As a boy, I adored Mad Magazine. Not to be trusted home alone, my mother would drag me along to the local Genuardi’s supermarket where I would camp out in front of the magazine rack to read Mad cover-to-cover. Among the heights of the magazine’s peerless wit was the regular Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions piece, written by Al Jaffee, the nine year-old American’s answer to P.D. Wodehouse. Jaffee provided us with ammunition we dared not use in the company of adults, who were, unfortunately, the most likely ones to set us up with “Stupid Questions” lines.
At the risk of not sounding terribly polite, I’ve been researching (i.e., Googling) some of the stupidest questions being asked in our society: those of the antivax movement. Its not that it is stupid to question vaccinations, or for parents to ask sincere questions before having their children repeatedly jab. That’s common sense. No, the stupid comes in where we see antivaccine talking points repeated endlessly, unthinkingly by the antivaccine faithful. (And before you say it, “open minds” should go both ways.) You can’t help but find the same rhetoric being repeated endlessly on discussion boards, partisan websites and in interviews.
Anyway, I’m collecting some of my favorite Snappy Answers to Stupid Vaccine Questions here. While I am no expert, I’ll try to link to answers with good references. I’m also trying to avoid the vanilla PR answers you’ll get from health system websites.
Al Jaffee, by the way, is still alive, possibly in Guantanamo through either a tragic misunderstanding or an accurate Snappy Answer.
From A Photon in the Darkness comes Three Popular Anti-vaccine Myths Deconstructed. Spoilers: The myths are
1) “You claim that vaccines are 100% safe and effective!â€ Which technically is actually kind of a straw man of a straw man. A meta scarecrow, if you will. But only technically. As Photon explains, nobody of any real knowledge of the matter would claim that vaccines are either 100% safe or effective.
2) â€Vaccine-preventable diseases were in decline before the vaccines were introducedâ€
3) â€œThe chickenpox vaccine causes shingles!â€
From Losing in the Lucky Country comes a discussion on the mysterious phenomena of Vaccine Shedding, which follows in great part with myth #3 above. I’ve seen this sort of thing pop up in a number of discussion boards, where the real phenomena of viral shedding, a part of viral reproduction, has somehow been conflated with vaccines to create the myth of Vaccine Shedding.
The colloquial use of this nonsensical term seeks to convey that an individual who has been vaccinated can readily shed part of the vaccine and cause infection in the unvaccinated. Which by definition demands them to have shed not a vaccine but an infectious agent. Indeed a virus. Which by extension demands the vaccine to be a live virus vaccine. This then opens the door to viral shedding the vast complexities of vaccine induced immunity and viable modes of excretion â€“ aka shedding. That wonâ€™t stop your garden variety anti-vaxxer claiming any vaccine can lead to infection of the unvaccinated via this ghastly â€œvaccine sheddingâ€.
Its complex, and worth a read. To oversimplify, yes, live attenuated vaccines can pose a risk to immunocompromised people (and often infants and pregnant women) and a healthy child or adult cannot get sick from being near a vaccinated person.
I’ll try to keep updating this as whim takes me.
UPDATE 1: How Antivaxxers Debate
Here’s a nice primer on common antivaccine “Tropes and Tactics”, which is summarized and added-upon by Orac here for those who can’t access the article.
UPDATE 2: Brain Studies Demonstrate Autism at 6 Months
Interesting news for the antivaccine proponents who still cling to the myth that the MMR vaccine causes autism: you can detect patterns of autism in children as young as six months. Of course, MMR isn’t given to children younger than one year old, which leftbrainrightbrain blog suggests time travel may be the last refuge for the vaccine denialists. They also take a nifty look at the causation/correlation fallacy
commonly necessarily employed by people who still insist vaccines cause autism.
UPDATE 3: The Amish
Apparently, one anti-vax talking point is that the Amish don’t get vaccines, therefore they don’t get autism. Double wrong. Turns out that the Amish do get vaccinated (there’s no specific religious prescription against vaccines…or modern medicine, in general) and they do get autism (but, no those two aren’t linked here, either) and here’s the study that shows it.
The Amish, as a hole, tend to see fewer cases of autism. Their rate, according to the study just mentioned, is about 1 in 270 versus 1 in 91 among the rest of the population, as whole. That, to me, says something about a genetic component to autism. Genetic studies among the Amish are very well documented, as they tend to suffer a disproportionate number of genetic diseases. Given the, you know, limited gene pool.