Health official tries to debunk vaccination 'mythology'

“I guess what frustrates me is the amount of mythology out there,” Dr.David Butler-Jones, the head of the federal public health agency, toldreporters this week when asked what bothers him about the theories andfears about the swine-flu vaccine circulating online and in schoolparking lots.

He says it is like believing that umbrellas cause downpours and blaming ice cream for sunburns.

“I guess what frustrates me is the amount of mythology out there,” Dr. David Butler-Jones, the head of the federal public health agency, told reporters this week when asked what bothers him about the theories and fears about the swine-flu vaccine circulating online and in school parking lots.

“The anti-vaccine movement, really, its efforts are to create doubt so they keep throwing things out. ‘Oh, it causes brain damage.’ Well, you prove that it doesn’t cause brain damage. ‘Oh, it causes cancer.’ Well, you prove it doesn’t cause cancer. ‘Oh, it causes your car radio to die,’” Butler-Jones said.

The so-called anti-vaccine movement — or a loose collection of concerned parents and PhDs on the lecture circuit trying to educate the public about the dangers of immunization — has been around for decades but has gained strength with the rise of social networking and citizen journalism.

They swap lists of vaccine ingredients. They analyze medical research. When they are celebrity couple Jenny McCarthy (whose son was diagnosed with autism) and Jim Carrey and their non-profit organization Generation Rescue, they link vaccines to autism.

The Vaccination Risk Awareness Network is not trying to tell people what to do, said its co-ordinator Edda West.

“We absolutely never go there. We don’t have the right to take upon ourselves responsibility for what other people do with their health,” West said yesterday. “Our role is to put out information that we can from all sorts of sources.”

But public health officials worry the ideas of the anti-vaccine movement are playing a role in pushing people already hesitant to get the H1N1 pandemic vaccine into the “no, thanks” camp.

 
 
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