Tag: arguments

Ask 8 Questions Before You Skip a Vaccine

As anti-vaccine folks get more attention because of the rise in outbreaks of vaccine-preventable disease, in addition to more folks getting vaccinated, we are seeing some of the leaders of the anti-vaccine movement get more vocal.

Are measles outbreaks a sign that the anti-vaccine movement is “winning?”

Meetings, dinners, rallies…

They are doing everything they can to get their misinformation and propaganda out so that you don’t vaccinate and protect your kids.

Ask 8 Questions Before You Skip a Vaccine

If you see any of these folks, ask them a few questions…

  1. If Andrew Wakefield was right, and the MMR vaccine is associated with autism, then why are you worried about thimerosal? The MMR vaccine never contained thimerosal…
  2. If Robert F. Kennedy, Jr is right, and it is all about thimerosal, then why are you worried about the MMR vaccine? The MMR vaccine never contained thimerosal…
  3. If you are worried about thimerosal and aluminum, then why are you worried about the MMR vaccine? Not only has it never contained thimerosal, as a live vaccine, but it has also never contained aluminum.
  4. If vaccines are associated with autism, then why don’t the counties with the highest immunization rates have the highest rates of autism?
  5. If better hygiene and sanitation got rid of vaccine-preventable diseases, then why didn’t it do it for all diseases at the same time? And why hasn’t it gotten rid of RSV, Ebola, Zika, HIV, Norovirus, and all of the diseases that we don’t have vaccines for?
  6. If measles is so mild, then during the measles epidemics from 1989 to 1991 in the United States, why were 11,000 people hospitalized and why did 123 people die?
  7. If you are concerned about vaccines that have a distant association with abortion, then why don’t you vaccinate your kids with all of the vaccines that don’t use WI-38 and MRC-5 cells lines?
  8. If your arguments are so solid, then why do you need to keep moving the goalposts (it’s autoimmune diseases they are worried about now, not autism) and why are they so easy to refute (vaccines aren’t associated with autoimmune diseases either)?

The answers will be predictable.

They will revolve around three basic core beliefs of the anti-vaccine movement.

  • The belief that vaccines are toxic, full of poison, and always cause damage and injuries.
  • The belief that vaccine-preventable diseases are mild and you are better off getting natural immunity.
  • The belief that vaccines don’t even work.

Is that what you believe?

Will you let those kinds of beliefs scare you away from vaccinating and protecting your kids?

Are you going to put our kids at risk because you believe those things?

Are you really making an informed choice to skip or delay a vaccine when all of the scary things that people are telling you about vaccines aren’t even true?

More on Questions to Ask Before You Skip a Vaccine


Making Sense of Anti-Vaccine Arguments

Have you ever tried to understand or make sense out of the things anti-vaccine folks say?

How did it go?

Making Sense of Anti-Vaccine Arguments

Consider what a group of anti-vaccine folks did with the above post about a child with severe complications to a chicken pox infection…

It's always a vaccine injury...
It’s always a vaccine injury…

What are some of the big complications of chicken pox infections? Complications that help make chicken pox deadly?

That’s right, secondary skin and soft tissue bacterial infections (cellulitis and necrotizing fasciitis). In fact, bacterial super-infections of the skin are the most common complication of chicken pox infections.

“Necrotizing fasciitis can lead to sepsis, shock, and organ failure. It can also result in life-long complications from loss of limbs or severe scarring due to surgically removing infected tissue. Even with treatment, up to 1 in 3 people with necrotizing fasciitis die from the infection.”

Necrotizing Fasciitis: All You Need to Know

No, chicken pox is not necrotizing fasciitis, but all of the breaks in the skin from chicken pox lesions give bacteria, including group A Streptococcus (group A strep) and Staphylococcus aureus, plenty of opportunities to enter a child’s body and quickly spread.

No one in the Netherlands dies with chicken pox???
No one in the Netherlands dies with chicken pox???

We often hear that chicken pox isn’t serious in other countries that don’t routinely use the chicken pox vaccine. Don’t believe them.

On average, about two young children die in the Netherlands each year due to chicken pox.

“Based on the results presented in this study we estimate that between 3 to 8% of all Dutch patients with varicella, depending on age, consult a GP due to a complication. Our findings are similar to data from Germany, France and the United States of America, were it is estimated that in approximately 2 to 6% of cases attending a general practice. Furthermore of these varicella patients 1.7% experiences complications severe enough to seek hospital care.”

Pierik et al on Epidemiological characteristics and societal burden of varicella zoster virus in the Netherlands

And folks in the Netherlands have similar rates of complications as we did in the United States in the pre-vaccine era and many are hospitalized.

Do you understand what’s happening in these comments? When folks choose to skip or delay their child’s vaccines, they will work hard to justify their decision.

Escaping cognitive dissonance explains a lot of anti-vaccine arguments.
Escaping cognitive dissonance explains a lot of anti-vaccine arguments.

That’s not surprising.

“the state of having inconsistent thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes, especially as relating to behavioral decisions and attitude change.”

cognitive dissonance definition

If you aren’t going to vaccinate your kids, do you want to think that you are leaving them at risk for such a serious complication, even if it is rare, or will you make up reasons for why the story can’t possibly be true?

Now these folks become skeptics?
Now these folks become skeptics?

Sure, these folks believe every vaccine injury story on Facebook without any proof, but all of a sudden they all become skeptics when faced with a story highlighting the known complications of a vaccine-preventable disease.

That’s the modern anti-vaccine movement.

More on Making Sense of Anti-Vaccine Arguments

Vaccine Analogies and Metaphors

Analogies and metaphors are a good way to explain things, including that vaccines are safe and necessary.

We are sunk if we stop vaccinating.
As the CDC explains, we are sunk if we stop vaccinating.

Here are some of my favorite vaccine analogies and metaphors.

Getting vaccinated is like:

  • applying sunscreen before going to the beach
  • applying insect repellent before going camping in the woods
  • making sure that your kids are wearing a seat belt or sitting in an age-appropriate car seat or booster seat when you get in the car
  • installing anti-virus software on your new computer

When do you put on your seat belt? When you get in the car, before you get in an accident. Just like a vaccine. You get it before you get sick. Yes, some vaccines do work after you have been exposed to an illness, but they don’t work after you are already sick.

There is a problem with these metaphors though; they don’t include the risks to other people.

These do:

  • taking driver’s ed and getting your license before driving
  • taking swimming lessons before going in the water without a life jacket
  • putting your gun in a locked safe
  • putting a fence around your backyard so that no one in your neighborhood can drown in your pool
  • making sure folks don’t text and drive

That’s right.

Vaccination equals protection.

And not just protection for the person getting vaccinated. Being unvaccinated puts others at risk too, as you might start an outbreak.

Getting your kids vaccinated is like taking them to swimming lessons instead of just throwing them in the lake. Either way they can learn to swim and have protection/immunity from drowning. But one method (throwing them in the lake) is much more dangerous than the other.

Analogies can also help explain how vaccines work.

“Vaccines are a like a wanted poster, they just show your body what the bad guys look like, so when faced with them for real you are ready, prepared, and able to stop them before they cause harm.”

Can vaccines overwhelm the immune system?

Are there analogies that explain the idea of free-riders – folks who intentionally don’t vaccinate their kids and attempt to hide in the herd?

“If all my child’s friends are vaccinated, won’t he be protected by herd immunity? Why should I put my child at risk for vaccine reactions if all the other children around him are already immune?

This is like riding in a carpool where everyone contributes each month to pay for gas, repairs and parking. One morning, a new neighbor shows up and says, “I think I’ll ride along with you. But I’m not going to pay, since you’re going downtown anyway and you have an empty seat.” If enough people choose to take a free ride on other children’s immunity, herd immunity will soon disappear.”

Why is herd immunity so important?

And to explain the idea of what some folks consider vaccine injuries.

“I have found that it sometimes helps to give parents an analogy. I ask them the following: If they were to put gas in their car and then later got a flat tire, would that mean putting gas in the car had caused the flat tire? No. The two events were just a coincidence.”

Karen Lewis on What Vaccine Safety Means

What are some good analogies to describe how some anti-vax folks think?

Since that bridge isn’t 100% safe (I Googled that some bridges have collapsed), I’m going to let my kids swim across this river with fast moving water.

Have you heard the bridge analogy?

There are also versions with crocodiles in the water…

In case it’s not clear, in this analogy, walking across the bridge is like getting vaccinated. Swimming across the river is like intentionally not vaccinating your kids.

There are plenty of other good analogies that help to explain the importance of vaccines.

“Clusters of unvaccinated people are like patches of dry grass that, with a single match, can start a wildfire that will burn not only dry material, but sometimes wet as well. The match could be a student who returns from a trip abroad with measles or a train commuter with whooping cough.”

Saad Omer

It’s also important to remember that anyone, even those who are well prepared, can get burned in a wildfire. That’s why the analogy works so well.

“Vaccinating one’s children is like paying taxes. We all have a moral and a legal duty to pay taxes because we have a moral and a legal duty to contribute to the upkeep of our society and to its public goods (e.g., a good public health system, national defence, etc.).”

Vaccine Refusal Is Like Tax Evasion

Why are we concerned about those who are unvaccinated if our own children are fully vaccinated?

“Think of camping as an analogy. If everyone at a campground properly stores their food, bears won’t be enticed to come around. If even one person leaves their food unprotected, it invites bears in to investigate all the campsites for opportunities to eat.”

How does choosing not to immunize affect the community?

These analogies help explain how unvaccinated folks put others at risk.

“Being intentionally unvaccinated against highly contagious diseases is, to carry Holmes’ analogy a bit further, like walking down a street randomly swinging your fists without warning. You may not hit an innocent bystander, but you’ve substantially increased the chances that you will.

One might usefully analogize the risk of disease to a crapshoot. A person’s chance of being infected is, as Dr. Singer acknowledges, a matter of luck. But is it really OK for the unvaccinated to load the dice to increase the odds against other people? If so, by how much?”

Ronald Bailey on Vaccines and the Responsibility To Not Put Others at Risk

Of course, there are plenty of bad vaccine analogies and metaphors that anti-vaccine folks push:

  • getting vaccinated is like rape
  • getting vaccinated is like the Holocaust
  • “genes load the gun but the vaccines pull the trigger”
  • vaccine manufacturers are like tobacco manufacturers
  • I won’t set my child on fire to keep yours warm (this doesn’t work as a vaccine analogy, mostly because there is no benefit to setting your child on fire. Would an anti-vaxxer let their child start a campfire to keep their friends from dying in the cold?)
  • getting a vaccine is like eating a handful of M&Ms out of a big bowl when you know that a few have been poisoned
  • getting a child  vaccinated is like giving 1,000 kids 1,000 cupcakes, telling them to pick one and eat it, knowing that one of the cupcakes is poisoned (it’s maybe like letting a child with a severe peanut allergy choose a cupcake, knowing that there is a one in a million chance that the cupcake he chooses has been made with peanuts…)
  • I want safer cars, but that doesn’t make me anti-car

You understand why the anti-car one is a bad analogy, right? Folks who want safer cars generally still drive and ride in cars!

Have you heard any good or bad analogies or mataphors about vaccines?

More on Vaccine Analogies and Metaphors

What Are the Pro and Con Arguments for Vaccines?

Is it still OK to “debate” vaccines and vaccine safety?

Sure.

pro-con-vaccines
Using fallacious arguments and anti-vaccine propaganda can not be part of any real debate about vaccines.

What’s not up for debate anymore is the idea that vaccines aren’t safe or necessary or that vaccines don’t work.

Folks who use those arguments against vaccines aren’t debating, they are pushing anti-vaccine talking points.

What Are the Pro and Con Arguments for Vaccines?

Why talk about pro and con arguments if we know that vaccines are safe and necessary?

It’s because vaccines aren’t perfect.

 Pro Con
Vaccines save lives. Shots hurt.
Vaccines are cost effective. Vaccines are expensive.
Vaccines work most of the time. Vaccines aren’t 100% effective.
You are much more likely to get shingles after having a natural chickenpox infection. You can get shingles after having the chickenpox vaccines.
Vaccine preventable diseases are much more likely to cause febrile seizures, non-febrile seizures, and worse. Some vaccines cause febrile seizures.
Most vaccine side effects are mild and they prevent life-threatening diseases. Vaccines aren’t 100% safe.
Vaccines can create herd immunity. Some people can’t be vaccinated.
Kids can get protected against at least 16 vaccine-preventable diseases. Kids get at least 13 different vaccines.
Immunity from some vaccine preventable diseases isn’t lifelong either and some diseases, like tetanus, don’t even provide immunity. Immunity from some vaccines isn’t lifelong.
Some vaccine-preventable diseases, like polio, only provide protection against a single serotype, not against all forms of the disease (there are three serotypes of polio). Some vaccines require booster doses.
Fewer people die from vaccine preventable diseases these days because most people are vaccinated and protected. No one dies from measles anymore.

And sometimes it doesn’t make sense to recommend a vaccine, except in specific circumstances.

“A MenB vaccine series may be administered to adolescents and young adults aged 16–23 years to provide short-term protection against most strains of serogroup B meningococcal disease. The preferred age for MenB vaccination is 16–18 years.”

ACIP on Use of Serogroup B Meningococcal Vaccines in Adolescents and Young Adults: Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, 2015

The MenB vaccine, for example, unlike most other vaccines, only has a permissive recommendation – parents may get it for their kids, but they don’t have to.

“First-year college students living in residence halls should receive at least 1 dose of MenACWY before college entry. The preferred timing of the most recent dose is on or after their 16th birthday.”

ACIP on Prevention and Control of Meningococcal Disease: Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices

In contrast, the recommendation for most other vaccines state that kids “should” receive them.

Why the difference?

Experts aren’t yet sure that the pros of the MenB vaccine, helping avoid MenB disease, outweigh the cons, which include the high cost of the vaccine, short duration of protection, and that it doesn’t cover all MenB subtypes. The cons aren’t about safety.

The Real Vaccine Cons

What about the “cons” you see on some websites about toxins, vaccine-induced diseases, and vaccine deaths?

Beware of folks trying use anti-vaccine talking points to scare or con you when talking about vaccines.
Beware of folks trying use anti-vaccine talking points to scare or con you when talking about vaccines.

This is when it becomes helpful to understand that the word “con” has multiple definitions.

vaccine-conThese sites use anti-vaccine experts and other anti-vaccine websites as sources, present anecdotes as real evidence, and cherry pick quotes when they do use real sources.

They also work hard to:

Worst of all, they talk about informed consent and choice, all of the while taking away many parents’ choice to make an informed decision by confusing them with misinformation, myths, and propaganda.

Of course, parents who have taken the time to get educated about vaccines don’t fall for any of these arguments.

They know that the evidence overwhelmingly shows that vaccines work, vaccines are safe, and vaccines are necessary.

What to Know About the Pro and Con Arguments for Vaccines

In any real debate, getting vaccinated and protected wins every time, because vaccines work and they are safe and necessary.

More About the Pro and Con Arguments for Vaccines