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The Sciences

Followup: Antivaxxers, airlines, and ailments

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Reality recently scored a major win when American Airlines agreed not to run an interview with notorious antivaxxer Meryl Dorey. An American living in Australia, Dorey runs the Orwellian-named Australian Vaccine Network, where she dispenses horrifically bad and outright false information about vaccines. Read the link above to see details about her shenanigans. After AA decided not to run the interview, Dorey pulled a lot of tired and clearly silly claims out of her playbook, saying it's denying her free speech -- which it obviously isn't, since this isn't a free speech issue! -- and that we're all part of a global cabal funded by Big Pharma blah blah blah. I've yet to see a check from Big Pharma, so her making this claim is at best paranoid and at worst a lie. You can read more about her nonsensical claims in an ABC article about this. As usual, I have a very, very hard time feeling any sympathy for Dorey, especially when measles is roaring back into the population. Measles is easy to prevent with a simple vaccination, but due in large part to the antivax effort (and I include religious exemptions in that group) it's still out there and infecting more and more people. Some folks are fighting back, though. While I was in Utah last weekend I saw some great billboards promoting vaccines. Shane Larson, an astronomer at Utah State University where I spoke, grabbed a great photo of one:

utah_vax_billboard1.jpg

That shot shows the billboard in context and might be hard to see with everything else in the picture. Here's a zoom on the billboard itself:

utah_vax_billboard2.jpg

It says, "Vaccine preventable diseases are just a plane ride away" and shows a child standing next to an open suitcase. The line refers to the fact that Europe and other countries are seeing a resurgence in measles and other diseases due in part to the antivax movement, and if you're not vaccinated, you can bring those diseases back to the US. Measles was stopped natively in this country in 2000 due to high vaccination rates, but international travel has brought it back. That's not speculation; we know this has happened. The billboard links to the wonderful website Vaccinate Your Baby, which has great advice -- science-based, reality-based, fact-based, and truthful -- about vaccinations. Vaccines do not cause autism. Vaccines do not hurt your immune system. Vaccines do not contain poisons that can hurt you. Those are all spin by the antivax movement at best, and again, lies at worst. Vaccines save lives. Talk to your doctor and see if you or yours need to be vaccinated, including getting the TDaP booster. You can help save lives.

Tip o' the needle to Liz Ditz for several of the links in this article.

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