Busting Vaccine Myths

Over on Stories from the trauma bay DocBastard has collated and canned seventy three falsehoods used by the anti-vaccination movement to aid their spread of vaccine misinformation.

Whether it’s vaccinated vs unvaccinated, too many too soon, deceptive reliance on VAERS data, toxins, herd immunity, aborted fetal cells, package inserts, Bill Gates, the renaming of Polio, Mr. Wakefield, heavy metals and/or many, many other anti-vax lies you’re interested in it may well be there.

He has included a frightfully helpful table of topics anchor linked to the relative paragraph. You can also follow @DocBastard on twitter.

Ooooooh boy. I have no idea what kind of rabbit hole I’m entering here, and this may end up being the 1) longest, 2) least read, and 3) most unworthwhile (yes, it’s a word) post in the history of blogs. But fuck it, I’m doing it anyway.

If you’ve landed on this page, one of three things has happened:

  1. You’ve been a loyal reader, got an email notification about this post, and you clicked it. 
  2. You searched the internet for “docbastard vaccines” for some stupid reason, or 
  3. I or (hopefully) someone else referred you here from Twitter because you made some bullshit argument about vaccines. 

If it’s #3, there is at least a 99.21% chance (I calculated it) that you haven’t even read this far. But in case you have, please immediately refer to the number I listed so you can quickly find out why you’re wrong here wrong.

If that last sentence doesn’t make sense, just read on. Everyone else knows it will all come together by the end. 

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Judy Wilyman – unedited TV interview

Some thoughts on vaccine conspiracy theorist Judy Wilyman’s misleading “TV interview” which was published on YouTube on August 16th, 2018.

Viewers are being mislead by Ms. Wilyman’s constant and repetitive referral to “university research” and the allusion to an existing “scientific debate” on vaccination. The science on vaccination is settled and there is certainly no genuine debate. Only anti-vaccine conspiracy theorists constantly seeking to create the impression there is a debate and that the truth is being suppressed.

One wonders. What is the “objective and evidence based university research (approved by the University of Wollongong)” of which Ms. Wilyman speaks? What was the study design? What was the sample size? By what methodology were vaccine ingredients causally linked to chronic disease? Which ingredients were shown to cause chronic disease or pathological changes? By what mechanism do which ingredients cause pathology? How did the study control for other variables? What methods of analysis and statistical verification were used?

Where was this research, “approved by the University of Wollongong [UOW]”, published? Has it been reproduced? How many unsuccessful attempts to falsify the research have there been? Certainly Ms. Wilyman has not published any original research or data. Indeed apart from startlingly unverified claims gleaned frequently from dubious sources, Ms. Wilyman is yet to produce the basic outline of any study design. Rather Ms. Wilyman has joined the ranks of those who misrepresent the purpose of package inserts, and why certain information is included for legal purposes. Not as an indication of what vaccine recipients should expect.

Some Australians are aware that Ms. Wilyman was awarded a PhD from UOW Humanities Department on the basis of a literature review that sought to criticise the Australian Immunisation Schedule and the safety of vaccines in general. Ms. Wilyman has no qualification in health, medicine, public health, epidemiology, vaccine science or any qualifications relating to immunisation at all. During this interview Ms. Wilyman contends, whilst failing to cite any supporting research that vaccine ingredients are causing chronic disease in Australian children.

All Wilyman cites appears to be her own literature review, in which she mistakes correlation for causation. More so, the references cited by Ms. Wilyman in her thesis are firmly biased toward her anti-vaccine theory, and blatantly so. Because of this fact Wilyman has reinforced the fact there is no scientifically reputable debate on the safety and efficacy of mass vaccination at all. In cases where a debate on any topic could be mounted the author of a literature review would present bipartisan sources, review and critique the value of each then finally argue a conclusion based upon the material reviewed.

However the scientific consensus from peer reviewed material addressing vaccine safety and vaccination schedules is one that demonstrates absolutely the safety and success of vaccines. Ms. Wilyman is unable to demonstrate a scientific consensus in peer reviewed literature that suggests widespread chronic disease as a result of mass vaccination because such a consensus does not exist. Ms. Wilyman underscores the intellectual paucity of her stance by insisting that “it has not been proven that autism is not linked to the vaccines”. It has indeed been demonstrated over and over again that autism is not linked to MMR or any vaccine.

One finds it more than disturbing that someone awarded a PhD from an Australian university is incapable of understanding the vast body of work dismissing any link between autism and immunisation. More so, Wilyman goes on to falsely claim there have been deaths and widespread harm causally linked to vaccines. There have been no deaths linked to vaccination in Australia for close to 45 years. On November 21st, 2015 The Social Services Legislative Amendment Bill (No Jab, No Pay) in Brisbane was informed serious reactions to vaccines occur from zero to five times per year in Australia.

These figures reveal Ms. Wilyman’s claims of frequent death and disability from vaccination as bogus. Her abuse of the right to freedom of speech is significantly disturbing as she consciously presents demonstrably false information with the ability to cause community harm, harm to infants and children and the sabotage of public health. For over 17 minutes Judy Wilyman pushes the standard anti-vaccine conspiracy theory, and at one alarming point suggests the Australian Vaccination Schedule with the added incentive of No Jab, No Pay is a breach of The Nuremberg Code.

Let’s clear up what the purpose of the Nuremberg Code is. Following the Nuremberg trials and the conviction of Nazi doctors for human experiments on concentration camp prisoners, the Code was introduced in August 1947. It seeks to give clear instructions and rules as to what is legal when conducting human experiments. There are ten points to the Nuremberg Code.

Comments (below) in response to the video are predictably from the conspiracy theory handbook. The first observes that the government wants to hide what is in a vaccine. You may have noticed above that I linked to vaccine ingredients on this Australian Government Dept. of Health Fact Sheet. The second comment notes “government or doctors” don’t read package inserts. Deaths and serious sickness is covered up.

The harm caused by this misinformation – which is being constantly pushed (and certainly not corrected) by Judy Wilyman is not something one can take lightly.

YouTube comments;

  • “It’s very very suspicious when a government and the AMA want to hide the truth from the public about what is in a vaccine. The whole idea of vaccines is to sterilise the population and polysorbate 80 is in all of them. Obviously that idea has come from the minds of psychopaths”.
  • “All those who promote the lies of the safety of vaccines are equally responsible as BigPharma for the poisoning and maiming of their own people, (sic) They should recall the Nuremberg Trials and the consequences of those who experimented on the innocent people. The risks of vaccines are listed on the Data sheets of the vaccines and also the Package inserts, which are not studied by government or doctors, and the deaths and serious sicknesses are covered up.”

Ms Wilyman would be wise to stick to humanities it would seem.

 

Update: Note; Reference to “scientific debate” on vaccination above refers to the contention of the anti-vaccination lobby that the risk/benefit ratio of vaccines is something that is still being debated or a topic that warrants debate. The benefit of vaccines far outweighs the extremely small risk of harm.

Debunking Anti-Vaxxers

Just over a couple of months ago the video Debunking Anti-Vaxxers was published by Toronto based AsapSCIENCE.

There’s a lot of very helpful information packed into less than seven and a half minutes, and it’s particularly worth visiting the YouTube page for a very comprehensive list of “further reading references”.

You can follow @mitchellmoffitt and @Whalewatchmeplz on Twitter and on Instagram here and here, respectively. There are also links to AsapSCIENCE on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr.

 

I was also interested to come across Bill and Melinda Gates’ 2018 Annual Letter. It’s entitled The 10 Toughest Questions We Get. The questions are answered with graphs, videos and margin notes.

They are;

  1. Why don’t you give more in the United States?
  2. What do you have to show for the billions you’ve spent on U.S. education?
  3. Why don’t you give money to fight climate change?
  4. Are you imposing your values on other cultures?
  5. Does saving kids’ lives lead to overpopulation?
  6. How are President Trump’s policies affecting your foundation’s work?
  7. Why do you work with corporations?
  8. Is it fair that you have so much influence?
  9. What happens when the two of you disagree?
  10. Why are you really giving your money away—what’s in it for you?

The fight against anti-vaxxers continues despite Andrew Wakefield’s ongoing deceit

In early August last year the Australian Vaccination-skeptics Network held one of many Australian screenings of the fraudulent, debunked anti-vaccine film Vaxxed at Hawthorn town hall in Melbourne Victoria. The director of this nonsense is disgraced former gastroenterologist and persistent enemy of public vaccination, Andrew Wakefield.

At this event the AVN hosted a rogue Melbourne GP who, using bogus claims, was helping parents circumvent No Jab No Play legislation. With video of the GP published online, the outcome was immediate revelation of his identity. Three weeks later Dr. John Piesse faced suspension by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA). At that time it was reported he “vowed” to continue placing innocent children and the community at risk until he was indeed suspended. Not long after he agreed to stop practising while AHPRA investigated his conduct.

By mid September he had his licence suspended. The ABC reported;

A Melbourne doctor who has been under investigation for his anti-vaccination stance has had his licence to practise suspended.

Dr John Piesse’s practice in Mitcham was raided by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) and police officers last week following allegations he had helped families avoid compulsory childhood vaccinations.

He had agreed to stop practising temporarily while AHPRA investigated the matter.

But the Medical Board of Australia’s Immediate Action Committee met on Thursday and decided to suspend his registration while the investigation into his practice continued.

An excellent and comprehensive summary of Dr. John Piesse may be found at Diluted Thinking.

Because of the danger posed by Piesse and an unknown number of other GP’s who may be engaging in similar conduct, new No Jab No Play laws were recently announced by Victoria’s Minister for Health, The Hon Jill Hennessy MP. [PDF]

The damage done by the anti-vaccination lobby across the developed and developing world continues. Their lies cost lives and quality of life. In addition they promote angst for innocent parents and attack hard working advocates – who may be grieving parents themselves – with relish.

It is now 20 years since Wakefield published his fraudulent paper in The Lancet contending a link between the MMR vaccine, bowel disease and autism. It was ultimately described by The Lancet’s editor-in-chief as “utterly false”. A 2004 investigation by Brian Deer of Britain’s Sunday Times uncovered enormous financial conflicts of interest. Wakefield was exposed as a liar and fraud and struck off the UK medical register. Astonishingly three dozen charges were found proved. Almost all of his fellow authors withdrew their names and support from the fraudulent paper.

With thunderous arrogance Wakefield “rejects” all of the findings against him.

Years of research failed to reproduce or uncover phenomena similar to his claims. Wakefield continues to push his fraud from the USA, profiting now from the global Conspiracy Theory movement, destroying public health and what is left of his callous character as he goes.

One understands Vaxxed is simply his most recent project. If and when more follow, as has been suggested, they too will be debunked.

Recently BBC 4 produced an excellent review of the anti-vaccine movement titled, In the Wake of Wakefield (BBC).

Twenty years ago, in February 1998, one of the most serious public health scandals of the 20th century was born, when researcher, Andrew Wakefield and his co-authors published a paper in the medical journal The Lancet.

  • You can access the audio below, © BBC 4;

Features of the anti-vaccination movement on Facebook

Recently Australia’s most vocal, persistent and offensive anti-vaccine pressure group, The Australian Vaccination-skeptics Network argued vaccination is a breach of religious freedom. They misinformed the federal parliamentary inquiry into religious freedom that vaccines were prepared with “the products of abortion”.

Vaccination was therefore “a moral evil”, violating teachings of Christianity, Islam, Judaism and Buddhism, they contended citing absolutely no evidence to support their stance. The Australian Medical Association noted that their position was “irrational” and “unscientific”.

It was clear that the AVN was trying to find its way around the No Jab No Pay family assistance requirements and the No Jab No Play policy requirements. In April 2015 it was initially announced that religious exemptions for vaccination would cease. This was reinforced by health minister Greg Hunt in March this year. The only grounds for exemption of childhood vaccination are medical. The AVN’s claim that vaccines contain “the products of abortion” is not only baseless, but well refuted.

The AVN’s ignorance of the moral considerations involved are not difficult to discern. A Vatican City 2005 Statement, Moral reflections on vaccines prepared from cells derived from aborted human foetuses, includes in reference 15;

…the parents who did not accept the vaccination of their own children become responsible for the malformations [due to rubella infection] in question, and for the subsequent abortion of fetuses, when they have been discovered to be malformed.

Still it is quite predictable that this morally bereft pressure group will continue to press the fallacious contention that vaccines contain aborted foetal cells. Social media, particularly Facebook and Twitter are means by which the anti-vaccination lobby interact. Indeed the conduct of antivaccinationists on Facebook has revealed much of their conspiratorial, cruel, cult-like nature.

First we witnessed the anti-vaccine lobby grow with simple access to misinformation via the Internet combined with the ability to invent and spread more. With the growth of social media we have witnessed this social malignancy improve it’s networking skills and spread their dangerous misinformation and conspiracy theories in real time.

In this light I was grateful that the sharp eyes of others interested in the impact of the anti-vaccination lobby had come across the following research paper.

Mapping the anti-vaccination movement on Facebook. Naomi Smith and Tim Graham.

Information, Communication & Society

Published December 27th, 2017. https://doi.org/10.1080/1369118X.2017.1418406

It looked at 6 anti-vaccine Facebook pages.

  1. Fans of the AVN
  2. Dr. Tenpenny on vaccines
  3. Great mothers (and others) questioning vaccines
  4. No vaccines Australia
  5. Age of autism
  6. RAGE against the vaccines

Post, like and comment data were further used to generate 6 social networks which were then further analysed.

Abstract;

Over the past decade, anti-vaccination rhetoric has become part of the mainstream discourse regarding the public health practice of childhood vaccination. These utilise social media to foster online spaces that strengthen and popularise anti-vaccination discourses. In this paper, we examine the characteristics of and the discourses present within six popular anti-vaccination Facebook pages. We examine these large-scale datasets using a range of methods, including social network analysis, gender prediction using historical census data, and generative statistical models for topic analysis (Latent Dirichlet allocation).

We find that present-day discourses centre around moral outrage and structural oppression by institutional government and the media, suggesting a strong logic of ‘conspiracy-style’ beliefs and thinking. Furthermore, anti-vaccination pages on Facebook reflect a highly ‘feminised’ movement ‒ the vast majority of participants are women. Although anti-vaccination networks on Facebook are large and global in scope, the comment activity sub-networks appear to be ‘small world’. This suggests that social media may have a role in spreading anti-vaccination ideas and making the movement durable on a global scale.

Some key points from the paper’s Discussion and Conclusion might be listed as follows.

  • There is a large amount of online information that is important to the anti-vaccination (AV) community.
  • Social media acts as an “effective hub” in the communication of AV information. The information is “designed to encourage grass roots resistance”.
  • AV communities are relatively sparse, not functioning as close knit communities of support.
  • Yet participation alone in AV groups can reinforce AV beliefs.
  • AV participants are reasonably active across a number of groups.
  • This suggests AV users participation in various AV groups is more autonomous than would be explained by Facebook’s recommender system.
  • Liking and commenting across a number of AV pages may create a “filter bubble” effect.♠
  • This effect is a pattern of involvement and activity that reinforces AV beliefs and conduct.
  • More research is needed to discern how much of this effect is due to the users own conduct as opposed to Facebook’s algorithmic structure.
  • AV Facebook pages exhibit “small world” network structure characteristics. Information diffuses quickly through the network via user comments.
  • “Small world” characteristics may be due to inherent aspects of the AV movement or may manifest due to the Facebook “platform”.
  • Either the former or latter aspect driving development of “small world” specifics will have unique and interesting implications.♣
  • The former suggests that as a social movement the AV lobby might develop as a “small world” network that may be amplified and made more visible online.
  • If the latter, the Facebook platform may be instrumental in the growth of the AV movement, protecting from disruption of outside influences.
  • Wide sharing of posts suggests the AV community has scope beyond the public Facebook pages.
  • Sharing may be important in spreading AV information and growing the AV movement.
  • Gender composition of AV movement reflects cultural understanding of parenting – primarily maternal.
  • Vaccination is historically “a mother’s question”. AV is described by the authors as “a mother’s question”.
  • “AV movement is primarily led by women”. Note; Sherri Tenpenny runs “Vaccine Info” on Facebook.
  • Whilst anti-vaccination is not gender specific, the “gendered nature” of Facebook page participation suggests the AV movement is “feminised”.
  • Several key pre-occupations of AV communities are evident on Facebook pages; institutional arrangements are seen to be perpetuating the harmful practice of vaccination.
  • AV community is “morally outraged about vaccination and structurally oppressed by seemingly tyrannical and conspiratorial government and media”.
  • There is a strong belief in conspiracies driven by government and media; Cover up of vaccine injury and death, spreading of Zika virus by Bill Gates and belief in chemtrails.
  • Comparison of vaccination to the Holocaust indicates strong sense of persecution within AV Facebook pages studied.
  • Strong anti-science and anti-medicine beliefs in tandem with use of natural remedies.
  • Findings limited by sample size.
  • Further, more comprehensive research is needed.

♠ Commonly referred to as an “echo chamber’.

Final paragraph;

The results of this investigation suggest a robust and highly gendered network structure that has a strong sense of moral outrage associated with the practice of vaccination. This ‘righteous indignation’, in combination with the network characteristics identified in this study, indicates that anti-vaccination communities are likely to be persistent across time and global in scope as they utilise the affordances of social media platforms to disseminate anti-vaccination information.

Concerns about vaccination reveal a community that feels persecuted and is suspicious of mainstream medical practice and government-sanctioned methods to prevent disease. In a generation that has rarely seen these diseases first hand, the risk of adverse reaction seems more immediate and pressing than disease prevention.

♣ Regarding “small world” characteristics being due to either AV specifics or to the Facebook platform, the authors write;

Both outcomes are equally interesting. The former suggests that social movements (like anti-vaccination) may inevitably develop as ‘small world’ networks structure that is further amplified and made visible online. If it is the latter, this demonstrates that Facebook as a platform has important implications for the dynamics, spread, and durability of social movements outside of the specific case examined here. Indeed, if the materiality or architecture of Facebook shapes networks towards ‘small-worldness’, this suggests that such platforms may be instrumental for the anti-vaccination movement and social movements more broadly to blossom, flourish, and resist being dismantled or disrupted by outside influences.

The above paragraph rings true and undoubtedly applies to a number of anti-science movements and conspiracy theories across the developed world.