Anti-Vaccine Groups

August 3, 2010

There are several groups that have an anti-vaccine point of view. Generation Rescue and JABS (Justice, Awareness and Basic Support) are perhaps the best known of these. Anti-vaccine groups do not necessarily share the same viewpoint and the individual members of these groups may differ still further in their views on vaccines.


The JABS group was set up originally as a self-help group for parents. They campaigned for compensation for children thought to have been harmed by vaccination and complained that UK vaccine damage payment scheme was inadequate. The group also supported Andrew Wakefield’s now discredited claims that the MMR vaccine caused autism. In fact, investigative journalist Brian Deer reported that the parents cited in Wakefield’s 1998 Lancet paper “came to Wakefield’s clinic in response to an advertising campaign led by the lawyer’s group, called Jabs”. The web forum that is run by JABS was originally made up mainly of concerned parents, but it now has a more varied, if smaller, membership.

Generation Rescue is a more recently established group, being set up in 2005 by Lisa and JB Handley. Their interests lie in pervasive developmental disorders, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and autistic spectrum disorders, but the website bills the organisation as “Jenny McCarthy and Jim Carrey’s Autism Organization”. The group supports various fringe ideas – such as the hypothesis that mercury poisoning from the preservative Thimerosal was responsible for autism. Perhaps the most dangerous of these fringe ideas is that chelation can reverse autism symptoms. This treatment has already been implicated in at least one death.


Both groups mentioned above have promoted controversial and potentially dangerous advice. Generation Rescue recommends: delaying vaccination, requesting single vaccines rather than (for example) the MMR triple vaccine and refusing any vaccine that contains Thimerosal. Why are these views potentially dangerous? Delaying all vaccination until your child is 18-24 months old, considering only one vaccination per doctor’s visit, or opting for single measles, mumps and rubella vaccinations (to be administered at three separate visits) would mean unnecessarily exposing your child to vaccine-preventable diseases.

The JABS forum has provided dangerous medical advice to visitors on a number of occasions. One memorable instance saw a poster on the forum advise a parent to cease the medical treatment their doctor had prescribed for their child, and to switch off or remove any wireless devices – including baby monitors. [Link: Freezepage of sample JABS thread.]
The group has been quoted in the national press on numerous occasions, often via their spokesperson Jackie Fletcher. They are probably best known for their anti-MMR campaigning. The group’s view was (or is) that the MMR vaccine was responsible for an apparent rise in the incidence of autism.


Generation Rescue and JABS have both been widely criticised for their controversial and potentially dangerous views. This criticism has come from different sources, including researchers, writers of blogs that discuss vaccination and (in the case of JABS) the journalist Brian Deer. Some further information about the JABS organisation can be found on Deer’s website. [Brian Deer on JABS.]

Other articles on this website tackle some of the specific ideas of these groups – for example the idea that single vaccines are preferable to multiple vaccines such as the triple MMR vaccine, and the idea that multiple vaccinations can cause “immune overload”. The latter idea, which is not based on evidence, is sufficiently widespread for the Word Health Organisation to have created a page to answer concerns of this nature. The WHO page includes links to original research that refutes the idea that multiple vaccinations cause immune overload. [The relevant WHO page is here.] [Add links to other articles that deal with immune overload/single vaccines?]

Members of these groups are responsible for repeating several myths about vaccines. One of these myths is that vaccines have been ineffective in preventing cases of measles and deaths from the disease. It has been claimed that vaccine-preventable diseases had been rendered harmless due to improvements in nutrition or in the care of patients with these diseases. To see why this is untrue, one need only look at the example of Meningitis C. Prior to the introduction of the Meningitis C vaccine, Group C disease was the second most common cause of meningococcal disease accounting for around 40% of cases. Group C disease now accounts for less than 10% of cases, with group B disease accounting for over 80% of cases. This information is available on the NHS website here. The page also has a graph showing the drop in Meningitis C cases from 2000 (the vaccine was introduced in 1999). A further example, that of measles, is covered in the article on this site that looks at the history of the disease. It is clear that vaccines have been effective both in terms of preventing cases of measles and in terms of preventing deaths from this disease.

Another criticism that has been levelled at these groups is that of selfishness. Unfortunately, a parent deciding to prevent their child from receiving recommended vaccines not only puts their child at risk – they also put at risk the health of unborn children being carried by women who come into contact with children infected by rubella (German measles) due to their not receiving MMR. Children who come into contact with unvaccinated classmates at school are also at greater risk of catching measles. Another group that is put at risk by a decision to withhold vaccines is that of the immune-compromised. Some people are unable to receive vaccination because of their immune status and they rely on herd immunity for protection. If enough parents decide to withhold vaccines from their child, herd immunity cannot be obtained and the immune-compromised are at greater risk of catching a vaccine-preventable disease and suffering serious consequences.

There is also the criticism regarding the sources of information used by anti-vaccine groups such as JABS. The group’s forum is mostly populated by anti-vaccinators, some of whom rely heavily on dubious information sourced not from peer-reviewed articles published in prestigious medical journals, but from untrustworthy websites such as This particular site is a haven for the more ludicrous conspiracy theories that are popular on the internet.


11 Responses to “Anti-Vaccine Groups”

  1. Norbury Says:

    I would suggest that the link to the JABS forum actually links to a screenshot of the thread or otherwise archived copy. Too much risk of it being moedrated out of existence by JABS if/when they become aware of this article.

  2. natsci Says:

    Thanks, I am doing this as I type. This is the start of an ‘upload everything I can find’ so please comment on anything else you think could be improved.

  3. jdc325 Says:

    I’ve got PDFs of each of the three pages of that thread if you need them.

  4. Bloop Says:

    Quackwatch just did a good immune system overload jobbie.

  5. Al Capone Junior Says:

    Great site. I’ll be reading it all, sooner or later, and commenting (plus a bit of proofreading too). I’ll be passing it around the web and the world too. This is really good information and I hope this site, and the efforts of everyone involved, make a positive a difference in the world of public health. I’m sure they will.


    • Al Capone Junior Says:

      On this page the first word “THERE” of the first sentence is all caps… looks kinda strange. That’s the only typo on this page that I’ve seen.

  6. Mary Tocco Says:

    Dr. Wakefield and Mary Tocco will be speaking in Austin Texas on Thursday evening, 2-10 from 6:30-9:30PM. For registration call 512-312-9304, seating is limited. Please support this event!

  7. I believe you should check your facts. Dr Wakefield had been exonerated and you should take that disparaging sentence down. Also, please look into the anti-vax movement and see what they have to say. You may be surprised.

  8. NoMoreLies Says:

    check out – fantastic resource (10 DVDs of 2 hour duration each) covering interviews with experts in the field.

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