Swap in “vaccinations”

The other day, I read this essay by Katha Pollitt in The Nation about the fundamental problem at the heart of creationism (h/t Sully, I think):

Do you know what the worst thing about the recent Gallup poll on evolution is? It isn’t that 46 percent of respondents are creationists (“God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last ten thousand years or so”). Or that 32 percent believe in “theistic evolution” (“Human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God guided this process”). Or that only 15 percent said humans evolved and “God had no part in this process.” It isn’t even that the percentage of Americans with creationist views has barely budged since 1982, when it was 44 percent, with a small rise in the no-God vote (up from 9 percent) coming at the expense of the divine-help position (down from 38 percent). Or that 58 percent of Republicans are creationists, although that does explain a lot.


Why does it matter that almost half the country rejects the overwhelming evidence of evolution, with or without the hand of God? After all, Americans are famously ignorant of many things—like where Iran is or when World War II took place—and we are still here. One reason is that rejecting evolution expresses more than an inability to think critically; it relies on a fundamentally paranoid worldview. Think what the world would have to be like for evolution to be false. Almost every scientist on earth would have to be engaged in a fraud so complex and extensive it involved every field from archaeology, paleontology, geology and genetics to biology, chemistry and physics. And yet this massive concatenation of lies and delusion is so full of obvious holes that a pastor with a Bible-college degree or a homeschooling parent with no degree at all can see right through it. A flute discovered in southern Germany is 43,000 years old? Not bloody likely. It’s probably some old bone left over from an ancient barbecue. To celebrate its fifth anniversary, the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky, has installed a holographic exhibit of Lucy, the famous proto-human fossil, showing how she was really just a few-thousand-year-old ape after all.  [emphasis added]


First of all, as regards evolution I agree with everything Pollitt writes in the essay.  But it was how the same kind of thinking pervades another fraught topic that occupied my thoughts this past weekend.

I refer, of course, to those who refuse to vaccinate their children.  Swap out “evolution,” “false” and “scientist”  in the highlighted sentences and replace them with “vaccination,” “dangerous” and “doctor” and you have precisely the same issue.  (Well, OK, there are probably very few paleontologists or geologists who choose to involve themselves in the vaccination debate.  You get my drift.)  In order for vaccinations to be the harmful substances that their strident detractors claim, their continued administration would require a gigantic, malicious conspiracy on the part of physicians, nurses, researchers and pharmaceutical manufacturers.

I alluded to this in my earlier post about why everyone should get vaccinated.  I’ve been out of training for the better part of a decade, and have been out of medical school for more than a dozen years.  In that time I have given vaccines to hundreds of children (probably thousands), and have worked with pediatricians who have been in practice for far longer and have vaccinated countless children more.  None of us have observed anything like a credible link between autism and vaccines, and we all continue to recommend them strongly.  What kind of depraved indifference to the well-being of our patients would be required for us to turn a blind eye to harms that were actually being done?  Creationists can attribute a belief in evolution to satanic delusion (which is what I was taught in the church of my youth).  To what would anti-vaccination zealots attribute my motivation to deceive and harm my patients?

This is why taking care of vaccine refusers is a losing proposition for medical providers.  It’s not merely that refusing immunizations for one’s children deviates so widely from the standard of care and leaves them needlessly vulnerable to potentially devastating diseases.  (Though, y’know, dayenu.  It’s reason enough.)  It’s that believing vaccines to be harmful betrays a suspicion of all of medicine, and erodes any sound physician-patient relationship.  Obviously I do not expect my patients or their parents to unthinkingly believe everything I say, and I reject the paternalistic model that demands physicians be treated as unquestionable authorities.  But if a question has been asked and asked and asked, and answered and answered and answered, but the suspicion does not dissipate… well, then, how on earth can you trust me about anything?  If you believe I am so blind or malevolent as to recommend use of a substance that is supposedly quite obviously harmful, then why on earth would you listen to me when I recommend any other medication or treatment?  How can a belief in vaccines be an isolated lacuna in an otherwise-reliable professional expertise?

In truth, I don’t believe that it can.  Refusal to vaccinate one’s children evinces an underlying suspicion of the entire apparatus of medical research and care.  I simply cannot see how a stable physician-patient relationship can be established in the context of such a frank rejection of medical science.  I don’t need my patients to think I’m a god, but I cannot have them thinking I am a fool or a liar.

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. Bravo! You can add climate change deniers to the list as well, IMO.

    So do you actually refuse to take the children of such people as patients?

    • Yes. With a few limited exceptions, parents who wish to deviate from the recommended vaccination schedule are told in the nicest possible way that our practice will not be a good fit for them, and that we cannot accommodate their request.

      • Does this include those who would delay and separate out vaccination rather than forgo it altogether?

          • Interesting. Clancy would like to drop those who want to forgo vaccinations altogether, but has never been allowed to. She’s a little more flexible on delaying or separating vaccines, though that still frustrates her.

          • Alright, crazy Jaybird time.

            I can understand wanting to separate vaccinations out. Maybe not by years, or even months, but I can see wanting the vaccinations to be every two weeks apart and it’s not immediately apparent to me why that’s unreasonable.

            Now I can understand arguments that it’s best for the child to just get X shots bam bam bam and get it over and done with and lessen the whole “needle trauma” thing but that in itself doesn’t seem sufficient to assuage any fears one might have when it came to the fears about multiple vaccinations all at once.

            Here is my problem: I don’t see why the above is unreasonable. Please explain to me what I’m not taking into account.

          • Jaybird, many vaccine-preventable illnesses (h. flu, pertussis, rotavirus, pneumococcal illnesses) are much, much more dangerous for small infants than any other age group. Spreading out the vaccine increases the period of vulnerability. It makes it difficult to assess the risk of sepsis for infants if their vaccinations have been spread out, and thus more challenging to determine how aggressive to be in investigating febrile illnesses. And spreading out vaccines allows for greater potential to mistakenly overlook necessary shots within the primary series.

          • Yeah, I suppose that a one-month old baby has two weeks being half of his or her life… and, if I’m reading the CDC chart correctly, the infant needs six by two months (or is that seven by two months?) and there aren’t enough weeks to stagger the necessary shots by the time you get to four months.

            The one voice says “that’s a lot of shots in a short period of time” and the other voice says “isn’t it a triumph that we can vaccinate against so many things?”

            I should feed the second voice and do more to starve the first.

          • And to be more mundane, there’s also additional costs for multiple appointments. I’m sure most docters aren’t going to charge or just one visit if you insist in splitting vaccinations up into multiple visits, and then there’s the increased crowding– somebody is waiting longer for an appointment or in the waiting room.

          • What if spreading out the vaccines is the only way to get parents to consent to vaccinating their children? What if the choice is to accommodate these parents or to pursue a policy that leaves children vaccine-less?

          • I can understand that argument, Pierre. However, we really can’t countenance trying to negotiate which vaccines and when with parents, trying to get as close to the standard of care as possible. Either we can deliver preventive treatments that are foundational to contemporary pediatric practice or we can’t, and we don’t want to be held hostage to parents’ demands to act otherwise.

      • I’ve often wondered how that conversation works. Do you keep the numbers of “woo-friendly” docs to refer them to? Or just put them in contact with colleagues that have pissed you off in the past.

        • I say (and actually mean sincerely) that every parent should take their children to a medical provider with whom they feel comfortable, and that unfortunately it’s very likely that they won’t feel comfortable with us. We are going to request and expect measures that the parents don’t feel are right for their kids, and that’s not going to workable for everyone. And then I wish them luck finding a practice more suitable to their needs.

          • And when they turn around to go, you secretly stick their kid, right?

            I mean, that’s what I’d do. But I actually enjoy making kids cry. And hate crazy parents. Like, fo rel.

  2. Think what the world would have to be like for evolution to be false.

    I think that assuming that there is not some serious compartmentalization going on is a mistake. I work with a number of YECs here at work and they do such things as “have their kids vaccinated” and “visit the dentist” and whatnot.

    If I’d make a comparison to, say, snake handling, it’d be like if we were talking about people who said “oh, yeah, totally… the snakes won’t bite and we can drink poison and everything” but they go out of their way to avoid both. It’s something to be affirmed before each other and affirmed before The World but, at the end of the day, C++ requires intelligent design just as much as the world did and get back to work.

    A comparison I’d make is to whether Pluto is or is not a planet.

    It has about as much impact on their day-to-day lives and a paragraph talking about “imagine what it would mean for the solar system if Pluto *WAS* a planet…” would fail to take into account that, well, they don’t get that far when it comes to this topic.

    It’s pretty heavily compartmentalized.

    • I have a friend who used to be the GM of a restaurant, and he told me how he once had a cohort of employees who were very religious and YEC. He said that they were exceptionally hardworking and dependable employees. But in almost the same breath, he also said something like “you just can’t speak to YEC’s.”

      I assumed he meant “you just can’t speak to YEC’s about evolution or natural science [or politics].” But in the course of our conversation, he seemed to mean “you can’t speak to them about anything.”

      Yet presumably, he could speak to them at work about work-related matters.

      (It’s possible he and I were just drawing lines in the sand and deliberately speaking past each other. The discussion was only one of the two of ours that ever risked getting heated–the other, no surprise, was about anti-vaccinationism–and he’s a stand up guy, not a bigot.)

      • You can give commands–sit, roll over, play dead–to a dog. But you can’t have a conversation with one the way you would with a human.

          • (your friend thought of his YEC employees the way he’d think of dogs. Loyal, dependable, hardworking, takes orders to a fault, easily trained to perform tasks, totally lacking in what we’d consider intellectual capability.)

          • Maybe, and my perception that that was the case is why our discussion almost got acrimonious. In fact, I tend to get testy when people adopt not only a “they are wrong” or “they are paranoid” approach, but when they adopt an almost categorical “we’re better than they are” tone.

            The problem is, I do the same thing, too, but with different types of people. And perhaps the chip on my shoulder when it comes to YEC’s is big enough that it’s easy to knock down.

    • It’s well-known (well, speculated mostly, but true all the same) that Republicans are less likely to believe in evolution than Democrats. Combine that with AGW, and it does seem that there is a pattern. It’s not, though, really. Republicans are actually more likely to be scientifically literate in many or most respects. I do think these views are compartmentalized and I think there is less heavy-lifting required (assuming a grand conspiracy and so on) than most people suppose.

      Like you say, most don’t get that far. Those that do, well, yeah they are going to do their heavy lifting with a lot of accusations of lies. I can definitely understand the frustration directed at that.

      • Well, when I was witnessing to strangers on the beach, we had to learn a *LOT* of Sciencey schtuff. The Piltdown Man! Nebraska Man! The Peppered Moth!

        So on and so forth. The more you knew about this stuff, the more you could baffle the folks who just went along with what the authorities said.

          • Oreopithecus was the Neandertal that forgot who his people were tried to act all Homo Sapiens.

          • We spent a lot more time on the times that science got it wrong and a lot more time than even that on the things the scientists said at the time that demonstrated that they had an “agenda” that was other than trying to figure out how the world worked. The ones who laughed about sticking it to Bishop Usher and making fools out of the creationists and stuff right out of Inherit the Wind except the good guys and the bad guys were reversed.

            The point was to demonstrate that it wasn’t about science on the part of the people pretending it was all about science… it was just about “which side you were on”. This immediately led to the question “So… which side are *YOU* on?”

            When science gets dispassionate, when it raises its voice, when it acts as if it’s a “side” rather than a method, it plays to the dialectic. (If you ever see me get really pissed off in one of these arguments, it’s normally because I am flashing back.)

          • Jaybird’s comment touches on one of the reasons that I think it could be (*could be*) advantageous (albeit constitutionally and perhaps morally dubious) to “teach the controversy” with regard to Intelligent Design next to Evolution. I wonder how many students turn off the teaching of science on the basis that its teachers are “the enemy” and whether or not that can be alleviated with “Well, some people believe this, and others believe that, let’s look at the scientific support for each” (the conclusion to which is a no-brainer).

            I’m not saying it would be alleviated, or that it *would* help… but I do wonder. Since you have more experience in these circles, what do you think, Jaybird?

          • To be perfectly honest, I think that creationism in its Intelligent Design form (which, may I point out, is different from its Young Earth Creationist form) is Mostly Harmless insofar as it allows the dialectic to be bypassed while still teaching what we’ve learned from The Method to children and adolescents.

            As I’ve said before, I work with YEC programmers who dream in code and the Evolution vs. Creationism debate is one that has as much to do with their day-to-day lives as the debate over whether Pluto is a planet (I haven’t asked but, if I were a betting man, I’d bet that they still consider Pluto a planet in their heart of hearts).

            I’d say that most folks are completely and totally unaffected by the Creation vs. Evolution debate in their day to day lives. I mean, seriously, when’s the last time that such impacted you? (“the last time I took anti-biotics!” “Okay, fine, when’s the last time that your stance on the Creation/Evolution thing had an impact on your life outside of comments?” “That’s not what you asked, though.” “It’s what I meant.”)

            I think that ID would be a dinky concession to the howling barbarian parents out there while it would still allow kids to learn The Method (which, at the end of the day, is what they’re going to use to save us all). The kids who fail to adopt the method will not benefit particularly from having picked “evolution” over “creation”. The kids who pick “creation” and “The Method” will, eventually, be changed by The Method because The Method changes the way that people think insofar as it makes them do so.

            Teach The Method. Without The Method, creation vs. evolution is the order of the planets. It’s picking the right order for the Krebs Cycle as being ‘B’ on a multiple choice test that you need to get a high school diploma. It’s trivia.

            With The Method? It’s another pair of shoulders to stand upon.

          • I’d bet that they still consider Pluto a planet in their heart of hearts

            That’s goofy.

  3. I wonder if this science is why parents are asking questions about vaccine safety;

    0.5 parts per billion (ppb) mercury = Kills human neuroblastoma cells (Parran et al., Toxicol Sci 2005; 86: 132-140).

    2 ppb mercury = U.S. EPA limit for drinking water (http://www.epa. gov/safewater/ contaminants/ index.html# mcls).

    20 ppb mercury = Neurite membrane structure destroyed (Leong et al., Neuroreport 2001; 12: 733-37). Think Alzheimer’s!

    200 ppb mercury = level in liquid the EPA classifies as hazardous waste based on toxicity characteristics.

    700 ppb mercury = level of mercury in large predator fish.

    25,000 ppb mercury = Concentration of mercury in multi-dose, Hepatitis B vaccine vials, administered at birth from 1991-2001 in the U.S.

    50,000 ppb mercury = Concentration of mercury in multi-dose DTaP and Haemophilus B vaccine vials, administered 8 times in the 1990’s to children at 2, 4, 6, 12 and 18 months of age and currently “preservative” level mercury in multi-dose flu, meningococcal and tetanus vaccines. This can be confirmed by simply analyzing the multi-dose vials.

      • So ethyl mercury and methyl mercury…kind of like the difference between drinking ethyl alcohol and methyl alcohol?

          • That seems unintuitive to me, since heavy metals are poisons all on their own (unlike C, H, O or N). Is the issue that methyl mercury is more reactive?

          • Methylmercury accumulates in body tissue, causing toxicity over time. Ethylmercury is cleared quite rapidly from body tissues, and has not been found to be neurotoxic.

            When I said the difference between the two was similar the alcohol, it was vis-à-vis there being a difference in safety between the two forms, not because there was a correlation in the mechanism of toxicity.

            This is a good resource, if you’re interested in more information.

          • So more like Vitamin C vs. Vitamin A, where the former gets flushed and the latter gets stored.

          • I didn’t intend to imply that the mechanisms were the same, just that there was as important a difference between ethyl and methyl mercury as between ethyl and methyl alcohol, insofar as ingesting them goes.

          • Mr. Schilling, note that methyl mercury is actually more toxic than metallic mercury. Although biology was never my strong suit, there’s more at play than simply the toxicity of heavy metals.

          • Neither biology nor chemistry is my strong suit, which is why I’m asking questions that may be silly ones.

          • When I said the difference between the two was similar the alcohol, it was vis-à-vis there being a difference in safety between the two forms, not because there was a correlation in the mechanism of toxicity.

            Right. It’s a good thing you cleared that up.

            Not that I’d just poured myself a glass of coke and ethyl mercury or anything.

          • Not that I’d just poured myself a glass of coke and ethyl mercury or anything.

            If you do, add some Galliano and a dash of carbon tet.

          • Russel,

            Oh, no, I understood that. But even as I wrote my original comment, I had a nagging feeling I might be setting up something that could easily be read differently than I intended.

          • Brandon, all I can say is thank god you didn’t ruin good bourbon by mixing it with that coke.

  4. First, my sympathies for the huge deluge of well-worn comments (including mine, I guess) on the anti-vaccinationism “debate” you are about to receive.

    Second and on the paranoia angle, I suspect two things of a lot of anti-vaccinationists and young earth creationists (I make an exception for those creationists who believe God guided evolution because that belief does not necessarily involve any suspicion of conspiracy among scientists):

    1. They may be adopting an interpretation of medicine (or earth’s history) that, when one looks at the assumptions that must sustain it, is indeed essentially conspiratorial or paranoid. They may even adopt an obvious (to us) paranoid posture when they talk on this specific subject. But I suspect the paranoia is not general and that their paranoid thinking ebbs and flows with how fervent the discussion is. I suspect much of the “paranoia” can be attributed more to resentment against the claim that their view has “no” merit. Of course, if a view has no merit (or almost no merit), then simply asserting that it has merit is….misguided.

    2. Related to the first point, I think such people can, and often do, do a good job of bracketing their paranoia on the issue in question. They might for whatever reason adopt the assumption that vaccines are bad–with the implication that there must be a conspiracy to cover up their badness–but they might otherwise trust the professional competence of medical professionals.

    My qualifications above–“may be adopting,” “can,” “I suspect,” “might”–are intended. I’m suggesting we not foreclose these as possibilities, even though I’m sure there are plenty examples of people to whom my two points do not apply.

    I say all this because I think there is something missing from the discussion. I’m not sure what it is, but I think it’s something very human that’s missing from the way we talk about this. I’m not saying that “we need to respect the views of anti-vaccinationists / young earth creationists because they’re just as valid as others’.” And I’m not saying it’s not paranoia.

    But it’s not reducible to only paranoia, either, or at least I don’t think so. There might be something else that I find it hard to put my finger on. Perhaps I say this because I come from a mindset that in some ways is sympathetic to the paranoid-esque thinking behind both anti-vaccinationism and young earth creationism, even though I reject both theories as unsupported by almost all evidence and logic and even though I endorse compulsory vaccination and teaching evolution in school as the factual and supported theory it is.

    • I suppose my response would be that perhaps anti-vaccination adherents do bracket their paranoia, but I am skeptical about the structural stability of those brackets.

      • Fair enough, although I think I see it differently.

        I also suspect that most of use adopt paranoid modes of thinking, or paranoid styles of talking, even if the actual claims are based on logic or fact. But I’m not sure that my suspicion is provable, or even how much I’d insist on it. It’s more of a “let’s take it for a test drive, and see how far it helps us to understand people not like us” thing.

  5. as you point out, the anti-vaxxers are operationally more dangerous than creationists. and truth be told, even people who “believe” in evolution probably don’t even understand the fundamentals – i.e. if you did one of those man on the street can you show me where the country of greece is sort of gotchas that tv shows do now and then, even people who are pro-evolution would do poorly. and largely because what they’re expressing is a political stance, not a scientific one.

    the same goes for the creationists; it impacts their actual lives far less, i think than someone who’s against vaccinations, not to mention the impact it has on everyone around them.

    related: is there an overlap between creationists and anti-vaccination/delayers? the only ones of the latter i’ve met in person were npr types with a bunch of degrees, but i live in nyc. i assume it may not be the case everywhere.

    • I’m not sure how much anti-vax paranoia is on the right or what the line of “reasoning” is for them, but I’m afraid quite a few of the anti-vaxxers are of the granola-crunchy-birkenstock liberal variety. And I’m sure a lot of that stems from a general mistrust of BigPharma. Now I’m no fan of the pharm industry, particularly as regards patent monopolies, but this particular criticism wildly misses the mark. The truth is that vaccines don’t have a particularly great profit margin–it’s like selling groceries for them–and a bigger problem has been pharm companies dropping out of the business. That’s why we have the “vaccine court” and a public pool to pay damages for those one-in-a-million cases (which are acknowledged, predictable, and regrettable) of adverse reactions.

      • “…I’m afraid quite a few of the anti-vaxxers are of the granola-crunchy-birkenstock liberal variety”

        The extent to which I’ve seen anti-vax ideologies or other, slightly-less-crazy-but-still-crazy perspectives on medicine in the parents of the children I teach, this tends to be true. These are the folks who insist EVERY food their child eats is organic, who want to treat autism with restrictive diets, and who prefer probiotic yogurt to medicine.

    • Most people who ‘believe’ in evolution do so in the same sense they do ‘gravity’ or ‘the standard model’.

      “It’s what experts say, and it seems pretty useful to them, so that’s probably how it works. If they figure something else out, they’ll say. And I heard some neat stuff about it”

      • Yeah. I wonder how many of the folks who “believe in evolution” could explain punctuated equilibrium if asked.

        Now, of course, this isn’t exactly the criticism… it’s more of a question of “do you believe that The Experts are being up front with you and operating in good faith?”

        So even if you cannot say the name of the theory that punctuated equilibrium attempts to replace, it should be enough for a good citizen to say “whatever the folks in charge say is what’s going on is what’s going on” and the people who say that the folks in charge cannot be trusted are kooks.

          • Well, it’s a bit of a sledgehammer where someone else might prefer a defter touch but it makes the point quite well.

          • It’s probably worth pointing out that John Safran is a comedian and in context (a show about religion where he spends most of his time learning about religion and mocking its foibles in a good natured way) that bit is hilarious.

      • This is absolutely correct. I’ve tried, and failed, to explain this. I believe in evolution, yet I know squat about it. I believe it because people who know a lot more than me tell me it is so. There are people who know a lot more about it that tell me it is not so, but these are people whose judgment has already been rendered suspect on other matters. So, between the white coats and white cloaks, I am with the former.

  6. It doesn’t seem like the same thing to me. Mercury is a known poison. Pharma has been known to do things that hurt consumers. The FDA has been known to look the other way when this happens, and employees at the CDC have been known to go work for pharma as soon as they leave the CDC, for mega-bucks. So people with suspicions have some reasonable reasons for them, in my opinion.

    • Thank you for your comment, Laura. With regard to mercury, please see my reply to Dan above.

      And in order for the ongoing practice of vaccination to have a conspiratorial basis, far more than the CDC and Big Pharma would need to be involved in the collusion, including every pediatrician I have ever worked with and myself. If you truly believe that, then I fear there is nothing I can say to change your opinion.

  7. No, I don’t think Doctors are in on a conspiracy but they take in studies and reports and such from people like pharma and their lobbyists, no one is immune from corps’ money-making efforts. I’m not saying I agree with not vaccinating children, I certainly did have my own child vaccinated and as a child I had measles, mumps and chicken pox, German measles as an adult, I well remember children with leg braces from having had polio. I’m just saying I think it is more reasonable to question putting poisons into babies over and over again than it is to disbelieve almost all scientists on evolution or climate change.

    • Hello again, Laura. I’m going to reply once more, but after that I think I will refrain from doing so further. I have found that protracted conversations often yield little more than acrimonious impasses, and I’d just as soon avoid one now.

      First of all, I dispute your characterization of vaccines as poisons. But of course you would have guessed that.

      Secondly, I don’t really see the difference between believing the mass of scientific evidence in one area (evolution) and a similarly massive body of evidence in another (vaccination). You posit malign intent on the part of scientific investigators. I do not agree with you.

      Finally, you leave out a crucial piece of my argument — my own clinical observation and that of my colleagues. I know more pediatricians than I can possibly count, many of whom have been in practice for decades. For the vaccination-autism link to be anything close to what is believed by those who tout it, our continued use of vaccination would require a staggering degree of stupidity, malevolence or both on the part of every pediatrician I have ever known or worked with. I dispute that such stupidity or malevolence exists.

    • Or, it would be reasonable to conclude that with the advent of childhood vaccinations, the huge drop in death from childhood diseases juxtaposed with a total and complete ( inasmuch as reasonable scientific certainty will allow) lack of evidence of any harm from said vaccines precludes the labeling of them as “poisons”.

      On the other hand, unless you meant “poissons”, in which I agree. No baby should be forced to eat fish against their will.

  8. I did not call vaccines poisons. You are right, there is no point in taking this any farther.

    • I’m just saying I think it is more reasonable to question putting poisons into babies over and over again

      My apologies if I misconstrued your meaning in the above sentence. I assume you were speaking of the beliefs of others, not your own?

      • She didn’t say that vaccines were poisons. She said that mercury was poison and that some vaccines contain it. Presumably thimerosal-free vaccines would be acceptable to her.

        For her, the distinction between methyl, ethyl, and metallic mercury is something something THEY SAY MERCURY IS BAD OKAY?

  9. Russell,
    I appreciated the link from WHO. I didn’t know that methyl mercury and thimerosal behaved so differently in the body. I did know, from years of training from childhood on that mercury itself is highly toxic, and that I really should play with mercury from thermometers, nor should I fail to be very careful in chemistry lab about exposure.

    It occurs to me that pregnant mothers, especially where I live, are constantly exhorted to not eat too much fish because the fish they eat may concentrate the mercury from coal-burning power plants. Mothers spend months worrying about this invisible killer, and then they’re faced with allowing injections of what, to them, sounds like the same stuff they’ve been avoiding. It’s not the same stuff, and it’s not about fetal development any longer, but the dissonance may be too much to bear for new parents.

    To get past that dissonance, one has to just trust the doctor, which I think the majority of parents do; understand the real toxicities involved, which I only now feel I do; or do one’s own research and come to one’s own conclusions. That last one can be dangerous if one uses the WWW. Posts like yours are a major way to make it more likely the third option will result in the safest answer–full vaccination–but I have sympathy for those who landed in the wrong spot in their Google searches.

    FTR, we followed our pediatrician’s recommendations exactly, even though she followed the most aggressive schedule allowable. We might not have felt so comfortable doing that had our daughter been less robust than she was, but I hope we would have. Still, I feel better informed after reading your posts on this topic than I did back then.

  10. Russell, I live in Silicon Valley and am hanging out more with young mothers (my grandchildren’s friends’ parents). I have the sense that current parents feel it is part of good parenting to at least question vaccines, especially the birth dose of HepB and chickenpox. Most do eventually vaccinate, of course, but there’s this pressure to question.

    As far as the issue of spacing out the vaccines, I lay all the responsibility for the idea that it is “better” on Bob Sears MD.

  11. Hanlon’s Razor. You guys aren’t conspirators… you’re just idiots.

  12. Good post Russell;

    I think the logic you’re using here applies to any conspiracy theory – that somehow the purported Big Bad organisation is 1) Uniformly indifferent to human suffering to the point of depravity, 2) hyper competent 3) able to be caught by a handful of maladroit amateurs. If there were an organisation that really behaved in this way, I’d be inclined to assume the alleged conspiracies were a deliberately planted distraction to hide what they were really up to.

    I can tell you that anyone who believes there’s a government on earth that could run one of these elaborate conspiracies has clearly never worked for a government. Though I suppose I would say that wouldn’t I …

    • I always like it when a conspiracy theorist assumes an organization with an unbelievable amount of power to cover things up–and their goal is to become more powerful.

      “So, wait, you think that the President can order, on his own authority, that the US Air Force shoot down an American-flagged civilian airliner full of American citizens flying over the continental United States–but that he wouldn’t do it, as part of a plan to be more powerful?”

      • The conversation that gets me goes along the lines of:

        Me: You do realize that doctors are meticulous about vaccinating their own children, right?

        Other: Well, that’s what they say

        Me: No, they do. They really do.

        Other: Well, I guess they have to for appearances…

        … so doctors are apparently putting toxic chemicals in their own children for appearances. To be fair, I do sometimes get the response that the doctors themselves are deluded, which is condescending (Oh, if only the MD’s knew what they knew…) but less insulting in the overall.

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