For Opposite Day: Against Vaccination

[Over at the main page last week, Murali discussed a semi-tradition around the blogosphere of posting something in opposition to one’s usual viewpoint during “Opposite Day/Week.”  It’s supposed to be challenging, and it’s not an opportunity to take pot-shots at the opposition by writing something parodical or ironic.  I’ve been mulling what I would write with a certain sense of trepidation.  My worry is that, by writing something serious to endorse a viewpoint I oppose, I give people an opportunity to take it out of context and actually use it to support a cause to which I stridently object.  As I pondered the conundrum on my run yesterday, I decided it would be both chicken and silly to avoid posting something.  First of all, I am not such a master rhetorician that what I write will prove devastating to my opponents.  Secondly, if what I truly believe is so flimsy that it can’t withstand an argument against it that I craft myself, then it’s pretty damn flimsy indeed.  And so, in the spirit of opposite week, I turn the page over to my evil twin.]

by Sandy Russell

The vaccination regimen as standardized in the United States today is a menace, foisted on a credulous pubic by a medical industry intent on promoting its own agenda to the exclusion of all reasonable dissent.  Through a combination of negligence or malfeasance, the latter sometimes well-intentioned, medical providers across the country expose their most vulnerable patients to a host of poorly-understood harms.

There are many, many organizations that have formed over the years to give voice to parents who have witnessed their own children being harmed by these products, and the response from the medical industry is always the same — dismissal, condescension and disrespect.  No matter the number of grieved parents who share their stories, no matter the consistency with which the problems with vaccination are described, no matter the perfectly reasonable nature of the concerns raised about the seemingly endless profusion of vaccinations that are “recommended” if not required outright, parents who dissent are labeled unhinged, difficult or deluded.

The basis for the medical community’s argument is similarly changeless.  Ask a typical doctor, and he or she will gesture toward an imposingly vast and inarguable body of scientific “evidence,” which apparently has asked and answered the question for all time.  With all due respect to these doctors, most of whom likely do care about their patients and are simply parroting what they have been led to believe, anyone who has ever had anything to do with research of any kind knows that the answers you get depend on the questions you ask, the way you ask them, and the way you measure your results.  Statistics can be manipulated and massaged to yield just about anything the questioner wants.  When one considers how deeply invested the pharmaceutical industry is in promoting its products, and how much of its legitimacy the healthcare industry has decided to rest upon the supposed safety and efficacy of vaccinations, is it any wonder that skeptics would question the objectivity of these purportedly disinterested investigators?  A saying about foxes and henhouses springs rapidly to mind.

Look at the attitude of my own twin, whose low opinion of my views is most certainly reciprocated.  He positively revels in the fact that his practice not only does not accept those who refuse vaccinations, but will not yield even on the schedule with which they are administered.  Ask him why, and you will get some vague answer about patients not completing the required series of shots, and falling through the cracks, leading to greater risk of disease.  What this rather disturbingly implies is that he considers himself insufficiently vigilant to keep track of his own patients, and to see to it that they get the care he thinks so vital to both their health and the public’s.  If making sure everyone is vaccinated, does it not make sense to accommodate the reasonable requests of parents who would vaccinate, if only on a schedule that is not so intensive?

After all, once a vaccine is administered, it cannot be undone.  Whatever effect it will have has inexorably been triggered.  Unlike medications that can be stopped or side effects that can be reversed, a vaccination that has been incorporated into a child’s system is there forever.  Is it not therefore reasonable to err on the side of caution?  Why do parents who wish to tread lightly not receive the humane assent of their pediatricians?

But no.  Always no.  Always the arrogant, hard-hearted no.  With hubris the medical industry draws its line in the sand, and those who refuse to cross it are deemed reckless or unbalanced.  Shame on you, they cry, and brandish their studies and wave their reports.  But the question is too important to entrust to those who have so much at stake in promoting their own agenda.  More study by truly disinterested parties is necessary.  Until such time as the true effects of vaccination are understood and explained clearly to everyone who loves and cares for their children, vaccines are a risk we can’t afford to take.

Russell Saunders

Russell Saunders is the ridiculously flimsy pseudonym of a pediatrician in New England. He has a husband, three sons, daughter, cat and dog, though not in that order. He enjoys reading, running and cooking. He can be contacted at blindeddoc using his Gmail account. Twitter types can follow him @russellsaunder1.


  1. I’m unclear on this tradition. Are you supposed to simply make AN argument (non-parodic, etc.) for the other side, an argument that might reasonably expect to come across? Or is one supposed to make the strongest possible argument for the other side?

    • I dont know about the strongest possible aregument, but I see it as making the strongest argument as you see it.

    • For my part, I wrote an argument I thought comprised the central elements of a relatively reasonable objection to vaccination. I don’t know if it’s the strongest possible argument, but from my perspective any argument against vaccination has to be premised on a significant mistrust of science.

      • not at all. If you say “Hey, allergies run in my family,” and continue on to say “the life threatening effects of a permanent egg allergy are significant,” you’ve at least got some argument for putting the burden of vaccination (which, after all, is an epidemiological one) on someone with less risk of complications.

        This naturally breaks down completely if the “highly suceptible people” are frequent.

      • Obviously, I only mean the strongest argument of which you are capable – that is, the strongest possible to you.

        I think the best arguments against vaccine (I am very pro-vaccine) would be as follows:

        1) Wide medical consensus has been wrong before – a few years ago, everyone was being told to eliminate all fats from their diet, vitamin E was encouraged for heart issues, and women in menopause had hormone replacement.

        2) If there’s any doubt, doctors should take a non-interventionist approach.

        3) The double-blind gold standard is not particularly good at taking lived experience into account. Perhaps out of residual sexism, doctors are to reluctant to take the observations of their patients seriously. A paradigm shift is required.

        4) Relatedly, one need not be a science skeptic in general in order to come to the conclusion that a specific skepticism about one consensus claim is wrong, or to think that sometimes paradigm shifts can be beneficial.

        5) All conclusions of intervention trials are suspect due to the financial interests of everyone involved.

  2. You forgot to say that it’s all a plot of big pharma to make more money, and that they’re slowly poisoning us so that they can sell us even more synthetic artificial drugs.

    Oh, you said “relatively reasonable objection.” My bad.

  3. One question I would have about vaccines is does taking them put one at risk of contracting the disease against which the vaccine is meant to protect? For example, is it possible that someone who takes a polio vaccine might contract polio?

    I’m sure this question has been answered, but in the fog of the autism claims, it seems to me that medical professionals don’t answer this fear. And this fear seems to me at least facially reasonable, inasmuch as it’s based on the (perhaps incorrect) premise that vaccines are made from inactivated viruses of the diseases they are meant to fight against. (I realize there is a difference between vaccination and inoculation, with the latter being giving the person the disease or a milder form of it, in order to build defenses against the more virulent form of the disease.)

    For what it’s worth, I’m pro-vaccine ad pro-compulsory vaccination. I’m just stating a possible objection that I haven’t heard much refutation of. (Of course, I don’t follow the issue all that closely, so perhaps I’m just ignorant of what everybody knows.)

    • In almost all cases, it is impossible for the person receiving the vaccine to contract the illness. The majority of vaccines do not contain the actual live infectious agent, but either a protein fragment, dead copy, inactivated toxoid or some other trigger to form immunity that cannot cause disease. Using your example, it is impossible for people receiving injected polio vaccine to contract polio.

      The exceptions are live-virus vaccines, in which the virus itself is still alive but has been rendered incapable (or “attenuated”) of causing clinical infection, but isn’t dead. Commonly-used examples are the vaccine against chicken pox and the MMR vaccine. For this reason, they should not be given to patient’s whose ability to mount a normal immune response is compromised. The only time I’ve seen harm from a vaccine is when a varicella shot was given to a patient whose immune system was compromised, though I can’t remember how. (It was years ago.) In that case it wasn’t the vaccines “fault,” but rather that of the provider who administered it inappropriately.

      • When you say “inappropriately” do you mean “to the wrong person” or is there something you can do for people with compromised immune systems?

        • Can you clarify your question? By “inappropriately,” I mean to a person who should not get the vaccine. If you’re asking if there’s a way to confer immunity to immunocompromised people, the answer is “not really,” which is one of the (many) reasons everyone who can be vaccinated should be.

          • You answered my question. I was just wondering if the inappropriateness was choosing option (a) over (b) or doing anything. I figured it was the latter, but wanted to make sure.

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