In which I agree with Barbara Loe Fisher…

12 Nov

The response to the decision by Delta Air Lines to air a commercial by the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC) has been much larger than I would have predicted. Case in point, the Atlanta Journal Constitution has an article, Delta in-flight ad opposed; airline considers video change, discussing the reaction to the NVIC advertisement. This article notes:

Delta Air Lines will change its approval process for in-flight programming after a video advertisement drew opposition, leading to an online petition calling for its removal.

They note the online petition, “Tell Delta to Stop Putting their Passengers’ Health at Risk” (at over 2400 signatures so far).

The AJC also quotes Barbara Loe Fisher of NVIC:

“I don’t understand why there’s this controversy,” she said. “We need to be able to criticize organizations that we think could do a better job. … For the people who want to use vaccines, we are fighting for safer vaccine policies and safer vaccines. I don’t see what’s wrong with that.”

And this is where I agree with Ms. Fisher. We do need to be able to criticize organizations that we think could do a better job. She seems unaware that this is precisely what a number of us who are doing in discussing Delta’s decision to host this video. Criticizing NVIC, whom we feel could do a (much) better job.

I will note I find that quote very strange indeed. I wonder if she realizes the strawman argument she has created? People are not criticizing NVIC about “fighting for safer vaccine policies and safer vaccines.”

For example, I count myself amongst those who want to use vaccines. In that effortI do not want the sort of support that NVIC offers in working towards safer vaccines. For example, I don’t want the spread of misinformation about vaccine-induced epidemics of autism, which NVIC promotes. It is a message which has caused and continues to cause harm in the autism communities.

Oddly enough, in a quick search for “safer vaccine” on the website, I found no examples of a statement of the type, “this new vaccine is a safer vaccine” or anything which actually calls a vaccine “safer”.

There were only four hits for the phrase “safe vaccine” on the NVIC website. Those links are mostly to comments on blog posts. No statements by NVIC saying, “here is a safe vaccine” or “here is our definition of a safe vaccine”. The one hit for something actually posted by NVIC was from a testimonial, where safe was put in quotes: “…and the doctor suggested she have this “safe” vaccine…”

I am very interested in the continued effort to improve vaccines, including improving safety. I do not feel that NVIC represents my views in any way. I do not find their brand of “information” to be the sort I would recommend to anyone looking to educate themselves on vaccines.

I do agree with Ms. Fisher: we should be able to criticize those groups whom we feel could do better. Do better NVIC, or you will continue to be criticized.

2 Responses to “In which I agree with Barbara Loe Fisher…”

  1. Tara C. Smith November 12, 2011 at 07:49 #

    She’s not unaware; that’s their entire strategy. “What, us, anti-vaccine? Why no, of course not–we just want *safer* vaccines.” But for them, no vaccine will ever be safe enough. It’s just their game to get around the anti-vaccine accusations; Jenny McCarthy and her ilk do it as well with their “Green our Vaccines” slogan. It’s marketing and posturing, but they’re damn good at it and it makes it difficult to counter–because sure, who doesn’t want safer vaccines, right?

  2. Prometheus November 14, 2011 at 18:27 #


    Surely by now you’ve realised that the NVIC – and other anti-vaccination advocates – will never give out their definition of a “safe vaccine” or even what “vaccine safety” means to them. To do so would be to reveal the hollowness of their “vaccine safety” campaign.

    Like you, I’ve followed the NVIC and other similar groups for some time. Rather than promoting a specific level of safety (e.g. the risk from the vaccine will not exceed 0.1% of the risk from the disease), they merely catalogue all the adverse reactions – real and fictitious – of current vaccines in the most lurid terms possible. From what they’ve written in complaint of extant vaccines, it seems apparent that if they have a standard for “vaccine safety”, it is “100% safe”, meaning no significant or long-lasting adverse reactions at all.

    Of course, if they were to come right out and say that, nobody would believe their “we just want safer vaccines” nonsense. Even homeopathy isn’t “100% safe” by their standards, as it is possible to suffer brain injury by choking on the sugar pills.

    I’m all for safer vaccines, by which I mean that I expect vaccines to be as safe as current technology allows. Of course, I also include the effectiveness of vaccines in the “safety” category, since an ineffective vaccine with few adverse reactions is less safe than an effective vaccine with more frequent adverse reactions (see: mumps vaccine strains Jeryl-Lynn vs Urabe vs Rubini). No vaccination, while it may work for a short while (until population immunity drops sufficiently), is not a viable “solution”, as recent outbreaks of measles and mumps and the ongoing problem with endemic pertussis clearly demonstrate.

    For whatever reason, the core leadership of groups like NVIC want to eliminate vaccine use and they’ve managed to convince a larger group of people that they just want “safer” vaccines. This larger group of followers (and parroters) doesn’t understand that “100% safe” is “100% impossible”, which is why they support the anti-vaccination leadership.


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