Marco Cáceres di Iorio

Pushing a False Dichotomy on Vaccines

At the end of her commentary on U.S. Congressman Bill Posey’s July 29, 2015 statement on the floor of the House of Representatives regarding whistleblower Dr. William Thompson’s allegations of fraud against the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) involving a CDC study on the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine and possible links to autism, investigative journalist Sharyl Attkisson writes:

One final note: Rep. Posey unequivocally states that he is pro-vaccine. However, the propaganda campaign typically falsely portrays anyone who addresses vaccine safety issues as “anti-vaccine.”1

It’s an interesting point, and one which goes to the heart of the debate on vaccines and vaccination policy in the United States. Think about it. If a person expresses any doubt whatsoever about the safety and effectiveness of vaccines, any vaccine, he or she automatically runs the risk of being pigeonholed as an “anti-vaxer.”

In a nutshell, the idea is that my way is the only way, and either you agree with me completely and we’ll get along just fine, or you don’t—in which case you are my adversary, and I have no choice but to belittle your intelligence and attack your integrity and diminish your standing as an individual. It’s the kind of black and white thinking and name calling that parents usually try to steer their children away from at an early age so they won’t turn into bullies.

Unfortunately, countless people throughout history have shamelessly mouthed the mantra, “If you’re not with us, you’re against us.” One can only imagine the millions of innocent people who have been hurt by this ‘my way or the highway’ mentality.

It may be why Congressman Posey gingerly opened his floor statement with the following qualifier:

I rise today on matters of research and scientific integrity. To begin with, I am absolutely, resolutely pro-vaccine. Advancements in immunization have saved countless lives and greatly benefited public health.2

It’s as if before you say anything that even remotely suggests you’re not 100% onboard with an ever increasing list of government recommended vaccines and one-size-fits-all vaccine policies serving as the cornerstone of public health programs, you’d better offer a little something to placate the bullies. Even the slightest doubt or sign of independent thinking is potentially a capital offense.

So before offering any criticism of vaccine science, policy or law, you must always take care to qualify your comments with, “I am pro-vaccine.” Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., who has become a high-profile personality in the vaccine debate starts off his speeches and interviews with: “I am pro-vaccine. I had all of my six children vaccinated. I believe that vaccines save millions of lives.”3

Even celebrity Jenny McCarthy, who has been relentlessly vilified by the corporate media for daring  to talk about her son’s serious vaccine reaction and publicly express concern about vaccine safety has been compelled to clarify her statements and has said::

I am not anti-vaccine. I’m in this gray zone of, I think everyone should be aware and educate yourself and ask questions. And if your kid is having a problem, ask your doctor for an alternative way of doing the shots—for example, fewer vaccination doses at the same time.4

But to no avail. Since McCarthy questions the safety of vaccine policies and refuses to toe the party line, she is labeled a quack, an anti-vaxer, a threat to the public health. Same goes for actor and comedian Jim Carrey, who has repeatedly said he is not anti-vaccine, but simply wants vaccines to be made safer. “I am not pro-vaccine/anti-neurotoxin. Get that straight,”5 Carrey tweeted on July 1, 2015. The previous day, he had tweeted, “I am not anti-vaccine. I am anti-thimerosal, anti-mercury. They have taken some of the mercury laden thimerosal out of vaccines. NOT ALL!”6

It’s not so much about being pro-vaccination or anti-vaccination. It’s just not that black or white. There’s a huge, complex and messy grey area in the middle, as is the case in most things in life… and in science, for that matter. And it’s a credit to those who recognize this reality and refuse to be intimidated or cajoled by some perceived correctmajority opinion.

These are just a few of the more famous so-called anti-vaxers in the evolving national debate about vaccination in the U.S. They are demonized because they have the gall to exercise freedom of thought and speech in the land of the free and home of the brave and go against the grain. They were called “villains” a recent TIME magazine article titled “Meet the Heroes and Villains of Vaccine History.”7

The sad part is that there is no need for this sort of name calling and bullying in the conversation about vaccination. No need for anyone to position themselves (and by extension, the national debate) among the black-or-white thinkers of history. Either you’re with us or you’re against us. Really, there can’t be anything in between?


1 Attkisson S. CDC Scientist: ‘We scheduled meeting to destroy vaccine-autism study documents’. July 29, 2015.
2 CDC Whistleblower William Thompson Discloses Deception | Congressman Bill Posey. July 29, 2015.
3 Kennedy RF.Vaccines, Mercury & Dirty Money. July 24, 2015.
4 Grove L. Jenny McCarthy: I Am Not Anti-Vaccine. The Daily Beast Oct. 24, 2014.
5 Oran N. Jim Carrey adamantly insists he’s not anti-vaccine, despite his very public opposition to California’s new law. MedCity News July 1, 2015.
6 Carrey J. Jim Carrey@JimCarrey. June 30, 2015.
7 Kluger J. Meet the Heroes and Villains of Vaccine History. TIME July 29, 2015.

2 Responses to “Pushing a False Dichotomy on Vaccines”

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