This site is not maintained. Click here for the new website of Richard Dawkins.

← This deadly religious resistance to vaccinations

This deadly religious resistance to vaccinations - Comments

MuNky82's Avatar Comment 1 by MuNky82

Phillips, Wakefield and the editors of Daily Mail should be charged with crimes against humanity.

We should actually petition the UN that the organized spread of any information that leads to deaths, despite the overwhelming evidence of the opposite available, should be investigated for a possible charge of crimes against humanity. Then we would probably see this behavior decline, and it could lead to an "enforced" path to reason.

Reason saved me,
yes I know,
for the court-rolls
tells me so...

Mon, 10 Dec 2007 23:31:00 UTC | #92343

DrCube's Avatar Comment 2 by DrCube

It isn't just happening in Britain. Have you ever heard of Jenny McCarthy? There are a whole slew of anti-vax people in the States, including my aunt. I've got a one-year-old she's worried to death about because I got him vaccinated!

I'd rather see the whole world praise Allah and read horoscopes than watch this most dangerous form of woowoo-ery gain any kind of foothold.

Mon, 10 Dec 2007 23:54:00 UTC | #92350

ykboots's Avatar Comment 3 by ykboots

As a nurse I come across this kind of bull all too frequently. No matter how clearly you explain that vaccines are safe and effective they always come up with some sort of "friend" or "story a relative told them" that says that vaccines cause autism and other afflictions such as arthritis. It ridiculous and its scary. If vaccination rates fall below herd immunity levels you will see a rise in all of the diseases that should now be a memory. The worst part is that some of the people propagating this myth are ill informed nurses and other health care providers.
I agree that information is the way to combat this but how can we hope to convince the general public when there are morons in the field who can't read and understand basic science.
Religion breeds ignorance, and ignorance kills.

Tue, 11 Dec 2007 00:39:00 UTC | #92359

AdrianT's Avatar Comment 4 by AdrianT

Here in Holland, there are still some calvinist reformed Christian sects believe it's sinful to accept injections. There have been serious polio outbreaks too in 1978 and 1992, and of measles in 1999. I believe up to 30 % of "Bevindelijk gereformeerde" Christians are not immunized, enough for another serious outbreak to happen.

During that outbreak of March 1971, five children died and 39 were left permanently disabled. I was reading recently about the experience of one such person, who suffered from poliio and has been left almost as immobilized as steven hawking: wheelchair-bound, breathing with the help of a ventilator, speaks with extreme difficulty and has limited arm movement.

A very moving story about her attitudes to her famliy (who after all prevented her from receiving the life saving injection in the first place). The Christian compassion of the local priest, PJ Dorsman, his words as she lay hospitalised were: "If it were not for polio, you would probably have been taken by a car accident."
(here was the link to the story, in Dutch)

Tue, 11 Dec 2007 01:03:00 UTC | #92367

MuNky82's Avatar Comment 5 by MuNky82

The Christian compassion of the local priest, PJ Dorsman, his words as she lay hospitalised were: "If it were not for polio, you would probably have been taken by a car accident."

I would have slapped him right there and then. This is what I read:
"If it wasn't for your (preventable, but wasn't because of the organized ignorance I stand for) disease, you would probably have been taken by a car accident (as in a totally random unplanned and unintentional tragedy)."


Tue, 11 Dec 2007 01:31:00 UTC | #92369

hopeful's Avatar Comment 6 by hopeful

How tragically ironic that religion behaves essentially like a virus of the mind.

Tue, 11 Dec 2007 01:39:00 UTC | #92373

irate_atheist's Avatar Comment 7 by irate_atheist

I don't even let my cat piss on the Daily Mail just in case it gets infected by the vileness contained therein.

Tue, 11 Dec 2007 02:00:00 UTC | #92380

Tycho the Dog's Avatar Comment 8 by Tycho the Dog

The Daily Mail, as has often been pointed out in previous threads, is the most poisonously disingenuous newspaper published in the UK - far worse than other 'tabloids' such as the Sun or Mirror. It's worse because it masquerades as serious journalism and is read as such by large swathes of the middle-class population (my own parents included). As such it caters to an eclectic mix of middle-class prejudices - anti-Labour party, anti-immigrant, anti-gay, anti-foreigner, anti-teachers, anti-muslim, anti-science, anti-police, pro-corporal and capital punishment, pro-psuedoscientific woo-woo, and famously, of course, in the inter-war period, pro-Nazi.

Tue, 11 Dec 2007 02:15:00 UTC | #92389

hungarianelephant's Avatar Comment 9 by hungarianelephant

Blame religion if you like, but you'll be missing the point.

Much of the public is deeply sceptical of science in general and medical science in particular. Its macro achievements, such as the eradication of smallpox and polio, are not what most people see. They go to their doctor and are given 8 minutes and a prescription. If it looks serious, they will go onto a 6 month waiting list for further tests.

Meanwhile, they are fed a daily diet of condensed summaries of what "scientists" say they should do: eat more greens, or less greens; direct sunlight for vitamin D, but avoid it because of skin cancer; two drinks is a binge; etc. With no proper understanding of what science is - because schools don't teach it properly - and no grasp of how the media distort scientific research, people feel pushed around by an amorphous scientific establishment.

There's no doubt that vaccination has saved many thousands, if not millions of lives. But there are also some people who do not tolerate them well. Among them are my parents - and as children our GP advised against innoculating us. As an adult, I have had doctors attempt to refuse me as a patient unless I have all the jabs I missed as a child. Why? Because they are paid bonuses based on a particular percentage of their patients having a complete set of jabs.

When my own child's time came around, we were first told, "Do it anyway", then "Family history is immaterial" (this is in printed literature and is an outright lie), then "Do it in the hospital so they can resuscitate if there's a problem". Finally, after a serious adverse reaction to something else, it was acknowledged that vaccinating her might not be the smartest idea.

This just isn't good enough. People with some scientific knowledge appreciate that it really is a numbers game - that you can pretty much guarantee that there won't be an epidemic if you vaccinate 95% to 98% of the population, depending on the disease. But these are people's children. They will do everything in their power to prevent something bad from happening to them. Some people's concerns are unfounded - that a friend of a friend of someone they met in a pub had a child who was ill for 3 days after a jab. Others have genuine and reasonable concerns, which are being poorly addressed.

Resistance to vaccines, especially "new" ones, is by and large a resistance to the perceived power of the medical establishment - the same one, it should be noted, that told us thalidomide was safe and that injecting short kids with human growth hormone from ground-up pituiarty glands was a great idea. It may not be wholly rational but that is not the point. You are not going to get over it with the sort of condescension contained in this article.

Tue, 11 Dec 2007 02:17:00 UTC | #92390

YssiBoo's Avatar Comment 10 by YssiBoo

Pardon my ignorance but just one quick question:

If there is an outbreak of say, measles, will this pose a threat to people who are vaccinated? Do measle and polio evolve like the flu virus, so that a vaccination only works against one strain?

Tue, 11 Dec 2007 02:20:00 UTC | #92392

epeeist's Avatar Comment 11 by epeeist

Comment #96833 by irate_atheist and #96842 by Tycho the Dog

Agreed - it really is the nastiest rag on the market, though I think the "Express" runs it close. Its late proprietor Lord Northcliffe was supposed to have revealed the secret of its success was that it gave its readers a "daily hate".

Tue, 11 Dec 2007 02:31:00 UTC | #92398

seanwupton's Avatar Comment 12 by seanwupton

Well I think it is time we boycott the Daily Mail.

YssiBoo has a question that must be answered, if this is allowed to go on, will the vaccinated eventually be at an immediate threat as well? There must be a scientist in our midst who can answer such a question?

The Daily Mail has got to be the most poisonous newspaper in the United Kingdom.

Tue, 11 Dec 2007 02:32:00 UTC | #92399

hungarianelephant's Avatar Comment 13 by hungarianelephant

Not a scientist, but:

There's no increased threat to those who have been effectively vaccinated. Not all vaccinations are effective.

The vaccination programme works generally by reducing the number of susceptible people, which in turn reduces the risk of epidemic. If you were the only person in the world not vaccinated against polio, for example, you are not going to catch it because you have no one to catch it from.

The programmes are substantially effective when 95-98% of the population are vaccinated, depending on the disease. The remaining 2-5% who are not vaccinated, together with the small number whose vaccines are not effective, together make up a small enough population that epidemic is very unlikely.

If you increase the number of unvaccinated, you increase the risk of epidemic exponentially. Those affected will primarily be the unvaccinated, but the not-effectives will also be at an exponentially greater risk.

So, yes in some cases, no in most.

Tue, 11 Dec 2007 02:48:00 UTC | #92406

Styrer-'s Avatar Comment 14 by Styrer-

'For many, the claim that evolution enabled life to cross the species barrier so that humans are merely the last link in the evolutionary chain remains a step too far — not least because, by the standards science itself sets, it fails the test of evidence. It is merely a theory.'

'Scientific knowledge may have dealt a serious blow to religious belief, but science does not fill the gaps in our understanding of existence. It does not explain the irreduceable complexity of certain cells for example, which cannot have been formed by simple organisms coming together. And contrary to Darwin's theory that evolution is a slow and continuous process, the fossil record itself shows long periods where nothing happened and then several new species -- just like buses -- came along at once.'

- Melanie Philips, Faithhead.

How much longer can the sheer wickedness of these faith-heads' pernicious, disingenuous dogma be allowed to run riot over human beings' welfare?

It's particularly at blood-boiling times like this that my gratitude to Dawkins et al. skyrockets.

They're the best shot we have.


Tue, 11 Dec 2007 03:16:00 UTC | #92420

mmurray's Avatar Comment 15 by mmurray

Pardon my ignorance but just one quick question:

If there is an outbreak of say, measles, will this pose a threat to people who are vaccinated? Do measle and polio evolve like the flu virus, so that a vaccination only works against one strain?

According to this

A shot at 12 months and a second (so-called booster) at around 4 or 5 is enough for lifetime immunity. I assume measles and polio are not evolving like flu.


PS: hungarianelephants comment is pertinent as well. Vaccination programmes are designed to confer sufficient immunity to stop the disease from spreading. That won't mean immunity for everybody just for enough people.

Tue, 11 Dec 2007 03:23:00 UTC | #92426

Roger Stanyard's Avatar Comment 16 by Roger Stanyard

Sir David King should be congratulated for standing up to the Daily and Sunday Mail. Melanie Phillips is scientifically illiterate; her only degree is in English. The one person who will never defend the Mail's position in public is its editor(s). That is cowardice coupled to power.

Phillips, who is currently nothing more than an opinionated journalist in a powerful position, reminds me of the the term "power without responsibility, the perogative of the harlot through the ages". It is time to call her to account for the deaths of between 50-100 children resulting from her influence and scientific ignorance. Likewise with the Mail.

Roger Stanyard

Tue, 11 Dec 2007 03:24:00 UTC | #92427

k1mgy's Avatar Comment 17 by k1mgy

These stories are unfortunate in that they do a disservice to the general public and those in science and medicine who have valid concerns as to a number of issues surrounding mass vaccination programs. Vaccine opponents, and those who raise questions and concerns on a basis beyond voodoo, remain lumped with the irrational.

As to the story, vaccination is no substitute for even basic health care. Children in nations where supportive care exists do not routinely die from measles. One might argue that MMR serves to attenuate symptoms (you still get the disease but fight it off more effectively), but it can also be argued that the mass vaccination programs do not cover populations fully, and that MMR (and other vaccines) exhibit varying degrees of effectiveness.

Dr. Wakefield was vilified and run out of Britain, not for proving conclusively that there was a direct connection between MMR and Autism, but for raising the possibility of it. Further research (Wakefield is now continuing his studies in the US) is leading to interest in a previously-undiagnosed bowel disease associated with a virus and possibly triggered by the MMR. More work needs to be undertaken. We do not see the vaccine industry nor the medico-politico lobby stepping up to the plate here in the US. Rather, they are engorging themselves at the troth.

Sometimes vaccine proponents go for the jugular with the same irrational fervor as the nutcases who oppose a jab on shaky ground.

Let's not discount what evidence there is for further study, nor shove aside very valid concerns over the loss of informed consent and a mass vaccination program that does not take into account genetic and toxicological predisposition to adverse reactions.

Let's also not substitute basic health care with convenience shots.

Tue, 11 Dec 2007 03:43:00 UTC | #92430

epeeist's Avatar Comment 18 by epeeist

Comment #96883 by k1mgy

Dr. Wakefield was vilified and run out of Britain, not for proving conclusively that there was a direct connection between MMR and Autism, but for raising the possibility of it.
This is simply false. Have a look at Brian Deer's site for a fuller explanation -

Tue, 11 Dec 2007 04:01:00 UTC | #92435

Roger Stanyard's Avatar Comment 19 by Roger Stanyard


It looks to me that vaccination is a very good substitute for basic health care for the simple reason that much of the latter is missing in vast swaths of the world, such as Africa. At best it looks likely that basic health care will not be available in many of these areas for generations. So how many more people/children will uncessarily die because of a lack of vaccination.

It's worse than that though, because measles, mumps and german measles are not caused by lack of basic health care. Without vaccination, they are endemic in countries with good basic health care. IIRC, german measles epedemics used to kill thousands of people before vaccination was available and leave a lot of others deformed. Even mumps was a significant killer.

Tue, 11 Dec 2007 04:11:00 UTC | #92443

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 20 by Steve Zara

Let's not discount what evidence there is for further study, nor shove aside very valid concerns over the loss of informed consent and a mass vaccination program that does not take into account genetic and toxicological predisposition to adverse reactions.

This is a dangerous attitude. Informed consent is highly problematic unless the population as a whole has a detailed understanding of chemistry and immunology. And the greatest care is taken with the development of vaccines. To claim that they don't take into account genetic factors and toxicology is nonsense.

Tue, 11 Dec 2007 04:12:00 UTC | #92444

Slyer's Avatar Comment 21 by Slyer

This sort of nonsense makes me so angry, if only they could realise the damage their ignorance is causing! If there is one thing in this world deserving of your faith, it's science.
I can almost understand where parents are coming from when a new-ish vaccine is being used, they are concerned for the safety of their children and I guess I can accept that. But the parents not allowing their children well-tested vaccines because of superstition? That I will not stand for, vaccines and contraception are very necessary to ensure that these diseases die down, if not die out entirely.

Pro-life my ass.

Tue, 11 Dec 2007 04:13:00 UTC | #92445

notsobad's Avatar Comment 22 by notsobad

Lower birth rate is the only thing that can help poor African countries in the long run, but only through sex education and contraceptives.
Fighting against vaccines instead and letting women give birth into this environment is despicable to say the least.

Tue, 11 Dec 2007 04:17:00 UTC | #92447

Slyer's Avatar Comment 23 by Slyer

Both are necessary notsobad, are you saying it's still okay to have a country plagued by disease as long as the birth rate is kept down?
Unless your intention is for them to all die out..
I don't really understand your definition of "help".

Tue, 11 Dec 2007 04:25:00 UTC | #92449

Ajuydog's Avatar Comment 24 by Ajuydog

Epeeist, you got there before me on Brian Deer, dammit!

It is worth remembering that measles still kills about 600 000 children per year, down from 4 500 000 per year before vaccination.

A couple of points on vaccination. In order for an infection to spread, each new case must result in at least 1 new case in a population. If, on average, each case results in less than 1 new case, the disease will die out in that population. If measles results in 10 new cases for each case in a totally susceptible poplation (unvaccinated and no natural immunity) and the vaccine is 95% effective the we would have to vaccinate at least 95% of people for each case to give rise to less than 1 new case and so allow the disease to die out. I hope that is clear!

Lastly, vaccination is responsible for as much health gain as all other medical technologies put together.

Tue, 11 Dec 2007 04:27:00 UTC | #92451

Happy_Atheist123's Avatar Comment 25 by Happy_Atheist123

I've seen the same thing here in America. A man that I worked with decided to not vaccinate his newest born child for religious reasons. All of his friends encouraged him to follow his belief system. Well, his daughter came down with meningitis which would have been prevented by her routine pneumococcal vaccination. She has suffered permanent brain damage and last I heard, she was a vegetable. I feel so bad for his family. His religious friends continued to tell him that he made the right decision.

A similar thing is going on with the new HPV vaccine (which I have recieved). Although there is a weak but valid moral debate about this, there is a lot of disinformation. One of the "friends" of the man mentioned above insisted to me that the HPV vaccine would cause brain damage and a whole generation of young girls would grow up with brain damage. Of course, he recieved this information from his church. Needless to say, I'm not suffering any of this horrible brain damage that he told me would happen after I recieved the vaccine.

Tue, 11 Dec 2007 04:35:00 UTC | #92452

Gymnopedie's Avatar Comment 26 by Gymnopedie

It is sad that there is a resistance to vaccines in the US, as well. I wouldn't say the resistance stems from religion, but rather it stems from a lack of critical thinking and outright pseudoscientific thinking. But I still don't understand why there is such a resistance.

And are the Mullahs in Africa really saying not to get vaccines because it is from the "evil west"? Is this just stone age thinking or is it more complicated than I see here?

Tue, 11 Dec 2007 04:42:00 UTC | #92453

Peacebeuponme's Avatar Comment 27 by Peacebeuponme

Once again Johann Hari writes sensibly on an important topic. I always enjoy his articles in the Indie.

Tue, 11 Dec 2007 04:56:00 UTC | #92458

Kimpatsu's Avatar Comment 28 by Kimpatsu

When Phillips began her assaults on reason in the DM, I e-mailed her with a lengthy explanation as to why she was wrong, and received a 6-word reply: "I stand by what I wrote". I don't think she likes having her non-expertise called into question, but she certainly views herself as an investigative reporter following the likes of Woodward and Bernstein to blow the whistle on the "establishment".

Tue, 11 Dec 2007 05:02:00 UTC | #92462

BaronOchs's Avatar Comment 29 by BaronOchs

Vaccinations are perhaps the greatest achievement of humanity: using this scientific tool, we have literally eradicated Smallpox – a disease that caused hundreds of millions of people to die in howling agony – from the human condition. It will never kill another person, ever.

Hopefully not but it is still sitting around in various government laboratories if you know what i mean.

Tue, 11 Dec 2007 05:03:00 UTC | #92464

Slyer's Avatar Comment 30 by Slyer

In 1978, there was evidently an escape of smallpox from containment in a research laboratory in Birmingham, England. A medical photographer, Janet Parker, died from the disease itself, after which the scientist responsible for the unit, Professor Henry Bedson, committed suicide. In light of this accident, all known stocks of smallpox were destroyed, except the stocks at the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Russian State Research Center of Virology and Biotechnology VECTOR in Koltsovo, where a regiment of troops guards it. Under such tight control, smallpox would, it was thought, never be let out again. Even though the destruction of virus stocks was ordered in 1993, 1994, 1995, and 1996[citation needed], they have not yet been destroyed, since a number of researchers still wish to retain the stocks for scientific purposes.
Yep still exists, scary. Do we still get vaccinated for it? I don't know.

Tue, 11 Dec 2007 05:13:00 UTC | #92469