Scaremongering, MMR Vaccines, and the Price of Freedom

Posted February 7, 2009

There is a flurry of blogging at the moment about Jeni Barnett, who has a radio show on LBC in the UK. I have strong feelings about this, so I going to jump in, hoping that enough exposure will get some people to listen.

Dr. Ben Goldacre, who seems to have started the flurry on Bad Science, notes that MMR vaccination uptake in the UK has dropped to less than 50%, which is absolutely appalling. It is not surprising that the number of confirmed cases increased 38% in 2008.

I could not immediately find the rate of MMR vaccination in the US, but I was pleased when my quick internet search turned up site after site of entries documenting evidence refuting its elusive link to autism.

I hopped from site to site to find the audio of Barnett’s show, which is still available on the Lay Scientist’s blog and a YouTube feed at Potblack Cat’s blog.

If you don’t want to take the 40 minutes to listen, here’s my summary of the idiocy:

On the show, Ms. Barnett discusses the social stigma of choosing not to subject your child to MMR “jabs”.

She says, “If you’re not part of the herd, if you’re not mooing with the other cows…”


She makes it sound like a fad! This is not a choice of which color to paint your house.

Personal freedom MUST be tempered with public safety. Some vaccinations are a matter of public safety. Any choice to ignore the carefully considered recommendations to vaccinate your child puts more than your child at risk, it puts all of us at risk. It is not a private choice.

Living in a society, no matter how large or small, invariably involves giving up some personal freedom. This is not restricted to obeying laws against murder and paying taxes to pay for fire trucks. You may not put the safety of others at risk by using a freeway for a sidewalk. You may not drive drunk. You may not, in this country at least, call 911 when you do not have an emergency.

Although vaccinating our children is not a law, perhaps it should be. We do not allow people to refuse to educate their children, but we allow them to endanger their children and ours in the name of personal freedom.

In the show, Jeni argues that it’s a matter of personal freedom, then ASKS to be told by an expert what measles is, what is in the vaccine, and what’s wrong with childhood illness like mumps. So she opened her mouth without any knowledge of the topic whatsoever. Who hired this woman?

An idiot caller, who eventually says she went to college to train to become a homeopath, was asked, “If there’s a case of measles at your children’s school or if there’s a case of mumps or chickenpox, what do you do?”

Her reply:

I say, great! Come on, kids, let’s go get it! Because children get childhood diseases for a reason. It’s to boost their immune system so that later on in life when they come in contact with those diseases, it doesn’t affect them so severely. That is why they’re called childhood diseases.


They’re called childhood diseases when (and because) they occur in childhood. There is no grand scheme of nature to expose children to disease in order to “boost their immune system”. Just who would be carrying this out this plan, ensuring that people get diseases at specific times in their lives? The viruses?

The caller further shows her ignorance by including in her list of “the only reasons that children become severely ill from these diseases” cases in which the child was given too many antibiotics. Apparently, she thinks that antibiotics suppress the immune system.

Jeni reiterates that getting a child vaccinated is an individual choice, as if it is the equivalent of breast feeding or whether to send your kids to public school.

When a caller points out that all of the evidence supports the conclusion that the MMR fears are unwarranted, she says, “Does that make it right?”

Um, yeah.

Statements made by her or her callers/texters & read by her:

  • A big pharm conspiracy is behind the science
  • Vaccines have cancer-causing agents
  • Countries with high rates of vaccination also have high rates of allergies
  • She’s been told wrong things by doctors before (or, at least she thinks they were wrong)
  • Her unvaccinated child is strong & healthy
  • The Department of Health frightens people

She defends spreading this misinformation by pointing out that you can find these statements on the internet, then says that she doesn’t want to “scaremonger”!

Then she asks, if drugs are so great, why aren’t they free?


She really doesn’t know why these things aren’t free?

Um, maybe because they do not grow on trees?!!

Drugs and vaccinations are the work of man. The WORK of man.

This reminds me of something I heard Hillary Clinton say during the presidential campaign, “Everyone has the right to have access to quality health care.”

Everyone in this country HAS the right to have access to quality health care. Not everybody has access for financial reasons. However, doctors have the right to charge for their services.

Many people seem to think that all doctors (who go to school for a very long time and at great cost) are rich. They seem to think that doctors are obligated to work for free. They seem to think that medications, vaccinations, tests, equipment, facilities, supplies, and knowledge simply appeared out of thin air and were put there for everybody, but some greedy bureaucrat saw it first and decided to charge us all for it.

The questions we need to be asking are not about rights, but about how to pay for high quality care for everyone. I’m not saying that the health care system is perfect. Frankly, I think the insurance industry is a mess. But that doesn’t mean that there is some conspiracy to scam the public out of everything they own by lying to them about the effectiveness of treatments.

So, what should YOU do about it? Well, for starters, don’t just “live and let live”. Don’t tell your friends, “It’s okay to choose not to vaccinate your kids. Everyone has to make up their own mind.”

I’m usually all for personal choice. But, in this case, it’s not a matter of personal choice any more than the choice of whether or not to drive your car onto train tracks (used by passenger cars) in order to commit suicide.

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