Tag: quotes

Anti-Vaccine Movement Timeline and History

After 1883, Leicester became a a stronghold for the anti-vaccination movement. Outbreaks of smallpox soon followed, as is seen in this New York Times report from 1884.
After 1883, Leicester became a a stronghold for the anti-vaccination movement. Outbreaks of smallpox soon followed, as is seen in this New York Times report from 1884.

When did the anti-vaccine movement start?

Some people will be surprised to learn that it didn’t start with Bob Sears, or Jenny McCarthy, or even with Andy Wakefield.

The anti-vaccine movement started even before we started giving vaccines.

“By the 1930s… with the improvements in medical practice and the popular acceptance of the state and federal governments’ role in public health, the anti-vaccinationists slowly faded from view, and the movement collapsed.”

Martin Kaufman The American Anti-Vaccinations and Their Arguments

But while anti-vaccinationists might have “slowly faded from view” in the 1930’s, they came back…

And that’s why we often associate the modern anti-vaccine movement with Bob Sears, and Jenny McCarthy, and even with Andy Wakefield. But who inspired them? The modern anti-vaccine movement took root with a discredited bit of research that was published by a doctor in London, but it wasn’t by Wakefield.

Anti-Vaccine Movement Timeline

Again, the anti-vaccine movement predates modern vaccines, but not surprisingly, they have always used the same arguments:

  • The Rev. Cotton Mather’s house is bombed after he started a smallpox variolation program in Boston in 1721

“Every year, thousands undergo this operation, and the French Ambassador says pleasantly, that they take the small-pox here by way of diversion, as they take the waters in other countries. There is no example of any one that has died in it, and you may believe I am well satisfied of the safety of this experiment, since I intend to try it on my dear little son. I am patriot enough to take the pains to bring this useful invention into fashion in England…”

Lady Mary Wortley Montagu On Small Pox in Turkey (1717)

  • Dr. Benjamin Mosely, who had a very busy practice inoculating people against smallpox, becomes “the first antivaccinist,” writing against Jenner’s new smallpox vaccine in 1798, warning about “cow mania” and “to guard parents against suffering their children becoming victims  to experiment.”
  • The satirical print, Admirable effet de la Vaccine, appears in France in 1801, depicting horns sprouting from the forehead of a man who was just vaccinated against smallpox.
  • Also in France, Dr. Jean Vernier and Dr. Joseph Vaume each publish pamphlets critical of Jenner’s vaccine.
  • In 1802, another satirical print appears in England, The Cow-Pock-or-the Wonderful Effects of the New Inoculation!, depicting people turning into cows after being vaccinated
  • The Anti-Vaccination League is created in England in response to the passage of the Vaccination Act of 1853, which made getting the smallpox vaccine compulsory
  • Dr. C. C. Schieferdecker, writes about the Evils of Vaccination in 1856 in which he set out to “prove vaccination to be nonsense before reason – a miserable illusion, in a scientific point of view, and, in regard to history, the greatest crime that has been committed in this last century.”
  • the Anti-Cumpulsory Vaccination League is founded after the passage of the Vaccination Act of 1867
  • The New York Times announced the formation of the American Anti-Vaccination Society in 1885.
    The New York Times announced the formation of the American Anti-Vaccination Society in 1885.

    Lewis Carroll argues with folks pushing anti-vaccine information about the smallpox vaccine in 1877

  • William Tebb, a British anti-vaccinationist, visits the United States in 1879 and helps start the Anti-Vaccination Society of America.
  • Alfred Russel Wallace is recruited to the antivaccination movement after reading Papers on Vaccination
  • Leicester Demonstration March of 1885 – around the time that Leicester had become “a stronghold of anti-vaccination.”
  • In 1882, Henry Bergh, founder of the ASPCA and a vocal member of the anti-vivisectionist movement, which were often anti-vaccine, writes an article against vaccines. He later helped found the American Anti-Vaccination Society.
  • Lora Little speaks out about vaccines and writes Crimes of the Cowpox Ring in the late 19th century
  • George Winterburn, like many homeopaths of the time (1886), becomes an outspoken critic of vaccines, writing the book The Value of Vaccination, in which he tries to proves “how little of scientific research it was adopted, and how much the whim of a few fashionable folk shaped its destiny.”
  • In 1890, Dr. AN Bell debates Dr. Robert A. Gunn, who had “long held that vaccination would in time be relegated to the long list of medical fallacies, and such works as I mention seem to indicate that it will not be long before that time comes,” in a series of articles over several months, “The Truth About Vaccination,” in their respective medical journals, The Sanitarian and Medical Tribune.
  • Dr. Immanuel Pfeiffer didn't think smallpox was contagious. He was wrong...
    Dr. Immanuel Pfeiffer didn’t think smallpox was contagious. He was wrong…

    William Tebb publishes the book Vaccination and Leprosy in 1893, in which he pushes the idea that an increase in leprosy is caused by smallpox vaccinations. A review in the New York Times wonders “Can it be possible that for all the years of the present century we have been believing in the potency of vaccination and been stupid enough to work in the wrong direction? Such a conclusion forms the basis of Mr Tebb’s arguments.”

  • In 1902, Dr. Immanuel Pfeiffer, argues that smallpox wasn’t contagious, was allowed to visit the Gallop’s Island smallpox hospital in Boston. A few weeks later, he was found to be critically ill at his home – with smallpox.
  • Dr. Reuben Swinburne Clymer, an osteopath, in 1904, writes Vaccination Brought Home to You, which “tells what vaccine is and how it is procured from the calf; tells how some have been killed and others made to suffer untold miseries by being inoculated with pure vaccine [poison]; gives facts and figures showing the results of vaccination… All of which show that vaccination don’t prevent small-pox, but rather tends to increase it. It exposes some of the lies of the wily Medicoes.” Clymer was also an occultist, an Rosicurcian (a self-proclaimed community of mystics who study and practice the metaphysical laws governing the universe, but more commonly called a fake secret society), and wrote about alchemy.

“Here I would like to say a word or two upon one of the most terrible of all acute infections, the one of which we first learned the control through the work of Jenner. A great deal of literature has been distributed casting discredit upon the value of vaccination in the prevention of small-pox. I do not see how anyone who has gone through epidemics as I have, or who is familiar with the history of the subject, and who has any capacity left for clear judgement, can doubt its value…

I would like to issue a Mount-Carmel-like challenge to any ten unvaccinated priests of Baal. I will go into the next severe epidemic with ten selected, vaccinated persons and ten selected unvaccinated persons – I should prefer to choose the latter – three members of Parliament, three anti-vaccination doctors (if they can be found), and four anti-vaccination propagandists. And I will make this promise – neither to jeer nor jibe when they catch the disease, but to look after them as brothers, and for the four or five who are certain to die, I will try to arrange the funerals with all the pomp and ceremony of an anti-vaccination demonstration.”

Sir William Osler, MD Man’s Redemption of Man (1910)

  • The anti-vaccine American Medical Liberty League is founded in 1918 by D.W. Ensign, the owner of Ensign Remedies (which sold mail-order cures to all diseases), and works against the American Medical Association, employs Lora Little and Charles M. Higgins of the Anti-Vaccination League of America
  • Mahatma Gandhi writes A Guide to Health in 1921 and states  that “vaccination is a violation of the dictates of religion and morality”
  • Dr. John H Tilden writes the book Toxemia Explained: The True Interpretion of the Cause of Disease in 1926 and explains that “Every so-called disease is built within the mind and body by enervating habits.” In addition to pushing germ theory denialism, he is of course, anti-vaccine, calling vaccines poison.
  • Louis Siefgried, a Brooklyn chiropractor, writes The Quest Against Vaccination and Cruel Vivisection in 1926 and is soon arrested for refusing to vaccinate his daughter
  • George Barnard Shaw wrote that “vaccination is nothing short of attempted murder” in a 1944 letter to the Irish Times

“I think it can be said that this demonstrates a conscious over-anxiety to appease what I may call the vaccine-damage lobby, which may have led to decisions being biased against the vaccine.”

Justice Murray Stuart-Smith on Dr David Miller’s DPT study (1986)

  • Dr. John Wilson of London, in 1973, presents to the British Pediatric Association and later publishes an article, “Neurological complications of pertussis inoculation,” in the Archives of Disease in Childhood describing “36 children, seen in the past 11 years, who are believed to have suffered from neurological complications of pertussis inoculation.” While Wilson actually supported immunizations, like Wakefield, he later took to the media to scare parents because he had “seen too many children in whom there has been a very close association between a severe illness, with fits, unconsciousness, often focal neurological signs, and inoculation.” What followed was a drop in DPT vaccinations in many countries and vaccine lawsuits, even though his study was later found to be seriously flawed, with most having no link to the DPT vaccine.
  • Rosemary Fox, forms the Association of Parents of Vaccine Damaged Children, for which Wilson becomes an adviser. Fox, who believed that her daughter was “damaged by vaccination,” distributed questionnaires to the parents of suspected vaccine injured children, many who were seeking compensation in lawsuits, and many of which were then used in the National Childhood Encephalopathy Study by Dr Gordon Stewart and Dr David Miller.
  • Jack Ashley MP begins asking questions in Parliament about adverse events after vaccinations, soon after Wilson’s paper is published in 1974, supported by Rosemary Fox and almost 300 families from her Association of Parents of Vaccine Damaged Children.
  • Dr. Robert Mendelsohn, one of the first celebrity, anti-vaccine pediatricians, was a frequent guest on Donahue and other talk shows during the 1970s and 80s, prompting the AAP Committee on Infectious Disease to call him out in a “Red Book Update” published in Pediatrics in 1982, stating his “views are counter to scientific evidence and clearly they do not reflect Academy policy or recommendation.”
  • Dr. David Miller publishes a study in 1981 that showed a link between seizures in kids and receiving the DPT vaccine. A link that could not be confirmed in any other studies and a study that was published before all of the data had been completed. Like Wilson’s study, the Miller study quickly fell apart upon closer examination, including a finding that of seven children reportedly having vaccine damage, “three of the children had been incorrectly labeled as brain damaged when in fact they were normal both before and after vaccination.”
  • Lea Thompson‘s anti-vaccine documentary DPT: Vaccine Roulette aired in 1982 and is often credited as helping start the modern American anti-vaccine movement, but would she have been able to make her documentary without the groundwork laid out by Wilson and Miller?
  • Mirroring the work of Rosemary Fox, Barbara Loe Fisher, with Kathi Williams, soon form the group Dissatisfied Parents Together (DPT) shortly after watching Vaccine Roulette. They later changed their name to the NVIC, which was once described as the “single most powerful anti-vaccine organization in America.”
  • The press in Great Britain, when articles from daily and Sunday papers from 1982 were analyzed, were found to be “irresponsible in their attitude” towards vaccines and often depicted “rare, negative events.”

“…because so many parents refuse, either out of obstinacy or ignorance or fear, to allow their children to be immunised, we still have a hundred thousand cases of measles every year…

It really is almost a crime to allow your child to go unimmunised.”

Roald Dahl Death of Olivia (1986)

  • Lisa Bonet, of The Cosby Show, appeared on Donahue in 1990 and said that vaccines could “introduce alien microorganisms into our children’s blood and the long-term effects which could be trivial or they could be quite hazardous”
  • Barbara Loe Fisher writes A Shot in the Dark in 1991
  • Heather Whitestone becomes the first deaf Miss America, winning the Miss America pageant in 1994, and promptly gets media coverage for her ‘vaccine injury,’ which was really caused by a Hib infection. Not surprisingly, the true story, that her deafness wasn’t caused by a vaccine injury, didn’t get nearly as much media coverage.
  • Andrew Wakefield publishes his first study trying to find a virus that was causing inflammatory bowel disease in 1992, “Detection of herpesvirus DNA in the large intestine of patients with ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease using the nested polymerase chain reaction.” He moves on to the measles virus the next year with his study, “Evidence of persistent measles virus infection in Crohn’s disease.”
  • Andrew Wakefield publishes his first Lancet article in 1994, “Perinatal measles infection and subsequent Crohn’s disease.” The next year, he gets another study published in Lancet, “Is measles vaccination a risk factor for inflammatory bowel disease?” Foreshadowing what was to happen with his later “autism” study, his research was found to be “flawed because of biases from differential loss to follow-up and case ascertainment in the vaccinated and unvaccinated cohorts.” The findings of his study also could not be replicated by others and was flagged for “epidemiological weaknesses and lack of biological plausibility.”

“It would be most unfortunate if the publication of this controversial work led to public anxiety over the safety of measles vaccine.”

KC Calman on Wakefield’s 1995 Measles Vaccination Study

  • Beginning from at least 1995, and over the next 10 years, 37% of all vaccine safety articles “had a negative take-home message.”
  • Katie Couric does a segment on the NBC News show Now with Tom Brokaw and Katie Couric about DPT “hot lots.”
  • David Miller writes a letter to the BMJ about a study he did, “Measles vaccination and neurological events,” and in which he concluded that “these findings provide no evidence of a risk of long-term neurological damage associated with measles vaccine.” Not surprisingly, Wakefield took issue with Miller’s study, but many will be surprised about one of  Wakefield’s problem – ” a reaction to vaccination resulting in regressive autism is likely to be a rare event, so the number of cases used for Miller and colleagues’ analysis is woefully inadequate to investigate such a reaction.”
  • At one of the first anti-vaccine conferences of the modern era, the First International Public Conference on Vaccination, in September 1997, Andrew Wakefield gives a presentation and Lea Thompson gets an award.
  • Andrew Wakefield publishes another study in the Lancet in 1998, setting off a media frenzy by stating that “Again, this was very contentious and you would not get consensus from all members of the group on this, but that is my feeling, that the, the risk of this particular syndrome developing is related to the combined vaccine, the MMR, rather than the single vaccines.” Although widely discredited, his paper isn’t formally retracted until 2010.
  • In 1999, ABC’s 20/20 airs a segment about the hepatitis B vaccine, “Who’s Calling the Shots?,” which has been described as “a program that deeply scared the American public.” ABC’s Nightline also does a segment on vaccine injury featuring Barbara Loe Fisher.
  • Beginning in 2000, Dan Burton begins holding Congressional hearings trying to prove that there is a link between vaccines and autism
  • Also in 2000, Andrew Wakefield appears on the 60 Minutes segment “The MMR Vaccine”
  • And that’s the year that Cindy Crawford appeared on Good Morning America with her celebrity pediatrician, Dr. Jay Gordon, after which he said “They edited the segment to make me sound like a vaccination proponent. We also have to understand the impact of a person as well-known as Cindy Crawford delaying vaccines for over six months.”
  • The CBS Evening News begins their four year run of “extremist views of vaccines and autism,” including going “after vaccine makers and the make-believe link between vaccines and autism, taking up the cause of trial attorneys on the one hand and glossing over the scientific data demonstrating no relationship on the other.” This 2004 segment by Sharyl Attkisson, on “Vaccine Links to Autism?,” featured a ‘landmark study’ by Dr. Mady Hornig about overdosing  mice with thimerosal.
  • Bill Maher appears on Larry King Live in 2005 and warns people about flu shots
  • Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. gets his “error-laced” expose “Deadly Immunity” published in Rolling Stone magazine in 2005 (it is later retracted). He also appears on the CBS Evening News with Dan Rather.
  • Jenny McCarthy appears on Oprah, Good Morning America, Larry King Live, and 20/20 in 2007 to promote her book about how she cured her non-Indigo autistic son who got the “autism shot”

“When a well-meaning parent like Jenny McCarthy blames vaccines for her child’s autism, placing the fear of God into every parent who has a baby, it’s not only irresponsible – it’s dangerous. Why? It’s simple math: vaccines are less effective when large numbers of parents opt out. And the more who opt out, the less protected ALL our children are.

Celebrity books come and go . . . but the anxiety they create lives on in pediatricians’ offices across the country. A small, but growing number of parents are even lying about their religious beliefs to avoid having their children vaccinated, thanks in part to the media hysteria created by this book.”

Ari Brown, MD on The New McCarthyism in the Wall Street Journal (2007)

  • Dr. Bob Sears publishes his Vaccine Book in 2007 which leads vaccine hesitant parents across the country to request that their pediatricians follow Sears’ non-evidence based alternative immunization schedule instead of the standard CDC schedule, leaving these kids unprotected from many vaccine preventable diseases
  • In 2008, Jenny McCarthy and Jim Carrey lead the Green Our Vaccines rally in Washington, D.C.
  • The pilot episode of Eli Stone aired on ABC in 2008, a show described as “anti-vaccination idiocy about autism.”
  • The CBS Evening News with Katie Couric, airs a segment in 2008, “How Independent Are Vaccine Defenders?,” pushing the idea that “strong financial ties” between vaccine manufacturers and the AAP and other groups pushing the idea that “industry ties could impact the advice given to the public about all those vaccines.”
  • Jenny McCarthy in Time magazine in 2009 and appears again on Larry King Live
  • Matt Lauer interviews Andrew Wakefield on Dateline in 2009 in the hour-long episode “A Dose of Controversy”
  • Barbara Loe Fisher discussing “Forced Vaccinations” on Lou Dobbs Tonight in 2009
  • Bill Maher again warns people about flu shots in 2009 (during the H1N1 pandemic), this time on his own show Real Time with Bill Maher
  • Bill Gates gives a Ted Talk in 2010, says that “The world today has 6.8 billion people. That’s heading up to about nine billion. Now if we do a really great job on new vaccines, health care & reproductive health services, we could LOWER that by perhaps 10 or 15 percent,” and folks think he has a plan to depopulate the world using vaccines.

“The way forward is clear. Because no credible evidence during the past 13 years supports the hypothesized connection between the MMR vaccine and autism disorders, it is bereft of credible evidence and must be discarded. At the same time, autism is a public health concern that must be addressed by enhancing research funding and directing that funding toward studies of credible hypotheses of causation.

To continue pouring money into futile attempts to prove a connection to the MMR vaccine when multiple high-quality scientific studies across multiple countries and across many years have failed to show any hint of a connection, and in the face of biologic nonplausibility, is dangerous and reckless of lives, public funding, and ultimately public health.”

Gregory A. Poland, MD on Vaccine Nihilism and Postmodern Science (2011)

  • The Greater Good movie, which has been described as “pure, unadulterated anti-vaccine propaganda,” debuts at the Dallas International Film Festival in 2011
  • Rep. Michele Bachman in a 2011 interview on Fox News discussing the HPV vaccine, says that “There’s a woman who came up crying to me tonight after the debate. She said her daughter was given that vaccine. She told me her daughter suffered mental retardation as a result of that vaccine. There are very dangerous consequences. It’s not good enough to take, quote, ‘a mulligan’ where you want a do-over, not when you have little children’s lives at risk.”
  • Katie Couric has a segment about HPV on her show Katie in 2013 in which she “promotes dangerous fear mongering”
  • In 2014, the Dwoskin Family Foundation creates and funds the Children’s Medical Safety Research Institute, which is reported to fund much of the anti-vaccination research that is done over the next few years. Previously, much of that research was funded directly through the Dwoskin Family Foundation itself.
  • Robert DeNiro appears on the TODAY Show in 2016 to discuss why his film festival pulled Andrew Wakefield’s movie about the CDC Whistleblower, VAXXED
  • Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. who has said both that he is “not anti-vaccine” and that after kids get vaccinated, “their brain is gone. This is a holocaust…,” also claimed, in 2017, that he is to lead Donald Trump’s “vaccine safety commission.”

While the names change and we now have anti-vaccine propaganda on the internet instead of hand printed pamphlets, the key messages they use to scare parents away from vaccinating and protecting their kids are surprisingly the same.

What To Know About the History of the Anti-Vaccine Movement

As you follow the anti-vaccine movement from the very beginning, it is easy to see the common threads that connect all of the players from the Victorian Age to the 21st Century. Germ theory denialism. Alternative medical providers. The media.

What else?

Fear, especially fear of vaccine-injury.

And although George Bernard Shaw once wrote that “the antivaccinist is facing very serious persecution without any prospect of personal gain,” you just have to look at all of the eBooks, eCourses, conferences,  seminars, supplements, and autism “cures” many of them push and sell to know that isn’t true.

The modern anti-vaccine movement certainly also has a wider forum these days, making them an even more vocal minority. Facebook. Twitter. YouTube. E-books.

But not much else has changed.

One can’t even really say that the names have changed. Folks in the modern anti-vaccine movement continue to bring up the work of long discredited anti-vaccinated propagandists from the past, even going so far as continuing to believe that germs don’t really cause disease, vaccines don’t really work, and that vaccines aren’t really necessary.

Tragically, we are also mostly fighting the same vaccine-preventable diseases.

More About the Anti-Vaccine Movement Timeline and History

Updated on June 12, 2017

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How the Anti-Vaccine Movement Hurts Autistic Families

Many people see Jenny McCarthy battling doctors to save or recover her son as being anti-autism.
Many people see Jenny McCarthy battling doctors to save or recover her son as being anti-autism.

People have different reasons for skipping or delaying vaccines.

Some are simply scared of things they have heard from friends or family members – the common anti-vaccine myths and misinformation that float around on Facebook.

Others feel that either they or someone in their family has been a victim of a vaccine injury. While vaccine injuries are real, as no vaccine is 100% safe, these injuries almost certainly don’t occur as often as some people think they do.

Consequences of the Anti-Vaccine Movement

Although the anti-vaccine movement has been around as long as there have been vaccines, we are starting to see new consequences.

In addition to harming herd immunity levels and triggering outbreaks, by pushing their anti-vaccine ideas, many of these folks often hurt autistic families too.

How the Anti-Vaccine Movement Hurts Autistic Families

Many people think that the anti-vaccine message is anti-autism.

“Autism, as I see it, steals the soul from a child…”

Dr. Jerry Kartzinel writing in the introduction to Jenny McCarthy’s first autism book Louder Than Words

Why?

In addition to the imagery of a soulless child, Jenny McCarthy said multiple times that it would be better to have a life threatening vaccine-preventable disease instead of autism. Folks would line up for it she said.

This “deficit model” of thinking about autism, “which focuses almost exclusively on impairments and limitations, ultimately leads us to see autistic individuals as broken people who are ill and, as my child’s first psychologist explained, need to be fixed.”

“I look at autism like a bus accident, and you don’t become cured from a bus accident, but you can recover.”

Jenny McCarthy

Hopefully, no one looks at their autistic child and thinks about a child in a bus accident, or a child who has lost their soul, been kidnapped by autism, or that they have a damaged child.  That kind of thinking is offensive to many, and hopefully more and more people.

Other reasons the anti-vaccine message is often seen as anti-autism include that:

  • Anti-vaccine/anti-autism rhetoric might get in the way of a parent accepting their child’s diagnosis of autism.
  • They push expensive, often unproven, sometimes disproven, and dangerous  non-evidence based biomedical treatments and cures on hopeful parents of autistic kids. Things like bleach enemas (miracle medical solution), chemical castration with Lupron, hyperbaric oxygen chambers, chelation, restrictive diets, stem cell therapy, raw camel milk, vitamin supplements, antifungal drugs for Candida, secretin injections, and so on, etc.
  • They waste resources. Every dollar that is spent defending vaccines, refuting an antivaccine study, controlling an outbreak, or on a MAPS doctor (the new DAN! doctors), is a dollar that cannot be invested in the needs of actually autistic people and their families.
  • They lead others from understanding that “communicating a strengths-based approach to autism may not only afford autistic patients the respect and dignity they deserve, but may also help family members better understand and support their loved ones.”
  • It leads to ableist messaging when we respond to anti-vaccine fears by saying “don’t worry, vaccines don’t cause autism” without pointing out that “autism and neurodiversity are far from the worst things that could happen to a parent.”

The anti-vaccine movement also harms the relationship many of these parents have with their pediatrician (who they characterize as vaccine pushers controlled by Big Pharma), pushing them to alternative providers who will be more likely to pander to their fears about vaccines and allow their kids to follow a non-standard, parent-selected, delayed protection vaccine schedule. These are often the same types of providers who push biomed treatments, instead of more standard therapies that a pediatrician or neurologist might recommend, who would also be more likely to explain that “autistic children can and do exhibit improvement in their symptoms simply through growth and development.”

And of course, in addition to being anti-autism, the anti-vaccine movement is typically anti-science.

Sarah Kurchak sums it up well in her recent article, Here’s How the Anti-Vaccination Movement Hurts Autistic People, saying that “The anti-vaccine argument is wrong in both the scientific and moral sense.”

“A huge thing for parents in the anti-vaccine movement is the emotional support. The talk of cures and biomedical interventions is almost secondary to the feeling of connectedness with other parents. A lot of the appeal of the community is just being able to talk to people who can relate to what you’ve been through.”

Seth Mookin author of The Panic Virus

It is certainly understandable to want and need support, but parents of autistic children should know that they can get that support from other parents who don’t think that their child is damaged.

In advocating for vaccines, I refuse to stigmatize autistic people.
In advocating for vaccines, I refuse to stigmatize autistic people. I will use neurodiversity over ableist messaging.

What To Know About the Anti-Vax Movement Hurting Autistics

Autism is not vaccine damage. Instead of a deficit model, it is best seen through a neurodiversity model, which “sees autistic individuals as possessing a complex combination of cognitive strengths and challenges.”

More on How Anti-Vax Movement Hurts Autistic Families

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Parents Who Regret Not Vaccinating Their Kids

My uncle got polio just before the vaccine was developed. He was hospitalized for six months, almost didn't survive, and lived with atrophied muscles in one of his legs.
My uncle got polio just before the vaccine was developed. He was hospitalized for six months, almost didn’t survive, and lived with atrophied muscles in one of his legs.

A rather strange anti-vaccine argument you might sometimes hear is that you can’t unvaccinate your kids (even though they push detox plans that say they do exactly that), so go ahead and wait to vaccinate them until you have “done your research” and are sure.

The problem with that argument, like most others that anti-vaccine folks use to justify their decisions to skip or delay vaccines, is that you can wait too long.

“In 1736 I lost one of my sons, a fine boy of four years old, by the smallpox taken in the common way. I long regretted bitterly and still regret that I had not given it to him by inoculation. This I mention for the sake of the parents who omit that operation, on the supposition that they should never forgive themselves if a child died under it; my example showing that the regret may be the same either way, and that, therefore, the safer should be chosen.”

Benjamin Franklin Autobiography

Tragically, Ben Franklin wasn’t the last parent to regret not vaccinating his child.

More Parents Who Regret Not Vaccinating Their Kids

Roald Dahl, who famously wrote Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, is less well known for having a daughter who died of measles. It was just before the measles vaccine came out, so he didn’t regret not vaccinating her, but in urging other parents to protect their children, he did seem to regret that a vaccine wasn’t yet available.

For many other parents, a vaccine was available that could have kept their kids from getting sick.

“In 1989, the Haemophilus influenzae type b vaccine was relatively new and not yet routine. I was aware of the vaccine’s availability, but, busy mom that I was, I had not yet made the trip to the health department to get the immunization for my two-year-old daughter, Sarah. I will always regret that bit of procrastination and the anguish that it caused.”

Peggy Archer

Some of them have shared their personal stories, including the parents of:

  • Abby Peterson‘s “pediatrician steered her away from vaccinating her daughter” against chickenpox and her mother, Duffy Peterson, now says that “she wishes she had questioned the doctor’s recommendations more forcefully.” Abby died of a chicken pox infection.
  • Emily Lastinger who was unvaccinated and died of flu.
  • After all seven of her unvaccinated kids caught whooping cough, this parent regretted not having them vaccinated.
  • Claire Noelle Bakke who got pertussis when she was five weeks old
  • Scarlet Anne Taylor who died of the flu during the 2014-15 flu season
  • this unvaccinated three year old who spent six days in the hospital (part of it in a slight coma, during which they weren’t sure he would survive) with Haemophilus influenzae type b epiglottitis
  • Abigail who was unvaccinated and died of invasive pneumococcal disease
  • these two unvaccinated kids who developed severe dehydration from rotavirus infections
  • Sarah who was unvaccinated and developed a croupy cough when she was two-years-old and ended up on a ventilator with Haemophilus influenzae type b epiglottitis
  • Ashley who died from the flu and had never gotten a flu shot
  • Evan who died of a vaccine-preventable disease because his mom was not told about the vaccine that could have prevented it

There is another group of parents who have regrets about vaccines. Those parents whose kids can’t be vaccinated (too young to be vaccinated, have cancer, or have another medical exemption, etc.) are put at risk and exposed to vaccine-preventable diseases by intentionally unvaccinated kids. These parents typically regret that those around them don’t get vaccinated and protected.

Your decision to get educated and vaccinate your family shouldn’t be based on fear or concerns of regret if you delay or skip any vaccines, but these types of personal stories are important to review, especially if you also hear, watch, or read any stories about vaccine injuries.

What To Know About Regretting Not Vaccinating Your Kids

Delaying or skipping one or more vaccines isn’t safer or healthier, it just puts your child at increased of catching the vaccine-preventable diseases the vaccines protect you against and might lead to feelings of regret if you wait too long.

More On Parents Who Regret Not Vaccinating Their Kids

Science Has Been Wrong Before

Frances Kelsey, MD, while working at the FDA, refused to approve thalidomide, sparing many US children the tragic birth defects the drug caused in other countries.
Frances Kelsey, MD, while working at the FDA, refused to approve thalidomide, sparing many US children the tragic birth defects the drug caused in other countries.

Doctors sometimes get things wrong.

Anti-vaccine folks like to bring that up as an argument.

They like it a lot.

And if doctors were wrong before, like about treating people with leeches, smoking cigarettes, or prescribing thalidomide, then why can’t they be wrong about vaccines?

Science Was Wrong Before Fallacy

It’s not just doctors though.

Science, in general, sometimes does get things wrong.

After all, we used to think that the earth was flat (some people still do), that we could figure out how to turn mercury into gold (alchemy), and that the earth was the center of the universe.

But scientists kept working on these issues, came up with new ways to think about them, confirmed them using the scientific method, and put things right.

“It’s not so much about being right or wrong, it’s about how you deal with the evidence that is available, and how you resolve uncertainty. Good scientists and doctors seek out new evidence when there is uncertainty, using good quality methods to answer important questions. Then, when the results are in, they don’t put their hands over their ears and eyes: they look at the new evidence, and change their minds if the evidence warrants a change.

What distinguishes quackery is not so much the kind of intervention being used, but rather, a disregard for those simple, fair principles. And to be clear, plenty of doctors and scientists are slapdash with respect to those principles, but it’s a matter of degree. Doctors can be slow off the mark to change, sometimes. There might be a degree of politics, especially in what questions get researched. But it’s unusual to find a doctor screaming outright in your face that night is day and black is white, when the evidence is right there; in the realm of quackery, that level of fruitcakery is much more common. ”

Ben Goldacre, MD

Of course, doctors and scientists aren’t always going to be right.

But whenever someone brings up thalidomide (but fails to mention that it was a pediatrician who first noticed it was causing birth defects or that Frances Oldham Kelsey, M.D., while working at the FDA, made sure that it was never even approved in the US), maybe mention all of the things doctors and scientists have gotten right – antibiotics, chemotherapy, food safety, fortification of foods to prevent nutritional deficiencies, seat belts and car seats, and of course, vaccines.

And when they bring up how doctors were wrong about smoking cigarettes, lead paint, or radiation exposure, bring up that:

  • John Lockhart Gibson was a doctor in Australia who noticed an association between lead paint and lead poisoning in 1904 and led a campaign to have most lead paint banned from inside homes in Australia in 1920 and later, with Sir Thomas Morrison Legge, by members of the League of Nations in 1922. And Dr. Alice Hamilton warned about lead paint and leaded gasoline as early as 1925, in a meeting with the Surgeon General, even if it would take many decades for other researchers to overcome the powerful effects of the industry backed research of Robert Kehoe and Dr. Joseph Aub. While lead in paint wasn’t banned in the US until the 1970s, the amount of paint in lead was reduced in the 1950s. And thanks to a pediatrician, Herbert Needleman, lead in gasoline was eventually banned too.
  • the first research that linked smoking and cancer came out in the 1950s and the the Surgeon General report warning about smoking followed in 1964
  • while scientists once thought that radiation wasn’t harmful and that X-ray machines could even be used as a way to get the best fitting shoes (the shoe fitting fluoroscope), there were many efforts to encourage safe use of medical radiology during the Golden Age of Radiology, from 1915 to 1940.

Doctors were also wrong about the dangers of sitting too close to the TV (the roots of that warning is probably about radiation from the first TVs though, which was kind of real), that stress was the main cause of stomach ulcers (it’s H. pylori bacteria instead), and that you should avoid peanut butter and other foods when you start your baby on solids.

Dr. Spock even recommended that mothers put their babies to sleep on their stomachs, which defies everything we now know about reducing a babies risk SIDS (safe to sleep)!

“As well as being a flawed argument, it also shows ignorance of how science works. Yes, science has been wrong, but the scientific method is self-correcting. And it is always scientists who have unearthed new evidence who do the correcting, never people who ignore the scientific method.”

Skeptico

Unlike most in the anti-vaccine community, when given new evidence, in all of these situations, most doctors changed their minds and the way they practice medicine.

And it was science and doctors who figured out they were wrong.

Contrast that with all of the times that the alternative medicine community have been wrong – secretin shots for autism, Lupron injections (chemical castration) for autism, laetrile for cancer, and shark cartilage for cancer, etc. Even though there was no science to support their initial use and they were proven to be ineffective, and in some cases dangerous, some still push their use. Just like they push the use of chelation as a treatment for autism.

Again, more often than not, science gets it right.

Just like when another doctor in Australia, Norman McAlister Gregg, discovered the link between rubella infections and congenital rubella infections way back in 1941. We soon had a vaccine which helped put an end to decades of rubella epidemics, miscarriages, neonatal deaths, and babies being born with severe birth defects, and yet, many in the anti-vaccine community still get it wrong about the need for the MMR vaccine.

What about the idea that science will always be wrong because their studies are biased and influenced by money and not by real science? That seemed to be how the cigarette and lead industries kept going for so long, and there are likely some effects of that in some nutrition guidelines, but that is all before medical journals required researchers to disclose any conflicts of interest they might have. So, whatever conspiracy folks might think, Big Pharma isn’t hiding the cure for cancer and isn’t using chemtrails to control people so they buy more vaccines and prescription drugs.

And the idea that science might eventually be proven wrong about a link between vaccines and autism? There is already overwhelming evidence that vaccines don’t cause autism.

The ‘science’ behind the anti-vaccine movement is also clear and it explains why they have been getting things wrong for over two hundred years.

What To Know About The Science Was Wrong Before Fallacy

Using the argument that science or medicine was wrong before, common among anti-vaccine folks, is a logical fallacy and a good way to lose a debate with someone who knows what they are really talking about.

More On The Science Was Wrong Before Fallacy

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US Presidents and Vaccines

You would think that getting kids vaccinated and protected against vaccine-preventable diseases would be a non-partisan issue, but it unfortunately isn’t always the case.

donald-trump

Even before Donald Trump brought up false claims that vaccines cause autism, we have seen what can happen when funding for vaccines dropped. Federal support for vaccines dropped while Reagan was in office and we quickly saw outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases, including many deaths.

Fortunately, most American Presidents have strongly supported vaccines.

There is no longer any reason why American children should suffer from polio, diphtheria, whooping cough, or tetanus. … I am asking the American people to join in a nationwide vaccination program to stamp out these four diseases.

JFK in 1962

  • George Washington – had smallpox and later mandated that every soldier in the Continental Army had to be inoculated against smallpox
  • John Adams – was innoculated against smallpox (before Jenner‘s vaccine was available), as were his wife and children
  • Thomas Jefferson – conducted his own smallpox vaccine trials
  • James Madison – signed the Vaccine Act of 1813 – An Act to encourage Vaccination.
  • James K Polk – died of cholera, a now vaccine-preventable disease, three months after his term ended
  • Zachary Taylor – died of cholera while still in office
  • Abraham Lincoln – developed smallpox while he was in office
  • Franklin D Roosevelt – had polio and founded the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, which was later renamed the March of Dimes, and helped fund Jonas Salk‘s research on the first polio vaccine
  • Harry S Truman – had diphtheria as a child, which may have left him with vision problems, and was vaccinated against smallpox
  • Dwight D Eisenhower – signed the Polio Vaccination Assistance Act in 1955, which gave $30 million in federal grants to states to cover the costs of planning and conducting polio vaccination programs, including purchasing polio vaccine
  • John F Kennedy – signed the Vaccination Assistance Act in 1962 (Section 317 of the Public Health Service Act), which started as a three year program to help get kids vaccinated against polio, diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis, but it has been continuously reauthorized ever since
  • Lyndon B Johnson – established a legacy of US leadership in global immunization by funding the CDC Smallpox Eradication program in 1965 (smallpox wasn’t eradicated until 1980)
  • Richard Nixon – observed that scientists who helped develop the polio vaccine with Jonas Salk “deserve far greater respect and support by the people whom they serve than they now receive.”
  • Gerald Ford – instituted a swine flu vaccination program for an outbreak that never appeared
  • Jimmy Carter – his National Childhood Immunization Initiative in 1977 reached its goal of immunizing 90% of children
  • Ronald Reagan – signed the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act (NCVIA) of 1986, which created VAERS and the NVICP, while federal support for vaccine programs reached a low point in his years in office, as rates of children living in poverty and without health insurance increased
  • George HW Bush – his immunization action plan in 1991 once again raised immunization rates following three years of measles outbreaks
  • Bill Clinton – his Childhood Immunization Initiative in 1993 which included signing the Vaccines for Children (VFC) Act, provided free vaccines to many children
  • George W Bush – announced a major smallpox vaccination program in 2002, but very few healthcare workers actually volunteered to get vaccinated
  • Barack Obama – declared the 2009 H1N1 swine flu outbreak a national emergency, Obamacare requires health insurance plans to pay for vaccines without co-pays, made the Ebola outbreak a national security priority, and helped keep funding for Zika vaccine research going

What can we expect our next President to do about vaccines and vaccination rates?

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Vaccines and Seizures

A newborn baby getting an EEG.
A newborn baby getting an EEG.

Can vaccines cause seizures?

Unfortunately, they sometimes can.

Vaccines and Febrile Seizures

The CDC reports that “There is a small increased risk for febrile seizures after MMR and MMRV vaccines.”

We also know that:

  • there is a small increased risk for febrile seizures when the influenza vaccine is given at the same time as either the Prevnar13 vaccine or the DTaP vaccine, although “the risk of febrile seizure with any combination of these vaccines is small and CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) does not recommend getting any of these vaccines on separate days.”
  • there is a small increased risk for febrile seizures if the combined MMR and chicken pox vaccine (ProQuad) is given to infants between the ages of 12 to 23 months vs their getting the shots separately.

But remember that febrile seizures, while scary for parents and other caregivers, are rarely dangerous.

It is also important to note that while febrile seizures are common, they are not commonly triggered by vaccines. A 2016 report in Pediatrics, “Vaccines and Febrile Seizures: Quantifying the Risk,” states that “The risk is 1 febrile seizure per pediatric practice every 5 to 10 years.”

Not surprisingly though, vaccines can likely prevent many febrile seizures, as chicken pox, flu, Hib, measles, mumps, rubella, pneumococcal infections and other vaccine-preventable diseases often cause fever and can trigger febrile seizures themselves.

Also, a study recently found that children who got sick with pertussis could be at increased risk for developing epilepsy, or recurrent seizures. That’s just another good reason to get vaccinated and protected against vaccine-preventable diseases.

Vaccines and Other Types of Seizures

While vaccines can sometimes trigger febrile seizures, they do not typically cause other types of seizures.

It was once thought that seizures were a common side effect of the DPT vaccine, but many studies have found that to not be true and seizures following DPT was even removed as a table injury from the NVICP. In fact, many of these children were instead found to have Dravet syndrome, which put them at increased risk for febrile seizures.

Long-term non-febrile seizures are still listed as side effects for the DTaP and MMR vaccine, but they “are so rare it is hard to tell if they are caused by the vaccine.”

A 2010 study in Pediatrics, “Lack of Association Between Acellular Pertussis Vaccine and Seizures in Early Childhood,” did not find any “increased risk for seizures after
DTaP vaccination among children who were aged 6 weeks to 23 months.”

Do report any reaction to VAERS if you think it was caused by a vaccine though.

Seizures After Getting Vaccines

If vaccines don’t usually cause seizures, then how do you explain a healthy infant developing seizures a few days, weeks, or months after getting his vaccines?

We’re always looking for reasons why something happened. The example I use is from my wife, who is a pediatrician. She was about to vaccinate a four-month-old baby, and while she was drawing the vaccine from the syringe, the baby had a seizure — and went onto have a permanent seizure disorder. Now, my wife hadn’t given the vaccine yet. But if she had given that vaccine five minutes earlier, there would have been no amount of statistical data in the world that would have convinced that mother that the vaccine hadn’t caused the baby’s seizure. You can do studies that show no increased risk with vaccines and seizure disorders, but that mother might still say “well, that’s true for the population but it’s not true for my child.”

Temporal associations are powerful, and they’re hard to defeat with statistics or studies.

Paul Offit, MD interview for The Thinking Persons Guide to Autism

There are many seizure disorders that begin in infancy.

Some even start in the newborn period, before a baby is a month old.

They are not triggered by vaccines though.

They include:

  • Infantile Spasms (first described in 1841) – typically begin when infants are about 4 months old, just when they get their second set of vaccines, which weren’t available when Dr. West described his own son’s repeated spasms
  • Benign Familial Neonatal Seizures – often genetic, seizures may begin on a baby’s third day of life
  • Benign Neonatal Convulsions – begin on the fifth day of life – the “fifth day fits,” and the seizures stop in about a month

If your child got her first hepatitis B vaccine when she was five days old and began having seizures, would you accept a diagnosis of Benign Neonatal Convulsions or would you blame the shot?

Would you remember the saying about correlation and causation?

For More Information on Vaccines and Seizures:

Paul Offit

Paul Offit, MD, FAAP is a pediatrician and infectious disease specialist, completing his training at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

If people choose not to get vaccinated it’s because they’re not scared of the disease, and they have false concerns about what the vaccine can do.

Paul Offit, MD

His abbreviated resume is 34 pages long…

Paul Offit's books will help you do real research about vaccines.
Paul Offit’s books will help you do real research about vaccines.

In addition to being the co-inventor of RotaTeq, one of two rotavirus vaccines in use today, Dr. Offit is the director of the Vaccine Education Center and a professor of pediatrics in the Division of Infectious Diseases at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and the Maurice R. Hilleman Professor of Vaccinology at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.

Even more importantly, whether it was his appearances on The Daily Show or The Colbert Report and other places in the media, his free vaccine course, or the 150 papers he has published in medical and scientific journals, Dr. Offit has been a leading force in educating pediatricians and parents about the importance and safety of vaccines

His books and articles are essential reading, especially for health care providers and parents who might be thinking about skipping or delaying one or more vaccines. They include:

  • Autism’s False Prophets: Bad Science, Risky Medicine, and the Search for a Cure
  • Deadly Choices: How the Anti-Vaccine Movement Threatens Us All
  • Vaccines and Your Child: Separating Fact from Fiction
  • Do You Believe in Magic?: The Sense and Nonsense of Alternative Medicine
  • Bad Faith: When Religious Belief Undermines Modern Medicine
  • Vaccinated: One Man’s Quest to Defeat the World’s Deadliest Diseases
  • The Cutter Incident: How America’s First Polio Vaccine Led to Today’s Growing Vaccine Crisis

Not surprisingly, he is a frequent target of anti-vaccine groups.

It also shouldn’t be surprising that all of their attacks are very easily debunked.

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