As a “prominent” (as hard as I find it that anyone would apply the word to me) blogger about the anti-vaccine movement, somehow I ended up on the Every Child By Two mailing list. ECBT, as you may recall, is the organization founded by former First Lady Rosalyn Carter and former First Lady of Arkansas Betty Bumpers to promote vaccination against childhood diseases. It’s a fine organization, and a much delayed counterweight to antivaccine propaganda mills like Age of Autism, Generation Rescue, the National Vaccine Information Center, and the up and coming antivaccine doctors’ website Medical Voices Vaccine Information Center (whose utter lunacy I wrote about recently).
Being on that mailing list, I received a press release from EBCT about an open letter in support of vaccines. Some key points:
We, the undersigned, support immunizations as the safest, most effective way to control and eradicate infectious diseases. This August, as another National Immunization Awareness Month comes to a close, we are reminded that diseases such as smallpox and polio were once commonplace in the United States. Thanks to vaccinations, we have not seen or experienced many of the infectious diseases that gripped past generations, but other countries have not been so fortunate and outbreaks continue in the United States.
As we approach the 30th anniversaries of global smallpox eradication and the last polio case reported in the United States, new infectious diseases, such as novel H1N1 influenza, are emerging and others continue to strike the unprotected. This should remind us of the continuing importance of timely immunizations. Our strong immunization infrastructure will ensure our ability to meet the challenges presented by these diseases, but Americans have to do their part by getting themselves and their loved ones vaccinated.
Childhood and adult infectious diseases pose a real threat to personal and public health. Those who are not vaccinated leave not only themselves, but others vulnerable to dangerous diseases. Vaccines are the most effective option for preventing and stopping the spread of infectious diseases.
My first thought was this: August is Immunization Awareness Month? I had no idea, and the month is more than half over. You’d think that, as a blogger who is well known in the medical blogosphere for regularly combatting the lies of the anti-vaccine movement, shouldn’t I have heard of it? Was it my fault that I didn’t, or is the problem that there needs to be a better publicity campaign. A little e-mail notification at the end of July would have certainly primed me to blog about Immunization Awareness Month, but instead I don’t find out about it until the month is nearly two thirds over.
Think about it. The antivaccine movement, particularly the part of it that fervently believes that vaccines cause autism, has nearly completely coopted Autism Awareness Month (April). Every year since I started paying attention, I dread April 1, not because someone might be playing an April Fools’ Day joke on me but rather because I know that Jenny McCarthy, with or without her boyfriend Jim Carrey, and aided and abetted by J.B. Handley and the rest of the anti-vaccine movement, will be hitting the airwaves pushing the myth that vaccines cause autism. I can almost count on an appearance on or about every April 1 on Larry King Live, so much so that I even warned about it this year. In contrast, attempts to combat this fear mongering message of pseudoscience and alarmism seem clumsy and ineffective by comparison.
Overall, though, I like the message of the letter. It reemphasizes that vaccines are the safest and most effective means of combatting infectious disease. It points out that the diseases being vaccinated against have not been eradicated and that letting vaccination rates fall risks letting them return, especially Haemophilus influenzae type B (Hib):
Immunization has nearly eliminated a major cause of childhood meningitis, Haemophilus influenzae type b, everywhere the vaccine is used. Before the vaccine became available, 20,000 cases of the disease were reported and nearly 600 died each year in the United States. Unfortunately, cases of this deadly disease are resurfacing in the United States due to lower vaccination rates.
Indeed they are. Indeed they are.
That’s why, inept PR or not, I urge everyone to visit ECBT and sign on to the letter. The more the merrier. I realize that such letters are frequently abused by denialists, such as creationists and AGW “skeptics,” but It’s sad that such an effort is even needed, but unfortunately the anti-vaccine movement has Hollywood on its side, as well as credulous “tell both sides” (or even “tell only one side, namely the wrong side”) reporters. ECBT is a belated effort to combat this. I realize that ECBT was formed in 1991, but its visibility was, at least to this blogger, nonexistent until Amanda Peet signed on as its spokesperson last year. It needs all the help it can get.
Indeed, that’s why I ask you to consider donating to ECBT. Now, if ECBT would only step into the 21st century and sign up with PayPal or come up with some sort of online donation system rather than asking you to print out a form and mail a check. It’s yet another symptom of how far behind the curve “our side” is when it comes to the PR war. Again, the forces trying to combat the Age of Endarkenment with respect to vaccines need all the help they can get.
58 replies on “Open letters with signatories: Will they help counter the antivaccine movement?”
“Every year since I started paying attention, I dread April 1…”
Perhaps you should try getting a life.
As for the ECBT letter … So a bunch of doctors and medical organizations are signing an open letter praising vaccinations? Wow, what a shocker … that really persuades me. 🙂
I’m not based in the US so I can’t sign the ECBT open letter but would agree that it would be great if thousands of doctors and scientists put their names to it.
Having had some experience of the debate over animal research I agree with the statement that “our side” has been behind the curve when it comes to the PR war. Initiatives such as Speaking of Research (http://speakingofresearch.com/) and the Pro-Test Petition (www.raisincvoices.org) show that we are beginning to catch up but science advocacy organizations still have a good deal of catching up to do. In particular they need to start thinking about fundraising not as merely a way to raise funds but rather as a gateway through which supporters can get involved in the campaign.
Organizations involved in advocacy need to get better at actively recruiting scientists to help on particular issues rather than waiting for scientists themselves to get in touch. My impression is that there are many scientists out there who would be glad to help but either do not know how they can help because nobody has asked them or are worried that if they do step forward they’ll be under obligation to committ a lot of time and effort to the cause. We need to ensure that individual scientists have the opportunity to contribute on a variety of levels.
Well, Sue, if Moses came down from Mt. Sinai with stone tablets inscribed “GET YOUR SHOTS!” in letters of fire, that wouldn’t persuade you either, so what’s your point?
I tried to sign, but as I’m not a doctor and I’m not sure how one qualifies as a vaccine advocate, I seem to fall into the “general public” category, and there’s no letter available yet for that group to sign.
Oops, there’s a typo in my piece above. The link to the Pro-Test Petition is http://www.raisingvoices.net
Before reading comment #1, I was going to write that I didn’t think this straighforward, state-the-facts letter would do much at all to convince the McCarthy crowd and the comment only confirms my view.
Orac, these people deeply mistrust the entire medical establishment and that makes this problem way bigger than just vaccination or autism or woo taken individually. It is the lack of basic science education combined with the human tendency to “believe”. Even many doctors, as you know, are practicing some level of woo and writing books about woo.
I don’t see this letter having any impact whatsoever on the cult of Vax Causes Autism. Some of these people’s kids will just have to die of infectious diseases before they snap out of it.
Janet, it won’t convince the likes of Jenny McCarthy, of course not, but it might help towards persuading ordinary parents. I’m sure there are plenty of people who’ve got just enough information to know that there’s some sort of “controversy”, without knowing about the real scientific consensus. Without a real effort to inform and persuade them, they might be tempted to “play it safe” by not getting their children vaccinated.
The aim is not to change McCarthy’s views, but to change the views of her audience, most of whom are not nutters.
“Well, Sue, if Moses came down from Mt. Sinai with stone tablets inscribed “GET YOUR SHOTS!” in letters of fire, that wouldn’t persuade you either”
True… because Jesus would be down seconds later telling everyone to be very careful of mainstream medical woo…
Since you are a prominent blogger and all (THE prominent blogger in this area, really) why not organize September as “Belated Vaccine Awareness Month.” Or, even better, make September “Vaccine Denialism Month” or some such thing. I’m sure a simple email at the end of August to the several dozen of us who would support this idea can create a blogs storm, similar to what we did in June for wartime rape awareness.
slightly OT, but check out this e-mail I just got from a flack:
Res ipsa loquitur
and in case you havent seen THIS antivaccine HARLOT of a website…
he “reports” vaccinations are actually intended to weaken immune systems, that the best way to beat the swine flu is NOT the vaccine, full of evil adjuvants… but better to take VitaminD supplements (he sells) after Vit D testing (he will SOON sell), enhance your energy/decrease your stress with “meridian tapping”, take OMEGA3 rich diet and wash your hands (okay..he threw in a couple of good ideas, granted) and use garlic and colloidal silver instead as “natural antibiotics”… another Anti vaccine Quacking Medical Harlot!!! I am surprised he is not selling special all natural organic magnetically enhanced hand wash products
Fine, substitute Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha, or whoever you like in the example. You’re missing the point.
Jefrir, I don’t think it’s that simple and I wasn’t referring to just the McCarthy crowd. The people who listen to her at ALL are much more likely to be convinced by her emotive mommy-knows-best routine than by this group’s dull and utterly unconvincing letter that sounds very hoity-toity to these people. “Average” parent listen to their doctors and get their kids vaccinated without a fuss; people who are on the edges of all things woo will be much more moved by Jenny, et. al as I think is demonstrated by Comment #1.
I agree that there may be no way to convince the hard core, but that’s why I think it’s a failure of education which is hardly reversed by this letter, unless the signatures they collect are names that fence-sitter types would readily recognize, which means they would have to be people regularly appearing on every type of goofy talk-show imaginable, which I very much doubt.
Scott, there are severe limits to Common Sue’s understanding of any point, as noted by her pointless spews of nonsense.
Cervantes, what is the source of that email? How is it possible that we have come to MD’s, not just humoring, but actually heartily recommending homeopathy? This illustrates my point in the above post. It is too late. We are doomed.
Well vaccines cause some autism, just not a statistically significant amount. As Peter Singer has recently argued, each life is worth 5 million dollars or thereabouts. So probably the vaccines are worth it even given these costs. I would argue along these lines.
Janet, you are being too pessimistic, the point that Jefrir is making is that there are a lot of people out there who can be won over to science. Clearly open letters such as the above can help the overall effort, and the more doctors and scientists who sign it the more effective it will be. If enough sign it it may become a news story in its own right, a valuable good news story at that!
The recent Pew/AAAS survey showed that despite all the anti-vaccine propaganda over the past few years a clear majority (2:1) of Americans support mandatory vaccination of children…that is a majority that vaccine advocates need to mobilise and encourage.
There isn’t one approach that will enable science to win these debate, we nees media savvy “personalities” (including scientists and doctors) who can connect with the greater public at an emotional as well as an intellectual level, but we also need experts who can debunk in detail the claims of the crazies. Most of all we need to find ways to enable the “silent majority” of scientists and medical professionals to make their voices heard, we need to persuade a lot more of them to take those opportunities and get involved in the discussion.
If we just sit back and give up we’ll create a situation where we just comment on the news as it happens, responding to an agenda that our opponents are setting. If we want to win this and other debates we need to get out there and make the news, whether that’s through rallies, publicity stunts or big petitions.
Cervantes, what is the source of that email?
I write a blog (might as well blogwhore, click my link) so I get all sorts of e-mail from publicists. This one was from:
Paramount Public Relations, Inc.
920 N. Franklin Street, Suite 205
Chicago, IL 60610
@14 Citations please for evidence that vaccines cause any autism!
@notedscholar: What is the source for your claim that vaccines cause “some” autism? If you are using the Banks case, please go back and read what the Vaccine court Special Masters had to say; they did NOT say that vaccines caused autism. There is no scientific OR legal evidence that vaccines cause autism.
As the skeptics are fond of asking: CITATION PLEASE!!!
“@notedscholar: What is the source for your claim that vaccines cause “some” autism?”
Vaccines only trigger autism in children when they underlying mitochondrial disorders. Of course no one tests for or knows how many children actually have these mito issues before they load the kids up with this crap. That sounds about right for you “scientists”. You people are sickos.
Cite? Do not include the one with Jon Poling as an author.
Do you think a muscle biopsy for mitochondria is a simple test? Why do something so painful and evasive when there is very little evidence to support it?
Oops, I meant to type “painful and invasive”!
Hmm. What about those people with mitochondrial disorders who have been vaccinated but do not have an autism spectrum disorder?
And, as Chris requested, citation, please, from someone other than Jon Poling.
Chris – I can understand why you typed evasive when you are dealing with an anti-vaxer, especially after you have asked them for evidence.
@ Duh #7:
Well of course he would…after all he already told us that disease are caused by demons/evil spirits, not bacteria and viruses. No woo there! [/sarc]
@ noted & Dopes:
So (assuming for the moment that your premise is true) if vaccines cause a statistically undetectable number of cases of autism… What causes all of the other cases of the “Autism Epidemic”? After all un-vaccinated kids get autism too.
If vaccines were causing all, or even a significant number of autism cases it would statistically detectable. Also, how do you know that all of the cases of autism aren’t being caused by this other mechanism?
“On The Edge of Woo” would be a great book title should you decide to write one.
If a lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes, does this letter count as tightening one lace?
“And, as Chris requested, citation, please, from someone other than Jon Poling”.
Oh, ok… so you don’t consider Jon Poling a fair and balanced person in regards to this issue. Works for me… of course that means that you can’t use any studies from any medical personnel either. So sorry 🙁
Don’t be silly, Sue, Jon Poling has a lot more than just being a medical professional to cast doubt on his status as an authouritive and unbiased, reliable source.
One can hold a potentially emotionally and seriously financially involved relative of a psuedo-succesful claimant as a potentially biased source, without also dismissing non-involved, non-related experts who merely share one characteristic.
Are you seriously this stupid in real life too?
Dedj: Yes, Sue is really that stupid irl. She’s angry, partial to hero worship, and barely literate. But she types fast. Say hi to BJ for us, Sue honey.
Dadj and Vindaloo, no need to resort to name-calling. Simply point out why Jon Poling is not a reliable source and where his research is flawed.
Todd, Those of us who have dealt with her lies and incessant trolling for going on 5 years now have tried reason and fact. If you search this site you’ll find many instances of her being presented with facts about Poling’s honesty problem. She has a misinformation mission here and leaves only when treated like the disgusting piece of trash that she is.
So welcome to a thread with Sue M and enjoy your stay.
“Are you seriously this stupid in real life too”
Oh wait … this isn’t ‘real life’? So, where am I … The Twilight Zone. Considering the nonsense that goes on here, I do feel as if that’s the case. Injecting aluminum? Safe. Injecting mercury? Safe. Chicken Pox? Deadly disease.
So, Jon Poling a father (and a neurologist) whose daughter became autistic after being injected by multiple vaccines containing live viruses and heavy metals can’t be trusted to speak on the topic… In that case, you can take anything that Paul (Pr)Offit touches and discusses and throw it down the toilet due to his conflict of interest. The sad thing is that he’s one of the only people that speaks out on this topic (due to that being his ‘bread and butter’). Most other doctors know that we are right and you guys aren’t that bright.
Sue – you should well know that people can and do put on persona’s and adopt different habituations when using the internet. The internet is typically reffered to ‘online’ where-as offline is typically reffered to ‘offline’ or the ‘real world. I’m not suprised that was so hard for you.
“Injecting aluminum? Safe. Injecting mercury? Safe. Chicken Pox? Deadly disease”
Distortion. No-one here has said that injecting mercury or aluminium is ‘safe’, rather that the cost-risk evaluation is enough to make it worth it.
“In that case, you can take anything that Paul (Pr)Offit touches and discusses and throw it down the toilet due to his conflict of interest.”
Dr Offit earnt his money (and leading world reputation) in vaccines precisely becuase he is relvantly educated, qualified and immensely successful.
Got that? He is relevantly qualified, educated and successful, with an extensive background. You are trying to dismiss him for the exact reasons that make him a relevant experienced expert – that makes you look like a fool.
I’d recommend that you stop being a fool and just bugger off, you are a joke here.
Epic FAIL sue. If you’re going to spout wackaloon pro disease nonsense you could at least make sure to throw in some mock outrage about foetuses,monkey AIDS and TEH TOXINS.
Don’t forget to crank the crazy amp up to 11!
Todd, do check out some of Sue’s older bits on a post where the Polings are part of the fun and games. Notice how the style and substance has not changed in over a year. She is just a resident troll who perfectly illustrates the lack of substance of the anti-vax loons.
Ah. Didn’t realize she was a persistent troll. Ignore my previous comment, then. 🙂
“If you’re going to spout wackaloon pro disease nonsense you could at least make sure to throw in some mock outrage about foetuses,monkey AIDS and TEH TOXINS”.
Apparently you don’t know that common sense works now. You guys have gone so far overboard defending all vaccinations (no matter what), that you don’t need to even go there anymore with any ‘mock outrage’. People understand common sense. They understand that vaccines cause autism. They understand that you guys are kooks for defending the immunization policies of today. Trust me, in my day to day life (which in no way involves vaccines), I see that people now agree with me and not you. So sorry….
Ah, yes, the famous, “One day I’ll be proven right!” gambit, a favorite of cranks everywhere.
Let’s put it this way: I don’t lose any sleep over whether or not you’ll someday be proven right because, well, the odds are so much against it, given the poor quality of your “arguments” and your cherry picking of studies.
As for your hanging out with like-minded anti-vaccine pseudoscience mavens, well, there’s no big surprise there.
And I’ll be adding it to the Doggerel Index’s future entries, now. I do believe I missed that one.
Get out more, Sue. You hold a fringe position on this issue. If you think that the average guy-on-the-street equates vaccines with autism, this just shows how insular your world is. Make some friends that aren’t “autism parents”. And try not to scare them away with your clear mouth-foaming problem.
I remember back in the old days of the listserv I was on for my son’s disability that one of the resident mercury militia sent me a private email telling me they were about be proven right, and that a very important paper was about to be published. This is it:
Autism: a novel form of mercury poisoning.
A paper with singularly unqualified and biased authors published in “Medical Hypotheses“… possibly for the express purpose of supporting lawsuits. Then the authors of that paper went on to also pay David Kirby to write his silly book.
But by the time they had come out, pediatric vaccines were becoming thimerosal free. There has been no effect on levels of autism.
Both the paper and book, and all the authors associated with them have become a collective joke. Which makes Sue all the more amusing as the resident troll here.
What is not funny is that the real diseases have been returning, causing real preventable suffering, and even death. Not to mention the financial strain (with kids being tortured) being caused by quacks like the Geiers, Bradstreet, Wakefield and others with invasive tests and bizarre treatments that include medications much more severe than any vaccine. Read a description of the torture caused by Bradstreet here, which includes:
“if you think that the average guy-on-the-street equates vaccines with autism, this just shows how insular your world is. Make some friends that aren’t “autism parents”.
Good try, Joseph, but I don’t have any “autism parents” friends. The people that I speak about are average Joe’s. Try again.
“As for your hanging out with like-minded anti-vaccine pseudoscience mavens, well, there’s no big surprise there”.
See above. Regular old people know that you are big liars, Orac. From the parent that I know whose child was hospitalized for a week with a serious blood disorder post chicken pox/mmr vaccines. He’s still on steroids from this. She obviously knows. From the parent whose nephew had a bunch of ‘mini strokes’ post vaccination. She knows. These are just regular people who know that vaccines absolutely can cause tragedies. (including autism of course).
The Average Joes you speak to must not be representative of the population at large. If they were then you would think there would be a massive drop in vaccination rates. But, there isn’t. So are all of your Average Joe friends risking this definitive “autism connection” you insist upon, yet no scientific evidence supports, by keeping the vaccinated rates up?
What is the vaccination rate in your area? By your assertation everyone you run into knows of this link so everyone that still vaccinates is knowingly exposing their children to autism.
Or maybe you are just lying and waving your hands like you usually do. Most people you run into may be “aware” of the claims about vaccines and autism, yet they realize that it holds no weight. They just nod at you, realizing you are one of those crazy conspiracy people, and say whatever it takes to end the conversation and get their children the hell away from you.
The people I surround myself with are certainly not average Joes, but are people who work in autism services, who recieve autism services, are health professionals who have autistic children, are health professionals who are autistic, who volunteer and work for autism charities, or are related to someone with autism.
Out of all that (over 100+ with direct professional, clinical, familial or personal connection to autism) the only people that I know (except online) who think vaccines=autism has been through second hand accounts of parents of clients believing that vaccines=autism.
A grand total of 6 so far. Hardly impressive.
There’s certainly very little evidence that the average Joe – even when they have a personal connection to autism – thinks that vaccines=autism.
On my local “crunchy” forums, someone recently posted a poll on whether people actually knew anyone that had been “vaccine damaged”. Now, mind you, this is a super crunchy group, so the results were predisposed towards an anti-vax answer.
The results were vastly in favor of people not even knowing a friend of a friend, let alone knowing or having a child that experienced it. And most of the people that said they did all were referencing the same few people on that forum that claim “vaccine damage”. It was lovely reading the few claim of “possible vaccine damage” when their joints hurt 6 months after a tetanus shot. Or reading about how “vaccine damage” can appear years or decades after the shot. Way to move the goalposts into outer space.
That doesn’t exactly support the popular opinion viewpoint Sue is proposing.
Go get your Swine Flu vaccines, people … Load up on the squalene… Yippppeeeee!
“By the time they had come out, pediatric vaccines were becoming thimerosal free. There has been no effect on levels of autism.”
I just have a question for you: I believe the vaccines were supposed to have become “thimerosal-free” around the year 2001? And I also thought the 1 in 150 rate of children with autism was calculated by using children born early 1990’s who were then around 8 yrs old when this # of 1-150 came out. Am I correct? Sorry, don’t have time to search for actual citations (child napping). So, how can you say it’s had no effect on rates of autism since they haven’t been recalculated for children born after the removal of thimerosal?
What do you mean no “recalculation”? Have you not heard of the California numbers that are updated each quarter? There was really no calculation in the mid 1990s, because that was when it was actually added to IDEA, and the DSM criteria changed.
It means the rates of autism still increased after the vaccines were made into single doses that were thimerosal free. Kirby actually said that autism rates would go down after a certain year, that did not happen. He then moved the goalpost to a later year. When the rates of autism diagnosis did not go down again, he blamed plumes of mercury from China! (see page 127 of Paul Offit’s book Autism’s False Prophets, better yet, check the book out of the library and read the whole book)
You can follow some of Kirby’s fun and games on this blog:
By the way, Sue, squalene, just like formaldehyde is a normal product of metabolism in higher organisms, including humans (term you might understand: your body makes it so you can function). You really are a joke, next thing you will do is tell us about the evils of adenosine-5′-triphosphate.
“By the way, Sue, squalene, just like formaldehyde is a normal product of metabolism in higher organisms, including humans (term you might understand: your body makes it so you can function).”
Yeah, yeah, I know. Injecting Squalene is as safe as water. Got it. Good luck, dope.
Wow… I sent in my email asking to sign the open letter, and 48 hr later I’m on it. Quick! :o)
“Wow… I sent in my email asking to sign the open letter, and 48 hr later I’m on it. Quick! :o)”
More like… Desperate. 🙂
Again, a doctor signing a ‘vaccines are good’ statement? Yeah, whatever…
@ Ha Ha…
Who said I was a (medical) doctor? Give props to the “evil scientists” too while you are at it!!!
I don’t understand how California’s #’s have anything to do with the “National” rate of 1-150?? Each state comes out with quite different rates, don’t they? Just trying to understand all this, and yes, I admittedly am just a layperson who’s a parent. Thanks.
“// From the parent that I know whose child was hospitalized for a week with a serious blood disorder post chicken pox/mmr vaccines. //. From the parent whose nephew had a bunch of ‘mini strokes’ post vaccination. ”
But you have to consider that these events are coincidental; correlation does not equal causation. The only way to establish if vaccination is truly responsible for adverse events is through carefully controlled trials and epidemiological study. To date, no studies have established any correlation between vaccinations and the adverse events you mention, including autism.