the vaccine manufactroversy hits pbs
Over the last half a century, medical science made a lot of very good things possible. On average, we’re living much longer thanks to sterile practices, advanced surgical techniques and medical technology, and vaccines which help prevent infectious disease known to cause severe and potentially lethal complications. But we’re apparently not allowed to just enjoy the good things without a concerted effort to scare us away from using the very medical techniques helping us to live a longer life. Instead, celebrities, bankers, politicians, and all kinds of quacks who expect nothing but fawning expose after fawning expose in the media, have decided that a few searches on Google and a paper that supports their antagonistic views of science and Big Pharma would make them more than qualified to advise us on pediatric care. And thanks to the power of the web and social natures of humans, they’ve been so successful in their fear-mongering and demonization of experts, they’ve started what PBS describes as a full blown war about the efficiency and safety of highly successful vaccines.
Just about every argument anti-vaccination zealots offer is scientifically unsound. The chant seen in the video, the oft repeated mantra of “too many, too soon,” is completely opposite of what actually happens. Kids do get more shots today than 30 years ago, but they’re getting just 5% of the antigens their parents received. The claims about the effects of thimerosal in vaccines? Anti-vaccine crusaders don’t even seem to be aware of the difference between ethyl mercury and methyl mercury, the latter of which is the actual neurotoxin and was never used in the making of thimerosal. On top of that, the offending ingredient was removed from all vaccines save for flu shots in 1999 and the rates of autism diagnoses still kept climbing, showing their hypothesis to be invalid. This is why anti-vaxers had to resort of coming up with random culprits for autism in vaccines, all of which were based on pointing to a scary chemical name and sounding the alarm rather than real science. If anything, anti-vaccine activists simply refuse to acknowledge that any scientific study that disagrees with them can have any validity whatsoever. Some of them will even attack flu shots as evidence that vaccines don’t work while ignoring that not every other cough and chill you get during flu season is actually influenza, and what flu shots do to the influenza virus on an evolutionary scale.
So how do the marching and furious anti-vaxers react to being confronted with evidence? They dismiss it as a conspiracy by Big Pharma to kill kids for cash, they will threaten you with lawsuits, and compile downright ridiculous lists of complaints about science based medicine in retort, all while selling dangerous quackery to parents of autistic children, attacking any study looking for genetic links for autism as “just blaming the parents.” In other words, they’ll fervently try to bully, intimidate and condemn their critics because they imagine themselves as luminaries fighting the system, kind of like they see Galileo in his face-off against the Catholic Church, so anyone who dares to deflate their self-esteem with facts is the enemy. Not only that, but what their movement is exemplifying in its distrust of science seems to be a disturbingly common problem. People can be incredibly hostile to men and women in white lab coats for all kinds of reasons, and that hostility makes it very difficult to get through to people who decided to jump on a bandwagon instead of listening to those with a few relevant degrees and volumes of peer-reviewed evidence to back up their words.
While it’s good to question the scientific consensus and offer ideas for improvement or refinement, when you simply refuse to listen to anyone who disagrees with you, you’ve left healthy skepticism and plunged deep into potentially dangerous denialism that could affect not only you, but all the people to whom you willfully and self- servingly misrepresented the facts. And though I understand that for many, this vaccine manufactroversy was, and still is, all about the kids, for the leaders of the anti-vaccine movement it’s now about proving the science wrong and giving doctors who won’t play their game a public black eye. This is why they counter evidence with threats, ridicule, denigration and subpoenas, demanding immediate acceptance and silence in reply to all the fear, uncertainty and doubt they spout on a daily basis in their misguided, anti-scientific quest.