Adult vaccine pledge. (Translation: “Wake up, sheeple!”)

Having been at this whole blogging thing nearly 14 years, sometimes I think that there’s nothing that I haven’t seen before. In broad strokes, that might be true. For instance, it’s rare for any quack or antivaccine claim to be truly new under the sun; the vast majority of times “new claims” just seem new because they’re a clever repackaging of misinformation, tropes, and pseudoscience that I’ve seen so many times before. Usually, it doesn’t take me long to figure that out, which is why sometimes I hit a bit of writers’ block lately when blogging. I see things online or elsewhere and realize that it’s almost certain that I’ve discussed the same bit of nonsense before, sometimes many times. That’s probably why my frequency of blog posts has dropped off over the years from a manic pace of at least one a day (including weekends), if not more, to a more reasonable 3-5 posts per week, these days usually three or four new ones. Still, I’m dedicated to what I do, and I enjoy it; so even ennui at addressing the same claims over and over again doesn’t usually stop me for long, which brings me to something I saw recently popping up on social media: The Adult Vaccine Pledge (also seen on the Facebook page of Health Freedom Idaho, because of course it is).

I found it odd that I hadn’t seen this before, although I swear this “Adult Vaccine Pledge” looks pretty similar to things I’ve seen before. On the other hand, I couldn’t find anything quite like it in the history of my blog dating back to 2005; so that alone makes it a worthy target topic for discussion. The reason, of course, is that it’s a nice one-stop-shop for common antivaccine tropes all stitched together with the not-so-subtle implication that those of us who accept that vaccines are safe and effective are sheeple who mindlessly pledge to the CDC (of all places), safety of our children be damned. It’s also damned hilarious. So let’s dive in. There are twelve parts to the pledge, but don’t worry. Each part of the Adult Vaccine Pledge is such a commonly used bit of antivaccine misinformation, I can liberally link to past posts of mine written about specific antivaccine claims and thus bolster the internal linking structure of this blog while at the same time keeping this post under 10,000 words. (Just kidding. Even Orac has never posted a 10,000 word post. Yet. He has, however, hit over 7,000 on occasion.)

Also, before I move on, I can’t help but also note that the existence of this “Adult Vaccine Pledge,” which is clearly intended to be parody or satire reveals a couple of things about the mindset of antivaxers. First, they aren’t very good at parody and satire, because effective parody and satire require a bit of subtlety and wit. I think that a guy with the ‘nym of Seanbaby put it well in another context when he noted that you “have to have a non-delusional take on reality, or you can’t see when absurd things clash against it.” If you don’t, you’ll struggle to come up with something that is amusing and makes a lightbulb turn on in the mind of anyone but a person who already shares your world view and lead her to think, “Wow, he has a point. I hadn’t thought of it that way before,” regardless of what that “it” is. In other words, without that non-delusional take on reality, all that’s left is to bludgeon your audience, and that’s what this “pledge” does. Of course, I could be wrong, and there might never have been any intent of satire, but you get the idea. This “pledge” is painfully bludgeoning in its sarcasm and certainty.

So, the first line is simple:

I Pledge to Follow the CDC’s Recommended Adult Vaccine Schedule.

OK, I’ll bite. I am following the CDC’s recommended adult vaccine schedule. I get my flu vaccine every year without complaint. I’ve even gone above and beyond in that I recently asked my primary care doctor for the first of the two-shot series of the hepatitis A vaccine because we’re currently in the middle of a massive hepatitis A outbreak in my part of the country. You can be damned sure I’ll also get the booster shot 6-12 months after I got the first one, as recommended. I will admit that I’m missing one adult vaccine considered appropriate for a man my age, and that’s Shingrix (the new shingles vaccine). The reason is that I don’t know if my insurance company covers it and have been meaning to call to find out. So, thanks, anonymous writer of this pledge! You reminded me that I should have done that a while ago! I know what I’ll be doing when I get out of clinic later today.

Onward to #1:

1. I believe that vaccines are Safe and Effective, and I am fully aware that vaccinating can cause: Lupus, Multiple Sclerosis, Insomnia, Eczema, Allergies, Influenza, Vertigo, Arthritis, Earaches, Anaphylactic Shock, Bronchospasms, Multiple Neurological Issues, Vasculitis, Seizures, Myalgia, Fainting, Encephalitis, Thrombocytopenia, Hair Loss, Meningitis, Measles, Anemia, Agitation, Apathy, Hemorrhaging, Deafness, Tumors, Chickenpox, Tremors, Dermatitis, Alzheimer’s, SIDS, Herpes, Thrush, Pneumonia, Death and Many other Diseases.

My jaw dropped at this one right out of the box. First, I can’t help but note that whoever wrote this silly pledge seems not to understand the difference between adult and childhood vaccines. SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome), for instance, is not a side effect I would have to worry about from any vaccine administered to me. I did notice that the bête noire of antivaxers, autism, is not listed above, and certainly I don’t have to worry about autism from a vaccine either. (Maybe it’s under “multiple neurologic issues.”) And hair loss? Is the writer of this pledge trying to scare middle-aged dudes like myself, given that we all dread hair loss? I’m lucky enough to have come from a family (on my mom’s side) where the men generally kept a full head of hair until they died of diseases associated with old age, although, because my dad’s side of the family has more balding men, I suspect my hair will be considerably thinner 10-20 years from now. Whatever happens, though, I know a vaccine didn’t cause it. In any case, here’s the official CDC list of known side effects associated with individual vaccines. See how few of the scary conditions are on there. Hint: The list doesn’t include multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, eczema, etc.

I’ve beat that one to death; so let’s move on:

2. I believe that vaccines are Safe and Effective. However, in the case of injury or death, I am aware that I can not sue the vaccine manufacturer. I believe not being able to sue the manufacturer is Justifiable and that any claim I may have will go before the Vaccine Injury Court which has already awarded $3.7 Billion to vaccine injured individuals.

Yes and no. Here’s a rundown on the real story of the Vaccine Court, as opposed to the antivaccine fantasy version. Also, if you take that $3.7 billion and stretch it out over the 30 years of the existence of the Vaccine Court and then stretch it out over the 5,000 or so claims paid over that time compared to the billions of doses of vaccine given over that time without significant problems, that sum starts to appear a lot less impressive. Also, those who think they or their children were vaccine-injured can still sue in regular court, but only after going through the Vaccine Court.

Next:

3. I believe vaccines Do not cause Autism, despite being listed as an Adverse Reaction on the manufacturers insert. I acknowledge the multiple vaccine induced Autism cases already awarded in court and the thousands of cases in line.

Here we have what I like to refer to as the “argument by the package insert” or “appeal to the package insert.” It’s a ploy that ignores the fact that package inserts are not medical documents, but legal documents. They are, to put it briefly, a “CYA” document. As such, they list every adverse event ever reported in any clinical trial, whether the event is related to the vaccine or not. I also can’t help but note that I’ve never seen a vaccine package insert that actually attributes autism to a vaccine. Also, again, what does autism have to do with vaccines administered to adults? Does the author of this “satire” think that a middle-aged man can become autistic after vaccination?

Next:

4. I believe that the unvaccinated spread disease, even though the vaccine insert admit that vaccines Shed. I am aware that over 90% of people involved in “Outbreaks” are vaccinated.

What is this, the Declaration of Independence or the U.S. Constitution, with the capitalized “S”? Pretentious much? Or maybe just careless with the typos?

In any case, viral shedding after certain vaccinations can happen, but there’s a difference between shedding and causing disease. For one thing, the strains of virus used in live attenuated virus vaccines are just that—attenuated. They’ve been weakened in some way so that they don’t cause the actual disease. Otherwise, a live virus vaccine would be the equivalent of giving the disease to the person vaccinated, which would rather sabotage the whole point of vaccination, which is to produce immunity to the disease without the vaccinated person actually having to suffer through the disease itself. (Scratch that, it would be exactly the same as giving the person the disease.) The question, then, is whether secondary transmission (transmission of the vaccine strain virus to others who haven’t received it) is a major concern. The answer to that question, is no, as these articles entitled Secondary Transmission: The short and sweet about live virus vaccine shedding and Live Vaccines and Vaccine Shedding, Shedding and Vaccines, and Live Vaccines and Vaccine Shedding explain.

As for 90% of people involved in outbreaks being vaccinated, well, that’s just plain not true. For instance, in the Brooklyn measles outbreak of 2013 and the Minnesota measles outbreak of 2016-2017, the vast majority of the measles victims were unvaccinated.

Is it just me, or are these antivax tropes getting dumber as I go along? Let’s find out:

5. I believe that vaccines are so Safe and Effective that injecting Aborted Fetus DNA into my body is totally acceptable. I believe this practice trumps other Americans religious beliefs and our Constitutional right to choice.

Yes, definitely dumber. I’ve written about this trope more times than I can remember, most recently just two weeks ago. Also, the Catholic Church and every other major religion has indeed said that the cell lines used for vaccine manufacture, the ones that were derived from two fetuses over 50 years ago, are acceptable to use because their creation is so distant from their use and the actual cells being used were never part of the aborted fetuses.

Onward into blithering idiocy:

6. I believe vaccines are Safe and Effective, even though their not tested for Cancer, DNA mutation or Infertility.

Here we go again with the random capitalization. Whom do these idiots think they are, the Founding Fathers? At least the Founding Fathers knew the proper use of “their” versus “they’re.” (Hilariously, I note that the Health Freedom Idaho version of this pledge corrected all the random capitalizations and grammar errors.) Of course, vaccines and their ingredients are tested for such things, and, as noted in the Vaccines Work blog, the studies can be found here. As I note, we also know that vaccines are not associated with infertility.

Next, we have one of the most chemically ignorant versions of the “toxins” gambit I’ve ever seen:

7. I believe that injecting: Weed Killer, Formaldehyde, Aluminum, Mercury, Monkey Kidney Cells, Salt, Glucose, Fungus, Acetone, Alcohol, Antibiotics, Disinfectant, Castor oil, E.coli, Guinea Pig Cells, Urine, Pig Protein, Canine Cells, MSG, Germicide, Yeast, Shark Liver oil, Human and Cow Blood, Tar, Methanol, Antacid, Chloroform, Acids, Vitamins and Aborted Fetus DNA into my body is completely safe.

Wait, what? Urine? Where the hell did the writer of this pledge get that one from? That’s a new one on me! Do they mean urea? There are small amounts of urea in some vaccines, where it functions as a stabilizer. Just because urea is in urine doesn’t make it urine. I bet that’s where this ignoramus got the idea that there’s urine in vaccines from. As for the rest, I’ve addresed damned near all of them. I actually laughed reading some of these. Glucose, for instance, is nothing more than sugar, and why is this person worried about salt? No cells are in vaccines, although some viruses used for vaccine manufacture are grown in various cells. Seriously, this might top the most risibly distorted version of the “toxins” gambit I’ve yet seen.

I had to stop at this point, so that I could regain my composure. I was just laughing too hard. OK, I’m ready to go again:

8. I believe we should trust the CDC, an independent company that owns several vaccine patents and has been caught lying and falsifying documents.

The CDC is a government agency, part of the Department of Health and Human Services. It’s not an independent company. I’ve yet to be able to find an example where the CDC has ever been caught lying about vaccines or falsifying documents. I rather suspect the “falsifying documents” bit comes from the fevered conspiracy-addled minds of people like Del Bigtree and Andrew Wakefield, the brain trust behind that antivaccine propaganda “documentary” VAXXED. The whole movie falsely posits a conspiracy in which the CDC tried to cover up findings that vaccines cause autism.

Only four left, thankfully:

9. I believe that vaccines are Safe and Effective, even though the Department of Health and Human Services has been sued (and lost) because they have not filed a Vaccine Safety Study in the last 32 years.

I think I’ll just let Dorit Reiss at Skeptical Raptor take this one. The stupid is burning my neurons, and I’m worried that they’ll start undergoing apoptosis. Let’s just say that the version above of the story and the story itself are related only by coincidence.

There, that felt good to rest a bit. I think I can handle the last three:

10. I believe the 2 hrs. of vaccine training doctors receive in Medical school is sufficient. I believe doctors lie and bully parents into vaccinating because deep down inside they really care. And, I believe that the $40,000 bonus they receive for vaccinating patience is not a factor for them.

I went to medical school. Granted, it was in the late 1980s and there were fewer vaccines (no haemophilus influenzae type B, shingles vaccine, varicella vaccine), and I spent considerably more than two hours learning about vaccines. I can only imagine that today’s medical students spend even more time given that there are more vaccines in routine use today than when I went to medical school. The actual translation of this point is that medical students don’t learn what antivaxers wish they’d be taught, namely misinformation such as concluding that vaccines cause autism and all the other complications ascribed to them by antivaxers.

As for the $40,000 bonus, there’s a germ of truth to that, namely that there is such a thing called pay-for-performance, in which practices receive a small bonus for each patient vaccinated by the CDC guidlines and on time, just as adult practices receive a small bonus for having more than a certain percentage of women over 50 receiving mammograms as recommended. Some insurance companies have such plans for vaccines; some do. I’m not sure where the $40,000 figure came from, but it’s assuredly a fantasy, and from what I hear from pediatricians that I know the pay-for-performance bonuses are not that big a deal. Here’s an example of such a plan. Practices received $100 for each 2-year-old who was fully immunized by the child’s second birthday, and an additional $100 if the immunizations were administered in compliance with HEDIS 2003 specifications for timeliness. To reach $40,000 in a year, that would require 200 two-year olds to be vaccinated on schedule. Also, that money wouldn’t be direct income to the doctors, but rather reimbursement to the practice from which overhead and taxes would be take, just like for any other reimbursement.

Here’s the penultimate pledge:

11. I believe the Government is honest and transparent, and that Media is never manipulating and we can trust in those we can not hold liable.

This one is extremely telling of the conspiracy mindset to which antivaxers subscribe. You might as well translate this one, “WAKE UP SHEEPLE!” (or, from the antivaccine point of view, “I am a sheeple”) and be done with it. In reality, no one on the pro-science side of the vaccine divide thinks like this or trusts the government, media, and pharmaceutical companies this way. Indeed, another way to look at this mindset is as massive projection. Antivaxers believe in a religion-like manner that vaccines are harmful; so they assume that those of us defending vaccines against their attacks came to our pro-vaccine beliefs the same way. It’s simply inconceivable to an antivaxer like this that we examined the evidence and came to the conclusion that vaccines are safe and effective.

Finally, the last one:

12. I believe that the vaccines my children receive “Save Lives” so therefore, I agree to do my part and get the 88 or more vaccines recommended for Adults by the CDC.

Can you say “non sequitur”? Sure, I knew you could. Belief that childhood vaccines save lives (which they definitely do) does not lead to the conclusion that adults need to “catch up” on their childhood vaccines if they haven’t received the full complement, particularly given that the vaccine schedule has changed over the years and is not the same for adults as it is for today’s children. I do like how included in this is the typical antivaccine exaggeration of the number of vaccines, usually derived from counting multivalent vaccines as however many components they contain and counting each booster as one vaccine. These inflated vaccine counts also generally count each year’s flu shot as one vaccine. In any event, I’ve seen typical estimates ranging from 50 to over 100 vaccines, depending on how the specific antivaxer decided to “count” the vaccines.

And, just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in:

I acknowledge the 2011 U.S Supreme Courts ruling declaring vaccines “Unavoidably Unsafe.”

Of course, that 2011 SCOTUS ruling said nothing of the sort. Don’t believe me? Then check this out too. Basically, all “unavoidably unsafe” means is that a product describe that way has tremendous benefits that far outweigh the reasonable risks it poses. Legally, it doesn’t mean a dangerous product, but to the layperson it sounds that way.

So, there you have it. We survived the twelve (plus one) pledges of fealty that antivaxers believe that we pro-vaxers would happily take. It’s a document that says far more about the antivaxers who put it together than it says about vaccines or those of us who defend them against pseudoscientific attacks and lame attempts at parody like this one.