Anyone with doubts about the merits of vaccinating their children should read this. Hopefully this heart-rending account of the effects of tetanus, a disease that, like measles, the anti-vaccination movement portrays as harmless, will succeed where statistics fail.
However, the fact that a scientifically qualified parent could make this mistake is evidence of just how much we are up against in the quest to get the message across.
I’m particularly struck by Williams’ repeated description of himself as “a hippie” and his attributing the decision to “the hippie” winning out. For a science communicator, I’m quite the hippy myself. I attend Confest, the ultimate hippy festival, most years. At least until friends intervened I tended to dress in clothes that would fit the label and anyone concerned about the environment is often branded as such.
Hippiedom is about a rejection of the mainstream values, originally those that led America and Australia into the disaster of the Vietnam War, racial oppression and environmental destruction. Some hippies seem to regard any science, certainly any science associated with large research labs, as part of those values and therefore to be rejected. For me, a far more important part of the value system we should be reacting against is dogma. The society hippies were rebelling against prized conformity over critical thinking, yet this is the central tenet of the anti-vaccination movement: For God’s sake don’t actually examine the evidence on the effects of these diseases, don’t look at the graveyards filled with child corpses from before vaccination was available, don’t consider that a child who dies within a few weeks of a vaccination might be the victim of something totally unrelated. Just TRUST US on how dangerous these things are.
The real hippy is the one who exercises their intellectual powers to weigh the evidence properly, which means actually listening to the doctors and public health officials as well.
The other thing to comment on is this quote, “I am seeing a very disturbing trend occurring more frequently among pro-vaccination groups – and that is the belief that it is OK for some children to die from vaccine reactions, so that others may be ‘saved’ by vaccines. If part of the risk of vaccination is that some might die, then that is simply not good enough. What ever happened to ‘First do no harm?”‘.
Lets stress; the rate of death from vaccinations is now really, really low. The article quotes an expert saying there is no proof of any vaccination-related death in New Zealand. I haven’t researched this claim, but Australia’s larger population means it’s probably not true here.
So is even a single death “not good enough”? In the sense that if any children are dying from vaccines work needs to be done to make them better yes, we should regard a vaccine that kills even one in ten million recipients as not good enough. Indeed this is the case, non-lethal reaction rates are falling because scientists are constantly working to improve vaccines. However, what the Immunisation Awareness Society is saying is that even a single death from a vaccine is “not good enough”, but thousands of deaths from the diseases vaccines can prevent are just tickety-boo.
Every day around the world thousands of people are wheeled into operating theatres as a result of doctors advising, “If you do nothing this disease will kill you. If you have surgery you could die from the anaesthetic, or from complications, but the chance is much lower.” Depending on the condition the chance of being killed by the operation may be one in a thousand, or quite a bit higher. However, if it is lower than the risk of dying from the disease, and the chance of making a full recovery from the surgery is high almost everyone will take it. We don’t accuse the doctors of breaching their Hippocratic oath if one patient in a hundred dies as a result, so long as they are saving far more lives than they are ending.
Every surgeon on the planet wishes they could get a ratio of benefit to harm half as good as vaccinations. The IAS statement is simply cover for the fact that they don’t care about the agony of children like Alijah, and those whose lives are cut short by their activities.
Hat tip Chris Watkins of Appropedia