How To Argue With An Anti-Vaxer

27 May
Melissa Lee (a.k.a. LilaMae)

by Melissa Lee

I’m a skeptic. But I rarely “get into it” with people because I cannot seem to lightly sprinkle skepticism  into a debate. It’s either a firehose on full blast or it’s nothing. Suffice it to say it’s draining to engage in debate. Debating your woo means now I have the responsibility to choose my words extremely carefully if I’m to do justice to representing skepticism. I need to be clear and precise, I have to be on guard I don’t use logical fallacies, every point I present has to be backed up by solid evidence and so on.

So when I do engage, I switch into pretty intense mode – partly because now I’m angry I had to look up shit. And the snark doth cometh.

The following is one of the extremely rare occurrences when I chose to bring it to a Jenny McCarthy-supporting, anti-vaxer who pushed the wrong button. And I guess I had hours of free time to research my rebuttals.

Note: The names have been changed to protect the bitch-slapped.

**********************************************************

Tad Crotchsniffer: Some of what she’s [Jenny McCarthy] questioning is sound. If you think the medical community is practicing sound risk/benefit analysis based on empirical evidence then you need to do some additional research.

Me: Really, Tad? I think we’d be interested in seeing this research.

Tad Crotchsniffer: Research? Get this book; it was even written by a doctor so then it must be true, right?

http://dkmommyspot.com/the-vaccine-book-by-robert-w-sears-mdfaap/

The problem with current vaccination recommendations is that we now vaccinate for a lot of diseases that aren’t particularly dangerous or statistically risky. For efficiency’s sake they also like to bundle a lot of it up and administer multiple vaccines in one visit. We got a small fraction of the vaccines when we were kids that they’re getting now…

The long-term effects of administering so many new vaccines in a short time period cannot be known. Over this same period of escalated vaccine use autism rates are soaring. There might not be a connection, but it seems reasonable to at least exercise some caution. There could be many reasons for increased autism (industrial food, pollution, genetics) but don’t think there’s no hard science/logic to question this stuff. Don’t be a tool. Question authority.

Oh no he had di int

And so…my rebuttal to Tad Crotchsniffer’s argument. Whether or not you agree with me, hopefully I can at least refute Tad’s implication that I am a “tool” that does not “question authority”.

“Research? Get this book; it was even written by a doctor so then it must be true, right?”

OK Tad, if you really do question blind acceptance of authority, and you weren’t just being kind of a snarky douche there, I assume you’re open-mined enough to read an article that contains a skeptical analysis of the ideas of your hero, Dr. Sears.

http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/?p=333

“Failure to put a tidbit of information into proper context is the worst kind of deception.”  If you deconstruct Dr.Sears’ fence-riding, specious arguments, you’ll find that his ideas are ultimately misguided and dangerous.

“The problem with current vaccination recommendations is that we now vaccinate for a lot of diseases that aren’t particularly dangerous or statistically risky.”

They’re not particularly dangerous or risky BECAUSE WE HAVE VACCINES FOR THEM. And the only evidence Dr.Bob provides to back up this claim in his book is from his own personal anecdotal experience. “I, like, hardly ever saw it in all my years of practice” is not statistical evidence. (Especially when you work in private practice as opposed to an ER)

“For efficiency’s sake they also like to bundle a lot of it up and administer multiple vaccines in one visit.”

This is another one of those statements that seems to be implying something sinister but is not actually stating anything. Is this implying the vaccinations should be spaced out more? Based on what? And how about the inefficiency of requiring more office visits for the parents? Wouldn’t more office visits mean more chances of kids getting an infectious disease from other kids?

“We got a small fraction of the vaccines when we were kids that they’re getting now.”

Yes, BUT….even though the number of vaccines have increased, the total number of antigens in those vaccines have decreased (due to improved vaccine technology). So children are getting less of an antigen challenge today than 20 years ago. There is no evidence nor any reason to believe that the vaccine schedule is unsafe or that the number or timing of vaccines is too great. This is just a convenient assumption.

“The long-term effects of administering so many new vaccines in a short time period cannot be known.”

That’s pretty misleading, since vaccines are tested in larger numbers of children for longer periods of time than any medications on the market. And wait, I thought it was the old vaccines that were considered dangerous. So they’re ok now and it’s the new one’s that are bad? Or are they just bad in a vague, nonspecific way? I’m confused.

“Over this same period of escalated vaccine use autism rates are soaring.”

Correlation does not equal causation. (<—- Memorize this line right here)

Study after study has shown consistently that there is no link between autism and vaccines. But on the topic of correlation, do you want to know what else mysteriously took place during that same time period? A major expansion of the diagnostic criteria for autism in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. In fact, autism is now being referred to as “autism spectrum disorder”. An increased public awareness and doctor vigilance have contributed to a major increase in autism diagnoses. This is strongly supported by the fact that autism diagnoses have increased at the same rate in ALL age groups, from children to teenagers to grown adults to even the elderly. Did THEY all get autism from vaccines?

“There might not be a connection, but it seems reasonable to at least exercise some caution.”

Logically, there is no place for “exercising of caution” regarding vaccination. You either vaccinate or you don’t. To say “exercise some caution” is just a pussy way of saying don’t vaccinate without actually saying it.

“There could be many reasons for increased autism (industrial food, pollution, genetics) but don’t think there’s no hard science/logic to question this stuff. Don’t be a tool. Question authority.”

There is no empirical scientific evidence that supports the idea that vaccines are unsafe in any way, it’s all just fear mongering. Anyone claiming to have scientific data to back up their nefarious claims is either cherry-picking facts, siting some discredited study, or simply presenting fraudulent data.

Meanwhile there are more and more outbreaks of easily preventable childhood diseases (measles, mumps, whooping-cough) occurring all over the world and that’s unquestionably real. So how about not focusing on what some quacks think might be happening and focus on what’s actually happening?

Here’s another article about increasing autism rates amongst Somalians in Minneapolis. Interesting, no? http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/01/health/01autism.html?_r=2&th&emc=th

Yeah, that one narrow study that was based on “… very limited data” whose authors “…did not examine children or their medical records” and is based on the medical diagnoses of “some school evaluators”. That’s iron clad.

I also love press articles that equate parents’ observations with scientific data.

And if it’s a study, than it must be true, right?

EDIT: I wish to note that “Tad” was, and is actually an acquaintance of mine (not just a stranger I chose to put the smack down on) and we have since made nice. He has also come around on the antivax issue after I pointed him in the direction of actual research. So… the story does have a happy ending.
Hopefully that makes me less of a dick. 😀

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3 Responses to “How To Argue With An Anti-Vaxer”

  1. Melissa Lee May 27, 2011 at 10:24 am #

    Hey I went this whole post without saying ‘fuck’. Aw shoot.

  2. mjr256 May 27, 2011 at 10:50 am #

    Great piece, and you should be damned proud to have gotten that far without saying ‘fuck.’ Anti-vaxxers don’t make it easy.

  3. Todd May 31, 2011 at 1:40 am #

    If you have not already, check out the Frontline Episode “The Vaccine War” from April 2010. The More you know…Rainbow!!

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