Tag Archives: Vaccine

A good cry on the Senate floor

So David Zuckerman gave an emotional speech today.

Two days after the Vermont Senate voted to end the philosophical exemption for parents who don’t want their kids vaccinated, a senator opposed to the change delivered a tearful address about being attacked online, his father’s death and how scientific uncertainty led him to his decision.

… “I have been attacked as being anti-science, not caring for those who are less able to protect themselves and mocked for my profession as being unqualified to make informed comments,” he said.

His reference to “being attacked online” almost certainly included me. After the Senate vote, I criticized Zuckerman’s tactics in trying to derail the bill in question. I said “scientists must be laughing their asses off” at his notion of genetic testing for potential vaccine allergies. I belittled his argument that schools would lose large numbers of students, and said that Zuckerman and his allies were “grabbing at any pretext, no matter how absurd, to preserve the philosophical exemption.”

And you know what? I’m not sorry.

My language regarding the Senator doesn’t hold a candle to the rhetoric used by anti-vaxxers, who’ve accused me and other vaccine supporters of being fascists and tools of Big Pharma, among many other things. They’ve accused doctors who support vaccination — the vast majority of doctors — of being either fools or sellouts. My posts on vaccines have been written in an environment inflamed, in large measure, by those on the other side.

Also, while I’m very sorry for Zuckerman’s loss and respect how it informs his beliefs, (a) I didn’t know any of that at the time, and (b) he’s not the only one who’s suffered devastating personal losses. It happens to a lot of us. My brother would have turned 55 today if he’d lived that long. The circumstances of his death have informed my views on some current issues, but I haven’t played that card in a political debate. (Not that I blame Zuckerman for doing so; there’s a time and place for everything, and he hit his time this afternoon.)

All I could see was Zuckerman’s political effort to preserve the philosophical exemption. I thought his tactics on Wednesday were transparent and not terribly coherent. I still do.

The barely concealed extremism of an anti-vaccine group

We’re gearing up for another round of the philosophical-exemption debate at the Statehouse. As you may have heard, a State Senate committee is considering a bill that would remove the philosophical exemption for childhood vaccinations. Which has the anti-vaccine community’s knickers in a knot.

Well, they don’t call themselves “the anti-vaccine community,” but that’s exactly what they are. Vermont’s primary anti-vaxx group is the Vermont Coalition for Vaccine Choice (VCVC). It publicly presents itsels as entirely focused on parental choice. From its website:

We are not “anti-vaxxers”… We are dedicated to preserving health choice and informed consent for parents and all Vermonters.

Vaccine movie posterProblem is, the leaders of VCVC just can’t help themselves. Their website prominently trumpets the work of, among others, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., an anti-vaxxer who promotes the discredited vaccine/autism canard and who has called vaccination “a holocaust.”

But if you want to see the real scope of VCVC’s nutbaggery, you ought to follow its Twitter feed. You’ll find links to every scattered anecdotal report of alleged vaccine harm, every fringey “scientific study” attacking vaccine efficacy or safety, every alternative-medicine type promoting their own agendas, and every rhetorical excess about vaccination, doctors, nurses, government, and science.

Here are a few choice examples. Reminder: these are communications from a group that claims NOT to be “anti-vaxxers.”

Let’s start with a ham-fisted attack on Vermont media for the unforgivable sin of reporting the science on vaccines, which is fully as probative as the science on climate change and evolution:

They’d probably call me a sellout too. Problem is, I haven’t seen a dime from Big Pharma. I just happen to believe the massive preponderance of scientific evidence. VCVC, on the other hand, searches through the flotsam and jetsam of junk science.

The study was published in the Open Journal of Pediatrics, one of many “open journals” created by Scientific Research Publishing (SCIRP), which offers “244 English language open access journals.” SCIRP is based on Wuhan, China, and has been accused of being a predatory open access publisher.

Predatory open access publishers don’t provide the editorial oversight of real scientific publishers; they aggressively solicit papers, publish them with little or no review, and then try to bill the authors for publication costs. In other words, their articles are not to be trusted. But if an article calls vaccination into question, VCVC is happy to accept it at face value and promote it.

More… after the jump. Continue reading