In Which I Likely Garner the Hatred of Many Anti-Vaxxers (sigh)

I have a few anti-vax friends.  A few.  It’s one of those “differences of opinion” I try to be tolerant of because it doesn’t really affect either my friendship with these people, or the goodness in their hearts.

That said, the anti-vax stance does annoy the piss out of me.  Especially when proponents of the movement assert that we who do vaccinate our kids are “harming them.”  The beautiful thing about science is you don’t actually have to agree with a given scientific fact or body of data for it to be true.  And the science behind vaccines and how the immune system works to build immunity is sound.

In addition to the host of groups on Facebook that have cropped up “against vaccination,” there is now a group specifically for refuting their claims.  Today, a post that’s probably at least two to four years old is once again circulating Facebook, the main claim being that the Supreme Court has held that vaccines are “unavoidably unsafe.”

This may sound damning at first glance, but used in a legal context, it does not mean what many people think it does.

In legal beagle:

“An unavoidably unsafe product isn’t necessarily by its nature dangerous. Rather, it’s a product that is incapable of being made safe for its intended and ordinary use. Courts generally look at 4 criteria to determine if a product is unavoidably unsafe: how the product was prepared, how it was marketed, the utility of the product compared to its risk, and whether there are any alternatives available. ” (source)

One of the four main criteria for determining whether or not a given substance is “unavoidably unsafe” involve whether or not the benefits outweigh the risks (which has been deemed so in the case of vaccines.)

Another big one, likely where the term “unavoidably” comes from, is the absense of other options to achieve the same ends.

“There must not be any other way to fully achieve the intended purpose of the product. If there’s an alternative product that would be as effective in accomplishing the purpose of the product then the product may not be unavoidably unsafe. In determining if there’s an alternative, courts have considered the risk avoided by the alternative and the cost, benefits, and relative safety of the alternative.” (source)

Now, as I mentioned, the majority of the scientific community have already refuted, based on intensive studies, the idea that vaccines cause autism.  The supreme court has ruled vaccines “unavoidably unsafe,” barring incidences where there were there was actual evidence that the manufacturer of a given vaccine had a “reasonable” expectation of maleffects versus the benefits.  (source)

A commenter on one of the FB page articles mentioned that there is no refuting the science behind vaccines (although many anti-vaxxers do just that), it’s just specific stablizing ingredients for the vaccines that might be called into question. That said, I am still for vaccinating.  When people talk about “vax injured kids,” I can’t help but ask myself a bunch of questions.

Namely, what evidence do they have that it was the vaccine that injured their kid and not something else?   Only their own belief based solely on personal anecdotal “evidence?” (In other words, they “saw” a change in their kid right after a vaccine was administered.)  Was this the same type of potential reaction that any drug cold have for any person, or was this specific to some questionable ingredient in the vaccine? Why do vaccines that millions safely receive allegedly “injure” a relatively small percentage of the population?  And like any other drugs, which carries risk of side effects, why do people choose to ignore the real risk that comes from non-vaccination in favor of the idea, now debunked, (whether they believe it or not is irrelevant in this case because the scientific community has largely debunked this idea) that vaccines could cause injury? Would they rather have a child with polio than autism? If their child got a routine illness, would they also be reticent to give them “unavoidably unsafe” medicine that could help cure them?  Are vaccines only under attack because they prevent horrible diseases instead of curing a disease that the parent can see with their own eyes?

My experience with some of these anti-vaxxers leads me to the opinion that they live in a society that has greatly benefitted from vaccines in terms of how many people no longer get common diseases, but they refuse to credit vaccines with any of that. Their denial is a luxury they have I guess since they don’t live a poor, disease ravaged area.

These people like to cite the increase in autism in recent years. To me it seems that facts indicate more the changing definition of autism and autism spectrum than they do an “increase” in autism.   I have no doubt that in years past, many children and adults were on the spectrum before there was a spectrum, or before the word “autism” became known.

I have argued with many an aggressive anti-vaxxer (those people not content to simply forego vaccination for their own kids, they want everyone to know about it) and when presented with the scientific sources I furnish, they inevitable fall to criticizing the sources, claiming them corrupt and part of some big pharma and government conspiracy to obfuscate the truth.  They don’t trust the CDC.  My question to them is why should I trust their “crunchy mom” statistics and sources more than my own scientific sources? (source)

They believe it is their right to not vaccinate their own children, but believe their children should not be denied access to public resources due to their non-vaccinated status.  They do not “believe” in herd immunity   and have their own “sources” to refute it, sources that usually lead directly back to anti-vax groups and relying on the idea that diseases have cycles which naturally result in the eventual strengthening of the population.   Gee, that sounds nice…unless you are one of the many generations that must suffer catastrophic complications or death while the population “strengthens over time.” (Click here for a study on what happens in a country when the confidence in vaccines breaks down.)  Parents of children too young to be fully vaccinated or whose children have contracted diseases from voluntarily unvaccinated people disagree with your assertion that herd immunity is not a fact. (source)  (source 2)

Again, I ask, what makes the anti-vaxxer sources any more reliable than the myriad of governmental and scientific community sources.

For the purposes of answering the claim that the push for vaccination is more about money and government “conspiracy” than public health and safety, I leave you links to a list of non-government affiliated science related resources on vaccination information.

1) http://www.immunize.org/resources/part_us.asp

2) http://www.immunize.org/resources/intorg.asp

Finally, I’d like to state that as a mother, I feel for the parents of injured children whether or not a vaccine was the cause, and I totally understand the desire to find a reason and make sense your child’s injury or affliction.  I also recognize the fact that many conditions that either do not make themselves apparent or are not diagnosed until early childhood correspond with the timing of many childhood vaccines.  Neither am I negating the idea that some children are sensitive to vaccines.  But being sensitive to a drug is not the same as being “injured” by its alleged inherent dangerousness.

Also, as always, feel free to comment, but owing to the often sensitive nature of the discussion involving the health of our children, our most precious and treasured blessings, I will reiterate my comment policy.  If you are rude or flame either myself or other commenters, your comment will not make it past moderation.  Call it censorship or whatever you want, but I prefer my blog to be a safe haven for discussion.

Some more resources:

UNICEF

US Dept Health and Human Services