Why Yes, Ms. Bell, Facts Are My Friends. But Are They Yours?

Special note: This post is a response to actress Kristen Bell’s piece “Facts Are Friends” which was published in the Huffington Post. If you’d like to see what she wrote, you can click on the link in the text “Dear Ms. Bell”.

Dear Ms. Bell,

I do believe that you and I can agree that facts are our friends. You have absolutely every right to make decisions about what you feel is best for your children and I will fight for your choice. However, as a celebrity, you have the responsibility to make sure that your stance is fully informed when you encourage others to align themselves with your views.

And as a non-vaccinating mother, I feel compelled to share my information just as you felt compelled to share yours. So, I don’t think there should be a problem with me responding to your arguments with factual, grounded information from other vetted sources. After all, it’s due to crazy know-it-alls like me that you can have a birth with a doctor who has washed his/her hands, treat mental illness without injurious brain surgery and not expose your unborn child to harmful levels of x-ray radiation. So fasten your seatbelt, celebrities and anyone else reading this, we are going for a bumpy ride…

Vaccines train the immune system: Ms. Bell, you repeat the argument that vaccines train the immune system to fend off infections when exposure does happen. There is ample evidence of the opposite in documented, reputable medical journals. Here are several examples:

  •  A 2011 outbreak of measles in New York was traced to a woman who was fully vaccinated. This is probably not isolated since other studies have found fully vaccinated individuals still get measles, and the spread of disease amongst vaccinated individuals remains a blind spot for the medical and public health professions, as the study notes.
  • The International Journal of Epidemiology records a case of measles vaccine failure in Hungary, where the majority of measles cases struck those who had been vaccinated.
  • A case study from India documents a measles outbreak in a slum. Almost one-third of the children who contracted measles were vaccinated for the disease.
  • If you or your child have been vaccinated for measles, you could still have the disease and you or doctor may not even know it. Modified measles is a documented phenomenon in which individuals who have been vaccinated for measles still contract the virus but because of the vaccine don’t display the typical the symptoms of the disease. The characteristic spots associated with measles are very frequently absent in modified measles. Most doctors aren’t very familiar with this so they won’t consider it a possibility in vaccinated individuals or test for it. A similar phenomenon called atypical measles was noted when the killed strain measles vaccine was in use.

Pertussis

Polio

Smallpox

FAQ’s from the CDC about vaccine safety say that adjuvants are put in vaccines “to enhance the immune response of vaccinated individuals”. However, if you dig around in immunology literature, you’ll find a few more interesting details about adjuvants.

Let’s start with immunologist Charles Janeway. Janeway did a significant amount of research into what he called “the immunologist’s dirty little secret”– that the presence of foreign antigens alone are often not enough to elicit a response from the immune system. In fact, it has been well known amongst immunologists for a long time that the presence of bacteria and viruses is often not enough to induce a response from the immune system. This is why scientists routinely add substances like mineral oil, bovine serum albumin and mineral salts like aluminum hydroxide to their experiments to get a reaction from the immune system.

So while we’ve been told that vaccines work by imitating an infection which then leaves the body with T- and B-lymphoctes which tell it how to fight the infection in the future, it’s not the bacteria or viruses that are causing the immune reaction, it’s the adjuvants.

Chemicals and Preservatives in Vaccines

As you point out, Ms. Bell, there are chemicals in vaccines. You cite articles that say that the amounts in vaccines are only tiny amounts of these chemicals and the body can easily eliminate them. I read the article on formaldehyde which stated that babies’ bodies naturally produce this and the amount in a vaccine is far less than what is in a baby’s body already.

First of all, Ms. Bell, could you tell us exactly how much formaldehyde is in a vaccine and how much is in a baby’s body? Because the article you cited here doesn’t actually give a quantity, but rather dances around the issue by saying that the upper limit of formaldehyde in a vaccine is 50-70 times greater than the naturally occurring formaldehyde in a baby’s body. Why not just tell us exactly how much formaldehyde is actually in a vaccine?

These are actually very important questions. Do particular vaccines have a higher concentration of formaldehyde? Do some people’s bodies not eliminate formaldehyde as readily as others? Do some baby’s bodies have higher levels of formaldehyde already from environmental factors? What are the effects on those children? These are all questions that haven’t really been explored. We are simply to get shots and not ask questions. (Thimerosal has been removed from a  number of vaccines, so we will take that issue off the table for the purposes of this discussion.)

Of course the assertion is that the body will simply eliminate any formaldehyde from a vaccine. However, most information about formaldehyde does not address elimination when it has been injected into the bloodstream. Take these sites for example (from the CDC and American Cancer Society) which describe elimination when the formaldehyde has been inhaled, ingested or there is dermal contact, but do not mention formaldehyde which enters the bloodstream through subcutaneous injection. In fact, there is very little information about the effect of injected formaldehyde available.

Though you believe the chemicals in vaccines to be more or less harmless, you may be interested to know that there is a growing number of cancer diagnoses and deaths amongst American children. Cancer will affect approximately 10,000 American children under the age of 15 this year. It will kill approximately 1,350 children under the age of 15 this year. Rates of this disease in children have been on the rise in the past few decade, though the death rate (after five years) is down from 2,500 in 1998According to the CDC, cancer is the second leading cause of death in children ages 5-14 after accidents and unintentional injuries.

Leukemia (cancer that starts in blood forming tissue such as bone marrow and spreads through the blood stream), brain and central nervous system tumors, lymphoma (cancer of the immune system), rhabdomyosarcoma (cancer of the soft tissue in the muscle), neuroblastoma (cancer in the nerve cells, which mostly affects infants and children), Wilms tumor (cancer that starts with malignant tumors in the kidneys and then spreads to the lungs, liver or lymph nodes and usually affects children under 5 years old), bone cancer and gonadal and germ cell cancers are the most common types of cancer seen in children ages 0-19. Leukemia accounts for 30% of all childhood cancer.

Before the MMR vaccine, the CDC says that 500 individuals died every year from measles complications. I’m sure when your children had their MMR shots you were grateful that they wouldn’t be afflicted with measles encephalitis. But did you stop to think that your children are more likely to die of cancer before their fifteenth birthday than a person of any age from measles before the measles vaccine?

What could be causing these cancers? While we don’t have any definitive answers at the moment, consider the following facts about the chemicals in vaccines and the most common cancers seen in children:

So it may be wise to ask yourself if you think that we can really inject our children and ourselves with animal viruses and carcinogens and expect only good health to result. And while the above information is not definitive, I believe it bears investigating, especially with the rising rates of cancer amongst American children. Ms. Bell, I’m sure you are aware of the devastating effects of cancer on a child’s body. Don’t you think that it’s worth it to investigate the possibility of a link between childhood cancer and childhood vaccines to save children’s lives, even if it means discarding a cherished medical procedure?

Adjuvants are the other chemicals frequently found in vaccines. They are responsible for many of the reactions to vaccines. Table 5 from Edelman’s section on adjuvants in Vaccine Adjuvants: Preparation Methods and Research Protocols details the “Real and Theoretical Risks of Vaccine Adjuvants” which include:

  • Local or acute chronic inflammation with formation of painful abcesses, persistent nodules or draining lymphadenopathy (enlargement of the lymph nodes typically associated with cancer or infection).
  • Flu-like illness with fever
  • Anaphylaxis (a whole body allergic reaction)
  • Chemical toxicity to tissues or organs
  • autoimmune arthritis, amyloidosis, (a condition in which abnormal protein buildup is deposited in an organ of the body) anterior uveitis (inflammation of the eye which can ultimately cause blindness).
  • Cross reactions with human tissue antigens causing glomurelonephritis (inflammation of the filters in the kidneys) or meningoencephalitis (inflammation of the brian and meninges that can result in speech and motor impairment, epilepsy and intellectual deficits; ironically, vaccination is often recommended as a way to prevent encephalitis and meningoencephalitis.)
  • Immune suppression (Aren’t vaccines supposed to enhance, the immune system, not compromise it? If they’re suppressing the immune system, then what’s the point?)
  • Carcinogenesis (See my post on cancer and vaccines.)
  • Teratogenesis (causes birth defects) or abortogenesis (causes abortion or miscarriage- like several pregnant women have reported with the flu shot…)
  • Spread of a live vectored vaccine to the environment (sounds a lot like shedding!)

Edelman doesn’t care to explicitly state which of these risks are “real” and which are “theoretical”.

Vaccine Safety and Testing

Yes, indeed, some vaccines do take several years to develop and license. Others don’t. Whenever a “pandemic” strikes, we are told that we must rush out and get the latest life-saving vaccine. H1N1 is a prime example of this. In 2009, several new H1N1 vaccines were quickly approved because of the declared necessity of protecting the public from a flu pandemic. Though neither you nor I were alive to witness it, you would also do well to read what happened when H1N1 panic gripped the country and a “lifesaving” vaccine was rushed out in the name of public health in 1976. This vaccine actually killed more people through Guillain-Barre Syndrome than the actual H1N1 virus did.  Refer back to my above citation of the Cutter Incident where children were killed by Jonas Salk’s polio vaccine.

In fact, uncomfortable information from a recent lawsuit has come forward from CDC officials and former Merck scientists about fraudulent claims on Merck’s part about its MMR vaccine’s effectiveness. The whistleblowers’ court documents state that Merck did not fully test the vaccine and falsified the results it did have. (This article comes from the Huffington Post, where you were published. There should be no problem with the Huffington Post as a source.) You may also be interested in knowing that in 1991 Maurice Hilleman expressed concern to his associates at Merck about mercury levels in the MMR vaccine. So while you have complete confidence in the government and vaccine manufacturers, the people who have been involved with the creation and approval vaccines don’t necessarily share your feelings.

Herd Immunity

I can’t say that I have read any comics about herd immunity, however I still consider myself very well-informed on the subject from reading a number of articles from the CDC as well as several epidemiology and immunology journals. Please refer to the above examples of vaccine failure and kindly tell me where herd immunity was for all the people in California who were vaccinated for pertussis and still tested positive for it. How about the people of Africa who received vaccines through Bill Gates’ foundation and still became sick with polio? Where was herd immunity for the baby in Israel who was surrounded by fully vaccinated children and caregivers who were found to be carrying pertussis and passed it on? Can you tell me where herd immunity was when entire cities had received the smallpox vaccine in India and still suffered outbreaks of the disease during the WHO’s eradication efforts? Where was herd immunity during the measles outbreak in the Indian slum when one-third of the children who contracted the disease were vaccinated?

While doctors and public health officials love to talk about herd immunity and parents love to believe in it, well-documented occurrences of vaccine failure show that vaccinating people is neither enough to protect the vaccinated individuals nor to stop the spread of diseases.

Another interesting tidbit of information: the rate of immunization of infants is arbitrary in relation to life expectancy rankings. Monaco ranks 1st for life expectancy (out of 223 nations) and has reported a 99% measles immunization rate of infants ages 12-23 months in 2012, but so did Albania, which ranks 60th for life expectancy and Brunei which ranks 74th,  and Turkmenistan at 155. Rwanda reports a 97% rate of infant vaccination and is 197th in the world for life expectancy. Austria reports that only 76% of its babies are vaccinated for measles and it is ranked 32nd in the world for life expectancy, while Benin has a 72% infant measles vaccination rate and ranks 191st for life expectancy. By the way, United States reported an infant vaccination of 92% for measles in 2012- the same as Switzerland.

Financial Considerations of Vaccination

I believe you are correct that most doctors are probably not getting much financial incentive for pushing vaccines. It is my belief that most doctors are simply doing what they were told in medical school is crucial to the health of the public at large. They fervently believe (as you do) that everyone should be vaccinated. The article from The Atlantic you cited does indeed state that vaccines are about 2-3% of the trillion dollar global market for pharmaceuticals. However, it also says that vaccines are a new and rapidly growing profit center so there is definite financial incentive to keep developing more of them and to get more people to take them. (The article is titled “Vaccines Are Profitable. So What?”)

Consider that vaccines are said to be crucial to the health of every adult, child and animal on the planet and that every single person in the world needs several over their life. And the list of what we all “need” for vaccinations is growing all the time. You point out that pharmaceutical companies make money when people stay sick, but you claim that vaccines keep people healthy. So if I am understanding you right, your argument is that manufacturing vaccines is not really in pharmaceutical companies’ financial interest. This would essentially mean that these companies are making vaccines out of the goodness of their hearts and operating more like charities.

But these companies are making a profit from vaccines. Again, the article you cited states this and in fact further acknowledges that vaccine manufacturers are very secretive about just how much money they are making from vaccines. I’m all for people making profit within legal boundaries, even if I don’t agree that a product or service is safe or helpful. And if a pharmaceutical company is going to make vaccines, they have to make a profit off of them or they won’t be able to sustain production. Profitability isn’t the problem.

The problem is when people make their decisions about vaccination based on an emotional attachment to vaccines and overlook the fact that vaccine manufacturers are businesses and want you to partake of their product because they have a monetary incentive. While you may feel that vaccines are lifesaving and necessary, the fact remains that vaccine manufacturers are not non-profits or charities. They are businesses and isn’t in their best interest to give you information that will deter you from using their products. So all of the information you get from them is designed to either get you use them or alleviate any legal repercussions for the vaccine manufacturers if something goes wrong. Vaccine manufacturers have to think about their bottom line.

Also, you should be aware that the US government has chipped in to help keep vaccine manufacturers afloat financially by footing the bill for injuries and deaths that result from vaccinations. The Vaccine Injury Compensation Program was instituted in 1988 to deal with lawsuits filed by people who have suffered or had a family member suffer a serious vaccine injury. When a lawsuit is filed and the vaccine is found in a court of law to be responsible for the death or injury, the government pays out the award so the vaccine manufacturer doesn’t have to. Since 1988, the US government has paid out over $3 billion in awards to claimants.  Take note that that number is coming from the Department of Health and Human Services, not some “out there” website with conspiracy theories. That’s a pretty sizable chunk of change. But consider that these are only the cases of reactions where someone had the resources to file a lawsuit. By no means do they represent the actual number of people who suffer serious reactions.

In fact, the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program page states: “On October 1, 1988, the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986 (Public Law 99-660) created the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP). The VICP was established to ensure an adequate supply of vaccines, stabilize vaccine costs, and establish and maintain an accessible and efficient forum for individuals found to be injured by certain vaccines.”  In other words, if vaccine manufacturers could be sued like other companies when their products cause injury or death, the costs would be so high to them that it would become cost prohibitive for them to manufacture vaccines. I’m sure you’re saying, “Yes, but that’s a good thing! It’s good that we can maintain a large supply of relatively inexpensive vaccines!” But just think about what you’re saying for a moment. We’re talking about a product that is acknowledged to be so dangerous that unless manufacturers are relieved of financial responsibility, the lawsuits would put them out of business. Does that sound safe and altruistic to you, Ms. Bell?

Vaccine Clustering and Safety

The links you shared for “overwhelming research shows” have very little in the way of citations. They are FAQ and “information for parents” pages from organizations like the American Academy of Pediatrics and Centers for Disease Control that simply assert that giving young babies several vaccines at once is safe. Another link you have included is an FAQ page from the World Health Organization that again asserts that current methods for vaccination are safe without providing much evidence. I find it rather ironic that the FAQ from the AAP you shared states that babies immune systems are “ready and waiting to keep them healthy” by fighting off germs and toxins. If this is the case then why do babies need a slew of vaccines to train their immune systems?

You do cite one article from Time magazine which discusses a study on MMR and autism. As I have written before, autism and MMR are extremely convenient for vaccine proponents. There is an assumption amongst many that the primary reason people choose not vaccinate is because of MMR and autism. This is not true. There are a number of other issues surrounding vaccination that have prompted parents not to vaccinate, so hammering away the MMR-autism issue will not assuage concerns over vaccine failure or other vaccine reactions. (For a more comprehensive discussion of this issue, please see my post on measles and Andrew Wakefield here.)

Concerns about  multiple doses of vaccines administered simultaneously are usually based on the idea that the problem is in the dosage rather than the vaccines themselves. This is a rather comforting idea and is how many parents try to bridge the gap between what they have been told about vaccines (that they make people healthier) and what they see (many vaccinated people are frequently sick). The problem with arguments on clustering from both sides- that it is a serious risk and that it isn’t- is that they ignore the fact that even one vaccine can cause long-term damage or death. Here are a few taken from medical and epidemiology literature:

Measles

Polio

H1N1

  • Though the CDC has since downplayed the connection between the H1N1 vaccine and Guillain-Barre syndrome, by early 1977, agency insiders had already concluded that the occurrence GBS was greater among those who had received the flu vaccine than among those who had not. By the time of Carter’s inauguration, 1,100 cases of GBS had been reported, half of whom had received the swine flu shot. Among those 1,100 cases of GBS, fifty-eight had resulted in death. Researchers concluded that the instance of  Guillain-Barre Syndrome was ten times greater for the those who had received the swine flu shot, than for those who had not. (Garret 181). 4,181 cases were filed seeking payment for damages caused by the 1976 flu vaccine. The cases made their way through the legal system for a decade and a half, but by 1993, the United States government had paid out over $93 million dollars to swine flu claimants. (Garret 182)

And for good measure, here’s a little info about anthrax…

The anthrax vaccine developed in the last part of the twentieth century has been implicated in Gulf War Syndrome and opponents (including other scientists) have cited a lack of research and proof of efficacy. In fact, research from members of the armed forces shows that adverse reaction rates for the anthrax vaccine are as high as 85%, not the 30% the manufacturer claimed and that women have higher rates of adverse reactions than men.

The United States has one of the most aggressive vaccine schedules of any nation. You can take a look at vaccine schedules from other countries like Japan, Iceland, Singapore, Great Britain and even our neighbor to the north Canada and see that they don’t give as many vaccines as we do. And guess what? Children are still very healthy in these nations. In fact, they are all healthier countries than the US.

It’s very curious the way Americans treat their vaccine schedule. Most Americans are vocal proponents about the safety and effectiveness of our vaccine schedule (and birthing practices, medical care, etc.) Yet, the United States spends more on healthcare than any other nation in the world and has the lowest quality of life of any developed nation in the world. Clearly our healthcare isn’t working. Everything (including our vaccine schedule) should be questioned and picked apart, not defended at all costs.

Side Effects

You cite a website from the UK which states that the most serious side effect from vaccination in anaphylaxis (severe allergic reaction). This is, in fact, untrue. Vaccines are known to cause autoimmune encephalitis, a disease which can quickly cause disability or death. The Merck Manual Home Edition states that autoimmune encephalitis can be caused when “A virus or vaccine triggers a reaction that makes the immune system attack brain tissue (an autoimmune reaction).”  (I consider the Merck Manual to be a reliable source of information, do you?) If you would like a second opinion, the Mayo Clinic’s website states: “Secondary encephalitis often occurs two to three weeks after the initial infection. Rarely, secondary encephalitis occurs as a complication of a live virus vaccination.”

From the Mayo Clinic’s website, take note that symptoms of encephalitis include the following:

In mild cases:

  • Headache
  • Fever
  • Aches in muscles or joints
  • Fatigue or weakness

In more severe cases:

  • Confusion, agitation or hallucinations
  • Seizures
  • Loss of sensation or paralysis in certain areas of the face or body
  • Muscle weakness
  • Double vision
  • Perception of foul smells, such as burned meat or rotten eggs
  • Problems with speech or hearing
  • Loss of consciousness

In babies:

  • Bulging in the soft spots (fontanels) of the skull in infants
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Body stiffness
  • Inconsolable crying
  • Poor feeding or not waking for a feeding
  • Irritability

Oh, how interesting. The mild reaction symptoms you described as being normal and good are the same as the symptoms of encephalitis. You know what else is interesting? The so-called “Period of Purple Crying” which is said to be a completely normal phase wherein 2 and 4 month old babies scream uncontrollably for hours also bears a resemblance to encephalitis and coincidentally occurs around the ages when babies receive several doses of vaccines.

What are the effects of encephalitis? Well, according to the Mayo Clinic, most people who develop encephalitis will recover within a couple of weeks. In fact, they seem to just have a flu. On the other hand, encephalitis can cause much more severe complications that can even be permanent:

  • Persistent fatigue
  • Weakness or lack of muscle coordination
  • Personality changes
  • Memory problems
  • Paralysis
  • Hearing or vision defects
  • Speech impairments

And of course, death is another risk if encephalitis is severe and not treated quickly enough.

Encephalitis is most likely a vastly underreported side effect of vaccination, especially because most parents and doctors are not aware of the risks or educated about the symptoms and complications. So while your children may develop a mild case of encephalitis after vaccination and be OK afterwards… they could also develop longer term cognitive or physical problems. How comfortable are you playing roulette with your childrens’ health?

 

Vaccine Pioneers

And last of all, you conclude by talking about the  courageous and forward thinking pioneers of vaccination who have done more to contribute to modern health than anything except ready access to clean water. I’m afraid I’m going to have to burst your bubble on that one too.

Louis Pasteur was adamant that his laboratory notebooks- which document what he was actually doing in the lab rather than what he represented to the public- should never be released to any outsiders. And this was the case until the 1970’s when his heirs released them to the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris. The release of Pasteur’s notebooks turned up a number of damning details about one of Western history’s most revered scientists. Turns out Pasteur deliberately misrepresented much of his research to the public and even stole from competitors. His anthrax and rabies vaccines were among his fraudulent scientific forays.

I’ve already mentioned the Cutter Incident in relation to Jonas Salk, but Dr. Salk participated in other less than humanitarian endeavors. In 1942, he and his associates were involved with experimentation with a flu vaccine and used mental patients as their unwitting test subjects. The research was heralded as being promising, despite the fact that the patients were neither able to give consent to the procedure nor were able to describe their symptoms because they didn’t understand what was being done to them.

Even the beloved Edward Jenner poses some thorny bioethical issues. What we herald as one of the greatest leaps forward in medical science- Jenner’s first success with smallpox vaccination- was no different than the methods used by Nazi doctors as the experimented with their vaccines on victims in concentration camps. Jenner injected a boy with his vaccine and then deliberately exposed him to the disease, which could have made him sick or potentially killed him. In America, we have turned a blind eye to ethics behind vaccination and focus desperately on how we think we need them. Jenner also used his own son for vaccination experimentation and repeatedly inoculated him and then exposed him to smallpox- even when the boy became sick. In the years after his father’s experiments on him, Edward Jenner Jr. became chronically ill and exhibited signs of intellectual impairment.

Ms. Bell, I don’t know you personally, but you strike me as a good-hearted person. I don’t think you’re advocacy for vaccination has any sort of ulterior motive. No one can doubt your sincerity. As you say, you would stand on a corner with a cardboard sign to tell people about what you see as the importance of vaccination. But let’s be honest, you don’t have to. You are a celebrity and you are telling people what they want to hear. You will have no end of outlets for your thoughts. I think you are aware of that and that is precisely why you are so vocal about an issue that you believe to be crucial to not only your family’s health, but the world at large. The problem is that the solution you are advocating is ineffective at preventing and controlling diseases and is known to cause brain damage and death in some cases.

So Ms. Bell are facts really your friends? The above information is all well-documented from reputable sources. But will you choose uncomfortable truths or comfortable falsehoods? Is your stance based on public health or public opinion?

 

 

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