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Christopher "Tanoro" Gray is a web programmer and science advocate especially concerned with resource management technologies, biology, and artificial intelligence. He is a student of epistemology and philosophy as well as an Atheist competent in Christian theology.
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Fear-mongering and Facebook Friends
Posted by: Tanoro - Jan 31, 2012 2:28PM

VaccinationI've got a few hundred friends on Facebook. Many are people I know through various common online experiences. Many are people who added me for whatever reason, but with whom I have never spoke. It is not often I have to kick someone off my friend's list, but one of the randoms got the proverbial boot last night for nothing short of an outrageous display of dishonesty.

I was browsing through Facebook comments and stumbled onto a post by some random person who had added me at some point in the past. The post was to a news article at therefusers.com. The Refusers is an anti-vaccination website, so as many of you can already imagine, it is crammed full of bogus pseudo-science crap written by bloggers grasping at every conceivable straw to make their position look more sane than it really is.

This was the page being promoted in the post:

Natasha Bita, a journalist for The Australian has just won a Walkley Award (the Australian equivalent of a Pulitzer Prize) for an in-depth article series on the CSL Afluria flu vaccine, a shot that caused convulsions in one percent of Australian infants who received it.

To put this vaccine scandal in perspective, the CDC states that ‘seizures can occur after vaccination,’ 33% of infants who have a first seizure will have more seizures and 10% of infants who have one seizure can develop epilepsy.[3] According to the Merck Manual (the largest-selling medical textbook), seizures are a symptom of encephalitis, which the Merck Manual defines as a vaccine adverse reaction. Vaccine-induced encephalitis can leave a spectrum of permanent brain damage in its wake – post-encephalitic syndrome (aka epilepsy and autism). In other words, kids that have convulsions from Afluria can have lifelong neurological disabilities.[1]

Ok, so we have graduated this to a scandal. Let's play ball. I could shrug and say 1% is actually pretty good for a vaccine. You just need to monitor your child's health smartly and listen to your doctor. However, this article requires further attention. The fear-mongering here needs to be called for what it is.

Let's have a look at what the CDC actually said, according to The Refusers' own website.

...Monitoring that’s been done for the 2010-11 flu season suggests that when flu vaccine and 13-valent pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV 13) are given on the same day, there may be an association with febrile seizures in children aged 12 to 23 months...[3]

Ok, so 1% of infants who get this shot may get a "febrile seizure." So how bad are those?

Most children who have febrile seizures recover quickly and have no lasting effects. However, febrile seizures often result in a visit to an emergency room and can be very frightening for parents and caregivers. About 1 in 3 children who have one febrile seizure will have at least one more febrile seizure. Most children (greater than 90%) who have a seizure will not develop epilepsy.[3]

Ok, so a child having a febrile seizure can scare the pants off a paranoid parent, but they don't really have any lasting effect for most of us. Wikipedia seems to agree.

Febrile seizures most commonly occur in children between the ages of 6 months to 6 years and are twice as common in boys as in girls. ... Simple febrile seizures do not cause permanent brain injury; do not tend to recur frequently (children tend to outgrow them); and do not make the development of adult epilepsy significantly more likely (about 3–5%), compared with the general public (1%). ... The vast majority of patients do not require treatment for either their acute presentation with a seizure or for recurrences. The best way to manage is to control the temperature with acetaminophen (Paracetamol) or by sponging. When anticonvulsant therapy is judged by a doctor to be indicated, anticonvulsants can be prescribed. Sodium valproate or clonazepam are active against febrile seizures, with sodium valproate showing superiority over clonazepam.[4]

Oh, so these ferbile seizures that occur as a result of vaccination seem relatively harmless unless you're a paranoid parent. But didn't the first article say something about seizures being a sign of encephalitis?

The Merck Manual further defines the symptoms of encephalitis: "Symptoms of encephalitis include fever, headache, personality changes or confusion, seizures, paralysis or numbness, sleepiness that can progress to coma and death."[2]

Oh, I see. So seizures are merely one of many symptoms which lead to a diagnosis of encephalitis. So a simple febrile seizure alone isn't that bad and will most likely do no harm to your child.

After attempting to make a fair case for vaccination on Facebook, I was met with harsh criticism spotted with logical fallacies, called a "pathetic excuse for a human being," and ultimately had my comments removed by the owner of the wall who apparently didn't like encountering scientific data to counter his Refusers blog. In the presence of such outrageous censorship, I informed the individual that I would be removing him/her from my list, an announcement that was also deleted on-sight, and I immediately removed him.

All I can say at this point is, "Well done!" You are an excellent representative of the dishonest, anti-science, and censoring anti-vaxxer movement! It just saddens me that you will most likely go on to scare people into the same inanity that has a grasp on you.


  1. http://therefusers.com/refusers-newsroom/australian-journalist-wins-prestigious-award-for-exposing-flu-vaccine-scandal/
  2. http://therefusers.com/about/vaccine-epidemic-how-corporate-greed-biased-science-and-coercive-government-threaten-our-human-rights-our-health-and-our-children/
  3. http://therefusers.com/refusers-newsroom/cdc-says-seizures-can-occur-after-vaccination/
  4. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Febrile_seizure

This blog is an editorial and contains only the opinions of the author. The author claims no expertise on most topics of discussion and this blog is not to be cited as an alternative for properly vetted journalism or scientific sources.

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