P.R.A.T.T.s

P.R.A.T.T.s are Points Refuted A Thousand Times. They are claims that have been disproved over and over again, but which are repeated as gospel as if they were never shown to be wrong. Below are some antivaccine P.R.A.T.T.s I’ve come across. I’ll periodically update and add new ones as I remember them.

Andrew Wakefield’s work has been independently replicated! (Usually followed by a list of studies)

No it hasn’t. Invariably, when we dig into the list that follows this claim, the studies are not done independently from Wakefield, or do not prove him right, or most typically, do not even look at the question of whether vaccines cause autism.

Blogger Fallacy Man looked at this question. You can see his deconstruction here.

John Walker-Smith was exonerated, so Wakefield is vindicated!

A bit of background: Professor John Walker-Smith was one of the co-accused at Wakefield’s GMC hearing. He had a number of charges found proven against him and like Wakefield, was struck off the Medical Register. He appealed, and in March 2012 a court of law voided both the finding and sentence against him. Some antivaxxers claim that this proves that Wakefield is innocent. It doesn’t.

  1. Wakefield has not launched an appeal. If his case is so good, why hasn’t he appealed?
  2. Walker-Smith’s own attorney declared the vaccine-autism causation hypothesis discredited.
  3. Walker-Smith’s appeal was that Wakefield deceived him. This makes Wakefield look worse, not better.

Vaccines cause Autism!

This has been looked at multiple times by studies done in different countries and by different organisations, including Medical Insurers, who would want to know if vaccines cause Autism. Every properly done study has returned the exact same result: vaccines do not cause Autism.

The Amish don’t vaccinate and they don’t have autistic children!

Both arms of this claim are wrong. The Amish vaccinate their children, and there is a Clinic for Special Children that caters for Amish children with various conditions, including autism.

Herd Immunity is a myth!

The principles of herd immunity have been understood for over a century. If a person is immune to a disease, either through vaccination or from getting the disease before, that person will resist the infection and will either not pass the disease on, or will be infectious/contagious for a much shorter period, so the disease doesn’t spread from him/her to immunologically naïve individuals. We can even mathematically model it.

The diseases have not gone away, they’ve just been relabelled!

This claim is made in a laughable attempt to explain what happened to smallpox and polio. The claim is that the former was renamed to monkeypox and that polio paralysis was relabelled as “acute flaccid non-polio paralysis”.
Monkeypox looks nothing like smallpox, and science was able to identify specific serotypes of polio virus as far back as the 1950’s. There is no way that this alleged deception could have gone undetected.

I’m not anti-vaccine, I’m pro-safe vaccine!

Usually said by someone who is anti-vaccine. The following questions typically help to expose the truth.

Which vaccinations are safe, in your opinion? Which ones are unsafe? Why are they unsafe? What would you consider an acceptable rate of adverse reactions? One in 100,000 injections? One in a million?

Vaccine fanatics deny the very real side effects and harm caused by vaccines!

Nobody denies the risks and side effects of vaccines. Whenever I ask for examples of such denial, I get no response.

My child, my choice!

Tell that to the parents of the first child in Spain to die of diphtheria since 1987. They didn’t get him vaccinated. Also, tell it to the parents of Dana McCaffrey, Kaliah Jordan and Kailis Smith, all too young to be vaccinated, all of whom caught diseases from deliberately unvaccinated individuals, and all of whom died before they were three months old.

The bottom line is, not getting your children vaccinated puts them at risk of contracting potentially fatal diseases, of suffering severe consequences (including death), and of passing them on to those who are immunocompromised and those too young to be vaccinated.

Your rudeness is not going to change people’s minds!

This is known as Tone Trolling. Hilariously, it is often thrown at people who are not being rude at all.

Follow the money!

  1. Vaccines are not big earners. Typically, they make up only 2-3% of income for pharmaceutical companies.
  2. It costs many times more (and earns far more profit for pharmaceutical companies) to treat just one case of measles, mumps or rubella than to administer two doses of M.M.R.
  3. Health Insurers pay for people to get vaccinated and even award their clients extra benefits for getting vaccinated. Their actuaries have done the calculations and they know that the costs of paying for their clients and their clients’ children to be vaccinated on time saves them money. This wouldn’t be the case if vaccines were causing the harms antivaxxers claim they cause.

Paul Offit voted to put a vaccine he created on to the schedule!

Paul Offit is the co-inventor of RotaTeq, a vaccine against Rotavirus. He also served on the Advisory Council on Immuisation Practices and actively supports vaccination and fights antivaccine propaganda. As a result, he is viewed by many antivaxxers as the Antichrist.
The ACIP approved RotaTeq in 2006.
Offit left the Advisory Council on Immunisation Practices in 2003, literally years before RotaTeq was voted onto the pediatric immunisation schedule.
The Minutes of the Meeting.

Vaccinated people can shed the disease!

Some vaccines could shed, because they used attenuated viruses and bacteria. Most vaccines can’t, because they use dead or even acellular disease organisms.

Vaccines contain aluminium, formaldehyde and mercury! Dangerous substances!

The dose makes the poison. There is more aluminium in one banana, more formaldehyde in one apple, and more mercury in a can of tuna, than in the entire vaccine schedule. In addition, the mercury in vaccines is in compound form and is excreted as ethylmercury, and not the more toxic methylmercury.

Vaccines contain aborted foetal tissue!

A distortion. In the 1960s a pregnant woman contracted rubella (German Measles), which is known to cause foetal damage. The foetus was aborted and cell lines from this foetus are used to grow the strains used in a vaccine. In other words, the foetus was aborted for a medically valid reason, and not just to use in vaccines.

I’ve done my research!

This is usually followed by links to various websites that sprout easily refutable antivaccine nonsense, including the batshit insane whale.to.

A few hours spent googling “dangers of vaccines” is not research. Designing large studies (including identifying and controlling for confounders), monitoring them, making sure they are properly blinded, recording your results and detailing every step you took so that others can replicate your study and results is.

You are giving a vaccine for a sexually transmitted disease to children!

Said in reference to the Hepatitis B vaccine given shortly after birth. Hepatitis B is not only spread through sexual contact. It can be spread through bodily fluids like blood. Biting and scratching can transmit it, and children frequently do both. In addition, Hep B virus can survive outside the body for a week. If you refuse the jab, you are putting your children at risk of a disease that can cause liver failure later in life, necessitating an expensive and unpleasant transplant to survive. That is, if there is a donor liver available.

Somebody I know/knew suffered a vaccine injury/was killed by a vaccine!

Occasionally, this is genuine. But all too often, when details are requested (What was the injury? What evidence do you have that vaccines caused it? Have you put in a claim for compensation?) the response is silence.

My child changed after receiving a vaccine!

This typically turns out to be incorrect when investigated.

The most famous example is that of Michelle Cedillo, one of the test cases in the Omnibus Autism Proceedings before Vaccine Court. Her parents introduced videotape of her at 15 months old to show that she was fine before she received MMR. An expert in autism was able to prove that Michelle was already showing clear signs of autism at 15 months, and that her parents were unconsciously adjusting their behaviour to her.

You’re being paid to discredit us!

This is the pharma-shill gambit. It attempts to discredit someone by claiming that he/she is being paid to support vaccines. It’s the fallacy known as “ad-hominem”.

Vaccines cause [side effect]! It’s in VAERS/on the package insert!

Any adverse events that occurred during a vaccine trial, regardless of whether they could be provably linked to the vaccine or not, have to be reported. From the package insert for Infanrix:

These adverse events were reported voluntarily from a population of uncertain size; therefore, it is not always possible to reliably estimate their frequency or establish a causal relationship to vaccination.

Just because a report is made to VAERS it doesn’t automatically mean that the vaccine caused the adverse event. It means the vaccine may have caused the adverse event. What researchers do is use VAERS to look for patterns of increased events after vaccinations.

Vaccines cause SIDS!

No. This has been looked at.

http://research-information.bristol.ac.uk/en/publications/reanalyses-of-casecontrol-studies-examining-the-temporal-association-between-sudden-infant-death-syndrome-and-vaccination%280b8f1152-32bb-426a-8190-de35474f7437%29.html

From the abstract of the above report:

There is no increased or reduced risk of sudden infant death during the period after the vaccination.

Japan stopped vaccinating children before two years of age, and their SIDS and autism rates fell!

A dash of half-truth mixed into a huge amount of lying and distortion.
From Measles vaccine coverage and factors related to uncompleted vaccination among 18-month-old and 36-month-old children in Kyoto, Japan:

In 1993, the Ministry of Health and Welfare (MHW) withdrew the domestically produced MMR vaccine. As of 1994, an amendment to the Immunization Law made vaccination voluntary and not mandatory. According to the present law, a single dose of measles vaccine is recommended for children over one year of age. Children are eligible to receive measles vaccination after 12 months following birth but not beyond 90 months. Until January 2004, adminisiration of measles vaccine was recommended between 12 and 24 months of age, instead of between 12 and 15 months when children have the greatest risk of contracting measles. In Japan, measles vaccine coverage has remained low, and either small or moderate outbreaks have occurred repeatedly in communities. According to an infectious disease surveillance (2000), total measles cases were estimated to be from 180,000 to 210,000, and total deaths were estimated to be 88.

The autism rate did not fall, and children died from Measles.
From the abstract of Acellular pertussis vaccines in Japan: past, present and future:

An antivaccine movement developed in Japan as a consequence of increasing numbers of adverse reactions to whole-cell pertussis vaccines in the mid-1970s. After two infants died within 24 h of the vaccination from 1974 to 1975, the Japanese government temporarily suspended vaccinations. Subsequently, the public and the government witnessed the re-emergence of whooping cough, with 41 deaths in 1979. This series of unfortunate events revealed to the public that the vaccine had, in fact, been beneficial.

Vaccines can fail, so they are useless!

This is the “Nirvana Fallacy”. Just because vaccines aren’t 100% effective doesn’t mean they’re ineffective. Vaccines typically have efficacy of over 90%. In addition, as far as I know, nothing has 100% effectiveness.

If vaccines work, why do you care if my child is unvaccinated?

Because children too young to be vaccinated and children undergoing chemotherapy are at grave risk if they get infected by your intentionally unvaccinated child. Ask the parents of Dana McCaffery, Kaliah Jordan and Kailis Smith. All were too young to be vaccinated, all were infected by intentionally unvaccinated individuals and all died at less than three months old.

I’d rather chance a few spots and a fever for a week with lifelong immunity than a life time of allergies, asthma, eczema, seizures, brain damage, possible autism, auto-immune disease or death!

All the diseases we vaccinate against can kill, and have other negative sequelae like blindness, deafness, permanent lung damage, sterility and permanent brain damage, and at orders of magnitude many times that of vaccine adverse events. Being vaccinated on schedule is far less risky than the alternatives.

Natural Immunity is better and lasts longer!

A variant on the above.  It’s a half-truth mixed in with lies.

Firstly, the sequelae from any disease are far worse and far more common than vaccine adverse events.

Secondly, it is possible to get diseases like mumps and chicken pox more than once.

Thirdly, it has been discovered that measles disables immune memory, so a person who develops measles is once again at risk of catching any diseases he or she had before.

Getting the diseases to acquire natural immunity is like burning an item to fireproof it.

The vaccine schedule overloads the immune system!

“Too many, too soon”. Investigated and disproven.

http://www.jpeds.com/webfiles/images/journals/ympd/JPEDSDeStefano.pdf

It is beneficial for children to get these childhood diseases! It helps with their development!

This is the Naturalistic Fallacy. The attitude is exemplified by the antivaccination book “Melanie’s Marvellous Measles”. Needless to say, it’s wrong. All the diseases we vaccinate against can kill, and can have other negative outcomes like lung damage, brain damage, sterility, paralysis, and organ damage and failure.

The autism rate has gone up!

The rate of diagnosis has gone up. That doesn’t mean that the actual prevalence of autism has gone up. Instead, broadened diagnostic criteria, increased awareness, diagnostic sustitution and previous underdiagnosis are responsible for the increased number of diagnoses.

The Courts have repeatedly ruled that vaccines cause autism!

Hannah Poling is often mentioned as supporting evidence. In reality, the Vaccine Court ruled that the vaccines she received may have aggravated an underlying mitochondrial disorder. In fact, Hannah doesn’t even have a diagnosis of autism.
In truth, only one Court, a Lower Court in Rimini, Italy, has ruled that vaccines cause autism, and that verdict was overturned by a Higher Court. Whenever I ask for examples of rulings that vaccines cause autism, the response is crickets.

The diseases were going away before vaccine programs were introduced!

This is a simple confusion of mortality with morbidity. Thanks to medical improvements like iron lungs and serums, the death rate from these diseases was decreasing. It was only when mass vaccination programs were introduced that the rates of these diseases fell.

I never knew any autistic people growing up, so ipso facto the rate of autism has risen!

The fact that you didn’t know about them didn’t mean they didn’t exist. The worst cases were warehoused in institutions, out of sight and out of mind. The ones that were still bad but could function were sent to special facilities. Milder cases (I am one) were able to attend school, but wouldn’t be recognised as being autistic.

The vaccination schedule needs to be spaced out more!

This is a variant of “Too Many Too Soon”. Some doctors have created alternate vaccine schedules to cater to antivaccine parents.
Each country’s vaccine schedule has been carefully thought out, taking into account where which diseases are endemic, how dangerous each disease is and at which age each vaccination would be effective. There is no good evidence that spacing out vaccines reduces risk, and considerable evidence that it increases the risk that children will get the diseases.

More research needs to be done into the vaccine-autism link!

Enough studies have been done for there to be a meta-analysis of over 14.5 million individuals. If vaccines caused even a minority of cases of autism, the meta-analysis would have detected it. It didn’t.
Vaccines do not cause autism.

We don’t know what causes autism so it could still be vaccines!

Just because we do not know the precise causes of autism doesn’t mean we can’t positively exclude vaccines.
As mentioned previously, a 2012 meta-analysis investigating the question looked at over 14.5 million subjects. No correlation between vaccines and autism was found. With those numbers, if vaccines caused even a fraction of cases of autism, it would have been detected.

 

Vaccines bypass the body’s immune system!

If that were true, getting a cut in your skin and getting dirt in it (which every child does, repeatedly) also “bypasses the body’s immune system”. Yet we survive most cuts and scrapes.

A healthy lifestyle is enough to protect us from diseases!

All of human history refutes this. For millenia, people ate organic and got loads of physical activity, and still most of us died before reaching 18. This only changed after vaccination. In addition, this belief is exceptionally offensive as it insinuates that children who die from vaccine preventable diseases today weren’t getting proper nutrition.

In [recent outbreak], most of the cases were vaccinated!

And most people injured in car crashes were wearing their seatbelts.
This argument misunderstands relative risk. In the few times where this claim has been true (in most outbreaks, well over half the cases are unvaccinated), the vaccination rate is over 80% while the percentage of vaccinated cases is just over 50%. That means that the less than 20% unvaccinated are responsible for almost half of the cases. In other words, several times more likely to catch the disease than the vaccinated.

We need to do a vaccinated versus unvaccinated study to settle the question!

A Randomized and prospective study would be so unethical it wouldn’t pass any review board. It’s unethical to withhold standard medical care from someone, and vaccines are considered the standard of care. In addition, because one doesn’t know who goes in which group, there are bound to be pro-vaccine parents whose children will be in the non-vaccinated arm, and anti-vaccine parents whose children are in the vaccinated arm.
A retrospective study would need huge numbers to reliably detect an effect. Self selection can skew any sample.

Informed consent!

When it comes to antivaxxers, “informed consent” is, as Orac famously said, misinformed consent. Antivaxxers exaggerate the risks and downplay the benefits of vaccination, and downplay the very real risks of vaccine preventable diseases.

Follow the money!

  1. It is far more expensive for healthcare, and far more profitable for Pharmaceutical companies, to treat one case of measles than to administer two shots of MMR. The calculation holds up for all vaccine preventable diseases.
  2. Health Insurers pay for people to get vaccinated and even award their clients extra benefits for getting vaccinated. Their actuaries have done the calculations and they know that the costs of paying for their clients and their clients’ children to be vaccinated on time saves them money. This wouldn’t be the case if vaccines were causing the harms antivaxxers claim they cause.

Some children may be more likely to get autism if they’re vaccinated!

This is the “susceptible subgroup” claim. It’s an attempt to explain why there are unvaccinated autistics.
As previously mentioned, enough studies into whether vaccines cause autism have been done for a meta-analysis of over 14 million subjects. If vaccines caused even a small minority of individuals to become autistic, this would have been detected. It wasn’t. The hypothetical “susceptible subgroup” is just that: hypothetical.

The vaccines the child’s parents received are responsible for the child being autistic!

Yes, some antivaxxers make this claim. It’s another attempt to show how vaccines can cause autism in completely unvaccinated children.

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. But this paraphrase of a comment by fellow vaccine advocate Antaeus Feldspar summarises it best.

Science is about trying to explain the evidence. The claim that the vaccines the parents received is responsible for the child being autistic is about trying to explain away the evidence. True scientists go where the evidence leads. If the evidence showed that vaccinated children get autism at a higher rate, we would be asking why. But looking for a means by which we can still believe “vaccines cause autism” even though the evidence suggests no such thing? That’s not science; that’s True Faith trying to impersonate science, and steal the respect that True Faith covets but unlike science has not earned.

There is considerable dispute within the medical and scientific community about the safety and efficacy of vaccines!

No there isn’t. The Medical and Scientific communities are evidence based, and the evidence for the safety and efficacy of vaccines, and the dangers of vaccine preventable diseases, is overwhelming. The only dispute is between the antivaxxers and the experts, which is the same as the dispute between flat-earthers and real scientists.

Vaccines do not confer immunity!

The rate of every disease we vaccinate against has fallen drastically. This happens in every country when vaccines have been introduced. After MMRV was placed on the schedule, chickenpox rates fell. The introduction of Gardasil has lowered the rate of cervical cancers in countries that use it. Countries that don’t have unchanged rates.
When vaccine programs break down, the diseases make a return. After the breakup of the Soviet Union, diphtheria broke out in the former Soviet Republics. Syria’s vaccination program has ended due to the civil war raging there, and polio has broken out.

The overwhelming majority of people recover quickly, easily and fully from vaccine preventable diseases!

The overwhelming majority of people walk away alive from car crashes. Thousands still die from them every year.
Every year, thousands of people die from each vaccine preventable disease.

People who die or who get sequelae from vaccine preventable diseases had underlying unidentified health conditions or nutritional deficiencies!

This is the most revolting claim used by antivaxxers. It’s victim-blaming pure and simple. It’s used in an attempt to argue that the diseases we vaccinate against aren’t that dangerous. And it’s demonstrably wrong.
The Native American population had very healthy diets. That did not save them from diseases that are now vaccine preventable. The native population of America (both North and South) fell by as much as 90%. Members of European royalty (who were far better nourished than most) were not spared death from these diseases either. Even in First World countries like Germany and Australia, children have died from these diseases.