What Does “Green Our Vaccines” Really Mean?
“Green our vaccines!” has been the rallying cry of anti-vaccinationists for the past few years, and there’s no denying the marketing appeal of this latest catchphrase. It plays on real concerns about our environment, as well as the current popular cultural meme of “greening up.”
It’s a very clever and convenient way for anti-vaccine groups to move from the specific, falsifiable hypotheses that have, in fact, been falsified—thimerosal=autism, MMR=autism—to a much broader indictment of vaccines, and one that is especially easy for the average layman to grasp. After all, who doesn’t like “green” products? Who doesn’t hate “toxins?”
But I’ve never seen a satisfactory explanation of what “greening our vaccines” should entail, other than the nebulous and scientifically naive admonition to “get the toxins out.”
“You say you want safer vaccines. OK then, please, define for us exactly what you would define as ‘safe enough.’ Be very specific. What rate of complications for which vaccines would be ‘safe enough’? What rates of various infectious diseases against which these vaccines protect would be acceptable in order to balance the risk-benefit ratios. Please justify your conclusions with reasoning and citations of appropriate peer-reviewed scientific papers.
“You castigate vaccines for having ‘toxins.’ You’ve apparently backed off on formaldehyde, accepting that it’s a normal byproduct of human metabolism and that a baby makes more formaldehyde in a single day than is contained in the entire vaccine schedule. However, what ‘toxins’ would you remove? Be specific, and provide evidence that these ‘toxins’ actually cause harm.
“What specific evidence would it take for you to accept that vaccines are safe relative to the risk of disease and to start recommending that your patients vaccinate other than ‘reluctantly.’”
I don’t think anyone argues that safer vaccines wouldn’t be better. But we need to spend our collective time and money on eliminating known and quantifiable risks, rather than chasing unicorns like “green” or “toxin-free” vaccines.