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Why are there more anti-vaxxers on the left?


Sometimes the pod people you need to be careful of are the ones on your own side.

Ok, slight diversion before I get to why I think there are more anti-vaxxers on the left.

Back in 2006, I went to the first YearlyKos event. I was a latecomer to the whole DailyKos… thing… but my particular concerns had to do with the Iraq War and its immense costs and the attacks on Social Security, and women’s and GLBT rights. Plus, people around me were going mad, MAD!, I say! More and more right leaning people began to lean more and more right. They were getting religious, self-righteous, judgmental. They took it upon themselves to police social activities, making sure everyone stuck to a unnerving and suffocating conservative viewpoint. These pod people were everywhere in the suburbs and it was difficult to find people who were more rational, less militaristic and willing to think for themselves.

So, I went to YearlyKos I because I thought I had finally met my cohort. I’m pretty sure we were love bombed there by the media, the organizers and the politicians. (If you were there, tell me what you think in the comments) We love bombed each other as well. We went home thinking we were the smartest, most enlightened people on the planet and no one else in the world was as savvy as we were. That all changed at YearlyKos II in 2007 for me. As I sat in that convention hall in Chicago watching John Edwards film-flam the crowd like PT Barnum and watching the people around me falling for it lock, stock and barrel, I felt that familiar tinge of alienation.Yep, the left can get suckered in just like the right if you use the right words. The next morning at breakfast, my membership in the corporate R&D industry made me no longer welcome. But that was OK in a way because the last thing I wanted was to spend too much time with yet another group of people who could be flattered into losing their minds.

Yesterday, as I read some of the comments on the NYTimes article on anti-vaxxers reaction to the measles epidemic, I was struck by how many commenters were identifying anti-vaxxers with the left. I guess the left is starting to lose its shine as being the people most likely to spot a con when they see it. Some of these commenters made the link to anti-vax attitudes and the lack of trust in pharmaceuticals in general. I think I touched on that yesterday from the perspective of “physician, heal thyself”. Big Pharma has to clean up its act as a greedy, irresponsible purveyor of things that make you sicker. Except, drugs can actually make you well. I know and the pharma industry knows that it’s one of the best regulated industries in America. Of course, it won’t stay that way if the FDA isn’t kept in tip-top shape. Maybe we can take that up with the Republicans running the government right now. If the FDA ability to function effectively goes sharply down hill in the next two years, you can blame it on them. But I digress.

Big Pharma shares only part of the blame. The other part of the blame is caused by the class action industry. There has never been a side effect that they didn’t love. The class action industry has been responsible for many drugs being pulled from the market. Maybe you think that’s a good thing. Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. But there have been some medications that have had profound quality of life benefits for patients that are no longer available because the class action industry has made it sound like every time a patient takes them, they’re risking heart attacks or cancer. We saw the front page banner headlines and those of us who can actually evaluate risk were shocked by how badly information was interpreted and distorted. Sometimes, this is in the pursuit of a story, sometimes, it’s in pursuit of monetary award.

It is worth noting that Andrew Wakefield, the British doctor who discovered the fictitious link between the MMR vaccine and autism, wrote his infamous, retracted paper at the behest of class action lawyers who were hoping to cash in big when terrified parents sued vaccine manufacturers. Says BMJ author Brian Deer, a journalist hired to investigate the Wakefield claim:

Deer said Wakefield “chiseled” the data before him, “falsifying medical histories of children and essentially concocting a picture, which was the picture he was contracted to find by lawyers hoping to sue vaccine manufacturers and to create a vaccine scare.”

To head off suits like these, the number of ADME/T models that groups like mine had to create and run to try to weed out bad early stage drug candidates grew enormously over the past two decades. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, although, as I said the other day, the models have their limitations. And there were many times I saw promising projects killed because the animal model had a borderline liver assay or some other anomaly. Ok, fine, cancel the project early so that no harm comes to anyone down the line and the company doesn’t lose billions in lawsuits.

But the publicity surrounding these suits can make the general public think that the industry is putting out dangerous products. And the legal industry has an interest in keeping that fear going. It suits them very well, thank you very much.

It would be naive for the people on the left to think that the interest groups on their side don’t use fear, uncertainty and dread to get what they want- just like interest groups on the right. I’m all in favor of regulation but I am not in favor of using fear of harm as a bludgeon to reach into what are considered “deep pockets” whenever a drug interaction isn’t perfect.

That fear, uncertainty and dread has been reaching a crescendo for a couple of decades now. It is becoming increasingly more difficult to get drugs approved by the FDA. That’s part of the reason why so many of us are out of work right now. The block buster drugs discovered in the late 80’s and 90’s went off patent and couldn’t be replaced by newer drugs. The FDA insisted on an ever higher number of safety profiles and drug companies became skittish when the drugs that did get approved were quickly taken off the market for adverse reactions. It has crippled the industry, caused the price of drugs to soar and driven up the fear levels in people on the left who were influenced by the Ralph Nader crusaders.

I’m not going to say that there haven’t been imperfect drugs. But the idea that every adverse interaction is a result of negligence or malice is deliberately misleading and is now getting into the heads of people who can’t evaluate risk. Couple this with the helicopter parenting frenzy that makes every mother personally responsible for any harm that happens to a child once the umbilical cord is cut and you have a perfect storm for anti-vax activity.

Your status as a parent depends on the lengths to which you will go to protect your child- from everything. You don’t let them out of your sight for a moment, don’t let them ride their bikes to school, don’t let them eat anything with sugar, and you don’t put vaccines in their bodies that were manufactured by the sleazy, careless drug lords. It’s a competition of sorts, as any mother in the suburbs will tell you. How far will you go to protect your child from harm? Is it enough to keep vaccines out of their blood stream? Is anything good enough, protective enough, safe enough??

Parents are going to be naturally untrustworthy these days. You can get arrested for letting your kid play outside by herself. Now, add to that the fear of science and medicine that has been planted by the advocates of the class action industry that everything that goes into your body is designed to kill you for excess profit. Measles are just the tip of the iceberg.

28 Responses

  1. Seen on Facebook: “if my kid can’t bring a peanut butter sandwich to school then yours shouldn’t be able to bring a preventable illnesses”

    Do schools really ban peanut butter sandwiches?

    • Yes. It’s ridiculous.

    • Freerangekids has horror stories of parents making over the top demands in order to protect their kids from allergies. Iirc, there was a mom in Canada who insisted that the school cut down all the oak trees around the building because her kid had an allergy.
      When my kids were younger, there were peanut free tables in the cafeteria where you sit if you had an allergy. Now, I guess they just ban peanuts. I mean, it would be easier to just equip the staff and older kids with Epi-pens but that wouldn’t prove how diligent and safety aware the parent is.

      • There was a kid in my grade school who almost died of chicken pox… We heard that she got pox in her brain…. How can you fight vaccines compared to stuff like that? We allow tracking …. Omg

        • Isn’t that viral encephalitis? My neighbor who was in his 30s got chicken pox from his son. It made him really sick and miserable for about 3 weeks.
          And then there are shingles decades later. It’s crazy.

    • I so agree.

  2. I was reading the reasons for adults to get the TDAP vaccine. One was “if you’re planning on visiting a 3rd world country”. Well, guess what? The vaccine rates in some parts of California are similar to third world countries. And whooping cough is at epidemic proportions! So needless to say, before I visit Cali, I’m getting my TDAP.

  3. I think the young adult kids of today need to actually see how devastating these illnesses are. My mother had polio. She wouldn’t think twice about giving vaccines. We just needed them, period. Kids today think they are safe on the backs of the herd immunity that our generation brought forth. You can’t tell them. They have to experience the devastation on their own.

    I applaud pediatricians who refuse to see unvaccinated patients. The children of rational parents need to be protected from these privileged idiots.

  4. First, I agree with everything you say. And I believe that kids without vaccinations should be quarantined – completely. Disneyland is marketing like crazy out here, but the only thing that’s gonna keep sane people going there is if Disneyland requires proof of vaccinations before entry. Period. Same with airlines. And on and on. The capitalists will be the first to catch on since they will be losing tons of money otherwise. Which is all they care about. But they do care – so they should be the first to react.

    I have a few other things to say.

    Drug advertising on TV or in print media should be banned. It’s sickening. I don’t go to a drug company to get drugs. I go to my doctor who may prescribe drugs. Then, of course, the pharmaceuticals have to list all the possible side effects in their advertising, no matter how rare, and they scare the bejesus out of us oldsters.

    Doctors should know and inform patients of possible side effects before prescribing a medication. But I have yet to find a doctor who actually knows what the side effects are. I see doctors nowadays as drug pushers, nothing more.

    There was an article in today’s NYTimes abut how many more tests are ordered for oldsters in Florida and other retirement areas. For oldsters with no health issues. Cuz profits, well, they is down. I got a call from Kaiser yesterday to set up a mammogram appointment. Jeez Louise. I don’t do mammograms. I’m 70 years old.

    Meanwhile, Kaiser put me on a diuretic a couple of years ago for my supposedly high blood pressure – man, I should have done the research. I got pseudo gout and pseudo arthritis. (I know this because I got myself tested. When I asked the doctor what to do, she told me to get special shoes – never dealt with the cause. So I did my own research.) I stopped the drug and almost all dairy and both conditions have almost entirely abated. I never even needed the diuretic. Or any BP medication. This is some sick shit going on. I am as healthy as can be.

    You can’t trust doctors or drug companies If they were trustworthy, maybe we wouldn’t be in this mess. But health care in this country is concerned only with profit.

    • Everything in this country is concerned mainly with profit.

      The Ferengi have nothing on us. To a pious jihadi, we must look like some unholy hybrid of the Ferengi and the Borg.

      If we USAmericans were honest, our currency would say “In Mammon We Trust”. 👿

      • Our currency used to say E Pluribus Unum. It wasn’t change to In God We Trust until during the Eisehnower Administration as some kind of Cold War propaganda gesture.

    • Twelve years ago, my mother’s doctor insisted that she take Vioxx for arthritis pain. She did, and a few months later, my otherwise healthy mom had a heart attack. When she was hospitalized, she contacted an infection that damaged her kidneys. She was never the same and died in a nursing home three years ago from, among other things, complications of Alzheimer’s.
      I used to watch those size, twenty something, blonde haired drug representatives flock into her doctor’s office, wondering why looking like a young Vanna White was a prerequisite for pushing the latest and greatest panacea.
      End of story: Vioxx was taken off the market.

  5. My ex likes to rant about Jenny McCarthy’s antivax propaganda, which is bad news, granted, but since complaints are cheap, I always ask him, “Have you gotten a DPT booster? It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness.” Lead by example and get jabbed.

  6. I got measles complicated by pneumonia in 1958 when I was six. I became severely hearing impaired, either by the measles itself or the combination of penicillin and streptomycin for the pneumonia, which was definitely life-threatening. Doesn’t matter; it all started with the measles. My sister was six weeks old and was given gamma globulin. Losing your hearing is a huge life-changer; the entire course of my life compared to my siblings has been difficult.

    To try to warn anti-vaxers is useless. They’ve told me in comment threads that it’s just my opinion that measles affected me, that I must have been undernourished or lived in less than sanitary conditions. Their beliefs are mostly unshakeable. I don’t bother anymore.

  7. RFK, Jr. is a big anti-vaxxer.

    • Yeah. That was a huge disappointment for me. Don’t really know why I cared.

      • Leftover Kennedy idolization? It’s a hazard for us older liberals.
        Mine died when, almost to a man or woman, the Kennedy clan came out for Obama, pretty early in the nomination race. I suspect, among other reasons, because Hillary mentioned that along with MLK and other activists, LBJ should get credit for the Civil Rights Act. She should have said JFK, however inaccurate that statement would have been, if she had wanted the Kennedy imprimatur.

        • It’s that… General idolization. Even though Teddy specifically let us down pretty spectacularly time and time again. He’s the perfect example of pretty speeches and wasted votes. Why oh why didn’t he ever throw his weight behind Medicare for everyone? I feel like I wasted my life.

          • Don’t say that, doll, even in jest.

          • Say what? That I wasted my life. I’m not sure it’s a jest. I was drenched in Democratic Politics for at least 35 years … possibly more.

          • Wasn’t the writing on the wall when the Dems under Carter abolished the user laws? Or was it when Tip bonded with Reagan to double our Social Security taxes while raising the retirement age?

      • At least, RFK, Jr. stuck with Hillary as long as he could, so props for that.

  8. My mom was in Shadyside nursing school when Jonas Salk was working on his vaccine at Pitt. She had to work on the polio ward as part of her training, taking care of patients in iron lungs. Oh yeah, we were vaccinated as soon as it was possible. Lucky enough to have no bad effects with the measles, mumps, and chicken pox I had in kindergarten since the vaccines weren’t around yet. If they had been, Mom would have been calling the pediatrician every day until they were available.

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