Weasel words

So far this year, the United States, which eliminated measles in 2000, has seen 465 measles cases across 19 states. The majority have occurred in ultra-Orthodox Jewish neighbourhoods in Brooklyn and Rockland county, New York, where parents have shunned the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine, seemingly influenced by claims that the vaccine is not “kosher” because it contains “pig DNA”. In fact, the final product is highly purified and most rabbis accept that vaccines are not prohibited by religious laws.

Most rabbis is not all rabbis. And who are the most likely to be out of step with most? The ultra-Orthodox, that’s rather what it means.

Nope, not saying that they’re right, not saying that vaccine dodging is a good thing. Only that that argument, as given, is a particularly weasel one.

39 thoughts on “Weasel words”

  1. Yes, shocking. He’s basically saying the vaccine does contain “pig dna” (whatever that means), but hoping nobody notices.

  2. It will get worse. Social fashions tend to start at the top and work down the class scale. When the suggestible classes adopt the conspiracy theory of vaccination things will get very bad.

  3. I don’t understand what the problem is.

    I got measles as a boy, it didn’t kill me. Same with chickenpox. Aren’t these fairly trivial childhood diseases?

    The vaccination crusade appears to be comprised of people who think (a) we can wrap children in cotton wool and shield them from all the little bumps, scrapes and hurt feelings of life and (b) your children are the property of the State, so it’s somehow illegitimate of you to disagree with what government “experts” want for them

  4. @steve

    I got measles as a boy, it didn’t kill me. Same with chickenpox. Aren’t these fairly trivial childhood diseases?

    For most people yes, for some very definitely no. Measles can leave you permanently deaf, brain damaged or dead. Long term heart or nerve damage are also possibilities.

  5. At a barbecue a dad told me he just got his kids privately vaccinated for chickenpox.(not then avlbl on NHS) I queried whether that was really necessary, i had it, not a big deal. But he said: ‘put it this way if they get it I lose 2 nights sleep. I’m willing to pay 80quid for that not to happen. I thought fair enough.

  6. “I got measles as a boy, it didn’t kill me.”

    I had the whole lot: Measles, mumps, German measles and chickenpox, yet I’m still here. In fact, I think all the kids at my primary school had the full set.

  7. Measles kills around 100,000 a year world-wide, down from around 700,000 twenty years ago, largely due to vaccination.

  8. Jonathan – Yarp. I read CJ and Arthur’s accounts of how dangerous measles can be and it surprised me, because nobody behaved as if it was potentially deadly when I were a lad (taking loaves to Old Ma Peggarty up cobbled streets on t’ bicycle).

    You just got a few days off school and soon bounced back. Maybe that was the same sort of happy ignorance that also allowed us to walk a mile to school unaccompanied by adults and play outside all day without supervision in the summer.

    So I dunno. Personally I’m in favour of vaccination, but I do reckon we have a pathological culture of hovering over children and trying to shield them from any sort of unpleasantness, which is understandable but counterproductive.

    You can see it in popular culture. The Snowman couldn’t get made today. Watership Down would be protested. And The Goonies simply wouldn’t make sense to kids these days.

  9. ” Personally I’m in favour of vaccination,”


    I’d guess one reason for the worry is that parents, largely thanks to vaccination, aren’t as used to having their children get sick as they were 50, or even 30, years ago.

  10. Let me put this slightly harshly. Steve, you’ve got kids, you’ve told us so. Now, imagine you had 4. The old days, before vaccination (and this is proper old days, before smallpox vacc) you would expect, on average, one of those four children to die from one of the childhood diseases. Smallpox – Ben Franklin’s son went that way and he regretted not having him vaccinated, obviously – measles, polio, all that lot. Whooping Cough, whatever the rest of the list of 21 (??) vaccs that kids get these days. German measles is more dangerous later, during pregnancy, so the vacc is to get it out of the population, not to protect that specific individual.

    But death rates from these diseases were horrendous.

    Starkly, there’s a reason they don’t really make white coffins any more and vaccinations are the reason why.

  11. The other thing is, for some at least of these diseases, the vaccination rate in the population has to be very high (well over 90%) for it to be effective in preventing transmission.

    I had the full set as a child & recovered. I think all the kids in my class did too, but they all are serious for a small percentage of the population. A friend of mine didn’t get chicken pox as a child, and when he got it as an adult, he was seriously ill in hospital for a while. I don’t see vaccination as a ‘coddle the kids’ thing – it’s for the benefit of the whole population, and it is arguable that vaccination is one of the few things that a government is justified in compelling.

  12. “nobody behaved as if it was potentially deadly when I were a lad ”

    That’s because when you were a lad infection was inevitable and there was no vaccination. You just had to take your chance.

    “Watership Down would be protested.”

    Watership Down was remade (again) last year you moron.

  13. TimW: ’Starkly, there’s a reason they don’t really make white coffins any more..’

    They do, but these days the threat is the next door chav’s unrestrained American bulldog, not a minuscule virus…

  14. Ted S, Catskill Mtns, NY, USA

    Smallpox – Ben Franklin’s son went that way and he regretted not having him vaccinated, obviously

    No regrets, since Jenner introduced the vaccine six years after Franklin died.

  15. Tim – Yarp. The missus and I follow the NHS’s advice on getting the sprogs their jabs. We generally trust doctors, except for the one Spanish chap who insisted the cold, damp night air would be good for our toddler’s respiratory infection.

    I’m not a vaccinosceptic, but I am a vaccinophile-sceptic. If tiny religious communities or whatnot want to take the risk their kids get measles, seems to me they probably won’t do much harm (medicine has come a long way since the 19canteens even excluding jabs) and in any case they have a natural human right to reject vaccines.

    I don’t think (tho I might well be wrong) that the increasing hysteria about vaccines is necessarily about what it purports to be about. Like many sociocultural stramashes, the superficial rhetoric is just a shadow play.

    I reckon it’s coming from deeper social anxieties about modernity, The Science, demographics, the credibility of experts and so on.

    I also reckon helicopter parenting is a reaction to unhealthily low birth rates. People are putting all their genetic legacy in fewer baskets, then treating those baskets as if they’re as delicate as Faberge eggs.

    Unless it’s a tomboy/feminine laddie, in which case – off to the gender clinic they go.

    That’s my inchoate tuppence worth anyway.

  16. Watership Down was remade (again) last year you moron

    Thanks for proving my point, BiGs:

    a toned-down, fluffier remake of Richard Adams’s distinctly un-fluffy 1972 classic Watership Down […] the new version has drawn fire for pulling its punches when it comes to the level of brutality – among the animals themselves, but especially at the hands of humans…


  17. Steve,

    “I also reckon helicopter parenting is a reaction to unhealthily low birth rates. People are putting all their genetic legacy in fewer baskets, then treating those baskets as if they’re as delicate as Faberge eggs.”

    This is pretty much my theory, although I think the age of first birth is also a factor. If your toddler gets killed and you’re a 21 year old woman, you’ve got plenty of eggs left to be used. When you’re a 40 year old woman, you don’t.

    And I’m not talking about reasonable risks, here. Holding their hand when they cross the road, that sort of thing. I mean the whole paranoia about harm that leads to parents being unable to take photos of a school play, or that any employer hiring a 15 year old has have all staff CRB checked.

  18. Bloke in North Dorset

    Getting the population vaccinated is as much about protecting those that can’t be vaccinated as it is about protecting those that can.

    The herd immunity level is different for each disease but if enough free riders opt out eventually herd immunity breaks down and those that didn’t have a choice become the victims.

  19. @Tim. it was inoculation”

    “In 1736 I lost one of my sons, a fine boy of four years old, by the smallpox taken in the common way. I long regretted bitterly and still regret that I had not given it to him by inoculation. This I mention for the sake of the parents who omit that operation, on the supposition that they should never forgive themselves if a child died under it; my example showing that the regret may be the same either way, and that, therefore, the safer should be chosen.”

  20. BoM4 – definitely. People are almost treating their kids like those little Pekingese lapdogs. There’s a lot to be said for younger parents, they don’t worry as obsessively as middle aged folks do.

    BiG – My point is they wouldn’t make something with that level of graphic violence and emotional trauma, and aim it at children, in 2019. Or Mumsnet would go mental. Because we coddle our children to an unprecedented degree

    The Guardian article is quite interesting btw:

    When Channel 5 ran the Rosen film on the afternoon of Easter Sunday in 2016, there was an outcry on social media from parents appalled that their children had sat down to watch a cute cartoon about bunnies and seen one ripping another’s throat out.

    Now, whether this is a good thing or not, I can’t unambiguously say. I was, like many Gen Xers, somewhat emotionally mugged by Watership Down, The Plague Dogs, The Snowman, When The Wind Blows, etc. as a child.

    I’m sure they left marks, and I wonder if Millennial emotional fragility and safe space seeking is related to them only being fed happy, clappy media. (But perhaps Gen X cynicism bordering on nihilism is also not exactly a blessing)

    On the other hand, I can’t bring myself to expose my own children to unhappy stories. I don’t want to see their little eyes full of tears and fears at Fiver’s Powellian vision of blood, or the jolly magical snowman dead in a puddle of dirty slush on Christmas Day.

    I’m in an ethical pickle!

  21. Yet mumsnet actually did go mental at the bowdlerizing!

    You can find people to go mental at anything, and another (or sometimes overlapping) group of people to go mental at its diametric opposite.

    The fact of people going mental, or of your projection of people going mental, tells us nothing whatsoever.

  22. You were traumatised by *The* *Snowman*?!? What on earth by? Was there some icicle-on-icicle shivving or kiddie fiddling I missed?

  23. When I was a lad I was told that earlier I had had “whooping cough without the whoop”. That was a thing, apparently.

    Anyway, I am confident that my mother will have kept a record of all my childhood “jabs”. But when she died we couldn’t find it.

  24. You were traumatised by *The* *Snowman*?!?

    Fucking yarp.

    Let’s recap: after a night of magical Yuletide adventure which involved flying to meet Father Christmas, the red-headed tyke skips downstairs to greet his jolly snowman pal…

    …only to find he’s melted into a dirty puddle. So it ends with a little boy, bereaved and alone. At Christmas.


    ♫ We’re walking in the air… ♫

    Anybody who says that isn’t an emotional gutpunch to a five year old child is either a liar or a bloke who has lived among the heartless huns of Germany too long.

    And no, they don’t make kids’ films like that anymore. I should know, I’ve seen every episode of Paw Patrol.

  25. @Steve April 14, 2019 at 10:33 am

    Me too. Measles, German Measles – twice, Chicken Pox, Whooping cough, cuts, stitches, broken arm, broken teeth etc whilst at prep school in 60s/70s – I’m still alive.

    imo Blair creature damaged trust in MMR vac by refusing to say if his creation received it.

    Die from above: Darwin Award – we’re driving evolution backwards.

    World: measles deaths down from 0.7 million to 0.1 million pa out of 7,000 million – saving 0.7m or 0.1m is cost worth it?

  26. @Bloke in Germany April 14, 2019 at 12:53 pm

    Watership Down was remade last year as touchy feely pc drivel ( – you moron)

  27. Well the Japanese don’t seem to have any qualms about aiming emotionally wrenching stories at children.
    Go take a look at Grave of the Fireflies to see what I mean.
    I’ve watched it once and have never been able to summon the wherewithall to watch it again.
    I have to say though, that as a nation we have become considerably wussified compared to any time in our past.
    Perhaps not being sent off to boarding school or having to go out to work at 12 years of age has made us soft. The British ‘stiff upper lip’ is firmly in the past.

  28. ‘So far this year, the United States, which eliminated measles in 2000, has seen 465 measles cases across 19 states.’

    ‘Eliminated’ ???

  29. It came back in. You need to nuke the rest of the world for the elimination to be permanent.

    Speaking hypothetically…

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