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Concerned About Unconventional Mental Health Interventions?
Alternative Psychotherapies: Evaluating Unconventional Mental Health Treatments

Monday, August 27, 2012

A Vicious Effort to Scare Parents Away from Vaccination

Don’t read the material at this link if you’re not already in a calm, reflective mood:   --- because after you read it you may be too furious to speak anyway.

Here’s the deal: this outfit, “sanevax”, wants to dissuade parents from protecting their children from contagious diseases by means of immunization. They show this in the first paragraph by referring to “severe reactions in previously healthy infants, toddlers, or teenagers, many of whom succumbed after either 1. receiving vaccinations, or 2. experiencing protracted adverse effects due to vaccinations.” This sentence appears to state that many infants, toddlers, and teenagers die following vaccination, which of course is very far from the truth. Perhaps the author meant that of the very few children who have adverse events following (not necessarily because of) vaccination, a large proportion die? This would be a great deal closer to the truth, but it’s not at all clear whether that was intended to be the statement…  and, not so incidentally, the author fails to state what proportion of children die or suffer severe handicapping conditions when they contract the diseases against which vaccination would protect them.   

So far, “sanevax” repeats the usual anti-vaccination statements in their usual muddled form, encouraging the belief that vaccination regularly kills children, but not making this statement so clearly that they can be confronted with the lie direct. However, the document then proceeds to describe to parents what scientific evidence and legal proceedings they must demand if their child dies. Lists of tests and tissue samples are provided, with the addendum that because the parents will be so shattered at the time (which no doubt they would naturally be), they must already have arranged with friends and relations to carry out these instructions. In other words, the parents are not only made to imagine the necessary proceedings following their child’s notional death, but they are encouraged to create a network of sympathetic helpers who can be brought to share their fears and beliefs. “Sanevax” thus suggests the development of what we might call a mini-cult of believers who will support each other’s assumptions and buffer the parents from the influence of objective evidence. The social group of supporters and sympathizers can then emphasize information that argues against vaccination, and thus make it less likely that the parents will overcome their fears, seek good evidence and think in terms of probabilities, and choose to protect their children against the possible devastating effects of contagious diseases.  

Why should parents prepare to demand full investigation of a child’s death? The whole community should be grateful to parents who managed to do this, because this detailed evidence could help assure others that the death was caused by something other than vaccination. But this is not the reason given. “Sanevax” suggests full investigation in order to bolster parental claims for reimbursement under the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program--- and while there is practical value to this information, the reference to the program in this context, and without historical background, implies that there must be serious reasons for fearfulness, or no such program would exist.

Then “sanevax” proceeds to the real crux: the threat that parents whose children die in unexplained ways may be accused of having brought about Shaken Baby Syndrome.  The document warns that emergency room personnel are not trained to recognize vaccine effects and that therefore “it is common practice for child abuse/neglect, or Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS) legal charges to be filed against parents of children who die from vaccine damage to the brain, especially if there are no visible trauma marks on the child’s body”.  This statement begins with the broad claim of “common practice” without indicating the source of this information--- or indeed dealing with whether it is possible to say what “commonly” happens under circumstances of such exceeding rarity, even non-existence, as “vaccine damage to the brain”. “Sanevax” omits to say that there are physical signs of SBS (subdural hematoma and bilateral retinal hemorrhage) rather than “no visible trauma”. The document also omits the fact that suspected cases of child abuse receive investigation, and legal charges may follow if the investigation seems to justify such a decision. This omission, and the collapsing of a lengthy sequence of events into charges against the parents right in the ER, creates a vivid and frightening image that in fact does not correctly describe the steps that might (but usually do not) lead to indictment. Once again, the lie direct cannot be given, but we seem to have gone as far as what Shakespeare’s Touchstone called the “lie circumstantial”.

Where did “sanevax” get the idea that parents are charged with child abuse when (and if!) this kind of child death occurs? One source appears to be the Australian Viera Scheibner, whose claims can be seen at  Scheibner commented in a piece written some years ago, “I was told by a social worker in the United States that many foster parents are rotting in US prisons. First, they are forced to vaccinate their charges, and then, when side effects or death occur, they are accused of causing them.” Scheibner did not, of course, say what she meant by “many” foster parents or indicate the sources of this social worker’s information.

Perhaps the “sanevax” group realized that they had mentioned no checkable facts, because in the end they turned to the use of a red herring in the form of a link to a PLOS article. The linked article reported an experimental study in which mice which received repeated immunizations developed autoimmune tissue injuries which resembled lupus. “Sanevax” quoted a statement from this paper’s conclusion which noted the possibility that excessive exposure to antigens might cause autoimmune responses. They did not, however, quote the previous sentence, which  said: “Living organisms are constantly exposed to a broad range of environmental antigens, as exemplified by the recent re-emergence of measles virus infection among a subpopulation of Japanese young adults who were not vaccinated against the virus.” “Sanevax” picked the cherry that appeared to support their position, but did not notice--  or perhaps expect others to notice--  that the study authors were in fact concerned with all types of antigen exposures, not just with vaccines.

“Sanevax” appears to have designed an anti-vaccination argument that is based entirely on an approach of low cunning, focused on parents’ greatest anxieties about their children and themselves. The “sanevax” fearmongering abandons all effort to deal with evidence for or against vaccination practices, but concentrates on terroristic threats that obscure and distract from realistic health concerns.  I would characterize this type of persuasion as vicious, because—in a move comparable to any vice---  it avoids a calm, open consideration of fact and favors instead an emotion-charged way of thinking which is apparently addictive and certainly unhealthy.

Nothing said by “sanevax” contradicts or even challenges the fact that immunization against disease is good for children and for all of us. In their lengthy article, they actually said nothing but “BOO!”


  1. Blimey! Not heard that one before.One up on "temporary brittle bone disease"

  2. What--- now-they're-brittle, now-they're-not-- is that the claim?

  3. Thanks for exposing this evil organization. Anti-vax kills children; just visit any old graveyard and see all the babies and young children who died from diseases we can now prevent that are making a comeback due to the idiots opposing vaccination.