A good example of how communication breaks down when we begin to change the agreed-upon meanings comes from Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass, when Alice encounters Humpty Dumpty:
'And only one for birthday presents, you know. There's glory for you!Humpty takes a common word and makes up an entirely different meaning for it. If I were to ask you to pass me that apple, you'd be rightly confused if I got upset that you handed me an apple instead of a wrench. Yet this is a behavior that seems to be fairly common among those who strongly oppose vaccinations.
'I don't know what you mean by "glory",' Alice said.
Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. 'Of course you don't — till I tell you. I meant "there's a nice knock-down argument for you!"'
'But "glory" doesn't mean "a nice knock-down argument",' Alice objected.
'When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, 'it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.'
The other day, I encountered an anti-vaccine mother on Twitter, who argued that vaccines are injected into the blood.
|Is @MMomOnTheBlock really Humpty Dumpty?|
When we talk about how vaccines and other products are administered, we use specific terms with specific meanings. We differentiate between oral, nasal, intramuscular, subcutaneous and intravenous routes of administration because how a drug is administered can make a very significant difference in how it acts in the body. For instance, if someone needed a blood transfusion, we would not inject the fresh blood into their muscle or beneath their skin, even though there are blood vessels in both locations. Instead, we would insert a needle into a blood vessel. Then there are drugs administered subcutaneously that should never be given intravenously, like sumatriptan, because doing so increases the risk of adverse reactions. If the mom on Twitter were correct, that there is no difference between intravenous, intramuscular and subcutaneous injection, then we could easily do blood transfusions subcutaneously or intramuscularly. And we wouldn't need to worry about the increased risks of adverse events by giving sumatriptan intravenously. Yet the method of delivery, the route we choose, makes a very big difference.
Similarly, vaccines have specific routes of administration to the exclusion of other routes. Effectiveness and safety both play a role in choosing where to administer a particular vaccine. Some vaccines are more effective if given orally than if given intramuscularly. Others are given intramuscularly to reduce the risk of adverse events. None of the vaccines on the U.S. schedule of recommended school vaccinations are administered intravenously, that is, directly into the bloodstream. Their efficacy and safety would be affected. Not to mention the risks associated with IV administration itself.
When someone claims that vaccines or "toxins" are injected directly into the bloodstream, there are two explanations. First, they simply do not know. The differences between intramuscular and intravenous administration are fairly basic; mistaking the two suggests that the person has not properly researched the subjects of vaccines or biology. One might well wonder what other of their claims are incorrect. The second possibility is that they do know the difference. They know that vaccines are not, in fact, injected into the blood, but they assert it nonetheless. In short, they are lying. And if they lie about something so easily disproven, are there other aspects of vaccines about which they are lying? Whether through ignorance or dishonesty, they change the meanings of words to protect their erroneous ideology and to frighten others into their way of thinking.
Beware the Humpty Dumptys opposing vaccines.