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

The Truth About TTAV Episode Five

Did you just find this series? Start from the beginning.

Episode Five: “Considering the HPV and Hepatitis B Vaccines, SIDS & Shaken Baby Syndrome”

The Cast

The Claims

HPV Vaccines Are Terrible

  • HPV vaccines contain aluminum, which the film claims is dangerous. But it isn’t.
  • The speakers say it’s not appropriate to mandate this vaccine; of course, but right now, it is only required for school entry in D.C., RI, and VA. The way this claim is made shows the tendency of anti-vaccine leaders to conflate recommendations, requirements, and mandates.
  • The film suggests it should instead be recommended for people with a family history of this cancer, but HPV is a virus, not a genetic trait. HPV causes almost all cervical cancer, 95% of anal cancers, and 70% of oropharyngeal cancers. Family history has little to no bearing on these cancers.
  • The film also claims that HPV vaccines only target the strains that cause the most cases of HPV and creates a vacuum for other strains to take their place. However, the vaccines targets the most oncogenic (cancer-causing) strains of HPV
    • They use an analogy of U.S. troops taking out Isis or the Taliban – other group will take their place. But pretend these other groups aren’t the Taliban or ISIS but a group of mean 2nd graders who throw marshmallows at people. That’s a more apt analogy at this time. 
  • The film argues the HPV vaccine was fast-tracked. In fact, the research into a vaccine to prevent cervical cancer was a 70-year quest. Because of the length of research into the cancer, the researchers were able to communicate early on with the FDA for expedited approval, but did not skip any steps in or skimp on the process. As of 2017, 270 million doses of the vaccines have been given with no serious side effects detected.
  • The film disparages trials of this vaccine, that used aluminum as the placebo. Using a placebo with aluminum was important for this vaccine so that participants in the study would not be able to detect that they had not received the vaccines if they had received a placebo. (The aluminum in the vaccine causes some stinging, whereas a shot of simple saline would not). Fortunately, we know that aluminum used in vaccines is safe.
  • The film also claims HPV vaccine adverse reaction reports make up 25% of all vaccine adverse event reports: 42,532, including 250 confirmed deaths. A closer look at these statistics shows that none of the deaths were confirmed to be caused by the vaccine, and many of them were demonstrably not connected at all to the vaccine. Furthermore, VAERS is an open-reporting system, which means anyone with internet access can report an adverse vaccine reaction without proof or evidence. (The nature doesn’t mean VAERS is without value.)
  • The film also claims that HPV-free viral DNA found in post-mortem analysis of New Zealand girl, despite CDC claims that there is no free-viral DNA in the vaccine; concluded that HPV vaccine most likely killed her. If that sentence makes no sense to you, then rest assured that the claim also makes no sense. The pathologist making this claims uses poor pathological practices.
  • Joel Gomez provided as another example of death caused by HPV vaccine, but the medical examiner determined that his death was caused by myocarditis. 
  • Mario Lamo Jiménez makes claims that Columbian girls harmed by HPV vaccine. Studies of the incidents show that the vaccine was not related to what happened to these girls. 
  • The film compares the science around HPV vaccines to “tobacco science” and draw an analogy of people being told cigarettes were healthy. The difference between the science done to support vaccines and the science done to sell tobacco is that vaccine science has held up to many decades of scrutiny and attempts to replicate various findings. 

Hep B Vaccine Is Terrible

  • The film claims that the number of people who voluntarily signed up for the original study was too small to extrapolate a conclusion. The original clinical trial included 664 infants total. Since then, many millions of doses of this vaccine given have shown it to be extremely safe.
  • The film discusses the push in 2001 to switch population vaccinated to newborns.The original recommendation to vaccinate at-risk adults and then adolescents was able to eliminate most of the Hepatitis B in the country, but many infants were still contracting the virus despite targeting the perceived vectors of the disease. Chronic Hep B infection is more likely to happen the younger a person is when exposed to the virus, and such chronic infection causes about 780,000 deaths per year.
  • The film expresses concern that the Hep B vaccine contains aluminum, which is still safe.
    • It claims that babies are injected with 10 times the known safe dose of aluminum.This claim is conflates the amount of aluminum an infant can receive intravenously. The vaccine is not injected into a person’s blood stream (like an IV), but into their muscle and can be easily eliminated by anyone with functional kidneys.
  • They argue that contract Hep B from sex/drug use and the only way baby can get Hep B is from mother during birth. In fact, the virus can survive outside a body for a few weeks and can be transmitted many ways, including through birth, human bites, and touching bodily fluids from an infected person. 
  • Dr. Paul Thomas cites personal experience of not running into any mothers with Hep B. Of course, Dr. Thomas is a pediatrician, not an obstetrician, so he would not test these mothers. If he were the person testing these mothers, he would know that testing anomalies can occur with Hep B testing during pregnancy.

National Vaccine Injury Compensation Act, passed in 1986

  • It claims that the pharmaceutical industry is protected from liability. VICA established a special court that allows those with certain claims of harm from vaccines a lower standard of proof in order to receive compensation. In other words, it is easier to get a settlement from this Vaccine Court than it would be to sue for liability in civil court.
  • It also claims that right after passage of the act, the vaccine program saw a dramatic increase from 10 to 69 vaccines in the pipeline. Here’s an actual timeline of the development of vaccines, which began in 1000 AD. 

SIDS and SBS are Vaccine Injury

  • The film asserts that SIDS deaths are misdiagnosed vaccine deaths. SIDS is diagnosed after an autopsy, clinical history review, and scene investigation yield no explanation of death. A child who died because of a vaccine would have indicators in an autopsy that showed a vaccine was in play, such as anaphylaxis.
  • The film also argues that Shaken Baby Syndrome is a cover-up for vaccine injuries.
    • Yes, this is one of the most despicable anti-vaccine claims.
    • The diagnosis of SBS requires many tests, and blood tests for metabolic disorders that can mimic SBS is often some of the testing done. Vaccines do not cause metabolic disorders.

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

Anti-Vaxxers Dox a Child

One particularly vile and unethical way of shutting down opposition is to make public personal information about someone whose ideas oppose yours. Sometimes doxing comes with the presumption that others will then follow up by contacting and harassing that person. Often the defense on the part of the doxer is that the doxee’s information is already available online. However, giving that information to people who are ideologically opposed to someone makes that person a target, and thus doxxing becomes horrible and awful and you should never do it.

So why is it happening to a child? I guess the answer, if you don’t want to read any further, is that anti-vaxxers are narrowly hellbent on defeating anyone who champions vaccines that they don’t see a child as a child, a human, an actual person who should be off limits to harassment. Marco Arturo, whose adorable satirical video purporting to show all the evidence that vaccines cause autism (Spoiler: he reveals an empty folder), has become the target of Levi Quackenboss‘s doxing.*

I’m upset, my friends. And that’s really the motivation behind this post. However, because I don’t want to further the doxing and harassment, I won’t link to the blog post in mine.  But here you have a screenshot:

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In one particularly hypocritical point, “Levi Quackenboss” writes:

So who is Marco?  I’m not going to post his full name out of respect for him and his parents as well as their safety, but they’ve been a little sloppy about making trails to it so they should clean that up. The last names his parents use are not the name that he uses on social media.

Why is this hypocritical, you ask? You will notice that everyone who responds to “Levi Quackenboss” calls her she and her, not he or him–as you would expect with a man named Levi. Guess what. Levi Quackenboss is not the blogger’s real name! Oh shocking! (Or actually not at all.

Although, as a side note, I was irked that “Levi Quackenboss” used one of her pseudonyms to testify in front of a Colorado congressional hearing. Her testimony consisted of showing memes that Voices for Vaccines had made and making false and disparaging remarks about the organization and the Colorado VFV Parent Advisory Board member who was in attendance. She does seem to hide behind fake names to say horrible things.

A second aside, amazeball epidemiologist and awesome guy, Rene Najera points out this Picasso’s full name is Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santísima Trinidad Ruiz y Picasso. So yeah. Marco didn’t use his full name.

“Levi” concludes her doxing piece against a child with this bit a conspiracy paranoia:

One thing is obvious, though: Marco isn’t just some random unknown kid when his parents have connections with the Mexican government and Walgreens is on standby with a celebrity media company to sponsor his pro-vaccine video.

Yes, because children of lobbyists never make videos and don’t have opinions. And Walgreens and Ashton Kutcher are apparently in on the conspiracy–along with the Mexican government–to cover up the vaccine-autism connection championed by such savory characters as Andrew Wakefield. People who believe this are really the same sorts of people who believe that Tupac is still alive and that 9/11 was an inside job.

This entire affair brought to mind an experience I had with a viral blog post and doxing. In December 2013, my organization (Voices for Vaccines) published a piece by Amy Parker titled “Growing Up Unvaccinated.” I actually hadn’t realized it was going viral until our website crashed and I was unable to access my email. Like Marco’s simple and marvelous piece, Amy Parker’s struck a nerve both among pro- and anti-vaxxers.

And the anti-vaxxers immediately pounce in some of the most despicable and horrible ways possible. They began by taking to Google and discovered someone named Amy Parker Fiebekorn who worked at the CDC. They immediately decided that because Amy Parker is such an unusual name that this CDC Amy Parker, and not the one from the UK whose actual biography we gave, was the true author of “Growing Up Unvaccinated.” You know–because if we went to the trouble of tricking people by secretly publishing a piece by someone at the CDC, we wouldn’t bother changing her name. This myth persists to the day and will pop up if you Google “Growing Up Unvaccinated Fake.”

Others were not satisfied and decided that perhaps Amy Parker didn’t work at the CDC. So they tracked her down. They found her profile and her mother’s Facebook profile. Some sent PMs. They found Amy’s cell phone number, and some began texting her. They found a video where she discusses her struggles with mental health issues and posted it publicly, as if to shame her with the stigma of mental illness. In one forum, one woman (who, by the way, makes a living teaching online classes about the dangers of vaccines), discussed paying her a visit:

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Amy Parker (the real one) had to shut down her Facebook page and take down her business page (which included her phone number). To make matters worse, the doxing and harassment came as she welcomed a new baby into her family.

Doxing has real consequences, and an adult shouldn’t have to deal with those consequences, but a child really, really should not have to. The doxing of Marco Arturo is despicable and has to stop now.

All this because a child made a satirical video. Grow up, anti-vaxxers. If you disagree with him, discuss your disagreement. Don’t disparage and harass a child.

*ETA: The doxing included in the Quackenboss post included the names of his stepfather and his mother and some employment information regarding his stepfather. A screenshot of the stepfather’s Facebook page included the name of their hometown. This information not only makes it easy to harass Marco and his family, but collating together could incite that harassment. 

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.

 

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.

No, MLK Jr Wasn’t Talking About Vaccines

The anti-vaccine movement has a history of couching their concerns callously and ridiculously as civil rights issues. Of course, purposely leaving a child unprotected against a potentially dangerous disease is not a civil right.

So I wasn’t surprised to see them co-opt Martin Luther King Jr. day for their own agenda.

 

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Immediately assuming he is talking about your pet cause does not count as thinking.

There were several other similar posts, including this one, from one prominent California activist, claiming that being required to vaccinate your child before enrolling them in school is the equivalent to being denied the right to vote and use public facilities because of the color of your skin:

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When I saw those posts, I wondered why they were not connecting MLK Jr. to any race issue at all, including their newest claims that a CDC Whistleblower has revealed that the MMR vaccine causes autism in black, male preschoolers. (Spoiler alert: he didn’t and it doesn’t.) Considering this accusation, you would think that when talking about their CDC Whistleblower hubbub they would invoke race and MLK on a day about race and MLK, right?

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Posted on MLK day, this literally says nothing about MLK or race or their main CDC Whistleblower thesis.

Faux-journalist Ben Swann, who works for the CBS affiliate in Atlanta, is coming out with a bombshell documentary (on his own website) about the CDC Whistleblower documents–the ones that claim that there is an increased risk of autism for black males who receive the MMR–and he says nothing about race at all. (Note: these assertions are bunk.)

So much for civil rights, huh?

I combed Facebook to see if others, who were working to promote Ben Swann’s report, but I couldn’t find mention of race at all. I found the Canary Party’s Ginger Taylor’s missive about why God is on their side and how Ben Swann is going to expose the Truth. The Thinking Moms’ Revolution was excited about exposing the CDC for something. Age of Autism discussed how bad the media is and how good Ben Swann is. But I couldn’t find anyone talking about the main Whistleblower hypothesis as it concerned race. And that was on the day many specifically think about race and civil rights.

It is likely just an oversight, but the anti-vaccine activists have been exploiting the idea of race, such as Robert F Kennedy Jr. did in this interview with Tavis Smiley. It’s not that they don’t know race exists. It’s just that they think their rights trump not only their children’s rights but also the struggle for actual civil rights and racial equality.

And let’s not forget the demographic we are discussing. Parents who refuse to protect their children through immunization are often wealthy, well-educated, and white. Despite all of their privilege, they think Martin Luther King, Jr. was talking about them and their supposed right to leave their children vulnerable to disease and to endanger their broader community. And that’s kind of awful.

The Cancer Kids are Taking Over

I frequent Dr. Tenpenny’s Facebook page because it is amusing but also because it helps me understand the marketing being used to make parents afraid of vaccines. Because I keep tabs on Tenpenny, I’ve also taken note of the revolving websites she has attached herself to, from Vaxxter to All About Breast Health. That’s where I found TruthKings.

It sounded promising but also slightly frightening. We all know the spurious ways people like Tenpenny use the term truth, after all. But today I noticed a post about why it is okay to endanger the health of vulnerable children undergoing chemotherapy.

Of course, that’s not how my new favorite truthers framed it, though. They titled their post, “Your Child Having Cancer Doesn’t Mean My Child Should Be Forced Dangerous Vaccines.” The title alone is poppycock. Let’s review in bulleted points:

  • No one is forcing vaccines upon anyone. To force a vaccine would mean to hold a child down and physically inject it into a child. Instead, reasonable safeguards are put on schools, including the safeguard against infectious disease. If you don’t want to participate in helping schools be safe from infectious diseases, you bear the consequences.
  • Vaccines are not dangerous. Millions of vaccines are given every day. 95% of parents choose to fully vaccinate their children. If vaccines were dangerous, pretty much every child in this country would be worse off for being vaccinated. Instead, they are free of diphtheria, polio, Hib, measles, and so forth.
  • Of course it is your responsibility to take reasonable precautions to help other children. That’s why you can’t drive drunk or text while driving. In fact, the law books are filled with things you can’t do because it would endanger others. And Laura Bredesen, mother of a cancer patient exposed to measles, will tell you that leaving your child unvaccinated is a direct threat to the children around him/her who are cancer patients.

Why are these TruthKings taking on the ever threatening pediatric cancer patient? What did these cancer kids ever do to them?

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Don’t worry, cancer kids; you aren’t the only threat. It seems that fluoride, GMOs, education, and the Islamics are all taking over. Or at least the Islamics are.

Fear of the other is the most common cause of bigotry and prejudice. For a TruthKing, you are a threat if you are a Muslim or if you are receiving chemotherapy because your existence means that their freedom might be curtailed. Both cancer patients and Muslims are turned into the enemy by refusing to actually get to know anyone who fits those categories.

After all, Ben Bredesen can’t be your enemy once you get to know him because he’s a sweet kid. And he’s a child. How can a kid be an enemy, and on what planet to you refuse to protect a child?

And that’s just my reaction to the headline. In fact, the entire post is a deep conspiracy about how the government is using pediatric cancer patients to take away our freedom. And you and I are apparently part of the conspiracy:

The Government has pulled at the very fibers which inspire you, cause you to be passionate, make you laugh and make you enraged. They’ve convinced you that myself and my child are here on earth to do harm to your child. And they’ve done this as a way to recruit an army of mothers and fathers to take the helm and become soldiers in a way to fight against parental rights.

In this battle, of course, the rights of the parent trump the rights of the child. People who use terms like “truth” and “parental rights” believe that they own their children, that their decisions are paramount whether or not these decisions are wise. They give no consideration to how children have been historically used by those who believe they own them, children who have worked in sweatshops and have been physically abused. The history of children’s rights is expunged in favor of a new liberty for parent/owners of children.

Of course, you ask, the war metaphor is just a metaphor right? (Okay, maybe you didn’t ask that, but you should.) No. Not at all. Remember these are people who think we are on the brink of an Islamic takeover. Their fears are about something sadistic and nefarious:

When you take the bait by the Government to diminish these very basic human, parental rights, you allow the Government to play to your sadness and despair. They have you at your weakest moment, compromised in your soul. When you really consider what they are doing, using your sick child as bait for your impassioned plea to support the army who is going to go door to door and remove rights, you begin to see how disturbing and disingenuous it all really is.

Going door to door to remove your rights. Sounds frightening doesn’t it?

But again, nothing of the sort is happening or is going to happen. At worst, you might be required to homeschool your child, as is now the case in California. Ironically, of course, asking that you opt for homeschooling instead of government-funded schooling is really the opposite of the foot soldiers coming to your door to remove your rights. It is keeping children closer to the adults who have bought into the fear mongering of the anti-vaccine movement.

Of course someone like Tenpenny shares the heck out of TruthKings on her page. This fear-based marketing, stirring distrust in the government and asking people to cloister against some imaginary army. The purpose of this marketing scheme is to sell her own wares. But real people are being harmed with this marketing strategy, whether these people are Ben Bredesen or our Muslim friends and neighbors. It’s unconscionable that a grifter like Tenpenny make them into the enemies in order to turn a profit. She will never change, but we can make sure our friends and family do not fall prey to these cynical strategies.

Anti-Vaccine Petition Fails Gloriously

Anti-vaccine activists fail to accurately assess science as often as they fail to assess their public image. Remember when you learned in junior high that before you ask a parent for something, you should be reasonably certain you know how they are going to respond. Some anti-vaccine leaders never learned that lesson.

In that vein, they petitioned the White House to ask them to “PROHIBIT ANY LAWS MANDATING THE FORCE AND REQUIREMENT OF VACCINATIONS OF ANY KIND” (all caps theirs). They were pretty excited in February when they collected a quarter of the signatures they needed in five days. Things were looking up for woefully misnamed crazy pants organizations like VacTruth.

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But six months later, oh the gnashing of teeth as their bubble has burst. Can you believe that the White House is relying on the CDC and not hashtaggers and YouTubers for medical information, citing science instead of conspiracy theory? Their reply to the anti-vaxxers was, in essence, no. Because science.

And what’s more, you should actually vaccinate your children. Yes, you, anti-vaxxer. Vaccinate your children.

We all have a role to play. Vaccinations are one of the great triumphs of science and public policy, and we should make their benefits available to everyone.

As the Surgeon General makes clear, “Vaccines are safe and effective ways to prevent disease and death. They are necessary. They save lives.”

And as the President himself said earlier this year, “There is every reason to get vaccinated, but there aren’t reasons to not.”

If you’re concerned about your health, the science is clear: Vaccinate yourself and your children.

For more information about vaccination, please visit www.vaccines.gov.

Thanks, Obama. No really, thanks. That is glorious.

But the anti-vaxxers do not think so. In one public anti-vaccine Facebook group, members use dehumanizing and ableist language to bring home the point that vaccine are terrible. Evidence of racism within that group is discussed here. And then they went full on crazy, claiming that the White House is fill of not-humans (“I do not even think this is a HUMSN BEING! Has to be an alien, robot or some kind of android !”) and that that the response was evidence of government fascism:

He’s a liar. I grew up in an era where all children got measles, and I never heard of anyone dying. He’s not a medical consultant. He’s a political shill working for wealthy corporations. He’s disgusting. No government has a right to madate medical procedures. What he says isn’t even based on medical science. He doesn’t represent the people or their best interests. He represents fascists.

Which smacks of the tactic you may have employed in junior high: when you get the answer you didn’t want, throw a fit.

Are Doctors Dumb and the CDC Evil?

Last week, I wrote about Dr. Toni Bark’s testimony in front of the Minnesota Senate Health and Human Services Committee concerning a vaccine bill that would have made it more difficult to opt out of school entry vaccine requirements. I touched briefly on her assertion that the CDC is not transparent, hides information, plays games, and is bad in all possible ways.

Today, I wanted to revisit some of these assertions because they are common to the anti-vaccine movement. In fact, in order to believe that vaccines are bad for children, a person must believe that either the CDC is evil and wants to purposely harm them, or doctors are bumbling fools who don’t know what they are doing.

You cannot be anti-vaccine without believing that someone is hiding something from you or that you are smarter than the experts in the field since nearly every single expert in the field agrees that vaccines are safe and effective. In fact, the anti-vaxxers like to trot out their list of doctors who believe that vaccines are bad, which is quaint because there are so few of these doctors that they fit on a list. The number of doctors who want you to vaccinate your children and yourself is so large that we cannot list them. It’s easier just to say, “Pretty much all of them, except the ones on your list (who usually have online stores).”

But let’s address some of the questions this either-or anti-vaccine assumption posits.

Do doctors know anything about vaccines? Or do anti-vaccine parents who use the internet find themselves better informed than their doctors?

For this answer, I would like to quote the reply given by Dr. Dawn Martin, pediatrician at the Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis. She was asked this question directly by Minnesota Senator Eaton in response to Toni Bark’s testimony in front of the MN HHS committee. Here is what Dr. Martin said:

One of the centerpieces of what we do in pediatrics is preventative care, and one of the centerpieces of preventative care is vaccines. We take it very seriously. I’m actually a faculty member of Hennepin County Medical Center, where I am involved in teaching medical students [and] residents. We have in this state, I think cutting edge information through our health department and through original research that has been done here in this state on vaccines. We have several members who have testified here before you that are on the Advisory Committee for Immunization Practice for the CDC. We have, I believe, a wealth of solid immunization information here, and it is centerpiece in our medical school curriculum.

I can speak for what we do in pediatric resident training. It is something, that I know for a fact, that our pediatric trainees are well-versed and well-educated in solid immunization information. . . . So, yes, we are familiar with that research, we are familiar with the vaccines, I think most pediatricians take this very seriously. And it’s a very big part of our ongoing continuing medical education.

If you look at CMEs that most pediatricians engage in, immunization information, how are the schedules changing, wanting to be up-to-date, that is very important in pediatrics. And I am not a family doctor, but I would also venture to say it is a central part of their education as well as nurse practitioners and physicians assistants. So I don’t know, Madam Chairman, if I have answered your question or if there is other information that you want. It really pains me to hear individuals say that physicians, and pediatricians in particular, don’t take this seriously or do the research or get the background that they need to come themselves informed and up-to-date. I will admit that it is a changing field and that it does take some very deliberate effort to stay up-to-date, but we do take that very seriously.

Is there a lack of transparency at the CDC? 

Whenever a large, bureaucratic government agency exists, we will naturally wonder if, in an attempt at self-preservation, will close their shutters to all scrutiny. However, when it comes to immunization, it is very important to note that the schedule is not made from within the Ivory Towers of the CDC. It is suggested, debated, and voted upon by doctors who are current practitioners working in communities around the country and outside the CDC.These researchers, doctors, nurses, and public health officials sitting on the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) rely on research done from many different sources when deciding if and how to change the recommended vaccine schedule. And all of this is done as transparently as possible – in fact, you can watch the meetings on the internet as they take place.

Does the CDC waive Conflicts of Interest (COIs) in order to remain in cahoots with Big Pharma?

Part of the anti-vaccine trope about ACIP, however, is that those on it bring their Big Pharma love there without anyone ever being able to learn about their ties. Is this true? Is it possible that I could own  Big Pharma stock and sit on ACIP in secret hopes of becoming rich by getting vaccines added to the schedule? I asked Patsy Stinchfield CPNP, the first nurse to sit on ACIP, about this question. Here’s what she said:

To become an ACIP voting member I had to provide the CDC detailed statements of my and my husband’s investments. (I have no conflicts). At the beginning of every day of every ACIP you must declare if you have any conflict of interest and if you do you cannot vote on that issue.

So not only does someone have to declare COIs in order to be a member of ACIP, one also must declare before voting and abstain from votes where a conflict might exist.

The CDC probably wants to prevent disease and doctors probably know more than their patients.

Even I have had the exceedingly rare moment when I was right and the doctor was wrong. (A doctor once performed a strep test to humor me, and it came back positive.) But for the most part, those of us who never went to medical school know less about medicine than those who went. And while government agencies can feel like something faceless from a science fiction movie, when it comes to vaccines, it’s pretty easy to watch, in real time, what the CDC is doing.

Remember that in order to be anti-vaccine, you have to believe that either the experts are evil or the experts don’t know what they are doing. If you want to help a friend or family member overcome vaccine hesitancy, help them see the follies of this belief, first.

A special thank you to Dr. Dawn Martin and Patsy Stinchfield for their advocacy and their all-around awesomeness.

So the Anti-Vaxxers Want CA Governor Jerry Brown to Meet with Dr. Toni Bark

Following the passage through the California Assembly of SB277 – a bill that would eliminate personal belief exemptions to school entry vaccine requirements, the anti-vaxxers have been looking for their Hail Mary pass. And some of them have banded together to buy Illinois Dr. Toni Bark a plane ticket so that she can meet with Governor Jerry Brown. (Read about the other things they are buying, too.)

That’s fine. I have seen Dr. Toni Bark in person and was witness to her Gish Gallop testimony in front of the Minnesota Senate Health and Human Services Committee. It was terrible, and she is not a good representative for any cause. But what was even more amazing was that nearly everything she said was wrong. I have never heard so much wrong in such a short span of time.

Actually, it wasn’t short. Each person giving testimony was supposed to testify for only two minutes. Her testimony went on for twelve, and by the meandering, non-linear nature of it, I am fairly certain it wasn’t planned in advance. But the anti-vaxxers were impressed, and they have been sharing this testimony all over the place.

Here’s some of what she got wrong in twelve minutes of talking:

Before she was enlightened, Toni Bark thought vaccines are safe and effective for all children because that’s what the CDC says.

  • Believing that the CDC says that vaccines are (or should be) effective for every child and cause absolutely no adverse health events for any child is a nirvana fantasy. In fact, the CDC acknowledges that some people should not get vaccinated and that while vaccines work very well, nothing is 100% effective. In fact, because not everyone can get vaccinated and not all of those who do respond to the vaccine, it is all the more important that everyone else is vaccinated.

Vaccines are listed as unavoidably unsafe, which means they are defective by nature.

  • This isn’t even close to what “unavoidably unsafe” means. According to my good friend and legal expert Dorit Reiss, unavoidably unsafe products are: “NOT defective, and the product’s manufacturer is not liable for the products’ inherent risks….[They] are so valuable – have so many benefits – that the risk associated with their use is justified.” And the risks of vaccines are very, very small.

Vaccines are not tested for effectiveness, only for efficacy – antibody response.

Dr. Poland and the paradox of measles.

  • During the this hearing, as Toni Bark testified, Senator Carla Nelson (Rochester) called Dr. Greg Poland and asked him for his opinion of Dr. Toni Bark using his study as part of her testimony. He was not supportive of the way she used it.

Most people who get sick in outbreaks are vaccinated.

Doctors only learn about the vaccine schedule and nothing else about vaccines.

  • Dr. Dawn Martin later beautifully countered this point. Anti-vaccine parents like to believe that they know more than pediatricians and doctors when it comes to vaccines, but they simply do not because, as Dr. Martin pointed out, doctors learn about vaccines in medical school.

Vaccine shedding causes illness.

People in recent measles outbreaks had the “vaccine viral strain” and not wild measles.

The CDC only references itself because it plays games. The CDC waives everyone’s Conflict of Interest on their advisory committees. The CDC refuses to study the vaccinated versus unvaccinated. The CDC is not transparent. And the CDC is in all ways evil and nefarious.

  • Get the feeling that Toni Bark doesn’t like the CDC? A good villain is always convenient, and the CDC, with its ginormousness and its slightly socially awkward scientists is easily made into a villain. But the CDC is just one governmental agency across the world that supports vaccines. In Australia, Canada, and the UK, the governments support vaccines so much that they offer them for free to their citizens. Millions upon millions of researchers, doctors, nurses, public health officials, NGO workers from thousands of university labs, independent research labs, government agencies, and non-profits endorse vaccines. So she has her work cut out for her making all of them villains
  • The CDC relies on studies from all over the world and doctors and researchers with expertise in making decisions. They don’t ask the opinions of people who own websites named Skin and Chocolate.

Dr. Toni Bark is for truth.

Pediatricians don’t know about the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program.

  • By federal law, doctors are required to provide parents with a Vaccine Information Sheet. I believe all doctors can read. Every VIS contains this statement:

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Doctors cannot diagnose vaccine injuries.

  • Here, Toni Bark is being coy. What she means is that doctors will not say that vaccines cause autism. Mostly because they don’t, they do not, they really don’t, and they absolutely do not. So a doctor will not diagnose autism as a “vaccine injury” because it is not. Which leads me directly to her next point.

At one point in her twelve-minute rambling, Toni Bark looked directly at me and said, “Parents whose children are not damaged by vaccines should count their blessings.”

  • You know what? Toni Bark doesn’t know anything about me. My children are blessings, and I am happy that they are mine, but she has no idea what kind of challenges or medical issues my children have had. What she should know is that her campaign to spread misinformation leads to cases of children being exposed to illness to sometimes devastating consequences. What a horribly callous statement on her part. When I stared back at her, she meandered back to another point.

The CDC whistleblower was given immunity by President Obama.

  • This isn’t even a thing. The President doesn’t grant immunity since genuine whistleblowers are already afforded that protection by law. This point is either a fantasy or a fabrication. But why would she claim that President Obama gave someone at the CDC whistleblower immunity? Onto the next point:

The CDC made researchers omit data that would show that black children catch autism from on-time MMR vaccination.

The NFL has a mumps outbreak.

  • Okay, this is wrong because it was the NHL, but it is a seriously huge mistake to come to Minnesota and mistake hockey for football. Here’s a bit on why the NHL mumps outbreak happened.

If you think my analysis of Toni Bark was a bit snarky or cruel, keep in mind that this is how she responded to a tweet from a woman named Liz Ditz:

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Actually, after rereading what I have written, maybe Governor Brown should meet with Toni Bark. Maybe he should invite a pediatric intensive care doctor along, too. That might just be enough to convince him that the anti-vaccine movement needs to be stopped.