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The anti-vaxxx movement portrays itself as a people's fight against big business and big government. But all it really does is endanger the lives of children. Let's look at the movement's main arguments.

In June this year, the California State legislature passed SB-277, which made vaccinations compulsory for Californian children who attend public school and don't have a valid medical reason for avoiding vaccination. That makes Californa one of only three US states, along with Mississippi and West Virginia, that gives parents three relatively narrow choices. In California, you can do one of three things: get your child vaccinated, homeschool them or face prison under anti-truancy legislation.

How you feel about SB277 obviously has bearing on your views on civil liberties and other issues, but it's cut to the heart of the vaccination debate. Few of the parents protesting outside Sacramento's State Senate were there because of an abstract attachment to individualism: they're the anti-vaxxxers.

Who Are Anti-Vaxxxers, And What Do They Want?

At first glance, anti-vaxxxers are a disparate group of people who have come together out of concern for the risks that vaccinations pose to their children's health. You don't have to agree with them, obviously, but they're doing what we all have a right and maybe even an obligation to do. Where people feel their kids aren't safe, they should protest. Look twice and things get murkier.

The anti-vaxxx movement isn't a conspiracy — but plenty of those within it see conspiracies, and not just in the link between government and big pharma. It's not a dangerous, quasi-terror organization — but it attracts some pretty scary people. And it's not a money-making operation, but there are plenty of opportunities to be parted from your hard-earned here too. 

Anti-vaxxxers usually say they want an end to compulsory vaccination. Some, like Jim Carey, are clear that they're not anti-vaccination per se, only "anti-thimerosal, anti-mercury." His objection is that "they have taken some of the mercury-laden thimerosal out of vaccines. Not ALL!" (Source: Twitter/Huffington Post, Carey's emphasis.) Others oppose the germ theory of disease, liberal democracy, the scientific method and the United States Government. It won't surprise you that many are vocally unfriendly to Barack Obama, but what might shock them is the company they're keeping: in the Middle East, the most strident opponents of vaccination are the Taliban. The sleep of reason brings forth wearingly familiar monsters.

Let's look at the main anti-vaccination points of view and see if they stand up to scrutiny.

 

1: The Germ Theory Of Disease Is Mistaken

On her blog, NatureOfHealing, Rosanne Lindsay starts a blog post entitled "Say goodbye to the germ theory of disease," with:

"Once upon a time people were afraid of germs. They blamed the germ as a cause of contagious disease because they didn’t have any other ideas. They didn’t question why germs affected only some people, and not others. They didn’t analyze why some people got well, and not others. So they chose to kill the lot of them.

She continues: "Few questioned the authorities who demonized the germ, and developed various strategies to eliminate them – pasteurization, sterilization, irradiation, chemicals, pesticides, antibiotics, heavy metal preservatives (mercury), and vaccines. Those who controlled the science believed that sterilizing the body and the soil was the answer that would save humanity. And the people believed them. They never thought to ask the germs.

Welcome to 2014 where America, the nation that prescribes the most antibiotics and touts the highest vaccinated populations in the world also has the highest infant mortality rates, the second-highest rate of death by coronary artery disease, the second-highest rate of death by lung disease, and the highest rate of women dying due to complications of pregnancy and childbirth. Here is where 45% of the population has at least one chronic disease and one in thirty-two kids suffer from neurological and gastrointestinal degeneration known as autism."

Some of these inaccuracies (germ theory is relatively new; far from being uncontested, there were plenty of other ideas floating around at the time when germ theory became generally accepted, including those Ms Lindsay advocates; questioning why some people became ill and not others was an integral part of the development of the germ theory of disease; technically, mercury isn't a preservative, and while a mercury salt, thimerosal, is, common table salt contains both chlorine and sodium, respectively a fatal poison and an explosive metal; no-one is trying to sterilize the soil or the body, and bacteriologists are actively interested in preserving the biome; and asking germs wouldn't be that helpful) can be left aside for now. 

But some deserve real scrutiny. Ms Lindsay implies that the US has the highest infant mortality rate in the world; in fact, according to the Atlantic article she links to, it's only the highest among 17 developed nations, in many of which "vaccination compliance is high, using only recommendations." In world terms the USA has good infant mortality rates, ranking 169th in the world — behind Western Europe, Japan and Scandinavia, yes, but hardly "the highest."

What does Ms Lindsay propose in place of the germ theory? She points away from Louis Pasteur and toward his two dissenting colleagues, Claude Bernard and Antoine Bechamp. These men, she says, proposed the "theory of the land," the idea that germs are a part of the response to a disease state brought about by poor nutrition and toxicity. She's not alone: NaturalNews explains how Antoine Bechamp was able to: 

"scientifically prove that germs are the chemical by-products and constituents of pleomorphic microorganisms enacting upon the unbalanced, malfunctioning cell metabolism and dead tissue that actually produces disease. Bechamp found that the diseased, acidic, low-oxygen cellular environment is created by a toxic/nutrient deficient diet, toxic emotions, and a toxic lifestyle. His findings demonstrate how cancer develops through the morbid changes of germs to bacteria, bacteria to viruses, viruses to fungal forms and fungal forms to cancer cells."

Of course, for that to be true, we'd have to be wrong about more than the germ theory of disease: we'd also have to be mistaken about DNA, for instance, since bacteria, viruses, fungi and human tissue aren't genetically related

Ms Lindsay goes on to report that "soon thereafter, in 1796, Edward Jenner invented the vaccine against smallpox." In fact, Bechamp wasn't even born until 1816 and his major work took place in the 1860s. So for this version of events to be true we'd also have to be wrong about chronology. 

In part, this argument is advanced by a series of straw men. No-one is really trying to sterilize the body, and similarly, no-one disputes that health is related to healthy living, good diet, and reasonable emotional health. Certainly no-one disputes the advantages of a robust immune system. 

But what about a population living in the same place, working the same jobs and eating the same food? What if we could find a group like that, give some of them a germ, and see who got sick?

That would be wildly unethical, of course. But fortunately for science (and this article), it's what happened in London, in 1854. During one of the capital's periodic cholera outbreaks, with mortality rates around 12 percent for young, healthy people, Dr John Snow had a brilliant idea. At that time, all the doctors were shamelessly profiteering from the germ theory of disease... oh, wait, my bad. They were strong believers in the miasmatic theory, that illness was caused by "bad air." They still got paid, but their patients died a lot more. John Snow looked at a map and figured out what the victims had in common: they drew their water from the same pump. A man of action, Dr Snow removed the handle. In memorial to him, the handle is still missing.

Maybe those people got sick because something in the water somehow caused their own tissues to break down, though. (Or maybe Big Pharma poisoned them in the knowledge that, in 100 years' time, those deaths would provide evidence for the sale of antibiotics.) 

Hard to say that about Dr Barry Marshall, though. Dr Marshall is the man who, with two colleagues, proved that stomach ulcers are caused by helicobacter pylori. Not by acidification, tissue breakdown, spicy food, stress, bad posture, or breathing loathesome odors: a bacterium. How did he prove it? Well, this peon of Big Pharma had a prestigious job at the University of Western Australia to protect, so he wouldn't eat some and give himself a dangerous, painful ulcer, would he?

Yep.

Then he took an antibiotic specific to helicobacter pylori and cured himself again

Thanks to Dr Marshall, we know that stomach ulcers, chronic gastritis in some cases and even stomach cancer is caused by a treatable infection. 

A germ. 

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  • Photo courtesy of