• Deceitful Doctors in the Anti-Vaccination Movement

    This post is part of a series of guest posts on GPS by the undergraduate and graduate students in my Science vs. Pseudoscience course. As part of their work for the course, each student had to demonstrate mastery of the skill of “Educating the Public about Pseudoscience.” To that end, each student has to prepare two 1,000ish word posts on a particular pseudoscience topic, as well as run a booth on-campus to help reach people physically about the topic.


    Deceitful Doctors in the Anti-Vaccination Movement by Ryan McCall

    Medical science and disease prevention has come along way in human history. However, the ignorance of some people in human society is astonishing to me. How people can blatantly disregard scientific fact is beyond comprehension to many, especially when these choices effect their children’s well-being. “Most” parents would agree that they want what is best for their children. They want to protect their children from the dangers of the world and keep them healthy and well. With this being said, some parents do not take the necessary steps to prevent many dangerous diseases and illnesses that can impact their children. They do this by choosing to not get their children vaccinated. Many of these preventable diseases can have disastrous effects on children and families, as well as society as a whole. If you have a strong stomach, then take a visit here to find numerous examples of preventable deaths. The anti-vaccination movement picked up momentum in the late 1990’s and while it has died down somewhat in recent years, there are still supportors that believe that vaccinations are just as dangerous as the diseases themselves. Despite numerous amounts of evidence, some still buy into the nonsense they are fed though celebrities and “doctors” looking to make money.

    So why would one not get their child vaccinated? Anti-Vaccination is not actually a new movement, but instead has a long history dating back to the late 18th century. Most people attribute the modern anti-vaccine movement to a British man named Andrew Wakefield. In 1998, he published an article with findings that linked vaccines to autism as well as measles, mumps, and other diseases. This led to an outbreak in panic for many parents and vaccination rates dropped steadily for several years after. Up to an 80% drop in Britain! It was later discovered that Wakefield study was a fraud. Things in his research were not matching up. Other researchers could not replicate his findings and Wakefield received enormous amounts of criticism. Many of Wakefield’s companions dropped their names from the study. Mistakes in research happen, but Wakefield completely ignored the fact that his findings were false. His license was eventually revoked for making sure claims and unethical practices. So you would think that would be the end of the story right? No connections were found; vaccines are good. Life carries on as it did before. BUT NO! While many people were relieved to find the study a fake and Wakefield removed, a small number of people still held onto the findings, which were proven false, and held them like a sacred text!

    Even today, in 2013, many people believe that vaccines cause a number of problems for their kids. While any vaccine can carry a risk, the percentage chance is so small that it is outweighed by the benefits the vaccine has for society as a whole. It is good to be concerned with the dangers of anything and people should never believe everything they are told. But people need to do the research for themselves. We live in a time where the media will tell people things that will cause the biggest reactions, whether it be true or not. If people would dig a little deeper for themselves, they would find many studies done confirming the safety of vaccines. They would find articles, such as one that describes there is no link between the measles vaccine and autism. Multiple studies have been done on the safety of vaccines and each has shown so causing factors between vaccines and disorders such as autism. A website called Vaccinate Your Baby has a collection of peer reviewed articles addressing the anti-vaccine movement and research against it. These are clinical trails that that fail to support the idea of anti-vaccines. Still, with information out for people to read there are still supports of the anti-vaccine movement.

    The general population tends to accept what they hear as fact, especially when it comes from people with a sense of power or knowledge, such as a man named Russell Blaylock. This man is supporter of the anti-vaccine movement and people seem to listen to him. He is a medical doctor and retired neurosurgeon. Despite his career as a surgeon, he seems to completely ignore the fact that there is strong evidence against anti-vaccination. Blaylock insists that current medical science is not interested in curing and preventing disease, partly because of the large amounts of money to be made in medical care. However, this statement could not be more wrong. Vaccines are one of the leading factors in prevention and disease control. Dr. Blaylock also believes that vaccines should be spread out over a time period and too many at once can cause serve problems, such as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Again, there is no scientific evidence to support this. There is however, evidence to disprove this idea that multiple vaccines cause illness. The swine flu vaccine also found opposition from Blaylock. He stated that the vaccine was more dangerous then the flu itself because the vaccine contained squalene. This is where Dr. Blaylock’s ignorance begins to shine. In the United States, there was no flu vaccine that contained squalene. However, in Britain, flu vaccine does contain a squalene-based adjuvant but out of 22 million vaccinations given out over a 10-year period, there were only a few mild reactions.

    Bill Maher is another strong support of the anti-vaccine movement. He claims that the flu vaccine, if taken more then five times, can quadruple one’s chances at developing Alzheimer’s. That’s a pretty big claim. Maher takes his knowledge from a study done by Dr. Hugh Fudenberg, who claimed that five consecutive flu shots could increase your chances of Alzheimer’s by 10! The reason behind this, flu shots contain mercury, which over time causes cognitive dysfunction. Dr. Fudenberg is quite a character. He had his licenses suspended in 1995 due to “unethical practices. He eventually got his license back but now remains “retired” It may also come to no surprise that he worked alongside Andrew Wakefield on the 1998 vaccine-autism study. Bill Maher is also a strong support of Russell Blaylock. Blaylock has also discovered other causes of Alzheimer’s as well as some cures for cancers and sells his “wellness reports” online for just $54 a year! What a bargain…except that there is no evidence for these cures to work.

    The anti-vaccine movement is not going anywhere any time soon. Unless people start to shovel through the bullshit that is being fed to them, society will be stuck with the same issues as before. It could be due to a lack of education and critical thinking skills. It could be people not thinking for themselves and believing what they hear. In many cause it can be harmless. But when it comes to anti-vaccines, the effects could be dangerous and downright deadly.

    Category: HealthMedicineParentingPseudoscienceTeaching


    Article by: Caleb Lack

    Caleb Lack is the author of "Great Plains Skeptic" on SIN, as well as a clinical psychologist, professor, and researcher. His website contains many more exciting details, visit it at www.caleblack.com

    2 Pingbacks/Trackbacks

    • An Ardent Skeptic

      Still reading and enjoying all of these guest posts! Looking forward to more great reads on GPS!

      • Thanks, I have been very happy with the overall quality of the work my students have been doing. 🙂

        • An Ardent Skeptic

          Your students are doing a great job, and posting their work at ‘Great Plains Skeptic’ is a great way of “Educating the Public about Pseudoscience”.

          • I was hoping it would be. We put on a “Pseudoscience Fair” this week on campus as part of it, and it went really, really well.

            • An Ardent Skeptic

              The “Pseudoscience Fair” is a great idea. I’m glad it went well. I’m sorry I’m not more active on the internet in regards to social media. I don’t have a twitter account and my husband is my only Facebook “friend”. It would be good if more skeptic were getting the word out about the great job you and your students are doing on this project, but unfortunately, I’m not the right person to do the job. I will send e-mail to some friends to see if they are willing to promote your students’ work.

            • Well, I guess you can just share it with the hubs on FB! 😉

              Thanks for promoting, we are getting quite good traffic with the student posts, although I’d always love to see them get more exposure for their work.

            • I’ve been reading them, too… Ardent and I share things without having to go through Facebook. 🙂

            • Wait, you and Ardent talk outside of the internet? What is marriage coming to?!?!

    • intuitiveacuity

      The anti-vaccination movement is a sham, plain and simple. From the beginning, it was all a way to go about making money off of people who are both desperate, sad, and misinformed. Considering all of the original research was demonstrated to not only be hugely conflicted in terms of the interests of those conducting the research, but also outright fraudulent, this needs to be flushed down the annals of history once and for all.

    • ahuskey

      In addition to the gullibility of some, the problem also lies in the fact that some pseudoscience looks like real science. To someone unfamiliar with the rigorous requirements for good clinical research (specifically the use of control groups) an illusory correlation can be just as convincing as a tightly controlled experimental design.

      • Jim ▐

        Amen. This is truly dangerous to those looking for the truth on the internet. The absolute most deceptive is people that cite genuine studies on pubmed or whatever and misinterpret or otherwise twist them or blow them way out of proportion.

        Not everyone can correctly interpret studies– there is a coined word “legalese” referring to the way lawyers speak; I have often thought we should coin a new word “researchese”.

    • psychodawn93

      It does seem that some people believe anything they are told without doing their own research on the subject. Childhood vaccines have saved so many lives over the years that it is unimaginable that people would really think that they do more harm than good. It is true that there is a small chance of a child having a reaction to a vaccine but the doctors warn the parents and let them know what to watch for. It is very rare that a child has a reaction and there is no proof whatsoever linking vaccines to autism or any other condition. This is just another case of people getting scared and not following up that initial fear with a little research and some critical thinking of their own. Too many people are too quick to let someone else do their thinking for them.

      • Jim ▐

        If you scroll down to the bottom of http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2014/01/14/flu-shot-pregnancy.aspx
        You will see a statement to the effect that you are encouraged to do your own research! And more than one poster on that site refers to pro-vaccine people as “Sheeple”. Ironic, isn’t it?

        And I smell hypocrisy. This site uses peer pressure to enforce their views. I saw a post by one guy who said the best way to not get the flu was a flu shot. Well, they have a point system. Guess what? He got Minus 101 points and his post was deleted! A fine way of encouraging people to truly think for themselves!

    • RankingEffects

      Misleading the public on a topic like healthcare is abominable, particularly if the individuals peddling misinformation are professionals. We trust these people with our lives, and for this very reason, should not simply trust a healthcare professional’s “opinion” that is inconsistent with a body of research. This is especially the case if this individual is generating income from their clearly misleading opinion. Frankly, I’m surprised that anyone can espouse such detrimental opinions and retain their medical license.

    • CathlinaSmith

      As a mother of 2(one with autism) I am in awe of some people that don’t vaccinate their kids. When my kids have a cold, I hurt for them so I can’t imagine them getting polio and having to see them go through that. I actually send many links about the truths on vaccines to new moms just so they are well informed from credible sources. Many moms want to argue about stay-at-home vs. working, breastfeeding vs. bottle, cloth vs. disposable…none of that will seriously harm your child but not vaccinating them will most definitely harm them . Great post!!

    • narges30

      As we know, in this world always some victims will be lessons for others. The anti vaccinations have already caused many health problems and killed many children. I hope people who doubt about the vaccinations would learn from those who hurt or killed their children for this wrong idea.

    • IvyBrown

      It’s amazing to me how much damage just a few people can do. More scientific studies back the stance that vaccines are beneficial, but because there were well publicized claims that “children die because parents vaccinate,” people who believe the claim will turn a blind eye to evidence to the contrary.

      • Smenotti

        Exactly! Why does it only take one or two studies for someone to hear about on huffpost and jump off their couch and leap into action (complete with making homemade shirts with felt letters that say “We back Wakefield”), when hundreds of studies are being done that disproves those extraordinary claims!?

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    • pdavis13

      Funny story…today I was browsing my facebook newsfeed, and to my surprise I saw a post from a lady who was asking for recommendations for doctors who do a “mixed” type of practice, where they still believe in hard medicine but also use homeopathic remedies as well. I had to refrain from bursting out in laughter as I found it hard to believe that such a doctor even existed, but sure enough they apparently do, and are actually ramped here in Edmond. This lady was pretty anti-vaccines and wanted a doctor to tell her it was okay not to vaccinate, treat her daughter with chicken noodle soup if she got a cold, feed her yogurt if she contracted HIV, but still give her chemo if she ended up with cancer….have I gone too far with this? Haha, but seriously, people are out of their minds.

    • timharvey87

      I am sad to hear that Bill Maher is insane. I feel like the anti-vaccination movement is somewhat tied to faith healing. Several deaths associated from a lack of vaccinations are due to religious objections. A radical interpretation of the Bible is to blame for this. Their reasoning is that vaccinations are the creation of man and man is flawed so vaccinations are flawed. In the New Testament, Jesus cures the sick and even brings the dead back to life by using God’s infallible power. People in these religious groups do not take medicine and instead pray to God to cure them if they get sick. If they do become sick, it is because of their wickedness and separation from God. By taking a vaccination, you are showing that you believe man has the ability to cure you and that you don’t believe God will. It is difficult to be religious and also believe that science yields more answers than faith.

      • Jim ▐

        I think God leaves some of his work to mankind. I mean, he could wipe out hunger and disease with one word. Perhaps James 2:16 applies here– ” And
        one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled;
        notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body;
        what doth it profit?”

    • Alexa Riffe

      The movement against vaccines reminds me impart of the lack of knowledge from the sudden uprising of alternative medicines to treat major illnesses. In both cases people of society are choosing to purposely ignore scientific information, and choosing instead to follow inquiries that have NO substantial backing what so ever. This is complete and utter nonsense in my opinion.

    • Dustin Belden

      The fact that a doctor takes part in this travesty is hurtful. Doctors should have a duty to relay scientific knowledge, because their patients aren’t specialized in the field. If all of his peers believe otherwise, he should be held to the same standard as someone who does not practice medicine, and relieved of his duties.

    • JazzySmall

      Bad news spreads like wild fire, even when it is a lie. It is truly saddening to see how the media latches onto false information with no evidence. It should be the duty of the media to report truthful information, especially seeing as a bulk of the public takes that information to heart as they were not taught to question the authority of the news. I remember a story of a girl that lost the ability to walk correctly after she received a flu shot. It is that kind of correlational nonsense that sets people off.

    • tinafriar

      I get the “why’s” of this, and you explain them well. There’s a lot of money to be made in medicine and unfortunately the medical industry is notorious at putting profits over people. it just saddens me profoundly that small children who have no voice of their own are being put in harms way when they have no means whatsoever to defend themselves against this dangerous idiocy.

    • fghani

      I did not realize Bill Maher was a proponent for the anti-vaccine movement. I agree that if anti-vaccination is allowed to continue, the outcome could be dangerous.

    • dandymandyl

      I do believe that maybe not all vaccinations are needed, but I also believe that some are completely necessary and should be given to people. I do not believe that this situation needs to be one extreme or the other. I really think it comes down to people taking the time to research what they are getting and not just accepting information that is given to them as fact.

    • Jim ▐

      A major problem is that quack websites are full of vaccine horror stories. Whether they are true or not is immaterial. Many people trust other people more than they do government reassurance that adverse reactions to vaccines are rare. Spend some time on Mercola.com and you’ll see what I mean. I think what is needed is a site with the theme, “I vaccinated my kids and myself and I’m fine”.

      • It’s very true that anecdotes are better than data to most people, which is heartbreaking to most skeptics and scientists. I love the idea of a “We vaxxed, it’s fine” campaign – who’s going to start it? 🙂

        • Jim ▐

          I just posted on http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20140120151141AAeh5Zz under the name “outonalimb”. There are also discussions on amazon.com (hard to find) and wikipedia, and of course there is twitter, facebook, youtube… Anyone have any other ideas of how and where to start such a discussion?

          I will say that I am afraid that my question will receive more horror stories..Many are quick to blame illness on vaccine, though it is very likely coincidental, and many are quick to just blurt out that ‘vaccines killed my best friend’ whether true or not..

          • Great job on the Yahoo post, Jim 🙂

            Personal stories like this are great for helping the non-science folks understand the safety.

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