Aaron Leaman’s excellent storyA in the Waikato Times and in Stuff used those words, and I’m sticking with them – because those adjectives describe the majority of the comments on the relevant FB page.
When Aaron interviewed me for that story, I commented that it’s essential for scientists and doctors to continue to confront the waves of anti-vaccine mythinformation that’s so easily circulated via the internet and social media. Without that, and without journalists like Aaron who write science-and-evidence-based articles, the strident anti-vaxx voices, with their continual Gish gallops, may be all that people hear. But honestly, each time an article like this is published, visiting the comments section makes me feel like it’s groundhog day – or a game of whackamole – because the same tired old claims come up again and again and againB.
There’s the claim that ‘Big Pharma’ pushes vaccines because they make a truckload of money for them. The World Health Organisation provides a useful schedule of vaccine prices: for most the price varies from a few cents to a few dollars. The CDC has collated the costs of treating individuals severely affected by any of a number of vaccine-preventable diseases. It’s in the thousands of dollars (& would be little different here, once the exchange rate’s taken into account). I’d say Big Pharma would make more money out of people being hospitalised.
Grey could also have pointed out that the mercury-containing compound thiomersal (at least 2 spellings) hasn’t been in paediatric vaccines since 2001, with the exception of some multi-dose flu vaccines. You’d think that this would have taken the wind out of the sails of those claiming that its presence in vaccines is linked to autism – but you’d be mistaken. Sadly, Orange refused to listen & continues with the claim. As do others, claiming that vaccines contain borax, polysorbate, formaldehyde, foetal cells, you name it. They generally ignore the fact that dose is important, something I’ve written about previously: for example, our bodies make more formaldehyde on a daily basis than you’ll ever find in a vaccine. (Don’t eat pears if you’re worried about the stuff.)
This concern is sort of understandable; the number of vaccinated individuals is (currently) much higher than the unvaccinated, and because no vaccine is 100% effective some of those vaccinated may still come down with the disease. Say you’ve got a vaccine with 80% effectiveness, and a population where there are 1000 who are vaccinated and 100 who aren’t. This means that in the vaxxed group, up to 200 individuals may get sick: 20% of that group. But if we’re dealing with a highly infectious virus, like measles, then 80 or so of the 100 unvaxxed may contract it: 80% of that group. So on a proportional basis, unvaccinated individuals are much more likely to be infected.
There’s the statements that Andrew Wakefield didn’t commit scientific fraud (he did), that his medical licence has been reinstated (it hasn’t), that he never claimed MMR vaccine was linked to autism (he did). None of them are correct, but Wakefield seems to remain a hero in their eyes. (He also directed the film “Vaxxed”, but we’re supposed to believe that it’s an accurate & unbiased documentary.)
And some of them just make me very, very angry:
A Aaron’s also written this article, which addresses some of the myths relating to vaccination.
B Occasionally something new cropped up. On one thread the ‘discussion’ focused on gardasil. I cannot believe that people can be so wilfully ignorant.
I did. Well, I posted the link. Almost all cases of cervical cancer are caused by HPV.