Blame the Russians
January 25th 2018, 17:54
The vaccine debate has taken a sinister turn. Any bad news you read about the MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) and flu vaccines on social media sites has been placed there by Russian cyber units, plotting to destabilize the West, according to a British tabloid newspaper.
First they orchestrated Brexit, then they helped get Trump into the White House, and now those Kremlin hackers are targeting vaccines. The Daily Mirror reports that "Russian cyber units are spreading false information about flu and measles jabs, experts claim."1
The Mirror reports that "health chiefs have had emergency meetings over the spread of 'fake news' over vaccination campaigns," but unfortunately not a single expert the newspaper interviewed could back up the extraordinary claim with any evidence, and a closer read reveals nobody except the reporter actually made the claim in the first place.
It isn't entirely clear why the Russian hackers would seek to raise doubts about the safety of vaccinations, when government agencies do such a good job of it without any outside help, but the timing could have something to do with a sudden outbreak of measles in several of the UK's northern cities.
The outbreaks happened just months after a major health agency had applauded the UK for having 'eliminated' measles.
Last September, the European Regional Verification Commission announced that not a single case of measles had been reported in the UK for 36 months, an official measure of whether a contagious disease has been eradicated.
Taking the plaudits, the Head of the Immunisation, Hepatitis and Blood Safety Department at Public Health England, Dr Mary Ramsay, said: "National vaccine coverage of the first MMR dose in five-year-olds has hit the World Health Organization (WHO) 95 percent target." This is the magic number for achieving herd immunity.
The new cases have happened among children and adults who haven't been vaccinated, say health officials, and so it seems that a revision of the definition of herd immunity is in order. In fact, the outbreaks have happened in areas that have a mere 94 percent coverage. This alarming one percent failing is down to parents being scared off from having their children vaccinated after reading "false information on the internet," says the newspaper.
It all goes back to the MMR bogeyman Andrew Wakefield who, 23 years ago, feared that the triple vaccine could be causing autism. His discovery sparked a torrent of 'fake news' from the anti-vaccine crowd, according to the pro-vaccine groups, and now, to cap it all, along come the Russians.
This very magazine is considered to be among the anti-vaccine group (aka vaccine deniers). Over the years we've published articles that have revealed adverse reactions to many vaccines, the ineffectiveness of others, such as the flu shot, and generally pointed out that health agencies have been stingy about doling out all the evidence about the safety of the shots. As a result, parents haven't been able to give their informed consent—simply because they haven't been properly informed—even though it is a legal and moral requirement.
However, for those of you who are worried, we'd like to make the following statements:
• We're not a Russian bot, nor do we have any connection with Russian hackers, cyber groups, trolls or even good balalaika players.
• We are not, nor have we ever been, a member of the Communist Party.
• We're not looking to overthrow Western civilization.
Instead, our concerns are always with the parents—not with government agencies, who seek to achieve herd immunity, or with doctors who are paid a bonus for every child they vaccinate. Because parents deserve to know all the facts before consenting to have their child have a vast array of vaccinations, we look to serious and verified research, often conducted at some of the world's leading centers, such as Harvard, Oxford and Yale.
The problem with the Daily Mirror story is that it stifles all debate. Any negative story about vaccinations must have been placed there by Russian agents—because there is nothing bad to say about vaccines. They don't have any adverse reactions (which is odd because the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program has paid out $3.6 billion in compensation for damages since its formation in 1988), and they work (also odd, because even proponents of vaccines say that average effectiveness is around 86 percent, which is why vaccinated people still get measles, mumps and the rest). But they could all be Russians, of course.