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Antivaccine activity on Twitter: It’s not entirely what you think

Twitter is a favorite place for antivaxers to promote their message. A recent study suggests how the antivaccine Twitter community has changed.

Writing about the antivaccine demonstration at the California State Capitol in Sacramento on Wednesday in opposition to #SB 276, the bill co-sponsored by Sen. Richard Pan to tighten up state regulation of doctors writing letters supporting medical exemptions to school vaccine mandates, I started thinking about the whole social media apparatus that supports the antivaccine movement. I remember in essence mocking the first fumbling forays of antivaxers into Twitter in the wake of the birth of the “CDC whistleblower” conspiracy theory in 2014. By 2017, fake news and Twitter bots were running rampant with antivaccine misinformation, and, no surprise here, the antivaccine movement had made major inroads into Facebook. By 2018, there were suggestions that Russian bots might have started sowing discord and misinformation on Twitter as well. Obviously, Twitter and Facebook groups, both private and secret, had provided an excellent platform for the “V is for Vaccine” protesters to organize and then publicize their demonstration. That made a recent study forwarded to me by a reader of interest. Basically, it’s a study looking at the changes in antivaccine hashtags on Twitter since 2010.

The study, published in Vaccine two weeks ago, is entitled Temporal trends in anti-vaccine discourse on Twitter is by Keith Gunaratne, Eric A.Coomes, and Hourmazd Haghbayana, comes from the University of Toronto, Western University in London, Ontario, and Université Laval in Quebec.

The authors note:

Previous studies have confirmed that anti-vaccine content figures prominently across social media platforms, with criticisms encompassing themes of safety, personal freedom, and pharmaceutical and medical skepticism [7], [9]. As many as 41% of parents report exposure to anti-vaccination content on social media [2]. Further, individuals exposed to such content may be more likely to spread anti-vaccine messages, cyclically propagating misinformation [10]. In response to the effects of online anti-vaccine messaging, Dr. James Madara, the chief executive officer of the American Medical Association, formally published a public letter urging leading technology companies, including Twitter and Facebook, to ensure access to accurate information on the safety and efficacy of vaccinations [11]. Given this widespread concern regarding social media’s role in propagating vaccine hesitancy, we sought to characterize the temporal trends in pro- and anti-vaccination discussion on Twitter, as reflected by hashtags, and to determine the extent of inter-communication between these communities.

To accomplish this investigation of temporal trends, the authors searched Twitter for all Tweets containing the English-language index term “vaccine” dating from between 01/01/2010 and 01/01/2019. Next, a systematic programmatic search was utilized to interrogate Twitter’s Advanced Search front-end using a modified version of the Python script to identify all existing Tweets containing the search term “vaccine.” For each Tweet, the author, unique identifier, text, timestamp, contained hashtags, and reply/re-tweet status were acquired.

Then:

Hashtags were extracted from all tweets containing the term “vaccine.” Hashtags present in >100 tweets were reviewed by two authors, with a third arbitrating conflicts: after excluding non-vaccine-relevant or ambiguous hashtags, the remaining vaccine-related hashtags were labelled as pro- (score = 1), or anti-vaccination (score = −1) by manual review of associated tweets. Example hashtags by category include: non-relevant (#coffee, #world), pro-vaccination (#vaccineswork, #vaccinessavelives), and anti-vaccination (#cdcwhistleblower, #vaxxed). No hashtags or tweets were specifically excluded because of non-English language.

And finally:

Twitter.com was re-searched on March 3, 2019, via the Python script for all pro- and anti-vaccine hashtags to create a final dataset of vaccine-related tweets. To validate manual classification and identify subcommunities, Louvain community detection via NetworkX2.2 was employed to perform network analysis [12]. Hashtags were represented as nodes on an undirected graph. Each pair of hashtags that appeared in at least one message together was connected by a weighted edge, with the edge weight equal to the number of unique users that tweeted the pair of hashtags together. Hashtag importance was calculated using the Eigenvector centrality module (also via NetworkX2.2), a quantitative estimate of the influence of each hashtag node within the network [13]. In this model, connections to high-scoring nodes have a stronger influence on the score of an individual node than connections to low-scoring nodes.

Using techniques like this, it is possible to produce a visual representation of the Twitter networks discussing vaccines and how they’ve changed over the last nine years. The result of the search was the identification of 10,043,087 tweets with 3,843 unique hashtags, which the authors classified into non-vaccine-relevant (n = 3382), ambiguous (n = 164), pro-vaccine (n = 154) or anti-vaccine (n = 125) categories. The authors also report that a second search for all 279 pro- and anti-vaccine hashtags found 1,637,712 vaccine-related tweets. Mathematical clustering analysis initially identified nine hashtag-based communities. The authors report:

Anti-vaccine hashtags largely coalesced into one community (119 hashtags; central hashtags: #cdcwhistleblower and #vaxxed) with a small remote secondary community regarding the Philippine dengue-vaccine scandal [15]. Pro-vaccine hashtags segregated into one dominant community (113 hashtags; central: #vaccineswork) and several closely-linked secondary communities including opposition to the Australian Vaccination-skeptics Network (six hashtags, central: #stopavn) [16] and multiple others focused on disease-prevention: influenza (24 hashtags; central: #fightflu), polio (four hashtags; central: #endpolio), hepatitis B (two hashtags; central: #nohep) and HIV (three hashtags; central: #hivvaccineawarenessday). The most frequently used anti-vaccine hashtags were: #cdcwhistleblower (280,779 tweets), #vaxxed (123,382 tweets), #hearthiswell (44,426 tweets), #novax (32,424 tweets), and #cdcfraud (21,750 tweets).

Any of you who who are also active on Twitter will recognize all of these antivaccine hashtags, particularly #cdcwhistleblower, #vaxxed, and #hearthiswell. Antivaxers like to festoon their Tweets with these hashtags as though they were Christmas trees and the hashtags are ornaments.

Here’s the visual representation of these networks:

Twitter figure 1

One interesting additional finding of this study is that before 2014 there were relatively few antivaccine Tweets (and pro-vaccine Tweets, truth be told). For example, the authors report that there were 215 pro-vaccine tweets in the first quarter of 2010, which increased by 1,670 Tweets/quarter (95% confidence interval: 1370–1970 Tweets/quarter, r2 = 0.790) reaching a peak of 73,200 Tweets during the last quarter of 2018. In contrast, the authors report that a median of 906 anti-vaccine Tweets/quarter (IQR 583–1108 Tweets, maximum 6,871 tweets) were observed until the third quarter of 2014, during which there was a surge of 57,845 Tweets; subsequently anti-vaccine-tagged tweets decreased by 2,670 Tweets/quarter.

Here’s the graph:

Twitter figure 2

Notice anything? Notice that big peak in antivaccine activity beginning in the latter half of 2014 and continuing to the middle of 2015? I wrote about it before. This is when antivaxers surged onto Twitter in the wake of the creation of the “CDC whistleblower” conspiracy theory in August 2014. It also encompasses the period of time of the Disneyland measles outbreak after Christmas 2014 and the roughly half-year period of time during which SB 277 was being debated in California. Remember, if you will, that SB 277 was the California bill that ultimately became law to eliminate nonmedical “personal belief exemptions” in California. You’ll then notice that, after the bill passed in the summer of 2015, antivaccine Twitter activity fell rapidly and has been continuing to decline slowly ever since around 2016.

It’s also counterintuitive. After all, to anyone who’s active on Twitter, as I am, it sure “feels” as though antivaccine activity on Twitter has been increasing and is at its highest levels ever. If this study is accurate, that’s simply not true. Of course, one problem with this study is that it relies solely on hashtags to categorize Tweets as pro- or anti-vaccine. A lot of Twitter users don’t even use hashtags very often. I know I don’t. My Tweets would definitely be categorized as pro-vaccine, but this study would only capture the small percentage of them in which I actually used hashtags. It’s also true that I’ve encountered a lot of antivaxers who don’t often use hashtags, although my admittedly anecdotal experience is that antivaxers like to use a lot of Twitter hashtags.

So what does it all mean? Let’s see what the authors say:

Conversely, while few anti-vaccination tweets were posted prior to 2014, a significant surge in anti-vaccine discussion occurred between 2015 and 2016. This period coincides with the 2014–2015 measles outbreak [17], the publication of Vaccine Whistleblower [18] – an anti-vaccine book, linked to #cdcwhistleblower, and the release of Andrew Wakefield’s anti-vaccine film Vaxxed, linked to #vaxxed [19]. While the resultant volumes of anti-vaccination tweets were not sustained, the anti-vaccination userbase has doubled since 2015. There is minimal inter-communication between communities, with only 0.2% of users engaging across networks. Previous investigation of Facebook identified similar segregation of users into pro- and anti-vaccine communities [9]. Such isolation of the anti-vaccination minority may limit the penetration of evidence-based knowledge translation campaigns on social media, permitting ideologic echo chambers to perpetuate.

And:

This study characterizes the evolution of both pro- and anti-vaccine discourse on Twitter, revealing significant increases in the volume of pro-vaccination tweets coupled to decreases in anti-vaccine discourse since the latter reached a peak in 2014–2015. Despite the greater volumes of pro-vaccination discourse in recent years, and the userbase contributing anti-vaccination content being smaller, the anti-vaccine community continues to grow in size. This finding coupled with the minimal inter-communication between communities suggests possible ideological isolation. Further studies are needed to investigate how Twitter may be used to effectively disseminate accurate vaccine information and the real impact of such discourse on downstream vaccinations.

And this “feels” largely true, at last to me as someone who’s on Twitter a fair amount and observes antivaccine. There is a much more robust pro-vaccine community on this platform compared to a few years ago, but it is isolated from the antivaccine community. Most of the interaction I observe between the two communities consist of attacks by antivaxers on pro-vaccine advocates (the “pharma shill gambit” is a particular favorite, naturally), ironic subtweeting, and attempts by vaccine advocates to refute the copious antivaccine misinformation being spread by antivaxers.

Of course, as I’ve said many times, you’re not going to change the minds of antivaxers on Twitter, and that’s not what I’m about when I go on Twitter. Besides my own personal entertainment, there, as here on the blog, I’m about deconstructing antivaccine misinformation for the vaccine-hesitant to see. They’re the ones who might be reached, not the antivaxers Tweeting under the #cdcwhistleblower hastag. The good news is that this study implies that Twitter might not be as effective an amplifier of antivaccine messages as antivaxers had hoped that it would be.

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]

97 replies on “Antivaccine activity on Twitter: It’s not entirely what you think”

Looking at hastags won’t, as you note, catch all the pro and anti tweets, but it does tell us a lot about the coordinated efforts of the groups.I’d be curious if the peaks on the provax side are the annual push for the flu vaccine.

It feels like – non-scientifically – there’s also been a growth in pro vaccine activism on Facebook. There are still antivaccine mobs, but people speak up – including people not involved in vaccines debate – more than I remember seeing. Since it’s an impression, I’m not sure that’s right – I hope someone studies it.

And I would really like Renee DiResta’s input on this study. It’s her expertise.

Also non-scientific, but in the UK I’ve recently noticed a bigger ‘official’ pro vaccine messaging, ie, statements from people high up in the NHS, phone-ins/articles on national radio, and articles in national newspapers – the Guardian – obviously! – but also at the lower end of the journalistic spectrum. I think people are realising that we’re potentially sleep-walking into a vaccine preventable disaster and are speaking out at last. Certainly most people, especially once their children are older, just take vaccines for granted and don’t think too hard about the whys and wherefores, so a full on anti vaccine attitude can be shocking to them.

Unless of course it’s actually our lizard-shifting overlords increasing their grip on our frail human consciousness….

Orac, I am just curious. In addition to writing these blogs, reading up on the ‘antivaxxers’ and pondering their every moves what percentage of your wakeful days do you think involves worrying about them? If I were to hazard a guess I would say at least 70%. You?

Greg, considering how you have been spending lots of time here, we can ask the same of you. You seem to great at posting outrageous claims, but not really any good at supporting those claims. Now for the eighth time:

Greg: “Ok ok — I also blame Pan for fathering legislations that en masse will vaporize kids’ brains..”

Citation needed. Do tell us exactly how any MMR vaccine used in North America causes more harm than measles. Just provide the PubMed indexed studies by reputable qualified researchers that shows the vaccine causes more encephalitis than an actual measles infection (which is about one melted brain from encephalitis out of a thousand cases of actually getting measles).

So you have literally nothing. You are just making stuff up as you go along because you are just an empty ignorant blowhard.

Greg,

It’s sort of funny in a way; they are very excited about the sub rosa antivaccine. Their indoctrination prevents them from understanding what the issue really is, who their ‘enemy’ really is & how they are doomed drive the final nail in the coffin of their beloved vaccine policy & program. Doomed to repeat history.

In the future, the lessons learned from the tragic vaccine era will replace the Salem witch trials as the historical analogy for the dangers of group-think & propaganda.

I’d laugh at the utter stupidity of your hubris if it weren’t for the fact that innocent unvaccinated children will be hurt and die from these vaccine-preventable diseases before people realize vaccinating is much better than not vaccinating and that anti-vaxxers such as you are full of crap and gleefully caused this to happen with absolutely no remorse whatsoever.

“In the future, the lessons learned” — will serve as an object lesson in what happens when fools like you and grifters like Wakefield are given a platform.

Oops, that should be “now add.”

For those who are not history buffs, and don’t understand the irony meter melting properties of this comment, the Salem Witch Trials are not only a great example of the dangers of accepting claims with no proof, but one of the biggest sources of accusations was the Putnam Family. Thomas Putnam, the father, is generally seen by historians as seeking to profit off accusing others of wrongdoing, and his wife, Ann Putnam Sr., accused another member of the community of causing the death of her infant daughter via witchcraft.

@ Terrie:

OH I know.
Those who cried, “Witch!” simply accused other people of being witches by carrying on histrionically in public and making claims in court. They were believed by the authorities and “culprits” were thrown in jail and ( some) were executed. Evidence and supporting evidence was entirely what people said about other people and explained how they “suffered” themselves.

So you have literally nothing. You are just making stuff up as you go along because you are just an empty ignorant blowhard.

Nah! Just weighed the returns in making a statement versus using you to coast. You are bringing me more. Thanks.

So you will continue to claim that vaccines vaporize without proof. Cute. That is ableist as it comes. Also it proves that you are full grown adult who would rather see kids get some nasty diseases because you a sadistic fool.

So there is no return in making a statement, but there is return in making a statement saying that you aren’t going to make a statement?

Also non-scientific, but in the UK I’ve recently noticed a bigger ‘official’ pro vaccine messaging, ie, statements from people high up in the NHS, phone-ins/articles on national radio, and articles in national newspapers – the Guard

Maybe. But I would say such messaging is garnering as much interest as credits after a movie. Why.else the obsession to now censor ‘antivaxxers’.

Why should we censor your ableism and sadistic desire to see children suffer from actual diseases? If you cannot defend your claim that “vaccines vaporize minds” with actual evidence, we will just presume you hate kids, especially disabled kids.

The important thing is that anti-vaxxers are being called out for what they are – the cause of an upsurge in preventable diseases and the increase in suffering and death that it causes. Also people that get sucked in by the AV BS don’t realise until it’s too late that the AV conspiracy BS is just that, at least it gives an official line that people can keep hold of – an Ariadne’s thread to sanity.

‘Why.else the obsession to now censor ‘antivaxxers’’

If ‘AntiVaxxers’ are censored it would be because, although they may hold their beliefs sincerely, they are wrong, and by not vaccinating and more importantly encouraging others not to vaccinate, they are endangering the lives and health of the rest of our community. This is, frankly, barbarous behaviour in a world that has the benefits of science and civilisation. I hate to go all Godwin on you but the Nazis produced all sorts of evidence that the Germans were the master race and used it to murder a huge number of people. We know that their evidence was wrong and of course the Nazis got what they deserved, Antivaxers are equally wrong, their ridiculous though sincere beliefs have not resulted in as many deaths yet, but you can’t say they aren’t trying.

Chris, thanks for giving those links, I really appreciate it. I was wondering what the relevance to antivax was until I followed the link to Wakefield’s appalling glamourisation of the murder/suicide of a mother and her autistic son, apparently Wakefield considered it an act of love rather than, I assume, the desperate act of someone at the end of their tether. Wakefield has sunk even lower in my estimation – what a truly awful person to use other peoples tragedy in such a way.

I was wondering what the relevance to antivax was until I followed the link to Wakefield’s appalling glamourisation of the murder/suicide of a mother and her autistic son

And the cat. But Spourdalakis and Skrodzka were released with time served in 2016, it appears. Nice plea bargain.

“Why.else the obsession to now censor ‘antivaxxers’.”

Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted.

(Ralph Waldo Emerson)

I was thinking along similar lines. Big difference between preventing someone from speaking and speaking out yourself.

WHO is censoring anyone? I didn’t see jack booted enforcers ripping signs/ microphones from anti-vaxxers in Sacramento, the internet shutting down websites/ twitter accounts/ broadcasts by Wakefield, Tenpenny, Del, Adams, Bolen, Null, TMR, Rossi etc. OR even Orac silencing you and your compatriots.

But if you expect a television station to give you a spot on the news or an internet company to place your results first in searches of vaccine topics or allow trumped up bios on Wikipedia- it’s not gonna happen: those are private companies who select their messages carefully. They don’t agree with you and won’t help spread your ideas. In the past, searches could be gamed by savvy internet finagling ( e.g. Mike Adams) or misleading names ( e.g. Meryl Dorey, Barbara Loe Fisher, Gary Null named their organisations / companies to sound like something they’re not), If Google, MSN, YouTube, Wikipedia, Pinterest. FB, twitter etc don’t want to enable your pseudoscience – you can’t make them. A news outlet or internet company or blogger can also CRITICISE you.

“WHO is censoring anyone?”

Careful — Greg, christine, and their ilk could take that snip, delete the question mark, and claim you admitted the World Health Organization is doing the censoring. /snark

Ok, that was a stretch, but it does raise a question I’ve never seen answered: what makes people like them post such outrageous and obviously false assertions? What’s in it for them?

What’s in it for them?

“He took about a thousand micrograms of Sandoz one Saturday night and then went to a neighborhood Irish bar in Boston on his motorcycle to experience social interaction while manifesting a play opportunity situation, or something. Once there, he announced he could drink every man in the place under the table. Tord, who was not a heavy drinker, then proceeded to prove his point to the dozen or so Irishmen who eagerly accepted his challenge and his free drinks.

“‘I must have put away a quart at least, Art,’ Tord said, chortling merrily at the recollection. ‘The last thing I remember was seeing all these guys crowded into a corner while I was advancing on them. One of them kept yelling, “Throw him Ernie! Throw him Ernie!” The next thing I remember is waking up on the kitchen floor out back the next morning with the bartender and the cook stepping over me. I didn’t have a hangover and there wasn’t a mark on me. Never found out if they threw me Ernie either.’

“Tord wanted ‘involvement,’ at almost any price.”

” What’s in it for them?” asked dean.

I suppose a lot of stuff: including what Narad said.
I think that they don’t want to believe that their child is not “perfect” ( whatever that means). AoA’s editor always talks about how beautiful her daughters are AND they will NEVER be mothers.
Perhaps a genetic cause would mean that they somehow passed on “bad genes” ( even though there is de novo variation in ASD). It might mean that they’d be thought to have ASD as well.
They can’t brag about their child’s achievements that surpass all other students in class ( as though kids with ASDs don’t achieve anything). They can’t be Tiger Moms. Or fit in with the average/ above average crew.

They have to cling to the belief that their child- born perfect – was “ruined” by outside forces.
And that they are incredible warriors helbent on righting that wrong and warning others. Also a few try to carve out a niche career for themselves since they can’t have a typical job- they compete with each other- woe for woe, stories topping others’ stories, tales of woe and bravery. They become writers, lecturers, activists, instructors and researchers. See AoA/ TMR/ Polly Tommey, BLF others.

That’s why studies about genetics, gaze, facial physiognomy, brain waves, brain structure, early videos etc. are not to their liking because they uncover evidence of autism prior to age 1. Why do doctors measure kids heads so early? Why do unvaccinated kids with autistic siblings have ASD?

Denise, re “Why do you think I wrote it that way?
It’s not a stretch.”

The “stretch” I was referring to was the stretch in my posting trying to link the two ideas. It was not directed at your comment: apologies for not being clear in a second post.

dean, I meant that I purposely wrote it that way so that someone anti-vax might take the bait .
And I don’t imagine it to be a stretch for you to think that they’d go so far, because I could see it
We do need sarcasm tags!

We’re on the same wavelength .

Denise:

“WHO is censoring anyone?”

Antivaxxers are delicate souls. Hearing that not everyone agrees with them that people with autism are worthless, and that deadly diseases are bad for children hurts their feelings so badly that they feel like they are being censored, even as they post dozens of messages on someone else’s blog.

Another perspective, I hope…Why are you using the language of weenie journalists? Vaccine skeptics? Vaccine (insert an assortment of weenie language here providing multiple euphemisms for active opposition to vaccines). This is profoundly destructive. Please stop it. Language really matters. Use the accurate term “anti-vaccine” and stop acceeding to all the terms that irresponsible journalists are using to dumb down and adulterate the harm these fanatics are doing. The public notices these things and gives little critical thought to much of anything. Use “anti-vaccine.”

Who are your responding to? You are the only using the word “weenie”, and the only other use of the word “skeptic” were in quotations from other sources. One was referring to the name of the anti-vaccine group in Australia.

Sorry. I’m generally referring to lazy journalists and flip-flops they are doing to avoid the term “anti-vaccine” when referring to these people’s beliefs.

Not sure whether I can post a link here. Richard Pan is a pediatrician and California state senator who has been instrumental in blocking non-medical exemptions there. Good story:

https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2019/8/29/1882158/–We-need-to-reach-out-to-the-parents-who-have-been-misled-says-the-doctor-facing-death-threats?detail=emaildkre

Not sure whether I can post a link here. Richard Pan is a pediatrician and California state senator who has been instrumental in blocking non-medical exemptions there.

You don’t say. It’s best to look around before presenting something well known to the people you’re addressing.

Thank you. It is a bit confusing when using the general plural form of “you.”

And yes, there have been several articles about Dr. Pan on this blog.

#vaxxed and #cdcwhistleblower are shown as the largest, therefore most frequent hashtags. It looks like Andy ( & Co) are living up to their past histories as Most Influential Disease Promoters.

“In addition to writing these blogs, reading up on the ‘antivaxxers’ and pondering their every moves what percentage of your wakeful days do you think involves worrying about them?”

As opposed to antivax commenters who have Better Things To Do, but spend much of their time trolling pro-immunization comment threads? 😉

As opposed to antivax commenters who have Better Things To Do, but spend much of their time trolling pro-immunization comment threads? 😉

The trolling part aside Dangerous one, you have a point. I am not trolling.and I am just sincerely here to engage you guys on the safety and efficacy of vaccines. Actually, I would say 35% of my days are spent on the topic, but I am sure Orac has me beat. Again, what do you say Orac?

“I am just sincerely here to engage you guys on the safety and efficacy of vaccines.”

That is a bunch of bovine regurgitated excrement. If it were true you would have given some actual data for my request, ninth time. No more excuses:

Greg: “Ok ok — I also blame Pan for fathering legislations that en masse will vaporize kids’ brains..”

Citation needed. Do tell us exactly how any MMR vaccine used in North America causes more harm than measles. Just provide the PubMed indexed studies by reputable qualified researchers that shows the vaccine causes more encephalitis than an actual measles infection (which is about one melted brain from encephalitis out of a thousand cases of actually getting measles).

. . . I am just sincerely here to engage you guys on the safety and efficacy of vaccines. . . .

Available evidence indicates otherwise, unless “engage” means useless jabbering. Go ahead, pull the other one.

Actually, I would say 35% of my days are spent on the topic, but I am sure Orac has me beat. Again, what do you say Orac?

Groveling for an audience with the host, eh, Gerg? Simple reasoning can tell you, Gerg, that someone with Orac’s job aint spending no 35% of his time on a hobby, but that would be a bit much to expect from you, Gerg, now wouldn’t it?

Gergle,

Color me impressed but I’m really curious how can a sociopathic con-artist like you can be sincere?

Alain

“I am not trolling.and I am just sincerely here to engage you guys on the safety and efficacy of vaccines.”

Oh please. You’re a malignant narcissist who gets off on bludging into other people’s homes and splooging all over their carpets. You don’t fool anyone, not even yourself.

Also people that get sucked in by the AV BS don’t realise until it’s too late that the AV conspiracy BS is just that, at least it gives an official line that people can keep hold of – an Ariadne’s thread to sanity.

There is something interesting here. About this censoring antivaxxers thing-a-gimma there is the presumption that there are actually ‘smarter’ ones who can spot ‘AV conspiracy BS’ and block it from being exposed to the ‘dumber’ ones. Again, I am just curious, what mechanisms are in place in determining the ‘brighter’ ones who are permitted to scan for ‘AV conspiracy BS’?’ Is it a matter of academic credentials or simply subscribing to the faith that vaccines are ‘safe and effective’?

Smart/dumb are terms you have imposed. ‘Hard core’, for want of a better word, antivaxxers are mostly a lost cause in that almost nothing can be said which will show them the error of their ways. This, in my limited experience, has little to do with intelligence as such, more to do with openness to conspiracy theories, or feeling ‘special’ ie above the herd. Parents, quite naturally, want to be sure that their beautiful baby firstly needs to be injected, secondly that what is being injected is safe – obviously this is not determined by how ‘smart’ or ‘dumb’ they are. AntiVaxxers inject doubt into these parents, some of whom are susceptible to these doubts and are led into a dark labyrinth of conspiracy and confusion, however, the fact that antivaxx propaganda is being called out for what it is, by ‘official’ channels as well as people like Orac, means that parents can follow the thread from the darkness of conspiracy thinking to the light of rationality.

Your attempt to introduce notions of intelligence is a false argument – of course I would love to say that all antivaxers are braindead dumbass gobshites, and although I might feel better, it would be both unhelpful and untrue.

Interesting word salad you have there….I guess that is what passes for random thoughts in that mangled brain of yours?

there is the presumption that there are actually ‘smarter’ ones who can spot ‘AV conspiracy BS’ and block it from being exposed to the ‘dumber’ ones

That’s some searing irony.

It would explain why he has to spend 35% of his day thinking about his antivax stances. When you don’t think very well, you need to spend more time working on things, hence Greg’s word salad.

Whereas the rest of us might spend at most 1% of our day on these topics and yet get much more done.

It requires far less time and effort to speak the truth than to create a plausible and self-consistent lie, and then to remember the details so that the story doesn’t change each time it is told.

Along these lines, being an anti-vax believer also necessitates self-blame, guilt and self-condemnation as well **thus, believers must imagine criminal doctors and pharma companies who lied and forced them into vaccinating: after all, THEY took the child to the doctor for jabs- he didn’t go himself. They went along with doctors,
They were innocent, they say, pure as the driven snow but those MONSTERS lied and made them do it. They have to create an elaborate scenario in which they were tricked by the scheming manipulations of an entrenched mob or else see themselves as accessories to the heinous crime resulting in the “destruction”
of a child. ( None of which is real)

All of that hate has to go somewhere. SO, there’s us.

** not an original idea on my part: you see there’s this reporter in London who has said similar things

then to remember the details so that the story doesn’t change each time it is told.

Objection! Assumes a concern for consistency that is not in evidence.

“Assumes a concern for consistency that is not in evidence.”

I wasn’t making any claims about the intelligence or ethics of the liar. However I would agree the evidence does point to obvious conclusions regarding many AV activists. In particular, the smoke from their smouldering pants is growing quite thick.

Guys, gimme a break here. Censorship is a tricky animal where an exception must be given to certain individuals to search out offending materials to be censored. So with ‘AV Conspiracy BS’, who are the select ones who will be granted special permission to search out such offending materials?

That is still word salad. Do you have a point other than posting regurgitated bovine excrement?

Also this, read it, if you don’t understand it then have someone explain it to you: https://xkcd.com/1357/

Also don’t let the door hit you in the behind.

Greg, you seem to be quoting me when talking about censorship. It would appear that you have, possibly wilfully, misunderstood my post, so just to be clear, I did not advocate censorship in my post, simply that AV BS be called out for what it is, and the inherent dangers to life and health it poses, thereby giving people the chance to decide for themselves.

Carl, both of the authors* of that blog get very angry when parents murder their children. Like this little girl: https://leftbrainrightbrain.co.uk/?s=mccarron&submit=Search

She was killed by her mother, even though the child mostly lived with her dad (work situation, and where the child could get better services). There was lots of family and financial support. The mother had been convinced the child was damaged, and that if she could not be cured then she must die to be resurrected as the child she wanted.

There is a wiki page: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karen_McCarron

The first few years the author was Kevin, who has an autistic daughter, when he left to do other things he passed the baton to Matt, who has a son. So if you go through the articles you might see a difference between the articles on Katie McCarron.

Chris, thanks once again for the links. These murders and murder suicides are profoundly depressing – it is important to understand the reasons of course, so as to ensure it is less likely to happen again, but I cannot understand how anyone can even imply that such acts are ‘OK’ or ‘understandable under the circumstances’. The rhetoric that antivaxxers and other alternative health nuts deploy around autism is definitely a major part of the problem, as it encourages parents to see themselves as the victim of an injustice and their child as somehow less than a complete human being. Also I read a bit more about how Wakefield used the tragedy that he had helped cause for his own aggrandisement – what an unbelievably vile piece of scum that man is – words cannot describe the extent of revulsion I feel for him and his cohorts. I shall keep up with that blog though, a voice of reason in the insane babel of the internet.

Among the pro-vaccine voices is the StopAVN group. It shows up as the second largest group in the pro-vaccine hashtags, precisely because it is a co-ordinated effort. It is composed of a core group of roughly 50 doctors, researchers and others and had the initial goal of stopping the anti-vaccine messaging of the Orwellian named Australian Vaccine Network. In that it has been hugely successful. It has played a key role in getting change in Australia that has pushed back against the activities of the anti-vaccine movement, including action being taken against anti-vaccine doctors. It has essentially played the anti-vaccine movement’s game only better.

In social media it is not the overall numbers that matter in terms of developing influence. If the messages are too diffuse they do not garner as much influence. You can see this in the data, there are many more pro-vaccine tweeters, but the concentrated effect of the anti-vaccine campaigns has had more influence, although that is now starting to wane.

I’d laugh at the utter stupidity of your hubris if it weren’t for the fact that innocent unvaccinated children will be hurt and die from these vaccine-preventable diseases before people realize vaccinating is much better than not vaccinating and that anti-vaxxers such as you are full of crap and gleefully caused this to happen with absolutely no remorse whatsoever.

Look – ‘the good doctor’ is back to champion kids’ health. Christopher, did you read in the other thread where I wrote the ‘product’ that you’re pushing to accomplish that its own manufacturers refuse to stand behind it and accept liability. Nor do you guys have faith that it will survive the free market since you’re now petitioning governments to force it on the public.

But you’re in it for the kids, Christopher? Don’t make me laugh. I’ll tell it to you straight: As I referred to before, you’ve made some educational and employment choices that have put you in a good position to satisfy those two basic instincts of life. You stand to eat well and screw well. Congratulations! Now Christopher, try not to confuse yourself considering that you’re up to anything ‘loftier’.

Sure. Lets use a system that has failed to winnow down the number of toasters on the market to determine the efficacy of a drug that can only be shown via statistics to extend a terminal patients life by six months.

Ugh. He goes from claiming he is trying to discuss “safety and efficacy” of vaccines but then refusing to post any actual factual scientific evidence after being asked several times, to now being the Canadian libertarian claiming “let the free market decide.” (he has obviously not tried to buy any alcohol beyond beer in British Columbia! … there is a reason that Costco sells wine fermentation kits there: https://www.costco.ca/wine-beer-kits.html … we do not see those things on our side of the border)

Yep, all Betsy Wetsy, along with being in full flibbertigibbet mode.

Yep, I have lots of in-laws living in British Columbia. One even has a vineyard in the Okanagan along the Columbia River.

“I wrote the ‘product’ that you’re pushing to accomplish that its own manufacturers refuse to stand behind it and accept liability.”
Did you not read my reply? The one in which I pointed out that it’s the legal system, largely fueled by the greed of lawyers and the ignorance of jurors that make it necessary to shield them from liability so they don’t have to spend themselves into bankruptcy litigating and sometimes paying ridiculous and frivolous claims?
If I done confused you with all ’em big words, it’s them lawyers, it’s lawsuits, it’s the way we determine legal liability without much regard to facts and logic. Kind of like you, Gregger.

I can’t begin to comprehend someone spending over a third of their day on an antivax obsession.

I imagine that our host has become facile enough with debunking antivaccine tripe/tropes over time and has developed sufficient writing and research skills to produce articles with vastly greater efficiency. I can knock off responses to most antivax posters (here and elsewhere) in record time, having seen all the usual stuff many times before (for instance, I’ve practically memorized the URLs for good Shill Gambit sites). The only time-consuming activity is when someone posts a link to a study I haven’t seen before and it takes at least a few minutes to spot the obvious flaws. Example: a paper proudly presented by an antivaxer that purports to prove autoimmune diseases are caused by vaccines, which relies on tentative proposals shot down years earlier and which uses scary italics to try to link a disorder to a previous vaccine (i.e. a case of “rheumatoid arthritis” which developed in someone given a vaccine just six weeks previously, and which was cured by antibiotics. Hmm…)

I can’t begin to comprehend someone spending over a third of their day on an antivax obsession.

Dangerous one, indeed it’s over a third when I am commenting here. When I am banned, it’s back down to five percent. Still, I stand by.my assessment that over 70% of Orac’s days are spent musing about antivaxxers. Again Orac, is this true?

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At last! a genuine shill, and for a pretty quacky-sounding “practitioner” and his alleged medicine, and not for an actual medication. Here for your enlightenment and edification is a link to a page that not only has an identical post from “melissa eva” (lower case in original), but also has the same post down the page from our friend “victoria janniffer”, and a long list of very similar posts – same broken English, same misuse of caps, etc.
I have no doubt that none of these alleged doctors are any more real than “Heather from Credit Card Services” or her sister “Rachel from Credit Card Services” or their cousin from India who is with “Windows Security” and who informs you that your computer is giving out viruses.

Request for assistance – herd immunity

Can anyone point me at a reasonably short and concise refutation of the nonsense that anti-vaxxers level at the concept of herd immunity?

The Canadian Broadcorsting Castration has had numerous article on vaccination on its website in recent history. There is a generic dolt and a(n apparent) chiropractor who show up in the comments on most, claiming that herd immunity is a myth and can’t be achieved through vaccination. This is transparently and demonstrably nonsense, but I’d really like to be able to cite someone else who has written about this, rather than just calling it out as transparent nonsense (under, as Magersfontein Lugg would call it, my “pseudo name”).

And again, I appeal to Canadians and others to register to comment at CBC to help stomp on these bozos. I can see nothing detrimental in registering. CBC says you have to use your real name. You don’t – just be reasonably plausible and use something that is associated with your email address such that when you reply to their confirmation email it looks kosher). You won’t get rubbish in your IN box.

To our host, should you read this (if you don’t read this, then a different response will be fine *):
How do you feel about being cited on the CBC website? It almost certainly will bring some anti-vax kooks here, but frankly those who show up on the CBC site are of remarkably low quality.

I’m always amused when I hear an announcement in a store “If so-and-so is still in the store, would you please …” and I always mentally extend that to “and if you aren’t still in the store, would you please …”

Gotta go feed the crows.

“Can anyone point me at a reasonably short and concise refutation of the nonsense that anti-vaxxers level at the concept of herd immunity?” Ask them to explain Mississippi.

Mississippi, despite being one of the poorest states in the Union, with many residents experiencing food insecurity (20%, one of the highest in the nation), substandard living conditions for almost 1/3 of its inhabitants (50th state in poverty rankings and one of the worst places to find affordable housing), and restricted access to healthcare (49th state out of 50), has not reported any cases of measles since 2002.

Caveat: A traveler with measles was traced to Mississippi where s/he visited multiple venues in Hattiesburg in April 2019. It has been almost 30 days but no contact infections have been reported. I’m not sure if this traveler counts against Mississippi’s record or not.

The last outbreak in Mississippi was in 1992, when fifteen cases were reported at the University of Mississippi resulting from a student who was exposed while traveling in Europe. Two unrelated cases were also reported that year. In 2002, a non-resident of the state was diagnosed with measles while visiting friends in Mississippi. The unvaccinated woman became infected in an endemic country in Africa; no Mississippi cases were identified as a result of the exposures.

Mississippi used to have a religious exemption but a court struck it down 1979. Less than 1% of schoolchildren in Mississippi have vaccine exemptions (all medical).
The antivaxx crowd in the state have been trying for years to get religious/philosophical exemptions back on the docket. So far they have been unsuccessful.

“Mississippi has one of the most successful childhood immunization programs in the nation, and as a result one of the lowest rates of childhood diseases.” https://msdh.ms.gov/msdhsite/handlers/printcontent.cfm?ContentID=15556&ThisPageURL=http%3A%2F%2Fmsdh%2Ems%2Egov%2Fmsdhsite%2Findex%2Ecfm%2Findex%2Ecfm&EntryCode=15556&GroupID=41

A quick retort is to note that in the USA the incidence (number of cases) of measles has fallen 99+% while the population level of measles vaccination, countrywide, has been below 95%:
http://apps.who.int/immunization_monitoring/globalsummary/timeseries/tswucoveragemcv2.html
see the United States of America, (The) entry.
.
The question then arises as to how those unvaccinated ~6% (99%drop-94%vaccinated) of the population remained protected and we haven’t had outbreaks in the millions.
The answer is herd immunity. They just don’t come into contact with the virus thanks to the 94% who are vaccinated and immune and are essentially a protective wall around them from the disease.
Where we do see outbreaks is in sub-populations which are unvaccinated.
.
It is a very simple concept so it is very enlightening that the simpletons who lead the anti-vaccine cult deny the existence of herd immunity.
They may as well state they do not believe in quarantine as that is what is happening except without walls.

If there are any nuclear physicists in the room, you can point that the spread of an outbreak is very much like the build-up leading to a nuclear explosion: one individual atom, while exploding, emits a few neutrons who will “contaminates” 1 to 3 more atoms, each of whom upon exploding will contaminate 1-3 more, etc.
The quickness of the spread of nuclear explosion depends on the number of susceptible atoms being present. Feed your nuclear power plant with depleted uranium, instead of enriched one, and look at your electricity output going dramatically down.
IOW, if you render some of your atoms immune to catching neutrons and exploding, you lower the speed of the ‘outbreak’ of exploding atoms. Have enough immune atoms, the speed will be reduced to zero.
It doesn’t matter how you do this, as long as you reduce the chance of susceptible atoms of catching wandering neutrons.

All of this – or any other explanation – assumes, of course, that the audience is willing to accept the premise that vaccines confer immunity to an illness.

All of this – or any other explanation – assumes, of course, that the audience is willing to accept the premise that vaccines confer immunity to an illness.

And that is really the problem. The (presumed) chiropractor to whom I referred simply asserts that only immunity resulting from natural infection with the disease in question will work for purposes of herd immunity. He offers nothing to support this assertion. The highly observable fact that herd immunity is produced via vaccination is rejected as a myth.

Here is one of his posts:

Reply to … ah, I wondered when ‘herd immunity’ would crop up. What to unpack first…herd immunity is a unicorn, and is not achievable through vaccination. It refers to the number within a population who have already been exposed to, and conquered a specific disease, and therefore possess natural, lifetime guaranteed immunity thereby eliminating any outbreak type spread. Second, you assert that NOT vaccinating will hasten spread and mutation? Not much for virology, huh? Ask a hospital worker about MRSA and what antibiotics have done to bacteria and viruses…the more we challenge micro organisms, the faster they change, so you couldn’t be MORE wrong.

from comments at https://www.cbc.ca/news/health/pinterest-world-health-organization-vaccine-social-media-1.5263536

Note that he clearly does not understand “virology” or that MRSA is a not a virus or how evolution works.

@ Denice Walter

Thanks.
(actually, Narad’s cited article has already some nice figures – I saved the pdf for further reference)

But I should give credit where it’s due – I reverse-engineered a description of a nuclear explosion as seen by a physician (no, not a physicist), thus, seen in epidemiological terms.
The physician is no other than Dr John Watson. It was in the book “The Einstein Paradox: And Other Science Mysteries Solved By Sherlock Holmes”.
I strongly recommend it as a funny book to read to learn about physic sciences.

Guys, I just wanted to say that I can help too. Wait! – I actually agree with them. Herd immunity is indeed a farce. Seriously, what is adequate herd immunity for pertussis when protection wanes after five years, and most individuals don’t follow-up with boosters?

Are you sure you understand? Adequate herd immunity occurs when enough people have immunity to prevent, or at least minimise, spread of the disease. Your question makes no sense. If nobody is protected (either via vaccination or acquired from the disease) then there is no herd immunity function. That’s the point.

So are you saying theoretically herd immunity from vaccination is possible, but also agreeing that practically with vaccine protection often waning and most individuals not keeping up with their boosters such immunity is often not likely?

Thanks Tbruce for implicitly agreeing with me that as things stand, at most, herd immunity from vaccines is merely a ‘good idea’.

Why am I not surprised you base your evidence for “herd immunity is a farce” on a single vaccine and disease. I know maths are hard for you Greg but there is a lot more that goes into herd immunity theory than what you just gobbed up. Smallpox and rhinderpest, please explain.

No Greg. I’m saying that your question made no sense. In any population, for a given disease, the higher the percentage of immune persons, the slower the disease can spread. There is a threshold where the percentage is high enough to practically eliminate ANY spread. That is the minimum ideal herd immunity level. If the percentage is zero then, for that particular disease, there is no herd immunity function. Every disease is a separate case. It’s quite possible to have adequate herd immunity for measles but not for ebola.

This is all pretty simple logic so I have to assume that you are taking the piss.

So are you saying theoretically herd immunity from vaccination is possible

Theoretically, Jizzsink? It’s been done.

It’s only a farce because it’s not achieved thanks to the likes of you.

Taking lessons from Professional Ignoramus Lawrence Solomon, I expect.

Thanks Tbruce for implicitly agreeing with me that as things stand, at most, herd immunity from vaccines is merely a ‘good idea’.

Here in Canada the New Brunswick Liberal Government is proposing a mandatory vaccine bill. I don’t think it will go far but in a way I am hoping it does. Can’t wait for it to be challenged in court and government lawyers explaining how dire it is that 95% of kids receive their pertussis vaccine, and then having to account for what happens when those kids walk out of schools and run into Bobs and Susans who haven’t had their vaccines or boosters.

Natural pertussis infection did not cause long lasting immunity, either:
Wendelboe, Aaron M. MSPH; Van Rie, Annelies MD, PhD; Salmaso, Stefania PhD; Englund, Janet A. MD
Duration of Immunity Against Pertussis After Natural Infection or Vaccination
The Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal: May 2005 – Volume 24 – Issue 5 – p S58-S61
doi: 10.1097/01.inf.0000160914.59160.41
But MMR vaccination do cause long term immunity:
Irja Davidkin, Sari Jokinen, Mia Broman, Pauli Leinikki, Heikki Peltola, Persistence of Measles, Mumps, and Rubella Antibodies in an MMR-Vaccinated Cohort: A 20-Year Follow-up, The Journal of Infectious Diseases, Volume 197, Issue 7, 1 April 2008, Pages 950–956, https://doi.org/10.1086/528993

And speaking of dismal protection from the pertussis vaccine, where is the hysteria about those outbreaks. Why is the alarm not sounded about every suspected case, as with measles?

Research into more effective Pertussis vaccines is on-going. Until such time as one is available, why would one abandon a vaccine which is still very good (good enough to drive Diphtheria and Tetanus out of the popular lexicon)?

And if a virus has no other host than humans, where do you think it would exist – if there were no hosts within the area to be infected?

Why don’t you read about “ring immunization” and how it was used to eradicate both Smallpox and Rinderpest.

You mean Gerg is foul. Or a fol.

For any wondering passerby, the answer to the troll question will include, among other factors, difference in contagiousness between pertussis and measles.
Measles virus is airborne, and stay active and highly contagious up to two hours after a sick person released them. Not many airborne virus are like this. Picture how many people go through a public place (airport, school or shopping mall) in two hours.
Pertussis bacteria are also airborne, but not as good at contagion spread. Which is a bit like to say that a panther is not as deadly as a tiger.
Also, with measles, one becomes contagious days before any obvious symptom appears, while with pertussis, contagiousness and start of symptoms (runny nose, cough, etc.) are closer in time, limiting the time others may be unknowingly being exposed to someone sick.

Also, he is not paying attention. Pertussis outbreaks do happen and healthcare authorities do warn the public.
But, eh, the CDC is in the pocket of the judeo-massonic illimunati lodge, so don’t believe anything they say. /s

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