Anti-Vaxxers Are More Organized Than You Think
When you hear people talking about anti-vaxxers, the conversation usually devolves into making fun of soccer moms who think they know the real story behind vaccinations because they saw a meme once. While that's a fair criticism, it's not the whole picture because in the last couple of years the anti-vaxxer community has grown into a thriving ecosystem -- one that we'd almost describe as 'unkillable' if it weren't for the fact that, you know ...
Joseph Mercola Gives Millions to Anti-Vax Causes, Makes Millions Selling Vaccine 'Alternatives'
You've probably never heard the name "Joseph Mercola" before, so here's a quick primer. He's a quack doctor that rakes in millions every year by selling garbage 'alternative' medicines and other pseudoscience horseshit to scared, desperate, vulnerable people. It almost doesn't matter if you knew his name before today, however, because you've definitely seen his handiwork. He's a die-hard anti-vaxxer (surprise!) who, even among anti-vaxxers, is especially dangerous because he's rich enough to be able to act on his ill-informed beliefs.
Over the past decade, Mercola has donated millions of dollars to the National Vaccine Information Center -- one of the most prominent anti-vaccination organizations in the world, and one that bills itself on paper as a grassroots-funded advocacy group for/by concerned parents. In reality, the NVIC is a (tax-exempt!) propaganda machine with a long history of opposing federal vaccination programs. Through their friendly-looking website, the NVIC disseminates lies and disinformation about vaccines to undiscerning newborn parents looking for information on the subject. There's a reason they chose the name they did. It's so parents would confuse them for an authority on the subject and not recognize them for what they truely are, which is a gaggle of garbage ghouls.
All this costs money, and that's where Mercola comes in. What does he get for his money? Nothing, really. He's just a selfless man doing a public goo-- lol, j/k. The NVIC hawk his vaccine 'alternatives' constantly and even lists him as one of their partners alongside, um, Amazon.
If you've figured out the grift, congratulations, you're officially smarter than all of these dopes -- although admittedly, that's a pretty low bar.
Mercola gives the NVIC a colossal amount of money every year. In return, they direct worried parents to his website to buy untested medicines and other pseudoscientific trash. That then funds his next donation to the NVIC, and so on, and so on in an ouroboros of grifting.
Crooked Doctors Are Selling Medical Exemptions to Anti-Vax Parents
Back in 2015, anti-vaxxer parents caused a massive outbreak of measles in California. In response, the state decided to get rid of the "personal belief" exemption that many anti-vaxxers were using to excuse their kids from their vaccinations, and mandated that unless parents had a legitimate medical reason for why their kids couldn't be vaccinated, it was vaccine o'clock, babies.
It was a good idea, too. The only problem, however, was that some unscrupulous doctors saw this not as an opportunity to strengthen the herd, but as a way to make some major bank by selling medical exemptions to anyone who wanted one. This of course drew anti-vaxxers like a drop of blood draws mosquitoes (rather appropriately).
Of course, the state wasn't totally stupid. When medical exemptions were given, it was required to list the specific medical complaint which prevented the relevant child from being vaccinated. Except the shady doctors found a
brilliant lazy workaround: they just wrote any old bullshit. They knew that no-one would check, which led to some kids being exempted from their vaccinations for nonsense reasons such as having allergies or broken bones.
On its own, this would be dickish enough. Some doctors, however, managed to supercharge this grift. Instead of giving the parent a childhood-long exemption certificate, they would hand over an exemption certificate that was only valid for a few months. Why? Because that way, the parent had to come back and pay for another, and another, and ...
When we say that this scam brings in major bank, we mean it. In anti-vaxxer communities, lists of doctors who provide no questions asked, don't give a shit medical exemption certificates are hot currency. And even if a parent can't obtain one, all they have to do is search the internet for a few minutes and they'll run into doctors openly-advertising themselves as being down with the sickness.
This isn't to say that all doctors are like this. The vast, VAST majority are decent people who listened during class and aren't willing to wipe their ass with the Hippocratic Oath for a few pieces of silver 'cross their palm. Which, of course, means that they have to do their jobs with a massive target on their backs, because ...
There Are Private Facebook Groups Directing Harassment Against Pro-Vaccine Doctors
As we've discussed several times already, Facebook is a garbage company that routinely prioritizes profits over protecting people from the bigots and/or conspiracy theorists who use the platform to organize, instigate harassment campaigns, and fucking kill people.
So it's no big surprise that the site has a problem with anti-vaxxers. There are hundreds, if not thousands of groups where parents, grifters, and nutjobs congregate to spread whatever "cure" for flu, autism, or cancer is making the rounds that particular week.
Within this collection of sorts, however, there's a particularly nasty subset of groups who work tirelessly not just to spread the word (and mumps), but also prevent pro-vaccination types from having their say. These groups target anyone who spreads "pro-vaccination propaganda" (read: "science"), but they have a particular fondness for medical professionals such as doctors and pediatricians. It isn't uncommon for doctors (and even entire hospitals) who provide vaccinations to be bombarded with negative reviews by anti-vaxxers on Yelp and Google, and physician rating sites like Vitals and Healthgrades, for the express purpose of driving away new and existing patients. Patients who, without a medical professional to set them straight, are then more likely to fall for the lies and misinformation put out by anti-vaccination groups and organizations.
This happened to Elias Kass, for instance, a prominent pro-vaccination doctor who, in February 2019, testified before a state senate committee about the necessity of a bill eliminating the "personal belief" exemption we talked about a few moments ago. The bill passed and while the aftermath was always going to get nasty, Kass spent the next several weeks dealing with anti-vaxxer trolls. They not only decimated every review page they could locate for his medical practice but also descended on his personal Facebook profile to call him everything from a "pedophile" to a "scumbag shilling for infanticide."
The majority of his harassment came via two Facebook groups: "Stop Mandatory Vaccinations," which claims 150,000 members, and "Holistic Lives Matter," which claims 53,000 members. After Kass's testimony, his public and personal details were shared to these groups by their respective webmasters, Larry Cook and Erin Elizabeth, to drown Kass in a sea of lies, slander, and harassment.
By harassing people who talk publicly about how vaccines are good these groups aren't just silencing the people talking; they're also attempting to preemptively silence the people who are thinking about talking. If you knew that saying something would definitely, absolutely, certainly kick off a shitstorm of harassment, would you do it? No, of course not. And that's what these groups are aiming for. Their goal is to create a "chilling effect" that so effectively dissuades pro-vaxxers from speaking out that the public is soon left confused and wanting for information about vaccinations -- at which point, guess who would step in to "help" them out?
In March 2019, Facebook announced that they were starting a crackdown on "vaccine misinformation." As of writing, however, they still haven't taken any concrete action against groups like "Stop Mandatory Vaccinations" and "Holistic Lives Matter." At the end of last year, it was revealed that SMV is responsible for a majority of anti-vaxxer adverts published on Facebook -- and at upwards of $499 per advert, the reason why Facebook is hesitant to take action is looking pretty obvious, whatever the human cost.
The Next Big Thing is Anti-Vax, But for Pets
Like human vaccinations, animal vaccinations are safe. According to Richard Ford, an emeritus professor of medicine at NCSU's College of Veterinary Medicine, however, veterinarians across the country are now having to deal with pet owners refusing to allow their pets to be vaccinated because their animals could 'catch' autism. This is all despite the fact that dogs and cats are literally unable to have autism -- but then again, when have facts ever mattered to these people?
The key to this story is a medical procedure known as a 'blood titer' -- a type of blood test that measures the amount and type of disease antibodies in an animal's blood as a way of testing what they might (keyword) have natural immunity against. If a dog is administered a blood titer and is found to have antibodies for rabies in its blood, that suggests (again, keyword) that they have immunity to rabies.
You can see where this is going.
In pet anti-vaxxer circles (what a sentence), it's become trend du jour to request that instead of vaccinations, their pet receives a blood titer in order to discover what they're already 'immune' to and therefore, what they don't need to be vaccinated against. Except, that's not how it works at all. The titers aren't magical disease sniffer-outers, they're mere suggestions. Remember the hypothetical dog from earlier who tested positive for rabies antibodies? He still needs to be vaccinated against rabies because in the words of the CDC, "evidence of antibodies in animals should not be used as a substitute for current vaccination [...] or determining the need for booster vaccination."
To summarise, it's exactly what anti-vaxxers are doing with regard to human vaccinations. They're using woo-woo science and dipshit doctors to exempt their pets from their mandatory vaccinations, on the shaky grounds that they're unnecessary, dangerous, and only happen because veterinarians are greedy profit-seeking monsters.
Speaking of, the unofficial 'face' of this crusade is John Robb -- an anti-vaxxer who in 2017, was stripped of his job as a veterinarian for deliberately underdosing dogs who came into his practice for their state-mandated rabies vaccination. After this, he went into politics and attempted to get Connecticut and New Hampshire to pass bills making it legal for veterinarians to perform titers instead of rabies vaccinations, bills which both legislatures swiftly put down like Old Yeller -- a dog who conveniently for this metaphor, could really have used a rabies vaccination.
These days, Robb earns a living by titer testing dogs -- and if they come back clean, selling their anti-vaxxer owners a rabies 'immunity certificate,' which (as you can probably guess) has about as much legal weight as, well, a piece of paper onto which a failed veterinarian has scribbled the words "NO RABIES HERE."
The biggest irony of all, however, is that for all the whining from pet anti-vaxxers about how veterinarians only vaccinate because it makes them fat stacks of cash, it really doesn't. If they ever bothered to check, they'd find that vaccinations cost, like, $40, and there's only so much you can mark them up before owners go elsewhere. But do you know what does make veterinarians money? Blood titers, which retail for $175. If the vet community was as grasping as Robb suggests, they'd be clamoring to appease him and his legions of idiots. But they don't, because they care more about animals and people than making money and propagating dangerous horseshit ideologies, which is something that Robb could maybe stand to learn a thing or two about.
Top image: Ruben PH/Shutterstock