The Truth About TTAV Episode Six: Conspiracy Theory Extravaganza!

New to this series? Start here.

Episode Six: A Closer Look at the CDC, Chicken Pox and Rotavirus Vaccines & Retroviruses

The Cast

The Claims

CDC Conspiracy theories

  • The film claims that U.S.-based thinking on vaccines has shifted to ideology and dogma, as the scientific method has been rejected for the sake of rejecting unfavorable study results. 
    • If we are going to use the language of religion, it is important to note that the world’s major religions support vaccines.
    • But vaccines are not a religion, and the scientific method is deeply imbedded into the history and development of our current vaccine program.
  • The film thinks the public has a “misplaced faith in an undeserving authority” of the CDC.
    • The film claims that silences any kind of dissent so heretics get burned.
      • They mean that their wild theories are not taken seriously.
      • But spirited debate and dissent are done openly and publicly.
      • Heretics are religious dissenters. Researchers with differing conclusions are scientific dissenters. Replication of scientific conclusions proves who is correct.
    • They claim that if doctors question the dogma, they face retaliation
  • Claim: CDC-sponsored research is conducted in a manner to support the agency’s policies. However, the CDC is not the sole researcher of vaccines. Vaccines are researched across the globe and by labs in universities, corporations, and agencies everywhere. No one in any place in the world (outside the anti-vaccine community) thinks vaccines cause autism.
  • Claim: Doctors are taught to respect the CDC’s authority without question. In all of my research (googling ), I have yet to find this class.
  • Claim: CDC’s conflicts of interest with the pharmaceutical industry are revealed through the vaccine schedule, as vaccines with questionable safety and effectiveness (i.e. Hep B vaccine for babies) are included.
  • Additionally, many high-ranking CDC employees end up working within the pharmaceutical industry with lucrative positions.
    • This isn’t completely incorrect, but keep in mind that people with expertise in such niche areas as vaccinology have few prospective employers.
  • Claim: CDC has a conflict of industry because they’re responsible for both vaccine safety and scheduling; impossible to objectively evaluate both areas 
  • The flilm called ACIP an agency to watch
    • Blah blah blah the CDC whistleblower William Thompson. 
    • Thompson supposedly lived with the fact that the CDC had found a causal link between MMR and vaccines for 13 years.
    • Recounted DeStefano study in Atlanta, the film alleged higher incidence of autism in African American boys upon MMR administration
      • In fact, the retracted Hooker reinterpretation of the data found a higher incidence of autism in African-American boys vaccinated late: between 24 and 36 months.
      • Likely, these children were diagnosed before being vaccinated, and were vaccinated so that they could enter early childhood special education services.
  • To prove they are conspiracy theorists, the film claims forced vaccines, or vaccine mandates, are in violation of the Nuremberg Code as their justification for “informed consent.”
    • The Nuremberg Code was written after the Holocaust to stop medical experiments done on people without their consent because the Holocaust was horrific and we can never let it happen again.This comparison is highly despicable.
    • Our vaccine program is not a medical experiment. Vaccines are well-studied before being added to the schedule.
    • By “informed consent,” anti-vaccine people mean they want their particular, disproven theories espoused to patients before vaccines are given. Before a vaccine, patients are informed about the vaccine, the diseases it prevents, possible side effects, and whom to contact in the unlikely event of a severe side effect.
  • The film claims that the number of vaccines on the CDC’s schedule was significantly increased when the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act was passed in 1986. Perhaps no longer being tied up by frivolous lawsuits, pharmaceutical companies were able to invest more money in research and development. Vaccines take 15 years to research and develop, and most do not make it out of the first phase of research.
  • The film claims that the CDC and other regulatory agencies suppress data by forcing researchers to sign away their rights to data proving issues with vaccines.  
    • When you are doing research on behalf of an organization or corporation, they usually own the intellectual property and have the right to do with it what they wish. This isn’t specific to vaccines. I really don’t understand what crazy train this theory is on.
    • The film claims researchers like Judy Mikovits faced bankruptcy and censorship as retaliation for her findings. However, Mikovits refused to let a colleague have her data. Eventually, scientists found she had manipulated her data. 
  • The film say the science of anything is never settled, so the science around vaccines is not certain.
    • However, degrees of certainty around science certainly exist, and vaccines have more than 60,000 studies showing they are safe and effective. Replicating findings over and over again increases our degree of certainty.
  • Remember that Andrew Wakefield was a fraud for pay and continues to work toward building his own wealth.

Chickenpox Vaccines Are Terrible

  • The film cited Gary Goldman’s story of his research on chicken pox being censored
    • His research, available right here, purported to show that adults were coming down with shingles at higher rates because they were no longer exposed to kids who have chickenpox. Other studies show that shingles was on the rise before the vaccine was licensed.
  • Chickenpox was a rite of passage!
    • No, it wasn’t. 
    • The film wrongly claims that deaths from the disease are rare and only occurred in immunocompromised populations. It is also important to note the 10,000 hospitalizations a year caused by chickenpox before the vaccine.
  • The film claims, wrongly, that because the chickenpox vaccine has been effective in curbing the disease, debilitating shingles cases have risen in adult populations.
  • The film says chickenpox vaccine contains human aborted fetal cells (diploid cells) to be produced as antigens for vaccine. These are, in fact, cell lines procured from an aborted fetus in the 1960s. The cell line is considered “immortal” in that it replicates endlessly, and no further tissues from aborted fetuses need to be obtained for vaccines.
    • The film incorrectly claims that the vaccine conflicts with religious beliefs

Rotavirus Vaccines Are Terrible

  • The film basically asserts that the rotavirus vaccine was added to the schedule because Dr. Paul Offit is evil and has made money developing the vaccine.
    • Dr. Offit is not evil. 
    • His rotavirus vaccine was not the only one added to the schedule.
    • Dr. Offit does not control ACIP or the CDC.
    • I’m really tired of debunking pharma shill gambits from a group of people who sell supplements on their websites.
  • The film claims the rotavirus vaccine is not appropriate for American children
    • As evidence, the film says nearly every child under 5 gets the disease and is easily cured through rehydration (I.V. fluids); benign disease that only causes dehydration in the U.S.
      • Before the vaccine, rotavirus caused up to 450,000 hospitalizations in the U.S. each year. I.V. rehydration is not a small deal. Going to the hospital is not a good outcome for a child.
    • The film claims wrongly that vaccinated rotavirus patients had more diarrhea, cases of gastroenteritis – the conditions the vaccine is intended to prevent. If a baby gets diarrhea after the vaccine, it is much milder than full-blown rotavirus.
    • The film asks why the rotavirus vaccine is dangerous for anyone over 9 months, but safe for 2 month old babies? This is a misunderstanding of the licensure of the vaccine. The burden of disease is in the youngest babies, and the older a child is when she receives the first dose, the (very slightly) higher their risk for side effects is.
  • The film claims norovirus has emerged since the emergence of the rotavirus vaccine, which is a far more virulent disease. The research into norovirus is young and interesting to follow, and we should still prevent rotavirus.

Retroviruses Are Because of Vaccines

  • The film claims mouse-related viruses were introduced to human populations through vaccines.
  • Claim: There is reverse transcriptase activity in MMR vaccines that has been formally recognized since 1994

And finally, Episode Seven: Natural Immunization, Homeoprophylaxis & Fundamental Freedom of Choice

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The Truth About TTAV Episode Three

If you are new, start here.

Episode Three: In Depth Analysis of the MMR and DTaP Vaccines & Vaccinating for the Greater Good

The Cast

The Claims

Vaccine Effectiveness

    • MMR Vaccine is ineffective
    • Vaccines are effective for some, but what is the “price” we pay? For the MMR, about $21 per dose. Sorry, that was snarky. The price is healthy communities and certainly not what the anti-vaccine world asserts it is.
    • One commonly repeated claims is that we were already at the end of mass epidemics because of other reasons, such as clean water and refrigeration, not because of vaccines. This misperception comes from misunderstanding the difference between mortality (deaths) and morbidity (cases of disease). In fact, every time a vaccine came in widespread use, we can see the incidence of that disease decline dramatically. Note that the decline in disease is different depending on the vaccine, and that clean water and refrigeration did not change multiple times in the 20th Century to neatly coincide with any of these dates.

Doctors and Public Health use fear to their own nefarious ends 

    • The claim that “vaccine tyranny pushers” create fear in order to get people vaccinated and to take away medical choice was a common one during the push against California’s SB277 bill. Of course, there is always the choice not to vaccinate your child. However, the consequences of that choice range from exclusion from public schools to needing to apply for a vaccination waiver. And the beneficiaries are the children who do not get sick because immunization rates around them are high.
    • The film argues that measles is not a deadly disease, even though many are afraid of it. Between 2000-2016, the MMR vaccine prevented an estimated 20 million deaths from measles. And it isn’t just death! About 25% of people who catch measles will require hospitalization.

Natural exposure to viruses is superior 

    • The film claims there are health benefits from being exposed naturally to diseases. This claim is wildly false. Measles, for example, wipes out a person’s immune response to other infections for years, making them more susceptible to illness. Some claim that measles infection can prevent cancer, but this is a misguided and wrong extrapolation from a Mayo Clinic study done with the MMR vaccine and blood cancer. 
    • The film claims that DTaP and Polio vaccines deliver three diseases at the same time. However, the vaccines actually deliver only parts of the bacteria and viruses, not the whole shebang, as a wild disease would. The DTaP provides 7 antigens (mostly surface proteins) that cannot reproduce or cause disease. The inactivated polio vaccine has 15 antigens. These antigens are just enough to train an immune system how to fight a disease that will look similar without subjecting a person to a very serious illness.
    • The film also claims that diseases never occur in the body at the same time. Again, this is untrue. Many VPDs can lead to secondary infections. In fact, we are exposed to all sorts of germs all the time. Our immune system is constantly fighting off infections
    • The argument that having two diseases close together, as a result of these vaccines, will result in problems like inflammatory bowel changes comes straight from the Andrew Wakefield playbook. In fact, combination vaccines such as the DTaP and the MMR are very safe.
    • The film frames the idea of conventional immunization practice as eliminating germs, stating that we need germs. It’s true that there are good germs and bad germs. The germs that vaccine teaches the body to eliminate are definitely bad, as they cause illness, disability, and death. Good germs generally keep us healthy.

The CDC is malicious and terrible 

    • Like many anti-vaccine activists, those in this film claim the CDC knows that vaccines are bad and have ignored the safety issues with them. What this really means, though, is that the CDC doesn’t agree with the litany of things anti-vaccine leaders claim vaccines cause.
    • It’s also important to note that the CDC is not the only governmental agency in the world that agrees on vaccine safety. From the UK to Australia to Canada to every corner of the globe, vaccines are promoted as safe.
    • The anti-vaccine folks think they have a slam-dunk with so-called “CDC whistleblower” William Thompson. Read his papers here and a primer on him. His story is the basis of Andrew Wakefield’s VAXXED movie. 
    • The films claims that Thompson found children receiving the measles and mumps vaccines close together may get inflammatory bowel disease. This is not at all what Thompson ever said. That is Andrew Wakefield’s claim in his retracted Lancet paper. No one outside of Wakefield devotees makes this claim at all.
    • The film also says that Thompson found a link between the MMR and autism. The actual claim that Thompson made was that African-American boys between the ages of 24 months and 36 months were three times more likely to be diagnosed with autism. A look into these numbers suggests that the explanation was that these children were set to begin early childhood interventions for autism and needed an MMR to be enrolled.
    • The film accuses pharmaceutical companies of colluding with CDC. No matter where a person falls in believing this conspiracy exists, it’s hard to imagine it would exist around the issue of vaccines which are not the most profitable portion of pharmaceutical business. The CDC would do better to collude about erectile dysfunction.

Andrew Wakefield is a hero

    • A number of speakers were adamant that his findings hold up and have been replicated in other studies. Wakefield’s claim was that the MMR vaccine, because it is a combination vaccine, creates inflammatory bowel disease that leads to autism. The studies they claim support his findings have nothing to do with his findings.
    • They allege that instead governments don’t want to know what’s happening to their children, which is an odd claim. Autism (which isn’t caused by vaccines) costs the U.S. government over $250 billion a year. If the government wanted to cash in, mitigating those costs would be a start.
    • They argue that his reputation was destroyed because his findings threatened the market for combined vaccines. It should be noted that, before publishing his now-retracted paper, Wakefield applied for a patent for a measles-only vaccine. Wakefield’s findings would have personally enriched him. He did a fine job ruining his own reputation.

Lack of medical choice

    • The films draws an analogy between holding pro-choice abortion beliefs and allowing parents to make decisions about vaccinations. No matter what a person believes about abortion, vaccines are in no way similar. Opting out of vaccines puts a child and his/her community at risk.
    • As evidence, they claim that 86% of those infected at Disneyland measles outbreak in 2014 were vaccinated, but blamed those without vaccines. In actually, 45% were unvaccinated, while only 12% had proof of one or more dose of MMR.
    • They feel the outbreak was subsequently used to push Senate Bill 277 in CA, removing all vaccine exemptions. They aren’t completely wrong, except that SB277 allows for exemptions for medical reasons or for children who are schooled at home or online.
    • They emphasize that whatever a parents feels is right for his or her child, and if there is no immediate risk to that child, the law says the parent is permitted to do so. The focus on parental rights should give everyone pause. I’ve argued before that parents do not own their children. Rather they owe them health and protection. A child’s rights to those things supersedes a community’s right to be protected from outbreaks of disease. 

Whooping cough/pertussis vaccines

    • The film presents cases of DTP allegedly resulting in seizures, including Barbara Loe Fisher describing what happened to her son. The DTP likely never caused those seizures.
    • Describe how in 1970s, 11 children died from DTP vaccine and the company was sued – Graham v. Wyeth. Further study since then has shown the vaccine was almost certainly not related to those deaths.
    • Subsequently switched from DTP to DTap or TDaP; however, argue that people who get vaccinated may not get sick, but they are still silent carriers of pertussis. This claim is based on the infamous “baboon study,” but doesn’t take into account that someone not sick with pertussis is not coughing pertussis germs everywhere and not infecting others. Still, mothers should get their pertussis vaccines during the third trimester of every pregnancy.

Vaccines take the utilitarian approach 

    • The film accuses industry of testing vaccines on African women and children 
    • It uses Buck v. Bell (forced sterilization of mentally impaired women), a ruling from the 1920s, to illustrate the problems with utilitarianism, but is unrelated to vaccines. 
    • It’s important to note that ethics in medical studies has improved a great deal recently. We should absolutely learn from the mistakes of the past, and we now do a better job with human trials of any kind in science.  

 

Read more! Episode Four: Examining Influenza, the HIB and Pneumococcal Vaccines & Herd Immunity. Dang, this thing is long.

Walgreens: Not Marco’s Puppetmaster

At some point last week, anti-vaccine crusaders decided that picking on a child was only so much fun, so they turned their sights on Walgreens:

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Multiply that times a hundred, and you get a taste of what Walgreens’ social media managers are dealing with. Why are they upset with Walgreens? Apparently, Walgreens’ name appeared in an ad on A Plus media (Ashton Kutcher’s site) in a post about Marco Arturo and his vaccine/autism video. The anti-vaaxxers claim? That Walgreens isn’t just advertising on the A Plus website Wellness section, but that they were creating this content and that Marco is just a puppet in the nefarious scheme to push vaccines for evil reasons. And of course, videos were created to promote the idea. Here is Forrest Maready’s contribution:

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A Plus, Marco, and Walgreens. Maniacal Laugh

What do they make of Walgreens advertising on the entire Wellness section of A Plus? Facts schmacts. Who needs them.

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Spot the Walgreens logos

And then, just like that, the banner ad on the A Plus post about Marco disappeared. Almost as though the internet were not made of paper and banner ads could be cycled through.

But not so soon. A Facebook page named Hear This Well declared victory! Finally, anti-vaxxers are being heard! Only moments from now will Walgreens and the government and the lizard people finally admit that vaccines do cause autism!

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Hear This Well was a campaign started by anti-vaccine parents of autistic children. Never heard of it? Ironic.

Because I never take anything at face value, it was that point I decided to write an email to Walgreens and ask them what was up. They sent me this official reply:

We had no knowledge of, nor connection to the development of this video.  Walgreens has been an advertiser on the website only in conjunction with the Vitamin Angels program, and again we were unaware of the video’s placement on our sponsored page.

While I would have preferred a statement which would have gone on to declare that the video was awesome and anti-vaxxers can scram, this response seemed pretty corporate and normal.

Forrest Maready (who made the video alluded to above), started to change his tune. Kind of. He issued this partial retraction on his Facebook page:

I don’t believe the APlus media writer knew about the video before it went up. I spoke at length with her, twice over the past two days and she has convinced me she found the post organically through a Facebook group she follows (not a member of) called A Science Enthusiast. She is an avowed Believer, I realize. She could be lying to protect an elaborate PR set up, but I think she is telling me the truth.

Of course, he went on to add that Marco’s video is still suspicious because of Marco’s shirt and because the Google dates don’t make sense to him. The retraction, then, is just that A Plus media isn’t part of some conspiracy, not that Marco could really be awesomely intelligence and well-spoken. If you are an anti-vaxxer, you have to feed the conspiracy theorists, after all.

If pro-vaxxers were conspiracy theorists, we would be all in a tizzy about the fact that the Hear This Well Facebook page disappeared.* But then, we know that Facebook pages, like banner ads, are hardly a constant in life and that there is no point getting wound up about it. I guess no one is hearing them at all any more.

*UPDATE: They’re back.

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Anti-Vaxxers Defeated by Twelve-Year-Old Whiz Kid

And they know they’ve been defeated. Do you want to know how we can tell? Because they are spending their time trying to tear this kid down.

Perhaps you are the last person in the world who hasn’t seen the phenomenal video by science whiz kid Marco Arturo. Marco presents all the evidence that vaccines cause autism–in a folder full of nothing. (I’m embedding the video at the bottom of this post–please watch it an up-vote it!)

The anti-vaxxers sure haven’t missed it. Some of our favorites have written rebuttals. Let me type that again so we can all understand what they are doing. The anti-vaxxers are rebutting a satirical video made by a 12-year-old. Surely they are taking this video in stride, right?

Uh, no. No they are not. They are losing their minds.

Blogger and salesperson Kate, who runs Modern Alternative Health, claims the video is “devoid of facts and amounts to little more than uninformed bullying” [emphasis hers]. Really, Kate? A 12-year-old is bullying you? I know a lot about bullying, about how people use their social power to make you feel excluded and to gain control over you. What kind of small person are you that a 12-year-old you have never met has social power over you? But she’s not done. Immediately after claiming that she is being bullied, she resorts to this classless diatribe:

Naturally, it’s being heralded by the kind of brain-dead pro-vaccine nut jobs that the internet regularly produces.  The kind of people who don’t understand the importance of actually examining new scientific information critically and having an honest conversation. . . . I kind of imagine them as “cavemen” of sorts — pounding on their keyboards, drooling, and thinking that they have won, while all of the actual intelligent people are smirking and shaking their heads at how painfully, obviously ignorant they are.

In the world of Kate (MAM) and other anti-vaxxers, a 12-year-old is a bully, pro-vaxxers don’t understand science, and only anti-vaxxers are intelligent (and smugly so). Also, up is down, black is white, and the sky is green.

From there, Kate’s post goes nowhere, repeating that the kid is a bully and that pro-vaxxers are terrible and dumb in all ways. It also doesn’t actually present any science showing that vaccines cause autism. In other words, she kind of proves Marco’s point.

By the way, here’s some evidence (okay lots of evidence) showing that vaccines DO NOT cause autism.

But MAMKate is not alone. National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC) is getting in on the act of rebutting a 12-year-old’s satirical video. (Because NO voices must ever say anything positive about vaccines without being actively shouted down.)

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NVIC has a history of classless, terrible behavior, including promoting the harassment of children. This time, they are getting in on the “take Marco down” campaign by posting a hit piece written by “Levi Quackenboss.”

The Quackenboss piece begins by claiming scientific pursuits concerning vaccines are a religious belief and intimates that Marco shouldn’t even be on Facebook because he is not the requisite 13-years-old yet. So actually, the piece begins by slamming Marco for being young and influenced by his parents (and science).

Then, in anti-vaccine style, she (Quackenboss) picks up the goalposts and moves them downfield. SV-40! Acellular pertussis! HPV! Monkey pox! Faked moon landings! Spaghetti at the ceiling! She discusses anything except, you know, how vaccines don’t cause autism–the actual topic of the video. It’s pure throat clearing written by someone who loves her own voice.

Then she goes on with a condescending and easily refutable diatribe, writing:

Little dude, I totally get that you love science but I’ve got some sad news for you: there’s very little science in vaccine science.

And following with every possible anti-vaccine trope she can find. Here are some answers for her:

After all these myths, Quackenboss ends with a smug little kicker, something meant to put a 12-year-old in his place:

Look, clearly you’re a smart kid in your knockoff Polo shirt and your eyeglasses that look like wraparound safety goggles.  I trust that one day you’re going to figure out that you’ve been lied to, not only by your parents but by your government and the leaders of this world, and you’re going to look back on this insulting video and say, “God, what a little prick I was.”

And that’s OK, Marco.  We’ll be here for you when you do.

But you know what, anti-vaxxers? Marco doesn’t need you and he isn’t interested in you waiting for him. One of you visited him, and he was ready for you.

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Credit: Karen Halabura

A final piece of advice for anti-vaxxers: pick on someone your own size. I mean that two ways: while Marco is smaller than you in stature, he is far larger than you when it comes to class and intellect.

Here’s Marco’s video. Please give it a watch. It will restore your faith in our future.

 

Why doesn’t Age of Autism like me?

Everyone is talking about the movie produced by, funded by, directed by, and starring Andrew Wakefield. And while Andrew Wakefield doesn’t need anyone’s help with promotion (he is the master of self-promotion), we all became enraged when Robert De Niro used his non-existent medical degree to almost every media outlet in the country in order to say that maybe the film has a point that maybe vaccines cause autism.

I mean, science? Pfffft. Who wants to listen to science when the actor whom I confuse almost always with Al Pacino says that he wants studies done and people to look into. (Apparently, while I was busy confusing De Niro with Pacino, he was busy reading absolutely none of the 107 studies that show that SERIOUSLY VACCINES DON’T CAUSE AUTISM.) But whatever. Today show and stuff.

And actually, that’s where I’d like to begin my tale. For me, it wasn’t just De Niro needing to put a sock in that nonsense that had me going bananas. It was also an NBC interview with Autism Speaks’ Bob Wright and former NBC guy Tom Brokaw on the radio, both spouting nonsense about vaccine injuries and autism and whateverwhoneedsfacts.

So I tweeted this:

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And thus, I drew the ire of anti-vaccine, biomeddling conspiracy site Age of Autism once again, as you can see with this snippet from their most recent post:

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No response? That is really unfair, because Wayne Rohde (the author of the above piece), and I had an exchange which ended in him inviting me to the movies. And so I left a comment:

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But I have little faith that this will all turn out with mutual understanding and mended fences. I guess I’ll have to go see a different movie in June. I’ve been waiting to see Me Before You.

 

The Conspiracy Theorists Were Right!

The latest episode of the X-Files touches on all the possible favorite anti-vaccine conspiracy theories. This post will contain spoilers, so if you want to watch the episode first, stop reading now.

Of course, the episode is all about the vaccines. It appears that the smallpox vaccine has given the human race the Spartan Virus, a virus which is unleashed by (of course) aluminum in the chemtrails overhead and by microwave radiation transmitted by those nefarious towers everywhere. The reason? The Smoking Man is mad at us about global climate change and wants to depopulate the planet. Fortunately, Agent Scully’s DNA has been altered and contains protective alien DNA. She uses her own genomes to make a vaccine in an attempt to save the human race.

Despite the fact that a vaccine is going to save the human race, the anti-vaxxers love this episode because it reinforces a number of their beliefs–that:

  1. Chemtrails are a thing
  2. The vaccinated spread disease
  3. “The science that we were taught will take us but a distance to the truth.”
  4. Vaccine programs have been “an unprecedented violation of the public trust”
  5. Aluminum is evil
  6. People who believe in climate change have nefarious plans
  7. There is a plot underway to depopulate the planet

All poppycock, of course, but studies have shown that people who are anti-vaccine are also prone to believing all manner of conspiracy theories, such as the moon landing being a hoax, because you are prone to believing that something is being hidden by those who are supposed to protect.

And that is why the topic of the smallpox vaccine being part of a plot to depopulate the planet makes for great science fiction television. The key word being, of course, fiction. I struggled with whether or not to expose what the anti-vaxxers were saying about this episode because it could be construed as mean-spirited, but my intent is rather to show that being anti-vaccine is predicated on believing the most spurious conspiracy theories possible.

In one anti-vaccine Facebook group, a discussion about how this X-Files episode exposed the truth was not limited to vaccines, but that was the basis for one person’s love of this episode: “loved it….chemtrails, vaccines loaded w/? for decades…++++ GREAT show tonite!” However, another commented warned that television like this serves to make people feel dismissive of the Truth:

My hubby reckons it’s just the way media tries to desensitize people to these issues. Then when you bring up the issues (that are very real!) most often times the ‘sheep’ just say things like ‘oh, god…this isn’t a movie you know!’ He’s right I think…
BUT it’s great to see storylines like this, might get some people thinking at least!

One blogger* discusses how the episode underscored everything those in the know have been saying about vaccines for decades:

Everything that has been said about weaponized vaccines leading to pandemics was presented in a telescoped fashion, with the timeline from “Case Zero” to full pandemic seemingly only a few hours: anthrax, bubonic plague, ramped-up influenza…

A simple search for vaccines will turn up all sorts of these conspiracy theories because anti-vaxxers believe that vaccines are a weapon used against people in order to enact all sorts of so-called awful ends, from autism to complete depopulation of the planet a la Plague, Inc.

They believe the conspiracy theories because they have to. Because either the scientists, corporations, and governments of the world are telling the truth that vaccines are safe and save lives or someone along the chain is wrong or stupid. And once one person is wrong or stupid, a bunch of other people have to come along and actively hide their wrongness and stupidness–and the only reason to do that is some sort of evil or greedy plot. Once you believe that you should disbelieve the experts, the next step is to accept that the experts are actively hiding information from you because they are trying to hurt you. And when you believe that, a show like the latest X-Files episode seems less like science fiction and more like your darkest fears being exposed before you.

The problem is two-fold: that’s not how fiction works and that conspiracy theory is untenable.

I can’t dissect the anti-vaccine reaction to the X-Files without digging into my past as an English teacher (my MA is in English literature and writing). One of my favorite units to teach was science fiction because it is a bold and audacious genre. It speaks to us so much about our fears and about what we refuse to see, but it isn’t meant to be a documentary.

One of the main fears science fiction exposes is how the technology we create will end up destroying us. Think Terminator and Blade Runner (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, for you purists). However, watching Terminator should not make someone go out and destroy all robot technology because it is bound to wage war against us one day. The idea behind science fiction such as these is that as people, we do not want to lose our humanity to our technology. As far as the X-Files, we now fear the things we cannot see (alien DNA, viruses) more than robots, and so we want to make sure that we retain our humanity even as we look to alien technologies to save ourselves. Oh, it’s not a documentary at all.

To the second point, a conspiracy theory to hide the evils of vaccines would never hold. One physicist actually did the calculations showing that a conspiracy concerning vaccines would unravel within 3.2 years:

[E]ven if a small devious cohort of rouge [sic] scientists falsified data for climate change or attempted to cover-up vaccine information, examination by other scientists would fatally undermine the nascent conspiracy. To circumvent this, the vast majority of scientists in a field would have to mutually conspire—a circumstance the model predicts is exceptionally unlikely to be viable. . . .

So where does that leave us? Well, it’s all a matter of taste. If you enjoy the escapism and intellectual intricacies of science fiction, you probably enjoyed this X-Files episode (because, let’s face it, it is a heck of a lot better than that wretched last season we thought ended it all before). And if you are a conspiracy theorist, you probably take the entire thing, wrongly, at face value and there is no hope for you at all.

Are Vaccines the Real Microcephaly Culprit?

No. They are not. Vaccines are not causing microcephaly in Brazil.

If you have no idea what I am talking about, count yourself lucky and thank your friends for not bringing crazy to your social media feed. But since you are probably curious, here is a sample:

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Dr. Tenpenny, the Ohio anti-vaccine activists behind sites like All About Breast Health and TruthKings has joined the conspiracy bandwagon in insisting that the Tdap vaccine given in pregnancy to prevent pertussis in mothers and their newborn babies, is the real cause of microcephaly, and not the Zika virus.

Their overly simplistic thought process is not new. These are the people who brought us “vaccines cause autism” and “the HPV vaccine causes ovarian failure,” which require the same “We did X and Y happened” thinking. Post hoc ergo propter hoc.

Except that the connection between Zika virus and microcephaly is established, unlike the uncertain causes of autism. Yet, organizations like the poorly-named National Vaccine Information Center and Natural News continue to promote this obviously wrong and crazy theory.

And like autism, there isn’t even a correlation. If there were a correlation between the Tdap vaccine given in pregnancy and microcephaly, we would see an epidemic of microcephaly in the United States, where the recommendation for this maternal vaccine has been in place since 2013 (one year before the Brazilian recommendation), and in Australia where a similar recommendation is in place. In other words, there isn’t a propter hoc to connect the post hoc to. There are simply conspiracy theorists throwing their darts at the vaccine target to see what sticks.

Let’s hope this dart doesn’t stick. While I would love to believe that pregnant women will shake their heads in disbelief over how outrageous these claims are, I know how vulnerable a woman can be to bad information while she is expecting a baby. And so we remind people that pertussis in an infant is terrifying, and the Tdap in pregnancy is safe.

And then file this post under “Things I can’t even believe I have to write.”