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Deadly Choices: How the Anti-Vaccine Movement Threatens Us All

4 Jan

I mentioned in a previous post that I was reading Deadly Choices and used it as the basis for a post on how much of a myth the idea of there being ‘mild’ diseases is.

I’ve (literally) just finished reading the book so I want to give it a review. I should be clear up front, I liked the book very much and I like Paul Offit too so you’re not going to find much negativity here.

The book is a clear and coherent look back at the roots of the modern anti-vaccine movement (mostly in the US but we get a sadly necessary large mention too), its leading proponents and figures. It also swings up to the modern day and looks at the contemporary anti-vaxxers such as Jenny McCarthy etc.

Sadly (from my point of view) it makes the role of modern day anti-vaccinationism clear: its mainly due to the confluence of vaccines and autism that has given rise to a politically motivated type of anti-vaxxer. To give examples we’re all familiar with its like when an out n out anti-vaxxer like the owner of the website whale.to became friends with the leaders of Generation Rescue that the initial overlap first occurred – first they borrowed material from each other then they become supporters of each other and now they follow the common goal of destroying the vaccine program in the West. That might sound a little over the top but its nonetheless true. Ask any anti-vaxxer what their goal is and that goal will be the eradication of vaccines.

Offit’s book is also a study of some of the incidents where vaccines _have_ been at fault and details how these rare occurrences are used to chronicle the side effects of vaccines and direct future safety testing. The first few chapters of the book make it clear just how important some of these tragic incidents have been to today’s safety testing. Another upcoming book that tackles this subject is Seth Monookin’s The Panic Virus and of course Offit’s own book The Cutter Incident details one such incident in great detail.

According to Offit himself:

I wrote this book for children; Deadly Choices is an attempt to stand up for them. A child’s vaccination decisions are made by his or her parents. If an adult chooses not to be vaccinated from Hepatitis B and she dies, that was her own choice to not be vaccinated. What bothers me is that children aren’t making that choice. Who represents the children?

And he’s absolutely right. In the same vein, whilst Deadly Choices is not an autism book per se, it should be the responsibility of the autism community to spread its message far and wide, partly because its the right thing to do and partly because its the modern day autism community that has spearheaded and led the contemporary anti-vaccine message. We have some wrongs to right.

Deadly Choices: The myth of the mild disease

29 Dec

I’ve started reading Deadly Choices and goodness me its a breath of fresh air in terms of factual analysis and also writing skill. The last autism book I read was Age of Autism so you’ll appreciate how great the difference is.

I’ll be blogging about Deadly Choices a fair bit I guess and I guess Sullivan will too (after all he is Bonnie Offit) and in this first blog post I want to discuss why the idea that certain illnesses are perceived (and indeed promoted) by the anti-vaccine lobby as mild and therefore of no risk – just another excuse to stick us all with another needle containing who knows what!!

The book Deadly Choices, makes this point crystal clear in the Introduction. Regarding a Hib outbreak in Minnesota:

[parents]…were afraid that vaccines contained dangerous additives, or that children received too many vaccines too soon; or that vaccines caused autism

…one mother reconsidered her decision: ” the doctor looked at me and said, ‘Your son is going to die, he doesn’t have much time.’ Honestly, I never really understood how severe the risk [was] that we put our son at.”

Deadly choices indeed.

And what about mumps? In 2009, an outbreak caused by an unvaccinated traveller coming back from England caused a chain reaction that infected over 1500 people in 8 months. The end result?

When it was over, mumps was found to have caused pancreatitis, meningitis, deafness, facial paralysis or inflammation of the ovaries in sixty-five people, nineteen were hospitalised.

Hib and mumps are just two of the diseases previously easily controlled by vaccines that are now becoming rampant again due to poor vaccination rates and the fact that such deadly and crippling diseases are now just a plane ride away.