Don’t Sacrifice The Good For The Perfect: Cathy Jameson’s “A Strong Message About Vaccines”

by Joel A. Harrison, PhD, MPH
Posted: February 4, 2015

Don’t Sacrifice The Good For The Perfect:
A Review of Cathy Jameson’s
“A Strong Message About Vaccines.”
(Age of Autism, January 18, 2015)


Executive Summary

Despite ever increasing outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases, resulting in unnecessary suffering, hospitalizations, long-term disabilities, and even deaths, the number of parents opting not to vaccinate their children is increasing. Websites abound encouraging parents to "rethink" vaccinations, that is, to avoid them. Should one pay heed to these warnings? Not if they display a lack of understanding of basic scientific principles and methods. Not if they display poor scholarship. And not if they display a blatant lack of common sense.

A recent article on Age of Autism, one of the more popular and influential antivaccination websites, displays a typical lack of any of the above. The author, Cathy Jameson, is a Contributing Editor to Age of Autism.

According to Age of Autism: "We are published to give voice to those who believe [my emphasis] autism is an environmentally induced illness." I emphasized the word "believe" as this paper clearly shows that Jameson's article reflects her antivaccination beliefs, devoid of any scholarly scientific information and based on an illogic that if applied consistently would have devastating consequences.

Jameson writes: "How can anyone continue to say that vaccines work and that they are effective when people who are vaccinated come down with the very disease the vaccine was supposedly going to prevent? Sadly, we hear nothing of that in these types of news stories. We hear nothing of how for those 11 people that the vaccines failed. That the vaccines were obviously not effective. But so says the vaccine industry. So says those benefiting from its profits."

In a second article posted a few days afterwards, "A Very Brady Measles" (Age of Autism, January 25, 2015), Jameson, apparently, bases her knowledge of measles either completely or mainly on a TV sitcom, the Brady Bunch, writing: "a TV family portrayed what real-life families encountered - surviving a short-lived disease . . . [just a] common disease of childhood."

To Summarize this Paper:

Jameson, posting an article on Age of Autism, a website where beliefs trump logic, science, and common sense, finds fault with the measles vaccine because it isn’t 100% effective. She complains that we are not told that vaccines don’t work 100% of the time, even though a web search would find this information and anyone assuming any medical intervention works all the time would be naive and foolish. Using her illogic, one would reject just about all interventions, ranging from penicillin to seat belts; although each have saved millions of lives, some have died despite their use.

In the real world, measles is a serious disease, "an entire birth cohort of approximately 4 million persons was infected annually. Associated with these cases were an estimated 500 deaths, 150,000 cases with respiratory complications, 100,000 cases of otitis media, 48,000 hospitalizations, 7,000 seizure episodes, and 4,000 cases of encephalitis, which left up to one quarter of patients permanently brain damaged or deaf." (Strebel, 2013, p.358) Even for the families of children who didn't experience any of the above, "the initial symptoms usually include a high fever (often > 40°C [104°F]) . . . malaise, loss of appetite, hacking cough (although this may be the last symptom to appear), runny nose and red eyes. After this comes a spot-like rash that covers much of the body. The course of measles, provided there are no complications, such as bacterial infections, usually lasts about 7–10 days." So, even the normal course of measles involves a week or more of suffering, a week or more of missing school, and a week or more of a parent staying home from work to take care of the child.

Regarding Jameson's implication that the vaccine industry cannot be trusted because they benefit from profits on their products, then one should not trust any product since everything sold is done so to make a profit. Using Jameson's logic, nothing we purchase can be trusted. The car companies build the cost of seat belts into the price of cars and the pharmaceutical industry makes a profit on antibiotics, insulin, and everything else they sell. Vaccines are complex biologics that are expensive to produce and have much more stringent regulatory burdens attached to them than for other drugs. Further, persons use vaccines only a few times throughout their lives, whereas many drugs require daily use, often for a lifetime. Drugs certainly generate more revenue than vaccines. An analysis of sales data from 2013 indicated that vaccine sales constituted only 1.82% of "Big Pharma’s" total annual revenues. The author of this analysis concluded that this is "essentially a rounding error in estimating revenues." In other words, the sales from vaccines is so insignificant in the context of total pharmaceutical sales that it’s practically not worth including when estimating revenue. (Skeptical Raptor, 2014)

The irony of this is that if vaccine manufacturers were to stop making vaccines their public image, already tarnished, would take an even bigger hit.

It would be nice if medical science could develop vaccines that worked 100% of the time with zero possibility of even the mildest side effects and perhaps someday they will or at least get close; but what we have today are vaccines that are exponentially safer than the actual diseases. Given the inaccuracies in Jameson's article and the fact that Age of Autism actually posted it, says a lot about the website, namely, that its articles lack any credibility. For another example of the poor scholarship, poor science, and deficient common sense displayed on Age of Autism, see my previous ECBT article (Harrison, 2015) and stay tuned for future ones.

In conclusion, Jameson literally doesn’t know what she is talking about. With vaccines, she sees the glass as, say 5% empty, rather than as 95% full. She sees a TV sitcom as giving an accurate portrayal of the real world. This is more than a lack of common sense, it's a prime example of the Nirvana fallacy of comparing actual things with unrealistic, idealized alternatives, creating a false dichotomy. Though it’s unfortunate that the measles vaccine doesn’t perfectly protect everyone, it does protect most, preventing unnecessary suffering, hospitalizations, disabilities, and even deaths. And, if everyone were vaccinated, then the risks to those with weaker immune systems would also be significantly reduced. In other words, "Don’t Sacrifice the Good for the Perfect"!

Read Dr. Harrison's full article as a PDF version by clicking here.