Pseudoscience and vaccinations

WARNING: No library content is involved in this post. Thank you.

Nothing gets my hackles up more than the current fashion in the US of denigrating science as something to not be trusted. The list of absolutely insane beliefs that people cling to here in the US would take hours to enumerate, but for parents to threaten a scientist because he is doing good science is just…*boggle* Read this article in the NYT about Paul Offit and see what I mean.

It’s not that I don’t have sympathy for parents who have autistic children…I do. My heart breaks, and if I discovered that Eliza had a genetic disease I would be destroyed. But my emotional reaction to it doesn’t change the science, and the science says that vaccines don’t cause autism. On the contrary, vaccinations are arguably the single most important development in children’s health of the last 100 years.

There’s a lot of emotion around this subject. But the fact of the matter is that vaccinations save children’s lives. If you are a parent, please, please, please: Have your children vaccinated.

By griffey

Jason Griffey is the Director of Strategic Initiatives at NISO, where he works to identify new areas of the information ecosystem where standards expertise is useful and needed. Prior to joining NISO in 2019, Jason ran his own technology consulting company for libraries, has been both an Affiliate at metaLAB and a Fellow and Affiliate at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, and was an academic librarian in roles ranging from reference and instruction to Head of IT at the University of TN at Chattanooga.

Jason has written extensively on technology and libraries, including multiple books and a series of full-periodical issues on technology topics, most recently AI & Machine Learning in Libraries and Library Spaces and Smart Buildings: Technology, Metrics, and Iterative Design from 2018. His newest book, co-authored with Jeffery Pomerantz, will be published by MIT Press in 2024.

He has spoken internationally on topics such as artificial intelligence & machine learning, the future of technology and libraries, decentralization and the Blockchain, privacy, copyright, and intellectual property. A full list of his publications and presentations can be found on his CV.
He is one of eight winners of the Knight Foundation News Challenge for Libraries for the Measure the Future project (, an open hardware project designed to provide actionable use metrics for library spaces. He is also the creator and director of The LibraryBox Project (, an open source portable digital file distribution system.

Jason can be stalked obsessively online, and spends his free time with his daughter Eliza, reading, obsessing over gadgets, and preparing for the inevitable zombie uprising.

11 replies on “Pseudoscience and vaccinations”

I probably have the “alternative” view here… but:

“The list of absolutely insane beliefs that people cling to” – science has been wrong MANY times. I never fully trust “the experts” or scientists, doctors, etc. But that’s just me…

“vaccinations save children’s lives” – very true. But on the other hand, my kids don’t need vaccinations for chicken pox until they’re around 18 years of age (if they haven’t caught it naturally). My 9-year old daughter doesn’t need to get a shot for Human Papillomavirus… and I, as a parent better darn right have a say in that!

Just sayin…

David, are you _sure_ that your children don’t need the chicken pox vaccine? Really? Take a look at things like this:

5,000 children a year were hospitalized before the vaccine started being used, and the disease is now almost gone. But it won’t stay gone unless vaccinations continue.

I won’t argue science with you, mainly because I’m likely to say something I’ll regret. I may not trust individuals, but that’s because they are people, not because they are scientists. When science is wrong about something…it changes, and gets _better_. The fact that it gets better is no reason to hold back on appropriate treatments now.

There’s whole books written about medical quackery…treating diseases with mercury, or things like transorbital lobotomy. But to equate vaccinations with things like that just isn’t paying attention to the vast amount of data we have that vaccinations work.

I’d probably fall into the “leery parents” part of that article.

And agreed that it’s people – not scientists – that might not be trustworthy.

And no argument that vaccinations work – just an argument on what exactly we need to vaccinate for, and who gets to decide that (i.e., federal government or the parent).

And no, I don’t want to argue with you either – you’d probably whup me anyway 🙂

We’re very lucky that we’ve never seen the ravages of many of these diseases we’re vaccinated against, and perhaps that’s why some people think that these vaccines are something they can have their kids skip. However, many of the diseases prevented by vaccinations are deadly and many others are disabling/debilitating. I imagine if there was a vaccine that would prevent breast cancer, people would be dragging their daughters (and maybe even sons) to get it.

We’ve had 8 years of an administration that’s done nothing but denigrate science, so I can’t say I’m surprised that people are more swayed by arguments that prey on fear rather than facts.

The proof that vaccinations work, aside from all the scientific data, is that parents are even willing to consider not vaccinating their children against diseases that can be fatal. Vaccines have made these diseases so rare, and if even a sizeable fraction of parents chose not to vaccinate, we’d see them come roaring back in a heartbeat – as we’ve already seen with measles and mumps.

I have no issues with parents who choose to delay vaccinations, or spread them out a la Dr. Sears’s schedule, or have issues with the HPV vaccine for girls younger than X. It’s the “no vaccines, no how” crowd that I have no truck with. To put it bluntly, their unvaccinated children are putting my (not yet old enough to be fully-vaccinated) child at risk.

Catherine brings up a good point about the risk to other children. With things going the way they are, we will end up in a situation where we have to ask “are the children my baby is playing with vaccinated?” Once my child is born, will I have to walk around asking people for their kids’ immunization records just to make sure he won’t be exposed to certain conditions until he can get the vaccination? I have a friend who chose not to get his children vaccinated for anything, and sadly, the result is that I won’t feel comfortable having my child around his kids until mine has received all of the major vaccinations.

Catherine – “I have no issues with parents who choose to delay vaccinations, or spread them out a la Dr. Sears’s schedule, or have issues with the HPV vaccine for girls younger than X” Right – that’s where I’d be. The obvious vaccinations are great – I don’t have much of a beef about those.

But I’m not sure about the CDC’s claims about the autism thing… there are perfectly solid university chemists still studying that and NOT claiming the mercury level thing was fine. And I have two nephews messed up with ASD for the rest of their lives, my oldest daughter is borderline… so yeah. We’ll have to see if the ASD thing continues now that they cut mercury out of the vaccines (2004).

So, for me at least, not fear so much as wondering if I was sold a line by the government. Which has happened in the past (democrats would certainly agree to that one), and will probably continue to happen in future administrations.

David, Your daughter does not “need” to be vaccinated against HPV, but the fact is that the majority of sexually active adults actually carry HPV. It was told to me by my doctor that basically any adult who has had more than one partner who has also had more than one partner will likely contract HPV. Most people do not realize they have it. It is a fact that HPV causes some cases of cervical cancer. I’m glad I have the option for my daughter for this vaccine. I’m also glad she is only 1 therefore plenty of time for testing.

Having suffered from multiple painful procedures as a result of HPV and precancer of the cervix I *wish* there had been a vaccine when I was a child.

Jason – I’ll also had that there have been some recent articles about this and that vaccines are not 100% effective but do help to prevent a circle of immunity by keeping diseases mostly at bay. The fact that we have this recent surge in non-vaxing parents is causing a surge in diseases that we have not seen in 50-100 years.

While I also feel for parents whose children have been affected by autism, I don’t think the link is strong enough to risk exposure for all children to diseases that we can prevent through routine vaccinations.

My children are vaxed but rather than having multiple shots at once we do one a month so we can monitor for side effects.

David, My apologies I did not see your last comment. I can see why you would hesitate to have her vaxed again if there is a chance that there is a link between ASD and vaxes.

My problem is with the parents who refuse this vaccine b/c a. they think their child will remain a virgin until marriage and also marry a virgin and b. that they think vaxing for HPV will encourage their children to have sex.

I’ve actually had to stop posting on mom forums b/c the arguments get so heated.

Meredith – you are just beginning to see the craziness of the mommy wars!

One more thing about keeping your children away from unvaxed children. In NC parents can file a religious exemption in order to enroll their children in school or daycare without vaccines. I’d check the laws in your state if you use childcare.

I’ll just follow up and say that while I respect DLK in all ways, I will respectfully disagree on the science. There is -no- scientific link between ASD and vaccinations. The original study that attempted to link the two has been discredited, and the science on this is very, very clear at this point.

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