Know nothings on parade: anti-vaxxars

Budding_of_generic_virus,_pictorial_represent

There’s an interesting post up here about a reporter who managed to get whooping cough, or Pertussis as its formerly called. Pertussis was once barely heard from, but it’s on the rise again in the US because of the anti-vax movement. But there’s more to this post, a lot more. First and excerpt:

At this writing, I have been coughing for 72 days. Not on and off coughing, but continuously, every day and every night, for two and a half months. And not just coughing, but whooping: doubled over, body clenched, sucking violently for air, my face reddening and my eyes watering. Sometimes, I cough so hard, I vomit. Other times, I pee myself. Both of these symptoms have become blessedly less frequent, and I have yet to break a rib coughing—also a common side effect.

… There’s a reason that we associate the whooping cough with the Dickensian: It is. The illness has, since the introduction of a pertussis vaccine in 1940, has been conquered in the developed world. For two or three generations, we’ve come to think of it as an ailment suffered in sub-Saharan Africa or in Brontë novels. And for two or three generations, it was.

Until, that is, the anti-vaccination movement really got going in the last few years. Led by discredited doctors and, incredibly, a former Playmate, the movement has frightened new parents with claptrap about autism, Alzheimer’s, aluminum, and formaldehyde.

Of course the anti-vaxxars aren’t going to take that laying down. They swarmed the post in comments claiming not only is their whacky pseudoscience not responsible, it is in fact those who get vaccines who are spreading disease and death.

I’m not a great authority on the antivax spiel, but the underlying science agianst them is fairly straightforward: where vaccines are widely used the incidence of thatdisease drops precipitously and vice-versa. But there’s a whole cadre of grifters selling booklets and CDs lecturing the newest and oldest anti-vaxxar converts alike that what really causes disease is some kind of neo-magical, unbalanced diet or associated lifestyle, usually fed by the twin culprits of industrial farming/ranching and Big Evil Pharma. Occasionally genetically modified foods or failure to pray hard enough, etc., make an appearance. Because vaccines can rarely cause unusual reactions, in a handful of cases even fatal ones, they have plenty of info to spin off of and sew fear in the mind of parents. Particularly parents handing over their innocent kids to evil government schools for socialist atheist brainwashing.

At the heart of some of the comments is the strange claim that weakened or dead viruses as prepared for vaccines do something the commenters clearly do not understand, called shedding. It’s a great term — to misuse. Because we all know what sheds in everyday life, it’s hair of off animals! Try as you might, when a dog or cats starts shedding it gets all over the place. It gets loose! Holy cow, if viruses are in vaccines in some form, and they can get lose from the vaccine, they would be all over us! Shedding Viruses …. sounds like the zombie apocalypse is nigh.

I’m not a microbiologist or disease specialist — there are micro-bios available on this site and others elsewhere to double check with. But I believe all shedding means in that context is the process by which baby viruses leave the infected host cell. One of the most popular being to coat themselves in the infected cells’ own membrane, via budding or exocytosis, before setting their sights on new cells to infect and spread the virus.

But for those commenters and presumably many others, shedding is a vague term, which means all sorts of vague scary things. That a vaccine containing a pathogen, even when properly made, administered correctly in a healthy patient, even after decades of accumulated data showing it is safe and effective, will stir to full life, unmutate itself from the derived version used in most vaccines, and proceed to infect other cells spreading itself that way. IOW, those of us who are dutifully getting vaccinated and getting our booster shots as advised are complicit, knowingly or unknowingly, in the plot to make everyone sick. Because sick people make better customers for drug companies. The conspiracies only go downhill from there.