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The Vaccinator

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A Dunning-Kruger manifesto about vaccines and autism

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By Orac via Respectful Insolence

I’ve frequently written about the “arrogance of ignorance,” a phenomenon that anyone who’s paid attention to what quacks, cranks, or antivaccine activists (but I repeat myself) write and say beyond a certain period of time will have encountered. Basically, it’s the belief found in such people—and amplified in groups—that somehow they can master a subject as well or better than experts who have spent their entire professional lives studying the subject on their own, often just through the use of Google University and the echo chamber discussion forums that they frequent with their fellow cranks.google U 03_400px Thus we have, for example, the rambling clown car of antivaccine bloggers over at the crank blog Age of Autism declaring that, contrary to the mountains of evidence otherwise, vaccines cause autism, “brain damage,” autoimmune diseases and all sorts of mean and nasty other conditions. Skeptics quite properly point out that (1) there is no convincing evidence from well-designed and well-executed studies to support these links; (2) there is a lot of evidence from well-designed and well-executed studies that there is no link between vaccines and these conditions given that such studies invariably are unable to detect differences in the prevalence of these conditions associated with vaccines (or, in the case of the mercury militia, thimerosal-containing vaccines); meaning (3) the most parsimonious explanation for these results is that there almost certainly no link. What is the response? Antivaccine cranks will invoke the pharma shill gambit and all sorts of dire conspiracies on the part of the CDC, big pharma, the FDA, and the World Health Organization (WHO) to “suppress” smoking gun evidence that vaccines cause autism.

This is a well-known phenomenon known as the Dunning-Kruger effect, a phenomenon whereby people who are unknowledgeable or incompetent about a topic hold an unjustifiably elevated estimate of their own knowledge base on the topic. In the antivaccine movement, the Dunning-Kruger effect tends to take the form of parents who think that their University of Google knowledge trumps the knowledge of physicians and scientists  .  .  .

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Why Anti-Vaxxers Just ‘Know’ They’re Right

VACCINE 147 CROPPED
By Thom Scott-Phillips via Gizmodo

Anti-vaccination beliefs can cause real, substantive harm, as shown by the recent outbreak of measles in the US. vaccination 814_300pxThese developments are as shocking and distressing as their consequences are predictable. But if the consequences are so predictable, why do the beliefs persist?

It is not simply that anti-vaxxers don’t understand how vaccines work (some of them may not, but not all of them). Neither are anti-vaxxers simply resistant to all of modern medicine (I’m sure that many of them still take pain killers when they need to). So the matter is not as simple as plain stupidity. Some anti-vaxxers are not that stupid, and some stupid people are not anti-vaxxers. There is something more subtle going on.

Naïve theories

We all have what psychologists call “folk” theories, or “naïve” theories, of how the world works. You do not need to learn Newton’s laws to believe that an object will fall to the floor if there is nothing to support it. This is just something you “know” by virtue of being human. It is part of our naïve physics, and it gives us good predictions of what will happen to medium-sized objects on planet earth.

vaccine small pox 133Naïve physics is not such a good guide outside of this environment. Academic physics, which deals with very large and very small objects, and with the universe beyond our own planet, often produces findings that are an affront to common sense.

As well as physics, we also have naïve theories about the natural world (naïve biology) and the social world (naïve psychology). An example of naïve biology is “vitalistic causality” – the intuitive belief that a vital power or life force, acquired from food and water, is what makes humans active, prevents them from being taken ill, and enables them to grow. Children have this belief from a very young age.

Naïve theories of all kinds tend to persist even in the face of contradictory arguments and evidence. Interestingly, they persist even in the minds of those who, at a more reflexive level of understanding, know them to be false.

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A Message for the Anti-Vaccine Movement

By Jimmy Kimmel Live via YouTube

Jimmy feels that all of this anti-vaccination silliness is starting to snowball, so he invited some real doctors to address it. These are actual medical professionals so hear them out and then decide for yourself.

Great CDC Coverup–suppressing evidence that MMR vaccines cause autism?

Via skepticalraptor

cover_upOh no, here we go again. The antivaccination cult, lacking any real evidence, grabs onto the flimsiest of stories, disregarding the foul and corrupt individuals promoting the story–using it all to scream “GOTCHA” to anyone involved with vaccines. Last year, it was laughably jumping on some comments of Dr. Diane Harper, who was promoted by the antivaccination crowd as the “lead researcher” for Gardasil, that appeared to say that Gardasil was useless.

Or promoting an “Italian court” that decided that MMR caused autism, relying upon the discredited and retracted study by one of the greatest scientific criminals of the past 100 yearsMrAndy Wakefield, who fraudulently alleged a connection between the MMR vaccine and autism.

Or furthering the story of a French businessman, who claimed to have intimate knowledge of Merck’s data about Gardasil–all of it negative. Except he never worked in Merck’s R&D department, and was made redundant when his company was acquired by Merck.

Andrew Jeremy Wakefield

Andrew Wakefield fraudulently alleged a connection between the MMR vaccine and autism.

The Church of Antivaccines, whose god, Mr. Andy Wakefield, should be held criminally responsible for deaths of children who never got the MMR vaccine, are so bereft of any real evidence to support their beliefs, they will either invent, misrepresent, or manipulate any story that even tenuously supports their dogma that vaccines are dangerous.

So, what is the Antivaccine movement saying? They’re pushing a story that a CDC researcher, Dr. William Thompson, has “admitted” that the CDC itself has covered up or hidden damning evidence that MMR vaccine actually causes autism. It was presented in a heavily promoted video, narrated by the aforementioned conman, Wakefield. If you really want to watch the video, you can find it here, but you’ll have to check your skepticism at the door, or bring an emesis basin to collect the vomit from watching it. In other words, it’s a 0.00000001-star movie. Don’t ignore the Godwins comparing the CDC (and I suppose the researchers) to Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, and others that I might have missed.

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Vaccine adverse events are rare–vast benefits outweigh risks

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Via Skeptical Raptor

protected-water-vaccinesLike all medical procedures, devices and pharmaceuticals, vaccines are not perfect. What matters is that the benefits, not only medically but also economically, outweigh any risks. As far ask I know, no perfect medical procedures, devices or pharmaceuticals, none, that are perfectly safe or perfectly effective.

Sometimes the ratio is small. For example, there are chemotherapy drugs that only add a few months to a patient’s life, usually with substantial side effects to the medication. Yet, if you ask a patient whether it was worth it, to spend just a few extra months with their children and loved ones, the value becomes nearly incalculable.

But mostly, the FDA and other regulatory agencies demand that new products and procedures must meet or exceed the safety, and meet or exceed the financial and health benefits of currently acceptable versions. Actually, the FDA examines a lot more than that. They check packaging, shelf life, instructions, manufacturing practices, and so much more, it would take a book to explain it (and there probably are several). It may not be a perfect process, but it’s better than what we had 100 years ago, and it continues to improve every single day. People tend towards a form of confirmation bias where they remember where a drug may or may not have been found to be dangerous (best example is Vioxx). But they forget about the millions of medications and devices that save lives or measurably improve the standard of living. 

After arguing the scientific point of view with the antivaccination forces for nearly 15 years, I have observed that they tend to vastly overstate the safety risks, while vastly understating the financial and health benefits. It’s a form of the Nirvana Fallacy, which is a fallacy that if something is not perfect, then it’s junk. For some, if a vaccine is only 95% effective in stopping a disease, it’s worthless. And they want a “guarantee” that there are NO side effects of the vaccines, even when the “adverse effects” of a vaccine preventable disease could be hospitalization or death.

Of course, no pro-science proponent of vaccines would ever say “vaccines are perfect.” We never claim that vaccines never have an adverse effect, though there is no evidence that a vaccine has killed anyone in the last 30 years. On the other hand, I do have plenty of evidence that vaccine preventable diseases have killed children across the world, including the USA.

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5 Things I’ve noticed about… Autism cure promoters

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By The Locke via The Soap Box

Autism cure promoters are people who claim they “cure” people with autism.

The claims made by these people are very conversational, both in their claims about autism and it’s causes, and what they say can cure autism.

Now there are a lot of different things I have noticed about autism cure promoters, but I’ve narrowed it down to five different things.

So here are five things I’ve noticed about autism cure promoters:

5. They’re closely aligned with the anti-vaccination movement.

VaCCINE-no-Autism_200pxAutism cure promoters and the anti-vaccination movement are pretty much like peas in a pod. Anti-vaccers often promote these so called “therapies” that the autism cure promoters claim can cure a person with autism, and autism cure promoters also tend to publish on their websites anti-vaccination movement propaganda, mainly in the form of claims that certain chemicals in vaccines can cause autism.

Some of these promoters also like to use certain words that the anti-vaccination movement also uses inorder to sell their therapies to people with autism or have autistic children, such as “vaccine damage”, “vaccine injury”, or “autism epidemic”.

They also ignore the fact that such words are not only incorrect and misleadinf, but very insulting to people with autism. Ofcourse they’re not actually promoting their therapies towards people with autism, they’re really promoting them towards parents of children who have autism and just want their kids to be normal.

4. They exploit the fears and desires of parents with autistic children.

For some parents when a child is diagnosed with autism it can be devastating to them, and the fact that there is no way to cure autism can make that devastation to them even worse. autism einstein 02_300pxThen comes along someone who claims they can do things that the medical industry cannot do and can “cure” their child of autism, and if they don’t know any better they may take that person up on their offer.

A person who is misinformed about what autism is and what causes autism, mixed with both the fear of what will happen to their child and how their life will turn out due to their autism, combined with their desire to have a “normal” child, would be very temped by someone whom claims they can cure their child of autism and give them a chance at a normal life and be willing to pay whatever price they can inorder to do so.

The people who are promoting these so called autism cures know this and know that they can exploit these fears and desires to sell people products and services that scientific research has concluded are useless at curing autism.

3. They’re trying to give a simple solution to a complex issue.

Autism is a neurological disorder, and like all neurological disorders it’s complex without any simple solutions.

Autism cure promoters try to make it look like autism is caused by toxins in the body, and that by removing these toxins a person whom has autism one can be cured of autism.

While some toxins can cause neurological disorders, all legitimate scientific research has shown that autism isn’t one them.

While the actually cause of autism is still technically unknown, most scientists who study autism agree that it’s  .  .  .

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Big Pharma supports the antivaccine movement–the real conspiracy

Via Skeptical Raptor

One of the ongoing memes, tropes and fabrications of the vaccine deniers is somehow, somewhere, in some Big Pharma boardroom, a group of men in suits choose the next vaccine in some magical way, and foist it upon the world just to make billions of dollars. vaccines-money_200pxAnd while magically concocting the vaccine brew, these pharmaceutical execs ignore ethics and morals just to make a profit on hapless vaccine-injured victims worldwide.

It’s one of my favorite tropes of the antivaccination world.

The vaccine deniers pollute the internet with their screeds about the profits of vaccines. One of them said, “measles expert Offit has already made millions of dollars profit from his ties to vaccines and the measles MMR vaccine maker Merck.” Using a childish ad hominem, the article calls him, Dr. Paul “For Profit” Offit. Seriously, that’s how you’re going to “prove” that vaccines are a Big Pharma conspiracy? A 3rd grade playground tease? That’s the best you can do.

pharma big_225pxYou can find whole threads of tedious commentary about vaccine profits on any typical anti-vaccine forum. One of the more illogical claims is that “maybe vax companies see vaccines as more of an investment? Break mostly even on what the vaxes cost to make and sell, but make a bank load of money on treating all the chronic problems they cause!” Of course, that would be a business strategy that would be laughed out of the secret Big Pharma boardroom, because they know that vaccines don’t cause chronic problems. The vaccines prevent it. 

What is infuriating about these rants by the antivaccine cult is that not only that their scientific knowledge about vaccines is ridiculous, so is their business knowledge.

[ . . . ]

[A]re vaccines as profitable as other Big Pharma endeavors? And second, if Big Pharma execs were truly immoral and corrupt, would selling vaccines actually be the best business strategy?

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Essay: Big Pharma is funding the Anti-vaccine movement

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rationalwiki iconVia RationalWiki

Anti-vaccine groups are everywhere, and it appears they are growing in number. They’re well-organized and very vocal. Evidence suggests they’ve been quite effective in reducing the vaccination rate in numerous areas.

vaccines-money_200pxA central theme of the Anti-vaccine (AV) movement is the opposition to “Big Pharma”, those massive multinational pharmaceuticals who push their dangerous vaccines onto our children purely for their own financial gain. The AV community is chiefly a grass-roots campaign of concerned parents, doing their best to prevent harm to their children. Big Pharma only cares about its profits, and they just don’t care about the harm their vaccines are really doing.

Here’s something really odd though – Big Pharma have been amazingly quiet in combating the anti-vaccine movement. A community group is publicly attempting to derail the vaccine-based profits of Big Pharma, yet there is simply *no* response.

pharma big_225pxThis is doubly weird because Big Pharma generally launches a massive artillery campaign against anyone who even slightly endangers their bottom line. Johnson and Johnson just spent close to a billion dollars fighting a patent dispute with Abbott Laboratories. Yet despite this obvious threat to their huge vaccine profits, and despite having billions of dollars at their disposal to mount a fightback campaign, there hasn’t been a word. Surely Big Pharma stands to lose so much money you’d expect them to launch a blanket TV campaign defending vaccines, with full-page newspaper ads and people handing out brochures and buttons in shopping malls.

So what on earth is going on? Has Big Pharma gone soft? Are these massive multinationals really getting dragged to their knees by a group of angry mothers?

The answer is no – Big Pharma aren’t losing the battle, they’re winning it. Big Pharma aren’t fighting the anti-vaccine movement, they’re supporting it. Sure, their support is very quiet, very ‘behind the scenes’ and definitely not public, but they’re supporting it all the same.

Their reason? Vaccines are very, very bad for business.

no sale_225pxSurprised? Don’t be. Despite the constantly repeated claims about “massive vaccine profits” the truth (as revealed in the annual financial statements of these companies) is that vaccines simply aren’t worth very much. The primary purchaser of vaccines are governments. In the USA the vaccine suppliers get squeezed as much as possible. In the many western countries with socialized medicine they don’t even get to negotiate – the governments simply tell the suppliers how much they are going to get paid and that’s that.

On top of that, the pharmaceuticals are constantly pressured to give away huge stocks of vaccines to impoverished countries. It just gets worse, the patents for the majority of vaccines expired years ago, so there’s not even the chance to monopolize the trade. The bottom line: as far as anyone can tell, the only reason that pharmaceuticals are still even making vaccines is because the various national governments will take away their pharmaceutical licenses if they stop.

mythbusted_225pxSo the “vast vaccine profits” are an absolute myth, as anyone who reads these (publicly available) financial statements can verify. However vaccines are not just poor profit earners, they’re also a business killer. Vaccines make people healthy. Healthy people don’t need medication. More vaccines equal less profit. Less profit is bad, bad, bad.

So vaccines hurt profit. But if you could somehow convince people to stop taking vaccines, then you could reintroduce a number of persistent, revenue-generating diseases back into the marketplace. Profits would go back up.

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10 reasons why AIDS Denialists and the Anti-Vaccination Movement are a lot alike

By via The Soap Box

AIDS Denialism and the Anti-vaccination movement. Two groups that promote what many scientists and and doctors and skeptics alike consider to be the two most dangerous and deadly types of pseudoscience there is. In fact many skeptics have debated which one is more deadly!

Regardless of which one is more deadly, both of groups have an awful lot in common, and I’ve come up with about ten different things that both groups have in common:

They become very upset when someone questions their claims.

HandletheTruth_225pxAnti-vaxxers and (as I have learned in the past few weeks) AIDS denialists really do not like it when someone questions what they are claiming. It doesn’t matter how nice you are to them, or how many facts you present to them, if you question their claims they will become very anger and start throwing around accusations and insults and start spamming people with a bunch of propaganda. This is of course annoying at best, and usually just something that gets them blocked on an internet site, but sometimes they take it to the next level and start doing the next thing on this list…

They use intimidation tactics.

AIDS Denialists and Anti-vaccers just seem to love to use intimidation tactics. Many times these intimidation tactics can be a benign type, like fear mongering and emotional appeal, which is used to sway people who might be on the edge of whether to believe them or not over to their side, or it can be an aggressive type, like death threats, or threats of lawsuits, or harassment, which is used in an attempt to frighten people away from questioning their claims, or to stop skeptics from debunking them.

They claim to do research.

Dr Evil research copy_225pxBoth AIDS Denialists and Anti-vaccers will often say that they have done their own research into the claims that they are making, and then through this so called research they will claim that they have come to a conclusion, and then proclaim that their conclusion is correct and that all others are incorrect. This is of course if they’re not simply claiming that the contradictory information isn’t apart of some “big pharma” disinformation propaganda campaign to “slander” Anti-vaccers and AIDS Denialists. And that’s another thing…

They think there is some kind of big pharma conspiracy.

Many Anti-vaccers and AIDS Denialists sincerely believe that not only what they believe is true, but they also believe that pharmaceutical companies also know “the truth” and that they’re keeping this so called truth hidden from the public so that people will keep buying their products, products that Anti-vaccers and AIDS Denialists believe that no one actually needs and sincerely believes is dangerous.

The reasons why these two groups claim that the pharmaceutical companies are keeping this so called “information” hidden is because if people knew “the truth” (i.e. their truth) that they would no longer buy anything from these pharmaceutical companies and they would go out of business. That, or according to some Anti-vaccers and AIDS Denialists, vaccines and HIV medication is part some kind of NWO/Illuminati plot.

They have no problem censoring people.

censorship 1018_500px_250pxEver make a comment on an Anti-vaccer’s or AIDS Denialist’s page or comment section for a Youtube video, and said comment either criticizes what they are saying, or debunks what they’re saying? Well then you probably know that not many people are going to see it because most administrators of such sites will usually remove such comments pretty quickly… and probably ban you. While this type of censorship is bad they do have every right to do it because they have every right to control the content that is on their webpages.

Some of these people will take the censorship of people who disagree with them to the next level and actually try to get entire webpages and videos from various social media websites removed, either by flagging a webpage or a group or a video as inappropriate or harassing, or even by sending out bogus DMCA takedown notices (which is illegal).

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