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SYFY WIRE Bad Astronomy

Mark Zuckerberg: Pro-Vaxxer

By Phil Plait

Speaking of vaccinations, I’m always pleased when someone in the public eye supports them. On Friday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg posted the photo you see above, with the simple caption, “Doctor's visit -- time for vaccines!”


And I don’t think his making this statement is just a throwaway line, either; last year he made a point of the importance of vaccines in a Facebook post, saying:

Vaccination is an important and timely topic. The science is completely clear: vaccinations work and are important for the health of everyone in our community.

Zuckerberg is on the side of reality here, and he knew a lot of people would see that.

Of course, the anti-vaxxers descended on him in his most recent post, spewing their usual nonsense. There are far too many to enumerate here, but scanning through them I saw the same themes over and over … and ones that are long debunked. For example:

“There are toxins in vaccines!” (for example, this commenter). Actually, as doctors say, dose makes the poison. There are toxins in everything—literally everything—but not in high enough amounts to be dangerous. For example, there’s formaldehyde in some vaccines, but it’s less than you’d get eating a single apple, and it’s far less than what’s in even a baby’s body just naturally.

Remember: Jenny McCarthy, beloved anti-vax advocate, talks about toxins in vaccines all the time, but enthusiastically injects a deadly poison in to her forehead.*

“Vaccines make millions of people sick!” (example). No, they don’t. First, vaccines don’t cause autism. They just don’t. And anti-vaxxers list a litany of injuries, but the evidence they provide is never scientifically based. It’s just anecdotes. And just because someone got sick after getting a vaccination doesn’t mean the vaccine caused it. Also, remember, proving injury by vaccine is far easier in the legal system than it is scientifically.

“Vaccines kill more people than they help!” (example). That’s just completely made-up nonsense. And if it had even a glimmer of truth, we’d see death on a scale never before experienced in human history. After all, vaccines have saved hundreds of million of lives … and that’s just from smallpox.

“The CDC is covering up a connection between vaccines and autism!” (example). No, they’re not.

“Babies have natural immunities!” (example). They do? From pertussis, measles, varicella, diphtheria, influenza, HPV, hepatitis, polio? From freaking smallpox?

The reality is, unvaccinated babies get those diseases because their immune systems can’t handle fighting them, a fight vaccines help them win. Without that boost, babies can get these diseases, and some die.

I could go on and on, but you get the point. Anti-vaxxers talk and talk and talk, but all they have are stories, conspiracy theories, and nonsense (Sesame Street introduced an autistic character to normalize vaccine injuries? WHAT?).

Those of us on the side of reality have evidence. And lots of it. We also have the evidence that shows that anti-vax claims are wrong.

Don’t fall for it. Talk to your board-certified doctor and find out if you or yours need your vaccinations. It’s not just for you, but for everyone around you, too.

*Some people may object to my praising Zuckerberg while condemning McCarthy, because they’re both celebrities. This completely misses the point. I’m not condemning her because she’s a celebrity, I’m condemning her because she’s wrong. If Zuckerberg were anti-vax, I’d hand him his head as well. The thing is, people do listen to celebrities, and that’s just the way it is, so when one does the right thing, I like it and praise it, just as I have done with Kristen Bell, Amanda Peet, and Sarah Michelle Gellar.*

*Correction, Jan. 12, 2016: This post originally misspelled Kristen Bell’s first name.

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