Friday, March 15, 2013

Letter to Clear Channel : MisInformation Antivax Billboards

I am a Phil Plait fan-girl, so I read Bad Astronomy every day. Some days, it's about topics closer to home and Alpha Centauri. Today, Phil draws attention the Clear Channel billboards in Arizona, Oregon, Illinois and Texas paid for by The National Vaccination Information Center, which is a very official sounding organization with a terrible agenda. 

NVIC is an antivax group, plain and simple. Despite hugely overwhelming tsunami-level amounts of evidence showing no link between vaccines and autism, they still think there is one. They go on and on about “vaccine injuries”, yet actual severe side effects from vaccines are very rare, especially when you realize that many millions of vaccines are given every year. The NVIC relies on anecdotes of injuries as evidence, but that's very dangerous thinking. Stories and personal observations are a good place to start—it’s how you might notice a connection between two things—but it’s not where you end. You must apply rigorous testing to your ideas, so that you can make sure you’re not seeing a connection where none exists. (Phil Plait, 3/15/13)

The billboards they are paying to display : 

"Know the risks and failures"

Antivax people make me crazy. Certifiable. I am all for researching what you put in your body and the body of your child, but do not in the face of consistent evidence that there is no link between vaccines and increased risks of long-term mental or physical ill-effects, continue to try and 'educate' the public in your bad science and fear mongering. 

Vaccination is the most effective medical primary prevention measure. The efficacy and utility of vaccination in controlling widely feared infectious diseases is convincingly demonstrated by the eradication of smallpox and the successful combating of poliomyelitis and diphtheria. In 1930s Germany around 6000 people, most of them children, died annually of diphtheria and a further 500 succumbed to poliomyelitis. Thanks to vaccination, these diseases have now disappeared from Germany. The risks of vaccination must be seen alongside its benefits. It goes without saying that the adverse effects of a vaccine must not exceed acceptable limits, i.e., a vaccine may not inflict lasting damage on the vaccinee’s health. (National Center for Biotechnology Information, 8/25/2008)

 The MMR vaccine controversy from 1998 which linked vaccine and autism panicked parents and created a celebrity ground-swell that only served to legitimize terrible science. Antivax became a 'fad' where parents stopped vaccinating their children, focus was sucked away from real science around autism and it's treatment and resulted in the delay of Europe's goal of eradicating measles by 2010. 

The fact that the NVIC is continuing to advertise this kind of nonsense infuriates me, so being a good libertarian, rather than stomping my feet, shaking my fist and saying, "let's make this illegal" I took Phil's lead and sent a note to Clear Channel (I stole Phil's first paragraph, shamelessly): 

It has come to my attention that the anti vaccination organization NVIC is advertising on your billboards. NVIC promotes dangerous misinformation about vaccinations, using outdated and simply wrong information trying to tie vaccines to autism and other health issues despite overwhelming scientific evidence against them. To be frank, this puts people—including babies—at risk of contracting preventable diseases like pertussis, measles, and the flu.
As a parent to a high-functioning autistic child, it makes me angry to see any attention being taken away from quality education about those with autism and how best to integrate them into the larger society. Add that to the dangerous nature of not vaccinating our population and I am appalled to see Clear Channel advertising anything this potentially harmful to your target audience -which is everyone. 
I would urge you to consider not taking any more money from the NVIC and having the billboards removed. 
Thank you, 
Lee Watts

Links for you to go and do your own vaccine research:


  1. Antivax is such a source of frustration for me. I 100% support people refusing medical treatments for themselves and I 85% support them refusing them for their kids... but I wish they were refusing on better grounds. It kind of pains me to be in such close social proximity to such stupid. It's one of the places I can't really fit in with other hippie parents. I'm sure you know that two of the groups of parents in our very close social circle opted to delay, selective, or not vaccinate at all. It makes me feel really weird to then speak strongly on the topic. With Dylan, I really did try as hard I as I could to research the topic for the purpose of being about to opt out. It didn't stick, though. Vaccinations are so clearly effective, and the lack of vaccinations is so clearly RAPIDLY a bad thing, which we're seeing right now with various outbreaks due to antivax campaigns.

  2. Excellent letter! As a mom, I looked into possible negative side effects both when I had my eldest almost 18 years ago, and just two years ago when I had my youngest. Each time there was a lack of evidence. Therefore, this "crunchy" mom had her boys immunized.