#StopTenPenny because #vaccineswork

Anti-vaccine disease advocate Dr Sherri Tenpenny is coming to Australia.

We don’t want her to. The #StopTenPenny campaign is asking the Immigration Minister and Health Minister to disallow her visa on the grounds that she’s a loon and a fucking menace to public health. I wrote this today.

Dear Ministers

I write to you to express my concern about the impending visit to Australia of prominent anti-vaccine campaigner Dr Sherri Tenpenny.

Dr Tenpenny is a proponent of potentially fatal misinformation regarding vaccines. Among the lies she promotes is the particularly pernicious falsehood that vaccines cause autism – a link which has never been scientifically demonstrated or even shown to have baseline plausibility. Not only that but the originator of the autism-vaccine link claim, a UK doctor named Andrew Wakefield, has been revealed as a fraud, with his deeply flawed and unethical autism-vaccine Lancet study retracted and his license to practice medicine in the UK revoked.

While it is true that some vaccines can have side-effects on some patients, the incidence of such effects is so low that the benefits of immunising children outweigh the minor risks by several orders of magnitude. “Herd immunity” – a percentage of vaccinated children of 75-90% depending on the disease – is vital to protect those children who, for legitimate medical reasons, cannot receive vaccines as normally scheduled.

I understand that people have a right to free speech, but if Dr Tenpenny is allowed to evangelise to Australian parents about the entirely fabricated causal links to autism and the other paranoid conspiracy theories she promotes, she will present a real and undeniable danger to public health. Irresponsible attitudes such as Dr Tenpenny’s have already caused a resurgence in preventable childhood diseases such as measles and pertussis in the UK, Australia and particularly in the US, with many preventable deaths occurring.

I call on you to immediately investigate any and all reasonable routes to barring Dr Tenpenny from access to Australian parents. Her message is based on fear, ignorance and on warped ideology and not on good science. Anyone taking her advice risks not only their children’s health but the health of everybody those children will come into contact with.

Regards, etc

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2 thoughts on “#StopTenPenny because #vaccineswork

  1. Nothing wrong with healthy discussion and debate. There is no shortage of information from organisations or individuals whose income depends on the proliferation of vaccines so why not allow an opposing voice. We are a democracy right???

    • The trouble is that people like Tenpenny don’t debate healthily and don’t discuss honestly. The overwhelming scientific evidence states conclusively that vaccines are safe and effective for most people, that there is absolutely no proof or even prior plausibility that vaccines cause autism, that side effects are very rare and usually mild, that the benefits outweigh the risks significant and that herd immunity is required in order to protect those with suppressed immune responses or serious illness from infection.

      The other problem with citing our democracy is that scientific fact is not determined by popular vote. The truth does not lie in the middle of two opposing positions; it is what it is and we do ourselves no favours seeking balance by inviting debate from fringe denialists.

      Additionally, people citing drug companies’ profit motives regarding vaccines often aren’t aware that vaccine production is not only a minor income stream, it often runs at a loss. Many vaccines are unpatented, so no one company has exclusive rights, and are often sold cheaply or even donated to poorer areas of the world.

      Meanwhile, the vaccine “debate”, kicked off by Wakefield (whose fraudulent, unethical study was spurred by a conflict of interest – he was developing his own vaccine to rival the MMR, on which he blamed autism) has seen diseases like measles and whooping cough return to parts of the UK and US, leading to the preventable deaths of children.

      Yes, we’re democratic and should allow free speech and debate – but whether vaccines are or safe or cause autism isn’t a debate. It’s an unevidenced conspiracy story cooked up by an unethical quack and has killed children.

      Free speech can’t be absolute. Saying to parents “don’t vaccinate” is an incitement to panic and invitation to tragedy.

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