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Vaccine Rejectionism Spectrum Disorder

March 26th, 2011 · 22 Comments · Critical thinking

“Anti-vaccine doctor met with Somalis” went a recent headline in the Minneapolis StarTribune. It refers to Andrew Wakefield, the disgraced former UK physician who reanimated a moribund anti-vaccine movement in the US and elsewhere with his fraudulent 1998 Lancet paper. Wakefield was in the Twin Cities last week to reassure Minnesota’s 70,000-strong Somali population that the measles outbreak that has stricken 11 persons to date is not his fault, and that it isn’t really an outbreak anyway, and it’s OK to keep on not vaccinating. Five of the 11 victims are unvaccinated Somali children.

Not all Somalis are buying the shtick. When Wakefield’s one-man listening tour stopped at the Safari Restaurant in Minneapolis last week, five parents reportedly showed up, one of whom was there to call Wakefield a liar.

Back to the headline. Wakefield’s noisy apologists object to calling anybody, much less their idol, anti-vaccine. To vaccine rejecting parents, the A-word is the new scarlet letter, one that unfairly characterizes their purported interest in vaccine safety. “There is no anti-vaccine movement,” says Paul King, PhD, of the Coalition for Mercury Free Drugs (CoMeD). The acronym’s scarlet A is silent – King is partners with Mark Geier, the notorious Maryland physician who blames vaccines for autism, and who chemically castrates autistic children under the guise of “treatment.”

The anti-vaccine description can be misused. One can legitimately question and even criticize the way the medical establishment immunizes the population against the diseases that panicked our grandparents. The vaccine program is constantly scrutinized, analyzed, and tweaked by researchers who understand the relevant disciplines, and to call those folks anti-vaccines would entirely miss the point. What we refer to as “anti-vaccine” is really a spectrum of disordered thinking that is best characterized by indifference to facts and reason. Less severe cases include parents who heed Dr. Bob Sears’s advice to “go slow” on their child’s shots, to the more severe cases of germ theory denialism.

So to better help writers, editors, parents, and others to define “anti-vaccine”, AutismNewsBeat offers the first-ever diagnostic criteria for Vaccine Rejectionism Spectrum Disorder. Feel free to criticize – that won’t necessarily make you anti-criteria.


Vaccine Rejectionism Spectrum Disorder (VRSD)


Vaccine Rejectionism Spectrum Disorder is an umbrella term applied to individuals who mislead others, through spoken and/or written communications, about the risk of vaccines and vaccination.

The five VRSDs are Pervasive Anti-Science Disorders. They are classified as Crank Disorder, Handley Disorder, Reason Disintegrative Disorder, Jay’s Disorder, and Pervasive Anti-Science Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (PAD-NOS).

PRSDs are characterized by severe and pervasive impairment in several areas of reasoning skills; communication skills; or the presence of stereotyped talking points, interests and activities.

The qualitative impairments that describe these conditions vary significantly compared to the individual’s investment in vaccine rejectionism.

Crank Disorder

A.  A total of six (or more) items from (1), (2) and (3) with at least two from (1), and one each from (2) and (3):

  1. Qualitative impairment in logic and reasoning, as manifested by at least two of the following:

a. belief that vaccines have never been proven effective

b. failure to understand the difference between virus and bacteria

c. belief that it is better to “get the disease” than the vaccine

d. belief that all disease can be prevented by proper nutrition, exercise, and chakra balancing

2.   Reliance on certain primary communication sources for health information:




d. Rescue Angels

3.  Restricted repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behavior, interests and activities, as manifested by at least one of the following:

a.   encompassing preoccupation with the Amish and/or Somalis

b.  apparently inflexible adherence to the DAN! protocol

c.  stereotyped and repetitive anti-vaccine talking points, e.g., “Allopaths kill people, too!”, “Only a pharma shill would say that atoms have electrons.”

d. persistent preoccupation with the Simpsonwood Conference

B. Delays or abnormal functioning in at least one of the following areas: (1) providing relevant links in web comments, (2) proper use of capital letters (3) admitting a mistake

C. The disturbance is not better accounted for by Handley Disorder or Reason Disintegrative Disorder.

Handley Disorder

A.  All of the following:

  1. stubborn adherence to baseless ideas, even when those ideas contradict one another
  2. projecting one’s own lack of integrity on others (see Offit Derangement Disorder)
  3. normal head circumference at birth

B. Onset of all of the following while surfing the internet:

  1. inflated sense of importance
  2. loss of any previously acquired purposeful reasoning skills
  3. loss of empathy (although often social interaction with D-list celebrities develops later)
  4. appearance of poorly coordinated media relations strategy
  5. severely impaired moral compass

Reason Disintegrative Disorder

A.  Apparently normal understanding of scientific method until interaction with peers who harbor vaccine rejectionist attitudes and beliefs

B.  Clinically significant loss of previously acquired reasoning skills in at least two of the following areas:

  1. understanding the difference between “correlation” and “causation”
  2. having a polite and constructive dialogue with your child’s pediatrician
  3. healthy skepticism
  4. ignoring day-time talk shows
  5. recognizing one’s own biases

C. Abnormalities of functioning in at least two of the following areas:

  1. qualitative impairment in answering relevant questions
  2. vacuous appeals to authority
  3. strawman argumentation

D. The disturbance is not better accounted for by another specific Evidence Developmental Disorder or by Palin Infatuation Syndrome

Jay’s Disorder

Qualitative impairment in mounting a coherent argument, as manifested by at least two of the following:

A. Qualitative impairment in social interaction, as manifested by at least two of the following:

  1. marked impairment in the use of the empirical evidence
  2. failure to develop appropriate professional peer relationships
  3. a preference for personal observations and anecdotes over data and evidence

B. Restricted repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behavior, interests and activities, as manifested by at least one of the following:

  1. encompassing preoccupation with seeking the approval of celebrities
  2. embarrassing oneself in front of a national television audience
  3. confusing what might be true with what is proven
  4. persistent preoccupation with junk science

The disturbance causes clinically significant impairment in social, occupational or other important areas of functioning

  1. There is no clinically significant general delay in billing patients for services
  2. There is no clinically significant delay in adaptive behavior (other than in peer interaction)
  3. Criteria are not met for another specific Pervasive Anti-Science Disorder or Dr. Bob Syndrome

Pervasive Rejectionism Disorder Not Otherwise Specified

This category should be used when there is a severe and pervasive impairment in the development of reasoning skills, or when stereotyped anti-vaccine talking points, interests and activities are present, but the criteria are not met for a specific Pervasive Anti-Science Disorder, Warrior Mom Personality Syndrome, or Mercola Personality Disorder. For example, this category includes atypical anti-vaccine presentations that do not meet the criteria for Crank Disorder because of atypical symptomatology, or sub-threshold symptomatology, or both of these.



22 responses so far ↓

  • 1 sharon // Mar 26, 2011 at 4:00 pm


  • 2 Broken Link // Mar 26, 2011 at 4:18 pm

    I think it would be interesting to try to diagnose several of the well-known anti-vaxers. Anyone want to take a crack at a DX according to the criteria above for:

    Kim Stagliano
    John Best
    Louise Kuo Habakus
    JB Handley (can he be other than Handley disorder?)
    Kathy Blanco

  • 3 Kathleen // Mar 26, 2011 at 4:43 pm

    I never thought I’d laugh at a disorder..;0

  • 4 David N. Andrews M. Ed., C. P. S. E. // Mar 27, 2011 at 3:05 am

    Why the hell are they not going to be in DSM V?

    Oh – I know … there’s no money to be made from them!

  • 5 lisa // Mar 27, 2011 at 5:17 am

    who is Jay?

  • 6 autblog // Mar 27, 2011 at 5:39 am

    Jay is Jenny McCarthy’s science adviser.

  • 7 Liz Ditz // Mar 27, 2011 at 9:11 am

    Jay is currently being school in basic epidemiology — on outbreaks.

  • 8 Erwin Alber // Mar 27, 2011 at 11:58 am

    As far as I am concerned, vaccination is an organised criminal enterprise dressed up as disease prevention. Vaccines have never prevented anything apart from health, sanity and common sense.

    “Belief in immunization is a form of delusional insanity.”
    Dr Herbert Shelton, USA

    “I was shocked to find that this whole vaccine business was indeed a gigantic hoax.”
    Dr A Kalokerinos MD, Australia

    “The medical authorities keep lying. Vaccination has been a disaster on the immune system. It actually causes lots of illnesses. We are actually changing our genetic code through vaccination. In ten years from now, we will know that the biggest crime against humanity was vaccination.”
    Dr G Lanctot MD, Canada
    The Medical Post, Dec 20, 1994

    The 10 years are up, so how about keeping up with the play, or do you prefer wandering around in some kind of Dark Ages?

  • 9 Prometheus // Mar 27, 2011 at 12:55 pm

    I love this comment:

    “We are actually changing our genetic code through vaccination…Dr G Lanctot MD, Canada”

    When you consider that none of the live virus vaccines are retroviruses (which in a small but occasionally very significant way, DO change our “genetic code”), this statement merely proves that Dr. Lanctot is completely ignorant of genetics, vaccines and quite possibly medicine.

    As for the decription of the various Vaccine Rejectionism Spectrum Disorders, it is spot on! I have a few suggestions for slight improvements:

    [1] Reason Disintegrative Disorder (RDD), section B, part 2: “listening respectfully to your child’s pediatrician” should probably be “having a polite and constructive dialogue with your child’s pediatrician”.

    Listening politely, while an important and oft-neglected skill, is probably not as important as being able to listen, understand and reply in a constructive fashion. Most paediatricians want to have a dialogue with the parents, not a monologue.

    [2] Jay’s Disorder, section A, part 2: “failure to develop professional peer relationships” should probably be changed to “develop appropriate professional relationships with peers who are not suffering from Jay’s Syndrome.

    Given the tendency for Jay’s Syndrome sufferers to cling to one another for validation of their eccentric delusions, forming professional relationship with other Jay’s Syndrome sufferers only further confirms the diagnosis.

    Great work! Maybe we can get it into the DSM VI?


  • 10 autblog // Mar 27, 2011 at 1:59 pm

    Thanks, Prom. I’ve incorporated both of your suggestions into the diagnostic criteria for Vaccine Rejectionism Spectrum Disorder.

  • 11 sharon // Mar 27, 2011 at 8:55 pm

    Erwin’s upset he didn’t rate a mention. Don’t worry Erwin I’m sure yourself and Meryl Dorey have a diagnosis that is already in the DSM.

  • 12 Julian Frost // Mar 28, 2011 at 3:57 am

    As far as you’re concerned, Erwin.
    Why don’t we vaccinate against smallpox any longer? Oh, that’s right. Enough people became immune so that it died out in the wild.
    The ten years are indeed up, Erwin. And guess what? The evidence shows you are talking guff.

  • 13 MRM // Mar 28, 2011 at 11:08 am

    disgusting – you are all disgusting people. I feel sorry for you.

  • 14 Chris // Mar 28, 2011 at 1:27 pm

    So, MRM, how does actually wanting kids to be protected from diseases make us disgusting?

    Do you actually like seeing kids with high fevers, rashes, racking coughs and seizures from measles, mumps, pertussis, Hib, polio, etc? I would say that would make you a very bad person. Unless, of course, you can give us very clear evidence (that I can find in my local medical school library) that the vaccines cause more harm than the diseases.

  • 15 sharon // Mar 28, 2011 at 3:36 pm

    K// as the mother of an Autistic I am quite capable of ensuring his needs are met, advocating for people on the spectrum more broadly, asssiting local services to get the ongoing support they need, meeting with other parents to offer an ear when needed, blog about my own experiences, and enjoy other ASD related blogs, keep up with the latest research…and take the piss out of conspiracy theorists. It doesn’t have to be one or the other.
    Having said that I appreciate your frustration. Until people stop peddling misinformation however then the counter arguments will need to continue.

  • 16 Sunshine // Mar 28, 2011 at 3:41 pm

    Uhh… and I’ll try to keep a good sense of humor… but isn’t anybody else a little offended that terms that parallel ASD in a parody designed to insult vaccine rejectionists is being used here?

  • 17 k // Mar 28, 2011 at 5:45 pm

    Sharon, you see, my comment has been erased so you are responding to the ether apparently.

    I may have an ASD, but I have no special priviledge here. I have to conform to the site author’s dogma. He has created for himself a little curated world of the echo chamber.

    I’m glad you can do all these things, I wish I could.

  • 18 autblog // Mar 28, 2011 at 6:16 pm

    It’s not about dogma, Kent. And Sharon is right, most of us can chew gum and walk at the same time.

  • 19 Ross Coe // Apr 4, 2011 at 2:05 pm

    Childish nonsense. Funny how experimentation and side effects are OK for one group, but anyone working to understand and find treatment for vaccine damaged autistic kids is criticized by fools. Vaccine producers are so unsophiticated in their science they don’t understand how they are destroying lives. They act like they are omniscientists who must never be scrutinized. With an attitude like that, we should be suspicious of their pomp and critical of their carelessness.

  • 20 Julian Frost // Apr 4, 2011 at 11:28 pm

    Ross, vaccines don’t cause autism. And protraying us as damaged goods is unbelievably offensive. In addition, vaccines, like all medical products, are rigourously tested. I’d say you’re the “unsophiticated” one here.

  • 21 Jonathan // Apr 29, 2011 at 11:55 am

    Estrogens are neuroprotective so to the diligent detective the road that leads to ASD is many faceted indeed.

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