Antivax kills.

Bad Astronomy
The entire universe in blog form
May 4 2009 10:00 AM

Antivax kills.

Writing these posts is getting tougher and tougher. The comments get shriller and less rational from the antivax crowd; they scream their own personal anecdotes, they tell long-debunked lies, and do everything they can to avoid the fact that solid, rock-hard evidence shows no link at all between vaccines and autism.

And in the meantime, babies die because of the antivaccination movement.

Phil Plait Phil Plait

Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death From the Skies!  

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If you think Jenny McCarthy, Jim Carrey, and the rest of the ignorant antiscience antivax people are right, then read this story. I dare you. David McCaffery writes about his daughter, Dana, who was four weeks old when she died. Too young to get vaccinated herself, she contracted whooping cough because vaccination rates in that part of Australia are too low to provide herd immunity. This poor little girl died in her father's arms, and the blame rests squarely on the antivaccination movement. That's not an anecdote, that's data.

The McCafferys on Australian TV
David and Toni McCaffery on Australian TV.

After Dana's story was told on the Australian TV show "Sunday Night" there was such a reaction that Channel 7 decided to hold a forum about vaccinations. Richard Saunders and Rachael Dunlop from The Australian Skeptics were there -- you can read Rachael's personal account of the forum -- and Richard has posted video from the forum.


This is heartbreaking, and made worse by Meryl Dorey, the biggest antivax mouthpiece in Australia. Listening to her makes my blood boil. She is a typical antivax promoter: she has no real data, so she manipulates and spins. She throws baseless accusations at the doctor on stage, and uses all sorts of tactics like that to convince people she's right.

She isn't. Vaccinations do not cause autism. Vaccinations have some small risk, but it's far, far less than the danger from measles, rubella, whooping cough, and all the other easily preventable diseases.

Then listen (at 6:30 into the video) to the woman who didn't vaccinate her son. She herself says she doesn't know enough about the issue to say much in response to another woman in the audience who was concerned over her own son's safety. She admitted she doesn't have all the facts, but she still decided not to vaccinate her kid.

Wow. The antivax movement thrives on ignorance like that.

Then, at about 7:00 into the video, the McCafferys speak. It tears my heart apart to hear them talk about their baby daughter.

The only good thing here is that Meryl Dorey had her arguments eviscerated by the doctor on stage. That's because her arguments have no substance, no science, no real data behind them. All the antivaxxers have is panic and fear and lies.

Talk to your doctor, and if they recommend it, vaccinate your kids. You may be saving far more than just their lives; the sad truth is that if more parents in Australia had gotten vaccinations for their children, Dana McCaffery would still be alive today.

If you fight against vaccines, then keep that fact in mind.

And please, contact the people at "Sunday Night" and send them some support. They did a great job exposing the antivax movement and getting some real information out to the public. The producer's name is Rebecca le Tourneau and she is happy to get international support about this.

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