow a page from the Netherlands there. There is work to do on that front to keep the fence-sitters from being swayed by nefarious groups but to bring it back to the OP, pushing this false-balance isn’t an effective tactic.

Totally! And the elitism that accompanies the breach of the social contract… (its alright for the sheeple but not for me). Pisses me off no end.

self-entitlement and ignoring the social contract that pervades our first-world society

Ironically, it is the extension of the role of the state in providing welfare that has reduced the awareness of the importance of family and community, and the social contract as a whole. As long as one has to rely on family and the immediate community for help in difficult moments, there was a reason to invest in them. If you need your parents to mind the children, you’re not going to live far away, even if that far away has better job opportunities. When you have your first child post 35, like your mum, your parents (if they’re not living in sunnier climes) are post 70, and probably not the best source of child care. So why would you live/stay close to them especially in a society that believes financial independence (heaven forbid you depend financially on your spouse) is paramount? It’s a tough choice because the state as organiser and provider of social services is exactly what makes a secular, tolerant society possible.

Perhaps on the whole, Bill, but isn’t it in some micro-communities (tree changing areas, home school networks, Steiner schools) where there is a reasonably close-knit community, that we see the very low rates? Or am I playing the stereotype too hard…

More ado about that UVA study Ism linked to above:

it seems that Dan ( AoA, today) believes that he and Mark were aware of that connection YEARS ago-:for they were
” characterizing the cause of autism as a ‘rash on the brain’ from overstimulation of its immune cells due to, for example. the mercury in thimerosal-containing vaccines”
” yeah, we already had the basic idea a lot clearer than the experts”

Then he goes on about vaccine injury from Gardisil reported by the Independent ( UK).

Damn it. I was trying to avoid that study because it doesn’t really say a lot and has been, if anything, supremely overhyped, but I knew eventually the antivaxers would latch on to it.

@ Science Mom:

I would agree about entitlement as well as overly ambitious self-regard *a la* Dunning Kruger.

From my observations, it seems that many in the anti-vax contingent are enamoured of the cult of celebrity. After watching TMs and other presenters at AutismOne, it is only too apparent how much swanning and posturing accompanies their words of wisdom. They even had a red carpet event at their Saturday gala.

They tell their tales of woe dramatically and in great detail, each triumph and tragedy catalogued on facebook, complete with multiple photos and videos. Advice emanates from their vast repertoire of dietary and quasi-medical lore and invitations abound to newcomers to follow their lead. Some of them find nirvana via Skyhorse when their intimate revelations and science are published as books- guides to life and memoires as well as detective novels.

So right, they exude entitlement. I wonder how much is a result of their age group? ( 30s- 60s) And how much of their persevered focus upon their children’s every move is because they HAVE less children usually and have them later. Interestingly, people may have had less children initially because vaccines saved so many.

Then there’s feminism and access to higher education but I won’t address that imbroglio here as I’m a supporter of both despite their imperfection.

OOOOOh. I’m so sorry Orac.

I read Dan’s dreck to rest my brain from the AO videos-
the Kerri Rivera one ( including instructions against recording) was the proverbial straw that broke both the sceptic’s attention span and peace of mind.
And I only watched 15 minutes.

I read Dan’s dreck to rest my brain from the AO videos

Gad. Cocaine would be safer. Or Harlequin romances.

@ shay:

Don’t worry, I’m immune to audacious ignorance.

Altho’ the *applause* for RIvera did make me rather ill.

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