(Before anything else, a point: the main thing that separated me from the skeptic community, and led to the creation of Autistics Against Anti-Vaxxers was that often the skeptic community would just stop at saying vaccines don’t cause autism. Well, as the title says Vaccines Don’t Cause Autism, But That’s Not The Point. Stop Being Ableist. I fight anti-vaxxers not because I’m a scientist but because they hate me and think I’m broken. Please when you hear us being mentioned go the extra mile and actually say that being autistic isn’t horrible. The root of this movement sticking is them believing that and it’s hell.)
After my Autism Speaks Resource Toolkit went so well I thought I’d do the same treatment for another bane of autistic people, anti-vaxxers…one of which is currently the President of the United States (his election turned me from fighting them for fun to becoming highly political which will be a different article). This one is a lot longer because they have a lot of arguments so I’ll first have a guide to what each one is then the in-depth explanation to make it so you can easily find each claim that I’m debunking (it also took hours to put together so sharing around would be really appreciated). I chose the picture because if you’re going to be called a plague by these people you might as well have fun with it…anyways, here we go:
First: Table of Contents
- Progenitor of the autism-vaccine connection and the issues with him
- Explanation of being nonverbal/head banging the two things that are oft pointed out as signs of vaccine damage
- Correlation between rise of autism diagnoses and vaccine usage
- “Where are all the old autistics?” argument for proof of “autism epidemic” (cw:suicide)
- “High functioning” autistics can’t speak for “low functioning” autistics
- Chemicals in vaccines
- Spacing out vaccines
- Package inserts/VAERS
- Vaccines all about the money
- Vaccine injury compensation
- “My child, my choice.” Herd immunity, why the vaccinated can get measles, and the lives lost.
- The origin of the vaccines causing autism myth was this ex-doctor named Andrew Wakefield. Andrew Wakefield wrote a paper saying that the MMR vaccine causes autism, one which has been repeatedly debunked (link to 107 studies debunking the link here, anti-vaxxers accidentally funded a study debunking themselves), condemned by multiple other science organizations (here and here), and retracted from the medical journal. He also lost his license. This was not because of a secret Big Pharma conspiracy, it was because he was paid by lawyers the equivalent of $535,832.00, and had his own version of the vaccine. He also took blood samples from children without their parents’ consent at his son’s birthday party, charming individual. He wasn’t originally an anti-vaxxer at all, just a terrible human out for profit who didn’t care if he caused measles epidemics and started a movement that is based on hatred of me and mine. He migrated over to the US and somewhat recently made a hate film called Vaxxed, which was an hour and a half long movie of bad effects and horrible parents often calling their kids vaccine damaged in front of them.
- The main things that anti-vaxxer “autism moms” point to often as signs of “vaccine injuries” are kids not being able to speak or banging their heads against the wall. Well to the former, as I mentioned in Why Is How You Communicate So Special? our focus on spoken communication as a society is harmful, and there are many ways of communication either by simple behavior (because behavior is communication) or multiple variants of alternative forms of communicating. A parent just needs to actually care about their kid in order to look for these ways. And headbanging or other self-injurious behavior is often a form of stimming, a way of dealing with overload (read this for more information about what stimming is and if you or someone you’re caring for has a stim like this check out The Dark Side of the Stim for more help). Pain drains other things out, I’m a master at appearing “high-functioning” (please read this on my personal experience of the hell of that label) and I still do that when everything gets too much.
- They like to point that the rise of autism diagnoses correlates to the rise in vaccine usage. First off, correlation doesn’t equal causation, as this fun site allows you to show by creating your own random correlations, because by their same logic sunlight in California causes people to go to Seaworld in Florida, people visiting California Adventure causes dogs to kill people, and Nicolas Cage making movies causes people to drown in swimming pools (an unrealistic reaction to his movies no matter their quality). But besides that easily debunkable fallacy, I always make sure to correct people by saying rise of autism diagnoses not the rise of autism itself. That’s because this is a huge point, as their fearmongering and statistic charts are based around saying that the amount of people being autistic is growing when in reality our understanding of what autism is and how broad of a spectrum it is is growing which is awesome and needs to grow more as I explained here. When autism was first diagnosed in the US psychiatrists would only diagnose a very very small amount of people with an even more limiting criteria than we have today, and there’s major issues when it comes to diagnosing people who aren’t white or aren’t guys. It’s also hard and often unnecessary to get a diagnosis as an adult (there aren’t many services for autistic adults so unless you need it for validation it’s a large amount of money for no point) so if you were born when the diagnostic criteria were exclusive then unless you fork out the money you won’t be counted under that number and even if they do a lot of psychiatrists will base their decision on whether or not to diagnose us on how we present when we’ve learned to look NT…there are a lot of self-diagnosed people also not under that umbrella, long story short, we have ages to go to make the diagnosis number match the number of actual autistic people.
- Where are all the old people with autism? Most of them are dead. Can we stop denying their existence and start trying to make a difference? Article title is both a talking point in addition to an explanation, one of the things they mention is if autism isn’t caused by vaccines then where are the old autistics, as the article says those of us that have a learning disability and are autistic (like myself) have an average lifespan of 40 years and those who don’t have an LD are 9 times as likely to commit suicide (and the diagnosis thing in the previous point) . As opposed to wondering where the old autistic people are please change yourselves and the world to make it a place that doesn’t make us die younger/want to kill ourselves more/has more accurate diagnoses so there are more of us alive.
- Sometimes people will tell us “high-functioning” autistics we don’t speak for “low-functioning” autistics because we’re not autistic or “less autistic”. Well, there’s no such thing as more or less autistic, “low-functioning” autistics have said we do speak for them, and being put in this high-functioning” box literally (not being melodramatic read this) kills us, forcing us to internalize everything until we can’t be ourselves (caused myself a meltdown explaining that here) this is an erasive tactic designed to invalidate our experiences and deny our voices.
- Another scare tactic is to point out the dangerous chemicals, especially aluminum formaldehyde and thimerosal (variant of mercury). Everything has chemicals, the amount of them is what matters (the dose makes the poison, even drinking too much water can kill you), anything can sound scary if you list out the chemicals in it (like your blood), aluminum is the most common element, there’s much more formaldehyde in a pear than a vaccine, thimerosal is ethylmercury which goes through your system unlike the deadly methylmercury found in tuna, and despite its harmlessness thimerosal has been removed from every vaccine other than the multi-dose flu vaccine. This is a good breakdown of the Toxic myths about vaccines.
- A common middle ground approach is to get all the vaccines just spaced out. The vaccine schedule is planned out, and spacing them out is actually harmful.
- Anti-vaxxers think the government is evil and lying about everything…except in package inserts and this site called the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System or VAERS for short, in which case because they can be used for fearmongering they are telling the absolute truth. Ignoring the doublethink, both of those things are easily misunderstood. VAERS allows you to put any event like the one time someone said vaccines made them the Incredible Hulk (this is a list that breaks down deaths attributed to the HPV vaccine) and vaccine inserts have many different categories with different meanings including the adverse reactions section which doesn’t require any evidence of causation to be mentioned. which is why the adverse reaction section for Aspirin looks like this.
- Vaccines are all about the money…except there are layers and layers of why that’s wrong, and it’s a bit disingenuous to talk about the profit margin of “Big Pharma” when “Big Placebo” makes so much more.
- Big numbers are scary, so they mention that the US has spent $2 billion in vaccine injury compensation paying out to 3000 claims (as of 2012 in the articles). These are big numbers, but not for a program that has been around since 1988. Broken down one person estimates that $0.99 cents have been rewarded for every vaccine administered and that the percentage of compensations to actual vaccines administered is 0.003%, both of which look a lot less intimidating.
- “My child, my choice. If your kids are vaccinated, why do you care?” This sounds like a just argument, but it isn’t. There’s this thing called “herd immunity.” Essentially, the most vulnerable of us can’t vaccinate, so when a large enough population vaccinates it prevents epidemics from spreading and hurting those who are vulnerable. The lack of it is what led to the 4-month-long Disneyland outbreak that had a total of 159 measles cases from 18 states and DC (and yes some vaccinated people got it, there’s a reason for that, and those who were vaccinated bounced back quicker and didn’t spread it). That didn’t cause deaths despite infecting almost half the country thankfully, but others aren’t so lucky. And if you don’t want to listen to me, listen to the parents of a child with cancer who got measles and the parents of this 32 day old baby who died of the whooping cough. It’s not just their kids, and people die from their choices.
If there are more claims that you run into let me know and I’ll edit this to add more data and please share there are literally 49 links in here that I hunted down as backing for arguments because they need to be fought, it was a huge amount of work (and if you find this useful and want to compensate me [I’m out of a job at the moment and need money for a new car and rent so could use assistance] I have a Paypal and Patreon).