By Alison Campbell 07/03/2018

Back in mid-February, UNICEF NZ posted a piece on the importance of vaccines. Shortly thereafter, the comments thread had been overrun by anti-vaccination pro-disease activists. (I have to say, I’m really impressed with the person who does UNICEF’s social media. Talk about grace and dignity under fire!) This seems to happen every time a story about vaccine-preventable disease hits the mainstream and/or social media, and those opposed to vaccination seem willing to push just about any fable to promote their case. (While I have blocked out names here, most of the images are hot-linked to the original comments threads.)

And so we hear that, apparently, measles is a benign disease.



I asked that more than once, but for some reason the information was not forthcoming. Even when phrased thusly (thanks, Paul!):

If sanitation, better nutrition and plumbing was the cause of reduction of incidence of disease ie morbidity (graphs like the one Black presented show a reduction of mortality from disease) then why did sanitation, better nutrition and plumbing have to wait until 1996 to begin to lower the amount of cases of varicella yet in 1960s lowered the cases of measles? Wouldn’t you think that if measles was lowered then chickenpox would also be lowered seeing as they are transmitted the same way?

If sanitation, better nutrition and plumbing was the cause of reduction of polio, why did sanitation, better nutrition and plumbing wait until 2006 to reduce the number of cases of rotavirus but forget to reduce the number of cases of norovirus? After all, all three are transmitted identically and yet one disappeared by 1979, the second began disappearing in 2006 and the third is still running rampant.

In fact, it was pretty much crickets all the way on those questions. Perhaps because there isn’t really a possible negative response to the evidence that (eg) the introduction of the measles vaccine really did lead to a marked reduction in measles cases. (Better medical care had already seen a reduction in actual deaths – though they still happen today – 90,000, mostly in underdeveloped countries, in 2016.) The data are discussed in this article, but here’s the graph from the US.

But hey, people like Brown “do their own research” and just know that vaccines contain all sorts of nasty stuff.

Sadly, their “research” appears to be lacking.

All this would be laughable if it wasn’t such a danger to public health – for the aim of Brown, Black et al is surely to frighten parents into not vaccinating their children. Goodness knows those various claims about vaccine components have been repeatedly debunked (including in an earlier post of mine), and there’s no evidence that vaccines cause autism, or cancer (and in fact, the Hep B and HPV vaccines specifically protect against cancer). Plus there are an increasing number of good-quality studies available on the long-term safety and efficacy of vaccines (see herehere, and here for examples.) But, I guess, if your “research” involves watching “Vaxxed: the movie”, or frequenting websites such as NaturalNews and, then you might think otherwise.

Also it seems that vaccines are not for the malnourished:

Well, actually:

In fact, Black doubled down on that one:

Not only is this wrong, it’s also despicable victim-blaming: she’s implying that if only the child’s parents had provided whichever vitamins or foodstuffs the child was deficient in, s/he wouldn’t have died. I’m sure that would make this child’s parents feel really good. Not.

Black also has a thing for one Dr Deisher – however, a much greater blogger than I has explained on multiple occasions what is wrong with the claims shared on that thread by Black:

The thought of vaccines having anything to do with “aborted foetal cells” seems an anathema to them. However, when you drill down into it, the cells we’re talking about are stem cells that had their origins in cells derived from foetuses back in the 1960s. These human cell lines are used in the manufacture of Hep A, rubella, chickenpox and shingles vaccines. Even the Catholic Church is not opposed to this use. However, this doesn’t stop Dr Deisher and others claiming that any remaining human DNA (derived from the stem cells) that might be in the vaccines can combine with the vaccinated person’s DNA and cause all sorts of harm. As Dr Gorski says, the odds of this are truly minute, and no robust data have been presented to support it.

In other words, despite claiming to be ‘dealing in the science’, Black seems remarkably poorly informed (and doesn’t read her own citations):

In this particular case, the study that Black holds up as proving that catching measles is protective against cancer actually involved a patient treated with a measles virus genetically engineered to attack tumour cells. Which is pretty darn cool, actually, although the virotherapy worked for only one person in the clinical trial discussed here. A second study she put forward was published in that top-ranked lower-tier journal, Medical Hypotheses. And it was a speculative model… However, there is good evidence that measles infection actually reduces the immune system’s ability to respond to other infections, and that for a number of years.

In fact, Black and her colleagues are rather fond of saying that Blue, Green and others can’t provide good-quality studies demonstrating the efficacy of vaccines because those studies don’t exist, a claim that can be disproved by finding even one study to the contrary. Thus I can only assume that she’s hoping that no-one goes looking, because she’s very, very wrong. See herehere, and here, for example. (Mind you, by the logic displayed by Black and her ilk, those studies aren’t any good because they’re in the mainstream scientific literature, and we all know how corrupt that is </snark>)

Brown certainly likes to repeat herself, (and the idea that someone claiming to be trained as a pharmacist could be firmly in the ‘vaccinations are bad’ camp is rather disturbing): 

That claim that UNICEF is marking as spam, or deleting, posts from antivaxxers, pops up more than once in this (very long) series of comments. The posters seem both angry and aghast that this would happen. They should stop their pearl-clutching. UNICEF New Zealand is within its rights to remove messages that are harmful to public health, and in fact gave quite an extensive platform to those opposed to vaccination. What’s more, I doubt very much that those supporting vaccination would receive a similar reception on antivax pages. In my experience, you’re more likely to have your posts deleted on sight. Hypocrisy much?