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VACCINES WORK! PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by James Randi   

This week is vaccine awareness week, sponsored by the harmful anti-vaccine crowd, to better spread their misinformation. In response, the science based medicine community, as well as a number of other skeptics, are running a counter-campaign, attempting to correct misinformation and to spread some real vaccine awareness.

I am not a scientist, nor do I claim expertise in that direction, at all.  However, as a professional magician, I do understand two facts about our species in considerable depth: I know how people are deceived, and – more importantly for this present discussion – how they deceive themselves.  Others with proven expertise in medicine will provide every sort of fact and lots of figures on how many – literally millions – of human lives have been saved since medical science came up with vaccines back in the 1770s.  In fact, it would be difficult to offer a more striking example of a powerful, dependable, scientific discovery that has proven itself so positively, for more than a century now.  Unfortunately, there are uninformed, biased people currently preaching loudly that we should abandon this great discovery and allow life-threatening infections and diseases to again take over as decimating elements in our pursuit of health and longevity.

Fear of medical progress is, to some extent, understandable.  Parents of children who believe that vaccines threaten their kids can easily be influenced by ignorant celebrities – sports figures and cinema stars – who may well honestly believe and repeat the horror stories they’ve been told.  These stories are naturally frightening to those uninformed of the facts, but are often built entirely upon misunderstandings of reality. The “Big Pharma” golem that has been invented by the naïve came about from the fact that the creation and development of new means of conquering disease is very expensive, and the billions spent in that pursuit must be defrayed in the costs of the products.  Yes, this is unfortunate, but the results of such research are evident when the statistics are considered.  Today, the scourge once known as smallpox is controlled, polio is no longer crippling children worldwide, and simple preventive means are available to most of the world.  The lives saved are incalculable.

However, these facts are sometimes forgotten when a popular actress, a well-known author, or a religious figure stands up and declares – with no authority whatsoever – that vaccines are responsible for causing the dreaded condition known as autism, for example.  The fact that entry into a child’s system is made to administer a vaccine, can override a parent’s common sense, set off alarms, and bring about panic that the government is imposing rules on the populace that are not necessary and that may be harmful.

When the thalidomide scare erupted in the 1950’s, the public’s fear of medical science was brought to a peak.  That drug was withdrawn when it became known that birth defects could be a side-effect of its use, and though it is still used with a different application, that dreadful lesson is still before us.  We’ve learned a lot since then, as we tend to do when errors are made, but the idea that vaccines cause autism is a very thoroughly tested, researched, and disproved notion.

We have a Dark Age of sorts facing us, one in which a generation of children may be decimated through the ignorance of the public, fueled by irresponsible public figures who assume expertise they do not possess.  Every parent will defend a child; withholding legitimate, effective, medication is not the way to do it…  That is self-deception, resulting in well-meant but often fatal results. We must work harder to oppose this effort!

For a listing of other commentary this week from the skeptical and science based medicine community on this important subject, please see the Science Based Medicine Blog.

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written by melanie, November 05, 2010
There's a typing mistake in the fith passage where it says "[...] autism, foe example."
Good article.
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written by melanie, November 05, 2010
I misspelled "fifth" myself. smilies/wink.gif
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written by daveg703, November 05, 2010
@melanie
True- you should have spelled it 'fourth'! smilies/cheesy.gif
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Being a parent is tough
written by sibtrag, November 05, 2010
I'm glad that an effort is going to counter the mis-information. I know first hand how it feels to have little knowledge on this topic.

The first vaccine-autism connection study broke not too long before my child was born. This was a difficult decision for us. I understood the proven benefits of vaccines and we have a family friend who lives with the debilitating effects of polio. My wife has worked with children at various points on the autism spectrum and knows the pain and grief that that disorder can cause. While doctors were skeptical about the vaccine-autism hypothesis, no one knew then (or now) what really causes autism and no conclusive studies were done.

My opinion at the time was that the vaccine itself was an unlikely culprit, but that the mercury compound which was then commonly used as a preservative was more plausible. Therefore, we delayed vaccination until mercury-free vaccines were available for use. Our child is now up-to-date (except for chicken pox which we omitted for other reasons) and healthy in all respects.

Of course, now the thiomersal connection is also viewed as unlikely as well and we need to get the word out. Science-based medicine worked as it should...a reasonable hypothesis was advanced, the precautionary principle was viewed as appropriate, and action was taken. In hindsight, this may have been too conservative, but scientists do not claim to be psychics.
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written by Sadhatter, November 05, 2010
As someone who is currently going to school with the goal of becoming a pharmacist, ( and hopefully a member of the OCP) I can say, the image of " big pharma" as these evil minions bent on profit , is just simply false. Every pharmacist i know is a well meaning, educated person who decided to become a pharmacist for the same reasons i did. To help people.

Sure there are money hungry idiots out there who want nothing more than a big house and a free trip to the bahamas. But they are incredibly few and far between, and the higher up the food chain you go, the less of these people there are.

And beyond being a pharmacist, i am a ....to put it politely, crap disturber. If there was evil going on, i would be exposing it, i would be documenting it, and as an amateur filmmaker, i would be bringing it to the world. But i simply don't see it. That is not to say i don't see mistakes, and other bad things, but they are balanced by a system that is strict in the extreme in enforcing rules, and making sure these rules benefit the customer.

The anti vax'ers need to open their eyes, woo medicine is out for profit, and yes, so is real medicine. The difference is that us practicing real medicine ( or specifically in my case, going to school in order to practice real medicine.) make sure our products work. It isn't about making people feel better, it isn't about peddling a product. It is about making a good living helping people, with things that may be far from perfect, but that work. There seems to be this misunderstanding that woo medicine does not make money, or that those who peddle it are more out for your best interest than those peddling real medicine.

But look at it logically. Who is looking out for your best interest, the man who consents to be reprimanded if they so much as spell your name with an extra E ( and yes this is something that gets one in real trouble as a pharmacist.) , or the guy who protests at the fact that his medicines will have to prove themselves?

More than likely i will end up operating a pharmacy, at the very least until i prove myself worthy of membership in the OCP, and i can tell you, my stomach would be in knots selling someone something that cannot even promise results. Let alone a medicine that has been proven time and time again, to be no more effective than a sugar pill.
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I did a little homework
written by Extro1, November 05, 2010
A couple of months ago I wrote a blog entry on this very topic. Would LOVE your feedback. Keep up the good work.
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My article
written by Extro1, November 05, 2010
I forgot to post the link to the article, so sorry
http://extro1.wordpress.com/2010/09/24/vaccinations-part-1/
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written by Peebs, November 05, 2010
This website covers the (non)debate very well

http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/

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@sadhatter
written by Caller X, November 06, 2010
As someone who is currently going to school with the goal of becoming a pharmacist, ( and hopefully a member of the OCP) I can say, the image of " big pharma" as these evil minions bent on profit , is just simply false. Every pharmacist i know is a well meaning, educated person who decided to become a pharmacist for the same reasons i did. To help people.

Sure there are money hungry idiots out there who want nothing more than a big house and a free trip to the bahamas. But they are incredibly few and far between, and the higher up the food chain you go, the less of these people there are.


"Big Pharma" doesn't mean pharmacists. It means companies like Merck, et al. If the people higher up aren't trying to maximize profits, they are not doing their duty to their shareholders.



And beyond being a pharmacist, i am a ....to put it politely, crap disturber. If there was evil going on, i would be exposing it, i would be documenting it, and as an amateur filmmaker, i would be bringing it to the world. But i simply don't see it. That is not to say i don't see mistakes, and other bad things, but they are balanced by a system that is strict in the extreme in enforcing rules, and making sure these rules benefit the customer.


I would say claiming to be a pharmacist when you're still in school is a prettttty biggggg breaking of the rules.



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Caller x
written by Sadhatter, November 06, 2010
I think it is fairly obvious due to the references within the post itself that i am not claiming to be a pharmacist. I was using the term Pharmacist, in that sense, to give a contrast to the term crap disturber. To illustrate that while i am interested in going into a particular field, i am also a person who does not go along with the flow if there is evil afoot.

Poor choice of words, possibly, but seeing as within the first 5 words i explain that i am in school ( not to mention other references to the fact that i am not currently in any form of pharmacy practice. ) i would not have thought someone would interpret the exact opposite from my post.
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written by sailor, November 06, 2010
sibtrag
I notice you mention you did not give chicken pox vaccination "for other reasons". When people think of chicken pox they usually think no big deal a week off school for the kids, which is true as far as that is concerned. However having had chicken pox (most of us have)we become liable to a bout of shingles later in life. This can be very debilitating and even leave the patient with impaired vision and sometimes permanent nerve pain. So if a chicken pox shot prevents chicken pox and thus shingles it is more than worth while. I rarely see the shingles aspect of chicken pox mentioned. The vaccination for shingles after you have had chicken pox is costly and only 50% effective.
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Thalidomide
written by markbellis, November 07, 2010
I think Americans could see the Thalidomide tragedy as an example of medical science protecting people - Dr. Frances Oldham Kelsey withheld approval of the drug in the USA, even though it was already in use in Europe and Canada, because she noticed a report of side effects in England, and wasn't satisfied with the explanation the pharma company provided.
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@Sadhatter
written by GusGus, November 07, 2010
Unfortunately, you will have to give up your ideals when you go to work in a pharmacy, unless you open your own "mom-and-pop" one. The big pharmacy chains are all selling homeopathic and other unproven "remedies", so you will find that you will be in the business of selling them, too. You can't even speak against them or you will be fired for discouraging sales.
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@sadhatter
written by Caller X, November 09, 2010
And beyond being a pharmacist, i am a ....


For someone who expects to be penalized for an extra letter "e" you're a bit sloppy. Are you going to school to be a pharmacist, or a pharmacy tech? OCP = Ontario College of Pharmacy?
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And now for my next trick...
written by trusetheeker, November 17, 2010
I've read Swift's lead and the comments above and must now cry "Foul!"

This pseudo-scientific renunciation of the anti-vaccine movement is pure propaganda in support of pharma and medical industries' money-spinning, "snake-oil-treatment" vaccination program. I can only wonder if the supporting comments are echoes of those who want to be convinced or those who are inescapably mired in the mind programming.

Although I will counter with evidence in support of my opposing opinion, I'll first point out some of the glaring instances of disinformation from the lead article.

As a professional magician, Swift will well know the techniques of misdirection and suggestion and of course that's how he starts the article: "the harmful anti-vaccine crowd" vs "science based medicine community"; "their misinformation" vs "to correct misinformation"; and finally "spreading real vaccine awareness" vs the suggestion that anti-vaccine activists are spreading false vaccine awareness.

Then comes the psuedo-science:

How many "...human lives have been saved since medical science came up with vaccines back in the 1770s."? Why, "literally millions!" And later on, he says "The lives saved are incalculable." He could have added "The lives lost due to vaccination are also incalculable" as both of these last statements are true.

Swift even tries a bit of sleight of hand by misusing the word skeptic. TheFreeDictionary.com defines a skeptic as "One who instinctively or habitually doubts, questions, or disagrees with assertions or generally accepted conclusions." When it comes to vaccinations, at least in the western world, the generally accepted conclusion is that vaccinations are safe, effective and life-savers. People who don't accept this viewpoint are at best considered skeptics but more apt to be labelled as ignorant, naive, irresponsible, self-deceiving child-killing, dangers to society.

Swift finally pulls out the industries heavy artillery in the form of scare-mongering with his warning of a "Dark Age...in which a generation of children may be decimated through the ignorance of the public..."

Well guess what - we're already in the Dark Ages!

Go back over the press for the last Swine Flu Pandemic (that never was) and see how WHO and CDC hyped up the dangers, forced the world to spend billions on untested vaccine, counted every person who got sick as having H1N1 without full testing, and wrote off every adverse reaction as being due to underlying health conditions. Even now they're denying that even one miscarriage was related to the vaccine despite 100s being reported.

A similar air of denial accompanies every report of serious adverse affects from any vaccine including last years Gardasil and Cervarix catastrophes.

Review the history of the thalidomide "scare" where 100,000 babies died in the womb and of 10,000 born with defects almost half died in their first year. Read how the UK government stonewalled the victim's families for years before even admitting that the drug was at fault and removing it from use. Read how in countries such as Spain, no compensation has been paid to victims even 40+ years later.

Review the history of polio and note how the occurrence of polio increased and declined in relation to the production and phase-out of DDT. Also note how post-polio exploded at the time of DDTs re-emergence in the 1980s. Mark where the Salk vaccine entered the frame as polio was already on the way out.
Ref: http://harpub.co.cc/pol_all.htm

Read "The Dangers of Smallpox Vaccination" by Gary Krasner for an alternative viewpoint on the success of the smallpox vaccine.
(http://www.naturodoc.com/libra...accine.htm)

In closing, let's hear what Guy L. Kiefer, M. D., Commissioner of Health of Michigan, says in the Journal the Michigan State Medical Society, Aug. 1920: (http://soilandhealth.org/02/02...ton07.html)

"In this state there are 100,000 people born annually. They are practically all susceptible to diphtheria from the moment they are born. They are highly susceptible from the age of six months until they are immunized. If these infants were all immunized, and for this service the physicians receive from $5.00 to $10.00 per case, the net income would be from $500,000-$1,000,000 Michigan has 5,000 cases of diphtheria annually. If the physicians received for their services, exclusive of all other costs, an average of $50.00 per case the income from this source would be $250,000. The increase in physicians income from diphtheria would be from one-quarter to three-quarters of of a million dollars, if we would immunize all children against this disease soon after they are six months of age, instead of waiting until they are stricken with the disease and then treating them."

Thar's gold in them thar hills!
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written by Eosine, November 25, 2010
Truse, you are so full of BS, as proven here already: http://forums.randi.org/showthread.php?t=192484

Your sources of misinformation are also making me gag.

We've shown that vaccinated women actually have LESS miscarriages, and no vaccine has been shown to be able cause any.
Physicians have to pay for the vacciens, so your net income is BS.
"Big pharma" has to pay people to make vaccines safe and effective, and this includes research and testing. Your "net income" claim is even more BS.


Thalidomide is NOT vaccine.


Treating sick people is far costlier to the medical system than vaccines. Far more money is saved by keeping people out of hospitals. Vaccine prevent diseases, and saves me and other laypersons money too.
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written by trusetheeker, November 25, 2010
Besides the comments that I've posted here http://forums.randi.org/showpo...stcount=96, let me just say that I know that thalidomide is not a vaccine. If you'd read the OP, you would see why I'm discussing thalidomide in my comment.

It's an easy mistake to make when you're already a bit highly-strung so don't beat yourself up over it.

Read the article
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