The Misunderstanding at the Heart of the Vaccine Debate

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Photo: NIH
Photo: NIH

A whole lot of parents in the U.S. seem to be under the impression that they get to decide absolutely everything about what happens to their kids and how to take care of them. As a parent myself, and a witness to the general trend in American society towards individualism, I can see how they might make that mistake. Not only do you not get to make every decision about how to take care of your kids, but the fact that you don’t is a good thing, a sign of how far humanity has advanced.

In case you’re outraged at what you just read, let me ask you: Do you think child labor laws are unfair and unnecessary? What about laws about safety measures for young children in automobiles? What about that pesky government requiring you to get your children an education? What about the laws that make it illegal for parents to beat their kids or keep them in an unsafe or unsanitary house, to the point of taking kids away from parents who break those laws?

All of these laws were enacted pretty recently. And, together with better living conditions, nutrition, and health care, their effects are pretty easy to see. In the U.S. in 1907, there were about 1,419 deaths of children ages 1-4 per 100,000 population; in 2007, there were about 29. At the beginning of the twentieth century, a child who reached his first birthday had about a 1 in 10 chance of dying before age 15; by 2007, that chance had dropped to 3 in 1,000.

Let me say clearly: vaccines were not the chief reason for that vast improvement. But they were certainly part of it; one look at the graphs of polio deaths in the U.S. from before vaccinations began to modern times will tell you that. There’s no question whether vaccines save lives; and they don’t just save one life at a time. When the government periodically makes sure your car is safe to drive, and of course makes sure someone actually knows how to drive before making it legal for them to do so – they don’t do those things to keep you safe; they do them to keep everyone safe. Just as you knowing how to drive and having a car with working brakes makes it less likely that you’ll kill a pedestrian, people who are vaccinated against diseases don’t just keep themselves from getting sick; they keep the disease from spreading and getting anyone sick. Not getting your child vaccinated, unless there’s a medical reason why you shouldn’t, is just as bad as having a few too many drinks and driving a car with no brake fluid and bald tires. It’s very possible you could make it home without killing yourself or anyone else; that doesn’t mean it’s not an incredibly bad idea to try.

Let’s address, too, the idea that vaccines can cause autism, a notion which seems invulnerable to the truth. Vaccines, of course, do not cause autism. There not only isn’t a shred of evidence that they do, but there’s a ton of evidence that they don’t. This isn’t speculation.

swvaccinesBut let’s try a thought experiment. Let’s pretend there’s a horrible virus that’s becoming a pandemic, that nobody has immunity to and that is 100% fatal to children under the age of five. Scientists develop a vaccine that makes it certain a person will not get the virus, but the vaccine (unlike any vaccine in reality) causes autism in every child under five who receives it. You have a child under five. What do you do?

If you said you wouldn’t vaccinate your child, then you’re saying autism is worse than death, which means you have a lot to learn about autism. A life with autism, while surely not what a parent hopes for, still has the potential to be a full and happy one. It’s a whole lot better than a whole lot of things, and compared to death it’s not even remotely close. Now, of course, no virus is that virulent or 100% fatal, and no vaccine absolutely guarantees a person won’t get the disease. But the viruses whose vaccines the government wants your children to get are very virulent, and fatal in way more cases than should make anyone comfortable with the odds, and the vaccines have been proven extremely effective at stopping them.

And – and I can’t emphasize this enough – none of them has even the slightest chance of causing autism, let alone being guaranteed to cause it. The only – only – reason that makes any sense at all to not vaccinate a person is if that person has a valid medical reason why that vaccine would hurt him. Yes, I mean to exclude religious reasons. It’s no more appropriate to let parents refuse to vaccinate their children because of their religion than it is for Jehovah’s Witness parents to refuse life-saving blood transfusions for their young children, or for Christian Scientist parents to neglect to take their child to the doctor when she goes into anaphylactic shock. In fact, it’s arguably even less appropriate, because in those instances it really is just the child whose well-being the government needs to protect; when it comes to vaccines, it’s the child and everyone that child might potentially encounter for the rest of their lives.

It’s just that simple, and that’s the misunderstanding at the core of the debate over vaccines. It doesn’t matter whether you like vaccines or you don’t, or whether you choose to believe the completely baseless notion that vaccines cause autism. Your rights as a parent don’t include needlessly endangering your child’s life, and they certainly don’t include needlessly endangering anyone else’s life. Your beliefs are not more important than the health interests of the population as a whole. It’s long past time for this madness to stop.

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76 thoughts on “The Misunderstanding at the Heart of the Vaccine Debate

  1. This is a dreamland in which those people to whom you syndicate the care of your child are rational, fair minded, skilled, honest and trustworthy. Can you say which of these apply to the industry/government complex known as the Centre for Disease Control?

    1. Well, if we’re restricting it to the CDC specifically, and not to government as a whole, of those, I’d go with “rational,” “fair minded”, “skilled”, “honest”, and “trustworthy.”

      1. Which is why they have a whistleblower saying that they falsified data? Or the fact that many CDC officials gets jobs at Big Pharma companies when they retire with very hefty pensions…almost like “we will pay you later, for letting this go now”…yeah…Ill pass on honest and trustworthy

        1. Correct. Google Julie Gerberding who is responsible for the current position and 4 billion dollar budget that the CDC uses to purchase vaccines. Created the market, then quit CDC and now runs Merck’s vaccine division.

          You can’t squander credibility in this way and cry when folks pay attention to the conflicts of interest and corruption.

          If vaccine’s were as important to folks as the article suggests, they would be up in arms about this very solvable problem that fuels much skepticism (and rightly so).

          1. Thank you Alan for documenting so adeptly, Gerberding’s conflict(s) of interest. I am not sure, given that your source agrees with me, where the slander is.

        2. Also, they have a time machine which allowed them to go back in time and continuously corrupt child mortality rates across the decades for a wide range of diseases all over the world.

          I wouldn’t be surprised if they were lizard people, either.

  2. Amen Matt. And to Tony Bateson, your comment is a red herring. The proof is in the pudding. Vaccines lowers childhood mortality. It has never been shown to cause autism. Of course if you have any evidence against vaccines you would’ve provided it. Instead you are just posting FUD. Pathetic crackpot.

  3. And where is your stance on the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (vaccine court) that has paid out millions to people who have had adverse reactions to vaccines? (including autism) Or the Dr. Thompson the CDC whistleblower who acknowledges that the CDC covered up the research that tied an increase in autism in African Americans to vaccines? Or what about the research that says herd immunity is only a thing in a population that gets the disease naturally and isn’t effective in a community where the immunity is from vaccines. This is about the fact that more kids get injured/hospitalized from the MMR vaccine yearly than do from Measles/Mumps/Ruebella combined. I could go on…but Im sure it won’t matter.

    1. Your very statement “This is about the fact that more kids get injured/hospitalized from the MMR vaccine yearly than do from Measles/Mumps/Ruebella combined” CONFIRMS the need for vaccines. The small populace that has an adverse reaction to the vaccine is far outweighed by the rest of the vaccinated people that have no reaction, and no instance MM or R. Thanks for the reinforcement.

      1. OR the fact that we live in a 1st world country where sanitation and proper nutrition have made the actual disease much less dangerous than people fear. I compare it to chickenpox. We all had it. A few people died from it. But it was never really something to be scared of. People who lived when Measles was rampant treated it the same way. My parents both had it…they lived…most people did. But now we have a vaccine for chicken pox and by the time my kids are adults. They will be seeing how chicken pox is going to kill you and look at how dangerous it was. And why should I risk MY child’s health. If YOU are that worried about Measles (woot rash and fever) / Mumps (some swelling) / Ruebella (german mumps…only dangerous to pregnant women)…Then get YOUR kid vaccinated and leave me and my kids alone. And despite all of the “anti-vax’ers” … the % of vaccinated people is at an all time high. And if vaccines are the “perfect solution” then get them for you and yours…and you have nothing to fear.

        1. They do have something to fear. 1/3 of the infectious and contagious in California were vaccinated and ‘immune’. What immunity a vaccine provides appears to be quite limited and not long lasting. This compared to immunity gained from actually having the measles or chicken pox — at the time the measles vaccine was created 97% of the population 15 years or older were immune for life. We have no way of knowing what the current numbers are, but they are likely to be quite small, given the limited shelf life of vaccine induced ‘immunity’. We do know that those who got the measles in California are now immune.

      2. Thanks to you for conceding that there is real risk associated with vaccines. Now you can proceed to demonstrate how a state or nation can morally compel the parent or guardian to subject their child to that risk for any reason.

    2. The United States has the safest, most effective vaccine supply in history. In the majority of cases, vaccines cause no side effects, however they can occur, as with any medication—but most are mild. Very rarely, people experience more serious side effects, like allergic reactions. They have never compensated anyone for autism. See the data.

  4. And for the record. Im not one of those who thinks that no one should be vaccinated. I just think it should be a choice. You can chose to vaccinate, I will refrain. But lets not pretend its because I’m uneducated on the matter.

  5. Your choice puts other people at risk. I’m sorry but that makes no sense. One person is allergic to peanuts and nobody can bring peanuts to school but your unvaccinated child can come to school. Your choice doesn’t only affect you, it affects everyone around you.

    1. If your kid is vaccinated…then you have nothing to fear if that is the be-all-end-all solution. Then you can let Darwin take care of me and mine if you honestly think this.

      And kids with allergies … bring epi-pens and stuff to take care of themselves…and they do. You can get vaccinated and take care of yourself…and you do. Can I prevent kids who are recently vaccinated from coming to school so that they don’t shed the active disease (MMR sheds for up to 6 weeks) around other kids. You are more likely to be exposed to the disease from shedding a vaccine than from someone catching it naturally.

        1. You got data to back that up. Cause the CDC says in THEIR OWN INSERT in the vaccine packaging that recently vaccinated kids could shed the disease. So….I would love to see your data to say its a myth

    2. There is risk on both sides either way. As compelling as you feel the argument of risk is on your side, it is equally compelling on the other.

  6. Michael obviously have no idea how vaccines work and waning immunity. Unvaccinated people pose a risk to everyone in the community.

    1. Would you care to educate me then? Since you DO know it all? With research please? And how unvaccinated people risk vaccinated people? If anything, all us unvaccinated people will just kill each other off by passing around diseases while you guys sit back and watch survival of the fittest take its toll.

  7. Matt you are so full of it I don’t know where to start. YES our kids are ours. NOT the government and most certainly not a pencil pusher like you. I personally would kick you in the back side if I thought I could get away with it and not go to prison. Unfortunately a pantywaist such as yourself wouldn’t withstand an ass kicking from a mother of a VAX injured daughter. Who the HELL do you think you are telling ME that I’m “misunderstood”?? Ok. Fine. Lets put the shoe on the other foot shall we? Let’s wave my magic wand and we’ll turn the tables. In MY world there ARE no legal vaccines. NONE. You cannot LEGALLY vaccinate your kids with that back alley poison. If you’re caught DCF will come down on you and take your kids off to be given herbals and other meds to alleviate the damage you’ve done to them. You will appear before a judge and given a choice of jail or classes. You’ll have to go through them on child parenting and understanding that shooting up your kids is not only morally reprehensible but legally a damaging thing to your family. How does that FEEL to you Matt? Do you feel violated? Do you feel outraged? Well you should. Because your kids are YOUR kids. You are doing what you feel is the best thing for them. You are the parent; I and the government are not. Get the point??? THAT’S the outrage. NOT misunderstanding. 99% of the parents in the non vaccinating camp HAVE vax injured kids. We for the most part ALL did what you advocate. Until the unthinkable happened. And you have NO RIGHT to tell us how to parent until you’ve walked in our shoes and felt the heartache of seeing the damage done to your child…all in the name of “helping them”. Do me a favor and visit with these parents. Come talk to my daughter. See what REALLY happens in these cases. And then we’ll accept your apology.

    1. “99% of the parents in the non vaccinating camp HAVE vax injured kids.”

      That is an total and complete lie, and you know it. The VAST majority of the the anti-vaccination people have not even vaccinated their kids, so it is impossible for them to have kids injured by vaccines.

      1. Technically if you have missed ANY of the vaccines…your kid is considered “unvaccinated”….so if you missed the 5th chicken pox vaccine when they are like 12…or whenever your kid is considered unvaccinated. And I will agree that 99% don’t have a vax injured kid. But I would bet its about 90% that either have a vax injured kid or know someone WITH a vax injured kid.

  8. Everyone always seems to go the autism route when having this debate. While that is a valid concern … what about the actual ingredients themselves … Mercury… Various animal blood or tissues… Formaldehyde (you know, the liquid that frog was in when you took biology in school). Maybe we don’t want our kids injected with this either?

    Also, look at the list from when we were kids…. I’m 35 this year… compared to then, the list these days is MASSIVE. I honestly don’t know what ones I got as a kid… but I turned out more or less all right.

    (Don’t bother replying to me folks… I don’t care about your answer enough to read it.)

    1. There is more formaldehyde in a pear than the entire vaccine schedule… Ethyl methyl mercury are not the same… Animal blood might be icky but it isn’t unsafe.. Oh but look you don’t care about answers; you want to spread fear of chemicals without checking the facts.

    1. LOL, good one. Nothing to worry about, I’m sure.

      I am not even anti-vaccines. My kids got some, and not others, simply because it’s quite obvious how the risk/benefit for each vaccine plays out, and how the doctors who get paid by the pharma firms, and the hospitals who resell the drugs for profit have a very strong interest in giving your kid every vaccine known to man. (interdiction: Hello scientists, please don’t deny the facts. Doctors do get paid by pharma firms. So do politicians. Pharma firms are not evil – they simply maximize profit, just like any other business. This is not personal.)

      The thing I object to very strongly is forcing medical procedures unto others.

      Even if you’re under the spell of “science” – with quotation marks, because real science is a lot more differentiated – even if you confuse studies with an absolute truth, even if you somehow mistake science to be a religious endeavor worthy of a crusade – even then, don’t force your beliefs on others.

      I don’t care about your “studies” – studies are your bible, your old testament, but you are mistaken in assuming they’re infallible. There are even studies on how the vast majority of studies have a huge confirmation bias. Even if they did not have such a bias, they’re still just evidence. Evidence is not truth – important to remember.

      It is a fascist state that forces medical procedures on its citizens.

  9. Michael, I’ll play your game. Fine. Lets say a relatively small percentage of children are born to anti-vaxxers and the parents are allowed to save their children from the horrors of modern medicine. Someone in this group of children comes down with the mumps. They transfer it to an infant before said infant can be vaccinated. Infant dies. So now we’ve allowed emotionally driven hysteria affect or even destroy the lives of people who are acting with the best interests of their children and society.

    Kimberly, while my heart bleeds…it generally does not for anonymous entities on the internet making wild posts that appear to be geared to prey on other people’s empathy and trust. Terms like “vax injured” and “shooting up” put question to your perspective. I had to read it again to look for other terms in that camp like “homeopathy” or “energies”. No science. Only emotion. Maybe…MAYBE…your kid had an allergic reaction to a vaccine. Maybe it was correlation rather than causation. I don’t know….but I agree with you that there are some people/animals that have reactions to vaccines. If you are genuine, I truly feel for you. One of my boys had a nasty reaction to a vaccine…..which was a known risk and acknowledged by the physician. That said…my Father still has health issues due to Polio when he was a child. (you might never have heard of Polio since it is largely unknown in the US due to those evil vaccines)

    I still support vaccinations and I hope that in the coming decades that we will identify the biological triggers that can be associated with vaccines and have a minimal exempt status for certain procedures.

    Until then, the hard truth is in the numbers. Eggs get broken either way. Statistically they are the better choice for a society….even if you include the baseless claims by many of the anti-vax conspiracy sites and mommy bloggers.

    1. You know what? Bite me. Seriously. “Terms like vax injured” put ME into question? I have a news flash for you bonehead. I think you need to talk the THOUSANDS of people who’ve gotten a vaccine injury claim to go through the vaccine compensation plan and sit over a cup of joe and talk to them about their “perspective”. Like I said. Bite me. You people make me wanna puke. I’ll tell you one thing. It will be over my dead body that anyone touches my grandchild free of vaccines. And I live in a state with a “make my day” clause.

      1. >chuckle< You're right. You came close to wooing me with the myriad of facts and studies cited…but it was the threats and 'bite me' that convinced me of the validity of your argument. Thank you for enlightening me.

        1. I’ve yet to see anyone on the vaccine side look at ANY facts and say “Oh ok…you’re right and I’m wrong”…so why should I bother? You think what you think and I know I’m right. So you want facts Tessier? Two BILLION reason’s why. As a matter of fact I need no reason to prove anything to you or anyone else. I only have to see my daughter to understand what I and the federal government did to her. And unless you are a parent of a vaccine injured child you have no argument worth listening to in this matter.

      2. Why? I wouldn’t have a cup of joe with the thousands of people who believe wi fi gives you cancer, that the CIA is controlling our minds with chemtrails, or that flouride is a Zionist conspiracy. Numbers don’t give your claims weight. Data does. Even if your claims were true – and they’re not – they don’t outweigh the enormous social good created by vaccines, and they don’t outweigh your civic and moral duty to do your part and vaccinate.

        1. Wow. Seriously you’re saying that because our kids are injured…even some of them are validated by this fact in getting compensation; you’d not believe it?? The vaccine injury compensation act SHOWS that people get injured. I don’t think you have the balls to look someone that’s got a dying or dead child of vaccines that fact. Like I said you’re a pencil pushing idiot with no business spouting off about something you have not one clue about. God help you if your child is injured some day the way mine is. Because I feel sorry for your kids. I really do. Somehow Karma comes into play on these kinds of things and it looks to be like a lightning bolt for your loved ones. For your kids sake I really do hope I’m wrong.

        2. Vaccines claim an enormous social good, and may in fact be linked to social good in some way and in some measure. More the pity that what good they may do is tainted by the corruption and COI associated with the industry. Once credibility and trust in those institutions associated with health care is squandered, it becomes almost impossible to brute force it back.

          As a fan of data, you must be really interested in the 3.1 billion dollars the VICP has disbursed over its lifetime, or the 30,000 cases the VAERS has logged annually in recent years. The 99% of all adverse reactions that are not reported by physicians (according to JAMA) should also fill the data hole for you nicely.

          There is a reason more granular and high quality data does not exist, though that may be changing soon (I am pessimistic and assuming the legislation will be defeated). What is undeniable is that something is going on, it is not small in nature, and we are not currently allowed to know what it is. I won’t pretend to know the motivation for data suppression on this topic, but it is pretty clear that it exists.

          1. Michael this is the point NO ONE who has kids not injured can seem to get their head around. If I have to hear one more “well meaning” person tell me that their heart aches for my injured daughter BUT…..I’m going to go full on lunatic. If I wasn’t a Christian I’d be tempted to wish horrible things on their kids just so they’d understand. Unfortunately for me I am one so I have to content myself with the knowledge that they’d eat their words if they were here where we are. I’m just so absolutely fed up with this “greater good” crap.

    2. Ill play your game. If my kid is contagious with mumps…which is only contagious with a fever and the symptoms are present…Ill keep them home and not go see a newborn…you know, like a normal person. Im not taking my kid around newborns or sending them to school when they are sick.

      And Ill take your game one further. That same newborn…are recently vaccinated people allowed near them. Because for up to 6 weeks after receiving “live” vaccines like MMR or the flu nasal spray you shed the disease (this means that you are contagious despite having no signs/symptoms of it…which is acknowledged and warned about from the CDC on the product paperwork). So which is more likely. The newborn getting mumps from the unvaccinated (which there aren’t very many, and the kid is going to be sick to be contagious), or a recently vaccinated kid.


      1. Hmm, after reading your previous posts, I’m going to say “negative” on trusting you not to have your infected kids around newborns and immuno-compromised adults, and the elderly.

        Having your kids be unvaccinated compromises herd immunity. I’m sure you can google that.

        The real point is: you’re obviously not a medical professional or statistician. You’re just some guy that read a couple of blogs. Every time someone refutes one of your arguments you abandon it and try a new tact of “reasoning”. Classic troll. Excuse me if I trust the medical professionals more than I do you.

        1. Or I have SO many reasons for not doing it…I can’t even begin to start. And yeah, herd immunity is relatively a myth. And the only chance of it actually working is through natural immunity, not vaccine immunity which wears off. Which is why people need boosters. And most adults, don’t have their boosters caught up. So they are ust as dangerous as my unvaccinated child.

          Not to mention you ignore my point about shedding all together…nicely done.

          1. I can’t reply under you Tessier…but yeah, we don’t take Small Pox vaccine any more…its been eliminated…so has polio, but we still have to take it.

            And Pertussis (whooping cough) that keeps having outbreaks. Is having outbreaks in communities with majority vaccinated people because the vaccine has been shown to not be that effective against it…similarly to how the flu shot isn’t very effective.

        2. Douglas you need to look up the facts about “herd immunity”. This only happens in the animal kingdom with animals exposed to the actual disease. Vaccines are not an acceptable exposure.
          As for “professional” information. They get all their information from people who make a great deal of money off our illnesses and misery…as does that same doctor. You might look up the word “sheeple” while you’re fact checking.

    3. And as for the “greater good” of society? I do not wish anything to happen to your kid but seriously if it does please allow me to say I told you so. And then you can really kiss my ass.

  10. Thank you, Matt, for posting this. As you have found out, it’s a pretty hot-button issue, but it IS one that is founded on a lot of misunderstanding. Unfortunately, this distrust and misunderstanding of science is why we have a problem with low vaccine rates (and in other arenas, it’s why FoodBabe got so popular).

    But we need more people to stand up and say “I support vaccines. And here is why.” We also need to do it without resorting to the tactics of the other side. Don’t stoop, people. We have facts. State them. Restate them. Break them down into language a child could understand, if needed.

    1. What facts…you offer none. Do you have proof they are totally safe…cause the US government agrees they are not…which is why we have vaccine court. Also, we don’t have low vaccine rates. They are actually at the highest they have ever been. So if you sticking to the facts and research…back it up when you post.

    2. Oh for gawd’s sake Nicole. “break them down into a language a child could understand”?? I’m not a child and neither are any of the people in this fight. As a matter of fact the ones with the highest non vaccinations have the highest in education girlie.
      Grow the effing up and quit patronizing us For the record we GOT this way because of the misunderstanding that our kids would be safe in the mainstream societal belief that our physicians; our government wouldn’t poison our kids. Wrong! You might want to talk to my grown daughter with the brain injury from the Dpt vaccine. Or better yet talk to parents who’ve lost their children to vaccines. Talk to people who are maimed from them. Talk to their families; to their communities. Because it’s happening all over the world. Many countries are banning exactly what we advocate here in the USA. Why? Because much of the worlds vaccine poisons are MADE here. Get the facts before you spout off platitudes about how we all need to just “get the facts”. I suggest you take your own advice.

  11. I thought this was “Geek Dad” and not “Vaccine Editorial Dad.” The article is inappropriate for the nature of the site to begin with, regardless of what side you land on.

    If the article highlighted a new vaccine to market, sure ok. That is scientific and can be considered interesting and “geeky.”

    But to take a fun, geek-driven website and use it as a platform for pushing personal agenda. That is just bad form.

    1. Maybe the next article can be about describing the cool programs used to tally votes by explaining how candidate X was ripped of at the elections.

    2. Well said Alex. Maybe next time “geek dad” can actually use his brain to figure out that preaching about how parents are misinformed is a great way to call the wrath of the many vax injured families.

    3. Geeks like science. Dads have kids. What’s more ‘geek dad’ than using science to keep your kids safe?

      1. Except you don’t look at the whole facts Matt. You pat our heads and say we’re “misunderstood”. Seriously?? You’re going to tell vax injured kids parents we’re MISUNDERSTOOD?? That’s not geeky; that’s callous.

        1. Yeah, right. I’d like to see your research. You haven’t provided a shred of evidence to back up your “claims”. And the studies I’m sure you’ve read have been proven to be nothing but lies dozens of times over.

          1. You mean like reading the vaccine inserts that the CDC provides that list all the issues (which lists EVERY side effect). Or the vaccine court that has paid out millions for different reactions? Or reading about what the disease actually is instead of just being afraid of it? What research would you like me to “prove” I did.

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