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Truth Under Attack

Truth Under Attack

Posted 3/12/2015

Flying horses are common myths, tooFlying horses are common myths, tooIt was bound to happen sooner or later. A troll dropped in on this website and started mouthing off about all the lies I was telling. I deleted the comments and will no doubt now get accused of suppressing debate.

Hidden among the personal attacks and pointless asides, however, there were a couple of interesting points raised - in the sense that they repeated the same few myths and mythunderstandings that are raised and discredited time and again.

I considered trying to add some of these common myths to the Myths section of this website, but that's still very much a work in progress. Instead, I will quote the more coherent "objections" here to once again repeat the process of discreditation.

Quote: "You fail to inform the reader of the fact that no vaccine is considered safe and that the CDC has a long list of known vaccine effects"

This depends on your definition of "safe". No vaccine is 100% guaranteed to not have side effects. But eating a meal is not 100% safe either and I don't believe anyone is recommending starvation as sensible course of action.

The truth is that the side effects of vaccines have been extensively studied and are extremely well known. In general, serious side effects are witnessed in fewer than 1 in a million cases, so vaccines are more than 99.9999% safe. Compare that to measles which kills around 1 in every 1000 even with the best medical care, and that's even before we get to the brain damage and other serious complications. Vaccines are a no-brainer by any rational definition of the word "safe".

Quote: "You also fail to inform the reader that vaccines are NOT tested for safety on the population group for which they are intended"

I'm not sure what to make of the suggestion that unapproved medicines should be tested on children and/or pregnant women. I'm not very up on ethics, but even I can see that's a bit of a no no. I seem to recall a certain Mr Wakefield being struck off the medical register for child experimentation, for example.

The point that is perhaps trying to me made is that vaccines are approved and go out into the real world without direct testing on children (although I'm happy to be corrected in the comments section) but that doesn't mean the research stops once approval is obtained. The effects and repercussions of using vaccines, real or imagined, are carefully monitored and the results scrutinised in peer reviewed journals. So, ultimately, the safety of vaccines is very well established in children.

Quote: "You also fail to mention that the protection supposedly offered by vaccines is NOT long-lasting and that many people simply don't respond to the vaccine to give any protection. You can reference Dr Tetyana Obukhanych on this very subject"

I'm not aware of any relevant peer-reviewed science by Dr Obukhanych which I might want to reference, although she has been co-author on several papers repeating the same old findings that vaccines are incredibly effective (yawn). She's also published a short Kindle book and here's a review of just some of the unsupported statements made in it.

One half-truth made here is that vaccines are not 100% effective. Sadly, some people just don't develop immunity, although the word "many" is misleading. I believe the measles vaccine is over 95% effective. Importantly, this is not an argument AGAINST vaccines. To the contrary, this is an argument for vaccinating as many people as possible so that the unlucky few who aren't protected remain safe in the larger herd of those who are. Then again, even if a vaccine is only 5% effective, at least you're protecting that 5%.

Quote: "The truth is that many parents do not wish to inject lethal toxins in to their children (or themselves)"

The additional ingredients in vaccines are equally well-studied and the research proves beyond doubt that they are safe, certainly in the quantities in which they are present in vaccines. If vaccines aren't "safe" in this respect, then neither is breathing.

Quote: "Vaccines are preventing the natural transfer of mother to baby protection via breast milk and are putting infants at increased risk of infection"

I have no idea where this suggestion came from. I can't even imagine how it's possibly correct. A source for this outlandish claim or an explanation of it would be useful if anyone can provide one.

No, there is no cover-up. No, there is no cover-up. Quote: "What you should also investigate is Dr William Thompson who is/was a CDC employee who has 'blown the whistle' on the fact that the CDC covered up data which showed that people of African origin are more at risk of autism than caucasians from the MMR vaccine"

This one has a lot of history. Dr Thompson is the new poster boy for the anti-vaccine movement. Unlike Mr Wakefield, however, Dr Thompson doesn't appear to have done anything unethical, just a bit silly. The crux of this particular conspiracy is that another retracted research paper made a number of basic errors in reanalysing some old data and came up with the false conclusions trumpeted in the quote above.

The whole debacle was pretty much laid to rest in August 2014, yet #CDCWhisteblower is still an unfortunately common sight on Twitter. It's like a rallying cry whose echoes refuse to dissipate even though the battle is long over.

For full details of this particular myth, here are some reviews of the whole sorry affair from some great pro-science websites: ScienceBlogs, Science-Based Medicine, IFL Science, and Skeptical Raptor‚Äč.

So there you have it. These are some of the fictional stories anti-vaccine adherents currently rely on most to try to stop people from getting vaccinated. My responding to these lies here won't stop them spreading, but maybe it will help someone get to the truth more easily next time around.