The folks who work behind the scenes here at Thinking Moms’ Revolution have noticed a number of odd pingbacks to “An Open Letter to My Facebook Friends,” written by our own B.K. on the subject of her numerous Facebook posts about vaccines and their risks. The pingbacks are linked to the exact same blog translated into a number of languages; so far I’ve counted Slovak, Croatian, Spanish, German and Italian. Clearly, someone thinks there’s something about this blog that makes it worth the trouble to translate it and post in a number of different countries – someone with a lot more in the way of resources than we have. The post is entitled “Dear Parents You Are Being Lied To” and was written by Jennifer Raff, who blogs at the site Violent Metaphors. As I’m sure many of you know, it’s about how “anti-vaccine” activists are lying to you when they tell you their concerns about the current U.S. vaccine program.
This is from the paragraph that links to our blog:
“Why are they lying to you? Some are doing it for profit, trying to sell their alternative remedies by making you afraid of science-based medicine. I’m sure that many others within the anti-vaccine movement have genuinely good intentions, and do honestly believe that vaccines are harmful. But as a certain astrophysicist recently said, “The good thing about science is that it’s true whether or not you believe in it.” In the case of vaccine truthers, this is not a good thing.”
“Some are doing it for profit” is linked to an article by journalist Brian Deer on the subject of Dr. Andrew Wakefield, the infamous doctor from the Royal Free Hospital in London, who was the lead author of the equally infamous paper “Ileal-lymphoid-nodular hyperplasia, non-specific colitis, and pervasive developmental disorder in children.” The implication being that Dr. Wakefield stood to make mucho money from “lying to you” about the MMR vaccine. The paper was a case study of 12 children. What was its conclusion – those “lies” Dr. Wakefield was supposed to have told? “We have identified a chronic enterocolitis in children that may be related to neuropsychiatric dysfunction. In most cases, onset of symptoms was after measles, mumps, and rubella immunisation. Further investigations are needed to examine this syndrome and its possible relation to this vaccine.” That’s it.
As has been verified over and over again in recent years, chronic enterocolitis – gut problems in other words – in children is related to neuropsychiatric dysfunction. You may even have seen reports of this in the mainstream media lately. (Bizarrely, Emily Willingham recently blamed Dr. Wakefield – the very person who pointed out the connection in the first place and got slammed for doing so – for the fact that the mainstream has utterly ignored it for the last 15 years!) And the timing of the onset of the children’s symptoms, both gastrointestinal and developmental, was reported by the parents of the 12 children.
(The Brian Deer link mentions one father who says Wakefield got the timing wrong. How many families do you know where the parents would agree on health history details? And in how many families would it be the father who got it right? I stayed at home with my children until my younger child was six years old. I spent far more time with them than any other human being. I took them to their pediatrician appointments, nursed them when they were sick, and researched ways to help them get well. I guarantee you that my ex-husband (who fully supports my work here, by the way) would give you a radically different version of their health histories than I would. I’m pretty sure their health records would disagree with me as well, because our pediatrician sighed, rolled her eyes, and discounted virtually everything I discussed with her. [Her physician’s assistants, on the other hand, were terrific.] How likely do you think it is that she got anything down accurately?)
You might be interested in what the other parents of the 12 children have to say about Dr. Wakefield and his colleagues:
So much for the “lies” of Dr. Wakefield.
What kind of “profit” did Dr. Wakefield receive in return for his “lies”? A veritable witch hunt: He’s been vilified over and over again by the mainstream media, to the point where his named has become a verb – to be “Wakefielded.” As Wakefield himself put it, “Since the Lancet paper, I have lost my job, my career and my country. To claim that my motivation was profit is patently untrue.” It’s easy enough to verify that, yes indeed, he did lose his job (a very prestigious position at the Royal Free Hospital, with the promise of a very comfortable income), his career (as a well-known and well-respected gastroenterologist) and his country (he now lives in Austin, Texas) as a direct result of publishing that paper. (Incidentally, the majority of doctors, nurses, and other medical people who talk about the risks inherent in the current vaccine program also risk their jobs, reputations and careers to tell you their “lies.”) Logically, wouldn’t it stand to reason that, if someone’s motivation for “lying to you” were “profit,” that someone would stop “lying” if it proved to be extremely unprofitable? So has Dr. Wakefield stopped “lying”? Again in his own words, “I will not be deterred — this issue is far too important.” Indeed. Even though it has cost him just about everything that most people consider important, not only does he continue to stand by his previous paper, he is still helping vaccine-injured children with their gastrointestinal disease.
Another reason Raff gives for “lying” is to sell you alternative remedies by making you “afraid of science-based medicine.” One of the biggest alternative remedy sites is that of Dr. Joseph Mercola. Dr. Mercola does indeed sell a lot of “alternative remedies,” but a point that seems to be entirely missed by Ms. Raff is that most people find their way to Dr. Mercola’s site after developing chronic illness that Raff’s so-called “science-based medicine” is unable to address. Many of them have spent years going from doctor to doctor getting no relief. Dr. Mercola does indeed post articles urging caution with respect to vaccines. But what does Dr. Mercola say about vaccines? Essentially, he says that vaccines cause the very conditions that people come to Mercola for help with. To avoid those chronic illnesses, one should be very cautious about vaccines. Wait . . . So, according to Dr. Mercola, if you listen to what he says, then you won’t need his supplements. He’s actually working against his monetary interests if he warns you about the dangers of vaccines! If he wanted to drum up business, he’d shut up about the causes of the chronic illnesses that he’s making so much money from. Of course, if he’s really just making it all up as Ms. Raff implies (including the studies he links to and the quotes from Dr. Bernardine Healy, former Director of the National Institutes of Health), that would not be the case, but it’s still hard to see how he would profit from you not getting vaccines. Maybe he sells a bit more vitamin C during flu season?
Perhaps I should feel gratified by the fact that our blog is linked to the section that reads “I’m sure that many others within the anti-vaccine movement have genuinely good intentions, and do honestly believe that vaccines are harmful.” At least she’s giving us credit for “genuinely good intentions” and honesty. Frankly, if someone were to suggest that we do what we do for money, the laughter would be so loud and long no one from Malaysia to the U.K. could fail to notice it. The fact is that the Thinking Moms (and Dad) have personally borne all the costs associated with running this website for the past two years. The T-shirt, magnet and book sales have finally gotten us to the point that we don’t have to pour more of our own money into keeping it going, but ain’t nobody giving up the day job soon. I’m a single mom with a full-time job that doesn’t pay enough at the moment to cover our living expenses, and yet I spend a good portion of my week doing TMR-related work. Why? Because I care about children and their health. Pure and simple. My kids are doing well because of the generous help of other parents, and this is my way of paying it forward.
In the next breath, however, Raff dismisses our “honest belief” by quoting astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, “The good thing about science is that it’s true whether or not you believe in it.” This, to me, is the funniest part of her blog, because I have lost count of the number of times I have said on this very subject, “It doesn’t matter what you believe. Fortunately, the truth is true whether or not you believe it.”
With all due respect to Dr. Tyson, saying “science” is true whether or not you believe in it is a bit disingenuous. Dr. Tyson is as aware as any physicist that “science” as an institution – meaning the majority opinion of scientists – has frequently pitted itself against ideas that turned out to be true. Examples abound, but I’ll give you two to get you going.
In 1847, Ignaz Semmelweis proposed that obstetricians wash their hands with chlorinated lime solution to cut down on the incidence of puerperal fever, an often fatal infection contracted by mothers who gave birth in hospitals. He had plenty of data showing that it worked, but he couldn’t explain why. As Wikipedia puts it, “Semmelweis’s observations conflicted with the established scientific and medical opinions of the time, and his ideas were rejected by the medical community.” Now, however, in 2014, no patient would go near an obstetrician or surgeon who didn’t scrub his or her hands, because we know that washing hands does exactly what Semmelweis said it did. Can you imagine the number of women who died because of “science’s” refusal to recognize truth?
Another, possibly more obvious, example was recently showcased on the front cover of Time magazine. For the last half-century, “science” has been telling us to lower our cholesterol by cutting down on fat, particularly saturated fat, because it’s bad for our hearts. My older brother had a triple bypass operation about 10 years ago. His heart doctor put him on a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet as promoted by the American Heart Association. He adhered to the diet strictly for six months or so and was bitterly disappointed when his high cholesterol dropped by about 15 points. He was by no means unusual.
On the other hand, 26 years ago, I went to an “alternative practitioner” who prescribed a hypoglycemia diet that was very low in carbs, but high in fat, including egg yolks and butter. My cholesterol plummeted from 280 to 140 in a month’s time. The Time cover makes it clear that mainstream “science” has finally caught up with what alternative practitioners (including Dr. Mercola, by the way) have known for a long, long time. Clearly “science” isn’t always “true,” and scientists, being human, are as susceptible to tunnel vision, coercion and corruption as anyone else.
Most of the rest Raff’s piece boils down to the mantra that “vaccines are safe and effective.” Well, maybe. It’s certainly true that most people don’t become chronically ill immediately after their first vaccine. And it’s also true that there are many fewer cases of acute measles infection in places with high rates of vaccination than there used to be. But what’s most definitely lost in the “safe and effective” refrain is a whole lot of nuance. No drug goes on the market without the FDA declaring it “safe and effective.” But what do the words “safe” and “effective” really mean in this context? And safe and effective for whom?
Take selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, also known as SSRIs, for example: You may know them better as Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil, Celexa and Lexapro. These drugs are generally used as anti-depressants. Paxil has been known to increase the risk of birth defects, including heart and lung problems. In other words, it’s not “safe” for pregnant women. SSRIs can cause dangerously high levels of serotonin, called serotonin syndrome, if they happen to be combined with anything else that raises serotonin levels. Again, not “safe” under those conditions. SSRIs all carry a black box warning that they can increase suicidal thoughts or tendencies in people under the age of 25, clearly making them neither “safe” nor “effective” for a significant segment of the population.
Diphenhydramine, better known as Benadryl, is an antihistamine sold over the counter as an allergy and itch medication, but it’s also used as a sleep inducer, because it has the well-known side effect of making people drowsy. However, for a small segment of the population, including many children, diphendramine actually has the opposite effect of excitability. If you were taking the Benadryl in order to get drowsy, and instead it made you excitable, it would not only be ineffective, it would actually make your problem worse.
Codeine is a narcotic that is available only by prescription in the United States. It’s used so widely that in Canada it’s available over the counter in combination with aspirin in tablets. The Williams College infirmary seemed to give it out like candy when I was there. My roommate came home with a bottle of it when she had mono. She drank the whole bottle by morning and reported hallucinations in the night. I think she may have rather enjoyed that. I’ve taken codeine exactly twice, in those aspirin tablets an ex-boyfriend used to get from Canada. The first time I took one tablet and got a rash that I didn’t associate with the codeine. The second time I took two and had a blissful pain-free half-hour – before getting violently ill with vomiting and fever and then breaking out in a horribly painful rash over large segments of my body that proceeded to peel several times over the next week as if it were a sunburn. I have since learned that this is a dangerous, potentially fatal, allergic reaction called a Stevens Johnson reaction. The next dose of codeine could kill me. (There, now I’ve told you my weakness. Codeine is my kryptonite. If I die in mysterious circumstances, make sure you view any security camera footage to see if someone slipped me some codeine.) For me, codeine is anything but “safe” – though, for that original half-hour, I will grant you it was “effective.” Should I continue to take it because it’s been deemed “safe and effective” by the FDA? Not a chance!
Vaccines, on the other hand, Ms. Raff implies, are all – individually and in any combination – completely safe for virtually all of the population, including newborn babies and underweight preemies, whether they are well or not at the time of vaccination. I’m sorry, that an intelligent person could hold such a position is absurd – so absurd, in fact, that I find it difficult to believe that Raff and other supposedly intelligent, “science-based” bloggers actually do believe it. Leaving aside the fact that there is no safety data supporting this position, it defies logic that vaccines would be the only class of drugs for which this is true. Ms. Raff is obviously intelligent, as are many of the vaccine program’s apologists. So that implies either they are lying or, as far as they’re concerned, the dangerous reactions – to each vaccine – that they know will be experienced by at least a small segment of the population, many of them infants with their whole lives ahead of them, just don’t matter to them. We here at TMR cannot agree. In the words of Harry Bosch, Michael Connelly’s iconic detective, “Everybody counts or nobody counts.” If the people who were injured (or killed) by vaccines did “count” to the folks in charge of the vaccine program, then they would stop trying to deny that those reactions exist and would instead be studying the victims and reactions in order to determine what factors make someone vulnerable to vaccine injury. There has been no attempt to do so, however – probably because it would inevitably lead to the admission that a load-’em-up, one-size-fits-all vaccine policy is as ludicrous and dangerous as we claim it is.
I’ve said most of the above in other ways at other times, so I probably wouldn’t even have written this blog if it weren’t for this line in Raff’s piece: “They say that if other people’s children are vaccinated, there’s no need for their children to get vaccinated.” Raff claims to find it “one of the most despicable arguments” she has ever heard, and I agree that if it were an argument someone used, it would be despicable: “I want your child to take the risk that I’m not willing to have my child take.” (Of course, if there really were no risk to vaccination, as she implies, it wouldn’t matter what us “anti-vaccine wackos” thought, would it?) But note that there is no link posted to any “anti-vaccine” activist actually saying that. That’s because we don’t say that – and Ms. Raff knows it – because if we even thought that, we’re certainly smart enough to know it would be to our advantage to shut up about our non-vaccinating ways. That way our children would continue to enjoy the “protection” of the oft-proclaimed “herd immunity,” while not taking on any associated risk. Instead, you will find us shouting from the rooftops about the dangers of vaccines and urging caution to all and sundry, especially those closest to us. Obviously, our intent is to discourage other people from choosing to vaccinate. And that’s what really bothers people like Raff. If we kept quiet about our non-vaccinating ways, they wouldn’t care at all if our children were “protected” by herd immunity. It’s the fact that we are so vocal – and we’re actually getting through to people and affecting the demand for vaccines – that prompts blogs like hers, not the idea that we’re selfishly asking others to take risks we ourselves are not willing to take.
Ms. Raff writes, “In only one respect is my message the same as the anti-vaccine activists: Educate yourself.” She’s right. We do say that. Only we don’t say it in the way that she claims: Only read websites that support our position. We want people to read everything – at least in the beginning – with a critical eye. (Once people have made it clear that truth doesn’t matter to them, you would of course be justified in ignoring them in the future.) That’s the only way you can be truly well-informed on any subject. As a matter of fact, we frequently link to the easily available CDC website pages, vaccine company inserts, and mainstream publications. The reason why we often cite or link to other, more “alternative” sites, is because – like the research on cholesterol that has long been available in the scientific community, but is only now reaching the mainstream press – they contain compelling information that we know you’re far less likely to encounter if you stick to the “approved” sites, information that you will certainly never get from people like Raff.
It might interest Ms. Raff to know that these days approximately 29% of all adults in the U.S. believe that vaccines can cause autism and 33% of parents of children under 18 (who are likely to have done more investigation on the subject than non-parents). An even higher percentage (35%) of parents who consider themselves “extremely or very knowledgeable about how vaccines work” say they believe it. As we’ve suspected (because it’s how it worked for us), the more people educate themselves on the subject, the more aware they are of the significant risks to vaccination.
About the author – Professor is an actor and geek with a degree in Physics from Williams College and a lifelong interest in autism. She’s a mystery reader with a deep-seated need to solve puzzles. Her fifteen-year-old daughter is a fantastic writer who wrote a blog for TMR on her recovery from PANDAS, and her seven-year-old son is a future architect who used to have apraxia.
For more by Professor, click here.