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Amy Farah Fowler sets off anti-vaxxar whine fest

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You probably do not want to read the comments in the link below. They follow a post by Mayim Bialik, aka Blossom, aka Amy Farrah Fowler on Big Bang Theory, wherein it came to light she chose not to vaccinate her kids and speculation ran that she might be an anti-vaxxar. It’s not clear if the last part is true or not. Here’s an except of her post:

I almost always listen to my editor. But I rebelled last week. You see, she asked me to write in response to someone on the internet who was speaking disparagingly about me regarding my personal (and rarely publicly discussed) decisions about vaccines. She wanted me to respond. I said no.

Bialik has a real doctorate in neuroscience. So I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt and assume she’s not an anti-vaxxar. Which might mean she chose to spare her kids the minuscule risk of a bad reaction, knowing that the herd immunity provided by other parents who did vaccinate their kids would protect hers. Which may be even worse, but again, I don’t know what’s going on there and she’s not saying.

What I do know is the comment section quickly degenerated into a jamboree of people who are well informed and those who have been successfully victimized by the anti-vaxxar shysters. One of the more pernicious lies they pitch these days is, not only are vaccines useless or dangerous, diseases are actually passed on and kept endemic because people get vaccinated. None of these strange beliefs fall across the usual left-right political axis. I’ve observed anecdotally that Lefty anti-vaxxars tend to suspect drug companies of a giant conspiracy — up to including some who claim the drug companies purposely tailor their vaccines to keep the disease going because that’s good for business — whereas Righties tend to blame it on a massive government conspiracy. But politically, this one is an equal opportunity delusion.

Obviously we know vaccines work. For starters we can and have tested them exhaustively, that’s part of the tedious clinical trial process for all drugs. It’s not hard to do, you expose two populations of rats or chimps or whatnot to the virus in question, one that has been vaccinated and one that hasn’t, and see what happens. Since I’m writing here for level-headed science-minded skeptics, we all know what happens.

But graphs like the one above, showing polio rates, are more difficult for the shysters to explain away. We can debate why that polio outbreak happened, I would guess that when millions of people come home from war ravaged regions of Europe and the Pacific, where basic sanitation and medical care have been seriously reduced or broken down completely among the surviving native populations for months or years on end, they might bring home some new or newly mutated viruses. Which, after the relevant incubation time, set up and cause outbreaks in those nations. But there’s no doubt what caused reported cases to drop precipitously; the mid 50s are precisely when a polio vaccine was developed and distributed on a massive scale.

You don’t want to know what the shysters make of that, because when you hear it, you’ll be depressed that they aren’t laughed out of the room by 100% of their intended marks. The Polio Vaccine Myth spiel goes like this: the outbreak was actually going to go to zero in the mid 50s (They know this for a fact!), but the polio vaccine extended it and made it worse! That’s right folks, the evidence that polio vaccine stopped a deadly epidemic in its tracks and has kept it at bay ever since is really evidence the vaccine doesn’t work and causes polio!

To put it in terms even the average wingnut can grasp, saying that people who get vaccinated sometimes get the disease and therefore vaccines are worthless, is like saying people who own guns sometimes get shot and therefore owning a gun offers zero protection. In terms for the rest of us, if you don’t leave your keys in your car and it gets stolen, you might as well leave the keys in and the doors open form now on because it doesn’t do any good to lock it up.

PT Barnum was an optimist.

Comments

  1. jedibear says

    She cites what look like they might be anti-vax propaganda (one is by a homeopath) as her “research” on the subject and makes an allusion to the “too much too soon” idea, which has no evidence I am aware of to support it.

    She may not be Jenny McCarthy, but it’s likely she has some bad ideas about vaccination and despite what appear to be her best efforts, she seems to be using her platform to spread them.

  2. coragyps says

    Goddammit, my mother died in that 1951 spike on that graph! Don’t you bring any antivaxxer bullshit over to my house, or I will feed it to you. Even if you are some famous actress…..

  3. says

    They follow a post by Mayim Bialik, aka Blossom, aka Amy Farrah Fowler on Big Bang Theory, wherein it came to light she chose not to vaccinate her kids and speculation ran that she might be an anti-vaxxar. It’s not clear if the last part is true or not.

    From http://www.today.com/moms/mayim-bialik-why-women-shouldnt-fear-home-birth-1C7398354

    I used self-hypnosis for both of my natural labors as well as showers and baths, massage, homeopathy, and the greatest power of all: the power of my mind to force out the notion that pain with purpose – labor — is something to fear.

    PhD or no PhD, she seems to think that distilled water (or sugar pills imbued with the ethereal essence of distilled water) may offer some sort of contribution to the process of childbirth.

    I think antivaxer may not be that big of a stretch.

  4. khms says

    you’ll be depressed that they aren’t laughed out of the room by 100% of their intended marks

    Laughed out of the room? Isn’t this what tar and feathers were invented for?

  5. lorn says

    Vaccines will always be easy to attack because the down side, small as it is, is easy to point to while the benefits, as profound as they are, are surrounded by statistical uncertainty. The benefits are measured in terms of mass contagion that doesn’t sweep across a population, and normal healthy lives that stay normal and healthy.

    Another way of looking as it (mildly NSFW):
    http://oglaf.com/chronotherapy/

  6. Holms says

    It’s easy to take the power of vaccination for granted when your memory does not stretch back to WWII and its aftermath. The primary piece of evidence for their efficacy is the absence of outbreaks, which is hard to notice when you never really experienced them in the first place.

    Of course, I say that it is ‘easy’ to be ignorant of vaccination, but that is a slight misnomer; rather, it is easy if you are intellectually lazy.

  7. Christoph Burschka says

    PhD or no PhD, she seems to think that distilled water (or sugar pills imbued with the ethereal essence of distilled water) may offer some sort of contribution to the process of childbirth.

    To be fair, that quote only indicates she’s using it for pain management, which is pretty much entirely subjective. If sugar, water and meditation help her deal with labor pains, that’d be fine.

    (Of course, if she’s also using homeopathic woo-woo in place of real medical treatment, that’s another story entirely. And it’s a good point that even believing in woo-woo in a mostly harmless setting may indicate belief in it in other, more serious situations.)

  8. says

    Everyone ignore this, playing around with Java.

     

    Given that y=5, calculate x=y+2, and display the result.

  9. says

    Oh, please. Bialik is spokesperson for the Holistic Moms Network. She is woo and denialist and antivaxxer to the core, and has been so for a long time. More here. She’s as antiscience as Dr. Mercola or, for that matter, Jason Lisle, and in particular a proud proponent of any fallacious appeal to nature imaginable.

  10. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    @ ^ Stephen “DarkSyde” Andrew : Playing around with Java? What a whole Indonesian island?

    PT Barnum was an optimist.

    If that’s alluding to his famous aphorism about “a sucker being born every minute” it may be worth remembering the human population is now a lot higher these days than it was back in his day. (or not.)

  11. don1 says

    I have a friend who is one of the nicest people you could meet; clever, funny, generous,kind, fiercely opposed to bigotry whether of race or sexuallity, hardworking, gives back to the community. Just someone it’s nice to spend time with. When the whole Wakefield thing blew up she decided not to go for MMR for her two delightful kids.

    It’s tricky, even with close friends, to tell people that they’re making a mistake about their kids but I made sure I had my facts straight and we talked about it. Turned out she already understood that the chances of a negative outcome were tiny compared with the benefits of herd immunity. But she figured she could avoid that tiny risk by counting on herd immunity to protect her kids while she paid a lot of money to have her kids vaccinated one vaccine at a time.

    A few years later we got talking about schools and she explained that she was getting her kids into private secondary schools. Now, as a socialist I’m against private education but I’m not going to make an issue of it, but I did point out that our local secondary school was one of the best in the country annd it’s results matched any private school (it’s a very middle class market town ex-grammar) and had a very good reputation for music, drama and sport (three Olympic medalists on the Honours Board) and the proportion of students getting into Russell Group universities was exactly the same as the private school she had in mind. Also saving her kids a fifty mile round trip to school every day, saving about £75,000 per child over the course of seven years and letting her kids go to school with kids they lived near, so they could hang out with their friends without having to be driven everywhere. Turned out she knew that but figured it was worth it for the ‘networking’. I must have been visibly appalled because she explained that while she tried to live a reasonably rational, ethical life in general, when it came to her kids all bets were off. Any advantage she could get she would take.

    I went to primary school with her husband but then he was sent to the fancy private school in question. He got to be a smooth, succesful lawyer and I got to be scruffy, successful teacher. He got rich, I’m doing OK. He’s one of the good guys, does a lot of pro-bono. He tended to be on my side of the discussion

    We didn’t fall out over it and currently her kids are doing very well at our local school ( although the financial argument may have been the clincher there) and she is openly embarrassed by her anti-vac phase. Also, she has stopped taking the Daily Mail. (I even persuaded her to vote Liberal rater than Conservative in the last election. That worked out well.)

    People can be on the wrong side of an issue without being stupid, ignorant ot or bad people.

  12. estraven says

    I have some concerns about the safety of some of our vaccination policies, in terms of when the vaccinations are administered and how they are bundled. But you know what I find really appalling? That a (now former) friend of mine said that all anti-vaxxer parents should have their children taken away and put in refugee camps.

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