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Free speech breaks out in Anti-vax Land?

One of the hallmarks of the anti-vaccination movement in Australia is their lack of tolerance of any dissent. Anybody disagreeing with any of their lunacy is immediately blocked from commenting on blogs, and removed from mailing lists, Facebook groups and any other forums they control.

A new forum named "Vaccination Respectful Debate" was recently created by the management at the Australian Vaccination Network with the following charter: "This is a place for people from both sides of this very polarised vaccination debate to meet and discuss the issues concerning vaccine safety, efficacy and necessity. All viewpoints are welcome provided they are respectful". I thought I would test this new-found commitment to free speech, so I posted a respectful introduction which included the following five lies that are continually told by people opposed to vaccination.

1) Vaccines contain parts of aborted foetuses

It is true that in the manufacture of some vaccines a cell line is used which was derived from the lung cells of a foetus aborted in 1962. It was a legal termination undertaken to save the mother's life and the mother donated the foetus to science. Attempts have been made to claim that Catholics, for example, should therefore refuse to use these vaccines. In 2003 the Vatican issued a ruling on this matter, making it perfectly acceptable for Catholics to use these vaccines on the basis that they had an overriding responsibility for the health of their own children and those they came into contact with.

2) Polio was not reduced by the introduction of vaccines but has simply been renamed.

The obvious absurdity of this is apparent to anybody who lived through the early 1950s. If polio is still present then where are the callipers on children's legs, where are the iron lungs? When I asked a prominent anti-vaccine campaigner for evidence of this I was pointed to a reclassification of statistical categories in 1958 where the CDC ruled that paralysis had to last for 60 days for a case to be recorded as "paralytic polio". It was not a renaming of anything, it was a refining of the way cases were reported.

3) Vaccines have never been tested in clinical trials

The largest clinical trial in the history of medicine in terms of numbers of test subjects was the trial of the Salk polio vaccine with about 500,000 subjects. Clinical trials for Gardasil and Rotateq both included more than 30,000 test subjects. At the time of writing this, PubMed returns 19,352 papers for the keyword search "vaccine clinical trials" and 9,681 for "vaccine safety".

4) Vaccines are injected into the bloodstream

Nothing more needs to be said about this than "No, they are not". If someone tells you this you should immediately correct them. If they persist then you know that you don't have to listen to anything more that they have to say.

5) No disease has ever been wiped out by vaccination

Smallpox, rinderpest (in cattle), with measles and polio on the horizon (although the horizon gets pushed away at times by either opposition to vaccination or nonsensical minimisation of the harm these diseases do)

There were five responses which indicated that people either didn't read what I wrote or felt that repetition is all it takes to make something true.

I was questioned on the 9,681 papers found using "vaccine safety" and asked if all these papers were just repetitions referring to each other and the same research and also if I personally had read them all and could say how many of them said vaccines were safe and how many said the opposite. I replied that I wasn't actually talking about the content of the papers, only that there were people who said they didn't exist.

I was presented with about a thousand words saying that there had never actually been any clinical trials of vaccines because placebos hadn't been used and the research was funded by pharmaceutical companies and governments and was therefore not trustworthy.

Another person wanted to know whether these clinical trials of vaccines had incorporated long-term (over decades) studies of vaccinated people against unvaccinated to look for differences in overall health.

The fourth was the best of all. He told me that it was good that I raised these points but polio had been renamed, smallpox had not been eradicated, vaccines are injected into the bloodstream and there has been no research into vaccine safety or efficacy. He didn't express an opinion on the aborted foetus matter but I've met him before so I could guess his position on that as well. (He once expressed amusement and pleasure at the fact that 800 children had been paralysed by polio in Indonesia.)

Elsewhere in my introduction I had mentioned the fraud committed by Dr Andrew Wakefield. (Wakefield published a paper in The Lancet in 1998 (since withdrawn by the journal) which purported to show a connection between the MMR vaccine and autism. It was almost totally a work of fiction.) The owner of the list asked me for evidence of this fraud, so I supplied it. Her response was to smear the person who had exposed Wakefield and to provide ten lies from Wakefield himself as evidence. She then banned me from the list, without either a warning or notification. My final response was not published, leaving the impression that I had not been able to supply an answer.

So yet again we see that anti-vaccination liars cannot stand any dissent from their religion. They talk of free speech, but like their talk of concern for the health and welfare of children, such talk is a lie. Why did I ever expect it to be anything else?

This article was published on the Yahoo! 7 News Blog on October 18, 2011
Yahoo! 7 News

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