The Faces of Vaccine (Un)awareness Week

This week has been declared Vaccine Awareness Week. You might think this involves advice on where to get flu vaccines, boosters, and other scheduled shots. Perhaps with some discussion about safety, pros and cons, and why vaccination is important. But you would be wrong. This week is dedicated to showing the public how very dangerous vaccines are and why you should sooner drink a bottle of glass shards covered in deer musk before ever ever letting yourself or your precious child near this immune-suppressing poison. That is…if you love them and assuming you can even have them, what with your vaccine-induced infertility.

The dystopian government and their pawns (the FDA and the WHO) would have you believe that these vaccines are safe and effective based on “evidence” and “documented history”. Well, Barbara Loe Fisher (of the National Vaccine Information Center, NVIC) and Joe Mercola know the truth: That Big Pharma will stop at nothing for the chance to pump your innocent, adorable children full of toxins for profit – and the government is more than happy to accommodate. First they started with health care workers, next they’re coming for you!

Sadly, I’m not exaggerating. Check the above links (note that Mercola’s website has pop-up spam “encouraging” you to subscribe to his newsletter).

It’s important to provide some context for people following this event. Unfortunately, the organizers of Vaccine Awareness Week seem the least qualified for such an event, as they routinely make such unsupported conspiracy-theory-esque claims. While it is perfectly legitimate and fair to point out flaws in our current drug system, it is irresponsible to then go several steps further and imply that, not only are vaccines inherently ineffective, they are toxic and neither the government nor Big Pharma care enough to change that as they laugh their way to the bank.

Who are the organizers?

Readers might remember Amy Wallace and Paul Offit getting sued over comments made in a Wired article about vaccines last year (the case was later dismissed). That was Barbara Loe Fisher, head of the NVIC. She is not a doctor, does not have a degree in science, and is not a medical expert of any kind. Yet she presumes to make statements about vaccines that are demonstrably false.

She and/or the NVIC have incorrectly: linked the Pertussis vaccine (DPT) to SIDS, claimed the anthrax vaccine made Gulf War soldiers sick (not true), reported that Gardasil (the HPV vaccine) has killed dozens people as of late 2009, and implied that vaccines have led to an “increase” in developmental disorders and chronic disease in America (as if opulence, poor diet, and exercise haven’t already been conclusively linked to chronic disease – rich people also just happen to have access to comparatively good medical care vs. poorer countries). The NVIC gathers a lot of their “data” from testimonials, news reports, misrepresented sources, and themselves. In other words, heavy on navel-gazing and vague personal reports, light on objective science.

To explain Joe Mercola, I’ll start with this quote:

Injecting organisms into your body to provoke immunity is contrary to nature. — Joseph Mercola

But what if it works? (Hint: It does work.) Regardless of whether nature is at all relevant to efficacy, Joe Mercola (an osteopath) runs a website that promotes “natural” alternative medicine while decrying medicine, especially vaccines. He seems to think that, for example, vaccines cause infertility (nope), death, and “brain eating”, are loaded with toxins, and – in the case of the flu shot – should be avoided “like the plague” (those that lived through the 1918 flu pandemic would likely have a different take).

He also promotes eating well and exercising, which is great. However, it’s unfortunate that he sabotages the only good advice he provides by putting people at risk of serious illness – particularly those less well-off than he is. Yes, he’s appalled at how the American public is being “CONNED” [his emphasis] into funding vaccines for the poor. I wonder if he’s also appalled when people are “conned” into donating money to the ASPCA just so those bastards can turn around and give an abandoned puppy a good home.

Fisher, the NVIC, and Mercola are apparently no fans of vaccines.

Awareness (or lack thereof)

So why are these people running a Vaccination Awareness Week? All week, Mercola and the NVIC will publish a series of articles on vaccine “issues” to:

“…help raise the consciousness of many more Americans, who may be unaware that they can take an active role in helping to prevent vaccine injuries and deaths and defend the legal right to make voluntary vaccination choices.”

Their cause seems noble at first glance. What rational person doesn’t want to prevent people from being harmed? But the focus on harm and legal rights highlights the bias demonstrated in their personal published materials. “Injury and death” are front and center ahead of any possible benefit to vaccines, because they don’t apparently acknowledge that there are any possible benefits to vaccines. This week is about convincing other people of that belief.

For comparison, see Canada’s Immunization Awareness Week and the US’s National Immunization Awareness Month. Note the terminology of the nationally-organized events vs. this one. I almost never see NVIC or Joe Mercola refer to “immunizations”. Rather they stick to the non-contextual “vaccine”, which has more negative connotations in the public consciousness without the benefit of reminding people what they’re for. Without directly calling them immunizations, one can shift the focus to harm without all of that pesky, complicated responsibly-weighing-the-pros-and-cons thinking that tends to gum up the works.

Conclusion

These individuals and their respective organizations have demonstrated that they are not interested in public health, intellectual responsibility, or providing accurate information about vaccines:

  • They are primarily interested in promoting their scientifically unsupported belief that vaccines are inherently harmful and we should not be using them. Their bias is evident in their information materials.
  • They do not or will not understand the concept of dose, the function of the immune system, or the risk of disease. They remain blissfully ignorant of the harm that can be done (and that has been done) in the past when we did not have vaccines and today when communities do not vaccinate, because apparently potentially fatal diseases are no big deal.
  • They are content to use science or claim that the research was tainted by Big Pharma depending on how the results of the study can be interpreted to suit their beliefs, rather than basing their conclusions on the quality of the evidence in the full context of the literature.
  • Joe Mercola sells and promotes alternative health products, including his answer to vaccines, in the same forum that he uses to decry science-based medicine. In other words, at least one half of the partnership for this event has something to gain by making people afraid of vaccines.

These are not people anyone should be taking health advice from.

2 Responses to “The Faces of Vaccine (Un)awareness Week”

  1. Kevin Kindred says:

    Kim–I notice that you are from Nova Scotia. I’m trying to assess interest in a new skeptic/atheist/freethinker/rationalist/whatever group/network/community/whatever for Nova Scotia. Right now just trying to find interested people who might want to get into a room and brainstorm.

    If you are interested, please send me an email at kevin_kindredatyahoodotca.

  2. Composer99 says:

    On today’s Respectful Insolence post, Orac points out that the NVIC hasn’t been doing much this week (http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2010/11/attacking_the_aap_over_vaccines.php) – see para. #2.

    It would be interesting to see why.

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  • Kim Hebert

    Kim Hébert is an occupational therapist. She is interested in the promotion of science and reason, particularly regarding therapeutic health interventions. She blogs occasionally about occupational therapy and other health topics at Science-Based Therapy. Her hobbies are art and astronomy. **All views expressed by Kim are her personal views alone, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of current or former employers, associations, or other affiliations. All information is provided for discussion purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for consultation with a licensed and accredited health professional.