Антипрививочное движение как движение против науки

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Наткнулся сегодня на две статьи на английском языке с хорошей критикой антипрививочного движения. Вот первая:



Tocco’s Anti-vaccine Narrative

Published by Steven Novella under Science and Medicine 

Comments: 7

Part of the scientific approach to knowledge is to integrate information at various levels. It’s important to get the tiny facts correct, but you also have to put those facts into progressively broader and deeper frameworks. Theories are informed by facts which in turn make sense only in the context of the theory.


I try to take this approach with topics on this blog, by not only spending time addressing specific facts but also trying to see the big picture. For example, Mary Tocco, who is an anti-vaccine activist, was recently given space for a guest column on Michigan Live. I will go through and deconstruct her specific claims, but it’s also helpful to view her article in the broader social context.


Tocco is part of Michigan Opposing Mandatory Vaccination, or MOM (how can you not love “mom”). In her article she writes:


“The authors labeled Michigan Opposing Mandatory Vaccines an anti-vaccine group. Our organization is about protecting parental right to choose whether or not to use vaccines as a method of health care for themselves and their children.”


From this one paragraph we can see many of the threads currently weaving through culture. The big picture is that there is an ideological struggle going on between those who take a science-based worldview and believe that rational regulations should be based on the best science available, and those who wish to promote some other agenda that is not science-based.


Those on the anti-science side of the equation all use similar tactics, which I suspect they learn from each other (partly because there tends to be overlap in anti-scientific groups). One such tactic is to frame the debate as being about rights and freedom, rather than about the science. Therefore we see anti-vaccine groups presenting themselves as being pro-vaccine choice. Promoters of alternative medicine try to erode consumer protections by being for “health care freedom.” Anti-GMO activists present themselves as simply favoring consumer information through mandatory labeling.


It’s better to be for freedom than against science. But make no mistake – these groups only want the freedom to be anti-science.


It also strikes me that these groups typically also promote a narrative that pits parents (moms), children (because we have to think about the children) and consumers generally against corporate greed or government malfeasance. When you scratch the surface, however, they are often promoting one industry over another.


Anti-GMO activists often have a vested interest in promoting the organic food industry. Anti-vaxxers have a huge overlap with those promoting “alternative health.” They are selling something, often a product that is scientifically dubious. From a maximally cynical (but I think justifiable) point of view, the anti-vaccine movement, “natural” health movement, health care freedom movement, and anti-GMO movement are all largely about promoting one industry over a competitor using deceptive marketing. Unfortunately, these tend to be effective marketing campaigns because they target human emotions. They often trade on fear, for example.


Mary Tocco, for example, appears to make her living as a natural health consultant. Regardless, her specific claims are all tired anti-vaccine tropes that have long been debunked. This raises another common theme – anti-science groups are not genuinely engaged with the science or their critics. They have propaganda points that they endlessly repeat, whether or not they are true, and long after they have been completely destroyed in public discourse.


She writes:


We have protected the rights of parents in Michigan since defeating a bill back in September 1995 that would have eliminated the philosophical exemption to vaccinations and are a voice for thousands of parents who support transparent information about the known safety risks of vaccines. MOM encourages informed vaccine decisions and do not tell people how to decide or whether or not to vaccinate.


Philosophical exemption simply means anyone can simply choose not to vaccinate their children and still place them in public school. Keep in mind, vaccines are only mandatory in the US in that children need them to enter public school. Parents can always opt out and either homeschool or send their kids to private school that doesn’t require vaccination.


No one disagrees with medical exemptions from vaccines. Religious exemptions are controversial, and I won’t delve into that topic here. The real issue is, if states allow for any non-medical exemption, how difficult is it to obtain? Philosophical exemptions are all about lowering the bar and making it easy.


Saying that the group “support transparent information about the known safety risks of vaccines,” implies that this is an issue. If you want transparent scientific information about vaccine risks, ask your doctor, or go to the CDC website.  Look up any vaccine and they will list all the known side effects and their incidence right there.


Anti-vaccine groups pay lip service to informed decisions and transparency, but actually they are promoting misinformation and so are actually working against informed consent. They are muddying the waters with nonsense, cherry picking, distortion of facts, and outright lies.


She writes:


The authors claim that Michigan’s unvaccinated rates are a health risk. I have not seen any studies proving that those who are unvaccinated or lacking in all of their vaccines have shown a reduction in health.


Then you have not been looking. I reviewed the literature here. What published studies show is that vaccinated children are different from unvaccinated children in one way – they have fewer vaccine-preventable diseases. That is what vaccines are supposed to do. There are also countless studies looking at individual vaccines, showing that they reduce the risk of contracting the disease they are meant to prevent.


She goes on:


It is a fact that when a child recovers from these infectious illness, they obtain life-long immunity as a benefit.


This is a distortion. Not all infections produce life-long immunity. Length of immunity varies. The same is true for vaccination – length of immunity varies. Researchers track how long the immunity from vaccines last, and schedule booster shots accordingly.


Sometimes immunity from surviving the disease lasts longer than the vaccine, because the length and intensity of exposure to antigens is greater, but at what cost? Vaccine-preventable infections are not all benign. Many can cause serious permanent harm or even death. If nothing else, who wants to be miserably sick for weeks. The whole point of vaccines is to trigger immunity without the disease. If you take a risk vs benefit approach, the benefit of vaccines vastly outweighs the risk, perhaps by more than any other medical intervention.


She digs in:


The science “is not settled” on vaccine safety or efficacy.


This is a lie. The science is absolutely settled. Vaccines are safe and effective. “Safe” does not mean zero risk – life does not come with zero risk, ever. It means they are relatively safe, and that benefit outweighs risk.


As evidence to support her misinformation she writes:


The United States Vaccine Court has settled over 85 cases where children are injured with neurological injuries from vaccines since 2000.


This is another distortion. The vaccine court does not determine if vaccines caused the reported injuries. They only determine if compensation is appropriate, based on their rules which are designed to favor the claimant. They err way on the side of compensating sick children, and they don’t force them to prove cause and effect. This is, therefore, not a good line of evidence that vaccines cause harm.


And of course, no one denies that rare (on the order of magnitude of one in a million) cases of vaccine serious side effects do occur.


If Tocco is going to cite the vaccine court, however, then she should note that the court did make a ruling on the association of vaccines and autism, hearing the best cases the anti-vaccine crowd had to offer, and rejected their claims. 


She continues:


As I travel the country speaking with parents, the #1 concern is vaccine ingredients. Many are not meant to eat and yet we inject them via vaccination!


This is naked fearmongering with the “toxin gambit.” David Gorski has deconstructed this myth many times. 




Tocco’s article is a Gish Gallop of fearmongering, misdirection, and misinformation. As you can see, many sentences require full articles to deconstruct.


She is not, in my opinion, being an honest broker of science-based information. She is selling a narrative, one that is crafted to resonate with common fears and concerns of most people. She is marketing an anti-scientific alternative health ideology, one that is highly profitable and is threatened by accurate scientific information.


The anti-vaccine movement cannot win in the arena of science. In fact, they have already lost. So they are desperately trying to change the venue by framing the narrative as one about freedom, choice, and transparency. Ironically they are doing this with misinformation that detracts from transparency and freedom of choice.



7 responses so far

7 Responses to “Tocco’s Anti-vaccine Narrative”

# jsterritton 12 Aug 2014 at 12:52 pm

Dr Novella…

“The anti-vaccine movement, “natural” health movement, health care freedom movement, and anti-GMO movement are all largely about promoting one industry over a competitor using deceptive marketing.”

An excellent observation. Whether a multi-billion corporate industry like organic, small-time web stores, or penny-ante click-throughs and ad views: everybody’s selling something. Or buying something. The naturalistic fallacy, the toxins gambit, the magical virtues of “alt med,” “whole foods,” and “smart choices” are popular products. For the low, low price of setting incredulity aside, any mom (or dad or dingbat on the internet) can purchase a turnkey ideology that makes them feel smart, smug, and superior — all without having to do any heavy lifting (i.e., the hard work of thinking).

Be the best mom on your block! Mistake your children’s current good health for proof of your awesome choices, not to mention a guarantee of their future invulnerability! You can’t go wrong! Have you, like so many satisfied customers, not died of the flu? Pat yourself on the back for eating well, exercising, denying germ theory, and keeping a positive mental outlook! But wait, there’s more: did you know you can also sit in judgement of others for bringing bad health outcomes upon themselves based on no evidence? It’s true. Those sick people weren’t sexy, savvy shoppers who made the smart choice of drinking gluten-free water from the food co-op instead of contaminated groundwater from their poisoned well. Worse, they clearly didn’t maintain a positive mental outlook! Grandpa’s cancer? American diet! Little Tyler’s peanut allergy? Bad mom! Plus GMOs, probably. And TOXINS!

I could go on…

# Bronze Dogon 12 Aug 2014 at 2:00 pm

On a few occasions I’ve said that “health freedom” is code for “caveat emptor.” It’s indirect with respect to anti-vaxxers, but they do often have their own product to sell that wouldn’t do well if regulatory agencies and sincere consumer protection groups were able to do their job. That’s why so many quacks rail against organizations like the FDA demanding safety and efficacy trials while preaching the naive idea that the invisible hand of the market sorts out what treatments work and what treatments don’t. “If it’s popular, there must be something to it.”

One annoying thing with “Big Quack” is that it’s not a conspiracy controlled from the top down, it’s a culture. The victims get comforting platitudes, the illusion of control over their health, and excuses to insulate themselves. The sincere but misguided quacks get numerous psychological defense mechanisms to continue believing that they’re doing good. The knowing frauds get thought-stopping cliches they can use to defend their cash cows from scrutiny and alienate their victims from honest critics.

# Guy Chapmanon 12 Aug 2014 at 3:25 pm

I want to know where the “Finance Freedom movement” is. The Government has to stop oppressing people and taking away their freedom to invest in pyramid schemes. They might be one of the winners. Anecdote shows many people who have made large sums from pyramid schemes, it’s just that Big Banking don’t want you to know about it because it undermines their profits.


# nbangoron 12 Aug 2014 at 3:29 pm


I’m off topic but I need help. A friend of mine sent me and our other band mates an email about how he and his family and friends have been feeling sick lately and that he is sure it is due to chem trails. He linked us to some nonsensical articles with supposed quotes from supposed ex air force pilots swearing they had done chem trail flying but arent supposed to talk about it.

Can Dr N or anyone direct me to some good skeptical debunking of chemtrails? I just want to “plant the seed”


you can comment here or email me directly at [email protected]

# Todd W.on 12 Aug 2014 at 4:36 pm


Rationalwiki might be a good place to start. Here’s their entry on chemtrails: http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Chemtrails.

# grabulaon 12 Aug 2014 at 6:04 pm

nbangor – google debunking chemtrails, you’ll find tons of info.

@Dr. Novella – I’m not sure I agree that religious exemption is anymore controversial than philosophical exemptions, in fact I personally see no difference between the two. Both claim irrational and unreasonable excuses for not taking care of their children and risking the society at large. Religious freedom, makes no more sense then philosophical freedom when it comes to the health and welfare of a community.

# LouVon 13 Aug 2014 at 9:50 am


Contrail Science and Metabunk are great ressources :

Дискуссия по статье в FB https://www.facebook.com/theskepticsguide/posts/10152609481826605


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А вот вторая:




But, this amazing Tumblr conversation that is doing the rounds on the Internet today may have just changed our minds.

It started with this ill-informed analogy, posted by an anti-vaxxer:


But then the post was seen by an immunologist. And that’s when things started to get interesting:



And more interesting:


And even MORE interesting:


Until the debate was shut down. And rationality had won.

At which point Tumblr celebrated in the only way that Tumblr knows how:


While stories like these might seen funny, they really aren’t. The rise of vaccine objectors is something that is already starting to affect the health of our communities most vulnerable members.

This story serves as a reminder of the power of knowledge in the face of ignorance, and the power of any one person to speak up and stop myths from being perpetuated.

Here at Mamamia, we’re proud to stand in support of vaccination. Share if you are too.

Read more at http://www.mamamia.com.au/vaccinations/anti-vaccination-advocate-takedown/#jUWHupi4lxv1YPHx.99

Есть ещё пара тем про антипрививочников, возможно, их стоит собрать в один подраздел в разделе Лженаука.


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Дискуссия в FB по первой статье:


Colin Ryan This page claims to be strictly science based, but is more than obviously bias. It chooses the most ridiculous situations it can find and uses them to attack large groups of people. Most people aren't "anti-vaxers". They are anti big pharma. They ignore stories don't perfectly sum up their little world. There is a science backed reason why some people are skeptical of vaccines. I realize not all claims are true and the true ones aren't as wild as the extremist would have us believe. The anti-gmo movement is another point of extreme bias on this site. You find the most insane opinions out there, one that the average 8th grader can find holes in. At the same time completely ignoring that with gmo's are coming higher and higher levels of toxic pesticides. There are plenty of legitimate studies that are looking into the effects of these pesticides not just on the people consuming the end product the environment. Where is the coverage of the non radical articles? They don't fit into neat little package sgu is trying to hand out so they are ignored. Remove your bias views, stop reading only things that promote your original thought process and you might learn something.

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Article Comment You´re right. It´s bias toward science.

Нравится · 9 · 9 ч.


Colin Ryan Like I said that very easy to do when you find the most insane extremist you can. All this is doing is pushing people onto sides instead being part of any discussion that is aimed at fixing anything. Just looking at the comments I can clearly see the intelligence level of the audience here. It's like listening to a couple of drunks at the bar having a political debate.

Нравится · 2 · 9 ч.


Article Comment Either you accept the science or you don´t. 


To imply there is a proper scientific disagreement on the scientific community about vaccines, climate change or GMO´s is wrong. There isn´t.


There are dissonant voices from one side of it, but the majority as pretty much spoken. There is no real debate. 


Is it perfect? No. 

Is there room for improvement? Yes. Let’s do it

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Colin Ryan Exactly, it's not perfect, so why ignore legitimate science that doesn't perfectly support a preconceived notion? That's exactly what this site does. It acts as if every scientist in the world agrees on everything. If that were the case there would never be progress. You say "your either with science or your against it". It's not that simple, there are different angles and thoughts within the scientific community. Look outside your tiny little world and you might learn something.

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Frank Denton Article, that is a logical fallacy referred to as appeal to authority. When someone uses logical fallacy to support an argument, they become irrelevant to the discussion. It is why there are so many dissonant voices. . . Climate Change enthusiasts will lie and tweak the data without any ethical/moral reservations because they believe that the ends justify the means - 'there is no real debate' would be accurate and unfortunate, it isn't the deniers that are the problem.

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Colin Ryan More importantly they will tweak the issue, acting more like politicians. I've seen a lot of these pro-gmo that want to call everyone else idiots, but will never answer questions about roundup and it's affects on the environment and people.

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Article Comment No, it´s not what this site does. Only one side is actually prepared to accept changes and acknowledge problems. I acknowledge that vaccines are not perfect. 

They should be better, they should act longer, they should be 100% safe. And while we´re discussing this on facebook, that is exactly what scientists are working on at the moment.


The anti science crowd is not prepared to do that. They don’t want to improve these things, they want to eradicate them because they are afraid.

And because they don´t have the science on their side, they resort to lies, fear and deception to spread their message. 


And while many people on that side are concerned, if not ill informed, the forces pushing these agendas are actually big business, but unlike big business based on science, it is big business based on bullshit.



The danger of science denial


Vaccine-autism claims, "Frankenfood" bans, the herbal cure craze: All point to the public's growing fear (and, often, outright denial) of science and reason, says Michael Specter. He warns the trend spells disaster for human progress.

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The Skeptics' Guide to the Universe Colin - show me what you think is a non-radical article. We address all the claims we find out there, agree with those that have a point, and dissect the errors in those that don't. The issue of pesticides and GMOs is more complex than your summary. Read this: http://theness.com/neurolo.../index.php/the-gmo-controversy/


NeuroLogica Blog » The GMO Controversy


The controversy surrounding genetically modified organisms (GMO) has intrigued me for some time, and recently I have been reading everything I can on the topic...

Нравится · 5 · 8 ч.


Colin Ryan I realize they are more complex, that's the point in making. While going after nut jobs and making them feel stupid can be fun from time to time, it doesn't get us anywhere. Most people are not extremist and would to see less bias opinions from time to time. 


I feel that this article does a pretty good job bringing up some issues. It's a little old, but I don't save everything I read for arguments sake.



Weed-Whacking Herbicide Proves Deadly to Human Cells


Used in gardens, farms, and parks around the world, the weed killer Roundup contains an ingredient that can suffocate human cells in a laboratory, researchers say

Нравится · 1 · 7 ч.


Andrew Kerr There's also a problem with science issues that affect the general public like vaccines etc, because even when there is no credible scientific evidence of widespread dangerous side effects, the actual details of the research needed to make the case is often far too complicated and/or specialized for most people who aren't themselves scientists in the same field to properly evaluate for themselves. 


The experts who really do understand it may be sure that it's safe, but if another scientist disagrees with their findings and goes public with his or her concerns, then all the public see is a controversy. They simply don't have the skills and resources to tell if the 'rogue' scientist has discovered something the others missed, or if he's just wildly exaggerating a real but (for all practical purposes) insignificant anomaly. 


As with the whole MMR/Autism thing. The 'danger' was debunked eventually, but in the meantime many parents took the view "why risk it?" 


Tabloid newspapers in particular are very bad for publicizing scare stories and once the lie is widely circulated it's very hard to explain to people that there's really nothing to worry about. Especially if the explanation requires an understanding of the underlying science to be convincing.


I'm a lay person who reads a huge amount of scientific articles and other literature and I consider myself to be much better informed on most important issues than the general public, but as I lack any formal training I still have great difficulty trying to understand the fine detail of an actual paper and rely on journals such as New Scientist to interpret them into a format I can take in, so if I can't make an independent assessment of some 'controversial' topic, then it must be very difficult for someone with little understanding of the scientific method to judge who's telling them the truth.


I've often seen claims that I 'know' are ridiculous, but I don't have the skills to challenge them myself without just posting a link to what I believe to be an honest and authoritative article. Of course this often just provokes a counter link to some campaigning blog and then it's almost impossible to 'prove' that my link is reliable and theirs isn't. 


Also there are many genuine disagreements in many areas of science and while these are often minor 'points of order' within a largely well understood, but complex and developing field. It's easy for campaigners to seize on these and leverage the general ignorance of the public to inflate the dangers.


It's even more confusing when there are confounding factors that affect how research is applied in the real world. As with GMO. The organisms themselves may be entirely harmless and safe to eat, but if the farming methods and patenting of seeds etc leads to higher pesticide use and a depletion of diversity then people need to be convinced that these factors don't detract from the many advantages of hardy, disease free crops.

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Article Comment Good point Colin. Herbicides is an issue for modern agriculture that should be addressed. I´m sure it is being addressed.


The development of glyphosate-resistant (Roundup Ready) plants has changed the herbicide use profile away from the use of more environmentally persistent herbicides with higher toxicity, such as atrazine, metribuzin, and alachlor, and has reduced the dangers of herbicide runoff into drinking water. 


This was in the 70´s, so I can´t say that it was a bad thing that this type of herbicide came and replaced much more environmental damaging and toxic herbicides.

How is it that coming up with a better solution that existed previously, a bad thing? Is it perfect? No. Is it better than before? Yes. In many traditional crops, much more damaging herbicides are still being used.


Now it seems that some weeds can become resistant to this herbicide (evolution, it is a bitch). Time to get a better solution. I´d say that there are people working around the clock to make new, safer types of herbicides because it will make them an obscene amount of money.

Нравится · 1 · 6 ч.


Colin Ryan They only got rid of those old dangerous herbicides for a short period of time. Since weeds became resistant most farmers started using these old chemicals along with the new chemicals to combat the resistant weeds. Added to that is the fact only the main ingredient in roundup is safe, combined with the other ingredients scientists are finding that it is far less safe than originally reported.


There is also the evolutionary arms race that has been going on since life first appeared on earth. It is being accelerated to an unsustainable rate. We are seeing similar things happening in agriculture as we are seeing with antibiotics. Over use is causing accelerated resistance. For awhile scientist just came out with new more powerful antibiotics, but now they are running out of ideas. The same thing will happen with herbicides. This option is not sustainable at best, at worst these chemicals are far more damaging than we understand right now.

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Angie Weatherhead Period, you do not understand the science. You can dress up what you're saying however you like, but in the end you're buying into fear mongering and hysteria. Which, surprise, is funded by big corporations. Even big pharma!

Нравится · 1 ч.


Josh Willmes Oh no.....can't wait to see the comments from the anti-vaxxers.

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Еще одни антипрививочники - это секта Рогожкина "эниология". Они там обучают, что в прививках ртуть, алюминий, кадмий и формальдегид, что прививки поставляются "тайным мировым правительством" для "сокарщения населения", и якобы вызывают "онкологию". Еще помню, как он вопил, что прививка "гардасил" (против папиломмы) вызывает "стопроцентное бесплодие".

Суть в том, чтобы понять, кто стоит за этими людьми, так как сайты действительно есть и на английском языке, за границей. Хотя за сектой "эниология" стоят спецслужбы, хозяева у них общие, хотелось бы понять, какие именно.



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Дааа, прививки управляют людьми. Сколько можно этот маразм продвигать уже. Вот алкоголь управляет человеком, но про это никто не пишет и не сект по этому поводу.


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