1. They believe there is an anti-vaccine movement.
This may surprise a lot of people, but there actually isn't an "anti-vaccine movement”. Although there are definitely people who believe no vaccine is a good vaccine, the controversy has never been solely about whether or not vaccines are good or bad; it's been about whether or not they are being used responsibly and have been properly investigated for their role in chronic health conditions.
The more appropriate term to describe people raising this important question would be consumer safety advocates, seeking informed consent, more research, product liability, and policy reform.
Only a few possibilities exist to explain why those who insist on using the "anti-vaccine" label anyway continue to do so: they erroneously assume anyone who questions a product's safety is automatically against it; they believe vaccines already are being used as responsibly as they possibly can be and have been properly investigated; or they choose to use a red herring label like "anti-vaccine" to manipulate people.
2. Anyone who disagrees with them is an idiot.
If the first line of attack doesn't work it will almost always be followed by an insult. Not only are people who disagree portrayed as dangerous lunatics who want to see the world explode in infectious disease, supposedly they are also "flat-earthers" who can't accept the world is round. Certain journalists have gone so far as to suggest it's no wonder their children have problems.
Such commentary is breathtaking in its insensitivity, entirely unnecessary, and most troublesome once again, not true. Even the CDC has recognized for years, most recently in a study on Hepatitis B uptake, that the most common demographic of a person who questions vaccine safety or refuses them is a highly educated mother with a master's degree.
When faced with this unpleasant fact, anti “anti-vaxxers” are left with little place to go. Some have started calling these parents “superstitious”, “defenders of pseudo-science”, or “conspiracy theorist” instead.
3. They blame Dr. Wakefield for everything.
Dr. Wakefield has now become the scapegoat for the whole controversy. Supposedly this man and his team of researchers, who had the audacity to suggest there might be a problem with the MMR that warranted further study, is single-handedly responsible for the plummeting vaccine uptake throughout the country.
This too is untrue. Parents who implicate the MMR in their children’s Autism represent only a sub-set of parents. Dr. Wakefield's study was not and never has been the whole story where vaccines and Autism have been concerned.
4. They just don’t get it.
Although the controversy appears to be about vaccines, it goes much deeper than that. Quite simply, many parents have lost faith in their physicians.
While some would like to believe this is because parents are impressionable conspiracy theorists that can’t distinguish fact from fiction, arguably the medical community has brought this problem on themselves.
They sold out to the pharmaceutical industry. They have a terrible track record for children’s health. They refuse to examine how they might be responsible for that. They dismiss the testimony, experience and suffering of thousands of parents and children. They threaten parents with ultimatums. Most important, they are completely inept at dealing with Autism and always have been.
At this very moment, doctors still can’t agree on what Autism is, how to define it, when it started, if it’s a problem, who has it, if it’s treatable, how it’s treatable, or what to do about it. In fact, the only thing they feel completely confident telling the world about Autism is who didn’t cause it: them.
To the intelligent parent, their credibility is completely lost.
Furthermore, the idea that better diagnosis or a broadening of the definition is responsible for the disproportional number of children identified with Autism now-a-days is an assault on the common sense of the average middle aged person, old enough to clearly remember the non-existent condition in their peers thirty years ago; young enough to verify this in their elders; and astute enough to see the reality of their children’s sick generation in their own families, schools and neighborhoods.
As a response, the medical community has taken the position that parents actually can’t believe what they live or what they see, their reality a misdiagnosed illusion. In essence, people without a white coat are unqualified to understand their own world.
What a condescending insult if ever there was one.
5. They repeatedly distort or exaggerate the facts.
The amount of studies done on the relationship between vaccines and Autism is limited. Only one ingredient (Thimerosal) and one injection (the MMR) have ever been studied. The quality, integrity, depth, and extent with which they have are at the heart of the controversy. (Objectors = Flat-Earthers. Got it?)
To put it into perspective, there are currently over 20 injections (more than 36 vaccines) given to children before kindergarten, and at last count, over five-dozen ingredients in them depending on the manufacturer. Most often these injections are given simultaneously. No study exists on the safety of doing so.
More disturbing, only a few studies have used American children as the study group. Even worse, each and every one of them was funded and/or completed by a vaccine patent holder, a vaccine manufacturer, or a public health agency or agent responsible for vaccine uptake. Often it is a combination of all three.
In spite of these blatant conflicts of interest, the studies have been touted as conclusive evidence of a lack of correlation; this even though several studies have come to contradictory conclusions. Several, for example, show Thimerosal, a mercury-based neurotoxin, is beneficial to children’s health. One shows it has an indeterminable effect. One shows it possibly prevents Autism. Others show it causes tics, speech delay, and behavior delays.
Furthermore, no study exists on the differences between health outcomes among vaccinated and never vaccinated American children. The medical community claims this is impossible or unethical to do, even though thousands of American children are never vaccinated right now.
6. They pretend to be the gatekeepers of science.
Gone are the days of limited access to information. With the advent of the Internet, scientific information is readily available to whoever would like it. While certainly this doesn’t qualify anyone who reads it as being an expert, it does mean that a new phenomenon has developed: consumer-scientists who question what he or she is being sold.
Combined with the mounting instances of pharmaceutical fraud, the lack of urgency or answers for Autism, and the availability of this scientific information, parents have become a critical voice of what they have uncovered: compromised research; conflicts of interest; non-sensical methodology; idiotic results; and unanswered questions.
When faced with these criticisms, the medical community has taken the position that lay members of society, such as parents, are unqualified to make these claims. They dismiss their concerns as embarrassingly amateur, not to be taken seriously. That may be so, except for one thing.
It was a lay member of society, a journalist with no medical background or scientific expertise, who first claimed Dr. Wakefield committed fraud. It was the same journalist who examined the research and concluded it was, then allowed to publish his findings in a medical journal. The medical community has made him their champion.
The double standard is astounding.
7. They fail to acknowledge the context of the controversy.
In the vaccine controversy, there are four major players: the consumer, the government, the medical community, and the pharmaceutical industry. The consumer purchases a product manufactured by the pharmaceutical industry that is mandated for use by the government that is given to them by the medical community.
Should the consumer get hurt by the product neither the pharmaceutical industry nor the medical community can be held liable. Instead, the consumer pays a tax on the product that funds a court run by the government that determines if they were hurt and to what extent.
The science and experts they use to make that determination are provided from the defendants themselves: the medical community, government, and pharmaceutical industry. If it is determined the consumer was in fact injured, the government awards compensation from the consumer tax fund. In other words, the injured consumers pay themselves.
This, for many citizens just realizing it, is insane.
Fear, however, allows it to continue. Consumers are repeatedly told this is all for their own good and that to dismantle the system would lead to certain death. The subsequent abandonment of the pharmaceutical industry from the market (should they actually be held accountable for their product) would make it so, they claim. Policy makers believe it.
Coupled with the fact the government is now partnering with the pharmaceutical industry to create vaccines in public-private partnerships, we now have a situation in which the government is profiting from their use while simultaneously serving as their regulator and recommender. Believe it or not, we have actually legislated the ability to legally kill someone for profit without liability.
In the case of the Autism controversy, the problem is simple: consumers are accusing the government, pharmaceutical industry, and medical community of collectively causing Autism, yet the government, pharmaceutical industry and medical community are the only ones who have been allowed to investigate themselves to determine if they are guilty. Astonishingly, they keep coming up innocent.
Still, many believe the sheer volume of people involved in those entities makes any connection between them and the crime of which they are being accused impossible; hence, the conspiracy theorist accusation. Surely someone, somewhere, they justify, would have stopped it.
Unfortunately, this is not a good argument. Too many people have never been a deterrent to corruption or the perpetuation of atrocities, especially when there is money and accountability involved; in fact, it is almost always precisely because there are so many people involved the problem continues. It’s systemic. One needs only examine the housing crisis as evidence.
8. They over-simplify the problem.
The debate over whether or not vaccines are being used responsibly has many folds. It is not just about whether or not they cause Autism or other chronic disease. It is also about whether or not we have appropriate consumer education, are violating civil rights, have properly assessed the risk-reward ratio over the long term, have properly identified or supported vaccine injury, and whether or not the right people are in charge of doing the right science to determine that. It is also to bring attention to the fact we have legislated the ability of our government to kill someone for profit without criminal liability.
But perhaps most difficult of all, the vaccine controversy is really just a microcosm of a much larger issue. When being forced to vaccinate in order to participate in society, parents are to accept their child may be injured or killed for the sake of other children. They are also to accept there is no way of identifying who that child may be. Their only comfort is statistical rarity; a statistic mind you, created by those who manufacture, profit from, regulate, and are responsible for vaccine uptake…and can never be held accountable if they are wrong.
When parents decline, weighing the immediate risk-reward ratio carefully, they are told opting out and putting their child first is immoral and selfish, leaving the rest of the world’s children in danger, perhaps the most counterintuitive position a parent can take. Even so, vaccination, society insists, is the right thing to do for everyone; that, above all else, should come first.
This is medical communism.
Historically, communism has failed at least in part for the fact that it didn’t value the individual. Every time enough disregarded individuals became strong enough to overthrow the government that considered them meaningless, they did. Contrary to what one would have expected, it was never immoral to put the individual ahead of the whole; it was actually immoral not to.
With our current vaccine policy, we are witness to this now. Everyone, it seems, wants to matter.
9. They have no hypothesis.
The hypothesis of those who believe Autism is primarily, but not exclusively, an iatrogenic disease is simple: heavy metals and toxins when coupled with microbes such as bacteria or viruses are able to penetrate the central nervous system and/or damage the immune system, thereby leading to systemic malfunctions that manifest as the symptoms of Autism and other health conditions in a susceptible person. Depending on the exposure, timing, and combination, the manifestations vary.
Vaccines contain both heavy metals and microbes and would be one way of causing such a problem, especially since they deliver them artificially into the body via injection. Medications, as well as other toxins, like pesticides per se, would possibly contribute too.
This is a reasonable and plausible hypothesis to explain the explosion in chronic disease we have documented in the industrialized nations of the world over the last 200 years. The chemical soup in which we now live is frightening. Everyone can agree on at least that.
Evidence to support this hypothesis abounds. Dan Olmsted and Mark Blaxill brilliantly documented the likelihood of this phenomenon in their extraordinary book, Age of Autism: Mercury, Medicine, and a Man-Made Epidemic. They also uncovered a similar set of circumstances that would explain why polio became more dangerous in the late 19th and early 20th centuries: pesticides. To ignore what they have discovered is a disservice to humanity.
The pursuit to pinpoint one causal factor of Autism and other chronic conditions appears to have been short-sited. This is not moving the goal posts; it’s finally seeing the bigger picture. For if they’re right, the studies on vaccines and Autism thus far have not properly assessed the significance of the total toxic burden mothers and children bear or how the ability to tolerate it varies. Even in the few that have tried, selected exposures have been theoretical only (as have been the amounts of Thimerosal when they were assessed).
But unfortunately, this hypothesis is being ignored. Instead, ridiculous theories abound, not the least of which that Autism is purely genetic. There is no such thing as a genetic epidemic. Additionally, in spite of millions of dollars in research, and in spite of how some doctors are spinning it, no Autism gene has ever been found. More important, toxins can alter gene expression. Differences found may not be causal, but rather evidentiary.
In the mean time, alternative hypotheses have surfaced. Pajamas. Depressed dads. Old, schizophrenic moms. Living too close to the highway. Pollution. Rainfall.
Admittedly insulting at first, they may be on to something. Pajamas are doused in antimony, an anti-flame retardant. Depression and schizophrenia both have connections with heavy metals. Older moms have a larger toxic burden. Highways are made from concrete; concrete dust contains mercury. So does pollution. And let’s not forget pesticides.
As Dan and Mark have both stated repeatedly, facts cluster around a good hypothesis. Theirs is by far the best one ever presented.
10. They have an excuse for everything.
Everything regarding Autism is a coincidence. From the observations of the first doctor to identify the disorder in 1943, to the symptoms, to the timing, to the anecdotal evidence of parents, to the prevalence and incidence rates, to the improvement and recovery, all of it is considered best explained by coincidence.
When the rates of Autism began to skyrocket in the mid 1990’s, right after the amount of mercury tripled in vaccines, moved up to the day of birth, and more vaccines began to be added to the schedule, they claimed to have simply missed everyone that had Autism for decades prior.
As the explosion continued over the next fifteen years, and schools and doctors and parents became overwhelmed with the demands of these children, they claimed they were over-diagnosing. They took it even further and said it was parents, not them, who were actually to blame. Parents were greedily seeking services for their children they didn’t deserve.
(Perhaps this shouldn’t have been a surprise, however. Parents, especially moms, have always been blamed. Doctors hypothesized for years, until the 1970’s in fact, that Autism was the subconscious reaction of a child who felt their mother wanted to reject or even kill them. This is why Autism was originally put in the psychiatric realm and remains to this day.)
Now, almost twenty years into the epidemic, they have come to another coincidental conclusion. From 1943 to 1994, they misdiagnosed. From 1994 to 2011 they over-diagnosed. And now, in 2012, they need to UN-diagnose; thus the new DSM-V criteria.
The absurdity is stunning, if not criminal. By their own admittance, they have no idea what they are doing. One wonders if they even realize they are nullifying all of the science done on Autism thus far with this change. For if you still don’t even know what Autism is, how can you have appropriately studied what causes it?
11. They fail to recognize their tactics aren’t working.
Were I not an educator who has grown accustomed to separating the critique of my profession from myself, I’m not sure I would be able to say the things I have. This essay is an indictment of the medical-industrial complex, not an individual.
I have just thoroughly and thoughtfully laid out the position for why the vaccine controversy continues. I will continue to do so as long as I live, or until at which time it is no longer necessary. I am confident other parents like me will do the same. Calling us names, censoring our stories, or dismissing our concerns will not deter us.
Until then, it is simply not true to say there is nothing to debate. It is simply inexcusable to censor or stop the conversation. It is simply juvenile to use insults to describe those who refuse. And mark my words; it’s a waste of breath.
Parents, the consumers of these privately made products mandated for use by their government and given to them by their doctors, will fund and complete the science they demand. It is not a matter of if, but when. Hell hath no fury like that of a parent scorned, especially one told that their life is lie and that neither their child nor their suffering matters.
It is time for everyone to remember what we are seeking: health and wellness for all of the world’s children. We simply disagree on how to best attain it. The tactics being used to dismiss us serve no purpose other than to prolong it.
Julie Obradovic is a Contributing Editor to Age of Autism.