Any time there is an article about vaccine initiatives, a segment of the public begin to shout about government conspiracies and their perception of nefarious science. What is behind the anti-vaxxer movement? I will eventually write a post on the sociology of why this movement has gained support and what can be done about it, but for now I reproduce my comments from another thread filled with these conspiracy theories. My post below presents scientific evidence about the fraud that inspired the anti-vaxxer movement.
The science demonstrating that there is no link between autism and vaccines is peer-reviewed and well-established (for example, see here). The original paper that made the assertion that such a link existed was retracted by the original publisher, The Lancet, due to fraud by Andrew Wakefield and his team.
People who are convinced that vaccines cause autism have never read the original article that made this outlandish claim, let alone understand the science and its motives. For example, the fact that the study used a sample of only 12 boys; that the methods and conclusions were falsified; and most importantly, that Wakefield had a financial interest in making his fraudulent claims. He was funded by lawyers who were engaged in a lawsuit against vaccine companies. The retraction can be clearly seen on the original paper. The original retraction states, “no causal link was established between MMR vaccine and autism as the data were insufficient.”
Fraud Origins of the Anti-Vaxxer Movement
It is rather ironical that some people imagine there is some financial or political incentive amongst scientists to support vaccines. This is simply not true. Science supports the use of vaccines because they save lives. This is the official position of the World Health Organization (WHO), which has dispelled the myth that there is a link between autism and vaccines. Instead, the WHO shows that vaccines prevent up to 3 million deaths annually, for 25 otherwise lethal diseases.
The public needs to better understand the that the fraudulent science against vaccines is actually motivated by profit. Lawrence was charged with ethics violations and scientific misconduct. His team was “found guilty of deliberate fraud (they picked and chose data that suited their case; they falsified facts).”
Conspiracy Theories & Anti-Science
People who believe in conspiracy theories do so due to lack of education on particular subjects, and they are heavily influenced by political ideology, rather than scientific facts. People who disbelieve scientific evidence in favour of conspiracy theories overwhelmingly seek out random statements that support their personal beliefs, but these people do not engage with scientific evidence that contradicts their personal values.
There is no grand scientific conspiracy behind vaccines. There is, however, only, lack of valid data, hyperbole and scaremongering behind those who want to argue otherwise. The roots of the anti-vaccine movement are firmly tied to fraud motivated by financial gain. All that the anti-vaccine movement does is continue the greed of one disgraced man who was exposed for being unethical many years ago.
- No vaccine for the scaremongers. By the WHO
- Doubt and Denialism: Vaccine Myths Persist in the Face of Science.
- Debunking risks of side-effects associated with vaccines, see Robert Woodman’s comments towards the end of this thread.
Debunked myth linking mercury in vaccines to autism:
- Vaccines are not associated with autism: An evidence-based meta-analysis of case-control and cohort studies. Cohort analysis of 1.3M children and control case studies of 9.9K children finds no link between vaccines/mercury to autism.
- Thimerosal in Vaccines Questions and Answers. Showing mercury has not been included in vaccines since 1999 and there was no proof prior to this mercury caused neurodevelopmental disorders like autism.
Image: World Health Organisation.