Many apologies to my reader for the fact that I have committed the ultimate blog sin by my lengthy absence! The paying job required my full attention over the past few months. I will be back to regular posting within the next few weeks. I mean, if there’s anyone still out there!
Apologies for my extended absence, but things have been busy at the actual paying job. I have been brought out of hibernation because of the announcement by the “National Vaccine Information Center” (NVIC) regarding their anti-vaccine billboard campaign. According to their press release, NVIC has launched a program to place billboards in Arizona, Illinois, Oregon, Washington and Texas in March and April, for the purpose of promoting their ill-informed anti-vaccine message.
These superficially innocuous billboards feature a picture of a Mom with an incredibly cute infant, but the horror of the campaign is the link directing the innocent billboard peruser to NVIC’s abysmally misleading and one-sided website. They claim that the campaign is designed “to encourage citizens to become informed vaccine decision-makers”. If this were true, then surely NVIC would include the websites of the CDC or Every Child By Two on their adorably horrifying billboard, would they not?
Folks, it is time for a call to arms. Recently, vocal opposition to misleading vaccination information successfully quashed the efforts of the Australian Vaccination Network to place an anti-vaccination video on American Airlines. Sadly, a similar effort to prevent dissemination of dangerous information on Delta Airlines by NVIC failed, despite opposition from organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics. Now is our chance to again fight against the propagation of information that is dangerous to children and to public health.
If you know of the corporation that accepted money from NVIC for these billboards in any of the states listed, please write them a letter and tell them how you feel about the promotion of such egregiously incorrect information. I have received information that the company in question for at least two of the states is Clear Channel Communications. This is a company which claims on the philanthropy section of its website the following:
Clear Channel Communities™ works with an array of health-related organizations to bring attention to key health issues while promoting the importance of living an active and safe lifestyle. By addressing specific issues afflicting the US population we hope to improve the overall physical, mental and social well-being of our listeners, and those in the communities in which they live.
Accepting money from an organization that represents the precise opposite of this noble philanthropy seems a bit shady, no? You may contact Clear Channel here if you so desire.
Thanks for stopping by reader, I have missed you!
Edited to add: Todd W. at Harpocrates Speaks came in with this brilliant post on this subject about an hour before I did. You should definitely check it out!
If it weren’t behind a paywall, I would tell you to take yourself with haste over to Harper’s to read the incredible essay entitled “Sentimental Medicine: Why we still fear vaccines” by Eula Biss. But since it is, I’m afraid you’ll either need to pony up about $17.00 for yearly access to the archive (which may well be worth it), or just settle for my impressions and thoughts on the article.
First, both the writing and research in this article are simply wonderful. If you’ve ever gone into the archives of old medical journals and read the articles, you will know what I mean. The language is simply delightful, and in some aspects Biss manages to capture that feel, while providing an accurate historical perspective of the anti-vaccination movement, about which I very much enjoy writing myself, as my reader of course already knows. Biss’ piece is a very useful reminder of why writing is often best left to the professionals, but nonetheless I will blunder on with my musings.
The thing that absolutely floored me is that Biss has brilliantly managed to put into words an idea that has been rattling around in my brain for some time, but which I have not been able articulate very well. This is the concept of People Like Us and People Like Them. In the olden days of disease theory, People Like Them were awash in filth. Filth caused disease, and People Like Us were simply not affected, because we were clean and pure. As Biss writes, all one needs to do is replace the word “filth” with “toxins” and viola! You have today’s anti-vax movement. Toxins are sufficiently scary-sounding and simultaneously elusive enough to pack a wallop of emotional fear, marinated in Facebook and seasoned with Google and Twitter.
These days, there are a great many folks in the anti-vax movement who still strongly believe that vaccines are only for People Like Them. The poor, the less fortunate, and the children of drug addicts, in other words. Biss goes on to point out that it is often People Like Them who do not have adequate medical care and who for a variety of reasons may miss some vaccinations. The idea of public health has traditionally been that People Like Us are meant to protect both ourselves and the less fortunate by taking steps to prevent disease in our communities as a whole. At times this approach has taken on a distinct odor of paternalism, and to be fair, I’m not sure that when it comes to healthcare decisions, the Haves ever acted solely for the benefit of the HaveNots. The parents who rushed to enroll their children in the Salk polio trials were most likely motivated by helping their own children, with the health of the community as a secondary concern. Nonetheless, vaccination has always been a community contract of sorts, yet this system is falling apart before our eyes, as the entitled parents of wealthy countries ignore their neighbors’ health and safety in order to worship at the altar of People Like Us.
If you’ve spent any time on anti-vax sites, you know what this altar looks like. It is constructed upon a base of false belief that because of our education and opportunities, we understand more than doctors, nurses, and public health practitioners. Mixed in are impressions that a “natural” lifestyle will combat any disease that comes our way, while ignoring the fact that People Like Us will be the first to run to an idiot doctor when something really goes wrong, because we have the time and money to do so. And sprinkled in is a hefty dose of not caring about others. Not giving a damn about the child in the local school whose mother works 3 jobs and hasn’t yet been able to sneak in immunizations. Not caring about the newborn infant next door who could die from pertussis, even though that child comes from a family of People Like Us.
The key part here is that they do not see that they are also putting their own children at risk. Because, you see, vaccine preventable disease does not care about Us or Them. It does not “care” about anything at all, though like all living things it will seek out a hospitable living environment, like a nice trendy Craftsman in a “transitional neighborhood”, or possibly even a yurt. The infectious disease Craftsman will be found among the Unvaccinated, who provide prime real estate for the homeless microbe. And with more and more People Like Us falling into the Unvaccinated category, we are likely to see that in the very near future, it will be People Like Us who are spreading disease hither and yon, and People Like Them who are justifiably giving us the finger and calling us vermin.
Reader, I strongly recommend that you take the time to read Biss’ thoughtful essay. You can tell that like us, she’s done some time in the online anti-vax trenches, and the piece is far more comprehensive than just the snippet that I wrote about here. It’s an article that strikes at the heart of some of the issues I wrote about in this post, albeit with much more eloquence, and it’s well worth a read.
I am guessing that you read the title of this post and thought to yourself, “in other news, water is wet”. But sadly, there are still people out there who think that vaccines are instruments of the devil and are specifically designed to destroy all of humanity, one shot at a time. Fortunately for them, as well as for all interested parties, the Institute of Medicine released a comprehensive report today in which they reviewed the scientific literature and evaluated the safety and efficacy of the current vaccination schedule. Their findings will not surprise you, but I present to you a synopsis of these results below nonetheless.
1. The panel acknowledged the fears of parents regarding the safety of vaccines. They did not dismiss these concerns out of hand. In fact, these worries were stated as a primary impetus for the report released today.
2. They stated that, contrary to what anti-vaxxers would have you believe, there are actually fewer antigens in today’s vaccines than there have been in the past. This is a result of continued scientific progress.
3. They write quite clearly that delayed or declined vaccinations have led to outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases–again, contrary to what the anti-vax movement likes to assert.
4. The IOM committee found that there is “no evidence that the (current vaccine) schedule is unsafe”. No evidence, people. Nada. No associations with autism, diabetes, or paste-eating nay; nor even sluttiness in women who had received the HPV vaccine when they were younger.
5. The panel strongly recommends continued surveillance for any potential safety issues regarding vaccinations. This again flies in the face of the claims of anti-vaxxers that nobody is investigating the “long-term adverse effects” of vaccination, of which the IOM detected precisely none whatsoever.
6. The report also addresses in detail why neither conducting a randomized clinical trial of vaccination, nor launching a new, large, controlled study of myriad health outcomes between vaccinated vs. unvaccinated children is feasible or desirable. In the summary, this section also includes a delightful statement with which I could not agree more:
“While stakeholder concerns should be one, but not the only, element that drives continued searches for scientific evidence, the committee writes that these concerns alone, absent epidemiological or biological plausibility of potential safety problems, do not warrant further study.”
Let me de-pretentiousize this quote for you and translate it. What it means is “Just because the anti-vaxxer is inclined to believe absolute bullshit with no basis in science or reality does not mean that we need to spend any more time or money investigating said batshit crazy theories. Sorry dude. As has been stated before, science is not a democracy“.
7. Interestingly, the IOM also recommends more detailed study of health outcomes in fully vaccinated vs. delayed or unvaccinated children by employing existing databases. Specifically, they recommend that the Vaccine Safety Datalink should be used to obtain more data on both groups. I’m going to creep out on the thin branches and guess that parents of unvaccinated children are going to strongly object to this “harassment” and “government interference”.
Anyway reader, that is my summary. Sadly I suspect that the IOM report will not have the desired effect on the less savory segments of society. While it will undoubtedly reassure concerned, thinking parents, I promise you that the anti-vaxxers will not find it of use at all. I anticipate the following, just off the top of my head:
1. Statements regarding the IOM being paid off by Big Pharma.
2. Detailed attempted character assassination of the panel members, including drilling into their personal information and smearing these individuals online.
3. Finding one or two sentences in the report, taking them completely out of context, and using them to state in some form or fashion that what the IOM really said is that vaccines are dangerous.
4. Outrage that such genius luminaries as Sherri Tenpenny, the Geiers, and Mercola are not quoted in the report.
5. Add your prediction here, reader!
And thanks for stopping by.
If you see any lost lambs staggering around Facebook today, despairingly bleating out “Tenpenny”, you may be able to help them. These anti-vaxxers will undoubtedly be searching for Sherri Tenpenny’s currently-defunct Facebook page, and agonizing about where it went. More on their tentative conclusions below, but first, a little background on this saga. As you may be aware, Sherri Tenpenny is a licensed D.O. based in Cleveland, Ohio. Those who do not live in the U.S. may be unaware that in the States, a D.O. is a fully credentialed medical professional, equivalent to an M.D, and that the vast majority of D.O.s are eminently sensible and are excellent healthcare practitioners. However, of late Tenpenny has been posting things on her Facebook page that in my opinion appear to be increasingly odd; including (but not limited to) the following:
1. Allowing a bomb threat against a vaccine provider and other violent anti-vax links to stand on her page.
2. Calling physicians and public health practitioners “The enemy within our borders“.
3. Attempting to link vaccination to the tragic Newtown shootings.
4. Allegedly harassing Craig Egan, another Facebook poster who likes to call her out on her nonsense.
This last item may be at the center of the mysterious disappearance of Tenpenny’s Facebook pages in the afternoon hours of Friday, January 4th. Egan has publicly stated that he has filed a formal complaint with the State Medical Board of Ohio regarding Tenpenny’s activities in posting personal information about him on Facebook, as was discussed here earlier. It is also possible that the Board has received other complaints about Tenpenny’s apparent violation of the following statute (4731.22(B)(5), Ohio Revised Code):
“Making a false, fraudulent, deceptive, or misleading statement in the solicitation of or advertising for patients; in relation to the practice of medicine and surgery, osteopathic medicine and surgery, podiatric medicine and surgery, or a limited branch of medicine; or in securing or attempting to secure any certificate to practice or certificate of registration issued by the board.
As used in this division, “false, fraudulent, deceptive, or misleading statement” means a statement that includes a misrepresentation of fact, is likely to mislead or deceive because of a failure to disclose material facts, is intended or is likely to create false or unjustified expectations of favorable results, or includes representations or implications that in reasonable probability will cause an ordinarily prudent person to misunderstand or be deceived.”
Such a complaint, if it were made, would probably be based on misleading information about vaccinations that is repeatedly posted on Tenpenny’s Facebook pages, which she also apparently uses to advertise her practice. I know what you are thinking, reader, and one could certainly argue about whether Tenpenny’s acolytes are “ordinarily prudent”. But let’s not get sidetracked. Egan’s complaint and this code may be in part why Tenpenny’s Facebook pages (Tenpenny on Vaccines and Tenpenny Integrative Medical Center) have disappeared, and her Twitter account has been locked. Of course, this is pure speculation. It is entirely likely that these sites are in the process of being scrubbed of any alleged evidence of Tenpenny’s alleged antics and will soon reappear. If that is the case, it will be very interesting and instructive to see the new shape of the pages and which information has been omitted.
It must be noted that the hypothesis that Tenpenny simply wanted a weekend off from cyberspace cannot be rejected, but perhaps other theories can. These latter suppositions are represented by the conspiratorial spin regarding the disappearance of Tenpenny’s pages that is nothing short of hilarious. At babycenter.com, current theories include:
1. That Tenpenny’s Facebook page was hacked…by supervillian Craig Egan.
2. That Craig Egan is paid by Big Pharma to attack anti-vaxxers’ websites.
Further, a poster at babycenter.com wrote, and I paraphrase, that someone with “great power” is behind the disappearance of Tenpenny’s pages. Some commenters there seem to be convinced that this person is Bill Gates. So, allegedly, in anti-vaxxer world, Bill Gates and a Big Pharma cabal have hired Craig Egan to take down anti-vax Facebook pages, one by one, and this is the only way the disappearance of Tenpenny’s various media outlets can be explained.
If that last sentence seems reasonable to you, reader, I shall weep. But anyway, that’s the update for now. Thanks for stopping by.
Today I say hooray for Indianay. Err, I mean Indiana. As you may have heard, a hospital in northern Indiana, IU Goshen Health Hospital, has fired 8 workers, including 6 nurses, who refused to get a flu shot. The expected hand-wringing and constitutional rights wailing from the anti-vaxxers has, of course, commenced. Unfortunately for that crowd, the hospital is well within its rights to fire workers who put their patients at risk.
It is actually frightening to read the comments of a nurse who was terminated. A hospice nurse by the name of Sue Schrock has this to say about influenza vaccine:
“I just feel like it’s a toxin that I don’t want in my body,” she told the station. “There are side effects with that. There are no guarantees that it’s even going to protect you.”
While I agree with Sue that there are no guarantees that influenza vaccine is going to protect you, there is also no guarantee that your seatbelt will prevent your death in the event of a car accident. And yet, I’ll bet Nurse Sue dons her seatbelt every single day. And she “feels” that flu vaccine is a “toxin”? Since when do “feelings” amount to scientific fact? I wonder where Sue got this information about toxins, anyway. It sure wasn’t from any scientific journal. Regardless, it’s disturbing to hear such gibberish from a nurse, who described her decision as “God-led“. Another nurse, named Joyce Gingerich, apparently agreed with Sue’s assessment and got the axe as well. And yet another terminated nurse, Ethel Hoover, said this about vaccination:
“God Gave us a body. He gave us, He Made our body uniquely that we can–if we live a healthful life—that our chances of being able to fight it off with our own immune system is very likely”.
Interestingly, Hoover is a Mennonite who stated that she is not opposed to all vaccinations, just some of them. So it’s unclear if her thinking about “living a healthful life” would apply to preventing, say, polio or measles. Regardless, overall it’s possible that the hospital is better off without nurses who appear to be opposed to modern medicine.
Now, before the anti-vaxxers get their knickers in a twist, understand this. All of these nurses have a right to continue practicing their religions and making God-led decisions, so this is not, as you will undoubtedly contend, religious discrimination. They can practice their religion freely; what they cannot do is practice it at the expense of the health of their patients or their community.
Last week I shared with you the unusual views of Sherri Tenpenny, a Cleveland-based osteopath who attempted in disgusting fashion to link the tragic events in Newtown with vaccinations. I figured that this had to be the bottom of the barrel for her, and maybe it was. But today she appears to be up to more disturbing antics at her Facebook page, which I refuse to link here anymore. If you want to find it, you can go over to the Facebook thingy and type in “Tenpenny on Vaccines”, and you will be directed to the most vapid den of idiocy currently occupying bandwidth on the whole of the internets.
This evening’s dodgy behavior by Tenpenny involves what might be viewed as harassment of the founder of the “Embarrassed Cousins of Proud Parents of Unvaccinated Children” Facebook page, Craig Egan. I have given him a shout-out here before for his work in swiftly dismantling the Proud Parents of Unvaccinated Children page with surgical precision. He has always been open about his identity and his goal of ridding Facebook of the idiocy attending the anti-vaccination movement, and Tenpenny’s antics have been on the anti-anti-vaxxer’s radar for quite some time. Tonight, however, Tenpenny decided to take aim at him.
First, she piously and self-righteously provided a definition of “cyberstalking”.
Incredibly, in the space of the very same post, she proceeds to tell Egan that she is going to call his boss and the police. Interesting. Also interesting is that just after this, Tenpenny posted several links and screen captures on her Facebook page for her readers that include personal information, photos, and videos of Egan; all the while providing “witty” commentary.
One might loosely interpret this activity as “monitoring, making threats, or gathering information that is used to harass”. I don’t know, I’m not a cyberlawyer nor a real one, either. All I know is that this is not the type of thing I would expect to see from a licensed physician. And it’s behavior we have all seen before with regard to the anti-vax movement.