'Crazymothers' Want You to Stop Calling Them 'Anti-Vaxxers'

A person holding a syringe
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

A group of people opposed to vaccinations has requested that media stop referring to them as "anti-vax." Instead, they would prefer to be called "vaccine risk aware." 

On Dec. 1, an anti-vaccine group called the Crazymothers raised its plea on Twitter and Instagram, asserting that the term anti-vaxxer is "derogatory, inflammatory, and marginalizes both women and their experiences." In response, many social media users chimed in with their own alternative labels for the group, including "plague enthusiasts," "polio fanciers," "pro-disease" and "patient zero."

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In response to this feedback and subsequent media coverage, the Crazymothers posted a screenshot of a HuffPost article along with the hashtag "#IHitANerve."

The Crazymothers' founder, Hillary Simpson, frequently captions posts with the hashtag #DoYourResearch; so, in that spirit, here are the basics about vaccine safety.

Long story short, the main risks to be aware of are those associated with not vaccinating. Decades of research shows that vaccines are safe and effective and that serious side effects are rare.

How do vaccines work? 

When invaders such as bacteria or viruses enter the body for the first time, the immune system generates an elite team of proteins called antibodies to help fight off the invasion. Antibodies latch onto unique proteins that hang off the invaders, known as antigens, and either destroy the pathogen themselves or call in other immune cells to help. The immune system remembers how to build these antibodies long after the initial infection clears, enabling the body to fend off those same type of bugs should they ever launch another attack.

Unfortunately, when a completely unfamiliar antigen enters the body, the immune system may take several days to build up its antibody army. Particularly nasty bugs, like the measles virus, can overwhelm the immune system while its defenses are down.

That's why we have vaccines. 

Vaccines contain dead or weakened pathogens that cannot cause infection but do kick the immune system into gear. Once the vaccine enters the body, the immune system produces antibodies as if it's fighting an actual infection. If a vaccinated person later encounters the antigen attached to a real microbe, their body already knows how to quickly ramp up its production of the antibodies needed to fight the infection 

Over the past two decades, childhood vaccines have saved the lives of 732,000 U.S. children and prevented more than 300 million kids from getting sick, according to a 2014 study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  

Are vaccines safe? 

A recent statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) put it best: "Vaccines are safe. Vaccines are effective. Vaccines save lives."

Like all medicinal products, vaccines carry some risk of side effects, but nearly 90% of these are not serious, according to the CDC. A 2011 report from the National Academy of Medicine backs this claim, noting that in more than 1,000 studies of vaccines, only rarely did patients experience severe reactions, such as seizures, inflammation of the brain, and fainting.. 

More than 20 scientific studies confirm that no link exists between the MMR vaccine (for measles, mumps and rubella) and the development of autism, according to the CDC. The study that originally suggested such an association has been retracted and repeatedly discredited. 

The MMR vaccine has legitimately been linked to fevers, and in extreme cases, fever-triggered seizures. About 1 in every 3,000 to 4,000 children experiences these seizures after being vaccinated, according to the 2011 report from the National Academy of Medicine. 

The rotavirus vaccine has been linked to a serious intestinal disorder called intussusception, but in a 2014 study, scientists found that only 1 in 65,000 vaccinated children develops the condition. Other vaccines may cause mild reactions, like the vague, "flu-like symptoms" you get after getting a flu shot, but these side effects hardly compare to catching the infection itself.

Why vaccinate? 

Because vaccines work. 

Following the advent of the chickenpox vaccine, cases of the disease fell about 80% over the following decade, according to a 2012 study. Before that vaccine existed, about 4 million people caught chickenpox in the U.S. every year, and among those, 11,000 had to be hospitalized and 100 died, according to the Immunization Action Coalition.

After the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine was introduced, the rate of HPV infection among teen girls fell by 56% over the next four years, according to a 2013 study. The rotavirus vaccine has prevented 65,000 U.S. children from being hospitalized with the disease since 2006, according to a 2011 study.

What's more, vaccinating against one disease could bolster your immune system against others. A 2019 study found that catching the actual measles virus wipes the immune system's "memory" of other antigens it has already encountered. In fact, before the measles vaccine was introduced, in the 1960s, an estimated 50% of childhood deaths were associated with infections that kids caught after surviving a bout of measles, according to a 2015 study published in the journal Science. The vaccine, in contrast, defends against the measles virus without damaging the body's defenses against other infection.

Unfortunately, due to a dip in vaccinations, the number of measles cases has increased by more than 280% since 2018, according to the World Health Organization. That means hundreds of thousands of people who caught the virus this year may now bear the brunt of secondary infections as well. 

Who are the Crazymothers, anyway?  

Founded in 2018, the Crazymothers have just over 1,000 followers on Twitter and about 18,000 on Instagram. The group recently hosted an event in Washington to "raise awareness to the current epidemic of chronic health conditions, injuries and death from vaccination." Nearly 3,000 people attended, according to a Crazymothers Instagram post. 

The group sells merchandise and offers "expert" advice on its website. The T-shirts depict anti-vaccine moms as superheroes, and these "experts" raise concerns about specific ingredients found in vaccines and the methods by which vaccines are produced. 

The efforts of groups like this are a problem, because getting vaccinated doesn't just help the person stuck with the needle; it also protects infants and many people with weak immune systems who cannot be vaccinated at all. Vaccines ensure that fewer cases of the disease occur, and therefore, those without the means to defend themselves are more likely to stay safe and healthy. Anti-vaccine groups like the Crazymothers aim to make vaccination optional, which would place these vulnerable populations at risk, according to the APP.  

The Crazymothers may prefer the term "vaccine risk aware," but in reality, unvaccinated children face far greater health risks than those who do get vaccinated. Meanwhile, the vulnerability to disease of unvaccinated kids places others at risk. The fewer people who get vaccinated, the more people will contract perfectly preventable diseases.

To learn more about vaccines, check out the Live Science page dedicated to the topic. 

Editor's note: A previous version of this story incorrectly noted that 4,000 people in the U.S. used to catch the chickenpox each year, when the true number was 4 million. The statistic was updated on Dec. 6. 

Originally published on Live Science. 

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Nicoletta Lanese
Channel Editor, Health

Nicoletta Lanese is the health channel editor at Live Science and was previously a news editor and staff writer at the site. She holds a graduate certificate in science communication from UC Santa Cruz and degrees in neuroscience and dance from the University of Florida. Her work has appeared in The Scientist, Science News, the Mercury News, Mongabay and Stanford Medicine Magazine, among other outlets. Based in NYC, she also remains heavily involved in dance and performs in local choreographers' work.

  • Lily
    Just a correction:

    On your "Why vaccinate?" section, you currently state that
    before that vaccine existed, about 4,000 people caught chickenpox in the U.S. every year, and among those, 11,000 had to be hospitalized and 100 died,
    however, 11,000 out of 4,000 is an impossible amount.

    Following the link you provided just below (https://www.livescience.com/64122-chickenpox.html), this is what I've found:
    Before the chickenpox vaccine was introduced in the United States in 1995, about 4 million people got the disease every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

    Which comes to my point here: you're missing three 0's on your first number.

    Nice article, though. There's really no type of "risk awareness" in the movement. That rebranding makes Crazymothers seem even more unaware of what they're talking about.
  • AlexG
    I would prefer to call them a "Pro-measles" group
  • BigTex
    I personally call them "pro early child death". It's blunt but it best describes the end consequence of their choices
  • sarajo
    Ive had the measles as a child & gave it to my mum sometime down the line
  • SHaines
    Lily said:
    Which comes to my point here: you're missing three 0's on your first number.

  • Paul Verbeek
    The problem is that many so called anti-vaxxers are not oppossed to all vaccines, so a name change would be appropriate. Treating vaccine reluctance as if it were a virus is not scientific. It smacks more like virtue signalling that actual discussion. There is much evidence that parents do weigh risk versus benefits when they choose to vaccinate or not their their children for a particular disease. We may not agree on their assessments, but to kid yourself that they are against all vaccines is choosing a simple belief that purports to explain everything versus actually grappling with their concerns. Lets just say we have ample scientific knowledge to prevent starvation, so the reason kids still die in very large numbers is not because a few anti-vaxxers are too selfish to vaccinate their kids, but rather because too many of us don’t care enough. Why should the parents of these kids trust Western science, when clearly we only want to vaccinate them to protect ourselves.
  • adam
    Discussing the subject of vaccination causes a lot of debate gets heated and very distorted on all sides.

    So let me make clear that I believe vaccines have done much good but should not be sacred cows

    There are those who support vaccines but want more research into what goes into a vaccines and about specific groups who may have adverse reaction to vaccines.

    One Danish government funded study found a 5x higher mortality rate among children given the DTP vaccine and that this was 10x in the females. The details and links are set out later below.

    There are various studies that claim to show the health effects on vaccinated and unvaccinated children. The latest is peer reviewed from June 2020, declares conflicts of interest but was not funded and suggests more research needs to be done. I will set out the links later

    It should be a simple matter to do this research on vaccinated and unvaccinated children but there seems to have been some reluctance to do so.

    This is not about mercury or aluminum or other genetic matetial in vaccines its about the whole package.

    There does seem to be a lack of transparency on the subject of vaccines or the potentially harmful contents of vaccines

    Even people who have worked in Congress have said that they came under pressure to drop looking into vaccines - if you want the youtube interview links let me know and I will post them

    Further a Dr and former Head of the NIH who became CEO of the American Red Cross said that she had initially felt there was no link between vaccines and autism

    After reviewing animal studies and other research she concluded that there were reasons to be concerned and there was no evidence clearly showing vaccines did not cause autism.

    She went on to say that the government specifically put pressure saying no research was to be carried out looking for groups that could be more open to developing autism from vaccines. I can post the youtube interview

    Analysis of health outcomes in vaccinated and unvaccinated children: Developmental delays, asthma, ear infections and gastrointestinal disorders
    Brian S Hooker, Neil Z Miller
    First Published May 27, 2020

    Other studies on vaccinated and unvaccinated children

    The link below sets out many separate reports including one partly sponsored by the Govt of Denmark showing a 5x mortality rate in vaccinated children compared to unvaccinated which I also link below

    The Introduction of Diphtheria-Tetanus-Pertussis and Oral Polio Vaccine Among Young Infants in an Urban African Community: A Natural Experiment

    "DTP was associated with 5-fold higher mortality than being unvaccinated. No prospective study has shown beneficial survival effects of DTP. "

    "It should be of concern that the effect of routine vaccinations on all-cause mortality was not tested in randomized trials. All currently available evidence suggests that DTP vaccine may kill more children from other causes than it saves from diphtheria, tetanus or pertussis. Though a vaccine protects children against the target disease it may simultaneously increase susceptibility to unrelated infections."

    Other credible parties have said that in certain cases vaccines do cause or have a strong link to autism but there was not a general vaccine autism link. I note there seems an effort to discredit any such statements.

    Professor Andrew Zimmerman, the world-renowned pro-vaccine pediatric neurologist specializing in autism and has acted as an expert witness for the US government defending vaccines in US court cases against claims of causing autism has made a sworn statement setting out that in certain cases the evidence shows vaccines cause autism.

    He states that on a Friday 3 days before he was due to give evidence he made clear to a senior DOJ lawyer that in certain circumstances there was evidence that vaccines did cause autism though equally there was no evidence that vaccines caused autism to healthy children.

    He was later told he was no longer needed to give evidence in person though part of his written evidence was quoted from in court.

    Professor Zimmerman makes clear that what was quoted in court did not properly reflect of his opinion or make clear his view that vaccines were linked to autism in at least in certain cases. You can read his sworn statement in the link below which includes his full and extensive CV

    There is credible research that shows a possible link between vaccines in certain conditions or health problems and the US government has paid out compensation based on these arguments in legal cases notably Poling Vs HHS

    Additionally there are reasonable grounds showing that vaccine use needs to be monitored as vaccines have had to be withdrawn. There is nothing very new in this, it makes sense some things dont work out some cars are defective it does not mean all cars need to be repaired

    There have certainly been previous cases where the pharma industry and the FDA have verified vaccines and medications as being ok that have later been withdrawn because of very serious or fatal health issues that were not previously observed in trials or were deliberately hidden. Pharma has paid billions of $ in fines and penalties for withholding information on antidepressants and other cases show that vaccine monitoring needs to be ongoing as vaccines have been withdrawn.

    A published research paper about a withdrawn vaccine states

    "These events demonstrate very clearly that postmarketing surveillance is an essential component of vaccine program implementation. Data obtained before licensure did not reveal an excess risk.....

    Preliminary data from active systems in Minnesota and the Northern California Kaiser Permanente Health Maintenance Organization suggested an increased risk of intussusception following RRV-TV"

    Below is a video of and FDA official somewhat avoiding answering questions in Congress about why a mercury free single shot vaccines are not made available - despite some research pointing to mercury in vaccines having a very negative effect on human neurons

    id-gGYQihaMView: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=id-gGYQihaM

    There is some debate about the current levels of mercury used in vaccines. The FDA indicates that it is very low or mostly phased out however others disagree and point out that its not just about mercury as vaccines contain aluminum and research has indicated that this is highly toxic and is linked in some research to medical conditions

    We come back to looking at both the individual elements of the vaccine or medicine and the whole effect of putting these into a human or animal

    Below is an article written by probably the worlds leading expert on aluminum toxicity

    Professor Chris Exley
    Professor in Bioinorganic Chemistry Keele University
    Honorary Professor, UHI Millennium Institute
    Group Leader - Bioinorganic Chemistry Laboratory at Keele

    Aluminium Adjuvants in Vaccines: Missing Information

    I have been researching human exposure to aluminium for over thirty-five years. I am (sometimes affectionately) known as Mr Aluminium. About ten years ago, I became interested in aluminium adjuvants and specifically how they help to potentiate the immune response in vaccination.

    Funded initially by the Medical Research Council (Nanotoxicity of Aluminium Adjuvants) we set about testing dogma associated with their mechanism of action in vaccines. We have recently reviewed this subject including our own research in the field.

    It is clear that a vaccine including an aluminium adjuvant is an acute exposure to aluminium (read paper). The aluminium adjuvant initiates an inflammatory response in the immediate vicinity of the injection site. Myriad infiltrating cells flood the damaged area and responding to the inflammation take up adjuvant and antigen into their cytoplasm (Scientifi report) though not necessarily as an adjuvant-antigen complex (read report). Adjuvant is transported to lymph glands (read article) and may also be carried in macrophages (read report) and other histiocytes throughout the body including into the brain (read article). You can also read about the effects of sildenafil here. The latter, though demonstrated in an animal model (read article) remains to be proven in humans. Vaccines that include an aluminium adjuvant are a source of aluminium to the rest of the body and this should be a concern.

    Example 1. ‘Adjuvants are added to vaccines in very small amounts, which have been shown to be safe.’

    There have not been any clinical trials designed and carried out to test the safety of aluminium adjuvants. Not a single clinical safety trial for any vaccine that includes an aluminium adjuvant. Vaccine manufacturers are not obliged to demonstrate the safety of aluminium adjuvants. Indeed vaccine manufacturers invariably use aluminium adjuvants as placebos in vaccine efficacy trials (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0264410X11013089?via%3Dihub).

    Example 2. ‘There’s no evidence that the levels of aluminium we come across every day increase the risk of conditions like dementia or autism.’

    There may not be consensus that aluminium increases the risk of dementia but there is burgeoning scientific evidence that this is the case. Recent research on aluminium in brain tissue in familial Alzheimer’s disease (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0946672X16303777) left very little doubt that aluminium, an accepted neurotoxin, contributes towards Alzheimer’s disease (https://content.iospress.com/articles/journal-of-alzheimers-disease-reports/adr170010). The advice given by the NHS is at best incorrect and at worst misinformation. While the evidence linking aluminium with autism remains preliminary the high content of aluminium in brain tissue in autism (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0946672X17308763) should not be so easily, perhaps conveniently, discarded.

    Example 3 ‘The amount of aluminium used in killed vaccines is very, very small. No harmful effects have been seen with vaccines that contain an aluminium-based adjuvant.’

    The myth that the aluminium content of a vaccine is miniscule has now been comprehensively refuted in the peer-reviewed scientific literature (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0946672X19304201) and this misleading information needs to be removed from all advice given to paediatricians and parents alike. Similarly, the patient information leaflet provided with every vaccine lists all of the known harmful effects recorded for that vaccine. Those responsible for administering vaccines are required by law to ask the recipient or recipient’s guardian to read the patient information leaflet so that they are aware of the possible harmful effects. It is outrageous and wrong for NHS advice to be so misleading to those they are charged with protecting.

    I have spent all of my academic career trying to understand how human exposure to aluminium impacts upon our health. Everything that I have learned about aluminium points towards it being a major health issue, today and if we carry on being complacent about our exposure, in the future. We need to ensure that the information made available about the possible toxicity of aluminium in humans is wholly science based and as up to date as is possible. We live in the ‘Aluminium Age’ and the modern world would be a lesser place without aluminium. However, it is time that we accept that aluminium is inimical to living processes and that we must only continue to use it when it has been proven to be both effective and safe. This must include its complacent and misunderstood use in vaccines.

    Please note that vaccine makers in many countries cannot be sued and the government in many countries pays out any damages to those who claim they have been damaged by vaccines. In the USA the government has paid out damages for vaccine damage claims

    It seems to be very true that vaccines have been a great achievement and a vital and effective treatment for many fatal or seriously life damaging conditions in both humans and animals.

    However that should not mean that research or discussion into the use of vaccines, the possible side effects or how they can be improved should should be restricted.

    Why is it that vaccines cannot be improved, improvements happen in other medical and human areas?

    There is obvious concern about the power and influence of the pharma industry on politicians and regulators

    Previous news reports show big pharma spends more on sales and marketing than research and development which must have a huge impact on vaccinations and medicine

    Pharma are also the biggest spenders of any industry or group on lobbying politicians and other

    Wouters found that a total of $64.3 billion was spent lobbying Congress and other federal agencies from 1999-2018, of which the pharmaceutical and health product industries spent the most: $4.7 billion, or 7.3% of total lobbying, for an average of $233 million per year.

    The top 40 recipients from each chamber of Congress received $45 million of all contributions to congressional candidates, and were well represented in leadership positions: 39 were members of committees with control over health-related legislation, and 24 held senior-level positions in these committees.

    From 1999 to 2018, the pharmaceutical and health product industries contributed a total of $877 million to state-level candidates and committees, of which the majority ($661 million) went to ballot measure committees. There was not an even distribution between states: California received $399 million, Ohio received $74 million, and six other states received between $20 and 50 million: Missouri ($43 million), New York ($33 million), Oregon ($27 million), Florida ($26 million), Illinois ($23 million), and Texas ($22 million).

    Funding tended to follow ballot measures – for instance, in Ohio, $61 million was spent in 2017, which coincided with the year a ballot measure intending to lower prescription drug costs was voted down. Contributions in states like New York followed a pattern that replicated state senate and assembly elections.


    The revolving door of regulators getting well paid jobs in the pharma industry is well recorded and troubling


    I think that it would make sense to have truely open and independent research into vaccines by researchers with no connection to the pharma industry on the benefits and problems of vaccines.

    There should also be research on alternatives to the additatives used in vaccines or if in some cases it would be better to give vaccines to older children or as single vaccines spaced out over time and not as a combined shot etc.

    Pharmas financial power over politiciand is a whole other question
  • sarajo
    admin said:
    An anti-vaccine group wants to rebrand itself as "vaccine risk aware." Here's why they can't.

    'Crazymothers' Want You to Stop Calling Them 'Anti-Vaxxers' : Read more
    can I just say I didnt call anyone an anti vaxxer -I dont know what one is . I respectfully ask that any evidence should be found first in any of my comments that I alledgedly said that before making a comment like that Thank you