This (ludicrous) heated debate

The fact that there was such an overwhelming level of support for my last post, which was read and shared in more than 20 countries around the world, was absolutely heartwarming.  Every day I am sent several more pro-vaccine blogs and articles by supportive friends, along with the odd outraged “Ugh, someone brought their measles-ridden child to soft play today” message.

Unsurprisingly, I had a similar line of thought when I went in to my daughter’s future school to register her for kindergarten.  As I stood in line in a building that we know is a hotbed of unvaccinated little petri-dishes (whilst listening to clueless parents explaining that they will certainly not be producing immunization certificates for their offspring), the little girl sitting right in front of me suddenly (and silently) keeled forward and vomited everywhere, Linda Blair style.  Putrid, carrot-tainted puke spatter abounding!  And what did Mom do?  Oh, she glanced up, laughed as she exclaimed “Well, here’s a day we’ll remember forever”, and carried right on filling in those exemption forms.

Incredible.

Nonetheless, I’m so reassured by my blog stats to see that there are also many more like-minded and responsible parents, who have chosen to spread the word and keep the message in the public eye.  Vaccines save lives.

Vaccines.  Save.  Lives.   

But of course, an article like that was never going to escape the eagle eyes (or vicious tongues) of the anti-vax movement.  I was going to title this post “Haters gonna hate; Vaxxers gotta educate”, but decided that it was maybe too flippant for such a weighty topic.

I must admit, I was terribly naiive before.  I honestly thought that the vast majority of non-vaccinating parents had been scared away from common sense by Andrew Wakefield and his unfounded, fraudulent, scare-mongering autism nonsense.  I liked to believe that this was an argument easily quashed by, you know, science, and that we had hope of  changing at least a few minds – maybe even of reaching that magical 95% and meeting the World Health Organization’s goal of “total measles and rubella eradication…by the year 2020”.

Ahem.  Maybe not.  Before too long, I saw one of my local Facebook mommy support (haha!) groups  post a link to an article by Jack Wolfson and declare it gospel, because “wow, a cardiologist!”.   Have you heard of Doctor Jack Wolfson?  I couldn’t quite believe that a medical professional would make such outlandish statements as “measles isn’t a big deal”, “if those chicken pox people didn’t eat cereal and doughnuts, they might still be alive” and (my personal favourite) “the flu kills just about nobody”.

Just about nobody?  Try telling that to the bereaved families of the 30,000 people killed in the US alone by seasonal flu each year, or the 500,000 worldwide, doctor.

So, I had a quick Google of this “paleo-cardiologist”:

I am a board-certified cardiologist who believes bad nutrition and toxins create heart health problems. I prevent and treat cardiovascular disease with good nutrition, not medicines.  

Right.  Suddenly everything makes a little more sense.  Don’t doctors swear to do no harm?  As the daughter of a cardiologist myself, I’m reasonably sure that you can’t treat a patient in congestive heart failure with organic kale leaves and grilled salmon.  I’m quite confident that if you are unfortunate enough to be floored by a massive coronary halfway round the 14th hole, any paramedic that chooses to put together a wholesome nutrition plan for you, rather than quickly administering some aspirin and nitroglycerin, would suddenly find himself at the centre of a huge malpractice suit.

And yet, Jack Wolfson’s words are being dangerously taken, and repeated, as expert opinion.  Suddenly the anti-vaxxers have a hero with a medical license – qualified, outspoken validation that they were right all along.  We don’t need vaccines, you ignorant fools, we just need to ban McDonalds and send all our XBoxes to landfill, whilst planning the next chicken pox party for the kids to boost their natural immunity.  Never mind that we might lose a couple of little ones along the way, it’s all for the greater good!

These are local parents perpetuating this lunacy.  Maybe they live in the next street.  Maybe their kids go to the same preschools as ours.  Maybe our babies drool over the same toys at the community centre. Maaaaaybe one of them might just be harbouring a deadly disease.

So, you know, I couldn’t not say anything.

Just in case any of you were also under the sweet delusion that the anti-vax movement would be open to gentle education, I thought I might share some of the delightful responses I received to my pro-vaccine comments.  It is absolutely exasperating to note that through the entire “discussion” (I’m just stopping short of referring to the experience as an all-out attack!), not a single person agreed with me.  I could not get even one lowly soul to acknowledge the fact that vaccines work.  Not one.

House

So here we go.

“Pharma companies do not make vaccines because they love us and want us all to be healthy. These people are not philanthropists. Their profits are so large and their power is so great that they have convinced our government to make it illegal to sue them if their vaccines injure or kill someone. That’s why there is a fund set up for that to protect them. Why would you inject anything into your or your children’s veins from a company who has no accountability in making sure it is safe.”

Ah, I do so love a good conspiracy theory.

I presume you’re talking about the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program.  Something that has come about thanks to America’s brilliant “if something goes wrong in your life, look for someone to sue!” mentality.  I’d be more concerned about the money in the pockets of all these litigation lawyers-of-questionable-morals, than the gazillions of dollars you seem to believe that Big Pharma enjoys.

It’s an unfortunate fact that, before the introduction of the VICP, the media (and our good friend, Dr. Wakefield) fueled fears about vaccines, leading to huge increases in law suits.  Many drug companies had to just stop producing vaccines altogether – it’s simple mathematics that in order to conduct clinical trials and produce new medicines (whether that be vaccines, or the latest groundbreaking breast cancer treatment), pharmaceutical companies do, in fact, need money.  Sorry love, but you’re right – these businesses can’t survive on the warm and fuzzies alone, and if all their cash is being lost in the courtroom, then there isn’t anything left to spend on developing the cure for cancer.  For example.

So, in order to ensure that a reliable supply of vaccines remained available, to protect the general population from preventable-but-deadly diseases, the VICP was established.  Contrary to your argument, you can actually still sue through this system – it just means that there is protection in place to ensure that those of us who do believe in medicine are still able to access it!  Where would we be if every single company that has ever produced a vaccine was bankrupt through legal action?  How expensive would your birth control have to be, if the company that produces it has to fund lawyers to fight tenuous blame claims every month? What would happen to your insurance rates if the cost of your kid’s asthma inhaler suddenly skyrocketed?  Think about it!

“To deny there are real risks to vaccines is not only a lie being pushed by people who have billions of dollars to lose, it’s flat out ignorant. Our own supreme court ruled that vaccine injury is unavoidable, and they are produced by companies that have zero accountability. That should be scary to us!”

The sad truth is that anti-vaxxers want vaccines that are 100% safe. This is never going to happen!  Yes, all medicines carry some risk, just as crossing the road carries risk, getting in your car carries risk, owning a dog carries some risk. However, the relative risk of injury is what you need to consider.

Did you know that if you Google “seatbelts kill”, you’ll find a myriad of articles like this one, containing such fantastic quotes as “there is not a single verified case of a person’s life ever being saved by a seatbelt in an automobile accident”.  But it’s on the internet, and backed up by many blogs saying the same thing, so there must be some truth!  There’s no smoke without fire, right, anti-vaxxers?  Just to be safe, it’s probably best if you unbuckle your kids from now on.  Never mind all those studies into car safety, and billions of dollars spent on crash testing and car seat development – the government funds those studies too, so that data is most definitely not to be trusted, right?  Your grandparents never wore seatbelts after all, and they were FINE (as evidenced by your own very existence)!  Go on, get out your pinking shears and cut those deadly restraints before they throttle your poor, defenseless family.

And what of air bags? Those little bastards were responsible for 175 deaths in the ten years between 1990 and 2000.  Never mind that 3.3 million actually deployed during that time, it’s the 175 that count.  If airbags had never been invented, those people (104 of them being children) would still be here today.  It’s probably best for everyone if you disable those bad boys quick sharp, before someone gets badly hurt!

 “I find the people who get the most angry about not injecting poison into helpless infants veins are almost always the most ignorant about them. The tens of billions of dollars in profits a year is why your doctor and pharmaceutical companies convince you it’s good for us.”

Ignorant, huh?  That’s an interesting one.  For some reason, most anti-vaxxers claim that “Big Pharma” and physicians alike make lots of money from vaccines, and that they are all in cahoots with the government  on this huge money-making venture.

But, if vaccination rates dropped, surely the inevitable increase in preventable illnesses, many of which have high rates of complications resulting in hospitalization and expensive treatment, would be much more of a money-spinner, boosting significantly more pay cheques along the way?  For example, only one company might produce the measles vaccine (big bucks people, HUGE!), but if your child contracts the disease and is unfortunate enough to develop brain swelling (one in twenty, remember?), then that’s money to the ER; the ICU; the High Dependency Ward…to the nurse that puts an IV in that tiny arm; the radiologist that conducts and reads the MRI; the pediatrician that takes the time to sit down and discuss your daughter’s future with you; the physiotherapist that works tirelessly to teach her to walk again, albeit with a walker (at additional expense, of course); the OT that helps her to communicate again and the ERT that fits her hearing aid.

I’ll freely admit that I really don’t understand the “we all hate big pharma” sensationalists. If you have a headache, you take an Advil. If you get a cold, you stock up on Lemsip. If you are unfortunate enough to be afflicted with cancer, you’re going to be trying every treatment option out there, along with medications to help you cope with the pain, the nausea, the depression. Where do these drugs come from in the first place? Oh yes….the evil pharma industry.

Without (EXPENSIVE) clinical trials, we see zero advancement in medicine. You can’t just blanket-hate the industry, unless you are prepared to never take any medicine ever, or expect all your loved ones to do the same. Don’t you dare accept that chemotherapy for your breast cancer, because God forbid that Astra Zeneca should make any money out of us!!

Incidentally, those people who spend so much time “convincing” us of the incredible power of vaccines…they really are experts, you know. They really do know things that you and your Google search cannot possibly fathom. Experts in immunology, infectious diseases, paediatrics, public health and just about any other field you can think of have weighed in on the side of vaccines. These people all give vaccines to their own children, which kind of makes your bizarre theory that they are all in cahoots to hide these dreadful dangers from the public pretty ludicrous.

By the way, did you know that Austism Speaks (a well known autism advocacy group) was even moved themselves to release a statement urging parents to vaccinate, in the wake of the Disney Debacle?  If nothing I say can convince you, maybe the words of their Chief Science Officer might help?

“Over the last two decades, extensive research has asked whether there is any link between childhood vaccinations and autism. The results of this research are clear: Vaccines do not cause autism. We urge that all children be fully vaccinated.”

Thank you, sir.

The thing I find so baffling about this is that you, my dear misguided anti-vaxxer, seem to be selectively choosing this one particular thing that you have zero expertise in to argue against the view of those who really do. Presumably you will unquestioningly trust the recommendations of your car mechanic, or the  plumber that comes to fix your leaking toilet, maybe even the surgeon that fits your son’s grommits?  What is it about vaccinations that brings up some deluded fear that causes you to actively seek out arguments against the experts?

Before you accuse me of being ignorant, closed-minded, or brainwashed by the government/Pfizer/science, I should point out that I am really very open-minded. I have also been pregnant (three times), and wondered about mercury in vaccines vs the fact we are advised not to eat tuna because of the mercury levels. I’ve also done my extensive research, and I come from a family of medical professionals. I’m not stupid, ignorant or basing my opinions on “silly internet memes”. I am a professional researcher who is also the concerned mum of a vulnerable infant.

But I also know that if we all refuse to vaccinate our children, based on some bizarre anti-government conspiracy theory, or misguided belief that you are “injecting poison into your children’s veins”, then humanity is doomed.

Nobody goes into a career as a pharmacist / researcher / doctor / pharmaceutical professional thinking “Wow, I’m going to get SO STINKIN’ RICH!!”.  I simply have never seen it. People want to get into the field of medicine because they want to make a difference. Of course, anyone would want to be the person responsible for some huge discovery – who wouldn’t want “Here lies Geoff.  He cured cancer!” written on their headstone? – but believe me, the chances of any clinical researcher making megabucks from a pertussis vaccine are about as slim as the risks of your child coming to any harm from it.

How many mothers in the third world would chop off their left arm to get access to the incredible opportunity of protecting their babies from fatal illnesses that are so easily prevented here in our land of plenty? Oh, how they would be shaking their heads in astounded disbelief if they had a chance to see any of this nonsense.

All I have to say, in closing, is this:  Vaccines save lives.

Vaccines SAVE lives.

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