Sticks and Stones: The Truth behind Pharma’s “Anti-Vax” Name Calling Tactics

Today the terms ‘Anti-Vaccine,’ ‘Anti-Vax’ and ‘Anti-Vaxxer’ are all commonly used labels in the media when discussing anything related to vaccine safety concerns. A simple history lesson would remind us the terms ‘Pro-this’ and ‘Anti-that’ can be used to create and perpetuate the polarizing of sides of any issue. But let’s delve a little deeper where the term ‘Anti-Vaxxer’ is concerned. Who are the people receiving this label, and what’s the real purpose behind it?

Consider this bit of history: In the late 1970s and early 1980s, many civil lawsuits were brought against the pharmaceutical industry due to brain damage and deaths caused by vaccines. The vaccine makers appealed to the U.S. government, complaining of having to pay out for these damages, and threatened that they would cease vaccine production if the government didn’t intervene. They successfully lobbied and convinced lawmakers that, without their product, mass illness would return and destroy the country.

So Congress passed the 1986 National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act, which (as few outside the vaccine injury community know) granted vaccine makers full immunity from any liability for injuries or deaths caused by their products. Vaccines became (and remain) the only product in the U.S. that enjoys freedom from liability when their products cause harm.

This freedom from financial liability, the guaranteed market created by the CDC’s vaccination recommendations, and the lack of safety testing required for vaccines (as opposed to what is required for every other pharmaceutical drug) made vaccines an extremely attractive and lucrative business model. Not surprisingly, within a few years, loads of new vaccines were soon developed and rushed to market, and the U.S. vaccine schedule tripled and continues to grow today.

As the CDC’s schedule morphed into children receiving dozens and dozens of shots (many given simultaneously, even though this practice has never been tested for safety), the number of people having adverse reactions increased dramatically as well. To date, even though the government has worked hard to deny two-thirds of all claims filed with the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, they have still quietly paid out more than $3.5 billion in tax-payer dollars to families for vaccine injuries and deaths [Update: that amount is now more than $4.2 billion as of 2/1/2020].

Realizing the risks these vaccine injuries posed to the success of the Vaccine Program, those invested in the schedule’s rampant growth – including the vaccine makers, the CDC, public health officials and many paid doctors – went to work attempting to downplay these reports. The media avoided covering vaccine injury stories like the plague, and instead became flooded with stories aimed at staunchly denying vaccine risks, continuously declaring vaccines to be categorically “safe and effective,” and hyping the risks of generally benign childhood illnesses.

However, as the vaccine schedule grew and more families were affected by vaccine injury, word of previously-healthy children becoming chronically ill, permanently disabled, and even dying following routine vaccination continued to spread. The pharmaceutical industry and those pushing the CDC’s untested, ever-growing schedule became more desperate to discredit these stories. Through a very carefully planned PR campaign, they coined and marketed the term ‘Anti-Vaxxer’ to malign and marginalize families telling their stories.

Let that sink in for a minute: the ‘Anti-Vax Crackpots’ (an actual term used by the media) are largely the people who showed up, followed the rules without question, vaccinated according to schedule, and then their children were permanently harmed. They are not the tin-foil-hat-wearing-anti-science-moms this PR campaign would have everyone believe.

The rest of the ‘Crackpots’ are those who saw it happen to others and, as a result, were inspired to do their own research before blindly consenting to the CDC’s bloated schedule. Once they researched and learned that chronic illnesses, permanent disabilities, and deaths are all acknowledged and listed as potential side-effects on vaccine package inserts, some parents chose to forgo some or all future vaccines for their children. Others vaccinate selectively or slower than what the CDC would want. All of these folks are lumped under the polarizing ‘Anti-Vax’ label and made out to be a selfish, societal threat.

The ‘Anti-Vaxxers’ have even been blamed when vaccinated individuals contract and spread disease due to documented vaccine failure. That’s right. Although it makes no logical sense, and amid no proof, mainstream media outlets (on behalf of the pharmaceutical industry – their biggest advertiser) use spoon-fed talking points from public health officials to constantly suggest that vaccinated people are contracting diseases because of a tiny percentage of ‘Anti-Vaxxers’ opting out of vaccination. While there is literally no scientific evidence that unvaccinated children are sicker or more likely to carry disease than those that are vaccinated, this ‘Anti-Vax’ campaign has somehow convinced people that those who do not blindly and dutifully following the CDC’s recommendations cause harm to others. 

Given that even the CDC admits that “no vaccine is actually 100% safe or effective for all children” and our government has called vaccines overall “unavoidably unsafe,” we learn that despite being publicly touted as categorically “safe and effective” to the masses, the CDC’s vaccine program carries known, expected, and apparently even acceptable collateral damage in the form of injuries and deaths to some children.

The truth is that every single day, parents who show up at well-baby visits on time and vaccinate according to schedule are never warned about the potential for their children to be part of the unfortunate collateral damage instead of the oh-so-lucky greater good. They are left to find out the hard way. And if it happens to their child, they join the ranks of the ‘Anti Vaxxers’ and are accused of putting others at risk because of their selfish and dangerous beliefs.

Those profiting greatly from the growing vaccine schedule would love to see ‘Anti-Vaxxer’ continue to be used derogatorily towards those whose family members have been harmed by vaccines. It’s like free advertising for Pharma, as countless people unwittingly spread their propaganda.

So the next time you hear ‘Anti-Vax’ in the news or are tempted to use this term yourself, recognize this misnomer for what it is: an intentional attempt to malign those who, after learning the hard way, dare to question rather than fall blindly in line where vaccines are concerned. The truth behind the label is what they desperately want to keep buried.

Originally posted January 2017. Updated February 2020

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