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May 02, 2010


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I share your impression that the anti-vaccination groups seem more than usually perturbed over the Frontline documentary. The show was very well researched and accurately presented, and comes from an organization known for doing fair journalism -- all of which made it very difficult for McCarthy, Gordon or Handley to claim plausibly that their views had been misrepresented. This one left a mark.

I visited the Frontline site, and was both depressed and cheered. Several doctors posted excellent comments regarding issues such as herd immunity and vaccine scheduling. In the comments section, they were answered by a chorus of self-satisfied comments from a handful of vaccine opponents sure that the whole medical community was out to get them. Depressing.

While I was there, I took the online poll with five questions related to vaccine safety and parental responsibility. As I'd expected, my responses lined up solidly behind vaccination as a public health duty. But, you know what? So did most of the population's! On only one of the five questions was I even slightly more pro-vaccination than the majority of Americans. I found this incredibly cheering.

Conclusion: Don't give up hope just because comment threads are dominated by a tiny number of the smugly paranoid. Most people really do understand what vaccines do, and why they're needed.

So did most of the population's!

jre, would it be more correct to say your responses lined up behind the sample size of those who visited the Frontline website and chose to participate in the poll?

Not that it doesn't please me that people are aware of the fact vaccinations are a good thing, but I think the problem may be a bit more rampant.

jre, would it be more correct to say your responses lined up behind the sample size of those who visited the Frontline website and chose to participate in the poll?

@Ryan: The answers they had there for comparison were from a prior survey, not the ongoing online poll.

Wonder if Handley and crew are taking McCarthy out to the woodshed over this. "Stay on topic, Jenny!"

Thanks Joseph, I stand corrected.

Though the actuary in me really can't stand the "random" samples used in most surveys. They're usually only a sample of people who have phones or the internet.

Well, sure -- me, too.
In fact, that's the reason I was so pleased with the result.

Those of us in the experimental disciplines are supposed to develop an instinctive distrust for information that's been exposed to expectation and confirmation bias. If you've got your cognitive map out, and want to locate the canyon separating antivaxers and the evidence-based community, that's where you'll find it. There's subjective evidence selection on one rim, and objective evidence selection on the other. The chasm is so deep that J.B. Handley appears to have no clue as to why anyone would not accept his observation of his son over a well-designed clinical study. Jenny McCarthy gets downright huffy when anyone suggests that she might be wrong about Evan's diagnosis -- she is a mommy, after all!

So you'd think that someone on the other side of that divide would be really good at excluding subjective impression from any conclusions about populations. I consider myself to be on that side, and I find that I'm not instinctively objective at all. Whenever I come across one of these food-fights in the comment threads, I find myself thinking "Holy cow! The whole country is overrun by these nutcases!" Then I slap myself awake and remember that a squad of really loud nutcases can sound like a whole army, and that the only way to find out how numerous they are is to do -- you guessed it -- a scientific survey.

In "louder than words", Jenny says that "flapping", at least, was something she observed by ca. 12 months. Sounds more and more like there was NO change in behavior with the MMR shot.

Well, remember, this is going to be a full time job for her. Those goalposts won't move themselves you know!

And for folks who want to debunk the anti-vax pro-disease nutters, feel free to utilize http://factsnotfantasy.com/vaccines.php as a systematic dismantling of lise and distrotions. :)

While most people of the US might not be wackos about vaccines, all it would take for us to see a comeback of these diseases is 5% of the population believing her crap. All we have to do is drop below a herd immunity of like 93% I think.. and we currently sit at 98%. Least, these are the numbers I recall. It maybe be more like 90% coverage, but still. We don't just need a majority of people vaccinated. We need almost everyone, but those who can't vaccinate, to vaccinate. We need almost full coverage to protect the tiny minority population who can't vaccinate. And so, all it would take is just a few of the wackos to make our herd immunity ineffective.

See what happens when your child is diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. I bet you all won't think this is crap then.

@FAY: If my child were diagnosed autistic I would no doubt be heartbroken and would have to make some serious life decisions but the point of objectively looking at evidence is that I wouldn't seek to blame something based solely on my observations.

There are multiple factors that could contribute to being autistic and I would surely try my best to work out which caused my child's problems. I would also credit a large study by qualified professionals over both my own judgement and another person's opinion.

I don't belief there is a special link between a child and a parent that offers special insight.

FAY, just having an autistic child doesn't make you an expert on the causes of autism. You have every right to be heard when speaking about the needs of your child and your needs as a parent, but if you are going to make public statements about the caues of autism, you need to take a bit more responsibility for what you are saying.

Too often parents assert that they know the cause, and when challenged to back up their statement, they play the sympathy card - "how dare you question me when you don't know what I am going through?" etc.

I can understand the the frustration of such parents, and the tendency to latch onto a possible cause and try to prevent it from spreading, but in speaking out publically without adequately checking the facts, they are taking a course of action which has severe consequences for other children.

Stop tugging on the heart strings and look at the facts. Sure, if you were right, you would be correct in speaking out - with the facts. (So please just stick to the facts.)

And if you are wrong - a the evidence suggests - you are spreading extremely dangerous and damaging falsehoods, and using your special status as a parent of an autistic child, to get attention.

So please, cut the moral indignignation and start speaking coherently about the facts as you see them.

FAY, you should stop by a thread about anti-vaxxers on Respectful Insolence. There are a lot of regular pro-vaccine commentators who have autistic family members as well as some people who are on the spectrum themselves.

Have a little humility. Being a parent doesn't grant you psychic powers. Being a parent doesn't make your anecdotes superior to carefully gathered scientific data. Humans are flawed beings with flawed perceptions and flawed memories. Science acknowledges that. Anecdotalism doesn't.

Heck, if I had something happen to a kid of mine, I'd consider my judgment of the situation a little bit more suspect: Being emotionally attached has a way of compromising your level of objectivity.

Wow! Here is another denial site set up to insult our intelligence about the obvious. What is the percentage of those who had the 'shot' as opposed to those who never got the 'shot' who developed autism? That's the answer? Look it up. Who pays you? To insinuate that a parent has no insight into their own child's behavior shows an absence of basic thought an conscience. Have you ever been a parent? Because if you had, you would know how ridiculous and revealing that statement is, and what this is all about. Psychic powers? I doubt I have ever seen an insult like THAT before. "Anti-vaxxers"...that's good too! But probably not a thinking human being, to you...right? You need to be responsible for what you are saying. We really don't think it is necessary to put mercury in vaccinations, for example, but the medical community won't make the effort to change that. Why? What could this obvious poisoning mean? The same with food additives. What's the point? To keep us as sick as possible? Then it is left for someone to 'prove' a problem exists. All foods are now irradiated...DEAD! What's the point? Have we forgotten how to wash our food? Don't con us, dude!


So the food producers are in league with the medical community to make us sick? What a complete load of bollocks.

Average life expectancy in the UK was something around 50 as recently as 1900 - now it's over 80. That's an improvement of 60%, pretty much solely as a result of vaccines and surgical techniques.

What on earth are the food companies supposed to get out of making their food lethal? And what in HADES do vaccine manufacturers get out of deliberately making people autistic?

It's not even as if there's some bizarre eugenics scheme to keep the population down - autism does not hit that, and Western populations just keep going up and up.

So what is it, Einstein? What is the ultimate point of this evil skulduggery meant to be?

It's an evil conspiracy to rule the world big al..

We really don't think it is necessary to put mercury in vaccinations, for example, but the medical community won't make the effort to change that. Why?

Hey genious, thimerosal was added as a preservative after kids got infections from the vaccines (causing deaths). Evil big pharma added thimerosal for protection

Not only that, Nico, but the medical community did "make the effort to change that" - specifically by removing Thimerosal from all childhood vaccines.

And yet autism continues to rise.

Oh and btw:

Who pays you?

I think that nobody, and even if skeptico was being paid, it wouldn't mean Jenny McCarthy magically did not change her story anymore, and then tried to cover it by deleting the previous one from her blog.


We really don't think it is necessary to put mercury in vaccinations, for example, but the medical community won't make the effort to change that. Why?

Thimerosal was removed from all pediatric vaccines almost ten years ago. Many vaccines never contained thimerosal, including the much maligned MMR.

So when you make a statement, do try to read up enough so you don't make such embarrassing mistakes.

Also, washing food will not get rid of microorganisms that are inside the plant, like the ones that were in the irrigation water.

Can you give us an example of food that is still alive after you eat it? Do you actually swallow spinach while it is still planted in the ground? How do you manage to eat without chewing?

I liked your article very much (I'm liking this whole website), but I don't think when your son is diagnosed with autism that you'll stop short of "making a fool" of yourself. Same with cancer and other such diagnoses. I see people do and say some really irrational things, but I think the "nothing to lose" scenario really contributes to why people are willing to try almost anything (including go to Brazil and have some uneducated prophet shove a pair of scissors up your nose and twirl it to cure you). I don't know to what extent we're all susceptible to this desperation.

That being said, trying to cure her son and going on a crusade against vaccines and doctors and the USDA, etc, are very different acts.

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