Celebrities endorsing an anti-vaccine rally. Credit: io9 // Gizmodo

Why the Anti-Vaxxers Threaten Us All

Celebrities endorsing an anti-vaccine rally. Credit: io9 // Gizmodo

Celebrities endorsing an anti-vaccine rally. Credit: io9 // Gizmodo

In recent years, anti-vaccine proponents have been successful in persuading an increasing number of parents that their children don’t need to be vaccinated. Some anti-vaccine advocates, unfortunately, also come from the medical field. Dr. Andrew Wakefield’s articles allege that vaccines against measles cause autism. In addition, celebrities like Jenny McCarthy have made second careers of being concerned mothers crusading against vaccination.

The sad fact is that neither science nor sense are on their side. Wakefield’s research is thoroughly discredited. Scientists at both the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the National Institutes of Health, leading centers of U.S. medicine, are unequivocal that Wakefield’s data is not supported by the science behind either autism and vaccines.

There is no data indicating that vaccinations cause autism. In fact, researchers are still studying what does cause it. They have found that 90% of individuals with autism also have gastrointestinal problems — perhaps indicating a connection between autism and digestive health, but not between autism and vaccinations.

As for McCarthy, she is simply using a celebrity platform to promulgate what are in essence lies put into circulation by Wakefield and others.

Anti-Vaxxers Threaten Public Health

The other sad fact is that the growing ranks of anti-vaxxers are a danger to use all. A number of diseases that used to threaten illness or death have been eradicated by vaccines. Anti-vaxxers are bringing them back.

For instance, in 2002, the CDC announced that measles had been eradicated in the U.S. Measles can cause deafness and possibly death. However, measles is once again not only present in the U.S., but it’s on the upswing.

In Minnesota, measles was epidemic in 2015. A three-three-old Minnesota boy was identified as the patient zero, or the entry point. He exposed over 3,000 people.

His parents had read the erroneous reports that the measles vaccine caused autism. As a result, they didn’t vaccinate him, and he contracted measles on a family trip overseas.

They were not alone, either. In their community, vaccinations fell dramatically over the 2004 to 2014 period. In 2004, more than 90% of people were vaccinated. Ten years later, just over 50% were — and all as a result of the false information that there was a link between vaccines and autism.

Thanks to anti-vaxxer propaganda, the U.S. is no longer free of measles.

The vaccination of a large percentage of the population strengthens herd immunity. The anti-vaxxers threaten herd immunity.

Making a Good Health Measure Into Bad Health Fears

What the anti-vaxxers are doing has the potential to roll back one of the major medical successes of the twentieth century. Throughout the 1900s, one disease after another was fought into submission.

Influenza was a major epidemic in 1918, killing thousands of people. Flu still has the potential to kill people worldwide in pandemics. Even milder strains can kill the elderly. However, for the population as a whole, flu vaccine protects from common flu strains.

Polio was a major crippler of twentieth-century children until a vaccine was developed. Polio meant that an afternoon swim could result in contracting the disease, potentially resulting in life-long paralysis. The vaccine changed all that.

[ALSO SEE] Vaccines work: only 15 polio cases in 2016 — by 2020 it should be completely eradicated

One of the tragedies is that the public health successes of vaccines made life seem safer, and inadvertently set the stage for the anti-vaxxers. Although infectious diseases are still among us (Zika virus and Ebola come to mind), it has been decades since such childhood diseases like measles and polio were commonly viewed as threats.

Because of vaccinations, they ceased to be present dangers — to the point where the anti-vaxxers seem to have forgotten that the world is full of health dangers.

Anti-vaxxers draw on a historical wellspring of fears concerning vaccination. Historians of medicine point out that people a century ago feared that vaccines would cause disease — partly because some vaccines were made of live viruses. But such fears were ill-founded then, just as they were ill-founded now.

Anti-vaxxers also seem to be people who are more swayed by alarmism and anecdote than by science and rational thought. They may also be more politically conservative and distrust government claims such as those by the CDC.

Again, though, the data here is clear: There is no link between autism and vaccinations. Yet the science has not persuaded anti-vaxxers.

When a Personal Choice Affects All of Us

Anti-vaxxers frequently emphasise the role of personal choice in the vaccination decision. The backdrop is the increasing emphasis on personal choice in contemporary life.

However, the anti-vaxxer choice is not solely a personal choice. Because diseases are spread among social units — many of them are carried through bodily fluids or through the air — the choice to exert a precaution against diseases is a social one as well.

After all, society has supported quarantines of people with infectious diseases when there was no readily available treatment in decades past. Those suffering from yellow fever and tuberculosis, for example, were isolated until the disease had passed. Indeed, as we’ve seen with the Zika virus and Ebola, treatment for untreatable infectious diseases includes quarantine and protection for medical personnel now.

In some ways, vaccination is the positive side of disease protection, and perhaps it ought to be treated as more mandatory than a choice because of is potential social impact.

6 thoughts on “Why the Anti-Vaxxers Threaten Us All

  1. Brian

    Vaccines are medicine's greatest miracle. People should get them. But there are problems that can be easily solved, but the medical folks won't listen.

    Thimerosal should be removed, or even banned. It's not used a lot anymore, it can't be that hard to eliminate.

    Multiple vaccines seem to cause problem. That does not surprise me. All systems have limits, and it appears that multiple vaccines exceed those of the immune system. Stop doing it.

    Thimerosal is very toxic. They used to use it in contact lens storage. But virtually everyone started to have bad reactions to it, myself included, and within a few years, it was removed from the market. Have that reaction internally would be much worse.
    The "trace" amounts are substantial and can cause reactions. Autism does not seem to be one of them.
    UC Davis study with mice links thimerosal with immune system dysfunction
    http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2006-03/uocd-uds032006.php
    http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2014-06/cmaj-cmv060414.php
    Combined MMRV vaccine shows slight rise in adverse events
    http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2012-10/bawh-lme100512.php
    Low-level mercury exposure in pregnant women connected to ADHD risk in children

  2. FORthe TRUTH

    Why do other countries suggest far fewer vaccinations than the USA? The USA suggest the most vaccinations in the entire world, by the way- even more than disease filled 3rd world nations…. Healthcare in America is the MOST EXPENSIVE in the entire world. Why do American doctors try to force multiple vaccinations at the same time? How effective are vaccinations without boosters? What proof is there that vaccines do not cause autism? This article shows no factual evidence relating to that issue. Just because you say there is no link does not mean that there is no link. Another note, if YOU had the vaccinations, then what is the big deal?!?! YOU ARE VACCINATED AGAINST THE DISEASE, CORRECT?!?!?!? Therefore, ONLY those without the vaccinations are at risk, correct? Social impact?! According to the article's statements, those who take vaccines are 100% not at risk, so how is it a social issue and not just a those without vaccinations issue? Pre-Vaccine era ESTIMATED annual morbidity cases…. Are estimates factual data now? "partly because some vaccines were made of live viruses. But such fears were ill-founded then, just as they were ill-founded now." Does the author of this BS big pharma paid for article NOT have grammar check? Yeah my comment might have grammar issues in it, but I'm only taking 2 minutes to write a comment, NOT an article published online for all to view…… I like how the author pigeon holes autism as the only vaccine related concern…. From another article written by an actual doctor with knowledge and experience, unlike the author of this story on ZMESCIENCE, who is not a doctor in medicine….

    "by Dr. Mercola
    The United States requires infants to receive 26 vaccines (the most in the world) yet more than 6 U.S. infants die per every 1,000 live births. In contrast, Sweden and Japan administer 12 vaccines to infants, the least amount, and report less than 3 deaths per 1,000 livebirths.The study also found evidence that some infant deaths attributed to sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) may actually be vaccine-related."

    http://healthimpactnews.com/2011/studies-show-that-the-countries-with-the-most-vaccines-have-the-worst-infant-death-rate/

    and more… "

    The current study
    by Miller and Goldman, "Infant Mortality Rates Regressed Against Number
    of Vaccine Doses Routinely Given: Is There a Biochemical or Synergistic
    Toxicity?" found a high statistically significant correlation between
    increasing number of vaccine doses and increasing infant mortality
    rates.This raises an important question: Would fewer vaccines
    administered to infants reduce the number of infant deaths?

    Other study findings:

    The United States spends more per capita on healthcare than any
    other country; yet 33 nations have better infant mortality rates. Some
    infant deaths attributed to sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) may be
    due to over-vaccination.

    Progress on reducing infant deaths should include monitoring
    immunization schedules and official causes of death (to determine if
    vaccine-related infant deaths are being reclassified). Infant mortality
    rates will remain high in developing nations that cannot provide clean
    water, proper nutrition, improved sanitation, and better access to
    health care"

  3. George Washingmachine

    Medicine in America is a for profit industry though, so companies are financially motivated to force the creation of more and more vaccines in order to drive up/create revenue streams. A lot of vaccines offer ZERO percent proof that they are at all effective, but yet they suggest EVERY baby/child/person gets them. There is a HUGE issue with that. Yes, some vaccines are wonderful, but not all vaccines can say that. I feel that EVERY baby/child should get some vaccines, but NOT all that the US medical industry suggests nor more than one at a time. There is data that shows a correlation between health issues and taking multiple vaccines at the same time. That should be an issue with cause for concern. It proves that vaccines ARE doing something to human health, but to what extent is it good and to what extent is that bad? Overpopulation is a pressing issue/subject as well lol. Maybe it is time to thin the herd!

  4. Brian

    Unfortunately the anti vaccine folks go to far, and the pro vaccine folks paint all complaints about problems with vaccines as anti vaccine hysteria. Just asking to remove the mercury compound that has proven negative health effects gets the pro vaccine groups calling you a anti vaxer.

    I research each vaccine that I consider getting. There's not always good data, but a recent flu vaccine was very poor, so I didn't get it.

    The public health officials need to be a lot more transparent on the risk, and benefits. The benefits are huge: preventing pandemics, preventing deaths. Even the poor vaccines have very low percentage of any problems. The gov protects the companies that make vaccines from most liability, which we should.

  5. Vaccine Papers

    Vaccines are dangerous and cause autism and other brain damage. Science has proven that autism is caused by immune activation during brain development. When activated by an infection or vaccine, the immune system produces proteins (cytokines) that cause defects in brain development. This can manifest as autism or other brain disorders (e.g. depression, ADHD, schizophrenia). Vaccines are designed to cause immune activation and stimulate the specific cytokines that cause this damage. Google "immune activation autism" and you will be amazed at what the science shows.

    Immune activation has also been proven to cause the physiological damage observed in autism: mitochondrial dysfunction, damaged/missing Purkinje cells, microbiome disruption (dysbiosis), and long-term brain inflammation.

    It is proven beyond any doubt that autism is caused by immune activation during brain development. Even the specific cytokines that cause autism are now known: interleukin-6 and interleukin-17a. IL-6 is produced in the brain by vaccine adverse reactions.

    The greatest danger is probably aluminum adjuvant. Aluminum-containing vaccines have been little-studied in relation to autism. It is proven that aluminum adjuvant causes brain and immune system damage at dosages infants receive from vaccines. It is proven that Al adjuvant nanoparticles travel into the brain after injection, and stay there. Also, Al adjuvant has been shown to cause the specific type of immune activation (the cytokine IL-6) proven to cause autism. These results have been replicated several times. Most vaccines contain aluminum.

    Only the MMR vaccine has been much studied in relation to autism. But every one of the MMR-autism studies is fatally flawed because of selection bias. They are not randomized or properly controlled. Consequently, children with pre-existing neuro- or immune disorders (from prior Al-containing vaccines) are concentrated in the "control" group of these studies. This makes the damage caused by the MMR vaccine unobservable in the MMR-autism studies. All of the MMR-autism studies have this systematic bias.

    The most dangerous vaccines are likely the ones that contain aluminum, and are given at the youngest ages, when the brain is most sensitive to immune activation. So, the Hep B vaccine, which contains aluminum and is given on the day of birth, is probably the most dangerous of all. There are only two studies of the Hep B and autism, and they both found an association with autism.

    The MMR vaccine stimulates an immune signal (a “chemokine” called MCP-1) that causes white blood cells to transport aluminum particles (received from prior vaccines) into the brain. Hence, the MMR vaccine may greatly amplify the brain damage caused by aluminum adjuvant.

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