LETTER: Dangers of the internet mind boggling

Readers says ignorant views about vaccination on the web leaves him shaking his head

A perfect example of the dangers of the internet that your writer Tim Collins described in the Sooke News Mirror article of March 20, is exemplified by the letter you published entitled A different point of view (April 10).

To quote a phrase from your editorial in the same April 10 edition, I, like many scientists, were “shaking our heads and slapping our foreheads here” when I read the letter.

It must be incredibly galling, frustrating, and indeed frightening, for medical and public health professionals and practitioners to see such ignorant views about vaccination written in print, as though they were a valid point of view.

For many decades, thousands of medical, clinical, and biological scientists have done real research in laboratories, under the microscope and in clinical settings to gain the knowledge we now have about the human immune system and the spread of disease.

Vaccination is one of the triumphs of science and medicine. Smallpox was eliminated from the world in 1980 by a global vaccination campaign led by the World Health Organization.

The devastation wrought by these and other diseases is brought into sad focus by a stroll round any cemetery in the western world where older gravestones exist. In 19th century England a quarter to one third of all children died before age five from infectious disease.

Your letter writer misuses the term “research” and believes reading internet articles written by unqualified people somehow equates to the hundreds of thousands of medical and immunological studies published in the Lancet and hundreds of other prestigious scientific journals over the last 70 years.

The efficacy and life saving capabilities of vaccination is not a “matter of opinion.” It is a scientific fact and a body of knowledge built up over decades by thousands of real dedicated researchers and demonstrated by the huge reduction in child mortality achieved in the last 120 years.

Similarly the existence of climate change is a scientific fact established by thousands of scientists worldwide from the meticulous data collection, measurement, and analysis, such as the 6,000 scientific papers analyzed to form the basis of the latest report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

Unfortunately, as your writer explains, the internet is also a source of anti-intellectual, anti-knowledge, anti-expertise and sadly anti-humanitarian ramblings, which does indeed represent an existential threat to the western scientific advancement, and to democracy.

Dr. Roland Alcock, Sooke


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