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it's been good news for common sense and bad news for the anti-vaccination brigade over the last few weeks.
The first was an analysis by the American Academy of Pediatrics which examined forty scientific studies looking for some connection between vaccination and autism. None was found. (You can see the AAP paper at https://ratbags.com/rsoles/history/2011/0108autism_aap.pdf)
Then came the revelation in the British Medical Journal that Dr Andrew Wakefield had lied about the medical histories of the subjects in his infamous paper linking the MMR vaccine with autism. You might remember that Dr Wakefield has been the subject of many misfortunes since the paper was published in The Lancet in 1998. It has been revealed that he was paid large sums of money by lawyers to find what he and they wanted found, he had applied for a patent on a measles vaccine which would have made him very rich if he could discredit the existing vaccine, he took blood samples at a children's birthday party (and was videoed laughing that one of the kids had fainted), his doctoring licence was cancelled and The Lancet retracted his paper. Now we find that he made it all up anyway, but I doubt he will apologise to the parents of the children who died of measles because his lies led to a significant reduction in vaccination in the UK.
Next came a court case where a magistrate in the Family Court ordered that a child could be vaccinated over the objections of her mother. The magistrate was especially scathing in his description of one of the witnesses, whom he said made "outlandish statements unsupported by any empirical evidence". (Family Court records aren't usually made public, so it is only a guess that this "expert witness" was the paediatric chiropractor interviewed outside the court who claimed that "there is credible evidence [vaccines] may do more harm than good". "Paediatric chiropractor"! There should be a law against it, and against quacks like this calling themselves "Dr".)
The next episode was the announcement by the online magazine Salon that they were withdrawing a 2005 article by Robert Kennedy Jr titled "Deadly Immunity" that had been a mainstay of anti-vaccination lying since then because of its quite spurious support of the long-discredited notion that there is a connection between vaccines and autism. The first corrections to this load of bilge had been issued within weeks of its publication, but now the magazine has admitted that it was a fabrication from the start. Unfortunately, all the anti-vaccination web sites that reproduced the article (always without the corrections issued immediately after publication) still have it available.
The icing went on the cake when the Brisbane City Council announced that free tetanus vaccination would be available to anybody who wanted it after the flood because of the filth in the water and the Western Australian government announced that it wanted all children vaccinated against pertussis.
The responses from the anti-vaccination campaigners have been predictable - everybody is being paid by Big Pharma, look who owns the BMJ, Salon and the paper that Brian Deer works for (Deer is the journalist who has done much of the exposing of Dr Wakefield), Wakefield is a hero, there is a witch-hunt, read Kennedy's article here, vaccines cause autism, ... . Business as usual for these horrible people.
There was one surprise, however. Nobody expected the response by the ex-President of the Australian Vaccination Network to the story about the court overruling someone's objection to vaccination. Ms Dorey made the following public announcement: "Court orders rape of a child. Think this is an exaggeration? Think again. This is assault without consent and with full penetration too. If we as a society allow this crime to take place, we are every bit as guilty as the judge who made the order and the doctor who carries it out". And has she apologised for this outrageous statement? Only by trying to define "rape". Remember this the next time you hear that vaccine opponents aren't really opposed to vaccines and just want everyone to make an informed choice. A leading figure in the movement thinks that vaccination is equal to rape. I suppose even this is good news in a way as it reveals the kind of thinking that underlies vaccine denial and might make people think twice before paying any attention to their braying.
This article was published on the Yahoo! 7 News Blog on January 19, 2011