How The Anti-Vaccine Movement Is Funded

April 18th, 2015
submit to reddit Share

Of all the modern anti-science movements out there, few are more dangerous or harmful than the anti-vaccine movement. Yes, it has killed people. It will continue to kill people. It has also resulted in huge amounts of money and resources being devoted to combating public health problems that should have (and in some cases were) eliminated years ago.

One thing that is very noteworthy about the movement is just how well funded it seems to be.  Obviously some of the funding comes from the fact that it often is a business and money is invested directly to make a return.  Many of the dishonest doctors who have spoken out against vaccines do so to make money directly.  In such cases, it is a self-funded enterprise, promoted like any other venture and funded by the sales of books, lecture tickets and various “detoxification” products and a like.

The alternative medicine world is very lucrative and has a great deal of interest in the anti-vaccine movement.  Many of the promoters are either directly or indirectly profiting from it.  Some may simply be pushing the message of homeopathy or other areas of quackery and the message against vaccines is simply part and parcel of the medical philosophy they choose to sell.

There are also true “grass roots” activists out there (read idiots).  They work on their own time and may even contribute their own money to efforts to stop the progress of vaccines in combating infectious disease.  However, these efforts are usually very amateurish in their style.

A few organizations stand out, however, as having a very professional and credible image which has clearly come from a well-funded effort targeted directly at discrediting vaccines.  Chief among them is the National Vaccine Information Center.  It is a non-profit that has paid for billboards and media campaigns against vaccines and runs one of the most visited websites on the topic.  What makes it stand out is how professional and well managed the effort seems to be.  The website is well designed and looks credible.  The information provided is also deceptively well worded.  They stay away from the more outlandish claims of things like chemtrails and Illuminati plots, but drive home a seemingly plausible story of deaths and injuries from vaccines.

Like many such efforts, they are hiding behind the false notion of “personal choice” in a matter which really only has one rational choice.  There is no valid scientific reason to oppose vaccines (unless you just hate humans and love pathogens.)   But the slick campaign and message makes it clear that there are deep pockets behind the effort.

Similar efforts have funded everything from advertisements in magazines to “independent” documentary movies on the topic.

It turns out that there are, in fact, some very wealthy individuals who are behind this. Their motive seems to be a genuine belief that vaccines cause harm. Clearly, you can be rich and still very stupid.

This video from CNN just scratches the surface of the issue:

 

(click here if your browser does not support embedded video)Unfortunately, it will be hard to take down these well-funded foundations. If these were rich individuals who were making money in a certain business sector, the
logical thing to do would be to destroy their companies through boycotts. Yet these foundations seem to be mostly founded by individuals with a lot of acquired wealth, which is not going anywhere. The Dwoskins do make money from a current property management group, but it would be hard to boycott such a company, since they have a limited number of clients, many of whom are locked into leases. Barry Segal is retired and just has a lot of money burning a hole in his pocket so little can be done there.

None the less, it is important not to become completely discouraged. This is not a grass-roots movement. It’s both a business sector and a campaign by some very twisted rich people. That should be all the more reason to get the message out and fight back.  Just getting out that message alone can do much to undermine the image the movement has worked to craft.


This entry was posted on Saturday, April 18th, 2015 at 12:37 pm and is filed under Bad Science, Quackery. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
View blog reactions



13 Responses to “How The Anti-Vaccine Movement Is Funded”

  1. 1
    DV82XL Says:

    What I cannot fathom is why these people would want to push this agenda. McCarthy I can understand – she is an attention whore that is leveraging her son’s condition into the semblance of a career, because without it she would have been just another of yesterday’s forgotten centerfolds. But what is driving people that on the surface should have enough intelligence to understand both the science and the implications of their actions?


    Quote Comment
  2. 2
    Q Says:

            DV82XL said:

    What I cannot fathom is why these people would want to push this agenda. McCarthy I can understand – she is an attention whore that is leveraging her son’s condition into the semblance of a career, because without it she would have been just another of yesterday’s forgotten centerfolds. But what is driving people that on the surface should have enough intelligence to understand both the science and the implications of their actions?

    I know people who totally. 100%, truthfully, believe vaccines never prevented a disease and are evil/toxic/cause autism.

    They are not rich. But why would being rich exclude you from believing this?

    From what it sounds like, these are just some morons with deep pockets, who actually believe vaccines are evil.

    You see the same thing with religion. How many rich idiots have helped finance major movements to destroy freedom from religion or to discriminate against gays or something like that.


    Quote Comment
  3. 3
    DV82XL Says:

            Q said:

    But why would being rich exclude you from believing this?

    Unless you were born into it, or were incredibly lucky, getting wealthy takes a rather hard-nosed attitude and a certain degree of moral and ethical ambivalence. Somehow this doesn’t jive with the desire to talk others out of getting vaccinated where there is no potential for a return. I do understand the motives of those who reject vaccinations in the middle class (who are ostensibly better educated than the lower classes) because as a group they are desperate to regain the control that they believed they once had over their lives. Rejecting immunization is, for them, the same sort of spiteful, self destructive behavior one sees in rebellious teens. Someone without that sort of chip on their shoulder, pouring funds into an antivax campaign, with nothing to gain, and with a track record of being able to make the right decisions is not that easy to understand.

            Q said:

    You see the same thing with religion.

    That’s a bit different – those pushing a religious agenda with their wealth are trying to buy their way into heaven. Ultimately they feel the press of their own mortality and Christ’s aphorism about rich men and the eyes of needles.


    Quote Comment
  4. 4
    Bryan Says:

    It is a little surprising. But note that they do mention “family foundations,” so perhaps the family member who is actually sitting on the money and calling the shots is not the same one who actually managed to earn it?

    Here is some good info on these foundations:
    http://www.harpocratesspeaks.com/2013/08/a-snapshot-of-deep-pockets-of-anti.html

    For the Dwaskins, it almost sounds like the wife is the wacky one and maybe the husband is just a weak-spined “yes, dear” type of guy? I really don’t know.

    It’s really disgusting to see so much money going to this cause. That’s for sure.

    I also agree that the National Vaccine Information Center is pretty dangerous with just how professional and well designed and managed they seem to be. However, Generation Rescue is pretty damn bad too!


    Quote Comment
  5. 5
    Bryan Says:

    Also, some of them do definitely have money they did not make themselves.

    RFK Jr. has been one of the biggest famous faces pushing this crap, second to Jenny McCarthy. He’s contributed absolutely nothing to the world, but comes from a family dynasty of wealth.


    Quote Comment
  6. 6
    JasonC Says:

    Of the “holy trinity” of anti-science movements: anti-nukes, anti-GMO, anti-vaccines, the anti-vaccines movement seems to be losing ground the fastest. Of course, it also has just enough of a foothold to do a lot of damage.

    Some people are wising up to GMO food not being dangerous or they’re moving their goal posts as to why they object to them. But nukes just seem to be getting the cold shoulder and not gaining much interest. All of this is just my personal observation, but if the anti-vaccines movement dies, hopefully some of the others might die off too.


    Quote Comment
  7. 7
    DV82XL Says:

            JasonC said:

    Of the “holy trinity” of anti-science movements: anti-nukes, anti-GMO, anti-vaccines, the anti-vaccines movement seems to be losing ground the fastest.

    Opposition to vaccination has existed as long as vaccination itself. Critics of vaccination have taken a variety of positions, including opposition to the smallpox vaccine in England and the United States in the mid to late 1800s with the creation of anti-vaccination leagues on both sides of the Atlantic. This didn’t come to an end in the U.S. until a major outbreak of smallpox at the end of the 1800′s there prompted several mandatory vaccination laws. In 1905 the U.S. Supreme Court. ruled that the state could enact compulsory laws to protect the public in the event of a communicable disease. Thus the two elements that were needed to suppress the antivaxers were a public scared spitless by an epidemic, and government leadership that was willing to put on a pair of pants and pass legislation.


    Quote Comment
  8. 8
    drbuzz0 Says:

    I have been recently engaged in a project to attempt to quantify the number of deaths attributable to the anti-vaccine movement. There is an “anti vaccine body count” which puts it in the 8000′s since 2007. I don’t think that’s entirely fair. What I am going for is this: if the modern anti-vaccine movement had never started, how many people would be alive who are dead. It’s hard to quantify.

    There has been an anti-vaccine movement for years, that’s true, but it was generally pretty fringe. It was not having a huge impact. it came back in the 1990′s. It was almost entirely the work of Andrew Wakefield and it went mainstream. It started with autism. If you look at the vaccine refusal rates, they were very low in the early 90′s.

    So the question I ask is this: if Wakefield had dropped dead before he published his study of lies, how many more lives would not have been snuffed out.

    I’m doing this by going through each country and each disease and looking at the numbers and the trends from before the movement started and after.

    Lets take, for example, the United States and Pertussis (Whooping Cough):

    Pertussis reached its lowest incident numbers in the mid to late 1990′s. It stayed low until a little after 2000. This was after steady decline for more than 20 years. At the time, the United States saw very few deaths from Pertusis. If the trend continued you’d expect that by the 2010′s, the number of deaths per year would be well under five. Maybe 1 or 2. Three in a bad year.

    It’s much higher than that. I think it was 9 last year. Mostly babies.

    It’s similar elsewhere in the Western world. Canada (which has a lower population than the US) should have been going most years without any deaths and only occasionally getting one death. Two would be a lot for Canada to average per year. But between 2000 and 2012 there were something like 20 pertusis deaths in Canada. There should have been less than five. Canada has had a couple of big outbreaks.

    The same is true in Australia. By this point, Pertusis deaths should be a rarity in Australia. They are getting a steady few of them per year.

    The trend continues in the UK and many EU countries.

    Now we can continue this for other diseases. By the 1990′s, the number of deaths due to menigococcal was about 100-150 per year in the US. That’s a lot, and it’s partially because the vaccine was not as widely deployed as it should have been. But efforts were being made and the CDC had projected that by 2010, they would have cut that in half or more. They didn’t. Actually, it has gone slightly up.

    We see the same thing in other industrial countries. It’s killing more than it should elsewhere too.

    We can continue this with other disease. Some are harder than others. For example, influenza is hard to pin down because the death rate naturally varies from year to year by a lot. But we know that if more people got he vaccine it would be lower and we know that the anti-vaccine movement has impacted public health initiatives aimed at increasing flu vaccinations.

    Now none of this is even considering the impact of where the message has spilled over into less developed countries. We know the anti-vaccine groups have managed to spread their message into India. India had a high rate of vaccine preventible illnesses, but the WHO, international groups and the Indian government had been making steady progress. The antivaccine movement has reduced their success in fighting diseases in places like India and Pakistan.

    I’m putting in a lot of work trying to parse these statistics, and, honestly, it’s starting to bother me a lot how many it is totalling up to be.

    We might not know the true number. Conservatively, however, it’s thousands. It’s realistically likely to be over 5,000 worldwide over the past decade and a half. A disproportionally high number of them are children and infants.

    Of course, right now, I am only looking at deaths. There are other impacts. For example, there are children in India who are crippled today because pilio was not eradicated from their country when it should have been. The last case of an Indian child being paralyzed by polio was in 2011. It should have been a few years earlier.


    Quote Comment
  9. 9
    DV82XL Says:

            drbuzz0 said:

    Canada (which has a lower population than the US) should have been going most years without any deaths and only occasionally getting one death. Two would be a lot for Canada to average per year. But between 2000 and 2012 there were something like 20 pertussis deaths in Canada. There should have been less than five. Canada has had a couple of big outbreaks.

    While I think think trying to work out the body count is a great idea there are some confounding variables you should be aware of if only because you just know the bastards will try and throw it back in your face. One of these is the Canadian pertussis situation. For some reason that is not abundantly clear we have never had this disease under full control up here, and sporadic outbreaks were occurring before the current antivax movement got underway and kids were routinely getting the DTaP-IPV-Hib vaccine series in numbers that should have kept it a bay. The best bet is that too many are missing the booster dose they are supposed to get 14 to 16 years of age, but because this isn’t being done through the schools anymore, it’s hard to say for sure.

    Of course the actions of the anti-vaccine movement are doing nothing to help this situation because 14 is the age at which a person is considered able to make decisions about their own health care without input from their parents and after that point their physicians are bound by non-disclosure. One would have to assume then that some are rejecting the booster, (if indeed they are even bothering to see a doctor if they are not sick and just missing it) and thus maintaining a pool of infection in a group that anyways has broad general social contact, and probably is unwilling to practice voluntary quarantine.


    Quote Comment
  10. 10
    drbuzz0 Says:

    This is turning out to be a lot of work. At this point, I’m really only getting the US done. I’ll move onto other countries next. I’m trying to stick to countries where I know the anti-vax movement has taken hold.

    The numbers are high, even despite the fact that I’m trying to be conservative.

    Just whooping cough alone: Signifficant outbreaks of the disease didn’t happen from 1992 to 2000. In that same period of time, the number of deaths per year never went above 7. Most years it was around 4 or 5. The CDC, at the time, had projected that it would continue.

    Since then it’s risen and has been between 10 and 20 most years. The worst year was 2005, when there were 31 deaths.

    If the numbers had stabalized around what they were in 1998 or 1999 (not even considering that they could have gone down even further) then about 150 lives would not have been lost.

    It looks like the numbers for Hib are going to be similar.


    Quote Comment
  11. 11
    DV82XL Says:

    Steve have you checked out this site?

    ANTI-VACCINE BODY COUNT


    Quote Comment
  12. 12
    Gordon Says:

            DV82XL said:

    Steve have you checked out this site?

    ANTI-VACCINE BODY COUNT

    I have seen that site, but there are some things I don’t understand about it. Why is it just since 2007? hasn’t the movement been around for a lot longer?

    Also, where are they talking about? Is it just the United States or is it the whole world?

    I can understand excluding the non industrial countries of the world, because it’s always a struggle to get people immunized there, but the autism scare started in England and it’s now big all over the world. I know the US and Canada and UK all have the problem and I’ve heard Australia too has a big anti-vaccine movement.


    Quote Comment
  13. 13
    DV82XL Says:

            Gordon said:

    I have seen that site, but there are some things I don’t understand about it. Why is it just since 2007? hasn’t the movement been around for a lot longer?

    There have been antivaxxers since Edward Jenner’s time, so I guess they had to pick an arbitrary starting point

            Gordon said:

    Also, where are they talking about? Is it just the United States or is it the whole world?

    This is only U.S. data as gathered by their Center for Disease Control.


    Quote Comment

Leave a Reply

Current month ye@r day *

Please copy the string EBgCZm to the field below:

Protected by WP Anti Spam