The science of vaccine denial


While we know that it is unlikely that many cases of Autism are triggered by vaccination, serious consequences do happen from vaccines (such as autoimmune disorders).

I developed a serious illness after a vaccination as an adolescent and I am still severely ill 15 years later. My life isn’t much of a life. I cannot work, nor do I have the physical stamina to maintain a romantic relationship.

I would not wish my ill health onto anyone. I feel quite angry when I read these articles and they are written as if there are no victims (however rare) and there is no sympathy for those who have been personally affected, such as myself.

My personal experiences lead me to seriously question how ‘rare’ such autoimmune reactions really are. My own illness was not investigated as a vaccine injury by any authority, despite it occurring directly after a vaccination and being noted as such my my GP. As such, I do not have confidence in estimates of risk from post-vaccine surveillance programmes and the sample size of RCT of vaccines are not sufficient to determine whether the risk of a major outcome is say, 1/25,000 or 1/500,000. There is too much politics involved in such surveillance programmes, due to the conflict of interest.

I personally would like to see far more science being done to understand why major adverse outcomes occurs and how to prevent it, or minimise long term consequences after reactions occur.

While we continue to pretend that vaccines are 100% safe, this is not going to happen.

Until then, please have some sympathy for victims of vaccine injuries.


We pretend no such thing. You are free to pretend we pretend that.

Your experience, while very very crappy sounding, is what happened. What didn’t happen is a lot of -other- suffering, which science indicates was not suffered by a god awful lot of other people. I want to thank you for taking one for the team, as I am, being in my early 40’s, probably one of those other people who has not died because I got well vaccinated in my youth.

I do. I so do. But victims who speak in black and white terms are no longer victims, they’re con men like anyone else who speaks in black and white terms. My sympathy does not extend to validating impossible statements like 100% anything. But I sympathize with your loss.


Sorry to hear about your suffering Andrew, my sister suffers lupus, so I understand how deliberating autoimmune diseases can be. However your anecdote is no more evidence of vaccinations causing autoimmune disorder than the autism example given in the post above. You’re simply linking two events that followed each other and assuming cause and correlation.

There have been a small number of firmly proven links between vaccinations and autoimmune disorders, but elsewhere the scientific evidence is fairly inconclusive. Even in the cases where links have been proven, the numbers of cases have been very low. There also have been lessons learned from the vaccines that have been linked with autoimmune diseases, so newer vaccines are generally even safer than their earlier counterparts.

Finally, any Doctor giving an immunisation should explain that vaccines are not 100% safe. They are however, vastly safer than not getting vaccinated; both for the individual and the wider population.

Please don’t take my remarks as unsympathetic to your condition. I do have sympathy for anyone with an autoimmune disorder, but I’ve also got sympathy for people that get measles, or any other easily preventable disease when the evidence so firmly points in one direction.


As someone who had measles prior to the vaccine and suffered a degree of brain damage, liver damage and other permanent effects, I would cheerfully imprison for life without parole anyone who tries to use fake science to discredit vaccines.


The thing is, everybody who has health problems in childhood has them “after vaccination.” That doesn’t mean vaccination caused their illness. The whole point of this article is that the human mind is just terrible at figuring out cause and effect. Over centuries of failure, we’ve found just one system that actually works - the scientific method.

If you don’t trust the bought-and-paid-for scientists, there’s two things you can do. One is go get yourself a PhD and spend a lifetime doing the research. Find out first-hand if there’s an evil conspiracy out there suppressing evidence. A surprising number of people have done exactly that, and end up doing a lot of good. Occasionally it turns out the conspiracy is real, and cigarettes are actually bad for you.

The other thing you can do is decide science is bunk, and make up your own theories. Nothing wrong with that, except now we have the internet so it’s possible to out-shout the scientists, and convince real parents to endanger their children. Doing that will actually sicken and kill a small number of children. That’s a bad price to pay for a theory you made up, in my opinion.

The stupid thing is that folks who make up these “alternative” theories never bother testing them, except thanks to the internet they get to test them on other peoples’ kids. They’re gathering data right now out in California. Children are getting sick - so I suppose the experiment is a success.


Another part of the problem is that talk itself – any discussion of the issue at all – has a validation effect. The more people vocally deny the negative effects of vaccination, the more the negative effects of vaccine feels like a “thing.” (This is part of the evil genius behind the creationists’ notion of “teaching the controversy.” The more scientists step forward to explain why there’s no controversy, the more controversy there seems to be.)


In Berlin, Germany a non-vaccinated child died last week because of measles.

(Link goes to a German blog, here is the automatic translation).

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In the original article: The link to Kottke is broken, as it contains a quote at the end.

This is a simple case of side affects from the class war.
Most of the anti-vax stuff comes from the US where medicine is big 0.01% business, this is a misplaced attempt to take back from the hyper-profitable medical cartel. This is what enables the conspiracies and snake oil of secret inexpensive cancer cures, it would make a sick business sense to hide such a discovery if instead you could in this perfect stoner’s conspiracy forever continue to profit from long expensive treatment.
To anyone who knows some science the stuff is mostly bunk, denying your family one of the miracles of the modern world immunity to many diseases, but the general suspicion is both sad and somewhat correct.


The argument Andrew made and which needs attention is to be as critical about the pharmaceutical research around vaccination as all other pharmaceutical research. There is no reason to think / believe that the points made in re to bad pharma are any less relevant to vaccination than other aspects of the pharma industry. If anything there is more politics involved.

BUT this critical questioning / thinking should not call in doubt the public health benefits as well as the enormous benefit to individuals that have resulted from vaccination.

As with everything in life (e.g. crossing the road) there are risks involved weighing up the personal risks as well as the risks for the community is how decisions are made. But the basis oneeds to be well informed decision makers.

And three more points.

  1. While in Germany Drs & patients are very aware and careful not to vaccinate anyone who is unwell, i.e. if a child has a cold the vaccination is postponed, in the UK there is no scope for such details. Considering that vaccination is relying on a healthy immune reaction to work well, I do wonder whether this laissez faire attitude has negative consequences.

Is there research on this? Are the Germans over doing it or the ppl in the UK ignorant? These are worthwhile questions which parents when making decisions should be able to ask and to which they should be able to find evidence.

  1. In Communist Hungary as in all of the Eastern Block countries vaccination was a legal must, you couldn’t attend school unvaccinated and I presume there were further more draconian measures to punish anyone not willing. It needs to be clear that to create an environment where all vaccination recommended by the state is 100% compulsory requires a dictatorial state such as they were under Communism, not sure how well that will go down in places like the US.

  2. Finally, an anecdote although a very sad one. My husband’s grandmother died five years ago at the age of 101. The great tragedy of her life was the death of her little brother caused by diphtheria vaccination. She had a PhD in Chemistry, vaccinated all her six children & 15 Grandchildren but none the less the tragedy was very real. Yes, mortality for children in Europe was far higher than today but they were well off, well nourished and the nagging question whether her little brother would have grown up to be the lovely young man she always thought he would become, had it not been for the decision to vaccinate him, never left her.


yes, the scientific method works under certain pretty near perfect condition for certain issues pretty well, but to state that it’s the only effective method for the human mind of

is pretty mind boggling.


How so? What alternate method should we use to discern external reality?


Your brain mate.

One method used through the millennia is called Hermeneutics. And I venture to say that the world would be a far better place if more of our decision were based on such interpretive methodologies. The trouble with the epistemological / i.e. scientific method approach to life & the universe is that very few real situations we humans encounter can effectively be captured by universal laws which can stand the test of either validity or reliability.

Some of those trail blasing for the singularity of the scientific method might have overlooked that people have been thinking about cause and effect and have come to pretty interesting conclusions while thinking about it before the 17th century.

So there I have said it.

Since when is advocating for universal vaccination the same as not having sympathy for people who do experience adverse reactions?

I have sympathy for people who die or are injured in car accidents, but I’m not going to sit here and pretend that protracted discussions about getting rid of cars entirely is a worthwhile public health measure.

You essentially want a cure for autoimmune disorders. There are people working on that, they’re called scientists. They tend to think people should get vaccinated.


As an aspiring scientist could you, maybe, possibly think about the role of doubt in science, the role of questioning and curiosity? It might make your science better if you don’t shout at everyone who ever questions your convictions & doctrine.

A bit of thought and kindness.


You make some good points, and I genreally agree with you. I would add to your argument that the issue of vaccinations is not just political, but monetary as well in a very unique way that many people don’t know about; vaccine makers are immune (npi) from product liability lawsuits. In just about every other case of medicine, or any product in general, if someone makes something that does harm, they can be sued and damages can be awarded. With vaccine makers, this is not true, and actually may allow them to be more lax about quality control and less interested in researching side effects. Rather than filing suit, anyone who is harmed by a vaccine (have a bad reaction) gets compensated through the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program. The existence of this fund is proof that vaccines are not without risk, and that injuries do occur. This is why we cannot dismiss @Andrew’s experience or that of your grandmother.

One issue I do have with your comment though is the way you framed the death of your grandmother’s brother; it wasn’t the decision to vaccinate him that was a tragedy, it was his reaction to the vaccine. The decision was a good one, the result was bad.


Fuck kindness. Maybe I’m an asshole. Maybe I’m sweeter than a grandmother hopped up on sugar and light. What difference does it make? Does being kind or not make me right or wrong? It doesn’t do either. Functionally, I don’t think it’s kind to allow negativity bias to go unquestioned, and I don’t think it’s kind to pretend that we live in a Willy-Wonka world where ideas shouldn’t be challenged, even when the person espousing them is sympathetic. For someone who is so enamored of philosophy, you sure don’t seem to give two shits about ad hominem argumentation. What? He’s right because he got hurt and I’m wrong because I’m not sufficiently deferential?

I think about doubt in science all the fucking time. What? Do you think I’ve never heard of thalidomide? That I’m unfamiliar with the obscenity of radical mastectomies? That I’ve never made a bad hypothesis myself, or that I’ve never failed to understand a link between abstraction and theory? That I have never singed my eyebrows or shocked myself with electrical current? EVERY scientist has doubts. EVERY SINGLE ONE. If you remotely comprehended the field, you’d understand that it is unavoidable. This canard that we all go around in absolute certainty with our heads in the clouds is pathetic. It’s a myth, with zero connection to reality. Do you think that scientists have no concept of their own humanity? As if picking a major or getting a PhD erases self-awareness and critical thinking. It’s ludicrous and insulting, and fuck you, and the self-righteous horse you rode in on.


The argument Andrew made and which needs attention is to be as critical about the pharmaceutical research around vaccination as all other pharmaceutical research.

Except I’m not overly critical of the pharmaceutical research industry. Sure some drug companies behave dodgily from time-to-time in order to gain short-term-profits, but the industry is massively regulated and these failures generally see the light of day, and treatments improve. One only has to look at medicine today vs. 10, 20, 50, 100 years ago to see that we’re clearly moving in the right direction despite the failures of the medicine-for-profit industry.

While in Germany Drs & patients are very aware and careful not to vaccinate anyone who is unwell, i.e. if a child has a cold the vaccination is postponed, in the UK there is no scope for such details.

I’ve never lived in the UK so I can’t really confirm or deny your statement, but it surprises me. In Australia people are certainly recommended to delay vaccinations if they’re sick. However the NHS website does clearly states people that are sick should post-pone vaccinations. Maybe you’ve just got a shitty Doctor?

In Communist Hungary as in all of the Eastern Block countries…

I find the price of fish is currently too high, but I guess fisherman deserve decent pay…

The great tragedy of her life was the death of her little brother caused by diphtheria vaccination

Was it really caused by the vaccination or was it SIDS or something else? Again this is a cause =/= correlation debate. I’m not denying it happened, but I also don’t blindly believe a 3rd hand story from a stranger on the internet.

Your brain mate.


A bit of thought and kindness.

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I can’t think of another good way to make a cause-and-effect determination.

Sometimes people apply the scientific method in an informal way (but those results don’t always hold up when rigorously tested). Sometimes the effect size is so large that elaborate controls are unnecessary–there’s a joke paper urging double-blind testing of parachutes. Sometimes people work deductively from known principles. It’s still all within the scientific method

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