SkepticblogSkepticblog logo banner

top navigation:

Skeptical Battlegrounds: Part IV – Anti-Vaccine Hysteria

by Steven Novella, Dec 22 2008

There is a dedicated fringe anti-vaccine movement. They are dedicated to some permutation of the collection of beliefs that vaccines are: 1) not effective; 2) have not reduced or eliminated any infectious disease; 3) are not safe; and 4) are a conspiracy of Big Pharma, the government, and paid-off doctors. Specific claims have wandered over the years, but they have as a central theme that vaccines are bad. When one specific claim collapses, they will move on to the next anti-vaccine claim.

While anti-vaccine cranks have been around as long as vaccines, it is only recently that they have captured the attention of the mainstream media and the skeptical movement and the battle has really been engaged.

Anti-vaccinationists have focused much of their recent efforts on the claim that vaccines cause autism. At first the MMR vaccine was blamed, sparked by a now-discredited study performed by Andrew Wakefield. This led to declining vaccination rates in the UK and a resurgence of measles.

As the MMR claim was in decline (although by no means abandoned), attention shifted to thimerosal – a mercury-based preservative in some vaccines. There are many flaws with the thimerosal hypothesis, and numerous studies have shown no link between thimerosal and autism or any neurological disorder. But the fatal blow to the thimerosal hypothesis was struck when thimerosal was removed from the routine childhood vaccine schedule (thimerosal, incidentally, was never in the MMR vaccine) in the US by 2002. In the subsequent 6 years the rate of autism diagnoses kept increasing at their previous rate, without even a blip. Only the most rabid (or scientifically illiterate)  anti-vaccine fanatics still cling to the thimerosal claim.So attention has shifted yet again. Now the anti-vaccine crowd are hedging their bets with the “toxin gambit.” They blame various “toxins” in vaccines for its alleged and unproven side effects. Mercury is still on the list, but they have added aluminum, which is added to vaccines to make them more effective. They cite hydrochloric acid, which they don’t understand is added to balance the pH of vaccines. They try to scare people by saying vaccines contain formaldehyde, but neglect to mention that formaldehyde is already naturally present in our blood in higher amounts than are found in vaccines. They even make up some toxins (aided by their limitless scientific ignorance) by misreading chemical names. Jenny McCarthy, for example, has repeated numerous times (despite being called on it) the canard that vaccines contain ether and anti-freeze – both untrue. They also try the scare tactic of saying that vaccines contain viral proteins – uh, yeah, that’s the point. And that they may contain fetal tissue – which is a gross distortion. Some vaccine components were cultured in cells that were derived years ago from fetuses.

(For a more thorough review of the science behind recent anti-vaccine claims you can browse through my many blog posts on the topic, or read this overview I wrote for the Skeptical Inquirer.)

The Anti-Vaccine Players

Active players on the anti-vaccine side include a number of organizations, such as Safe Minds and Age of Autism. They have been given an incredible boost by the internet, as the skeptical movement has, and have been tireless in spreading their misinformation and ideology on their websites and blogs.

Andrew Wakefield, despite being discredited, has not recanted his claim that there is a link between MMR and vaccines. He now portrays himself as a martyr to the cause. As a doctor and researcher he remains an icon of the anti-vaccine movement.

Other anti-vaccine researchers include the father and son team of Mark and David Geier. They have made a career publishing bogus studies claiming to show a statistical correlation between vaccine and autism. Their studies crumble under peer-review, however. They have also spent a lot of time as expert witnesses for attorneys suing over vaccine injury. Their worst contribution to anti-vaccine nonsense, in my opinion, is a recent study in which they are treating autistic children with Lupron and chelation therapy. They were only able to get approval for this ethically dubious study by putting together their own IRB board packed with cronies.

Dr. Jay Gordon is a “pediatrician to the stars” and prominent figure in the anti-vaccine pantheon, despite his coy and unconvincing protests that he is not anti-vaccine. He is notorious for relying upon his gut instinct as a clinician rather than actual published scientific evidence, and makes a slew of anti-vaccine claims that are completely unsupported by evidence. For example he is proponent of the notion that the childhood vaccine program gives too many vaccines too soon – without any scientific rationale or evidence.

J.B. Handley is the co-founder of generation rescue, a parent-based autism support group that is dedicated to the notion that autism is a vaccine-injury. His group also favors and promotes a number of biological therapies for autism, such as chelation therapy, all based either on the mercury poisoning hypothesis, or any dubious alternative therapy that comes along.

David Kirby is a journalist who gave the thimerosal hypothesis a huge boost with his 2006 book Evidence of Harm.  In it he puts forward the claim that there is a vast conspiracy among the pharmaceutical industry, the government (via the FDA and CDC) and the medical establishment to hide the evidence that thimerosal in vaccines causes autism. He has subsequently built his career around that book, and clings tenaciously to the thimerosal claim. He blogs for The Huffington Post, where he repeats his anti-vaccine propaganda on a regular basis. Kirby is most notorious for specifically claiming that autism rates should plummet following the removal of thimerosal from the vaccine schedule, and then subsequently moving the goalpost on his prediction.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is a lawyer and environmentalist who has championed the hard-core conspiracy theories surrounding the anti-vaccine claims. He wrote Deadly Immunity (published simultaneously Rolling Stone magazine and, and followed up with a ridiculous screed called Attack on Mothers. He has been particularly shrill and paranoid in his writings, and just as scientifically clueless. This was the primary reason for the controversy that erupted when his name was floated for an Obama appointment to head the EPA.

The reigning superstar of the anti-vaccine movement is actress Jenny McCarthy.  After deciding that her son, Evan, was an indigo child (actually, she is an “indigo” and Evan is a “crystal” – divine manifestors here to save the earth, so they have that going for them) McCarthy later decided that Evan had autism caused by the MMR vaccine. So she shifted from crusading to spread the word of indigo children to the world to spreading anti-vaccine propaganda. She has subsequently been relentless in spreading her scientific illiteracy and fear mongering, and was the primary force behind the “Green or Vaccine” march earlier this year. She believes that we should listen to her “mommy instinct” rather than scientific evidence. Eager for a celebrity face to put on their movement, McCarthy was rapidly positioned as the de facto leader of the anti-vaccine crowd.

Her celebrity has indeed made her dangerous. She has also managed to rope in her boyfriend, Jim Carrey, who is also as clueless as he is famous.

Also a huge player in the anti-vaccine movement is the media. In general the mainstream media have been mixed in the quality of their approach to this issue. Sometimes a mainstream outlet does a decent job, but mostly they allow Jenny McCarthy and her ilk to have a free ride, with perhaps lame token skepticism thrown in.

But beyond mainstream media incompetence, there are several outlets that have actively promoted the anti-vaccine movement, and they deserve a large share of the blame for the harm that results. This includes the Huffington Post, which I already mentioned as the blog home of David Kirby. Larry King has also allowed his show to be used to promote anti-vaccine pseudoscience. But the queen of shilling for dangerous quackery is Oprah Winfrey. She has the largest and most adoring audience. She has promoted Jenny McCarthy and Dr. Jay Gordon on her show numerous times. She doesn’t even bother with the token science.

There are many others, but those are the names that have been prominent in the media recently.

Defending Science

The list of players opposing the anti-vaccine movement is not as long.  The most prominent opponent is Dr. Paul Offit, a pediatrician and researcher who recently published a book on the topic called Autism’s False Prophets. He has endured personal threats in order to tirelessly attack the pseudoscience of the anti-vaccine crowd. He is certainly their enemy #1. He understands the issue inside and out and is an effective public speaker and writer.

Recently actress Amanda Peet decided to go up against Jenny McCarthy in a celebrity death match over the issue (or at least that’s how the media likes to play it). She has become a spokesperson for the vaccine program, and has specifically targeted anti-vaccine propaganda. She also has made an effective swipe at McCarthy exploiting her celebrity to promote her own wacky ideas. Peet stresses that she is not an expert, and that she defers to the scientific consensus on vaccines. She is not trying to substitute her own opinion for that of experts, she is simply trying to get the word out that vaccines are a safe and effective public health measure.

But those who have been in the trenches countering anti-vaccine propaganda at every turn are skeptics and science bloggers. I have been writing about the issue since 2005, and in fact have been engaged directly by David Kirby and others. David Gorski, who blogs for Science-Based Medicine and Respectful Insolence, has also been blogging very effectively on this issue for years. Dr. Gordon, in fact, treats him as his personal nemesis. Our allies across the pond include Ben Goldacre who write the Bad Science column. Even non-physician skeptical bloggers will occasionally take on anti-vaccine nuttery. Phil Plait, for example, will take time away from astronomy to dismantle the latest anti-vaccine pseudoscience. There are others, and my apologies to anyone I did not specifically mention.

Some bloggers in the autism community, like the autism diva,  have also opposed the anti-vaccine crowd, partly because in order to bolster their fear mongering the anti-vaccinationists have portrayed autism as a universally “life sucking”disorder. It is not hard to understand why some autism parents would be offended at that characterization of their children, or why they would resent the use of autism to fear-monger about vaccines.

The government and mainstream medical community has been largely ineffective on the issue. They try, with occasional official statements about the science, but they simply don’t have the experience dealing with a dedicated pseudoscientific popular movement.

The Stakes

The consequences of this particular battle are quite high.  Obviously, everyone wants effective vaccine regulation and safety monitoring. There is broad support for the vaccine compensation program, that streamlines the process of financially compensating children and families that have suffered legitimate side effects from vaccines. On any particular claim, we want the scientific chips to fall where they may. If some vaccine ingredient is causing harm, we need to find out right away and make the necessary changes. Only a cartoonish, handlebar mustache-twisting villain would want to allow children to be harmed through compulsory vaccines. Anti-vaccine hysteria, however, hampers effective vaccine safety by diverting attention and resources to false claims.

The most direct consequence of the anti-vaccine movement, and their recent successes with Jenny McCarthy and Oprah, is stoking public fears about the vaccine program leading to declining vaccination rates. This has already resulted in increased outbreaks of measles and mumps.  Vaccine hysteria in Nigeria set back the goal of eradicating polio from the world for years.

Not having ones’ children vaccinated does not only put your children at risk but others as well. As vaccination rates drop, infectious diseases they would normally prevent are allowed to spread through the population. This puts everyone at risk, but especially those people who cannot be vaccinated because of a medical contraindication.

The anti-vaccine crowd has also opposed attempts to shield vaccine manufacturers from liability. No one is arguing that vaccine producers get a free pass – they are still responsible for their product, and are certainly tightly regulated by the government. However, if they were vulnerable every lawyer trying to make a buck off of anti-vaccine pseudoscience, it would quickly become impossible to produce vaccines. It would not be worth it for any company to sell vaccines – and of course that is the goal of the anti-vaccine movement. They want to end vaccines, and harassing lawsuits are just one method. This is partly why the government set up the vaccine compensation program – there is a small tax attached to every vaccine, and that tax goes into a pool that is then paid out to those injured by vaccines, as determined by a federal court.

This brings up another risk of the anti-vaccine movement. There are now about 5,000 cases before the vaccine injury compensation program by parents who allege that their children’s autism was caused by vaccines. The courts now have to spend time and taxpayer money legally settling a question that the scientific community already has.


The anti-vaccine movement is a recent skeptical battleground, and one that is still very active.  This is certainly one of the biggest issues from 2008, and likely will continue to be for the foreseeable future. Skeptics have been particularly effective in dissecting the claims of the anti-vaccinationists and pointing out the dangers of anti-vaccine hysteria. But the anti-vaccinationists have the momentum, due largely to Jenny McCarthy and Oprah Winfrey. Vaccine rates are declining.

It seems as if we may be seeing a momentum shift, however. Next year will be very telling.

One thing is clear – the skeptical movement has to keep vigilant and keep the pressure on. We have to oppose anti-vaccine pseudoscience at every turn. We need to make ourselves available to the mainstream media and be effective at the public relations end of the game. We need to get the mainstream scientific and medical communities more active and show them how it’s done.

This is a fight we can win, and I think we are making headway.

58 Responses to “Skeptical Battlegrounds: Part IV – Anti-Vaccine Hysteria”

  1. My personal hypothesis is that Jenny McCarthy causes autism. Her career as some sort of media personality correlates strongly with the rise in diagnoses.

  2. Hal J Cohen D.O. says:

    I’ve commented each and every time that you’ve posted anything regarding these false prophets and their ultra-dangerous messages. All I can say is thank you for continuing to do so. I do the same, one on one, with my patients, if they have doubt or trepidation regarding vaccines. It’s additional time I must spend, but it’s always time very well spent. This battle must be fought both in the trenches and in the media. Thank you for doing the latter. Tis deeply appreciated.

  3. Did anyone happen to listen to This American Life this last week? Entitled “Ruining it for the Rest of Us,” one story featured involved a family at the heart of a measles outbreak because they elected not to have their child vaccinated. Really horrifying:

  4. Max says:

    Why would there be a measles outbreak if everyone else was vaccinated?

  5. Chris says:

    Max, (note I have not heard the episode, but I have downloaded it, so I am going on news reports) not everyone else was vaccinated and certainly not the children in the doctor’s waiting room who were TOO YOUNG to get the vaccine. The MMR is given only after a child turns one year old. Several babies were infected when the sick child went to the doctor.

    Also, folks with similar silly ideas sometimes flock together. Other unvaccinated children who were infected attended the same charter school. Outbreaks of measles have occurred in similar under vaccinated populations in Indiana, Washington, Illinois and elsewhere (like a Waldorf school in Austria).

    Also, some people have actual medical reasons for not being vaccinated. These include immune disorders, transplant patients and other reasons. PLUS… the vaccine is around 95 to 98% effective, which means in a school of around 300 fully vaccinated kids, there would be between six to fifteen who could still get infected with measles.

    Though the main problem in the San Diego outbreak were the several babies that were too young to get the vaccine that got measles (I believe at least one ended up in the hospital).

  6. Liz Ditz says:

    I’ll repeat the comment I left at Neurologica:

    I also wanted to mention Diego Pineda (a science writer) and Martin G. Myers, MD, who co-wrote Do Vaccines Cause That?!, which was published by Immunizations for Public Health

    Diego Pineda’s blog:

    Do Vaccines Cause That?! webpage

    It is a science-based but breezy book, accessible to parents.

    There was a whooping cough outbreak in the San Francisco Bay Area last May:

    California averages a 99 percent immunization rate.

    But at East Bay Waldorf School, health officials say less than 50 percent are protected from the disease and say that’s why it was able to spread so easily.

    Whooping cough has made more than a dozen students at the school sick, and forced a 3-day closure.

  7. Max says:

    What are Waldorf schools? Sounds like they’re anti-vaccine players.

  8. Ian Mason says:

    But caveat emptor. Scandal in Denmark. The majority of doctors giving voluntary vaccinations (against cervical cancer virus etc.) have been caught double charging. That is, taking money from patient and state for the same service. Naughty naughty! It’s a good thing to be skeptical about everything, even supposedly responsible, well-educated professionals.
    Happy holidays.

  9. Mike says:

    Another excellent post Steven. It is interesting how the fear of the disease has been replaced by the fear of the treatment. The majority of today’s young parents will not have either had measles or seen a case. It is often personal experience that determines their response to health risks. We currently have a local measles epidemic in our area (as we predicted when MMR rates fell below 90% a few years ago) and the cases are occurring in those who were not vaccinated. You can imagine that worried parents are now scrambling to get the vaccine!

    The evidence of benefit from vaccines is overwhelming and in the past the public and press have stood behind scientists and Drs in fighting infectious diseases – witness the March of Dimes, the portrayal as heroes of Jonas Salk and Albert Sabin.

    The problem is essentially a political one – we have to sell the benefits of immunisation to the public – we need to engage groups in society and politicians to push the message – we can’t rely on people to understand the science – another problem with the lamentable degree of scientific illiteracy around.

    I am fortunate as a GP that I see every mother with a newborn baby and can discuss immunisation with them – it is very rare nowadays to meet someone who won’t have the MMR. Indeed I had a long chat today with a mother asking me whether she should enrol her new baby on a vaccine trial for a trial Meningitis B vaccine. I think it is very likely that she will as she had a clear grasp of the pros and cons

    There is hope yet!!

  10. Carl says:

    Steve, it isn’t that controversional to “… claim that there is a link between MMR and vaccines” (as you write above).

    Also, you gave away Dr. Gorski’s not-very-secret alter ego. Was that on purpose?

  11. Chris says:

    Carl, I suspect connecting Dr. Gorski with both blogs was deliberate. It seems that Jay Gordon whines and moans on how he is depicted on one blog, and will also claim that Gorski is blogging anonymously. But then when Gordon is called out here: — there is no input from Gordon at all.

    Actually, I don’t think I’ve ever seen Gordon or Handley bother to comment on the ScienceBasedMedicine blog, though they do show up on the other blog.

  12. joe says:

    I think it’s funny that in the This American Life episode the first places people were warned about possible measles contact were Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s

    If you want to find woo-woo in your community, those are good places to start.

    Incidentally, my sister works a Whole Foods and a lot of our conversations are me doing damage control because of nonsense she picked up there such as homeopathy, naturopathy, ghost-based diets, etc.

    Sort of related: I’d like to see a post about the organic food movement and the (if any) science behind it.

  13. Resume says:

    I’m thinking a new term is needed to encompass all this nonsense.


  14. James Severin says:

    If I’m reading what you posted correctly, the hypothesis that there is a link between MMR and autism rates is a reasonable one to make. Parents took their kids to get vaccinated and then they developed autism, the problem is that this hypothesis does not have any evidence to support it and the evidence against this hypothesis is overwhelming.

  15. Chris says:

    The most interesting thing about claiming the MMR causes autism is that it has been used in the USA since 1971. If many of those crunchy moms/dads (as they were called in the American Life show) are less than 38 years old, they may have actually received the MMR as children.

  16. The ‘correlation is not causation’ problem has dogged professional scientists for centuries, so I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised when parents fall into that trap when a vaccinated is later diagnosed with autism. I think it’s unanimous that education is the key, daunting as that task is given the misinformation out there.

    Joe of post 13 – I gotta ask…. what, pray tell, comprises a “ghost-based diet”? Boocumbers, bootabagas, boolash, Boo Goo Gai Pan, chop booey, and other bootritional dishes?

  17. “when a vaccinated CHILD is later diagnosed as…” Dammit.

  18. Carl says:

    James Severin, I was pointing out a mistake in Steve’s writing. There is an obvious relationship between MMR and vaccines, in that MMR is a vaccine.

  19. LUFTRITTER says:

    What I think is that even if it were true (that exist some correlation between autism and vaccination which of course is a silly belief) is better take your risk with autism over not take your vaccines. At least you will still be alive. Antivaccination is the most nonsensical and criminal belief I know. An excellent post like usual Dr. Novella.

  20. Cambias says:

    I’ve noticed a lot of chiropractors are active in the antivaccination “movement.” A regional parents’ publication in central New York State had a long and fantastically biased article about the pros and cons of vaccination — written by a local chiropractor. Given that chiropractic “medicine” mostly ignores the germ theory of disease, I guess it’s understandable for them to oppose vaccination. Evil and stupid, but understandable.

  21. The Blind Watchmaker says:

    One movie star on the science side is not enough. We need more!

  22. James Severin says:

    My bad, I guess I should have read more carefully. :(
    Sometimes I get so fired up that I don’t read carefully and just want to engage.

  23. Mike says:

    You are absolutely right. Antivaccination people are bad. Measles are bad. SARS and Birdflu are bad! Only with vaccines we can conquer such dreadful diseases. As I am a naive, non scientifically uneducated person who is unafraid of vaccines, but scared to death by fear mongerers, I would like to enquire, where I can have myself vaccinated against HIV, fear mongering associated hypertension, Hepatite C, Bullshit induced encephalitis and governement-/industry salaried blogitis. Thank you for your scientifical guidance.

  24. MadScientist says:

    I suspect one means of winning over conversions is to show what happens without vaccines. In the so-called ‘third world’ we can find many populations – some vaccinated and some not vaccinated against various diseases.

    In the early part of the 20th century, many Americans were familiar with the horror of the diseases which are now largely forgotten in the USA. Ask any old timer (at least over 60 years old) about vaccines and their own experiences with the various diseases they prevent.

    Perhaps it’s time to take a camera crew and a trip through a number of African and Asian nations to show people just what it is we’re missing out on thanks to widespread vaccination. Small pox – virtually eradicated. Cow pox – good luck finding anyone who’s ever heard of it. Rabies – well, that’s still a problem even in the USA, but how many cases of death by rabies have you heard of lately? (Personally, while overseas, I had observed a child die of rabies and I could never think of words to describe the horrible event.) Whooping cough, tetanus, polio, rubella – the list just goes on. If people only saw how less fortunate people who have no vaccination have to suffer with such dreadful diseases, maybe that’ll knock some sense into them. That world of unspeakable misery is what the anti-vaccination loons are promoting. If a significant number of Americans avoid their vaccinations, we will see these horrors return.

  25. Mike says:

    @ MadScientist

    Nomen est omen. Are you now talking about US or development countries? If you talk about the poor – help them to get some proper nourishment and accurate hygienic conditions, before you subject them to your bigpharma campaigns. Guarantee they will feel better and contract less “dreadful” diseases.
    What always pisses me off with your american selfrighteous approach is when you open your mouth before you switch on your brains. Maybe you can develop some vaccine for this condition. It would benefit the world tremendously!
    Sorry for interfering your wellfeeling party in this forum I happened to stumble upon by chance and was baffled by the arrogance, ignorance and sheer stupidity of some (most) of the statements… You call it scientific – call it whatever you want. It does not become science just because you call it so.

  26. Chris says:

    And yet, the biggest gains against measles deaths have been in the third world countries with vaccine programs. From , “Between 2000 and 2007, measles deaths fell by 74% globally and by 89% in Africa alone. Click here to learn more.”

    While measles have returned to the UK, Austria, Switzerland, Japan and the USA with the reduction of MMR uptake.

    Yes, sanitation and nourishment will help with certain things like cholera (no vaccine) and typhus, but vaccines also save many lives.

    By the way, it costs less to vaccinate against a disease than to treat it later. “Big Pharma” also makes money on antibiotics, IV fluids, life support equipment and on and on. If Mikey can show us how vaccines are a much bigger money maker than taking care of those who do get sick, he is welcome to do so (because there is plenty of papers on PubMed showing how vaccine programs save money).

  27. Mike says:

    ok, look at the birdflue hype to understand that vaccines are in fact the big biz. Of course, if the treatment of a condition makes a superior position in the books of the industry, then for some strange reason beyond comprehension it will be impossible for the “scientists” to find an appropriate serum for a vaccine inspite of decades and billions spent on “research” (see HIV, Malaria, Hep C, and the thousands of other potentially fatal conditions that exist, but which you can not get a shot for). So What is it you want to prove with a site like the look at the initiators behind it – all these institutions are promoting a case of monetarial importance – they don’t really care about the human beings concerned – that’s why they ask for your donation (although they surely have the budgets…). And as far as the percentage figures are concerned let me tell you: I believe only stats that I have faked myself…
    I have come around a bit. I have gone through the various vaccine programs before traveling the third world. I have been immunized for various things and still got terribly sick… For the past 15 years I have abstained from all the shots and I am generally well, because I learned how to sustain my health and to cure myself if falling sick (I am still living in a development country). I realized that you can simply not immunize for all the “dreadful” diseases on offer. If you could teach people how to take care of their own health it would be a far superior approach to all the vaccination schemes – of course humanitarian concerns will then rank before financial concerns.
    I could write pages, why you don’t need vaccines. But you would not listen, because the idea of this blog is to make people believe that vaccines are good and absolutely necessary and that anti vaccination crowds consist of idiots only. It might surprise you that I am not even against vaccines. But everybody should be free to choose. But then again this will interfere with the author’s (hypo)thesis of vaccination density..
    And one last thing: You are talking about expensive cures. Are they now expensive because they are expensive to produce, or because the pharma is making tremendous profits, or because they are ineffective? Simple cheap cures that are effective are not even considered by your so called “scientific” community and methods that have proven successfull for five thousand years are labelled “alternative” or “complementary” by arrogant academic parrots. Yes, Chris, long before your namesake columbus spread some measles and flu to the Americas, the people knew how to cure themselves for free.
    By the way: heard about Jim Humble? I can hear some thooth gritting when I utter this name, but his stuff is brilliant and makes a cure, where billions of dollars and crowds of “scientists” have not even come close to a solution. I understand that this might be embarrassing for the “scientific” world and that they therefore fight by all means against such a defeat – because ultimately it destroys their wonderfully designed world of lies and maximised profits, what they call “medical science”.
    I am gratefully consulting a doctor when I need one and I know that most of the doctors have initially chosen their profession from an inner urge to help. But I know that doctors are having a very hard time if taking a stance against the dictate of the Pharmaffia and their Federal Drug Allies and therefore most of them have given up striving for the truth and for excellence and are dumbed and numbed into performing for remuneration solely.
    I wish this might be a turning point in the history of modern medicine and the fight for markets is giving way to authentic and just humanitarian effort. Change we need…don’t we?

  28. Patrick says:

    @ Mike:
    Oh god, where to start:

    … columbus spread some measles and flu to the Americas, the people knew how to cure themselves for free.
    Yes, there was a 100% effective cure. It was called “horrific, painful death.” Are you serious?

    Look, it is an undeniable fact that “big pharma” is in the business of making money, and I’m certainly no appologist for the pharmaceutical industry, but vaccines, in general, are safe and effective. Period. Likewise for the vast majority of science-based medical treatments.

    Do you honestly think the profit motive isn’t what’s driving CAM treatment providers? It sure seems a HELL of a lot to market a product as a cure without having to show that is is effective, without going through expensive controlled trials.

    The main difference between established science-based medicine and CAM is that science-based medicine has been shown to be effective, while CAM treatments have not. Are there some CAM treatments that have some efficacy? Sure, I’m sure there are some. But how does one distinguish the effective ones from the nonsense. Luckily, there’s a process, called “science” that allows us to tell the difference. Once something HAS been proven effective, then guess what? It’s now part of Medicine, WITHOUT the “Complimentary and Alternative.”

    What’s so hard to understand about this?

  29. Patrick says:

    Eep! Sorry.

    Apparently, I forgot to close my block quote.

  30. Mike says:

    …and so on it goes. case closed. and as far as block quotes are concerned. please do not only close them early enough, but also open them early enough, otherwise someone who didn’t read my nonsense above could get the impression I was saying something in the way you quote it. but erh.. I did not expect any different reaction. Ah yes: I am glad humanity survived upto the time of science, otherwise, we could not enjoy your statements…

  31. Julian says:

    “I wish this might be a turning point in the history of modern medicine and the fight for markets is giving way to authentic and just humanitarian effort.”

    Why do you wooist always attack the character of others instead of supporting your arguments with something coherent? Why is it always ‘you’re evil’ or ‘you’re part of some giant lobby trying to kill us all?’ Why can’t you stick two sentences together supporting your case in place of all the nonsense you post?

  32. Patrick says:

    Actually, you’re right. I misread the Columbus statement and upon rereading it, it is clear that you did not intent to say quite what I interpreted, and the way I quoted you did indeed mischaracterize what you were saying. My apologies.

    Unfortunately, it doesn’t change my point at all. Knowledge that the Native Americans, or any other culture, had that actually has efficacy as a medical treatment has been incorporated into medicine, through overcoming the hurdles of controlled trials. Every treatment must overcome these hurdles. If the treatment is not effective, it doesn’t “pass the gate.” Period. Alternative treatments such as homeopathy or acupuncture (as examples) have had ample time to show their efficacy, and have not done so. As for “Herbal” remedies, well some of them have been shown to be effective and been incorporated into medicine (willow bark/asirin), others have not (ginko, and countless others). It is inexcusable for a doctor to recommend a treatment that has not been shown to be effective, or worse, has been shown explicitly to be ineffective.

  33. Mike says:

    “Why is it always ‘you’re evil’ or ‘you’re part of some giant lobby trying to kill us all?’”

    are you? Where is your coherence?

  34. Chris says:

    For the record, I have never heard of Jim Humble. Give me some citations from PubMed by him and I will look at them. Something along the line of this:

    Show us how it is better to save money by eschewing vaccines. Show us that the disabilities from measles, mumps, rubella, Hib, polio and other diseases will not come back if we stop vaccinating. Show us that the return of measles to the UK, Switzerland, Japan, Austria and the USA is a figment of our imaginations.

    Use evidence, not ramblings.

    Why is it that the native people had such great “free” medicine before the Europeans came, that 95% were wiped out by measles, smallpox and other diseases that had not been in the Western Hemisphere? (read

  35. Chris says:

    Mikey, the ad homs do not help your argument. Actually your ramblings do not help at all. You have not really told us why vaccines are big money makers, or how eschewing them would save money, and keep children from disability and death from measles, mumps, rubella, Hib, polio, pertussis, etc.

    If the American natives had such great “free” medicine, why did 90 to 95% die from measles, smallpox and other European diseases after Columbus (or more acurately Cristobal Colon)? Read William McNeill’s “Plagues and People”, which is referenced in Jarod Diamond’s book “Guns, Germs and Steel”.

    I have never heard of Jim Humble. Could you link some of his PubMed publications? Something with the quality of scientific evidence as this:

  36. Chris says:

    Sorry for the multiple postings… It took a while to notice I clicked submit, so I thought it went into the ether. Thinking it was too many URLs, I removed one.

    Though I am still curious how vaccines are worse than the diseases. And how Mike proposes we avoid “Big Pharma”, and without going to “Big Supplement”.

  37. Jennifer says:

    I am the exact opposite of what you would expect in a non-vaxer…i.e. not a braless hippie with a subaru. And let me tell you. You do enough CREDIBLE research, as in not just internet blogs, but in medical journals from multiple nations, CDC studies dating back to the 60’s, the current CDC info (which is hypocritical at every turn) and actually reading the vaccine package inserts, and researching where and how each shot is manufactured, you too would be anti-vax. YOur best bet to remain healthy is to nurse your children for as long as possible (2 years being the MINIMUM), eat healthy, non chemical treated whole foods, naturally raised (pastured) meats and wild fish. GET OFF THE Rx and OTC DRUGS TOO! Let your body do its job.

  38. Jennifer says:

    One other thing…if you look back(again folkd this means doing some hard core research) you can find multiple statements by the CDC every 5-10 years sayign “this NEW vaccine is way better than the old one and NOW it’s totally safe. We worked out all the kinks.”
    Really, how many do-overs will we allow?

    By the way do you find it at all interesting that they just recalled a ton of animal, I believe rabies vaccines, becasue they discovered they were causing malignant tumors at the injection site???

    And how about the new (well new to the mainstream folks) about Guardisil, the HPV vax that has been causing infertility and a host of other horrible complications that CBS just recently reported on? What? CDC gets to say whoops, we thought it was safe so we’ll make a new one and THAT one will be safe?

    Heads. Out. Of. The. Sand.

  39. HCN says:

    Sure, Jennifer, help us get our heads out of the sand. Tell us what the real medical research literature says!

    Right now over a dozen American babies die from pertussis, and now children are starting to die from Hib. Give us the real actual factual evidence that I can find in my local medical school library (not paid by a lawyer, so that leaves out the Geiers, and Wakefield — plus nothing in “Medical Hypothesis”) that show that the DTaP is worse than diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis.

    Do the same for Hib.

    Oh, and the MMR — tell us how that vaccine which has been used in the USA since 1971 and has never contained thimerosal nor aluminum is worse than measles, mumps and rubella.

    Oh, I love this: “YOur best bet to remain healthy is to nurse your children for as long as possible (2 years being the MINIMUM)”

    My daughter was nursed until she was two years old, still she got pretty sick form chicken pox when she was six months old!

    With that dictate that mothers nurse until age two years, what do you do in the case of someone like Maurice Hilleman whose mother died shortly after he was born? Or how about mothers who take medication that prohibits breastfeeding (like one in my first birthing class)?

    Anyway, I await for you to tell us exactly what evidence makes you think that vaccines are worse than measles, mumps, pertussis, polio, Hib, diphtheria, tetanus and hepatitis.

  40. HCN says:

    Jennifer was stereotyping with the “not a braless hippie with a subaru.”

    Actually, if you read the actual post the main anti-vax idiots are upper class twits who think that they know more than the scientists.

    For instance: JB Handley, Mark Blaxill, Lyn Redwood, Robert Kennedy, jr, Jenny McCarthy and Jay Gordon (pediatrician to the stars, who does not accept insurance, he runs a cash only practice — and who once got stuck on an escalator!).

    I on the other did breastfeed for years, used cloth diapers and even made baby food. I also drove a Subaru — which was the crappiest care we have ever owned. It was only after we did not need to pay for more private speech therapy that we were able to get rid of it and get a decent van.

    Yet, I have looked at the science — and found the anti-vaccine argument lacking. I am especially amused by the MMR, which Wakefield demonized with case study of only 12 kids paid for by a lawyer. Many of the American parents who are idiot enough to think that the more than 1 in 1000 chance of real neurological damage from measles and/mumps is safer than the 1 in 1000000 chance of damage from the MMR…. probably were given at least one dose of MMR as children if they are under 38 years old.

    Since my son had neonatal seizures he was denied protection from pertussis due to the scaremongering by people like Barbara Loe Fisher. Unfortunately this was a time when our county was having a pertussis epidemic (about the same time over 120 Americans died from measles). As it turns out, he probably could have had the DPT instead of the DT: … “Encephalopathy after whole-cell pertussis or measles vaccination: lack of evidence for a causal association in a retrospective case-control study.”

    Since this comment will probably go into moderation, I will offer up a couple of other interesting papers for you. You need to then tell me what actual evidence you have that vaccines are bad: … “Impact of Specific Medical Interventions on Reducing the Prevalence of Mental Retardation”
    and … “Economic Evaluation of the 7-Vaccine Routine Childhood Immunization Schedule in the United States, 2001″

    I should also let you know that all of my children have had chicken pox, which now makes them eligible for shingles. There was an outbreak in the older boy’s school when he was kindergarten the year before the vaccine was available. One child in the school ended up in the hospital with a very real chance of losing a leg due to a severe opportunistic bacterial infection.

    When my oldest son was a toddler he got rotavirus. He became dehydrated and had a grand mal seizure, which landed him in the hospital. That seizure may or may not have been the start of his life-long speech, language and learning disabilities.

    I don’t think I am the one with my head in the sand.

  41. HCN says:

    Jennifer, why have you not come back to help us get our heads out of the sand with your great research?

    Guess what? Today on the Science Based Medicine blog started by Dr. Novella there was a posting by their new guy, a pediatrician. He wrote about Hib, and included this link: … which says:
    “In the last six months, the PADOH has received reports of Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) invasive disease in four unvaccinated or incompletely vaccinated children less than five years of age in southeastern Pennsylvania. Isolates from three additional cases of Haemophilus influenzae invasive disease, also in unvaccinated children less than five years old from southeastern Pennsylvania, have not yet been serotyped. Three of these seven children died.”

    Let us repeat that last sentence: “Three of these seven children died.”

    Really, now… explain to me very clearly how the Hib vaccine is worse than the disease.

  42. Alyssa says:

    As a parent of 2 kids with Autism, the question I always ask is: Would I rather have my kids alive with Autism, or dead from a completely preventable disease?
    They are alive, and I intend to keep them that way.

  43. john robins says:

    Things like this are nice to talk about but sure does suck to be involved in a accident like this!

  44. Tina "I" says:

    Well, if the Gov’t / Dr’s say so… we should all run out and do it?!?! Why is heart disease, cancer, diabetes on the rise? (When change in food choices can reduce the incidence of all). Why are drugs being ADVERTISED on television? Why is meat & dairy PROMOTED on television? (But not the fruits & vegetables?) Why does the gov’t subsidize meat & dairy? Why is so much money spent on research, but the U.S. cases are higher than most other countries? Because there is MONEY TO BE MADE… that’s why! Why doesn’t the Gov’t and Dr’s use the same scare tactics that they use with vaccinations to get people to eat better, and stop eating so much meat, dairy, and processed, “dead” food, so that we can reduce the #’s of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, etc… People are dying ALL THE TIME from those diseases… more than the measles etc… but the gov’t doesn’t do what it really needs to do to turn it around… because there is no profit for them to bother! Same with the over the top push to vaccinate everyone.


  45. Tina "I" says:

    I should add, that I don’t dispute ALL vaccinations. I believe we are OVER-vaccinating. What is wrong with a relatively healthy person getting the flu? Our body can fight illness, and build up our immune system. I had the chicken pox, and so did two of my children, and we’re all fine — and healthier than most people I know. People should research, and do what is right for them… NOT blindly follow the gov’t / doctors.

    • Max says:

      “I had the chicken pox, and so did two of my children, and we’re all fine.”

      Tell that to someone with shingles or whose child died from chickenpox.

      “What is wrong with a relatively healthy person getting the flu?”

      1. If she’s pregnant, she’s at high risk even if she’s healthy.
      2. She can infect a person who is at high risk.
      3. There’s a small chance that she’ll die.
      4. There’s a bigger chance that she’ll be hospitalized.
      5. She’ll miss work, classes, and/or important occasions.
      6. She can infect others, who’ll face problems 1-6.
      7. If many people get the flu, it strains the healthcare system, lowers productivity, and wastes resources.

      • Max says:

        8. If the flu is going around, a more serious disease is more likely to be mistaken for flu.
        9. The more people get the flu, the more will take antiviral drugs, develop side-effects, and increase the chance that the virus becomes drug-resistant.

  46. Tina "I" says:

    Some people have a better immune system than others.

    What about soooo many of my friends that get the flu shot, and then get the flu?? I never get the flu shot, and never get the flu. I also eat really well, and almost never get sick with anything (even if I’m around people that are sick)… same with my kids. I used to get sick years ago… when I was less educated, and ate poorly. To each his own. I stand by the fact that everyone should research for themselves, and do what is best for their own family. Never, ever blindly follow. No one cares more about your health, and your children’s health than you.

    I also have friends that get the flu, and take it easy for a few days, and get well again. What’s wrong with that? Strengthen the immune system – our body is capable of fighting illness, so let it.

    • Max says:

      “everyone should research for themselves”

      I did, and the research shows that flu shots are safe and effective.

      “After reviewing the medical records of more than one million members of the United States military over a three-year period, researchers have found that conventional intramuscular shots reduced doctor visits for flulike symptoms by up to 54 percent…”

      I assume that members of the US military are healthier than average. Notice that 54% is less than 100%, but significantly more than 0%.

  47. Tina "I" says:

    I really don’t need answers back. I have read both sides. I want to end my comments with… everyone should research for THEMSELVES, and do what is right for their own family. Of course the gov’t wants to make money — they don’t always have our best interest at heart.

  48. Tina "I" says:

    Max, Curious why you think the gov’t isn’t using the same scare tactics to get people to eat real food vs. processed junk, and chemically changed foods? Promote eating less dairy, and meat. Promote eating MORE fruits and vegetables! We could combat heart disease, diabetes, much better. Those people are dying also… actually, way more reports of those deaths. But, no scare tactics for people to make serious changes. Hmmmmmm. Oh yeah, no money to be made, if they promote HEALTH.

    • Max says:

      Off-topic, but here goes…

      “Curious why you think the gov’t isn’t using the same scare tactics to get people to eat real food vs. processed junk, and chemically changed foods?”

      Different situations call for different scare tactics. For example, the FDA requires food labels to list trans fats and sodium.

      “But, no scare tactics for people to make serious changes.”

      The CDC lists heart disease and diabetes as risk factors for flu complications. That’s pretty scary.

      “Promote eating less dairy, and meat. Promote eating MORE fruits and vegetables!”

      The old food pyramid recommended more servings of fruits and vegetables than of dairy and meat.

  49. Tina "I" says:

    Completely ON topic. Build up your immune system by eating right, and have the ability to fight illness, or avoid illness. OR, eat whatever you want, and take a chance on over-vaccinating yourself and your family. I’ll stick to my way, since my family is healthier than most of the people we know.

  50. Tina "I" says:

    “research for yourselves” in all directions :)

    Here’s another link:

  51. Carl says:

    Well, if the Gov’t / Dr’s say so… we should all run out and do it?!?! Why is heart disease, cancer, diabetes on the rise? (When change in food choices can reduce the incidence of all). Why are drugs being ADVERTISED on television? Why is meat & dairy PROMOTED on television? (But not the fruits & vegetables?) Why does the gov’t subsidize meat & dairy? Why is so much money spent on research, but the U.S. cases are higher than most other countries? Because there is MONEY TO BE MADE… that’s why! Why doesn’t the Gov’t and Dr’s use the same scare tactics that they use with vaccinations to get people to eat better, and stop eating so much meat, dairy, and processed, “dead” food, so that we can reduce the #’s of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, etc…

    That would be: because little of this is true.

    Why are drugs advertised on TV? How about because it is a legitimate function of corporations to make a profit? Why are ski resorts and fast cars advertised on TV?

    US cases of WHAT are “higher” than in other countries? We certainly have more cancer and heart disease per capita than nations where people die young, because they’re diseases of aging.

    The US government subsidizes meat and dairy … and vegetables and fruits and grains and fish and ….

    The idea of “dead” food, BTW, is supported by zero science.

    The government[1] is in fact carrying our large public education campaigns to reduce obesity and promote healthy diet. Is the effort perfect? No. Effective? No. Why? Well, the meat lobby is certainly a factor, along with other food businesses. That isn’t relevant to this particular discussion, it’s just the conspiracy theorist’s “Throw random antigovernment slangs around to promote distrust” tactic.

  52. Ken King says:

    To all those still brainwashed and severely indoctrinated by junk science and big pharma propaganda learn the real history about vaccines.

    The Science of Mass Manipulation through Crisis Creation:
    An Introduction to the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations

    In this video, we take a look at the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations, which is describe in this video as the nerve center for the global manipulation of human consciousness.
    … See More
    Established in 1921 by the Royal Institute for International Affairs (RIIA), Tavistock has grown into one of the world’s biggest and most influential think tanks, working through governments, NGOs, the media, transnational corporations and major universities to manipulate the population of the world into accepting a one world collectivist state.

    Click Link>!

    Elitist Bertrand Russell, 3rd Earl Russell (1872-1970), was a Nobel Prize winner, worked on the education of young children and an award winner of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization. A highly respected man by the excessively rich dominant minority. He held views about the middle and lower classes some might describe as inhumane and others as psychopathic. His obsession on studying human behaviour to better utilize human resources did lead to him publishing insightful if not troublesome realities of human psychology.
    Click Link>