Know nothings on parade: anti-vaxxars


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.


  1. Trebuchet says

    The first sentence is a little bit borked:

    There’s an interesting post up here about a reporter who managed to whooping cough or Pertussis as its formerly called.

    I expect you mean “manged to catch”, or maybe “managed to survive”.

    Meanwhile, anti-vax queen Jenny McCarthy is on TV advertising electronic cigarettes, because she can smoke them anywhere. Vaccines bad, nicotine good. I expect she smoked real cigarettes all the way through her pregnancy, perhaps causing whatever problem her son actually had.

  2. magistramarla says

    I saw one of those very rare incredibly bad reactions to the Pertussis vaccine in my son in 1982.
    My second daughter had what the docs called “a mildly severe” reaction to the DPT, so we went very slowly with her vaccines, to give her the chance to be a bit older and able to deal with them.
    Since she had this reaction, the doc suggested that we go slowly with my next baby, my son.
    He had his first vaccines at 6 months and didn’t react too badly, but it probably sensitized him.
    When he had the next one at 9 months, he broke out in a rash from head to toes, had 106 degree fever and had a convulsion. We popped him into a bath to bring down the fever. When I called his doctor, he had us to meet him and his RN wife at the office, since it was much closer than the ER. My baby was convulsing again by the time we got there, so they immediately bathed him, too. We all spent the rest of the night there, observing my son. I was told that he and any subsequent babies should never get the DPT.

    From then on, I was a basket case if any of my children or any kids around them had a cough. I was always afraid that somehow, one of them would contract whooping cough. Luckily, they have been able to tolerate those vaccines as adults. I’ve also worried that one of the grandkids might react, but none have. We’ve been reassured that there have been a lot of changes in the vaccines since the “80s.
    I’m not anti-vax, but I do think that they start those things way too early now and put too many vaccines in at once. How can they tell which one a child is reacting to if the child had six at once?
    Our family is highly sensitive to lots of things. I can’t have any opioid pain meds – I even react to poppy seeds.
    One daughter is gluten and lactose intolerant (diagnosed celiac) and her baby girl is highly reactive to gluten.

    When you see a little baby that you love reacting so badly to something, whether it’s a vaccine, a food or anything else, you get pretty frightened.
    I know that a lot of readers here will disagree with me, and as I said, I’m definitely not anti-vax, but I am all for slow vax.

  3. Holms says

    That seems entirely reasonable to me. There is strong contraindication for early vaccination in your family; ergo, you took medical advice which agreed with your instinct: to ease up on the vaccinations.

  4. Jerry says

    I wholly agree with what magistramaria did- but I’d like to point out that it is not generalizable to all families. Her child had a bad reaction to a vaccine, which happens rarely, and suggests more than usual caution for other very close family members. It does *not* support the idea for delaying vaccinations for less closely related members of her own extended family, and certainly does not suport the idea of delaying or dropping vaccinations for anyone else. A recently published study sowed that delaying vaccinations may even increase the risk of side effects.

    That’s a problem with the anti-vax crowd. They generalize from one case to everyone, ignoring the low chance of bad side effects in the whole popuation (versus one family), and ignoring the much higher risk of death and damage caused by the diseases against which we should be vaccinated. Even the vaccine side effect that magistramaria’s child suffered, while real, frightening, and harmful, is less than the harm caused by the same disease described in the original post above. I commend magistramaria for being a cautious and careful parent, who went ahead with vaccinations with all due caution to protect her other children from both the side effects and, more importantly, from the disease.


Leave a Reply