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The Anti-Vax Movement and Swine Flu PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Harriet Hall   

As we discussed in the Anti-Anti-Vax Panel at TAM7, scientifically illiterate activists are endangering our public health. Now they have a new target: the fast-track program to develop a swine flu vaccine in time to prevent a possible pandemic.

A correspondent in the Netherlands wrote me, forwarding this article a friend in the UK had sent him: http://www.globalhealthfreedom.org/?p=3081 Briefly, it says we are going to be offered a dangerous, inadequately tested swine flu vaccine for a nonexistent threat.

The piece is very misleading. It alleges that only one person has died in the UK - but we are faced with a possible global epidemic that could kill many, many people if we don’t develop a vaccine quickly. Optimum testing of a new vaccine takes too long. The threat is real, and fast-track testing is the only viable response. There were only 500 cases [not 4000] of Guillain-Barré following the swine flu vaccine in 1976, and most patients recovered completely. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guillain-Barr%C3%A9_syndrome The idea that Guillain-Barré is polio is utterly ridiculous. The poliovirus can be identified in patients with polio – you can even SEE it with an electron microscope.

The VAERS system accepts all reports of possible reactions to vaccines. These reports are meaningless unless it can be confirmed that the symptoms occur more often in vaccinated than in unvaccinated people. I won’t attempt to debunk all the other faulty arguments they offer, but there are many. The whole piece is anti-vaccine propaganda, not scientific information.

In the US, the consistently unreliable Mercola website has also weighed in:

http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2009/08/04/Squalene-The-Swine-Flu-Vaccines-Dirty-Little-Secret-Exposed.aspx

He repeats a number of anti-vaccine lies. Most of the toxins he mentions are not actually present in vaccines, and the only “toxins” that are present, like aluminum, are present in tiny amounts, for good reasons, and are known to be safe in those amounts. The squalene business is a new complaint. Squalene is used as an adjuvant to improve the efficacy of the vaccine, and while it may cause problems for rats, there is no evidence that it is harmful to humans. Rats are not people: aspirin causes congenital defects in rats but does not have the same effects in humans. He tries to blame Gulf War syndrome on squalene in the anthrax vaccine, but a large scientific panel has reviewed all the evidence and found no link with vaccine. See http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/?p=295

The comments to this article are a chilling indictment of the state of scientific illiteracy in our society. Some commenters do not even accept the germ theory of disease. Most seem to subscribe to a paranoia about evil government deliberately hurting people. One even mentions the Illuminati.

We don’t have a crystal ball. The Swine flu could fizzle out or it could become a pandemic like the one in 1918. We may not have time to do the kind of testing we would like. We have a long experience of developing safe flu vaccines, and it is reasonable to assume a similarly produced new vaccine will be equally safe. And even with ideal testing procedures on thousands of subjects, we can never be sure a new vaccine or drug will not cause an unforeseen problem after marketing, when millions more people get it. In 1976, Guillain-Barré affected only 1 in 100,000 recipients – just think how large a study would have been required to find that out before marketing!

Misinformation like this could kill people, but it is protected as free speech. We can’t suppress it, we can only try to spread the truth.

________

Postscript:
The anti-vax says that only one person has died of swine flu in the UK, but the actual
number is 31. http://www.nhs.uk/news/2009/04april/pages/swineflulatest.aspx

 

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written by Rustylizard, August 05, 2009
“ …we can only try to spread the truth.”

It’s a pity mainstream media outlets with mass audiences don’t do more to counter this kind of garbage and spread the truth.
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Votes: +16
Anti-anti-vax
written by Todd W., August 05, 2009
Harriet, thanks for sharing this. So, is squalene the new aluminum/thimerosal? I'll try to incorporate some info on it into my site (antiantivax.flurf.net - or just click on my name), which I encourage people to read before posting about how bad vaccines are.
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Votes: +7
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written by falln_angel, August 05, 2009
Where to even start with that article? It has more than its share of misinformation, alarmist language, contradictory information and doublespeak. (Enhanced is bad, apparently. Or should that be un-good?)

The article itself is bad enough, but the comments are a hundred times worse. If I didn't know better, I'd think it was all a joke. Surely so many people can't be that completely deluded! I had to stop reading after the first page because I was starting to feel physically ill. Apparently I haven't had enough time to adequately build up my True Believer immunity. This was the last straw for me.

"I know a mother who does not vaccinate her kids. Her daughter got the measles and gave it to a baby who was not old enough to have received the vaccination. The baby died. The older girl recovered."


No only does this comment get a -21 rating (not sure how you downrate a personal anecdote), but it received comments like this in response.

"That baby was supposed to die, it's called natural selection."

and

"... to imply that b/c the baby died b/c the mother did not vaccinate the older kid is ridiculous." (According to this person, god did it. Nice god!)

I'd almost be able to let it go if this was only affecting their own families, but the fact that these people are being allowed to endanger our kids is infuriating! I'd love to take a few of them to the pre-vaccination part of their local cemetery. Would they say it's a coincidence that the child/infant mortality rate was so much higher back then? Or maybe god's just gotten soft in his old age and doesn't feel like murdering children as much anymore.

On second thought, I don't think I could stomach that either.
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Votes: +16
Where does it end?
written by jer, August 05, 2009
"Misinformation like this could kill people, but it is protected as free speech."

If you can't should fire in a crowded theater, to what extent should you be allowed to spread ignorant information that will cause people's deaths? I know prohibiting even ignorant medical opinions is getting into scary territory - but it's worth considering that expressing belief is protected by the Constitution. Inciting dangerous behavior is not.
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written by melusine, August 05, 2009
About vaccines I came accross a facebook group against forced vaccination in case of pandemic flu… I believe they deserve some pigasus. Beware, this is 134 pages of pure gold:
http://www.scribd.com/doc/1704...ulate-USA

I couldn't stop laughing but then I realised they are serious!
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written by melusine, August 05, 2009
erf link didn't work. I give the complete adress here:
http://www.scribd.com/doc/1704...pulate-USA
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written by Adam_Y, August 05, 2009
"The comments to this article are a chilling indictment of the state of scientific illiteracy in our society. Some commenters do not even accept the germ theory of disease. Most seem to subscribe to a paranoia about evil government deliberately hurting people. One even mentions the Illuminati."
Bah... Read further into that website. They try claiming the FDA has killed people through censorship (Still working on figuring out what that means).
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Please, please, please
written by gabriel, August 05, 2009
Oh please let the anti vaxers choose not get vaccinated. Please, please, please.
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written by redwench, August 05, 2009
I have no objection to anyone choosing not to get vaccinated, as there is only going to be enough for an estimated 25-50% of the population. Just means I, and other sensible adults, are more likely to get it.

Although, to be honest, unless you are pregnant or have a compromised immune system, the "swine" flu epidemic doesn't seem to be a major problem at the moment. That could change however.
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Major Facepalm, reading those comments.
written by Brookston John, August 05, 2009
WHAT Century is this again?
"Germ Theory is ONLY a theory"
S'Yeah, like GRAVITY....
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written by Skeptigirl, August 05, 2009
written by gabriel, August 05, 2009
Oh please let the anti vaxers choose not get vaccinated. Please, please, please.
First, it's generally their kids they are deciding for, and the kids don't deserve to suffer. And, second, unvaccinated people spread infection to people who are not immune despite vaccines.
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written by Skeptigirl, August 05, 2009
written by redwench, August 05, 2009
Although, to be honest, unless you are pregnant or have a compromised immune system, the "swine" flu epidemic doesn't seem to be a major problem at the moment. That could change however.
I suggest you pay closer attention to the specifics.

Risk factors include asthma, chronic lung disease, diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and pregnancy. However, just under half the fatalities have been in people with unknown risk factors.

That doesn't mean everyone needs a vaccine. The public health officials will be taking a careful look at who to prioritize for vaccine depending on supply. It doesn't mean anyone need be particularly afraid of swine flu. If anything that is counter-productive.

What it does mean is we should take care to prevent all influenza (hand washing and social distancing). Flu is much more dangerous than most people believe. We should learn what symptoms indicate a serious case and we should have a plan for what to do if a serious case occurs.

All we need is a healthy respect for infectious disease, common sense and science based medical decisions.
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written by Squid, August 05, 2009
I'm a first responder, so as soon as the vaccine is available in my area, I am going to get it. I work in a place that sees, on a busy day, 25,000+ people, so it is my duty to be prepared.

As for the antivax article... what can I say that hasn't been said? These are the people who seem to lack any form of critical thinking skills. In a lot of ways, it's a form of brainwashing. I should know... I was one of them years ago. (Thanks for enlightening me, Randi!)

What should we feel? Frankly, we should be terrified. People like the antivaxers can be completely irrational, and may do things for what they believe are good reasons, but be completely out of touch with reality. Unfortunately, being irrational and living in a fantasy world does not rule out charming or persuasive, so people like this can get into positions of power over the rest of us. Just because the majority believes something doesn't make it true.

Squid
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Horrible Possibility
written by StarTrekLivz, August 05, 2009
and, Thor forbid, if there were a flu pandemic, you know the anti-vaxers will be choking emergency rooms and doctor's offices demanding the very expensive anti-virals .....

Or does their antipathy to vaccine mean that homeopathic medications (i.e., expensive little bottles of water) will be their treatment of choice?
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written by MadScientist, August 06, 2009
Gee, if squalene is a problem those anti-vaxxers had better not eat any fruit and vegetables. Oh damn, those "organic" people will probably claim Big Pharma puts squalene into plant matter and that "organic" foods are squalene-free. Holy crap. Idiots to the left of them, idiots to the right of them, idiots in front of them howled and stammered. Storm'd at with anti-vax lies, they rolled their skeptical eyes, into the jaws of Oprah, into the mouth of McCarthy, strode the six hundred. (Well, you can see why I'm a scientist and not a poet.)

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written by dolandilae, August 06, 2009
Someone should patent the name 'Organic Vaccination' soon, cause someone is gonna slap it on a banner at one of these rallies sooner or later, and you can be in on the t-shirt sells... Ok seriously, this could totally be a Penn & Teller gag some day lol.

"Build an immunity to tetanus the way nature intended, with wholesome organic rusty nails.. side effects may include death in 10% of users.", Jenny McCarthey approves.. she posed naked and thinks picking her nose is great comedy, so naturally she is the leading authority in healthcare.
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@StarTrekLivz - Pandemic
written by Todd W., August 06, 2009
and, Thor forbid, if there were a flu pandemic


Umm...the swine flu is already at pandemic levels and was even before the WHO pronounced it.
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written by Dooyoowoowoo, August 06, 2009
Just a bit of perspective from the UK. Yes, 31 have died. A good proportion had complications. The death rate is lower (at present) than "ordinary" seasonal flue which kills between 4000 and 12000 a year (depending on who you believe). At the present people at risk are offered flu jabs every autumn (for seasonal flu). Why would anyone feel that a potential threat should be treated any different, no matter how mild it may be at present. Better to stop a mild disease now than to allow a future mutation to run riot and to hell with the consequences. Just don't ask me about the rabid, sensationist media... I recommend the "Organic Vaccination for them.
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written by mazyloron, August 06, 2009
Wow, that's awful. They're telling people that Guillain-Barre is polio? They don't even have the same symptoms, polio is a transmittable virus, GBS is an auto-immune disorder...I don't even know what more to say to that.

But, I'll bet this sort of stuff gets more media attention than boring, non-sensationalist facts.
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written by GeekGoddess, August 06, 2009
From the article's comments:
There is virtually no science to support the safety of vaccine injections on your long-term health or the health of your children. Follow-up studies last on average about two weeks, and look only for glaring injuries and illnesses.


How many decades of immunizations would be considered valid data for supporting vaccination?
Really.

Also, I want to know where to buy the chemical-free soap they recommend.
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written by Habenero, August 06, 2009
The entire site at global health freedom . org, not just that article is full of BS of the highest order! I hope Penn & Teller will address the anti vaccine idiots on an episode of their show "Bullshit" soon!
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written by MadScientist, August 06, 2009
@gabriel and redwench: The anti-vaxxers refuse to vaccinate their children. The poor kids have no say in things. Nor are vaccines 100% effective, so if the antivaxxers help spread disease in a community, some poor kids who got vaccines but didn't develop an immunity will also suffer.
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written by MadScientist, August 06, 2009
@Dooyoowoowoo:

"The death rate is lower (at present) than "ordinary" seasonal flue which kills between 4000 and 12000 a year"

Don't confuse the death rate (deaths per 1,000) with the total number of dead. At the moment swine flu appears to be about the same as normal flu at best (well, as far as kill rate goes) but it is not the dominant flu so on the whole it kills far fewer people.

I think it's interesting that people are working on ways to develop and test flu vaccines rapidly. Like any other vaccine, already tested or not, there can be adverse reactions (including death in extremely rare cases). It's just another one of those risks that people have got to take.
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@ToddW - Flu Pandemic
written by StarTrekLivz, August 06, 2009
Hi, I appreciate that the WHO has designated H1N1 Swine Flu a "pandemic" and may fulfill the requirements to be designated that, I admit I was using (and you may justly chide me for this) a looser definition, a world-wide illness having significant impact like the so-called "Spanish flu" or the various "plagues." So far, fortunately, the "pandemic" has not stopped international commerce, caused massive casualties, or other significant impacts. Although the Archbishops of York and Canterbury in England have offered guidelines on receiving Communion (e.g. do not receive the wine in a common cup) to limit contagion.

(I tried to find a link to the Archbishops' Joint Statement which was distributed at my parish, but could not: all searches for their statement led to references and memorials to the "Spanish Influenza" of World War I -- apparently the Anglican Communion News Service has not updated their web site recently .....)
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written by Eosine, August 06, 2009
[url= http://www.cbc.ca/health/story...ccine.html

The comments at the above link are truly alarming as well. And people are posting links to homeopathic organizations as proof that "allopathy kills" and so do vaccines. Sigh. It's not just Mercola spouting nonsense, as we all know. They all share and repeat the same nonsense... making it "reality".
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written by Eosine, August 06, 2009
Zammit. The link is:
http://www.cbc.ca/health/story/2009/08/06/swine-flu-vaccine.html
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