Hillary Clinton’s Almost Perfect Vaccine Tweet

There’s been a lot of buzz in the news over the past couple of days regarding measles and vaccines. After both Rand Paul and Chris Christie each stumbled on the subject, I was please to see Hillary Clinton weigh in on Twitter with an almost perfect tweet:

Almost perfect.

Yes, the science is very clear. Vaccines work. And they are safe. Much safer than not using them. And yes, let’s protect our kids.  Had she left it at that, it would have been a perfect tweet.

But then there’s that ridiculous hashtag: #GrandmothersKnowBest

Admittedly, the hashtag does not diminish the truth of the preceding statements. And no doubt, her intent was to remind people that she is a grandmother who cares for children and grandchildren. Unfortunately though, the hashtag is reminiscent of Jenny McCarthy’s idiotic claim to knowledge via her “mommy instinct.”

Being a “mommy” or a “grandmother” (or a “dad”, or an “uncle”, etc.) does not offer a mystical path to scientific knowledge. Science does. Scientific knowledge is not a matter of opinion. It is a matter of consensus, provisionally held, arrived at by way of the process of science.

One does not have to be a scientist to appreciate (and benefit from) the incredible benefits of science. In fact, the benefits of science touch each and every one of us countless times each day. But, for a variety of reasons–partisanship, religiosity, etc.–a disturbing number of people look distrustfully, even disdainfully, at science. My friend, Ben Kunz, captured this idea quite eloquently in a recent discussion:

This is why I get mad at people who selectively believe in science, like it’s an optional cafeteria menu: Aerodynamics make super-heavy things fly through the air? OK, I’ll believe, I need to take a plane. Pocket computers can magically connect invisibly to anyone in the world? Sure, I love mobile Facebook! Vaccines are safe because they’ve been tested in hundreds of studies? Naw, scientists don’t know what they’re talking about.

So, overall, kudos to Hillary Clinton for standing up for science in general and standing up for vaccines specifically. Her vaccine tweet was almost perfect.

2 comments for “Hillary Clinton’s Almost Perfect Vaccine Tweet

  1. Don
    February 3, 2015 at 9:45 pm

    Your analysis iwould be more complete and more fair, I think, if it also mentioned Hillary’s 2008 anti-vaxx statement. After all, it only took Gov. Christie and Sen. Paul 48 hours to get to the “right” position.

    • February 3, 2015 at 11:02 pm

      Don, I didn’t recall that Hillary made any antivax statements in 2008, but perhaps she did that I’m not aware of. I did a little Googling and did find these answers Hillary gave to vaccine related questions during the 2008 campaign as reported by the notoriously anti-vaccine Age of Autism:

      Do you think vaccines should be investigated as a possible cause of autism?

      “I am committed to make investments to find the causes of autism, including possible environmental causes like vaccines. I have long been a supporter of increased research to determine the links between environmental factors and diseases, and I believe we should increase the NIH’s ability to engage in this type of research. My administration will be committed to improving research to support fact-based solutions, and I will ensure that the NIH has the staff and funding to fully explore all possible causes of autism.”

      What will you do to protect Americans, especially young children and pregnant women, from exposure to mercury through vaccines?

      “I will ensure that all vaccines are as safe as possible for our children by working to ensure that Thimerosal and mercury are removed from vaccines. I plan to fully invest in our research agencies so they can protect our children’s health, and so they can find the causes and cures for conditions such as autism.”

      These statements are not particularly anti-vaccine. We should bear in mind that these answers were given two years before Wakefield was thoroughly discredited and his paper withdrawn by The Lancet. Thus, at that time, there was still an paper published in a reputable scientific journal claiming a link between vaccines and autism. I can understand then candidate Hillary being cautious about a possible connection. But her emphasis on “fact-based” solutions is considerably more reassuring than citing a “mommy” (or “grandmother”) instinct.

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