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    • Chris, your analysis has me speechless—it was that incredible. I think it brings me back to our debate of whether 👏 or 🙌 is the more appropriate accolade.


      I think the blindness of being “highly educated” is that you think that several hours of research via the Internet and books will give you enough knowledge to make an informed medical decision that’s better than that of the medical community.

      It isn’t that the medical community never makes the wrong treatment decision. It’s that as a layman you don’t have the prerequisite knowledge to understand the data required to draw conclusions.

      And so instead of trusting a doctor, some choose to trust other voices. If your doctor has ever misdiagnosed or failed to diagnose a problem with your child, you’re going to be open to considering those other voices. I think @tornadik mentioned that had happened with her own child.

      I don’t think there’s a rejection of science. Instead there’s a rejection of who mainstream society is telling them to trust.

      I choose to put my trust in mainstream medicine, including vaccination, but I definitely understand why some parents make the decision not to.

    • It's hard to reconcile that all progress depends on believing we can do better than something that exists today — that what we have now isn't perfect, there are flaws, advances to make. I think that's what makes Elon Musk such a great inventor.

      But all progress also depends on someone being able to show that they can make improvements. Anyone can point out that air travel isn't safe, but the people who really matter are the ones who make it safer.

      Anyone can point out that, like air travel, vaccines aren't perfectly safe. But I think the ones we should listen to are the ones who either improve their safety or come up with something better. I don't think the ones we should listen to are the ones who propose that because jets crash we should drive instead. That takes us backwards in safety.

    • I completely agree. I would love for more public push for safety. I am still against uninformed forced “one fit for all” approach due to so many medical deviations in our health condition so I think we should have a right to discuss options.

      We all agree that food is essential for surviving yet somehow we want our food to be tested for safety, quite a few would prefer it to be local and organic, nonGMO, etc. But food saves lives, so shouldn’t we agree that pros outweigh possible cons of someone getting sick from bad food? Yet, we continue on insisting on safe standards.

      Same applies to vaccines or any other no matter how mild medication. If I can exercise informed consent, I feel much safer. The more the topic becomes hush-hush and any questions on safety are put down, the more it fuels anto-vaxxer movement.

    • If I can exercise informed consent, I feel much safer. The more the topic becomes hush-hush and any questions on safety are put down, the more it fuels anto-vaxxer movement.

      I think that's very fair. That's what my son-in-law the family physician advocates.

      On a slightly different topic, one thing I have no understanding of is why vaccines are terrifying and painkillers are not. By the numbers, painkillers are incredibly dangerous and vaccines are incredibly safe. The worry about profit motive of pharma makes more sense with painkillers than vaccines.

      There must be something very important about human emotion I don't understand.

    • Very good point! I think painkillers have only recently started getting the spotlight and people started paying more attention to this matter. Hopefully, this will change too.

      Chris, I just wanted to thank you for your insight, thorough analysis (taking time to read/listen and share) and thoughtful comments. We may not fully see eye to eye on this topic but I very much respect your opinion. This issue is usually so touchy for many but this is the first time I participated in such respectful discussion. Your son-in-law must be from a rare these days breed of doctors and his patients are really lucky.

    • One of my best friends is Nigerian and lives there. In his country and neighboring ones, they have similar fears of vaccines but different theories. One of the scarier diseases is Ebola and there's now a vaccine that's 100% effective during an outbreak if you get it before exposure.

      The issue is you could well have been exposed to Ebola before getting the vaccine but not show symptoms until after getting the vaccine because it takes time for the disease to incubate and for the vaccine to help you develop immunity. That ignites one of the common theories — that the vaccines were developed to control the population and getting the vaccine causes Ebola.

      Public health workers there know that administering the vaccine is the easy part but public outreach is where the hard and important work happens. One thing they do is have public officials publicly receive the vaccine so the population can see that it's safe, although even then there are fears that public officials are not getting the lethal shot they may get.

    • Chris, did you happen to read a testimony by the CDC whistleblower Dr William Thompson? It was not covered in the mainstream media but he did come out explaining that the study to which CDC and the medical community refer to as debunking autism link between the MMR vaccine and symptoms of autism was actually compromised. The study did show 3.4 fold increase in incidents of autism among African American boys when MMR is administered prior to 36 months of age. The results were removed from the published version of the study.

      What if there is much higher risk depending on the age when vaccines are administered? What if MMR vaccine given to a kid of 5 years old has benign effect compared to when it is administered at 18 months when the brain is actively developing? What if the fight should not be against vaccines per se but quantity administered at once and age/health condition of a child? As a child I personally got just a few vaccines and I got the rest at the age of 25. I did not know a single child with asthma, allergy or mental disorder in my entire school. Each class had around 35 students. Right now there is just an epidemic of these chronic conditions. What if the timing and overall quantity makes all the difference?

      Why are there no studies comparing the presence of chronic health issues between unvaccinated and vaccinated kids? Wouldn’t we want to know?

    • I literally just copied this string of text

      studies comparing the presence of chronic health issues between unvaccinated and vaccinated kids

      and pasted it into a Google search to find a ton of links to either studies themselves or pages trying to debunk this myth. Studies like these do exist.

    • Chris, did you happen to read a testimony by the CDC whistleblower Dr William Thompson?

      Yes, I did because I have an odd fascination about why theories like this spread. The theories are different across cultures and through time but what's fascinating to me is why do vaccines trigger them? Why not antibiotics or painkillers?

      Dr. Thompson is referencing a 2004 study and he was (rightly, in my opinion) concerned about data that could have been included. It's hard for me to say because the excluded data in this case seemed shaky and I probably would have been inclined toward not including it too, but I didn't collect it so I don't know for sure. If you do publish it and it doesn't stand up to scrutiny, you lose your reputation as someone credible. If you don't then you might face accusations of suppressing data, as happened in this case.

      Speaking of suppressing, I think it's important we don't suppress part of Dr. Thompson's testimony:

      I want to be absolutely clear that I believe vaccines have saved and continue to save countless lives. I would never suggest that any parent avoid vaccinating children of any race. Vaccines prevent serious diseases, and the risks associated with their administration are vastly outweighed by their individual and societal benefits.

      In any case, the last 15 years of studies have made this shaky data irrelevant. There are many newer, more rigorous studies that had nothing to do with the CDC or Dr. Thompson. To hang our hats on old Metropolitan Atlanta school and birth certificate data when some children (more often black) didn't even have birth certificates seems awfully shaky.

      Here's one of many newer studies that are based on more reliable data:

    • I have a feeling that if I presented studies from sources like that which would say the opposite they would be considered highly unreliable. I have seen some other data from Hong Kong which was considered as the only study of that type but my data may be outdated. From my personal experience I witness a lot more sick kids these days among vaccinated and I barely know any unvaccinated kids to properly compare. I will look into this research more. I am curious now what these studies are about

    • If you have good data to present, I think the world would love to see it; I know I would. That's really all we ask of anyone who is concerned about vaccines: put forth some reliable data.

      In the meantime, all of us have incredibly authoritative public data we can all analyze. For instance, the sick kids you know are not dying by the millions of smallpox, polio, or tetanus like they used to. The sick kids who are getting autism, allergies and asthma get it at the same rates as vaccinated kids.

      We do have reliable data to show that some children are harmed by overuse of antibiotics and hand sanitizers. Perhaps those are the children you're experiencing?

      Despite the overwhelming evidence of harm from overuse of antibiotics, parents demand them for their children. We'll all see a lot of sick kids if that keeps up.

    • From my personal experience I witness a lot more sick kids these days among vaccinated and I barely know any unvaccinated kids to properly compare.

      I don't know if this is even true, but let's just assume it is for the moment. If nearly all the individuals you are looking at are vaccinated, with no real control group to speak of, then whatever effects you might be seeing can't be attributed to them being vaccinated. You said yourself that you don't have enough individuals to "properly compare" - so you shouldn't try.

      If there is such a thing as "more sick kids these days", then this could be due to them being vaccinated, but it could also be due to a whole range of other factors all just loosely correlated with each other.

      Taking me as an example, I'm a kid of the eighties. In my youth, I still went on biking trips with friends and played in "dirty" forests - but I also got hooked on video games, owned every Nintendo platform and an early computer, and thus spent a good amount of my time not exposed to allergens. I have some allergies now, but I can cope with them.

      Comparing this to some "average childhood" in the 1960s, with no personal computing going on whatsoever - or an "average childhood" now, with Wi-Fi and all sorts of handheld computers being ubiquitous - I can see how this could lead to more people showing allergic reactions to nature now vs. 20 years ago vs. 40 years ago.

      The same or similar arguments could be made for diabetes and weight problems in general, for so-called "attention deficit" disorders, and many other things. Attributing all of that to vaccination, simply because it is one thing of a million that happened to happen in the general timeframe you are looking at, is a bit too easy.

    • diabetes and weight problems in general

      That is definitely true. What was once called adult-onset diabetes is common in kids now due to the rise of junk food and our extra weight. We have very reliable data on that. It's a major factor in health.

    • I am going to present research on comparison of vaccinated vs unvaccinated kids and a few more things but it may take time. I don’t want to present the first thing Google spits out as I am looking for credible and most important unbiased sources. At certain point I spent considerable time looking into it but it has been several years since then and I don’t save links as I normally don’t participate in these discussions. :) So forgive the delay, too much is going on right now and researching again is a bit of a luxury.

      However, I have stumbled upon this pro-vaccines article at CNN.

      I hope that you will read thru it without the bias first. Despite its obvious bias, there are some facts that they try to present as insignificant such as presence of heavy metals in vaccines (in the past no one even talked about it, I learned about them only after my kid got sick). They incorrectly report that presence of heavy metals in vaccines is benign and that the baby gets more via breastmilk. Well, even if that is true, there is a big difference in getting aluminum thru food where there are multiple barriers and excretion mechanisms in place vs getting it via the shot directly in your blood stream and avoid brain barrier. In addition to aluminum, there is still some lead in specific vaccines (not all of them) and formaldehyde.

      Now let’s stop and think about your infant. Parents go to great length to buy safe food for their babies, buy organic whenever they can, avoid plastic, some even buy organic cotton clothes, etc. How many of you would buy baby food that has formaldehyde, aluminum and lead and feed that to your beautiful, healthy baby? Please give it some time and be honest with yourself. Would you naturally go for it even though food is good for your baby as they need food to be alive? Or would you throw a “tantrum” and demand safety standards to be re-evaluated to make food without these metals? Well food with heavy metals may still be better due to specific barriers in your digestive tract than direct shot. If you really want to convince me you would go for such contaminated food without hesitation, I would probably think that you either don’t have kids or a hypocrite. :)

    • Interesting article share. I can’t stop thinking about this comment from a parent:

      She concedes, however: "If there'd been outbreaks like now, it would have affected my thinking about delaying vaccines." (Source)

    • The article is one-sided, of course. True articles from the other side are not ever published in the mainstream media. Good journalism when two sides of this controversial topic are presented without bias with actual facts from both sides (interviews with doctors and scientists from both sides, not just one) is no longer possible (all big sponsors of the main news agencies including well respected NPR are pharmaceutical companies). They only present snippets of interviews with anti-vaxxer parents who are easy to dismiss as ignorant.

      What is important is to analyze what they say in the CNN article is included in vaccines (and they mention only a tip of an iceberg) and read it with an open mind. I understand that a person who believes in vaccines will look for confirmation of his/her belief in such statements but I personally think the conversation should be shifted not from necessarily vaccinating vs nonvaccinating, but to safety.

    • With respect, Chris, as I look at the graphic you posted, I see a rise in Type 2 diabetes in Native American and NonHispanic Blacks, but little or none in Non Hispanic Whites or Asian/Pacific Islanders. Or little change in All Races. I am certain you see it as well.

      Correlations are not necessarily Causations either. Are wealthier folks healthier because they are wealthier, or are they wealthier because they are more more healthy or more health conscious? Or are the numbers just suspect, because the collectors of the numbers have unaware biases?

      I suspect that economic class and education plays a bigger role than race in general overall health. Native Americans do seem to have more trouble with diabetes than most Europeans, that has been a known for many years. African Americans seem to have significantly higher high blood pressure issues than the general US populations.

      When I was in Greenland I was amazed at the large displays of TV dinners for sale in their supermarkets, despite having a significant number of indigenous subsistence hunters and fishermen among the population. I doubt a regular diet of TV dinners is optimal for health, but I don't have data to prove that.

      I find your graphic interesting but it leaves me with more questions than conclusions.

    • Good points, Pathfinder, I have a lot of questions too. I looked at that flat line for type 2 diabetes among white children and wondered how it could be possible when rates of obesity and inactivity climbed during that period. The authors of the studies were left with some questions too:

      I gave a talk at Google a few years ago about health as it relates to the food served in company kitchens and among the speakers was California's chief doctor (I can't remember his title). The main point he made in his talk is zip code in California is the #1 indicator of your health risks. Nothing else correlates as well.

    • Thanks for your response and the link which added for new questions - like why type 2 diabetes increased almost 2x in females age 10-19 compared to males of a similar age


      Key diabetes findings from the report

      Across all racial/ethnic groups, the rate of new diagnosed cases of type 1 diabetes increased more annually from 2003-2012 in males (2.2 percent) than in females (1.4 percent) ages 0-19.

      Among youth ages 0-19, the rate of new diagnosed cases of type 1 diabetes increased most sharply in Hispanic youth, a 4.2 percent annual increase.

      In non-Hispanic blacks, the rate of new diagnosed cases of type 1 diabetes increased by 2.2 percent and in non-Hispanic whites by 1.2 percent per year.

      Among youth ages 10-19, the rate of new diagnosed cases of type 2 diabetes rose most sharply in Native Americans (8.9 percent), Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders (8.5 percent) and non-Hispanic blacks (6.3 percent). 

      Note: The rates for Native Americans cannot be generalized to all Native American youth nationwide.

      Among youth ages 10-19, the rate of new diagnosed cases of type 2 diabetes increased 3.1 percent among Hispanics. The smallest increase was seen in whites (0.6 percent)

      .The rate of new diagnosed cases of type 2 diabetes rose much more sharply in females (6.2 percent) than in males (3.7 percent) ages 10-19.


      I think the relationship between health and zip code may relate to economic status, or educational status. It would be interesting how many factors can be show to correlate with ZIP codes, but when I google that question, the answers all seem to gather around health on the first few pages of the search

    • Thanks for the pointer to the CNN article. One thing this conversation has helped me understand is how legitimately scary the issues sound. For example, injecting aluminum directly into the bloodstream.

      Perhaps I never understood this because of my peculiar background as an earth scientist who worked in water testing for years. We're so casual about aluminum that it's everywhere — in Coke cans, antacids, deodorant, foil, food, machinery, etc. — so it gets in some water supplies too.

      Some percentage of the roughly 8 mg of aluminum the average person ingests every day ends up in our blood and urine, which is a scary thought. The blood and urine tests tell us the highest amounts end up in people who are aluminum welders, workers in factories that produce aluminum powder, and people who have impaired kidney function (for example, the elderly and premature infants).

      I don't know how clear it is what the effects of elevated aluminum are. They are elevated in Alzheimer's patients.

      What's hard for me as a cold-blooded insensitive scientist is to try and link scariness with real effects. The dose of aluminum salt in a vaccine of less than 1 mg is so small it can't be measured in blood or urine tests. It's microscopic in scope since we get so few vaccines compared to the aluminum we take in every day. So we end up having to rely on the big studies about the effects of vaccines on health.

      I think that by the numbers, you can probably conclude that choosing aluminum welding as an occupation, consuming an excess of antacids, or letting your kidneys get to a bad state could lead to negative health outcomes. But overwhelmingly large, careful studies indicate vaccines are safe.

      If someone can find good data that indicates otherwise, however, I for one would embrace it.

    • The article is one-sided, of course. True articles from the other side are not ever published in the mainstream media.

      Are we sure this is true? The opioid segment of big pharma is very profitable but the mainstream media is brutal in calling them out for it, as they should.

      Administering vaccines isn't profitable for doctors and most vaccines have been unprofitable for pharma. The big money is in medications to control chronic diseases because you have to take them every day for the rest of your life.

      For most vaccines I can think of, it would be much more profitable for both the medical and pharmaceutical industries if fewer people were vaccinated because there is so much money in the care of people who get the diseases that vaccines prevent, no?

    • I like to read articles written by data journalist Mona Chalabi because she has interesting ways to illustrate data to visualize it. She used to write a column for Nate Silver's statistics 538 blog and she had a way to look at very human, very personal topics with data. At The Guardian she has written about vaccinations sometimes. This visualization put things in perspective for me, I hope it helps other parents too.

    • I've been struggling to understand why there is such a big movement around vaccines but not around painkillers or antibiotics — which are absolutely necessary sometimes — but are demonstrably less safe than vaccines.

      What are we not understanding as scientists? Emotional contagion? We are not good at emotion.

      Someone said the original topic of this conversation is about Facebook Groups so maybe there is something to be learned from the parallel dramatic rise of flat earthers. One of the flat earth groups went from 0 to 121,000 members in the last 18 months, they have regional monthly meetups in most cities, and they just launched a big annual conference.

      So I watched this:

      There are a lot of parallels with anti-vaccination groups. It has become a huge movement, they feel like a scarlet letter is attached to them, they don't trust the mainstream press or the science community, and there is not a single scientist in the movement. By and large they are white and middle class.

      They are gobsmacked that the science community cannot listen to them with an open mind. The scientists are gobsmacked that anyone could believe the earth is flat. There is simply no common ground.

      The movement has gotten big enough that they have been able to raise funding to explore for the edge of the earth and they're optimistic. They have embarked on experiments with lasers to show the earth is not curved. They're understandably excited that when they prove no curvature, it's game over for this brainwashing that has gone on for 450 years.

      I can't understand it but if they do find the edge and prove no curvature, I commit to changing my beliefs.

    • I too am glad this conversation kept the rhetoric in check. A formerly vaccine-hesitant mom spoke at a Canadian immunology conference last December and said it's important to tone down the rhetoric because harsh rhetoric only drives vaccine hesitant people away from the health system.