Sunday, April 26, 2009

It Doesn't Have To Be This Way

"A lie can run round the world before the truth has got its boots on." -Terry Pratchett.

See this video:

Heart-wrenching, isn't it? I cannot begin to express how furious this makes me. There is a reason we invented the vaccine. It didn't start with Big Pharma or with any kind of conspiracy. It started with deadly diseases having their way with humanity. Mindless, deadly, and efficient organisms with agency and a biological impulse to survive and perpetuate through human hosts are the reason we vaccinate. Vaccines have a purpose the way hand-washing has a purpose. It's not some mere rite of passage every infant goes through. It's a necessary prophylactic against diseases that have killed in the past and know no sympathy for future hosts.

People talk about autism like it is the absolute worst disease to afflict humanity. It isn't. Not by a long shot. If vaccination levels drop below a certain threshold, people will die. Wishful thinking and fearful hope that diseases we no longer see will remain at bay is not enough. We don't apply such positive-thinking to infant seats in cars. Physics has no sense of sympathy, biology no morals. These diseases will come for the weakest members of the population first- not last. Parents struggling to make a decision about whether or not to vaccinate may hem and haw over the narrative presented by Age of Autism, or Jenny McCarthy. These are people who express a narrative, a compelling chain of events to explain why we vaccinate. I am here to tell you that this narrative is false. I am here to tell you that this movement of storytellers have an insidious background all their own.

The story behind vaccines is simple- with its own ups, downs, and immoralities. People were getting sick and in many cases, dying, of smallpox. A man named Edward Jenner noticed that a segment of the population was not dying, not getting sick- milkmaids. Instead they got a very similar disease, cowpox, and if they did become ill- tended survive. Only later would we would understand how and why this seemed to work, but at the time Edward Jenner simply made the inference that getting cowpox was enough to confer an immunity to smallpox. Then he did something horrible, he tested his idea on a small child- first infecting him deliberately with cowpox obtained from one of the lesions of another infected person. Then he gave the boy smallpox, obtained in a similar fashion. Smallpox was a death sentence. In 1967, it killed two million people. Depending on the type of smallpox, it can have a mortality rate as high as 75%. This boy survived and from the Latin vacca, meaning cow (as in cowpox), the vaccine was born.

As you can see, the patron saint of the vaccine is no saint at all, his experiment was something we would never do today. Yet as our knowledge of pathogens and disease grew, the more Edward Jenner's experiment made sense, the more we understood how to build on this, and create new and more effective vaccines. So we did. Do people make money selling vaccines? Absolutely. Is there an absurd amount to be had? Oh goodness yes. However, what is the significance of that? Is it really reason enough to cast aside volumes of scientific study on the subject? After all, do people make money selling food? Yes. Is there an absurd amount of money to be had? YES! Yet, we have yet to see someone campaign for an end to the consumption of food. Perhaps they don't have the energy.

I cannot teach people to fear the diseases that we no longer see (but will see, if and when vaccination rates drop). What I can do is tell you a story, the story of the people who would watch the world burn through their own dislike of water. In 1998 Andrew Wakefield, a gastroenterologist, published a study attempting to establish a link between vaccination and autism. Since then, 10 of the 13 coauthors have retracted their names from the study. Andrew Wakefield was not one of them. In fact, he was later found to have committed the cardinal sin of science: He faked his results. What has happened since then is a series of events that deserve a longer and more detailed evaluation than is fitting for this post, which is meant to be an introduction. However a few things stand out, such as Wakefield's attempts to capitalize on his "findings" by starting a clinical practice called Thoughtful House.

Celebrities such as Jenny McCarthy have glommed onto this movement, advocating non-vaccination, making claims for which they have no evidence. Meanwhile, the vast majority of the scientific and medical community understands and accepts the necessity and utility of vaccines. Who are these scientists and doctors? They are people like you and me, people who received educations in their specialty precisely because they sought truth in nature. They are people who vaccinate their children. They are often the very type of person who is working towards a cure for autism. So can vaccines really cause harm?

Kanatjan Alibekov was a biologist in the Soviet military infrastructure's bioweapons program. He later defected to the United States. In his work involving some of the most evil pathogens known to man, he was vaccinated many times, and in his book Biohazard he discusses the effect of those multiple, frequently untested, vaccines. The side effects are all auto-immune, and none of them are neurological. He talks about being allergic to eggs, milk, and other foods. He talks about having skin problems like eczema. He doesn't cite neurological difficulties. We know vaccines can have side effects, but we know what those side-effects are: they are listed on the box! Better than that, we understand fully how these side-effects come about, and can work towards eliminating them. Meanwhile, the people who claim autism is caused by vaccines can't offer even a guess at how vaccines might do so.

It is true Big Pharma is selling you a product, but it's a product that you just so happen to need. I don't ask you to trust them because I myself do not trust them, or even like them. They have done a lot of wrong in the past. Still, we know what they are selling, we can touch it, feel it, talk to the people who designed it. So too, we must lucidly and clearly understand what Andrew Wakefield and his ilk are selling. What they are selling you isn't a product, but a lifestyle. They are telling you, in the face of mountains of contrary evidence, that they and their small community are to be trusted on this matter and no one else. They are selling you an idea. It will cost you. It will cost you an exclusive faith in their small pool of abilities, and potentially the life of your child.

Don't buy it.


  1. Well said. I enjoyed this post a lot.

  2. yes, very well said. I also believe vaccinations are a social responsibility.


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