If you think it's just about mercury when it comes to vaccines, you're wrong
These thoughts came to mind when I came across this discussion on the James Randi Educational Foundation forums, where I discovered just how pervasive antivaccination attitudes are on some discussion boards. I had known this from my past involvement in debunking quackery on Usenet on newsgroups such as misc.health.alternative and on altie websites like Whale.to and CureZone, but I hadn't encountered it on this sort of forum before. For instance, on the parenting forum Mothering.com, there was this disturbing challenge about vaccines posted by someone using the 'nym Jen123 who was identified as a "Senior Member" (registration required if you want to see the actual forum):
Mercury seems to be getting tons of coverage. When that deal is settled and we win, we need to go after another ingredient. We'll dismantle the vaccine industry ingredient by stupid ingredient if we have to.
Who is with me?
Although this was written in a semi-facetious tone, subsequent discussion demonstrated that this woman was serious. To her, it's not just about mercury. It's about vaccines. Here is a sampling of the depressing replies:
Actually I believe that the chickenpox vax does have fetal tissues in it.**
Eh, every time we win on one though, they'll just throw another creepy ingredient in.
Yeah, what about aluminum? Formaldehyde is a carcinogenic. It boggles my mind that some people are ONLY worried about mercury when even without mercury they still contain carcinogenics and nuero/blood toxins (oh and antibiotics in some.) Yummy.
In another 50 years or so, they'll make the connecting b/w vaxxes and alzheimers, soon teenagers will be getting it with all the aluminium they are being injected with. I really believe our life span is going to be decreasing- everyone will have some sort of cancer, and will be dieing at a younger age. But no one agrees with me irl
These days, vaccination is a victim of its own success. In this country, diseases that once killed or crippled thousands are now vanishingly rare. Since these diseases are now so uncommon, thanks to vaccination, people have forgotten how horrible they were and now only see the very uncommon complications of vaccination and complications for which the evidence is dubious at best. Unfortunately, we know what can happen when vaccination rates fall; diseases once thought conquered can return. Remember that as you watch or read news accounts of this "Power of Truth" rally.
The problem is, this issue has become more about ideology and a need to find a scapegoat than about science. Scientifically, the question of whether mercury causes autism or not is very close to being settled once and for all in the negative. Indeed, if there is no dramatic decrease in the number of new cases of autism and ASDs over the next five years or so (as there has not been in Canada or Denmark), given that thimerosal has been removed from nearly all childhood vaccines, that would pretty much put the final nail in the coffin of the hypothesis that mercury causes autism--scientifically speaking. Unfortunately, I'd bet money that it won't put the issue to rest among activists. I've come out and said that, should there be a dramatic decrease in the number of new autism cases over the next five years, I would eat crow and admit that I was wrong. I wonder if David Kirby (who has recently misread fresh California statistics as showing a decrease in autism rates when the figures show nothing of the sort) or J. B. Handley (who states bluntly that "autism is a misdiagnosis for mercury poisoning") will make the converse promise. If autism rates don't fall dramatically in the next five years, will they admit that they were wrong and that autism isn't caused by mercury, at least not in the vast majority of children and then work on getting money and research dollars directed to more valid and promising areas?
Don't count on it.
**There are no fetal tissues in vaccines. The viruses used to make certain vaccines are cultured and maintained in human cell lines that were derived from a fetus. One of these cell lines has been around since the early 1960's. Big difference.