This coming Saturday, 12th December, there will a protest against Swine Flu vaccines in Edinburgh, organised by the Vaccine Awareness Network (VAN). It’ll start at midday at St Giles Cathedral (well, High Kirk actually, it was only a Cathedral for 33 years in total back in the 17th Century, but that’s not related) on the Royal Mile and march down to the Parliament, finishing about 2pm.
Why am I telling you this? Because I disagree with it, obviously, and since I’m not in the country, I want you to go and ask awkward questions. You can get a more vaccination/science based commentary at ‘…and your electron microscope!‘ and at the Edinburgh Skeptics Blog, the rest of my post is just going to be a rant about the website. Read on if you like that sort of thing.
The anti-vax movement has a lot of people’s lives on its conscience, or at least it should, but this protest seems to be less about the vaccine itself, and more about compulsory vaccinations. When I read that, I was a bit taken aback. I support the vaccine, but I wasn’t so sure about compulsory vaccinations and I thought this post would reluctantly have to support the protest despite it’s probably anti-science agenda. As far as I was aware, there were no plans to introduce a mandatory vaccine. So I looked at the protest’s page (which is quite a mess, they really should have links to the different parts or something) to have a peek at their arguments. It’s a big straw man!
AFAIA there are absolutely no plans to implement mandatory vaccination. The page cites legislation (namely the Civil Contingencies Act 2004) that allows the government to implement it during a national state of medical emergency. So, in the case of something like the Black Death coming back to haunt us, the government could implement mandatory vaccination against it. This is not going to happen this time, it is nothing to do with swine flu. So far swine flu has had a relatively small number of cases, and the death rate is also fairly low, something like 1% if I remember correctly. It appears to pose less of a risk than normal seasonal flu. They are not going to implement it in this case (and AFAIA they never have done, ever).
They seem to oppose this legislation being used in any case, and I also disagree with that. In the case of a serious epidemic, refusing to get vaccinated puts not only your own life, but the lives of others around you, at risk. Mandatory vaccination should be an option for the government in extreme circumstances.
It’s quite ironic though. They seem to have got themselves all whipped up into a frenzy over swine flu, and still somehow oppose the best known way of preventing it. Meanwhile towards the bottom of the page, there’s a section on what you can do, and the first point is:
DON’T PANIC -THAT’S EXACTLY WHAT THEY WANT. HERE’S WHAT YOU CAN DO TO SAFEGUARD YOUR RIGHT TO CHOOSE.
1. Firstly, stay calm. The vaccination business is run on fear (see swine flu page, recipe for selling flu vaccines, written by the CDC as an example). They want you to feel backed into a corner and as if you don’t have any choice.
What? You’re the ones taken in by the tabloid fear-mongering, the government have been playing down the risks about swine flu! So what is the source of this information about the government implementing vaccines? Well about halfway down the page in big bold capital letters it says:
FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO THINK THAT VAN IS OVER-REACTING, GET A LOOK AT THIS NEWSPAPER ARTICLE!
– followed by an undated clipping, which doesn’t even fully agree with what they’re saying, from the Sunday Star. Yes, the SUNDAY FUCKING STAR!! That bastion of good journalism that has pictures of tits on most of its pages, and which insists on giving almost every sentence its own paragraph! I suppose sentence structure is hard enough, they don’t want to even consider structuring their paragraphs too. According to the website, it’s actually called the Daily Star Sunday, but if it only comes out on Sunday then it’s not daily is it? AntiVax websites tend to be full of this, scaremongering stories from any rag going, as long as it has an anti-vax spin.
Fuck it, I’m wound up now, I’m going to have a look at the rest of the page. This might take a while.
But this kind of mandatory innoculation has a precedent, right? They haven’t just pulled it out of the air. Oh right, it seems that Greece has already introduced it. So the owner of this website wrote to the Greek health minister (same page but just so you don’t have to scroll to the top of the post. It’s about 2 thirds down) to complain and to get more information. She asked among other things why the mandatory vaccination had been implemented. The minister replied saying it hadn’t, and citizens had the right to refuse it as soon as they’d been given the information on it. Her reply contained, “however, why did a 31 July Reuters article say that Greece was mandating the vaccination?” Wow, a news report wasn’t accurate. That never happens. She also asks why the police will be present at the vaccination centres if it’s not to be compulsory. Maybe to prevent disturbances because of the scaremongering that’s been going on? Yet she’s still perplexed as to why they haven’t replied a second time. Maybe they have better things to do.
So then there’s a story entitled “WHO Launches Global Mandatory Vaccination Programme” Here it is:
The World Health Organization has issued a binding ‘recommendation’ to all member countries requiring them to institute mandatory vaccination programs. Under an existing multilateral agreement this formally invokes each state’s pandemic plan and puts coordination under control of WHO. For some European states the pandemic plan includes setting aside government as normal and ruling the country by a special council under control of the EU and WHO. France has already announced that it will effect a move to military rule beginning in September.
The global pandemic vaccination program will begin somewhere around the end of September and last about two months. Many countries are in the process of acquiring from Baxter, Novartis, GlaxoSmithKline and other pharmaceutical companies enough doses of vaccine to vaccinate their entire population twice. They remain quiet about mandatory vaccination, simply saying they will make vaccination ‘available’ to all on a priority basis. But Greece and Switzerland have already announced that their programs will be mandatory and enforced by the military. There are unconfirmed reports that Norway and Israel have done the same. The United States is preparing for military ‘assisted’ mandatory vaccination but has not explicitly declared its intentions to the public.
Source: Columbia Valley News, 14 August 2009.
See the end of that first paragraph? “For some European states the pandemic plan includes setting aside government as normal and ruling the country by a special council under control of the EU and WHO. France has already announced that it will effect a move to military rule beginning in September.” Err… what? I think someone’s having a laugh here… but it’s ok because it was in that well respected international source, the Columbia Valley News, the local community newspaper of Invermere, British Columbia. Funnily enough I googled “columbia valley news” today (December 9th) and this story, from August, was the second result. You may not know how Google works, basically it puts the pages in order according to how many links it has on other pages, that’s what allowed a googlebomb to work in the past. What that means is that people have been linking to this story left right and centre. Say, you don’t suppose that this story hasn’t been covered anywhere else, do you? I mean it’s implausible that something as important as this would be left to the Columbia Valley News to take all the credit. I suppose the BBC didn’t deem it important. Or maybe they’re in on the conspiracy too? Whaddya say, folks?
There are other stories on that website, most of them totally unrelated and dealing with how much money pharmaceutical companies make or when one time some out of date vaccines were given to people but noone was hurt, as well as an advert for alternatives to pet vaccines. Really relevant to what the protest is about, you know? But there’s another section I’ve already mentioned about what you can do. Most of it is just letter writing and things, but point number 5 reads:
Consider home schooling your child. Proposed mandates appear to be around school entry, and under 16’s can be pressured in school to consent to a vaccine in spite of parental objection.
School is not a legal requirement, only education is.
There would be a limit to what the state can do in the case of a home educated child, since he is out of the state system – particularly if he has always been home educated and never gone to school, as then there is no legal requirement to notify the education authority.
Wow, that’s extreme, especially since school vaccinations are optional. Here’s number 6, watch out for the really dodgy stats work.
9% of parents in England choose not to vaccinate at all, that’s 5 children in every 100. Another 15% refuse MMR. That’s approximately 20-25% of the population who refuse some or all vaccines. There are far too many parents with this objection for the JCVI to sue, and too many of us willing to fight, for them to be successful.
At the very least, we would be entitled to exemptions like parents get in other countries that mandate, namely philosophical, medical or religious exemptions.
Erm, I’m not sure what their source for this is, but I’m pretty sure that the 15% who refuse MMR would include the 9% who refuse all vaccines. Plus the MMR link to autism has been well and truly put to bed by a wealth of studies. Unfortunately this hasn’t made the news headlines the way the original story did so people still don’t realise they’re talking rubbish. Additionally, the piece claims 20-25% of the population. It’s only talking about parents, not the rest of the population, and I’m willing to bet that the original stats only included parents of children entering primary school. It’s nothing like 20-25% of the population!
This is turning into yet another ridiculously long piece so I think I’m going to cut it short here. I hope you can get along to the protest, and if you can, why not address some of the points I’ve raised here to the people there? See if the ordinary person going along knows why they’re there, and most importantly, if they bring up something and you’re not sure about it, google it, get the source, and think about it for a bit! Don’t take it at face value, read around the subject. The Bad Science Blogs aggregator is usually a good place to start.