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Tags Andrew Wakefield , autism , vaccines

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Old 24th May 2010, 09:06 PM   #1
MattusMaximus
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Exclamation Anti-Vax Rally in Chicago Wednesday -- Need Help!!!

I have it on good authority that there's going to be a big anti-vaccine rally in Chicago on Wednesday...

http://americanpersonalrights.org

In addition, it looks as if Andrew Wakefield himself is going to be there, spreading his woo & nonsense. I do know that there's some of my fellow skeptics in the Chicago area interested in going, but they might need help.

If you are in the area and have time on Wednesday afternoon, PM me in case you're interested in helping out. Hopefully if there are some pro-science types there to talk to the media it will help fight the idiocy.

In addition, we're looking for any websites which can provide a concise set of talking points on the topic. Links to quick-guide type brochures would be great as well.

Thanks in advance!
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Old 25th May 2010, 12:21 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by MattusMaximus View Post
I have it on good authority that there's going to be a big anti-vaccine rally in Chicago on Wednesday...

http://americanpersonalrights.org

In addition, it looks as if Andrew Wakefield himself is going to be there, spreading his woo & nonsense. I do know that there's some of my fellow skeptics in the Chicago area interested in going, but they might need help.

If you are in the area and have time on Wednesday afternoon, PM me in case you're interested in helping out. Hopefully if there are some pro-science types there to talk to the media it will help fight the idiocy.

In addition, we're looking for any websites which can provide a concise set of talking points on the topic. Links to quick-guide type brochures would be great as well.

Thanks in advance!
I think you should just go there and take all of the vaccines currently offered, about 200, at one time just to show them whats up.....
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Old 25th May 2010, 04:35 PM   #3
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Good luck!
Sock it to em.
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Old 25th May 2010, 05:16 PM   #4
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MM, I was about to provide numerous links for talking points, and still will after you consider the following. These are desperate people that are very prone to violence and yours will be very outnumbered. I don't mean to sound dramatic but I am fairly immersed in that world and they have been dealt numerous, albeit deserved blows from negative publicity to the erasure of Wakefield from the GMC register to snubbing at conferences. They have threatened and perpetrated violence against those that they perceive as enemies and you would be giving them a live target.

Este
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Old 25th May 2010, 08:59 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by Estellea View Post
MM, I was about to provide numerous links for talking points, and still will after you consider the following. These are desperate people that are very prone to violence and yours will be very outnumbered. I don't mean to sound dramatic but I am fairly immersed in that world and they have been dealt numerous, albeit deserved blows from negative publicity to the erasure of Wakefield from the GMC register to snubbing at conferences. They have threatened and perpetrated violence against those that they perceive as enemies and you would be giving them a live target.

Este
All of this has been considered. We are proceeding with caution. Thanks for the concern!
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Old 25th May 2010, 09:06 PM   #6
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How are you going to go about countering their message? Bullhorns, flyers, picketing?

Good luck...
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Old 25th May 2010, 09:30 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by Nursedan View Post
How are you going to go about countering their message? Bullhorns, flyers, picketing?

Good luck...
Nothing so... obvious. We have a plan
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Old 25th May 2010, 09:37 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by MattusMaximus View Post
Nothing so... obvious. We have a plan
Hmmmm....

Hopefully it will wind up on YouTube.
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Old 25th May 2010, 09:45 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Estellea View Post
MM, I was about to provide numerous links for talking points, and still will after you consider the following. These are desperate people that are very prone to violence and yours will be very outnumbered. I don't mean to sound dramatic but I am fairly immersed in that world and they have been dealt numerous, albeit deserved blows from negative publicity to the erasure of Wakefield from the GMC register to snubbing at conferences. They have threatened and perpetrated violence against those that they perceive as enemies and you would be giving them a live target.

Este
This is the first I've heard of them being violent (not that it's surprising). Any links or stories?
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Old 25th May 2010, 09:55 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by Nursedan View Post
Hmmmm....

Hopefully it will wind up on YouTube.
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Old 25th May 2010, 10:23 PM   #11
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How about you print out a bunch of these:
http://tallguywrites.livejournal.com/148012.html

Concise talking points about Dr. Wakefield.
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Old 26th May 2010, 12:49 PM   #12
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Why don't you take some face-paint, fake the symptoms of measles, mumps or rubella then go an cough on everyone.
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Old 26th May 2010, 07:12 PM   #13
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I guess there will be some interesting blog entries. It was noted at Skepchick that it was lived tweeted here: http://twitter.com/uajamie

(it has pictures!)
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Old 26th May 2010, 07:44 PM   #14
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It went really well. Apparently, a whopping 50-100 anti-vaxxers showed up; ironically, with just a couple of more days of prep & organization, we might have been able to have almost as many pro-science people there. I will be putting together a detailed blog post on the whole thing tomorrow, but I'll leave you with one tasty tidbit...



That's Wakefield in the middle, unwittingly posing with two of our skeptical ninjas (from our Women Thinking Free Foundation group) who infiltrated his rally. In fact, the girl is wearing a Surlyramics necklace that says "Hug Me, I'm Vaccinated!" and moments before this snapshot was taken she handed him a note. It said how much of a horrible person he is for spreading anti-vax nonsense and scaring people out of vaccinating their children. She told me that he didn't look at it & just put it in his pocket, thinking that he got the phone number from some hot young lady.

Message to Wakefield:


Btw, we also got some press

I'm reasonably sure there will be more photos & video to follow. Watch this space.
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Old 26th May 2010, 08:45 PM   #15
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I couldn't wait... here's my blog post on the event:

Skeptics PWN Anti-Vax Scumbag Wakefield at His Own Rally
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Old 26th May 2010, 09:17 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by MattusMaximus View Post
In fact, the girl is wearing a Surlyramics necklace that says "Hug Me, I'm Vaccinated!"
You should have worn some of these...



Steve S
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Old 27th May 2010, 01:55 AM   #17
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Originally Posted by MattusMaximus View Post
I couldn't wait... here's my blog post on the event:

Skeptics PWN Anti-Vax Scumbag Wakefield at His Own Rally

I do take issue with one phrase in the handouts though.

Quote:
Receiving vaccines is completely safe.

I know this sort of campaign likes black-and-white certainties, but it's not that simple. Adverse reactions to vaccines can and do occur. This is a bit like the CVO, at the beginning of the BSE crisis, going on the BBC and announcing that there was "no risk at all" of BSE being transmitted to man.

At the time, there were many good reasons for believing that BSE wasn't transmissible to man. I'd have put money on it myself. However, such absolute certainty wasn't warranted, and to date 168 people (out of a population of about 60 million) have died of vCJD. That and similar statements have come back to haunt the people who made them, all because they preferred black-and-white certainty to a more honest appraisal of the situation.

It's relevant, because one of the reasons commonly cited for Wakefield's woo having achieved such wide credence in Britain is that it came very soon after the BSE scandal, when public confidence in government statements about things being "absolutely safe" had taken a serious knock.

As far as vaccines go, as a vet I'm aware of a tiny number of deaths from anaphylactic reactions to vaccines. Similar problems have been reported in man. There is a specific cancer in cats which is linked to vaccine injection sites, and at present we are investigating a serious disease of young calves which appears to have an association with a vaccine given to their mothers.

Feline vaccine-site-associated sarcoma and bovine neonatal pancytopenia are not recorded in man, obviously. Human vaccines are indeed some of the safest things around. But they're only safe to a certain definition of "safe". They can't be honestly described as "completely safe".

I don't know exactly the best way to play it, but I think in all honesty you should modify that wording a little.

Rolfe.
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Old 27th May 2010, 02:50 AM   #18
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Great work, Matt and friends!
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Old 27th May 2010, 03:09 AM   #19
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Just musing on "cetain definitions of safe". Someone commented that the rate of reported significant symptoms after vaccination was 0.07% in the past decade. (Of course some of these will be merely coincidental events, the real figure will be lower than that.)

Never mind, 0.07% is pretty low. Safe? Probably. (It's higher in cats and I vaccinate my cat without a second thought.)

Less than 0.0003% of the British population suffered any significant symptoms as a result of BSE contamination of the human food chain.

Just for comparison.

Rolfe.
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Old 27th May 2010, 04:01 AM   #20
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Originally Posted by UncaYimmy View Post
This is the first I've heard of them being violent (not that it's surprising). Any links or stories?
Paul Offit has been spit on and hit, he's received at least one threat against his children, he needs to have his mail examined and needs a security detail for engagements. One IOM committee member had to be scuttled through the back door by security people during the height of the thimerosal nonsense. Sceptical bloggers are routinely outed and their employers are harassed.

I'm so pleased that the turnout was so poor at the rally and there were no incidents (that I know of). I admire what the Chicago-area sceptics managed to pull off in such short time and their subsequent reporting of events.

Este
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Old 27th May 2010, 06:30 AM   #21
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Originally Posted by Rolfe View Post
I do take issue with one phrase in the handouts though. ...

I don't know exactly the best way to play it, but I think in all honesty you should modify that wording a little.

Rolfe.
Thanks for your comments, Rolfe. I'll pass them along and we'll see about tightening up the language
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Old 27th May 2010, 09:23 AM   #22
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Originally Posted by MattusMaximus View Post
I couldn't wait... here's my blog post on the event:

Skeptics PWN Anti-Vax Scumbag Wakefield at His Own Rally

Sweet! Awesome job. I have to admit I was scared for you, but this is way better than I ever would have imagined! High five!!!
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Old 27th May 2010, 09:27 AM   #23
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Originally Posted by Rolfe View Post
I do take issue with one phrase in the handouts though.




I know this sort of campaign likes black-and-white certainties, but it's not that simple. Adverse reactions to vaccines can and do occur. This is a bit like the CVO, at the beginning of the BSE crisis, going on the BBC and announcing that there was "no risk at all" of BSE being transmitted to man.

At the time, there were many good reasons for believing that BSE wasn't transmissible to man. I'd have put money on it myself. However, such absolute certainty wasn't warranted, and to date 168 people (out of a population of about 60 million) have died of vCJD. That and similar statements have come back to haunt the people who made them, all because they preferred black-and-white certainty to a more honest appraisal of the situation.

It's relevant, because one of the reasons commonly cited for Wakefield's woo having achieved such wide credence in Britain is that it came very soon after the BSE scandal, when public confidence in government statements about things being "absolutely safe" had taken a serious knock.

As far as vaccines go, as a vet I'm aware of a tiny number of deaths from anaphylactic reactions to vaccines. Similar problems have been reported in man. There is a specific cancer in cats which is linked to vaccine injection sites, and at present we are investigating a serious disease of young calves which appears to have an association with a vaccine given to their mothers.

Feline vaccine-site-associated sarcoma and bovine neonatal pancytopenia are not recorded in man, obviously. Human vaccines are indeed some of the safest things around. But they're only safe to a certain definition of "safe". They can't be honestly described as "completely safe".

I don't know exactly the best way to play it, but I think in all honesty you should modify that wording a little.

Rolfe.
Yeah, I was a little worried about that sentence too. Serious reactions to vaccines are very, very rare, but they can occur. I seem to recall that the old DPT vaccine could cause some nasty side effects (encephalitis?), although I believe the vaccine has since been changed. Of course, the illnesses that vaccines prevent are much more dangerous than the vaccines themselves, but it doesn't do to overstate the case.
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Old 28th May 2010, 08:34 AM   #24
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I don't know even what "safe" actually means, much less "completely safe." These are canards put up by the anti-vaxxers to poison the well.

Like any medical treatment, vaccines have potential complications and side effects, that are pretty well described (including the incidence rates) in the handouts you are given when you get the vaccines. I don't know where the threshold is between safe and unsafe.
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Old 28th May 2010, 12:15 PM   #25
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"Forty-eight states allow religious exemptions from vaccination, and 21 of those states also allow exemptions based on personal beliefs or philosophical opposition to vaccines, according to the Institute for Vaccine Safety at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. All states allow medical exemptions; only two states don't allow either - Mississippi and West Virginia."


Ahhh, delicious irony...
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Old 28th May 2010, 12:25 PM   #26
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Originally Posted by pgwenthold View Post
I don't know even what "safe" actually means, much less "completely safe." These are canards put up by the anti-vaxxers to poison the well.

Like any medical treatment, vaccines have potential complications and side effects, that are pretty well described (including the incidence rates) in the handouts you are given when you get the vaccines. I don't know where the threshold is between safe and unsafe.
Whenever someone says vaccines are unsafe, tell them about the Nirvana fallacy.

Nothing in life is 100% safe. I could set up a scaremongering site about anything -- LEGOs, elevators, staircases, planes, organic food, dogs or birthday parties in Belgium on a summer's day, and find mothers with horror stories to tell. Especially if I'm allowed to link totally unrelated events by saying things like "my child tried organic tomatoes for the first time, and the next day he developed symtpoms of leukemia!". In fact, maybe that's the ticket? Maybe setting up a Flying Spaghetti Monster-style conspiracy page about something comparably harmless and uncontroversial, using the same arguments the anti-vaccination people are using, could be a good way to bring at least some people to our side?
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Old 28th May 2010, 12:28 PM   #27
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Originally Posted by Safe-Keeper View Post
... Maybe setting up a Flying Spaghetti Monster-style conspiracy page about something comparably harmless and uncontroversial, using the same arguments the anti-vaccination people are using, could be a good way to bring at least some people to our side?
Something like this: http://dhmo.org/ ?
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Old 28th May 2010, 12:33 PM   #28
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Yeah, exactly! In fact I love referring to that site myself! But something more specific, dedicated entirely to fighting the vaccination scare.
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Old 28th May 2010, 06:28 PM   #29
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Great work everyone.
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Old 28th May 2010, 06:47 PM   #30
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Originally Posted by Audible Click View Post
Great work everyone.
Thanks! We're pretty pleased with the results, especially since we got a mention on both Pharyngula & Respectful Insolence
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Old 30th May 2010, 02:01 PM   #31
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Not sure if I liked the pamphlet, as both it and the web site merely states fact without much backing other than links. I would prefer a pamphlet that explained why the anti-vaccination arguments (anecdotes, correlation vs. causation, lone "experts" such as Wakefield vs. academical studies, etc.) shouldn't be accepted. This would both be more convincing and spread critical thinking at the same time.
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Old 30th May 2010, 02:05 PM   #32
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Originally Posted by Safe-Keeper View Post
Not sure if I liked the pamphlet, as both it and the web site merely states fact without much backing other than links. I would prefer a pamphlet that explained why the anti-vaccination arguments (anecdotes, correlation vs. causation, lone "experts" such as Wakefield vs. academical studies, etc.) shouldn't be accepted. This would both be more convincing and spread critical thinking at the same time.
We made up the pamphlet and website on a day's notice, because we weren't planning on actually launching the Hug Me campaign until July. Was it rushed? Yes. Are there some improvements to be made? Yes. Are we working on it? Yes.

Please keep the feedback coming.
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Old 30th May 2010, 02:25 PM   #33
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Good to hear that, thanks for your reply.
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Old 30th May 2010, 03:24 PM   #34
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Bit OT, and might be a bit on the "tl;dr" side, but here's a primer I'm pondering if I should post at an anti-vaxxer board I know of. Not saying you should use, it, though you're certainly welcome to, just throwing it out there.

Quote:
Anecdotes and testimonials: "One swallow does not a summer make". The natural medicine industry and vaccine scaremongering is drenched in anecdotes and testimonials, such as "Mother X gave her son the vaccine, and he developed symptoms of autism", or "Child Y has never received a vaccine, and is perfectly healthy". These anecdotes are often backed up with dubious logic like "are you saying a mother doesn't know her child?". Problem is, whether the anecdotes are true is not related to the question of whether vaccines are safe, as each anecdote, even if true, is just one story. For every anecdote a vaccine "sceptic" brings to the table, I can counter him or her with ten anecdotes about how a child got his or her vaccine and was perfectly fine. Really, I shouldn't have to say this, but to determine whether something is too dangerous to be worth taking, you have to look at the big picture.

Here's a statistic to really put this into perspective: A whooping 30 000 people are killed annually by seat belts and air bags. This is a shocking number, but the reason you won't find huge many lobbies today fighting seat belt laws is that we know for a fact that 30 000 is a tiny number compared to the number of people whose lives are saved on a daily basis by seat belts and air bags. I could list horror stories all day about how this little kid or that pregnant woman was maimed or killed by air bags or seat belts, but this doesn't change that you're far more likely to die in an auto accident if you don't wear a seat belt. We know for a fact that seat belts and air bags save far more lives than they take, so we're not swayed by scare-mongering like "this little nine-year old girl on her way home from handball practice got into a car accident and died because she wore a seat belt". For the same reason, no one should pay attention to anecdotes, no matter how many, about the dangers of anything else, from elevators to vaccines to eating of bread.

Unrelated circumstances:
whether a product is "natural", made by a big company, or profitable, or contains ingredient x, has absolutely zilch to do with the discussion. If you want to determine if something is good for you, you ask if it's good for you. Circumventing that question by throwing mud like "Offit made money on the vaccine!" or "the vaccine is not natural!" does not answer anything and merely loses you credibility. This kind of argument is known as a "red herring", from the old belief that dragging a red herring across your trail could throw a bloodhound off your scent. They're meant to derail the discussion and give one side an advantage is does not deserve. Recognize red herrings when you see them, and stay clear.

Unfounded and unrelated personal attacks: Person A makes an argument against your position, therefore he is a "sheep" who blindly trusts Big Pharma. Person B got struck off, therefore there is a Big Pharma conspiracy to silence dissent. Person C makes an argument you dislike, therefore he or she is a Big Pharma shill. Vaccines made Person D rich, therefore they are unsafe. The list goes on. Personal attacks need to be backed up with facts, and they need to be directly on topic, that is, answering the question at hand, which in this case is "should we get vaccinated". Saying that Dr. Offit got rich off of the vaccine could mean there's an industry secretly pulling threads to silence dissent, but it could just as well indicate that the vaccine is a successful product that does what it's intended to do. Either way, it does not answer the question of whether or not you should vaccinate your child, so it's irrelevant to the discussion.

When confronted with an idea, a very good way to see if it's worth paying attention to is to check how rationally it's being promoted. The fight against vaccines is fought largelly by means of red herrings, personal attacks, conspiracy theories and scare-mongering, and very little in the way of actual empirical studies. What we do have of such studies demonstrate overwhelmingly that vaccines do work, that they are a huge benefit to humanity, and that the risks are far outweighed by the positive results.
Be happy to receive feedback on this.
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