Sep 25th 2014

Vaccinations: An Epidemic of Misinformation

by Jeff Schweitzer

Jeff Schweitzer is a scientist and former White House Senior Policy Analyst; Ph.D. in marine biology/neurophysiology

Would you have your plumber perform brain surgery on your wife? Or have an accomplished Shakespearean actor with no flight training pilot the Boeing 747 you are taking across the Pacific? How about hiring a shark biologist to design and build your house? These suggestions are absurd because we all know that being qualified and competent in one area of expertise does not transfer to all others. But we seem to routinely forget this simple truth.

That is why those who oppose climate change become authorities in meteorology and climatology, suddenly endowed with more expertise than a scientist who has devoted her life to the subjects. The deniers magically know more than thousands of qualified scientists from nearly 200 countries. This faux-expertise brings with it a deep irony as well. Many doubters cite the Earth's past cycles of glaciation and warming to discount what we are seeing today as nothing but natural variation. How do the skeptics know of that climate history? From the very scientists whose conclusions they now doubt! As if the scientists themselves are unaware of their own conclusions about the earth's past, or if they are aware, did not take that history into account. Deniers preferentially believe one set of facts from those scientists but dismiss other facts as liberal nonsense. I could not make this stuff up.

False claim to expertise is why actors feel qualified as authorities on various matters unrelated to the film industry. Standing in front of a camera does not confer any special expertise on anything other than reading lines, but that stops few from venturing farther afield. The problem with claiming expertise outside one's true competency is that the ensuring claims are often ridiculous, misinformed, ignorant or downright dumb.

The latest eruption of star-studded stupidity comes from comedian Rob Schneider(whose comedy I much enjoy). Schneider opposes mandatory vaccination, using the patently incorrect and absurd argument that "the efficacy of these shots has not been proven." He added, "And the toxicity of these things -- we're having more and more side effects. We're having more and more autism."

I just want to scream in frustration.

These claims from Schneider are not the benign utterances of an imbecile; they are deadly in their impact. Let us examine these two outrageously incorrect assertions. First, the issue of efficacy: Unlike the absurd claim made by Schneider, vaccines have proven beyond any and all doubt to be extraordinarily efficacious. Vaccines are the most important, effective, and safest medical advance in all of human history. Vaccinations have led to the eradication of smallpox and the near-eradication of polio. Any time you might have even a twinge of a thought against vaccinations, think of the millions of people who suffered terrible disability and death prior to the development of vaccines for these horrible diseases. And the millions of people now free from those scourges because of vaccines.

Every year vaccines save 3 million lives among children younger than 5 years old every year by preventing diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis and measles; if adults are included, vaccines save up to 6 million lives annually. If you oppose vaccinations, I believe you are for the death of an additional 3 million children every year. The Third Edition of the State of the World's Vaccines and Immunization reports that:

"Between 2000 and 2007, the number of children dying from measles dropped by 74% worldwide, from an estimated 750,000 to an estimated 197,000 children. In addition, immunization prevents sickness as well as lifelong disability, including measles-related deafness, blindness, and mental disability."

The study also states that:

"In 1988, polio was endemic in 125 countries and paralyzing an estimated 350,000 children every year (close to 1000 cases a day). By the end of 2007, polio had been eradicated in three of WHO's six regions - the Region of the Americas, the European Region, and the Western Pacific Region. Following implementation of the rubella elimination strategy in the Americas, the number of reported cases of rubella declined by 98% between 1998 and 2006. By 2000, 135 countries had eliminated neonatal tetanus and by 2004, annual deaths from neonatal tetanus had fallen to an estimated 128 000, down from 790,000 deaths in 1988."

If you oppose vaccinations, try to justify that position with the reality that in the absence of vaccinations polio would paralyze 10,000 children every year; German measles would cause birth defects and mental retardation in as many as 20,000 kids, and diphtheria would be a common cause of death in school children. Anytime you have an urge to oppose vaccination, think of your kid dying of diphtheria. If you oppose vaccinations, I believe you are for 10,000 kids each year becoming paralyzed.

The deep, terrible irony of the anti-vaccination movement is that the incredible success of vaccines has caused the uninformed to forget how important, successful and safe vaccination programs are; and how vital vaccines are to preventing horrible diseases from reemerging. And reemerge they do: Because of the anti-vaccination movement, measles is once again rearing its ugly head. Measles is highly contagious and spreads rapidly among the non-vaccinated. There is no treatment for measles, only prevention. In 2000 measles was nearly eradicated in the United States; with a drop in immunization due to unjustified concerns about vaccines, the United States is witnessing this year the largest measles outbreak since 1996. Ignorance, false claims to expertise and scientific illiteracy are threatening our children's health.

And now to Schneider's claim that vaccines are linked to autism. Again, I desperately want to scream in frustration at the top of my lungs. This bizarre claim comes from just one paper published in 1998 in the medical journal Lancet, subsequently withdrawn for suspicions of scientific fraud, and fully discredited by later study. Repeat after me: There is no evidence none, zero, absolutely nothing to link vaccinations with autism. It is a myth, a fallacy, factually incorrect. Yet tens of thousands of parents risk their children's health by withholding critical vaccinations. Like Schneider, many parents still to this day insist that vaccines cause autism, even in the complete absence of any evidence to support the claim with the withdrawal of the original paper. You might as well claim that vaccines cause baldness; no, no, I've got the perfect claim: Vaccines are ineffective but cause global warming! In that we combine belief in something for which there is no evidence and disbelief in another other for which there is indisputable proof. Perfect.

Vaccines save lives, millions of lives, and prevent untold suffering and misery. Vaccines are safe and effective, as proven by billions of doses given with no harm. The efficacy of vaccines is beyond dispute with the eradication of some of humankind's greatest scourges and the precipitous drop in diseases once common. Of course absolutely nothing is 100 percent safe and effective; sitting on your couch with a helmet does not guarantee an airplane tail won't fall through your roof and kill you. But the awesome, amazing benefits of vaccines vastly, incredibly, outrageously outweigh any potential risk. Opposing vaccines is foolhardy, dangerous, irresponsible, and just plain ignorant. Please, please, please stop this misguided and misinformed effort to prevent vaccinations. If you want to oppose vaccines, go to an island with all others of your ilk and witness the devastation as preventable diseases ravage your population. But leave the rest of us sane people to the task of saving lives with the greatest medical advance ever seen in human history.




  

 


This article is brought to you by the author who owns the copyright to the text.

Should you want to support the author’s creative work you can use the PayPal “Donate” button below.

Your donation is a transaction between you and the author. The proceeds go directly to the author’s PayPal account in full less PayPal’s commission.

Facts & Arts neither receives information about you, nor of your donation, nor does Facts & Arts receive a commission.

Facts & Arts does not pay the author, nor takes paid by the author, for the posting of the author's material on Facts & Arts. Facts & Arts finances its operations by selling advertising space.

 

 

Browse articles by author

More Current Affairs

Jun 19th 2021
EXTRACT: "Xi Jinping’s call for friendship gives us an opportunity to examine Chinese politics on both the domestic and international stage. On the face of it, it suggests the possibility of rapprochement between the rich liberal democracies represented by the G7 and the authoritarian Chinese state. However, despite appearances of a call for a closer relationship, there is more than one way of being friends – and Xi’s idea might be somewhat different to what many in countries attending the G7 might expect."
Jun 12th 2021
EXTRACT: "China’s recently published census, showing that its population has almost stopped growing, brought warnings of severe problems for the country. “Such numbers make grim reading for the party,” reported The Economist. This “could have a disastrous impact on the country,” wrote Huang Wenzheng, a fellow at the Center for China and Globalization in Beijing, in the Financial Times. But a comment posted on China’s Weibo was more insightful. “The declining fertility rate actually reflects the progress in the thinking of Chinese people – women are no longer a fertility tool.” "
Jun 12th 2021
EXTRACT: " I remember recounting fellow leaders of the story of a Rwanda schoolboy caught up in the genocide of the 1990s and now immortalized in the Kigali Genocide Memorial museum, where, in a section devoted to children, one can find his photograph and a plaque that reads: ----- David, age 11 ...... Ambition: to be a doctor ...... Favorite sport: football ...... Favorite hobby: making people laugh ...... Death: by mutilation ...... Last words: the UN are coming to save us ----- In his idealism and innocence, David believed the international community would save him and his mother. We didn’t. "
Jun 8th 2021
EXTRACT: " While many conservative Republicans opposed Trump and saw that he posed a danger to their party and democracy itself, they were hesitant to buck the mass movement they had created, fearing that it would turn against them. Some of these same conservatives assumed that with Trump's defeat, the horror of January 6th, and the former president's banishment from social media, the time had come to restore sanity to their party. But the GOP leadership’s continued cowering in the face of what they now call "Trump's base" has caused them to circle the wagons and purge their ranks of those who call for sanity. "
May 26th 2021
Editor's Note: This article is about the Federal Reserve, inflation in the 1970's, and possible similarities to today.
May 25th 2021
EXTRACT: "Netanyahu claims to be acting in the name of the Jewish people. He certainly is not. Many Jews around the world, including me, despise Netanyahu’s racist politics. As an American, I am also deeply troubled by the US government’s knee-jerk support of Israel. Fortunately, I am not alone in this view. A growing number of Democratic Congressmen, Jews and non-Jews alike, have called on the United States to stop supporting Israel’s lawlessness. The truth is that the US government’s uncritical support for Israel has come to depend more on evangelical Christians, such as former US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, than on American Jews, who are deeply divided by Netanyahu’s actions. And the evangelicals’ real interest in Zionism is not Jews’ security, but Armageddon, the end of the world, which they believe will come only when all Jews are in Israel."
May 18th 2021
EXTRACT: "This period in US history could go down as the moment when America’s democratic system for electing a president – the most consequential duty of US citizens – was broken, perhaps for good."
May 16th 2021
EXTRACT: "While reading Human Rights Watch’s (HRW) monumental report “A Threshold Crossed,” I felt a range of emotions. It also left me with one big question. I was deeply impressed by the report’s rigorous scholarship. At the same time, it brought to the surface feelings of anger and profound sadness. It’s an extraordinarily complete study detailing not only the many ways Israel has violated a broad range of Palestinian human rights, but the ideology of racial superiority and entitlement that Israel has used to justify its repression." ..... "My advice to both Israel’s defenders and weak-kneed liberals is​, “Read the damn report.” "
May 16th 2021
EXTRACTS: .... "He transformed a transitioning market economy into a stable statist project that rests on an alliance of his inner circle," ..... "He transformed Russia from a respected member of the international community into a rogue state" .... ". He energized NATO by providing it with the adversary it lacked after the end of the cold war," ..... "He befriended hopelessly corrupt, dysfunctional, and unstable dictatorships..." ..... "He forged a quasi-alliance with China, thereby enhancing Russia’s dependence on the one country that might have reason to appropriate those Russian territories inhabited by Chinese."
May 15th 2021
EXTRACT: "On the face of it, the latest escalation of violence is following the template of all inter-ethnic wars. Muslims observing Ramadan shouted nationalist slogans and clashed with Israeli right-wing groups chanting “Death to the Arabs.” The Israelis haughtily marched with their national flag on Jerusalem Day, marking Israel’s capture in 1967 of East Jerusalem and the Temple Mount, the site of the biblical Second Temple, and of Al-Aqsa, completed in the year 705. Battles in and around the Al-Aqsa compound erupted, with worshipers inside throwing stones at the Israeli police, who responded by firing rubber-tipped bullets and other projectiles, wounding hundreds."
May 13th 2021
"Regardless of how the current and future violent conflicts between Israel and the Palestinians in Jerusalem will end, there will be no Israeli-Palestinian peace unless East Jerusalem becomes the capital of a Palestinian state while the city remains united."
May 7th 2021
EXTRACT: " Would the United States be prepared to risk a catastrophic war with the People’s Republic of China to protect the Republic of China, better known as Taiwan? "
May 5th 2021
EXTRACT: "Human history, ancient and contemporary, is replete with instances of genocide – that is, the effort to eradicate a people, erase their history, denigrate their culture, and destroy their physical presence. Many of these atrocities have been recognized by the victims and other nations who support them. But, with the notable exception of the German acknowledgment of the Holocaust, rarely have the perpetrators of these crimes accepted responsibility and offer recompense "
May 2nd 2021
EXTRACT: "The best way to defend liberal democracy is to practice it at home and abroad with the “courage and self-confidence” that Kennan touted at the dawn of the Cold War. This is also the best way to ensure the survival of our own conception of human freedom. And survive it will."
May 1st 2021
EXTRACT: "Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – Sammy Roth at the LA Times/ Boiling Point Newsletter reports that California’s main power grid was powered for several hours last Saturday by 90% renewables. For just four seconds that day, the grid, which covers 4/5s of the state, reached 94.5% generation by green energy. California is the world’s fifth largest economy. The main grid does not cover Los Angeles County. On the other hand, these figures do not include the electricity generated by the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant, which is not counted as renewable but which is also very low-carbon."
Apr 23rd 2021
EXTRACT: "It is no accident that there has been an economic divergence in Central and Eastern Europe. Those countries that have joined the European Union have improved their economic governance, and GDP has begun to converge with Western Europe. Between 2014 and 2019, Hungary, Poland, and Romania grew at an annual average rate of 3.9%, 4.1%, and 4.7%, respectively. Meanwhile, Belarus and Ukraine experienced minimal growth during this period, and Russia’s economy expanded at an average annual rate of just 0.7%. Though Russia had a higher per capita GDP (in terms of purchasing power parity) than Croatia, Poland, Romania, and Turkey as recently as 2009, all of these countries have since overtaken it. Russians today are shocked to learn that they are worse off than Romanians and Turks. Among EU member states, only Bulgaria is still poorer than Russia. With its close proximity to the EU single market, Russia could have had higher growth if it had pursued sound economic policies. Instead,..... "
Apr 22nd 2021
EXTRACT: "As far as anyone can tell, the US military is not on the verge of an internal breakdown, let alone primed to stage a coup d’état. But few predicted anything like the US Capitol riot before protesters equipped with body armor, stun guns, and zip-ties breached the building. Before the US is blindsided again, its leaders must act resolutely to root out extremism in the military."
Apr 17th 2021
EXTRACT: "The new report on 2020 by the International Renewable Energy Agency reveals that the world’s renewable energy generation capacity increased by an astonishing 10.3% in 2020 despite the global economic slowdown during the coronavirus pandemic." .... "In 2020, the global net increase in renewables was 261 gigawatts (GW). That is the nameplate capacity of some 300 nuclear power plants! There are actually only 440 nuclear power plants in the whole world, with a generation capacity of 390 gigwatts. So let’s just underline this point. The world put in 2/3s as much renewable energy in one year as is produced by all the existing nuclear plants!"
Apr 16th 2021
EXTRACT: "When we examined the development of nations worldwide since 1820, we found that among rich Western countries like the United States, the Netherlands and France, improvements in income, education, safety and health tracked or even outpaced rising gross domestic product for over a century. But in the 1950s, even as economic growth accelerated after World War II, well-being in these countries lagged.
Apr 11th 2021
EXTRACT: "Some presidents indulge in the “Mount Rushmore syndrome” making an obvious effort to achieve greatness. Normally soft-spoken and apparently modest Biden is making his own bid for immortality."