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Who’s On First? The Sometimes Zany World of Twitter by Sandy Gottstein

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These days I seem to be spending my life on Twitter as it has enormous potential to reach vast numbers of people. Recently I got embroiled in a loony Twitter thread involving the fact that breast-feeding is thought to be protective against Haemophilus Influenzae B (Hib). I decided to share it because a) Japan just suspended 2 vaccines after 4 deaths were associated with them, one of which was Hib, and b) it exemplifies how ridiculous many of the unquestioningly pro-vaccine people’s arguments can be, if you can call them that.

Hib is an issue I have been aware of for years because the Hib vaccine came out when my younger son was in Montessori preschool. Having previously stopped almost all vaccines (by 1987, reluctantly sticking with the one for tetanus), I was wary to now introduce a new one. So I did some research. What I discovered gave me the information and courage I needed at the time to avoid the Hib vaccine since even back then there was evidence that breastfeeding was protective against Hib, and my son was still nursing.

It all started when someone tweeted, “Why do we vaccinate against Hib?”

I “replied” that breastfeeding is protective against Hib and provided this old link: /DailyNews/May2001/Breastfeeding.htm

The entire thing, not surprisingly, degenerated into accusations that I am anti-vaccine and “opposed preventing suffering and death”. (I mean, who doesn’t?)

When I followed with a bunch of breastfeeding and Hib articles, including a couple that I noted did not support my thesis, and explained that I wasn’t “promoting” anything, just providing links to medical literature regarding the issue, I was told that I was advocating breastfeeding over vaccinating and that I only had to “ask mothers of babies dying of pertussis if you agree”. (Say what?) And to carry on with my “stupidity” since I apparently didn’t care about children dying of pertussis. I was then chastised for being a “tool” because I was “scouring twitter to start arguments”.

Of course my replying, among other things, that I was only trying to provide information fell on deaf ears.

After having an apparent pediatrician deliver her pronouncement that “Every baby needs Hib vaccine- breastfed or not- period...”, I noted that another pediatrician had asked this question: "Did we trade invasive Hib for pneumococcal invasive disease?" Then I posted some VAERS data (1,2) that showed a large number of reported serious adverse conjugated Hib vaccine-associated reactions, including death, noting that we did not know the actual numbers or their true significance (“tip of the iceberg”? causally related?). As well as posting a link to Hilary Butler’s excellent piece “The Perilous Hib”.

Someone then really laid into me with this cogent question “... Is it ONLY the literature that supports your argument? “ Um, yes.

I was then accused of all sorts of things which are now missing because I blocked a tweeter after he falsely accused me of saying things I never said and then attacked me when I responded. (He then threatened to block me if I didn’t behave, so I beat him to the punch.)

There was lots more, but you get the gist.

It was all par for the course; irrational, crazy-making by smug and mean people who congratulate themselves for caring about diseases, but don’t give a hoot about vaccine injury or death. Kinda’ like trying to herd eels. Or like trying to make sense of Abbott and Costello in their famous skit, Who’s on first?

It would be hilarious if it was funny.

It’s not all bad news, though. The more they dig in their heels, the more they twist our words and the truth, the more they call us names, it would appear the more people question the safety of vaccines. 54% of parents, according to Pediatrics, are now “concerned about serious adverse effects of vaccines”. Moreover, “nearly 9 in 10 parents rank vaccine safety, and the effectiveness and safety of medicines, as the most important topics in children’s health research today”. This is a sea-change in attitude. (Appropriate for eel herding?) And good news indeed.

Sandy Gottstein

Date: 3-9-2011

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“Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.” – Wendell Phillips (1811-1884), paraphrasing John Philpot Curran