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Liars just can't help themselves (6/11/2004)
Every so often, someone asks me why I call anti-vaccination liars "liars". The suggestion is that some of these people are just misguided or misinformed. That may be so, but once people are informed of facts they no longer have available the excuse that they were ignorant of the truth. At least once a month I see someone repeat something which is not true, has never been true and which the person saying it knows not to be true. When people act like this, it is called "lying".
A newspaper story from February this year was circulated on some anti-vaccination liar mailing lists this week under the title "CDC Knew of Potential Link between Vaccines, Autism". It was a retread of an old story about how the Centers for Disease Control supposedly made the callous decision to allow children to become autistic rather than take action which might impact the vaccination program, a story which gets wheeled out on a regular basis. The first few paragraphs of the article say:
Five-year-old Ryan Anderson of Jacksonville Beach is an animated, happy child.
But that wasn't always the case.
"His course of deterioration from a happy, developmentally appropriate child to the problems he began to develop, started right after he received the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine," says Ryan's father, Bruce Anderson.
Now, several therapies are underway to restore Ryan's cognitive and behavioral development, which began to show significant impairment at age 18 months. Ryan also presents evidence of a persistent, active measles virus.
Ryan's doctor, Jeff Bradstreet of Melbourne, is a specialist in autism-related disorders. Using clinical diagnostic testing, he has documented a genetic defect in children that Ryan carries. That defect, says Bradstreet, made him vulnerable to a preservative in his vaccinations.
The preservative is called thimerosal, and it contains mercury, a known neuro-toxin. Until just a few years ago, children who received a full schedule of vaccinations were injected with mercury in amounts far exceeding EPA guidelines. Bradstreet says some children's bodies just can't handle the onslaught of the toxin.
The fact is that the MMR vaccine does not now and never has contained thimerosal or any other preservative. It is a live, attenuated vaccine, and the addition of thimerosal would render it totally ineffective. If Dr Bradstreet is a real doctor and not just some anti-mercury loon stealing money by pretending to cure autism, then he knows this fact. Of course, I allow for the possibility that he is a real doctor and is also deceiving desperate parents. In any case, he is saying something which is not true and which he knows to be not true. I don't blame the reporter for being conned into writing this, because she was probably presented with sincere-looking people in white coats with lots of impressive certificates on their office walls. She was not to know that she was seeing a theatrical performance where props and play-actors are used to convince the gullible that something real is going on. I sent her the following email:
Dear Ms Ross,
During the past week, certain people opposed to vaccination have distributed an article written by you in First Coast News, apparently from February this year, with the headline "CDC Knew of Potential Link between Vaccines, Autism". In that article there is the clear implication that the preservative thimerosal can cause autism and that children can be exposed to the chemical via the MMR vaccine.
Apart from the fact that several large epidemiological studies covering several million children have failed to show any correlation between MMR vaccine and autism, the vaccine does not now and never has contained thimerosal. MMR is a live vaccine, and the addition of a preservative would render it completely ineffective. The people who suggested to you that autism might be caused by a mercury compound in the MMR vaccine were lying to you. They were not mistaken. They knew the truth, but they chose to lie.
I have never been able to understand the motivation of the anti-vaccination liars, although I can see the objective of their tactic of using the threat of having an autistic child as a way of frightening parents out of their moral and medical responsibilities towards their children. The motivation of the charlatans and quacks who offer useless treatments for autism is obvious, as all they are interested in is money and they don't care who gets hurt while they collect it. When these two groups of amoral people combine forces and both work on the principle that the end justifies the means, then it is inevitable that many will be hurt. Most of the time it is the children who suffer, but sometimes an innocent bystander like yourself becomes "collateral damage" when drawn in to lend unwitting support to the crazed agendas of people who in another context would probably be diagnosed as psychopaths.
I am sorry that you were deceived by these people into writing an article which they can use to lend authority to claims that vaccines are dangerous and that parents should withhold from their children the protection which has save more lives and prevented more illness than any other medical intervention.