A pox on antivaxxers

The entire universe in blog form
Nov. 5 2011 7:00 AM

A pox on antivaxxers

A couple of antivax stories hit the web in the past day or so, and both have me pretty angry, shaking my head about how people can manage to get things so wrong.

First, the antivax organization that is (Orwellianly) called the National Vaccine Information Center has paid for ads to run on in-flight Delta airline TVs. These ads give what can charitably be called misleading information about vaccines. Skepchick has the details, as does Harpocrates Speaks.

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!  


NVIC is an organization that is resolutely antivaccination, despite the overwhelming evidence that vaccines are one of the greatest medical science triumphs of all time, having saved hundreds of millions of lives. NVIC, on the other hand, is a group that likes to try to sue critics into silence while at the same time spouting statements so ridiculous they make my irony gland fear for its life.

I decided to make a short and simple tweet about the ads being run on Delta airlines:

I mean it, too. The link in the tweet goes to the Skepchick article linked above, which also links to a change.org petition, which I signed -- and I rarely do such things. But Delta really needs to take those ads down. Groups like NVIC are a public health threat.

I also write about this on Google+. It got some of the usual anti-vax nonsense in the replies, but also overwhelmingly positive responses in general. With this many people involved, I'm hoping Delta takes notice.

The second bit of news is so appalling it's difficult to overstate. On Facebook, parents belonging to an antivax group were encouraging others to send postal mail to each containing items like lollipops infected with saliva containing chicken pox.

I will give you a moment to pick your jaw up from off the floor. When you're done, watch this:

I can hear jaws all over the world right now smashing right through the ground.

Yes, this is for real. The idea is to have what's called a "Chicken pox party", where parents purposefully infect their kids with a disease that can put them at great health risk, because they so strongly dislike the idea of vaccinating their children. This idea all by itself is incredibly bad -- once you're infected, the virus stays with you for life, putting you at risk for shingles as an adult, and can cause severe complications to people with compromised immune systems.

I understand that a lot of parents don't think chicken pox is that big a risk. Many of us had it as a kid, and it wasn't much more than an inconvenience. I had it, and I remember being miserable and itching like crazy, but that was about it.

But even so, sending a known biohazard through the mail? Does this not cause alarm bells to go off in anyone's head? And rubella? Measles? Are you kidding me? Measles can kill.


Again, Harpocrates Speaks has more on this, as does Tara Smith, who is a Professor of Epidemiology, and knows of what she speaks.

I just hope none of these people have mail carriers with rheumatoid arthritis or lupus, and are taking immunosuppressants.

All I can add is to say what I did on Google+ on this issue:

Once you let go of evidence-based reasoning, anything at all makes sense. Sometimes even putting your own children at grave risk.

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