Vaccines and the war on “fake news”

I received a complementary copy of The Sun newspaper today; I have only rarely purchased or read a newspaper and as is the same with listening to the news on the radio or watching it on TV I find it overwhelming; too much to think about and too many things to have a say on… such as this on page 2…

My general opinion of Boris Johnson is that he is amusing and therefore I have no qualms with him having a stint at being prime minister; I know of no one else who is up for the position that interests me in the slightest. But the reason I can’t bring myself to actually vote for anyone is, like attending church, I can never be in total agreement with one party or politician, or that one perspective or belief of how the country or world operates, or should.

If Boris arrived to work each day on a bicycle I’d be all for that but in this piece (can it be termed an actual “article” when it’s in The Sun?) he’s taking a stand against so-called “fake news” on the topic of measles vaccination.

When the very topic of fake news first started landing on my ears, however few years ago that was now, I listened with naivety and seemed to accept that there indeed existed this thing called fake news, whereby, like a fake photograph, one might create a fake topic and start spreading it about on social media and other people would take it as fact and share it too, and before you knew it, more would be believing the nonsense than there would be people that knew the truth. Decades ago all we had were those emails that warned you would meet an untimely end should you not share said email with at least 20 people, and who believed those? “News” is of course something all the more more serious though, yes…

In the case of this topic though, is what Boris is terming fake news on social media, actually fake news or is it just an alternative opinion or narrative that he an others don’t agree with? Because this is what concerns me.

I agree that there is science to back up immunisation and measles jabs, as far as, that is what I am told, but there also seem to be a fair share of counter arguments which to me make as much sense. All right, some of those come from the likes of David Icke, but he’s a good an orator as any, so the way he explains his understanding is plausible to me. It might be that I end up on the fence, but when it comes to “should I have a needle stabbed into my arm and be injected with some unknown (to me) substance?” when I’m sitting comfortably on the fence? I’d rather remain comfortably sat on the fence [actually, after a while it might be more comfortable to get my arm stabbed and to then go home].

According to the news article Boris is claiming the Russians are behind such fake news, and why not, they seem to be blamed for anything these days, yet we’re never privy to the evidence. What’s their motive in this case? To leave all our children unstabbed un-immunised and thus at risk of an actual dose of the measles? To cause an epidemic that might overwhelm our trusty NHS and bankrupt our health service? Or just to mess with our heads and cause us to distrust our government?

Here are some further points gleaned from The Sun piece (along with my response):

  • Boris is keen to boost vaccination rates (therefore any claims against them thwart his efforts)
  • Measles is rising again as child vaccinations drop (they didn’t say “because vaccinations have dropped”)
  • More than 230 cases in Britain in the first three months of this year (this figure is meaningless on its own and without context – we have a population of over 65 million)

I looked online for a graph to either/both put this figure into context or/and give me something to counter it with, but I couldn’t find one. There are plenty of graphs out there but the impression I get is that claims that “anti-vaxxers” are causing an increase in measles cases, or indeed that there is an “outbreak” can only be termed a knee-jerk reaction based on a spike on a graph (similar to how global warming graphs can be spun); how can one build an accurate picture or form a correlation from a spike like this?

Indeed; how can someone stab a needle into a child’s arm and inject them with who-knows-what, causing God knows what long-term effects based on this? Obviously we’re painted more alarming pictures to nudge us down the preferred route.

I can understand the logic of “if you immunise as many people as possible then you can effectively irradiate the disease” but on the same token, I can’t understand why some people who do agree with vaccination are so against people who don’t, because if you and your children have been vaccinated, are you not then immune? So why worry, and why the hate?

And hate is my concern here. It could be “fake news” also that paints a picture of such people, like a news report on TV might interview that one parent who is fearful or even hateful of those who haven’t been vaccinated because they themselves have been subjected to (or subjected themselves to) (and believe the lines) that “anti-vaxxers” are a menace and risking their children’s lives. But again, this lack context; one could counter this perhaps with other risks like parents driving their children to school or feeding them sugary snacks, or both. (The safest option might be to home-school them and feed them proper food, while not vaccinating them).

In The Sun article it is said that Health Secretary Matt Hancock has accused anti vaxxers of having “blood on their hands”. In this he’s essentially accusing them of murder. That’s a nice way to put them under attack and therefore instil yet more hate in the debate they don’t want to be having.

It has to be said that even using the term “anti vaxxers” sounds like an attack.

I have learned that antibiotics may be prescribed in measles cases. However, as we know antibiotics are becoming less effective apparently due to their increased usage, so why perhaps isn’t it that measles is evolving similarly and thus a decline in vaccinations perhaps not the whole picture? I prefer to believe our bodies and immune systems are quite well of protecting themselves without meddling with them.

As The Sun states “One factor is baseless scare stories spread on Facebook and Twitter, often from trolls and bots in hostile states such as Russia.” Again, is any evidence ever given when the finger is pointed at Russia; this just reads like hearsay and “news reports” do little to refute such things, rather, in this case at least, it just provides the other perspective, the “official one” if you care to allow parliament or indeed Boris Johnson to be your official. Make up your own opinion if you can.

I looked on Youtube, the best of all places, for some more substance but all I could really find were the alarming stories from places like New Zealand or Australia where people are “forced” to have their children stabbed with a needle and injected with some foreign substance immunised or face having their benefits cut. While it is of course an issue for families that rely on those benefits, personally I question deeply threats from the state such as this and it would give me cause to back away rather than give in; I feel the same regarding the letters I receive about voting here in the UK which go along the lines of “Give us your details or face a fine…” If faced with a fine for not voting, as is the case in Australia I believe, I’d still consider staying home, or if they really twisted my arm I’d do the bare minimum, such as turning up at the polling station, or voiding the form. My mum aired her views to me once when I mentioned not voting, with something about how her parents/my grandparents and other people of that generation fought to give us a voice and how we should honour that by voting, but I’m not convinced people really fought (or won) the war they were lead to believe they were fighting in, but that’s all beyond what this topic was supposed to be about.

Of course, I write all this on the back of reading Utopia 239 where the point is raised about us not being born into this world as free as we might well believe.

The Sun’s article:
https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/9748909/boris-johnson-social-media-fake-news-vaccination-stories

Here is an interesting piece from 2015 that questions the death rates associated with Measles – I was actually trying to find figures on “the chances of getting the measles” though:
https://2020science.org/2015/02/03/risk-dying-catch-measles

4 comments

  1. Good point about anti-vaxxers effectively hurting themselves while leaving vaccinated folks to quibble yet immune.

    I think the issue, primarily is that it’s the parents choosing to intentionally subject their children to diseases which have effectively been eliminated in the first world. Like the religious zealots who refuse medical care for their dying children on the grounds that God will save them, they’re using children as symbolic tools.

    What if I said that I refused to feed my child expecting God to provide spiritual nourishment? I’d be effectively ignoring all of science that insists that nutrition comes from ingesting food.

    Now, the major issue here is that government is not science. When The Man says you should do something, we all tend to balk, even if The Man has science on his side. “I don’t care what the guv’ment says, I ain’t gonna quit smoking.”

    Anti-vaxxers are here in the Northwest US too. And, indeed measles have seen a rise directly attributed to anti-vaxxers. But using that “fact” as ammunition to enjoin the zealots in argument is pointless if the “fact”s come from the untrustworthy government.

    Fake News? I think it’s always been in evidence. It’s called propaganda and has probably been used for centuries, ever since the printing press could pump out reams of leaflets portraying any and every fact or fabrication. I wouldn’t doubt that fake news was used during ancient Roman/Greek times.

    The internet is simply the best way to distribute such disinformation.

    (Never forget the standard distribution of IQ curve. 1/2 of all humans have an IQ less than 100. Of course, I could be making that up…)

    • I’m not sure all those parents who are against vaccines are intentionally subjecting their children to diseases, I think many are following the popular narrative that vaccines harm people (some people believe this is intentional). Sure, expecting God to feed your children while effectively starving them will kill them, that much will become obvious, but the issue with both the vaccines and measles is that the effects of them aren’t currently so obvious; health issues might appear years down the line that one could claim was due to childhood vaccinations, or measles may never strike, or if it does, it may pass on its own with no complication.

      Regarding “fake news” and the term propaganda, this piece seems to sum the current issue up quite well: https://www.quora.com/Whats-the-difference-between-propaganda-and-fake-news

      I’ll go with that IQ statistic; I prefer the sound of it over being of average intelligence.

      • Thanks for that link. I’m not really sold that fake news and propaganda are different. Maye we could say Fake News is propaganda’s little brother. I think the important point you bring up is that there are now layers, fake news about fake news.

  2. Australia does get around 2% of people (who were obliged to turn up to the polling station or risk a nominal fine) putting in an intentionally null vote. They made their choice!

    Vaccination is a little more complex. Constituents of vaccines I know of are well controlled and studied so you can look into them if you wish to learn more. The general consensus from the the medical profession and their research is the small individual risks of applying vaccinations are massively outweighed by the costs/impacts of treating the disease if left to spread naturally. Small reductions in vaccination rates increase the transmission and infection rates more rapidly than simple linear changes, so choosing to not be vaccinated has more impact on everyone else.

    The need to have as many people as possible vaccinated is also because there are people through illness/conditions/stage of development cannot safely have a vaccine. They enjoy the protection from everyone else not being possible carriers, rather than having to hide themselves away during those vulnerable periods.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s