Vaccination saved us from…what, exactly?
January 11, 2012 1 Comment
So goes one heading over at the No Compulsory Vaccination blog, leading to a screed of disturbingly accusatory silliness borne of the confidence from one graph.
Dr Raymond Obomsawin is one of the few to knock up a bogus graph that cites decreasing incidence of measles infection rather than the boring old general mortality we’ve come to expect from antivaxxers. The obvious conclusion of course is that lethal viruses were being tamed by clean water, less wandering poo and yummy food.
Robert Webb succinctly explains where the problems lie here and also points to a further mincing of Obomsawin by David Gorski at Science Based Medicine. I quite like Gorski’s sub-heading. Intellectual dishonesty at it’s most naked.
What surprises me still however, is just how many angles these purveyors of fiction will try. As I touched on in some satire recently, Meryl Dorey’s hilarious poker face revelation on Radio 3CR whilst chatting (or rather, lying) to Helen Lobato pre Woodford was a beauty.
A lot of the credit that’s been given to vaccines for the decline in deaths and infectious diseases has nothing to do with vaccines. Because it all happened before the shots were introduced. Engineers did more to improve the health of Australians than doctors ever have.
Whilst antivaxxers have been a little more vocal of late, they seem to have really only dug their hole deeper. If not attacking those who ask questions of them, engaging in a bit of fraud or libel, it seems to be silliness as usual. Judy Wilyman is a splendid offender with this myth, claiming there is “no historical evidence” for the success of any vaccine schedule. Her trick is to use mortality rates. Usually Judy just plonks up infant fatality rates from 1900 onwards and uses the rapid decline up till 1950 to mount her case.
Let’s ignore what two World Wars did to the birth rate and consequently infant fatalities in English speaking nations over that period, and just focus on the absurdity of mortality alone. There’s no doubt improvements in sanitation, hygiene and quality of food improved our health vastly. But did it also impact on viral behaviour and immunity as is being suggested?
Bogey sites such as Child Health Safety with Vaccines Did Not Save Us – 2 centuries of official statistics excel in exploiting this myth of “mortality = disease”. As amusing as such nonsense may be, it shows the lengths some go to in protecting the vaccine-autism myth. That blog provides graph after graph of fatalities which are virtually irrelevant to disease incidence. It is only once vaccines enter the timeline do we see disease incidence almost vanish.
To me, a drop in mortality coinciding with a healthier population indicates improved rate of recovery from illness. It doesn’t say much about infection other than to hint at better general immunity that comes with better health. But better immunity is not specific immunity, and this is what antivaxxers are really claiming – even if they don’t realise it.
More so, this claim would also demand rising herd immunity before widespread vaccination programmes, on a trajectory that would have matched the herd immunity achieved by mass vaccination. Acceptance of the value of herd immunity refutes the claim infection control arose from better living. That’s one reason antivaxxers deny it. Strangely, there is silence about success of the Hib vaccine, which they should be able to explain.
Being the lovers of science they claim to be, Hib has falsified the claim of improved living standards, not vaccination, controlling certain diseases. In time, perhaps shortly, we may see this repeated with a hepatitis C vaccine and I predict the antivaxxers will have just as little to say by way of explanation of their “theory”.
Yet ultimately it is antivaxxers themselves who debunk this nonsensical myth. If improved living standards controlled or wiped out vaccine preventable diseases then how do we explain this present resurgence on the back of low immunisation rates? Surely living standards haven’t dropped, anymore than they improved over the 12 years from 1993 in which Hib vaccination demonstrated it’s efficacy. Added to this is the bizarre belief that children are meant to catch these diseases. Which by the way we’re told, are harmless, even “marvellous”, in the case of returning measles.
Simply put, if improved living standards can suppress these diseases we should see them eliminated, not returning. Nor does the rise of chiropractic, homeoprophylactic, herbal and other “immune boosting” hanky panky make real sense. All of this exposes the fact that it is herd immunity sustained by vaccination that largely protects those who refuse vaccination. That’s another reason to deny the value of herd immunity.
As the lie becomes harder to sustain new myths are fabricated. The pertussis vaccine has caused the outbreak. Vaccination causes the disease it is meant to prevent. “Vaccine shedding” places the unvaccinated at risk. Viruses are intentionally released into the community. Vaccination causes immune dysfunction leading to later infection. Vaccination doesn’t provide proper immunity.
It would seem it is approaching the End Game in more ways than one for this myth. It isn’t hard to answer Ms. Dorey’s question.
Vaccination saved us from the returning diseases children are not being vaccinated against.